Monday, December 21, 2009
Faith ... returning home
After a long absence, and to be quite honest, a defiance for organized religion, I found myself with my partner at St. Joan of Arc's 5 pm mass on Saturday evening. The only time I have gone to mass in the past 5+ years was to accompany my mom when I was visiting her in the Philippines. Since early adulthood I have struggled with organized religion .... being sexually abused by a trusted family friend and a deacon of the Catholic church tainted my view of the Catholic church. It has been a life long struggle to make sense of what happened to me as a young girl. Yet something inside of me has been calling me to return to church, return to a faith I hold so deep in my heart. For decades my connection to some higher being (I've been afraid to call this higher being God) has been private. I have found comfort in the Buddhist practice of meditation and in the acceptance and celebration of all sentient beings. The truth is I do believe in God. The abuse that happened to me as a young girl has nothing to do with God but everything to do with human failings and shortcomings. For months something in my gut has been calling to me ... yes, I honor and value my quiet morning times and my meditation. Yet, something ... something inside of me has been calling me to find a community and a place where I can pray.
This past Saturday, my partner and I went to the 5 pm mass at St. Joan of Arc's in Minneapolis. I have gone to their Sunday services years ago and always enjoyed it. It was held in a gymnasium because of the large number of people and was a liberal, accepting church ... a church that always felt so alive and full of joy. This time, however, I wanted a more quiet and reflective mass. Saturday masses at St. Joan are in their chapel. As we walked in to the chapel the air was filled with the beautiful sounds of a woman's voice as she rehearsed a Christmas version of "Auld Lang Syne". As Fr. Jim began mass I felt chills run through my body. I wasn't coming to mass because I was "supposed to". I wasn't coming because my mom told me I had to. I wasn't coming because it was the "right thing to do." I was coming to church because I wanted to and because "my gut" (which I believe is God and the natural wisdom we all have inside of us if we take time to listen) was calling me to. Fr. Jim's homily was about "wonderment". For Advent, the theme has been Wonderment. He asked us to take time to reflect on a moment growing up when we felt pure wonderment. For him, it was his third birthday as he was standing next to his birthday cake attired in his new cowboy outfit and a smile that stretched from one end of the earth to the other. For me, I think back on the photo of Papa carrying me. He then went on to share how he recently spent time with a couple whom he has know for 12 years - a couple where he presided at their marriage 12 years ago. The woman now has some health issues and is most likely facing the last year of her life. As I deal with my own health issues I could feel the tears inside of me well up ... as tears start rolling down my cheeks i feel my partner's hand reach for my hand. No matter what lies ahead of me, no matter what my journey is, I am not alone. As Christmas carols are being sung and the chapel is filled with music, and as we hold hands to say The Lord's Prayer, I feel an incredible sense of community, of love and of healing.
As I prepare to head into surgery this afternoon to remove a lump in my breast, I place my trust in God for whatever journey I am meant to travel. Yesterday, December 20th was the 41st anniversary of when Papa died. Christmas has always been hard for me as it reminds me of a loss so deep. This year I will celebrate Christmas ... for me, I will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and Papa's life. For me, I will also honor all sentient beings and all religions and faiths ... for me, as St. Joan of Arc's motto is "We welcome you wherever you are in your journey."