Leap of Faith

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My son and I took my 10-year-old grandson zip-lining last week.  Ben tends to be a bit of a scaredy-cat and we were surprised that he readily agreed to go along with us.  He did great at climbing the first rope ladder and walking across a bridge that swayed between the trees.  But the first time he had to step off a platform into thin air and rely on his tethers to keep him from plummeting to the ground, he froze.  He wanted to do it, he almost did it, and then he stepped back – 7 or 8 times.  It took about 10 minutes of reassurance from his grandmother, his uncle, the guide on the ground and they very patient people waiting behind us before he stepped to the edge, closed his eyes, leaned forward……and finally let go.

For some people, I think faith is like that.  They want to believe.  Many of their friends are believers.  But they hold back.  Saint Augustine’s experience was like that.  Disillusioned with both Manicheism and Platonism, he had slowly become attracted to Christianity.  His mother and many of his close friends urged him to accept Christ.  He had personal access to some of the greatest minds of the early Christian world, such as Simplicianus and Ambrose, and was enlightened by their thinking. Like Ben on that wooden platform in the trees, he was intellectually convinced that he should take the step, and he had caring people around him who urged him on, yet he hesitated.

Augustine movingly describes his conversion moment in Book 8 of his Confessions.  Sitting in a garden, he felt moved to open his Bible and, reading the first verse his eyes fell on, he writes, “by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

Just as Ben wanted a guarantee that he wouldn’t fall, I think Augustine was hoping for certain intellectual proof.  I think we’d all like that.  But that is called knowledge, not faith.  Faith paradoxically requires a surrender of both doubt and certainty.  Faith ultimately asks us to take a leap, just like the leap that Ben had to take up in the trees.

As you can probably guess, once Ben stepped off that first platform, his fears “vanished away” just like Saint Augustine’s doubt, and we spent a wonderful day swinging through the trees.


Saint Augustine Quote of the Week: On Truth

This is as true today as when the great Saint Augustine said it.  Look at how the Left absolutely loves Pope Francis when he is talking about climate change, and economic and social justice, and feel he has let them down when he speaks against abortion and gay marriage.  And the Right is just the opposite;  they love the Pope on issues of sexuality and ignore every word he says about climate change and economic justice.  But any religious leader worth the title must speak the truth not as they see it, but as they believe a higher power sees it.  And people can like it or not.

 


Guest Blogger Anne Gargani Krieger on Pope Francis

My sister-in-law, Anne Gargani Krieger, attended the World Meeting of Families Sep 26-27  in Philadelphia and saw Pope Francis.  I asked her to write a guest blog post about her experience. This is great, inspirational reading; I hope you enjoy my first guest blogger.  And, can I just say that the Pope quote at the end of her blog is very similar to what Augustine said about the line between good and evil being drawn right through the middle of the human heart.  And I swear Anne & I did NOT plan that.Anne and Tracy in Philly  Here’s Anne’s post.

The Pope and My Glasses

I have gone through most of my life witnessing the happenings in the world around me and silently agreeing with the old saying, “this world is going to hell in a handbasket”.  I certainly have not seen the world through rose-colored glasses, but with glasses that were dark-tinted most of the time.

I was fortunate to be able to spend the weekend of September 26-27 in Philadelphia, PA, attending the World Meeting of Families.  The highlight of this gathering was the attendance of Pope Francis.  On Saturday, Pope Francis spoke at Independence Hall, to millions of people in attendance and watching on television.  My friend and I waited over four hours to catch a glimpse of him going by in his vehicle.  On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated Mass, again with millions watching and hanging on to his every word.  We watched it on a Jumbotron in downtown Philadelphia, away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s “Rocky steps” where the Mass was being held, yet we were still surrounded by thousands of people.

When I first saw this bus trip advertised in my church’s weekly bulletin, I knew I had to go – in a sense, I felt like I was being pulled to go.  I went into this trip expecting good things to happen, like seeing our Pope, but also expecting bad things to happen — bad things like violence, shoving, swearing, vandalism, and just general chaos and human indignities.  I mean, you HAVE to expect those kinds of things when you get that many people in one place, all passionate about the same thing….right?

Instead, what I experienced was a unification of people from all walks of life, all colors, all languages, all levels of wealth, all ages, all sexual orientations — unification in a spirit of faith, hope, love, and feeling of “we are all in this together”.  We came together as one group, one brotherhood, one sisterhood, no – one humanhood, in the city of brotherly love.  We all knew the Mass, the songs, the prayers — even if we did not all say the same words.  The highlight of the weekend for me was the sign-of-peace during Mass.  I not only shook hands with people that did not speak my language, but I looked into their eyes and we embraced.   I will forever carry with me the feeling I had in those few moment.

I witnessed no violence, no fighting, no chaos — even in such a huge crowd.  I came home from the weekend feeling alive, inspired by Pope Francis’ words about the family, and very much blessed.

And then, less than a week after the Pope left America, our country experienced yet another tragic gun massacre of innocent people at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  The gunman was specifically targeting Christians in his death mission. My heart broke for the family and friends of those murdered.  Yet, this time, my mental reaction was different.  I knew this situation wasn’t the norm.  That the good people in the world will always outnumber the bad people; that love will always conquer evil.  That we all sin, but we sin in different degrees, and that one person’s or group’s horrific actions cannot reflect upon an entire humanity.

As Pope Francis said at the joint meeting of Congress in Washington, D.C. recently:  “There is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.”

I need to work on guarding that temptation for sure, and I will be doing it in glasses that are now a tint rosier, thanks to Pope Francis’ visit to America.


Saint Augustine quote of the week: on God’s love


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