Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.
Where charity and love are, God is.
When I taught in a Catholic enriched daycare for a short stint, I made the second and third graders learn that Gregorian chant response and sing it daily. They would get rowdy, I would shut off the light and intone the verse, they would repeat as reverently as they could. I had them learn the first verse, and we sang it as if we were in a monastery. Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. Exultemus et in ipso jucundemor. Timeamus et amemus deum vivum. Et ex corde dilegamus nos sincero. Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est. Where charity and love are, God is. The love of Christ has gathered us as one. Let us exalt and find Him in our joy. May we love and revere the Living God, and love one another with a sincere heart. Where charity and love are, God is.
I wanted the children to learn that chant by heart, because to me it’s the backbone of all Christian theology.
Where charity and love are, God is. If you are loving people, helping people, rescuing people, speaking up for people, taking joy in people, bearing persecution because of your love for people, then you are truly gathered in the name of God, and there is God in your midst. And where charity and love are not, where you exclude people, where you harm people, where you abuse people, where you push others out and call it zeal for God’s house, there goes God out the door along with the people you are persecuting.
I think of a person I knew many years ago now, a transgender person who went by J. I had never met a trans person before. I didn’t exactly “meet” J, but I knew them in an internet forum where we were talking about trauma. I was shy to talk to J. at first because I had so many notions about how terrible trans people were, from my childhood in the Charismatic Renewal. But when I had a flashback and had no one to talk to in person, I posted in the internet forum that I felt I was in danger of hurting myself from the horrible pain. J was one of the first people to talk to me. They had all kinds of gentle things to say until I felt better. I made it through the rest of the day.
God was there, in J’s gentleness and concern.
I think of another trans person I knew, who used to live around here. Michael and I didn’t have a car and they did. The church we were trying to belong to was across the Ohio where there isn’t a walking bridge. My friend who is trans drove us to church. They themself didn’t go to church. They were raised in a very abusive Catholic home where they were traumatized. They couldn’t see anything good in the Catholic faith. But it was important to us, and we were important to them, so they drove us to liturgy every weekend and picked us up when it was over.
I desperately wanted to fit in at that church so that the pastor would Chrismate my daughter and let her receive Communion. But there were some bullies in the congregation, Trump voters who despised my politics and that I spoke about abuse at the University, and they gossiped about me to the priest who decided that we were troublemakers. He proceeded to treat us like troublemakers. I had panic attacks on Sunday mornings before going to liturgy. Sometimes I had panic attacks at church, which the priest accused me of feigning for attention. But I kept forcing myself to go to liturgy, so that Rosie could get Chrismated and receive Holy Communion.
Sometimes I saw the concerned look on my friend’s face, as they dropped us off at church and when they picked us up. They knew I was having terrible anxiety, but they respected me enough to let me decide how much anxiety was too much.
God was there, in their helpfulness and respect.
I have another trans friend who lives in a different part of Appalachia. They have two children and I can’t even remember how many pets. They love everything that’s alive. Their living room is a sea of aquariums with turtles and beautiful fish. They take in stray cats even though they’re allergic, because they can’t stand the thought of the cat suffering. They have a dog so well trained and absolutely gentle that their children were used to using it as a pillow. And the children were gentle and compassionate as well. The house was like an Eden. One day a neighbor’s dog wandered into the yard. One of the children tried to pet it and it bit her in the face. The child ended up in the hospital for days. My friend was the perfect parent, sitting up with her and caring for her the whole time. But they were also compassionate enough to spare a thought for the dog, and to ask that it not be euthanized.
God was there, in my friend’s compassion and nurturing.
I do not see the presence of God in the Diocese of Marquette’s instruction on “Pastoral Care” of trans people. The diocese has declared that trans people may not be baptized, therefore declaring them to be less than human, since all humans ought to be baptized. I see the absence of God in that cruel declaration. I see turning God away. I see something that is downright Satanic.
As a Christian, that’s not something I can condone. They are wrong.
I will continue to try to go where love is, and I ask my readers to do the same.
I am very grateful for friends who have shown me such beautiful examples.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.