Trinity Sunday – Another Repost

(Another repost from last year…)

Yesterday I put up a long post about Trinity Sunday. It is a study in relationship and it is a bit wordy!

Today I am reflecting on a more simple image that has been influenced by my friend Lindy, by some work from Richard Rohr and from Fr. Pat’s homily that I heard at the 4pm liturgy.

Lindy suggested that we call this Imagination Sunday… and I think that imagination is at the heart of our faith, the heart of the Trinity, so I like the idea of focusing on imagination.

Richard Rohr and Father Pat both spoke about images and dynamics, although each a bit differently.

I am pondering God as Father – but God also as Creator, which implies power. Not power in the negative way that we often perceive it, but the power to imagine and to create, with great love.

I am pondering Jesus as Son – Jesus as human, vulnerable, weak. Not weak in a negative way that is easy to jump to but rather weak as in human. Vulnerable is really a better way to put it. Our culture rejects vulnerability, our faith demands it.

I am pondering the Holy Spirit as… Well, not as a Dove, not as a Flame. I am pondering the ruah, which means spirit and is feminine. Now to say that feminine is not always held up or considered as part of the prevailing male image of God is a whole other blog post or more!

God and Jesus are a horizon and that horizon is linear, the addition of the Spirit makes for a dyamic that mediates the Divine and Human natures and create the Trinity.

No, I’m not even sure of what I just wrote, but in my heart, in my imagination, I find comfort it in its truth.

Here is a lovely song for Trinity Sunday, courtesy of Paul Snatchko, who had it on his blog. Paul started out as a blog friend, as did Lindy. Having met them both I am grateful! I bring this up because our faith is incarnational and relational… the heart of the Trinity.

Lent 2011 – The First Sunday in Lent, A Reflection

Lent schment, right? I mean, what is that all about?

I can recall a time in my life, not so long ago, when I felt that way. OK, it was about 20+ years ago, but it doesn’t seem so far away.  Lent was for losers! Church was for people who needed a crutch and were willing to listen to a bunch of mostly older, white men who would tell them what they could do. And perhaps more importantly, what they could not do. Sheesh, who needs that mess. I know who I am, I know what I want and I deserve what I deserve.

Now where is that darn serpent who can tell me where that tree is? The fruit does look pretty good and after all, what is God going to do about it if I eat that fruit?

In today’s readings for this First Sunday of Lent we hear a very familiar first reading,  the story of Adam and Eve, the pesky serpent and that tasty apple. It all looked so good… and it often still does.

I suspect that most of us would have made the same decision as Eve did… The lure of the shiny apple, the smooth voice of the serpent and the thought that some special knowledge or wisdom could be had. How seductive is that? Consider every single advertisement that you have ever read, heard and/or seen. Hello Serpent! Greetings Apple! Welcome Power! Whoo hoo, it is mine and victory is sweet.

Or is it?

Our Gospel from Matthew shows us a different point of view however. Jesus is out in the desert. Please think about this for a moment… He is out in the wilderness of the Judean desert. It is hot, lonely, rocky and mountainous. Hardly a stay at the Hyatt, right? He is likely really hungry, very thirsty and who knows what else.

Make no mistake, Jesus is divine, but Jesus was also human. He suffered in the desert as we might if we actually did follow him there. It is so easy to consider that this might have been easier for Jesus; I have no special knowledge, but I am guessing that it was not. That is the point, right? Jesus’ humanity is at the heart of his divinity.

So “the tempter” comes around to see if Jesus can be swayed and finds out that Jesus will not be. It is so, pardon the pun, tempting to make this story into something that is good to listen to but has nothing to do with us… After all, we’d hardly be in the blazing desert for 40 days and even if we were, we’re not Jesus!

We are not Jesus, but we can be like Jesus.

We are in the desert, symbolically, all the time. Here during Lent, we choose to enter the desert! Or at least we hope to do this!

The story has everything to do with us. We are constantly confronted with choices and each choice bears consequences. Now that is not some finger-wagging morality threat, it is simply true. Each choice that we make, not unlike the choice that Eve made, bears a consequence. And each new choice, thanks to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, offers us the chance to find new consequences, better consequences.

Here it is, we don’t just make one choice and say, “Phew, thank God that’s over!” Well, we might, but new choices are around us all the time. And God’s ever present call to us is with us all the time and the opportunity to choose God always.

The choices we make are usually about more than what is on the surface. Eve wanted the apple, but the message of the serpent was clear – it was the Tree of Knowledge! When offered the chance to be like gods, we see what choice was made. And when Jesus could have turned stones into bread it would not have simply been about food, but rather about power and thus rendering God impotent.

And that’s the real problem. We live in a time in which we all believe that we can be the master of all. Now here’s a little secret for you, the seductive allure of power has been present since, well – since forever. It’s just that we see through own myopic and provincial lens. The manifestations of power and how power is mediated varies throughout history. The allure is the same.

That is why Jesus matters. Jesus is the power and Jesus is who we are invited to choose; we are invited to choose and surrender. That is the gift of grace and offers the transforming power of love and redemption.

Today I do choose Lent, today I do choose Jesus. The things I thought before… I understand why I thought them, I just don’t feel that way anymore. I struggle with other temptations now and I remain a bit skeptical at times, critical at others.

Our choices, even when they begin with Jesus,  invite us to further choices, to choose anew, moment by moment.

It is Lent and we are invited to be aware of our choices, whatever they might be, in a special way at this time. May we find our way through the desert and may we find our way through the temptation that calls us to look away from the Lord.

Easier said than done! Will you join me? I know this much – I can never do it alone.

Blogger Meet Up – Albany Style, All the Way from New Zealand

If there is one thing I love, it is blogger meet up time. I have been very blessed to have met numerous blog friends over these past 3+ years. To see but a small bit of this chronicled, you can refer to this post from August.

When I first started blogging in May of 2007 I would write about my faith, but that was not really the focus of the blog. Mostly I blogged about politics back then, but I did find myself soon thrust into the midst of a wonderful world of Episcopalian/Anglican bloggers. So much of who I am and what I do out here is because of this diverse group of people. If you did check out that link from August, you will see me with a few of my Episcopal friends.

Yesterday I had the chance to meet yet another one of them, Brian Ralph, who authors the blog Noble Wolf. For those of you who do not know Brian, he is a retired teacher. He was living in the Blue Mountains, outside of Sydney, Australia, who recently moved to Dunedin, New Zealand. He is in the midst of a pretty significant around the world trip and his travels brought him through Albany for a day. Speaking of all of this, I do urge a visit to Brian’s blog to read about his amazing trip through Europe, including Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

Brian in Starbucks in downtown Albany, NY

It was a great delight to meet this lovely man!  After picking him up from the train station, we went to his hotel in Albany so that he could drop his bags and off we went on a sunny afternoon. I got to see parts of this city that I never see!

As with so many blogger meet ups, it was an easy connection to just start talking. We already knew a fair amount about each others lives, including faith, family and travel history! Brian has the most engaging smile and a very warm heart.

Our first stop (but of course!) was a church, St. Peter’s Episcopal. We walked all around the Capital, Empire State Plaza and in and around some of the city streets. This is The Egg, a famous Albany performing arts venue and visual landmark. We tried to see the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, but it is still undergoing renovations and was not open.

Honestly, I have spent almost no time in Albany – seriously. How sad is that!? I have not been to The Egg and I had never (hangs head in shame) walked around Empire State Plaza before. For the record, I have also never been to the Cathedral before either – I know, go figure!

So it took a visit from a gentleman from halfway around the world to get me there!

It was so easy to talk with Brian. We talked about many things – his trip, our blogging roots and connections, his recent move from Australia to New Zealand. We spoke of many common blogging friends like Grandmere Mimi, Fr. Bosco Peters, Doxy, Paul, Jack and Mad Priest.  We talked about people who don’t really blog any more but who we think so highly of, such as Alcibiades and Dan. (Dan’s blog  is not there anymore!)

Brian and I spent a lot of time talking about how important our faith is to each of us and how there are many challenges to our faith practices. I expressed how grateful I was to be here in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and how my current job and grad school pursuits are truly the work of grace. Brian talked about the hypocrisy he encountered and his experiences among the Sydney Anglicans and how different it is to be in Dunedin.  He also spoke at length about his work and how accepted he was among Catholics when he taught at a Catholic school in Sydney.

What a strange and wonderful thing this all is and I am very grateful for all the people that I have met via blogging and Facebook. The irony of all this is that I was supposed to have coffee yesterday with another person I met online and who lives in Albany, Maureen. I had to postpone that because of Brian’s visit. And I consider that I am still figuring out how to have a meet up (although we did meet briefly) with Mary DeTurris Poust who lives locally. And how that even though we have tried, Dan Sloan and I have yet to have a proper meet up… He lives 3 hours away, Brian lives almost 9000 miles away! Brian did not realize that Dan was in NYC or he would have tried to connect with him too.

Well I have rambled on and on here. In summation, a fine time was had and I continue to consider social media my mission field. I’m not here to convert you, but I will say, you – all of you – pretty much always convert me.

What a gift! Happy and safe travels Brian!

Devotions and Other Matters – A Meme

My friend, Catholic writer Paul Snatchko of Between the ‘Burgh and the City tagged me for a meme that has been working its way around the Roman Catholic blogging circles. Then a short while later, another fine Catholic writer, Kim Luisi of Faith, Fiction and Flannery tagged me as well. The gist of the meme is to reveal your favorite devotions. Now I do not consider myself extremely devotional, but I do have some regular practices and you are about to learn what they are!

The Rosary – If I were to retrace my steps of return to the Roman Catholic Church over 20 years ago, you would find the path of the Rosary. (In fact I have retraced some of those steps, you can check that out right here.) I usually pray the Rosary once a day and often in my car on the way to work. I have many Rosary beads, but I usually pray with the very beautiful ones pictured below. They were made for me by Episcopalian blog friend, Kirkepsicatoid (aka Maria Evans) who I have had the pleasure of meeting in person. I’m pretty ecumenical!

My Morning Prayers – I don’t know if this counts as a devotional in the truest sense of the word, but I am listing it here. God has given me many gifts, but consistency or a sense of real discipline is not among them. I have trouble with regular patterns, what can I tell you. The one thing I do daily, almost without fail, is to awaken with words of thanks to God on my lips and then I spend some time in prayer. I read The Magnificat (where the aforementioned Paul Snatchko works!), Richard Rohr’s Radical Grace, I spend some time just being quiet and I write in my journal. At various times of the year, such as Advent and Lent, I might add something else, but the other things are my daily acts.

Now for what it is worth, I found that when I was in the hospital recently, I could not touch one of those books. I had Mark bring them to me… they sat right on my table, unopened. For some reason, I turned to my phone and decided to use the iBreviary app that I had downloaded.  Each day, I did use that to pray instead of my books or journal. As it happens, the day after I got out of the hospital, Dennis Poust interviewed me for an Our Sunday Visitor article about Catholic apps – what timing. You can read that right here if you wish.

Novenas – For various feast days, I do write my own novenas and pray with them. For those who might not know what a novena is, it is a 9 day prayer.  Right now I am making a novena to St. Dominic, his feast day is August 8 and he is very special to me.  This is a famous painting of St. Dominic and St. Francis meeting. They were contemporaries, but I am not sure that there is evidence to support that they really met.

Sharing Faith Online – Like Paul, I am listing this as a devotion. When I first started blogging with my old (long gone) personal blog, I inched into faith posts. Then I did more and more. I began my church blog and that was another outlet. Now I often cross-post on this blog and my church blog… I am fully outed as a person of faith.

This has been a rich 3+ years of blogging and I have made many friends of faith, Roman Catholic and beyond. In particular, I have a number of Episcopalian blog friends – I actually connected with them first, way back in 2007. There are also people of other Christian denominations along with folks of many other traditions.

It has been a great blessing to meet many of my faith blogging friends. The support and love and prayer that comes from this is a gift beyond measure and important part of my faith life and practice. I present some photographic evidence of such meetings…

Paige and Mimi meet the day before Paige’s wedding, May 2009.
That’s me with Grandmere Mimi, Rev. Tobias Haller BSG and James Teets, February 2007.

I went to mass at Fr. Austin Fleming’s (The Concord Pastor) parish in May 2009.

The top photo is of Jane, Paige and Paul, May 2009. The lower one is of me with Diane Roth in November of 2007.

In September 2009 I got to meet Deacon Greg Kandra (above) and the next day I met Mike Hayes(for the 2nd time) and the many-times-mentioned Paul Snatchko (below).
Ah, here is another shot from Paige’s May 2009 wedding – Mimi, Laura, PJ, Jane and Paul.

At this point I have met and attended mass with Rev. Lee Crawford. This was the first time, when she was still in northern Vermont, summer 2009.

Rosary maker, Episcopalian, pathologist and blogger Maria Evans with me.

When Maria was visiting, Laura Lewandowski came over from Vermont for a visit. She also was here in April and then Laura kindly drove over to visit with me while I was in the hospital.

My beautiful and beloved Lindy. She visited NYC from Texas last summer and I got to meet up with her at the Cloisters. Now she lives in China!

I think I made my point about faith blogging and being devotional!

OK, that’s a lot of photos and tags. Phew – I am done in. In any case, the whole idea of forming an online faith community really means something.

Who will be next? I tag Mary DeTurris Poust, Peace Garden Mama, Paul Brian Campbell SJ, and Not A Virgin But Occasionally A Martyr

Or anyone else who might like to take this on!

Evangelizing – What?!

Last night I was in attendance at a diocesan event called “The Evolving Local Church: Skills for Evangelizing Leaders.” I will return for the second and full day part of our workshop.

Does the very word evangelism not confuse and sometimes frighten those of us who are Catholic? And it may also do the same to any of you who are not Catholic and who might think you about to be sold some bill of goods that you do not want.

It is a word that can be challenging and we talked about that last night.

So today, I opened my dog-eared copy of Radical Grace, by Richard Rohr, OFM and found today’s reflection: Five Great Gifts: Evangelism.

“I suppose that many of us still of evangelism as a Protestant term. But it’s a biblical term. The evangelist is the one who gives Good News. The evangelist has the specific charism of being able to welcome, to invite, to announce Jesus and the Kingdom with excitement. The evangelist is the door opener. Catholics have been, historically, very weak on this charism, since most Catholics were baptized as infants.”

He goes on to say a few other things and ends up with this:

“Yet the Church desperately needs a new evangelism. And many of us need to be re-evangelized – or perhaps hear the Good News for the first time.”

Roman Catholicism comes with such a long history and cultural context that I think that last sentence says it all.  While I have fond memories of the faith of my childhood, it took me an 18 year absence and a long, slow return of the past 20 years or so, to get where I am today. And in this second part of the journey, I feel I am only now truly hearing the Good News for the first time.

I don’t know about you, but the word “evangelist” often brings to mind TV preachers and the like, with messages of either gloom and doom or guaranteed riches. I really don’t like that. It makes me feel like I am forcing – or misrepresenting Good News, not sharing – or living –  Good News.  Or that it is being foisted upon me!

In addition, I am reminded – as we discussed last night – discomfort may be the most required step of real transformation. That is why I purposefully say it has been a long, slow return. It is long, slow and frequently uncomfortable, challenging. I mean- why else would we change? There has to be a reason and discomfort is a big motivator.

Transformation requires change. That pesky piece of information often makes what Fr. Pat says so true… It is so attractive to want to follow Jesus.

And so very hard to do so.

Looking forward to this day.

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!)

Grace Church, Utica, NY – Thursday November 19, Part 1

This was a blogger meet up of a different natue….While having met others before, last night’s  was of a different nature, as it was occurring because of Rev. Jim Jensen’s Requiem Eucharist. For those who do not know, Jim was the husband of Klady or Kathy(I hope that Kathy does not mind that I am using photos from her blog for this post. I especially love the baptism photo below – and as we all know death is a part of our baptismal promise, an act connect to death but filled with hope.)

The church, which you can see at the top, is quite stunning. I entered and got into a line of people waiting to pay their respects to Fr. Jim. As I did not know him in life, I could not say if he looked “good” – whatever that means. I do know that a body remains, but a soul has already gone onto the Kingdom and is deep within the heart of God. However, Fr. Jim did look exactly as his photo shows him, a handsome man and vested for his last Holy Eucharist.

After a brief prayer, in which every member of our community was in my heart I took a few steps towards Kathy. She took one look at me and a huge smile covered her face as she said “Fran?!” We embraced tightly. I am not typically at a loss for words, even at funereal events – tonight I stammered a bit and said that I was there on behalf of everyone, especially Jane, Mimi, Shelley and Doxy – as well as so many others. Kathy told me how grateful she was for what we all have out here. She felt so much love and support during the time from Jim’s death forward. I quickly moved on.  (Shelley aka PseudoPiskie, was at the funeral of George Bland, father of blogger Janis Bland and couldn’t make it to Utica.)

A few minutes later I saw someone I knew would be there, Rev. Lauren Gough who blogs as Muthah+ both here and here; what a joy to meet her even under these circumstances. She has the most beautiful smile and I further felt the enormous generosity of heart and spirit that I had experienced on her blogs and in email.

The place was awash in Episcopal clergy and I will write more about that at another time. The entire church hall was very, very busy as you can imagine. Seconds after meeting I looked up and saw the Rev. Mark Giroux. You are right to say “who?” Mark is not a blogger, but in a crazy small world thing I actually know him otherwise. It was at St. Mark’s that Jim Jensen fell ill on Saturday. We chatted for a moment and I was further moved by how, as Fr. Mark had written to me in an email, “It astonishes me how the internet seems so often to expand the circle of God’s love.”

A little while later I had the chance to meet another blogger, one who is anonymous on his blog, but who I have gotten the chance to know via email. That would be none other than +Clumber. He was very discreet and The Right Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III who is the Bishop of CNY did not even realize that another bishop was present! I love that kind of clerical humility, that is all I can say.

I am going to break this up into more than one post, so this one will close here; more to follow.

Church Nerd – The Field Trip Edition, With a Side Order of SSP (shameless self promotion)

The tone of this blog has been rather serious. *sigh* I know. What can I tell you?

And you would think that the only blogger I know is this one as he seems to be the only one I have linked to.

It is not on purpose, it is just how it is.

If you read these pages you likely know that I am a social networking fool. I have met about 30 bloggers now. You know, you think you are in it for the anonymity and then next thing you know, it is meet-up, meet-up, meet-up. Well – it is for me anyway.

I guess – sorry, going all Catholic-Eucharistic-Theology on you here, it is all about real presence for me. Social networking is great, but in the end it is how we connect as human beings. For me that is ultimately the Body Christ in action, as we love and serve one another.

Speaking of social networking and real presence, (shameless self promotion alert), I have written about Catholics and social networking and even got myself published… Really! Don’t believe me, click here to see my piece in The Evangelist, the newspaper of my diocese.

With that, I headed off to NYC (sorry to those of you with whom I want to meet, but have yet to This is me with my great friend Sue.

do so) with my friend Sue. Our plan was to attend a talk by Richard Rohr, OFM at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. Rohr is promoting his newest book, The Naked Now.

We drove to NYC and headed out to Brooklyn by subway. We went to the offices and studios of NET NY. Deacon Greg, the one I have been linking to non-stop, is the news director there.

This is me with Deacon Greg.

It was great to meet Greg in person. He is delightful – warm, funny, smart and passionate about his faith. Greg worked at CBS for many years and like me, has traded his media career in for a ministry career. Pay attention to his name, you may be seeing more it and not just because I link to him a lot.

We watched a taping of the program Currents, a daily half-hour Catholic news program. After that it was off to Rhythm and Booze for an early dinner.

See – we’re Catholic, not puritans, we drink! OK, Greg didn’t, he had to go back to work!

Then it was off to hear Richard Rohr. He was at his best. He is a great speaker, this is my third time hearing him. Rohr is right up my alley, speaking about the “both/and” rather than the “either/or.” Holding the tension of polarities is, I think, wisdom. It is what I try, and often fail to do. I keep trying. This is a big topic for Rohr.

I always get to chat with him too – he is a truly delightful man. Much of my re-entry to the RC church had to do with reading a lot of his work and he is with me to this day, TBTG.

Then it was back to the hotel in Manhattan and sleep. Up and out, we hopped over to the studios of Busted Halo to meet Mike Hayes. (That link will lead you to a great article about Mike. Mike also blogs at Googling God, which is also the name of his book.)

After founding Busted Halo 9 years ago, Mike is about to move on to Buffalo, NY. I had met Mike in the spring, when he came to Albany for a catechetical event. (I love the word catechetical, and am using it in honor of Catechetical Sunday. I should point out that in the tiny cute world of faith, Mike founded Busted Halo along with Brett Hoover, CSP. Brett knows our beloved Jane Redmont, proving that we are probably all less than six degrees apart!

We were also going to meet with Mike’s real life friend and my blog friend, Paul Snatchko.

Mike Hayes, Paul Snatchko and me at breakfast.

What a delight that was! We had a great breakfast at a classic NYC coffee shop, The Flame. We talked and talked and talked.

My good friend Sue was a great sport about being dragged to all these meet ups and I think (I hope!) that she had a good time. It was refreshing for her to see that my blogging has led me to some great friendships and is very enriching to my faith. Sue is a big part of my local faith community here and a great friend to me.

After breakfast, Sue, Mike, Paul and I walked over to St. Paul’s and spent some time there.

There is an outstanding and I do mean OUTSTANDING art exhibit going on there if you are in the area. It is called God Doesn’t Like Ugly and it was amazing. No you don’t have to be Catholic to walk into the church and explore the art.

This was a great trip and I recommend all these bloggers to you. To those I have met, from every corner – I say thank you and to those I hope to meet, I say yes!