Suis-je Charlie? My Free Thoughts about Free Speech

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 Fr.Guillermo “Memo” Campuzano, C.M., currently serves as Priest Chaplain for DePaul’s Catholic Campus Ministry.  He has worked on behalf of social justice on several continents and often works with religious communities around issues of faith and mission.  Students adore him and his challenging, humorous, realistic and loving approach to life and relationships as well as his absolute passion for justice on behalf of those who are marginalized. Let’s hope all are inspired to share their thoughts in the wake of his – he loves a lively diálogo.

This is my first blog post ever.  So my readers need to be very gentle and compassionate with my disorganized, free thoughts that I intend to share.  My intention in accepting the challenge to write a blog about Charlie Hebdo is to be thought provoking and not in any way to dogmatize about something that needs to be analyzed very carefully (not just from one perspective).

This week I have read in several magazines and newspapers around the globe about something that deeply captured my attention:  the right to blaspheme – which can mean many things.  In a way, it’s what many in our society consider an absolute right – the right to say anything we want with no limits whatsoever.  The right to blaspheme is the right to say whatever we want about what others consider sacred/absolute in their lives.  Religious people who believe in God are people with an absolute that they call Hashem, Allah, El Shaddai – just to mention the three monotheistic Abrahamic religious experiences.  I am aware that on behalf of this absolute, many acts of inhumanity have been and continue to be made in our society.

For me the paradox is that many people are claiming – after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack – that they believe in another absolute:  free speech, which gives them the right to say anything they want about other people’s absolutes, even if it is offensive.  That absolute (free speech) is so absolute that they are willing to risk their lives for it.  I say, “What?!?!”  My question:  Is this a battle between secular and religious absolutists?  Does this reoccurring god of the intellectual world have any ethical limits?  Or is it an absolute absolutism?

I am a religious man – and I humbly think I am an intellectual man.  I like to say what I think – that is what I am doing on this blog.  From both perspectives, as a religious man and as a pseudo-intellectual man, I believe that both my faith and my free speech have limits – my absolute respect for life.  I absolutely deny, in my life, the possibility to kill or harm in the name of God.  But I also deny the possibility to risk my life or put other people’s lives at risk just for me to have the right to say whatever I want.  From an ethical perspective I think there is a moment when I morally can risk my life religiously or secularly:  it is when I would give my life to protect the life of others.  This is martyrdom in religious terms – to protect the life of others – or the most radical act of humanity in secular terms.  Is this an absolute where religious and secular worlds can meet?  I hope so.

In our humanity, what is absolute?  To what do we give that value?  What are willing to do to protect it?

Help us, O God

In the wake of last night’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, wrote a prayer to share with our community:

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Merciful God,
Come!  Help us!
We always seem to get it wrong,
and again, today, we need your help.
Over and over it seems that
we fall short
and manage to be blinded and driven
by our fear, our pride, and our self-centeredness
despite our best efforts and good intentions.
And so,
we harm each other
and end up putting further obstacles in the way
of the justice and peace you desire –
and we desire, in the end –
and which you have gifted to us,
if we would only recognize it
and enact it.
Help us to settle for nothing less
than the goodness,
mercy,
generosity
and service
which you help us to imagine
and which you model for us.
Help us, O God,
to remember and to become who we are
and who you created us to be
as a beloved community.

Knit with Meaning: Crafting for a Cause

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Katie Sullivan is the University Minister for Catholic Social Concerns in Catholic Campus Ministry.

In the last few years, I’ve found myself doing a lot of knitting. Some of this knitting is definitely because a lot of people I know are having babies – friends, siblings, co-workers, you name it. Some of this knitting is because I simply enjoy it or want to make something special for a loved one. And some of it is because of Crafting for a Cause, our CCM program for students who want to knit or crochet things to donate to those in need and build community with each other as they knit.

In the process of doing all this knitting, I’ve discovered that when I knit, I keep the person I’m knitting for in my consciousness and hope that the love I’m feeling for them goes into the item. In this way, knitting is now a spiritual practice for me. Knitting with intention, as I try to do, has become prayer.

During the 2013 summer months, one knitting project in particular took on extra special meaning for me – a blanket I was making for my older sister, Keary.   She had been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that summer, and I had decided to make her a blanket she could take with her to chemotherapy.

This blanket felt extra special; it was a big blanket and required a lot of yarn and every time I worked on it, I thought of Keary and put my heart into the project, essentially praying for her health and recovery. Yet, it somehow seemed to have more mistakes than usual in it.

When I gave it to her, and apologized for the many mistakes, she smiled and said, “Don’t you remember what Mrs. Samson [our former teacher who taught us both to knit] said about mistakes? They’re your love.”

I hadn’t remembered that little nugget of wisdom from the woman who had taught me to knit but hearing it made me happy because it felt so true. I had been thinking of any mistakes in my knitting as my signature (thanks to a friend for sharing that piece of wisdom with me). Now, though, I think I’ll look at any mistakes and see them as both love and a signature.

In a very special way, knitting, for me, has become prayer in its own unique way. What are some things that you do that have become spiritual practice?

Do you want to try knitting as a spiritual practice now? If so, please join our Crafting for a Cause group on Fridays at 11am in the CCM office (Suite 104 of the Lincoln Park Student Center).

To What End?

Desert_road_UAE“In the face of these immense efforts which already preoccupy the entire human race, people raise numerous questions among themselves:  What is the meaning and value of this feverish activity?  How should all these things be used?  To what goal are the strivings of individuals and societies heading?”
                     From:   Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope):  The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, a document of the Second Vatican Council.

 This year, as the Catholic community continues to remember the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), this quote resurfaced.  It struck me again as relevant even 50 years after it was written.  While praising the rapid advances made in science, technology, economics and politics, among other areas of human knowledge and culture it raises the essential, fundamental human question:
              “To what end are we oriented?” 

Individually and collectively, this is the central question which determines our moral compass, the foundation for our daily choices, our sense of meaning and purpose, and what is good, true, and beautiful.  How we answer defines who we are and seek to be.  Ideally, one’s ultimate hope is one that is worth living for, worth persisting through the challenges of life in order to achieve, worth taking courageous steps to grow towards, worth making sacrifices to attain, and one in which we find our deepest joy as we invest our life to make real.

“Success” alone doesn’t get us to the peace we desire, unless it is directed towards a meaningful and purposeful hope or purpose. Material possessions, career accomplishments, safety, comfort, or sexual gratification cannot alleviate the underlying anxiety which exists when people lack some good and meaningful vision for to orient their life, their time, their energy, their will, their emotional life, and their decisions.  If we are oriented towards that which is ultimately fleeting, unfulfilling or entirely self-oriented, we remain fundamentally anxious as human people, and we tend to develop the habit of responding out of this anxiety.  Anxiety becomes the voice we begin to most recognize and falsely identify as our own.

Part of the gift of a spiritual tradition and a faith community to ground you and surround you is that it offers the possibility of helping keep you oriented towards a meaningful end, one which leads ultimately towards joy and fulfillment rather than ongoing anxiety.  There is much in our society, culture, and everyday lives that steers us off-course and entices us to pursue only fleeting, material, and ultimately unsatisfactory pleasures.   As human beings, we need some forms of regular spiritual practice (meditation, prayer, journaling, walks in nature, spiritual reading, etc.) and we need each other in order to keep us honest and centered on that which is fulfilling in the end, lest we spend too much of our time and too many of our days pursuing empty promises.

I have found that to be in an ongoing, right relationship with the ultimate source of hope and joy is exactly what it means to be in relationship with God, the fruit of which is a truly desirable end:  to know oneself embraced by love and to desire only to love in return.

Mark Laboe is Associate Vice President for University Ministry at DePaul University

Would You Want Satan as a Character Witness?

last days of judas

Who knew Saint Monica liked to throw around the F-bomb?

Well, she does…and with relish in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” playing now through April 27th (click here for more info) on the Fullerton Stage at DePaul’s Theatre School in Lincoln Park.

If you’re fortunate enough to take in this show (and I recommend you do) don’t let one saint’s hip hop swagger or the irreverent, edgy vibe from the cast of colorful characters distract you from grappling with the question lodged at this courtroom drama’s core: is Judas Iscariot in hell for betraying Jesus Christ?

And, while you’re at it, try not to let the dazzling performances and sneaky-smart theology side-track you from at least nibbling around the corners of the BIGGEST of all questions pulsing throughout this play:

What role does CHOICE play in our lives?

What happens to us when we die?

Where, if at all, is God?

Two-plus hours of lively theatre aside, we’ve all gotta figure these questions out for ourselves – or, in some cases, subscribe to a tradition or philosophy that provides the answers for us.  For the record – I think the wisest answers come from some combination of these two methods.   But, with a nod towards “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” here’s where I’ll leave it (at least for now!):

I think God is everywhere…loving us and always inviting us into deeper relationship.  I think we make mistakes (dare I say that’s part of the Divine plan?).  We try not to dwell on or get stuck in the mistakes but, instead, to learn and grow from them.  And, I hope…maybe I’m even convinced…that when we breathe our last we’ll go to where our heart most desires to go…to a place of life and love and joy.

…What do you think?

Tom Judge is a Chaplain at the DePaul Loop Campus.  Feel free to leave comments in response to his post at the bottom of the page.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

HeavenA Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

Near-Death experiences otherwise known as NDE’s are controversial. Thousands of people have had them, but many in the scientific community have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those people.

A highly trained neurosurgeon who had operated on thousands of brains in the course of his career, Alexander knew that what people of faith call the “soul” is really a product of brain chemistry. NDE’s, he would have been the first to explain, might feel real to the people having them, but in truth they are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then came the day when Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by an extremely rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion (and in essence makes us human) shut down completely. For seven day Dr. Alexander lay in a hospital bed in a deep coma. Then, as his doctors weighed the possibility of stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes pooped open. Her had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is by all accounts a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in comma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

The story at first sounded like a wild and wonderful imaginings of a skilled fantasy writer. But it is not fantasy Dr. Alexander says. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. That difficulty with belief created an empty space that no professional triumph could erase.

Reading this book has continued to remind me of how great God really is. It doesn’t matter who you are or what traditions/belief you come from, God uses anyone at any moment in their lives to carry out his work.

By: Webster Vital