National Association of Pastoral Musicians: Preside to Include All God’s People

National Association of Pastoral Musicians

Preside To Include All God’s People

Friday July 18, 2014

9:15-10:30am

Ronald Raab, CSC

 

The Sacred Liturgy calls us first into conversion for our own lives, into the depths where death gives way to life.

 

We are called to enter into each aspect of the Sacred Liturgy to make sure we find a true home in the Breaking of the Bread. We are to uncover the action of each liturgical action within our own hearts and in the lives of the community.

 

We are chosen to give voice to Good News in ways where people find their suffering named and accepted within our worshipping communities.

 

We are chosen as liturgists and preachers to give voice to people who have no voice in our culture or in our neighborhoods.

 

We are called to offer a new perspective of people, those who have been only seen through labels and judgments. We are to become people of true hospitality, to create an environment of a radical acceptance of people.

 

Ministering among God’s people in poverty has radically changed my notion of the Eucharist and our lives as people who serve in the world.

 

We are challenged to preach about the various aspects, rituals, and objects of the liturgy to connect them with people’s experiences.

 

Example of allowing the liturgy to connect our prayer and our service: (not published)

 

Kisses of betrayal and mercy

“…She has not stopped kissing my feet since the time I entered.” Luke 7

 

I approach the altar with a profound bow. I make my way up the two dark-stained wooden steps of the sanctuary. I lean over the altar and kiss the place of sacrifice and of celebration from where we shall eat our daily bread. With the altar I begin the Eucharist with a sacred moment of intimacy. This kiss is far reaching, it is not just a kiss on wood or cloth or stone or mosaic or tapestry. This kiss is public witness that my life as a priest is either authentic – or not. My life must become and remain a vessel for God’s faithfulness to fill every relationship and every human encounter.

My public kiss begins in my private prayer. My lips on the altar may turn into a kiss of duplicity if I do not find my true life in Christ Jesus. My vocation is to make this kiss real and genuine. I am called to find Christ in my silence, in the intimate moments of my life struggle and in my own pain and suffering and on-going questions. If I avoid the truth of my life, my lips will become chapped kissing wood and cloth. My kiss is formed from years of prayer, a lifetime of struggles with personal intimacy, discovering a generative life and a healthy sexuality. This kiss is a public witness that I have found intimacy with God and especially within the Eucharist itself. This kiss goes public at every Mass.

I also admit my infidelity in this kiss of the altar. This kiss is the truth I stand upon when I cannot stand up for myself in our staff discussions or when I am made fun of because I work among God’s poor. This kiss comes on days when I would rather not be public with the doubt and guilt I feel in my heart or when I am just too tired to really care. I know this kiss can wake me up from going through the motions at Mass and it also reminds me that I pray in public on behalf of others. This kiss is not just a kiss.

I am unfaithful in my kiss when I do not take seriously the pain of others or skirt their requests or even not return their emails or phone messages. This betrayal comes when I would rather waste time and energy than be accountable to a life of prayer and reflection. This betrayal shows itself when I misuse my resources, make unfortunate decisions, betray the secrets of others with my lips or remain silent when others speak derisively about others, rather than claim my affinity with those they despise. My betrayal becomes a public spectacle when my ego becomes over-stated. My kiss shadows Judas on days when I turn away from grace in order to hoard the gifts God gives me.

The kiss on the altar is a gesture also of how I hope my life will be lived. This kiss echoes the greetings of Mary and Elizabeth when I greet people I love and offer God’s fidelity. This kiss encourages me to live like the healed leper coming back to Jesus in gratitude. This kiss gives me the courage to offer my other cheek in forgiveness to another person. This kiss embraces the lost, the stray, the lonely and the forgotten. This kiss continues the sentiments of the person cured of demons that wanted to speak to everyone about who Jesus was or the woman at the well who told her villagers that God is among his people. This kiss forms my lips that long to preach with fidelity that the Kingdom of God is about love in our lives, actions and events.

A few years ago, a support network for women caught in human trafficking offered a group for women and their children in our basement on Saturday evenings. Women along the Interstate 5 corridor from Canada to Mexico are falsely promised self-esteem, money, a sense of belonging, food, intimacy, a boyfriend, drugs and jewelry and a place to live in exchange for a life of prostitution. The only thing they are not promised is a kiss from a trick that is about real intimacy.

On those Saturday evenings, as I approached the altar at the beginning of the Vigil Mass, I often would hear the women setting up for the meeting just below the altar in the basement. I felt their desire for new life and healing on my lips and within my heart as I kissed the altar in the sanctuary. My public kiss to begin Mass becomes a real desire for God in the secret recesses of the hearts from women in the basement just underneath the altar. I connect my altar-kiss to the heartbreaking lives of women who live in the slavery of human trafficking, addictions. These women are struggling for freedom in ways I cannot imagine. My kiss is my prayer for their future relationship with Christ Jesus that will bring freedom to all people.

I am reminded to be faithful to this act of reverence on the altar when I view Jean in the front pew of the church. She covers her thin, aging lips with bright red lipstick believing that makeup will cover her addiction to alcohol. She believes that her thick, caked makeup will not only mask her aging but her loneliness on the weekends binging booze again. She reeks with alcohol as she kisses a women friend also wearing too much rouge. She prays that no one else will notice her pain during the Kiss of Peace.

I see my kiss on behalf of the community when a new widow bends over the casket of her beloved to give him one more kiss goodbye. I notice my kiss when a mother buttons up her kindergartener at the bus stop and kisses his head for blessing just before he jumps on the school bus. I see my kiss when the girls’ soccer team wins the game and the team members hug in victory. I see my kiss on the cold altar when I see a young wife drop off her husband at work and he reaches over to her with a goodbye kiss before his hops out of the car. My kiss and my commitment come to my mind and heart as I listen in the confessional to businessman speak of his affair with a woman who is not his wife, a person he has been kissing over the years in secret, in darkness and in infidelity. I see the kiss in a hospital when a family rejoices with a kiss because their teenager is being healed from cancer. I see my kiss on the altar of God on Sunday morning when I become aware of all the lonely people who wait for intimacy in our neighborhood on Saturday evenings.

The altar-kiss is more than a quick moment of rubric assigned to the priest. The altar-kiss by the priest speaks about everyone’s place at the table. The altar table is the center of the worship space, the place on which the offering of bread and wine takes place. The ancient altars were built upon the relics of the martyrs. Most altars today have a relic of a saint imbedded on the surface of the tabletop. The kiss also represents our gratitude for our ancestors who died for their faith. The kiss is an act of profound intimacy for the entire community from the gesture of the priest.

This kiss connects the desire for true intimacy of the entire People of God to the solid center of the community, the altar. I pray to invite people back to the Church. We fumble our efforts to welcome people. We stumble to support people their quest for genuine intimacy. This kiss may very well become a moment of true and lasting evangelization, a gesture of forgiveness, for so many souls lost in our pews. People ache for true intimacy. People also wait for the Church to admit the sins and crimes of the clergy and all the ways in which we have been unfaithful to the love God outpours in our lives. This kiss reveals publicly to all who struggle to believe that the Church is sorry for the sins of the past and those who wait for a new redemptive love in their lives in the present.

In the midst of poverty, I now see the kiss on my lips and the infidelity in my heart as the place where healing begins for us all. For so many of us, my kiss represents the fact that we do not know where else to turn but the table of Eucharist for the healing, the love and the salvation we all desire so desperately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrutiny Rite: Example of connecting Eucharist and Service

 

Response: Christ in me, arise

The First Scrutiny: The Third Sunday of Lent, March 23, 2014

 

From the shallow well of self-pity and apathy…

From the shallow well of self-loathing and inner pain…

From the shallow well of self-sufficiency and mistrust…

From the shallow well of heartache and loneliness…

 

From the shallow well of jealousy and resentment…

From the shallow well of bitterness and confusion…

From the shallow well of wrongdoing and insult…

From the shallow well of rudeness and disrespect…

 

From the shallow well of slander and scandal…

From the shallow well of guilt and shame…

From the shallow well of disgrace and ruin…

From the shallow well of fear and isolation…

 

From the shallow well of sin and division…

From the shallow well of pride and envy…

From the shallow well of malice and greed…

From the shallow well of alcohol addiction and self-satisfaction…

 

From the shallow well of indifference and impatience…

From the shallow well of consumerism and materialism…

From the shallow well of sex addiction and instant gratification…

From the shallow well of mistrust and empty love…

 

And from all evil…

And from all evil…

And from all evil…

 

Response: Christ in me, arise

The Second Scrutiny: The Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 30, 2014

 

From the blurred vision of indifference to strangers…

From the blurred vision of impatience to our children…

From the blurred vision of manipulation in our relationships…

From the blurred vision of overt pride and selfish attitudes…

 

From the blurred vision of self-centered power and blatant control…

From the blurred vision of sexism and racism…

From the blurred vision of sarcasm and mockery…

From the blurred vision of food addiction and self-hatred…

 

From the blurred vision of bigotry and prejudice…

From the blurred vision of past mistakes and uncertain futures…

From the blurred vision of put-downs and outbursts…

From the blurred vision of poor body image and negative choices…

 

From the blurred vision of always needing to judge other people…

From the blurred vision of compromising our lives and talents…

From the blurred vision of devaluing ourselves…

From the blurred vision of stereotyping other people…

 

From the blurred vision of not taking risks…

From the blurred vision of keeping our eyes cast down in shame…

From the blurred vision of not taking a stand and not living the gospel…

From the blurred vision of not seeing miracles and beauty…

 

And from all evil…

And from all evil…

And from all evil…

 

Response: Christ in me, arise

The Third Scrutiny: The Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 6, 2014

 

From the restraints of anger and rage…

From the restraints of resentment and lack of hope…

From the restraints of devaluing all life and our potential…

From the restraints of cheating and lying…

 

From the restraints of not believing God will love us and change us…

From the restraints of our negative behaviors…

From the restraints of ignoring people surviving urban poverty…

From the restraints of judging people living outside…

 

From the restraints of labels and judgments on people…

From the restraints of hardness of heart and ill-will toward family…

From the restraints of jealousy and jumping to false conclusions…

From the restraints of envy and a lack of gratitude…

 

From the restraints of corruption among leaders and governments…

From the restraints of hostility among nations…

From the restraints of indifference to the suffering of others…

From the restraints of hatred of our neighbors…

 

From the restraints of violence and war…

From the restraints of busyness and lack of attention…

From the restraints of lack of concern for the elderly and the ill…

From the restraints of our inability to care for people with disabilities…

 

And from all evil…

And from all evil…

And from all evil…

 

 

 

 

 

Another Example: (not yet published)

 

The Chalice of Life

                     “Our blessing cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ” Psalm 116

 

When I am afraid, I feel the blood in my body rush to my chest to protect my heart. My hands and feet suddenly feel ice cold and my heart beats at a rapid pace. This experience happens when I am confronted or chastised or bullied. This happens when I feel defenseless in any way. These times of feeling threatened are not a welcome occurrence. There is little I can do to change what is happening in my body during the actual moment of feeling attacked. Only prayer and time allow the blood to flow back into my extremities again.

I felt cold the first time I celebrated Eucharist at our parish. The obnoxious odors of homelessness threatened me. The odors were nothing compared to witnessing the people who were living the reality of such brutal experiences of mental illness, homelessness and poverty. I felt afraid at the altar. I was afraid because I wanted to be as honest and authentic before these people as they appeared to me. Life had beaten them down but the result of the loss was a community formed by frankness and integrity. I felt fear because I did not want to be a fraud. I did not want these people to judge me or find me irrelevant. As I look back on that first day, I wanted what everyone else in the chapel wanted but in my own way, I wanted to belong in this community.

As I began to sort out my place at the altar among people who stared at me through bloodshot eyes, I began to find my peace and even my place holding on to the Cup of Salvation. I remember clearly the day I realized that the Blood of Christ would help me move from fear into faith again. The Blood of Christ would help my own blood flow through my extremities, warming my own body.

I want desperately for the Blood of Christ to flow to the extremities of our urban, worried community. I know fear keeps people huddled under blankets on the streets. Fear overwhelms women struggling to survive on the streets because of domestic violence. So often we blame people for being homeless at the time when their extremities are ice cold. We do not help people by pointing our fingers blaming and scolding others because we think they should live in a certain way or become people that would only satisfy us in our own fear. Blaming people who are already victims does not help our society. Fear takes a toll on people who are powerless to change their situations.

In my second year at the parish, I walked through Wallace’s blood at our front doors shortly before 6:00 a.m. I did not realize his blood was on the soles of my shoes. He was stabbed in the darkness and then made his way out into the intersection of the two busy streets and died in the early morning. The murder created such fear among our guests who arrive for morning hospitality. There lives felt even more vulnerable as they witnessed the yellow crime tape wrapped around our parish entrance.

Later that year, blood was shed again at our front doors. Daniel was shot nine times at 3:00 a.m. at the entrance of our parish. I woke up and heard the shots. I hesitated before coming down to street level. I poked my head out of our doors and told an officer that I heard five shots. He told me that I slept through the first four.

The blood of these men woke me up. Their murders hung on my heart. My legs and arms ran cold again. So I needed to wake up from the sleep of complacency. Two weeks after Daniel’s murder I offered a memorial service on the sidewalk around our building. I invited Daniel’s family and shared the invitation with our parish community. Nearly forty people gathered in the cold rain on a November night at 3:00 a.m. We sang and prayed, we were silent and present to the violence that had stopped life on our busy sidewalk. I discovered that prayer is the only thing to get our blood circulating again.

Now when there is a murder in our neighborhood, we process from the Eucharist on Sunday morning and gather at the murder site. We take the warm prayer of our worship into the cold streets, into the harsh and violent world of stabbings and shootings. This gesture of prayer, this procession becomes our way of taking life to the extremities of our neighborhood and to the issues that are killing our faith and the lives of those we love. In the conclusion of our prayer circled on the sidewalks, we pray that we will never have to offer our prayer again on concrete. We have offered this street prayer now at least ten times.

I realize that not everyone can drink the Cup of Salvation. Several years ago, we were experimenting with various vendors and wines for Eucharist. We were looking for a suitable supplier and vintage. One of the samples we received was several bottles of Port wine. This blood-red vintage is strong and bold tasting with an aroma to match.

After a few days of offering Port at Eucharist, a parishioner came to me in tears. She explained that she couldn’t receive from the Cup if that was the wine we were going to use for Eucharist. She told me with tears in her red eyes that her father was an alcoholic. After long hours of work, her father would come home late at night and drink Port wine. After drinking a large volume of wine, he would beat her and her sister. There was no mercy in the cup nor was there any relief from his toxic breath when he would scream and yell into her young face.

She pleaded with me not to serve Port. The wine made her fearful. The smell became a memory of abuse, a communion she would rather not remember. She told me that she did not want communion here in the parish to usher back memories of being physically and sexually abused and locked in a closet. Her fear made her blood stop and sipping the cup barred her from communion with God. In her adult life, sipping from the cup was the first time she understood that she could be loved. Receiving the Blood of Christ released her fear of being whipped and abused.

So many people in our community are in recovery from alcohol. They are allergic to the very remedy to the loneliness that stifles them. When one woman in our congregation sees the wine in the crystal goblet on our altar, she still wants to run up to the sanctuary and soak her tongue in the forbidden beverage. The juxtaposition of the Blood of Christ and being allergic to alcohol creates unrest in so many of our parishioners. However, this tension is the beginning of a journey to a deeper faith, a commitment to service within our parish community.

Another parishioner who lives a daily life of recovery told me that the reason she is a Eucharistic Minister is that she desires to be in communion with God and people. She holds the chalice to people’s eye level so that she can look into their eyes and believe that God is going to heal every person. She holds on to the Cup of Salvation for dear life even though her lips are forbidden to touch the rim of the chalice. She tells me all the time that she feels connected to people’s suffering in this action at the Eucharist. What is forbidden is now a new path to communion. She holds the chalice now with clear eyes, with a clean conscience and with steady hands. This is the miracle of God-made-flesh for this holy woman.

Several years ago a woman came to our parish community searching for God. She began working in our hospitality center serving food or offering people clothing or hygiene products. She noticed people standing in line to get the fresh-bean coffee we serve in the hospitality center. People waited for a mug of brew to wake them up. They waited patiently for what we offered. Even though the parish is not a food site, we normally have enough coffee to go around. She also noticed some of the same people standing in line at daily Mass to wait for the host and to share the cup. This connection startled her since she was not Catholic. She wondered why people wait in another line. She began to crave what they had, the opportunity to receive communion at Mass.

She later was received into the Church here in our community. She does not live in financial poverty. Her poverty is that she cannot receive from the chalice. She stands in line to open her hands and heart to receive the Bread of Life and then she prays for all who can only sip coffee instead of the Blood of Christ.

She also leads a group of women who are in recovery. They meet in our basement, in the room just under the altar upstairs. She tells me that the mugs of coffee she serves around the circle of alcoholics becomes for her a rich and profound moment of communion. The coffee circle is a miracle of faith because she first entered into relationship with people who are lonely and suffering in our hospitality center. They are some of the same people who line up for communion in the chapel.

Some years ago, I witnessed one of our Eucharistic Ministers holding the Cup of Salvation to person who is severely mentally ill. I was spellbound with hope and my eyes began to fill with water as I watched the minister hold up to the face of another person’s illness the sure hope of healing. I see in the sacrament of communion that healing is mutual. The relationship of ministers and receiver of the cup provide a mutual healing moment. The minister smiled with delight and compassion, her entire focus was centered on being in communion with this young man. This simple gesture of holding up the chalice seemed to be such an antidote to the grabbing, the fighting, the pushing and violence of the person’s life. The young man spends his day on the streets, in the utter violence of survival. For just a moment, even I received a glimpse of Christ breaking through the terror and invited the least among us into communion. The grace given to this minister cracked open the potential of healing and consolation for not only the young man but for all of us who were paying attention to the beauty of communion.

In our community we share the cup with people most other people would never invite to their dining room tables. People smell, sometimes they yell out and sometimes the people with power and jobs are rude and obnoxious. Our lips share the same cup. The rim of the cup is often caked with lipstick. Sometimes saliva runs down the edge of the glass goblet. The rim and stem are often gritty, dirty with fingerprints and smudges. In the winter months in the threat of influenza, we still share the same cup. In the heat of summer when people living outside are filthy and dirty, we continue to share the same cup. People who are cheating on their spouses or who hold the secrets of shady business deals share the same cup. People with multiple college degrees and people who stopped formal education when their mental illness was diagnosed in high school share the same cup. Others who are well aware of their relationship with God and others who have some desire for something more in the their lives all approach the simple chalice and sip the Blood of Christ.

Many people of course are fearful of sharing blood. When we think of the sacrament of the Blood of Christ, we may remember the fear that spread through the world thirty years ago around the issue of AIDS. Blood pathogens are something to fear when we realize that wine becomes the Blood of Christ. This image speaks to people who also long for healing miracles only love can remedy.

These varieties of people process to the communion cup in every community. However, I notice these holy gifts of people more than I ever have in my priesthood. I am also now more aware that God’s healing is not a commodity. Healing is not one-size-fits-all. God’s presence here among us in the communion line is inviting people just as they are in the world. God longs to be with everyone in the ways in which people need to be healed. This is such a miracle in a glass goblet. This is more than I can absorb or comprehend on some days. The beauty of the Real Presence is here in the offering of a simple sip from a common cup.

I see the connection to this Real Presence of Christ when I notice that the cup shared in the communion line becomes a remedy for everyday life. In the darkness of night I hear the squealing brakes of the large garbage trucks on our streets. I hear the hundreds of booze bottles being hurled into containers breaking and smashing. I am reminded of all the addicted people in our neighborhood who long for real communion and integrity. So many partygoers on our block never find the real intimacy for which they search.

The sharing of the Cup is new to this generation of Catholics. As a Church, lay people have only received the cup for the past fifty years. Now in most parish communities, lay people offer the Cup of Salvation to other lay people. This gesture breaks down the notion that the healing sacrament is only for clerics. People become the healing source for others when they walk among one another, when grace is poured out from heart to heart.

I see the Cup being poured out in the hospital as a spouse offers a sip of water from a Styrofoam cup to his wife who is dying of breast cancer. The gesture of offering such a gift of water is a sure sign of salvation. I see the Cup being poured out in a blood donation clinic that is desperate for new donations to keep people alive. The promise of the Blood of Christ goes to the extremities of accident victims. I see this communion when a grandmother stirs a container of lemonade for her granddaughter. In the sharing of a drink, she passes on family stories and connects the child to the rich history and love of family. Communion from the cup is lived among the events of life and in the beauty of our thirst for justice, for peace and in the unity of all people.

Sharing the Cup of Salvation together in any worshipping community is an antidote to fear for all generations. I ache for the fear caught in the extremities of all our relationships to be soothed by love. Sharing the Cup as communion means that we all put our lives on the line for God. I see this holy action every day in our unfussy community. This simple action challenges us to put our faith into action and we share not only our lips on the edge of a cup but we share our faith among people most in need. Sipping the Blood of Christ means that we will take this healing sacrament to the edges of our society, well beyond any parish community. I pray the Blood of Christ will be brought to the extremities of earthly despair, to all who endure poverty, to all who are cramped and pained by bodily fear, by the loving actions of God’s love within our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s