Blowing in the wind

PJP_Final-1080x810On Saturday I went to church at 4pm because that’s what I do. Except for when I don’t, because sometimes I feel as if I simply cannot go to church. It does not happen often, but when it does, it comes on me in waves; I recently came off of a wave. Right now you might think I would feel like I could not go, but no – I went to church freely. In fact, I definitely felt like I wanted to go to mass.  Since the PA Grand Jury and abuse revelations were mentioned so openly and humbly last week, plus the mention of a parish wide meeting as a listening session for our pastor was brought up, I knew I could not, and did not want to stay away. Also there was a mass intention for my brother, and not least of all I really want to support my priest and be present with my community.

This does not mean everything is OK. In fact it is not. Things are horrifying, humiliating, angering, frustrating, disgusting, did I say horrifying? You get the picture. Yet, off to church I went.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about Continue reading

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Soy un perdedor

soy-un-perdedor-im-a-loser-baby-so-y-dont-u-kill-meChrist was crucified, a death that the Roman occupiers saved for the very worst of the worst. It was truly a scandal. On either side of him, hung a criminal. He was the ultimate loser.

220px-The_Crucifixion_Christ_on_the_Cross_between_two_thieves_(f._80)_CroppedJesus came in peace, tending to the ones at the margins. His focus was on the wounded and the weak, the poor and the powerless, any who were rejected. Power was available to him, the worldly kind of power that puts one in charge with a very strong sense of authority. A certain less savory one tried to tempt him with this; it did not work. Offered all the worldly power and he rejects it? What kind of loser?

BlochJesusTemptedChrist washed the feet of the disciples, something they originally protested. He was pretty clear about what he was doing and why, so the washing ensued. Creepy – he bends down to wash his followers feet? Weird. Loser.Jesus-washing-feet-03

We are called to lives of humility and service. The power given to us in Christ is the power of servant leadership. We are not called to go backward in time, to restore what we might believe was good or great. The pilgrim path of Jesus invites us ever forward, ultimately from life into death. Who would do that? Loser.

Jesus could have smashed everyone and everything in his path to make his point as he lived his public ministry. Yet, he never went that way, did he? Yeah- he turned the tables over in the temple, and he seemed pretty ticked off. Um, it was the money lenders (read: moneymakers) that he lost it with. He did not side with the money people. He must be some kind of loser.

I have been accused, out loud and certainly silently, of being very preachy. Guilty as charged. I’m just a person with a blog, typing out a few words, and expressing what Christ is as far as I am concerned. Yeah – I am a loser.

I know, I am sounding all preachy again. For the record, I am largely speaking directly to myself. My own Christian life is a series of lather, rinse, repeat moments because I don’t have it quite right. Yeah yeah yeah – and I’m still doing it wrong, like a real… loser.

So here we go, step by step, forward on the road to Calvary. It will suck, be assured of that, but it is the only way, and what follows? Who would walk to their certain death, giving it all away? A loser I guess.

Below you will find one of my favorite songs, expressed in video with lyrics. You may not think one can find God in there, but I do – Christ in all things. You may not see it, but what can I tell you? I’m a loser, soy un perdador.

I’m not a theologian, but…

Chris%2520Robinson%2520%2526%2520Peter%2520Bergman%252C%2520Vicks%2520ads-8x6Years ago, there were some TV commercials for a cough syrup that became “viral” in the 80’s sense of the word, for the tagline, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” This came to mind as I began work on this post, thinking, “I’m not a theologian, but I play one on social media.” Am I an impostor? Yes, I earned a degree from a theological institution, but to be clear, it is a a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies – not theology. Am I qualified to speak on matters of church?

This is on my mind as a very public war wages on, with me involved in some small way. New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat has been railing on about Pope Francis for quite a while now. Douthat is a Catholic, a convert, and while I am loathe to use this language, is a conservative Catholic. Am I a liberal Catholic? Many might say so, but frankly, I disdain the labels.

One of my social media connections, Dr. Massimo Faggioli, is a theologian, scholar, author, and an expert on Vatican matters. In recent weeks, he and Douthat have been slugging it out on Twitter, culminating in an open letter to the New York Times, penned by Faggioli and esteemed Jesuit, scholar, and author, John O’Malley SJ, and signed by theologians. As you might imagine, this letter has created a social media firestorm. (All of which, this post included, benefits the NYT and Douthat – page views baby, it is all about page views.) The Daily Theology blog published a copy of the letter so that others could have their names added as signers. And yes, it feels a bit awkward for me to look at the post/letter as it exists, to see my own name… and no corresponding institution of higher education listed for me. Dr. Stephen Okey, who posted the letter asked me about what it should say… I could not say either my work or worship parishes, the opinion was my own. And I am a proud alumni of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, but my degree is not in theology – nor am I a student any longer. In the end, I let it be. As I said, now that feels awkward.

But is it awkward?

9780814647073Yes – and no. Two other posts, and countless other social media posts regarding this issue bring this into focus. Both examine the questions – must one be credentialed two speak about the church in a public forum? That along with a recent conversation (held on social media, natch) with the church social media-ista of them all (see book on left), my good friend Meredith Gould.  I’ll start with that last one… Meredith and I were discussing theology in another context, and whether or not it was a dusty old way of seeing things. For the record, it is not dusty for me, but as always, Meredith shows me other points of view that lead me to new places. Anyway, her point was brought back to me as I navigated this current matter.

The first of the aforementioned posts is from Catholic author Kaya Oakes, writing at Religion Dispatches. Kaya is herself a lecturer in the college writing program at the University of California at Berkley. Kaya, rightfully so, addresses the question, does one need to be credentialed in order to speak or write about the church and matters theological? Read the post, it is a good one. The other important post is “Why I Signed the Letter” from theologian Katie Grimes at Women in Theology. Katie addresses that perhaps all the blowback about credentials -and privilege too. Also a great read, one that has a number of theologians commenting on how they would have signed that letter instead. Me? I am fine with my first signature, but am grateful for the clarity brought forth by Katie, Kaya, and others.

giphyThis momentary firestorm is important for another reason for me, one that I find incredibly frustrating. Did I say INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATING? Sorry, I did not mean to should, but yes, I’m frustrated because of something at large…

Picture this, a New York Times or any other major media outlet for that matter, publishes an op-ed column that is critical of the pope or the church. Oh wait, that has happened, this is but one of a number of examples, or maybe this. (Note, I am not a fan of the first columnist. At. All. The second, it depends.) Perhaps the New York Times is considered anti-Catholic, which I agree it has been over time. What happens? Maybe someone in the hierarchy is critical of the paper, for example, like this. Perhaps the paper even points out some inconsistencies of said cleric.

Is it me, or has there been a real silence around any recent criticism of Pope Francis, the church, the Synod on the Family? Douthat, not for nothing, is remarkably uninformed about church history, theology, doctrine, and typically his writing lacks any context. Yet, does he get criticized by the church proper, as does his colleague Maureen Dowd? If this has happened, I have missed it. Is the New York Times being anti-Catholic when Ross Douthat writes all that he has written lately?

john-henry-newman-quotes-39250That inconsistency is worse than the Douthat thing in and of itself, and I am really struggling. I’m glad that I signed the letter, even if I am not an academic or a theologian. I do believe that the posts from both Oakes and Grimes elucidate the original situation going back to Faggioli and Douthat first going at it. That said, I wish that we would all shut up a bit, me included, (nice to add as I approach a 1000 word count… ugh) and find ways to look at ourselves as church, one Body in Christ.  Anyway, as you consider this long ramble, remember – I am not a theologian, and quite possibly, neither are you. However, we are all members of the big body, and yes – we all must change.

Saturday Lazy Blogger Edition

Can_call_you_back_Im_with_piece_of_string_Cartoon_print_by_Leo_Cullum_Published_in_The_New_Yorker_on_17_2005It hit me this morning… I have neglected you little bloggy blog, and you brilliantly beautiful blog readers. Nothing is wrong, just my typical post Christmas slowdown. In any case, if you are a new reader, welcome. If you have been with me for long or short while, thank you. If you found your way here today due to reading my reflection today in Give Us This Day – I am grateful that you made the journey.

Anyway, the cartoon to the left kind of says where I am. January  is typically my lazy month. In reality, I have been busy here, doing some January-ish things, such as cleaning and organizing. Also, I have some talks/teaching/retreats/travel coming up, not to mention some writing deadlines, so there’s that. In the very near future I will post Continue reading

Scientia et ecclesiae

A black hole... I feel like if I fell in, I'd find God. (courtesy of APOD. )

A black hole… I feel like if I fell in, I’d find God. (courtesy of APOD. )

On Thursday I posted about going to see Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ at SUNY Albany, where he was giving a talk about Galileo. There was a little Twitter-versy (you know, a Twitter controversy!) because I called Brother Guy the “mayor of nerd and geek.” I’ll have everyone know that such things are said with the greatest respect. I see myself as church nerd meets science geek – even if I was never a great science student.

In any event, all of this was precipitated by my annoyance with something that I read in the Albany Times Union a couple of weeks ago – read that Thursday post for context. In my annoyance, I wrote a letter to the editor and dashed it off to the paper via email. A P.S. was included, saying that I would be happy to write a column for the paper’s Saturday belief page on the topic. Well, I went ahead and wrote the column and I am pleased to say that it is running today.  That Brother Guy showed up days before was a real gift, and I thank City Page editor extraordinaire Rob Brill for letting me know about the talk!

The Albany Times Union has a free and open website; I know some of you do not like to follow links, but it is safe, no registration required, no “you have 9 more articles to enjoy so please subscribe messages.” Have a look and let me know what you think! The column, entitled Church, science, in synch, can be found by clicking here.

And if you want to explore further, may I suggest, as I do in the column, to use the internet. Also consider getting daily emails from APOD via Greg Tracy, which is like a prayer for me.  (Not to mention you can offer him a little support in this great work that he does…) And don’t forget to follow Brother Guy on Twitter, where he is found @Specolations.

Let me know what you think of the column, commenting here if you will.  And please feel free to share it if you wish.

Step up to the talent show

talent-show-logo-1Have you ever considered entering a talent show? Not me… Oh no, I am far too afraid, and I am pretty sure that if I sang in front of anyone, they would all run, fleeing from the sound.  Public speaking? That I can do with ease, thanks be to God, but acting or singing or dancing on a stage? Which part of no do you not understand?

I bring this up because there has been an itch that I could not quite scratch, since last Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew, the Parable of the Talents. You know, like the kind of itch in the middle part of you back, you can’t quite reach it.

What do you think about that Gospel? If reading blogs and Facebook offers any insight, it is tough Continue reading