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.

Continue reading

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

The Fireside Chats: Noble discretion. Or, the discretion of the nobles.

0808-0710-1617-3417In a Sept. 21 article from the New York Times Opinion pages, entitled “Why Poor Students Struggle,” New York teacher Vicki Madden reflects on low-income students of hers who make it to college and then drop out. She reflects, too, on her own experience of being a low-income student who got into Barnard and stayed, but not without friction.

Madden confesses the nuts-and-bolts importance of economics. Sometimes you live close enough to the edge that even small amounts of money can decide everything: “If you don’t have $700, it might as well be a million.” Sometimes, though, it comes down to intangibles.

But once those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds arrive on campus, it’s often the subtler things, the signifiers of who they are and where they come from, that cause the most trouble, challenging their very identity, comfort and right to be on that campus. The more elite the school, the wider that gap. I remember struggling with references to things I’d never heard of, from Homer to the Social Register. I couldn’t read The New York Times — not because the words were too hard, but because I didn’t have enough knowledge of the world to follow the articles. Hardest was the awareness that my own experiences were not only undervalued but often mocked, used to indicate when someone was stupid or low-class: No one at Barnard ate Velveeta or had ever butchered a deer….

To stay four years and graduate, students have to come to terms with the unspoken transaction: exchanging your old world for a new world, one that doesn’t seem to value where you came from. The transition is not just about getting a degree and making more money….

Madden concludes: “how can we help our students prepare for the tug of war in their souls?”

The article sent me off on a private reverie. For I’ve inhabited, and continue to inhabit, both the Velveeta world and the non-Velveeta world.  Continue reading