a regular Easter in broken chains

Happy Easter!

Easter joy is ringing and Alleluias are all over the place. Jesus is alive and we can celebrate! This is the Easter joy I was hoping for, praying for.

I wanted to feel Easter joy because it had been a hard, exhausting Lent. I intensely felt the story of the Triduum this year. Holy Thursday was profound, Good Friday was awful and sad and Holy Saturday was horribly depressing.

Then, on Easter morning, I was giddy with joy. Church bells rang before dawn, at six a.m. I filled candy bowls with jelly beans and danced and sang Alleluias as I got ready to go to church. I was very excited and happy. Jesus is amazing, coming back from the dead and showing how powerful and strong He is! Wow! God is good!

The good news is that Easter is a regular thing, a much more regular thing than we might think.

Holy Thursday sharing is our daily bread. We nourish one another through our sharing in community. Our acts of ministry and daily caring for one another is the living servant-leadership of the foot washing Jesus modeled. Our bodies are holy. Yes, Jesus is the bread of Christ. And, we are the body of Christ. Together, we are Eucharist alive, living the Holy Thursday story on a daily basis.

Good Fridays happen way too much. People are oppressed, hurt, abused and tortured completely unjustly. We turn on each other and look for scapegoats. We force people to carry crosses of persecution they do not deserve. Men and women are killed by death sentences still. Children live in war zones, prisoners are tortured. Violence is found in hearts, homes, neighborhoods and entire nations worldwide. Humanity is cruel and violent. It’s horrid.

The grief of Holy Saturdays are thick too. Worldwide, women weep at graves of those killed unjustly–even their own children. People of faith become clouded by confusion and grief when their visions don’t fit with what God has in mind. We hold vigils and memorials and lean on each other in our sadness. We get frozen in our sorrow and are forced to have a solemn sabbath.

As I am saying, praise be God, Easter is a regular thing! We are fed by our daily bread of Eucharist and times when our bodies are honored as sacred and holy. We cry out for peace and justice when people are oppressed and hurt. We bond in community as we deal with our sorrow and sadness. And then, most importantly, Easter resurrections are regular too. Every day we find our voice, unite, rise up, renew, celebrate freedom from oppression, fear and injustice. God is so good!

Here’s a song- and a movement- all about regular Easters–a song of chains breaking and women gaining freedom and celebration:

“Break the Chain”

Lyrics by Tena Clark
Music by Tena Clark/Tim Heintz

I raise my arms to the sky
On my knees I pray
I’m not afraid anymore
I will walk through that door
Walk, dance, rise
Walk, dance, rise

I can see a world where we all live
Safe and free from all oppression
No more rape or incest, or abuse
Women are not a possession

You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful I feel my heart for the first time racing I feel alive, I feel so amazing

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain
Dance, rise
Dance, rise

In the middle of this madness, we will stand I know there is a better world Take your sisters & your brothers by the hand Reach out to every woman & girl

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
It’s time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Dance Break Inst.

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

 Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

Dance, rise
Dance, rise

 Sister won’t you help me, sister won’t you rise x4

This is my body, my body’s holy
No more excuses, no more abuses
We are mothers, we are teachers,
We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

I dance cause I love
Dance cause I dream
Dance cause I’ve had enough
Dance to stop the screams
Dance to break the rules
Dance to stop the pain
Dance to turn it upside down
Its time to break the chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain, oh yeah
Break the Chain

Here’s something really fun that you might get a kick out of. Some sisters in my community and I are dancing to our own little music video for the Break the Chain movement. Talk about the Easter story coming alive at a convent!!

Happy Easter everyone! May we all dance with great freedom! Alleluia!

The sacred secular: Where’s the Love?

One of the joys of serving as a Catholic high school theology teacher is encouraging students to expand their concepts of faith, religion and spirituality.

When I was a high school student, I remember being encouraged to listen to Christian music (only), to read Christian books (only) and watch movies approved by the Church. Certainly, without a strong faith foundation, it can be a bit risky to tamper with that which is considered secular for fun and entertainment. Yet, divisions can be dangerous. How can we serve and witness to the world about Christ’s love if we don’t know the world? How can we reach out to the other and invite them in if we are in closed communities, not connecting to the “other?”

What does secular really mean? Does it mean that there is a lack of intentional connection to God?

I teach students that all people are good, holy and loved. All of us are made in God’s image and likeness; all creation is made in the image of God! Therefore, all is good and holy and sacred. God truly is everywhere.

So, then, perhaps it is better for young Christians to seek God in all things- to pay attention to how the Christian messages of peace, justice and love can be present even in those things that may not be found in a Christian book store.

Here’s one of the favorite songs we pray with in my classroom, “Where’s the Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas:

Let’s share our True Love (y’all!) even to the secular margins!

alive in the studio

Trying to be a faithful Christian sometimes feels like living in God’s limitless art studio.

God is the Great Artist who is always at work creating us anew.  We get to co-create and this communion brings us closer to God.

Since ending my ministry at the high school my creativity has been slightly out of control. I have felt like I can’t keep up with the energy that has been trying to express itself.  My room has become more of an art studio than a bedroom. It is littered with paper scraps and my fingernails continue to be caked with glue, clay and paint.  God is at work and I am working to cooperate.

Apparently, being released from a stressful and demanding ministry has had an interesting impact on me.  Although little of the creativity has manifested on this blog, a lot of the holy integrations of my the past few years have been breaking loose and causing some good contemplation.

As I’ve been constructing, I’ve been thinking: Art can flower and force new consciousness.  And, creativity is a spiritual path: co-creating with God implies union with God. Truly, I can testify that when I create new things with God I experience God’s presence and energy in ways that truly astound me.  How does one describe feeling God’s energy?

For the union to exist with God while I create, I have to be open and trust. When I am writing, sculpting and painting I have to let go and let God, as cliche as it may be.  The final product is not up to me.  If I want the creations to truly glorify God, I must be empty and allow God’s creative power to be in control.  Really, I’ve found that at times a meditative trance can take over and the blessed buzz of blending words, images and textures can manifest meanings that are beyond me.  It’s really awesome.

Plus, good creativity is very messy.  Like in a healthy ecosystem, new life breaks forth out of rotting death.  The holy paschal mystery is alive and well in the chaos.  Seemingly bizarre artifacts can be combined to create something completely unusual, yet totally beautiful.  When I stand up and look at the big picture, the creative space can appear as if a storm has swept through.  Really though, there’s an order and a clarity in the mixtures. I am often surprised.  I learn a lot about God’s ways when I see the chaos of creating.

The main art project that has consumed my time and energy was building mini-grottos to pray for issues of peace and justice.  These diorama-type shrines will be prayed with by my community during our Education Week gathering this week.  The justice and peace committee that I am a part of hopes to increase consciousness, conversation and prayer around the issues of immigration, food, economics, education, church and health care.   Here’s a preview of the art for all the sisters and affiliates who read this blog:

“mighty money: a grotto to pray for economic justice”    by Sister Julia Walsh, FSPA

In the building of the God’s reign, God is the Great Artist.  God is in control and we get to cooperate, often times completely clueless about the finished product.  Let’s trust God in our personal development and in the complicated messes of systemic injustices.  Let’s also do our part to help create new works of art.  When it’s up to God, new life can create new consciousness.  We never really know how other creatures shall absorb a new meaning from something we had a part in.

Alive in each of us, God is constantly clipping and creating art anew.  Wow, I love living in this art studio.