Tag Archives: community

Year of Mercy

17 Nov

Our Year of Mercy begins December 8th!


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.



Social Action Has Two Feet!

12 Nov


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.

Snapshots of Grief

9 Oct
Photo via Flickr user D.Reichardt

Photo via Flickr user D.Reichardt

A week ago, the youth team was informed that a tenth grader in our church community took his own life. We immediately started getting calls and texts from high schoolers and parents alike saying, “We have to do something. What are we going to do?” We decided to gather as a community a few days before the funeral.

We moved quickly and with purpose, each using his or her own skill set, being kind to each other, touching shoulders, offering hugs. Some sobbed and moaned with those who were weeping, walking around for days with puffy, glazed over eyes and their hearts exposed. I wrote prayers and searched for appropriate music and readings. Others went shopping. I walked into my office to find two grocery bags full of Kleenex packets for the pews. The pastor handed me his sermon and I cried as I read the end, the good news, the part about how darkness tells lies about us being alone, but God does love us and we love each other and the light will overcome the darkness and life will win. “This is good,” I sniffed. “Really good.”

A mother and daughter stayed up late baking pans and pans of dessert. “This is just what you do,” the mother told her daughter. “When there is nothing else to do, you feed people.” A coworker came into our work space a few hours before the gathering and asked us, “Can I bring you all some dinner?” It was the first moment I realized how hungry I was, and my yes was heartfelt, from my gut. How do people just know what to do? These people who just do exactly what needs to be done without needing to be asked or thanked, they amaze me. A mental health specialist joined us, reminding, “Young people learn how to grieve by watching their elders.”

And then came the stream of young people, one after another. Those in shock held up those who were crying. They showed each other pictures, told stories. “It is good to see you,” I said over and over and meant it. “Thank you for coming.” We lit candles. We prayed. We talked about grief and letting our bodies feel whatever we are feeling.

As I walked up to read the prayers of the people, I didn’t wipe my tears away. My voice shook, my nose ran, my heart stayed in my throat. Some things will never make sense. Like a litany, I repeated, “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.” Mercy. Lord. Please. Send us your mercy.

Gospel Reflection for September 20, 2015, 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Sep
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 2.12, 17-20; James 3.16-4.3; Mark 9.30-37

“Whoever wants to be first must be last and the servant of all.”

(Mark 9.35)

When Jesus begins to tell his disciples that suffering lies ahead, that he will be put to death and rise again, they find themselves too afraid to ask questions. But they did not feel too afraid to argue who among them was greatest. So Jesus has to sit them down and explain that in his company those who serve are greatest. He uses welcoming a child as an example. In the ancient world children were invisible, non-people. To receive a child is to receive him. Jesus’ teaching gives us a very different picture of Christian community than the hierarchical one in which we live. Often those who live Jesus’ teaching are invisible to us.

Whose service is vital to your day to day existence at home, at work?

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Seeking Wisdom

21 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Andy Rennie

Photo via Flickr user Andy Rennie

We’re working through Proverbs the fall, and the planning this summer has been really fun. Proverbs is a book that focuses on the everyday life. How do we proceed today? How can we build a life that is pleasing to God?

We’re focusing on seeking wisdom as a way to get closer to God. I’m excited for our community to commit to intentionally seeking wisdom together. There is value in the seeking, and life in what we find. There is an inherent humility implied in seeking wisdom, yet there is also hopeful action.

By reading and studying Proverbs together, we are turning toward Scripture in our wisdom seeking, but we are not stopping there. We’re using poetry, like Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, as a call to worship that nods to the world outside of the church that is seeping with wisdom. We’re encouraging each other to share ideas on where and how to seek wisdom. I love how the Catholic Church encourages us to seek wisdom in Scripture, Tradition, and out in the world. The world that God created has so much to teach us. And each of us, also created by God, are going to enjoy seeking wisdom in different ways.

When we asked congregation members how they seek wisdom, here are some of the answers we got:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Seek out experts
  3. Experiment with something new, being willing to fail and start more intelligently
  4. Ask for a slice of wisdom via prayer
  5. Be still, away from distractions, and think
  6. Listen to someone else’s (potentially valuable and unique) perspective on something
  7. List what you don’t know now that you used to think you knew to keep you honest and seeking
  8. Find a good source of information (parent, grandparent, etc.) and ask them the hard questions
  9. Giggle with a child
  10. Walk through the woods
  11. Read a really good smelling book
  12. Listen to classical music
  13. Ask worldly people questions they find interesting to answer
  14. Allow the sound and rhythm of your breath to calm you
  15. Hold a newborn

How do you seek wisdom? I’d love more ideas as I commit to trying a few of these ideas with my eyes and heart open to receiving God’s wisdom.

Grieving Rituals

1 Jul

Sunday morning, before it got too hot, I spent some time in our front garden weeding. Crouched between a large bush and the front of my house, I pulled a big bundle of weeds at the base to get at the roots deep below the ground. With the weeds cleared, I saw a squirrel skeleton, partially buried and partially exposed. The vertebrae of the spine seemed perfectly intact. I gasped, then pulled away, then got curious, noticing the strength of my visceral reaction to the animal bones. The unmistakable sign of death and decay amongst the thriving life of my garden forced me to think about the cycle of life and my own mortality. The skeleton felt out of place, and it felt oddly personal to see the bones of an animal in my own yard. I wondered about the squirrel, when and how it died. I wondered if I should leave it be or bury it completely to rest.

Two weeks before I found the squirrel skeleton, I got a call that a good friend of mine had died in her sleep. The family wanted me to share the news, so I spent much of the next few days making phone calls and sitting with people on the line as they wept and grieved. Every person eventually asked, “When is the funeral?” The family had decided to have the funeral for just family, so the following question was, over and over, “Well, what are we going to do?”

On the afternoon that I found the squirrel skeleton, I opened up my home to my friends. I laid out pastries and pictures. Former teammates brought scrapbooks and stories. We prayed, told stories, cried, hugged, laughed. It was so simple, and like it was not enough, but it also felt necessary to us. Two women drove six hours to sit with us. We wanted to remember, celebrate, and grieve as a community. We wanted to lay her to rest in our hearts. This is what humans do. We bury our dead. We want a tangible place to go to remind us that she is really gone from this place. We need ritual for our own growth, our own mourning. We need to remind each other that in baptism, God promised to love us and never leave us no matter what. We need to promise to each other, publicly, that we will carry our loved ones with us and never forget.

In lieu of a funeral, our ritual seemed small, but it was beautiful and holy. It was our small way of burying our friend in the hope that she now knows eternal peace, that she is now home.


Social Action Has Two Feet

5 Jun



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