Saturday, February 21, 2015

THE TRADITION OF SPIRITUAL DIRECTION COMING THROUGH THE CELTIC TRADITION OF ‘ANAM CARA’ By JAMES ARTHUR LAUDER ARCWP, February 2015




Introduction
            In the following pages, I will outline the tradition of Spiritual Direction coming through the Celtic tradition of anam cara’(soul friend). On this writing journey, I share my inspiration for the direction of this paper, my thoughts about the fundamental origin of Spiritual Direction, the essence of friendship that is at the heart of anam cara and core of Spiritual Direction. In addition, I will refer to Jesus as a figure that exemplifies an anam cara
Inspiration
            When reading Matthew Fox’s book, Confessions, I was intrigued when he shared that his spiritual director was his beloved dog Tristan. Wow, what a concept! In my opinion, Fox’s statement alludes to a larger frame of reference for spiritual direction beyond the confidential confines of an office where a “directee” and director strive to recognize the Divine in each other’s lives.  Human to human interchange is not the only vessel to discover the Divine. Fox states, “ We experience the Divine in all things and all things are in the Divine (panenthesism), and this mystical intuition supplants theism (and its child, atheism) as an appropriate way to name our relationship to the Divine” (Fox,1996, p. 286).
            I am also reminded of a deep encounter I had with my Border Collie daughter Sadie.  One night while lying in bed with her, I looked into her deep brown eyes. Her head was resting on the pillow next to me, and I asked her, “Who were you?” No answer in my language, but my question came from knowing that she was a Spirit, and in that loving moment, my heart melted, and we were in synch. True soul friends, anam cara, to be sure! What a companion and source of unconditional love she is to me as we journey through life together. The source of that love is surely the Divine brought forth by the “creative energy of God” also referred to as “‘Dabhar,’ meaning ‘word’ in Hebrew, but referring to the ‘pre-word’ times of original creation” (Fox, 1996, p.37).
In the Beginning
            From a historical faith perspective, I believe the root of Spiritual Direction originates with the creation of our planet. John O’Donohue puts it so beautifully when he states, “Humans are new here. Above us, the galaxies dance out toward infinity. Under our feet is ancient earth. We are beautifully molded from this clay” (O’Donohue, 1998, p. xvi). Indeed, we are beautifully molded and all of our creation molded by the deepest of friend, our Creator God. Fundamentally the source, and the inspiration for all friendship, the best and the finest, of what anam cara is.
            Another aspect of friendship that describes this God can be found in Susan Ross’ most wonderful book entitled, Extravagant Affections, wherein Ross articulates her concerns about the institutional church and also God’s affection towards us. She notes:
The tradition, I believe, has all too often come to interpret, preach, and practice the sacraments in ways that all too often constrict their grace-filled potential: by stressing strict divisions between clergy and laity, divine and human, men and women, by turning to legalistic conception of gender roles that is both limited and limiting. [Italics mine] As the gifts of God’s “extravagant affections”, and our own for God and for others, the sacraments provide opportunities for Christian women and men to express, play, celebrate, and live out the “riotous plenty that is God” (Ross, 1998, p. 13).

I contend that Ross’s terms “extravagant affections” and the “riotous plenty that is God” describes a true friend and a healing friend.
            On a human level, Bernard Cooke (1994) underscores the importance of being aware of our life experiences, and from them he believes we can shape our personhood and live our humanness fully. Instead of coasting along in life, we can seize the opportunity to examine our experiences more closely. We learn and develop as we make meaning out of them. Often times key experiences shape us more profoundly that those of our daily existence and can be of a tragic or ecstatic nature. “For some people there may be a peak experience of God, a sharp awareness of God’s reality and loving presence, a genuine conversion experience” (Cooke, 1994, p.25).
            When I reflect on my life, one event is firmly etched in my consciousness. It happened when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s T-Cell Lymphoma in March of 1992. The diagnosis was like a death sentence. I had so many questions, fears and anxious moments after that diagnosis, and the subsequent treatment I would receive. I dreaded the thought of chemotherapy. After three months of chemo my cancer reoccurred. I was devastated.
            After returning home with the bad news, I sat alone contemplating my survival prospects amid a barrage of information and intended helpful suggestions from friends. “You should take shark cartilage, multi-vitamins, drink Essiac tea, cut out this, add this, take this…etc.” Everyone did their best to be supportive and helpful, and I appreciated their intentions, but felt even more anxious and confused. I asked myself, “What am I going to do about this?” After thinking about all the should and ought to do’s, a flash of insight came upon me, and I realized in a deep way that I am alone. I said to myself, “It’s now between me and God.” Deep inside I felt a warm comfort, a feeling of serenity, and calmness. I trusted in my God. My fear dissipated, and I felt energized to carry on and face whatever the future held. That was 23 years ago, and I will never forget that moment. I am convinced that Abba God appeared to me, and I received and was transformed by the Holy Spirit. Without question, it was a conversion experience, and especially a healing intervention that I am convinced aided in my very survival. From this deep source and root of friendship unseen, I experienced the essence of friendship that is also something I can experience with a human friend in the form of love.
            Cooke (1994) offers a summary of the aspects of friendship that give meaning to us.  He says, “A true friendship tells me that I am important, at least to my friend (Cooke, 1994, p.25). My well being, ideas, interests, concerns and anxieties all count and are important to my friend. In addition, “a real friendship can let me know that I am good, and therefore that I can and should love myself (Cooke, 1994, p.26).” This aspect of friendship resonates with me because early years with my family of origin reinforced within me the notion that I am not lovable. I experienced a conditional love or acceptance only if I obeyed, and met their every expectation. If I did not, and often that was the case, rejection ensued. As a result, I have come to understand that “conditional love” is not love at all, by virtue of it being conditional! Dog children know this, and in turn I experience their unconditional love, regardless of how I behave towards them. In addition to my dogs, I am blessed to have human friends who constantly remind me that I am lovable, and they encourage me to love myself as I love them. I don’t have many friends, but that is of no matter because I am blessed to have more that one good friend. I take solace in this quote, “If you have two friends in your lifetime, you're lucky. If you have one good friend, you're more than lucky” (S.E.Hinton, 2015, n.a.).
            Another aspect of friendship that Cooke (1994) articulates is the mutuality of friendship as an accomplishment in one’s life. He states,
 [F]riendships let us know that we are not alone in our human adventure…for those in faith accept as a reality the love of God for them as individuals, this divine love can and does have a major effect on the meaning they see in their lives. No person can be considered other than ultimately important if he or she is the object of God’s interest, concern, and person love. To the extent that this divine love can be accepted into one’s life and appreciated for what it is, it has a transforming (that is, saving) effect. This means that God’s love for humans is the ultimate humanizing influence in their experience (1994, p.27).
            Thinking back to my health crisis, I received reassurance that I was not alone and my struggle was a matter “between me and God.” What a gift, and I think now, what a wondrous possibility we can experience while cultivating a soul friend relationship ripe with all the best that friendship entails. Carl Jung speaks of that potential when two personalities come together. He said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed” (2015,n.a).
            Indeed, transformation is possible, and I agree with John O’Donohue (1997) who said, “In everyone’s life, there is a great need for an anam cara, a soul friend, and he adds, “the anam cara is God’s gift. Friendship is the nature of God” (p. 14-15).
            As a celebrant over the past twelve years, ninety five percent of the funerals and memorial services I officiate are non-religious by request. I consider this is a sign of our times. People are not finding what they are looking for in our mainstream churches. Yet with all the pressures and demands of our secular society, and the constant quest for something meaningful, many are lost in the sea of materialism and the promise of a better life blatantly advertised by corporations. Yet in this regard, Albert Nolan (2007) points out that in today’s society, “the widespread hunger for spirituality, the search for spirituality, the felt need for spirituality… [and] some experience the hunger for spirituality quite simply as a longing for God” (p. 7-8).
            I believe this deep longing for meaning and transformation can occur in the precious and intimate expression of love found in a soul friend relationship wherein the longing and search for the presence and experience of God can manifest and be shared. I contend, soul friendship is a promising path for humankind to experience liberation and freedom from the repression of tenets of our modern society that are spiritless.
            Fortunately for centuries, Jesus pointed the “way, the truth, and the light,” and we need only to look at his example and learn from him. The friendship Jesus modeled is a great start. His awareness of God was one in which Jesus felt God’s unconditional love and “John’s gospel describes Jesus at the last supper as extending this to his disciples. “I will not now call you servants, but friends” (Cooke, 1994, p.85).
            Recognizing the communitarian power of connectivity,
Jesus did not confine himself to private conversions and individualistic spiritual achievements. He gathered people together in family-like communities as seeds of the emerging [kindom]. It was in such communities that his followers discovered their oneness and solidarity with one another. They healed one another by learning from one another, loving one another, and sharing with one another (Nolan, 2006, p.167).

            No doubt deep friendships among Jesus’ followers resulted by gathering in this way. They also forged their ability to stay the course in light of persecution in their time. Cooke (2006) also notes, “All genuine friendship, and in a particular way the friendship between people who share faith in the God Jesus revealed, is sacramental” (p. 91).
            As well, in our awareness and belief in the Trinity, we as Christians experience such fulfillment of God’s gifts and the “eternal interflow of friendship” (O’Donohue, 1997, p. 15).  “Jesus, as the Son of God, is the first Other in the universe… he is the secret anam cara of every individual. In friendship with him, we enter the tender beauty and affection of the Trinity” (Ibid). Within Celtic spirituality there is a beautiful invocation that reads;
            “The Sacred Three
            My fortress be
            Encircling me
            Come and be round
            My hearth and my home.” (Ibid)
            When I think of an intimate and trusted friendship, I believe my friend and I are in the presence of the Sacred Three. The fortress built on rocks of trust encircles us, protects us and forms a bond of confidentiality. This dearest friend is always available to us whether we meet at my hearth and home, in a nearby coffee shop, walk in the forest or anywhere that comes to mind.
            In the preceding pages, I described my conversion and healing experience in the presence of God. This was a reassuring moment of calmness in the face of death. The healing I experienced, was no doubt representative of the experience many of those who witnessed Jesus’ healing activity. “The holistic character of Jesus’ healing activity can best be seen in the story of the paralytic who is let down through the roof (Mark 2.2-12 parr.)” (Nolan, 2006, p. 78). This man perhaps paralyzed by guilt, received Jesus’ assurance that he need not feel guilty because his sins were forgiven, and in response the man is able to walk. Jesus’ powerful preaching of equality and a loving Abba God accessible to all, had a profound effect on those who heard his message. This news “must have been received with enormous gratitude and hopefulness--healing centuries of hurt, resentment, insecurity, and anxiety” (Nolan, 2006, p. 79).
            In the context of an anam cara relationship, I envision the same potential for healing hurts, extinguishing resentments, insecurity and anxieties. I believe these are the effects of the power of love and acceptance. How wondrous we can treasure the example and guidance found in scripture about the life of Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry.
Conclusion
            In the preceding pages, I shared my inspiration for the direction of this paper, my thoughts about the fundamental origin of Spiritual Direction, and the essence of friendship that is at the heart of anam cara the core of Spiritual Direction.
In addition, I outlined the key aspects of Jesus’ character as a figure that exemplified what it means to be a soul friend. His teachings and healing ministry offer us great guidance and direction for our lives.
            Without question, the source of anam cara is our Creator God. The origin of friendship is at the core and heart of what it means to be a soul friend. Mathew Fox’s dog as his spiritual director inspired the idea that spiritual direction is surely a process not merely confined to an office setting, nor necessarily person to person. The Divine can be found in all of creation; we need only to open our eyes and truly see. The theme of unconditional love manifested in my Border Collie, but ultimately by God, reminded me of my family of origin, and my grappling with the their form of supposed love. Conditional love I concluded was not love at all. The essence of spiritual companioning is surely a relationship of trust, and the expression of unconditional love.
            Exploring the aspects of friendship elaborated by Cooke (1994) provides a further description of what constitutes a genuine anam cara that has the potential to fulfill a modern societies’ hunger for spirituality and pave the way towards humankind liberation from the grip of materialism and all things spiritless. Everyone can benefit from having a soul friend. This is a relationship that has the potential for transformation on a micro and macro level. My assertion begs the question, how can we make this happen? Like all major changes, I contend it starts at the grass roots, friend by friend until a critical mass forms and significant change happens.
            And finally, it is Jesus who we can look to for guidance, direction and inspiration of what is possible when we endeavor seek God in our midst. For centuries millions have followed him, and my hope is that it will continue to be the case.
            So concludes this writing journey that reminded me of how blessed I am to have soul friends, true anam cara’s in my life. For certain, I cannot envision a life without my soul friends. It is by the grace and compassion of God that we have the gift of friendship. It is a wondrous gift and an extravagant affection from the bounty of riotous plenty that is God. Thanks be to our Compassionate Presence. Amen.


References
Cooke, B. (1994).  Sacraments & Sacramentality.  Mystic, CT:  Twenty-Third Publications.

Fox, M. (1996).  Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest.  New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Hinton, S. E. (2015)  Good Reads: Quotes.  Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/66148-if-you-have-two-friends-in-your-lifetime-you-re-lucky

Jung, C.G. (2015)  Good Reads: Quotes.   Retrieved from

Nolan, A.,(2006).  Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

O’Donohue, J. (1997).  Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.  New York, NY:  HarperCollins Publishers Inc.


Ross, S., (1998).  Extravagant Affections: A Feminist Sacramental Theology.  New York, NY:  The Continuum Publishing Company.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Matthew Fox Coming to Sarasota on March 16th, 7pm, Being a Mystic in Today’s World: Teachings from the Wisdom of Hildegard of Bingen and Meister Eckhart

St. Andrews UCC Sarasota


Monday: March 16,2015
Call-To-Action, St. Andrew UCC
6908 Beneva Road, 34238
7:00pm - Lecture - Being a Mystic in Today’s World: 

Teachings from the Wisdom of Hildegard of Bingen 
and Meister Eckhart 




45% of Catholics Never Celebrate Sacrament of Reconciliation/ Suggestions for Experiencing Forgiveness, Healing and Spiritual Growth

45 percent of U.S. Catholics never celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation; another 30 percent “go to Confession” less than once a year. — Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Georgetown University, 2008.
Bridget Mary's Response: 
 I  celebrate this sacrament and find it a great blessing and a  beautiful encounter with God's forgiveness and healing love, 
 God's forgiveness and healing love is always with us.  If you no longer celebrate this sacrament,  recall that no sin or failure can separate you from God's love, then, acknowledge your sins and ask God for forgiveness.  Know that God's mercies are new each day and God embraces you, rejoices with you, weeps with you, moves through you and loves you as the unique person you are with all your gifts and weaknesses. 
Here are two suggestions for Catholic Communities to Celebrate God's Forgivness;
1  Offer General Absolution at sacramental celebrations during liturgies. The Church has reserved it for emergency situations, but I think, this option should be used widely according to pastoral need. We incorporate General Absolution in the Penitential Rite  at Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community during the season of Lent and at other major special liturgies. www.marymotherofjesus.org
2. Offer spiritual direction/ restore anam cara tradition, This ancient tradition comes from the Celts.  Two friends agree to be companions on the journey- opening their hearts and sharing their soul work as they grow spiritually in love with God and with others. 
3. Attend a 12 step program and follow steps for healing make amends and transformation. 
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, www.arcwp.org


Pope Francis Declares Oscar Romero Martyr


http://www.thenation.com/blog/197073/pope-francis-declares-oscar-romero-martyr-faith-whose-faith

http://www.thenation.com/blog/198657/david-corn-versus-bill-oreilly-bread-and-circuses?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Catholic Priest Who Died for 48 Minutes Claims that God is a Woman"/

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/catholic-priest-who-died-for-48-minutes-claims-that-god-is-a-woman/
 According to a recent media update, this story is false, but I believe if it hasn't yet happened, it truly will! Won't our male priests and bishops be in for quite a surprise! 
In Genesis, we read that women and men are created in the divine image! So welcome to the divine feminine which is manifest in all of us!
In the bible, the Judeo-Christian tradition God, who is beyond all images and beyond our imaginations in both feminine and masculine images. For example, Isaiah 49:15 "Can a mother, forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb, even she forget, I will never forget you." Isaiah 66:23 "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you."  Jesus used the image of a mother hen to describe divine tenderness and nurturing love. "how many times I yearned to gather your children together like a hen gathers her young under her wings." Matthew 23;37
For centuries the Catholic hierarchy have ignored the beautiful metaphors for God as mother, midwife, Holy Wisdom in the Bible and in the Christian mystics. 
I have written several books on contemplating God with Feminine Imagery in the Bible and the Mystics: Exploring the Feminine Face of God, Delighting in the Feminine Divine, Heart Talks with Mother God. 

 Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, www.arcwp.org



FAKE Story that cause a Media Feeding Frenzy!
"A Catholic priest from Massachussetts was officially dead for more than 48 minutes before medics were able to miraculously re-start his heart. During that time, Father John Micheal O’Neal claims he went to heaven and met God, which he describes as a warm and comforting motherly figure...The elderly man claims that he has clear and vivid memories of what happened to him while he was dead. He describes a strange out-of-body experience, experiencing an intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance, as well as being surrounded by an overwhelming light.

He claims that at that point in his experience, he went to heaven and encountered God, which he describes as a feminine, mother-like “Being of Light”.“Her presence was both overwhelming and comforting” states the Catholic priest. “She had a soft and soothing voice and her presence was as reassuring as a mother’s embrace. The fact that God is a Holy Mother instead of a Holy Father doesn’t disturb me, she is everything I hoped she would be and even more!”

Rape and Murder of Young Woman Sparks Mass Twitter Protest in Turkey By Helen Davidson, The Guardian

 
 "The murder of a woman who tried to stop a man raping her has sparked mass protests in Turkey and prompted women to share their stories of sexual harassment, violence and fear in a growing Twitter campaign.
Twenty-year-old student Ozgecan Aslan was traveling on a minibus in the south-east seaside province of Mersin on Wednesday when a man tried to rape her, according to local media.
Reports said Aslan pepper-sprayed the man before he stabbed her and beat her to death with an iron bar. He then enlisted the help of his father and a friend to dispose of her body in a river in Tarsus, where it was found on Friday showing evidence of burns as well as the fatal injuries.
A 26-year-old man, Ahmet Suphi Altındöke, was arrested on Monday and confessed to the crime,the Hurriyet Daily News reported. Altındöke’s 50-year-old father and 20-year-old friend were also arrested.
Turkish women have taken to social media, in response to the murder and the alarming rates of sexual harassment and violence in the country.

Using the hashtag #sendeanlat (tell your story), women have told of their experiences of violence, intimidation and harassment, as well as tactics they have resorted to, such as wearing a wedding ring or getting off a bus early to avoid being the last passenger..."

Poem for Prayerful Reflection by Rita Lucey, ARCWP

Let me gather in
My scattered powers
Powers that bring peace
To self and others

Empathy, compassion, love
Scattered!
As I search for time


Time, a man made measure
That elude the demands
Of everyday life
That sustain our physical needs.
That call us forth to a greater
Demand
Creating God’s
Presence on this earth

Yes, the call to be
One with Christ
Can be onerous
Joyful,
Demanding,
Satisfying
Rewarding,

So let me gather in
My scattered powers
And experience the Peace
Of Christ while giving
Thanks for His restlessness

Which calls forth
My
Scattered powers.

Rita Lucey

Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan's Homily for the First Sunday in Lent with Commentary by Rev. Judy Lee/Link

https://judyabl.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/rev-dr-roberta-meehans-homily-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-22215-with-commentary-by-rev-judy/

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community , 1 Sunday of Lent by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Marcus Borg, the progressive Christian theologian,
wrote that we must take the Bible seriously,
but we should not take it literally.
He said of the Bible that
“all of it is true, and some of it really happened.”
Borg’s wisdom helps us a lot with today’s readings.
Science tells us that the Genesis story of the flood did not happen;
it’s not factual; it’s not historical.
Borg tells us that’s okay because even though it didn’t happen,
it’s still true—we can rely on the meaning of the story.
Just as that story expressed serious meaning
for Noah and our ancestors in faith,
so it also holds serious meaning for us.
That flood is a true story
about God’s love for all creation, including us.
It tells us truth about rainbows
and all the other glories of the universe
as signs of God’s care for us and for all living things,
signs of the goodness and sacredness of life.
And, in light of what we now know
about the beginning of the universe
and the evolution of our planet and our own selves,
a further meaning is clear:
God does not destroy creation—
—indeed cannot destroy it—
because all of creation is from God and exists in God.
But we also know that, like the people of Noah’s time,
our sinfulness can make the earth uninhabitable.
We have broken the covenant.
We have failed to care for creation—
care for ourselves, for the earth, for all that is.
______________________________________
Our second reading from the first letter of Peter
is framed in “atonement” or “payment” theology,
the concept that God sent Jesus to die
so our sins could be forgiven.
That interpretation of Jesus’ life may have had
some metaphorical meaning
for the inhabitants of first-century Asia Minor,
people who spoke Greek
and were basically Hellenistic in culture.
The myth of a divine being sent from Mount Olympus
to interact with and intercede for humans
fit their understanding of how the world operated,
so the idea worked for them
in a way it cannot work for us.
Today’s reading comes from the middle of Peter’s letter,
which echoes that Greek mythology
to address the challenge of how to live as a Christian
in a hostile secular world with different values.
That challenge is still with us as we try to live our values
in the culture of 21st century USA.
___________________________________________
That brings us to the Gospel:
we are in a desert experience, surrounded by temptations,
just as Mark pictures Jesus.
Much of our culture is accurately described
as consumerist and hedonistic.
Noah, Jesus, and the Christians in Asia Minor
lived in times and places
where practicing the virtues of love and peace and justice
contradicted the values of the society around them.
And we live in that same contradiction.
We’re surrounded by technology that immerses us
in violence and sadism and calls it entertainment.
We are bombarded with messages that we are failures
if we do not buy more and bigger and better stuff.
When I was growing up in the 1950s,
the byword was “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Now people look to keep up with the Gateses and the Buffets
and the Kochs and the Waltons and the Winfreys,
blind about how their wasteful desires hurt other people
and lay waste to the planet.
The British poet William Wordsworth lamented it in his time,
just over 200 years ago:
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
___________________________________________
One out of four Americans denies
that the climate is changing and the planet is warming.
They don’t see any need to take action…
unless it’s to get more for themselves.
Getting and spending, it’s business as usual.
___________________________________________
We at Holy Spirit Community
embrace the call of Vatican Council II:
environmental stewardship is a moral imperative.
We have dedicated ourselves
to ecology as the most important moral issue of our time.
________________________________________
We stand at the beginning of Lent,
ready to fast from the goods of the earth
so as to form habits that will bring us closer to God.
We’ll spend the next six weeks
examining ourselves in the light of the Gospel,
resisting the temptation to excess,
changing our habits and modifying our lifestyle
to more closely follow the Way of Jesus.
_________________________________________
The temptations in today’s desert are real
and just as demonic as the ones Jesus faced.
In today’s Gospel we listen to Jesus
asking us to believe the very good news
that God loves us and cares for us.
We hear Jesus asking us to turn ourselves around
and live in that love.
Jesus walked out of the desert and changed the world.
We are called to follow.

--
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
www.holyspirittoledo.org

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
419-727-1774

__._,_.___

Report on Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network Meeting 2014 San Diego, CA Mary E. Hunt and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza


The Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network held its annual meeting in conjunction with American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature gathering in San Diego, CA on November 21, 2014. The topic was teaching and activism that engage gender-based violence as part of feminist liberation theological praxis. More than sixty colleagues from ten countries joined in an intense but enjoyable session. If you wish to watch/ share the session, please see http://youtu.be/ZCR7Ap3wdlA.

The meeting opened with a message from Monica Maher, a longtime FLTN colleague. In sending her regrets that she could not come to the meeting, Monica told about a colleague, Margarita Murillo, who was killed recently in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and that even more recently the woman lawyer working on the case was also murdered. “Clearly, feminicide is on the rise around the world and theological resources/voices are urgently needed!” she said. “Gracias for your work on this.”

To that end, we were fortunate to have four speakers whose remarks focused on ways in which colleagues’ work in religion can be useful in eradicating violence:

Solveig Anna Bóasdóttir is Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland where she is dean of the theological faculty. She insisted on the need to theorize anti-violence work in the context of feminist studies in religion, citing bell hooks, Iris Young, and Rebecca Chopp as guides. She stressed the need for theological students to understand social connections and sexism as part of the big picture.

Marie M. Fortune founded the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and
Domestic Violence, now known as FaithTrust Institute, in 1977 in Seattle,
WA, USA where she served as Executive Director until 1999. Now she serves as Founder and Senior Analyst of the Center. She cited progress in the field insofar as sexual and domestic violence is now part of the conversation in many schools if not taught as a stand-alone course. She asked how religious leaders are dealing with campus sexual assault. And she underscored the complexity of faculty sexual misconduct. Her advice was to encourage young scholars to take on anti-violence issues as part of their academic research.

Elizabeth J. A. Siwo-Okundi is Ph.D. candidate in Practical Theology and Homiletics at Boston University from Kenya. She stressed the importance of doing anti-violence work “boldly, truthfully, lovingly, and faithfully.” From her perspective as a preacher, she observed that many people--victim/survivors, bystanders, and perpetrators alike-- are in congregations. How they hear the message variously makes preaching a daunting task.

Traci C. West is Professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University Theological School (Madison, NJ). She discussed what works well in addition to what is challenging about teaching anti-violence materials. On the plus side, integrating anti-violence education into the general curriculum seems to be most effective. Whether dealing with the medical ethics of pregnancy as the result of rape, or about coercion in heterosexual marriage, the many fields of theological study (history, theology, sacred texts, etc.) are relevant. Challenging but rewarding work includes her collaboration in Zimbabwe, an example of the complexity of transnational intellectual learning.

          Wide-ranging discussion followed small group conversations. Much of it focused on the need for resources around the world. For example, the World Council of Churches, the World YWCA and the Lutheran World Federation collaborated on a project entitled “NoXcuses for Violence Against Women.”

 Several colleagues reported the closing of gender studies programs in their countries. Backlash in Germany and Australia was reported. With Mexico a mere fifteen minutes from the site of this meeting, Maria Pilar Aquino reminded the group of issues of violence. She also reported on a recent conference on women’s peace efforts. Transgender Remembrance Day is November 20th, an occasion to recommit to eradicate violence against trans people.

          The following morning, the Women’s Caucus of the AAR featured this discussion on their program. It was a marvelous opportunity to collaborate with more colleagues for several hours as Marie Fortune and Mary E. Hunt reported on the FLTN session. Sharon Davis, Gina Messina Dysert, Nancy Nienhuis, and Elizabeth Ursic made remarks. Small group discussions ensued. This format was a great way to extend the FLTN conversation and will be repeated in November 2015.

          Thanks to all presenters and participants in both sessions. This was a wonderful experience of theory and praxis coming together to make change.



          The theme for the November 20, 2015 FLTN meeting at the AAR/SBL Annual Meetings in Atlanta, Georgia will be the connection between Feminist Liberation Theologies and the Arts. The FLTN seeks submissions exploring the multi-faceted connection between feminist liberation theologies and the arts.. Brief presentations will open discussion on how the arts broadly conceived play a role in communicating feminist liberation theological themes, as well as ways that artistic expressions can be countersigns of that work. FLTN also wants to consider how the arts can help to socialize resources and bring more people into progressive religious conversations. Please submit a short summary of your topic to FLTN c/o water@hers.com by March 30, 2015.

Your participation in the FLTN is part of what is AAR and SBL term an Additional Meeting. Therefore it does not count as one of your allotted slots. Also note that the Women’s Caucus will continue this conversation at its meeting on Saturday, November 21, 2015 from 9 to 11:30 a.m.







"Local Priest Wants Inclusive Catholic Parish" Including Women Priests, LGBT and Divorced/Way to go Father Daniel Rodgers in San Diego!

http://www.10news.com/news/local-priest-wants-inclusive-catholic-parish-02182015

SAN DIEGO - "A local Catholic priest is planning to start an all-inclusive parish that goes against the church's fundamental beliefs. He wants to allow gays, women and divorced people to be ordained as ministers."We're here to live the gospel and that is to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves," said Father Dermot Rodgers. Rodgers says he is tired of hearing stories from people who say they feel shut out by the Roman Catholic Church because of their sexuality or past experiences. He is on a mission and posted his plans on Facebook to create an all-inclusive Roman Catholic parish in San Diego that would allow the divorced, remarried, LGBTQ and women in ordained ministry..."
Bridget Mary's Response:
  What a courageous priest following in the footsteps of Jesus who had both women and men disciples! In diocese after diocese, (including the large New York Archdiocese) parishes are being closed or consolidated because of the shortage of priests. 
Father Dermot Rodgers is stepping up and creating a renewed, inclusive parish that honors the gifts of God in all God's holy people. 
I hope many more priests will do the same!
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, www.arcwp.org
sofiabmm@aol.com
www.marymotherofjesus.org

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Vatican Choice of Female Image Endorses Male Fantasy of Power Over Women" by Soline Humbert, Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/vatican-choice-of-female-image-endorses-male-fantasy-of-power-over-women-1.2106236


..."A different explanation has now emerged on the council website: “Some complaints have reached the dicastery concerning the image above.

While acknowledging the anger, Cardinal Ravasi has chosen not to remove the image as it speaks clearly for one of the central points of the document: many women, alas, are still struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless).”Is he referring to the exclusion of women from church governance and ordained ministry? The fact that no woman will have a vote at the synod on the family next October, as last October?

I do not see myself, or other women, through any man’s eyes and certainly not Man Ray’s eyes. I see myself as beautifully made in the image of God, whole and free. I do not believe this image is a fitting symbol to represent us women, including our suffering and oppression in the church (and outside it) of which I have personal experience. This image does not liberate, but endorses and perpetuates what it depicts: a male fantasy of power over women. It is as unrepresentative of women as Man Ray’s other work Prayer is of prayer.

It is a perversion of the Gospel that this headless dismembered bondage female image represents women while all images of women presiding at the Eucharist which had been sent in by women were censored out of the display on the public day.Now is the time for the church to remember that woman in truth can say: “This is my body.”

Soline Humbert is a spiritual guide and an advocate for women’s ordination

BBC Interview A Calling: Naamah Kelman and Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02jlyfc


A Calling: Naamah Kelman and Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger


The Conversation


Listen in pop-out player





Naamah Kelman was the first woman to be ordained a rabbi in Israel in 1992. She belongs to the liberal Reform movement in Judaism and so her office isn't recognised by Orthodox Jews. She says, "women in our family were supposed to marry rabbis ... and give birth to rabbis" but her father gave her the support she needed to break the mould, study for years, and eventually become a leader. Naamah was influenced by the feminist movement to follow her religious calling despite the fears some in her own community had on her behalf about whether she was "up to it". She is now Dean of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.


Former Catholic nun, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger describes herself as a bishop, but the ordination of women in the Catholic Church is considered a grave crime - the priesthood is a male preserve. Growing up in Austria she was drawn to Biblical stories and loved sharing and explaining them, comparing her feeling of having a religious calling to having a musical gift. She spent years in a convent in the hope that reforms would enable women to become deacons. The "scandal" of her actions and subsequent ex-communication by the Vatican have not deterred her from what she feels is her path in life.


Moving Beyond Violence: What Did We Learn? Thursday February 19, 2015 12:00 pm

http://forumonwomen.cartercenter.org/home/nowplaying

Moving Beyond Violence: What Did We Learn?
Thursday February 19, 2015 12:00 pm

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Catholic Church needs a Vatican III for modernization" by Jake Highton/Church needs women's liberation and women priests!

http://www.dailysparkstribune.com/opinion/article_a3dcbf54-b647-11e4-b8f7-ef656398d6dd.html
...."Catholics cannot take communion if they are divorced. Catholic doctrine holds that marriage is permanent and indissoluble. Priests and parishioners often make divorced Catholics feel judged and ostracized.
A Catholic woman told the Times she was particularly annoyed when a priest she knew was guilty of abusing minors. “I wasn’t worthy to receive communion while the guy giving communion was a molester,” she said. “It is terribly unjust.”A loving church would acknowledge that 28 percent of Catholic marriages end in divorce and that 50 percent of all American marriages result in divorce. A loving church would realize that marriages do fall apart. Adulterous husbands are intolerable. Physically and mentally abusive husbands are intolerable.Catholics can annul a marriage. But as the Times reported: “Many Catholics find the annulment process intrusive, cumbersome and costly. Annulments can cost hundreds of dollars.”
One Catholic woman from St. Louis tells why the process alienates her: “You’re dealing with an abusive husband. Then you go to a man to get an annulment. Then a bunch of men sit at a table to decide whether to grant an annulment.” The church needs women’s liberation.:
Bridget Mary's Response:
The institutional church needs women priests to bring women's wisdom, including the Gospel interpreted from women's experiences. Yes, to Vatican 111 that includes the entire people of God and genuine reform of church teaching on all the hot button issues!
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, www.arcwp.org


Recommended Reading for Lenten Inspiration by Sr. Joan Chittiser

 God Speaks in Many Tongues: Meditate with Joan Chittister on 40 Sacred Texts. You can purchase the small book for $5.00 at: http://store.benetvision.org/godspinmatol.html

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Lenten Retreat Resource: "Women of the Passion"


Pope Francis' Message to New Cardinals; A Sign of Hope for the Marginalized--perhaps, Women Priests

 Pope Francis' message to the new cardinals is clear serve God in the marginalized. In the Roman Catholic Church, women priests are one of the groups marginalized and persecuted by the Vatican and the hierarchy. Perhaps, Pope Francis is preparing the minds and hearts of the hierarchy for a change of heart. I suggest that Pope Francis open a  dialogue with the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement about our mutual love for Christ and drop the excommunication against our members and supporters.
 Let us pray to our loving God... .Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, www.arcwp.org

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150215_omelia-nuovi-cardinali.html
..."Dear new Cardinals, my brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians - edified by our witness - will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul - who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed!"

Liturgy for Lent by Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP



Liturgy for Lent

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GATHERING SONG AND GREETING
Presider:  In the name of God, Midwife of Grace, and of Jesus our brother, and of the Holy Spirit, our Liberator.  ALL:  Amen

Presider:  My sisters and brothers, God loves us infinitely and is with us always.  ALL:  and also with you.
PENITENTIAL RITE
Presider:  As we pray, fast, and give alms, may we be midwives of grace by living Gospel compassion, Jesus, you are compassion. ALL:  Jesus, we live compassion.  
Presider: Jesus, your death reminds us that God is always on the side of those who suffer. Christ, you walk with us in our sufferings.  ALL:  Christ, we walk with others in their sufferings.
Presider: Jesus, in your dying and rising, you show us the path to liberation from structures of domination, Jesus, you are liberator.  ALL:  Jesus, we are liberators and doers of justice

Presider:  Let us pause now for reflection.  Place your hand over your heart and breathe in God’s compassionate love for you…be aware that God forgives, frees and heals you and all…Let go of guilt … live justly..  love tenderly… You are the face of God, a midwife of grace, in our world… (Extend hands and recite prayer of General Absolution)

ALL:  God, the Father-Mother of mercies through Jesus you have reconciled the world and sent the Holy Spirit among us to experience forgiveness and healing.  Through the ministry of the Church, may God give us pardon and peace, and may we absolve each other of our sins in the name of God, the Father-Mother, and of Jesus, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

OPENING PRAYER
Presider:  God of Love, Midwife of grace, during Lent you call us to renew our bodies, minds and spirits. May we experience your grace drawing us to new life in the depths of our mystical souls and in our prophetic call to live justly, love tenderly and walk with integrity in your presence. We ask this, one with our brother Jesus, through the power of your Spirit.  ALL: Amen. 

LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading
Responsorial Psalm
Second Reading
Gospel Acclamation: Praise, honor and glory to our God.  Be compassionate as God is compassionate, praise honor and glory to our God.

Gospel: Reader:  A reading from the Gospel according to . . .  ALL: Glory to you O God.
Reader:  The good news of Jesus, the Christ!
ALL:  Glory and praise to you, Jesus the Christ!

HOMILY

Profession of Faith:  ALL:  We believe in God who calls us to be compassion in our world. We believe in Jesus, whose death and resurrection reveals that God’s liberating love overcomes all oppression, including death and evil. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of Wisdom Sophia, who energizes and guides us to live Gospel equality in inclusive communities. We believe in the communion of saints our heavenly friends, who inspire us to live holy lives. We believe in the love that does justice and heals our world.

GENERAL INTERCESSIONS
Presider:  That we may live compassion and mutuality, letting go of all patterns of domination we pray.
Response: God of all ages, inspire us!
Presider:  That those bound by hatred, hostility, and violence will be set free, we pray.  R.  
Presider:  That the sick may be healed, especially (mention names), we pray.  R.   
Presider:  That the dead may dwell forever in God's presence, we pray. R.   (Other Intentions)

PREPARATION OF THE GIFTS
Presider:  Blessed are you, God of all life, through your goodness we have bread, wine, all creation, and our own lives to offer.  Through this sacred meal may we become your new creation. 
ALL:  Blessed be God forever.
(All come around the table to pray the Eucharistic Prayer, background music may be played) 

Presider:  God is with you, proclaiming liberation ALL:  and also with you. 
Presider:  Lift up your hearts that Jesus proclaims healing, justice and peace for all people. 
ALL:  We lift them up to God. 
Presider:  Let us give thanks to our God.
ALL:  It is right to give God thanks and praise.

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
Voice One:  Lifegiving Love, You have called us to be midwives of grace, radiant reflections of your holy presence on earth. United with You, we are one with all beings in the community of creation as we celebrate the new life occurring in our expanding cosmos. And so we join the angels and saints as we say: 
ALL: Sung “We are holy, holy, holy, you are holy, holy, holy, I am holy, holy, holy” chant by Karen Drucker

Voice Two:  Gracious God, you set the banquet table and invite all to the feast that celebrates your boundless love in the universe.  As midwives of grace we are Your hands, lifting up those who suffer, the vulnerable and excluded in our world today

Voice Three: We especially thank you, Holy One, for Jesus, the Compassion of God, who came to show us a new vision of community where every person is loved and all relate with mutual respect. As midwives of grace we welcome all God’s family into the Circle of Life at  the Banquet of Love.

Voice Four: Jesus threatened the religious and political leaders of his time and so they put him to death.  Like Jesus, the holy ones throughout the ages have been executed for their prophetic witness by the oppressive systems they challenged.  As midwives of grace we speak truth to power and work for justice and equality, no matter what the cost.

All: (please all extend hands as we recite the consecration together)
Let your Spirit come upon these gifts as we pray:
On the night before he died, Jesus took bread into his hands and said:
This is my body, he said. Take it and eat of it. Do this in in memory of me.

Pause

At the end of the meal Jesus took a cup of wine, raised it in thanksgiving to you, and said:
Take and drink of the covenant made new again through my life in you. Do this in memory of me.

Presider:  Now then, let us proclaim the mystery of the Christ Presence made new again through you:   

ALLIn every creature that has ever breathed, Christ has lived; in every living being that has passed on before us, Christ has died;  in everything yet to be, Christ will come again! 

Voice Five:  We honor the holy women and men who have revealed your compassion and justice in our world.  We thank you for ordinary people in our lives who show us how to love tenderly and have revealed the heart of our God, especially  (pause to remember and name some of these holy women and men). 

Voice Six: And so, liberating God, Midwife of Grace, we hold our religious ministers and political leaders in the light of Christ Sophia, Holy Wisdom.  We pray for our pope and bishops, the young and the elders, and all God’s holy people.


Voice Seven:  We remember those who are sick and suffering.  May they be healed and comforted.  We remember Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary Magdala, Peter, Paul, Junia, our patron saints and all the saints and angels who surround us with loving prayer each day.   We remember our loved ones and all those who have died, that they may experience the fullness of life in the embrace of our compassionate God.

ALL:  Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, all praise and glory are yours, Holy God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

THE PRAYER OF JESUS
ALL:  Our Father and Mother . . .

and forever.  Amen.

THE SIGN OF PEACE
Presider:  Let us pray for the peace of Christ in our world as we sing and hold hands in a community prayer for peace (Peace is flowing or other appropriate hymn)

 LITANY FOR THE BREAKING OF BREAD
ALL:  Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power, we will do so. Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice, we will do so. Loving God, You call us to live as Your presence in the world.  We will do so.

Presider:  This is Jesus, who called women and men to be partners and equals, and who liberates, heals and transforms our world and us.  All are invited to partake of this sacred banquet of love. 

ALL:  Jesus you make us worthy to receive you and become you for others.  We are the Body of Christ. 

Presider:  Let us share the Body of Christ with the Body of Christ!  ALL:  Amen.




PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
Presider:  Life-giving God, Jesus showed the way to overcome all oppression through his death and resurrection. Through the power of the liberating Spirit at work within us, and our world, we will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable by living as the Compassion of God the Gospel values of justice, peace and equality in our lives and communities.   ALL:  Amen

CONCLUDING RITE
Presider:  Our God is with you.
ALL:  and also with you. 

BLESSING
(everyone please extend your hands in mutual blessing)
ALL:  Holy One, Midwife of Grace, we bless one another as we, like Jesus, live Your generous service to all especially the least and the last.  Amen.

DISMISSAL
Presider:   Go, bring forth life as midwives of grace in our world.  Let the service begin!  ALL:   Thanks be to God.

CONCLUDING HYMN


God, A Midwife: Psalm 22:9-10 “Yet You drew me out of the womb, you nestled me to my mother’s bosom; you cradled me in your lap from my birth; from my mother’s womb, you have been my God.”
ARCWP-B&W.jpg



Bridget Mary Meehan
Association of Roman Catholic Woman Priests
http://bridgetmarys.blogspot.com/