What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


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More Thoughts on Standing Rock: The Battle Belongs to the Lord

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So I’m in an ecstasy of prayer, and I’m meditating on the Nativity, and I think of how God willed to be born in a simple shepherd’s cave, and to have His birth first announced to shepherds, as an embrace of poverty, and how much the gospel urges us to care for the poor, and God is Friend of the Poor, and woe to those rich men who don’t take care of the poor. Etc. Just a drop of water from Lazarus’s finger, for I am tormented in this flame.

All that. And I think of the folks at Standing Rock, who’ve had everything but this bit of land taken from them, and now the Corporatocracy’s trying to screw them out of that, too. With violence. On the taxpayers dime.

And I think how prayerful these people are (I’m praying for y’all, hard!). I was just telling my priest the other day, how some may not know Christ as God’s Son, but do they know God as Creator. And they’re asking for prayers. He was passing this on to Bishop Matano, so it’s my hope that something will be included soon in the prayers of the people. Meaning that the whole Diocese of Rochester might be praying for these people who are clearly the David to the Goliath. (Hey, remember, Dakota Access: Goliath loses, because God is on David’s side.) Not only has our Holy Father made it clear that it is our duty to care for the environment in his encyclical Laudato Si, but he’s also made clear that the indigenous are some of those people “on the margins” he exhorts us to care for. And Praying for the Living (and the Dead) is a Work of Mercy. So.

May the Father of Us All hear all our prayers, and protect the protectors, bring peace and humanity back to the hearts of the mercenaries, and safeguard the water for the sake of all life. For His Glory and the salvation of souls! Amen. So I hope, so may it be.

 

 

 

 


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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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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.


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Another Unexpected Turn of Events

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If you’ve followed me and my meandering spiritual path (which, since it occupies a significant chunk of my mental space and therefore my poetry, has been a rather public one, which I have not let make me feel I couldn’t take whatever turns I was led to take, following the small, quiet voice that leads me), then you may or may not have seen coming what just happened. I surely didn’t.

So several weeks ago, since our pastor (at a congregational church we had joined about a year and a half ago, after my husband and I had both separately had our conversion experiences, his involving calm and rational intellect and mine hallucinations and vomiting, because that’s the way I roll, y’all — really, when in “Poem In Which I Address Richard Dawkins As Dick I say my soul “has grabbed me by the neck/ and thrown me down,” I’m not kidding) had announced that he was going to deliver a sermon about Martin Luther and the glories of capitalism, my husband decided we ought to check out the Greek Orthodox Church downtown, since already he and the boy (who grows a pretty excellent beard, btw), had been feeling pulled to Orthodoxy. Hubby had actually been baptized and christmated as an infant into a small Orthodox sect at a Carpatho-Rusyn Catholic church in Pennsylvania, as his father had been, and his father before him. A church actually part of the Greek Rite. And they were both craving weekly communion. And I rather failed to see the point of communal worship without it, myself.

And the church we went to was beautiful. And the liturgy was beautiful. Mostly standing, mostly sung. Long story short, we changed churches. And a few weeks into it, I’m thinking, really? Orthodox? I was facing the decision, whether or not to undergo the sacrament of chrismation, to officially convert. You might imagine what could give me pause.

And then, taking a rare moment on Twitter, this comes across my feed, shared by Milkweed Press, the press I’m intent on having publish my second book of poems, because the place the excerpt talks about, Maaloula, had just seen some of the violence that continues to tear apart Syria. And it felt like Godstuff. So much so that I chose St. Thekla as my patron, and I was chrismated two weeks ago. So that’s what happened. I’m now an Orthodox Christian. Me, who had poems published when I was still in Shreveport in American Atheist Magazine and Free Inquiry.

There’s a reason I call this blog “What I Meant To Say.” And God really does have a great sense of humor. And now I give an even bigger crap about what happens in Syria.

Keeping My Word

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Keeping My Word

I said I’d wear the obnoxious floral bike shorts if managed to raise $1,000 for the Southern Tier AIDS Program. Well, my generous friends and family gave over $1,200 to sponsor me in today’s ride, so here’s the proof. The shorts did not go without comment, you can trust.

Thanks to everyone who gave, as well as to those who let me know they couldn’t afford to give right now (times are hard!) but wished me well. We had a great day, and raised a whole bunch of money (over $200K!) which will go directly to helping people in our area.