Friday, July 13, 2018

Marian Ronan Has Something To Say

Revisiting Dorothy Day

By Marian Ronan

Because of my half-century of participation in the Grail, an international laywomen’s movement, I have always felt related to Dorothy Day. The first recorded contact between the Grail and American Catholics was a 1936 letter to her from the co-founder of the US Grail, Lydwine van Kersbergen. In 1943, with the Grail planted in the Midwest, Day, on sabbatical from the Catholic Worker, participated in a three-week Grail program on rural living,  liturgy, and the women’s apostolate. Later she made a silent retreat at Super Flumina, the Grail’s farm in Foster, Ohio.

My personal contacts with Day were limited.  She spoke at a meeting of the Catholic Art Association—or maybe it was the Catholic Art Guild, since the Art Association shut down in
1970––during one of the summers that I spent at Grailville, the Grail’s farm and conference center near Cincinnati, when I was still a fourth-grade teacher.  Her talk followed the showing
of a short art film, “Two Men and a Wardrobe.” My recollection is that Day was quite dismissive of the film, something that led me to categorize her as a crabby, old-fashioned Church type; I was in my mid-twenties at the time and not very forgiving.

I also wrote to Day in 1975, after I had become a full-time member of the Grailville staff, asking if she would send me a copy of the Muslim “Ninety-Nine Names of God” that another
Grail member, recently home from Egypt, had given her. She responded,

Sorry. Those 99 Names have disappeared from my treasure box, though the beads remain. My bedroom is always used in my peregrinations, so things disappear, are ripped off, liberated, to use the language of the young.
My love to all there.
–– In Christ––Dorothy.

The message came on a postcard bearing the kind of dramatic woodcut, this one by Antonio Frasconi, that appeared frequently in the Catholic Worker. Eventually I had the postcard
framed archivally, to preserve it. When I show it to visitors I tell them that if Dorothy is canonized, it will become a second-class relic, a comment that baffles most of them.

All the rest of my “encounters” with Dorothy have taken place since her death in 1980. One was reading the letter from Cardinal John O’Connor to the Vatican nominating Day for canonization. It highlights, as a reason for her canonization, Day’s repentance for the abortion she underwent before she became a Catholic. Later, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, at an event in Day’s honor at St. Joseph’s in Greenwich Village, the church where Day was baptized, described her as an “obedient daughter of the Church.” I was well past my mid-twenties by then, but my responses to these statements were still not very forgiving. With regard to Day’s obedience to the Church, for example, I thought: except for the cemetery workers’ strike, where Day and her Catholic Worker colleagues picketed against the strikebreakers brought in by the Archdiocese.

Most recently, my encounters with Day include reading Jim Forest’s biography, All is Grace (Orbis 2011). I have had it in my head for years to write a book about Joan of Arc, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Day, because of the strong but seemingly unlikely connections between them––Thérèse the ascetic having written a play about Joan the warrior, and Day, the pacifist, devoted to Joan as well, then writing a book about Thérèse. Forest’s book is part of the material I’ve been accumulating for the project.

Forest is a terrific writer, and I learned a great deal from his biography that I had not known about Day. For one thing, I learned that she really was in many respects a traditional, if
also utterly committed, Catholic. She was also a fairly judgmental individual, a sin she confessed again and again. So my evaluation of her in the 1970s was not entirely mistaken. I also learned that Day really was an obedient daughter of the Church, frequently following the directions she received from bishops and priests—though she was by no means naïve about the sins of the institution.

I even learned that Day really did seriously regret—repent of—her abortion, though whether she would want to be remembered for that before anything else is another question. Indeed, she objected strongly to any suggestion that she was a saint, believing it undercut the Catholic Worker’s fundamental commitment to egalitarianism and denial of self.

Perhaps the most important insight I took away from reading Forest’s biography, however, is that precisely because of her high level of Christian commitment and the strength of her positions, Dorothy Day may well be exactly the kind of role model needed in this difficult time. In the midst of the environmental crisis that engulfs us, for example, I look around our apartment and wonder why in hell I ever bought all these clothes, these books, those items of kitchenware, and I find myself deeply inspired by Day’s poverty and self-abnegation.

And as I observe the chaos that paralyzes many of the groups I belong to, underpinned by the individualism and expectations of gratification by so many in my generation, I find myself profoundly challenged by Day’s concern with and obedience to authority, however communal her understanding of it was.

And when I am too lazy to turn out for public demonstrations or too afraid of being arrested, I remember Day’s endless commitment to social action, and her many stays in jail. Could it be, I find myself wondering, that the woman I once dismissed as too traditional a Catholic and too judgmental a person is exactly the model––the saint––we need as we face the crises that confront us?

Marian Ronan is Research Professor of Catholic Studies at New York Theological Seminary, a Black, Latinx and Asian theological school in New York City, and co-author, most recently, of Women of Vision: Sixteen Founders of the International Grail Movement (Apocryphile Press, 2017)

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Sharp Edge

In John the Baptist, we celebrate the greatest of the prophets, a man whom history has now sanctified in Scripture, statue, painting, and song.

But what might it have been like to know him in time?

Prophets generally make us uncomfortable. Like John, they shake up their family’s routine, sometimes rendering their parents speechless and their neighbors astounded. They might dress oddly, rant a bit, and follow a strange diet. They hang out in inhospitable places. Prophets are the oddities on the edge of our striving for comfort. Someone like John the Baptist would not be the most popular member of your country club.

And yet John the Baptist’s call is one given, in its own particular measure, to every disciple of Christ:

     - Go to the sharp edge of your existence. That is where you will find the Divine Presence.
     - Go by way of the inner desert, continually learning the aridity of all that is not God.
     - Shed the trappings that separate you from the Holy – be they the adoration of wealth, power, or vanity.
     -Then speak the Truth you have become.

The poet Mary Oliver put it simply this way: 

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Where will we find the prophets today? At the borders of everything. But they will be building bridges, not walls. They will be inviting the rest of us out of the quagmire of our comfort zones to come see Christ rising on the bright distance of our courage. Today’s prophets, like John, will be pointing away from themselves to the place where Christ waits with His counter-cultural Gospel – among those who are poor, weakened by the world, among the marginalized who live at life’s sharp edge where Grace is most accessible because it is all there is.

The wonderful Baptist, robed in his camel hair, eating locusts, shouting and throwing people into the Jordan! The greatest of the prophets calls down the hills of time to us today: “Behold One is coming after me. Prepare your hearts! Do not miss Him!”

~ Renee Yann, RSM

Sister Renee Yann, RSM, D.Min, is a writer, poet, and speaker on topics of spirituality, mission, and ethical business practice. After twenty years in teaching and social justice ministry, she served for over thirty years in various mission-related roles in Mercy Health System of Southeastern Pennsylvania, completing her ministry as Chief Mission Integration Officer for AmeriHealth Caritas Health Plans. Sister Renee has a daily blog which can be followed at: She is also reachable on Twitter at @ReneeYann, RSM 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Roseann Bonadia Has Something To Say June 17th 2018

“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” 
MK 4:26-34

I am not much of a gardener.  I don't know about growing flowers, pruning trees and all the rest.  I do like theater though.  And I recently saw "Hamilton."  A line in a song that is talking about this "new" country being formed speaks of the "world turned upside down."  Ideas about power, governing and the dignity of each person within a society were turning the world upside down.  I think that is what the readings for this Sunday are all about. 

The smallest sapling grows the tallest tree.  Seed scattered on the ground produces food.  The humble mustard seed is the largest of all plants. And all throughout the gospel stories Jesus repeats this message to anyone who will listen.  That is; do not lose heart but keep the faith - God's ways are not our ways.  Those who are last, rejected, turned away, will be first.  True strength is found in the gentle soul.  Spring follows winter.

The gift of this earth upon which humanity has created a world that seems so filled with inhumanity - God turns upside down.  That is a ride I am happy to be on.

About Roseann: A Xavier parishioner for over 30 years. Served two stints on the parish staff - the first time for 3 years the second for one year when John Bucki took his sabbatical.  I have an MDiv from the Jesuit theology school in Massachusetts and an MPhil in theology from Fordham with an unfinished dissertation on suffering that haunts me from my desk drawer.  Xavier changed my life and I am forever grateful and in love with this community.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Mary Gocher Has Something To Say

My Favorite Animal

I love animals in church — lambs, doves, eagles—  familiar symbols of sacrifice, peace, the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection.  But my favorite creature, at Xavier or any other church, is the less familiar pelican.  Xavier’s pelican and its babies are located at the base of the old high altar, to your left as you face the altar.  Look down.  You will see a lovely carving of a pelican surrounded by its hungry babies.  

“According to legend, the pelican, which has the greatest love of all creatures for its offspring, pierces its breast to feed them.  It is on the basis of this legend that the pelican came to symbolize Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, because of his love for all mankind. In this sense it also symbolized the Eucharistic Sacrament." *

*reference:  “Signs and Symbols in Christian Art” by George Ferguson, Oxford University Press

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Mary Jane Gocher is an actor with an interest in art and Medieval history.  At Xavier, she volunteers as a guide for the handicapped.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Jean Prendergast Has Something To Say June 3rd, 2018

 The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of ChristSunday June 3rd 2018 

In this Sunday’s first reading from Exodus Our Lord’s Precious Blood is prefigured. Moses returned from the mountain top with God’s commands and He took big, generous bowls of young bulls’ blood and sprinkled it over his people. Who’d dare to image what these bowls of blood foretold as Moses said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you. To our ancestors blood was so essential for life that it was considered to be the center of life itself. Today Moses’ words are fulfilled in Christ’s blood. The Sequence, Lauda Sion, makes it clear.

Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.

In Mark’s gospel we enter the Upper Chamber where a sacred space has been set for Jesus’ Last Supper. As His disciples are gathered at table to share a meal, something they must have often done, Jesus unexpectedly offers food for all our souls, a sharing in the very life of God – most likely incomprehensible to those listening. And as was Our Lord’s habit, He took bread, blessed it and broke it, but then he said, :

"This is my body."

As he most always did, he gave thanks, and Christ offered them a cup with this pledge, “This is my blood of the covenant to be shed for many.”

Through His very body and blood Christ gives His All. And in active faith we can open every pour of our being and humbly enter His expanse of Love. A sacred space in God whose invitation is to an abounding intimacy, a time to meet and converse, to open our thoughts and hearts to his seamless love, fully aware of Our Lord’s presence within.

And then to carry him forth, like the occupants of the Upper Chamber who leave singing a hymn.

The gospels describe Our Lord often seeking time to go close to His Father. And Christ takes us with Him, in the Eucharist, never far from LOVE. Constantly, everywhere, every neighborhood, at each minute of the day, Our Lord assumes the body of bread and the blood of wine as we receive him into our company, in moments of intimacy.

“Amen, I say to you,” the apostles having no idea of the depths about to be fulfilled when they followed him to Mount Olive and Our Lord said, “I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom."

Remember last week’s reading from Deuteronomy: “Did anything so great ever happen before? Has it ever been known?” Mk 14: "Take it; this is my body." "This is my blood.” Like the apostles we eat and drink.
This is the promise Christ keeps: Whoever eats this bread will live in him forever. Many were shocked when He told them, “Unless you eat of my flesh and drink my blood you will not have life in you.” Holy nourishment. Divine food. Wondrous. The most precious body and blood of Our Lord.

***** *****************

Jean Prendergast joined  the  parish on January 21st at the Faith and Feminist rally in Union Square and she’s been at Xavier since. Monday through Friday she hops on the Q to make the 12:05 Mass in Mary’s Chapel. Except for Saturdays when she runs a group for homeless women at the Park Avenue Armory Mental Health Shelter to teach the ladies to relax and let go. Retired, she’s finishing a novel and creates nine foot collages. For decades she worked as a psychologist at the Veteran’s Administration. Sundays at Xavier are very special to her.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Alejandra Enriquez Has Something To Say

Never stop believing and realize what really matters!

For this Sunday May 27th I focused on the first lecture and the gospel. I asked God to guide me with what I have written for you, I hope explained myself correctly.

Sometimes we see ourselves as if God had forgotten us, nevertheless we should double check if it is not us who are putting him aside. In fact, it is in those difficult moments when we must not lose faith, it is so easy to say “I believe” when everything is going alright but so difficult when we think we are losing everything. Whenever you think you can’t handle a situation, believe even more and ask him two things, first to take care of the situation and second to give you wisdom to understand his solution to what you asked because it might not be what you expected and might even look counterintuitive to what you think should have happened. 

For example, I am from Mexico and since President Trump began negotiations of the free trade agreement (NAFTA), the Mexican economy is struggling, nevertheless, today this episode is helping Mexico to diversify exports, realize its leverage and competitiveness and become more efficient.

Regarding the gospel. Today as in Jesus times, we humans tend to give so much importance to material things and forget where we come from and that our soul one time will return to join our father. Eventually, we become so attached to material things that we forget to enjoy the things we cannot buy and we take for granted some others that we have. For instance, as New Yorkers we can enjoy of walking late at night after a concert performed by a famous orchestra in the park for free. Next time you attend to any of this cultural activities just think how lucky  we are to have access to that. Believe me, that is not provided in emerging economies where people cannot walk safely after sun goes down, they do not have a park as clean and well maintained as Central Park and are far from even having a proper place where a Symphonic Orchestra could play. And we have all that for free! (ok our taxes pay for that but also the goodwill of many rich people of this city).

Next time you get home, realize how lucky you are when you have the chance to give a hug to your daughter or son in a world where wars can separate families forever. 

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Alejandra Enriquez will be 25 year old. She is an economist originally from Mexico City. By decision: passionately curious energy geek. For sake of optimization: data lover. Alejandra enjoys analyzing information in the name of optimizing resources but also working to make her country grow by convincing investors to deploy capital in energy infrastructure in Mexico. She feels grateful with what this city has taught her and to have found St. Francis Xavier community. Alejandra is leaving NY soon but will never forget the warmth and kindness that the people at St. Francis offered. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The woMEN who stayed have something to say!

The story of Pentecost is so captivating isn’t it? Tongues of fire splitting and descending on the Apostles, filling them with the Holy Spirit and giving them the power to proclaim the good news. Then people from all over the world hearing these Spirit-filled Galileans speak, and saying, “Wait a second, they are speaking my language!”

Recently, the Women Who Stayed have been having these sorts of Pentecost moments. We have been hearing the message at the heart of our own mission being proclaimed by tongues of fire all over the world! And with the ears of Pentecost, we realize that it is not only women’s voices who are proclaiming the good news of feminism and faith! Many brothers are speaking our language too!

In the spirit of Pentecost, three Women-Who-Stayed introduce us to someone who has shared the good news with them. These three men let the Spirit speak through them in all Her power, and we are all the richer for it.

Christine Santisteban introduces us to her friend Stefan Andre Waligur, a musician, theologian and feminist who is working towards his PhD at Berkeley.  Christine and Stefan met when they were both living in Ireland. His lament song Ochon was featured in the Stations of the Cross led by the Xavier’s Social Justice Study the past Lent.

Here is a short reflection by Stefan called  Loud Cries and Tears: Jesus and the Women of Ireland

"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with LOUD CRIES AND TEARS, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." (Hebrews 5:7)

Makes me wonder. If Jesus with his "loud cries and tears" showed up in church one day, how many churches would welcome him? Or would we rather politely show him the door explaining that we don't get "loud" in church? It also makes me think that maybe we do "reverent" wrong. According to this passage "loud" and "reverent" do go together. Finally, since it is St. Patrick's Day, it is worth mentioning that one of the consequences of Christianity coming to Ireland was the eventual suppression of the keening tradition - the mourning of the dead led by women in "LOUD CRIES AND TEARS." Perhaps following Jesus means being more like the women of Ireland who led their communities in the healing practice of communal lament, expressing the full repertoire of the human heart in "LOUD CRIES AND TEARS." Something tells me that in the troubled and turbulent world today we would do well to learn the Liturgy of Lament from Jesus and the Women of Ireland.

Lizzie Berne DeGear introduces us to Luis T. Gutierrez, the editor of the pro bono web journal called Mother Pelican: A Journal of Sustainability and Accountability.

Luis found out about The Women Who Stayed during our Feminism & Faith in Union event this past winter and since then, he’s included us on his monthly mailing list (a cc list that has “Papa” as the first recipient!). As a layperson who lives his call humbly and with tremendous focus, Luis devotes his theological energy to unwaveringly calling for a Roman Catholic priesthood open to women and men. Each month he sends a one-liner translated into multiple languages, which gets us all thinking about the power of sacrament and the corruption of patriarchy. Here is a small excerpt from one of his meditations:

The language of the body, male and female, is the language of the Eucharist:


Why should body language around the altar be exclusively male?

And finally, Mary Galeone reconnects us with John Bucki. Those who have been connected to the Church of St. Francis Xavier for many years remember when John was Associate Pastor here. Since his death this past September it seems as if his incredibly powerful spirit has been with us more strongly. We feel him pushing us forward in our work for justice, in our faith that the Spirit is doing the work She needs to do through us, and in arms outstretched, welcoming all. When Mary was asked to find writers for I Have Something to Say, she shared with us the feminist writings of her best friend John, with the confidence that they are “perfect for this purpose.” And indeed they are. Here are “thoughts for consideration”, written by John for Pentecost 2015, shared with us by Mary.

Today, as we celebrate the power of the Spirit in the church, the scriptures remind us that the Spirit is a social Spirit – a Spirit that leads us to solidarity with each other, the whole world, and all its people.  The Spirit does more than make individuals feel good or different. The Spirit breaks down barriers between peoples. The Spirit changes behavior and moves us into community. The Spirit calls us into action – action for others and for justice.

The Spirit is a Spirit of reconciliation and healing. The Spirit is a Spirit of mercy.

The coming of the Spirit 2000 years ago transformed the Christian community.

 In a world of racism and xenophobia and fear of immigrants, the Spirit invites people of every nation under heaven to come together.

In a world with war, violence and terrorism, the Spirit proclaims a message of peace and reconciliation to all.

In a world of economic problems, the Spirit reminds us that the things of the world are meant to be shared by all and are to be used for the common good.

In a world where the environment is abused and overused, the Spirit calls for reform in how we live and in the ways we use the earth with care and love.

In a world of ideology and prejudice, The Spirit calls us to think about things in a new way.

The gifts of the Spirit are for liberation.  The Spirit is an inclusive spirit who desires to set everyone free.  Maybe the greatest manifestation of the spirit is when people have the grace to identify with the needs and struggles of the world, to listen to those who are poor or oppressed, and to speak up for justice. As Elizabeth Johnson says: “Finding one’s own voice, however haltingly, imparts the power of Spirit crying out.”

We hope you have enjoyed these tongues of fire.

Happy Pentecost from the Women Who Stayed! 

May we all have the courage to go forth and proclaim the good news!