My Gratitude to Catholicism

Cobblestones and Rainbow Scarf

I wasn’t just raised Catholic. I metabolized Catholic. I am a cellular Catholic. It was installed in me like software, which I now see as corrupt. The official church, the institutional church, has policies that are killing people. Its position on gays leads directly to some of the violence and suicides in our communities. I seriously pondered killing myself as a gay teen. Its position on birth control is causing mayhem around the world. Its position on AIDS, condoms is perpetuating death and injustice. Its position on women and the priesthood is archaic. As much as I embody this church and her beautiful rituals and sacraments, I am ashamed of what is happening in the name of catholicism. There is no black and white. Nothing is simple. Any profound feeling is accompanied by endless and elegant ambiguity. This poem shows a little of mine…

My Gratitude to Catholicism

Thank you for the Mysteries – joyful, sorrowful, glorious-
and for teaching me early
that the Divine is too ineffable
to ever comprehend.

Thank you for the communion lines I watched every Sunday
as people passed my pew to receive the light,
for the holy water font that gave me
something wet and real to dip my fingers in
and know the difference between before and after

for the Bishop’s slap on my cheek
that confirmed my commitment
to be a warrior for peace

for the flame in the sanctuary
that let me know God was in the house.
for the Stations of the Cross
that gave me a way to walk the path with the love of my life.

for the ciborium full of hosts
the ever-changing rainbow of vestments
the gold monstrance of Benediction
the frankincense, the novenas,
Perpetual Adoration.

for the ashes on Wednesday
the washing of the feet on Thursday
the tears on Friday
the tabernacle -empty on Saturday
the Hallelujah chorus on Sunday

for the statues of the saints lined up on my dresser
giving me heroes a cut above what my culture was offering
for the scapular tangled up
in my undershirt, the miraculous medal,
my white Missalette,
St. Christopher on the dashboard.
for the fish on Friday that made something sacred of an average day

for two years in the convent to learn
I needed equal parts of solitude and community,
prayer and service.

I loved you then
and thank you always
but I will not return until you open your doors
to me as a lesbian, a prophet, a woman, a priest.

My altar now is the world at large
and the candle announcing
the presence of God burns day and night wherever I am.
I am a servant of unity.
The language of this church
is my mother-tongue
but I would rather be fluent
in the language of Love.

© 2011 Jan Phillips

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