Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eyes to see

I have often prayed to God to see less clearly. Some days I'm just tired of seeing. I would like the serenity and obliviousness of some of my colleagues whose lives and conversation seem to revolve around "American Idol" or the latest sports event. It would be easier not to see, not to hear, not to know. But God always answers: "No. You have to look squarely into the eye of the storm. Know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. Fr. Jack used to tell me: "Don't trust in men; they have feet of clay." But we are human so we go on with our Cinderella fantasies that maybe this one or that one will be different. The real challenge of faith is not to walk away after being burned again and again and again. I don't mistrust the Catholic Church because of Lugo's mistakes. I don't even think Lugo should step down as president of Paraguay. It's more like the frustration we feel with a family member whom we love but who is being "cabezón". We want to shake that person and ask them "why?" and "how could you?"

Not only can I not close my eyes to the truth but I get behind a camera that pitilessly shows me the things I would prefer not to see. The naked eye can refuse to register certain things but the camera conceals nothing.

And we have ears to hear stories and cries that break our hearts: the hermana who tearfully tells of spending most of her life outside the Church after a priest molested her as a teenager, another hermana who plaintively asks why our bishop doesn't march with us like Bishop X does, the brother who felt spiritually crushed after he shared his joy at President Obama's election with a Catholic lay leader only to be slammed down because that person could not see beyond Obama's position on abortion. I have learned to defend my faith but I refuse to defend what is indefensible in my Church. All I can do is listen compassionately and later try to deal with the anger I feel when I hear these stories. As one veteran healing minister said once, when I found her crying in a pew after a particularly difficult Misa de Sanación, sometimes the pain is overwhelming. You have to believe in a God that is bigger than the institutional Church to survive in this ministry.

After the camera came the blog because, in the end, it is not enough to see and hear the truth. You have to share the truth with others. One commentator sarcastically accused me of trying to "instruct the American episcopate." No. I am trying to show what the actions of the institutional Church look like from the perspective of those of us who walk with and listen to the poor, people of color, and immigrants day after day. The view from the street is very different than the view from the chancery offices.

This week I went for training as a minister of communion. This week the bishop once again said something that was problematic. The ministers of communion serve at the pleasure of the bishop. I thought of letting the bishop's remarks go unchallenged. It would be easy, perhaps even prudent, to remain silent, to "go along to get along". But then I thought of my comadre Letitia. She is a poor Guatemalan janitorial worker who has lost job after job for speaking up: "I'm legal and I want to be paid with a real check with taxes deducted, not in cash under the table", "You should give us masks and gloves when we are using these strong cleaning chemicals and, by the way, what's in them?", "This hermana has a legal right to wear a skirt instead of pants on the job because that is what her Pentecostal faith requires", etc., etc. Letitia is always standing up for her own dignity and that of her fellow employees. Sometimes I want to tell Letitia that she can't afford to keep losing these jobs, that maybe she should just shut up and let it go. But she can't, she won't and ultimately she shouldn't be silent in the face of injustice.

I want to be more like Letitia. A supervisor once told me that I would never get anywhere at my workplace because I was always speaking out. There is a cost to speaking the truth and sometimes I have chosen to remain silent. These are the sins I most regret. If we pray for anything at all it should be to see more clearly, to hear more deeply, and to have the courage to face and tell the truth again and again, whatever the personal cost. If we stop living in a dream world of denial, we can no longer become disillusioned.

1 comment:

  1. My friend, you have to be who you are. Is a course and blessing for all of us in many ways, each according to his/her gift and challenges.
    Many of us, including myself, have in our life a “how could you” moment.
    So it happens in the church, in any church, in any religious body of any faith, there is a lot to improve, because is made out of human beings. Unless we are under overwhelming power of threat of being harm because of speaking out (such is the case of many females in the U.S. Army that are being raped or molested and they keep quite because of fear) is necessary to speak out.
    I would advise to your friend Leticia, not to take any more of this labor mistreatment, and to report these companies that are doing this to her. Just a call to the I.R.S. or Labor Department should be a good shot across the ship’s bow.
    Don’t ask God to take things away from you, unless of course they are things of the kind that make us sink spiritually, but of the gift that you have…well just remember the parable of the talents, as Joseph Campbell uses to say: “Follow your bliss”.
    Because its. You.