Saturday, October 31, 2009

TIKKUN OLAM theme of ministry conference

Tikkun olam

The Hebrew phrase (literally world repair) meaning repairing or healing the world, or making the world a better place, was conceived by Jewish mystics as the spiritual pur0pose of life.

It originated in classical rabbinical literature and has come to connote social action for justice. It is also the name of a progressive Jewish periodical.

Isaac Luria, the renowned sixteenth century Kabbalist, used the phrase “tikkun olam,” to encapsulate the true role of humanity in the ongoing evolution and spiritualization of the cosmos. Luria taught that God created the world by forming vessels of light to hold the Divine Light. But as God poured the Light into the vessels, they catastrophically shattered, tumbling down toward the realm of matter. Thus, our world consists of countless shards of the original vessels entrapping sparks of the Divine Light. Humanity’s great task involves helping God by freeing and reuniting the scattered Light, raising the sparks back to Divinity and restoring the broken world.

We meet similar concepts in other religions. Christ promised to return with the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and exhorted people to prepare through love, wakefulness, and charity. In Buddhism, the Bodhisattva vows to forgo final liberation until all beings have been freed from suffering. The Gnostics held that a spark of Divinity resides entrapped within the soul of humans.

Tikkun olam encompasses both the outer and the inner, both service to society by helping those in need and service to the Divine by liberating the spark within. As we are, the Divine spark lies hidden beneath our layers of egoistic self-centeredness. That spark is our conscience, through which the promptings of the Divine Will flow toward us. By pursuing spiritual inner work to strengthen our soul and purify our heart, we grow more able to bear that spark without shattering, more willing to act on what we know to be right, less willing to act in harmful or grasping ways, and more able to notice the quiet presence of conscience beneath the din of our chattering minds and reactive emotions. The work of transformation, of building a soul creates a proper vessel for the Divine spark, for our unique share of the Divine Will, returning that spark to the service of the One Who made it. By working to perfect ourselves, perfect our soul, and serve society, we each contribute in our own unique way to the perfecting of the world. This is our duty and our calling as human beings.

(3 paragraphys from

Collected by Paschal Baute, for prison ministry conference, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Summoning You Own Circle of Wisdom

Summoning your own Circle of Wisdom. A catholi (small c) meditation:

In the Spielberg movie Amistad, John Quincy Adams, ex-President, in preparing his case defending the captured Africans from their overthrow and killing of the crew and bringing the ship to Boston, interviews the tall Black leader.

"What do your people do in a crisis?" he asked.

"We summon our ancestors." was the reply.

That became the core of Adams reasoning before the Supreme Court of the USA. He walked past statues or Washington, Jefferson John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin to summon their spirits to be present in this historic legal debate.

Seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices of the nine were slave Owners. It was pre-Civile war and President Calhoun after two lower courts had freed the Africans was fearful of the pro-slavery contingent and the danger of a slave rebellion were they found innocent. This is a true story to be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Adams was played by Anthony Hopkins.

The brilliant young lawyer who had successfully defended the Africans on two previous occasions had begged Adams to join the case, as Adams was known to be brilliant int eh courtroom. Adams told him how to win: "Whoever tells the best story wins."

So now, in the chambers of the Supreme Count it was Adams turn to so convince seven Justices that the Africans were never slaves, and had done what every decent human would have done. The final vote was eight to one in favor of the freedom of the Africans.

Since I have been studying the power of story to influence and persuade lately that movie contains striking, memorable lessons for our spiritual journey.

Native people everywhere believed that when faced with a tough decision, they should summon their ancestors, become still in the presence of their meeting and be instructed and affirmed.

The Catholic imagination believed we live in the Communion of Saints, with a three part church: Triumphant in heaven, militant on earth, and Suffering, those still transitioning. We also believed that we could ask for the intercession of our patron saints, Guardian angels and even Mary herself.

In the book Kyhting (The Art of Spiritual Presence) Louis Savard and Patricia Berne explain the practice of inviting the spirit of a person into a spiritual Presence for a heat to heart, often workless communication. They recall the example of Victor Frankl and the work of Jean Houston.

So here is a meditation I have been experimenting with for several weeks with striking results. Here is the process in six steps. As a beginning frame, recognize that you are the reason your ancestors lived.

Become Quiet in a place apart
Invite your ancestors, patron saints, mentors, role
models, friends, and those who gave you a hand up in life.
Listen and Learn
Be instructed in the giftedness of your life.
Be grateful, grounded and affirmed.
Continue your heart's journey.

Today, I offer this to you. Play with it. It is a powerful truly catholic meditation. After you have done it a few times, risk invite anyone who wishes to show up-. You will be surprised, even possibly delighted. Alleluia.