I'm sorry she says softening her tone averting her gaze shifting her posture willing the other to see that she means no harm I'm sorry she says when she actually means Pardon me -or- No, thank you -or- Here's what I think about it I'm sorry she says when it's the other person who screwed up, caused harm, bears blame the other person who offered what she doesn't need or want the other person who just heard her apologize for no good reason and is no longer interested I'm sorry she also says on the rare occasion when her apology has merit Why does she hide behind that simpering sorry? Is it fitting to say sorry in a crowd that seeks her vision rather than to say what she means? Is it fitting to say sorry to a man in order to submit in the way she expects he expects when young women are watching every move she makes? Is it honest to say sorry to a challenger rather than to speak forth the prophetic fire that blazes within her? Why does she say sorry, sorry, sorry when so little of what she does deserves her easy self-deprecation self-humiliation self-abasement? What if she stopped watering down her virtue and instead
began her day with a strong cup of I'm not sorry ? (What a HERE I AM, LORD that would be) ~~~ The above is inspired by two people I respect who recently asked me, on separate occasions, why I say sorry when I do. I have long regarded "I'm sorry" as a gesture of hospitality in tense or difficult situations, but I am beginning to rethink that. I am grateful to my gentle adversaries for inviting me to see beyond my limited vision of what genuine hospitality might look like from a (female) leader.
If you've never had the experience of participating in a spiritual discernment committee, I invite you to consider it. After my fifth (and final) meeting with my discernment committee for priesthood yesterday evening, my committee confirmed that they heard my call to priesthood. And that's not even the extraordinary part. The extraordinary part is that, as I prayed yesterday before my meeting, I prayed for total surrender to God's will, and for the faithfulness not to run if that will was something my ego didn't like. My total surrender granted me total, deep, quieting peace. The extraordinary part is that, having let go of my attachment to the outcome of my discernment process, I happened to read (during evening prayer) the story in Matthew about the disciples who wanted to know why they couldn't heal the sick on their own when Jesus so easily could. Jesus told them it was because they lacked faith, and that if they had faith even the size of a mustard seed, mountains would move for them. And I realized at that moment that my mustard seed faith was what had moved the mountain of my ego in order to make a straight path for Spirit to enter and dwell deep within my heart. The extraordinary part is that, despite having a clear sense of call when I walked into the process, my sense of call widened and deepened and became more rooted as the dialogue went on.
The extraordinary part is that, especially in the final two meetings, as I listened to the challenging questions of my committee members, I perceived Spirit doing the asking. And as I offered my vulnerable, open-hearted answers, I perceived Spirit speaking through me. (It's fair to say that I've never experienced God's voice speaking to me so powerfully as I have in my discernment committee meetings, and for a Benedictine who hears God speaking to her through liturgy and scripture and encounters with others all the time, that's saying a lot.)
The extraordinary part is that, despite my Enneagram-three-personality-type's desire to manage a situation in such a way that the outcome is "positive," I was required to relinquish my ability to do that in order to speak plainly and truthfully. I was painfully aware that my deep honesty could at any moment result in the humiliation of my ego, and I spoke anyway. In that total risk of my ego, I realized it was not my ego that spoke, but Spirit.
When I walked out of my meeting last night, I had no idea what my committee members had heard. I didn't know what they would say. My three-ish ability to anticipate the outcome of the process failed me spectacularly. And I perceived in my failure the possibility of God's success--success in finding a way to make use of the quirky instrument that I am.
My committee is passing me on to the next steps of the discernment process, steps that will be challenging in their own ways. What my committee heard may not be confirmed by the next folks I encounter in the discernment process. But what happens next is not my concern.
The most important piece to emerge for me from this discernment process is the profound recognition that my heart--my whole heart--belongs to the one I call God. Whatever comes, I know that I will be faithful to the path God has prepared for me. I won't turn away. This is God's gig, and I am God's beautiful, imperfect instrument.
What song(s) will God choose to play through me for the uplifting, healing, and reconciling of her creation?
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardis Gras in the Christian tradition. Time to use up whatever remains in the larder, because pretty soon we'll be fasting.... Well, actually, I don't have a larder. I don't even have lard. But I am Christian, and Lent starts on Wednesday, and I will be fasting. This will be my first Lent as a member of my Benedictine Canon community. My daily prayers in this community have brought me to a profound awareness of my sisters and brothers who suffer. There are countless people in the world at this very moment who are oppressed, in danger, starving, naked, or enslaved. I find myself asking what I can do to be in solidarity with all my sisters and brothers who suffer. I'm not in a position to save the world; nor am I in a position to save even one person. I'm no savior. But the one I acclaim as savior is someone whose behavior I can emulate. I can, in my twenty-first-century middle-class American context, step away from my everyday life and take on a journey that isn't surrounded by easy comfort. It seems silly to do this, mainly because it is my choice to do so. What does it mean to choose to make a sacrifice if I can always choose at any moment to turn back to the way things were? I'm always operating from the privilege of my ability to choose, and in that sense my sacrifice is folly. Nevertheless, I choose to let go of my normal life during Lent with the hope that I might be transformed for the sake of the common good--and transformation will not necessarily be my choice, my doing, my accomplishment. During this Lent, my penance will involve giving up three things: 1) sweets, 2) meat, and 3) my favorite go-to social network, Facebook. (When my darling husband reads this, he won't believe it. He knows me. These are three of my favorite things.) I don't know what I or anyone else will get out of my Lenten penance, but I suspect I will feel a great emptiness almost immediately--and in the difficult-to-me facing of that emptiness over the coming six weeks, my heart may break. If it does, what wisdom then will my heart be finally ready to receive? What good will I be empowered and inspired to do? What injustice will I realize I can no longer overlook, thanks to my recognition of my personal ability to make a tangible difference in reversing that injustice? This Lent, I will seek to empty myself of what is desirable but not important, so there might be enough spaciousness within me to bear something difficult and radically important: Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2
Nine months ago, I gave birth to my second daughter. Nine months before that, I had little idea that I was about to conceive another child. In each of these nine-month periods, my world changed radically. Eighteen months ago, I had one awesome child. Then, nine months ago, there were two. Nine months ago, I had an office job and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area--my husband and I had no plans in place for anything else. Now I am living a life that, for all my creativity, I couldn't have imagined. I live in the Sonoran desert. I've published my first book. I've become an Episcopalian in the midst of a beautiful Christian community. I have found greater peace than I ever anticipated in my prayer life as a Benedictine Canon novice. This evening I am filled with gratitude and hope for the blessings I experience in each moment. And I wonder, with great hope, what shall be brought to birth in my life next.
This is my last day as a Roman Catholic. Tomorrow I will be received into the Episcopal Church by Bishop Kirk Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, thus continuing my baptismal journey, continuing my journey as a novice of the Community of St. Mary of the Annunciation Benedictine Canons, and beginning my journey in a new-to-me Christian tradition. I am continually surprised at the deep connections I find between my adult faith and the faith of my childhood. I am about to enter the Episcopal Church, a church that liturgically isn't very different from the Roman Catholic tradition. My devotion to a relational, triune God was established before I knew it on Trinity Sunday, the day of my baptism. And my formation in the Community of St. Mary of the Annunciation Benedictine Canons, whose devotion is to God's preeminent open-hearted listener, the Theotokos, began not during my years of graduate study at St. John's School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota, but at my baptismal church, St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Greenville, Ohio. My Prior suggests that synchronicities such as these are worth attending to. I have always been a fan of synchronicity--I have just never experienced so much of it in one place as I have in the Sonoran Desert these last five months. All the threads of my life of faith--the threads of liturgical practice, structured prayer, understanding of God as relational/transcendent/imminent, singing, feminism, openness, commitment to the seeking of truth in all places and people, and humility in the presence of God's wondrous deeds--all of these and more are woven into the pattern of my faith life at St. Augustine's and as a Benedictine Canon Novice of St. Mary of the Annunciation. And the pattern they weave takes my breath away. I say farewell to the Roman Catholic Church in kindness and love, and I greet the Episcopal Church with fondness and hope. I trust that my almost thirty-two years as a Roman Catholic Christian have not been in vain, but instead have created a strong foundation on which I can build a stronger faith.
My dreams this week concern me. I've dreamed about killing someone I didn't know; I wasn't convicted in court for lack of evidence, even though I knew I was at fault. I've dreamed about others I did know dying of natural causes, leaving me to pick up the pieces. Last night I dreamed about an elderly friend of mine asking me to help pack up two houses: the one in which he used to live and the one in which he currently lived. He was preparing to move elsewhere, though I didn't know where. Everything I touched in his current house was laden with memory, whereas everything in the other house was strange, rich, and unlike him as far as I knew him. I'm no expert on Jung or Freud, but I do know that dreams can point dreamers to insights about themselves and their lives. What is with all the death, hiding, and transition? I woke in the middle of the night last night to get my baby daughter a bottle. When I returned, I flashed back to a conversation from my last Benedictine Canon chapter meeting. Br. Philip talked about preparing for his final profession as a Canon next month, in particular about the placing of the pall over his prostrated body. Like Br. Chad and Br. Rawleigh, Br. Philip will lay down his body at the service of God, the community, and the world. He'll be covered with a pall, the pale garment of baptism and death. I realized in the chill of the night that if I make my full profession as a Benedictine Canon, I will be committing myself to die. I crawled back into bed and closed my eyes, but words rose up, and I ended up texting myself with the words of a haiku so they wouldn't be swallowed by sleep. A funeral pall veils the diff'rence between old and new. Ego die. My dreams point me to an unexpected revelation: my old self is dying. I am being put to the test. My identity as a religious person has long been plagued with fear, self-absorption, doubt, and horded treasures, all carefully saved so I would have something to cling to in case God ever failed me. Now, step by step, I am moving forward into the intensely uncomfortable unknown: a place of overflowing trust. Father, I put my life in your hands. I'm dying--and it's okay. I'm letting the precious treasure of my life go. And what a relief. Mother, I put my life in your hands. My life will be whatever it is meant to be. The particular outcome of my life is no longer my concern. Living from moment to moment at the service of God and God's magnificent, multi-faceted creation is enough. Being able to turn again and again from my selfish fears toward God, the holy Fire who burns within me, is enough.
I quit my job today. Several days ago, I agreed to take on an editing job. In discussing the job with the client, I asked many questions, and I also made several assumptions. I bid for what I thought would be 30-35 hours of work. It turned out that this job would require at least a hundred hours, and possibly many more. Since I had given a flat-rate bid, my hourly rate for the job went from normal-for-me to piddly--not even a decent fraction of minimum wage. So I quit. And I felt terrible about it. Then the mental onslaught began. You didn't keep your word. You didn't stick it out when things got rough. You took the easy way out. You need the money--you should have just sucked it up. You're a lousy contractor. You're an unreliable editor. (Oh, and the client, when I offered to send along the fruits of my already many hours of work in exchange for pro-rated pay, accused me of scamming. So--) Your client thinks you're a cheat and a scammer. Quitters are losers. Want it spelled out? Foxtrot. Alpha. India. Lima. Uniform. Romeo. Echo. Quitting doesn't sit well with me, not even a little. Quitting produces a magnifying glass that channels rays of truth and burns me. Quitting elicits a shockwave of realization and memory that knocks the breath out of me. Once, when I was twelve years old, I jumped off a swing and landed on my back. I couldn't breathe for at least thirty seconds, maybe more. I was terrified. The pain mounted with every passing second. Worse, I was alone, without help, and without any means to summon help. I wondered if I was going to pass out. I wondered if I was about to die. Quitting is like that. It's an admission of inability to do what I've said I can do. It's self-mutilation of the picture-perfect persona I've worked so hard to build and maintain. It's an unfathomable crack in my impenetrable defenses, a loophole of vulnerability. It's the potential for destruction. Quitting is the seed of weedy humiliation. How can I sink any lower than to go back on my word, to admit that I was wrong in my own self-expectation? Is there anything worthy of redemption in a quitter? I am forced to face my own genuine failings so infrequently that it's world-shifting when it happens. It's one thing to admit failing in a general way, as in Psalm 51, but to name and own particular failings is a much more daunting task. I don't want anyone to know that I'm not as awesome as I present myself to be. I don't want anyone to know that I fail. I don't want anyone to know that I'm not a model feminist. I don't want anyone to know that sometimes I'm a lousy parent or spouse or friend. Because then I might be ordinary, right? Then I might require a reexamination of the awesome person I think I manage to be most of the time. And that might change who I am. And if I change, then who am I? Do you suppose this is why we describe God as immutable, unchanging, and sinless? Because we are so fearful of change and sin in ourselves, and so resentful of it in others? What if God were more like humans? What if God were more like me? What if bearing the divine spark within me meant accepting my failings without idolizing them, so that the awesomeness could shine through the muck? What if quitting and failure are two sides of the same tool, designed to cut facets in us so we can capture light more brilliantly, like jewels? What if failure is the only available path to discovering who I really am, as shone through God's marvelous light?
While sipping a hot cup of Ten Ren King's tea and chatting with a dear friend from the San Francisco Bay Area on Facebook, my friend wrote this to me: "kate, I am so happy for you - it seems your life is developing in amazing ways" (NB: The editor in me would like to capitalize and punctuate that sentence, but the friend in me knows better.) My friend is right, you know. I'm struck by how very much my life has changed in a very, very short period of time. I started this blog/site two years ago today. I wrote this:
Hurrah! Thanks to the inspiration of a dear friend of mine, Noach, I have planted the seed of this blog (and broader website). I hope it will yield many vibrant, lush, delicious fruits, and perhaps yield some long-lasting connections in the process.
Is it any surprise that the same friend who helped me plant this seed of a website and blog is now bursting with joy for me at what has risen up from the dark, fertile soil of my dreams and yearning? I look back at the woman I was in 2012--a first time mom; an office manager at a small synagogue; a frustrated, well-educated, sad, and increasingly jaded Roman Catholic--and I see someone who knew that 2012 was a beginning rather than an end. I had no real idea of where the road would lead, but I knew I would be creating the road for myself as I went along, and that I would visit some unusual and unfamiliar places along the way. My mantra lately, when folks ask me how I like Arizona, is, "I never thought I'd like living in the desert." But I do. My family is happy here. My husband has a job in which he thrives. I'm able to be at home with my girls for now, do fun-to-me gigs, and write to my heart's content. And finally, at long last, I get to be a both-feet-all-the-way-in member of a religious community in which I am valued, period--no strings attached, no hidden agendas, no glass ceiling. I love this community so much that my heart aches, as if it might burst. It's like being home again, but it's more than that. I'm not just part of the beauty that is my new community; I'm becoming a leader in bringing forth that beauty. Me. A woman. A thirty-something from Ohio who very early on learned to shut up and take it when something or someone wasn't good enough, even when what was good enough was within my reach, and even when what wasn't good enough was sanctioned by my religious leaders. Two years later, in 2014, I find myself in the midst of imperfect, beautiful people, and just by being my own imperfect self, I am amazing. I am vibrant. I am what I was searching for two years ago. It just took being planted in a fertile garden, free of choking weeds, for me to see myself stretched up tall and completely radiant for the first time.
When my friend Noach was helping bring this site into being, he asked me about folks he could contact to recommend me to others. One of the three who responded was my classmate from St. John's School of Theology (Collegeville, Minnesota), Rev. Cody Unterseher. When I wrote my post about leadership yesterday, I had forgotten about the recommendations tucked away on this site. I found the following from a person who was even more dedicated to the study of liturgy than I was, and who even knew about my church in Cleveland as soon as I mentioned it to him while at table in the St. John's refectory in August 2005. Cody and I were both laypeople when we were at St. John's, and somehow we ended up in a stance of wary opposition to one another for most of those two years. Although I sang at his ordination to the diaconate in late March of 2007, we didn't really become friends until we had each been accepted into (separate) doctoral programs in liturgical studies. He was an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church by then, and his focus in all things was reconciliation in Christ. He wrote this about me when solicited for the testimonials on this site: I had the privilege of working side-by-side with Kate during our overlapping years at Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota (2005-2007). During that time, each of us served a one-year tenure as Chair of the School's Student Liturgy Committee. In her time as Chair, Kate showed herself to be a competent, confident and collegial leader. Her ability to coordinate the Committee's efforts were exceeded only by her gift for enabling and equipping others to do the work with which they were engaged, in a non-anxious, non-domineering and non-threatened way. Everything needful was well done, without haste, without micromanagement, in a respectful atmosphere of mutual listening and creative consensus-building. The ability to lead in such a way is a real gift as well as a skill, and Kate has cultivated it as a faithful steward. In terms of practical ability, Michelle Kate is a most competent liturgist. She combines a commanding knowledge of liturgical history and liturgical theology, together with a refined sense of liturgical law and its application, and brings these to bear on her work in preparing for liturgical celebration. At the same time, and more importantly, Michelle Kate has a refined pastoral sense. She is able to listen to a community, supporting its members as they give voice to their vision and aspirations, and helping them to identify and prioritize needs and goals for practical achievement. In preparing for liturgical celebration, Kate has a strong sense of liturgical gestalt, and is able to harmonize musical selection, crafted and received texts, and worship space environment in a way that is at once humble and elegant.
As I said, it was a privilege to work with Kate; I would not hesitate to work with her again in the future, nor to recommend her wholeheartedly to others. His kindness in remembering our two years together overwhelmed me. That was late in 2011. When he died suddenly from complications related to a brain aneurysm in April 2012, my world collapsed around me. I wept for months. I still weep for him. I'm not into guardian angels, but I often have Cody (whom I fondly refer to as Codex) close to heart when I consider my future as a the( )logian and minister. In fact, I just found out that he was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Archangels (also known as the Feast of St. Michael, or Michaelmas). He is indeed my own Holy Messenger (άγγελος), accompanying me from his place at the Holy Banquet. He and I were more alike than I ever imagined when we were in school together. That fact alone leads me to believe that I could indeed become a remarkable servant leader--just like the one he became.
And with that, Advent is over. God is with us--Emmanuel--alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! I love Christmas. I love the radicality of the Christmas message that says God isn't so transcendent that God can't be flesh. I love the intimacy of this God who is both divine and human at once, and who teaches us--like the good rebbe he is--to be the same. I am so grateful this night for hope fulfilled in the midst of so much doubt and despair. Light does pierce shadows, dispelling them. Goodness is stronger than evil, breaking it down with the power of gentleness. A godly child does make a worldly ruler tremble, displacing cunning selfishness with its own absolute reliance on the sacred other for survival. The message of the incarnation is that we desperately, utterly need each other. Humanity and divinity meet in community and communion, not in isolation. God can't do this gig without us, and we can't sustain God's divine flame within ourselves without the companionship of others. That's my daughter to the left. She is about take flight, one of God's own angeloi, standing before the holy altar at the feet of the infant Christ. She's just carried in a sheep, practicing for her future role as shepherdess. Later, she danced during the offering of the holy gifts, and I had the presence of mind not to stop her. I look at her and see an icon of the Christ, bearing glad tidings and preaching good news through her very body. She did tonight what you and I do for each other every day. Merry Christmas to you, o holy bearers and birthers of God.
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis. O dawn of the east, brightness of light eternal, and sun of justice: come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
A few years ago, I wanted to name my first child Aurora--not after the Disney princess, but after the rosy-fingered dawn. Christ is sometimes imagined as Apollo, the bringer of bright sun-fire, but I imagine Christ as those fuchsia streaks anointing the darkness with chrismic light. Today was also the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, the darkest day of the year. On this day I think of John the Baptist, whose feast day is six months prior to this day, on the longest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere). It's the day when earthly light prepares to diminish, the same way John prepares: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris.
O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no one shuts, who shuts and no one opens: come, and lead forth the captive who sits in the shadows from his prison.
Keys open and lock doors. I remember the day the doors of Historic St. Peter Church of Cleveland were locked, by order of the bishop of the diocese. I was standing outside along with my many fellow parishioners as our pastor followed orders. It was the closing of a tomb that had once been a stable. That day haunts me. I have never understood--and I'm sure I never will understood--the bullying of that bishop. Last night, while singing carols with the St. Brigid's Community of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Tempe, I came across my very favorite Christmas hymn, written by Richard Wilbur. I asked if anyone knew it, and no one did. It turns out that the version printed in the Hymnal 1982 is not the same version that I learned at St. Peter as a member of the choir early last decade. My usual search tricks failed in the effort to find a recording of it. The CD recorded by the choir (while I was studying in Berlin in 2002) is no longer for sale, either. Though the building is still there, and though the bishop was ordered by the Vatican to reopen its doors, the community that once worshiped there, the people who refused to be scattered, took roots elsewhere in the city, and there they remain, for the most part. This is a beautiful recording, but it is not the one I learned in the midst of that beautiful community, and I can't help feeling tremendous loss as I listen to it.
Love burns in my heart for the community of St. Peter, that breathtaking icon of God. But even in my anger, my hope refuses to be extinguished. A stable lamp is lighted whose glow shall wake the sky; the stars shall bend their voices, and every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry, and straw like gold shall shine; a barn shall harbour heaven, a stall become a shrine. This child through David's city shall ride in triumph by; the palm shall strew its branches, and every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry, though heavy, dull and dumb, and lie within the roadway to pave his kingdom come. Yet he shall be forsaken, and yielded up to die; the sky shall groan and darken, and every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry for gifts of love abused; God's blood upon the spearhead, God's blood again refused. But now, as at the ending, the low is lifted high; the stars shall bend their voices, and every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry in praises of the child by whose descent among us the worlds are reconciled.
Happiest of Trinity Sundays to each of you--may you be richly blessed in the holy, pervasive presence of the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy of Holies. Today Christians celebrate the intrinsically relational character of G-d. I can't help but think of the relationality between myself, my first daughter, and my daughter still in the womb. We are connected and separate, three and one all at once.
Today I'm working on a trinity-themed piece for Life. Love. Liturgy. I look forward to finishing this piece and those that remain to be written. We'll see which reaches its fulfillment first: my book, or my pregnancy!
Once I finish the Life. Love. Liturgy. collection, I will move on to work on two things: 1) revamping and revisioning my primary blogs (this one and that one), and 2) giving shape to my first novel.
If there is anything in particular you would like to see from me in the meantime--any topic you would like me to discuss here or on my other blog, any question you would like me to explore over a series of blog posts or perhaps in an article, please let me know.
In the meantime, you can now find me on Twitter (@lifeloveliturgy!), so feel free to visit me there as well. I'm delighted and grateful that you're joining me as I continue journeying into my vocation of prophetic word-weaving. Thank you.
Here I thought this morning's chatter would be about the latest episode of Downton Abbey. Instead the first thing that popped up on one of my social network feeds was a joke about being asked by the pope to be his replacement. All my East Coast friends and news sources were way ahead of me.
Someone reposted this announcement from Pope Benedict:
Dear Brothers, I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
I am surprised by this turn of events. The last pope to resign did so in the Middle Ages. I remember the end of Pope John-Paul's reign, in which he was obviously too sick to offer any leadership whatsoever, but apparently too proud (or something) to do the appropriate thing and resign.
When Benedict was elected pope, I shuddered. I expected awful things. And yes, his silencing of the entire RC Church on the subject of women's ordination, among other things, was awful. But I've also been surprised by Benedict's capacity to show generosity, wisdom, and rootedness in a Savior other than himself. His first encyclical knocked me off my feet (in a good way). I still have a copy on my bookshelf.
For the last few days I've been pondering what to embrace as my Lenten observance. Perhaps I shall simply pray for those things that led the Pope to this decision--for wisdom, for humility, and for the ability to do a (relatively) new thing in the face of long-standing tradition.
Their annual water ceremony took place today, and I got to take part. It was like communion, except we were giving, not receiving; processing forward from the outer aisles rather than the inner one; returning through the inner aisle rather than the outer ones. This water will be used for child dedications/baptisms throughout the coming year. The whole service revolved around water images, including the story at the beginning involving raindrops personified. One of the raindrops was brave enough to leave his tree branch and fall alone into a bucket for the sake of the parched ground below, even though all the other drops thought he was nuts and refused to join him. The earth grew desperately dry, the flowers becoming pale and limp, the grass turning brown. After a while, another drop beheld the lonely drop in the bucket and decided to join him. Another drop saw this and followed suit, then another, then another, till the bucket was brimming and another bucket was needed. After many buckets were filled, a great wind came and blew over all the buckets, drenching the parched earth. Before long, the wilted flowers stood up again in vibrant hues, and the grass was once again green with life.
Afterward, there was a scheduled "information session" for newcomers, and I chatted with one of the new ministers as I waited for the session to begin. By the time it began, the pastor, the minister I was talking to, and a church member were joining in; two more people also wandered in as we sat talking. Each person introduced herself/himself to me and told me a bit about how s/he came to be in that place, in that faith tradition. Then they invited me to tell them about myself, and I did.
I began to tell them about my educational background. It was easy enough, at first. Then it happened. All the anger and sadness of being denied my call to ministry by the sexism of the Roman Catholic Church, my church, came up too high, and it spilled out of me in hot tears and jagged breaths. Before I knew it or could contain it I was sobbing without any ability to stop. I kept apologizing, but they listened, and they listened some more, and I felt as though each one of them was holding me perfectly in her/his arms, just letting me be there as I told my terrible, painful truth.
A part of me scolded myself when I was on my way out of the parking lot a little while later--scolded myself for allowing myself to be so vulnerable in the midst of strangers. But the stronger part of me stopped the scolding voice, making it clear that I'm done hiding my heart when it comes to matters of faith. Those people were there for me--a stranger--in a most tender moment. I won't dishonor their presence to me by claiming that opening of my heart to them was inappropriate.
In this church I've found living temples of my merciful God. They exhibit, in concentrated form, the qualities that I have been drawn to in every community of faith I've ever been part of: hospitality, generosity, vision, prophetic presence, dedication, and abounding love.
I feel like I've come home. Not that the Roman Catholicism isn't my home--it is. But my home is also much larger, much broader, much more inclusive, and loving in many more ways than the home I've always known. And that is breathtaking, world-shattering, and heart-opening. I am ready to step outside the gate and find my way anew.
I was scheduled to proclaim the second reading today at my Roman Catholic parish. Yesterday evening I finally sat down, pulled up the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website, and clicked into the scripture readings scheduled for today. I scrolled down.
What I found for my lection was Ephesians 5:21-32 (I copy the publicly available NIV translation as found on biblegateway.com, since the US Catholic Bishops do not allow copying of the New American Bible translation without their written permission): 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Then I read the Gospel lection.
The pericope chosen by the authors of the lectionary was this passage, also presented below in NIV translation, John 6:60-69: 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Before you are tempted to lecture me about scriptural meaning, understand that I have read the Bible in its entirety. I've read and compared numerous translations of varying authority; I've studied ancient manuscripts on which the translations are based in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin; I've done numerous hermeneutical studies of various passages of scripture; and I've had over half a dozen graduate and doctoral level courses in scripture. I know my scripture. I've also known these particular passages for a long time.
But last night, reading these two readings in succession, I perceived a very clear hermeneutical slant on the part of the men who strung these passages together for the twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The hermeneutical slant woven for a 21st century audience says, in no uncertain terms, that women are to submit to men; and if this "teaching" is too "hard," if it "offends," then not only do the offended not believe (in) Jesus, but they are Jesus' betrayers, the ones who will turn their backs, no longer follow him, and (by implication) shout for his crucifixion.
Let's pull back the threadbare veil of meaning that the fashioners of the lectionary have laid on today's readings so we can be quite clear: women who reject submission to men in 2012, whether as wives to husbands or Catholic women to male clerics, are against Christ. Anathema sit.
Now, allow me to pull back my veil and be even clearer: I will no longer stand by in the quiet shadows as the sin of sexism is thrust again and again against the women of the Roman Catholic Church.
The claim that women are or should in any way be inferior to men is evil. It is this claim that perpetuates the abuse of women by men in every imaginable rape, from rape of the body to rape of legitimate calls to ordained ministry.
This must end NOW.
Roman Catholic clergy, all of you who homilized on anything other than the horrific sexism of today's string of readings, you should be ashamed.
I challenge every ordained member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, from the lowliest deacon to the bishop of Rome, to examine his conscience, to make a public apology for the glut of sexism in which the hierarchy has so long engaged, and to make a public call for women to be restored to their rightful place of holy dignity--side by side with men, rather than in hierarchical relation to them.
I suppose I owe the authors of the lectionary a thank-you, however. Were it not for today's readings, I might never have had the shattering revelation that my relationship with the divine cannot be contained within my Roman Catholic faith. My faith is bigger, more embracing, more inclusive, and more perceptive than the religious sphere the Roman Catholic hierarchy attempts to dictate.
So thank you, lectionary creators. Thank you for reminding me that a whole world of religious experience and holy encounters with the divine exist beyond your meager vision. Thank you for showing me your golden calf in all its splendor, that I might be moved to break the tablets in my hands and ascend the mountain again to hear God's word anew.