Parish: An Ash Wednesday anniversary reflection

001I write for Young Adult Catholics on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. This year, I have the privilege of posting on Ash Wednesday. I could do much with Ash Wednesday.

But I want to say something not about Ash Wednesday in general, but about what Ash Wednesday means to me. It is my anniversary. It is an unlikely anniversary at that.

Four years ago, I did something I never thought I would do. I quit being a practicing Catholic for an extended period of time. Two years ago, I rescinded my choice. I “came home” on Ash Wednesday, 2013.

The experience was multidimensional. Here, I want to focus on just one dimension: the “home” part. Specifically, my parish home: what it was before, what it is today, and some thoughts for folks who are where I have been. Continue reading

Changing of the guard in Chicago

Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Photo by Rich Hein for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Photo by Rich Hein for the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Friday, Nov. 14, I attended weekday Mass. The experience was bittersweet.

It was the 12:10 liturgy at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. The main celebrant was Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the retiring archbishop of Chicago.

I sat along the central aisle. I tried and failed to ignore cameramen from local media outlets who had set up for a good shot. As the organ thundered “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” a phalanx of clergy marched within inches of me.

There were deacons and priests in white stoles, most bearing the red-eagled coat of arms of the archdiocese. There were the auxiliary bishops, some familiar to me and some not, all wearing tall white miters. And finally there was the Cardinal, in his red zucchetto and white-and-burgundy chasuble.

He was unsmiling, purse-lipped, and on crutches. George, who is suffering from his third bout with cancer, has a tumor pressing on nerves and veins. It makes it painful for him to walk, on top of the polio-related limp he has endured for more than sixty years anyway. A seminarian altar server, hands veiled in a vimpa, carried the Cardinal’s crosier for him.  Continue reading

“Pray, Listen, Discern”: Reflections after a vigil

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil outside Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

On Tuesday evening, I gathered with a bunch of other folks to pray the rosary. We met on the wet, chilly sidewalk outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

The sky unloaded on us as we arrived. But the rain eased up, almost stopped, as we began the service. It is the kind of thing that happens when I pray in front of Holy Name.

The Human Rights Campaign and Call To Action co-sponsored our gathering. It was one of seven vigils scheduled during the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod (Oct. 5-19) on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The vigils call on the bishops to “Pray, Listen, Discern” with LGBT families.  Continue reading

“We were just sitting there talking”: the Guerrilla Communion saga continues

Last Sunday afternoon, Guerrilla Communion met for the first time in Chicago. We had thirteen young adults, more than one might expect on a crisp but dazzling spring weekend.

We gathered in a cozy little library near the Loop. It was literally an “upper room,” lending a kind of Acts of the Apostles feel. We had soup and salad and quinoa. We also had an array of salsas and chips and homemade desserts.

While we ate, we talked about the joys and struggles of belonging to a church that has profoundly shaped us, but does not always know what to do with us. There was no agenda. It flowed naturally for three hours. Continue reading

The pope and the machine

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., now Pope Francis, has been on St. Peter’s chair for nine months. Many of us in the progressive Catholic movement still wonder who he is.

He refuses ornate vestments. He drives himself sans chauffeur in a fixed-up rust bucket. He has claimed a permanent room in a guesthouse. He has appointed a reform advisory committee. He gives candid interviews to one journalist after another. He reputedly slips out of the Vatican at night to minister with the poor. He sternly takes the rich to task in the first teaching document, Evangelii Gaudium, for which he is the principal author. (Francis’ now-retired neighbor, Benedict XVI, did most of the work for Lumen Fidei.)

Yet Francis declares women’s ordination a closed book. And, as is relentlessly and justly pointed out, neither the Catechism nor canon law have changed, with every “t” still crossed and every “i” yet dotted. Some suspect a P.R. machine is snowing them and they have said so. Is he style, they ask, or is he substance?

But perhaps a more fruitful question is: what can a pope do and what can’t a pope do? I don’t mean what a pope morally or theologically ought to do. I mean practically speaking.

Continue reading