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The Power

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…Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power

–an excerpt from “Power” by Adrienne Rich

On Thursday I went to an evening liturgy at the Episcopal Cathedral.  Instead of extending my palms over the altar during the Eucharistic prayer as the presider had implored us to do, I attempted to wipe the tears from my cheeks without attracting the attention of the small congregation.  Instead of singing and casually swaying with the melody of the communion song, I was preoccupied by the tense knot in my throat, trying to swallow it–along with all that unbridled emotion.

It was the liturgy of my dreams, right there in front of me: the liturgical prayers and rituals I loved, enacted by a community with lay and ordained ministers of every gender, sexuality, and race, language that reflected tradition while emphasizing the full and equal participation of all.  All this filled me with joy and excitement–yes–but the tears were an outpouring of another kind.  As I stood there amid that liturgy, I imagined what it would be like to call this my church.  And I cried because I could not imagine it.

I could not imagine my church becoming this type of church, nor could I imagine leaving my tradition for the sake of calling this one my own.  Even when faced with the manifestation of this seemingly ideal worship community, being Catholic–or potentially not Catholic–remained overwhelmingly complicated.  There is some complicated power that binds me to Catholicism.

I do not live as Marie Currie died, denying the source of my wounds.  I know it pains me at times to be in this tradition, but I also sense right now that there is a force keeping me here.  Maybe I will figure it out some day, detangle myself from its mysterious pull to enter a space where I can call a liturgy like that my own. Until then…


  1. Terry says:

    Or you may find another liturgical form that appeals to you, or find it within the Catholic faith itself. I’ve only been Catholic for 2 1/2 years, and goodness knows the transformations that can be wrought.

  2. Sandy Clark says:

    As always, I love the raw voice of your posts. In this one I wanted to rush to provide you with a solution. To tell you that attachment will only bring struggle and that religions are formed to bring to light, through stories and rules, a way to arrive at the truth. That such traditions, processes and rules (religion) are made by man so that we can have a little help at discovering the core message—Gods message of love, compassion, and peace. So I wanted to say, find a community or group that fits for you rather than one in which causes you so much pain and discriminates against others.

    But then I realized I may be missing something. I just spent 3 amazing days with a very wise and wonderful woman, Naomi Tutu, and she is every bit her father’s daughter. After she left I began reading a book she wrote with her father, The Words of Desmond Tutu (I bought you a copy). In this book he describes the destruction of apartheid. I began to think, with all of his opportunities he could have left South Africa and lived anywhere in the world. He could have moved to a country that welcomed blacks into their communities and schools. Yet, he stayed. He not only stayed, he ended up accepting one of the most difficult jobs in South Africa, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where day after day he listened to horrendous stories. It appears that even though he hated the actions of some of his fellow countrymen, he could not give up on his country. He knew that this struggle was worth fighting for. And in his youth, I am sure he dreamed of a day when his black brothers and sisters would be free—when others did not see that as a possibility.

    So I began to think that maybe your interest in staying with the Catholic Church has more meaning than simply holding on to attachment. Perhaps you are there to lead the way towards a more compassionate, accepting Catholic Church. One that will embrace women and gay priests. And as the Dali Lama says, “if not you then who?”. I believe your talents and insights are there for a reason and that reason just may be to change the Catholic Church. But if you choose to let go, to follow a different course, that is good too. I am just so thankful that Desmond Tutu made the decision to stay.

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