October 31, 2007

Sing to the light, and welcome the darkness

Well here it is, the end of October, and I'm brimming with Irish pride.
Last night MR, my oldest daughter, performed at Orchestra Hall with The Cross-Border Orchestra of Ireland. She and her classmates were selected to be part of a 400 student choir that accompanied the Orchestra — made up of Irish students across both sides of the religious and political divide. It was a superb evening, and I beamed with pride, knowing that this was a chance of a lifetime for these students — one that could shape them for years to come. I know that MR carefully studied the flutes, herself in her third year of band. Even the gossiping of The Queen Bees about my arrival with my girlfriend to a school function couldn't put a damper on the night. The sweet sounds of the Uilleann pipes, the fife, and a massive drum unlike anything I've ever seen, put me in the mood to dance a little jig, if only in spirit.

The night served as the perfect lead-in to Halloween — the ultimate in Christo-pagan celebrations. All Hallow's, Sukkot, All Saints, All Souls, Diá de los Muertos, Samháin — whatever you want to call it — across cultures, we humans choose to mark the turning of the year — from light to darkness — with celebrations that honor the harvest and our ancestors who have passed before us. This is the time to collect together all that is fruitful and dispose of what is rotting. As the autumn leaves swirl and death arrives, we notice the chill in the air along with our growing desire to hunker down spiritually and cast off what doesn't serve us. Many of us will turn inward, reflect and meditate more. Examine the darkness within, knowing that doing so prepares you for the promised growth of Spring. And, this should go without saying, but dress up, go trick-or-treating with your favorite ghouls, witches, and tigers, and get a good-sugar high to keep you buzzed through the rest of the week!

October 30, 2007

Black Sheep

I was reflecting on the comments a friend made to my last post, suggesting that if I were seeking approval, well, there's nothing down that road. It's funny, because as I began to think about it and reflect on my life, I think I've consciously risked disapproval more often than sought anyone's stamp of approval. I mean, this blog was originally intended as a place to talk about my struggle within the Catholic church — as the "inside woman" battling patriarchy, even if big results are never seen in my lifetime. So I serve as an openly gay Eucharistic minister, and I find ways to inspire and empower women in my church — whether it be in a faith-sharing group or by participating in the Mary of Magdala feast day celebration.
As an activist who never shys away from speaking out (or blogging) on the issues of the day, I've received my fair share of disapproval from family and friends. When I took my small kids across the country to participate in an anti-war march in frigid NYC temereratures, I was looked at ascance by many.
And as a teenager, I'm sure my father could tell you what a rebel I was. I certainly wasn't seeking his approval! In fact, I think that I've always been more of a leader than a follower, although I'm not really sure if that's how I've been considered. But I guess that's the entire point: I've rarely thought about approval vs. disapproval when I've acted, particularly when my deeply-held values were being expressed.
So what was all the whining then in my last post? Well, while I don't consider myself an approval whore, I do expect a certain level of understanding and faith from the people I care about. I expect to be given the benefit of the doubt. I expect not to be judged too harshly. Still, even given that those things are sometimes unavoidable, (we're all human, afterall) I've learned that changing one's behavior for other people might win you temporary approval, but at the cost of your integrity.
Ask any of my close friends and they'll tell you that there have been times when they've felt the wrath of my judgement. And they'll also tell you how I've changed in the past few years, and realized that my inclination to judge others was really more about me than it was them. Instead now, I reach for compassion and offer what well-meaning advice is asked of me when someone is making bad choices. Nobody's perfect, but I try to be conscious of any judgemental feelings that crop up and ask myself, what is about this situation that is bringing up resistance within me?
And what about my actions bring up resistance and judgement in those close to me?

October 29, 2007


Sometimes it just kills me. No matter how many times I choose integrity, honesty and faith over fear — I just can't win. All I can do is pray that the things I am doing are good for me because they certainly don't make anyone else in my life happy.
But how can I even trust that I am making the right choices and doing the right things? I mean, I feel good about the choices I have made, but again and again, I am met with anger and distrust instead of understanding and support. I mean, have I been such an asshole in my life that I'm just not the sort that anyone trusts or has any faith in? Am I really just that much of a disappointment? I know I have made mistakes and I've always tried to make ammends. I can admit when I'm wrong and that I've stumbled in the past. Shouldn't that count for something?
I'm always expecting a warm hug and some encouraging words — and getting scolded and shamed instead. I'm left feeling completely blindsided. Will the past always be thrown in my face despite turning over a new leaf? How long do others get to define me? When can I be in charge of being who I am? Tonight I feel adrift at sea without a compass. Anyone got one I can borrow?

October 23, 2007

A new day

Yesterday I had an epiphany. Maybe it took a little inspiration from friends who are battling their own demons, or maybe I just needed get a little grace to focus and name what it is that has haunted me, so that I can finally let it go. I have to admit, I feel a sense of shame at having come to this point so late. I could have saved myself a lot of grief by arriving sooner at this point where I am ready to release yet more old baggage.
We've all got baggage, and I have volumes of compassion for what other people have been through in their lives — how it has shaped them and what they have struggled to overcome. But I have never been so gentle with myself. Is it ok for me to finally admit that I too have wounds? That I've been betrayed by people I trusted and it has left me with deep scars? I need to really just give myself permission to say that, without feeling guilty that I have let other people have varying amounts of control over me at times in my life, or that I've wallowed in pain for too long, so that I can finally move on. I don't want to drag around the baggage that has been thrust upon me anymore. Nothing fruitful is there. I want a clean slate, so that I can focus on all that is truly soul-sustaining in my life: all the love and friendship and sisterhood around me. True love. Raising happy and vibrant girls. Filling up my cup so that I can pour it out on those deserving. I have wasted too much time and energy trusting those that didn't deserve it, and witholding trust from those who do.
So, I realized in the past two days that I have a choice before me: I can be the walking-wounded, or I can save myself. And fundamentally, I love myself too much to allow myself to be ruined. I've seen too many ruined people in my lifetime.
I want to love openly and freely and unencumbered by past experiences. I want to trust so completely that all fear vanishes. I want to live every day with integrity and honesty. I want hope and passion and unconditional love to surround me every day, and I want to surround those I love with that too.
Today I choose me. I choose life. I choose love.

October 22, 2007

At the intersection...

Two things made me smile broadly this weekend. First, my oldest daughter (M.R.) rushed into the kitchen while T and I were cooking dinner and exclaimed, "Mom, M.A. and J and I were making a Venn diagram and we found some great similarities!" I only remember that one of the categories was "chimpanzee" and the other something very disparate, but it just made my day that we've got the type of kids who get excited about such things.

Second, I learned this morning (and a little later than the rest of the free world) that Aldus Dumbledore is gay. But what really made me happy was the reaction of M.R. — who was positvely elated. She's been getting more and more comfortable with reavealing my sexuality to her friends, and this came as a huge boon to her. Dumbledore, after all, is on of the most beloved characters in more than a generation. I applaud JK Rowling for the reveal, even though it's not really touched on directly in her books. But now kids everywhere have a "gay friend." Not to mention that it will drive the crazy christians absolutely insane.

October 18, 2007

Out There

It seems that Cardinal George's feathers have been ruffled by DePaul University's courageous hosting of the 2nd annual Out There connference. The conference, which seeks to "address a wide range of issues of relevance to LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students at Catholic institutions, from nuts-and-bolts organizing in student services to the place of LGBTQ Studies at Catholic universities and the challenges of Catholic identity for LGBTQ individuals," will be held Oct. 19th and 20th.

Cardinal George's concern? That some of the speakers might "move from reflection to advocacy," in suggesting that LGBTQ Catholics press for changes in the moral law or form groups that ignore the magisterium. In my opinion, we don't need to form groups that ignore the hierarchy — most Catholics have been doing that already for ages, particulary on matters of sex. Furthermore, to reduce the entire conference to a focus on whether or not LGTBQ Catholics are encouraged to "live chastely" is yet another example of the church's failure to see the myriad of issues that affect LGBTQ Catholics and focus on sex as a "grave sin."

George's recent Archdiocesan article reads like an admonishment of anyone who would give pastoral support to LGBTQ Catholics without making it clear to them that they are expected to live celibately. Not only does he posit this as the Catholic moral code, but he goes so far as to state that "even non-religious" accept "the sexual complementarity of men and women is built into the morphology of our bodies and into the very purpose of sexual acts." So anything other than the perfect yin-yang of man-woman is therefore a mortal sin? Wouldn't celibacy therefore also be a sin, since it negates the "perfect union" that God has calls us to? And if not, is repression what God demands of anyone with the "inclinations" that Cardinal George fears "put our salvation at risk?" Has George learned nothing from the scandals that have rocked the Church these past years?

October 16, 2007

Supposed soul-gazers

She wrote:
leaning closely
upon my soul
—with her soul
dazed my eyes
that double flame

I believe, but cannot prove…
…that when I look into her eyes, I am indeed leaning with my soul — past cornea and sparkling blue iris, past lens and retina — locked in a gaze that touches a mystery that she cannot comprehend, accept to conjure words that she herself doubts the existence of.

But in the ecstasy and doubt of that sacred moment is the truth of faith. Soul. Soul. There is no other word for what we have leaned upon in each other. Unfocused, we linger and dance there, dazed by the double-flame brilliance of unexpected soul. Who would believe it? There is no proof. Down to the unique essence of all that she is.

October 15, 2007

Empirical evidence

I got into a conversation with my girlfriend this weekend as we sat in
my parked car just about to go into the 10am mass together. She has a
hard time understanding why anyone would base their lives around a set
of beliefs that can not be empirically proven. For my part, I love some
hard evidence just as much as the next gal, but I'm comfortable filling
in the gaps where there is no proof with my faith. I couldn't really
get out what I wanted to say (I'm blaming the current mercury
retrograde), and only managed to defend my philosophy by spouting some
post-modernist retort about finding truth within many faith traditions
and taking what was valuable and disposing of the rest. That seemed to
heat her up even more, as she sees this kind of "cherry-picking" as the
source of all that is wrong with religion, because just as I am
interested in choosing what is valuable to me, others (and entire
faiths) seem to focus on values that are antithetical to anything I'd
relate to, and in many cases, are used for great evil in our world. Not to mention that my own beliefs are quite different than what anyone would regard as typically Catholic, yet that is where I show up every Sunday. I ended up murmuring something about not being a "sheep."

I want to write more about this soon. It's bringing up all sorts of questions
and ideas that I've wrestled with before — everything from the
existence of absolute truth vs. relativism to our human need to
discover what is sacred and mysterious outside of the world of facts
and evidence. I want to explore what role doubt has for the faithful —
and how a lack of doubt is what I believe is missing
within some faith traditions.

Stay tuned. I think I'm on to something, but I need a little time to work it all out in my head first.

October 13, 2007

Looking for the arbiter of justice?

Something a friend said to me yesterday is really sticking with me today. She and I were discussing my need to defend myself when feeling attacked and manipulated, when someone is bombarding you with re-written versions of a shared history that (of course) exonerate themselves from any responsibility. She put it to me plainly: I am not god and I am not Wonder Woman. I am not the arbiter of justice. I never have been and never will be. Let the burden of that fall on someone else's shoulders. My atheist friend then suggested that I pray.
It's funny how my friend and I are able to bring into focus for each other the things that are so blurry to us in our own relationships. It's no coincidence that we've both struggled with abandonment issues and feel a tremendous sense of guilt when we have to make healthy choices that cut us off from people we care about. She says it's because when we were children, we didn't have the choice to ever leave — being dependent on the dysfunctional adults that had to care for us. But what gets to me even more is the fact that if I can (healthily) choose to walk away from a relationship, couldn't that have been the same choice that others made when they in turn walked away from me? I have come to accept that my mother's leaving when I was a child was a desperate act of self-preservation on her part. But the little girl inside still takes that personally.
I don't have the answers and I'm not always sure how to proceed. For now, I am taking my friend's advice and praying. I've done a good amount of healing in the past few years and I have a lot of faith that everything that happens in my life is exactly what I need. And I am so overwhelmingly grateful for the many blessings in my life, I can't help but want to focus my energy on the things that bring me light rather than add to the darkness. And I have found that it is the light that brings the most healing, not combating the darkness. Better to light a candle than curse the darkness, right? I've spent years wading through the darkness and you know what, it doesn't do any good. And for once, I'm happy to realize that the burden isn't mine. I am god and I am not Wonder Woman.

October 11, 2007


The dreams and sensations of Delle have been so strong in the last week, I found myself today reviewing emails that she sent out a year ago. A year ago today, she told her friends that it was time to go into Hospice care — that her almost four-year battle with Ovarian cancer would soon be over. "The squatter," as she called it, was winning the battle within her body, leaving her weak and resigned.
She visited me again last night. I was sitting with her in her room, just chatting away about life. I was always so dependent and so grateful for her wisdom and guidance! But these days, when the anniversary of her death is looming just around the corner, I find that the sense of her does not leave me when I wake. She is with me again, just as she was in the days after her death when I could feel her all around me. Why has she come back? Is there something I need to know or realize or understand? Or is her presence now only the residue of a heart's memory? Or the longing of a soul that has felt lost at sea without her navigator?
"Either we believe in eternal life or we don't," she chided us one year ago today. She wouldn't tolerate tears or a fuss being made. She didn't want to have to live our grief with us, it was just too overwhelming for her. Actress that she was, she kept herself together in those last days, careful not to reveal her suffering — propped on her fluffy bed of white linens and wearing a long starched nightgown. I was so grateful to spend an afternoon with her, and even more so to come back again the next day with the Eucharist — where she revealed her secrets and shared her suffering with me: her swollen legs, her white tounge, the ever-constant pain and the long draws for breath.
I don't spend much time thinking about heaven or hell — but on days like today, I pray that heaven is real, that we will all be together again someday, that God is merciful. The tears have begun and I expect there will be more in the coming days. Believing in eternity lessens the blow, takes a bit of death's sting away. I need the comfort of that belief today. I haven't had a good track record of faith in the concept of forever. But I want to believe that it's possible more than anything right now.

October 09, 2007

What would Jesus do — if his kid were gay?

Just stumbled across Salon's review of "For the Bible Tells Me So," a indie-documentary that tells the stories of several Christian families who are dealing with their adult children's homosexuality. Most notable is the story of Chrissy Gephardt, lesbian daughter of Dick Gephardt, former senator and presidential candidate from Missouri.
Aside from the griping personal stories, the film confronts the book of Leviticus — where homosexuality is descirbed as "an abomination" — and reminds us that Leviticus also condemns the eating of shellfish and the wearing of wool-blends. One can only conclude that a 4,000 year old ritual tradition of a people fighting for survival in the desert, doesn't really resonate with our modern lives. That is unless your a fundamentalist. But then you wouldn't be dragged kicking and screaming to such a film. Too bad, because those are just the folks who might benefit from this inspiring and sympathetic film.
"For the Bible Tells Me So" opened Oct. 5 at the Quad Cinema in New York, Oct. 12 in Boston, Lake Worth, Fla., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Palm Springs, Calif., Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Springfield, Mo.; Oct. 19 in Athens, Ga., Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Rochester, N.Y., Salt Lake City, Santa Fe, N.M. and Austin, Texas, with more cities to follow.

October 03, 2007

Glossing over it, Part II

So I went to my Gay and Lesbian Faith-sharing Group last night — and can I just first say how cool it is that such a group even exists on Catholic property in the city of Chicago? And what an awesome and faithful group it was. I felt very welcomed, despite my nervousness and realization that the room we were meeting in was the room I used to lead the R.C.I.A. faith-sharing group in, as well as the room where I attended my first (and only) AlaNon meeting. It was ironic of course, because this was a little of both: faith-sharing and support.
So for now at least, I've found my fellow travelers on this Catholic path. It is deeply edifying to share spiritually with other queer Catholics and feel supported in my coming out process. We prayed together, listened to each other's stories and struggles, read the gospel and picked it apart — getting down to how it speaks to us personally. I feel blessed to part of such a welcoming community, and grateful that our new priest has continued the tradition that Fr. B established of welcoming everyone and encouraging openness. None of us ever have to hide within this community of faith.
They're also planning some fun social gatherings in the near future, so I'm really looking forward to building more community.