Thea, a baby in the womb is the song of its parents, a composition revealed movement by movement by you, o Holy Muse. Inspire expecting parents to look beyond mere expectations toward your untapped vision of what might be. Amen.
Thea, When you set your people free from bondage in Egypt, Miriam led the song and dance. When you set me free from bondage, I led the song and dance. May your voice ever be on my lips and your wisdom ever written on my heart. Amen.
These last few weeks, I've wrestled hard with the news I've read about what's going on in the United States and abroad. I've also reflected at length on the role I play in perpetuating and reinforcing the sin of the world. As a Christian, I am called to hope in Christ, the lamb who takes away the sin of the world--the sin I've helped nurture. As a Christian, I am also called to recognize that I am a member of the Body of Christ, the one who stands forever slain. To be a Christian is to be both the slain and the slayer, the risen and the rising. The past few weeks have also been a hard lesson about my own capacity for empathy. The weight of the world's pain and suffering has settled heavily on me. Seeing any flicker of light in all this darkness has been a mighty effort. When I've prayed the hours, I've prayed for those who are oppressed and for those who oppress. When I've led the singing at ECMASU's Sunday night Taizé service, I've prayed for my heart to be opened wider, so I might discover in what ways the world needs my gifts and my radical transformation. When even prayer has left me empty, I've clung to the trust that the dawn will arrive eventually, no matter how much darkness the world and I have created.
Someone told me recently that I was in a chrysalis, a cocoon, being transformed in the midst of palpable darkness from one form of life to another. I wonder if that's not true of the world. I wonder if all this darkness isn't leading us to a brilliant cascade of color that flutters lightly on the wind, bringing about God's peace and joy for the sake of all.
Yesterday I completed the construction of a bridge spanning over two thousand miles and thirteen years. I sang Suzanne Toolan's "The Call" with two other young women during the 10:30 liturgy at St. Augustine's Episcopal Parish. This is a song I learned at Historic St. Peter Church (now the Community of St. Peter), and it is a song that gave me a taste of the potential for liturgy and symbol to crash together to reveal the holy. Leave all things you have and come and follow me, Jesus urges. Thirteen years and two thousand miles later, I hesitate to leave behind all I've accumulated on this journey. My baggage is mine to keep. But the invitation is so insistent, echoing softly even when I clang and screech. Could I just leave it all behind me? Would I be doing it for the right reasons? What if everything changed as a result? And come and follow me.
Sister Thea Bowman was a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, and she changed the face of the African-American Roman Catholic Church.
Sister Thea was a woman who led with joy, story, music, and a sharp intellect. She was a woman who had the power to speak prophetically against injustice in ways that would soften the hearts of even old white bishops--again and again. Her power was the power to tell a story, to preach without a fourth wall, to engage others at the level of senses and emotion and experience.
She died from cancer a couple of weeks before I turned eight years old. It was another twenty years before I knew who she was.
When I make my solemn profession as a Benedictine Canon next spring, I plan to take Sister Thea's name as my religious name. I see in Sister Thea a bright, strong, gentle, humble, magnetic leader who could tear down any Jericho walls with the dulcimer sounds of her story-telling-and-transforming voice.
Do I have the courage to be more than I am? Do I have the humility to let go of my own weighty importance so I can fly with the wild, light Spirit in whom I put my trust and hopes?