About Theodora Ranelli

I'm interested in progress. Contact me at movingworms@gmail.com

Virgin Mary Weeps

Picture 131

After seeing a story that believers sighted the Virgin Mary statue in Ireland weeping, I again wonder – what is the place in the post-post Vatican II church for such miracles?  And where do I fit on the macro scale of Catholicism?

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, it’s hard for me to consider myself a progressive Catholic.  This is partially because I am very old-fashioned about rituals and holy matter.  Part of me even likes Mass in Latin – except for the not integrating community part.  Socially, I subscribe to a lot of tenets that progressive Catholics hold dear.

I actually think that medieval Catholic thinkers had a lot more figured out about gender, sexuality, and identity than us modern or post-modern Catholics.  Medieval Catholics did not shy away from writing about Heaven as a sexual experience that is well within Church theology.

I think many modern or progressive minded Catholics have gotten all rational Muslim over our asses (God bless rational Muslims, God bless progressive minded Catholics).  In playing down central tenets of Catholic faith and Catholic folk life – Virgin Mary tears (you mean it’s not just about sexism?), transubstantiation (no, it doesn’t just mean community! Although community is good!), apparitions, blood relics,

Oh, the blood relics – as just trappings and baggage that have held the Church down.

As we look for new metaphors to express our frustrations with the Church, let’s not knock conservative Catholics or so-called conservative practices.  Because then we get into this mind warp of thinking like secular folks – oh, the only way to be is progressive Catholic.  And this can get in the way of dealing with other religions, especially Islam, because progressive Catholics tend to romanticize progressive Muslims as the “right” way to be.

And yes, medieval Catholics had those rather big problems with Islamophobia and crusades.  But really, progressive Catholic community, are we any better?

Attributes of God

I want to cross myself during the basmalla. Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem. In the name of God, most Gracious, most Merciful.  It is not an attempt to discredit Islam.  But no, no – I think I discovered the trinity there, during the basmalla.  Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

The greatest sin in Islam is shirk, which is attributing partners to God.  Shirk can be anything that puts something on the same level as God.  Shirk can be anything from money to the trinity to Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God.  How can the basmalla be Trinitarian….o.k. it’s not Trinitarian in the traditional Christian sense of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  So put that out of your minds now!  I mean that the Trinity is only One God, too — in the way that Islam is — despite the tricky way that Christianity puts it into pieces.  And I discover the God I grew up with, One God, in the basmalla.

A lot I know about Islam boils down to acting on intention.  It is important to take time to make the intention and not rush through the prayer.  The sign of the cross, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is about intention.

How can you do Islam when Islam and Christianity have differing views on Jesus? And what about the trinity?

My idea of the trinity was instilled in me by priests.  I remember priests telling me that Jesus is close to God like all of us are close to God.  Jesus is God like all of you are God.  In a sense, it means that all humans are divine.  That’s a tricky thing to say, especially in the context of Islam.  The priests didn’t mean that all humans are God, just that all humans have the Divine spark within us.

I didn’t grow up praying directly to Jesus and seeing Jesus as a savior.  If anything, I grew up on Mary.  The priests I knew didn’t talk about Jesus as God’s Only Son, as if it’s like the Rabbi’s son in Fiddler on the Roof – there is only one Rabbi and he has only one son. I didn’t grow up with the trinity being three different Gods.  God doesn’t beget, nor is God begotten.  There isn’t a Mrs. God that God had sex with to make Jesus.  Jesus isn’t God’s only son.  We’re all creatures of God.

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

Many Christians see the trinity they way I heard it summed up by an Eastern Orthodox theologian; Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the left hand and the right hand of God.

To put it in line with Islamic theology, the Trinity are the attributes of God that fold into the Essence.  I don’t mean that Jesus himself is an attribute, but that Jesus’ divinity is like al-wajid (The Finder).  Jesus’ attributes are like something existing before time, something transplanted into Jesus.  Something transplanted into all of us, which we can all aspire to. Jesus’ attributes are kind of like fana (death before death); the kind of closeness to the Essence of God many of us try to procure.  This metaphysical closeness of Jesus to God, the bida (innovation) involved in Jesus’ fana. This energy is involved in that kind of swooning to God; the closeness of the Divine Proximity to Jesus; and the closeness of the Essence of God to us if we open ourselves up.

This idea of trinity was not instilled in me by Muslims, but at Church – by the priest telling us to look around and see God within the hearts of the believers.  “Jesus isn’t in Church, Jesus is in everyone you meet,” he would say.  Jesus is not God any more than any of us are God.  I want to cross myself at the basmalla because Most Gracious, Most Merciful are attributes of God, much like the Christian trinity.  It all blends into one God.  Jesus’ fana and the Holy Spirit are just attributes of God.  Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.

Merciful Father….

“You know the movie starring Anonio Banderas — The Thirteenth Warrior?  It’s a complete gore-fest,” my teacher says.  “But in between the gore Antonio gets down on his knees and says ‘Merciful Father….'”

“He’s Catholic, right?”  I say. My teacher puts his hand up.

“No, he’s Muslim.  So Antonio says this prayer:

I have squandered my days with plans of many things.
This was not among them. But at this moment, I beg only, to live the next few minutes well. For all we ought to have thought and have not thought… All we ought to have said and have not said. All we ought to have done and have not done. I pray thee, God for forgiveness.”

And he’s not Catholic?  That’s so Catholic!” I say.

“Dude, Muslims ask forgiveness for sins of omission and commission all the time.”

And I feel like I discovered la ilaha illa allah Muhammadar rasul Allah inside that church with the red stained glass shining on the statue of St. Therese.

Discounting the complete orientalism of the movie, of course.

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Happy Birthday, Blog!

Wow — I cannot believe that this blog is a year old. I got involved here because I thought aha! here is a space for my voice! finally!

A few resounding notes of thanks:

1. Thank you to the founders for helping envision this space.

2. Thank you to those who work behind the scenes makin’ this blog run.

3. Thank you for putting up with all of our luddite-ism. It is our enthusiasm that is contagious.

4. Thank you to the readers and everyone who has made this blog lively. You truly help make this Church on the Internet. Hey, Mass is available for download anyway! :)

5. And finally, thank you to a wonderful bunch of contributors. I love reading all of your thought, hearts, and wishes. We put our hearts and bodies on this blog. You all being so open helps me be courageous, too. Thank you.



Desire, Body, and Catholicism

It is not news to have a Catholic art scandal — this goes all the way back to the medieval times.  But Catholic art scandals, for me, bring up questions about body and sexuality in teachings of Catholicism.  In addition, I wonder how much those teachings have influenced non-practicing Catholics.

This recent scandal includes a sexologist named Goedele Liekens who posed with a habit on the cover of her magazine.  In addition, a bag comes with each issue with a candied host, her picture, and text that read:  Take, Eat, This is My Body.  Understandably, Catholics are upset (by clicking this link, you understand that I no way condone the terrible secular tone of the article therein).

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God Is…..

I am taking an integral psychology class this quarter.  For those of you wondering what integral psychology is, I’m not really sure.  But I do know that it is integrating the spirit into psychology.  We have been discussing spiritual awakening (I know, lofty goal, right?).

One thing about spiritual experiences is that we’ve got the ecstasy and high places.   The bliss.  But when one is that open, there is the fall — the crevice, the Evil.  It’s spiritual warfare/jihad (which means struggle), a woman told me a few days ago.  Other people talk about what happens to your body when you are that open to God and the angels.

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What Helps You On Your Journey?

…I’m gonna, lighten up!  I just talked to a spiritual advisor, pouring out pains and joys.  He said to enjoy the journey.  It seems like common sense.  (but with all of my posts on suffering recently, mmmm-hmmmm).  Don’t dwell so much on the suffering, even though you like it so much, he said.  I think that’s important to remember, even if I have great attachment to the suffering.  I have been thinking about resurrection and death recently and all of the little resurrections and deaths we go through.  In that way, death is conquered.  A mentor of mine died a few days ago and it does not work to believe that she is with her maker, but there is this little —

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