The entire process amazed me.
When the idea surfaced, I was at least skeptical about sending cards to bishops, and maybe even opposed. To my surprise, I became an enthusiastic participant.
What changed me? The clarity and depth of the conversation among us.
As I said in an earlier post, I might get a passing grade in love, but not (yet) in faith and hope. I am so greatly blessed to be with this group of people who know in their bones a great faith and hope in the power of the Holy Spirit. That was their starting point in the conversation about cards for the bishops.
I could join readily in everyone's expressions of great faith and hope in the sisters of LCWR. LCWR's sisters, in listening and responding to God’s call with utter surrender, truly embody how to "be church."
And here's what drew me in deeper: Linda, Arlene, Lynn, Richard, and others commented with loving sympathy that our Catholic clergy may be unknowingly (or even may feel) "trapped" by their own power, position, status, and vows of obedience to the Pope. (Did you know that at ordination and at elevation to the episcopacy, priests and bishops vow obedience to the Pope rather than to Christ? I didn't. I respect them for taking their vow seriously, even as I wish for change.)
So I came to see that our Epiphany cards are rooted in the conviction that gospel freedom is profoundly the ability to surrender to God's call. Our cards are a quiet prayer that all of us will follow Christ as we are called. We draw our inspiration from LCWR and Catholic sisters - and their "freedom" is in responding to God’s call by allowing God to lead them where they did not want to go (John 21:18).
That was my first Epiphany in this process: an opening of my heart. The second Epiphany was about the purpose of the cards.
The world I've lived in for most of my adult life focuses on clear goals, explicit strategies, and actions with measurable results. It took a while for me to "get it" that these cards are NOT political advocacy for LCWR. We don't have a "success measure" for this effort. The cards are our genuine personal wishes for each bishop, our prayers for him, and our invitation for him to pray with us that the Vatican's doctrinal assessment of LCWR will be resolved in a way that will inspire the faithful and nourish LCWR leadership.
It's like our prayers and lunch with Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The point is to be present to each other, with shared trust that the Spirit is active in and among us and can surprise us.
The third Epiphany for me was the process itself.
There I was, to my surprise after my initial skepticism, working with Richard and Jim to design cards, checking with Linda along the way. Arlene went off to revive our P.O. box so we'd have a return address, in case anyone replies. Mary made final tweaks on the card. Ann donated postage. Bill asked his boss if he'd like to donate the copying costs. Mary made hundreds of address labels, and Bill and Anne made hundreds of copies. Mary, Lynn, Joan, Stu, Judy, Ann, Fran, and others put it all together at a "card party" last week.
And here's the part that amazed me most (I who spent decades in a big bureaucracy, where there is always a boss; I who spent decades working in volunteer situations that felt like herding cats):
With the whole effort, there was nobody in charge. As a group, we talked about the idea. Once we chose it, everyone stepped in - and out - in a really graceful dance. Nobody knew how we would pay for printing until Bill told us he had asked his boss, and his boss had said yes. Nobody know how we'd pay for stamps until Ann bought them. Behind the scenes, Linda and Arlene were looking for available funds, but we had no guarantees. (Mary, thank you for not only doing so much work, but also watching out for anything missing in the process.)
Dare I hope that this easy flowing dance was the Spirit at work?
I hope that grace conveys through the physical paper that went through the mail, and through our prayers.