Past Imperfect

Don’t Rely Solely on the Past to Define Your Self-Worth

     Before considering whether or not it is useful to reflect on past life events, we must understand the difference between introspection or self-absorption and the examination of conscience.

     Introspection, if not supported by professional therapy, will become an exercise in self-absorption in exploring the past. The object of such an exercise is the contemplation of one’s worth. Such an exercise is in itself is useless; because it doesn’t result in any personal improvement. The mental exercise of withdrawal or self-absorption leaves no room except for oneself. Whoever does this is left alone, withdraws from reality, and puts all hope of perfection and perhaps salvation on self-worth or esteem. The problem with this practice is that one ends up contemplating personal limitations, at the risk of falling into anguish and even guilt when seeing how far one is from reaching the self-imposed ideal of oneself.

     Special care should be taken not to confuse psychological introspection with the practice of ethical self-reflection or religious examination of conscience. These practices are aimed at improving the human person. Their purpose is not the contemplation of oneself, but the discernment and evaluation of the conformity of one’s actions with the ethical and moral standards and the norms of a given society or religion.

     The way these practices work can be summed up in the proverb: the tree is known by its fruits. We constantly evaluate our conduct in the face of ethical-moral or religious standards. If we discover that our conduct does not conform to those standards, then another plan of action is developed with the aim of achieving the perfection of moral conduct. Ethical-moral and religious norms, not having their origin in our subjectivity, are capable of purifying our heart (conscience) by shedding light on our true intentions. They point to higher moral dignity, and therefore, have a therapeutic action, correcting the intentions of the heart that are at the origin of our actions, while urging us to leave our moral comfort zone.

     It is important to note that ethical-moral and religious norms, alien to our subjective imaginary, are not susceptible to psychological manipulation that impoverishes them by equating them with one’s own worth. On the contrary, those who are carried away by their psychological urges become the measure of their own conduct and are unable to attain virtue or character. Self-absorbed, they are at the mercy of mood swings making them prone to anguish, guilt, and self-pity, as these feelings come from self-criticism and not from ethical and religious values. Torturing ourselves by ruminating past failures and missed opportunities is nonsense. Moral and religious norms, on the contrary, plant us firmly in the present towards the future. It is in the projection towards the future that morality and religion become, for those who welcome them, in ideals of life greater than oneself.

    The self-absorbed person lives in the subjectivity of imagination and memory, a meeting place with the past. In contrast, the centered and level-headed person exists in the present. In fact, our mental health is determined to some extent by our attention and performance in the present. The matter of our bodies makes us experience change or becoming, our psychology testifies to this. However, we also experience that we are different from our becoming: we exist and we are! The experience of existing in the present tells us that we are different from our past, from our memories, and from our failures; thus healing our wounds. The present makes us understand that we are not our problem. Self-absorption on its part prevents us from recognizing our existence and our being as different from the situations and circumstances that hurt us.

     Those who judge their past in light of the present run the risk of reproaching and condemning not only their past actions, but their whole lives, shaming themselves and becoming morally rigid and discouraged. By “light of the present” we mean knowledge acquired through studies, work, or dealing with valuable people from whose example we learn prudence and wisdom. It also means changes in our well-being and our spiritual life, in addition to opportunities for self-improvement. In short, what now allows us better judgment and maturity than we previously lacked. Therefore, we should not judge the past based on the present, since we never experience the same situation twice in life and under the same circumstances.

     The past does not change, but we can consider it in light of what we want to achieve in the future. It is not the future that can be changed. It is the present! All change takes place in the present. The past becomes a life lesson when viewed in light of a self-improvement project. Past experience seen in the light of an ideal that surpasses us in dignity will build the improved version of ourselves.

Submitted by Valdemar G. ~ an inquirer with our Chapter

Four Causes, Four Pillars

A Fullness of Description

How can we know Love.” “Let me count the ways.”

(ST. ALBERT THE GREAT PRIORY – Irving) If you want to give someone a complete description of something, what kind of information do you need to provide? You would want to make sure you explained what it was for, right? But is that enough? If you say, “This thing is used to hold other things,” have you fully explained it? You could be talking about a basket, a hook, a drawer, a cupboard, a wallet, a bowl, etc.

What if you simply described its shape. “This thing is roughly a square, with an empty area, it has wheels and a sort of handle that you use to direct it.” Ok, that could be a shopping cart, a rolling suitcase, a car, or a wagon. Or maybe something else.

What if you wanted to emphasize what it is made out of? You could say, “This thing is made of metal.” But, why metal and not some other material. Does it matter if it is wood or sugar or ice or reeds or plastic? Maybe, maybe not.

What if you explained that it was made by a line worker at the local factory? Is that important? Does it matter where it was made? What if you need to make one? Do you need to understand how it was made?

The Four Causes:
The notion of Four Causes arises from Aristotle’s efforts to explain change, which is part of a different topic involving Act and Potency, and which we need not explore at present. But, as Aristotle worked out how to account for change, he developed these Four Causes. Please note, he uses the term “cause” in a broader sense than most of us do today. We can gain some insight by using the term “explanations” or “descriptions” along with “causes.” You can also think of “cause” as that which answers the question, “Why?” or “How?”

I described these four causes in the beginning of this article though I did not designate them as such. They are, Formal (loosely, what is it’s shape, what form does it take), Material (what is it made of), Efficient (how it came to actually exist), and Final (why it was made, what it does.)

N.B. The formal cause is easily overlooked because it seems obvious. If you want to carry things, you obviously need something shaped in a way that will carry them. Also we are not used to thinking of a shape as a cause. Yet, when we describe something, its form is part of a complete description.

The object I have in mind is in fact a shopping cart. I want an actual thing that is well made for holding things and moving them about easily, and which can do so over and over again reliably. This is the Final Cause. This is why it is in the shape of a lidless box with wheels, the Formal Cause. To be reusable and sturdy it is to be made of steel and rubber, the Material Cause. And then in some manner it needs to come into existence, which is the Efficient Cause.

You may have noted that I began my description of this thing with its Final Cause. That’s because when someone is going to make something, they start with an end in mind. There is a Greek word, “telos”, which means “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”. The study of ultimate ends is called teleology.

The end of something just is the reason it was made. So, when you need to make something, you start at the end, that is to say, you have in mind, before you start, the purpose of the device, the goal you mean to achieve by making this thing. You have in mind what the final product of your efforts will be.

This end or final cause then leads to the formal cause. We have to figure out how best to carry a large amount of products and move them about easily. The formal cause next determines what material cause is needed in order to have something sturdy, reliable and reusable. And then we need the efficient cause, we have to figure out how to make it, or hire someone to make it for us, so that we can in fact have it.

Consideration of things in the context of the Four Causes is a very useful way to explore the world. Why was this made? Why was it made in this shape? Why was it made from these materials? How did it come to be made? Because I am a Lay Dominican I am driven to apply this Aristotelian/Thomistic world view to, well, almost everything. And so why not apply to Dominican Spirituality?

The Four Pillars:
Dominican Spirituality is best described by the Four Pillars. They are Prayer, Study, Preaching, and Community. We have a framework here that can be set in terms of the Four Causes. Dominican Spirituality has as its goal The Beatific Vision, Communion with God. This is a precise way of saying “salvation.”

The Formal Cause is Prayer. It is what Communion looks like. In order to commune with God we have to communicate with God. Seem obvious? Remember, I said the formal cause is easy to overlook because it seems obvious. Prayer is the shape of Dominican Spirituality.

The Material Cause is Study. Can you truly commune with (love) someone you don’t know? We study and contemplate what we have studied so that we can more fully know God that we may more perfectly love God. Study is the raw material of Dominican Spirituality.

The Efficient Cause is Preaching. We take our prayer and our study and we bring forward the fruits of our contemplation to build up our Community, both Dominican and our extended community, the family of man. Preaching is how we make Dominican Spirituality.

The Final Cause is Community. Communion with God and Man. Our Dominican Community prepares us for Communion with God. It is the proper goal of all legitimate spiritualities. Union with God is the End or Purpose of Dominican Spirituality.

Mark C. is a permanently professed Lay Dominican and our Treasurer. You can check out more of his musings at truthvsreality.com.

A way of preaching

Each Dominican is called to preach.  That action can manifest itself in a multitude of ways.  Our Dominican friars write homilies.  The Dominican Sisters may preach by teaching. A Dominican Nun who is cloistered may preach to those she lives with.  Lay Dominicans preach as well, according to their vocation.  I may preach when I give a lecture on scripture. Others preach the Gospel in the work place. Many members of the laity may preach while serving the poor and marginalized.  Some members, like Pete C., preach by sharing God’s love and the Gospel, through poetry. Below are a few of his, that he has shared with me, to share with you.  In a month or so, I will share a few more.

A Light for All To See

Through the windows of man’s eyes, the spirit of his soul is cast.

That from these eyes in time, the light of Christ does shine.

In and through the darkness, drawing others to the light.

Like a moth to a flame at night, burns not in this fire bright.

But each by their measure, draw others to Christ’s light.

From beneath these eyes lies wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to be.

That will open the doors to Gods kingdom, love, and mercy.

All that remains is to have faith, love, trust, and to obey Him we must.

And likewise love our neighbors all, as ourselves, lest we might fall.

So, when you’re trying to make a choice, look in the mirror and seek that voice.

You are the treasure is what you see, your life as it is meant to be.

Now is the time to hear the voice, look and proclaim what is that choice.

All life springs from what has been sent, that all may see this new light’s event.

And through the windows of man’s eyes, the spirit of his soul will rise.

From these eyes let God’s passion flow, and spread His Words for all to know.

Far and wide all might hear and see, what God’s promise is for us to be.

Our salvation at life’s end we will be, as we enter into His Kingdom you and me.

Pete C. – August 12, 2019

Continuing Cycle

To live for one

is not to exist – for all. To not exist – for all

is to live alone. To live alone

is to live for only one.

To live for God

is to love God.

To love God

is to love ourselves.

To love ourselves

is to love others.

To love others

is to live for God.

To live for God

Is to live for others.

To live for others

Is to live for all.

Pete C. – Spring 1970

Pete C. is currently a candidate in our Chapter and looks forward to making his temporary promises soon.

Preaching to Adolescents

Each Dominican is called to preach. Part of our journey as lay members of the Dominican Family is to search out the ways in which the Lord calls us to preach. Jenny N., one of our perpetually professed members, has answered that call in a very dedicated way. Last year, Jenny completed her Master’s degree in Catechetical Ministry at the University of Dallas. She is now a Youth Ministry Coordinator at a parish in her diocese. Occasionally, we are called to preach to the choir. Last year, Jenny presented her Master’s capstone “Adapting for Adolescents: A case Study on Adapting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Meet the Needs of Adolescents.” We are the choir. We know our faith and much of its beauty. However, we can always learn more and be open to understanding more. Anyone with an interest in the new evangelization will benefit from reading this, especially those who work with youth. Below is an excerpt of Jenny’s preaching. If you would like to read more, please send an email to laydominicansofdallas@gmail.com. Your request will be forwarded to Jenny.

Adapting for Adolescents: A case Study on Adapting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Meet the Needs of AdolescentsIntroduction and Chapter 1

The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons why the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults should be adapted for individuals of adolescent age as well as the implications these considerations have upon all catechetical ministries for such individuals. From these implications, conclusions will be drawn regarding the impact that such adaptations and considerations could have on the general engagement of this age group in the Catholic church. The introduction will provide a literature review of documents, ministerial writings, and historical practices within the Church depicting the primacy of the catechumenal model of catechesis, as practiced in preparation for the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults. Research will be presented regarding the use of RCIA as the basis for all catechesis as well as the principles inherent in this process. The paper will then explore the inclusion of adolescents in this process, and the merits of adapting the process to meet the individual needs of these individuals based upon the psychological stage of adolescents as discussed in Stages of Faith by James Fowler. After reviewing this foundational research, analysis will be completed on what principles or practices should be put into a process for adolescent participants in the RCIA process. The conclusions from this study not only inform practices to be used for uncatechized adolescents seeking full initiation into the Church, but also, by extension, the foundational nature of the catechumenate, informative to all adolescent ministry within the Church. Finally, the implications of incorporating such applications to adolescent ministry will be applied to current trends in the statistics of the participation of this demographic in the Catholic Church in America.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Primacy of the Catechumenate
The National Directory of Catechesis explains that “[t]he baptismal catechumenate [is] the source of inspiration for all catechesis.”1 The catechumenal process, along with the rites contained in the RCIA, create an atmosphere that encourages a true conversion of heart, guiding new members of the Christian community in a lifelong development in their relationship with Jesus Christ. As stated by St. Pope John Paul II, “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ”2 By understanding this relationship as the main aim and goal for catechesis, those ministries concerned with catechesis depart from a simply educational task by involving multiple aspects of human need in the methods involved in the programming developed for a catechetical ministry. This is expressly stated in the Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church which originated from the Second Vatican Council. “The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher.”3
In order to promote this relationship, the structure of the RCIA process does not mandate a strict and uniform series of classes, but rather it “is suited to a spiritual journey of adults that varies according to the many forms of God’s grace, the free cooperation of the individuals, the action of the Church, and the circumstances of time and place.”4 This enforces focus on personal development of relationship over the conveyance of information. The attention to the individual journey of adults directs a somewhat fluid and responsive model which can be adapted and molded to meet the needs of individuals participating in the process. This is seen in the varying circumstances addressed in Part II of the ritual text.5 It is also integrated into the entire process of catechesis, calling for recognition and incorporation of the individual’s life experience and station.
The process for catechesis of individuals participating in the RCIA process, therefore, is understood more “as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time,”6 rather than an educational program or class. The process for this instruction relies heavily on liturgical catechesis; that is, catechesis through the participation in and reflection upon the liturgy of the Church. Use and importance of liturgical catechesis in the RCIA process will be discussed at greater length as one of the principles of the catechumenate in the second chapter of this paper.
Inclusion of Adolescents (ages 13-18) in the RCIA Process
Part two of the RCIA text expresses the need for including children of catechetical age in the RCIA process. This applies to “children, not baptized as infants, who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age.”7 Generally, the age of reason is regarded to be seven years old.8 These children, seeking initiation, either of their own desire or as guided by their parents or guardians have reached an age where they are capable of developing and forming the personal relationship with Christ that indicates the conversion of heart that the RCIA process is designed to promote. For this reason, it is appropriate for adolescents, similarly seeking initiation into the Church, to be included in the RCIA process prior to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation.
Part two of the RCIA text continues to explain the need to adapt both the method of catechesis as well as some rites within the process to meet the developmental and formational needs of children of catechetical age. Such adaptations include an awareness and sensitivity to the reliance these children have on parental figures as well as their social environment and peers.9 In order to understand ways of adapting the RCIA process to meet the needs of adolescents, it is appropriate first to understand the process itself, how it was developed, and by what principles it functions as the means by which individuals are fully initiated into the Church and subsequently serves as the basis for all catechetical ministry. Once this is understood, in order to adequately understand adaptations appropriate for this age group, a review of the developmental needs will be conducted. As the ritual text offers adaptations of the rites that can be used, the primary focus of this study will remain on the catechetical formation of individuals engaged in the RCIA process.

Bibliography

1 Congregation for the Clergy. National Directory for Catechesis. (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005), no. 35.
2 John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979), no. 5.
3 Vatican II council, “Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), no. 14.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988), no. 5.

5 RCIA., nos. 252-504.
6 Vatican II council, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), no. 64.
RCIA, no.252.
8 NDC, p 119, no. 36.A.

9 RCIA, nos. 252-259.

Mrs. Jenny N., MCat, OP


On Knowledge…

Mark C. blogs at http://truthvsreality.com

This space is for the members of our chapter to express some of their ‘Dominican-ness’. Some people would call that ‘preaching’. After some gentle nudging people are providing me their thoughts and on different topics. In this way, you will get to some of who we are and how we think, grow and experience Dominican Spirituality.

Mark is a temporarily promised member of our Chapter. Here is a blurb from his blog, truthvsreality.com

Mr. Mark Connolly, OP, MTS, is a Catholic blogger and podcaster who blogs here at Truth vs Reality, and as a guest blogger at Joe Catholic.  He is a co-host of the podcast My Stogie Mystagogy.

Mark has been a featured speaker at Catholic men’s conferences giving talks on what it means to be a Catholic man engaged in the world, and has served as part of the team presenting the monthly Positively Catholic formation talks at his local parish. He is a regular speaker for Joe Catholic, a men’s apostolate, giving talks on topics from Saints to Sacraments, the Documents of Vatican II, and Catholic Social Doctrine. He is a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus and is enrolled in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. Mark is also a lay Dominican.

Professionally, Mark is Director of Human Resources for a privately held company in the DFW Metroplex. Mark is a Lay Dominican and holds a Master of Theological Studies in Pastoral Theology conferred by Ave Maria University in Florida and also holds the SHRM-SCP HR certification. Mark lives in Carrollton, TX with his wife Rosie Connolly and their dogs Yeti and Ghost. And Lanier.

Gaining Knowledge

How does a good Catholic gain knowledge? What, in that case, is knowledge. There is a lot of data. Is having lots of data the same as having lots of knowledge? Am I going to answer any of these questions?

Let’s play with koans. Koans are a Zen Buddhist thing. No, I am not Thomas Merton blending and confusing mysticisms. Koans are a tool used by Zen monks to test their apprentices. They are designed to challenge the status quo, to instill a doubt, to possibly confuse. We don’t like confusion. Our natural inclination is to seek a resolution,and sometimes this creates the environment for a breakthrough.

Probably the one everyone has heard is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Not all koans are questions. One koan goes something like this: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

I seem to gravitate to the statement version. I made some up. You should try it, it’s fun!

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to think and he will always be hungry. (At least, I think I made that up. When I google searched it, it came back with me.)

Give a man a book of zen koans with answers if you hate him.

Data is data, not knowledge. If you just give someone the answers, you specifically teach them not to think. But we have rational souls, and the best teachers teach you to think. And why should we think? To know truth.

The value of a zen koan consists in the relationship between the master and the student. It’s not a test, per se. It is a challenge to one’s mind. The right challenge at the right time is the genius of the master. One may never be asked if they can describe the sound of one hand clapping because the master may not find that particular koan useful for this particular student. That a book exists with the “answers” is both funny and sad.

In some traditions, a student is given one thought to ponder for the rest of his life. It makes sense, if everything is in fact interrelated. So, what does he do for the rest of his life if he finds the answer one day in the stacks at a library?

I will wager that some of the best and most productive koans have been lost to history because they were developed on the spot by the master for a specific student, and then were set aside.

And probably many glimpses of truth simply go unrecognized or are just ignored.

Here is a koan: “I am to be crucified. Follow me.”

*All posts are the thoughts and expressions of the original author. Please do not cite, copy, or share without their express permission. The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone.*