Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter 12/23/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
December 23, 2007

A Christmas Sermon (with comments)
He brought light out of darknesse, not out of a lesser light; he can bring thy Summer out of Winter, though thou have no Spring; though in the wayes of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclypsed, damped and benummed, smothered and stupefied till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the Sun at noon to illustrate all shadowes, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries, all occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons.
from a sermon of John Donne (Poet and Anglican priest), preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Christmas Day, 1624.

“This [post] raises another question for me: How many of us, in church, have ever heard a sermon that is a poem? (I don’t mean quotes from Hallmark or “Footprints.”) I’m not that fond of Donne, but I do wish we had more poetry in our preaching, more sensitivity to the beauty of words, better craftsmanship in use of their rhythms, and attention to how they fall on the ear.”
from Rita Ferrone, dotCommonweal, 12/22/07

“No, I have never heard a Catholic priest make up a poem for a sermon, recite a poem for a sermon, or refer to literature in any way. References to non-Catholic traditions seem mostly limited to football. Ouch! I’m such a grouch today; I’ve now begun to annoy myself.”
from Jean Raber, dotCommonweal, 12/22/07

A Christmas Poem
Christ climbed down

from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree

this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again

where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings
from Christ Climbed Down, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, ca. 1955

The Dynamics of Reform
“Some people argue that we’re going to sit at a table with these people and they’re going to voluntarily give their power away. I think it is a complete fantasy; it will never happen.”
Presidential candidate, John Edwards (in reference to reforming health care)

Those who care about and are working for reform in the Catholic Church would do well to keep John Edwards’ comment in mind. The Church is a human institution, and those in authority who view that as the same as having power will never voluntarily give away what they perceive is their power. Real change can never be completely amicable. “Do you think I came to establish peace…? No, rather division….I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.”

John Edwards is talking about insurance companies, drug companies, etc. Who are those that instead of exercising authority in the Church, instead wield power? To reform the Church, the very notion of what the Church is must be re-thought so that conversations around a table will not have to be about power at all.

False Certainty
“I know what you mean about being repulsed by the church when you have only the Mechanical-Jansenist Catholic to judge it by. I think that the reason such Catholics are so repulsive is that they don’t really have faith but a kind of false certainty. They operate by the slide rule and the Church for them is not the body of Christ but the poor man’s insurance system. It’s never hard for them to believe because actually they never think about it. Faith has to take in all the other possibilities it can.” Flannery O’Connor in a letter to a friend, in the collection, The Habit of Being (1979)

Chain of Sorrow
You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,
Throw your hands in the air, say “What does it matter?”
But it don't do no good to get angry, so help me I know.
For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there wrapped up in a trap of your very own chain of sorrow.
from Bruised Orange, John Prine

This is the first Christmas away from Holy Spirit in a very long time and I find myself thinking about how that makes me feel. Angry? Bitter? Sorrowful? All of those, to some extent, but none with the sharp edge of even a few months ago—I won’t be my own prisoner.

Those responsible for the dismantling of the Parish, the Bishop and the Monsignor, have much to account for, and believing as I do in “what goes around, comes around,” I am certain there will be some justice, some day, for this community. But bruises heal, at least somewhat, and new Christmases bring new kinds of Christmases. No chain of sorrow, not anymore—Merry Christmas to the Holy Spirit community, especially those in exile.
from a parishioner, Jerry Brazier

Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at


Anonymous said...

Thank you to Jerry for the gift of our newsletter. A special thank you for his dedication and for not becoming too exasperated when I miss a deadline - again. Getting ready for Christmas Mass also brought a mix of thoughts and emotions: not exactly sure where to go to Mass, enjoying the all out enthusiasm of a children's choir, all the joys of sharing the past few days with people I treasure, the jumble of emotions that family brings, and the quiet moment of knowing that in spite of everything - we are so very blessed. After a little reflection I realize that this is the manger. Confusion and trying to find a place in the world, a place for a child to be born and to find some rest. The joys and pain involved in birth and becoming family, and the wonder of strangers coming to offer help and celebrate the arrival of the newborn Jesus. And the quiet moment of holding the child and knowing that although nothing else will ever be the same again, we are so very blessed. "Emmanuel" - God is with us, coming through our humanity, our own mangers. "Emmanuel" - God is with us, come to make sure we will never be the same again and to assure us that we are so very blessed.
Michelle Pena

Anonymous said...

There is no chain of sorrow for Holy Spirit parishioners in exile. The Holy Spirit has continued to guide this community, and we are stronger than ever--fortified by our faith, our love and our commitment to gospel-based actions for peace and justice.

Thanks for the newsletter and the blog! We appreciate them!

Anonymous said...

Well you know what Mr. Gerry, things change and change is sometimes for the best. Why do you call yourself a parishioner when you are not? I am glad you found solace and comfort somewhere else, because that is what we found at HS without the gang around. Christmas was peaceful and enjoyable for once at HS.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps what "went around"...
"came around"! What you mourn is not loss of parish, but loss of POWER and power base. A parish does not belong to any group, but is Gods family. Think about how you treat God's family and those He has called to be shepherds. They are men, not perfect, but truly called by God for certain roles. What excuse will you give for the relentless criticism of His chosen shepherds that seems to be so quickly justified. Certainly they each will stand before God, but so will you...... Do you contact the media when you have a disagreement in your families?? Your disputes have not appeared in the letters or on the front page!
The countdown is offensive. Carrying all that grude must be like a huge bag of rocks that you haul everywhere you go. What a waste of a precious life and the time you have.
A late Merry Christmas and peace to men of good will and here's hoping your new year brings peace of heart for each of you.

Anonymous said...

It was so weird to go to Holy Spirit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent and hear Christmas music. I was told the pastor was concerned that there was "little spirit" in the assembly and that singing Christmas carols, albeit two weeks early, might help. [Kind of like singing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" on the 5th Sunday of Lent.] I will not comment on the "little spirit" in the community. But, making such choices is what happens when people who are "in power" do not have the necessary background to make the right choices! They may have beautiful voices, but onviously they do not have a clue about Catholic liturgical principles regarding music.
Yesterday I enjoyed listening on PBS the newly ordained Fr. Greg Labus discuss with infamous Brenda Nettles-Garcia the focus of Christmas. He said that everything comes back to the salvific act of the cross. Too bad our Pastor didn't get the connection between the wood of the manger and the wood of the cross. Oh well.. that's why at Holy Spirit Parish a birthday cake and presents were presented to the manger scene at the midnight Mass~God forbid that an adult Christ be put into Christmas and people were asked to sing "Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus". Maybe our pastor needs to meet with his friend, Fr. Greg, for some theology classes!
And, this is not intended to be said in a mean spirit. It is to be said in a spirit of criticism. And, if we cannot criticize our leaders,JEB, how can we call them to accountability? We tried arranging meetings with the pastor and the bishop to no avail, that's when we went to the paper. And, not to do that would continue to have the elephant in the church with no one wanting to admit that there is one~ it is called dysfunction. And, when a person is in such a public position of leadership like Pastor or Bishop, whether in the church or elsewhere, they are subject to public scrutiny. Look at Bill Clinton's sinfulness aired all over the papers, tv, and courts. Even in Canon Law that is the role of the Chancellor~he is to be of impeccable moral standards to keep the Bishop honest! We continue to persist in our dysfunctionality... I could not believe that our deacons went to Rome and met with Cardinal Law, a person who should be in prison for what he allowed to happen. I am sure that was not the topic of the meeting.
Perhaps the deacons should get in touch with their first charism of service and charity. How many of them are working on projects with the poor in the colonias? They could get a good educational experience right here in the Valley that would have cost nothing and would have educated them on their primary charism. How does traveling to Rome assist them in their role of charity or their liturgical role?
And, yes, Michelle, I agree. This is the manger. Jesus is the bread of life for us, lying in the manger. We have been through the pains of labor, we are now enjoying the Prince of Peace... and honesty... and truth.-AWC

Former Supporter said...

Well said, AWC, you almost convince me to become a supporter once more! Truth be told, not everyone in power is competent or qualified to lead and not everyone who claims to have been called by God was, I guess the fourth anonymous poster is correct in that regard: we will each give an account of our actions before the throne of God, and not all "shepherds" will receive a shepherd's reward, but a mercenary's pay for abandoning the flock when the going got tough. It works both ways, this self righteous crap is for the birds, so anonymous, get off your high horse and quit wishing peace on earth if you aren't sincere about it.
I remember when the clergy sex scandal made headlines and the man designated by the diocese compared the statistical data for incidence of abuse among professions: teachers, doctors, priests, etc. It seems that, statistically, the incidence of sexual abuse by priests was low compared to other professions, so it is okay to make them out to be just like everyone else. At other times, they are to be treated as loftier, holier, better, because they were called by God? Weren't we all called by God? I realize and support the distinction between laity and ordained and I do not mean to obscure the lines so in that respect I differ from what most supporters of this blog stand for, but I agree that the priesthood is a sacrament of service and it seems more and more of these men came to be served instead of to serve others for love of Christ.
As for the deacon candidates and their romp through Rome, you should see some of the candidates and know a bit about them. Truly, it seems that parishes were desperate to send someone into the program. I am not speaking in general, but some are so out of touch with the Catholic faith that it is astounding how we continue to bury our head in the sand and let the unfit take charge of our communities of faith. Indeed, God help us all to be the Church He intended, not the one we have fabricated for the convenience of a pampered few and the detriment of so many souls lost to cults or religious indifference.

Anonymous said...

Well, "former supporter," first, I appreciate your comments, although we are beyond looking for support. From the beginning of this struggle we have made it clear, and believe me we have had to remind ourselves often, that our struggle is not about us but about being faithful to the gospel and speaking the truth to power. You and I don't have to agree on everything, and in fact, I myself certainly see the distinction between the ordained and non-ordained, but support collaborative ministry and allowing people of all genders to respond to God's call to serve, whether through ordination or not.
It is a shame as you point out, hat most of the deacon candidates, and that is most, not all, have not had a long history of service in their community. You bring up some very good points. Thanks!
I was reminded by a friend of another historical moment at Holy Spirit Parish: for the first time since it was formed in May of 1981 Christmas day masses had NO music. NO MUSIC! No music on Christmas Day. That is truly sad. I keep looking forward to the day that the Pastor welcomes back Ed and the rest of us will follow for music ministry. I look forward to the day that the Pastor calls me to provide music for any funeral of a parishioner, which when I quit I wrote him in my letter of resignation that I was willing to do pro bono. I just have never, ever, in my 61 years of memory, attended Mass on Christmas Day where there was no music. That is really, really sad. How much are they willing to sacrifice in the power struggle? Bring birthday cakes for statues and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, yet we ignore the face of Christ in those next to us. And, yes, JEB, although it is a struggle, I look for the face of Christ in our Pastor and our Bishop. It is difficult especially when they refuse to meet and talk and turn their face away from me (us)even when I(we) go to celebrate Eucharist. But we will continue in our non-violent struggle for peace, which requires justice which requires putting things in right order. Next year in Jerusalem!-awc

Anonymous said...

Thank God for Ann Cass. She may seem like a know-it-all, that is simply because compared with the clergy of this diocese and much of the Church she knows a heck of a lot more about the Church than they do and cares about It, too. Sorry little jeb, in comparison, you got nothing to say to nobody.

Anonymous said...

The "peace on earth" was addressed to all men of good will. Sorry if it offended you. As Jesus said, offer peace and if it is rejected it will come back to you. Perhaps in time my sincere greeting will be accepted.
The point is, The Supreme Judge will judge EACH and every one of us and we won't be able to point the finger elsewhere. We will be judged by Jesus Himself and will stand wearing nothing but our own thoughts, words and actions.

Anon #4

Former Supporter said...

I was not offended by your comment of peace, I just didn't believe it. I agree that we will each give an accounting before God immediately after death, that is the personal and immediate judgement that Saint Paul speaks of, but the Church also teaches us about the general judgement of the nations on the last day, when Christ comes to rule as the Lion of Judah, not the meek Lamb. On that day, Anonymous #4, we will all be judged according to the criteria listed in Matthew 25 and if you read through it, you will see that none of those things that we will be judged on can be accomplished in a vacuum, away from other people, as if we are each an island unto ourselves. That is the impression I get from reading your post. On the last day, humanity will be judged collectively on how much we loved one another and showed it with our actions. That is what I believe, that is what the proponents of peace and justice believe, that is the faith of the Church to which we all belong. I don't subscribe to this personal salvation bit that doesn't demand you get in touch with those around you and live out your faith in community. God Himself is a community of Three Divine Persons, what more example do we need?

Anonymous said...

holy spirit parish is dead, killed by the bishop (good countdown clock, by the way) with the help of louie. But the Holy Spirit lives on, of course. Thank you all for not giving up. Yes, Jesus will judge you favorably and ask the others, like Anon. 4, "Where were you when I needed you?" And they will answer "Lord, Lord!" But we know what the Lord thinks of those who only pray but do not act on that prayer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michelle for your beautiful post. I, like you feel so blessed. Our community in exile is the best thing that happened to us after our beloved Holy Spirit broke apart. Never before, even during the wonderful days of Holy Spirit, we experienced a community like I imagined the first Christian communities must have been. Our Posada was wonderful, watching the children decorate the gift bags and the adults make an assembly line to fill them with goodies for those less fortunate, was just a real joy, my heart was beaming, I know Jesus was among us that night. Waiting together like a family for the new year was such a treat also. Thanks to those who opened their homes to welcome all of us, couldn't ask for a better group of people to be with. Again we were the manger, God was with us last night and will always be with us as long as we keep our hearts open to be collaborators in the building of His Reign, a reign of peace, truth, justice and love for all.
Let's keep doing what we can to stop this and all wars, let's do what we can to stop the infamous wall of separation, let's keep doing what we can to stop discrimination, hate, oppression in our church, our cities, our nation, our world.
Thank God for this community, we are so blessed!

Anonymous said...

Hey gang, does it feel good to be so self righteous?
But... what did Jesus say about those who judge? Can you be sure you know how Jesus is going to judge those who don't agree with you? What if you have misjudged the "bishop" and "louie" and those who pray. Shouldn't we all quit passing blame around and begin to tend to our own souls?