Sunday, February 14, 2016

“Beauty in Transition”

beauty in transition

Catholics who are visiting the city of Philadelphia this week for the World Meeting of Families are aware that back in February of 2015 Pope Francis had showers installed and encouraged local barbers to volunteer their services to Rome’s homelessness.

A similar initiative started by Jody Wood was created in the form of a mobile hair salon that visited Philadelphia this past summer. Wood swung through Philadelphia as an artist in residence at the Asian Arts Initiative, a community-based art center located in Chinatown North.

“Hair care is kind of seen as a non-essential need for people that are homeless,” Wood, creator of Beauty in Transition, said. “It’s an extra maybe even some people think is superfluous, but I’m interested in trying to resist in this process of losing one’s identity.”

Beauty In Transition launched in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2006, and has since traveled to Denver and New York City. Wood partners with various institutions and providers to create a mobile, outdoor beauty salon that serves homeless shelters throughout different cities.

It is an unexpected service, Wood says, driving to shelters around the country in a refurbished truck she purchased through Craigslist. Most of the stylists who volunteer their assistance are from trendy, “pop” hair salons.

A traveling salon catering to homeless clients may seem unorthodox, but a simple hairstyle can help an invisible person feel visible.

“In Philadelphia, shelters are not mandated by the city,” Wood says, “so you might not have a bed at night. In that daily struggle, you’re just thinking about how you’re going to feed yourself, how you are going to feed your family. A lot of parts of identity kind of recede and because people attach a label to homelessness, people will view you negatively and that hurts you more.”

Wood sees homelessness as a transitional state, not as a label — a difficult chapter in a person’s life that they hope to overcome one day, with the help of others who are willing to give.

That notion, of people willing to help others with a hand up, either materially or through human outreach such as Wood provides, seems to fit neatly into Pope Francis’ repeated urgings, during his visit to Cuba and the United States. “Serving others chiefly means caring for their vulnerability,” said the pope in Havana:

Caring for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people. Theirs are the suffering, fragile and downcast faces which Jesus tells us specifically to look at and which he asks us to love. With a love which takes shape in our actions and decisions. With a love which finds expression in whatever tasks we, as citizens, are called to perform. People of flesh and blood, people with individual lives and stories, and with all their frailty: these are those whom Jesus asks us to protect, to care for, to serve. Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it. That is why Christians are constantly called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, and to look instead to those who are most vulnerable.

As the pope has often noted, this is sometimes easier said than done. We are conditioned, through our society, and in the prosperity of the West, to function in a self-interested manner. It’s not just a Philadelphia problem; it’s universal.

“Public attitude toward people who are homeless needs to change,” Wood said, adding that what is most important to realize is that housing is a human right — like water, food and air.

“I want to offer a service that will express your identity however you want,” Wood says. “And that’s how we express our identity, through our hair and our clothing. It’s a way of expressing our personality. It’s who we are. And that is a luxury that is unfortunately not afforded to everyone economically.”

Dominique “Peak” Johnson

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Sunday Word

Resolve now: 

Each week in Lent,  I will take time to study the scriptures for the coming weekend to be better prepared to hear, understand, receive and be nourished by the Lord's Word in my mind and heart on Sunday!

The gospel passage for the First Sunday of Lent tells of Jesus' time in the desert and his being tempted by the Evil One. This year we hear Luke's account. I like the illustration to the left because it presents the temptation of Christ in the way I often experience temptation: in the half-light of shadows, seeming to sneak up on me out of nowhere, appearing harmless and innocent, beckoning...

The first reading, from Deuteronomy, does not pair obviously or with great strength with the day's Gospel but does offer us the heart of the Hebrew scriptures: a confession of faith based on thanksgiving for God's deliverance of his own in the Exodus. 

The second reading, from Romans, serves as a call to Christians at the beginning of this holy season, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Friday, February 12, 2016

Merciful like the Father

What are the plenary indulgences associated with the Year of Mercy?

Like all past Jubilees in the Church, the Year of Mercy features a very special plenary indulgence—the complete remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. In celebration of this Extraordinary Jubilee, Pope Francis is making the indulgence as widely available as possible.

"To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion." -Pope Francis

To receive the Jubilee Year indulgence, you must fulfill the usual conditions, and perform the act of indulgence: passing through a designated Holy Door during the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, or performing one of the Corporal or Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Francis Wager: A Lenten Challenge for the Pope-Peeved


Try this Lenten experiment

Some of us Catholics have a love/hate relationship with Pope Francis. There is a sense that his image is bruised, in part by self-inflicted wounds. Didn’t he diss large families? Didn’t he embrace a Marxist crucifix? Didn’t he try to help hijack the synod?

Others of us know none of that is true but are frankly a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume and urgency of his calls to holiness.

To strain a metaphor a bit: If the pontificate of John Paul or Benedict were a Facebook friend, their posts would be rare, challenging and refreshing. Pope Francis’ pontificate feels more like the guy who is constantly question-commenting, posting on your timeline and inviting you to join new groups.

But while I think it’s a mistake to think of a pope as the incarnation of the Holy Spirit, I also think it’s dangerous to simply ignore him and hope he goes away.

In fact, I think the Holy Spirit made a rather wise play in dealing us the Pope Francis card when he did.

Fine. That’s where my Lent 2016 proposal comes in. Call it the Francis Wager.

Paschal’s Wager said why not behave as if God exists, and then you’re safe either way.

I’m saying to those who would rather pass on this pope: this Lent — as a penance, knowing that it’s hard, knowing that it means stretching yourself a little and taking solace that it’s temporary — why not behave as if Francis were a pope you were enthusiastic about?

The first thing to do is to share your plan with those in your life whose cooperation you will need to make this work. Tell the friend who emails you the latest seeming outrage of Pope Francis that you’ll be happy to hear from them again after Easter, but that you are giving Pope Francis a 40-day chance, and you would appreciate if they would help you out.

The next thing to do is to read (or reread) Francis. Begin with his Lenten meditation , then reread one or more of the major works of his pontificate, with an open spirit, trying to embrace what he is asking: “A Big Heart Open to God,”Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Sí, and the USA addresses.

Grit your teeth and do it. It’s Lent. When it gets tough, remind yourself that Benedict said all this first (this worksfor global warming, for “small-minded rules” and, heck, for a lot of stuff).

Third, follow his advice. Pretend it’s good advice if you must, but try it out. You know you should simplify your life; do it Pope Francis-style. You know you should put the smartphone aside and pray more. Try the Francis schedule this Lent: no television, and celebrate daily Mass, Breviary, Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration. Do at least one of them every day.

Last, practice the culture of encounter. There is nothing mysterious about it. Pope Francis is simply saying that we should encounter Christ in prayer and then encounter others in real life.

We Americans should lead the way in the culture of encounter: We network; we “discuss” issues instead of lecturing; we get “employee buy-in on major decisions”; we know the only way to close a deal is in person.

How about this? Invite someone to Mass (you’d be surprised how open people are), invite someone outside your circle to dinner, chat with the person who lives next door .

I think you will find that Pope Francis, for all his flaws, is delivering a needed critique to our time, and that the most challenging thing about him is not when he’s wrong but when he’s right.

Pope Francis says it’s not just your knowledge of doctrine that counts; it’s your experience of Jesus.

He wants to move from lobbing grenades in a culture war to tending wounds in a field hospital.

For him, the new evangelization doesn’t just mean using new means — it means knocking on new doors.

He doesn’t say to strengthen your circle of friends; he says to widen it.

I know, I know; none of this is easy. But, heck, it’s only for 40 days, right?

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What's it all about?

Ash Wednesday can seem to appear out of nowhere, as it does this year when it comes so early on the calendar. Here are some "starter questions" for your prayer and reflection over the next couple of days...

1) Lent is a kind of spiritual spring training for Christians. What has grown weak, what's out of shape in my spiritual life? in my prayer life? in my relationship with Jesus? How do I need to exercise my spiritual life to condition and strengthen it? What in my spiritual life needs stretching and working out? What small steps might I take every day in Lent to develop a discipline, a routine in my prayer?

2) Lent is a time for fasting and going without. What fills me up? What food and drink, what leisure and entertainment, what work and activity stuffs my body, my heart, mind and imagination, my days and nights, my self? If I experienced in my body the hunger of fasting and giving things up for Lent, might I discover a hunger for more satisfying, substantive food for my soul?

3) Lent is a time for giving to the poor (almsgiving). What's my attitude to the poor? to the plight of refugees? what are my prejudices about them? Over the course of the year, how much do I give to the poor? How much of my time do I give to serving the poor? When I complain about what I don't have, do I take an honest look at all I do have? Could it be that I actually have more than I really need? How might I simplify my life this Lent - and how would that free me to give more to others?

Lent is a time to live for forty days 
the way a Christian should live all year round!

So, some questions and thoughts to help us begin to begin Lent this Wednesday, a season of 40 days intended to help us prepare to celebrate Easter with minds, hearts and habits refreshed and renewed by the Word and sacraments, by our Lenten practice - by the grace of God.

Tuesday Tunes