Most of us know how to behave in polite company, company like God, for example.

We piously affirm the creed and humbly acknowledge Who's in charge, but ...

Let's get real, though.

While we heartily sing along with our children that He's got the whole world in

His hands and believe every word of it and while we take great comfort in
knowing that what no eye has seen, ear heard nor the heart of wo/man ever

conceived, such are the things prepared for those who love the Lord , still ...

What we are able to truly abandon to providence is the whole world, in general, but not anything in our own lives, in particular?

While we trustfully surrender our sweet by and by to the vague notion that the Kingdom will come and His will will indeed be done, that trust is more firm regarding how it may be in heaven, then, in the distant future. We're not quite as confident, are we, regarding our concerns on earth, here and now?

So, we hedge our bets.

We hold on to some measure of our perfectionism, our pride (how we see ourselves), our prestige (how others see us, even living in their minds or letting them rent space in our heads), power, pleasure, pain avoidance and, most definitely, our profits (material things, mammon) and such, all as insurance for this vale of tears?

How and why is it that we may nurture a most blessed assurance regarding an afterlife even while all too often positively terrified about so many things in this life? And why does this terror seem to be amplified even as our joys begin to multiply? To be concrete, for many, perhaps even most, of us, those bundles of joy fomenting most of our anxiety are our children! This is not to exclude, however, our lack of emotional sobriety regarding our reputations, social status, political aspirations, jobs and/or careers, finances, or even athletic success (whether directly or vicariously, whether through our children or fandoms). Most definitely, we must unfortunately include what we suffer more insidiously through various process (gambling, overeating, social media) or relationship (infatuation, limerance, sexual objectification, even financial bondage)

addictions, and, more dangerously, through substance addictions (alcohol,
drugs), that destroy our health, imperil our own and others' lives or merely drain our focus and attention (and checking accounts) from more worthwhile aspirations or even essential goals. Codependence, for its part, is rooted in a belief that all will be decidedly unwell without our own pathetic overinvolvement.

When Julian of Norwich proclaims that all may, can, will and shall be well and

you will know that all manner of things will be well - what might be our practical
takeaway, here and now? How might that better invite and encourage our trustful surrender and abandonment to providence? Why did every angelic apparition in scripture commence with the celestial injunctive to fear not?

If, in our consolations regarding our ultimate concerns, we drastically differ from those (nowadays) too often celebrated, nihilistic existentialists, Nietzsche,

Sartre and Camus and even if we've journeyed out of the despairing world of Macbeth and have drawn deep inspiration from Dostoevsky's explorations of the abyss, still, we don't so easily escape a more practical nihilism regarding our more proximate concerns, do we?

And that's why religion so often has indeed been an opiate of the people, right alongside our other manifold and multiform addictions, disordered appetites and inordinate attachments, including those to ... you know, again ... our perfectionism, pride, prestige, power, pleasure, pain avoidance or profits, all this rather than to providence.

Even when all is well with my world, most of us are not unaware that all can be decidedly wrong with so much else of the world. Even as Jesus turned water into wine, enlivening a celebration and sparing a young couple embarrassment, He was not out of touch with the enormity of human pain and immensity of human suffering of which we remain so very poignantly aware, even in this new millennium?

Still, nowhere did Jesus answer Job's interrogators or the plaintive questions of the psalmists. Nowhere have philosophers and theologians satisfactorily resolved the theodicy problem of how an all powerful, all knowing, all good God can allow such suffering as experienced in our human condition. There have been some rationally successful solutions, to be sure, but none that are, finally, existentially satisfying, at least not in a universally compelling way.

Karl Rahner, in his very first sermon, observed that so many don't even confront such issues until a crisis overtakes them, personally, citing, as an example, how

millions of parents lose millions of children each and every year, never once questioning life's meaning before. Others of us, abundantly blessed in so very many ways, though, have indeed vicariously immersed ourselves in stories of the Russian gulags, Nazi holocaust or more recent African and Balkan genocides, not to mention the misfortunes visited on indigenous peoples worldwide, both intentionally and unintentionally, by colonizers.

If, as has been said, the glory of God is wo/man fully alive (St Irenaeus and others), God's realization of same has apparently fallen short? Again, perhaps this is more so an eschatological truth, a reality more there than here, more then than now?

Some observe, however, that many of our philosophical and theological quandaries derive from improperly framed questions. Such questions address the following categories of reality:

1) who is wo/man? the anthropological

2) how did all of this come about? the paterological (the Father, creator)

3) what is wrong and how to fix it? the soteriological

4) where's all of this finally headed? the eschatological

5) how do we get there? the ecclesiological

6) might there be a so-called outside assist? the pneumatological

(the Spirit)

7) why was there an incarnation? the christological

8) what return shall we make? the sophiological

These questions and categories are addressed at length throughout this site, all within the context of what I claim as my Eucharistic architectonic, which sees

the givers receiving (and re-gifting) the gifts given by reality's givers.

Basically, mine is a pervasively Franciscan view, radically incarnational, profusely pneumatological, catholically sacramental ...

Beginning with the question of what return shall we make, my sophiology draws nuanced distinctions that carefully distinguish the surrender of our human will (in terms of God-purposing) from any view that would consider theosis or divinization strictly in terms of human growth, development or potential. Theosis is, instead, more so in the provenance of Mary, our exemplar for divinization, and her succession of fiats, saying yes again and again and again, of the little man from Assisi, in his simplicity and poverty and perfect joy, of the Little

Flower, in her little Carmelite way, of Brother Lawrence and so many others,
who embraced all as revealed, even, to our little children. It's all there in the

Magnificat, in the prayer of St Francis ...

The Franciscan view is that the Christ was in the cards from the cosmic get-go and the incarnation was not otherwise occasioned, therefore, in response to any

felix culpa. To be clear, this is to claim that He was coming, anyway, no matter

what. God indeed so loved the world that S/he inhabited it, christologically and pneumatologically, as it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall be, ontological ruptures and soteriological efficacies (overcoming sin and death, providing healing) notwithstanding.

Our sophiological journey from image to likeness much more entails trust, surrender, fiat, cooperation, even much letting go and getting out the way, cultivating a strong freedom (from addictions, attachments) and a strong will, even, that is willing, however, not willful, that is God-purposed.

Indeed, then, this Franciscan, contemplative lens, which is what this site is all about, rigorously laying a foundation of philosophical theology that supports the hermeneutic of Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Thomas Merton ... Franciscan,

emergent, contemplative ... reformulates questions of suffering less so in
theoretic terms of theodicy and more so in performative terms of What am I

going to do about it?

The eschatological question does not address then over now but very much includes, rather, our proleptic or anticipatory realizations of Kingdom realities here and now and celebrates them as first fruits, an earnest, a down payment, a guarantee, in and by the Spirit of what and Whom will be gifted in the fullness of time, a kairos moment not chronos. These give us hope and good reason to trust more.

However much ours is a fragile human spirit, it is resilient. So many of the events we have imagined and worried about have never happened, even if unimaginable terrors have been visited on us, too. Even then, we learn to live

quite well with losses we never quite get over is also our universal human experience. When we older folks voice assurances that God gifts each of us with the grace sufficient for each day and for every cross, those are not empty words or pious mumblings but the fruit of long and actual experience (our own and that of people like Viktor Frankl, Corrie Ten Boom, Immaculee Ilibagiza). We can all testify, some more than others, to habits of worry that amounted to wasted time and squandered joy. A LOT of it, probably measured, moment by moment, cumulatively, in terms of YEARS! Whatever the case or source of our suffering, such stumbling blocks can indeed become stepping stones. All is invited for surrender to transformation that, as Willie Dixon says, the blues are

the roots, while the rest are the fruits. Pain not somehow transformed, says
Richard Rohr, we will somehow continue to transmit to others, often those whom we love the most and would least want to offend. The world's most beautiful poetry and other art forms are often pain transformed and consolations and healing received, paradoxically, when ministered to others.

We can attest to the truth that worry is nothing but the devil's form of meditation. We can point to scores of people, ourselves included, who've experienced all manner of loss and note that they do smile again, even laugh again, do live

again, even love again.

All may, can, will and shall be well, for those of little or of great faith (and no one
has no faith, as it is not the opposite of doubt but the other end of the same polar reality of our concerns regarding ultimates, realities about which we most deeply care). And you will know that all will be well. You do not have to wait until old age or even until you become a mystic.

We are often more terrified at the thought of being terrified, often more hurt from the idea of loss and pain, than from the actual loss and pain, itself, if indeed it does materialize, as some assuredly will in every life. Sufficient for the day, though, are the troubles and cares thereof, so, do not let your heart be troubled.

Thomas Merton reminded us that bad things are even likely to happen, even to good people. What the good news guarantees, instead, he says, is that the bad

shall never become the worst. And that IS true -not just in the other-worldly way,
which it is, but - NOW ... and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

I once asked Phil St. Romain, best-selling Ligouri author and a true spiritual master, if he had a nutshell discernment approach. He responded rather easily with: If one can fill in the blank to the following statement, "I'll be okay when

________" then one has some sort of spiritual problem, be it large or small. I
believed that in my head 25 years ago, when he first said it over a whopper (maybe a whaler, it's okay if I get this wrong) at Burger King and, increasingly, I've come to better realize its truth in my bones.

Deep peace, great shalom and perfect joy ... St. Francis, pray for us!

John Sobert Sylvest on Scribd

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