Feb 28, 2010

Feb 26, 2010


When I first set up this blog, I promised myself (and any possible readers) that I wouldn't engage in any of the usual narcissistic tittle tattle about my own personal life, unless such details reflected upon larger, more universal issues (Does that sound as pretentious as I think it does?). Be that as it may, I'm happy to announce that my apartment search has been concluded with a very beautiful flat in the trendy, artsy neighborhood of Paleckeho Namesti, some two blocks south of where I'm presently living in Prague. The photos below don't begin to do justice to the beauty of the place, but the price was also just right: 600 Euros a month. Someone has designed this apartment with much love and in fact it has been featured in a Czech magazine devoted to interior design. Why so cheap, then, since the furnishings are very expensive? Don't have the answer to that, except that the actual owners, a Czech couple, now live in the US.

The search having been concluded, I'm now more free to devote any extra time to writing and reflecting. I hope  soon to conclude an article for Open Tabernacle, which I've long been postponing. But I've been carefully following the postings on other progressive Catholic blogs, gay or otherwise, and many of the stories might seem dispiriting or discouraging, especially when reporting the deeds of daring do of the Vatican notaries (just finished a superb, hair-raising article on the Catholic Culture of Death at Enlightened Catholicism.) However, I believe - for the sake of our own spiritual wholeness and sanity - we need to take the long view and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to renew our community in her own mysterious way. We each have our own parts to play and the gentlemen in the Vatican and their collaborators world wide are playing their parts with ferocious determination and will do so to the very bitter end. These are, however, the desperate efforts of a dying dinosaur. The old system of Catholic Christendom is coming to an end, and none of us can predict what surprising events the Spirit has prepared for us in the future, nor what new forms the Catholic community will embrace. This is a 'fact' we need to accept in peace and joy, while not denying the very real pain the present "leadership" is capable of causing (especially to the abuse victims in Ireland and world wide). Take the short view and one will be filled with despair. Take the long view, and one will understand the appalling contradictions of Vatican behavior as part of a profound dialectical movement of the Spirit, leading us to a freer, more just and egalitarian form of Catholic community. Sister Joan Chittister of NCR, with her usual balance,  has recently given a succinct summary of the church of the future, mentioning a few obvious, salient facts.  In the 21st century, the church will not be able to avoid the issue of women and ordination and the future church will be one of the laity, especially lay women What she leaves implicit, and what I wish to spell out forcefully here, is that once this church of the laity arrives in full force (because of the shortage of ordained priests and women religious) the majority of our ministers will be freed from the economic control of the Vatican. And with economic freedom comes a whole lotta other freedoms besides, at the top of the list of which is the freedom, as a minister of the church,  to speak one's mind without fear of recrimination. Beyond economic freedom, there lies another more radical freedom which must be left up to the professional theologians to explicate - and that is the freedom of the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist,  from ecclesiastical control. Edward Schillebeeckx and Hans Kung have already eloquently reflected on this issue (more than forty years ago), but this freedom is also coming, and with it an end to any pretensions of totalitarian control from a centralized Vatican city state. Economics and sacra-mentality - the key to freedom from totalitarianism. Authority will still have its sacred role as a source of unity and inspirations but the present dysfunctional,  pathological system is already doomed,  and no human force can preserve it. Do not be fooled by its violent death throws. The Spirit blows where She wills, and like Joshua at the Battle of Jericho, She will blow and blow until them walls come tumbling down.

Feb 18, 2010


I've gotten a bit behind with both this blog and Open Tabernacle (to which I've yet to make a contribution) for a number of complex reasons. Running about looking at apartments here in Prague, because it feels time to move out of this very tiny studio on the river to something more spacious - with a meditation room or chapel, being an essential requirement. These are my two favorites so far, each of them about 700 Euros, which is why it's still cheap to live here in Prague:


None of this has anything to do with the proper subject matter of this blog, I just felt like sharing. Curiously, though, I started the search in response to an 'interior call' - just the sense that it was time to move, but it was a very persistent, interior movement which I felt I had to obey, despite the folly, and somehow it felt like a gift. When I informed my very friendly landlady of my thoughts, she told me she was selling the apartment and the new owners were going to refurbish it prior to raising the price. She was planning on informing me when the contracts were finalized in about a month, and I would then be given the two months required notice. Synchronicity once again and a sign of how the Spirit is always with us, sometimes in surprising ways. We are not alone.

I've also been involved in emotional trials with teenager angst - conducting tryouts for our upcoming drama production of Polly Teale's great adaptation of Jane Eyre. The girls in the cast very much wanted the dreamboat of the school, a sultry Argentinian boy named Santiago (right), to try out and win the part of the dark and mysterious master of Thornfield Hall, Edmund Rochester. Santiago shook my hand some weeks ago and said, "I'm definitely doing it, Mr. Cameron," and all the girls swooned. But Santi's best friend, Julien (below), also wanted the part, so Santi, being a Latin gentleman, backed out at the last minute and all the girls swooned again for very different reasons. Julien, at 15, looks like he has never been kissed and has yet to begin shaving (in contrast to the very dark Santiago). So ... we now have a cherub in the part and all the girls are planning on various ways of 'manning' him up. I shudder to think. Every time I pass Santi in the corridors, he turns away sheepishly. However, I pray over every one of these casting choices and feel very much like a Novice Master, praying over whether to approve his young charges for vows. Somehow, it felt "just right" to go with the very innocent and sweet Julien, who has tremendous stage presence, a magnificent stage voice and a very winsome personality. Santiago exudes 'attitude,' which is what made him seem so suitable for the part, but also makes him difficult.

Lastly, my very dear lesbian friend, Anastasia has been in Prague this last week as we try once again to bring another spiritual being into this world. I've been doing my best to entertain her and it's been a wonderful experience to have her here, since I usually go to London for these attempts. Our sense of spiritual connection is very strong, we both feel we are 'parents' in differing ways, though Anastasia will carry the weight of bringing up the child. Again, another spiritual gift and a sign of hope for the future. The Spirit is everywhere around us, offering us signs of hope for the future - though not many of those blossoming  sprigs are found within the formal institutions of religion. But then the Master from Nazareth didn't seem to pay much attention to formal religion either - though he clearly respected the Temple for its symbolic reference to the "Father" - but most of his religious activities took place far from it - and where did he go to pray? Into the wilderness, not into the sanctuary. Which leads me to my final thought - what of the spiritual formation we will give the new child coming soon into the world. We've decided to remain open and to expose the child to a variety of spiritual alternatives - which may sound superficially synchronistic and "new age," but Anastasia is drawn to a  Buddhist meditation center near her house, where she feels spiritually at peace. The Christian organizations in the UK - she feels no connection with them whatsoever, largely because of their sorry history of anti-gay attitudes. So I'm happy to go with her intuitions and because she is such a spiritual, discerning woman, I have no doubt the child will receive the most beneficial exposure to genuine, authentic, lived spirituality devoid of all ideology. And that is another sign of hope and the Spirit's surprising presence, always delighting us with the unexpected and manifesting 'her' presence in the most unlikely places.

Meanwhile, I've been reading Margaret Atwood's latest, The Year of the Flood, which is as bleak as bleak can be about our perilous future - but also funny. A very severe warning sign, yet reading it gives me hope. Amen.

Feb 8, 2010


 ANOTHER SIGN of the future of the Church: the Home Eucharist Movement
(thanks to Contemplative Catholic for this link)
Why a Home Eucharist ?

The Home Eucharist Movement hopes to encourage regular ‘lay led’ celebration of the Eucharist in small house gatherings.

Formal church attendance within Eucharist based church communities appears to be in decline. Many Christians express frustration towards their denomination, whether it’s Anglican, Roman Catholic and so on. Churches are closing and priest numbers are reducing making availability of a community based Eucharist an increasingly rarer event.   
The Home Eucharist Movement is an attempt to transcend these issues. We aim to establish regular home Eucharistic services that are

  • Open to all people regardless of denomination, ethnic background or sexual orientation
  • Not reliant upon the presence of an ordained minister from any established denomination.

  • We hope to encourage
    regular ‘lay led’ celebration of the Eucharist
    in small house gatherings
    that offer support
    to each member of the gathering in faith
    and send us all out
    to take Christ into the week ahead
    and to experience the presence of Christ
    in both the people we meet
    and the experiences we encounter.

    We return after our pilgrimage through the week to give “thanksgiving” for all we have encountered and to be renewed in strength for the week ahead.
    It is important to remember that the Home Eucharist Movement is not intended to replace the worship undertaken with the larger denominations.  This movement has it’s roots in them. 

    It is an attempt to re-invigorate that worship by encouraging a more personal involvement together with a wider appreciation of Eucharist that transcends the confines of the denomination we belong to, grew up with or walked away from.


(Photo is actually of the Spiritus Christi communithy of Rochester, New York, another inclusive Catholic community beyond the control of the institutional church. Thanks to Contemplative Catholic for photo and links.)

I found this very moving statement from the website of "St. Mary's: Community in Exile in Brisbane, South Australia. Here in very eloquent language is the future of the Church. "When the winds of change blow/some build walls/some build windmills. It is time for many new windmills."

Terry Fitzpatrick4 July 2009 (Published in The Green Left Weekly July 4 2009)

On April 19, a huge mob of St Mary’s people made a pilgrimage out of a church and into the Trades and Labor Council (TLC) building, home of the Queensland Council of Unions.

They walked out of the church to the TLC, 200 metres down the road in silent vigil with candles and lanterns, banners and balloons – not unlike the Jews of the Old Testament escaping from the slavery of the Egyptians to the liberation of the Promised Land (minus the balloons).

We too feel liberated from the shackles of a failing institution caught up in dogmas and creeds that belong to another age. We felt it was time to take a stand from the constant bullying we have experienced for many years.

We have been bullied for standing up for the rights of women and giving them a voice. For challenging and changing the sexist language and images of God in the liturgies and celebrations we have as a community. For ensuring women are given equal roles in the decision-making processes of the community.

We have been bullied to make us stop blessing the unions of gay and lesbian couples, baptising their children and allowing them to celebrate and use the church like any other group.

We have been kicked out of our church for giving people with a sexual orientation that departs from the mainstream a voice and a place within the church.

We have been ostracised for taking a stand with those who have suffered abuse at the hands of state and church-run institutions. For setting up the Esther centre in Lotus Place, a place of advocacy and support for people who have experienced abuse in human service or faith communities.

We have been marginalised for signing a treaty with the Indigenous people of the land we are on, for recognising their prior ownership and sovereignty. We believe as many Australians do that this recognition lies at the heart of addressing the injustices carried out against the Aboriginal people of this land.

For these and many other reasons we have been liberated from the constant bullying and shackles of a failing institution unable to change.

As a people we feel optimistic about our future. We have had enormous support nationally and internationally. We have tapped into a nerve, a frustration, a boiling-over anger at an institution that continues to deny the rights of so many.

This huge Roman Catholic corporation continues to win the sympathy and ear of governments afraid to challenge its bullying, standover tactics.

The days of its unchallenged reign are numbered. The tide is turning and new ways of expressing and celebrating spirituality are being forged. We are delighted to be a part of this new movement. As one wise sage said:

“When the winds of change blow/Some build walls/Others build windmills.”
It is time for many new windmills.

[Father Terry Fitzpatrick is a member of the St Mary's congregation in Brisbane.]

Feb 6, 2010

Feb 2, 2010


 Editorial review from Amazon.com:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town once said with regard to South Africa's Apartheid policy, "One of the ways of helping to destroy a people is to tell them that they don't have a history, that they have no roots." He recently described homophobic discrimination "as totally unacceptable and unjust as Apartheid ever was." Unfortunately, it has been particularly difficult for some gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Christians to remain connected with and identified with their own faith traditions because some of these traditions not only treat them as people of secondary status but teach Christian history as though no people of same-gender attraction or opposite-gender identity had any noteworthy place in it and had made no significant contributions at all to Christian tradition.Passionate Holiness tries to remedy this situation by explaining why acquaintance with the stories of Sts. Polyeuct and Nearchus, Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Christ/Holy Wisdom, Sts. Matrona, Perpetua and Felicity, Brigid and Darlughdach, and many others with whom gender minorities can identify can help them to connect with their own history and spiritual legacy and empower them to face a brighter future with a sense of optimism and inclusion. The story of the removal of the feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus from the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church in 1969 - ironically, the very year New York's Stonewall Riots launched the gay liberation movement - is a particularly revealing example of how far some religious authorities will go to keep gender minorities distanced from their own history.

This is all explored in Passionate Holiness.

Feb 1, 2010


Saints Brigid and Darlughdach of Kildare
By Brother Robert Lentz, OFM. © 1999
Courtesy of www.trinitystores.com (800.699.4482)
Collection of the Living Circle, Chicago, IL

St. Brigid and her soulmate St. Darlughdach were sixth-century Irish nuns who brought art, education and spirituality to early medieval Ireland. Brigid (c.451-525) shares her name and feast day (Feb. 1) with a Celtic goddess -- and she may have been the last high priestess of the goddess Brigid.

Raised by Druids, Brigid seems to have made a smooth transition from being a pagan priestess to a Christian abbess. Today she is Ireland’s most famous female saint. Legend says that when she made her final vows as a nun, the bishop in charge was so overcome by the Holy Spirit that he administered the rite for ordaining a (male) bishop instead.

A younger nun named Darlughdach served as Brigid’s ambassador and her “anam cara” or soul friend. The two women were so close that they slept in the same bed. Like many Celtic saints, Brigid believed that each person needs a soul friend to discover together that God speaks most powerfully in the seemingly mundane details of shared daily life. The love between these two women speaks to today’s lesbians and their allies. Some say that Brigid and Darlughdach are lesbian saints.

Brigid started convents all over Ireland and became the abbess of the “double monastery” (housing both men and women) at Kildare. Built on land that was previously sacred to her divine namesake, the monastery included an art school for creating illuminated manuscripts.

Soon after turning 70, Brigid warned Darlughdach that she expected to die soon. Her younger soulmate begged to die at the same time. Brigid wanted her to live another year so she could succeed her as abbess. Brigid died of natural causes on Feb. 1, 525. The bond between the women was so close that Darlughdach followed her soulmate in death exactly one year later on Feb. 1, 526.

Both Christians and pagans celebrate St. Brigid’s Day on Feb. 1. It is also known as Imbolc, a spring festival when the goddess Brigid returns as the bride of spring in a role similar to the Greek Persephone.

Brigid’s main symbol was fire, representing wisdom, poetry, healing and metallurgy. The nuns at the Kildare monastery kept a perpetual fire burning in Brigid’s memory for more than 1,000 years -- until 1540 when it was extinguished in Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The Order of St. Brigid was reestablished in 1807. Two Brigidine sisters returned to Kildare and relit the fire in the market square for the first time in more than 400 years on Feb. 1, 1993. The perpetual flame is now kept at the Solas Bhride (Brigid’s Light) Celtic Spirituality Center that they founded there.

Brigid and Darlughdach are shown with their arms around each other in the above icon by Brother Robert Lentz. He is a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his progressive icons. The two women are dressed in the white gowns worn by Druid priestesses and Celtic nuns. Flames burn above them and on the mandala of Christ that they carry.

The icon was commissioned by the Living Circle, a Chicago-based interfaith spirituality center for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community and their friends. Four Living Circle members took the original icon to Kildare with them in 2000 for the flame-lighting ceremony at the recently excavated site of Brigid’s ancient fire temple.

Dennis O’Neill, the priest who founded the Living Circle, includes the icon and an excellent biography of Brigid and Darlughdach in his book “Passionate Holiness: Marginalized Christian Devotions for Distinctive People.”
This post is part of the GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.