Tag Archives: pope benedict xvi

X (plore) Factors


So I leave my boats behind

I’ve been reflecting on X factors. In algebra the x factor was that still hidden, waiting to be discovered variable, the key to solving the equation. These days it has found an audience applauding and giving x meaning as a special talent or quality. Both reveal the variable in a situation that is the essential impact – the essence – the delivers the outcome. So what are your x-factors? What are mine?

As I’ve been looking for work recently I have been scrutinised, tested, discussed, interviewed, challenged, performed. The investigations all drilling to discover the x-factor that will deliver the outcome the potential employer is looking for. Seems to me this is has a lot in common with a reality TV Show, however the audience, their customers and clients, don’t get a vote.  Will my x factors be the ones they are looking for?

I have learnt a lot of lessons over my life from being at the edges of the frontiers of many institutions. These lessons from the inside have revealed my x-factors – resilience, humour, improvisation, blending, conducting, facilitating, curiosity, bravery.

I think your x-factors become visible when you step onto the precipice and then you find out what x  actually means. You discover what shape it takes, what it tastes like, how it sounds and what it feels like to own it in your body and mind and spirit. I have also discovered the revelations bring compassion too – finding myself compassionate towards B16 is a very, big surprise!

I am exploring resignation and what that means – the resignation of the Pope, me resigning from a job, the resignation of living with a loved one with a life limiting illness.   How are my x factors are equipping me for the explorations ahead?

I am redefining my x-factors and X-plore factors.  I know all my exploring takes place often with the bare minimum of a map – just a hint of knowing where I am going and what I am going to need to get my there. However much I plan, there will still be unknown y variables out there to add to the x factors I bring with me.

I can bring my music, my poetry, my commitment to democracy and participation and my sense of adventure where-ever I travel. And it frequently is an adventure. Adventures might be unusual and exciting. They are typically hazardous and have plenty of unknown variables of their own!

I find myself on interior adventures more often than not, where I discover one of my x-factors being like a ear worm, wriggling its way into my journey to take me to some unknown landscape. The inner journey may  (or may not) be supported by an outer one. At times the pilgrimage is an internal labyrinth – the only way out is to go in and retrace your steps to get back out again.

While there are people who do extreme sports – I am more like an extreme pilgrim.

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without the journey is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” Mark Nepo


One Billion Rising

It’s personal. It’s everybody’s business.

At the Abbeti

From the window of the Abbey in Rudesheim

I am one of the two in three women that have never experienced violence in their homes and I have a responsibility to support and speak up on behalf of my sisters. This week all around the world, women, children and men, danced their way to a new world of nonviolence – the goal was to have a billion rising.

As I got ready to go to my local event I was quite emotional thinking about who I was rising for – its personal. And the personal is political is the fundamental first principle of feminism.

As a social worker I counselled and supported many women and children who were choosing to say no to domestic violence and helped them on their way one way or another to a new start. I didn’t do this for very long and it was incidental to my main role and responsibilities at the time. But rising up wasn’t for professional reasons – it was personal.

I was rising up with two women in mind.

For Maxie and Mavis (names changed) – two very different women from two very different worlds.

Maxie: in her 30s, user of drugs and alcohol, mother of two young boys, friends in motorcycle gangs and friends in prison, lived in suburb with highest unemployment rate and in public housing. Literacy rate of a ten year old. Honest, hardworking and loved her kids.
Mavis: in her 40s, glass of wine at Christmas, devout Christian, mother of three teenagers, friends in the church choir and clergy. Lived in a suburb and indeed same street as the highest elected official, home owner and employed. Honest, hardworking and loved her kids.
Both victims of domestic violence.
One turned up in a women’s shelter one didn’t.
One was stalked by her ex and murdered in front of her children – lured to the site of her death by her own child maliciously used by his father.
One is happily re-married and living on the edge of a beautiful national park.

I knew them both. One was the mother of a young friend in a youth group I supported, the other was an employee of a shelter where I was on the Board of Directors.

When I heard the news that Maxie was dead, I was in my car taking one of my children to school.
I helped Mavis move out of her home and packed up her kitchen – all the pots and pans – leaving one or two for the man remaining behind – she didn’t want to leave him with nothing to cook in.

I have never experienced violence in any home I have lived in. I have always been respected and protected.

On the street, outside of the security of my home, I have had a knife pulled on me as a teenager at dance; a gun held to me while doing a home visit as a social worker; driven past unexploded land mines in a war zone and been subjected to verbal and physical abuse for speaking my truth about injustices I’ve seen around me. I witnessed one of my daughters being assaulted on public transport.

I don’t like the words domestic and violence being put together. Violence is violence and there should be no distinction. If you get attacked in your home or in the pub – it shouldn’t be any different – violence is violence. Violence is not domesticated because it happens in the home!

Maxie was killed on the street, in a shopping centre car park. It was reported as domestic violence and her death was recorded and reported in that way. If it had been an outlaw motor cycle gang member killed in front of the same shops it would have been a very different story on the news that night.

In your time Hildegard, women flocked to your convent – leaving the land, their families and their lives to join you. I wonder how many of them were also leaving behind violence and taking up with you as their ‘no’ , their rising? I remember reading once that Clare of Assisi had attracted over 10,000 women to her order in the first 10 years – can you imagine what kind of impact that would have made at the time (early 1200s)? I can’t help thinking that the women joining together in this act of solidarity was their rising up, to say no to the patriarchy around them, to choose a life that was defined not by their relationship to their father, husband or brothers, but to their relationship to other women and their God. Unlike Clare, you Hildegard were a property owner and used your power to redistribute the wealth and for land reform. Your genius was honoured by B16 when he made you a saint – I find this link between you both quite amazing now given the turn of events. He has used your example in his letters and sermons as someone who challenged the church to turn away from the abuses it was experiencing at the time.

The redistribution of wealth is happening now too, and as the church bleeds from the violence of abuse compensation is transferring to those who have been the victims and are now the survivors of that abuse. For me their bodies are the Body of Christ and through the unholy acts, their witness to call the church to account is no less prophetic as the acts you took dear Hildegard.

They are rising and in their rising, they are helping to purge the Church. This too is not domestic. It is personal and it is political … and for me it is spiritual too.