Take me to church, part 1 of 2. The healer.

I had some remarkable experiences at church last weekend. I want to blog about them. I have done too many “Asides” lately, I try to preserve “Fireside Chats” for “secular” things (more or less), and I don’t think either of these stories fit at Young Adult Catholics. Therefore I am doing a two-part series called “Take Me to Church.” This is the first installment.

Last Sunday was my birthday. On Saturday evening, I attended Mass. The elderly lady who sits behind me, and who likes to give me a hug, handed me a birthday card. I stayed afterward so I could open and read it while she watched. The dog in the card announced to me that “despite our age,” we’re still “tarp as shacks!”

The birthday card provided enough of a delay so that when I left the building, after almost everybody else had gone, I encountered a parishioner to whom I’d never paid much attention. He was old, skinny, stark (I would say stooped, but if anything he seemed stooped backward), dressed in a black jacket, and decked out in a bandanna.  Continue reading

An aside: Chosen

In one of my favorite books, What Jesus Meant, the redoubtable historian Garry Wills writes:

For me, the most convincing pictures or sculptures of the Annunciation to Mary show her in a state of panic. Arturo Martini and Dante Gabriel Rossetti show her shrinking off from the angel, looking cornered by him. Lorenzo Lotto shows her turning entirely away from the angel, as if about to run from him. But the most striking images occur in fourteenth-century paintings–by, for instance, Lorenzo Veneziano and the Master of the Cini Madonna–where Mary is made so faint by the angel’s words that she sways back and must grab a pillar to keep herself upright.

This reaction is signaled by the gospel of Luke, which says, “She was deeply shaken [dietarachthe] by what the angel said, and was trying to puzzle out [dielogizeto] what such a greeting could mean” (Lk 1.29). The angel has to reassure her: “Have no fear, Mary, this is because you have found favor with God.” Did she know already how dangerous is such favor? God’s chosen people are commonly chosen to suffer.

I ponder Wills’ observation often. In thinking of it, I couple it with this quote from Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, which I found at Stephanie Drury’s excellent Stuff Christian Culture Likes page:

Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? …we should all be wearing crash helmets.

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An aside: Not by bread alone

Last night, I attended the 5:15 weekday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral. It is something I have not done in a while, but wish to do more often. And I wish to do it even though the priest, when not specifically enjoined by the liturgy to interact with the congregation, insisted on praying in Latin and making sure we all heard it.

After Mass, I took the parish bulletin to a little Thai-Vietnamese restaurant in the shadow of the cathedral. I read it while eating Pad Thai doused with Sriracha sauce. (If I’m not sweating, it isn’t Thai.)

The bulletin contains this item, quoted verbatim:

“Can you spare some change so I can get something to eat?”

We want to help but we are:

–Uneasy when approached by someone in need

–Worried about pulling out a wallet or opening a purse

–Concerned that our money might be used for drugs or alcohol

Those who ask for money on the street have many needs: a job, a place to live, counseling, – and a way out of a bad situation. Professionals are the best people to help with all these needs.

What we can do is help make sure no one goes hungry. We can at least buy this person a cup of coffee or a sandwich.

Chicago Shares vouchers are a convenient, safe and constructive means to provide meals and other necessities for hungry people…

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Quotable Quotes: “Most people are afraid of the dark”

Most people are afraid of the dark. Literally when it comes to children, while many adults fear, above all, the darkness that is the unknown, the unseeable, the obscure. And yet the night in which distinctions and definitions cannot be readily made is the same night in which love is made, in which things merge, change, become enchanted, aroused, impregnated, possessed, released, renewed.

–From Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Woolf’s Darkness” in her book Men Explain Things to Me

“Pray, Listen, Discern”: Reflections after a vigil

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil in front of Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil in front of Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

On Tuesday evening, I gathered with a bunch of other folks to pray the rosary. We met on the wet, chilly sidewalk outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

The sky unloaded on us as we arrived. But the rain eased up, almost stopped, as we began the service. It is the kind of thing that happens when I pray in front of Holy Name.

The Human Rights Campaign and Call To Action co-sponsored our gathering. It was one of seven vigils scheduled during the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod (Oct. 5-19) on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The vigils call on the bishops to “Pray, Listen, Discern” with LGBT families.  Continue reading

The Fireside Chats: Sin city

0808-0710-1617-3417One of my best friends once lived in Brooklyn. He had a girlfriend who lived in Brooklyn, too. After he moved in with her, I stayed with them in their loft near the Navy Yard.

In bored moments, I perused the bookshelves. Most of the books were hers. One was entitled Wicked Pleasures: Meditations on the Seven “deadly” Sins.

The quotation marks bespoke intrigue. Deadly things are deadly. But “deadly” things are merely “deadly.”  Continue reading

Guerrilla Communion Chicago: Update

The author is visible, as is his garbanzo bean salad.

The author is visible, as is his garbanzo bean salad.

My fellow traveler at Call To Action, Ellen, recently posted this in CTA’s JustChurch Updates:

With pumpkin rolls and apples on the table, this month’s Guerrilla Communion was clearly ready for the cooler weather that has come to Chicago this month.  After a summer away from Guerrilla Communion, a small group of young progressive Catholics gathered for a potluck lunch at the Br. David Darst retreat center on Chicago Southside on Sunday afternoon. Monty Python jokes, talk of the upcoming CTA conference and updates after exciting summers all flowed freely, it was a great event!

You can find out more about Guerrilla Communion gatherings here, here, and here.

If you’re in Chicago metro and would like to join us, my contact info is on my About page.

If you want more information about starting a gathering in your part of the world, drop a line to ellen (at) cta-usa (dot) org.

An aside: God is not a boy’s name. A parish governance vignette.

It was a cold, overcast Saturday morning. It was the ungodly hour (for a Saturday, or perhaps just for me on a Saturday) of 9 am. Like the others, I sat in a not-too-comfortable chair at a brown, standard-issue boardroom table in the parish religious education center.

We had assembled for a meeting of the lectors’ commission. I do not know if I appeared pale and grizzled. I know I felt that way. Several of the other lectors looked the way I felt. We were here to come up with a “mission statement.”

Back story: Father, in a whirlwind of self-willed activity, had restructured the parish. We therefore acquired a parish pastoral council. Representatives on the parish pastoral council were in turn responsible for various ministry commissions. Each ministry commission needed a mission statement. It was our turn to put up. We could not opt to shut up.

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