A Prayer on September 11th

I sat down to write this morning before work, and this is what happened.

9/11/17

The date stops me. I planned on writing about something else.

Someone made up a story about who the enemy was and why bad things happen to us, and we directed all our fear into rage and vindictiveness.

“Tears are bullets when they harden,” a line from a Stanley Kunitz poem, turns out to be true (poets always knew).

We have committed the terrible crime of dehumanization. In our own hearts and minds, we have replaced the faces of our neighbors with the cartoonish  masks of enemies. We project our worst fears on them because it’s easier to hate an imaginary enemy than to face ourselves. And we imagine enemies everywhere. And where we imagine them they become real, if only to us, the terrified and deluded.

Wake up.

Let’s pray for our own souls.

Lord save me from my own delusion. Teach me to sit my ego down and look it in the eye. Let me see my neighbor’s true face. I will be brave, and I will act with love. Let us heal this wound.

Amen.

When I was a child, they told us in Catholic school that the word “amen” meant, “I don’t understand, but I believe.”

I don’t understand how we will heal this wound, but I believe that we can and we must. There are 16-year-old children now who were born after 9/11. They have only known a world in which we are at war and are steeped in a culture that believes enemies are everywhere. How do we teach them not to live in fear? I don’t know, but I still believe in trying.

Amen.

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White Smoke

B&W Rosary
White smoke rising. As everyone in the world knows by today, it means there’s a new Pope. I was raised in the church, attended 14 years of Catholic schooling (pre-k through 12), and at age 15 decided I didn’t want to be Catholic anymore. It wasn’t that I stopped believing in God, but what the church taught didn’t jive with what I believed God was like, so I set out to find a better religion. I ditched anything mainstream right away because I felt the need to rebel completely, to almost wash myself of my old beliefs. I started studying Wicca, but it didn’t ring true for me. I definitely liked the ideas about being connected to nature, but I felt that its answers as to the nature of the universe beyond earth were not sufficient. I began to call myself pagan in a general sense, while I tried to study every religion I could. Eventually, I stopped calling myself anything but a “seeker.”

My beliefs about God and the nature of the universe are constantly evolving, and they now incorporate little bits of truth that I pickup wherever I can. And I’m very happy with this continuing change. But sometimes, like today, I look back at the church and almost wish I could believe again. (My inner critic is telling me you are all going to hate me for being so weak as to admit this.) The truth is, life was easier when people told me what to believe, and beloning to the church was a source of comfort.

I remember defending the church’s sexist teachings about women. This was all before I even heard of priests molesting children. Our media refers to this as a “sex scandal.” No, sex scandals happen between politicians and prostitutes. The catholic church’s greatest crime is systematic child abuse, and we look the other way because to really address this head on would be to admit that the church is a purely human construct and we have been beating ourselves to death because we can’t live by the rules of a bunch of grumpy old perverts, or as Stephen Fry called them, sexual bulimics. Even if I could believe in the teachings of the church again, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the abuse.

And still. And still. And still.

When I heard there was white smoke yesterday, I felt something. My inner seventh grader who still wishes the world followed the elegant flow chart of morality laid out by the Catechism, glanced up hopefully from her rosary.

“Just maybe,” she thought. “If I keep praying.”

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