Saturday, March 28, 2020

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Newsletter/Spring Edition

Mary Mother of Jesus Fifth Sunday of Lent - Presiders: Kathryn Shea, ARCWP and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP

Theme: You Were Made for These Times


Presider 1:  Welcome to our virtual Mary Mother of Jesus, an inclusive Catholic Community where all are welcome.  At these difficult times, it is now more important than ever to gather together to support one another as “companions on this journey”, a journey of the unknown.  For “wherever two or more of you are gathered in my Name, there is love.”

Presider 2: We invite you to pray the liturgy and respond where it says, All.  All participants will be muted during the liturgy except for the presiders and readers. During the shared homily we ask you to raise your hand if you would like to contribute. Please have bread and wine/juice in front of you as we pray our Eucharistic prayer.

Let us begin now with our opening song: Breath of the One Life
By Jan Novotka

Breath of the One Life,
blow through me,
flow though me,
Breath of Life.
Great Source of All That Is,
hidden within,
renews the face of the Earth.

Breath of the One Life,
blow through me,
flow though me,
Breath of Life.
Conscious awareness
stillness within,
renews the face of the Earth.

Breath of the One Life,
blow through me,
flow though me,
Breath of Life.
Love and compassion,
life deep within,
renews the face of the Earth.

Communal Reconciliation Rite

Presider 1: We pause now to remember the times that opposing forces have influenced us and pray that we will make wise choices according to our best selves to grow more deeply loving in challenging relationships and situations. Recall one missed opportunity, one broken or damaged relationship. Now imagine this person or situation in the light of divine healing love as we ask for forgiveness, and make wise choices according to our best selves.


Presider 1: Let us extend our hands in a sign of mutual forgiveness as we pray: 

All: Please forgive me, I am sorry, I love you, I thank you.

Opening Prayer

Presider 2: Let us pray together or opening prayer.

All: Holy One, like Jesus, we face daunting temptations and stressful situations that challenge us to make wise choices. Like Jesus, led by the Spirit into the wilderness, we open ourselves in our struggles to experience the divine light within that illuminates our goodness and liberates us for generous service.


First Reading

The first reading is adapted from the Prophet Ezekiel 
EZ 37: 12-13

Thus says the Holy One:
O my people, I will open your graves
and bring you out alive,
and bring you to the promised land.
Then you will realize that I am God,
I will breathe my life into you and you will live.

These are the words of the Prophet Ezekiel and we affirm them by saying, AMEN.

Psalm 130

Reader: Our psalm response is from Psalm 13o and the response is:
The Holy One is compassionate and merciful.

O Beloved,
Out of the depths we cry to You!
And in mercy, you hear us.
You are attentive to our supplications.

Response: The Holy One is compassionate and merciful.

You do not number the times we
Stray from you.
You are ever-ready to forgive,
That we might be healed.

Response: The Holy One is compassionate and merciful.

Our souls wait for You.
For in Your love, we live.
We wait for you
As one awaits the birth of a child, or
As one awaits the fulfillment
Of destiny.

Response: The Holy One is compassionate and merciful.

We are sons and daughters of the Light,
And we welcome you, the Heart of our hearts.
As we climb the sacred mountain of truth,
You show us mercy and love in abundance.
You are the Oneness of All.

Response: The Holy One is compassionate and merciful.

Second Reading:A Selection from We Were Made for These Times” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (abbreviated)

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.  By Clarissa Pinkola Estes
American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Sung Response before Gospel: Spirit of the Living God
Sung by Michael Crawford
Spirit of the Living God
Fall fresh on me
Spirit of the Living God
Fall fresh on me.
Melt me mold me
Fill me use me
Spirit of the Living God
Fall fresh on me.

Gospel: A reading from the Gospel of John

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying,
“Jesus, the one you love is ill.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
Let us go back to Judea.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“If you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”

Jesus said to her,
Your brother will rise.”
Martha said,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
He became deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the people said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”
Jesus, troubled again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“By now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Abba, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”

And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”
Now many who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.

These words are from the Gospel according to John, and we affirm them by saying: Amen.

Homily and Shared Reflections

Homily Starter:  Kathryn Shea, ARCWP
Theme:  You Were Made for These Times

So, I decided to use the same format that our dear sister, Janet, used last week, a chat.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt held over 30 speeches, which later became known as the “fireside chats”, via a radio address with the American people.  This was at a time of great turmoil in the world, much like we’re seeing today.  Millions of people found comfort and renewed confidence in these “chats”. Oh, how I do wish we had him back right now.  But, I believe through our own “chats”, with our MMOJ family, our own families, and friends, we too can find comfort and renewed hope through these difficult times.   So, here goes. 
I found it a bit ironic that this week’s Readings touch into the most profound of human mysteries, the mysteries of life and death.  Our world is certainly dealing with this mystery every day now, as we see the number of patients with the virus increase each day, as well as the numbers of deaths.  It is indeed a frightening time.  But, we were made for these times. 
But, there are so many things that we can find comfort in and we have been given a unique opportunity to do just that.  I’m trying to just find peace in the beauty of my husband’s orchids, the birds flying overhead, and yes, even Seth’s messy room.  We have a lot more time to spend as a family now, a gift we rarely get.    
And I certainly find great comfort from the words in our second Reading.  “Especially do not lose hope.  Most particularly because, the fact is we were made for these times” and “In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you.  It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. 
So, as I was thinking about what I was going to write for today’s homily starter, I was trying to think of how to connect the miracle that occurred with Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and what we are encountering today.  Where is today’s miracle?  Where is Jesus?  And then I realized Jesus is right here with us and miracles are happening all around us, if we have eyes to see them, hearts to receive them, and hands to make them happen.  So, I’m curious to know what miracles have you seen or do you think are occurring in this current situation we are in?
Please raise your hand if you would like to make a comment and Mary Theresa will unmute you.    

Statement of Faith

We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery
beyond all definition and rational understanding,
the heart of all that has ever existed,
that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of the Divine Word,
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion,
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's
prophets, mystics, and saints.

 We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of divine love,
a source of wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of peace in the world.

We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One,
the life that is our innermost life,
the breath moving in our being,
the depth living in each of us.

We believe that the Divine kin-dom is here and now,
stretched out all around us for those
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,
and hands to make it happen.

Prayers of and for the Community

Presider 1:  Aware that the Holy One is present within us and works through us, we bring to the table our intentions
All: We remember and we pray. 

Presider 2:  For  all  health care workers who are bringing healing to the suffering,
All: We remember and we pray. 

Presider 1:  For wisdom for government leaders in this world-wide pandemic,
All: We remember and we pray. 

Presider 2:  For those who have lost their health, jobs  and homes,
All: We remember and we pray. 

Presider 1:  For all those who need our prayers. Please speak your intentions now.  (pause)
All: We remember and we pray. 

Presider 2: We can do all things in the power of the Spirit working through us.
All: Amen


Preparation of The Gifts

Presider 1: 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 2: God dwells among us.

All: And in all people everywhere.

Presider 1: Lift up your hearts.

All: We lift them up to make wise decisions toward what is good and holy.

Presider 2: Affirm the power of Light within you and within all. 

All: We trust in the wisdom of the Spirit guiding us.

Presider 1: Let us pray together our Eucharistic Prayer.

All: O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us as we set our hearts on belonging to you. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all creation.

You know our limitations and our essential goodness and you love us as we are. You call us to love with your compassionate heart and inspire us to see the good in others and forgive their limitations. Acknowledging your presence in each other and in all of creation, we sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy (Karen Drucker)

We are Holy, Holy, Holy…3x
We are whole.

Spirit divine, Come to me
Feeling love, Healing me .

Open my heart, Allow me to see,
Beauty & love, Lives in me.

You are Holy, Holy, Holy….
We are Holy, Holy, Holy…

All: Guiding Spirit, when opposing forces in us tug and pull and we are caught in the tension of choices, inspire us to make wise decisions toward what is good.

We thank you for our brother, Jesus, and for all our sisters and brothers who have modeled for us a way to live and love in challenging times. Inspired by them, we choose life over death, we choose to be light in dark times.

Presider 2: Please extend your hands in blessing.

All: We are ever aware of your Spirit in us and among us at this Eucharistic table and we are grateful for this bread and wine which reminds us of your presence with us now and our call to be the body of Christ in the world.

All: On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at supper with his companions and friends.  He reminded them of all that he taught them, and he bent down and washed their feet. 

Presider 1 lifts plate as the community prays the following:

When he returned to his place at the table, he lifted the bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread and offered it to them saying: 
Take and eat, this is my very self.

Presider 2 lifts the cup as community prays the following:

Then he took the cup of the covenant, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying:
Take and drink.
Whenever you remember me like this,
I am among you.

Let us share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace.

All: Holy One, your transforming energy is within us and we join our hearts with all who are working for an inclusive church and just world.  We pray for wise leaders in our religious communities. We pray for courageous and compassionate leaders in our world communities. 

Like Jesus, we open ourselves up to your Spirit, for it is through living as Jesus lived that we awaken to your Spirit within, moving us to glorify you, at this time and all ways.

Presider 1: Let us pray as Jesus taught us:

Holy One, you are within, around and among us.
We celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come; your will be done,
unfolding from the depths within us.
Each day you give us all that we need.
You remind us of our limits and we let go.
You support us in our power, and we act with courage.
For you are the dwelling place within us,
the empowerment around us,
and the celebration among us,
now and forever, Amen.  
Adapted by Miriam Therese Winter 

Presider 2:  Jesus said to his disciples, “My peace I leave You.  My peace I give You.” 
The peace of the Holy One is also with You. 
Let us share a cyber hug!


Presider 1: Please join in the prayer for the breaking of the bread:

All:  Holy One, we will serve the least and the last,
Holy One, we will care for our sisters and brothers in need,
Holy One, we will advocate for justice and equality

Presiders lift the bread and wine

Presider 1: "This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing. Through it we are nourished and we nourish each other. 

All:  What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.

Presider 2: Please receive communion and know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. You are the Body of Christ.

Communion Song/Meditation 
I Will Not Leave You Comfortless by Jan Phillips

I will not leave you comfortless,
I will not leave you alone
I am the air you breathe in
I’m the light of every star and every dawn.


Presider 1: Please extend your hands in blessing.

All: May God bless us with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless us with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people.

May God bless us with the gift of tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really can make a difference in this world, so that we are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Let it be so! Amen!

Closing Song:

Presider 2: Please join in singing our closing song:  Imagine by John Lennon

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus indulgences evoke Francis' 'ridiculously-pardoning' church by Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

My Response: God forgives everything. One does not need indulgences to be forgiven and released from punishment. On one hand, I see this as a pastoral compassionate response from Pope Francis to reassure Catholics, especially elders for whom the ordained priest is the usual conduit of mercy for serious sin in the sacrament of Reconciliation. 
Granting indulgences was popular in medieval times and I bet most Catholics are not aware that the contemporary Church still grants them. Now, Pope Francis is offering these new indulgences as a get into heaven insurance policy for the suffering and dying. 
While I am sure his heart is in the right place, these new indulgences are  a big theological step backward!
God is not  under the control, dare I say, manipulation of the RC Church. 
Martin Luther  started the Reformation to stop such practices in the 16th century. Many of us thought that Vatican 11 dumped indulgences and offered a renewed theology.
This is a wake-up call that we need  to integrate the mystical, prophetic and sacramental teaching of contemporary theologians and the lived experiences of forgiveness in the lives of the people of God. 
In my view, the bottom line is that we are held in the embrace of love and tender forgiveness in every moment of our life and in our dying. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP
ROME — Announcement of the Vatican's offering of new plenary indulgences to those around the world affected by the coronavirus may have left some Catholics asking, "We still do that?"
The answer is yes. And theologians say the move, made in a March 20 decree from the apostolic penitentiary, shows a seemingly unprecedented level of pastoral care for those who suffer from the virus — especially those who may die in isolation without being able to receive final rites.
Jesuit Fr. James Corkery, an Irish theologian at the Pontifical Gregorian University, said the decree fits with Pope Francis' vision for a "merciful, welcoming, 'ridiculously-pardoning' church."

20190307T1036-1573-CNS-POPE-FRANCIS-CONFESSION crop.jpg

Pope Francis hears the confession of a priest at Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran in March 2019. (CNS/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis hears the confession of a priest at Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran in March 2019. (CNS/Vatican Media)
"He wants people to be 'received back,' to be forgiven, above all to be loved," said Corkery, who has written extensively on the church after the Second Vatican Council.
In Catholic teaching, an indulgence is the remission of the eventual punishment due for sins that have been confessed and forgiven. A plenary indulgence, which can only be granted in various ways outlined by the Vatican, involves the remission of all of a person's eventual punishment.
The penitentiary's new decree offers special plenary indulgences to any Catholic affected by the virus, to health care workers and their families, to those who pray for the end of the epidemic, and to those who die without access to the sacraments.
For those in the first three categories, the indulgence can be obtained if the person is sorry for their sins and prayerfully watches a celebration of the Mass, a recitation of the rosary, a practice of the Via Crucis, or some other devotion.
For persons near death from the virus and unable to receive the sacraments because of isolation measures, the decree says they can obtain the indulgence "at the point of death, as long as they have recited some prayers during their life."
Jeremy Wilkins, a theologian at Boston College, said he sees "something new" in the offering to those who are dying.
"The conditions there are waived. It says ... the church fulfills the conditions for you," said the theologian. "That's quite amazing."
"It really is tender," said Wilkins, who has focused his work in the areas of Christology and grace. "I think the church very tenderly wants to say, 'Be sorry for your sins, and know that you're not alone, and it will be OK.' "
Jesuit Fr. Peter Folan, a theologian at Georgetown University, said he found the decree's treatment of the dying "especially moving."
"There's just a deep theology behind that, and just a deep understanding of who God is, that God doesn't ever turn God's gaze away from anybody, especially those at that most important event of their life, which is our death," said Folan.
Both Wilkins and Folan said that it appeared that the penitentiary had two primary objectives in offering the new indulgences: to show mercy to Catholics facing a severe time of trial, and to encourage them to think of their suffering in relation to that endured by Christ, and all the saints who have come before us.
Said Wilkins: "The over-riding thing is that it's an attempt to find a way to say, 'You're not alone in your suffering. Your suffering is not meaningless. And it's not solitary. Because it actually fits into this great mystery of the suffering of Christ on behalf of his church, and the suffering of all the members on behalf of one another.' "
Folan, who has focused his work in sacramental theology, said an indulgence tells those it is offered to, and the wider church, that "there's something about what these people are experiencing now that's integrating their lives more fully to be like the life of Christ."
"Those who are infected with the virus, their families, remind us that they're configured with Christ, who suffered, and who witnessed suffering," said the U.S. Jesuit. "Health care workers are configured to him in the sense that he too was a healer."
Corkery said indulgences are ultimately about "a generous remission of sin."
"Indulgences, in the hands of Francis, must be seen in the context of his dream of a loving, merciful, pardoning, welcoming church," said the Irish Jesuit.
"Older people who still have fears about dying and not being in the 'state of grace,' about dying without divine forgiveness because — even though they are repentant — they haven't been able to confess their sins, could be greatly helped by what Francis is seeking to do for them, for us all," he said.
[Joshua J. McElwee ( is NCR Vatican correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

In his human 'evolution,' Romero is a saint for our time Mar 26, 2020, National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

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St. Archbishop Óscar Romero greets worshipers in San Salvador, El Salvador, in an undated photo. (CNS/Octavio Duran)
St. Archbishop Óscar Romero greets worshipers in San Salvador, El Salvador, in an undated photo. (CNS/Octavio Duran)
The problem with being canonized is that the saintly designation tends to immediately obscure the saint's humanity, that ordinary flesh-and-blood reality that answered the call to extraordinary acts of love.
It is a tendency to resist at all costs when commemorating the 40th anniversary of the assassination of St. Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador. It wasn't the moment of death that established him as saintly — scores of priests and religious, we know, died at the hands of murderous death squads in El Salvador — but rather it was the life and witness that placed him, while celebrating Mass, in the crosshairs of an assassin's aim.
Chris Herlinger, international correspondent for Global Sisters Report, asks the compelling questions in his recent report from El Salvador: "Which Oscar Romero is being honored? The Saint? The humble priest? The martyred Catholic? A man entombed in history at a particular time and place, or a living example for a country still struggling with the legacy and after-effects of a decade-long civil war?"
The answer, of course, is all of the above. Romero is not divisible by theme or role or a single period of life. It was the humble — and according to those who knew him, the sometimes not-so-humble and demanding — young priest, already an accomplished preacher, who became the bishop and then archbishop.
It was the gradually awakened conscience of a cleric — operating in a deeply divided ecclesial culture within a deeply divided country — that fueled his sharp analysis and resistance to the status quo.
As longtime El Salvador resident and journalist Gene Palumbo wrote in 2018, Romero's transformation wasn't, as often depicted, a sudden reaction to the murder of a priest friend, Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande. Rather, it occurred over his time as bishop in a rural area far from the capital city, years before Grande was murdered.
Unknown to many, even those who knew him, wrote Palumbo, "Romero had changed during an extended stay, in the mid-'70s, far from the capital city. In the early '70s, as an auxiliary bishop in San Salvador, he was seen as highly conservative; that was the period when he drew the ire of the priests who were so upset by the news of his appointment as archbishop. But in 1974, he was named bishop of the rural diocese of Santiago de María. There, he drew close to farmworkers and catechists who were targeted by the military. What he saw led him to a major shift in outlook."
Romero himself described the transformation as an "evolution."
Imagine the belly-tightening fear Romero lived with for years as he addressed the murderous activity on both sides of the military and political divides as the Salvadoran civil war progressed. Imagine the terror he had to overcome daily and with each decision to confront the insidious government oppression and the activity of the notorious death squads.
The record of his sermons and the courageous radio broadcasts decrying the violence and repression is well-known. But he was, first and foremost, a pastor.
The press in his own country labeled him a communist. The powerful U.S. government to the north was supplying the military with equipment and was training troops that ultimately would be charged with gross human rights violations, often against the civilian population.
The record of his sermons and the courageous radio broadcasts decrying the violence and repression is well-known, particularly the broadcast addressed to the country's security forces the day before he was assassinated. But he was, first and foremost, a pastor.
The prophet, in this case, was also dedicated to the institution. A diary that he kept for two of his three years as archbishop is a record of the extraordinary woven as but one thread through the ordinary. His last diary entry, March 20, 1980, four days before he was killed, was an account of a day of meetings over budgetary and personnel matters, a clergy senate meeting and elections, discussions of issues involving diocesan bureaucracy with a wish for greater church unity running through it all.
Toward the end of the nearly two pages of recorded dictation, his thoughts returned again to "this situation that has me worried with regard to the financial situation and administration of our archdiocese."
Long before he was canonized, Romero was for many a saint by acclamation. He was a saint not because of some supernatural connection or by claims of miracles, nor even by martyrdom, though that was the reality.
He was a saint for raising the Gospel as a basis for opposing the activity of an overwhelmingly Catholic state. He rescued Catholicism from its role as a prop conferring respectability on power and wealth. He returned it to its proper role as an expression of faith in a God of mercy and a Christ who resides with the lowly. A proper saint, in all of his human "evolution," for our time.
A version of this story appeared in the April 3-16, 2020 print issue under the headline: In his human 'evolution,' Romero is a saint for our time .

A Message of Hope and Love in a Time of Pandemic and Panic by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

In this time of world pandemic, we can can experience the infinite, boundless love of God , no matter how insane life is. Right now in the midst of great sorrow, loss, tragedy and death because of the Coronavirus. I see so many examples of goodness in the health care workers and many others who are doing so much to help those in need of healing, comfort and strength.

I see grace overflowing everywhere in those who are doing all they can to be part of the world's healing and transformation in this crisis.
For me ,the bottom line is always that God is right beside each of us. As the prominent theologian Karl Rahner reminds us, God is always already there in every moment of life, in all our struggles, in all our anxieties, and in all our joys.

Every moment, every feeling, thought, desire, and action of our lives can reveal God’s abiding presence. The Holy One is forever loving us every moment of every day of our lives no matter what is happening. We can choose to invite God to share with us the good times, the hard times, the times we feel like dancing with angels, the times we are in the pits of darkness and pain. Let us hold one another in love during this time of physical distancing as beloved family. Let us embrace one another in a huge world-wide cyber hug this day and every day and pray with passionate hearts for healing and wholeness for all who are sick, suffering, lonely isolated and in need of loving support! Know that I hold everyone in my heart in loving prayer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Catholics Gather for Mass in Their Own Homes, Adopting Practice of Early Christian Community by Beverly Bingle RCWP

Followers of the way of Jesus in the early church gathered weekly for a common meal, which they shared in their homes, called “house churches.” Each meal would include a blessing prayer, the breaking of bread, and the sharing of bread and wine, remembering Jesus. Over time this Communion (a Greek word for “fellowship”) came to be called Eucharist (another Greek word, meaning “thanksgiving”), and it became the focus of the weekly celebration.

They didn’t have priests. Prayer in those house churches was led by the people—men and women—who lived in the house. As Paul traveled around converting and baptizing Christians, he didn’t hang around and say Mass for them, and he didn’t ordain anyone. The custom of ordaining priests didn’t even start until the second century. Ordinary people led the Mass, and Paul traveled on. A house church got together to share bread and wine, read the scriptures, pray, and help the needy.

Please join me again this weekend. I’ll be praying the Mass at 4:30 on Saturday and 5:30 on Sunday, alone at my kitchen table, joined in prayer with those of you who are doing the same, whether it’s at those times or other times. While we can’t get together physically, we can gather in spirit.

So please set out some bread or crackers or cookies and some wine or grape juice or some other drink, sit at your home table in your home church, alone or with your family, and say Mass with me. We will be, as Villanova’s Professor Massimo Faggioli put it, “an icon of the moments of stark loneliness of the believer in the secular world, but always in the company of the faith and of other faithful, sparsely but ever present, somewhere congregated.”

You are in my prayers. Please keep me in yours. And may God continue to bless you and keep you,

P.S. In addition to historical practice, here’s some theological support for getting together in the Spirit, from Daniel P. Horan, Franciscan friar and assistant professor of systematic theology and spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, in Communion of saints, an important tenet of our faith, can help during coronavirus times:

Theologian and St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, professor emerita at Fordham University, stated at the outset of her 1998 book, Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of Saints, that misconceptions about the doctrine are so prevalent that any effort to talk constructively about the communion of saints requires first identifying what this belief "is not." She explains:

This doctrinal symbol does not in the first instance refer to paradigmatic figures, those outstanding individuals traditionally called "saints," but rather names the whole community of people graced by the Spirit of God. Neither does it point exclusively to those who have died; rather, the community of living persons is its primary referent. Furthermore, while obviously interested in human beings, the symbol does not allude to them exclusively but embraces the whole natural world in a "communion of the holy."

At its core, the communion of saints is an affirmation of the empowering, unifying, and healing work of the Holy Spirit among all God's people and creation.

The Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, beautifully and succinctly describes the reality of the communion of saints, noting that, "all the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit."

How Do I Start a House Church?

See also article from Diocese of Arkansas:

In early Christianity, there were no church buildings. Eucharist was celebrated by the Church — that is, the Body of Christ — assembled together in private homes. Referred to as house churches today, in their own time, these Christians would have thought of themselves as the Church and the place where they assembled as someone’s house. Note how Paul greeted the Christians in Corinth: “The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca together with the church at their house send you many greetings in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:19).

The sacredness of these places did not arise from their architecture, it resided in the presence of those gathered — the assembling of the local Body of Christ — and in what they had gathered together to receive, the Body of Christ in the signs of bread and wine.

The late Father Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s masterful book, “St. Paul’s Corinth,” reveals a great deal about these early house churches. One of the more surprising revelations in his book is how few Christians comprised the Church in Corinth. With all the problems Paul had to deal with among the Corinthians, it would seem that it ought to have taken a lot more people to get into that much trouble!

Based on archeological findings in Corinth, it is very unlikely that Paul is addressing a Church of more than 50 people. It might have been even smaller. Forty may be a safer guess. These small numbers are based on the size of houses in Corinth, and the house that Murphy-O’Connor used as his primary example was the spacious abode of someone with considerable wealth.

Examining the architectural remains of that house adds color to our understanding of Paul’s criticism of the manner in which the Corinthians were attempting to celebrate the Eucharist. We know that it was common in the early days of the Church for the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated in the context of a larger meal that was referred to as an “agape,” or love feast (see verse 12 of Jude).

If 40 or 50 were to have gathered in one of Corinth’s larger houses, it would have taken at least two rooms to accommodate them. Traditionally, meals would have been served in the triclinium, a dining room where guests would recline on couches which took up a lot of room. If a crowd had come to the house for an agape meal, only the most favored guests — most likely the wealthiest — would have been served there. The others would be relegated to the atrium, a room that was open to the elements from above and where they would be seated on the floor.

Paul claims that during these gatherings, the fact that some were well-fed and getting drunk while others went hungry, proved that their meals failed the test of a genuine Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). In a real Eucharist, they would recognize and respect each other as the Body of Christ.