Photo of Jesus Loves You in a mosaic on Valencia Street

Religion: Love is a Verb

My conversion to Catholicism required two years of study and

I was six months into my study when my mentor (catechist) gave
me a crucifix to take home.

He asked me to reflect on the meaning of the crucifix an hour
each evening for a week.

At the end of the week we met and I read him a paragraph from my journal.

“The crucifix is a symbol of the struggle to transcend the beast, which is not an external force, but a force within each of us. It causes a spiritual death that God wants us to transcend by acting with faith and compassion. We must love the other as we love ourselves..

I was a deeply committed and my mentor felt I had a vocation.

The exercise was a test of my vocation.

My catechist invited the Vocations Director from the Conventional Order of
St. Francis to join us.

I was accepted as a novitiate into the Conventual Order of St Francis of Assisi.

I planned to enter the friary as a Novitiate upon my baptism to continue the
process of discernment.

As a child I went to services every Saturday in an Orthodox Synagogue.

I studied the Old Testament in preparation for my Bar Mitvah.

I  didn’t  enter the Order but that is a topic for a different post.

Wanted Poster by Art Young -
Wanted Poster by Art Young

One does not have to be Christian, or believe in God to grasp the meaning of the story of Christ and learn from it.

The most powerful force in creation chose a lowly birth among the lowliest people in the Roman Empire.

This story of how God chose to incarnate is the central point of the Gospel, the Good News.

The good news is this: God loves all of His Creation regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or class; His Creation belongs to His Creation, all of it.

Lethal Medical Neglect
                    Discharged with Walker

“God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself “became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). The entire history of our redemption is marked by the presence of the poor. Salvation came to us from the “yes” uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire. The Saviour was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb (cf. Lk 2:24; Lev 5:7); he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 197)

Lethal Medical Neglect
                         Urban Renewal

“In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Mk 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. The word “solidarity” is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity.”  (Evangelii Gaudium, 187)


Lethal Neglect
                              Red Soles

Let no one consider themselves to be the “armour” of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression! May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!

Pope Francis Sunday, 21 September 2014

Un Angelo

Rob Goldstein 2016











41 thoughts on “Religion: Love is a Verb

  1. You give me a fresh and deeper perspective Robert. Your explanation and understanding of the Crucifix, I must honestly say, sinks in deep. God’s love is all embracing and no prejudice. We are the one’s who create the conditions and the prejudice. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post, Robert. Jesus’ message was one of radical love, compassion, and forgiveness. His resurrection story I take to heart, and apply to my life journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a very complex post, Robert, so many links to explore. Thank you for that. One far did you get in the Franciscan process and why did you leave ?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I did get close but it was not to be.

        I did what I wanted to do in a different environment.

        I went to work for a non-profit that specialized in providing residential mental health care to the homeless mentally ill. I did this work for over a decade and I consider the time a time of active devotion to the God of my understanding.

        One of the reasons it is so painful for me to walk San Francisco is that I recognize so many of the people and I can also see that they are dying.

        My agency couldn’t give our ‘clients’ enough time.

        Thirty days is not enough to heal a lifetime of abuse plus the horrific trauma of homelessness.

        One of the reasons psychiatric hospital stays were so long in the past was that real psychiatry understood that to get healthy patients needed structure, nurturing, time to think, time to process, and also time to reintegrate into families and communities.

        What we call a mental health system is nothing more than a network of bad AA meeting chaired by secretaries who still drink.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The modern system is horrific, and ineffective. But I have a different view of those long term psychiatric stays, for very personal reasons. My paternal grandfather was kept for 2 decades. Maintenance, not healing. There was good reason so many were closed down. There has to be some sort of happy medium. I’m honored to know of your reason to leave the friary, your mission was so noble, and explains much about your feelings today. Thanks, Robert.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you…I love it when I have the concentrate to engage people…regarding the discussion: I don’t mean custodial care.

        I mean active treatment.

        When I was in my 20’s I worked for a long term
        Freudian based psychiatric hospital in New Haven.

        The average length of stay was two years.

        Family therapy was an essential feature of treatment.

        We allowed patients to leave the Campus when they
        were well enough but we provided structure, psychotherapy
        art, we had an in house school because most of the patients
        were young:

        We had twice weekly all staff meeting to discuss the patients
        treatment plans.

        Staff members entered therapy as a requirement of the job.

        Patients got better.

        I loved that job.

        The problems of State Institutions are not unlike the problems we
        have with our private prisons.

        The Federal and State governments must provide oversight.

        In San Francisco, what’s left of the public mental health system
        is under strict oversight.

        It’s a simple fact that some people require custodial care…the idea
        is to respect their rights as citizens by making sure that they are
        not abused.

        We threw out an entire system because we deemed it entirely bad
        but we replaced it with nothing

        Custodial institutions at their worst are not a tenth as brutal
        as being an elderly homeless woman who has lost a leg to
        a treatable staph infection asleep in a broken wheelchair
        under a brutal noon sun on a busy San Francisco Street.

        What could she possibly do to deserve that?

        When we consider damage, we must also consider the damage we do to our communities.

        We have forced people to pretend they don’t see a sight that most civilized people find shocking.

        Could this be part of the reason for Trump?

        The daily numbing takes a toll on the soul.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this. A little known secret about me – I was going to become missionary at 19, had the funding and everything to go to the UK but when the school said I had to wear skirts I said no way! haha. I had just come out of a terrible theological time where I was trying to break free from legalistic abuses. It is been an awful, horrible struggle for me over the years dealing with sexuality and faith issues even to the point where I felt just plain crazy. There isn’t resolution yet and there may never be. All I can say is that, By the Grace of God. Christ is savior, God is good – even if casts me to hell I certainly deserve it. He will always be important to me because I know he is God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think there is a Hell. I can’t conceptualize a merciful god consigning any of his creation to eternal suffering. Hell was a garbage dump outside of the gates of Jerusalem (I may have the location a bit wrong) The God I know wouldn’t even toss Michelle Bachmann into it; and she deserves it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you like my post. There is nothing wrong with being an agnostic. It’s easy to wonder where God is, or even if there is a God when you consider the vile people who say they know God while they do everything possible to deface the planet.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I have never understood why you have to “convert” to a religion. Why can’t you just become the faith that you want to follow? If you don’t go through the “steps” do they not allow you to worship in the church?
    I think a just God would allow you to pray, follow His words and works and not really care what denomination you called yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having faith and having knowledge of how one achieves faith and grace are two different things.

      Some denominations of Christianity are loose in their conversion criteria.

      But Catholicism is firmly rooted in Judaism, which requires that people be educated in
      the Torah and Jewish tradition.
      The most noteworthy feature of the Eucharist is that Priest reads two passages from the Old Testament to provide a context
      for the reading from the Gospel.

      The congregation learns how Christianity differs from Orthodox Judaism.

      Christ says it best when he tells the Pharisees that a law without mercy is unjust and dead.
      A friend converted to Judaism and spent three years in study before she ‘became’ a Jew and even then, her offspring would not be Jewish.


  6. It is so true. God loves us all because we are all part of God – no matter how we name that God (universe, energy, source). It doesn’t matter how we look like, or from what culture or religion we come (as you said). God did not create religion. Men did!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The best religious teachings understand that God is present in all religions.
      Humanity is the source of greed and hate.

      I think Lucifer is a metaphor for the primal behaviors that ultimately placed us at the top of the food chain.
      The question is whether we are smart enough to use the gift of reason to see that those instincts will destroy our species
      if we don’t discipline our minds and learn how to control them.

      If our cities are jungles it is because we have stupidly turned them into Jungles.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe that we are more about to realise it today than ever before that we are destroying ourselves through intolerance and ignorance. Just the gap between the ones who do and the ones who don’t want to see is very big.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hope we make it through this Erika. We’re actually a pretty nice species…I think the universe wants to know itself and we’re the eyes and ears…Of course if we flip out and kill ourselves the universe will grow another set eyes and ears…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Like you and I the majority (so I believe) has learnt from what happened and how we are able to survive or to kill ourselves. But as you say, even if we killed our species it won’t be the end. There will always be ears and eyes!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The universe is old and by the standards of our life cycles eternal. We don’t know how many life forms have evolved intelligence and the ability to make tools only to destroy themselves.

        Our planet is billions of years old.

        We do know that for millions of years the most intelligent creature was the dinosaur. Their extinction was the result of a near destruction of the ecosystem, which recovered quite nicely. The death of the dinosaur gave mammals a chance to thrive and evolve. Small mammals could burrow underground to safety.

        Humans are destroying the ecosystem that supports our form of life. And the fact that we allow people in leadership positions ignore science when they make policies that affect the climate means that we may be too stupid to survive. LOL…

        If that’s true, the planet and the universe will go on without us.

        I think it will be a shame but that’s because I like the idea of humanity finally pulling its head out of its greed so we can unite as a globe and explore other worlds.


  7. Wonderful words – made me quite emotional…(sorry!) You are so right, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what name we give the path we choose to walk, only that we do it with love and kindness as we search to re-unite with the Divine x


    1. The short answer is two years of study, some water and a priest. 🙂 The longer answer is that I’d felt a kinship with Catholicism going all the way back to early childhood. I see Catholicism as a form a of Judaism –with the Eucharist as a Passover supper that the priest presides over every Sunday. It is more complex than that but that sums it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I was staunchly agnostic for many years, until my spiritual eyes were opened. Now I believe: God is, God is love, and love isn’t supposed to hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that name Joshua. 🙂 I like being Jewish. We are a hardy bunch… surviving the Holocaust (well most of us)

        My adopted sister is Roman Catholic. 🙂 I still love her regardless of religion Rob.

        Liked by 2 people

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