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be in harmony with thee,
God within me, God beyond me,
maker of the trees.
Emmanuel, God with us.
We are loved by God,
each and everyone of us.
St. Francis of Assisi famously is quoted as saying,
“Preach always. When necessary use words.”
Our new Pope Francis is our modern living example
of how to Preach Always. The power of this preaching
is there for everyone to see, even to the Cover of Time Magazine.
The only thing our pope is missing is a wife who could “preach” to him
about women’s hope for equality.
Our prayer for the New Year is for the personal and global
courage to Preach Always in the way of St. Francis.
Pax et bonum,
+Joan and John
I share with you today a poem by Mary Ellen, one of my sister priests in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Great Waters Region.
wonder on the way,
greeting each other,
giving and preaching life,
grasping wisdom here now.
Jesus bearing women,
journeying in each birth,
justly preparing the road,
jewels to witness creation.
Spirit led women
surprising new lights,
seen by many,
successfully moving on.
© Mary Ellen Robertson, RCWP
Norton Shores, Michigan.
Leaves of red, gold, brown
to the ground.
Autumn pumpkins smooth, orange, round
apples, nuts, corn abound,
Blessings from our gracious God.
Blessed be God at harvest time!
A reflection from my experience of making and chasing huge bubbles with my grandson while on vacation last week:
Just as the bubble floats upward and then disappears, where is it now? It had been here where I could touch it, wetting my hand–where it would sting my eyes with its soap if its bursts in my face–where I could see the direction of its travels. It was here; where is it now?
Mary was here–where she gave birth to Jesus–where he touched her face–where people saw her with Jesus, and watched her walk with him on his journey. She was here; where is she now?
When the bubble is gone, we only have memories of it–we tell the story of watching or chasing the bubble. Mary is gone to a place where we cannot touch or see her; we only have memories and stories handed down from the people who knew her. The stories of joy and sorrow, anticipation and worry, fulfillment and loss, hope and promise.
When we are gone, what will the memories be? What stories will be shared with others? Yes, there will be the stories of joy and sorrow, anticipation and worry, fulfillment and loss. Will there be memories of love and compassion? Will there be stories of helping and caring, of faith and hope? What memories are you creating today?
In joy and hope,
Blessed are you O God, Creator of the Universe!
From you we have deep rich earth, spring showers
and warm light from a summer sun.
Blessed be God forever!
On our deck we have a vegetable garden planted in pots, which has been faithfully and lovingly tended by my husband, John. This spring I watched as small oval-shaped salad tomatoes began to appear. At first green, and then one day four turned red, and ripe enough to pick. At lunch I poked a fork into the red gem in my salad, and as I bit into the firm flesh juice burst forth in my mouth that was the most wonderful sweet tomato taste ever. How gracious is our God to provide us with food that nourishes our bodies and our souls! God is great!
Peace be with you!
The followers of Jesus came to believe that he was the Messiah, the one for whom they waited, and in whom they hoped. Jesus embodied God’s mercy and justice, a reign of unconditional inclusive love, on earth as it is in heaven. Scriptures tell us that at the discovery of the empty tomb, the women ran from the tomb with fear and great joy; they were alarmed; as they fled terror and amazement seized them. When the Resurrected Christ appeared to his disciples in the upper room, they were startled and terrified. In the midst of wonder, anxiety and fear, Christ’s greeting was one of peace, “Peace be with you!”
Over the past few weeks, members of our Church have experienced a flood of emotions with the resignation of our pope and the election of a new pope. For some it was the fear of losing what was known to the terror of possible change and an unknown future. For many the arrival of Pope Francis brought about excitement and joy, optimism and hope for the possibility of change. We hope for change from a dysfunctional system to healthy Church leadership following the Gospel more closely.
Peace be with you!
As we blessed Pope Francis and experienced his simplicity during those first days, we began to hear the raising cry of criticism of the man. Cynics claimed that his simplicity and his chosen name were just a way to manipulate us, and that he was not authentic in advocating for the poor. Assumptions were made that he will not bring about any change, and the Church will remain rigid in its doctrines. Could this criticism be based upon fear? Are we who had the Spirit of Vatican II stolen from us afraid to hope? Does it hurt so deeply that we can’t take a chance of being let down one more time? Yes, I believe we are living with that kind of fear.
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” “I am with you always, to the end of the ages.”
“Peace be with you!”
Just as the women and men who walked with Jesus had to trust in his Word, we too must trust. In time, Pentecost came. Filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit the disciples went out from the upper room and literally changed the world. We too must wait for a while in the upper room. We must prayerfully wait and watch as we let Pope Francis lead the Church. In time, the embers of Vatican II will burst into flames and the fire of the Spirit will burn brightly in our Church. We must not be afraid to hope.
Christ is risen. Alleluia!
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia! Peace be with you!
In joy and hope, +Joan
Pope Francis’ General Audience on Wednesday, March 27, 2013:
He [Jesus] led all to the presence of God, who is interested in every man and woman, like a good father and a good mother is interested in each child.
Pope Francis’ Homily at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2013:
A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith.
Yesterday was “Fat Tuesday” and in the Polish tradition, a day to eat filled donuts. Now I am a believer in tradition, and I like using “large symbolism” in rituals; therefore, I had two Polish donuts for dessert yesterday!
I am writing to you on Ash Wednesday. With the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation to take effect on February 28, I am asking you to join with me this Lenten season to pray for our Pope and our Church. I believe that the Pope did what was best for our Church through his resignation, whether the resignation was because of health or some other reason or reasons. I respect him for making this choice. Choosing to do something that hasn’t been done in 600 years says to me that he was willing to risk criticism, and let people experience some progressiveness in our Church. This is good as a step towards accepting future change.
Pray with me because this is a time of opportunity. I have hope that we will see some change, maybe not all the change that we would like to see, but some movement towards a Vatican II Church living out the Gospel message. This is a time for respect, forgiveness, conversion, collaboration; a time for positive energy grounded in the Spirit. Pray that the Spirit will guide you and me in using our gifts for the common good of the faith community and for the common good of society. May our prayers bring us a new beginning with a new pope this Easter.
The Shalom Report
Sacred Solidarity, Radical Hospitality: Women Priests & a Woman Rabbi
Rabbi Arthur Waskow | 7/17/2012
[Dear friends, our Shalom Report today is by Rabbi SUSAN TALVE, founding Rabbi of Central Reform Congregation of St. Louis. Her story, below, both moves the heart and enriches the mind. It is a tale of how the disempowered – in this case, women – can reclaim their power. En-joy it – take real joy in it! Shalom, salaam – Arthur]
Standing with the Sisters
When the line between the personal and the political dissolves, it is usually due to religion.
In the summer of 2007, two women came to our synagogue to tour the sanctuary. Someone had told them that the sanctuary is a welcoming space used for many different interfaith activities. Indeed, a fundamental value of CRC is that our sanctuary provides a safe space for change, that we always practice radical hospitality. Afterwards, the women came to me in my office and said, “We would love to have our ordination here.”
Our response was gratitude for the gift they were giving us. Here is why: When we began our congregation 28 years ago, it was with a core value never to own a building. This was so that we would never have to put more resources into bricks than people. We also have a strong commitment to serving the city of St Louis where there seemed to be plenty of buildings that we could recycle and reuse.
But our growth rate made it challenging to stay in the church that originally housed us, and our commitment to being ‘”green” made it difficult to move into an older, inefficient building. So, we built a building after all, promising that we would practice radical hospitality and that it would be a disabled-accessible resource for the entire community. The request from these women to house their ordination offered us another way of fulfilling our promise.
But this act of “radical hospitality” was radical indeed. For the women who sought to use our sanctuary for their ordination were Roman Catholics, and they planned to be ordained as
Roman Catholic priests.
The risk involved in ordaining these two women was that they – and therefore we – were challenging the Roman Catholic hierarchy in St Louis.
Our synagogue is the only one in the “parish” of the Archdiocese. Our city’s namesake is Louis IX, sainted for his role in the Crusades and for burning thousands of Talmudic commentaries and other valuable Jewish books in 1242. But in this generation, we and the Archdiocese have often stood together — for immigration reform, for access to health care, and for other causes that champion the rights of the most vulnerable. I had also been invited to be in the front rows at the Cathedral when the former Pope John Paul visited.
The board of our congregation decided that we should host the ordination in spite of the tremendous controversy it might bring. We then received pressure from the Jewish and Catholic leadership to revoke our invitation. Leaders in both the Jewish and Catholic communities warned that we were setting back Catholic-Jewish relations two hundred years. I personally received death threats from anonymous sources.
The day of the ordination, the Archbishop at the time sent a videographer to the service who secretly taped the crowd. Many of the Catholic leaders who dared to come that day lost their jobs. Some were even excommunicated, a terrible threat to those who believe in the essential nature of the sacraments to one’s life.
But many others celebrated us as heroes. Alongside the threats, I received potted plants from grateful orders of religious women. Not only criticism but also accolades poured in from all over the world.
The board made our decision based on our core value of practicing radical hospitality. I shared this guiding principle but for me it was also an issue of women’s rights. As one of the first women ordained as a Rabbi in this country, I felt a connection to all women who are called to serve in the spiritual realm in whatever religious tradition they follow.
When I heard many others ask why these women had to be Roman Catholic priests, why not Episcopalian or even New Catholic, I recognized a familiar challenge. How many times had I heard a similar critique from feminist friends who wondered how I could be true to my core
values serving in a Patriarchal context! Wouldn’t a Wiccan or more woman-friendly spiritual path better suit me? I answer that I am Jewish and I am a feminist.
Both realities define me.
I felt the same was true for these women. Their hearts were in the Church and their desire was to serve within the sanctity of their faith and their church.
I especially felt this from the Bishop who came to ordain them. She served as a Dominican Sister in South Africa for 45 years. She received her training in Rome and taught seminarians homiletics though she was not permitted to preach in a church. Still, she served until she was convinced by male Bishops to let them ordain her and bestow upon her the apostolic succession that allowed them to ordain priests. The Bishops had to keep their identities secret or risk excommunication.
She accepted their challenge and lost everything. After a lifetime with her Order, she was expelled, excommunicated and had nothing: no health insurance, no pension, no home. But she had a calling toordain qualified women who served Roman Catholic communities all over the world.
One of the more hurtful critiques of our hosting the ordination came from a priest I had been friends with and worked alongside for many years. Essentially, he told me to stay out of the Church’s business. He added that he could not trust me and would no longer work with me. I was crushed and outraged. Where was his compassion for his sisters? Where was his willingness to take a stand for the women he served and the ones he served alongside?
When I took a step back, I realized that I was getting a glimpse of what happens when any group’s position of power and privilege is challenged. I wish I could say that my relationship with the Catholic Church of St. Louis is on the mend, that we are making our way back to once again standing together and fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised. But as a Rabbi and a woman, I cannot, in good faith, say that.
The heart of my most recent storm with the Catholic Church can be traced to reproductive freedom and women’s health, in the debate on access to birth control which has played out at both the national and state levels. This year, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 749, which gives employers the right to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for
contraception based on “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” While the bill may have been especially intended to allow the Catholic Church to deny contraceptive coverage to employees of Catholic-related hospitals and universities (which employ non-Catholics and often receive governmental funds), it is written even more broadly so that any employer can deny its employees access to birth control by citing the employer’s moral objections.
Although this would clearly deny tens of thousands of women their own religious freedom to choose contraception if they wish, the Archdiocese of St. Louis heavily promoted this bill as one of “religious freedom,” with blog postings, forums, action alerts and more (http://archstl.org/category/ tags/conscience-rights<http://archstl.org/category/tags/conscience-
rights> ). In reality, of course, the bill has far less to do with protecting religious freedom than with limiting the freedom of women.(After weeks of uncertainty, the governor finally vetoed it.)
There is no way to separate women’s health from reproductive freedom, so it seems that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is willing to sacrifice the health and well being of women to keep their position of privilege. The most recent attack on Catholic Women Religious is also connected to the Sisters’ moral leadership in the arena of health care access and affordability, especially for poor women. The Sisters under attack have been willing to defend the health care rights of poor women even if it means that they have to stand up to the Church and risk everything.
In last week’s Torah portion, the daughters of Zelophechad stand up to Moses and speak up when they are skipped over for their inheritance even though their father had no sons. (Num. 27) Seeds for change were sown that day that would eventually bring more equal, just and compassionate inheritance laws for women.
I believe that Arthur Waskow is right to stand with the Sisters. I will stand with him, with scars from previous attacks, to support and protect the religious freedom of American women and families from those who would threaten our very lives.
The time leading up to the ordination was the most painful clash of the personal and the political realms of my work to date. The ordination itself, however, proved to be one of the holiest days in our sanctuary, our Sukkat Shalom, our Shelter of Peace.
Taking a stand always has consequences, and true change takes time.
But raising our voices together as the daughters of Zelophechad did is sure to make a
little more room for the religious freedom of us all.
– Rabbi Susan Talve
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