|slow roasted pork (8 to 10 HOURS at 250) with fennel seeds and garlic|
-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward
A few months I was at morning Mass when Father said, “You know what we need more of in the Church?”...Fervent laypeople? I thought eagerly. Single people who faithfully, with burning hearts, trudge to Mass? Contemplative hermits in the city? Sober alcoholics to spread the word to all the drunks in church?
...“We need more good Catholic families!” Father exclaimed.
I stifled a snicker: my hopes for being special, singled out, recognized, dashed again. Plus, we do need more good—by which I took to mean he meant ardent, excited, questing—Catholic families.
No accident that the Gospels begin with the star rising over the Holy Family: father, mother, child.
I have always seen the teachings of the Church on sex as an invitation to sit at the table with the rest of the human family. Otherwise, as a single, husbandless, childless woman past child-bearing age, I would have no place at the table. There is no status lower in our society--unless it’s an aging, single, gay man. Trust me, if that is your status, you feel it. You wash your face and comb your hair and put on a clean shirt, because Christ said don’t make a big deal of your fasting, but you feel it. You feel it in the unbelievable lack of gallantry, of courtesy, from some—not all by any means, but some—men. You feel it from the cruelty and utter lack of fellow feeling from some—not all by any means, but some—other women.
I feel it and boo-hoo: we all have some huge cross we feel all the time. And the longer I am in the Church, the more I see that without her teachings on sex, and everything else, I would have no place at the table and my life would have no meaning. Because to be in the Church is to be part of the Mystical Body. It's to be in solidarity with everyone, including all those who for whatever reason could not have sex; could not attract, or be, a spouse; could not or were not moved to raise a family; the old, the unattractive, disabled, and poor; the misfits and malcontents and die-hard solitaries, the temperamentally unsuited and vocationally unavailable; the sexually, emotionally and physically damaged, wounded, and disordered. Because we are all disordered, in our ways, and we are all responsible for what we do as adults, and we all fail in our duty to the children of the world.
It’s not the Church that has no place for me; it’s the world. So I didn’t take the least offense at Father’s remark. I didn’t think he was discriminating me, or belittling me, or minimizing my contribution. I thought he was saying Isn't it grand, no matter our station in life, no matter if we're on our deathbeds, we get to offer ourselves up for all of creation. I thought of my three unborn children and of how we share the same guardian angel. I thought of my six godchildren, each of whom I also pray for daily. I thought about all the young people in my life: the seminarians, the teachers, the writers, the sober drunks and addicts, the whole crazy pageant of people—young and old—with whom I’ve been blessed, that keep me alive and vital and juiced.
I thought of the new way I’ve found to pray: as I pray, I visualize holding the baby Jesus to my breast. In Him are all the other children in my life, who’ve been entrusted, in some small way to my care. In Him is myself as a child, receiving both the love I did and maybe did not get. In Him is my mother, and her mother, and all the women in my bloodline, and all their sorrows and joys, and also all those women, and of course men, in my life now, and who are to come. In Him are all the wounded, glorious people in my life. Because when you’re an addict a lot of the people in your life are also addicts, given to strange silences, unexplained disappearances, moodiness, depression, trauma they carry in their bones and blood and they try to be kind and to participate anyway, like me, with mixed results. Your feet get bloody when you go on pilgrimage, said Catherine Doherty, because you go with bare feet, into people’s hearts, and people’s hearts are jagged and rocky. I know mine is. So to learn to love people who are so much like me, to not strike back and also not to run but just to stand still, to stand by, silently with love…this is a great gift, the pearl of great price.
And really, the more I pray this way, the more I see that is what my own mother did for me, my whole childhood and adolescence and adulthood, while her own heart must have been breaking, and while she was also hemorrhaging from her own childhood wounds with no-one to comfort her.
Do you see? As my love gets ever more channeled, my love ever more enlarges. So I hold the baby Jesus to my breast, and he totally gets it. Without that, I would be nothing: aging, unwanted, dried up. I’d be desperately trolling "match" or calling the plastic surgeon.
To hell with that! I cooked all day Saturday for my friends! Donald and Alan; Benny McCabe, visiting from Dublin; Tensie and Dennis and their two kids Rozella and Thomas down from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker.
"Suffer the children to come unto me," Christ said. and "Unless you become like this child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven."
|these went into the quinoa salad with grilled leeks and charred dates....|
|quince--that was a trip to the farmer's market on foot|
(an essential part of the meal)