We began the night with a toast to Saint Patrick, that giver of good tidings and slayer of snakes:
Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
who through strategy and stealth
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
here’s a drink to his health!
But not too many drinks,
lest we lose ourselves and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick,
and see them snakes again!
So clearly the early discussion was over snakes, and St. Patrick’s real name. Was it Maewyn Succat?
Topics for the night:
1. St Patrick: a toast. See above
2. “I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that ‘all that I am,’ I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God.”
3. “We need God’s wrath in order to understand what mercy means.” Do we? What do you think?
4. “It’s all about God.” What do you think?
5. St. Augustine: “Even the straw under my knees shout to distract me from prayer.” Is prayer difficult?
6. Are you dreaming?
It was a lighthearted evening – everyone was happy to be out for Saint Patty’s. We expected to be fighting the crowds, but it wasn’t as busy as we expected. Perhaps the lack of a stout at Right Brain didn’t help; that and everyone was singing Irish tunes and watching MSU at Kilkenny’s. Regardless, we enjoyed talking about old Saint Patrick, favorite Irish tunes, and whether or not wrath is a good (or proper) motivator. Most came out opposed to wrath as a good motivator, and felt that it was setting up a non-logical argument. For example, you don’t have to say, “I really know how much I enjoy reading a book at the library, because I know other people are being tortured.” It seems one would feel motivated to go to the library and read by something positive, such as a goal to be gained, but probably not so much by a threat (though I suppose that could work in a pinch). There were other examples, but someone else will have to recall them.
Is it all about God? Someone responded, “Maybe for God.” We noted that a classic approach in some theological traditions is voiced by the likes of Jonathan Edwards: “the end for which God created the world was his glory.” In other words, it is all about God, not human happiness or purposes or anything else.
Someone wondered whether it’s “all about connection, or interconnection, and God is the ground and center of that.” I think that’s a decent way to put it.
We noted that it is indeed hard to pray, and focus, and be silent…. But that for many of us, it is a necessary discipline and one we need to pursue more often. Others felt that we needed to focus more on the present moment, on mindfulness, ala Thich Nhat Hahn or Eckhart Tolle. That we can find God or the sacred in every moment, such as washing the dishes or shoveling the driveway. Someone else noted that such moments could be improved by listening to an audio book or lecture, and that there wasn’t necessarily any virtue in the act or moment itself. Also asked, “Is it possible to not be present?”
We all pinched ourselves and concluded that we weren’t dreaming.
From Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck:
“These birds are flying across the forehead of the Father. Dear birds, dear sea gulls, how I love you all. Your slow wings stroke my heart as the hand of a gentle master strokes the full stomach of a sleeping dog, as the hand of Christ stroked the heads of little children. Dear birds,” he thought, “fly to our Lady of Sweet Sorrows with my open heart.” And then he said the loveliest words he knew, “Ave Maria, gratia plena –”
There was, nor is, nor ever has been a purer soul than Pilon’s at that moment… A soul washed and saved is a soul doubly in danger, for everything in the world conspires against such a soul. “Even the straws under my knees,” says Saint Augustine, “shout to distract me from prayer.”
Pilon’s soul was not even proof against his own memories; for, as he watched the birds, he remembered that Mrs. Pastano used sea gulls sometimes in her tamales, and that memory made him hungry, and hunger tumbled his soul out of the sky. Pilon moved on, once more a cunning mixture of good and evil.”
Discuss the change in Pilon. Can you relate?
We all noted how we are all mixtures of ‘good and evil’, and how mundane, physical realities can break our highest spiritual moments, yet somehow those moments must happen in the mundane world, because that is where we live.
Also discussed was Pete Rollin’s parable: To Hell With Jesus
You sit in silence contemplating what has just taken place. Only moments ago you were alive and well, relaxing at home with friends. Then there was a deep, crushing pain in your chest that brought you crashing to the floor. The pain has now gone, but you are no longer in your home. Instead, you find yourself standing on the other side of death waiting to stand before the judgment seat and discover where you will spend eternity. As you reflect upon your life your name is called, and you are led down a long corridor into a majestic sanctuary with a throne located in its center. Sitting on this throne is a huge, breathtaking being who looks up at you and begins to speak.
“My name is Lucifer, and I am the angel of light.”
You are immediately filled with fear and trembling as you realize that you are face to face with the enemy of all that is true and good. Then the angel continues: “I have cast God down from his throne and banished Christ to the realm of eternal death. It is I who hold the keys to the kingdom. It is I who am the gatekeeper of paradise, and it is for me alone to decide who shall enter eternal joy and who shall be forsaken.”
After saying these words, he sits up and stretches out his vast arms. “In my right hand I hold eternal life and in my left hand eternal death. Those who would bow down and acknowledge me as their god shall pass through the gates of paradise and experience an eternity of bliss, but all those who refuse will be vanquished to the second death with their Christ.”
After a long pause he bends toward you and speaks, “Which will you choose?”
So, would you choose paradise with Satan or hell with Jesus?
There were differing opinions, and E. and B. disagreed and nearly came to blows over it:
“I would go to hell with Jesus.”
“No you wouldn’t.”
“What? Of course you wouldn’t! NO ONE would! You’d choose heaven.”
It brought up some great discussion. Why do we follow Jesus? Because of the payoff? If I think I would choose hell in this scenario, do I choose to find Jesus in the hells of this world?
The night ended with a rendition of “Oh Danny Boy” and it nearly got us run out of the place!
Have a thought on the above? Post your comment below.