Last night I went back to St. Ann’s for midnight Mass. The attendance was sparse and dominated by our prayer group. Without the charismatics, there would have been about as many people as were probably present that first night in the little stable to witness the Child’s birth. Our new soon-to-be full-time priest, Fr. Jorge, presided.
Seeing so few people and only the dueño and his wife from among the lectors, I came up and offered to do one of the readings (not unusual given that I used to be lector coordinator there). The dueño declined, indicating that he and his wife had it under control. “We” turned out to be the dueño reading everything AND leading all the singing. Not even his wife was allowed a role as we watched him soldier valiantly along, alone, his voice hoarse from advanced COPD.
I was wearing a nice skirt and sweater so it must have been my cheap Payless snow boots. Or maybe the dueño never wanted to hear a gringa reading in Spanish again after I changed parishes. Or perhaps he just wanted to show everyone that no matter who the bishop assigned to the parish, he was still boss. Your guess is as good as mine. I went back to sit with some friends, a charismatic couple who are faithful servants of the Church but cannot receive communion because of their marital status – the marginados and the marginalizada sticking together.
In the days since Fr. Jorge’s appointment many friends have asked if I will come back to St. Ann’s. Sadly, after last night, the answer must still be “no, not yet.” Nothing has really changed. There is still no room for me in this inn, no seat at this table. Too many of us are still excluded, as Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus were on that first Christmas.
Christ is not present when we cannot share with others, when we cannot accept and welcome the gifts that others bring, when pride, arrogance, discrimination and exclusion still have dominion. Last night, regardless of the beautiful seasonal decorations and the Gospel that was proclaimed, I left the church not feeling that the Savior had been born, but that we are still waiting.