February 28, 2008


This past Sunday, I decided to live the example of the Samaratin "woman at the well," and encounter faith in unexpected places. Of course, I've got several reasons that this seemed like the right time to do some exploring — wondering if it was possible for T and I to share church together, wondering if I'd be happier doing less patriarchial battle. So in my tentative effort to do some church-shopping, I came up with a short criteria:
• they had to have a female priest, and
• they had to be gay-friendly.
I headed first to a suburban Episcopal Church. After nearly killing myself on the ice, I wondered if I should have included "must have a parking lot" in my criteria. I was first attracted to this church because of all of it's theological and liturgical similarities with Catholicism, particularly the emphasis on ritual and sacramentality. I was greeted warmly at the door, given the order of service and asked to stay for coffee at the end. The service was amazing — very formal, with several acolytes attending the female priest, a plethora of insence, and a full robed choir singing Gregorian chant. This was high mass. I stayed through the priest's wonderful homily but then snuck out before communion so that I could join T at the church she's been attending.

I raced over to the UMC church very close to my house, again cursing the ice and the three-block walk to the church. Again, I was greeted warmly at the door and spotted T in her pew and joined her. This service was pretty much the polar opposite of what was going on at the Episcopal church, a "low" mass, in the sense that it was very informal and of the people. The bare-bones look and feel of the place along the relatively small congregation were unusual for me — but it became clear pretty quickly that the Spirit was shinning through in this place. The female priest shined with it, as did the enthusiastic worship leader and music director. Midway through the service, I was welcomed by name, and afterward, I was personally greeted by half the congregation! They were a warm bunch, for sure, but the lack of sacrament and ritual left me yearning for more. It was a blessing to share the service with T, who is just exploring faith for the first time in many years. I left feeling grateful that she had found a place that left her uplifted and a community of faith that fed her spirit.

So far, my overall observation is: I'm Catholic, I just am. For me it's the perfect blend of sacramentality with community. Not too formal, not to informal. Not pushily evangelical, but not too impersonal either. My other observation was this: we are nowhere near as welcoming at my parish as we like to believe. Our greeters tentatively mouth "hellos" toward newcomers, but where is the after-church coffee, the aggressive welcome and conversation that I was greeted with at BOTH of the other churches? We need some work here, for sure. Sadly, as much as I loved both female priest and their uniquely qualified observations about this particular homily which is dear to my heart, it was not enough to cause me to move on. Finding the right fit in a church requires some mysterious blend of personal comfort and magical awakening — and though the institutional church continues to challenge my reliance on my current parish, I have yet to feel that spark or strike that balance anywhere else, or really even come close to it.

February 25, 2008

A dream analysis a day too late

Two nights ago I had a dream:
I was in church, alone in my pew. When I look down to the far other end of it, my ex-husband is sitting there. He blows a kiss. I look forward again and wrap my arms around T sitting in the pew directly in front of me, and I kiss her neck. She is faceless and does not respond. My ex says something nasty to her and I. Suddenly I am called to the altar where I find myself announcing to the congregation that I only have one day to live. I look up and a few women are weaving down the aisle with lit candles. Everyone else is heading to the back doors of the church. As T and I head to the back of the church, I see people i know doing uncharacteristic things. The Liturgical Director is swigging vodka from a juice bottle. I meet the Associate Pastor, also headed to the door, and as they swing open, we both look at the sky and he remarks at the impending storm. The sky is in turmoil and as the black clouds roll in, they swirl angrily. T and I are walking but now she is way ahead of me, and I encounter one of the school children who tells me that she too is dying. I noticed an elaborate altar (like an Ofrenda) in the church dedicated to her — as if she had already died. She tells me that I am going to be ok, but I say, "no, I am going to be dead by tomorrow."

From the dream dictionary:
To dream that you are in a church, suggests that you are seeking for some spiritual enlightenment and guidance. You are looking to be uplifted in some way. Perhaps you have made some mistakes in the past which have set you back on your path toward your goals. With proper support, you will get on the right track again. Alternatively, it may also mean that you are questioning and debating your life path and where it is leading. You are reevaluating what you want to do.

Ex Husband
To see your ex-husband in your dream, indicates that you are finding yourself in a situation that you do not want to be in. It suggests that you are experiencing a similar relationship or situation which makes you feel unhappy and uncomfortable.

To dream of a kiss, denotes love, affection, tranquility, harmony, and contentment.

To see a faceless figure or person in your dream, indicates that you are still searching for your own identity and finding out who you are. Perhaps you are unsure of how to read people and their emotions, and therefore are expressing a desire to know and understand these people in a deeper level.

To give a speech in your dream, indicates that you need to vocalize your feelings and thoughts. You need to communicate something important and/or urgent.

To see the altar in your dream, symbolizes that you are making a great personal sacrifice. You may also be expressing concerns about your spirituality.

To see a burning candle in your dream, signifies that good luck and hope will be coming your way in small and steady amounts. You are in a comfortable stage in your life and may be seeking spiritual enlightenment. Lit candles are also symbolic of intellect, enlightenment, awareness or the search for truth.

To dream that darkness comes upon you, signifies failure in work you may attempt. Darkness is synonymous with ignorance, the unconscious, evil, death, and fear of the unknown. To dream that you cannot find someone in the darkness, signifies that you need to keep your temper in check. You have the tendency to let your emotions get out of control and lose your temper.

To see a storm in your dream, signifies overwhelming struggle, shock, devastating loss and catastrophe in your personal affairs. The storm also represents unexpressed fears or emotions, such as anger, rage, turmoil, etc. On a more positive note, the storm signifies the rising of spirit within.

To dream that you die in your dream, symbolizes inner changes, transformation, self-discovery and positive development that is happening within you or in your life. Although such a dreams may bring about feelings of fear and anxiety, it is no cause for alarm and is often considered a positive symbol. Dreams of experiencing your own death usually means that big changes are ahead for you. You are moving on to new beginnings and leaving the past behind. These changes does not necessarily imply a negative turn of events. Metaphorically, dying can be seen as an end or a termination to your old ways and habits. So, dying does not always mean a physical death, but an ending of something.


To the person that I love, but continue to hurt — I know that a thousand "I'm sorrys" can never change or take away the pain I've caused you. Apologies are always after the fact: too late. I have to live with the pain I've caused you. Please know that no matter how hard I push, it is out of my own fear and self-loathing and is no reflection on the depth of my love for you. Without you, I would perish. The girl in my dream, the one who I witnessed dissolve into a tearful rage at a b-ball game two weeks ago -- I know why she walks with me. Neither of us can control our overwhelming emotions. I can only pray that her promise that I'd be "ok" will come to pass, and that the "death" I am experiencing will only bring new healing. Don't lose faith that our love can heal anything that comes along.

February 21, 2008


I threw up a little in my mouth this morning when I read Lori Gotleib's Marry Him! The Case for settling for Mr. Good Enough after a hipmama friend posted a link to it on our discussion group. It had been forwarded to her by a friend wondering if she should settle for "Mr. Good Enough," though she was decidedly not in love with him. While Gotleib does make one good point — that many never-been-married hetero women of a certain age have very unrealistic ideas about "the one" and what a "perfect" marriage should look like -- the author swings to the opposite and cynical extreme, advocating settling for the "infrastructure" of a "traditional family" in lieu of "passion and deep connectedness."

Didn't Gotleib realize that without that connectedness -- everything else would fall apart anyway? That it was that passion and connectedness that allowed us to navigate through all the tough parts of marriage -- and that foregoing that connection for a "household management" approach was fatalistic and self-defeating?
As I argued this point with my girlfriends, it hit me. This dynamic translates perfectly to my spiritual life.

Yesterday I learned that the local bishop came calling and "cracked down" on my church's rather subversive tradition of lay preaching (most notably by women, gasp!). I tried to get a discussion going on my parish listserve and got a response from our Pastoral Associate, basically saying that yes, there was a crackdown, and that the proscriptions for the allowance of lay preaching are very narrow (ie, asking for money, duh!) and that "for now" we'd be complying with their wishes.

Lay preaching was what brought me to this parish. It was the most significant connection I found to the Divine Feminine -- and gave me hope that challenging the patriarchy was not only possible, but that I wasn't alone in wanting to challenge it. It allowed me to have the community I longed for and could never manifest as a practicing pagan. The richness of scripture as expressed by the wise-women of our parish truly fed me.

After dining on that sumptuous feast, can I go back to dry crackers? Or, as a friend put it, can I settle for the glow of a 60 watt bulb over a walk in the sun?


In my past relationships, I've settled, only to learn that the inviting warmth of the sun cannot be sustainably ignored. It is life itself, and without it, one withers and dies. Eventually I chose freedom over passionless companionship, I chose hope and love and all possibility over security and mediocrity. And I've never regretted it.

Can I look forward in my spiritual journey with the same gusto? If I listen, will She speak to my heart and soul? Something tells me to get my traveling shoes on....

February 20, 2008

Drawing Her down

Today as I found myself at the bookstore killing time while waiting for a tire to repaired at the shop down the block, I found just what I needed and purchased Sue Monk Kidd's The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, arguably the most influential book I've ever read. It still surprises me that until today, I've never owned a copy. I first read it years ago -- and it led me back to the Catholic Church in search of the Divine feminine.
I found Her there — in the mother-goddess presence of Delle, in the celebration of Mary Magdalene, in the traditions of the saints like Joan of Arc and St. Therese, in the stories of the many women lay preachers who came to the Sunday pulpit, and in myself.
Tonight the moon is full, and a total eclipse is scheduled in about an hour. It's freezing outside, but I find myself standing on the balcony, soaking Her in, drawing Her down and into myself once again.
Delle is gone, the Mary Magdelene celebration has lost it's subversiveness, I just learned that the archdiocese has cracked down on our parish's laywomen preachers, and I find myself searching once again for Her. I continue to struggle to image Her during the Sunday mass of "His" and "He" and "Father" and "Lord." And now that I can't even look forward to hearing Her through the voices of women at the pulpit, I wonder if She is leading me onward.
Tonight I am drawing Her down, searching once again, wondering where She will lead me now....

Transfiguration II

This time last year, I was gushing about a girl that I was (sorta) dating and trying (unsuccessfully) to impress upon her how deeply she affected me on a spiritual level. I claimed that I was transfigured by her mere presence.
This year, the transfiguration reading is cropping up for me again (and not just because I think it's an impressive word to throw around), and while my key relationship is still center-stage when I reflect on it's meaning in my life, (though this time around, with a much more significant other) the message this year is entirely different.
The message this year is to shut up. Anima Sola needs to listen. Really listen. Understand. Take a giant step back. Stop trying to fix things. Stop presuming you even know what needs fixing and that you're the person for the job. You're not. And that's ok.
It's not all about me. It's not all about me. It's not all about me.
Maybe it's not too late to be transfigured this year too.

February 13, 2008

How do you perceive me?

See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
(Isaiah 43:29)

I began Lent off with a bang this year — trudging out early on Ash Wednesday for 9am mass with the school children, abstaining from meat on Friday, then spending most of the day Saturday at a parish retreat where I was treated to the best my community has to offer — amazing insights and heartfelt support for each other as we each took the time to look around and take stock of exactly where we are in our Lenten journey. I'm still reflecting on the whole experience.

Sunday was a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride and Mass left me spiritually drained and depressed. By Monday, I was starting to see things in a new light, thanks to T. Just because the journey I take with my spiritual companions (and that one special one) doesn't always look the way I want it to and instantly fulfill all of my needs — does not by any stretch mean that I am alone. Anima Sola has a selfish streak, and a control streak. God reminds me, in sometimes not-so-gentle ways, that I'm not the one steering this ship. Control is but an illusion. And love is right at my fingertips.

And beneath all of that selfishness on the surface is the truth of the matter — I am ecstatic that I really do have someone special on the journey with me, and even when our ways part, we are never truly far from each other's hearts. We all have to walk our own paths, after all. And I am certain that as we discover seeds of truth and create community for ourselves, we will will always come back to each other, at the end of the day, and share it all on that special soul-level.

On Tuesday, I went to my church's Gay and Lesbian Faith-Sharing Group — which isn't at all as dull as it might sound. Sure there's bible reading and discussion, and while it's all very thoughtful and insightful, it's also totally non-pretentious and actually interesting. After all, we Catholics didn't exactly grow up steeped in bible study. I haven't spent much time with the book since my adolescence (when I discarded it for more interesting things, like the Dianic Book of Shadows) and it's edifying to reexamine it as an adult with a little more life experience.

I'm certain that I will grow very close to the members of this group, who more than any other in my community, deeply understand and perceive the changes that have happened in my life in the past few years. Family, indeed.

And I'm hopeful that the rest of the parish (and particularly those darned school parents!) will catch up and really see me, perceive me — because I'm truly doing something new.

February 11, 2008

The lonely soul

It seems that I can't escape the frequent reminders of just why I named this blog Anima Sola, the lonely soul. While I am part of a faith community, and am otherwise surrounded by people that love me — my spiritual journey still leaves me longing for a partner to share it all with. But it seems that is not my destiny.
At the spiritual fork in the road, I've taken the road less traveled, and though there are others on the path, we are soul-strangers. Perhaps it is only God that can ever know me in the fullest sense, and I must learn to be content with that. Or maybe it's time to lay off the Thomas Merton.
And if you're suddenly thinking "But she's Catholic. How is that the road less traveled?" then you certainly know little of what has brought me to that path. There are plenty around me, always, who find fault. And there is one who wishes desperately that she could be that one person on the journey with me, and we have shed many tears at the realization that it is not meant to be.
I'm heartsick for connection, for unity, for communion. But I remain, the lonely soul.

February 02, 2008

Light the fires

Today is one of my favorite days. It's just one of those perfect examples of a postmodern melding of holidays — all meant to mark this time of year as when the first stirrings of Spring might be witnessed (although not so much here in Chicago, where we just got hit with a foot of snow).
Today is:
Groundhog's Day
• The feast of St. Brigid, patroness of Ireland, aka the Celtic triple-goddess, Brighid (Bride)

On this day, and for all of the above named holidays, fire (or light) is symbolic of purification. The groundhog looks for his shadow. Imbolc marks the midway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Brighid was chosen by God when a tower of flame shot out of her head in front of the bishop who would deny her. And Candlemas marks the 40th day after Christmas when Mary, the mother of Christ, would be ritually purified (according to Jewish custom) and Jesus was presented in the Temple.

Of course, as the image of Anima Sola suggests, I am very drawn to the image of fire as a force of purification rather than one of destruction or punishment. Fill your house today with lit candles to tap into this renewing energy.

And if you're at all interested in Celtic myth or feminist theology, spend a few minutes reading about Brighid — as both goddess and Catholic saint — and you'll learn that according to her story, she was the first female bishop! And there are women today who still tend her ever-burning sacred flame in Kildare. You also might attempt a St. Brighid's Cross, which I try to make every year out of my Palm Sunday palms, but if you can find some genuine rushes, it'd probably turn out better. Maybe I'll forge for some willow branches today and have a go.

And of course, next week we have Ash Wednesday — which again points to purification and palms and looking toward Easter and Spring. And so the wheel of the year continues to turn, and we look for sacred meaning in it's seasons.