The Distress, the Kingdom, the Endurance|A Homily after the Jamar Clark Verdict

Officers cleared in Jamar Clark Case - KSTP news report

Officers cleared in Jamar Clark Case – KSTP news report

by Fr. Dale Korogi, Church of the Ascension

“I John, share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus.” – Rev. 1:9

The distress, the kingdom, the endurance: from today’s reading from the Book of Revelation.

I. THE DISTRESS

There is a serious racial divide in our neighborhood, our city, and our society. How differently we, with our different histories and different ethnicities, see and interpret the world. Who do we trust? “Black men are thugs.” “The cops are thugs.” We have deeply embedded perceptions and presumptions and prejudices. All of us have blind spots that result in racial profiling: the demonization of individuals and classes of people. We need to recognize and challenge our conscious and unconscious biases.

One of the most haunting facts in the report on the death of Jamar Clark were Mr. Clark’s words, “I’m ready to die.” He was 24 years old. What led him to so disvalue his life and dignity? He, like all of us, like it or not, was shaped to a greater or lesser degree, by the experience of his ancestors many generations removed. African-Americans live with the legacy of families who suffered the legalized discrimination and segregation in so-called modern times, and the history of their forebears who first came to this country in chains and shackles. Fear, hopelessness. No wonder we see the world differently.

II. THE KINGDOM

As a white male, I don’t see my privilege because I’m too close to it, habituated to it. There’s so much I don’t yet get. We need to work on this together. In our multicultural parish and school, we have the rich and uncommon opportunity to know what it really means to be Catholic, to be really Catholic: that is, a diversity of people united around one Lord, a broad and inclusive collective. While it’s nice to all be in the same room getting along, we need to move beyond superficial relationships and our sketchy knowledge of one another’s histories.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1603 by Caravaggio.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1603 by Caravaggio.

The apostle Thomas is forever saddled with the title, “Doubting Thomas.” He gets a bum rap for his behavior, but it’s understandable and even commendable. He’s not content with what everybody is saying about somebody else. He’s not content with hearsay. Thomas wants to get Jesus’ story from Jesus himself.

Like Thomas, we need not rely on what others say about others. We have to listen to and hear the stories, in particular, from our brown and black brothers and sisters themselves, and come to know the challenges that they face every day because of the color of their skin. We need to put our fingers into their wounds, our hands into their sides. That’s risky. Because once we know their suffering, we must help to absorb their suffering. We need to be more fully engaged as an intercultural parish, and more integrated into our multicultural neighborhood. We need to be willing to go out and stand with others and act to bridge racial divisions and disparities—because that’s what Baptism and Christian discipleship require.

III. THE ENDURANCE

The spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, points out that, even though Thomas didn’t share the faith of the others in the room, he was there with them, nevertheless: he stayed among the community of believers. Nouwen says,

I find this a very profound and consoling thought. In times of doubt or unbelief, the community can “carry you along”; it can offer on your behalf what you yourself overlook, and can be the context in which you may recognize the Lord again.

Let’s commit to staying among the believers, working together, loving one another for the long haul, united in Easter faith that there is no despair, no division, no evil, no death that is beyond God’s power to repair. Let’s share the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus.

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Hat tip to Edward Braxton. Bishop Braxton Writes a Letter on Racial Divide in the United States

Fr dale

Fr. Dale Korogi is Pastor at Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis and says mass at the Visitation Monastery most Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8am. This homily is reprinted with his permission.

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Bridges Across the City: The Story behind the Invitation to Connect

Click for details or to register

Click for details or to register

“I think most of us have stories that break us open. The challenge is to find places that offer healing.”

– Maura Schnorbach, Social Justice Coordinator at St. Patrick’s Church, Edina

On Thursday, October 29, the Visitation Sisters and several northside neighborhood friends will travel to St. Patricks’ Church in Edina to share a meal, swap stories and spend a few hours together in prayer. If you are reading this, and are in the area, you are invited to come and be part of this evening!

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The following reflection comes from Maura Schnorbach, the Social Justice Coordinator who has lead the collaboration between St. Patricks, the Sisters and neighborhood friends in bringing this Fall Forum evening together. We share this with her permission.

maura-schnorbach

Maura Schnorbach

“Spending time with the sisters and neighbors has been a great blessing to all of us. We have felt privileged to have a glimpse of their lives in North Minneapolis.

Someone said at one of our gatherings at the Monastery, “it all starts with conversations”… The Pope has called us to, “encounter” one another. I feel that our gatherings at the Visitation Sisters’ Monastery have created a space to experience the sacred. This experience was only possible by the decades of work– [of prayer and presence]– by the sisters.

MAURA’S STORY

Part of my motivation to meet the sisters was dealing with an old friend’s daughter’s death. She was murdered last spring in St. Paul by her boyfriend. She was a year younger than my daughter (21). Although they didn’t grow up together, I am struck by how different their lives were. My daughter just graduated from UW Madison and is working on a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Michelle was an only child and left a baby behind. Her boyfriend will spend his life incarcerated. The death haunted me for several months, because I thought of the unimaginable loss…. Gun violence has become so routine in the US that I don’t think many of us realize that in some communities it is part of the landscape.

I was trying to find a way to hold a community conversation about violence and the intersection of hope and faith. At the same time, we wanted to focus on the Gospel, and not get into the, “left vs. right” political arguments. St. Patrick’s has a long tradition of holding respectful community conversations about important issues. We want to engage, challenge and invite people of faith to get involved. I also believe in the power of sharing stories and faith… Inviting the sisters to share their work seemed like the perfect fit. The sisters wanted to include their neighbors. We had several conversations to see if this could be a collaborative event that we could all create together.

HISTORY of FALL FORUM SERIES:

Last year, we focused on elder issues on two evenings. One night focused on Homeless Youth and Affordable Housing. The previous year, we invited Fr. Larry Snyder. Our focus that year was pathways out of poverty. We featured:  Catholic Charities, Risen Christ, Cristo Rey, The Lift Garage and Finnegan’s Beer. Our goal is to focus on transformational justice work.

BRIDGES ACROSS THE CITY INFORMATION: (Click to download Flyer)

Date: Thursday, October 29, 2015Time: 6-8:00 p.m., Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.Location: St. Martin’s Hall, Church of St. Patrick-Edina, 6820 St. Patrick’s Lane, Edina, MN 55439

To register go to St. Patrick’s website at www.stpatrick-edina.org. or call Maura Schnorbach in Social Justice at 952-941-3164. There is no cost, but reservations are requested by October 26.

==>Please feel free to circulate with colleagues, friends and neighbors.<==

Tonglen: A Meditation Tool to Transform Suffering

Vis Companions Heidi and Bianca practice centering prayer

Vis Companions Heidi and Bianca practice

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

Heidi’s dad died this week. Margaret lost her daughter to a long battle with cancer. Karen endures chemo, fighting a malignancy in her breast. Serena showed up at our door, seeking cold-weather clothing. Our local priests and church leaders continue to discern a course of leadership and healing in the face of more sexual abuse accusations.  Khalilah recalls the passing of her mother; and Francois and I hold the memory of our son who lived for one hour. These struggles or sadnesses all inform our prayers this week.

As humans, we suffer. We wonder; we ache; we seek understanding in the face of our illnesses and all that we endure. And we lean into a loving God to show us the way.

Then Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering,
 and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed,
and after three days rise again.  -Mark 8:31
What is the role of prayer or meditation in easing our suffering? How does leaning into the holy, the divine, the mysteries of this universe and our alignment with all of creation, help us transform our ills, and make a way through our seasons of struggle?
He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, 
“Get behind me, Satan!
For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” –Mark 8:32-33
In session four of our “Following the Spirit” discernment series, we focus on the role of suffering in our vocations. As we prepare for this course, we consider different “tools” for helping our discerners navigate difficulty and find a way to hear God’s voice in their present circumstances and their larger life callings.
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, 
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” 
-Mark 8:34-35 
Tonglen meditation is one tool we draw on to teach the transformation of struggle and suffering.
In this Buddhist-meditation practice, we find the intersecting Christian teachings of compassion and forgiveness and the Salesian virtue of gentleness. In the process of this practice, we may experience deep consolation and healing.We invite you to try it.

TONGLEN MEDITATION

Here are the abbreviated steps of this meditation practice. For a lengthier explanation and teaching, see American Zen Buddhist Joan Halifax’s “Meditation: Tonglen or Giving and Receiving: A Practice of Great Mercy”  

Find a comfortable posture, palms up, eyes closed, feet on the ground. This work takes great courage. Trust your ability to do it, as you align with your heart’s deepest wells of love and the mercy and kindness you possess.

1) Identify a source of suffering or struggle within your own life. How have you experienced hurt? Fear? Resistance? Doubt? Shame? Breathe in the experience, imagining it as hot, heavy air or smoke, including the feelings that accompany your hurt. Let them touch every part of your being. Exhale loving kindness and mercy. Imagine this as light, loving air.

2) Consider the suffering or hurt of a beloved friend or family member. Breathe in their pain, recognizing you are not alone in your struggle. See how they hurt in their circumstances and invite the mercy and kindness of your heart to transform this woe. Exhale loving kindness.

3) Recognize the hurt or pain in an acquaintance – someone you see on the street, driving in a car, in your place of work, or at the gym or grocery store. Breathe in their pain, and exhale loving kindness.

4) See your would-be enemy, and envision how they hurt. Let their struggle enter your imagination, and trust your heart’s ability to be softened and hold their pain. Inhale deeply and exhale loving kindness and mercy.

5) Consider your pain, that of your beloved, what ails the acquaintance or stranger, and that of your would-be enemy as one: inhale the collective hurt of all and exhale loving-kindness. Recognize how connected all suffering is, and your power to send love and light, joy and kindness to all.

Paying Attention: Contemplations from a September morning walk

September blossoms

September blossoms

by Melissa Borgmann-KiemdeVisitation Companion

“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” – Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s Way.”

I paused this morning on my walk to pick dying leaves from a tall, yellow Golden Glow flower in our front garden.  Next to this plant, was a bright pink budded and blooming variety with dark green foliage — so alive and so precious with little flowers emerging in the fall landscape.

As I worked to remove dead leaves from one plant, and make way for the growing beauty of the other, my eye took in a whole host of dried flowers needing attention;  I decided I would “dead head” the bee balm growing close by.

Pausing in this moment,  I took note of the smells emerging from the decomposing bee balm blossoms, squishing between my fingers,  and I was overwhelmed with joy. A fragrance like rosemary and thyme was released from the dying buds; it was pure delight in my palm.

“Aha! Perhaps this is why my friends Mary and Stephanie suggested I save these blossoms to make tea?” I tried to imagine the flavor of a steeped bud. In all of this imagining, I experienced such happiness; a kind of deep joy overcoming me.

At the exact moment of deadheading and tea-wondering, appeared the first-ever humming bird that I have observed at 1196 Selby Avenue. He or she came to linger over the bush next to me.

I thought I might start to cry. Such furiously fast fluttering of wings, such hovering over the barely alive blossoms, such beauty in the attempt to savor and suck any nectar from the bee balm.

A line from a Birago Diop poem came to my lips:

“The dead are not dead… they’re in the rustling tree.”

I improvised a new line:

“They are in the hovering humingbird…”

In this month, as we honor the memory of our son birthed a buried one year ago, I’m tuned into how small things — savoring tiny details — is helpful in a healing sort of way.

Julia Cameron, in her book, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” writes:

“The reward for attention is always healing. It may begin as a healing of a particular pain – the lost lover, the sickly child, the shattered dream. But what is healed, finally, is the pain that underlies all pain: the pain that we are, as Rilke phrases it, “unutterably alone.” More than anything else, attention is an act of connection.

And so I pay attention.

In the process, I think, we are all connected. Me. These decomposing flowers. Me, these blooming buds. Me, this humming bird, seeking nectar or pollen or a meal to satiate his hunger, his hope, his deepest longings. Me and you.

We are all connected.

I invite you into this prayerful, attention-paying, healing activity. What do you notice on your walks? What life blooms close by, in the same space of something letting go of its vitality? What hovers close by? What fires your imagination and inspires your sense of connectedness with all of God’s creation?

Peace, Prayers! LIVE + JESUS!

 

“You have to love….It is the reason you are here on Earth.”

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

A former student sent me the following words. I find such balm in them and in this young woman’s thoughtfulness.  I am deeply moved by the author Louise Erdich’s ability to inspire and capture our heart’s compelling nature to love beyond fear, death, suffering, betrayal, woe. I invite your prayerful meditation on this text this day. Perhaps these words will speak to you and your own place in life and discernment?

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on Earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near… Let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” – Louise Erdich, “The Painted Drum LP”

Word of Mouth-Something to Meditate On

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Sunday we attended mass at Ascension. After listening to Father Michael O’Connell’s voice read the Gospel with beauty and conviction we listened to him unpack the following scene:

Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.”

Father Michael O’Connell, paused, looked at us, and began to speak of addictions that hold us back, or that might be our “thorn,” to heal from to become whole, able to do God’s will here. Then he became quite serious. He said, “I think our country has an epidemic happening, and the epidemic is talking about people in unkind, unjust ways.” He continued, “The most dangerous weapon I know, and for me to say this in the context of north Minneapolis says something, is right here!” He pointed at his mouth. Silence filled the congregation.

How do we cease this epidemic from continuing? How do we stop it from being passed on to the next generation?

Father O’Connell then lovingly invited us to use our mouths, our voice for love, for healing, for spreading the good news about ourselves and one another. And to let go of what has become a “knee-jerk reaction” in our country of looking for people’s short comings.

I might add to this invitation to not tolerate others talking ill about others in your presence. It is each of our duties to invite one another to use our mouths for the greater good of our community. For far too often what we say becomes not only our perceptions but then our reality. Think with care, and speak with care.

How can you curb the tendency to speak ill-will in your life? How can you use your voice for beauty, for love, for healing, for justice and compassion?