Sunday, December 10, 2017

Solange Lillian Wall Has Something To Say

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." John the Baptist was sent by God  to testify to the "light " to share what he had received and witnessed.  In our Baptism and sacramental life we are called to bear witness.

My faith perspective is  a fabric or quilt of many textures and binding threads. A colorful example of showing up in many intriguing, challenging ways.  How do we bear witness and tell the stories ?  What do we believe?  Why do we stay?

Recently, several women and I gathered  in a prayer circle to meet Our Lady of Guadalupe and the ancient Aztec earth goddess Tonanzin, known to the Aztec/Nahua people as" Mother of the One Who makes the sun  and the earth". Her temple was at Tepeyac. Appearing as an indigenous  woman with child  she was recognized and in turn she recognized the need of the people to be understood, respected and embraced . Within the Divine Mystery the eternal presence of the Divine Feminine  The maternal face of God  has been shown to all.

Mary was present to us and with us in our circle as we  shared the ways she is celebrated recognized and honored. She will continue to show up in times of trials and tribulation to remind her people in the world that " trouble doesn't last always , joy comes in the morning"

It has been said that "when you hear a witness you become a witness."  Almost five hundred years ago Juan Diego was chosen by Our Lady of Guadalupe as her witness. Her words were words of love, compassion and protection. As in her Magnificat she shows herself not to the powerful but to the oppressed, " Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child." Our Lady  of Guadalupe, the Mother showed up speaking a language of familiarity and liberation.  Juan Diego the witness, the one to tell was placed in a shift of power from one who was told, and disregarded in the historical imbalance of power of oppression to the one to tell. 

Our space for grace "inspired by the "Blessed  Assurance" of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady the goddess and grandmother Tonanzin has provided many gifts beyond what we know and how we live. The  witness and wisdom shared  that keeps faith  and hope alive has brought  forth  a Canticle of Gratitude, a Memorare for our times and a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady Tonanzin. 

In these days and times in our world, Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of the Americas we need you. Ven con nosotros a caminar. Sancta Maria ven.

In the Divine Mystery, God "makes a way from no way ". 

Solange Lillian Wall is a member of The Women Who Stayed,  participant in Lay Spirits 2012/13 and is the GRAIL ECOSOC  representative on UN Permanent Forum Committee on Indigenous Rights

Christine Ricelle Santisteban holding Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Women's Circle. 

Mother of mercy and compassion, Madonna of Tonantzin, Our Lady of Guadalupe....with your tender hands guide us and help us be ever mindful of any shortcomings and times we failed to love, times we forget ourselves. Guide us towards forgiveness at times we have been hurt. May we be in solidarity with those seeking healing and peace. Madonna of Tonantzin, Our Lady of Guadalupe pray with us. Holy women pray for us 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Peggy Jacobson Has Something To Say for the First Sunday of Advent (Dec. 3rd 2017)

I am invited to share my voice, a call that both entices and terrifies me. For starters, as a Catholic woman (60+ years) I have never been asked to contribute in this way. For this reason, I am accustomed to keeping my spirituality in a place that is safe and guarded. While writing that comes from the “head” comes easily, writing from the heart challenges me to express myself in a way that is vulnerable and open to criticism. As an academic, I was told early in my graduate training that in science, we do not feel; we think. As if feeling could be divorced from thinking, I accepted this rhetoric and wrote only about ideas that could be supported with empirical evidence.  But now, I embrace this opportunity to share in the ongoing dialogue started by The Women Who Stayed.

In the first reading for Sunday, December 3rd, Isaiah likens us to clay in the potter’s hand. I love this metaphor because it defines human interaction with the Divine. Clay is not an  impassive substance. Clay is drawn from the earth. It consists of molecules that respond to the forces of wind, fire, water, and manipulation. The possibilities of formation in the hands of a master potter are endless. Yet, the potter also listens to the clay. 

If God is the potter, and I am the clay, then where does gravity fit in? I see the forces of gravity as my will. When my actions coincide with God’s will, my spirit is free to move closer to God. Yet at other times, my disregard for God’s plan get in the way. On those occasions, I become cracked and broken. Each time that happens, I am offered another chance to be recreated in the hands of the almighty potter.

Before creating a pot, the potter centers a mass of clay on the wheel. Without prior centering, spiritual growth is stymied just as the creation of a pot is hindered. Yet, there are times when I feel off-center.  I worry about my family members and friends. Sometimes I react defensively at some perceived affront. Whenever this happens, I feel as though gravity is pulling me off-center. When I share my troubles with Jesus, I feel God’s loving hands bringing me back on course, shaping my sense of gratitude for the many blessings in my life.   

The potter and the clay are mutually entangled in the dance of creation. The potter constantly works with and against the forces of gravity to bring the clay upward transforming it into a unique vessel. By keeping an open heart, I allow the Spirit into my life to shape what is to come.  

The second reading calls us to be grateful.
I look back on how my life has changed over the past 50 years with gratitude. My transition from high school dropout and seeker of empty promises to becoming what I consider to be a contributing member of society constitutes nothing short of a miracle. I know that God’s presence in my life shaped my path and eventually steered me in the right direction. Being cognizant of the power and constancy of the Spirit brings me strength and courage to live the life I am destined to lead. 
I see the hands of God at work in moving our church closer toward the full inclusion of women.  After debating with friends about the merits and drawbacks of remaining Catholic, I realized that I had two options. The first was to leave and join a related religion that seemed to better appreciate women. The other was to remain and work for change. I opted for the second, and am grateful to SFX for providing me with the people and actions that are part of a Divine plan to bring justice to a broken world.  

I am grateful for the privilege of serving as a Eucharist minister. Though the idea of volunteering had often crossed my mind, I thought I was too busy to take on a regular commitment. But just as water dissolves clay, the mental obstacles I had created, melted away when I was invited to serve by a fellow parishioner.  As a child, my first holy communion truly was a special time when I thought my heart would burst with joy. It wasn’t only about the pretty dress, beaded missal, and glow-in-the-dark plastic white rosary beads - though I thought they were pretty cool at the time. There was more. At that moment, I truly felt changed and one with the body of Christ. My first experience serving as a Eucharistic minister at SFX inspired those same feelings.   

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us to be watchful.
I interpret this to mean that we are to remain vigilant and aware of the evils surrounding us. After reading a fellow-parishioner’s account, I accompanied Seafarers International to visit immigrants detained at the Elizabeth Detention Facility. It was there that I met a young man from Jamaica who had come to this country at the age of 18. The young man had been detained at a point when he was disconnected from friends and family. He was vulnerable and falling through the cracks of justice because he was also poor and black. The visit startled me into thinking about the vast number of detainees currently behind bars, and the iniquities of privately-owned detention facilities that benefit from keeping people incarcerated. 

Each of these readings stirred feelings of excitement and anticipation of a just world ahead when we remain open to God’s presence in our lives.  


Peggy Jacobsen moved to Queens five years ago and started searching for a parish where she felt at home. Somehow, she started receiving emails about speakers and book discussions at Xavier.  Even though it seemed like a long trek, she was inspired by what she witnessed, and felt welcomed each time she came. After joining the parish two years ago, Peggy continues to be moved by the vibrant spirit of Xavier.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Maria Perez Has Something To Say

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect about what we are thankful for.  It is a time of acknowledgement and gratitude to Jesus Christ for all the miracles, love, and unending mercy.  We give thanks for all that Our Saviour has provided for us, which will then allow us to realize that life is truly amazing and wonderful.  

Sometimes, reflecting on how much we have to be thankful for gets lost throughout our daily lives as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our jobs, our familial duties, and our other various obligations.  Thanksgiving Day is a time to come together with family and friends, and realize our abundant blessings given to us through our Lord.   In turn, we must think of those who may be without family or food, who are sick, or suffering, and help one another in any way that we can, whether through volunteering to work with the homeless, visiting a person who is homebound or in the hospital, or being a friend to someone in need.

Below is a Thanksgiving poem I wrote:

Glory be to the Almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you Jesus for giving me a fresh start in life.
I thought that there was no hope
I was broken inside, weak, and betrayed
I lost a baby and a fur baby who I loved dearly, I lost hopes for the future, I lost relationships
During those dark times, I always prayed to Jesus to help others who are suffering like I was
I prayed to Mother Mary to save me from this despair
I never gave up on Jesus
I called out to Him everyday
I knew the darkness and sadness would end
But I felt trapped in my circumstances
There was no possible way I could ever have the bravery and strength to be on my own
Sometimes I did not even want to live as the pain was just too much
I know that Jesus has always provided for me and has pulled me out of each broken place
But as for this most recent situation I just wasn’t sure about anything
I was completely alone for the first time in my life
My faith in humanity was gone
I had nowhere to go, nobody to turn to
However, slowly I could see myself becoming stronger and more independent
Out of this betrayal, confusion, and sickness, I was seeing the world again and all its wonderful possibilities
I began to see all the opportunities that God had laid out
I am grateful for these options
I am grateful for every second of every single day
I am thankful for my health, for my family, for my friends
I am living, I have hope again. 

The first scripture reading for this Sunday focuses on Jesus Christ’s unending love for us.  He will seek us out when we are lost.  I learned that it is important to be grateful at all times, not just when things are going our way.  Even when we are lost, sad, and confused, Jesus always gives us something to be grateful for.  We always need to be mindful of that.

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Lectionary: 160

Reading 1.   EZ 34:11-12, 15-17

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As for you, my sheep, says the Lord GOD,
I will judge between one sheep and another,
between rams and goats.
I have found that this scripture has spoken to me in a very personal way.  Jesus promises to tend after his sheep, to rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  Jesus will seek out the lost, bind up the injured, and heal the sick.  I can attest to this Bible passage as I have also been lost, injured, and sick for the past few years.  And each time, Jesus Christ has heard me cry out to Him, He has never left my side, He has guided me through my travels, He has saved me from death.

The Responsorial Psalm is: PS 23:1-2, 2-3, 5-6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The second reading from the Corinthians tells us that there are going to be great days ahead.  This is known as the ‘first fruits,’ which are similar to the huge availability of fruits that can be consumed after a long harvest.  This reading also depicts that there is an order in the resurrection, since Christ himself is the first fruit, followed by his people, and lastly, the evil, who will also be raised before others.   

Reading 2.  1 COR 15:20-26, 28
Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
When everything is subjected to him,
then the Son himself will also be subjected
to the one who subjected everything to him,
so that God may be all in all.
Because Christ is the first fruit, this reading also tells us that His resurrection is just the beginning.  Soon after, there will be the resurrection of everyone who have placed their love, hope, and faith in Him.  After the people who love Christ have become resurrected, God will judge the wicked and save the righteous.   Then, Christ will remove sin from the world and end all earthly power.  The world must be what God created it to be, before sin was introduced.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  When Christ returns, He will place evil under His feet, and that will be the end of God’s enemies.  When death is destroyed, the dead also are resurrected.  However, I feel that there can also be a spiritual death while we are still alive.   Sometimes I struggle as I try to be the best person that I can be and do God’s will.  But, I know that in spite of my weaknesses and failures, God is merciful, and by Christ I will be saved.

Gospel Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.'
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Then he will say to those on his left,
'Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life."
Is it better to be a goat or a sheep?   According to the Gospel from Matthew 25:31-46, when we help others, Jesus is pleased, because it is like we are helping him.  People were surprised when Jesus knew if they had helped others or were dismissive and selfish.  Jesus calls on us to help the poor, the sick, the distraught, and the hungry.  We must be like the sheep and give back to our communities, help our families, give food and clothing to the poor, help comfort those who are sick, attend to the elderly, etc.
The example of how to be a sheep is seen right here at St. Francis Xavier, where there are dozens of ways to get involved in our community and serve.  Whether its volunteering to work at the Welcome Table, or help distribute food at the Food Pantry, or cook and serve food to the homeless on Thanksgiving, the community of St. Francis Xavier has been a beacon of hope, service, and gratitude to hundreds of people for many years.  Jesus encourages us to love our neighbors, our families, and strangers.   On this Thanksgiving holiday, I am so thankful to be a part of St. Francis Xavier, where I have a multitude of opportunities to give back to my community, while working with other amazing people who all love to serve the Lord.
Maria Theresa Perez recently moved to Chelsea and found this amazing church located 1 block away from her home! She immediately began to volunteer for the Xavier mission, where she serves others at the Welcome Table, the All Saints Clothing Room, and the Food Pantry.  She also volunteers with the Honduras Companion Communities Project, the Xavier Peace and Justice Committee, Xavier Young Adults, and with The Women Who Stayed. 

Born and raised in Chicago, Maria graduated from Loyola University Chicago, where she majored in Biology and Psychology, with a minor in Chemistry.  She previously taught Religious Education at her church in Illinois.  Currently, Maria works as a substitute teacher at Notre Dame Academy and interns for two politicians in the city.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rita Houlihan Has Something To Say November 19th 2017

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time  November 19, 2017

A Woman of Worth:
 “She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the Torah of kindness is on her tongue.”
(Proverbs 31:26)
“Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the city gates.”
(Proverbs 31:31)

“Of those who have received much, much is expected” – that was one of my mother’s favorite mantras. It was a guiding force in our family - our gifts are to be shared, to help bring about the Kingdom of God here on earth. Matthew’s series of parables of the kingdom these past few weeks urge us to prepare, to be wise, and in today’s parable, not to hoard.
There are different interpretations of this parable of the “talents” – in one it is a mandate for all of us to develop our unique talents – I grew up with that version.

In another interpretation the master is not God and the first two servants simply trade money in unspecified deals to make their master richer and richer. Barbara Reid* suggests that a first century audience would have seen the last servant, the one who hid the talent, as the hero - one who refused to participate in a system that glorifies making money over all else. So I must ask, “Did someone lose out in the deals the first two servants made?” Our gifts are not to be used to take advantage of others. And why does this master have to be so rich? Does the last servant’s punishment warn us it is risky to stand for a more human centered system in which money and work produce the essentials - food, shelter, clothing, art without hoarding? This interpretation paints a picture of what we need to do to be fully present in the Kingdom of God and to avoid the devastating effects of rigid capitalism in which accumulating money is the goal versus productive capitalism with the goal of creating life-giving products and services.  This interpretation carries a most essential message for us today.

But I need to go back to my earliest memories of this parable. The first time I would have heard it was November 1970.  It, and our first reading from Proverbs 31, were part of the new Year A lectionary.  As a college senior I was struggling with what to do with my life; I heard the word “talents” and my mother’s mantra came to mind. (I now know “talents” was a quantity of money in the first century – I did not know that back in 1970.) It was comforting to know that my mission was straightforward – find and use my talents. It didn’t overwhelm me as much as always being kind and generous – it seemed more doable to find a talent and use it. The parable drew me in and kept me searching.  Later my mandate expanded to appreciating the gifts of others and helping children develop theirs.

Which takes us to the Woman of Worth of Proverbs 31 - Our children need to know this Woman of Worth - Esheth Ayil [phonetic translation.] Most translations identify her as a “worthy wife” but the Hebrew is “woman” (there is no word for “wife” in Hebrew.) The Proverb is an acrostic with the first letter of each couplet a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Scholars speculate it was used to teach girls to read and that women gathered in circles to learn business would have listened to it while some others formed networks of weavers.  We need to bring this Woman of Worth with all her talents and joys to our children today.

There is a chilling moment in a documentary on sex trafficking when a sheriff in Chicago asks a prolific trafficker, “How do you find the girls?” Surprisingly, he answers, “I go to the malls. When I see a girl alone, even just for a few minutes I go up and say, “You have beautiful eyes.” If she looks at me and says, “Thank you” I move on. If she looks down and is unsure I know I have a chance.”  Our children need to know this Woman of Valor and Strength; to see her using her talents for good and to know they can do the same. We need to dig to find her talents - our lectionary omits 16 verses, burying praise for her capabilities, hard work, business acumen, generosity and love of God’s law of kindness.

In the missing verses we learn that she clothes her family in crimson so they “do not fear the cold”, she assesses her estate and buys choice land, she plants a vineyard and feeds her family; she spins wool and flax and makes sashes to sell in the market. She opens her mouth and the Torah, the law of kindness comes forth. Her children and her husband rise up to praise her. Some see the husband leaving all the work to his capable wife – but we can also see her commitment to use all of her gifts to care for her family, herself and her community. Reading the missing verses I found a sense of delight pouring off the pages as one gift after another emerged.

Her enterprises remind me of a number of NT women – Lydia of Philippi, the head of a cloth dying business and founder, with Paul of the Church at Philippi, Prisca who with her husband Aquila was a tent maker and founded several Christian communities; and the disciples from Galilee – Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Susanna - women of means who supported Jesus in his ministry.  Perhaps these women heard and heeded the advice of their ancestor, this “Worthy Woman” of Proverbs 31.
We adults need to be this woman of worth and integrity more than ever today. Imagine if all our daughters and sons saw themselves in her and imagine if they received the “Torah of kindness” from our lips.  She certainly used every one of her God given talents and more. It’s a shame so much is omitted.

To get to know the full Woman of Worth treat yourself to reading and sharing all of Proverbs 31 – now let us pray - “Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.”
*Reid, Barbara E., Abiding Word: Sunday Reflections for Year A. (Liturgical Press: MN, 2013) 120-121.

Proverbs 31:10-31 (Note verses 1-9 are a different poem so they are not included in description of the verses of Proverbs 31 that are and are not included in the lectionary.)

Proverbs 31: 10-31 (Lectionary includes only verses 10-13, 19-20, 30-31)
10 A capable wife [or Worthy Woman] who can find?
   She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
   and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
   all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
   and works with willing hands. 
(Verses 14-18 are omitted from the lectionary)
14 She is like the ships of the merchant,
   she brings her food from far away.
15 She rises while it is still night
   and provides food for her household
   and tasks for her servant-girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
   with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
   and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
   Her lamp does not go out at night. 

(Verses 19-20 are included in lectionary)
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
   and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor,
   and reaches out her hands to the needy. 
(Verses 21-29 are omitted from lectionary)
21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
   for all her household are clothed in crimson.
22 She makes herself coverings;
   her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the city gates,
   taking his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
   she supplies the merchant with sashes.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
   and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
   and the teaching [Torah] of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
   and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her happy;
   her husband too, and he praises her:
29 ‘Many women have done excellently,
   but you surpass them all.’ 
(Verses 30-31 are included in lectionary)
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
   but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 (Verse 30 can also be translated as “Do not rely on the being seen with favor by others.” The current translation makes it seem that the woman is vain and her charms are deceitful.)
31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
   and let her works praise her in the city gates.

Rita L. Houlihan is a Eucharistic minister, lector and catechist as well as a member of her parish’s Parish Council (Church of the Ascension on West 107th Street in NY, NY). Rita is also a friend and frequent visitor to St. Francis Xavier where she is a committee member of The Women Who Stayed, participates in Bible Study Group and has played important roles over the last few years at the Mary Magdalene service. Recognizing that the popular misconception of Mary of Magdala as “penitent sinner” is reinforced with negative images Rita commissioned the sculpted relief – “Mary of Magdala Proclaims the Resurrection” by Margaret Beaudette, SC. The art captures a determined Mary of Magdala first proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord” to a group of women and men disciples.
 Rita had a long career at IBM working in technical support, sales, and Organizational Change Strategy. Rita is a graduate of Newton College of the Sacred Heart and holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from NYU.

Nina L Has Something To Say Sunday November 5th

In this Sunday's readings, Paul says:

"Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children." 
And Jesus says, "Call no one on earth your father..." 
These readings challenge us to rethink how we envision earthly authority in our the Pastor's letter in last week's Xavier bulletin did, building on the talks by our ministry. 

Did you see it? Check out "From the Pastor's Desk" here:

 In this week's "I Have something to Say," parishioner Nina L. opens a door to new ways  for us to think about God, about church, about ourselves.  
Enjoy her poem God is a Feeling, below.

"God is a Feeling"

God is a feeling.
God is diverse.
Diversity, within everything, master of everything, lover of everything.

The feeling of being held...

The Holy Spirit and the guidance, 
The feeling of being held and guided,
In the dance.

I am not a limp partner; I follow the lead.
But, I don't try to control it-- I let it lead me.

I am a temple,
Self contained. 
This is the structure, the percentage, that I plan my human self.
The rest, is the spirit.
Working together.

Things flow in,
Things flow out,

Flow in and out of me... my human self, and my spirit self. 

Things flow in, dance inside me,
and then flow out. 

So much gratitude, 
For my life, for life. 

For being able to feel so alive, so in love.

My guide, my God, in my heart, always there for me, always leading me, holding me, 
From the inside-out. 

We can do this for each other... 

Every day.

Lift each other up, closer to God, to love, to light.


Nina L. is from Central NY State. She and her husband have been members of SFX for about 3 years. She has enjoyed volunteering with the LSTEP/ Homecoming program and is also the newest "Alto" member of the SFX choir. She loves reading/listening to books about religion, spirituality, and spiritual surrender. Her newest favorite book is: "Singing the Psalms: How to Chant in the Christian Contemplative Tradition" by Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, Ph.D. 
Nina is a third-generation professional in the field of architectural and interior design, rooted in the culture of Italian craft and artisanship. She's also a semi-professional musician and regularly studies percussion/drums, specifically the Colombian folk music and dance called "Cumbia" and the wooden flutes called "gaitas".

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Lesley Pella-Woo Has Something To Say

Readings: Exodus 33:12-23, Matthew 19:13-15

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Popular illustrations of this passage are iconic – a smiling, gentle Jesus, surrounded by children reflecting the diversity of the human family. It’s a good image, both endearing and comforting. Jesus often gives special attention to children. He heals them, calls upon them to share, and lifts up their vulnerable character as worthy of imitation. In the passages leading up to today’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and specifically warns against harming children or belittling their spiritual intuition, capable of “continually see(ing) the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Jesus proclaims the inherent dignity of the child. But, how should we translate this concept – dignity – into realty? How do we halt the propensity to move toward abstraction? I wonder this particularly as the only child mentioned by name in the New Testament is Jesus himself. So, the temptation to idealize and idolize children and childhood is real.

For many, myself included, children are at the center of our lives, or once were. We know what it means to have our lives revolve around the needs of our own kids. We know what is involved in providing for and raising our children. It’s a process that consumes time, energy, and resources. It’s easy to become myopic and hyper-focused on the children that we are directly responsible for in our own households. Children everywhere need so much.

When I was in seminary I did a field education placement in a Pentecostal Church in Framingham, MA. Pastor Esmeralda had decided to go it alone, without the support of her denomination, which did not ordain women, and start her own church. Her ministry was almost exclusively dedicated to children. That’s a bold move. We all know that children don’t pay bills. Nevertheless, twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays, Pastor Esmeralda drove a dilapidated school bus through the housing project, picking up children and bringing them to the church. On Wednesdays, she fed them dinner, found people to teach Christian education classes, and held a short worship service. It was all very haphazard and chaotic. The bus often broke down. The children carried the burdens of their parents – poverty, broken homes, and unemployment. Many were immigrants from countries of extreme violence, who were here seeking a better life. It’s not an unfamiliar story. Into this mess Pastor Esmeralda spoke Good News to these children. She made the dignity of the children in her neighborhood a reality.

Children’s Sabbath, designated on the third Sunday in October, is about proclaiming the Good News of dignity, equality, justice, education, and healthcare for children. All children. Not just mine. If we are truly about building God’s kingdom, then the well-being and flourishing of all children is our goal.

·       60% of Rohingya refugees are children;
·       7,000 newborn babies worldwide die everyday;
·       thousands and thousands of children suffer acute malnutrition;
·       millions suffer disease due to lack of clean water and sanitation;
·       child trafficking is on the rise.

As disciples of Christ, who lifted up children as heirs of the kingdom of heaven, we have a mandate to advocate for human rights for children, support for their families, and an end to violence that accelerates childhood suffering. We do not need to look only at the global situation to find a refugee crisis, infant mortality, malnutrition, or unsafe water. All those circumstances that compromise human flourishing are found here in the United States – Detriot, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey; Houston, Texas; Framingham, Massachusetts; and Yonkers, New York. We need the boldness and the courage of a Pastor Esmeralda to reverse the isolation and the disenfranchisement of communities that are suffering, whose children and youth bear the brunt it. Some even bear it with a smile.

Singing the invitation to “come into God’s presence” resonates with our mission statement. Like Moses, we, too, seek assurance that God is with us and that we are on the right track. Now we are here, but where we will be is out there beyond our doors, beyond our comfort zone, to shine a light of promise and hope where injustice exists. Here, in God’s presence, with our family of faith we hear at our baptism – as God says to Moses – I know you by name. Thus, we are accountable to each other and to God in a covenant relationship where the promises extend out like ripples of water. When we go out to be the presence of God in the world, we activate a renewal and transformation of the world. We can’t be cynical about that. There is too much at stake.

Having visited Haiti, the boy pictured above, is no longer anonymous or a statistic. I have seen where he lives, breathed the air he breathes, I have held his hand and laughed with him. His name is Wensley. Joyful Wensley! Open and curious, with unmistakable leadership qualities, Wensley became my teacher, tutoring me in the Creole words for goat, house, and tree. We have so much to learn from one another. There is mourning to do, as well, for the plight of children. But over the long haul, our time is better spent in building trust, empowering people and communities, and working toward a sustainable future. Wensley, and all the children of Jacquesyl, deserve, as much as our children, a good education, clean drinking water, safe streets, healthcare, and opportunity. Our mission to be God’s presence in the world will take us to difficult places and we will see disturbing things. But, going to those places is the desire of God who goes before us – shielding us and yet calling us by name to go forward and build a world of justice, peace, equality, and freedom for all children.
             To such as these the kingdom of God belongs. Amen.

Lesley Pella-Woo, a former Pastoral Associate at The Church of St. Francis Xavier (1999-2004), currently serves as the Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministry at Hitchcock Presbyterian Church in Scarsdale, NY. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and a cat.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Moira Egan Has Something To Say

When I began to reflect on this Sunday’s readings, it seemed a daunting task to sense God speaking to me through them, let alone to connect our celebration here at Francis Xavier of the women’s ministry.  Throughout, we hear of the masculine pursuits of kingship and lordship, of arming one another and of subduing nations, and of debating the law.  Unlike elsewhere in Isaiah or the psalms, there are no images of god as nursing mother or of God’s realm as a place free from even the violence of nature.  Here, not only are shears not turned to pruning hooks, but war, conquest and dominance seem to be celebrated.  Even in the Gospel, all of the “major players” are men.  Men have the privilege of reading and debating law and the authority to control a family’s finances.  In our present political climate which downplays diplomacy and dialogue in favor of bullying bluster and language used to instill fear or silence an opponent, the imagery and rhetoric of these readings are particularly troubling. 

As Teresa of Avila might say, let us not be frightened, but let’s figure out how to carve out space for another way of thinking about God.  Human kings might relish lording it over others and domination but as we heard last week, God wants to feed us richly, to rejoice in us and to wipe away our tears.  God’s reign is based on love not fear, and in God’s realm all are safe. 

Reading between the lines of the Gospel helps me resonate with the message of this week’s readings.  Although the pharisees intended the comment to trip Jesus up, they are nonetheless right.  Jesus doesn’t pay attention to status.  Similarly, I think the question of paying taxes is not just the means for Jesus to win a verbal sparring match, but a real question that women can deeply identify with.  Debating the financial obligation to Caesar is a specific example of the broader question of how oppressed people with limited political power or cultural influence can challenge injustice.  As in his parables, I think Jesus is using metaphors here.  He surely knew how burdensome the tax was, and understood that paying it was not literally returning something that belonged to another.  By attempting to make the tax seem unimportant, I think Jesus was urging his hearers not to be overwhelmed by other aspects of occupation.  I imagine him saying “Pay the tax, but don’t pay attention to what those who impose it think it means”. Rather than emphasizing powerlessness or other constraints, I think this and other Gospel accounts of challenges to traditions and cultural norms call us to be resilient and creative in the face of diminutions and exclusions.  I’m surely not the only woman who has sat in a pew rewording masculine references to God and humanity. 

On a good day, my translations come easily and I am nurtured by Scripture, strengthened by community and buoyed by the Eucharist.  On others, the language and gender norms of the official Church wear me down and tempt me to believe that the clear assertions of Scripture are at best a hope for a distant future and I am not created in the image of God.  Developing resilience is hard work!  We are fortunate here at Xavier to have many ministries, including The Women Who Stayed which celebrate the rich diversity of the people of God.  I hope that women seeking inspiration, affirmation, support and encouragement on their faith journeys will consider sharing their gifts with our ministry and our Xavier community. 

Moira Egan is part of the leadership team of The Women Who Stayed, and a member of the Xavier Peace and Justice Committee.