Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Sanctity of Gay Marriage: Procreation Through Another Lens

I want all people who are called to marry to be able to do so,  both within and beyond the borders of church. I am grateful that the cultural tide is shifting where same sex unions are considered. I'd like to advocate within my own Catholic faith community, however, for an expanded definition of marriage in the sacramental sense which includes gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The following conveys some of my thinking about this topic of marriage as sacred, unitive and procreative for all called into it. I am writing for members of my Catholic faith community who are discerning this issue in both civil and religious contexts.
If you love well, no matter who you are or what your orientation, you have the ability to inspire and create a more loving world. Love begets love, right?
I think of this wild, amazing God who made my body, and all bodies, and created us to love. He gave us all these unique parts -- to touch, to kiss, to hold, to embrace, to intersect, connect, interconnect and even the capacity, especially in sacred and holy unions, to transcend our limbs and glimpse Him in our love-making. Every reflective and religious man or woman I know who has had the opportunity to be loved in a physically and spiritually honoring manner, inside a deeply caring relationship, talks about the ineffable experiences that are the result of God’s gift to us when we make love. These are generative experiences that inspire our capacity to love more, to give more, to serve more, to live Christ more, in a humble and honoring fashion. These kinds of love-making experiences are not exclusive ones for heterosexuals. Gay and lesbian sexual experiences can be just as pro-creative, if you will, as heterosexual ones, if you expand the definition of creation possibilities to include acting creatively and in service beyond your bedroom. If you love well, no matter who you are or what your orientation, you have the ability to inspire and create a more loving world. Love begets love, right? (Consider the infertile heterosexual couple’s capacity to love and be procreative, and therefore okay morally, through this lens.)

I wonder: how does this thinking resonate within your heart?

Who are your gay or lesbian friends and family members? (Do you have a list of heterosexual ones?) What do they look like? Which "group" are you a member of? Do you have a hierarchical ranking in your heart or mind when you think of all these people? Who desires to be married civily AND religiously? (What are the benefits of each?)  What does a marriage in the eyes of God, affirmed by the church,  stir in you? What GLBT person sees their love, and capacity to love, as different from heterosexuals’ love? Who gets to decide whose vocation to love is inferior or superior? What does God say to you in your heart when you think on this? Does he whisper differently into the heart of a gay man or lesbian woman?

I keep hearing in my prayers, in the quiet of my own heart, as a Catholic woman, that I’m called to love and support other people in their vocations to love with their whole heart, mind and body. I am working to this end right here, as I write, pray, and advocate for marriage equality.

I do ask for your prayers. This is tough, messy stuff.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Life Cycles

Standing in community: Balm for heartache
I have been carrying around an enormous amount of ache in the last 24 hours, and going unnamed or processed it feels harmful to my own spirit, or certainly not helpful for my psyche and my capacity to parent or partner well. I turn here to identify this sadness and describe what has (or is) transpiring, with the hope that in doing so, some of this will be transformed and or eased.

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of a discernment class that I help co-facilitate at a catholic, urban spirituality center, two participants requested some special prayers for a newly born child who was on life support. While I had no connection to this babe, my friends did, and entering into the sacred space of quiet and love-filled silence required nothing, save for my sincere intention. Yesterday, at lunch, with two mom friends in relationship with this child's parents, and one of the catholic nuns we all work with, we learned that the child passed away. She had been taken off life support on Wednesday, began breathing on her own, and then abruptly died on Thursday.

In the same lunch/ work space, with  this news arriving via text message and shattering the calm and ease of our cohort, came tears and a request for further prayers. Sr. Mary* lead us quietly in a beautiful reflection on this child's passing, imagining her ease into Heaven, her arrival into the arms of ancestors and angels, and asking the God we all believe in to hold the family closely, guiding them in their grief and gratitude for this little girl's brief life.

I sat at our corner table, feeling tucked and safe with my friends, but wildly open and vulnerable in my heart and whole body. Days away from celebrating my own daughter's second birthday, and thinking of the small being growing inside my own belly, (for those who may not know I am 10 weeks pregnant) I thought I might crack in half with sorrow for this kind of loss of life.

Within moments of this news, Sr. Mary shared a tale from her own northside community that involved another kind of ache and loss simultaneously being experienced across town. She told us of a mother who she has known for years who was, that afternoon, giving her newborn daughter up for adoption. The why of it was not fully disclosed, but details of this mother's other, OLDER children --  six and 8 years,  begging for their mom to bring the baby home - were again enough to send me over the edge.

Yes, the mom is an addict.
No, this wasn't the first child she'd given up.
Yes, she was in darkness and despair.
No, the older kids were not doing well -- stepping into a space to caretake for their mother.

I immediately thought of a lesbian couple I know who have adopted three children -- all with special needs, two from the same mom, both of them born addicted to narcotics. I saw their sweet faces and robust smiles and snapshots of arms wrapped around their tiny frames -- all so loved.

I was angry and grateful and overwhelmed all in one breath.

"Man, is God busy today" were the words that came quietly out of my mouth toward Sister Mary. She nodded and smiled, "yes."

My friends processed a bit of their own immediate grief over the death of the daughter that they knew personally, and tears flowed as they considered the way their own children's knowledge of this passing would bring them so much closer to their own mortality and questions of life, death, vulnerability, God, uncertainty, and the fragility of life.

I listened to these moms reflect on ways that they would parent through this time, addressing their 4, 5 and 7 year olds' fears, and considering the larger community that they have in common and will journey with as adult friends.

We moved through our lunch and planning meeting in stops and starts, and I personally was grateful for the distraction of our work tasks at hand.

After my colleagues left, I turned to email and other to-dos, and almost immediately got another note that was a blow to my heart and mind. My long time friend, colleague and teaching mentor sent an email to share that her sister had died suddenly the day before, completely unexpectedly - and so no, she wouldn't be able to make our monthly date for dinner.


Today, at ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education), we gathered in a circle with Teacher Todd for songs and stories and up on the whiteboard behind him was a penned obituary for the guinea pig that had died a few days ago. (Even this classroom pet was not safe from the cycle of life playing out!) 

The levity in my morning, and balm for all this ache and woe, came in fact from one small child named Lily, who confided in me near the guinea pig's cage while feeding the other remaining pet a carrot: "She went to guinea pig heaven, you know?" I nodded, in awe at this child's capacity to state so clearly what had happened and why the cage was a bit emptier. After a brief pause, she looked at me, shook her head, and uttered one more word, "Shoot."

Next to this large classroom cage, with one lonely guinea pig being plied with straw and carrots --like any good family-survivor-in-mourning household would be --I acknowledged my own broken, grieving heart and gave thanks for this space.

"Shoot" is a very appropriate response for it all.

Thanks for being on the receiving end of this reflection. Please keep all families who know loss and death at this time in your thoughts, as images of love, largeness, community,  life-cycles, especially birth, buoy us, and remind us of the circles that envelop and permeate our existence, and perpetuate and transform our hearts and minds.


*not her real name.