Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday

I left the Church for a few years, back in the mid-2000s.  Things were said that I didnt like, I threw up my hands and said enough, and that was that.  It was a good time for soul searching and for learning more about who I was, and I dont regret that time away.  I came back to my first Mass on Ash Wednesday in 2007, so this day always has some significance for me.

We got up and took the kids to our local parish today, not because we didnt want to go to ours (our intent was to go to the earliest Mass, but sleeping schedules had something to say about that, so we went to the next available service, which happened to be the local parish).  As we were waiting for the entrance to begin, the priest stood at the ambo and took a deep breath.  I knew what was coming, even if those sitting around me didnt.  "It is with great sadness that I need to read a statement to you this morning from the Cardinal," he began.  And then he announced that one of the priests from the parish had been removed.  What made this one all the worse was that, when he read the name, it rang with some familiarity... that sort of "I think I read that name when I was looking at the names of priests charged with sexual misconduct." (even writing that makes me feel sick).

I cant lie to you.  I wanted to vomit.  As a friend of mine said, "Take one of the darkest days of the liturgical year and make it a little worse."  It could really only have been worse on Good Friday.  I mean, really.  How much worse can this Lent get, as it relates to the spiritual leaders of our Faith?

We received our ashes and the Holy Eucharist and, as we left, I patted the young priest on the arm.  I've given Confession to this particular Father and he strikes me as having a good heart.  You could tell he was sickened by the announcement he had to give and his homily was one that really hit me in the gut.

He started by telling us that, on his desk, sits a variety of valentines, made by the pre-K and K classes at the parish school.  But they arent for him.  Instead, they are addressed to God, Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and various saints.  He's just the postman, he assumes; the kids believe he can somehow mail their valentines to heaven.  But after sharing this little story, he said that our hearts may be heavy or broken or sorrowful, but we can mail them to God.  We can give them, for all that they have and dont have, this lenten season, for the promise of something better to come.

The time came for us to ascend the isle and receive our ashen crosses.  "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel," he said, placing this symbol on first Maya's forehead, then mine, with Peter and Bobby behind us.  It amazed me that Maya leaned forward as he brought his hand toward her forehead, imitating the people around her.  Did she know?  Did he pull back, afraid he might touch her inappropriately by accident?

After Mass, we dropped the kids off at my in-laws for their weekly visit.  The plan was to drop Peter at work, come home and clean, pick the kids up, and after picking up Peter, go to the NICU to drop off blankets and visit.  But, as we were in Peter's parents' home, I didn't want to go.  Maya held me tightly and shook her head "no" when I went to give her to her grandmother, and I wanted to heed that, to hold her close for just one more moment.  To keep her safe from the world just another second.

It's hard... The realization that trust comes with risk, that there is no security only the hope that we will someone be able to keep them safe 'enough'.

I hate it.  Because enough will never be good enough.


Emerging Butterfly said...

My husband is a therapist. He has been heartbroken hearing 90% of his clients sexual abuse stories...he had no idea before he began his career that 1 in 3 little girls is molested. 1 in 4 little boys are molested. Most of them by people they knew. And trusted.

He not only weeps for these people who are trying to deal with the betrayal that sexual abuse IS...but for the men (it's almost always men) who are so lost inside that they do things to others that they can't seem to stop themselves from doing. The men in our world are so confused and lost...So alone. They are trying to get their needs met in drastic and groping ways....and it's not working.

What my husband is crying about is all the little boys turned into men who are LOST. These lost boys need other MEN to BE there for them. To heal their broken hearts. To fill their lack. This isn't a sexual's a love need...and it's profound in a sea of starving men who are doing things to others that will create MORE pain and starvation.

It has to stop.



Joanna said...

It sounds like a rough time in your church parish Michele. The only thing I can say is what my mother told me, when a particular priest took a "liking" to me and made inappropriate comments, told me how pretty I was and at one point grabbed my butt. When I complained that I didn't want to go to that church, she told me that we go to church to attend Mass and be there with God. The people who run the parish come and go, and as you said earlier, they are only people and they are sinners too. Over the years I've heard rumours about this priest having an affair or that one having a kid with so-and-so, and even lived through a day like yours when a priest who used to be at our parish and then we knew over the years, was listed on the news as having been arrested for sexual assault. I would have liked to think that this priest was innocent and only chose to plead guilty to spare the other party pain, but the truth is that that is a naive approach and I'll never know the truth.

I am a devout Catholic and always have been, but I do admit that there are things that "the church" does that I don't agree with and often I have to remind myself that God is our Lord, but that the church is made up of men. Throughout all of this, I always remember that I go to church to be with God, I don't go to church for the priest. I hope that gives you another perspective.

Amy said...

Your last few posts...sigh. You are having a rough week for sure. (((HUGS)))

~ a silly little note that may bring a smile. I turned on the tele last night (a rare thing), and a show was on about people who were losing weight - lots of it. As I sat there watching, I thought to myself "yeah, but these people do not have everyday distractions. They have dietitians, personal trainers, state of the art facilities, as a group of people around them for support."

They don't have nothin' on Michele!

Michele said...

Thanks, Amy- that did make me smile!!!

ccc said...

As a devout, practicing Catholic I know exactly what you are saying.

But, it may help to remember it is not just the Church--it can happen anywhere where an adult is loved and trusted such as a coach, teacher, neighbor, relative etc. It's mind boggling.

It's an epidemic--just look at those statistics Emerging Butterfly wrote!!

Barb said...

I know.