Sunday past was Pentecost. Fifty days after Easter, the Roman [Catholic] Church, among others, celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit as she descended upon the apostles and gave them a power to speak in all languages. To reach all people with the Good News.
This Spirit moves and animates in all sorts of interesting ways. After mass the Sunday before (where we celebrated the Ascension), one of the choir members approached me and said “None of us [musicians] will be here next week. So, if you want, you could lead some of the old songs.” Hmmmm. I retired from my role as parish musician several years ago after decades of service. It was a difficult call, and not always a smooth transition to be frank. And, my preference for guitar accompaniment and the songs I would choose seem to be a bit out of line with the current administration. Still, I considered the possibility of leading a song or two acapella.
I subscribe strongly to St. Augustine’s thought: To sing is to pray twice. I have struggled with the current music at church. It is lovely and harmonic and to my soul lacking energy. Most weeks I spend most of mass trying to find the things that can build me up and help me to give thanks. It’s difficult and I am all too often just sad.
Therefore, I did consider a couple of hymns that might be appropriate and singable. Like “Come Holy Ghost.” Much to my surprise Fr. Gil came up to me before mass and said “Kim said you would probably be helping with music this morning.” Now, it seemed I needed to at least lead Come Holy Ghost for opening. I don’t really know the current mass parts well enough to lead them, nor to I particularly like them. But, an opening song, OK. By the time I listened to the readings, I had a second hymn and a closing. So, all I needed was a communion song. Listen to the Spirit, listen to the Spirit, listen to the Spirit.
By the end of mass I had four songs/hymns. I could hear those behind me singing. It felt good. A young couple in the row behind us tapped me on the should and mouthed “Thank you” with a smile. The pastor thanked me for helping (in front of everyone). Again — it felt good. My soul was comforted. Isn’t the Spirit the Comforter?
After mass I was also greeted by a small group who thanked me and encouraged me. Fr. Gil suggested that if I wanted to show up at the Saturday 4:30 mass he would welcome the music. We are definitely Sunday folks, but when I first came to this parish I came on Saturday afternoon and helped with music. Is there a pattern emerging?
Not “doing music” seems to have a much deeper affect on me than I have previously been willing to recognize. Not sure what will happen going forward. At this time I shall enjoy the comfort of the Spirit, the praying twice as I sing. I will appreciate those people who responded to the movement of the Spirit and encouraged me.
It feels good. It feels peaceful. It feels like I’m healing, finally.
This idea of seeing and accepting reality has been following me around of late. It nudges me and it challenges me. Somehow, I’m pretty sure it will be a recurring theme so I’d best just learn to deal with it.
Today’s Gospel reading was LONG… we got the whole story it seems. If you want to read it in full go here: John 9:1-41 — yes, the entire chapter. The story is of a man who was born blind. He runs into Jesus, and Jesus makes a mud mask using his own spit and clay soil. He tells the man to go wash at Siloam which the man does, and he can see! And, by the way, this happened on the Sabbath. Well, this guy rejoices, but most folks don’t believe him. They think maybe it’s someone who looks like him. And, the officials, when they have to admit that it is him, and yes his blindness has been healed, they commence to arguing if this Jesus can be from God, since he broke the Sabbath rules and healed someone on the Sabbath.
Enter today’s reflection from Richard Rohr with the observation that sometimes (ok, most times?) we are not seeking to be right, but to be in control. It doesn’t really if I’m actually right as long as my view wins. We see not only in politics but in daily life as well. “If I can’t win this argument, let me turn it to a different argument.”
Back to the man born blind. It seems that because he is willing to tell his experience, he gets kicked out of the synagogue. He has to leave what should have been a rejoicing community, and he returns to Jesus.
My past jumped up in my mind. Nearly 25 years ago I found that God/Jesus/religion as I experienced it got me pushed out of what I had formerly felt to be a loving community. It was painful. I made the decision to look elsewhere in order to survive. I went to a different Catholic church (the only other one in the entire county). And, I found Jesus waiting to welcome me home. Granted, there have been struggles in this community as well, but I knew deep in my soul, 25 or so years ago, that this was right, proper, life-giving. My eyes were opened. I have had years to try to understand that I don’t need to judge Church A, but to accept that they see things quite differently than do I. It’s took years to be able to set foot in there again, and to be honest, I am still not comfortable there. But, it was time to seek Right, not control.
There are so many ways I have to let go of my side and seek truth. Sometimes it scary because God can speak truth to me from the mouths of folks I totally distrust and dislike intensely. I just don’t want to take off my blinders and allow truth to come from these dark places. And, I know well the saying that Satan can quote scripture with the best of us.
I must remember that reality doesn’t care what I think or believe. I remember it seems that the State Legislature in Tennessee at one time thought they could declare the value of pi to be 3, so calculations would be easier. Yeah — but bridges and more would fall down. Reality didn’t really give a flip about how easy it was to calculate certain values. Other current political, social and religious ideas run headlong into reality: You can try to tell people not to talk about sexual preference or gender issues, but that simply won’t stop how a person feels and what he/her/their preferences are. You can declare the value of pi to be 3, but the universe isn’t going to change. You can refuse to believe “supernatural things” occur, but you can’t change my experiences. You can edit the January 6 videos to show only the parts you want to be true, but it won’t bring back a dead police officer (or 2) or the fear felt by so many during the events.
Start with the real. Look beyond outward appearances. Seek the truth.
Sunday’s mass celebrated Mary, Mother of God. It is her feast day after all.
I’ve long had problems with Mary on a pedestal. No problem with Mary as a sister who could stand by me as a woman or a mother. What I find most fascinating is that in order for God to become human, it required a woman to cooperate. Jesus came as a baby. Jesus grew in a womb and had to pass through the trauma of being born. Yes, I think birth is probably our first trauma — pushed through a narrow gate like the proverbial camel, emerging usually into light from total darkness, leaving the warmth provided by mom’s body. Yup — exciting, but still traumatic! Even with a c-section a baby is suddenly taken from a safe, warm place into a lighted, open space that is likely chilly.
So, while the Word existed one with God (the Father/Mother/Creator), when it came time to take on being a human, a willing woman was required. And, that child was a boy, to boot!
I find it perplexing as well that since Jesus becoming a human required a mother, then why is it that women are not allowed to be ordained as Catholic priests? A woman did cooperate to bring God/the Word into the flesh. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper were “Take and eat, this is my body… do this in memory of me.” Only a human person who could bear children could actually have brought the original “Body of Christ” into the world. So, now, we are not considered valid to consecrate the Eucharist? Hmmmm.
And so, I will continue to ask Mary to pray for me and for many things. And I will continue to be certain that women are more than qualified to consecrate the Eucharist.
Some mornings I just have to give up and get up. Most times, I can let the thoughts roll on by after considering them. I always think I’ll remember the insights when I get up. Alas, it seems that this is one of those days to get up and make notes of all those deep down things that showed up.
A couple of Sundays ago, our young, wet behind the ears priest reflected on the parable of the mustard seed. He caught me short when he started with the idea of faith as all the information about what we [Catholic Christians] say we believe. I thinking “What?” The Catechism, the specifics, all the tenets of the Faith, etc… okay, I guess that is a definition of faith. I, however, think of those things as Religion.
So, I was relieved as he moved on to the idea of faith as trust. Now, we are getting somewhere. Faith is a belief, a trust in something or someone. All those rules, and statements, etc are maybe the result or the revelation of how faith has impacted our lives. Looking beyond the surface and accepting what is often hard to see and trust.
All of this led me to thinking about scrapbooking layouts revealing the image beyond surface. Yes, I know this seems a leap here. But stay with me. Just for a minute. Thanks.
Of late I have been digging into some digital scrapbooking layouts where there is a textured background, but another image is revealed in part. Hard to describe in words, but maybe an image would help:
All that pretty pinky base, and low and behold, sunrise at the beach is partially revealed, with birds laid on top, and a 3 frames to focus one’s attention. In many ways this is how faith works, especially if one practices contemplation. The details of the what lies beyond begin to be revealed.
What is my God? or yours?
Onward marched my random thoughts. All the way to remembering a meme (okay, a quote) I saw yesterday attributed to GK Chesterton.
Once [you] abolish God, the Government becomes God. Whenever the people do not believe in something beyond the world, they will worship the world.
OK. I find it difficult to accept words themselves without considering who is passing them on. In this case, I know the person posting is pretty much a right wing, don’t take away my gasoline/diesel vehicle or my guns type who is seems pretty sure that financial success or failure is due entirely to how hard you try. So, I have issues because of the source. I fully agree that we will believe in something, and that something becomes our God. I find it hard to take these sorts of things without a large grain of salt because I believe I understand that the words mean something quite different to me than they do to the poster. I see the poster’s God being Self, Self Reliance, Guns, Stability. I see the warning to check what/who is my God. Is it security? Is it being right? That’s on me — to take inventory and have a good long, honest look at myself.
So, give me the grace to see unexpected good in unexpected people, and to be able to tell them so.
I sometimes reflect on those times I have known the presence of God in an almost tangible way.
I envy those who remember childhood as a time of safety, innocence and carefree fun. I seek to remember the times I felt that way. Then those feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, fear and just general discomfort arise and run amok over me. My mother once told me she thought me very shy, despite the fact I talked a lot (got teased about it) and I think I was rather outgoing. She once asked me why I always wanted to do things that I was not really good at (mostly athletic/physical pursuits) — implying, correctly, that I seemed disinterested in things where I could excel (intellectual/academic).
In high school I reached a point where I decided that I had to choose: to actually be a Christian or to admit I didn’t believe it and walk away. I had to get off of that fence. It was a pointed picket fence, painted white, in my mind. Coming from the South and good Calvinist roots, I feared blowing off the God of the churches I knew, I didn’t want to go to hell, etc. So, I chose the all-in route. I became some form of “Jesus freak” as it were. Of course, I missed the entire point of the Gospel. I took a rather judgmental approach to life and others. I am sorry for the pain I caused during this part of my journey.
This was an essential step it seems. To decide. To step out. To take a stand. Maybe right choice, wrong reasons. What is clear to me now is that it was more fear driven than anything else. Typical me. At least I was reaching out in some way.
On my religious/faith journey I came to the [Roman] Catholic Church by a crooked path. My first experiences of church were in the Southern Baptist Church (grandparents) and the Presbyterian Church. Both of Calvinist roots. From there I wandered into non-denominational groups as well as Pentecostal churches (I remember the Assembly of God and Church of God); I tried out Bible study with a local Church of Christ. Oh, and then the Methodist Student Center in college alongside the Catholic Student Center.
Ah! 1970s Catholics: people of community and faith who also enjoyed a party, some dancing, a few beers (especially green beer on St. Patrick’s Day) all while exhibiting a deep and abiding faith and dedication to the church (and mass). A new world.
Which leads me to a second moment of decision, under a fig tree. Yeah, I know — the story of Nathaniel is not lost on me.
Sitting under the fig tree that at one time graced the backyard of St. Michael’s church (founded as Sacred Heart Church), I heard the Lord say “You are going to be Catholic.” My response was similar to Moses when he tried to convince God that he wasn’t the right person to lead the Hebrews. In Moses’ words: “Not me, take Aaron!” As a lifelong protestant Christian, this was some serious stuff. (Thoughts here: I’m not becoming some damn Papist… you’re asking me to give up my identity! This is like leaving the church.) Nevermind that I was already starting to go to daily mass, did music for Sunday mass and generally hung out primarily Catholic college students.
God calls. And, in the end, I became a part of the Roman Catholic communion. It took 2 full rounds of Inquiry classes (now morphed into RCIA), and having to convince a priest (or 2) and a couple of nuns that this was the right move. I fully understand their concerns, but I also have learned that God draws straight with crooked lines (was that Vincent de Paul who said that?).
Fast forward past college graduation, grad school, marriage and becoming a mother. Fast forward through moving back to Auburn. Much frustration and probably some depression. A sense of inner deadness.
All I can say is be careful with what you ask for. In the confessional, trying to get past the dead feeling, my ask was to “widen the parameters” — I guess that was a cry to help be open up and look closely at where I was. Be brave. It was a time where I truly felt Jesus in the room. I felt I could reach out and touch Him. And, my world went upside down, inside out — a swiftly tilting planet as it were.
I wish I could say it was the beginning of a time of smiles and joy and more. Not so much. Confronting oneself is not an easy task. It was at times quite painful. I shut down many things that I couldn’t handle. But I found someone inside that I finally liked.
Not long after, I felt the wrath of an ultra-conservative group within the parish enabled by a new priest. Another call, another step. Another process.
One Saturday evening I took myself to a new and strange [to me] parish. Small space. The original Catholic church in the county. No music beyond the priest leading singing acapella. Music has always been an important part of liturgy to me. And yet, it was right. I went up to communion. When I returned to my seat, I promise you, it seemed to me that Jesus was waiting. I sat down and it felt like an arm was around my shoulder and a voice whispered in my ear: “Welcome home.”
It took another 18 months to completely move into this new home. It took a long penance where the music I led at mass was a prayer for those who I felt persecuted me. This time it seems I lost my parish and found my church. That Church is much, much larger than a parish. But this move was one done in love, not fear.
Themes I notice: sitting (sitting on a fence, sitting under a fig tree, sitting in a confessional, sitting in a pew); loss; stepping out;