Why I’m Staying In The Catholic Church

I learned that the clergy was full of liars in 1994.

We had a pedophile priest in our parish. His name was Ted Llanos and in 1994 he was accused of sexual abuse of a minor by a person connected to my family in such a way that we knew the accusations were true.

Two days later, I sat at a meeting in our parish hall, facilitated by Monsignor Timothy J. Dyer from the Los Angeles Archdiocese. When he was specifically asked the question “Has this happened before?” he said no.

My dad leaned over to my mom and said “He’s lying.”

It would be two years and dozens of victims coming forward from parish after parish before the lie could no longer be sustained.

Over the next ten years, the American Catholic Church instituted diocesan child protection plans that are too stupid to be believed. Background checks for the parent volunteers? Yes. Gnarly video with lay pedophiles who went to prison (making them different from their clergy brother pedophiles)? Yes again. Parents voicing their guilt and shame that their children were abused by priests? Trifecta.

Victim blaming because God forbid the church take the full and complete blame for any sin it has ever perpetrated in its 2000 year history.

In The Archdiocese of Portland, there have only been two incidents of alleged abuse since the institution of these programs. But that has everything to do with awareness and nothing to do with the clergy.

Now Pennsylvania proves to us that the clergy have not repented. The last 16 years have been a tap dance for the public. The church still keeps secret files. The church still pays lawyers to defend statutes of limitations. The church still lies—Vigano, I’m looking at you—to protect the priests over the children.

Enough already. And not like 16 years ago when all the words were right but the intentions were not. For reals this time. Real shame. Real accountability. Real penance. And until the clergy walk this road to Calvary of their own making, the rest of us HAVE TO STOP RECOGNBIZING THEIR AUTHORITY.

Yes, we need the man in the collar to make the Eucharist. It is his ordained spiritual gift. But we are all ordained through our sacramental vocations. He is different from a husband or a single man. But the idea that he is better is how we got here.

My pray-pay-obey sisters and brothers, listen up. You are a huge part of this problem. I know you live in the penance-punishment construct because you like to believe you are dirt on the bottom of God’s shoe, but here’s the thing: that’s NOT Gospel. And when you preach it and practice it—mostly against others, don’t think we haven’t noticed—your mental/emotional illness is showing. You have to cut it out because God really does loves you AND IT MAKES YOU COMPLICIT IN THE SEX ABUSE.

Yes, it does. Your sadistic Christianity requires an authoritarian regime and the wily and ambitious among the clergy were happy to volunteer. You gave them absolute power and we all know what Lord Acton said about that.

They are a brood of vipers but you are tending and defending their nest and that has got to stop. Same with Church Militant, FOCUS, Conservative Catholic America, EWTN and so on. They actively support clericalism and THEY ARE COMPLICIT AS WELL. Stop sending them money. Stop tuning in. Read your dang New Testament once in while in between sacrifice beads and daily fasting. Repeat after me: The children are more important than my addiction to feeling like a bad person all the time.

Here are the other things that need to happen:

  1. The church should work actively to reform the selection, formation and ordination of the clergy. The system is broke. Fix it already. Stop ordaining the mentally and emotionally ill.
  2. The church has to root out clericalism. Like, yesterday. Offer a stark choice: Accept your humanity with humility or turn in your collar.
  3. John Paul II—he knew. He called the accusers “enemies of the church”. He is complicit and should be stripped of his sainthood.
  4. Pope Benedict—he knew. He needs to say he knew and repent. He was the man in charge of investigating abuse cases and for the twenty years prior to his elevation as Pope, he opened not one investigation. He is complicit.
  5. OPEN THE FILES because the truth will set us free.

Which brings me to my point: Why do I stay?

The answer is simple: I have walked away from God and my faith, and that’s a fastpass to no good. I have been to other churches and while the people there are lovely, they are not my faith tribe.

The people kneeling next to me celebrating Eucharist are my faith tribe.

This is my beloved church. I will write, fight and pray.

But I will not cede it to the vipers.

Still Hopeful

A word from my mom, Terri: 

In February of 2017, 9 days after the inauguration, I wrote a guest blog for Full of Graces. It was entitled #Candles4hope.
In it I wrote that I was scared because the new administration seemed to be uninformed, clueless about the intent and beauty of the Constitution and unaware that we are only one great nation in this world and we needed to collaborate, not dictate to other nations.
I was worried about a seeming lack of truth, rudeness, making top appointments based on wealth, not experience and a disregard for a free press.
I stated that Light drives out darkness. Hope trumps hate. And asked you to join me in lighting a candle in your window until you are no longer afraid.
I kept that a candle in my living room window for more than a year, until we moved the furniture for a project we’re working on.
Today I remembered the candle when the national news told me that the midterm elections are only a few weeks away. My fears about this administration have not decreased–they are greater now than ever before. Things have not gotten better.
Our president is a liar–yes, we must start calling all who make their own truth what they are.
We are at odds with countries who have been our allies for 5 wars.
He is repealing laws that are helping to protect and repair our planet.
And he meets privately with heads of state of countries who condemn our principles without sharing the agreements or discussions with anyone.
He makes me afraid for my children and grandchildren who will have to contend with the results of this man’s egoistic attempts to be a dictator.
It would be easy to feel helpless. But I don’t.
I DO have a say in what happens and my say WILL make a difference.
1. I WILL vote
2. I WILL remind my friends and neighbors to vote.
3. I WILL sign up to help in any way possible to make sure that we have a huge turnout in this election.
4. I WILL put that candle back in my window.
Light drives out darkness. Hope trumps hate. Will you join me?

50 Years

Three years ago I wrote a post about an EPIC night shared by my parents and aunt and uncle on the occasion of their 1st and 5th wedding anniversaries.

It involved fishsticks and champagne and steep San Francisco streets and a poor dude who had the nerve to drive through an intersection when it was not his turn.

This year is my aunt’s and uncle’s 54th wedding anniversary. Two weeks ago, they were there for my parents’ 50th anniversary party. We had fishsticks and champagne. I understand why there was puking the first time.

Two days later, there was a party and everybody came. My dad asked my brothers and me to speak at the party, and we did. But before the party, I told my parents this:

The world knows how we feel about you. That will not be news to anyone in the room. 

But the ones who should talk are you. You’re the ones who made it. You know the secret for being married 50 years and still liking each other so much that you spent 7 weeks in a trailer the size of a laundry room and lived to tell. Explain that there was lots of champagne and there were also fishsticks. Probably more fishsticks than champagne on the day to day, if we’re being honest. Dispel the myth of the perfect marriage for everyone in that room.

I knew what I was asking: that they consider speaking with truth about their relationship on a day when it would have been so easy to sit at the head table and let the admiration wash over them like a wave.

But I also know my parents. They want to serve others, even at a party in their honor.

So they did it. They told the truth about being married 50 years. They did it with humor and grace, and they did it for the newlyweds in the room, and the couple with young kids who haven’t slept in years, and ones with three kids going 12 different directions who feel like ships passing in the night, and the empty nesters who are about to get to know each other all over again, and the almost retireds who are worried about how they will fill their time together, and the ones where “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” has become a challenging reality. They lived each of those seasons, and spoke about them with wisdom and faith.

They took a room full of married people and reminded us that our experiences are common, the good and the bad, and that we have each other to lean on. It was hopeful and life-giving.

It was so much better than a champagne toast in their honor.

(We did that too, though.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loaves and Love

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We paid off the new church.

We got a new pastor.

The newly paid off church almost burned up in a wildfire.

The new pastor had to be threatened to put down the garden hose and leave the church in the face of the wildfire.

For your personal edification, I asked my dad (He Who Used To Work For A Bishop) if there was any official protocol for evacuating a church in the event of a wildfire.

“Take Jesus and go.”

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Father Freddy is from Columbia and he has his English in such a way that he knows the words, but he sometimes says them in the order of the Spanish in his head. This is not the way we speak them. It is so much better.

Today the reading was about the loaves and the fishes, which is propitious because next week is VBS and it’s all about encountering Jesus and one of the focus stories is loaves and fishes. So when Father got up to preach, I snuggled down into the pew to listen.

It was beautiful. He talked about how the little boy in the scripture brought what he had, which was not much. He gave it willingly though and Jesus took it, blessed him and made it BIG. Five thousand people big—well, scripture says men, so if they had wives and kids with them, it was even bigger than that.

Jesus fed them all til they were full.

Father said if we could just be like that little boy, and bring our love to Jesus, he will make it big. Even if we don’t know how our little love could be enough. Jesus knows.

I was super on board with this. Yes. YES. Father is using metaphor. The loaves and fishes are a metaphor for the love we have for others. And if we bring that love to Jesus, he will bless us and make it BIG. Awesome. I am SO using that at VBS.

And then, a little voice inside my head wondered if maybe Father should have explained the metaphor better because you know, not everyone is a used-to-be English teacher.

I started thinking how I would make that connection for the kids at VBS, maybe a giant math equation with a loaf and a fish and an equal sign to a heart…

And then it hit me. He’s not saying love. The whole time, he’s not saying love.

He’s saying LOAF.

The English teaching in me went down screaming, because she doesn’t like to be wrong. The rest of me laughed all the way to Communion.

I mean, it still works. Bring your loaf, which by your very willingness to bring it, shows your love. Jesus will multiply it and use it to feed others. But for reals—the story has stood the test of time. It doesn’t need improvement.

Just better listening skills.

Welcome, Father Freddy. I promise to try harder.

 

 

 

 

The Luxury of Hesitating

I have noticed that white women do this thing when they hear something that shocks them.

They go silent.

I know—because as a white woman, I have done it—that the silence reflects a thought process along the lines of Did that just happen? Did it mean what I think it means? Did everyone else hear the same thing? Is anyone going to say anything?

And then Should I say something? What will happen if I say something? Will others support me? What if they don’t?

And finally Maybe I’ll just let this one go. I’ll remember what was said and who said it, but no use calling it out now.

In a word, we hesitate. And the chance to set a new boundary of what is right and decent passes us by.

Here is what we need to understand about our hesitation. Really, really understand it so that we can find a way to change it: Our hesitation is a luxury.

After all, we do not fear when we send our young men out into the night. We do not fear that anyone will rip a nursing baby from our arms. We do not worry that our children are treated differently at school because of the color of their skin.

We know these things happen. But they happen to other people.

So we tolerate the bigots on our social media. We don’t report them or unfriend them because we don’t want to anger them.

We stay quiet when our friend’s husband or our first cousin makes an inappropriate joke. We don’t want to rock the boat.

We tell circumspect stories of racism and bigotry without naming names, which serves no one but the racist.

We indulge our privilege. We hesitate.

I understand the challenge of what I am saying. I have fought for my voice my whole adult life, against those would have me be quiet. I had to unlearn my hesitation and then I had to learn to speak the right thing—the truth and not my anger, fear or shame. I still don’t always get it right. I particularly struggle with the bigots in my faith community, since I want church to be a refuge. I hesitate.

But it’s time to face the challenge. We can’t afford this luxury anymore, and our sisters of color could never afford it. We either speak up for what is right, or we are part of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Intimidation

A couple of weeks ago, Serena Williams pulled out of the 2018 French Open due to a pectoral injury.  She dropped out before meeting Maria Sharapova in the fourth round.  In 21 their meetings, Wiliams has beaten Sharapova 19 times. Nineteen.  One-Nine. Her overall record is 19-2.

Before Serena pulled out, however, she was interviewed by Bill Simons from Inside Tennis.  Aside from dismissing her time with her daughter, telling her to “work with [him]”, and calling her “baby”, Simons asked, perhaps the most ludicrous, insulting, and outright clueless question that anyone has asked a female athlete in the history of the world:

“After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his L.A. golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with his incredible analysis: that you were intimidated by her supermodel good looks. My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?”

#1 – Really? Are we now taking tennis analysis from Donald Trump, the man who openly admits to grabbing women by the p*ssy? And you waited 14 years to ask Serena that?

#2 – So, I’ve been an athlete since 1986.  Actually, I was playing sports before then, but I was first on an organized team in 1986.  I went through playing sports in high school, at a Division 1 college, on the national stage at the Final Four, and then internationally as a professional.  I’m even going to an open gym today.  And I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that an opponent’s good looks have never intimidated me on the court.  Not once.  Not when I was 11, not when I was 21.  And not even today when I’m 42 and playing after 2 c-sections and a hernia.  In fact, I never even thought about equating good looks with athletic ability until this interview question.

#3 – You want to know the one other woman that I can ever remember being openly intimidated by on the court?  I was playing for University of Virginia in 1993 and we were awful.  I mean, like we-only-won-2-conference-matches-that-year awful. I went to college early so I was only 17 and in early October that year, we played against George Washington University… and Svetlana.  She was this foreign player from Russia. Obviously.  And at that point, she was the biggest woman I had ever seen on the court.  She had to be 6’4” and must have weighed over 200 lbs.  When she called for the ball, she had this crazy Russian accent.  And she hit the ball like she was using the hammer from the Russian flag itself. Think Ivan Drago in female volleyball player form.  And when I was in the back row, she was in the front row, and our blockers were probably about 5’6”.  When she went up to hit the ball, I prayed for my life.  Yep.  Svetlana intimidated me.  And as chance would have it, Jen played against her, too.  It’s one of those funny, small world things that happens between soul sisters.  And Jen remembers her by name too.  Svetlana looked at Jen through the net one time and said, “I block you,” in that same Ivan Drago voice. Intimidating.

#4 – One more thing… Jen and I (and all of our teammates since the beginning of time) would probably actually like to play against some pretty girls.  And we hope they have little pretty names. And we will destroy them.  I know this because when I was thinking about names for my second daughter, I really wanted to name her Cosette.  I thought Jen would be all in because we both love Les Miserables.  Seems legit, right?  But I still remember Jen telling me, “Do you know what I would do to a girl across the net who was named Cosette?  I’d block the hell out of her and tell her to go back to her Castle on a Cloud!”  Ouch.  Truer words were never spoken.

So Mr. Simons, and all of The Media, please stop with this kind of ridiculousness.  Stop pitting women against one another based on looks, because we really don’t think about that kind of stuff on a daily basis.   We women are just out here being the best mamas, teachers, athletes, grandmas, real estate agents, oh, and PEOPLE, that we can be.  With or without our lipstick.

 

Biblical Sisterhood

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Two weeks ago I served on a retreat team, and made a presentation. I’m sharing it here in edited form. 

The story of Ruth and Naomi in the Bible is the source of that beautiful church song “Wherever you go, I will go”. It’s popular at weddings, but the deep truth of that Scripture is about sisterhood:

Once upon a time there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi;

 Elimelech died and Naomi was left, she and her two sons. The sons took Moabite wives; the name of the first was Orpah, the second Ruth. But then the two brothers, Mahlon and Kilion, died. Now Naomi was left without either her young men or her husband.

One day she got herself together, she and her two daughters-in-law, to leave the country of Moab and set out for home;

Naomi told her two daughters-in-law, “Go home and live with your mothers. May God give each of you a new home and a new husband!”

They cried. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye.

But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”

I don’t know why bonds of friendship are different for women than men. I just know that they are. We have been uniquely gifted with a natural sense of connection and nurturing. We are intuitive, empathetic, and seasonal. Cooperative learners and consensus builders.

This is not to say that we are limited to positions in life that are only related to these gifts.  We can do anything to which we set our minds.

But it is to say, that when we are doing anything to which we set our minds, we bring these gifts with us.

The Bible is full of women who show us that these gifts are truly God-given. Like Ruth, who stayed with Naomi and became a great-grandparent of King David. Queen Esther, who stood up for her Jewish people during the Babylonian exile and saved them. The Blessed Mother, who said yes. Martha and Mary, true sisters who showed us there is not one right way to follow the Christ. Mary Magdalene who humbled herself to follow Jesus, and followed Him even unto his death on the cross.

And on Good Friday, when the men fled—all except John—the gospels tell us the women were there, huddled together in their sorrow, at the foot of the cross.

This says to me that sisterhood—true, deep and meaningful community among women—is biblical and essential.

And yet, we make sisterhood hard. We let the secular world drive us apart. All of us carry wounds from sisterhood gone wrong. Mean girls in school or at work. Unkind grandmothers, mothers, sisters. Friends who have betrayed us. And friends we have betrayed. Even in the churches, women have been responsible for destroying communities with gossip, petty arguments and power struggles.

In our throw away world where everything and everyone is expendable, we are losing our generational sisterhood. The voices most dominant in female culture are young, and our crones—the true meaning of this word speaks of wisdom and respect—our crones are left with no one to hear them.

And now this age of instant social media brings the constant pressure of comparison which, as the saying goes, truly steals our joy. It sows the seeds of dishonesty, confusion and distrust and then we reap the harvest in higher levels of fear, anxiety and depression.

I know there is a better way. Sisterhood in my life has evolved as I have aged, but the foundation rocks—God, family, team—have always been the same.

My first sisterhood started in the whirlwind of my 20s. I had a job and an apartment in a beach town in So Cal within walking distance of shops, bar and restaurants. My sisterhood was a group of semi-Catholic, rowdy, ride or die, Happy Hour, Sunday Bender, boyfriend problem solving, dancing queens.

We were not living our best lives.

But we have some crazy stories to tell.

These women are still the closest friends in my life. Partly because there are 25 years of friendship between us. And partly because we all grew into an adulthood together. They know me at my best and my worst. It is impossible to lie to them, and we have gained the right to speak truth at each other in love and support. Our relationships are sacred and timeless. And even though we are now, in our second seasons of life, spread from Hawaii to Eastern Canada, the connections are strong and intuitive.

I call them my Committee, and when my husband married me, he knew they were part of the package. Sometimes I talk to them before I talk to him, which he doesn’t mind because it saves him from all the female processing.

After our marriage, Shea and I moved 70 miles away from LA and made some new friends. This time they are marriage-making, baby-having, toddler chasing, no sleep getting, queens of their castles. We are guided in our wifehood and motherhood by Proverbs 31: 28-29

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and laughs at the days to come.[m]
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom;
kindly instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over[n] the affairs of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband, too, praises her:.

I call them my Women Who Come Running When—in the middle of the night so I could take a child to the ER, on a Friday afternoon when it was either me or the kids but someone was going to die, on birthdays and moms nights out, for a cup of sugar or two eggs to make pancakes–for dinner—we share the struggle of being wives and mothers with young children. They are also Catholic and we all attended the same parish. Many the times we spent our Saturdays together in fellowship and celebration and met again in the pews Sunday mornings.

These women—the Committee and the Women Who Come Running When—are the reason I survived my cancer in 2010.

Cancer, as anyone whose had it knows, is both terrifying and clarifying. Shea and I grappled with trying to keep life as normal as possible in the beginning, but were forced to finally strip away all the excess and admit: there was a great big ol’ pile of cancer crap in our lives and we were sitting in it.

In my experience, there’s only one way to handle cancer: honestly. But not everyone is prepared for that. At times, we felt like emotional roadkill. The trainwreck where no one could look away. I can tell you what happens to the eyebrows of a person when they are already imagining the tragedy of your funeral. I called them Emotional Jackals, feeding off our tragedy.

Which by the way, was not a tragedy. My cancer was in my thyroid, and it had a very clear path of treatment, and 95% survival rate, and I have been cancer free for 8 years now.

But the jackals don’t care. They want to watch the struggle. They want to pick up bits and pieces they can report back to their gossipy prayer circles. Let us pray for the mother dying young

Some of the women who I had considered friends became emotional jackals during my illness. They were very frustrated by the fact that there was no outward sign of my illness. I did not lose my hair or my appetite. I wasn’t tired.  They didn’t like that I was still working, still going to the gym, still cheering on my kids at practices and games.

They would ask how I was, but only as an opportunity to immediately turn the conversation to themselves and talk about their aunt who died from cancer in her 30s.

One day I showed up to a meeting feeling great. My surgery was finally scheduled, my hair was newly colored, and I felt hopeful. Right away, one of these women met me at my seat. “Oh my gosh, you look so tired!” she said—which is code for “you look awful”—“let me get you something to drink.”

I remember deflating like a balloon. But then, I got angry. I did not look tired. I looked great. I felt great. I don’t think she meant to be malicious. But I know for sure that her actions in that moment served her more than they served me.

That was the day I circled the wagons. I realized that a lot of my energy was being spent on making others feel better about my cancer, to the point that I stopped telling people I was sick.

This is not sisterhood.

Sisters show up. They witness. They listen. They do not fix, or save, or change. But when you sit a group of them down at your dinner table and say you want to go radio silent on your cancer so that people will leave you alone, they might growl and ask you to name names.

Shea and I always wanted three kids. I discovered my tumor in January of 2010. If there had never been a tumor, we would have started trying for a third baby that summer. Instead, we got a tumor.

Standard treatment for my type of cancer was dictated by size and spread. My tumor was encapsulated, which means it had not spread beyond the thyroid, and not even the whole tumor was cancerous. So the doctors said that the safest course of action would be a total removal of my thyroid and one round of radiation.

Removing my thyroid meant taking a daily dose of synthetic hormone for the rest of my life. It is very difficult to moderate this hormone and can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. In addition, one round of radiation meant I would have to wait a year before I could consider having a baby.

On the day I heard this news, I was 38 years old. I would be 39 before I could start trying to have another baby and 40 when I delivered. If all went well.

Or. I could have the thyroid removed, have and nurse the third baby, and then have the radiation.  I would be waiting 18 months to 2 years to have the cancer killing radiation treatment and in the meantime, my body would be full of HcG, a pregnancy hormone that grows all cells, not just baby cells. I could be growing a baby and a new tumor all at once.

This was a hard decision for me. I struggled with the idea that I was sick, since I didn’t feel sick. I was reluctant to let go of my own plan for my life, because I’m human. And I was uncomfortable being the center of everyone’s attention. Part of me felt that choosing to have the baby first was self-sacrificing and noble. And part of me was trying to wrest some control over my life back from the cancer.

I needed to explore the options. That was my process. I needed to speak out loud that I may not have my third baby. I needed to speak out loud that having the third baby could make my cancer worse. I needed to hang on the cross of my life in that moment and grapple with the unfairness of it all.

You guys, in hindsight, I know this was a silly wringer I put myself through. The answer was clear and since I am here and I already told you that we have 3 kids, we picked the obvious answer.

I had the surgery, the radiation and the baby at 40. God is good.

That is not the point of my story. The point is that when I brought this silly conundrum to the sisterhood in my life, not one of them asked what the heck was wrong with me. They didn’t tell me to fight the cancer, how they wanted me to live, how they couldn’t live without me. They didn’t cry, judge, get angry.

The sisterhood gathered at the foot of my cross. They promised to stay in the lives of my children if I died. They promised to show a picture to my 2 year old every day so she wouldn’t forget my face.  Most importantly, they let me talk about the fact that I might die. They didn’t let me dwell there, but they understood that I needed to consider these things, and that I needed them to bear witness to the considering.

I made them all promise that if I got really sick, was dying and decided I was done fighting, they would respect that decision and help me plan the most amazing funeral in the history of funerals. They promised.

Although my cousin Lesley, who is my person in this world, later made me promise back to never do that to her again.

They got on their knees for me. They prayed for God to keep His promise from Isaiah 45:2-3:

I will go before you and level the mountains; Bronze doors I will shatter, iron bars I will snap. I will give you treasures of darkness, riches hidden away, That you may know I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name.

Like the women at the foot of Jesus’ cross, they weren’t completely sure what was going to happen next. But they had faith that what Jesus had promised—a resurrection, earthly or heavenly—was possible.

Do I know now how hard it was for them to hold my pain? I do, because since my illness, one of my sisters lost her dad to cancer; another, her mom to dementia. One had her only child diagnosed with autism. One lost her marriage to a man wracked with untreated mental illness. Two suffered postpartum mental illness requiring intervention.

In each moment, I have witnessed at the foot of their crosses, gotten on my knees for them and held their pain, with the same strong faith that resurrection was coming.

That is sisterhood. That is what we do. As faithful sisters we believe what Paul told the Romans in chapter 8:28:  “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,[f] who are called according to his purpose.”

Or, as Glennon Melton Doyle Wambach says: “First the dying. Then the rising.”

I wish I could tell you that my sisterhood is eternal and unchanged. But of course, it is not. We are human, and we sin and we fail. Our lives change. Some of the women who stood by me during my illness are no longer part of my sisterhood. That is ok. Sisterhood should be easy. When it gets hard and honest conversations can’t fix that, it’s ok to let relationships go. Everything in its time and place.

And the goal of biblical sisterhood is not perfection. In fact, it is an acknowledgement that we cannot walk alone, that we need those around us who share our Christian values of faith, hope and love.

In writing this presentation and realizing how soundly this type of relationship is rooted in scripture, I’ve started to reflect on all the ways the secular world puts us in competition with each other and threatens the power and sacredness of sisterhood. As active, vibrant women of faith, we are uniquely situated to change this, in ways big and small.

Not as the values police. More by our actions than our words. Starting with reflecting on who and where and how we spend our time with other women and the ways that could or should change.

In closing, I will say this:

I believe we can do hard things, for ourselves and each other, clothed in our strength and dignity, gifts uniquely given to us by God.

I believe that when God tells us He is with us ALWAYS and in ALL WAYS, that often looks like the dear friend holding your hand.

I know we can refuse to live in fear, jealousy or judgment because we are each in control of our own joy.

And I believe with every hopeful, faithful and loving fiber of my soul that together we can bring peace and joy to our families, our friendships, our parishes and our nation.