Baptism

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“Evolution” by Holly Norton, Mellow Jelly Art.

This is a post by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann: a mother, writer, and activist in Detroit, MI. She works for Word and World: A People’s School currently organizing a Land and Water School happening in Detroit this summer.

My mom loved baptism. She had a fierce desire for theology and liturgy that was infectious. But when I was born that commitment was tested. She looked at this beautiful, fragile human being in her arms and realized the dangers she would place me in by baptizing me. Baptism was not as simple as entering a community or knowing the love of God, but about putting me on the road to the cross.

And then came the question of baptism. Water, words, community. Offering our child back to God. We would stand with Abraham at the sacrifice. We would give her to a God who models the cross. We would invite her to listen for a voice calling in the night, to vigil, to put herself at risk, to leave family and friends, to speak clearly a truth for which one can be executed. We would thereby invite her into the risks we have already elected and, by God’s grace, still will elect to take with our own lives. In the act of baptism we would wash away the possibility that our concern for her might justify a diminishing of our own obedience to our Lord’s perverse ethic of vulnerability and gain through loss.   –Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann, On the Edge 1986

I have clung to her writing on baptism. In the moments when I have felt scared and my knees shake, these words keep me steady.

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The Confessions

A confessional. Via Wikimedia Commons.

A confessional. Via Wikimedia Commons.

On a spring evening at dusk, sitting next to the fire pit with a glass of wine, my mother told me what it was like to go to confession before the Second Vatican Council.

First of all, that is what it was. There was no “Reconciliation.” There was no “Reconciliation Room.” You went to confession. You went in the confessional.

You went once a month, every month. Mom’s impression was that this was church law. But it wasn’t, not really.

The minimum rate of going to confession was pegged to the minimum rate of receiving Eucharist. In other words, once a year around Easter. But in those days, things that seemed to be law had as much force as things that actually were law.

You went on Saturdays. Mom dreaded it. She hid in her bedroom, hoping her mother would forget. It was fruitless. Sometime in the afternoon, the shout came up the stairs from the kitchen.

“Krysia!” (For the uninitiated, “Krysia” is Polish for “Chrissy.”)  Continue reading

Bread of life. A memoir.

ridmjbni9For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. –1 Corinthians 11:26

I first received the bread on May 3, 1992, at the age of eight. The first person to give me the bread was Father Joe.

Father Joe used to say to me: “We forget who we are. But God never forgets.” He would say this when he wanted me to consider the priesthood.

In the beginning, I ate the bread in the church where I was baptized. Later, I ate the bread at liturgies in our high school gym, all vast and white and smelling like rubber and paint.

I have eaten the bread under a tent in rainy darkness, with hundreds of other students from Jesuit colleges. It was spiritual food for the next morning, when we took up our white-painted crosses, which bore murdered people’s names and ages, and protested in front of the School of the Americas.

I have never eaten the bread in my dad’s church. I am Catholic; they are Lutheran. It’s interesting watching everybody else in church do what you can’t. You feel fidgety. You’re sure they’re all looking at you.  Continue reading

The Baptism of the Lord: “Different”

Sunday was the observance of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, by John. Liturgically, it makes Jesus a grown-up after about two easy weeks and then closes the Christmas season. This year, it also provided a homily that I am hereby stealing and sharing with you.

Saturday night, my pastor told us: many moons ago, he was on staff at the Chicago archdiocesan seminary, Mundelein-St. Mary of the Lake. He used to lead the seminarians on their ten-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was good for him, because he got out of the buildings here at home to go breathe where Jesus did.

A highlight of each pilgrimage was the Jordan River. Father and the seminarians would dress in white baptismal robes. They got into the river and lowered themselves beneath the surface, until the water came all the way over their heads. They emerged and renewed their baptismal promises. Do you reject…? Do you believe…?

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Abiding in Love

[We don’t know why this whole post isn’t visible, but you can see all the words if you highlight it. Please bear with us! Thanks, Ed.] 

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

and all your soul, and all your mind,

and Love all humankind as you would Love yourself…

We’ve got Christian lives to live,

we’ve got Jesus’ Love to give,

we’ve got nothing to hide,

for in Him we all abide.

 

Those are the words to a song that I sing a lot. I learned it at Bible School when I was little girl and it’s really catchy. 

 

On Tuesday two of my dear friends and mentors, a lesbian couple, got married in California.  They are both Catholic women and they have three beautiful daughters.  Now they should be able to file joint taxes and have joint custody of their daughters.  Nonetheless, they will never get to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the church. 

 

This is what I have learned:  In our church, the Sacrament of Marriage is a very holy sacrament.  It’s the sacrament of the union of love. It’s the only sacrament that people make unto themselves, through their vows unto each other and God.  I won’t really ever get to know what this means, either, because I am pretty sure I am made to love a community and not an exclusive family unit.  And as I position myself to commit deeply to be an inclusive Lover within the church and within God’s world, I ironically exclude myself from another sacrament.

 

Since I am a woman and a Franciscan sister, I can only ever know God through five of the seven sacraments– I’ll never get to be ordained nor married. The only other folks that I suppose are in this same boat are gay and lesbian couples because the Catholic Church won’t be marrying them anytime within our lifetime.  So, my choice to not get married is a way that I am sort of in solidarity with them, and all other Catholics who can’t be married in the church because of their sexual orientation.  But it’s not really solidarity, and I know this, because it is greatly imbalanced.  I have chosen the place that is generally honored and they are living the life that is discriminated against.  They are on the fringes in the church, and I am supposed to be a leader and at its core. But God does love us, very much, and is pleased we are authentic to who we are.

 

Before their wedding, my friend emailed me and asked for my blessing.  Here are her words:
 
”What I want to make sure everybody knows is that this is completely real to us.  We’re getting married Tuesday. Thousands will be getting married in the days to come. Each of those marriages is first about love, and second about the politics that surround it.  This IS a political movement.  This is a demand that my wife and my kids get the same deal everybody else gets- the rights to make decisions about our kids, the right to power of attorney, the right to file joint taxes, the right to claim my own children as dependents.  These are basic rights and we will demand them over and over. But just as the marriages of straight people are rarely conducted with these rights in mind, so our marriage too is first about love.

 

I’m begging everyone to do something in support of this movement.  If you can be there Tuesday to support all the couples claiming what is theirs, come to the courthouse. Bring bubbles. Bring signs. Offer wedding treats. Cheer and celebrate and drown out the inevitable protesters. Wrap that building in a wall of hope and blessing.  If you can’t be there that day, find another way. Don’t laugh at the jokes people make about two brides or two grooms, and certainly don’t make those jokes. See the common humanity and the beauty. Take the marriages of gay couples you know seriously. Send cards to the couples you know getting married that day. Be as angry about this denial of rights as you would be the denial of the rights of any other person.  This is the time to act. History is being made, and each one of us is called to be a player.”

 

I’m inspired by their courage and their commitment.  They are really beautiful women, and I’ve witnessed them grow together towards God in their Love for each other.  The unity of love is phenomenal. 

 

It all brings me back to that song from my childhood:  “We’ve got nothing to hide, because in Him we all abide.”

 

Sounds like Love to me.