When I was in Toronto for my ordination, I was really taken with how my bishop, Roger, set up his oratory. He converted a large closet, placing the altar inside, and painting the walls of it Marian blue.
Saturday, I decided I needed to pain the chapel blue as well. Dan and I went out, got the paint and supplies, and decided to wait until Sunday when we could get some more items and some guidance from Dan’s dad.
Sunday came, and I couldn’t wait. The chapel space is now entirely painted a Marian blue and feels so much more like a warm, den-like place to work, pray, and say Mass.
On the wall over the chapel hangs three icons: one of Christ as Priest, one of Our Lady, and one of St. Augustine. He’s one of my patron saints, and his life is an inspiration to me–something I can relate to.
Augustine was indulgent. He spent the early part of his life drinking, going to plays, parties, had a girlfriend and a child, and was a strong, outspoken, and talented debater. He knew it, and he was proud of it. He acted out of his pride and didn’t worry much about what he said or did because he was good at what he did.
The problem began when as a Malakian, someone who actively debated against the validity of the Christian faith, he met and was disappointed in a Malakian master. It sent him into a tail spin. He eventually met St. Ambrose, a bishop with a talent for speaking himself, who guided him in his early journey of faith. Augustine eventually became bishop of Hippo, a prolific writer and defender of Catholic faith.
When we study the saint’s life, we are confronted with the challenge of our egos. Do our egos get in the way of what it is we do, is our charity driven to feed our egos?
One of my hardest challenges is keeping my ego in check. Without doing this, we can become vicious towards those who remind us of our own shortcomings, or those who endanger the consistency of the attention given to us. I have, in my ego, made some mistakes that have caused me some shame. I’ve owned them, made amends, and tried to move forward. But it is a difficult thing for us to do, especially if we have to admit that our actions may, in fact, may not be driven by charity but rather by ego.
Giving is so very, very hard, especially since most of us have come from a place of hurt, trauma, and stress. How easy it is for us to forget this, and to lash out in what we may disguise as camp, but what is in fact bullying. Where so many of us have been on the receiving end of prejudice and suffering, it seems far to easy for us to revert to the kinds of things, the kinds of harms that were inflicted on us to protect our shattered and bruised spirits.
Augustine’s life was a transition through this, a realization of something greater, and a transformation to a defender of those who were, by their very beliefs, in a position of great threat from those around them. How easily we forget those who we, as activists in our own community, have forsaken because it was easier, more comfortable, than embracing. How much easier to turn away from the siblings we have forgotten: our siblings that every day face prejudice, pain, harm from the greater community, only to in turn receive the same shunning from their own 2SLGBTQ+ community.
St. Augustine reminds me that in the transition into my faith, in recognizing and coming out in my truth, I am called to a greater onus of responsible, respectful, and loving behavior–including owning my mistakes, owning my ego. This does not mean not becoming angry, or recognizing when someone has a right to anger. It means looking at where my belief contributes to someone’s suffering. It demands that, if I am an advocate for those who are the least of my community, my words must always reflect this.