Thursday, December 18, 2014

Looking for deep theological reading this Christmas?

My review of Jeffrey Tranzillo's John Paul II on the Vulnerable is up over at the Journal of Disability and Religion.

Jeffrey Tranzillo has compiled a thick text here: exhaustive, but not exhausting; multi-faceted, but focused. The book is an impressive analysis of the theological anthropology expressed in John Paul II's life and written corpus, with a focus on the category of persons Tranzillo calls “the vulnerable.” As Tranzillo writes, the aim of the book is “to articulate philosophically and theologically the principles that allow us to affirm true personhood and personal agency in vulnerable human beings” (p. xviii). It is an aim generously met.
The vulnerable, in a certain sense, includes everyone: the vocation to be human necessarily involves vulnerability through bodily reality. When Tranzillo speaks of vulnerability, however, he pays particular attention to the most vulnerable: children (in the womb and those already born), the aging, the poor, the socially marginalized, and the disabled. Tranzillo makes a huge contribution here to scholarship on John Paul II and Catholic anthropology in general by tracing the explicit and implicit attention to the vulnerable throughout John Paul II's life work. This book could stand as a rich resource for Catholics (and all Christians) interested in a specifically Catholic approach to a theology of disability.
If Tranzillo had focused entirely on the social encyclicals of John Paul II, there would be little new here. Indeed, John Paul II has been widely acknowledged as a champion of the poor and marginalized, and credited with a renewal in Catholic social teaching across the board. What is new about this work is ....

Yes, a cliffhanger!  If you want to read more, you need to follow the above link.  Or buy it at Amazon. This is definitely an academic text, suitable for upper level undergrads and graduate students in Theology and Philosophy, or people who really love Pope John Paul II and are up for a good challenge.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Green Tomatoes Made Me Think Of Original Sin, the Eucharist, and Hope

Not mine, but mine look just like that.
I was making green tomato pickles the other day, a new experiment forced by a motherload of small green tomatoes and a dying sun.  Green tomatoes are humble little creatures, to put it mildly.  I love them fried, but these were too tiny to fry in nice big slices.  So I got on the internet and voila: green tomato pickle recipes.

That's when things got theological.

(Admittedly, with me, it doesn't take much.)

I pulled out ingredients in this recipe to make rag tag leftover inedible fruits into something my hungry kids would eat, and the first ingredient: water with salt.  In our case, blessed salt.  Hmmm.

Add the washed inedible throwaway fruit.  Some peppercorns and garlic cloves for a kick.

Then throw in a generous number of mustard seeds.  As in "The kingdom of heaven is like."

Submerge fruit.  Cover.  Wait.

Aha. Transformation.

When we are baptized--submerged--with the water and exorcised with the salt, the kingdom of God is introduced.  It is tiny, perfect, round like a mustard seed.  But seeds don't stay seeds.  They change things.

In the case of the green tomato, something stunted becomes something wonderful--crunchy, tart, well-loved.

In the case of us...maybe we're still waiting to find out.  But reminding ourselves that we humble, stunted with sin creatures are submerged in God's transforming work, for his Kingdom, is a good thing.  We take on flavor of the salt, the water, the Kingdom.  Until one day, we are fully changed.


One thing I haven't talked about regarding the Theology of the Body is eating.  There is a lot to work with there, too.  Emily Stimpson addresses food and eating and sacramentality in These Beautiful Bones, and Mary DeTurris Poust doesn't address John Paul II's Theology of the Body perspective explicitly, but does excellent reflection on the subject of defining true desires in Cravings: a Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God.  The end of a blog post is not the place begin considering that huge subject.  But the same week, while I'm making pickles, there is a mission at a local parish, and I attend.  It is on eucharistic adoration (and what I was able to attend was great).  The two priests giving the mission gave talks on the theology of eucharistic adoration, how to pray with Scripture at adoration, the saints' recourse to it, etc.

But one piece of it struck me hard, and it was this: "Why does anyone think it is crazy that our Lord would veil himself through the appearance of bread?  He wants to save us from our first parents' choice to eat veiled death!  He does this crazy thing to tempt us to take in life, for life, eternal life.  He gives himself to us in the most natural manner we can accept--almost everyone on earth knows how to eat.  It is a necessity.  We must eat to live.  He needs to give us the medicine of veiled Life, the veiled Christ.  There is no trickery.  He tells us flat out: This is my body; this is my blood.  There was little trickery for Adam and Eve: they knew what they were doing was wrong, God said they would die is they ate it.  The veil is no trick at all, but it is a bit of a test: do you believe God's word or not?  In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus announces "I am the true bread, come down from heaven...whoever eats this bread will live forever."  And people grumbled, disciples left Jesus (keep in mind this comes right after the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus walking on water--and some left anyway)--and Jesus turns to the twelve, and asks 'will you also leave?'"

It was the one word from the Son of God that some could not trust...could not handle the mystery of it...God wants to give you life, wants to save you from an inheritance of death,  But you will have to trust him and eat what he points to--his body and blood, true bread and true drink.

Angels can't do that.  They are entirely spiritual beings.  But humans can.  It is a gift of our embodiment, that we can share in God in this act of communion and trust.

Well, back to the stunted green tomatoes, rescued from the creeping frost.  The green tomatoes aren't veiled anything...just an extended metaphor of an overly theological cook.  But trust God to transform.  What looks hopeless may change remarkably with water, salt, and the Kingdom of God tucked into it.  The Lord indeed works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Teaching college/seminary theology next semester? Need a ToB book?

I was politely reminded by my own campus bookstore that book lists for Spring courses are due at the end of this month.


If you are in the same boat, I humbly ask you if you want to consider using Theology of the Body, Extended.  I'm a teacher at heart--and this book was created to contribute to a conversation, but also for classroom use.  The first chapter is an introductory review of the literature--mostly, what makes John Paul II's Theology of the Body "tick"--and the next chapters consider what it would look like to apply ToB insights to the foundational human experiences of giving birth, living impaired, and dying.  It is a theological anthropology with a definite pastoral edge for those teaching seminarians or pastoral theologians, and the tone is "readable academic" enough to be used in a college level theology course.

The book has also been of real interest to those working in the Theology of Disability and those doing hospice work.

If you are interested, you can read the first chapter and learn how to buy the book here.  The exam copy policy is here.  And if the book doesn't quite suit for your classroom use, I know Lectio Publishing would be thrilled if you could get your university or seminary library to order the book as a resource for their research.  As a "New Kid on the Block" publisher, they are in the midst of creating those institutional connections.  You could help them out!

Thanks, everyone!

--Susan Windley-Daoust

My Obligatory Synod on the Family Post

A few people have asked me my opinion on the Synod on the Family occurring in Rome this week and next.   I'll admit I have been quiet in part because of being sick with the flu, revising a book, and generally being swamped with work and (ironically!) family.  But...synods do not lend themselves to "breaking news."  It's a time for reflection and consultation, for checking in as a global Church.  While it is truly wonderful that there is a synod currently devoted to this issue, it seems appropriate to me that what I want to say on this subject, I said two years ago...and in more depth in the Theology of the Body, Extended book:

What happens if  we lose the "Family as Sign"?

I would only add one point to that post: the reason so many people want to claim the word family is because it is primordially important.  It is the core social group of our society, and created by God as such.  The reality that people want to name social groups as "families" that stretch (at best) the definition is a backhand way of acknowledging that the idea of family is primordially important, and of high value.  This point gives me sympathy for people who are accused of trying to "hijack" the langauge: they recognize the primordial expression of love and community, and they want it as well.  Maybe not in the best ways.  But, deep down, they recognize the goodness of family.  After all, people who grow up in dysfunctional families usually go to great lengths to create or name a new family (a gang, a school, a clique, a sexual relationship started too young, etc.).

I hope the synod speaks truth in love as to how to recognize the goodness of the sign of the family...and encourages us all to live it honestly, supporting families who are struggling.  There are many, and I would surmise every family struggles at one point.  I hope the synod points to the sign and gives families needed hope, courage, and concrete help in living their vocation as domestic church.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A New Book....

Hello. everyone!  My silence is more than being reflective or generally busy.  I have been writing a new book!  (Explains the circles under my eyes too....)

I'm in the final stages of a draft of what I am calling Giving and Receiving Birth: a spiritual theology of childbirth.  I have my spiritual director hat on, and am offering Catholic women a way to reflect prepare for and reflect upon their childbearing as a sign that points to God.  After all, if the body was created as a "pre-given language of self-giving and fruitfulness," (Waldstein) childbirth is a privileged place to reflect upon our life as we participate in the Holy Spirit.  He is, after all, the Lord and Giver of Life.

I address this in some academic depth in Theology of the Body, Extended...but this is angled more specifically to new mothers.  The book is broken into small chapters meant to serve as daily musings on how to "perceive" the spiritual nature of childbirth, stage by stage, with spiritual exercises and reflections.

To that end, here is a very short reflection that I just cut.  (I cut it because it had been covered elsewhere in the book, and better.) It gives you a flavor of the book to come, with more birth stories to flesh things out.  Enjoy... and anticipate more coming!

Preparing to give birth: how can I pray in and through unexpected complications?This is for women who have not yet given birth, but are using this book to pray through their pregnancy.  Although we’ve spent time considering what the signs of birth look like, according to broad patterns, it’s best to be honest: not all births fit the pattern.  Most do, but some don’t.  What do you do then?

Remember the three spiritual keys in the process: 1) Give God permission to work in your life and relax, 2) Cooperate with God’s intention to realize your motherhood through your body now (be ready to give), and 3) Yield to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  When the birth process seems to throw you a curve ball--the unexpected--it is time to lean on yielding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

It sounds so easy, but it may not be.  At best these “curve balls” can be confusing and disorienting.  At worst they can be frightening.

Remember these things:
1)      It is wise to ask the Holy Spirit to help your medical team and other supports offer good advice and make good decisions for you and the baby.
2)     Sometimes people pray in a way I call “wrapping prayer”: you ask the Holy Spirit to wrap you and the baby in His protection.  You can imagine this as you like, including being covered in cloak.  You may even bring, or re-purpose, a blanket or shawl to be used in this way, as a reminder.  Scripture has many examples of using clothing as a form of spiritual protection.3)     Often the Holy Spirit is called the Sustainer, and that may be most appropriate now.  Pray, or have your husband or doula pray, for His sustenance and protection.
4)     Listen, or if you cannot listen, have your husband and/or doula listen.  What is the medical team saying?  What are the medical options in moving forward?  You can only make the best decision you can under the circumstances; God and no one else expects any more than that.  You can ask for peace as a sign of a good decision, and often it is given.  But if the decision needs to be made quickly, do it, and leave it in the hands of God.

Whatever happens, God is present.  God loves this child and you.  Whatever happens, that never changes.  He will give you what you most truly need.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My daughter's review of Theology of the Body, Extended

I'm back from the Theology of the Body Congress, and I had a great time.  It was a moving event and I really encourage people to go and check it out--I heard talk that this could become an annual event.  In any case, I also was really affirmed by people who had read the book and loved it (hey, their words, not mine) and people who were very interested in reading it.  Janet Smith even gave it a kind plug in her keynote!  But the best review came from my daughter at home, who spontaneously wrote this review while I was gone. She recently turned nine.

(Click to enlarge)

How awsome mom's book is. Moms book is the book you want. I thing [think] everyone shoud have one. If you read one setenc of it you will not stop reading it. Mom's book is like having your favorit treat. Mom's book will help you learn about Jesus and the trinidy. Plus it is inthooseastic [enthusiastic]. Why do you think it got published? because it's the best book ever! Plus Dad hase published a lot of books too. I think everyone should have his books too! All of my family's books are cool and awesome!

Well, my week is made!  Plus I laughed for hours.

If you want to buy it, check out the "buy the book" tab on top of this blog.

If you want to review it, Amazon, Goodreads, and IBooks are open 24 hours and accept reader reviews anytime.

Peace and all good, everyone.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Last day for the giveaway!

...through Goodreads.  If you are interested in winning a copy of the book, hurry up and put your name in!  Follow the link to Goodreads and they'll tell you how.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Theology of the Body, Extended by Susan Windley-Daoust

Theology of the Body, Extended

by Susan Windley-Daoust

Giveaway ends July 12, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, July 7, 2014

See you at the Theology of the Body Congress, July 9-11

Theology of the Body Congress

If any of the folks reading this blog are attending the Theology of the Body Congress in Phillie this week, let's meet!  It's fun to have these email and social media conversations, but even better when we can put names to faces and meet in person.  If you are not attending, I hope to be tweeting it.  My handle is @ironiccatholic (named after my humor blog).  See you there...?

FYI: a couple of people have asked if the book will be for sale at the conference.  The exhibit tables are really expensive to rent, so, no.  But I will have 5-6 of the signed copies with me, if you want to buy them. They are $25; just talk to me at the conference.  You can even use your smart phone or tablet to order it in my presence, using a credit card, through .  The wonders of technology!  (You can use that link to order it for me to send to you, as well.)

The book is also for sale as an ebook at IBooks, for $15.99.

It's also at Lectio Publishing, and other online retailers (like the one named after a very, very large river), for the regular retail price.  If you are a professor, see Lectio's site for their exam copy policy.

Hope to hear some great speakers and have phenomenal conversations in Phillie!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Corpus Christi: "When you have loved, really loved, have you not wanted to become bread for your beloved?"

Blessed Feast of Corpus Christi, everyone.

I deeply appreciate Carlo Carretto, and think his spiritual writing ought to be better known.  I was glad to be able to include a clip on how radical the idea of "Corpus Christi" is, through his eyes and work.  From the book, ch 3:

...An even more exacting reality is the Eucharist as the chosen self-limitation of God.  As modern desert father Carlo Carretto said, “Either Christ is a raving madman, or He is truly omnipotent and merciful Love, who has found the most direct road to our hearts, a road that will not frighten or scare us, a road that is as simple as could be.”[1] [s2] Sharing his very life—body and soul, humanity and divinity--through the humble, sustaining consumption of transubstantiated bread and wine is as divinely self-limiting as one can possibly imagine. But do imagine, as Carlo Carretto does, what that tells us about God:
 Why do you find it strange that I should have wanted to become bread through love? Have you no experience of love? When you have loved, really loved, have you not wanted to become bread for your beloved? … You can argue about the Eucharist as much as you like, but on the day love really takes hold of you, perhaps you will understand that Jesus is not a fool or a madman. To be able to become bread! To be able to nourish the whole world with his flesh and blood! I am terribly selfish and fearful when faced with suffering, but if I could become bread to save all humanity, I would do it. If I could become bread to feed all the poor, I would throw myself into the fire at once. No, the Eucharist is not something strange: It is the most logical thing in the world, it is the story of the greatest love ever lived in the world, by a man named Jesus.[2]
 If we cannot understand the Eucharist through the strange logic of love, we cannot understand the incarnation. The Eucharist is a natural extension of the Incarnation of God. It is also a divine extension of the law of love: “You shall not … stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake” (Lev 19:16).[3]

[1] Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1974), pg. 113.
[2] Ibid., 115-6. Also, as my colleague Jeff Tranzillo noted, Carretto’s insight could be extended fruitfully to the “confinement” of the Eucharistic Jesus in the tabernacle, waiting for union with us.
[3] The Leviticus passage is from the New English Translation.  In his first post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Pope Benedict offers a beautiful reflection on how the self-giving of the Eucharist, understood as Carretto describes, draws humanity into Jesus’ gift of self to the Father, altering the very dynamic of the world. “The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his ‘hour.’ The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. (21) Jesus ‘draws us into himself.’ (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of ‘nuclear fission,’ to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).” Sacramentum Caritatis #11.


If you are interested in buying a signed copy of the book, I have a few left.  You can purchase one for $25 plus shipping at  However, I am on vacation visiting family, and will not be able to mail any out until July 7.  Blessings on your summer!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"The story that you should have no story but the story you chose when you had no story is a lie."

I'm a big fan of Stanley Hauerwas' work. Even when I disagree with his positions, the way he puts things never fails to make me think, and think hard. He spoke at the Fifth Summer Institute of Theology and Disability today, and delivered this line--one of his best.

But what does it mean? Hauerwas argues that we cannot understand our lives--or Christianity--outside of narrative. We are all part of the Christian story, and we all have individual stories that comprise it. This basic idea is under attack, he says, when the Enlightenment argues that we have no story. We create ourselves, same the modernists. We're blank slates. Further, the idea of a universal story is hogwash, according to the Enlightenment. Modernists say we're making up our backstory and plot as we go, out of the shards that we pick up along our way.

Naming the Enlightenment self-creation project as a lie is particularly important when we engage with those who have been handed a challenging story: people who live with disabilities. It is only honest to say that disability is part of the story. None of us can whisk that reality away--unless we try to prevent people with disabilities from being born. And that's not prevention, that is murder. That is the reality of the story.

One of the ways I think Hauerwas' theology of disability is in fruitful complementarity with the Theology of the Body is that story is not possible without relationship.  John Paul II begins, first of all, not with ontology, but with sacred story: the creation of Adam and Eve.  But the point he draws out of Genesis is that human beings are created as a sign that points to God's desired union with us, and with a spousal meaning that speaks to our need for fulfillment in relationship.  There is no story without relationship.  It is part of the plot.  It is much of the characterization.  Relationship and our need of it makes the story matter, and serve as more than popcorn entertainment.  The human being created for relationship is the heartbeat of every story, including God's story.

The other way Hauerwas' theology of disability is in fruitful complementarity with the Theology of the Body is in their common conviction that God is the writer of this story, and it is told through the Church.  It may seem odd to need to affirm that God is the writer of the story (isn't it obvious?  Apparently not to modernity), and its true that free will has its role.  But not all Christians seem to hold that God is in charge of the story.  Our free will is part of the story, but it is granted to us: free will is not the core principle.  God is in charge and desires to shape a story that brings us to Himself.  And the Church serves to witness to that, to foster that!  It is a story told through the Church and is the Church.  And what is the Theology of the Body but a witness to the mysterious relationship--story, if you prefer--between Christ and the Church?  That, in fact, is the whole point of Ephesians 5, according to John Paul II....

Our story is the story of Adam and Eve.  It is the story of a humanity loved, created, designed, broken, ashamed, confused, and wanting.  It is the story of Jesus Christ.  It is the story of the Church as it unfolds under the power of the Spirit, and the sin of its members, through the centuries.  It is a story that we take on faith will end with the Second Coming.  And our smaller stories (including the disability stories) cannot be ignored or erased or eliminated.  They may be tragic and difficult, or they may be triumphant, or both, or neither.  But they all make up the storied fabric of the Church.  To say otherwise is to deny reality, live a lie, and reject the Author, God.

Just some thoughts after a frankly overwhelming conference.


Interested in buying the book?  I do refer to Hauerwas' work (more clearly than I just did above!).  Links to buy a signed copy, a regular new paperback copy, or the ebook are listed here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lo and behold! ToB Extended is now an ebook!

Theology of the Body, Extended is now an ebook!  It's even in color if you get the ebook version (for a couple pieces of art and the formatting design.)  If you use ITunes, you can buy it there for $15.99.

This guy just found out the ebook was available.  Well, no, actually he saw a Cinnabon store.
For those of you who like paperbacks (that's me too), I still have a handful signed and available here, and of course you can buy it through the publisher, Lectio Publishing, or other online/on land retailers.  Of course, it is a little more expensive, but as my brother-in-law said upon first seeing it, it's a whole lot of words!

More seriously, thanks for the positive feedback, everyone.  If you would be so inclined to write a short review of the book on Amazon or Goodreads, that would help Lectio (and the visibility of the book) a great deal.  It's easy to do and makes Amazon's logarithms happy...or something like that. 

Next week I am going to be at the Summer Institute for Theology and Disability in Dallas.  If you are attending, please say hello--I'd love to meet you.

Peace these early summer days!  -- Susan

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"The Prophetism of the Body": learning to live in truth

I recall reading a Protestant theologian many years ago in grad school (Rita Nakashima Brock, if you care to know) who has written passionately about human embodiment and incarnation.  Honestly, I have long since forgotten much of the particular book, but I do remember one golden line: the body does not lie.

It's true, isn't it?  The body does not lie.  We can rationalize our way out of aging ("I feel young, and with the right surgery, I look it too"), out of violence ("it's not really abuse, a little makeup and ibuprofen and I can carry on"), out of illness ("most people my age have chest pains, right?").  Happiness is physically expressed.  Anger is physically expressed.  Grief is physically expressed.  Psychologists are trained to catch these expressions, since the words from the client's mouth may not match.  There is a speaking that the body does, a language, that is starkly honest.  Literally, the body cannot lie.

Of course, the mind can.  And does.  When John Paul II says that the original sin resulted in a seismic disharmony between body and soul, felt and manifested as shame, he says that original sin opened the door toward wanting to live a lie.  Thank God, we have the grace of Jesus Christ to help us confront those dark tendencies and realities.  But we also have another help to support and receive that grace: the ensouled body, prophet to the self and God's community.

Body as prophet? One of the phrases that John Paul II used in the audiences was "the prophetism of the body" (and to those who say John Paul II said nothing new, I counter with this phrase!).  How is the body a prophet to the self?  Well, the body does not lie--which means the body, in its own blunt way, tells the truth.  The body is a truth teller.  It tells us who we were created to be.  That is prophetic work.  In a powerful way, the body, even in its fallen and imperfect state, can be a spokesperson for God (that is, a prophet to yourself!).

But the other role of the ancient prophet was to call God's people back to the covenant.  This is even more interesting.  How does the body call us to covenant?  If you take the body seriously as sign, as a "pre-given language of self-giving and fruitfulness," then the body points to and expresses the covenant we are called to with God.  The body was very precisely made for an exclusive covenant with the other.  God's covenant is nothing if not unmerited gift, and the audiences' "hermeneutic of the gift" is expressed and seen through the ensouled body!

I do not mean to push this too far--honestly, I am thinking through the implications myself.  But today's gospel, when Jesus Christ says he will send us a Spirit of Truth, got me thinking.  Perhaps we can recognize the Spirit of Truth because we were created to welcome truth in our very ensouled bodies.  The body as a temple of the Holy Spirit gains a new meaning here: truth holds Truth. We live in a world that needs gentle truth tellers.  Perhaps one of the gifts of the theology of the body is recognizing that there is need for courage, but no need for despair: in addition to the Power of God and a Spirit of Truth, we carry the seed of the prophetic word in our very bodies.  And that word is "God did not create us to be alone, but for love, healing, and communion."  Good news indeed.

May we all realize the body does not lie, and seek to live in better harmony with its message.


Theology of the Body, Extended is for sale, and I still have a few signed copies.  If you'd like to buy it, please, check it out here.  Thanks!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Book Is For Sale! or, how you can win or buy Theology of the Body, Extended

Happy Easter to everyone!  I hope you had a joy-filled Sunday (and if you didn't, we've got 49 more days to go!

And...Theology of the Body, Extended: The Spiritual Signs of Birth, Impairment, and Dying, the paperback version, is hereby released and for sale!

There are ways you can buy the book, of course.  You can buy it through Lectio Publishing (and read a one chapter excerpt to boot), you can buy it through Amazon, and while supplies last, US and Canadian residents can buy it through me!  Check the "buy the book" tab up top.  And thank you!

However, you also have the opportunity to win a copy.  All you have to do is announce the book release to your friends on facebook and/or through twitter and/or through Google +.  Here's the thing: you need to do it by the end of the day, Tuesday, April 22.

(If you buy a copy through me and then win a copy, I can simply refund your money, so go ahead and try!)

Those playing to win a copy, please make your entries through the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And thank you so very much for your support. It has meant the world to me. Blessings this Easter octave and season!

p.s. If you are interested, there is an ebook version coming...expect it in mid-May on ITunes.  In other words, watch this space!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

"We have a God who fights for us."

Miriam.  Image credit.
One of the privileges I have as a college professor is that I teach a class called the Christian View of the Human Person, and the students have an option to write religious autobiographies.  Sometimes these autobiographies are wrenching, other times, joyful, other times, seeking.  But often, they are touching. Like this one: a couple of days ago, one of my students wrote--after a litany of real challenges in her young life--"But thank God: we have a God who fights for us."

We have a God who fights for us.  I immediately thought of Miriam's triumphant song in Exodus, "The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name."  We have a God who--for us--fights.  I've never thought of the warrior language in particularly positive ways before; at best, it's not my preferred image of God. But it's a true image.  It's just that the fighting is not violent, not power-over.  Our God fights for us like a physician saving a dying patient, a lover wooing to win his love's attention, a father seeking a child lost in the woods, a teacher using every trick to help the student learn the lesson.  Like a God who is willing to take every measure, short of taking away our will, to lure us into healing relationship with him.  Even becoming human and dying on a cross.

St. Therese de Lisieux, in her autobiography Story of a Soul, tries to explain why she was preserved from being a great sinner, since she feels it was through no merit of her own. I can't find the passage (feel free to tell me where it is!) but her thrust is that she felt she was in some way preserved from sin, received mercy before she could even commit the acts of sin.  I see some unusual relevance here. What if the Lord fights for us, even before we sin?  What would that look like?

Well, it would look like the Theology of the Body.  Original humanity, before the fall, was given the gift of the sign of the ensouled body.  Our bodies speak a primordial language that points to God, before a single word of revelation is handed down.  That sign was created by God.  That was God fighting for us, giving us direction, before we even stepped into the abyss.  But the fighting is not violent.  It is not brutish.  It is gift.

After the fall, the hermeneutic of the gift remains: the ensouled body remains as primordial prophet, and the gift becomes most clearly revealed in the death of the Son of God, a gift of salvation.  God never stops fighting for us.  It is, as David Power wrote, a "Love Without Calculation."

And after the resurrection, the gifting continues, because that is how God fights for us.  "I will send you an Advocate," says Jesus Christ, and the apostles receive the Holy Spirit, become temples of the Holy Spirit and agents of God. If we need to fight, he promises to fight with us: "do not plan what you are to say should they take you to court, the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say."

The law of the gift boils down to this: we have a God who fights for us.  The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name.  But like all of Christianity, it's not the fighting we expect.  It's a sacrifice that costs everything--but also changes everything.  We expect God to jig, and he jags.  No matter: soon enough, we realize that God isn't the one writing with crooked lines; we are.  He has fought for us from the beginning of time, in unexpected but entirely consistent ways.  When we listen to Miriam's song this Easter Vigil, let's keep in mind the upside down sacrificial gift of a God who fights for us.

The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will extol Him. "The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name. (Exo 15:2-3)

Friday, April 4, 2014

...and we have a cover!

The book is set for release at Easter. 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Annunciation....

Happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Part of the text addresses the spiritual motherhood of Mary, and how it is related to the physical motherhood of millions of women. In particular, it addresses what it may mean that Mary received the news of her motherhood with love, not fear, and that resistance to fear may well be a witness not only to her love and trust in God, but her immaculate conception....

The book is scheduled to be released at Easter.  More news as I know it!  Meanwhile, from the text:

...[W]e do know how Mary received the conception and birth of the Son of God: and this gives us all the insight we have about her as a person, and her call to motherhood. That is, she did not give in to fear, and lived out her vocation in utter fearlessness. At the annunciation, being approached by an angel and the Holy Spirit, she asks a simple clarifying question (How can this be…?) and then responds “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” No flash, no drama, only humble assent. In an age of historical-cultural criticism, we know that the stakes were high for her personally, in her culture: she was betrothed to Joseph but not living with him, and this seemingly illicit pregnancy could result in being stoned to death. Additionally, if it is true that she was dedicated as a child to the Temple as a virgin (as some legends offer), this pregnancy would look to the world like another grievously broken vow. It’s hard to see how anyone in such circumstances would have received this “good news” well.

But the encounter with the Holy Spirit may have assured her and strengthened her to travel 50 miles to tell the other person mentioned in the annunciation, a cousin with another miraculous pregnancy, Elizabeth. And her words are not “I’m afraid,” “I’m so worried,” or even “I’m confused” but:

...My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name (Lk 1:46-49).

That is, her response to Elizabeth’s awe-filled “you had faith” was to redirect Elizabeth’s awe to God: “Look! Look at the goodness of God! Look at what God has done! In me, in Israel, in all the small ones of this world!”

Mary’s acceptance of the pregnancy, the child, and her vocation to motherhood is rooted in a fearlessness that comes from a harmony of body and spirit, and total trust in God. If she was indeed without fear—that psychological consequence of dissociation—then perhaps she saw the birth of her son (whatever that would look like) as work, as effort, as cooperation with the Holy Spirit, but not pain. That is, perhaps she did not anticipate or experience pain because she did not give in to fear, from her acceptance of the annunciation onward. Perfect love cast out all fear.

For Mary, accepting motherhood meant to focus her energy and attention—in her case quite literally and directly—on God, fearlessly and without reserve. This was her untarnished experience of motherhood....