Nerd and geek

BigBang copyA couple of weeks ago the Albany Times Union, (note: the paper hosts a mirror of this blog on their website)  ran a reprint of an editorial from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. To say that it ticked me off would be a significant understatement. Yes – that is an excerpt from it. Which part of not true would you like me to begin with? *exasperated sigh*

When my church nerd and my science geek get going, trust me they get going. Talk about science, I really get worked up when people think that the Roman Catholic Church is anti-science. Without said church there would not be science as we know it… but that’s another story for another day.

consolmagnoon-colbert-reportWhat started out as a letter to the editor quickly morphed into a column that should run in this coming Saturday’s Albany Times Union. Late on Wednesday, TU City Editor Rob Brill called to tell me that someone mentioned in my column would be at SUNY Albany that night. We know it was not Galileo or Pope Francis, so that left me with one choice… Continue reading

Take Nothing For The Journey

If there is anything that I have struggled with in life – and I struggle to this day with it – is the whole notion of taking nothing for the journey. A look at Luke 9:3 reminds us of Jesus’ words:

He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.

This one is very tough for me as I am known to leave the house for the 11 mile journey to my office with big tote full of things. I mean – it is not exactly a remote outpost where I will be stranded for a few weeks.

We are called, as followers of Jesus, to be a pilgrim people and to be reminded that we are completely dependent on God for what we need. I mean – I do know that!

However, like most of what we are called to do as followers of Christ, it is much easier to talk about than to do. And in this case, I can barely talk about it!

Here we are, always on a journey and while I don’t want to rush us to a liturgical season far away, we are on a journey to Gethsemane, to Golgotha… It’s not like one will need a lot for those places; what one will need is to be stripped away of the things that keep us from that journey and that keep us from Christ.

This is not a treatise for me – or you – or anyone to get rid of all their stuff! Although I might be talking to myself about the material stuff as well as some other pesky layers that come between Jesus and me…

The image at the top of this post was taken almost 6 years ago, as I was climbing Huayna Picchu, the mountain next to Machu Picchu. One day I will write that story, it has yet to come out of me, but it is about a day that changed my life and a day in which a very heavy backback and my fear of heights – two things I needed to let go of – made an already extraordinary day, even more so. And not always in a good way!

That is why I read two blogs with great interest this morning, after having prayed and pondered some personal matters of journey and a lighter load.

First I read Claire’s second blog, Strolling to Compostelle. Now you may be aware of her primary blog, A Seat at the Table, but this other blog is about her upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, or Compostelle in her native French.

I have longed to make this journey, but I don’t know if I will ever do it. Claire and her husband have gone multiple times and in fact, will take a very different route for this camino, La Via de la Plata.  It is hard to imagine actually making this trip, but so much of my life is unlikely in how it has worked out, that I am hopeful that one day I will go.

In any event, I read Claire’s words and am reminded of what such an undertaking means… and just what one has to consider before taking the first step. This is a demanding journey. You know – like life is.

Speaking of the demands of life, the other blog that really connected for me this morning was Margaret’s blog, Leave It Lay. I can actually remember with startling clarity the first time I ever read her blog. It had a physical impact upon me, I was blown back in my chair!

At the header of her blog you will find these words, “pick it up. look it over. put it down. leave it lay where Jesus flang it.” Talk about take nothing for the journey! And I recall what I think was her first post – a video of Nada Te Turbe, which now resides on her sidebar. 

In any case, Margaret, an Episcopal priest, and her husband Joel are about to move from Virginia to… Well, you see that is just it, they don’t know where they are moving. So for Margaret, it really is about taking very little for the journey, isn’t it?  To that end, they are having the “biggest, baddest, best yard sale evah today,” in order to do just that. 

(As an aside, I recently  bought some books from the biggest, baddest, best Amazon used bookseller and I highly recommend it. It is officially called Joel’s Books, but let me tell you that the books that he and Margaret, “flang there” are amazing. Go have a look – religion, history and more! Pick them up, look them over and take them for at least a portion of your journey by buying some of them!)

And not unlike Claire, preparing for her pilgrimage, it is about trust and taking the one thing you need most.

Yes – that would be faith.

Striking about Margaret, at least as I “read” it via email and in reading her blog, is her ever present sense of joy. I am not using this blogpost as a way to define joy and happiness, two very different things, but bear that in mind. At least when I interact with her online, I sense the bubbling of a spring and the feel of a strong breeze that will impel me along on my journey. Which at the moment, is nothing like this.

My point, my ever-long-winded point is this – how can we take nothing for the journey? How do we “fix our eyes on the hills,” even when we don’t know where the hills are?

These are two very different – yet similar women – about to undertake two very different – yet similar journeys. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts. One journey chosen and deliberate and the other… well actually, truth be told, anyone who calls their blog “Leave it Lay,” is making a chosen and deliberate journey as well.

All of our journeys are chosen, even when we don’t seem to be choosing them; they are quite deliberate for those of us who have made the decision to follow Christ. So whatever that means, this is a journey that is not about what and how you pack, but about the opposite.

And for a tote-bag-toting woman like me, I continue my challenge.

Prayers and blessings for Claire, Margaret and for all of those who stand at the crossroads and wonder where to go and what to take.

Theology Thursday

A post with three important links… There has been a lot of theological sabre rattling of late; sabres of the bishops it would seem. That makes me very sad and I continue to pray for the Body of Christ.

That said, I think that these three posts are very important in presenting some thoughts on recent issues. Sometimes it is time to consider new wineskins, perhaps now being such a time? I pray for the wisdom to know.

As theology is “Fides quarens intellectum,” or “faith seeking undertanding,” I think that questions, probing, study and journey (we are a pilgrim people after all!) are essential to theology. And as a student of theology, I do not think I am making this up! However, there has been no shortage of conversation about recent skirmishes between bishops and theologians.

Three posts to consider…

From Catholic Moral Theology we find “Father Thomas Weinandy and the Theological Generation Gap”. The author,  PhD in Theology makes some interesting points about what makes today’s theology very different from that of the past.

From WIT: Women In Theology, we come upon “A Curse and Affliction Upon the Church? On Vitriol and Theologians.” This author is a PhD candidate in theology at Notre Dame and she unpacks some of the similarities between Fr. Weinandy’s remarks in an talk given in May and recently summarized in a column by John Allen at NCR, about commentary on Dr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, CSJ and recent issues with her book, The Quest for the Living God. (In full disclosure, I have read and enjoyed this thought provoking book and it has been used in two of my classes.)

From Brother Dan Horan, OFM at his blog, Dating God, we read about “Fides Quaerens Nihilum, Weinandy’s Vision of Theology.” Dan, who has been teaching at Siena College is a theologian himself.(In more full disclosure, Br. Dan is coming to interview me today for a future episode of his Dating God podcast.)

Read on, think, consider, ponder, pray – and repeat. We worship a Living God, we are a pilgrim people and we must literally re-member the Body of Christ. How we do that is vast undertaking.

Yes or No? Yes and No!

Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem, November 2004. Taken by me.

I was not going to post today but as I prayed earlier and as I got ready for work, the need to write about the Feast of the Assumption and/or yesterday’s Gospel about Jesus and the Canannite woman was persistent. It was even more pressing after finding these three thought provoking posts, one from Ginny Kubitz Moyer, one from Philomena Ewing (ok two from Phil, see this one also,) and one from Claire Bangasser.

Which brings me to a question I would simply like to pose for today… Yes or No? As usual, I go for the both/and approach and come up with Yes and No!

The Canaanite woman will not take no for an answer. She went to Jesus in good faith for healing for her daughter and was not going to go away quietly. Once again we meet a woman, not even a Jew, persistently going to Jesus for help. He is even pretty clear that she is not who he came to save!

She says – no, you must help me. Even the dogs get scraps!

Today we have another Marian feast to ponder, the Dormition of the Theotokos or what we Catholics call the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary has not said no – in fact, she has said “yes.” It is Mary’s yes that changed the world!

What is it for you  in life – the Yes or the No?

We must exercise both? How does this work in your life? I hope you comment here; I’d love to know what you think.

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)

There Will Be Blog!

Yesterday,the esteemed Mike Leach published a second list of favorite Catholic blogs on his blog, Why Stay Catholic.  Imagine my surprise to find my own name and this little bloggy-blog on the list!

Where is the fainting couch? And could someone bring me a little water and a fan? I was astounded.

I mean, go look at the list… Elizabeth Scalia, Eugene Kennedy and all the bloggers at NCR, Rose Pacatte, FSPJames Martin, SJ and other bloggers at America, Br. Dan Horan, OFM, Mike Hayes, Deacon Greg Kandra. As I said, which one of these is not like the other? (I have been very lucky to meet Rose, Dan, Mike, and Greg in person.)

In any event, I was gratefully astounded but also feeling the impacts of very little blogging of late… like very little.

I can tell you a bit why but let it suffice to say that the year that spanned from July 2010 to the present moment has been a momentous one and not always in a good way. Something had to go and the blog was left a little more than unattended.

In addition to Mike’s kind addition of me to the list, I believe that there will be an article in this week’s Evangelist, about Albany Catholic bloggers and that would include me.

Gulp.

As a Roman Catholic whose life is centered on living in a Eucharistic manner, I believe that there must be bread! Hence the name of the blog.

However there must also be blog and I am working on making a comeback. This blog is meant to be a place for spiritual reflections, memoir, thoughts about life and whatever flotsam and jetsam turns up, all expressed through a Catholic and catholic lens.

In the meantime, if you are a regular reader of my irregular posts, welcome back!

And if you are new to this page, I welcome you warmly.

There are things percolating in my heart and mind, there will be more blogging, but it may be a bit quiet as the summer continues.

I hope that you will consider putting me in your Google reader if you use one or perhaps subscribe to the email feed of the blog. If you are on Facebook, please friend me and please “like” the blog’s Facebook page.

Thanks all!

The Body and Blood of Christ – June 26, 2011

 The Last Supper – Before and After Restoration

What is good Eucharistic theology? 

When I made my First Holy Communion, as we said back in the day, in May of 1965 at Assumption Church in White Plains, NY, I knew all about kneeling, reverence and holiness. When I was not in the first or second pew fidgeting with my classmates, I did try hard to adopt all sorts of postures of holiness.

One thing I liked to do was to hold my the palms of my hands together so that all my fingers lined up and pointed to the sky. I thought that God liked the perfection of that. I also liked to have good posture when on the kneeler in the pew. Another important thing was how I knelt at the altar rail when I went to communion. I liked that it was red and smooth and just slightly plush, which cushioned my knees. I liked the feel of the cool marble of the altar rail if I were to even lean against or touch it accidentally. I also liked staring at my potential new boyfriend (who at the time I was sure that I would marry) Tommy Criscione. Tommy had that plum job as altar boy, wearing his red cassock and white surplice. I was so jealous but my crush on him overrode my feelings of envy.

Then there was the way that I felt – when the host melted I thought that Jesus was gone, not to return for another week! Panic would set in. Talk about panic – it would really set in when the white host would get stuck to the roof of my mouth. Uh-oh! While I liked the idea of Jesus hanging around a bit longer, I would get very upset. What if He got stuck there, like permanently? I would take my tongue and try to move Him around – gently and reverently of course – but what if I hurt him? I mean, did I not already hurt him enough with my 7 year old sinning? (And remember – I had a pleasant Catholic upbringing, this was from the not-hellfire-damnantion crowd!)

So much for reverence and holiness, the score so far:

  • Fran’s self-focus – 10, Jesus the Lord – 0.

Oh it makes my head spin to consider it all!

Here we are today and on this great feast, one in which we celebrate the very centrality of our Catholic Christian faith, and one in which I pray we can find one thing to agree on… We truly believe that Christ is presence in the bread and wine that we consume.

Can we please start there and maybe stay there?

OK, good… let’s see where that leads us. We agree that Christ is present to us in the bread and wine, Christ’s Body, Christ’s Blood.

We do not come to the table to have a linear experience of “Jesus ‘n me.” It is not about getting another bite that will allow us, if we are really good boys and girls, to stay out of hell for the next few days. Oh my gosh – what bad theology is that?

We do not come to the table to get a fix! We come to the table to be One in Christ.

We come to the table to not simply receive, but to give. It is Christ’s sacrifice for us but also our sacrifice for him. No, I’m not talking about some hand-wringing-I-suffer-for-Jesus personal piety, but rather the sacrifice of self-gift. Self-gift meaning, here I am Lord, I am broken for you and your people as you were broken for us. I am poured out for you and your people Jesus, as you poured yourself out for us.

And in this act of giving, rather than just receiving, to use the Doxology, “through Him, with Him, in Him,” we become One! One. One. One. Catholic. Universal. Unity. Communion. Common union. One. One. One.

If we could but start there and stay there, just rest awhile in that spot… No more fighting, just for a minute, OK?

Then we might remember that we are there to be transformed… not unlike the painting of the Last Supper. Renewed, revived. And when that happens we are given something and we can then give more to the world. Be transformed, transform the world! It is the dynamism of the Eucharist and what could be more exciting and more uniting than that?

I hope that we don’t continue to argue about whether to kneel or stand, whether to take communion in the hand or on the tongue, whether one is “worthy” to come to the altar or not. Aren’t we all unworthy, don’t we say that in one voice, “Lord,I am not worthy…” None of us are worthy, yet we are invited to the table, over and over again.

We are given the chance anew to be one each and every day. Let us look to this day in which we commemorate the Body of Christ by actually being the Body of Christ. Let us re-member Christ today and not dismember Christ today. Let us do that each day, every day and for always and forever, in the name of Christ who is our Lord.

Amen and amen and amen.

  • A homily from Pope Benedict the XVI on this feast in 2008 is here.
  • Deacon Greg Kandra’s fine homily from today is here.
  • It is not on the internet but Fr. Pat offered a fine homily which he refers to the restoration of the Michaelangelo’s Last Supper. What a fine metaphor for us all…. as the painting got cleaned and restored, it became clearer. Just like the Eucharist does for us, as we grow to be one in Christ.

Invitation

A post for a rainy Saturday morning…

How is challenge an invitation? I am sitting here reflecting on that right now. I am currently going through a process of discernment about my life as a lay minister of the Church.

Today I read this from St. Gregory of Nyssa in the Office of Readings:

Bodily health is a good thing, but what is truly blessed is not only to know how to keep one’s health but actually to be healthy. If someone praises health but then goes and eats food that makes him ill, what is the use to him, in his illness, of all his praise of health?

If one praises health and then eats food that makes one ill… That to me is a conversation about integrity. How often do we proclaim one thing and yet do another?

What a challenge it is to confront the things we “believe” and the things that we… well, the other things we believe. When we face the challenge of really entering into the uncomfortable places of reconciling belief,we are invited to a place of peace.

That will be the healthy meal, that will be what heals us and sets us free. Getting there however, is a whole other thing.

Back With More Reposting

In the midst of trying to finish my paper on the Creed, an accompanying audio/video project and all the other matters of life, I reposted two older Trinity Sunday reposts.

However, I am back for a third… and why not! It is Trinity Sunday after all and that means three!

In the midst of life I have been reading and commenting on three (Trinity!) different posts. One is from Frank at Why I Am Catholic, and it is about the Corapi matter. I choose to not say much about that, but I did weigh in over at YIM in the comments. Humility is a gift and I think that God offers it to me all the time, but I am clumsy and drop it, don’t notice that God is giving it to me or otherwise turn my nose up at it, however unintentionally.

The second post is from Allison (formerly of YIM) and now she hosts Rambling Follower, a relatively new blog. She wrote about an older couple who were seeking to marry in the Church and who had a less than great experience. In trying to look at the human side of things and explore how we can block the pathway to Christ, a flurry of comments came up about law, doctrine and rules. Now rules, doctrine and law matter, but without love they are nothing. Again, the blessed gift of humility is sought, with a dose of wisdom. 

Finally our third example is from Deacon William Ditewig at Deacons Today: Dalmatics and Beyond. Bill was writing about the aforementioned Corapi matter and once again, a post generated some strong comments in the thread. So once more, I prayed for the gift of wisdom as I left my own comments.

All three posts remind me of the essential need and the foundational matter of the Roman Catholic Church and that is the intersection of the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. We must have both.

To which I now point you to a fine Trinitarian story called The Three Hermits by Leo Tolstoy and a post that first went up over at the parish blog in 2007. If there was ever a short tale that underscored the need for the spirit of the law, it is this one!

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I am away this weekend, but I have a moment and I wanted to republish this post from August of 2007. We have added many new readers since then, so this may be new to you.

It is a great reminder that we live in a day to day world of practical measures that often demands doing and saying more and more and more just to keep going… but that at the heart of the Trinity is a purity and a simplicity that is startling in its clarity.

Peace and Blessings to all.
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The Three Hermits is a short story by Leo Tolstoy, based upon on old Russian legend. It is a lovely allegory about prayer and simplicity.

The story basically says this- a bishop was traveling on a boat. When on this boat, he hears about some hermits. These hermits live on an island that the ship was passing. A fisherman told the bishop about being stranded overnight on that island and encountering these three holy hermits.

The bishop is compelled to go see this trio and convinces the captain of this ship to send him ashore in a rowboat. Off he goes to see these old men who are apparently living lives of simplicity and prayer.

Upon arrival he informs them that he wants to see what he can do to teach them something about the Lord. After all it would appear that he is so well schooled and learned as the bishop and they are but three simple ones on an island. The men say little. Undeterred, the bishop forges ahead and asks them to spell out just how they are saving their souls and serving God.

He quickly learns that they have but one prayer… “Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us”. While happy to hear that they know the Trinity, the bishop now goes into an explanation of how to pray the right way. To this end, he attempts to get them to memorize the Lord’s Prayer.

All day long he would say the words, the men would try and try to memorize and repeat them and each time the three holy, old men would just fumble their way through. Finally though they got it and the bishop was satisfied.

At this point the bishop takes his leave and as he rows back to the main ship he hears them praying the Lord’s Prayer in unison. He is so pleased that he could share his great knowledge with these simple servants. Unable to sleep he is standing on deck in the silent night. He feels so good about how he could teach these men this prayer and he thanks God for the chance to have enlightened the island dwellers.

Suddenly he notices something white and shining traveling towards the boat. It was moving at such rapid speed he could not fathom what it might be! Needless to say he was alarmed and turned to the helmsman to see if he knew what was happening. The helmsman just about loses controls of the ship.

And in the great white light he could suddenly make out the three hermits running across the surface of the water! The helmsman nearly faints and the bishop is shaken to the core.

As the hermits neared the ship the holy old ones said in a single voice “We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God”.

The bishop- realizing with gravity what has happened, simply tells them that their own original prayer will truly reach the Lord. Understanding that he – the great bishop – could not teach these men, he simply asked them to pray for “us sinners”.

Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.

This story so beautifully illustrates that sometimes the learned have much to learn from the simple. Which pretty much sounds like something Jesus tried to tell us in many ways.

If you would like to read the story please click here.