Monthly Archives: February 2014

Direction and the luxury of time

Dear Pope Francis,

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently been off work because of an injury. I was employed almost full time housekeeping at a local hotel as well as part-time as a reporter for a local radio station. Because of the work I was doing I managed to strain all the muscles in my right arm and wreck most of the tendons in my wrist. DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis, so not a fun time.

After six and a half weeks off, twice daily anti-inflammatory drugs and a ton of ice, I finally got to go back to work this week. I’ve been moved from housekeeping to serving banquets, which has a lot less hours but is far superior to unemployment.

Yana's_fob_watch

Being able to use my hand enough to work again was an answer to a prayer. In retrospect, so was the time off. I have a really hard time recognizing my limits. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt driven to do things; but I’ve rarely had the luxury of spending time just figuring out what I wanted to do.

I did not spend six weeks just thinking. For the first two weeks I read a book cover-to-cover every day. Over the next month I watched a lot of Dr. Who on Netflix, and ripped through the first three seasons of Breaking Bad. I complained about being stuck in the house a lot, and I whined about all things I normally do for myself that I couldn’t do (washing dishes, folding socks, baking, knitting, video games, writing.)

I spent some time in prayer, but most of it was just “pretty please let me move my hand without yelping in pain” and “please get Worker’s Comp to make a decision on my claim and cut me a cheque.” As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t exactly gracious about the time off.

Once I was able to type for longer than 15 minutes without needing ice, I started searching the job banks for potential careers. This was particularly discouraging and for about a week a source of great angst.

As a recent university graduate there’s a lot of pressure to get started in a career, specifically, one which is somehow related to my fields of study and pays well enough to pay off my mortgage student loan. Some of the pressure is coming from my parents, some of it from my peers, but most of it is coming from me.

After I got over angsting about the total lack of entry level jobs, I realized part of my problem was I was looking for jobs which fit what I expected of myself as a journalism major instead of jobs that fit what I wanted for myself. This was promptly followed by a freak-out about how I had no idea what I wanted.

When I wrote my letter of intent for my journalism application in my second year of university I focused on the people whose stories I wanted to tell and my involvement with the community. I didn’t mention I thought the program provided the most practical skill sets I could get from a liberal arts education until I was interviewing to be the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper a year and a half later.

When I think about what I want for myself, being a reporter doesn’t come in to the picture much anymore. I’m good at it, but I haven’t loved it since experiencing the ugly side of political journalism and public opinion during my last year of university.

Since the New Year I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about whether not wanting to be a reporter anymore is just being chicken. I don’t think it is. I think I’ve finally recognized where the limit to what I can cope with is, and for the first time in my life I’m respecting the limit and looking for alternatives.

I love talking to people and making their stories, both good and bad accessible. I can do that by organizing fundraising events for a charity whose mission I share. I can use my writing and audio-video editing skills towards bringing in more volunteers and money to expand on current programs. I can get back to choosing work which needs me to serve others, and puts the attention on them and what they’ve done or experienced rather than on me and how I told the story.

For now I’ll continue to serve at banquets and pick up shifts reporting for the local radio station. Rent needs to be paid and groceries need to be bought. I’ll pray for God to give me an obvious sign pointing me to where I need to go, and keep applying for jobs at charities and organizations involved with vulnerable populations.

Content to serve,

Meredith

Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Emotions Run High

Dear Pope Francis,

The last couple of weeks have been very emotionally draining: I’ve received some fantastic news, I’ve received from terrible news; I’ve had some awesome conversations, I’ve felt completely burnt out and stressed by others; and I’ve felt gratitude for friends who noticed that something was wrong. One friend commented that I’ve been freaking him out lately because he’s never seen me have such intense emotions. And he’s right, most people haven’t seen these wild, intense emotions, because I try my darnedest to keep them under control.

The truth is, I can be embarrassed by my emotional reaction to things. I can feel out of control, and that really scares me. When I take the time to reflect on them I can learn so much from these deep feelings. Society tells me that I must be strong and independent; that I need to pull myself up the bootstraps and work hard. Showing emotions is a weakness; it means that I am sensitive. But is that really such a bad thing?

I don’t mean to suggest that having extreme emotions all the time is a good or healthy thing. Sometimes they indicate that there is something wrong, be it depression or a hormonal imbalance, or something else. Instead, I believe that being aware of these extreme emotions, rather than being a sign of weakness, can be a sign of great strength. For instance, because I am sensitive to the world around me, I empathize with others quickly. I consider this a very important and necessary quality.

Because I know what my emotions are like normally, when I do experience these emotional extremes, like I have been lately, I know that they are unusual. They tell me that there is something going on inside that needs to be sorted out. I begin to sift through those emotions, looking for the root cause. Sometimes this involves digging up thoughts and feelings that I either forgot, or wish I forgot. This can be a painful process, and can require companionship from different people, like my close friends, my family, and usually my spiritual director.

Ultimately, these emotions can sometimes help me to understand where God is calling me in a particular instance. When God calls me in a particular direction, there is usually peace and joy (which is different from pleasure and happiness). This can get buried under doubts and fears. When I take the time so sit with my emotions, I can sort out what I’m feeling, and their source. In many ways, this process helps me become closer to God, and isn’t that part of the Christian life?

Peace,

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The virtues we value

Dear Pope Francis,

A few weeks ago I was talking with my boyfriend about why honesty is so important to me. The gist of it was that as virtues go, I value honesty higher than any other because I used to be really terrible at it. He hugged me, and said “I know. That’s how it is with everyone. People value the things they’re bad at.”

At first, I didn’t think he could possibly be right, but then I thought about it. The young woman I knew who was most concerned with sexual purity and most upset by a perceived lack of it in anyone was addicted to porn. The most hard-working man I know used to sit around all the time and be frustrated that things weren’t happening in his life. Several friends who now value frugality spent far too much at one time or another.

For all of us, there was a period of disconnect between what we wanted and what we were. None of us were able to get rid of those vices overnight. As far as I know, we all continue to struggle with them.

What’s encouraging for me is that I can honestly say that I haven’t told a whopper in several years now, and when I’m calling to mind my sins at mass on Sundays, it’s not usually a list of all the little white lies I’ve told. Other things come to mind, like people I need to forgive, the coffee shop barista I was too miserly to tip even a little bit, and lately, all the times during the week when I haven’t been as gracious about my time off work and the wait for worker’s comp to come through as I should be.

T-Ring

Michael George, my ethics professor, used to say “people hardly ever change until they’re in crisis, because real change means deciding you give enough of a shit about your crappy life to change whatever it is that’s making it crappy.”

I’m 24 years old, and for the last six years, my New Year’s resolution has been to be more honest.

It started with allowing myself to be myself. When I stopped pretending to be perfect I started to actually enjoy the life I was living. I stopped feeling like I needed to invent stories about friends that didn’t exist and started being able to tell the real stories about the excellent ones I had.

Harder for me, was to stop expecting perfection of myself in my academics and hobbies. But once I stopped expecting it I started to be able to be honest with myself about what I had done instead of getting caught up on how I hadn’t formatted my paper correctly, or how the blanket I knit wasn’t symmetrical. I lost marks for formatting, but the professor really liked my thesis and thought I had a solid argument. The blanket wasn’t symmetrical and it had some stitches wrong, but the friend whose baby I knit it for loved it because I’d taken the time to make it. The story I wrote wasn’t well received, but it was important it got told.

It wasn’t until my family life went nuclear that I started being able to be emotionally honest with the people close to me. If I were to pinpoint the area I still need to work the hardest at, it would be this.

It took the collapse of a significant part of my social sphere to break the habit of protecting people’s feelings by avoiding the absolute truth. Ironically, the collapse happened because I told the truth. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

T-Ring Engraving

I had the words “Testify to the truth” engraved on my T-Ring, both as a summary of what I learned in university and a reminder to myself. (I couldn’t fit all of John 18:37.)

I don’t pray I’ll stop making mistakes. I pray God will give me the grace to recognize them, the courage to own up, the wisdom to learn from them, and the self-control to not keep repeating the same ones.

For everyone else, I pray they’ll give enough of a shit about their crappy lives to change whatever’s making them crappy. Because usually, it’s something within ourselves.

Honestly at peace,

Meredith

Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Called to be in Relationship

Dear Pope Francis,

Everyone seems to be talking about love and relationships, since Valentine’s day was on Friday. Recently, I was also chatting with a friend about guys and relationships. The friend I was talking to asked: “do you ever get frustrated being surrounded by all these nice guys who are going to be priests?” My friend raised a good point; many of the people I hang out with on a regular basis are guys in priestly formation. I had never really thought about how I felt about it.

The short answer to her question is ‘no’, but my reason is two-fold. On the one hand, I think the priestly vocation is important. I’m so happy for my friends who are discerning and following God’s path for them. On the other hand, just because these guys are preparing for the priesthood, does not mean that I can’t be friends with them.

For a long time, when I mentioned hanging out with a guy, people jumped to the conclusion that I was interested in him. I was, I was interested in him as a friend. All too often society focuses exclusively on relationships that have a romantic dimension, as though it’s unnatural to talk about a relationship between friends, especially when it comes to friendships between men and women.

However, everyone is called to be in relationship. While John Paul II’s Theology of the Body affirms that this includes romantic relationships, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the relationship between friends. Human beings have an inherently social nature, which calls us to be in community. I may not have a romantic relationship with my guy friends, but we are still in community. We can make jokes, complain, and have deep conversations about life. Perhaps most importantly, I know they have my back when I need someone, and I have their’s. But this support system cannot be based on whether or not I am romantically involved with a person, because if that ends, then I am left with no meaningful relationships. It would also mean that I would only have guys in my life, and then who would I go shopping with?

Understanding relationships and being in community also goes against another common notion: the idea that the person you date needs to be part of everything in your life. I don’t think that mindset makes for a healthy relationship at all. A significant other has a privileged position in your life, but when your whole life revolves around one person that puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. Whereas, as part of the community, I have a fantastic group of friends, male and female, to celebrate and commiserate with, but if some of those friends are stressed out or busy, I have other friends that I can talk to. Of course there are people who I am closer to, and they have a more privileged position in my life, but ultimately, they are not involved in every single aspect.

My diverse group of friends means that my life is very rarely dull. I love all of the different ideas and insights that they offer. To suddenly reduce that community to only a few (or one) based on their gender or vocation, would impact my life. I’m pretty sure that when my friend asked me her question, she was thinking more about the celibate clergy, but that’s a letter for another day.

Peace,

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What about the deaconate?

Dear Pope Francis,

On Sunday, Lauren wrote about how she wants to find her place in the church, and how a lot of people don’t feel that women have one because we can’t be ordained as priests.

My problem is not that we can’t be ordained as priests. Given that the most important part of the mass is the Eucharistic prayer which is a re-enactment of the last supper, it makes sense to me that the person responsible for it be a man. (Not because I think men are inherently more capable, but because I subscribe to the “Jesus was a dude” theory.)

Women are able to participate in the liturgy of the word as lectors and choir members. We are included in children’s ministry and able to teach catechism classes. Where I take issue is in our exclusion from being able to preach during the time for the homily.

St. Paul was fairly explicit about our exclusion from preaching in his first letter to Timothy:

“Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” (1 Timothy 2:12-15)

But in the same letter when he writes about the qualifications of deacons, he doesn’t seem to be excluding women from the role.

“Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and a great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 3:8-13)

In my experience growing up in the Catholic Church, it is not unusual for a deacon to preach at mass. It makes sense to me to exclude someone from preaching who does not have the education and training in scriptural interpretation to do so correctly. But women are able to be educated now. We can read and write, and are certainly intelligent. We have experiences with the Christian life that are unique to our gender, which are probably not going to be considered by men. You’ve said you want the church to be opened further to women’s presence. Why not welcome us in to the deaconate?

What is so different between teaching children about Christian life in catechism class and speaking to the whole parish about Christian life as learned from the scriptures at mass?

The creation story St. Paul refers to where Adam was made first and then Eve is only one account of creation. In the first account, it says:

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply …’” (Genesis 1:27-28)

If we were made at the same time, both in God’s image, then neither gender is higher than the other and the reason St. Paul gives for why we must be silent is incorrect.

Beyond that, St. Paul’s justification for our exclusion is mostly based on original sin. If we as a church do not believe in punishing children for the sins of their parents, why are we continuing to punish women for Eve’s choice? Didn’t God take care of the necessary retribution for that stunt when he made childbirth painful?

I don’t want to be a priest. I’ve spoken to quite a few nuns, and been on discernment retreats figuring it out, and I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t want me to be a nun either. But I really don’t think it makes sense for my only valued role to be a mother.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a mom one day. I want to get married in the Catholic Church and have a mess of kids with my husband, and I hope that eventually we’ll be foster parents too. Both parents are incredibly important to family life.

The Catholic Church is like a huge family. We talk about our holy mother church. Not to be rude, but how can the church be a mother when all the people doing the talking through her at mass are men?

Let’s pray for each other.

Meredith

Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcoming Women

Dear Pope Francis,
When I was in my fourth year of my BA, I was chatting with a librarian (another women) about what I would be doing after I graduated. I explained that I had plans to apply to do my Master of Divinity, and then explained that I’d be studying theology. Then she asked one of the most dreaded questions: well, what are you going to do with that? I explained that I wanted to do ministry in the Catholic Church, and this degree would set me up to do that. She proceeded to tell me that there was no place for me in the Church because I was a woman. I was incredibly offended by this, and even to this day, I cringe when I think of the conversation.

I’m not telling you this story because I want sympathy, but to give you a little bit of context. As you know, there continues to be this idea that women don’t have a place in the Church. I will admit, before I started my M.Div. I was worried that I would be the only young woman studying (thankfully, I’m not!). I do understand where people are coming from when they wonder what I will do with my degree. Women aren’t being ordained, so people don’t always understand where exactly women fit in. In the stereotypical, male-dominated Church, I don’t seem to have a place. But I do!

Jesus had women who followed him, some who even stood at the foot of the cross. I have learned the stories of some fantastic women Saints who influenced the Church, like Catherine of Sienna, Bridget of Sweden, and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). Their stories, and others like them, have inspired me to find my place in the Church. I am learning about what it means to be a faith-filled Catholic woman from the inspirational women in my life every day. Will I have a profound impact on the universal Church? I don’t know. Can I have an impact on my local parish and Catholic communities? Definitely!

Your interview with La Civilta Cattolica, which was published in English by America Magazine as “A Big Heart Open to God”, you talked about the need to broaden women’s roles in the Church. Thank you for affirming that I have a role, and that it is based on who I am as a woman. Your call for a “profound theology of women” has inspired me to investigate more deeply what the Church says about women and our role, and how exactly those roles can serve the Church. It has also inspired me to take ownership of the roles I already have in the communities I’m part of.

Thank you,
Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why young people don’t always come to church

Dear Pope Francis,

A few weeks ago, my friend Lauren invited me to be a regular contributor on a faith based blog she wanted to start. I had a panic attack.

I was so overwhelmed. It wasn’t the idea of writing regularly again or of saying what I think and having a real conversation about my experience with faith, with the church that was overwhelming. It was fear.

I had this feeling, deep inside that what I would say would make people angry; that I’d be disliked for it and pushed away. I didn’t even know what I wanted to say, but I was afraid of finding out. I still am.

I’m afraid of a lot of things. Sometimes I think I’m afraid of everything. My New Year’s resolution this year was to stop being afraid of living my life, but I’ve been finding it’s not that simple to just stop being afraid of things.

I go to mass on Sundays and it brings me some respite. For an hour, I can sit in church and know God is there. When I look around, I don’t see very many young men and women my age. I hear people talk a lot about how young people just can’t be bothered to come, about how we need to be drawn in, and I don’t disagree.

I spent a year and a half away from the Church in between high school and university, but it wasn’t a lack of desire to go that kept me away. It wasn’t the musical style, or what the priest said in his homily. It wasn’t peer pressure from friends outside, or even rebellion against family and friends inside. It was fear.

I’m not afraid of God. I used to be, but we’ve been through a lot together and it’s hard to be afraid of someone who clearly (for reasons I still cannot quite fathom) loves me so much. I’ve called him names and doubted him again and again; had tantrums mostly directed at him and he hasn’t stopped loving me. The moments when I understand just how much he loves me are terrifying, but God isn’t.

What I am afraid of are the people inside the church. I know they are all good people, but it’s very intimidating to go in sometimes. It started being scary for me just after I graduated high school.

I was enrolled in a linguistics program at a big university and had made friends with a group of girls during Frosh Week. I was only 18, but the students’ union at our school hosted all ages pub nights at a bar near campus and I went to a few of them. I didn’t really drink much, and in comparison to what my friends were wearing I looked like a nun. I had a lot of fun learning how to dance and I met a lot of really nice people. I didn’t do anything wrong.

My school friends didn’t care that I went to church, or that I dressed differently than they did and thought differently about pretty much everything. All they wanted was for everyone to have fun, and for me not to push my beliefs down their throats without an invitation. Every time I went to church, it felt like I was being told to choose either my school friends or the church, except that all I had at the church was God, and I’ve never been one to think that it’s the only place he can be found.

I eventually stopped going entirely. I dropped out at the end of my first year and spent the next year evaluating my life and deciding what I wanted to do for a career. God and I ran in to each other again through the one Christian friend I had made at school. I started going to a Baptist Church with him and was happy to be back. I enrolled in a different program in a different province and when I moved, I did not expect to be going to the Catholic Church. (I did, but that’s a story for another day.)

The Catholic Church at my new university was very different. It was nowhere near full, but the handful of young adults there were different from the ones I had encountered before. I was recruited for the choir almost immediately, and the people I met did not seem concerned that I enjoyed dancing or that I liked beer.

They made jokes about the times they had come to mass hung over or in the same dress they’d worn out the previous night, and they talked much more critically about what the church teaches. It was an incredibly enriching environment for me because I didn’t feel judged or looked down on for being young and doing things a lot of young people do. I could be honest about where I was, and I could question anything.

Instead of being told this is what the magisterium teaches so this is how it is, people tried to actually engage my question and help me find out why the magisterium teaches something. At my university church, it wasn’t a bad thing for me to want to know.

The difference between a community that meets you where you are and encourages you to muddle along and a community that expects you to be a saint from day one is what keeps the fear at bay and makes a church welcoming for young people.

We don’t want to stay away. We just aren’t sure we’re wanted.

Blessings,

Meredith

Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dear Pope Francis – Who, What and Why

Dear Pope Francis,

Our names are Lauren and Meredith. We are twenty-something women. In many regards we are the outcome of a standard modern Canadian upbringing, with all of its joys and heartaches. We are university educated, and setting out on our own to find our place in this world. Sometimes this is a very exciting endeavour because the world is full of opportunities; other times it is a very daunting, even overwhelming task because the path is not always clear.

For Lauren the journey has involved a jump from small-town life on the East Coast to big city living in Southern Ontario. Now working on her Master of Divinity, she grapples with how theology and faith come together to inform and balance her experiences in the wider world.

Meredith went the other way. She started out in the suburbs of that nameless big city in Southern Ontario and moved down east for university four years ago. She wants very much to move closer to family, but doesn’t want to move back in with said family. Her biggest challenge over the last several years has been finding a balance between her beliefs as a Catholic and what she thinks as an independent lady.

We became friends in a somewhat unlikely way, having met at several different student conferences while working on our Bachelor’s degrees (Lauren in Religious Studies and Meredith in Journalism). We agreed to keep in touch at the end of each conference, and about four years later we still do (although we still don’t live in the same province).

Our unique experiences have drastically shaped how we understand both the world and our faith. It’s that understanding that we want to share with you, Pope Francis. You have been so welcoming of people, and so challenging in your interviews and writing. We want a chance to share our perspective. At World Youth Day you challenged us to put on faith, hope and love because these will change the way we live, and you wanted us to make a mess, to challenge the injustices in the world by going out and changing them.

Maybe you will never read these letters, but hopefully if you do, you will see two young women who have put on faith, hope and love, and most importantly of all: Christ, and are facing the realities of their world head on.

Since we’re publishing them on a blog, it’s expected a lot people who are not Pope Francis are going to eventually read them. We hope that by making them available, other young Catholics/Christians/People of Faith/Sentient Beings will be able to relate and understand better where we’re coming from on things.

Peace,
Lauren & Meredith

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: