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  • Father Jacques Hamel, 85, was celebrating Mass when two men entered his church and murdered him in the name of ISIS. A servant of God, a man who could have retired long ago and not continued the active shepherding of his flock, was killed in cold blood doing sacred work for the people of God. This priest died because of his faith. That makes him a martyr. You know what doesn’t make someone a martyr? Dying in a hail of bullets after cutting the throat of a priest. That’s not dying for your faith. That’s committing a criminal act and getting the reaction a criminal act receives.
  • In happier news, Pope Francis is in Krakow today celebrating the 31st World Youth Day. His message? “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). It is one of the Beatitudes, the great and golden rules taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is a particularly timely message. In this period of political divisiveness, mercy is hard to come by. Pope Francis reminds us again: If you want to get it, you have to give it. Even when it’s hard.
  • The Vatican sent out an Apostolic Constitution on women in contemplative life — i.e. cloistered nuns. These are nuns whose life consists of prayer for others. While the Pope praised the nuns, insisting that “The Church needs you!”, he also warned against “listlessness” and suggested ways to run a tighter ship. I find myself saddened by this. First, with all the problems in the world today (and within the Catholic church), listless nuns do not figure prominently, if at all. That these women, who have devoted their lives to God, need to be chided like children strikes me as the height of patriarchal nonsense. Come on, Francis. You’re better than this. (See above.)
  •  The Nuns on the Bus continue their journey apace. Their message? “Mend the Gap” — that is, the economic and social gaps that keep people in positions of inequality. The sisters’ focus is on seven areas: tax justice, living wages, family-friendly workplaces, healthcare, housing, citizenship and democracy. I am rooting hard for these women and their message of inclusiveness and fairness. We seem to have forgotten, as Americans, that “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” (That’s Ben Franklin I’m quoting.) In other words, please try not to listen to people who want to divide us, to cause rifts instead of understanding. As the 2016 election process careens into Fall, it is the best advice I can give.

I open “Rolling Stone” magazine, and there she is. Someone I know. She’s no rock star, though she and her comrades have been treated as such in some locales — though in others, they’ve faced anger and hatred. She’s a Sister of Providence, a Catholic nun. She is among a group of nuns who are traveling the country to protest the Republican budget proposal put forth by Paul Ryan. They are the so-called “Nuns on the Bus.” They say Ryan’s budget would hurt low-income families while coddling the wealthy. It is both unjust and in opposition to the Christian ideals of equality, compassion and love. They are right. They are also righteous, in the very best sense.

I’ve been saying for a while that the Catholic Church needs to focus on issues of social justice, rather than sticking its righteous-in-the-wrong-way nose into issues like gay marriage and reproductive rights. The powers-that-be would not agree with me. These are the same powers-that-be that have been wagging their fingers at nuns like the ones on the bus for not toeing the line, for not being quiet, obedient little ladies and letting the menfolk decide what’s important. They’ve been called radical feminists, which is apparently an insult these days. I guess I never got the memo that explains why being a strong woman is such a bad thing. My mother claims I’ve been a feminist from birth. I never saw any reason not to be. Neither have these women, it seems.

I stand with the Sisters. This statement is more than a political catchphrase, more than a motto on a button or bumper sticker. I mean it. This past weekend, I became a Providence Associate, a layperson who has chosen to further the charism and mission of the Sisters of Providence. Call us the civilian auxiliary, if you wish. (My husband does.) I am not on the front lines, but I support those who are. I do my bit, with my blog and my radio show. I cheer them on. I align and ally myself with them. Because what they believe is what I believe.

Change is coming. I know it; I believe it. It is my most fervent hope. It is what keeps me part of a Church I sometimes find myself in dissent with. So “Rolling Stone” or no “Rolling Stone,” press or no press, I have made my choice. I stand with the Sisters. How about you?

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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