What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


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The Sanctity of Water

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During my foray through Orthodox Christianity, before reconciling with the Catholic Church, one of my favorite discoveries was the blessing of the waters celebrated in January, on the day of epiphany. The coolest aspect was this: because Christ was already perfect, sinless, as God-made-man, when he submitted to baptism the grace that would have flowed into his soul in the sacrament, washing away sin, instead flowed out from his divinity into the water, into all water. Now, having witnessed many Catholic baptisms, I realize that this doctrine is also held true in the Catholic faith: because of this outflowing of grace at Christ’s baptism, all water is sacred. This is a tenet of the Church which corresponds beautifully to what is held true by most indigenous peoples, including the two nations from which I descend and to which I retain a certain loyalty.

That loyalty, to my indigenous heritage and to the land held sacred by my native ancestors, impels me to side with the water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota, opposing the desecration of their sacred burial grounds and the callous risk-taking with their water supply (and the supply of millions of Americans, native and settler, that live downstream!) that Dakota Access (and all the companies banking on their success) wants to commit for profit (don’t let them tell you it’s for energy independence…because much of that oil will be sold to other countries…true energy independence is found in renewables like solar, wind, and geothermal). Here’s a link to info regarding the legal status of the case. The company does not actually quite have legal permission yet to do what they want, but they’re trying to go ahead with laying the pipeline anyway, and even bulldozed through sacred burial grounds on the day a request for an injunction was filed because of those burial grounds, on the holiday weekend, in hopes that if they simply did it before they were told not to, there’d be nothing to stop them. And used a private security firm with attack dogs against non-violent families (including a sweet little two-year-old girl whose face was mauled–for shame!) when confronted. This is the sort of cultural genocide that has no place in 2016. (It was shameful in past centuries, but at this point it’s simply unconscionable and anyone who supports it ought to have their humanity membership card revoked.) The UN has recognized that human rights abuses are taking place at Standing Rock. And now the Governor of North Dakota, who stands himself to profit from this pipeline, is calling in the National Guard against these peaceful people. And yet the Obama administration is silent. Which makes them complicit. You can try, as I did, to call the White House at the number below, but you may find the line closed, as I did. Frustrating, to say the least.

So what can a Catholic of goodwill, who recognizes all of God’s children and His Creation as worthy of protection, do? Well, we can call our local representatives and ask them to speak for us, we can donate to any number of funds.

And we can pray. We can pray to the Holy Mother, who so loved God’s creation for His sake that before her death she willed her body to become part of the earth as a blessing for it, though He had other plans (for more on this, read The Mystical City of God). And who loves every one of the people, made in His image. We can pray to St. Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks and patroness of ecology. We can pray to the newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta, who ministered to the poor and downtrodden (our indigenous citizens on reservations are the poorest of the poor and the most downtrodden in this country, much to our shame). And we can pray to St. John the Baptist, who baptized Christ with that sacred water and who knows a thing or two about speaking truth to power (though it cost him his head).

What we can not do is pretend that this isn’t happening, that how we treat the earth and all its citizens doesn’t matter. Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, calls us to treat Creation with the care it merits as the handiwork of God, and as a work of mercy, since a polluted earth impacts most profoundly the poor, who are our sacred responsibility. Please join me in all of the above.


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Devotion to St. Joseph and his Most Chaste Heart

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So as a Carmelite, I’m devoted not only to Jesus and Mary, but also to St. Joseph. This began somewhat gradually. First, after reading St. Teresa of Avila’s encouragement in her works to devotion to the most holy and chaste spouse of the Blessed Mother (she was a client of his, and his intercession was instrumental in securing a home for the order she founded), I bought a little book of prayers to St. Joseph at the church’s gift shop (now sadly closed). But I barely cracked it open. Then, when spring came here in our new home, the soil heaved up a small statue of St. Joseph, one of those used in securing his intercession when you need to sell your house. (It worked!) I cleaned it up and placed it on my iconostasis in front of the icon of the Immaculate Conception of Most Holy Mary (it has Sts. Joachim and Anne — whose name I’ve carried since baptism — embracing). Seems fitting he should stand with his inlaws, though he didn’t get to meet them until he joined the souls of the just in limbo, where they awaited the opening of the gates of heaven by his foster son.

And then I read that some visions of St. Joseph have been approved as worthy of belief, and that devotion to his Most Chaste Heart is being encouraged (we certainly could use an elevation of chastity as a virtue to counteract sexuality’s idolization and commodification, egads, people). So I began praying to him every morning. He is truly a powerful intercessor, I have found, and I want to encourage others to pray to him, as well. Here’s a prayer that’s almost as old as Christianity (the earliest copy comes from the year 50.) Say it nine mornings in a row for a particular intention.

Ancient Prayer to St. Joseph

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.

And if your prayer is answered (and it most likely will be, if it’s conformed at all to God’s will), remember to thank him for his intercession! Not only is that gracious, but it will make him more likely to help you in the future. Here’s a lovely way to say thank you:

 

PRAISES OF ST. JOSEPH

IN the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

O holy Patriarch Joseph, ever blessed be thy soul, which was adorned with all the virtues and gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O holy Patriarch Joseph, ever blessed be thine intellect, which was full of the most sublime knowledge of God and was enlightened with revelations.

Glory be …

O holy Patriarch Joseph, ever blessed be thy will, which all inflamed with love for Jesus and Mary and always perfectly conformable to the Divine Will.

Glory be …

O holy Patriarch Joseph, ever blessed be thine eyes, to which it was granted to look continually upon Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O holy Patriarch Joseph, ever blessed be thine ears, which merited to hear the sweet words of Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O dear St. Joseph, ever blessed be thy tongue, which continually praised God and with profound humility and reverence conversed with Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O chaste St. Joseph, ever blessed be thy most pure and loving heart, with which thou didst ardently love Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O holy Joseph, ever blessed be thy thoughts, words and actions, each and all of which ever tended to the service of Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O holy Patriarch Joseph, ever blessed be all the moments of thy life, which thou didst spend in the service of Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O my Protector St. Joseph, ever blessed be that moment of thy life in which thou didst most sweetly die in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O glorious St. Joseph, ever blessed be that moment in which thou didst enter into the eternal joys of Heaven.

Glory be …

O happy St. Joseph, ever blessed in eternity be every moment in which, until now, in union with all the Saints of Heaven, thou hast enjoyed the incomprehensible bliss of union with God, with Jesus and Mary.

Glory be …

O my dear Protector! Be ever blessed by  me and by all creatures, for all eternity, with all the blessings which the Most Holy Trinity bestowed upon thee and with all the benedictions given thee by Jesus and Mary and by the whole Church.

Glory be …

O thrice holy Joseph, blessed in soul and body, in life and death, on earth and in Heaven. Obtain also for me, a poor sinner but nevertheless thy true and faithful client, a share in thy blessings, the grace to imitate thee ardently, and to love and faithfully serve Jesus, Mary, and thyself, and especially the happiness to die in thy holy arms. Amen.

 

St. Joseph was made patron of the Church by the Vicar of Christ, so he’s also a good one to pray to to help the whole Catholic world. There’a a wonderful prayer for priests in that little book, and one for the Holy Father and the Church, and for the church militant. Our church hierarchy and our dear priests can’t lead without prayers from the pews, and from all the saints and angels. I encourage you to pray to St. Joseph, for the good of the Church and all the world. That picture up at the top…those flames on all three hearts is the fire of charity, and as this old prayer card shows, it’s catching. Let our hearts be tender tinder for it. Charity: love of God in our neighbor, or love of our neighbor for His sake. Let it burn.


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Re-Entry

In a few days the Perseids will peak. A bit of comet detritus the size of a grain of sand will light up a streak across the sky bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, if viewed from a dark place, and there will be lots and lots of them. I grew up in Florida, and my family went down to the Kennedy center to check out the space shuttles as a little girl. I was fascinated by the special tiles the  bottoms were covered with to protect them from the heat created by the friction of the atmosphere on re-entry. A loose tile meant that the whole thing could explode. Imagine, going so fast that air could set you on fire.

I haven’t posted at this blog in ages. I’ve been in transition. We moved house (which for a gardener is somewhat traumatic, y’all). Our son’s gone off to college (he’s home for the summer now,  but will go back in a few weeks). And we reconciled with the Catholic Church. Like, jumped in with both feet. It’s been quite a journey, and it’s ongoing. As far as I can tell, it’s a journey that doesn’t end, at least not anywhere we can recognize. I’m mining Her treasures. The richest I’ve found is a work from 17th century Spain, by a Carmelite nun named V. Mary of Agreda, The Mystical City of God. It’s kind of like Remembrance of Things Past, except instead of being about the author’s life, it’s about the life of the Holy Mother, from foreknowledge of her in the Mind of God at the creation of the angels, through her Immaculate Conception, until her Coronation in Heaven. It purports to be divinely inspired, and it was raked with a fine-toothed comb by the Spanish Inquisition and found worthy of belief. I’m currently working on a series of prose poems about the 20 mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary, informed by this incredible work. I’m on my second reading.

So, here I am, still here, listening, praying, trying to figure out how best to serve God, and His Holy Mother. The world is a mess, y’all, so there’s no shortage of opportunities for works of mercy, that’s for sure. I hope you’re all making headway on your own journeys, with enough sun through the clouds to reassure you that the light leads you on.


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The Problem With Single-Motive Thinking And The Zero-Sum Game

So unless you live under a complete media-free rock (in which case I don’t think you’ll be reading this), you’ve heard about the killings in Isla Vista last weekend, and probably also about the media shit-storm(s) that followed. Because that’s what media does…it feeds the violence-for-display beast, and then gasps loud and long about what might have caused each instance of violence-for-display, pitting single-motive thinkers against each other in click-producing battles that fill the media moguls’ coffers but do little to bring the general public to a greater understanding of the cultural forces that are making life in America (and around the world) feel more and more like the world intimated by one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Where are we going, and what are we doing in this hand-basket?”

So you’ve got gun-rights activists fearing that this is some kind of false flag to justify someone coming for their guns, mental-health-care advocates imagining that this is simply a case of failed psychiatry, gun-rights opponents imagining that if they just got rid of the guns everything would be okay, and feminists pointing out the deep misogyny displayed in the killer’s manifesto and YouTube videos, some insisting that to talk about mental health is a mistake. While the truth is, as always, complex and involuted and known probably only by God and the young man who killed himself after taking out the innocent victims of his twisted thinking. (And there’s an aspect that too few are discussing, which is the overculture’s obsession with sex, as if it’s some magic key to happiness. I’m quite sex positive, but y’all, it’s not all that. When you’re done basking in the afterglow, the laundry still needs doing.)

For the past few days I’ve spent a fair bit of time (which sometimes felt like an important investment, and sometimes like a waste I had to ask forgiveness for during my evening prayers) on Twitter, reading and participating in the #YesAllWomen and #YesALLWhiteWomen hashtags. And several things are pretty clear to me. There are a fair number of men who get their panties in a bunch at any implication that women have it pretty hard at the hands of men, who seem unable to grok that when we try to bring attention to rape culture (which, yes, is a thing that affects all women, whether they’ve actually been raped or not, because violence exists on a spectrum and being subject to it triggers fear, and the possibility of the extreme end of it exists even at the lesser end) we are not trying to say that all men are rapists, but that a minority of repeat offenders make it miserable for all women to one degree or another. And guess what? Rape culture makes things miserable for many men and boys, too. If you need to hear such a thing from a man to believe it, watch this excellent TED Talk about how violence IS a men’s issue. This guy’s really smart, and gets intersectionality, something I’ll talk about later.

 

Also, that some women are just as unable as too many men to grasp the point of the hashtag, and feel the need to pipe up with “this is sexist, I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men” (ladies, your misogynistic conditioning is showing). And at least as frustrating as the women who won’t consider themselves feminists because they’ve bought into the backlash idea that feminism=man-hating (guess what? I’m a feminist and I love my husband, and more than that, my husband is a feminist, too, and only a fool would accuse him of having a vag…he’s got a power rack in the basement that he uses on a regular basis), are the white women who refuse to examine and check their own privilege and insist that women of color bringing up the fact that, for example, Native American women are three times as likely as white women to be raped, are trying to derail rather than deepen the conversation. Thus was born the #YesALLWhiteWomen hashtag, and if you’re a white feminist, you really ought to be quiet and scroll through it, practice some empathy (just like we’re asking of men at the other) and try to understand someone else’s experience and how things you do or say may be contributing to someone else’s suffering. To admit that there’s a Venn Diagram of oppression and that some people exist in the intersections doesn’t diminish the fact of your own suffering, and when we can do this and do our best not to be oppressors, it gets better for everyone.

 

Just as the Marxist who comes in and bashes an indigenous woman for being a capitalist overlord because she likes vintage Chanel ads because it’s all about CLASS and not gender or race, white women who can’t share the spotlight with women of color suffer from simplistic, zero-sum thinking. There is enough attention to have all the conversations that need to happen, and when we go ahead and let them happen, without defensiveness, without fear that in the attention economy we’re going to get the short end of the stick, we might actually end up discovering that, <gasp> we are all human beings, that we all suffer in one way or another, and that when we humble ourselves enough to admit that we sometimes contribute to the suffering of others, we can start to change our ways and do what Christ calls us to do. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, y’all. We just need to participate in it, by loving each other. The zero-sum game is a construct, not reality. There’s enough food, enough attention, enough love to go around, especially since all three are things that we can cultivate. One key value that indigenous cultures on this continent share and the settler culture suffers from the lack of is the value of cooperation. When we cooperate instead of compete, we can actually increase the available resources. Empathy can also be cultivated (reading other people’s stories helps), and if we had more of that, events like the recent killings would become a thing of the past. We might find ourselves living in a world that seems more like Heaven than the Hell we’re speeding toward in this whacked basket. Let’s make it so.


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Patriarchy Is Poison, Y’All

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Seriously? I had trouble coming up with the title for this post. I must have typed in at least fifteen possibilities. Who wants to hear me harp about the evils of male supremacy again? The truth is, spring has finally arrived up here, the sun is shining, sap is running, I saw my first butterfly of the year yesterday, and I want to be outside in my garden. So this will be brief. But I’ve been reading around online, and it’s hard not to want to chime in. With my recent disillusion with the Orthodox church impelled largely by the stench of patriarchy that permeates it, I may be overly sensitive to stories that trip that wire. But dang it, when in a short space of time I read this story of men in the protestant churches abusing their power over children and this one about whether women should be allowed to teach the Bible to male students (the overwhelming answer is “no,” but they didn’t ask any of the people who might’ve said “yes”), and this one about the Nigerian schoolgirls who’ve been kidnapped and apparently forced into sexual slavery, my boundary for crap I can digest without purging some in the form of a blog post is exceeded and I just have to say, enough. Patriarchy is poison, y’all. And as the author of that last story points out, it predates religion, which is why the atheists who insist that we should just get rid of religion and everything will be hunky dory are so wrong. (Did you ever notice how male the lineup of the New Atheists is, btw?) Religion didn’t create patriarchy, patriarchy poisoned religion, because it poisons everything. It’ll poison a marriage if you let it, it poisons government, it poisons education, it poisons the business world, and yes, quite obviously, it has poisoned just about every religion on the planet. Even Zen Buddhism hasn’t escaped it. Heck, even Wicca has its share of male dogmatists who try to tell women who’ve inherited matriarchal family traditions that they’re doing witchcraft wrong. Really.

So what’s the antidote? Talking about it, clearly, is good medicine. I see more and more men seeking to be allies, and that’s incredibly heartening. But I see others digging in their heels, and not just those in older generations (otherwise I might be tempted to employ patience and just trust that it would fade away as all the old geezers died off). Part of the problem is that the male supremacists have done a good job of convincing people that feminism = female supremacy. That we’re man-haters. That our male allies are gender traitors or somesuch. But it doesn’t. Feminism, as the bumper sticker says, is the radical notion that women are people, too. And should be treated as such. And that’s all we want. We want partnership. And remember: patriarchy isn’t just about men dominating women, it’s also about richer, more powerful men dominating the poor and less powerful men, too. Patriarchy is, essentially, the idolization of force. So feminism seeks to liberate everyone, male and female alike, from this confining culture that tells everyone how they must conform in order to be accepted and to prosper. God has created us each with the imago dei within, and we can be true to that best when we support each others’ flowering without rejecting this or that trait because it doesn’t jibe with preconceived notions about what is masculine or feminine.

There. I feel better now. I’m going outside to play in the dirt.

 


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All I Want for Mother’s Day

I know I’m jumping the gun a little bit, but I just received confirmation in email of my reservation for Mother’s Day brunch (I got my request in early because this place fills up…local, scrumptious, organic food creatively prepared), and I thought this year I might have time to finally commit to memory Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation so I can declaim it at the table, though I’m not sure I could do it without crying. My son turns 18 the week before Mother’s Day, and we’ll have to register him for selective service. Not that the thought of other mother’s sons going to war doesn’t also bring me to tears. Do you know the poem? We all should:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.


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That Didn’t Last Long, Or: My Intolerance for Intolerance

I tried. I tried really hard to be Orthodox. So much of it felt lovely. But there were these dark shadows nibbling at the edges. The biggest of them sported a familiar shape: patriarchy. Male supremacy has smeared its dirty fingerprints all over everything about it. Dig into the patristics and you’ll discover the worst kind of misogyny. Women told they should feel shame for their very nature. Beyond not having our calls honored, not being allowed into any part of ministry beyond baking for coffee hour. The author of our liturgy may not have denied the existence of our souls, but he and his brethren sure said plenty of nasty about us. 

But every shadow has a bright spot. I followed my husband into Orthodoxy, and he followed me out of it into feminism. He used to take quiet umbrage when I used that f word, when I fingered patriarchy here or there as the underlying source of some problem in our culture. Now, having done his best to participate in this most patriarchal of religions, he gets it. It was too much even for him. As part of our recovery from our attempts to embrace orthodoxy and its inherent misogyny, we read Sarah Bessey’s blessing of a book, Jesus Feminist. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It made me cry, tears of relief. Yes, yes! Please.

The other thing that bugged us was the church’s stance against marriage equality. It’s not like we ever endured a homily about the evils of same sex attraction or anything. It was never spoken. But once, at the diocesan family retreat, sitting at a table with some priests, discussing the possibility of my son’s entering seminary, I voiced a desire to see more of the spirit of John the Baptist afoot, to see godly men speaking truth to power. And one priest piped up with praise for our bishop having written a screed against New York’s legalizing marriage equality. Really? I asked. Is that what we need to be worrying about? What about dropping bombs on children? How easy it is to worry about someone else’s sex life instead of confronting the military-industrial complex that makes our lives easier. But almost since the beginning there has been complicity between orthodoxy and empire. It goes on. Well, it can go on without me.

The real beauty part is that now I’m feeling free again to continue to explore my spirituality outside the confines orthodoxy imposes. The spirituality of my indigenous forebears, for instance. The green magic of my Celtic roots. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still very much a Christian. But what that means is so much more flexible and fluid and life-affirming than what these small-minded men have so far imagined. I know it has everything to do with love, and any Christianity that says I can’t love every one of my neighbors as myself is a false Christianity in my book.