Nadia Bolz-Weber is someone I follow on Twitter– she seems like my kind of fierce and funny tattooed human. I am delighted my local library branch had her memoir “Pastrix: the Cranky Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint” available. This book is meaty and memorable. There is so much to it that I decided to share a few gems that resonated with me about faith and just being a good person.
Bolz-Weber is a person of faith who has had divergent life experiences. She speaks about her return to religion after becoming sober, and the way her fundamentalist upbringing kept her away from faith. The Pastrix discovered that religion can be different and be a community of messy, beautiful people. In my life, religion has been used to both oppress and uplift, so I can relate to many aspects of her story.
The memoir is a collection of stories and lessons learned by making mistakes. Her knowledge of theology and ways to make connections impresses me. After the earthquake in Haiti, her parish experimented with ways to help but also make sense of the tragedy. They collectively made Haitian Stations of the Cross pairing the cruel aftermath of the earthquake and the suffering of Christ. Bolz-Weber also movingly connects the thirst of the people in Cana, the Haitian survivors, and Christ on the Cross. It’s a passage you have to read for yourself.
Weirdly, since I’ve thought about Mary Magdalene a great deal this year, Nadia Bolz-Weber has a tattoo of Mary Magdalene on her arms. She considers Mary a personal inspiration and role model. Bolz-Weber writes that she is the first to proclaim the Good News, and also the first ‘naming the darkness and despair.’ For Bolz-Weber:
What Mary would do is show up and remind us that despite the violence and fear, it’s still always worth it to love God and to love people.
The faith shown in this memoir is not always pretty, if often rooted in error and pain. But believing in God and each other is sharing in the promises of Christianity. We each suffer burdens and losses that coming together in community can help us manage, if not take away. I appreciate the honesty about addiction, loss, tragedy, how people can really hurt and disappoint us. There is nothing wishy-washy about still believing and going on.
The part of the book I loved most is her emphasis on being there:
The greatest spiritual practice is just showing up. And Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of jet showing up. Showing up, to me, means being present to what is real, what is actually happening.
Showing up is a greater spiritual practice than prayer, meditation, yoga, chanting or any of the other beautiful ways of expressing faith. Being present is often harder than other spiritual practices- but it’s the essential practice. Show up to your life and for others.