Blessed are the Cycle-Breakers

Blessed are the Cycle-Breakers August 1, 2022


Yesterday we got up early and went to Mass, at a church where nobody knows us. I didn’t go to the welcoming place I’d found in June because the bishop got a bee in his bonnet and sent the Paulist Fathers away, which made me cry when I heard. We went to a different parish. It, too, felt good. The greeter asked if we’d be back and I said we will the next time we come to town.

On the way back to Holly the Witch’s house, Adrienne and I talked about the Gospel for today, which was the parable of the man who built a granary the day before his death. We talked about the importance of always remembering people who have less than you do, because earthly wealth won’t last.

Over lunch, Holly and Adrienne and I chatted about everything: her backyard hens and the noises they made, the best way to get the car fixed, the neighborhood blessing box we’d like to make. We talked about the mural I’d painted, and how everyone who came to her house loved it. Her son said it was a beautiful mural. Her Muslim neighbor who came by to pick up a box of supplies Holly had gathered to help refugees had said “I love your Sacred Mother!”

Holly told Adrienne about her grandfather, an immigrant who spoke little English and was put in the third grade at a Catholic school even though he was twelve years old. The friar who taught third grade beat her grandfather with the blackboard pointer until he has permanent scars crisscrossing his back, scars she’d seen herself when he was an old man. So her great grandfather had gone to the school with a stick of his own and beaten the friar and the parish priest within an inch of their lives. Great-grandfather was excommunicated for that, which is why Holly wasn’t raised Catholic.

Of all the reasons to not raise a child Catholic, that’s the best one I’ve ever heard. And if God is really Justice, I think He thinks so as well.

I have always wanted to write a litany called “Blessed are the cycle-breakers,” in honor of everyone who stands up to abuse. But I never had any other lines to add to the prayer, only that one fragment. Blessed are the cycle-breakers. Blessed are the cycle-breakers. 

I invited Holly to Adrienne’s First Holy Communion, whenever we manage to arrange it. She said she’d be glad to come, “if the church doesn’t catch fire when I walk in.”  And then we laughed again at the good Catholic people who had told her she ought to be burned at the stake last week.

That night, we celebrated Lammas. Lammas is the day when some European Christians celebrate the harvest by blessing a loaf. It’s also a pagan feast, as I found out: the day of giving thanks for the harvest and praying that the rest will go well.

Holly tidied up the yard and set some ears of sweet corn and a paperback New Testament on her backyard altar; at dusk, she lit a fire. Neighbors came over to celebrate with her, and she poured wine and ginger ale for everyone.

“Want to say grace?” she asked.

I sang a stanza of the Lorica of Saint Patrick.

“Blessed be,” said Holly, and we all poured a drop of our drinks on the ground.

I told them how in the Catholic Church, the sink in the sacristy actually drains to the ground instead of the sewer. I told them about the time my brother, an altar server, had found a Host on the floor of the church and didn’t know whether it was consecrated or not. The priest told him that if you ever find a dropped Host you should consume it yourself or, if you somehow couldn’t, you should dissolve the Host in water until it completely disappears and then pour the water out on the ground. Every culture I can think of pours sacred things on the ground, in one way or another.

Then Holly brought out hot dogs, marshmallows and cookies. She threw a cookie in the fire and then we roasted our late dinner on forks.

“Giving the witch first crack at the cookies is a sacred tradition,” joked Holly.

I talked about trying to find a home in the Byzantine Catholic Church, and the way Eastern Christians bring their first fruits to the altar for blessing on the Feast of the Transfiguration. I told her that the priest also blesses Easter baskets, but the pastor was from Ukraine where Easter baskets are stuffed with cheese and butter and sausage. He was surprised when the American children brought in baskets of candy with plastic squirt guns, but he blessed the squirt guns as well.

Adrienne and her new friend ran back and forth with sparklers in the dark.

Adrienne was not raised Charismatic. She does not share my religious OCD. She thinks that God is Love, because that’s what I taught her. She thinks that everyone who prays prays to the same God, no matter what they may believe about God.  She was not on the verge of a panic at the thought of accidentally praying to a demon and becoming possessed. I was, a bit.

“So this is all just… thanking God?” I asked. “It’s just thanksgiving?”

And then I started talking for the hundredth time about the Satanic Panic and my mother’s superstitions. I talked about the time my bad cousins were torturing a toad and asked if they could throw it in the fireplace, but my mother said no, because “that’s what witches do.” And Holly laughed.

She threw a cinnamon stick in the fire. “For blessings on the rest of the harvest and that all good things come to us.”

“Prosper the work of our hands, O Lord,” I prayed immediately.

“Blessed be!” said Holly.

We watched the cinnamon stick un-roll itself on the bright red coals, filling the air with incense.

I thought of my prayer again. Blessed be the cycle-breakers. Blessed are the cycle-breakers.

Blessed are the cycle-breakers.

Blessed are the ones who fight back or run away.

Blessed are the people who say “You may not hurt the innocent and claim God authorized you,” because that is what God says.

Blessed are the ones who were taught the strictest rules, and found themselves unable to fulfill those rules, but let God teach them what was really required. Blessed are the ones who were steeped in fear until they couldn’t feel anything else, but refused to spread that fear to their children. Blessed are the ones who were taught that God is only in certain places, and then were cruelly expelled from those places, because that is how we learn that God is everywhere present and filling all things.

I am going back to Steubenville tomorrow. I have to finish tending the community garden and find a way to get the car fixed, and I will, but I’ll be back in Columbus before long. I’ll find a way to get us out of the terrible Valley once and for all, before long. I believe in myself, just now. I don’t know how long this newfound confidence will last, but at this moment I’m certain.

Blessed are the cycle breakers, and blessed am I.



Image via pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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