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Features : Religion & Spirituality
April 27th, 2003
Some Women Need Not Apply

While my elementary school teachers told me to believe in myself, my parents warned me it was not good to be full of myself. Love thyself and trust thyself, yes, but not too much.
Be confident, yes, but not obnoxious, said mentors. Pride, or “excessive belief in one’s own abilities,” taken to an extreme, leaves no room within the human persona for the priceless virtue of humility.
The wrong pitfall?
Warnings against pride are well and good, but a qualification must be added. When discussing the pitfalls of pride and the honor in humility, it is necessary to nuance the discussion with special attention to gender. The ancient sin of pride was defined during a time in history when women’s experience…

April 19th, 2003
Thirtysomething, Divorced, and Catholic

Down for the count
During his homily on World Marriage Day, the priest asked everyone who had been married less than a year to stand up. He then asked everyone married one to five years to also stand. Then five to 10 and so on, until he got to 50 plus married years. He looked around and paused. Slowly he said, “Now everyone who is married should be standing up, right?”
I knew why he was asking the question. I too was surprised. About half of the adults in the pews were still sitting. I was also sitting although technically still married. But in a few months my divorce would be final. And so I sat. I didn’t know I had so much company.
Looking around I thought, well some of these folks might be single, some widows…

April 14th, 2003
Wisdom from Jesus and the Corn Guy

No one’s in the kitchen with Martha
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things,” said Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) after a productive Martha rebuked her lazy sister Mary for sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him speak instead of helping her. An indignant Martha stormed back to the kitchen and continued making a snack for her company. Jesus was on a house visit and the very least she could do was to feed him.
This scolding may sound more like something out of the Brady Bunch than the Bible, but lately I’ve found a lot of wisdom in it.
Like a lot of people, I identify with Martha’s compulsion to be productive. Within our culture, we value the “Martha time”…

April 12th, 2003
Being a Christian When People Are Better Off in Prison

Federal Prison Camp, Maxwell Air Force Base—I was speaking to one of my friends today as we sat by the river inside the Camp. We were talking about life in prison as opposed to life on the outside.
He said “I like it here. My life is better here. On the outside, I was living in substandard housing, had almost no food to eat, and no friends. Here, I have three meals a day, friends. And my housing is decent. I’m better off here.”
When he said this I nearly fell out of my seat. How could a person be better off in prison?
What does freedom matter?
I pondered this. I realized that here in prison we may lose our freedom, but does freedom really matter you are not free from hunger, homelessness, and disease? If you…

April 12th, 2003
Confessions of a Possibly Dangerous Mind

Mirror, mirror on the wall…
I was looking in the mirror recently (I’m trying to lose weight and this is a good way to ruin my appetite…), and I realized that it’s actually healthy to look at myself as I really am.
I know that sounds pretty simplistic, and I’m nothing if I’m not a simple person, but I mean I really take time to look at who I am. Not looking in the mirror to check my hair, or to see if my sideburns are even, or to see if my butt looks big in these jeans (all right, I’ll admit I’ve never looked for that). But I look in the mirror to see who I really am…versus the person that I just want other people to see.
And this is basically the first step I make to start seeing how God really…

April 12th, 2003
Scripture Reflections for Sundays in Lent

Readings:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33
I live in an ugly building. It’s a brown and teal low-rise that winds around a parking lot like a drunken staircase flipped on its side. Not surprisingly, the building was constructed in the 1960s when, apparently, creative architecture called for convoluted hallways and unmarked doors at every corner. My building is a labyrinth. Pizza delivery is a nightmare.
Fortunately, in the 1960s, someone also had the genius idea of designing each individual apartment with a six-meter wall of windows. Most tenants take advantage of the light and house endless plants on their windowsills. At dawn, when it’s still early enough to peep through living…

April 10th, 2003
L.A. Faith Communities Celebrate Easter Their Way

I love the Easter rituals that help me connect with the emotion and significance of this holiest day of the year. So I felt particularly blessed to be present for two different sets of rites as Los Angeles faith communities celebrated Easter according to traditions old and new.
Bringing the river to the city
At St. Thomas the Apostle Church, a Latino parish near downtown Los Angeles, parishioners carrying white candles spilled out into the streets during the Easter Vigil Saturday night. They witnessed more than 30 youth and adults receive the sacrament of baptism and become initiated into the Catholic faith. They are called “the Elect” since it is Catholic belief that it is God who has chosen them to…

April 10th, 2003
Do Catholics need a Money Makeover?

Recently, I was talking with a group of socially conscious Catholic friends about money. The question came up, “How does being Catholic influence how we think about money?”
Our answers were revealing.
The bummer of bucks
One mentioned Jesus’ parable about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven. Another noted that the disciples were asked to leave behind all their material possessions on the spot to follow Jesus. A third remembered Jesus overturning the merchants’ tables at the Temple because they were selling things (see box below).
No wonder many of us are operating in our current lives from the point of view that you’re…

April 5th, 2003
Single vs. Married Envy in the Lives of Women Today

Our mothers and bosses spent their careers intent on proving themselves the equals of men. The focus of their comparison on issues of freedom, autonomy, agency, and compensation was across the gender line. The force of shared vision bound thousands upon thousands of them together in a movement of solidarity.
Whither to compare?As a result of their efforts, for us, only one generation their junior, the question of the equality of the sexes is settled. We still have a ways to go with questions like pay equity and ordination. But, largely, we have ceased comparing ourselves to men.
Our mothers have shown that biology is not necessarily destiny. Yet, most of us are by choice, habit, or lack of imagination, thinking…

April 3rd, 2003
The Spiritual Value of Bitching to God

The Bible’s full of angry people. Noah’s mad at his sons, Moses is mad at the Hebrews, and Mrs. Job, after a day of awful luck, tells her husband to “curse God and die.”
Not surprisingly, this anger helped fuel a peculiar type of prayer amongst the people of ancient Israel: the lament. The lament is a formal complaint to God in the hopes that things will get better. Many of the Psalms bristle with rage. It’s not just rage for the sake of rage, though. The point of a lament is to get God’s attention.
Earth to God
One of my professors wants God’s attention. Recently, he recruited several of us theology students to help him organize a whole lament worship service, a bittersweet…

April 1st, 2003
Papal Residence Goes ‘the Way of the Fabulous'

The “Fab Five” have done a complete make-over of the Vatican this past week prompting His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to say, “It is as it was.” Carson Kressely the golden-locked fashion guru of the Fab 5 followed up with, “I guess that means that if one gay guy could make a masterpiece out of the Sistine Chapel then five gay guys can do a whiz bang job on the rest of the place.”
The Vatican—in colorKressley had petitioned the pope to “add a bit more color to his papal wardrobe, white is so 1984.” He’s brought out a new Papal Purple Cape, soon to be on sale at Target for the general public. “You too can be infallibly dressed,” says Kressley.
Thom…

March 28th, 2003
Channeling Your Tantrum Matters

“I don’t want to talk about anger right now,” one of Saddam Hussein’s advisors is reported to have said as he fled a Baghdad government building.
Whole world’s angry these days, isn’t it? I suppose I could use the war as an excuse for going 45 through the McDonald’s parking lot, but we’re all adults here, and I think we can understand that it’s not my fault I’m late just because Dr. Phil ran overtime.
Powerless lately? When we are powerless, we seethe. I’ve been generating far more than my fair share of stomach acid as of late because I’ve been spending many hours a week in a toxic work environment; there was gossip and there was incompetency…

March 21st, 2003
The Human Story of Oscar Romero: Memories in Mosaic

In Oscar Romero: Memories in Mosaic, editor Mar?a L?pez Vigil paints a collective portrait of the beloved prophet, pastor, consoler, and martyr of El Salvador.
Some 200 ordinary campesinos, priests, laity and even some wealthy people tell their personal stories and recollections of Msgr. Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador in the late 1970s. Most of the vignettes are less than a page long. Many tell fascinating and riveting stories of people’s work with the archbishop and show how El Salvador’s economic and political crisis was marching its people towards civil war.
The 423 page book published by EPICA is skillfully translated from Spanish into English by Kathy Ogle.
The scoop on his conversion…

March 21st, 2003
A Gulf War Veteran's Notes on Faith and War

There was nothing glamorous about watching missiles explode or about seeing an F-14 Tomcat smash into my ship’s stern on its final approach.
The Kitty HawkThe
United States Navy aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk exceeds 1,000 feet in length and displaces 186,000 tons. She is a floating city that contains 5,000 men, each trying to escape the monotonous schedule a ship maintains to ensure peace or fight war. A faith dimension in your life is necessary to forget about a daily regimen that is emotionally and spiritually demanding.
This present war has caused me to remember my time in the Persian Gulf onboard Kitty Hawk, a ship that’s capable of launching four bomb-laden aircraft simultaneously from steam-operated…

March 17th, 2003
"The devil envies those who are tending towards a better life." St. Ambrose

I belong to Toastmasters, a public speaking organization
that focuses on the art of speaking, thinking, and listening. I’ve been with my club for several years, and my big goal is to someday, some way, deliver a great speech. Not just a good speech, but a great speech. A JFK speech. An MLK speech. Just one. I’d be happy with one. I’m like the guy from that Twilight Zone episode where he’s a salesman who wants to deliver one last pitch before he dies, a “pitch to the angels.”
Me, I’d like to give a speech for the angels.
And I want to badly.
Luckily for me, I have a couple guys in my club who serve as fitting models whom I strive to emulate. Now don’t be fooled. When I say “emulate,”…

March 15th, 2003

The events of Good Friday are violent, to put it mildly. The crucifixion of Jesus and all the events leading up to it are disturbingly violent, ugly, noisy, and bloody. John’s Gospel account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion (traditionally read at services) is filled with images of the screaming crowds, the betrayal of friends, the tearing of garments, and a controversial, heated trial. The whole day encompasses one disturbing event after another with enough violence to fill an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.
Silence amid violence
I always find it so interesting that people often commemorate the events of this disturbing, chaotic, violent day with silence. Houses of worship are never so…

March 10th, 2003
Scripture Reflections for Sundays in Lent

Readings:
Exodus 20:1-17
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
John 2:13-25
A chaotic scene
Jesus must have looked like a crazy man on his angry rampage through the Temple, a place crammed with people due to the upcoming Passover.
And he most likely created chaos. Just picture the stampeding cattle, sheep, and merchants trying to get the hell away from this angry man, with broken tables and lots of loose change underfoot. Jesus made a mess in a sacred space. He created a scene.
But it was worth it to him. There were people and merchandise in the Temple that needed to be thrown out. Buying and selling had no place in a house of worship, Jesus thought. So he stormed the temple, crashed into the merchants and customers, and said basically,…

March 7th, 2003
Sometimes Anger Is the Daugher of Hope

Mad as hell…but without hope
There’s a famous scene from the movie Network where newsman Howard Beale who is fed up with the manipulation, lying, and general state of things decides to go on live television and declare to the world, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” He encourages others to join him but gets nowhere. Becoming despondent over his powerlessness, he ends up killing himself on national television, giving his network great ratings in the process. He began by being angry at all that was wrong but he ended by giving up and adding to the wrong. His anger lacked hope, the kind of hope born of faith.
Anger and Augustine
Saint Augustine , back in the 4th century…

March 6th, 2003
The Spiritual Search of a Student Activist

Early bloomer
My roots in activism grew quickly. I became aware of many world problems through the help of some Southeast Asian friends during my sophomore year of high school. At that time, Indonesia was fighting for the right to have free elections; people were dying for the right to freely mark a piece of paper.
I knew something was wrong there and in other similar situations around the world, but was unable to put my finger on what that something was. As I discovered more, I desperately clung to whatever political ideology was at hand, trying to uncover that something.
Through the rest of high school, I protested injustice, published ‘zines, engaged in debate with my friends; knowing dozens of sociological…

March 6th, 2003

Luke has appointed himself as my evening ride lookout. In the mornings, I ride the bus to work at the Campus for Human Development, but Curt, one of my six roommates, works three blocks away and picks me up those evenings he doesn’t teach life skills in the prisons.
As participants crowd around our exit doors waiting to draw tickets for a spot in our Room in the Inn shelter program, sometimes it is difficult to see the parking lot from inside. Of course, I could just wait outside. However, by the end of the day, it’s hard for me to listen to the never-ending litany of questions and statements from the homeless participants. Have you heard the phrase, “A face only a mother could love?” By this time…

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