September 30, 2007

Glossing over it....

It's been said that God works in mysterious ways. Personally, I believe God has one heluva sense of humor. As I found myself in the 5th pew (Mary side) of St. G's at today's 10am mass, I was happy to see what I have been scoping out for nearly a year posted in the church bulletin: a GLOS meeting. That this comes on the heels of my questioning what exactly I'm doing in this church is no suprise to me. Mysterious ways are something I've come to count on.
Since I started slowly coming out to my fellow parishoners not quite a year ago, I figured it would make sense to come out to the several gay parishoners that I know first. But I somehow got it in my head that coming to a meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Support group that my church hosts would be the easiest way to do this. So I scoped out the bulletin, knowing that they held regular meetings, but never saw any announced. And as more and more time passed with me holding out for this meeting — and interacting with several of said gay parishoners — I kept finding myself glossing over it or avoiding it completely. They'll just figure it out on their own, I rationalized. Or word will just spread and they'll know. Everyone must know by now, I hoped.
And then after a lot of time passed, I just thought it was weird that I had never come out to any of the gay members of my parish and wondered what exactly I was so afraid of. Maybe I was just afraid that I had waited too long, remembering my friend D coming out to me years ago and me remarking, "yeah we all already knew that."
So not only did I finally see an anouncement for a GLOS meeting, but the parish was having a ministry fair and GLOS had a table set up. I made my way over to the table to put my name on the list for wanting to participate. What happened next was so comedic and awkward that it resembled a scene from a movie. As I picked up the pen to sign my name, W, (the parish business manager, who together with his partner B have three adopted children, one of which is in the same class as my eldest) went to grab the pen out of my hand and said, "Uh, take a look at what you're signing there." I didn't look up and said, "yeah, I see what I'm signing." An awkward conversation followed where I confessed that it had been hard for me to come out to the parish community, and he offered his support, saying we'd talk later.
So Tuesday night is the meeting, and I'm going to do what I can to get there and complete this process that I've been avoiding for too long. No glossing over it at the GLOS meeting.

September 25, 2007

Faith in action

Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks in Myanmar are continuing peaceful protests today.

Tuesday's protests came despite orders to the Buddhist clergy to halt all political activity and return to their monasteries.

The junta sent 10 truckloads of troops to Sule Pagoda, a focal point of the protests, including the one on Tuesday. Troops had been discreetly stationed in Yangon for the past few days, said diplomats.

"They are in full battle gear and they have shields and truncheons. Since two or three days, you could see they are rehearsing anti-riot formations. I've seen them myself. You can hear them. They shout," said a Southeast Asian diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

If the army opens fire on these monks, the country will quickly descend into a bloodbath of rioting and retaliation. Lets pray that the repressive government backs down.

September 24, 2007

Confronting patriarchy?

I won't rent you my time, I won't sell you my brain, I won't pray to a male god, cuz that would be insane ... and I will not rest a wink, until the women have regrouped — I am many things, made of everything, but I will not be your bank roll, I won't idle in your drive-thru, I won't watch your electric slideshow, I've got way better places to go.
— Ani DiFranco

I have to admit, I was struck dumb when I heard these lyrics at the Ani DiFranco show this weekend. I felt something in between the deep resonance of those lines, (shame?) and I recognized my complacency. I am bankrolling the Catholic Church, sending my daughters to a Catholic school, dropping my check into the basket each week. And I've done so consciously, because I've believed that I was called to be a voice on the inside — confronting the patriarchy around me. But I have to be honest — am I effecting any change at all?

For a time, I felt like my church was on my side in this battle. I found a sympathetic priest (now retired) and a prophetess against patriarchy (now deceased) to share in the struggle. I became a eucharistic minister, and remain so — now divorced (sin #1) and openly gay (sin #2). Of course I know that neither of these are sins, not in they eyes of the God/dess that I believe in — but there are days, days when I'd rather not show up at the table where so many people do hold these views.

I'm struggling. While my faith runs deep as it always has, I'm struggling once again with my place in a church that has felt less like home lately than it should. I can hear the chorus of why don't you just leave and I have a list of reasons why -- but I'm starting to see some holes there. I know that I've had a very difficult time coming out to church members, even though there are many in my community there. But how many were recently in a heterosexual marriage? And still, I believe that a big part of resisting patriarchy is simply showing up and continuing to be Catholic, resisting the assertions by the Vatican that my kind don't really belong. Church is local, I remind myself, just like politics. I just wish it were easier to envision my God/dess between those gilded walls — but the repetitive "Lord" and "He" squashes my imagination and squeezes the female Creatrix into a part of my brain that I can't access. I sit in my pew and try to conjor Her, to join "He" at the altar, but it is as if she is kryptonite and the church walls are lead — she just can't break through, save for small glimpses.

She comes through to me in the music, in the play of light through the stained glass as it bounces off the statue of St. Therese, in the voices of our lectors and cantors, in the Mother of God, and sometimes, from deep within myself. But she comes to me less when I'm in those walls then she comes to me without. She is in nature everywhere, in mothers everywhere, women everywhere, children everywhere. She is Wisdom and unconditional love, and peacefullness. She is in the smooth glass I collect at the beach, the kiss on my lover's lips, the sensousness and beauty of a burlesque dancer, the comfort for a child not my own, the sounds of our voices raised in song together and the warmth of our hands clasped tightly.


It is Fall now, officially. The shift begins within, even before we notice hues change and new a new chill in the night air. We are ready, we say, ready to shed what is dead. Ready to fight harder for what sustains us. I am ready to accept change and even the little deaths that come, knowing that new life awaits me. Confident in new growth, always. But first, the long winter....

September 20, 2007 heart watches

My gaze is fixed on Louisianna today, and the reasons are two-fold.

First, The Anglicans are meeting in NOLA, trying to hash out how they deal with 'the gay thing.' This is important, because it could be a preview to how my own church someday tackles (or doesn't)the issue. I wish I could say I was optimistic, but it looks like they could be headed toward schism.

Second, I am thrilled to see that a story broken months ago, has now made front page news across the nation — as bus-loads of protesters arrive in the-town-that-the-civil-rights-movement-passed-over, Jena Louisianna. My heart is joins with the protesters today, as well as with the families and defendents in this case of an overreaching and racist criminal justice system.

September 14, 2007

funeral postmortem

I arrived about 15 minutes before the private family viewing time was over -- enough time, I thought, to view grandpa privately. I saw my cousins when I came in, eyes full of tears. There were hugs and hellos and then it was time. I made my way in and walked toward the casket. He looked terrible. Not every funeral home can work the magic I had come to expect on 'Six Feet Under.' He was pale and his lips were sucked in, as if he were trying to swallow them. The pic of him and my grandma was perched over his shoulder, a constant visual reminder of what he 'should' have looked like. I touched his hard hands but no thoughts or words came to me. Only the blank realization that this was not my grandpa -- not anymore.


At the wake, I managed to tell a few of my 'big city' cousins that I was gay. They were happy for me -- totally cool with it, asking about my gf. Later that night, our family had reserved a hospitality suite at the Holiday Inn. I figured after a few beers and/or glasses of wine, I'd find the courgage to tell some of the more conservative members of the family. There were suprises all around. When I clumsily told a few of my male cousins by edging into thier 'what women really want' conversation, they were literally speechless. I had actually managed to shock them and as they grimaced, I turned to my brother who swooped in to save me from the humiliation. I owe ya one, bro. I felt so marginalized after that incident, that I went outside to get some air, and called T. Feeling like the new family pariah, I slunk back into the room to collect my kiddos and shuffle back to my hotel room. I was done with the family togetherness for the night. Then I was suprised by a couple of my aunts. My rather conservative aunt from a decidedly red state saw me come in and read my sullen expression. I told her that I was struggling -- and she comforted me, reminding me that our family really was pretty conventional in it's thinking, and that it would take time. As I said goodnight to another of my aunts, she vented to me about how someone had lashed out at her. She too was feeling marginalized. She pointed out that a lot of us feel that way in our family -- convinced that we are the outcast. Though I had never heard our family dynamics described in this way, I knew she had hit on some indidious underlying thing that we do to each other. So much judgement. It's really inescapable in our family. Some are good at faking it to slide by, no flaws detected. I was never so lucky.


We made it the church in the morning with not a minute to spare. We quickly joined the others, cutting into the front of the line. I looked up at my cousins who served as pall bearers -- boys who were now men, attending the dead. The tears filled my eyes, but I choked them back. All the usual pomp of a Catholic funeral mass -- sprinkling the casket with holy water, lighting the Easter candle, the white burial cloth, the insense. Two of my aunts euologized their father and their stories of his life really set the tone. A man of science whose questioning of 'how things worked,' somehow led him down of path of faith and devotion. Stories of the Joliet prison riots, being active in civil rights, marching with Dr. King, and a lifetime of questioning. "Faith requires doubt," he told his children, "otherwise it'd be fact."


Why is our family so judgemental? Why do we criticize each other so harshly? Marginalized is exactly what I had always felt. There is always a gauntlet of criticism I must face when I'm in presence of my family. I'm too fat. I smoke. I work for the communists. My tattoos are sick and depraved. I'm not enlightened because I attend a Catholic church. I profess a faith I don't believe in. (You can't pick and choose, you know.) I'm not gonna make it to heaven. And oh, now I'm gay too. Well, at least they thought my children were delightful and my haircut was just perfect. My aunt said that she thought it was in our genes -- this thing we do to each other. And I think it's also in our genes to think that we're the only one that this is happening to. But I see it now -- we were all doing it to each other. Even the cousins -- the generation that I had thought was free from the type of behavior we'd all witnessed from our aunts throughout our lives. Was this to be our family legacy?


I'll miss you Grandpa Joe. After the funeral, we all insisted on going to the burial site; I guess they don't let people really do that anymore. The grave diggers were at work and I took a picture of them. You'd have been proud of us, learning something about the work, the process, of interning a body. But we all really needed to see you next to Grandma. Twenty-two years is a long time apart. I knew I couldn't leave the cemetary without seeing you lying next to her. We all needed that. I took pictures of the grave and surrounding markers, so that I could find my way back. We took a detour on our way home to the old house on 81st place. We told the Nigerian man that you sold the house to that you had died, and he remembered you fondly. The house never looked so great. I was flooded with memories standing there. Thanks, Grandpa, for always loving me, always teaching me, always guiding me. I trust that you will continue to do just that, from your new vantage point.

September 09, 2007

Make a hole in the sky for him....

My dad called last night just after I got off the phone with a friend. As soon as he said, "I have some bad news," I knew what was coming next. Half an hour earlier, my grandpa had fallen in the kitchen, hit his head on the stove, and bled to death. And although my grandpa was 94 years old, it didn't stop the tears from coming in great heaving sobs, which woke my oldest daughter. We cried together, then I went to my CD player and put on this song for the patriarch of our family:

King of May

Farewell today
Travel on now
Be on your way
Go safely there
And never worry never care
Beyond this day
Farewell tonight
To all joy and to all the life
Go on go peacefully
We can't keep your majesty
Be on your way
Make way for the last king of May
And make a cardboard crown for him
And make your voices one
Praise the crazy mother's son who loved his life
Farewell today
Travel on now
Be on your way
Can't bear the very thought that we
That we could keep your majesty
Be on your way
Make way for the last king of May
And make a hole in the cloud for him
Raise your voices up
Drink your loving cup
To his long life
To his long life
Make way for the last king of May
Make a hole in the sky for him
And raise your voices up
Lift your loving cup
To his long life
His long life
And raise your voices up
Lift you loving cup
To his long life
To his long life
His long life
His long life
— Natalie Merchant

September 06, 2007


“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you."
— Frederich Buechner

I'm rarely speechless. But what can you say when a senseless act of violence touches your life in some small way? When people you no longer know — but should — amaze you, scare you, disappoint and disgust you, all the while while you are striving to love them again? When the tears fill your eyes at the contemplation of a soul so filled with hate and indifference, so blinded by drunkeness and anger — a soul crushing down on itself with the weight of it's own darkness? No words come.

I've known people in my life who have seemed to thrive on a limited diet of anger, bitterness and blame. Being around them is like drinking a steady dose of daily poison. I can't figure out what draws certain people into these relationships, keeps them there. Is it some camradarie of pain — as simple as misery loving company? The thrill of running with the 'bad' crowd? Do they feed off of each other, continually pouring out and filling up on a feast of rage? Does sharing the pain and anger make it any less, or only increase it?

I know a little about rage. I know that shame is it's constant companion. And I know it's never too late to let it all go. Forgiveness is the first step.

September 03, 2007


So last night, my tween daughter called me from the babydaddy's house, wanting to come home a day earlier than scheduled. I saw this as a pretty good sign. She's been very loving since I picked her up, trying to say "sorry" in a dozen unspoken ways. I'm hoping that soon she will be able to verbalize her desire for forgiveness. She also asked me to take her to church to go for Reconciliation.
This is going to be a journey for all of us — and I trust that we will all be transformed by the suffering and pain that comes up for each of us. Because if there is any purpose to suffering, it's the transformative and redemptive nature of experiencing such brokenness — the deeper empathy that blooms, the barriers that melt when you realize that we are all in the same boat (globally) and the yearning for more compassion to grow in our hearts when we witness the deep pain that we cause others, particularly the people that we love most. My heart aches with heaviness and regret as I look into the wounded eyes of those I've hurt.
When we ask for forgiveness and are forgiven, we are at once humbled and grateful and healed. When we don't ask for forgiveness when we are deeply sorry, we get stuck in shame, the worst of all human emotions. This is the message of Anima Sola — she who chooses to burn though her chains are broken. Why hasn't she left? Because she is not done punishing herself. Because she is stuck in shame and has not realized that all she need do is sincerely ask for forgiveness. Instead she hopes that the fire will purify her, make her worthy of God's love again. But God does not bind her there, it is she who must choose differently — choose humility and ask for forgiveness.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asks, receives; and those that seek, find; and to those that knock, it shall be opened.