the original Mother’s Day

Yesterday, for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, I posted about personal Mother’s Day.

Today, I want to post about the original meaning of celebrating Mother’s Day.

It was actually Mothers’ Day for Peace and was not about personal sentiment, but about global peacemaking.

Julia Ward Howe wrote the original proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice.”

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of

(Source and more info:

At our time in history, we are still desperately in need of world peace. Today, let us re-commit ourselves to building that peace.

One-Liner Wednesday: Abigail Adams

“I long to hear that you have declared an independancy—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
~~ Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband John Adams, March 31, 1776

This One-Liner Wednesday quote is in honor of Women’s History Month.
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Livestream for International Women’s Day

I am listening to a livestream from the Vatican in observance of International Women’s Day. It can be found here:

Although I didn’t tune in as the program began, I was able to begin listening from the start of the program. I’m not sure if it will be archived for later viewing or not, but I hope so.

There are wonderful speakers from around the world, talking about their lives, about faith, about peacemaking, about listening, about mercy, about love, about action, about solidarity.

Wishing all women around the world safety, opportunity, equality, and the gifts of free expression and deep listening.

Update:  The video is available from the link above. I think the link will default to the English version, but it is also available in Spanish and Italian. So many powerful voices.


Elizabeth and Mary

My friend, Rev. Pat Raube, has been sharing Advent meditations on her blog every evening in Advent. I wanted to share this one in particular with my readers because it deals with the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. I love that Elizabeth is the first to proclaim Mary as mother of the Messiah. While we most often hear that her son John is the herald of Jesus, Elizabeth is the first herald of the Gospel before John or Jesus is born:

Giving Tuesday

Today is termed “Giving Tuesday” and is promoted to remind people to include charitable giving in their December plans.

I chose to support three charities today.

First, I contributed to the NETWORK Education Fund, which is the tax-deductible affiliate of NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby, of which I am also a long-time supporter. They help to educate people on issues such as immigration reform, voter registration, economic justice, etc.

Second, I supported Mary’s Pence, which funds projects which empower women, in the US and the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Some are co-operative economic endeavors, while others are geared toward health, education, or bringing about social change. They also fund study grants for women.

My final choice was the Tanzanian Children’s Fund, which operates a school and orphanage in Tanzania, as well as microfinance projects and medical services. Our cousin Sara has a long history of volunteering with them in Africa and we give to them every December in honor of her and the family.

Of course, we don’t confine our charitable giving to one day, but I am glad that there is a special day to remind people to give to others if they are able. There is no shortage of causes that are worthy of support.

Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, and I

A friend posted a link to this article: on Facebook a few days ago. Gloria Steinem writes about her reactions to Hillary Clinton as she ran for New York Senator and for the Democratic nomination for president and about some other women’s reactions which were not as positive as hers. Her article inspired me to add my own viewpoint.

When Bill Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination for the first time, he was in trouble for reports of him having affairs.  Bill and Hillary appeared for a joint interview on 60 Minutes. I remember thinking that the wrong person was running for president. While Bill is undoubtedly the more charismatic, Hillary struck me as being the more intelligent of the two. Being first lady of Arkansas and then of the United States didn’t really give her the opportunities to reach her full capacity in service and in leadership.

I appreciated that when she ran for Senate in New York she did a lot of listening and I was proud to be able to vote for her. She did a good job as Senator and gained valuable experience. When she ran for the presidential nomination in 2008, I felt she was the stronger candidate than Barack Obama because she had more experience, as Steinem notes in her piece. Because I am an independent and New York has a closed primary system, I wasn’t allowed to vote, though.

The experience Hillary gained as Secretary of State in the Obama administration makes her even more experienced as a candidate now. I do have a problem, though. Because she had to spend so much of her time in the public eye supporting someone else’s vision and having to play the game that women often have to play to prove that they are “tough” enough to participate in predominantly male environments, it is hard to pin down what policies she believes in herself, as opposed to positions she had to take on for other reasons.

While I am excited by the prospect of a woman president and believe that Hillary will gain the Democratic nomination and the presidency, at the moment I am supporting fellow independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Bernie’s progressive views most closely match my own and he has been amazingly consistent in his vision over the decades. I believe his candidacy has been good for Hillary, helping her to articulate her own progressive views that had gotten buried in the years of having to follow the lead of her husband, her party leadership, and President Obama as a member of his Cabinet.

I do deplore the amount of snark – and worse – that women candidates have to endure. As Steinem points out, some of the disapproval comes from other women, where it is often a reflection of dissatisfaction with a woman’s own life rather than an actual disagreement with the candidate. Further, Clinton has to contend with actual hatred directed at her by some partisans. No Congressional committee would have questioned Sec. Colin Powell for eleven hours as the House Benghazi committee did this past week with Clinton. I agree with Steinem that, had I faced the choice to run for Senate that Hillary did, I would have said no. Running for president – twice – is even more punishing.

It feels odd, as a feminist, not to be on Hillary’s bandwagon yet. I am again faced with the situation that I don’t have a vote until the general election, when I fully expect that I will be casting my vote for Hillary Clinton and her running mate. Meanwhile, I will back the candidate whose positions I share most closely, Bernie Sanders.

SoCS: “Between the Dark and the Daylight”

One of my volunteer gigs is facilitating for a spirituality study group at my church. We meet on Wednesday mornings to read and discuss a book on a spiritual topic. After a summer break, we met for the first time this part week to begin reading Between the Dark and the Daylight by Joan Chittister.

The subtitle of the the book is Embracing the Contradictions of Life.  We all feel that we need help with this!

Sister Joan begins by explaining that life is full of paradoxes and then illustrates the point through a series of relatively short chapters, with titles like “The Poverty of Plenty” and “The Sanity of Irrationality” and “The Certitude of Doubt”. Not that I have read the whole book yet. I like to keep a bit ahead of the group so that I am prepared to lead discussion, but I don’t like to be so far ahead that I am throwing in concepts from later chapters before we get to them.

It is a bit odd that I am facilitating the group because I am its junior member. OK – in most contexts I am not considered a “junior” but, at 54, I am the youngest. Many of the women – and we are all women, even though, theoretically, a man could choose to attend – have children in my age cohort.

I wound up doing it because the IHM sister who began the group decades ago needed to move on to some other duties and asked me to take it on. Do you know how difficult it is to say no to a sister when she asks you to do something for the parish? So I said yes, even though I didn’t feel qualified. Part of what makes it work is that I facilitate discussion rather than try to teach. The wisdom of the authors of the books we read plus the wisdom of the group carries us through.

It’s enlightening.
This post is part of Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturdays. The prompt this week was “light.” Join us! Find out how here:

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the start of Sappho’s Circle

Today was the first meeting of Sappho’s Circle, a women’s poetry workshop group convened by Heather Dorn, whom I first met through the Binghamton Poetry Project of which she is currently director.

We will study women poets, write from prompts, have sessions where we workshop poems by group members to help them revise, and have publication parties where we choose publications to which to submit our poems and send them off – before we get distracted, chicken out, etc.

I am so excited to have another group, along with my regular workshop group and the Binghamton Poetry Project,  to help me become a stronger poet.  I’m also looking forward to being in another circle of women. I have been privileged to belong to other women’s circles over the decades and always find great support, generosity, and understanding within them.

My heartfelt thanks to Heather who has been such a great help to me as a poet. I’m so looking forward to being a part of Sappho’s Circle through the coming year!

A women-centric Sunday morning

Being a long-time feminist, I tend to notice when things are more male-centered or female-centered, and, being Catholic, Sunday mornings tend to be more male-centered. Today has been a lovely, woman-centered surprise.

It began early this morning when I read a blog post from Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan containing the homily from the latest ordination in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in Albany NY. It was preached jointly by her and the ordinands and referenced several women mystics from the Catholic tradition.

The gospel reading at Mass this morning was the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage and the raising of the daughter of Jairus.  As so often happens, the names of these two are lost to history, but I find their stories and their juxtaposition in Mark’s gospel compelling.  The mature woman, who has been bleeding for twelve years and has been bankrupted by paying doctors who have not helped her, is healed, unbeknownst to Jesus, when she touches his cloak. When Jesus asks who in the crowd touched him, she comes forward and tells him the story. It was her faith that healed her and allowed her to re-enter society. Given that Jewish women were considered ritually impure when they were bleeding, she would have spent those twelve years unable to touch people and be part of normal life. Her healing gave her her life back.

When this happened, Jesus was on his way to the house of Jairus to heal his daughter who was very ill. Before they arrive, word comes that the girl has died. Jesus continues, though, and raises the girl from her deathbed and restores her to the arms of her loving parents. The Scripture tells us that the girl is twelve years old, an age on the cusp of womanhood. I love the symmetry of the story: two females restored to life, one young, one older, both related to the number twelve, which is so often used in the Bible to denote completeness.

In church this morning, we also got to hear an appeal from a Benedictine sister from Tanzania on behalf of her order’s orphanage there. She is in the US attending college, in Buffalo in my home state of New York, and hoping to go on for her master’s in special education so that she can return to Tanzania to assist in the education of the children in the orphanage. Interestingly, we also have a connection to the Rift Valley Children’s Village, another orphanage in Tanzania, through cousin Sara, who has volunteered there extensively. It was a privilege to be able to offer prayers and financial support this morning. It was also most welcome to hear a woman’s voice from the ambo.

Now, my daughter and I are relaxing together before lunch. I wonder what other woman-centered events the day will bring?

Interspirituality conference

I’ve spent the last two days immersed in this interspirituality conference.  Kurt Johnson was our main speaker with many members of our local community participating as panelists/presenters.  It is impossible for me to condense two intensive days into a reasonable summary, so I will instead give a series of impressions, connections, and experiences.

I learned a lot from an academic/historical perspective about interspirituality. While it uses a different vocabulary, the concepts were familiar to me from studying spiritual teachers such as Joan Chittister and Richard Rohr who transcend the borders between spiritual traditions and emphasize the universal, indwelling presence of the Divine.

One of the unsettling aspects for me that was articulated by some of the women in attendance was that even at the advanced levels of spirituality and consciousness that were being discussed, the lens was still predominantly and historically male.  When there was discussion of the power of small groups and the advantages of people relating as non-hierarchal circles, I and at least several of the other women in the room were thinking, “Well, of course. This is how we have related, created, innovated, passed on wisdom, supported one another, moved forward together for centuries.”  It was a bit disconcerting to realize that the primacy of love, connection, relation, co-creativity, and the holiness of all creation that are felt so deeply in the hearts, minds, and wombs of women are only now again being re-discovered and brought out into the wider academic world and dialogue on how the world is organized.

That I was at the conference at all was due to connections through women and their circles.  My friend Yvonne Lucia, whose amazing artwork you can see here, was a panelist and passed on invitations to me and other members of sacred circles in which we have participated. I, in turn, was blessed to be able to invite and meet in person Jamie of Sophia’s Children, with whom I had recently connected in the blogosphere.  I so appreciated the enriching conversations that we had during breaks and lunches and a lovely walk along the river that Jamie and I shared after the conference ended a bit earlier than anticipated this afternoon.

The conference followed what was termed as a “loosey-goosey” model, which was fine as it led into unexpected areas and revelations. I was, however, disappointed that we did not do much discussion of ecospirituality, which is becoming increasingly important to me at this point in time.  In all my years of writing commentary on fracking, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental topics, I had to make arguments based on science and economics. Because the anti-fracking movement was being characterized as coming only from a place of emotion and NIMBY-ism, I was careful to work from a fact- basis and to not respond to personal attack. What only those close to me knew was that the energy behind all those comments came from my grounding in the values of Catholic social justice doctrine, which includes care of all creation and an extra measure of protection and care for the most vulnerable, whether an endangered ecosystem or a community left vulnerable to pollution, sea level rise, inadequate food and shelter, or other threat. Now, with the impending release of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and my involvement in the newly reconstituted Catholic Peace Community of the Southern Tier, I feel that I can integrate my environmental advocacy with my spiritual values in a more public way, hoping to spread the message in our communities about steps we can take to help our damaged climate before the climate talks convene in Paris in December.

One of the gifts of the conference for me was increased clarity of my own spiritual journey as I continue through my 50s. While I am still grounded in the “big C” Catholic church, although as a progressive feminist within it, what I learned there – the elements of social justice, the sacramentality of life and relationship, the indwelling of God in each person and all of creation, God as Love, Peace, Ground of Being – makes me also and increasingly a “small c” catholic, which mean universal. That is how I am thinking about interspirituality at this point, that universal connection in which all people of good will share, whether they arrive there via a faith/spiritual tradition or through humanism, science, or some other path.

One of the other blessings was the presence and sharing of some from the Millennial age cohort. While some think of their tendency to connect with one another electronically to be a detriment, I think it is one of their strengths. While those of us in older generations were brought up largely in localized boxes, the Millennials have grown up being connected instantly to a wide circle of people. From my two 20-something daughters and their friends, I have learned so much about celebrating diversity. It is a great source of hope and comfort to me that they already know and live some of these things that have taken me much longer to discover. To know that we have their generation’s commitment, broad sense of community, energy, and love already engaged is a great source of hope and comfort to me.

I am an introvert and gatherings of people are daunting to me. In the two days of the conference, I didn’t ever rise to ask a question or speak. I also tend to need a lot of processing time – and then go on to write overly long blog posts! But I will close with one more observation that I am mulling.  There were a handful of people at the conference that I knew personally, mostly people that I met through Yvonne. There were others who recognized me as a poet, a part of my life that has been public for such a short time that it still seems like a surprise when someone identifies me that way. There were also people who knew me by sight from my fracktivist activities or by name because of my public commentary. And most of the people in the room who do not know me at all.

There was, however, a special personal connection that I had within the church in which we met.  When I was in my twenties, it was my privilege to study organ with Searle Wright. First Congregational was his home church and my lessons often took place there. I took a moment after lunch today to go visit the Aeolian Skinner organ, to sit on the bench for a moment, to remember the wonders of Searle playing it, and to recall the time when I was still able to play myself.

I managed not to cry, although I don’t know if I will tomorrow morning when I attend the Sunday service which will be the official closing of the conference.

Update:  I’m happy to share the link to Jamie’s initial blog post on the conference:  It gives you a much better sense of what interspirituality means and you can follow her blog for more of her insights as they come our way.

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