Litany of Sadness (Isolation: Week 8)

Can I tell you how sad I am?

There’s so much to be sad about these days. There’s so much to push your shoulders downward, to sink that sorrow deep down into your bones. The news. Fear. Conflict. Blame. A phone call. Loss. Worry. The past. Hate. Mistrust. The future.

The thoughts hang heavy and dark, like last week’s rain clouds. (Last week, Week Eight of our coronavirus isolation, was mostly dark and cool and wet – fitting weather for sadness.)

Let me tell you what I’m sad about.

I’m sad about our coronavirus dead. About lives taken too soon, about deaths that went unwitnessed. I’m sad for all those who longed to be with their loved ones, who didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.

I’m sad about our other dead, too. About those who suffered at home, who were too scared to go to the hospital. I’m sad about those who felt too desperate and hopeless to go on. I’m sad for those who must mourn without funerals, who won’t have anything resembling closure.

I’m sad about Ahmaud Abery. About his future and promise, stolen. About the fear and desperation he must have felt in his final moments.

I’m sad for Ahmaud’s mother. For his family and friends. For his community at home and across the nation. I’m sad that so many people live in fear of what others might do to them because of their skin color. I’m sad for all those black mothers who are terrified to send their children out into the world.

I’m sad that lynchings can still happen in 2020. I’m sad they ever happened at all. I’m sad to think of all those victimized by them. I’m sad to think of all those who gathered to watch. I’m sad to think that any person could do such a thing to another.

I’m sad for those who are sick. For those who sweat and shake, who watch their temperatures rise. For those who struggle to breathe.

I’m sad for those who have lost jobs. For those who can’t pay the rent. For those who struggle to feed their families. For those whose prospects have evaporated.

I’m sad for those who have lost business. For those who contemplate shutting down, who may never again find themselves whole, financially or professionally.

I’m sad for those at their breaking points.

I’m sad for the churches and charities that want to help, but may themselves be undone by this crisis.

I’m sad for those of us who long not just for community, but for Communion. I’m sad for all the millions of souls without access to the sacraments.

I’m sad for our priests and ministers and rabbis and imams.

I’m sad for our nurses and doctors and medical technicians.

I’m sad for our emergency personnel. For our frontline workers who have never before been considered frontline.

I’m sad about the communities and families divided by this crisis. About the hard feelings. About the misunderstandings, the miscommunications, the blame. About the desperation and fear that drive some to want to extend lockdowns and others to want to end them.

I’m sad for those who seek answers in conspiracy theories. For those who push and profit from them. For those who fall victim to them. For those who are harmed physically, emotionally, or reputationally by them.

I’m sad for our children, who won’t get to walk into their classrooms or hug their teachers again this year. I’m sad that school will look different next year, too. I’m sad that our kids will have to keep learning under a cloud.

I’m sad for their teachers, who we can’t thank in person.

I’m sad that I can’t see my grandparents, that I can’t touch my parents. I’m sad that what I want most right now – physical contact with those I love – can’t be made safe by loosening shutdown restrictions.

I’m sad about all those little things you hardly dare group with everything above: missed school plays and concerts, field trips and field days. Missed playdates and lunch dates and glasses of wine with friends. The prospect of a lonely summer.

~~~

Toward the end of last week, I sat in our front yard at sunset. I stared at the trees against the darkening sky and I recited this litany of sadness like a prayer.

I am so sad, Lord. There is so much to be sad about.

Lord, allow me unite my sadness to yours.

Lord, have mercy.

Photo of sky in evening

The Novel Normal (Isolation: Week 5)

On Sunday I drove for the first time in nearly four weeks. It felt strange. My body was unused to moving along the earth at high speed, cradled in a chair of fake leather, carried in a machine of metal. Every hill and curve seemed exaggerated. I struggled to stay in my lane.

The experience made me think about how we’ve grown used to something so unnatural – our bodies transported, quickly, across surfaces that would take ages to cover on foot. A hundred miles by car, a thousand miles by plane. We travel farther from our homes to get to Ikea than many throughout human history ever traveled in their lifetime.

I was driving to our parish to drop off a casserole I’d made for Our Daily Bread. (Parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore take turns contributing casseroles to the program. Ours does so once a month.) I was glad for the excuse to be out of the house, out on those hills and curves. My brain hardly knew where to settle – even the familiar seemed novel.

I was glad for the excuse to be on the church grounds again. There was all that red brick. There were the flowers and the trees in bloom. There was where we should have walked from Mass to the kids’ faith formation classes. There was where my son should have posed for First Communion pictures and there was where my daughter should have pranced about in her flower girl dress.

There was the building that held the tabernacle that held Him.

On my way home, I stopped in the middle of the road (no other cars to be seen – I promise) to take pictures of a landscape I can’t see from my house. Fields, barns, cattle, a lovely little family graveyard surrounded by a stone wall.

Normal and novel, all of it.

I came home to a family ready to sit down with me to watch online Mass. This time we watched Bishop Barron’s. A previous time, my four-year-old asked if “that pink thing” was part of Bishop Barron’s head.

Picture of Bishop Barron celebrating Mass

All seven of us snuggled on the sofa. Two were very wiggly, passed from mother to father to brother and back again. Normal Mass behavior, a novel way to be experiencing it.

I’ve been trying to think of how to characterize last week, Week Five of our coronavirus isolation. I called the first week a week for shock and the second a week for mourning. I didn’t call weeks three or four anything; they were too scattered. I was too scattered. But in considering week five, I think I’ve got to call it the week for beginning to feel normal.

Not that we went back to feeling the normal we felt before this all began. No, I think last week was when we began to forget that old normal and reside in the new one.

Last week, Week Five, I worked on the house and the meals and I helped the kids with their schooling. One day I’d do well with the former, another I’d do well with the latter. (Not both on the same day. Never both on the same day.) By the end of the week we’d achieved all the essentials, and that was good enough.

Last week the preschooler stopped asking when she could go back to school. The older kids stopped expecting the freedom to play all day. I stopped expecting my beloved afternoon quiet time. We all seemed to have grown used to this novel, unnatural normal.

Except for in those moments. There are still those moments that seem to hold especially still, that last a little longer, that are so very novel they ring louder and clearer than anything else.

I experienced one of them while watching my children participate in their classes’ Google meetings last week. They’re really pretty sweet to witness, until they’re heartbreaking. Kindergarteners are tiny and adorable and attend while holding stuffed animals. You could die from the cuteness. Second-graders are so happy to see each other! They show off their pets. They radiate joy.

But the fourth-graders. Fourth-graders are old enough to have a decent grasp on what’s going on. They ask questions about the crisis. They want to know if they’ll go back to school this year, whether they’ll have to go to summer school, and how they’ll get back the stuff they left in their desks and lockers. One wants to know what it feels like to have the coronavirus.

I hear that question and the moment holds really, really still.

Another moment comes when I read on Monday (bleeding into Week Six here) about Governor Hogan’s acquisition of 5,000 coronavirus test kits from South Korea. I’m stunned. I read that the kits have the capacity to run half a million coronavirus tests – “roughly equal to the total amount of testing that has been completed by four of the top five states in America combined” – and I cry. The moment seems to take every feeling that has deadened over the course of this crisis and whisper life back into them.

I have been convinced that our kids will not go back to school this year, that we won’t see family or friends through the summer and maybe into the fall, and that the beginning of the next school year could be altered too. If that proves not to be the case, I am going to be a blubbering, grateful mess. Even now, at just the hope of it, I cry a messy thank you to the Hogans.

It is strange to be sitting in my room crying with joy and hope at the prospect of returning to our normal lives – our real normal, the one we’ve left behind.

I soak in that still, loud, clear, life-giving moment before getting up and walking downstairs, back into the novel normal.

Picture of the view from the author's car

 

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Past Everybody Else’s Bedtime (Isolation: Weeks 3 and 4)

I don’t know what to tell you about the past two weeks – weeks Three and Four of our coronavirus isolation.

I was going to tell you about my Lenten sacrifice, the one where I gave up wasting time and indulging in escapism. How I gave up escapism just before the world turned upside down and the schools closed and grocery shelves emptied and suddenly all I wanted to do was escape.

How I felt like God had rounded up all my weaknesses and insecurities and thrust them in my face.

I could tell you about my quickly-trashed “homeschooling” schedule and the fifteen million computer programs my kids are supposed to use to do their schoolwork. How I’ve only very slowly progressed from a “This is never going to work” mindset to a “If we work really hard, maybe we can do the bare minimum” mindset.

And how I truly mean the “we” in that sentence, because for Kindergarteners, second-graders, and fourth-graders, remote learning requires great, big, heaping helpings of parental involvement. Which is hard to fit in when you’re cooking three meals a day and running the dishwasher twice a day and changing five diapers a day and trying to keep laundry moving so you don’t drown in it.

And how I don’t know how teleworking parents are managing it. Except I imagine that most of them have fewer than five kids, and maybe it’s easier to telework and oversee remote learning when you’re not doing it with five kids.

And how, when I stop to think about that, I experience a brief, wistful daydream of an easier, more peaceful, one- or two-child quarantine. For about five seconds, at which point I remember that I have never been more thankful for our large family than I am now, during this pandemic.

You should see these kids, rolling around the house and yard like a pack of laughing, half-drunk rugby players. They are enjoying each other so much. They are loving each other so much, growing in kindness and consideration for each other even as they howl about somebody knocking over somebody else’s Legos.

I feel like I’m getting a glimpse at how much they’ll enjoy each other as goofball teenagers (and hopefully adults?) and I am so very grateful for it.

I could tell you about the playset Brennan is building for the kids or the bunkbed he just finished or how he keeps having to detach and reattach the sink in the powder room because plumbing is horrible. (This weekend I literally heard him say, “Die, sink!” to the thing. That’s how bad this has gotten.)

I could tell you about our low-key but lovely commemorations of Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the latter of which happened to be my birthday. (Good Friday during a pandemic! Probably the least cheerful day for a birthday, but blessedly quiet and pleasant nonetheless.)

I could tell you about our unexpectedly sweet Easter, and how much more relaxing a holiday can be when you’re not allowed to go anywhere.

I could tell you how we seem to not be the sort who can pull off liturgically-themed crafts or foods or activities, but we do ask a lot of questions and talk a lot of things through, and I’m beginning to see the fruits of that in my kids’ religious devotions. And how amazingly hopeful that makes me feel.

I could tell you about the things that are not making me hopeful right now, all coronavirus related. The continued inadequacy of testing, the upswing in grocery workers falling ill with the virus, the dearth of solid plans for reopening the economy. (Plans, not dates. There seem to be plenty of dates, but few plans for making them workable.)

I could tell you about any number of these things.

I could write for hours and not be done telling you all I have to say. But these days, from the moment I wake until the moment everyone else falls asleep, my time seems to belong to someone other than me.

So here I sit, in the still, sweet, quiet of Past Everybody Else’s Bedtime, and I try to just say something.

Happy Easter, friends. He is risen! He has defeated death, and we have hope.

Isolation – Day 1

This afternoon I handed each of my boys a journal and told them that they’re entering a remarkable time – a time that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. I told them how unusual it was for a story like this to be lived by so many people all over the world. Millions upon millions of children home from school, millions upon millions of people confined to their homes, millions upon millions of people worried about the same thing.

I told my boys that when they’re adults they’ll want to look back on what their child-selves thought of this time, and so I directed each to write one journal entry per day. I told the fourth grader to write a page, the second grader to write at least a paragraph, and the Kindergartener to write a sentence. I suggested they might want to sketch some pictures too.

I told them they could write about anything they wanted – what they do here at home while we’re isolated, what they think about what’s going on in the world, what they fear, what questions they have. The boys were excited at the prospect; each set straight to work.

I picked up an old, mostly unused journal of mine and thought of doing the same. But I write better on a keyboard. And anyway, if I’m going to spend time writing up my own thoughts on this remarkable time we’re in, perhaps I ought to share them on the blog. So here we are.

I plan to share a bit here each evening, telling about my day and my own thoughts, fears, and questions. I want to have this record to look back on when (God-willing) these weeks are a distant, dull memory. And who knows – maybe you’d like to have a peek at them too.

For that record, I must note that today, our kids’ first day off from school (and therefore my Day 1), we did decently well. I baked banana bread and pear bread, fed the kids, did two loads of dishes and two loads of laundry, read stories to little ones, guided the five-year-old through some homework, put two children down for naps (one of them multiple times), talked to my grandparents on the phone, made a grocery list, and prepped food for tomorrow.

The kids watched a movie, played with Legos and Lincoln Logs and puzzles, drew, read, did schoolwork, and wrote in their journals. They enjoyed a lunchtime Doodle date with Mo Willems. They played outside for hours. (And they fought too – I won’t deny it.)

They did not play on their tablets, because they lost that privilege the day before by waking their sister from her nap. (A certain Mama might have told one of her boys that she would lose her mind if the girls didn’t nap in these weeks while the boys are home from school. A new rule was instituted: If one wakes a napping child, no one gets his tablet for two days.)

But we (the boys and I) also watched daily Mass together, and that was wonderful. Our archbishop has canceled all public Masses in our Archdiocese, so yesterday (a Sunday) felt strange, and strangely empty. While watching a livestreamed Mass said by our archbishop, however, it occurred to me that if we can’t attend Mass once a week in the flesh, maybe we could attend every day online. And maybe it might be fun to check out different online Masses, celebrated by different priests in different places. Today we watched a Mass said by Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. We’ll see where tomorrow takes us!

Okay, that’s more than enough for tonight. Tomorrow, when I don’t have to intro this whole thing, I hope to get to some deeper thoughts on what we’re all facing.

Good night!

The River

I never fell away from the Faith. I was raised Catholic and always remained in the Church. I never felt the urge to rebel. And yet I would not call my faith steady.

I feel like one who was raised on the banks of a river she never thought to enter. Who saw the shining waters, the slow current, and figured they were all there was to the thing.

Growing up, I knew the basics: the outline of Christ and his Church and her teachings. I knew a few prayers. I knew the rhythm of the Mass. I thought it all vaguely pretty: safe, comfortable, lovably boring.

I might have fallen away: I had the same, spare 1980’s catechesis of so many fallen-away Catholics. I had the barest of familial and cultural attachments to the Church. I had no personal experience with truly committed Catholics.

Yet somehow I always felt an obligation to the Church, to the Mass. I felt tethered to them.

That tether, that tug, lead me to a Catholic college, to Catholic friends, and later to a job working for the Church. I had no idea what I was doing in those environments; they felt foreign to me.

I now see that those steps were my first into the river. They were my first substantial encounters with the Faith – when my knowledge shifted from one of observation to one of experience.

They were when I first felt the wet on my skin and the smoothness of water winding around my ankles. They were when I noticed the rocks under the surface, when my legs stung with cold. They were when I came to understand that the water wasn’t boringly pretty: it was lively, it was complex, it was bracing and beautiful.

I took those first steps haltingly, tentatively, feeling around, unsure I belonged. But over the next fifteen or so years I progressed more confidently, wading through the shallows until they too began to seem safe and boring.

My faith lagged. After that jolt in my early twenties, I struggled to maintain my interest. I continued to go through the motions, but my spirit felt like I was walking through waist-high water: all resistance, little progress.

Marriage and babies and exhaustion and loneliness did not help. No doubt I was being taught in those years to serve, to love selflessly, to show mercy. Those are important lessons. But in the slog, it was hard to remember the beauty.

Then, a couple of years ago, another jolt: I was sitting in our parish’s adult education program, watching the Word on Fire Pivotal Players series, when I was just about knocked over the head with the beauty of it. Week after week, my eyes filled with tears as I learned about great men and women of the Church and how they rose above the everyday in pursuit of the ultimate.

It was as if I’d reached the end of the shallows. I’d reached the point where the riverbed falls out from beneath you and all of a sudden you have to swim. That’s where the real work begins – the whole-body work. It’s where the risk and the cost begin too. It’s where you take big gulps of air and submerge yourself and kick and pull and glide.

Pivotal Players threw me off in the best possible way. It was a peeling back of the veil. Life is so much more than an exercise in how to fit it all in. It is so much more than the errands and chores and extracurriculars and intrigues that occupy our minds. Life is a staging ground for eternity.

The series reminded me of our personal responsibility to God, our role in carrying out His work, the innumerable ways we can go about that task, and the variety of gifts with which God equips us to do it.

I have a job to do. (And so do you.)

A big part – perhaps the biggest part – of that job is to get to know and love God. So I’ve been diving in: dedicating part of each day to prayer and scripture readings, undertaking some spiritual reading too, consuming podcasts and videos that address my questions and expand my horizons.

I feel like I’ve finally entered the deep. Swimming and treading, I look around in wonder. I have a better vantage, and therefore a better sense of just how small I am and how little I understand. But I also have a better sense of how big He is.

I am at the point in the river where I know that it is so much more than a glimmer of sun on surface. I am in the thing. I am stretching out, working my way through it, muscle and breath and hope.

Against Assisted Suicide

Last week, after a long and emotional floor debate, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill that would legalize assisted suicide in the State. Today, the Senate committee considering the bill could vote to advance it to the full Senate.

This means that we Marylanders could be just a few steps away from living in a society that enables terminally ill patients to end their own lives.

What does the bill do?

According to the Maryland Catholic Conference, the bill “would allow terminally ill patients to be prescribed a lethal dose of a controlled dangerous substance, which they would then pick-up at their local pharmacy and ingest without medical supervision to end their life.”

The Conference goes on to argue that “This bill, in addition to having no regard for the worth and dignity of every human life, establishes suicide as a societal norm, places large quantities of Schedule II prescription drugs into our communities with no measures in place for take-back or disposal, and leaves those suffering from mental illness, persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and our elderly at risk of coercion and undue influence by family members or caregivers.”

Where might this lead?

Advocates of assisted suicide focus on a narrow and short-sighted solution to what is a worthy goal: relieving the suffering of terminally ill individuals. In pursuing their solution, they dismiss concerns about the grave and lasting damage it could do to our society in the long run.

Here’s where this bill might one day lead:

  • To a health insurance industry that has little patience for efforts aimed at extending the lives or improving the experiences of patients who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
  • To a medical culture that encourages terminally ill people to end their lives, just as it already encourages the parents of unborn children with illnesses or deformities to abort.
  • To a society that is bolder in its utilitarianism – valuing individuals not for their own sake, but according to what they can do for the rest of us.
  • To a culture that encourages ill and old people to end their lives, that views those who want to live on in their suffering as selfish – as takers of resources, as wanting to drag their families along with them in their suffering.
  • To the expansion of assisted suicide laws, enabling minors and those with mental illnesses, even depression, to end their lives. (Indeed, this has already come to pass in some European countries.)

What impact might it have on families?

My grandmother died in September.

She was 95, a fiercely independent and stubborn lady who lived on her own until the last two weeks of her life. She died of an infection that her body was too frail to fight, so thankfully, she did not suffer long.

But she did suffer. And our family watched, suffering with her.

Some forty hours before she died, I sat by my Mom-mom’s bed, surrounded by over a dozen family members, and I watched her breathe.

In and out, in and out, slowly, haltingly – she labored to breathe. I watched her dry lips, her closed eyes, her skin that seemed to stretch ever tighter over her fragile, precious bones. I watched each breath, wondering if it would be her last.

I watched each breath, wanting and not wanting it to be her last.

In the months since my grandmother’s death, I have felt regret and gratitude in almost equal measure. There is so much to unpack. How we lived, how she died. What went unsaid, what went undone. All the love that was poured out and spread around.

But in the wake of last week’s vote in the House of Delegates, I have found something new to be grateful for: that while my grandmother was dying and our family was dealing with her decline, we were in a place and time and situation where assisted suicide was not an option.

What a luxury. What a gift.

I am so grateful that we got to deal with my grandmother’s illness and death without wrangling over the question of whether she wanted to end her life, or whether loved ones wanted her to put a stop to her suffering, or whether doctors thought that the most prudent course. We were so lucky to not have those questions hanging over our heads.

Discussion around assisted suicide primarily focuses on the physical suffering of terminally ill individuals. But I fear that in reality, it will have a much broader impact on the emotional and spiritual suffering of entire families.

I fear that, if passed, this legislation will lead to suffering that won’t end with the death of the sick person. I fear that it will cause suffering that lives on in families, trickling down through generations.

If families can be divided by property disputes and ill-chosen words, imagine the damage that will result from disagreements over how and when a beloved family member should die.

Imagine the anguish of children who don’t want to see their mom end her own life. Or the anguish of a mother who wonders if it’s time to stop being a burden to her children. Or the anguish of a family in which some desperately want dad to hang on and others think it’s time for him to be done.

What can we control?

Besides that (worthy) goal of alleviating suffering, advocates of assisted suicide aim for another goal: control. They want terminally ill patients to be able to control their own end.

But there’s another element of control that must be considered when it comes to assisted suicide – control over the thing itself.

Supporters of the legislation will say that it includes sufficient safeguards, that the choice to end one’s life will belong to the patient alone – not her doctors, not her insurers, not her family.

But there’s only so much they can control.

They can’t control what kind of pressures patients will experience. They can’t distinguish between overt coercion and the low-grade kind that builds up over time.

They can’t control the shift of societal opinion towards death as duty. They can’t control how the medical and insurance industries will react, and even use, that shift to their own ends.

And they can’t control what kind of impact assisted suicide – even the option of assisted suicide – will have on families. If for no other reason than this, let’s encourage the Maryland Senate to set aside this legislation.

Let’s allow families dealing with the grave illness of a loved one to handle their situation without the burden of struggling with another, perhaps longer-lasting, kind of pain.

 

If you are a resident of Maryland who would like to register opposition to this legislation, please visit the website of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Against Assisted Suicide

Didn’t you know how important they were?

Like many Catholics these days, my mind has been so full of the Church’s sexual abuse scandal that I hardly know what to do. I hardly know what to write. I hardly know where to begin.

But over and again as I read the accounts of abuse and cover-up, I return to one elemental, heart-rending cry:

“Didn’t you know how important they were?”

I imagine the abuser staring at his prey, the bishop staring at a pile of unwelcome paperwork, and I want to shake them both by the shoulders.

Those children – didn’t you know how important they were?

When I stare at my own children, when I notice their outlines – the places where their hair, their skin, their eyes meet the world, I see the brush-strokes of a master. I see art. I see treasure.

I stop to consider my children – their personalities, their histories, their particular sets of talents and challenges – and I am struck by the enormity of their presence. Each, so full of his own ideas, so full of possibility, seems to contain an entire universe.

Someone stared at those children, the ones who were abused, that way. Their mothers, probably. But if not their mothers or their fathers, then definitely God the Father, who could number every hair on their heads.

Didn’t you know how important they were?

Didn’t you, Father? Didn’t you, your Excellency? Your Eminence? Didn’t you, lay brothers and sisters who knew things, but didn’t tell? Who suspected, but didn’t help?

Didn’t you know how important they were?

That’s the angriest, most sincere cry of my heart right now. It has called out many times, in many situations, regarding victims of terrorism, war, abortion, racism, harassment, and other sin. But this time it’s got an edge.

It is harsher for being directed at people who should have known better.

Our Church is the one that speaks about the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. It is the one that protests at abortion clinics and detention centers and execution chambers. It is the one that testifies to the importance of each individual life, no matter how humble.

Men who promised to serve that Church should have recognized the sanctity of their victims’ lives – of their subordinates’ victims’ lives.

Instead, some treated those children as objects. Abusers saw them as pathways to pleasure, as perks of power. They were things to them, to be enjoyed and used up.

Those who covered up the abuse saw its victims as problems to be smoothed over, as causes of scandal rather than results of it.

Too many of today’s bishops seem to see abuse victims primarily as public relations disasters.

Didn’t you know how important they were?

Don’t you see it now? Now, when we are so well acquainted with the sins of the past? Now, when we can see how those sins wreaked havoc on victims’ lives? Now, when we see the effects of those sins rippling outward, driving people away from Christ?

We are a Church in crisis. Because of the abuse and the cover-ups and the sin that undergirds it all, yes. But also because of what this situation says about us – about what we value. Too many of us have cared more about trappings than people. The trappings of office, of power, of achievement, of reputation, even of liturgy and politics.

While our society has grown ever more factionalized, ever more tribal, so have we in the Church. And the danger here (the relevant danger; there are many) is that when we think in terms of tribe, we cease to properly value individuals.

Priests may rush to the defense of their brother priests, bishops to their brother bishops, conservatives to the champions of their causes, liberals to theirs. We don’t want to think ill of our kin. We hate to think that a favorite son of our neighborhood, our city, our nationality, our side could possibly do evil. We are convinced that our goals are so worthy, they’re worth brushing aside the faults of their proponents.

What I want to know is, will we keep walking this path? Will we read news articles and bishops’ statements and the Vigano testimony and believe them only insofar as they align with our preferences? Or will we – clerics and lay people alike – resolve to seek the truth wherever it leads us?

Will we remember the cry: “Didn’t you know how important they were?”

Will we value the victims of the past and present? Will we value the youth of today? Will we be brave enough to challenge the people and the systems we’ve loved? Or will we cling to trappings, unable to let go?

 

To listen to an audio recording of this post, please click below:

 

These Walls - Didn't you know how important they were

 

Reeling

Yesterday morning I sat in Mass and cried.

I cried for those who were abused by their priests. I cried for those who were not believed, who were hushed, who were too scared to come forward.

I cried for the parents who could not protect their children – the ones who found out too late that they had misplaced their trust, the ones who didn’t know how to help their babies pick up the pieces.

I cried for those who have been, and who will be, pushed away from Christ by this disaster.

I cried as I imagined evil making its way through this mess, spurring men and women to do its bidding: sneaking, touching, hurting, pressing, obscuring, shushing, pretending, lying, demoralizing, denying, dividing, destroying.

I cried for those who cooperated in the evil, for those who still do.

As I walked up to receive the Eucharist under the gaze of Christ crucified, I cried for Mary, whose feast we were celebrating. Mary, who witnessed her own son’s abuse. While the evil one might not have targeted Christ with sexual abuse, he did use humiliation, betrayal, pain, and exhaustion. He used mankind to subject Mary’s beloved son to physical, emotional, even spiritual torture.

I cried for Christ, who bore all that suffering for us two thousand years ago, and who must surely continue to bear it today.

Men who were charged with bearing Christ’s light into the world instead chose the enemy’s darkness. People who should have protected His lambs instead left them vulnerable to wolves.

~~~

Like so many Catholics, I’m reeling from the news of the last few weeks. First (former) Cardinal McCarrick, and now hundreds more in Pennsylvania. Except of course there’s no “first” about it. This is a problem we’ve known about for more than 15 years.

Do I get to reel now if I didn’t back then?

Back then I thought it was awful, but it didn’t seem so overwhelming. It didn’t come with one-thousand detailed pages. It didn’t (to my knowledge) involve people I knew.

Today it feels so incredibly heavy. So pervasive. I’m reading the report (and if you’re a Catholic who wants to be part of the solution, you should consider reading it too). I’m feeling all the horror of the evils I’m learning about. And I’m experiencing a conflicted sort of disgust from knowing a few of the characters involved.

I’m also seeing it with a mother’s eyes.

I read about these victims and I see my own boys and girls in their places. I cannot grasp how anyone could do such horrific damage to a child. My instinct is to want to save these kids, to pull them out of their abusers’ clutches, to spirit them away. I don’t know why our bishops didn’t have the same impulse.

Such evil. Such evil has persisted through all of this.

A few years ago I wrote about the evil I saw in ISIS’s actions and I connected it to the evils we cooperate with in our own everyday lives. I wasn’t thinking about the clerical abuse crisis when I wrote it, but re-reading it now, I might as well have been.

I am stunned to trace the evil in these cases: It is a winding way swirling about the abuser, his victims, the adults who were supposed to protect them, the superiors who should have stopped it all. It continues through each life it touches, causing mental, spiritual, and physical anguish that can last a lifetime. It jumps from those individuals to others around them.

Do I get to reel now if I didn’t back then? I don’t know. Maybe I’m a hypocrite. But I’d rather be wrong in this direction – wrong not to have fully accepted the depth of the problem in the past, but moving to shoulder it now – than to persist in my milder disapproval.

I am sorry for not feeling then as I do now.

I am sorry for wanting the issue to just go away.

I am sorry for treating those who brought it up with anything other than respect.

If you have been personally impacted by the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, please allow me to say I’m sorry – for what you went through, for my own actions and inactions, for the sins and insufficiencies of my Church.

I am so sorry.

 

To listen to an audio recording of this post, please click below:

 

These Walls -- Reeling

All Over the Place (7 Quick Takes, Vol. 44)

Guys, I am so rusty. I swear, in the however-many-months I wasn’t writing, my brain calcified or something. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do this – how to sit at the computer for an extended period of time, stringing words together in a way that will convey coherent thoughts.

So bear with me?

I think whatever writing I do here for a while is likely to be all over the place. Like, right now the things I most want to write about include (1) the Republicans’ new immigration bill (blech), (2) privilege and poverty, and (3) my noise-cancelling headphones, which are probably the best thing to happen to me this year.

Except for New Baby Girl, of course. (Can I insert heart emoji into a blog post?)

Anyway, Quick Takes. They seem to be about my speed at the present moment. Here we go:

7 Quick Takes - hosted at This Aint the Lyceum

—1—

I’m always trying to get organized, so me trying isn’t exactly newsworthy. But me making some actual progress is! Lately we’ve gone through a ton of clothes and household items and donated them to a local thrift store. I’ve tackled our dining room and our disaster of a bedroom. I’ve folded piles of laundry so old they’d begun to feel like permanent fixtures. I’ve gone through papers and toys and boxes and dishes. I’ve been filling in my new Blessed is She planner (which is beautiful!) with months’ worth of doctor’s appointments, meetings, and school holidays.

Whew!

I still have so much to do. I’m not done with all the scheduling and all the many tasks that the scheduling reminds me to take care of. I want to get the kids’ bedroom stuff organized so we can move them around. And I want to get last year’s school papers cleared out before this year’s start coming in. Still, progress is progress!

—2—

But don’t let me fool you. These days I’m driving around with a bottle of Windex in my front seat because I keep forgetting to ask my husband to refill my van’s wiper fluid. I am on. the. ball.

—3—

Last Sunday I took the following pic of my kiddos after Mass:

These Walls - All Over the Place 7QT44 - 1

I do believe it might be my favorite in a long, long time.

—4—

I’m helping to organize my 20th high school reunion this fall. Twentieth, you guys. Twen.ti.eth.

—5—

We’re going on a vacation! It’s only for four days (travel included) and it’s not to anywhere very far away, but I am so, so excited. We haven’t been on a family vacation in four whole years (meaning only two of our kids have ever been on a vacation before, and those two probably have no memory of it). And this will be our first vacation to somewhere other than Minnesota or Indiana (i.e. places where we were visiting family.)

We’re going to be staying in a hotel! And eating out! And doing touristy stuff! I know that we’ll be exhausted and that packing/traveling/sightseeing with the kids will be a hassle, but I’m still thrilled. We homebodies are getting awaaay!

These Walls - All Over the Place 7QT44 - 2

(Not the moment we told them. We actually haven’t told them yet, so if you see us in person soon, don’t you tell them either!)

Oh, I should have told you where we’re going: Williamsburg, Virginia. We’re going to visit Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown (where I have some neat family history), and we’re going to swim in the hotel pool.

We homebodies are easily entertained.

—6—

If you’re a Catholic lady heading to the Edel Gathering in Austin this weekend, I hope you have an amazing time. I was fortunate enough to attend the first Edel Gathering, and it was incredible.

Here’s a post I wrote in the run-up to the second Edel Gathering (which I could not attend). All those hopes for those ladies back then – I’m hoping them for you today. Enjoy!

—7—

Please keep baby Edith, Rosie Hill’s daughter, in your prayers today. She’s undergoing surgery this morning to remove some masses from her lungs. May her surgery and recovery all proceed smoothly, and may her family be comforted in this stressful time.

~~~

Have a great weekend, and be sure to hop on over to Kelly’s for the rest of this week’s Quick Takes!

These Walls - All Over the Place 7QT44

Remembering Cardinal Keeler

I had planned to write on another topic today, but when I woke to see the news of Cardinal Keeler’s passing, all I could think about was him, so I thought I’d share those thoughts instead.

I am not someone who knew Cardinal Keeler well; like many hundreds if not thousands of others, I am someone who simply encountered the Cardinal, who met him and watched him and who feels blessed to have done so. But though I have no intimate or profound experiences to relate, I can tell you about the love and light I felt when I was around Cardinal Keeler, and which I feel now as I remember him.

I grew up in the Archdiocese of Baltimore – I was ten when Keeler was installed as Archbishop and nearly thirty when he retired – so to me, the Cardinal looms large as a representation of bishops, and of the Archdiocese, and indeed of the Church itself.

But not just because of his position.

Cardinal Keeler was one of those rare individuals who made everyone feel like they counted. He connected with people. He was funny and clever and he had this sparkle in his eye that made you feel like you were in on the joke. The Cardinal exuded love and warmth and an intangible quality that must have had something to do with the light of Christ. You just felt lucky to be around him.

(Read the rest at the Catholic Review.)

The Space Between - Remembering Cardinal Keeler