a princess, a pope and Jesus Christ

The world is buzzing with excitement.

I have heard gripes and seen grins about the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, which will happen tomorrow with much pomp. To be honest, I wish I didn’t have other things going on and could sit down in front of the TV and watch it. I am sure that I’d cry a bit as I watched two beautiful people commit to each other in the presence of God, the world-famous and influential, as billions of people look on.  As you probably know, a lot of people are ecstatic and are gearing up to celebrate with the royal family.  Yet others are critical because it is such an expensive event and the money could be used for better purposes.

Another exciting, yet somewhat controversial, event is happening this weekend.  On Sunday Pope John Paul II will be beautified.  The opinions about his beatification are varied. Personally I am very excited (as I am every time a holy person is honored for her or his wisdom and influence).

I am not unlike other Catholics of my generation; I love JPII. I have been touched by his leadership and teachings.  As I grew into the Catholic faith, many of my questions were answered when I studied the letters from my far-away “Grandpa.”   For example, JPII’s theology of the body writings helped me gain much clarity about sexuality.  I wish I could have met JP II in his lifetime, but am comforted to know that I can pray to him for some advocacy in heaven while I try to do the work that he encouraged: convincing people of their dignity.

I understand the concerns of people who are opposed to JPII’s quick move toward sainthood, too. I know people who have publicly protested his canonization.  They are upset because his personal positions and opinions seemed to impact his leadership (as he discouraged socialism and rejected women’s ordination, for example).  Is he worthy of being named “Blessed” if he practiced discrimination?  On Sunday, though, I will celebrate Pope JPII’s influence in my own life and thank God for the contributions of the holy man to great peacemaking around the globe.

In a discussion about world excitement I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the important, but non-joyful events that have happened recently and probably challenge the faith and hope of many people.  There’s been a sweep of disasters across the nation. Specifically, the news about the tornadoes in Alabama brought tears to my eyes this morning. My heart still aches for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Japan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Haiti, and for inner-city youth.  As we celebrate joyful events we must be attentive to suffering and disturbed by injustice.

During all of these occasions people unite.  In disasters, divided people suddenly have no choice but to survive and rebuild as community.  On both sides of divisive violence, the tears look the same.  During the royal wedding, when everyone is hearing the same music and prayers, politics and opinions probably won’t matter much.   Undoubtedly, on Sunday Catholics- and other Christians of all types shall unite in their prayers and parties.  Our human, global lives bring us together and help us remember that we’re in this together.

It’s Easter time.  Jesus is back and he’s helping us make sense of everything he taught.  He’s re-explaining that it is communion around open, inclusive tables that unite us.  As we break the bread and share it with other – no matter our differences- we become more the same.  We become his body.  In us, Christ lives. Together we celebrate as one body, the Body of Christ. Thanks be to God!

“Done Made My Vows to the Lord”

Guest blogger, Sister Sarah Hennessey

Sister Thea Bowman sings the old spiritual song.  My vows have already been made to the Lord.  When I was around 12 I first began to really experience God.  That led me to become an active Quaker and to seek God through silence and service.  Somewhere along the way I had a distinct moment when I knew I had fallen in love with Christ and then when I knew I had fallen in love with the People of God.  Both have been essential to my journey.

Quakerism has been described as a religion which is communal mysticism.  Community is essential and I found my love for community soon shaping my choices.  From a Quaker college, to a year as a lay volunteer with Catholic sisters, to teaching at a Quaker boarding school I lived in small groups, prayed together, and sought God through communal means.  My love of Hispanic culture led me to Mexico, from there to the Franciscans and then into the Catholic church, which I experienced as a wider and more diverse community.

Sister Sarah at Mexican Orphanage
Mexican Orphanage with Sister Joyce Blum (I am on the left)

Fishbowl Not Pedestal
At times I feel that formation has turned me inside out and then left me in my confusion to put myself back together again.  Now I look at it differently.  Incorporation demands conversion, but I am not alone.  My sisters are with me, at varying levels of intimacy and personal skill, to both challenge and support me.

Sisters Deb, Corrina, Joanne and Sarah
Together with Sisters Deb, Corrina and Joanne

I entered my Franciscan community after only being a Catholic for two years.  I struggled with the title of “sister,” the public notice and appreciation, and centuries of baggage that were all new to me.  A distinction during novitiate helped me name how I felt about becoming “a religious.”  Being on a pedestal is not helpful to me or to anyone else and some of this relational model still hangs over from our past.  However, I am called to be in a fishbowl.  I have made public vows to Christ and the church and people should be able to look at me and see that I am at least trying to live how I say I do.

Fear and Awe
I feel a prior claim to religious life.  I also believe that this commitment is my free choice.  I am coming home to Jesus, the People of God, and these particular FSPA women through my “yes.”  I believe to make perpetual vows is to live them and repeat them on a daily basis.

I find religious life to be deeply intimate.  Like the cross, the horizontal plane of relationship with others and the vertical call to deep union with God intersect daily.  I need to pause and listen deeply before making this lifetime commitment and I know that listening needs to happen in relationship.

Sister Sarah in Mary of the Angels Chapel
"Listening" inside Mary of the Angels Chapel, St. Rose Convent

When I meet other new members of Catholic orders I am always struck by how there is no fear around diminishment.  Yes, religious life will change drastically in my lifetime.  We have many losses, particularly at every funeral.  But I firmly believe that this is a dynamic opportunity for religious life to remain fed by its source which is Christ.

In making vows I feel my emotions most intensely, particularly fear and awe.  There is no little amount of fear as I commit my life not only to God, but to this community of women and this church.  But I have voiced my fears and they have heard me and they still want to journey with me.  Together “we done made our vows to the Lord.”

Sister Sarah will profess her final vows with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in 2011. This is her fourth guest blog entry.

a children’s story

We rise with sleep in our eyes.  We dance on the broken ground. We run to town to tell the news.  In the grave? Not there, no more!

Somehow and someway, life has won. Easter morning has arrived. Hooray!

Satan sees that God’s Truth teases.  Freedom lives. Love is power.  Peace redeems.  “Ha, take that!”  We sing.

Nature blooms.  Buds burst.  Dogs bark.  Angels laugh.  We snuggle and sigh with relief.

Let us celebrate!  Let us feast with community! Let us love!

We pray. We are changed.  So we may really begin.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen!

Happy Easter, blessed Messy Jesus Business readers and believers!

oh, God

The solid statues seem to suggest that the horror of the cross is only historical.  We gather in dark churches to remember, and mix the meaning into our mind right along side wars, genocide, crusades and the holocaust.  Black and white photos in the history books tell us to keep telling the story and memorialize the dead.

This cross, though, is different from those other events.  Although it’s historical, it’s also eternal.  Every day we are wounded, nailed, bled, broken, bruised. We’re doing it to ourselves and each other. It happened before, and it’s happening today.  The pain we acknowledge today is as real now as it was then.

Maybe our praying with the cross today matters to our brothers and sisters of history after all.   Maybe this cross is broad and bigger than our mixed up human minds can fathom.  Maybe it can heal the wounds of history and change all humanity.

all the elements

 
 
elementary
 
 
 
 
candles burning, wooden table: smoke, dust, gas, wind, heat, wax, light, flame, smell, hear
bread and wine: solid, liquid, food, drink, taste
cups, plates: stone, cold, earth, clay, art, see
wet feet: blood, dirt, mess, water, mud, touch
 
 
 
 
secondary
 
 
 
 
mixed humanity: leaders, followers, revolutionaries, authorities, men, women, sinners, saints, marginalized, accepted, blessed
real feelings: belief, doubt, sorrow, hope, confusion, shame, awe, joy, fear, love
bold actions: heal, help, wonder, eat, drink, unite, empower, teach, listen, ask, learn, pray, stay, deny, sleep, lie, fight, wound, scold, go
 
 
 
 
holy
thursday
university
 
 
 
 

loving to death

My holy week began in a simple rural church in Iowa. With crowds of farming families I chanted “crucify him, crucify him.”  My voice shook with shame.  It’s not pretend, it’s prayer.  Tears welled up within.  Why did the Church design it that I have to be the one who sentences my love to death?

Stone-cold statues of the stations of the cross lined the peaceful church.  In each, I see a face of Jesus etched with history and sorrow.  Jesus leans over an angel and looks at me in the pew, praying with questions.  Suffering is redemptive, I’ve learned.  Emotions stew within as I think of my love beaten, bruised, bloody, broken.

I sang “Hosanna” and held crisp, spring green branches but knew where the story was going next.  I knew about the cross, the death and the resurrection.  Except for the cooing children, I think we all did. Yet, we’re intense.  It’s ugly to face it: Love nailed to death.

As I gaze upon the cross this week, I shall consider all the hurt that I know.  I have been hurt and I have hurt others, at times I have even hurt myself.  The hurt of all humanity and creation stares back at me from the wood of the cross.

It’s personal and universal.  Personally, I have turned away from my love every time; I’ve allowed my good intentions to get clouded by pride, selfishness and lies.  Together, our social sins continually crush earth and community onto bloody boards.  The body of Christ is wounded.  We are that body.

Our eyes sting with the truth that love hurts.  I ache and I remember that the journey of the cross is the story that we live everyday. These are the moments of our community.  It’s not tidy at all, nor crisp with clarity.

The dust stirs on the statues. Chipped memories acknowledge that redemption began with the incarnation. He came to love, live, set free and therefore die. It’s because His love was so bold and non-violent that he was killed.  I am stuck in the story.

Hurt throbs through the questions.  Do I really understand?  Am I willing to die for what he lived?  Can I? Am I?

set down the stones

I do not advise that young children watch this video.  The facts are very heavy and I believe its content is only appropriate for mature adults:

We’re approaching Jerusalem.  It is nearly time to wave branches and shout Hosanna’s.  We’ll rejoice with hope as our Love rides into town on a simple donkey.  Gathered around a dusty street we can reach out and trustingly hand Him the pains of the world.

We hope for a revolution, but will instead know redemption.

The redemption is enlightened empowerment. We’re all good, we’re all God’s children, all of us have rights because we all have dignity. It’s refreshing to be reminded. We have power to make changes. It’s awesome!

But, in the face of intense suffering, we’re overwhelmed and challenged.  We are stunned and slowed by the horror of children being used as sex slaves and other horrific sins.  How can we be the body of Christ and heal and help when the hurt is so extreme? How can we help others to know the sacredness of their own bodies and beings when they have never been told the truth?

How can we save the children?

The good news is that Jesus saves.  It’s not up to us to be messiahs, just helpers.  Christ’s power continues to unfold through us.  The Jerusalem story is our story.  Jesus has given us arms of love and compassion.  Jesus taught us how to set people free from the lies that enslave them.  We truly are instruments of peace.

It’s really hard work.  This love revolution won’t work if we’re judgmental or defensive, which is sometimes our automatic action.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”     –Jn 8:1-11

These radical actions of compassion and forgiveness are daily acts of regular relationships and small communities.

Turning the awfulness to joy and justice is also the acts of nations.  The United States’ new federal budget just expanded defense spending by 5 billion dollars, while drastically cutting funding to programs that provide assistance to the poorest of the poor.  We’ve reduced our acts of love and compassion and increased defense.

These last days of lent free us from all the stones of sin that are too heavy for us to carry. In order to pick up our palm branches we need to set down our stones.

When, O humanity, will we ever set down our stones?!

this is HARD

Guest blogger Jerica Arents

This Lent has been, for me, a choir of resounding “no’s”.  As part of a Catholic Worker community, we try hard to live in more radical ways, attempting to fashion our internal dialogue in patterns that deliberately put first the poor and the planet.  And, along with my six housemates, I wanted to have a bold Lenten fast this year.  I wanted to challenge my preconceptions about fasting and discipline and prayer.

 

So we made communal commitments to fasting from sugar and high fructose corn syrup (and cane derivatives), to withhold our consent from the incredibly alarming human rights abuses of the sugar cane industry and the unsustainable and toxic nature of high fructose corn syrup.  We gave up plastic, to remind ourselves that every single piece of plastic we consume and discard will be on our Earth for at least the next million years. And we gave up electricity on Sundays, as a reminder of our culture’s dependence on fuel, to stand in solidarity with billions of people in the Global South, and (most importantly) to intentionally choose rest with others in community.

 

sugar spoon

I was excited about the communal fast until I recognized how hard it was going to be.  To be honest, three weeks into Lent feels like decades.  The sugar thing was fun until I grasped the reality that high fructose corn syrup is in essentially everything.  Nothing processed is fair game.  We can’t eat our cranberries, our dumpstered chocolate milk or our cereal.  All sweets are off the table, along with most baked things, frozen breakfast foods, or items that would have historically satisfied one’s sugary cravings.  The plastic thing has been downright hilarious (have you ever taken your own Tupperware into a restaurant, inquiring whether they would serve your meal in it?).  I’ve found that it’s next to impossible to go to a grocery store and find anything not wrapped, covered or sealed in plastic.

Outside of the inconvenient choices, the most integrated part of our Lenten fast commitment is our Sunday energy fasts.  Last week, I read for hours with a flashlight in the dark, leaving me feeling more like my insomniac 12-year-old self than a spiritually-disciplined adult.  Our house seems eerily quiet as we eat cold food all day and shake off our coffee-less mornings, ignoring the phone and unplugging our computers.  But the beauty of the energy fast is that the Sabbath has never before felt more like a Sabbath.  We seem to enjoy each other without the doldrums of daily distractions, getting lost in song-singing and music-playing well into the night.   We actually rest.

Perhaps the greatest gift of Lent is remembering – being reminded, constantly, the ways our individual choices crucify God’s people and Creation everyday.  I’m learning more concretely that standing up and saying “no” – for however long a time is helpful – is really a lesson in saying “yes”.  We vote instead for worker’s rights, an end to the wars, and a break for the replenishment of the planet.  We’re saying “yes” to the creative energy of community.  And in that, we end up choosing the life of the world we’re trying to build, over the death that otherwise seems to be all around us.

Read this week’s guest blogger’s first Messy post.


“Plastic” photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/690898 “Sugar” photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/76944


hot desert heartache

"Dry Land" by Julia Walsh, FSPA

It’s confusing in this lenten desert. It’s not my home, but yet here I am.  It’s hot, bare and dirty.  My desire for lenten thirst and contemplation drew me here, but now I don’t know what to do with myself.  The creatures are unfamiliar, the thorns scare me.  I don’t even know how to sit comfortably.  How can I know God in this strange place?

I try to listen to God in the strange seeming stillness. But, really, I find that I can’t sit still.  My gaze and my movement is away from God in the quiet. Or, is it?

I find that it’s impossible to contemplate God’s presence and ignore the cries of the world.  I worry about the destruction and despair in Japan.  I learn of more bombings and gunfire in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and between gangs in the USA.  I know too many young people whose dreams are and growth is  impacted by instability within their homes.  I am flooded with prayer requests for people’s health, relationships, job-searches and economics.  I know that many people are desperately struggling for their survival.  I feel overwhelmed with the truth of injustice, suffering and pain. Tension flares within me as I hear that our government is about to shut down.  How can this be okay? How many people will suffer even more just because our elected leaders can’t come to some sort of compassionate compromise?

What caused us to get into this great big mess?  What has happened to our global interdependence and national unity?  I’ve studied the causes of social problems and I can’t say that the fact that we are driven by fear, greed and power-struggles gives me any hope.

I’m getting kind of grumpy in this desert.  In prayer I whine about how the lenten challenge of facing the ugly can help me gain faith.  It doesn’t make sense and the confusion gets thicker.  I listen a bit more.  Then God reminds me of the Word.

Will not the day of the LORD be darkness and not light, gloom without any brightness?  I hate, I spurn your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; Your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings.   Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me holocausts,  then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream-Amos 5: 20-24

Oh yeah!  This desert is a place of remembering, and I finally am.  We do all this- all this tough Gospel stuff- because our message shall shower the land with freedom.  Streams of great water flow through the land and renew and restore all.

I feel like I am trying to see in the dark but the sun is shining.  It’s not really that gloomy and ugly, it’s just not my ordinary.  I begin to notice the life that is blooming through the dusty landscape.  With God, the darkness and the light are one.

I am not to drown out the pain with cheerful music or simple sacrifice, Amos said.  Instead, I am to dance in the dark to the beautiful songs of justice and goodness and let those waters wash me clean.  The sacred desert is engaged with the world, all my actions there matter.  This desert is my home, after all.

Coloring outside the lines

Guest blogger: Elizabeth Diedrich

Scripture reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Scripture Readings: 1 Samual 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23: 1-3a, 3b-6; Eph 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

“This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus maintains a continual conversation with the religious leaders of his day. In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath and the Pharisees question him for his actions.

I think it is important to remember that Jesus was a Jew. He grew up in the traditions and customs of the Jewish people. He called the temple His Father’s house. He worshiped in the synagogue on the Sabbath and celebrated Passover.

The Pharisees had painted a picture in their mind of what it meant to be Jewish. Anything that deviated from this picture was neither faithful to Judaism nor to God. Thinking inside the box is safe. The status quo is comfortable. Coloring inside the lines is easy.

Yet, Jesus never let his life be defined by the Pharisees. He constantly challenged the Pharisees to expand their ideas of what it meant to be a faith-filled servant. Jesus did not fit in the Pharisees’ picture. Jesus colored outside the lines. He loved his enemy, overturned the money tables, and healed on the Sabbath.

Some lines are good. They act as a guide, show us wisdom, and can help lead us into community with others. Yet, when lines become too rigid, they separate us from each. Rigid lines cause us to not be able to think of the world in a different way and can lead us to become unconscious of the decisions and actions we make each day.

Our faith is not a color-by-numbers assignment. Rather, God gives us a gigantic box of crayons. We have the options of different colors, different combinations, and different patterns. We are called to color outside the lines of class, gender, race, religion, age, peer groups, politics, and social and economic classes. As Jesus said, “we are to become like children” and our lives are to be a canvas full of color, light, imagery, and the love of God and neighbor drawn out through radical action and love.

This week I invite you to reflect what lines you have drawn that you need to cross over. Where have unbending lines been drawn that inhibit faith? What areas of your life need color? Where in your life has Christ’s light not shined? Today is the day to break out your box of crayons and color your life to reflect the radical Gospel message of Christ.

Originally from Madison, WI, this week’s guest blogger, Elizabeth Diedrich, is currently a Catholic Worker at Andre House of Hospitality in Phoenix, AZ. She spends her free time hiking, playing Euchre, and making pottery. Elizabeth and Sister Julia enjoy sharing tea, chocolate, cheese and long conversations on peace and justice. Read Liz’s other Messy Jesus Business guest blog entry, in your own soul.

Photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/592496