Deus non alligatur. God is not bound. Nibbanam paramam sukham. Unbinding is the Highest Happiness. The Heart is Divinity. God is the primal radiance of Divinity. Nature is the primal manifestation of Divinity. The Buddha is the primal realization of Divinity. La ilaha il Allah. Allah is Complete Wholeness.

22 December 2006

Bridges Across the Divide

Not too many people know how large an influence the Catholic tradition had upon the Protestant evangelical author of the best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. The current interest in Catholic spiritually among Protestants stems from many reasons (as the excerpt below from The National Catholic Reporter, 15 December, 2006, shows; registration and subscription necessary to see the whole article). The trend of the Protestant, especially Reformed, tradition has been away from orality, away from the senses, away from contemplation, away from mysticism. Yet, if the Protestant experiment is to survive, it must retrieve these essential elements, elements that are truly 'universal', or 'catholic' (from the Greek, 'kata holos', 'relating to the whole').

Rick Warren, evangelical pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., told NCR that classical Catholic spiritual literature had a strong impact on him in writing The Purpose Driven Life, his Christian advice book that was on The New York Times Bestseller List for 174 weeks.

In 2005 this book made headlines when Ashley Smith, a 26-year-old hostage of the Atlanta Courthouse killer notified police that her captor wanted to turn himself in, claiming that during her captivity she read to the killer Brian Nichols from The Purpose Driven Life.

Newsweek magazine called Warren one of “15 People Who Make America Great,” an award given to people genius or passion, devote themselves to helping others. Christianity Today dubbed him “America’s most influential pastor” in a 2002 cover story.

Warren gives away 90 percent of his income to charities. His church is attended by as many as 20,000 on Sundays and carries 80,000 on the rolls. Elements from Catholic spirituality are a feature of many of the church’s Sunday workshops and classes, he said.

With roots in the Southern Baptist tradition, Warren said he has depended upon concepts from his readings in Catholic spirituality to form his own vision for his church.

“The idea of dying to self is a strong theme that comes from classical Catholic spirituality, as well as the instruction to learn to pray without ceasing. In St. John of the Cross we find the notion of the soul’s dark night, emphasizing the importance of how you handle those times when God seems absent or silent. Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, is a Catholic spiritual classic I have found useful. How does a book last 500 years?”

From the early church fathers and mothers through the monastic traditions and up to Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, Warren said these traditions and writings have all ministered to him.

“Fr. Nouwen’s concept of the ‘wounded healer’ has informed my pastoral career. Here was a man who clearly struggled with his faith. His authenticity comes through.”

Warren quoted St. Augustine’s famous sentence, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in you,” saying he believes that longing for the transcendent God is the source of his congregation’s interest in spirituality.

“People have tried everything. They realize there’s a hole in their hearts, knowing instinctively there’s more to life than just the material. There’s a spiritual yearning that all the technology and gadgets in the world can’t satisfy.”

In the classes taught at Saddleback Church, Warren said, six different ways to meditate are presented, along with instructions on how to fashion a daily devotional time. “We teach prayer, fasting, solitude. These are tools and resources for reaching out, for accomplishing our mission.”

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