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. 

Who Cares?

Who cares…

I wonder that some days. Actually, I wonder that a lot of days. I scroll through Twitter and Facebook. I interact with people I know very well and many I don’t know at all. For almost seven years now, I have kept this blog, not always as faithfully as I would have liked but I’m human and I do the best I can. I’ve shared my ups, my downs, my doubts, my fears, my hopes, my mountaintops, my valleys and my deserts. So what?  Who cares? I’m one woman. I’m no saint. I have no answers to life’s great questions.

And yet, I continue to write. I continue to share my life with not only with those I know well but with those I know not at all.  Why? Because to quote the poet Sylvia Path, “I write only because there is a voice inside me that will not be still.”  I continue to write and to share even when I come under attack.  Why? In the words of comedian Ron White, “I had the right to remain silent. I did not have the ability.”

No really, I don’t. I’m still sifting through my long Twitter exchange with Fr Paul last weekend.  Why not just shut the laptop and walk away?  Why get sucked into a debate with someone with far better credentials than my own?  Why continue to publicly argue about my personal life?  With someone who has no bearing on my life whatsoever?

Because it’s not just me.

I am not the only one.

And somebody needs to speak up.

The funny thing is I had spent last Friday and part of Saturday morning rereading my writings, both public and private, about my struggles over the past year or so. I was preparing to meet with my spiritual director that coming Monday and it has long been my habit to review where I am spiritually and emotionally before those sessions. So when the debate started, I already knew precisely where I stood. I know. I know. Fr Paul will be howling heresy and pride and God only knows what else.

But here’s the rub. I have heard privately from many other women over the past year or so. Some wholeheartedly disagree with me. Some have found peace and wish that I could as well. Some are deeply distressed over the Catholic Church’s teachings. Some consider leaving or already have left. Some stay and continue to struggle, feeling dishonest and disconnected. I don’t try to sway anyone to one way of thinking or another. That is not my place. We all have to wrestle with God in our own way. And let’s face it, He always wins in the end. But the thing that bothers me so deeply is when I hear women say they have no one to turn to, no one to have an honest, open, heartfelt, non-judgmental conversation with about this subject. That is because the attitude expressed by Fr Paul above is the attitude of many in the Catholic Church, ordained and laity.  Who cares? Church teaching is church teaching is church teaching is church teaching. So suck it up Buttercup. Tow the line and shut your yap. Or else…

It seems like someone should care. So I ask, and not for the first time, How do you shepherd women if you won’t hear them?  How do help them find healing when you won’t see the wounds? How do you know what their experiences are if you don’t listen, really, truly listen with a deep and honest empathy? How do you guide women who are too afraid to really say what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing in their relationship with their God?

In many ways, the relationship between individuals and their church is like a marriage. Any marriage has many moving parts, but any good marriage has a solid foundation of trust and love. If one partner cannot speak honestly out of fear of repercussions, trust fades rapidly. As trust fades, the relationship begins to falter.

One cannot truly love without trust. Without trust and without love, the relationship will fail.

So who cares what one individual says?

Who cares if one woman leaves the Catholic Church?

Will you care when two women leave?

Will you care when five women leave?

Will you care when twenty women leave?

When will you care?

Because if there is going to be a real, loving relationship between the Catholic Church and her people, somebody has to care enough to have the conversation.