Category Archives: Steve Shields OFS

Steve’s posts

The Shack – Part 1

My wife wanted to go to this movie, but when I saw the early previews I was not so sure. I finally went with her last week and despite my hesitation, I found it worked in several levels. Certainly, everyone who sees the movie has an opinion. I have seen reviews that are very positive and very negative, but everyone seems to have strong emotions about the story and content.

In my case, I saw the continuing theme of Trinitarian relationship. I am sure theologians could do a much better review of the specifics, but I was happy to actually see a movie that put it out there at all.

I have more to share, but ask my brothers to take some time and see it first. I am sure there will be a lot of discussion at that point.

Rest in God Alone

Apologies to my friends in the blog, but I have been swamped lately. the bottom line is I continue to work on recording the music to the Psalms that I wrote over the past 10 years. Back in January the first nine recordings went to iTunes as an album (Psalms Vol. 1) and now I am working on Vol. 2.

As my brothers both are aware, sometimes we are driven to get something done. In my case, my retirement from active music ministry last year kicked me into putting my focus on recording the Psalms the way I originally intended. I am not making any bold statements on the content, but for some reason, as I worked in ministry, the music came very easy.  I felt it was a gift from God, not as a definitive rendering of the Psalms, but as a personal connection and a lesson that God constantly reaches for us. He does not wait in Church for us to show up; He stands knocking at each or our doors in a way that we recognize. He speaks to us with the voices of those we know and those we interact with only briefly. He speaks to us in the Gospels and He speaks to us in our own hearts.

For some reason, I got this music, and for now, I will do whatever I can to put it out there. This one features my youngest son, Noah on lead vocals.

 

Commentary on the Brexit Vote

I see the Brexit (British Exit) as a fearful response to a tidal wave of change in the world. Like every similar event in the past (and there have been many), we lose perspective when we see this through a singular lens. There are many forces in play.

It is absolutely true that globalism has had a weakening impact on dominant (first world) countries. The think tank elites who saw financial interdependence as a deterrent to global destabilization and communism did not think it through. They did not recognize that tossing the manufacturing sector to the lowest global bidder would tear at the fabric of the American and European middle classes and create a vast transfer of wealth on one hand, while increasing human trafficking and slavery elsewhere. Millions of people who once had jobs have lost them, while corrupt countries accept slave driven, sweat shop labor to provide cheap goods and high profits to the people at the top.

These changes, along with many other natural and political disasters have impacted an already weakening global situation and populations have been pushed to move. We now have the highest number of refugees since the end of World War 2. Vast movements of people cause fear in populations and they react.

The Brexit vote has been immediately followed by a significant number of racist attacks in the UK. As I read the news, I was surprised to learn that I would no longer be welcome in Britain, since the primary focus of immigrant violence in the UK is against Polish immigrants who have been coming in large numbers over the years. When my oldest son lived in the UK, he was called a “f**king Pole” on the street in London, because he looks Polish. Apparently, we are all minorities somewhere…

So now we are on the verge of a social phenomenon that should not be surprising, since we have been part of this before.

I recently watched a great show on PBS about Neanderthals who were assimilated into a massive wave of immigration by our ancient ancestors. At first, the newcomers had to assimilate to their new environment, but as our early ancestors increased in number, the assimilation began to flow in the other direction and immigration became invasion. This is not a singular occurrence. In fact, our early ancestors dominated the world in a relatively short period of time and then began a process of dominating each other that has continued, unabated ever since.

In school, I learned how our Early American ancestors came to America to escape persecution and practice their religion. Years later, I started to understand the Native American viewpoint that saw European immigration expand to invasion. Their early efforts to stop the wave of immigration were overthrown by shear numbers as Europeans moved in waves to take the land and push whoever was there out of the way. The term I learned for this, was “Manifest Destiny”. 

I fear that vast movements of invasion are our common destiny. As a species, we are very good at pushing others out of the way to get what we want. In this case, Brexit is simply fear of history repeating itself in a country that has experienced multiple mass immigrations from the Romans, to the Saxons to the Norse to the Norman conquest. They’ve seen this before and always failed to hold back the tide. 

A Reflection On Devotion

When St Francis of Assisi was dying, he told his Friars that he had done everything in his power to follow Christ, in the way the Spirit guided him. Then he asked them to do the same. The implication is that God has a plan for each of us and what makes our lives meaningful is our willingness to embrace cooperation with the Holy Spirit in everything we do.  We fail when we try to measure God’s plan in earthly terms. 

So how do we know we are following the spirit? Certainly most of our most cherished saints struggled with this all their lives, but here is a thought on the process:

Our Savior, Jesus Christ gave us a Commandment to “love each other as I have loved you”. This commandment that is stated in all four Gospels and the Letters of St Paul is as universal as it is ambiguous, but it can change our lives if we embrace and apply it.

My belief is that Jesus gave us His new commandment with the understanding that each moment and situation has a loving response. Our struggle to find and apply that response with the help of the Holy Spirit is all we need to do in this life. Each time we respond with love, we are doing exactly what God is asking us in that moment and fulfilling His plan. As we progress through life, our actions and responses of love open some doors and close others. This is the evolution of God’s plan for us.

These doors may lead to very visible activities or very humble ones. Our surrender to God’s will and active response through love are all that matter. As a dear friar once told me, “life gets a lot more interesting when we let Jesus drive”.

Peace!

Ignoring Suffering is Ignoring God!

Our Catholic responsibility to serve the poor and marginalized is verified by the Holy See!

“Pope Francis insisted there is no such thing as “true worship if it does not translate into service to one’s neighbor. Let us never forget: in the face of the suffering of so many people worn out by hunger, violence and injustice, we cannot remain spectators.”

Ignoring suffering is ignoring God, pope says

 

The Impact of Global Human Trafficking

We are often so embroiled by our own national misfortunes that we miss the importance human trafficking has own our economy and national stability. When companies send jobs overseas to countries with little or no labor protection, the lowest bidder is often the overseas company that pays the least for their workers and promotes sweat shop environments that do not hesitate to apply a little coercion to keep the workers productive. Often, these workers are brought in from other poor countries with promises of good paying jobs and end up as slave labor with no chance of leaving.

This is important to us in the USA because we are addicted to the fruits of cheap labor. The market wants to keep prices down and profits up and are willing to look the other way to maintain the status quo. However, we also pay for it on the other end, since it is impossible for an industrial country to compete with slave labor. There is, frankly, no way to level the playing field.

In my previous article, I mentioned this as the interesting thread that bonds Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis. Donald may talk about NAFTA, while Bernie talks about income equality and Pope Francis talks about human trafficking, but they are all connected. NAFTA created a vacuum that allowed human trafficking to thrive overseas and the result is massive income inequality for Americans.

So the question is: Do Catholics have a moral responsibility to fight human trafficking?

Pope Francis leads the charge against 21st century slavery

 

A Response to “The new Marcionism”

The dance of “mercy versus justice” continues to be argued within a Church in turmoil. Certainly the arguments presented by our dear Augustinus provide an interesting reflection of this ongoing discussion.

We struggle with our understanding of God because most of us want to see God through our own, distorted lens. This is perhaps the biggest lesson in the Gospel story of the prodigal son. Each key figure in the story experienced it through their own filter which was defined by their own interests and personal history. Let’s examine the characters, just a bit:

  • The youngest son did not feel badly that he took his inheritance and set out on his own, but he felt very badly that he failed. He prayed for mercy and headed home because he didn’t have a lot of choices. He was a screwup and he knew it as he practiced the lines he would say to ask his father to take him back in. 
  • The oldest son saw the situation as unfair. He felt slighted that he never received the reward he expected for his obedience. Clearly, he did not want to stay home and work the family farm any more than his younger brother. He stayed because it was his duty to stay, and he expected something in return for his obedience. He also expected his younger brother to get the payback he deserved and suffer the consequences of his actions. It was only fair.
  • The father saw the situation from an entirely different perspective. He clearly felt badly that his younger son left. He just wanted his family to be together again. Fairness, justice or mercy was not part of the equation to him at all. They were overshadowed by the desire for communion. He just wanted his child back.

In the Gospel message of the prodigal son, Jesus points out that God’s response does not always fit nicely into our notion of fairness. Understanding this is key to growth in discipleship. It is our recognition that when we try to define God on our own terms, by trying to make him fit the filters we have chosen, we don’t see the whole picture. Growth only comes when we abandon our own interests, open our hearts and simply listen. This is the test of faith. 

Perhaps then, the best way to understand justice and mercy in the Catholic Church is simple prayer and reflection over the prayer Jesus taught us: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  In this line, Jesus tells us that we need to work to receive mercy through active forgiveness of others. It is not what we want to hear and does not fit nicely with out notion of fairness and reward for obedience hierarchical rules, but it is the heart of the Church.