Easter 2012

Well, I would like to think that misfit was writing about me when she complained about bloggers letting weeks go by without a post – but since I think I number in the months – I guess I will just let myself be inspired by her.

So, Easter … every few years it really hits me – there is something that becomes clear to me, a new direction, a new revelation of God. It does not happen every year. In 2002 there was an especially powerful year (I was on a retreat) when I realized how pride underlay so much of my life, of my fears and the pressures I put on myself, and how I wanted to be free of it. In the ten years since this was revealed to me I have seen even more clearly how pride ensnared me, and I do feel much more free from it now (though it is still there for sure). I just had a feeling that something big was ready for me this year. It was – but – it wasn’t what or how I expected.

Holy Thursday, the mass of the Lord’s supper, was so unlike what I expected. Even years where there is no big ‘revelation’ this is a special mass for me. I have celebrated it in many different churches, depending on where we were living or if I was on retreat or whatnot. As far as I can recall it has always been a celebration of how we should serve and love one another, ‘washing each others’ feet.’ I have seen members of the parish have their feet washed by the priest – men, women, old, young. I’ve had my feet washed and have washed the feet of others. Then there is the institution of the Eucharist and the love in that.

This year I felt unexpectedly, shockingly shut out – the door slammed in my face. Now this was a visceral reaction, which I have been trying to process. I don’t say that it is ‘right’ – but it is what I experienced.

Our new priest (Fr J) is, in many ways, more … hmmm … traditional. He’s from Africa so there is a difference in culture. He’s much different to Fr G, who was in his 80’s, steady, quiet, loving, and rock solid on what he thought was right and wrong (but always with love). Fr J has a lot of energy and is really into building community and has a lot of good points – though I don’t connect to him in the same way that I did to Fr G.

So, at thursday mass, he had 12 people up to wash their feet. All men. All older (youngest maybe 42 or so?) It was so different from what I expected that I had a strong emotional reaction of being completely shut out. There were none of the women who faithfully serve our parish up there – older, younger … there were no young people … there wasn’t anyone there I saw as ‘like me’ – it felt like I was seeing an old boys, patriarchal kind of club up there. (No disrespect intended to some of the really great guys up there, please understand!)

Anyway as you can imagine – no great revelation – but alot of frustration, resentment, stewing, sadness and loneliness for the rest of the service. I actually felt close to tears, like I had been kicked out of my home or something like that. It gave me an inkling of how perhaps some women feel about women being denied priesthood (though that does not bother me – I am at peace with that).

That night and over the next few weeks I did research and I think I know why this came about. I had always experienced this service as being about love, and serving others – even the most lowly. Fr G sees it as the celebration of when the eucharist and the all-male priesthood was instituted. So instead of it being about love and service to all, it was about Jesus preparing his male followers to be priests. That is actually, from what I gather, how the Catholic church wants it celebrated.

Thus, I think my reaction was because my expectation was so far different from what happened. I still haven’t talked to Fr J about it and I don’t know if I will. I may go to the other RC church in town next Holy Thursday though, to see what is done there. I feel that this shouldn’t matter so much to me, that I should just get over it, but honestly I am still upset about it. Part of me feels I should not be upset (because it sounds like this is what the church indicates should be anyway), and part of me really feels like the way I am used to it being bears such wonderful fruits of love and connected instead of isolation, why is it wrong?

Anyway. That did not get Easter going on the note I had hoped. I was quite happy to head 3 hours down the highway to the Home Town in time for Good Friday mass (previously I’d been wanting to stay in the town where I live until I absolutely had to go for family visiting – in my books, Christmas is the holiday where family has priority, and Easter it’s the religious part that should be top consideration).

Good Friday mass was good (but I was still roiling with upset from the day before) though no breakthrough moments.

But Easter mass – one line from the homily – and then suddenly all kinds of things jumped out at me. The priest was going through different things and mentioned that really, selfishness is at the root of many, even all or almost all, of our sins – of the ways we distance ourselves from God. That hit me between the eyes.

After receiving communion I prayed about this. I told Jesus how I knew this was true of me but I didn’t quite know what to do with it. The answer was something like: ‘Haven’t you been asking, and seeking to find what gifts I would like from you? Give me your selfishness – this is the gift I desire.’ Ummm. I’d been thinking about giving GOOD gifts. You know, my hard work helping out a student who needs help … being the world’s most amazing mom or wife or friend or daughter … hm. Selfishness just doesn’t sound like a ‘gift’ kind of offering, does it.

so I prayed more over this, asking God if he was really sure this was what he wanted – and feeling quite convinced that it absolutely is, that this would bring him joy … and so that is the journey I was on.

For 10 years I’ve been offering up pride, and now I am continuing with that but also offering up selfishness. Not exactly the revelation I had hoped for but I do trust it is what I need!

I suppose there may be a connection between my reaction to Thursday mass and the underlying pride and selfishness that bring me unhappiness. But I am not convinced yet that that is all there is. It really felt like what I imagine it would be to be rejected from your family when you expected a warm and loving welcome.

I guess I have another year (or 10 months) to sit with it.

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Acknowledging our suffering

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been following the “Spiritual Exercises” of St Ignatius of Loyola.  It’s learning an approach to prayer & meditation which is Bible-based, hence Christian in its approach.  I began over a year ago.  At that time I was pretty good at dedicating an hour a day to prayer time, journaling afterwards, and doing my night time reflection on the day.  Along the way, however, this became impractical.  Now I am continuing in this path, but it would be more correct to say I’m “praying with the exercises” as opposed to actually going through them.  This was a good solution for me, and I was happy that I could accept this transition without feeling like I had failed.

To help you through the exercises, you have a “spiritual director.”  My director, M, isn’t so fond of that term.  I think she prefers to be considered a guide, mentor, or friend.  In any case, she has been a wonderful companion along this journey.  She pushes me when I need to be pushed to go into more depth about things that I would rather avoid, and she is loving and compassionate when the storms break.

Recently I went to visit M and check in.  Things are fairly stressful here with DH’s unemployment situation and myself being on leave (so no money coming in); the market nosediving and employment opportunities becoming more scarce; and the usual stresses of dealing with food allergy, other health issues, and daily life (like keeping the house tidy, a constant struggle for me).  As we were discussing it I presented it to M saying “it’s not as bad as it could be – we have savings we can access, and I’m starting to job search … we have family that would help us if it got really bad …”  

At this point she stopped me and basically said “You need to acknowledge that you are suffering.  Don’t diminish the fact that this is hard for you.  This is your suffering and it is real.”  

I felt a kind of release when she said this.  Perhaps it gives me permission to be sad, to hurt, and to feel uncertain about the future, without diminishing the fact that this is a painful time.  It is definitely true that others are going through far worse times than us … people in war-torn countries, or those who are starving, homeless, or watching loved ones perish.  I cannot imagine the magnitude of their pain and it is not fair for anyone to be going through these things.  (In fact, in comparing events in my own life to where we are today, I would say that infertility was a more painful experience for me than our current situation – but I think DH would say the opposite.) Perhaps what M was saying is that it’s not about measuring whose pain is greater, but accepting that sometimes pain is part of life – and doing things to help others or ourselves when we can – but that recognizing our situation it is an important step.  

This phrase has been going through my mind lately: “It is what it is.”  Good, bad, fair, unfair, whatever – it simply *is*.  I think this probably comes from some of the reading I’ve done on the Buddhist approach.  It’s comforting in a way because it takes “evaluating” out of the equation.  This phrase helps me to accept and recognize life as it is now.

I’m not sure I’m at the point yet where I can say I’m truly embracing this time of stress and uncertainty, and welcoming the lessons it has for me.  (I think this comes both from the Christian & Buddhist readings?)  I might just be stuck on acknowledging that this is suffering, and it is our path for the moment.  But at least I can say that it is real, it exists for us, and it just is.

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I was in a store today and they were playing “Everybody Hurts” by REM – it just seemed so in tune with where I am right now.  I thought I’d include the lyrics below:

When your day is long and the night,

The night is yours alone

When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries ,and everybody hurts

Sometimes.., sometimes everything is wrong,

Now it’s time to sing along

If you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts, take comfort in your friends

Everybody hurts, don’t throw your hands, oh now,

Don’t throw your hands

If you feel like you’re alone, no, no, no, you’re not alone

If you’re on your own in this life, the days and nights are long

When you think you’ve had too much, of this life, to hang on

Well everybody hurts, sometimes

Everybody cries, and everybody hurts, sometimes

But everybody hurts sometimes so hold on, hold on, hold on,

Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on,

Everybody hurts, you are not alone