Friday, October 13, 2017

Teresa of Avila Has Something to Say

This Sunday is the feast of Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun, saint and doctor of the Church.  In keeping with our mission to celebrate women’s voices and nurture the spiritual life of our Xavier community, we hope you find these prayers attributed to St. Teresa helpful.  

“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.”
 St. Teresa of Avila

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours.”

St. Teresa of Avila

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Marilyn McCarthy Has Something To Say

Foghorns gently prod
the anesthesia from my mind,
a cool mid-autumn drizzle paints a gloom,
as I make my morning pilgrimage
across the harbor,
in my usual place, on my usual boat,
my feet will soon land
between used gum and tanned peach pit
to plod through the daily litter,
not unhappily,
until soothing sleep rescues.

This morning the foghorns call
stirs my unknown yearnings,
I look up toward the Verrazano Narrows,
the great bridge spans the entrance,
giant ships lie idle
waiting to shed their heavy burden
and float freely on the sea.
With a firm grip near each landpoint
tall, thin arches of the bridge veer upward,
tops lost in the clouds,
hidden, unseen .  .  .

Trembling, I climb the bridge tower,
confidence rising as I do,
with each step I drop a fear,
a don't, a shouldn't
into the ebbing tide below,
lighter, more bouyant, I rise,
reaching heights I've never dared,
ready at last to pierce the clouds,
anticipation swells within me  . . .
with a thunderous jolt, the ferry docks.

Marilyn J. McCarthy

Marilyn McCarthy has enjoyed being a member of the Xavier community for over 27 years.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Claire Soupene Has Something To Say

Mary Magdalene Service
Wednesday, July 19th 2017
St. Francis Xavier Main Church

When I come to this church on Sunday, I sit in about the same spot every week.  Eight or nine pews up from the back on the left side – careful to avoid the row that’s missing a kneeler – in the middle so that I have a pretty good view of the readers and the priest.  That leaves ten to twelve pews, some empty space, three stairs, and a few more steps between me and the altar.  But the church tells me that’s where Jesus is.  On that altar.  Up there.  Somewhere.  Distant.  And sure, during communion they give me a chance to get a little closer – to walk up and receive Jesus in my hands – but He has to be brought down to me, mediated always through another person.  I want to run to Him.  Instead, I am told to wait.  A man can call to God and turn bread into divine mystery, but I am told to watch from the pew.  There is distance always between me and my God, or so they would have me believe.

But this Mary of ours had him right in front of her, she could hold his face in her hands, collapse into him in despair, celebrate with him in her triumphs, viscerally and physically feel his presence, speak with him, hear her name called.

We’ve given this Mary a lot of names tonight, reclaiming who she was and who she is in the process of invoking so many new ways of viewing this woman.  Ways of viewing her that we hope and believe are true to who she is.  Names unlike the ones falsely given to her by men who did not know what to do with her strength, her leadership, her importance.  Fearing for their own power, they lacked eyes to see the grace of all she had to offer.  So as we heard, she became a prostitute, demonically possessed, a liability to the authority of early male disciples.  Distance was created between her and her God.

We as a culture know the harmful power of naming someone.  Slut. Crazy.  Bossy.  Sure, these are really labels, but we use them as names.  Those that employ them know what they are doing when throwing them at someone.  They are weapons, and we do not have to think very hard to find women sabotaged by these very tools.  Really we need look no further than the 13th station, now underlined by the names of those who have stood up when being shouted down.  And we see with Mary Magdalene that this is not a new phenomenon.  Certainly, we see the power of these weapons.  And yet.  And yet we witness their weakness in the sheer fact that we are gathered here tonight to honor her.

With this systematic defamation, it’s ironic almost that we wouldn’t have an early church without Mary’s name.  Perhaps along with the stories of prostitution and mental illness, the most well-known story of Mary Magdalene that we have yet to mention tonight is that of her at the tomb when she meets the resurrected Christ.  Not recognizing him, she begs through tears to know where they have moved his body, and he, knowing her, loving her, just gently says, “Mary,” and instantly she knows him too.  He has called her by name.  And she, she is the one to tell the apostles what has happened.  The apostle of all apostles.  A fortress.  I reach for courage like that which she possessed.

I must admit that I envy Mary Magdalene a bit.  I envy her strength to carry the early church.  I envy that Jesus came back just to call her by name.  I envy that she could grasp him in her hands.  And I know better than to believe what history tells me about her.  I know better than to believe that there is a distance between her and her God.  I know better than to believe there is a distance between me and mine. 
When I journal before bed and spend a page or two complaining or lamenting and this gentle voice creeps into my writing to say, “You are doing just fine, my darling girl.  Keep your head up.  Keep breathing.  All will be well.”  That’s God’s voice to me.  “My darling girl.”  That’s how God calls me.

So yes, I envy Mary Magdalene.  But I also connect with her, admire her, find myself within her.  She sought more than anything deep connection with Jesus.  She yearned for it.  It was the fiber of the desire within her.  And those fibers weren’t torn by his crucifixion, weren’t frayed by the challenges of the early church.

I imagine so easily her sitting with him as he spoke – nodding along or rolling her eyes or silently fuming at the things being left unspoken – all responses I share in during the Sunday homilies.  I imagine her tear stained face at the tomb, cheeks swollen – the genuine grief of one who has lost something deeply felt, deeply held, deeply loved.  I imagine her sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently pushing the early church to do better, to be better, to live more fully what Jesus called it to – the very reason I stick with this church now despite its many flaws.  I imagine her disbelief at the contortions we as a church have forced the Good News to do over the centuries of this institution, disbelief I share in.  And above all I imagine her hope – a hope that lies in the power of those gathered here tonight.

She may have been lost, her image mangled, and it is certainly true that we will never really know who she was in the fullness of her humanity.  We may never wholly find her.  But when we ask here tonight where they have moved her, what they have done with her, we do not have to be weeping by her tomb to hear her calling us by name, to give her back her voice.  Tonight, we lift her up, and so too she is calling us to rise.

Claire is coming up on my one year anniversary with Xavier after moving to New York City right out of college (2016).  She came to the Jesuits by way of Loyola University Chicago, her alma mater, where she majored in English and Theology.  She has spent the year with Mercy Volunteer Corps, a service program that places candidates in a full time position in social services, education, or health related fields.  She’s been working at Mercy Center in the South Bronx and, after finishing her current program, will begin a one year program working at Cristo Rey NY in East Harlem this fall.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Mary Boys Has Something To Say


Reflection for the Unveiling, Blessing, and Dedication of
“Saint Mary of Magdala Proclaims the Resurrection”
Church of the Ascension, April 22, 2017

In 1637 Puritan churches in the Massachusetts Bay Colony put Anne Hutchinson on trial, telling her, “You have stept out of your place.” She had dared teaching not only groups of women but also men. In the eyes of her judges, what she had done was neither “tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex.”
In 1967 another woman stepped out of her place. Kathrine V. Switzer, who had registered as K.V. Switzer to run the Boston Marathon, joined the race. The director of the marathon, outraged that a woman had dared to run, darted onto the course and literally tried to shove her out of the race. Her boyfriend, however, threw him a body block, and Kathrine managed to get away from her attacker to become the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon (though her finish was disqualified and she was expelled from the Amateur Athletic Union). Last Monday on the 50th anniversary of her first Boston run, the 70-year-old Switzer returned to finish the Boston Marathon.
In the case of Mary Magdalene, whom we celebrate this evening, church officials figuratively pushed her off the scene John depicts in the twentieth chapter of his gospel and resituated her in the story of an unnamed sinful women in Luke 7. Her place in Christianity, it seemed, was not as a disciple of the crucified and risen Jesus, sent to bear witness to the resurrection, but as a repentant prostitute. Over the ages, many legends and myths made the Magdalene a larger than life figure. Often imaged as a voluptuous woman, she evoked the dangers of female sexuality. The many variations of her mistaken identity as the penitent prostitute have so shaped the imagination that too few people regard her by her first title: apostle to the apostles. Tragically, the mistaken identity repressed women’s leadership in the early communities of Jesus’ Movement.
To restore Mary of Magdala to her rightful place, we need to begin with what the gospels say of her. Two texts are particularly important. The first is Luke 8:1-3 (cf. Mark 16:9):
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them* out of their resources.

This text requires us to place ourselves into the context of the world of antiquity, understanding that demons or, as Jesus often spoke of them, “unclean spirits,” were simply a given of that era. This was language that sought to put words around the inexplicable, to find a way to talk about conditions that ravaged people’s lives.  The evangelists depict Jesus as a healer to whom people “possessed” by unclean spirits were drawn.
What was it that “possessed” Mary Magdalene? The gospels don’t tell us, but Luke’s detail about seven demons suggests a disturbance not easily dislodged, perhaps something like severe depression. We might imagine that the Magdalene’s healing happened not in an instant but over time, maybe over months as Jesus worked with her, drawing from her whatever had kept her from living into her full humanity. I can’t help but wonder what they might have talked about as Jesus offered the Spirit’s healing power.  Her home town of Magdala, a small fishing village, wasn’t far from Capernaum, a place central to Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Ultimately, Mary seemed to experience an “inner seismic shift” (see Bruce Chilton, Mary Magdalene: A Biography) that freed her to journey among Jesus’ disciples—likely becoming one who in turn healed others of unclean spirits. Hers was the discipleship of a wounded healer.
A second key text is from the Gospel of John (20:1-18), although the Easter Sunday lectionary strangely omits the encounter of Mary of Magdala with the Risen Jesus:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ ….
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look* into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,*‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
This wonderfully layered text offers many possibilities for reflection, so I will limit myself to just four.
  • ·       The gospel accounts all place Mary of Magdala at the crucifixion and resurrection.
  • ·       The Fourth Gospel depicts a mystical encounter between the Risen Nazarene and the Magdalene. She realizes he is not the gardener when he says her name.
  • ·       Mary, however, is not to cling to this encounter; Jesus has transcended the human grasp.
  • ·       The Risen Jesus sends her to bear witness to the other disciples. He makes her an apostle.

We need to reclaim the Mary Magdala of these two powerful texts. We need to let her step into her rightful place as the “Apostle to the Apostles,” as a leader in the early community of Jesus’ followers, as a wounded healer who bore witness to the power of the Spirit and was the first to proclaim the resurrection.
Why was it the church failed to pass on this Mary Magdalene? Why instead did it tell of a repentant prostitute and repress her role as apostle? To answer this question fully would take us far afield, but there is one text from the late second or third century that provides a fascinating hint, The Gospel of Mary. (This is among numerous gospels of the early church not included in the biblical canon.)  In one scene, the author portrays the disciples as distressed by the departure of Jesus. Mary Magdalene offers consoling words, to which Peter responds by asking her to tell them “the words of the Savior that you remember.” She does this—but Peter takes umbrage. Would the “Savior have spoken with a woman in private without our knowing about it? Are we to turn around and listen to her? Did he choose her over us?”
“Did he choose her over us?” Let us not romanticize the early church as we bemoan the challenges of our contemporary church!
I read the Gospel of Mary as mirroring controversies over leadership and authority in the early church. Given the patriarchal grip on cultures of antiquity, it is not surprising some (many? most?) men in the early church resisted women’s leadership. Jesus may have chosen the apostle Mary of Magdala to play a vital role in his community, but later generations found this too radical, too counter-cultural. So Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles, had to be put in her place, lest women be seen as equals in making known the Gospel. Refashioning Mary as a repentant prostitute kept women from stepping out of their place.
This evening we remember and reclaim Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles. We celebrate her as wounded healer, evangelist, and witness to the Risen One. And yet, sorrow tinges our remembrance, as the Magdalene’s mistaken identity calls us to lament all that the church has lost over the ages by its repression of women’s leadership—a repression that even today constricts the church and betrays the ministry of Jesus.
Tonight, however, is not a time to dwell on the misogyny that so afflicts our church. Just as we can’t imagine a Boston or New York Marathon without women, so too may the day come that we can’t imagine the church’s apostles without women alongside men—or think of “apostolic succession” without including Mary Magdalene (and Junia as well; see Romans 16:7).
As you gaze at this sculpted relief now gracing the Ascension community, I invite you to receive the proclamation of St. Mary of Magdala, Apostle to the Apostles: God has raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead! God’s Spirit brings new life, now as well as then!

Mary C. Boys, SNJM
Union Theological Seminary

Mary C. Boys is the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York; from 1978-1994 she was a professor at Boston College. For much of the past 30 years, she has been deeply involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue at the national and international levels. Her last five books as author, co-author, or editor reflect that involvement.  She received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University in a joint program with Union Theological Seminary. She has also done advanced study at the Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research in Jerusalem, Israel.

A Roman Catholic, she is a member of a women's religious community, the Sisters of the Holy Names. While living in the Northeast for the past 40 years, her roots lie in the Pacific Northwest as a native of Seattle.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Christine Ricelle Santisteban Has Something To Say

Honoring Your Experiences

This week’s gospel echoes a line we have heard time and time again, “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” St Ignatius used to tease St Francis Xavier with this puzzling phrase while in university together in France.  Memories are funny things, no?  Some memories you treasure. Some you would rather forget, myself included.  I’ll share one such experience, a sort of coming out story if you will.  I was about 12 years old, and I was finally seeing an Endocrinologist for my short stature.  I was naturally resistant and hated going to the doctor.  When all the tests were completed, the Doctor directly told us that I had variant Turner’s syndrome and that I would not be able to have children. At 12 years old, I could barely hold on the gravity that that news had on my life.  I do remember, Mom and Dad’s reaction, well maybe her sister could help her?  So that was my first experience with having bad news delivered.  I did understand what the doctor said about having children, my Dad long made sure I knew about the birds and the bees after he said I kept asking him when I was 6- 7 years old. So he bought a pop-up book to teach me.  If you can imagine that, then you know I never forgot.  Subsequently, it felt like a huge chunk of my normal adolescence was denied. The natural changes that come with puberty even the monthly ritual women experience all induced by medical treatments with hormones.  I felt left out, and not privy to chats young adolescent girls shared among each other. But it is what it is, and it forever shaped me.  I since struggled to find my voice, being deeply introverted, but my Quiet Revolution would come and have me march to the beat of my own drum.

Flash forward some years later, I have since become a physician myself.  As painful as it was, I remembered that experience when we were taught about ‘breaking bad news’ at Trinity College Dublin, where I received my medical degree.  It’s always with me any time I have to deliver difficult news, remembering my own humanity and how each person may need some time to process. It was then, something started to ‘click’ and a lightbulb went on in my head and then I truly began to appreciate the awesome privilege of the profession.  I will admit when I first entered medical school, I was enthralled by the glory and power that came with it.  It sparked my own humble journey to discover myself, just when I thought I knew all I needed to know about myself, there was more and I plunged deeper and deeper into an existential abyss. I ended up taking a year off books from Trinity, finding myself at Lough Derg (St Patrick’s Purgatory), Croagh Patrick, walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, and truly discovering St Ignatius of Loyola with the Irish Jesuits.  Saint Ignatius had his conversion experience through illness, and that struck a chord with me right away.  As I got to begin to know myself better, I rediscovered the old wounds were just scabbed over but still present.  My heart is still with women and families who struggle with infertility.  With a lot of help, hours of counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy and the spiritual exercises, I lost myself but gained the world and I found God in the process. Believe it or not, I graduated on December 3rd, the Feast of St Francis Xavier, and have been on a mission ever since. Who would have thought such an experience would change something inside and help mold how I approach people I work with and all other relationships.

I have been blessed to have been in relationships that helped further transform me, each teaching me something I needed to learn. Stay brave and courageous and allow our experiences to enlighten us, as painful as some may be; each fertile ground for growth and healing. ‘The wound is where the light enters You. Honor your experiences, the good and bad, the light and dark.  Our memories make us who we are, for better or worse, and in sickness and health.  God is with us through the smiles and the tears, Christ rises with us, and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, she is there with all the tools and reassurances we need.  Take a chance a dare to live authentically.  As for me, I stay hopeful, and know that everything in life falls into place in the right time. And so we’ll end with a little poem from the heart about experiencing life and its ups and downs.

My Heart is Pierced

My Heart is Pierced
My Heart is Pierced
All the tears engulfed
Flow freely like a river
Like a dam unleashed
Gushing, Gushing forth

My life inside out, outside in
The old glass heart, once shattered
Replaced by something mechanical
A cuckoo clock heart
Overworked, chimes unstrung,
The hourly melody gone

And now, this living beating heart of mine
Knew love, it’s song, it’s fragrance, it’s touch
The sparkling joy brought by you
A new vision
I love you. You love me.

But my heart is pierced
My heart is pierced
To hold onto a beautiful dream for a moment longer
Emotions unshed with the longing ache
Like a dam unleashed
Gushing, Gushing forth

What was never meant to be
What is now
This bitterweet song sung from the stars
This new heaven
Transformed by love
As roses cry their petals for us

A new way
A new life
A winding path in this strange world
We follow blindly
Everything is changed
And yet everything is the same

My heart is pierced
My heart is pierced
This wound of love
Happy surprise that made me love you
My bloodstained heart still bleeds

My story, my life
Forever entwined with yours
Fragments of my broken heart, I put in your embrace
Cracks, which swallow the light
This cup of pleasure and pain

It is real. It is real
To be alive
Pieces fallen to the ground
Everything is changed
And yet everything is the same
This love it flows, flows freely

© 4th September 2011, CS

Christine Santisteban is native of Queens has been a parishioner since 2014. She helps co-lead the Xavier Young Adults group, and dabbled in the many wonderful ministries at Xavier including the shelter, Xavier Bible Study, It was the women Who Stayed. She is a passionate physician, a lover of all things furry, a clarinetist, honorary Irish woman, pilgrim, and aspiring writer and poet. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Judith Davidson Has Something To Say

Reflection on Matthew 10:26-33
By Judith Davidson

This Sunday during Mass, as Matthew 10:26-33 sinks in, look to your right. Quietly count four women who share your pew. Now turn to your left. Again count four women who are sitting nearby. They could be family members, close friends, passing acquaintances, or complete strangers. One in four women.[1] One in four women in the United States has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime. There is a good chance that this Sunday you are sitting shoulder to shoulder with a woman who has been slapped, choked, kicked in the stomach, punched, pushed down stairs, thrown against walls and furniture, and dragged across the floor from room to room, like a defenseless sparrow—with wings too broken to fight back or fly away to safety.

Before leaving my abusive marriage, I was one of those four. Now I am one of you. Many of you recognize my face and voice, and some of you know my name. Some of you have even become my good friends. In 2015, after seven years of hopelessness, blooming bruises, and soul-strangling despair, I found safety, hope, and this community of faith.  I imagine it is shocking and upsetting to become aware of pain so tangible, so personal, so nearby, so taboo.  Yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his disciples to “tell in the light,” to “proclaim from the housetops” what they have learned about His all-healing, all-embracing, all-restoring love.

So here I am, Jesus, writing, telling, proclaiming—finally a witness. In the past, I had been too terrified—and too ashamed of my own self-perceived weakness—to give witness in court, to call the police, or to even tell my own parents and friends how dire and dangerous my living situation had become. To this day I am somewhat scared—but no longer terrified—of my ex-husband’s retaliating for my uncovering truths he would rather cover up and for making known things he would rather keep secret. So I am sure, Jesus, that you would understand why I chose to publish this reflection under a pseudonym, even though You say to us, your disciples, to “have no fear of them.”

* * *
Jesus, do you remember? I got to know You intimately on a late night in February, after falling to the ground, even though You had known me my whole life, since the moment your Father—our Father—had begun knitting me together in my mother’s womb—gently, loving, with infinite tenderness.  In fact, it wasn’t the ground, Jesus, was it? It was a cold tiled bathroom floor. I was curled up in a fetal position; naked; shivering; crying so much that at times it felt like I would choke on the sheer amount of tears; covered in dark red bruises (which would turn dark purple the next morning and acquire yellow “halos” later in the week). I had turned off the light in the bathroom because I could not bear the sight of my own cruelly patterned shoulders, arms, and breasts.

You chose that horrific moment to turn on the Light. The wholeness of my body—destroyed. My sense of dignity—killed. The trust I had placed in this man, my husband—destroyed. My self-respect—killed. I had just enough strength to argue with You, “Most people wouldn't treat their cat or dog like this, Jesus. Am I worth less than a cat, a dog, two measly sparrows?” Lord, in your great love, You answered me without words.

You were right there with me and, for the first time in my life, I became aware of your tangible presence. Before I knew anything about imaginative prayer, I saw You sitting next to me on that wretched bathroom floor, and I placed my head in Your lap. We must have sat there for 10, 20, 40 minutes? For an eternity? I whimpering softly. You counting the hairs of my head, the bruises on my body; every single tear. And in between my why-me-s, it-hurts-s, how-come-s, I looked up and saw You crying over me, with me, about all of the pain, the violence and the cruelty, about all of the inhumanity, the degradation and the brutality in this hurting world. Broken though I was in that moment, I knew that You loved me (more than I could ever grasp), that I loved You (imperfectly but passionately), and that nothing—and no one—could terrify that Love out of my soul. Your touch said to me, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul …”

* * *

Falling in love with Jesus restored my freedom and my hope, and emboldened me to leave. I divorced this man. I moved on with my life. A few months later, on a July afternoon during a storm, I stumbled upon this church. Now I am one of you—not one of four. So I urge you: look to your right, look to your left. Become open to recognizing a woman, a man, or a child who might be surviving domestic violence on a daily basis. Become aware, tender, sensitive to the hidden pain and cruelty that might be lurking in your pew, on your block, at your office. Be shocked by the ugliness and brutality of domestic violence, but not so shocked that you become paralyzed and look the other way in disgust; not so scandalized that you become unable to support its victims with concrete acts of love and help. Instead of asking, "Why don't you leave?" ask, "What do you need in order to leave?" Abandon your stereotypes about what a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence looks like: I was a successful young professional (so was my ex-husband); I had a college degree from a highly-ranked university (so did my ex-husband); I was comfortably middle-class (so was my ex-husband); I was a Christian (so was my ex-husband).

One in four. When a husband turns against his wife, a step-father against his step-son, a partner against his partner, help those in pain—the victims and the perpetrators—carry their crosses. Help Jesus pick up broken human beings off cold bathroom floors.

[1] Data provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,

Matthew 10:26-33
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eileen Gatza Has Something To Say Corpus Christi June 18 2017

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
June 18th, 2017

We believe in a Creator of infinite goodness, who made the earth and all living things, and saw “that it was good.” A Maker who gazes on us lovingly; and seeks a return of that love. Yet even as the Spirit within prompts us to love in accord with this light, we can become caught in the undertow of darkness of God’s beautiful world fractured by violence and suffering, greed and self-centeredness, and hampered by our own brokenness and complicity -- all that separates us from the Living God.

In the Book of Deuteronomy (8:2-3, 14B-16A) as the people assemble at the Jordan River after forty years of journeying, Moses invites them to take a look back, and see how far they have come. The Promised Land in sight, this far- from-perfect community, has traveled a long and hard journey, replete with a hunger and thirst that, at times, has had them even wishing for the old days of a quiet life under their oppressors! And the Prophet tells them that by looking back they may not only see themselves as flawed as they really are, but better realize how their Creator has loved and sustained them through all the risk and distrust, all the pain and squabbling. In spite of it all, God fed them with manna, a new kind of food, that has restored their hungry bodies, and taught them how to trust.

The Second Reading (Corinthians 10: 16-17) has Paul emphasizing this same teaching to the community in Corinth, and now to us: Our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ liberates us and makes us one.

John’s gospel (John 6: 51-58) in placing on the lips of Jesus “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” reveals the full meaning of a new kind of food to sustain us, fulfilled in the revelation of Christ, the Word of God. Jesus, the Second Moses, gives us food in His own person not in a moment of temporary contact with God, but as a resource, as close as the hearts within our bodies, and an ongoing Sign of life and growth in the Body of Christ. This is who we are, women and men who can afford to look back, even when we, like our ancestors before us, become a people disillusioned with our own failings and sufferings, the fears that threaten to overwhelm us and our world, and the hungers that make us wonder at times “Oh God, how can we all be fed?”.
Like our mothers and fathers in faith, we believe, yet know long seasons of sorrow that may lead some of us at times to wish for the “good old days,” before we knew ourselves and our kind better. The seemingly endless global conflicts, the full extent of racism, sexual abuse, the assault of climate change, and our own complicity in some or all of these sins. And, we fret, too, don’t we over political talk of reductions to healthcare, exorbitant living costs, poor conditions at work or no work, the bullying of youngsters, and the scourge of alcoholism and drug abuse? Then, there’s having to explain to friends why you stay Catholic as a woman in the Church, or wondering where do you fit in it anyway? Yes, we believe in the Giver of Life, who has spoken through the prophets, and we place our hope in Christ Jesus, but the ongoing work of liberation is hard, a challenge marked by literal survival for some, and for all a sometimes, precarious life.

Yet these same scars are what make us spiritually hungry, and more aware of our utter dependence on the loving mercy and sustenance of God who yearns only for the best for us and for our world. We need to taste the actual presence, together at the table of the Eucharist, sustained anew, and relieved of our separateness and fear, all the places of our fracture. We live in a world of beauty created by a God who has plans for our future. Each of us, a mixture of gifts and defects, and grace and possibility, need the Bread of Heaven to lay claim to the transforming Body of Christ, rising out of brokenness and death to new life at every moment. The Corpus Christi, the Sign of God among us, and the reality of our belonging to God and to one another. 


A parishioner at Xavier for the past 35 years, Eileen is a freelance writer, and spiritual and retreat director. She completed the long form of the Spiritual Exercises, and trained in advance spiritual direction ministry at the Jesuit Center in Guelph, Ontari, and as a permanent part time retreat director Loyola House, Morristown, NJ, for religious and lay retreatant. Currently a member of the ISEL Team and a Lector at Xavier, Eileen has, over the years, participated in ministry through the Pastoral Council, Soup Kitchen, Family Faith, and Lay Spirits, as well as giving Advent, Lent and other seasonal presentations at Xavier and elsewhere. Married to Gary Gatza, Eileen has two adult children and six grandchildren.