roamin' catholic: karin rosner

Archive for the ‘evangelism’ Category

ImageWhat did you do last night? Over amazingly perfect cheeseburgers, we talked about: St. Francis, Franciscans, social justice in and through Christ: ending homelessness and hunger, why we voted for Obama in the first place, cancer survivor health insurance issues, why universal healthcare is important even if we like the Government not getting involved in our lives, what a truly Christian universal healthcare plan might look like, abortion, relegating “marriage” to the churches but “civil partnerships” to the state, respect at work, jobs that kill us, jobs that save our sanity, good bosses, the old boys’ club everywhere… and then I went home, watched the end of the presidential debate, took an antacid and went to bed.


Öur Lady of the New Advent”An icon by the House For All Sinners & Saints, an urban liturgical community in Denver, CO

Taste and see that the LORD is good.Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8 New Living Translation)

Today Christians remember and celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus in many different ways. Some are celebrating her entry into Heaven (many believe that she fell asleep in death and that her body was mysteriously taken up to be with her Lord), others are remembering her in more Protestant ways, focusing on her ultimate “Yes” in reply to the Angel Gabriel’s message to her.

The Feast begins on the eve. I am on vacation in the Pocono Mountains with my friend Andrea. We met and became fast friends on my first Alpha Course Weekend Away. I really needed this break from work and my crazy life, and I came west to the mountains on Andrea’s generous and timely invitation, determined to spend more time reading my Bible (on my Kindle) and pray. This holiday isn’t a retreat as such, but I’m deeply praying (as I look out from a back porch into the woods and relax into the prayerful music of birdsong and cicada chirps) for God’s Spirit and for renewal of my spirit, and my body, and my poor frazzled mind. (I think I am walking around on a fractured toe that I sustained climbing out of the pool, but that’s another story for another time.)


I believe that God speaks to us in many different ways, some of them quite ordinary. I really, really need to hear God speaking into my life right now.


Last night I was cooking dinner in her dacha’s little kitchenputting together a meat sauce to spoon over pasta. I split open a green bell pepper, and it bore a little baby pepper inside. I braced myself for dicing the onion, and once I peeled away the skin, there was a second onion, Siamese or split, growing inside. I had the strangest feeling that I should pay attention to what the vegetables were trying to tell me. The tomatoes came from a can, and there was nothing unusual about them. The garlic was also normal.

This morning, I grabbed my Kindle-Bible, and my devotional with today’s liturgical readings and set them on the porch. I made Marmite Toast, grabbed an orange from the fridge, set my tea to brew… and began to read. Psalm 34, Isaiah 61, Galatians 4:4-7 and of course The Song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55. When I peeled and sectioned my orange, there was an embryonic orange growing inside that one, too.

Father, you have the greatest sense of humor, ever. Of course, you invented funny. I love you. I believe in your promises and give you thanks and praise, not just to your Chosen People of the Old Testament and New, but to me, frazzled yearning for your Hope, me. Thank you for choosing Miriam of the House of David to be the mother of your Son, Jesus, my Lord, my Savior. Thank you for speaking to me through your Word, and through …er… vegetables and fruit. Thank you for Hope in the waiting, and for filling life with pregnant promise! Amen.

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Posted on: April 23, 2012


I like my own hair color, thanks, silver shining through
Brown frizzy curls are graying; it will do
To pin them back loosely and that box of dye eschew
Laugh line creases have begun to appear
No surgeon’s skill has drawn my cheeks back behind my ear
On either side of my face
I choose to  mature with grace
And accept my age
Because at this life stage
Authenticity, integrity and valor
Are the elements of self that matter
More to me than endless youth and chemical beauty.
I’ve chosen wisdom over folly

Poem Copyright Karin Rosner, April 20, 2012.

On Thursday night, I was part of an amazing gathering of a couple hundred prayer warriors of all ages in Manhattan. We climbed over the seasonally empty fountain’s edge in Washington Square Park, stood together in a circle, led by C.J. Guinness &  Eric Marshall in worship. Dozens of other cities took part when their own clocks struck 7:14 PM, including Capetown, Melbourne, and London. The aim of our prayer was to pray for our nations, praying for conversion and revival in every conceivable area that we could think of.

The Holy Spirit gave me a picture of exactly why we there, while we praying for social justice.

The root of social sin in our cities and nations is loneliness. The enemy wants to make each one of the beautiful children of God our Father feel so completely cut off from God and each other that we perpetuate, (a big word with a Latin root that means keep on continuing), exactly what the enemy is experiencing – complete separation from God. He wants to drag us down with him into hell, because that hurts God. It’s one more blast of anger against the Creator of the Universe using each human being that has ever lived or ever will live as cannon balls and cannon fodder in a war he can never ultimately win. (Isaiah. 14:12-14; Matthew 12:24, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6, Revelation 12:4)

The hoarding of resources is a result of a mixture of greed and fear, isn’t it? We are afraid of what’s going to happen to us if we break our of our self-interest and share.

For each resource we hold on to so tightly:

one more person goes hungry

one more person has no bed to sleep in, no home to go to

one more unborn child’s life is destroyed and ended before even drawing one breath

one more person dies because there is no medicine or treatment is too expensive

one more person feels lost and alone, powerless, unloved by everyone, including God

one more person turns to drugs, alcohol, sex, or any other addiction to fill the lonely void

The aloneness, the cut-offness of one person is enough to continue the vicious, deadly circle, the chain of greed and fear, the spiral down into Satan’s abyss that creates a real hell on earth. We may not be the fear-mongerers, the hoarders… but we’re trapped in the food chain of sinfulness just the same as the people we accuse of injustice: Wall Street tycoons, slum landlords, Bernie Madoffs, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians…

God created the world, created us, because he wanted to share his absolute love with us. When we walked away, he came to us in Jesus his Son  and showed us what radical love meant. Jesus’ death on a cross and his resurrection sends a nuclear bomb into the hell on earth we’ve helped create… or it can, if we let him in.

So, after I caught my breath and pulled myself together before I started sobbing, I prayed for Christ to change my heart even as his Holy Spirit was breaking it by showing me these things. Jesus died on the cross for us, revealing to us what radical love looks like… and making sure that there is a connection of Mercy, a bridge across a chasm of sin, through Christ himself back to the Source of Love Himself.

God’s remedy for the hell that Satan would drag us all into is Christ’s partnership with us in repairing the damage done to the whole of creation by the enemy’s hate. If Satan would fling human beings fears against each other in creating confusion, despair and chaos, then Jesus invites us to be partners with him in letting radical love flow out and change.

Radical love flows out from God, through us. His mercy moves us and gives us all the tools and resources we need. I was rummaging through my childhood experiences of religion, and looked up Catholic teaching on Mercy, particularly two lists of things that the Catechism teaches Christians must do: what’s known as the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I used to believe that these were things we had to do, on our own, in order to fulfill religious obligations and be pious, but I think I understand now that God’s Holy Spirit flows out through us to do these things, and changes us so that we’re excited about being a part of all that God is doing to rescue the world from its own hell. It’s not a “must” any more; it’s what God does through us as we grow more and more in likeness to Christ.

Take a look. The first list, the “Corporal” or “physical” Works of Mercy are mostly found in Matthew 25:31-46 :

Feeding the hungry

Giving drink to the thirsty

Sheltering the homeless

Clothing the naked

Visiting and ransoming the captive, (prisoners)

Visiting the sick

Burying the dead

That’s just the practical list. The Spiritual Works of Mercy are less physical, but nevertheless are loneliness-defying attacks against hell. In Christ, through his Spirit, we become part of:

Instructing the uninformed

Counseling the doubtful

Admonishing sinners

Bearing wrongs patiently

Forgiving offenses willingly

Comforting the afflicted

Praying for the living, the sick and the dead

What all of these actions in Mercy look like in the 21st Century are no less amazing than when I read about them in the nineteen seventies and eighties, or when they were drawn up in centuries past. We are empowered to be Christ for one another, in small ways and grand gestures: the Holy Spirit makes it so, makes us grow into being a part of Mercy, if we let him break our hearts and remake us like Christ. The radical love that Christ revealed on the cross flows through us and destroys social sin where it begins, in primal fear of being cut off and alone.

Radical love came down

Was born at midnight

          In Bethlehem

               In piercing cold

In blood and pain

Birthed in disdain

And in a humble manger lain


Radical love was hung

In sun’s climb; in skies bright

          In Jerusalem

               In spring-summer’s heat

In blood and pain

Criminal’s disdain

And in a rough-hewn tomb was lain


Radical love arise!

Blaze through death at dawn!

          In a fallen world

               In the cool of morn!

Redeem the blood death sentence of Adam, Eve and Cain!

The enemy’s moment, vain.


– Karin Rosner  c. 2011


It’s early on a Saturday morning, and I am getting ready to attend a Roman Catholic memorial Mass remembering an old friend of my family. It’s going to be the first mass I’ve gone to since my mother’s funeral nine years ago. Instead of thinking about the wonderful man we’re praying for, I’m thinking about last night’s lecture in New York City by the Right Rev. Dr. N.T. Wright on his book tour for “Simply Jesus” and the questions he’s asking that get to the core of who Jesus really was and is, and what Christianity is all about in light of the answers, stripped of modern (or post-modern) trappings. NTW wants to lead us into Christ’s core by trying to understand the Jews and Gentiles and what the Jesus in the Gospels is saying to the centuries.

The other bishop I’m thinking about died in 2003. I met Bishop Paul Moore while I was in the middle of working through my thinking about God and stripping down religion itself. I was looking deeply at the core of why people believe, why I could not be an atheist, and asking God/ess “Who are you?”  When I was not a Christian, and spending the summer learning how to be a travel agent, I met the recently retired Episcopal Bishop of New York. He lived around the corner from the little travel agency where I was an intern. My agency handled his travel arrangements for his book tours and missions work he was involved in. I had no idea who this guy was at the time and I knew absolutely nothing about Episcopalians and the Anglican Church, but he had some kind of inkling that I was a young woman asking the Creator of the Universe some really hard questions about who h/she really was. He took the time to come in to the agency after the owner had already gone for the day, and we sat and talked about everything. He initiated the chats. He walked in with his dog, sat down and started engaging me in deep conversation. I asked hard questions about God from a haughty, angry, know-it-all post-Christian perspective, and he countered with telling me about his faith. Over a period of six weeks that summer, we had perhaps 20 hours of conversations. He invited me to check out the Episcopal Church one day, thinking that the Anglican tradition was a great place to ask the questions of God that I was asking. A few years later, I did. I’m still there, but I am a very different person than the angry young woman who dared ask God some hard questions about Jesus in 1998.

I still think however, that it’s crucially important that we ask God hard questions that only he can answer, or choose not to. Questioning is not really about “doubt” as much as a willingness to really look into and understand why we believe what we believe, even when the answers to those questions reveal much more of a mystery. Mystery brings us to our knees, looking up to an imagined plane of existence called “Heaven” and shouting to the Creator of the Universe, “I don’t understand!” When we all admit that we are confronted with mystery, there can be more dialogue, more unity… and maybe all of our broken communions can be united in Christ again. (John 17:21)

So, in a few minutes, I’m going to get in the car and revisit a formative part of my faith journey as I spend time worshipping God with many people I love. I’ll wonder how many of the prayers of the Mass I can still recite by heart; the revised translation of the Roman Missal doesn’t go into play until the First Sunday of Advent.  I will most likely sit in the pew during Communion time and say a prayer of spiritual communion, unless the priest invites non-Catholics up for a blessing. I’ll remember my sister’s godfather and give thanks for him and for his amazing family, and his legacy of faith and ministry to everyone he met.

Author’s note: the first part of this overly- long musing on my favorite holiday and why I think that boycotting it is a Satanic plot against Christendom can be found here.

Dealing with death is a part of life. There is not one person, religious or atheist, who can escape the cold, hard facts that our hearts are going to stop beating one day, and our brains will stop a short time later, and we will know that we are dying. Universally, cultures do something to take a long hard look at where we all will end up. The recently-late Steve Jobs, whose ghost probably will be a popular Halloween costume this year, said this about the secular, absolute truth in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Marching across a historic Victorian cemetery in the misty October moonlight, I’m absolutely aware of the history and origins of the day. Samhain is a tricky Celtic festival that some say involves ritual banishing of the evil spirits that pass through the thin places, when the worlds of fairy and human were at their closest. I’m aware too, of the remembrances of the dead in the celebration of the Christian festivals of All Saints and All Souls. Elaborate folk-religious festivals like Mexico’s Day of the Dead have evolved from these older traditions.

The modern expression of Halloween, in the United States and increasingly around the globe, is cultural theater that remains rooted in religious folk tradition… and that’s a great thing. For all its big money and merchandizing, the holiday still belongs to the actors. Kids and grown-up kids play out the battles of good vs evil and life vs death through costumes, masks and play. You can be a ghost in your mom’s white bed sheets (so very retro-chic) or be a superhero as you choose your part in the drama for just one night of the year. I personally don’t understand the costume choices of the cute bunnies, princesses, and ballerinas (unless they are Rabbits of Death, Princess Dianas or Isadora Duncans showing up at my door), but positive costuming is a legitimate personal or parental choice.

Unfortunately, in cultures that have divorced any spiritual meaning from the day, the spin-offs from mainstream Halloween can fall under evil’s spell. In the US, Mischief Night on October 30 can be more frightening than the scary costumes hanging on the racks in the big box stores. The night’s vandalism and petty crime vex community leaders and keep the police working hard in many urban areas. Without a spiritual anchor, Halloween loses its ability to mock evil and instead, glorifies it. The satanic and evil are expressed through crime, mindlessly violent entertainment, and soft-core pornographic expression. While ritual crime is rare (and not perpetrated by the Wiccan teenager in your local high school or the modern vampire living down the street), Halloween tends to see some sort of occult-related crime reported somewhere.

Now, back to the Christian problem of dealing with Halloween…

In first part of my ramblings, I isolated two approaches to the problem of Halloween with a little bit of snarky humor, looking at human behavior and culture through Law and Grace. When sincere Christians experience confusion, they lose sight of how the two work together, and Christians are fed a malnourished spiritual diet of human judgment, superstition, works-righteousness and fear. We’re urged to “do” things or not do things in order to earn righteousness and grace, and become a good or better Christian. It’s tempting to isolate our Good Christian Selves into little holier-than-thou bubbles to remain pure. Being God’s Chosen becomes a job on the task list: the task is all up to us first; to be a follower of Christ is our decision and our choice, and then we tack on a prayer to the Holy Spirit to make us holy, Amen. When we inevitably fail to live up to the Christian culture’s rules of the moment, we are not Christian enough. We are judged by the imperfect understanding of human beings who think they know it all. This is the human side of the Law, and our experience as Christians on a journey from the Old Testament into the New tells us that the Law indeed exists and we are still under it. It not only effects us physically through death, it also kills us spiritually as an effect of sin through God’s application of Law (Judgement), but God did something dramatically different during one moment in history that changed the game.

The historic Christian faith tells us that God commuted our death sentence; changed our history through a tremendous mystery of the Atonement. Jesus Christ, the living word of God made human, was conceived, born, suffered and died a horrific, painful death on a cross, somehow taking our abuses against the Law into Death itself, rose from the grave and is coming again. The person of the Holy Spirit is God’s promise of comfort and the seal of the bond between us messed up human beings and God himself. We are covered by Jesus saving action – salvation and justification through blood and death.

Okay, maybe this was a 33 year-long moment in the history of the universe, but we are still living into God’s promise that death is over and done for; our sins are covered in the only righteousness that really exists- Christ’s, not through anything that we have done or can do, but only through what Jesus has done and is still doing. It’s all God’s job to save us, not ours, no matter how much we may think or experience that we are making a decision to do or be a model Christian. We surrender to God’s salvation. We cannot earn it. We cannot grab it or choose it. We think or experience that we grasp it, but we’re really yielding to Divine Love. That’s Grace.

It’s easy to fall into a Christian trap that gives in to the all-too human pull to put ourselves first before God. This kind of thinking sucks us into our own earnestness, wanting to please God. Even this essay is skirting painfully close to (if not completely into) Law because I’m critiquing a whole segment of Christian culture that I disagree with and judge as spiritually unhealthy. We can’t avoid Law. Thank God for Grace.

So, while Christians can certainly choose not to participate in Halloween for any number of reasons, condemning and rejecting participation in Halloween as an idolatrous pagan insult against God, completely misunderstands what Halloween is all about. You can’t celebrate light without at least acknowledging the shadow. Participation in Halloween does not need to mean exalting Satan and the Demonic, or even giving the enemy any power at all. A redeemed Halloween is not cut off from the celebration of Gods work for all of us, and neither are the people who re-enact play battles of Good vs. Evil  and mock Death while dressed up as an adorably cute  4 year old vampire. The victory over death is recalled through the traditional feast of All Saints, which all too many Christians have forgotten all about. Halloween and All Hallows go together as they dance across the calendar nearly opposite to Good Friday and Easter.

To rightfully reach Easter and Christ’s resurrection from the dead, Christians must pass through the horror of Good Friday. To reclaim Halloween from misunderstanding, you’ve got to understand the Hallow, which is my task for Part the Third.

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