EXULT

 

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A conflicting tornado of emotions always snatches me up and plunks me down in the midst of this Pride Weekend.  I exult that finally in some sectors of the world a monolithic understanding of sexuality has opened onto a spectrum of dazzling, rich colors.  Our gender-varied God exults. But I also grieve that my friend Jim is not here to experience it and continue in the work of this important revolution.

Jim died suddenly in 2010 at the age of sixty-six after a passionate life as a gifted artist-priest-pretend/straight-out loud gay man.  I loved him in all the nooks and crannies of his being, and miss him keenly this weekend. Feast with me on his poem from Pride Weekend New York:

 

Corpus Christi: New York “87”

Sunny Sunday in late June.
Thousands march.
Joyous and free.
I joined.

Searchers and seekers
Walking with dignity and pride.
Approaching the Cathedral:
A contradiction!

Blue barricades, blue flashing lights
On cop cars and paddy wagons;
Blue shirted police arm to arm
Protecting the Cathedral.

A Crucifixion?
The front steps blocked by
A blue Army in blue berets
(looking psychotic)
Shaking rosaries, thumping Bibles
Yelling “Sinners Sinners” as we passed by.

“Shame, shame, shame,” we murmured
Softly in reply.
I looked for Jesus beyond the barricades.
Not there!
“Thank God,” I said.

At 3 o’clock the parade stopped.
Silence
A city fell silent.
Bells tolled.

From the Village up Fifth Avenue.
Coming closer and closer
Passing over us
Until the whole sky was filled with
Colored balloons.

My heart burned within,
I remembered all who died of AIDS.
Gazing at the heavens,
I watched a great loving God
Gather balloons, holding them high
In God’s bright blue sky
Above the blue barricades, blue lights
Blue armies & blue shirted cops.

My God gathered these children,
Sons & daughters into a peace-filled
Eternal embrace.

I wept.
Turning, I saw two older women,
Pioneers and witnesses of the movement,
Weeping and holding each other as they
Too gazed upward.

EASTER and ASCENSION.
CHRIST HAD COME AGAIN.  GLORY TO GOD!
Peace to you and me!
Birthday

Jim's signature

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://www.timeout.com/chicago/lgbt/pride-parade-and-more-major-gay-events-for-pride-month

Season of Pride

The Orlando Genocide has seeped into the tissues of our souls and triage is not assuaging the pain.  Nor should it.  Yet.  Let it sink in, I say, until we finally know the effects of hate.

My friend Jim could have been in that bar. I offer this tribute to him in our Season of Pride, that we may celebrate somehow in the throes of pain.

Ms. Beatrice

We arrived in Berkeley in September 1978, young theology students, eager to change the world.  I was, anyway.  Jim wanted to play.  He was so full of life and passion for all things beautiful.  Years later he would admit to being more immature than anything at that time.  So was I.

A month later all hell broke loose.  Harvey Milk was murdered across the Bay, and Jim’s life was never the same.  Along with several other priests in our program he claimed his identity and joined the march for gay rights in San Francisco.  The intensity of his rage frightened me for a long time, until he found peace and I found courage.  We left Berkeley, and our former selves, and continued 32 years of friendship.

Not likely to be branded as a mystic by strangers, Jim was, nevertheless, an extroverted mystic extraordinaire.  He was like King David, life spilling over in love and sin; joined at the hip to the God he so passionately loved.  At age thirty six he wrote an essay entitled, “My Life in the Good God balloon.”  He described how he pushed, pulled and recoiled off the balloon’s boundaries, always moving closer to the center.  He said that the shape is God, and that his destiny was to always move to the limits of the shape.  He felt called to always love the shape, himself, the testing and pushing, and his fellow testers.  I am deeply grateful to live in that balloon with him and with our soul-sister Cynthia, in a new way now that Jim has died.  The balloon has expanded to massive dimensions!

Blinded by stereotypical concepts of mystics, strangers would not have readily seen the deep waters of Carmelite mysticism running through Jim.  They expected, instead, to see prayer beads, and lowered eyes.  With Jim, I got his alter-ego, Beatrice, an elephant gallivanting in a dazzling tutu, shouting to me, “Live, Reet, Live!”  I miss Jim’s irreverent humor, and even the tirades he rained down on me when fear convinced me to stand down in the face of injustice.  To honor his courage and expansive love, I stand for the rights of all those who experience injustice because of their sexual identity.  Not because it’s politically correct but because it’s right.  Here is the poem he wrote on the occasion of the Gay Pride Parade in New York in 1987.  Perhaps you too will re-frame your portrait of a mystic:

balloons

Corpus Christi: New York “87”

Sunny Sunday in late June.
Thousands march.
Joyous and free.
I joined.

Searchers and seekers
Walking with dignity and pride.
Approaching the Cathedral:
A contradiction!

Blue barricades, blue flashing lights
On cop cars and paddy wagons;
Blue shirted police arm to arm
Protecting the Cathedral.

A Crucifixion?
The front steps blocked by
A blue Army in blue berets
(looking psychotic)
Shaking rosaries, thumping Bibles
Yelling “Sinners Sinners” as we passed by.

“Shame, shame, shame,” we murmured
Softly in reply.
I looked for Jesus beyond the barricades.
Not there!
“Thank God,” I said.

At 3 o’clock the parade stopped.
Silence
A city fell silent.
Bells tolled.

From the Village up Fifth Avenue.
Coming closer and closer
Passing over us
Until the whole sky was filled with
Colored balloons.

My heart burned within,
I remembered all who died of AIDS.
Gazing at the heavens,
I watched a great loving God
Gather balloons, holding them high
In God’s bright blue sky
Above the blue barricades, blue lights
Blue armies & blue shirted cops.

My God gathered these children,
Sons & daughters into a peace-filled
Eternal embrace.

I wept.
Turning, I saw two older women,
Pioneers and witnesses of the movement,
Weeping and holding each other as they
Too gazed upward.

EASTER and ASCENSION.
CHRIST HAD COME AGAIN.  GLORY TO GOD!
Peace to you and me!
Birthday

Jim's signature

Naked Truth in the Blogosphere

take off the mask

I bare
my nakedness
to the world
that the world may see
who I am;
not the mask that hides my flaws
not the mask that hides my beauty.
I bask in the light and
I take off the mask.

– Jocelyn Soriano

Do you see what I see?  Retired, and contemplative by nature, I have the time to dedicate an hour each morning to read posts relating to spirituality, poetry, justice, psychology, and LGBTQ  concerns.  I try to be present to bloggers’ experiences and expression.  Often their stories stay with me throughout the day, and as I recall them I am in solidarity.  A pattern has emerged which gives me hope in the midst of the incessant ego-driven political chatter and gratuitous violence our world continues to spew out.

This is the hope I see:  a longing and a commitment to be real.  Where my baby boomer generation learned to wear masks, the millennium, (generation “Y”) and generation “X” bloggers, are unafraid to show their mistakes, even their deepest wounds.  I am not talking Dr. Phil Show here…What I read is not for show; rather, the sharing seems to come from an authentic desire to grow.  They face the truth with courage.  They do not wait for a guru to tell them their “truth.”  They strip down until they find it themselves and they bask in their humanness instead of cowling in shame.  When I was their age the false humility I was taught made me ashamed of being human and kept me from growing.  The masks I wore became very heavy.

I put my hope here.  Do you see what I see?