28 March 2008

Sometimes You've Just Gotta Rant...

Every so often in the midst of the bureaucracy to which our liturgical lives can occasionally sink, there comes a moment of grace--perhaps slightly panicky, but laden with blessing. Something like this happened to me during Holy Week. Holy Week was different for me this year; what a surprise! Everything's been different for me in the last year. I did not have to preach this year, not even once; our little church has become very little indeed of late, and there haven't been meetings in a while. But I suspect Spirit will begin doing something about that soon.

So, at a time when I would otherwise have been preparing sermons and attending services at the Episcopal Church where I sing, I was actually packing for a trip to Boston to spend the Holy Weekend with someone I love very much, in the city where I was raised. In the middle of the confusion that packing always brings for me, I received an e-mail from a friend: her infant nephew was in hospital very sick, with two frantic parents talking a need for emergency baptism lest the little fellow shuffle off the mortal coil at a painfully early age. I sent her a note back saying I was headed out of town, but that she could call me if she needed prayer at any point; then I sent news of little Chris's difficulty to every prayer list I know of, and hoped for the best.

Late on Wednesday I got a note back: would I stop at the hospital on the way out of town to baptize Chris? And could I use the RC rites? Well... one answers a pastoral call however one must, it goes with the collar, so I sent a note back to say yes. Then I re-arranged my plans, printed out the appropriate liturgy, and off I went. I feared the worst because my friend told me Chris’s parents were pretty desperate to have the baptism accomplished. The father, a non-practicing Catholic, wanted me to use the RC rite as much as possible. The mother is a non-churched Protestant, and they were both VERY unhappy because the local RC diocesan response to their urgent request had been… *breathes deeply* …less than helpful or loving.

Now, I do not about the world at large, but I know how I would react if a frantic parent called me and said their child was VERY sick and possibly in mortal danger. I spent about an hour counseling the family as we waited for a practicing Catholic in the family who was to serve as godmother. I played with Chris, who is a beautiful little man, and he seemed to take to me very well. He was pale and thin and looked like he’d been through a wringer—and every few moments he gave out with gut-wrenching, deep, hacking, whooping coughs that rattled his poor little form. We spent a nice hour, if somewhat sad and nervous. God-mom-to-be showed up; I told the family what would happen, we went over a few things, then we made a Christian out of Chris. Afterwards I anointed him for healing, then left them with the promise of prayer and a copy of my cell number in case they needed me during the weekend. They didn’t. In fact, by the time I hit ground back at home following my trip, healing blessings had flocked all around Chris like angels: he was much better, the dire diagnosis he had initially received proved to be incorrect, and while he's still sick, he's not dying--and they have found what they needed to know in order to treat him. He's out of the hospital now and recovering nicely, with happy parents. Happy ending, thank you God!

Except that I was still very unhappy (OK, I was livid, when you're Irish, German, Welsh and English you do NOTHING by halves...) at the way they were brushed off by the Institution of the Church. It took a while to calm down--lots of prayer, lots of pep-talking, but eventually I reached a more philosophical state of mind.

Now that I'm calmer and more relieved at how swiftly and happily God moved to alleviate little Chris' suffering and that of his family, I can't help but turn my thoughts to the priests and Diocesan functionaries who have to give these hurtful, bureaucratic responses to human need. I tried putting myself in the shoes of the man who had to look the father in the eyes and basically say look, I understand that your child might be dying, and I get that even though you no longer go to church, we inculcated into your being the idea that a child would go to Purgatory if unbaptised... but the rules state that I must tell you: if you want a proper Catholic baptism for Chris, you're going to have to jump through hoops AND it will take a couple of months, during which we'll hope the little one survives. But hey, know that I'm praying for you all... *slaps forehead* I feel so bad for these folks. I would not be able to do it. I could not look people in the eyes and say these cruel things! And I am constantly reminded to pray for those who must say them... and for the people responsible for making it necessary. :(

I can only imagine how horrible it must have been for that priest, and for the people in the Bishop's office that Chris's dad also called and begged to. And there's little any of them CAN do, save parrot the answers... dear GOD what is wrong with the Church!! How can someone make a rule like this, then call themselves an Alter Christus?? Jesus cut ACROSS hidebound rules like this! He hung out with sinners, let his disciples pull grain off the ear on the Sabbath, and generally did what was needful to meet the needs of people AT the moment, not tell them to jump through a bunch of hoops and hope to heck that everything stays copacetic until such time as the requirements are met! THAT is a bureaucracy, not a Church!

*breathes deeply*

But I do take hope and peace from thinking in the mode of wise friends who have commented on this: thank God there are saner heads out there. Thank God there are sacramental ways to get one's child baptized at the hour of need, and receive a loving response with God's resounding, life-affirming YES! rather than just a list of 'thou must'. But Oh, the pain involved for everyone... How can they not see that anything other that God's response causes people to look away from the Church? Where is the love in telling a father whose child may be dying that they'll baptize his son IF the kid survives while Daddy jumps through hoops?

Thanks for letting me rant. May the God of peace be with us all... and help us to see through the pain to those places of grace He gives us when we need them. And may God have mercy on us all...

18 March 2008

Living Lent in the Fast Lane...

OK, hands please: who else has noticed that Lent skated past like Counsel for the Opposition on greased roller skates down a frozen pathway??

Hnh. Thought as much. :)

As my son might say: Like, OMG, it's TUESDAY already and that means it's darn' near EASTER!!! So... how exactly did this happen???

I swear it was New Year's Eve only a few days ago. Then MUCH to my eternal surprise, suddenly I was back home and the choir director (the adorable and wonderful Rick!) at the Episcopal Church where I sing, handed out music one rehearsal evening and said "This is for Ash Wednesday; sorry it's so late, but this is a good one we've done before and can sing in our sleep." (And he was right... it was Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus", which is known colloquially among our good-humoured choir as the Motorcycle Anthem [ahem... ave VROOOOOM!!... *grins*], which we have done many times and always to excellent reviews.)

Ash Wednesday. Huh?? Already??? But... but...

2007 was a rough year. I'm talking butt-ugly, hidden-blessings, ever-lovin' ROUGH. So as 2008 dawned I needed time, peace, stability... in short, by the time Ash Wednesday rolled inexorably downtown, I was SO not prepared to entomb my alleluias. I still needed them. Wanted them. Clung to the hope they offer. Off they went anyway... and now we hover on the brink of Easter. Wow.

God, my dears, is in the details. Whether you see Deity as male or female, neither, or even as everything, God is in the details. We'll get through it... I know that I hope, that as Virginia warms toward Spring this week and the days get longer with sweeter breezes before the heat hits, I will have a chance to sit down and reflect at the sleepless, painful, more-than-likely-necessary blur that was Lent. I hope, in short, that I will find the details I missed along the way, and be instructed concerning the blessings therein.

May it be so for you and yours--and may your Easter be especially blessed!

14 March 2008

Friday Five: Time and Transitions

here's a Friday Five about time and transitions....

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?

Probably Tudor England, so I could learn once and for all everything I want to know about women's upper-class clothing.


No really, I mean it... :)

OK, I'd also want to go to learn about the stirrings of the Reformation first-hand. Then I would like to travel to the American Civil War, to meet Robert E. Lee in person. He is one of my favourite people ever....

A side-trip to some point in the Wars of the Roses, to meet Jasper Tudor, would kinda rock too. :)

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?

The ending of certain diseases: cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease...

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?

Remembering the past, I guess. There are too many times when hope is painful. *attempts a smile; finds it... not as hard as I thought*

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?

Two things, actually: how short it seemed by comparison, and how much it hurt. The Good Lord decided this would be a truly sucky Lent for me. But as usually happens, that means it will probably turn out to have been a truly important one as well...

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?

I'm singing a solo on Palm Sunday; during the week I have three proposals due out at my tentmaker job, so I will be praying even harder than usual. :) I generally look forward the most to Holy Saturday because I adore the ceremony of the Easter Vigil--but this year, I'm on sabbatical. I'm going to Boston to spend time with a dear friend and am leaving on the morning of Maundy Thursday; no preaching, no ceremony, but I will go to church in My Most Favoritist City EVAH, and it's maybe even possible my friend will come along. :) But I have to tell you... the Easter Vigil, beginning in darkness and that long, slow, exhilarating walk down the aisle with the Paschal Candle, intoning "The Light of Christ!", is one of the times of the liturgical year that give me strength to go on through all the others.... :)