Sunday, June 14, 2020

Susan Haarman Has Something To Say Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ June 14th 2020

JUNE 14, 2020
At the time that I'm recording this video, the city of Chicago has been in shelter in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak for just under two months. Faced with a rapid change in my daily life and routine, my partner and I decided to deal with that as so many others have - by taking on a fairly ambitious baking project.  We decided to try to make our own sourdough starter.
It failed. Spectacularly. Three different times.
As I watched our source of flour slowly begin to diminish knowing that it was a very hot commodity and hard to find, I finally decided to phone a friend and try to figure out exactly where we were going wrong. I was being peppered with questions like  “was I measuring the sourdough starter’s temperature?”, “Was making sure to feed it at exactly the same time?”, “ Am I making sure to find an ideal place that was not too warm, but not too cold?”
I just started thinking - I was not aware that I was in an in-depth personal relationship with a baked good.
Bread of Life Sunday looks really different during a global pandemic that limits so many people's ability to receive Eucharist. For many of us Holy Week and Easter Sunday came and went without being able to take part in the core liturgical act - the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. Without the Eucharist, how do we talk about what it means when Christ says, “I am the Bread of Life.”?
As I read the first reading today and heard that reminder and admonition that “man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” I tried to take some comfort in it. But I just kept thinking, it's just not the same. Then I remembered, at the end of the day, the Eucharist begins and ends in a relationship. That's where it all comes from and where it all returns to.
I think it might be helpful for us to really engage this week's Gospel reading if we have a sense of what's happening off-screen. Just before Jesus begins to explain to us what it means to be the living Bread of Life come down from heaven, at the beginning of this chapter he's actually just fed 5000 people. After this miracle, he heads off to pray and when he comes back the crowd meets him and specifically tries to ask him where he's been and what's going on. Christ fairly astutely wonders if they are there because they believe in him or because they want another meal.  The group hedges their bets and says, “well you know Moses was able to produce bread in the desert, so maybe that's a sign that you can give us that will help us believe in you.” Christ responds saying I am the bread of life - I am what has come here to nourish you. It then goes into a very long conversation where the crowd continues to be confused and keeps asking for actual bread and Christ repeatedly says “I am the bread of life. I am the living bread.” It’s that admonition over and over again that it was a relationship with Christ that people needed to be fed by, that's at the root of the Eucharist. It’s a reminder of where the Eucharist comes from.
So it's with that reminder of essential relationality of the Eucharist that I've been trying to re-engage and remind myself. I'm thankful in these moments to have what Andrew Greeley would call the “Catholic imagination.” It's that sort of window that many of us tend to have where we can see God's movement and participation in all of life around us. God isn't this distant thing that we need to go out and find, but rather, God is invested and incarnated in the midst of our own lives, inviting us continually to feel God's presence and to feel God's love. It's in these sacramental moments, these moments that point back to the ways that we experience grace through the sacrament, that I find myself being fed and being reminded of what the reality of the Eucharist looks like for me.
I'm sure you can think of some of these moments as well. Maybe it was the first date or meeting that you had with a special person in your life across a cup of coffee or a glass of wine where you just found yourself grateful to be in their presence. Maybe it's during meals at family dinners of being seen and loved. They are a subtle echo of the reality of the sacrament - Eucharist reminding us again to be in relationship. It's Christ over and over again reminding us “I am the living bread.”  
But it goes beyond just remembering.  Relationships are about more than just what we receive. I think the words from the first letters the Corinthians is a great reminder that the Eucharist isn't a spectator sport. We participate in the body of Christ when we break the bread. We participate in the blood of Christ when we drink from the cup. Living into a Eucharistic reality means participating in it. It means saying yes to that relationship again and again and again. It means trying to model the Eucharistic relationship that God offers us to everyone around us -  the folks that we love, the folks that we are troubled by, the folks that we know, and the folks that we don't.
The Eucharistic calls us to be in relationship is a challenge over and over again for us as believers and perhaps more importantly to us as a Church. At this time when we find ourselves so distant on this Bread of Life Sunday, how do we think about what it means to participate? To love those who seem unlovable. To go beyond the boundaries of our own understanding of who fits and who doesn't.
I want to leave you with one final story.  Years ago I spent Easter Sunday in Kingston, Jamaica at a place where children who had essentially been abandoned to die in a dump were able to live out their lives with dignity. In the middle of the mass, a developmentally disabled child who had been making noises throughout the majority of the mass stood up at the very moment of epiclesis. As the priest raised the host above his head, the child stood up pointed and shouted “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Then he pointed to himself and said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” And finally he pointed at the entire crowd and said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” In that moment I knew that I had been fed far more than I could have ever imagined. So friends, as Christ reminds us that he's the living bread come down from heaven, how can we participate in that reality here and now?

Susan Haarman is the associate director at Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Experiential Learning, facilitating faculty development and the service-learning program. She has degrees from Marquette University, Loyola University of Chicago, the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and previously served as the faith and justice campus minister, also at Loyola University Chicago. In addition to having a Masters in Divinity, she also holds a Masters in Community Counseling, a certificate in directing the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises, and is currently in a doctoral program. Her research focuses on the intersection between social justice education, civic identity, and imagination. She is also an improviser and storyteller in Chicago.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say Sunday May 10th, 2020

As the season of Easter continues, we, like the early disciples, are in lockdown.  They were afraid of death by the hands of the Romans and those who opposed Jesus, and we are afraid of death by Covid 19. Yet our readings this Sunday bring us hope and encourage us to use the gifts we have been given to trust in our gracious God. And it’s Mother’s Day!  Blessings to all the women in our lives who nurture us.

First, our readings have much to say about tasks often assigned to women (mothers!) In the Acts of the Apostles, we see the men being tasked to serve at table.  Some Scripture scholars say that this probably refers to the men keeping an account of the daily distribution of food, not actually serving. Remember that women in first century Palestine were the property of their fathers, and when they married, that fact transferred to their husbands. They were not permitted to work, so if they were widowed, they depended on the local religious community to care for them. How similar is this to today, when so many depend not only on our own parish and so many faith- based communities for food, but also nourishment for their children and extended families. Like the widows in the reading, many of today’s mothers and fathers are unable to work and are struggling to provide even the basic necessities for their children.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled; he is preparing a place for us; have faith.  This Gospel is often proclaimed at funerals, but for us today, since we believe that the word of God is present to us in our hearing, I want to think of it as God speaking to us today. It is challenging in these moments of hearing of illness and death to not let our hearts be troubled, but in fact, Jesus asks us to have faith. Faith is a gift that we are invited to put into action. So often, that gift of faith is nurtured by our parents, and often by women who have been like mothers to us.  Upon hearing of the death of two women due to Covid 19 in Philadelphia this week, I recalled how both had nurtured my own faith in God, and in turn, faith in my own gifts.  One woman was a grandmother of two children I taught. She helped her daughter get the children to school in the morning as their parents left for work early.  Her granddaughter had multiple physical challenges, and I frequently worried if I should adapt some lessons even more than I did due to her granddaughter’s challenges.   Grandmom would always say to me when she brought her to the schoolyard, “Don’t let her get away with anything… she can do more than she thinks she can.”  Tough love by Grandmom! But she knew her granddaughter well. She would frequently stop in church on her way home from the schoolyard. When she returned in the afternoon to pick up her grandchildren, she would often say to me, “God bless you dear; I’m praying for you!” And I needed it-- I had 47 students in one room!

The other woman, a Sister who was one of my college professors, was the first person who observed my teaching. When I met with her after the lesson, Sister pointed out several things I could have done differently. When she finished speaking I burst into tears because I thought all was fine.  Sister came around from her desk, sat next to me and said, “It’s OK.  You are going to be a great teacher.  We all have to start somewhere. You know that God is right there with you in the classroom.  Just remember that when you are teaching, you are the sage on the stage!”  I started to laugh…me-- the sage on the stage?? That scene has stuck with me throughout my decades in education!    Both women, deeply prayerful and very practical, showed me God’s presence and also showed their faith in my ability to do my best.  I know that God has prepared beautiful  places for them  in heaven.

Finally, Peter’s letter also encourages us to put our faith into action. “You are a chosen race, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own so that you may announce the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.”   We are anointed at Baptism in imitation of Jesus who was anointed priest, prophet and king. How might you announce God’s marvelous light to others?  Maybe it is by  acknowledging and nurturing  the light--the gifts-- that we have been given by God.  Here is a brief story of a mother and daughter who acknowledge the light and gifts  they see  in one another.

Boreta Singleton has been  a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish since 2003 and  is a member of the choir, serves as a Spiritual Director in  the ISEL program and as a liturgical minister.  She is currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as the Director of Faculty Formation. Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with The Ignatian Schola and the chorus of Choral Chameleon.   

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say Good Friday 2020

Good Friday 2020

Oh,sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble--
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

                        We have much to tremble about these days. Of all the Good Fridays we have experienced, it is this one with which we probably most identify with Jesus’s suffering and death.

The three words that continued to center around my prayer for today are: 

                        pain, promise and practice.
Certainly, we are in pain. This morning in the New York Times, listen to some quotes from people who wrote in about their present situation:

“This pandemic has robbed me of my sense of control.”
“I need to go on vacation from my inner world.”
“I feel overwhelmed and weepy.”
“I am angry at a force I cannot see.”
“There is no playbook about how to survive this.”

And the suffering statements go on.

                        As Father Mulreany said last night in his homily, the most vulnerable among us are the most severely affected. Large numbers of people of color, the disabled and the elderly have been sick or have died. Those who have lost their jobs are fearful and those who are still working are just as afraid. The most tragic story for me was hearing a report about the plight of the homeless and refugees. One man in a refugee camp in Lebanon said, “ They tell us we should wash our hands. How can I ?  I have not had a bar of soap in three months and my wife and I spend hours in line every day trying to get water for our family.” 

                        In the midst of all of this, God wants us to acknowledge the pain we are in and as we heard today in the second reading from the letters to the Hebrews, take this reality to heart:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness but one who has been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Jesus is in this with us.

 During  Lent here at Xavier we often sing the hymn, “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley.”  The opening verse says, “Jesus walked this lonesome valley; he had to walk it by himself.” As our dear departed former pastor, Father Ned Coughlin said,  the lyrics should say,” He had to walk it for himself, because Jesus was never by himself. He had his Abba and the Spirit with him always and so do we.

We may question: How do we not stay stuck in our place of pain? St. Ignatius reminds us that when we are in desolation, we need to remember the times when we were in consolation. And so, to remember is to know that God is with us always. That is the promise we are given.

What do we remember? Jesus has given us many words in the Gospels that can bring us consolation. In Matthew’s gospel we hear,’Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome; take my yoke upon your shoulders, for I am meek and humble of heart. “ We also see Jesus in relationship with his friends but also with unlikely people such as the Samaritan Woman, the disciples who fall asleep when he most needs them before his arrest, and the teachers of the Law who challenge him, Jesus even tried to  stay in relationship with Judas. Who or what may be challenging you most right now? This may be the time to invite Jesus into the challenge. He promises to be with us.
And this leads us to practice. Many of us now have the time to put into action what Pope Francis calles “the creativity of love.”  St. Ignatius says that “Love is seen more readily in deeds than words.” In the midst of our pain, might we be called to move out of it, knowing that the pain is still there, to reach out to someone else? Even though it may not seem like much, calling, writing or using social media to connect to another helps you and the other to share a word of love.

I have been thinking about those who Pope Fancis calls “the saints next door;” those people who are doing their part to show us the face of Christ in our troubled world. I thought of my own paternal grandmother who was always one of those saints next door, and I share this story with you.

My grandmother was an extremely devout Catholic woman. She was the housekeeper for the Bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana, and was an amazing seamstress and cook despite her illiteracy. Her English words were few ; she spoke Louisiana creole and some French. My reluctance as a child to learn either language left both of us with a unique way of communicating.

When I was nine years old, my paternal grandfather, from whom my grandmother had been separated for decades, became ill. My grandmother leapt into action. She told my Dad that she would prepare a room for him in her home. My Dad, being the practical one, argued with my grandmother that two older people, one being sick in addition to her caring for her older sister was just not logical.  Grandmom persisted. “God told me I should,” she said to my Dad. And so it happened for about a year. After my Grandfather’s health continued to deteriorate and the stairs in her home were becoming more difficult for him to navigate, she insisted on moving back to Louisiana to care for him. There was some chaos in the family for sure, but Grandmom insisted, “This is what God wants.”  A few days after he died, my Grandmother had a major heart attack, and all the time she was recovering she believed she did what she was called by God’s spirit to do. What are you and I being called to today? Hear Jesus speak to you. He understands your pain, He promises to be with you, and he invites you to practice  creative ways of loving your family, friends and neighbors. He knows you so well; hear him say to you,

“I see your true colors shining through--
I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors, your true colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow.”

Boreta Singleton has been  a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish since 2003 and  is a member of the choir, serves as a Spiritual Director in  the ISEL program and as a liturgical minister.  She is currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as the Director of Faculty Formation. Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with The Ignatian Schola and the chorus of Choral Chameleon.   


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Erin Lothes Has Something To Say Sunday March 8th Int'l Womens Day

Last week I had the best news I’ve had in a long time as a Catholic, environmentalist, New Yorker and it wasn’t even the plastic bag ban. No, it had to do with cereal box liners.  Let me explain! Have you ever felt that your environmental actions were accomplishing nothing?  Have you ever given up? I have.  I used to save plastic bags and take them to the CVS plastic bag bin, then I just bought into the urban legend that nothing ever happens with these, they end up in landfills, and I have been throwing away the produce bags that I hate but come with my FreshDirect deliveries. I hate my plastic garbage that gets incinerated, becomes pollution, and gives children asthma. But encouraged by the bag ban, I decided to find out.  I went to CVS, asked for the manager, and got the contact information for the bag bin.  I called and it’s a real company that recycles plastic bags!  Even better, it recycles produce bags, dry cleaner bags, and cereal box liners!  Even that plastic film wrapping your toilet paper! (Search the Dept. of Sanitation website for plastic film for details.) National Geographic reports that 90% of table salt has plastic in it.  So, for that, and for the children with asthma, being able to recycle it is good news!

Today’s readings are full of good news; they overflow with blessings.  The first reading from Genesis tells us that God will bless Abram, and Abram will be a blessing, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through him.

God’s call to Abram is a new action initiating a new phase of salvation history.  Here begins the story of the chosen people Israel, the plan leading to the Exodus liberation, the gift of the law, and the powerful prophets calling Israel to justice in times of crisis.

Abram thus heard the call from the infinite.  In the Transfiguration, the apostles saw a glimpse of the infinite, a bright vision of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.  We know the presence of the infinite, within each of us as the gift of the Spirit which confirms our own calling. What is that vocation today, amidst the crises facing our earth?

Theologian Daniel Castillo points to our vocation as gardeners, grounded in the even older covenant with Adam and Eve as Eden’s caretakers. And today we are especially called to cultivate and care for the earth and all its living communities, our brother and sister creatures, its buzzing ecosystems and human families. As Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ teaches, we have these three relationships to honor: with God, with our neighbor, and with the earth.

We inhabit these relationships as the children of God, called like Abram to be bearers of God’s blessings, called to be peacemakers with our neighbors and the earth. Yet our relationship with the earth has turned to war. Though intended to make life easier, and they have, fossil fuels have also mediated the rupture of these relationships, polluting many aspects of modern life.  Without our thinking, fossil fuels pervade our commutes, our purchases, our home power, and hundreds of choices that seem beyond our control.  It is true that vested powers resist common sense, and obstruct the desire of most people to transition to a clean energy economy. Even though scientists know that we have to leave most fossil fuels in the ground to prevent dangerous temperature rise, Exxon intends to expand extraction and triple its profits, according to the Economist.  This obstruction turns the pervasive presence of fossil fuels into an invasive presence, literally a war waged against the earth, and we must fight back fiercely.

Too often this war seems impossible to win. Many of us feel our ecological hearts are broken.  It is so painful to see the wildfires, the dying coral, the refugee children, the floods and drought.  Climate psychologists speak of “a finite pool of worry.”  After so much pain, we simply can’t worry about one more thing.  After all, we also have other, legitimate worries in our lives: problems at work, ailing parents, concerns about the children, health issues.  We all exist within the limited time we have.

Despite this sense of futility, the urgency of the ecological crisis calls us, nonetheless, to act.  This spring is the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’ and the Global Catholic Climate Movement urges us all to “celebrate its vision and accelerate” society’s response.  The good news? Society is now waking up to the urgency of our situation. We still have choices and we must make them fiercely.

Can you fiercely decide that you will diminish the power of fossil fuels in your life to the greatest extent possible, though this extent may be different for each of us? Can we choose renewable energy in our utilities? (say with me, Yes, we can!) This is probably the single most powerful choice you can make to build clean energy.  Can we advocate for change and write our representatives?  Yes, we can.  Can we eat less meat and fly less often?  Can we think about the role and risks of fossil fuels in your own investments?  Can we walk those produce bags and toilet paper wrappings to CVS?  Can you find the best ways for you to reduce your carbon footprint and make it a promise to the future?

And because we remain finite, there is only one way to sanctify these promises. It is to sacrifice.  Sacrifice is not about suffering but is the holy and creative way to sanctify that which we love the most. None of us has infinite time and resources to do it all.

Sacrifice identifies one thing which is a lesser use of our time, resources, and energy, and sanctifies that energy instead to transforming our lives and our world. We can prioritize instead actions that are personally meaningful and that make a difference for creation and the global neighor.

Choosing to love our global neighbor and our common home takes a fierce fight and realistic prioritization.  As I read once, we’re not going to yoga our way through this.

But we are not alone.  Though God has granted us free will, even the mystifying freedom to damage the earth, God remains always the Creator.  As with the call to Abram, God can act anew in history to inspire and sustain us and we are God’s partners in co-creation. 

God’s infinite power can transform our limits and boundaries, and break open our finite pools of worry with the in-flooding rush of God’s consoling presence.

With your fierce love of our sister, Mother Earth, allow the infinite love of our creator to expand the power of your persistence in taking ever more faithful actions. Yes we can, because God is faithful to God’s promises and we are called, like Abram, to bring blessings to all the families of the earth, all our brother and sister creatures.

We have seen a foretaste of the fulfillment of God’s salvation history in the Transfiguration.

As Pope Francis writes, “Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light” (LS 221).
Let us take to heart the closing words of Laudato Si’, May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope, and Let us sing as we go.
245. God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. . . and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him!

Erin Lothes is a theologian at the College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ., and a graduate of Fordham University with a Ph.D. in systematic Theology. She holds a Master's in Theology from Boston College, and an A.B. in English from Princeton University. 
Dr. Lothes served as an Earth Institute Fellow at Columbia University, an interdisciplinary research post-doctorate in sustainability studies. She is the author of Inspired Sustainability: Planting Seeds for Action (Orbis 2016), The Paradox of Christian Sacrifice: The Loss of Self, the Gift of Self (Herder and Herder, 2007), and articles on theological energy ethics and faith-based environmentalism.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Boreta Singleton Has Something To Say

Readings Sunday Feb 2, 2020
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

We are fortunate to have the Feast of the Presentation fall on a Sunday this year. Otherwise known as “Candlemas Day,” it is a day when Roman Catholic parishes traditionally bless all of the candles they will use for the year.

We have varied relationships with candles. Christians encounter a candle at their Baptism. The minister says to the newly Baptized, “Receive the light of Christ….you are to walk always as a child of the light.”   Simeon and Anna in today’s Gospel understood what a blessing and challenge Jesus would be to us and indeed to the world.  I do believe that their faithfulness calls us to imitate them and find the light of Christ both in ourselves and in our world. 
I recently came across a story that I think illustrates this for me clearly. This is a story of a refugee camp in Idlib in Syria. Although I realize that we have many challenges here in our country regarding poverty and providing basic necessities, we are not living in a declared war zone.  This story is a reflection of the very real challenges that displaced persons face in our world each day. Yet, there is hope as these parents and their children search for the light.

On this Candlemas Day, receive the light of Christ once more. How do you walk as a child of the light with your family, friends, co-workers, or classmates?  How do you challenge the absence of light in our world? 
When I was teaching in Catholic elementary school, I once had a very troublesome student who I will call Bobby, who had been expelled from another Catholic school. He came to my classroom and was in serious trouble after a week. At lunch time he picked the lock to my classroom door, broke the lock to my desk and took back a toy that I had taken from him earlier in the day. When I was sure he would be expelled, the principal took me aside and explained that his home life was quite difficult. I was not happy, and his classmates were not happy with his misbehavior, but we muddled through the year, and when the next September rolled around, the principal asked me to move up with the same class. Bobby and I would be together for another year! I was quite unhappy. One day Bobby looked quite ill and I sent him to the nurse. He had a fever and begged the nurse not to call home. His cough was so severe that the nurse was concerned he would infect the remainder of the class.  Bobby was absent for three weeks and came back to school very disheveled and clearly injured and bruised.  It was then that we needed to involve Human Services and Bobby went into foster care for a short time.  He was much better behaved and polite in school. We survived the year and Bobby managed to graduate from our school and go on to the local Catholic high school. 

Bobby would visit his old school occasionally and thank me for my help.   When Bobby was a Junior, I received a phone call from one of his elementary school classmates that Bobby had died of a drug overdose. Every one of the 47 students in Bobby’s elementary class came to the Funeral Mass.  Bobby’s Mom tearfully thanked all of his teachers for helping him. For me, this incident demonstrates how Christ’s light, although sometimes dim, continues to shine on. Bobby’s classmates and I forgave him for his troubled behavior, and knew that his family needed support at the time of his death.  This story of brightness and shadows reminds me that just as Bobby lived in challenging times, he was able to keep the light of Christ burning for himself and shared that light as he was able with others.

Whether here in New York City or half-way around the world in Syria, the light of Christ continues to shine. Its brightness depends on you and me.   Resolve today to keep walking as a child of the light-- go light your world!

Boreta Singleton has been  a parishioner at St. Francis Xavier Parish  since 2003 and  is a member of the  choir, serves as a Spiritual Director in  the ISEL program and as a  liturgical minister.  She is  currently at St. Peter's Prep High School in Jersey City and ministers as  the Director of Faculty Formation.  Boreta lives in the Bronx, and sings with  The Ignatian Schola  and the chorus of  Choral Chameleon.   

Friday, September 13, 2019

Catherine Mikula Has Something To Say Homily for Sunday July 14th 2019

Hanging in my grandparents’ house are a number of small embroidered signs. In neat, script handwriting, brief sayings about life, family, love, and faith are sprinkled between photos and pictures, and I’ve been reading them since I was a kid. One in particular has become a touchstone for me over the years: “If God feels far away, who moved?” I thought about this question when I moved from my small, Catholic, liberal-arts college and the vibrant, close-knit faith-community I was a part of there to New York, where for a while I felt spiritually at sea. I thought about it when I began considering changing careers two years ago. I’ve thought about it as our church navigates the consequences of misguided leadership and clerical abuse.

And it kept coming up as I prayed with the readings today. I want to invite you to consider what we can learn about God’s nature in the inverse of that question – that God desires to be so close to us that we have to “move” in order to feel far. The first part of that sentence is the important part: God desires to be so close to us. And we hear Moses tell the people of God in our first reading that God is in such close proximity to us that God is already in our hearts and already in our words, not across the ocean or into the night sky. What does it mean to be loved by God so closely? How do we respond?

It’s safe to say the closest people in my life right now, geographically or otherwise, are my parents and my younger brother. Back in February, I moved from my apartment in Jersey City to their home in the suburbs, in anticipation of a move I’ll make next month to Boston to begin a master’s program in divinity. I saw my family with some regularity when I lived in the city, but this has obviously intensified since moving home. An hour away has become down the hall; and while it’s a lot easier to share my wins, my successes, my joys at the end of the day, it’s also a lot harder to hide my failures; the times I don’t say the right thing or do the right thing; the times when I drop the ball. They have front row seating to when I’m feeling hurt, upset, or angry. They sometimes bear the brunt of it. Sometimes I don’t want their support or their opinion or their love. Most of the time, they offer it anyway.

This is, in one sense, what it means to be loved by God who is already in our hearts, already in our words. It means we are living in close quarters with God and God is privy to everything; it means sharing our wins, our successes, our joys – and our failures. It means bringing what makes us upset or angry to the table and trusting that there is nothing that God cannot know about us. Indeed, nothing that God does not know about us. Loved closely by God, we are not able to keep the parts of ourselves that we are less proud of neatly tucked away. The love God has for us invites us to bring our whole selves into proximity with God.

What happens when we do that? When we wholly accept the invitation to closeness with God, who has rooted God’s self so nearly to each of us that God holds the very depths of our hearts, we are changed. Our priorities shift, our sense of self expands. The only option we have upon knowing and embracing the close love of God is Love then poured out. Love in action. Love in mercy and compassion, Love that enables us to stop on our way and help someone on the side of the road, regardless of rules or cost or inconvenience or receiving something in return. Love in justice, Love in kindness, Love of planet and home and creation, and Love in a meal, which we’ll share together today. 

We are continually called into closeness with God, so that by our lives – by our Love lived out – we may more fully love the Lord our God with all our heart, our being, our strength, our and mind. And that we may be reminded that we belong to one another. 

Catherine Mikula is from the greater New York area, where she’s lived since graduating from the College of the Holy Cross in 2014. She worked at the Random House Publishing Group before joining the COPD Foundation. Catherine is a member of Contemplative Leaders in Action’s New York Cohort, the Ignatian Schola, and Xavier Bible Study. She will move to Boston in the fall to pursue a Master of Divinity at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ritamary Bradley Has Something To Say Feast of the Assumption Aug 15th 2019


My soul is a glass: gaze and see
How great is Mother God.
And my spirit sings out in joy,
For Mercy has come to save.
For the One who is Mighty has taken flesh in me.
Holy is Wisdom.
Holy is that Wisdom that shall be born
and called Emmanuel.
Yes, my soul is a glass:
Gaze and see how great is our Mother God.
My spirit sings out in joy
for the Mercy who comes to save.
Because I mirror the motherhood
of the one who gives me birth.
Yes. From this day forward
all who are born of woman may call me full of joy.
For the Mighty One has done great things to me.
And holy is that Wisdom
which is before all things,
That Mercy reaching from age to age
to all who reverence her.
Power is in the arm that shelters and embraces me.
Routed shall be the proud of heart.
Down from their thrones shall princes fall,
while the lowly learn that the least are greatest.
Mother God will give her breast to those who hunger,
and the rich shall go away with parched tongues.
Darkness will blot out the pageantry of power.
Light will fall on the path of those
who escape from the snare.

-Ritamary Bradley

Ritamary Bradley (1916–2000)
She joined the Congregation of the Humility of Mary of Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1933, and in 1972, the Sisters for Christian Community. She graduated from Marygrove College in Detroit, Mich., in 1938 and received her doctorate in English from St. Louis University in 1953. After teaching at Marycrest College from 1940 to 1956, she joined the English department at St. Ambrose in 1965, and was professor emerita at the time of her death. A prolific writer, she co-founded Fourteenth-Century English Mystics Newsletter, now Mystics Quarterly, and was its editor from 1975-1991. In addition to dozens of journal articles, she published two books, in 1992 and 1995, on the 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich.