My Altar-net view

This Sunday in the church calendar we are presented with a conundrum. The scriptures, when heard within the context of an American Church present a kind of conflict that is difficult to reconcile or a tension between what seem to be opposing ideas that resists being resolved. a conundrum. (Conundrum is also the name of white wine I like that is served at the local restaurant, but we’ll ignore that for now and maybe have a glass later.)

In this country we fought the revolutionary war to get out from underneath the oppressive rule of the tyrant King George III. Instead our founding fathers declared that we would be a nation with power invested in the people, not a single monarch.

In our own day, we Americans view with great suspicion any government based on a “Theocracy” where the rule of law is determined by a specific interpretation of the…

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and the Word became Flesh..again.

So it has been a little while since my last post, but I have been a little busy. You see, the reason I began blogging again, arrived! So on November 14, 2012 at 5:26 p.m. Augustine (Gus) Charles Bryson arrived into this world. It was another moment of the in-breaking of God into the life of humanity. As one of my friends stated in his congratulations to me, “Gus in the Word made Flesh again, the ‘incarnation’ of your ‘I do.” This phrase just stays with me, how simple and yet how profound. This connection of a new life brought into this world brings such joy and such an overflowing acknowledgement of going beyond yourself and your own needs and desires–this in-breaking changes your perspective.

Augustine (Gus) Charles Bryson

So when I began to blog, it was the beginning of the Year of Faith and my wife and were expecting our new little bundle of joy and I continued to ask of “What is this faith that I am going to pass on to my child(ren)?” What are the nonnegotiable of that faith. Well after this most life changing experience, all I can say is that at the heart of our faith is a call to conversatio, in the Benedictine Tradition, or another way to say a call to metanoia. This is the constant in-breaking call of God into our world calling us to change and be changed, to turn and be turned in our life.

St. Benedict writes in the Prologue of his rule, “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”[1] The need for us as people to turn our attention to not just a mental awareness, but a single-minded focus that draws one to attend to a deeper understanding of that which is before them. The deeper reality that is drawn out when a new parent experiences a deeper connection to the new-born child is the connection to the transcendent reality. Similar to the experience of Thomas Merton on Fourth and Walnut when he was “awakened from the illusion of a ‘separate holy existence,’ Merton recognized his unity with others and his involvement in the in the world.”[2] When a new parent looks this new baby in the eyes and studies his face and realizes that he is seeing at an extraordinary glimpse of himself. This becomes a call for a parent to awaken from their own illusions of a separate existence, when they awaken to discover their own humanity in the encounter with their new-born child and spouse, it truly becomes a moment of divine hospitality. Merton reminds all who search for God in their lives to live out their life as people of integrity so that the goal of life is toward integration.

“If you want to have a spiritual life you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end that you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”[3]

One of the fundamental understandings of the primary end of the human condition is that humanity is made for community. Both in the active and the contemplative life, the role and relationship of community is able to speak to us as a means of knowing God at a deeper level and ongoing transformation in our lives and the lives of those we encounter. Hospitality still bridges the gap between community and solitude, action and contemplation. “You do not become good at loving the strain of being together in a family or a community if you have not yet learned to be alone.”[4] In both cases, hospitality calls us to be a people of deep listening, one that can sit in the both the joys and sorrows, the sleepless nights and tireless days. Listening does not necessarily call the parent “to do” anything, but “to be” with the One who is before them, attentive to this person before them. This attentiveness in relationships grounds a spirituality of hospitality, action in contemplation to theology through sacramental principles and sacramental worldview. Personal transformation continues when theologically reflecting and an openness to the unfolding of the reign of God by being attentive. This integration brings a person’s, home, work, and spiritual life together to create an opportunity in the person for transformation, not only as a person, but also in the life of the family and community.

–How does this new in-breaking of God, call for a greater awareness and attentiveness?

–What is the new integration of life that is being called for through these moments?


[1] Timothy Fry, ed. 15.

[2] Christine M. Bochen, ed. Thomas Merton: Writings Selected with an Introduction by Christine M. Bochen, Modern Spiritual Masters Series (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2000). 38.

[3] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999). 49.

[4] Daniel Homan, OSB and Lonni Collins Pratt Daniel Homan, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love (Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2002). 87.


Material and Spiritual: A False Dichotomy in Handing on the Faith.

English: Inside the Basilica of St. John Later...

English: Inside the Basilica of St. John Lateran Italiano: Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano – interno Polski: Wnętrze Bazyliki św. Jana na Lateranie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran. It seems odd to recognize the Feast of a building, especially when I think about how this affects passing on the faith to the next generation, but I believe this day holds for us a significance in understanding the faith that we pass on to our children. The story of the Lateran Basilica, erected by Emperor Constantine, serves as the mother of the Church. It is the Pope’s cathedral. The Church is only a temporal reflection of the Spiritual life of the community. I believe the reading from this morning’s Office of Readings says it best about this feast day:

“And if we think more carefully about the meaning of our salvation, we shall realize that we are indeed living and true temples of God. God does not dwell only in structures fashioned by human hands, in homes of wood and stone, but rather he dwells principally in the soul made according to his own image and fashioned by his own hand. Therefore, the apostle Paul says: The temple of God is holy and you are that temple.”….

“My fellow Christians, do we wish to celebrate joyfully the birth of this temple? Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by works of evil. I shall speak clearly, so that all can understand. Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be. Do you wish to find this basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shines in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts.” —Second Reading from the Office of Readings, “A Sermon by Saint Caesarious of Arles.”

This reading really struck me this morning in a special way of how we prepare ourselves for service and worship and even how we construct our buildings. Think not only of the public places of worship, but also the place of the domestic Church, our homes. How do we build a home that enables us to bring to birth a life in Christ and that Christ will walk the corridors of not only our homes, workplaces, Churches, but also in our everyday life and our very being. This is a great day to make the tangible connection between the physical and the spiritual world that is so often made as a false dichotomy. This Feast Day is a constant reminder that it is in fact a false dichotomy and that the spiritual and the material are intimately united and effect the entire life of the Christian.


All Souls Day–A reflection in memoriam

ImageSo yesterday was the Feast of All Souls, a day when the Church prays for all those who have gone before us. It falls on the day after the Solemnity of All Saints.  I had the privilege over the past few days to spend time with CEOs and business leaders from Fortune 500 companies as well as practitioners and academics to talk about Spirituality in the Workplace.  What was the most amazing part of the whole experience was the depth that the business leaders expressed their own spiritual journey and they were not even aware of the depth.  The profundity of their statements and more profound their questions, show that there is an deep inner life and a deep hunger for embracing spirituality in the workplace or as they liked to say “bringing your whole self to work.”

With yesterday being the Feast of All Souls, I could not help but think about those people who have gone before us with the same longing and similar profound question in life and how they lived it out in their everyday ordinariness!  When one looks to hand on their faith, so often we look toward the officially sanctioned understanding of the faith that we are handing on, however, because of these recent experiences, it has lead me to think about the unofficial parts of my faith that I hand on because of those who have gone before me and how they responded to their own expressions of “bringing their whole self to work.”

The first two that came to mind are my maternal grandparents. Both my grandmother and grandfather were not particularly “churchy” people. As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a time in my life in which either of them ever attended Church, yet they always made sure that we as kids were attending.  Both of my grandparents had an “open door” policy long before it was a leadership policy.  They opened their home to everyone who needed a place to stay, a listening ear or just a good home cooked meal.  They both worked hard all of their life and expressed their gratitude by continuing to give of themselves to those in need.  While we never talked about faith in their home overtly, it was a conversion moment to know that grandma and grandpa would welcome everyone to their home and take care of their needs.  This was a core tenet of my family growing up, hospitality. These are some of the greatest memories I have of my grandparents, and so on All Souls Day they were quite present to me in my memory. 

So when I think about how I continue to pass on my faith in light of brining my whole self to work, I must find greater opportunities to be more hospitable.  How can I continue to integrate my “whole self” into my work and home?   “Drink in the richness of God.”–Psalm 34