Thursday, June 14, 2012

“Above All, Trust in the Slow Work of God” – Teillhard de Chardin

            I will soon go on three weeks of retreat: two silent ones at Our Lady of Consolation Shrine in Carey, Ohio and one at Gethsemane in Trappist, Kentucky.  The week sandwiched between will have each day be half service and half silence – repairing homes of those in need with the Appalachian Project people near Portsmouth/Otway, Ohio.
         I need your prayers as I continue to try to trust in the slow work of God in bringing about The Lamb Catholic Worker Community, (as we are constantly assured by Msgr. Mottet). The Holy Spirit is definitely, yet slowly and steadily, preparing those who are the “ones” for this work, including myself.  On retreat I will pray especially for us as well as for the women and children in my beloved birthplace of Columbus, Ohio who are, as I write this, being victimized with intimidation, fear, violence, and even death in their marriages and relationships.  I pray especially for those women and children with different native tongues who have absolutely nowhere to turn, who are crushed in spirit, reduced to a shadow of a person, and have lost all hope.  Dorothy Day, “friend of the forgotten,” pray for them, and for us!
         I will also pray in thankfulness for the most exquisite and diverse range of Catholics in my city - with differing flairs of music, spirituality, and gifts.  We are all truly richly blessed by others very different from ourselves.  Imagine what the early Church must have been like as Paul and Peter and the others brought more and more converts into Christ’s Body from all over their known world.  How beautiful it must have been for God to behold - his creation coming together with love in His name, as now in Columbus, Ohio!
         Many visiting priests from great distances have marveled at the love and intermingling of the very unlike nationalities St. Thomas the Apostle.  The parishioners are approximately 55% Hispanic, 20% African American or African, 20% Anglo, and 10% other nationalities.  The pastor, Fr. Denis Kigozi from Uganda, is like St. John has been reincarnated, so to speak – the saint of: “God is love; and he who abides in God abides in love.”  He truly does live in love and live love in his gentle ways and tone.  Of the last three things to remain: faith, hope and love, he embodies the greatest of these, which is love.  Stunningly gorgeous babies and families are treated by him like famous movie stars at the Academy Awards when one is being baptized, from the first minute of the mass when they are called to the front, to the very end of mass.  The choir itself is uniquely diverse and sings a wide, wide range of songs with great gusto!
        On retreat, I will pray for my beloved country that is like no other in the world.  It’s humble strength is evident most in the openness Thomas Jefferson showed in designing it.  He modeled it after the Native American tribes (representatives, a chief, inner circles, and leaders of other areas coming together), valuing that long ago, extremely varying cultural practices far, far different from what was known, but more suited for governing this “experiment in Democracy” than the typical "white" European governments close to that time (monarchies, oligarchies).  *note: The term for our president, "Commander-in-Chief," comes from these Native American roots. 
         I pray for my country - for its future direction, especially during this election year when it can get very ugly.  This contempt and scorn greatly saddened Coretta Scott King during the last election, on both sides equally.  “Where did this hate and outright disrespect come from?” she lamented.  This was not the spirit her husband lived and taught. 
        I pray especially that religious freedom is protected and that assurances and laws followed protecting the right to not pay for what our religious beliefs consider a grave sin (and in regards to the "pill," paying for a Level One carcinogen for our young teenage girls and women, up there with asbestos and cigarettes, according to the World Health Organization, in addition to the immorality of it).  It is difficult enough that our tax dollars go for Planned Parenthood abortions already.  My fervent prayer is that this funding cease and all these gruesome practices (abortions and artificial contraception, which act as abortifacients with "break through" ovulations throughout the year) are not widened, encircling our young teenage girls and women, even if religious institutions are not forced again to pay the bill.
       Obviously, then, my equally fervent prayer is that we are not like the Pharisees or Scribes, of whom Jesus' blood boiled over, who would "lay down the law and not lift a finger to help."  It deeply saddens one to hear out of one side of the mouth, not to abort babies, but then out of the other, that the mothers are undeserving, that the government shouldn't help them, and downright scorn for them instead of love, compassion, and HELP, (which would contribute to not aborting babies).  I pray that wonderful Christ followers come forward in their personal lives to help.  Dorothy Day always said that if every Christian household that could would have a Christ Room, there would be no need for Catholic Worker Houses.  If every household would have one, perhaps there would be no need for struggling families and relationships to abort a baby of theirs when times are particularly rough. 
        Also, I pray that the necessary programs and policies at all levels of government, especially the highest levels, are strongly in place and protected to help these vulnerable, marginalized women, children, and would-be-born babies - if we claim to be truly pro-life.  The Consistent Life Ethic,  highly prized (under other names) in numerous Church documents heavily support this natural conception to natural death valuing and protecting of all human life.  Moreover, money diverted to them from the hundreds of billions currently wasted on making weapons of mass destruction (the use being a "crime against humanity" -Pope Paul VI) would be more along the lines of our social justice and peace encyclicals and pastoral letters.  My prayer from the depths of my being are that we, who consider ourselves Catholic, embrace and follow these beautiful Church teachings and direction, and all others as well.
         On that note, our Catholic Church is a wide umbrella for its vast and varying assembly of followers; and my prayer is that we cherish the expansive range of people in the Catholic Church, and remain squarely planted under this one “universal” umbrella.  We would never consider poking a hole right through it to raise separate umbrellas, nor follow those who do.  We would not yank or tug the umbrella this way or that way, to either extreme, in order to suit us, or to pull it our way.     
         No, the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church is the Body of Christ in the world,  His very Bride, whom we hold and uphold, cherish and build, that guides and protects us on our life journey Set firmly on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, it is durable and indestructable - so much so that the "gates of the Netherworld shall not prevail against it." A little tug here and there could be from the Holy Spirit, as we saw at Vatican II, led by Pope John XXIII, as well as at other critical points in history.   We need though not to outright defy or resist the very umbrella that keeps us! 
          If disheartened by those things you feel God has put heavily on your heart, trust, then, in the slow work of God in our beautiful Church too!  You can live life to the fullest in spirit and in truth far more easily abiding in the Church, even with its human flaws.  Overall, it  is the guardian of Truth on a much grander scale than we can imagine, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is still Christ's Bride whom He died for and whom He cherishes dearly.
        I go on this retreat most, most thankful for the role models of Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, and my personally witnessed ones of Msgr. Marv Mottet and Fr. Richard McSorley, S.J. – all four serving the Church in heartfelt, humble, genuine faith and obedience.  I did not realize their quiet, St. Joseph-like strength and humility until more recent years when I have experienced Catholics in open defiance of major teachings of our Church.  I am so proud of how Catholics have come together recently to stand as one voice against the breach of our religious liberty in expanding abortions and contraceptives with the new HHS mandate(s).  
         My prayers on this retreat are for a future in our country of continuing to come together as Catholics, particularly on Catholic life and death issues of abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, decisions and policies adversely affecting the vulnerable poor, and unjust and immoral wars (as the Iraqi War was according to Pope John Paul II who was openly very against it).  I pray for a deeper and more genuine sense of true humility to the Chair of St. Peter, handed down from Christ himself, as well as to all else that allows us to be called "Catholic."  Finally, I pray for a refocusing, as Catholics, on that which brings us together - the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Word which covers 80% + of the most critical lessons and events of the entire Bible in a three-year cycle, our beloved  prayers, songs, and responses, our love and honoring of Mary, as Jesus did, and of the saints, and our powerful, grace-filled sacraments to nurture and strengthen us!
        Please pray for me, for Msgr. Marv Mottett, and for others discerning the call to be a Catholic Worker.  Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!  Holy Spirit, guide and protect us spiritually and in every other way.