About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am finishing up my midwifery apprenticeship and plan to be a real midwife early in 2014!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Are We?

On Friday, I attended a discussion led by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, the founder of the School of the Americas Watch. This organization, year after year, calls for the shutting down of the school here on American soil that trains assassins and terrorists. But on Friday, he was not talking about the senseless violence of war and physical killing, but of the senseless injustice done to women in the Catholic church. He has been involved with the Womanpriest movement, which has ordained women as Catholic priests and has enough female bishops to keep the movement going, continuing apostolic succession. His mantra that began to play inside his head, and that he turned outward as his conscience would not let him be silent about this issue, was: "Who are we, as men, to say to women 'our call is valid but yours is not'?" He has been outspoken about it and has even put his own vocation on the line, ultimately finding himself with a letter threatening excommunication if he did not recant within 30 days. He chose to follow his conscience, and has not had any response to his letter to the Vatican explaining his position, two years ago.

We spoke with one of the Womanpriests after the talk, who responded to the question "how can you be in solidarity with those who are still in the church, when you are excommunicated?". She calmly said that she does not consider herself to be excommunicated because you cannot kick out family, and she is part of the Catholic family. You can get mad, you can have happy times and not so happy times, and you can have conflict. But family is family, and you can't change that.

That same day as I went to the talk, I read a blog post from an Orthodox priest. He spoke lovingly of bringing his little 18 month old son into the altar with him for a weekday liturgy during Bright Week (the week following Easter). He joyfully recounted all the things his son did and noticed and how he helped out, and was less distracting than some altar boys who are "old enough" for the job. I read of this account with wonder, because I had never heard of a priest bringing their baby into the altar, except for a baby being churched. And I had to wonder: if this baby had been a little girl rather than a boy, would he have brought her into the altar? This priest was needed in two different capacities: as priest, helping to serve the liturgy and as father to his own baby. And he was able to function in both capacities very well.

I have experienced injustice in a very small way. When I used to chant in church, all the chanters would gather in the sacristy (the little room beside the altar) and go over the order of services and the music. And then we'd all head out to the chanter's stand. Except that we took two different routes: the men through the altar (the most direct way) and the women around the long way. A friend of mine recently told me of her experience: the route that the women take was blocked because it goes through the room where the priest hears confession. So, it was either take the route through the altar, only about seven steps, or take the route clear behind the altar, through the long hall outside the church, in the side door, and across the front of the church to the chanter's stand. She spoke of the extreme frustration of not being allowed to go the obviously easier way because of the uproar it would cause, to see a woman coming out of the altar! And yet, I have to wonder, why? Why is the act of being a woman in God's altar scandalous?

I stand with Fr. Roy, and ask of the Orthodox church as well: who are we to decide who is called and who is not? And hoping that the family will be reunited.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Who I Am

I've been kicking around these ideas in my head for awhile and hoping that I can write something that is coherent enough for others to read. It has to do with my evolution as a person through all the stuff that's happened to me and the choices I've made in the last couple of years.

When things were getting intense between Paul and me, I began a journal. On the opening page of that journal I began with a description of who I am. I described myself: wife, mother, and then a list of what I like to do. I think I was already uncomfortable with that typing of myself but didn't know how to change it yet. A few journal entries later I re-described myself: just me, who I am. Because my roles do not define me. Who I am married to, what children I have, those are wonderful relationships that enhance my life, but they are not me. They are relationships.

I remembered a time when I was in a gathering of women about 7-8 years ago, and I introduced myself as as the wife of a priest. I spoke with another woman for quite some time before she told me her husband is a pastor. I expressed surprise that I did not know this, and she said something to the effect that it isn't the first thing she tells people, because it doesn't define her.

I guess what I'm saying here is that I got too caught up in defining myself through my roles--wife and mother--and forgot about developing my own self. And two years ago I decided to begin developing my own self.

I've tried to figure out how I could have done this differently, but I have to say I honestly enjoyed being stay-at-home mommy when my children were young. I cannot imagine putting them in day care when they were babies. I enjoyed homeschooling them, but I think I probably could have begun to explore my passion when they were school-aged. Slowly though. By the time I was good and ready and was really restless to find something else to occupy my time, they were also done with homeschooling. I always thought that homeschooling could work for us all the way through high school, but it just didn't. It worked great for the first bit and then it was time to move on. I am so grateful for the foundation it gave my kids; I'm glad that Carissa was able to be herself (and later when she would identify as transgender she/he was able to do that with hopefully a minimum of self-doubt). I am glad that Zachary, my "late" reader, was able to learn at his own pace and not face criticism from anyone but himself.

When I divorced, obviously I was separating myself from the role of being a priest's wife--I was no one's wife, and began re-defining myself as an independent woman. But I also found myself pulling away from my children to some extent. I am pretty sure this hurt them, but I did feel it necessary in my own evolution as a person, to find out who I, Elizabeth, was, not just who I am as a mother. I needed to tend to my needs for awhile. Is this selfish? Probably. But it was a selfish I really needed. I needed to extricate myself from what I was expected to do in order to find out what I expected of myself.

Now I find myself reconnecting with my kids. And wishing I had more time in which to do that. But life is good as it is, and the time we have is really good. And it's real--I am establishing myself as an independent woman in relationship, not as provider and facilitator for other people to find their passions, but as a co-passion-finder. And that is an excellent journey to take with people I love.