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Live the Mystery of the Trinity
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013
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More ink has been spilled on the mystery of the Trinity than any other doctrine in Catholicism. Many people can tell you that St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate the three-in-one reality of the Trinity. But it’s difficult to move from this image to an academic definition of the Trinity.

While all analogies ultimately fail, taken together, they can give us myriad ways to begin to grasp this great truth of our faith. Celebrating this feast reminds us that God will always be beyond our human understanding and beyond human control. There’s something comforting in that. We want God to be all powerful, all encompassing, eternal, and ever present. A god small enough for humans to control is too small to do any good.

The challenges faced by the early Church in understanding the Trinity had much to do with the need to reconcile the strongly monotheistic (one God) tradition of Judaism with the tendency of the pagans to have multiple gods for a variety of tasks and circumstances. When Jesus says he and the Father are one, he’s speaking of a completely new concept.

Through the centuries theologians needed to fit their descriptions and definitions of the Trinity into established ways of thinking and talking about reality. The words academics used to talk about faith changed with different currents in philosophy. What didn’t change was the one God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

One of the deepest truths that the doctrine of the Trinity reveals to us is that God is in relationship. The union of Father, Son and Spirit is a fluid one. The Trinity is always working, always moving, animating the world with divine life. We see this especially in John’s Gospel. Jesus speaks easily of his union with the Father and of the Spirit who moves in their midst.

It can be difficult to pin down John’s words. We understand them in an intuitive, mystical way, but we can’t define and explain them to our own—or anyone else’s—real satisfaction.

The people who selected the sacred texts for our lectionary reached back to the words of Proverbs, describing the Wisdom of God present at creation. Like Patrick’s shamrock, our first reading roots this ethereal mystery in the things of the earth: fountains, springs of water, mountains and hills, clods of earth, the sky, the sea. Wisdom is described as a craftsman, someone working to shape earthly materials into something both useful and beautiful.

As we move into the summer months—a time for gardens, visits to the beach or mountains—we might know in our experience of God’s creation something of that oneness. Our hobbies might give us an understanding of God’s creative spirit. Certainly our relationships with those closest to us and most dearly beloved can suggest to us something of this divine union.

This feast asks us to ponder a concept that can easily become abstract, something we dismiss it as irrelevant to our daily lives. But the truth at the heart of this feast is the love of God—so great and all-encompassing that it is in constant movement within and around all of creation.

Instead of trying to “figure out” the Trinity, celebrate it by doing something special with those whose love shows you every day the face of God.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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