Trapped in my own blind behaving

Dean Tony Pompa
Nativity Cathedral
March 4, 2016

Some time ago, when life was much more complex (smile), my children very small, a diocesan vocation that took me away from home most nights, and figuring out how to be married as young parents, young professionals, I found myself in a curious position. I had begun to take life and myself way too seriously. So much so that apparently I also began to take for granted the good things and good people in my life. In addition, apparently I was so stressed out that I hadn't even noticed that I was at times also not very nice sometimes. (Yes, believe it). I use the word "apparently" because to me, none of this was apparent. In my head and in my world, I was doing what needed to be done to do it all and ironically enough to feel like I was doing it all very very well. I was so trapped in my own world, my own thinking, my own behaving (my own surviving) that I was blind to the truth that I was becoming someone other than Who God might like me to be.
Then it came. The moment of truth. On a simply long day I was caught short and given "eyes to see". My mother, visiting from afar "apparently" had enough of me and this uber persona. She startled me with the force of her upset and displeasure. For lack of a better description, she "dressed me down".  You need to understand that this approach was foreign from the nurturing and kind mother I had known all my life! Suddenly, she was a force to be reckoned with and that day was my day of reckoning.
She was clear, crystal clear. The way I was, was not gonna work! What a gift. I am to this day grateful that she was the moment God used to whack my head so that I could see through my blind spot and gain clarity to change my direction, change my ways.

This week's pilgrimage learning is about Jesus healing the blind man. It is a story about God's grace and power to bring sight to our lives.
See also Nativity Notes.


Celtic Spirituality Initiative at Bethlehem Cathedral

By Melinda Rizzo

A new experience offered by the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, based in Bethlehem, offers spiritual open space through a new twist on an ancient practice.

Celticnight1 Celticnight3 Celticnight3

Monthly Celtic spirituality evenings, accompanied this summer by live Celtic harp and violin music, candlelight, and set inside the 150-year-old sanctuary of the Cathedral, are a continuation of recent Celtic Spirituality class entitled the Bardsey.

The Bardsey Initiative, offered during this past winter, was a 10-week spiritual pilgrimage for participants, according to the church website. Based upon Celtic Christian spirituality practices, morning and evening sessions were offered from late December through February.

“I savor the time in the Cathedral illuminated by candles and filled with Celtic music,” said long-time Nativity member Victoria (Tori) Penske Aitchison, in an email regarding the latest Celtic spirituality offering.

Aitchison, who also participated in the recent Bardsey workshop series, said, “as an Episcopalian, I feel grounded in the monastic traditions so adding the Celtic way to see the sacred all around me has been a beautiful gift.”

The Very Rev. Anthony (Tony) R. Pompa, Nativity’s dean and rector, said his hope is for the monthly Thursday evenings to become a touchstone for anyone interested in seeking a new way to approach spirituality and make a deeper connection with the sacred.  

All are welcome to the Thursday evening Celtic spirituality offerings, regardless of their denomination, or faith affiliation,  according to Pompa.

“We would like to embrace all and make folks welcome here,” Pompa said.

Janet Felix, a Nativity member of about two years, said she most enjoyed viewing the Cathedral space from a different perspective, and feeling transported by the environment to her Celtic roots.

“It was such a treat…to walk into the darkness of the Cathedral with all the candles lit and the music of my heritage playing,” Felix said. 

Felix, who also participated in the winter Bardsey series, said, “I always seemed to learn something new, either about Celtic spirituality, and/or about myself.”

Pompa is quick to stress that the experience offered is based on ancient Christian teachings and customs, which originated in the British Isles including England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

Felix, who also attends the monthly Celtic spirituality evenings, said the sessions became a bridge for her, since the Bardsey completed.

“I miss the weekly (Bardsey) meetings.  But I am thankful that Tony has continued with the once a month gathering.  It is a time to refresh myself and to reflect on what has happened in the past month,” Felix said.

The Thursday evening sessions are informal, and invite participants to enter the Cathedral for meditation, silent prayer, personal reflection time, to light candles, privately ask for healing prayers, and simply enjoy brief theme appropriate meditative readings and poems spoken, all supported by quietly played Celtic Music by guest musicians, well known and versed in Celtic themed music.

“I am truly indebted to Allison Gillespie, a well known Celtic musician in the Lehigh Valley, and adjunct faculty at Moravian College. Allison responded to my plea looking for musicians not only coordinating a schedule of musicians but occasionally playing herself with various family members”.

“We offer a variety of opportunities for sacred connections in about 40 minutes, and the sessions hold a peace-filled and paced economy of time, the Celtic music played by our gifted guest musicians throughout the majority of the evening invites transformation, it’s a recipe of sacred mystery”,  Pompa explained.

Nativity member Marie Mauro of Williams Township, said having a meditation opportunity inside the Cathedral, supported by candlelight and music, is a powerful and holistic experience.

“I feel like I have access to a (greater power) and to all the many souls that were here before us inside the Cathedral,” Mauro said.

“Meditation and the Bardsey experience opened my heart. In our lives, we fail to stop and acknowledge, and to take a breath,” Mauro said.

The inspiration to create a Celtic spirituality offering on Bethlehem’s Southside grew out of a sabbatical Pompa took in 2013, to England and Wales and his familiarity with a Celtic themed experience offered at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. On Sabbatical, Pompa took a residence program with Ester DeWaal, staying on her rural property situated on the border of England and Wales.

DeWaal is a Celtic spirituality leader, scholar and writer. During his time there, Pompa began creating the framework he’d ultimately bring back to his parish community in Bethlehem.

“The goal is to provide a place for anyone interested in making some sacred space in their lives,” Pompa said.

Even those already rooted deep in faith could benefit from taking a “time out” from regular daily activities to journey within.

“I think in our culture today people thirst for mystery, I know I do,”  Pompa said.

If you go:
What: Celtic spirituality evenings as a time of prayer, reflection, healing and meditation supported by poetry and spoken reflections, accompanied by live Celtic music.
Where: Cathedral Church of the Nativity, 321 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem.(Corner of 3rd and Wyandotte Sts on Bethlehem’s southside.
When: Monthly, from 7 p.m., on the fourth Thursday

Celtic spirituality evenings run about 40 minutes with light refreshments and fellowship following inside Sayre Hall at the Cathedral campus. The monthly evenings are currently scheduled to continue through 2014.

Celtic spirituality evenings are free and open to the public.

For more information call 610-865-0727, email [email protected], or visit the website at

Renewal Assembly IV: Empowered Leaders, Renewed Congregations

IMG_3596SMALLHave you found that service on the vestry has enriched your spiritual life? 

Bishop Paul posed this question to his guests on the video prepared for the next renewal assembly scheduled for Saturday, February 11, from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, at seven sites across the diocese.  The assembly, a retreat for current and future vestry members, is entitled “Empowered Leaders, Renewed Congregations.”

Joining Bishop Paul on the video are Raymond Arcario, who served as senior warden of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem; and, The Very Rev. Anthony Pompa, Dean and Rector of Nativity.

The daylong retreat will draw from Neal Michell’s Beyond Business As Usual: Vestry Leader Development.  “This book,” writes Michell, “is for those churches that are no longer content with business as usual.  It is for those clergy and vestry members who want to be partners in ministry and mission as they explore new and create ways to do and expand mission and ministry.”  Copies of the book will be made available to each vestry attending for a subsidized price of $10.00.

Drawing from Beyond Business As Usual, the retreat will engage vestry members in Bible Study and a number of “teaching” experiences, such as “Four Principles Every Leader Should Take to Heart.”  The purpose is to examine appropriate, effective mental models of the vestry as a “learning community” that plays a significant role in the spiritual growth and renewal of the congregation.

Charles Cesaretti, Interim Missioner for Congregational Renewal hopes "that the retreat will enable every participant to respond in the affirmative to Bishop Paul’s query – Have you found that service on the vestry has enriched your spiritual life?”

Registration is open at until February 3.

Diocesan Life for June 2011

If you would like the issue in a .pdf, you can download it here. It's 2MB: