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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Quotable Quotes: “I do believe in believing”

I don’t believe Christ is the “way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), or that heaven is anything like the kingdom most churches envision, or that the Bible always tells the truth about the way we should live. But I do believe in believing in a son of God who has come so that we may have life “more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). And I do believe in afterlives—in leaving the door open for Elijah, in case he comes in to drink his cup of seder wine. I believe in reading sacred texts the way rabbinic father Ben Bagbag taught his students to read Torah: “Turn it over and over…And reflect upon it and grow old and worn in it.” I believe in poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s search for “the words under the words” of her Palestinian grandmother’s prayers. I believe there’s something sacred about bali to, a Papa New Guinean idiom for “turned over words,” as anthropologist Steven Feld interprets it (in Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics and Song in Kaluli expression). What Jeff Sharlet likens to turning a stone over and over in your hands. “Those with eyes to see discover that the other side of the rock reveals new meanings; turn it again, and there’s another.”

–Ashley Makar in “Christian, for All Intents and Purposes,” Killing the Buddha, July 16, 2009

The Fireside Chats: Ghost hunters

0808-0710-1617-3417You ever have that evening when you Google your local cemetery to see if it’s haunted? Well, I did it today.

I struck gold, of a kind. I came up with a nine-minute YouTube video. In it, an official corps of ghost hunters descended upon my local cemetery. They were very white and Chicago-ish young men in leather jackets and sunglasses. They crossed their arms and did not smile, but looked like they really wanted to.

The ghost hunters visited after sundown. They had a smartphone camera, and they were equipped with night-vision video. They had an electronic device whose “numbers” would “jump” if they uncovered her for whom they had come: a little girl named Lena who, by repute, sometimes appeared in photographs and had died eighty years ago.

In the green-tinted footage, I observed the ghost hunters wandering about the cemetery. They snapped photos with the smartphone and said: “Little girl, come out. Little girl, are you here? Little girl, we aren’t here to hurt you. Little girl, we just want to talk to you.”

Yes, I thought, I’d come out for that.  Continue reading