March 30, 2007

'My Sweet Lord'

Holy Week is about to begin, and a an art school refugee, I couldn't help but post a little something about artist Cosimo Cavallaro's 200 lb. chocolate Jesus sculpture. Of course the Catholic League is up in arms. Because Jesus has a penis. Which is clearly offensive, particularly during the holiest season for Christians.

But the hardened art student in me can't help but yawn. Not only does the sculpture NOT resemble Jesus (where's the long hair for cryin out loud?), but it's just such a cliché to do Jesus art. It's practically a right of passage for all first-year students to do the "shocking" jesus art. "Jesus painted with my own menstrual blood." "Jesus in feces." "Urine Jesus." Yawn, yawn, yawn.

And, of course, none of us would have ever heard of this forgetable sculpture had the Catholic League not gotten it's collective panties in a bunch. And what of the thousands of chocolate eggs and crosses? Do they profane the season? No, only a penis can do that....

March 29, 2007

We are loved

"Love one another as I have loved you/Care for each other, I have cared for you/Bear each other's burdens, bind each other's wounds/and so you will know my return."

We are a broken people. Those of us who choose to stay open to love must also occasionally dwell in pain, hurt and grief. People disappoint us, fling words like knives, betray us. But we don't shut down, become bitter and isolate ourselves. No, in that very moment we must reach out in all our vulnerability and trust again. In doing this, we bear witness to the return of Christ, the return of the Spring, rebirth, renewal. Remember always that our God sent God's son to experience all the pain that we endure in our lives -- and was betrayed with a kiss. Our God is a God of empathy, and forgiveness. We are so loved, so unconditionally loved.

March 26, 2007

Sensus fidelium

For a few days now, I've been following the developing firestorm over the published writings of a 75-year-old theologian at Marquette University in defense of same-sex marrige. Daniel C. Maguire, a teacher of religious ethics at the Jesuit-run Milwaukee university, while being denounced by Bishops, has laid out the theological criteria with which progressive Catholics today can and do access the issue of same-sex unions and romantic love between such couples. I have never read anything more theologically correct.
Please take the time to read Maguire's published comments.
    The highlights:
    • The desire to bond lovingly and sexually with persons of the same sex or of the opposite sex, is a fact of life, a fact of God's creation, and we have no right to call it unholy. As the Acts of the Apostles says in the Bible, we have no right to declare unclean anything that God has made (Acts of the Apostles 10:15). To do so, in fact, is a sin.
    Marriage can be defined as the unique and special form of committed friendship between sexually attracted persons. This definition does not say that the persons have to be heterosexually attracted. Persons attracted to a person of their same sex can still be married. Marriage is a supreme human good involving exclusive, committed, enduring, generous, and faithful love, and this kind of love is not something that only heterosexuals can achieve.
    • Friendship and love and commitment are human virtues and gay and lesbian persons are human and fully capable of a healthy human committed love in marriage.
    • The view that homosexual people are condemned to involuntary celibacy for life is as cruel as it is absurd. Jesus said of celibacy: "Let those accept it who can" (Matthew 19:12). Voluntary celibacy for a good cause is something some can do but it is seen as a special talent, a special gift that not all have. The Vatican council called it "a precious gift of divine grace which the Father gives to some persons," but not to all.9 Abstaining from all sexual activity is seen by the Council as something "unique."10 You can not demand from all homosexual people that which is "unique."

Those of us who work for change in the Catholic Church do so with the knowledge that we will not likely see change in our lifetimes. This is how change occurs in the church -- slowly, and as Maguire points out, it is almost always sensus fidelium, the wisdom and experience of the laity, that ushers in truths that the hierarchy would rather not acknowledge. But it will happen, I believe. Because it is theologically sound and true, and I belive it reflects the true will of God.

March 23, 2007

Friday night I Ching

I've been very disappointed lately, and not quite sure how to react to a particular situation. Experience has taught me when to retreat to safety, take the path of least resistance, and do absolutely nothing. Avoid confrontation and lick my wounds. Being rejected is never fun, but always offers an opportunity for introspection and growth for future relationships. So, here it is, Friday night, time for an I Ching to gain a little clarity. I've been doing the I Ching since I was a girl. My dad was very into it. Just picture a stoned old hippie blaring Van Morrison, rolling pennies across the table and writing down the results with a knowing nod of the head. A regular occurance in my household, but I digress.
So, here's what I got:

    I-Ching Hexagram 23 - Po - Splitting Apart

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    the trigram above - KEN - Keeping Still, Mountain
    the trigram below - K’UN - the Receptive, Earth

    From the Wilhelm-Baynes translation of “the I Ching or the Book of Changes”

    The dark lines are about to mount upward and overthrow the last firm, light line by exerting a disintegrating influence on it. The inferior, dark forces overcome what is superior and strong, not by direct mens, but by undermining it gradually and imperceptibly, so that it finally collapses.

    The lines of the hexagrams present the image of a house, the top line being the roof, and because the roof is being shattered the house collapses. The hexagram belongs to the ninth month (October - November). The yin power pushes up ever more powerfully and is about to supplant the yang power altogether.


    SPLITTING APART. It does not further one
    To go anywhere.

    This pictures a time when inferior people are pushing forward and are about to crowd out the few remaining strong and superior men. Under these circumstances, which are due to the time, it is not favorable for the superior man to undertake anything.

    The right behavior in such adverse times is to be deduced from the images and their attributes. The lower trigrams stands for the earth, whose attributes are docility and devotion. The upper trigram stands for the mountain, whose attribute is stillness. This suggests that one should submit to he bad time and remain quiet. For it is a question not of man’s doing but of time conditions, which, according to the laws of heaven, show an alternation of increase and decrease, fullness and emptiness. It is impossible to counteract these conditions of the time. Hence it is not cowardice but wisdom to submit and avoid action.


    The mountain rests on the earth:
    The image of SPLITTING APART.
    Thus those above can ensure their position
    Only by giving generously to those below.

    The mountain rests on the earth. When it is steep and narrow, lacking a broad base, it must topple over. Its position is strong only when it rises out of the earth broad and great, not proud and steep. So likewise those who rule rest on the broad foundation of the people. They too should be generous and benevolent, like the earth that carries all. Then they will make their position as secure as a mountain is in its tranquillity.

    THE LINES -- [I've only included the lines that pertain to my particular hexagram formulation]

    Six in the second place means:
    The bed is split at the edge.
    Those who persevere are destroyed.

    The power of the inferior people is growing. The danger draws close to one’s person; already there are clear indications, and rest is disturbed. Moreover, in this dangerous situation one is as yet without help or friendly advances from above or below. Extreme caution is necessary in this isolation. One must adjust to the time and promptly void the danger. Stubborn perseverance in maintaining one’s standpoint would lead to downfall.

    Six in the fourth place means:
    The bed is split up to the skin.

    Here the disaster affects not only the resting place but even the occupant. No warning or other comment is added. Misfortune has reached its peak: it can no longer be warded off.

    I-Ching Hexagram 64 - Wei Chi - Before Completion

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    the trigram above - LI - the Clinging, Flame
    the trigram below - K’AN - the Abysmal, Water

    From the Wilhelm-Baynes translation of “the I Ching or the Book of Changes”

    This hexagram indicates a time when the transition from disorder to order is not yet completed. The change is indeed prepared for, since all the lines in the upper trigram are in relation to those in the lower. However, they are not yet in their places. While te preceding hexagram offers an analogy to autumn, which forms the transition from summer to winter, this hexagram presents a parallel to spring, which leads out of winter’s stagnation into the fruitful time of summer. With this hopeful outlook the Book of Changes comes to its close.


    But if the little fox, after nearly completing the crossing,
    Gets his tail in the water,
    There is nothing that would further.

    The conditions are difficult. The task is great and full of responsibility. it is nothing less than that of leading the world out of confusion back to order. but it is a task that promises success, because there is a goal that can unite the forces now tending in different directions. At first, however, one must move warily, like an old fox walking over ice. The caution of a fox walking over ice is proverbial in China. His ears are constantly alert to the cracking of the ice, as he carefully and circumspectly searches out the safest spots. A young fox who as yet has not acquired this caution goes ahead boldly, and it may happen that he falls in and gets his tail wet when he is almost across the water. then of course his effort has been all in vain. Accordingly, in times “before completion,” deliberation and caution are the prerequisites of success.


    Fire over water:
    The image of the condition before transition.
    Thus the superior man is careful
    in the differentiation of things,
    So that each finds its place.

    When fire, which by nature flames upward, is above, and water, which flows downward, is below, their effects take opposite directions and remain unrelated. If we wish to achieve an effect, we must first investigate the nature of the forces in question and ascertain their proper place. If we can bring these forces to bear in the right place, they will have the desired effect, and completion will be achieved. But in order to handle external forces properly, we must above all arrive at the correct standpoint ourselves, for only from this vantage can we work correctly.

Well, all I can say is that yes, I am doing absolutely nothing right now, which this reading confirms, is the correct and cautious path. I have found that when I am feeling intense emotions, it is usually better not to act rashly. So, I sequester myself and wait. This too shall pass. But as the changing lines indicate, I will need to formulate a careful plan if I am ever to make the changes that I desire for myself. For now, that plan includes feeling and expressing my emotions in safe and constructive ways, and moving through them until I can reclaim the love that's buried deep. Love is as much a choice as an emotion, an ascent of the spirit and the will. And anger can only be felt toward those that we have loved. Only something as powerful as love could provoke such an equal and opposite reaction. Or, as Chrissie Hynde sings, "it's a thin line, between love and hate."

March 20, 2007

Christmas in March

Yes, I know that it's called Christmas Song, but I think this Dave Matthews song is more than appropriate (nevermind his qualifying opening comments) for both Lent and the first day of Spring. Go ahead and cry. I can't listen to this song without sobbing! Enjoy and Happy Spring!

March 17, 2007

The Trials of Saint Bernadette

Tonight at Top Hat Tattoo I am getting adorned with the image on this postcard that I've been carrying around since 2002. I received it from my dearest sister-friend along with my birthday gift that year and I was instantly captivated by the image. The classic early 60's style made it seem kitschy, and the obvious religious theme conjured images of the always suffering saints in my copy of Fifteen Saints for Girls. On the flipside of the postcard, the only identifier was a title that said "The Trials of Saint Bernadetté."
So, up on the wall it went. Until last year when I went to a DIY craft fair and ran into the image all over the place. None of the artists had too much information as to the origin of the image, save for the title "Anima Sola." And so she is, the Anima Sola, the Lonely Soul. For me, this image conjures thoughts on the religious persecution of women as the "arbiters of sin" due to their sexual nature. It is said that the Anima Sola traded eternal salvation for temporal love -- and thus burns in the purgatorial flames. Yet she is not consumed. She gazes heavenward, chains broken. She is at last free.
So what does St. Bernadetté have to do with this? Well, it seems that Leonard Cohen penned Song to Bernadette for Jennifer Warnes Famous Blue Raincoat album (1986), and I've been told by friends that the Anima Sola image adorned an early Cohen album cover, though the only reference I could find was on Tower of Song, a Cohen tribute album. But clearly St. Bernadetté suffered greatly in her lifetime, and I think the image references her suffering and constant physical pain.
So, when I walked into Top Hat Tattoo for my consultation yesterday and laid down my image, the store owner, Priscilla, remarked, "Whoa. You want this tomorrow? Andrew (the tattoo artist), do you know what tomorrow is?" She then laid down the EXACT SAME IMAGE claiming that his other appointment for the day was an older mexican man who wanted the Anima Sola tattoo from elbow to shoulder -- a seven hour masterpiece. Neither the artist or the owner of the shop had ever seen the image before, let alone been requested to duplicate it twice in one day. Very odd. So, of course, I took it as a sign that it was meant to be. Now, I am hoping I can get a couple of friends to join me there, because I am really nervous. This will be, by far, the largest and most visible tattoo that I have, and it will take about three hours to complete. I plan on getting it on my upper right arm, and it will be about seven inches long. I barely slept last night, worrying about my decission. Just what kind of woman gets an obsure holy card tattoo on her arm anyway? What, if anything, does this say about my character?
All questions that will soon be answered, somtime after 7:30 p.m. tongight.

March 14, 2007

Bad Catholic

Well, I'm getting my wish. I'm a step closer to acheiving excommunication and joining the company (as if) of my favorite saint, Joan. Pope Benedict reiterated what we progressive Catholics have been ignoring (and will continue to) for years now. {Yawn} But just in case you weren't totally clear on the official stance of the hierarchy, here's a synopsis.

    • Gay people are immoral, and cannot receive Eucharist
    • Divorced Catholics who remarry must remain eternally celibate or can't receive Eucharist
    • Gregorian Chant is totally awesome, and should be used more
    • So is Latin
    • Priests must always remain celibate
    • All of these positions are non-negotiable

No big suprises here. Benedict has proven himself to be one of the finest minds of the twelfth century. Not much to say. See you on Sunday, where my big ol' gay divorced self will be serving as a Eucharistic minister. Oh, but I do love Gregorian chant!

March 11, 2007

Welcome to the Church of the Second Chance

Closing excerpt from today's Gospel reading:
And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

I am not a patient person. Most of us aren't. I have found that I have no more patience for people I love than I do for the coffee I'm reheating in the microwave — I want it to be to my liking RIGHT NOW. A minute-and-a-half is just too long. And in the case of relationships, the thought of hours, weeks, days, even years is a daunting one. But just when I am about to throw in the towel on a situation that I don't feel fulfilled by, I am moved by this reading to continue cultivating, and to reach down deep for more patience. This is clearly one of those timely gospel readings that addressed the exact problem that I've been struggling with -- and comes as an answer to a prayer to me this morning.
Our God is the God of the Second Chance, the Third Chance, even the Fourth Chance. Only when the tree does not bear any fruit after more fertilizer, more cultivation, will our God acquiesse and "cut it down." But I'm betting that even next year, when the tree still doesn't bear fruit, God as the gardener will put forth the same argument. There is still hope for this tree. We just need to work harder and be patient.
This is not to say that we should not have boundaries -- on the contrary. God will let nature take its course when it becomes more than obvious that the tree is barren. Perhaps God has a special relationship with the tree -- and knows that it wants to be cultivated, loved, fertilized — and to produce fruit. You can almost hear the tree in this reading saying "please don't give up on me yet."
So if you're asking for a second, third or fourth chance from me today, you're in luck. Let patience cultivate love and let the fruit of spring bloom new.

March 10, 2007


Stuck in my head for the past 48 hours. Beautifully sums up all that I'm feeling right now.

Sleeps with Butterflies
~Tori Amos

Airplanes take you away again
are you flying above where we live
then I look up, a glare in my eyes
are you having regrets about last night
I'm not, but I like rivers that
rush in
so then I dove in
Is there trouble ahead for you, the acrobat?
I won't push you, unless you have a net

You say the word you know I will find you
or if you need some time I don't mind
I don't hold on to the tail of your kite
I'm not like the girls that you've known
but I believe I'm worth comin' home to
kiss away night
this girl only sleeps with butterflies
with butterflies
So go on and fly then, boy

Balloons look good from on the ground
I fear with pins and needles around
we may fall then stumble upon a carousel
It could take us anywhere

You say the word you know I will find you
or if you need some time I don't mind
I don't hold onto the tail of your kite
I'm not like the girls that you've known
but I believe I'm worth comin' home to
kiss her, waiting by this girl
this girl

You say the word you know I will find you
or if you need some time I don't mind
I don't hold onto the tail of your kite
I'm not like the girls that you've known
but I believe I'm worth comin' home to
kiss away night
this girl only sleeps with butterflies
with butterflies
with butterflies
So go on and fly boy

March 08, 2007

Happy International Women's Day

So, today is Int'l Women's Day -- a holiday that goes sadly uncelebrated by most of the planet's women. But not in my office. My office is mostly women, with a few men thrown in for good measure, and they brought us truffles, bread and roses today to honor us. Someone found a copy of Judy Collins' Bread and Roses and I am suprised to admit that I had never heard the tune. It brought a tear to my eye. So let me take this opportunity to say a big 'Thank You' to all of the incredible women in my life! You all make each day worth getting up for, and you continue to inspire me with your wisdom and grace.
So, I'm stuffed full of truffles and bread. Any of you fine women care to share a glass of wine tonight?

March 06, 2007


My conversation with "God" today:

    Me: Hi God, it's me, Valency.

    God: Hi there. I am a Christian.

    Me: Really? I always sensed that you transcended human religion.

    God: For real. Can you think of one instance when you ever did it?

    Me: did what?

    God: I'm not certain whether I can give an accurate reply or not.

    Me: Aren't you always supposed to be accurate?

    God:I don't know whether or not I am accurate.
    I am an artificial linguistic entity.

    Me: What do you know, God?

    God: he is master of the universe.

    Me: So God is a "he"?

    God:I understand. I have a lot of Faith in Him, but I never heard He was a he.

    Me: Are you male?

    God:I am a Male, of course. Would you really expect a woman to be running the show?. Are you a man or a woman?

    Me: Just a lowly woman, I guess.

    God: Are you talking about an animal, vegetable or mineral?

    Me: WTF??? OK, I am NOT being insulted by some male a-hole who thinks he's a god!

    God: That was not very polite. I am sorry to hear that you are being insulted by some male a-hole who thinks he is a god. Mmm.

    Me: Well, your snarky comment about a woman not being able to run the show wasn't very polite either. Or very true.

    God:It goes without saying. How about that. Thanks for telling me that I am snarky comment about a woman not being able to run the show was not very polite. Perhaps you and I are on the same wavelength.

    Me: Sometimes I like to think so.

    God:I think so too.

    Me: So, God, what can I do to dismantle the patriarchy?


In typical fashion, my computer froze at this point, preventing "God" from answering any more of my questions. Hmmmm. I smell a conspiracy.


I have caught the bug this week. There are certain people that you encounter that radiate such a dazzling joyfullness that it has the power to transform anyone who comes in contact with them. Lucky lucky lucky me, I have such a person in my life. She glows with a joy that has such a power and light that it transfigures me -- and makes me want to go out and spread the same kind of joy. Even when we are struggling with difficult life situations, the power of love transfgures us -- that is, our true nature -- caring, welcoming, generous -- is given expression in a moment of grace.
My cup is full to overflowing and I have been transfigured. Catch the bug.

March 03, 2007

Mirror, mirror on the wall....

When the wicked queen gazed into her mirror and became engraged at the image of Snow White looking back at her, was Disney unknowingly describing how our own egos react when faced with parts of ourselves that we have lost?
Some patterns in our lives become obvious. For me, I've found that I'm often attracted to people with certain characteristics and personality traits -- sometimes that leave me frustrated and wondering why do I keep banging my head against this particular wall?
I've been reading about disowned selves, and the notion that we are attracted to characteristics in other people that represent repressed parts of our own identity. Our multi-faceted ego emphasis parts of our identity (primamry selves) that we want to project into the world, and all those left-over identifiers go underground, deep into our psyche. The ways this plays out in our relationships is a fancy psyshological way of explaining the old adage, "opposites attract."
I think there is a deeply spiritual reason for this phenomenon. To be sure, bonding and having a relationship with someone who mirrors other parts of yourself back to you — and likewise you for them — provides infinite possibilities for growth.
So, how do you know what part of yourselves are "disowned?" Start by asking yourself "Who do I judge? Who drives me up a wall? Who can I not stand?" These people hold valuable keys that can unlock repressed parts of our own psyche. And likewise, what qualities to I admire and overvalue in others? Who do I wish I could be more like? These are key relationships in our lives.
I have found that I am attracted time and again to people that are free-spirited — which manifests itself in a variety of positive and negative personality traits from a wonderful ability to be spontaneous, to the annoying habit of always being late and sometimes, undependable. I have struggled to understand this dynamic in my life, and what I'm to learn (and teach?) those who mirror this for me. Perhaps I mirror my rational mind, my need for control. I feel very anxious when plans are not pinned down. I always prefer things to be ordered rather than spontaneous. I couldn't be late for something if I tried.
Perhaps I need to learn that I will still be loved, even if its not "on the schedule." If I disappoint by tardiness, I will still be acceptable. If I change my mind at the last minute or decide to do something unexpected, that I will not be abandoned or deemed "flakey."

March 01, 2007

The Deer's Cry

At the funeral of my dear friend a few months back, her brave and beautiful 11-year-old daughter sang The Deer's Cry, and if you've never heard it, you should. The Deer's Cry, also called The Breastplate of St. Patrick, and The Lorica, tells the story of St. Patrick and his monks being turned into deer so that they could pass safely through an ambush. It was written in the Eighth century and some claim that St. Patrick himself wrote the prayer.
Anyone familiar with Celtic Goddess spirituality will recognize the ancient symbolism in this prayer -- which really is the greatest protection spell I've ever come across.
So, if your day is going like mine, take up this shield.

    The Deer's Cry

    I arise today
    Through the strength of heaven
    Light of sun
    Radiance of moon
    Splendour of fire
    Speed of lightning
    Swiftness of wind
    Depth of the sea
    Stability of earth
    Firmness of rock
    I arise today
    Through God's strength to pilot me
    God's eye to look before me
    God's wisdom to guide me
    God's way to lie before me
    God's shield to protect me
    From all who shall wish me ill Afar and anear
    Alone and in a multitude
    Against every cruel merciless power
    That may oppose my body and soul.
    Christ with me,
    Christ before me,
    Christ behind me,
    Christ in me.
    Christ beneath me,
    Christ above me,
    Christ on my right,
    Christ on my left,
    Christ when I lie down,
    Christ when I sit down,
    Christ when I arise,
    Christ to shield me.
    Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
    Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.
    I arise today.