Friday, November 7, 2014

How is our religion?

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 9, 2014

John 2:13-22

The episode of Jesus' intervention in the temple of Jerusalem has been recorded in the four gospels. It's John who describes his reaction most graphically -- with a whip, Jesus drives from the sacred enclosure the animals that were being sold to be sacrificed, he overturns the tables of the money changers and throws their money on the floor. A scream comes from his lips: "Don't turn my Father's house into a marketplace."

It was this gesture that triggered his arrest and rapid execution. To attack the temple was to attack the heart of the Jewish people -- the center of their religious, social, and economic life. The temple was untouchable. The God of Israel lived there. Jesus, however, feels like a stranger in that place -- that temple wasn't his Father's house but a marketplace.

Sometimes Jesus' intervention has been seen as his effort to "purify" a religion that was too primitive, to replace it with a more dignified cult and less bloody rites. However, his prophetic gesture contains something more radical -- God cannot be the accessory to a religion where everyone is looking out for his own interests. Jesus can't see that "family of God" which he has begun to form with his first disciples there.

In that temple, no one remembers the poor malnourished peasants he has left in the villages of Galilee. The Father of the poor can't reign from this temple. With his prophetic gesture, Jesus is denouncing the roots of a religious, political and economic system that neglects the last and the least, the favorites of God.

Jesus' actions ought to warn his followers to ask ourselves what sort of religion we're cultivating in our churches. If it isn't inspired by Jesus, it may become a "holy" way of shutting ourselves to God's plan that He wants to put forward in the world. The religion of those who follow Jesus is to always be at the service of the Kingdom of God and His justice.

On the other hand, we are to review if our communities are spaces where we can all feel we are in "the Father's house." Welcoming communities where the doors are closed to no one and nobody is excluded or discriminated against. A house where we learn to listen to the suffering of the most vulnerable and not our own interest.

Let's not forget that Christianity is a prophetic religion born of the Spirit of Jesus to make way for the Kingdom of God by building a more humane and fraternal world on the road towards its ultimate salvation in God.

Father d'Ors: "Let's open the Church to women priests"

by Simonetta Fiore (English translation by Rebel Girl)
November 5, 2014

MADRID. "Why did Pope Francis choose me? A mystery. He may have asked: Who is the most marginal priest in Madrid?". Pablo d'Ors bursts out laughing as he climbs the stairs in his home in the district of Tetuán, a kind of four-story tower that Montaigne would have liked. It's here, between the floor of the library where d'Ors composes his novels and the chapel above where he says Mass, that another revolution of Bergoglio's pontificate is maturing. So far it hasn't been talked about much, not at all in fact. And to discover it you need to come find this outsider of letters and the priesthood who emanates a cheerful vitality.

Really unclassifiable, Father d'Ors. "A mystical, erotic and comic writer," as he presents himself, revealing his vocation to paradox. His first beautiful stories in El Estreno ["Il Debutto" in Italian] make fun of world literature, recounting the exploits of a Slovakian lady who makes love to the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Surprising pages in which you can read reflections like, "Pessoa is the writer who slept the least in all of world literature." Growing up in a cultured family -- his grandfather was Eugenio d'Ors, a monument of Spanish culture -- Pablo was always nourished on words, then moved to Biografía del Silencio ["Biography of silence"], a manifesto on meditation that became a publishing sensation in Spain (translated into Italian by Vita e Pensiero). No longer young, at age 27, after a life full of love, reading, and reckless traveling, he chose the priesthood -- now at Ramón y Cajal Hospital, accompanying the terminally ill. This year he was named to the Pontifical Council for Culture chaired by Cardinal Ravasi, where in February he will bring his brick for the construction of a huge new building.

What task has been entrusted to you?

"I'm one of thirty advisers appointed worldwide. They have asked us to present a report on the role of women in the Church. Now the time is ripe to break new ground."

Will opening the priesthood to women be discussed?

"I can not say that is apodictically so, but I think after the next plenary meeting there might be that approach."

Are you in favor?

"Absolutely, and I'm not alone. That women can't be priests because of the fact that Jesus was a man and that he chose only men, is a very weak argument. It's a cultural reason, not a metaphysical one."

What would women bring?

"Life. And so much richness. The change is necessary because it is unacceptable discrimination. To prepare for my task, I have spoken with many women from different social and cultural backgrounds, Christian and non-Christian. With one exception, all have shown themselves in favor."

Is there still a lot of resistance?

"Yes, not only in the Curia but also at the grassroots. Novelty is always scary. On the other hand, an important criterion for measuring the spiritual vitality of a person is his willingness to change. Resisting life is a shame because life is continuous progress."

Is this also true for the Church?

"Especially for the Church."

What kind of a priest are you?

"I'm a happy priest. I've heard an inner voice. And when you live life as a response to a vocation, you feel happiness. That doesn't mean there haven't been difficult moments."

The fact of having lived a lot before taking your vows...

"...I'm still living intensely."

Yes, but does the fact of having had many love affairs make you a better priest?

"Knowing human love makes you know divine love better. Today I can say that it helped me, but at the time I was experiencing it, I had the impression it was bad for me. You have to have time to process the experience."

Your relationship with the Vatican hierarchy hasn't always been peaceful.

"Are you referring to Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the former [arch]bishop of Madrid? We had two very different ways of understanding the Christian presence in the world. I could summarize it in two words: alternative or dialogue. Alternative leads you to a closed view of Christianity, separate from a world seen as a sentinel of all vices. Dialogue means also recognizing beauty and good in the world. So I don't impose my absolute truth on you but I invite you to get into a dialogue with me to find the truth together. Francis is a true pontiff because he creates bridges around himself."

Today you're working at Ramón y Cajal Hospital. How do you accompany a dying person?

"By really listening to what they're saying, without judging intellectually or becoming emotionally charged. Listening is enough, forgetting oneself, which is the hardest thing."

You've said that dying as a Christian doesn't involve any less anguish than dying as a secular person.

"Wait a minute. If you're really a believer, it helps you. It doesn't help you when you're a Christian in name only but not in your heart."

But you can live a good life without God?

"Of course you can live without a God. You can't live well without contact with the source of fullness, whether you call it God, being or life. People like Einstein and Rousseau were not believers, but were capable of very deep spiritual experiences."

Why do you write novels? Were you thinking of yourself when you made Pessoa say "I don't write what I think but I write to think"?

"One naively believes that writing serves to communicate, but this would mean that I already know what I have to say. In fact, writing is a revelation in that it reveals to you what you need to write. It is not a merely intellectual act, but deeper, more visceral I would say."

But why have you joined the call for silence? Isn't there a paradoxical aspect, an oxymoron, to writing a biography of silence?

"Only in appearance. Words and silence are two sides of the same coin. Real words, those that have the ability to touch others, are born from silence, that intimacy with yourself. And they call for silence because the best thing, when you read a book, is the need to recreate what you've read yourself. Deep down, literature is an invitation to be silent."

Silence as the only possible ethic. You make Thomas Bernhard say it.

"Yes, for me it was essential. Bernhard is to theorize that everything is a citation. Literature is born from literature. Even my novels are born in the margins of others' books."

You call yourself an erotic, mystical and comic writer. But what binds these very different things together?

"Irony is the style, mysticism and eroticism are the contents. Both mysticism and eros seek unity -- reuniting the separation in the union of spirit and body. As for the lightness, it is what generates the reader's joy."

Speaking of lightness, in Il debutto you take apart Kundera and many others. Great writers, but little men.

"Irony also has a liberating function. Nearly a statement of principle: here are my teachers, but I will not be crushed under those beasts of literature."

But why introduce the corporal theme -- the Slovak organizer who lets herself be possessed by all the great intellectuals?

"I wanted to show deception. We fancy ourselves that we own books and people. But, since you can not master all the literature, the easier thing is to get the bodies of the writers."

Your recurring criticism towards writers is that they prefer writing to life.

"For many, literature is a vicarious way of experiencing reality. But I think that everyone should make a work of art not only of writing, but also of his own life. Thomas Mann understood this very well. Proust and Kafka, by contrast, sacrificed their lives to literature."

Primum vivere. But wouldn't priests live better with a woman at their side?

"The time is ripe for this change too, but that's just my personal opinion. And in the Pontifical Council, no, we will not be talking about this."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fourth Colombian Roman Catholic Woman Priest Ordained

Colombia's fourth Roman Catholic woman priest, Rev. Judith Bautista Fajardo, ARCWP, was ordained on Saturday by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Mehan. Rev. Fajardo now joins Colombia's three other women priests -- Rev. Olga Lucia Alvarez, Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, and Rev. Martha Aida Soto Bernal.

The 47 year-old native of Bogota says that her call to the priesthood was always present. Despite that, she spent her earlier religious life as a nun, a vocation she nurtured for nine years, ministering to women and youth. For the last 27 years, Rev. Fajardo has been working in spiritual direction and pastoral care. Trained in philosophy, theology and psychotherapy, Fajardo has been working as a facilitator with Effeta Escuela Taller del Alma ("Effeta Soul Workshop School) in coordination with Kairos Educativo (KairEd), which describes itself as "an organization that promotes training, research, publication and coordination of church and social movements, based on liberating and contextualized pedagogy and theology..." Fajardo simply says, "I work to support leaders who accompany communities hit by poverty and violence, some of them are defenders of human rights, but others are leaders who accompany resistance in building solidarity amid the difficult living conditions of the people."

The new priest is also an accomplished poet and singer/songwriter. You can find samples of her poetry in many places on the web such as Poesia Virtual (we have shared one with an English translation below) and there is also an e-book of her poems, Cómo espada de dos filos: Poesía Mística ("Like a Two-edged Sword: Mystical Poetry"). That book won the 21st Fernando Rielo world prize for mystical poetry in 2001, a contest sponsored by the Embassy of Spain to the Holy See. You can listen to Rev. Fajardo's songs, compiled in an album titled "Desacostumbrame" on MySpace.


Por Judith Bautista Fajardo

Mirad que como el barro en las manos del alfarero,
así sois vosotros en mi mano
Jeremías 18, 6b

El Dios en quien yo creo
es quien me da motivos para dar cada paso.
El Dios que me susurra, que aún no he terminado
que me falta un poema, una canción acaso,
que me falta quizás una sonrisa firme,
una mano dispuesta y una palabra amable.

Que me falta aún perdonar una ofensa
recorrer otra milla y compartir mi manta.
Que aún me falta crear, inventar otros mundos,
mas sencillos talvez, más nobles y sinceros.

El Dios en quien yo creo me crea y nos recrea
y también nos inventa de nuevo cada día
y siente y se estremece con el dolor del pueblo
y canta y gime y grita en mil voces hermanas,
acaso desterradas al borde del camino.

Hoy también surgen gritos de angustia y de reclamo
y el viento de la tarde me trae sus gemidos
y de nuevo mi Dios, acongojado,
ha encendido en mil pechos una brasa que arde.

El Dios en quien yo creo, cual paciente alfarero,
de la aurora a la tarde se entrega a su criatura,
y celebra sus fiestas y llora sus dolores
con el corazón puesto en la obra de sus manos.

El Dios en quien yo creo, es fuego que reclama,
espada que penetra más profunda y punzante,
que aunque dulce en los labios, amarga las entrañas
invitando a entregarse a tiempo y a destiempo.

El Dios en quien yo creo, como madre amorosa,
acuna a sus pequeños con dolores de parto.
Y con ellos se pone cada día en camino,
tras la vida abundante que proclama su Reino.


By Judith Bautista Fajardo (English translation by Rebel Girl)

"Behold, as the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand." (Jeremiah 18:6)

The God in whom I believe
is the one who gives me a reason to take each step.
The God who whispers that I'm not yet done,
that I lack a poem, a song perhaps,
that maybe I need a firm smile,
a willing hand and a friendly word.

That I still need to forgive an offense,
travel another mile, and share my coat.
That I yet need to create, to invent other worlds,
simpler ones perhaps, nobler and more sincere.

The God in whom I believe creates me and re-creates us
and also invents us anew each day
and feels and shudders with the people's pain
and sings and moans and cries in a thousand sister voices,
banished perhaps on the side of the road.

Today too, demanding cries of anguish rise
and the afternoon wind brings me their wailing
and again my God, heartbroken,
has lit a burning ember in a thousand breasts.

The God in whom I believe, like a patient potter,
from dawn to dusk gives Himself to His creatures
and celebrates their feasts and weeps for their sorrows,
His heart set on the work of His hands.

The God in whom I believe is a demanding flame,
a penetrating sword, deeper and more poignant,
that, though sweet on the lips, turns the belly bitter,
inviting to surrender in season and out.

The God in whom I believe, like a loving mother,
cradles her little ones with the pangs of birth.
And sets forth with them each day
behind the abundant life that proclaims Her Kingdom.

Photos: 1. Bishop Bridget Mary Mehan celebrates the Eucharist with Rev. Judith Bautista Fajardo and newly ordained ARCWP deacons Sally Brochu and Janet Blakeley. 2. Rev. Judith Bautista Fajardo, prior to ordination, with Bishop Bridget Mary Mehan and Rev. Olga Lucia Alvarez.

In God's hands

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 2, 2014

John 6:37-40

People today don't know what to do with death. Sometimes, the only thing that occurs to us is to ignore it and not talk about it. Forget this sad event as soon as possible, complete the necessary civil and religious formalities and go back to our daily lives.

But sooner or later, death visits our homes, snatching away our most beloved beings. How do we react then towards that death that robs us of our mother forever? What attitude do we adopt towards the beloved husband who says his last goodbye? What do we do before the void that so many friends leave in our lives?

Death is a door that each person passes through alone. Once the door is closed, the deceased is hidden from us forever. We don't know what has happened to him. This very close and beloved being is now lost in the unfathomable mystery of God. How do we relate to him?

We followers of Jesus don't just passively witness the fact of death. Trusting in the Risen Christ, we accompany it with love and with our prayer in this mysterious encounter with God. In the Christian liturgy for the dead, there's no desolation, rebellion, or despair. At its core, there is only a prayer of trust: "Into Your hands, Father of mercy, we entrust the life of our loved one."

What meaning can those funerals in which people with different sensibilities towards the mystery of death gather, have among us today? What can we do together -- believers, the somewhat less believing, those of little faith, and nonbelievers too?

Over the years, we have changed a lot inside. We've become more critical, but also more fragile and vulnerable; we're more skeptical, but also more insecure. It isn't easy for us to believe, but not believing is hard. We're full of doubt and uncertainty, but we don't know how to find hope.

Sometimes, I like to invite those who are attending a funeral to do something we can all do, each from their little faith. Say a few words inside ourselves to our loved one that express our love for him and our humble invocation to God:

"We still love you, but we no longer know where to meet you or what to do for you. Our faith is weak and we don't know how to pray well. But we entrust you to God's love; we leave you in His hands. God's love is for you today a place more secure than anything we can offer you. Enjoy the full life. God loves you as we didn't know how to love you. Someday we'll see each other again."