Consider The Puppies

For the past few weeks, my apartment has been under attack by an intruder.

While I usually experience the intruder’s attacks head on, I sometimes don’t discover her dastardly deeds until days later. I’ve suffered injuries and had valuable possessions destroyed. I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by yelling, and have forgotten what it’s like to sleep past 5:30am. The most amazing thing? This intruder is three months old, weighs six pounds, and is unbelievably cute.

You see, just over a month ago, my girlfriend and I went to a local animal shelter to pick up the cutest Dachshund puppy we had ever seen. We had no idea that Shiloh Becker-Noble would eventually become what I call the “tiny canine terrorist who lives in our home.”

Now don’t get me wrong: I love this dog. She’s mostly well-behaved and friendly, and I don’t know what I did with all of my daily stress before puppy snuggles. But it certainly hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. She chews our carpet and pees anywhere she sees fit. In the past month alone, we’ve lost a lamp cord and a computer charger when she ripped them to shreds, and my laptop when she decided to take a potty break on the keyboard. Our baseboards, hands, and toes are marred with teeth marks, there’s a new hole in our bedsheets, and one corner of our carpet has been sufficiently shredded. She barks at planes flying overhead, and attempts to eat every piece of plastic she finds outside.

Although the damage, destruction, and noise haven’t been my favorite thing, the time commitments of a puppy have been far worse. Work and social commitments are constantly interrupted by the need to go home and take Shiloh out to do her puppy business. Without long walks, she sprints around our apartment, howling and whining until we take her down three flights of stairs to the small patch of grass outside. A timer is constantly running in the back of my mind: how long has Shiloh been home by herself? When should I head back to let her out again? When’s her next vet visit?

These commitments have been most challenging when they conflict with my schoolwork. As a divinity school student, most of my time is spent writing papers, reading long books, and frantically reviewing Hebrew flashcards. However, it seems like Shiloh has a built-in hyperactivity timer that consistently coincides with the time I’ve reserved for studying. Sitting down with a book or flashcards almost guarantees that Shiloh will instantly be biting at my ankles, peeing on the carpet, or climbing something she’s not supposed to.

Shiloh’s constant activity can feel like a burden on my daily schedule. While I tend to get excessively frustrated with Shiloh and her need for attention and stimulation, my girlfriend offers much more grace to our canine companion. “Remember,” she’ll often tell me, “She’s just a puppy. She doesn’t know any better.”

And it gets me thinking: what does Shiloh know? Mostly, she knows about the daily functions of her body: when she hurts, when she’s tired, when she’s curious. She does her best to communicate those knowings to us by barking, running, and playing. Since she’s teething, she knows that her gums hurt and she needs to chew on something. She knows when nature calls: when she needs to do her business and sometimes even throw up.

What Shiloh doesn’t know about are the systems that she and her owners live in. She doesn’t know that peeing on a laptop or ripping up the carpet means that her owners have to pay their landlord or a computer company extra money. She doesn’t know that we leave during the day because our economic system makes us choose between quality time with our loved ones and labor. She doesn’t know that wanting to play all the time can’t happen because her owners have to put in long hours at work and school to work for the possibility of a secure future.

Shiloh doesn’t know that the scary noises that wake her up are military planes that wreak death and destruction flying overhead, paid for by her owners’ tax dollars. She doesn’t know that the plastic packaging she tries to eat outside is the result of a wasteful consumer culture and corporate agriculture that threatens her health and the planet’s. She doesn’t know that it’s hard to find expanses of grass because of gentrifying urban sprawl that decimates poor communities and communities of color.

You see, Shiloh doesn’t actually impose on my way of life. The way I act, the way humanity acts, imposes on her way of life. Our systems of domination, oppression, and exploitation are grounded in what Rosemary Ruether calls a “patriarchal anthropology.” In this view of the cosmos, humans are destined to a life of “ruling over others, superior to them, and escaping our common mortality.” Our priorities and desires come first, and we subjugate the needs of the Shilohs of the world to uphold our middle-class comforts. We replace biological harmony with technological colonization of the natural world and our fellow living beings. We replace social harmony with social sin.

During Lent, we are called to repentance, to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Good News.” In the Hebrew Bible, repentance is described as teshuva, from the root word shuv, which means “to turn.” So how can we turn from structures of domination and towards a life-giving model of collaboration and symbiosis?

In the Gospel of Matthew , Jesus instructs his followers to cast off the worries of human life. He calls them to “consider the birds of the air” and “consider the lilies of the field,” since they aren’t bound to the sowing, reaping, toiling, and spinning of human existence. Perhaps in our 21st-century context, we should “consider the puppies,” and the world of right relationship and mutual respect they call us into.

Still not thrilled about that laptop, though.

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Rebuilding the People’s Church

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(Image via Christians for Socialism)

I recently completed a research project on the ecumenical dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). As a Roman Catholic student at a Disciples of Christ seminary, I am interested in the historical relationship between these two communions and the broader complexities of ecumenism and dialogue across lines of difference. This research interest led me to remarks by World Council of Churches ecumenist Aram I, who serves as the Catholicos of Cicilia and head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Aram spoke in 2005 to representatives of the Joint Working Group (JWG) dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches. In this dialogue, he offered a challenge to ecumenical workers, urging them to make their work relevant to the Church universal:

“How many churches, clergy or theologians are aware of the work of the JWG? Its work is confined to a limited circle of ecumenists. To address this situation, the work of the JWG must be related to the life of the church on the local level, and must be appropriated by the churches through a process of ecumenical education. Reaching the local churches: I consider this a major task before the ecumenical movement for the years to come.”

 Aram’s call for a relevant ecumenism that speaks to the needs of the local church reminded me of another challenging call to the Church by Sheila Briggs. At the 2000 gathering of the Women’s Ordination Conference, Briggs challenged dominant views of ordination:

“Sheila Briggs, an African American Catholic religious studies scholar, stated that ordination is by its very nature an elitist practice, one that by definition excludes women (and men) who are not highly educated. She asked, ‘when will the poor begin to celebrate the Eucharist?’

Like Sheila Briggs, Roman Catholic labor leader Dolores Huerta challenged the elitism of Roman Catholic power structures in negotiations with the Catholic Conference of California. When César Chavez asked for a priest to support striking farmworkers, corporate interests convinced bishops to take the priest away.

“Dolores Huerta lead a group of farm worker women into Bishop Manning’s office in Fresno and asked, ‘Why did you take our priest away from the farm workers? We’re not going to leave until we get an answer.’ Bishop Manning said ‘I’m going to go now and pray.’ Two hours later, he came back and said ‘I’ve been praying to the Holy Spirit.’ Dolores and the women said ‘We are the Holy Spirit incarnate. We are the poor!’ He thought about it and agreed.”

The words of Huerta, Briggs, and Aram challenge people like myself who are invested in the world of academic theology. They shake our ivory towers, reminding us that God’s transformative reign of global flourishing, peace, and justice will not be brought about by academic elites. The good news cannot be proclaimed on high from comfortable seats of abstract theological discourse. Our theological debates are meaningless if they have nothing to say to the poor and exploited, to lay members of the local church, and to those whose voices and priestly callings are repressed by the Church because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

How can we debate the two natures of Christ without resisting the exploitation of nature itself? How can we examine the intricacies of the Eucharistic meal without working with those who have no food to eat? How can we wonder about the details of God’s embodiment in the Incarnation without demolishing the material oppressions that the United States’ racist warmongering, policing, and deportations inflict on the bodies of people of color at home and around the world? How can we inquire about the metaphysics of Jesus’ healing while our neighbors die because they cannot afford healthcare? In the words of St. John Chrysostom, how can we see Christ in the chalice, but not in the beggar at the church door?

If we believe Dolores Huerta’s words, that the Holy Spirit is incarnate in the lives of the poor, oppressed, and exploited, then we must change the voices we value:

  • Instead of uncritically praising Pope Francis, we must turn to the survivors of clergy sex abuse he has harmed, the women whose priestly calls he has denied, and queer and trans people who have suffered under the church’s oppression.
  • Instead of centering popular Catholic voices who have the backing of hierarchs and celebrities, we must turn to academic thinkers, church workers, and revolutionaries who have faced excommunication and marginalization for questioning the racialized, gendered, and economic power imbalances of our Church.
  • Instead of believing that the Good News can only flow from respectable institutions of Catholic higher education, we must turn to those workers whose union rights have been denied by Catholic colleges and universities. We must turn to those whose neighborhoods have been gentrified by Catholic schools, and to those who suffer under the boot of US imperialism while Catholic colleges allow military training on their campuses.
  • Instead of presidential candidates, priests, and popes, we must turn to the witness of workers and the laity, knowing that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)

We must revive the call of liberation theologians, re-building a “theology from below” that forms the foundations of a “People’s Church.” When it comes to war and the environment, we must stop thinking like Catholic hierarchs and start thinking like Catholic Workers.

When we dare to dream of a liberating future for all of humanity, we must turn to the witness of the People of God enacted through groups like Christians for Socialism, the Movement for Black Lives, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, and the Poor People’s Campaign. Instead of dancing around controversial issues in the Church, we must fully affirm the lives, loves, reproductive freedom, and priestly callings of women and LGBTQIA+ people.

It is time to break free of institutions that stifle, and to enact God’s live-giving presence against oppression and exploitation in our local and global communities.

Thesis writing as Activism

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For now, writing my thesis is my activism.

These words slipped out of my fingers as I was replying to what I had thought was a simple-enough Facebook post turned comment war, and I don’t know that I really believed them at first. Writing for a blog for Call to Action, and being the post following one on Standing Rock, I suppose I don’t really need to explain why I’m talking about activism on a Catholic blog. But let me just say that it’s in my DNA. I grew up with parents who write letters to political leaders and take part in protests out of a sincere desire to live out the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. Much has been made of the debate between Catholics and Lutherans over whether one is saved by works or by faith alone, but whatever the answer, the good side of it is the motivation to get out and do something.

But what if you find yourself so busy that you really can’t fathom doing another thing? Certainly sometimes this is a sure sign that you’ve over-extended yourself in unimportant areas and need to refocus on what is important. For me right now, however, I have all I can do to focus on work, thesis writing, and being a good boyfriend. In that case, it helps to turn to these words attributed to Oscar Romero:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

If I can’t add to my plate right now, perhaps I can see this plate in a new light – as doing something. I remind myself that I chose to work at the library because I was genuinely excited about being able to serve everyone. I know that my interactions with my boyfriend, on their best days, bring Christ into the world both for him and for others who see us.

And I warm up to the idea that perhaps writing my thesis is activism. I’m writing about different Catholic responses to the transgender community, and I hope to spur some healthy dialogue. If just one person reads my thesis and starts on the path of being a voice for transgender people, I will have at least done something. And yet, even without this outcome, my research is changing me. While I consider myself an imperfect but decent trans ally, I’ve realized that I had never taken the time to really look at the Church’s thoughts on being trans and pull them apart. If we agree that the Church needs a radical transformation on its stance, knowing that stance precisely is the first step toward an effective counterargument. At the same time, my understanding of the liberal Catholic response has evolved from “they think the official teaching is wrong” to an appreciation of the beautiful, creative theology being written by these groups to carve out a well-deserved place in the Church for trans people. When my thesis is finally signed off on, hopefully I’ll go back to the traditional forms of activism, but for now – and I now say this with conviction – my thesis is my activism!

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

Why I don’t like working in soup kitchens

Reposted from article in Patheos of the same title, July 20, 2016. 

Last week I served at the Emmaus Soup Kitchen in Erie, PA. The next day, Sr. Mary who runs the kitchen asked me how my experience was. I hesitated before telling her the truth; I didn’t like it and actually, I don’t like soup kitchens in general.

All I did was serve fruit on the line this time. In the midst of asking guests if they would like what I’m serving and then scooping canned fruit onto plates with as much dignity as possible, I overheard quite a few conversations.

For example, one woman begged a server to help her carry her plate. She had just suffered a miscarriage, she said, and by the looks of her, it must have been recent. She appeared so weak and pale in the face, like all of her energy was drained. Regardless of how strong she was at the time she still needed to eat; and I was impressed at her ability to get herself to the kitchen to get a meal.

Another woman who appeared much younger than me (and I’m 26) came up asking for seconds. She mentioned she was pregnant so I took that as an invitation to engage in conversation. I asked when she was due and if this will be her first child. She said this will be her second but her first was stillborn. And she told me this in the same peppy way she asked for more food, like it were normal and not much more than just something that happened. After she left with her food, I wanted to go in the back of the kitchen, sit on the floor in a corner and cry. It wasn’t her peppy response that made me sad; everyone deals with pain in different ways. It was the realization that within less than two hours I had met two women who suffered through unsuccessful pregnancies and found themselves in a soup kitchen to provide for that day’s meal.

My thoughts immediately jumped back to my time as a graduate student when I often followed the doctors and nurses on their rounds in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). As a non-medical student, the doctors or other students would often explain to me in layman’s detail about the conditions of the babies. What I learned is that not all, but too many of the babies spending their first days, weeks or months in the NICU were suffering from symptoms linked to inadequate prenatal care. The ethics folks, with whom I was working, would later explain to me that many of the mothers of these tiny infants came from poor or impoverished families in which prenatal care was not a financial priority.

Women in poverty are suffering with the consequences of inadequate educational and health care systems that fail them in so many ways. We need better education about learning our own bodies, specifically as it relates to sexuality, birth control, pregnancy, birth, and parenting. And we need way better health care that provides every woman with prenatal care no matter who they are and how much or little they can pay.

This inequality of privilege is due to the realities of human life and, accordingly, the corruption and brokenness of our institutional systems as too many fail to put the needs of the most vulnerable first. Soup kitchens are places in which the reality of humanity is displayed more than anywhere else I have ever seen.

But it doesn’t take a conversation with a guest of the kitchen to demonstrate the realities of brokenness; rather one just need sit at a table and watch who comes through the doors and what interactions are had. But I find it difficult to get through a conversation without any of this coming up, either verbally or in the actions of another.

I understand the necessity of soup kitchens. They serve all sorts of people. The humans who arrive (to eat and to serve) in different ways exemplify struggles of mental illness, addictions, homelessness, poverty, loneliness, inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, trafficking, prostitution, the inadequate health care system, lack of adequate education, lack of parent involvement, lack of positive parenting, and more. These realities take all different forms; some of the humans are the perpetrators, some are the victims, and some are just trapped in systems that don’t support their development into becoming a full human being.

This is exactly the reason why I don’t like working in soup kitchens. Because when I’m there, I can’t shield my eyes from the poverty or inequality or injustice that people struggle with on a daily basis. Nor can I ignore my own privilege of health, financial stability and community I too often take for granted. When I’m there, scooping fruit from a can onto someone’s plate with as much dignity as possible, I am forced to face the reality that humanity is broken and our systems (which ought to be healing our wounds) are corrupt. I am forced to recognize my own responsibility in doing something to stop this corruption, to heal the brokenness.

I am forced to consider what my options are for becoming involved in working toward wholeness and justice. And I am forced to question the beliefs I profess: that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of a Loving Creator and therefore deserve their innate dignity and the ability to flourish into their fullest selves. Do I really believe this? If so, why am I not working in the soup kitchen each day? Why am I not standing up to the corrupt systems, raising my voice, and begging for the dignity of all? Sister Joan Chittister says that we don’t need to try to save the world—because we can’t—rather, we all need to do what we can where we are in order to make a difference. I suppose, then, I need to move beyond my dislike for soup kitchens—for the reality of humanity that it throws in my face—in order to be a part of the change for the better, in order to act in accordance with the beliefs I profess.IMG_3017.JPG


Breanna Mekuly just finished a summer internship withSister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. Before working with Sister Joan, Breanna graduated in 2014 from Vanderbilt Divinity School with a masters in theological studies and an emphasis in biomedical ethics. She then worked as a university minister at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI. Later this summer, Mekuly will be moving to Indiana to live, pray and work with a group of sisters who raise chickens, bees and alpacas on an organic farm. Breanna is the co-creator of an online monastery for progressive young female- and Catholic- identifying adults, ” Seekers and Discerners.”

The Seven Last Words of Christ: Singing the Passion

n-s-dos-passos-19St. Norbert College hosts the Dudley Birder Chorale, a 150-voice choir under the direction of 89-year-old Mr. Birder himself for over 40 years.  While I am a member, I haven’t been able to participate in recent years because I’ve been pursuing a Masters degree.  But this semester, finding myself without a class, I seized the opportunity to sing once again, if only for a two-performance run.  Thus, on the 13th of March, I found myself back in my tux performing The Seven Last Words of Christ by Theodore Dubois, a musical setting of the last moments before Jesus’s crucifixion.  You can find many performances of this work on YouTube, in both English and Latin.

We performed the piece in Latin but offered reflections before each movement, allowing everyone to understand each section.  These reflections, Dudley’s insistence on singing the musical phrases and not the notes, and my own need to decode the Latin, forced me to really consider what I was singing, which ultimately lead to this being one of the most meaningful concerts I’ve ever sung.  Here are some of the thoughts I had as we sang this.  I hope they aid your Triduum reflection.

First Word: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do

The power of this movement comes from the juxtaposition of Jesus’s prayer of forgiveness (sung by a soloist) with the chanting of the crowd (sung by the choir).  Here we are, a huge mob of people, insisting that Jesus is guilty and deserves crucifixion, even welcoming the blood that will be on our hands, while Jesus is asking God to forgive us.  It caused me to think of all the times when someone merely frustrates me and the best prayer I can seem to offer is not that they are forgiven but that I can keep my cool.

Second Word: Verily, thou shalt be in Paradise to-day with me.

Smarter minds than me have pointed out that only Luke’s Gospel has Jesus promising the repentant criminal that he will get to be with him in Paradise.  The words of the criminal — not a plea for forgiveness, but only desiring the gift of a passing thought — remind us to be humble.  Jesus’s response reminds us that God’s justice is not our justice and that God’s mercy is tremendous.

Fifth Word: I am athirst!

Jesus’s desire for something to quench his thirst, a most basic human need, goes up against a crowd of people taunting him to come down from the cross so that they might believe in him.  In singing this movement, the scorn of the crowd flows through me in a real way; I am faced with, and scared by, my own capacity for cruelty.  I don’t completely comprehend all this evil, but I can offer Jesus my thanks for having endured it.

Seventh Word: It is finished!

Jesus’s final words are echoed by the entire choir in a whisper, accentuating how used up Jesus’s earthly body is.  Then the organ takes over and you can just picture the curtain being torn in the chaos that comes out of the pipes.  Finally, the movement transitions into Adoramus Te, Christe.  After yelling at Jesus for so much of the work, it is a welcome relief to end with a song of praise.  Augustine was right when he said, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

 

Gone is the Light

“Gone is the Light” is a reflection on Good Friday written by Breanna Mekuly while visiting the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA during Holy Week in 2015. 


“Gone is the Light”

On that day, our world grew dark.

The clouds covered the sun;

The people cried in distress

When they realized what they had done.

 

“And now he’s gone!”

“What do we do?”

Such a mistake we have made.

How selfish are our hearts

When they call us out of love.

What is it we want?

What is it we seek?

 

Gone is the Light

From which to guide us.

The earth sits still

Breathing, waiting.

 

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Gone is the Light.

 

Like losing our sight,

We lost our guide

Leading us to a life worth living.

What’s left for us now?

We’ve ruined it all.

 

No reason to smile,

No hope in our hearts,

Just bitter memories

Of our imperfection.

 

Because

Gone is the Light

From which to guide us.

The earth sits still

Breathing, waiting.


 

Breanna Mekuly is a spiritual seeker currently living aBreanna Mekulynd ministering in Milwaukee, WI. She is committed to searching for and helping others find the Beauty of the Creator in everyday life. She keeps an Instagram account: @4TheeBeauty where she posts daily pictures of nature with spiritual reflections. For more, check out her blog For The(e) Beauty.

We are the Immaculate Conception

somos tod@s la imaculada concepción…we are the immaculate conception
Mary Visits Elizabeth: Luke 1: 39-45:   In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

I would like to start off with a short selection from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple …  

CELIE: God forgot about me!

SHUG: God takin’ his time getting around to you, I admit, but look at all he give us. Laughin’, and singin’, and sex. Sky over our heads, birds singin’ to us. I think it piss God off if anybody even walk past the color purple in a field and not notice it. He say,”look what I made for you.”

I use the story to engage this Gospel passage… The story of Mary … A woman who transgressed borders. A woman called to be a mother, prophet, apostle, revolutionary…She has been exulted and divinized, yet her humanity has often been forgotten and ignored …It is her story that we will look at today to wrestle and grapple with the church’s teaching on the immaculate conception.

Llena de gracia…full of grace

Catholics around the world accept the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. However, what does it actually mean? In 1854, Pope Pius IX stated: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” What does it mean that Mary was preserved from sin? It is the belief that because of her unique mission, Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb so that sin would not pass on to her child, Jesus, who as son of GOD is free of sin.

It was a common belief in Israel that the sins of the parent were passed onto the child. If Jesus was to be free of sin, his mother would also have to be free from sin. My queries are…where does the cycle end…if sin is passed from generation to generation, was Mary’s mother, Anne, also free from sin? How far back does the immaculate lineage have to go? If Mary was not marked by sin, did she really have a choice … would she come down with sinfulness if she had said no? By focusing on conception for future conception, have we limited, distorted, and reduced Mary and by extension all women to worth based on biological breeding?

This feast and dogma has wider implications than explaining that Mary was a suitable receptacle for a son–it impacts how the church treats women and their bodies. It is a source of much division among Christians … with some believing that women should be subservient to their husbands as baby factories (those who cannot are defective machinery) while others affirm the right of women to be ordained and preach.

It is dogmas like the Immaculate Conception that lead to confusion and misunderstanding about Mary and I believe a neglect women, we coerce their womanhood into mindless biological assembly lines. It is this theological marginalization that we need to address so that we can proclaim all as being llena de gracia, full of grace.

In this place, I invite us to relook at what it means to be la Imaculada Concepción…To be conceived immaculately.

In proclaiming Mary as the Immaculate Conception, we are also proclaiming our own immaculate conception as children of GOD. The feast is not about Maria as an exception to the rule, but a celebration of who we are and who we will become. We are all conceived immaculately, each of us is llena de gracia, full of grace

If we look to Genesis, we are told that we are created in GOD’s image and that creation is good. From the beginning we are holy, we are perfect. Regardless of the goofs up that we may do upon entering the world, regardless of the run ins with the Sarah’s of the world who reject us and castigate us for being different, we are good, we are llena de gracia.

Past all the mistakes and oopses, past all the things we coulda woulda shoulda, we are good, we are llena de gracia. Many of the women included in biblical texts are due to their calling to be mothers. What does this calling mean What about those of us who cannot conceive children? Are we less filled with grace? No … regardless of our capacity or ability or willingness to give birth biologically … we are all called to give birth to the divine in our actions, words, and deeds … we are called to give birth through our vocations and callings. We too have been entrusted with baring GOD to the world. GOD has consecrated and created us with a mission from the time of our birth.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” We are all llena de gracia.

As the Psalmist proclaims, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Regardless of the defects that society says we have or how denominations may tell us that we are unworthy for being a woman, black, or transgender, or when we are looked down upon for standing in solidarity with the oppressed, may we hold unto, remember, embrace that we are created, conceived and consecrated as good, as holy, as llena de gracia.

No one can take that away… We are Llena de gracia, full of grace.

Like our foremother Mary, we all have a purpose and personal vocation. It is a calling that we will learn to live out, that we will grow into, that will be revealed to us through out our lives, perhaps with angelic visits in the deserts of life, moments of prayer in chapel, proclamations received through loved ones.

We are not just born and that’s it … No, no, GOD has a special something for all of us to accomplish. Mother Teresa is humorously quoted as having said, “GOD as entrusted me with a specific amount of things to accomplish in this life, I am so far behind in my work, I will never die.” If we look to all the births that were announced in Scriptures, Isaac, Ishmael, Samuel, John, Jesus… The child born always had special vocation to live out.

This is not limited to Biblical figures, all of us come into this world with a special calling to live out, to be the change, holiness, and love GOD wants in this world. There is no right or better calling or right or better way to express it…it is expressed through a marian enthusiastic yes and through hagarian righteous anger. Immaculate conception does not mean we are passive and submissive, but like Mary we embody spiciness and chutzpah to care for those who are sacred to us.

The call to motherhood is not about breeding like rabbits or limited to female bodied individuals, we are called to be fruitful through the evolving multiplication of our abilities to listen, cook, design buildings, theologize, preach, and understand how the physiological makeup of fungus has implications for sexual ethics. By expanding our understanding of the immaculate conception. By honoring Mary, we celebrate the prophets and disciples we are all called to be, of who we are now on our journeys of faith and who we will become in the desert.

We are llena de gracia, full of grace, in our callings to be hospital chaplains, professors, parents, immigrant rights activists, reproductive health advocates, parish priests, youth ministers…all of the above, none of the above…in our calling to be human, we are full of grace, llena de gracia.

In the chaotic joy of living into our multiple callings, we must remember, hold onto, internalize, and put on a post it that we are not forgotten by GOD as Celie laments in the color purple, we are not abandoned or sent alone. We must hold onto Shug’s reminder of how GOD provides through laughter, singing, and sex. GOD does not forget about us for GOD is with us, just like GOD came to Hagar in the desert, meeting her where she was … just like GOD came to the prophet in the stillness after the thunder and storm … just like GOD came to a poor Jewish girl from the barrio … just like GOD was with Mary at the foot of the cross … just like the names Emmanuel and Ishmael … GOD with us and GOD listens … GOD is always there and is always here.

We may not feel it or believe it in our moments of grief, confusion, depression, chaos … when anger causes us to flee from the world into deserts of despair. In our earthquakes and hurricanes and pervasive brokenness… in our desolation for being rejected for fulfilling a task given to us–GOD is there, GOD is here…through a friend, through an email, through a butterfly, through an angel who tells us we will be cared for, despite our belief.

GOD is there and GOD is here…through the fact that we manage to get up and face the desert despite our exhaustion. GOD is there, GOD is here, for we are llena de gracia and full of grace. In this time of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Word made flesh, may we remember our own births, how we were divinely knit, how we are lovingly woven together with purpose.

Though this homilitecal engagement is perhaps heretical and not what the good ol’ boys in Rome had in mind, I like Mary will not sit and wait, but will be counter-cultural and provide a counter narrative–we are the immaculate conception. We cannot let the church and society take away that we are immaculately conceived with sacred and sassy chutzpath!

We too are good, we too are consecrated with purpose, we too are llena de gracia, full of grace.
Amen!

delfin bautista is a former member of cta’s vision council.   They currently serve as the director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.