You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘hope’ category.

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

Advertisements

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

A Mother – protecting her children (the membership) from historical truth and theological insight, and the responsibilities of independent thought. Trying desperately to keep her babes from leaving the nest.

A Lioness – protecting her cubs (the clergy) by hiding them from attack, redirecting attention away from them, retaliating against their attackers.

A “Uriah Heep” – whose only concern is to protect and gain control over the moneys taken in by the business. Motivated by greed, and putting on a face of insincere humility.

A model of the Church of “Bishop” Francis? – I remain hopeful.

John’s description of his “revelation” is at once brilliant and breathtakingly painful in the way that Truth has of striking us in the heart. John has witnessed some changes for the better and acknowledges those, but these are changes in the hearts of State Legislators not in the hearts of Catholic Bishops. I recommend you read the entire article and share it with others. Then I recommend you research the Statute of Limitations in your own State. We have the power to bring about change through the legal system, power that we don’t have in the Church. This is one arena where there is indeed “Hope for the Future.”

Catholics4Change

Click here to read: “I Was Once a Victim,” by John Salveson, class of ’77, ’78 M.A., Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2013

Excerpt:

Slowly, eventually, I figured out the reason for the lack of progress within the Church. It really was simple. I had long believed the Roman Catholic Church considered the child sex-abuse crisis to be a moral issue. So I expected clergy to care about the victims and to do the right thing.

But the simple truth I had learned over time was this: Much of the Catholic leadership does not view this as a moral issue. They view it as a risk-management issue. The focus is on managing settlements, keeping the topic out of the media, telling the faithful everything is taken care of and, most of all, doing everything humanly possible to ensure none of these cases ever make it into a court of law.

View original post

20130428-231710.jpg

A friend died yesterday. Death is always an event that raises existential questions. And so I have been thinking about God and meaning and I wonder if perhaps the reason we need to believe in a God is not so much that we need to believe in an all powerful creator, and a grand design and purpose for the universe, but rather that we simply want to believe in “I.” We want the Self that we experience to be a reality, and, for that to be true, our Self has to be important to someone or something beyond ourselves. We don’t want to believe that we are just an anonymous part of a chaotic universe in which neither the universe or our Self has a purposeful beginning, history, or future. We don’t want to believe that our actions and reactions are just a matter of chemicals and neurological responses. We want to believe in the I, the Self, and the power of free will. For our individual Self to be real, we have to believe that there is something intrinsically different, ontologically different, between our species and other species: our ability to create ideas from nothing, not just imitate; our ability to love selflessly; our ability to recognize and respond to the Divine. And so we are drawn to the notion of a God who created it all from nothing, the universal Thou to our personal I. A Being who created us, chose us, knows us, loves us – and not just us collectively but individually.

I attended synagogue services Friday evening and prayed for my friend’s recovery. But I find the Reform Jewish service unsatisfying. It identifies the concept of a God, a creator, the name above all names, but without a re-enactment, without God’s words being spoken directly to us in some ritual drama, we never quite cross the threshhold of an invitation to believe in God and move into an engagement in communication with God.

In a Christian eucharist the words and acts of Jesus at the last supper (in so far as Paul remembers them) are re-enacted. We enter into that drama through our responses, and we participate, allbeit in a theatrical fashion, in a relationship with a God who knows us and loves us – each of us individually in our very Self – loves us enough to die for us. There is great power in this experience. It can bring about changes in a person’s life, elicit a decision to pursue a vocation, bring about conversion, provide relief from despair. It doesn’t matter who takes the role of Jesus, there is no magical power bestowed at ordination and no significance to gender, what is important is that someone speaks in Jesus’ place, addressing us in the first person, and that that someone believes in what they are saying. If you like, they have to be a good actor. If you love live theatre and live music as much as I do you will know the power of a good performance: for a while you can be completely drawn in to an alternate reality. The Eucharist is live drama and at it’s best it has the power to draw us in to an alternative reality to the one presented by society. And what it teaches us is that this alternative reality – a God centered universe – is the Truth.

Love relationships have a similar power to affirm the Self. We are known and chosen by another, our Self becomes more real because someone else acknowledges it. One level of devastation in a break-up is the loss of that sense of Self, our I. Without someone to love us how do we know who we are? Or even if we really exist. People will even comment, She seems lost.

It is common knowledge by now the degree of damage done to an infant that does not have its existence affirmed, that does not bond to a caretaker, that does not experience loving eyes and touch – statistically they have a harder time simply staying alive, and certainly they will struggle to thrive. But that need does not end in infancy. Without the love of parents and close friends and partners and children to identify us, who are we? If we at least have faith in a God, we have a chance of believing in our reality, our existence as an I, a separate Self. But without belief in the love of God and without the love of intimate relationships? It is easy to understand the descent into hopelessness and despair of the isolated and depressed individual who faces a world in which he seems to be invisible.

Does technology help here? I don’t think so. People do not encounter us as who we are through social media, so our identity, our I, is not affirmed. There are layers upon layers of deception and secrecy on the internet that we use to shield ourselves from others. So it does not really help in our quest to affirm out existence, our identity, our uniqueness. Encountering our true Self requires real interaction in person with another, and seeing and experienceing their acceptance of us as an I that exists and is unique and worth knowing.

My friend was with my husband and me for four months in Houston after Katrina, part of an uprooted high school community from New Orleans. We all became friends and I discovered in him a brooding, anxious, angry side that made me afraid for him. But after Katrina he married and had a baby. He was more mellow, his existence had been affirmed, his identity had been acknowledged: he had been singled out and chosen above all others. There was less anger, more real joy. I’m so glad he had that experience – of being (re)created, of his Self being affirmed – before he died at the young age of 39. And if there is a God, my friend will now know for certain who he is and how much he is loved.

Fellow Travelers? Four Atheists Who Don’t Hate Religion

Paul J. Griffiths, Commonweal Magazine, October 26, 2012

My Comment in response to his article:

Paul, I want to thank you for providing such an informed review of the apologists for the Church without Christ (and the Synagogue without Yahweh).

     To put it more bluntly, the secular self-understanding of the liberal state can no longer motivate its citizens to act self-sacrificially in the service of justice. Its failure to find a way to mark death is mirrored by its failure to make passionate collective action a real possibility.

I am currently ambivalent about God, but find myself longing for a Catholic faith community without the Church. What the Catholic Church has come to represent to me is not God but human corruption, self-serving arrogance, and power-hungry pope mongers. The answer is not to give up on God but on the structures of power that inhibit the values of love and self-sacrifice, beauty and reverence, honesty and penitence from becoming present and visible to the Catholic community. The Catholic faithful need to take ownership of these values, take responsibility for their understanding of the message of Jesus, and take over the practice of faithful witness.

I don’t want any priest at my funeral. I may want a particular priest friend of mine, or perhaps a Rabbi – also a dear friend, because each of these friends exemplifies the values of compassion, tenderness, integrity, and justice rooted in a life of reflective, religious faith that I recognize as truly “of God.”

As a victim of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, one of five in my immediate family, the worst way to mark my death for my family would be with an anonymous representative of the organization responsible for our suffering. Even an empty Church would be painful – the context of our abuse. But what about a house with a gathering of loved ones, and the Catholic prayers and rituals of a funeral rite led by those present?  There could be priests, rabbis, druids, agnostics, atheists, as long as each one was a friend representing only his or her own faith in God and/or love of me.

Perhaps one thing of value that can come from the sexual abuse crisis in our Church is that it might make “passionate, collective action a real possibility” among Catholics who are still faith-travelers in search of God, Love, Truth, and Justice. Then maybe more of us can forestall the rejection of God that would bring us, finally, to that empty church and a memorial with no blessing.

Image

It seems that I have fallen under the spell of magical thinking. Although clear about the nature of priestly ordination NOT making any kind of magical, ontological change in the persona of a priest, I apparently still harbored similar ideas about religious vows.

I have treated my brother James as if his capacity to bear the burdens of others was deeper and wider simply because he was a professed religious. It didn’t help that he was indeed more compassionate, gentle, patient and tender than most brothers, or Brothers. This in fact made it harder to recognise how we all in the family were taking advantage of him and expecting him to bear burdens beyond those of ordinary mortals or even ordinary friends or siblings.

The truth is he has borne those burdens, often juggling one parent’s or one sibling’s needs against another – often more than just one other in fact. And he has borne them alone. Unlike the rest of us – with husbands, wives, children, grandchildren – he has had no permanent presence in his life. No daily confidant or consoler. And he has lost many of his dearest friends in the last few years, reducing the number of support people in his life and increasing the pain and loss in his own relationships.

I have shared these reflections with my brother and our siblings, but I felt the topic was worthy of public comment also.

For those who are committed to going forward in the community of the Catholic faith it is vital that we reconsider our view of religious and priests, and most importantly our view of the vows that we have taken. Yes, all of us are under vows (solemn promises to perform an act, carry out an activity, or behave in a given way) taken for us by our parents at Infant Baptism, renewed by us at Confirmation, and reaffirmed by us every time we recite our creed and pray the Lord’s prayer. Implicit in these sacraments, faith statements and prayers is the promise to live by the beliefs expressed. We are not promising to support priests and religious as they live out their “calling,” we are acknowledging that we, too, are called, that we, too, are committing to live out this common calling, this shared vocation.

The Catholic faith community will not survive unless all Catholics accept their role, their burden, their joy of living a “vowed” life. The role of priests and religious should be seen as supporting us all in this life, not the other way around. This is a good time to reclaim  not the priesthood of the people but the people of the priesthood, or even better the people of Christ.

This excites me. This energizes me. How will this look?

I wanted to light a candle for my mother today. The first anniversary of her death. She believed in candles, did mum. Lit several every time I sat an exam. Apparently there were “C” candles and “A” candles! But there are no churches open during the day any more. So I bought a Jewish memorial candle instead; they light them on the anniversary of a death – a yahrzeit candle. I don’t think she’d mind – same God an’ all. And Jesus was Jewish, so was his mum.

Isn’t it tragic though, in a little, poignant kind of tragic way, that the church that got  my mother through so much is no longer there in that way. Even if I were still comfortable doing so. where would I go to offer prayers today? If I still taught in a Catholic school I would  have a chapel, but I work in a synagogue office. People just don’t drop in to synagogues to pray. Take photos maybe, on a historical tour, but pray? Not so much. I do, though, sometimes pray in the sanctuary that is. (It is so beautiful when the rising and setting sun hits the large arched stained glass windows.) Nothing formal just a quiet thank you and a smile ,or a desperate, God help me today,  help me breathe.

I don’t think God minds where we are when we give thanks, or cares for us less if we are bi-religious or religiously undecided. Whatever. If there’s a God then God is wherever I am, always. That’s a comforting thought, today. I hope mum found what she was hoping for, and I hope she’s with her Jim. And today hope is as close to prayer as I can get.

I don’t know if I can call myself Catholic any more, in fact I think I am embarrassed to do so. Yet, as a victim of sexual assault by a priest, I feel I can have more impact if I remain Catholic and continue to speak my truth within the Catholic community.

I get very angry about the assumption that all victims are Catholic haters and no longer part of the Church, as if being raped by a priest is an excommunicable offense. Or perhaps it’s just telling the truth about it that is unacceptable: victims must be liars. But can that be it? Since when has lying been an excommunicable offense?  Is it the fact that we are accusing priests, then? Is that the unforgivable offense? If so, then the problem is with Catholics who believe that priests cannot be predators, who assume that a priest cannot be both loving and compassionate in ministry and also calculating, predatory, and criminal in their sexual behavior. Such naive beliefs are fed by the archaic view that priests are higher human beings by virtue of their ordination, that a transformation takes place in that sacrament raising priests closer to God than ordinary mortals will ever get!

These beliefs must be challenged. They are based on a magical view of priesthood and the sacrament or ordination that needs to change, and who better to challenge it than victims – especially ones with divinity degrees. So I struggle to hang on to the Catholic community, to remain within its borders, searching for wisdom among Catholic writers and enjoying the occasional gospel mass where the priest doesn’t look like my abuser and panic attacks remain at bay.

(Edited.  Apologies for the previous version; it was a comment in process that became frozen in cyberspace and I didn’t realize it had “defrosted.” I need to visit my blogs more regularly!)

“It has sometimes seemed to me there are three weak stones sitting dangerously in the foundations of the modern Church: first, a government that excludes democracy; second, a priesthood that excludes and minimises women; third, a revelation that excludes, for the future, prophecy.”

(Letter to Christophe de Gaudefroy, 7 October 1929, Lettres in⁄dites, 80)

In 1929 this Jesuit scholar saw to the heart of the matter regarding the clerical structures of the Church. And on the nature of the human experience:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

The Phenomenon of Man (1955)
 

And in reflecting on the future of the universe, Teilhard is filled with hope and an awareness of human responsibility focused not just inward on personal salvation but outward into the universe:

“Human Energy presents itself to our view as the term of a vast process in which the whole mass of the universe is involved. In us, the evolution of the world towards the spirit becomes conscious. From that moment, our perfection, our interest, our salvation as elements of creation can only be to press on with this evolution with all our strength. We cannot yet understand exactly where it will lead us, but it would be absurd for us to doubt that it will lead us towards some end of supreme value.

From this there finally emerges in our twentieth century human consciousness, for the first time since the awakening of life on earth, the fundamental problem of Action. No longer, as in the past, for our small selves, for our small family, our small country; but for the salvation and the success of the universe, how must we, modern men, organize around us for the best, the maintenance, distribution and progress of human energy?”

(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Building the Earth, “Human Energies” p. 67-68)
 
John Paley

Philosophy, nursing, research

Dave Barnhart's Blog

Building a community for sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things

The World of Pastoral and Spiritual care

Sharing with others the intricacies of chaplaincy and spirituality in difficult times

Pray it Forward 24-7

Faith is a practice not an idea. Bringing together yoga, art, pop culture, social media and the church. All in one blog.