Let’s play You Should Be Grateful

When Wilde extended a hand, he made no move to take it. “Prayer is the only thing that can console you in this place, prisoner. I trust you understand that. Prayer and a true spirit of repentance.”

–Robert Reilly, The God of Mirrors (of which more later)

There’s a way of saying true things so that they become false, and a couple recent posts by Catholic women bloggers have drawn attention to one of those ways. First, here’s Calah Alexander sharpening her fangs on a self-righteous article about waiting for marriage. I know you can criticize her for being sharply judgmental about someone else’s judgmentalism–there’s always a kind of matryoshka-doll Pharisaism about these posts and articles and comments–but overall I think what she says is much, much more true than what the original article said.

Then there’s Simcha Fisher’s post on “Making Poor People Pray.” I liked that post for a lot of reasons, but it was also (as the Protestants say) convicting for me, since we are encouraged to pray with clients at the pregnancy center if they’re open to that. Of course the “if” is crucial, and we always ask first (although I realize there are ways of asking in which it would be hard to say “no,” and I try not to be pushy). I started thinking about the situations in which I do pray with clients, and I think the most common one is when I think a woman feels guilt or shame and needs to feel loved, reassured, and cradled in the wounded palm of Christ. I also pray with her when I think prayer may help her see, more vividly than just talking about stuff, Christ as child or (especially) Christ as sufferer, and thereby help her identify either her unborn child or herself with Jesus.

Overall I try to be complicit with the client and decrease the emotional distance between us. I know there’s an inherent imbalance here, in which I have various things she wants badly or needs (which depending on the client can range from approval to, you know, food), and I try not to be disingenuous and just pretend that distance doesn’t exist, while still being more like a friend or comrade to her than like a social worker. But it’s a tough balance to strike and Simcha’s post was a really good reminder that you don’t want to just turn Lady Bountiful into Sister Bountiful.

About Eve Tushnet

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