When is it too much?

Have you ever done something, and then in that immediate moment afterwards, realized you’d put your foot in your mouth, or you’d committed a social faux pas that, at least in your mind (if you’re lucky), brought a monster amount of negative attention your way?

Three weeks ago now, I went out to a local retreat house for Mass. It’s a more modern form of the Mass, and the community is smaller but very progressive. It’s a community I like being a part of because we share our faith, regardless of where that faith draws from in the Christian spectrum.

I hadn’t been there since my ordination, which was about five weeks. It felt good to be back, and I felt like I’d come home. I also was carrying a little bit of ego around now that I’d been ordained. Big mistake.

During the liturgy, as is the custom, I went up to the altar and took communion, then returned to my seat. Only to realize after I’d sat down that there were still two prayers that needed to be said before communion was actually taken. I went purple. I was so embarrassed! Beyond embarrassed. I was ashamed. It came crushing down on my like a mine shaft collapsing on me. At the end of Mass, I apologized to the community, explaining that I’d gone up to the altar with ego and had made a mistake that I was deeply regretful for. I admitted that I’d gone up with my ego rather than humility and that I needed to be reminded that with the vocation of priesthood there needs to be humility rather than hubris; I asked the community to pray that I would continue to be knocked off my chair in moments of ego. I went home. Likely everyone forgot about it by the end of Mass and just went on.

I’m still thinking about it, still cringing about it, all these weeks later.

Yesterday during a meeting, I made a comment which I realize wasn’t appropriate for the nature of the meeting. It wasn’t off colour, it was just not appropriate. It was personal rather than business.

I suspect that there are many of us who live with this kind of over-abundance of shame. The causes are multi-faceted. They can be trauma based, for example. In my case, I believe that choices in my life led me to experience situations which required me to be shamed to be compliant. Relationships, employment, even in prayer, these shame beliefs create natural outcomes that are catastrophic to our self image, and subsequent behaviors.

I also suspect that in the reality that many of us live with it, there are many ways of overcoming it. Consistently, when I re-live that moment at the retreat house in my mind, I remind myself that I’m likely the only one still thinking about it and not to worry. I’m making a point of going back to the community and continuing to celebrate Mass there. The first time back will be anxiety filled, and it will get easier every subsequent time.

There’s also the way it affects how we interact with others. One example is a person I keep meeting in my life. They are very outgoing, very friendly, and then out of the blue start questioning choices I’ve made. They’re not in line with their own ideas of what things should be. A part of me throws up the white flag, waves it, and wants to immediately concede that they’re right to avoid the conflict. What I’ve noticed is that lately, I’ve been trying to challenge that white flag waving part of myself, and stand up for what I think is right regardless of what someone might think. It’s a challenge because in a way, it pushes us to a place of potential conflict. Who likes conflict?

Conflict is necessary. The kind of conflict is an option.

Yesterday, in conversation with this person, I explained the choices that had been made would have outcomes, and those outcomes would provide learning experiences, and those experiences were valuable life lessons that needed to happen for the people in this situation. My role was merely in offering guidance to the individuals in question, and allowing the outcomes of their choices to occur.

When is it too much?

St. Augustine, Patron Saint of Brewers

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.

St. Augustine, Patron Saint of Brewers

Michaelmas

I’m finding that every time I get into the vestments in my chapel to say Mass, it’s getting not only easier, but more familiar–like I’m meeting an old friend. Today, I celebrated the feast of St. Michael, one of my two patron saints, and the patron of the hermitage. And I’m happy to say that the doubts I was having about being a priest seem to have faded into the background.

During the prayers today, I lifted many. I lifted a grandmother who’d passed in the last day or so, I lifted up the family; I thought about the people in my life that helped my on my journey, specifically those within the Autocephalous Catholic movements that mentored, inspired, taught, and encouragement.

I thought about something my mother asked me while we were in Toronto: what now?

All of us in this movement have different skill sets, gifts, and talents. When I first began with my vocation, I strived to try and bring together everyone out there, feeling that it would be amazing to unite everyone under one common roof. As I studied, as I went into the world and practiced my faith in interactions with people, with prayer, with God, a stillness came upon me that slowed me down, gave me pause, encouraged silence.

We express our gifts differently, but the important focus is always the Eucharist. Without that, we are just social workers with fancy clothes.

Beginning to head towards the Christmas season, I can’t wait to bring the colors and songs into the chapel.

Toronto was a busy place. I enjoyed everything about it–even with the tight schedule. But, I’m very glad to be home. Home in my own chapel.

Michaelmas

Hermit Priest

Yesterday with friends and family present both in person and online, I was ordained a Catholic Priest in a small Presbyterian church that gave us the use of their sanctuary here in Toronto. I didn’t really know how I was going to feel. There were butterflies in my tummy most of the time, and I sweat. A lot.

I’m cursed that way I suppose that on the paternal side of the family, there’s hyper sweating. To say I was drenched by the end of the service was an understatement. But I was glad that after four years, and after waiting through almost a year of pandemic restrictions, I can finally say that I have realized my vocation fully. I am a priest.

I am a priest.

I was numb to that for almost a full day. I didn’t feel different per say, just exhausted.

When I was four years old, my parents let me watch “The Sound of Music”, and after that I knew what I wanted to be: a nun. I asked my mom, she told me I couldn’t because they were women, and besides, they were actresses.

Of course, I want to be an actress.

Instead, I tried over the last year to learn the nuances of Ecclesiastical Latin, the rubrics of the Roman Missal of the Tridentine Mass, prayed, cried, laughed, worried, and at last, celebrated today my first Mass at the same Presbyterian church that I was ordained in yesterday.

Today, even with the nerves, it felt like I was doing what I’d been called to do. After I gave my first homily, I stood in front of the altar. My hands began to tremble as I recited the creed. I made mistakes–but what priest on their first mass didn’t make mistakes? They were small mistakes. They were forgivable mistakes. When I consecrated the bread, the wine, when I prayed to the act of communion, and finally took bread that I had consecrated, I cried. In many ways, it was the same emotional connection I’d experienced in doing the practice Masses prior to coming here.

The reality of what had happened sunk in. That, in consecrating bread and wine the first time, I now have access to the Eucharist. As a Catholic, this is one of the most important parts of our spiritual lives–as a Eucharistic Catholic, this is an essential part of my spiritual life.

I go back to Regina with my fiancé and my mom on Tuesday afternoon, back to life. We still have some visits to make, some places to explore. I’m hoping that I get a chance to go to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish to light a candle and spend some time in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

I feel tired. Fulfilled and tired.

There are a lot of people to acknowledge and thank, so many that I need to do it after a good night’s rest so I make sure not to miss anyone. But one person that must be thanked now is Julie Andrews. If it weren’t for the Sound of Music, I wouldn’t have known at age 4 that I was destined to be a person in religious life. Corny, I know. But you have to accept where the beginnings come from, and love them as part of your story.

Hermit Priest

It Is Well

It has been a whirlwind.

When I first came to Toronto, I had a sense of wonder that was likely a little too euphoric. But it was my first trip outside of the province on my own, how could I not behave like the country mouse come to the city! This second time around, being with my family has changed things slightly in that there are people sharing the excitement!

This time the excitement isn’t as overpowering.

We spent three hours at the Royal Ontario Museum; my mom at one exhibit said, “A pot is a pot, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” and then spotted a case of Ancient Greek iridescent glass–suddenly a pot wasn’t just a pot anymore. Sushi in gay village, then on to the Art Gallery of Ontario where we saw the Andy Warhol exhibit.

One piece in that exhibit in which Jacquie Kennedy’s face was shown side by side by side initially just looked to me to be different images of her wearing a veil, until I realized that Warhol was creating a narrative of a moment at President Kennedy’s funeral. The images suddenly became a narrative that I wasn’t able to see initially, but once I recognized, was moved almost to tears. How many of us have been in a moment of grief, briefly thought back to the last moment we were with someone we loved, and then re-focused back to the present moment where they are no longer. It was powerful.

I’m in that situation now, thinking back to the initial excitement and joy that was Toronto! Remembering fondly the city, but also the experiences of meeting for the first time my bishop and his husband (and they’re cat!), as well as the community here in Toronto.

I’m met with a sense of grace now that I wasn’t expecting. It’s a calm (I know not how long it will last!) that I’m returning home, that my ordination and first Mass will be events of home coming as well, events of peace. An old country hymn that I’ve been listening to on my morning walks best describes my feelings this morning. It is well with my soul. It is well.

It Is Well

Fifty Shades: My last day at 49 years old.

I don’t feel fifty.

When I was 5 years old, the best thing in the world was staying in the sand box in the back yard later, the light of the sun changing the way the plants in the back yard looked, the stillness of the air, the feeling of cool wet sand in your hand, and how that stand stayed true to the form you put it in.

When I was ten years old, the best thing in the world was climbing into the snow fort that my brother and I had made in the back yard, using a big golden blanket that my parents had given (or we’d taken), laying in the cold eating “Cracklin’ Bran”, a cereal that masqueraded as healthy because it had “bran” in it’s name.

When I was fifteen, the best thing in the world was a large plastic cup of cold tea on my table in the basement while I worked up Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, the alternative universes that protected me from the pain of my father’s alcoholism, and my fear of being queer in a world that to me, at least, did not feel very friendly.

At twenty five, the best thing in the world was being in a sweat lodge, singing songs, being on the land, working with plants, and people.

At thirty five, the best thing in the world was walking with an old friend and a young golden retriever in the hills of the Qu’Appelle Valley around St. Michael’s retreat house.

At forty five, the best thing in the world was coming to a point where I realized I started to need to work for myself, not for other people.

I don’t feel old. I feel like it might take a little longer to get places, but I’m still exploring, still feeling the sense of wonder and awe in small things that make people cock their heads slightly and wonder. I don’t mind. Weeds give me joy. Birds flying around the lake give me joy. Hearing my fiancé working in the living room gives me joy. My dog sitting on the carpet beside me while I write gives me joy.

Last week, I challenged a fear and got into a kayak for the first time in my life. It was amazing. Yesterday, I challenged a fear of getting out of a kayak and came up with a way that worked for me–paddle to the shore, bank the sucker, and get your feet wet. Much better than going for a swim.

In a few weeks, I’m going to be traveling to Toronto. That ordination is going to happen–but it’s also going to be a chance for my mom and my fiancé and I to take a much needed holiday. Next summer, I’m getting married.

I don’t feel fifty. I feel like life is just beginning!

Fifty Shades: My last day at 49 years old.

Vaguebooking

 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” -John, 18:23

I can’t remember when it was that my fiancé said to me after I’d posted something cryptic on Facebook, “You’re vague booking.” It’s the act of expressing a feeling or emotion without specifically addressing the issue itself. Sometimes its shady, sometimes it’s done out of a need to turtle; retreat to safety but at the same time somehow reach out to say help–just enough that people notice and say, “they’re vague booking”. Before social media, I think this would be the character who continually sighs in a sitcom until someone asks, “Ok, what’s wrong!?”

I’ve been vague booking. The reality is, I’m in a place where I am experiencing grief that I didn’t think had a place in my life–because I thought I’d dealt with. And yet, there’s more.

And I want to speak more to that grief. But I’m also feeling that, having expressed it, I haven’t been heard because that grief is somehow not pertinent, or its too challenging to hear, or requires that a truth be acknowledged that might be uncomfortable to hear.

Right now, in a place where I felt I had worth, in a place I felt I mattered, I feel the complete opposite. And while I recognize that the power to change lies in my hands, it can’t change the fact that I’m broken.

This morning around 5:00 am I got out of bed because I couldn’t sleep. My mind would not shut off, would not stop thinking in a childish way about how I could try to change situations. It’s the time liturgically of Ascension, and depending on how you celebrate, it either just happened this past Wednesday, or will be happening for you on Sunday. I should be focused on hope right now, yet my mind was drawn to the moment when Jesus was struck during His passion. At that moment, we see when not to turn the other cheek. Christ, knowing the full torment of His passion is upon Him, stops, and chastises the man who struck Him, challenging him to explain his actions, to justify the assault on His body. It’s a beautiful moment for so many reasons. It is a moment that gives me hope–just a little bit of hope–that in the situations that feel to me to be unjust, disrespectful, that the truth still is the truth.

I’m left still with the grief, with the disappointment. I look at the scripture I’ve chosen for this post, and have to really fight against the voice in my head that tells me “You’re just being a martyr, suck it up, tote the line, go along with it.” But I can’t. Because my values to the truth forbid me to do that. My commitment to my vocation forbids me to do that. My grief is in that I cannot speak, I cannot change what is, and likely what will be.

So I’m vague booking.

Vaguebooking

Before you jump on this bandwagon…

Something bothered me about this this morning when I saw it. And of course, it means I need to dig into it to see why, right?

So let’s unpack this, shall we?

It seems to me that the first statement is saying this: Excluding people from the fight for social justice, from the spaces where social justice takes place, is a form of injustice. To say that it is toxic, to me, implies that it is harmful to the social justice space to exclude people who make mistakes. So people who may have made a mistake shouldn’t be excluded from a social justice space (which has not been defined either…so this could be a meeting, a protest, a social media thread). Forgive, and move forward. Maybe? Maybe not? Let’s keep digging.

Second statement.

The demand for moral perfection, ideological purity, and conformity to exclusively academic language (which is classism btw) is simply transferred fundamentalism.

So I’m going to make an assumption that in this case, the morality and ideology the person is referring to reverts back to the first statement. Now it’s getting juicier. Because I think what this statement is saying is this: You put people into boxes when you expect them to meet your standards of morality, ideology, and academic capability. Which is the exact kind of fundamentalism that creates the impulse to cancel people from social justice spaces.

By this logic then, people who have harmed queer people by means of violence that have served their time in jail, educated themselves, and want to act as activists should have the right to do so, because to exclude them would be an unfair demand for moral perfection and ideological purity.

It’s actually also very much an argument that could be made for the Apostle, Paul.

I have issues with Paul.

And of course, in working all this out like I have, it makes me realize that I’ve probably missed the mark completely.

Here is the issue I have with the statement in this image. I don’t believe it addresses anything of accountability…..hey wait a minute….

The very statement is SELF REFERENTIALLY ABSURD!

Isn’t that statement absolutely conforming to a sense of moral perfection, ideological purity, and exclusively academic language? Hello?

This is a meme. It’s a joke. And it went over mine, and a whole lot of other people’s heads that felt they could use it to justify something.

And I can’t get that two hours of my life back.

Fuck.

Before you jump on this bandwagon…

Prayer, April 19, 2021

I’m lost.

not so much lost in terms of place

but

what do I do

when everything i do ends in party horns

trailing off in the distance

watching parades blocks away

past me not left behind

my voice shouting the panic realizing

i have

been left

behind

looking forward fists raised

voices shouting anger justice causes

i have

been left

behind

irrelevant empty like a chrysalis broken

a wrapper trapped in the eddy of a stream

spinning

going nowhere

I’m lost.

but not lost in sense of place or time but in ego defeated

broken

shattered

an imposter

exhausted by impotent anger

Prayer, April 19, 2021

Conversion Therapy

When I heard that the City of Regina was considering a ban on conversion therapy, and that there were actually numerous people speaking in favor of it–one pastor apparently claiming to speak for every Christian in Regina–I was dumbfounded.

I mean, it’s bad enough that we’ve had to undergo second, third, and now potentially fourth wither (ugh!).

But there were, and are, many of us who experienced a moment of wanting to pray the gay away. I was one of them. I didn’t start out wanting to be this way. I remember very poignantly having a conversation with a man who was a friend, Dave, who said that he’d successfully been through conversion therapy, that being queer was a condition that could in fact be psychologically altered through therapy. Granted, the man was on his third marriage by the time I met him, and I think he may have been heading for his fourth by the time I stopped having an interest in our friendship.

I believed the my Christian faith was at odds with who I was as a queer person. So I began a journey that took me through paganism, Buddhism, Indigenous Spirituality. In my mind, there had to be a faith practice that accepted and valued who I was as a person.

I returned to my faith in my late 30’s. I believed at that point that if I was to follow in the footsteps of Christ, I needed to live chaste. I needed to suppress my desires, my yearnings; not just sexual, but a yearning for intimacy, closeness, a relationship with someone I could call a life partner.

Someone once told me that God just wants us to know who we really are. In the pit of my soul, I knew I was queer. I knew that this was how I was made, this was God’s Image.

So how can someone believe that therapy can bring someone out of their queerness?

Because accepting a God with limitations like ours is easier than accepting a God with limitless boundaries.

Because we become incredibly uncomfortable when faced with a concept of infinity with no boundaries, and must force ourselves to create boundaries to protect ourselves.

It’s 2021, and there’s a conversation happening in the walls of city hall about whether they should stop conversion therapy. Sure, we could argue that allowing it to continue would give those who feel a desire to accept it as an option is part of living in a free and just society. Except for one thing.

Conversion therapy is based on a theology of boundaries. And whenever I hear the theology of boundaries being preached, I go to St. Anselm of Canterbury.

I can picture a God that exists infinitely. While the other version of God might be easier to fit into our limited world view, it’s not as great as a God who exists infinitely. God’s purpose is not to allow us to be comfortable hiding behind His skirts. God’s purpose is to help us walk beyond our limitations, beyond our concepts, beyond our ideals, holding those principles we embrace as given us from our birth–goodness, compassion, charity, love–so that we can know and love Him better.

We should not be surprised when people with limited views of the world are supported by those who also hold limited views. But I am tired of it. I’m tired, and I’m sad, and I’m angry.

Conversion Therapy