Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community: Fourth Sunday of Advent with Alicia Bartol-Thomas and Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP Co-Presiders

Alicia Bartol-Thomas sings Ave Maria in preparation for our Advent Liturgy
Linda Lee Miska on piano

Meditation for Fourth Sunday of Advent: Homily Starter
"Birthing Christ Today"
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Let us begin our meditation today by relaxing our bodies and breathing slowly and deeply…
Be aware of any tension in your body… breathe relaxation into this area…
As you breathe in and out be conscious of our Mothering God’s liberating, healing  presence within you ….
With St. Julian of Norwich, be aware that God is as really our Mother as God is our father...our tender Mother Jesus …gives us a glimpse of the Godhead and heavenly joy---the inner certainty of eternal bliss…

As you exhale, allow the freeing power of God’s nurturing love to flow out of you … St. Clare of Assisi, who was called the “Footprint of the Mother of God”, understood that her vocation was to be the mother of Jesus Christ, following the example of Mary.
The mystical teaching of spiritual motherhood invites us, women and men,  like Mary, to bring forth Christ in the world…
Every disciple, like Mary, is called to do the will of God…to say yes to being a Living Word of God in our world… By doing so each of us becomes a mother of Christ each day…
 In Galations 4:19 St. Paul affirms: “My little children with whom I am again in labor until Christ has become incarnate in you…

In a world where many people are frustrated and in spiritual crisis, where there is hatred, abuse and violence, get in touch with the life giving forces and loving power within you to heal,  bless and give life…
Reflect on the anxiety that Mary faced as a young, pregnant and unmarried woman…
Be aware that today US teenagers become pregnant at the rate of about one a minute 82% of teenage births are unplanned…

Imagine Mary, a poor person, a symbol of comfort, power and strength for the disinherited, coming back to earth today. What do you think she would say to you? to young pregnant women?  What would she say to us about poverty, birth control,  injustice, racism, sexism?

The medieval mystic Meister Eckhardt once said that we are all called to be mothers of God… We are called to be Mary… Be aware of ways that you called to birth the Christ Presence in our world…

Remember always that God is with you. Blessed are you…
Nothing is impossible with God…

(Recommended Reading “Bringing Forth Christ, “Feasts of the Child Jesus” St. Bonaventure translated by Eric Doyle.)

Let us close our meditation with an Advent Prayer
by Jay Murnane

Living One, you are continually creating the universe,
continually giving birth to all of us.
We sense the need to do the same,
to set ourselves free from a sense of emptiness and barren hopelessness.

The signs of our times are frightening
and often we hear only the confusing sounds of Babel -
all the lies and the anguished cries
of a wounded earth and its wounded creatures.

Your wisdom invites us to draw on our tradition,
as old as the stars,
shining through Sarah and Abraham,
shining through your prophets in every age and every culture,,
shining through
Miriam of Nazareth.
If we can blend that enlightening, enlivening tradition
with what we are,
we can risk fidelity to a dream:

Filled with your spirit, we can give birth in our day
to your living word,
for the sake of hope
enfleshed in
creativity and confrontation,
healing and reconciliation,
universal and unconditional love.

Let it be!

Dialogue Homily Questions:

1.     How can we give birth to God in the world today?
2.     What would Mary say about family planning, poverty, and the oppression of women today?
MMOJ Community Offertory Procession

MMOJ Community gathers around table to celebrate inclusive Eucharist with presiders
Alicia Bartol-Thomas and Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP
Liturgy for Advent/Christmas


Opening Song
Advent: Carol At The Manger,
Marty Haugen
Christmas: "O Come All Ye Faithful"

PresiderNurturing God, you became human in Jesus and showed us how to live life fully. You know what it means to laugh and cry, to walk and talk, to love and be loved. We know that your mothering presence is always with us. May we, like Mary, rejoice as we give birth to God within us, and may we give birth to God in everything we say and do.  ALL:  Amen.

ALL:  Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth.  O loving God, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.  O Jesus Christ, holy Child of our loving God; You fill us with joy in your presence. You who are with our God, receive our prayer.  For you alone are the Holy One; you alone are Messiah.  You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ; with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God.  Amen.

First Reading
Second Reading
Gospel Acclamation:  ALLELUIA!  (sung)
Reader: A reading from the Gospel according to ...   ALL:  Glory to you O God.
Reader:  The good news of Jesus, the Christ!
ALL:  Glory and praise to you, Jesus the Christ!
Dialogue HOMILY

Profession of Faith:  ALL:  We believe in God who is creator and nurturer of all. We believe in Jesus, the Christ, who is our love, our hope, and our light. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of Wisdom Sophia, who energizes and guides us to build caring communities and to challenge injustices.  We believe in the communion of saints our heavenly friends, who support us on life’s journey.  We believe in the partnership and equality of women and men in our church and world.  We believe that all are one in the community of creation. We believe that God who calls us to live fully, love tenderly, and serve generously.  Amen.

Presider:  For a deeper coming of Christ in our world, let us pray.  
Response: Nurturing God, hear us.
Presider:  That we may experience the coming of God anew in our lives, we pray.  R.  Presider:  That people who suffer from destitution and despair may experience the mothering comfort of God we pray.  R.
Presider:  That the sick and suffering may receive the nurturing, healing love of God, we pray.  R.  Presider:  That those who have died may rest in God's eternal embrace, we pray.  R.
(Other Intentions)

Presider:  Blessed are you, God of all life, through your goodness we have bread, wine, all creation, and our own lives to offer. Through this sacred meal may we become your new creation. 
ALL:  Blessed be God forever.
Presider:  God is with you.  ALL: And also with you.  Presider:  Lift up your hearts.  ALL:  We lift them up to God.  Presider:  Let us give thanks to our God.

Voice One:  Mothering God, you brought forth all creation from your Life-Giving Womb. O Love of the Ages, we praise you and leap for joy in your presence.

Voice Two: Holy One of ancient Israel, you revealed yourself in Mary's womb, in a shining star, in humble shepherds, in a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. You embrace us with infinite love in every situation and relationship. You dwell in the depths of our hearts.

Voice Three: We invite you this day to deepen our awareness of your boundless love as we gather around the table of abundant life. With grateful hearts, we proclaim your praise:

ALL:  Holy, Holy, Holy, Creator of heaven and earth.  All beings are pregnant with your glory. Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed are you who  dwell in all things. Hosanna in the Highest.

Voice FourPraise to you, all-giving God, born of Mary. You are the body and blood of woman. We glorify you, nurturing God for the dawning of the sacred promise of God's Anointed, fulfilled in Jesus, the Christ.

Voice Five: We celebrate the birth of Jesus, our newborn Emmanuel , who came to give us the fullness of life. During this holy season we share the bread of freedom and lift the cup of salvation.  

(raise hands toward bread and wine for Invocation of the Holy Spirit)
All:  Come Holy Spirit deepen your Presence within us and in these gifts of bread and wine, that they may become the Body of Christ.
Presider:  As Jesus gave birth to the New Covenant, he took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, and shared it with all those present saying:
ALL: Take this all of you and eat it. This is my body.
PresiderThen Jesus took a cup of wine, blessed you, Loving God,  shared the cup with all those present saying:
ALL: Take this all of you and drink from the covenant, poured out for you and for everyone. Do this in memory of me.
Presider:  Let us proclaim the sacred presence of our nurturing God:
ALL: Christ, by your life, death and rising, you have blessed us with abundance that will never end.

Second Invocation of the Holy Spirit: (Place hands on each other's shoulder)
All: God of all people, You call us "beloved." Give us courage to accept your faith in us and to live your compassion in the world. You infuse us with Sophia, Holy Wisdom, to serve you in the last and the least.

Voice Six:  As we wait with joyful hearts for the fulfillment of your loving presence in our lives, we remember the prophet,martyrs and saints who have gone before us: Deborah, Isaiah, Mary of Magdala, Peter, Martha, Bishop Oscar Romero, Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Jean Donovan and all those we remember as heros and heroines in our church who inspire us today. (Community names mentors whom they want to remember, living and dead. This list is only partial. Each community needs to create their own according to custom and culture.)
Voice Seven:  God of our dreams, may we give birth to the Word Made Flesh in us everyday. May we give birth to the church of our dreams and hopes. May we give birth to a deep reverence for earth and live in harmony with all creatures on the earth.

ALL:  Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, all praise and glory are yours, Holy God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

ALL:  Our Father and Mother ...

Presider:   Let us join hands and hearts and pray for peace in our world as we sing “Peace is flowing like a River”, love, joy, alleluia…., or other suitable hymn

ALL:   Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power.  We will do so.  Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice.  We will do so.  Loving God, You call us to be Your presence in the world.  We will do so. 

Presider:   This is Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, loving us forever. All are invited to partake of this sacred banquet of love.  ALL: May we be who we are the Body of Christ.   
Presider:  Let us share the Body of Christ with the Body of Christ!   ALL:  Amen.

Sing a favorite Advent or Christmas song such as "Silent Night" or "Away in the Manger" etc.


Birthing a new creation.
What are we birthing?
Wisdom and justice,
Peace and compassion,
Concern for all God’s little ones,
For the homeless and the destitute,
The hungry, and all who bear the brunt
Of indifference and oppression.

What are we birthing?
A deep respect for our planet ,
Its windsong and its waters,
Its topsoil and its forests,
And a oneness with the wilderness
That is image of our soul.
What are we birthing?
An unbreakable bond in the Spirit
That binds as one - all brothers and sisters,
Transcending class, color, culture,
Religion, race and gender.

(adapted from A Psalm of Bringing to Birth by Miriam Therese Winter in WomanWord )

PresiderGod of new beginnings, thank you for nourishing us in your sacrament. May your tender presence continue to open our hearts to the daily miracles of life that surround us each day, through Emmanuel, God-with-us.
ALL: Amen.

Presider:  Our God is with you.
ALL:  and also with you. 

(everyone please extend your hands in mutual blessing)
ALL:  May our loving God fill us with radiant joy.  May our liberating God fill us with  deep peace, and may our compassionate God bless us always with strength to serve the broken and excluded.  Amen.

Presider:  Let us birth Christ anew in our world today. Go in the peace of Christ.  ALL:   Thanks be to God.

Advent: "0 Come, 0 Come Emmanuel" , Joy to the World, Go tell it on the Mountain

Bridget Mary Meehan
Association of Roman Catholic Woman Priests

Homily:" Who do you think you are?" by Deacon Annie Watson ARCWP

Who do you think you are?
John 1:6-8, 19-28; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
December 14, 2014
Annie Watson. ARCWP

This Sunday’s Gospel lesson from John is virtually a repeat of last Sunday’s Gospel lesson from Mark. We find John the Baptizer out in the Judean wilderness baptizing people in the Jordan River. Unlike Mark’s gospel, however, John writes about an interesting conversation between John the Baptizer and some priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem to question him.
The question they have is simple and direct, “Who are you?”
Why this question? Did they simply want to know his name? Maybe, but more importantly they wanted to know why he thinks he can keep doing what he’s doing, namely, offering a ritual cleansing, a way for people to experience God’s forgiveness in a place other than the Temple in Jerusalem.
So their question is more like, “Who do you think you are?” This is not a polite question. This is an antagonistic question. As people from my previous home state of Kentucky might say, “These are fightin’ words!”
John the Baptizer understood the deeper question, which is “Do you think you are the Messiah?” Messiah wannabe’s were a dime a dozen in those days. I’m sure the religious hierarchy in Jerusalem was getting a bit tired of stamping out Messiah rumors. Unlike the vast majority of the people in that day, the religious elite in Jerusalem didn’t want a Messiah to show up and spoil their party!
John knew this was their real concern, so he says flatly, “I am not the Messiah.” Well then, who are you? Who do you think you are? What gives you the right to do what you are doing out here? Do you think you are the reincarnation of Elijah, the greatest prophet in Israel’s distant past? No, says John. Well then, who are you? We need an answer so we can tell those who sent us out here to this god-forsaken place.
Quoting Isaiah, John says, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight our God’s road!’”
Okay, well, that’s a nice piece of scripture, but seriously, what gives you the right to engage in an unauthorized religious ritual out here away from the Temple. You realize the Temple authorities are getting a little upset at how you are stealing some of their flock. If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or some other super-prophet, then who the heck are you? Why are you baptizing people? Come on now, we need an answer!
John continued to be a bit coy in his response: “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” Was Jesus standing there listening to all of this?
Here’s why they are angry: John the Baptizer had started an alternative religious community, one that thumbed its nose at the recognized institutional face of religion in that time and place.
Does that sound familiar?
This raises the question for those of us in our own alternative religious communities in the 21st century: Who do we think we are? What gives us the right to do what we are doing? That’s a good question, and there’s really only one good answer, an answer written in the book of Isaiah about six centuries before John the Baptizer and Jesus appeared on the scene.
Here’s the answer: “The Spirit of Exalted YHWH is upon me, for YHWH has anointed me.” That’s what gives us the right to do what we are doing.
Religious groups all have their various ways of validating a person’s ministry. As Catholics, we are validated by apostolic succession and the laying on of hands. That is, presumably our validation goes all the way back to St. Peter. We also go through a vetting process, acquire a theological education, and undergo psychological tests to make sure we are of sound mind.
As people in an alternative Catholic community, we can have the Church’s blessing or we can excommunicate ourselves by going through an ordination process, but when it comes right down to it, the only thing that matters is whether or not the spirit rests upon us. The only thing that matters is whether or not God has anointed us to do God’s work.
This applies not just to those of us who wear robes and stoles. It applies to all of us because all of us are in ministry. My husband, a Protestant minister, informed me that some congregations in his tradition like to list “all the people” as ministers of the congregation.
In some ways, this is the dirty little secret the religious elite in such places as the Vatican and other religious institutional headquarters don’t want us to know, that we are all anointed to do God’s holy work, to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners. We have all been called to comfort those who mourn. We are all validated.
What John the Baptist encountered at the edge of the River Jordan is what we in our own contemporary alternative religious communities encounter every day: the questions and suspicions and lack of validation from the headquarters of those who are in power.
And although we know deep down in our souls that we have been anointed by God’s spirit to do what we are doing, perhaps our response to our critics should be as coy as John the Baptizer’s response: “I baptize with water. Among you stands, however, one whom you do not know.”
This begs the question: Do we recognize Jesus when he’s in a crowd of neglected faceless and nameless people? That is why people were coming out to John at the River Jordan in the first place. They had been neglected by the traditional religious institution of that day.
This is a great text for our alternative religious communities because it reveals that even as time marches on and history produces so much change, some things never change at all. There will always be those in power who are suspicious of anyone who tries to provide an alternative route to God’s peace, love, hope, and joy.
So, can we show as much or more compassion as those who enjoy traditional institutional validation? That’s our challenge and our calling. The Spirit of God is upon us because God has anointed us . . . to enlarge our circle of compassion to include those who are sometimes neglected by traditional religious institutions.
This is especially true as we now find ourselves waste deep in the waters of the holiday season. It’s very easy to lose sight of our calling to do God’s work because the jingle bells often muffle the voice of God and the decorating and gift giving frenzy often obscure the plight of those who may not have the means to enjoy the festivities.
In other words, it is very easy to be neglectful during the holidays. There are those who suffer from loneliness with much more severity than usual at this time of the year. There are those who can’t be home for Christmas, for whatever reason, maybe because they are locked up in one of our many prisons.
The neglected, the unnamed crowds of faceless people are out there, and our alternative communities have surely been called to serve them, and yet we sometimes get so wrapped up in our own Christmas joy that we forget those who do not have the option of joy. Let’s not let that happen this year.
So, who do we think we are? We are nothing more and nothing less than those on whom the Spirit of God rests, humble people who have been anointed to bring peace, love, hope, and joy to others.
It’s a simple calling, really, but like John the Baptist at the River Jordan, it is a calling to nourish the dry spirits of those who have journeyed through the wilderness.
And by the way, none of us are worthy enough to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals. 

Advent Offering by Sibyl "Dana" Reynolds Founder and Spiritual Director, Sacred Life-Arts.Com

Advent Offering at
Advent is a rich and fertile spiritual season of expectancy and waiting. To consciously embrace the depth and richness of this time, I have created a little gift for you. Click here to find Advent Blessings: An Advent Walk with Mary. Scroll down the Advent page to find links for additional Advent and Christmas creative and inspirational resources. Give yourself the gift of reflective, contemplative, and meditative moments to help you remain centered within the simple blessings that abound this time of year.

Ink and Honey Celebrates 2nd Anniversary
As 2014 winds down...I'm reflecting with gratitude. December 26th will mark the two year anniversary of the release of my historical novel, Ink and Honey, the winner of the Illuminations Book Awards' Gold Medal for General Fiction. Ink and Honey is currently being read and discussed in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia. I've enjoyed meeting many book club readers around the country and visiting with them in real time and through Skype.

Ink and Honey
Be sure to visit the Ink and Honey the Book Facebook page to stay informed regarding future retreat and pilgrimage offerings and also visit to find free sacred writing practices, the book trailer, discussion questions and more. 

Belle Coeur Honey and more
Kathie Hempel, my assistant, has created beautiful offerings of Belle Coeur Honey, Beeswax candles, and Natural Belle Coeur soaps. She is generously giving a 10% discount to all Sacred Life Arts subscribers through the Christmas season. Click here to see Kathie's Christmas catalog of Belle Coeur offerings.

Dana's next book will arrive in 2015
The Way of Belle Coeur: Spirit, Sacrament, Sisterhood, and Service, the companion guidebook for Ink and Honey, will be available in Summer 2015. 

The 3rd Annual Belle Coeur Sisterhood Spiritual/Creative Formation Program
There are currently twenty-three contemporary Sisters of Belle Coeur. In late September, 2015, the 3rd annual creative and spiritual formation retreat program will be held for twelve women who feel called to Belle Coeur Sisterhood. The application process for this sacred journey will begin in January. Details will be provided at that time.
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With love and Advent blessings!  

Sibyl "Dana" Reynolds
Founder and Spiritual Director, Sacred Life-Arts