A Word to Clergy and Religious for #IStandWithThomasPetersDay

Following on from my post yesterday about #IStandWithThomasPeters day tomorrow on social media, I want to take a moment to speak to the clergy and religious who read these pages.

As you know we are asking for support for Catholic blogger, author, and speaker Thomas Peters, who was seriously injured a few months ago and now faces a long and uncertain road of recovery.  I know that many of those in the priesthood and consecrated life are well-aware of the years of work Thomas has done on behalf of the Church. I also are very much aware that many of you take vows of poverty, and even those of you who do not generally do not have much if any disposable income.

However one of the central aspects of what we are trying to achieve tomorrow is to encourage prayer for Thomas’ recovery, to whatever extent Our Lord decides that recovery should proceed, so that he can get back to one of the most important aspects of what he does: speaking up on behalf of the Church.

To that end, so far over a dozen priests around the world have written to say that they will be including Thomas in their mass intentions for tomorrow.  Now I know, many of you in parochial settings have to offer your mass intention tomorrow for someone in your parish community who has asked for prayers for a specific need.  Things are already on the schedule, as it were.  What I would ask those of you in these situations then, is to consider whether there might be some other time during the day tomorrow, when you can pray for Thomas and for the success of this campaign to support him and his family.

This naturally leads me to those of you who are consecrated religious – nuns and monks, friars and sisters (and even a Franciscan hermit with whom I am very familiar.)  It would be wonderful if you could speak to your community about including Thomas in your community’s prayers at some point tomorrow, where you normally would mention your intentions.  For example, I know several orders will mention their personal and community intentions before going into the refectory for dinner.

Your support in these times means a great deal to Thomas and his family, as he continues to recover from his injuries.  It would be wonderful to hear from you on social media or in an email tomorrow about what your parish or community is doing, if you choose to help us out. As someone educated by the Dominicans and an earnest champion of the teachings of the Church, Thomas is someone who cares deeply about the good work that you do, and wants to be back out there again speaking to it and encouraging it.

Thank you for your consideration, and God bless!


Refectory at the Poor Clares of Santa Maria de Pedralbes, Barcelona

This Thursday 11/14: I Stand with Thomas Peters Day

As regular readers of this blog and listeners to the show are no doubt well-aware, blogger, author, and speaker Thomas Peters was critically injured in a swimming accident in July, from which he is still recovering.  Now that he can finally live at home while continuing to receive the care and therapy he needs to continue his recovery, the next challenge in this challenging period has begun.  However until now, there has not been a coordinated effort to reach out to the online community, to which Thomas has been a vibrant and active contributor, ever since he began the American Papist blog way back in 2006.

Therefore, gentle reader, I am personally reaching out to you to ask for your help on behalf of Thomas this coming Thursday, November 14th . To find out how you can get involved, please follow this link to the Thomas Peters Recovery Blog.  There you will find ways to help out through prayer, donations, and social media.

I myself for example, will be changing all the graphics of my social media accounts on  Thursday, using the Facebook and Twitter graphics which were custom-designed for the day, and also posting hashtag status messages using #IStandWithThomasPeters on my accounts – in fact there are pre-written status updates on the Recovery Blog using that hashtag which you can just copy and paste to your feed or wall.  I will also be contributing a blog post for your consideration, sharing some of my own reflections on the past few months.  I know other bloggers out there on the interwebz have promised to do the same, so please keep your eyes out for them this Thursday, and share those posts with your friends and followers if you find them worthwhile.

For now however, I will direct you back to the words of the man himself.  Thomas wrote this using just the knuckle of his right pinkie, in his first blog post since the accident.  It speaks far better than I possibly could to his nature: who he is, and what truly matters to him, even as he faces a future full of unknowns.

Thomas has brought so much to the table in his use of social media over the years, that if we are truly an online “community”, then those of us who use social media to engage with others can show that there is more to being online than simply voicing our opinions on politics, posting pictures with murky filters, or talking about bacon.  Let’s all take this opportunity, together, this Thursday to actually *DO* something for a member of the online community, who really does need our help, by using these amazing communication tools at our disposal.  Thank you!


Church and The Communal Christian

This past Saturday on the Catholic Weekend show, we had an engaging discussion with “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious” author Pat Gohn, who in a recent blog post over on Patheos gave some of her own reflections on Pope Francis’ new encyclical, Lumen Fidei.  As Pat writes, “To assist me in not failing, Jesus has given me brothers and sisters in the church, along with the graces of the sacraments, to insure it.” I was similarly struck by the cooperative, community effort which Pope Francis was pointing to, which stands in stark contrast to many aspects of contemporary American experience.

One of the threads running through “The Light of Faith” is the embrace of the idea of the Church being a living, vibrant community. It is through this active practice of one’s faith, and not simply through the development of individual personal relationships with Christ, whereby one comes to truly be a part of the Church.  In order to do so however, there needs to be a bit of death of the old self, a putting away of things which we like but which in many cases cannot be turned to good ends.  And for contemporary Americans in particular, one of the most difficult aspects of this is the idea that physical objects are not actually going to help us build up the kind of Church which Christ is calling us to.

Sublimation of the self in order to be more fully a part of the whole is something which may seem at odds with the American experience, or rather, what Americans believe their experience to be.  We like to think of ourselves as people who could go it alone if need be, in the spirit of explorers and pioneers seeking new frontiers.  However more often than not we are glad to give over control of our lives to businesses and organizations whose ultimate goals are not salvation, but profit, where the ends of profitability justify the means of parting the fool from his money.  Like in all wealthy civilizations everywhere, Americans tend to enslave themselves to whatever their personal object of lust or gluttony happens to be.  And being Americans, we do so on a simply massive scale.  For surely there has never been so acquisitive a nation in the history of the world as this one, not just among elites but across all levels of society.  

In building our communities around things, rather than around people, we measure ourselves so cheaply as to link our personal value to products made out of molded petroleum products or pressed earth.  In truth, by doing so all we have done in creating communities centered around materialism is to provide further evidence that Madison Avenue has a greater hold on the American psyche than we care to admit.  And we revel in the self-perpetuating ignorance we have created, without even realizing we have done so.  I am reminded of a television news presenter who, shortly after Pope Francis was elected, held an online poll asking, essentially, whether Christians ought to proselytize.  It betrayed a stunningly embarrassing ignorance of basic Christianity which, unfortunately, has seeped into the culture.

In contrast to this, Pope Francis puts the community of believers squarely out in front, in defiance of those who say that Christians ought to keep their Christianity to themselves.  “Faith,” he writes, “is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed.”  Much of America and indeed the world today would say otherwise, putting comfort ahead of sacrifice and damning the consequences, without realizing that those consequences may very well damn us, in return.  

The community to which the Christian belongs must be something more than a cultural institution, if the word “Church” is to have some meaning beyond a place where Christians assemble.  If “Church” is nothing more than a building where a group of people like to get together and sing the same songs and listen to motivational speakers telling them what nice people they are, one can hardly call that a “Church”.  It is more like a social club, where a rather flat and blurry facsimile of the Jesus from the Gospels is the topic, instead of football, or politics, or comic books.

The challenge of being part of the Church, in a truly Christian community, is the challenge of losing the self in order to gain the other.  It does not mean that we never argue, for even the Apostles did that, both when Jesus was with them and even after His Death and Resurrection.  However they learned over time to work together to build their community and keep it together, without compromising the truth.  A community based solely on material gains and the enthronement of personal pleasures is little more than a mutual admiration society, and one which is destined to fail us all.

Detail of “Christ’s Charge to St. Peter” by Raphael (1515)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London