the creativity of love

Pope Francis has sent a message on YouTube ahead of Holy Week, expressing his solidarity with all who are suffering through this pandemic and gratitude for the “heroes” working on the front lines. He encourages the “best use of time”. To be generous.

Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love.

Pope Francis

Examples of loving creativity abound, from musicians posting online concerts to a video of a young man in Manchester who uses his one hour of daily outdoor exercise, dressed as Spiderman, delighting children as he runs by with flips and jumps. The world is full of loving, generous souls. A small act can lighten hearts and, more importantly, give hope.

Hope of a better time in which we can be better…finally freed from evil and from this pandemic…hope does not disappoint; it is not an illusion.

Pope Francis

To be creative means to think outside of the box, and we are being challenged to do so with our faith. It’s about new wine and new wine-skins. There is no arguing that we are in “new wine” territory. And, new wine and old wine-skins are a bad match.

Some are arguing that churches are an essential service. Religious freedom an inalienable right. In the US, a petition is currently under way for bishops to allow churches to remain open and sacraments to be celebrated, including taking the sacrament of the sick to hospitals. Fr. James Martin, SJ, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, sees it as “a false distinction between faith and science…and a little bit of pride that runs through these people.” The inverse of the belief that ‘God will keep us healthy because we are believers’ is that those who get sick are sinners. A warped view of God indeed.

Burned in my brain are the words of a local pastor during an Easter homily, “The most important place in the world is inside the four walls of this church.” Though many years have passed, his narrow-minded view of our faith still haunts – and angers – me.

Being Church is not the same as being in church. Daniel P. Horan OFM says it well in an article written for the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) titled For the love of God (literally), stay home, be safe and pray.

These sorts of contrarian arguments are emblematic of a small but vocal crowd of pandemic naysayers in the church that, wittingly or otherwise, reduce everything from church buildings to even the Eucharist itself into symbols of a growing idolatry that minimizes God and restricts God’s presence to a limited number of discrete locations. It’s true that Christ is uniquely present in the Blessed Sacrament, but it’s not true that this is the only way God draws near to humanity and the rest of creation. God’s grace is not scarce nor is God distant from us!

Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Horan goes on to remind us that lack of access to churches or public worship does not mean lack of access to the Divine. Love of neighbour and love of God are not in competition. Right now, staying home IS an act of love.

Creativity seeks new ways for new times. New ways to live faith, hope and love. What are some creative ways that you, your family, or your faith community have discovered to help each other through these days?

See also NCR readers share how they keep spiritually grounded amid crisis .

of shrinking tents

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide,

do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.

Isaiah 54:2

Around the world, tents are shrinking.

Brexit actually happened. The voices of isolationism and nationalism won out over open borders and a spirit of union with other countries.

In America, the rallying cry of “Make America Great Again” has morphed into an all out assault on democracy and the rule of law. Corruption, lies and disregard for basic tenets of justice have been trampled underground in the defence of an increasingly unstable, narcissistic and dangerous president and his minions.

The tent shrinking is happening among liberals too, where moderate voices are excluded within an increasingly narrow agenda, with no room for debate. The most glaring example of this is the abortion issue. Is there room for pro-life Democrats in America? Or, pro-life Liberals in Canada? Where are moderates, those who see the greyness of the in-between on many moral issues, to go?

Within the church, extreme factions attack each other as the real enemies of the church. For some, a “smaller, purer” church is preferable to one that includes those who think, believe or worship differently from them. A universal, catholic church, united in diversity and open to all? No thank you, they say.

Shrinking tents reflect shrinking hearts. Barricading ourselves in fortresses of sameness is like living in a room full of mirrors instead of windows. A room surrounded by walls without a door in sight.

A home without a threshold beckoning us to go out into the world, or to welcome others in.

in praise of holely families

I meant to write and publish this post on The Feast of the Holy Family. But, I was too busy on that day, and in the weeks that followed. Too busy. With family.

Old school images of the Holy Family make me think of today’s photoshopped, artistically staged Instagram pictures. Flowers and misty lighting might capture a split second of perfection in a family photo. It doesn’t reflect the messiness of daily life. And, life can be messy.

As a new decade begins, it’s a chance to reflect on more than the past year. On New Year’s Eve, we began chatting about all that our family went through in the last ten years. As we began listing our well worn litany of woes, our daughter stopped us all. Yes, shit happened, she said. But, so did a lot of good. And we need to embrace it.

With GRATITUDE.

There are holes in the fabric of every family. Some are caused by simple wear and tear. Others are ripped and torn apart by unexpected crises and losses. Sadly, we live in a throw away culture. When newness fades it is thrown away. Imperfection is rejected and discarded. We have forgotten the art of mending and darning, picking up each dropped thread one by one. It’s a patient art. Re-weaving the new into the old, making it whole again.

My phone is filled with photos from the holidays. Children are caught in mid flight during group poses. Tears, giggles and snotty noses are captured together. No one has their hands prayerfully folded, they’re too busy scrambling to corral the littles. There are no lilies or roses. There isn’t a halo in sight. But, laughter abounds. As does love. Much love.

Yes, there is holiness in the holely.