When did you last see the face of God?

Seek His Face Always

Last weekend, my family took the time to watch the Tom Hanks’ movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  The movie is about the encounters between the popular children’s show host Fred Rogers and the magazine journalist Lloyd Vogel, who was assigned to interview Mr. Rogers. Those encounters ended up being opportunities for Fred Rogers to help Lloyd heal an old wound.   Prior to watching the movie, I did not have much expectation on the movie, and simply looked forward to a relaxing evening. However, I was pleasantly surprised at one scene in the movie. During the scene, Lloyd, troubled by his father’s hospitalization, looked for Fred Rogers. Fred took Lloyd to a diner and asked him to join him for a minute of silence, to think about the people in their lives who helped shape them to become who they are now. Mr. Rogers assured him that the faces of those people would come to mind.

Sure enough, I took the opportunity to try the exercise…and many unexpected faces floated into my mind.  For sure, I saw the faces of many family members, teachers, and close friends.  However, there were also faces of the odd acquaintances, whom I realized only at that moment, who had starring roles in my life.  Some of them went through events of their own and I found their reactions to those events admirable.  Others had randomly made a comment to me or asked me a question at some point that greatly impacted me. All those people in my mind cannot be more different from one another.  They have different personalities, belong to a wide range of age groups, and they have different cultural backgrounds and beliefs.  However, it was clear to me towards the end of the exercise that all of them played a role in shaping me.

We often read about seeing “the face of God” in the Bible as knowing God. We are often reminded to see the face of God in others when we serve them. However, it seems that God also seek us and shape us through others! There are no random happenings in life and Jeremiah reminded us of that. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord…” (Jer 29:11)  The people in our lives who shaped us, including acquaintances, are divine instruments, and their words and actions were sent our way as we need them.

Well, when do you think you last saw the face of God?

Just be silent for one minute and think about the people who came into your life and helped shape you. The many faces of God will float in your mind.

 

 

Jolted by Supergirl

With the social distancing protocol that we are practicing during the COVID-19 pandemic, most people find that they are suddenly spending more time with family members. Let’s be honest! While this is a wonderful opportunity for the family members to bond and stay strong together, the togetherness within the family home can also bring frictions to the family. When there are different generations reading the news or watching TV shows together, we tend to forget that we are showing ideas to people perceiving the information with very different lens. Each generation learns its cognitive framework from their own social culture. Members of the family will, inevitably, have starkly different views on social issues. Without warning, arguments and fights are pursued and defended anytime of the day.

I usually spend the downtime before bedtime by watching a bit of mindless TV shows. By that, I mean watching shows that do not give me thought-provoking questions and keep me wide awake at night. So, it was surprising the other day when I watched an episode of Supergirl on the PVR. I admit that I do not pay that much attention to the details of the show during my down time. I must have completely missed the character Nia Nal revealing herself as a transgender at her debut episode in Season 4. Anyway, I had not registered that fact until the show suddenly presented, in Season 5, the storyline of her transgender roommate being targeted and how Nia Nal had to defend her own community. As far as storylines go, a good old story on justice, on heroes defending the weak, and on heroes ultimately bringing down the offenders, always makes for a good night’s sleep. However, as I was not aware of Nia Nal as a transgender character earlier, that sudden realization seemed a bit odd. It felt like the show was trying too hard to showcase characters outside of the traditional male-female binary model. Supergirl already has a super strong sister Alex Danvers, who was presented in a same sex relationship in Season 2. While I enjoy watching the storylines of Alex and her sisterly relationship with Supergirl, and find Nia Nal intriguing with her dreams and power, I feel that two LGBT characters within one tight group seemed too unrealistic to me. When I protest this to one of my adult daughters, I was quite surprised with the comment of “That’s normal!”

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I wonder what is normal? What is really true and real?

Personally, I admire the gifts that every one of my friends bring into the friendships, LGBT or not. In terms of statistics, the number of my LGBT friends relative to my entire circle of friends do not seem to match up to that proportion that is portrayed in many sitcoms. I once took a university course on gender issues. The professor mentioned how it is important to address others in the way they attribute themselves. However, when she put out a questionnaire in the beginning of the term to get to know her students, giving the students a choice on gender for Female, Male and Non-binary, she got an overwhelming number of responses from the 20-plus age group choosing the Non-binary category. That seemed to her that it was simply youthful students trying to be “different.” So, what is real and true? Do we get to choose gender according to some utopia that we, as humans, dream up? Are we to believe that choosing our own gender is one of our rights?

And…how might we, as Catholics, perceive the normalcy on Gender and Sexuality presented to us in social media?

The separation of gender and biological sex did not get much attention until the 1970’s. Was the idea of gender a social construction? The cognitive frames we develop are dependent on what we perceive around us. If we do not have a strong understanding on the issue of gender ourselves, how may we be aware of the social blindness that we are thrown into. It seems to me that, as Catholics, we ought to know and understand our Church teachings on gender and sexuality first and use that as our guide. Unfortunately, a lot of the Church teachings presented to us or interpreted to us are misguided and misrepresented in social media. We owe it to ourselves to learn those teachings from someone we can trust. I am, therefore, looking forward to the WHY@Breakfast webinar to be presented by Teresa Hartnett towards the end of the month. https://whyatbreakfast.com/ If the diocese can trust her in leading workshops on the subject to priests and seminarians, we are in very good hands. When we are better equipped to be aware of the differences between myths and truths out there, we may start to live in the present world, which is full of new gender ideas, with confidence. We may then have meaningful conversations with our family and friends on the subject, even when we are jolted accidentally by a viewing of Supergirl!

 

WHY@Breakfast Webinar:

May 23rd, 2020

Gender, Sexuality and the Catholic Church

Speaker: Teresa Hartnett,

                  Director of Family Ministry, Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton

Webinar begins at 9:30 AM EST

Register by email: whyatbreakfast@gmail.com

 

 

When the Domestic Church practices Church at home…

 

The first weekend when the churches were closed because of the pandemic, my family decided to sing a few hymns prior to watching Mass online. My daughter later put up a short video on Twitter with the hashtag #ChurchAtHome.

That was the beginning of my domestic church practicing Church at home.

We often hear about the domestic church, that family whose members live their faith at home, makes the community of faith, the parishes, and the Church. Indeed, everything that happens at Church is strengthened by the support of the faithful families. Church events are often the result of the assistance offered by volunteers and their families. Preparation of sacraments, especially those involving children, rely on the support of the families. Really, the families are the future of the Church. The Church grows as the families grow. The families are where the history and traditions of the Church are passed on to the younger members of the church. So, if the domestic church makes the Church, what happens when the Church gets domestic? That is, when the family tries to practice Church at home?

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These past weeks, as the churches are closed, we encounter this new scenario where we first attempted to keep the idea of the church within our own homes. We are fortunate to have so many Masses online, pre-recorded or live-streamed, with the readings and homilies, trying to fill our spiritual needs. Seeing our familiar church settings on our TV or computer screens at home help remind us of our last church experience. Those warm, spiritual moments are kept alive until we can meet again at church and participate in the sacraments. How far would those memories serve us? To truly live the life of church, should we not create new church experiences at home? If the early Christians could worship God and built communities within their own homes, so can we. Right? The Pandemic should not interfere with our relationship with God and the growth of our faith at home.

When the social distancing protocol commenced, #ChurchAtHome officially began for my family. Since all of us in the family were serving in some church Music Ministry, the singing of hymns has always been a favourite activity in this household. Now, it is so much more important to establish that sacred space within our domestic space by filling it with the sounds that echo well with the saints and angels, prior to our viewing of the online Mass. Next, comes the tradition of communion… What can be better than sharing a treat? Baking mini bite-size muffins or cookies for the sake of joining in the “communion” on screen seems to be a natural development. Sure, we are not having the Sacrament, but Christ is in each of us and we are having a family moment!

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On Palm Sunday, in anticipation of the long Gospel reading that we would be passively watching on screen, my family took the script and split the roles among ourselves earlier in the day, and made up a short Liturgy of the Word with it. That was fun! We were quite surprised when the quiet one in the family performed her role with great animation. Having participated at the Easter Vigils for over a decade, I thought we should probably have one that evening on Holy Saturday. There were no reasons why we could not bring the Light of Christ into the darkness at home. After all, we were all feeling the darkness of the pandemic and we needed that Light! So, we searched for those baptismal candles that were tucked neatly in boxes somewhere in a closet. I found the biggest candle in the house and used that as the “Paschal candle.”

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That evening, we sat in darkness and lit our candles. My husband and I sang the Exsultet. We said a prayer, blew out the candles, and switched on the lights. Next, we sang the Litany of Saints. We used a setting that we had not sung for years. The organist in the house volunteered to accompany us on the piano. As we sang, the names of the saints got caught in our mouths, rhythms were off at times, but we treaded on. It was the most chaotic Litany ever sung, but we had the feeling that we generated a lot of laughter among the angels and saints. Following that hilarious episode, we read the Gospel reading together, said prayer of Intentions, and ended the service with the recitation of the Our Father and an exchange of the Sign of Peace. Sure, this Easter Vigil did not have the same kind of sacred reverence as the Easter Vigil at church, but it brought the Light of Christ into our home and we experienced Easter joy! Now, came the interesting part after the Vigil when my family really needed a snack, just like the reception that we always had at church after the Holy Saturday Vigil. That part alone…was pure Church doing!

I do not think there is one set formula on how #ChurchAtHome can be done. By definition, practising #ChurchAtHome needs some understanding of what we normally do at church and ideas on how the elements might work within the individual family. After our Easter Vigil experience, one of us asked about why we would only light our candles once, instead of two times at church. It took a little bit of thinking to remember that we lit the candles the second time with the newly baptized members and renewed our baptismal promises at church. We had neither newly baptized among us, nor did we have Holy Water in the house! That was a good occasion to reflect on why we do what we do at church. A lot of goodness would probably happen from #ChurchAtHome by trial and error, with the best roaring laughter. That is, perhaps, the domestic way of promoting growth of faith within the family? I believe that my family’s #ChurchAtHome experience during this time of pandemic would make our domestic church grow. It will be interesting to see if this contributes to new church experience when we are able to meet others again at the physical church building.