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

We’re going to do this for Silvia.

My arm really hurts, and I’ve had a head ache for about 9 hours now. I feel like I have cotton in my mouth, and my entire body aches.

I’ve been ranting on Facebook and to anyone who could listen that I’m frustrated because, as front line direct support workers in the community, we’re not receiving covid 19 vaccines. A lot of my frustration is driven by the fact that times in a pandemic are mores stressful than anyone could imagine.

The hardest part for me has not being able to spend time with my family at holidays. My mom’s moved out to Fort Qu’Appelle because she feels safer there, and I can’t say as I blame her. In the two or so interactions I’ve had with people in commercial stores the last few weeks I haven’t felt really safe. Yes, people are wearing mask and sanitizing their hands; yet, there’s something selfish about how people just carry on. In a way it feels like walking over someone’s grave every time I go out. It feels like I’m taking a risk–Saskatchewan has a lot of new cases, and over 1000 of them are in Regina.

Yesterday, I got word that I might be eligible to get in for a vaccine. Today.

Then later last night, I got absolute confirmation that I did in fact qualify.

I cried. I sobbed. I’m on the road to being able to see my mom again. And there I go, crying one more time.

Damn it.

I felt grateful, I felt relieved. I felt guilty.

There are still so many people who haven’t got their vaccines yet. People that I know, that I care very deeply about. People that I want to see safe. People I want to be able to share experiences in life with. I want to get married! I want to be ordained! I want to travel! While I know it’s probably never going to be like it was before covid, there’s going to be (I hope) some sense of normality again.

When I sat down next to my nurse, I started crying. I told her about how my family in England had all got covid, and how I’d lost someone so special, Silvia. I told her about how Silvia was the type of person that if something was going to happen, it was going to happen to her. She was a magnet it seemed for medical issues. I told her about how when she went into the hospital in Arizona, her numbers weren’t great, but she was doing really well. Then I told her about how fast and how suddenly Silvia just passed. And I cried some more.

I told the nurse that I wanted to do the injection for Silvia. I wanted to remember her in that moment. And I cried some more.

I know a lot of people are posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram of themselves with their stickers. I’m going to ask, when you get your first vaccine injection, do it for someone you’ve lost. Remember someone who’s gone.

I miss you so, so much Mama. I’m sad you won’t be here for my ordination, or my wedding. I’m sad I won’t be able to come to Arizona to see you.

But I want you to know I’m grateful that there are still people who miss you with me, that share the grief still with me.

I miss you so much.

We’re going to do this for Silvia.

What do you say to a Christian on Good Friday?*

This post was inspired by an interaction on Facebook this morning by a friend I’ve know a while, Jean. I’d like to dedicate this post to her, and thank her for this, and continued inspiration elsewhere! Thank you, Jean! You inspired me today in a dry spell!

The Seven Last “Words” of Jesus Christ from the cross are actually 7 short phrases that Jesus uttered on Calvary. To find all of the seven last words of Jesus Christ, one must read all the gospels since none of the evangelists records all 7 last words. The sayings would have been originally uttered by Jesus in the Aramaic language, but only one of the last seven words of Jesus is preserved for us in the original Aramaic, namely “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” or “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” which is actually a direct quote of the opening verse of Psalm 22. The rest of the seven last words of Jesus are found in the gospels after having been translated into Greek by the four Evangelists.

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today, and it’s a great question!

I never know what to say to Christians who observe “Good Friday,” since it’s not exactly a celebration. By now, I don’t think I’m on close enough terms with many Christians to wish them anything, but I know that some sincerely aim to do good in the world. “Condolences for your loss” would probably sound sarcastic, but it seems on-track. I remember feeling confused when my Unitarian mother told me that “Good Friday” wasn’t actually good. I think I asked: then why not call it Bad Friday?

I replied by saying that it was complicated, and I’d blog about it. This is my experience–not necessarily a shared experience for everyone.

Good Friday is one day in the liturgical year of the church, one of the holiest. This is the day the church uses to mark the Passion, Crucifixion, and death of Jesus. But it’s one day in a long, long line of days in the calendar. Something that I love about my faith is that liturgically, the year is marked by the passages of festivals, feasts, fasts. And in looking at that calendar, it’s complicated to actually say where things end and things begin because like the literal seasons, and ending is simply another beginning. While it may be easy to say that the church simply linked these times of the year to already existing pagan festivals (and they certainly did in some cases), there is also emerging evidence that the pagans also commandeered existing Christian festivals and practices as well. The point is, the time of the feast, the fast, does purposely coincide with changes in our season. Regardless of how it was formed? It’s beautiful when Easter approaches and the weather reflects a literal rebirth as well of plants, the return of bird, and a freshness in the air we’ve all missed.

I’ve of course realized that there might be some tongue in cheek here as well. It was a bad Friday for a couple of thieves for sure.

What’s the best thing to say to a Christian on Good Friday? Well… would you like me to buy you breakfast? How’s your day? What’s new with you?”

It’s a different kind of holy day. In my Franciscan vocation, I try and put myself in the shoes of the people who are oppressed, the people who are in pain and poverty. Today, it means trying to put myself in the shoes of Christ on the Cross,; it’s an impossibility. To conceive a persons’ physical pain compounded by the pain of literally billions of people past, present, and future–to conceive the Infinite, the Divine, pinned to a cross and not coming down, not stopping the pain, but pushing through it. I can’t conceive that. I wouldn’t know how to begin.

When I try, I weep. And I’m not completely sure why. But I do.

There are moments when it’s easier to feel a connection to Christ in my life. This season is somehow like an amplifier, bringing the real presence somehow closer to me, somehow easier to understand, easier to feel.

And for others, this is just another Friday.

And that’s how it should be.

What do you say to a Christian on Good Friday?*

40-As I have done to you, so you do also.

Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And when supper was done (the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him), Knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands and that he came from God and goeth to God, He riseth from supper and layeth aside his garments and, having taken a towel, girded himself. After that, he putteth water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to him: “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him: “What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” Peter saith to him: “Thou shalt never wash my feet“. Jesus answered him: “If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.” Simon Peter saith to him: “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus saith to him: “He that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who he was that would betray him; therefore he said: “You are not all clean.”
Then after he had washed their feet and taken his garments, being set down again, he said to them: “Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord. And you say well: for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.” John 13:1-15

40-As I have done to you, so you do also.