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My blog on blogger has been hacked. The Apple technician, with a tendinitis, cannot help me at the moment. So I will attempt to post here and see how it goes.

Paul and I are just back from six weeks in Manresa, Spain, where we were invited to go deeper into Ignatius’ autobiography and spiritual diaries, the sources of his Spiritual Exercises and how they developed over his lifetime; some of his letters; the origins and foundation of the Society of Jesus; its first Companions; its voluminous archives (Monumenta); its Constitutions; and, finally, Ignatian spirituality for today. Add to this daily morning prayers and evening masses, an eight-day silent retreat the second week, and a walking tour of Manresa where Ignatius lived nine months in 1522-23 (there he prayed, fasted, worked, meditated, had visions, and fell sick…), and trips to Montserrat, Loyola, Javier, and Barcelona.

We were thirty-five participants from fourteen different countries (with large contingents from India, the Philippines, Australia, and the U.S.). Our youngest member turned 32 during the Course and the older participant was 76. A majority of men and Jesuits, some religious sisters, a few laypeople and just one couple, Paul and me.

The Course was made of seven modules, the second one being the silent retreat, with one transition day in-between each. Those days were meant to help us process all that had been given to us (e.g. the medieval origins of the Autobiography, connecting the Spiritual Exercises with mysteries in our faith; the personalities of Ignatius’ first companions; the importance of Juan de Polanco in the creation of the Society of Jesus, his importance as well in the writing of the Constitutions and Ignatius’ very unique style of participative management. Finally, the new cosmic theology and new ways of looking at Jesus’ teachings (e.g. table fellowship, inclusiveness and openness to sinners and marginalized folks).

Our lecturers are all University teachers, whether at the University of Barcelona, Javier Melloni SJ (a scholar and writer of many books, involved in inter-denominational dialogues); Jose García de Castro, from Comillas University in Madrid, with an insatiable love for archives and books, able to pass on his passion for old papers and the first Jesuits; Carlos Coupeau, SJ, from both Boston U. and the Gregorian University in Rome, who helped us understand the composition and intent of the Constitutions; and finally George Pattery SJ, from Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth in Pune, India, who introduced us to a cosmic vision of the Spiritual Exercises, bringing together Ignatius’s cosmic experience on the banks of the river Cardoner with Teilhard de Chardin’s very own understanding.

This time out-of-time was made possible thanks to the support and care of Josep Sugranyes SJ, the Director of the Course, Joachi Salord SJ a wonderful patient and ever smiling shepherd to us all, and Asun Puche, the Course’s feminine smile and intelligent presence.

Dear to everyone of us, as well,  were the women in the kitchen who fixed three meals a day and two snacks, making sure we could sustain those brains of ours so heavily taxed at times. Teams of us worked along them, clearing and setting tables, and drying dishes. Our Spanish improved at their side; we even caught a couple of Catalan words.

I come back with my head filled with images of young noble men giving up their wealth and station in life to walk thousands of miles across Europe, begging on the way, their hearts filled with love for Godde and her creation. Finding Godde in all things…

I think of the many women who helped Ignatius all throughout his life, the very first persons who were guided by him through his Spiritual Exercises, those who cared for him when he was on death’s doorsteps, who paid for his studies and his many journeys, many of these women asking him to become a Jesuit themselves.

My heart is filled with the graces of many moments, looking out to the mountains of Montserrat, inspired with a Spirit of openness, adventure, and longing. I catch myself humming songs sung every day or for special moments. I remember holding Ignatius’ begging bowl…

We drove home with boxes of books to read and a list of more to buy, papers and lectures to process and digest, a longing for prayer, quiet times, long walks, and notes to write.

Many times in Manresa I wondered what I had done to deserve such a blessing and grace to be there in the very place where he had prayed, met Mary and Jesus or understood the Trinity. I hope to share some insights received here, because I cannot stand the idea of keeping all this to myself.

Blessings and joy.

Photo: Statue of in Loyola, Ignatius wounded in the Battle of Pamplona, 

30 May 1521.

And if the virtuous woman turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked woman does,
can she do this and still live?
None of her virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because she has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, she shall die.

Ez. 18:21-28

Today’s first reading starts with the promise that the evil woman who turns away from all the sins she committed… will live. I have always liked this part. I could relate to it. After all, had I not changed my ways?

This morning, however, when I looked at the passage, I recognized myself in the virtuous woman who turns from the path of virtue. Oh, turning from the path of virtue is an exaggeration. I am neither on the path of virtue nor off it. Life, this month, has become a river that goes too fast for me. I can hardly keep my head above water. I am fascinated by what I see going by. Every so often I catch a glimpse of Godde; I am reassured that She is still there, close by. But not close enough that I can hang on to Her.

I am not bad; but I am not good either. My heart is in one place; my head is somewhere else. My emotions err in-between.

One reassuring thought this morning: the path is there to go back on. The choice is always available, even though recently I did not even seem to have time to think of choice. I have been like a kid in wonderland, taking in as much as I could, wondering what Godde wants from me.

Find joy, Godde is there, my inner voice whispered. The thought stopped me. Godde hides in the deepest of my desires. I have embarked on a treasure hunt. Finding Godde in my crazy, bountiful life.

Everyone talks of desert these days. My life is a desert when I cannot feel Godde. So I can be standing in the middle of a crowded market, of a busy street: it feels like a desert if I cannot feel Godde’s heart beating in mine.

Oh, the faint call of the Beloved echoing in the depths of my being…

Illustration: here, riverawaken.tumblr.com

We are back from Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire, where we visited our daughter, Anne Amanda. She is working there at the moment. The day of our arrival, we were having lunch at the Pâtisserie Abidjanaise when I saw three men crossing the busy street and heading towards mats on the sidewalk. There, their faces turned toward Mecca, they started praying Allah.  I became oblivious of the unfamiliar sights, the people, the cars honking. I felt swept up by the sacredness of their time spent with Godde.

Some days later, as we were walking the streets of Man, I heard (was it the first time ever?) the call of the muezzin at lunchtime. This human voice floated up into the sky with loving words toward the One who creates all. I wondered whether a woman’s voice would ever also be heard one day. From then on, each time I heard the call, wherever I happened to be, my heart leaped with joy, following the song toward the heavens.

Any time spent with Godde becomes sacred. Just as silence can be seen a sacrament, and the Eucharist of course, any time lived in the presence of Godde becomes a sacrament as well.

In a way, Lent is about making daily life a sacred time, a moment of utter closeness with the One who loves us.

This Lent, I hope to give up a few things — judging, mainly, and fear. My heart also longs to spend more time with Godde in prayer, in silence, in communion with others, with Nature, and facing the awful news that come to me through the media. Fighting my own indifference and squeamishness, I will look at them in Godde’s presence.

Each minute of every day is laden with Godde’s presence, love, and gifts. Lent is a time given to slow down, stop even, lift up my hands in praise, and thank Godde for all that makes my life. I am so glad Lent is here.

May you have a blessed Lenten journey.

Photo: A Bangladeshi Hindu devotee folds her hands in prayer at a temple in Narayanganj, near Dhaka, Bangladesh. artofprayer.tumblr.com. Source: the Wall Street Journal

 

This morning I received a poem in an e-mail from our friend Pierre. The poem was written in French by a religious sister, Sr. Odette Prévost, who died in Algiers on November 10, 1995 under the bullets of a terrorist as she was heading to mass. You can read more about her here (in French). She was a Little Sister of the Sacred Heart of Charles de Foucault. Here is the poem:

Live this day today

Live this day today,
God gives it to you, it is yours.
Live it in Him.

Tomorrow belongs to God,
It does not belong to you.
Don’t carry tomorrow’s worry 
today.
Tomorrow belongs to God,
Give it back to Him.

The present moment is 
a frail footbridge.
If you load it with yesterday’s regrets,
with tomorrow’s uncertainty,
the footbridge gives way 
and you lose your footing

The past?  God pardons it.
The future?  God gives it.
Live this day today
in communion with Him

And if there is cause for worry
for a loved one
look at it in the light 
of the risen Christ

© Sister Odette Prévost
little sister of Jesus (Charles de Foucault)
assassinated in Algeria on 10 November 1995

or again in the original French:

Vis le jour d’aujourd’hui

Vis le jour d’aujourd’hui,
Dieu te le donne, il est à toi.
Vis le en Lui.

Le jour de demain est à Dieu
Il ne t’appartient pas.
Ne porte pas sur demain
le souci d’aujourd’hui.
Demain est à Dieu,
remets le lui.

Le moment présent est 
une frêle passerelle.
Si tu le charges des regrets d’hier,
de l’inquiétude de demain,
la passerelle cède
et tu perds pied.

Le passé ? Dieu le pardonne.
L’avenir ? Dieu le donne.
Vis le jour d’aujourd’hui
en communion avec Lui.

Et s’il y a lieu de t’inquiéter 
pour un être aimé,
regarde-le dans la lumière 
du Christ ressuscité.

© Sœur Odette Prévost
petite sœur de Jésus (Charles de Foucault)
assassinée en Algérie le 10 novembre 1995

As her short bio data says it so well, her life was not taken away from her, for she had already profoundly and consciously given it .

A big thank you to Pierre for this morning gift.

Photo: Sr. Odette Prévost

 

I have juxtaposed these two images to convey how my mind feels when it tries to reconcile the various messages I, as a woman, am receiving from Rome.

The Pontifical Council for Culture has recently posted on its site the outline of a document entitled, Women’s Culture: Equality and Difference, in preparation for a meeting in Rome, Feb 4-7, attended by Cardinals and prelates. It is accompanied by Man Ray’s Venere Restaurata (1936).

The choice of Man Ray’s work to illustrate the 12-page document has created a stir, covered by several articles (Crux: Vatican effort to talk about women’s issues stirs controversy; NCR: Sparks fly over choice of image for Vatican document for assembly on women) and blogs (Questions from a Ewe: Happy Irony Week!). Tweets have been flying as well as sparks, comments to various online journals posted.

To tell you the truth, I cannot bring myself to reading this document. The feminist Catholic that I am has a physical reaction to both the style of the content and the illustration: a reaction that brings back memories of bouts of morning sickness which I lived through 40+ years ago.

Pope Francis is doing a great job in Rome. He is, in many ways, an answer to my prayers. The dressing down and reform of the Curia; the reform of the Vatican bank; the beatification of Msgr Romero; his attacks on unjust economy; his defense of the poor; his giving sleeping bags to homeless on his birthday; his daily homilies. What more can I ask of this man?

Well, nobody’s perfect. When it comes to the ‘Women’s Questions” in Rome, Pope Francis is very poorly advised. I would recommend he appoints eight or nine women theologians brought from the five continents, asking them to plan a Synod on Women to be attended by an equal number of women and men.

To be honest with you, when I first saw the Man Ray statue, I was so upset that I was going to suggest to simply close down the Vatican. All hopes were gone. Then, I realized my suggestion was a bit radical and I came up with the idea of the need to have parity in all meetings of the Catholic Roman Church.

I may have odd news for some: the Holy Spirit does not only call and come to ordained men. The Holy Spirit calls, speaks to and through all people, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, gay or straight, black, white, brown, or yellow, rich or poor, lay or ordained.

Which is why: Women’s voices, women’s points of view, women’s life stories, women’s laughters and women’s tears have to echo finally in the corridors of the Vatican. They need to bring “Life!” into the mausoleum that the Vatican has turned into.

And Pleeeeease remove this illustration which comes out of a weird mind, the one who made it and the one who chose it. It is like a “metaphor” bringing out to this old imagination of mine images that are utterly revolting.

What would Blessed Virgin Mary say about it?

Agh…

Illustration: Immaculate Conception; Man Ray’s already cited work.

Prayers come in all shapes, colors, and styles.

Take these past weeks. Some family members and friends prayed for Paul and me. Thus, some Catholics, Protestants (of various denominations), atheists, New Age-rs, Hindus, and someone believing in fairies (des fées) came to the rescue. They prayed for us, sent us reiki, or light, and one asked a legion of fairies to take us through an unpleasant, uncomfortable time.

I can imagine the Prayer Central Command receiving this influx of prayers of all sorts flooding Heaven for this old couple in France. All together, they looked like prayer flags in Tibet, or like a Ben & Jerry ice-cream assortment. What’s this? asked a dispatcher. I don’t know to whom I should forward them or how to file them… And Godde smiled. She knew better. Prayers have a way of making their way to Her, from wherever they come, whomever happens to say them.

Prayers are goodness incarnate curling upward like the smoke of an incense stick.

I wish we would all pray more. There are so many reasons to pray. So much hardship everywhere, so much injustice, so much violence. We should pray to understand other religions and to love people, believers or not. We should wish the world well. We should trust that Godde’s grace will win whatever comes.

Prayer for others brings out power, energy, a strength that we don’t even know we have. Prayer means standing naked in front of Godde, emotionally naked that is, if this makes you feel more comfortable. Prayer requires honesty, showing Godde what I don’t dare looking at usually when I am alone. But with Godde nothing is impossible: I can look at what I normally prefer to hide.

Today at lunchtime, Paul and I went to mass. To say thank you and pray for all those who prayed for us. The chapel felt like home. Holding hands with a neighbor for the Our Father, someone I had never seen before. Standing in front of Godde, our hearts overflowing with gratitude to have friends who enjoy praying for us when we ask them.

Who can ask for more?

Illustration: Found here

“Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.” St Francis de Sales

“Is anxiety a disease or an addiction? Perhaps it is something of both. Partly, perhaps, because you can’t help it, and partly because for some dark reason you choose not to help it, you torment yourself with detailed visions of the worst that can possibly happen.” Frederich Buechner

Years ago, while driving through Louisiana on Mother’s Day, we listened to Garrison Keillor talking about his mother. I wish I could remember his exact words. It was about how she worried for everything and everybody, afraid that if she did not worry, something terrible was going to happen. Like a flower pot might fall on her son’s head.

I have a bit of Garrison’s mother in me. I worry. In fact I worry myself, not so much sick, but sleepless. Three a.m. is a great time to be aggressed by the fear of the moment. Two hours of sleep spent awake, tossing and turning in my bed, chasing the fears away, trying to reason them out, finding ways to foil the dangers they project on “the black screen of my sleepless nights” (Claude Nougaro had a great song on this theme more than fifty years ago), find me exhausted in the morning, hardly able to think or do much.

I have a deadline coming up which has been haunting me for weeks. With reasons. My plan does not allow for failure… It all made sense when I arranged for it. The results, if negative, won’t be the end of the world, but they will complicate our life. So, I need to succeed and I fear to fail. I am working on my project pretty much all the time and it’s eating me up.

My children understand. Most friends do. Some don’t. My younger grandson is praying for me. I believe in his prayers. My children and several friends pray as well. I do too of course. As if I could pray Godde into twisting the mechanisms of destiny so that I can reach my goal. Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera, we say in French. Help yourself, the heavens will help you. So I am doing my part. Or so I hope.

Yesterday morning, as we started our prayers, just after the Our Father, before the Daily Readings, came time to ask for the grace of the day. It came from the depth of my being: I pray for the grace to be free from anxiety. And, yes, my anxiety has subsided — probably thanks to the many prayers which are said for me… Still I always trust the Spirit to grant me the grace I have asked for. If I pray for the grace to be carried to the goalpost, the Spirit carries me… If I ask for the grace of joy, joy appears in my heart… The Spirit is good to me.

My deadline is in two days. Some more work, some more thinking, going again over some more points. Then, having done all that I could do, prayers included, I will be set free (nearly — I still have to wait for the results).

Once this worry is over, another one surely will appear, which I will fight off bravely. When that worry is dealt with, undoubtedly something will come to my mind and haunt the recesses of my brain, till exhausted at about five I will finally fall asleep, worry-free at last.

There has to be other ways of handling life. Ha!

Illustration: Fernandino Scianna, Sicily, Bagheria, 1987 (found here)

 

Christian Unity Week

You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart.

Reprove your neighbor openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.l

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:17-18

This past Tuesday, our Cursillo community met to celebrate Christian Unity Week. Our Cursillo retreats are  unique: both ecumenical and co-ed. A group of us, then, gathered for an Ultreya, with three of us to give a short reflection on the theme ‘Christian Unity’. We did not coordinate our talks, trusting that the Spirit would guide our meditations to fit all together.

A young woman opened the evening with a brilliant PowerPoint presentation on ‘Je Suis Charlie’ and what it meant in her life at work. She did extend Unity week to Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Über Atheists… Interestingly, the third and last speaker, while using the parable of The Good Samaritan, also expanded the theme to include all of the above, the Samaritan becoming a Muslim or an Über Atheist.

I came second and my bit went this way —

As a theme for Unity Week, we were given the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

The whole Leviticus quote is fascinating (“You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart”…) because it reflects a rather dark vision of the human heart, a heart that Godde knows well. And so throughout the Bible, Godde reminds us to love our brother, our neighbor. Because we need to be reminded, again and again.

Who is my neighbor? How near or far away is my horizon? How wide is my heart? Does it stop at my own family, my friends, my own denomination, my own country? Or in a Teilhard de Chardin’s way, is my worldview cosmic?

This evening, I would like to add to our Leviticus quote the famous Lucan reply,  — “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Lk 10:25:37

Love Godde — love your neighbor — love yourself.

Loving Godde doesn’t seem so hard. But love my neighbor? Love myself?

When Paul and I walk the Camino de Santiago, I carry one or two stones with me to remind me of one person or another whom I simply cannot forgive. I leave this stone along the way when I feel I have achieved my goal. On one occasion, I nestled my stones next to the reliquary of Santiago in the crypt of the cathedral. Another time, I left a stone on the altar in the beautiful chapel of Cristo de Burgos,.

Often I ask Godde to help me forgive and, when I cannot forgive, I ask Her to forgive for me until I can.

Recently, during two different retreats, I was helped to see how to approach the commandment to love my neighbor as myself in a different way.

First, I was reminded that I cannot expect to love others if I don’t love myself. To love myself I need to connect with Godde’s love for me, to reach that “true self” which was mine at birth, before “life” added layers upon layers of “false self” upon it. I did not find this connection easy to do.

Last November, my director suggested that the point is not so much to tell Godde that I love Her, but that I let Godde love me and that I let myself experience Her love and Her mercy. Basically that I spend time with Godde, in silence, soaking Her presence and Her love for me.

Not long ago I came across a blog which recommends that “we become the Beloved.” The author says, “God calls me to struggle with the demons that insist that I am not the beloved, that I am not even worthy of love. God wants me to face my fears of not being good enough and know that my goodness comes first and foremost from who I am and to whom I belong.”

If I tell Godde that I love Her, which I do, I am in control. When I tune in to Godde’s love and allow Her to melt my heart, I am no longer in control at all.

Godde loves me, — loves each one of us. Godde created me out love and Godde died for me out of love. She sustains me out of love. She showers me with gifts throughout my days. How many proofs of Her love do I need? Godde knows my sin, loves me in spite of it, and, extraordinarily, does not let it come between Her and me.

Like the psalmist, I know my transgressions and my sins are forever in front of me (51). Yes, I see my failings, but Godde does not seem to see them.

If Godde can love me in this most extraordinary way, isn’t the least I can do to love others with all my heart, with all my being, with all my strength and with all my mind? And forgive them not 7 times, but 77 times 7?

For, is not loving Godde loving Her creation and Her creatures? If Godde can forgive these transgressions which I cannot forgive myself, can I not forgive the hurt that this person or that other person did to me?

So, for the love of You, — O Godde whom I want to love with all my heart –, I offer you my anger toward this old boss, this nasty neighbor, this unpleasant relative. I offer it to you and pray that you change it into something pleasing to You. I stand in awe at your love for me which helps me love myself and, in turn, makes all these old grudges become irrelevant.

With you at my side, forever wrapped in that love of yours which never fails me, I finally can begin to learn to love my neighbor as I love myself, thanks to You.

Illustration: A Chance To Meet (found here)

He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.  Mk 3:7-12

On another occasion he began to teach by the sea.  A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. Mk 4:1

The Lectionary this year treats me well. We are reading and praying Mark’s Gospel, the one we used late last year during our 30-Day retreat. This Gospel also happens to be my favorite. It’s a no-nonsense Gospel. It does not get so caught up in the travails of the original community for which it was written. Jesus is on the move all the time, doing what he has come to do: to announce the Kingdom of Godde.

As I read Jose Antonio Pagola, Jesus, an Historical Approximation, during the retreat, I found that the word Kingdom was a direct translation of the Latin word imperium, for (the Roman) empire. Thus, Jesus was placing face to face Godde’s empire and the Roman empire. It was not to everyone’s taste…

When I saw today’s Gospel passage (the first one above), it reminded me of a favorite passage of mine (the second). This thought brought back an experience which happened during the retreat.

As we got to the Second Week of the Exercises and started reading passages from the public life of Jesus, our director asked me, and possibly everyone of us, to find a passage which would make me love Jesus. If among the “menu” he had prepared for us I did not find one item that triggered this emotion and, on the other hand, if I had a favorite passage which could help me fulfill my mission of the day, I was to feel free to go to this favorite passage. It happens to be Mk 4:1 (above).

Some years back, I had already prayed these verses. One of the great gifts of Ignatian spirituality is the Ignatian prayer which allows oneself to enter a passage and become one with the scene, or at least a spectator of the scene. That first time when I prayed it, the scene on the beach with Jesus preaching from the boat to the crowds became incredibly alive for me, and remained a favorite of mine.

So, on that day last November, I returned to the beach and Jesus on the boat. Once again, I found myself to be nine years old. Earlier in the retreat, when time came to pray the Nativity, to my surprise I returned to the days of my early childhood, at the time our mother had left our father, my brother and sister, and myself. In the stable, I helped the maid as she was fussing over Mary giving birth. Mary at one point let me hold baby Jesus who grabbed one of my fingers. When the shepherds came, I noticed among them my father, brother and sister, as they were at the time my mother had gone.

On the beach then, I was nine years old again, a little girl fascinated by this vibrant young man, speaking in the morning sun to a crowd of folks who had come as much for the show as for listening to his teachings. Suddenly, the crowds faded, and only Jesus and I were present. Jesus on the boat and I on the beach, our eyes locked together, our soul talking to each other through our heart. No word was truly exchanged. Just this extraordinary smile of his. I knew from that point on that I was madly in love with the young preacher.

That moment came back to my mind several times later during the retreat: In Gethsemane, when I saw Jesus’ body wracked by his sobbing for his being such a complete failure. Facing the cross, when exhausted by my prayers, I could only accompany Jesus by breathing with him.

I don’t even need to close my eyes now to see Jesus in the boat and to be once again one with Him. I don’t really have words to explain how wonderful it is to be connected this way with Jesus. The marvel of it all is that i just have to think of Jesus on the boat to experience that moment all over again.

I wish I could say that this experience makes me a better person. I have no idea if it does anything else than making me feel on top of the world, connected with Him…

Which passage in the New Testament helps you connect with Jesus?

 

Photo: On the clouds (found here)

Recently I have come across several articles that have left me perplex.

The first one, entitled The Feminist Case Against Abortion, was in America Magazine. As is well known, no feminist is for abortion. I have yet to meet a feminist who is pro-life, however. A feminist is pro-choice; s/he believes that a woman has the right to choose whether to have a baby or not. No woman ever takes this decision lightly and no woman ever likes to take it.

I was intrigued by this article, wondering why a woman who is pro-life would want to be seen as a feminist as well, since a ‘pro-life feminist’ today is an oxymoron.

I understand people who are pro-life. It is their right, as long as they do not try to impose their opinion on others. While both pro-choice and feminist, I am not for abortion.

I will not engage in a discussion on this topic today. I have done it many times in the past, and never seemed to go anywhere. Pro-life and pro-choice people don’t see eye to eye, and I have learned to live with that.

My second surprise has been the recent declaration of Pope Francis against gay marriage and contraception. This was not only a surprise, but a great disappointment. I feel for my brothers and sisters who long for their love to be recognized. The topic of contraception, however, riled me. To be against abortion, as I said above, I understand, but to be against contraception is an open invitation to the possibility of an abortion at a later time. This does not make sense to me.

Shortly after Pope Francis’ support of Humanae Vitae (and contraception), he came out demanding greater attention to women’s voice (see article here). “Women have a lot of things to say to us in today’s society,” said Francis in Manila.

Really, most Holy Father? To my women’s ears, your declaration sounds like a bad joke.

If truly we have something to say, why hasn’t it been heard that women and men need to use contraception when they have sex if they are not ready to have a child at this point in their life?

Those who know me have noticed my enthusiasm for Pope Francis. Other feminists have warned me that he will not do anything for women. Talk is cheap…

You see, if one is for the protection of the poor, one has to protect women, who are always the poorest of the poor. These women will be raising the children that you, Most Holy Father, want them to bear. If, unfortunately, these mothers do not have the means to raise their child, they may have to abandon her, just like the little street girl you met in Manila. You heard what happened to her and you cried…

Am I the only one to notice the disconnect between one speech and the other, between a stand against contraception and its consequences?

Pope Francis is already a hero to many of us for the Herculean task of cleaning the Vatican hierarchy, for choosing a Franciscan attire over silk and laces, for advocating the protection and the rights of the poor. For all these reasons, he is my hero too.

A last surprise. Jesus really loved women and came to their rescue again and again. Pope Francis acts prophetically in most areas of our faith. But when it comes to women, he is gender-blind.

As for my gay brothers and sisters… Agh…

Photo: Pope Francis with street children in Manila.

A few days ago, Mags Blackie wrote a post in her blog on The Importance of Grace. She closed it with this question:

Perhaps as the year begins to get underway, it may be worthwhile to ask – what grace do you seek this year?

It just happens that nearly every morning as Paul and I say our prayers together (the Daily Readings), right after the Our Father, we each ask for a grace. So, I know about asking for a grace (If you are not sure about it, see Andy Otto’s post on the topic here).

At Abbey of the Arts, Christine Valters Paintner has now asked her readers to Give Her a Word for several years now, and I have in the past. In fact, in this year’s draw I noticed the one I would have probably chosen, Silence. But I also feel drawn to Simplicity.

Silence and Simplicity, however, are a choice, something that I can work on by myself. Grace, however, is something else. Grace is a gift from the Holy Spirit. I cannot make it happen. I can only hope it will be given to me, if it fits in Godde’s plan.

Why asking for the grace of humility? Truly, in normal life, I am attracted to humility about as much as a cat is to water. In the course of my retreat, however, while praying the meditations for election (The Call of the King, The Two Standards, The Three Kinds of People, The Three Levels of Humility) and later in witnessing the Passion of Christ, I understood in a fuzzy sort of way that humility is a sine qua non (a must) if I want to follow Christ.

And I do want to follow Christ.

I could not help smiling when a day or two after I discovered the grace I wanted to ask Godde for 2015 I happen to come across, in Facebook of all places, The Litany of Humility.

As I looked at it, I saw a few lines with which I could truly identify, among both the desires and the fears.

So here I am, at the beginning of 2015, so wanting to accept changes that I have not planned (I have already been granted a couple) and to be a helper in the building of the Kingdom. Here I am Lord.

I am not quite sure where this will take me. Possibly for the first time (ever?), I like the idea of being the clay in the hands of the potter and become what I need to become to follow Him…

What grace would you like to pray for?

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