Friday, July 4, 2008

Sprituality, Then and Now

Convalescing from surgery has allowed me several opportunities and an insight:

The insight: One should wait more than 24 hours, post-general anathaesia, to post a blog. Gentle readers, I apologize for the typographical error in the last blog (distinction of species should have been extinction of species). As well, a paragraph was inadvertently (more like, mysteriously) deleted; it’s there now and it explains ‘the second disconnection’. Oh dear; and that was after re-reading the blog entry three times before posting it. Lesson learned, hopefully.

Opportunity #1: Reading two, 600-plus page historical saga novels in two and one-half days. It usually takes me months to finish anything of this size. Back-to-back Reay Tannahill novels were a delicious way of distracting one’s brain from the rest of the recovering body.

Opportunity #2: Reading three O magazines. O stands for Oprah Winfrey. A dear relative lent me her three most recent O magazines. Previously, I’ve never looked inside one; I’ve never seen her television show nor heard her on satellite radio. Oprah is not on my radar.

Opportunity #3: Watching an ‘oldie’ movie. From our local library, I was able to retrieve Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon enduring all of the questionable Donovan tunes that are a big part of the movie’s soundtrack. Even more challenging was suffering through some fairly milquetoast acting; the cinematography was the saving grace for this movie.

So, what’s my point?

Oprah Winfrey is a modern-day prophet. Albeit an extraordinarily wealthy one (Forbes Magazine reported that in 2007 she was worth $2.5 billion), Oprah has been identified by Christianity Today as an influential spiritual leader – a postmodern priestess of “the Church of O”. Her fans number in the 22 million range with 75% being female (the North American portion of the Anglican Communion is estimated to be in the 4 million range). She is represented as ‘an icon of a church-free spirituality’.

The May 2008 O magazine (a whopping 348 page, nearly 2 pound high gloss tome) was heralded as “SPIRITUALITY NOW - HAVE YOUR OWN AHA MOMENT, a practical guide to the spiritual side of life (it’s time to wake up and smell the roses!) Doubters welcome”. Interspersed with the 168 full-page advertisements were articles exploring ‘the surge of spiritual energy sweeping the country...28 creative minds on the moment that defined spirituality for them...balancing doubt and faith...answering life’s big questions...restoring one’s soul...exploring the science behind the divine’. The feature article was ‘The O Interview: Oprah Talks to Eckhart Tolle...the remarkable author of Oprah’s Book Club choice on how to live more fully in the moment’.

When sheer exhaustion overcame the gentle reader from all of this spiritual exploration, the mind was eased back into reality with ‘FASHION: O’s Real-World Style Awards...eight designers who love your body and know what you need’, Page 300.

Real life clothing includes: leather hooded jacket ($2,495), camisole ($1,395), wide-leg stretch denim pants ($285) with short-sleeved stretch denim jacket ($345) finished with striped shirt ($295). Get the picture?

Brother Sun, Sister Moon is a dramatization of the spiritual awakening of St. Francis of Assisi. We meet Francesco when he is an indulged, wealthy young man who is enjoying the good life of the 13th century. A serious illness caused a spiritual crisis for the carefree troubadour. According to historical documentation, and reflected in the movie, we follow Francesco’s journey into ‘the dark night of the soul’. When he can no longer accept the values of his family, there is a confrontation with his father that leads to an interview with the area bishop. The story goes that Francesco renounces his father and demonstrates this physically by stripping off his clothing and returning it to his father. Shed of all his worldly ties, Francesco is reborn as a beggar and devotes himself to a life of poverty.

The spirit of St. Francis is kept alive today with the various religious orders and societies that continue under the several rules that he wrote. There exists an Anglican branch that lives under the rule that St. Francis wrote for married and working folk. Living simply, poorly and carefully attempting to imitate the life of Christ, as St. Francis did, a brotherhood and sisterhood around the world strive to live life in accordance with the Gospel. Franciscan work includes hospitality, service to others and caring for God’s creations –animate and inanimate. Self-discovery is supported and celebrated within the community.

We already have the book “The Gospel according to Oprah”. Vanity Fair wrote: “Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, excepting perhaps the Pope.” It has been suggested that, one thousand years from now, a religion known as “Oprahism” will exist.


I leave you with the prayer attributed to St. Francis:

Lord, make me a channel of your peace;
That where there is hatred, I may bring love;
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
That where there is error, I may bring truth;
That where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
That where there is despair, I may bring hope;
That where there are shadows, I may bring light;
That where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be
To understand, than to be understood;
To love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds;
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakes to eternal life.

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