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Dear Friends,


We took our 9th grade Confirmation kids to Steppenwolf Theater to see The Crucible, by Arthur Miller last Sunday afternoon. Before the play we had terrific pizzas and bruschetta at a great little bar just south of North Avenue.


All of this thanks to your generosity.


I believe that religious faith depends far more on lively imaginations than accurate recitations of doctrines and dogmas and imaginations in our times have become overwrought with fear and anxiety and have little room for “entertaining angels” or “rumors of resurrection.”


 One of the reasons for the decline of intentional affiliation with religious faith among young people and their parents, increasingly, their grandparents, is that their days are filled with measurable usually competitive activities.


The current operational mindset in our country is a dualistic mindset. 


We are either or we are or we are rarely both and.


Our impoverished and underdeveloped imaginations believe, falsely, in my opinion, that the human mind need not or cannot tolerate shadows and inherent contradictions in reality, that there is some “real” truth and that there is “fake” truth and we know the difference just because we know it.


And yet, we have an enormous appetite for and appreciation of all things Disney and the virtual realities on our little screens that are not at all real except in our minds, and gambling our little hearts away convinced that there is some personal force working for us or against us.


We take sides, we are pro some things and against other things without much doubt or reflection on either the complexity of an issue or position and with very little consideration given to the opposing side. .


Competition is so important because we have little toleration for down time, time that cannot provide an accomplishment that can be demonstrated.


 In competitions we “can always touch the bottom” in the length of a game or a meet or a band completion and know where we stand so there is no doubt that the effort was worth it or not worth it. We won or we lost we did well or we did poorly.


Real and healthy Catholic belief cannot give us the sense of  security and accomplishment that the filling out flow charts of schedules of kid’s activities for months in advance can.


As long as we stick to the schedule we are creating the sense of control and predictability that keeps the demons at bay.


In this world of excess of carefully planned and scheduled time the limits of possibility are constricted and controlled so imagination becomes fairly useless. Artificial Intelligence is on the horizon as we speak.


I understand this, I really do but it is exactly this constricted and controlled world that virtually eliminates the possibility of compassion and empathy that is the foundation of any kind of healthy and real Catholic Faith.


There is nothing stunning in an overloaded schedule, nothing that takes our breath away, no surprises, and no unanticipated nor unplanned rewards.


The rewards sooner or later are fatigue and exhaustion.


Steppenwolf Theater is committed to offering dramas and comedies that surprise and dislodge us from the tables we set as our worlds. It does not always succeed but it keeps trying.


I want to take our kids there because I know of no other way to expose them to something that might, just might open a window in their hearts or minds or both and let in some fresh air.


I know that their teachers try to do that with literature and science and mathematics.


The classroom teachers, I am sure, must struggle because the literature and ideas are increasingly the currency of test scores not the beginnings of creative wisdom that is gathered in to be handed on.


Attention spans of adults and children are limited to seconds for most people and minutes to a minority of others, I speak from experience as I cannot sit still unless I am away from this environment in a strange place where I am detached from my usual compulsions and addictions to my iPhone Instant Messages and email accounts.


The Crucible was about the importance of doubt and the identity of truth in religion and in common life written by Arthur Miller in 1953. The commonly held assumption was that Miller wrote the play as a confrontational allegory of the mindset of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for “Communists” in government and, especially in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.


McCarthy created the kind of paranoia that comes and goes in this country that picks out certain groups of people and decides that “they” need to go anywhere but here in this country.


Today, of course, in this country, it is that whole group of people that get dumped into the immigration bucket without any doubt and very little regard for any kind of truth.


In the Church it is all of the folks who don’t pass the muster on correct objects of their sexual desire or those who do but don’t wait and act on those desires and, of course, the poor souls who got married and then got divorced for any number of truthful reasons leaving doubts about that first marriage and marry again in a Church that has no doubts about the correctness of their “truth.”