I find that in week four of the Virtual Church experiment, I have to say a few words about being Catholic (yes, I still call myself Catholic). I share this for the sake of others like me who would like nothing more than to be a fully active member of the Catholic Church, serving, working and ministering under her roof. Sadly, for obvious reasons, this is no longer possible for me, neither is it for many men and women I have come to love dearly. And for those I don’t know, my heart goes out to you in compassion as you find yourself unable to set foot inside a Catholic Church (whatever the reason might be).
Broken Hearts and Broken Dreams
Today, my heart is breaking after a week of deep shadow work which presented itself in many ways, including several conversations about Catholicism, being raised Catholic and the path that led me to claim my own ordination and launch a virtual church. I discovered that I am not alone in having a deep love for the Catholic Church, in being formed as a minister within that Church, and being unable to minister there. In those with whom these conversations arose, the same mistake was made. We found God through contemplative prayer and this contemplation led us to our truth. Then…..we tried to live that truth. This proved to be the final nail in the coffin. The Church can’t have people running around living their truth. Where is the order? There might be chaos. This could mean anarchy! Cats and Dogs raining. People having sex in the street. Shocking! Sigh! When we learn to use the brain God gave us to reason, discern and exercise truth, often the truths God reveals to us step outside the rules of the institution (see this week’s meditation supplement for how Jesus got in trouble for using his brain!). Then, we get in trouble (again, see this week’s readings, or attend this week’s virtual church service!) This leads me to the question of vocations….because those with whom these conversations arose also have an authentic call to the priesthood…and like me, are unable to live it out within the embrace of the Catholic Church.
The Church whines, moans and complains about a lack of vocations. Lack of vocations my butt!!!! The only thing that is lacking is an institution willing to open their hearts to God’s voice instead of the voice of the power they are deathly afraid to lose. Oh my God…what would happen if priests were allowed to married? If women could be priests? If gay men and women could openly live their orientation within the ordained priesthood instead of hiding it in the closet and watching it come out sideways!!!???? What you might have is a vibrant, thriving, dynamic, servant-leadership oriented Church with men and women serving beside each other as equals, working together to fulfill the mission of Christ. Unfortunately, the Institution is too busy polishing their Italian leather shoes to see the droves of men and women standing at their gates waiting to serve God. So….what are those authentically called to continue the mission of Christ in the world to do who don’t fit into the narrow single, “heterosexual” male, “celibate” definition of priesthood? What are we to do?
Making our own path
We make our own path, (rather, we allow God to make one for us) that’s what we do. For through our careful discernment we have learned that it is much easier to be disobedient to the Church than it is to disobey God. Disobedience to the Church simply means being ostracized and deprived of the Eucharist. Disobeying God leads to an inner agony, longing, anxiety and pain that one simply cannot describe. But here’s the funny thing…..even in disobeying the Church so that we can be obedient to God there is an insatiable longing to be able to live God’s truth within the embrace of the Church. How do we explain that? It is simply grief, that we haven’t gotten over our Catholicism, as was once suggested to me? I don’t think so! What this says to me, is that this is indeed what God desires – that God desires for the Church to open their eyes, their minds and their hearts so that there can be room for all the ways in which we are ALL called to serve God through our own unique giftedness, our own unique passions and our own unique call – married, single, hetero, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, lesbian, male and female and everything in between. God doesn’t discriminate in God’s choice of servants, why should the Church?
In the Meantime
So, in the meantime, we live within the tension. Live within the tension of being obedient to God’s call and knowing and trusting that God’s call is working in the hearts and minds of the Institution and that someday, others like us, female, married, openly gay, may someday be welcome as ordained ministers within the Catholic Church….but probably not in our lifetimes. (this new pope, however, might surprise us all!!!)