You are currently browsing loristrawn’s articles.

Spoiler alert: If you’re looking for declarative answers, this is not your lucky day. Because no one has them. Yes, all Christians believe in a “triune” God — one God composed of three persons: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. But to try to make a triune God fit in a square box would be nothing but an exercise in futility. God is not so easily defined.

But let’s try. The three persons of God are God fully present in each of God’s roles: As God our Father in Heaven; as Jesus, God’s son; and as The Holy Spirit, who operates as a sort of bridge between Father and Son and between God and us. Think of it like water, which can assume three forms: ice, liquid and steam, yet remains one chemical compound, H2O. Three unique embodiments, one unified composition.

If you’re not satisfied with that explanation, I understand. It’s tricky. But therein lies the beauty of the Holy Trinity, and of Catholicism. See, us Catholics perceive the Holy Trinity (and other difficult concepts) as a mystery of the church. In other words, it’s okay to be confused. The church, in a beautifully zen move, admits that not everything can be neatly defined. Some things are not explicable. And that’s okay.

We live our lives in tension with mystery: How exactly does gravity work? How can something exist if I can’t see or touch it? How does an egg and a sperm become a human being? Nobody has all the answers, even if they very much want to. The Holy Trinity is like that.

I think one of the greatest chores of our lives is to give in to mystery, to admit that we don’t know and that not knowing is acceptable. I pray to God in all three persons, as a father who creates, loves and cares for me; as Jesus, my brother and friend, who lived a human life like mine; and as the Holy Spirit, who enlightens and empowers and transmits the grace that allows me to grapple with the great mysteries of life. Yet there is only one God. This isn’t the Pep Brothers or Donald Duck’s nephews — three guys who are always seen together. This is one indivisible God in three unique persons.

And, of course, God isn’t a guy at all. Or a gal. But that’s an entirely different mystery. Let’s save that one for another day.


There’s been a lot of talk about hope lately. SueBe neatly defined it as a way of thinking positively about life. I gave it some thought and came up with a wild variety of metaphors…and maybe a little insight.

You can live on hope, if you need to.
You can eat it like bread, portion it out
to last, like pemmican, (or whatever it was
Lewis and Clark ate while Sacagawea took them
on a tour of places she already knew), only better-tasting.
The point being, hope is at least as good as a native guide,
even if it can’t tell you where you’re going. It can, however,
sustain. Hope is the rail on the stairway, the boy scout
who helps you cross a busy street, the friendly cop
on the corner. It is a safe place to land. Miss Emily
called it feathered, though, I think it less flighty
than the image deserves. It persists like plastic.
It stands in the desert, against the wind blowing
and doesn’t lose its nose, the way the Sphinx
did. It is a hearty breakfast: toast, eggs, bacon.
It cannot be spent, only abandoned. And even
then, it returns, nudging you with its wet nose
like a cat who has decided to stay. You might
as well keep it. The comfort of it will warm you,
some dark night, and make its care and feeding
worth your while.

Sometimes I think: Wouldn’t it be nice to squirrel myself away in some comfy little hole and turn exclusively to prayer? Then I remember: As much as the hermit lifestyle appeals, it is not practical. Not only are comfy little holes hard to come by, they are seldom free of charge. And there’s the niggling problem of needing to eat. But that’s not the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is this: You can’t pray for the world if you’re hiding from it. You have to know what’s going on. You have to be a part of things. Otherwise, you’re just praying for yourself, and doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

It can be very painful to make yourself aware of the world’s troubles. There will always be too many of them to tackle, too many tragedies pulling at your limited heartstrings. You have to choose, but in choosing, you have to deal with the repercussion of guilt. It is a difficult place to live. A comfy hole is so much more congenial, don’t you agree? But it’s no place to linger, not if you have a heart.

Nowadays it’s an insult to be considered sensitive. It connotes a certain weakness, a lack of backbone, a pitiful inability to cope in today’s eat-or-be-eaten world. I don’t much care about that. If it takes not caring to get by in life, then I guess I won’t get by. Wherever that destination is, it doesn’t feel like a place worth going to. If feeling keenly about people and things makes me a snowflake, then — fine. I’m still here. And as long as the world stays cold with injustice and hatred and inequality, I will persist.

And if the milk of human kindness ever warms us all adequately, I will happily melt.

Things have gotten awfully heavy of late. It feels like we’re all just trying to carry the weight of our crosses; sweating, straining, staring at our own two feet. Meanwhile, people are buckling all around us. They are dropping to their knees. They are feeling alone. It cannot end well, for we all need to be loved. And so, I am urging you: Take up an end. If you’ve got your cross balanced and you’re making your way, slowly but surely, help someone else out. Or to drop the metaphor for a moment, tell someone today that you love them. Tell them you forgive them. Tell them you hear them. Because you might be the next to stagger. It can, after all, happen in an instant. Or to take a more nautical theme:

A warning to mariners:
storms crop up quick.
Squalls in the harbor,
thunder out to sea,
fog like a shroud.

If your skiff’s at risk,
signal. Do not attempt
to rescue yourself.
The water is cold.
Depth cannot be calculated
by any standard measure.

If your skiff’s afloat,
please save the sinking.
Bail with a bucket,
or even a thimble.
Make a life jacket
from your own heart.

Continue until all’s clear,
which may be never.
That is all.

There’s just so much not to talk about today! Take the latest school shooting, for example. Oh, it’s being talked about now. But just give it a few days. Things will settle back to ordinary. And then there will be yet another shooting. It’s cool. We’re okay with this course of events. America has elected a new god and it is guns — singular and plural — and we are perfectly willing to sacrifice our children on our new god’s altar. Eighteen times in 30 days! No one can say we are not devout.

Let’s also not talk about Father James Martin, dubbed the most dangerous man in the Catholic Church for implying, hinting, suggesting that we ought to treat LGBTQ Catholics with dignity and kindness. For this, Father Martin receives all manner of hate mail. It’s good to know that I needn’t turn to another faith practice in order to find the most small-minded one on earth. I can remain a Catholic!

What else should we not discuss? Golly, there’s so much. But no one listens when I get angry. Let me turn instead to my old friend poetry.

Stitch my eyes shut:
I will still see. Numb my mouth
with platitudes and prayer:
I will rouse my tongue.
Tell me I cannot change
people, places, things:
I will wave you away
like a phantasm.
Heaven dropped fire
into my soul. I will scald,
blacken, raise flame.
Even in silence, I smolder.

Let me dazzle you with
incendiary verbiage;
fireworks of thought —
wonder! Delight! Gape
as sparks fly
into upturned mouths.
I need only enflame
one tongue. Then,
and only then,
can I rest in ashes.

“God,” I pray, “Help me not to hate him.” And as if in answer to my petition, a video streaming on Facebook, on Yahoo, all over the web: The president ascending a staircase into a plane, the wind blowing the convoluted nest of his hair all around and revealing — what? The subject of scorn and derision? I didn’t see it that way. I saw a pink egg, a skull as fragile and naked as a baby’s. Something he has gone great lengths to hide…and yet. There it is in all its sad, easily broken glory.

It taught me an important lesson: Even the most blustering of bullies is, at heart, fragile. Breakable. Just another broken person trying to hide his metaphorical cracks in the hopes that no one will notice. We all do it. The cracks are just different for each of us. It would do us well to remember that. Perhaps a little more tenderness toward one another is in order.

In my own hand, I see it
bones so thin and fine I could crack them
in the act of clasping, of joining together.
To strike would be to obliterate them outright.
We are all hands — though some are fists —
and all of us can be broken. Forget the lie
of childhood rhyme: words too can be thrown
with deadly precision. Just one and we shatter
like a castle built of sand. Be forbearing.
Remember the house you live in, accessible
not just to wolves but other pigs. Do not blow.
Keep your words light, let them not stir
a single straw. We can destroy whole worlds:
but what is the point? We live in them together.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So begins the gospel of John…and the deepest roots of my spiritual connection to God. I have always loved words, loved what they could do with sound and meaning, loved them in their inadequacy and perfection. As a child, I was teased for my advanced vocabulary. “But that’s the right word for it,” I would think. “I could use a more common word, but it isn’t right.” From the beginning I knew that God was in both language and silence, that as flawed as words could be, they were a link to God — a beautiful and fragile link.

In The Little Prince, the fox tells our titular hero that when you tame something, it becomes yours forever. The same is true of naming things. That’s why I respond so warmly to John’s gospel-opener: God is, in my mind, the first named thing. In a world of small-w words, God is The Word.

Our words for God change and persist; they speak of power and authority. But God is also in the tiniest places, the humblest nest of the lowliest sparrow. God is in all words, from thunder to shame, eternity to crumb. Maybe that’s a compelling enough reason to use our words judiciously.

On the other hand, why not celebrate words? Why not lavish them luxuriously, paint a thick coat of them all over everything, dress up a tawdry world with silvery syllables? Isn’t that what poets and musicians do? Yeah! Don’t paint the town red; paint it God.

That’s what we try to do on this blog, at least in my eyes. We invoke God through God-as-Word. We praise God. We cry out to God. We participate in Godliness and ask our readers to do the same.

That’s a pretty sweet gig, from where I’m sitting.

If there’s one thing you ought to know about me by now, it’s that I’m a Catholic. And if there’s one thing that you ought to know about Catholics, it’s that we love Mary. No, we do NOT worship her. We do NOT pray to her. We ask for her intercession because she is the one human being in all of history to have had an intimate relationship with God in all three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No one knows God better. No one is closer to God.

When children fall and hurt themselves, they run to their mother. So do Catholics. Our “falls” might be physical, mental or spiritual. But when we hurt, we reach out to Mary for comfort. She is our advocate.

The quintessential Marian prayer is the “Hail Mary.” It is taken partly from the words of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth when she saw Mary coming to visit her and recognized what was happening to her — Mary was carrying the Savior in her womb. Here’s how it goes:

Hail Mary, full of grace!
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Hail Mary is the most basic prayer needed to pray the rosary. There are a few others — the Our Father, the Glory Be, the Apostles’ Creed — but the Hail Mary is the foundation.

Why so much talk about Mary? Call it passing on the words of my people. My own relationship with Our Lady has brought peace to my life, and I think it could help you, too. The single thing necessary for building a relationship with Mary is simply the desire to do so. Just open the door. Talk to your Mother. What, you’re too busy? Don’t worry about it. Start with the Hail Mary. Let it lead you home. Mary can become your confidante and prayer partner. After all, Mother knows best.

Before we get to the “blowing your mind with stuff you didn’t know” part of this post, a preface: I adore Sister Joan Chittister. She’s Benedictine nun, author and speaker, and when it comes to matters spiritual, she knows her stuff. If this post isn’t enough to make you gallop to your nearest bookstore and demand every last one of her books, I don’t know what would be.

Sister Joan recently cited an article by biblical scholar R. David Freedman which brings up a rather earth-shattering point: The bible, as we read it today, is a translation of a translation of a translation. And things get lost in translation. To wit: The Hebrew words “ezer kenegdo” appear many times in the bible; every time are translated as “strength” or “power.” Every time, that is, except for once. That “once” happens in the story of Adam and Eve and refers to God creating Eve. The words “ezer kenegdo” are used here, too, but in this case — the only time it happens in the entire bible — the words are not translated as “strength” or “power.” No. Instead, Eve is described as “a suitable helpmeet” or “helper.” Remember, the actual translation would have you understand that Eve is equal in strength and power to Adam. But that’s not what the translation says.

Ladies, imagine if you had been brought up, from your early days in bible school, hearing that Eve (and thus, you) was equal in power and strength to Adam. Not a helpmeet. Not an appendage. Not a plucky sidekick but an actual hero. A co-hero. How might that have shaped your feelings about yourself and about women’s place in the church?

Because “equal in power and strength” is not what we see in most churches. In fact, there are a good number of so-called Christians who believe that women are not as good as men, not made of the same godly stuff, and must be regulated and chastised and kept in their places. What would happen to these women — to these “Christians” — if the truth were known? What would happen if we really knew the bible like we say we do?

The fact is, unless you’ve deeply studied the bible in its original language, you don’t know it. You know someone’s interpretation of an interpretation, and interpretations are always colored by personal preferences and beliefs. And since most of those interpretations were done by men for men, those “colorings” are not always going to be flattering — or even truthful — to women.

Women are experiencing a “moment” lately. We’re finally being believed and supported for the years of abuse and harassment we’ve suffered. What better time, then, to spread the word about “ezer kenegdo”? God made us equal in strength and power. All of us. And if we forget it, it won’t be scholars and writers we answer to: It will be God.

I’m starting to think I’m just not being heard. I send emails that get no replies. I ask questions that get no answers. I listen…and listen…and listen to what others have to say, but when I speak up, nobody has time. Or patience. Hello? Is anybody out there? Is this mic on?

We spend our lives — from newborn shrieks to deathbed confessions — trying to be heard. Why? What makes us so important? Nothing…and everything. We are, to ourselves anyway, infinitely important. But out there in the world? You’ve got millions of voices, all competing to be the loudest, the most heeded. What are the odds of an introvert winning that competition?

Once, long ago, a friend at work convinced me to join her in a primal scream. It was very satisfying…except to the company’s security guard who had no idea we were just trying to vent our frustrations. Oops.

If you want to be heard — really heard — you have to turn to prayer. Or poetry.

Even before I open my mouth
my confession is out there. Phrases thudding,
homely, unscrubbed as orphans. Pathetic, crude words
with sharp edges and blunt, dumb sounds.
Big, lumpy, dirt-encrusted words. They fall from me
like a curse, like the girl in the fairy tale
fated to speak in snakes and other slippery critters.
Who hears such ugly offerings?
Only one. The one we turn deaf ears to,
despite the shouts of sunsets, the “Hear this!”
of the scent of night jasmine. The one who calls us
to listen. For in listening, we will be heard. At last.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

%d bloggers like this: