Saturday, April 13, 2019

Not too tidy: joy and holiness


As Holy Week commences, I offer my latest column for the Global Sisters Report, a meditation on the sacred spaces of our lives and the way we carry sacred space within us.  As a dear friend once told me: "hold the sacred space and it will hold you."  I pray in these holy days that you may be blessed to encounter the Holy and to find shelter in the sacred spaces that emerge.
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Besides a trailer for the Netflix series "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo," I haven't seen much of its content, yet the question central to Kondo's philosophy of decluttering has somehow made its way into my life. The past few weeks, as Lent has come to a close and Easter quickly approaches, a question has kept surfacing in real and surreal ways in my life: What sparks joy?

I happened upon the question quite by accident. At first, people would dramatically hold up objects in the midst of everyday situations and jokingly ask me, "Does this spark joy?" Then news articles began to surface in my social media feeds, followed by think pieces about why people were so captivated by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, author and, now, television personality. Soon, I began to look around me and echo the question central to her philosophy; somehow, even though I hadn't watched the show, it was having an influence on me.

As that question — Does it spark joy? — surfaced time and again, I began to look at what objects line my walls. Glancing around the spaces of my life — my bedroom, my office, my community — I recognized the glimmers of joy surrounding me. I saw the many markers of where I've been: objects that signify moments on my journey, totems of people and places that hold significance in my life, and souvenirs of lessons and ideals that have become part of the very marrow of my being.

There were crosses from my travels and homemade prints, family photos and gifts from friends. Joy is only part of why I keep these things around. I keep these items because they are place holders. They are reminders of the gifts of being alive, the lessons of experience, and the palpable presence of the sacred in very specific moments of my life.

We hold onto objects like this because in a way they hold sacred space for us. We need them because, beyond joy, they spark a remembrance in us of what is most holy and significant. There is no need to tidy up these moments. We hold them and they hold us and in moments when light seems dim, they spark something deep within, reminding us what the light is that we've experienced and we are meant to bear.

By acknowledging that significance, we can identify that light (and bear it to the world). And when we do that, we don't need any objects. Instead, we become the sacred spaces — living, moving, and breathing — that once captivated us.

The sacred spaces of our lives, after all, are spaces that have always just been waiting for us to enter. It is not our presence that sanctifies them. Each moment is holy. Our recognition of the Sacred in our midst, though, opens up a space to receive the sacred deep within us. This openness makes us a vessel, a means of carrying the holy far beyond a singular moment. If we are aware enough, that is to say attentive enough to grace, we can engrain the sacred moments and spaces of our lives into our very beings, revealing them in who we are and how we are in the world, becoming purveyors of sacred space in our everyday lives, peddling God's grace in the many spaces we are blessed to inhabit.

As L. William Countryman writes in his book Living on the Border of the Holy:

It can be helpful to imagine our human encounter with the Holy as life in a border country. It is a country in which, at privileged moments of access, we find ourselves looking over from the everyday world into another, into a world that undergirds the everyday world, limits it, defines it, gives it coherence and meaning, drives it. Yet this hidden world is not another world, but the familiar world discovered afresh.

The world we live in is filled with holiness. The discovery of the sacred in the mundane fills us with amazement, and as Countryman continues, "In the long run we find that the border country is in fact the place we have always lived, but it is seen in a new and clearer light."

Our call is to dare to cross that border and establish connection not only for our life, but for the life of the world. More often than not, this requires our branching out beyond our own boundaries, our sharing of the sacred by revealing the stories of the objects we carry with us and also being willing to hear the stories others have to offer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks directly to this point. "The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them," he declares. "Just as our love for God begins with listening to God's Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. God's love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives God's Word but also lends us God's ear."

With God's ears we learn to listen in a new way; we develop a manner of listening to and from the heart. The to and fro of this listening is a bridge that connects us, a pathway for the Sacred to make connection and to take up residence in yet another personified place. I can only imagine the joy such connection sparks in the heart of God.

With such joy comes the invitation to not just hold on to what has been but to once again encounter the Holy in the here and now. Holding firm to such experiences and the receptivity they nurture in us, we are able to both hold sacred space for others and be held in the sacred space God calls us to dwell in.

As Lent comes to a close and Easter approaches, we bear witness to the hopeful work of this season, work of renewing and refining our lives enough to better hold the Holy. We can tidy all we want but...Continue the piece here

Friday, March 1, 2019

A season of renewal, recovery, discovery


Lent presents us with an opportunity to undertake a journey of discovery and renewal. Below is my latest column from Global Sisters Report exploring the invitation of the season and all it has to offer us. Blessings on these Lenten days!

February snow has not kept the signs of spring from coming. The daffodils are slowly pushing up through the hard ground outside my windows, glimmers of green despite cold winds and streaks of snow. It's hard to believe it's time for flowers, Ash Wednesday is around the corner and the dreariness of winter still seems to be holding court. This year, Lent is late — a conundrum of the calendar, perfectly suited to the times we're living in.

Seeming streams of scandal both in the church and the world desensitize our spirits. Like a long winter, days like these create grounds for despair and fodder for desolation. It would seem that the deep purple tones of the Lenten season, with its themes of repentance, abstinence and humility, would be the last thing we need right now. It would be easier to skim the surface or avoid it all together. So, why go deeper?

We go deeper because we must. This season is as much about repentance as it is about renewal. In fact, maybe Lent is more about light than darkness, about lightening our load and reprioritizing our lives. Lent is about being real. And perhaps, that is exactly where we need to be.

The seasons are changing; the days are getting longer. Light is returning. And in the midst of painful revelations in the church and ongoing scandal in the world, Lent invites us into a time of discovery and recovery. This is a time for renewal of faith.

These forty days of wandering, of being proved, of finding strength, and of bolstering faith are exactly what we need right now. From ashes and fasting to almsgiving and prayer, the spiritual deepening and awareness offered by the Lenten season invite us to a place of renewal, a place that, if we are honest, it wouldn't hurt to spend some time in, individually and collectively these days.

You are Dust.

The words we hear as we begin the season of Lent might easily be taken as a signal of the bleak landscape that awaits us: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."

We are dust. We were born and we will die. The life we live in between these two moments is God's gift to us. Recognizing our humble beginnings and our mortality is part of embracing the Lenten call to renewal.

When we remember that we are beloved creations of God, we can embrace ourselves, others and all of creation with the wonder that befits such divine design. The same dust we are made of makes up the ones we look down upon, those we judge, and those who frustrate us, as well as those who bring us joy. We are united in our creation. Seeing the world this way, how could we ever tolerate or turn a blind eye to injustice? You are dust and I am dust and we are dust together.

From such dust comes new life. Like fields that lie fallow, the dust of our being is never wasted. The seeds of faith are planted in the dust of our humanity. Lent invites us to acknowledge our humanity, where we've fallen short and how reliant we are on God. When we can do this, faith has space to grow and blossom. By honestly embracing our humanity and using the days of Lent to recommit to following Christ, we are renewed, becoming ever more mindful of how God is working in our lives and calling us to repent and live lives that reflect a belief in the Good News.

Full engagement in the renewal Lent calls forth is about examining and recommitting to the practices that ground our faith and remind us who we are and who we're called to be. Traditionally, this has led people to focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving in an intentional way during Lent. Most often this entails giving something up or taking on a practice in each realm. This year, though, I wonder if we might not be better served by considering how these practices can not only focus us but can transform us if we lean into the truth that underpins our practice.

Our prayer, for instance, is an opportunity to grow closer to God; we might choose to prayerfully consider our shortcomings, to look at our role in racial inequality, or to share with God the wounds of our hearts. Wherever our prayer leads us and whatever we reflect on, we must remember the essential aim of our prayer: our relationship with God incarnate in Jesus Christ.

This is the God we journey with this season, the one who suffers with us, and ultimately, the one who we long to know (and who longs to know us) more deeply as we travel the way towards the cross.

In the words of St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson in Creation and the Cross:

"To those who believe, the call from the depths of their relationship with God is to bend every effort to stand with God in solidarity with those who suffer; to right wrongs, counter injustice, relieve the pain, and create situations where life can flourish."

Indeed, it is our practice and our deepening relationship with God, especially during Lent, that directs us to such renewal in our lives and for the life of the world.

Bending our every effort, through practices such as fasting, we recognize our dependence on God. By going without, we discover the truth of where/who our strength comes from. We also come to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have no choice but to live simply. Our fasting is voluntary, theirs is not. By recognizing that, we are renewed in our sense of mission to be one with all people and to work so all are provided for.

This renewed sense of unity and call to action is reflected in the giving called forth in us during Lent. We give freely and fully, modeling our sharing and sacrifice on Jesus' own. Doing this intentionally during Lent bolsters our relationship with God and neighbor far beyond this one season.

In giving with intention, we renew and revitalize our call to compassion. Our giving may include material goods, but to deepen our sense of renewal this season it might serve us well to give of time and presence — to hear someone else's hurt, to relate deeply with another's confusion, or to provide loving presence that moves our giving beyond charity to true relationship. 

When we're able to do this, Johnson points out, "Then a resurrecting word can gain a foothold in this fractured world."

The active choice to seek renewal in Lent is a choice to embrace the Good News of Christ and all that comes with it. As theologian David Tracy writes, "Cross and resurrection live together or not at all." The connection between these two is part of our journey to renewal in Lent. We know that the Lenten journey will lead us to the cross, and we are so compelled by the God who calls us to stand for the Good News that we can't avoid it. But the journey doesn't end at the cross. We must never forget that the cross is inextricably linked with the resurrection. This is the promise of faith, the promise of new life in and with God. On dark days, this is a good reminder.

The work of renewal is deeply personal and profoundly prophetic. New life is brimming but we must create conditions for it to spring forth. That process looks a lot like dying — to self, to shortcomings, to misguided intentions and to sinful institutional action.

By renewing our commitment to Christ this Lenten season, we offer ourselves to the mercy of the journey...Continue the piece here

Friday, January 11, 2019

Poem: The Promise of Darkening Dust


The Promise of Darkening Dust

The journey we walk is long
but we must keep on walking
One foot in front of the other
From one passing moment to the next
Until we feel the dust rise
and settle on our skin
Grime that gives us a signal of movement
A hint of grace
And has us ask
What settles on our soul
when we won’t settle for less,
when we pursue truth
and stir up the well worn paths,
What rises then is what we’re meant to carry
With each new step a discovery
a gift
a movement that connects what was
to what will be
and begs for us to feel our souls
on the road
and to just keep going
no matter the dust or deterrents
to a place and a moment
full of promised hope
and enlightened love.

— Colleen Gibson

Far From Fleeting

Each New Year's, I offer a guided retreat as part of a wonderful team at Genesis Spiritual Life Center in Westfield, MA. This year, we focused on the need for light in the darkness as we enter into this new year. I adapted a portion of my talk for Global Sisters Report. Here's my latest Horizons column, "Far from Fleeting: Finding in Darkness":

In early November, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I went to visit my grandmother. Driving up her street, I stopped a few houses down from hers, put my car in park, and turned off my headlights. I gazed out my window at the most unusual sight.

The houses lining the street were illuminated — not only from within but by thousands of tiny lights outside. The whole street was glowing. Trees and bushes; front doors and gutters. I basked in the glow on a dark autumn night; my eyes transfixed by the light.

"It's too early for Christmas lights," I thought to myself. Too early, yet most welcome. After months of darkness and an unusually rainy fall, any light, especially the inexplicable, would do.

Like shepherds stunned in the field or a young Mary stopped suddenly in the everyday, I basked in the glow. God has curious means of communication.

After months of waiting on officials to grant permits for a ministry project and accompanying months of frustrated wondering why — Why here? Why now? Why me? — a moment had come on that dark street … an invitation by an unexpected route … a moment without an actual answer and yet filled with reassurance that somewhere, somehow darkness could also hold light.

Arriving at my grandmother's house, I wondered aloud with more gratitude now than grievance at the displays, "Why all the Christmas lights?"

My grandmother smiled, as grandmothers do with love and deep knowing, and responded, "It's Diwali!"

Now if you're a little sketchy in your recollection of Hindu holidays, here's a quick synopsis: Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. Simply put, it symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance."

The story varies based on where one comes, from but it has come to signify new beginnings and a welcoming of wealth and prosperity, when families use lights to drive out the darkness and open their homes to let in good fortune and new beginnings.

On my way home that night, all I could see was the beautiful glow of the lights, myself in the darkness of the night in my car. My heart's interest was piqued by the description of this time as a celebration of light overcoming darkness, good triumphing over evil, and knowledge usurping ignorance.

And now as this new year begins, I can't help but again envision that darkness and light, forces tenderly and tenuously balanced at this time of year: a darkness never dark enough to overtake the light, but also a light that is beyond our knowing.

This is a light beyond our recollection at times, the One who dwells among us — not beyond us — to whom darkness is not dark, and through whom light shines in new and wondrous ways.

Sitting in the still, silent, darkness of my car, I could see the light. From outside, we can bask in its glow and appreciate its being, whereas from within those houses what is without is lost. And thinking of this moment in our world and the darkness that returns, I recall of the words of Rilke, whose poetry returns over and over to the life that can be found in the darkness.

In his Book of Hours, Rilke proclaims the gift of the darkness, recognizing that far more is covered by darkness than light. "The dark embraces everything: shapes and shadows, creatures and me … just as they are," he writes, "It lets me imagine a great presence stirring beside me."

Darkness is a welcome companion if we greet it as such. This nighttime is not too dark if we sit with it, letting our eyes adjust and discover the outlines of grace around us. In this stillness of time, the night embraces everything; its darkness holds tight to all that we are and asks us to notice all that is and was, and to try to perceive, if we can, what could be.

In the darkness, God works. Like the Spirit over the waters of creation or the Israelites crossing the sea to freedom, the Christ child comes in the night. What stands out to me this year more than others is all those who wait in the darkness.

These are the ancillary characters of the Christmas story; those who if you asked them would tell their story with themselves at the center but who, as we read it, are the ones who point us towards the great light.

It is because they are there waiting and attentive that they are able and available to follow the light. It is the shepherds who work through the night, who cower in fear at the sight of angels calling them forth.
It is the wise men, who in order to answer the call — to do their part — must journey by starlight, must be attentive to the darkness. They must choose to feel in their souls the call of unexpected routes. They must acquiesce to the Spirit and open themselves to the promise of the unknown … a promise that is full of hope but requires great faith and will entail whatever life brings.

It is these figures who give us guidance for welcoming Christ into our lives and moving our way into the new year.

Their journeys are not without questioning — What child is this? Or without fear and trembling or threat to life and liberty. Yet they follow faithfully, they trust and put one foot in front of the other, believing that the light they've seen in darkness is a promise of more. Their waiting is not for naught; their endurance is not an exercise in futility.

They must trust the moments of light, just as we are called to do.

Bishop Mariann Budde, diocesan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., reflected in her Christmas Eve sermon this year on how God's love and light are revealed in small things and fleeting moments, the things easily missed if we aren't paying attention.

"Our God works quietly, in and through human beings, in those amazing moments when an ordinary life shines with extraordinary brightness, when our hearts are warmed by gentle gifts of forgiveness and peace," she reflected in the sermon heard at the National Cathedral by, among many others, President Donald Trump.

"This gift from God, by design, is a fleeting experience. It gives us a moment, not a lifetime, of clarity; a moment, not a lifetime, of joy or the capacity to bring joy to another. … Christ comes to change us, slowly, over time, so that we might live according to the glimpses of love we have known. The gift is no less real for its fleeting beauty, although we do have the perfect of alibi of deniability if we don't want to acknowledge the gift for what it is."

The fleeting moments of light matter as they give light and direction to our lives. Yet these moments are easily lost. Squeezed out by the crunch of time or dismissed in the shadow of doubt or inconvenience, these moments beckon us to hold tight to the truth that underlies them.

For a split second, heaven touches earth. Clarity is amplified, and in the very next moment a question arises: Will we carry that momentarily timeless light into the expansive darkness that surrounds us? Will we live as if we've basked in the Christ-light, or not?

That it seems is the question we bear as take stock of the epiphany moments of our lives.

It's those moments that shine light into the darkness. And it is the people and situations in our lives that offer the such light — fleeting though it may be — who light the pathway before us.

We reflect the light of those who have shown us the way. And it is by their example and sheer grace that we walk in faith through the darkness, bearers of the light in unbearable times as poet Jan Richardson writes.

That is the moment we find ourselves in now. Now more than ever, we must cherish and lift up the moments that direct us for miles beyond their shining. We must fortify the space within where we hold their truth so that no amount of fear, doubt or complacency can dull their memory or potency... Continue reading here

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Poem: The Soul that Moves Our Feet

The melody lies in the space between the notes
the silent gap filled with waiting 
testing the senses
like a touch never forgotten
Held in the memory of flesh
We drag our humanity across one another
leaving prints only later uncovered
Distinctive marks of mercy
Intimate movements of grace
the divine that makes us quiver
the soul that moves our feet
With each movement I gasp
Is this what it's like to breath
or is this just the stuff of life?
Maybe they are one in the same
Life + Death
Song + Silence
the desire made real in each moment of suffering and joy
all joined in the radical reality of a God made real.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Humility: A response to troubled times

The last few weeks and months have been filled with news that is divisive and destructive to hope in our world. In response to the current state of affairs, I chose to use my latest column for the Global Sisters Report as an opportunity to meditate on the virtue of humility and the grace that it has to offer at this time in our lives and the life of our world. Enjoy!

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A coworker calls to me from her computer, her head already shaking back and forth, "Did you hear?" Whether I've heard or not, I'm not sure I want to know. The news, it seems, isn't all that good recently. I find myself shaking my head before she's done delivering whatever news has broken. It's better to know than not to know, I tell myself, holding whatever the breaking news of the day is and praying for our broken world as I take it in.
The news these past few months has been troubling to say the least. Institutions that should instill trust have instead betrayed it. Each new headline brings with it a flurry of emotions. In the church, new revelations of wide-spread and institutionally covered-up sexual abuse against minors has shaken the faith of Catholics in the United States and beyond. News of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuses of power and those put under his charge brought with it a new round of questioning the power structures within the church. Meanwhile, in society, the #MeToo movement has revealed sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace and on a larger scale. Within government, a number of scandals have broken, the most vulnerable of society have been compromised, and powerful people have been called to answer for their misdeeds.
Troubling times call for drastic measures. What response could measure up to the needs of these times? What could conjure up hope or bolster a community, country and church in anguish? It might seem foolish, but in this muddled moment, a moment in need of greatness and fortitude, perhaps part of the key to moving forward is an apparent opposite: humility.
This virtue in its truest form might be exactly what these troubled times are calling for. The essence of humility is this: to know yourself as you truly are, your gifts and struggles; to acknowledge that you are small in the grand scheme of things, but even in your smallness you are created and beloved by God. It means having a realistic self-image and as a result, a grasp on the reality of the world around you.
Contrary to popular belief, the exercise of humility is not to cower in the face of compliments but to honestly assess one's own being. A humble heart holds the truth of both its giftedness and its neediness, as well as that of the world. The word humility derives from the Latin word humus meaning "earth." And so, to live humbly is to literally be "of the earth." Thus, true humility is to be in touch with the ground of our being, the very dust that we are made of and the dirt of life.
In this moment in history, the dirt is overwhelming. Simply engaging the brokenness of life will make us feel small. The choice we have is to embrace the humility conjured up at this moment and to boldly stand as people without the answers, people hurting and confused, imperfect people trying to make a way for faith and hope to prevail.
The temptation of our times is to embrace an illusion of ourselves and a false sense of control — to curate the self we share with the world and to choose to hear only the news, voices and perspectives we want to hear. Humility, in contrast, grants us the ability to see ourselves as we truly are. In true humility, we can acknowledge our gifts and also recognize our shortcomings. With humble hearts, we engage the world around us, choosing not to shy away from what is troubling but to claim our place in it all, even if only as witnesses to the realities of this day and age. To do otherwise would be to avoid reality, to sugarcoat the bitter pill and to claim to be "other than" rather than "one with" the reality of what is.
Famously, Lilla Watson, activist, academic, artist and indigenous Australian, said, "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." If we can humble ourselves enough to recognize that we do not have all the answers and may in fact benefit and learn more from sharing and growing in relationship, then we open ourselves to the possibility of finding light in the darkness and emerging with a sense of solidarity and triumphant hope. That's not to say that the troubling times won't continue, but it is a call to foster hope even in the most troubling and disturbing of times.
Together, we don't have to go it alone; imperfect, we don't have to (and see we can't) solve the world's problems on our own but instead we commit to the steady, if slow, work of change through the work of awareness and action.
Humility is grounded in awareness and action. Aware that we are human, full of foibles, we are humbled. Our lives are based in such self-discovery as we continue to grow in knowledge of ourselves. As Christians, we are constantly reminded of our humble being and the humility our faith requires. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," Jesus preaches in the Sermon on the Mount. Meekness, the gentle and loving nature of those who truly know themselves in relationship to God and others, is the condition for taking on the troubled times of our world.
Aware of the many problems in our world — the pressing needs and tragedies of our society, government, and church — we can feel powerless and defeated. A heart can only hold so much. The primal instinct in this moment is to shut down and tune out the world around us. Complacency and apathy draw near awaiting the opportunity to settle into our souls. This is when action, no matter what size or to what extent, is so important.
Meekness is not the same as weakness. It requires a strong faith and stalwart character. To become and remain aware in this day and age can be exhausting. In the face of such a challenge, it is the humble of heart who live lives alert to reality.
By acting on what we are aware is in disarray, even if the action is simply to engage in dialogue with someone else in the midst of confusion, frustration, sadness or weariness, we continue to engage in a real way and remain humble in doing so. Choosing to remain active and engaged grounds us; we remain open to learning and growing and, in the process, allow our horizons to expand rather than being confined by — what can seem like — perpetually bad news.
Humility gives us an opportunity to hold the reality of what is without having to make excuses or provide solutions. In that space, we are on the ground floor of what is...Continue Reading Here

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

As We Celebrate, We Create Communion

Oh how the summer flies!  With retreat and the work of getting a new ministry up and running in Camden, NJ, I have been remiss in posting here. Since my last post, I found out that I (as part of a wonderful group of writers from the National Catholic Reporter) won a Catholic Press Award for the 'Young Voices' Blog. To learn more, see the announcement sent out by the U.S. Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph

And now, without further ado, my latest column from the Global Sisters Report... Enjoy!
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This time last year, I found myself standing in the empty living room of the tiny three-bedroom house I would soon call home. Devoid of any furnishings except a few discarded boxes of junk previous tenants left in the basement, the house was a blank slate, the first step in a new mission another sister and I had been tasked with undertaking. The larger task at hand was to open a neighborhood center in Camden, New Jersey, but in that moment, finding furniture to fill our local community seemed like as much as we could handle.

In the days and weeks ahead, we would scavenge closing convents and generous donors' homes for spare pieces of furniture to make our house a home. Within a few months, the living room I had stood in in the stifling summer heat thinking it might fit a small couch and possibly a chair was filled with the hustle and bustle of our first open house.

Everyone who came had a part to play in the community taking shape. One sister marveled at the way the rugs from a dear friend's old cabin miraculously matched everything else, while a former colleague smiled when he saw that the oak chest his father had built now acted as our coat closet. Our next-door neighbor, an older woman from Greece, marveled at the inside of the house, which in her 30 years in the neighborhood she said she'd never seen so clean.

From near and far, people gathered to celebrate this new beginning, not just for my local community or the neighborhood center, but for all of us: a community bound by much more than furnishings and well-wishes, a community bound by connection and rooted in communion.

As the sisters, friends and neighbors departed that night, the same sentiment was repeated time and again: "It was so good to be together, so very nice to celebrate like we used to!"

Celebration, it seemed, by and large had become a thing of the past. The implication was that we used to do this, but somewhere along the line, life butted in, and celebration, the joy of being together for the sole purpose of shared enjoyment, seemed to have slipped from our grasp. Sure, there were big community events like chapters and assemblies, milestones like jubilees, and generational gatherings and reunions, but these were exceptions rather than the norm.

As our living room emptied out that evening, there seemed to be a larger void that needed to be filled. The power of communion, after all, lies in the ability to gather people together in love. That requires intention and attention. We must be intentional in making a point of coming together, giving special attention to the purpose of our gathering and the aim of inclusion. This allows us to create space for relationship, space where we can come to know the other, celebrate one another and learn, with joy and humility, that there is always room for growth and development in our relationships, to discover newness in our midst.

Over the coming months, we began welcoming more people into our home and our new venture in communion. First, there were sisters living near us whom we wanted to get to know better. Then there was the community of neighbors in Camden with whom we began to develop relationships as we ministered with and among them. And then there were the neighbors we encountered each and every day in our local parish and beyond.

In each of these settings, communion looked different. Yet the call remained the same: to celebrate what drew us together and the gift relationship brings as we develop and/or renew relationships over time.

Together, we found cause for celebration. Sharing simple meals and finding space for prayer and fellowship across denominational, racial, socioeconomic and ethnic lines helped us celebrate the gift of being together and being one, despite our differences — or, perhaps, in the light of embracing our difference. We learned more about those we thought we knew, and in sharing new experiences, we garnered the power of communion and all the hope and joy it brings with it.

This idea of the power of communion is nothing new. Even as I write this, I've thought to myself that things like celebration and communion aren't serious enough to warrant putting pen to paper. It's easy to think that. With all that is wrong in the world, with sexual abuse and misconduct, with racism and gun violence, with natural disasters and civil discord, what difference do a few open houses and a little mission have to make in the world?

The temptation is to write off goodness and grace in the face of dysfunction and discord. That, though, is when the power of communion, the presence of love, and the critical work of celebration are most needed. Truth, no matter how simple it seems, shines brightest in the darkness. Holding space for communion and celebration then becomes essential because it is in the space of those two things that hope flourishes and love holds firm.

It is the persistent and faithful flourishing of hope that causes us to say, not out of manners or perfunctory habit, but out of genuine desire and intention, "We must do this again!" We know in those moments we are better because we have been together. We know we call out the best in one another and, as a result, we long to revive and stoke the fires of hope we spark within each other's being when we're together. These then become the moments that shine through in the lives we live even when we are apart.
Just as our little house had overflowed with love after that first open house, communion has continued to take shape through grace-filled crafting over the last year. When the work of bringing the Gospel call to life is tedious and trying, bearing few concrete products, it is the relational results of ministry that inspire hope...Read the rest of the article here