Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Paradigm Shift

I lived in the same house until I was 14 or so years old. I knew every inch of that house- yesterday I was remembering how I used to love to find the algebra book on the third shelf up on the right hand side of the bookcase in the living room, and pretend that I could do that kind of work (I was probably 6 or 7 at the time, and ironically I still had to pretend that way when I was in high school actually taking algebra). In fact, I knew where every book was on those shelves, and spent many many hours in front of it poring though them. I learned a lot from that bookcase.
When I was a teenager, we moved. We only moved across the street, but everything changed. All those books were split and reordered and culled through and now, going back to my parents' house, I would never know where to find a particular book, or even know if those books were still there. It's a whole new world on Perkins street.
This, then, may be what paradigm shift is like. That phrase keeps coming back, in every workshop I go to. It's kind of weird how that keeps coming back into my experience. Yesterday I spent the day at a Generations of Faith workshop, the same workshop I'd participated in 5 years ago or so, with my former parish. Of course, all initial energies toward it fizzled quickly there because it would be too hard, and wouldn't bring in enough money. Sigh.
This time, though, I was with a team of 6 wonderful ministers who could see the possibilities- not just of jumping into GOF with both feet but really that we can do whatever will be best for our parish- we can "think outside the box" and do better than we are doing. I realized that this is the first time in memory where I've felt HOPE. Hope for moving forward, hope for growth, hope for fruitful and respectful collaboration. It's a whole new world.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


For a while, before we started actually meeting in person to pray and study (we call it Girlie Bible Study, although we do a bunch of different things...) I would sent out little would-be homilies to my friends on Mondays. They were called Margo's Monday Ministry Moments, or MMMM. here's one:

When I was little, I went to Mass one Sunday as usual with my family, and after Mass we left, as usual, with the crowd out the side door of the church. I was probably three years old. This was the same thing that happened every week of my life. This particular Sunday, I was walking along, and without looking reached up to hold my father’s hand. But when I looked up, the hand I had grabbed wasn't my father’s- it was someone else. A stranger. He was as surprised as I was! I let out a yell, and my father took my hand and comforted me. He had been beside me the whole time, I had just grabbed at something without looking first.

That same thing has happened to me lots of times in my life- I have been wandering along, and reached out to grab the first thing I could to help me get to where I wanted or needed to go- but often, I would reach out without looking up- and many times, the things I’d grabbed were not my Father’s hand. Fortunately, every time I’ve realized I was holding on to the wrong thing, God has been right there, waiting to take my hand and walk with me.

Sometimes I forget that, and maybe you will too. But from now on, I wish for you to know that God’s hand is held out for you all the time, and when you reach out, even if you reach for the wrong thing, God will still be there waiting, arm outstretched, ready to comfort you. All you need to do is look up and you will find it there.

Monday, May 29, 2006

For crying amen!

We're coming up on the end of First Communion season. I hope you have gotten to see a FC at some point in your lifetime. What's striking to me is how anxious and excited the kids are for their first experience of Eucharist. There is, I guess, something about having watched everyone else go up and receive, having to walk up with your Mom but not be given the Host or sitting in the pew waiting for everyone else to come back. It makes you want to be part of the in-crowd. The kids who show up on FC day in their finery and with all the pageantry of the occasion are so excited to receive.
How soon after that do we lose the excitement of being part of the club? when does it start to mean not-so-much to receive Communion?
I have been serving as a Eucharstic Minister a bunch lately, and it always stuns me when people step up and say "Amen" before I finish saying "Body of Christ". Usually they jump in unenthusiastically before I get to "Body". That's Amen, as in "I believe! I do believe!!" and "Body of Christ" as in... seriously, the BODY of CHRIST.
Once, at my former parish, we had a big-deal Mass with the new Bishop. In preparation for this special guest, they whipped together a choir, bought beautiful flowers, printed up programs so everyone could follow along, had greeters at the door, etc. etc. 'Cause we had a special guest. Jesus? Present in the Eucharist and the word and the people? Heavens, no- the Bishop!
if we reeeealllly believed what we teach, what would our church look like? What would be happening there every Sunday? How would the whole world change as a result?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I am woman

Probably 8 years ago or so, I met my cousin in the grocery store. We had a nice chat, and she said to me "I'd love to talk to you sometime about working in the church. I just wonder how a woman can do it!"
Her comments kind of threw me- I was having a nice time working for the Church in a small parish nearby and was loving being involved on the Diocesan level. I wasn't having any problems with being a woman in the Church, and didn't expect ever to. In fact, over the years I worked up a few answers to that question that I'd not had a reply to that day. I wanted to tell her that things were different in parishes- while the "Big C" Church was full of problems like that, the local parish was where the real work happened. It was different in the parish, a more modern and real world.
Now, let me say here that I am not about to launch into a woeful story of how I've been repressed, supressed, and opressed by the Catholic Church. To tell you the truth, 8 years ago in that grocery store, I would have sworn confidently that those days were over- that it was just not an issue for women in the Church in this day and age.
But... I'm starting to see that this is, well, not true. I think it IS harder to be a woman in this Church. It's hard to put my finger on, hard to cite specific moments where I can say "well that's clearly happened because she's a woman." But there's a clear limit to how far a woman can go, professionally, and a limit to how much power a woman can have-- obviously. And that's not going to change.
The question is, can women be happy with the place that we have in this Church? Can we go about our fine work, feeling gratified, sharing the Good News and reaching out in the name of Christ without feeling resentful of the limits on us? Is it good enough to just do what we can do, and not worry about what we cant'?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Next Blog

I recently realized that there's a wee link on the upper right hand corner of my blog that says "next blog" and if you click it, you'll be shot to a completely random, and most likely unrelated blog. A different blog is shown every time I click on it. Today it's:


I never took french... any translators out there? I can eke out "the big beautiful world..." but that's the extent of my bilinguality... wonder what tomorrow's next blog will be?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Don't get me wrong.

Okay, I want to say that I LOVE doing service with kids, I love that we can be a resource and entry point for kids and families to reach out to others in Christ's name. It's just that I think we're, collectively, as a church, LYING to kids and families if we tell them that doing a certain number of hours means that they're "ready" to receive a Sacrament. A parent called yesterday, angry that she hadn't been personally notified of the service night last night. (Aside: we put it in the BULLETIN. I understand that not everyone goes to Mass but I find it kind of wild that someone who doesn't go, would call and complain that they don't know what's going on.) Anyway, I tried to explain to her that we wouldn't hold back Confirmation from a kid because she didn't show up to tonight's programming. I explained to the Mom that the Candidate and the Candidate's family really are responsible for preparing her, and that we offer everything- service opps, retreats, classes... are there as resources for a family to help them prepare their teenager for the Sac. of Confirmation. I explained to her that the Confirmation program is not meant to be a weeding out process. That the Church wants EVERYONE who is Baptized to be Confirmed.
She said: "wait a minute, are you trying to tell me that she didn't HAVE TO go serve at the soup kitchen??"
(Aside#2: I feel bad putting up this person's remarks, in case someday I become famous and everyone finds my blog and scours each entry for nuances and clues to my personality... but in all honesty, I have have this same conversation with a hundred Moms. From several different towns. When I relayed the conversation to Scott last night, he spoke the mother's lines before I could. All YM's know this conversation. ])
So, here's the rub- making service a requirement kind of takes away the point of doing service! It's like the difference between giving money to charity and paying taxes. It is the age-old problem of shooting for the head, when faith must be a matter of the heart. There has got to be a better way to do this.
Was it Mike Moseley who told about watching one ship after another come around the point and run into the same sand bar, because they were using old, out-of-date maps? We can't move the sand-bars, we've built them! It's time for a new map.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is it shallow to blog about Grey's Anatomy?

Awesome episode, I was on the edge of my seat, and I cried most at the death-of-dog scene. Poor Doc!

1. My friends are picking on George's new girlfriend, because she's larger than the rest of the crowd. But, that's size-ism they're guilty of. I like her, she's curvy and the point is that she's not supposed to fit in. Be nice. I did think the hallway makeout was a little clumsy as she could clearly take George in a fight.
2. I am mad at Christina. She doesn't deserve Burke and he deserves better. I mean I know she's tough and detached but seriously, buck up!!!
3. Oh that scene between Meredith and Derek was Steaming! Whoo! Glad I wasn't watching with my parents!
4. I want Meredith to pick the vet! He's so sweet and he will be crushed! But after a scene like that, really... how could you turn back. I guess the vet will get over it, in time.
5. and finally, I totally called that Denny was going to die. Izzie, if you want to make that connection, KILLED him. Sure, maybe he would have died eventually but they would have at least had more time together! I feel bad that Izzie doesn't know that he actually died pretty peacefully, and happy about her. And as for Karev. He's bad. He might have sweet feelings for Izzie under there, but he's a bad, bad person. Mark my words.

And another thing...

What is a Sacrament? A moment of Grace.

Service Schmervice

Tonight is our first-ever "Celebration of Service" at my parish, with our Freshmen. They met in the early spring to hear about the different service opportunities available to them, in groups with adult mentors, and now they are to come back, with their parents (mostly because their behavior was atrocious last time we met) to present what they've accomplished and cheer on their fellow frosh for their efforts.
Now, this is the first time we've tried it. Consider this year the "pilot program". The goal was to provide kids an opportunity to do some service, for someone- and to gather tonight and see what good we've all done in the world, to see how our efforts make a difference Out There, and In Here- the Church community.
We don't know quite how this is going to go- so many of our families are bailing out their basements they may not make it. And some may even assume it's cancelled due to rain/flooding. I'm okay with a small, pilot-sized group. I just pray it's a successful night and that people leave happy!
Service, as part of a "Confirmation program", is a bone of contention among YM's and religious ed coordinators. Sure, it's great to encourage kids to do service, but the shocking truth is that it has as much to do with the Sacrament of Confirmation as... well, as most of the other "hoops" we've placed in between kids and the Sacrament.
Kids these days (the "postmoderns") seem to show an already strong tendency to want to do service in the world. No need for the Church to require it, really (the best case scenario, in my opinion, would be for the Church to offer opportunities, and the parents to require it for their kids... and hey, maybe even participate with them!)and it's plumb wrong to make it a requirement for Confirmation.
I'll babble on about Confirmation requirements in due time here. Meanwhile, wish us grace tonight, and pray for happy people!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Vine & Branches

I guess there's two lenses to look at tonight's readings through: At my husband's parish, they talked about the "pruning" part of the reading:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit."

To me, the point is staying connected.
When I was in college, the "res. life staff" (RA's and RD's) went for a team-building day at a ropes course. It was a great day, and one of the things that struck me aobut it was how supportive everyone was of each other- we all cheered each other on and celebrated each other's successes.

At one point, while I was up on a log, I realized that everyone on the ground had gotten quiet. The new tension in the air was palpable. I turned to see that a friend of mine was frozen on a wire, 20 feet above ground. Someone had realized that she had somehow not hooked her harness into the safety line. Even through all the pre-climb safety-checks, no one noticed that she had actually hooked herself into her own strap, instead of the belay rope. So there she was, halfway across, completely disconnected from anything that could keep her from falling to the ground. There was nothing she could do but keep walking to the next tree, where she could hook in again.

The steely-calm staff people from the Ropes Course talked her through each step, and we stood frozen where we were and called out encouragement while we all, I'm sure, prayed not to have to watch her tumble to the ground. Slowly, she made her way, and made it to the Best Tree In the Whole World. She hugged it, and we hugged each other, and cheered wildly, sighing our relief.

It occurs to me that the times in my life when I've felt disconnected from God are the times when I've done the disconnecting. They're the times when I've gotten so hooked into my own self that I've neglected to hook into God.

As a neophyte gardener, I like the image of the vine- I can picture the life flowing through those branches and ending in lovely lush green leaves and fruits. It pays to stay connected.

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

I'm not complaining, out of a selfish heart, or anything.

I don't mean to overstate the obvious, and if you live in the Boston area you probably have noticed, but it is RAINING! Pouring, in fact. I thought I saw animals lining up in pairs along route 1 this morning on my way to the airport. The Farmer's Almanac website shows today's weather thusly...

But there's good news: The rest of the week looks like this:

Won't that be great?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

a cluttered desk is a sign of...

I got a sneak peek at my future office in the weeks before I started here. The former YM hadn't left yet, and hadn't cleaned out her things. The office is what used to be the refectory of an old convent building. It's situated right inside the back door to the building, and it's actually two rooms- one side was the kitchen, and the rooms are divided by the counter top that they used to slide their plates across when dinner was served. My assistant sits in the kitchen side, and jokes about how appropriate it is that she's constantly in the kitchen, even at work. The building is old, probably from the late 40's or 50's, and was built, clearly, for function rather than beauty. In fact, the entire first floor is divided up by padded walls. Really- padded walls. They're wood up till the 3 foot mark, then a grim gray naugahyde to the ceiling, with padding beneath. No one here seems to know why the convent walls are padded- the best two guesses are for noise control (in a convent?) or that the good Sisters just got a great deal on the stuff.
The office, when I saw it last Summer, was a MESS- piles and piles of stuff everywhere. The kitchen side had a dripping faucet that hadn't been looked at in years- and that room was full of boxes and boxes and piles and broken things. I had nightmares about it- that dripping faucet- for weeks before I started the job. I spent the first two weeks of my time here cleaning out that room. I sometimes had to wear rubber gloves just to get through it.
I am not a neat freak. Left unattended, I do let clutter pile up- but eventually, I reach a point where I know it's time to do something, and I clear out the muck.
I'm just sitting down after cleaning out my office to the point where I wouldn't be at all embarrassed to have a guest in it... NOW I'm ready to do "real" work.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Here's what I look like!

First Post.

Ah, to blog or not to blog? What a tough decision! I'm an avid blog reader with lots to say, and everyone I know is tired of listening to me. So now, you- the unjaded masses. Welcome to my new blog! I hope we'll get to know each other very well.