I am chaperoning a high school trip to Rome this week. First, let me say how wonderful it is to see teenagers phoneless and agape.
The first church we visited was Santa Maria Maggiore, a 4th century basilica which contains a relic of the manger and the tomb of Bernini. Pope Francis celebrated his first papal Mass there. The basilica also makes confession available in many languages.
An English-speaking priest was not available for confession, so I braved the sacrament in Spanish. In doing so I realized something very beautiful about confessing in another language. Sins cannot be veiled in rhetoric.
English: “Father, there are times when I don’t speak well of people in front of others.”
Spanish: “Soy chismosa.” (I am a gossip.)
The simplicity required to stumble through confession in a foreign language fosters a joyful sense of culpability – culpability because the honest state of the soul must be laid bare, joy because this is the path beyond condemnation to forgiveness.
I posted this a couple years ago. It has come to mind recently as I grit my teeth and try to get through the day.
I decided that for men to love and respect a woman as Christ loves the Church takes more than holding the door, or serving her the first piece of food, or telling her how nice she looks. All of these actions are good and usually received with gratitude.
However, it’s too easy to only do these things, and do them in the name of drawing a line between the sexes so that a man can also distinguish himself from a woman unjustly – foregoing her company among friends when it suits him (even if she happens to be present), dismissing her contribution because of the enigmatic communication style, circumscribing areas of interest and achievement as though they belonged only to his sex, not valuing elements of her personhood that are unfamiliar to his own experience, etc.
It seems to me that the way a man can serve a woman as Christ in this age is to include her, to listen, to respect her manner of communication and leadership, her vision, understanding and foresight – to allow the mystery of complementarity to penetrate society in such a way that its development is characteristically human, not masculine. This is too dynamic an interchange to be a matter of quantifiable ‘equality.’ This seems to be possible only with the tremendous humility and self-scrutiny of both sexes.…
I have adopted a cardinal of my very own, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko of Poland. It’s a big responsibility. I will pray for him during the conclave.
This is part of dearth of what I like to call ‘pope culture’ that has emerged as the world attends to papal election in the post-information age. Media speculation swells – are the red shoes Prada or not? Memes abound. PopeAlarm.com promises subscribers an immediate text and/or email when white smoke emerges from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. And, my favorite – NewAdvent.org posts a daily ‘buzz score’ for each cardinal, “based on a cardinal’s relative influence and visibility, and adjusted daily based on Google search activity in various languages.”
This is humorous and enjoyable hubbub. But we are missing the point if we approach the conclave as we might follow news on “Oscars Best and Worst Dressed” or “Decision 2012” or National Signing Day. The papal election is not a vehicle for entertainment, much less speculation. Choosing who will step off the boat into the raging waters is no small matter.
The papal election is a time in which Catholics believe the Holy Spirit guides leaders of the church in prayerfully appointing the Successor of Peter. The Spirit does not emerge in memes or buzz scores. The Spirit moves as a still, small voice, akin to the voice with which Peter answered Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”
It is in this Spirit that the next pope will be elected. …
“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions,” says George Carlin, “is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.” And yet we try.
It’s not that possessions are bad. Obviously. I like my fledgling retirement account, my hormone-free Greek yogurt, my turquoise flats and my Nikon D90. I treasure the rosary beads my grandpa held in his hand on his deathbed.
But there comes a point when we must acknowledge that being well equipped for life requires more than equipment, and the sum total of our possessions and relationships, no matter how satisfying, can never amount to what brings peace to a person. There are recesses in our hearts that things, and other people, cannot reach.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, a Samaritan woman draws water from the town well. Christ meets her there. He wants to give her more.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).
Living water is like nothing the Samaritan woman has ever known, and she does not fully understand this stranger’s words. Christ awakens her to a different thirst. She recognizes that the water needed to quench this thirst cannot be drawn from a well. It must be received as a gift.
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).…
Forget giving up sweets with the subtle hope of losing the last couple pounds [guilty]. This Lent, explore what it means to be of the dust of Eve.
The following are some creative takes on how to approach the three penitential practices – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – in order to cultivate a sense of true womanhood. Readers, please include any other ideas in the ‘comments’ section! God bless your Lenten journey.
Pray the rosary. Yes, the whole thing!
Reflect on women’s stories in Scripture:
[Books of Judith, Esther, Ruth, Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-24), Sarah’s Laugh (Genesis 18:1-15), Psalm 45, Psalm 139, The Godly Woman (Proverbs 31), The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-42), The Woman with the Hemorrhage and Jairus’ Daughter (Mark 5:21-43), Marian stories of the Gospels]
Rally the troops – include Mass in your weekend activities with friends, or alter your coffee shop conversation to include spirituality.
Contemplate the unique aspects of womanhood, and of your femininity, and pray about ways to put these into action.
Pray for your vocation – your future spouse or religious order.
Read Mulieribus Dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_15081988_mulieris-dignitatem_en.html)
Replace mainstream pop with the music of Catholic artist Danielle Rose. http://www.daniellerose.com/…. She has a new CD! Fast from media and entertainment sources that mar the dignity of women, or that contribute to a woman’s negative body image.
Replace time spent reading Vogue or watching The Carrie Diaries with time browsing Catholic women’s websites such as altcatholicah.com and thenewfeminism.net.
It’s Gaudete Sunday, the occasion on which we celebrate the near coming of the Christ child. Yet today, the country grieves over 20 young lives lost. ”Gaudete” means, roughly, joy. But the events in Newtown, CT on Friday make it seem absurd to light the rose candle this week.
Joy seems out of place. Then again, so was He. He had no business being born in a barn. Of a human. With animals for company.
And this is our cause for joy, that he came, boldly, humbly, in the midst of darkness. When we encounter the darkest grief, then, we look, and he is already there, being Joy where no joy can be found.
So we light the rose candle. We welcome its gentle glow. We rejoice that the Christ child chooses to be present amidst such rough and tumble human beings, such turpitude, such hollow grief. Gaudeamus. We rejoice.
Filed under: Uncategorized …
Kindle the Christmas spirit with this crafty personalized Advent calendar! I made this calendar for my grandma. I usually don’t see her until Christmas Eve, so this is a perfect and prayerful way to stay in touch.
5 sheets Christmas-themed Construction and Scrapbook paper
2 Cardboard Squares
Acrylic Paint (red, green or white)
1 Sponge Brush
Glue Gun and Sticks
Elmer’s Craft Glue
Ruler & Pencil
24 slips of paper with handwritten or typed messages – prayers, Scripture verses, or words of encouragement to nourish your loved one(s) in the Advent season.
Step 2: Leave drawers aside. Use a glue gun to fuse a stack of six matchbox covers. Make sure the painted sides are facing the same direction. In the end, you should have four stacks of six matchboxes each.
Step 3: Form a cube with the four towers. Each tower should face out a different direction (see picture). Glue gun towers together.
Step 4: Measure and cut a cardboard top and bottom – but don’t glue them on yet!
Step 5: Measure and cut paper strips for drawer handles and for the bottoms of each drawer.
Number the handles 1-24. Tape the numbered strips to the bottom of the boxes. …
“And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him” (Luke 17:15-16)
Filed under: Uncategorized …
I stopped by the grocery store for some beer. An elderly woman shuffled past me, dropping something as she went. I picked up the ruby red leaf and placed it back in her basket. She had collected several of them.
“Beautiful leaves,” I murmured.
“Can’t get enough of them. I wish they lasted longer!”
Fall, I could chase you around the world.
Filed under: Uncategorized …
Sunday Brunch’s premiere is See Jane Single’s swan song.
Predictably, post after post of reflecting on life as a single woman – upbeat or not – wears one down. I set out to be positive, but was ultimately unable to convey that while singlehood is a lonely reality, it’s far from the epicenter of life. I felt like I was stuck in Genesis 2:18, in which God mused amidst all the goodness, “It is not good for man to be alone.” I felt like I was writing about waiting for life to “happen” while life was happening all around me.
Meditating on the “not good” was missing the mark.
Even as I await a vocation with graceless impatience, life in Christ provides all good things, and every good thing. As John Allen said, writing for NCR, ”Fundamentally, I don’t think the Catholic church gets enough credit for being a hell of a lot of fun”.
I’d like to write about the joy. Sunday brunches convey that joy. Memories of the occasional Sunday brunch thread my life together, whether at home on Christmas morning, with several dozen Domers in a dorm room kitchen, with choir members in the parish hall after Mass, whether adrift in Dublin, Oxford, Santiago, Puebla, Rome, or an Appalachian campsite, or with my family on the dock at Lake Cayuga in late summer. Each time, whether I ate heartily or not, I always came away full.
At Sunday brunches, there are mismatched plates and bowls strewn across the table; there’s juice splatters and blueberries dropped in pancake batter and a percolating coffee pot gurgling amidst the four part harmony of the cooks. …