Friday, October 24, 2014

A Guidepost on the Journey

It's the first day of my 50th year.

Yesterday I turned 49 and, although you can't really tell from the photo above, there was a partial solar eclipse at sunset. Not being superstitious, I take this as neither a good nor bad omen. It was just a beautiful natural occurrence that took place on a special day for me.

At some point in the last 48 hours the seed of an idea has been planted within me: To make this milestone year a particularly intentional one in terms of my being consciously grounded in – and thus open to – the Divine Presence. What exactly that means, I'm still figuring out. But I'm grateful to my dear friend Cathy in Australia for sending me the following quote from Henri Nouwen, one that I believe serves as an important guidepost as I enter this time of intentionality and discernment.

Deep silence leads us to suspect that, in the first place, prayer is acceptance. A person who prays is a person standing with their hands open to the world. They know that God will choose to be revealed in the nature which surrounds them, in the people they meet, in the situations they run into. They trust that the world holds God’s secret within it, and they expect that secret to be shown to them. Prayer creates that openness where God can give the divine Self to them. Indeed, God wants to give Self; God wants to surrender to the person God has created, God even begs to be admitted into the human heart.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:

Be Just in My Heart
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quote of the Day

The idea that some random people are debating my life and my love now seems strange and insulting. . . . I am done with the debate on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. It has reached the tipping point.

The same week as the Catholic Church walked back even a modest welcome for gays and lesbians, a poll from Pew came out saying that over 85 percent of young American Catholics accept gay people, and 75 percent of them support gay marriage. Couple that with a survey done on millennials, a third of whom said they had left their religion because of the negative treatment of gays and lesbians. The conversations at Hillsong and the [Catholic bishops' recent] Synod [on the Family] seem more and more divorced from the reality of gay people, who are their family, friends and neighbors.

Many people who closely watched the Synod felt that within all the back and forth there were good signs for the future for gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church. And probably, there is a silver lining in the Hillsong story as well. I wish them well as they work their way through the "issue" of homosexuality. But I will no longer hope for their approval. I know I was beautifully made by God and that my relationship with Brad is blessed. They can call me when the debates are over and they can (finally) see that as well.

– Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
Excerpted from "Debating My Gay Marriage? Don't Do Me Any Favors"
The Huffington Post
October 20, 2014

Related Off-site Links:
We Don't Need Vatican Affirmation, Says Gay Catholic Congregation – Ines Novacic (CBS News, October 20, 2014).
Pope Francis Wins a Battle to Welcome Gays in the Church – Barbie Latza Nadeau (The Daily Beast, October 20, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report
On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
The Gifts of Homosexuality
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"

Image: Paul Brandeis Raushenbush (left) and his partner Brad.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report

A compilation of quotes and links to articles and commentaries about the final report of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also known as the Synod on the Family.

The respectful language of the midterm report is gone. A return to what we've heard for decades will dishearten LGBT people, same-sex couples, and our families.

What we saw through the Synod process is that there are deep divisions in what the Catholics bishops think about LGBT people, even at the highest levels of leadership. Unfortunately, today, doctrine won out over pastoral need. It is disappointing that those who recognized the need for a more inclusive Church were defeated.

However, we now know there are many bishops who believe in a more welcoming approach to LGBT people, and that they are finally drawing closer to the majority of Catholics who strongly support LGBT people. We anticipate that significant dialogue and debate at all levels of the Church will continue for the year leading up to the Synod in October 2015.

In the meantime, as this just-concluded Synod has shown, the words and actions of Church leaders matter deeply and impact LGBT people and our families every day. Whether a bishop stands against a law criminalizing homosexuality, whether a Church employee in a same-sex marriage can keep her job, whether an LGBT high school student is bullied — all of these things flow from what the Church teaches.

DignityUSA remains committed to the truth that LGBT people are beloved children of God and deserve full inclusion in our Church and society. We intend to be fully involved in discussions leading up to the full Synod.

Marianne Duddy-Burke
Executive Director of DignityUSA
"LGBT Catholics Disappointed by Final Synod Report"
October 18, 2014

The synod's final report significantly backtracks on LGBT issues from the draft released earlier this week, but the synod’s process and openness to discussion provides hope for further development down the road, particularly at next year’s synod, where the make-up of the participants will be larger and more diverse, including many more pastorally-oriented bishops.

It's very disappointing that the Synod's final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included. Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples. Additionally, their further comment about supposed "international pressure" to accept same-gender marriage selfishly views the hierarchy as the victims, not LGBT people who receive unjust and oppressive treatment by governments, church, families, and society.

. . . It’s important, however, to keep two things in mind. First, the paragraphs on homosexuality which did not receive the required 2/3rds vote, and which were more welcoming of LGBT people, failed by only a handful of votes, indicating significant support from a majority of bishops. Second, this report is not the final word, but as a Vatican spokesperson explained, it is still a working document which will be discussed in the coming year.

What was good about this two-week long meeting? The real value of this synod is that it has started the discussion among the hierarchy on LGBT issues which has been going on for decades among the lay people and theologians in the Church. The bishops began to catch up, and I don’t think that the discussion will stop here, but will only continue, with more promising outcomes for LGBT people and their families in the future.

. . . [T]his synod revealed that there are some strong voices for LGBT equality and for change in church teaching, something which was not known clearly before the meeting. Now that these voices have been bold enough to speak, more bishops who think like them will surely follow their example. The biggest problem in the Church up to this point has not been lack of support among the hierarchy on LGBT issues, but lack of courage for those bishops to speak out what they truly think. The silence has ended. Nothing will be the same.

Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director of New Ways Ministry
Excerpted from "Synod Final Report Disappoints,
But Significant Progress Is Made In the Process
Bondings 2.0
October 18, 2014

Many of the reports on the “final” synod document . . . have focused on claims that this is somehow a victory for the conservatives, or a defeat for Pope Francis. Both are completely unjustified.

One clue to why this is so, is in this useful information about the synod posted in the Changing Attitude facebook group by Johan Bergström-Allen: ". . . Very good BBC interview with Cardinal Vincent Nichols . . . who reveals that some of the 72 Synod delegates in Rome who voted against the “welcome to gay people” wording in the final document (with 118 in favour) did so because it either went too far or not far enough. Vincent says he can’t remember how he voted (there were 60 votes in under an hour), but that – reflecting the policy in his own diocese of Westminster – he felt the wording didn’t go far enough, because the key words “welcome”, “respect” and “value” were missing. The cardinal hopes the next stage of the Synod will encourage a more welcoming attitude to LGBT people. Let’s hope the Synod process moves forward with discernment, honest discussion, and a Christ-like passion for pastoral care. God bless Cardinal Vincent for his compassion and balance, and God bless Pope Francis for his wisdom, his collegiality, and his caring heart."

. . . Also worth noting, is that approval for the final text was not based on simple majority vote, but required a two–thirds majority. Reports elsewhere have suggested that on some of the more welcoming passages that were left out of the final text, did in fact have the support of the majority, but just not enough to get to two thirds. Also important, just as words of support were excluded from the bland final document, so too were the harsher words that were proposed by the reactionaries. There were no “winners” or “losers” in this, other than a clear win for open and frank discussion – a major step forward for the Catholic Church.

Terence Weldon
Excerpted from "Synod: So, Who 'Won'?"
Queering the Church
October 19, 2014

Venerable fathers of my Roman Catholic church: you may, if you wish, continue to talk until you are blue in the face about who's worthy to sit at your table. But no matter how long you talk, I will continue to believe that it's God who makes the final decision about who will sit at the table that belongs to God, and not to you. I will continue to believe that all God's children are going to sit at the welcome table one of these days.

And, yes, I'm going to tell God how you've treated me — though I intend to plead with Her not to deal with you as cruelly and mercilessly as you have dealt with me. Because no human being deserves such treatment, and certainly not by those who imagine they are the final judges and arbiters of who may sit at the table that belongs to God alone.

William D. Lindsey
Excerpted from "I'm Going to Sit at the Welcome Table One of These Days:
A Sunday Sermon
October 19, 2014

The synod’s final report backtracked on key issues around admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the eucharist, and more LGBT-friendly pastoral strategies. Fear had overcome courage and rigidity had strangled the rights of conscientious dissent with regard to church teachings – which were not primary-level doctrines anyway.

“LGBT Catholics! Why don’t they just pack their bags and leave?” some ask. The reason we stay is because our baptism gives us rights, enshrined in church law, as well as responsibilities to inform our pastors of all that builds us up as mature believers, integrating our sexuality, gender and personality as the glory of God in the human person, fully alive. “But you’re trying to change church doctrine!” our opponents state, from inside and outside the Catholic stable.

Enter Pope Francis, not in the autocratic style of some popes, but seeking to change pastoral practice and attitudes. His Latin American experience reflects a different approach to doctrine. He starts from where people are, and develops solidarity – particularly with those whom he sees as alienated or marginalised, whether from church or society. Out of this orthopraxis – consistent action – there is a possibility of developing a rooted theological reflection, orthodoxy – consistent teaching. Such action invigorates reflection, and vice versa. Hence he has strongly insisted on more inclusive practices within the church, rather than starting from abstract dogmas and attempting to impose them on an unreceptive community.

– Martin Pendergast
Excerpted from "Progressive Catholics Still Have Faith in Pope Francis' Vision"
The Guardian
October 20, 2014

This report is not the final word, but as a Vatican spokesperson explained, it is still a working document which will be discussed in the coming year. We now call upon the Vatican and local Bishops’ Conferences to institute Listening Processes over the coming year, to include LGBT people, parents, and other family members, alongside theologians and experienced pastoral ministers. . . . Pope Francis has placed these issues on the table, and all the signs are that his action is irreversible, given the strong statements made in his closing speech to the Synod. If, as on a range of matters held to be controversial by some sections of the hierarchy, there is a move to a more open and listening pastoral practice then this could lead to the development of a richer theology of human sexuality, and a more credible and human face of the Church. In this way we can become credible disciples, witnessing to the joy of the Gospel with which the Pope constantly challenges us.

Updates and Recommended Off-site Links:
Pope Francis and Gays Will Win by Losing This Round on Synod Draft — Jonathan Capehart (The Washington Post, October 20, 2014).
Pope Francis’ Talk on Gays Moves Catholic Church Into Modern Era — and Out of 17th Century – Mike Lupica (New York Daily News, October 19, 2014).
Vatican Call for Church to Welcome Gay People Did Not Go "Far Enough" Says Cardinal Vincent Nichols – John Bingham and Andrea Vogt (The Telegraph, October 19, 2014).
How Catholic Synod on Gays Made History, Even With 'Disappointing' End – Mark Sappenfield (Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2014).
Pope: "God Is Not Afraid of New Things" – Philip Pullella (Reuters via HuffPost Religion, October 19, 2014).
Vatican Bishops Scrap Opening to Gays and Divorced Members – Scott Neuman (NPR News, October 18, 2014).
Bishops Scrap Welcome to Gays in Sign of Split – Nicole Winfield and Daniela Petroff (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, October 18, 2014).
Catholic Synod: Pope Francis Setback on Gay Policy – James Reynolds (BBC News, October 18, 2014).
Synod Report Narrows Open Tone, Pope Calls for Middle Path – Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 2014).
The Vatican Cancels Its Earthquake. This is Not Pope Francis’ Finest Hour – Damian Thompson (The Spectator, October 18, 2014).
Synod A Win for Francis and for Openness – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, October 18, 2014).
Five Things the Synod Just Did – James Martin, SJ (Commonweal, October 18, 2014).
The Backlash Mounts Against Francis – Andrew Sullivan (The Dish, October 17, 2014).
Conservative Bishops Get “Different Translation” Dialing Back Language on LGBT Acceptance – Patricia Miller (Religion Dispatches, October 17, 2014).
Overwhelming 85% of Young American Catholics Support Gays and Lesbians – Carol Kuruvilla (The Huffington Post, October 17, 2014).
“Gradualism” and the Inevitability of Doctrinal Change – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, October 15, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Breaking News – October 13, 2014
Quote of the Day – October 14, 2014)
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Soul of My Love

I am not of this world nor the next,
not of heaven, nor of purgatory.
My place is the placeless,
my trace is the traceless.
It is not the body nor is it the soul,
for I belong to the soul of my love.
I have put duality away
and seen the two worlds as one.

One I seek, One I know.
One I see, One I call.
He is First, He is Last.
He is the Outward, He is the Inward.
I know of nothing but Hu, none but Him.
Intoxicated with the cup of Love,
two worlds slip from my hands.

I am occupied with nothing
but fun and carousing.
If once in my life I pass a moment without You,
I repent my life from that moment on.
If once in this world
I should win a moment with You,
I will put both worlds under my feet
and dance forever in joy.

– Rumi
Excerpted from "I Am Not . . ."
From Love Is a Stranger: Selected Lyric Poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi,
translated by Kabir Helminski.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
To Be Held and to Hold
Lovemaking: Pathway to Truth, Harmony and Wholeness
Making Love, Giving Life
Getting It Right
David Whyte: "To Be Courageous is to Stay Close to the Way We Are Made"
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
The Longing for Love: God's Primal Beatitude
Never Say It is Not God
The Holy Pleasure of Intimacy
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
"In Finding Myself, I Found God and My Voice"
Quote of the Day – November 16, 2011
Your Scent I Know
Be Just in My Heart
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Image: Subjects and photographer unknown.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

While mercy is being recommended for Catholics in difficult situations, let us not forget the bishops, who are intellectually in the hardest circumstances of all. They see that large numbers of the faithful are rejecting or ignoring their magisterial pronouncements on sexual morality as irrelevant, repellent, or just plain wrong. But unlike those whom they presume to teach, the bishops cannot simply turn away from outworn ideas. They are confined in an iron cage built by Aristotle, Aquinas, and many other men—mostly men—who had the self-assurance to believe that they could decide the one true way for all people in all circumstances for all time. They have not the freedom of the fallible to say, "We were wrong. We're sorry." They are in great need of mercy, though they do not know it yet.

And so there will be paragraphs full of "kerygma" and "kenosis" and other deliberate obscurities meant to dazzle and overawe the masses with sheer verbal firepower. There will be the usual august and mellifluous passages, a style that the Church has brought to perfection, and then a little way beyond, to the border of parody. And apparently there will be much talk of gradualism, as if humanity had not found out eons ago that life is a long learning and a rare getting-it-right.

I could truly feel some pity for the bishops' plight but for one thing. They are trying to shift responsibility for the Church's troubles from their own shoulders to the backs of ordinary people, who are burdened enough already without being condescended to as weak, childish, or stiff-necked. But then, checking my censoriousness for once, I reflect that the bishops too are in a narrow place not entirely of their own choosing, and perhaps deserve a measure of mercy.

– John Prior
Excerpted from the comments thread of
Grant Gallicho's "Synod Halfway Report: Tremors"
October 13, 2014

Thanks to William D. Lindsey for bringing this quote to my attention via his extensive and insightful two-part compilation of responses to yesterday's Synod on the Family's 'relatio.' For Part 1 of Bill's compilation, click here; for Part 2, click here.

Change in the Air? – J. A. Dick (Another Voice: Reflections About Contemporary Catholic Belief and Practice, October 14, 2014).
"Are We Capable of Welcoming These People?" – Fred Clark (Patheos, October 15, 2014).
The Greatest Non-Story Ever Told? – Ken Briggs (National Catholic Reporter, October 15, 2014).
Why Isn't Anyone Talking About the Synod's Paragraphs on Contraception? – Jamie Manson (National Catholic Reporter, October 15, 2014).
Vatican Retranslates Synod Document, Muddles Openness to Gays – Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter, October 16, 2014).
Now the English Speaking Catholic Church Will "Provide for Homosexuals" Not Welcome Them – Josephine McKenna (Religion News Service via The Huffington Post, October 16, 2014).
Synod Document's New Theological Approach Can Benefit LGBT Issues – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, October 16, 2014).
The Debate About Welcoming Those Who Are Gay — A Reader Asks: "What Are Catholics Afraid Of? And Why" – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, October 17, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Breaking News – October 13, 2014
On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Daniel Helminiak on the Vatican's Natural Law Mistake
Aquinas and Homosexuality
Louis Crompton on the "Theological Assault" of the Ulpianic-Thomistic Conception of Natural Law (Part I)
Louis Crompton on the "Theological Assault" of the Ulpianic-Thomistic Conception of Natural Law (Part II)
Nathanial Frank on the "Natural Law" Argument Against Gay Marriage

Photo of the Day

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Breaking News

News Outlets Report on "Stunning" Shift in Catholic Bishops' Stance on Gays

[At the Vatican's Synod of the Family] Catholic bishops are showing unprecedented openness to accepting the real lives of many Catholics today, saying gays have gifts to offer the church and should be accepted and that there are "positive" aspects to a couple living together without being married.

– Nicole Winfield
Excerpted from "Bishops Say Gays Have Gifts to Offer Church"
Associated Press via Yahoo! News
October 13, 2014

Related Off-site Links:
New Ways Ministry Welcomes Church’s New Approach to Gay and Lesbian People – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, October 13, 2014).
Midterm Report from Synod on the Family is Unexpectedly Positive for LGBT People and Families – DignityUSA (October 13, 2014).
Vatican Stuns Catholic World with Greater Openness Toward Gays and Lesbians – Josephine Mckenna (Religion News Service via Crux, October 13, 2014).
Synod: Need for Welcoming and VALUING Gay Couples! – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, October 13, 2014).
A "Pastoral Earthquake": Catholic Church Proposes Extraordinary Shift on Gays and Lesbians – Judd Legum (, October 13, 2014).
Vatican Signals More Tolerance Toward Gays and Remarriage – Elisabetta Povoledo (New York Times, October 13, 2014).
Vatican Proposes "Stunning" Shift on Gays – Delia Gallagher (CNN, October 13, 2014).
Synod Releases Document with New Tone, Calling for Mercy and Listening – Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter, October 13, 2014).
Catholics React to Vatican Relatio Document's "Revolutionary" Tone on Gay Relationships – Antonia Blumberg (The Huffington Post, October 13, 2014).
The Bishops Are Catching Up to Pope Francis on Gay Rights – Christopher J. Hale (Time, October 13, 2014).
A New Welcome for Gay Catholics in the Church – Francis DeBernardo (CNN, October 13, 2014).
Family Synod's Real Work Will Be Done Over the Next 12 Months and Beyond – Robert Mickens (National Catholic Reporter, October 13, 2014).

Carlos Acosta Recalls the "Clarion Call" of His Vocation in Dance


The Wild Reed series on dance continues with an excerpt from Carlos Acosta's autobiography No Way Home: A Dancer's Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World.

Born in Cuba in 1973, Carlos Acosta is widely considered the most accomplished male ballet dancer in the world. Based in London, he has danced with many companies, including the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. He was made a permanent member of The Royal Ballet in 1998. Five years later he was promoted to Principal Guest Artist, a rank which reduced his commitment and allows him to focus on a growing schedule of international guest appearances and tours.

The excerpt I share from No Way Home focuses on what broadcaster Alan Titchmarch calls the young Acosta's "Damascus Road moment," the moment when the rebellious teen-aged Acosta realized that his vocation was to be a dancer.

The idea of vocation interests me greatly. I've written about my own sense of vocation here, and in 2010 shared as part of The Wild Reed's "In the Garden of Spirituality" series, Parker Palmer's thoughts on vocation. Writes Palmer:

Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks – we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."

For sure the world needs beauty, beauty that embodies and conveys the often complex truths about what it means to be fully human. I believe this is the beauty of Dostoevsky's famous line from The Idiot, "Beauty will save the world." Like so many performing artists, Carlos Acosta's profound and dedicated embodiment of his vocation brings this type of salvific beauty to the world.

In his 2009 address "Meeting with Artists," Pope Benedict XVI spoke eloquently of this type of beauty, one that he called "authentic beauty."

Authentic beauty . . . unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.

Yes, art has the potential to connect us to the Divine Presence! This liberating truth reminds me of Rosanne Cash's words of wisdom:

The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture becomes, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person’s depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice; the more we need the simplicity of paint on canvas, or the arc of a lonely body in the air, or the photographer’s unflinching eye. Art, in the larger sense, is the lifeline to which I cling in a confusing, unfair, sometime dehumanizing world. In my childhood, the nuns and priests insisted, sometimes in a shrill and punitive tone, that religion was where God resided and where I might find transcendence. I was afraid they were correct for so many years, and that I was the one at fault for not being able to navigate the circuitry of dogma and ritual. For me, it turned out to be a decoy, a mirage framed in sound and fury. Art and music have proven to be more expansive, more forgiving, and more immediately alive. For me, art is a more trustworthy expression of God than religion.

Wow! Who would have thought Dostoevsky, Parker Palmer, Pope Benedict, and Rosanne Cash would all be quoted in the same blog post? That's The Wild Reed for you!

And now I add to the mix the words of Carlos Acosta! They're followed by a short interview that Alan Titchmarch recently conducted with Acosta for The Royal Ballet. In this interview Acosta talks about his production of Don Quixote and offers cautionary words for young dancers lured by fame.

But first, an excerpt from Carlos Acosta's autobiography, No Way Home: A Dancer's Journey from the Streets of Havana to the Stages of the World.

The Vocational Arts School in Pinar del Rio was a huge concrete block on the edge of the city. Its three buildings bordered an enormous interconnecting courtyard and were surrounded by stairs leading up and down to the classrooms for music, the visual arts, and ballet. It was here I discovered love and friendship, as well as other qualities that helped the boy I was become the man I am.

It was here that I found my passion for ballet.

One evening the school organized a visit to the Saidén Theatre on Real Street in Pinar del Rio to see the Cuban National Ballet perform. I was annoyed because I wanted to stay in and watch the baseball game between my Havana team, the Industrials, and the Pinar del Rio team, the Vegueros, which all the other pupils in the school supported. But I was dragged along with the rest of the group and seated next to our teacher Juan Carlos in an uncomfortable seat in the theater's third row.

My friend Rogelio and I were discussing who would lead the batters that year. Lazaro Vargas was his hero, and Rogelio always imitated his batting style whenever we played in the rough concrete sports area of the school.

We were shushed as the curtain went up. It was a slow piece. "Educational," the teachers might say; "a jewel of classical repertoire," a fan or critic might say; a load of crap, I thought.

I was calculating that by now the game would have reached the third inning. The Vegueros were leading the championship. If they lost, the Industrials would be only half a game away from first place. It was not just a game of baseball between Havana and Pinar del Rio; there was more at stake than that. My honor as a Habanero was on the line, but I also knew I stood to lose either way. If the Industrials won, then some people would vent their spite and frustration on me; if they lost, three hundred people would shout at me, "Ha, ha, ha, Havana lost the game, you're a yellow Habanero, you can't beat us 'cos we're better than you!" They would push me and tug at the neckerchief that we had to wear as part of our school uniform. I was getting frustrated just thinking about it.

I made myself watch the ballet. The ballerinas who floated across the stage as delicately as goose down distracted me from the baseball game for a moment, when suddenly a male dancer leaped across the stage and was suspended in the air for what seemed like a full minute before falling back down to his knees.

Shiiiit! I thought. How the hell did he do that? He was just hanging in the air!

Everyone applauded. I was trying to work out where the wire was, thinking the muscular guy must have been held up by something. He jumped again. It looked effortless. He did not even appear to be sweating, just smiling as he kept time with the heavenly music.

My spirits soared. I felt transported. Perhaps if I worked hard, then I could hang in the air like that!

It suddenly dawned on me why my father had been so tough with me all these years. I saw it all with great clarity. All he had ever wanted was for me to be able to jump like that! I was mortified to have caused him so much trouble. . . . But at the same time I was happy and grateful that God had given me another chance.

When we returned to the school there was a crowd of people waiting for me. The game had gone into extra innings, but the Industrials had lost 2 to 1.

"Ha, ha, ha, Havana lost the game! Yellow Habanero, you're yellow, you're yellow, you're a yellow streak of piss!" my classmates shouted at me, tugging at my neckerchief. But instead of reacting, I simply smiled and thought: One day I'm going to be like that dancer I just saw. One day I'm going to be like Alberto Terrero!

I did not give a damn about the Industrials' defeat, or the fact that the championship hung in the balance, or that my classmates were trying to provoke me. I had heard the clarion call of vocation. It was a sanctuary, a refuge that would help me bear the leaks in the roof of [my half-brother] Pedro's house, the cockroaches, the mosquitoes, the overpowering stench of the river, and the loneliness. All I had to do was concentrate on my mission, which was to dance like Alberto Terrero, the ballet dancer whom I seen fly through the air that day at the Saidén.

Up until then, I had applied myself, at best, about 70 percent. I had grown stronger, and for the little effort I put in, I had done all right, but now it was different. During the week I worked furiously, forcing myself through the corrective exercises that my teacher set for me. At the time I thought that the olive-skinned Juan Carlos, with his wiry body and his Andalusian eyes, was a brutal taskmaster, but I understand now that he was an excellent teacher. He had been a dancer with the Camagüey Ballet, but his knees could not bear the strain they were subjected to over the years, and one day they gave up and never obeyed him again. So he started again as a teacher, a little disillusioned and resentful, but still with the desire to achieve something worthwhile. His work came to be recognized in the highest educational circles in the country.

Normally, after the school lunch, my body demanded a good siesta, but now I forced it to keep working. I had to adapt my muscles to flight.

– Carlos Acosta

Related Off-site Links:
Carlos Acosta's Official Website
Carlos Acosta is the Image and Inspiration for a Dance Program – Luis Manuel Mazorra (Cuba Headlines, October 7, 2014).
Cuba’s Carlos Acosta to Promote BBC’s Young Dancers ContestLatin American Herald Tribune (October 2, 2014).
Carlos Acosta: Cuban Dancer and Novelist – Michael Cathcart (ABC Radio, July 7, 2014).
Leaving the Barre: Ballet in Crisis Over Lack of Women, says Carlos Acosta – Adam Sherwin (The Independent, July 19, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Dancer and the Dance
The Soul of a Dancer
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
Ruth St. Denis on "Dancing as a Life Experience"
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 1)
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 2)
The Trouble with the Male Dancer (Part 3)
The Church and Dance
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
Gay Men and Modern Dance
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage
Dark Matters

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tina Beattie: Why I Stay

Why [stay in] a male-dominated institution where progressive liberalism is repeatedly thwarted?

Progress is a dubious concept, and our rights and freedoms are daily corroded by the politics of greed, power and wealth. The Catholic church has a rich tradition of social teaching and solidarity with the poor which challenges these neo-liberal corporate values and offers a different way of living. It is a rich and diverse tradition, weaving together a vast multicultural family that defies the growing xenophobia and exclusivity of modern western societies. It offers a perspective from which to evaluate our muddled values and short-term goals against a more enduring and hopeful outlook on what it means to be human.

The church’s intellectual heritage is a complex mixture of theology, philosophy, art and science that enriches the mind, even if its own leaders have tended to be the worst enemies of this tradition – the sex abuse scandal has revealed a malignant darkness at the heart of the hierarchy. Yet all this is just as true of life outside the church. One should expect better of those who claim to be Christian, but in reality we humans are a species with a peculiar proclivity towards violence, shame and corruption.

Christians call it original sin, and I find in the Catholic church a powerful narrative of hope and redemption in the midst of that.

It is surely worth struggling for.

– Tina Beattie
Excerpted from "Sex, Marriage and the Catholic Church"
The Guardian
October 8, 2014.

For more insights from theologian Tina Beattie, see:
Quote of the Day – January 14, 2012
Quote of the Day – September 13, 2012

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Knowing What to Do, Knowing Why to Stay
Staying on Board
One Catholic Gay Parent Who Isn’t Leaving the Church
Choosing to Stay
A Brave Hope
What It Means to Be Catholic
"I Love the Radical Catholic Church"

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

On the Feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, Thoughts on Marriage Equality in the U.S. and the Vatican's Synod on the Family

"Marriage of Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus" (2013)
by Tony de Carlo.

One of the many pearls of wisdom that has stayed with me from my 2004 interview of Catholic theologian and author Mary Bednarowski is the following response by Mary to my question about authority within the Catholic tradition.

I understand “authority” as residing in both the individual and the community. For quite some time I’ve thought about “authority” as that in which I can place my trust. For me that means that as an individual who is a member of a faith community, I have to exercise my own conscience as an informed adult within the framework of the moral guidance offered by my community. If my conscience is not “clear” – that is, if I don’t know where I stand on a moral issue – I must seek clarity. Sometimes it comes from within the Church. Sometimes it comes from the culture in combination with the Church. Sometimes the culture in some aspect or another is, for the moment, ahead of the Church. As an individual and as a member of a community, I have to figure out how to hold it all together. It is my obligation to come to know “in what I can place my trust.” This whole ongoing process is informed by human experiences – mine and others, individual and communal. However we understand the workings of God in our midst and whatever our doctrine of the Church, there is no institutional Church that exists apart from the human community and its experiences and struggles.

I've been reflecting on Mary's words in light of two events that I believe clearly illustrate her observation that sometimes the culture is ahead of the church. The first of these is the Vatican's Synod on the Family, which began this past weekend and which I'll discuss later in this post. The second is the news that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear appeals from five states that were challenging lower-court rulings legalizing same-sex civil marriage. At first glance, this decision may not seem particularly important, but it's actually quite significant. By declining to hear these appeals the court has given a final legal stamp of approval to marriage equality in five states: Indiana, Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin. It has also set the stage for legalization in six other states that also fall under the lower courts' jurisdiction: Colorado, Wyoming, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the Washington Post declared that the legal argument over same-sex marriage is "all but over."

Beyond the hierarchy

In light of these two events serving as an example of "the culture being ahead of the church," or more accurately, the hierarchy of the church, here's a relevant quote from Simon Rosser, another wise and inspiring person I interviewed in 2004.

The Church is in a tough place right now. On the one hand, the Church teaches that science and theology can never be truly in conflict since Catholicism teaches they are reflections of the same God. On the other hand, Catholic sexual theology is about 150 years behind science in some fundamental assumptions about sex and sexuality.

The theology of human sexuality that the Church is teaching is seriously disturbed, so science/medicine and theology appear at times diametrically opposed. Part of the problem is that as the scientific world advanced, the Church first didn’t keep pace with change, and then became a refuge for those frightened of change, including the psychosexually underdeveloped. I don’t think it’s fair to expect the Church to be ahead of science, but when it lags so far behind, it loses credibility and starts becoming extremist.

The headline today of a National Catholic Reporter article initially gave me hope that the bishops gathered in Rome may actually be thinking about moving away from their "disturbed" and "extremist" sexual theology.

"Among First Synod Discussions: Changing Harsh Language, Trying 'Graduality'," read the headline of Joshua J. McElwee's article. Yet I soon discovered that this "graduality" doesn't refer to the gradual movement on the part of the bishops to a place where church teachings on sexuality are reflective of the findings of both science and human experience. Rather, according to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who spoke to reporters at today's daily briefing, the theological notion of "graduality," which apparently is indeed a recurring theme of the synod, refers to Catholics "growing toward adherence or understanding of church teaching throughout their lives."

So it seems it's always the people who must change, who must conform their lives to church teaching, and never the other way around. Although this is disappointing to hear, it's not particularly surprising. After all, the clerical leadership is very much entrenched in its erroneous and dysfunctional sexual theology. I really don't expect it to evolve beyond it anytime soon, a failure that is both pathetic and sad.

Still, things are moving in the right direction beyond the hierarchy, as recent events in the U.S. concerning marriage equality attest, and as can be discerned in the experiences and insights of many Catholics attuned to the transforming love of God in the lives, relationships, and families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. A number of these Catholics gave presentations at "The Ways of Love," a conference focused on the pastoral care of homosexual and trans people, and which took place in Rome in the days leading up to the synod. As well as reporting on this conference, the folks at New Ways Ministry are doing a stellar job in covering the synod itself from a gay Catholic perspective.

It's also crucial to remember that just because the bishops aren't evolving, gradually or otherwise, in their thinking about sexuality, it doesn't mean that the church, as people of God, is not. I've long maintained that the problem isn't that Catholics don't have an informed and healthy theology on sexuality. We do! It's been and continues to be developed and articulated by many people, including John McNeill, Fran Ferder and John Heagle, Jeannine Gramick, Mary Hunt, Daniel Maguire, Joan Timmerman, Daniel Helminiak, Cletus Wessels, Margaret Farley, James Alison, Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler, Tina Beattie, Francis DeBernardo, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, and many others. Perhaps most fundamentally, this alternative theology is being embodied, lived out, by Catholics.

The crucial question is, when will the bishops, the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, acknowledge this and allow the experiences and insights of Catholics to shape official Catholic teaching on sexuality? The ongoing failure on the part of the bishops to engage in this process is a major problem for the credibility and life of the church.

Sergius and Bacchus

I think it's something special that yesterday's major step forward for marriage equality occurred so close to today's feast of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus, whom some consider the patron saints of gay marriage. Of course, it's also interesting, and somewhat ironic, that the feast day of these saints coincides with the Vatican's Synod on the Family. Others, too, have noted and remarked on this, including Terence Weldon.

As the bishops in Rome continue to deliberate on marriage and the family, while largely ignoring queer families, it’s appropriate to recall that the synod coincides with the memorial of two saints, Sergius and Bacchus, who remind us that the Christian Church has not always so studiously avoided any recognition of same–sex relationships, but has in fact blessed and even celebrated them.

And then there's theologian Daniel Maguire's perspective and advice to the bishops, found in his 2008 book Whose Church?, and still very relevant for today.

The Catholic hierarchs, lagging again behind the wisdom of the Church [as understood as the people of God], are very upset by same-sex unions. “Disordered,” they call them. Help, however, is available to these bishops, right in their tradition. Same-sex unions are found in the first thousand years of Christianity and were even liturgically celebrated. Rather than fulminating against same-sex unions, the bishops should kneel and say a prayer to Saints Sergius and Bacchus, a same-sex couple whose marriage is preserved in a seventh-century icon showing Jesus as the pronubus (official witness, “bestman”) at their wedding.

Related Off-site Links:
Vatican Begins Landmark Synod to Discuss Family Life – James Reynolds (BBC News, October 5, 2014).
Pope Seeks "Open" Debate on Family Issues as Progressives Seek Change and Conservatives the Maintaining of the Status Quo – Nicole Winfield (Associated Press via The Star Tribune, October 5, 2014).
You've Got Male: A Synod on the Family Slideshow – Mary E. Hunt (Religion Dispatches, October 6, 2014).
One Step Closer to Marriage Equality – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, October 6, 2014).
The Supreme Court Just Quietly Made Marriage Equality the Law of the Land in Many States – Ian Millhiser (, October 7, 2014).
60 Percent Of Americans Soon Will Live In States With Marriage Equality – Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel (The Huffington Post, October 7, 2014).
Here's What Could Happen Next in the States That Still Ban Gay Marriage – Brad Heath (USA Today via The Huffington Post, October 7, 2014).
These States Still Won't Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses – Roxana Hegeman (Associated Press via The Huffington Post, October 7, 2014).
Same-Gender Couples Mentioned in Synod Talk, But Not In a Very Positive Way – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, October 7, 2014).
No Change in Doctrine from Synod, Say Bishops – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, October 7, 2014).
Catholic Church Reform's Alternate Gathering on the Family Highlights Lay Vocation – Joan Chittister (National Catholic Reporter, October 2, 2014).
Clericalism and Laity-ism: Twin Evils in Our Church – Brian Willette (The Progressive Catholic Voice, July 6, 2011).
Saints Sergius and Bacchus: Male Couple Martyred in Ancient Rome – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, October 7, 2014).

UPDATES: Sex, Marriage and the Catholic Church – Tina Beattie (The Guardian, October 8, 2014).
The Supreme Court, Same-Sex Marriage and the Synod – Maureen Fiedler (National Catholic Reporter, October 9, 2014).
Bishops Rethinking Development of Theology and Annulment Process at Synod – Joshua J. McElwee (National Catholic Reporter, October 9, 2014).
Two More Cardinals Back Communion for Divorced and Remarried – John L. Allen Jr. (Crux, October 9, 2014).
Gay Rights Groups Hail New Catholic Tone – Nicole Winfield (Associated Press via Yahoo! News, October 10, 2014).
Cardinal Raymond Burke Takes Break from Vatican Synod to Say Ugly Things About Gay Relationships – Antonia Blumberg (The Huffington Post, October 10, 2014).
Vatican Debate on Gays Provokes Strong Reaction from All Corners – Josephine McKenna (Religion News Service, October 10, 2014).

For more of Sergius and Bacchus at The Wild Reed, see:
Sergius and Bacchus: Martyrs, Saints, Lovers
Honoring (and Learning from) the Passion of Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Sergius and Bacchus: Martyred Lovers
Photo of the Day – October 7, 2013

For more insights from Daniel Maguire, see the previous The Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – April 10, 2012
Daniel Maguire: "Heterosexism, Not Homosexuality, is the Problem"
Daniel Maguire on the Progressive Core of Catholicism
Daniel Maguire on Catholicism's "Long History of Demeaning Sexuality"
Daniel Maguire on Sex as Liturgy
Daniel Maguire in Minneapolis

Image 1: "Marriage of Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus" (2013) by Tony de Carlo.
Image 2: A 7th century icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchusfrom St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai, Israel, now in an art museum in Kiev, Ukraine. (Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, October 06, 2014

Autumn Rose

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
In Autumn Light
O Sacred Season of Autumn
"Thou Hast Thy Music Too"

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Quote of the Day

Repeatedly over the last year and a half, I’ve written about teachers in Catholic schools and leaders in Catholic parishes who were dismissed from their posts because they were in same-sex relationships and — in many cases — had decided to marry.

. . . The blunt truth of the matter is that during a period when the legalization of gay marriage has spread rapidly in this country, from just six states in 2011 to more than three times that number today, Catholic officials here have elected to focus on this one issue and on a given group of people: gays and lesbians.

Their moralizing is selective, bigoted and very sad. It’s also self-defeating, because it’s souring many American Catholics, a majority of whom approve of same-sex marriage, and because the workers who’ve been exiled were often exemplars of charity, mercy and other virtues as central to Catholicism as any guidelines for sex. But their hearts didn’t matter. It was all about their loins. Will the church ever get away from that?

Pope Francis seems inclined to do so, and is nudging other Catholic leaders with his carefully chosen words and artfully orchestrated symbols. He’s probably not telegraphing any major shift in church teaching — which, by the way, changes plenty over time — but he’s signaling that Catholics who run afoul of it needn’t be vilified.

– Frank Bruni
Excerpted from "The Church's Gay Obsession"
The New York Times
October 4, 2014

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – May 31, 2014
Quote of the Day – August 22, 2013
Quote of the Day – June 15, 2013
A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality
God Weighs In on the Gay Marriage Debate

Image: Ben Wiseman (New York Times).

Francis and Elias

Drawing on the findings of Franciscan scholar Kevin Elphick, Kittredge Cherry posted earlier today on her blog an insightful commentary to mark the feast day of St. Francis Assisi.

Following is an excerpt from Kitt's post, one entitled "Francis of Assisi's Queer Side Revealed."

Historical records reveal a queer side to Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most beloved religious figures of all time. The 13th-century friar is celebrated for loving animals, hugging lepers, and praying for peace, but few know about his love for another man and his gender nonconformity. His feast day is today (October 4).

Francis is “a uniquely gender-bending historic figure” according to Franciscan scholar Kevin Elphick He has spent years researching the queer side of Saint Francis, including travel to to the Italian town of Assisi. There he photographed artwork depicting the man he believes may have been the saint’s beloved soulmate: Brother Elias of Cortona.

When Francis (1181-1226) was a young man, he had an unnamed male companion whom he dearly loved – and who was written out of history after the first biography. Other Franciscan friars referred to Francis as “Mother” during his lifetime. He encouraged his friars to be mothers to each other when in hermitage together, and used other gender-bending metaphors to describe the spiritual life. He experienced a vision of an all-female Trinity, who in turn saluted him as “Lady Poverty,” a title that he welcomed.

The earliest companion of Francis, a man whom Francis “loved more than any other because he was the same age” and because of “the great familiarity of their mutual affection” remains nameless. Elphick's research suggests that the unnamed soulmate of Saint Francis was Brother Elias of Cortona. Francis called Elias “Mother” and gave him a special blessing. Elias expressed much concern about Francis’ body and his health. Francis and Elias each describe the other in affectionate terms. However, very quickly after Francis died, Elias is written out of history and discredited. Elphick presents the scholarly evidence about their relationship in the detailed article at the Jesus in Love Blog: “Brother Elias: Soulmate to Saint Francis of Assisi?

. . . In his thesis, Elphick points out, “Because homosexuality and ‘gay’ identities are modern constructs, it is impossible and inaccurate to attempt to read these modern categories into the personalities of historical figures.” Instead he uses the word “homoaffectional” to describe the relationship of Francis and his beloved companion.

“[Francis and Elias'] relationship is inescapably homoaffectional," writes Elphick, “describing a shared intimacy between two Medieval men. That this first companion disappears from the later tradition is cause for suspicion and further inquiry. . . . The tone in [Thomas of] Celano’s earliest account captures the flavor and intimacy of this relationship, perhaps too much so for an increasingly homophobic church and society.”

To read Kitt's article "Francis of Assisi's Queer Side Revealed" in its entirety, click here.

For more of Francis of Assisi at The Wild Reed, see:
St. Francis of Assisi: Dancer, Rebel, Archetype
Francis of Assisi: God's Gift to the Church
No Mere Abstraction
St. Francis of Assisi and Human Sexuality
Francis of Assisi: The Antithesis of Clericalism and Monarchism
Francis and the Wolf
Solar Brother

See also:
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"
Sergius and Bacchus: Martyrs, Saints, Lovers
Polyeuct and Nearchus: "Brothers by Affection"
Michelangelo: Gifted Artist, Lover of Male Beauty, and Secret Reformer of the Church
Manly Love

Image: Francis of Assisi and the man he loved in “They Shelter in a Cave” by José Benlliure y Gil, 1926. (Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Quote of the Day

If the Eucharist is essentially an encounter with the real presence, rather than essentially an institutional-cum-cultic event, then surely [Jesus’] social interactions make it abundantly clear: hunger, not worthiness underpins Table Fellowship. To allow the law, cultic statutes, and theology to take precedence over mercy and love and encounter, is tantamount to perpetuating the hard line rigour of those Pharisees who complained bitterly and moralised pompously about so many things.

Their approach fostered a cold, superficial temple-based religion. But Jesus invited his followers to a change of heart, a heart oriented to the one called, Abba – Father: a relational, God-based faith.

– Peter Day
Excerpted from "An Open Letter to Cardinal Pell"
Pearls and Irritations
September 23, 2014

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Challenge of Eucharist
"Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ"
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
“Take, All of You, and Eat”: Communion and the Rainbow Sash
My Rainbow Sash Experience
Responding to Cardinal Pell
Chris McGillion Responds to the “Exacerbating” Actions of Cardinal Pell
Trusting God's Generous Invitation
Compassion, Christian Community, and Homosexuality
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Two-Sided Catholic Crisis
Nicole Sotelo: "Jesus Was Not Focused on Priesthood"

Thursday, October 02, 2014

"A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment"

Kate Bush's series of "Before the Dawn" concerts concluded last night at London's Hammersmith Apollo. The concerts marked the singer's first return to the stage since The Tour Of Life in 1979.

To say "Before the Dawn" was a success would be an understatement. Tickets for the 22-date concert series sold out within fifteen minutes of going on sale in March and, throughout its 6-week run, the show, which incorporates music, theatre and film, has been hailed as an "ecstatic triumph," as "stunning," "awe-inspiring," "epic," "a masterpiece." (For The Wild Reed's compilation of review highlights, see the previous post, Can You See the Lark Ascending?)

Due to the overwhelming response to and caliber of her comeback to the stage, Kate has been nominated for two 2014 Q Awards: Best Act in the World Today and Best Live Act.

One of the most interesting reviews I've come across of "Before the Dawn" is by Martin "Youth" Glover of the influential band Killing Joke. With eloquence and insight, Glover explores the powerful mysticism that imbues the persona and music of Kate Bush.

Following (with added links) are excerpts from Glover's September 30 review.

[Kate opened her show] with "Lily" [which] lyrically is an explicit magical ceremony, a literal invocation/initiation in the style of the Rosicurician Orders, a la the Golden Dawn school of the western magical tradition. Gabriel before me, Raphael behind me . . . in the circle of fire.

This is key to understanding Kate. She has her own cult, her own mystery school tradition. Her unique strand of Shaivism, Dionysian and Druid philosophy, loosely wrapped up in a song and dance tradition. It’s part magical realism, overt nature spirituality and art house. (Hard to pull off in cynical, postmodern, narcissistic Britain)

She not only pulled that rabbit out of that hat but also managed to convert each and every one of us to her own personal church of the big sky, a church whose priests are owls, ravens, trees and clouds. When asked once who her favourite singers were, she replied “Nightingale, Blackbird and Thrush.” There is a barrenness in religions today. Whether in Christianity, Islam or false prophet new age gurus, humanity is rudderless, bedazzled by materialism. Kate’s communion with nature is the antidote. It is a call to joy, a celebration of the sublime. It’s about the intoxication of love and the ecstasy that follows. [It's] where wisdom lies, hidden deep within its mystical and poetic roots.

Kate’s "religion" is the tiny spark of light that defeats the dark forces that seek dominion over the natural world. . . . She exemplifies English pagan beauty. A dark timelessness and stillness surrounds her wild abandonment, whilst her voice charges at you like Boudicca returned, riding a golden chariot of weird melody, harmony and bitter dissonance.

. . . Kate is a once in a generation, like Blake, Lorca, Tennyson. She can master the avant garde within a pop dynamic, consistently delivering over decades, [and] mash up dozens of polarising, opposing genres of influences into a single focus with clarity and without compromise. (That's genius.) Intellectual, super serious, yet still very silly and lots of fun. . . . I felt very lucky, privileged to be able to bear witness to her mythical vision made manifest, her great masterpiece.

. . . The finale was "Cloudbusting," which she turned into a crowd singalong anthem, worthy enough to compete with Blake's "Jerusalem." . . . The vibe was amazing, magic in the air, Thunder in our hearts. Maybe the equinox helped but I couldn’t imagine anything but rapture, even from the most hardened cynic, experiencing this performance.

As we left I felt like I had just been slapped with a wet kipper, a different person than the one who entered three hours before. . . . The audience staggered out like stunned mullets and floated off into the brisk, river misty Hammersmith night, the world ever so slightly changed.

Martin Glover aka Youth from Killing Joke
Excerpted from "Kate Bush Live Review"
Louder Than War
September 30, 2014

Above: Fiona Wylie's illustration that accompanied Q Magazine's 5-star review of Kate Bush's 2005 album Aerial.

Wylie's artwork playfully and beautifully pays homage to the magical realism of Kate's persona and music. The depiction of Kate's dress and hair, along with the sense of things bursting forth, reflects the cover of Kate's 1980 album Never for Ever (left) but updates it with references to her then-new album. These references include the washing machine of "Mrs Bartolozzi" and the songbirds of Aerial's "A Sky of Honey" suite. Other aspects of Wylie's illustration reference Kate's 1993 album The Red Shoes, her time away while raising her son Bertie, and the honey-making bees of the, er, b-side track "You Want Alchemy."

Speaking of alchemy, to hear "How to Be Invisible," a track from Kate's 2005 album Aerial, click here.

Related Off-site Links:
Curtain Falls on Kate Bush Comeback – Neil Smith (BBC News, October 2, 2014).
After the Dawn: As the Curtain Closes, What Next for Kate Bush? – Paul Sinclair (Super Deluxe Edition, October 2, 2014).
Kate Bush Says She'll Return in 'A While' as She Wraps London Comeback Concerts – Lyndsey Parker (Yahoo! Music, October 2, 2014).
As Kate Bush's "Before The Dawn" Shows Come to a Close We Celebrate the Iconic Star's Comeback – Katy Forrester (The Mirror, September 30, 2014).
Do You Know What? – Some Thoughts After Seeing Kate Bush – Mark Taylor-Batty (Put the Kettle On, September 26, 2014).
Why Kate Bush's London Live Return Was So Special – Andrew Trendell (, September 26, 2014).
The Continuing Allure of Kate Bush – Gillian G. Gaar (Wondering Sound, September 26, 2014).
Review: Kate Bush – "Before The Dawn" (September 26, 2014).
Kate Bush's Stunning "Before the Dawn" Show – Gillian Gaar (The Examiner, September 24, 2014).
All Hail the Queen: Kate Bush Returns in "Before the Dawn" – Victoria Sadler (The Huffington Post, September 22, 2014).
Kate Bush – "Before the Dawn" – David Solomons (, September 16, 2014).
Kate Bush’s "Before the Dawn" – Christopher Pankhurst (Counter-Currents, September 11, 2014).
Kate Bush and Those Who Follow in Her WakePedlars World (September 11, 2014).
Standing Ovations for Kate Bush's Return in London – Bernard Zuel (The Age, September 11, 2014).

For more of Kate Bush at The Wild Reed, see:
"Can You See the Lark Ascending?"
Quote of the Day – August 17, 2014
Scaling the Heights
"Oh, Yeah!"
Celebrating Bloomsday in St. Paul (and with Kate Bush)
"Rosabelle, Believe . . ."
Just in Time for Winter
"Call Upon Those You Love"
A Song of Summer

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
"Joined at the Heart": Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism
Toby Johnson on the Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
In the Garden of Spirituality – Andrew Harvey
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
A Return to the Spirit