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Almanac of Precious Ones

 

From the Almanac of Precious Ones
I choose recollections of my mother
sweetly scented with lilac powders
cultivating the roses in her garden.

I also choose my dear grandmother
who taught me to roll out Slovenian potica
and to make delicious soups on the fly.
She was the one who mothered me.

Then I would choose Carlie, my first love:
the girl who listened to my mind and heart
with a grace and intensity that melted my soul.
She was the one who loved my curiosity.

I must also choose the swift-moving river bass
that follow me under the keel of my canoe
through the crystal clear waters of Wolf Creek.
These are my joyful water companions.

Not to be forgotten are the chanting cicadas,
my short-lived Brothers singing out their life
along with honking Canadian geese flying south.
These will accompany me on my dying day.

I remember endlessly the hundred million stars
that spiral in our lofty Milky Way Galaxy
and send down flashes of meteor showers.
They clothe me in the vastness of our universe.

But, above all, I remember the One Who Made Me
and set me free from the fears that shackle others
in order to hold on to those dreams that chose me
and enable my soul wondrously to take flight.

For all these, I mightily give thanks, both today
and on all my tomorrows; I hold them as my
Almanac of Precious Ones who bless me
and who offer me bliss within the eternal quiet.

 

With love,

Aaron


2.20.20

 

Last night I wrote out a sort of life-long reassessment.  I went into my Almanac of Precious Ones and selected the top nine that shape my life as I immerse myself deeper within the eternal quiet.  As it happens, there are three beloved women, three natural creatures, and three cosmic forces. If you want to know the real me (the stripped down to the bones me), then you’ll have to explore with me these Precious Ones.

 

What might be your choices from your own personal Almanac of Precious Ones?  I could make some guesses, but I’d rather give you the complete freedom to identify them for yourself and then to tell me about them with unvarnished honesty. This would open up an entirely different way of getting to know each other deeply as unique individuals, as writers, as friends, as life companions, and, who knows, maybe even much more.

 

In anticipation of your arrival,
I remain your devoted servant,

Aaron

#1 Prescious One

From the Almanac of Precious Ones
I choose recollections of my mother
sweetly scented with lilac powders
cultivating the roses in her garden.

 

Angel of God, my Guardian Near

When I was a young boy of six, my dear mother explained to me that God loved me. “How so?” I would ask her. “God has given you, my dear son, an angel whose mission is to guide and protect you.” I must admit that it was comforting to know that God took a personal interest in my welfare. Before going to sleep at night, my mother would turn the lights out and take me in her arms and together we would recite the standard prayer to our guardian angels: “Angel of God, my guardian near. . . .”

When I turned eight, my mother became very ill. She could no longer hold me and pray to our guardian angels before I went to sleep each night. So I decided to recite the Guardian Angel Prayer twice; once for my mother’s angel and once for my angel. When my mother died just after Christmas, I stopped praying entirely. I was secretly angry with the God who “loved my mother so much that he took her to be with him in heaven” (the words of my favorite aunt to me at the funeral). In my childish way of seeing things, God already had Mary, the Mother of God, with him in heaven. “By what right could he rob me of the only mother that I had?”

The Small Comfort of my Teddy Bear

I held my warm and fuzzy Teddy Bear tight against my chest.  I waited for hours, crumpled on the floor in front of my mother’s door.  Sadness overcame me.  My dear Teddy Bear was my only comfort and joy.

I could not understand why my mother did not come to tuck me in at night and why she didn’t hold me tight as I recited my nightly “Angel of God” prayer.  I missed the lilac scent of her as she listened to me reading stories from my third-grade reader while she washed dishes in her crisp, starched apron.  She would tell me daily, “I do like your stories, my dear Son.”  I’m sure my stories could help her get well now—if only she would invite me in.

I remember when Dad got his tools and removed the normal bed from my parents’ room.  Then huge men came into the house and installed a huge bed with lots of steel bars.  My Dad said, “This bed will make your Mom more comfortable.”  But that bed was of no comfort to me.  And my mother was not “more comfortable” as my Dad had said.  I knew what it was to get sick.  And I knew what it was to get well.  Why then was my Mom taking so long to get well now that she has her new bed?

When I get sick, it’s always a joy to have my Mom fuss over me—taking my temperature, placing a cold washcloth on my forehead, running her hands through my hair, singing me her little songs.  Hey, these are the very small comforts that I could bring to my mother now.  Why, then, doesn’t she call me to jump onto her big, new bed?

Why has Mom forgotten me?  Why doesn’t she call me and ask me to read a story to her?  Why doesn’t she allow me to place a cold washcloth on her forehead?  Couldn’t she just silently wrap me in her arms and gently rock me for a while?  Would this be too much of a comfort to ask?

The hired nurse notices me sulking in the hallway and says, “Go outside and play.”  “I want to see my mother,” I whined.  “Your mother is too sick today to have visitors,” she replied.  I couldn’t understand this at all.  I wanted to yell out, “I’m not a visitor.  I live here.  I’m her Son.”   I was plenty angry.   But there was no one to whom I could tell such things save my Mom.

So I made plans on how I might be able to tunnel into her room and bypass the nasty nurse who locked Mom in her bedroom.  On another day, I tried to figure out how I might be able to fly through her open window.  But my sadness was so heavy that it held me down and prevented me from taking flight.  So I settled with crushing my Teddy Bear against my chest.

Then the nasty night of lies arrived.  I awoke when I heard strange men talking outside my bedroom door.  I got up, grabbed my Teddy Bear, and walked in the darkness toward the sliver of light that seeped out from under my door.  When I opened it, I saw two huge men carrying a large and long basket out of my mother’s room.  “What’s going on?” I called out to my Dad.  “It’s nothing, Son.  Go back to sleep.”

The next morning, my Mom’s door was wide open, and the nasty nurse was gone.  Seeing my chance, I tossed my Teddy Bear aside and rushed frantically to my mother’s bed, but I found it empty. This made me exceedingly sad.  I was never to see my dear Mom alive again.

All I would have now is the small comfort of my Teddy Bear.

Afterthoughts

Some events from my childhood are long forgotten. Others are seared into my memory.  Telling you this story, for example, I could recall with a visceral certainty the comforting feeling of my Teddy Bear and visually see the hallway where my bedroom was off to the right and my mom’s bedroom off to the left. Our interior doors were stained dark-oak and the framing matched. The doorknobs were round and made of brass. The wallpaper showed pastel floral designs.

I can close my eyes while writing this story and actually see the wicker basket that was being carried on the men’s shoulders. In a lineup, I could never finger any of the morticians, but I definitely could pick out the wicker basket that they carried from my Mom’s room.

I left out “wicker” in my story because, as a boy, I would not have used this word. On the other hand, I can audibly hear the matter of fact tone of voice that my Dad used when he said, “It’s nothing, Son. Go back to sleep.” I’m 80% certain that these were his exact words.  It’s curious that some aspects of the events are very clear while others are fuzzy and THAT I CAN NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE.

My fantasy of flying through the window is also part of this memory. I haven’t told anyone this story until now. Hence, I am quite sure that I didn’t just make this up in order to fill in the story. The fact that the fantasy of flying would never occur to an adult is perhaps a confirmation that even my fantasy life was being seared into my memory.

Most of the activities of my childhood are entirely forgotten. But the events leading up to the death of my mother were so unusual and so traumatic that I cannot ever forget them. To forget them would be to forget who I was and who I came to be.

The Lies Told and the Terrible Silences

My Mom was dying for roughly six months in our own home.   As an adult, I discovered that the cancer had spread throughout her internal organs, and no surgery was ever contemplated.  Hence, following the medical practice of that epoch,  my mom was sent home to die.  Morphine was used to take the edge off her pain.  This usually led to drug addiction and the dossage had to be increased to the point that my Mom was living in a continuous mental fog.   My suspicion is that she entirely forgot her children.

My Dad, meanwhile, decided to keep all of this secret from his own children.  He didn’t even have the presence of mind to say anything of significance to his first-born Son.  He could of, for example, taken me in his arms and said to me, “Your Mom loves you very much, but, because she is so ill, she is unable to tell you this herself.”  He might even have said something as simple as this: “I talked to your mother last night, and she told me that she loves you dearly.”

Even after Mom’s death, my Dad never had the presence of mind to communicate key messages coming from my mother beyond the  grave.   “Your Mom would have been proud of how well your doing at school” [or “how well your doing with your paper route” or “how well your doing in scouting.”].  Nothing.  Total silence.   With the death of my mother, I had effectively lost both my parents.  I felt that I was orphaned and that I needed to pull myself together and to manage things on my own.

So, there you have it, MoonGirl.  I invite your reflections either in the space below or using FanStory–whatever most appeals to you.

Affectionately,
Aaron

 

 

 

Crimes of our Archbishops

Ordinarily Catholics do not expect that their archbishops would commit crimes and then exonerate themselves of any wrong doing.  Now that the crimes of archbishops have come into the public spotlight relative to their “failure to act to protect minors from clerical predators,” we have seen clear instances wherein archbishops can not be trusted to tell the truth when it comes to their own “complicity” in shielding  misbehaving priests from the law.

Now I want to investigate the lawlessness of some archbishops as they commit crimes against LGBTQ Catholics who refuse to allow that same-sex marriages are always and everywhere a sin against nature and a sin against God.

Let’s look at some specific cases:

#1:  The Case of Archbishop Schnurr vs. Mike Moroski

To: Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

Re: dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski

Your dismissal of Mr. Mike Moroski is an act of injustice and an act of prejudice against the civil and religious rights of LGBT Catholics.

It is an act of injustice in so far as the character and worth of a teacher in a Catholic  school can never be decided solely on the basis of his/her position  regarding same-sex marriages.  Many priests, bishops, and cardinals have openly favored offering civil recognition of same-sex unions.  Pope Francis has, already for ten years, favored such a proposal[11] but he hesitates to call it “marriage.”   Thus, these instances make it clear that  MM has committed no crime when he asserts that “I unabashedly believe gay people SHOULD be [legally] allowed to marry…”

You, on the other hand, are committing a grave act of injustice when you inhibit MM from from exercising his right to make his own decisions and to act in accordance with his own conscience when it comes time to decide whether to support or to oppose the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.    Consider the following:

In 1975, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops taught that LGBT people “should not suffer prejudice against their basic human rights. They have the right to respect, friendship and justice.”[7] The following year, Richmond Bishop Walter Sullivan wrote in the Richmond News Leader that “The issue before our community and the [human rights] commission, however, is not the morality of a person’s sexual orientation, but rather a person’s rights and protection under the law. We believe that a person’s sexual orientation, whether it is one we approve or disapprove, is not a proper ground for depriving that person of the basic rights and protections that belong to all human beings.”[41]

If gays and lesbians cannot be denied basic human rights and protections based upon whether you approve or disapprove of their sexual orientation, the same can be applied to MM.  You act lawlessly when you deny MM his rights simply because he takes a position respecting the legal recognition of civil marriages that you do not approve.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church add further clarity on this matter:

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  (#2358)

If you, as Archbishop are required to actively support the rights and protections of LGBT citizens, then it is clearly a miscarriage of justice to prevent MM from acting as he does.   As Catholics, we urgently need faculty like Mr. Mike Moroski who actively promote compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  You should be humbly learning from him rather than trying to silence him.

The “morality clause” that you placed in teacher contracts has the effect of menacing  teachers who promote compassion and understanding for LGBTQ students.  Meanwhile, you entirely neglect to say that “any faculty unable to accept LGBTQ parents and their children with respect, compassion, and sensitivity can have no permanent place within Catholic education.” Your one-sided misapplication of the Catholic human rights tradition is inexcusable, and it calls into question your ability to arrive at just and prudential judgments in this matter as a responsible adult and as an archbishop.

 

Archbishop Schnurr delivered his ultimatum because he saw himself as responsible for insuring the parents who sent their sons and daughters to Purcell Marian High School that they would encounter teachers entirely supportive of the official Vatican norms that oppose granting civil “marriages” to same-sex couples. Mike Moroski refused to capitulate because, according to his informed conscience, civil same-sex marriages would provide gays and lesbians with a measure of dignity and the protection of their civil rights as “married partners.”

According to Archbishop Schnurr, it would appear that free and open discussion of the merits and liabilities of granting civil marriages cannot take place within Catholic schools.  The case here does not imply that Mike Moroski ever promoted any such discussions of this issue among his students. Rather, the issue turns entirely on the unwillingness of Mike Moroski to accept the “gag order” mandated by the Archbishop.

The “gag order” of Archbishop Schnurr denies the free speech rights of Mike Moroski both as a citizen and as a Catholic.  More importantly, the Archbishop leaves the impression that Catholic schools do not build character based on informed consent.  Rather, the Archbishop implies that thought-control and conformity to pre-existing decisions substitutes for the free and open exploration of contemporary issues.  As such, Catholic education falls victim to becoming a coercive indoctrination in the service of a false piety.

Case #2: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone vs. Jim McGarry

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco initiated a course of action quite similar to that of Archbishop Schnurr of Cincinnati.

In a letter early 2015 to teachers at the four high schools, Cordileone wrote that the schools must buck the “tremendous pressure the contemporary culture places on everyone to conform to a certain agenda.”

Cordileone issued his recommendations for a new teacher contract, including a provision asking “administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith, are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” church teachings. They include opposition to abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage.

Cordileone also revised teacher contracts and the faculty handbook by way of designating teachers as “ministers,” a label that teachers said could give the archdiocese greater power in punishing or firing those whose words or actions contradicted Catholic doctrine.  This was the tactic used by Archbishop Schnurr upon the advice of his lawyers. This is because the US courts, by way of upholding the separation of church and state, gives to churches the right to fire “ministers” for any conduct that their church tradition requires.

Teachers were alarmed by the initiatives of their Archbishop, primarily because he had never consulted them before making these changes.  So protests and candle-light vigils took place. Since more than 300 union members of an American Federation of Teachers local are under the archdiocese contract, teaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Riordan in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra in San Mateo.  This gave the union a bargaining power that the Archbishop could not ignore.

In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the earlier Archbishop Pilarczyk had brought in anti-union organizers as soon as a movement was afoot to unionize the 2200 teachers in Catholic schools.  Without unions, there were no representatives of the teachers that the Archbishop had to reckon with.  Meanwhile he adopted the policy of  refusing to discuss the new contract with its morality clause.  “Take it or leave it,” was his position.  Thus, MM had no one to fight Schnurr’s reckless and arbitrary firing.

 

But Cordileone backed off on both counts. The handbook has been put on a back burner pending community discussion in the upcoming school year, and any reference to teachers as ministers was removed from the contract.

 

“We are grateful that the (archbishop) recognized the damage caused by the proposed changes and he decided on a different approach,” said Lisa Dole, union president and a social studies teacher at Marin Catholic. “We urge that he keeps listening to the men and women, union and nonunion, who work at our four high schools.”

Both sides, however, agreed to include language clearly stating that “the purpose of Catholic schools is to affirm Catholic values,” and that “teachers are expected to support the purpose of our Catholic schools in such a way that their personal conduct will not adversely impact their ability to teach in our Catholic high schools.”

Furthermore, teachers drafted grievance procedures, offering teachers increased protection should their personal or professional actions be questioned by the Archbishop.  The new contract would also give teachers up to a 2 percent raise each year of the three-year contract, the amount varying a bit among the schools.

The teachers and their supporters in San Francisco, however, were much more pro-active in confronting Archbishop Cordileone.  Students in Catholic schools also engaged in nonviolent protests against having their teachers muzzled by their Archbishop.  Jim McGarry, a retired educator who taught Catholic theology for twenty years at San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College Preparatory, a Jesuit Catholic high school that his own children attend, supported the student protestors by publishing an “open letter” supporting their efforts and by saying openly what many were afraid to say:

“[The archbishop] is not in compliance with Catholic teaching,” McGarry said.  “He is very selectively choosing a small number of doctrines and putting them forward in a selective way and, I think, distorting the tradition … in a way that first of all endangers the health and well being of our children.”  McGarry argued that Cordileone’s hard-liner stance on homosexuality, which would permit the firing of teachers who wed same-sex partners, directly contradicts a line in the Catholic Catechism that reads, “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against gays and lesbians] should be avoided.”  He also noted that Catholic teaching is well-known for guaranteeing freedom of conscience, allowing Catholics to disobey their government — or each other — when they feel that their personal conscience has been violated.[i]

These are excellent points that challenge Archbishop Cordileone’s presumption of orthodoxy when he distorts the Catholic tradition by placing undue emphasis upon the Ratzinger Doctrine.

The necessary next step would be to allow Cardinal Ratzinger’s condemnation of same-sex unions be competently investigated to see whether it does contain shoddy logic, dubious misinformation, and defective biblical exegesis (as shown in Chapter 2).  The worldwide Catholic bishops have never been consulted on this issue.  Nor has the Pontifical Biblical Commission or the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.  In this Jubilee Year that Pope Francis proclaimed, “to rediscover God’s mercy and experience the mystery of his love,” would it not be to the interest of all persons concerned . . .

. . . to encourage and to officially sponsor[ii] open and free discussions of all aspects of homosexuality,

. . . to permit oral histories [iii]to be gathered whereby Catholics in same-sex unions would have an opportunity to share their stories publicly, and

. . . to have all bishops and priests and self-appointed “watchdogs” cease and desist from all forms of coercive action and to have all censures lifted against those persons who did not agree with or comply with the Ratzinger Doctrine.

Jim McGarry’s Open Letter to the students in SF

By way of closing this chapter, I want to reproduce here the whole of Jim McGarry’s Open Letter.  Notice that he begins with his experience.  He is calm, firm, and decisive.  Notice also that he validates the students’ experience and their reason for protesting on behalf of their teachers.  Finally he invites the irate protestors to be nonviolent peacemakers as they offer unflinching support to those fellow students who have suffered most due to “the hateful words” of school bullies and of Vatican documents.

An open letter to students
from concerned parents

Decades before you were born, we, your parents, grew up in Catholic and other schools where no one was “out.”  We heard the term “fag” thrown around classrooms and hallways with casual cruelty.  There was overt bullying and brazen gossip based on perceived sexual orientation.  There was occasional violence.  There was loneliness and even despair among our peers who knew they were “different.”  There were suicides as well as descent into slower forms of self-destruction.  There was anger smoldering beneath the surface among those who knew they would never be accepted.  Our teachers and school leaders?  Silent or worse [complicit?].

You young students, our sons, and daughters, in Catholic Schools in the last decade have grown up with a new reality.  You have peers “out of the closet,” and you see that their human dignity is not diminished by their sexual orientation, and you indeed celebrate your unity undergirding the differences.  You also have peers whose families are led by gay or lesbian parents; you visit them, they welcome you into their homes, you see their full humanity flowering in their families.  Some of you live in such families, newly protected by laws recognizing civil same-sex marriage.  You may know a classmate who was conceived by in vitro fertilization.  You do not see the circumstances of his or her conception as changing in any way the inheritance as a child of God.  You include them in your circles without question.  This is new, this is a blessed change.

There is no going back.

However, the language currently proposed by the Archbishop for your faculty’s handbook, in which active homosexuals, including those in marriages no matter how loving, are labeled “gravely evil”—that language is what is now repulsive to you.  What a reversal!  Stay faithful to your new perception—and thank the current generation of teachers who have helped inform your consciences and boldly inspired you to believe that human dignity is indivisible.  Stand with them, and start by learning more about human beings from all the disciplines you study, and most especially from your study of the Gospel of love, from the God who liberates slaves and all those oppressed from the Spirit that stands with the truth of Church teaching based on the saving presence of God’s grace and mercy in our lives.

Beware that your resistance to this handbook language does not get lost in anger or in a judgmental grudge against the Archbishop.  We believe in loving even our opponents.  We also know that God is God and we are human and we make mistakes.  Believe in conversion, the turning of hearts and minds.  As the Gospels exhort us: Be the salt of the earth, the light unto the world.  Search for the pearl of great price and cherish it.  Continue to put your arms around those of your peers who are most vulnerable to those and all hateful words, bring them close, wrap them in layers of protection and reassurance.  They need and deserve your loving embrace.[iv]

Get involved!

Jim McGarry
Parent and former religious studies teacher in the Archdiocese

Case #3: Archbishop Thompson vs HS

 

[i] Jack Jenkins, “How San Francisco Catholics Are Pushing Pope Francis’ LimitsThinkProgress, 10 March 2015 (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/03/10/3631727/
san-francisco-catholics-fighting-lgbt-rights-testing-limits-pope-francis-rhetoric/
).

[ii] Pope Francis brought the bishops at the two Synods on marriage and family back to the place where they could freely speak their minds to each other and the necessary means to recover the collegiality required to discover pastoral solutions to address the suffering of Catholic families.

[iii] In the “Further Resources,” you will find some mind-bending and heart-rending oral narratives.  This will allow everyone to recognize that there can be no abstract code of ethics like the Ratzinger Doctrine that will resolve the issues associated with homosexuality.  This is the reason that I have not been tempted to supply a code of ethics to replace the sorely defective work of Cardinal Ratzinger.  If you are a lifelong expert in IBM computers, you cannot hope to provide a solid set of rules for maintaining and using Apple computers.  So, too, someone who is a heterosexual cannot hope to provide a solid code of ethics for homosexuals.  It remains, therefore, for homosexuals to dialog with each other to address their ethical questions on their own behalf.  Heterosexuals can be invited to listen and to learn and to advise—but surely not to pretend that, due to their multiple ordinations and multiple degrees, they are somehow experts in a realm that they can only know second-hand.  The intellectual arrogance of men like Cardinal Ratzinger is staggering. 

[iv] https://medium.com/synapse/the-great-reversal-e6fc788a6541#.10uwafp4f   For details of what information was disseminated and what protests were planned, see  http://www.teachacceptance.org/past-events/