Shameless and Nadia Bolz-Weber's Book Tour

from Nadia’s official page

from Nadia’s official page

I’ve been enamored with the famous Luteran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, ever since a colleague showed me an article about her back in 2014. That was while I was still working at Butler University as the director for the Catholic campus ministry. So, when my friend and colleague, Sarah texted me about Nadia (who I lovingly pretend to be on a first name basis with) coming to Dallas to give a talk about her new book, Shameless, I jumped on board before I even looked at what the book was about or where the talk would take place. Even as a fan and a reader of both previous books, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Nadia would be talking about the impact of the Church on healthy ideas of sexuality and gender. Even more exciting, she would be speaking at the Church I have had a serious crush on for years but never actually attended, the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas—the largest LGBTQ congregation in the United States (and, as the pastor says, possibly the world).

The talk was on a Monday and it was one that was already crammed full for me. First, a chiropractic appointment, then lunch with friends, then time with my best friend at the camera shop he works at in Fort Worth (an hour’s drive from Denton), then the 40ish minute drive from Fort Worth Camera over to the cathedral. So, by the time I got there, I was a little overwhelmed with a day of running around and even more overwhelmed by the crowd assembling to see Nadia. My service dog was not overwhelmed, though, unless it was a positive overwhelm at the amount of green space outside the cathedral. After claiming about half of the space in the name of our doggy family, we joined the throng of people heading towards the front door of the church.

Seeing Nadia from far away, it occurred to me yet again the strangeness of celebrity, even in so small a community as liberal ecclesial Christianity. This woman has no idea who I am, but I know most of her life’s story, at least based on that which she had shared through her books. As I excitedly took in her fantastically styled gray hair and stunning liturgical tattoos (#lifegoals), she calmly scanned the crowd that had gathered to see her, clearly used to this kind of audience. Or maybe it’s just because she’s an experienced minister. I never did get used to speaking in front of hundreds—and maybe that’s one of the many reasons that my ministry was cut short.

Anyways, that is how the once-conservative, now very liberal, good little Catholic girl ended up in a huge protestant church to hear a parishless Lutheran minister talk about sex.

My life, man.

In her talk, she discussed a lot about how the idea of purity and purity rings actually does damage where loving instruction was intended.

In her talk, she discussed a lot about how the idea of purity and purity rings actually does damage where loving instruction was intended.

The experience itself—part prayer, part sermon, and part guest lecture—was short compared to the amount of anticipation that Sarah and I had put into the event. It lasted about two hours, about twenty minutes of which Sarah missed because grades at her public high school were due that day. (Oh, the joys of teaching!) It began with the church pastor introducing and welcoming Nadia, then with Nadia giving a brief overview of what was to come. She must have known she had a number of liturgists in the room—people who love knowing what is happening next.

Nadia began talking about her failed marriage (she divorced her husband—“the best guy in the world”—a couple years ago), her current relationship, and what caused her to write the book in the first place. Then, acknowledging that her book, written about her own experiences and those of her former parishioners at the House of Sinners and Saints in Colorado, was limited in the narratives that were given voice through it, she invited her friend, minister and coach Rozella White, to speak. Rozella made some excellent points and then the two sat down in the presiders chairs and had a conversation.

There’s not a lot of point in me writing about the content of the talk—I think it’s best to simply implore you to read Nadia’s book. But as a basic introduction, Nadia wrote about the impact that the Church’s (meaning all of Christianity) teaching on sexuality, largely focusing on abstinence in the case of singleness and procreative sex in the case of marriage, has had on the people of the Church. Just as articles have been discussing and studies have shown for the last decade, Nadia expressed her concern and showed evidence that many young people are finding it impossible to practice intimacy without feeling dirty, even in the confines of marriage. Then, of course, she acknowledged all those whose experiences, identities, and desires that are apart from the Church’s teaching and the ways in which those experiences could still coincide with the life of a follower of Christ. Essentially, she is calling for a reformation of the way that the Church deals with sex, leading to a new ethic. The talk introduced me to the term sexual stewardship and made me think as we discussed the differences between purity (separation from) and holiness (connection to).

Connection was another of the themes of the night—all types of connection and the role that plays in holiness.

Connection was another of the themes of the night—all types of connection and the role that plays in holiness.

One comment that Nadia made that really hit home to me was about the role of childless adult women, whether by choice or not. She said that there is powerful work in the world that can only really be done by childless adult women whose lives are not put on hold raising their own kids for two decades. She called for this role to be made into an honored place rather than a space of shame within the Church. (Of course, the Catholic in me could only think about my nuns and their childless spiritual mothering!)

All in all, it was a spiritual exfoliation (another of her terms) and a beautiful opportunity to reflect on the role of shame in my own life. I plan to read the book soon—I always read Nadia’s books via audiobook because she is such an excellent narrator—and will write a reflection then with more information about the book’s contents. For now, thanks for reading. Comment and share how the Church’s teachings on sexuality and gender have impacted you.

The Three Types of People

Image by Timothy Muza

Image by Timothy Muza

On Sunday at Mass, I started thinking about the same thing that has been on my mind for months now: how could people who I loved so much and who said they loved me treat me the way that they did? Even though I know the answer is simple (they were using me), I am still stumped at the thought of what would lead someone to treat another person like this. I mean, it was serious stuff. They encouraged me to kill myself. Humans don’t do that.

But I’m trying not to be angry—or at least not to be bitter. I’ve forgiven them, I’m praying for them.

But such brokenness—how do we get so broken?

Well, I started thinking about something that my good friend and mentor, Mike Brooks, always said when I was in high school. He phrased it as a lesson (or a warning) about boys for us girls in youth group, but in all honesty I think we all know it’s true about all humans. And certainly I have learned that we sometimes need to be warned (or at least reminded) about other humans.

So, Mike would tell us that there are three types of people. And in order to understand the three types, there’s something you need to know about humans (or, as he would say, boys): we’re all defective. Call it broken, sinful, fallen, human, etc., but it all comes down to the fact that we’re defective. Mike used to talk about the “defective male chromosome,” but in reality it’s the defective human tendency to sin, to harm others or ourselves or to act against the greater good in our own selfishness. It’s that darn original sin getting to us, and there’s no way to escape it. We’re just defective. As we grow in life, we can choose to become more like Christ, but we’ll never escape our humanity.

So, of us defective humans, there are three different types. Mike refers to them simply as the ones, the twos, and the threes.

Ones are the people who are defective but they don’t know they’re defective. A one can become a two or a three or just stay a one for life. These are the emotionally immature people who are like a bull in a china shop with other people’s emotions without even realizing it. We’ve all met a one. Heck, we’ve all been a one. As Mike used to say, “You can date a one, but you can’t marry them.” A one is never going to be mature enough to make commitments or to be a good partner or friend. They have to grow up first.

Ones are like the classic C. S. Lewis example in Mere Christianity where he talks about the child who plays in the mud, making mud pies, not knowing that there is a feast set for him by a king. They don’t know. This means that there’s always hope that they will someday leave the mud pies behind and sit in their rightful place at the feast.

This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” There is the opportunity still to know fully the goodness of God.

Then, there are twos. Twos, unlike ones, know they are defective. They relish their defectiveness, enjoying every minute. Now, here’s the thing: a two will never become anything other than a two. You can’t change them. This was something Mike used to stress (as a high school teacher, principal, and youth minister, he saw a lot of this): “Girls, you can’t save a two and make him a three. You can’t stay in a relationship hoping to change them.” As obvious as it sounds, I had the same conversation with a 29 year old maybe three days ago. We want to believe that we can change people. We see their potential. But we can’t. That’s not in our power.

Twos are like a child making mud pies knowing that there’s a feast and preferring the mud. Even a pig will choose to be clean over lying in the mud, but a two will stay defiantly (even happily) in the mire.

I’m sure we’ve all met people like this. There are the gossipy girls whose greatest pleasure is in tearing down another—not because of insecurity (a one), but because they really think it’s fun. They’re the people who plot and scheme for no real personal benefit other than the satisfaction of hurting another person. I think some people want to see the good in them, want to believe that these people aren’t really a two. How many times have I heard someone say, “Maybe they’re just a one and they’re insecure and I can fix them.”?

No, you can’t. You can’t fix a two. They are happy broken. They do not want to be whole. Maybe the Lord can heal them, but remember: they know the Lord. They just don’t want him. They have already turned against Him. And while it’s easy to see twos as being these evil archetypes and scary monsters, the best image is probably Satan in Dante—perpetually frozen in tears being turned to ice by the beating of his own wings.

Twos are the kind of people who others will make excuses about them being “only human,” but in reality they are the least human people you will meet. To be human is to be what we were meant to be—to go against that humanity, that’s what makes us broken. Twos are happy to go against their humanity. They’re pitiable, but you shouldn’t waste your time trying to change them or endanger yourself trying to love them. I made that mistake.

Lastly, there are the threes. I think we all want to be a three, but I wonder sometimes if people who think they’re threes are really just ones. It’s a solid question, but I’m afraid I’ll have to be enjoying the beatific vision to find the answer. Then I might not care.

A three is someone who, like the two, knows they are defective, but a three will spend the rest of their life trying to overcome their defectiveness. Whether they realize it or not, they are seeking to become fully human, fully like God, fully in imitation of Christ. A three can never become perfect or overcome their defectiveness, so sometimes they will sin. But they will try, each and every day, to get as close to perfection as they can.

Now, Mike never told me this, but as I was thinking about this on Sunday it occurred to me that it’s sort of like a spectrum. I think threes sometimes forget and slide back towards being a one. That's sin. But the farther you go on the spectrum towards being a two, the more lost you are and the less able to approach the three end. It’s like there’s a point of no return. I even drew a picture to show what I mean. 

Three types of people_edited-1.jpg

So, those are the three types of people. And I think that, as much as I feel anger towards the people who hurt me, only one was a two. She took pleasure in it. The others are all ones. They’re just too easily manipulated. Maybe it’s the aspie in me or maybe it’s because my primary strength is context, but being able to label it, being able to classify the difference, it helps. I hope it helps you. 

Image by Suhyeon Choi

Image by Suhyeon Choi

I Unite with All my Sisters and all Who Share the Charism of Providence...

I can hardly believe that it is March. Today we saw the sun for the first time in weeks. I find myself getting everything ready for my Spring Break trip home, my first Spring Break not spent on Mission since that fateful Spring Break where I got the call from Echo, offering me a full ride to Notre Dame...

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A Quick Note on the Psalms

“The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness” Part III

A Quick Note on the Psalms

by Kaitlyn Willy, Chaplain’s Apprentice

 

The last of my series on the retreat. Originally posted at http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-quick-note-on-psalms.html 

First of all, thank you to everyone who sent me supportive emails and texts after my last blog. I am still processing my grief. I appreciate continued prayers.

I wanted to talk about one more thing that happened at my retreat, a tool that I believe many of us forget about when it comes to praying through darkness: the psalms.

During my first Echo Summer, before I came to Butler, I took a class on the Psalms. Ever since, I have loved them. And really, why shouldn’t we love the psalms? They are the prayer, not only of Christians, but of our Jewish brothers and sisters as well. Jesus himself was taught and prayed the Psalms. If they’re good enough for Christ, they’re good enough for me.

Throughout the retreat, we kept coming back to the psalms. We talked about how the psalms can give words to our emotions. There are so many about so many different things. There are psalms of lament and psalms of praise. Some end happily, some are just angry all the way through. Our director of formation reminded us that when praying a psalm of lament, it’s always good to pair it with a psalm of hope. Or, you can do one that covers both. My personal favorites are 23 and 42. Then, rarely, when I’m really angry and refuse to be consoled, I go to 77.

Since the early church, it has been a tradition to sing the psalms daily. Monks used to have to memorize the psalter before they were allowed to officially join the monastery. St. Augustine says: “Singing is for the one who loves.” The Psalms were the most common songs of the early church and Augustine wrote hundreds of commentaries on them. I’m not certain, but I think that the only thing in scripture with more commentaries than the psalms is the Lord’s Prayer.

So, my invitation to you is to open up your Bible to the Psalms and give them a try. They’re good consolation in times of distress.

He waits in the Heart of Darkness

“The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness” Part II

He waits in the heart of darkness
by Kaitlyn Willy, Chaplain’s Apprentice

This is the second in my series of reflections from retreat on the BCC Blog.

The original post can be found here: http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/he-waits-in-heart-of-darkness.html 

As I mentioned in my blog yesterday, the theme for the retreat that I just went on was “The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness.”

One of the things that occurred to me on this retreat was that if I take the beloved to be Christ, then Christ waits for me in the heart of the darkness. He doesn’t wait on the outskirts, he waits in the center of it. In order to get to him, I have to go through the dark and then he will help me through to the other side.

This revelation was truly a grace to me. My retreat director could not have chosen a better time to give me this piece of wisdom. I need it right now. I woke up this morning to find out that one of my dearest friends from high school had passed away. I haven’t processed the emotions from this yet; it’s only been a couple hours since I found out and right now, I am just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know yet how I feel, other than the obvious answer of sadness. I don’t know what I’m going to do, or how I am going to find consolation in this. What I do know, I know from experience. The sadness I feel now is nothing compared to the darkness that I might face in the next few days as I slowly come to know the reality of Jessica’s death. Thanks to this retreat, I also know this: I cannot sit on the outskirts of grief and avoid dealing with my emotions if I expect Christ to be with me. He is waiting for me in the heart of that darkness, and I will have to go there to find him. As much as I would like to just bury myself in my work and avoid thinking about it, I can’t. I have to go there.

During the retreat, it hit me that this is like the Paschal mystery. When we’re on the outskirts of the dark, it’s like Holy Thursday in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s like when the soldiers came and took Christ. We’re scared, we’re sad, we’re confused. Darkness is threatening to overcome us. We want to run, like Peter ran when he denied knowing Christ. But the thing is, we can’t run if we want to get to the Resurrection. Only through the Passion can we come to the Resurrection.

In one of the texts I’m reading for comps (Athanasius’ On the  Incarnation) I was struck by a simple line, something that any kindergartener would think was obvious. But this statement must not have been too obvious, because Athanasius bothered to say it and, let’s be honest, paper and ink was not cheap back then (really, papyrus and ink). The line was this: “Death must precede resurrection.”

I think this is a fact that we all too often want to overlook. I would like the resurrection without the passion, thank you very much. I’ve seen a crucifix. The passion doesn’t look too fun. I would like to avoid that part, just like I would like to avoid recognizing the reality of grief. But consolation cannot come from avoidance. That’s not healthy. We have to go into the heart of darkness, where Christ, the Beloved, is waiting. He will bring us out the other side.

So, friends, have hope. Do not be afraid to know the dark. Instead, fear the unlived life—the one that is avoided by living in fear. And know that for every Good Friday, there is always an Easter Sunday. As my favorite poet, Wendell Berry, says: “Practice Resurrection.”

Please pray for Jessica and her family and friends. And friends, please know that whenever you feel alone in the darkness, Fr. Jeff and I are here and we will always be willing to sit with you and be with you. You are never alone. 

“The Joy of Waiting”

The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness, Retreat Reflections part 1:
“The Joy of Waiting”

This is part of my short series of reflections about the Echo Winter retreat.

Originally posted to the Butler Catholic Community blog (http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-joy-of-waiting.html) 

Last week, as many of you know, I was away on retreat for five days. It was a retreat with Echo (my graduate program) and in packing and preparing for the retreat, I was much more focused on the idea that I would soon see my friends than I was on spending five days with Christ. I am embarrassed, as a campus minister, to admit that. Yet, as I have spoken with my students so many times, friendship is in itself a form of prayer. Everyone in Echo is close, and it had been since August that I had seen my fellow Echo Apprentices, my dear friends. Perhaps it is fitting, given my attitude, that when my community (Pat, Amy, and Joe) was almost all the way to the retreat center, a four-hour drive for us, we started receiving text messages from our friends that their flight into South Bend was delayed.

We arrived at the retreat center thinking that perhaps our friends would be there later that night. As time passed and the plane was still not leaving, we all realized it was not going to happen. Instead, my community would wait with the Associate Director of Echo, Luke, and hang out at the retreat center and the retreat would start the next afternoon, when our friends would finally arrive. While twenty other Echo apprentices were stuck in the airport for almost an entire day (and later, stuck at a shabby hotel where Delta had put them up), my community and I were forced to entertain ourselves. Patrick, Amy, and I played soccer in the dining hall (or, more accurately, half-heartedly kicked the soccer ball back and forth) for an hour and then, joined by Joe and Luke, we ate pizza as a community. We were not in the highest spirits—we were waiting.

After dinner, we managed to raise our spirits a little. I confessed I had never played pool, so the men decided I needed to learn. Patrick and Luke patiently taught me. While I was frustrated at first, they coaxed me into having fun. We managed to enjoy ourselves and lose track of the time amid our laughter at my epically poor pool skills—all the while anticipating our friends’ arrival the next day. We tried to come up with stories to tell them when they arrived and, through the glory of technology, kept up with where they were and what they were up to, even though we were still apart.

It is interesting, given this incident at the beginning, that the theme chosen for our retreat was “The Beloved Waiting in the Heart of Darkness.” We spent a lot of time waiting that first night, waiting to hear if our friends would come. Once we knew they weren’t, we were waiting for the morning when they would be there and the retreat could begin in earnest. All the while, we reminded ourselves that we were not alone—we could wait together and in our companionship, find consolation for missing our dear friends.

I think that one of the great things about this retreat theme was that it was ambiguous—we weren’t really sure what or who the beloved is. Perhaps I am the beloved one, the beloved of God who is waiting amidst the darkness of my life—waiting for God, waiting for love, for hope, for light. Perhaps Christ himself is the beloved and he waits for me in the darkness. Or, perhaps it is the waiting itself that is beloved.

During one of the talks during the retreat, the last of these was suggested by our formation director, Jan. What if it is the waiting itself that is beloved? She told us a story she had heard about a grandmother. This grandmother was well loved by her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. On one of her birthdays, they threw her a surprise party. When the party came around and the grandmother walked in and they surprised her, she was disappointed. She asked them, “How could you rob me of the joy of anticipating being with you?”

The joy of anticipation… how beautiful is that? But you know, thinking about it, it is true. I know that before my students all come back at the beginning of the semester, when I’m sitting in my office, organizing for the upcoming events, I anticipate their arrival. And it’s a joy to anticipate. I know that soon, I will be busy and in the thick of it. At the beginning, I spend some time just anticipating, preparing, and readying myself… and, hopefully, doing so with love. Anticipating is part of the loving.

My community and I experienced this very clearly as we were anticipating our friends at the retreat center. When they arrived, the vans pulled up and they piled out. We raced out to the cars and hugged each of them almost before they were out of the car. And as we waited for the last two vans, I know that the anticipation was growing in my heart. My best girlfriend from my senior year of college, Meg, was in the last van to arrive. As much as I LOVED hugging each of my other 19 friends, I know that I kept anticipating her arrival even more after the others were there. Having friends like Matt, Sarah, Annie, and Kathy in my arms made me want to hug Meg all the more. The promise that she would arrive soon took away any anxiety of the waiting. The waiting was truly beloved, and it made the moment of reunion that much more beautiful. Had Meg arrived first, I might have lost track of that moment, or, worse, I might have been denied a moment of reunion with my other friends. Instead, the waiting was beloved and beautiful.

Perhaps this revelation for me, the beauty and beloved quality of waiting, should have come about before… like, at Advent, for example. I mean, it is the season of waiting ( and, as I have said before, my favorite liturgical season). Advent is dark—literally, as the days grow shorter; and figuratively, as many people face seasonal depression or sadness related to loss experienced during the holidays or simply from being alone. But even now, in ordinary time, we might face waiting. I wait anxiously for a final decision to be made about my plans for next year. Seniors wait for jobs or acceptance to grad school. Many sophomores wait for acceptance to the Pharmacy program. We are all waiting for something.

As for the anxiety associated with waiting, I found consolation in some of the reading we did on retreat. Thomas Merton wrote: “On all sides I am confronted by questions I cannot answer because the time for answering them has not yet come.” (from The Fire Watch)

We have to trust that God’s silence is not because He doesn’t know the answer or, an even worse thought, because He doesn’t care. It is simply because the time for answering has not yet come. There can be any number of reasons for this. In my experience, it is often because I am not yet the person who God intends to give an answer to.

My invitation for today is to remember that even in the heart of darkness, the waiting can be beloved. Let the joy of anticipation fill you. Trust in the Lord, do not be anxious. The time for answering will come. For now, we wait in joyful hope.

From the BCC Blog... In the Spirit of Christ, which is Love

You can find the original version of this blog at: http://butlercatholiccommunity.blogspot.com/2012/11/in-spirit-of-christ-which-is-love.html
 

So, I was going to write about all the travels that I’ve been doing lately. I mean, I’ve gotten to do a lot. I spent a weekend at St. Mary of the Woods for my orientation as a Providence Associate. That was an awesome opportunity to grow closer to God. I then spent last weekend, actually 5 days, in Dallas for a Ministry Conference. I got to see cool people, family and friends that I have been missing and wanting to see. I’ve had so many blessings lately and I wanted to tell you all about that. But then, today, I was reading my facebook news feed and something else more important was re-iterated to me in a way that I feel like I have to tell you about it.

One of my good friends from college is also one of my heroes. Her name is Genevieve. I call her Genna. And Genna is a teacher in the poorest school district at the poorest grade school in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Yes, I know, we talk a lot about poverty at the BCC. We’re Catholic and part of Catholic Social Teaching is preferential option for the poor. But let me tell you about this poverty.

One of the students in the bilingual class at Gena’s school lost his shoes the other day.

Who knows where or why, he’s a five year old boy. That happens. The problem is, they were his only pair of shoes. His mother sent him to school in slippers. The school said that wasn’t appropriate footwear and he had to go home until he had real shoes. His mom can’t buy shoes until the middle of the month at payday. It’s the beginning of the month now. This kid is going to have to stay home from school for a week—in kindergarten, an important year where missing a week is like missing a month—because his mom can’t buy shoes. And that’s not to mention that he probably gets the majority of his food at school. So now, he has no shoes and he’s hungry. And the school district can’t do a thing about it, because they can’t even put paper in the classrooms. The teachers have to buy their own supplies. And let me tell you, these teachers don’t get paid much.

Guys, this is not okay.

My first instinct was to ask Genna what size shoes I need to buy this kid. I mean, I can’t do a lot to change the world, but I can get this kid shoes so he can go to school. Genna can’t do it—the school doesn’t pay her enough to keep her own kids in nice shoes, much less put shoes on her students. I’m still waiting to find out about his shoe size. I know there are several other friends of Genna who are waiting for the same thing. One of us will get him shoes. And when we do, he will go to school. And someday, I pray, he will change the world and then, maybe there won’t be any kids without shoes.

But my buying a pair of shoes doesn’t really solve the problem.

The problem is, I live in a house with nine other people. Between all of us, there are probably over hundred pairs of shoes in this house. And there are probably over a hundred kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex whose shoes are too small or too big and cause blisters or too worn to keep their feet warm. Why? Why is it that in the richest nation in the world in the 21st century this is still happening? And forget Dallas, my old home, what about Indianapolis? What about our city, the one in which we attend school and live at least 9 months out of the year? What about the kids in our schools?

I imagine it’s not much different.

We need to reevaluate our lives, people.

I have been talking about Nazareth Farm (where the BCC will be taking our Alternative Spring Break trip next semester) a lot lately. That’s because a) I love it and b) I want you to go and love it, too. One of the four cornerstones of Nazareth Farm is simplicity. Let’s talk about simplicity for a moment.

Simplicity seems to mean something different for every person. One person can say they’re living in simplicity while they have a flat screen tv and a dvr (I would question this person and their idea of need). The next person might be living in a tiny house (check out Tumbleweed Tiny Houses if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and own less than 100 items (I can’t do that—sorry, my books are really important to me). Whatever you think simplicity is, we are called to it. As we say at Naz Farm, we are called to live simply so that others may simply live.

During the month of November, I would like to both invite and challenge you to try to live more simply. Maybe that means not going out for that burger, ordering that pizza or those insomnia cookies. Maybe that means that instead of buying a new scarf, you’re going to use the one you bought last year. Same for that new coat and those new mittens. Maybe you’ll look in your closet, count the number of pairs of shoes you own and donate a dollar for every pair to the BCC Christmas Family Adoption fund. If you don’t have a lot of shoes, but find yourself buying a lot of something else, maybe you’ll match that. Maybe you’ll tell Mom and Dad that instead of yet another new blouse or new boots, you want to donate that money somewhere else. Maybe you’ll participate in the Tech Fast and see where, without the temptation of entertainment technology, you really do have enough time to volunteer, to serve, to change the world. Maybe. I can’t make that decision for you. I can only decide for me.

As we begin November, I notice a lot of Christmas stuff in the stores. It’s a little early for it, but I am starting to be in a Christmas mindset. Christmas reminds me of my Uncle Tim, who I never met. He died from cancer at the age of 18 almost three years before I was born. But my uncle had a saying and it was passed on to me. Around Christmas, when he wanted something, he would say, “In the spirit of Christmas, which is love, please ___.”

In the spirit of Christmas, which is love…. Perhaps it would be better to say, “In the spirit of CHRIST, which is love.” Because He was love. He was not just love the noun, but love the verb. Suddenly the question at Christmas becomes the same as the question we must ask ourselves every day all year round: How do I, Kaitlyn Willy, love better? How do we, the Butler Catholic Community, love better? How do you, reader, love better?

To answer that, this year, in place of buying each other gifts, my community is adopting a local family and giving them Christmas. And by Christmas, I don’t mean they’re getting a bunch of toys (though I might slip a few in). Primarily, I’m shopping for PJs, undies, socks, and bras for an elderly grandma and her daughter and clothes to keep their three babies warm. This family will be way more excited about these clothes—which won’t be all that nice and certainly won’t be name-brand items—than I have ever been about a Christmas gift. Need does that to people, it makes them find joy in the simple things.

In keeping with this spirit of love, the BCC Service Committee and Leadership Team have decided to adopt two families for Christmas. I mentioned this above, in the “maybe” paragraph. I’m serious, friends—count those shoes, those lattes, those whatever-you-spend-your-money-ons. Donate a dollar for each one you have. Or, donate five dollars, ten dollars, whatever you can muster. Ask mom or dad or grandma to give you your Christmas money early—donate it. Make a difference.

And, if you really want to keep it up, go to Nazareth Farm. Live simply so that others may simply live. Do as Christ calls us to in the reading for tomorrow: love your neighbor as yourself. Change the world.

When people ask me to describe my students, I say that they all want to save the world. Guess what, friends—this is how you change the world. You change it one person at a time. Not one poor person at a time, but one human being made in the image and likeness of God who has intrinsic dignity and who for some reason or other lives entrenched in poverty and cannot get out. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other— in the spirit of Christ, which is love. 

There are no success stories here

14 October 2012

I have been thinking a lot about the term “success” lately. As a child growing up in rural Missouri, success was something to be aspired to. In fact, it was just about the only thing that we aspired to. No one really ever explained what it meant, but it was like a blessing passed on from the older generations: “May you be successful, may you find success.” My own obsession with education and knowledge was linked to (though not merely a result of) my maternal grandfather’s insistence that the only way I could be successful was if I got an education. It was never directly stated, but I was under the impression from a young age that this being successful involved money. My maternal grandmother, who, I must say has only ever wanted the best for us kids, longed for lawyers and doctors in the family. This was not because she wanted legal or medical advice, but because those seemed the most lucrative positions (this was before the technology boom and computers became the money makers). I’m grateful that she doesn’t seem too disappointed about our failure to produce either (although, let’s not give up hope too soon, I have a cousin who would make a great lawyer if he would get through the schooling).

At any rate, looking at my life right now, I’m not sure if I can be considered successful. I certainly don’t have a lot of money. On the contrary, the only material thing I have a lot of is debt. Then there’s the question of success in my field(s) of choice. As a classicist, I must be a failure because I left the field. As a historian, same thing. As a theologian, the fact that I have already admitted to hating theology (/morethanfleshandbone/2012/03/so-heres-why-i-hate-theology.html) probably means I’m not very successful. As a writer, I’m generally too tired to write down the many thoughts in my head and heart. Instead, I lay down and read what other writers have to say.

As a Campus Minister, I’m not really sure how you can define success. Is it quantitative or qualitative? In our conversations with the Archdiocese, we’re always being asked about numbers. Honestly, sometimes there is only one person who shows up to my events. Sometimes there are thirty. But if we have a great conversation about God in which one or both of us grow closer to Him, in which Christ becomes present in a tangible way, isn’t that meeting with the only student who showed up a success?

A couple weeks ago, we had a Leadership meeting on a Saturday morning. Our leadership team is made up of about 16 students and only five showed up. For my boss, this was a failure. And really, as a leadership team meeting, it couldn’t have been much of a success because part of being a team meeting is the team showing up for the meeting. But I don’t think it was a failure, either. I had great conversations with the students, got to know them better in new ways and during our hour together I saw us grow in understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to be in communion with the other. We shared the stories of our “Eli”s (1 Sam 3:1-18), those people who challenge us and invite us to follow our calling, those spiritual leaders who have made us who we are. Sitting there, hearing the stories that these five women had to tell, two of whom are freshmen in college—I don’t think that anything which brings such powerful witnesses together and unites them in prayer could be other than a success, and it was a success brought about by the Holy Spirit.

As we are preparing for a lot of changes and transitions at the BCC, we find ourselves being asked to defend the need for campus ministers at Butler. People ask us for success stories. Fr. Jeff has many—he can tell you about the students who entered into the Catholic Church, the ones who went on to change the world in many ways and who stayed strong in their faith. He considers those to be success stories. Certainly, they are the easiest ones to tell and he tells them which such love and warmth that the hearer is satisfied in the need for ministry to continue here. 

My temptation is always to say that there are no success stories at the Butler Catholic Community. Instead, there are love stories. I’m not sure what success is, but I do know what love is and these kids teach me about it every day.

I can tell you love stories about my love for my students, about how I see God in them and how my own love grows abundantly through them. I can tell you about their love and generosity and patience with me as they teach me so many lessons about life and love. I can tell you about our mutual love for Fr. Jeff, a man with amazing wisdom and kindness and a great power and ability to love that we all benefit from every day. I can tell you about their love for each other: the strength they give each other during tragedies and heartbreak, stress and studying. I can tell you about students who say to me that they wouldn’t have gotten through their breakup, the death of their grandfather, their PCAT, their final exams, their own illnesses without the love of their friends from the BCC.

I can tell you specific stories: the girl who found the ability to love herself through being loved in a way that didn’t demand, didn’t take—only gave; the young woman who finally found a place where God made sense and became the loving creator she needed instead of the judge she had been taught about as a child, how she found this place through the dedication and love of a friend who invited and invited until she came; there’s the one about the young man who carried a girl to her dorm all the way across campus because she was sick and too weak to walk. I look at their faces and see not only college students, but I can see the face of Christ so vividly sometimes that I am perpetually amazed by them.

The most important love stories are the love stories of these college students and their Creator. There are the love stories of their love for God: their trust, their faith so strong that it makes mine pale in comparison. There is the girl who just came back from studying abroad where she had a conversion experience and now is bravely facing the knowledge that the five year plan she had so carefully crafted and protected in her heart since high school isn’t God’s plan for her. She is going forward with far more grace than I did when I had a similar experience. She is one of my heroes and I am blessed to know her, much less to serve her.

Far more beautiful are the love stories that I witness quietly, the ones of the love of a passionately loving creator who so obviously cherishes these college students in spite of anything that they might do to deter his love. I have seen Him come back again and again to pursue them, to work miracles in their lives only to be recognized after with some mystified disbelief. I have seen men and women grow into something far greater than what they were before and while some might call these “success stories,” I am painfully aware that I had nothing at all to do with it. I just sat with them at the Blue House or in Starbucks or walked around campus with them, watching the changes take place.

I have been praised before for the love that I so obviously have for these mischievous college kids, the frat boys and sorority girls, the seemingly frustrating and narcissistic kids who really just want to be loved and don’t know how to love themselves, the socially awkward kids who are still trying to figure out who they are. But really, it’s nothing to love them. I am not Mother Theresa, saving the poor of Calcutta. I’m not Fr. Greg Boyle, loving the homeboys in LA. Like Oscar Romero, I am blessed to say that it is easy to do my job well when I have such great students. The trick is not in loving them; it’s in not letting my heart break because I love them so much. I challenge any person to know these amazing men and women, to spend even a couple days with them, and not love them. It’s not possible, I promise you.

Last weekend, I went home for the Oktoberfest. It was a well-needed and wonderful rest. Going back to Rolla for things like that is like walking into a big, warm hug. I felt wrapped up in love and was reinvigorated to continue my ministry. The only downside of the trip was the immense number of people who asked what my plan is for after I graduate Notre Dame. The frustrating answer is that I don’t know, but like my student who so bravely is letting God guide her future, I am trying to trust that He has a plan and that his plan, unlike my own half-dozen batch of half baked plans for next year, will rise up and give me the answer I need.

On the drive down and part of the drive back, I listened to the audiobook of Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle. This is an awesome book and everyone should read it (thanks to Sarah Hallett and Fr. Jeff separately for the recommendations to read it). He quotes Mother Theresa saying that we are not called to success but to faithfulness. As I look forward to this next step into the great unknown, I try to hold onto this. I am not called to success, only faithfulness. So, let us all faithfully move forward out of the darkness and into the light, listening to our call. 

Prayers I love

‎"May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them and change their pain into joy. And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world so that you will do the things which others tell you cannot be done." -a Franciscan Benediction

Oh, Great Spirit,
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I am small and weak.
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy - myself.
Make me always ready to come to you
with clean hands and straight eyes,
so when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit will come to you
without shame.



The Litany of Non Violence

Provident God, aware of our own brokenness, we ask the gift of courage to identify how and where we are in need of conversion in order to live in solidarity with all Earth's people.

Deliver us from the violence of superiority and disdain. Grant us the desire, and the humility, to listen with special care to those whose experiences and attitudes are different from our own.

Deliver us from the violence of greed and privilege. Grant us the desire, and the will, to live simply so others may have their just share of Earth's resources.

Deliver us from the silence that gives consent to abuse, war and evil. Grant us the desire, and the courage, to risk speaking and acting for the common good.

Deliver us from the violence of irreverence, exploitation and control. Grant us the desire, and the strength, to act responsibly within the cycle of creation.

God of love, mercy and justice, acknowledging our complicity in those attitudes, action and words which perpetuate violence, we beg the grace of non-violent hearts. Amen.



Prayer to Our Lady of Providence
Written by Sister Ann Casper, SP

Woman of response
whose initial "yes" set in motion
the greatest possibility that could ever be;
whose continuing "yes" fed a developing faith
throughout a lifetime of availability to God's power in her regard.

Woman of relationship
whose openness let others into her life
to shape it, to form it;
whose surrender left her vulnerable
to what was not in her control.

Woman of reflection
whose pondering made eventual sense
of fear, bewilderment and infinite Possibility;
whose musing made connections
and named interdependence - treasure and gift.

Woman of reverence
whose choosing spoke of all creation
imbued with the divine and calling forth new life;
whose cooperating probed the depths
of joy and suffering, of confusion and trust.

Woman of reality
whose parenting formed the Savior Son
midst homely ordinariness, mobility and adjustments;
whose queenly dignity raised all women
to pride, equality and fullness of life.

Pray for us, Holy Mother of God,
that we may become women of response,
women of relationship,
women of reflection,
women of reverence,
and women who follow God in the reality of ordinary life.

Amen.


UDMC Notes, 2012

I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to share my notes from UDMC this year. It was a great conference.


University of Dallas Ministry Conference
28-29 October, 2011

Session I: Developing Lay Ecclesial Ministry by Francis Cardinal George (born in Chicago in 1937, 1st native Chicagoan to become bishop of Chicago)

·      Cardinal George wishes to address 4 points
  1. Ecclesiology/Theology of the Church: we must start with relationships
  2. Integrate Ministries into mission: take a look at the relationship between Church and the world. In Vatican II, the Church is called the “Sacrament of the Unity of the Human Race.”
  3. Culture: Sacraments, Community, Ecclesiology
  4. Lay Ecclesial Ministries
·      The development of the Lay Ecclesial Minister is a “Sign of the Times.”
·      In our culture, there is an idea that what you do equals who you are, this is inaccurate.
·      “Ministry begins not with control, but in going to others on their terms.”
·      Cardinal George wants to avoid the term cleric—a cleric is someone who is not accountable to a superior and so as Catholics we shouldn’t use this term.
·      Relatedness is primordial; we are in relationship before we understand the concept of “I.”
·      Only relationships are eternal.
·      “Communio” is basic and important to Vatican II. It is used many times. We miss this in English because they use several different words to translate it.
o      It is used more than 200 times in Lumen Gentium.
·      We have to rethink community if we are going to be Vatican II Catholics.
·      Vatican II wanted to understand the Church as relationships, not worried about the state as an institution but the culture of the people.
·      How does the Church address the world in order to change the world?—this is our mission.
·      We don’t want to be isolated, sectarian.
·      The purpose of Vatican II was not to just change the Church, it was to change the Church so that we could change the world. It was to enable us to clean up our act so that we could convert the world.
·      It’s not shaping the state, it’s shaping the culture that we must try to do. [I would argue that in shaping the culture of a republic like the US, we would be shaping the state.]
·      Cardinal George discussed the protestant background of the US
·      This protestant background still shapes us, which impedes us in our own faith lives.
·      The Church’s voice is inside, it’s a mother’s voice—it teaches us, tells us how to think, what to do.
·      A gift is a commodity with a person attached, you accept the gift but also the person.
·      We share the gifts of Christ.
·      The purpose of ministry is to share the gifts.
·      Our ministries should be welcoming.
·      Sacraments create a new world.
·      If you can’t govern and can’t care for people, don’t become a priest.
·      Start with Christ as pastor and that explains everything else.
·      You cannot be a priest without a people.
·      We all have titles—that title involves the relationship. To think of only the title without the relationship negates the title.
·      Lay—of the world; Ecclesial—of the Church; Ministry—bringing people closer to Christ.
·      Lay Ecclesial Ministry—Participation in pasturing without the sacrament of Holy Orders.
·      In Lay Ecclesial Ministry, we are the Church relating to the Church. Disciple relating to disciple, not head to body.
·      You need a call from the head of the Church, calling you to be Christ not just to the world, but to other disciples.
·      It is a vocation within a vocation.
·      Formation in Lay Ecclesial Ministry has four components:
  1. Invisible—the Call from God. This is an urgency, a sense that God is calling me to serve beyond what I’m already doing.  It is a call to be in relationship to other disciples to make them holier.
  2. Skills acquisition—Academic. This should not be the most important part, but you cannot be a good Lay Ecclesial Minister without it.
  3. Along with that, personal formation is important. “Together in God’s Service” is the formation program in Chicago. Personal formation is as important as academic formation. Lay Ecclesial Ministers are also accountable to the Bishop, just as a priest is.
·      In Chicago, they do the formation and academic eductionation along with the seminarians so that there are less divisions between the two groups.
·      80% of the Lay Ecclesial Ministers in Chicago are women.
·      Examples of Lay Ecclesial Ministers: DREs and Pastoral Associates
  1. Commissioning—Lay Ecclesial Ministers are commissioned by the diocese. If the parish can’t afford a Lay Ecclesial Minister or cuts the program, the diocese sees to it that the Lay Ecclesial Minister is reassigned. Ministry for the sake of mission.


Session II: Called to be Prophets and Poets by Dr. Robert McCarty

·      We must look at our ministry through the lenses of prophet and poet.
·      Without the prophetic core, we lapse into stagnation. Without the poetic core, we lapse into self righteousness and exhaustion.
·      Objectives:
o      Discipleship as call to be prophet and poet.
o      3 skills that a Prophet and poet needs
o      The good news that motivates us
·      Prophet:
o      Prophets are the audible voice and the visible sign of the invisible God’s love and compassion.
o      A prophet reminds the establishment what it was established for, reminds us of our mission.
o      The prophet takes the inaudible God and makes him audible.
o      Tells the stories of the marginalized.
o      Who is telling the stories of poverty in the US?
o      Prophets are usually reluctant. We’re not born prophets, not born courageous—we become prophets, we become courageous.
o      What excuses do we make?
o      Five step movement in prophesy:
1.     Assess the situation:
o      look around, see the injustice, name what we see, avoid the conspiracy of silence.
o      The last century was split by the holocausts, epidemics, wars.
o      The prophet has to see it and name it.
o      Oscar Romero was considered safe and middle of the road. They thought he wouldn’t be a problem for the government. It took a friend’s death to make him see.
o      Thomas Merton—we should always read with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.
2.     Characterized by speech: no, never, never again.
o      hypersensitive to evil
o      not afraid to speak the truth to power.
o      they ask the hard questions: “How do we…” “Why is it…”
o      “Prophets are a pain in the neck.”
o      Jesus was annoying because of what he says.
o      This is what prophets do—they see and speak out.
3.     Prophesy is anchored in mission and flows from mission
o      Prophets are not judged by their success but by their staying true to the word.
4.     Pathos: Prophesy is characterized by tears.
o      Injustice can seem overwhelming.
o      compassion for the human condition
o      having a moist heart—combination of compassion and tears (a Native American saying)
5.     Leads to a new situation
o      The prophet is transformed by hope
o      “Hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage.” -Augustine
o      Harness the anger on behalf of change
o      Prophets have to be believed or killed.
o      “To be truly involved in life is prophetic. To be a prophet without experiencing the pain of rejection, failure, and being misunderstood is impossible.” –Robert Wicks
o      We also shouldn’t care about that rejection. Keep going anyways.
o      Dr. McCarty was asked by a High School student, “Why did Jesus get whacked in the first place?” – this is the essential question.
o      If we don’t get this, we don’t get anything.
o      Jesus gets whacked because he redefined the kingdom: “The first shall be last…”—he ticked off the first.
o      We’re part of the first!
o      Jesus was radical compassion.
o      How much do we love those who seem unlovable?
o      Reflection Questions:
o      Where in your ministry do you feel like a prophet?
o      What are the costs?
o      What are the payoffs?
o      Who have been prophets who spoke to you, challenged you?
·      Poet:
o      It’s not enough to do for Jesus, we also have to be in Jesus.
o      A bishop was once asked, “Which do you love more: working for the kingdom of God or God?” Afterwards, he added another hour of prayer to his day.
o      The prophet emphasizes the work on behalf of the kingdom, the poet emphasizes relationship with God.
o      If our commitment to Jesus is complete, then our lives will be lived in holy communion with Him.
o      Only when there is genuine conversion will justice win.
o      Don’t just do something, sit there… this is the ministry of being.
o      “The Christian of the next century will be a mystic or nothing at all.” Karl Rahner
o      Our mystics and not our theologians will be the better chance of relating to our young people.
o      Learn to sit in the presence
o      The Ministry of Being
§       “I do mission.” – Prophet
§       “I am mission.” -Poet
o      Just sitting and waiting with people who are hurting is part of the mission
o      To be a poet, we must practice Sabbath.
o      We must recapture Sabbath theology
o      To live in Sabbath time means to be attuned to the holiness in time.
o      Poets talk about time in terms of the second act, the third stanza… their language is different than hours and minutes.
o      It’s about being in time so we can stop and listen to what we are called to do in time.
o      Being present to the moment
o      Are we living fast or are we living deep?
o      It’s challenging to be in the moment right now.
o      Unconditional love is a part of the poet
o      Our culture encourages us to run form experience to experience. We become experience junkies who collect experiences without dwelling on them.
o      We must be a person of prayer in order to live deep.
o      We will not encounter love by living fast.
o      To practice Shavat:
§       Learn to stop.
§       Busyness can cause blindness (or death).
§       Become attentive.
§       Leisure is closely allied to Sabbath.
o      Let’s put ourselves in time out.
o      To practice Sabbath is to practice re-creation: creativity, artistic expression
§       Recreation in community
§       festivity and delight
§       people of joy
o      Sabbath repairs the world.
o      We put a limit on Sabbath joy, but this should not be so.
o      Remember, the only thing that Jesus makes for dinner is reservations.
o      We have this idea: “Don’t be too happy, it’s clearly got to be sinful.”
o      Only Catholics could have invented Lent (they were probably Irish Catholics), but only Catholics could have invented Mardi Gras (the French).
o      Our wonder quotient: when did we last experience wonder and awe?
o      Reflection Questions:
§       When in my ministry do I most feel like a poet?
§       What have been the costs?
§       What have been the payoffs?
§       Who are poets for me?
·      Prophet and Poet: When we put these two together, we get holiness.
o      Mary and Martha—we need to be both Mary and Marth to be holy.
o      Holy Thursday—breaking bread and washing feet
·      We are called to be a both/and kind of people.
·      People of devotion and people of Catholic Social Teaching. People of Paul/Peter; Gentile/Jew; Great Cathedrals/Great Soup Kitchens; Progressive/traditional.
·      Prophet: Good Friday and the Crucifixion, Poet: Easter and the Resurrection.
·      3 Skills:
·      Pay Attention. It is heroic to pay attention. Name the false idols and false values.
o      Redefine the kingdom.
o      If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.
o      Success is a false message.
o      If relationships are only about use, it’s not a relationship.
o      Failure to notice the false messages leads to corruption.
o      There is a cost to being a true Christian: Romero, MLK Jr.
o      In 2009, 23 Catholic missionaries were murdered for their faith.
o      But pay attention also to the good, to the presence of God.
o      Collect moments of grace—those moments are clearly sacramental.
o      The consequences of the moment
·      Speak the Truth gently.
o      Speaking gently as opposed to speaking forcefully and egotistically
o      What truth can the poor speak to us?
o      The spirituality of the oppressed—the call to conversion
o      “I tell you this so that you might have life and have it abundantly.”
o      Oscar Romero said that the poor are preaching in El Salvador and their truth shall set us free.
o      How we treat the powerless is the real test of the Christian.
o      Jesus named the evil, called for repentance.
o      The call to conversion: turning away and turning towards.
o      Through word and witness
o      As gentle as Mother Teresa was, her message was not gentle.
o      We are called to speak the truth by what we say and what we do.
·      Get a dream.
o      It’s all about the size of your dream.
o      The societal dream versus a dream worthy of reckless abandon
o      We must have a dream that’s worthy of reckless abandon, that’s worth grabbing onto, worthy of an adventure.
o      Remember the power of the faith of a mustard seed.
o      We’ve been sold the wrong dream, the dream of a culture of death.
o      The Jesus dream—Jesus reading from Isaiah. He announced the reign of God and signed his death warrant.
o      The reign of God is the Jesus dream, that’s the message.
·      To speak about God is one thing, but to dare to speak for God requires great arrogance and great humility.
·      There is a challenging and transforming aspect of the Good News.
·      Are we afraid that the Gospel has lost its power?
·      We must proclaim clearly with a prophetic and poetic voice that darkness doesn’t win.
·      Are we more joyful? Are we more loving? peaceful? forgiving? courageous?
·      If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap. If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing. If you want to be happy for a month, get married. If you want to be happy forever, serve God. [I’m not sure how I feel about marriage only bringing a month of happiness… but he did laugh when he said it.]


Session III: Teaching on Tough Issues: Practical Tips for Helping God’s People Embrace Challenging Truths by Ken Ogorek

  •  Never mistake resistance on your part for error on the Church’s part.
  • When we feel discomfort, we take this discomfort and then automatically think the teaching needs to change.
  • We have to ask God for help to understand the reasoning and to change ourselves.
  • God reveals some of his preferences to us—we are not groping blindly in the dark.
  • For instance, God’s preference for forgiving sin is in the sacrament of confession. While this is the preferred way, it’s not the only way. We can’t put God into a box.
  • Fullness of truth is important
  • God loves us so much that He blesses the Church with his fullness of truth.
  • The hierarchy of truths is taught poorly and then sounds like it says that moral relativism is okay.
  • If the hierarchy of truths is taught poorly, it leads to being a Cafeteria Catholic.
  • If it’s in the CCC, it’s all true.
  • The truth of the trinity is necessary to teach baptism in the name of the trinity. Hence, it’s core.
  • Never mistake a clever argument for the truth.
  • There is no higher authority than an individual’s INFORMED conscience.
  • There are moral absolutes.
  • An act can be intrinsically evil where there can be no set of circumstances where it isn’t evil.
  • It’s so easy to believe something is okay if our end is good.
  • Not only do our goals have to be good, but our means do as well.
  • Sexuality is a beautiful gift from a loving God. We have to look at the gift as it is given to us, how it comes naturally.
  • Coins: the gift of sexuality has two sides just like a coin. One side is unitive, the other is procreative. When you separate the two sides of a coin, it is no longer a coin.
  • Every use of sexuality should respect both sides.
  • JPII imagined this like a diamond with four points. The four points are free, faithful, fruitful, and total.
  • Faithful—exclusive
  • Fruitful—open to new life
  • total—not holding back on any aspect of who you are.


Session IV: Leading With Soul by Dr. Lee Bolman (professor at UMKC)
Note: This lecture was not at all what I expected after reading the description, however, it was an enjoyable session.

·      Wrote the book Leading with Soul for business leaders who are trying to be leaders addressing the soul as well as the business world. Leadership Spirituality
·      The book is not addressed to a particular religious faith
·      Modern leaders do not know how to talk about faith and morals.
·      How can we talk about leadership spiritually but ecumenically?
·      Qualities of Great Leadership
o      Focus—a clear sense of direction
o      Passion—rooted in love. When you love your work, the people you’re with, and the place you’re at, it’s easy to be passionate.
o      Courage—even leaders who aren’t in danger of getting killed face real risks.
o      Wisdom—to decide what to do.
o      Integrity—People only follow those they trust.
·      Extraordinary leaders are people of extraordinarily powerful, deep faith.
·      For many people, that deep faith is a challenge.
·      What is soul?
o      CCC on soul—“Soul signifies the spiritual principle in man.”
o      His preferred definition: a bedrock sense of self—who you are, values, what I really believe in
·      The search for soul as a lifelong journey.
·      So, in this definition of soul, it can be characteristic of a couple.
·      This idea of soul could also apply to an organization.
·      Soul makes a huge difference in whether an organization succeeds.
·      Soul as a core ideology.
·      Companies should have a core ideology.
·      You should focus on something deeper than the bottom line in business, something deeper and more important than the profit.
·      For companies, profits should be like oxygen—necessary, but not the purpose.
·      Poem by Rumi:
All day I think about it,
then at night I say it.
Where did I come from,
and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere,
I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.
·      Questions about origin, purpose, meaning, destination…these are the basic spiritual questions.
·      The twin faiths of technology and consumerism are not making us happy.
·      There’s got to be something more to life than shiny new technology.
·      Joseph Campbell—The Hero’s Journey
·      There’s really only one story people care about and they care about it so much that they keep retelling it.
·      3 Parts of the spiritual journey
  1. Leaving home—escaping shackles of convention
  2. The Quest—entering the wilderness, plunging the depths, confronting demons
  3. Returning Home—Armed with gifts earned on the quest
·      Clip from The Lion King: Simba following Rafiki through the woods to see the reflection
·      Antonio Machado
·      Walt Whitman—Passage to India
·      Leadership gifts that we as leaders can give to others:
o      Authorship: helping other paint their own canvas. Art is important because of the making f it and the pride in being able to make, produce, and create. As parents or leaders, we sometimes do things for others that they really should do themselves.
o      Power: enabling others to feel they make a difference. We make others feel they can make a difference.
o      Love: Caring, compassion… we must choose the person or the relationship over the meeting.
o      Significance: Find meaning in contribution; is what we’re doing important? What the heck is it all about?
·      Clip from Ghandi… a leaders gives all four of these in two minutes to a total stranger—redemption is possible.
·      “I know a way out of Hell…”
·      Ghandi showed compassion
·      Rather than judging, he asks why
·      Penance and reconciliation
·      another Rumi poem
In this world you have three companions:
One is faithful, the others are treacherous.
The latter are friends and possessions;
the faithful one is excellence in deeds.
Your wealth won’t come with you out of your palace;
your friend will come, but only as far as the grave.
When the day of doom comes to meet you,
your friend will say, “I’ve come this far, but no farther.
I will stand a while at your grave.”
Your deeds alone are faithful: make them your refuge,
for they alone will accompany you into the depths of the tomb.


Session V: What Does the Catholic Church teach about Evolution? by Dr. John Norris (UD Theology professor)

Note: I took a class with Dr. Norris on this topic, so my notes are pretty bare. If you want more information, I’ll have to get you my class notes. Sorry!

·      We live in a two truth world: science and faith
·      Evolutionary Theory: Random mutations at the genetic level were passed on through offspring. These random mutations help the individual with these traits to survive more than others. Eventually the variation is distinct enough that there is no interbreeding and there is a separate species.
·      Evolutionary problems for theology:
o      What role does randomness mean in evolution?
o      How does survival of the fittest describe human existence?
o      In what sense is God no longer necessary to help understand the world? Is God just the God of the gaps?
·      Philosophical Materialism—Dawkins: God as a God of the gaps… in this theory
o      random mutation denies any kind of divine causality or creation
o      God is merely a God of the gaps and is no longer necessary when the gaps are explained.
o      Science is a primary means of knowing.
·      Principles for a Catholic Approach to the relationship between faith and science
o      Truth does not contradict truth.
o      Revelation and Theology come from God.
o      Church teaching is inspired by God.
·      We can sort of have a playroom together for scientists and theologians.
·      Dei Filius—problems arise from theology making claims that are faulty or beyond its competence… same thing from science. Both have their own domains, methods, and limitations.
·      Barbour’s 4 models of interactions between faith and science: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integrations
·      Growth and Change in Catholic theology
o      John Cardinal Newman
o      Semper Idem—always the same… this is not true in Catholic history.
o      There’s a continuity, but also authentic development
o      Recognition of proper authority of levels of teaching


Session VI— Catechist as Witness: Embracing Jesus, The Way, The Truth, and The Life by Dr. Diana Dudoit Raiche, Ph.D.

·      John 14:6… Judas has just left the last supper and Jesus says that he must go where they cannot go.
·      Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus for me? When did you become aware of Jesus as the Son of God?
·      It is the relationship with Jesus that is critical for every catechist. It invites, calls, propels us to become leaders.
·      We do it because it is Good News and we’ve been called.
·      My teaching is not my own, but it is from the one who sent me. Christ said this and so do we.
·      1 Corinthians 15:3
·      NDC calls for witnesses to the faith
·      CCC states that at the heart of Catechesis is Jesus (CCC 426)
·      Catechesi Tradendae
·      As human beings, we mirror the actions of Judas, Peter’s denial, Thomas’ doubt, John’s loyalty, Mary Magdalene’s awe.
·      Each of us carries within us a way of understanding Jesus was given to us.
·      The Jesus we know and experience is the only one we can share with others.
·      We have four lenses to look at Jesus:
  1. Mystery
  2. Myth
  3. Messiah
  4. Man
·      As we think, we believe. As we believe, we act.
·      Jesus as Mystery:
o      Mark 4:11—Jesus says the mystery of the Kingdom has been granted to you.
o      Dr. Raiche always begins her classes with a discussion of the Kingdom of God.
o      You can’t not believe in heaven if you’re with a dying person who has deep faith.
o      The key to grasping mystery comes through experiencing it in history. –Karl Rahner
o      Modern day search for mystery—we look in all the wrong places.
·      Jesus as Myth:
o      When we consider Jesus as myth, it’s when we take Jesus off the cross. We want a tame Christ. (He’s not a tame lion. – C.S.L.)
o      When we think of the myth of scripture, it must be grounded in a firm faith.
·      Jesus as Messiah:
o      The woman at the well attests to Jesus as the Messiah
o      Jesus as Lord… he receives this title on many, many occasions.
o      Every good Catechist shares their faith story. How did you come to understand who Jesus is and who he is for you?
·      Jesus as Man, the son of Mary and Joseph:
o      Central theme of Christian anthropology… grace
o      Catechesis is a work of evangelization. Jesus is the context of that evangelization.
o      We must guard our truths very carefully… blood was shed in the streets to establish our doctrine.
o      once we accept Jesus, we can be catechized.
o      You cannot give to someone what they are not willing to accept.


Session VII: Together on the Journey of Hope: Reflections on the Responsibilities of Lay Catholics for treatment of Migrants and Immigrants by Dr. John Norris

·      USCCB document, “Strangers No Longer” (published January 22, 2003) is the source of much of this talk.
·      VII and Cardinal George recap
o      Remember his definition of church as the sacrament of the unity of humanity.
o      We have to get the Church’s act together so that it can make a difference in the world for the better.
·      Catholics and immigration reform—is there an awareness of Catholic principles among Catholic people? [From what I’ve seen, that would be a resounding no.]
·      How can we best teach people about Catholic teachings on immigration?
·      Authority Level of social justice teaching
o      Some think that because this teaching isn’t infallible or longstanding, it’s not important for Catholic teaching
o      There are principles that are part of Catholic dogma included in social teaching… for example, human dignity.
·      Prudential Application—there is a lot of spectrum for how one applies principles of dogma.
·      Those who seek to migrate are suffering.
·      Many are tragically dying
·      Human rights are being abused
·      Catholics must be concerned about this
·      We believe human being have rights that are inherent to their dignity… these rights are being abused.
·      Families are being kept apart.
·      Racist/xenophobic attitudes
·      John XXIII
·      Principles of Catholic faith are looked at as a means for arguing for reform. Examples: VII and the Church in the modern world, Common good and natural law theory.
·      Some think we are just supposed to be individuals and not ask for systematic reform… this is wrong
·      Our government is not working right and we have a responsibility to speak out. This is part of our call to be prophets mentioned in session II.
·      It is a Lay Responsibility to make these reforms happen—make a difference in the world.
·      Lumen Gentium emphasizes that all Christians are Christ-like and so called to be prophet and king.
·      We must see the injustice and stand up, do something about it.
·      In this process, we have to accept that people of good faith can have different visions and disagree.
·      Exodus 23:9—You shall not oppress a resident alien.
·      We must be grateful for things we did not earn—we did not earn being American.
·      Matthew 25:35-36
·      Christ welcomes the stranger
·      If we’re going to be Christians and think all human beings have human dignity, we must be welcoming
·      Gaudium et Spes
·      This is the heart of the Church in the modern world and we must protect it.
·      Emphasis on personal charity in the pastoral letter:
o      Economic Theory
o      Political Responsibility
o      Universal Human Rights
o      International Accords
·      Persons have the right to migrate to support themselves and their families.
o      Like Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of private property—it is considered moral to steal bread if you have no other way of feeding yourself.
o      Private property is not an absolute right.
o      Neither are government boundaries.
·      All the goods of the earth belong to all people.
·      Sovereign Nations have the right to control their borders, but not merely for the purpose of acquiring additional wealth.
·      The human dignity and human rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.
·      Focus on the term “undocumented,” not “illegal.”
·      Government policies that respect human rights of undocumented migrants are necessary.
·      The USCCB’s vision is balanced. They recognize protecting rights of US families and workers, recognizing rights to protect borders, but also recognizing the rights of the migrant.
·      The sovereign state may impose reasonable limits on immigration
·      Nations able to receive migrants should do so whenever possible.
·      There are people called to prophesy and people called to diplomacy… not necessarily to both.
·      Prophets must not overstate their case and must not be disrespectful.
·      We have to be careful what we say as prophets—some of the stupid things said at rallies and marches have hurt the cause more than helped.
·      The Bishops’ call:
o      support for migrant and immigrant families
o      hospitality, not hostility for migrant families along their journey
o      Migrant shelters that provide appropriate pastoral and social services.
o      Work with community to address the causes of undocumented migration—1st world nations like the US enter into development of these countries, but we only do so for our own benefit.
o      Help newcomers to integrate
o      Special attention for migrant and immigrant children—educational support for undocumented young people.
o      Dedicate resources to provide pastoral care for migrants who are detained or incarcerated.
o      Encourage local diocese to sponsor pertinent social services for migrants.
o      encourage local parishioners to be home missionaries.
o      Earned Legalization
§       for foreign nationals of good character
§       create a path to citizenship
o      Future worker program to permit foreign born workers to enter the country legally and safely
§       should include safeguards against displacement of US workers
·      Questions to consider:
o      How are we prophets?
o      Do we profit from the work of migrants?
·      Alabama Law—criminalizes anyone who has any contact with a migrant worker who does not turn him/her in.
·      This is not right. Christian religions must have the opportunity to provide charity and help.
·      Comparison to Nazi Germany at the beginning…
·      Change should be welcoming and Christ-like, not losing our identity.
·      Change should be slow and communal.
·      A lot of times what we’re doing is accommodating and separating. That’s not communal.