Saturday, October 15, 2011

We'll be back soon - and a few words about Teresa de Ávila and #OccupyGSO

Greetings, friends.

The blog has been dormant for two and a half months for a variety of reasons: some travel, the start of the academic year in a continually demanding job, a lot of Facebook activity (I am going to start cross-posting, I think), a bit of illness (nothing life-threatening), and other demands and choices. I'll be back soon though with regular posts. Just wanted to leave a note to let readers know that the blog is still alive.

Today, October 15, Catholic, Anglican, and some other Christians in the West celebrate the feast of Teresa of Ávila, 16th century Spanish Catholic woman of Jewish descent (her paternal grandfather was forced to convert to Christianity), reformer of the Carmelite religious order, mystic, and theologian. The Roman Catholic Church also honors Teresa as one of only three women "Doctors of the Church." Her prayer-poem "Nada te turbe" ("Let nothing disturb you") has become well-known and exists in a beautiful chanted version from the Taizé community.  Enjoy the chant by clicking here

The original poem is longer, but the words used in the Taizé chant are these: 
Nada te turbe, nada te espante
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta
Nada te turbe, nada te espante
Solo Dios basta

Also, #OccupyGreensboro, one of the many gatherings related to #OccupyWallStreet, begins this afternoon. (I currently live in Greensboro, North Carolina.) Local newspaper story here. (I think the man quoted at the end is overly optimistic: we are in another Gilded Age already.) For the human stories at the base of the movement around the U.S., see here.  In fact, read them first.  Stay tuned.  Peace to all.

St. Teresa as a young woman, painting by François Gérard (France, 1770−1837)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feast of Ignatius of Loyola

Happy Feast of Ignatius of Loyola! This is a link to a [2007] blog post about Ignatius, his feast, his rooms in Rome (which I had the joy of visiting), some new statues, the Infanta Juana, and related topics. I just fixed about half a dozen broken links, so everything should work.

This comes with deep gratitude to the worldwide Ignatian community.

Cross-posted on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This Fragile Earth, Our Island Home: An Ecological Spirituality of Lament and Hope

There's still room!

This Fragile Earth, Our Island Home:

An Ecological Spirituality of Lament and Hope

a weekend retreat-conference

led by Jane Carol Redmont

at Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center

Byfield, Massachusetts

Friday, August 5 - Sunday, August 7, 2011

Spirituality is not only prayer, but practice. It is the way we walk on the earth, work together, build community, honor our bodies and those of others, celebrate and struggle, and listen to the promptings of the Spirit.

Today’s environmental realities call us to examine anew how we live on this fragile planet as people of faith.

In addition to short lectures, our conference will include time for meditation, prayer, sharing of resources, and personal and group reflection.

We will focus especially on the themes of lament and hope, which will be woven throughout our times of prayer.

We will leave nourished by the insights of theologians –mostly women— from several continents and more deeply aware of Earth’s body, our bodies, and the Body of Christ.

The theologians include Dorothee Soelle, Mercy Amba Oduyoye, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Ivone Gebara.

Registration information here. Some scholarships are available.


I have been in and out of town, partly for work and partly for the first real summer vacations (yes, plural) I have had in years.

I have been posting a lot of photos on Facebook, especially from the last trip, which took me to Spokane to speak and lead worship at the Women of the ELCA Triennial Gathering, then to Idaho for a couple of days of R&R including hiking and kayaking (and sleeping!), and finally (via Seattle) to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands for nearly a week.

Here are a few photos from Orcas. Just a glimpse of the beauty: some views from Mount Constitution and some of my host's land.

As always, you can click on each photo to enlarge it and see more detail.

Madrone tree after the rain...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thirty Years: An AIDS Anniversary

Thirty years ago today, on June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first cases of AIDS in the United States.

My friend Wormwood's Doxy, an HIV/AIDS education professional, has written a moving anniversary essay at her blog. Read it here.

Once you have recovered from reading it --it may take you a few hours; it is an intense and beautiful essay-- come back here and read my offering for this day, written 23 years ago, in 1988, when I was in my thirties.

This commentary, minus the three paragraphs in red brackets, was published and distributed by Religious News Service (now called Religion News Service) on July 12, 1988 under the title "The Names Project Quilt Makes Beauty Out of Horror."

At the time I wrote the essay, I was working on my first book, Generous Lives: American Catholic Women Today (William Morrow, 1992; pbk Triumph/Liguori 1993), and was employed as a program developer raising funds for The Hospice at Mission Hill, the first residential hospice for people with AIDS in Boston.

The AIDS Quilt was on its first major tour around the U.S. and was displayed in its entirety on the National Mall in Washington, DC in fall of that year. I went to see it at what was still called the Boston Armory.

I have altered only a few tiny grammar and style details and have left in the language I used back then, only seven years after the anniversary we commemorate today. (For instance, I never use "minority groups" or "minorities" to mean people of color or minoritized groups these days, but I did then. The Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union in 1988, so I left that in. What is now the U.S. Postal Service had another name.)

The pandemic is still with us, all over the world. This essay is a slice of life.

Many of the students I teach were not even born when I wrote these words.

The Quilt
Cambridge, Massachusetts
June 23, 1988

In Stockholm last week, medical researchers from around the world tracked the elusive virus and its deadly mysteries. In Boston a massive quilt unfolded for four days, stitched by thousands of Americans as a memorial to people who have died of ADS. The quilt, sponsored by the Names Project, is as different from other memorials to the dead as AIDS is different from the other diseases that have plagued us. It is not made of stone and anchored in the ground, but portable and soft, organic, making its way around the nation, still growing.

More than a week after my visit to the Quilt, its impact will not go away. The first emotional shock, for visitors, is the sheer magnitude and diversity of the project, row upon row of remembered lives, presented in sophisticated patterns and hesitant stitches, in all materials from denim to organza. Some panels show only a name and dates of birth and death. Others literally bear pieces of people's lives: articles of clothing, photographs, locks of hair. One has the ashes of the person it commemorates sewn into a corner.

The Names Project is meant, according to its founder, San Francisco gay activist Cleve Jones, to give "a glimpse of the lives behind the statistics" as it travels around the country. Men, women and children sewed for relatives and lovers and for people they had never met. There are crosses and stars of David, hearts and teddy bears and pictures of cats, insignia representing the military and the medical professions, pennants from Yale and Columbia. On one panel is the portrait of a proud, handsome Black man, with a written tribute to his character and commitments. Another, with a child's pink dress sewn onto it, says only "La Hijita de Dios," "the little daughter of God." All over the panel, serving as background design, are small diaper pins.

And then there is the second shock: youth. Over half the panels bear dates of birth and death. I stared and subtracted: twenty-five years old; thirty-nine; twenty-two; two years old. The overwhelming majority of those who have died, who are now ill, who are HIV-positive, are young. Mothers embroider love letters to lost sons on the cloth. Nothing prepares one for this, even the experience (which I share) of having young loved ones among the dead. It is like walking in an old New England cemetery and coming across a child's stone marker among the graves.

We speak a lot these days about the spread of AIDS among intravenous drug users, among heterosexuals, into minority communities, through mothers to their babies. The Quilt is beginning to show the impact of these facts. But still the names are mostly those of men --young men, gay men. I am reminded of the population charts in the Soviet Union, on which the curve dips at the males who were young adults during World War II. We have not even begun to measure the trauma and devastation which AIDS has brought to an entire generation of an entire community. "I am angry," says a friend, "that at the age of 29 I must deal constantly with multiple deaths, with friends losing their strength and the use of their bodies, with grief and hospitals and burials and loss. " "Many of us are finding it hard to plan for the future," says another: "Is there a future for me? Will my closest friends till be here in five years? Will I?"

I think of the shock after the death of a single loved one, how it leaves one numb and split open all at once, with the feeling of being both wrapped in cotton wool and bled raw. Multiply this by six and twelve and fifty in the life of one person; multiply that by hundreds. Only after doing this can one measure the emotional impact of AIDS, the massive grief of whole communities, spreading around the nation.

"Wrenching" and "healing" --in the same sentence-- are the words I have heard and used most often to describe the Names Project. This witness to multiple deaths is also about the fullness of life. Most of the panels remember people not as they were in their last days, weighting eighty pounds and unable to bathe themselves or walk to the toilet, but as they were in life, designing theatre sets and playing ball, lovers of glitz and glitter or of hikes in the mountains, speaking and singing in Spanish and English, eating and drinking. A panel dedicated to a mail carrier features the arm of his blue uniform with the "U.S. Mail" emblem, cradling a small teddy bear. The rest of the panel is an uproarious burst of color: a golden peacock, a sunflower, cloth letters of a name in rainbow colors, pictures of California life.

Still, for some of the survivors, the colors battle against bleak memories. "I can no longer remember him healthy and live," says a woman I know of the friend for whom she made a panel. "I always remember him the other way."

All the panels tug at the heart. But for each visitor there were a few that hit the core and that linger, triggering floods of anger, grief, or tenderness. For me one of these was the pink "Hijita de Dios." Another featured two men's shirts sewn on with their arms entwined. "Though lovers shall be lost love shall not," Dylan Thomas wrote in "And Death Shall Have No Dominion." The first verse of this poem is printed on the third Quilt panel that lives on inside me. Long before AIDS, before the wasted bodies and lost minds, before the dementia, Thomas wrote:
"Though they go mad they shall be sane
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again."
"Death shall have no dominion." I cannot shake this phrase from my mind, trying to summon the stubbornness of life against the slow creep of death.

[The Vietnam Memorial changed forever our experience of monuments to the dead. Like the Vietnam Memorial, the Quilt is a live place, no lonely obelisk in the town square but a place of meeting and community. The Vietnam monument grows bits of life; the first day I went, on a wet December morning, a small flag with a spring of heather tied to it was propped up against the wall almost lost in the mud and brown oak leaves. The rain cause the black wall to shine and reflect my face back to me. There were names on my reflection, some of them familiar last names. The people I knew who bore these names were still alive; but I began to wonder. Was this a relative of the person I knew? Could it have been my friend, given a different lottery number, another set of circumstances? The boundaries crumbled. There was no barrier left between "them" and "us."

The Names Project takes this kind of memorial experience further, deeper. At the Vietnam Memorial, people talk, embrace, weep, ask questions. The dark stone brings forth stories because of the power of the names. The Quilt itself tells the stories, spells out the memories in material that almost seems made of flesh. It is also an organic reality: a whole piece of art, but an unfinished one. The epidemic has not stopped growing. Neither, until it does, will this quilt.

It is impossible to stay passive before the Quilt, even more so than before the Vietnam Memorial. This is because it tells stories directly and because live stories lead us to act and to hope, like the retelling of the Passover or the account of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Memories like these do not mire us in the past; they move us to shape the future. But first we go down, into the grief, into the struggle, through the retelling. Without memory, there is no possibility of hope, nor of bringing about the changes that will stem the tide of death.]

As I walked into the exhibit, the first people I saw were a very pregnant woman, a man, and a child. The mother bent over and spoke to her child about a man who had "died of the bad disease." She asked the child, pointing to a panel with a basketball shirt attached and an embroidered basketball, "What do you think this person really liked?" Five years from now, will I be the woman explaining to her child about the bad disease? Fifteen years from now, will this disease still claim lives? Will the Quilt sit in a museum? How many more stories will we need to tell? "No more names!" read a tee-shirt worn by one of the visitors.

The Quilt is a wondrous work of art --colorful, homespun, soft and resilient, quintessentially American, spiritual and political, beautiful in itself and charged with moral energy. It chronicles a catastrophe, like Picasso' s "Guernica," but is crafted by a community rather than a lone genius. Like "Guernica," it makes beauty out of horror. It leaves the viewer torn: grateful for such beauty, for the redeeming power of names and memory, for the healing; and wishing that this thing of beauty had never had to exist, knowing the names will not go away.

* * * * * * * *

This was, of course, long before the internet. The Quilt is now online here. Nothing, however, replaces having seen it, walked around the panels, bumped into a colleague who wept in my arms, and heard the names of the dead read aloud, as has happened at all public showings of this work of art.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Beth Johnson, reliable guide

Many of you have doubtless heard about the brouhaha about Elizabeth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, whose book Quest for the Living God was criticized, yea even condemned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine in late March. If you have not heard about the controversy, all the more reason to read the article linked below and links embedded in it.

Prof. Deirdre Good (who blogs at On Not Being a Sausage) and I have written an essay on Prof. Johnson, her theology, and the controversy. The article just came out today (Easter Monday, April 25) at the Episcopal Café. Have a look here (permanent link, will stay up even when article is no longer on the front page) and please feel welcome to leave a comment at the Café below the article.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This is the night...

Lève-toi, réveille-toi d'entre les morts!

Click photo to enlarge and see detail.
See here and here for more from Kariye (Chora) in Istanbul.
Click the French line above for Resurrection chant from Taizé.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday: A Meditation on the Eleventh Station of the Cross

I am always moved and inspired by the Stations of the Cross at St. Mary's House. (Yes, Episcopalians have Stations of the Cross, though not everywhere.) A different person offers a meditation for each of the 14 stations, many spoken, some sung, one or two visual. So much wisdom, talent, heart, and faith for one small congregation.

Here is my meditation on the eleventh station, "Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross."

Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

Were you there?

Are you there?

Will you be there?

Were you there ******** [italics indicate Jane singing a cappella]
when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there
when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, oh…
it causes me to tremble,
tremble, tremble…
Were you there
when they crucified my Lord?

These stories come from the witness of Kelsey McNicholas,
a student at Guilford College and a volunteer
with the humanitarian organization No More Deaths
which seeks out migrants in the desert
to give them water, food, medical care,
and presence.

When undocumented immigrants are caught
by the U.S. border patrol,
they are
Manuel González told Kelsey
that while in detention
on the U.S. side of the border,
our side,
he'd only been given peanut butter to eat.

Ricardo Emilio Sánchez,
walking beside Manuel and Kelsey,
chimed in
that he had been given a tiny cold hamburger
and a small juice
for the whole day.

During Kelsey’s time in Nogales, Mexico,
across the border from Tucson, Arizona,
other people who had recently been detained
on the other side,
our side,
and then deported back to the Mexican side,
told her
that they weren't allowed to sleep.
Guards would come in and blare music
to keep them from sleeping.

Women described being stripped
to their last layer of clothing
in a highly air conditioned room.

Men described
having seventy people crammed into one room,
so packed that three had to sleep in the bathroom,
preventing anyone from using the facilities for three days.

Were you there
when they nailed him to a tree?
Were you there
when they nailed him to a tree?
Oh, oh …
it causes me to tremble,
tremble, tremble…
Were you there
when they nailed him to a tree?

During the dangerous crossing
from Mexico to the U.S.
and on occasion
in the other direction,
women, children, and men
driven by economic necessity,
risk their lives
there, in the heat and the rocks.

Some die.

The bodies of those who died in the desert,
if they are not found soon enough,
The desert heat and dryness
eat them away
and they are gone.
Flesh, bones.

after they die
if they are lucky,
after they are caught, arrested, and detained,
in the desert
a child’s shoe remains,
or a backpack,
or a small shrine to La Virgen de Guadalupe
in a hole in a rock.

The volunteers find them:
the shoe,
the backpack,
the shrine.

Sometimes, too, the border patrol discovers
these traces of human lives,
of faith,
the drive to survive.

Far away
from the hot desert
in which the migrants
walk in the
in-between place
between there and here
we are busy
making laws.

Were you there
when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there
when they pierced him in the side?
Oh, oh …
it causes me to tremble,
tremble, tremble…
Were you there
when they pierced him in the side?

Far away
from the hot desert of Arizona,
in the deserts of Australia
and Sudan
the droughts worsen.

In Alaska,
the caribou have changed their migration patterns
because the ice melts too soon.

In Japan,
some survivors of Hiroshima are still alive
while neighbors of Fukushima power plant wonder
whether they will become ill
next week
next month
or next year.

In Harlem and San Francisco.
Black and brown children,
God’s youngest
are disproportionately represented
among children with asthma
wheezing and coughing in emergency rooms
with anxious parents at their side.

In fields and factories
on this continent north and south
workers labor amid chemicals
not fit for human consumption
so that we can have
our strawberries
and our t-shirts.

We have nailed the earth God made
to a cross of
heat and waste.

Were you there
when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there
when the sun refused to shine?
Oh, oh …
it causes me to tremble,
tremble, tremble…
Were you there
when the sun refused to shine?

By the cross of Jesus the Christ
the soldiers of the Empire
and taunt
and violate
the precious body
of God.

They leave.

And behind them,
at the place of shame and death,
in the open torture chamber in the hot sun
only a few, few friends remain,

Mary of Magdala.
Mary the mother of Jesus.
One or two other women.
The beloved disciple,
whose name
we may or may not know.

Only their presence protests.

But they are present.

It is dangerous in the Roman Empire
even to stay and watch
the crucified.
Even more dangerous
to take the body down
and bury it with care
rather than letting birds, animals,
the hot sun,
destroy it
and its remains.

Were you there
when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there
when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, oh …
it causes me to tremble,
tremble, tremble…
Were you there
when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there?

Are you there?

If we do not cry out
The stones will cry out.

But must we leave it to the stones?

Jane Carol Redmont
Good Friday 2011
St. Mary's House, Greensboro

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25: Feast of the Annunciation

"Annunciation," lithograph by Salvador Dali.

For more art (and links to yet more art) on the theme of the Annunciation from different eras and from around the world, see here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Woman at the Well

'tis I, the delinquent blogger.

A deep and fresh Lent to those of you who observe it.

I will tell you in the next post (yes, there will be a next post) about my Lenten practice, but meanwhile, it is Year A for those Western Christians who live in lectionary-land, and Sunday is the day we hear about the woman at the well (a.k.a. the Samaritan woman) in the Gospel of John.

I am not preaching on Sunday (I'm on the following weekend with the story of the man born blind) but I did preach on this text many moons ago in the form of a kind of one-woman show, being the woman at the well several years after Jesus' visit, reminiscing. This was when I was a Catholic laywoman in full-time pastoral ministry, working as Social Justice Minister at Boston's Paulist Center. I posted the sermon on this blog three years ago, so here is the link if you want to read it or read it again. Enjoy.

"The Samaritan Woman at the Well" by He Qi

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Soft rain.
The earth smells
like earth.

Daffodil shoots a few hours before the rain.
February 1, 2011.
Photo by Jane Redmont.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Merton (born on this day in 1915) on the work of peace compared to the work of war

"If this task of building a peaceful world is the most important task of our time, it is also the most difficult. It will, in fact, require far more discipline, more sacrifice, more planning, more thought, more cooperation and more heroism than war ever demanded."

-Thomas Merton, who was born on this day in 1915
(died Dec. 10, 1968)

Cross-posted on Facebook.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wulfstan of Worcester: Anniversary

Today is the 9th anniversary of my formal reception into the Episcopal Church and the feast of Wulfstan of Worcester, about whom I wrote at some length two years ago.

Bishop Wulfstan's Crypt, Worcester Cathedral, England

Friday, January 7, 2011


Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Take the quiz at Political Humor

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The oft-recycled Epiphany sermon (with asides on James Taylor, T.S. Eliot, Sadao Watanabe, and Masao Takanake)

Sadao Watanabe, The Magi's Dream

Bear in mind that I wrote this Epiphany sermon a little over a year after 9/11. It's from eight years ago, Epiphany 2003. I stand by what I said.
Click here to read it.

I looked for artistic representations of Herod, since a good deal of the sermon focuses on him. What I found, for the most part, were representations of the consequences of Herod's actions: the slaughter of the innocents; the Magi returning home by another way; the flight into Egypt of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Later on of course there is another Herod, Herod Antipas, who is the son of Herod the Great, and it is he who is involved in the deaths of both John the Baptizer and Jesus according to the Gospel stories.

The only scenes in which Herod shows up as a visible protagonist are, once in a while, Herod with the Magi, and, more often (at least in Western art), Herod's feast, but that one is Herod the son. The feast is the one at which which Herod Antipas's stepdaughter Salome dances and asks for the beheading of John.

In painted scenes of Jesus' infancy, even with Herod the Great's presence in the stories, artists tends to focus on the Holy Family, the shepherds, the animals, the angels, and the Magi. Makes sense. "But Herod's always out there. / He's got our cards on file," James Taylor's song notes. And... See
the sermon for more.

Of course I also read --or listen to-- the T.S. Eliot poem "Journey of the Magi" every year, but I only cited a line or two of it in that sermon.

The link at the name of the poem will take you to the text of "Journey of the Magi" and to an audio of T.S. Eliot himself reading it. Well worth a listen.

Don't mix "Journey of the Magi" with the sermon though -- very different animals. Read them separately, or just read one or the other.

Note: I never see the work of the Japanese artist Sadao Watanabe (see above) without thinking fondly of Dr. Masao Takanake, who during his time at Harvard introduced me and others to Watanabe's work. Watanabe's art graces the cover of at least one of Takenaka's books, The Bible Through Asian Eyes. A scholar of Christian ethics, Takenaka also wrote God Is Rice: Asian Culture and Christian Faith and other works. He was for many years the President of the Asian Christian Art Association.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Galette des rois

In France, as in so many other places, holidays are excuses to eat specific foods. On Epiphany day or on the Sunday closest to it, people (whether or not they are Christian and whether or not they are observant if they are Christian) eat galette des rois. I will complete this post by tomorrow, the actual feast. Meanwhile, happy drooling. I don't think there is galette des rois here in Greensboro.

New Year resolutions: a meditation on the Feast of the Epiphany

It is Twelfth Night, and tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany.

As the Twelve Days of Christmas end, I am re-reading old blog posts and was glad to find this one. In the interest of recycling, and because I still stand by what I wrote (and needed to remember it!) I offer it here, three years later.

See here.

The photo over at that post, is from my trip to Istanbul three years ago. My friend Deirdre Good is there right now and I enjoyed her recent blog report.

Photo above: Chinese Nativity. (Make sure you read the explanatory comment about the two fathers!) As you can see, the wise men are on the left. From a blog I just discovered called World Nativity: Nativities from Third World & Developing Countries.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Contemplation, winter day

This is a country whose center is everywhere
and whose circumference is nowhere.
You do not find it by traveling but by standing still.
Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin.
It is here that you discover act without motion,
labor that is profound repose,
vision in obscurity,
and, beyond all desire,
a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

Exhortation, Day, Sunday
Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, ed. Kathleen Deignan

For the new year

One of my favorite Pete Seeger songs, written by David Mallett:

The Garden Song

Photo: Sugar Creek Township, Greene County, Ohio