Friday, July 31, 2015

The heart of Christianity

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 2, 2015

John 6:24-35

The people need Jesus and look for him. There's something in him that attracts them but they still don't know why they're looking for him or to what end. According to the evangelist, many are doing it because the day before, he had distributed bread to them to satisfy their hunger.

Jesus starts to talk with them. There are things that should be clarified from the beginning. Material bread is very important. He himself has taught them to ask God for "daily bread" for everyone. But human beings need something more. Jesus wants to offer food that can satiate their hunger for life forever.

The people sense that Jesus is opening a new vista, but they don't know what to do or where to start. The evangelist summarizes their questions with these words: "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?". In them, there is a sincere desire to get it right. They want to work on what God wants but, used to thinking about everything based on the Law, they ask Jesus what new works, practices, and observances they must take into consideration.

Jesus' response touches the heart of Christianity: "The work (singular!) God wants is this: that you believe in the one he sent." God only wants them to believe in Jesus Christ since he is the great gift He has sent into the world. This is the new requirement. This is what they are to work on. Everything else is secondary.

After twenty centuries of Christianity, don't we need to rediscover that the full force and originality of the Church is in believing in Jesus and following him? Don't we need to move beyond the attitude of followers of a religion of "beliefs" and "practices" to live as disciples of Jesus?

Christian faith is not primarily properly fulfilling a code of new practices and observances, superior to those of the Old Testament. No. Christian identity is in learning to live a lifestyle that is born of a living and trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. We become Christians in the measure that we learn to think, feel, love, work, suffer and live like Jesus.

Being a Christian today requires an experience of Jesus and identification with his plan that wasn't required a few years ago to be a good practitioner. To survive in the midst of secular society, Christian communities need to take greater care than ever of their vital adherence to and contact with Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

SAVE THE DATE: 35th Congreso de Teologia

The 35th Theology Congress of the Asociación de Teólogos y Teólogas Juan XXIII will take place in Madrid September 10-13, 2015. The theme of this year's conngress is "Religions: Violence and Roads to Peace." Here are the details in English and you can download the brochure in Spanish here. The sessions will be in Spanish.


Salón de Actos de Comisiones Obreras
c/Lope de Vega, 40
28014, Madrid, SPAIN

30 euros -- the whole Congress
20 euros -- Saturday and Sunday
10 euros -- Sunday only

Register and pay in cash only at the door.


September 10

19:00 - Welcome and Introduction
Francisca Sauquillo, president of the Movimiento por la Paz, el Desarme y la Libertad

19:30-21:00 - First Lecture: Conflicts in the World Today and Their Causes: A Critical Analysis
Mariano Aguirre, director of the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre

September 11

10:00-11:30 - Communications
Moderator: Comunidad Fray Pacífico
  • Violence in Adolescents and Youth. JOC
  • Discrimination and Violence Against Women in the Labor Environment. María del Carmen Heredero, CCOO Women, Equality and Social Policy Secretariat
  • Stolen Children in Spain. Francisco González de Tena. Federación Coordinadora X24


12:00-13:30 - First Roundtable: Peace Accords and Historical Memory

16:00-16:30 - Open Communications
The Latin American Agenda: 25th Anniversary
Fernando Bermúdez, theologian

16:30-18:00 - Second Roundtable: Meetings for Peace and Co-Existence in Euskal Herria
  • Rosa Rodero, ETA victim
  • Axun Lasa, GAL victim
  • Moderators: Carlos Olalla, actor, and Javier Baeza from St. Carlos Borromeo Parish in Entrevías


18:30-20:00 - Second Lecture: Gender Violence and the Feminist Response
Ana de Miguel, Professor of Philosophy, King Juan Carlos University, Madrid

September 12

10:00-11:30 - Third Lecture: Violence and Peace in Africa: The Role of Religions
Cyprien Melibi, Theologian, Cameroon


12:00-13:30 - Fourth Lecture: Violence, Terrorism, and Peace in the Monotheistic Religions
Natalia Andújar, Director of the "Educaislam" and "Feminismo islámico" programs. Cordoba.

16:00-16:30 - Open Communications

17:00-18:30 - Fifth Lecture: Commitment to the Poor as a Contribution to Peace and the Latin American Liberation Processes
Sonia Suyapa Pérez Escapini, Theologian, UCA, San Salvador, El Salvador

19:00-20:15 - Hommage to Pedro Casaldáliga and Remembrance of Monseñor Romero

September 13

10:00-11:30 - Sixth Lecture: Religions, Roads to Peace
Javier Melloni, Expert in Interfaith Dialogue

12:00 - Celebration of the Eucharist and Solidarity Collection
Comunidad de Santo Tomás

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Our great sin

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 26, 2015

John 6:1-15

The episode of the multiplication of the loaves enjoyed great popularity among Jesus' followers. All of the evangelists recall it. Surely, it moved them to think that that man of God was concerned to feed a crowd that had been left without enough to eat.

According to John's version, the first one to think of the hungry crowd that has come to listen to him is Jesus. These people need to eat; we have to do something for them. That's how Jesus was. He was always thinking about basic human needs.

Philip makes him see that they have no money. Among the disciples, everyone is poor -- they can't buy bread for so many. Jesus knows it. Those with money will never solve the problem of world hunger. It takes more than money.

Jesus will help them envision a different path. First of all, it's crucial that no one hoard what's his for himself if others are hungry. His disciples have to learn to make available to the hungry what they have, if only "five barley loaves and two fish."

Jesus' attitude is the simplest and most humane one we can imagine. But who is going to teach us to share if we only know how to buy? Who will free us from our indifference to those who are starving to death? Is there anything that can make us more humane? Will this "miracle" of real solidarity between all ever happen?

Jesus thinks about God. You can't believe in Him as the Father of all and let His sons and daughters starve. So, he takes the food they have collected in the group, "raises his eyes to Heaven and gives thanks." The earth and everything that feeds us, we have received from God. It is the Father's gift, intended for all His children. If we deprive others of what they need to live, it's because we have forgotten this. It is our great sin although we almost never confess it.

When sharing the bread of the Eucharist, the early Christians felt nourished by the risen Christ but, at the same time, they remembered Jesus' gesture and shared their goods with the needy. They were brothers and sisters. They had not yet forgotten the Spirit of Jesus.

Women's Ordinations - June and July 2015

Here are the women's ordinations that have taken place so far this summer.

June 20, 2015 - Shelburne, NH

Mary Catherine White of Gorham, NH, was ordained a priest by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan at the Shelburn Union Church. Rev. White holds a B.Sc. from the University of Maine and a Masters in Theology through Global Ministries University. Prior to seeking ordination, White was active in the Catholic Church in a variety of ways as a director of religious education and working with Catholic Charities. She currently is a Certified Family Mediator and Guardian ad Litem with specialized training in substance abuse treatment. Mary is part of an inclusive faith community in the Berlin-Gorham area and plans to hold home liturgies now that she is fully ordained.

Responding to the Vatican's argument that women can not be priests, Rev. White cites St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians. "'In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave or free.' That is a very clear depiction of what Jesus taught us." In her homily, Bishop Meehan called White's ordination and her ministry "a living witness to our liberating God's transforming action in this local community."

June 27, 2015 - Albany, NY

At the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Albany on June 27th, Kathleen Ryan was ordained a Roman Catholic woman priest and Kim Panaro a deacon by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. Two "catacomb" deacons, using the pseudonyms "Edmund John" and "Phoebe Joan", were also ordained. Catacomb priests and deacons are women who do not use their real names because of fear of reprisals. About the new ordinands who are not in "catacomb" status:

Kathleen Ryan has a Masters in Social Work from SUNY Albany and worked for 15 years with children with emotional illnesses. She is presently working for Synergy Counseling Associates. She ministers to families who suffer from grief and loss and is a member of the leadership circle of the Inclusive Catholic Community of Albany.

Kim Panaro, who holds degrees in both social work and religious studies, has over 20 years working with children and families and has extensive experience as a psychotherapist in the areas of eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma, grief and depression. She is also a Certified School Social Worker experienced with special education and school consultation. She has worked for the Bethlehem Central School District and for the Episcopal Diocese of Albany's Episcopal Counseling Service.

July 11, 2015 - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Jane Kryzanowski was ordained a Roman Catholic woman priest by RCWP Bishop Marie Bouclin. For the ceremony, Kryzanowski wore a chasuble that had been made over 45 years earlier for her husband Felix, a former Roman Catholic priest. Jane and her husband have been active members of the married priests' organization, CORPUS Canada. Prior to her involvement in the RCWP movement, Rev. Kryzanowski and her husband were active in Holy Cross Parish in Regina where she worked for a time as Administrative Co-Coordinator. In her first homily as a new priest, Kryzanowski said, "Today, I have committed to being a servant-leader in an inclusive discipleship of equals. This is our model as Roman Catholic Women Priests. I am here for you and to be with you on the spiritual journey."

July 25, 2015 - Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Barbara Billey, a counselor and art therapist from Windsor, who has also been pastoring a house church since her diaconal ordination in May 2014, was ordained a Roman Catholic woman priest by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. Billey has been engaged in theological study and has a particular interest in women’s spirituality and a passion for integrating sacred arts in liturgy. An activist in the women's ordination movement, Billey has been involved in the Catholic Network for Women's Equality, hosting Pink Smoke screening parties in her area.

Rev. Billey first heard her call to the priesthood during a retreat at an Episcopal church in Michigan where a priest from that tradition, not knowing she was Roman Catholic, asked her if she was also a priest. At the time she assumed that her only option for responding was to become an Anglican priest but later she was introduced to the RCWP movement, beginning the journey that led to her ordination. Billey will leave the local Catholic church she has been attending as her priesthood is not recognized there but she dreams of the day when "the Roman Catholic church would be inclusive of women at all levels of ministry. I believe we can only be whole, that is the sacraments, the church, the people of God, can only be whole when all people are included and that would include, not just women but all people that have been marginalized."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Francis isn't enough

by Miguel Cruzado Silveri, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La República
July 16, 2015

Pope Francis' personal leadership is opening paths for renewal in the Catholic Church. At the same time, little by little, his words and gestures are turning into institutional changes in Church structure and teaching. However, the Church is above all a community of the faithful so changes must ultimately be manifested in the lives of the believers, in how they celebrate, value and give reason for the faith they share.

Is church renewal reaching the life and voice, the internal culture and the public voice of the faith communities of Peru? For now, one senses no notable changes. Isn't enthusiastic support for Francis -- now on the front pages of our newspapers -- or renewal of the Curia enough for this profound change? What does the reception of Francis and the church renewal process require to grow in the church in Peru?

Charismatic leadership like Francis' was necessary to break inertia and redirect courses in a time of ecclesial confusion and crisis. This was understood by the College of Cardinals when he was elected. The weight of papal authority in a charismatic-traditional institution like the Catholic Church is crucial to any change. So Francis' vision and personal leadership, coupled with the force of traditional papal authority, have opened the door for possible renewal.

This renewal is in continuity with the Second Vatican Council -- speaking of faith in dialogue with the realities of the world and the real concerns of the people. Biblical mercy and compassion not in the abstract but questioning a global culture of selfishness and exclusion. Dialogue and Christian love, accepting without judging those whom we used to despise. Renewal of biblical concern for the poor -- no longer focusing Christian morality on sexual morality alone. Openness to interfaith encounters at a time of raging religious violence in many parts of the world. Clarity in face of the limitations and sins the Church must acknowledge and confront. It's all Christianity as usual, made specific to today.

But charisma is not enough. It is necessary that the "gestures and words" become a sustainable institution and guide the ends, rules, and principles of the Church.

Indeed, the normative institutionalization of this renewal is also becoming evident. The Magisterium, or church teaching, has already incorporated new elements: the concept of "integral ecology" in the latest encyclical and the inclusion of urgent issues about the family in the October synod are far-reaching lines of thought. There are new leaders on the Christian altars such as Blessed Romero, John XXIII, and the martyrs of Pariacoto. The structure of the Curia is being reformed and new commissions are guiding institutional procedures and decisions. The Vatican financial system is being restructured. Prevention and action in situations of clerical abuse is more rigorous and professionals and victims are involved in it.

The changes are already evident, although it is true that there is some way to go in reshaping the ecclesial institutions to Francis' viewpoint -- the issue of collegiality and the exercise of authority, the involvement of the perspective of the faithful, the role of women in church reflection and guidelines. There is still a lot of "institution" to renew and build or rebuild.

However, the meaning and future of church renewal ultimately depend on its reception in the communities of the faithful. Reception is not just repetition, but embodying the renewal message and bringing it into dialogue with the specific situation of society and the Church of Peru. That is, it's not enough to repeat Francis but it's about thinking and speaking the message in our own words in our communities and contexts. This requires that voices emerge in Peru that take the risk of thinking and talking about it in their own words in our communities and contexts. Christian lay people in the various spheres of national life and in their own Christian communities as well as bishops, priests and religious communities have to take the risk of expressing themselves.

Ecclesial renewal in Peru will not come about only from scattered individual adherence to Francis' message, or from admiring the far-off renewal of the Roman Curia. Everything depends on the reception of the message for our context and therefore on the creativity and ability to risk that Christians of Peru are willing to assume. Ability to risk because it's a risk to preach and practice mercy in the context of the various kinds of violence we are experiencing.

It's a risk to welcome differences and clearly reject our forms of contempt -- our racism, our homophobia -- that have become so normal, remembering that all types of marginalization exist in our churches, sometimes being endured silently. It's a risk to sing "Laudato Si'" to nature and common life when it seems that development has to do with the values of "every man for himself" or "produce even if it's destructive." Church issues in the context of Peru today may sound like pessimism or mediocrity. The acceptance and mercy to which we are called may cause scandal in and out of our communities. We may have to take on difficult responsibilities and acknowledge our sin. None of this will make us popular in opinion polls.

Reception, by going beyond simply repeating and forcing us to rethink our way of being, opens the door to the unexpected. When being open to the mysterious dynamism of the Spirit, it is normal that -- like at Pentecost --there's no more room for silence or the single voice of fear, and different voices begin to resonate, hues and colors are diversified, the door opens to the surprise that opens to a new world in almost all the parables.

Therefore, Francis is not enough. Francis knows that Francis alone isn't enough.

*Fr. Miguel Cruzado, who is from Peru, is a General Counselor to the Father General and Regional Assistant for South Latin America for the Society of Jesus

The undeferrable inclusion of women in the Church

By Consuelo Vélez (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Fe y Vida: Blog de Consuelo Vélez
July 7, 2015

One of the important tasks that has been done at the feminist hermeneutics level has been recovering the presence of women in the Bible, delving deeper into the role they played in the biblical story and helping those figures be more familiar to us so that we value the legacy they have left us. However, one still notes the confusion that exists about some of them and ignorance of the importance they had. Let's look at two examples.

First, the figure of Mary Magdalene. Although there have been many writings about her already, it isn't too much to dwell on this character because freeing people from the images we draw over them isn't easy, and Mary Magdalene is a very telling example. It seems that most people think that Mary Magdalene was a sinner -- and not just any sin, but she is labeled a prostitute, and therefore a "great" sinner, sexual sins being considered more serious than others when, in fact, one ought to denounce as forcefully or more, social injustice and many other aspects that steal the life of the weakest, with whom Jesus (Mt 25:40,45) identified.

Well, Mary Magdalene isn't that character. What happened was that tradition confused her with the repentant sinner who entered the house of Simon and fell at the feet of Jesus, washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with oil (according to the text of Luke 7:37-38), which is different from the anointing at Bethany (Mt 26:6-7) in which a woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus' head. And when Simon thinks that Jesus doesn't know she's a sinner because if he had known, he wouldn't have let his feet be washed, the answer he gets is the logic of forgiveness and love -- "because she has been forgiven much, she loves much." Thus Jesus challenges Simon because he might think himself as faithfully fulfilling the law but perhaps he doesn't have the experience of love that comes from receiving forgiveness. But again, this passage refers to that woman (who isn't named in the story) and not to Mary Magdalene.

The texts that really refer to Mary Magdalene are different ones. On the one hand, in Luke 8:2 which talks about the women accompanying Jesus, Mary Magdalene "from whom seven demons had gone out" is named (this is also told in Mark 16:9). The demons mean a very serious disease and the number seven symbolizes the whole, that is, Mary Magdalene had been fully cured. This is very different from believing her to be a prostitute. And, on the other hand, the other texts refer to her following of Jesus at moments during the Passion -- in those texts she appears with other women -- and most importantly and significantly, when she goes to the tomb and Jesus appears to her, making her the first witness of the resurrection of the Lord (Jn 20:11-18).

The second example relates to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, who makes a confession of faith equal to that of Peter. When Jesus asks her if she believes that he is the resurrection and that "whoever believes in him, even if he dies, will live," she replies, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world." (Jn 11:27). In turn, when Jesus asks his disciples, "And who do you say I am?," Peter replies, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt 16:15-16) Most readers, surely, knew Peter's response but hadn't noticed Martha's confession of faith.

In these times when the full participation of women in church life is becoming undeferrable, to remember the witness of these women is to continue working, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, for the renewal of our mind, that we "may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." (Rom. 12:2). A truly inclusive church, with the effective participation of all its members, can not but be good, pleasing, and perfect, according to the will of God for man and woman, created in God's image and likeness. (Gen 1:27)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Like sheep without a shepherd

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
July 19, 2015

Mark 6:30-34

The disciples, sent by Jesus to proclaim his Gospel, come back enthusiastic. They need time to tell their master all they have done and taught. Apparently, Jesus wants to listen calmly and he invites them to retire "by yourselves to a quiet place to rest a while."

The people spoil their whole plan. From every village they run to find them. The quiet meeting Jesus had planned alone with his closest disciples, is no longer possible. By the time they get to the place, the crowd has invaded. How will Jesus react?

The evangelist describes his attitude in detail. Jesus is never disturbed by people. He looks at the crowd. He knows how to look not only at specific, close individuals, but also at that mass of people made up of voiceless, faceless men and women without special significance. Then compassion stirs in him. He can't avoid it. "He felt sorry for them." He bears them all deep in his heart.

He will never abandon them. He sees them as "sheep without a shepherd" -- people without guides to find the way, without prophets to hear the voice of God. Therefore, "he began to teach them" calmly, devoting time and attention to them to feed them with his healing Word.

Some day we'll have to review before Jesus, our one Lord, how we view and treat those crowds that are walking away little by little from the Church, perhaps because they aren't hearing his Gospel among us and because our speeches, statements, and declarations no longer speak to them.

Simple and good people who are disappointed in us because they don't see Jesus' compassion in us. Believers who don't know who to go to or what paths to follow to find a more humane God than the one they perceive among us. Christians who are silent because they know their words won't be taken into account by anyone important in the Church.

Some day the face of this Church will change. It will learn to act with more compassion; it will forget its own speeches and begin to listen to people's suffering. Jesus has the power to change our hearts and renew our communities.