Joan a’ Lark

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Play is "FUN"amental to life when the weight of the world feels too much to bear.

My niece is a single mom who raised 3 children single- handedly.  So I was not too surprised when she bought herself a motor bike to use for work and for trips around town.

In the past I had seen women sitting in the back of their husband’s or boyfriend’s motorcycle and hanging onto his waist for dear life.

Not so today.  Women are buying and riding their own bikes…just one more image of women taking their seat in the front and in control of their own journeys.

Moreover this year women in larger numbers than ever before are running for public office, some of them even having served our country in active military service.  Modern Joan of Arcs will be leading our country, hopefully without getting burned at the stake for their courage.

Now whenever I see a woman speeding along on her Harley, wind blowing through her hair, just seeming to be having a lark, I will offer a quiet prayer in thanksgiving that women have come this far in their pursuit of freedom…that they are courageously following a long line of Joan of Arcs, women burning on fire with determination to set our nation free again.

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Immigrant Woman, Dogs, Children and Crumbs

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WELCOME TABLE?

My friend, Lea Anne, was writing an article about the Syro-Phoenician woman.  She asked me to paint a picture of the woman.   This story, left mostly untold throughout my Catholic schooling and from the church pulpit, is having much relevance today.

In the time of Jesus, women should not interrupt…should not make their needs public, but if they must, they should do it in a humble quiet way.  In this scripture story because of a woman’s  insistence, Jesus came to recognize the cognitive dissonance between his mission to Israel and what God would want.

I’ve seen images depicting this woman with outstretched hands of a beggar.  Sadly I must admit that, for women, a lot has not changed since she confronted Jesus.  So, at first, that is how I had planned to paint her… but my brush would not allow it.

Images of immigrant Hispanic women crossing the US border, desperate to give their children a better life, were flashing repeatedly across my TV screen.  For their daring actions their children were being torn away from them.  And yes, their children, caged and fed by the US government, were being treated like dogs.  We still hear the pleading cries of women and children on our borders.  Like Jesus, we cannot avoid the cognitive dissonance between our immigration policies and the Statue of Liberty.

Seeing and hearing the terror of both children and mothers prompted me to paint the hand of the Syro-Phoenician  woman pointing to the dogs eating crumbs under a Eucharistic table.  She is pointing for everyone to see the glaring incongruity of a people, claiming to be “one nation under God”.

Christianity was meant to be a WELCOME TABLE, with food and a place for all.  But our current world is vividly pointing to glaring failures to use our sacred table and its abundance to feed those most in need.  Instead today’s world and our country especially is an overloaded banquet table for privileged special guests and only crumbs falling below to hungry and starving masses.

Are we seeing the results of an important sacred story being left untold?  Could it be the consequence of religious men guarding the Table of the Lord so that women are not allowed to preside there?  Certainly women would have insisted that all God’s children were fed.  When clerics exclude some of God’s people, whom they deem unworthy, from Eucharistic Food, do they justify and even symbolize the world’s unwillingness to share with less fortunate people and nations?

The woman I painted is not pleading!  Instead she is insisting that she, a foreign woman, and her child deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity.  Because of her insistence, Jesus changed his mind about his mission to include the Gentiles.

Our insistence today must not falter until our immigration policies and our religious policies are revised, implemented and enforced to ensure equality and justice for all.

 

TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

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God’s Holy Refugees, Driven by the Search for Real

What of the Religious Refugees… fleeing theologies
… theologies that clang against the consciousness
 of this age’s sins and (w)holy wisdom?

To the Nones and Dones and those most nearly done,
the silence of the Holy One is deafeningly loud
…in theologies describing 
 a god so praise-starved and power-hungry
…that it demands our constant adulation and servile obedience
…in theologies describing an all knowing Big Father/Brother in the sky
 speaking scriptural words of love between the narcissistic lines.

What consciousness is this…
that drives us from the comfort of a sacred family
…wrapped in the solace of sweet hymns and select scriptures
so we not see and question those Words and stories
…strewn with images of such an ignoble and inglorious God?

Bereft of temple, church, synagogue or mosque,
where do we go to find a home?
Or is there even such a place?

Religious refugees driven far from safe homes we knew so long ago,
…the hymns we sang, the Scripture read, so comforting,
now crash as awkward phrases against what we “Now Know”.
“Now Know” not so stately as the holy architecture of theologies 
so long held bosom-close for comfort.

O Saints before us, who lost your faith in such Go(o)d nonsense…
Is there not something…anything, 
 other than the loss we know today?

Or is all search for the comfort of meaning and certainty 
 a useless Sisyphus task of rolling boulder uphill 
 …until it rolls back crushing us
…worn weak and weary in the futility of it all?

We go down into the pit of despair
…
 with you, O Saints who went there before us.
We have still the wisdom of your love and your courage
 to live in the not knowing,
…in the shatter-scatter pace of life’s ever-changing face 
 that re-assembles its appearance from
 …horror to grief to love and back again
…in cycles too quick to ponder or assimilate,
 …sometimes barraged in unremitting painful questions:
Why them? Why me? 
 …Why even ask why?

We refugees of theologies 
that answer questions of the past
 with answers from the further past..
 …some wisdom there buried
 under all the dust and shite, for certain.

Yet there is this tingling sense that
 wisdom buried under ages having passed, 
 yet still is with us now

for every change of time from one epoch to another
 had its pain of cracking through, 
 like a babe breaking out its mother’s womb
all tender and powerless, 
 …in need of succor and protection, 
 so like our new consciousness adapting…to its new place and time.

Let us have faith meanwhile, in each other,
 …in the everyday uncanonized saints of today and yesterday.
Not idolatrous faith, of course,
 but rather faith that nurtures love as it re-news life,
…as it makes life NEW again…
 Creation ongoing, ever-challenging us
…to go on loving…as best we can.

WHERE is the theology that can lead us
…in the way of this ever-adapting gypsy-like home-making faith?
WHERE is the theology sustaining
…a dynamic back-and-forth movement
 between the wisdom of the past
…and the present moment
…now challenging our consciousness 
 …to RISE UP and BE COUNTED.
*    *    *

Painting “God’s Holy Refugees” by Consilia Karli, SFCC

Poem by Sister Lea, SFCC with Consilia Karli
https://RiteBeyondRome.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Catholic Women Can Talk til They’re Blue in the Face!

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Here we are again…International Womens’ Day 2018.  The women of Voices of Faith once again address the matter of womens’ place in the Roman Catholic Church.  For the fifth year the group, funded by the Gotz Foundation, met in Rome, hoping against hope that they will be heard by a patriarchal church. Once again they invited leaders of the male hierarchy to “dialogue fearlessly” with them.  So far, less than a handful of clerics have accepted the invitation in the past 4 years.  

This year to add insult to injury, Cardinal Farrell (recently appointed Vatican Discatary of Laity Family and Youth)  would not grant approval to three of the women on a list of panelists scheduled to speak at the gathering in the Vatican. (One of these women was the former president of Ireland, the country that educated and fostered Cardinal Farrell’s vocation to the priesthood.)  After several attempts to discuss the matter were ignored, rather than eliminate the censored women, Gotz elevated them from panelists to keynote speaker and featured speakers. The foundation also decided to move their venue to a Jesuit facility outside the Vatican.

Jesus met with similar treatment from religious leaders of his time, so this fact should encourage Voices of Faith to not be deterred from their important mission to the church and the world.

An inability to hear has been a weakness of Jesus’ chosen male followers.  It seems that Jesus himself had to grow beyond a long inherited misogynist view toward women. Comparing Jesus’ attempt to dialogue against a healing request from a Syrophoenician Gentile woman with his instant response to a Roman Centurian’s similar appeal indicates some innate gender conflict.

When the church insists with “infallible certainty” that Jesus would never have ordained a woman or had  not invited women to his Last Supper the church only succeeds in portraying Jesus as gender compromised. Fortunately Christian women have managed all these long years to believe otherwise, in spite of the idolatrous heresy the church continues to preach.

The Syrophoenician woman would not accept being treated like a dog being fed crumbs under the table, or being dismissed at the suggestion of the apostles. She persisted and argued her cause. Jesus demonstrated his human capacity to change his mind and granted her request with a miracle. The women at Voices of Faith persisted too. Yet Catholic women are forced to talk among themselves until they are Blue in the Face. Sadly Jesus’ church is so shackled by “divine infallibility” that now even the mind of God is incapable of change.
 

 

Coming Forward, Speaking Out!

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It took more than 4000 years to bring women to this moment of solidarity against the sexual harassment, abuse and violence that men have committed unchecked and unquestioned against women and children. Now with dangerous memories voiced and shared publicly it is as if the floodgates have been opened and they have a life and power of their own.

Men are toppling before our eyes from every position of power, including ecclesial. Many men are running for cover lest they become the next ones held accountable for their degradation of women/children. Other men are stunned by the exposed failures to protect women/children and are burdened with the task of restoring the good name of institutions that perpetuated the assaults.

Women have always known about the sexual abuses heaped upon women. In fact the earliest human writings, the old testament, have many a text of terror where women are violated by men. So today’s awful and painful revelations are not shocking.  What is shocking is the courage and strength that women are displaying openly against sacred taboos and patriarchal systems that have justified and excused the violation of women for so long.

Some who feel “victimized by the truth” want the women’s “Me Too” movement to stop.  Enough already!  But hopefully the movement’s momentum will grow and continue until every abused woman and child finds its voice and feels safe enough to tell its story.  New testaments are being revealed and recorded in our midst. They have the potential to usher in a new age of equality for all. Meanwhile old testament stories about women need to be retold from the perspective of the abused women of long ago. At the least I am left with a new understanding of the concept “tongues of fire hovered over them”.

Swindled and Blindsided

                           “Oh, What Did I Do?”

I’m one of those Evangelical Catholics who voted for Trump. I was convinced that I was following my conscience. I attend mass every Sunday and expect my pastor to be my moral guide in most areas of my life.

I must admit, however, in the area of birth control, I felt ok with my wife’s practicing birth control. We were both open to having children, but just not more than we could provide with food, shelter, health, education and love. We knew that the church was not against birth control per say, and even encouraged “natural” family planning. Our first two children were the result of that method and so we realized that it did not work for us, We felt God could not be offended if we used a method that did. Even at that, we always felt some guilt about it, and my wife often abstained from Eucharist until her child bearing years were over.

Being active in our church’s anti-abortion campaign was a way for us to prove to God and ourselves our genuine respect for life and for the unborn. Voting our conscience meant voting against candidates who supported a woman’s right to choose. Gratefully our church had made our political decisions easy and clear. All other moral or political issues could be ignored, or minimized as merely “character flaws” as long as a candidate claimed to oppose abortion. We did not have to weigh party platforms or any impact an election would have on our democracy or on our relations with our global neighbors. Being anti-abortion was equivalent to being on God’s side and what else could matter?

These past months of political chaos, created by Trump and his advisors have left me uneasy and remorseful. The lack of compassion shown toward immigrants and the sick and disabled are difficult to watch on nightly news. I was horrified by the hatred and violence openly displayed in Charlottesville, and by Trump’s reluctance to renounce Nazism and white supremacy publicly. I was sure I would hear and see a stronger stance from my pastor and the bishops but I am both disappointed and still waiting for the same degree of moral guidance that I was given during the election campaign.

Every day the threat of nuclear war escalates. Massive flooding and other natural disasters around the world are proving that climate change is real. Both are threatening the stability of life on our planet. I feel helpless and responsible while my church and the other evangelical religious leaders continue to give consent to this ineffective and morally diminished administration.

While our intelligence agencies are working feverishly to trace Russia’s collusion and interference in our elections, I can’t help feeling that they might just as easily examine our evangelical and catholic churches as co-conspiritors in swaying the results of this past election from inside our country. Many of our religious leaders have been involved in hacking the consciences of American citizens in order to influence the results of the 2016 elections and to gain political power in our government. They too, in the name of religious liberty, have had a significant role in undermining our democratic process.  Now I anxiously wait for them to repent and to call us to repent of our failure to develop free and mature consciences and to shed our childlike dependency on moral authorities.

Render to Caesar…

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The collusion of church and state, once again, is wreaking havoc on the world.  The 2016 U S elections allowed a christian right wing to usurp what was once a democratic system.

Religious leaders in Jesus’ time tried to trap him by questioning  his allegiance to politics or religion. Jesus settled the problem of divided loyalty between Roman Law and Jewish religious law.  Jesus pointed to the image imprinted on the Roman coin.  Caesar had made it perfectly clear what he demanded from the people … paying taxes with the coin that was inscribed with his image.  Everything else belonged to God.

Jesus himself would be confused today about loyalties between government and religion.  With the inscription “In God We Trust” on all our currency, the distinction between God and the power of money is greatly blurred.  Money has become the God in whom we trust.  Trusting in money, do we need to trust in God?  Today they are one and the same, as inscribed on our currency.

In our day it takes enormous sums of money to elect our leaders, so it seems natural to religious authorities to anoint elected leaders as if chosen by God.  By trusting in the Government to provide, we can feel that we are exempt from taking responsibility for our nation’s actions and our own lives.  With God’s name inscribed on our currency, God  no longer appears to be in the heavens, and all is not right with the world.

This is a time of weak men preaching weak messages in weak churches. What we need more than ever are bold and prophetic cries against this prevailing idolatry of money.  It is the only hope for our people, our nation, our world.  But who would dare? Like the people of Jesus’ time our loyalties between religion and government are not only confused they are very much fused: Caesar and God have become one and the same.  We are rendering to Caesar the things that are God’s and no pharisees have come to put us to the test and question it.

 

 

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Found in the Upper Left Corner

 

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The mystic woman

My friend, Evelyn Mattern, had died shortly after she had published a book about women mystics titled, “Why Not Become Fire”.  The legacy of the women  in her stories had not been part of my catholic education. From my friend’s book I learned quite a lot about these women of the past who lived with strong courage, faith  and deep conviction in their own experiences of God. They defined God in their own terms and often exceeded the limits put upon God by the church of their time. Some dared to describe the divine in feminine language and images of love.  In the past woman mystics had been  depicted  as religious fanatics and in some cases mentally unstable.  They lived under threat of execution by the defenders of the faith. Many in fact died at the hands of the church.

Discrediting women especially in the realm of religion was/is  important for maintaining a patriarchal system that must control the souls and bodies of the people.  Such freedom of thought about God was/is dangerous to male establishments.  We fool ourselves if we believe otherwise.  Church and state are not separated when it comes to the status of women (and other minorities) in our own time.  It is just disguised now as “religious liberty”  But with the present political regime change, bigotry will be permitted to drop its disguise.  “The truth shall set us free”,  but first it will divide us and make us miserable.

I found this image several years ago when I was playing with the idea that artist, Helen Broncato, promoted in “Why Not Become Fire”.  By dropping black ink into pools of water and allowing images to emerge we can find surprise paintings that call to us from our unconscious/soul.  My mystic image was hiding in the upper left corner of the paper.  It only needed three black lines and a few  shadows to bring her into focus. It’s not always the big picture where we need to focus.

 

He’ll Never Do It Again!

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img_0168Expecting Violence Everywhere

Domestic violence must not be kept hidden.  Women and children victims carry hidden scars throughout their entire lives. The experience distorts their understanding of love, since it is executed and excused in a guise of parental/romanic love.

At every level of society silence and shame give great cover for the abusers. Our rape culture, drug and alcohol addiction, are logical offspring of the self doubts and the sense of powerlessness left in the  victims of domestic violence.  Perhaps the ability to remain silent toward violence in our homes conditions us to tolerate ongoing abuse and violence on an international scale.

Thousands of years of violent histories cause one to question where God stands on the matter of violence.  The story of salvation, is riddled with broken promises of peace and demands for forgiveness. The God  portrayed in our sacred stories and liturgical dramas, stands idly by, threatens violent punishment for transgressions, and condones violence against our enemies as part of a divine plan. Women become devout followers of Jesus because they can say of their abusers,”we forgive them, they know not what they do”.

Abuse, forgiveness, abuse, forgiveness,….that is not how love works,…that is not how peace comes about…that is a cycle that has to end.   Divine revelation is incomplete until  the silence of God breaks out in a new word….STOP!  

With this word God calls the human family to put an end to its violence toward one another.

 

 

Where are you heading my dears?

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What’s Wrong with This Picture?

I painted this picture as a challenge parable for the women who were gathering in Philadelphia for the 2015 Women’s Ordination Conference.  I thought it was self explanatory.

These women having waited too patiently (2000 years) for full equality in the church finally believe in the authenticity of their call from God. They have taken ordination unto themselves.  They have assumed the sacrament reserved for men only, and have created communities of faith around themselves.  But they continue to hold onto the hope that  Roman Rite Catholicism will eventually recognize the error of its refusal to include women into its priesthood.

Usurping the mind of Jesus, the official church in Rome claims not to be able to ordain women because Jesus did not do so.  The patriarchal Bishops would rather hold to these limiting views of the mind of God/Jesus. They prefer to allow the celibate male priesthood to diminish and to create the ever growing scarcity of Eucharist in the Catholic communities of the western world.  I can understand the inability of the male mind to stretch their boundaries.  I can’t, however, understand the tremendous energies these courageous and creative women spend in working to reform the Roman Rite Catholic Church.  Shouldn’t the release of the spirit contained in the vision of Vatican II give ordained women the freedom to launch a new Vatican II catholicism in keeping with its long tradition of change.

Approval and inclusion from the  patriarchal/hierarchical/legalist leaders of the Roman Rite would surely be a warning to women that they are heading in the direction of dangerous stormy waters. So what’s wrong with this picture for ordained women?