As 2006 draws to a close -- an annus horribilis for some of us, annus mirabilis for others -- it's once again time to reflect on some of the more spiritually intriguing ideas I've heard this year.
Heartening, maddening and challenging, here are (in no particular order) a few sound bites from the year in faith:
"The glorious thing for you always has consequences for others."
Al Gini, Loyola University Chicago philosophy professor and author of Why It's Hard to Be Good
"The world distrusts us not because we are rich and free. Many of us are not rich, and some of us aren't especially free. They distrust us because we are deaf and blind, because too often we don't understand and make no effort to understand."
Cardinal Francis George talking about how Americans are viewed by the rest of the world
"My wish is that this joyous occasion will offer hope to all of the mothers of Iraq whose children have been kidnapped. May they all be returned safely and swiftly to their mothers' arms."
Mary Beth Carroll, aunt of kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll, upon her niece's release after three months in captivity in Iraq
"It's not an act of God, it's an act of guys!"
Studs Terkel talking about the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia
"I'd Really Rather You Didn't Act Like A Sanctimonious, Holier-Than-Thou Ass When Describing My Noodly Goodness. If Some People Don't Believe in Me, That's Okay. Really, I'm Not That Vain. Besides, This Isn't About Them So Don't Change The Subject."
one of the Eight "I'd Rather You Didn'ts," spiritual pillars of the fanciful Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
"If you're trying to lure him onto the baseball field, you start by showing how beautiful the game is. You don't start with the infield fly rule."
the Rev. Bob Barron on evangelization and how to draw people to Roman Catholicism
"For me, spiritual concerns are totally pervasive. There is nothing separate from it. It's complete and sort of urgent."
author Anne Rice
"The people who make themselves rich in the name of God or Allah are fair game, as are the people who pretend to speak for Krishna or Y*HW*H -- usually to their own advantage. YOU may say that God said, 'touch not the apple of mine eye' -- but until God sends us the memo, you're fair game, bud."
Robert Darden, editor in chief of the religious satire magazine the Wittenburg Door
"We always think that uncertainty weighs us down. But what would it mean if we danced with uncertainty?"
Rabbi Irwin Kula, author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life
"The saints are imperfect, too. That strikes people as sort of heretical because what we've done is we've tamed them. And, boy, to tame someone like Francis of Assisi is quite a trick. But we've turned him into this sort of non-threatening hippie who talks to birds. That's why we could feel comfortable putting him in our garden because, ya know, he's so adorable. Like a puppy. . . . Can you imagine someone putting a statue of Dorothy Day in their garden? Ooh, she'd be mad."
the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of My Life With the Saints
"To me, justice is just a tool to get a person to the point of admission because it's good for the soul and it gets them right with God. Ultimately, our concern was that George Ryan would get right with God. If it cost us our kids . . . so that something like that might happen, who am I to tell God that that's not fair?"
Scott Willis, the father of six children killed in a fiery car crash in 1994 caused by a truck driver who paid a bribe for his license from then-Secretary of State George Ryan's office
"When people have the strongest reactions to [hypocrisy], I always take that as a red flag. It's a 'protective' response. In other words, it's too painful for me to recognize the hypocrisy in my own life, therefore I can put my energy into damning it in the other person."
Lallene Rector, dean of Garrett Evangelical-Theological Seminary
"The quest is not just believing in God, but believing in other people. Believing in ourselves as children of God, and that we are called to see other people as God sees them, not as we would like them to be."
Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche
"Poetry provides a space for a spiritual lollygag."
Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein
"Part of the reason that I've had trouble going to church and staying in church is not feeling like the sermon some minister was espousing was connecting with me in any way. Whereas a good four lines from a John Hiatt song could mean so much more to me."
WXRT radio DJ Lin Brehmer
"You can't overdo it, but you can't under-do it, either."
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama and marathon runner
"When people ask me for advice -- and I don't know why they're so foolish as to do so, but some people do -- I say, 'Every morning, look in your bathroom mirror and say three times: 'It's not about me.'"
author Tom Robbins