Just Go



 Lent this year has been – to put it mildly – an experience. The last two weeks have been no exception. I was quite publicly and unfairly humiliated on March 11 by supposedly good Christians. Even before I had recovered, that was followed by gathering with family from March 13-15 to celebrate my niece’s wedding in grand style. Thank God for family! Spending time surrounded by family was by far the best medicine. Yes, by Saturday night, I had bounced back and I got my Uptown Funk on out on the dance floor. There is likely video floating around somewhere.

Things haven’t slowed down any this week.

If you’ve been following along recently, you know at the end of February I got into a lengthy debate with a Catholic priest on Twitter about women’s ordination. It really got my Irish up and yet after about a week, when I had cooled off a bit, I realized that in spite of our completely opposite opinions on the topic, this debate with Fr. Paul pushed me into clarifying where I stand, not just in (or out) of the Church but also with God. I’ve written before on this blog about how much the lack of civility on social media pains me, how we cling to what’s ours to the point of injuring another. Yet in over five hours of debate, that hadn’t happened with Fr. Paul and I. After about the third hour, I probably deleted more tweets than I posted as I was determined to keep my big mouth in check. Our debate stayed civil to the end. And because of that, it was productive rather than destructive. 

Once that realization sunk in, I felt strongly that I should message Fr. Paul and thank him for making me think, which I did. We recommended a few books to each other and I told him if his mission work ever brought him to Connecticut, to let me know and we’d get together, have a non-denominational cup of coffee, and continue our discussion in person. His home parish is in Ontario and his mission work takes him all over Canada, the U.S. and beyond. Surprise! He replied that he was leading a parish mission in Rhode Island towards the end of March and perhaps that wasn’t too far. Everything in me said, Just Go!  I looked at a map and it was a little bit of a drive, but totally doable. Part of me knew this was going to look insanely flaky to those around me and yet the feeling that I needed to go was overwhelming. For whatever reason, I knew God wanted me in Rhode Island. So I signed off a day from work to drive to Pawtucket. 

To take a day off, drive a couple hours to meet up with someone I met by arguing online was crazy enough but it was made even more crazy since it was two days before my vacation started. And yet, I was supposed to do this. I felt it in my bones. I couldn’t really explain to anyone why there was such an overwhelming feeling that I must go, but I knew beyond all doubt that this face-to-face had to happen. Not going was never even on the table for me. So Wednesday morning, I dropped my boys at school and drove the two hours to Pawtucket, having no expectations whatsoever of how this day would shake out.

I am so very glad I went. A friend asked me after I got home, “Did he save you or did you save him?”. I answered, “Maybe a little bit of both.”  Most of our discussion was on life up to this point. Turns out we are both the youngest of seven. It’s always fun to meet someone who really understands that there is ‘Family Crazy’ and then there is ‘Big Family Crazy’. Those of us who live Big Family Crazy approach things differently, and being the youngest even more so. We talked about many of the topics I’ve posted passionately about on Twitter: abusive relationships, divorce, and annulment. We talked about my RA miraculously going into remission and going back to school. Finally, he asked how I ever ended up finding a home in a Lutheran congregation. He told me that some of the garbage I’ve encountered in the Church never should have happened and for that he apologized on behalf of the Church. Up to that point, I hadn’t even realized how much I needed to hear that apology. There were always bigger things to deal with and junk that I had brushed aside as it happened had hurt far more than I’d ever admitted.

My views on women’s ordination have not changed. Nor am I beating feet back into the Catholic Church. But Fr. Paul hit something on the head – I will always be Catholic. It’s who I am. And I deserve to be Catholic. I am a daughter of the Church. To be Catholic and leave for another denomination is to settle for second. Why would I ever do such a thing?

Because I know I deserve more than the Catholic Church will ever allow me. I deserve to hear a woman preach. I deserve to hear a woman pray the consecration, to echo what I hear in my own soul. I’ve known I deserve that much since I was a small child, before life played hardball. I know that everything I have been through in my life serves a greater purpose than simply my own personal journey, on that one point we were agreed. 

He asked me to remind myself every single day that I am a daughter of God Most High. I am a masterpiece and thus a piece of the Master. He then told me, “God isn’t done with you yet.” I’ve heard it said before – exactly the same way – from an ER doctor after I had cheated death by 1/8 of an inch at age 19. To hear it again was startling. Why? I don’t know yet. But I have five days alone on the Cape coming up to ask why. 

We parted company as friends. He gave me a blessing and encouraged my ongoing social media feistiness. Before I drove home, Fr. Paul graciously took the time to give me a tour of the beautiful church with its incredible frescoed ceilings and magnificent windows. It was absolutely breathtaking. Impulsive and crazy and flaky as it may have seemed to make that trip, I had spent my day precisely as I was meant to. I drove home feeling very much at peace. 

The Sheep At The Fence


I originally heard the story of the sheep at the fence from an American man who had been to Ireland on business. While he was there, Sean, one of the local men, invited the American to spend Saturday with Sean’s family and enjoy a home-cooked supper. Shortly after the American arrived, Sean’s daughter came into the room saying, “Papa, I saw a sheep with its head poking through the fence. It was looking at me very strangely.”

“Ah. He likely found some tasty grass to nibble on just this side of the fence. Don’t mind him. He’ll find his way home.” he replied and sent her off to play.

A little while later, his daughter came back into the room. Again she said to her father, “Papa, that sheep is still looking at me from the fence.”

“Not to worry. It’s just one of our neighbor’s flock and is a likely just very curious fellow.” He sent her off to help her mother in the kitchen.

They all sat down to supper and after they had finished eating, the children cleared the table and started the dishes. The daughter returned a third time, insistent that the same sheep was still looking at her through the fence. Intrigued, Sean finally decided that perhaps he needed to take a closer look at this nosy sheep. Looking out the window, he saw nothing odd about the sheep. He figured maybe he should take a walk and as he drew closer he realized something was wrong. The sheep didn’t make a sound or even try to run away. When he got right up to it, he could see what they hadn’t been able to see from afar: the sheep was stuck in the fence. Worse, the poor thing had been completely devoured where it stood and only the head and front leg remained intact.

This story came back to me as we headed into Lent. Lately, I’ve found myself speaking far more openly about women’s ordination and my inability to reconcile my experiences of God with the teaching of the Catholic Church. That struggle isn’t a new one.  It dates back to the days before my First Communion.  I can still show you the spot on which I was standing when the nuns explained to my shocked and horrified little self that girls would never be priests. But such things are not spoken of good Catholic circles. As I’ve finally given up any pretense of acceptance, I’ve heard privately from other Catholic women faced with the same struggle. I’ve heard the same thing from nearly all of them. “Have you ever been able to have an honest conversation about this with any priest in the Church? Because I tried and they shut me down immediately. I was told is these are the rules. Follow them.”


Seriously guys, can’t we do better than that?

I know these are the rules. I get it. But please realize that if the best answer the shepherds can come up with is, These are the rules. there are a lot of sheep who are going to stay stuck in the fence. They’re going to stare back at pulpit with empty eyes, looking for all the world like they’re part of the flock when in reality they’ve been eaten alive by a myriad of doubts and emotions until they end up spiritually dead. If the Catholic priests are to be the shepherds Pope Francis is asking them to be, if they are really going to smell like their sheep – all of their sheep – they need to take a little walk along the fence line and figure out how to help the ones who find themselves caught in the fence. Either find a way to guide them safely and fully into your pasture or find a way to turn them loose so they are free to find safety in another one.

Why do I keep writing about what I see in the Catholic Church? Because I hear things that some priests never will simply because I’m a woman and I’m more out than in now. That makes me a safe sounding board. I hope by bouncing back what I’m hearing, maybe, just maybe, it will open up the floor for a more honest conversation about women’s ordination. No, the rules won’t change but maybe given an honest conversation, some of those women who find themselves caught in the fence will either find their way back in or gracefully find their way out. A true shepherd would rather see his sheep safe in another pasture than dead in the fence. After all, a good shepherd can always recover a lost sheep.

In Good Hands


I’ve had years where Lent sort of builds and somewhere just before or even during Holy Week, something shifts. Some years its been quiet, like last year’s time spent in solitude on Cape Cod. Some years, it quite dramatic, like the Holy Thursday I ended up in an empty church late at night, sobbing on my knees before a statue of the condemned Christ as I realized that He had been with me through everything I had survived and He understood what no one else ever would. But this year, it seemed like Lent started a few days early. After sort feeling my way forward, I suddenly found myself faced point blank with the question: What did I really believe and how far would I go to stand by that belief? No sooner had I declared that above all I trust that nothing can take me out of God’s hands than the Gremlin tried it’s damnedest to do precisely that – in church no less – and in the one church I had always run to for safety. Because of that trust, love trumped fear. Part of me shattered that night but not in bad way. Some illusion that I’d held on to fell away. And the realization that home really wasn’t home anymore became clearer than ever.

It took a day or so to gather my wits about me and I so wanted to get to church that first Sunday of Lent but another Sunday snowstorm (a now weekly event here in New England) put the kibosh on that. An injured pastor coupled with a pipe break early in the week called yesterday’s services into question as well. Thankfully, by Sunday another pastor was able to fill in and while the hall and kitchen were a mess, the water damage had stopped at the very edge of the sanctuary. The weekly Sunday snowstorm kindly waited until mid-afternoon before dumping another six inches on us. I was so grateful to be home in this little Lutheran church, with it’s handful of what the pastor refers to as “Moonlighting Catholics”.  You can’t miss us, we have many little tells. We celebrated a baptism and thus that became the main focus of the service as we were reminded that in baptism we are claimed for Christ and nothing, absolutely nothing, can take us out of His hands. Each of us is called by name and we are His. The truth of that rang so clearly for me. Everything I had come to on my own ten days earlier echoed back to me. It’s a far cry from the days of the figuring that since I was in the world, I was somehow saved by accident or by default, by some sort of divine Salvation Cupcake rules that I wasn’t privy to understanding. That wrapped around me like a much needed hug.

Where does that leave me? I’m not quite sure. Some of the pieces of that shattered illusion have been rearranged into something else, by hands other than my own. That new image is still unclear to me. Patience – a virtue, but not one of mine – is what is being called for this time and for once, I won’t argue. The remaining pieces, I still have to pick through to understand what can stay and what must go. But despite the soul-rattling start to Lent, I am more certain than ever that I am in very good hands. I have been led to where I am right at this moment. I have finally stopped fighting the process. (Cue the collective gasp from my longtime readers – yes you actually read that right – and some of you can stop smirking right now.)