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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lock Down: Do you believe...


“They think you are crazy because you want to have sex with a woman. You know the priesthood is the only place in the world where that could occur,” snorted my therapist with partially closed eyes.
I sat speechless watching the snow begin to fall. My shell of self blame loosened slightly, but it worried me that his idea felt like a nice easy way to explain being sent to dual diagnosis inpatient facility.
I smiled remembering a meeting at the seminary where the staff officially decided that women would not be allowed on the residential floors.
As a community we discussed the question about mothers and sisters coming to see what our rooms looked like. Fairly universally everyone wanted their family to be able to see “where they lived” and it was decided that some allowance for this would be made for them. I ticked off in my mind the straight class mates who had left over the years. Most of the men remaining would be completely safe from the sinister temptation of a woman in their room.
“Don't you think we are being naive to assume that women visiting the floors where we live would be the problem,” I asked. Stony stares and silence were my only response.
Telling lies starts small so that it gets easier.
My classmates took me with them to the local gay bar a couple of times. Only my closest friends admitted to me that they were gay. The others just went because it was a “fun place” and “a little quieter than the other bars.” In workshops, they discussed how they would “take a cold shower” after seeing an attractive girl.
Other lies are easier to say if they would be true spoken by someone else.
“You know they have done studies tracking the psychological health of african-american students who attended white schools. They found significant psychological stresses for those students that had long lasting effects. You were that minority student for nearly a third of your adult life. Protective rules, belief in God, and your vocation didn't stand a chance protecting your spirit and psyche.”
The broken pieces of my mind still moved slowly despite the months of therapy and medicine. I pushed back against his suggestion. The seminary had been a hospital for many wounds of my soul. For years, each month brought happiness greater than the one before. A retreat at the Trappist monastery lit your heart on fire. A class about the Gospel of John blew out the boundaries of your mind with Greek literary pyrotechnics. Thousands of recitations of the psalm and thousands of masses allowed God's small still voice to penetrate.
My godfather had pointedly asked, “Were you ever abused? Are you doing this because you promised God you'd become a priest if he let your mother live?”
Damn they were good questions, but he asked too early. He asked before I knew all the forms abuse could take and before I knew the strength of unconscious promises that you make when God touches your soul. Real contact with God. The kind that allows psychiatrists to diagnose you as mentally ill and makes priests jealous. In prayer God's fingers touched me and it wasn't faith anymore. My fingers trembled and speaking became difficult. My voice cracked. Now I know voice cracking is one of the danger signs for psychosis in adults.
Under God's touch, colors sharpened and time slowed. I didn't do it or earn it. God came to me. I saw things outside and under the world. It took hours for the smell of paradise to fade and for the world to resume its normal colors.
We used to joke that those that left were “dead to us.” I didn't want to be “dead to them” and I certainly didn't want to break my vows or go to hell. How could anyone choose ostracization or hell?
A realization crept over me that those were not my choices. Mine was simpler. It was this: “Do you believe God wants you to survive?”

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Welcome to Melchior's Vision

I huddled close to the ground with my eyes just rising over the roof.  Moss and bark completed the faux cave.  The roof hid the figurines huddled close around the manger. The motley troop of shepherds stood expectantly on the hill formed by my yellow comforter. The frayed fabric ends stood grass-like around the flock.
                Far in the distance, another group of figures huddled. They paused beyond the television and beyond the stand alone record player.  Between the towering wall of the recliner and the magazine rack they canyon sheltered them.  Kings and their retinues paused in their quest to follow the star which dangled from the plastic evergreen.
                Tomorrow, they would move closer, perhaps, past the record player.  The journey had been so long. Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar traveled slowly with their gifts.  Melchior’s white beard hung ragged and limp. He set his jaw leaving the mouth partially open.  He moved slowly.
                That night at bedtime, I laid down the kings.  Each one sheltered in the lee of his camel.  Plastic hands clutched gifts protectively. They needed rest. Only a few more days separated them from the location appointed by the appearance of the new light.
  The smell of animals surrounded them.  Threatening savagery lay beyond the small circle lit by their fire. His body ached from another day traveling on his camel, Ania.  Melchior’s eyes closed. His breathing deepened and soon dreams enveloped his mind.  His aged foot moved with preternatural speed re-crossing the distance of his quest. The months fled the dreamer in a second and his eyes grew dimmer and dimmer but his expectation grew clearer.
I slept and tried to find Melchior in the land between the recliner and magazine rack. Dark threats hovered just beyond clarity. The subtle smell of camel guided me forward toward the towering walls.

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