Blisters of privilege, prayers of choice

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My blistered feet entering an allegedly healing pool.

They were sometimes like a hot knife plunged into my lower extremities, at other times, simply walking on broken glass. My blisters during the first two weeks of my Camino were horrible. One day, Sue and I entered the town of Villafranca Montes de Oca and I simply had to stop walking. It was too much, I could not take the pain. What happened next is a long story for another day, just let it suffice to say, my feet were wrecked. Would I be able to continue my Camino? (Spoiler alert for new readers, thanks be to God, I did.)

With nearly every blistered step I took, I was aware of how privileged I was to even be in this situation. All I could think about when my feet, my knees, or general tiredness bothered me was that I chose to be where I was. Not so far away from me, migrants were to be found all over Europe. The vast majority of them fled their homes, not by choice, not due to any luxury, but due to violence, hunger, the threat of war, and the ever-present reality of death. I tried to pray with and for them with every painful footfall, even after my blisters were overall healed.

Today is Continue reading

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Catching up

FranZimSmithHello all! The world has been blog free from me lately, but for a quick spell, I am back. Where has the world’s least disciplined blogger been? What has she done? Does anyone care? If so, here is a recap.

Walking – with a mere 76 days to go until my camino, I have been out walking a lot. Writing vs. walking has walking winning. Alliteration unintended! Last Monday was my final day of vacation, so I got out there and did 7 miles… with my pack on, despite choosing a local bike/hiking path where one would expect to see an actual backpacker. I’m glad I did it.

Vacation – so yes, we went on vacation. We were being prudent so we went for a few short days, not an entire week. Instead of our usual beach trip to Ocean City, NJ, we went to Cape Cod. Our little rental was so lovely, and the journey was one of the most relaxing ever. In the end I am more of an OCNJ person than a Cape Codder, but I did love it and can imagine returning for another short stay. It was a richly peaceful and prayerful time, a period – albeit short – of relaxation and happiness for our family.  I 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.

 

 

 

 

Now we begin

resOn Good Friday we hear Jesus say:

“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Today what was before us is gone, and now we begin anew.

When I was growing up in the 60’s, I went to a more old fashioned church, a mission parish, very tiny, and traditional. The changes from Vatican II trickled in, but I have very vivid memories of Latin masses, incense, the works. Yet it was not a strict and scolding message, which many others may have heard. Yet, Continue reading

Walls or bridges?

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Why haven’t you written something on your blog about Pope Francis and Donald Trump? As the Catholic blogger for the Times Union, don’t you have a responsibility to write about these things?”  The question arrived in the form of an email from an acquaintance and took me by surprise.

As it happens, I am not the only Catholic blogger on the Religion/Beliefs corner of the TU blog platform. My friend, former grad school classmate Walter Ayers is present in that space as well. And I do not bear any responsibility to do anything. It goes like this – the paper asked if I would blog on their platform four years ago and I agreed. If I stop blogging, the newspaper police burst through my door and drag me before my “blog boss” Michael Huber, who is the Interactive Audience Manager for the paper. In fact, I have so few obligations, I keep this platform up, my “home” space, and the newspaper blog is a mirror.

That reply to my acquaintance generated another question. “Don’t you care about what is happening?” Oh I do, trust me – I Continue reading

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:
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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!

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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.