Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Other Advent Inpsired Thoughts (sub-title – she is ranting again.)

The Second Coming         
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Oh my. Advent is here.

And it has been a shitty week for the Catholic Church. No – I don’t write that to elicit your sympathy. Nor do I write it inspire your outrage. Certainly I don’t write it for you to tell me that as Catholics go, I am pretty reasonable.

I do not feel reasonable today and not for the reasons you might think.

The center will not hold.  What IS slouching towards Bethlehem waiting to be born? I am reminded not only of the words of this poem, but also of the lyrics to U2’s “Yawheh,” which remind us “always pain before the child is born.”

As for the shitty Roman Catholic church week, I must say that I *feel* like whatever I say will be misread or misinterpreted or considered defensive or whatever. That in no way defends the totally shitty (oh that word again – hate to use it but it so *works*) things that happened this week (or any other week) in the Roman Catholic Church.

As ever, I am tempted to not stay on the side of yay or nay.  There is more yay than you might imagine when I think of the Church as the place I work and worship.

My “work” parish is in the process of helping a few hundred, give or take, families for the holidays. This means providing the means for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals along with gifts for Christmas.  A good number of elderly and homebound people received Thanksgiving meals that were made up and delivered with great love.

My worship parish is in the midst of providing gifts for families in need and for the elderly without other resources. Thanksgiving was made at church for people who needed somewhere to go.

Probably the biggest thing going on at church however has been the “adoption” of a displaced family from Eritrea. They were living in a refugee camp in their own country for awhile and then got on a plane for the first time in their lives, flew halfway across the world on more than one plane and finally made it here. To say that they are in a strange land would be an understatement!

Their apartment has been furnished by people at my parish, they have been given food and other items and the biggest task is to see that they get visited regularly. They speak Tigrinya, a language that only one man in Albany speaks. He has helped out as he can.

I read about this priest in San Jose, California yesterday and was quite moved with the LGBT outreach he does at St. Julie Billiart church. Their parish motto is “We truly welcome Christ revealed in every person!” Amen to that!

And I would be truly remiss in not mentioning Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco – another special place.

Now the people who provide for those in need are not perfect and the church (locally and globally) that gives the setting for these provisions, welcomes and celebrations are not perfect. Is this actually news to anyone?

This was also the week that revealed some of the very, very worst child abuse cases, which took place in Ireland. I admit to feeling so sick and depressed about it that I felt physically ill.

And then there was this announcement which came out on November 18, from the Catholic Health Association…  which is not all as simple as it looks and is less likely to be as stringently applied than the furor around it might imply.

So here we are, all slouching towards Bethlehem whether we know it or not and I can’t imagine that I am the only one wondering who or what will be born.  Yes – Jesus, we know that he will be born, but what else?

I am ever amazed that the faith journey is one that has no destination; at least not on this earthly plane. It is all becoming and not what we became – that comes later.

This is not a convenient excuse to live a crappy life – something that seems to be ably done by the religious and the non-religious, by the politically right and the politically left, by the conservative and by the liberal. Living a crappy life is very much in the public domain and we all take a share in it.

In its own way that sounds like good eucharistic theology – it is in the public domain and we all potentially take a share in it. Our lives are all crappy at some basic level and then we do what we can do, within the confines of a church or belief system or not to become better people than we once were.

That is the problem with the more evangelically inspired thinking of individual salvation – what a load of crap that is, turning God into an American Idol style judge who is as cruel and capricious as Simon Colwell on a bad day.

Back to the road on which we slouch along on. Any God that would send his only son, himself really – as a baby is not likely to be an American Idol judge as I understand it. He sends himself as a baby born to a teenage single mother slouching towards Bethlehem on an ass with her not-always-so-sure betrothed, penniless, and at that moment, also homeless.

So here we are, starting out on that road, once again now that Advent is here. The church is shitty, people are shitty – and your point is? We know this, what is happening though? What is waiting to be born? I am not trying to be Pollyanna, I am however trying to be realistic and to not waste all my anger and energy on what I am against.

Today at sunset, Advent begins. The road to Bethlehem is untrod territory, the page before me is blank and my heart does not know what to do.

I do know what I will do- center holding or not, I continue that slouch and consider “always pain before the child is born.”  However, like U2, “still I’m waiting for the dawn.”

I am going to post U2’s Yahweh here rather than video of Yeats reading his poem. The message of Yahweh is a bit more Advent inspired as I experience it.

What about you? 

Yahweh – U2
(a special thank you to reader/lurker MR who knows who she is because we corresponded today. your note helped me write this. your silent presence here is a gift beyond measure. thank you.)


6 thoughts on “Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Other Advent Inpsired Thoughts (sub-title – she is ranting again.)

  1. You know what really galls me about the "Catholic hospitals" flap?In 1990, I did my ICU rotations at a Catholic hospital that will remain nameless in a city in Missouri with a reputation for having a##hole archbishops.In 1990, turning off life support was ok, b/c Pope JPII had said if you were prolonging the inevitable, it was an "extraordinary measure." I became good friends with the Jesuit priests who did chaplain work at the hospital. (It was where I learned any old baptized fool could bless the dying and hear a confession–on a night when they were dying like flies, the chaplains pressed the medical students into service.)(BTW, you haven't lived until you go out drinking with Jesuits and have to put them in their beds, drunk, because their housekeeper is fed up with them–but that's another story.)But my point–JPII reversed himself (as he himself became closer to that time they would turn off the machines?), and the present Pope has taken it further.It's just crazy. I am sad for my RC brothers and sisters in Christ who want their loved ones to suffer no more from a natural dying process. aaagghhh


  2. You know what I love about the Catholics? They have this huge institution filled mainly with irrelevant old men issuing proclamations. But, no matter what comes out of the institution, Catholics just keep right on doing what they know to do. That's why I don't worry too much about it. I know that the Roman Catholics on the ground are going to do the right thing. I think the Anglicans would do well to nick that page of the playbook and pay a little less attention to the men in dresses.


  3. God's timing is perfect. I read this post while sipping tea, begging for prayer from a Twitter-based friend via direct message, and feeling panic around the edges of despair. Your post and the comments (especially Lindy's) have cut through my sense of loneliness and frustration…for now. It *is* about doing the right thing: Micah 6:8, being Christ to one another. The events of this past week are, alas, no news. And yes, they are nauseating. Grievous. Evidence of disgusting behavior, institutional and institutionalized dysfunction, and corruption that have pervaded the Church since popes were invented. And on that cheery note, I must prepare to for the 11:30 Mass where I am serving as Lector. Oh the irony. Lord, have mercy.


  4. Fran, you're right, just right in all you say with one exception that I'm not sure about – whether the directives to Catholic hospitals will be followed to the letter. I feel bad for the smaller communities served only by a single RC hospital.And Lindy, you make an excellent point. Like the Catholics, the great majority of the people in my congregation don't pay attention to the powers in the church. They go about their business. I envy them.


  5. God bless you Fran. The institutional church is a whore. Every denomination.And one of those whores is my mother.And I am called to love whores.Forgive the churches.Love God.Follow Jesus.Speak truth to power.Be fearless.And love, always love.What you are to do from there, will only be known by doing it.Many blessings –and holding you in prayer.


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