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The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) tried to come up with a system of morality based on human reason, rather than using God as a starting point. But Kant did observe that his parent’s Christian faith was a help to them in dealing with the challenges of their lives.

It is this admission by Kant, that is worth reflecting on.

I imagine that Kant’s parents had particular religious practices that they followed – like going to church or praying at home. Ceremony and ritual are part of religious practice. But we often take ceremony and ritual for granted.

Here’s how one writer described the importance of ritual:

“A holistic process of words, actions and gestures that carries transformative and liberating powers and which brings a sense of stability, structure and relationality into our lives and through which we intentionally, purposefully and playfully alter our perception and frame of reference.”

Let’s break that down into bite sized pieces:

  • process of words, actions and gestures
  • carries transformative and liberating powers
  • brings sense of stability and relationality into our lives
  • alters our perception and frame of reference

Think about the Eucharist we celebrate when we come to Mass – the words, gestures, actions – what Catholics believe is happening – how that impacts the way we understand our identity as followers of Jesus – how the celebration of Eucharist informs our role in the unfolding of the kingdom of heaven.

The powerful forces at work in our lives can be compared to the tectonic plates deep below the surface of the earth. Their movement is mostly slow but at times the movement is sudden and violent, spewing lava, creating earthquakes, moving mountains and opening chasms in what, just a moment ago, was a peaceful and well-known landscape.

Rituals do not alter reality but when we experience difficult times, they help us harness the tension or pain and transform it into the positive energy we need to move on with our lives.

Kant’s admission about the importance of his parent’s religious faith in their day to day life was insightful. But Kant was caught up in the spirit of the times and missed the point.

  1. During the tension of COVID-19, what rituals are part of your religious practice?
  2. How are they helping you transform this upsetting time into positive energy for the good of all?

-Fr. Brian

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