Saturday, August 17, 2019

"When it is dark, praying communities give us eyes to see the sacred at work" by Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

Annie Burns presides at FutureChurch's July 30 Mary of Magdala celebration in Cleveland. (FutureChurch/Deborah Rose Milavec)
Praying Communities are like the air we breathe, the inflowing and outflowing of divine love moving through us giving us life in the darkness. Thank you Sister Christine Schenk, Amen! Bridget Mary
I recently experienced two prayer events that helped me realize again how much I need community to survive these troubling times.
Readings from today's social prophets such as March for Our Lives organizer Emma González, black historical theologian Shannon Dee Williams, immigrant justice advocate Missionaries of Jesus Sr. Norma Pimentel, transgender support activist Deacon Ray Dever, death penalty abolishment advocate St. Joseph Sr. Helen Prejean and others were interspersed with a gentle sung refrain asking God to "open our ears to hear your voice."On July 30, I attended FutureChurch's "Voices that Challenge" Mary of Magdala celebration in the intimate space of Cleveland's new Congregation of Saint Joseph Center chapel. In the midst of so many current assaults on Christian values, the reflective yet passionate prayer brought both solace and challenge.
Duane, who has worked for over 20 years with people who live on the streets and people of color who are in poverty read an excerpt by Williams: "Our faith is based on the belief in the death and resurrection of a brown social revolutionary who was put to death by the state for declaring with his words and actions that the lives of the poor, marginalized, and dispossessed matter. … the U.S. church … must finally become like Jesus."

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Participants exchange blessings at FutureChurch's July 30 Mary of Magdala celebration in Cleveland. (FutureChurch/Deborah Rose Milavec)
Bob, a married priest and pastor of Cleveland's Community of St. Peter relayed this story from Pimentel, who is director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley: "What I know of the people who come from Central America is they are families and children who are desperate to find relief and protection. … Our policies are causing pain. The administration is enforcing policies that are not humane for the families."
Longtime pastoral minister (and longtime friend), Lisa, proclaimed a word from Devers whose daughter recently came out as transgender: "I've heard warnings about falling into the sin of trying to replace the creator. Are we guilty of that sin when we look at a transgender person and have the hubris to deny who God has made?"
My erudite activist friend, Fran, who writes regularly to Ohio's death row inmates and even accompanied one during his execution, read a reflection from Prejean: "On death row I grasped with such solidity and fire the grace of God in all human beings, the dignity in all human beings. Patrick Sonnier did the most terrible crime of all. He killed. But he was a human being, and he had a transcendence, a dignity. He — like each of us — was more than the worst thing he had done in his life."
Sitting in this sacred space with these hymns and sacred words soaking into my marrow, I became intensely grateful for the women and men seated around me with whom I have journeyed for decades. We do not need to convince one another of the rightness of the issues upon which we were so painfully reflecting.
Wordlessly, we understand that our commitment to Jesus — the "brown social revolutionary" who had loved each of us into a mature discipleship — leads us to grieve, to act and to support one another in catalyzing change on behalf of God's values.
My community of justice seekers agonizes when the vision of Jesus is dimmed or defiled by blindness in our church and civil politics. I am not alone. My sisters and brothers walk alongside me and bear me up when I am discouraged.
This is what it must have been like for the nascent community of believers, I thought — Mary of Magdala, Peter, Paul, Junia, Prisca and so many others — as they worked and suffered to transform an alien and ailing society. A society unaware of its own wounds, and unaware that healing is not only possible but near at hand.
A week later, I attended another communal prayer in this same sacred space. I gathered Aug. 6 with my St. Joseph sisters and associates on the feast of the Transfiguration to give thanks for our "transfigured" community. Twelve years ago, we reconfigured from seven separate centers. It went amazingly well, and we now live as one "Congregation of the Great Love of God."
This quiet — even contemplative — time of prayer had a different tenor. Perhaps it was because we were struggling with too-fresh images of the carnage in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
We engaged in the uniquely St. Joseph practice of "sharing the state of our hearts" and reflected on living our generous promises and sacred work as identified and refined at previous chapter gatherings. These focus on systemic change, shared leadership, integral ecology and other burning issues so that "all may be one" — our founding vision since 1650.
Most sisters at this afternoon service were in their "golden years" and had recently moved from a century-old building to a new, safer facility. Many are challenged with health issues. One sister's "state of my heart" reflection was especially meaningful. "Even though clouds are present," she said, "the sun, the moon and the stars are always there although we cannot see them."
Another 80-something firebrand (seriously) said forcefully that our society and church must begin to deal with white privilege and white supremacy

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Feminist theologian Gina Messina reflects on Mary of Magdala's challenging  voice at FutureChurch's July 30 celebration in Cleveland. (FutureChurch/Deborah Rose Milavec)
A 90-years young sister — who had lived in one room with a shared bathroom her whole life — rejoiced that the new facility ("it's a palace") has an outdoor porch. For the past 50 years, she prayed each day on our old Motherhouse's rustic third floor porch overlooking the verdant urban valley that is the Cleveland Metroparks. She worried she would not find a similarly conducive spot when she moved and gave heartfelt thanks to St. Joseph that she had.
Obviously, this prayer experience was quite different — and perhaps a bit more mundane — than the first. But in the end, they were equally profound, reflecting as they did both the active and contemplative dimensions of life. Of my life.
As I age, I find praying has become somewhat like oxygen or food for me — and not only a comfort or a challenge. It strengthens me to face the reality of our world's terrible suffering. It turns my gaze from being perpetually discouraged by the clouds to remembering that the sun and moon and stars are still there despite the darkness.
I owe these learnings to the women and men with whom I have walked and am walking. Their solidarity helps me to first accept and then join together to alleviate the wounds of our world.
I owe them to my communities of sisters, both past and present, who have accompanied me in finding that deepening space wherein I am given eyes to see the sacred at work in the ordinary.
The sacred that will, in the end, heal us all.
[St. Joseph Sr. Christine Schenk, an NCR board member, served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years. Her recent book Crispina and Her Sisters: Women and Authority in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2017) was awarded first place in the history category by the Catholic Press Association. She holds master's degrees in nursing and theology.]

Brazil: Indigenous Women Unite in Historic March for Justice by Sophie Pinchetti

Above photo: Thousands of indigenous women mobilize to protest the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Hivos

In a great demonstration of feminine unity and strength as part of the indigenous movement across the Amazon, thousands of indigenous women have mobilized in Brazil’s capital city since yesterday as part of the country’s first Indigenous Women’s March. Carrying banners with the slogan “Territory: our body, our spirit,”, women have taken to the streets to make their voices heard and to denounce the policies of Brazil’s far-right president Bolsonaro, which have set the stage for escalating violations of indigenous rights, racism, violence and the most alarming Amazon deforestation rates in recent memory.
Marching side by side with women from over 110 ethnic groups in Brazil, indigenous women leaders from other regions of the Amazon have also joined in the mobilization to express their solidarity and to share their struggles in defence of their ancestral rainforest homelands, including Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo and Kofan leader Alexandra Narvaez from Ecuador. Both have led key victories against oil and mining interests in the Ecuadorian Amazon, setting historic precedents for indigenous rights and the rights of nature.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Joan and Roger Corbeil- 50th Wedding Anniversary-Renewal of Commitment and Photos from Celebration in Sarasota, Florida, Aug. 16, 2019

Roger and Joan celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary
Renewal of Commitment Service
August 16, 2019

Bridget: Today we celebrate Joan and Roger’s 50th wedding anniversary.

We rejoice as they renew their vows today. May they continue to share your love and illuminate our community with kindness and goodness. We express our gratitude to you, Lover of all Lovers, who call us to undreamed of closeness with you and all God's people as we live in love each day. 

Renewal of Vows:
Joan: Roger, I renew my commitment to you because I love you. I promise to be faithful to you in happy and sad times, in sickness and in health. I will cherish and love you as my beloved forever.

Roger: Joann, I renew my commitment to you because I love you.
I promise to be faithful to you in happy and sad times, in sickness and in health. I will cherish and love you as my beloved forever.

Missy, daughter of Joan and Roger, Bridget Mary

Closing Blessing

All: May the Holy One bless and keep you.

May you know peace, health, happiness and joy in abundance.

May you wake up in the morning welcoming our God of surprises.

May you find rest at night with gratitude for our God who blesses you each day.

May you be filled with joy for the gift of one another.

Blessed be God, Creator and Lover of all. Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sacralizing Politics by John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D.

It happens. A few days ago I was unfriended on Facebook by a fellow who fears I have ceased being a theologian and am now a political agitator. Actually, I don't mind agitating a bit but I am still very much a theologian.....
If they are true to their calling, theologians must critique social movements and political positions, when they are unethical and promote false belief. It happened in the past and is happening today. And not just in the U.S.A......

This week I continue a theological reflection connected with last week's post on Christian America. We are certainly living in a time of major socio-cultural shifts and unsettlingly cruel and evil developments, as the recent killings and violence in El Paso and Dayton have so painfully demonstrated. This time a new political twist was added; and an August 6th editorial in the National Catholic Reporter expressed it pointedly: "Never have we experienced political leadership where mass murderers could quote the very rhetoric emanating from the White House to justify their evil."

My thoughts today are about what happens when people - without questions or critique - begin to use religion to sacralize politics; and authoritarian leaders misuse religion to promote their distorted political agendas. When belief is twisted out of shape and paves the way for authoritarian movements and regimes - what we call today neofascism.

I remember being in a taxi along Interstate 170 near St. Louis, Missouri last autumn, when I saw a large billboard with a picture of the 45th U.S. president. With the picture was this caption "And the Word was made flesh." I asked the cab driver what he thought about that. "Well," he said "I don't think our president is Jesus Christ but, like Jesus, he was sent by God. He is a man of God and we need him to save us." The sacralization of politics. Perverted religion. Perverted politics.

"History doesn't repeat itself," Mark Twain supposedly said, "but it rhymes."

In 1932 Mussolini declared that the fascist state had not created its own god but recognized the God of traditional saints and Christian heroes. He was playing a phony political game. Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI both had come to power in 1922. Thanks to their shared distrust of democracy and anti-communist zeal, the two leaders clicked immediately. Evil often comes dressed up as something Good. In 1929, Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, ending decades of struggle between the Italian state and the Papacy, and recognized the independence of Vatican City. A grateful Pope Pius XI acclaimed Mussolini as "the Man of Providence." Mussolini needed Catholic support but in fact he resonated strongly with Friedrich Nietzsche's anti-Christian ideas and the negation of God's existence. He did the talk and played the game. And who was really listening?

It is a perennial problem. Who is really observing what's happening? Who is seriously considering the implications? And who is willing to speak out and take action?

Catholics in Germany, by way of another historical example, were basically opposed to Hitler. In 1933, however, Hitler signed a concordat with the Vatican. It was signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII. Catholic rights in Germany were theoretically put on a new basis, while the Hitler regime was strengthened. The Vatican had a sense that Hitler, was an indispensable bulwark against Bolshevism. The concordat gave moral legitimacy to the Nazi regime; and Hitler acquired dictatorial powers through the Enabling Act of 1933, which was facilitated through the support of the Catholic Center Party. In the years after the concordat was signed, however, the Nazis regularly ignored it. Hitler in fact was hostile to the Catholic Church, but for his political strategy played the public image game. There were of course Catholic protestors. Some of the most courageous demonstrations of opposition to Hitler were the 1941 sermons of the Catholic Bishop August von Galen of Münster.

In general, Protestants in Germany found a way to be both believers in Christianity and supporters of Nazism. A few -- like Dietrich Bonhoeffer - openly opposed the Nazis, while others saw themselves as neutral. Still others actively supported Nazism, calling themselves "storm troopers of Jesus Christ." Nazism was not just an alternative political party. It was, in Hitler's own words, "a form of conversion, a new faith." In responding to one of his co-conspirators in his 1923 coup attempt, Hitler had said "I need for the building up of a great political movement, the Catholics of Bavaria and the Protestants of Prussia."

While the Second World War did bring an end to Nazism in Germany, the evil dictatorships of Franco and Salazar persisted well into the mid-1970s.

Societies in transition, as we experience today, are always vulnerable to strong forces for political change. The link between Franco's fascism and the Catholic Church was at that time a marriage of convenience. When Franco's government defeated the Spanish socialist party that had taken control from 1931 to 1936, it aligned itself with Spain's Catholic Church and the Spanish bishops overwhelmingly endorsed Franco's Spain. Under the guise of religion, the Franco government used the Catholic educational system as a means of socialization and connecting nationalism and religion to promote their fascist agenda. To achieve his economic goals, Franco relied as well on the wealthy and ultra-right Catholic group Opus Dei. Franco's dictatorial style did introduce social and economic reform - as well as the slaughter of thousands of men, women, and children. The consistent elements in his long rule (1939 to 1975) were above all authoritarianism, extreme Spanish nationalism, conservative Catholicism, anti-Communism, imprisonments, torture, and mass executions.

Today's authoritarian (neofascist) leaders display all the old historic characteristics: exaggerated nationalism, invoking the blessings of conservative religious leaders, disdain for the human rights of foreigners, racist and incendiary rhetoric, fabricating "the truth," glamorizing the military with big parades, misogyny promoted by a kind of toxic masculinity, and protecting corporate power.

Returning to the historic Jesus, one sees a very different perspective.

In Matthew 25: 37-40, we read: "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The Lord will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

Here ends today's theological reflection. Followers of Jesus must be willing to speak truth to power.

Kind regards to all. Please don't unfriend me...

John A. Dick, Ph.D., S.T.D. (ARCC Vice President and Treasurer)  is a historical theologian - retired from the Catholic University of Leuven and the University of Ghent

Catholic Women Preach: Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary by Carolyn Osiek RSCJ

The feast of the Assumption means—that Mary is just as good as the guys.
There is Jesus, of course, and we tend to talk about his ascension and Mary’s assumption, as if he did it on his own and she needed some help. But if you look carefully at a good translation of the story of Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:9, you will see that he too was lifted up and received into heaven on a cloud.
But Jesus and Mary are by no means the first to have been thought to go up out of this life to somewhere up there where God is. You will of course remember Elijah and his fiery chariot in 2 Kings 11. Even before him, Enoch was taken up by God and seen no more (Gen 5:24).
It’s not only biblical figures who were believed to be taken up to heaven, however. Livy reported this of Romulus, one of the mythic founders of Rome. Roman emperors were depicted being taken up that way: Emperors Augustus, Titus, and Constantine among them. Emperor Antoninus Pius and his wife Faustina are depicted heading for heaven, held up by a nude adult male winged figure (with fig leaf added in the Renaissance), on a massive column base in the garden of the Vatican Museum. Even one imperial womangot her own depiction of being conveyed to heaven: Sabina, wife of the emperor Hadrian. So the ascension of Jesus and the assumption of Mary are by no means unique. Rather, they conveyed a message to their world: Jesus and Mary rate with the great ones. The tradition of including Mary is surprisingly early, possibly late fourth or for sure early fifth century.
We might be tempted to think of a feast like this as quiet and peaceful, a time for calm rejoicing. Maybe the image in your mind is the assumption of Mary by Murillo, a very common one. Mary quietly joins her hands and looks upward, blue mantle flying, while a bunch of chubby little angels push her cloud heavenward.
But no. Our readings for the feast suggest something different. Being with the great ones isn’t peaceful; it means struggle. In our first reading from Revelation, the dragon threatens the life of the child. His mother must flee to protect him, like so many immigrant and refugee mothers, whose children are not rescued at the last moment as this one is. It’s a struggle for survival for this woman and her child, a reflection of the struggle that continues age after age in our world.
The familiar Gospel reading from Luke portrays Mary as she journeys to visit her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, and the encounter of the two expectant mothers and their as-yet unborn sons. Mary’s response is the ecstatic song that we usually call the Magnificat. Those who pray Evening Prayer regularly recite this canticle, and perhaps familiarity makes us numb to its promises and its threats.
Mary’s song is not peaceful. Rather, it is unsettling. It proclaims the upheaval of quiet lives. The proud will be scattered. The mighty will be cast down from their thrones. And the “lowly”—the connotation of the word in Greek, the tapeinoi, means “pressed down,” or oppressed, not those who practice the virtue of humility—they will be raised up, and the hungry will be “filled with good things.” So look out, those who sit on thrones of worldly power!
Now the problem with this is that in Luke’s Gospel it’s all in the past tense, as if it has already happened. A quick look around our world today prompts the wonderment: What? Let’s leave that question for a moment and go to the second reading, which I skipped earlier because I think it’s better to deal with it last. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is grappling with his attempt to explain the mystery of the resurrection to people who apparently were pretty skeptical about the idea. Paul too speaks of a struggle. In the end, Christ will hand over everything to God his Father, once he has “put all his enemies under his feet” an allusion to Ps. 110:1, which had already been considered to refer to the Messiah.
But, says Paul, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The resurrection of Christ has begun to put that defeat of death in motion. We’re not there yet, and that’s why Luke’s Mary in her Magnificat can see from the same perspective that Paul sees here: that last enemy will be destroyed, and when that happens, that’s when we can say that all God’s promises have been accomplished.
So why celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary? Because of what it promises. Mary too is caught up in this great process of realizing the effects of the resurrection. It’s not a promise of peace during the course of the process; rather, it’s a promise of tension and struggle. We live in time and we touch eternity.
I have a favorite poem that speaks to me of all of this: G. K. Chesterton’s Regina Angelorum, about the Assumption of Mary. I share with you its last two verses, as Mary explores her new heavenly home.
But ever she walked till away in the last high places,
One great light shone
From the pillared throne of the king of all the country
Who sat thereon;
And she cried aloud as she cried under the gibbet
For she saw her son.
Our Lady wears a crown in a strange country,
The crown he gave,
But she has not forgotten to call to her old companions
To call and crave;
And to hear her calling (one) might arise and thunder
On the doors of the grave.                                  
                                               (G.K. Chesterton, 1925)