Posted in church, Jesus, Raised Catholic

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

A letter I sent to Pope Francis in yesterday’s mail.  I hope he reads it. 

Pope-Francis-255x153

April 13, 2015

His Holiness Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace

00120 Vatican City

 

Most Holy Father,

I am writing to you with profound gratitude for the work you are doing to return the Church to its original foundation in Jesus’ message of compassion, mercy and love.  Your presence and your actions give me hope for the future of our Church.

I write this because I am included in the second-largest religious denomination in the United States – a denomination made up of 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics (PEW Research).  While I still call myself Catholic and honor with profound gratitude my Catholic upbringing and the many things I love about the Catholic Church, eight years ago I made the decision to “fast from the Eucharist.”  I have enclosed an essay (HERE) which explains the whys and the hows of this decision.  This decision was made after many years of careful discernment and a decision I believe was guided by God, so that I could be obedient to the fullness of God’s call for me.

I share this essay with you because I know that I am not alone in my experience of feeling no longer welcome or at home in the Catholic Church.  I believe my essay reflects the many reasons others have left.  I find that my ministry has been to these women and men. Above all else, these people are longing to be healed of the false perception of separation between themselves and God (love). My work, firmly rooted in scripture and Ignatian Spirituality, meets this need, and I am both humbled and grateful to have been given the gifts along with the call to meet these needs. I believe this is the work Jesus did and the work he calls us all to do.

Most Holy Father, I am grateful for the way in which you have turned your ears and your heart toward those crying out for God’s unconditional love and mercy.  I believe this was the focus of Jesus’ ministry, the call he imparted upon his disciples, and the call he extends to us all.  I am happy to see the Church returning to its foundation in compassion and it is my hope that all those who once felt separated may once again find the Church to be an unconditionally loving and safe place to be the person God is calling them to be.

Yours in Christ,

 

Lauri Ann Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

www.yourspiritualtruth.com

lauri@yourspiritualtruth.com

(920) 230-1313

 

 

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Where Have All the Catholics Gone? Part II

Today’s blog continues the discussion about the 42.7 million people who still identify themselves as Catholic, yet no longer participate in the Church.  Today’s discussion explores where they might be and includes those who were raised Catholic but no longer identify themselves as such.  PS  I’m probably going to get a little “up in my ego” on this one……so I acknowledge this ahead of time.  I’m still human afterall.  🙂 

Why They Left and Where They Went

The last two blogs explored the why’s of the Catholic exodus:  change in priest, Church teachings, bad liturgy, sex abuse scandals, told they weren’t welcome, etc.  Today I will share with you my theories on where the Catholics went.

Evangelical, Congregational and Unitarian Churches

It has been my observation that when Catholics leave, they don’t normally trade Catholicism for something that looks similar such as Anglican, Lutheran or Methodist.  While I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, Catholics who are liturgy inclined, are more likely to seek out a worship experience different from what they have known.  For those who are in search of vibrant worship, uplifting music, motivational preaching and who want to know more about scripture, they might find themselves drawn to Evangelical and Non-Denominational Christian churches.  The Congregational Churches draw the Catholics looking for community.  And for those Catholics who are kind of done with the whole “God” thing, and are looking for something more embracing of all practices and beliefs, the Unitarian church might do it for them.

If You Want to Learn More About Scripture and how to Know Yourself and God through Scripture, click HERE. 

Wicca/Neo-Pagan

Did you just fall out of your chair?  It is really true……the majority of people I know who are currently practicing Wicca were raised Catholic.  And if you know anything about Wicca, it is an easy transition from Catholicism to Wicca for many reasons, not the least of which is polytheism.  As much as the Institution would quake in its shoes to hear me say this, Catholicism is about as polytheistic as it gets.  No, the teachings and theology of the Catholic Church are not polytheistic – professing One God (oops….in three!).  🙂  But let’s get real, in practice, Catholics worship many “gods”.  Yes, these “gods” are cleverly disguised as “Mary and the Saints” but who do we think we are fooling?  I know, I know, we aren’t worshipping Mary and the Saints and we really do only believe in ONE God, but our practice of honoring the Communion of Saints and having altars to our favorite saints, wearing their medals, hanging their pictures in our home,  saying novenas to them, etc. etc. etc. is no different than the practices we judge as polytheistic from our Wicca or Hindu or Pagan brothers and sisters.  So let’s pull the splinter of the true cross out of our eye before we yank the broomstick out of our Wicca brother and sister’s eyes.  The other reasons Catholics gravitate toward Wicca are rituals and sabbats.  Wicca rituals look a lot like ours and their holidays…..well, let’s just be really honest here and admit that we stole our holidays from THEM!  Check your history books if you don’t believe me!

Buddhism

For many Catholics, their true heart resides in contemplation.  The problem is, they don’t know it and the Church hasn’t done a good job of helping them identify or find this within their own faith.  So…….for many of these Catholics, the restlessness that drives all of us to our truth, causes them to seek the remedy to this restlessness and for many, instead of finding the remedy within the rich tradition of Christian Contemplation, find it in the contemplative practices and philosophies of Buddhism.  Here, they find the DIRECT EXPERIENCE of God, (known in peace, contentment, love and joy)  that they found elusive in their experience of Catholicism.  Buddhism is also an easy resting place for those who have had trouble with the negative images of God sometimes propogated by the Church.  In Buddhism, there is no sense of a “personal” God.  Instead, it is described as Essence or Presence – something transcendent, but not separate from us, something that is part of us and it our truest self, highest self, truest nature.  HMMMMM…..sounds a little like Jesus’ teachings on Oneness.  🙂

If You are Interested in Learning More About Christian Contemplation and Jesus’ Teachings on Oneness, click HERE. 

Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong

One HUGE thing that has been neglected in Catholicism is the spiritual nature of our physical bodies.  Our bodies house our Spirit and are therefore sacred, holy, amazing.  In its attempt to demonize physicality, the body has all but been neglected or worse yet, effectively destroyed.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong, Dance, SEX, allow us to rediscover the intimate relationship between physical movement and God.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong, etc. allow Catholics to fill an ENORMOUS gap in their religious/spiritual experience.  Sadly, the Institution hasn’t been very supportive of these practices and in some cases have tried to dissuade Catholics from participating. If you have found yoga to be supportive in your search for inner peace and your priest tells you it is evil, how are you going to respond?  Hmmmm…..I’m thinking some might decide to leave, especially if their experience of Church isn’t providing them with the same kind of spiritual fulfillment.  Just sayin’!

New Age Groups, gatherings, on-line communities

Several years ago the Vatican published a document on the New Age Movement.  In short, they don’t like it and in the document condemn many of what they are calling “New Age” practices (Eastern meditation practices, hands-on healing, yoga, meditation, among other things).   The New Age Movement is drawing many Catholics away from the Church because it meets the needs that are not being met in the Church.  DUH!  And this is where I get to do a little of my own pontificating……What would happen if instead of condemning the New Age Movement, the Vatican took the time to explore WHAT in the New Age Movement was drawing Catholics and offer these things in their own communities.  Because I’m here to tell you that whatever we are finding in the New Age Movement exists within our Catholic Tradition.  It is just that nobody bothered to teach us and show us how we could get the very same needs met within our own Church.

If you are interested in learning more about the connection between “new age” energy medicine and Jesus, click HERE

Isolated and Alone

This is the group of non-practicing Catholics for whom I feel the deepest level of grief.  These are the folks who were told they weren’t welcome or felt as if they were not accepted by their Church and who have been unable (or unwilling) to find supportive and accepting community elsewhere.  So, they sit home, alone and unfed.  This makes me sad.

If you were raised Catholic and no longer attend mass, why not?

What spiritual and communal needs are you finding satisfied outside the Catholic Church and where are you finding them met?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Holy Spirit, Inspiration, world changes

Behold I Make All Things New

Today’s blog is about the power of observation and having the courage to see the truth as it unfolds right before our eyes.  In other words, making use of our prophetic gifts AND using these prophetic gifts to see what is happening in the world around us and making way for something new.

Defining Prophet

“Prophets are people who speak out when others remain silent.  They are watchful of the areas in need of reform in their own society, their own country, or their own religious institutions. True prophets are not part of the authority structure.  Prophets are never appointed, ordained or anointed by the religious establishment.  They experience a special calling that comes directly from God, and their message comes from their own personal experience of God.  Any attempts to practice the same spirituality of Jesus would entail learning how to speak out boldly as he did – and face the consequences.”  – Jesus Today -a Spirituality of Radical Freedom by Fr. Albert Nolan, OSD

Owning it!

According to Fr. Nolan’s definition above, I am a prophet.  No, I do not own a scrying mirror or a crystal ball and I do not use divination tools in order that I might predict the future.  I don’t need them.  I am, as Fr. Nolan describes, a different kind of prophet.  A prophet, as is referred to in scripture, is someone who has eyes wide open and who through observation of the sign of the times, can identify where things are going and what is likely to take place.  My friends, and the people to whom I have ministered can attest to the fact that I have these gifts.  I know that these are gifts given to me by God and at 47 years old, I can no longer hide these gifts under a bushel basket.  Apparently it is my job to see the truth and help others to see it as well.

The World, She is a Changin’

You do not need to be a prophet to see that the world around us is changing.  Climate and weather patterns are shifting.  The world economies are collapsing.  In our country, healthcare, education, government, corporations are struggling.  The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is disappearing.  In my own little area of expertise – God and Church stuff……the Catholic Church has become the forebearer of the demise  of everything rooted in the patriarchical, hierarchical model, boldly leading the way as the Vatican clings to nostalgia and distractions as a way to respond to their fear over the loss of power and control.

The Age of the Holy Spirit

To put it in theistic language, I believe that what we are observing is the advent of The Age of the Holy SpiritJoachim de Fiore (1135 C.E. – 1202 C.E.) used this term when he foretold an era:  when mankind was to come in direct contact with God, reaching the total freedom preached by the Christian message. The Kingdom of the Holy Spirit, a new dispensation of universal love, would proceed from the Gospel of Christ, but transcend the letter of it. In this new Age the ecclesiastical organization would be replaced and the Order of the Just would rule the Church.  According to Joachim, only in this third Age will it be possible to really understand the words of God in its deepest meanings, and not merely literally.  In other words, the laity will become empowered to know God PERSONALLY and to discern the law of God that resides within their own hearts.  No longer would we have need of a hierarchical, patriarchal institution to guide or interceded for us.  The need for an intermediary will pass away because our relationship with God through Christ would be direct  (that does not, however, mean that we would no longer benefit from gathering in community…we are supported, held accountable and remain humble when we gather in community.)

Applying this to the World At Large

Now, let’s apply this Age of the Holy Spirit concept to what is happening in the world at-large.  The way I  see it, all those things that have been built upon fear, power and control, all those institutions rooted in a top-down, power-over model are quickly falling away….and they fall quicker every day!  Why?  Because as a species, we have come to understand that this model is no longer working (if it ever really did) and we are ready for SOMETHING NEW!  What is that something new?  We don’t yet know because it has not yet fully emerged.  I sense the old might need to completely implode upon itself before the new will fully come into being……but there are signs of good things afoot (just open your eyes and look around for those things that are rooted in love, working toward compassion and justice, striving for collaboration and harmony, based in understanding and acceptance.)    And here is a just a little glimpse of the “New World” as I see it and a song that describes it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhq-yO1KN8&feature=related

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Blowing the Doors off the Vatican Vault – Unleashing Spiritual Practices

In yesterday’s blog, I promised to relieve you of some of the obstacles to beginning and maintaining a spiritual practice.  Today’s blog reveals tools for sound spiritual practice that come to us through the Judeo-Christian contemplative (mystical) traditions. 

Lucas and Spielberg had it right

Remember that scene from the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they show a custodian wheeling the Ark of the Covenant, now locked up and crated deep into the bowels of the Smithsonian Institute’s basement?  The very Ark that Indiana Jones worked so hard to find and rescue from the clutches of the Nazi’s?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6-rQ6Jay6w Well, that scene is exactly how I imagine the rich tradition of Mystical (aka Magdalene) Christianity…..locked up in a steel vault somewhere deep in the bowels of the Vatican.  Some pope, a long time ago, gathered up the richness of these traditions and locked them up….far away from the reaching arms of the hungry laity.  The good news is that the monastic communities of the Christian tradition also had knowledge of the tools and practices of the mystical church and preserved them, keeping them safe and waiting for the days that someone would blow the doors off the Vatican vault, unleashing these tools for the benefit of all….and perhaps for the salvation of “Mother Church.”  (another topic for another day.)  Well, here I am…..the uppity Lay Minister, Lauri Ann Lumby.  I’ve got the keys to the vault and I’m not afraid to use them.  🙂

Dun Da Dun Dun Dun Da Dun (Sung to the opening theme from Raider’s of the Lost Ark)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg7C9qwLoqE

So, without further ado……below you will find a resource that I developed for the students and facilitators who have crossed the threshold of Authentic Freedom Ministries.   Tools for sound spiritual practice from the Judeo-Christian mystical/contemplative tradition.  Make a copy of this and keep it as instructional material as you begin to develop or deepen your spiritual practice.  And because I’m a huge brat…..a few words to the pope and his cronies in Rome right out of this morning’s scripture:

“Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit”

Matthew 21: 45 

I’m just sayin’!

So….here are the tools we have all been waiting for:

I.                   Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights.

A.    Lectio – Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.

B.     Meditatio – Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application. Asking the question, how is God speaking to me personally through this passage?

C.    Oratio – Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God. This stage can be accomplished through journaling, or offering a silent or spoken prayer to God.

D.    Contemplatio – Listening to God. This is a freeing of oneself from one’s own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.

 

 

II.                Centering Prayer/Silent Contemplation

Silent Contemplation is allowing oneself to simply rest in God.  The goal of contemplation is “no goal.”  The practitioner is to simply be.  Repeated practice opens the contemplative to the fruits of contemplation – deepening peace, insight, creativity, guidance, consolation and compassion.

A.    Practitioner finds a comfortable place where they can sit in silence.

B.     Practitioner chooses a focal point – the breath, a sacred word or phrase (love, peace, Jesus,Om, etc.)

C.    Practitioner sits in silence.  When they find their mind wandering, they return their attention to their focal point.

D.    Practitioner continues in this manner for the period of time pre-determined for contemplation.

III.             Love Letter from God

This type of practice works best with scripture passages that seem to be God addressing us.

A.    Read through the passage slowly and meditatively.

B.     Re-read the passage as if it is a letter written to us directly from God.

C.    Practitioner allows themselves to receive the words into their heart.

D.    The remainder of the practice follows a similar pattern to Lectio-Divina.

Read, receive, respond, contemplate

IV.             Free-Form Journaling/Automatic Writing

Through this approach, the practitioner brings a question or a thought to the meditation session.   The practitioner offers the question/thought to God, then allows God to speak to them through their pen as they write in their journal.  Through this method, the practitioner allows their own thoughts, etc. to step aside to make room for the words of God.

V.                Mantra Meditation

A.    Practitioner chooses a favorite sacred phrase/mantra.  (Om Mani Padme Om; Hail Mary Full of Grace; Om Shanti; Give us this day our daily bread; Abwoon d’bwashmaya; etc.)

B.     Practitioner repeats mantra silently or aloud, over and over, allowing the mantra to draw them into a place of peaceful calm.

C.    Practitioner continues with mantra until they find it no longer necessary and are able to enter into silent contemplation.

D.    Practitioner returns to mantra when they find their mind wandering.

VI.             Prayer Beads

Practitioner engages in practice above, using prayer beads/rosary to “count” mantra repetitions.  The benefit of using prayer beads is that is adds another sense to the process – tactile touch.  This is especially helpful for those with a restless mind.

VII.          Imagination-Contemplation/Daydreaming Meditation

A.    Practitioner chooses a narrative story from scripture.

B.     Practitioner reads through the story slowly and meditatively

C.    Practitioner chooses a character from the story (named, or unnamed).

D.    Practitioner re-reads the story from the vantage point of their chosen character.

E.     Practitioner enters into their creative imagination, placing themselves as their chosen character in the midst of the story.  They allow the story to unfold in their imagination in great detail, being mindful of thoughts, reflections, emotions that may surface through the process.

F.     Practitioner writes what they witnessed through their imagination, allowing additional details to surface as they write.

G.    Practitioner reflects on two questions:

1. How is God speaking to me through what was revealed in this daydreaming?

2. How is the revealed story reflective of something going on in my current life journey?

VIII.       Art as Prayer

Practitioner is given the task of creating a visual representative of their prayer/reflection.

IX.             Music Meditation

Music is used as a vehicle through which the practitioner can find that place of peaceful calm within.

A.    Choose the musical selection (chant, classical music, instrumental music works well here)

B.     Practitioner listens to musical selection with rapt attention, allowing the movement of the music to draw them into peaceful calm.

C.    Practitioner rests in silent contemplation once music is finished.

X.                Mindful Meditation/Theological Reflection

A.    Practitioner chooses an ordinary activity or object as the focal point of their meditation.

B.     Practitioner observes the object or engages in the activity with rapt attention.

C.    Practitioner becomes aware of the object or the activity in a way that transcends their typical experience of this object/activity.

D.    Practitioner records what they observe in the object or activity, asking what how God is being revealed through the object or activity.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in church, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation

Special Edition – Sexual Abuse by Priests

Heeding the Spirit

Apparently the Holy Spirit is not going to let me rest until I write this post.  After reading an article in today’s National Catholic Reporter on a new policy recently released by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City regarding issues of sexual abuse: http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/kansas-city-its-d%C3%A9j%C3%A0-vu-all-over-again, my Catholic undies got all up in a bundle and I find I have to concur with the other readers of NCR who are wondering, “Really, how about owning and fixing the problem?”  So I’m going to beg pardon for my ego which admittedly may be partially to blame for this post, and I might run the risk of getting up on my Catholic soapbox, and waving the flag of my moral self-righteousness…..BUT…..the abuse of innocent children, teens, young adults AND women by Catholic priests HAS GOT TO STOP!  No matter how many regulations or guidelines are developed and put into place by the Catholic Bishops around the world, the issue still remains: priests are abusing people and they are getting away with it.

Why I can speak with some authority on the subject

For those of you that don’t know…..I was raised Catholic.  Went to nearly 12 years of Catholic School.  Studied theology and Spiritual Direction through the Catholic Church. Was commissioned as a Lay Minister.  AND served as an official, paid, lay ministerial employee of the Catholic Institution for 10+ years.  I’ve been there and I’ve seen it.  While the veiled illusion of Catholic impecibility remained, the Church was god and could do no wrong in my eyes.  Then I worked within the Institution.  Talk about an awakening.  After working within the bureaucratic establishment of the Institution, I have developed a few theories about why priests abuse and why they keep getting away with it.

1) Because they can.  Diocesan priests are taught that they are the representative of Christ on this earth and that they are above all others.  In fact, one priest told me that they get to go to “heaven” before the rest of us…simply by virtue of their ordination….regardless of their sinfulness or lack thereof.  In other words, they get the “get out of jail free card” while the rest of us have to burn our way out of purgatory.  Now, I don’t personally believe any of this….but other people DO!  The priest is god…can do no wrong….”would never touch a child…”  And no one questions their moral character or lack thereof.  In fact, when rumors are going around about “Father…and that young boy,” instead of doing something about it, Catholics are taught to look the other way.

2) COMPLETE lack of sound Spiritual Formation – I think this is actually the root cause of sexual abuse by priests.  I can’t say that this is true of all priests (and certainly not so for religious order priests), but in the diocese in which I worked, priests received 7+ years of theological training in preparation for their ordination.  In those seven years….they received NO spiritual formation.  But isn’t religious formation (ie theology, dogma, doctrine, rites, etc.) the same as spiritual formation.  NO NO NO ….  and here is part of the problem, most people think they are one in the same.  Religious formation is learning the teachings of a particular faith tradition.  Spiritual Formation is learning – Who am I?  How do I understand God and what is my personal relationship with this God? and What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?  When sound spiritual formation is made available we learn such things as:

  • What is my sexual orientation and how am I called to live that out?
  • Am I called to celibacy or marriage?
  • What causes me anxiety, fear, stress and how do I respond when in a stressful state?
  • What do I need in the way of support, nurturing, healthy intimacy and how am I called to seek that out?
  • How do I stay out of my ego and rely on God?
  • How do I discern what is of God and what is of the ego?

Get the picture?  If sound spiritual formation were provided in priestly formation……tendencies toward pedophilia, acting out in inappropriate sexual ways, the call to healthy, sexual, intimate partnering would all be discovered…and the priest candidate would be turned away……AH HA….probably the reason spiritual formation IS NOT provided.  Who wants to lose a potential candidate in an already declining field?

3)Lack of Accountability See #1, but also recognize that a Catholic priest is accountable to no one but their bishop….and no bones about it, it is a good ole boys club.  They do everything they can to protect their own.  One priest I know asked for a leave of absence to discern a potential call to marriage.  The bishop’s response, “Why don’t you make her your housekeeper?”  WHAT?????  ARGH!!!!!  Gag me!   Another priest when he retired was reported in the diocesan newspaper as moving into his vacation home with his long-time companion and housekeeper.  Accountability?  NOT.  And as we have seen by the news reports, when questions are raised, the hierarchy tries to hide it, sweep it under the rug, or worse yet, move the priest to another parish where he can start raping other children.  The saddest thing is that the laity (the people in the pew) have no say in any of this.  Their hands are tied.  They are powerless.  Yes, they can speak, yell, demand change….but nobody is really listening.

4) OVER WORK and UNDER SUPPORTED Here, I have to give one over to the priests.  These poor guys.  Because of the unwillingness of the Vatican to change their rules on ordination (allowing women, married men to be priests), the poor few who have responded to the call and are trying to do an honest job are worked to death!  6-7 days a week from sun up to sun down (less the Pastor’s nap), they are on call…every minute of every day…AND they are expected to be able to do it all – preach, teach, heal, counsel, run a business, entertain, promote, market, evangelize, do works of service, etc. etc. etc.   And guess what….not all of these men have all these gifts…so they muddle along trying to make an impact….and then they get burned out.  To make matters worse, they are supposed to be cultivating healthy, intimate, supportive relationships OUTSIDE the parish.  When are they supposed to do this?  There is literally NO time.  The only people they know are their parishioners…and in a moment of weakness, vulnerability, anxiousness…who are they supposed to turn to?  Get the picture.  The Catholic Church is killing the few decent priests we have left….and that is a horrible shame.

No Answers Here

In the end, I do not know how the Vatican is ever going to solve the problem of sexual abuse by their priests.  With an institution based in power and control, run through fear and intimidation, what else do they expect?  Top down power runs the show and the men are in charge.  As long as it wants to hang on to its power, the Vatican has no motivation to ever make any effective or lasting change.  All will remain the same until every last celibate priest is dead or in jail and the laity are standing there with hands open going, “Now what?  Who is going to say the mass for us?  Who is going to teach, preach, heal, minister to the poor?”  HHHMMMMM   Maybe we will be the ones doing it….and perhaps this has been the Holy Spirit’s plan all along!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com