October 01, 2013


I couldn't have known that "cancer" would become this year's theme. After Ann's death, I took a break from writing here while life swept me up in it's living: I moved in with my girlfriend over the summer, got  a new Catholic community up and running with friends , and this last month, discovered that I too had cancer.

Mysteriously, I was compelled to reach for a book on my bookshelf a couple of months ago — one that had been in my family for many years and was written in the 1900s about natural healing. The book fell open to page about thyroid disorders. I mockingly said to my girlfriend across the room, "what the heck is a goiter anyway? Who even gets those anymore," not knowing a thing about them. Days later, I would find myself in the hospital for an unrelated mysterious pain (that just as mysteriously vanished completely) and at the beginning of a journey that would eventually lead me to a biopsy, surgery, and eventually a diagnosis of papillary carcinoma of the thyroid.

Only after my first surgery to remove half of my thyroid, did I learn that my grandmother had her thyroid removed as well, though it's unclear whether or not she had thyroid cancer. She was somewhat private about her medical history, and took this information with her to the grave. I'm hoping I can learn something from her journals which were left behind. Was she sending me a message from beyond?

This is a highly treatable form of cancer, and it highly likely that I'm going to make a full recovery. But this is not a "good" cancer, as some have said to me. No cancer is good. I realize that people need to made some sort of sense of things and come to an understanding that I will eventually be ok, that I'm not going to die from this. At the same time, it's important not to minimize my suffering and dismiss it as "no big deal," because it will not result in my death!

I'm trying hard to be generous and understanding, because I know that people struggle with the right thing to say. I've had to laugh about a lot of it. Many times I've been told how wise, strong, or "more awesome" I'll be after beating cancer. Frankly, I'm perfectly happy with the level of "wisdom" I've achieved pre-cancer! As if only more suffering can make us truly "wise."

What I've struggled with more are the friends who've backed away completely. The friends I've heard nothing at all from and the friendships I've misjudged. It's true, that you find out who your friends really are when you're going through something difficult. My best friend flew in from California to be with me during surgery, and nursed me for several days afterward. Other people that I thought would be there for me have all but vanished from my life. I am trying to be generous with those friends too, and let them go without any anger. I certainly can't afford emotions like that now.

While I'm off work recovering from surgery, I'm already gearing up for my next surgery — to remove the rest of my thyroid tissue. After that, there will be cancer treatment and hormone replacements. One day at a time, with grace and patience.

April 24, 2013

St. Ann of Glenwood

Today is the anniversary of Chris' death, 17 years ago. The sting of his suicide has lessened a great deal for me, as I have learned to forgive myself for my bitter and angry words directed toward him just hours before his death, but the solace and pain left by this day lingers.

Today it came with an added sharpness, as this afternoon I learned that a dear friend and spiritual mother had passed away after her short battle with cancer. Ann leaves behind a loving husband and three teenaged children and a whole community who relied upon her quiet leadership and steadfast example.

I first came to know Ann well while working on the Feast of Mary Magdalene celebrations that were held in my parish each July — a hallmark celebration hosted by the women of the parish which pushed the envelope and challenged the male-centered Mass and patriarchal language and themes. She reached out to me to participate in this, knowing it was exactly what I was looking for. She had a way with recognizing people's gifts and utilizing them.

Later, we worked closely together in the RCIA, where we shared our faith deeply with those preparing for election into the Catholic Church. I don't think Ann had any idea how much her words and example truly influenced my everyday faith, from discussions about "praying always," to deeply peeling back the mystical layers of labyrinths, to the philosophizing about the very nature of hell, and what we take with us when we leave this world.

I'll also remember the words from other people about how much Ann's words touched and taught them. Delle told me just weeks before her own death that Ann had said to her "everything is going to be just perfect Delle." And those words meant the world to her brought her so much deep peace and acceptance, both for her and for her daughter. It was a blessing to her. I could tell countless stories from parishioners about Ann's example.
She will be greatly missed.

Ann would hate for me to call her a saint. She was deeply humble and at the very thought of any kind of big attention focused on her, she might sneak away to the school cafeteria and scrub the tables with Clorox wipes as penance. My prayer for Ann: that she finally knows how much God loves and appreciates all of her hard work! And my thoughts for her family is that they find every grace and comfort that heaven can afford them. 

April 11, 2013

Tribe meeting

Last night, many LGBTQ parishioners of my parish met with our parish priest, who had extended an invitation to us to meet for casual conversation. After opening with a prayer written by Kittredge Cherry, he let us know that he had wanted to bring us together after the letter that Cardinal George had asked parishes to make available in all churches statewide, condemning gay marriage. While he was forced to make the letter available, he also addressed the issue at the end of each Mass that weekend, and stated his disagreement with the Cardinal, and his personal full acceptance and support of gay marriage — to which he received a standing ovation at the Mass I attended. Honestly, I was so personally moved by his support, as well as his taking a stand against an authority and speaking truth to power, that I choked back a few tears that morning.

So as we met last night, we went around the room introducing ourselves, talking about our time in the parish, and sharing stories of how we have been supported within our parish community, as well as the great pain and anger we have felt as a result of actions and words by the Cardinal and the hierarchy in general. Straight members of the parish council were present to listen, and let us know how enriched the community feels by our presence. Some talked about the difficulty of raising children in an accepting community, while questions from the larger church loom. Some questioned what the repercussions would be when gay marriage becomes legal in the state — and if gay members of the parish would lose jobs or ministry positions as a result of marriages, or be ordered to forgo Communion, as has happened recently in Michigan.

When I spoke, I admitted that I had a foot and a half out the door. When I came to my church about 11 years ago — married and with two young children, I couldn't have foreseen that in just a couple of years, I would be divorcing and coming to terms with my sexuality — and embraced warmly by my Catholic parish, and even encouraged to continue on in ministry positions. But when I joined...I felt called into the parish specifically because of what I was witnessing — women preaching from the pulpit — a place that was willing to challenge the patriarchy. I felt called to be a part of that. As "downtown" cracked down on us, as the rhetoric against gay marriage, and children raised by gay parents has turned nastier and nastier, I have tried to stay within my parish "bubble," but it gets harder to ignore. When it was revealed that millions of dollars were being used from the parish plates to fund the political machine combating gay marriage initiatives in many state elections — I cut off all financial support of my church.

I have always seen my role in the Catholic church of one of "witnessing" for change. I am the change that is sought — the woman who ministers and lesbian who defies their pronouncements of being "disordered." I have practically become a bible scholar in the last decade trying to peel back the layers of falsehoods and misguided teaching. When the Cardinal says that it is "impossible" for a gay couple to be married because a sacred union of body, mind and soul cannot exist, I can confidently say that this is absolutely false, and scripturally unsupported.

I have come to a point in my life, where I am somewhat fatigued with fighting. I cannot dwell in anger and feel the constant pulse to "prove" my worthiness to a church that is deaf to my experience. While I always work hard to move past anger and only act with love, I would not be human if the constant attacks did not wound me. And that is my true concern — and where I want to focus. We talked about the pain present in the room — in the larger LGBTQ community and what these men of power have done to the spiritual lives of so many. My focus, and I believe the focus of our parish, should be on addressing and healing that — both among the faithful and those too wounded to approach "church."

Amazingly, the priest agreed — that it was time for healing, and for push back. He vowed to us that he would not agree to any orders that hurt others, no matter what was personally on the line for him. This was not something he would have agreed to only a few years ago, so I saw this a huge sign of personal growth for him, and a way for us to move forward with some important healing work in the community.

This was only the start of an important conversation. We are living on the edge of history, the forefront of great change, and in that respect, we are the flag-bearers for a future that has not yet been revealed. I hope that one day our children will look back and say, "remember when you had to do xyz, because the church was so anti-gay?" Yes...that is the day I will hope for.

April 01, 2013


Whenever you complete a journey, it's good to reflect. My Lenten journey this year was profound for a myriad of reasons. This year, I undertook a major fast, forgoing all meat, dairy and alcohol. I was joined in the fast by my girlfriend, and I don't know that I could have done this alone. While I went in to this for spiritual reasons, I have to admit that I was also hoping for some health benefits and perhaps even some weight loss — but none of the great vegan miracles were visited upon me. My skin did not clear up (and I horrible eczema), my sinuses did not clear up (they are as clogged as ever!) and this is totally TMI, but I was a gassy MESS for the last 6 weeks. My stomach generally felt horrible and bloated and cramped. I'm attributing this to the consumption of too many whole grains — which I was eating in an effort to feel full — because I was always hungry. I ate a varied diet and tried lots of new things which was fun. I didn't find it too difficult to give up meat — there are quite a lot of substitutes and I enjoy beans despite the horrible gasiness they produce (and yes, I tried an OTC vegan product called 'gas stop' and it didn't work for me). I found it quite difficult to avoid eggs and butter. And cheese is absolutely a heavenly creation that belongs in my tummy. Mmmmm, cheese, how i missed you. And hummus, we are breaking up. I'm so over you.

I found myself obsessing so much about my dietary needs, it was actually more difficult to focus on my spiritual needs this Lent. The physical became the prime focus, particularly as my energy became seriously spotty and my iron levels dropped. As I got that more under control with supplementation, I was able to focus more on prayer. I finally felt connected and by the end of Lent, like I had achieved my prayer goals and received good confirmation from God that I was on the right track and in a good place.

There was stumbling along the way, which is good. Learning opportunities. I can get so caught up in own emotional pain that I miss the bigger picture. Or worse, that I start to sabotage the good around me. Progress is made when you see your own natural disposition to make these unhealthy choices and make different ones. Practice gratitude. Honor the ordinary and see it for the beautiful thing that it is, and allow yourself to experience joy and love.

I am absolutely immersed in love, and my gratitude for it overwhelms me, daily. I only wish I could find a voice, find words to properly reflect my joy. It's the kind of love that leaves me speechless. I can only breathe it in and out and just...surrender to it and reflect it as best as I can...but oh how I want to talk about it! Maybe there is the tiniest bit of fear that if I talk about it too much, well....
Maybe I am just so happy that I need to keep it just a little bit of a secret lest something happen to take that away.

The love and the joy in my life has always been a fleeting thing. I'm the happiest I've ever been. I'm starting to dream the loveliest dream into reality, so please, don't wake me.

March 28, 2013

Stay awake!

I woke up this Holy Thursday in tears, with an overwhelming feeling of betrayal — how fitting right? Is that how Jesus felt when his well-intentioned friends slept away the night while he agonized at his fate ahead? But he knew they couldn't help themselves, they were just....weak. And I know that the people that hurt me don't mean to either...I just can't help but take certain things personally, even if they weren't intended that way. Jesus still partnered with someone who he knew would deny him again and again. I don't know if my skin is thick enough to continually face that kind of rejection — while I see that this is what we do to each other, without even knowing it. And yet, that is what we are called to do. Something to meditate on for me today.

March 06, 2013


The past week the spiritual darkness has increased. I have gone into a cave of fear and voices that call on me to isolate myself from people and from God. Instead of resisting it, I'm leaning in to it, which may or may not be the right thing to do. I'm being gentle with my own frailty here, and staying prayerful. I know that everything happens for a reason. This too shall pass...

On a lighter note, I was able to catch the relic of St. Mary of Magdalene while it was on tour through my state. I wasn't expecting much — but was quite overcome — both by the oddity of it, the reverence of the faithful kneeling and touching the relic's case, and the sudden swelling of emotion that rose within me as I came to stand before my patron saint. After praying before her relic, both for myself and for my wounded church — particularly for the lost voices of women as we prepare to choose a new Pope this month — I stopped at the table where a woman was selling merchandise related to the saint and my eyes fell on a medal that had a fleur de lis as part of the decoration, and I knew it was meant to be.

May Mary, together with the Holy Spirit, breathe fresh air into the conclave of men in Rome who will lead a faithful flock of millions.

February 27, 2013

It's tempting....

Two weeks into Lent, and it's tempting to start complaining. I'm going to blame that on the nasty sinus headache that is plaguing me today. So, this Lent, I decided to go hardcore — giving up all meat (and fish), dairy products, and alcohol. Essentially, I'm eating a Vegan diet, with the exception of honey.

I cannot say that I have miraculously dropped 5 or 10 pounds, or resolved mysterious health problems, or seen really any benefit. Sorry Vegan mafia! But I'm not doing this for ethical Vegan reasons, or even health reasons....purely spiritual.

And that too has been hard to get into for me this Lent. With the major dietary challenges, I have been super focused on the physical needs and not spending nearly enough time on spiritual devotions and practices. Feeling so physically fatigued and consumed with meal-planning and somewhat obsessed with grocery shopping. Yes, I am in prayer daily, but it is unfocused. Perhaps I should add a daily rosary, or a weekly Taize. I intend to get to a group faith sharing meeting, but haven't had the time yet, with an overwhelming schedule.

Overwhelmed. That is what I have felt. Physically and emotionally overwhelmed and unable to tap into the spiritual discipline that is so needed. It is only week two, so I'm hoping that I will get where I need to go as I labor in the desert. But I am in the thick of it, in the struggle. And I'm off in search of some Tylenol for this damned headache.