Letters 12.13.15

Off-Center Article?

Regarding “Why Centering Prayer Falls Short of True Intimacy With Christ” (Oct. 17, NCRegister.com): The above referenced article by Connie Rossini has absolutely missed the mark about centering prayer and Christian meditation. Apparently, the author has never learned or studied these two very Catholic and spiritual forms of prayer that date back to St. Benedict and the early fathers of the Catholic Church.

In particular, I would refer you to the 10th conference of John Cassian, where this way of praying is described in detail. Also, refer to the many passages in the Bible that suggest meditation as a way to pray — “Be still and know that I am God,” and “When you pray, go to your inner room and pray to your Father in secret … .”

What does the author understand as “your inner room”? Our “inner room” is our heart, which is united with the heart of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. This is what we experience when we meditate — our hearts united with the heart of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit! “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think they will be heard by their many words. Your Father knows what you need.” I could go on and on with many Scripture passages that refer to meditation as a form of prayer. I suggest Connie Rossini study this form of prayer more carefully and thoroughly before she writes another column on meditation.

         Marie Mitchell

         Long Beach, California


The editor responds: Connie Rossini, who also wrote the follow-up “Why Centering Prayer Is Not Christian Prayer” (Nov. 17, NCRegister.com), points out that centering prayer’s origins may be found during the 1960s and ’70s. Centering prayer, which includes aspects of Zen Buddhism and other Eastern mystical ingredients, is not, as Rossini points out, congruent with authentic Catholic meditative prayer because it empties the mind and encourages detachment, rather than focusing the mind on Christ. And the Register agrees.


Courting Concern

In his commentary “Will Judiciary’s Cynicism Prevail?” (Oct. 18 issue, Nation), Gerald Russello states that the Supreme Court “sees itself more as the exponent of certain moral principles, which it then tries to find in the Constitution, rather than the mere arbiter of disputes between parties, let alone only one of the three co-equal branches of the national government.”

If the court were merely an arbiter, why does it allow arbiters in the judiciary to hold office for life, rather than be accountable to “the will of the people”? The reason, or so it seems to me, is to prevent what is referred to as a “tyranny of the majority.” The Supreme Court’s precedence in striking down laws as unconstitutional was established in 1803 with Marbury v. Madison. It is not a recent invention. Nor has it always used that power to support some liberal agenda. Child labor laws were once stricken down as unconstitutional. I say this because many readers (through their letters) have expressed outrage over the Obergefell decision and have cited “the will of the people.” Such an attitude, however, seems to state that morality is based on popular opinion rather than on natural law.

In addition, in terms of the court being only “an arbiter of disputes,” I wonder what Russello (or Justice Antonin Scalia) would say about Brown v. Board of Education? Wasn’t it the “will of the (white) people” to keep blacks undereducated? My point is that we have to be careful when making accusations about court decisions, especially the ones we do not like and believe set a dangerous precedent. To set the record straight, I would not have voted with the majority in the Obergefell decision for the simple reason that if the states created legal protections for domestic partners, then marriage itself would not be a civil-rights issue, but a cultural institution for which the court has nothing to say. The concern that we should have about the court’s decisions is that they allow one set of arbitrary rights over the natural rights of others (the right to life in the case of Roe or the right to religious freedom in the case of Obergefell).

The “will of the people” should not be used as a defense, but about how a decision impacts fundamental freedoms such as life, religious freedom, opportunity to live out our calling and to not violate an individual’s moral conscience.

         Francis Jacobson

         Bainbridge Island, Washington


Gerald Russello responds: Thanks for these comments. You are right that we should be careful about either majority rule or rule by judges; either can be unjust. The point I was trying to make is that, unlike some other decisions, the Supreme Court in recent decades has seen fit to derive moral principles from outside of the nation’s constitutional tradition, and indeed without any clear basis in law or custom at all. Without that check, the risk of judicial tyranny becomes much higher. The decisions you mention, although controversial in some quarters, largely did not have that failing.


Malformed Conscience

In “Propagating the Error of the Primacy of Conscience” (Vatican, Nov. 1 issue), which I fully support, the author forgot to mention the advice of the “first theologian”: “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” A conscience operating under this Satanic interpretation will never lead up to heaven, which is the only thing that can make a person happy. Holy Scripture is not stupid.

         Raul Alessandri, M.D.

         Davidsonville, Maryland


Internal Revolution

On the papal flight between Cuba and the U.S., one of the journalists asked Pope Francis if his politics were leaning to the left. Perhaps his heart for the poor and criticism of the “unfettered pursuit of money” — once referred to as the “dung of Satan” — may have contributed to this misunderstanding.

Cuba was an interesting backdrop for such an enquiry. Pope Francis’ fellow Argentinian, Che Guevara, who infamously helped Cuba install the current communist government, was also a man whose principal motivation was compassion for those who were being horribly oppressed and exploited. It is true that both hate the sins that the rich and powerful commit against the poor. But then their paths separate. The communist ideology requires hatred of the sinner, too, in order to defeat him, and so turns in on itself and of necessity becomes worse than its adversary (“because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” James 1:20). The Pope’s way, of course, is more hopeful of the change of heart of those who currently do evil and happy to leave the battle and timing in God’s hands, whilst proclaiming the truth in love and candor. Pope Francis seeks a revolution, too — a change of heart, individually and collectively; a turning outward, first to God and then, as a product of that, to each other, and especially those in need.

It’s interesting that the Cuban leader, Raul Castro — when he met the Pope prior to his visit to Cuba — said, “I read all the speeches of the Pope, and if he continues this way, I will go back to praying and go back to the Church, and I’m not joking.” Love conquers all!

         Stephen Clark

         Manila, Philippines