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.

Reflections on Marriage

I’m preparing to get married later this month, and admittedly, there is not as much time as I would like to reflect on the whole process.  There’s basically just too many details to think about with all the guests coming into town.  Luckily, we’ve been planning it for 10 months so there have been gaps where I have been able to put some thought into the process, which I would love to share here.

One good part about this process is that we’ve had a lot of gay and lesbian friends remind us that no matter how tedious things seem, as a heterosexual couple, we have it easy.  And they’re right.  The amount of love and support we received from our family members and friends during this process is simply incredible.  I can’t help but think that if I had found myself with another man, the amount of emotional and monetary support would be miniscule.  It’s a reflection on our culture and what even the most well-intentioned family members and friends value.

We came from a state (California) where same-sex unions are being valued as a possibility (we’ll see whether Governor Schwarzenegger terminates the legislation later this year).  In my opinion, it’s all well and good that states like California, Vermont, and Massachusetts are opening up opportunities for gay and lesbian couples to have significant rights as a couple, whether it’s tax breaks or just the ability to visit a partner in the hospital.  These are things that are taken for granted by so many heterosexual couples in our society, including myself and my fiancee.

During my Canon Law course this past semester, the professor (who also serves as a tribunal judge in a diocese in California) was explaining to us that a Church marriage is supposed to be much more of a covenant than a contract when compared to a civil marriage.  The amount of paperwork required for the two processes does not back that up.

Yesterday, we went to the Dane County Clerk’s office in downtown Madison, Wisconsin to apply for our civil marriage license.  It cost $115, but other than that it was fairly painless.  There was metered parking for 25 minutes right outside City Hall, but I parked in a garage, figuring we needed more time.  We were in and out in 20 minutes.  It basically required knowing our social security numbers and parents’ names, and signing a couple forms.  We are now licensed to wed.

The amount of paperwork required by the Diocese of Madison is about as much as a first-time home loan.  We had to get forms signed to do the ceremony in my fiancee’s home faith tradition, other forms for our witnesses to sign in front of a priest (it should be noted that the priests they signed these forms in front of did not know us as a couple nor the witnesses at all – they were just close in proximity to where the witnesses live).  We basically had to sign off and acknowledge that we had never been married before (same with civil), and that we were capable of performing the ‘marriage act’ (who came up with that phrase?).

Now we’re set to wed but I can’t help and reflect on what the Roman Catholic Church has set out for its two primary goals of marriage between a man and a woman.  The two purposes are reportedly equal in value since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s: to promote the love and unity of the couple, and to bear and raise children in the Catholic faith.

Of course, we love each other or we wouldn’t be going through something as silly as vowing to spend the rest of our lives together.  You have to be somewhat crazy to think that you can do that.  It makes sense for us, but I feel bad for all those who feel suckered into it because of it being the norm in our society.  Obviously, it only works half the time (and even for those who are still together, it’s hard to say how well it’s working).  We’ve been engaged for a little over a year and together for maybe three (the start time is hazy).  It’s humbling to think of the same-sex couples who have been together for two or three decades (or even longer), and yet still don’t have their love for each other and unity with each other recognized by the Church nor state.

It’s been a long road and a lot of discussions, but it is highly probable that we will have at least one child.  It’s unclear whether we will have the kid on our own or if we will adopt.  My fiancee started to cry the other night during the NBA Finals when they did a story on Boston Celtics forward Leon Powe, who lived in foster care in Oakland for a few years when his mom either went to prison or relapsed with drugs (sorry, it was hard to hear at the bar).  Now he’s on track to be the NBA Finals MVP after scoring 21 points in 15 minutes against the favored Lakers.  Being able to provide a home like that for someone in need is appealing.  Providing foster care as a first step is appealing to be able to have a child in our home, and then take a break to reflect on how we can do it better (obviously that’s hard to do when you become committed for life to a kid).

The irony is that while I think we’d be pretty good at providing a home for a child, there are plenty of same-sex couples that could provide just as good a home or even better.  It’s sick when people put the argument out there that children need both a mom and a dad in the home in order to have a good life.  There’s too many kids who don’t have a good life with a mom and dad in the home, and too many kids that have a fine life while being raised by a same-sex couple.  It’s fodder and not fact.

The undeniable fact is that there are many examples of people who need love, whether it is in a loving relationship with a partner or as a child.  Hopefully, as a church and a society, we can get better at recognizing that we have to shift the way we do things in order to create more possibilities for this love to be expressed.  The Church’s goals for marriage have a lot of possibility to them for promoting love for spouse and love for children.