First Thursday in Advent

 "Fishers of Men" by Rex DeLoney, Little Rock, Arkansas
“Fishers of Men” by Rex DeLoney, Little Rock, Arkansas

“This Advent, our Advent, is a time of creation. God’s spirit abides in us—brooding over our waters—shaping and forming us, being formed and shaped by us. God alone knows what we shall become. God has visited us with grace and favor. Are we ready to become Light?”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers … And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately, they left their nets and followed him”.—Matthew 4: 18-20

There is a church near my house called “Fisherman of Men Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc.” The insistently masculine language always makes me laugh. It’s as if the church-namers knew that the narrow image of a patriarchal God was on its way out and so over- compensate. Or to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Me thinks they doth protest too much.”

Paradoxically, I find this invitation from Jesus to Peter and Andrew, then James and John, to be distinctly subversive of patriarchy. Jesus woos them like a lover. He seduces them into leaving their fathers’ houses, like young women leaving home to join the home of their husband’s family.

These men respond to Jesus as if they are in love. There is no cognitive decision making. They fall in love. They drop their nets—representing their known world. They follow, like a lover after her beloved. They have eyes only for him.

When were you last in love?

Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Ad……vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Feast Day of Thomas Aquinas

rippples

“Nothing in the definition of charity can set a limit to its growth, for it is a sharing in the limitless charity of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, its agent of growth is God with unlimited power. And even on our side, each increase in charity produces an even greater increase in our capacity to grow–our heart is enlarged.”–Thomas Aquinas

Feast Day of Hildegard of Bingen

hildegard

God is eternal, and eternity is fire,
and that is God.
And God is not hidden, no silent fire,
but an acting fire.
The Holy Spirit is life-giving life,
Mover of the universe and root of all created being.
She cleans the universe of unfairness,
she repays the debt, and she anoints the wounds.
She is brilliant life, worthy of praise
She breathes and again inspires the universe.
Hildegard of Bingen

Voice of Conscience for Catholic Sisters Gathers Outside Vatican Embassy in D.C.

Today I’ll be joining the support vigil for U.S. Catholic sisters held in Washington, D.C. We’ll be delivering a letter to Pope Benedict via the Vatican nuncio.

These tensions between Catholic church hierarchy and prophetic witness and ministry are nothing new in the history of the church, but when they bubble up it’s important to show up and be visible on behalf of those who exemplify the gospel; in this case the Catholic sisters.

“You shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). When I look at the fruits of the bishops and the fruits of the sisters, my answer as to where to stand is clear. I’m posting below the letter we will deliver:

Most Holy Father:

On this Tuesday after Pentecost, we write to you in prayer and in fervent hope that you will create gracious space for the Spirit’s action by withdrawing the mandate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) that was issued on April 18 to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

On May 18, you highlighted “the urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel.” In the United States, no Gospel witnesses are more effective, credible, and attractive than Catholic Sisters. U.S. Sisters shine as beacons of God’s love in schools, hospitals, among immigrants, among the poor and powerless. With the leadership and support of LCWR, they forge paths of faith, hope, and charity, sacrificing their own comfort and even their lives. The witness of the Sisters’ daily work and prayer signifies far more than the CDF’s concerns with particular words or the absence of words in LCWR materials.

We gather today in solidarity with the LCWR as Catholics and others whose lives have been profoundly touched by Catholic Sisters. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide LCWR and CDF, and to give them courage, strength, and wisdom to discern their journey in Christ. To clear the path, we ask Your Holiness to cast aside the stumbling block of the CDF mandate. And we pray that all will find the humility required for radical openness to the Holy Spirit.

In content and process, the CDF mandate is not consistent with the respect, collegiality, and mutuality that characterize relationships among people of mature faith. St. Paul reminds us that to live in Christ’s Easter peace means to “live in a manner worthy of the call… with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-4).

The CDF has questions and concerns about the LCWR. If Jesus tells his disciples that they are his friends, not his servants (John 15:9-17), then surely that is the appropriate relationship between the CDF and the LCWR. A conversation among people of good will from both CDF and LCWR could bear rich fruit for the Church as a whole, if it occurs in love, respect, mutuality, even solidarity. In this dialogue, the CDF mandate is both unwarranted and out of place.

In celebrating Pentecost, we find hope and courage in the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, “the Advocate, whom I will send you from the Father” (John 15:26). Mindful of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council this fall, we take to heart the sacred responsibility recognized in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church to fulfill our obligation “to express [our] opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church” (Chapter 4, Sec. 37). The Church needs breathing room where all of us can pause in prayer and where the mighty breath of the Spirit can enable us to be receptive to the gifts of the Spirit so we may bear fruit in Christ’s name. For the good of the Church, we ask you to withdraw the CDF mandate.

Follow more of this story at Sisters Under Scrutiny.

Healing Prayer: Our Bodies’ Intricate Design

by Shawn Lovell
by Shawn Lovell

I’ll be posting sporadically in February while I’m off work recuperating from surgery. (Nothing serious.) During my Sabbath recovery time at home, I hope to have daily prayer at 6 p.m. each evening in February.

I’ll be using the daily gospel reading and the prayer below and invite you to “join” me (through the Holy Spirit internet) each evening.

Healing Prayer

Blessed are You, God of All Creation,
who has made our bodies in wisdom.
It is You who created openings and arteries,
glands and organs, bone and blood,
marvelous in structure, intricate in design.
Should one part be blocked or fail to function
it is difficult for us to praise You properly,
difficult for us to serve Your people with humility.
Wondrous Fashioner and Sustainer of life,
Source of our health and our strength,
bring complete healing to all of our wounds.
You who blessed our ancestors and who
gave healing power to Jesus, send your angels
to accompany [insert names here] and all who are
sick. Let the healing river flow over and
through them. Let the leaves from the Tree
of Life—the tree with medicine for the healing
of nations—fall gently upon them.
May the occasion of their healing
be an opportunity for all of us to be healed,
so that we might more properly praise You.
In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

by Rose Marie Berger (February 2010). Please reprint freely.