We Need A New Spirit For A New Age
SPIRITUALITY 10/06/2039 9:36 AM ET
We Need A New Spirit For A New Age
by Fr. Jackson Tierney
Catholics For Love

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We each need to pray to our spirit for guidance.
America is facing a profound problem right now.

You can't swing a dead cat without running into deep divisions in our moral outlook toward the minorities in this nation. We are riven with hatred of our fellow Americans, and a dark suspicion has gripped us when we ponder the other side of politics. We are prone to seeing them as the enemy.

Even to the point that serious cracks are again appearing in the union. Perhaps, despite the slaughter the Civil War perhaps was only a band-aid for a broken arm?

It's difficult to say when this started but we seem to be reaping what we have sowed. We demolished almost an entire people group across a continent, brutally enslaved a race to work as forced laborers, killed gay people, and demonized people who transed.

And so, now we pay the price for arrogantly pretending to be the land of the free and the home of the brave when only the majority is truly free and only minorities have to be brave.

Are we sell-outs to the American dream that all people are truly created equal and that each of us deserves a chance to pursue happiness?

Where is the chance to pursue happiness for the African-American son of a Louisiana carpenter whose job was taken by a machine, and whose recourse has been to the bottle? What's to become of him?

What has happened to justice for the Native American, whose numbers are being shorn by drug and alcohol addiction, poverty and suicide?

And how shall we help the "illegal" immigrant whose life, once he enters this land of the free, must begin by being on the run?

Clearly, something has gone drastically wrong. We were not meant to be a people impoverished in our charity, mistrustful of our brothers, and judgemental of the most deprived souls, simply on account of our differences.

I grew up in Brooklyn. Brooklyn was a haven for all kinds of souls in all kinds of places in their lives. African-American people, white people, Latin people, gender-denying artists, money-denying micro-Marxists, gamblers, psychologists, businessmen, musicians and architects. Brooklyn had it all - a rich tapestry of flavor running like a river through the community. And always, lots of suffering.

I attended mass at St Augustine's each Sunday (it's now a hotel). I assisted Fr. Guerlin when he ministered to the sick, the dying, the drunk, the poor, the filthy. Fr. Guerlin passed away ten years ago, but he used to say something which has stuck with me ever since: "always be poor, be humble, be giving".

Fr. Guerlin had a special gift - an insight he would call it - into the people he helped. I was with him on one occasion, when he found a man lying in an alley, facedown in his own vomit, and after bringing him to, asked why he insisted on spending his life and his money at the dog track.

The man's face went white.

On other occasions, he would look at a person and simply tell them their future: "It's teaching for you," he would say or, "I see you're going to fix cars." Until the very end, he would get letters from people he had helped, informing them that he was right.

Just before he was diagnosed with lung cancer (the good Father liked to smoke, unfortunately), he said he realized his time on Earth was coming to an end. And he told me he wanted to pass on the teaching he had been given.

He had been staying with a friend of his in Germany toward the end of the 2010s. His friend was also a priest, and he introduced Fr. Guerlin to a boy in his parish. The boy was special, insofar as he had an insight. He could simply do things that defied logic. He was able to move things with his mind, he could divine what you were thinking - according to Fr. Guerlin he could even lift himself off the ground.

(I should note, Fr. Guerlin was teetotal his whole life.)

The boy had hidden his gift from his family, who were only superficially Catholic, and most of his friends, but was eager to reach others and shared how he had obtained this wondrous spiritual insight.

This miraculous young man taught Fr. Guerlin how to seek his spirit. And during the time he stayed with his friend, he met with the boy each day and learned. Eventually he encountered Eshehel, who helped him for the next decade of his life in assisting people in need.

It seemed that everywhere he went, Fr. Guerlin helped someone suffering. And he was served ably by his spirit, who helped convince the people who otherwise probably would have doubted his spiritual power.

Fr. Guerlin helped a lot of people through their suffering.

My work with Catholics For Love as its Chief Officer has been to address that same suffering in the same radical and unique ways. Ways which sometimes deviate from the historical norms of the church.

Whether it's giving food to the poor, helping a cocaine addict free himself from bondage, or healing a family pulled apart by gambling or infidelity - I see my role as the instigator of a revolutionary new love; one which sees past the surface of those in need, and attends to the deeper spiritual necessities for that person's life to change and thrive.

In other words, with so much darkness and suffering, we need a new spirit for our new age - one which will bring us together instead of driving us apart. We can build and rejoice only if we shuck off old models of judgement and ritual, and adopt a new spirituality, a sense of connectedness and oneness which allows us to view each other as free and whole beings.

I regularly pray to the spirit which I believe God has sent me, and which Fr. Guerlin taught me to seek. I lead groups which pray to their spirits. I am involved with Gen.Life, which advocates guided meditation and spirituality awareness training in schools around the country.

Touching the divine is important to all of us. You can't imagine the joy on the faces of school children as they conduct a prayer, only to see its fruits appear before their eyes!

Last week I was ministering to a small group of Juniors in a Cleveland high school library, and I told them about the spirit I bring with me. I told them his name (Aphalis) and a little bit about his presence in my life. I told them that he goes with me wherever I do, and he helps me minister to the poor and needy, sometimes by allowing me to see into their lives as I'm helping them.

I told them he had agreed to answer one question, if someone would come forth and just ask. As you can imagine there was some hesitation but a boy did indeed raise his hand, and said he wanted to know why they had so much homework.

(Ah, to be young enough that homework is the chief concern in your life.)

As soon as he stopped speaking, a book fell from a shelf behind him and landed on the floor with a thud. Everyone jumped and I chuckled. My assistant, Mthr Cecelia, instructed the boy to pick up the book, which had landed open. He did, and gasped.

There, highlighted was a quote from Benjamin Franklin:

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

There were lots of oohs and aahs from the rest of the students. Each of them wanted a turn, but I warned: Aphalis is a jealous spirit and cannot be shared too freely.

I told them that each of them have their own spirits and that they need to search for theirs. I later showed them how through the basic mechanics of guided meditation.

In the end, here's the lesson from that tale: in that group there were five white children, two African-American children, an Asian child and three Hispanic children, and each and every one of them had the same response: wonderment.

We have to bring people together, now more than ever. We need to get people to see the divine in any way we can, because touching the immortal plane helps us understand our humanity in a way that nothing else will. In a world seeking to divide itself into this people group and that people group, it should be clear to us all that seeking that humanity in ourselves and others is critical to forging a path forward.

Only then can we try to right the wrongs in our own histories. Only then can we fix what we have broken. Our fathers knew something was broken. Why not listen?

Traditional church has not accomplished this, so we need out-of-the-box solutions.

Or, we can commit to a destiny of hate and destruction.

Myself, I like what brings us all together.
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