To join the discussion about Gay and Catholic, or to order a copy, go here.
I know a lot of people who are gay and Catholic, on both sides of the altar. Contrary to the media yammerings, being Gay and Catholic is something of a commonplace.
I’ve never personally known someone who was Catholic and gay who hated the Church the way that we hear they should. What I have seen is a number of people who are doing just like so many Catholics. They are obedient to the Church’s teachings to varying degrees, but they are sincere to the core in their longing for the transcendent love of God.
I know gay Catholics who are in loving sexual relationships. I know gay Catholics who have lived their lives and almost certainly will die in the closet. I know gay Catholics who have marriages, children, grandchildren and who live two lives, a secret one as gay and the one they present to the world and to their families as straight. I know gay Catholics who are single and, so far as I can tell, living celebate lives.
What I haven’t known until I came to Patheos was gay Catholics who openly discussed their sexuality in terms of their acceptance of the teachings of Catholic Church. I had not met the willingness to discuss their own gay-ness within an intellectual and lived framework of obedience to Christ in an open and honest way.
I had not, in short, met Eve Tushnet.
Eve, whether she puts it in these words or not, is striving toward the wonderful objective that Margaret Rose Realy states so beautifully, “Being pleasing to God.”
Margaret’s faith and her elucidation of that message have been a beacon to me in these days of my retreat, a light showing the way forward. When I read Eve Tushnet’s book, Gay and Catholic, I recognized that I was reading the message of a person who is also striving to “be pleasing to God” with her life.
There is no one story for how to apply the love and lordship of Christ to our lives. Each one of us has our uniqueness which we bring to that way of living. But “being pleasing to God” must — must — begin with accepting that Christ is the Lord of all life, and most particularly and most demandingly, of our own lives.
Jesus does not force us to follow HIm. He lets us choose. He lets us say no. He even, just as He did during His passion, lets us mock Him and attack Him and deny Him.
We chose to follow Christ, to make Him the Lord of our lives, each of us, of our own free will. Or we refuse.
Obfuscations and claims of following Christ without actual followership do not count in this choice. What matters is if you actually live out that choice on a daily basis. That means living lives that are profoundly counter-cultural. It does not matter what your culture is, you will not “fit” with its worldly zeitgeist if Jesus Christ is truly and absolutely the Lord of your life. It is not possible.
In that way, Eve Tushnet’s decision to accept a celebate life is no different from the many decisions that Christians all over the world must make. It certainly is not so fraught as the decisions to follow Him that Christians who are imprisoned and murdered for their faith are forced to make.
But the decision to give up her will for His will is Eve Tushnet’s gift of herself to Christ.
That, at bottom, is what accepting Jesus Christ as Lord means. It means making a free gift of yourself and your choices to Him. It is not possible to make such a radical commitment to Christ and still be comfortably aligned with the world. In this way, gay Catholics face the same choices as all other followers of Christ.
Eve Tushnet seeks to develop a paradigm of friendship as a way to live out the vocation of celebacy without inflicting the aridity of isolation and loneliness on oneself. In truth, friendships are the elixir of life, and once again, that applies to all of us. Katrina Fernandez, who struggles with the loneliness of a single mother, is just as much in need of loving friendships as the gay Catholic sitting in the pew in front of her.
Friendship, real friendship, is a lost art in our culture of immediate satisfactions and raging political divisiveness. That is a tragedy which reflects our deeper alienation from God.
I say this because the more you love God and the longer you walk with Christ, the more fully you see that we are all the same underneath our artificial differences. We are all scared and alone, pitted and stained, lost and isolated. We all crave the infinite and we all need forgiveness and love.
The rageful craziness of our society as it plunges into a steepening descent, is a manifestation of what happens when people seek these things inside themselves instead of finding them in God.
The antidote to this raw, keening alienation is the complete freedom of accepting that Jesus Christ is Lord, and by that I mean, that Jesus Christ is Lord of you.
For the gay person, no less or even no different, from the rest of us, that means laying the whole of ourselves, including our sexuality, on the altar of His love. But that does not mean that gay people should live lives of solitary confinement inside their gayness.
We were made by a triune God Who understands fellowship, Who made us for fellowship, with one another and with Him.
In Gay and Catholic, Eve Tushnet begins the discussion about how this fellowship might look for a celebate gay Catholic. I don’t think her suggestions are the final discussion about this. I think they are the beginning of a great dialogue, which, if it is to be truly meaningful, must be based on the acknowledgement that this need applies to far more people than just those with homosexual orientation. It is a human discussion, about universal human needs.
We were made for God, and for one another. Friendship is a human need that is probably stronger and certainly more persistent than our sexual longings.
I like Gay and Catholic so much that I’ve bought copies to give to gay Catholic friends of mine. I am interrupting my retreat to write this review because I think that Gay and Catholic begins a discussion that is long overdue and which we desperately need to have.
We’re getting snippets of this, and snippets of that out of the Synod on the Family.
One word that has appeared and is floating around like one of those word bubbles above characters heads in a cartoon is gradualism. Even John Allen over at Crux, has made note of the sudden uptick in gradualism talk. “Gradualism … seemed on the verge of being stricken fem the official lexicon, is back with a vengeance,” he tell us.
Unfortunately, ordinary pew-sitting Catholics like me have been pummeled and pounded with moral relativism these past few years. We’ve had the cant of what’s-happening-now talking-head theology thrown in our faces as we’ve been called everything from bigots to birdbrains for attempting to stay true to the Church’s teachings. In times like this, the sudden employment of the word “gradualism” by our bishops as they talk about those teachings fills us with anxiety.
Are our religious leaders going to pull the rug out from under us and announce that the teachings we’ve given real emotional blood to support are now as relative as the larger society has told us they are? The anxiety, which runs deep in a lot of hearts, is that our bishops are going to end up playing us for chumps for having believed them in the first place.
I’m no theologian, but I think — emphasis think — that gradualism, as it applies to Catholic teaching is that you don’t have to be all the way home to perfection or order to be on your way there. It sounds like shorthand way of saying that we are all on a journey in this life, and, in terms of our walk with Christ, we fall down a lot and have to get back up.
The easiest way I can explain what I’m trying to say is to describe my own self at the time of my conversion experience. I had committed the whole library of serious sins. I could go down the Ten Commandments and tick them off. Took the Lord’s name in vain? Check. Bore false witness? Check. Killed innocent people? Done and done.
I was rotten with sin, but the only sin I believed was a sin happened to be something that neither the press nor most of my friends know about. I confessed it to my priest and I’ve certainly taken it to God. I think I’ll let that ride and not confess it here.
Suffice it to say, that I believed I had done something cruel to another person and I was grieved to my core over it. So grieved that, after 17 years of telling God to buzz off, I reached out to Him. “Forgive me,” was all I said, but it was enough.
I experienced a homecoming that puts the welcome given the prodigal son to shame. I was, as Protestants say, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.
Buutttttt … I stil didn’t know my other sins were sins.
I know that sounds daffy.
But I had lived by my own lights, been my own little g god for so long, drunk so many gallons of my own Kool-Aid that I honestly believed that, say, abortion, was a positive good that saved women’s lives. I believed that right down to the ground. No questions. No doubts.
I could go on for a long time, cataloguing what I didn’t know about my own sinful state. But the point I’m making needs no further explication, and here it is:
God accepted me just exactly as I was.
Let me say that again: God accepted me just exactly as I was.
I didn’t have to go to the spiritual dry cleaners and get all spiffed up to be acceptable to Him and loved by Him.
I didn’t need to have my nose rubbed in my sins and be humiliated for them.
I didn’t even need to know what my sins were.
All I had to do was say “yes” and God loved me from death to life in an instant of overwhelming grace.
The interesting part is that He didn’t start educating me right away. At first, it was like a honeymoon of sorts. I fell blindly and absolutely in love with Jesus and He loved me back. I felt so free, clean and loved.
And I was.
Gradually, this Being (Who I did not understand at the time was the Holy Spirit) Who had been walking with me since I said “Forgive me,” began to show me my sins. It was gently done. He would show me something I had done, and I would realize that it was wrong.
It was — get ready for this now — almost a year and a half before He raise the question of abortion, and then it was as gently done as all the rest. Just, this is wrong.
A lot came later, but once again, this suffices for the point I’m trying to make.
Gradualism is not just a theological construct. It is a lived reality. What I experienced when the Holy Spirit began the process of re-shaping me into what He wanted me to become, what He had always intended me to be, was God’s own gradualism.
He can knock you flat just as He did me. But when He picks you up, it’s like a mother holding her own precious child. He does not expect you to “get” it all at once, even more than I expected my newborn babies to hop down off the delivery table and start tap dancing.
I knew, and God knows, that we learn slowly or not at all.
And, perhaps more to the point, we learn when the time is right for us to do it.
This gradualism I describe does not say that God’s Word, His Gospels and His Righteousness are relative. They are not. In fact, they are so absolute that none of us can live up to them. That is the reason for the Cross. It is why God had to become human and suffer what we suffer and die as we die to open a way out of our lostness for us.
We can never live up to God’s absolute righteousness. Thanks be to God, we don’t have to.
We are, all of us pilgrim people on the road through this life and into the next one.
Gradualism is simply the acknowledgement of two things:
1. None of us is righteous is His sight, and,
2. He accepts us just as we are.
What we must do — what we must do — is trust Him and give Him our lives and our wills. We must let Him shape us into what we were meant to be, one gradual step at a time. If we presume on His mercy to declare that we do not need to change, that our sins are not sins, then we refuse Him and we will die the ultimate death.
God accepted me just as I was, and then He began to slowly change what I wanted to be. He showed me my sins and I reacted by believing Him and letting Him change me, from the inside out.
That is the key to salvation.
It is also why gradualism is not relativism. Gradualism does not say that sins are not sins. It simply says that we are, all of us, at whatever stage in our Walk with Christ, in need of improvement.
Do not take the concept of gradualism and mis-use it as a get out of jail free card that allows you to willfully continue in your sins and thumb your nose at the Gospels. That is a fearful and, if it’s not given up, fatal sin. “God is not mocked,” St Paul told us, and those who claim God’s forgiveness as a fiat to sin are mocking God.
Gradualism is not relativism, although I suspect it will be bandied about as if it was. Gradualism is simply a word expressing what the old hymn, Just As I Am, expresses. It does not teach that sin is not sin. What it teaches is that the hopelessness of our sins need not be our story.
We can be washed clean of our sins by the Blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side. We can become true pilgrims who are walking faithfully with Him on the Narrow Way that will lead us to Glory.
Gradualism tells us that we don’t have to get perfect to go to God. That, no matter what we’ve done, we can change and become new creatures in Him.
Because the same Jesus Who told us He was the Way, also promised that He would make all things new.
Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith takes his own view of gradualism here
Miriam Ibrahim gave an interview to Megan Kelly. I pray that Holy Spirit will give each of us faith of this calibre.
Pope Francis seems to be talking about missionaries who cross borders to share the Gospel. I agree with what he says about that. But I’d like to add that we need courageous people who will be missionaries for Christ to our own fallen culture, here in the “Christian West.”
Do you hear the call to speak more about your faith? Is God asking you to share Jesus with those around you? That is a tough call, but we all have received it by virtue of our own salvation.
We have the way to eternal life. If we do not share it with those who are perishing, we are not being polite, we are being terribly selfish.
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Jesus Christ
We pray it every Sunday and at the beginning of each decade of the Rosary. My children and I began each homeschool day by praying it.
It is the Our Father, the prayer that Jesus gave us when the disciples asked Teach us to pray.
This prayer is the answer, given to us by God Himself in human form. It begins with a new way of looking at God.
Our Father, Jesus teaches us to address Him. Not YHWH whose name may not be said. Not I am, the unknowable infinite.
But, Our Father.
For those of us who had fathers in our lives, that is a beautiful image. It betokens a loving, protecting presence. It speaks of always-there Daddies on the beat who kept us safe and taught us love by loving us, who gave us a place in the world that was ours and was safe and was home. Our Father, for those who have fathers, is a beautiful image.
Jesus teaches us to address God as Father. He tells us that He is the Good Shepherd; the protector and defender of our souls.
Jesus begins His prayer with Our Father and then moves to an acknowledgement of Who this Father is.
Hallowed be thy name.
The name of God is like no other. It is the name of the One who created everything, everywhere, who spoke existence into existence with a single word and Who holds existence in existence with a thought. How can we address such a Being? Who are we to call Him Father?
Jesus, who is God personified, God in human form, reminds us that Our Father Who art in heaven is also God, and His name is, as the Commandments told us, not to be taken in vain. We take this commandment too lightly these days, all of us, me included.
We take it lightly because we take God lightly. We have become so inured with the God-is-one-of-us way of thinking that we’ve forgotten Who He is and what He requires of us.
Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.
Jesus follows this acknowledgement of Who God is and the respect we owe Him, by praying that God’s Kingdom will come. In other places in Scripture, Jesus describes this Kingdom coming as leaven in bread and a mustard seed that grows into a great tree. He tells His followers that the Kingdom is now, that it is active in them (and us) when we hear His word.
Thy Kingdom come He prays, knowing full well that the Kingdom is coming, that its spark exists in the heart of every true follower of the Word, and that He is Himself this Word.
Look at nature, look at the long silent passage of time from that first word that spoke existence into existence and today’s world. It is an eye blink of time in the mind of God Who foresaw it from before the beginning, but it is time beyond our reckoning to us. God plants seeds, God sets events and forces in motion. God, the Good Shepherd Who answers our prayers and longs for relationship with us, is also a good gardener Who allows things to grow and ripen in their own time.
The Kingdom is coming in each of us individually and in our corporate history. It is no accident that the ideas of universal human rights grew in the hotbed of Christian culture. That notion was simply the fruit of the tree that grew from that first mustard seed.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Kingdom is coming in every believer who will trust Him and step out in faith to follow Him. But this kingdom is buffeted and attacked in direct proportion to how fruitful it is. Christ’s followers — His Kingdom on earth — suffer attack from what St Paul termed “powers and principalities.”
The darkness hates the Light. It has from the beginning. Our job as Christians is to be the Light, shining in the darkness.
We cannot leave the world outside our safe circles of faith lost in the blackness of a night without Christ.
We can not leave whole populations to the machinations of dead philosophies that teach death. The proponents of these philosophies seek death wherever it may be found. They lift up cruelty, killing and degradation of human beings and call these things rights. They label them good and teach them as freedom. And always, without end, they war against the Light.
Choose this day whom you will serve, Joshua enjoined the Israelites. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Jesus took the command to serve the Lord our God and added another to it. Go into all nations teaching what I have taught you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We are called to do more than just save ourselves. Christianity is a lifeboat, headed for eternal life. Unlike a real lifeboat, it expands to take in everyone who wants to climb aboard. There is no qualification for entering into the Kingdom other than to accept Jesus as Lord.
Lord, how can we know the way, Thomas asked Him.
I am the Way, Jesus answered.
No one comes to the Father, except through Me.
Our job, as Christians, is to point the way to the Way. We are on a lifeboat headed for salvation, floating through waters filled with angry, lost, drowning people. We are called to shine the light on them and let them know the lifeboat is there, to help those who are willing to be saved to climb on board.
That is evangelization. We should not — must not — be the church that builds the fancy church house full of gorgeous accouterments and then sits, hands folded and utterly complacent, waiting for lost people to find their way to us.
We need to go to them. Because they are perishing. Because He told us to do it.
Our own inner cities would be wonderful places to begin. I’m not talking about ministries to clothe and feed these people, although those are certainly good things. I am talking about bringing them Christ; converting them. I am talking about evangelization.
How many churches in the inner city have closed down because they say all the people have left? That absurdity is emblematic of our failure to do what Jesus explicitly told us to do.
As the moving vans from those churches drive toward the suburbs, they go through neighborhoods that are full of people. They’re just not the people those churches want.
Oh, the churches come back to those neighborhoods. They come to do “ministry.” These “ministries” are good things. They offer help. But most of them do not stay around after dark and they do not offer Christ.
Which of you, if your child asked for a fish, would give him serpent, or if he asked for bread would give him a stone? Jesus asked.
If we give people bagels and coffee, warm winter coats and help with paying their utilities, but we don’t also offer them eternal life, what are we doing?
Do we think that eternal life is too rude to give to people? Are we afraid of being attacked for proselytizing? If that’s the problem, we need to get over it. The people who attack us for that have proven that they’ll find something else to attack us for if we stop sharing Jesus.
The existence of Christians and Christianity is what offends them. The only way we can stop them from attacking us is to follow the world instead of Him. In other words, we can stop their attacks if we stop being what they hate. If we give up our own eternal life and join them in their living death, they’ll stop harassing, hectoring, suing and hating us.
Do we fail to offer Christ along with the canned goods and clothing because it embarrasses us? Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we afraid that Christian bashers will accuse us of making conversion a condition for our aid?
That would be a devilish thing, if it were true. We need to help people, whether they accept Christ or not. But we also need to offer them Christ as part of our help.
What they do with the offer is their decision. Nobody has to follow Jesus to get a can of beans or a pair of socks. But they have a right as human beings to know that eternal life can be theirs. They accept or don’t. Our only responsibility is to offer Him to those who are dying.
All we need to do is make sure that we are walking in His way. If people want to accuse us falsely, that’s on them.
Who determines your behavior: Jesus Christ, or His critics?
Evangelization is not some new-fangled marketing ploy. It is a Commandment from Jesus Christ. Protestants call it a Commission: The Great Commission. And so it is. Our Lord explicitly directed us to evangelize the world. He didn’t make exceptions, and He didn’t put caveats on it.
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and I will be with you always, to the end of the world.
Seems pretty clear to me.
Family Missions Company has put out a beautiful new video about evangelization. I think it’s worth watching.
Dr Greg Popcak wrote an interesting post today on the subject of job burnout vs job satisfaction in the helping professions.
He cites a study that indicates that people who are motivated by giving of themselves (internally motivated) last in helping professions such as nursing, while those who are motivated by how people respond to their work (externally motived) burn out.
I would like to add a single, thoughtful wordish little word to the conclusions of that study: Duh.
If you go around, spending your life trying to get other people to feed your needs by earning their approval, you are going to have one miserable life. People pleasing is a one-way ticket to dependence and emotional hell.
I say that as someone who has spent 18 years in public office where it is flat-out impossible to please everybody. Making somebody mad at you every day is built into the business of setting policy for millions of people. You can’t get around it. Every single vote you cast is a decision of whom to hurt. Every time you make one person happy, you make somebody else mad.
The same vote will get you lionized and called a hero by one group and slandered and called everything but a nice person by another group.
This happens every single day. In fact, it happens dozens of times in a single day.
Most politicians try to balance these things out so that they can walk between the raindrops. They try to balance issues and interest groups so that almost all of them, and certainly the most powerful of them, are never completely alienated. The trick in politics is to keep them coming back, which means to keep them hopeful that they’ll get what they want the next time.
Another political way of doing things is what both Presidents George W Bush and Obama practice. That method, basically, is to stick like super glue to one side of the political spectrum and flat-out ignore the other side. When presidents do this, it leads to a divided country and a dangerous inability to lead the people forward.
But enough of politics. Let’s talk about you.
Dr Popcak based his post on a study of nurses. It seems that nurses who approach their careers from the locus of doing their jobs to earn approval and affirmation from other people end up burned out. Nurses who do their jobs for their personal or internal reasons stay the course.
Again I say duh.
People pleasing will only make you miserable. It will also make you weak and variable. If your north star is how other people react to what you do, then you’re going to have to adjust your actions in little ways almost minute by minute. Other people change that fast. A lot of times, the reason they change so fast is because they’re focused on people pleasing, too.
Perhaps the worst part of people pleasing is that you can’t do it. You can not please other people all the time, no matter how hard you try. The reason for this is partly that they think about and react to other things besides you. It is also because they change, minute by minute, day by day, all the time.
The ironic thing is that people who have the courage to be their own uniqueness are often the ones we find most attractive. Nobody really likes mealy-mouthed, people pleasers, not over the long haul. They’re boring. And they tend to be miserable, which leads to whininess.
People are attracted to people who have that shine about them that true authenticity and the self confidence it brings gives to them. That is the essence of charisma.
Dr Popcak tells us that nurses who are internally motivated experience greater job satisfaction than people pleasers. I would imagine that this overall attitude runs through the lives of both groups. The people-pleasing nurse is also the people-pleasing husband or wife who gets wounded and pouts when their spouse forgets an anniversary or doesn’t praise them enough. They are the father or mother who constantly demands their kids’ attention and time and who even gets jealous of their children’s friends and, when they grow up, their sons or daughters-in-law.
People who feed at the trough of other people’s approval can never get enough. Nothing anyone does can fill the holes inside them.
There is an antidote to this, a way out of people pleasing for the hungry souls who live by it.
That way is the Way. No matter if you are buck-toothed and ungainly. No matter if you’re not the sharpest knife in the intellectual drawer. No matter, even, if you are tall, straight and lovely with an IQ that busts through the top of the charts. Whatever attributes you think you are, don’t matter. Not really.
You are loved and accepted and forgiven for all your faults. You are also important, but not because of your looks, intelligence or great singing voice. You are important in an intrinsic and essential way that is based on the deeper you-ness that does not need talent, looks, power or success to justify itself. You are alive in this time to do something that matters in the eternal scope of reality. Everything you do — everything you do — matters.
Instead of trying to please people, which is the equivalent of, as Jesus said, building your house of sand, realize that you do not have to earn the right to exist. You have a right to be here because you were put here by the same God Who made everything, everywhere.
More than that, He loves you on a direct and personal level. I have personally experienced this love, this guidance and contact with the Divine. I know that it is real.
My beautiful friend Margaret Rose Realy says that our one goal should be to be pleasing to God. The wonder of that is that pleasing God is actually quite easy. All we have to do is let Him love us and love Him back.
Give up people pleasing and lose the unending failure that goes along with it. You can not please people. It can’t be done. But simply by being your authentic self and truly giving your love and trust to the God Who loved you first and always, you can find the peace and strength of being whole.
You don’t have to change yourself and get sinless to go to Jesus. You don’t have to shine your soul like shining your shoes before a job interview to come to Christ. You can go to Him just exactly the way you are; stained, scarred, scared and weak. You can throw yourself at Him like a crying child running to its mama. I know because that is exactly how I came to Him.
Jesus never asks you to change to come to Him. He takes you as you are, then, over time, He changes what you want to do. It’s that simple. Loving God, being loved by God, doesn’t change what you do. It changes what you want to do.
People pleasing will not only make you miserable: You can’t do it.
God pleasing, on the other hand, is as simple as putting your hand in the nail-scared hand and letting Him lead you home.
Where do I start?
Last week was the best. I’m still a wee bit tired from it, still absorbing and processing it. Where do I begin to tell you about it? I guess I’ll begin with the high point.
The high point wasn’t spending time with my Catholic Patheosi sisters in Christ, although I can tell you that was a blessing all in itself. The high point wasn’t meeting other Catholic writer/publishers/artists from all over the country, although again, that was an immersion in generous and loving like-mindedness that this outlier in the Oklahoma wilderness has never experienced before.
Margaret Rose Realy, being interviewed by EWTN.
The high point, the Everest, of this entire week was the Thursday mass.
I almost didn’t go.
It had been such a full day. I “pitched” a book to an editor, presented an hour-long presentation and participated in a panel discussion. Between lunch and the panel discussion, I went to my room to take off my blazer and sat down in a chair.
Just for a moment.
I woke up an hour and half later. I had to scoot to get to the panel discussion in time and my neck was in permanent crick from sleeping pretzel-sytle in that chair.
Soooo, after the panel, I thought I’d just go up to my room, put on something comfy, order up room service and relax. No reason, I decided, to go to mass.
I got as far as the elevators, and in that hotel, the distance between our conference rooms and the elevators is a good hoof. I punched the up button. Then, while I was waiting for the door to open, I turned around and hoofed it back to the conference rooms.
I didn’t make a decision to go to mass. I just automatic-piloted my way down the hall, over the connector tunnel and then clomped down the stairs.
Father Frank Pavone, who was the celebrant, was already processing in when I slid into the last vacant seat on the back row between a couple of nuns and an elderly gentleman. I sometimes have mass troubles, and I braced myself, as tired as I was, for major mass troubles that day.
My mass troubles have been hitting me hard the past few months. What happens is that I sit in mass and am overwhelmed by a pounding sense that I am too unworthy to be in that room. It can, and sometimes does, reduce me to tears. It can and sometimes does, drive me away from mass. There are days when I get up and leave, mid-mass.
I’ve learned that if I can hang on and force myself to go forward and accept the Host, Jesus will heal me. When my mass trouble comes on me hard, I am like the woman with the hemorrhage who touched the hem of His garment and was healed, over and over, mass after mass, week after week.
But getting there, making it through mass without running away and then progressing up to the front of that line, many times making a humiliating spectacle of myself because tears keep leaking out of my eyes and dripping down my cheeks, can be an act of endurance, and, since I’ve learned that the Host heals, trust.
I’m like that woman from long ago, thinking If I can just touch the hem of His garment; if I can only touch Him; I will be healed.
I slipped into that room, sat on that chair at the very back, and, while I didn’t think it in words, the thought was there: I hope I can get through this. There was safety in that door, a few steps away. I could leave if I had to, before anyone was the wiser.
But, after months of this on-going battle with the devil every time I go to mass, this time was different. There were no hants rising from the swamps of memory, no feeling of unworthiness. It was just me; solid and whole, standing in a roomful of other Jesus lovers, participating in the sweet miracle of heaven touching earth in bread and wine.
I have memories of such a solid sense of self as I felt then, but I have to go far back to find them.
Father Pavone brought a gift to us at that mass. He had what I think he called a “First class relic” of St John Paul II. I’m not up on my relic rules, but I think that’s what he said. It was a small spot of blood on a postage-stamp sized bit of cloth. The blood came from St John Paul’s body the day he died.
Kathy Schiffer and Gary Zimak.
Father Pavone took the time — and it was quite a bit of time — to stand at the front of the room and give each of us an opportunity to venerate this relic. It worked out that I was the last person in the last line, the last one to do so.
I brought home a lot of work to do. I now have two books to write instead of just one, and I have a real hope that they both will be published. I’m not excited. I am … sure.
I am sure that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and that Our Lord has both me and this work in the palm of His hand. This morning, while I was praying my Rosary, I felt St John Paul, sort of coaching me about what I should do. It neither surprises nor awes me that he came home with me from that mass.
That is the order of things. The spiritual world is as real and reliable as our physical world we inhabit in this life. An ice cube will melt in a glass of warm water. Always. And God comes to those who love Him. Always.
I’m telling you this intensely personal story for one reason. I want the people who are reading this post — and I trust that the Lord will send the right ones by — to know that, to paraphrase St Paul, nothing, not the things we do, not the things done to us, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
God uses us in the broken places. All we have to do is let Him.