Incognito Catholic

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

Karl Rahner is the one who talks about the
Karl Rahner is the one who talks about the “Anonymous Christian”

December 3

This morning, I was thinking about how unfair it is that Catholics can go to Protestant church and it be no big deal incognito, but not vice versa. It’s not fair. I suppose that, depending on the Catholic, they might feel awkward participating in the rituals of a Protestant church, but they aren’t unwelcome to it. This is, in part, how I justify my potential “conversion” to Catholicism. Conversion. It shouldn’t be called that. My friend Kate said, “You’re thinking about ‘coming into full communion’ with the Catholic Church; it’s not like you were atheist or Hindu or something.”

This is true, and way more the way I think about it, but I still dislike the unfairness. I’m a rare bird choosing to become Catholic while also holding onto my roots. Not really letting either group have full grip on me, because it shouldn’t be that way. There are all kinds of born and raised Catholics who continue to claim it and participate in other churches. That’s what I want to be! One of those Catholics! But I’m not born and raised, I’m a noob.

Publishing the Sermon

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

November 19

D to Paige

Paige, what a delight it was to receive Bob’s email about the sermon you recently preached at the Brookline church. It would have been wonderful to have been there to hear you preach. Maybe there will come a time that it will be possible. I would love to hear from you to know what you are doing and what your plans are. We have a Women in Ministry Network and I would love to include you. In fact, if you are on Facebook I can add you to our conversation page. That is, if I can figure out how to do it. So if you befriend me I can work on making that connection. However, that may not be your interest.

What I would really like is a copy of your sermon. A few years ago Kathy P., who was the first women to preach at the Brookline church, advised me to save all my sermons. She explained that in all her research about women who were preachers in the early years of the Restoration Movement she had not found any of their sermons preserved. So, I took her advice and asked her to send me a copy of her first sermon, which was preached around 1987. That began a project that is really beginning to take shape. I have been collecting the sermons of women in the Church of Christ for several years now and have about 22 women who sent me sermons or promises of sermons… I would love to include your sermon in the collection. Many of the sermons are the first and/or the only sermon a particular woman has preached. Some were preached in university settings or in hospital chapels. But that is part of our story. And I am hoping to not only create a historical document but record the story of women in ministry in this generation.

Here is what I would like from you: 1. give your sermon a title and put your name on it. (You would be surprised how many did not do this and it is hard keeping track of them once I save them to my file.) 2. provide the date and the place where you preached it. 3. Write a preface to the sermon. I would like a paragraph that tells something of your story. How you came to preach this sermon. Was it your first? If not, where else have you preached and is this the first you preached in a Church of Christ worship service? What was the experience like for you. Share anything you would like to about your journey to this moment. 4. The sermon ­­ 5. A bio: in your bio include your education and where you are at the present time. Include something of your family background, etc. Anything you want to add. It should be a short paragraph.

If you do all of the above, you will be way ahead of the game. In the beginning I didn’t give any guidelines or requirements and I have had a lot of editing to do. Keep your format simple and I will do the rest.

I hope you will accept this assignment. Let me know as soon as possible if you intend to submit your sermon. I am busy editing right now so I can wait until February 1 for your sermon. If you would like a sample I can send you someone’s sermon to give you an idea of the preface as well as the sermon. However, I want it to be expressive of you so whatever you send me will be great.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Blessings, D

November 23

Paige to D

Hello D,

It’s wonderful to hear from you! This whole semester has been unexpectedly wild for me. While I’ve been in Boston a while (5 years), I haven’t been that amazing of a church of Christ goer. But as soon as I committed to attending this year (in addition to Catholic Mass), and let someone know I have a Master’s in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College, I was invited to preach. Like I said, it is wild. When Bob said you’d be emailing me, I was pretty taken aback. It’s been a long time since my days at Pepperdine, but my experience there, seeing women in the church of Christ in ministry, is really what planted my desire to minister (formally or informally and pretty much anywhere).

I’m delighted that you want my sermon and may include it in your book! I can definitely get you my sermon before Feb 1st, and I may even have preached again by the time it comes around. Clint, who puts the preaching circuit together at Brookline, is including me in the new year. It should be fun. Brookline is a fantastic church, and I like to call it “The Best Church of Christ in the World.”

A little about what’s going on with me before sending the sermon. Presently, I’m in a little bit of a transitional time of life. I work in Tech Support at Boston College (the job that got me through my two Master’s there). I’ve done that for about 2 years now, and my boyfriend just moved to Florida. Come summer, I’ll be finishing up in Boston, walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and moving down to Florida with possibly no money or job. I’m very excited! I’m actually heading down to Florida today to have Thanksgiving with his family this week. It should be very nice. And warm. New England has been wonderful, but it’s time to go.

I’d love to be included in the Facebook group! Say hello and send my love to Zach and the fam. I certainly miss Malibu. I will send you my sermon all formatted before Christmas. If you need any help editing, just let me know. I’d love to help in whatever way I can.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Paige

D to Paige

Paige, it is great to hear from you. I loved hearing about what you are and have been doing and to hear about your boyfriend. Is his university a Catholic university? If you do, in fact, move to Florida you may have to increase your attendance at the Catholic church. I don’t know of any Churches of Christ that are gender inclusive. However, I might be surprised, although there is quite a groundswell of churches that are making the transition to gender inclusion. It is very encouraging. I know how you feel about the Brookline church. It was a leader among churches of Christ in becoming inclusive and they have nurtured and encouraged many women and men through the years.

Your summer plans sound wonderful. I have always been intrigued by the Camino de Santiago, especially after watching the movie that was made by Emelio Estivez (sp?) and his father, Martin Sheen. I know it will be a memorable experience for you. Are you going alone?

I will pass your greeting on to Zach and Haley. I remember so well when Zach brought you to his birthday party at Ken and Libby’s house and we played cards. I was so impressed by your beautiful, thick red hair. And with you, of course.

I look forward to receiving and reading your sermon. Thank you for responding so quickly. I will keep in touch.

D

December 1

Paige to D

Hello D!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. I spent mine eating (of course) and fishing in Florida. It is indeed a Catholic University, Benedictine by tradition. Steve, my boyfriend, is Catholic, studies and writes mostly on systematic theology, but was hired to teach ethics. I visited there this past week, and the campus was pretty nice (it’s tough always comparing to Pepperdine). It’s in a nice hilly area (for Florida) overlooking a big lake. I also do not know any gender inclusive Churches of Christ in Florida, there are A LOT of CoCs there, especially around Tampa. My mom, grandparents, and a couple of my cousins attended Florida College in Tampa which isn’t too far from St. Leo, but is, I believe, quite far from gender inclusion. Church of Christ history in Florida is fascinating.

My best friend and boyfriend are planning on walking the Camino next summer with me! I’ve booked my tickets with Steve for June 12, and she’s going to try and meet us at the starting point at the same time.

Ha. Zach’s birthday party! That is a nice memory. I think we taught Libby how to play poker for the first time in her life.

I will have the sermon to you before Dec 18th! Could you send me a sample so I can match the format exactly? I don’t want to create any unnecessary work for you.

Happy Advent! Paige

Christian Converting to Christian

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

November 4

Catholic friends tell me that I shouldn’t become Catholic. Random Catholic dudes tell me I’d make a great priest. Boyfriend asks me whether I’ve thought about being an Episcopal priest… What’s a girl to do?

Earlier in my writings, and still sometimes, I felt as though, duh, I’m probably going to become Catholic. But I’m still not sure. I even said yesterday, “Choosing a denomination is like, pick your poison.” How much does it really matter? You want to at least like the group you’re in a little. It’s kind of like a relationship. You want there to be give and take, openness, love, not messing around.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and there is always a story of how people choose their group. For Nadia Bolz-Weber, a church of Christ convert, her husband is also a Lutheran minister. And so, she is Lutheran (though not solely because of her husband). It all fits so nicely. I know what churches I would fit in line with: Episcopal and ELCA (Lutheran). And I would probably be pretty happy with a lot less existential angst.

Then I also wonder, even though it’s impossible to agree on everything, “Is choosing a church you like because you agree with most of it a cop-out?” I think it is a beautiful thing to be able to “convert” in your own religion. I think it is a sign of the Spirit— converting is to have a transformative experience. And never changing is not a spiritual experience. If you don’t like this place in Christianity, go over there and you’ll find your people. I guess whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we all do this, and not just in church.

Last night, I was thinking about the Catholic church and having kids. I wouldn’t want my kids to grow up and feel like they have some sort of special power (or not) because of gender. If they were gay, I wouldn’t want them feeling like silent outcasts. I wouldn’t want any kids to feel that way! Going Episcopal could, in some ways, ease this fear of my own. I mean, I know it’s possible to be liberal in a conservative environment, and to raise kids who don’t hate. I was one of them (by a miracle). Although that might have been a byproduct of a dad who was “going to hell” in our church. Nevertheless, if I can love him, and he can love me, I can love anybody and not judge, and have hope, and believe Jesus saves everyone.

So, now, I’m kind of considering the priesthood? I know I can’t make it in my own church of Christ (well, if they actually were egalitarian and loved the gays, I’d be more inclined, but that’s not likely to happen, depending on my geographic location).

And then, I’m not so sure about the Catholic church either. I’ve said before, in good conscious, I don’t think I can do it because I know I don’t agree with a lot of stuff (even though I really like and appreciate the church).

So here I am, unknown again.

If I Were God… on making humans, free will, the afterlife, sin, evil, and punishment.

In my prayer the other day, I decided to play the game “If I were God.” A popular “If I were God” thought, is about the idea of hell. Because, if I were God, I don’t think any short life of evil deserves eternal conscious punishment. Yes, I know, I am not God. I cannot understand these weird God things, but allow a little room for some human brain gymnastics. After all, the Truth can handle it, and if I were God, I’d give humans brains so that they can use them.

If I were God making humans, my first idea would be for everything to be good! I think I’m on the right track here, but what does that mean? I would want life to be great! No sadness, or suffering, everyone is living in the present moment, everyone makes the right choices, and we all love each other, and get along, and we don’t worry about death or dying or do anything terrible to each other, and there is really no other option.
Eeek. Paige God, what about that whole “free will” thing? Sound like you’re losing it in this perfect world of snuggly nice humans without a worry in the world. These humans sound like spoiled well-loved puppies. They do right, they stay in the present, they give love, receive love, and that’s about it. Deep and meaningful conversations might be challenging.
If I was God, I don’t think I would actually like a world where my closest companions were only dogs. I think I would like someone I could talk to, I could experience with–someone who gets me and I get them… That may come with some drawbacks. If humans can think like God, like me, like they are in the image of me, God, we got some tough stuff to deal with.
Do I even want this universe? Yes. I def do. But these conscious beings, how are they going to work without killing themselves? They probably will. Is it worth it? I mean, I’m God, so I can do what I want. They might destroy themselves, but they might also do great things, and I could get along with them and help them, and they could talk with me, and I could talk with them, and ultimately in the end, we’d all be one. Right? I’m God. I can make that happen.
So, I’m going to give these beings that are like me a short life, so that they don’t have to endure the torture of universal questions they’ll never really understand for eternity. But I will give them hopes and dreams and talents and abilities, and they’ll all fit together so perfectly, even if they don’t really get that either. And they can go after their dreams with reckless abandon because this life is all they have before I consume them.

NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM

See, that was fun. But really, it kind of made me realize how much I think of life as going after some reward or expecting some sort of punishment. It’s more difficult to get out of this kind of thinking than I think we realize. And, if I were God, I wouldn’t want the end of everything to just be a giant reward or punishment like The Good Place.
I was asked a long time ago, “What would you do if there was no reward or punishment?” Or phrased a more true way, “What would you do, if your only reward or punishment was in the present time (not eternal)?” There are always reward for doing good things, and there are consequences for doing selfish things.
This is Paige trying to figure out “WHY EVIL!?” I will end with two ideas that I’m still sitting with regarding all of this…
  1. “We are not punished for our sins, so much as we are punished by our sins.” Like I said, there are consequences for what we do, and we might think that those consequences only affect ourselves or whoever (like if you punch someone). We don’t think of our personal sin as affecting others that we love, like our children or friends. So, choosing not to do something bad/selfish, is less about our own reward, and more about loving and protecting others from our insanity. Or something like this.
  2. “If we could somehow understand the gift we’ve been given, and be genuinely grateful, how could we possibly sin?” How could we be entitled and do anything selfishly in gratitude? And maybe that is what the all-consuming God, in the end, does–makes us capable of all-consuming gratitude, where the option of evil is like an old well-rehabed addiction.

I don’t know. I’m not God…

Everyone is Spiritual

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 31

As I begin this post, I’m actually listening to Katy Perry’s album Prism, and the song is “Spiritual.” 

“And I am finally here (or healed?)/This is spiritual, under your spell/Phenomenal, the way you make me feel/Like an angel, oh, at blow/Like a feather, you make me float…”

Katy’s Christian undertones are showing through the whole album.

Everyone is spiritual. Rob Bell has a talk called “Everything is spiritual,” and I’m down with that too. And all this is bubbling to the top of my brain because I watched this movie Good People Go to Hell, Saved People Go to Heaven.

The documentary follows a group of pentecostal, Bible believing, lower middle class white Americans, in post Katrina New Orleans. The characters are a guy who carries a cross across the US and up and down the Mississippi river, a single mom with an agnostic marine son (married to a Christian convert), and a perfect pentecostal teenage son.

The story is of all these good, simple people, surviving the Louisiana weather and preaching Christ is coming. You better accept him, or you’re going to hell. Many of them described the events in New Orleans as a spiritual cleansing. At the very beginning of the documentary, a pastor is standing amidst the ruble of his own church building and says something along the lines of, “If God did this, then I would guess he’d target Bourbon Street and all that, and they didn’t get a drop.”

Even when I fall prey to it, I despise interpreting when I get what I want, that it was God’s will, and that when I don’t get what I want, then it is the enemy, sin, or punishment. It never makes any sense. For every person who get’s what they want and attribute it to God, there are hundreds of people crying out and not getting what they want. What’s worse is that as I believe I’m getting what I deserve, I then have to believe that they are getting what they deserve. This is terrible.

Even though I have a lot of problems with the Christianity that many of these characters in the documentary boldly proclaim, I actually really enjoyed the people in the documentary. I know those people. Those people are my friends, and while sometimes I think they’re crazy, I don’t actually think they’re crazy. Everyone is doing their best with what they know. Everyone is spiritual.

I read a comment on Amazon about the movie. Someone complaining that they thought the documentary depicted the cross carrying guy as crazy, and I didn’t think that at all. He explained, and I wasn’t sure if I believed him, that he never asks for things from people, he only asks God, and he won’t take anything from anyone unless they say, “God told me to give this to you.” Sounds like a great loophole to me. Not asking for anything?! He’s living in a trailer, traveling, and loving God in the best way he knows how.

They all seemed normal and like very genuine people. They are caring for people in ways I can’t. They feed people, even if that food is later used to frighten them out of hell.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of dangers with their readings of the times, the Bible, salvation, and the afterlife, but as I was watching, I found myself being particularly attentive to what those people do that is Christian. Take away hell, take away scare tactics, and watch them pray, watch them care for one another, watch their trust, watch their experience. There is Spirit there.

RCIA Prayer Retreat

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 26

This weekend we had our first RCIA day retreat on prayer. We practiced several types of prayer. We began with an introduction learning about a nice acronym of the types of prayers: A.C.T.S.

  • Adoration
  • Contrition
  • Thanksgiving
  • Supplication

Then we did some contemplative prayer. In this type of prayer, you read through a scripture passage (or anything really) several times, and enter into it imaginatively. The reading we had was the anointing of Jesus in Luke 7:36-50. I imagined throwing a party where I invited Jesus. I invited everyone, even my friends that I hoped wouldn’t show up. Well, of course, they show up, and who does Jesus spend all his time talking to? The most annoying person at the party—chatty, attention hog, annoying. I learned in this first imaginative contemplation: be better friends with everyone, not just the cool kids.

We took lunch, and then did a “Spiritual Life Map.” I have a big map, and I was not alone.

We did more contemplative type prayer—Lectio Divina. In this type of prayer, we read through a passage slowly, focusing on a word or two. Listening to what God is speaking to us in the passage. There are four movements in this type of prayer:

  1. Read the passage. No judgment. Not slow. Not fast. This is the primer. Pick a word or phrase that pops out at you.
  2. Read it again. Listen. What is God saying to you?
  3. Read it again. Respond. What do you want to say to God?
  4. Read it again. What are you feeling? What do you need to do?

Then we did some prayer where you focus on one word or phrase for a while. We sat and we walked and repeated the phrase over and over in our minds. I repeated, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God.”

The retreat was fun, but now, I’m tired.

An Old Fashioned Evening Prayer

Just Be God’s: A Call to Continuing Conversion is a series of blog posts. You might want to start reading it from the beginning: Here.

October 24

Loving compassionate God. My first thought these days is always, “I miss you.” Though I’m not sure what I miss. You are as close as ever. Walking with me as I go to work. Sitting by me in Mass. Speaking with me at church. Talking to me at RCIA. Listening to my heart as I work and at work. Blessing me with laughter, tears, food, and nature every day.

I’m so consumed with life and with the screen, and with the future, I don’t notice. But I want to notice. I want to thank you. And I want to give gratitude and praise where it is due. Thank you for family and friends, for dry weather, for Steve, for the spirit, for the kids in RCIA who laugh at my jokes, for Sr. Mary and her seemingly unwavering faith, for Baxter (my fish) who shows me how simple and fulfilling life can be.

God, I remember I used to go on and on in prayer. I’m not sure what I was going on about. All I want to be is a grateful servant. Continue to fill my heart with gratitude that flows more deeply into vocation and calling for my life. Maybe it’s obvious here in this writing whatever it is I’m supposed to do, but I’m blind to it. Fill me with gratitude and revelation.

Amen.