The psalmist has a wonderful sense of God's presence and a trust that he is near even when it appears that he is not. Psalm 80 is a good example. It is a fervent prayer that God come to his people's aid because they are in dire straits. Mind you, he is not above complaining about God's shoddy treatment of his people: "You have left us to be fought over by our neighbors, and our enemies mock us." Yet the refrain that occurs throughout the psalm is one of trust that God will hear and help: "Rouse your power and come to save us. O Lord of hosts restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be safe."
A pertinent question for us moderns might be, "Do we believe that God ever 'lets his face shine upon us'?" This is the question that Deacon Chris Anderson will explore this fall in the Christian in the World lecture series, under the enticing title, "The Imperfect Catholic: Finding God in Our Flawed and Jumbled Lives."
"God doesn't seem to revesal himself anymore, at least not in our everyday lives," he writes. Oh, but he does, he counters, and in this series of lectures he will explore how he does so. Summarizing his objective in a short paragraph he describes his approach:
"Blending poetry and scripture with the writings of Pope Francis, and the prayer technique of the 'examen" with the journaling technique of 'freewriting' Deacon Chris will encourage us to see the moments of our lives as sacred, the moments of darkness as well as the moments of light. We are all called to holiness, even in our flaws. 'Dear imperfections!' St. Francis de Sales calls them, for they teach us humility and they teach us joy."
Deacon Chris is eminently qualified to tackle such a project. By profession he is a teacher. For many years he has taught us English at Oregon State University. Moreover, he is a poet and a published author of a number of books, poetry and prose. His most recent work, published in 2016 by William Eerdmans Publishing Company, is "Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness, and Seeing God in Everything." He also has a book of poetry, "You Never Know," pending. It will be published this fall.
As he indicates, Chris is also an ordained permanent deacon. He exercises his ministry at St. Mary's Parish in Corvallis where he ministers at the altar and preaches regularly, as well as serving in other capacities. He and his wife Barb are members of the Corvallis Parish Community.
Pursuing the theme of the "imperfect Catholic finding God in our flawed and jumbled lives," Deacon Chris will offer four presentations in the course of the fall lecture series.
Saturday, Sept. 15: Finding God in our joy. In this presentation, Deacon Chris will introduce participants to the technique of the examen, as well as Pope Francis' 2013 Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization.
(You will notice that Sept. 15 is the third Saturday of the month and not the second, which is the usual Saturday for a Christian in the World presentation. Monastic professions will take place on the morning of Sept. 8, so the Christian in the World lecture has been pushed back a week.)
Saturday, Oct. 13: Finding God in the darkness. In this presentation Deacon Chris will move from joy to darkness. In so doing he will deepen our understanding of the examen precisely by reflecting on the experience of the darkness and desolation, which is one place, some of us might imagine, that automatically precludes the possibility of meeting God.
Saturday, Nov. 10: Finding God in our flaws. In this presentation Deacon Chris will explore how the trials of marriage and family and everyday life and our own constant struggle with our sinfulness can in themselves be a path to holiness - in the light of Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhirtation, "The Joy of Love," and his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, "Rejoice and Be Glad."
Saturday, Dec. 1: Finding God in the jumble. Deacon Chris describes this presentation as a reflection on the form of parable as a way of understanding the nature of revelation and th emeaning of our own lives.
(You will notice that Dec. 1 is the first - there can't be any day more first than the first day of the month - Saturday of the month. The lecture has been shifted forward a week because Dec. 8 is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.)
This is an enticing lineup, not so? Note how the presentations will take us a step beyond simple information. They will help us explore together how we might live our call to discipleship. You might also note the theme of examen that runs throughout the presentations. Thus, Deacon Chris will help participants dip into that very rich stream of Ignatian spirituality.
As usual the talks will be presented in the library auditorium. Participants are welcome to attend the community Mass in the abbey church at 8 a.m. The library will be open around 8:30. Participants are welcome to sign in, get a cup of coffee and a roll and socialize a bit before the session begins. The morning begins with an opening prayer at 9 followed by two presentations of roughly 45 minutes each (9:15 to 10 and 10:15 to 11). A question-and-answer period from about 11:15 to noon concludes the morning.
Finally, as an added enticement for the opening session on Sept. 15, which is Oktoberfest weekend, take note that the Abbey Brewery should be open for business. Perhaps you can drop in after the presentation to reflect and discuss all you had heard that morning over a stein of Mount Angel Abbey's flagship beer, Black Habit.
Beverages and morning snacks are provided.
Cost is $50 for the series (four Saturdays) or $15 a session. Student cost is $20 for the series or $5 a session.