Who wants to be a priest?

It is the first Advent Sunday and this picture popped up from my photo album. I sent it on to a few folks and then felt moved to do a bit more and make this the first post this new liturgical year.

To this day, especially in catholic schools, girls are still taught that they are not called to receive all seven sacraments. Of course we know that’s a lie, always has been a lie, but especially now it is time to tell the truth.

There is a movement growing globally to do the supposedly impossible. I don’t know about you, but to my God nothing is impossible! As Mother Theresa repeatedly told us: we are gods feet, hands, and heart. We are the voice to let girls we know know that they can be whatever God calls them to be.

So take a few seconds, look at the little girl in the picture, and promise her to get the word out. Just send her on to any girl you know. We don’t need to be successful, only faithful; to do our best and God will do the rest.



In the writing workshop I just completed on Martha’s Vineyard, Nancy Aronie gave us the following prompt: “The time I felt one way but acted another way.” As I began writing I found myself face to face with the deepest regret of my life.

I had flown home to be with my dying mother only to miss being there with her at the end. I had rushed to Vienna as soon as I was told she was hospitalized, followed her wish to bring her home, against doctors orders. I had arranged her room just the way she told me to, hired 24 hour staff, organized hospice, and more. Finally I invited Eric, our oldest, to join us. He came and brought Alex her great grandson along. Gratefully they were there holding Oma the moment she died.

Believing my mother had months left to live, I had decided to use my non refundable ticket to return to Ohio and arrange my life so as to be able to return to stay as long as needed.
Instead my mother had only weeks left, and died on the day I was scheduled to return. In that morning’s video phone call I told her that I would be back within 12 hours but reassured her to move on, if so called, and please not feel obliged to wait for me. Hours later she transited.

In retrospect, I knew deep in my soul that I would never see her alive again. I knew she wanted to die, understood that she was dying, but still acted like her time had not come.

Perhaps in some confused way I felt I could delay her departure by not being there? Magical thinking did not work!

I might have done better had I listened to her more deeply? Before I left she had spent whole nights calling for her mother, who she did not even like, and calling out for Mary, the mother of Jesus, who she did like. I am hopeful they both showed up and accompanied her, through the narrow gate. Dora Julia Braun turned and leapt out the window into the open meadows of the Vienna woods.

Elaine Sexton in her poem “Rethinking Regrets” writes:

Let’s thank our mistakes
Let’s bless them…
Thank them for making us so right
In our imperfections.


The Law of Three

Right at the start of her book The Holy Trinity and The Law of Three, Cynthia Bourgeault asserts that feminizing the Trinity as is, won’t work. She tells us that’s “however laudable the attempt to secure a feminine presence in the Trinity might be, that strategy leads to serious confusion of metaphysical systems.”

I fully agree with her and Elizabeth Johnson who, in her book She Who Is, demonstrates how just changing/renaming Spirit as Sophia opens the door to multiple female stereotypical qualities. She suggests to instead add to each of the three persons in the Trinity female qualities and characteristics. Furthermore, as long as we imagine the three as persons rather than as process we will miss the transformational flow represented in the ancient principle of the “law of three.”

The very polarity of male/female belongs to another paradigm, a binary one at that. The tensegrity in oppositions ultimately leads to its very collapse/death.

A ternary system offers a distinctly different mix. In contrast to binary systems which try at best to balance opposites, the ternary process stipulates a third force. That emergence/birth of a third force then opens a whole new realm of possibilities. Binary and ternary systems cannot be mixed because they represent distinct kinships.

In human /biological relationships many claim that when male and female relations are consummated, new life is born. But… all that happens is that the binary is opened.

Perhaps, two can become one, but for another whole new being to be conceived a third force is at work from the start. The new person is genetically (blood and flesh) related to its parents; but spiritually, their soul is their own and will grow onward beyond the parental binary.

Cynthia, in an essays on abortion, speculates that our purpose in life is to grow such a soul, strong enough to even survive death.

With “the law of three” as it’s hermeneutical key, the Trinity reveals the secret of how the hidden God becomes accessible light (love). In many ancient metaphysical systems fire/light is the only transformative element. (Without sun no seed can sprout.) We, too, grow not by escaping creatureliness, but by becoming, consummating, and being consummated in Love.

Another way to trace this living journey process is to come to see how Unity gives birth to diversity.

Oliver Clement in Roots of Christian Mysticism writes:
“The 3 in 1 reality describes perfection in Unity.” Catherine Doherty, the founder of Madonna House, in a letter to Thomas Merton, calls Unity by its Russian name, Sobernost. Unity that fulfills itself in communion as the source and foundation of all beloved community, perpetually surmounting all contradictions.


When does a daffodil become a daffodil?

In Love is the Answer. What is the Question? Cynthia Bourgeault asks: when does a daffodil become a daffodil? Is a daffodil the bulb? The shoot? The bud? The flower? Or all of the above?

In evolutionary theology, the term “pro-life” can no longer be usurped by any single phase of the journey. “For the soul is the fruit of the entire journey, not merely the moment of conception.”

To be pro-life rather than merely pro-birth implies tackling a challenging terrain and bring willingness, patience, and mercy to the entire process of unfolding mystery. Precision is necessary; soul, life, and individual essence are not synonyms. Furthermore the word “murder” has no place in any thoughtful discussion of abortion. There are great liminal zones surrounding birth and death, where life is not yet or no longer fully viable on its own.

Affirming the importance of all stages of life is clearly called for, including the right of the mother to have authority over her own stages of life. Therefore granting legal safe space for such personal decisions is needed. No one can make conscientious decisions for someone else. We are all free to hold to different moral values and observe higher standards than demanded even by laws. To be moral requires freedom of conscience and control over our bodies.

Cynthia goes on to call for a Wisdom Chautauqua where serious questions can become part of public education. Questions like: What am I here for? Who is my neighbor? Is there anything beyond self interest? When and how does the unborn human become an individual? When does the born one earn full personhood, not to mention explore the concept of developmental soul? Finally… Is there a higher purpose to the universe?

Walter Brüggemann asserted in his writings that honest “discussion of serious questions can lead to holy communion.”

Martin Luther Kings dream was that non violent struggle to find better common ground can evolve into “beloved community.”

The gift of time opens windows of opportunity to do some pretty amazing stuff — like developing a soul for one. Are shorter lifespans doomed to never experience ensoulment? Those of us who have finite perspectives may be unable to trust that “nothing can fall out of god” or that every drop of water matters to the ocean.

So then what about all those souls who don’t get a chance to live this life? Are we meant to care for our souls and grow them strong enough to survive death? From our human perspective what about a life cut short anytime along the way? In process theology we might imagine even God running out of time? Then what?

“Can we loosen our grip on individual duration and let the unbroken wholeness of life flow according to its own mysterious deeper rhythm.”

The perhaps we might come to see each life as a trajectory — a probability wave — a divine child that already exists in the heart of God.

Perhaps another way to ask that question is to question wether the daffodil ever stops being a daffodil?


Mothers and “In Loves”

When I married RFC my mother, Dora Braun, barely spoke English and so it happened that she referred to my spouse as her “son in love” rather than son in law. When I attempted to correct her she simply pointed out that the law had nothing to do with it. “Love not law is what brought you together,” she proclaimed.

As time went on I was blessed with numerous “In Loves” and I came to realize that the love that brought them into my life is special and can even last beyond legal divorces.

Since my own divorce, decades ago, I have spent Easter with Eric, my oldest child and his family. That feast, being a moveable one, sometimes falls close to April Fools Day, their son Alex’s birthday.

Oma, (Mutti) used to refer to that part of our family as The Holy Family because of her deep admiration for the incredible patience Eric and Mary displayed as parents and the deep compassion they shared for and with each other. Over the years both my mother and I developed a deep bond with Mary.

This Easter season I realized again the importance of Love (Philia not Eros) as the foundational connection in all family matters.
Eros is the intense, passionate love, where romantic feelings come from. It is present in the beginning of relationships that are connected with sex and emotions. It is seldom a lasting love, but it can turn into that.

Philia is the love of friendship, that grows beyond good feelings to become a mutual commitment. A love of equals, united in a common purpose. Philia refers to love based on mutual respect, shared devotion, joint interest, and common values. It is the type of love required to create and protect families and tribes.

So when I think of all my “In Loves” I think of all those who share the desire to keep the family connected and share responsibility to heal when wounding occurs.

When Mutti died, I became the family matriarch and Mother’s Day has become bittersweet. Our children do celebrate me and I celebrate all mothers of grand and great children but deep down I feel like an orphaned child. I simply hope that my prayerful good wishes reach my mother wherever she might live on.


Away from Home

Following our divorce I decided to spend holidays away from home: Thanksgiving with Christopher, Christmas with Stephen and our daughters (Gabriella, Noelle & Natalie), and Easter with Eric.

Home has taken on new meaning without the father in the house and during these pandemic times, the meaning of family shifted again.

Clint Smith writes in the March 22 issue of the Atlantic:

…with our climate on the cusp of irreversible catastrophe, I have spent more time than ever before contemplating how each of our fates is inextricably linked to the actions of everyone else. Home is more than simply the residence where we sleep. It is the people we hold, and the planet that holds us.

At first, letting go of having my home be the center of all family celebrations transformed into hosting an annual family reunion at Himmelblau Haus on Kelleys Island. Then, when I followed family & friends advice to sell HBH before turning 80, simply becoming more present, has become my Leitmotif.

As the kids were growing up, much of my time was dedicated to political endeavors, my spouses and my own. In retrospect I wish I had better understood the importance of mother’s presence in the lives of our children. In those years I saw a good mothers task to create space for growth and independence for children by setting the example myself. They did grow up and I am growing old and all of us are independent but what I neglected was to create a safe space of belonging.

I suppose we either recreate our own home of origin or its opposite depending on how happy or miserable we experienced our childhood selves to have been?

My father was no fun to be with, in fact wounded by his war experience he was demanding and destructive. My mother while present and loving, was unappreciated, stuck at home and powerless. When I fled home I wanted to be nothing like them and free to reinvent my own family and home.

In following my call to ordination I finally learned to appreciate the paradox of presence in both its fragility and strength. The two sides of Ordination finally set me free to follow my heart’s desire, not as parental/patriarchal presider and preacher, but as priestly presence.

I used to believe that satisfaction/happiness is getting what I want? But over the years I have come to realize that satisfaction/joy is wanting what I am given.

One of the insights that earned Daniel Kahnemann & Amos Tversky the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics is that “…our urge for more is quite powerful, but stronger still is our resistance to less.”

This is why now I can honestly say, that I am deeply grateful for the hard lessons I learned from my parents, the many painful teachings, for better and for worse, I received from my spouse and the growing I was privileged to participate & witness with all our children and grandchildren.

I trust that as long as I have breath, just being lovingly present, close and away from home is enough. My promise to present & future great grandkids and other sentient being, in & around me is simply this:

From now on……with God’s help, I am going to be present in person and in spirit always.


Open Heart Process

What helps me navigate through these dark times is the process of keeping an “open” heart.

Years ago we started a coalition of Ohio peace-making groups called OPEN (Ohio Peacemaking Education Network). The range of participants was extensive. Folks working against violence at home and abroad, folks educating each other in conflict resolution, folks remembering Sadako’s story of a thousand cranes, others working on transcultural and interdenominational understanding, anti racism educators and inter generational memory keepers working to never forget the horrors of the holocaust, mental health and disability advocates, and activists working against homelessness and exclusion of gay folks. Together we worked and on addiction recovery programs and many more needed changes. Lots of people of good will, intent on transforming boundaries into bridges.

In the year 2000 some of us created the Tyrian Network, a learning community whose mission continues to be to empower creativity healing and peace.

Then in 2002, after our Danube 7 ordination, Renie and other friends began to gather at monthly First Friday agape meals to learn about heart-based spiritualities and other ways to participate personally and politically by heart ❤️.

Over time we learned that open heart process is about trading fear for vulnerability and finding the courage to soften hardened hearts. We also came to value the present moment and change, rather than fear uncertainty.

Just recently I learned from Pema Chödrön a the simple way to find my way to reality. When depressed, fearful or anxious, just pause… take 3 deep breaths. Simple breath will bring you to the present moment where we can usually find something real to be grateful for.


Providence will prevail

Putin, fearful and weak, means to do harm to democracy, but he too has to wake up and learn that evil never has the last word.

Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger call on Russians of good will to resist this criminal war, opened my eyes to another facet of my own misconception of who and what was to blame in my own family’s post World War I & II internalized hostility.

My fathers brother-in-law was so blinded by Hitler’s propaganda that in front of our whole family, kids and all, he pulled his revolver and would have shot down his wife’s brother had she not thrown herself in front of them. My grandmother on my father’s side, at heart a royalist to the end, always preferred her oldest son because he was a faithful patriot, a Nazi officer, a believer in autocracy to the end. Meanwhile, my grandmother on my mother’s side despised what Hitler and Nazis stood for, to the point of siding with the allied forces, including the Russians, occupying my home town.

To this day, I am uncertain what motivated my father to simply go underground. Perhaps he was fed up with the hypocrisy of Hitlers war? Perhaps he simply dreamed of a small place on neutral ground, real Lebensraum, breathing space? Perhaps, like some of the young Russian soldiers in Ukraine today, he no longer understood or believed monstrous, patriotic lies?

Still, to the end, our family never found the peace they fought for. My father’s mother never got along with my mother’s mother, and the brothers and brother-in-laws never again saw eye-to-eye politically.

Falling in love with an American, and worse yet an aspiring Democratic politician, turned out to be a temporary safe haven. Becoming an American was providence showing me a way beyond the old rebellions and revolutions, into Neuland. An escape beyond old empires and kingdoms toward new kin-doms. Still unresolved hatreds of the past are raging and continuing to poison the possibility of envisioning a beloved community.

Now, in my eighties, the best I can do is continuing to learn how to open my heart to the past and gratefully accept the lessons of the present. Grateful to my mother’s mother for teaching me to forgive enemies, my mother for opening my mind to new worlds, my father for refusing to obey wrong orders, my father’s mother for teaching me to value gold and appreciate the beauty and grandeur of past cultures.

Finally, a special word of thanks to my Italian stepmother for protecting my child’s soul and teaching me that all healing depends on empathy and learning by heart.

So, as I look at Cleveland’s skyline reflecting in the great Erie sea I trust that providence knows what She is doing. May young men like our mayor and old men like our president continue to envision healthy communities, and may we together dream to meet all peoples needs. Then with God’s help we will overcome what is ours to overcome.


Ver Sacrum / Holy Spring

In 1897 the Vienna Secession was born. It was the second attempt, artists and creatives came together to honor beauty and youth in defiance to the old order.

The movement’s first publication in 1892 was named “Jugend” later the whole movement became known as “Jugendstil.” The concept of “Secession” came from the historical “secessio plebis” when dissatisfied roman citizens threatened to leave the city and create a new Rome outside the old walls.

Today in the reborn Austrian republic the motto above the entrance of the the new Secession structure reads again:

Der Zeit ihre Kunst
Der Kunst ihre Freiheit

It was forcefully removed twice. The first time in 1905 when the Klimt Group left and the second time in 1938 when Hitler occupied Austria.

The title “Ver Sacrum” comes from a poem by Ludwig Uhland entitled ,“Weihefruehling” (Holy Spring):

… you have heard what pleases god.
Go, get ready and listen to stillness.
You are the seeds of a new world.
The Holy Spring that god wills …

Between Ash Wednesday and Transfiguration we have come almost halfway through Lent 2022. And so far … just when we started to imagine light at the end of this darkness … more waves of hatred and violence wash over us and through us. How much more emptiness can we open ourselves to? Might we find new ways , greener pastures, if we learn to transfigure even righteous anger into empathy?

Might we voluntarily increase our capacity to share others’s experiences of shame, humiliation and pain by opening our hearts to the paranoid pain, experienced by the little boy inside Putin, born into the traumatic experience of twenty million WWII dead and becoming a man in the midst of the shame and humiliation of loosing the Soviet Union out of the blue?

Might we gratefully empathize with our own old, weary-yet-wise president and heed his call to limit our seemingly insatiable lust for violence and victories?

Might we find it in our hearts to turn over peacemaking to Jesus and spend more money helping him heal the wounds of war rather than continuing to waste our planets limited resources on making profits by selling guns at home and weapons abroad? Could we possibly awaken to the reality that humility rather than hubris is the way of true victory over personal ego and political egomania? Perhaps then we might learn to value solitude, rather than going it alone. Discover the hidden good god of the great silence and gentle breeze, rather than the noisy gods of addiction, violence, and bloody battle?

Could we then, one fine day, content ourselves with simply being human? Of the earth for now, co-creative and co-responsible for all life on earth.

Then together we might find better ways to worship the gifts of spring with rituals dedicated to beauty, rather than memorializing and immortalizing curse, violence, and death?

When a few days ago fasting and dealing with childhood trauma left me depleted and exhausted, my faithful friend Rannigan stopped by with blessings and Kaya Oakes’ 2021 book The Defiant Middle: How Women Claim Life’s In-betweens to Remake the World.

What a timely work! Oakes dedicated the book to her family’s young ones and to Mary Ward (1585-1645), my mothers role model, who lived and died simply asserting her hope that “in time girls will come to do much.”

And so, as my mother taught me the day my sister died: “dum spiro spero,” as long as she is breathing, there is hope.

And hope like ver sacrum, defiantly returns and gracefully keeps breathing life in-between faith and love.


The Rose in the Vase

The rose in the vase
No longer blooms yet still dreams
To grow roots again