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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Seamless, shredded

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When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down.
– John 19:23

Of all the many things dividing the Church these days, it boggles the mind to imagine that disagreement over when it is appropriate to kill someone would be the thing to do it. And that it would be a fight from a seemingly more-ardent self-proclaimed “pro-life” right that led the way… the way to saying that we should indeed preserve the right to, well – kill someone.

Although it is probably not the best use of my time, and even less Continue reading

Bawana yu Nawe

Bro Mickey Swahili Mary

Reprinted with permission of the artist, Bro. Mickey O’Neill McGrath, OSFS

“Bawana yu Nawe” is Swahili for ” the Lord is with you.” If we believe in God, if we follow Christ, do we believe that the Lord is with us, but not with others?

Today on Sunday, January 14, 2018, Pope Francis presided at mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Among other things, he said this:

I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”

How are we called to do those things in our own lives? The first thing might just be to pray, especially if we feel fearful or challenged, and to ask God to open the door to our hearts. As that door opens, the first migrant enters – it is Christ himself.

That is what is meant by the words “the Lord is with you.” With YOU. With ME. With EVERYONE. That literally means every single person, every single human born unto this earth. Everyone, without exception. What we do with that migrant Christ who presses in need upon the door of our heart is up to us.

The Lord is indeed with us all, but it is up to us to let God in. What will we do? Block the way, or fling wide the gate? Will we cite laws and resources? Will we claim fear of the “other?” Or will we, as Pope Francis asks us to, “welcome, protect, promote, and integrate?” These are all verbs, requiring action. We can sit and fret, or we can get up and do what the apostles did in today’s Gospel – get up and go, follow Christ. To do that means to bring down the barriers of fear, and to spring into movement. It does not mean we will not be afraid as we go, it means that we know the Lord is leading the way, so we will follow. Remember –“Bawana yu Nawe.”

Life or death

LIFE_OR_DEATH_STEP-1On this last day of 2017, there are many articles and social media posts that look back at the year that was. I look back, thankful for some things, less thankful for others – and then I realize that even those things that are a challenge to be grateful for are gifts also. Every moment gives us the opportunity to glean something, to learn and to go forward. As a result, I won’t detail much of what was, but I will refer to one thing that resurfaced – regrettably so – in 2017.

Life or death? Which one do we choose? Most of us, if we are honest, float back and forth between the two. Whether it is too much sugar in our diet, or supporting a particular political position, or by avoiding the difficult and perpetual journey of examining our morals, principles, values, and conscience, we are constantly choosing one or the other.

Frankly, like many, I am not good at navigating this journey – and that is a huge part of what our faith journey requires. Heading down unmapped paths that are chock-a-block with challenges, difficult to traverse, and full of peril. Yet that is what we are called to do. Can’t I just stay on the sofa and scroll through social media or watch Netflix, not thinking about this stuff? Yet we are constantly called to make choices, most of them Continue reading

Church as field hospital

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Yayo Grassi and his boyfriend meet Pope Francis in October 2015. Yayo was a student of the future pope in Argentina.

While we are all busy continuing to read and take in the words of Amoris Laetitia, which has unleashed many reactions, my mind drifts back to an earlier time. In September of 2013, Pope Francis was interviewed by fellow Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, SJ, who is the editor of the Italian Jesuit publication, La Civiltà Cattolica. You can find the interview at America Magazine. In that interview Pope Francis referred to the church as a field hospital. He said:

“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

These words matter – at least to me – as I read and study Amoris Laetitia. But more about what I think another day. When I saw the image below on Facebook, I laughed, but then stopped. It is what I call #FunnyNotFunny. Some in the field hospital are challenged by the doctor’s orders.

giphy-downsized-large.gifWhat about you? Are you happy with the document as you understand it? Disappointed? Outraged? What do you think?

 

UPDATED: Pope Francis said what?

Ce37JtsUIAAVT_DToday we have the release of Post-Synodal Aposotlic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia
of the Holy Father Francis to Bishops, Priests, and Deacons,Consecrated Persons,Christian Married Couples, and all the Lay Faithful on Love in the Family. That is quite a title! The document was released about half an hour ago. At 260 pages, it will take me awhile to go through it, but here are some places to begin.

First up – the link to the PDF of the exhortation in English from the Vatican website. As I said, it is long.

Our second link, from William T. Ditewig writing at Aleteia says tells us that Pope Francis says this early on in the document:

“Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text” (AL 7).

Our third link comes from Fr James Martin SJ offers us his top 10 takeaways in a piece from America magazine.This particular sentence struck me: “We should no longer talk about people ‘living in sin.’” To which I add a very loud AMEN!

There are many more things to read (see updates below), but these are great starting points. Of all who react, many will be overjoyed, many will be angered, many will be disappointed, many will be outraged. This will be interesting to follow. So much for my hiatus!

UPDATE: Some additional links for you:
From Fr Thomas Reese SJ writing at the National Catholic Reporter who suggests that we “start with chapter 4“.

Also from NCR, Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee begins with these words… “In a radical departure from recent pastoral practice, Pope Francis has asked the world’s Catholic clergy to let their lives become “wonderfully complicated” by embracing God’s grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face — even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms..” Read more here.

Lest one accuse me of presenting only “liberal” sources, here is a link from the National Catholic Register where Edward Pentin suggests that maybe chapter 8 has cause for concern, and the challenge of ambiguity. The link can be found here.

And it is no surprise that the highly traditional One Peter Five blog says outright that Pope Francis has departed from church teaching.

Last but not least, one of my own most valued, trusted, and insightful resources is  church historian and Vatican expert Massimo Faggioli weighs in at dotCommonweal with this post.

To all of this I will add – we all have to face God with our consciences. Do we expect and desire a God of exact certitude, one that directs all in a bittorent-like stream of teaching that is precise without interpretation and lived grace? Or do we expect and desire a God of transcendent mystery, joy, and hope who invites us into full relationship? There is doctrine, there is dogma, there are rules – but there is at the heart of all of this the inviting love of Christ. It all might be hard to pin down.

 

 

 

 

Dangerous pope #tbt

AP_pope_mass_01_jef_160217_12x5_1600This being Thursday means #tbt in social media world. If you are unfamiliar, that hashtag stands for “Throwback Thursday.” Last Thursday included a #tbt, so maybe I will do this for all of Lent, but no promises. It is not just the lazyblogging of reposting old content, but a means to connect the past and the present at the blog, meaning the papal installation and the papal visit to Mexico.

Almost three years ago, on March 19, 2013, Pope Francis was installed to the Chair of Peter. What did we know back then? I don’t know about you, but I was already onto the fact that this was a most dangerous man – and I was very happy about it. I still am. At the same time, and here is our Lenten challenge, I remain deeply uncomfortable and divided.

Uncomfortable? Divided? Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy! I’m uncomfortable and divided because cheering him on from my suburban corner of the world reminds me that I am too comfortable and afflicted. Cheering Pope Francis on is one thing. Living the Gospel? That’s another. How I love to think about it, how rarely I actually live it.

During Pope Francis’ journey to Mexico this week, he had the chance to dive deep into issues that divide our nation and our world. I’ve used the word divided more than once, and I will point out that my own image of Satan is that of “diabolos” or divider. Immigration, economic justice, forgiveness and transformation of prisoners, and the slavery of consumerism are all part of the pope’s message. Which is because this is Jesus’ message. All very tasty from the pew or from your sofa, not so much when any of us look at our lives.

Well, that was a much longer rant than I intended for an intro, and it breaks every rule of good blogging, but so be it. First up – a video from the Papal Visit, from the New York Times:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004216932&articleId=100000004213201

And for our #tbt, the text of my 2013 post, “A Dangerous Man, Part Two.” If we thought the pope was going to be a game changer back then, we couldn’t have imagined what we’ve seen today. I’m pretty certain that Jesus would be way more challenging!

whatthewhat
So, are you still reeling from all the papal news of the past few days? My head continues to spin. I keep thinking, “What the what?” Nothing prepared me for what we are now seeing and living, which reminds me of something that I often say, but do not live very well… “There is no accounting for the Holy Spirit!”

The other day, I wrote about how dangerous Pope Francis might be. As we are told in the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 8:

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

holy_spirit_memeThat is certainly an understatement! And how the Spirit is alive in our new pope, who clearly has not followed any pre-existing script. As a result, I continue to find him someone who is potentially dangerous. And I love that. As Jesus Christ showed us a long time ago, and as Jesus Christ continues to show us today, nothing is more dangerous than… love.

title otto preminger danger love at work dvd reviewNow before you go off shaking your head, considering this a seemingly insipid thought, please bear with me as I say few more things. Any of us who are Catholic, or any other kind of Christian, cannot really profess our faith without the knowledge. Can we?

I can’t speak for others, but I am deeply moved by how Pope Francis is present to us. He has showed himself, thus far, to be a man who wants to be of the people, one to serve the poor. And we are all poor. I have no doubt his concerns focus on those who suffer from material poverty, but I also have no doubt that his concerns also focus on those of us who suffer from many other forms of poverty. Like poverty of the heart, small-mindedness, division, and acrimony. Sounds like a typical day for me… *sigh*

pope-_inaugurationWhen he moved through the crowds at the installation today, he freely reached out and touched people! And I also loved that this is the first time (this is HUGE news unto itself) a Greek Orthodox Patriarch has attended a papal installation since 1054. Yes, that was the date of the East-West Schism. Bartholomew I, who leads the Christians of the Orthodox Church was present. As if that was not enough, then this happened…

Δεν μπορούσα να το πιστέψω, το Ευαγγέλιο ψαλλόταν στα ελληνικά! Χάρη στον Θεό!

I mean, the Gospel was chanted in Greek! Thanks be to God! (Greek was the language of most of the New Testament Scriptures in their original form, not Latin.) It also seems noteworthy to me, that a woman proclaimed the Epistle; I’m not sure that has happened before at a papal mass, but I could be wrong. And the liturgy of the day, St. Joseph’s Day, was celebrated, which I think is great. Joseph was also importantly highlighted in the homily. All of this is so exciting to me, and I find myself turning to many Scriptures as these moments and days go by.

My love for the Gospel is great, and I could point to many stories and parables that touch my heart deeply, but for today, I will focus on two stories that point to how dangerous Jesus was, and how Pope Francis follows suit.

zacchaeus_in_tree_slideThe first is from Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was the tax collector, a most hated man, who was short in stature and long on corruption. My friend Maria L. Evans and I have both imagined Danny DeVito playing him in a movie! This height challenged hustler is up in a tree watching Jesus. The story goes like this:
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

Needless to say, Jesus appears to be a disappointment to others who have followed him, because he reaches out to the worst guy in town and wants to stay with him.”

James_Tissot_The_Woman_Of_Samaria_At_The_Well_525The other story is possibly my most favorite; the woman at the well, from John 4:4. Perhaps one of my favorite moments in this story is when the Samaritan woman admonishes Jesus for asking her for something to drink.
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)

That piece of Scripture flashed into my mind as I watched this potentially dangerous scene unfold on the news yesterday.Pope Francis Cristina FernandezWhat is so dangerous about this? I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek as I say what I do, but I do have several thoughts about it all.

First of all, Cardinal Bergoglio and President Kirchner have a history together; one that is not necessarily a smooth one. Yet, he welcomed her, and they literally shared an Argentine tradition, una yerba mate.

mate2Drinking yerba mate is very ritualistic and it involves everyone sharing from the same cup. Perhaps you see where I am headed. This is good eucharistic theology, if you ask me. And thus, the pope, like Jesus before him, becomes a very dangerous man, by doing this so publicly, so openly, so freely, and so early in his pontificate.

Me… I really like it. That Pope Francis did this. Mate? I love the ritual, but I can’t stand the drink itself! Now, there is a statement that could use a little theological unpacking, but I won’t go there today!

It makes me think of how fussy we can be, especially when at mass, not taking the cup, the Blood of Christ, which is equal in value and meaning, to the host, the Body of Christ. We are afraid of germs. What about the mate drinkers? They share germs. Are we afraid of germs? Are we afraid of one another? Are we afraid of Christ?

I think that this new pope may have some lessons for us along all of these lines. Lessons from a dangerous man, about someone who was really dangerous to many, but who is the savior of us all – Jesus Christ, our Lord.

With that, I leave you to ponder the dangerous power of love at work in the world.