Aug 8, 2013 - Resources    No Comments

Day 51: Paula D’Arcy

Dear Pope Francis,

One of the highlights of the recent Sophia Summer Institute was that I met Paula D’Arcy. She was speaking during the Institute and stayed for much of it.

I had already been looking forward to hearing her speak. It was so wonderful to meet her in person.

I’d recommend reading her books. Gift of the Red Bird: The Story of a Divine Encounter
“>This is one of her first, and is very powerful. Check it out.

Paula also started the Red Bird Foundation, which supports her work.

Your friend,

Kevin

(P.S. that is an affiliate link so if you buy the book I get a little bit of money.)

Aug 7, 2013 - My Poetry    No Comments

Day 50: Creativity

Dear Pope Francis,

Fifty posts! I can’t believe I’ve sustained the blog this long. It’s been a great experience so far. Hopefully you’re enjoying it too.

I find writing this blog to be a valuable spiritual practice. Writing, for me, is a form of prayer. It allows me to touch the Divine. And, when I’m not tapping into creativity, I feel out of sorts, out of touch. Writing grounds me in the Source of all things.

Here’s a poem I wrote on creativity, and, specifically, about when I forget to write or get distracted by things that don’t matter.

When…
by Kevin Aschenbrenner

I wonder if you watch
a spiderweb long enough
you can see
the exact moment when it changes
when it forgets itself
and becomes a cobweb  

Can you see that point?
When it shifts from a work of dangerous beauty,
And becomes a sticky annoyance,
Harbinger of decay,
Empty of creativity,
A tool for the horror movie director, Signalling something creepy this way comes.  

Is it exactly when the spider leaves or dies that the cobweb form takes over?
Or does the web linger on
for a bit
in a kind of gossamer limbo of the still-possible
escaping re-definition
for as long as it can?  

Is there a point where its transformation could be redirected
Shifted towards creativity, rather than decay Could it be reminded of its purpose and its gift
A nanosecond before it gives up
So that it springs taut, once again
Ready to ensnare and sustain,
Maybe even attracting a new arachnid resident,
to take over where the other left off?  

I want to know that point,
so I can see it in my own life
and catch myself when I’m drifting
towards my own cobwebby-ness
Into a less-than-me existence,
where I forget myself,
and get pulled apart and tattered
by things that aren’t important.  

If I could see that moment,
I could hold my shape,
Maintain a home for my own spider of creativity,
So that we both waft on the breeze of the Divine
Catching inspiration.
Sustaining each other.

What about you, Pope Francis? What creative practices sustain you? I’d like to know.

Your friend,

Kevin

Aug 3, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 47: Nephew time

Dear Pope Francis,

My nephew is visiting this weekend. He’s six and I haven’t seen him in two months. He’s changed so much even in that short time.

Anyway, I’m doing uncle things today and I thought I’d share a poem I wrote for him on his fifth birthday.

For James, At Five
by Uncle Kevin

I can’t believe
It’s been only five years
Since we first met
And I put the tip of my finger
Into your palm
As you lay in your incubator
Glowing blue
As if the stars
And Mystery
You came from,
And were formed from
Were still cooling
As you took on your Earth-shape
Your James-shape.

I remember your stubbornness
Your determination
A firm resolve
To take hold of this world
And bend it to your will
You drove your nurses to distraction
Moving about your crib
Tearing out IVs
Pushing your boundaries
Experimenting with the world around you
To see if it measured up.

I remember your mother and father
Who loved you from before they knew God would send you
Standing watch, urging you on, modelling strength
Remember this, what they gave you, what they still give you
Your parent warriors
It will carry you through the tough times,
That echo of devotion and protection.

And then, one day, you were ours
Released into the world
Into our lives
And you shifted our focus, my focus
Onto life, and possibility
and laughter
and change.

I thank you for all the memories I have
and will have
of you.
Your large blue eyes
Deep, wise and searching.
Your contagious laugh
Your rockstar hair
Your big hugs
Your thirst to know
Everything.
Never stop asking questions, James
For that is the key to this life
To understanding.

And I hope five is your best age yet
And there are lots of splashy baths
With squirty fish and sunbathing sharks
And Yankee Doodle sung
at the top of your lungs.
I hope your days are filled with superheroes
and Imaginext
Endless aircraft carrier missions
and Crime Phone calls
Fun DVDs.
And quiet times with your mom and dad
Bent over books, learning new things.

And lots of visits to Sidney
And me.

Hope you liked that.

Your friend,

Kevin

Aug 3, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 46: Fear

Dear Pope Francis,

Fear. I’m so over it.

It seems like I’m being told to be fearful of everything these days. Don’t vote for this political candidate because she will take your rights away. Don’t vote for that politician, either, because he will be bad for the economy. Be suspicious of anyone who doesn’t believe in the right kind of God. Don’t drive, fly, drink bottled water, or even eat quinoa, because you’ll be a bad person. Don’t eat eggs; that’s just asking for a heart attack. Avoid doorknobs at all costs

If you’re Catholic, don’t you dare speak your mind; you’ll be silenced for having an opinion.

You know, it’s no wonder many of us are stressed out, anxious, eating too much, and not sleeping enough. We’re constantly told to be scared. Of everything. We live in a soup of fear.

What’s worse, we’re told to be scared of ourselves, our ideas and opinions, and the way we live our lives.

Maybe it would be worth it if fear worked as a motivator. I’m not convinced of that, however. If it did, wouldn’t we live in a happier, safer, more egalitarian world? If fear worked, would the diet and sleep aid industries be making billions? Wouldn’t pews be packed on Sunday and seminaries and convents filled to the rafters?

I know how I react when I’m afraid. I don’t feel motivated at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Tell me I need to lose weight or bad things will happen, and I will reach for the nearest chocolate bar. Warn me I’m not getting enough exercise, and I’ll spend the weekend on the couch playing video games. I react to fear by shutting down and going on autopilot. It’s not a way to motivate me to change.

When we’re afraid, we also make bad decisions. As a communications professional, I’ve counseled clients through some tough crises. Inevitably, a client’s first response to a perceived threat is either to adopt a bunker mentality or go on the attack. Neither posture is terribly supportive. As an outsider, I’m able to provide a more levelheaded perspective on the right course of action. The reason? I’m not amped up on fear. I can think clearly.

I think Jesus also knew fear wasn’t a winning strategy. He did not say, for example, “Blessed are the fearful.” He knew Peter would deny him three times out of fear. Even the angels heralding his birth told those poor freaked out shepherds not to be afraid.

Jesus did not operate from a fear-based mentality. His approach was one of openness, peace, and understanding. That is an attitude in complete opposition to fear. You can’t be open, peaceful, and understanding if you’re afraid — or fear mongering. Try it. I dare you. Just like I dare you not to think of a pink polka-dotted gorilla wearing a tutu now that I’ve mentioned one. See? It’s impossible. (And, you’re welcome.)

If Jesus did not embrace fear, why do we, his followers, insist on it? Why is our response to a new idea always condemnation? Why do we base our faith around a fear of going to hell rather than embracing the Kingdom of God that Jesus told us was already ours through grace?

Why have we made fear our eighth Sacrament, and a requirement for being loved by God?

For me, personally, it’s time to take fear out of my faith. Thankfully, there are good models to follow.

I recently found out that St. Francis of Assisi, who I always thought was just naturally saintly, was actually deeply afraid of lepers. But, here’s why St. Francis was a saint: he pushed through the fear, and kissed pretty much every leper he could get his holy mitts on. He didn’t let fear affect his response to others.

Now that is an evolved spirituality I can get behind. As a follower of Jesus, and admirer of Francis, I’m going to strive to give up my addiction to fear and kiss more of my own personal lepers. It won’t be easy, but I think continuing to live out of a spirituality of fear will be far worse.

For the good of the world, I fervently hope others pucker up as well.

Your friend,

Kevin

Aug 2, 2013 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Day 45: Reminder

Dear Pope Francis,

A short note today because yesterday’s post took a lot out of me. It was tough to write.

So, today I’ll share some Peter Mayer. I may have shared this one before, but I think you need to hear it again. Play it a few times. I insist.

Your friend,

Kevin

P.S. I have fixed the email subscribe function. It wasn’t working before, so if you tried to sign up and it didn’t work, try again.

Jul 31, 2013 - Vatican    No Comments

Day 44: Not enough

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s with a bit of reluctance that I write today’s post. The reason is that I’ve come to like you and what you seem to stand for. You’ve been a breath of fresh air and I have taken heart from much of what you’ve said since becoming Pope.

But I have a real problem with your recent comments on the role of women and gay people in the Church.

I realize I’m going against the grain here, and I’m not wanting to criticize. I, like many others, was at first astounded that you addressed the issue of gay priests. You used the word “gay,” for example, which was a first for any Pope. You used much softer, more accepting language. And you said “Who am I to judge?” which was a significant admission.

And yet.

While your words were more pastoral, you did not indicate a change in doctrine. At the same time as you signalled acceptance, calling gay priests “brothers”, you underscored Church teaching that celibacy is the only option for gays and lesbians. This means that, to be accepted, gay and lesbian Catholics must ignore — or hide — who they are.

I also have an issue with the comment “Who am I to judge?”. Saying it is not for you to judge still implies there is judgement to be made. That there is still something wrong in being gay or lesbian. I saw a comment from Fr. James Martin, whom I greatly respect, that this was an example of your showing mercy. Mercy is still a loaded word. It conveys the impression that something needs to be forgiven, that someone has done something wrong.

Many saw hope in your words, of change and acceptance. I’m not so sure that’s what I see. I think, in reality, this might be a situation where people were so relieved you didn’t come out with the hate-filled language of your predecessors that they took this as a hopeful sign of a great leap forward. As I said, I am not so sure.

As for your comments about women, Pope Francis, I was deeply disappointed. While it was nice, I suppose, to acknowledge the role of women in the Church and say that they should fill more administrative roles, you closed the door firmly on women in the priesthood. This was pushed aside in the headline-grabbing attention paid to your comments on gay priests, but I know it must have been heard by many women as yet another dismissal. What I heard was that it’s OK for women to teach, care for the sick, minister to the abandoned, take on all the scut jobs in the Church, and maybe get the odd chance to make a few inconsequential decisions, but they can never hope to be equals to men in ministry or Church hierarchy. That makes me sad and, if I’m being honest, just a little bit angry.

As I said above, I’m writing this with some reluctance. I really wish I could get caught up in the euphoria over your remarks and see them as a sign of change. The problem for me is that even the most hopeful commentators have said this is a perhaps a sign of change that will come slowly over time. And, for women, there wasn’t even a glimmer of hope that things might change. That door slammed firmly shut.

I’m sorry, Pope Francis, but I’m tired of waiting. There is no slow or fast when it comes to equality and justice. We must have equality and justice now.

Anything else is simply wrong.  People are tired of crumbs when they have every right to sit at the whole feast.

My prayer is that you be guided by the Divine to take the same approach to inequality in the Church as you have to rooting out corruption, siding with the poor, and doing away with excess.

Your friend,

Kevin