a year with pope francis

ImageWhere were you when Pope Francis stepped onto the papal balcony on March 13, 2013? I had a broken tooth, and hubby was busy fixing it. We stopped midway to watch the big moment on my iPad. We were transfixed. Who was this man? Where is he from?He chose the name Francis? How cool! What? Did he just ask for OUR blessing and bow before us???

Francis had me from that moment on. The following days and months were filled with memorable quotes and photogenic actions; seemingly on a daily basis. The media and the world fell in love with the new pope.  While conservative pundits kept stressing a seamless transition between Francis and Benedict, it was impossible not to make comparisons. Francis’s simplicity, humility and joy contrasted sharply with the perceived doctrinal severity and papal pomp of his predecessor.

For those who were bemoaning the growing gap between Vatican II visions and an increased clericalism and centralization in the church, Francis was a breath of fresh air and hope. For those who find comfort in doctrinal purity and liturgical traditionalism, the past twelve months have been a challenge.

Francis has recently said that he is uncomfortable with an overblown “superman” image. Perhaps he can forgive us our initial enthusiasm. It was so good to have a leader who gave us new energy as Catholics. I have done my own share of adulation and enthusiastic commentary. But, he is only human and humans are bound to disappoint.

Francis’s recent comments on the child abuse scandal in the church drew much deserved criticism. He repeated the shameful mantra of defence that we have heard too often from our church leaders. In an interview for the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, Francis stated “The statistics of the phenomenon of violence against children are staggering, but show clearly that the vast majority of abuse happens in the family setting and neighbourhood.” He continued, “The Catholic church is maybe the only public institution to have moved with transparency and responsibility…No one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to be attacked.”

The church’s record on the child abuse scandal is shameful and the truth behind the massive cover-ups is still unfolding. Francis has minced no words in his attacks on the financial corruption and clericalism in the church. He needs to show the same boldness in demanding that perpetrators of child sexual abuse and those who covered up for them are swiftly removed from ministry and suitably punished. If he is serious about cleaning out the rot in the church, then he cannot ignore the moral wounds that the sexual abuse scandals have caused.

The first year honeymoon is now over, and the real work of reform begins. Yes, we have a genuine gift of a man in this pope. But, he is only a man. We cannot sit back and wait for miracles to happen. If we are inspired by the words of Pope Francis, and his inspirations are many, then it is our responsibility to turn these words into concrete actions. If we see a gap in the good works that he is trying to do,  and he cannot do it all, then it is our responsibility to try and fill that gap.

God bless you, Francis!

do eulogies belong in a catholic mass?

Do eulogies belong in a catholic mass? I posed this question in a recent NCR Today blog post. Ottawa Archbishop Terrance Prendergast has decreed that eulogies will no longer be allowed during the mass in his diocese, though a few words of remembrance may be given before the mass begins. Eulogies, according to this decree, should be limited to wakes, receptions and grave-sites.

The eulogy was an important part of the funeral for my father-in-law. We were blessed to have an understanding and supportive pastor. The eulogy was presented before the mass, according to liturgical guidelines, but it was done in such a way that the personal reflections flowed seamlessly into the Eucharistic celebration.

For some, liturgical rightness is non-negotiable and trumps pastoral considerations. Their argument goes something like this. Eulogies are secular and focus too much on the person. The Mass is sacred so the focus must be only on Jesus. Therefore, eulogizing the person detracts from Jesus and somehow sullies the Divine beauty and purpose of the Mass.

For others (and I’m in this camp), rules and regulations are made to be creatively bent towards pastoral needs and sensitivities. Catholicism is an incarnational faith. We believe that God took on the lowliness of human form so we may be united with God for all eternity. Our sacramentality believes that God works in the earthiness of our lives, making sacred the earthiness of God’s creation. We are flesh and blood, created in God’s image. Our lives were lived within that same flesh and blood and it is these lives that need to be remembered as we pray that our souls will be welcomed into eternal glory. How can our focus NOT be on the loved one we have lost?

The NCR blog post garnered more discussion responses than any other post I’ve written. The discussion, sadly, sometimes degenerated into left and right wing arguments over liturgical correctness. But, I was heartened with the many personal stories shared about the importance of eulogies. For many, as it was for us, the eulogy becomes a moment of love filled memories and healing. When we remember our loved ones, it is a chance to weave their life story into the mystery of salvation that we celebrate in the Eucharist. Being thankful for the past helps us transition into hopes for future eternities.

when homophobia is legalized

There is a global human rights war going on that isn’t getting the press coverage it needs and deserves. There was a significant outcry at the anti-gay laws in Russia before and during the Olympic games. But, laws are also being passed that make homosexuality illegal and punishable by imprisonment in several African countries. And, these laws are being supported by some Christian leaders and their flocks including some Catholic bishops. 

In Nigeria and Uganda, some politicians and religious leaders are blaming the west for exporting its immorality into a supposedly pure African culture – as if homosexuality was non-existent before the dawning of media and the internet. Some are blaming the anti-gay laws on the Christian missionaries of old for instilling a literal, fundamentalist reading of the bible into African churches. Some are pointing the finger of blame on fundamentalist Christians from America who are taking their cultural wars overseas.

The support by any Christians for these draconian laws, or silence in the face of them, is shameful. 

We cannot point a finger of blame at the extreme homophobia in other countries until we honestly face the fear, intolerance and hatred that is present in our back-yards. Here is a column I wrote for the Prairie Messenger on the topic. 

 

death nudges us into deep moments

From today’s first reading,

“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Sometimes life seems to give you an unfair amount of trials. I was hoping that life was finally going to slow down into some sort of normalcy. Sadly, David’s father, Sylvester Moyer, died on February 17th. He did not suffer long, which was a great blessing, but we were not prepared for death to come so quickly. He was admitted to hospital on a Sunday evening. We visited him on Monday afternoon and he was gone shortly before midnight. 

The last two weeks have been a blur. I looked on the calendar just now to see how many days have passed. He died just two weeks ago today but it seems like forever ago. The Moyers are a big clan. Our days have been filled with family visits; crying one minute, laughing at the happy memories the next.

David and I have been blessed to have all four parents with us until now. Our children reached adulthood with four grand-parents. The loss has been hard on us all, yet we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support for the entire family. 

Death nudges us into deep moments. I know there is wisdom to be discovered in these moments, but the wisdom will have to wait. For now, we just need time to enter into the deepness of it all…

 

 

I’m back from Lima, Peru!

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Some of the participants at the meeting. I’m in the front row, second to the left of the banner.

 

Ok, to be honest, I have been back from Lima for nearly two weeks. The 6th International Meeting of Marianist Lay Communities was a great success. The success came not only from the excellent hospitality of our Peruvian hosts, but also from the depth of reflection and sharing among delegates, guests, and observers from around the world. The theme of the meeting was “Faith of the Heart in the Heart of the World”. The process of the meeting was intentional in connecting mind and heart through much personal reflection and small group sharing. Yes, there was time devoted to business matters but the focus was on the gifts and challenges of living and sharing our faith as lay women and men in the world. 

It was evident at our meeting that the spirit of Pope Francis has caught on internationally. Here is a piece I wrote for the National Catholic Reporter blog, NCR Today.

The conclusion of the assembly also marked the conclusion of my term as international President of our Marianist Lay Communities. After all of the intense work in the weeks preceding the meeting, I was expecting to come home with all the worries and burdens magically lifted. I was not expecting the intense physical, emotional, and mental draining that happened instead. I still need to take time to enter fully into this time of transition; in thankfulness for all that has been, and with openness to what the future will hold. 

Of course, one immediate goal is to get this blog going again! :-)

Romes clergy tailors find a subdued mood under low-key Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter

Romes clergy tailors find a subdued mood under low-key Pope Francis | National Catholic Reporter.

Dear friends,

I’m back from Lima, but still in recuperating mode. All the energy expended in the weeks before the meeting plus the meeting itself took more of a toll than I expected. I have much to share in the days ahead, but just need some time to process all that has been before I lunge into all that will be. ;-)

In the meanwhile, here’s a great piece from the National Catholic Reporter on a topic that always fascinated me – and not in a good way. There is a new man in town, and his simplicity is shaming cardinals , bishops and priests who desire to wrap themselves in princely garb. Pope Francis sent a message to the newly appointed Cardinals preparing for their upcoming installation, “I ask you, please, to receive this designation with a simple and humble heart. And, while you must do so with pleasure and joy, ensure that this sentiment is far from any expression of worldliness or from any form of celebration contrary to the evangelical spirit of austerity, sobriety and poverty.”

Apparently, our good man from Buenos Aires recycled the robes from his predecessor when he was granted the Cardinal reds in 2001! The simplicity of Francis is good news for all who eschew excessive pomp and clericalism. Apparently it is bad news for the high end clerical tailors.

Is dialogue impossible? I hope not!

My bags are packed and I’m flying out to Lima tomorrow. Here’s one last post before I go. It’s actually a two for one special.

The National Catholic Reporter recently suspended their discussion boards due to increased negativity and lack of civil discourse among some respondents. NCR was known for its active comment boards. “NCR Today”, their online blog, received the 2013 Catholic Press Award for its far-reaching discussions. Many of us are missing these discussions, even if they did get nasty at times. Here’s a piece that I wrote for NCR Today on this issue.

In the article, I’ve included a link to a Prairie Messenger column I wrote before Christmas addressing the issue of modern day Pharisees in the Church. (Spoiler alert; Pope Francis is on our side!)

And now I’m off. See you all in two weeks!

In much gratitude for the many good women and men who add to the dialogue with insight, inspiration, and respect.

Isabella

Sacred Heart Church in Camden and Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly | PBS

My friend,  Joanne, just shared a wonderful video from Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly on PBS.  It highlights the works of Fr. Michael Doyle and the good people of Sacred Heart Church in Camden. (That’s Joanne on the left in the top picture.)  Joanne is always ready to share the good works of this amazing faith community, and I’m always honoured to give Sacred Heart a shout out.

I have heard many of Joanne’s stories. I have seen pictures from inside the church, and marvelled at the spirit of prayer and social action. This is the first time that I had a peek into the neighbourhood itself. It is also the first time I actually saw the annual service for those murdered in the community. You are right, Joanne. To see you all stand there, representing each person murdered, tears at the heart and highlights the senseless loss of so many lives.

This is gospel living at its finest. What an inspiration. May God’s blessings continue to rain down on Fr. Michael and the good people of Sacred Heart and Camden.

downton abbey and the church

dowager-countess2

Here is my latest column for the Prairie Messenger…

The days of maintaining pomp and grandeur at all costs are over. The days of patriarchal superiority are over. The days of claiming exclusivity over wisdom and decision-making based on titles and privilege are over. The days of oppressive hierarchical structures built on the backs of subservient and obedient people are over. The days of women working only behind the scenes with no access to proper leadership positions are over.

Days of Upstairs Downstairs in the Church are over

I had great fun writing this piece It also helped me rationalize the too many hours spent watching TV over the Christmas holidays. I was doing research! ;-)

updates and apologies

Dear friends,

It is time for yet another MEA CULPA! Before Christmas, I was on a roll with reflections on Evangelii Gaudium. I so enjoyed pondering and writing on the hope-filled words of Pope Francis, and hope to return to them soon. But, life took a few unexpected turns in December. If you remember, we already had to deal with some kaka back in September. Well, hubby was back for a second eye surgery just before Christmas. Thanks to a wonderful surgeon and the prayers of many, the procedure went well. But, there was more time off to recover, office renovations to work around, and Christmas to plan for. The days after Christmas were a time for doing glorious nothing!

This month, I am busy with last minute preparations for the International Meeting of Marianist Lay Communities in Lima, Peru. The theme of the meeting is Faith of the Heart in the Heart of the World. The meeting will also mark the end of my term as President of the Marianist Lay Communities. I know I will have much to write about when I come home. 

In the meantime, please know that I have not abandoned this blog. In fact, having more time to write is something that I look forward to very much. There is so much happening in our Church at the moment. The fresh breezes of hope and change are all around us. 

So, here’s to 2014 and all the blessings to come!