Building Connections

organizing

Recently, while scouring my “people you may know tab” on Facebook, I found a few surprising suggestions. Not a relative or a new Drake student, Facebook was suggesting that I friend request one of the following people:

1. A director of a church justice organization

2. An activist nun

3. The author of my Contemporary Ethical Problems textbook

4. A prominent feminist theologian

Read more of this post

The Rosary in New Jersey

rosaryTwo weeks ago, my husband and I took a trip to the East Coast, beginning in New York City and ending up in Boston. Because of hotel prices outside our Midwestern budget, we decided to try our first experience with an AirBNB house. On AirBNB, regular folks offer up anything from a couch or air mattress to a fully furnished apartment to guests. We rented a bedroom with a single woman in New Jersey. When it was time to go, we carefully checked the dressers, closet, and bathroom to make sure we were leaving nothing behind.

I was waiting for the Amtrak at Penn Station when I reached into my pocket an realized my rosary wasn’t there. In the habit of saying it before bed, I often find it somewhere under the covers or on the floor the next day. Read more of this post

the struggle is real

delfin_lucha1In reflecting over my ongoing sojourn with faith and sexuality, I realize that who I am and the area I seek to evolve is one that both disturbs and is disturbed, changes and is changed. As I look back at my life in an effort to re-remember my re-membering as I wrestle with church teaching, CCD classes, retreats, a home that reinforced what the church expounded, my continuous coming out, and personal beliefs about faith, I am mindful that 12 years ago if I knew what I knew today I would have condemned myself. In searching the hogar within, I realize that growing up I knew that there was something different about me. I had a feeling that I did not feel right in my own body and I was not like other boys or girls. I was confused for a long time and decided not to deal with it. Rather than reconcile my faith and my sexuality, I repressed many feelings that did not fit into the black and white paradigm of gender/sexuality that stemmed from growing up Cuban, conservative, and Catholic. Twelve years ago, this reflection that critiques the Church’s teaching would not have been written, much less having attended Yale Divinity School, being the director of a LGBT Center, and much, much, much less showing my hairy legs and painted toe nails in a skirt I bought I Lane Bryant. In order to survive I unwillingly conformed to the standards imposed on me because I was scared of the ramifications if I did not—I hid behind the smile of the good Catholic boy who was going to be a priest. Being Hispanic, Catholic, and queer did not mesh well. I feared burning in hell, being beat up, and most tragically being a disgrace to my family and their memory. The world was to be black and white with no room for color or even variations of gray, period, no questions asked.

As I began to venture into the world of sexuality and gender, questions, doubts, and issues with gender binaries and expectations began to rise. I began to query my history, cultural worlds, family story, church teaching, and society’s dominant narrative. When I came out in my early twenties, I said I was gay because it was all I knew at the time and it seemed to fit; it was also slightly safer.   I was an oddity in a world of dominating and hierarchical notions of sacred whiteness and holy maleness. I did not fit the stereotype of gay maleness perpetuated by society and the media due to something more that was evolving, growing, and desiring to be birthed in me and in the world. As I learned about the T of LGBTQ, I had a second coming out to myself and to GOD. I was birthed, came into voice, and claimed that I am both/and—I am not an antagonistic dualism. AHHHHHHHH!!!!!! OHHHHHHHH S***!!!!!!!!!

As a Catholic, I feel that I am constantly having to prove myself and my Catholicity. It is a constant struggle of becoming, yet a becoming that is never affirmed, accepted, or celebrated as good enough. Becoming and existing as a person who is both/and is especially hard in the Catholic world that is still figuring out what to do with G and L, much less attempting to engage BTPPQQ and everything else. It is a place where many are quick to silently judge, label, and dismiss my personhood causing this little freak in a skirt to go back into the closet out of fear and survival. My experience thus in life have helped me realize that the grappling of living into and out of one’s faith and sexuality is an on-going one. I realize that I am not alone, there are those who have paved the way before me through their brave questioning of church teaching such as Margaret Farley, Hildegard of Bingen, Gloria Anzaldua, and Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz; and there are those who are paving the way with me like my mother, my beloved, and all I meet along the way of this quirky journey of life.   My lucha is to bare witness to the Catholic Church and take on her teachings; finding ways to be catholic. Coming into my own publicly through the birthing of this delphic delfín will be a labor of revolutionary resilience where GOD is my midwife birthing and re-birthing truth-telling in me and through me.   Amen.

 I have been witness to marvels that affect the nature of the mystical body, for we too, gay men that we are, are also members of that same body…and mind by mind, soul by soul, heart by heart, we are building a consensus fidelium that one day will set us free…for such is the promise of our common baptism and the rights we derive from that sacrament. –E. Stoltz

 In all those times of wrestling with tough issues, with Church leaders, with each other, with disease, I have been pinned down and squeezed, touched, massaged, embraced, cuddled, and, yes, pleasured by a challenging and ever-loving GOD. I have been transformed and reconciled. No longer frightened or ashamed, I am learning to confide in GOD’s love and the love of my fellow wrestlers. After the match is over, I look forward to walking humbly with my GOD, even if it is with a limp. – K. J. Calegari

Don’t just do something – sit there! Reflections on a weekly practice of silence

 

magnificat chapel sunshine

The Magnificat Chapel at Villa Maria

During my two month working retreat this past summer with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Wednesday was my day in silence. Silence defined as not only no in-person conversations but also no cell phone, no iPod, and no laptop. Each Tuesday night, I turned off my devices (which, as a typical member of my generation, I generally treat as extensions of myself) and stuck them in a drawer.  I unplugged from my normal way of being in the world with the hope I would plug into that larger Voice which is so easily drowned out by noise and activity. Knowing my own tendency to binge-read, I made the rule of no books during my days in silence – since I know I could spend a day reading about prayer…and not actually pray.

So what exactly did I do on those Wednesdays?

Mostly, I prayed.  That is to say, I listened.  I felt my mind slowly unwind and my soul slowly expand. I prayer-walked the Sisters’ cemetery. I swam laps. I sat in the meditation attic, my hands open on my lap.  I journalled. I walked – sans earbuds – among the blue heron by the pond, the geese by the labyrinth, the yellow finches back in Billy’s field. I painted and drew in the art house – aware of but not heeding the nagging inner voice that told me this whole endeavor was ridiculous, self-indulgent and a waste of time.

You see, I’m a US North American, a life-long social activist, as well solidly extroverted according to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. None of these traits make me a natural fit for a day of contemplative silence and solitude. The thought of going more than an hour or two without a to-do list makes me a little nervous. Moreover, I was conscious of what a privilege it is to take a day in silence.  Given years of ministry on the margins – in rural Latin America and among the working poor here in the US – I am acutely aware of how much of humanity lives in works sixty or seventy hours a week to just scrape by. In light of that, how could I justify the “luxury” of a day each week given over to silence?

Of course, a practical case can be made for silence, prayer and contemplative practice. There are numerous studies that show that prayer is good for our health – lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, and lots of other things that will win you praise from your doctor. But the practice of a day in silence can’t – or shouldn’t – be on par with eating leafy greens or climbing on the Stairmaster for half an hour of cardio.

Nor is the practice of a day in contemplative silence simply about charging one’s battery to go out and do more apostolic work. Of course, it is true that our service to the world is nourished by our spiritual practice. This is the model we see over and over in Scripture – Jesus going off on his own to prayer, and then preaching and healing. But contemplative silence is not the spiritual equivalent of plugging in one’s laptop or filling one’s car with gas.

After practicing a weekly day in silence for a summer, I believe that the only way the counter-intuitive and counter-cultural practice of  contemplative silence makes sense is if it is based in both Scripture’s exhortation to pray (both the Christian Scriptures as well as sacred texts from other great traditions), in addition to science with its wild and wonderful theories of quantum entanglement, strange attractors, and the like.  Both Scriptures and science use their own language to point to the same reality: that our thoughts and intentions and energy are real and make an impact.

The motivation for contemplation is trust that somehow mysteriously God can take our “wasting time” and “doing nothing” in contemplative silence as an offering for those most in need, for the transformation of the pain of the world.  It takes a leap of faith to believe that my silent, open-hearted hours logged in the chapel, on the cushion in the meditation attic, and on the land can mean something for this beleaguered, beautiful planet and the seven billion human beings residing here.  It takes trust that being – mirroring that ground of Being – can mean as much if not more than doing.

After a summer of this practice, it seems to me that contemplation is an end in itself and not a means to something else.  Contemplative silence through/with/in God is not to be undertaken as part of a health or self-improvement regime.  Nor is it an obligatory battery-charging pit-stop on the road of apostolic work. It is – or at least aspires to be – uniting one’s own heart with the heart of God. Sandra Schneiders, IHM, reflecting on the words monk-and-activist Thomas Merton, puts it beautifully:  “in contemplative prayer, according to Merton, we pass through the center of our own being into the very being of God, where we see ourselves and our world with a clarity, a simplicity, a truthfulness that are not available in any other way.”

Of course, I will not give up seeking to practice the works of mercy and resist the acts of war and encouraging others to do the same.  Action and contemplation certainly relate as both/and, not either/or.  I invite you, dear reader – especially if you identify as an activist or are a super-plugged-in Millennial like me – to take the leap of faith into a moment, an hour, or even a day of contemplative silence.  Not as an escape from this beleaguered, beautiful world but as a way of diving more fully and deeply into it – through/with/in our awesome and mysterious Creator.

About the author: Rhonda Miska is a partner in mission with the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, a former Jesuit Volunteer (Nicaragua, 2002-2004) and a graduate of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Originally from Wisconsin, her ministries have included accompaniment of the Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Muslim-Christian dialogue, social justice education, direct outreach to people who are homeless, congregation-based community organizing, and coordination of a community with adults with intellectual disabilities.  She is based in Villa Maria, PA and will attend CTA’s conference next week in Nashville, TN.

“Pray, Listen, Discern”: Reflections after a vigil

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil outside Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

Triptych from our Tuesday night vigil outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Photo via Facebook page of Call To Action.

On Tuesday evening, I gathered with a bunch of other folks to pray the rosary. We met on the wet, chilly sidewalk outside Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

The sky unloaded on us as we arrived. But the rain eased up, almost stopped, as we began the service. It is the kind of thing that happens when I pray in front of Holy Name.

The Human Rights Campaign and Call To Action co-sponsored our gathering. It was one of seven vigils scheduled during the Vatican’s Extraordinary Synod (Oct. 5-19) on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The vigils call on the bishops to “Pray, Listen, Discern” with LGBT families.  Read more of this post

Honoring All Members of the Family

I was asked by our campus publication Compass to write an article/reflection on National Coming Out Day…below is the musing that was published.  Original link:  http://www.ohio.edu/compass/stories/14-15/10/national-coming-out-day.cfm

Oct. 11, 2014, marks the 26th anniversary of National Coming Out Day. The “holigay” started on Oct. 11, 1987, when half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Since its beginning National Coming Out Day is an opportunity for folks of minoritized or marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities to openly share who they are with the world while advocating that we all have the right to live safely and without violence in this world.

For the last few years, National Coming Out Day has coincided with OHIO’s Homecoming. The LGBT Center has played off “homecoming” by reflecting that coming out is a way of coming home to one’s self, one’s family, and one’s community.

On this upcoming Homecoming weekend, we invite all members of the Bobcat Family to come out whether as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender; or as asexual, pansexual, queer, questioning, intersex; or as a straight ally for coming out is not limited to just those of us who identify as LGBTQ or queer.

National Coming Out Day is also a time honor, remember, and affirm all who are in the closet who cannot come out for whatever reason. Our message to them is that they are not alone and have a community who is solidarity with them. In the words of queer athlete Brittney Griner, “don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because they’re always going to say something, but, if you’re just true to yourself, let that shine through. Don’t hide who you really are.”

The theme of this year’s Homecoming of “Bobcat Family Reunion” is festive but also one mixed with several conflicting emotions. For many of us within the LGBT community, family reunions can be awkward and hurtful due to the lack of support of the “gay cousin” or not acknowledging the queer relationship of “aunt so-and-so” or intentionally using the wrong name and pronoun for the sibling who came out as gender-nonconforming. Because of these dynamics, many of us here at OHIO have found ways to redefine family by creating our own “chosen” families in which we are able to safely and openly belong.

Our hope is that during our upcoming Bobcat Family Reunion, we are able to remember the words of civil rights activist and ally Dolores Huerta, “in the Latino community, we do not turn our back on our family … we have a responsibility to nurture the youth in our families, not to push them out because they happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”

And so we call on ALL within our Bobcat Family—students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, ALL Bobcats—to “come out come out wherever you are, to come out come out whoever you are.” ALL are welcome to join us on Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. in Walter 135, to spark off the coming out celebrations with a performance by Harvey Katz (Athens Boys Choir).

ALL are welcome to come out with us on Friday, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m. in the Front Room for a National Coming Out Day Rally. All are welcome to join us, whether you are coming out for the first time or for the 1804th time or just want to be present.

As we celebrate Homecoming and National Coming Out Day with our Bobcat Family, may we embody with “bobcat rainbow warrior fierceness” the words of Harvey Milk, “you must come out … break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions … for your sake, for [all people's] sake, for the sake of the youngsters who are scared … all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or [gender] identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential … burst down those closet doors once and for all …”

delfin bautista is a member of the CTA 20/30 Leadership Team and the CTA Board of Directors; delfin is also a member of Dignity’s Young Adult Caucus and Trans Caucus.  delfin currently serves as the Director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University.  delfin “preaches” on their own blog Mi Lucha, Mi Pulpito and  is a contributor to the Young Adult Catholic Blog and to Believe Out Loud.

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