Thursday, March 20, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests: Mary, Mother of Jesus Catholic Community

In this clip, the community prays the Eucharistic Prayer together.

In this clip, Jack Meehan plays "You'll never walk alone" as the communion meditation hymn at Mary, Mother of Jesus Catholic Community ...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Roman Catholic Womenpriests welcome all especially those who are hurt and marginalized

The actions of Archbishop Burke reflect why American Catholics are in favor of change within the church. Sixty-five percent of Catholics support women priests. The people have spoken and are rejecting the church of man-made laws in favor of a church that is loving, inclusive, and emphasizes the teaching of Jesus. The people reject a church that coddles pedophile priests, ignores their criminal behavoir and has spent to date over a billion in settlements to victims who have suffered from clerical abuse. Barbara Dorris, Outreach Coordinator for Surviviors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a letter to the Editor of the St. Louis Dispatch: "In Archbishop Burke’s eyes, apparently, women acting like priests is a greater crime than men acting like criminals."
The Roman Catholic Womenpriests initiative is bringing equality and renewal to the church we love, and to all the holy people of God who have been hurt, marginalized, and ostracized in the name of Jesus Christ, who always and everywhere said, as we do, that ALL ARE WELCOME.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A story of what could be:Archbishop Burke washes women priests' feet on Holy Thursday

I am about to tell a true story and a could be true story. Two days ago, Archbishop Burke of St. Louis excommunicated three women, ages 65, 67 and 69 for refusing to submit to his decrees.

Needless to say, Bishop Burke received tons of bad publicity following the excommunications. In fact, he has been receiving a great deal of bad publicity since he tried to bully a woman rabbi into not allowing the women priests to use her synagogue as the site for their ordination and excommunicating a young Polish priest and the parish council for refusing to turn over the parish’s 9 million dollar endowment to the Archdiocese of St. Louis. People called him many names like “Burke, the Jerk,” and “Dinosaur Burke.”

Archbishop Burke remained singularly unrepentant. Rules are rules. Women are woman and priests need to be obedient priests. He went even farther. If someone whose politics he didn’t like showed up at Mass, he, Bishop Burke, Defender of the Faith, Shepherd of the Flock in St. Louis, would deny that person communion, the bread of life that came down from heaven, bequeathed to all by the death of Jesus on a cross. This is the true story, sad, but true.

Here’s the could be true story. Palm Sunday, 08, was a lovely day. Not quite spring, the crocuses were poking their purple heads out of the late winter ground and the air smelled sweet after an unusually long, hard winter. Instead of having his chauffer drive him to breakfast after mass, Bishop Burke decided to take a walk around the block.

As he walked down the street, a blinding light seemed to come down from the sky. Was it a terrorist attack? An explosion? Were the Iraqis invading St. Louis? Could it be aliens? Although the bishop covered his eyes, the power of the light forced him to the ground. It just had to be a bomb, he thought. The people and the buildings around him disappeared and he thought he was dead. Suddenly, he saw the homeless woman who usually picked trash out of garbage can near the cathedral. She was her usual self: dirty pink sweat pants, a camouflage army jacket and a beat up straw hat. In the middle of that blinding light, she turned to him and said, “Raymond, Raymond, why do your persecute me?”

Now, Bishop Burke had never said two words to the annoying woman who cluttered up the walkway in front of his cathedral. so he replied, rather sarcastically, “What the heck are YOU talking about?” The homeless woman said, “I am Jesus, whom you excommunicated.” And the woman began to sob, tears running down the creases in her dirty cheeks.

The light dissipated as fast as it appeared and Burke realized that he couldn’t see. He rubbed his eyes over and over again. What did that woman do to him? Did she poke him in the eye or spray him with Mace? He lifted his blind eyes to heaven, trying to find some light, any light. Annoyance did not describe how he was feeling, a bishop out there in the public eye, on the ground, for all to see.

Suddenly, a woman’s hands grabbed his wrists and pulled him to his feet. A woman’s voice said, “Hey, Bishop are you okay?” From the news reports, he recognized the voice. It was Rabbi Susan Talve, the rabbi he had publicly trashed as being an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church in St. Louis.

“Did something happen to you? Shall I take you to the emergency room?

“Well, yes,” Burke sputtered. “I’m blind. I can’t see a thing. That crazy woman must have done something to me. Do you see any Mace cans floating around?”

Rabbi Susan Talve, too polite to mention that there was no crazy woman anywhere in the vicinity, drove Archbishop Burke to the nearby emergency room. The doctors did a CT scan. They looked into his eyes with a light. “There’s nothing wrong with your eyes that we can see, Your Eminence,” they told him, and they made an appointment with a well- known ophthalmologist for the next day.

Rabbi Talve drove Burke home. She walked him to his doorway, rang the bell, and told the housekeeper that Burke had some sort of “spell” out there on the street near the cathedral and that he was having trouble seeing things.

When the housekeeper tried to help Burke up to his room, he just shook off her arm. “Leave me alone. I am going to bed.”

During the night, three spirits visited Raymond Burke. The first spirit took him back to his boyhood home. He saw his mother making dinner, cooking special treats for him, her beloved son. He could see her thoughts, how she thought that one day she might be a writer, but marriage and child rearing took up too much of her time. He saw his grandmother, his aunts, the nuns who taught him in grade school, and the women who cleaned his parish church every week for free. He saw himself, a fair-haired boy, go off to the seminary, free to be what he thought he could be, while women cooked his food and washed his clothes.

The second spirit took him to South Africa where he saw Patricia Fresen, a Dominican nun; protect the sisters of color in her convent from being carried off to jail by the police during apartheid. He saw her as a principal admitting girls of color into her previously white girls’ high school at risk of imprisonment. He saw her support the black seminarians on the joyous day they finally received the right to vote in South African elections. He saw seminarians hiss and boo when she tried to preach in church on South African Woman’s Day.

The third spirit took him to Rose Marie and Elsie’s ordination in Rabbi Talve’s synagogue. He saw 600 joyous people singing and praising God as Bishop Patricia Fresen ordained the women priests. He saw Christians and Jews praying and worshipping together, as one body in the realm of God. He saw the synagogue suffused with a golden light.. He thought he actually heard God laugh and say, “These are my beloved people in whom I am well pleased. Listen to them” In the midst of the joy and thanksgiving, he saw his episcopal messenger, a tall man wearing a black cape, deliver notices to Rose Marie and Elsie telling them that they were in big trouble with him, Archbishop Raymond Burke.

Then a fourth, most unwelcome and unexpected spirit who wasn’t supposed to be in the story appeared. It was the homeless woman with the dirty pink sweat pants. The spirit showed Raymond the future of the church, where all of God’s people had become the priesthood of all believers. He saw that his name was listed in a book other than the Book of Life with all those who had worked against the Spirit of God who moved over the face of the earth and transformed it. “Raymond, “ the woman said sternly, “Persecute me no longer. Go to Elsie and Rose Marie’s church on Holy Thursday and wash their feet.”

When Raymond awakened on Monday morning, he could see again. He ran to the bedroom window and opened the expensive red velvet drapes. He wondered if it had all been a dream. As soon as he experienced a second of doubt, his vision darkened again.

Raymond decided to go to the cathedral and pray for guidance. The cathedral always made him feel better when he was dealing with disloyal, disobedient so-called Catholics. How could he, the Archbishop of St. Louis wash the feet of renegade women priests? What would Benedict think? What would his supporters think? What would happen to the collections? What would happen to him? He could see himself consigned to some monastery in western Georgia, peeling potatoes for the remained of his earthly life. This simply could not be true. By the time he got to this last thought, his peripheral vision started to go.

Since it was Holy Week, the cathedral was open but still fairly empty at 8 in the morning. As he walked towards the altar rail, he heard a voice say, “Raymond, do not be afraid. Behold, I am with you.” He turned around to see the woman in the dirty pink sweat pants walk out of the church.

When Raymond looked up at the crucifix through the floaters obscuring his eyesight, Jesus’ loincloth seemed to glow pink. When he turned to leave the cathedral, the twelve females in the church looked at him and said in unison, “Raymond, persecute us no longer.”

Raymond ran out of the church, barely making it home through what had become slits of light. He couldn’t call the pope. He couldn’t call his friend Fabian or his predecessor, Justin, who simply would NEVER understand. He couldn’t call Father John Shamleffer since canon law would be of no help. The lot of them would all cart him off to the Paraclete Hospital citing exhaustion. What was he supposed to do? By this time, he could see only shadows.

Raymond spent three days in his room, telling everyone he was sick. His housekeeper brought food to his door and carted away his dirty laundry. He aides left messages on his I phone. “Your Eminence, what about the Chrism Mass?” Raymond left the service in the hands of his auxiliary bishop, saying, “Tell them I have the flu. Bad.”

He was lying on his king sized bed, cursing the darkness that was by now, complete. Fumbling for his rosary bead, he held the cross in his hands. “Lord, tell me what to do,” he prayed over and over again. He heard the church bells ring three o’clock. Suddenly, the street woman’s voice echoed in the room. “ Raymond,” she said sharply as he felt rather than saw the pink flash, “I already told you what to do. Just do I, will you?” Then, Raymond heard her say as if to another person, “What is wrong with this faithless generation? I am not sending this blasted man one more sign.”

Raymond rolled over and sat up. Against his better judgment and many years of experience, and fully aware that his career as a bishop was over, Bishop Burke bent down to put his feet in his shoes. He was going to Rose Marie and Elsie’s church. Immediately, the afternoon sunlight streamed through the window. As Raymond reached for a sports shirt and suit coat, the room darkened. Instead, he reached for his clerical collar and pectoral cross and the sun burst from behind a cloud. A bishop he was and a bishop he had to be, at least for tonight.

Elsie and Rose Marie’s congregation had gathered in their little church to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The congregation stared as Bishop Burke walked into the assembly. Smiling rather stiffly, he made his way to his seat – right next to a woman wearing dirty pink sweat pants and a camouflage jacket. Raymond gasped as the woman shook his hand and said through missing teeth, “Welcome to the house of our God.”

The people sat nervously through the Liturgy of the Word. What did his presence in their outlaw church mean? Where the police outside? Was he going to yell at them? Raymond sat composed and almost happy, his hands folded in his lap. He heard the Holy Thursday gospel as if for the first time. “If I, your Lord, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”

After the homily, the children in the congregation prepared for the foot washing, carrying out basins, buckets of clean water, and towels. Raymond was the first to stand up. He removed his pectoral cross and his collar. He took off his black shirt and gave all three things to the woman in the pink sweats to hold. Walking up to the altar in his undershirt, he knelt down before Elsie McGrath and gently washed her feet. Then, he gestured for Rose Marie Hudson to sit and he washed hers as well. When he had finished, he put his head on the ground and began to sob. “Thank you, God, for not forsaking me, for leaving me in my ignorance and fear. Forgive me, Lord, for I really didn’t know what I was doing. Cleanse me of my iniquities and wash away my sins that I might become your worthy servant, the servant I hoped to be many years ago.”

Nobody knew what to do, so the pianist broke into a very unlikely Holy Thursday hymn, “Now Thank You All Our God.” People danced in the aisles. Some were even yelling Hallelujah, for who could believe such a thing could ever happen in the Diocese of St. Louis? Raymond, Elsie, and Rose Marie gave one another great big bear hugs and big sloppy wet kisses, forgiveness and reconciliation accomplished through the mercy of Almighty God.

As the people were returning to their seats, Raymond whispered to Elsie and Rose Marie that he was going to leave and head over to St. Stan’s and wash Father Marek Bozak’s feet, but he would be back. He needed to learn a thing or two. As he turned around to leave, he saw the woman in the pink sweats walk out of the church wearing his black clerical shirt over her camouflage jacket, the pectoral cross jauntily bouncing on her chest.

Raymond walked out of the church into the chill of a cool spring night air in his undershirt. He looked up at a sky that reminded him of a Christmas sky, where the light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it; no matter how hard it tried. He, Raymond Burke, was now a witness who could truthfully testify to that light, the light that came into the world for all of the people. For the first time in a long time, Raymond Burke was a happy man.

He walked to the parking lot, hoping that he had left a sweater or jacket on the seat of his car to put over his undershirt. As he went to put the key in the lock, he saw something hanging from the right rear view mirror. It was his clerical shirt and his pectoral cross. Raymond removed his shirt, folded it, and placed his shirt and the cross on the hood of car parked next to him. He knew the lady in pink would find them.

As he got into his car and headed off to St. Stan’s and the young Marek, Raymond thought he heard a woman’s voice raucously singing the South African hymn, “ We Are Marching in the Light of God” at the top of her lungs. And he began to hum along with her.


Eileen DiFranco

Associated Press article: Ordained Women and woman bishop excommunicated