The Cosmic Mass: A New Generation

(Reblogged with permission from Inquire Within)

The Cosmic Mass began as an intergenerational co-creation between Matthew Fox and a group of visionary young people from Sheffield, England. Now, as it continues its resurgence as a monthly event in Oakland, CA and environs, Matthew Fox’s co-creation is being carried on in a new generation.

In this Podcast Dr. Fox and the current director of the Oakland TCM, Skylar Wilson, join Darren Main on the online radio show Inquire Within to talk about Creation Spirituality and the next generation of The Cosmic Mass.

An Evening with the Awakin Circle of Silicon Valley

In the midst of the paradoxical Silicon Valley culture, Matthew Fox was delighted to share an evening with a small, vibrant home-based Awakin circle, part of the Awakin.org movement just recently. He writes:

After speaking to the Silicon Valley circle, I was filled with gratitude to my hosts Nipun and Guri Mehta and their family for the 17 year commitment that they have made to bringing a spiritual ballast to the Silicon Valley and its creative accomplishments all those years.  (Theirs) is an important vision and I was honored to be part of it for an evening.  Blessings and continued grace on this meaningful and deeply needed work!

This was Nipun’s account of the evening;

With his unique blend of stories, scholarship and spirituality, (Matthew Fox) filled our pockets to the bursting point with gems of insight.  Among much else he reminded us that study can be prayer if we bring our hearts to it, that zeal springs from a deep experience of the beauty of life, that “Nothing is so  like God as silence”, and that trust is a form of courage.

He invited us on a quest for joy in the work that we do, and to fall in love with the banquet of all that is lovable in our lives. He informed us that at our core we are ‘bipeds who make things’, and the sacred act of creation, not consumption, is our birthright, and that without the faculty of awe we render the universe little more than a marketplace.

He urged us to honor the power of inter-generational community, to calm our ‘reptilian brains’ through meditation, to restore our relationship with the earth, and to reclaim the gift of true learning…he gave us through his words, his presence and his truth much to work with and return to as we travel our own paths, in this “University” called life. For that generosity we are deeply grateful.

The real record for what happened last night lies in our hearts.  We hope the evening energizes your spiritual journey in some way; surely, we feel blessed to host such conscious gatherings in our own home.

He also offered some links for more resources:

How do I engage more?  Here are some ways:

  • Join an Awakin Circle (locally in Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, South
    San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and of course, Santa Clara, and globally on five of the seven continents).
  • Pick up a Smile Card.
  • Stay connected to good, via DailyGood and Karmatube.
  • To get more involved, volunteer with ServiceSpace.

Living a Joyous Life – Matthew Fox Converses with TCM Ritual Co-Leader Kokomon Clottey

“Joy is not the opposite of suffering or pain – joy is what sees us through both.” Hear Matthew Fox speaking about how to live a joyous life of community, creativity, and embodied spirituality despite our dire world circumstances, in conversation with Blog Talk Radio host Kokomon Clottey of A Happiness Index.

More Spirituality Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with A Happiness Index on BlogTalkRadio

Highly Recommended: The Brigidsway Pilgrimage

The Brigidsway Pilgrimage, from Faughart  Co. Louth to Kildare town in the Republic of Ireland, will take place  between  June  28th and July  6th, 2014.  It is  possible for people to join the pilgrimage  for  shorter periods of time to  suit their availability

Dolores Whelan, co-leader of the journey, is a graduate of the University of Creation Spirituality MA program in Creation Spirituality; Matthew Fox comments: “Her Celtic pilgrimages are great!”

All details of the pilgrimage are posted on the Brigidsway website: www.brigidsway.ie.

“Catholic Boy Blues” – A Breakout Book

CatholicBoyBlues Just last month, Greystone Press released an eloquent testament to the shattering impact of childhood sexual abuse, and the power of truth-speaking in the healing process, in Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing by Norbert Krapf, past Indiana Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize nominee, emeritus prof. of English at Long Island University, and author of twenty-five critically acclaimed books.

In his Introduction, Matthew Fox speaks to the depth of Krapf’s message:

“The late poet Derrick Walcott, in accepting the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1992, declared that “the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world in spite of history.” This powerful statement reminds us of the darkness that so much history contains—the wars, the injustices, the mistakes, the crimes, the malfeasance, the lies. History tempts us to give up on life. Poetry (and other art forms) are that gift from the gods that allows us to endure, to heal and to thrive in spite of history.

Lately, first in the Roman Catholic Church, and now in the football hierarchy of Penn State University, one shadow side of history, the rape and abuse of children and the cover up by powers that be, has been making headlines and telling us things about ourselves and our institutions that we prefer not to hear. Denial reigns. Adultism rules when institutional ego and reputation take precedence over the safety of children whether that institution is a university or a church. In this book, from an acclaimed poet laureate, we hear the truth that burns through denial and we pray once again that the truth will.

After armies of lawyers and (somewhat) contrite bishops and football coaches and in-denial popes there cometh the poet. A poet-victim to tell the truth, sing the truth, speak the truth, gather the truth with facts and heart and the only weapons victims have ever possessed—the truth-telling that alone leads toredemption, prevention, healing and ultimately compassion and forgiveness.

These poems tell what a steep price the soul pays for childhood abuse. How many years (over fifty in the present poet’s life) of keeping the secret; how much damage was done in his and other families, he keeps asking. What a price a community pays as well. A close-knit German Catholic community no less. Former Pope Benedict XVI would do well to take a retreat immediately with these poems in hand and read and pray these poems and then tell the world why his all-powerful office of the Holy Inquisition, responsible for wayward clergy, did not end child abuse by priests, some of whom, such as the infamous Father Maciel, were so highly favored by his boss, Pope John Paul II, who is getting canonized. And, while he is at it, let Cardinal Ratzinger (retired Pope Benedict XVI) tell the world why his office kept the lights on late at night to beat upon holy and hard-working theologians but kept mum on perverse pedophile priests.

In these poems the poet speaks the truth not just about the facts but also about the feelings. The stories. The broken lives. The betrayals. The many others also abused. The hypocrisy. The religious hypocrisy. The spiritual hypocrisy. The losses. The anger. The sadness. The grief. The distance traveled from religion, from church, from oneself.

The probing here of the depth of passion and loss (what the mystics call the “Via Negativa”) is profound. And universal. All grief speaks this way. All grief is angry and wild, sad and sorry, mute and silent, even secret. But not for ever. Breakthrough is so needed. Breakout is so important. This book is a breakout book. The truth must be spoken (not just adjudicated, not just financially reimbursed through fines in civil court). This is why Walt Whitman can say “the true Son of God comes singing his song.” The Jesus story reminds all men and women that the truer we be sons and daughters of God, the surer we will be crucified. Innocent boys, like the innocent Christ, wanted only to love life and explore it fully and, with an overly naïve and trusting parish community and sister and parents, were befuddled by the adult lies, the religious lies going on. They are, sadly, still going on. The church is not reforming or even trying to reform itself. Quite the opposite, it has slid (and even rushed) backward into a defensive mode again of superiority “beyond which there is no salvation,” a mode of authoritarianism that condemns the whistle blower, the prophet, the thinker as trouble-maker. The church is what it is, unfortunately.

But the poems live. They are organic and truthful. They speak the truth more loudly than sermons and rituals and papal bulls; more appropriately than fancy colored vestments and rote readings from holy books. They reach to the soul, to the heart, to the Spirit. They bear the mark of authentic preaching of salvation and of a living Christ of compassion….”

See the full introduction, and experience the depth of Norbert Krapf’s passionate poetry, in Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing. See the growing number of rave reviews here.

Lorna Byrne and Unemployed Angels

Matthew Fox writes of his experience celebrating a Cosmic Mass of the Angels and later conversing with angelologist Lorna Byrne….

An Encounter with a Very Special Woman

Lately I have been reading, or better re-reading, the classic work The Psychology of Consciousness by Robert Ornstein and his more recent study The Evolution of Consciousness. Also Peter Russell’s book, From Science to God: A Physicist’s Journey into the Mystery of Consciousness. I have been doing this in prep for a sit-down with Rupert Sheldrake, the brilliant though heretical (among science’s priestly establishment) British biologist as we are working on a book together on Spirituality and Consciousness.

But also I had the privilege the past week to spend several hours with Lorna Byrne, some in private conversation, some in the public setting of the Celebration of a Cosmic Mass of the Angels held at Sofia University in Palo Alto, and several rich hours interviewing Lorna before a very attentive and diverse gathering of many hundreds of persons at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. That interview was filmed and will shortly be made available on a DVD from my non-profit, Friends of Creation Spirituality.

Lorna Byrne challenges all of us who seek a saving and expanded consciousness to grow our minds and hearts and souls.

Lorna, for those who do not know her, is a person who any scientist serious about studying our potential as a species should be studying. Lorna is an Irish peasant woman, a woman of the sod who with her now deceased husband Joe raised four children on a very poor plot of land in rural Ireland. Lorna is illiterate having been dyslexic her entire life and pretty much shunned by the ordinary educational establishment during her growing up years. She is a grandmother and a widow, her beloved husband having died about six years ago. Her sense of humor, her grace, her normalcy, her struggles as a mother (her family was so poor they often had neither gifts nor food for Christmas) and wife (Joe was frequently ill and unable to work), all point to an every-day woman with feet very much on the earth. She talks of foraging for carrots and potatoes in the Irish sod to feed her children on a regular basis.

Lorna also has been visited by angels since she was a child. Her very first memory dates to the age of two when she was looking up to see her parents and she saw their guardian angels behind them. She regularly sees guardian angels and many other angels and wonders how strange it is that so few others do not have these experiences. Since she was given permission six years ago by the angels to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and to come out of the closet with her angel visitations she has dictated three books which have become best sellers and been translated into twenty-six languages, including Angels in My Hair; Stairways to Heaven; and A Message of Hope from the Angels.

At our Cosmic Mass Lorna informed me as we were preparing to open the doors for the attendees to arrive that the place was already packed with angels. At the Grace Cathedral interview I began by asking her if she observed angels in the place: “Oh, yes,” she said. There were multitudes of them, many still streaming in through the doors and one taller than the main door at the entrance (which must be at least thirty feet high in the vast Gothic Cathedral where we gathered after an introduction from Episcopal Bishop Mark Andrus).

She described what many of them were wearing and she talked of “many unemployed angels.” “What is an unemployed angel?” I asked, “I know many persons who are unemployed today, but angels?” She replied: “God is pouring lots and lots of angels onto earth these days to assist us humans but many are unemployed—people are ignoring them and not asking them for help.”

Lorna not only asks angels for help on a regular basis and by offering personal blessings to people who come to hear her speak or be interviewed but the angels apparently ask her for help as well. When she was ten years old angel Michael told her she would one day write a famous book. She simply laughed since she could neither read nor write nor imagine being a writer. But Michael was right. She is spreading the word from the angels.

And what is that word? It is to “wake up” she tells us. To get over religious rivalries and wars and nonsense about “ours is the only way to God.” She has visited mosques and seen angels there accompanying Mosque attendees in their prayer and worship and the guardian angels of Muslims with them; she has attended synagogues and seen angels with the attendees there; Buddhists; Hindus; Christians and, indigenous peoples and Yes! Atheists too. Angels precede all the faith traditions. They are bound to none. We should move beyond denominationalism just as they do. Respect the traditions but also move beyond them.

Lorna and the angels are well aware of the danger our species is in today from war and violence and hatred and envy and of course how we are endangering the beauty and health of the planet as we know it for generations to come. This is why her message is about Waking Up. She tells us that while not judging us, since angels’ love is “unconditional,” angels nevertheless are disappointed that humans have not evolved further and faster than we have. Our spirituality and our wisdom falls far short of our needs. While conscious of evil and able to name it (she does use the term “Satan” but on her own terms and is open to other language about evil), she does not like to speak about it because she feels evil already steals the headlines and it getting so much of the attention of the press—which is what it seeks before all else. What better way to depress humanity so that it does not stand up for its own beauty and God-like-ness than to give evil all the attention?

Lorna sees souls of persons and the image she encounters for the human soul is that of a spark. “Our soul is like a piece of thread in my skirt,” she says, “a thread of God.” The soul is an alive and wondrous spark. I could not help to make the connection with the great fourteenth century mystic, Meister Eckhart, who talks often about the “spark of the soul” (ancilla animae) that is the “uncreated” apex of the soul where we birth God and where the Holy Spirit is at work. Eckhart credits the Muslim philosopher Avicenna many times for this naming of the spark and the soul. Rumi and other Sufi poets celebrate the soul as spark as does the Jewish mystical work, the Kaballah.

But Lorna has not read Eckhart or Rumi or Avicenna or the Kaballah. She has simply been opening her eyes and found the same phenomenon. This spark she assures us “is eternal”, it does not go out (Eckhart said the same). We do live forever and its beauty she tells us is beyond words. Also, angels do not have souls—they are pure spirits. Only humans have this wondrous likeness to God that shines incessantly.

Psychologists stumble over the term “soul” (even though the etymological meaning of their science is the study of the soul) and Lorna’s image and naming may assist them. Look for the spark. Dust it off. Let it flourish and burn fully.

Lorna often sees the energy fields, the colors, the heat and waves emitted from flowers and trees as well as rocks—when I asked her about this she pointed to the large pillars in the Gothic Cathedral where we gathered—“I see now the colors and heat emanating from these,” she said. It is one thing for scientists to tell us this is what is happening; it is still another to know that some of us are already seeing it on a daily basis.

Lorna teaches a familiar teaching that the primary work of our guardian angels is to “take us home” at death and she has been present for a number of such journeys from this world to another.

Lorna speaks of the Angel of America and that America, while falling short of its pronounced values in so many ways, has a unique and important role to play in the new spirituality. This because Americans are a creative people and because in America there is more interfaith and interspirituality going on than in any nation on earth.

Lorna says she no longer identifies as “Roman Catholic” but simply as “Catholic” but that even that is within the wide scope of the spirit trying to break through in all the world’s religions and in atheism also. In her book, Angels in My Hair, she writes: “When a prayer comes from the depths of our being it is incredibly powerful, and a person’s religion or creed doesn’t come into it: God hears the prayers of all this children equally.” (156) She also pointed that prayer is extremely powerful and we never pray alone—angels are always there.

I asked her about worship and the presence of angels and she told of seeing during our Cosmic Mass what was like “an upside down waterfall” carrying energy up and down from the altar. I remarked how like Hildegard this was who spoke of seeing a “golden river” flowing up and down from the altar (she also painted a picture about it) and Lorna was excited to hear that “golden river” language from Hildegard. Lorna pointed out that many angels were genuflecting about us as we sat together at the altar sanctuary at Grace Cathedral.

Lorna has seen visions of our possible future as a species. Most of them are very positive such as the day coming when all parents will see the guardian angels of their children (might that help to still child abuse of many kinds?) and teachers seeing the guardian angels of their students (might that make for an awakened classroom?). But she has also seen images of an apocalypse which is also possible if humans refuse to wake up.

Robert Ornstein, in his book on The Evolution of Consciousness, makes the point that our brains have evolved over the eons in order that our minds can “mesh with the world.” But that his ancestral arrangement of adaptations works when the world is stable. But today “the world we adapted to is now gone” with the result that “our ancestral adaptations conflict with the needs of the modern world.” We find ourselves “overprepared” for such needs as the sexual, but “we have no basis for understanding a world of billions of people” and how our actions are causing holes in the ozone and climate change. We have undergone biological and neural and cultural evolutions but now we “need to begin a process of conscious evolution. We find unexpected allies in this arena, in modern spirituality and modern science.” (pp. 11f) Yes, and in persons like Lorna Byrne who is speaking in her way of our future evolution and undertaking it with angels at our side.

It is one thing to have written about angels as Rupert Sheldrake and I have in our book, The Physics of Angels, in which we drew on the teachings of three masters, Dennis the Aereapogyite, Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas. It is another thing to have experienced angels (which I and many people I know have done)–but to experience them on a regular basis as Lorna does? This is a phenomenon worthy of our attention.

I told Lorna near the end of our interview at Grace Cathedral that I was going to go “out on a limb” and say what I was being prompted to say: That just as a simple woman of the sod of Israel, Mary or Miriam, who was also illiterate, heard from an angel about 2000 years ago that she was to conceive a special son, so too Laura has come in our time to announce good tidings that our species needs to hear: That is that our powers of consciousness and expansion and intuition our being woefully underutilized—we are capable of working with the angels and it is surely time.

Thomas Aquinas teaches that angels learn only through intuition. It follows that when we give the intuition its due once again we may find ourselves on a highway of hitchhiking and possibly unemployed angels who are eager for a ride. A ride where humans can take the drive of their lives—not into folly but into joy and justice, celebration and compassion. A journey into wisdom. Is that too much to ask? Ask the angels.

REBLOGGED: Dr. King’s Work Continues: Forty-eight Years Later, Still “Not Welcome”

The following is reposted from the blog of Matthew Fox’s alumnus and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Richards, former director of the YELLAWE program in Oakland, and the founder and director of the Chicago Wisdom Project. We urge you to support his work by signing the Wisdom Farm petition!
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“NOT Welcome!” read the email. I stared at it for a while. We were not welcome to build our farm in Baroda, Michigan, apparently. Even though, in the same email, the neighbor claims he does not know what we are doing. ["It is not clear to me what the complete objectives are for this project, who will be 'farming' this land, and why you thought it would be appropriate placement in my front yard! NOT welcome at all." - Gregory Davis] But hey, I thought, this is just one neighbor. No big deal. But then I got the call from Mike Moran. Mike is running the farm in Michigan and had just returned from a hearing with the town board. A dozen or so neighbors had showed up, bringing pictures they’d printed from our website, bringing wild accusations about what our plans, bringing, most significantly, fear and ignorance that we’d been taught was a thing of the past. I’d seen “Eyes on the Prize.” I knew that when my wife’s family moved to a white neighborhood in Chicago in the eighties she’d faced similar prejudices. But this was 2014. Dr King’s birthday is celebrated as a big, collective “thank you” for getting rid of this kind of thing, or perhaps as a “Day of Service” where people do nice things like feed the homeless. But addressing issues of systemic racism and exclusion are not really part of the narrative.

In an article in the local newspaper, another neighbor, Leslie Arbanas, is quoted as saying “it’s not the right place.” Why? Because, according to the article, “the presence of inner city youth, including high school drop-outs… could… hurt property values.” To be clear, none of the youth on the farm have been “high school drop-outs.” Most are headed to college. But that really shouldn’t matter. Let’s get to the heart of the matter: “inner city” is code in America for black and brown. She is making the same argument that was made in Dr King’s day: We’re not racist; we’re just afraid that the presence of black people will hurt our property values.

Speaking of narratives, some in this small town, apparently, had been working pretty hard at creating one. We were introducing a “rehab center” was one such story, because, you know, there are pictures of black kids on our website and they must be drug addicts (this would include my five year old daughter, by the way). Particularly telling about the hate mail I received and about the hearing Mike had to endure was that the narratives seemed to be based entirely on the images on our website. No one had read any of the words. But they’d seen those scary pictures of kids planting corn. (To see the pictures, go to The Chicago Wisdom Project Website)

It didn’t seem to matter, in this meeting, that false accusations were made, or that no one actually knew what a non-profit was [this made our donations page particularly suspicious: "Where is all the money going?!"--I wish we had this problem]. As on Fox News, it was possible to give equal weight to lies and truth, if the lies were repeated enough.

And speaking of Fox News, since this is where I suspect many of these people surely get their information about the world in general, let me turn to the role of the image in this controversy. The images were the focus of the fear and of the efforts to get rid of us. Images, too, I suspect, were at the root of this fear. Like most white Americans, their only experience of black or brown people comes through the images–along with the race-bating and hate-mongering commentary–they had seen on their televisions. These people probably don’t even realize they are racist. Ms. Arbanas, for example, claims that race isn’t an issue–”it just isn’t the right place.”

This makes our work at The Chicago Wisdom Project all the more important. What we have been trying to do for years now is give young people the opportunity to tell their own stories, to create their own narratives. Our youth are well aware–far more aware than those who would attempt to deny them the right to work and play and learn and create at Wisdom Farm–of the negative images of them in the popular discourse, of the deficit narrative that attempts to attribute the injustices of our society to the failures of the oppressed. Our work is to help to create a counter-narrative that tells a different story.

This story can be simplified, however, for those not ready to hear all this. One narrative is this: The Chicago Wisdom Project is bringing to the tired soils of Michigan a new way of farming. Permaculture instead of industrial agriculture. There seems to be a connection between the cultural malaise in Middle America and the agricultural malaise of Middle American Farms. They are afraid of children where they should be afraid of the fact that their farming practices are toxifying the land and depleting their soil.

To be clear about what we are doing, we’ve been working hard over the last year to create a space for our youth to come to get their hands dirty, to experience the quiet and beauty of nature, and to let their imaginations fly free. It is a context for our youth’s rites of passage ceremony, a place to create memories, ideas, art. But Wisdom Farm is, first and foremost, a farm. Somehow, our neighbors didn’t see it as a farm [notice the scare quotes around "farm" in the email from Gregory Davis above] because there was learning and art and music and storytelling and conversation happening. (You can find more about it at the Wisdom Farm Page.)

In 1966, Dr King came to Chicago to fight housing discrimination. It was considered one of the great failures of his career. In the north, he faced fewer legal barriers to his work for equality, but just as much hate. It would have been far easier to change a law than to change the hearts of people who simply told African-Americans, “NOT welcome!” I am not ignorant of history; I realize that much has changed for the better in the last forty-eight years. But I can also say that–sadly from my own experience–there is much work to be done.

We realize that we can do more to work with our neighbors, to help them understand our work and to acknowledge that their presence on this land before us should be respected. Indeed, we’d love for them, or their kids, to join us in our work. We’d love to engage them honestly in a way where we could learn from each other. And the truth is, we’ve got a lot of work to do: we don’t want to spend our time and energy at board meetings or in court houses. But sometimes the lesson plan you bring to the classroom is not what needs to be learned, especially when the world is the classroom. Standing up for themselves against prejudice can be a great lesson for our youth. No one, in any neighborhood in America, can tell our youth they are not welcome. Both our neighbors and we need to learn this lesson now, even forty-eight years after Dr King came up north.

Please sign this petition to ask the town of Baroda to give us a fair hearing.

Theodore Richards is the director and founder of The Chicago Wisdom Project. He is the author of several books, most recently Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto, finalist for the USA Book Award. His second novel, The Conversions, is to be released in October. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including two Independent Publisher Awards, The USA Book Award, and the Nautilus Book Award. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

Matthew Fox’s Christmas Letter, 2013

Dear Friend of Creation Spirituality:

A blessed Holiday Season to you all! I am sure we are all deeply yearning for the kind of peace with justice that the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons are all about. I hope these kind of miracles are in the works for all and through our dedicated inner and outer work.

A few summaries of our goings on at FCS this year. I have been working on a new book on Meister Eckhart, my third, but my first in over thirty years. Called Meister Eckhart: Mystic Warrior for Our Times, it is due out from New World Library in July. I borrowed my methodology from my recent book on Hildegard when I put Eckhart in the room with twentieth (and twenty-first century) thinkers such as: Rabbi Heschel; Adrienne Rich (on the Divine Feminine); Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry (on the Cosmic Christ); Black Elk (on shamanism); Dorothy Soelle (on liberation); Carl Jung; Otto Rank; Biblical scholars Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and Bruce Chilton, Karl Marx, David Korten and Anita Roddick (on economics), Lily Yeh and M.C. Richards (on education), etc. I enjoyed doing it and I hope you will like it too—I incorporate his words from many of his sermons that were not part of my original fat book on him once called “Breakthrough” and now called Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.

Andrew Harvey and I did two of our Christ Path Seminars this past year, one in Oakland with Joanna Macy and another in Pittsburgh at the Methodist church with Bruce Chilton. They were very rich and we filmed all the sessions. Unfortunately the financial results were less than break-even so we had to cut back on doing more for the time being. We do have those two weekends available in dvd form, however, and at a very reasonable price ($60 for about 12 hours of dialog and practices).

The YELLAWE Program has flourished this year in Fremont High School in Oakland and our teacher and director, Rose Elizondo, also took it to Oaxaca in Mexico and to Mexico City where she taught youth living in the streets. Newspaper articles appeared in both cities about the program which included using paints that the students made themselves from cactus (a practice Rose learned from her grandmother) and the use of moss so that the murals the students created are literally growing pieces. In both programs local artists, some of them quite famous, joined to instruct the young people. Also a very accomplished artist in the Bay Area, Francisco Franco, joined Rose at FHS to lead the students in painting a mural together at the school. Students also created “cosmic shoes” by painting stars and more on tennis shoes that the program furnished.

We were part of the annual Sounds True Conference in the Rocky Mountains this summer where we were invited to put on a Cosmic Mass for about 1000 participants. Celtic singer Noirin ni Rian and her two sons, also musicians and in their twenties, were part of the Mass. Nicole Porcaro did a fine job directing it with much assistance from the ST staff. It was highly ecumenical and very well received. I share the following quote from Thich Naht Hanh who, I think, truly gets the Cosmic Christ and the Mass:
“Take, my friends, ‘this is my flesh, this is my blood.’ Can there be any more drastic language in order to wake you up? What could Jesus have said better than that?….This piece of bread is the whole cosmos. If Christ is the body of God, which he is, then the bread he offers is also the body of the cosmos. Look deeply and you notice the sunshine in the bread, the blue sky in the bread, the cloud and the great Earth in the bread. Can you tell me what is not in that piece of bread? You eat in such a way that you come alive, truly alive.”

A number of people were deeply affected, including a woman who told me she had “hated religion for 22 years,” and wounded Catholics (know a few?) and others. Rabbi Rami Shapiro joined us for table prayers and Shiva Rea led dance during the DJ dance time.

On December 1 we began anew the TCM in Oakland at a club in Jack London Square named “Kimballs.” It too was very well received and I am pleased that over twenty people signed up to volunteer for future Masses in Oakland. The theme was “Celebration of the Body” and our prayer included Lakota drumming and singing, a Jewish cantor playing a Mongolian drum and song with words set to it from the Kabbalah, Pancho’s spoken word, Joanna Macy teaching, Rabbi Michael Ziegler and Aeeshah Clottey at the table prayers and more. Sister Dorothy Stang’s brother Tom and his wife were in attendance as well. And some great altars and entrance ‘tent’ overseen by Rose Elizondo! I am pleased to announce that we have a new director for the TCM, Skylar Wilson, who represents a new generation (he is 29 years old) leading things. For more on the recent Oakland TCM including pics you can go to www.matthewfox.org. We created a Kickstarter campaign that assisted with raising funds and getting the word out as well. The next TCM is scheduled for February 16 in Oakland.

On Thanksgiving Day the Italians released an Italian translation of my Letters to Pope Francis and several Italian papers have run reviews of it. Also, TIKKUN magazine ran a substantive article I wrote on Pope Francis that can be found at www.matthewfox.org In that series of letters I urge the new pope to be true to his namesake; I feel he is doing a pretty good job. When a pope gets Rush Limbaugh so mad at you that he calls your teaching “pure Marxism,” you must be doing something right! It will be something to watch the right wing Catholic politicians and supreme court justices squirm under the teachings of Pope Francis on behalf of the poor. I recommend that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together announcing the “Revolution in Values” that our species needs to survive.

Spread the word: The publisher of Letters to Pope Francis is running a special all week beginning Monday 11:00am ET with the e-book available from amazon.com for only 99 cents until Tuesday, 12/20 at 3:59 p.m. PST. There is a special price every day, so spread the word.

I appeared on Democracy Now! again a few weeks ago regarding the Pope’s recent comments. You can watch the video or read the full transcript HERE. I was also interviewed on the Real News Network again this past week and that video will be published Monday.

Some other news…..We may have an announcement early in the next year about a reincarnation of our D Min program in creation spirituality and work as a fully accredited degree. My assistant Dennis Edwards goes in for surgery on his hip on Feb. 4, and I recommend your prayers for his rapid healing. He expects to be out of commission only a few days however.

So, much going on. Prayers to you all. If you want to reach into your pocket to help make our work sustainable either by donation or purchase of product, please don’t resist the temptation.

Peace to you all,

Matthew Fox

Pope Francis: A Breath of Fresh Air?

The following article was written by Matthew Fox for TIKKUN Magazine and published there, December 8, 2013.

I recently wrote a book on Pope Francis, or better a book to him, entitled Letters to Pope Francis. The book was released in Italian on Thanksgiving Day. In it I challenge him to live up to his purposefully chosen namesake and warned that people would hold his feet to the fire because no other pope had ever taken up that name, icon that it is, and that most people do know what St Francis of Assisi stood for: Ecology and non-chauvinistic relationships to the plant and animal worlds; a preferential option for the poor; and (this may be slightly less acknowledged) an admirable and almost startling balance of gender justice and consciousness. In his celebrated poem, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” he moves back and forth, back and forth, between masculine and feminine names for the sacred.

People who care about such matters recognize fresh consciousness in the pope’s refusal to move into the palatial headquarters known as the papal apartments; in his refusal to drive in limousines and his call for bishops and cardinals to follow suit; his trips to embrace embattled refugees on islands off southern Italy; his visits to favelas or slums in Rio de Janeiro as well as his work in the same in Argentina over the years.

These actions, plus his strong words denouncing the “idols” and “gods” of the marketplace together seem to be framing a story of a different kind of pope and papacy from anything we have had since Pope John Paul I, who was (most probably) murdered after thirty-one days in the office some thirty-four years ago. It raises hopes in the minds and hearts of activists and progressive Catholics, many of whom have left the church behind but still recognize its potential power as a source for good in many parts of the world.

Theologically, Pope Francis is speaking the radical language of Vatican II abandoned by his two predecessors: that the church is NOT the hierarchy but “the people” whose “sensus fidelium” actually matters. The effort to poll parishioners about such subjects as birth control, abortion, women’s rights and homosexual unions is a first, though quite lame effort, as the survey was unprofessionally done, asking for essay answers and not direct answers. In many cases it has been ignored by the bishops, who are simply filling in the blanks according to their own theological whims.

One sign that Pope Francis is being heard is the steam emerging from people who do not want to hear about justice, economic equality or church as people of God. (Rush Limbaugh, for example, had lots to complain about and did so loudly regarding the pope’s recent take on Wall Street, calling the pope’s words “pure Marxism.”)

But right-wing Catholic nay-sayers are caught in something of a trap. It will be interesting to see how they emerge and this includes stalwart power brokers like the four right wing Catholics on the Supreme Court, all of whom voted for “Citizens United”–Scalia, Thomas, Alioto and John Roberts. Throw in Kennedy, another Catholic though not so extreme right (for his scandalous vote in favor of Citizens United). Then there is Newt Gingrich, a new convert to Catholicism (under pope Ratzinger); aspiring presidential candidate Paul Ryan (whose philosophy owes much more to atheist Ayn Rand than to the Gospels or papal pronouncements but who still claims to be a stalwart Catholic); Rick Santorum; John Boehmer.

How these politicians dance around this pope’s pronouncements on economic justice will be a spectacle that deserves watching. Recall how the Catholic bishops under Pope John Paul II were instructed not to give communion to Catholic politicians who advocate for the right to abortion and how this cost Kerry the election in 2004. Will the same threats obtain for Catholic politicians who deny rights of the poor? And who are shills for the interests of the “deified market” (the pope’s words) and “a “new tyranny” (the pope’s words) of current day capitalism? Stay tuned.

The pope has essentially told the shrill right wing Catholics who received such support under the previous two popes, to chill out and to cease reducing theology to “a condom” or a set of rules, and to get moving on social and economic justice. There are currently Catholic writers who have made a living denouncing social justice such as George Weigel and it will be interesting to watch them squirm also with this new pope. Weigel is famous for complaining about Catholics who take some of the teachings of the church and leave others out. He did the same with: 1) the war in Iraq –he was and is a committed neocon who has never apologized for getting us into Iraq, despite both of the popes he so admires being against it; and 2) economic alternatives to Wall Street rape of Main Street, i.e, consumer capitalism.

Yet he constantly trumps his version of Catholicism, which is really papalism, as the only way. “The truth of what is taught by the pope and the college of bishops is not a matter for debate” he tells us in his most recent (and scariest) book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church (page 61). Will he continue to invoke papalism after reading what this pope is preaching?

How is it then that Weigel supported the invasion of Iraq when two popes opposed it? Why did he run from papal teachings on distributive justice? And from their teachings on the death penalty? When it comes to seminary training, Weigel says it should begin with the Catechism and only then move into Biblical studies which “should build upon this solid foundation so that each candidate has a deep understanding of what the Church teaches—and why.” He says this is the way one learns to think “with the Church” as if the Church is the maker of catechisms—not the people of the world or the carrier of Sacred Scripture. (By the way, the great idea for a catechism came from none other than the pedophile champion, Cardinal Law, as I make clear in my book, The Pope’s War.) Yes, we will soon learn what really constitutes the theology of our hard right Catholic propagandists, and I suspect that for many if not all of them Wall Street will trump the Vatican.

But beyond the Catholics squirming in and out of political office, there are the larger issues that the pope is addressing to the capitalistic system itself at this time of history.

Being the first pope from what we call “the third world,” Pope Francis can be expected to understand the tides of history and of economic oppression differently from being the recipient of years of abuse than from being the source of it. I end my letters to the pope suggesting that he and the Dalai Lama make a world tour together, hitting most continents to speak to the “Revolution in Values” that our times call for. This is not because change comes primarily from the top down, but because a few at the top (whom the media will be almost required to report about) can, by speaking out together, put wind in the sails of those millions and indeed billions who pray for and/or work for a saner world. Together they could speak to the obvious and real moral issues of our day:

  • economic inequality based on a system of avarice not only at the top but in the consumer bottom and middle;
  • gender injustice (something the Catholic Church has to address internally as well);
  • ecological destruction;
  • unemployment, especially among the young;
  • the pressing need for religious and spiritual interfaith or deep ecumenism;
  • the necessary and desired marriage of science and spirituality (as opposed to silly fundamentalism either by religion or by science).

The young could be deeply inspired by such a road show and I have no doubt that the two principals would themselves learn from one another. This pope has displayed a refreshing humility and eagerness to learn from other religious leaders as in his book of dialogs with Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina (who is also a PhD in science). It is a fine book and they got together over a two year period to produce it.

Teachings of Pope Francis that stand out include some of the following.

1. A walking of his talk of simpler lifestyle. Pope Francis was well known in Argentina for taking public transportation to work and refusing any limousine-like service, which so many prelates take for granted. He has done the same in his new position as pope, where he chooses not to live in the papal apartments but in a far more modest guest house or hotel in the Vatican (might he give over the apartments to Rome’s homeless?). He drives a Ford Focus in Vatican city. He has also drawn some press recently for sneaking out at night from the Vatican in the simple priestly garb of black suit and color and hanging out with homeless in the streets of Rome. One senses he is trying to walk the talk and follow his own preaching about simplification. And he is putting pressure on other prelates to do the same.

2. As for his talk, he tends to mince no words when speaking of the divergence of wealth and poverty today. He speaks to globalization this way: “The globalization that makes everything uniform is essentially imperialist…it is not human. In the end it is a way to enslave the nations.” (Fox, Letters to Pope Francis, 24; subsequent citations are from the same) Is globalization enslaving the nations? Serious words worthy of a serious discussion.

3. He says: “Christianity condemns both Communism and wild capitalism with the same vigor” and one needs to reject the “wild economic liberalism we see today” and “seek equal opportunities and rights and strive for social benefits, dignified retirement, vacation time, rest, and freedom of unions.”

4. He praises St Francis because “he brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time” and for this reason “he changed history.”

5. He takes on the neocon preoccupation with “world terrorism” and the fear such language arouses when he declares that “human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” How important is that? To equate economic structures with terrorism? Yes, Wall Street terrorizes. Ask any Main Street citizen.

6. He denounces the “flight of money to foreign countries” as a sin because it dishonors “the people that worked to generate” that wealth. He also condemns those who hide their wealth in off-shore accounts to avoid paying taxes that are so important for the common good.

7. Pope Francis has said: “The option for the poor comes from the first centuries of Christianity. It is the Gospel itself.” And he remarked that were he to preach sermons from the first fathers of the church on the needs of the poor, he would be called a “Maoist or Trotskyte.” (119)

8. He critiques clericalism as a “distortion of religion” and says priests should not declare “I am the boss here” but listen to the community. “The Catholic Church is the entire people of God,” he declares, a la Vatican II—not words the previous two popes were at all home with. (85)

9. “Human rights are violated by…unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.” (71)

10. On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of young people in jail, including the feet of some women, one of them being Muslim. It is a custom to do this ritual after the memory of Jesus who also did it—but the Catholic right wing is up in arms about his daring to wash women’s feet, and those of a Muslim woman!

11. He endorses the concept of small communities over what he calls “hierarchical mega-institutions” because these better “nurture their own spirituality” and after all the “origin of Christianity was ‘parochial and later organized into small communities.” (94)

12. “Repair my church in ruins” he said on taking over the office of the papacy. He seems to get it. The schismatic church of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) has left a Catholicism which the young have abandoned en masse. They left a church in ruins run by fascist leaning Opus Dei cardinals and bishops all over the world. One Catholic paper in India declared “there is a civil war in the church.” I for one do not believe this pope or any pope could return Catholicism to its previous state—or should. As I concluded in my book, The Pope’s War, I see in the destruction of the Catholic Church as we know it the work of the Holy Spirit. It is time to simplify the message and the presence of those who follow a Christ path. It is time to travel with backpacks on our backs, not basilicas. The pope’s work will not bring Catholics “back to the church” but hopefully it will inspire Christians and non-Christians alike to consider the basic teachings of Jesus around compassion and justice and start acting accordingly.

13. Says Pope Francis: “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any human goal.” We need, he says, a “balanced social order that is more humane” and that resists consumerism. “Money has to serve and not rule.” It is a “savage capitalism” that teaches “the logic of profit at any cost” and exploitation of people.

14. Says the pope: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Structures can “give us a false sense of security” and “rules makes us harsh judges…while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “give them something to eat.’” He wants to decentralize the church for “excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

15. Unfettered capitalism is a “new tyranny” “Today we are living in an unjust international system in which ‘King Money’ is at the center.” This “throwaway culture discards young people as well as its older people…..A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work.” A “diminishing of the joy of life” is the result of such idolatry (125f) and interestingly he chose a parallel phrase, the “Joy of the Gospel” for the title of his most recent pronouncement.

In his recent document entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis speaks bluntly as all the prophet do. He says No—as all the prophets do. He denounces “trickle-down” economics as “never having been confirmed by the facts” and being built on a “crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power….Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.” Following are some of his No’s presented in his own words:

1. “No to an economy of exclusion….An economy of exclusion and inequality kills….Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

2. “No to the new idolatry of money….While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…..Self-serving tax evasion has taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits….Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a defied market, which becomes the only rule.”

3. “No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Ethics is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person….Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.”

4. “No to the inequality which spawns violence. [Violence happens not]simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded form the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear…..Evil crystallized in unjust social structures…cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.”

Pope Francis speaks out against an “education that would tranquilize the poor, making them tame and harmless.” And he defines injustice as “evil.” He has invited liberation theologian Gustavo Gutierrez to the Vatican and the word is out that he will canonize Archbishop Romero.

A different kind of papacy? Surely from the past two popes; much more like Pope John XXIII. Does that mean we go back to papalolatry? Absolutely not. But it does mean that it is good that a person in the public eye is keeping his sights on values that matter and speaking up for the kind of people of conscience who read and act on the values that Tikkun represents.

When it comes to issues of women, Pope Francis has much to learn (including how women were leaders in the early church). But I think he is capable of learning. On homosexuality, he has uttered a telling line, “Who am I to judge?” that certainly distances him from the previous two popes. On issues of abortion, at least he has spoken to the need to care about the women involved. Pope Francis is not perfect—none of us is—but he is an ally to all those seeking a world of justice and therefore peace.