Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today I have begun reading Henri Nouwen's book, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing. When I first began reading Henri's writings I did not care much for them.  He was a famous spiritual writer and his work did not speak to my heart.  As time went on and I journeyed more and more into the pain of the homeless and my own parallel pain things changed.  I can see now what my anxiety is with Henri, he writes the way I write.  He was able to take many of his own life experiences and through his prayer and God's grace given to him he connected them to the truth of the Divine bringing his prophetic words greater authenticity and recognition to those who seek his wisdom.  It is "soul" writing; the writing that draws someone in to the truth of life, not the writing that offers up a fictional release from life.  It is the place where so many do not choose to go because it sheds light but ultimately choose to go and discover God's blessing.

Henri had many painful experiences in his life and came to clarify how us human beings try to circumvent suffering with actions such as staying very busy, extremely busy.  It isn't that there are so many eternally important things to do it is that in doing these things and filling our lives with continued experience we can somehow pull ourselves out of the deeper picture and minimize the painful effects of disagreement, deceit, viciousness, abuse, injustice, and even death.  An example would be for our culture that if we shorten the time we are given from our work to "deal" with the death of a family member which, I think, is usually around 3 days, then the unspoken understanding is that someone somewhere has determined that 3 days is all we should really need to mourn.  It is just part of the American culture to get back on your feet.  People who truly mourn the loss of loved ones know that this is not true and the expectation lacks of justice and mercy.  If we look deeper, we find that it is not about us at all but about a system of production and purchase that does what it can to stay in place, even if it means to manipulate our psyche.  Now, we all know that the "system" is none other than other people, people who do not want to mourn or look at the faces of those who are suffering even more due to the insistence of ridiculous emotional and spiritual expectations.  It does not matter that we have some very wonderfully educated sociological researchers who have written about the "healthiness" and the "quality of life" that other cultures have that are associated with the sick, dying, and death process when we have our "way" of life that seems to be more and more spinning out of control.  I heard on the news this morning that 6 million prescriptions were written last year for sleep medications, mostly for older, educated women.  The doctor who was part of the study stated that what is continuing to be seen is a willingness on the part of doctors to write prescriptions for pills over any type of suggestion of behavior modification or integration of mindfulness or other meditation practices.  We see, once again, Henri's prophecy of life as usual at any cost of any pill or slowing down and "seeing" what is truly happening.

I, like most, have experienced great pain in my life; pain of abandonment, abuse, deceit, poverty, etc.  As I have grown older I have come to be able to clarify more profoundly their cause and affects for the affects continue to be played out.  Henri and I would agree that these painful experiences along with all of our joyful experiences, shape our human "dance".  Under the superficiality of all that we try to do by ourselves it is truly healing that we seek.  We want the suffering to go away.  Henri writes "I realized that healing begins with our taking our pain out of its diabolic isolation and seeing that whatever we suffer, we suffer it in communion with all of humanity and, yes, all of creation.  In so doing, we become participants in the great battle against the powers of darkness".  He goes on to write that "We are called to grieve our losses...healing and dancing begin with looking squarely at what causes us pain. We face the secret losses that have paralyzed us and kept us imprisoned in denial or shame or guilt. We do not nurse the illusion that we can hopscotch our way through difficulties.  For by trying to hide parts of our story from God's eye and our own consciousness, we become judges of our own past. We limit divine mercy to our human fears."  That is quite an attempt at unravelling the "too busy", "do not want to go there" attitude that seems to permeate our culture today.  Instead, I will dare to say, that if we cannot act the suffering away or think it way, then doggone it we will medicate it away.  Both Henri and I would, out of compassion, would instead like to open up for others the wonder of God's healing grace.

Henri wrote these words after having been extremely busy touring and giving lectures.  He had been around the world and was feeling more and more physically and spiritually drained.  It was good for him and good for humanity that he was wise enough to stop and take the time he needed to write and clarify and allow God to use his spiritual gift of writing to reveal wisdom to others. This book was published 12 years ago.  It just doesn't seem to me that we have not been able to technologically experience ourselves right out of the suffering of our human condition.  Henri's words still ring of truth for Jesus, the Truth, revealed to us over 2,000 years ago "Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I think "remarkable" will be the word that keeps coming back to me as I head out on this vocational journey as one who has clarified spiritual gifts of knowledge, writing, prophecy, and mercy.  I haven't searched the web dictionary sites to seek out its definition but I will take a guess that it means that I see my life as encountering thoughts or events that are worthy of being "remarked" upon and that I am in the authentic position to remark upon them.  For me the difference between this and much of what is being written about and shared on the web today is that it is not my "relativistic opinion".  It is my actual life and I am truly the best and most informative at relating it to you, the relational reader.  I felt the need to clarify this for there are so many times that I will read something that I wish the author would have prefaced his/her writing with "I am in relation to this thought or occurence because of this.....".  I think that would make the experience of reading what they felt the need or desire to write so much more enjoyable.

My spiritual journey began at my conception and my faith journey began at my Baptism but I cannot say that I remember any part of it.  I know that I was born and baptized for I have certificates stating that the State recorded my birth and the church formally accepted me as a daughter of God by baptizing me a Catholic. My remembered spiritual journey began at the age of 2 when I had my first mystical experience with the Holy Spirit.  I know that some may read this and feel that this is the point at which they should turn me off but I challenge that with the question of whether or not they have viewed "Man of Steel", any of the "Iron Man" or "Avenger" movies, or ever been a Harry Potter fan.  I am here to state that there is a spiritual dimension, a mystical dimension, to life and if we, as created human beings made in the image of God, do not present it in its truth that it will work itself out from our psyche into other forms of information or experience.  For me, for whatever reason God determined I should know for sure that the Holy Spirit exists and is in relationship with people, I actually found myself being drawn into the light of the Holy Spirit.  It was an experience of warmth and comfort but what it has done regarding formation is to make me wonder about life, make me want to discover the entire truth about my experiences and the people I am in relationship with, and actually pray that God grant me the ability to be surrounded by Him in all that I do.  You would think that in the midst of all that I would become a very holy person.  Instead, the reality is that throughout my life I have become more aware of my sins and their affects on those around me.  It has also caused me, through my inquisitive nature to understand that Satan would like me to fall victim to this knowledge and possibly never write anything theological again or never see myself as worthy to stand before a class of students and present myself as an educator of holy things.  Or better yet never be able to sit in the midst of seniors and feel worthy of talking about God and His relationship with them.  Satan wants my sinfulness to muffle me, to shrink me unto death.  Because of this it has been so important for me to read again and again how Christ asked Peter "Do you love me?"  I can only imagine how Peter felt being asked again and again and again as if his responses of love were not truthful or heartfelt.  When in actuality his discomfort and willingness to repeat his love were his right-ordering after his denial of Christ. Peter's sins of fear were being healed for he would be asked to go forth into uncertainty and ultimately give up his life for his love, his Savior.  It is only with God's grace that I am able to see my own failings and continue to go forth speaking of Him into a world that rebuts with its expectations of perfection. 

So, I place within this posting today that "yes" I am very aware of my sinful nature but it doesn not define or own me.  I have intentionally entered into the holy moment of "wills" and have given over my will to God's will and thus He leads me into the rest of my life's story.  The paradox is that this is both heavy and light spiritual stuff. 

Have you ever had an encounter with the Holy Spirit?  Have you ever had a moment when you sensed something or someone was with you but you were not afraid of it?  Have you ever felt a brush with something?  Or have you ever felt that there was "more to the story"?  All of these things are our spiritual nature at work within us.  I suppose it is like bumping up to the force fields of the sci-fi movies.  You can't see it but your experience with it knows that it, something, exists.  My first experience with the Holy Spirit was something like that...a toddler in a darkened room with a dim lamp on in the corner.  I was able to look into the light and actually feel my spirit move into its warmth until it enveloped me.  It was total comfort.  If I had to define the light or the lamp or anything else about the experience, I would not be able to do so.  I do not even know how the experience ended.  What I do know is how is that it happened and that it has affected my life in a very positive and transforming way.  There would be other experiences but this is the most foundational for if I poo-pooed this one as a childish fantasy I would not be able to have opened myself up to the others.  A young life memory is how much I loved to sit in church and look up into the stained glass windows and gaze upon the transfigured Christ.  It was heavenly and spoke to my heart of the "hugeness" of God.  He was majestic and eternal and all encompassing and there was always that "light".

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Catholic Woman's Voice

I am a Catholic woman.  I was baptized in the Catholic Church 57 years ago and have had a very intriguing and challenging relationship with Her ever since.  I love Her dearly and truly do feel that She holds within Her Holy Scripture, Holy Traditions, unfolding Theology and active living while in relationship with the Holy Spirit what God has chosen of Himself to reveal to mankind. That sentence, as I look at it, sounds nice and neat and wrapped up like a gift but in actuality it contains within it every prayer, every cry, every tear, every blessing, every covenant, every struggle, every transformation, every Sacrament, etc. of every member since Jesus' calling of His apostles. It is messy and sometimes smells bad.  It contains within it human sinfulness, not to be easily discarded but rather mercifully understood.  There is anxiety and open struggle.  There is censure and reformation.  There is fruitfulness and contemplation.  There is sameness and division.  It is worldly with a male only Magisterium of leadership and yet brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus living simply as co-stewards of God's Earth. However one feels about Her, for me, she is where the "action" and the depth of being is that I am called to and I am grateful that in God's creation of my life that He chose me to be part of Her.  I love the unity of Her catholicity and the dialogue with others that She proclaims as spiritually necessary for Her continued life and renewal.  There is division with other Spirit led people, and that saddens me, but yet I have to wonder if the Holy Spirit Himself isn't working within the anxiety of each distinction.  I truly believe that if and when He so chooses, the Church that desires Truth will lead the way in unification.  God's will not ours.  God's time not ours.

Today I find myself with both a Masters of Pastoral Ministry and a Masters of Theology framed and ready for my study wall next to my national certification as a Catholic Chaplain.  I had prayed to be immersed in God and He answered my prayer.  But after all of these years of education, research, and relationship I am only beginning to discover my feminine "voice" and the feminine voice within the Church.  This blog will be used by me as a way to help clarify those things which I, a Catholic lay woman,  know to be true.  For others who gift me with the time of reading my reflections I hope they will feel called to community and share with me their thoughts so that through our continued dialogue we may delve more deeply into what God wants us to understand more clearly about each other and about Him. 

The "way" of Spiritual Discernment has been a very prominent focus of my faith journey for the past five years.  Many people find their way to discernment through some program that focuses their teachings on those of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  This was not my experience.  I was not familiar with St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises but today I am certain that what he gave through his desire to live God's will has been a wonderful gift to the Church and to humanity.  I say this because I, too, had to discover what happens to life when a human being enters into the holy place of "wills".  When a person, female or male, enters deeply into the space that is God and their authentic personhood, there is only one choice to be made and that choice is one of love that can only, through its holy nature, ask that we freely give over our will to that of God's will.  I had a moment such as this and will return to this in the course of another blog posting.  For now I will just say that it presented to me a life with an uncertain direction, the need for steadfastness, a deeper awareness of His revelation within nature, and He has left me wondering even more at my female place at the table of the Church.  He loves me dearly.  I know and sense this.  I love Him, too, and truly want to be His faithful daughter.  So, on to another journey.  My hope and prayer is that it will be fruitful.  What I do know for sure is that it is where He wants me to be and that it will certainly be remarkable.