Can Somebody Please Get This Man a Priest?

My husband almost refused to sit with me to watch the movie we’d Netflixed last night. It wasn’t so much that he feared the dreaded “chick flick” (I am blessed with a man who wears his heart on his sleeve just enough to find his way through such films with no problem), it was just that he jokingly refused to watch me swoon over two of the tastiest men in movies – Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell.

cassandras_dream_1Cassandra’s Dream wasn’t exactly a great film, nor was it particularly uplifting. The men were pretty, but that didn’t really counterbalance the claustrophobic feel of the movie. I suppose the film was effective in that I was squirming along with the characters at the nearly impossible situations they created for themselves through greed and misplaced loyalties and a refusal to heed their own morals or instincts.

Basically, two brothers from London agree to murder a man who threatens their uncle’s reputation and fortune. Colin Farrell plays the brother crippled by conscience, the one who turns to drink and drugs to numb the pain, all to no avail. He is coming apart at the seams. His fragility threatens the entire wicked scheme.

In spite of myself, I wanted these guys to get away with their crime, but at the same time, I wanted Farrell’s character to do the impossible, to become whole again.

The only answer I could come up with, as we watched the story unfold on our comfortable couch bathed in the glow of the Christmas tree, was that this guy needed to find a priest. The only thing I could think of that might make his soul clean again was some time in a confession booth and as many Acts of Contrition and Hail Marys as he could muster.

I have mentioned previously that I dance with my Catholic heritage, holding dear to the pieces that speak to me directly – my own vision of Mary, the mystics, the commitment to service – and yet, I definitely shy away from other aspects – Original Sin, patriarchy, the idea that it is the “One True Faith.”

Still, Catholicism seems to flow in my blood as surely as the prayers have been etched into my brain.

createsimaEven when I was furthest from my Christian roots, when I had run out of options, I found myself beseeching Jesus that I would do whatever he might ask, if only he could get me out of the mess I had made. I was twenty years old, alone in a Galway dorm room, trying to live through a case of alcohol poisoning so intense I would have been in an American emergency room in a heartbeat. A man I had been foolish enough to love decided to break my heart only after he had bought me one of everything they had behind the bar. Young, stupid, and scared out of my mind, I clung to my pillow and just repeated the Lord’s Prayer as my body shook and my head swam.

Far from my finest hour, and certainly one that I must cherish as a lesson and a warning. Only years later, when I have made my peace with Christianity, can I look back to that moment and understand the depths of my belief in the power of heavenly salvation and aid. It is definitely not something that springs from an intellectual place within me. It is from a visceral place, a spiritual place beyond words that makes me understand why people need faith and a religion upon which to hang those convictions.

What would a priest do for a guy who had committed such a horrific sin? My mind says, not much. My soul seems to think that he might be able to do something more.

I still pursue a path guided by the wisdom of many traditions, but it seems that when things are really dire my survival instinct takes me back to what I learned first.

Our Father, who art in Heaven…

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9 thoughts on “Can Somebody Please Get This Man a Priest?

  1. brandi December 19, 2008 / 9:34 pm

    I go to a unity church-which is a metaphysical, new thought church that views the bible in an allegorical and metaphorical way and views jesus as a wayshower (one of the wayshowers-as was buddha, mohammed, etc).

    anyway, unity is all about law of attractions, the law of mind action, etc so we do affirmative prayers, prayers of gratitude, etc.

    one sunday my minister was talking about his time in ministerial school when he was having a personal crisis and beseeched god in much the same way his traditional upbringing taught.

    and it worked.

    and he was mortified as he felt he was supposed to leave behind the tenents of his previous faith.

    he spoke with a teacher about it and she spoke to him about divine paradox-about the divine being both within us (and us) and being all around and outside us. And assured him that really it’s not so important how you connect with the divine in any given moment, the point is to connect in whatever way you can at the moment.

    anyway, when I read your post, that’s what I thought of.

    it’s a beautiful, heart wrenching post. thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your call.

    • girlwhocriedepiphany December 20, 2008 / 11:06 am

      Dear Brandi,
      Thank you so much for sharing this story. It really helps me give a little structure and context to my own experience. Now that I am more comfortable with folding all of my various spiritual experiences together, I am ok with falling back on rote prayer every now and again, but like I said, when it happened nine years ago, it scared me as much as what was happening to my body. Your church sounds really amazing. I still have not found myself called to really search out a faith community – yet – but when I do, I hope that a similar such place will open its arms to me.
      Thanks & blessings,
      Marisa

  2. Ruaidhri December 20, 2008 / 2:40 am

    Really?ick….

    and by ick I mean I still have a visceral reaction towards catholicism.

    Obviously when one has been lowered Catholic(as opposed to raised)etches of catholicism remain. Elements of their brain programming(or education as they may call it) will remain, no matter what. The process of deprogramming can take a while. But its better to remove it all, like the mind tumour it is.

    I realise you are heretic in the eyes of the church. This is a good thing!Keep it that way!

    I was listening to a lecture given by the Dalai Lama the other day to some Americans. He spends the first half saying why religions are good and all strive towards the same thing. However he clarifies this by saying you judge the religion by the actions of its followers-if its followers behave in a way which hurts others and lacks compassion, it is not worthy.

    “the depths of my belief in the power of heavenly salvation and aid. It is definitely not something that springs from an intellectual place within me. It is from a visceral place, a spiritual place beyond words that makes me understand why people need faith and a religion upon which to hang those convictions.”

    This is where I’m going to REALLY disagree with you.

    There is no heavenly salvation and aid. The illusion of heavenly salvation may exist, but I prefer what is real as opposed to what is revealed.

    People do not need faith.Faith is often described as a crutch, and I actually agree with that. It is a crutch given to a person who is healthy and fully mobile. While it looks like it is an aid to movement it is actually a hindrance. How much freer would the person move if they threw the crutch away?

    The only salvation is that which people can give to themselves. The only salvation people can offer others is their compassion.

    • girlwhocriedepiphany December 20, 2008 / 11:17 am

      Oh my sweet Ruaidhri,
      You are more than entitled to your Catholic refugee status. We certainly were raised in completely different worlds – public school on the Cape and CCD once a week is nothing like an Irish parochial school, I know! I can fall back on a history that has a completely different meaning for me than it does for you, for all that it is under the same umbrella of “Catholic.”
      And I also respect that you are on a different path than me and I love that we disagree. I am allowed to believe in an active divine entity that intercedes in our lives and you are allowed to believe that it is all up to the individual. I am feeling that you are being a little more snarky than compassionate, but that is because you are 3,000 miles away and I miss you and want to drink a few pints and really talk it all over!
      For me, faith is like fuel, that deeper well of energy to drink from when I feel I am reaching my own edge. In my healing work I know that I am not the one generating the energy, I am only the channel that can help others along on their path to awakening. It is infinitely greater than any of us.

  3. blisschick December 20, 2008 / 11:48 am

    Many humans use their very bodies for wicked and horrific acts; this does not make the human body itself inherently wicked and horrific. Men rape, for example, but that does not mean all men are rapists. Enough said.

    Marisa,

    YES. 🙂 Even when I was trying so hard to get away, when I was fearful, I would find the Hail, Mary on my lips, pouring forth from somewhere beyond my brain’s desire for some sort of intellectually “correct” way of being. It is a hint, I think. 🙂

  4. Tess December 20, 2008 / 4:26 pm

    Hmmm, I was dragged up Catholic (mixed Irish and Polish parish in a London suburb, convent school). Do I still consider myself Catholic? Not really, although that happens to be the church I hang my hat – with a lot of reservations. But it isn’t really important to me. I want to get deeper than arbitrary divisions of Christianity or indeed division of faiths.
    And I don’t think the role of faith is as a crutch in the old sense I was brought up with – the fear of fire and brimstone. If one only ‘behaves’ because that’s what good girls (and boys) do, there’s no point to it. And faith clearly isn’t at all necessary to live a full and beautiful life.
    I think of it as adding richness, but more importantly, of forcing questioning.

  5. Graciel December 20, 2008 / 9:45 pm

    I just wish to say…I am madly in love with your blog. You are my kind of sweet and profound. I’m not even close to being Catholic, but that MARY, she’s the bomb. 🙂

    And where oh where did you find that amazing piece with 4 women sitting in a circle, the one wih the glass ball candle in the middle?

    xo and love, Graciel

  6. Barbara December 21, 2008 / 1:49 am

    I am much older than all of you. I had my rebellion some time ago. I never really recovered, actually. There are things I cannot stand about the Catholic Church — no need to list them, but I have my share of scars. However, it is my tradition and it colours the way I experience reality. As St. Paul said in Thessalonians, you test everything; you hold on to what is good and reject every form of evil. That counts wherever you hang your spiritual hat. You will find disillusioning crap everywhere, believe me.
    I have good friends who are priests (and some ex-priests!) and we treat one another like equals. I have listened to them, lectured them, heard their problems, griped along with them. You can be a Catholic and be a free person — not always easy, I guarantee. It takes some education and lots of spiritual self-confidence. I have come to an uneasy peace with the non-institutional aspect of the church.
    However, it may not be your way. The important thing is to be true to yourself, to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

  7. girlwhocriedepiphany December 21, 2008 / 10:18 am

    I cannot say that I am surprised that those of you who were raised in the Catholic tradition find you have a complicated relationship with the Church. I am realizing that as much as I want to make peace with the Church in my own way, drink in what nurtures and freely reject all that I find odious and limiting, I still want it to exist. Of course, as much as the Church is built on arcane ideas, it is also made up of the people who fill the pews. Will it be there in 50 years for me to pick and choose the nice bits?

    Will it really matter since I know I have internalized the vital parts – the prayers, the connection to Mary, the access to the wisdom of the mystics and the saints?

    Dear Bliss,
    Separating the sin from the man… a complicated and vital task. Isn’t is amazing to realize that our beings are so much greater than thought? That we have these other hidden vaults that hold devotion we never assumed was there?

    Dear Tess,
    I think your path is such a fascinating one – that you find such richness in the tradition, and yet have such objectivity about its flaws.
    And something just occurs to me – isn’t a crutch just a tool? Wouldn’t we all be better off if we could accept help when it is offered? Not sacrificing our sense of self or our independence, but finding what solace we might so we can lead a life most beautiful?

    Dear Graciel,
    Thank you! I’ve been wearing such a sweet smile since I read your comment. It means so much to hear that I am touching people. It is wonderful to have you as a reader.

    As for the ladies, my mother got them for me years ago on Prince Edward Island, though I have seen them in other places since. I’ll send out a little beacon into the universe that such ladies will find you as well! The candle is a hand blown glass ball that holds oil that I got when I was home on Cape Cod a couple of winters back.

    Dear Barbara,
    Like I said above, I find comfort in the fact that the Church is there, for all that I do not want to promise to be a member in good stead. (When I got married two years ago, we were married by a female interfaith minister, much to my Catholic family’s chagrin. As my relationship with my past evolves, I have no idea what I would do if the wedding was this year. I still struggle with what to do when we have children and whether we will have them baptised.) The more I learn and grow comfortable with my relationship with God, the closer I think I will become to the Church because I will be able to treasure my heritage and have the maturity to find the most nourishing aspects it offers. Will that lead me back to a pew? I don’t believe so, but I walk through the world with heart and mind as open as possible.

    Thanks and blessings to all. It’s amazing the discussion a Woody Allen film can conjure!

    Marisa

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