A Blog Post About… Blogging, Blah-Blah Blogging

It was not long ago when an interviewer called to talk to me about being a Roman Catholic blogger in the Albany diocese. For someone who always has a lot to say, I must admit to being a bit dumbstruck. The article appears here and includes my real-life friends Mary DeTurris Poust, Deacon Neil Hook and Fr. Richard Vosko. (For the record, with respect to the author of the article, I have corresponded with and interviewed the wonderful James Martin, SJ – but, befriend is a strong word. Deacon Greg Kandra on the other hand is a met-in-person, in regular touch with, beloved and trusted friend of mine. That’s us over there!

I thought that my interview my come out all “errr…. ummm… well, you know…”  I think it came out sounding like “blah-blah blogging!” At least that is my fear.

It was not the first time I have been interviewed on the topic and who knows if it will be the last.

Yesterday I was driving to my job at Immaculate Conception and was listening to the Parliamentary hearings from the UK around the phone hacking scandal. One of the members of parliament was talking about how media in general, including social media, needed better standards. (massive understatement!) He then referred to the “blags.” It was his accent and I am not mocking, but it caught my attention. He then went on for a few moments about the “blags” and “blaggers.” Blah-blah blogging!

The third thing on this circuitous path to a post is this. Earlier in the week I was at my home parish of St. Edward the Confessor, at a meeting with someone from a website design firm and the topic of the parish blog came up. This gentleman implied that blogging was on life support, a soon-to-be thing of the past. It did not make me happy to hear that, but there is some truth to it.

If you are a marketer. If you are a marketer or a news organization or anyone trying only to get quick attention, forget blogging. A 300 word post on your new product or service will be lost in the ad clutter. I did not spend 29 years in the media business for nothing; I get that. If I had a business it would be Twitter and Facebook, all the way.

So what is my long-winded point? (I told you I always have a lot to say!) 

My point is this – I do not think blogging is going away any time soon. At least I hope not.

Blogging, which I have been doing in one form or another since 2007, has helped me to better see and understand the world around me and my own place in it – personally, spiritually and politically.

In the midst of hard core (who remain beloved to me) lefty bloggers, I found my political center. In the midst of a group of passionate Episcopalian bloggers, (who I continue to be in prayerful blogging/Facebook and real-life friendship community with) I discovered the depth of my Catholic faith. In addition I have had great discussions and learned much from Buddhists, Jews, atheists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentacostalists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, humanists and of course, the SBNR people.(Spiritual but not religious.) Without a doubt, I am a better Catholic because of all of this, of that I am certain.

As for my Catholic blogging friends-  we are engaged in discussions, theological and otherwise that are transformational for all of us. And I can promise you, we have many, many disagreements, but what binds us is our common love for the Church and how the Church is in the world!

If you are not familiar with blogging, which is quite different than reading a newspaper or some other static thing,  blogging offers the chance for conversation via the comments. I also think that that is a big plus of using blogging and Facebook together, the opportunity to have a discussion.

That is how we are transformed. That is how community is discovered and built. Both this blog and the parish blog are about gathering community more than anything else.

In the past year this blog and my parish blog have both floundered a bit. Last summer I was very ill and the summer was lost to me. The fall proved to be too busy for a variety of over-committed reasons. Then came January and a new year presented our family with a major challenge when my husband’s sister became ill and subsequently died, blogging fell to the bottom of the list. I had no time, I also had so little to say.

As I mentioned the other day, I am trying to find my footing again, but without you – well there is no footing!  It is community and conversation that we are trying to build here, not a one-way-ideological-my-way-or-the-highway-zone.

If you are new, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you will say something. If you don’t want to comment, then please drop me an email and let me know that you are here.

Now, to think of things to write about. If you have ideas, you can put them in the comments to, or if you have questions.

I have to go now… I have a lot of blogs to read!  (This will be cross-posted on The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor)

Healing Prayers Are Needed… And Practical Help

 Photo of the Cottone Family – John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union

 
When I was at Spring Enrichment this year, I saw a friend that I knew from previous SE experiences. She seemed a bit pre-occupied when I waved hello, but I did not think anything of it.

After seeing her for a third time, she stopped and apologized for her distance. It turns out that she was more than pre-occupied; she was overwhelmed.  She then went on to tell me the story of her daughter’s family and their many health issues and challenges.

Her daughter, Margie, had gotten married and moved to Georgia. Margie and her husband Tony had a son, Jayden. When Margie became pregnant again, it turned out that there were tremendous issues with the fetus who was baby Lexi.

They were living in Georgia and expecting their second child, but 20 weeks into the pregnancy the couple learned their unborn daughter had deformities. She was missing a bone in her arm, and doctors said she had no toes or fingers. Doctors predicted the fetus would not survive because her lungs were filled with fluid.

All of this is told in a story about the Cottone family in today’s Times Union, which you can find here.

Alexis Cottone – 7 months old Photo by John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union

Ever since my friend Carol had told me the story, I had been thinking about it. Carol had given me a flier telling the story and announcing a fund raiser for the family, but it had gotten dog eared in my tote. Late last week I emailed the person whose name was on this flier and got myself another copy. It has been on my mind to find a way to publicize this story and event, but I had not done so.

While I am very sad for this family, I am glad that they landed on the front page of today’s paper. This will hopefully give the matter some prominence so that more help can be given.

If you have not already read the story, here is the what followed… Lexi’s health challenges proved to be great after being born and diagnosed with thrombocytopenia-absent radius syndrome. Tony and Margie felt that it would be best for them all to pull up stakes and return to the Capital District, which they did. Two weeks later Tony had a seizure and was found to have a stage 2 mixed oligoastrocytoma mass in his brain.

Seriously – you could not make this up.

Right now the family is making their way. If you you are in the area, consider attending the fund raiser which will be held at The Inn at Saratoga at 5pm on Saturday or making a donation. Details about both are at the end of the article.

And if you pray, please keep this family in your prayers. As Margie said in the story… “I’ve always been a religious person, so I pray every day — and that helps me,”

Please pray with and for Margie and the Cottone family and thanks for doing what you can to help by donating or by putting this story on your blog and/or Facebook page, or Twitter feed!

The Narrow Gate, The Holy Mountain – A Different Viewpoint on the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Or at least taken a hike through the hills? The path is often very narrow. I am a bit obsessed with mountain climbing although I have not really done it; I have read so much about Mount Everest, I can’t even begin to tell you. I guess what strikes me is that so often the climbers go single file, but they are frequently tethered to one another in some way and completely interdependent.

More simply put – such a journey is not an solitary independent act. Yes, we may go one before the other, but we must remain connected.  I climbed a small mountain once, part of the path is pictured above… It was so hard and while I tried to do it alone, I quickly learned that I simply could not do so.

Back to today, yes – I am aware that the Gospel passage that I begin with was from Friday and that today’s Gospel is from Luke. Like our own journey, connected to one another, the Gospels too are interconnected.

Today Jesus tells us about the narrow gate; Isaiah tells us about God’s holy mountain. And these matters are not unrelated to Friday’s Gospel in which Jesus reminds his disciples of the greatest commandments. This, by the way, is also known as the Shema or the Sh’ma Yisrael . The Shema is at the heart of Judaism and we must never forget that Jesus Christ was born as a Jew, lived as a Jew and died as a Jew, despite the fact that His legacy is Christianity.

So what does this have to do with the narrow gate?

Perhaps everything.

The narrow gate is a way that we can turn things around in our broken human state and justify excluding people. Now it is one thing when Jesus’ admonishes us, but it can be another when we use Jesus’ name to admonish others.

This all leaves me wondering about how to climb the Himalayan heights of God’s Holy Mountain. It cannot be done alone and it requires surrender to the grace to be lifted to the mountain and the humility to both drag and be dragged by all brothers and sisters.

Surrender. Humility. Grace. Community. Service.

So maybe the narrow gate is not the “who is in, who is out” statement that it appears to be, but rather a call to unity and love. Acting as if we have done something righteous to get in might be the first and most deadly trap of ego; it is done for us, save our response. All is response to God’s loving and persistent call and embrace.

Whose hand will you hold on the way up the path to the narrow gate on the holy mountain? Whose hand will hold yours?

Faith in Community Part I (Subtitle, Why I Am Catholic)

(Thank you to Rev. Diane Roth for the title. Diane just used Jane Redmont’s book title for a post and now I am using Diane’s blog for a title… As we talk about community.)

As you can see, I did some writing as soon as I came home from the hospital and I just stopped. No reason – just focusing on healing, relaxing. I have lots of things I want to write about, but I do seem to lack some focus in actually doing so. Frankly, this whole recent event has called me to slow down, so it is not a bad thing.

To say that I was bowled over by the amount of love and support that I received and that I continue to receive, would be an understatement.  Honestly, if I had any doubt that I was much beloved and held in regard, my doubts would be over.

Words like awed, humbled, deeply moved and especially grateful come to mind.  There are many events in my life where I see grace unleashed and this is another one of those.

One thing that kept my attention, even in the depth of my worst moments was that I have lived here less than 3 years.  How could it be that in this short time I have been so richly blessed with so many friends?

Right behind that was the thought that many of my online friends, through blogging and Facebook are also in that 3 year span. Many may say that what so many of us share out here is not “real.” Well, I have an argument or two for that.

Today however, I am focusing on the real-life-here-and-now portion of community, with no disrespect meant to the online component.

I very much respect that we live in a country that supports freedom of religion. You can choose to be a person of faith or not, to be an atheist, an agnostic. You can choose to join any church, for good or ill or house of worship or no house of worship.

One may choose to be spiritual but not religious and many people choose that. There is all sorts of religious sycretism abounding right now, so people might have some of this and some of that.

Sorry, not for me. I am Roman Catholic and most gratefully, joyfully so. Say what you will, and there is plenty to say, I can’t imagine being part of another church and I have no regrets about where I am.

In any case, I will have more to say about this in the following days, but that is my starting point.

(to be continued…)

There is No Church of One. A Post About The Urge To Connect, Pilgrimage and The Power of Community

 Actual photographic evidence of my journey!

On Sunday morning I set forth in the frigid morning, snow falling and began to drive the two hours from my house to Rutland, VT. My objective was to go visit Caminante, to worship with her at her church and to then break bread in another way.

For a little history, I had visited Caminante in August 2008 when she was living further north in Vermont. A few months later she moved to Rutland and it seemed that we might see more of each other. Sadly, time and circumstances conspired otherwise and it took us until now to pull this blogger meet up off.

For those who do not know her, Caminante, she is an Episcopal priest and has been for almost 16 years; this month is her ordination anniversary. Knowing her and being in this online church with her has given me great comfort and joy.

It is entirely unlikely that I would become an Episcopalian, but my Catholic life is tremendously enriched by all my Episcopal and Anglican blogfriends. Who understands these things? Not I – but I revel in the grace that results from it all.

The driving was treacherous but not the worst I have ever been in. I would have turned around if I thought I could not do it. My two hour trip was more like two and a half hours and that is not so bad! I was reminded of my August visit and the rich green of Vermont as I drove through the white-out version!

The interior of Trinity Rutland.

The liturgy was beautiful; she presides so beautifully and her preaching is truly wonderful. You can read her sermon if you visit this link to her church blog. The message of her sermon illustrated that we are a pilgrim people, a pilgrim church. She touched on matters of the Incarnation and I will now want to be barefoot in church more often; she weaves in the power of community and mission. Oh the simple truth of the notion that there is no church of one.  I found it brilliant.

 This is the smaller chapel space, very beautiful and prayerful.

It is very edifying for me to hear a woman proclaim the Gospel, to preach and to preside at the table of the Lord. It is a reminder that our time and our plans are not God’s time or God’s plans. It is a theme of my life that things that are unlikely or unexpected happen all the time. So while I put no money on these matters happening quickly in my own church, I can take solace in that the fact that they likely will at some point.

Thanks be to God. (see below to meet some of Caminante’s kitties!)

The Whole Mishpacha – A Book Review, Blogging and Community and Faith Practice

One of the things I love about blogging is community. I not only get to write and hopefully become a better writer, but I get to become part of something that is so much bigger than all of us. I have been very blessed and am most grateful to know some richly wonderful people that I might have never gotten to meet or know otherwise.  I have met many bloggers and have talked to many on the phone as well… It is all so remarkable. It is like one great big mishpacha and I love it..

I also learn about books I might not know about, like Jane Redmont’s When In Doubt Sing, Tobias Haller’s Holy and Reasonable, The Price of Right by Alicia Morgan, Googling God by Mike Hayes, to name a few.

Such is the case with “Why Is There A Menorah on The Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship”.  Author Meredith Gould became familiar to me in the comment boxes of various Catholic blogs and I was delighted to hear of the book that she was writing at the time. Her book was recently published and I reviewed it for The Evangelist, the newspaper of the Albany Diocese.

Jesus aside, what else is Jewish in Church?

by Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

As a Catholic child of a Jewish father, I was thrilled to learn that we would be attending a Bat Mitzvah. The year was 1967 and I was 10. My parents told me that we were going to “God’s other house.” This got my attention because I loved Mass at our “God’s house.”

Entering the synagogue, I was curious about the yarmulkes for men and no chapel veils for women, the lack of statuary and candles, not to mention no Holy Communion. The Hebrew might as well have been Latin; it seemed transcendent to me.

I fell in love with this version of God’s house. In fact, I could not wait to get to tell Sister Agnes Marie all about how it was totally different yet so much the same. As it happened, I can’t say that Sister was as excited as I was. However, I was intrigued with whatever God had going with Judaism.

No wonder I was anxious to read, “Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship” by Meredith Gould (Seabury Books, $20). Gould, who was born and raised Jewish, is now a practicing Roman Catholic.

In the foreword, the author wastes no time and jumps into how her Jewishness shapes who she is to this day. Her proclamation that she is a “Jew in identity, a Christian in faith and a Catholic in religious practice” shows that her faith is wide and deep, cultural and spiritual.

Meredith is Catholic, but the book addresses liturgical Christian worship including Episcopal and Lutheran services. Go ahead and read the rest of the review you wish, you can find it right here. And if interested, go get the book, it is really good!