Last Sunday the Gospel about Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4:5-42) was proclaimed at my parish. (We used the reading from Year A since we have six people entering the church. Other parishes may have used the Year C Gospel, Luke 13:1-9). This reading overflows with good news that "true worship" is not found in any building or cult but in the hearts of believers who worship God "in Spirit and in Truth." Sadly, clueless preachers frequently turn this Gospel into bad news, especially for women.
Lately I've been thinking about corruption. Maybe it's because we're in the season of Lent. Or perhaps it comes of seeing "The Big Short," a based-on-a-true-story movie about the 2008 meltdown of the housing market. Unscrupulous real estate companies sold millions of subprime mortgages to clueless buyers for homes they couldn't afford. Then greedy bankers bundled and sold the doomed loans to other entities that turned around and sold them yet again.
Traditionally the third week of January (January 18-25) is devoted to prayers for Christian unity. For over 100 years the World Prayer for Christian Unity has invited Christian denominations of every stripe to pray for closer union. Not long ago, I found myself longing for the day when our prayers will finally lead to Eucharistic table sharing. Here's the story.
Several weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting Nadiah Mohajir, a Muslim-American woman who spoke after a Chicago screening of "Radical Grace," a documentary about Catholic sisters working for justice. For over five years, Nadiah has provided health education programming to over 2,000 Muslim women and girls in the Chicagoland area and cities across the country.
For the past several months I've been attending various film festivals in the U.S. and Canada in support of the award-winning documentary "Radical Grace." I am one of three sisters the film tracks as we traversed the scary terrain of the "nunquisition" -- the Vatican's six year investigation of U.S. sisters that finally ended favorably for us last spring.
Simply Spirit - "What is needed now . . . is a gospel-inspired boldness that refuses to be silent and speaks out in a strong, loving voice to call the church to justice." So spoke Sheila Peiffer quoting the late Bill Callahan when she introduced a panel presentation Survivor Justice and Ending Violence Against Women, at the Women's Ordination Worldwide conference last month.
Pope Francis' visit left me with a welter of conflicting feelings. I am proud of U.S. Catholicism and awed by the monumental organizing of dedicated church women and men in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City. They skillfully orchestrated Francis' much-desired engagement with the poor as well as the politically powerful. And I bemoaned the glaringly persistent visuals of a Catholic liturgy woefully lacking gender balance.
Though I don't particularly like celebrity hoopla, I am following Pope Francis’ visit to the United States with heightened interest. I'm glad our pope is spending so much time with poor folk during his time here. In Washington, he will visit with homeless families and check out St. Maria's meals, a volunteer food truck operation that hands out hot meals to mostly Spanish-speaking day laborers.
Every once in a while something really special comes across my inbox. Recently a friend who teaches theology, "Margie," sent me this story about her 5-year-old daughter Olive. For kindergarten homework, Olive was assigned to draw pictures of things that begin with the letter "G." When she came home she proudly displayed drawings of a ghost, a garage and her grandpa. But a fourth picture was not so easily identifiable, so my friend asked Olive what it was supposed to be.
Last Saturday I returned from visiting friends in Philadelphia where city officials just announced massive new security measures for Pope Francis' late September visit. A new fence is being constructed that will surround large swaths of central city venues where the Pope will appear. No automobiles are permitted, causing major inconvenience to residents and restaurant workers alike. Public transit tickets are only available by lottery and attendees are being warned to expect long walks and electronic screenings. All city schools and government offices will be closed.