Some Reflections on Recent Events for All Saints and All Souls Days

First we have a reflection of John Brock who attended Ecclesia-Street Church Ministry’s “Come and See”-an annual retreat/ holy gathering for those who do street ministry and serve the poorest. It is a beautiful reflection about creating safe and holy space for worship and reflection with those we serve.

By John Brock-Reflection  11/1/14
“I plowed to unearth last years’s reasons–the farmer plows to plant a greening season.
From “The Harrowing” by Parker Palmer

A reflection on leaving a weekend shared with fellow street chaplains. pastors, and priests.

We use the phrase “safe container” to include ritual, church walls, community, presence, shrines, prayer, companionship, vigils, sunrise, and many more. It’s a phrase that means a “space” where there is no fear of the bottomlessness of existence. Often it’s an intentionally entered, liminal space that the leaders and the participants enter together, without fear, into the mystery of kairos, time experienced without measure. There is trust in the path. Leaders have walked that way before. Others find confidence in the leaders’ presence.

In that space the divine is enterally present in living sense of being. Entering that space is entering into creation itself; the physical presence of creation and act of creation united as one. There is seldom a sudden breaking of time and space, seldom a miraculous revelation of an objective, extraordinary divinity. More often there is a quiet opening to the living manifestation of divinity within the daily bread of life.

In those eternal moments there is no need for fear, no desire for measured control. Whatever baggage there is to carry ceases to be important. Resentment fades to forgiveness; worry shifts to hope; anger to resolve; fear to love; distant goals to present action.

This is the work we do. As leaders we walk in this space as an invitation for others to join us.

This is not new. Leaders over the centuries have moved this way. As we do now. In the Christian tradition we look to leaders such as Mary the mother of Jesus, the apostle Paul, Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, George Fox, and Thomas Merton. Other traditions have their leaders as well. All say simply, using their own language and terms, “There is no need to move or wait. God is not out there. God is right here, right now.”

THEN we have the Good News about Roman Catholic Women Priests from a South African Perspective.

Printed online in Mail and Guardian   10/31/14 by Mbuyiselo Botha:

Patriarchy Must Be Defrocked

Women priests who defy Catholic doctrine and demand equality should be applauded

A few weeks ago, Mary Ryan became the second South African woman to be ordained as a Catholic priest. The Catholic Church does not, of course, acknowledge this ordination.

In fact, in 2007, the Vatican declared that even attempting to ordain women would lead to excommunication, the harshest punishment the church leadership can mete out.

But Ryan and her colleagues bravely persisted.

Patricia Fresen, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and the first South African woman to become a Catholic priest, oversaw Ryan’s ordination ceremony, during which she said: “In South Africa in particular we know that the only way to change an unjust law is to break it. And that is what we are doing today.”

Roman Catholic Womenpriests is a growing movement that began in Austria and Germany in 2002 and now includes more than 180 female priests in 10 countries. These efforts should be applauded.

Even in South Africa, the Catholic Church stands out as a space where patriarchy is entrenched.

Women are not allowed to serve as priests because they are supposed to operate in “separate spheres” from men, in “different but complementary roles” to which they are suited because of their “nature” as women.

As South Africans well know, “separate but equal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

According to the Catholic Church, the priesthood isn’t just a role: it involves an “indelible spiritual character” that women somehow don’t possess.

The argument that Jesus was a man and therefore only men can be priests is hardly convincing.

Though there are many tomes describing and defending the theological roots of these arguments, it is hard to get past the fact that this kind of discrimination flies in the face of many of the church’s other teachings about equality and humanity.

Practices such as excluding women from the Catholic priesthood are not just matters of concerns because they are inherently discriminatory and unfair. Patriarchal culture breeds sexual abuse and violence, as we have seen in the church’s recent child abuse scandals, and as we see every day in South Africa.

The writer Amanda Marcotte summarised this concern well when she wrote that, although many were shocked when the child abuse scandals broke, “for feminists, the pattern of silencing victims and letting rapists roam free didn’t surprise us at all”.

“In patriarchal societies, letting the rapists off and revictimising the victims is standard operating procedure. The Catholic Church is even more patriarchal than society at large and, unsurprisingly, that made the problem of rapist-coddling and victim-silencing even worse.”

Despite growing Catholic support for the use of birth control, gay marriage and even women priests, the Vatican has made it clear that the Church is not and will not become a democracy.

The movement of women priests thus raises challenging questions. Can one be a Catholic and a feminist? Can or should religious institutions be truly democratic?

These questions have been written about and fiercely debated for decades – for centuries in some cases.

Regardless of where you stand on the matter of female priests, these women should be applauded for bravely standing up to express their beliefs in the face of patriarchal forces that too often silence any discussion.

The Catholic Church has a rich history of social teachings. Many of its core messages focus on loving and uplifting the oppressed, the excluded, the vulnerable and weak. Pope Francis should be applauded for trying to revive the church’s focus on these kinds of messages. He has spoken passionately about the dangers of limitless capitalism, climate change and gay-bashing.

Yes, let’s regulate markets so they don’t ravage the poor and let’s take care of the environment. But why not also take a hard look in the mirror at some of the church’s most basic practices?

Pope Francis has, in many ways, been the answer to progressive Catholics’ prayers; hence, many were disappointed with his statement last year that “the door is closed” on the idea of women priests.

Yet, as we know in the struggle for women’s equality, “the door is closed” should be the beginning of the conversation, not the end of it.

Mbuyiselo Botha is the media liaison manager of Sonke Gender Justice.

AND, in the same Mail and Guardian we have two Reflections on Pope Francis and his impact on current thought:

Gay rights: Is the pope still Catholic?

24 OCT 2014 00:00 JOHN HOOPER

Italy’s leaders and the Vatican are battling to close the gap between church doctrine and modern life.

Despite protests outside the city hall Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino (centre) binds Tommaso Giartosio (left) and Gianfranco Goretti in marriage. (AFP)

Italy would not be Italy if it did not reflect faithfully the divisions that have brought turmoil to the leadership of the Catholic Church.

Last Saturday, as the Vatican was revealing that conservative bishops had blocked a distinctly guarded welcome to “men and women of homosexual tendencies”, 16 gay couples whose marriages abroad had just been registered by the mayor of Rome were being hustled out through a back exit of the city hall to avoid a clash with protesters.

Pope Francis and Italy’s centre-left prime minister, Matteo Renzi, are following remarkably similar paths. Just as the Argentinian pontiff is striving to close the gap between his church’s doctrine and the realities of modern life, so Renzi is striving to update the laws of a country where attitudes have changed rapidly.

In 2012, an extensive government survey found sharp contrasts about homosexuality among Italians. A quarter of the respondents regarded it as an illness. Half agreed that the best thing for gay people was “not to tell others”. Yet almost two-thirds felt homosexuals in partnerships should have the same rights as married couples. A recent poll suggested a majority of Italians now favoured the introduction of gay marriage.

Yet the Italian Constitution continues to recognise the family as “a natural society founded on matrimony”, and the partners in civil unions, whether hetero- or homosexual, have no legal status. Leaving aside small states such as Monaco, Italy is the only country in western Europe that still holds this position. Even fervently Catholic Malta has passed legislation to give legal status to civil unions.

“In Italy, we still lack even the most fundamental entitlements,” said Domenico Pasqua, one of the men whose marriages were recognised on Saturday. “For example, you have no right to see your partner in hospital if the family objects.”

Life-and-death decisions can be taken by relatives on behalf of a patient from whom they have been estranged while the patient’s partner is kept in the dark. If the patient dies, the partner will not inherit the home they bought together.

“A 50% share goes to the family, and the surviving partner, who is legally a third party, must pay 30% inheritance tax on the rest,” said Fabrizio Marrazzo, the president of Arcigay, Italy’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lobby group.

Pressure for change has been mounting since July when the mayor of Naples gave official recognition to the marriage of an Italian man and his Spanish partner. Since then a string of other first citizens have followed his example. “But what has happened in Rome is more important, both because it is the capital and because of the presence of the Vatican,” said Marrazzo.

Renzi’s reaction was to declare that he would table a Bill to legalise civil unions. But he added that it would have to take its place behind constitutional reform and a new electoral law.

Political dynamite
Civil unions are still political dynamite. The Vatican’s opposition to a similar Bill hastened the downfall of Romano Prodi’s centre-left government in 2008. Renzi is in a weaker position, dependent for his survival on the New Centre Right (NCD), led by Angelino Alfano, his interior minister.

The protest outside the city hall was organised by the NCD. Alfano’s ministerial representative in Rome, the prefect Giuseppe Pecoraro, told the daily Il Messaggero that “the registration of those marriages must be cancelled. I shall be annulling everything on Monday.”

Across the Tiber on Sunday, Pope Francis was celebrating a mass to close the synod and beatify Paul VI, the pope who presided over the later stages of the reforming Second Vatican Council. In his sermon, Francis quoted his predecessor: “By carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods … to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society.”

For Marrazzo, the outcome of the synod was not a defeat. The number of bishops who voted in favour of the passage in the final report that called for gay people to be “welcomed with respect and delicacy” may have fallen short of the two-thirds necessary for official approval, but nevertheless represented a clear majority – 118 out of 180.

“That puts [the synod] ahead of the Italian Parliament, where there has never even been a majority for a law against homophobia, let alone one for civil unions,” he said. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

Pope Francis: Evolution and Creation Both Right    Mail and Guardian, Guardian Reporter

It is possible to believe in evolution and the Catholic Church’s teaching on creation, Pope Francis has said, as he cautioned against portraying God as a kind of magician who made the universe with a magic wand.

“The big bang, which is today posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creation; rather, it requires it,” the pope said in an address to a meeting at the pontifical academy of sciences.

“Evolution of nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation because evolution presupposes the creation of beings, which evolve.”

Pope Francis (77) said it was easy to misinterpret the creation story as recounted in the Book of Genesis, according to which God created heaven and Earth in six days and rested on the seventh.

“When we read the creation story in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining that God was a magician, with a magic wand that is able to do everything,” he said.

“But it is not so. He created beings and let them develop according to internal laws, which He gave every one, so they would develop, so they would reach maturity.”

Although the pope was packaging the ideas with his trademark eye for a soundbite, the content of what he was saying does not mark a break with Catholic teaching, which has modified considerably since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Popes before him have also said that – with certain provisos – there is no incompatibility between evolution and God as divine creator. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

AND,FINALLY I missed this June 8th Article about Pope Francis Hosting a Prayer for Israeli -Palestinian Peace-a topic that  remains of critical importance.

Pope Hosts Israeli-Palestine Prayer to Foster Dialogue

Pope Francis on Sunday hosted an unprecedented joint peace prayer in the Vatican with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in a symbolic gesture aimed at fostering dialogue.

Abbas said he hoped the event in the Vatican Gardens at 1700 GMT, which will include Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers and the planting of an olive tree by all three leaders, would “help Israel decide”.

“The pope’s invitation was courageous,” Abbas said in an interview with the La Repubblica daily. “With this prayer we are sending a message to all believers of the three major religions and the others: the dream of peace must not die,” he said.

Peres, who is 90 years old and will be stepping down as president next month, was quoted by his office as saying on Sunday: “The spiritual call [for peace] is very important and affects reality.

“I hope the event will contribute to promoting peace between the two sides and throughout the world,” he said, adding that the conflict is “both political and religious” and “religious leaders resonate”.

‘Unusual call for peace’
He defined it “an unusual call for peace”. Tensions are running high between the two sides following the formation of a new Palestinian unity government backed by the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel has since announced plans for building 3 200 new settler homes and has said it will boycott what it denounces as a “government of terror”.

Peres said the Palestinian unity government was “a contradiction that can’t last very long” but Abbas defended it saying : “One should never reject a chance for dialogue, internally as well.” The Vatican is being realistic about the ceremony, which is unlikely to have any immediate effect.

“Nobody is fooling themselves that peace will break out in the Holy Land,” said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the head of the Franciscan Order in the Middle East who is organising the historic event.

“But this time to stop and breathe has been absent for some time,” he told reporters at a briefing, adding: “Not everything is decided by politics.”

Francis made the offer to Abbas and Peres on his first visit as pontiff to the Middle East last month and ahead of the meeting on Sunday he reiterated his call for a Catholic Church able to “shake things up”.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Speaking to thousands of followers in St Peter’s Square, Francis pointed to the two colonnades around the plaza and said they were like “two arms which open to welcome but do not close again to imprison”.

Francis earlier admitted it would be “crazy” to expect any Vatican mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but said prayer might help. In a tweet from the pope’s @pontifex account on Saturday, Francis said: “Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world.”

The Vatican has defined the meeting as an “invocation for peace” but has stressed it will not be an “inter-religious prayer”, which would have posed problems for the three faiths. Peres is set to arrive at 1615 GMT followed shortly later by Abbas, with Francis welcoming them outside St Martha’s Residence where he lives in the Vatican.

In the Vatican Gardens, the prayers will be recited in chronological order of the world’s three main monotheistic religions, starting with Judaism, followed by Christianity and then Islam. The prayers from each of the three will focus on “creation”, “invocation for forgiveness” and “invocation for peace” and will be read in Arabic, English, Hebrew and Italian, the Vatican said.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim professor Omar Abboud, two friends of Francis’s from Buenos Aires who travelled with him and prayed together on his trip to the Middle East will also attend. The Vatican said the event, which has been carefully planned in detail, was “a pause from politics”.

Friday was ruled out since it is a Muslim holy day and Saturday for the same reason for the Jewish community, while Sunday is Pentecost for Catholics – a day of celebration of the Holy Spirit considered appropriate for the event. The choice of the Vatican Gardens as a location is also significant since it was considered the most neutral territory within the Vatican City, with none of the Christian iconography that might be seen as offensive to the other two faiths. – AFP

The golden threads running through these reflections are love, justice, inclusion and peace. May these be our prayers on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, so that those who died holding on to these threads may rejoice!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee 

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