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Guest Posts, religion, Vulnerability

What I Learned From My Muslim Neighbors

January 29, 2017
religion

By Jessica Yaeger

Recently, I went to the “Get to know your neighbors” event at my local Islamic Center. My dual goals were to learn more about a religion I knew very little about, and to show support to our local Muslims who I imagined were not feeling particularly supported by the words of our newly elected President.

On the way there, I was anxious about how it would go. How many people would be there? I had tried to dress appropriately to be respectful, but had I succeeded? Why can’t I think of any intelligent-sounding questions to ask if I am put on the spot or in a face to face conversation? Will this be safe or will there be violence there from.. someone? Good grief, I know literally not a single other person attending, what I am thinking?!

Once I arrived, I saw I was one of hundreds of folks who attended the event, young and old, men and women, many different faiths and races. The brief introduction to the Islam faith was not only incredibly educational, it also was entertaining. When I had imagined visiting for the evening prayers, I had not visualized I’d be laughing so much! Our tour guide (there was one for the ladies and another one for the men) was funny, but also gracious and knowledgeable, and assured us that no question was stupid or off limits. As a result, our group of women, who were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist and more, had an incredible dialogue that touched on scripture, God, prophets, head coverings, woman’s rights, and even terrorism. It was only 30 minutes of my life, but those 30 minutes changed me. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, religion

Wooden Bird

January 6, 2017
mountain

By Nancy Townsley

The father bends over the son, just as he did so many years ago when the boy was asleep and he murmured prayers for him, tenderly pushing his sand-colored bangs aside while asking the deity he used to believe in to make the child good and wise and kind. He would watch the comforting rise and fall of his boy’s chest and listen to his shallow breathing on those late nights, after he had finished reading and writing in his knickknack-crowded study, something he could do even with the TV blaring. Wedged between the philosophy and poetry sections on his bookshelves sat a faded Pinocchio puppet with two broken strings, the Yoda beanbag that used to make his daughter laugh, and a ball made entirely of rubber bands, all remnants from when his life was more Presbyterian, “decent and in order” as the church liked to teach, crowded with tasks and responsibilities that required him to keep a calendar with to-do lists scribbled into it, lest he lose his way.

In one corner of the room, next to the door, a wooden hummingbird with its wings spread wide hung suspended from the ceiling in a vain attempt to fly.

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But this day, and this hour, are radically, horribly different. The son is cold, mostly frozen, like meat just taken from the freezer. His eyes are shut, ice still clinging to their dark lashes. His angular face is contorted and bruised black-and-blue. His fingers are curled, as if they’re grabbing at something, and stiff to the touch. There is a large patch of dried blood on the side of his head, the result of untold trauma. He is still, lifeless. The boy, now a man, is dead. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, religion

The Only Part of Catholicism I Miss

February 21, 2016

By Aine Greaney

I used to tell myself that I missed no part of being a practicing Catholic–not the nighttime rosaries nor the Sunday masses nor the Easter and Christmas services.
Yet, when you grow up in Ireland, as I did, you cannot delete it all. Some mornings, for example, an old school hymn replays in my mind, so I belt it out to my fellow drivers on the southbound highway toward Boston.

Or there are those times when an American friend or colleague frets and confides about her child’s upcoming prom night and its inherent risks of binge drinking and condom-less sex.  I empathize; honest, I do. But I can’t help conjuring my own convent-school assembly room where my classmates and I sat sipping tea and nibbling on finger sandwiches, waiting to be summoned to the makeshift stage for the  Sisters of Mercy to bestow the little black bible that was our senior-year goodbye. I chuckle at the incongruity between generations and places, and I also know that I would gladly swap my own “prom” for something more glamorous and secular.

However, there is one part of Catholicism that I really miss: The monthly sacrament of Confession or what, since my day, got re-named as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Confession is where Catholics get to examine their consciences, then go to church to confess and atone for their wrong-doings.   Of course, this practice of atoning for our sins is not unique to Catholicism, but it’s what I have known and once practiced and, eventually, abandoned.

No, I’m not rushing off to kneel in a tiny confession box to whisper, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”  And I must admit that, sometimes, especially in the busy season, confession felt less like a sacred sacrament and more like a morality gumball machine (insert sins; get forgiveness).
Confession box aside, though, I miss that concept, that spirit of checking in with myself, that regular and ritualized atonement for what I did wrong.

Contrition. Atonement.  How archaic these concepts seem now—and how ill-suited for our win-at-all-costs society.   Formal religion aside, we seem to be losing the will and skill to behold or admit to our own wrong doings.

In the past month and based on the American headlines alone, it would be easy to assume that we have lost our ability to recognize what “wrong-doing” actually is.  It would be easy to conclude that ego and cowardice and money and addiction have skewed our 21st-century sense of right and wrong. Haven’t we all worked or volunteered alongside someone who would rather conceal than confess, who believes that bluster and spin substitute for accountability or substance? We’ve all honked at that distracted and dangerous driver, the one about to cause an accident, only to get that hand-sign that suggests that we, not him, were in the wrong.  Last weekend, I asked a restaurant server to please exchange my dinner entrée for one that was actually cooked through. He changed it, but instead of an apology or a table visit from the manager, I got that shrug that said, another picky customer.  And here’s my pet, pet peeve: the apology that isn’t actually an apology, the one that goes, “I’m sorry you feel like that.”

Yes. I know. “Sorry” ups the risk of litigation and that our opponent might win. “Sorry” means not being top dog. “Sorry” makes us fallible and human when, nowadays, we’re expected to pose and posture as infallible and super-human.
In our drive to appear Facebook-y perfect, we can’t face our own in-born character flaws or lapses in judgement. So how, then, can we confess or atone for them?

I have my own list of past and recent sins. Some of them I committed against myself and my own wellbeing.  Some I have apologized and forgiven myself for. Others, the ones I still dream about at night, I have not.

In 2011, amid my country’s gut-wrenching reports on decades of clerical child abuse, there was only one shining hour:  When Cardinal Sean O’Malley washed and dried the feet of some of his church’s abuse victims.

From the boardroom to the courtroom, to the halls of state and national government, we would do well to remember that admitting we are and did wrong reflects human strength, not weakness.

In our own kitchens or bedrooms, there is no more redemptive and relationship-saving gesture than to face our spouse or partner or close friend to say: “Bless me sweetie, for I have sinned. For this and for all my transgressions, I am truly sorry.”

Aine Greaney is an Irish expatriate writer living in greater Boston. Previous placements include The Manifest-Station, Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, Feminist Wire and others. Follow her on Twitter @ainegreaney.

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

courage, Guest Posts, Intimacy, Marriage, religion

The Vigil

November 2, 2015

By Julia Park Tracey

Nobody likes a scarlet woman. That’s what they call you when you have an affair with a priest. That’s what he calls me sometimes, joking, “Maybe we should stone you.” Sometimes, affectionately, he calls me, “The Woman at the Well,” for the Biblical story of the woman who was living with a man who was not her husband. Once we began our congress, he read his canon law book, citing where he had entered into a state of concubinage and was therefore in breach of his promise of celibacy. As his concubine, I am his accomplice in sin, and thus, upon our attempted marriage, we become excommunicated – not by any pronouncement with trumpets or fanfare, but automatically, without hesitation, like the toast that comes with your Denny’s breakfast.

He doesn’t hold it against me, much, how I took him from the priesthood, until later, when he realizes what he has given up. We rather celebrate it, something kindred to Romeo and Juliet, how our love transcends the laws of man – but surely not God. Why would God bring us together, if He hadn’t meant it to be thus? After some deliberation, a year or two of dalliance, the priest decides he cannot continue living a lie. He has spent almost every night in my bed, creeping toward the rectory at midnight, then at two, then four, then six a.m. as the months pass. He begins to get sloppy. I visit him in his quarters,  the parish rectory, which we have dubbed The Erectory. The other priests cannot help but see and notice that he is never there. But there is a brotherhood, a Code, and no one tells. There are whispers, but no cataclysm so far.

One night we drink too much, flail among the bedsheets, and I fall asleep in his arms. When the sun begins to seep across the room, I startle awake and pull on my crumpled dress and heels, eschewing my stockings and jewelry. It is a pretty picture of a woman who has been well tossed and tousled, make no mistake. As I reach for the doorknob to tiptoe out, I spy a note on the floor, pushed underneath the door.

There was a fire last night. No one was hurt. Just thought you should know.

It is signed by the pastor. Continue Reading…