Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lord in the End

Last night, I had a dream that my mother-in-law told me I was going to Haiti. At first I had misunderstood her, and thought she said she would be making a return trip. "No," she said. "You're going."

I woke feeling slightly queasy, knowing I would most likely never make the decision to go somewhere so violent and so poverty-stricken, where children eat cakes fashioned out of mud and contaminated water, and life expectancy, if childhood is survived, is somewhere between 45-55. Despite the good people working there truly doing God's work, and how much I support and admire that, I have immense difficulty imagining myself there as an observer, helper, worker.

My in-laws were there several years ago, working with a priest named Fr. Tom Hagan, who founded Hands Together back in the 80s. With their tales from abroad, and with a DVD my husband and I watched that detailed the amazing work that Hands Together is attempting (building schools, employing teachers, creating health clinics, training citizens to screen for basic health issues, creating sound structures for homes instead of dilapidated shacks, showing people how to utilize sustainable agriculture), it provided a stark reminder of how little some people truly have, and by great contrast, how much we do.

I've been obsessed with the new David Gray CD, and my daughters love it too, making it easy for me to just keep it in the player. On his first track, he sings, "When will you realize my friend, Lord in the end, now you can't take it with..."

And I look around and see all the stuff that will be left behind when I am but a shell in the ground, or ash, or whatever I decide when I get over the fear of being a corpse.

And I admit to being confused sometimes, knowing in my heart that the accumulation of material possessions isn't why we're here and looking around for inspiration. Perhaps we needn't be Fr. Tom Hagan. Perhaps we needn't go to Haiti. But God wants us, not our iPods.

And honestly, in my Church, we're not always provided with the best example.

Recently, the Vatican launched an investigation into the activities, practices, and adherence to doctrine of American nuns. I can't pretend that I'm particularly well-read on this investigation, so perhaps my opinion should wait until I digest a few more articles. But I doubt my views would change much, if at all.

Here we have women, a great many of whom follow the example of Christ and his disciples, giving up material possessions, the trappings of money and ownership, and administering to people. To the public. Like Fr. Hagan does in Haiti, here they are feeding the poor, running homeless shelters, helping the abused, the addicts, the most vulnerable members of society. One cannot help but note they're being investigated by men in one of the most opulent places on Earth. Men who didn't make a vow of poverty. Men whose very robes probably are made of material so expensive, the cost could feed a family for months.

And I wonder what kind of message that sends to people in the trenches. That perhaps it's better if they're not seen, not heard, not helping, just in case anything they do or utter goes against Church doctrine. I wonder about sexism. I wonder how we can continue to spread the message that single line from David Gray's song details, in barely a dozen words, if some of the people who best exemplify Christ on Earth are being intimidated and reined in.


Anonymous said...

I had one of those moments this Sunday when a representative from the K of C stood up to recruit parishoners and as part of his speech said, "No matter what is in the news about priests, we stand behind them, unashamed."


Domestic Goddess said...

You know, lately the majority of my issues with the church (because there are many, and it is difficult to raise your child in something that makes you sick to your stomach) have to do with priests and sex abuse and sexism. The nun thing just takes the cake. It's almost like they are on a witch hunt, trying to find out what else there is to shift the blame to. And don't get me started on the new pope. I just don't think he's the guy to lead the church into the next century.

We don't stand behind the priests without shame. I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed that my church let people down, turned a blind eye and pretends it is over and done with and doesn't need to make amends. It makes me so sad.