trusting fire’s power

The fire of God is burning and we gather to praise and rejoice.  No barriers divide us, no division separates us.  God’s mystery connects us through the diversity of language, origin, world-view, culture and class. We are together, glowing with the heat that can only be experienced by the fullness of humanity.

Fire is beautiful, enlightening, strong.  We can become mesmerized and tempted to play in it and with it, teasing the limits.  With deep wonder, we can get too close to the power, only to be burned and scarred.  If we dance with God’s designs, we can’t stay the same.

In fact, the elements of God’s designs instill in us great lessons about the mystery of God’s nature.  Fire is fierce, dangerous, destructive.  Without our attention or understanding, the sparks of elements and energy ignite flames in fields and forests.  Dry air and strong wind force rages for miles, destroying life, homes, security and control.

We lament at loss and grieve our lack of understanding.  It feels like an injustice, it’s definitely a mystery. How can we love and have faith anymore?  How can we believe and trust?  How are we supposed to accept that this is Love’s Way when we feel so hurt?

Nature tells us, though, that with time life comes back brighter and stronger after a fire sweeps through.  In my childhood, I remember being confused about how my parents would start brush fires in our pastures to renew the grasses for something better. It made no sense to me, just as I now don’t understand my Divine Parent’s fire-y ways.

I try to trust, despite the struggle.  I’ve been hurt by the sudden death of a colleague and I am trying to live through painful good-byes; I’m ending my ministry in Chicago and moving to Wisconsin to be near the motherhouse. On Tuesday, another student told me that someone he knew well (his cousin) was shot and killed.  A foot taller than me at fifteen, I suddenly fell onto his chest, sobbing at the injustice.  He stood there like a pillar of stone, trying to comfort me through his own stunned grief. “It’s OK, Sister.” he muttered.  “No, it’s not!” I said.

Somehow, I must be faithful to my call to be an itinerant Franciscan and say good-bye to my students who are in so much pain.  Somehow, I must trust God that things will really be OK.  I must trust the mystery of God’s glorious fire, because I have no other choice. And, I believe that Love is truly stronger than any other energy, even the energy of non-understanding.

Deep in the dark, I shall snuggle up to the coals of God’s comfort with my community, family and friends.  The force of the Spirit shall heal and transform all of us, together, to be united as one body: the fire of God’s love. May it be so, Amen, indeed, Amen.

The Golden Sequence

Come, Holy Spirit,

send forth the heavenly

radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,

come, giver of gifts,

come, light of the heart.

Greatest comforter,

sweet guest of the soul,

sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,

in heat, temperance,

in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,

fill the inmost heart

of your faithful.

Without your grace,

there is nothing in us,

nothing that is not harmful.

Cleanse that which is unclean,

water that which is dry,

heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,

fire that which is chilled,

correct what goes astray.

Give to your faithful,

those who trust in you,

the sevenfold gifts.

Grant the reward of virtue,

grant the deliverance of salvation,

grant eternal joy.

Amen, Alleluia!

a holy man, a graduation, and a NATO protest

Yesterday I met one of my heroes.  Father Louis Vitale is a model peacemaker and Franciscan.  He received an honorary doctorate in ministry from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Fr. Louis’ accomplishments include many actions of non-violent advocacy, education, and much contemplation about the goodness of God.  He has spent two years in jail for actions of non-violent peacemaking plus he helped found Pace e Bene and the Nevada Desert Experience.  Now he is a parish priest in San Francisco.

At the graduation, I was so excited to hear Fr. Louis speak and I had brought my journal and pen in order to take fervent notes.  His acceptance speech was not anything highly academic nor formal though; instead he guided us all in a meditation and celebration of the goodness of God.  He ended his speech by blowing kisses at the crowd and saying “I love you!”  In the end, with a big smile I wrote a simple note:  “Always celebrate the goodness of God!”

Earlier this week, Fr. Louis was on the news explaining what freedom means to him. His statement was part of a story about the awesome social action that my Catholic Worker friends engaged in on Monday at which they bravely proclaimed “NATO Feeds War! Community Feeds People!”  Through bread-breaking, song, prayers, signs, statements, leaflets and presence my friends and fellow Christians asked the leaders of NATO to join them in the works of mercy and stop the works of war.

Clip from Chicago's CBS news re: NATO protesters
Click to watch video

Fr. Louis’ statement about freedom has been rattling in mind since I saw it a few days ago. Then there was something about Fr. Louis’ pure joy and love for Christ and humanity that overflowed at the graduation last night that reminded me of other holy Christians, but from a long time ago.  Certainly, St. Francis would probably be grateful for his courage and witness.  But, I was thinking more about Saints Peter and Paul.

I have been teaching the book of Acts and the life of the early Christian church to my students this week. As I re-read Acts (and hear it proclaimed at mass during this Easter season) I keep feeling excited and amazed.  And, I am challenged.

Do I have the same faith and courage in Jesus that the early Christians did?  Am I willing to lovingly, non-violently proclaim the Gospel in public places, even if it’s really risky? Am I healer, a preacher and a teacher in a way that invites more people to the Christian community?  What would my faith be like if people were plotting to kill me for it and the Christian community was also not accepting me?

All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded [the] Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Messiah. After a long time had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. Now they were keeping watch on the gates day and night so as to kill him, but his disciples took him one night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. When he arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.  Acts 9: 21-26

I am not sure how brave I really am.  I’d like to think that I am willing to share the Gospel no matter what, but I haven’t really ever been persecuted for my faith.

But, I do know that I am inspired and grateful.  I am inspired by those, like Fr. Louis and my Catholic Worker friends, who non-violently, publicly testify that the non-violent, good God and Jesus is more powerful than any other force.   I am so thankful for holy men and women throughout history who boldly said yes to God and Love no matter what the cost!

This weekend, as NATO convenes in Chicago and the fear, tension and excitement escalate, I pray that all people of all faiths can experience the real peace of Christ and be able to celebrate the goodness of God.  Then, we really will graduate to The Way of peace and justice. Yes, let us pray, let us love and let us proclaim the Truth no matter the cost. Amen!

love, peace, Jesus and NATO

When Peter entered, Cornelius met him
and, falling at his feet, paid him homage.
Peter, however, raised him up, saying,
“Get up. I myself am also a human being.”
Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.”   –Acts 10:25-26

Let’s get up and be together; we are all human beings.

We are the people of God.  Really, all people are God’s people and God loves everyone the same.  Not one nation is better than any other. Not one person is better than any other.  We are all called to do what is right and we work to please our God.

What sort of action does it take to be a “nation who fears God and acts uprightly?”

What actions show our reverence for God?  What actions say that we revere how Jesus is living in the dignity of all humanity?

Jesus made it pretty clear how we are are to act:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”.
   –John 15:9-17

Is there a nation that is ready and willing to be a true friend, one who is ready and willing to lay down their lives the other?

I am aware that many soldiers are willing to lay down their lives for their own nations.  But are there people who are willing to lay down their lives for others, for another nation?  Who are being true, loving friends in the national ways of being?

In 10 days the NATO Summit begins in Chicago.  I am excited that I am here for this historic event as people shall try to confront the powers whose acts are in complete contrast to what is acceptable to God.

I am not sure how I will participate in the actions of the Summit. I feel compelled to say with my love- with my living- that I truly believe that no nation should ever behave as if they are better than another.   After all, we are all human beings and we all deserve to be treated that way.   Presently, I am contemplating what  God is calling me to.  I know, however, that I want to be a friend to people in other nations. I want to behave in ways that are truly acceptable to God. I want to say with all that am that I love my neighbors everywhere and the only power that I really fear is God’s infinite power.

Thanks be to God for those who live the Truth with their way of love.  Thanks be to God for those who inspire me to really love my neighbor and be part of a nation who is willing to lay down its life for other nations.  Creative non-violence says “I’ll live simply so you may live” & “I’ll dialogue with you so we may both be free.”  Alleluia, amen, by the witness of great peacemakers, I am learning!   May we all behave non-violently, in ways that are rightly acceptable to the true, holy Power.

Thanks be to God! Amen!

“peace on the sidewalk, Chicago” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

encounters allowed

It’s really hard that living the Gospel and

following Jesus means that we are willing

to encounter the injustices in

society and experience poverty.

It’s not easy that being Easter people-

living up to the resurrection-

means that we allow ourselves

to encounter the uncomfortable

places in our lives and our world.

Loving Jesus makes a mess.

We get into the ugly, awful

places of our lives and societies.

Layered into tombs and crosses,

beautiful newness and Easter

glory glow.

As we allow ourselves

to encounter the stories

of the Truth,

we open ourselves

to encounters with the mysteries

of God’s goodness.

We are united in the mess.

Together we celebrate

the awesomeness of God’s love.

Amen! Alleluia! Amen!

an Easter economy

It is time for a new economy.

It is time for Christ to be our Cornerstone of all creation, even our economic exchange. It’s Easter, the season of new days and resurrected, restored creations.  The time is now for God’s Way to revive all that makes us broken and weak, especially the structures that create poverty and violence.

They brought them into their presence and questioned them,
“By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them,
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  -Acts 4: 7-12

Our society loves putting our faith in the wrong places. The early Christians understood that nothing would work unless Christ is its cornerstone, its foundation, the center upon which all is grounded. Today we seem to be pretty dense to this. We gamble on economics and politics to be our salvation as if they are the systems that will lead us toward justice and peace.

Today’s political and economic debates are littered with lies.

All over the spectrum, I hear the propaganda of capitalism. One side is blaring out that we need to have few regulations, little taxation and that those with the wealth and power ultimately will- by the nature of the structure- influence justice.  Supposedly, people can rise up by the boot straps and get on their feet if those with wealth and power are able to create more jobs.  On the other hand, I hear a suggestion that we need to redistribute wealth, that if you’re rich it’s because the structure has allowed you to be and so you owe something to the rest of humanity.  Glossy promotions boom out that careful investments, money management and increased shopping is the way to freedom, justice and peace.  How many times do we justify our materialistic habits with a shrug of: “my purchasing is helping the economy”?  We think morality should be guided by ability.  (I was disgusted to hear a story on Science Friday about mining resources in space to maintain our standard of living, without any discussion about whether it is morally OK for us to do so.)  For some reason everyone seems to believe that if we allow capitalism to work its course then things will be fair and everything will be all right.

Today is May Day, an international day of strike and an Occupy movement momentum maker.  These social movements cry out in response to the propaganda of capitalism: the structures we know aren’t working!

What would work instead?  It’s Eastertime.  We need a new economy, an Easter economy.  The only way is Christ, the cornerstone.

With Christ at the cornerstone of the new economy, all shall be gift.  According to God’s designs, we are interdependent with all creation.  We need plants, animals and clean air.  The creatures of God’s planet need us to care for them, too.  With mindfulness, we shall restore earth’s resources and all have enough.  We give and take with gratitude and constantly ask the hard questions about what we should do, not what we can do.

In an economy with Christ as the cornerstone, we can rely on each other.  We’ll know how to help each other and we won’t hesitate to do so because we understand that judgement isn’t up to us.  We know that hospitality and service means that we risk being uncomfortable and converting to creations who are more united.  We trust each other to do what is right, because no competition shall cause us to do wrong.  With joy, we work with our hands, create art, repair what is broken, grow our own food and freely give away what we don’t need.

The Gospel good news is that many are already living in these Easter economies.  I am thrilled to know people who will, in a couple of weeks, celebrate a weekend without capitalism.   I have some friends who have a “free shelf” in their house and sponsor a regular “free market” in Chicago in order to create a space for everyone to share what they have.

When it comes to giving, loving and serving survival shouldn’t be our concern.  With Christ as our cornerstone, our needs are supplied.  Sure, we may need to live simply and love freely in order to get by, but isn’t that the Gospel Way?  If we’re not concerned about money, bills and income then we suddenly have time to grow our own food, fix things that are broken and look for food in new places. We can give of our skills and time in exchange for the things we need.  I’d be delighted to come and teach a lesson or write for you; you can feed me lunch or help me fix my bike.

This vision isn’t just idealistic or pie in the sky.  This is according to Christ’s designs. Our faith needs to be in Him, we are made to love and share.  With new alternatives, our habits shall be converted and we’ll be healing the crippled and bringing life to the dead.  We recognize that justice isn’t up to us, that’s God’s work.  We all do our part to help make things better.  We trust and believe.   We know it in our hearts and we preach it with our lives: with Christ as the cornerstone of our Easter economy, everything will really be OK.