Thursday, March 26, 2015

Abuse in the Name of God?!


In this post we struggle with images of violence and abuse that become part and parcel of our religious traditions and ponder to what extent our religious traditions offer us an escape from abuse or are in certain respects purveyors of abuse.


So often we associate abuse within our religious traditions with abusive leaders: pedophiliac priests, a rabbinic voyeur shooting videos of women in a ritual bath. It is a fact, I believe, that religious abuse emerges within the context of power and authority built into our religious institutions. For better or worse, however, I believe that abuse is, to some degree, built into our religious traditions inasmuch as these religious traditions themselves evolve within an institutional hierarchy invested with power and authority that must be protected.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Meaning of Suffering

Sister Sharon
Personal Suffering

This past December I had the experience of having my right knee replaced. I suggested to Richard that we take on the topic of “Suffering.” The topic came to my mind very quickly and I wasn’t quite sure why, but if I had to summarize my year (2014) in one word, most likely I would choose the word “suffering.” My suffering was partly physical, as my knee was barely working, and I was denying the pain I was experiencing. In addition to the physical pain, I began the year with personal loss as a result of the passing of a very close friend of thirteen years, who happened to also be my boss at the time of her passing. In April I then lost my feline friend, who was my constant companion for the past 24 years.  In short, it was a very tough beginning of the year. Then I left my position, which lead to the tedious job searching process, so, the year was riddled with multiple job applications, interviews, and rejections. I tried to remain faithful to prayer, and taking care of myself, but my personal life continued to kind of crumble around me. I found out that a few individuals who I thought were my friends had a hard time allowing me to emote, and distanced themselves.  Suffering seems to be a good word to summarize my experience of the year, and yet, I am uncertain what I truly mean on a spiritual level by this phenomenon.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gender, Power and Empowerment

Richard Lederman

Unfortunately, the dirty little truth about gender in western religion is tied up with the entire question of patriarchy in western civilization. And the dirty little secret about patriarchy is the issue of power and authority. The so-called “patriarchs” in the Bible, like the men in all patriarchal societies, seem mainly concerned about inheritance. They must have a male issue to inherit whatever it is that they consider their “portion,” be it money, property, or God’s promise. Of course, in order to do that, women must be controlled, especially women’s sexuality. Unless women’s sexuality is controlled, men can never be sure of their true patrimony—and that’s bad!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Prayer and Ritual

Sr. Sharon Dillon

 Prayer in the Franciscan Life
(Adapted from Franciscan Morning and Evening Prayer)

We know that neither Clare nor Francis offered a complicated method of prayer. They called their followers to prayer with a decidedly contemplative dimension: to be present to God who is present to all creatures. They required that all prayer be Trinitarian. Prayer is to always be addressed to God in the Son (Christ) by the power of the Spirit. That prayer is focused as an incarnational action. A person becomes alive to God’s deeds in the greatest gift of God, the incarnation, the word made flesh, in which God becomes one with us in the bodily person of Jesus, the Christ. The purpose of all Franciscan prayer then, is to give God ceaseless praise and thanksgiving for all God has done and does in creation and in our re-creation (relation) in the Christ.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Revelation and Meditation

Richard Lederman

Ha-shamayyim mesapperim kevod el
u-ma’aseh yadav maggid ha-rakia’

The heavens reveal God’s presence;
and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

I am reminded of an experience driving through a wooded area in Maryland at the peak of the fall leaf season. As I marveled at the gift of beauty in color and light that graces our world, I was led to marvel as well at the human capacity to perceive and contemplate that beauty. The saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is no trite adage. The true source of “beauty” is the ability of our eyes and minds to see and perceive.

Revelation is a human response to the manifestation of divinity or transcendence in the cosmos. Like beauty, it is the human ability to perceive that forms the basis of revelation. A bush burning in the desert though not consumed is not a revelation. It is Moses’ perception of the phenomenon and his response to it that turns the event into a revelatory experience. “When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses! And he said, ‘Here I am’” (Exodus 3:4). Had Moses not “turned to see,” there would have been no revelation.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

God and Cosmology

Sr. Sharon Dillon

We are all connected. A butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world affects the lives of those on the other side...hum, something to give serious thought to-but how is this all possible.  We are mere dust? Or is the thought now, we are mere Stardust? Connected cosmologically by matter to our ancestors, to our future, to our heritage?? What does all this mean?  My being, my physical being is made up of other particles, connected by a heart that is unique.  What does this have to do with my faith, my religious beliefs? How I live in the world?

“From a scientific perspective, evolution is the way nature works. Physical reality is not composed of fixed, stable structures but a flow of information and energy organized forms that interact with other forms and their surrounding environments.” Again, we are all connected, but how? “Nature is more like a dance or a community at play than a clockwork mechanism. Today we know that evolution pertains to all aspects of human life including culture, religion, and economics.” Traditional theology allows for the “new creation” and understands divine creativity as sustaining the world continually. It has been in the twentieth century that the notion that the universe is historical with an ongoing story, that begins in earnest to reshape the minds and imaginations of not only scientists but theologians.  Two known individuals who made the connections of theology and science are Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) and Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). “Teilhard wrote that the human person 'is nothing else than evolution becomes conscious of itself.'”