What – who – is it that invests now with eternity?
Alan Watts spoke of reincarnation as the return of particular consciousness from cosmic consciousness.
That doesn’t have much meaning to me, although it sounds grand.
In much the same way the Second Coming sounds grand without much specific content.
What is eternal life to me if I will not be the me I know – whether it be Watts’ version or Paul’s version. If we shall all be changed, whether or not death is real, then the particular I that loves this particular You shall no longer exist. And that is an eternity that is oh so very uninteresting to me.

But this now. This early morning eternal now with you still sleeping and me loving you still sleeping. This is perhaps all the eternity I need. And for that I thank whatever, whoever created nowness for me.

Finding God

Thoughts from a morning in church and an afternoon in the garden:

We create God in our own image, bestowing desired power and glory on that image, and imprisoning it in words.

We experience God in nature, opening ourselves to the insistent richness and diversity of divinity beyond words.

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
Romans 11:33 NRSVCE


Spice died on February 27, just before our normal started to die.

We took her to the vet in the morning. I sat on the floor, on the blanket they had spread in the small exam room, the one at the end of the corridor right next to the toilet-and-sink room. Spice sat next to me, on alert. She, with her half nose and leaking bladder, wouldn’t lie down though sitting hurt her. We were at the vet, so she expected poking and probing, she expected shots. My dogs are country dogs at heart. Country dogs who live in the large back yard of our city house. They see the vet once a year, every year for twelve years. So Spice, tired and ailing, knew what to expect. So she thought. So she sat, alert and wary.

Eventually the vet came in and gave her a sedative. Then she laid down with her head in my lap, as she absolutely never did at home. Her sister and life companion, Sugar, is as big as Spice – 60 pounds of Heinz 57 rescue. But Sugar is a lap dog at heart. When I am sitting in a chair on our porch or deck, Sugar will be there, sitting next to me, head in my lap. Spice will circle in for the occasional behind the ear or belly rub but she always holds her head high and is soon on her way. We have to be careful about the gates to the yard because Spice is an escape artist. She loves nothing better than to sneak out a gate and run and run and run around our neighborhood. She always comes back, eventually.

Was…would…held…had to be…loved…ran…came back: it all needs to be past tense now.

Sometimes now the gates are unlatched. Sugar does go out occasionally, looks around the front yard, up and down the street – is she still searching for Spice? – then simply sighs and comes back to her bed on the porch.

About 10 or 15 minutes after giving Spice the sedative, the vet came back into the room, with an assistant. They shaved a spot on one of Spice’s hind legs, and gave her an injection. Just seconds later Spice gave two slow sighs and was gone. I wondered why, if we were determined to keep the death penalty (which is, in essence, as inhuman in purpose as the cross) why it could not at least be done this simply, this quietly. If a dog deserves this, doesn’t a human, no matter what?

I said yes, I wanted a paw print and Spice’s ashes. The vet used the blanket to wrap Spice. I fled to the small necessaries room next door, washed my hands and face, leaned against the sink looking in the mirror, wondering why I felt gutted when really my dogs lived pretty much independently of me.

Later that afternoon, I was rear ended by a young driver who was on her cellphone. No one was hurt, there wasn’t even any significant damage to either car. It was a bump really, nothing more. But I was breathless and scared and couldn’t stop crying.

Two days later I left for France and then, soon after, the world started to fall apart in the blazing heat of a corona. Sunspots gone crazy. If I had rescued three dogs instead of two, perhaps the third would have been named Sunspot. Sugar, Spice and Sunspot. Nice and hot. But there were only two puppies wandering that town dump in North Carolina twelve years ago. Just Sugar, looking like a yellow lab, and Spice, with her incredible cinnamon coat that got inches and inches thick every winter, like a Chow.

Spice died and I went to France to join a friend whose brother had died. I had to come back a week early when too many people started dying in too short a time all over the world. Death had become contagious.

Sugar was waiting for me when I returned. She was no longer crying, moaning sort of, occasionally throughout the day, as she did in the two days after Spice died, before I left. But when the gate is left open, Sugar now goes into the front yard to look up and down the street; she never sees Spice, so she comes back into the familiar safety of the enclosed yard.

She does, however, unknowingly, sometimes walk over Spice on her way to the front yard. By the time I came back from France my husband had picked up the plaster paw print and an elaborately carved small wooden box containing Spice’s ashes. I recoiled when he tried to hand it to me. The thought of any remnant of free-ranging Spice in that ridiculous box repulsed me.

While I was in France, Woody, my landscaping husband, started making a pathway from the side gate to the front yard. He had planned to finish it before I got back, but death not only sent me away but also brought me back early.

On one side of the new path he created a sloping garden for succulents because I love succulents. That part of the property faces south, protected between two houses, never getting very cold in winter and often very hot in summer. So Woody dug sand into the rich Virginia soil to make a good bed for succulents. I asked him to dig Spice’s ashes into that new garden that was outside our fenced yard but still on our property, close.

So sometimes, when Sugar runs out the gate to check for Spice in front of the house, she may run over Spice. And as I dig to plant my thick-leaved succulents, as I dig, I dig through Spice. As a sentence it is weird, even as a thought it sounds unappealing. But when I am kneeling beside the garden, troweling a hole for a new small plant, when I take off my garden gloves and press the plant into the hole, snuggling the gritty dirt close around it, when I sit back on my heels and admire the new plant and imagine how it will spread, well then it doesn’t feel anything but good and right. Even though there still is too much death happening too fast.

Second Comings

One of the many things I love about the movie As Good As It Gets is that to me the ultimate message is “This is as good as it gets- and that can be plenty good enough.”

Today I read this quote from Emmy Arnold:

The Christmas Star in the night sky, the shining of the Christmas light in the night – all this is the sign that light breaks into the darkness. Though we see about us the darkness of unrest, of family discord, of class struggle, of competitive jealousy and of national hatred, the light shall shine and drive it out.…Wherever the Christmas Child is born in a heart, wherever Jesus begins his earthly life anew – that is where the life of God’s love and of God’s peace dawns again.

And I thought of the Second Coming and wondered:

Are we living the Second Coming? What if it is not a single Second Coming, but repeated Comings, every time the light of love, of truth, of peace, of kindness, of hope bursts or leaks forth again into the world.

Maybe, as countless stars lend each their light to a dark sky, maybe, just maybe, we each – woman and man, old and young, Gentile and Jew – get to be Mary, bringing the starlight of God’s love into a dark world over and over again.

Maybe WE are the Second Coming!

One Father’s Forever Gift

My friend’s brother is dying. This is not a new thing. He has been living with dying for several years now. From his diagnosis, he knew the illness was “terminal.”

Of course, in a very real sense, we all live with that terminal diagnosis. We will all die. But most of us get to pretend that we will die at some unspecified point in the fairly distant future. And before that happens, we will be able to live interesting lives, full of activities and experiences.

That is not his reality now. The point at which he will die remains unspecified, but he knows it is not in the distant future. It may not be tomorrow, or next week, or even next month, but his future is now measured small, months at the most optimistic.

I don’t know him well. Really I know him only through my long friendship with his sister. But I have learned to know him better, I think, as I consider the choices he is making now, at the end of his life.

Little by little, and sometimes too much by too much, his life has been diminished. He could no longer travel, no longer play golf, he could seldom play any sport, even in the backyard at family gatherings. Then he couldn’t work. And there were the treatments, the pain, the side-effects. Then he couldn’t walk very far, then not without a walker, then he started needing a wheelchair at times. And the pain kept growing, and the side-effects more difficult to treat. Then the medications to control the pain blurred his mind, taking from him even the clarity of thought and speech that was his hallmark. He is a natural caregiver who could no longer even take care of himself.

A few weeks ago, he entered palliative care in a hospital. Yet still, he agreed to another round of radiation treatment, talked with the doctors about other possible treatments – knowing that cure was not even a remote fantasy, that the only reasonable hope was to extend his life – with suffering, with almost no ability to do most of what he loved and valued – by days, weeks, maybe, at the most optimistic, months.

Why? Why does he make these choices when many would have gone, if not gentle at least resigned, into that good night? Why does he continue to, not rage, but fight against the dying of his light, his life?

It seems to me there is only one answer. Because everything else has been stripped from him. He cannot work, he cannot play, he cannot walk, he cannot care for himself, he cannot even think clearly at times. So much is gone that what is left becomes very clear. What is left stands out against the emptiness of all that once was there.

His children.

He hangs on for every day, every hour, every minute he can have with his children.

He loves his whole large close family. His brother and sisters, their children and grandchildren. Cousins. He loves them all. He has done more than his fair share of taking care of many of them. But would he hold on just for them? I can’t know. Maybe, maybe he would; maybe it is just in his genes, in who he is. Maybe he would hold on even if he did not have children himself.

No one can know. But I choose to see in him the full nobility of a father’s love. Nothing that he has lost is as important as what he still has, as what he can still give – his presence to his children.

I don’t know if he has a lot or a little or any money to leave them. I don’t know if any bequests he can leave will last a short time or a long time. But this I know. He gives his children a forever gift with every day of his presence. As long as they live, to everyone they care about, his children will be able to say, “My dad chose to live when he had nothing left to live for except to spend more time – despite pain, despite humiliations, despite tiredness – more time with us.”

What a gift!

The Grandeur of God

Earlier this week I read a Facebook post about a Catholic priest justifying excluding women from the priesthood by saying we see the “grandeur of God” in the male priest. This has been a niggling, itching irritation in my mind since then.

I just left the grocery store. I am not young, but I am tall and straight-backed, and I move easily. In the store I watched a classic “little old lady” roll her shopping cart slowly down the long aisle. She had a very wrinkled face, even the backs of her hands were wrinkled, her hair was wispy, she shuffled, bent-backed, down the aisle, slowly reaching for the canned goods she wanted. She looked up, caught my eye, and smiled. Now there, I thought, is a glimpse of the grandeur of God.

And then, inevitably, I thought of the opening lines of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

And then Gerard Manley Hopkin’s God’s Grandeur:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

And I gave thanks “to whatever gods may be” not for my “unconquerable soul” but for opening my eyes to the divinity shining forth in a grocery store aisle.

Thoughts about God

Earlier today, driving through western Texas while my husband napped in the passenger seat, I spent some time thinking about how our greater awareness of LGBTQ+ people and of sexuality and gender as continua rather than boxes can help us better imagine God in somewhat new ways. I was thinking that God is neither god nor goddess but rather, while fully personal, is not constrained by our created sexual categories.

I have been moving back and forth in my prayers and thoughts between referring to our divine creator as God and Goddess. Neither is completely satisfactory to me but simply saying “Divine One” is not always satisfactory either.

Sometimes, I like my angry prayers best. Prayers that sound blasphemous but are often my most intensely personal with God. “Explain to me, O great creator of everything, how you can be so powerful, so knowing, so loving and such a god almighty bastard.”

But I digress. Somewhere in the middle of southwestern Texas – the sheer empty expanse of which lends itself to such thoughts – I thought that maybe I could refer to our divine creator-redeemer-sustainer as Goddest.


Here is the legacy of being a woman raised Catholic:
I can’t decide if I am saner or crazier than my teachers.
I can’t decide if I am more or less enlightened now than when I was a
Catholic in good standing.
I can’t decide if I believe anything or nothing that the Church teaches.
I can’t decide if I love or hate the Church.

And mainly I can’t decide why the hell I care.

A Collection of Facebook Posts and Comments

This is an unusual post for me. It is a simple collection of many of my FB posts and comments during this week following the release of the report by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury on sexual abuse and assaults by Catholic clergy and the cover-up by the hierarchy. To say I have been obsessed by this is a bit of an understatement. Many of these posts and comments appeared on a private website of Catholic women. I decided I wanted to collect them for myself and this seemed the best place to do that.
“The tree is known by its fruit. Those who profess to belong to Christ will be recognized by their actions. However, what matters now is not a mere professing of faith. Now the crucial thing is whether one is found in the power of faith to the end. He who truly possesses the word of Jesus can even hear his silence speak. In this way shall he be perfect: he will act in accordance with his words and will be known even by his silence.” Ignatius of Antioch
Like many of you, I have been preoccupied for a week now by the massive, entrenched evil revealed in the Pennsylvania report of clerical abuse and the cover-up by the institutional hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. I have read many articles on it, thought and prayed and planned my actions in response. And of course I have written about it.
One theme that emerges time and again in what I read (especially in what I read that is written by Catholics) is that silence is complicity. That everyone and anyone who loves the Church must speak out, must act and demand action. I appreciate that and agree with it. It is too easy to fool ourselves into inaction just because we are afraid, or unsure what to do, or comfortable with our privilege, or…or…or.
(I think of my friend Carol’s determination to decrease her use of plastics. Despite my continuing concern for our environment and all I read, it is her example that has had the most effect on me, that has made me pause every time I reach for a plastic bag, that has made me think of alternatives. A living example of that old truism “Actions speak louder than words.”)
And yet, and yet…there is a silence that is not complicity but is prayer, as this morning’s reading reminds me. There is a silence that is the necessary balance to action (even the action of reading and writing). There is a silence that is creating poetry with God. To paraphrase, here is the difficult challenge:
“She will act in accordance with her words and will be known even by her silence.”
Perhaps we are called, by these continuing horrific revelations, to identify with and care for the victims:
“The grand jury investigation named Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik as someone who covered up abuse over the years. After the report was released this week, Zubik called upon the church to listen to victims.
“We all must take this report to heart,” Zubik said. “It’s a story of people’s lives, people who need to be heard, people who need to be healed.”
Zubik is the signatory of the letter the [Pittsburgh] priests are supposed to read this weekend.”
Aw, Mom, I’m sorry (that I was caught).
He doesn’t need to write a (expletive deleted) letter; he needs to resign and be “laicized” NOW.
It is not enough to feel shame and sorrow over the crimes committed by individual priests. Where is the acknowledgment of responsibility for and pledge to action against the larger horrendous crime of a complicit, corrupt hierarchy that hid and enabled the abuse. The Catholic Church needs reform and cleansing:
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
but our worst crime is abandoning the children,
neglecting the fountain of life.
Many things can wait. Children cannot.
Right now their bones are being formed,
their blood is being made,
and their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot answer, ‘Tomorrow.’
Their name is today.” Gabriela Mistral
What’s on my mind is my total disgust with the complicit, secretive, self-protecting and self-aggrandizing hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Lord Acton) There is no better example of that truth than the Catholic Church.
From the grand jury report:
“We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands.”
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”

The Catholic Church’s hierarchy can’t have it both ways: They try to identify the Church with their hierarchical structure to enforce obedience and then say “oh we are all the church” when it comes to the need for admission of sin and need for penance.

I so badly wanted to hear from Francis. There are parts of his letter that do resonate with my grief and anger and that do seem hopeful but why is it that “… the entire holy faithful People of God [are invited] to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting…” but never invited to full participation in the church priesthood and hierarchy? Why this persistent blindness?
When they are doing time, I will be willing to join in prayers and penance.

“If it takes a village to raise a child. it takes a village to abuse one.’
– Mitchell Garabedian, lawyer known for representing sexual abuse victims in the Boston area during the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal, including the cases against Paul Shanley, John Geoghan, and the Archdiocese of Boston. He also represented one of the people who accused football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual misconduct.
It is not just our priesthood that is the problem… but members of the laity who enable the caste system, who treat priests like princes, who shush those who raise critical voices. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.
For those of us who grew up Catholic, we were each victimized to some extent by the ugly powerful secretive sect that the Catholic patriarchal hierarchy has become. Some of us are old enough to remember pre-Vatican 2, and the loosening of religious shackles that came with Vatican 2 – a loosening that felt like freedom and reform, but could better be compared to going from enslavement by a harsh owner to enslavement by a kind owner. It was still enslavement. We cannot make that mistake again. To change metaphors, we cannot settle for opening doors and windows, the structure needs to be torn down.
M. Night Shymalan’s The Village is not a particularly good movie, but it is a vivid picture of what can happen when those in power in a village distort reality to control thru fear.
From the Ephesians reading for today:
“Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord…
And be filled with the Spirit…”
Please, Lady Wisdom, may it be so.
But trying to read Psalm 34, the psalm for today, I could not get past thoughts of how hard to impossible these prayers become for those who were victimized. The depth of evil is of the devil.
The Old Testament reading for today led me to these words in Deuteronomy 32:32-36:
For their vine is from the vine of Sodom,
from the vineyards of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are grapes of poison,
and their clusters are bitter.
Their wine is the venom of serpents,
the cruel poison of vipers.
Is not this stored up with me,
sealed up in my storehouses?
Vengeance is mine and recompense,
for the time they lose their footing;
Because the day of their disaster is at hand
and their doom is rushing upon them!
Surely, the LORD will do justice for his people;
on his servants he will have pity.
My prayer this morning is simply Lady Wisdom, let it be so.
I had a bit of an epiphany a few minutes ago, trying to respond to a Protestant friend asking why the Catholic Church was so against priests and nuns having families.
I remembered, decades ago, a young friend deciding to leave the novitiate when the novice director refused to give her permission to attend her grandmother’s funeral – a grandmother who had raised her. I remembered the emphasis by the priests and nuns throughout my childhood on the superiority of a religious vocation (to use their words). I remembered the emphasis on obedience, on leaving everything and everyone to cling to Christ only – as embodied in the Church. I remember being taught to distrust all other earthly authority. I remember being taught to distrust my own emotions, my own insights, my own yearnings, when they differed from what the Church had taught was right.
And I remembered one of the first things I learned in my training as a mental health professional – something I saw over and over again through the decades: abusers isolate their victims. Abusers teach their victims to rely only on them. Abusers teach their victims to distrust and even despise themselves and to accept that the abuser knows best.
Make no mistake about it, all of us who were raised within the Catholic Church are the victims of abuse. Not all to the same degree, not all of the same kind. I am not trying to equate ordinary experiences with the horrendous abuse we have once again seen exposed. But I am saying that part of our response needs to be to recognize that the Catholic Church has institutionalized, normalized abuse for centuries.
Perhaps it is beneficial to lay claim to the true un-institutional holy small-c catholic Church, a beloved community of believers. That is fine as long as we recognize that the institutional Catholic Church is, and long has been, an abuser that use its power and wealth to solidify the abuse.
This is a wondrous piece and will be my reflection piece for this week. God provides – through you today. Thank YOU!
I don’t have an easy relationship with God or a steady faith. I have found, thru decades of struggle, that psalms, yoga and Ignatian reflection are the best ways for me to understand myself and guide my responses. Given a free choice, I would walk away from the RCC, but my choice is not free – I will worship with my 94 year old mother in a Catholic Church as long as she is alive and living with me. It is very important to her. So I need to turn to my tried and true, God-given aids for discerning my own continuing response to this horror.
What’s worked for the hierarchy so far is a brief “heartfelt” apology….a brief uproar, some people leave, then back to business as usual. If we want something different, we have to make it happen. Personally, “I’m aiming to misbehave.”
As the revealed abuse goes beyond scandal, beyond crisis, ever deeper into the expected but disappointing non-response of the hierarchy, I become more aware of the profound blessings of exclusion. As Catholic women, we have no vested power to be threatened or to lose. As Catholic women, excluded for centuries, we find it easier to empathize with the ignored victims. As Catholic women, we cannot turn to the established church for legitimacy but only to God. As a Catholic woman, I feel that I have some right to claim a kinship to a crucified Nazarene holy man.
(On reading Pope Francis’ homily urging us to “accuse ourselves” rather than focusing on the faults and sins of others)
I’m done, DONE, DONE – It is all simply different versions of shut up, leave us alone, and above all SHUT UP. Twisted, self-serving theology that I cannot respond to any more except with foul language. WHERE ARE THE VICTIMS? WHERE IS TAKING UP THEIR CROSS FOR THEM?

Do Not Judge

Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… Luke 6:37
Contemplating this verse this morning, I wondered if I could remember to apply this to myself…”Do not judge [yourself] and you will not be judged. Do not condemn [yourself], and you will not be condemned. Forgive [yourself], and you will be forgiven…”
That is what I often have the hardest time with.