Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friend of the Groom?

I met my husband through the local university ballroom dance club. He was an advanced student with several amateur competitions under his belt; I had signed up primarily as a way to meet people, having recently moved from California to Michigan to start a new job. That he was willing to dance with me at all was something of a miracle (he says it was the lemon tarts I served at a club luncheon).

One of the first lessons I had to learn was that, if we were going to dance together, I had to let him lead. Otherwise, a graceful waltz soon degenerated into an awkward power struggle. Now, the fact that I let him lead didn’t mean he was superior to me in any other way (though in fact his dance training was far superior to mine). His job was intrinsically different -- and the moment I lost sight of that fact, the party was over.

This week I read a post that reminded me of those leather-soled shoe days, more specifically of the days when I had to fight my "natural born leader" tendencies and ... follow. In those moments of feminine receptivity, I was keenly aware of the complementarity of the sexes as God designed them.

To be perfectly honest, I am equally troubled by the original post -- the women who thinks the laity should "strike" until the ordained clergy come to their senses and allow laity to serve in every possible capacity (altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, etc.) -- as well as the half-dozen men who leaped to "put her in her place." Honestly, gentlemen ... don't you know a damsel in distress when you hear one? "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Prov 15:1).

The Mass can be described many ways. It is, first and foremost, the "summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and the font from which her power flows" (CCC 1074). It is a "public work" of communal prayer (CCC 1069). It contains song and music "closely connected with the liturgical action" (CCC 1191). When I read this last passage, I am reminded once more of the reality that the Mass is a temporal expression of an eternal reality: the love of the Groom for His Bride, and of the wedding feast that is being prepared for us in the New Jerusalem.

This last image -- the liturgy as a dance -- is what I would want to show my poor, disgruntled sister, and all those like her who are chafing at the "new" restrictions being placed upon them in their parishes. To turn this into a battle of the sexes is to miss the point. We image "Bride" in a way our brothers never can. And who do you suppose will have an easier time of it when we all get to heaven … and the band strikes up for that bridal waltz? The ones who patiently and joyfully followed her groom (no matter how human and undeniably fallible) here below.

(I have no idea what the boys will do … sit and watch from the sidelines a great deal, I imagine.)

I'm not saying women shouldn't lector or shouldn't sing in the choir or shouldn't bring the Eucharist to nursing homes ... We all have gifts, and we all need to use them if the community is going to function properly. However, there needs to be order, and in a family that means the members need to follow the head. So ... listen to your Father, or go take a time-out! :-)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Seeds of Faith A'Bloomin': First writer's contest

Funny thing happened today. I was sending out a special mailing to a few institutions I thought should subscribe to "Canticle," and was going to include a copy of one of our recent articles that seemed particularly relevent to their needs. I had a simple choice to make: color copies, which would make the better impression? Or black-and-white, which was significantly cheaper?
It was tempting to go the cheaper route, as I was financing this effort myself. But then I thought, "What impression do I want to make here? What is going to get the results? How much faith do I have that God is going to bless this effort?"
And so I bit the bullet and went full-color. It's Lent ... nobody is going to notice if we eat beans and rice all week! "Lord, I offer this to you, and ask that You take these little seeds of faith and make them bloom for Your Kingdom..."
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the mailbox that afternoon and found a check from one of my clients ... money I'd forgotten they owed me, representing three times my small investment. I had to laugh. And then I smiled, reminded of the little ditty I learned from my mother, who was a great believer in these kinds of "seedling" prayers...

Have you ever talked to God above, told him that you need a friend to love?
Pray in Jesus name believing that God answers prayer.
Have you told him all your cares and woes, every tiny little fear he knows,
You can always run to him and he will answer prayer!
You can whisper in a crowd to him, you can cry when you're alone to him,
You don't have to pray aloud to him, he knows your thoughts.
On a lofty mountain peak, he's there, in a meadow by a stream, he's there
Anywhere on earth you go, he's been there from the start.
Find the answer in his Word, it's true, you'll be strong because he walks with you.
By his faithfulness he'll change you, too, God answers prayer!

OK... Now it's your turn! Send me a little story about the last unexpected answer to prayer that you received. The winner will win $25 and get printed in Canticle (300-500 words) -- both in print and online!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Looking Toward Jerusalem

It happens every Lent. We get to that place in the "big red book" and start singing a song that I have never managed to get through without choking up.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,Jerusalem my
Though I can not see the end for me, I can not turn away.

We have set our hearts for the way; this journey is our destiny./ Let no one walk alone.The journey makes us one.
Other spirits, lesser gods, have courted me with
Here among you I have found a truth which bids me rise. *chorus*

To the tombs I went to mourn the hope I thought was gone,/ Here among you I awoke to unexpected dawn. *chorus*

I can't listen to this song without thinking about the first time I ever heard it: as a candidateI poised at the edge, fearful of diving in to ... what? Heresy? Ostracism? Liberation? I wasn't sure ... probably all of it. After nearly a year of study and reflection, I was still not 100% sure about leaping in to the Church with both feet. Something still held me back.

Several somethings, actually. My horrified parents. My spiritual ennui, complete with residual guilt over a number of personal choices. At the time, "Church Girl" had slidden far from grace, feeling cut off from every line of support I had ever known. In restrospect, I now realize that I was probably depressed. The only person, other than my sponsor, who would attend the confirmation would be an off-again, on-again romantic interest who (let's be honest) was not someone I should have been with in the first place. Oh, and a woman who had reached out to me and offered me a job when I was this close to living on the street. Not my finest hour.

My sponsor suggested that I might want to wait another year. I knew this was not an option ... Waiting wasn't going to resolve anything ... This was confirmed by the Filipino priest who heard (no saying how much he understood) my first confession. "You have a path. You need to follow it," he told me. He also told me a story about a dog race and a rabbit, the point of which was that distractions could deter me only insofar as I let them.

So, I took a deep breath and leaped ... And never looked back. Like the old song said, "I have decided to follow Jesus ... no turning back, no turning back." It's the dangling your feet on the edge of the pool that will get you every time. Danglers never get anywhere. It's the swimmers who discover the treasures hidden under the surface.

So if you're looking toward Jerusalem, take heart and a deep breath. Then dive in --
Under the Mercy...