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.

2 thoughts on “intentional focusing

  1. I discovered your blog while trying to see if there is any reaction to the NCR editorial on women’s ordination. I am a 68 year old retired(diocesan teacher) living in Kansas City where the Reporter is published. I grew up in traditional Latin church. I was overjoyed by the promise of Vatican II and was blessed to be on my parish school board when my children were young and to be subsequently asked to teach there. I have been busy working, raising children and then dealing with health issues in retirement. I guess I only began thinking about all this business of Church in my last few years of teaching. I was not allowed to discuss married priests, abortion, birth control, etc. with my eighth grade students. It became more about our religious bulletin boards and processions with statues than actually learning academics. I was glad to leave just before a loyalty oath was required – rat out fellow teachers if they were living with someone and were unmarried. I travel to a Jesuit parish a number of miles from my home – my last stop. I couldn’t stop being Catholic any more than being Irish. But, I belong to a group of women of like mind who meet and discuss issues in the church( we will not be silenced) Our priest are terrified of losing their pensions if they speak about anything! I have met so many people when I joined Call to Action and I demonstrated with over 350 people in support of the nuns on a 95 degree day in June. Sadly, none of my 3 children go to church – even after our 31 consecutive years of paying for Catholic Schools – K- college. All we accomplished is the financial jeopardy of our senior years. I have been blessed to find a great year long course on Church and Scripture taught under the wire off campus by a courageous priest. I don’t know what would happen if our convicted Bishop Finn found out. Our young priests gaggle about in their cassocks. I know nothing will change in my lifetime but I cannot believe this is a church Jesus would join. I enjoyed your measured insights.

  2. Dear Mary,

    I’m so happy to meet you! Thank you for sharing your story. Please know that your frustrations are not yours alone. Many of us deeply love God, our Catholic faith, and, yes, love our church also….despite all the kaka! It’s the love that makes the disappointments that much harder to take.

    Finding a community where you can share honestly and openly is a much needed gift and treasure. It’s a shame, and shameful, when we cannot have this kind of honest and open dialogue within our own church.

    I do hope that you continue to visit us, and share in the wee dialogues that take place here. I look forward to hearing more!


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