Authority, transformation, and dirty feet

hi-pope-kissing-feetTrue authority presents itself in service and flows downward. Authentic change presents itself in justice through community and flows upward. Transformation happens when they meet in they dynamism of the Spirit. This is only accomplished through life in Christ.

I have washed feet and I have had my feet washed. No surprise that the getting washed was more challenging than the washing. Well, except for maybe when I had my feet washed by someone with whom I had a difficult relationship.

As a former corporate executive and leader, I can tell you that you can’t make anyone do anything. As an ordinary human, I can tell you that cannot make someone love you. Of course you can force people to do things, you can chase someone to no end, but no real authority, change, or love will come from that. The only change will be the disintegration that comes from anything to discomfort all the way to hate. This is not the integrity that emerges from the love known as agape.

jesus-washing-peters-feet-by-sieger-koderWhatever you do this Holy Thursday, whether you get your feet washed or you wash those of another, don’t think of any church service as a nice re-enactment. That is why the Eucharist is different, we are not re-enacting anything, we are not “getting” anything, we are not forced to something.

Eucharist is about what we give in love, put at the service of world in Christ. Eucharist is about how we are all transformed into what we are becoming. This can only happen in community, it is not a moment that is between any one of us and Jesus alone, it is about the whole, the entire Body of Christ – which is Continue reading

Stay, watch, remain, pray

1932412_10152279350617438_613759620_nWe are almost there, these final days leading to Easter triumph and resurrection. But first we must walk the Via Crucis with Jesus, suffering and dying. How will you walk with Jesus this week?

Perhaps the better question is this, how will we each stay with Jesus this week? The comic to the left is cute and funny enough, but then again, it is not funny at all. How do we fail to stay awake? How do we continually find ways to distract ourselves? How do we avoid what must be done?

As for me, I can name many ways in which I do not watch and pray, far too many to enumerate for you today. Yet, Jesus continues to ask me to stay, to watch, to pray, remain in faithful vigil. So once again, I make my meek attempts.

May your steps this week be blessed with the grace attentiveness to and hope in Christ.

We have a winner!

PrintJane Pelletier has won a copy of Dan Horan OFM’s book, The Last Words of Jesus, A Mediation on Love and Suffering. Congratulations Jane, I think that you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to all who read the post, and to all who commented. There will be more book reviews soon, and while not all reviews come with a chance to win a book, I hope that they help sort out some books new and old. I say old, because there are many fine books that I have not reviewed, that I hope to post about.

The next review will be right after Easter, and it is a real doozy! Just kidding, but it is on a very important book that I think many of you will want to read. Stay tuned. And no, I can’t tell you the title just yet, but you will all recognize the author. (Such mystery!) What books that you’ve read lately really hit you? What reviews might you like to read? Let me know in the comments!

Blessings to all as we enter Holy Week!


Welcoming Bishop Scharfenberger!

Bishop Scharfenberger processing into the Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Times Union.

Bishop Scharfenberger processing into the Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Times Union.

Today a remarkable historic and religious event took place here  at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. Edward Scharfenberger, entered the building for the last time as “bishop-elect” and exited as our the 10th Bishop of our diocese. His ordination and elevation to the office of bishop, and his installation as bishop was a day that reminded me of Francis becoming the current Bishop of Rome.

Bishop Scharfenberger’s presence reminds me of a conversation that I had with my  doctor. She was telling me that she went to medical school abroad. For her, the greatest gift that she from that experience, was that the training put so much emphasis on seeing each patient as an individual, and on listening to each one. All diagnosis and treatment was very one and one, and she attested to the value of getting to know people, treating them with dignity and giving them your full attention as essential elements of healing.

Bp meeting peopleSo, you might ask,  what precisely does that have to do with our new bishop? I observed Bishop Scharfenberger meeting so many people on Wednesday and Thursday, including me – twice. Watching him – and meeting him, it was abundantly clear that he was intent on each individual person, for that moment or two, even with a long line of others waiting. He did not seem to tire, never and his attention never seeming to wander. Our new bishop was using what I would call the gift of holy or sacred listening. This kind of focused presence and attention is what my doctor does. It is certainly what the Jesus, our Divine Physician did. This gift will help our new bishop and will help our church enormously!

BISHOP_SHIELDOur new bishop seems to embody, beyond his good listening, the qualities of joyfulness, prayerfulness, and humility in great abundance. His Coat of Arms represents to much that is full of life, along with his motto, “Lord, make me a channel of your peace.” An explanation of his shield can be found here. The beaver on the left of the shield, which is not detailed in that link, is a symbol of Albany and its fur trading past, and a sign of building things up, the crescent moon a reminder of our Blessed Mother, whom our diocese is consecrated to as Mary of the Immaculate Conception. The crozier is of course, the bishop’s staff.

Bishop Hubbard processing into the Cathedral for the ordination and installation of his successor. Photo Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

Bishop Hubbard processing into the Cathedral for the ordination and installation of his successor. Photo Fran Rossi Szpylczyn.

None of this is meant to diminish the legacy of our Bishop Emeritus Hubbard. All of this praise for our new shepherd does not mean that he was not a great shepherd – and he surely loved the smell of his sheep. As for listening, I can only say that I once visited him to discuss a challenging topic. Bishop Hubbard graciously gave me one hour of his time. He listened to me,  never once shutting me down, and talking to me about it from his point of view as my bishop, meaning my teacher as well.

Although I continued to struggle with this matter for some time,  part of the healing was the way in which Bishop Hubbard listened to me first, and then responding about the issue. I would expect more of the same from Bishop Scharfenberger.

This is what turns hearts and minds, this is what transforms people – finding a listening ear, finding hope and compassion, finding joy and redemption, finding a home for the heart deep in the heart of Christ who is Lord.  This kind of joy and transformation is not found because many obedient sheep line up, but because many recalcitrant sheep hear the voice of their shepherd Christ, and turn to follow him. That won’t happen without joyful evangelizers at every level of the Church. And a joyful evangelizer is what we seem to have been given by Pope Francis, a joyful evangelizer himself!

Congratulations Bishop Scharfenberger!
We welcome you to Albany with great joy – Ad multos annos!

Solemn Vespers infused with joy

Photo courtesy of Linda Berkery ©.

Photo courtesy of Linda Berkery ©.

On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, many of us gathered at The Church of St. Pius X in Loudonville, to celebrate Solemn Vespers in anticipation of the Episcopal Ordination of His Excellency the Most Reverend Edward B. Scharfenberger as the 10th bishop of Albany.

The service was beautifully orchestrated, and the music was lovely. In this bittersweet moment, when Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard steps aside to retirement, something that we have been anticipating for some time. (Not that he will be sitting around thinking about his next golf game!) However, if there was any doubt about the kind of leadership we should be expecting from our new shepherd, it was eradicated last night.

Photo courtesy of Maryann Haskell ©.

Photo courtesy of Maryann Haskell ©.

If I had to assign one word to describe Bishop-elect Scharfenberger it would be joyful. This joy seems to well up from within him. Yes, of course it is a special time, but I sense that this is his way of being. And the man can sing! Bishop Emeritus Hubbard, who often spoke of his not being much of a singer, made a very funny reference to this, and to many other warm and humorous things, during his homily.

A second word that I would use in reference to our soon to be bishop, would be humble. He seems so down to earth, so gracious, and very kind. I was truly struck by this.

Photo courtesy Mau Piel©.

Photo courtesy Mau Piel©.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, I would Continue reading

Love and last words – a book review and giveway

PrintWhen I was newly returned to the Catholic church, I bought a book on the seven last words of Christ during Lent. I’m not sure what book it was, the title now long forgotten, but I read it and struggled with it, finally bringing to to my priest, who was also my spiritual director. The look on his face when it handed to him was quite clear, something was wrong. As it happened, it was a reprint of a much older book, and the essence of the volume in my hands was harsh. Let’s face it, the Crucifixion is harsh, but the book offered a theology that was focused on nothing but suffering. The priest then gave me a much better book on the topic and my reading continued.

Needless to say, I cautiously approached all other books with the words “last words of Jesus” on the cover, rarely finding one that fully fed me. When I saw that Dan Horan OFM, had written a book about Jesus’ last words, I was instantly curious. The Last Words of Jesus, A Meditation on Love and Suffering from Franciscan Media, is an updated look offering us a fresh way of seeing the Cross.

In conversation with someone recently, I said precisely that, that this book is “updated” and “offers us a chance to see the Cross in a fresh way.” Those comments were met with a rebuttal about how there is no Continue reading

Seeing light

burning candleToday I was given the gift of a little revelation along my Lenten path. The Holy Spirit illuminated a shadow on my heart, the light of which caused me to not take a familiar and well-worn, but circular path to nowhere, but to take the turn, however slight, in another direction.

This makes me wonder what would happen if I slowed down more, asked more questions, sought more silence, listened more attentively, and then acted in accordance with all that. This tells me that I need not wonder, but to slow down, ask more questions, seek more silence, listen more attentively, and then act in accordance with what is revealed to me by the Spirit.

How old am I? Slowly learning, learning slowly, but still on the path. Thanks for being here with me. Thanks be to God. May we carry one another in prayer on this journey, at Lent and always.