Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can we please stop hurting each other?

I've been saying till I am blue in the face that we Anglicans (and by that I mean everyone in the World-Wide Anglican Communion which I, at least, believe still exists today) have simply got to stop insulting and abusing each other. Everyone is doing it regardless of what "side" they are on.

I would have hoped we could all have agreed that we are all on God's side, but apparently I am the only one willing to say that because it feels to me as if everyone else is saying that "if you are not on my side, then you are not on God's side". Which is pretty presumptuous, when we stop to think about it. And I do realize I am not alone. That's just how I feel at the moment I write this.

I have said all along that I believe the action of the Holy Spirit at GC06 was not so much in the decisions reached and votes taken but to reveal to us how much we are failing to love each other as we are commanded to do. Except in the MDG, we can see the work of the Holy Spirit in that fershure.

By a failure to love, I don't mean some saccharine valentiney eros or even phileo but agape... which tells us we love first, no matter what, despite anything else. Jesus doesn't say tell us first to conduct an examnation to assess if a person deserves to be loved by some human standard. He tells us to love and meet needs. Period. Full Stop. End of sentence. End of discussion.

And we Anglicans are not doing that. Instead we insult, jibe, demonize, patronize, condescend, bully, sue, hate, mortify, humiliate, abuse, stereotype, categorize, label, victimize. People on both sides on any issue within WWAC are doing that.

Of course, this is nothing new in the history of Christianity. Primary sources show us that it has always been this way. So much so that one wonders how Christianity ever survived for 2000 years because we Christians have certainly done our best to pollute the Gospel and we continue to do so right now, right here in the Episcopal Church for the exact same reason as millennia of Christians before us: our failure to love each other as Jesus told us to do.

I have come to the conclusion that the only reason Christianity has survived has nothing to do with cantankerous bishops and obnoxious priests and everything to do with the faithful in the pews such as my parish who choose to ignore what is going on in the WWAC or in GC06 and are just keepin' on keepin' on takin' care of buisness.

In the parish of All Soul's ( you can read about our work to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, provide for widows and orphans, visiting the prisoners so that they do not despair, preaching the Good News and making disciples of all nations. Thank God for this refuge from the strife in the WWAC.

If **anything** interferes with the Body of Christ's ability to obey Jesus, then there is sin which requires confess and repentance.

If the shoe fits...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Early Years: My Life as an Roman Catholic

I want people to understand that there are many things I love about the
Roman Catholic Church and many things I miss. So I am **not**
attacking the RCC, merely sharing what was quite honestly my

Today my contemporaries call me eccentric, when I was a kid, they
called me peculiar and weird and I suppose all those words fit.

When I was 2 or 3 and allowed outside in the yard by myself, I had a
friend whom I thought of as Someone Else. If he had a name, I don't
remember it. Because in my mind he was Someone else, I
don't think he ever told me his name. It wasn't until I was 7 or 8
that I figured out Someone Else was invisible. He was always very
solidly real to me and we would play in the sandbox or the swings. He
used to accompany me to the hen yard where I would decide which hen
had laid my breakfast egg and we would thank her. I knew that Someone
Else was a different sort of person from my parents, but I was a
toddler, what did I know?

Whenever I was off by myself, which was often because I liked
it, Someone Else was there. Or maybe I sought solitude because when I
did, he was there. Anyway.

We lived out in a rural section of NJ just north of Princeton. After
I completed kindergarten, we moved into Princeton itself and I started
first grade. For the first 3 days I went to the Nassau Street School
but on the fourth day, I was transferred to St. Paul's Roman Catholic
School. This was because the NSS was going to make me walk home for
lunch everyday and my parents didn't think that was safe. I have to
say that first day at St. Paul's was also the first I knew my parents
considered us to be Catholic.

Because there was no empty desk, Sister Padua had me sit at a little
table off to the side of the room. It was very uncomfortable because
she sat me facing the back of the room so I had to continually crane
and twist myself to look at her when she was talking. I was just
getting my courage together to ask her if I could move to the other
end... this took some doing because frankly, I had never ever seen a
nun before and that voluminous black habit and veil scared me.

Anyway, I was going to ask when Alfred Perrone was called to the front
of the room, made to bend down over the desk in the front row and she
broke her yard stick on his backside. Mark Sayles was sent across the
hall to borrow Sister Mary's yardstick and Sister Padua broke it
across his butt. That never happened to me, but I was scared of the
Sisters the whole rest of my time in that school because they all hit.
One even caused a neck injury because she slapped a boy with her open
palm along the base of his skull. Come to think of it, that was
Alfred Perrone.

Another thing about Sister Padua was that when I would raise my hand
and ask if I could go to the bathroom, she would say no. With the
result that I wet myself almost every day. As we wore wool jumpers,
mom was constantly having to pay for drycleaning. My parents were
outraged that Sr. P wouldn't let us leave class to use the bathroom
and complained and all of a sudden Sr P would allow it. I think I
wasn't the only kid.

And then came the day when we were considered able to read and were
each given a brand New Baltimore Catechism Revised Number Two with a
picture of the dome of St Peter's against a very blue sky and fluffy
white clouds. And we began to learn the catechism. You may imagine
my surprise when from the pages of that catechism, or as much of it as
we 1st graders were able to read, I recognized that Someone Else had a
name and it was Jesus.

It was then that my troubles with the RCC began. To be fair, I
suppose it is astonishing to be presented with a 6 year old mystic. I
suppose it is also possible that human feelings like jealousy might be
at work because here's this tiny child (very small for my age)
claiming to experience on a daily basis that which possibly may have
been the thing that is most hoped for by those in the religious life.

But I was, unfortunately, and unintentionally a trouble maker because
Sr would tell us things that just didn't jive with my own experience.
For instance, she was continually telling us to pray to Mary and not
to Jesus because He was too busy. I don't think she ever actually said
"to bother about you", but I always felt that's what she meant. And
there am I, chatting every day with Jesus, telling him all my concerns
and everything I did. And so I raised my hand and mentioned that Jesus
was with me everyday, that I told him everything and that he didn't
seem too busy to me. She sent me to stand in the corner for what
seemed like eternity but was probably only 5 or 10 minutes.

Then there was the day she taught us about our guardian angels and we
were even to sit to one side of our chairs so our guardian angel could
sit with us. I asked for another chair for mine as I was already
sharing my chair with Jesus. Back to the corner.

One would think I would have learned to shut up but whenever I saw one
of the priests on the playground, I would run up to him and ask him
the questions Sr. P sent me to the corner for and he'd pat me on the
head and call me a precious child.

By the time I was 10, we were much farther along in the Catechism and
my questions were becoming theological. Something in me persisted
so I ask and the nuns said ask the priests and when I asked
him, he'd pat me on the head and tell me it was not necessary to
understand, only believe. Which frustrated me intensely and I would
say "But, Father, what does it mean?" and they'd tell me I was too
young for such things and by the way, had I outgrown that childish
nonsense about Jesus sitting on my chair and talking with Him all the

After 4th grade my parents had purchased a house and we moved to a
more suburban section of Princeton and my brother and I were
transfered from parochial school to public school which was quite the
shock to me because I had been taught all kids in public schools were
going to burn in hell and that's what I thought was going to happen
to me. But eventually, those kids were just kids, no different from
the kids I had gone to St. Paul's with. So that fear eased.

We continued to go to mass, which I found unutterably boring, except I
liked making the responses in Latin. Some door to door RC Bible
salesman had sold my mother a Bible, a missal, a prayerbook and a Life
of Jesus which was really a harmony of the Gospels) I used to take
that with me to church and I would read it during the service. I read
that book over and over until I was given a proper missal and I
finally knew what it was the priest was saying.

I also had read the Bible through a few times before I was 12.
Whenever we were leaving the church, I'd always have some question for
the priest and by then all of the priests were responding to me as if
I were a trouble maker. Their answers were the same then as when I
was 6 and it frustrated me no end. It also infuriated me because
these questions were important to me and no one had ever taken them

Then came confirmation classes and we memorized the entire catechism
and I had even more questions. In the little reception afterwards I
even tried to ask the Bishop some of my questions, but he had been
warned about me.

I had a faith that was real, alive and growing, and the nuns and
priests were continually shoving me back into some box that was too
small. And a practice of faith that consisted of repetitive actions
and words which seemed so empty to me. All of this anger, frustration
and discouragement, along with the sham of our family life resulted in
depression which went unnoticed by anybody for several years. worst
of all, I lost that sense of the presence of Someone Else.

And then along came Vatican 2 when I was in high school. I liked the
mass in English and I liked singing hymns. But it also brought with
it changes that confused me. Having never reconciled the questions I
had, on top of them I had a whole bunch of new ones making me
miserable. Because i was now a "young lady", the priests were even
more condescending and patronizing than they had been, telling me
stuff like now I was old enough to understand that as a girl I have no
business thinking such things, that I should pray to the Virgin to
send me a good husband and many fine babies.

That was the last straw. I had already made my mind up when I was 10
that I wouldn't have any kids because I was never going to to do to
another person what was being done to me. I already had my father
wanting me to take typing so I could support myself as if I weren't
smart enough to have a better job than a secretary. And now my
priests telling me I was not to pursue that which most interested me
because of my gender. And yet, I'd read many lives of saints by then
and knew that women could be more than babymakers and housewifes.
Besides it was the 60s.

Anyway, I lost my faith completely, how I got it back again is another
story. But when I did and showed up at mass one Sunday and tried to
tell the priest what had happened to me, he wasn't interested and told
me once again to get married and have babies. So I basically wiped
the dust of the RCC off my feet and went where what I had to offer was

I cannot begin to tell you how deeply wounded I have been by this
history. Maybe it won't even make sense to others. But I know
piercingly that more was available than just praying the rosary and
going to mass and the people who also knew that, refused to make it
available to me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ember day Report, June, 2006, belatedly

Belated Ember Day Report for June, 2006

Every time I start to think about what I am going to say in one of these Ember Day reports, I go through this process, which is getting very old to me now. In fact I am beginning to wonder if it is the work of the enemy, not that I am an Episcopalian who is at all comfortable with the language that says evil is personified and would be interested in a nobody such as I.

The dynamic I struggle with is that in these Ember Day reports, I want to present myself as a finished product, that being a nun “took” and stuck like glue. It is really ridiculous because I have to work through these feelings, if not temptations, to arrive at the same place over and over. I am a novice. By definition, the novitiate is a time of discernment. By definition, when (or would it be more modest to say if?) I make first vows, that period of time is also a time of discernment. And if we all get to the place where I make life vows, it seems to me by definition, that even then it is still a time of discernment. In other words, if we take our Christians walk/talk seriously, it is always going to be discernment. Or, as the Desert Christians would express it “After a lifetime in the cell, I am beginning to be a monk.” So, it’s like, DUH!, dude!! Like every other aspect of the Christian life, being a nun is a journey, a process and none of us will ever see the finished product this side of Heaven.

Another thing that threw me off starting this report in a more timely fashion was General Convention. Since both Bishop and rector were going to be there, I figured they had enough on their plates without my Ember Day report. Unfortunately, I paid some attention to GC06 and my peace was compromised. Along with my ability to pray, read Scripture etc. Instead I wept a lot. In fact, the first Sunday of GC, I found myself weeping off and on through the entire service over one question “Is this the last Sunday I will pray these words, confess my faith and worship the Lord in the Episcopal Church I have known or as part of the Anglican Communion.” Subsequent events proved that, yes, that was the last Sunday of TEC as I have known it for by the following Sunday, dioceses were asking for alternative, non-Episcopalian oversight.

Today my attitude is “I don’t know what’s going on in the wider Communion, despite being connected via the Internet.” The reason I don’t know is because I have stopped paying attention as I can’t see how following the current events will help me live my Rule. More like the opposite. But I daresay someone has to mourn and while I have reached acceptance, I do grieve for my denomination.

In the past, I have mentioned Fellowship Charitos which is a para-church organization to assist the independent religious with their unusual vocations. On the e-mail list, I posted about my difficulties in prayer over GC and one of us wrote something I would like to share here:

“The first thing however is the obvious. Tears are a gift.
They are a sign of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit
on your soul.

“Now it may be that you think that this usually means
tears - for example - on reading about the crucifixion, or on
hearing a gospel in which a desperate woman pleads with
Our Lord (Help me, Sir!) But it is equally valid as a gift of
compassion and utter self giving for the body of Christ.
In this case it has not a great deal to do with the rights
and wrongs of the debate, but of the perilous state
of the Church's soul in terms of its love and forgiveness.
See how we love one another, whether we fear for the
spiritual state of those on this side or another.

“So oddly enough the first step in such a disturbing
moment is to cry out 'thank you'.

“It is also the second step, in this case, thank you for
the gift of suffering which you have chosen me to bear.”

Another factor that contributed to my delay in starting this was the issue of accountability. I have spoken about this to Christie Fleming, my spiritual director, but I feel no sense of resolution. Rather, I found myself wondering if the people who have agreed to hold me accountable aren’t maybe falling down on that particular job. And then I wonder, what exactly were your expectations, Gloriamarie, and were they sufficiently communicated, because after all, you are writing to some very busy people with demanding jobs? For instance, none of the people who receive my Ember Day reports comment on them in any detail, except Christie. I realize, I had expected comment, guidance, suggestions as a result of my Ember Day letters. Was that an unrealistic expectation, Bishop Mathes, Fr. Mike, Fr. Jim, Mother Gwynn?

Maybe I am too _In this House of Brede_ (Rumer Godden) in some of my understanding of what it is to be a Benedictine nun. Part of me expects there to be someone standing over me every day to whom I have to make a report. While I realize that is unrealistic, if not just plain silly, it does, I think, indicate a restlessness and a wanting a more of a something I have yet to define.

Restlessness is also apparent in desire for in the flesh community. While I pursue this vocation with my parish home of All Souls, I find myself thinking I need contact with Benedictines. The closest ones I know of are in a community called Prince of Peace Abbey in Vista and I have spent years trying to find out from them when their Oblate meetings are and never get a response. So I have stopped trying. And so have turned to books, as indicated in my Rule. But books are no substitute for communication with those striving to apply the Rule of St. Benedict in daily life,

Yet another Anglican e-mail list I am on is for Anglican Third Order Franciscans. I feel such a connection with them, such a sense of we speak the same language, hold to the same values and share a commitment to the contemplative life that I begin to wonder if my own charism isn’t Franciscan instead of Benedictine. But I do so love the RB. Folks are urging me to contact the Novice Guardians in San Francisco, but the fact remains there are no chapters here in San Diego.

What am I doing? Benedictine? Franciscan? I think I am failing to remember the hard truth that it is hard work and lonely work to be a solitary, independent religious.

A member of AngFran put me in touch with Maggie Ross, Canadian Anglican solitary and author. She wrote something to me I am still mulling over and pondering in this same context:

“You are, by default and mental/physical illness, a solitary.One learns the
solitary life in solitude. It's a hard and lonely road
and the restlessness and the temptation to join something or some group
are perennial temptations to the solitary. They are, however,
temptation and should be treated as such. There is no other way to
progress in the spiritual life except by plunging into solitude (no
matter what one's way of life) and simply being there without doing
anything. (I am speaking metaphorically; of course especially with
depressive illness you need exercise outside every day, maybe twice a

Solitude is something you can only learn by doing, by plunging right
into its heart and embracing all you are afraid of. RB can't tell you
about it, though I have much admiration for RB. Unfortunately most
Benedictines are so institutionalized that they don't know how to
interpret it any longer. You won't learn anything about RB that you
can't learn from books and even more by simply being honest with

Another avenue I am exploring is closer ties with the Fellowship Charitos. I attach their by-laws. At this time I am a Servant with them. Sr. Molly Hargadine, who heads us the FC, encourages me to seek vocational membership with them. Of course, I am not eligible for this until I have professed First Vows. There are also certain requirements involved. I have told Sr. Molly that I will not go further than Servant until Christie and at least Fr. Mike have read the By-Laws and had their opportunity to question Sr. Molly if necessary. On the Fellowship Charitos e-mail list, I have been appointed Archivist and am in charge of the web site. All I can say is I thank God it is a yahoo site because I don’t know html from the back of my head. Sister Molly is also training me to be a List Moderator so that in case of her absence, I can step in and run the show until her return. This is a very great honor and I fail to see how a blunt, in your face kinda person like I, earned it. But then Christie does continually reassure me that the Body of Christ is in need of the blunt and in your face.

By the way, something about Sister Molly... When I joined this list a few years ago, four or 5, Sr. Molly was Episcopalian. As a result of GC03 she left TEC to join a Continuing Anglican Parish where she was ordained a Deacon. Because that parish was something like 100 miles away from her home and none any closer, she inquired and was recently chrisimated in the Greek Orthodox Church of America. My first reaction when she left TEC was to sign off the list in a huff. In a “I’m not going to fellowship wth one **those** people”attitude but very quickly recognized that in doing so, I would be guilty of the same thing for which I criticized her, and others. Neither Sr. Molly or I are comfortable with where the other is on The Issue, however, we have mutually agreed that we have far more in common than otherwise and have agreed to disagree.

On the physical health front there continue to be challenges. Since my last Ember Day Report in March, I have been told by the pulmonologist to move. My apartment is located 50 feet from the southbound 163 and he is confident that breathing in all this exhaust has been a significant contributor to my pulmonary problems.

Looking for a new place to live has been very discouraging. So far I have failed to locate a suitable location with easy access due to my physical handicap far enough from the freeways where the landlord will accept both Section 8 Rental Assistance and my cats. My search has included Craig's List, the Reader, the Union-Tribune and word of mouth. I have approached parishioners and been referred to others and I understand some inquiries have been made on my behalf. I am ashamed of myself but I confess that there has been sin on my part: judgementalism and name calling in my heart when I have learned that fellow parishioners own rental property and will not accept Section 8, while at the same time actively supporting our work in Kenya. Is there not need right here at home also?

I’ve been struggling to let it go. But the more discouraging it is to look for a place, the harder it is to let go of these ill feelings. And yet, I have never been known to carry a grudge, either. On the other hand, emphysema is in my not too far distant future.

Another issue I keep coming up against regarding moving is how very much I don’t want to live in another apartment and how very deeply I long for a little house with a little yard. I have these whacked out fantasies that a group of parishioners will buy a house within walking distance of the church and I will pay rent to the church, but I realize it is ridiculous to think this way. Now you all know what an idiot I can be.