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.