"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ignatian Viewing: The Shack

It's a beautiful God-incidence that we are doing our fourth semester homeschool literature seminar, African American Women's Literature, at the same time as I am breaking free of the long term emotionally abusive marriage and preparing for the move back to the Midwest to make a new life for myself and my daughter. We began with Jean Barrett's fantastic Audible version of Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself. It's a brilliant classic that should be in every high school American Literature class and we grieve the racism and sexism that makes that incredibly rare.

The same goes for The Color Purple, discovered when I was a passionate college student helping create Christian feminist theology and spirituality with my sister-friends because it certainly wasn't happening in our courses or official liturgies. It was profoundly moving then and means even more now that I have consciously lived and ministered to others who have lived so many analogous experiences to Celie's. The Audible is powerfully read by Alice Walker herself, with a bemused foreword noting how many people--including those who made the sweet but deeply inadequate movie in the nineties--totally missed its powerful spiritual message. We will watch the movie just for analysis/compare and contrast and the Shack is the perfect complement to it for that class. There are so many more great films by and about black men that we moved a selection of those to a entire art/gender studies class in itself, African American Male Experience in Film. Really looking forward to seeing Fences and possibly Spike Lee's Malcolm X with my mom on our Holy Week/Spring break trip in a few weeks.

The Shack movie is even better than the book because it is so skillfully casted and performed, lyrically filmed, and hits all the high points with key, powerful words leaving out some of the excess and occasionally problematic verbiage. It beautifully fulfills Shug Avery's recommendation of "getting man off your eyeball"--specifically the demonic, Zeuslike, kyriarchal old white man throwing thunderbolts from his throne. It presents five different faces (three primary of course) of a truly loving, suffering-with, triumphing over evil God--none of them white and only two male! So it is a powerful enactment of Ignatian spirituality in affirming the divine image so often denied in praxis of women, trans, and people of color as well as the process of fighting for healing, justice, freedom, and the knowledge that God is truly good and loving and helps us to be the same. Absolutely not to be missed!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

This Joyful Season Day 8: Litany of Loreto

Don't remember where I went to mass Wednesday but time is short anyway, so I will post a favorite Youtube discovery: the loveliest and most womanpower celebrating version of the Litany of Mary I have ever heard, with visuals of Westminster Cathedral from the day of prayer where it was sung. We missed it on our flying visit through London in last spring's roadschool trip and final family vacation, but I attended a stunning midnight mass there with three high school friends as the advance guard of our high school Christmas break trip.

I vetoed the strongest Anglophile/future English PhD's preference for Westminster Abbey, which would have been even more crowded anyway. We felt incredibly grown up going over early on our own and had to take advantage of the looser laws and lack of supervision by seeing the classy and beautiful Lady Chatterley's Lover, getting a drink at the Hard Rock cafe back when it was the only one, and--less enjoyably--smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of sherry while listening to jazz on the hotel room radio.

Katie and I often sing along to it in the car since it has lyrics for her and I can usually do pretty well from memory once I hear the start of the invocation--I remember most of them but not the order. It often makes me smile to remember the "litany wars" at the Chiesa Nuova, Philip Neri's majestic church, where I would often attend mass during a bus transfer break during my first summer month of Latin study there with the legendary Reginaldus Foster. If the sweet young German priest led the post-liturgy devotion he always did the Litany of the Sacred Heart from an Italian prayerbook but if one of the old Italian ladies did it was always this litany, in Latin, by heart!

This Joyful Season Day 7: Holy Angels

Tuesday morning mass featured a stunningly gorgeous Art Deco angel fresco behind the main altar. I didn't have the right camera to do it justice but was intrigued to see how many named angels there were beyond the "Big Four" of Raphael/la, Gabriel/le, Michael/a, and Uriel (these all looked delightfully feminine and Raphael even black). Totally recalled Doreen Virtue's sweet (though overly white) little sets of angel cards and I still wonder how a Twenties artist found the names--surely s/he didn't just create them as I assume Virtue sometimes does?--and got approval to include them.

Speaking of which I just found and tried this online reading option on her website and gave it a try asking what the Holy Spirit wanted me to know as I move toward dating. "Separation" couldn't be more accurate as I prepare for a month alone as the pioneer of Katie's and my Midwest refuge move. It will be the longest in my life as I married at 24, lived in community before that, and even my 30 Day Ignatian Long Retreat hermitage dwelling happened at a retreat house with two other women making the Spiritual Exercises, shorter term retreatants coming and going, and the spiritual and physical support staff.

The Romance Angels are helping you during this period of separation from your partner. This card comes to you as an indication of angelic support as you spend time away from each other. While you’re apart, the angels can help you fill your hours with healthy activities, which will help your present or future relationships.

This card may indicate a temporary period of aloneness, such as while your partner is traveling for business, or a time in your life when you’re single and preparing for your next relationship. It can also mean a marital separation or divorce.

Call upon the angels for support and guidance during these transitions. They can help you discover the deep healing to be mined as you spend time alone, which prepares you for the next part of your relationship journey.

This message totally reinforces the recent three card reading I did before the trip with my physical set: "Life Review," "Comfort," and "Nurture."

The tiny liturgy followed by prayerful picture taking inspired me to follow up on an inspiration from a healing sacraments session with my lovely Carmelite friar in the fall. Part of my penance, which I embraced on a powerful retreat in the Lady Chapel of Mission San Luis Rey, was to pray for both living kids with a Salve Regina and through the intercession of their guardian angels. I giggled as I pictured homeschool maiden with the traditional one and alpha male--especially in his challenging teen years--with a whole troop protecting those he encountered as well as him!

I also reflected more seriously on the disconnect that I have intense personal relationships with many official and unofficial saints but no real personal connection to my or their angels--even after following someone's advice (maybe Doreen Virtue again, come to think of it) when Katie was tiny to ask my guardian angel to reveal her name to me. Rosa is what came, probably in part because of Katherine Rose's middle name as well as being in the Rose City, Portland, and doing one of my favorite and rave-reviewed weddings in the Rose Garden there with the exchange of roses ritual. So I spent some time reconnecting with her and have started praying to Rosa again--usually in Spanish as it feeds my soul so strongly--and that is a lovely gift as I move forward into my exciting but sometimes daunting future as a single mama.

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Joyful Season Day 6: Rosie and Mary

I spent the last week on an intense and wonderful trip to the Midwest city which will provide a refuge for me and my maiden as I separate from TechEx, so I am catching up with daily Lent blogging with some beautiful pictures and liturgy reports.

Monday I went to the midday mass in a beautifully renovated university chapel where it was a delight to radiantly proclaim the first reading and psalm. I totally plan on stealing the benediction the kind old priest gave me with strong hands on my head in lieu of communion: "May you be blessed and may you be a blessing!" And I was specially moved to see two undergrad women in lovely mantillas bring up the gifts and serve as acolytes.

The Stations of the cross are moving bronze close-ups and I especially identified with this Rosie the Riveter version of Station 2, Jesus Takes up His Cross:

They also appear to have commissioned a new Black Madonna from Janet Mackenzie, Mary Mother of Enduring Love. I lit a candle and prayed the beloved multilingual Aves I could remember--Latin, Spanish, and Portuguese--for the renewal of my abuse-and-misogyny-devastated theological career with a full or part time teaching position in the new area.

I look forward to more liturgies and to sharing pictures of the excellent new liturgical space after I pioneer the move with a little trailer and driving help from a dear rediscovered college friend whose love and support helped me discern the move and embrace the challenge. Katie will follow a month later after this year's special dad-daughter time till her community college terms ends-- TechEx has agreed to drive her and a small truck in time for our niece's wedding in his nearby home state. I am a little anxious at the pace and the solo start but also hopeful and joyful about both because of the wonderful and discernment-confirming connections of the week's pilgrimage--including the perfect apartment and some lovely used furniture already moved in.

This Joyful Season Day 5: Blog Roundup

My own plan is as follows: for the next 40 days I’m going to fast from books and media (including social media) that corroborate my own prejudices. I’ll get my news from sources with a different set of biases. I will familiarize myself with the primary texts that inform the schools of thought that I’ve habitually neglected. And I intend to gerrymander my Facebook feed so that it shows me more posts from people who I respectfully disagree with, and I’m going to fast from disagreeing with them. My goal is to “read as a loser,” so that my eyes will be opened to the blind-spots in my own thinking and so that I can joyfully receive the truths that I have, up to now, been reluctant to consider.

Melinda Selmys: I'm Gonna Give Up Being Right For Lent

The sensation of despair comes simply from the fact that I don’t want to be chaste, don’t feel bad when I fuck around, and don’t see why I should do or want otherwise. I don’t love Christ enough to obey him for his own sake, and I don’t fear him enough (or trust him enough, maybe?) to obey him for my own sake. All I have is the bare, cold principle that this ought to be done. And I’ve found out that, at the cost that principle exacts from me, I can’t do it. Or won’t. The strength of sin is the law.

Being without a husband, being bereft of specifically erotic love, is agonizing to me. It isn’t just the depression: I’ve been on Zoloft long enough to know the difference. And I know the arguments about the sacramental meaning of sex like the back of my hand, but when you’re lonely any argument is a whole lot of bullshit, and no friendship can truly substitute for a lover—they’re just not the same thing, they don’t meet the same need, they don’t touch the same wound in the soul. I have yet to hear the Catholic doctrine of sex (which I accept categorically) articulated in a way that made that reality seem important enough to warrant the cost it imposes on me.

Gabriel Blanchard: Prayers for Judas

Beep beep. I am here to tell you that, sometime after that seventh time (or maybe after the seventy-times-seventh time) a light bulb will click on in that dopey son’s head. After being rescued without comment one more time after time after time after time, that son is very likely to decide on his own that this is no way to live, and he’d rather face the jeers and yucks of his stupid friends than the quiet patience of his father one more time.

Not because he’s scared of his father, but because he’s not. Not because his father is mad at him, but because his father loves him, and it finally feels like it’s time to live up to that love.

Simcha Fisher: The X Plan For Salvation

Saturday, March 4, 2017

This Joyful Season Day 4: Ashes

Joyfully rediscovered college friend in front of the California Mission chapel where we sang, played guitar, and prayed for countless hours of ministerial and classical music alike. The drive toward last week's six hour faithsharing lunch was so affirming and healing that I clearly discerned the call to give up the abusive marriage for Lent by the time I arrived, and calmly and kindly informed TechEx that Katie and I would be moving back to the Midwest when I got home. And the Ash Wednesday breakfast and first mass together in 20 years was an heart opening and deepening for us both.

That night's dinner with TechEx after a tech support/kitchen research shopping outing (I am leaving him all the pots and looking for the perfect moderately priced set, plus a wok for the maiden, to love myself and create our new life). It was miraculously hilarious and virtually conflict free--clear fruits of the discernment of how to take the last step in faithfully living my vows and release myself from the agonizing impossible duty of calling him to repentance and renewal of the ones he has so totally shattered and shat upon.

Friday, March 3, 2017

This Joyful Season Day 3: Fences

Truly Takafari's incisive review made me recall my graced breakthrough this fall following up on the Black Lives are Sacred series around one of white cis men's most poisonous kyriarchal triumphs: driving white women apart from our black brothers by a prison industrial complex which makes them hidden victims, as well as exaggerated perpetrators, in societal and ecclesial rape culture.

It also inspired me to add the movie to this semester's homeschool seminars in African American Women's Literature and African American Experience in Film. We will joyfully watch it with Grandma, continuing the tradition begun in our Shakespeare and Jane Austen semesters, when we spend Holy Week/spring break with her in our farewell to Southern California trip.

It's Denzel's second marvelous appearance in our curriculum since we watched his elegant and moving Don Pedro in the Branagh/Thompson Much Ado About Nothing on last year's roadschool visit to my Mom. This classic scene recalls one of those "God and I are rocking this homeschool" moments earlier that summer when we were listening to the play on the way to camp. As Don Pedro proposed the plan to trick Benedick and Beatrice into "a mountain of affection" Katie cried out spontaneously: "Best prank ever!" And followed up with a passionate "That's so mean!" at Claudio's public humiliation of Hero at their aborted wedding.

(We totally disagree with Rolling Stone's panning everyone but him and Keanu as Don John in that film, but this article is a fascinating roundup of Washington's work).

Dara writes at TT:

I did not cry during Fences as did so many of my friends and fellow writerly people. I couldn’t. But I should have. In Troy Maxon, August Wilson humanized “trifling” by turning it into “trying.” I never once in all my life felt so much empathy for a character who broke hearts like a bull in a China shop. Troy Maxon was my grandfather. He was the father of people I have known my whole life to struggle with the pebble of bitterness they carry towards their daddies. August Wilson rubbed over a rough place and made that ugliness shine. Made it precious.


When you equate manhood with the ability to earn a living, and then you deny a man the opportunity to make that living fairly and honestly, you’re toying with his mental health. What little living he can eke out eats at him. Patriarchy is both his jail and redemption.


I used to perceive only frailty in “trifling.” I understand Black men were trying now, so hard, at the very same time the world was trying them.

All the pain of that truth compressed into the thin line of Denzel’s mouth when Casey Affleck thanked Denzel for teaching him how to act. A mirthless smile. A knowing look. How do you capture the essence of an entire generation in a fenced backyard and not win an award for that sweat? Troy Maxon knew the answer to that question. Denzel swung for the Fences and he didn’t miss. The Academy did.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

This Joyful Season Day 2: Washerwoman God

For you are Washerwoman God: we know you in the water.
Washerwoman God: splashing, laughing, free.
If you didn't clean the mess, where would we be?
Scrubbing, working, sweating God cleansing you and me.
Make our hearts as white as snow, wash us through and through:
Washerwoman, let us be like you!

Little known, awesome song by the awesome Colleen Fulmer with a joyous take on God's passionate Mother love and determination to cleanse our hearts and mind and world of all that harms us and others. It should be sung every Lent and at every baptism, as it was for a life-changing (for me too) 18th Annotation baptism in Lake Michigan I mentored a brilliant beloved directee through. (Can't wait till be finish the joint article: "Rolling with Washerwoman God: A Queer Crip Chick Reclaims Baptism.") My faith group of friends discovered it in college and Katie and I belted it out on the way home from a magical shopping trip capped by a marvelously fast and easy emotional negotiation/education in which I absolutely embodied compassionately and clearly challenging Washerwoman God and she absolutely embodied a loved and loving and eagerly repentant child of such a mama.

She and I simultaneously figured out during a muuuch tougher one in the fall that she got her Dad's Aspie in the genetic lottery, as her brother got my bipolar 2. (Totally neurodivergent and proud family, though it's possible that Rachel or Julian are neurotypical--we won't know till we see them in heaven!) It's another huge reason God called us to homeschool high school/early college, though we didn't know that when we started.

It helps her self-manage the social anxiety and interact joyfully in safe contexts, and is crucial preparation for her vocation to doctoral work in psychology as well as her present and future relationships. It gives us countless hours to bond even more deeply and to teach and process and deepen her emotional intelligence and communication skills--already better than many adults due to both her natural gifts and being raised by me. Her integrity, passion to learn and engage healthy behavior, and deep gratitude rather than resentment and bitterness when I call her to it is a total contrast to his resentment and unwillingness to engage the slightest bit of emotional labor and self improvement. So it is profoundly validating that his is an abusive choice to do evil rather than a natural result of his gender and/or diagnosis and that my discernment to part ways for my own emotional protection and hers is absolutely from the Holy Spirit and the passionate faithful sacrificial--though certainly imperfect--living out of my vows as he has chosen to trample on his.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This Joyful Season Day 1: I Am Not My Own

[Mother], all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Each year You give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed. You give us a spirit of loving reverence for You, our [Mother], and of willing service to our neighbour. As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, You bring the image of Your Son to perfection within us.

Preface to Eucharistic Prayer, First Sunday of Lent

I love Lent and this year is especially meaningful as I take the next step on my journey, and my daughter's, joyfully receiving my glorious liberty as a daughter, friend, and bride of God.

My practices will be, for the first time, this daily blog series, and, for the second year in a row, imprecatory prayer for my enemies aimed toward eventual loving direct confrontation where appropriate. And some better attention to social justice almsgiving, probably focused on sexual violence and sexism as those are the demonic chains Jesus is breaking for me. And some sustained spiritual reading in the book my spiritual director at the time, a wise and loving mother/grandmother, gifted me when she came to visit newborn Katie in the hospital.

I am preposting for Ash Wednesday on Mardi Gras evening at 11 am because, fittingly, my weekly sabbath day--necessarily flexible this semester with college drop off for homeschool maiden a slightly wearing five days a week--will be celebrated tomorrow. I have a breakfast date with a dearly loved college friend and sister in music ministry who just found me online after twenty years and whose loving listening and excitement to see me led directly to the clear discernment, even while just driving toward last week's first lunch, to engage the permananent amicable separation by moving home with Katie to the college town in the Midwest where I last taught.

Tonight was the perfect preparation for the season with three lovely gifts from Sister Spirit. 1) A surprise two hour phone conversation--supremely loving and honest--with my son sparked by concern that he hadn't responded to my Skype message about the separation. 2) A lighthearted dinner with TechEx and homeschool maiden confirming the discernment to leave and feeling the fruits of that coming freedom in no longer having to hate him and reclaiming/discovering a calm and queenly grace in my and our life. 3) Realizing that the gonna-be-brilliant conference paper proposal I was trying to finish for tomorrow was just not going to happen--and that the gift of another conference with a shorter word count and two additional weeks on the deadline would work equally well. Which means I can take that sabbath and really take time to embrace myself in Her loving arms.