intentional focusing

I was prescribed my first pair of progressive bifocal eyeglasses several years ago. All of a sudden, something that was natural had to be learned; the mere act of focusing! Friends assured me that with practice it would become second nature, but it was hard. Very hard!

Stepping on an escalator was terrifying. Walking into a big box store made me dizzy. I am used to them now, but if the glasses slip down my nose it takes a few moments of intentional re-focusing to see clearly again. My eyes no longer adjust effortlessly from near vision to far and back again.

I need the same intentionality in changing focus on the issues around me. Years ago, in the midst of a dysfunctional situation in our parish and diocese, I began to view all priests and bishops through the same dysfunctional lens. My parochial situation had colored my view of the universal church. I needed to refocus, to gaze outwards to seek reasons for hope.

Other times, I get so caught up in my international work and the issues in the greater church that I lose sight of the blessings right under my nose. I need to refocus, yet again, this time intentionally looking inwards.

Single vision is a curse of many discussion boards. Regardless of the topic being presented, some respondents stubbornly pull the conversation back to their own issue. Talking about inner-city poverty? Let’s bring up the sexual abuse crisis in the church. Just read an insightful piece describing the inner workings of the Vatican? Let’s bash the pope and all bishops. Read a news story about nuns standing up for social justice? Let’s fling hateful vitriol about liberal feminists.

The single vision curse is also at the root of an increasingly parochial view of the church and the world. Nationalistic pride is one thing. Refusing to look at the world outside of your borders is another. News of global importance seldom sets the response counter spinning like the newest scandal on our doorstep does. Check the numbers.

We need to exercise the full range of our vision. It’s easy to get stuck in either a near or far-sighted focus. It takes intentionality to look beyond our own issues. It takes intentionality to stop and listen to voices other than our own.

black friday

National identity and pride is important to us all. Canadians are especially sensitive in this regard, since American culture has been slowly (and not so slowly) making its way north for decades. When I was a child, we had few American chains and name-brands in our towns and cities. Today, our retail centers are filled with American Big Box stores and restaurants, making it impossible to distinguish which country you are in.

The Canadian Thanksgiving Day continues to be celebrated in a more low key style in October. But, we have now inherited the madness that is Black Friday. Our own stores are promoting mega sales today in an attempt to keep Canadians from flocking across the border to snap up pre-Christmas bargains in the US.

The blogosphere is filled with commentaries denouncing the excesses and consumerism of Black Friday, even asking shoppers to boycott this day…and rightly so. Workers are being called in earlier and earlier from their Thanksgiving festivities to open stores and face the madness. Long lines of consumers camp outside for the prize of first grab at the bargains.

Our own Boxing Day has morphed into the same madness. No sooner has the wrapping been cleared up from the Christmas gluttony of giving, then folks are preparing for the December 26th sales. To call it madness is an understatement.

Now that our children are adults, I relish having them all around the table. It is a rare and much appreciated moment. I have children who work in essential services, and understand the commitment required by their chosen profession. Having to work on holidays is a reality that must be accepted. I also have children who worked in retail positions. Few employees are given the luxury of time off on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Traveling long distances to be home with family is a challenge or impossible.

I feel sorry for nurses, fire-fighters and police officers who must work on holidays. I get mad and disgusted  when store clerks are forced to do the same. When did shopping become an essential service?

What if all stores agreed to stay closed on Black Friday and Boxing Day? If we must have the madness, couldn’t we simply postpone the post-holiday sales by one day? Can’t we allow time for families to just BE?

praying with john xxiii

I’m back from Rome, still heavy headed from jet-lag. I didn’t have much time for extra reading while I was there. The days were filled with meetings, and discussions continued into late night hours. Today, I tried to catch up on church news. And, what news!

photo by Isabella R. Moyer

At last month’s Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, made an announcement that all clergy visiting the Vatican should wear cassocks. The foundation for the request came from a 1982 letter written by Pope John Paul II asking priests to wear the more formal dress as a “distinguishing mark” which contributes to “the beauty of the priest in his external behavior.” It must be clarified, that this request was made during a Synod devoted to the New Evangelization; studying ways and means to bring disaffected, disillusioned and distanced Catholics back into the folds of the Church.

The second piece of news was the announcement that Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a member of Maryknoll for 45 years who had come under scrutiny for his support of women’s ordination, was dismissed from the order by the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation in October. The National Catholic Reporter has been updating the news all day.

Reaction to the first story has been one of incredulity. Yet again, the men at the Vatican appear to have lost all sense of reality. With all the crises that face our world and church, they are focusing on garments. At a time when many women and men are disgusted with clericalism, they want to bring back an old symbol of clerical exclusivity.

The dismissal of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, from both his religious order and the priesthood, has discussion boards fuming with the obvious injustice of it all. Priests and bishops, who were found guilty of sexual abuse of children, or the cover-up of that abuse, were not treated as harshly. Some, like Cardinal Law, ended up in cushy Vatican positions. The crime that will get you kicked out in record time is to speak out, publicly and loudly, for women’s ordination.

My one goal with this recent trip to Rome was to spend time at the tomb of Blessed John XXIII. We sat quietly in prayer, ending our meditation with a recitation of the Creed to commemorate the Year of Faith. The Creed is the foundation of our faith. It is the prayer we recite, or is recited for us, as we are welcomed into the Church – the Body of Christ. We believe in God our Creator. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s son and our redeemer. We believe in the Holy Spirit, giver of wisdom and of life. And, yes, we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. But, it is getting harder and harder to believe some of the nonsense that is coming from our church.

photo by Isabella R. Moyer

Pope John XXIII inspired the church to fling open her windows so the stale air of centuries past may be open to the freely blowing breezes of the Holy Spirit. He urged the people of God to ignore prophets of doom and gloom, to embrace the good news of the gospel so it may be lived in all corners of the world. He opened his arms to the world and other religions, so we may celebrate what unites us and collaborate in bringing justice and peace to all.

Blessed John XXIII…..pray for us.