Thursday, May 31, 2007

Out and About - May 2007

Well, as you’ll see, it’s been another month of “out and about” activities!

May Day 2007, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For more May Day images and commentary, click here.

My friend Brian Reusch (center) was welcomed as a new Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet Consociate Candidate during a Ritual of Commitment and Welcome at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul on May 5.

Consociates are women and men of diverse ages, ministries, spiritualities, faith traditions, and backgrounds. What they all have in common, however, is an expressed desire to live the Sister of St. Joseph’s mission to love God and neighbor without distinction. In short, consociates live the vision and values of the Sisters within the framework of their own lives and responsibilities.

Pictured with Brian is (from left) Sister Candidate Tam Thi Tran; Lois Mineau; Angie Schreiber, CSJ; and Mary Virginia Micka, CSJ.

I am halfway through my consociate candidacy program, which I was welcomed into last May.

For Sister Joan Chittister’s insightful reflections on associate/consociate programs, click

Above and below:
From May 5-14, I participated in various events associated with the inspiring Fast of Faith and Hope for Immigration Reform.

For more images and commentary, see the previous Wild Reed post, Fasting, Praying, and Walking for Immigration Reform.

My friends
Brigid McDonald, CSJ, and Tom and Darlene White at the Sisters of St. Joseph’s “Carondelet Gala” in support of St. Mary’s Health Clinics – Minneapolis Hilton, May 11, 2007.

St. Mary’s Health Clinics deliver basic primary health care services at neighborhood clinics operating in churches, community centers, and at seven Park Nicollet Clinic locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and several suburbs. The clinics, operating one or two days per week in sixteen locations, offer primary care, referrals to specialists, laboratory, radiology, in-patient, and prescription medications – all free to patients who otherwise would have no access to medical care.

Entertainment at the May 11 Carondelet Gala was provided by the band Synergy.

On May 17, I took my friend Kathleen’s young son, Joey, to see internationally-acclaimed violinist
Joshua Bell, who was performing with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul.

Joey, himself, is becoming quite an accomplished violinist, as can be seen here.

The beautiful spring weather of May saw me out and about on my bicycle – with one of my favorite destinations being the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River (above), not far from my home in St. Paul.

I’ve also been spending time in the garden and taking the time to admire (and get ideas from) neighboring gardens (below).

For more photos of spring in Minnesota, click here.

Above and below:
Pentecost Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more images and commentary on the Rainbow Sash presence at the cathedral, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About - April 2007
Spring Round-Up

“Take, All of You, and Eat” (Part II)

My sharing of excerpts from Lisa Nilles’ paper, “Take, All of You, and Eat”: The Recent History of Catholic Clergy Denying Communion to Baptized Catholics,” continues with Rainbow Sash wearers’ “emotional” and “intellectual” responses to being denied Communion.

For Part 1 of “‘Take, All of You and Eat’: Communion and the Rainbow Sash” (including background information about this series of posts) click here.

The images that accompany Part II were taken at this year’s Pentecost Sunday mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota.


What was your emotional response to being denied Communion?

• At about half way through mass I began to cry, knowing I would be denied Communion. I was not expecting such an emotional response. I remembered all the years of receiving Eucharist and thought about what that has meant to me. I could remember other times at our Church when I would watch our friends and parishioners in line to receive Christ. I remembered being at the Cathedral for our kids’ Confirmation, and, yes, our gay son was also confirmed there. As all these thoughts came, I began sobbing and could barely control myself. I was devastated when Archbishop Flynn denied me Communion.

• I thought I would be sad and feel shamed. But I found that I was more angry than sad. After I returned to my pew, we all remained standing with our hands outstretched. A woman who came after us [and who was not wearing a Rainbow Sash] came to our row and began breaking her host into pieces and sharing it with as many as she could. I felt flooded with acceptance and happiness by her gesture. Of course this action inflamed the ushers who summoned a security guard!

• Being denied Communion really caught me off guard. I knew it was coming and yet I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of rejection that I experienced. Being refused the Eucharist, as a Rainbow Sash wearer, was the first time in my white, middle class life when I experienced, in a very small way, what it is like to be singled out and denied because of a prejudice. It was quite sobering and I felt sad.

• I felt anger and disdain. Because I have identified as a “Catholic in exile” in recent years, I rarely attend mass or receive the Eucharist because I cannot separate the pastoral church from some of the hideous doctrines, policies, and public statements of the institutional church. I believe affiliating with the Church in any official way sells out both my gay son and my feminist daughter. I was, however, born, raised, and educated through college in the Catholic faith, and claim a legitimate Catholic voice – whether I am in or out of exile.

• I felt sorry for the lay people who were distributing the Eucharist, because they did not have a clue as to what they were doing. They were strictly “following orders.” I was, however, furious with the hierarchy.

• At Communion, the choir sang Bread of Love (“Joined together as one body . . . every person brings a gift . . . every life is full of merit . . . we are called to be God’s people . . .”) Somehow, I still had hope we might not be refused communion, but when the first of our group approached the Communion distributor, she refused. People in line who didn’t have a sash or rainbow symbol, received. Anyone with even a small rainbow symbol, was refused. When it was my turn, I held out my hands and said, “I am a baptized Catholic and have loved and served God all my life. Will you give me Communion?” The distributor said, “No.” When I reached to take a host from the plate, they covered it with their hand. I said, “Jesus would never deny anyone Communion, and I wouldn’t deny you, either. Will you please give me Communion?” He said, “No.” My whole soul was grieved by the reality of what the Church was doing to me and others.

What was your intellectual response?

• It was all so hard to grasp intellectually. I absolutely do not agree with denying Communion to anyone who asks respectfully and in good faith. I think the real sin against the Holy Spirit is to say someone God has made is not holy. I tried to reason with myself that the persons refusing Communion were somehow following orders and not able to reason beyond that to what Jesus would do. I was reminded of those who put people in gas chambers during the holocaust and who later said it was because authorities told them to do it.

• Intellectually, I know Archbishop Flynn is taking orders from Rome and has taken a vow of obedience to the Vatican. Even though many priests and nuns totally disagree with the “no Communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash,” they either won’t speak to the “powers” or they ignore their own common sense. I think Nazi Germany was a little like that.

• I don’t remember an intellectual response [as being denied Communion] was so painful for me. I knew it would happen but somehow could not believe it when it did. I was not at all prepared for the emotions I was experiencing.

• The patriarchy lives! No one has the right to withhold Eucharist. Did Jesus deny Judas or Peter or the women at the Last Supper? The patriarchy lives – and lives off the burdens it places on others.

• I couldn’t believe that Catholic clergy – who are supposed to be the ethical and moral authorities in our faith – would put their position ahead of this act of spiritual violence.

• My head tells me that this is not what the Jesus of the Gospels would be doing.

• I see the hierarchy of the Church as a dying breed. The denial of Communion is one more reflection of a shallow doctrinaire mentality which seems to permeate the priesthood. I also feel the Church is entrenched in internalized homophobia – so many gay clergy who displace their self-hatred onto our families and their congregations via their twisted policies and unloving public statements like the bishop’s most recent declaration on homosexuality.

• The Eucharistic ministers I went to each refused to give me Communion, but each said, “God be with you,” or something like that. I so wanted to tell them I didn’t believe they really meant it, but also realized this was not the time for dialogue, so responded with, “God be with you also.” I found myself in a state of hyper-awareness to the others in the congregation and to the ministers – just watching everyone’s behavior and demeanor. There was a man in front of us with several children. He was acting extremely offended by us. I saw him outside afterwards yelling at one of the other mothers in our group.

• Refusing us Communion is a power play by the archbishop against GLBT Catholics. I have stated in multiple letters to the archbishop that wearing the Rainbow Sash is not a statement of disagreement with Church teaching on homosexuality. The Rainbow Sash says that the wearer is a GLBT person, or supporter of those who are GLBT. In refusing us Communion, the archbishop is imposing his own interpretation on what the Rainbow Sash means: that it is a statement of disagreement with Church teaching. In politics there is a saying that they who control the definitions, control the debate. The archbishop is trying to control the definition of the Rainbow Sash over and above what those who wear it say that it means. It’s a power play.

• My response was both intellectual and emotional – I really can’t separate them. What I couldn’t help thinking and feeling was: “They successfully denied us Eucharist, but they couldn’t deny us God’s Spirit!” It was Pentecost, and the Spirit of God was so alive, so present, so strong in us. I felt overwhelmed with God’s love and confirmation of who we are! It was also striking before the celebration began when we were handing out explanations of what we were doing and why, that the sash wearers were at peace, full of the Spirit, really celebrating Pentecost and able to reach out in genuine kindness to those who were opposing us, but so many of those who wanted nothing to do with us, or who had words of condemnation or criticism for us, were so obviously afraid, not living in the freedom of the children of God. It struck me as ironic, and I actually felt sorry for them.

NOTE: For the third and final part of “‘Take, All of You and Eat’: Communion and the Rainbow Sash,” click here.

Images: Michael Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“Take, All of You, and Eat”: Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part I)
My Rainbow Sash Experience
“Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ” – Reflections on the Eucharist
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Question of an “Informed” Catholic Conscience
Voices of Parental Authority and Wisdom
Who Gets to be Called “Catholic” – And Why?
Comprehending the “Fullness of Truth”
The Many Forms of Courage
Take This Bread

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Rainbow Sash Alliance USA
What Happened at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Pentecost Sunday 2007 – A Statement by Brian McNeill, Rainbow Sash Alliance USA

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Screened Out

D. Stephen Heersink recently highlighted the following via his excellent blogsite, The Gay Species. It might interest those visitors to The Wild Reed who, like me, appreciate and enjoy film.

“Mondays and Wednesdays in the month of June: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air Being Screened Out, the ‘treatment’ (or more accurately, the ‘non-treatment’) of gays and lesbians in cinema. The series promises a more extensive examination of Hollywood’s film industry vis-a-vis gays and lesbians than the documentary The Celuloid Closet.

“As one Hollywood insider observes, ‘it’s not so much what was shown, but what was not shown.’ We were ‘screened-out.’ Even the ‘sissified fellow’ was a comic character, not a ‘gay’ character. Of course, whenever we were ‘screened-in,’ it was as psychopaths, murderers, sociopaths, druggies, hustlers, and derelicts.” writer, Malindalo, provides a bit more info – and a critique.

The series will air every Monday and Wednesday night in June at 8 p.m. ET, notes Malindalo. It will be hosted by Richard Barrios, author of the book Screened Out: Playing Gay in Hollywood from Edison to Stonewall. The series will also feature guest commentary from “several prominent figures [who] will provide their thoughts and remarks, including Michael Musto, Tab Hunter, Ron Nyswaner, Charles Busch and Alan Cumming. . . . Some of the films the series will air include The Broadway Melody (1929), The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Picture of Dorian Grey (1945) and Designing Woman (1957).”

All of which leaves Malindalo to muse: “These are undoubtedly classics, but where are the ladies?”

Malindalo then proceeds to suggest a number of films for TMC to include in its series so as to “properly represent” the gay and lesbian experience. Some of these films include Morocco (1930), Queen Christina (1933), and Christopher Strong (1933).

For more discussion on this series, click


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, but Definitely Queer
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
Christian Draz’s Critique of Brokeback Mountain
Alexander’s Great Love
Reflections on the Overlooked Children of Men
Reflections on Babel and the “Borders Within”
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)
Reflections on The Da Vinci Code Controversy
Thoughts on The Da Vinci Code
Casanova-inspired Reflections on Papal Power - at 30,000 Ft.

Monday, May 28, 2007

“Take, All of You, and Eat”: Communion and the Rainbow Sash

Part 1 – What Motivates People to Wear the Rainbow Sash?

My friend Lisa Nilles has recently graduated from a local Catholic university. One of the papers she completed towards the end of her studies was entitled, “Take, All of You, and Eat”: The Recent History of Catholic Clergy Denying Communion to Baptized Catholics. A significant part of Lisa’s paper focuses on the denying of Communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash.

As I’m sure most visitors to The Wild Reed are aware, the Rainbow Sash is a symbol that proclaims that its wearer is (or knows and affirms) a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) person who embraces and celebrates their sexual orientation and identity as a sacred gift.

In the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, it has become a tradition that on Pentecost Sunday GLBT Catholics and their supporters wear the Rainbow Sash to the noon mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. For a number of years, those wearing the Rainbow Sash received Communion at this mass. However, since 2005, the archdiocese has adopted the policy of denying Communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash.

One of the many strengths of Lisa’s paper is that it outlines the history of the Rainbow Sash movement’s relationship with the archdiocese. It also contains an insightful interview with Dominica Brennan, O.P., of the Canonical Affairs Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, as well as many powerful testimonies from people who donned the Rainbow Sash and were denied Communion during the 2005 and 2006 Pentecost Sunday masses at the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Although Lisa has given me permission to reprint her paper, I feel that the blogsite format doesn’t lend itself to such a lengthy publication. For this reason I’ve decided to share excerpts from Lisa’s paper over the next week or so.

Lisa’s intention in allowing her paper to be so readily available is, she told me, to simply “get it ‘out there’ so that it can be of any use to anyone anywhere who seeks to understand, welcome, and advocate for complete GLBT inclusion in the Church.”

It is in this spirit that I share with you today some of the responses of the fifteen Rainbow Sash wearers interviewed by Lisa for her paper. These responses are to the question: “What motivated you to wear a Rainbow Sash and proceed to receive Communion at the Cathedral of St. Paul?”


What motivated you to wear a Rainbow Sash and proceed to receive Communion at the Cathedral of St. Paul?

• [There was an earlier] event at the University of St. Thomas . . . [at] which the Office of Family Life [held] a conference to argue against gay marriage. So my motivation [to be present at the cathedral] was a desire to let the Catholic Church know our son is as much a child of God as are his three siblings. . . . Instead of referring to him as “disordered,” he should be welcomed as a full sacramental member in the Church.

• To celebrate the intrinsic goodness of my lesbian daughter and every other GLBT child of God. If solidarity with the marginalized is perceived as resistance to Church teaching, so be it.

• This is, I think, the fourth year my wife and I attended this Pentecost service [at the cathedral]. We are involved in a number of social justice issues and solidarity with GLBT persons is an important extension of that outreach, made more personal to us because we have a lesbian daughter. My daughter is right when she says, “My folks would be involved even if they didn’t have me because that’s who they are.” I am proud of that and will do anything nonviolently to counter the prejudice and bigotry of the Catholic Church.

• I am very involved in my church and in the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries (NACDLGM). A major part of my identity is my membership in the Catholic community, but as a lesbian Catholic, I often feel discriminated against and unwelcome in the institutional church (though at the local level, I’ve always found very supportive and affirming people). The documents that continue to come from Rome and from our bishops are extremely hurtful, especially to young GLBT Catholics who don’t yet have a strong sense of God and of themselves as beloved by God. As a professor, I once had a student send me a cry for help in the form of an e-mail where she commented, “I’ve been in a relationship for two years now, and it’s been God’s greatest gift to me, but I’m going to hell because it’s with another woman.” That’s the kind of psychological binds the Church places people in – they recognize and embrace the gift of God, but feel condemned because the Church tells them that what they are experiencing is evil. This will never change until more of us come out and are open about who we are and what our experience of grace and love has been. I chose to participate in the Rainbow Sash because it’s essential that the body of Christ see us for who we really are: people committed to the Church and eager to be recognized and to have our gifts affirmed. Unlike race, sexual orientation is invisible, and the Church prefers that we would remain invisible. Things will never change until we are seen. The Rainbow Sash is an attempt to make visible the GLBT people among us.

• I have a son who is 6'2" with dark curly hair, marvelous design skills, who is a plain old fashioned good person who just happens to be gay. I am tired of “my” Church ignoring his many qualities in order to focus on the mystery of his sexuality which, because they cannot understand, they chose to condemn. So I thought this a good way to show my unconditional support for him and all who share this mystery.

• I grew up Catholic. I don’t believe that any Catholic should be forced to choose between their God-given sexual orientation and their faith community. Denying GLBT Catholics fair and open participation in Catholic worship and community is profoundly anti-Catholic and a form of spiritual violence.

• I feel very strongly that Jesus invited everyone to the table when at the Last Supper. He invited us to, “Do this in memory of me.” He did not say anything about excluding anyone, just simply, “Remember me.”

NOTE: In Part II of “Take, All of You, and Eat,” Rainbow Sash wearers talk about their emotional and intellectual responses to being denied Communion.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
My Rainbow Sash Experience
“Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ” – Reflections on the Eucharist
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Truth Telling: The Greatest of Sins in a Dysfunctional Church
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Question of an “Informed” Catholic Conscience
Voices of Parental Authority and Wisdom
Who Gets to be Called “Catholic” – And Why?
Comprehending the “Fullness of Truth”
The Many Forms of Courage
Take This Bread

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Rainbow Sash Alliance USA
What Happened at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Pentecost Sunday 2007 – A Statement by Brian McNeill, Rainbow Sash Alliance USA

Image: AP Photo/Janet Hostetter. The caption accompanying this photo at Common Dreams reads as follows: “Charlie LaPierre, right, greets Rainbow Sash Alliance supporters outside the Cathedral of St. Paul, in St. Paul, Minnesota on Sunday, May 15, 2005. A group of about 100 gay Roman Catholics and their supporters were denied Holy Communion at Pentecost Mass at the Cathedral.The Rainbow Sash Alliance has been taking Communion on Pentecost at the Cathedral for the past four years, but Archbishop Harry Flynn changed the policy this year.”

Sunday, May 27, 2007


They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak different languages
as the Spirit gave them power
to express themselves.

Acts 2: 4

Spirit Friend

God sends his Spirit to befriend and help us.
Recreate and guide us, Spirit Friend.
Spirit who enlivens, sanctifies, enlightens,
Sets us free, is now our Spirit Friend.
Spirit of our Maker, Spirit Friend.

Darkened roads are clearer, heavy burdens lighter,
When we’re walking with our Spirit Friend.
Now we need not fear the powers of the darkness.
None can overcome our Spirit Friend.
Spirit of our Jesu, Spirit Friend.

Now we are God’s people, bonded by God’s presence,
Agents of God’s purpose, Spirit Friend.
Lead us forward ever, slipping backward never,
To your remade world, our Spirit Friend.
Spirit of God’s people, Spirit Friend.

Tom Colvin

Image: “Pentecost” by Linda Schmidt.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Take This Bread

In the latest issue of The National Catholic Reporter, Bill Frogameni reviews Sara Miles’ book Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion.

I found this review both very refreshing and timely. Why? Well, here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis it’s become standard policy to deny communion to Catholics who are considered “the wrong people,” with regards their experiences and views on certain matters related to sexuality.

In particular, I’m thinking of the denial of communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash, and the denial of communion to attendees of the recent New Ways Ministry Sixth National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality.

Following are excerpts from Frogameni’s review of Take This Bread.


Progressive journalist Sara Miles [pictured below] is in a same-sex marriage. She attends an Episcopalian church where ministers don tie-dyed robes and offer Communion to the unbaptized. But don’t tell the author of Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion she’s not in the mainstream of Christianity, that she’s conjured a theology tailored for her liberal San Francisco sensibilities.

“I don’t feel like I’m making up something convenient. I feel quite rooted in the Christian tradition,” she says in a phone interview.

And that’s a great theme throughout this tightly crafted, joyful memoir of coming to believe that God doesn’t discriminate and grace is for all. “As I interpreted it,” Ms. Miles writes, “Jesus invited notorious wrongdoers to his table, airily discarded all the religious rules of the day, and fed whoever showed up, by the thousands. In the end, he was murdered for eating with the wrong people.”

[Miles] isn’t interested in defining her Christianity in terms of what she’s against. Being Christian is an act of inclusion for her: She’s invited, but so is everyone else – even other Christians who may despise her on general principle. The bottom line, she says, is that you can’t be Christian by yourself. And so Take this Bread advocates big-tent Christianity in the truest sense of the phrase.

With that in mind, Ms. Miles keeps returning to the idea that being truly Christian has little to do with identity politics, posturing on issues, or “liberal” versus “conservative.” It’s more about hunger and feeding, body and blood – those things that are most elemental in the human experience. Ms. Miles went to church one day because she was spiritually hungry and found a piece of bread that gave her powerful sustenance. . . .

[W]hile she’s passionately engaged in the debate over the expression of faith, she thinks Christians still have more in common than not. “What sustains us in unity is ultimately not temporal politics or our being able to agree on wording of a resolution as if we’re engaged in a zoning battle,” she says. “We’re sustained by a mystery that notably, as we say, passes human understanding.”

Such poetic reflections are welcome, but Take This Bread really resonates based on the results of the author’s conversion. A year into her new life, the author became inspired to start a food pantry. However, she envisioned a pantry that “wasn’t a social service program but a service, modeled on the liturgy of the Eucharist.” So the pantry was eventually set up in the church itself, groceries placed on the altar, and all manner of persons invited to the table. There was no indoctrination of the needy and little of the structure typically found in a food pantry. The point was not to arbitrate who could come or how many could come, but only to open the doors and trust God would provide. . . .

At its heart, Take this Bread is a story of finding sustenance and passing it on. It’s about what can happen when people ignore the petty trappings of religion and find the central Christian ethos. For the author, it comes down to how one responds to hunger. “The impulse to share food is basic and ancient,” she notes. “It’s no wonder the old stories teach that what you give to a stranger, you give to God.”

To read Bill Frogameni’s review of Sara Miles’ Take This Bread in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
An Energizing and Spirited Weekend
“Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ” – Reflections on the Eucharist
My Rainbow Sash Experience

Recommended Off-site Link:

Image 1:
Image 2: St. Gregory’s Church

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fasting, Praying, and Walking for Immigration Reform

Last Monday (May 14, 2007), I supported those participating in the “Fast of Faith and Hope for Immigration Reform” by joining with approximately 200 people in walking from Spirit of Lakes United Church of Christ in Minneapolis to the Capitol in St. Paul – a distance of nine miles.

The Fast of Faith and Hope for Immigration Reform began on May 5, with ten people committing to a ten-day water-only fast. Many others committed themselves to fasting for part of this ten-day period.

The event was a wonderful example of ecumenical cooperation – with over 20 churches from a number of different faith traditions organizing and/or supporting the fast in one way or another. The primary organizers of the fast were St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, and the Office of Social Justice of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.

Those committed to fasting for the entire 10-day period were lodged at Spirit of the Lakes. In the parking lot of the church, a number of marquees were set up. Under the shade of one of these marquees, a bilingual mass was celebrated each day.

Educational materials, speakers, music, and prayer services were also offered on a regular basis to the fasters, their supporters, and to passersby, curious as to what was going on.

The organizers noted that the fast was not a protest, but the conclusion of a prayer vigil that began 30 days before the fast. The aim of both the vigil and the fast was to educate the wider community about the plight of undocumented immigrant families and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

“The purpose of the whole thing is to ask God to bless the efforts and move the hearts of American people as well as politicians to pass legislation,” Deacon Robert Wagner of St. Stephen’s told The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. One-sixth of the congregation at St. Stephen’s is Latino.

“[Our call for immigration reform] flows out of the whole Catholic social justice teaching about the dignity of the human person,” said Wagner. “I think we all forget our own roots and how our own grandparents, great-grandparents, maybe great-great-grandparents came here. We need to allow other people to have that chance, and let’s do it in such a way that we can influence people to begin to see [others] as Christ and to treat them that way.”

The next eight photographs are from last Monday’s nine-mile walk to the Capitol. Amazingly, most of those who had fasted during the previous ten days participated in this walk - one undertaken in 90-degree heat.

What was the genesis of the Fast of Faith and Hope? The Catholic Spirit reports that faster Ireneo Mojica participated in a similar fast for immigration reform eight months ago in Phoenix. When he returned to Minnesota, he brought the idea to Amigos de la Fe (Friends of Faith), a young-adult group at St. Stephen’s, where Mojica is a parishioner.

“I took part because I believe in God, and I’m always trying to find where God fits into this,” said Mojica, who immigrated from Mexico in 1984.

“As a Catholic,” Mojica added, “I feel for these people. I feel it is Christ that is being crucified through the people that are passing through [the border].”

According to the U.S. Border Patrol, more than 500 people died crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in 2005. As a way of acknowledging this tragedy, five-hundred white crosses lined the parameters of Spirit of the Lakes Church during the duration of the ten-day fast. People were encouraged to write on these crosses the names of those who have died crossing the border. The cross I carried during the walk to the Capitol, bore the name of Adolfo Mares Ruiz, who, according to, died on June 5th, 2006. He was 28-years-old.

Above and below: Upon arrival at the Minnesota Capitol, a prayer service was held on the broad steps leading up to the building’s entrance. Afterwards, several state senators and representatives joined us and voiced their support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Above and below: Later that evening, after the walk, the Fast of Faith and Hope for Immigration Reform ended with a prayer service in the parking lot of Spirit of the Lakes Church.

Above: Rev. James Pennington (left) of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, and Fr. Larry Hubbard of the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Community (which worships at Incarnation Catholic Church in South Minneapolis).

Above: At one point during the prayer service, candles and all 500 white crosses were placed together on the ground to form one large cross. In light of what each cross represented - i.e., a life lost in an attempt to cross the border - this large pile of crosses was a very poignant sight.

After the prayer service, a simple meal of soup and bread was served in the church. For many, this was their first meal in ten days.

Above: Jose Valencia (at left in striped shirt) celebrates with others the conclusion of the ten-day fast - Monday, May 14, 2007.

Valencia had earlier told The Catholic Spirit that his Catholic faith had motivated him to participate in the fast.

“We are empowered by our faith and united in our dream for true equality here in America,” he said. “We hope this spiritual passage will help bring our nation back to its core values of liberty, justice, and freedom for all.”

Above: Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates of the Archdiocese of St Paul/Minneapolis and Rev. James Pennington of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ – Monday, May 14, 2007.

Images: Michael Bayly

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
May Day 2007
Out and About – April 2007
Reflections on Babel and the “Borders Within”

Recommended Off-site Links:
“Fast for Immigration Reform Ends with Rally”
Photos of the Fast of Faith and Hope from the Office of Social Justice
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now
Justice for Immigrants: The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Saved Me

I’d like to share what could well be one of the most beautifully-crafted music videos ever made. I guess, given that it was directed by an actual filmmaker, Richard Lowenstein, it’s not that surprising. The beautiful locales and people of Sandinista-era Nicaragua also help to ensure a memorable (and moving) visual experience.

Oh, and the song’s great, too. It’s “Saved Me” by New Zealand singer/songwriter, Jenny Morris, from her acclaimed 1989 album, Shiver.


Don’t clip my eagle wings,
Don’t say a prayer.
Give me, give me, give me a chance
To kick my feet up in the air.

I can feel the freedom,
I can feel it coming . . .

For another Jenny Morris video, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Living Tree
The Beauty and Wisdom of Rosanne Cash
All at Sea
The Onward Call
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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Ascension

“Did Jesus literally ascend to heaven?”

That’s the question that Mystical Seeker explores over at his excellent blogsite, Find and Ye Shall Seek. And it’s a timely one, given that the Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension yesterday.

Following is a brief excerpt:

Logically speaking, I think it makes no sense that [the Ascension of Jesus] could have happened as described. As John Spong likes to point out, if Jesus had ascended at the speed of light, he would still be moving through space and he would not have even left our own galaxy. There is simply no way that the act of ascension would transport Jesus from earth to some heavenly realm outside of our current universe of space and time. . . Clearly the ascension story can only be appreciated for its deeper, non-literal value.

To read Mystical Seeker’s commentary and his appreciation for the Ascension’s “deeper, non-literal value” in its entirety, click here.

Image: “The Ascension of Christ” by Salvador Dali (1958).

The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”

Going through my computer files over the weekend, I came across the following from Stephanie Coontz (pictured below).

As you’ll see, this particular commentary is a very informative and level-headed look at how our understanding of marriage has changed over the centuries. What follows are excerpted highlights from this commentary - one that Coontz wrote for the Hartford Courant earlier this year. This commentary was originally entitled “‘Traditional Marriage’ Isn’t As Straightforward As All That.”

In light of my previous post on marriage, I thought it would be appropriate to share the perspective of Coontz, who teaches history at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and is the author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage (Penguin, 2005), which was selected as one of the “best books of 2005” by the Washington Post.


The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
Excerpts from “‘Traditional Marriage’ Isn’t As Straightforward As All That”
By Stephanie Coontz
Hartford Courant
March 18, 2007

. . . Claims of historical fact about marriage can be proved true or false, and three of the historical claims made by opponents of same-sex marriage in Connecticut are demonstrably untrue.

First is the claim that the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman goes back thousands of years. Second is the claim that the Judeo-Christian heritage always has seen marriage as a sacred relationship that must be defended above all others. Third is the claim that marriage has endured for thousands of years without change.

The most commonly approved form of marriage in the past (and the one mentioned most often in the first five books of the Old Testament) was polygamy – one man, many women. Some societies also countenanced polyandry – one woman married to several men. In China and parts of the Sudan, when two families wished to make an alliance but didn't have an eligible daughter or son still alive, marriages were often arranged between one child and the ghost of another. And at least one society, the Na of China, existed for thousands of years without marriage.

The Judeo-Christian tradition does not speak with one voice on marriage. Polygamy, divorce and concubines are all part of the Old Testament tradition. Jesus broke with older religious traditions in prohibiting divorce for men as well as for women. But in doing so, he also challenged the traditional right of a man to take a second wife if the first wife was sterile. Ever since, the validity of a marriage in the Western tradition has not been dependent on ability to procreate.

And despite Jesus' rejection of divorce, Christianity did not sanctify marriage. (It wasn't made a sacrament until 1215). In fact, he urged his followers to remain unmarried or leave their families to go off and spread the Christian word.

His definition of family was based not on biological or legal ties but on the community of believers. When he was dying on the cross, he did not ask a disciple to help his mother. Instead, he called a disciple forward and said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." And to the disciple, he said, "Here is your mother."

The claim that marriage existed unchanged for thousands of years is also false. Two hundred years ago, the generation that produced the Enlightenment and the American Revolution overturned thousands of years of tradition by insisting that the older generation must allow young people to choose their own mates on the basis of love rather than to further their parents' economic and political ambitions.

Even more radical and recent has been the innovation of giving wives and husbands equal rights in marriage. Until the late 19th century, a husband legally owned all his wife's property and earnings and could do with them what he pleased. He had the right to physically "correct" his wife and even imprison her in the home for disobedience.

When courts began to treat wives as separate legal entities with their own individual rights, defenders of "traditional" marriage predicted that such a radical social change would "destroy domestic tranquility" and subvert the "order of society."

Whether one is for or against legalizing same-sex marriage, we must understand that it is heterosexual couples who have been tampering with marriage for the past 200 years. Heterosexuals repealed the old laws mandating wives' subordination to husbands and prohibiting divorce. It was a lawsuit involving a heterosexual Connecticut couple that led the Supreme Court to overturn laws forbidding the sale of contraceptives, thus giving married people the right to decide not to have children.

. . . Once marriage came to be seen as an institution bringing together two individuals based on mutual affection and equality, without regard to rigidly defined gender roles or the ability to procreate, it's not surprising that gays and lesbians said, "That now describes our relationships too, so why can't we marry?" If you don't like these changes in the institution, blame your grandparents, not the gay and lesbian couples seeking entry into this new model of marriage.

Stephanie Coontz teaches history at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. She wrote this column for the Hartford Courant.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

For more articles by Stephanie Coontz, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Stephanie Coontz’s Official Website
Love Makes A Family

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Naming and Confronting Bigotry
The Real Gay Agenda
On Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
Gay Adoption: A Catholic Lawyer’s Perspective
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex

Friday, May 18, 2007

Naming and Confronting Bigotry

big-ot-ry - noun, stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

Jim Baron has written an insightful editorial, entitled “Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Display Bigotry,” in the May 13 edition of the Pawtucket Times. The impetus for this editorial was Baron’s witnessing of a recent Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on same-sex marriage.

Following is an excerpt from Baron’s editorial:

Bigotry is an ugly word, but we are not going to get anywhere trying to look the other way when ugliness is staring us in the face.

Anti-gay prejudice is the only reason that the law will not allow same-sex marriage. The opponents, for many of whom religion is either a reason or an excuse, don’t want to get gay cooties all over “their” sacred institution. What else does a so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – which essentially defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman – defend marriage against?

That position is childish. Not child-like, with its implication of innocence, wonder and acceptance, but childish, as in selfish, petty and small-minded.

In many ways, including its connection to religion, the gay marriage issue is like the abortion debate – there is no room for compromise. No middle ground. Just about everybody’s mind is made up, and those opinions are polarized. Unless you are the guy who stands up and says, “how about civil unions?” In which case you get the hairy eyeball from BOTH sides.

Gays resent civil union because it is half-a-civil-rights-loaf. It still makes them “other” and “less than,” even though to a smaller degree. And it will not effectively confer many of the rights and privileges of marriage, particularly on the federal level, that they are looking for and deserve. The opponents, on the other hand, don’t want it “because...because...well, because they’re a bunch of queers. That’s why, dammit.”

I don’t want to imply that religion equates with anti-gay bigotry. To the contrary, there were several clergymen, some wearing clerical garb, testifying in favor of the same-sex marriage bill. One provided a list of approximately 100 clergy from churches all over the state endorsing the bill.

As several of the witnesses – including one of the clergymen – noted, much of the opposition is generated by the Roman Catholic Church. Although to be fair, in previous years I remember preachers from fundamentalist Baptist congregations speaking against it as well.

. . . Many people, including some of the opponents of gay marriage, do not begrudge same-sex couples togetherness, or even basic rights as making medical decisions, being considered next-of-kin, and sharing health care, Social Security and other benefits. It is just the word marriage – and all the traditional and religious baggage that accompanies it – that sticks in their craw.

They probably don’t recognize that as bigotry, but that is what it is. And as soon as we get past that, we’re going to wonder what all the arguing was about.

To read Jim Baron’s editorial in its entirety, click here.

Closer to Home

Throughout 2005-2006 there was a concerted effort here in Minnesota to pass a constitutional amendment banning “gay marriage and all legal equivalents.” Thankfully it
failed, but as with the current situation in Rhode Island (as reported by Jim Baron above), this bigoted effort in Minnesota was also actively endorsed and encouraged by powerful representatives of the Catholic Church.

For instance, in the fall of 2005, Archbishop Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, sent out a letter to all priests within the archdiocese, encouraging them to not only support the proposed “marriage amendment,” but to attend the “Pastors Summit” – an event planned and hosted by fundamentalist Christians opposed to gay marriage. Adversity certainly can make for strange bedfellows!

Many Catholics were dismayed by this development. One group, Catholic Rainbow Parents, wrote and sent its own letter to the priests of the archdiocese.

Following is the text of this letter, one that serves as a powerful testimony of faith and an insightful historical document in the ongoing struggle for GLBT equality.

We are Catholic parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) children writing to you to express our concern and deep disappointment with Archbishop Flynn’s decision to actively endorse the Pastors’ Summit scheduled to take place November 10 at Grace Church, Eden Prairie. This summit aims to help pastors mobilize their congregations in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban all forms of legally recognized unions of same-gender couples.

The goals of this summit thus reach far beyond the parameters of sacramental marriage. They seek to deprive an entire class of human beings their equal rights to civil marriage. We think it’s important to clarify that the Church itself distinguishes between sacramental marriage (or matrimony) and civil marriage. The Church, for instance, never uses the term “Holy Marriage,” but rather “Holy Matrimony,” and when the Church does talk about the “sanctity of marriage,” it is referring to the religious or sacramental aspect of matrimony, not the civil aspect of marriage.

Furthermore, the proposed marriage amendment endorsed by the summit is not really about protecting sacramental marriage – which owing to the separation of church and state, needs no protection; it is about discriminating against families. If passed, it would deny same-gender couples and their families the 1138 protections afforded to families headed by mixed-gender couples. If passed, this amendment would mark the first time in history that the Minnesota Constitution would be amended to enshrine discrimination, rather than extend rights to people.

Does the Church lobby against civil marriage for divorced couples? Of course not. Neither should the Church lobby against civil unions for same-gender couples.

Try to imagine our frustration and anger as we watch our Catholic pastoral leaders support efforts that have been well-funded and orchestrated by Christian fundamentalists to stereotype our children and deny their rights. The instigators behind this anti-gay movement base their views on GLBT people and their relationships on outdated, misleading, and incorrect pseudo-scientific findings. Such findings have been widely debunked by the vast majority of well-respected associations of social scientists and medical health professionals.

Further, we ask you as well trained pastoral professionals, to consider the backgrounds and credentials of the primary sponsors of this upcoming summit. With the exception of our archbishop and a few priests whom you all know, the endorsers of this event are primarily leaders of fundamentalist evangelical churches that do not represent mainline religious congregations. Would you spend even one minute listening to these fundamentalist preachers teach you about scriptural interpretation or about the need to be “born again” to achieve salvation? Should we as Catholics now look to them for spiritual guidance regarding other issues?

The first group among the signers of this event’s invitation is the Minnesota Family Council, which for 20 years was known as the fundamentalist-driven Berean League. Back then, with more overt hostility and anti-Christian slogans, their volunteers worked as feverishly as they are now working under their more politically palatable facade to lobby the Minnesota Legislature to vote against all human rights for GLBT persons in the state. Finally, in 1993, with support from the bishops of the state of Minnesota, the legislature amended the Human Rights Act to protect all people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As Catholic parents, we can no longer stand by and watch as our Church leaders feign ecumenical interests while openly working to disparage our children and to deny their rights in the name of God and Jesus – the same Jesus who demanded that we love God and each other as God loves us.

Some of you have already decided not to participate in this summit and for this we applaud your conviction. To the rest, we ask that you refuse to go or if you feel you must be there, to please break the conspiracy of silence that endorses discrimination in the name of religion.

Enclosed is a copy of our group’s Declaration about our children, which almost 100 parents from across the US and the world have endorsed and which we have recently sent to the Vatican and to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Who knows what role the Catholic Rainbow Parents’ letter played, but very few Catholic priests ended up actually attending the Pastors Summit. A few even joined with Catholic Rainbow Parents, CPCSM, Dignity/Twin Cities, SoulForce, and others to protest outside the summit and to rally for equal civil marriage rights.

Above: Michael Bayly (executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities) and Randi Reitan (of SoulForce Minnesota) at the November 10, 2005 rally to support equal civil marriage rights for all Minnesotans.

Image 1:
Image 2: MSNBC
Image 3: H&F
Image 4: Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
Image 5: Beyond Church Street
Image 6: Catholic Church vs. Gays
Image 7: David McCaffrey

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Real Gay Agenda
Voices of Parental Authority and Wisdom
OutFront Minnesota’s 2007 Lobby Day
The Bishop’s “Guidelines”: A Parent’s Response
Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
Good News from Minnesota
On Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
The Bible and Homosexuality
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
Gay Adoption: A Catholic Lawyer’s Perspective
Making Sure All Families Matter
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex