Posted in About Lauri, church, Discernment, Freedom, Healing, Jesus, Raised Catholic

Good Friday – The Church Who Turned Away

As we commemorate the trial, suffering and death of Jesus at the hands of two institutions who turned away from him, I find that my own “crucifixion” has resurfaced to be examined and grieved again.  I share this because I know I am not alone in having felt turned away and condemned by my Church (recovering Catholics, those raised Catholic, non-practicing Catholics).

The Church That Turned Away from Me

Copyright 2015  Lauri Ann Lumby

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For the past eight years, I have been fasting from the Eucharist.  To one on the outside looking in, I might be accused of turning away from my Church.  The opposite in fact is true.  It is the Church that turned away from me.

As a Vatican II Catholic, raised in a Vatican II Church, I have had a unique experience of Catholicism, markedly different from the generations that went before me.  I never experienced the Latin mass or was drilled on the Baltimore Catechism.  I attended Saturday evening folk mass accompanied by Kumbaya’s, Up, Up with People, and To Be Alive! Fish on Friday was reserved for Lent.  Ecumenical dialogue was encouraged and instead of Heaven being the privilege of Catholics only, the pearly gates stood open to all who lived in love. I was brought up with a rock n’ roll Jesus Christ Superstar who in his humanness pleaded to be released while weeping tears of blood at Gethsemane and to whom we desired to “see more clearly, love more dearly and follow more nearly,” as he danced around us in rainbow striped suspenders, sporting a Superman t-shirt.  Speaking out on matters of social injustice and working for peace; feeding the poor, clothing the naked and setting captives free was the understood responsibility of every person sitting in the pew.  Divine retribution and punishment had been left on the editing floor of the Holy See – along with indulgences; and even the unbaptized had a place in God’s loving kingdom. The only God I knew was the God of love. Jesus came to know this love and taught us how to love and was set up as the model and example of how every Christian was called to live.  We were called to be Jesus’ hands and heart through the unique charisms gifted to us by God’s Holy Spirit (sometimes even spoken of as a woman!).

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This is the Church I grew up in and the Church that I deeply loved.  Strengthening this bond was the mass that provided sanctuary and support for my inherently contemplative nature. Gothic arches, painted statues and stained glass windows serenaded by artistic soul.  And the stand up, kneel down, bow and sit of Catholic choreography nourished my need for a spirituality that was as much physical as it was emotional and intellectual. Devotion to Mary satisfied my need for a Divine Mother and the saints became my superheroes.

If I love my Church so much, you may be wondering why I have been fasting from the Eucharist?  What went wrong?  In short, it seems I took what I learned about God, Jesus and our Christian call too literally:

  • I believe in an unconditionally loving God, a Son that is both fully human and fully divine; the call to follow Jesus as an example of how to live my life and to be and do as he would in the world.
  • I love God above all else, my neighbor as myself and I consider ALL of humankind to be my neighbor.
  • I judge not (lest I be judged).
  • I pray for my enemies.
  • I try to forgive 70 times 7 times.
  • I pray without ceasing.
  • I feed the hungry.
  • I clothe the naked.
  • I give sight to the blind.
  • I set captives free.
  • And, I heal the sick.

Oshkosh WI 2/9/11: Photo by Jeannette Merten.

In the end, it was the last three actions that caused my Church to turn away from me.

After eight years in Catholic school and an equal number of years in academic and professional education and formation as a lay minister and spiritual director, I was guided by God to study hands-on-healing and Eastern Energy Medicine (Reiki). Out of this training and experience, God guided me further to develop a protocol through which people found healing from the spiritual wounds that separated them from God’s love, thereby healing them of their sin.  Right in line with Jesus’ teachings, right!? Apparently not, because the practices that I had learned and successfully applied were not “explicitly handed down by the Magesterium.”  I was challenged and confronted, hateful emails and letters were sent. I was accused of every nature of evil. Local bishops, fueled by the fear of the vocal minority, challenged my work and eventually handed down a prohibition calling it “witchcraft and sorcery,” in spite of my attempts to reason with and explain things to them.  Through this, I endured, but when I was attacked by a newly-appointed  pastor for a course in “Christian Zen” that I was sponsoring, who claimed it to be “outside Catholic teaching” and who identified Eastern practices as “dangerous,” I broke.  My heart was broken and my resolve with it.  The Church I had loved and out of whose embrace I had come to know God’s love – the Church who had called me to continue the work of Jesus – had betrayed me.  My gifts, my call, the unique way I had come to know God was no longer welcome. More than that, my ministry had been condemned as “dangerous,” “witchcraft and sorcery”….some even called it, “the work of the devil.”

ChristianZen.jpgOn that fateful autumn day, I listened beyond the voice of the fearful priest, the self-appointed inquisition, and even the Vatican II teachings that provided space for the ecumenical nature of the work I was doing and the unifying discussions that might arise out of this work.  I listened instead to the still, small voice of God within.  God’s voice was not small that day.  God spoke directly and loudly to my heart, “Lauri, you are my beloved daughter.  I have placed my word within your heart.  I have anointed you to be my servant.  Who will you obey?  Man or Me?”

Of course I chose God.

With God and the echoing support of Peter and the Apostles who similarly responded to the Church who turned away from them, “We must obey God rather than man, (Act 5: 29)” I handed over my keys and walked away.  Buoyed by God’s eternal promise of freedom, I knew that I could more freely do the work God had called me to absent the on-going scrutiny of the Church and the fearful minority.

Some would suggest that in leaving the Church I have also left behind my faith.  The opposite, in fact is true.  My faith has remained intact, and in truth, has been fortified.  I start every morning in prayer and meditation over the daily scripture.  Jesus is my constant companion, teacher and guide. I discern daily the ways in which I am being called to continue Jesus’ work in the world. I have seen the clear evidence of God at work through me as I witness the profound healing experienced by those who have become part of my ministry, and I am continually amazed at how God works through me to bring people more and more deeply into love and more closely connected to their own gifts and vocational call in the world.  I see the power of faith at work as I witness the empowerment experienced by those who come to me for counsel, attend my classes, read my writing and partake in my weekly services; and with each passing day my faith is strengthened and affirmed.

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Regarding the Church, I wish I could say that like Lot, I never looked back.  I find, instead, that I am more like Lot’s wife, forever gazing back in profound longing – grieving the loss of my home, my sanctuary, my community, my Church.  Beyond my own grief, however, I weep for my Church.  I long for the Church that I had come to know – one that is firmly rooted in the truth of God’s unconditional love and acting as that love in the world.  I long for a Church that works for unity and empowerment of all humankind – regardless of their gender, beliefs, or sexual orientation.  I long for a Church that is willing to set down its wealth and its power and get in the trenches with those who need its help – the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, the fearful, the wounded and the broken. I long for the Church that takes Jesus’ example seriously by being humble, giving the seats of honor to those without honor and washing the feet of strangers.  I yearn for a Church that supports people in becoming self-actualized, mature disciples – fostering the psycho-spiritual growth of men, women and children so that they can find the God they have forgotten in their hearts, discover their own unique giftedness and vocational call and become empowered in the fulfillment and use of these gifts in service to the betterment of the world.  I long for a Church that recognizes the earth as holy and sacred and works to be a steward for the gifts God gave us so that all of humanity may not only survive but thrive.  I cry out to the Church to work for justice – justice for all – not only for those who “are Catholic in good standing.”  My heart yearns for a Church that welcomes ALL people to its table – inviting all to know the unconditional and infinite love that is their truest nature. This is the Church that I once knew and I often wonder what happened to that Church – or if all along it had really just been a figment of my imagination.

 

 

Lauri Ann Lumby, MATP is a published author, ordained interfaith minister, spiritual director and teacher.  She ministers to a world-wide audience, most of whom were raised Catholic but who were also turned away by the Church.  Lauri lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  You can learn more about Lauri and her ministry at www.yourspiritualtruth.com.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Authentic Freedom, church, Jesus, Spiritual Practices, Virtual Church

Who is Saved?

The theme of this week’s Agape’ Meditation Newsletter, supplement to this Sunday’s Authentic Freedom Virtual Church, is SALVATION.  Do we need to believe in Jesus to be saved?   Jesus might say, no. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thirty-first Sunday Ordinary Time

 

Agape’ Meditation Practices Newsletter

Supplement to the Authentic Freedom Virtual Church Service

 

Scripture Reading:

Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Jn 6: 37 – 40

 Resurrection

Additional Readings: 

Wis 3: 1-9

Ps 23: 1-6

Rom 5: 5-11

 

We’re All Saved?

This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.

 

John’s gospel is a tricky one. On one hand, there are statements like the one above – indicating God’s will that all will be reunited in God’s love. Reflection on this statement seems to open the door to “salvation” to all human beings. Soon following that, however, is the Johnnine qualifier “everyone who sees the Son and believes in him will have eternal life.” Suddenly, the promise of reunion with God seems conditional – only those who see the Son and believe are saved. If we believe that Jesus came to teach us how to love and that Jesus preached of a God whose love is unconditional, how is it that only Christians can be saved? Inconsistencies like these are what have led to centuries of Christian arrogance creating horrors like the Crusades, the Inquisition and Witch Hunts that have killed millions of people all “in the name of God.”

When faced with these inconsistencies, prayerful meditation on scripture is critical. It is only in prayer, inviting God to help us see past the inconsistencies of scripture, that we can be open to receiving God’s truth. (John’s gospel, for example, was written between 90 and 100 CE and is a theological reflection on the resurrected Christ. Additionally, John’s gospel has likely been significantly redacted to fit a specific agenda.) The Vatican II Fathers used these techniques of prayerful reflection, along with theological debate, in developing the Vatican II documents. In these documents, the bishops, cardinals and pope are clear – all human beings can be saved – regardless of their religious beliefs. Salvation, in their eyes, is something that we cannot grasp, but is a mystery known only to God. If God is unconditionally loving – that means EVERYONE – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, even Atheist. All are one in God.

Where have you found scriptural inconsistencies to be troubling?

How do you reconcile the God of love that you know with the fickle and jealous God often portrayed in scripture?

What do you want to believe about God?

What do you want to believe about salvation?

 

Spiritual Practices – Piercing through the veil

Lectio-Divina (Divine Reading) is a spiritual practice which helps us to see through the veil of human perceptions and agendas to access God’s truth. This week, you are invited to apply Lectio-Divina to the above scripture to uncover God’s truth for you.

Read the scripture slowly and meditatively, looking for a word or phrase that jumps out at you. Receive this word or phrase as God’s nourishment for you today.

Meditate on this word or phrase. Ponder it in your mind. Reflect on what it might be saying to you. Perhaps repeat it over and over in your mind, allowing you to arrive at a place of stillness where you can hear God’s voice in the midst of those words.

Respond to this word or phrase. Write or say aloud your thoughts and feelings about this word or phrase. What does it mean to you? What do you want to say to God in exchange for this word or phrase?

Rest in silence and allow God’s grace to enter you….receiving what God wants you to receive from this meditation, allowing the word or phrase to nourish and become part of you.

 

Authentic Freedom

In Authentic Freedom, we understood that Jesus came to remind us of the truth of our Oneness with God. This Oneness applies to EVERYONE and everything. All of creation comes from God, is a part of God, and returns to God. From this perspective, salvation is the extent to which we have remembered this Oneness. While existing in the human condition, we may only get a glimpse of this Oneness, but with diligent practice, these glimpses increase and become more enduring. And, nothing and no one is denied access to these experiences of Oneness, experiencing glimpses of salvation in the midst of human condition, and enjoying the fullness of salvation once the human condition is released and we return in full recollection of our Oneness with God.

Where have you experienced glimpses of your Oneness with God?

How are you setting time aside for your spiritual practice so you can remember your Oneness with God and experience salvation in the midst of the human condition?

 

Posted in Authentic Freedom, church, Raised Catholic

New Hope, New Vision, New Church – Part 1

Today’s blog looks on in hopefulness over the actions of the new pope and  over the course of the next several days, offers a challenge to the Catholic Church as to how it might reconcile itself to those who have left.

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Seeds of Hope

To Vatican II minded Catholics, seeds of hope have been planted as we look upon the actions of the new pope, Pope Francis:  rejecting the papal palace for a small apartment, washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday, seeking to reform the bureaucratic structure of the Roman Curia, seeking preferential treatment for the poor, speaking to global issues of social justice, suggesting a return to the implementation of the Vatican II reforms – just to name a few.  While the jury is still out, Pope Francis’ initial actions suggest a return to what the Church is supposed to be about in the first place – continuing the mission of Christ in the world – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor, clothing the naked, healing the blind, working for justice, etc. etc. etc.  While the former administration was busy dodging the consequences of their fearful, power-driven actions and trying to project the blame elsewhere (uppity lay people, women religious, secularism, capitalism, the influence of Eastern practices, etc.), it seems, at first glance, as if the new pope is more concerned about getting back to basics.  Of course there is much in the way of reconciliation that still needs to happen, but Pope Francis’ initial actions inspire one to entertain thoughts of hopefulness.

An Uppity Lay Woman’s Challenge to the Church

As a woman who was raised Catholic, experienced nearly twelve years of a Catholic elementary and secondary education,  completed seven years of ministerial training under the guidance of the Catholic Church and lovingly ministered in the Church for 10+ years, I have a few things to say about Catholicism.  Even though for the past few years my attendance at mass has been at best, sporatic, I still passionately love my faith….more specifically, I love the faith I was raised in – a Vatican II minded, contemplative faith, centered in a personal relationship with Jesus, doing his work in the world and working toward compassion, harmony and justice.  The polarization that took place within the last two administrations has been heartbreaking, to say the least.  I wept as I witnessed the exodus of millions of Catholics who no longer felt welcome in their Church or just simply found in it nothing relevant to their own personal lives.  It is my hope and my dream that with the new administration, some of the reasons for Catholics leaving might begin to change.

A causal, rather than a symptomatic approach to change

As Westerners, we have certain hot-button topics on our wished-for list of reforms:  women’s ordination, married priesthood, gay marriage, contraception,  and dealing with the fallout of the sex abuse scandal.  I would offer that these issues are merely symptoms of deeper issues.  Like the work I do with Authentic Freedom, I would suggest an approach to reform that goes to the ROOT CAUSE of disease, not just tackling the symptoms, but healing the Church at its unhealed spiritual wounds.  By facilitating healing at the root cause, as I have witnessed with clients and students of Authentic Freedom, the outward symptoms of disease simply take care of themselves.  If we confront the deeper spiritual issues, questions about women’s ordination, a married priesthood, contraception, gay marriage, will simply take care of themselves and the answers will become obvious…because no longer are we an institution ruled through fear, but one rooted in compassion and working for justice.  At the end of the day, the issues that get our undies in a bundle all boil down to one question:

What would love do?

Original sin the original wound

In Authentic Freedom, we talk about the core spiritual wound of humanity.  This wound, the false perception of separation from God, is the source of our fear and the origin of every non-loving act (toward ourselves, the earth and others).  The Church, interpreting the Adam and Eve myth from the perspective of punishment, has called this wound original sin and placed it within the framework of an angry, punitive God and HIS disobedient children.  Adam and Eve, our mythical ancestors, disobeyed God and were banished from paradise, and all the rest of humanity with them.  We then, are condemned to spending the rest of our life (or eternity, depending on whether or not we believe in purgatory) earning back God’s fickle and conditional love so that we might someday enjoy the return to paradise.  As Catholics, we are taught that seeking God’s love is not enough, we must appease the angry God through regular participation in the sacraments – the doorways to God’s grace with the Church holding the key.  It is my contention that if the Church wants to heal itself and if it wants to be an effective vehicle for authentic healing and reconciliation in the world, it first needs to heal its perception of and teachings about original sin.

The Core Wound

Healing our perception of original sin allows us to recognize the perception of separation from God as necessary to the human condition and the consequence of choosing the opportunity to learn through being human.  While this false perception of separation allows us to temporarily experience ourselves as unique, separate individuals, it also results in a longing that causes us to search – specifically, to search for a way to return to Source – to return to the love that we knew in our Oneness with God.  At first, we seek outside ourselves for the remedy to this longing, but eventually we discover that there is nothing “out there” that eases the anxiety and restlessness of this longing and that the only remedy to this longing is to go within.  No longer is original sin something to be held over our heads as a threat to eternal damnation, no longer are we inherently flawed or stained, no longer have we been banished by God and unworthy of God’s love until we participate in the sacraments, now we are the loved and adored children of God hungering to remember that love that we somehow forget in choosing the human condition.  And the Church is no longer the gatekeeper to grace, but  a compassionate and loving guide, sharing with its people all the many tools for remembering that place of Oneness with God – for remembering God’s love and that we are made of that love: spiritual practices of meditation, prayer, contemplation, mantra, chant, devotional practices, worship, art and architecture that inspire wonder and awe and spark our imaginations, poetry, parable, wisdom writings that speak to our souls, sacred writings, opportunities to serve, as well as the sacraments.

In the coming blogs, I will continue this discussion, specifically in regards to the tools at the disposal of the Catholic Church for helping us to ease the pain of longing and find a deep and abiding peace within in our remembered Oneness with God.

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Where Have All the Catholics Gone? – Part I

Today’s blog explores the mass exodus of Catholics to somewhere else.  Why did they leave and where have they gone? Today we explore the why.  Monday, we will explore the where.  PS  This blog might be about you!

Staggering Statistics

Several years ago while attending a church-oriented workshop, I learned two very interesting statistics:

  • The single largest religious denomination in the United States is Roman Catholicism. 
  • The second largest religious denomination in the US is comprised of non-practicing Catholics. 

Today I learned the staggering statistics that back up this information.  According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostalate (CARA), in 2011, there were 77.7 million self-described (on a survey, they identify themselves as Catholic) Catholics in the United States.  Of those 77.7 million, only 22% attend mass on a weekly basis.  And of those who identify themselves as Catholics, 42.7 million are no longer practicing Catholicism.  Let’s state this another way:

  • 17 million Catholics out of 77.7 million attend weekly mass
  • 18 million Catholics out of 77.7 million are only participating marginally
  • 42.7 million aren’t participating at all

Note:  These numbers are only related to those who in a survey on religion would identify themselves as Catholic.  It does not address those who were raised Catholic and no longer identify themselves as Catholic.  I have to wonder what the numbers are for these folks! 

Where are the 42.7 million and all the ones not counted???

These statistics beg a very important question:  What happened to 42.7 million self-identified Catholics?  This is an enormous audience of people who are no longer participating in the Church that they identify themselves as belonging to.  Where did they go and why?  Today’s blog explores my observations and theories about why they are no longer participating, Monday’s blog explores where we might find them.

We are Smarter than You Think

In the old days, Catholics went to mass because they were told to and because they were told that if they did not attend mass, it was a mortal sin and they would go to hell if they died without receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.  So, they went because they were told and they went because they were scared.  Here’s the funny thing, this little moral teaching (not attending mass = a mortal sin and you will go to hell if you have mortal sin on your soul) is still on the books…..this is still the official teaching of the Catholic Church.  But guess what, most people are smart enough to believe in a loving God who will probably not condemn them to hell for missing mass.  So if the fear of eternal damnation is no longer hanging over our heads, what is the motivation for going to mass?

We Would Go if We enjoyed it

One of the things the Catholic Church figured out during the Vatican II Council was that vibrant worship, inspiring, relevant and nourishing preaching, meaningful rituals and with full participation of the laity (the people in the pew) would inspire people to attend.  Well……..as most Catholics know, the reforms of Vatican II have been a LONG time coming….and now seem to be going in reverse.  As such, the goals of vibrant worship, meaningful ritual, inspired preaching and full participation have only been marginally manifest.  Yes, some parishes are doing this REALLY well….especially if they have a pastor who is motivated by these goals and gifted in these areas, or who has recognized he’s not and hired support staff to accomplish these tasks.  For the most part, however, Catholics are NOT experiencing vibrant worship, etc. and are not feeling nourished by the mass……so they don’t attend, or they go somewhere else.

Catholic Moral Teaching vs. Primacy of Conscience

This sticky little area is perhaps the number one reason that Catholics don’t participate or choose to leave all together – they do not or cannot uphold some (if not many) of the Catholic moral teachings.  Even though there is a loophole in a little doctrine known as primacy of conscience, many churches teach a hard-line approach to morality and many are made to feel as if they are not welcome if they choose to step outside of the literal interpretation of the law.  So, if you believe that birth control is ok, that there is nothing wrong with living together before marriage or that homosexuality is something created by God and that a homosexual lifestyle is not something to condemn or if you suffered an abortion or know women who have and find that you cannot judge that as condemnable, you might not choose to play with a Church that tells you otherwise.

Abuse of Power

Everyone has read the headlines.  The institution of the Catholic Church is in deep doo doo.  Priests sexually abusing children, mostly young boys and their bishops either ignoring it or covering it up.  The Catholic Church is NOT ALONE in this kind of abuse of power, in fact, the statistics are the same across denominations.  But…..the Catholic Church is the biggest and easiest target and quite frankly, the most self-righteous.  Everyone wants to see the one on their moral high-horse brought down (especially one that seems to say “do as I say but not as I do”) – this is human nature!  Today, the Church would be in a better position if they would have handled this whole fiasco better – accepted responsibility, asked for forgiveness, made reparations to the victims and their families, then initiated effective reform to help prevent further incidences of abuse.  But…..the Church has not, in spite of what they say and seem to be doing.  Catholic are disgusted by this and many have left because of it.

The Disenfranchised, Rejected and Banished

This is the group of Catholics that have been told they are not welcome in the Catholic Church, or at the very least, made to feel they aren’t welcome:  Divorced, Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered, women who have suffered abortion, those who choose to live together before marriage, those choosing artificial birth control as their method of family planning, those with AIDS, women called to the priesthood, married men called to the priesthood, those who question or challenge Catholic teaching, those who are open to exploring other forms of worship, prayer, communion with God, etc. etc. etc.  The list is endless.  If directly or indirectly, we are made to feel unwelcome, we leave.

The Bottom Line

I believe that the ultimate reason that Catholics leave or choose to no longer participate is even more deeply rooted than any of the above reasons.  Ultimately, we leave because our spiritual hungers are not being satisfied.  We are not being fed.  Now, that is a whole other topic and one I promise to explore, but I have learned that when people are being fed spiritually, they come back.  When people are honored and loved for who they are and invited to share who they are with the community, they stick around.  I have also found that when people are being fed spiritually, a whole bunch of “sins” by an institution can be forgiven and little mistakes overlooked.  Church is kind of like a marriage – if you treat me with love, honor and respect, I will do the same for you.  And when you make a mistake, say you are sorry and try to change, I can forgive you and I will stick around.  So if the Church wants to get back the 42.7 million who are no longer playing, maybe this would be the place to start.

If you are Catholic and no longer participating, what are your reasons for leaving?

What could the Church have done that would make you stay?

What do you look for in Church (if that is one of your ways of being with God)?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Raised Catholic

Recovering Catholic? Catholic on the Fringe? Progressive Catholic? You are NOT alone!

  • You’re also not evil, going to hell and neither do you need to leave behind the things you have enjoyed about your Catholic faith.
  • You can be of rational mind and discerning spirit, you can question, challenge, confront, embrace the proposed reforms of Vatican II and cringe at the “reform of the reform.”
  • You can seek the God of your own understanding and find He, She, it, Them, in scripture, in the rituals of the Catholic tradition and anywhere else for that matter.
  • You can seek unity across religious traditions and embrace what is “of love”  in all faiths.
  • You can shake hands with the Dalai Lama, dance with the Sufis, sing halleluias with the Pentecostals, sit with the Zen Buddhists and practice asana with the Hindus and yogis……while still appreciating your tribal roots in Catholicism.
  • You can accept what speaks truth to you and set aside what does not.
  • You can embrace the law of God that resides in your heart and accept “Primacy of Conscience” as your guiding force.
  • You can grieve the actions of a religious institution that cause you sorrow, anger, frustration or pain and find new life on the other side.

Authentic Freedom Ministries speaks to people of all faiths (including those who call themselves athiest or agnostic), and is a unique voice to those who were raised Catholic, especially to those who find themselves searching, disenfranchised, disenchanted or frustrated.   Through our inspirational blog, Your Spiritual Truth, our classes, programs and services and through our subscription meditation newsletter, Agape’,  we speak to the heart of those who might say the following or desire to say the following about themselves:

I am a Contemplative, Progressive, Catholic Christian

  • Jesus is my teacher and guru and I can see the truth as revealed through other teachers and spiritual leaders.
  • Through contemplative prayer practices, I find wisdom, guidance and comfort beyond doctrine.
  • Through contemplative practices, I have found truth and wisdom in scripture – even in those that have been interpreted through the lens of fear.
  • I embrace ritual, mystery, mysticism, art, architecture, nature, music, commmunity and sacrament as vehicles of God’s grace.
  • I was raised Catholic and recognize this as my “tribe” while feeling free to embrace what speaks truth to me and setting aside what does not.
  • I am “catholic” in the sense of being universal – seeking to find the unity in the perceived separations between doctrine, beliefs and religious practice and honoring everything that leads us toward Love as grace-filled and sacred.
  • I embrace love as the truth Jesus came to reveal.
  • I believe in the truth of our Oneness with God in love and that this is the truth that sets us free.
  • I believe that all paths lead us to God – that which is our Source and Origin in love.
  • I honor all holy men and women, regardless of their chosen beliefs, who have followed the law of love.
  • I find more meaning in the search and in asking the questions than in the perceived certainties of doctrine or law.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Inspiration, Jesus, Oneness with God, teachers

John 3:16

Today’s blog explores John 3:16, the scripture passage oft-quoted at sporting events and the focus of yesterday’s Gospel.  Is there a way to view this reading that eliminates the walls of separation and exclusion? 

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3: 16

The Trouble With 3:16

At first glance, this reading may seem harmless enough, but if we take the reading at face value, and listen to the typical interpretation of this reading (and its surrounding text), it kind of says, If you don’t proclaim Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior, you will perish and spend an eternity in hell.  I never really believed in this kind of exclusive arrangement anyway – that there is only room in eternity for Christians….specifically those in “good standing,” but after 20+ years of contemplation of scripture and study of not only Catholic theology, but of the teachings and practices of our Jewish, Moslim, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and Yogic brothers and sisters, I really have a problem believing that there is only room in “heaven” for those who proclaim Jesus Christ to be their personal Lord and Savior.    (For you Catholics out there, it might interest you to know that the Vatican II Documents support the possibility of heaven for everyone. So apparently this concept of exclusivity was problematic to the Vatican II Fathers as well.  YAY Vatican II!)  So in the past several years when John 3:16 would show up in the cycle of readings, I would either cringe or just close my ears and write it off as irrelevant.  That was until I discovered the work of Neil Douglas-Klotz.

Enlightment Through Translations

Among other things, Neil Douglas-Klotz is an author – specifically on the topic of bridging the gaps between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  His work centers on a prayerful and more accurate translation of ancient texts which helps us to better understand the teacher/author’s intentions.  Two of his works especially have had a HUGE impact on my own spiritual journey and my relationship to Christian scripture:  Prayers of the Cosmos and The Hidden GospelThanks to these works, I have a broader and deeper perspective on The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes and many of Jesus’ reported sayings and teachings.  I am grateful for the way in which Douglas-Klotz’s work has eliminated the separation and tension that I have often felt in the traditional viewings of scripture.  So, without further ado…..I offer to you today a different perspective on John 3:16 that arose out of my prayer and was supported by Douglas-Klotz’s work.  I hope that if you too have struggled with the separation often caused by the traditional interpretation of this reading that this new perspective will give you room to breathe.

John 3:16 – a New Perspective

 For God so loved the world that God planted within all of humanity a spark of Divine truth and the restlessness that compels them to seek this truth.

And God so loved the world that God made it such that all of humanity would have the ability to rediscover, cultivate and fully embrace this truth and come to the realization of their wholeness and their Oneness with God.

And God so loved the world that God called all of humanity Sons and Daughters of God and knew that some would discover this spark of truth before others. Those that discover and embody this truth would find relief from the suffering of the human condition; suffering that is the natural consequence of forgetting this truth.  Those that discover and embody this truth are called prophets and come from all walks of life, all cultures, races, genders, ethnicities, religious beliefs and sexual orientations.  Those who through this truth come to self-realization and self-actualization are then compelled to share this truth with others so that they too may be saved.

God so loved the world that God gave humanity the gift of free will so that they could decide if and when they are ready to discover and embrace this truth.  Those who are not yet ready to embrace this truth are no less saved than the rest, they are merely unripe.  For those who are not yet ready to embrace this truth, God lovingly and patiently awaits their ripening.  For those that believe in this truth in the same way that the prophets believe in this truth, experience heaven on earth – a life of abundant joy, peace, compassion and bliss.

God so loved the world that God gave humanity each other that they might remember this truth……and this truth is LOVE.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Remember the Love That You Are!

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Why The Catholic Church (as we currently know it) Must Fall

Danger:  If you are clinging to the current form of Roman Catholicism….you might not want to read today’s post.  Change is a comin…..and the invitation is to step aside, let the carnage fall where it may, then watch as the phoenix of new life arises from the ashes.  In order to do this, we need to let go of our attachment to what we know and have known the Catholic Church to be and to be open to something new and unexpected.

 

The Sex Abuse Scandal is NOT Over

Last night I was at a friend’s house reading the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine which features an exhaustive investigation into the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandal, specifically, the secret sex crimes files.  (here’s a link to the article:   http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-catholic-churchs-secret-sex-crime-files-20110906 ) In the article, New York Archbishop, Timothy Dolan (formerly of our own Archdiocese of Milwaukee), was quoted as waving off the priest sex abuse scandal and saying, “That’s over with.” Are you flippin’ kidding me?   OVER With ?????  I realize that the Catholic hierarchy burying their heads in the sand is not new information….but really?  The priest sex abuse scandal is over?  NOT HARDLY!!!!!   In fact, is has only just begun.  What Dolan’s response illuminates to me, however, is the very reason that the Catholic Church (as we currently know it) will and MUST fall.  As long as the hierarchy clings to denial, self-protection and defense, the issues that created a culture in which priests have been allowed to sexually abuse children will never be dealt with.  Change and reform will NOT be coming anytime soon from the old-boys club and for those of us in the pew, we’d better just get used to this idea.  Instead of authentic reform, we will be pummeled with distractions – liturgical reform, investigations of women religious, new translations of the Roman missal, new guidelines on music, the restoration of vestments, vessels, etc. that set the priest apart as “more special” than the rest of us, hard-line insistence on upholding “the one true faith,” coming down on issues of morality, setting the Catholic Church apart as “better than the rest.”  Vatican II has been set aside in favor of a Church that wants us to pray, pay and obey (which is ironic considering the current state of the hierarchy) and keep our mouths shut!

You Don’t Have to Be a Prophet

You don’t have to be a prophet to figure out where this is all leading.  The Institution cannot keep up the facade of giving a damn about the sex abuse scandal forever.  We are not that stupid.  As secret files emerge and more charges against priests are made, it becomes painfully obvious that nothing is being done and nothing will be done to heal the wounds or work toward authentic reform.  The Institution has nothing to gain and everything to lose by owning their own sins, holding themselves accountable and working toward change.  In the meantime, all the work of creating distractions does nothing but create disillusionment and frustration in the hearts of those who want to see a happy and healthy Catholic Church (I count myself among those people).  In the end, what the Church will be left with is a flock of blindly obedient members content to look the other way as priests continue to abuse while those who want a healthy church will simply walk away….either retreating to private devotion or finding refuge in another denomination, while secretly pining for what they had to leave behind in the sacraments and rituals with which they had previously found comfort.

There is Good News

I know that I can tend to be uber-cynical and perhaps a little jaded when it comes to issues on Roman Catholicism, and I own that.  I found that working in the Institution does one of three things: creates bureaucratic puppets, frustrated reformers or jaded cynics.  I guess I fall somewhere between the latter two.  That being said, I boldy and passionately LOVE many things about my Catholic faith.  And….I am a 100% Vatican II baby and believe in the authenticity and vision of that council.  I want to see the reforms of Vatican II fully manifested in the Church and I look forward to seeing what the Holy Spirit has in mind for Vatican III.  I believe in the redemptive action of the Holy Spirit and I believe that even in the midst of what seems like the imminent death of the Institution (as we have known it) that something new and magnificent will rise from the ashes.  And while there is grief in witnessing the death of what I have known, it is in the on-going redemptive and life-generating action of the Divine that I place my trust, knowing that something new and wonderful is coming to pass.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in About Lauri, church, Raised Catholic

My Catholic Journey….continued

Linda’s Sad Story….and sadly the story of many

Yesterday on Facebook, one of my blog readers, Linda,  shared her horror stories of going to Catholic school and the evil inflicted upon them by the nuns.  I know that Linda’s story is not unique and there are many men and women today who attended parochial schools and suffered at the hands of unhealthy priests and/or nuns.  I have to state, for the record, my personal experience was the polar opposite which is why it has been so difficult as a grown up to come face to face with the underbelly of the Catholic Church.  Before I go there, however, I do want to share with you the incredible experiences I had growing up Catholic and the amazing nuns, priests and lay people that played a significant role in my spiritual growth and formation.

Formative Years

I was one of the fortunate people to grow up in the post-Vatican II church among parishes and schools that were committed to bringing forward the reforms of the Council.  St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Totino-Grace in Fridley, Minnesota, St. John’s University in Collegeville (where I attended summer camp), Pax Christi in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Resurrection Parish in Solon, Ohio; St. Mary’s in Iowa City and the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis were all run by priests, as well as men and women in vowed religious life (brothers and nuns) who were fantastic teachers, preachers and role models of the Christ message.  Good liturgy (the mass), the sacraments, inspiring and relevant sermons and a commitment to social justice seemed to be common among these formative experiences.  Another common thread is that all of these churches tended to be of a progressive mindset.  In other words, yes, we were taught Catholic teachings which included the moral teachings and guidelines of the Church, BUT these teachings were always followed up with the reminder of the teachings on  Primacy of Conscience. While there were a few teachings presented as “absolute”, we were invited for the most part to use the brain God gave us to reason, discern and exercise truth.

Unique and Rare

I have now learned that I was more than fortunate and that these experiences represent a rarity, so I guess in this I am especially grateful. I am grateful for the sacrifices our parents made so that we could enjoy a parochial school education and for the witness they provided in their own commitment to active participation in the parish communities in which which we were members.  I am also grateful to all the priests, brothers, sisters and lay people who helped to make me who I am and who through their own witness, provided inspiration for what would eventually reveal itself as my own call to active ministry.

Adulthood

As much as I was blessed in childhood with a great Catholic experience, in adulthood (at least up until the past few years), I was doubly blessed.  I was somehow led to the exact parishes that God seemed to know would feed me and would continue to lead me to the call to active ministry.  When moving to Oshkosh I found St. Peter parish and Kiernan Rozum’s Women’s Spirituality groups.  I then discovered the Newman Center Catholic Campus Ministry and Fr. Jeff VandenHeuvel.  It was here that my call really began to show itself.  When the call became obvious, I was led to the Lay Ministry formation program offered by our Diocese, and then on to the Spiritual Director’s training program offered through the Norbertine Abbey in DePere.  In every one of these situations, I was met again with priests, sisters and lay people who were Vatican II thinkers, progressive and inspired.  It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time in exactly the right way.  And as I watch the changes in the Institution, I know that here I was triply blessed!

Sitting in the Question

After hearing Linda’s story and the story of others like her, I know that my experience has been not only unique, but rare.  I’m not sure why God provided these opportunities for me in the way that they were presented, but I am grateful for them because they have made me who I am and have formed me in my ministry.  While I am currently called to fast from the Eucharist and have been called to take my ministry outside the doors of the official Institution, I cannot deny that in my bones, I am still Catholic.  I’m not sure what that means in my ministry or in my personal life, but I guess for now, I am content to sit in the question.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in About Lauri, church, Raised Catholic

Raised Catholic? This blog’s for you!

I dedicate the blogs for the remainder of this week to my Catholic brothers and sisters – whether you are still practicing, struggling, recovering or have “left” the church all together… this blog’s for you!


Starting my own religion??????

Yesterday, it was implied by a fellow commenter on the NCR site (National Catholic Reporter) that I had no right to comment on the topic of Catholic identity because I had “left the Church and started my own religion.”  As anyone who really knows me and my aversion to anything political or wrapped in bureaucracy can attest, I have no intention, now or ever to start my own religion.  I mean seriously, WHO would want to do that????  So, let’s just put that accusation to rest right now.  I have not started my own religion, nor do I ever plan to.  Simply the idea of it sends shivers down my spine!  YUK!

Leaving the Catholic Church

Ok, this accusation may warrant a little discussion.  While I am currently fasting from the Eucharist, I’m not sure I can really say that I have ceased being Catholic.  One of the things I have observed is that no matter how much we protest, we cannot take the Catholic out of the Catholic.  I think it is a matter of “once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”  (In fact, I think there is even something in Canon Law that concurs with this….can any Canon Lawyers help me out here?)  You can’t undo your Catholicness.  Anne Rice, case-in point.  Even at the time she proclaimed herself to be an “atheist”, you could just see her Catholicism oozing out of her through her writing.  And even though she has made a recent public departure from the Church….the Catholicism still flows through her blood and is imbedded in her bones. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic

You Can’t Take the Good Parts Away from Me

And for the record, I would probably still be a practicing and active Catholic if it hadn’t been for some events over the past several years that have made me choose otherwise.  In truth….I love being Catholic.  I know this is a weird thing to admit, but I was one of the lucky ones.  I LOVED my Catholic faith.  I loved the formation I received in Catholic schools. For the most part, I had great respect and admiration for the priests, nuns and lay people who gave their lives in ministry to God.  AND I LOVE the mass!  I know, I’m totally weird!  Even as a child, I loved going to mass on Sundays, on First Friday’s and on Holy Days.  In the mass I found a place of mystery and peaceful repose that spoke to a deeper  longing within.  Beyond the mass, there are other things I love about being Catholic – the art and architecture, the wisdom of the Vatican II Council, the teachings on Social Justice, the rich history of mysticism and spiritual practices, the communion of saints – I mean really….who can’t love St. Francis, St. Bernadette, Teresa of Avila and Joan of Arc?   I even appreciate the sacramental (some would suggest superstitious) practices – the wearing of amulets (religious medals), sprinkling holy water on things to bless them and purify them, novenas, the rosary, etc. etc. etc.  Nobody else has these things…(except maybe the Pagans or Hindus and a few Tibetans – and yes, I will probably get in trouble for drawing these parallels!).  So, in the end, I love the formation and experiences I received through my Catholic faith and nobody can take that away from me (even the Church).

A Catholic in Exile and The Things that Make me Sad

That being said, I am deeply saddened by the things that I have seen happening in “my” Church.  The priest sex abuse scandal and the unchecked power, control and dysfunction that has caused this abomination.  I am saddened to see the reforms of Vatican II (which had only just begun) get slowly stripped away.  I am afraid of what they are doing to the mass and how it will soon be unrecognizable.  I am saddened by the hard-line legalism that has infiltrated the Institution and its resulting culture of fear.  Ultimately, it is this culture of fear that has caused me to become a “Catholic in Exile.”  In the end, for me it is about Jesus’ message and nothing says it better than the Christmas Hymn, O Holy Night, specifically in what it  says about Jesus.  These are the words that I stand by and the words that drive my decisions about where to worship and where to share my own gifts in the world in service to God.

Truly he taught us to love one another,

His law is love and his gospel is peace.

Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother

and in his name all oppression shall cease.


Questions for my Catholic brothers and sisters:

What have you loved/do you love about your Catholic faith?

What are the things that cause you inner conflict?

How are you currently being called to live out your personal relationship with God/Jesus?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

Oshkosh, WI

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Raised Catholic

Raised Catholic?

In this note, I address the men and women who have been raised Catholic and are searching for spiritual nourishment and acknowledging that 90% of the people that have enjoyed the programs and services of Authentic Freedom Ministries were in fact, raised Catholic.


While Authentic Freedom Ministries is open to people of all spiritual traditions, I have come to realize that of the women and men who seek my services, 95% of them were raised Catholic.  I have not actively pursued this audience, yet I cannot ignore these statistics.  When asked what has brought them here, these are the answers most commonly offered:

  • I love my faith, but feel like something is missing.
  • I yearn for a personal relationship with God.
  • I’m struggling with some of the teachings of the Church.
  • I have been wounded by the Church.
  • I feel disenfranchised by an Institution that does not honor me for who I am as a woman, gay, divorced, co-habitating, a single parent, called to a priesthood that does not welcome me…
  • I left the Church years ago and have not yet found a spiritual home, I’ve looked elsewhere, but even there, something seems to be missing.

If these issues speak to your heart, know that you are welcome to come and explore your spiritual journey in a safe and sacred space where you will be honored for who you are and for where you are in your journey.

A letter to my Catholic brothers and sisters:

“At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd…

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  As you go, make the proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand.’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.”

The above scripture passage has become the foundation and intention of the work of service I do in the world. As I reflect more deeply on this invitation, it has revealed to me the audience that I have been called to feed and I can no longer ignore the fact that  95% of the women and men who have sought my services have been raised Catholic.  This is not due to any specific effort on my part.  This is purely coincidence (or God-cidence!)!

As I reflect on this reality, I have come to recognize some common denominators in those who come to me for Spiritual Direction, Reiki or to participate in the programs that I offer.  The most common characteristic among these men and women is that they are free thinkers, and seeking to find a place where their questions, thoughts, reflections, doubts and explorations can be honored as sacred.  They are seeking a safe place where they will not feel judged or condemned for their questions or for the truths that they have discerned within themselves and the life choices they have made.   These are folks looking for tools to help them know God personally and to learn how to discern God’s guidance in their lives. These are men and women who love much of what they experienced in the Catholic Church, but are looking for something more.  What this something more might be, most of them do not know.  This is what they are seeking….that “something more” that cannot be named.  They have sought this something more inside the Institution and feel they have not found it.  They are enlivened when they discover that the “something more” is deep within themselves and is the Source of peace, joy and love that we call God.

Many of the people who have found benefit in the work of Authentic Freedom Ministries have felt disenfranchised by the Institution- most commonly because they do not feel the questions they have and truths they have discerned are honored by the Church – women and married men called to be priest, victims of abuse who were turned away or ignored, women and men who seek equality within a decidedly hierarchical and male Institution, gay men and women, those who have experienced divorce, single parents, women who have suffered the tragedy of abortion, men and women in abusive relationships, people who have been told their truth is heretical because “it is not explicitly handed down by the magesterium”.  These are the people I have come to call “the lost sheep of Rome,”    These are the people who are looking to be honored and loved for who they are and to know that there is a place where their truth is honored as sacred.  They are seeking to be freed of the guilt-ridden, fear based paradigm many of them experienced in their Catholic upbringing.

To all of these aforementioned men and women, I have tried to provide a safe and sacred space in which they can freely and openly seek to know the Divine within and in knowing God, to know the truth of themselves.  To the best of my ability, and admitting my own attachments to ego, I seek to provide tools that honor people where they are at and to empower them to live out that truth.  I am grateful for the many opportunities in which I have witnessed deep transformation, healing and empowerment in those who have sought companionship and witness through the Spiritual Direction, Reiki and program offerings Authentic Freedom Ministries provides.

I am truly grateful for my own formation within the Catholic faith, eight years of Catholic school, seven years of post-graduate study in Catholic theology and spirituality and ten years of employment within the Institution of the Catholic Church.  I look to Jesus as the model of human empowerment.  He came to reveal the truth of Oneness in God’s love and to show us how to live that out.  I look to Jesus the Christ as teacher, friend, companion, guide, counselor and beloved.  I look to Jesus’ life and teachings as a model for how I too am called to live.  I honor Jesus as being both fully Divine and fully Human and as one who had realized the fullness of this truth. I have a passionate love of the spiritual, liturgical, social justice and scriptural traditions of my faith.  I am deeply moved by the sacred art and architecture and am inspired by the men and women who make up the communion of saints.  I would not be the person I am today without this formation.

At the same time, I cannot deny the transformation that is being called forth and has been ushered in through the work of the Holy Spirit at the Vatican II Council.  The reforms of Vatican II have barely begun, and Vatican II was just the tip of the iceberg.  God is calling forth a new vision of Church, and we are being called to participate in its revelation.  As God said to Moses, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people and have heard their cries of complaint, so I know well that they are suffering.  Therefore, I have come down to rescue them from the land of slavery, into a good and gracious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”  (Exodus 3: 7-8a) Perhaps these are God’s words for us as well as we embark on our own journey toward freedom into a new life that has not yet been revealed.  As the owner of Authentic Freedom Ministries, I humbly offer the space in which discernment of what this new life may be can be safely and freely explored individually and in sacred community.

In humble service,

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://www.authenticfreedom.net