A Jubilee Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has announced a jubilee Year of Mercy, starting December 8. He is hardly the first pope to stress the importance of mercy. John Paul II spoke about it often and eloquently. But Francis has a special passion for the virtue, likely rooted in his experience of the poor and his affection . . . . Continue Reading »

What Comes After the Synod

Whatever Pope Francis does in the wake of the Synod on the Family, we have a new Humanae Vitae moment on our hands. Decades of relentless infighting over what exactly the Church teaches is on the horizon and will negatively affect the priesthood, religious life, religious institutions, parishes, . . . . Continue Reading »

Divorce and Communion

There were only two occasions in my life as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that required disciplinary ministry with a church member. One was gossip; the other was sex. The first didn’t get beyond private admonition by the pastor, me. That’s what the pastor does in . . . . Continue Reading »

How to Strengthen Catholic Community

As the Synod on the Family continues, a number of Catholic writers are questioning whether it’s really nice to exclude the divorced and remarried from Communion. The people on the margins of the church, the people oppressed by sin and circumstance are the ones who can least weather being pushed . . . . Continue Reading »

The Friday We Call Good

The celebration of the Passion of the Lord is dramatic. It is the climax of all sacrifice. The curtain is torn. The temple is destroyed. On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Christians fall prostrate in grief and sorrow. The whole range of human emotions experienced in the life of Christ are now on bended knee—sorrowful suffering, dripping blood, bloody flesh—the grief is palpable. Continue Reading »

My Plea

The day my soul became Catholic was the day I found out that as a divorced and remarried woman I could not receive Communion. Tears of sorrow and joy flowed. Sorrow because I had by then grasped the truth of transubstantiation, only to find I couldn’t consume, and joy because at last we found the ground of real authority—His Church, the one He founded, the one tasked to keep all He taught Her Apostles. Continue Reading »

That Nothing May Be Lost

This spring I was out of the country for a week. Attending Mass shortly after my return, I went forward to receive the Eucharist and opened my mouth in the traditional way. But I received, instead of Jesus, a frown, a shake of the head, and silence. Distressed, I opened my hands questioningly, and the priest pressed the Host into my palm. Back in my pew I watched as this small drama was reenacted with other communicants. Afterward, on a back table I found a letter from our archbishop, outlining “temporary precautions for the celebration of Mass” due to the spreading of swine flu.

When I entered the Catholic Church in 1996, I was taught by an energetic, abrasive, and intensely orthodox Dominican priest. He taught mostly from memory, stalking about in a theatrical way, fingering a large rosary that hung from his waist. His teaching was both unsystematic and vivid, and when he spoke about the Eucharist I remember he urged us to receive Communion on the tongue—because, he said, we should be as docile and receptive as children being fed by their mother.

The idea alarmed me, like the idea of kissing a crucifix on Good Friday or viewing a corpse at a wake. Open my mouth and stick out my tongue? Let the priest see the inside of my mouth? Continue Reading »