Laudato Si’ you soon!

PopeQuote0615-e1434644573760Yesterday I spent far too much time reading *about* Laudato Si, and not enough time reading Laudato Si. Add to that, many feelings and emotions about the Charleston church shooting, the fire at the church of the Loaves and Fishes, and about a million other things.

I’ll be making my way through the encyclical and I will offer some thoughts and reflections about the document and what I think it means to all of us. Here are a few initial thoughts….

1. We have to explore all parts of the encyclical, and not just the parts that appeal to us. Notice I say explore – meaning opening our hearts and minds and not reacting immediately. (Although what great temptation!) For example, that a Muslim mystic is referenced (Footnote 159, Paragraph 233) is as important as what is found in paragraph 120, regarding abortion.

2. Unbridled capitalism is as bad as communism.

3. That everyone is likely to find something that they disagree with in the encyclical tells me that God is truly present and as challenging as ever.

4. We all basically need to drastically revise how we live. How likely is this? Yeah, that likely.

5. Reread #1 above.

6. Keep breathing. Go deep. Ask more questions rather than give more answers.

Laudato si you soon! I’ll be back with more.

Rejoice in God’s mercy

JUBILEE-YEAR-OF-MERCYToday we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent – a day meant for rejoicing. Not unlike King Cyrus declaring the return to Jerusalem to our beleaguered Jewish ancestors during the Babylonian exile, Pope Francis brings us news to make Laetare Sunday especially joyful this year!

From America Magazine:

“In a surprising and far-reaching decision, Pope Francis has announced an extraordinary “Jubilee of Mercy” that will extend from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016, and will involve the Catholic Church throughout the world.”

As we pass the midpoint of Lent we are encouraged to Continue reading

Pope Francis’ Festivus Greeting

il_570xN.197243707It would appear that Pope Francis has broken out the Festivus Pole, and began the airing of grievances.Please know that I take no credit for this thought, my social media friend, theologian Natalia Impertori-Lee made the analogy on her Facebook page; I’m crediting her and flying with it here – gratefully.

In case you have missed what the Pope said yesterday, he used his second annual Christmas address to the Roman Curia as a grievance airing Continue reading

The Church of Mercy – A book by Pope Francis – UPDATED

We have a winner. Chris Grace will receive a copy of The Church of Mercy. Thank you all for reading and participating.

church-of-mercy-bookcover“Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to God’s surprises”? Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

Pope Francis’ name seems to be on the lips of many people. There are so many Catholics who are invigorated by his words and way of life. One of the things that is most surprising is the number of non-Catholic friends who bring him up, and generally with great regard. As I have said in other posts, he has not changed on iota, not one element of doctrine, but he has changed the way that people see the Church, and how people see the papacy.

The Church of Mercy, A Vision for the Church, by Pope Francis (Loyola Press, $16.95, 150pp.) brings together homilies, papers, and audiences from our beloved “Bishop of Rome.” This treasure trove of communiques from the first year of his papacy offers readers a chance to truly spend time with Francis’ as he presses Continue reading

Mercy matters

imagesmer·cy ˈmərsē/ noun noun: mercy; plural noun: mercies1.compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. “the boy was screaming and begging for mercy”
synonyms: leniency, clemency, compassion, grace, pity, charity, forgiveness, forbearance, quarter, humanity…

Mercy. It is not a new word, but we seem to hear more of it lately. I feel as if I do, anyway.

Mercy matters. Mercy is at the heart of Christ. God if rich in mercy – go read the definition next to the photo again. There is so much evidence for Continue reading

Ask, seek, knock – and get a stone

seek_knock_askToday’s Gospel from Matthew offers this wisdom from Jesus:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread…”

My work as a parish secretary has changed me. Not that I was not welcoming before, but I don’t think I opened doors in the same way, literally and figuratively, that I do now. One of my passions about my work reflects this from The Rule of Benedict that says, “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me.” (Matt. 25:35). One thing that I try to do is to never, ever, ever say to someone who has a request, “are you a member here?” Those are the worst words in the Christian language if you ask me!

20130313nw544-300Today is also the one year anniversary of Pope Francis, who Continue reading

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

20140127-popecover-x600-1390844430There is an old 60’s dirty, filthy, hippy, song by Dr. Hook that opines about what it meant to be “on the cover of the Rolling Stone.” As a veteran dirty, filthy, hippy wannabe in my past, a long-ago, but once long time subscriber to the Rolling Stone, and no stranger to the world of music, I immediately thought of those lyrics when I heard the news about Pope Francis being… well, on the cover of the Rolling Stone!

Yes, there he is folks, with his familiar warm smile and kind gaze, Pope Francis, is actually on the magazine cover right now.

As the aforementioned song says, “But the thrill we’ve never known Is the thrill that’ll getcha, when you get your picture, on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone.”

Is Pope Francis as thrilled as Dr. Hook predicted? Doubtful is my vote; does he even know that he is on the cover? Does he care? And look at the words on the cover, which are straight out of the songbook of another (former) dirty, filthy, hippy, Bob Dylan.  “The times they are a-changing.”

To which I say – yes. And – no.

Back to the Rollling Stone for a moment. From what I have read, small excerpts, not the entire piece, it looks like a pretty scathing assessment of Pope Benedict XVI. Downright cruel. Some may shriek in horror at this and others may cackle with delight. Quiet down, both sides. It is uncharitable and unkind in the worst way. Perhaps it is out of context until I read the entire thing, but I doubt it.

Vatican PopeAs to the much beloved Pope Francis, whose visage presents itself, from screens large and small, and from so many magazine covers that we can’t keep up, what times are a-changing for him? And for the Roman Catholic Church?

rules-lifebanNot one piece of doctrine has changed. Nor do I think it will. Maybe – perhaps, we might see some change around divorced and remarried Catholics. Maybe. Pope Francis continues to hold the line on matters like women’s ordination, almost to the point of frustration, if you ask me. (And that is not because I am advocating for women’s ordination, by the way, but I would like to see some actual conversation and discernment on this topic. That’s another post.) As to anyone who thinks the he will change anything around marriage and orientation, I would say, think again.

So less than a year into his papacy, why all the magazine covers and every other sort of oohing and ahhing as if he were the star of a reality show? Well, he IS the star of a reality show, called life!

francis-hugging-little-girl-cns-photo-montageLook at him. He has not changed one element of doctrine or dogma, but here is what he is… Like the best kind of leader, he is highly accessible. He keeps things simple.  In the Roman Catholic Church, and at the Vatican, no less, this is nothing short of a miracle. Pope Francis picks up the phone and calls people, writes them letters. He has shed the finery, he has no interest in being “elevated” above others, hugs people and reaches out to them. The smile of this Holy Father is as bright and persistent as the noonday sun in an equatorial land. Papa Francesco “seems” different.

So? Well, here is my own personal assessment of Pope Francis “a-changing” things” in a couple of ways.

One. Theologians and canon lawyers, go ahead and punch holes in this one, but hear me out. It is my own point of view, not a thesis. First and foremost I do not think that he “makes people feel guilty.” Stop. I spent 20 years in therapy and I know that we can’t blame others for “making us feel guilty.” But we do, especially seemingly harsh church people!

I imagine a group of so-called sinners in first century Palestine standing before the itinerant carpenter-preacher called Yeshua. What Francis does is similar to this… he does not make people feel guilty or unworthy, he opens the merciful door to God for them, and invites them in without hesitation.

Two. He does not seem to do much chastising of people, which may seem like a repeat of number one. Let me elaborate… He is not chastising people and telling them what they need to do to gain entry. He is not criticism free however! He criticizes situations and constructs that trap people in poverty and destroy them through violence, despair, and war.

You see, if he is critical of anyone or anything it would seem to be large power structures. You know, like the Roman Curia. Or multinational corporations. Or governments with draconian policies.

Prior popes, especially the most recent two, were often highly critical of the corporations and governments over everything from the basic dignity of the worker, the evils of poverty, regarding war, and about the death penalty and more. But not in quite the same way, because the Curia and the Church itself was not treated with the same message its seems. (That is indeed a broad statement, but that again is a different post.)

So there he is,  Pope Francis, asking us all to do the same thing.

Change. Change our minds. Change our hearts. All of us. Not just “us” out there, but “them” too. That’s inviting and refreshing.

metThat’s what Jesus asked of us, too. He asks us still. And that this is made more clear is perhaps what is the thing that is most a-changing of all.

Can we do it?

There Will Be Alms

Portrait of the Almoner

Portrait of the Almoner

When I read this in the Times Union today, I started to cry. Some folks are sick of the papal mania that so many of us are experiencing, some are grateful, more cautious. I admit it, I am in pretty deep with Pope Francis.

The office of almoner is being put into a more full effect than in the past. I think of what this could mean around the globe, as we all take Pope Francis’ words to heart when he says, Don’t wait for people to come ringing. You need to go out and look for the poor,” The new almoner is Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

The Vatican Almoner

The Vatican Almoner

To which I say – praise God. Or in more Ignatian terms, Pope Francis was formed as a Jesuit after all, AMDG!

This is not just about helping the poor, although reaching out to those in need is essential. I am struck by how this helps those of us who are spiritually impoverished. What a gift of grace for the world.

And with the admonition to go out, not “wait for people to come ringing!” With that, we are all instructed with what to do.

So today – there will be alms. And may there be alms, every day.

Papal Explosion

The papal explosion – a time when the Holy Father speaks, and then some hearts explode with joy, while some heads explode in horror. I know, I know – not exactly the image you would imagine for a papal post. *sigh* What can I tell you? This is explosive material… which to me makes it more Jesus-y than ever, if you ask me.  I know, I may appear have all that cool, detached, post-modern “whatever-ism” thing going on here, but I can assure you that I feel neither cool nor detached about any of this. Welcome to “The Joy of the Gospel” or “Evangellii Gaudium,” the new papal document.
Evangelii-Gaudium-ImageHere are three things that struck me; none of which is a big breakdown of a document that requires more time than today affords me.

On pastoral ministry and change:
“Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’ I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”

tridentine-1One of the snarky things that I have to resist saying to “we’ve always done it that way,” is this… Do you imagine that Jesus was resurrected, walked to a Gothic cathedral, donned some vestments, had some cassock-and-surpliced server spark up some incense, and then began saying mass as we understand it, in Latin chant, with his back to the congregation?

I find the Pope’s words on change refreshing. If we are not invited to boldness and transformation,  then what are we doing? To this, I simply say that the crucifixion and the resurrection are the images to pray with. How are we transformed in Christ?

I am reminded of the wisdom of Jaroslav Pelikan, who said: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”

The topic of women
“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power ‘we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness.’”

??????Well, yes, Pope Francis has restated what frustrates many. Yet, I invite us to consider otherwise. Does anyone actually expect that he suddenly say that women can be ordained?

Maybe I’m rationalizing, but I’d like to think that I am hardcore realist about what is not going to change, most likely in my lifetime. He may deny ordination, but do you hear what he is saying about sacramental power? Function versus dignity and holiness? If you don’t hear real change in that, please I ask you to reconsider. And don’t forget that God is full of surprises, and that the Holy Spirit moves where She will, when She wishes.

Poverty and politics
“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”

sorryI think that these words, and some of the other phrases about wealth and justice will cause most of the explosions – of both head and heart. The whirring that I hear may be the spin machines, trying to turn some of this to current ideology, but other words in the document were very clear on the notion of trickle down and trusting the system.

Imagine begging, not asking, but begging the Lord to grant us more politicians who are focused on how to transform the lives of the poor? To broaden their horizons?

And please understand that while the focus may be different, these words have been said by popes for a long time, even when you might not have heard him clearly. So let’s not go thinking that Pope Francis is speaking a different language, but let’s consider that he speaks in a language more clearly heard.

my_head_is_exploding_by_charcoal006-d32587cThat may be the biggest head/heart exploder of all – nothing that Pope Francis says is really new. Some of what he has said has been unsaid. Some of what he has said has been said differently. Some of what he has said was said very clearly in the past.

If we are hear in a new way today and our heads explode in horror – let us refocus on the Jesus call to a different way of living.

If we hear in a new way today and our hearts are exploding in joy – let us refocus on Jesus call to a different way of living. Whatever we hear, we should pray to hear with ears of justice and hope, no matter how challenging  – or encouraging – the message may be.

We are all called to transformation and change, not called to be on one side or the other. And that, that is precisely the spirit of Evangelii Gaudium – the joy of the Gospel!

Santo subito? Santo lentamente? The next chapter…

Johnxxiii+and+JohnPauliiEvidence of the both/and nature of the church. Things are proceeding at their lentamente/subito pace, with dates for the canonization of both men scheduled for April 27, 2014.

This marks two adaptations – one is that Bl. John Paul II will be made a saint in record time for our contemporary era. The other is that Pope Francis has made it possible to move forward with the canonization of Bl. John XXIII without the required approved miracles.

Despite the feelings that I had regarding fast and slow, written about in a prior post (see  Santo subito? Santo lentamente?), I do believe that the dual canonization is a good and beautiful thing.

In the tiny speck of history that is our time, I suspect that future generations will see a profound symmetry and a call to unity in this action.

I am ever grateful for the presence of the current Bishop of Rome, Francis, who advances these things with grace and wisdom.  AMDG!