“We like it here”

I’ve always had an interest in architectural oddities, so when news of the Metrodome roof collapse hit the airwaves in 2010, I became obsessed with finding out all about this unusual building.  One of the articles that I stumbled across, part of an old ESPN review of every stadium in baseball, mentioned a sign that used to hang there that said “METRODOME – Minneapolis ‘We like it here.'”  The article goes on to express the true meaning:

Yeah, you people from New York, California and Florida might think our weather is cold and miserable and that our stadium sucks, but we don’t care — WE like it and that’s all that matters. And is it loud enough in here for you, then?

metrodome_with_new_roofIn thinking about why I stay Catholic, I think some of the same logic applies.  Those who have left the church or who are proud of their own faith tradition will see the “cold and miserable weather” that we’ve gone through as Catholics (the sexual abuse scandal, bishops and Cardinals getting in the news for being unwilling to welcome LGBTQ Catholics, etc.) and ask us, “why stay Catholic?”  And the best answer I can give them is that “we like it here.”  If that’s the case, I thought, I’d better seek to understand why I like it here.  This lead me to decide that what I should “give up” for Lent this year was negativity.  In other words, I sought to focus on the positive this Lent.  And it turned out that my pastor was right there with me — part of his prescription for Lent was to spend ten minutes a day counting our blessings.

I consider myself to be a fairly positive person, but I found that the goal of “giving up” negativity demanded effort.  It is easy to get sucked in with others when they talk about shortcomings of religious leaders or the undeniable mess that is politics in the United States.  I kept coming back to the question of “What good can I say?”  What good can I say of Pope Francis when my progressive Catholic friends point out that he doesn’t seem to be acknowledging LGBT Catholics as much as we had hoped?  What good can I say of President Obama when I am confronted with a list of things that he has failed to accomplish?

Fr. Tim’s wish that I count my blessings didn’t prove as easy as I would have thought, either.  My thought process often went something like family, good weather … gotta finish that report at work, gotta talk to my boyfriend about Easter plans … people that love me ….  I couldn’t even list 10 things without being distracted by everything I “needed” to get done.

But if I can count one big blessing, it’s that I feel that this Lent really has been different.  I have made progress in my Lenten goals, if imperfect.  And I have gotten to take advantage of three Sacraments: Eucharist, of course, but also Healing and Confession.  I didn’t get the opportunity to go to much of our parish mission in person, but I’m taking advantage of the YouTube recordings to slowly experience it on my own.

As you head into Holy week, I invite you to consider the blessing that this week and this season is for 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.

Advertisements

“What We Will Be Has Not Yet Been Revealed…”

new years resolutionIt is January – the month of resolutions. The glossy covers of magazines encourage the launching of self-improvement routines and offer advice on kicking bad habits and creating better ones. They promise that 2015 can be the best year ever as long as we have enough grit, determination, and self-control to make it so. After excess holiday eating and drinking, we resolve to be healthier. Or we rededicate ourselves to improving that relationship, finishing that degree, tackling that cleaning project, addressing that character flaw.

The assumption behind any resolution is that we are in control – in the words of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus, that I am “the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.” That’s an appealing idea to us first world, middle class North American folks. Whether it’s our health, finances, relationships, spiritual lives, or any other area – it’s nice to think that we can systematically set goals, achieve them, master our flaws, and maximize progress. That through a combination of smarts, willpower and planning we can both chart and then walk the road of growth in wholeness/holiness.

Underlying this mindset is a subtle, secular Pelagianism and that is challenged by these words which have been working on me in prayer: “…what we will be has not yet been revealed” (I John 3:2). John the Evangelist tells his readers (past and present) that we are children of God now, but we do not know what we will be in the fullness of time – or even (I would add) next year. Not only can we not get there by our own power – we cannot even know what we will look like.

An anecdote that Catholic journalist John L. Allen, Jr. shared recently about Pope Francis’ transformation that illustrates this idea and provides a healthy counterpoint to the prevailing New Year’s mindset.

Allen challenged us to do a google image search for “Jorge Mario Bergoglio not Pope Francis.” Try it, and you’ll see: in many of the photos he looks stern, awkward, unapproachable, and even downright dour. In his pre-pope days, close associates described him as “shy.”

Of course, this is a man whom we know now as the world’s most popular religious leader – admired by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, followed by 12 million on Twitter, more than comfortable in the media spotlight (did you see him on the cover of Rolling Stone?) voted as Esquire’s best-dressed man of the year. If you want visuals, do a google image search for “Pope Francis” and make a comparison.

So what happened? How did the shy, spotlight-dodging Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio become the charismatic, warm Pope Francis?

By the reports of those who have worked with him closely, Bergoglio underwent a significant change the night of his election. Allen reports that after receiving news of his election but before stepping out on the balcony of St. Peter’s for the “habemus papam” pronouncement, Bergoglio went into a chapel for a few moments of private prayer. A Vatican photographer who witnessed him stepping out chapel reported that his entire countenance and way of carrying himself had changed. There was a new vitality and radiance present – the vitality and radiance which have come to characterize his papacy.

“Jorge Bergoglio had a mystical experience on the night of his election – he went from being someone who was shy and avoided appearing in public to a ‘rock star,’” Allen says of the transformation of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

When Pope Francis was approached by prelates about this dramatic change, he acknowledged: “It’s true. I believe the Holy Spirit has changed me.”

Francis’ example encourages a generous dose of trust that change is at least as much about what we receive as what we create. Transformation has more to do with that old-school Catholic term “cooperation with grace” than with the masterminding and implementing of a detailed personal annual strategic plan.

Allen’s description of Bergoglio’s election night and the words of John’s epistle both point to the same humbling, counter-cultural truth: we are not, finally, the authors of our own transformation.

Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin’s encouragement to “above all, trust in the slow work of God” includes a line that you cannot know “today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.”

Indeed, what we will be has not been revealed. And we aren’t in the driver’s seat of how we will get there. So we write out our plans, set our goals, resolve to change…and then hold those resolutions with gentleness and humility, trusting that our transformation is held in hands immeasurably larger and seen with vision infinitely broader than our own.

About the author: Rhonda Miska (rhonda.youngadultcatholics@gmail.com) is a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Originally from Wisconsin, her past ministries include accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities. She is currently a Partner in Mission with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary at the Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center in Villa Maria, Pennsylvania where she will be facilitating a program on “The Spirituality of Pope Francis” in April.

 

Dear Pope Francis: Sorry ’bout the cats

The new cat — who is just a cat, not a child “substitute.”

After months of deliberation, last week I adopted another cat. This led to me Googling pet-related search terms on my work breaks, and I found this article about Pope Francis, in which he warns married couples not to “replace” children with pets.

This hit close to home because one of the reasons we debated whether we should get another cat is that we are thinking about having children — and that is such an unknown factor that we wondered if it was really wise to introduce another unknown factor into our lives before then.

Still, the Pope’s “advice” rubbed me the wrong way because, like many of the hierarchy’s proclamations, it is too simplistic, dismissive of the complicated choices people must make about their lives. The decision whether or not to have children is an intensely personal one, and probably has the farthest-reaching consequences of any choice a couple will ever make. This requires deep soul searching, not a rote edict from a man who will never have to lose hours of sleep over a baby’s cries or a teenager’s rebellion; who will never have to make the decision to take the hit to his career for the flexibility parenthood requires; or who will never have to stay in a soul-crushing job because he needs the money to feed his children.

Continue reading

Papal intervention needed in Ukraine

priests2

“Never again war, because war destroys the lives of innocent people. Throws into upheaval the lives of those who do the killing, and always leaves behind a trail of hatred and resentment that make it all the more difficult to resolve the very problems that provoke the war.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II

With Russian troops occupying the Crimea, could it be time for another papal intervention?

As I wrote last September, I believe that Pope Francis’ vigil for Syria played a role in preventing the civil war there from escalating into a regional conflict. There is something about the whole world praying at once that can have a powerful effect on the course of events.

The situation in Ukraine is worrisome. The Russian parliament has given president Vladimir Putin authorization to send troops, on the vague pretext of protecting the interests of ethnic Russians in the country. Ukraine’s military is on alert, expecting an invasion at any moment.

There are many nations with an interest in this situation, particularly Ukraine’s neighbors, Belarus, HungaryMoldova, PolandRomania, Slovakia and, of course, Russia. Concerns that have been raised—some of which have already been proved justified—include conflict spilling out of Ukraine, a flow of refugees, trade disruptions, border closings, Russian attempts to regain former Soviet territory and even nuclear disaster (keep in mind that Chernobyl is in Ukraine). With so many variables in a part of the world that is a major crossroads and source of resources, the possibility for a major conflict is very real.

If you have not been praying for the situation in Ukraine to improve, it is time to start. And I pray that Pope Francis will get the world together again as he did with Syria.

After him came the modern popes

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI. It is the sort of thing only I would pay attention to.

I am an unusual member of the church justice movement. I consider dead popes my dear friends, even as I laser-critique the two popes who are living.

When one of my theology professors remarked that Pius XI would have been a fun pope to have a beer with, I enthusiastically agreed. In fact, I exceeded his sentiment. I thought Pius would have been a really fun pope for me to have a beer with.

Ratti as a child was called “the little old man.” He worked his way through an algebra book “for fun.” He was not unlike me, who memorized all two-hundred-plus popes at age eleven “for fun.”

Meanwhile, as a former library clerk and an erstwhile cataloger for a special collection, I appreciate that Ratti was a longtime librarian and archivist. Nay, more: he was a paleographer, a scholar of “old writing.” And I share his instinctive, unquestioning esteem for crabbed Greek letters inked onto delicate parchment, for Latin sentences chiseled into silent stone.

Pius wouldn’t like my blog, but he would be enthusiastic about blogging. He was the pope who hurled the church into the communications age by founding Vatican Radio. Its first broadcast featured his modest utterance: “Listen, heavens, while I speak; earth, hear the words that I am saying.” (He was quoting Deuteronomy 32.) Pius also lectured a group of nuns on the many glories of the telephone.

Continue reading

Breastfeeding in Church Brings Congruence to Church’s Sexuality Teachings

Pope Francis seems to make news so often that I’d never get any work done if I clicked on his picture every time he comes up in my Yahoo daily stories. But “The Week”‘s January 14 article, covering Pope Francis’ endorsement of breastfeeding in church, made me heave a sigh of finally.

Continue reading