Guerrilla Communion: DIT (do it together!)

by Kate Conmy and Katie Jones

Build justice-seeking Catholic community around your dinner table!

Guerrilla CommunionFor the past 10 months, some progressive Catholics in the Washington, DC area have been gathering for monthly potluck dinners. The event is called Guerrilla Communion (here here to Kate for the jazzy name!), and its purpose is simple: to gather progressive Catholics around a table just to be together. Typically, we’ll have 20 people or so show up with some chili, or hummus, or a six-pack or two. We eat, share stories, get to know each other, and go home. We bring with us ties to a host of church justice organizations – Call To Action, Women’s Ordination Conference, New Ways Ministry, Catholics United, DignityUSA, Catholics for Choice, NETWORK, Pax Christi, the volunteer corps, various parishes – but ultimately come just as ourselves. There is a special kind of cross-pollination that happens over a plate of rice and beans that can be downright transformational.
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Christmas 2014: What To Buy a Progressive Catholic

This one goes out to all my progressive Catholic comrades who feel misunderstood. Does your family inch away from you when you conspicuously gender-neutralize the prayers at mass? Does your queer community give you the stink eye for hanging around a church that still sort of teaches that “homosexual acts are intrinsically evil?” “I can explain,” you begin. “See, there’s this concept in queer theology called the ‘Transgender Christ,’ and…” but you’ve already lost them. Yes, we’re a confounding bunch all year long, but once it’s time for the office holiday gift exchange, things can get stressful. That’s why today I offer what may be the first-ever Christmas shopping guide for progressive Catholics. Share it with your confused loved ones, water cooler pals and OK Cupid dates today, so the only mysteries left this holiday season will be the sacred ones!

Let’s get started. In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sophia-Wisdom-Spirit. Amen.

DSC_00361. Rainbow Rosary

The Equally Blessed LGBTQ-and-ally pilgrims who made waves at World Youth Day this summer gave out rainbow rosary swag – and I almost flew to Rio just to get my hands on one. Make some for the roamin’ Catholics in your life, and turn their prayer practice from drab to fab.

Good for: Catholic Workers, Evangelii Gaudium cheerleaders, Occupy Catholics and other simple livers who actually mean it when they say they don’t want you to buy them stuff.
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Empty Christmas Masses

My last scheduled post was on Christmas Day, which I didn’t come through on, partly because I didn’t have a great Internet connection where I was staying, but partly because I felt an awful lot of pressure, posting on Christmas.

Yet, here I am two weeks later, and it’s Christmas that’s on my mind. In particular, how different Christmas Mass was this year than what I’ve grown used to.

I attended Christmas Mass out near Rapid City, with my husband’s family. I was anxious about leaving with plenty of time, expecting parking lots and pews to be full for the 9 am service. When we arrived, we found quite the opposite — plenty of space in the lot, and lots of gaps in the pews. My family has traditionally gone to the Christmas Eve services, where we try to arrive half an hour early to get a parking spot and a seat, where my mom mutters under her breath about people who “only go to Church on Christmas and Easter,” and where we’ve ended up standing through the service on several occasions. I wondered, was 9 am just too early for people?

But then my husband’s relatives who had gone to service the night before reported the same thing — a relatively empty church, and very little Christmas fanfare. When I celebrated Christmas with my side of the family the following weekend, they reported the same phenomenon for the Masses they had attended. My mom said, “I’d be surprised if there were any more than 30 people there.”

As I wondered aloud what was going on, my mom said, “A lot of people stopped coming to church with the new translation of the Mass.”

I told her I wasn’t thrilled with the new translation either, but that it didn’t seem sufficient reason to leave (similar to outdoor weddings). But she said, “I think there were so many people who were already dissatisfied, and this was the final straw.”

That, I understood.

While empty churches at Christmas saddens me, at the same time I wonder if this might be the wake-up call the Church needs — similarly to how I feel a bit of begrudging satisfaction when gas prices get especially high. Although it inconveniences me, I hope it will be the wake-up call the rest of the culture needs to start agitating for less dependence on oil as a fuel source — and more judicious use of their personal transportation.

Several months ago, I attended a session about the Vatican II council at a local church. The deacon leading the session talked about how parishes wishing to offer the Tridentine Mass had to get special permission from Rome — but that Rome often grants this permission because it wants to “bring back” those who drifted away from the Church due to dissatisfaction with the changes made after Vatican II.

Which leaves me wondering — when will the Church offer alternatives to “bring back” those who have left because of non-inclusive language, because they or their loved ones were not accepted as GLBTQ individuals, because the entire power structure is decided by celibate men, right down to who is allowed to stand on the altar at an individual service? I’m not holding my breath on any of these offerings from the institutional church — but I, like many others, have discovered that Church as the People of God are already providing them. And while none of these alternatives are available where I live (although the Tridentine Mass is), I feel hope in knowing that it’s not just about empty Christmas services — that there are house churches and alternative Catholic churches that are being birthed, growing, and thriving. Every time I’ve visited a radically progressive Catholic Church, the place has been absolutely packed. And until the institutional church opens its doors to those who hunger for a more inclusive spirituality, it might have to accept sparsely populated pews — while the pews in alternative churches become ever-fuller.