Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On Finding Rings


In the first movie based on The Hobbit, Bilbo asks Gandalf, "Can you promise that I will come back?" The wizard replies, "No, and if you do, you will not be the same." (You can see the exchange in the first trailer.)

There is something about finding rings that changes a person. Now, most people come back from these adventures in our world, but Gandalf's warning holds true--they are never the same.

For some, the ring they receive is a wedding ring, given by their spouse at the altar. It is an outward sign of the inward change. That new husband or wife has accepted their vocation (from the Latin for "being called").  They have not just changed their jewelry but their soul, their state in life. From then on, there will be challenges as well as joys, but their direction is set.

Nuns may wear a ring as a sign of their commitment as well, as a sign of their consecration and new state of life. Each of them has set off, as well, on a new adventure, taken the first step in a particular direction.

Bishops wear rings, the most well-known being the Ring of the Fisherman, worn by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope).  These episcopal rings are signs of their authority, and they are, too, signs of their vocation--of their being called to be priests and, then, to serve as successors to the apostles. Again, there are particular challenges as well as joys, but that direction is set.

Once you have the ring, the adventure begins. Each of us the bears one carries a joyful burden--a light yoke--that is our particular calling. And while callings may be the same--many are called to be married, or consecrated religious, or priests, or bishops--the individual adventure is different. When we put on our ring for the first time, none of us may know what lays ahead on the road, or even which road we will be taking. What we know is who with, and who for. 
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet
- The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6

Friday, August 8, 2014

Body and Soul

At New Evangelizers, my latest article is Smells and Bells, on the need to involve both body and soul in liturgy and in prayer.

We are not just spirits driving around meat costumes.  We're not wearing Edgar suits (see Men in Black for the inherent problems in that system).

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode 19, Heart of Glory, the Klingons demonstrate several times that they don't hold to the same view. To them, the body is not part of the person.

When one of their comrades is lost, Korris tells the doctor of his body, "It is only an empty shell now.  Please treat it as such."

Later, the captain of a Klingon vessel refers to the dead Korris and Konmel in the same way. "They are now only empty shells. Dispose of them as you see fit."

The Catholic view is quite different, and it goes back to the beginning. It's quite visible in the life of Jesus. "He used physical things all the time. He rubbed mud on the eyes of a blind man. He was baptized by water, through a physical, outward sign of the intangible, inward reality.  It’s important to note that He didn’t have to use them. He also healed a solder’s servant’s daughter without seeing or touching her. But much of the time, he worked through physical objects. He consciously chose to work that way."

"These things don’t do anything for God. They don’t add something to Him or give Him something He needs. Rather, they give us something we need–a physical aspect to our faith that involves the body and, perhaps, through the body help focus and guide our spirits."