Archive for July, 2007

It has been a while since I have made any reference to the wisdom of 12-step recovery programs, and I found myself reflecting on how grateful I am for how my life in community and in recovery have unfolded as one and the same. I was sharing at a meeting this morning that before I came into recovery, it was as if in my toolbox, I only had a hammer. So I used it for all kinds of tasks, even if it really wasn’t the right tool for the job – it was all I had.

When I started in recovery at the same time as I was starting novitiate, I initially thought that much of what I heard at meetings was a lot of “hooey.” The book was full of non-gender-inclusive language (written in 1939), and there were all these slogans that I thought were not sophisticated enough for one like me. But you know what? God gave me the willingness to listen to these people who, after all, had figured out how to do what I had been unable to do on my own. My “hammer” was drinking, so when I was happy, I drank to celebrate. When I was down, I drank to drown my sorrows. When I was mad, I drank because wouldn’t you if you had to put up with what I had to put up with. When I played softball, I drank because I imagined it made me a better player (less tense/afraid of the ball.) Then I learned about denial, and finally had to admit that the real reason I drank was that I had the disease of alcoholism.

Besides the walking miracles I meet at the meetings, the real treasure for me is the 12 steps, spiritual principles that not only helped me to get and stay sober, but that really have become tools for living life on life’s terms. So now I have wrenches, screwdrivers, saws, pliers, etc. in my toolbox so that with God’s help, I won’t have to use that hammer again, at least for today.

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Tech woes…

AAGGHH! Sorry to not have a more reflective post for you today… I spent most of yesterday uninstalling a program, and then downloading and trying to install a different one that I thought was a better choice for a class I teach this fall. Had lots of trouble, but stayed with it…only to discover that what I had originally installed was probably the better choice after all…so I’m a little frustrated, and just need to let it sit for a few days until I consult with a colleague to know for sure what I need on this darn machine…

Anyway, it has been  a few days, so I just thought I’d let you know I’m still here, just up to my eyeballs in wasted effort…

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The past several weeks have been a time of introspection for many of us living in the metro Detroit area as we attempt to assess how far we have come since those frightening days in July, 1967. I personally had very little knowledge of what happened at the time, being only 9 years old and living quite a sheltered life in a small northwestern Ohio town.

However, when I arrived in Detroit in 1976 to begin my university studies, people were still talking about the riot and the impact it had on the area surrounding the university.

Today, the metro Detroit area is considered to be the most racially segregated area in the U.S. A lot of folks blame the riots for the mass exodus of white people leaving the city for more distant suburbs. What many don’t realize is that the “white flight” phenomenon began long before 1967, and that problems of housing discrimination (blessed by the federal government), unemployment, and police brutality had long afflicted many Black Detroiters.

If you want to get a sense of how far back these problems went, I highly recommend the book by Kevin Boyle, “Arc of Justice.” He chronicles the trial of Ossian Sweet, a black physician who was charged with murder in the 1920’s after he moved into a white neighborhood. It’s compelling reading…

So…where are we today? Unfortunately, there are still many problems facing Detroit, and the high level of segregation doesn’t do much to build trust across racial lines. As I mentioned in a comment on my last post, I think we humans tend to fear what we do not understand. Unfortunately, instead of banishing that fear by seeking information, many tend to select (mis)information that reinforces the fear of people who are different than they are. And I may be showing my bias here, but I think most of the learning and listening needs to be done by those of us who are white.

Still, there are many in the area who deeply care about who we are as a community, and who are working to overcome the problems that keep us separate. I have to hope that the sincere goodwill of the many who are working for a better Detroit will be enough to overcome many of the problems we face.

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While I was praying this morning, I was reflecting on a shift in how I’ve come to deal with compliments and praise from others. First of all, the more I grow, the less I look to others for approval…I’ve found that happiness is largely an “inside job.” But that aside, I was thinking about my recent stay in Baden, and a number of sisters who made a point of telling how much they appreciated my contribution to the music for the jubilee and one of the sisters’ funerals. When that happens, it makes me really happy, because I feel that God gets the credit anytime someone is touched by the music that comes from the sax or clarinet. I know this is not exactly true, but I feel almost as if I have nothing to do with it – when I get up to play, especially if I don’t have music to read and I’ve never heard the song before, I just listen and let whatever I hear guide what I do. In other words, my music is prayer, and what comes out is pure inspiration – God’s gift! So when people say they like what they heard, I have the real sense that the praise really is for God, and that makes me happy at a much deeper level than imagining the praise is for me.

Now if I can just get to that place more consistently in my professional life… There’s just so much scrambling around to keep up with new courses, committee meetings, assessment, research, advising, that it’s harder to get to a place where I can just close my eyes, listen, and depend on God for the next words to come out of my mouth. I like to imagine that my whole life, including work, is a prayer, but I still have a ways to go with that, especially with increasing pressure to be more and more productive. How about you?

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While I was on retreat last week, apparently some recent communications from Rome hit the mainstream media here in the States. The communications came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, our present Pope’s former office. From what I can tell, the folks there are trying to clarify the teaching of what it means that “the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.” Here are a couple of excerpts:

Third Question: Why was the expression “subsists in” adopted instead of the simple word “is”?

Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity.”[11]

“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.”[12]


Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of “Church” with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery[19] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense.[20]

Now, of course, the media will try to jump on whatever seems to be the most controversial points, to be sure, but to me, this just seems to be restating what has been taught for some time. In fact the footnotes 11 and 12 refer to a document from the Second Vatican Council. And though I was a toddler at the beginning of the Council, I had heard that before then it was taught that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church. The present statement doesn’t seem to me to be trying to go back to that extreme isolationist stance.

Having said that, I think that the language used in these communications is not always very helpful. Saying that other denominations and faiths “suffer from defects,” or that our Protestant brothers and sisters do not really belong to “Churches” doesn’t seem to be a place from which to talk about ecumenism or inter-faith dialogue. Ditto for the language of the Catechism used to describe same-sex attraction (objectively disordered).

Do you think it’s just a matter of something lost in the translation from Latin? Unfortunately, I think not.

Still, I try not to get too upset at what comes out of Rome. Remember, this is the same Church that at one time condemned Galileo and condoned slavery, that conducted the Crusades, and that covered up the sexual abuse of children by some of its priests. In other words, the doctrine of the Catholic Church is not a static set of words, but something that is always being reshaped and nuanced as the times change. (My disclaimer here for not being as precise about this as I could be with an advanced degree in theology. I’m sure there’s a theological term for this.) And the Church is a big, old institution…so it takes time – sometimes centuries – for changes to happen. …sigh…

P.S. Lest you misunderstand my last paragraph to be “trashing” the Church, let me say for the record that there’s a lot I think we get right, like the Sacraments, they way we celebrate funerals, the Social Justice teachings, the consistency of the Church’s pro-life stance (i.e., not just with regard to abortion, but to war, death penalty, etc.), the concept of the communion of saints, etc. I wouldn’t be here otherwise!

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I’d like to thank one of this little “blog community,” DJC, for her idea and subsequent contribution of the post for today. And I’d like to reiterate the invitation to contact me if you are interested in contributing a post as a “guest blogger”, or even if you have an idea you’d like to see me post about.

DJC first reminds us of the conversation about Sr. Regina’s open letter to the people of the Diocese of Scranton:

I followed up my conversation with the bishop by writing a letter to explain, in detail, how I live my life: rise at five, morning office, scripture reading, daily Mass, school, night prayers, CCD classes on the weekend, etc. I thought that giving my word that I strive to be a loyal daughter of the church would be good enough. Not so.

Why was this not enough…I found an interesting article by Anna Quindlen and some of the points she makes I find very interesting. I don’t agree with everything in the article. But some of them I think we need to reflect on…here’s an excerpt…

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb in which Jesus is laid after the crucifixion. The body is gone, and she runs to find the apostles Peter and John to tell them so. They look, run off, and she remains, distraught. A man approaches; she mistakes him for the gardener.

He says, “Woman, why are you crying?”

The very first word Jesus says after his resurrection is our name. And perhaps that explains why Roman Catholic women who have been so poorly served by our church refuse to leave. The members of the hierarchy do not engage us in conversation, but their founder did.


Thanks, DJC, for proposing this thread for our conversation. So, dear friends, how does this excerpt sit with you? Any ideas on how to help bring about some healing of the alienation so many women experience?

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St. Sandy?

First, a small disclaimer…this will be funnier to some than to others, probably more so to Baden CSJ’s…not really an inside joke, but they’ll relate more to this than folks who have not visited our motherhouse.

Our 1954 building has in the front, several niches between the 3rd and 4th floors that were designed for the placement of life-size statues. As far as I can determine, statues were never actually placed in these niches. As a newer member, I often expressed the wish to have someone help me get out on one of these pedestals and then take my picture. I had one former employee who was willing to consider helping me with this, but I decided not to press him, because I would have felt really bad if he would have gotten in trouble and lost his job because of a silly stunt.

Fast forward about 20 years…on retreat last week, I was having a number of trips down memory lane, and remembered wanting to do this. I thought to myself, perhaps I can do this without getting anyone into trouble… So, thanks to modern computing technology, I was able to take my “virtual place” on the pedestal. So much for “seeing is believing”.


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