A Surprise from the Pulpit

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I wrote this soon after the mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, and shared it on my Facebook page. I wanted to also share it here.

Whenever the topic of abortion comes up in a church setting or with church people, I tend to hold my breath. I don’t know how many people are aware of my pro-choice stance. If asked, I try to be clear that I am for women’s reproductive rights in all the forms that women choose to use them. My most vocal place is probably on my Facebook and Tumblr, and no one from church, save one, is on Facebook or knows about Tumblr at the moment. That’s not to say I’m hiding my beliefs, I don”t think I do, but that’s how it’s been.

I had been looking forward to our Bishop as presider of the Divine Mercy Mass a few weekends ago. When I entered, I was handed a song-sheet and offered a relic to venerate, which I did.

I was early so that I could participate in the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, before the start of Mass. I find those group chaplet recitations and rosary prayers very moving.

The Mass went as it usually does except that it was the Bishop and there were four other priests in attendance plus the deacon. It gives the feeling of something special; not that each liturgy isn’t special in its own way, but the larger group of religious gives it a certain presentation. We have a really good music ministry and they are always outstanding and were on this day as well.

When the Bishop began his Homily with a reference to an unnamed political candidate who proposes punishing women for abortions, I cringed. I could feel my body tense up. I didn’t expect him to endorse this candidate. It also wasn’t because I expect my clergy to come out and talk about pro-choice or reproduction in any way that is not Catholic doctrine. This is something I accept within the church. In the particular case of my priest, he’s never brought abortion up in a political way; only as part of the prayer of the faithful for life, from conception until natural death, etc. with the exception of promoting 40 Days for Life. I usually add my own two cents of prayer silently to include all those who I feel should be included, and who are most often excluded – the women in their most difficult moments.

So when the Bishop brought up Donald Trump, not by name of course, I held my breath.

He talked about how that isn’t the way we should be thinking about the women who have abortions. He never once mentioned preventing abortions, banning abortions, birth control, adoption, none of it.

What he talked about was how we focus on the baby and we should be focusing on the women. He also used the word women, not mother. He talked about how women have their reasons for abortions and when they have them, we need to support them. Whether it’s their choice or their only choice, we need to show them this compassion we talk about. Real pro-life people don’t tell these women that they’re going to hell or that they’ll be punished. Real pro-life people are there for the women after their abortions and without judgment.

I’ve never heard such a pro-choice sentiment from a clergy person let alone a Bishop.

Of course, I know he’s not pro-choice, but this is the first time I’ve heard someone of his stature talk about women using another choice other than carrying the fetus to full term and having the baby.

I was pleasantly surprised on his focus towards the women.

Compassion and mercy are not talking points from Pope Francis; they are a way of living and I for one am happy to see it outside of the media and inside my own parish and diocese.

Pilgrimage in the Year of Mercy

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“This (Holy Year) is the opportune moment to change our lives!” the pope has said. “This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!…May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion.”

– Pope Francis

This is what Pope Francis said when he opened up this Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. I touched on the idea of what a pilgrimage is a few weeks ago, and as I proceed through this holy year, I’m still wondering.

I have several plans that involve retreats and learning; contemplation and writing, and I’m not sure where one activity ends and one begins.

Is that a pilgrimage? A retreat? A holiday?

And where does mercy fit in?

I honestly don’t know, and part of this year for me is looking for my own form of mercy; for me.

I’m much better at giving mercy to others, forgiving and letting things go, but I still haven’t done my pre-Easter penance for reconciliation, not because it’s too hard, but because it involves another person and that is the hardest thing to ask of me.

So I ask you:

What does this mean for me in particular as I take my retreats this year, and sort of a partial pilgrimage?

Or just wander through my notebook and my Kindle finishing projects and beginning others?

At the end of this holy year, will I have traveled enough to find my mercy?

Our parish is one of the lucky ones that is not a cathedral, but still has a Holy Door to enter. I’ve walked through it once, earlier in the year, simply as an introduction to myself and to G-d of my intentions, but I will be going through it again after some prayer and meditation.

It gives me joy to see it whenever I go to my church, and it also gives me the reminder that the year is not over yet. I still have time to find my way, and my way begins through that door.

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