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Sophia’s distaff
Musings on the millennium

It is one piece. Faith and fear, joy
and tears, love, apathy. Past and future,

you and I
and God our warp and woof

The gossamer cloak of trust warms days of doubt --
still, chill seeps through when turning years

twist dreams,
knot grace in coils of mocking specters

No matter ... God’s shuttles mesh both
Indiscriminate, love’s fabric unfolds:

on one, it richly mantles many

and nets worsted indifference in its wake;
even so, love- and -less are laced.

The death
in long-gone wrongs kills visions

if unravelings destroy today
Yet then and next roll up like yarn

in God’s
hands, capable without

our cradling. Within a seamless garment
Wisdom gathers us, and each stitch

what has been and what shall be.

a miscellaneous patchwork of the Plan
and highest art, Creation’s tapestry

I count on you
to weave your life with mine

and leave the looming fears where they belong,
scraps beneath us, as linsey-woolsey-we

fly up for fittings
in our snowy robes

and spirit spun
filaments binding us to God

Tucson, Ariz.

* * *
In his name

this century’s
needless losses
its wars and hungers
did not serve us well

to carry onward
toward a millennium of
progress and potential
freed for human dignity

with pregnant pause
to birth anew our mission
for the first century
third millennium gospel,
love and peace.

Idaho Falls, Idaho

* * *

Time is a matter of linear measure
But infinitely more than that
Time must be measured in heartbeats
Spasms of pain and shouts of joy
Those you have known, cherished and
Or tried not to know and held in disdain
The measure of time comes to clarity
When the depth of living is focus

God has no yesterdays or tomorrows
God’s time is unbegun, yet endless
Concern yourself not at all
With what may or may not be
Consider simply this moment
God’s presence in your heart
Past and future matter not
The moment at hand holds eternity

Hurst, Texas

* * *

I have lived through road rage, industrial boycotts, flower children, the Beatles, TVs, computers, technology and so on. Having been born just after the first quarter of this century, I have seen it all and wish I could live it all over again! Experiencing God in the midst of it all, war and peace, depressions and booms, has been my joy and gift. Vatican II was my hope and disappointment. However, I remain with hope, I strive to build hope and I will welcome Vatican III.

Just as at the beginning, we, as God’s creation, are called to love deeply, to act justly and to walk humbly with our God to build the Kingdom of God where equality, mutuality and tolerance reign, I am ready for the next experience!

San Antonio

* * *

During these fresh new years, if will be the biggest word in the language: There will be enough for everyone in the world -- if we are as spiritual as we think we are.

Silver Spring, Md.

* * *


When I left the doctor’s office, I looked for him again. Thirty minutes before, across the almost vacant parking lot, I had spotted him shuffling along a side street. He was shabbily dressed in bulky garments, one foot in a sandal and one in a running shoe. He wasn’t very old. He appeared out of place in my suburban landscape. Something about him bothered me enough that I drove around the quiet streets in search of him. I wasn’t sure why I needed to see him again.

I didn’t spot him and gave up. Maybe the diligent local police had escorted him to a more appropriate location, away from our office parks and malls.

But his presence haunted me.

I remembered the blank, blood-washed eyes of similar young men as I passed the taverns along Halsted Street on my way home from high school. And the older men that my mother instructed me were to be fed when they appeared at our back door but not to be let into the house.

He reminded me of a girl in my small parish school. For three years we left her alone, with her unwashed hair and torn sweaters, until she and her entire family disappeared. I recalled the adult daughter and her elderly parents who lived on our street behind a tall wooden fence. Rarely, the father came for my father’s help when “Mary wandered away.”

Because real estate taxes were then determined by the appearance of the property, most homeowners took pains not to spruce up street-facing facades too much. That didn’t fool the neighborhood. From the earliest age, I knew who had a good job and who didn’t. The reality of who was secure and who was hovering near the brink of poverty was clear without material evidence. The eyes told the story.

My sterile world has managed to push the marginal people beyond the boundaries of daily existence. I am safe here. There are no reminders of how fragile my security often is. Even the downsized have the good grace to move away or stay out of their neighbors’ view.

So this invasion into my world of one of the lost ones reminded me of how close and easily toppled the barrier between my two lives remains. And the fear that, in the future, I may be one of the forgotten.

Cherry Hill, N.J.

* * *
All to
God for


Thanks, and

Yorktown, Va.

* * *

I seemed to hear Jesus say, “For a penny, I’ll give you my thoughts.” I listened, and this is what I heard:

“When I taught my disciples to pray ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ they understood I was not talking about brick and mortar but about relationships. When I reprimanded James and John and their mother for seeking first places, they came to know the kingdom is won by compassion rather than competition. When I washed their feet, they came to know that the kingdom was about serving rather than being served. When I died a humiliating death on the cross, they would later come to understand that evil power can be overcome with loving nonviolence. Living in community, eschewing property, power and prestige, my apostles and their followers acted out my love commandment and did overcome evil with good, hatred with love and falsehood with truth. They were so effective that Roman Emperor Constantine converted to the faith and enacted the Edict of Milan in 313, making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

“Since then my church and governments have become entwined. Clearly Caesar now has the upper hand, and my beloved poor are victimized. You, my living followers, for the sake of the poor and the kingdom have a duty to wrest from Caesar what belongs to God. The fate of the earth is at stake.”

Your loving savior and servant,

Submitted by Deacon Larry Lange,
Devils Lake, N.D.

* * *

Headline for the next millennium:
Relational Revival takes hold

One outgrowth from the newly elected pope’s recent call for a worldwide “Revival of Relationships” has been the new spirit of partnership taking hold in Catholic parishes throughout the United States. Connecting is the dominant motif as leaders and parish members make special efforts to connect with one another and with others beyond their congregations.

Those attending Mass on the weekend are seeking out partners as they enter church so that people are no longer sitting apart from one another but in clusters. They join hands across the aisles for some of the prayers during the liturgy, sharing petitions with one another and getting to know each other’s names and interests.

Once the Mass is completed, congregations remain together to share refreshments and insights from the liturgy. People are signing up for faith-sharing groups throughout the week in record numbers.

Each person attending Mass is being encouraged to relate to one other person who is on the fringe of the church, either a relative, friend, business associate or someone in need. They are told to listen rather than speak. This is not a proselytizing effort but merely an attempt to connect with people who have been left alone and separated from the mainstream of culture and the church.

The efforts at connecting have spread to other churches and congregations as well. Catholics are connecting with those of other faiths, not discussing differences but exploring gestures of friendship and mutual interest.

Catholics are rediscovering one essential aspect of their religion, that relationships are more important than rules and regulations, that sharing comes before doctrine. A new spirit is taking hold on the local level, as leaders and parish members join to make viable the mandate of the new pontiff to revive the legacy of Jesus Christ to love one another, any and every way possible.


* * *
Time capsule

Heralds of advancement
These past 1,000 years
Open doors of HOPE
So ALL may live life
In the Center
Of God’s Vision
These next 1,000 years.

Zuni, N.M.

* * *

We affirm that the elders and grandmothers in our society are wisdom figures for the new millennium -- having survived with equilibrium the wars, racial strifes, economic depressions, changing cultural patterns and rapid technological advances of the 20th century.

Fitchburg, Mass.

* * *

Letter to a new nation

We send this message to you in a primitive way, a mere bottle, scrap of paper, born across the sea. We do this because we have relinquished our moral infrastructure. Nothing is private. Nothing is secret.

This new millennium finds us at a loss to control ourselves. We have become subjects of our appetites. We have failed to name the sources of coercion used to manipulate our behavior. We labor under the false idea that our culture is about loyalty, healing and caring. It is about money and the power it brings. We have allowed others to cast a spell over us.

Orwell’s 1984 is here. It is international businesses that direct our government, endow our schools and support our charities -- necessary components of their business plan of operation and profit. These powerful businesses are “Big Brother.”

We warn you to wake up! Teach your children about our failure and the lies we have swallowed.

A member of our human family,
Greer, S.C.

* * *

In the spirit of the Jubilee Year, two dozen Racine, Wis., Dominican Sisters made a pilgrimage to the 13 holy places the community has served in the Madison, Wis., diocese. They stopped at each parish to offer thanksgiving and prayer for the congregation and to remember the sisters who ministered there. The pilgrimage began with St. Norbert in Roxbury, Wis., where the sisters’ ministry began in 1865 and continued for more than 100 years. The last site visited was St. Mary, Janesville, where the Dominicans served from 1913 to 1986. Over the years, 106 women joined the order from the locations visited.

Sr. Joyce Ballweg, coordinator of the Siena Center, the sister’s motherhouse in Racine, said, “We are part of who we are today because of what we did in the past in the places where we ministered.”

Excerpted from a clipping from The Catholic Herald of the Madison diocese sent by Sr. Renee Van Himberger, Racine, Wis.

* * *

At the end of this 20th century, we wrest with liberals who would dilute the truth and with conservatives who would embalm it. But quietly, imperceptibly, there are those who, like paper at the edge of a tangled forest, wait under truth’s magnifying glass for the searing rays of God’s love to ignite them and set ablaze the whole forest, clearing it for the new millennium.


Front Royal, Va.

* * *
Thy kingdom come

Said the one who sits on the throne:
For 2000 years you have lapsed into
War and hatred, sorrow and want.
When I would have wiped every tear
From your face and given you the
Gift of life-giving water.

Again I stand knocking at your door
A new point of light, the millennium
Where I make all things new
So that morning after morning
You may embrace love and joy,
Pardon and peace.

Reclaim your beautiful blue planet,
Win the victory and inherit the earth.
Build up the Kingdom
Lest someone rob you of your crown
And a new hymn of “Revelation.”

Erie, Pa.

* * *

As a woman made in the image of God, if I could light but one paschal candle, on but one Holy Saturday, upon the altar of St. Peter’s in Rome, I would hold in my hand that atheist manifesto of original sin, touch it to the blessed flame of the New Fire and burn the mortgage.

Redwood City, Calif.

* * *

My message is not new. It has been sent in past millennia to my neighbors, my children, my fellow citizens and has been taken seriously under penalty of law:

  • We can’t shoot our neighbors over disputed fence lines.
  • We can’t mine our political adversary’s campaign office.
  • We can’t take bombs to school.
  • We can’t deploy missiles to alternative churches.
  • We can’t build nuclear weapons in our garages.

If we violate these rules, we will be judged in a court with the laws that keep us civilized.

Among nations, all of these rules are suspended, and violent military resolutions are immortalized on film, in books, in songs, in medals of honor. Parades and celebrations are used to validate the use of force by countries throughout the world.

We can condemn child abuse, spousal abuse, gang warfare, but internationally, violence is tolerated by our apathy and financed with our taxes.

My message pleads for the laws used by the civilized community to challenge our leaders in the next millennium. The rules of peace apply to all.


* * *

Being born, raised and schooled prior to Vatican II and having now lived more than half my life after Vatican II, I constantly have to deal with the ecclesiastical schizophrenia of one who looks for the harmony of the ’50s while knowing full well it cannot be recaptured in or out of the church.

The church in which I was baptized and received the sacraments is of another age. I attended public school and always felt like a second-class citizen in the parish. My parents persevered in the faith despite the Roman regalia of Right and Very Reverends, bells and smells (too much incense), publishing the lists of givers and the constant haranguing for more money from the pulpit. I liked the idea of praying for peace and the end of the war. My father and mother had a lot to pray for. I didn’t realize we lived on the economic edge. I remember my confirmation pledge not to drink any alcohol until I was 21. Such was the love of God for the CCDer.

In college I “studied” religion for the first time. In this Catholic university, the RCs were in the majority. I admired most of my priest teachers from the diocese; they were like the chaplains I saw in the war movies. There were a few flakes, and we all knew them; they were marked men. To attend one religion class, the student had to regularly display a Bible, a missal, a rosary and a scapular just to get in the door. Then you could learn about God’s love.

After college, I was off to the seminary to follow a dream. Always cognizant that I would/could be a wonderful husband and father, yet this may be a “higher calling” and I’d better see if it’s for me. Thrown into the rigors of seminary life, I walked through the minor orders and the emotional turmoil of the sub-diaconate (now abolished) and the promises of celibacy. I took the final step Ad Sum, which led to my priestly ordination.

Placed in a parish I had never heard of, with occupants I had never met, I began my ministry in the midst of Vatican II. The civil rights movement, war in Vietnam, the peace struggle, assassinations and youthful exuberance were my milieu. I was assigned to a parish that went from 80 percent white to 75 percent black in one year -- a societal challenge no one trained me for in the seminary. I was caught up in the liturgy, civil rights, the War Against Poverty and the excitement of Vatican II.

I spent many long nights at community meetings and then rose for 6:30 Mass in a church that was not air-conditioned.

I had the best of buddies of which many remain good friends 35 years later. We prayed, we partied, we played golf and had a great time bringing the Kingdom of God to our people. The monthly get-togethers, called Scotch and Scripture, symbolized the joy of brotherhood and prayer.

Then the sky fell in. Boom. First the Guidelines for Catechesis and -- boom -- the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Our priests’ association rebelled. We were interrogated over and over. The Inquisition had returned. The red bellyband administrators vs. those in the trenches. Our loyalty was questioned and freedom of conscience was up for grabs. A few weeks later I along with 44 colleagues, all priests working hard in the archdiocese, were suspended on the same day with very different remedial punishments. Fired! What a way to end a career. My pastor, in an act of charity, gave me a $50 bill and said he hoped it would all work out. Three of the four priests at our parish were suspended.

Scared to death and far from home, we wondered what would happen next. And what about those who were not with us on these issues? Some were sympathetic; others were very angry with us. More work, fewer workers.

It was disappointing to learn that in the presbyterate and the Mystical Body, only one bishop, Charlie Buswell of Pueblo, Colo., offered us sanctuary until there was some resolution. Can you imagine? Just one. I eventually concluded that this was not the institution to which I wanted to devote the rest of my life.

In some strange manner, I was being liberated from the organization and didn’t realize it. In retrospect, we had a personnel problem, not a doctrinal problem.

Falling in love with the right person at that time was another grace. Romance can certainly help with the loneliness of a young, energetic curate. This union was solid despite a few critics. Too early to make that decision! After 30 years of marriage, I see the wisdom of the decision to marry. Rome and Cardinal John Wright took another five years to settle the question. By then, my youngest child was 4 years old.

And so the rest is history, church history at the end of the century. Now, as we approach the millennium, I look forward to a more democratic institution, guided by principles of ecumenism, free from simony or its appearance, knowing that the church must change radically to support the sacramental image of God.

I have had my ministry restored by the Commonwealth of Virginia for which I work as the ecumenical chaplain at a large state institution. Here we pray, sing, talk and give praise and glory to the God of us all, remembering that God is in love with us. The children are grown, and the grandchildren soon will follow in the tradition of love and caring. This is the legacy. We look forward to but doubt our attendance at Vatican III.

Williamsburg, Va.

* * *

Call back East,
They’re an hour ahead,
Call San Diego,
They’re still in bed.

Can’t save time,
How hard we try;
When time runs out,
Time to die.
Alternative medicine,
Miracle drugs,
Stressless living,
Filtered air,
Computer living
Won’t get us there.

Write that poem,
Paint that scene,
Smell the flowers,
Dream that dream.
We have one captain in control,
Follow Him, save our soul.


* * *

As we reach the year 2000, it seems to me that being ordained a priest in 1956 was one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. To have been part of the vast mosaic of God’s Providence for the greater part of this century, I am tempted to say, cannot be topped by any previous age or part thereof since the Apostles themselves.

With immense gratitude I look back on seminary days in Europe in the 1950s, where the likes of Suhard, Micheneau, Cardijn, Coppens and Thils, Teilhard de Chardin and Guardini and so many others were preparing an atmosphere for an unexpected and unbelievable window opening about to take place at the behest of the jolly, trusting and lovable Pope John XXIII.

My first years as a priest were the last of a nearly medieval church whose practices included use of Latin, bounded traditions and the priest’s back to the people, practices that symbolized in so many ways otherworldly spirituality and the people’s second-class membership in the body of Christ.

I can never forget the days and months of the Second Vatican Council as a seemingly whole new church was being reassembled from past and present. What wonder to have been an active part of a rising lay movement -- the Christian Family Movement, Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, family programming and small Christian communities.

The strong sense of God among us has never wavered despite new testings, a drive for an incomprehensible revisionism that a later generation seems to be aiming for. Nevertheless, a new church-wide liturgical sense has expanded and grown, prayer has been centered and deepened and I have aged 44 years in all of this panoply of life and love.

From a church secure behind its walls, I have witnessed a new awareness and commitment to the world outside, led by brilliant treatises of a strong series of popes, sensitive to an incarnational revelation in all its demands of justice and possibilities of peace. We are Catholic as never before and with a rebirth of scripture study, Christian, too. We are ever so much more relational, like God, and we are wrestling with the issues of complete equality, regardless of gender, ethnicity and even religion.

It has been and is evermore promising and exciting. With patience, compassion and expanding wonder beyond the galaxies, I can only say from my heart, “Come, come, Lord Jesus.”

Warwick, R.I.

* * *

With all the talk about the passage from 1999 to 2000, it might be profitable to acknowledge that the year 2000 is not the first year of a new millennium but the last year of the old one. Year 100 was the last year of the first century, not the first year of the second century.

Amid all the celebration, we perhaps should take occasion individually to reflect on our years in this past century with an eye to improve our imaging of Christ in the new century.

Dayton, Ohio

* * *

How can anyone say that one religion is as good as another? The one thing that most religions and sects have in common is in striving to live a moral life and to help our fellow man.

Otherwise there is worship of men, nature and/or multiple gods. If one God is not the focus of religion, what kind of meaning does life have?

In the book I Became a Buddhist Monk, the author, when asked by an interviewer, “What are your expectations after death?” answered, “Nothing.”

Spencer, Ind.

* * *

‘Life’ questions for the next millennium

As we are slowly growing theologies of the moss-covered sciences of evolution and ecology and painfully birthing a new reproductive morality, science is racing ahead with theories of complex adaptive systems that may change all our “life” questions. Here is a glimpse of what the children of the third millennium may be taught in science class:

  • Life is the result of a basic law of systems that makes life inevitable.
  • Life can only exist in narrow special conditions called boundary layers. The surface of the earth is an example of such a boundary layer because it is the boundary between solid earth and fluid sky. A boundary layer is the ever-changing condition sometimes described as “the edge of chaos.” If it can only exist under these always changing conditions, then what are the eternal truths about life, and even our own lives?
  • The process by which life is created and develops is always internally driven and inherently unpredictable.
  • Life is in the software, not the hardware.

If we expand on these concepts only slightly, we may see why the church must be a participant in the life of the “life” questions of the next millennium.

If life was inevitable here, then it must be inevitable everywhere. Then what is our place, and how do we blend this knowledge with a belief that God created us preferentially?

If life can only exist in the narrow boundary between anarchy and stagnation, then what are the eternal truths about life and even about our own lives?

If the process that creates life can only be internally driven because life must emerge and adapt (which can only happen from the inside out) then life cannot be created by an outside agent. If this is true, then how do we image our creative God? How, then, is God “all knowing,” if this principle says that there is no such thing as a knowable future? Is it possible that God loves surprises?

If life is in the software, then life is in the organization, the coming together. If this theory is true, then life is in the emergent, adaptive relationships between the pieces and parts, not the pieces and parts.

What makes something alive is its network of relationships. This may represent a Copernican revolution. From Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop, the old question was, “What are the building blocks of life?” The new question is, “How does the system behave?”

If the answer to the new question is that the system starts with simple internal relationships and develops complex behavior in an emergent and adaptive manner, then the system is alive. What does this have to say about the old wisdom of the value of relationships?

Does this help us understand our church? Does God only create church from the bottom up with simple relationships such as love God, yourself and your neighbor, which emerge into the rich behavior of gospel living? What does this say about our efforts to create a living church from the top down? Isn’t it vital that our church enthusiastically participate in the interpretation and integration of the “life” questions of the next millennium?

Jackson, Ky.

* * *

The shape of things to come in the 21st century is still a great mystery. However, I will put a message in a bottle for a grandchild yet to be born. I could write about the century almost past, but much of it would be a dark history. I prefer to see the new millennium to come with hope.

So, dear grandchild to be, here goes. You will be born a healthy baby and will grow up in vibrant good health. Your whole life will be healthy. You will live at least to the ripe old age of 100. You will also know the glow of being emotionally and mentally sound.

You will live in harmony with friends and family. The doors of all churches will be open to all, and hate and prejudice will be known no more. If you choose, someday you will marry. You will enjoy a long and happy marriage. Schools will teach how to be a good marriage partner and how to be a good parent. Schools as well as churches will teach ethics and morals; children will grow up knowing clearly what is right and wrong.

You will choose a profession or an occupation and pursue it, working with enjoyment and a minimum of stress. You will be able to profit from a small business of your own or profit from working for a large organization. You will not be a number but an integral part of the whole, and your input will always be respected.

There will be no more hungry people. No children will go to bed starving. Proper shelter and clothing will be given for all. Greedy people who indulge themselves in gourmet foods, expensive cars, yachts, clothes and the like will be exceedingly rare. There will exist in mankind an awareness that by so living others will suffer deprivation. Yes, finally there will be that awareness!

There will be no more “silent springs.” All will work with the recommendations of environmentalists to keep our precious planet clean, beautiful and livable, without toxic wastes of any kind. Catastrophes of nature will be largely foreseen and carefully prepared for.

The unborn and the aged as well as the handicapped will be accepted and taken care of with a tender wisdom. No one will be pushed aside; no one will be thrown on the trash heap. There will be a minimum of crime and criminals. To those who choose to follow a path against society, incarcerations will be humane. There may indeed be life imprisonments, but no one will be murdered as punishment for the crime committed. Mercy will prevail on all levels of society. Yes, finally there will be mercy!

This, dear grandchild to be, is my message for you. I may not be around to share this with you, but I beg you not to call this a mere fantasy. After all, remember that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

Middlebury, Vt.

* * *

An enormous overhaul and development are sorely needed in the theology of marriage at this point of a new millennium. This is a description of the sacrament as I believe it should be practiced today.

A couple should marry civilly and live their lives as best they can in accord with the gospel call of love for each other. Should they, at any point in their lives together, become aware that they have an unconditional love for each other, a love they believe is akin to the compassionate love Jesus had for us, they should go to the parish community and so declare. The parish priest or leader will set a time and date for them to appear before the parish community. At this gathering -- preferably at Sunday Eucharist -- they will declare that they have this love and wish to celebrate the sacrament of marriage. The priest and the parishioners will witness this declaration and celebrate with them the sacrament.

Such a dignifying and recognizing of the sacredness of the sacrament of marriage will strip away all trivializing of the sacrament, as is so often the case in many weddings. Such an attitude and manner of celebrating the sacrament will relieve many of the intolerable burden of living in a loveless marriage or living as divorced persons.

Should a couple learn that the love they thought they had fell short of the deep unconditional love of Christ for the church, let them civilly divorce as they civilly married. They are in a position then of trying again for this sacramental love they so desire. It is to be celebrated, however, only after a time together when they both feel secure in this love.

Such a fitting of the sacrament of marriage into our communities is a recognition of love as the substance of the sacrament. Such a manner of celebrating the sacrament does away with the need of the institutional ruse of calling a divorce a declaration of nullity.

Such a manner of handling our Christian marriages makes us all aware of our calling to be bright and glowing lights and signs of God’s love. Then will we the church be signs of God’s kingdom on earth.

Brecksville, Ohio

* * *
Grief or joy

In the new millennium, like today
we’ll keep fighting against God in all
trying to get our way as a tyrant
enslaved to our mounting terror, rage and despair
of getting neglected, abused and rejected
by lying and cheating to keep secrets
that drive, torment and seduce us
into staying trapped, lazy and wasted
in the Hell of strife, bitterness and hopelessness
to glorify Chaos, the suicidal fake,
our greedy, vicious and lost self of tyranny
that worsens with each pain, hate and failure
being toxic grief, the terrified field of pride
tearing our head, gut and heart apart
to flaunt our progressive insanity.

Or we’ll keep trying to please Him as His wife
trusting in His guidance, forgiveness and help
to go thru our fear, anger and despair
of getting neglected, abused and rejected
by telling truths, correcting wrongs and serving needs
that keep us free, diligent and fulfilled
growing in wisdom, strength and courage
in the Bliss of peace, gratitude and hopefulness
to glorify Him, the Just Self giving all
His total life of tough but true faith, love and hope,
the perfect gift of deepening grace
that heals each pain, hate and failure
being quiet Joy, the Holy Youth of truth,
our head, gut and heart found together
loving all equally with grateful wonder.

Santa Barbara, Calif.

* * *

A vision

Last night, Sept. 8, an incredible thunderstorm filled the dark heavens, electrifying the air with a spectacular light show! As I stood watching the breathtaking golden webs of celestial energy dance wildly in the wind and rain, I had a vision of Millennium Mary, for Sept. 8 is the feast of Mary’s birth.

Our rooftop was singing like fiddles as the holy water poured out of the thundering sky. Our tall, beautiful sunflowers, standing with the corn, swayed to the prophetic sign of the times. Mary was dancing in our backyard.

I had just finished writing about women’s ordination when the thunder and the storm struck. What timing! Looking out our glass doors to the sky, I sensed a grandmother out there somewhere, just like me.

The newspapers may say it was a storm from Baja, but on Mary’s birthday I stood and watched the hopeful, golden faces of the sunflowers looking up at the birthday party of nature’s Magnificat creation. Suddenly as the sky lit up, I saw her grandmotherly face.

Mary looked like all the blessed grandmothers I am and know. She even wore glasses. And she looked happier than her old but forever young statue because I could see grandchildren.

A 747 passed in the still-booming thunderstorm, its red and white lights a hopeful chariot of changing times. Maybe I should try to speak to Grandmother Mary. I could ask her if there is hope for women priests.

At that same moment, I saw faces of grandchildren whispering into Mary’s ear, “Happy birthday, Grandma. We love you as you are.”

A tear of joy ran down my glass door window as the storm of hope rolled on into the bright lightning and thunder of the morning 9/9/99. A morning star rising in our hearts. Grandmother’s love from heaven.

Woodside, Calif.

* * *

He was getting ready to go to college, and we were walking on the beach at the Jersey Shore. It was a warm July night, 20 years ago. I had known him for several years and came to love him and his family. I remember that night well. He was looking ahead, wondering about his options and the roads that were there for the taking and the going, and we were talking about those things. Suddenly he looked out at the ocean and said, his voice starting to crack, that he hoped he could do it. “I hope I do OK,” he said. And I told him that he would. I knew then as I know now of a goodness in him that is a blessing to all who know him.

He went to college and did well. Then he graduated, got a good job, fell in love and married a wonderful woman. I witnessed their vows, and it was a real pleasure for me to hear them promise lifelong love to each other.

They began their married life, and so many things fell into place. But a baby was long in coming.  There were several very worrisome years, and then a baby girl arrived. He wrote me all along, sharing with me their anxieties and then their joys when she arrived. I could not attend the christening but remember thinking about them on that day and hoping all the best for the new threesome.

Several weeks ago, my friend wrote to me and said there were problems. Their little girl, now 2, has yet to speak a word and does not seem to tune in to sounds around her. They are in the process of taking her for tests.

They have been on my mind a lot. I think of them before falling off to sleep, and find myself talking to them, talking to him. Several times I am back on that beach, and my eyes are shut and we are walking and I am listening to him, and I tell him again that all will be fine. I hear the waves, see the moon, hear his voice. Is that a prayer? I hope so.

I recently read of a woman who thinks of those she loves and offers them to God in thanksgiving and warm thoughts of love. Her exact words were “I hold them up to God.”

When I think about those words I hope. I hope about all the times I think of those I love. For I hope I am right, that my quiet love does some good. I cannot honestly say that I pray for them, as if my words could secure for them whatever help they needed -- light, goodness or whatever. Something about loved ones comes to me in the peace and quiet of my nights, when my heart is going over the days and years of my life and resting on those from whom I have learned to give and receive love. And in doing so I feel near them -- and near something of God.

There is much about what I am writing that is incomplete. The tests for the baby are still to be done. And I feel the pain of her mom and dad. They want to do good and be good. But something is happening in their lives that is making them long for a special kind goodness and certitude. Their baby will need a quality of care and attention that will be very specific to her needs: perhaps to her silence, to her not hearing like most other children do. They are on another beach, and I am sure that there are tears and a longing for knowing so many things. I am here and cannot walk with them and listen. But I hold them close to me in my heart, and know that a real goodness and certitude shall be theirs.

What has the church been this century, and what will it be like in the next? There has been and will be reform. There have been and will be prophets and popes, moments of grace and failure, arrogance and sublimity. There will be scandals and genuine shining examples of goodness, heroism, sacrifice. All in all, it has been and will be a church doing its best to follow an extraordinary Light.

There will be a church that hopes for good things. But there will be those who will need special love, special care. They will know need because they will never be able to speak as well as they should or hear as they might or even know as they ought. In their eyes, their ears, their hearts and minds and in their need for goodness and love, God will show to each and every generation what the church is. People will seek what is complete, and God will be born incomplete -- and call forth from men and women a special and exacting kind of love.

And so there will be church, not from our reforms and plans, as needed as these might be. But church from our need to walk with each other and listen for whom we are and how we can be of some good.

A young man asked me once if he would be OK; if he would do what is right. We walked a beach, and it was dark and saw no bottles with messages about a church that was or will be. There may have been one, or even two, bobbing in the surf. We were walking and listening, caring and hoping. Good comes his way as I write this. I am sure of that.

So place this in a bottle and throw it into the sea. Maybe some night, a long time from now, it will wash ashore on a faraway beach, where people walk and share their hopes, and, in doing so, become the message in a bottle that washes up at their feet.

Conyers, Ga.

* * *

I propose a new image of the Trinity, one that resembles the three figures in The Gleaners by the artist Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875). Gleaners are workers who follow harvesters, carefully hand picking each spear of leftover grain. They value the insignificant, the negligible, the leftovers not considered profitable by those who reaped the choice portions. The Gleaner God works, cries and laughs with us at our office, school, sick bed, kitchen sink, dinner table, field. The Gleaner God walks quietly and softly at our side, asking us to tread lightly upon our earth, which sustains us.

Richardton, N.D.

* * *

As this new millennium approaches, I pledge to continue to be a prophet speaking out for the ordination of women. I pledge to recognize the gift of my own priesthood, to be the priest who ministers to my own family and to God’s family.

Waukesha, Wis.

* * *

The Book of Genesis tells us God created two great lights, one to rule the day and one to rule the night. My two great lights, both a disappointment, have been the church and the government.

I thought the church’s light would be turned on by Vatican II. I thought my church would reform and become the center of Christian life for my community. I’m 73 now, in the twilight of my life, and my church has failed to live up to its potential. I pray that you who come after me will see this light, the great light of the day.

My second great light, our country’s government, has failed to shine brightly, also. Money from all directions has perverted the path of good government. When things get very bad, people will accept any strong ruler, even a dictator. To prevent this, we must move the center of power out of Washington to the people, all the people. We must abolish representative legislation and go to a pure democracy. Money will have a much harder time buying off 300 million people than 535 legislators.

I pray the following generation will see these two great lights. My time is short, but you might see them. God bless you all.


* * *

There is a pair of lovers whose uniquely tragic story spans practically the entire second Christian millennium. The philosopher/theologian Peter Abelard was born in its first century (1079), his lover Heloise was born at the start of its second. Their story was celebrated in masterpieces that are already ancient: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Francois Villon’s “Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear?” Weaving its sad beauty through almost our entire millennium, it is worthy to be the love story of any millennium.


* * *

Many of us enter the new millennium still seeking God, therefore, retreat, take time to simplify, pray, reflect and find rhythm and rest in our lives, so we can advance into this next thousand years at peace.

Coram, Mont.

* * *

A Millennium Dream

I have a dream. That one day soon, humankind will wake up and see with new eyes. Scales will fall from our eyes, and we will behold the world as if seeing it for the first time. What will we see? Not $$ or commodities, not objects to be controlled for human profit and comfort, but a living system, alive in its parts and in the whole. Short-term goals will yield to the longer vision of the kind of world we want to leave our children and the children of all the species. It can happen in this new time of the 21st century and the third millennium. It just takes waking up.

St. Paul, Minn.

* * *

About a dozen years ago, I was a candidate with the Tiffin (Ohio) Franciscans. A young priest from Tanzania asked me, “Why would an American girl with lots of education and opportunities even consider the religious life?”

My answer sort of popped out of me, “Because in this country, right here, right now, we are creating the church that is going to the stars. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that we humans are not going to be forever caught on this small planet. I believe that humans will venture far into space, and I believe the church will be there with them. The church that will go to the stars will have to be flexible and real. As I look around, I see that church being born. I want to be a part of the story.”

In those dozen years since, I came to realize that my vocation was not to religious life. I have since immersed myself in a local campus ministry program where it has been my privilege to watch and help nurture the growth of future leaders of the church. I have come to see that we have some very real problems right here on this planet, and that we need to work together to solve them. However, even in the midst of poverty, sweatshops, female mutilation, we need to occasionally look up and out and know that in the millennium to come, when we have solved these problems, the stars await.

Ypsilanti, Mich.

* * *
The chain of faith

January 1, 2000 12:01 a.m.
Look back: 2,000 years of faith
Ahead: the 3rd millennium
A chain of faith stretches back unbroken to that one earth-shattering fiat
Two thousand years of witnesses repeat Mary's word: fiat
Peter, Prisca, Paul: fiat
The chain is firm.
Scholastica, Benedict, Stephen, Elizabeth: fiat
Jean, Ita, Oscar: fiat
And now I stand at the edge of two millennia.
Lord, give me courage that my small link in the chain of faith will
Hold as time tests the lives of God's faithful ones.

Cambridge, Md.

* * *

Millennium thought:

We celebrate 2000 years of the Christ-Gift to our world, and we observe 2000 years of a world still struggling with Jesus and His message of Salvation. HE is WORD and LIGHT and LIFE, and we human beings are still deaf and blind.

Keystone Heights, Fla.

* * *
Though ’99 fades away
And 2000 bombards in,
Jesus Is!


Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

* * *

Loving God, on this eve of the new millennium, enable us your cherished daughters and sons, to integrate the prophetic call to justice as we passionately work for peace and justice in every corner of our world!

Ft. Mitchell, Ky.

* * *

In 1976, as a 23-year-old director of religious education, I placed a host into my mother's hand and said, “This is the Body of Christ.” After Mass, my mother said, “You know, I always hoped I would someday receive Communion from one of my children. I just never dreamed it would be my daughter doing it!” Growing up in Solon, Ohio, I, too, never had such a dream.

When times get confused or even discouraging, when the dreams of the Second Vatican Council seem very far away indeed, I console myself with the realization that the Spirit is still working on this motley, loving church.

What we have accomplished as women in the church cannot be undone, unlearned or forgotten. Change is not only coming, it is here.

Dayton, Ohio

* * *

Y2K may change nothing, save our modes of thinking. Therein lies hope for the future.

Medford, Ore.

* * *

I think partnership between the sexes will bring about peace in families and, ultimately, peace in the world. Patriarchal control, control by fear and legalism, will no longer be respected. Before this can take place, many years of bitter conflict between women and men will take place. For example, women working for the church will strike nationally and internationally at key times of the liturgical year in order to make their point. The church in return may retaliate with suspensions and excommunications against these brazen, activist women.

Las Cruces, N.M.

* * *
Could this be the finis, the apocalyptic end
or could it be the beginning
of a life as yet unknown
where seeds of peace and justice and
eternal love are sown.

Downers Grove, Ill.

* * *
Loss of

Fort Collins, Colo.

* * *
Everything will be different when you get this letter.
Yet you who open this will breathe the air
of that time and place that was my own,
or so I thought, everything would make
eventually and love would find its place,
but perhaps nothing at all will be new,
Same glass, same ink, same hopes, same
me, same you.

Lake Charles, La.

* * *
Couldn’t we have a little silence?
Just for a while
A whispering, twilight silence
When we might say no to what is
Too much, too fast
For even now is too late
Each pause wasted chance
Every instant a raucous insistence
Seek Buy Know Answer
Swapping mystery for omnipotence
In a cosmic sucker bet

Rochester, N.Y.

* * *

Sistine Chapel,
November 1958:

The crowd cheered, the short, rotund figure the world came to love stepped forward and in a booming baritone blessed the crowd. None in the square or the world realized what a difference this farmer from northern Italy would make in the church, the world, my life. And I was there at the beginning!

Cedar, Mich.

* * *
Like shooting star I came
Surprised, surprising,
To the doorway that opens to the universe.
And now, oh adventurer, I ask myself:
“Where are you going, and from whence have you come?”

Wauwatosa, Wis.

* * *

A hundred years ago, the head of the physics department at Harvard University discouraged applicants for the physics program, assuring them that all the major discoveries in physics had already been made. In terms both human and cosmic, God’s creation will always surprise us.

Williamsville, N.Y.

* * *

The next millennium must find us moving well beyond the bounds of definition and defense back to the apostolic, and thus relationally authentic, declaration of Good News. What is this gospel, this Good News? Christ died, rose and will come again. Where and how? Within the context of our relationships: hurting, helping, hopeful.

Loomis, Calif.

* * *

No one disputes the little changes that go on like a leaky faucet. The children grow, the dog mellows, the vegetables in the drawer mold, moods swing. My favorite priest says all things work for good with God. Perhaps it is so.

Wilmington, Del.

* * *

All of you to follow us will be shaped by the hands of compassion that we lay into the very structure of life on Earth.

Weston, Vt.

* * *
After Rouault’s ‘Road
to Emmaus’

Maybe while they walk
The familiar road
And talk the usual thing
Maybe she
Left beside them
Is embraced
In their embarrassed silence.


* * *

In the third millennium, Jesus needs followers, not fanatics; witnesses, not warriors; disciples, not defenders. The pope, instead of wagging fingers at the “evil world,” should warmly embrace it, to transform it through love.

Coral Springs, Fla.

* * *

I hope that a cure for AIDS will be found. I hope that by the time the bottle is opened we will have openly gay and lesbian bishops and cardinals, and that our pope, be he or she gay or lesbian, will hang the Pride Flag from the Vatican window.

Scotch Plains, N.J.

* * *

We celebrate being part of this extended family as we look back with gratitude to our intrepid and hardy ancestors and look ahead to welcome and to find room for each new child to come among us. Carpe diem. May our hearts and homes be open in this new millennium to fully receive life and all that is life-giving from the Source and Giver of life.

Dubuque, Iowa

* * *

And now, beside the usually foremost, Love, we also focus on Hope and Faith. Best in 2000 and 2000s more.

Woodbury, Minn.

* * *


That’s the question imprinted on the front of Jewish T-shirts and sweatshirts. What’s all the commotion, it asks, when it’s the year 5760? It’s meant to remind Christians that God’s love, his concern for humanity, has been going on for much longer than 2,000 years.

McHenry, Ill.

* * *
Just to believe

Born just weeks before Hiroshima
I was 17 when Cuban missiles
aimed toward Atlanta, my home.
Dad was on the road,
and my mother and I made plans
To live in the basement.
At that age, I could not imagine growing old,
not because of the invincible
shield of youth
but because I thought
some fool would someday soon
let the big one fly,
and it would be all over
in a matter of minutes.

Imagine this:
After a life of thinking about death,
I was diagnosed with depression
In my mid-30s.
I survived
Because others prayed me through it
And believed I could.
I tried to believe, too,
but it was dark for a long time.

When the Berlin Wall came down,
the stones around my heart had already collapsed,
and I had learned at last to love.
Then I thought just maybe
hope could fly
and raise this planet
from its path of self-destruction.

Still, I could not imagine
I would live to greet a new millennium.

I plan to stay home this New Year’s Eve
and keep watch until sunrise
that first day.
I want to pray the earth forward,
not to deny its atrocities,
not to neglect its starving or its illness,
not to escape the violence,
but just to believe
through that long winter night,
just to believe.


* * *
Bottle poem

Chronos-kairos time
flow down the millennium
every second counts.

Pacific Grove, Calif.

* * *
Do not sink into the American Dream completely anesthetized.
If you kick the old man wrinkles cannot
hide, prepare
yourself for an empty old age.
If you scorn the young, you scorn your
youth: your abandon, your
ideals, your willingness to risk.
Honor the old wherever you see them.
Nourish the sage.
Cherish the young.
Refuse to be processed.
If God hated us, God would indeed have
made us perfect,
but God cut a chunk out of each glorious
shape; threw us all a curve;
carved a yearning so deep -- a pathos, a
tragic flaw, a lump of ore, a grief.
Devote yourself to what befalls you with
Refuse the mantle of victimhood, of forev-
er being an adult child
of this or that.
Use your last name whenever you introduce yourself.
Our ancestors live on in us.
Don’t be threatened by ideal families. They
don’t exist and never have.
Grieve for the damage we have inflicted on
Repent, accept forgiveness, forgive.
We have a divine spark, a political connec-
tion to all that is.
Resist the defense of a full schedule -- the
completely controlled day,
the impossibility of a spontaneous act.
Be subversive. Think about how each
nuclear bomb is a present day abuse:
an insult to our common humanity, a daily
spilling of our blood into the source.
Educate your therapist to think commu-
nally, politically.
Challenge your pastor to preach nonviolence.
Give your neighbor in 12A the courtesy of
an introduction. Begin
The spiritual discipline of nourishing the
Kiss the earth.
Kill your television. Practice turning your
back on the American Dream.
Refuse to be caught up in the sound and
fury of ever expanding growth -- the economy.
Dare to hope.
Search for what is changeless in you.
Pray to recognize what must change.

Hinesburg, Vt.

* * *

My hope is that we will all take seriously the need to connect in understanding with people of the Muslim faith. My fear is that if we do not make this bridge we will not have peace in the world.

Brecksville, Ohio

* * *

To thrive is the goal, but only small segments experience that. Our century is still on a level of survival. This is my prayer shared with you. May we aspire to tap our wondrous capacities for goodness, love and generosity of spirit, to be for more than self. May we base our lives on the simplest, yet most profound truth: Love gives life. If this is fantasy, survival is the best we can hope for.

Hillside, Ill.

* * *

All the hype and superstition.
Looking for the profound.
Look at the numbers.
Same as they were and will be.
Only the order is different.
The truth is constant.
One God. Different names.
God of love and welcome.
Dump the fears.
Leave the astrologers.
Avoid the psychics.
They are wrong.
God is here.
Always has been.
Nothing new.
Know the joy.
Embrace the light.
Feel the calm.
Live the peace.

Red Wing, Minn.

* * *
Respect existence,
Life, consciousness
And conscience.
Respect mystery.


* * *
Don’t woe men!
Pope Paula I
and a majority
of women in the
curial senate
will include you.

St. Paul, Minn.

* * *

In the new millennium let us determine to live the New Covenant as directed by Christ: “Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” In these thousand years we will be preparing the way of the Lord.

Addison, Ill.

* * *

Litany for the journey

That as we bid farewell to the old millennium we say with T.S. Eliot, “Not fare well, but fare forward, voyagers.” That we check what baggage to leave at the border and what to carry over. That we realize the greatest minds of the past were not computers. That the greatest accomplishments were not deeds done in our lifetime alone. And that the good souls who now sleep within the brackets of the last millennium can rest in peace, knowing that we who step over the great divide carry with us their best wisdom, virtue and love.

Dunmore, Pa.

* * *

My life spans most of this century. Born in 1908, I have witnessed so many surprising changes that I know nothing is impossible with God. In the area of church liturgy, I listened for years to statements of a universal language that would never change, or a ritual that was fixed forever -- statements that became more forceful in the 1950s. I guess fear fed into the clergy’s proclamations. Then along came Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council. Now I know that was just the beginning of a long overdue catching up with the reality of the evolving world. I hope I live to see women and married men in all the leadership roles of the church, up to and including a papacy that will have been renewed.

Rockville Centre, N.Y.

* * *

I pray our church would create an authentic environment for reconciliation between people with disabilities and those who are not disabled; people who are poor and people who have wealth; men and women, old and young, conservatives and liberals, parents and children, the educated and illiterate; perpetrators of crime and victims of crime; families broken by divorce, buried and painful memories, alcoholism or abuse.


* * *

Is our honesty to ourselves, to those we know and love, to our spiritual yearnings, to our society and to our nation so forged in our cauldron of time, endurance and sacrifice that, as we emerge at journey’s end, we will always be known as truth-tellers?

Littleton, Colo.

* * *

When the NCR invited even the most impossible hopes to be aired, our wildest visions for the future, this was the foremost hope of mine: The institutional church claiming affiliation with the one from Nazareth would outlaw participation in the armies of nations. It would further include in its liturgy of baptism and in its canon law the renunciation of violence as a condition of membership in the church. The advocacy of violence at the personal, family, national and international levels would be cause for perusal and investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Any reports issuing from the congregation would begin with these standard words: “In the light of the teachings and the example of the Lord Jesus to Peter and his apostles to put up the sword and to bear up under persecution ‘for my name’s sake,’ it is the judgment of this body. ... “

The church on earth would have another face. It would have fewer members. It would be ostracized and persecuted by the democratic “good guys.” The priests who were formerly chaplains in the army would have a different function. They would be camp followers who would solicit the former Catholic soldiers and counsel them in the ways of conscientious objectors.

Unreal? Certainly. As unreal as the kingdom of God touted by the prophet from the hills of Galilee. So unreal that only a hope born of mystery and generated by grace could account for it. It is the type of hope found in a message in a bottle.

Brecksville, Ohio

* * *

My question for the next millennium: Will democracy and Catholicism provide convincing alternatives to materialism and the injustices of unbridled global capitalism?

Sarasota, Fla.

* * *

My prayer in the new millennium is that we might rediscover the “message from forever,” that dimension of life lived in the “dreamtime” in harmony with all creation, and hear once again the music of the spheres, the song of glory.

Hermitess, Cahuilla Indian Reservation, Calif.

* * *

My work desk holds a large seashell, relic of a past respite. Walking along the seashore, I noticed a beautiful and unblemished remnant swept in by the tides. When lifted from the sands, it revealed a broken, mottled underside. I kept the shell. It reminds me of humanity and of the possibilities of change.

Wayne, Ill.

* * *

Opportunities to write, sing, speak, sculpt, paint, teach, weave will be ours. The future seems to hold possibilities unlimited. But only if we continue to grow in our understanding of who we are and how the grace of God is involved. The choice is ours.

Columbia, Mo.

* * *

Malls will be almost replaced by Internet shopping. Space travel will become common. Cities will be established in space. Cars will be driven automatically, on tracks. No one will ask about race, because all humanity will be a blend of many races. What will be done with the knowledge gained in the field of human genetics will either dazzle our minds or totally repulse us. The millennium is ours.

Fayetteville, N.Y.

* * *
Genie 2000 A.D.

rom a womb of water came the earth
And the eternal Word, fruitful, one with God;
That Word submerged today by human din
And heard with deadened ears.
Now our denatured thinking we return
To Living Waters, source and form
Of all that is, time past and far tomorrow,
The one all-knowing Word.
Come forth again, oh Holy One,
Refashion us in God’s own truth,
You in Whom we only and forever are.

Sun City West, Ariz.

National Catholic Reporter, January 7, 2000 [corrected 01/21/2000]