Abiding in Love

[We don’t know why this whole post isn’t visible, but you can see all the words if you highlight it. Please bear with us! Thanks, Ed.] 

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

and all your soul, and all your mind,

and Love all humankind as you would Love yourself…

We’ve got Christian lives to live,

we’ve got Jesus’ Love to give,

we’ve got nothing to hide,

for in Him we all abide.

 

Those are the words to a song that I sing a lot. I learned it at Bible School when I was little girl and it’s really catchy. 

 

On Tuesday two of my dear friends and mentors, a lesbian couple, got married in California.  They are both Catholic women and they have three beautiful daughters.  Now they should be able to file joint taxes and have joint custody of their daughters.  Nonetheless, they will never get to celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the church. 

 

This is what I have learned:  In our church, the Sacrament of Marriage is a very holy sacrament.  It’s the sacrament of the union of love. It’s the only sacrament that people make unto themselves, through their vows unto each other and God.  I won’t really ever get to know what this means, either, because I am pretty sure I am made to love a community and not an exclusive family unit.  And as I position myself to commit deeply to be an inclusive Lover within the church and within God’s world, I ironically exclude myself from another sacrament.

 

Since I am a woman and a Franciscan sister, I can only ever know God through five of the seven sacraments– I’ll never get to be ordained nor married. The only other folks that I suppose are in this same boat are gay and lesbian couples because the Catholic Church won’t be marrying them anytime within our lifetime.  So, my choice to not get married is a way that I am sort of in solidarity with them, and all other Catholics who can’t be married in the church because of their sexual orientation.  But it’s not really solidarity, and I know this, because it is greatly imbalanced.  I have chosen the place that is generally honored and they are living the life that is discriminated against.  They are on the fringes in the church, and I am supposed to be a leader and at its core. But God does love us, very much, and is pleased we are authentic to who we are.

 

Before their wedding, my friend emailed me and asked for my blessing.  Here are her words:
 
”What I want to make sure everybody knows is that this is completely real to us.  We’re getting married Tuesday. Thousands will be getting married in the days to come. Each of those marriages is first about love, and second about the politics that surround it.  This IS a political movement.  This is a demand that my wife and my kids get the same deal everybody else gets- the rights to make decisions about our kids, the right to power of attorney, the right to file joint taxes, the right to claim my own children as dependents.  These are basic rights and we will demand them over and over. But just as the marriages of straight people are rarely conducted with these rights in mind, so our marriage too is first about love.

 

I’m begging everyone to do something in support of this movement.  If you can be there Tuesday to support all the couples claiming what is theirs, come to the courthouse. Bring bubbles. Bring signs. Offer wedding treats. Cheer and celebrate and drown out the inevitable protesters. Wrap that building in a wall of hope and blessing.  If you can’t be there that day, find another way. Don’t laugh at the jokes people make about two brides or two grooms, and certainly don’t make those jokes. See the common humanity and the beauty. Take the marriages of gay couples you know seriously. Send cards to the couples you know getting married that day. Be as angry about this denial of rights as you would be the denial of the rights of any other person.  This is the time to act. History is being made, and each one of us is called to be a player.”

 

I’m inspired by their courage and their commitment.  They are really beautiful women, and I’ve witnessed them grow together towards God in their Love for each other.  The unity of love is phenomenal. 

 

It all brings me back to that song from my childhood:  “We’ve got nothing to hide, because in Him we all abide.”

 

Sounds like Love to me.

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About Julia Walsh

Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God's good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She ministers at a Franciscan retreat center in Wisconsin.

6 thoughts on “Abiding in Love

  1. hey folks, clearly this didn’t post right. please check back later and hopefully the problem is corrected.

    thanks! peace, Julia

  2. So if you highlight all of the seemingly black, dead space, a wonderful and amazing tribute to the love and resiliency of the human person appears. Its like magic! Thank-you so much for this post, Julia, and also for sharing the words of your friend. She is so right to say that it is first and foremost about love and respect and then about politics. I might just have to pass her words onto a few of my friends!

    I was thinking about your comments on sacraments…I remember figuring out as a kid that as a Catholic lay woman, that there are only really 6 sacraments for me, which is one less than perfection according to the numerology of the Hebrew Scriptures. Then I started looking into the history of sacraments, and really looked at what the Church teaches about sacraments both historically and at present: From the Greek, “Sacramentum emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated by the term mysterium” (CCC 774). “Sacraments are ‘powers that come forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are the “masterworks of God” in the new and everlasting covenant.” (CCC 1116) So the theology that the Church has developed here says that a Sacrament is the grace God gives, not the blessing that the Church gives. The formal structure of the Church may be denying Sacraments (marriage to same sex couples and Holy Orders to women), but Vatican II was very clear that the Body of Christ “subsists in” the Church, yet the Church structure does not limit the Body of Christ. What I take from all of this is that Sacraments are the living out of God’s grace, and both same-sex couples and women are still filled with grace to live that inward reality in spite of the formal Church teaching. Your friends, for example, are living out the marriage Sacrament more fully than many (even the majority) of heterosexual couples because they understand what that commitment means and work at, that is, they live out that Sacrament every single day. This week they get that “outward” legal sign, and I hope to see that outward sign one day in the formal Church as well, but they and all couples must continue to live out that sacrament through the Grace of God. Certainly we need to keep working for change and human rights, as your friend says, but we must always realize that the grace of God is already within us if we chose to recognize it.

  3. Thanks Becky!! Love is so good, and the beauty of God’s light that shines through the manifestation of it is what guides me in all that I do.

    Yeah, these women are seriously some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known. A few years ago they were both teaching inner-city youth- one of them at an alternative school and the other at a school for homeless children. They were getting frustrated about the fact that no matter how much progress they were making in a school day, they would return to “homes” of chaos and violence in the evening in the evenings and get involved in crime, and some of them ended up dead. :(
    So! They decided to start a residential school- now it’s a transitional living program for formerly homeless, parenting youth and their children that has been operating for 5 yeras. (I worked there 3 years ago and it was my job to turn the youth into community leaders by teaching them about social justice and encouraging them in their serivce projects.) They are total peacemakers, and definately in Love with God’s good ways of justice. (if you want to donate to their cause, check out http://www.wakingthevillage.org)

    I am so grateful you were able to explain the theology of sacraments. I really wanted to explain all that in my post, but it would have ended up way too long winded. So, way to help me out and provide that great info for me. So awesome.

    Personally, it still remains a bummer for me that making vows in a religious community isn’t a sacrament. I don’t really get that, but it’s all good, I’m dealing.

    Peace and Love to you!

  4. Thanks for the background on your friends! They sound like people I would love to meet if I lived in Cali!

    I have to tell you that all of my Catholic elementary school teachers had been misinformed themselves about what constituted the sacrament of holy orders. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned that the vows religious take weren’t considered sacraments since all 9 of the previous, well meaning teachers (and I have learned most of the Catholic faithful) did not know your vows are considered mere “sacramentals.” After I got past my irate state of injustice (it was one of the first times I realized how unequal the Church was and how much was yet to be done), my respect for vowed religious grew infinitely. I suppose it is the same way I feel about GLBTQQIP couples who have stayed together and lived out their sacrament of marriage in spite of the formal Church or legal blessing. Vowed religious are the same in my eyes; your intentions are so true and you live out your call even when the Church has used and abused you (another post could be dedicated to the awful, uncompensated use of near slave labor of sisters in this country to run Catholic schools, parishes, and hospitals). Through it all, there you all are, resilient and dedicated to your vows and Christ as ever!

    And hey, if the formal Church doesn’t consider your vows official Sacraments, most of the pew sitting Catholics do (whether they’ve been informed on it or not), and for me, I put a lot more stock in what Mrs. Murphy (the devoted, pew sitting Catholics) thinks over many of the laws that were written on paper instead instead of the ones inscribed on our hearts.

  5. lovely, lovely. And what an amazing program, waking the village. I love the name too. My sister substitute taught at a charter like school once in the inner city of Detroit and it was called “Last Chance Acadamy”. I thought she was joking with me, just making a social commentary on the school. But no, these folks thought it the best name for the school. Anyhow, turns out there realy was NO chance for these students-no books, no chalk, no paper, no phone in the office yet!, etc. What a mess.

    I love the schools like your two friends are creating Julia. I think if we used that model in other places (but not become incorporated, as I think that would make things impossible and besides, this involves more people to pitch in and be a part of the mission) this would be wonderful! I’m very excited about their passion for students, and families. Its sort of an opportunity for them to show love and care for another group of families who arent getting respect and care. We treat others how we want to be treated sort of thing.

    This wedding for them is certainly sacramental in nature. Its making an outward expression of an inward reality. They are family already. May it be a blessing upon them.

  6. Beautiful post, Julia! And your friends are absolutely right – to be legally married, whether hetero- or homosexual, IS a political act, and an uncomfortable political act for heterosexual couples who are tied closely to GLBT rights.

    Blessings upon your friends’ (civil) marriage (the sacramental aspect was probably there for years!) and their ministry.

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