Archive for August, 2013

Unarmed Saints

Shortly after the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting, I unfriended someone on Facebook. It was a guy I’d known from the Goth scene for a few years, and honestly, I had been planning to unfriend him for some time. He was a pretty interesting guy, often funny and generally friendly, but also a rabid libertarian and very proud of his many many MANY guns. He had multiple photographs and talked at length about how great they were.

Now I hope I’m not coming across as particularly judgemental – I generally don’t care about other people’s hobbies. I’m a “whatever floats your boat” kind of person most of the time. But I’ll go out on a limb here and say that people who get really excited about guns, particularly the kind that aren’t useful for hunting (or at least hunting game), make me nervous. It’s something that I really don’t understand. There are other types of weapons that interest me on an aesthetic level, like bows, glaives, and swords. My stagette party was a “Let’s get dressed up and go to the archery range and then a bar” affair, and I’m still considering enrolling at Academie Duello one day to take fencing lessons, because my childhood was basically defined by this scene.

Guns, though, creep me right the hell out. If I can go through my entire life without ever touching one, I will die a happy old fart.

I think part of it comes from the lack of beauty and skill involved. I mean, obviously skill is needed – target shooting is a thing. But there’s very little art to it beyond having a good eye. You line up your shot and you fire, and then something is wounded or dead. Sometimes it’s a deer that you need to last the winter, and sometimes it’s a kid coming home with Skittles and iced tea.

At any rate, this friend of mine basically started posting like crazy after the Sandy Hook shootings, about “personal responsibility,” mental health, and “Guns don’t kill people”. One of those things did need to be addressed, but I’ll let you guess which one.

I don’t even remember what he posted that finally led me to that Unfriend button, but it was something that would have been right at home at an NRA meeting. And I’ve been finished with those creeps for years.

Anyway, the reason that I told this story is that, when I heard about Antoinette Tuff, I almost wished I hadn’t unfriended him, just so I could ask him what he thought about her and how she prevented another school shooting.

If you haven’t actually heard about Antoinette Tuff, well, you really need to read about her, because she’s a hero. If I was the Pope I would canonize her in a minute. She was the bookkeeper of a small elementary school in Georgia who one day found herself on the wrong end of a weapon at the hands of a mentally disturbed 20-year-old who wasn’t on his medication. He had made plans to shoot up the school and didn’t care whether he lived or died.

Instead of responding to violence with violence, or cowering under her desk (as I probably would have done, heh), she spoke to him. She spoke words of compassion, forgiveness, and love to this guy, and managed to get him to turn himself in. She single-handedly prevented another tragedy – and is such a gem herself that, when later questioned, said, “I give it all to God.”

To me, this is a message that rang loud and clear. God has a plan for a hurting country that is so convinced of the necessity of weapons of war that it believes the only way to protect its children is with more of them, and it does not involve said weapons. I realize I must speak carefully because I am not an American. When I see reports on gun violence, I am baffled and saddened, because I’m not an American and I don’t understand the enshrined culture of guns. Much of the time I simply try and apply the same rules of cultural sensitivity that I often apply in most other cases of bafflement, but it’s getting more and more difficult. Many mass shootings have occurred over the years in the States, and they’ve gotten worse as time has gone by, likely because of the lifting of the assault weapons ban. The first school shooting I can remember was the one at Columbine High School. I was thirteen years old when that happened, a high school freshman. It was only one of the terrible events that shaped my generation as we came of age. I also recognize that plenty of other, non North American children grew up in far more terrifying circumstances, but this is part of what makes all of it so deeply disturbing to me. In many other countries terrible things happen due to impoverished groups, terrorism, nationalism, and conflicts that have often been nourished for many generations. In the United States, every so often, someone (most commonly a white male), goes and shoots a bunch of people, and there is usually little chance to find out specifically why, because often these people end up dead. These are people living in a part of the world that, while not a lap of luxury for everyone, has so very much. Where does this alienation come from? Mental illness is deeply stigmatized, but violence is actually fairly uncommon – people living with mental illness are far more likely statistically to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

I am quite convinced that the easy access to these kind of weapons – and their glorification by a culture that often regards the right to bear arms as directly handed down from God – contributes directly to the prevalence of these shootings, as well as a host of other problems including the lack of adequate mental health care and the patriarchal tendency to view getting help for such problems as a source of shame for young men who are expected to be stoic and never talk about their feelings or their fears.

So where does Antoinette Tuff fit in?

I think of her as a saint because she is a wake-up call. I believe the Holy Spirit worked directly through her to show us that Jesus’ way (and make no mistake that her way was his way, and the way of many other faiths, not the way of arming teachers and school security guards with guns) is the most effective way. She demonstrated love and compassion in a cruciform manner, not only by speaking with this young man but by sharing parts of her story, such as her recent divorce. She accepted her vulnerability and exposed his lovingly.

She is our wake-up call to the way of the cross, transforming fear, darkness, and death into new life.

I hope to God people can understand what this means.

I take issue with the fact that people have said, “She has the right name – she is tough.” No. No she wasn’t. That was the whole damn point. She was not “tough,” because being “tough” is putting a gun in someone’s face and calling them a pansy. Being “tough” is holding all of your hatred, anger, rage, and pain inside – unless your enemy is before you, when you are allowed to let it all come flying out. Being “tough” is calling therapy “touchy-feely BS.”

Most of all, being “tough” is looking down your nose at people you deem weaker than you, and crushing them underfoot.

Antoinette Tuff did not do any of those things. She extended a hand, and called the man who could easily have blown her head off “baby” and “sweetie.” She told him she loved him, because she “could tell he was a hurting young man,” and she told him that she understood how he felt because after her divorce she had contemplated suicide.

In other words, I believe she exhibited the strength of Jesus Christ, who was strong enough to come among us and experience the pain of rejection, hatred, and death first hand…and respond with love, acceptance, and transformation.

I have no problem saying Tuff was not tough – mostly because she would agree with me. In her own words:

“I’m not the hero. I was terrified.”

My prayer is that we can raise up a generation around the world like Antoinette Tuff and Malala Yousafzai who refuse to let the violence done to them dictate their responses.

“Let streams of living justice flow down upon the earth,

Give freedom’s light to captives; let all the poor have worth.”


Back to Basics

It’s a bit of a relief to be finished those serialized entries. I like doing and sharing them but I get quite anal retentive about making sure they’re finished before writing anything else. I didn’t really want to post anything new until I finished that last entry, which was really long!

This week and the next week have been the first couple of weeks that I’ve really relaxed since coming back from retreat. I came back on August 3rd at about noon, and my husband, a massive soccer fan, had already left with other members of his supporters’ group to travel to Portland to see the team. I don’t accompany him on trips like that, mostly because I’m not a big soccer fan and there’s very little to do on those trips besides drink, talk about soccer, and watch soccer. I know he has a heck of a time when he goes, though. :)

At any rate, I was left alone for a couple of days, and Sunday was the Pride parade, which meant that I had to be at church to play for the early Pride service, celebrated at 8am so we would have time to march. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work to get up so early and head down there. I had a great time playing and marching, but was surprisingly tired at the end of things. I had a quiet evening to myself afterward.

On Monday my beloved came home, but I spent most of the day cleaning up the house to prepare for some company we were having. A very dear friend, who works as a teacher in Rotterdam, came and stayed with us for two nights, which was a lot of fun. We jabbered into the wee hours and I shared with her some entries from a really old sort of journal that I had in our first year of university. We also went for a swim in the ocean, which was fun.

On Thursday, she left me, and I had a coffee date with one of the priests from my church (who has her own very lovely blog here if you’re interested) to talk about some things that had been bothering me, which I may get into in a later entry. After that, I actually went home and fell asleep on the couch. This little introvert had clearly emptied her coffers! And on Friday, for the first time in twelve weeks, I came back to the Cathedral to be the Friday server at the noon Eucharist, followed by lunch with a friend. The week after that was taken up with more company – none of whom were staying with us but which still meant that I was quite the social butterfly.I also had a gig at Canuck Place, which was nice and put a little bit of money in my pocket.

Nu hurr!

Nu hurr!

It was only this week that I had almost nothing to do. I did get a brand new haircut, ditching the Tank Girl look which I so loved for a downgraded version – almost a Chelsea, but not quite. It was great to hop in the shower today and only have to take two minutes to do my hair. I find that I also keep putting clothes on and taking them off very carefully, forgetting that there is no longer a plastic claw holding my hair up!

At some point in the last two weeks – probably on the 9th – I began (finally) to observe the Daily Office. At first I was only very good at keeping Morning Prayer, and being gentle with myself about Evening Prayer. For the last week, though, I have successfully added Evening Prayer. So far it’s not been a burden or a chore at all, although I wouldn’t necessarily say I look forward to it. It does make me feel a little bit less guilty, though, heh heh. I feel like I take the time out deliberately to be with God, and I think that decreases my stress level a lot, so that I don’t have to worry about things like remembering to say, “Good morning, God” when I’m walking to the bus – a practice I tried to get into in CPE that totally fell by the wayside. Morning Prayer happens when I get up in the morning, and Evening Prayer happens at nine (or thereabouts). It’s been good. I’m getting better at navigating the services in the BAS too, although I should observe it from the BCP sometimes.

I have one more week of glorious freedom and nothing, and then class begins! School starts early this year, probably because of the week off we have to attend TRC events. I’d like to go to a bunch of them, and the Diocese is doing a special walk on September 22nd which I hope to attend as well. I’ll post more about those events in the future.

I’ve also been in touch with one of the folks who arranges those craft tables in the Student Union Building at UBC. Over the summer I’ve made a ton of jewelry and thought I should really be selling some of it. I looked into selling at Granville Island, but they’re very picky about the stuff that’s sold there – it needs to be hand-crafted, which my stuff is not (it’s more like “assembled”). I’ve been meaning to set up an Etsy page, but because the camera I use is basically my cellphone, the pictures don’t turn out well enough to display properly. Hopefully we can update our camera soon and I can get that off the ground. In the meantime you can actually find some of the designs here if you’re interested in looking at them. I have more that I’ll be posting soon. My mum loves nothing more than finding buttons that she wants made into jewelry.

The last couple of days have been pretty quiet, just like I wanted it. Yesterday I did very little except putter down the street to shop for ingredients for a delicious dinner. Today I might do some more puttering. I have a craving for gelato that I may placate by walking down Fourth. Even if I can’t buy anything I rather like walking down the street and looking into all the windows.

Wherever you are, enjoy the sunshine. Yesterday as I was leaving the house to go to the market, I happened to look over down the hill at the ocean, and it had turned a magnificent cobalt blue.

That’s how I know September is coming.



Retreat Diary: Friday (The Last Day)


From Widening the Horizons: I still have a serious problem with this “king” designation that the pastor in the story named! I had never heard of these three designations, and yet the way Gerkin spoke about it implied that he was very familiar with it. I find it a very odd characterization. Although the church and civil authority have often been very tightly wedded, it’s not usually made this explicit in my experience.

While hierarchies should be treated with some suspicion at times, I think the reason I’m Anglican is that I see some aspects of usefulness in terms of religious instruction and administration. We live in an era where people are less and less likely to know what Christianity is about. There is already a power imbalance, especially when people come into Christianity with absolutely no religious instruction. The best thing to do in that situation is be aware of it and structure things accordingly in order to best empower the new faithful. This is an era that demands educated leaders. Christianity may not be monolithic, but it seems to me that there are some things that can honestly be called true to the foundation of the faith and some that can’t, and sometimes those that can’t are just plain heretical – prosperity Gospel teaching comes readily to mind.

As Gerkin writes about hierarchy in his own book he makes a brilliant point! He writes that hierarchy today has largely moved to the workplace. I do see this as changing over time, though. Loyalty has not become a fair expectation anymore, not just because young people move from job to job but because there is increasingly less to hold us to those jobs (if they’re jobs at all and not unpaid internships).

I believe human beings seek out some form of hierarchy everywhere they go. “Everyone’s gotta serve somebody.” The question is, where will we seek it out? Will it be the church, the workplace, or simply the brands we allow to dictate our lifestyles and even morality? Perhaps we crave it. The challenge for us, then, is how to use it subversively, like Paul did. I think nowadays using it explicitly at all can be subversive, simply because we of the postmodern era are so desperate to appear empowered and unattached. I think the only way to really challenge it is to accept it in the most selective way possible. I’m a Christian – Jesus is my Lord. By saying that, the others who seek to have a claim on my identity are shut out.

Gerkin says that, when we become pastors/priests, instead of focussing so heavily on the king/pastor/prophet role, we should think of ourselves primarily as interpreters. This made me smile like crazy! This is a gift that I believe I have, and at the very least it is a great passion of mine – to balance the values of society against the Christian story and see the parallels and the places where things come up short. The most exciting part about parish ministry (or something like it) for me is the chance (and, really, the core duty) to relate culture back to the story, and vice-versa. This was probably the biggest thing I missed in CPE. Although I did have a chance to do it sometimes, it was not something I did every day – sometimes not even every week! You are expected to adapt your conversation to the person with whom you sit – a beautiful and necessary thing, to be sure, but different in many ways. There were many times that I didn’t talk about God at all. One thing I am looking forward to as a priest is the chance to frame things in God-language, which is something I would do as a parish priest and a theology professor. If I did decide to become a chaplain, I think I’d have to be very serious about writing to balance these things out.



I just remembered this great conversation I had with a friend who is also on the discernment path. As we talked about the ways that we felt God was made most explicitly manifest in our lives, she finally said, “You know, people always talk about trying to figure out the meaning of life, and I never understood that. I know the meaning of life. It’s love, mate.”

I’ll never forget that – mostly because I really think it’s true! I honestly can’t think of a better answer, and it’s hard for me to think of a retort. Now I’m sure someone smarter than me probably has one…but I think to say “The meaning of life is love” is to leave things open enough to encompass a hell of a lot. If you feel like you’ve never experienced love, then it seems clear to me that your life’s work is to find it and cultivate it in others. We’re not talking about romantic love, but a selflessness that wishes only for the betterment of the other, that believes wholeheartedly in the blessedness and worthiness of the other, and in the idea that the world is made better through the presence of the other. This is a love that pours out, that empties itself – a kenosis. If there’s no kenosis, there’s no love. It should not be an unhealthy self-denial, but a joyful act of complementarity: a recognition of one’s truest self as being found in communion with others.

I really don’t think a pronouncement like this closes off further questions about the meaning of life either. There are many many questions that arise from this pronouncement, and they should be pursued…for love! A lover always seeks to better know and understand the beloved.


From The Sacred Mirror: The ninth reading was the Emmaus story. I’ve always adored how Luke’s Jesus is always known in the breaking of bread with others. In this story, Jesus gives the gift of word and sacrament to the people he meets on the road. Only when both – word and sacrament – have occurred do the two people know who Jesus is. You can’t have one without the other, and neither can take precedence.

Herbie beautifully writes that if we only see Jesus as someone who once lived and now provides us with a code of conduct, or bread and wine as universal symbols with which to remember him, then we are believing in a ghost. To do the work of Christ is to show the world the wounded hands and feet.

This is why I choose to remain in the faith of my childhood, my ethnic faith of Anglicanism. For me, none of the church’s mission matters if we do nothing more than remember what has happened in the past, and if those memories are all very personal ones, of personal sins being forgiven. I can only be spurred on to lay down my whole being if Christ is truly present – and to all. I believe the Eucharist is a symbol of the entire universe being brought into balance through the willful sacrifice of one who came among us to inextricably entwine joy with sadness, beauty with degradation, death with life. It is not about my personal sins, or even just sins full stop. It’s about the limitation of every created thing being hallowed and transformed – not once in the past and never again but right here, right now, again and again forever. If it is not this, it seems more like a game of pretend.

NOTE: Please understand I do not write this to make those whose interpretations are different feel less or say that they’re wrong. This is my own interpretation of what I have received from my tradition – which also contains a wealth of different interpretations held in tension. I have other beliefs that are much closer to a more Protestant way of thinking, but in terms of the Eucharist I’m pretty Anglo-Catholic. Do forgive me.:)

Herbie writes – again beautifully – that the Eucharist is “the physical means of grace which comes to our physical being. Both are the developing places of God. Here is encounter. Without this eating and drinking we die.” (100)

The final story is Paul’s encounter with Jesus. Nothing – including the indivisibility of word and sacrament – can occur without personal acceptance as well as communal acceptance. The community is where we find ourselves and begin, but I think true allegiance only occurs with personal encounter and difficult questions. They must be balanced. On the one hand, I’ll always remember several years ago, a newly baptized friend of mine said she thought the most important task of the church was evangelism. She was so enthusiastic to tell everyone she knew about how church changed her life. Then, life got in the way, and she stayed away from church for a very long time. She accepted that personal conversion, but her sense of community did not last past a certain point, and now she seems shy to return. On the other hand, there are those who grow up in the church but never have a personal encounter, and so they leave at a certain point and don’t come back. That would have been me, if I hadn’t fallen off my own horse, so to speak.

There is no way to disentangle ourselves. In some ways human beings really are burdened. We flourish best when we are connected with others, but if we have no private inner life we cannot live honestly and will eventually come to a crisis point. We are aware of our separation and our need for community, and focus on one exclusively to our detriment.



Who am I and what do I hope to do with my one wild and precious life?

I have written all throughout this book that “Love is the answer.”

But what does that mean?

“Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.”

Could anything be so simple and yet so difficult? It’s been easy to say and think I love God, but sometimes my actions betray other alliances. Of course these are struggles we all share.

When my CPE supervisor prayed for me, he mentioned Moses and the burning bush. Two of my fellow students mentioned fire, and another sang of Jesus walking on the water, which I’ve always interpreted to be chaos. I love that story – there’s nothing to fear, because Jesus is walking on top of chaos, and into hostile Gentile territory yet.

I want to follow, to dedicate my life, so much that sometimes it hurts.

For the last two days as I’ve said my rosary, my refrain has been, “Tread quietly, the red heart beats.” This is a new special phrase that to me means, “Be still and know that I am God.” It works with the image of the Sacred Heart that I know in my own soul so well. The heart beats and we must still ourselves to hear it. I feel I heard it when I stood on the hill today. I went up there today after cleaning up my room and seeing some deer outside my window.

I suddenly had this crazy revelation! Whenever someone mentions the deer tattoo on my sternum, I say, “That’s me.” In a sense, I saw myself out the window today, feeding on wet greens, nourished by recent rain. I finally found that piece of myself – the deer longing for flowing streams. I have to remember that this is who I am: it keeps me humble.

During one individual supervision, my supervisor asked me if I knew who I was. I said, “I don’t know…but I know who I belong to.” That was enough for me then – and it could still be enough, but I think God wants me to stay curious.

I feel like I do know a little better who I am, but the work is never done, because of course I will change.

Who am I now?

I am a daughter, a wife, a friend, a cousin, a child of God.

I have a calling: a palm and heart full of fire.

I have a restless heart that only finds rest in God.

I am of a people that is close to the earth, and panentheistic.

I am an artist, and my art and the art of others are the surest portals for me to be in God’s presence.

I am a deep thinker and theologian, learning not only for pleasure but as an act of worship.

I am beloved – and for no reason of merit. I am beloved because I was created to be loved, as we all are.

The meaning of my life is love, and my life will sing love, if I let it.

Amen. Alleluia.


Retreat Diary: Thursday


From Widening the Horizons: I’d been having trouble struggling through this book, as I realized at some point that, while I understood the concepts the author was illustrating, he was basically describing something I had taken for granted as a kind of “soul-knowledge” using very complicated technical language that was hard to wade through. Today, though, he presented a case study, which, as a narrative itself, was far more interesting to me (go figure).

The case study presents a story of a pastor in a small town who has a great deal of challenges with his congregation. The author claims that he heard the story from said pastor at a conference when the pastor asked the group for advice on his challenges. I won’t go into a lot of detail because you can always read the book yourself, heh heh. This pastor described his role with three functions that I hadn’t really heard before but the author seemed to take for granted. He described his first function as “kingly”, which really set my teeth on edge, not only because I don’t really like a monarchy model, but because it was used to describe his administrative role. I think one’s administrative role in a parish is far too narrowed by a term like “king.” I substituted the word “administrator” whenever I saw “kingly.” the other two functions were “pastoral” (care for all the members of the church) and “prophetic” (bearing witness to the Gospel).

This nuts and bolts chapter was far more helpful for me than the theoretical stuff (those previous chapters even came complete with charts!) In the case study we are given a view into the context of the town by way of an informal social analysis, which situates the community in a narrative. In the story, much of the power in the town can be traced to sources outside and beyond the control of the town, such as the absentee owners of an important local company. Those sources of power within the town, particularly the long-time mayor, are corrupt and not even in a great deal of denial about it. The people have since become apathetic – nothing ever changes. Perhaps the role of pastoral care, then, involves re-igniting hope.

In Gerkin’s analysis of the case study, he helpfully points out the fragmentation visible in the pastor’s presentation of those three roles. He also reminds us that God is already always working in any given situation. When that is your prime assumption (your “baseline,” to borrow and re-appropriate some terminology from the nurses, heh), I think things never look quite as daunting as they might seem at first.



Retreat Diary: Wednesday


From The Sacred Mirror: The seventh reading was the Samaritan woman at the well. I can’t escape this story on this retreat! We all meet Jesus at the well, because we all have wells: our jobs, our positions, our roles. He meets us where we are and says, “Give me a drink.” Amazing! We ask Jesus how he, the king of angels, can speak to us in our day-to-day lives, asking to be nourished from our daily work. He answers, “If you knew who was speaking to you…” He challenges us where we are, and challenges the meagre water we draw. Eventually, after he sees into the Samaritan woman – into us – intimately, she (we) manages to divert him, speaking of “appropriate” places to worship. It won’t matter in the end.

Herbie mentions the importance of space and language to worship, but reminds us that they are means, not ends. God dwells far beyond, and yet doesn’t, because the Samaritan woman then says, “I know the Messiah will come,” but Jesus is with her – right where she is, there and then, here and now.

The eighth reading was the centurion with the dying servant. I wrote my sermon for Homiletics class on this story! Our lives are full of god-fearers, people searching for a meaning beyond the many gods and myths of our day – and do not doubt that we still live in a world of gods and myths. I will never forget my constructive theology professor Richard Topping saying, “We still believe in myths in this day and age. After all, we believe that buying a Lexus will make us happy.” Herbie writes, “A former faith died, yet the pain and complexity of the contemporary world creates a longing for a view of reality that will provide meaning and hope. Such are modern god-fearers. Now, as then, there sit among the god-fearers some magnificent human beings, repelled and yet haunted by God.” (65)


I have found it really awesome to cultivate a friendship in total silence! There’s a lady doing a silent retreat here at the same time as me to whom I am friendly, and she to me, and yet neither of us has spoken a word to one another. We meet most often in the kitchen, and she offers me oatmeal and vegetables; I offered her carrots. We smile at each other.


Today at our 5pm worship time we talked about water, and how most people here on the island have water restrictions at this time of year. It made me think of swimming in the ocean and standing in the rain on the hill of Tara in Ireland when I was 16 years old.

The lady leading worship read from a meditation on wells and once again we heard the story of the Samaritan woman. I’ve heard that story three times since coming here, which suggests to me that there is something I should listen for. At any rate, the worship leader read from this meditation about how people can be wells – wells for us, and we for others. I was just thinking of how my New Testament professor would say this meditation missed the point of the reading (heh heh) when these glorious few phrases came up – so much that I used them on the cruciform beads during my first pass of the rosary:

If you do not find [a well], maybe no-one will, and if you do not be one, maybe no-one will find you.

Who is looking for me? Is it a thirsty traveller? Is it a very special, hidden thirsty traveller, who offers more and better water? How can I dare to be such a well? I would say I didn’t ask to be one, but it’s a ridiculous sentence. A cardinal does not ask to be red. Was I made that way – to be a well?

After CPE, I think there’s no way I can pretend not to know the answer. I have been a well, therefore I am one. I may not always be one, but sometimes I am, and what well is silly enough to pretend it isn’t one? Like a stone or a mountain it does not pretend. It almost becomes ridiculous to talk about “vocation” in such a circumstance. It is what I am. And sometimes wells run dry. Thankfully, unlike most wells, I have an advantage: I can run toward rain, and I can dig deeper.



Retreat Diary: Tuesday


  From Widening the Horizons: I was delighted to see the author quote Sallie McFague! “The only legitimate way of speaking of the incursion of the divine into history, or so it appears to this tradition, is metaphorically. Metaphor is proper to the subject matter because God remains hidden. The belief that Jesus is the word of God – that God is manifest somehow in a human life – does not dissipate metaphor but in fact intensifies its centrality, for what is more indirect – a more complete union of the realistic and the strange – than a human life as the abode of the divine? Jesus as the word is metaphor par excellence; he is the parable of God.”

From metaphor Gerkin moves to narrative as imperative for forming a new theology of pastoral care. In speaking of aspects of narrative, he mentions that humans are able to transcend time through memory and anticipation. Really all creatures can do that to some extent, but with humans it may be different in some way. Animals and other organisms are able to live much more clearly in the moment than we are, and their memories (I think) are not only personal but collective as evolutionary advantages and instincts. In this particular example, can we really say that living in the moment is better or worse? I don’t think we can really prioritize it in the same way we do today.

I think this is coming up in my mind because this text is seeming rather anthropocentric! So do other animals have narrative? Do their bodies carry it? “To be a person is…to live in a story.” Is it really only living in a story that makes us people, or do we have to accept the story, or rather, accept that story is a given for how we live? What about Nature? Is Nature capable of personhood when we impose a story on its life? Or is, say, a tree a person because God has imposed or gifted a story to it? I would say yes. The mountains and trees I can see from where I sit seem to me to be capable of far more significant stories than mine. After all, trees, which can live for centuries, even millennia, contain seeds, and they all have stories; same with mountains and rocks. A mountain or an ocean is really quite incapable of being individual.

Now I’m really drawing on my Celtic roots! God must then be closer to an ocean than to us as human beings…and yet God can still be distinct, and we are made in God’s image. Perhaps, then, the Fall really does have more to do with putting ourselves out of touch with that collectiveness. And of course no human story is “really” individual – we are all collective.

From The Sacred Mirror: The fifth reading is the story of Simeon and Anna, from the Gospel of Luke. Herbie reflects that Anna may be present in the story to provide a counterpoint to Mary. Anna is old and widowed, seeking refuge in the temple. Mary’s body has become a temple. We should also note that as the world gets older, more Simeons and Annas will need to be cultivated.

They are spoken of in this book as prophets, and linked to the ones I read about the day before. I have cautioned some of the other people of faith I’ve met on linking those prophets too closely with Jesus. Prophecy in that time was less about pointing into and predicting the future and more about speaking truth to a situation – being God’s mouthpiece. In a sense, they were really people of the present, not the future. I think of those prophets of which I wrote yesterday as pointing toward a sense of restoration of covenant and justice. Simeon and Anna fit very well into this family.

The sixth reading is about the woman with the haemorrhage who touches Jesus’ cloak. Herbie suggests the woman does not approach from the front so that she doesn’t have to feel disappointment when she is not cured, as she has in her many years of discomfort consulted many other healers and been disappointed over and over. I find it far more inspiring to suggest that she knew, as a ritually unclean woman, she could not hope to touch or be touched by this holy man.

Herbie also mentions that she reaches out hoping for magic to cure rather than a relationship to heal, and that Jesus challenges this by turning around and seeking her for relationship. He contrasts this with the experience people are searching for at those faith healing shows. Surely some attend hoping only for magic, but I don’t think it’s fair to set them up as being entirely opposite from those who seek relationship as well. I do think the standard practice of high priced tickets for those shows is incredibly cruel and manipulative. They deliberately separate those who can receive healing power from those who can’t, and purely on financial levels, which I think makes Jesus cringe. Herbie does rightly note that human beings crave touch and believe on a cellular level in the efficacy of touch for healing. His observation that people are invited “to touch the television for healing” if they are watching at home, despite being directly observed by an 8-year-old me watching Peter Popoff, was probably the saddest thing I’ve ever read. I do not write the word “sad” in a contemptuous way, but in an honest, soul-wailing way. It’s similar to the feeling I get when I think about recent attempts to create robots to take care of elderly people in nursing homes. How long will we allow ourselves to be slaves to the rules of efficiency through capitalism? How long will we deny the need we have for each other, the need we have for touch? No wonder so many kids are cutting themselves, or even killing themselves, when we live in a world that is happy to sell its soul for productivity and the illusion of community and security.

As I become burdened with these thoughts, Herbie, with masterful timing, then writes about the amazing human capacity to hope. Hope drives us – it even drives us to touch the screen. If I can accept that part of the world will seek to profit from hope, I can begin my own work of hope. While others seek profit, I can seek to spread relationship – even, as my motto for CPE stated, “sharing the light of the world.”


Retreat Diary: Monday

I took several books on my retreat, some of them for fun, and two of them to expand my own learning. For this week, I brought a book on pastoral care and a more devotional book of Scriptural reflections. I recommend both.


Widening the Horizons (Charles Gerkin): This book argues that pastoral care in the ’40s and ’50s, shaped by gains made in psychotherapy, focussed on self realization, even for those who were sick or bereaved. This definitely seems similar to how I experienced providing it to some of the people I worked with in CPE. My question becomes, How can my own expression of pastoral care keep what was good about that model and discard what is no longer fruitful?

There are many “new” factors in society that complicate the old model. This book was written in the ’80s but many of these factors seem largely unchanged:

* Pluralism

* Loss of moral context: Gerkin suggests that people struggle with their moral contexts because they do not have the same sort of moral homogeneity that they used to, presumably, in Christendom. As a result they have multiple moral contexts where morals contradict each other – church is governed by one set of morals, while one’s circle of friends, one’s place of work, and any other contexts are each governed by different sets. I personally think that people today try to do more to synchronize their worlds, but that could be myopic, as I tend to associate socially with people who do that.


*Privatism: I don’t think this is the case anymore as Gerkin describes it. People live loud with the internet and social media.

*Altered Patterns of Psychopathology: This suggests that those who seek professional help often model the conflicts of society. I don’t know if I totally buy that but it’s a compelling theory.

I would add the internet/mass/instant communication and loss of emotional privacy through the apparent need to share every life’s moment through these avenues.

This writer suggests pilgrimmage as a metaphor for thinking about the self. This is how humans imagine these things – in terms of story.

Pastoral care should therefore always be grounded in theology. But pastoral care is fundamentally practical.

The Sacred Mirror (Herbie O’Driscoll): “All spirituality is founded on our human experience of being encountered by that which is other than ourselves.” (9) “[T]he great step of faith we dare to take is to affirm that there exists a love between creator and creation, and that creation issues from the ceaselessly burning fire of that love.” (10)

The first reading (reflection? pun intended) is about Moses and the burning bush. Moses was the “brother identity” given to me by my pastoral care supervisor in his blessing prayer for me. “To be other than afraid to look back at God would be to reveal that we know neither ourselves nor God. We would be aware neither of our own finitude nor of God’s infinity, neither of our own sinfulness nor of God’s perfection. If our worshipping life is to have any vitality, it must bring us, even if only once in a lifetime, to a sense of presence that convicts us of this awesome gulf. There must come at least one touching of the bread to the hand, one flowing of the chaliced red wine to the lips, to convict us of the immeasurable cost by which this gulf has been crossed, and with what great love.” (17) “If that which we have encountered is true God, then we will not be allowed to dwell forever in the house to which we have come, even though it be truly ours; but we will be sent from it to do the will of him who brought us home.” (17)

God’s answer to our cry of inadequacy is serene and simple: I will be with you. We do not easily trust, though. Our brokenness is evident in our betrayals received and given. Moses plays for time by asking for a name: an authority. Everyone clambers for it, even in our world where we pretend to be wary of authority. The answer is “I AM” – the ultimate authority.

Moses then says no-one will believe this authority was conferred on him. “God may have called, touched, appeared to, spoken with other people. Perhaps God has come to the great saints, perhaps even to someone of particular sanctity whom we know, but surely never to me! God does not call people like me. I am ordinary and pedestrian. I have problems. I am not the stuff of encounter with God. So we all contend. It is essential to realize that every saint, every spiritual giant, once held this assumption. It is built into our humanity. It is the devil’s last defense, so that even when we do feel called, Satan can rally us back to his side by our inability to think that we might be called, our fear lest we be regarded as crazy or pious or arrogant if we were to claim an encounter with God.” (19)

I definitely heard divine patience being tested in my visions experience! “I will do as I wish.” “What we communicate is not by eloquence so much as by the reality of who we are.” In the gift of Aaron, Herbie ruminates, there is a gift of a flesh and blood companion – and so is Jesus our Lord. We may also find others who possess gifts that we lack.

The second reading was about Elijah and the still, small voice. Sometimes at our greatest moments we are brought low. We know we must face our conflict and fear, but it is not always wise to do so immediately. Elijah took the time to go to the mountain. When he buries himself within, he is seeking rebirth. Am I buried here? Surrounded by mountains and ocean, I’d say so. And so while I may hope and pray for God in the melodramatic, God will choose the still small voice.

I love how the third reading is the passage from Isaiah most often heard by Anglicans at ordinations – and this book was written the year I was born. How auspicious, heh heh. “Not only Isaiah but we too feel ourselves tainted and contaminated, both by our personal weakness and by the shortcomings of society, with all its compromises and ambiguities. Not only have we “unclean lips” but we feel that “we dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Yet even here we cannot escape the call.” (32) And we are answered by having coal touch our lips: scorched lips, hands, and hearts.

Herbie cautions us in limiting the channels of grace. It is not bound but can come at any time. Lord, how I know that! Herbie gives the image of a broken, blasted tree that still contains seed, and its morphs into the wood of the cross.

The fourth reading is the valley of the dry bones. Sometimes utter realism (the valley) can be therapeutic, even galvanizing. We may first ask ourselves, “Can these bones live?” Can we survive the pressure, the sorrow, the alienation? Ezekiel’s answer is perfect: “Any faith today that has not felt itself forced into silence by the facts of the human situation, is not worthy of of the name. Real faith exists, and must always exist, in a context of potential doubt.” (39) But then we are told to prophesy to the bones. We do it out of hope. We prophesy to broken dry people and broken dry institutions, because we are commanded to, and then we prophesy to the breath. We are physical and lifeless…until God fills us with the nephesh, the ruach. We prophesy by proclaiming it is God who breathes, and fills us with life.


Retreat Diary: Sunday

Hi, folks! If you thought I was done with serial entries you were wrong! Here are some selected and edited bits from the retreat diary I kept. I’d like to share some of the work I did based on some educational reading I brought with me, but a lot of my private prayer reflections will stay private. I’ll also be updating my Soundcloud page with some of the spoken word I wrote while I was there.

My trip over was a little stressful, but once I got to the centre I collapsed onto the couch and felt right at home again.

 I think my favourite type of clouds are cirrus clouds. There’s something about them that is somehow mystical. They are so delicate-looking, like spiderwebs or spun glass – like they might be sharp. Sometimes they are nearly opalescent.

For some reason I feel like I can already sense autumn. My body always feels like autumn comes in August, like some secret antennae perk up and begin to taste that sharpness that is coming – Holy Cross Day, Reign of Christ, and finally the quiet glory of Advent. I suppose it’s because autumn is my favourite time of year. It feels like new beginnings, fresh eagerness and bountiful harvests. The air is brisk and exciting, the joy of leaves.


CPE Journal #27: July 26th (The Last Entry)

I can’t believe I just wrote that date. How is this possible? I’m finished CPE today!

This has got to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, although when I think back on it I didn’t end up a pile of self-loathing on the bed while my husband comforted me. My emotions were actually explored and turned over like little stones, making it so much easier to actually deal with them.

This process should be 100% essential to those wanting to be ordained. I can already think of tons of people who would love it, find their passion in it, and benefit enormously from it! We need more scorched people in ministry. :)

I really am beginning to think more about doing this for a living. I think if I just had a more balanced life it would have been easier. I should have had a more active prayer life. Of course, it would also be simpler to do it without all the class work, verbatims and such.

Yesterday I looked in the mirror and thought of this:

You know what keeps me going sometimes? On the days when I am locked away, staring into my own eyes and so close to falling into my old pattern of shame and self-doubt? The voice of a 92-year-old Irish woman from my church, who was involved in both my pre-discernment and discernment group, a woman who is my hero, who has travelled the world and seen more than I could ever hope to see in a lifetime, a voice that said to me, “No…you’re strong.”

I can’t even really remember the context, but I think it had to do with keeping the faith during difficult times. I don’t remember what I said, but I think it was something like, “I keep the faith because in my mind I don’t have a choice. I don’t think in difficult times it would be my faith in God that would get in trouble.” And just as I finished saying it, others in the group who knew me were agreeing, and this woman nodded, saying, “No, you’re strong.”

At the time, I couldn’t believe that this marvelous woman, who honestly blows my mind every time I look at her, could say this about me.

I feel like I’m finally starting to believe her.

I feel like I’m finally coming closer to seeing who God sees.

“Thank God for sight. Thank God for God.”


 After our graduation ceremony, I wrote this:

I’m done, by God.Snapshot_20130808

I can’t believe it.

I have a huge sunburn because two of my classmates and I went swimming in the ocean afterward, and then lay on the beach for a while. I’m glad I did it.

I’m done, by God.


Thanks so much for reading my CPE journal! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you’re considering taking it yourself, I strongly recommend it. I really enjoyed working for Providence Health Care. It’s a great organization that prioritizes spiritual and emotional health in a way that few other organizations do. Its Catholic roots are strong and beautiful, and a lot of the ground-breaking work they have done, particularly around HIV and AIDS, is directly attributable to those roots. The spiritual care staff and program is an excellent one. That being said, it’s not the only place you can do pastoral care! You could also try the program at VGH if you prefer. If you’re interested in spiritual care in general, or want to learn more, please check out the CASC website here.

Many blessings,


CPE Journal #26: July 25th

I gave my final evaluation today, and as I wrapped up I actually told them about the two visions I had had – the palmful and cupful of fire.

I had some gorgeous prayers said for me at the blessing. One of my classmates sang, “Don’t you feel downhearted, don’t you feel sad and lonesome: Jesus is walking on the water, won’t you go and follow him down.” My supervisor referenced Moses and the burning bush in his prayers.

I loved that song about Jesus on the water, because I love the story! It ties in perfectly with my sense of fear at what lies beneath chaos, and I even talked about it in an earlier entry!

I did find that I couldn’t look at anyone after the prayers, and at a few other times. I was disturbed to find myself laughing and smiling as I described terrible feelings of self-loathing to the group, to which they reacted with faces full of shock and sadness (much like my mother had). I always thought that was something that only damaged people did – laughing while describing feelings of anger or deep sadness. I wouldn’t call myself damaged…but I guess it was just another one of those “Only OTHER people do that.”

In the last little while I’ve thought a lot about how the shame of my childhood shaped me, and how the shame was reinforced over time. I had this amazing moment where I realized that part of why I couldn’t look people in the eye when they are wishing me well or feel tender toward me because of tears is because I’m afraid of what I usually see in the mirror when I am in tears. I feel incredibly awkward and exposed – as loathsome and ugly. Even just writing about it makes me feel triggered. I need my emotions to be mirrored by the eyes of love. I should not be afraid. The eyes of shame are a distortion I am free not to accept anymore.

I can’t believe it’ll all be over tomorrow.


I did some reading exploring Teilhard de Chardin’s theology of the Sacred Heart. He writes:

“The cross was placed on the crest of the road which leads to the highest peaks of creation. But, in the growing light of revelation, its arms which at first were bare, show themselves to have put on Christ: crux inuncta. At first sight the bleeding body may seem funereal to us. Is it not from the night that it shines forth? But if we go nearer we shall recognize the flaming seraph of Alvernia, whose passion and compassion are incendium mentis. Christians are asked to live, not in the shadow of the cross, but in the fire of its creative action.”

The incendium mentis they refer to is defined as a “conflagration of the soul.” I had heard of the word conflagration, but never knew what it meant before. When I looked it up on, it was defined as: “a destructive fire, usually an extensive one.” I love this! The use of the word “destructive” may frighten some, but I can’t help but remember the vast forest fires that tend to sweep through BC every late summer, which are indeed destructive but also massively helpful for the fertility of the soil. I actually wrote a song years ago about God’s love being similar to a fire like this, which only makes this passage all the more appropriate to consider in the light of my own ministry.

The flaming seraph of Alvernia is the angel that marked St. Francis of Assisi with the stigmata. This is even more amazing! I described my encounter with Prayers as being similar to experiencing a form of stigmata. Bonaventure confirms this by writing in his biography of Francis:

“Eventually [Francis] understood by a revelation from the Lord that…he was to be totally transformed in the likeness of Christ crucified, not by the martyrdom of his flesh, but by the fire of His love consuming his soul. As the vision disappeared, it left in his heart a marvelous ardour…”

I love this idea of the fire of divine love as representing an alternative passion, and to me it is marvelously open to be experienced by many others.

Teilhard de Chardin called the Sacred Heart “a mysterious patch of crimson and gold in the very centre of the Saviour’s breast.” He writes:

“It is in the Sacred Heart that the conjunction of the divine and the cosmic has taken place…There lies the power that, from the beginning, has attracted me and conquered me…All the later development of my interior life has been nothing other than the evolution of that seed.”

He also has a narrative about the Heart that has the figure of Christ growing progressively more indistinct with radiance. I wondered then in my notes on this about whether or not I could actually experience the presence of the Heart on my own, or if I always had to be with somebody else. That is part of the teaching of this gift, I think.


The biggest news of the day is that my supervisor thinks I could do this for a living. So…maybe I’ll explore the residency for next year. It’s a paid gig. Could I do it? Maybe.