Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy Are Those Who Are Called To Share His Supper

When David and I were engaged, we knew we'd be getting married at my parents' parish in New York. To do this, we had to get permission from our own parish priest at the time. In our dealings with him, it was revealed that we were co-habitating, sharing the same apartment next to the insanely noisy R5 Regional Rail line. We were in love, getting married, and still clearly in violation of Church rules. He told us flat out that we shouldn't take Communion until we had moved into different apartments and confessed the sin of sharing the same bed. As David and I walked back to our apartment, I howled and railed at his audacity. "Fine," I said. "I get that there are 'rules' and he's obligated to inform us of them, but to say we can't receive the body and blood of Christ? Do you think Jesus would deny us a seat at his table?" Eventually I had to just let it go, but I didn't stop taking Communion. As soon as I was sure that letter was sent, we stopped attending that church.


I just finished reading a book called Take This Bread, and I really wanted to share a passage of it with whomever happens to read this. The book follows the conversion of a woman who was raised in an atheist family. On a whim one day, she walks into a local Episcopal church and takes communion. As her faith and knowledge grow, she feels called to heed the teachings of Jesus and feed the hungry. And so she does so, in a big way, starting a food pantry at St. Gregory's (her new church), and with some help from her community, is able to start food pantries in other locations nearby to feed to skyrocketing number of people who are unable to afford basic groceries.

It's an amazing spiritual memoir, and the author, Sara Miles, does a good job questioning why churches put up barriers to Communion.

Since this is Holy Thursday, and we celebrate the Last Supper, where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with saints and sinners -- both a man who'd deny knowledge of him three times and a man who'd betray him with a kiss -- I thought it appropriate to offer a meditation, via Sara Miles, on Communion.

"The entire and contradictory package of Christianity was present in the Eucharist. A sign of unconditional acceptance and forgiveness, it was doled out and rationed to insiders; a sign of unity, it divided people; a sign of the most common and ordinary human reality, it was rarefied and theorized nearly to death. And yet that meal remained, through all the centuries, more powerful than any attempts to manage it. It reconciled, if for only a minute, all of God's creation, revealing that, without exception, we were members of one body, God's body, in endless diversity. The feast showed us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish. At that Table sharing food, we were brought into the ongoing work of making creation whole. I read a commentary by Grant Gallup, a cranky liberation theologian and Episcopal priest who'd retired to Nicaragua. 'The little loaf-sharing church,' he wrote,' stole away from the neighborhood of Jerusalem Temple and the synagogues of the diaspora, hounded by a good imperial government to martyrdom for hundreds of years, and then, one day, found its bishops enthroned and basilicas built for it by emperors. It issues receipts and itemized its metaphysics. It created a dogmatic mind of Christ to supplant the flesh of Nazareth. But there was always and remains still the opportunity to make Jesus your friend, and to invite him to share your supper.'"

('But there was and remains still the opportunity to make Jesus your friend, and to invite him to share your supper.' Those words are so profound, I had to type them again, and though they don't belong to Sara Miles, I thank her profusely for quoting them and their author.)

This will be my last Holy Week post, as we are traveling to New York, so have a lovely Easter!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

What I saw:

A basket of palms.
A priest cloaked in red. The pews full.
Sculptures covered in purple fabric.
An eclipse.

What I heard:

Coughing. Babies.
My children whispering their hunger to me.
"O Sacred Head Surrounded.'
The Passion, the last breaths of Christ,
and the quaking of the ground.

What I felt:

Grateful to be a part of this church,
despite my misgivings, despite my
disagreements. Surrounded by
fellow worshippers, all of us thieves
asking to be welcomed into
the Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday, March 22, 2010

San Romero

I've been quite dispirited lately with the level of discourse that's been pulsing through the country, and encouraged and fomented by Republican leaders. The health care debates have bordered on and actually crossed over into the dangerous, culminating with demonstrations on the House lawn involving racial epithets and anti-gay slurs. Follow that up with some Twitterings suggesting that our President be killed, and I just about want to build myself a bunker.

Thrown into the mix is the idea that social and economic justice are actually code words for Nazism. This, of course, from distinguished speaker and friend of Jesus, Glenn Beck. I'm not one to pretend that I'm certain Christ is on my side, nor do I profess to know everything there is to know about Jesus. I am, though, still pretty sure that Jesus not only cared greatly for the poor, but cared about WHY they were poor. And yes, this is radical, though not even close to the type of radical Beck insinuates.

I suppose it's apt that today marks the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot to death while finishing a homily during mass. Archbishop Romero cared deeply for the poor, and cared also about why they were poor. He cared about their ability to affect social change. He cared about social justice.

I read about Oscar Romero some time ago, when I finished a book on the School of the Americas by a priest named Fr. Roy Bourgeois. I read about the bloody conflicts that left thousands upon thousands dead, many killed by death squads roaming village to village killing everyone in a brutal attempt to wipe out uprising by the poor. Anyone who opposed El Salvador's government, including priests and nuns who helped serve and protect the poor, were targets for murder, kidnapping and torture. Some of the people in charge of these death squads were trained on American soil.

While some religious maintained silence under fear of death, Romero refused. He visited the poor, listened to their horror stories of rape and murder, and advocated for their safety. He tried, unsuccessfully, to get the killers to understand they were killing their own countrymen and women. Shot while saying Mass, he became a martyr.

He is still beloved by Salvadoreans, and others, all these decades later, and serves as an integral reminder of the call to help those who cannot help themselves. Though he hasn't been made a saint as of yet, he is still, to some, San Romero.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I'm hoping if you read this, you can lend me a bit of the space in your brain. Or rather, someone I know who is having some difficulty.

A friend of mine is going through chemo for treatment of liver cancer. She recently had a procedure to prevent the drugs from entering her stomach, with the purpose of preventing chemo-induced ulcers. She is in a lot of pain following this treatment, and her doctors want to re-hospitalize her. I talked to her a few moments ago, and then paced around for a bit. I swept the floor and put on some U2 and wondered about things.

So I'm taking to this page to ask for your prayers for her and her family. I've been entreating St. Peregrine for some time now, and although I know there are a wide swath of people who send their prayers and good wishes on a daily basis, it can never hurt to have a few more.

And though I hesitate to type her name here, because it's not my right to do so, I think it can be very helpful to have the name of the person you're praying for.

Her name is Tara, and I thank you, greatly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's rather amazing what a hefty dose of Vitamin D can do for a struggling soul.

It was Hannah's idea to go outside on Saturday, not mine. I'd been out for an errand, and though it was much warmer than it has been, the chill was still present.

"I just got out a book to read, babe," I told her.

"You can read outside," was her response, and I decided not to argue with her and just do it, because they have been cooped up too. We all have, within this chicken pen of winter, pecking and clucking for some freedom.

She went around collecting items that she insisted heralded spring's arrival, including rocks, the beret-like caps of acorns, some chives and holly leaves. It is one of the greatest joys of this life, watching my kids scoot around the yard with purpose. I see them now, unencumbered with doubt and stress, being present in the moment. Sometimes they drive me insane. Sometimes they teach me.

I've been struggling a bit with grace. I have yet to accept the fact that I'm not too busy to experience it. So then it tends to come along and wollop me, like some gigantic celestial hand slapping me across the head.

I wanted to thank God for all of this, and so I did, much to the chagrin of one of the priests at my church, who lit into my disrespectful butt during one of his homilies. (Well, he didn't directly yell at me, but I felt the sting nonetheless.) He suggested we are a bit too familiar with God and not nearly as reverential as we should be. (I can also tell you he is not my favorite priest, straight up.) Apparently, there is a specific formula for talking to God, and it can only be found on one's knees and using a lofty tone.

So Hannah and I looked at the snowdrops together. I tried to show her to look inside, to lift each drooping head and look down, inside the petals, but she was too distracted. It was intoxicating, all the air and the sunlight.

So she ran off, looking for something else, as I sat on the deck reading Merton. In between the glimpses of a life just about to enter a monastery, I see Hannah, hopping around, jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone, a girl involved in her own version of prayer. It made me supremely happy.