“Bloody, but Unbowed”

“Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”

I’m sure everyone can recall where they were and what they were doing when we heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  I was at work – looking forward to a nice late afternoon sunning on my deck – with a glass of white wine – upon my return home from said work.  All that changed shortly after 2:50 pm last  Monday – when the evil that crept into the hearts of two handsome young men came to fruition in a matter of seconds. Seconds that I believe changed the world yet again.   Seconds that are etched in our minds as the smell of smoke, the metallic smell of all the blood, the screams of the wounded, and the cries of the bewildered and the bereaved drifted across Boston and the horrific sights and sounds filled our television screens across the planet.

My best friend, a paramedic,  has volunteered at the Marathon for many years – and was stationed a mere few miles from the finish line.  A high school friend, now an MBTA K-9 Police Officer – and whose brother was my first serious boyfriend, was shot at by the younger Tsarnaev before he was taken into custody. Not to mention that Boston is OUR city.  Oh, us folk from Western MA piss and moan about Boston – but Boston is quintessential Massachusetts and for all intents and purposes the start  -and HEART – of our Nation.  Boston is , after all,  where we began. An attack there hits close to home whether you live in the Berkshires or the Sierra Nevadas.

I’ve been running the gamut emotion-wise.  To say I’ve been struggling would be an understatement. Profound Sadness and Grief, Shock and Horror,  Indignation, Anger, Pride in our First Responders – who ran towards the danger and got everyone to hospitals and the best medical care in the world – within 20 minutes. I swing back to indignation and anger frequently, as news of the bombers’ lives becomes public. These young men come from a family who came to America as political refugees – seeking and being granted asylum. Receiving welfare benefits from the state as many immigrant families do when they first arrive.  They attended the best schools in the Boston Metro Area, and the younger son even received a scholarship to attend UMass Dartmouth from the city of Cambridge. We took them in, gave them shelter – got them on their feet, provided OPPORTUNITY.  I guess I feel much like George Washington must’ve felt after Benedict Arnold defected to the Brits during the Revolutionary War.  After all we did for you, all the opportunities you were given here – THIS is how we are repaid?  With death and carnage?  You absolute BASTARDS… HOW DARE YOU? And on a day meant to represent the best in us.  At the finish line of the oldest marathon in the world. The anniversary of the day Jackie Robinson took the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers for the first time and showed us all what can be achieved when we are inclusive and caring towards one another.

I think of the young family the older Tsarnaev son left behind. The toddler daughter, the wife who worked 70-80 hours a week while her unemployed husband made bombs and planned destruction. How will they live, being branded with their father/husband’s heinous actions?  I think of the unimaginable pain and suffering the other victims and their families are going through. Because Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s family are victims too. I cry.  Then I get angry again.

And the one place I can’t seem to get to is Forgiveness.  Perhaps it is still too raw, too soon,  to forgive.  Maybe someday, when the stories of triumph, rebuilding, and success have come to be. When the blackness has been replaced by the light, and the tender hands of time have begun to heal us. We’re still wiping off the blood, but… Maybe. Someday.  I almost feel like I am going through stages like the grieving process. Back and forth, up and down. Frankly I’m not all that interested in the “why” of all this.  Religious differences have probably been responsible for more death and destruction on this earth than just about anything else except maybe the Plague. That’s the way it was, and is – unfortunately.  Someone is always gonna be pissed off that we have it better than them, or we’re somehow taking something from them. It’s an ancient tune with a predictable melody. So I know what I need to know for now.  That forgiveness thing though, is still eluding me.  But, one thing I do know is that NO ONE is going to keep us down.  We are not going to let darkness and evil win – EVER. We are – and ever shall be…. UNCONQUERED.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

~ William Ernest Henley, 1875.

#BOSTONSTRONG

 

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Questioning My Faith

I in no way want this article to be interpreted as Catholic-bashing, or putting down any friends or family who are practicing Catholics. I respect that they believe as they do.  These are MY issues with the Faith I was brought up in, but in truth cannot say I practice with any sort of fervor.  I guess you could say they are long standing issues – starting when I was little. There is much I don’t understand –  or can’t agree with – about the why’s and wherefores of Church doctrine and practice.

I remember as a kid being bored in church.  Same thing every Sunday – same words, same songs, same everything. I liked the ceremony, the candles, the incense, the pageantry. But come on – same script EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK.  As a kid, I was not interested – just didn’t get why we had to sit there and listen to the same things every week. “Because I said so.” just didn’t cut it – not that I would backtalk my parents, mind you. So I mostly “suffered” in silence. Catholicism by rote and recitation.  UGH!   Then we had to go to CCD every week.  Again, same stuff every week. Whats Mortal Sin vs Venial Sin?  OK, got that…. but we never, ever moved past that in any of the CCD classes I attended. Nobody ever explained anything else, and we honestly didn’t know what to ask – we just wanted to get the heck out of there. And, when my dad’s mom passed away, we kept getting her tithing envelopes from her/our parish/church – where her funeral was performed – for quite awhile after she was dead.   Weird.

Then I did something I should not have done.  In seventh grade we had to walk to the elementary school on Saturdays and take a school bus to the next town over for CCD classes.  So, I would walk to the school, scoot behind it to the playground and stay there until I saw the bus return a few hours later. Then I’d walk home.  Really Really REALLY a STUPID thing to do in hindsight. My parents certainly thought so when they found out 2 days before Confirmation that I had not been going to the classes.  Needless to say, I did not get confirmed – nor could I sit  down comfortably for several days – and I missed out on a months worth of TV and socializing on the phone. And justifiably so. (in retrospect and speaking as a parent now)

In high school, one of our long time family friends’ son (and a good friend of mine)  would come up on weekends occasionally to help out my dad with some of the heavier chores – and help me work on my car.  Tom’s mother (Aunt Lucille)  insisted he go to church so we’d go together on Saturday afternoon – but we’d always sit in the back and take off after the gospel was read – having heard that that was the most important part of the Mass and one could technically leave afterward. So we did.

As an adult,  I do find a soothing comfort in that sameness, and pageantry of the Mass.  I understand now why the structure is pretty much the same week to week. Also, a  co worker/ friend who once aspired to the priesthood finally explained the rosary prayers and the mysteries to me when I was in my thirties.   But there is much I do not understand.

The bible says it is ” better” for priests to not be married. But it does not expressly forbid it. One of the most committed, caring pastors I know (Lutheran) is married with several children and his entire family assists with his wonderful ministry.   Could not the Catholic Church attract many more faithful and committed people to the calling if they were in fact allowed to marry and have families?  A ministry life does not preclude having a family life and in fact may lend a deeper understanding of problems families run into. Which would provide better insight and an ability to counsel.   Hmmmm.

And then there’s the whole  “lets not let the women in” thing….. Just don’t get that AT ALL.  I know several women, my friend Kelly and my Aunt Jean in particular  – who would make Super Stupendous and Amazing Priests/Pastors.  Yet they are not allowed to do so.   I think they are pushed into lesser roles in the Church simply because of their gender.  Speaking for myself:  My female-ness does not make me less of a person, nor am I responsible for the sins of Eve. I wasn’t there and had nothing to do with any apple eating.   And this is the message I get from the church when I see that women are not allowed aspire to full ministry if they want to. Its sort of like saying that I’m responsible for the death and persecution of colonists during the Salem Witch Trials because I had an ancestor who lived in Salem at the time.  I’m not responsible for that, either.  Wasn’t there, had nothing to do with it. So I guess you could say I’m not on board with the concept of original sin either.  Don’t see why I should pay a price for something I did not do. With all the sin that we humans manage to create for ourselves, why must we start out burdened with someone else’s?

The Church is anti-gay.  OK I understand that the bible says its an abomination.  Truly 2000 years ago, it was. There was zero chance of the  relationship being fertile so you were wasting your genetic material in a same sex relationship.  Lifespans were so short back then that a person really did have an obligation to procreate – literally for the survival of the species.    Times have changed, but the Church has not evolved. Surrogacy, IVF, IUI and other fertility procedures can assist any family in having children if they so choose. (Adoption is also fine, but should not be the only option a couple has if they cannot conceive “naturally”) What a wonderful thing for any stable, committed couple who otherwise would have no chance of having a family of their own.  And if ANYONE tells me that children conceived in these methods have no souls I will reach through my computer monitor and punch them in the face…. jussayin.  So if that’s what you think, please keep that to yourself. Thanks.   I also had the honour of working on the AIDS quilt patch for Father Robert Arpin.  He wrote a book everyone should read: “Wonderfully, Fearfully Made”.  “Father Bob” was an openly gay priest. I worked with his Aunt for many years which is how I came to have the privilege of working on his quilt patch. His book raises much food for thought. I highly recommend it.

The Churches position on same sex marriage: UGH!  Marriage is not just a sacrament in the church nor is it solely the reason for procreation anymore.  The Catholic Church – to my current understanding -recognizes no reason for marriage other than for the procreation of children.  But – Marriage is a social institution also.  People marry today that want to have companionship and a legal standing with and for another person that they love.  This does not negatively impact any religious institution. (Any church has the right to decide what practices they will allow It has nothing to do with the state or society at large).  I do have the right not to subscribe to that,  however. Of course, I highly recommend marriage if one wants children.  A two parent family is best – raising children is quite difficult for a single parent. Not to mention costly to taxpayers. Why can’t the church recognize the duality of marriage as a sacrament AND as a social institution?.  If I am recalling my sociology and ancient history correctly the concept of marriage and family was initially set up to provide  a method of protection for children and companionship for adults. Set up to define roles and responsibilities, and make it easier to provide for those who could not yet provide for themselves.  Not really a religious element there as far as I can see, but definitely a social one.  In my opinion, nothing wrong with a dual definition of marriage.  And, it manages to be all inclusive.

Abortion:  Truth be told, I agree with the Church regarding its stand on abortion – up to a point.  The line is drawn for me when the Church says the issue is Black and White/All or Nothing.  I cannot support  policy that states an abortion cannot be performed for a woman who’s health is threatened by her pregnancy AND she wishes to terminate it. Women should not have to wait until their pregnancy imminently threatens their life to be able to get an abortion. (Fortunately Roe v Wade opened the door that says they don’t have to) I cannot support policy that states a woman must carry her rapist’s baby to term. Its not her fault she’s pregnant, why should she pay the price for someone else’s sin?.  Does the church realize the psychological damage they are forcing a woman to endure beyond the trauma of the rape itself?  There are always exceptions to any rule and these things should be decided on a case by case basis – if the woman chooses to discuss it with her priest- not by blanket, all or nothing medieval doctrine. In my mind, this completely anti abortion policy translates to  just another way for the Church to keep women out of power.

The Church should be a vibrant entity that evolves to support the needs of its flock whilst providing a moral compass for them.  That the Church refuses to step forward into the 21st century, acknowledge and institute true reform is a real stumbling block for me. They’re still shuffling abusive priests around to other parishes instead of dealing with them appropriately – or letting the law do so. The American Catholic Church is withering on the vine, unfortunately. Fewer and fewer young men called to the priesthood.  Wouldn’t it be great to open it up so that these men could marry – or even better allow women of faith to get on board too? I’d bet a whole slew of awesome people would aspire to the calling AND be great at it; reinvigorating the Church with new blood. (no pun intended)  I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater; but I do think that an update needs to be done – and its long overdue.

As another example, years ago a family member gave birth to a stillborn daughter at 22 weeks gestation in a Catholic Hospital. The priest there refused to baptise the baby.  OK, I understand that the baby was born dead. But if the Church thinks that life begins at conception does not also “original sin”? So the Catholic Church essentially told this family that there is no chance of reuniting in the afterlife with their daughter because she was condemned to limbo simply by being born lifeless and not in a state of grace? Medieval thinking,and another example of Catholicism by rote. Is not the priests job also to minister to the comfort of the grieving parents?  Providing the comfort of a baptism -even a “meaningless” one – should have been the first priority of that priest, not dogmatically following a policy that provided no relief to the family left behind.  As Captain Kirk pondered in the Star Trek episode  “Who Mourns for Adonis”  – ” Would it have hurt us, I wonder, to have gathered a few laurel leaves?” I think not. My family priest at the time actually agreed with me on this one – at least on providing a baptism for the baby in order to comfort and support the family. And why can’t a baptism be performed in utero if life begins at conception and “original sin” needs to be gotten rid of?

So yeah, I guess you can call me a Cafeteria Catholic. It fits. Has a  “Catholicism for Dummies” been published? If so, I might need to read it.  I believe in much of what the Church says – the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, The Ten Commandments, The Resurrection. Don’t subscribe to the concept of “original sin”.  Don’t really get the whole  intercession thing – why can’t I confess any sins I might have directly to God?  Not sure that a virgin birth status is necessary for Jesus to be both human and Divine/The Son of God. Which hey –  if you think about it – if Mary did not have sexual intercourse to conceive Jesus then he had to have been conceived “unnaturally”.  Which negates the opinion that children conceived via non- sexual methods have no souls.  Because of course I believe Jesus had/has a soul.  Life, no matter how created, is imbued with that divine spark we call a soul. But mostly,  I do believe that whole  LOVE ONE ANOTHER thing.  Because if we truly do that – everything else falls into place, and falls into grace. Thanks for listening while I thought out loud.  Peace, out.