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How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275

traces of hope

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Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on many questions about Catholicism – my faith home. Along the way I have left my career as a Catholic religious educator and more recently I have left my home in the Catholic Church for a new faith community in the United Church of Christ. It would be inappropriate to continue to comment on the Catholic Church as if I were a member, and so I will be changing the blog’s name to Christianity in the 21st Century.

I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my faith journey and my journey through grief and loss, if you are interested in my full story.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426982211&sr=1-1&keywords=Mona+villarrubia

God had nothing to gain by the death of Jesus. Jesus was willing to suffer death but for what? There is no Gospel tradition that suggests he believed he was going to be better off, or that his death wasn’t a real death just a temporary state. There is no mention of a quid pro quo deal with God. Jesus chose to die, but really what choice did he have if he wanted to show his followers what integrity, truth, courage and faith looked like, to show them that his preaching, his ministry, and his leadership were not meaningless, and that the truth was worth dying for. To have fought back would have made a lie out of everything he had said and done.

Did he think he was “opening the gates of heaven,” that he would be the “first born into the kingdom” I don’t think so. This was theological interpretation after the event. What I do think is that he truly suffered. I don’t doubt his anxiety, his panic, his dejection, and how better to express it than by quoting the scriptures he knew and loved: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” Psalm 22. Jesus wasn’t in this for a reward or a “return.” This was the gift freely given, the grace freely offered. God freely gave us his son. Jesus freely gave us his life.

An Open Letter from One Catholic Priest to All Other Catholic Priests

Regarding the Need for the Revelation of Truth Concerning the Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal

December 6, 2010

Dear Brother Priests,

Soon after Christmas 2009 a group of priests here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee met to begin what has become an effort to provide some pastoral outreach to victim/survivors of sexual abuse of minors by priests. Quickly we expanded our group to include some victim/survivors and others who support them. Together we initiated an ongoing series of simple candle vigil services for prayer and talking. The effort is making a difference.

A question that is asked by some victim/survivors is where have all the good priests been? No doubt our presence now is warmly appreciated, but this challenging question has caused me to reflect on my own accountability. During my homily on the weekend of November 13 & 14, I explained that I had not been where I should have been. I was not standing with people in pain who needed the public presence of a priest. I had been inattentive when I should have noticed. I apologized. Of course, I cannot reverse time, I told my parishioners, but I can be different going forward, especially by standing publicly with those who seek the revelation of the complete truth regarding the priest sexual abuse scandal in the Church. The reaction of my parishioners has been powerfully supportive.

Surely, everyone wishes that this crisis would be resolved for the good of all. Unfortunately, however, I find that some people are saying that the victim/survivors should simply forgive and move on with life. Yet such an expectation overlooks what seems to me to be the necessary sequence of events for forgiveness and peace to happen: (1) knowing and understanding the whole truth; (2) doing justice based on the whole truth; (3) allowing healing to blossom over time; (4) then granting forgiveness that releases one from bondage; and (5) finally welcoming the peace that comes from healing and forgiveness.

What has caused me to be more attentive now to this scandal and crisis? Listening to and being moved by the stories that I hear. These stories can be discomforting but they are part of the truth needing to be revealed and understood. Here is some of what I hear.

1. Sexual assault is violent, at times causing bleeding. The word blood captures me. However, what is more captivating is to hear victim/survivors say that as agonizing as the assault was, the reaction of the Church has been more traumatic. They loved the Church and were involved in the Church (which probably is why they were available to be preyed upon), but the Church wasn’t there for them in their need.

2. Many people, from victim / survivors to parishioners in the pews, have left the Church because of the priest sexual abuse crisis, and that is true scandal. Moreover, some of these people who are disconnected from the Church would like to be reconnected, but the absence of truthfulness and accountability stops them.

3. Many victim/survivors “lost their voice” and can’t speak about what happened. They depend on others to speak for them and to cry out on their behalf.

4. Some victim / survivors and their families not only were not believed they were tormented by some clergy and laity such that the families decided to move to a different parish (if they remained in the Church), or even to a different city.

5. A prevailing question is why is it so difficult for the Church to reveal the truth?

I see four positive results coming from the complete truth being available to all people.

1. The truth would complete the puzzle so that the picture can be seen clearly, both validating the stories of the victim/survivors while also clearing the names of the innocent.

2. The truth would help create accountability for what happened.

3. The truth would empower the laity and the clergy alike to become the seedbed from which can come forth justice, healing, forgiveness, and peace. This effort needs the people in the pews but first they need to know the truth.

4. The truth would provide the energy to generate necessary changes in the Church.

My brother priests, obviously the revelation of the truth is not forthcoming easily, but we can be the catalyst for change. We have been sent into the Lord’s vineyard with a mission to provide voice and witness to all that Jesus Christ is about. I trust that you will do all that you can to help bring about a grace-filled resolution to this crisis and scandal. And, as I say, we need to do this in a vocal and public way.

I suggest that this Christmas season we raise our united voices in calling for the necessary sequence of truth, justice, healing, forgiveness, and peace, regarding this most difficult challenge in the Church. Indeed, doing so in this season of peace would provide a route to peace for all who suffer in any way because of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Let us always embrace the words of the Lord: fear not; the truth will set you free.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. James Connell

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

My brother sent me an article about Mr. Rogers and his profound impact on a writer, Tim Madigan, who interviewed him and subsequently wrote a book called, I am Proud of You. My brother said that the second page of the article brought him to tears, and as soon as I read it I knew why.

For those of us with poor relationships with our fathers, it is deeply touching to learn how Mr. Rogers’ acceptance of, and un-self-interested affection for, another man could reach this man’s heart and help heal his father-wound. The secret? Mr. Rogers, an ordained Christian minister, saw his profession as a ministry, a way of bringing God’s grace into the lives of others. He imagined that as he looked at the camera he was giving his undivided love and attention to each child. And that is how he treated the writer who interviewed him–undivided attention, acceptance, and eventually a parental kind of affection.

“In the book we learn how intentional he was in his television show, understanding it as a ministry and lovingly using it to impart the values of the gospel that was so dear to him: grace, forgiveness, kindness, and trust in an Unconditional Love.”

The author of the article in Christianity Today, Jason Gray, continues,

I’m Proud of You is an understated and modest book, competently written. But within its pages you find the best kind of story—the kind of story that not only inspires you to be more human, live an ennobled kind of life, and to love better than you thought you could, but that also reveals the grace that makes these things possible.”

As Gray ponders the affect of the book on his own life, he asks a question which each of us needs to ponder,

 “What might my life look like if I better incarnated the grace of God? How would my wife’s life be different if this were true of me? My kids? My friends and those around me whom my life touches?

And he concludes with a statement of hope:

…in Mister Rogers I find a man, a broken sinner like me, set free to love and live the kind of life that Jesus points to. If Mister Rogers can find that kind of grace, maybe it’s available to me, too.”

Michelle Lesley

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