Tag Archives: community

Ordinary Kindness

29 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Heath Brandon

Photo via Flickr user Heath Brandon

There is no spiritual practice more profound than being kind to one’s family and neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, an unexpected visitor, a stray cat or dog, or any other of the usually irrelevant and invisible beings who may cross our paths in the course of a normal day. Certainly there are spiritual mysteries to explore, but as we mature it becomes clear that those special experiences are only meaningful when they arise from and return to ordinary kindness. –Bo Lozoff

I love this idea of ordinary kindness being the normal, every day buzz that extraordinary moments arise from and return to, the status quo, the baseline, if you will. I love that being kind to neighbors and clerks is a profound spiritual practice.

I’d like to think I am good at being kind to cashiers and stray cats and my family. I think about giving my best love to my family all the time and often follow through, yet from a very young age my parents taught me how to have compassionate peripheral vision and to humanize people in small encounters who could potentially feel invisible. I could stop there and feel pretty good about myself.

Then again, this morning I heard Dorothy Day and her Catholic Worker houses mentioned on the radio, and it gave me pause. Is ordinary kindness enough as the zone from which we live? If I had an unexpected visitor at my front door, my idea of kindness would be much less generous than Dorothy’s. She would invite the person to move in with her as long as he or she needed a place to stay. I just can’t say I’d go so far.

How far does our faith call us to go?

I can’t seem to shake a quick encounter I had at work a few weeks ago. I was cleaning out a closet that had net been tended to in years. I was in the mood to sort things between recycling, donating, reusing or trash. I stopped one of our custodians to apologize for hoarding the trash bins and ultimately giving him more loads to take to the dumpster. His response has played in my head again and again, “It’s okay,” he said earnestly. “If you don’t create trash, I don’t have a job.”

This man is from El Salvador and doesn’t speak English very well. Every time I see him I stop and have a conversation with him in Spanish. I show him ordinary kindness all the time. I could stop there and think myself profound and my work complete. And yet. We currently live in a world where my role is to create trash and his is to clean up after me. In that case, I’m just not sure that ordinary kindness is cutting it.

I do believe, like Lozoff said, that ordinary kindness it is a profound spiritual practice. True. I’m going to keep practicing it. I also believe that my co-worker, without knowing it, is calling me to more.

 

Give Love

22 Jan

Don’t you love the inspiration that comes from unexpected places?

Last week, David Bowie died and the airways filled with his voice, DJs paying tribute to his life and art. Although I love music, I have never been one to become an avid, swooning fan of anyone in particular, David Bowie no exception. I had a vague sense of his fame, talent, creativity, breadth, ability to reinvent himself and speak to the downtrodden, all sprinkled with glitter. I knew his face, his voice and many of his songs. Yet I don’t think I could even claim that I am actively a fan.

It surprised me, then, to enjoy these career tributes on the radio over the last week. His lyrics made me stop, on several occasions, and lines rang over and over again in my mind throughout the day, like these lines of his with Queen:

Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love…

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure

I love this visual of caring for people on the edge of the night. Our world needs more of this type of love. And it is a dare, isn’t it? It’s no easy ask. It’s a straight up dare, because caring for people on the edge of the night like Jesus did will change my heart and necessitate some life changes, too. That love will change my heart and life. It’s easy to hibernate in our comfort zones all winter. Or we can accept the dare out to the edges.

In the new year, it is also time to reflect on how we care for ourselves and change. This is also a dare, maybe a double dare for some of us. Loving ourselves at times is nothing short of subversive and counter-cultural. Love dares us to care about ourselves. It can’t stop with others. We are called to love God and our neighbor and ourselves.

Give love, give love, give love keeps turning like a mantra. Love is an old fashioned word, and turning that phrase over and over, putting love being the verb give is just enough to keep it fresh in my mind. To the people on the edge of night.Give love. To ourselves. Give love. Give love. Give love.

Gospel Reflection for January 24, 2016, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

19 Jan

Sunday Readings: Nehemiah 8.2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12.12-30; Luke 1.1-4, 4.14-21

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; God has anointed and sent me to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty for captives, sight for the blind, release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord.”

(Luke 4.18-19)

Prisoners make the list along with the poor, the weak, and the disabled — the people about whom it is easiest to say, “not worth it.” Perhaps some of these undesirable folks may open important places inside us, like the towers of arrogance, the locked doors of self-deception, or the vaults of false pride. One of them may transform us.

Who has been surprisingly transforming for you in your life?

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Gospel Reflection for January 17, 2016, 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 62.1-5; 1 Corinthians 12.4-11; John 2.1-11

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever Jesus tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding 20 or 30 gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.'”

(John 2.5-7)

The wedding setting in the gospel hints at a marriage other than the one the guests are celebrating. His mother and newly-recruited disciples accompany Jesus to the wedding. Turning six 20-gallon jars of water into choice wine provides 120 gallons for a wedding feast that must be nearly over if the guests have drunk up the available wine. The abundant wine Jesus provides is not just for the wedding guests in Cana but for the community that continues to gather in his name at every Eucharist.

How do you live the words of Jesus’ mother, “Do whatever he tells you?”

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Gospel Reflection for January 3, 2016, Epiphany

30 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observe his star at its rising and have come to pay him h0mage.”

(Matthew 2.2)

The three kings stand for all of us who do not share the Jewish identity of Jesus and his first followers. Jesus is not just for Jew or just for Christian either. Exclusiveness is a natural inclination. Life is easier with people who are like us, who think the way we think, and do things the way we do. But there is no mistaking the message of Epiphany. God is inclusive and wants us to be so in matters of faith and worship and managing the goods of the world. Jew or Gentile, Christian or Muslim, native or alien, black, brown, yellow, red, or white, male or female, straight or gay — whoever we are and wherever we are from — we are all invited and welcome to visit the child of Bethlehem and receive the good news of peace, mercy, and reconciliation he brings.

What have you learned from people of other faiths about what they value about Jesus?

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Year of Mercy

17 Nov

Our Year of Mercy begins December 8th!

jubilee-of-mercy-poster

Pope Francis wants each of us to be “an oasis of mercy.” Keep his wish alive in your home, school, or parish with this beautiful poster. Together we can bring Jesus’ spirit of love to our world.

Click here to download your FREE poster and forward it to a friend. Help the oasis creep into the desert.

 

Image

Social Action Has Two Feet!

12 Nov

Social-Action-Has-Two-Feet(7)-1

Keeping Faith

4 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Michael W. May

Photo via Flickr user Michael W. May

My memories of the notorious sixties are not the free love and abandon of the sexual revolution but the incredible revival of the Catholic Church at Vatican II and the civil rights marches upending Jim Crow.  In that decade we experienced finding a way where there is no way.  The impossible can come to be.

The Second Vatican Council proved to be a crack that let the light of the modern world into the Church and let the Church loose in the world to do the work of justice and mercy.  The most revolutionary document of Vatican II called the people of God to solidarity with the least among us—“the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of this world especially the poor and afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anguish of the people of God” (Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #1).

Many Catholics have learned to put their faith into action and do the works of mercy and justice that Gaudium et Spes calls forth.  Liberation theologies arose in Latin America and spread as ways to give voice to people at the base of society and work with them for justice.  Pope Francis deliberately set the Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin December 8, the golden anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, which passed at the very end of the Council.  Pope Francis wants Vatican II to live and evolve.

I hoped the Synod on the Family might turn out to be a mini-Vatican II.  It met in October for three weeks after meeting for its first session in fall 2014.  After the first session Pope Francis called for consultation and listening sessions with the people of God in dioceses throughout the world.  Although the official consultation questions proved unusable, people found ways to communicate their insights and family issues to their bishops and Rome.

At the synod Pope Francis called for bold and frank talk.  He had bishops work in small groups to interact more.  The heads of religious orders auditing the synod ceded three of their six seats to women, so their three minutes each are in the record.

The 270 bishops who gathered aren’t exactly family men.  Some note they hear about family problems in hearing confessions.  Perhaps some have carried the smell of the dirty diapers or a baby’s spit-up from helping out with nieces and nephews or friends’ children.  Perhaps they have stood in for grandparents or aunts and uncles, corralled two year olds, lived their drama with adolescents, and scrounged rent when a boss cut back work hours.  Perhaps they have paid the rent for a person at the backdoor of the parish house.

I hoped that 270 bishops would bless remarried couples.  Pope Francis sped up annulments. The synod kept the door open by urging pastors to work with couples case by case and respect their consciences.  I hoped the 270 bishops could hear the sensus fidelium on the issue of contraception and pronounce the time of death.  The people of God have widely exercised their consciences on this issue.  I hoped the 270 bishops could accept that moms and moms and dads and dads can love and commit to each other and raise children.  But that would have been a surprise and – shock in some African countries where homosexuality is illegal.

Perhaps for a bishop it is hard to go forward without making past judgments seem fallible.  But in an evolutionary cosmos God comes to us from the future, urging us to all we can become, not just from the past.  The Holy Spirit has been at work in our world, making it new from the beginning.  The gospel has been at work for 2000 years, teaching us to keep the two great commandments.  We keep on.

These are the hopes of an educated white woman in North America.  I’m not a widow in Kenya who wonders what will become of the ten AIDs orphans she has taken in, nor am I a dad carrying a child on his back on the walk from Syria to safety in Germany.

Many cannot imagine marriage or civil union between same sex couples.  Since the seventies I have wondered why the Church and society doesn’t expect fidelity of same sex couples just as we do of men and women.  This is happening now that GBLTQ relationships are more out and public.  Partners I know reveal everyday they can love each other, their children, their parents, their friends.  The word is out they can keep the two great commandments of Jesus in the gospels.  We of the Church need to work at realigning moral law with biological science, Jesus’ gospel message, and people’s lives today.

“We discover the possible from the real.”  Karl Rahner

Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Love Made Seen

30 Oct
Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

I’m a sucker for the sacraments. They always make me cry. If done well, it really is Christ’s love made tangible in this place.

On Sunday our ninth graders got confirmed. I was asked to address them, so I had put a lot of time, into thinking about this specific group of young people and what it meant that they were affirming their baptismal promises. The fall of ninth grade is this very tender time for young people. They are thrilled about being in high school, but it still feels a bit foreign and intimidating. They are starting to cleave from their parents and find closeness with their peers. And at this particular moment, the church asks them to affirm the promises God made them in baptism. In this raw and vulnerable season of identity formation and growth, body changes and friend shifting, they acknowledge that God loves them no matter what. I looked them in the eye as I addressed them, hoping their hearts were open to hear:

Most of you probably don’t remember, but some crazy things happened at your baptism. Mainly, you were doused with water and God promised you that you’d be loved forever no matter what. With three dips in the font God whispered, “I love you. You belong. You matter.” Then the people who gathered looked at you, the one with the wet head and said, “Welcome to the family, kid.”

You showed up today. After taking another look at what God promised you in baptism, you’re here to affirm that. In a way you are saying, “Yep, I know the world thinks that what happened at my baptism was a little odd. I don’t know if I always believe all this stuff, but I’m here. I’m here for the ride because there is truth in these stories of ours and this community, this rag tag quirky community is home.

And the church is pretty smart to ask you to come back and look at these baptismal promises again right around now because, well, you are going to start needing them now maybe more than ever. The world is gonna keep telling you over and over and over again that you don’t matter unless you buy more makeup, grow taller, date the right person, graduate from the right college, make more money and above all, have a stellar following to follower ratio on Instagram. Most days the voices whisper these things again and again—you are insignificant, you are not enough. Other days the voices shout, “Be more, Be better!” It takes courage to be here, to study even the stories that don’t make sense and be critical of this human institution from the inside and commit to a life that does not put yourself at the center of the universe all the time. It is brave to believe in something. It is a risk to love. It is subversive to deny these whispering voices and stand in the truth that you are loved indeed. That you are, in fact, enough. That you do belong and you do matter.

You might be standing in the corner shaking your head and rolling your eyes internally just a little. You may be front and center singing your heart out. Maybe, like Jacob, your struggles are so visceral right now it feels like you are literally wrestling with God. Either way. God loves you like crazy whether you want God to or not. God is all wrapped up in your story. And when your story stops making sense, God will be there, and so will we.

Then they came up one by one, and their families and friends laid hands on them while they were prayed over. When else would this ever happen? And now, when the ninth graders may need it the most. For some young people, twenty others came up with them and put a hand on their head or shoulder, standing with them saying, “We love you. We are here for you.” Even thought they may be looking toward their peers for approval more so than their family, the families won’t let them forget, “You are loved. You belong. You matter.”

I sat and watched, one after another, families lay hands on the ninth graders. I cried, watching Christ’ love be made seen in this time and in this place. That’s the power of ritual, a break in the ordinary to reflect on the extraordinary love of God.

World Food Day 2015

16 Oct
Photo from Facebook page of Catholic Relief Services

Photo from Facebook page of Catholic Relief Services

Today is World Food Day 2015!  This day marks the founding of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. This year’s theme is: “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty”.  Join in solidarity against hunger, especially among the poorest people. Visit the websites of the Food and Agricultural Organization, Heifer International, and Catholic Relief Services to see how you can contribute and help make this generation a Zero Hunger Generation.

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