My Life’s Philosophy as Told to a Child

My 9 year old Godson interviewed me last week for a school project. I humbly share it with you to remind me of what I always need to be about! God bless us, everyone!


LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE


I called my Godfather, Fr. James DiLuzio for the essay. He was in the middle of writing a Homily for mass. He put down his pencil, and said he would take a break from writing and do the interview with me. I think that was really nice of him. The interview was based on my nine questions. He said:


“I was born in Nyack, New York on August 18th. I’m a Catholic priest, and am not married. Our tradition invites us to focus on our friendship with Jesus and share that friendship with everybody. The secret to happiness in any life is to be thankful for what we have and the people in our life, and not to worry about what we don’t have. My most important decision was to become a priest and to begin my work as a Paulist Father-Missionary. God is everywhere and his spirit is in all people, and the most important thing of God’s spirit is his invitation to be patient and loving with one another. I learned that helping other people is important, but at the same time, each of us have to use the special talents God gives us so that we can please ourselves while helping others, and that’s a good balance for praising God. Jesus told us to let our light shine, and as I got older, I appreciated that teaching more. The major values that I live by are love, kindness and as much patience as I can cultivate with God’s help, and as little judgment on myself and others as possible.”


Father Jim has a great outlook on life. I learned a lot from him. You can too!

Advertisements

Celebrate Saint Luke the Evangelist Today!

Catholic and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Saint Luke, the Evangelist today, October 18.  He is the author of Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles in what I like to call “the Second Testament” (because the Hebrew Scriptures are certainly “the First Testament.”) If you would like to hear selections from my Luke Live! ministry, go to:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp

Movie Review: THE REVENANT

Movie Review: THE REVENANT

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

The vagaries of nature often wreak havoc in the minds of believers as they try to reconcile the hardships and challenges nature inflicts on the human condition with our insistence on a loving, merciful God. The best possible explanation comes from centuries of theological discernment and debate, but it is a simple one: God honors God’s creation on its own terms: Nature will be as Nature needs to be, i.e., based on the aptitudes and limits of its essence and design. Most every believer acknowledges these days that “Nature” is not God’s moral agent of reward and punishment because ancient biblical understanding was framed in a more primitive mindset.  Nature simply is what it is for God allows the material world to exist within its own laws and limitations.  Occasional interventions notwithstanding.

The same applies to human nature, particularly regarding man’s inhumanity to man.* The suffering we inflict upon one another through God’s gift of free will certainly vindicates God from any blame.  God’s grace may empower and expand the good we chose but the evil we display grounds itself in our freedom to act against conscience and inherent moral codes of the human psyche.  A psyche illumined and informed by the collective (and, for believers, God-inspired) wisdom on display in the Ten Commandments, Jesus’ Beatitudes, teachings of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed and many, many more.

Spiritual reflection is inherent in THE REVENANT.  God is an ever present but silent force in this narrative because of the way director Alejandro G. Iῆarritu’s tells his story.  The film, the script and the scenery all evoke questions about faith, morality, nature and humanity.   The movie is more than just about one person’s survival (or inability to survive—no spoilers here) in part because characters invoke Christianity and in some cases a false understanding of Christianity in key scenes.  There’s an implicit sense throughout the film that not only is the protagonist’s life at stake, but so, too, his soul.  All the characters hang in the balance between good and evil, with many if not all tipping the scale to the dark side as we, the audience, look on and ponder survival of the fittest and so much more.

 

THE REVENANT is a fascinating cinematic exploration of one man’s attempt to survive the cruel, dark impulses of the human heart and will in the context of all of nature’s menace.  Is it revenge that animates him or something else entirely? The man in the question is Hugh Glass, an historical American figure of the 1820’s western expansion and fur trade, played by Leonardo DiCaprio employing all the tools of the great method acting tradition with aplomb. In a captivating performance, Leonardo reveals the inner struggles of a man confronting fears and prejudices, hate and greed on grand display among the warring French and American fur traders and native American tribes for whom betrayal, scapegoating and murder are often excuses for living.  Furthermore, Hugh has many inner demons of his own, while, at the same time his courage, intelligence and his love and devotion toward his son Hawk and the memory of his martyred wife gain our respect and admiration. In many silent stretches of struggle, victory and defeat, DiCaprio keeps us in suspense and awe.  He deserves his Oscar nomination.

And amidst all the human conflict, the magnificent vistas of Wyoming’s majestic mountains, trees, sparkling rivers and roaring waterfalls alternately cast their spell of beauty, grandeur and indifference just as God seems to do at times.  THE REVENANT (the word means “ghost” or “one that returns after death or a long absence”) is an adventure story turned into theological reflection.  I dare anyone who sees it not to be steeped in deep thought about life, nature and survival—and the choices between fully living and mere existence.  At times the visuals are raw, the tearing of human flesh, the gutting of entrails human and animal—the result of arrow and gunfire, fire and stone.  And much has been written about Hugh’s battle with a mother bear ferociously defending her cubs after his unwitting encroachment.  (Extraordinary computer generated images.) But the whole offers a profundity much greater then these individual parts. The film is slowly paced, contemplative and for that, it stands alone among most modern cinema with the exception of the works of Terence Malik whose visuals also convey spiritual dynamics and questions of God and Nature (TREE OF LIFE).  The crucible of Hugh Glass we see on the screen also serves as a test to viewers’ ability to pay attention to detail, to focus one moment at a time, to surrender the impatience that can occur when accustomed to so many fast paced action adventures.  Good for the soul.

THE REVENANT features stunning cinematography, seamless editing and evidences first-class direction.  Great acting, too, not in any way limited to DiCaprio alone. Antagonist Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald is a perfect foil for Glass and there are compelling performances by Domnhall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry (government agent in charge of the trader’s security), Forrest Goodluck as Glass’ son and Arthur RedCloud as a benevolent Native American.  The latter three provide some welcomed moments of compassion and attempts toward a greater good.  The film’s conclusion offers possibilities of transcendence but remains ambiguous. A perfect opportunity to engage in conversation and debate with others about the worlds without and within.

 

*Fellow feminists be warned: there is only one woman in this film and she is featured briefly in flashbacks and in visions. Appropriately she reinforces a multi-layered theme–a “revenant” inspiring the “revenant” aspects of the title character.

Thanksgiving: Share the Love

The most fundamental definition of LOVE is to WILL the GOOD of the OTHER. God WILLS THE GOOD for each and every one of us.  When we love we often “will” what we think is best for our loved ones.  God’s good will is different.  There’s no expectation, no particular role God needs us to fill.  What God “wills” is for each of us to love readily, forgive freely, hope steadily, building up the human race, not contributing to its pain or destruction, reverencing God and God’s creation so that we can sustain life’s joys and sorrows with grace.  In other words, God wills us to thrive in what is good. What we choose for our livelihood, how we choose to live is our way of exercising the gift of free will.  God only desires that our choices empower us and others to thrive.

Fun and Insight with Disney/Pixar’s INSIDE OUT – a movie review and spiritual reflection

the-first-look-of-pixar-s-new-film-inside-out-left-to-right-fear-sadness-joy-anger-disgust

Disney/Pixar’s INSIDE OUT is a joyous ride through Psychology 101 fitting for children of all ages.  Well, I’ll qualify that: 8 or older.  I think it is a little too complex for the Pre-School and Kindergarten set, although it is colorful to an eye-popping degree  The heart of the story concerns an 11 year old girl adjusting from a family move from Minnesota to San Francisco.   Encouraged to be the family’s “happy girl,” as an anchor for her parents’ anxieties, Riley has nowhere to go with her feelings of loss of place, friendships, school and those deeper ones evoked as she tries to renegotiate her relationship with her parents and her new surroundings.

Enter the film’s central conceit: Riley’s” Interior Self” is personified by characters representing primal feelings: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear.  Empowered by Riley’s parents and our cultural compulsions to be “Happy, Happy, Happy,” the effervescent Joy works overtime in limiting the impact of the others–all to Riley and her families’ detriment.  Sadness in particular demonstrates through heightened dramatic conflict a truth that Joy tries desperately never to acknowledge:  all feelings need to be acknowledged.  Meanwhile, audiences can enjoy the affirmation of our interior feelings being exposed along with all their associated thoughts and impulses in such a playful, conflicted arena as the human heart and brain.  I give INSIDE OUT an A + for originality, cleverness and success in accomplishing its noble goals.  Indeed, INSIDE OUT is a wonderful movie that will surely evoke laughter and tears most readily in most viewers.

As for the spiritual dimensions of the film, I invite you to consider the many ways psychology and spirituality intersect.  The tremendous benefits of psychology and the advances in the behavioral sciences notwithstanding, there are deep spiritual roots in the value of tears.  After all, the phrase “It’s alright to cry” didn’t have its origin in the 1960’s.   Jesus conveyed this 2,000 years ago in his admonition “Blessed are those who mourn.”  For those who take the scriptures beyond their face value (I hope we all do), it is clear Jesus is highlighting here far more than basic grieving of the death of our loved ones, important though that is.  Building on his Jewish heritage as recorded in the PSALMS, Jesus acknowledges the benefits of lament, complaint and frustration over all kinds of “deaths” – failures, tragedies, disappointments.  His statement makes evident that tears, in fact, are prayers.  Tears also are indications of healthy bodies and healthy relationships—two essential LIFE criteria!

To cry with and for others reflects the reality that we all belong to one race, one humanity.  When we cry with others, we may find gratitude in the fact that we have cultivated relationships of trust and that there are those with whom we can express ourselves freely. When trust brings forth a wellspring of tears, we have a little bit of heaven on earth, a deeper experience of God’s compassion for the human condition through one another.

When we cry alone we are in fact reverencing our bodies and the way God made us; tears shed in solitude invite us to embrace the outright loneliness that is a universal aspect of the human condition.  In the great paradox of being, even experiencing loneliness unites us to everyone on the planet.  To quote an ancient Native American proverb: “Each soul must meet the morning sun, the new sweet earth and the great silence alone.”  Ironically, accepting our aloneness can bring us to a place where we are more humble and more compassionate in the company of others.  Loneliness is not alienation unless we make it so.  Being alone offers opportunity to encounter God Himself/Herself.

However and wherever we find release of our emotions through tears, we increase our ultimate capacity for JOY.  As we and/ or others acknowledge our hurts, fears, angers and all of their composite sadness without judging or dismissing them, Joy is in the offing.   “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of JOY.”  (Psalm 126: 5)  You will experience both watching INSIDE OUT.

To explore the film’s psychological dynamics further, read this excellent article in the NYTIMES SUNDAY REVIEW, July 3, 2015:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/opinion/sunday/the-science-of-inside-out.html?rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article

Love You As You Are

I must call your attention to David Brooks again. Every parent MUST read this! Plus every believing adult must know that true Faith offers a God with Unconditional LOVE that is NOT based on what we do but for the unique individuals that God created. Think of those times when you simply LOVE BEING YOU when you are not doing or achieving anything. Like waking up in the morning or having your coffee or comfortably drifting off to sleep at night. GOD LOVES YOU!

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/opinion/david-brooks-love-and-merit.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-brooks&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Collection&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

HOPE–How Christianity Can Play its Part on the World Stage Part 2

In September I wrote about the importance of HOPE and decided to pursue the topic further. I wrote: “In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE. I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully. I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences. Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.” So, now we begin:

HOPE as a noun is defined in a variety of ways in a number of dictionaries. Here are three citations:

New Oxford American Dictionary

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/hope

1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. 2. A person or thing that may help or save someone. 3. Grounds for believing that something good may happen. 3. Archaic; a feeling of trust

Merriam-Webster Dictionary  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hope

1.The feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen; a feeling that something good will happen or be true. 2. The chance that something good will happen. 3.Someone or something that may be able to provide help; someone or something that give you a reason for hoping.

The American Heritage Dictionary

https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=hope

1. a. The longing or desire for something accompanied by the belief in the possibility of its occurrence: He took singing lessons in the hope of performing in the musical. b. An instance of such longing or desire: Her hopes of becoming a doctor have not changed. 2. A source of or reason for such longing or desire: Good pitching is the team’s only hope for victory. 3. often Hope. Christianity The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God’s help. 5. Archaic. Trust; confidence. Idiom: hope against hope To hope with little reason or justification

Notice that the New Oxford definition does not specify that “hope” is necessarily for a “good” until the 3rd definition of the word. Merriam-Webster offers “wanting something “good” in its first definition; American Heritage doesn’t specify “good” until the fourth definition with the specification Christianity. The implication, of course is that,although all people have goals and dreams which undergird “Hope,” unfortunately, not all “Hopes” are oriented toward a “good.” Some hope for an adversaries untimely demise. Some have expectations of entitlement over and against fairness, justice or mercy. Some cling to desires for advancement at the expense of others. That’s the “Shadow” side of Hope and I will devote another blog to that. For now, I would like to focus on Hope for universal goods.

The Hebrew Scriptures embraced by Christians are filled with examples of Hope expressed in elegant, poetic words and images. Many echo God’s promises for future fulfillment and harmony for the human race. Here are just a few:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joel 3: 1)

“In the days to come, the mountain for the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it, many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob. That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2: 2-4)

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; a spirit of wisdom and of understanding. A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide but he shall judge the poor with justice and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11: 1-10)

“All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk. Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” (Isaiah 55: 1-2)

Building upon the Judaism of Jesus (who quotes Isaiah 61: 1-2 and Is 58: 6-7 as he begins his public ministry) , Christian HOPE grounds itself in the Hebrew expectation for “The Day of the Lord” – the time when God will right all earthly wrongs and goodness and justice will prevail. Good will be rewarded and evil punished. This belief is a bedrock of the Jewish Faith. This WILL happen – if not “at once,” than ultimately “at last!” (See Malachi 3:19, Joel 2: 1 ff, Zephaniah 1: 14 ff). In the interim, what is promised for the future may be achieved in part in the here and now. Thus, we articulate “hope” in the popular phrase “the now and the not yet,” for while Jesus insists his followers “pray for the coming of the kingdom,” he also urges us to do our best to achieve it. (Luke 11: 28) The harmony we desire for the culmination of the world is possible the more we make our daily decisions out of love of God and neighbor. Today, Christians and Jews are bound by this same directive as are people of Islam and other world religions who embrace this tenet.

More to come in my next blog entry!