On this Holy Saturday we go with the women to the grave. We pray. We mourn. We do not yet experience hope or understand anything about resurrection. We are in darkness before the light dawns. For many fearing and experiencing the swift sword of the COVID-19 virus and the unexpected loss of our dearest ones it is Holy Saturday. World-wide in this pandemic, not just in our own spheres, it is Holy Saturday. We pray for them today, and all who serve them with love and care. For the many losing loved ones to the ravages of war and hunger and thirst throughout the world, we pray. For the many who lose loved ones to a realm of natural illnesses not yet vanquished by knowledge of prevention and cure, we pray. For all with cancer,Alzheimers’ disease,and other life altering and life threatening illnesses, we pray. For all who don’t know You and the Light and Healing You bring, we pray. For all who know no Easter, no rising from the dead, we pray.
In Pope Francis’ Holy Saturday Homily today he said that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb at dawn (Matthew 28:1-10) and the huge stone in front of the grave was so dramatically rolled back they were given a message of the greatest HOPE. First, they were told not to be afraid. That is a clear message for us today, here and now too-Do not be afraid. Then they were told that the crucified Jesus they were seeking was not there-“He has been raised just as he said”. By now they must have been in total shock and awe, but they were invited to “Come and see the place where He lay”. They were then told to hurry and go and tell the other disciples that he has been raised from the dead and goes before them to Galilee where they will see Him. And you know the women did RUN and they did become the first apostles telling the Good News that Jesus was raised from the dead! He also said that the fact that Jesus went to Galilee was so important. Galilee was not the heart of Jerusalem it was often called Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was leading them to go tell EVERYONE, that Jesus rose and because He rose from the dead they too, no matter who they are, can live-now and forever! The message of the empty grave, of the cross and resurrection is a message of HOPE-death does NOT have the last word-Amen!
For those for whom the cross, and its meaning as the gateway to life, remains covered we pray.
With all who keep vigil today waiting for Easter, we pray.
For all who have gone to their Easter and live in Your Light and love forever, we pray. And we ask them now to pray for us.
For our own Easter, our own rising from the bonds of death, now and forever, we pray.
Here is a link to my earlier blog that tells about the beautiful Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Service and pictorially illustrates its sequences and meanings:
May the light and love of Easter break through for you this night.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
It is hard to be alone as we walk through this Holy Week with Jesus. A most moving part of celebrating Holy Week is the communal celebrations of Holy Thursday and Good Friday and reaching the pinnacle and joy of Easter together after sharing the pain and Jesus’ teachings on the days before as Jesus makes his ways to the cross. This year because of the coronavirus-COVID-19 we can only do this together virtually and solely in our own devotions and meditations. So many of us sit alone with Jesus on these days determined not to “fall asleep” as Jesus prays. Many are attending church by zoom and other social media. Many churches and radio and TV stations such as EWTN enable us to participate when we can not be physically with our own worship communities. And we can continue to share our Reflections of the day in our blogs and other communications. So here I will share some of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community’s activities in earlier Holy Thursday and Holy Week Celebrations and my reflections and that of other Roman Catholic women priests. As you sit at prayer and with your Bibles and devotional readings it may help to include some of these reflections.
Today we have reached the first of the three days of the “Holy Triduum”- the three days leading up to his death,entombment,and resurrection. It is
Holy Thursday-where we accompany Jesus through his “last supper”-having Passover with the disciples, including his washing of the disciples feet,(and thanks to a friend’s phone call- I make clear that I believe it likely that all of the disciples were there including the women who loved and followed Jesus and his mother Mary, Peter’s wife and the other wives and children); his sharing of the bread and wine at the Passover supper-to become his body and blood of the new covenant;and later his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as his disciples slept and the betrayer and soldiers came. (John Chapter 13 and Matthew 26:36-56.)
In the Holy Week 2020 Living With Christ Joe Gunn writes about following Jesus’ example (p.88). “In a gesture pregnant with meaning just before the highly significant Passover meal, Jesus totally disrupted the traditional expectations of his time and culture. He stunned his disciples by insisting on serving them in the most deferential of ways: washing their feet. This deepest measure of service for others is how we must also prepare ourselves for the Easter Triduum. Pope Francis has understood Jesus message. The Supreme Pontiff shocked the world by visiting a Roman jail on this high feast day. He then kissed the feet of young prisoners. He bent the liturgical arc of this teaching moment precisely by washing the feet of those who were never previously included in such ceremonies: two women and several Muslims…Whom should we kneel before and try to heal on this Holy Thursday?” If we can not do it in person perhaps we can make a call or reach out in some fashion and symbolically wash feet until an in person opportunity is present.
Here are two links to my earlier reflections on Holy Thursday:
A blessed Holy Thursday to all,
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
Dear Pope Francis,
Women Priests are already here, and speaking for myself, we love and respect you (for so many reasons including those noted below*). You are courageous and leading our church back to where it began with Jesus and to the simplicity of where it ought to be,standing with the least among us as Jesus did and challenging the religious who have ossified in their beliefs. But we must ask you to consider again your position on women. The Gospel for Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent is about Jesus healing the man born blind John 9:1-41). As we accept that we are all sometimes like the religious leaders of the time it is also about our blindness, our blind-spots. Humbly I suggest that as well as you see,and seeing, shed light on us, your blind-spot on women is showing particularly in your recent response to the Amazonian Synod. Below I share a letter from our Roman Catholic Women Priest Bishops world-wide. Please consider it strongly and with your heart.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP, Fort Myers, Florida
(The RCWP Bishops Letter follows some of the reasons we hold you in such high esteem. I could not just cut and paste but a link is provided).
*There are so many reasons to love Pope Francis and his teachings. His emphasis on Bishops and Priests and Pastors having the “smell of the sheep” on them, in other words remaining close to their flocks, knowing them, loving them, hearing them, serving WITH them, is a light in darkness for us. Similarly his emphasis on the wealth of the church being its people and serving its people, especially those without means and those on the margins, and not amassing silver and gold shines the light on some of the core values of the church hijacked in ostentatious materialism. His revulsion of the history of sexual abuse and recent “solutions” to this are also so important to the survival of the church. And his recent response to the Amazonian synod is likewise noteworthy, except for his traditional response to women where he keeps us separate in service which is, as we have well learned, never just or equal.)
The following statement by the Roman Catholic Women Priest Bishops serves to challenge Pope Francis to risk more displeasure of some in the Vatican, in the church, of Opus Dei and ultra conservative critics and come aboard with his sister priests who are already serving alongside him and their brother priests.
When you click on this link (line below) a download will appear on your screen, bottom left. You can then open it and read the strong letter from the RCWP Bishops.
Nations Are Judged By Treatment Of the Most Vulnerable: A Lenten Meditation by a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Readers of all faiths and no particular faith are invited to take a deep breath, exhale slowly and focus on our world and our country at this point in time. Focus on what is right and beautiful and focus on what is ugly and unjust, on the “haves and have-nots” and on those trying hard to have, to share, and to build a just Nation. You may be surprised when I say that the coinciding of Lent in the Christian tradition and the U.S. Presidential Primaries and debates DO have something in common. I will try to draw some of those commonalities here. This is at risk of alienating those who are sick of politics and promises loosely made and rarely kept. But it is also necessary and hopeful in encouraging the connections between what we value and believe in the Scriptures and applying it not only individually but as a National entity.
My ears and my whole being perked up in the recent Democratic TV debate when two of the candidates, not totally in sync with one another, quoted similar scriptures when asked their favorite quotes: Elizabeth Warren quoted Matthew 25: 40 in the King James version ” Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me”. (Or in The Priests for Equality Inclusive Bible (TIB): “…the truth is , every time you did this for the least of my sisters or brothers, you did it for me”. And the corollary is Matthew 25:45 ” “The truth is, as often as you neglected to do this to the least of these,you neglected to do it to me…. only the just will go off to eternal life.”) And Pete Buttigeig quoted the Golden rule. “You should love your neighbor as yourself”. And each of the other candidates without quoting scripture made points about how they would make policy and or program provision for the “least of these”, including the homeless, the sick, particularly those without money, and children and youth seeking education as well as daily breakfast and immigrants and migrants. These aspirations for the Nation were very much in line with the Golden rule and Matthew 25, with or without saying so. All were hopeful for a new day for the underserved and those for whom racism, classism and gender inequality have taken its toll. Sure, the “devil is in the details” and the details of all plans and hopes need work, but at least the start of such altruistic aspirations and plans were good to hear.
As it is now, under the current Administration, where would the USA stand in the Matthew 25 “judgement of the sheep and the goats?” To provide context-this is where Jesus frames the scene as a judgement of nations, of countries while we often apply it only to our individual lives, thereby getting only a part of the point being made. Not only do we singly have to measure up to the “rule of love,” but our country, our nation needs to do so as a Nation, as well. Matthew 25:32 states: “All the nations will be brought before him, and as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,so will he do with them, placing the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”- and those who do not feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers into their homes/nations-house the stranger and the homeless- and clothe the naked and visit/take care of the sick and imprisoned will be considered the “just” and will be gathered in with the good sheep. Moreover in doing so the nation and individual that does these kind and merciful things is actually doing those acts of kindness as if God stood there before them as a hungry, thirsty, outsider/stranger in need of a home, a doctor, and a welcome. So, how does the USA as a Nation do with the application of the “Golden Rule” that Jesus emphasizes (Matthew 25:31-46)? This “Rule” actually originates in the Hebrew Tradition in Leviticus 191-2,11-18 ending with “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
These scriptural passages were in yesterdays, March 2nd 2020 Lenten meditations. And in today’s Lenten meditation Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth. (In context this is God’s will for justice, especially for the poor and most vulnerable). While today’s Psalm 34 reminds us that ” When the poor one cried out, the Lord heard…The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry…and is close to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit.” Too often we make this about our individual emotional or spiritual states but I close my eyes and see parents and children being separated, torn apart, at the US-Mexico border and people dying on the arduous journey to the closed door they thought represented freedom and safety. And, in keeping with our Good Shepherd’s Ministry to the homeless and poorest among us, I shrink at the numbers of people of all ages still living in the streets in the USA.
How does the USA enact and operationalize this precious Golden rule? How do we as a Nation include the interests of the most vulnerable in our policies and programs? How do the Presidential candidates enliven and enact this rule in their own lives as well as in their proposed or actual programs, policies and actions? While we are sick of political disappointments and may want to pull back-this is the time to energize to do the opposite. To find the best of the very human candidates to vote for- and to do it, and help others to get out and vote as well. Not to say,”I’m not voting-there is no one I like”. That simply leaves the decision to someone else who may not want to live the Golden rule in this time of great greed and lack of global and environmental awareness. It means assigning the environment and all of its creatures to the needs of the greedy to get more. We need instead to look forward to Spring in this winter of discontent. To embrace the new growth that can surely happen.
To quote Sr. Chris Koellhoffer,IHM in http://www.livingwithchrist.us the word “Lent” derives from a word meaning Springtime. It evokes the feeling of seeing the new purpleblue crocus poking its head through the ice and snow as winter recedes, or the sheer beauty of a Spring day. While in many climates winter seems cold , iced over,barren and permanent, it is not. The cycle or spiral of life is still underneath and moves forward and makes itself known, sometimes when we need it most. Sr. Chris asks that we enter into this liturgical Springtime with deep listening to the word of God in the Scriptures and with “deep faith in God’s creative power to bring forth life in every heart,in every corner of our world”. Lent is traditionally a time of thoughtful and deep meditation with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. That is ,we take stock of ourselves and our shortcomings, and this can include of our Country and its shortcomings held up to the light of the Scriptures, and we fast from anything that would be unhealthy for us spiritually , as well as physically, and with a smile on our faces not a “woe is me” for trying to change something difficult with our “fasts” and prayers, we then ACT in compassion for justice and peace. And we do this in a million small ways right where we are. And those ways now need to include making wise political decisions and holding those decisions up to the light of the scriptures, and to the light of day.
The Network federation of Sisters religious (famous for the nuns on the bus and their lifegiving, including, political activities) have a website that can inspire and guide us in this direction. Here is a link to their Network Advocates and an article about Spirit-Filled Voting that is challenging and clear. https://www.networkadvocates.org/spiritfilledvoters/listening/ Also http://www.votecommongood.com Sister Emily TeKloste of the Network Lobby for Catholic Soical Justice teaches us to Listen First, then Act. What good advice! And there are so many coalitions of interfaith religious, and of secular groups to save the environment or assist migrants and refugees, and coalitions of people who work for getting out the vote, there is a place for every one of us to get involved in making something new happen.
So for Lent, this year do something, anything, and DO the most you can do to enact justice and make sure our Nation does the same!
Blessings and love as Lent continues on to the Cross and YES, to the Rising up from the dead!
For the “least of these”,
Pastor Judy Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP, DMin, DSW, MS
While, we, Roman Catholic Women Priests already do exist, we are validly ordained but “illicit”. Like the Episcopalian women who stepped out and were validly ordained for the Episcopal church in the 1970’s we hope that we are a wedge that will open the door for women’s Ordination within the Roman Catholic Church. It worked for that small group of Episcopal women priests, will it work for us within the Roman Catholic Church? It will have to, for that is where we are firmly planted, not starting “something new”. Many of us say, “well, probably not in my lifetime, but it will work- women will be both validly AND legally ordained within the Roman Catholic Church”. From seven validly women ordained on the Danube river in 2002, and the three women Bishops validly ordained by a male bishop in good standing in the following year, now there are over 265 Roman Catholic Women Priests and the number grows steadily. Yet, it is still the RC Church that must make a move to make it happen “legally” for both women and married priests.
Here is an article from another blog site that gives some hope for the present time.
Dr. Maike Hickson, blogger and author of A Catholic Witness in Our TIme has written this article entitled “Ban on Female Priests Not A Dogma-Says Key Amazon Synod Organizer” This is about Bishop Erwin Krautler who also sites the work of Bishop Fritz Lobinger regarding hopes to ordain married male priests and women as priests. Krautler,retired ArchBishop of Xingu, Brazil knows all too well that millions of people all over the world are not being served by any priest and that ordaining well prepared local people (male and female) would be an answer to this travesty. In March of 2018 Bishop Krautler met with Pope Francis who encouraged him to “make bold proposals” in the Amazon Synod that will begin on October 6th in QRome. It appears that Krautler has done this and we can only pray that our beloved Francis, for such he is to those who love his take on social justice and the Gospel, and others in high places will be open to hearing these bold proposals about ordination. We look forward to the Amazon Synod and pray for open ears and eyes to receive it.
Here is the link to the excellent article by Dr. Maike Hickson on Lifesite News.
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee
Our Good Shepherd Ministries and the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers continues to exist and flourish in its 12th year despite the many recent events and changes over the years. Pastor Judy Lee continues as Pastor with Pastor Marina Teresa who generously gives her able assistance in shepherding the flock. While we lost our co-founder and co-Pastor Judy Beaumont on January 1, 2018, her spirit remains with us and guides us still.
I recently visited one of our members since 2007, Lauretta Rasmussen who is in the hospital with advanced cancer. She was in good spirits and told me immediately that she was happy to see me, and that Pastor Judy B. was already there with her. I had no doubt of that as Pastor Judy had a special relationship with Lauretta not only as Pastor but as Rep Payee for many years. It was Lauretta who had presented her to the bishop for her diaconate Ordination in 2011 and stood by her side with Judy’s sister Jill Bergner and others at her priestly Ordination in 2012. So today we ask your prayers for Lauretta and God’s blessings upon her. Below Lauretta is worshipping with us in 2018.
While over 17 of our original members who were formerly homeless and some of our supporters as well have gone home to their loving God in the past few years our congregation remains vital and committed to serving God and one another and all of their neighbors. This church of the poor and not poor together comes in all colors, cultures,sexual orientations, ages and states of life. We are united in the love and service of Christ. It is such a blessing to be one with them.
We have come together to worship several times this year. Each time 30-40 of our members squeeze into Pastor Marina’s centrally located home to worship, to pray, to share a meal and to celebrate birthdays and many other life events.
The pictures below taken by Maya Rismay Cummings are from our church gathering on August 31st, 2019. Pastor Judy Lee presided, with Pastor Marina Teresa and our special Lector Joelle White who read to us about “Mother God” from Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Oliver’s Heart Talks with Mother God for the Children’s sermon. After spirited worship where the Gospel for the day, Luke 14: 1,7-14 has Jesus telling us to invite EVERYONE to the Table we also blessed and celebrated those with Birthdays, and return to school and those coping with illnesses. The “Birthdays” were Quayschaun Crews, Brenda Cummings and Jolinda Terrell as well as our beloved deceased Linda Maybin, mother of Quay and Jolinda and four others present as well as her mother Jolinda Harmon and her nieces and two grandchildren also present. Maya Rismay Cummings was joyfully returning for her last semester at FGCU and Natasha Terrell will be continuing courses at FSW College while Joelle White and Ni’yah Battles were returning to Middle School and Keion Lewis to High School, and we also had Courtney Bolt starting First Grade and Zee Tobias in the third grade. Special healing prayer was also given to those battling cancer and other life threatening illnesses. Those who were left out in Jesus day were the maimed, the blind, the lame, the ill, and the poor. Sometimes people with “disabilities” and the poor are still left out today as well as those of the LGBTQ community and people of different lands and cultures and languages, especially those from Hispanic and Muslim countries. Sadly racism still exists. We prayed to learn to include everyone in our lives and in the church of Christ. No one is to be left out.
As I write this I am particularly thankful to those churches where Roman Catholic Women Priests serve and have served that continue to send us spiritual and material support and also to the individuals who tithe with us and remember us in so many ways with prayer and material help. In this year, 2019, Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community in Newton, New Jersey renewed its quarterly giving while Sophia and Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota and Living Waters Inclusive Catholic Community in Maryland gave sustaining gifts to our fund to assist one dear member on a fixed income who is battling advanced cancer with her basic needs. The response to this need from individuals as well will take this member up to January in her rent and for other needs. The response overwhelmed us with gratitude and joy. Such giving also enabled us to place a homeless couple from Tennessee in a Motel overnight so St. Vincent De Paul could give them bus money to return home and to supplement starting school needs and other needs of daily living on low or fixed incomes. We forestalled eviction and electric shut offs in three situations and helped members to fix and maintain vehicles needed for transportation. As members faced the news of Hurricane Dorian possibly approaching we were able to help them with needed supplies like water,food and batteries. Additionally we helped two families to keep their pets by having them vaccinated and receiving Veterinarian care. We are so pleased to say that our donations were just about equal to our needs during the first nine months of 2019. God truly provides through the generosity and giving of our sisters and brothers in the wider community and our own. Thanks be to all who have shared with us and many blessings.
In turn our church gathered a large amount of clothing for another ministry to the homeless that gives out clothing and was caught short due to the heavy rainy season. Our member Brenda Cummings takes care of clothing for this ministry and alerted us to the need. And two of our members, Kathy Roddy and Pearl Cudjoe and, whenever she is in town Cyrillia Rismay provide hot meals and desserts for our gatherings and there are always many plates to take home. Other members also contribute beverages and desserts. Most of all, each one contributes caring and love so that all experience the love of God in Christ in one another and in our gatherings.
We are truly thankful for our co-Pastor Rvda. Marina Teresa and our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and for all who support her in so many ways. Thanks be to God!
Blessings and Love to You,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,DMin,DSW,MSW