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Does Virtual Liturgy give us the Real Presence?

Felix Just SJ, inte | April 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, tragic as it is, is also inspiring pastoral reflection and theological debates that will hopefully bring the Church to deeper insights and renewed practices. One current topic of heated discussion is the "virtual" celebration of the Eucharist, and the related question of about what is "real."

Read More of this two part article

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  • Does Virtual Liturgy give us the Real Presence?
  • The Centre and the Margins: Roman Catholic Women Priests, ordained extra legem, and their Eucharistic  liturgies
  • Raven Encounter -- A reflection on an experience while walking in the woods on Gambier Island
  • Rest now Mother Earth
  • Jesus Gardens Me
  • Timeline of Catholic Women’s Ordination in the Context of Work by Women’s Ordination Worldwide
  • Coronavirus Tracker: New ways of being church
  • RCWP Canada Bishop's Message:  What is real?
  • Comments to the Editor
  • Canadian cardinal: “We must radically change” how priests interact with women
  • Demands for women’s equality grow louder in German Church… Next stop, Rome
  • Ali Kateusz video art lecture
  • RCWP Canada Youth
  • Francis Comics
  • Message to the Editor address or form
  • RCWP Canada Links
  • Related Links

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 RCWP Canada Bishop's Message

What is real?

Recent discussions and experiences of faith communities offering live streaming of worship or using social media to gather in this time of pandemic have drawn attention on what we mean by “real presence.”  What is real presence? What is real?  Can “real” have  multiple dimensions that may even seem contradictory?  

I suggest that “real” is the truth of what we experience.  I experience presence of another in a variety of ways:  in person, via telephone, or via electronic media.  In each way the presence is nuanced by the environment which provides different dimensions of presence – hearing, seeing, touching -- but it is always real.  It is real that I shared a birthday celebration with my 4-year old grandson on Skype – he with his birthday cupcake and I with mine.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and blew out the candles and ate the cake together at the same time. That was real.  I wasn’t in the same physical space with him. It was different than if I could have been there in person and give him a squeeze, but it was, nonetheless, real.  We intended to celebrate the gift of life that he is to the world; and we did!

So, I wonder, as faith communities, how are we present to one another? What do we intend when we get together?  All the baptized share in the priesthood and the mission of Jesus. They are empowered to participate in the Paschal Mystery, the dying and rising of Jesus, not only through the Eucharist and the other sacraments, but by living as Jesus lived and even dying, in love and service. All of our lives are part of the reality of the Cosmic Christ, in whom all things are one.  When we speak of the “real presence” of Christ it is a “sacramental reality,” which should not be confused with or reduced to a “physical reality.” Christ is not “physically” present in our assemblies or in the consecrated bread and wine in the same that he was “physically” and “historically” present to his first disciples.  But we do believe in his presence beyond time and space.  This is true whether gathered in person or another way.  This is a tremendous mystery which continues to unfold for us and we grow in conscious awareness of the Christ-life within us.

When Mary of Magdala Inclusive Catholic Community comes together on Zoom to celebrate Eucharist, we intend that.  If we want to get together to discuss the Scriptures or a book study, we do that.  If we want to get together for a social time, we get together for that.  When we celebrate Eucharist, we come together prepared for that purpose.  Our gatherings are participatory and interactive, not live-streamed for merely observing viewers.  We intend to praise God, we intend to share the Word of God given to us, we participate in the thanksgiving prayer in memory of Jesus and partake of the sacred meal.  People are invited to come with bread and wine.  During the Eucharistic prayer we invoke the Spirit upon our gifts together,  we say the words of consecration together,  we share the Body and Blood of Christ together – alone or with others who are present with us. There is no question, Christ is present among us.  In sharing our story and breaking of bread, we come to know our unity in him.

John Phillip Newell, in The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings, notes that there are three main responses to the current collapse of Christianity: the first is to deny that it is happening; the second is to frantically try to shore up the foundations of the old thing (we see this happening all around us); and the third, the one desperately needed today, is to ask what is trying to be born that requires a radical reorientation of our vision -- a vision rooted in personal and communal experiences of the Divine presence in and among us.

The circumstances of our time give us the opportunity to explore what is the new thing that is trying to emerge from the depths of our individual soul and out of the collective soul of Christianity that will build the Kin-dom of God.  How are we making Christ present in sacrament and service today?  Might not Zoom or other electronic media open for us even greater ways for the Divine Presence to be a reality?

+ Jane

[Jane Kryzanowski, Regina, SK is bishop for RCWP Canada]

         Comments to the Editor

Yesterday, I sent to Abp. Gagnon, head of the CCCB, to bishop McGrattan of Calgary and to the pastor of St. Gerard’s an e-mail suggestion that during the virus restrictions, they could have real Eucharists by spreading the word to do this:  Word should be spread that people attending the TV masses be told to bring their own bread and wine to be consecrated by the intention of the celebrant, whether bishop or priest.  I suggested that God is not bound by rules and if this is done in faith, God would surely accept it.  I pointed out Jesus’ assurance that if two or more gather in faith He will be there.

Now, I make the same suggestion to  St. Brigid’s.

I will pass this on to Bishop Jane for her consideration too. 

[Gene Swain, Calgary, AB]

I agree that being Church is about being interconnected, loving and caring for one another. As so often happens, the Pope is speaking from a place of fear that Christians might (and do!) come into intimate contact with God in Christ without the mediation of the clergy – and that, to me is clericalism at its best (or worst). And it bothers me that this Pope attaches so much importance to the Eucharist but still refuses to provide priests to communities which are being starved of Eucharist, by ordaining women and married men.

On a sacramental level, my definition of sacrament has come to be “God’s active presence through symbols”. And so, when we place our hands over the bread and wine, for instance, we ask the Spirit of God to come upon the gifts and make them holy. And the Spirit of God is not limited to one place – so we really do receive the “gift of communion” when we celebrate on-line because the Spirit has gathered us as one to hear God’s word, break bread, and support one another in doing God’s work.  Communion is always a “spiritual” act until it translates into “concrete actions” of love and kindness.

[Marie Bouclin, Sudbury, ON]

If we go along with what the Pope is saying about virtual Masses and not receiving communion it would be like saying that to be apart from a loved one and expressing one's love for them over a virtual call would make that love less than if you were in person with them and could touch them. This is absolutely not the case. It is about our intent and connection, in all its forms.

[Jane Oxenbury, Calgary, AB]

The Pope and others seem to be telling us what we cannot do for ourselves. But, it turns out, over these last 8 weeks lots of people have figured out what they can do on their own without institutional ‘mediation’.

On whether coming together virtually is ‘real’ or ‘valid’ or ‘sufficient’ or not, ask people who have been parenting from afar, who have been lovers from a distance.

‘Really Pope Francis’, I want to say. Try it. You might actually like it.

[Concerned Catholic, Sudbury, ON]

I'm super disappointed about this (the delay of her book "Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church"), too, and have been trying to get to the bottom of the problem over this week. I don't have any answers, and I'm sorry.  Thanks for the promotion AND apologize to your readers on my behalf.  The book has been done for a year now.  I'm new to this process and will just hope for the best when it does come out.

[Jill Peterfeso, Greensboro NC]

Editor's note:  The book is now available in Kindle format at and in other electronic formats through Fordham University Press.

Canadian cardinal: “We must radically change” how priests interact with women

Mada Jurado, | April 25, 2020

Starting from the seminary, “we must radically change” how priests interact with women, a Vatican cardinal has said.
Key points
– Men who don’t have a balanced relationship with women, a “danger”
– “A part of truth” in the claim women could have prevented priests’ sex abuse
– “We need women’s emotional maturity”
– Women teachers yes, but spiritual directors no

Read More

Demands for women’s equality grow louder in German Church… Next stop, Rome

Mada Jurado, | May 3, 2020

Demands for women’s equality are growing louder in the German Church, with proponents planning the next stop in their campaign for gender justice in Catholicism: a “women’s synod” in Rome in 2021.
Key points
– A new week of action for women’s equality movement ‘Maria 2.0’
– Messages from Catholic women on what equality and dignity means to them
– Support in the wider German Church for women preachers, deacons

Read More

Ali Kateusz video art lecture

Dr Ally Kateusz, research associate at the Wijngaards Institute gives  a Zoom lecture on the "overwhelming evidence" that women served as clergy in the early years of Christianity - and some of the evidence was deliberately hidden by the Vatican, according to ground-breaking new research. (See also an article in The Review by Sarah MacDonald, | July 3 2019 from which the above description is taken.) 

For Ally Kateusz's book, Mary and Early Christian Women : Hidden Leadership see; Kindle $0.00; Hardcover 32.02  (For information on other electronic formats (free also), contact The Review Editor at

The Centre and the Margins: Roman Catholic Women Priests, ordained extra legem, and their Eucharistic  liturgies

Susan K. Roll, Special to The Review | May 1, 2020

June 29, 2020 marked the eighteenth anniversary of a daring initiative that took place on a rented boat in the middle of the Danube River.  Seven women – four German, two Austrian and one Austrian-American – were ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood according to the official ritual by two Roman Catholic bishops who were, at that moment, not in good standing, although their ordination was valid according to the principle of apostolic succession.  The seven women claimed the validity of their ordination based on the same principle – that the sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by a bishop on a priest down a line of succession that, at least in theory, traces back to the original apostles of Jesus the Christ.  Their ordination was, however, contrary to Canon 1024 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law that governs the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.  This canon states, “A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”

Over 200 women worldwide have been ordained outside the currently valid law with further ordinations scheduled.   The vast majority serve in small house church groups or social justice projects.  In a way that echoes the original ordination of women priests they plan and preside at Eucharistic celebrations, but with some theologically and occasionally structurally-significant differences compared to a Eucharistic celebration according to the Roman Missal.  In this article we will sketch the genesis of this movement, then examine the structure and dynamics of two major public Eucharistic celebrations planned and presided by Roman Catholic Women Priests: the closing liturgy of the conference, “Gender, Gospel, Global Justice” organized by “Women’s Ordination Worldwide” in Philadelphia (USA) in September 2015, and a Eucharistic liturgy on a smaller scale held in Ottawa, Canada in May 2017.

Read More of this nine page article

[Susan Roll is a retired professor of theology specializing in liturgy, sacraments and feminist theology, as well as a lifelong activist for the equal baptismal dignity of women in the Church.]

Raven Encounter -- A reflection on an experience while walking in the woods on Gambier Island

A poem by Victoria Marie

Our ancestors knew the lessons Nature can teach us
But we’re too busy to even let one page reach us
Listen, give heed, to what Nature will relate I’m told.
Walk, listen, in a mindfulness state, behold.

What, where is that “krraa” coming from
In the distance, Raven beckons me, come
Atop a western red cedar tree, Raven sat crying
Knowing, mourning Red Cedar, his friend, was dying

“For thousands of years we lived with the Squamish Nation
In harmonious relationship, generation after generation
Now were losing our homes, food, our very being
Why do humans destroy without caring or seeing?”

Raven continues, “I hope you see we are all connected.
“Will you work to see Nature’s community protected?”
I walk back, pondering Raven words, his community’s needs
prayerful allies, I decide, committed to love-caused deeds

Through the window, before leaving for home, we spy
Raven atop a branch, looking in as if saying “goodbye”
I look at Raven with joy before I depart
Renewed, determined, a promise in my heart

It’s rhymes like this that bring some relief
And prevent paralysis caused by climate grief

[Reverend Dr. Victoria Marie, Vancouver, BC is Pastor,
Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community Society, Vancouver Catholic Worker.
SisterSea Blog
Residing with gratitude on unceded Musqueam, Squamish,  Tsleil-Waututh territories.]

Rest now Mother Earth

A poem by Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Rest now, e Papatūānuku ( Mother Earth )
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
For awhile

We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home
Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.

I wish we could say
we were doing it for you
as much as ourselves
But hei aha
We’re doing it anyway
It’s right. It’s time.

Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgment
Time to cry
Time to think
About others
Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers
Gentle palms

Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong
For now it’s just you
And the wind
And the forests and the oceans
and the sky full of rain
Finally, it’s raining!
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe
( Maori phrase meaning - “tears from the eyes of Ranginui drip down on you”)

Ranginui is our sky father,
it is common to refer to rain as
the tears of Rangi for his beloved,
from whom he was separated
at the beginning of time
in order that there could be light in the world).
Embrace it.

This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you
He iti noaiho - a small offering which is a treasure
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home
and stop our habits of consumption
But it was
It always was.

We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
- and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.
So be still now
Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt
cinched tight at your waist
- Rest.
- Breathe.
- Recover.
- Heal
And we will do the same.

Jesus Gardens Me

A book by David Jackson

In Jesus Gardens Me, Section one, David Jackson proposes a radical view of the occupation of Jesus. Working from a personal experience in an Easter Garden he proceeds to research material in Cross-Cultural anthropology to arrive at a new understanding of the Historical Jesus. He follows this by a close look at the Easter Moment of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden tomb area, which leads to an extensive treatment of interpretations of this event: “fanciful speculation” or “fruitful contemplation”?

Section two is dominated by Consciousness Razing which he has felt Jesus “Gardening” or directing him. The different realities of the underdeveloped South America and overdeveloped North America are demonstrated in story telling fashion.

Section three continues an attempt to invite readers to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

[David Jackson, Edinburg, TX is a frequent contributor to The Review.  His book can be obtained at or]

Timeline of Catholic Women’s Ordination in the Context of Work by Women’s Ordination Worldwide

Timeline 6

2002:  On June 29, seven women challenge canon law by accepting ordaination as Catholic priests.  The ordinations happen on a ship on the Danube River between Austria and Germany. Now known as the Danube Seven (Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Theresia Roitinger, Gisela Forster, Iris Muller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner and Angela White) the women are from Germany, Austria and the United States. The Vatican does not recognise the women's ordinations  but tries to crush the movement by excommunicating the women in 2003. Since then the movement has grown and is now known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests.   Despite what some in the Vatican say,  the ordinations are considered valid because they are in apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church.  To date (2019), the movement has grown to include Canada, Europe, South and Central America, South Africa, Philippines and Taiwan.

2003: In the summer of 2003, two of the Danube Seven, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger (from Austria) and Gisela Forster (from Germany) are ordained as bishops. The ordinations are done in secret and are not recognised by the Vatican. At the death of the male bishops who ordained them, the identities of the ordaining bishops will be revealed.  Despite the Vatican saying it does not recognise these women as Bishops, it later excommunicates them. Roman Catholic Womenpriests is a member group of Women’s Ordination Worldwide.

2005:  In response to the forthcoming Women’s Ordination Worldwide second international conference to be held in Ottawa, Ontario, that city’s Archbishop Marcel Gervais and other local clergy issue a stern warning denouncing the upcoming WOW Conference.  He forbids Catholics to talk about women’s ordination.  WOW responds with press release: Women Reject Attempts to Silence Discussion on Ordination: Why is the church so afraid of us?

2005: Women’s Ordination Worldwide holds its second international conference. This time it is in Ottawa, Ontario and is hosted by WOW member group, Canada’s Catholic Network for Women’s Equality.   The conference is called Breaking Silence, Breaking Bread: Christ Calls Women to Lead

2005:  Nine more Roman Catholic women are ordained in the Church’s Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement.  The ordinations happen on  international waters at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway. See: Washington Post “Nine Women Defy Vatican’s Ban on Ordination of Women” by Doug Struck. Click here to read.

2006: First  ordinations of women in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement happen in the US.

2007: Women’s Ordination Worldwide writes to Pope Benedict XVI urging him to open discussions about women’s ordination.

2007: Canadian Father Ed Cacchia is fired as pastor of St. Michael's Parish in the small city of Cobourg, Ontario, after he writes an article in the local paper urging his church to admit women to the priesthood and saying that he had celebrated mass with Roman Catholic womenpriests in the USA.   An article in the Globe and Mail reports a spokesman for the diocese saying Cacchia’s newspaper article could have been overlooked - ‘People's memories are short and the Cobourg Star is not the New York Times - but celebrating the mass with women priests is a clear violation of church canon law.’  Cacchia,  who is 56, is given a $1,000 a month to live on for the rest of the year  (ie, two months) and then he is on his own - without pension, benefits or a roof over his head. Cacchia estimates about 95 per cent of his congregation support him.

2008:  Women’s Ordination Worldwide writes to Pope Benedict XVI asking that  he accept Ludmila Javorova’s valid ordination to ministerial priesthood.

[This is the sixth excerpt of a timeline we are serializing here.  For the full timeline, see the Women's Ordination Worldwide website.]

RCWP Canada Youth
Spiritual but not religious

Francis Comic Strip Archive
Francis, the comic strip 
by Pat Marrin Aoril 30, 2020
National Catholic Reporter

Used with permission

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