Mental Health Monday

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September is Suicide Prevention Month. Each year, too many people commit suicide and one thing that would prevent some of those suicides is knowing where to go to get help. Visit the websites of these three organizations and find out how you can get help or how you can help someone in crisis.

NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

The Trevor Project – for LGBTQ+ and Trans Youth.

The Trevor Project provides confidential support for LGBTQ youth in crisis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

46/52 – Transgender Day of Remembrance

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As of this writing, 25 trans people have been murdered this year, however that number may only be the US. This is something that needs to end. It’s not about whether or not you agree with someone’s truth, but the transphobia is killing trans people, especially women of color and youth.

We need to remember and continue moving forward to better lives for trans people, equality, and safety.

The first Day of Remembrance was held online in 1999 and has evolved into a day of action as well as a memorial. It occurs every year on November 20th, which is tomorrow.

Please visit the Trans Day of Remembrance site for up to date information and a memorial list of the 2017 deaths as well as Glaad.org/tdor

Galatians 3:28

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I’ve been mute on the Orlando shooting because what can I say. 49 lives taken for no reason other than their orientation. I thought of drawing something like I had done for Prince and Muhammad Ali, but nothing came to me apart from ribbons that I can’t draw and didn’t want to copy.

This is the twenty-first century. Forget six degrees, we are all one or two degrees of separation from someone in the LGBT+ community so maybe instead of six degrees of separation we should change it to six degrees of connection.

At mass this morning, this line in Galatians screamed out at me and this came out. It is not necessarily limited to remembering the victims of Orlando or any other victims of hate, but it can be a bringing together.

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Bathrooms

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As this Transgender Day of Visibility comes to a close, I’d like to share something I overheard this afternoon.

It was a discussion behind me about trans use of bathrooms in North Carolina between (what I presumed to be) a married couple in their fifties or older.

Husband: It’s not hard. Men use the men’s room; women use the women’s.
Wife: Something about trans people getting beat up in the opposite bathroom.
Husband (with a laugh): Is that my problem? If you dress like a women….. (the implication being simply to not dress like a woman.)

I didn’t hear the rest, and no I didn’t call him out. They were having a private conversation, they weren’t that loud, and I was eavesdropping.

But I will answer his question – yes, it is your problem. It is everyone’s problem when anyone is afraid to use a bathroom; when people are being persecuted and assaulted in a public bathroom because of their gender identity.

When the women’s line is too long, how many of us use the men’s room? Show of hands? Mine’s raised.

What about bringing our opposite gender children into the bathroom with us? How old is too old? Because to be honest, in Penn Station, my eleven year old is still too young to go by himself.

What about bringing our opposite gender disabled family member into the bathroom with us?

I honestly don’t understand the uproar.

The only thing I want from a public toilet is to get in, get out and have as little interaction with anyone as possible.

So yes, it is your problem unless you want to live in a society that is so prejudicial that we won’t allow people to use the bathroom.

It’s not about comfort; it’s about safety.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Resources

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This is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Here are some important numbers that you may need or find helpful if you have suicidal thoughts. While I am available to be an ear to listen through email or message, I am not a professional. It is always best to contact on of the professional helplines. That is what they are there for.

Suicide Prevention Help Line: 1-800-273-8255

The Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

IMAlive: (an online crisis network): https://www.imalive.org/

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1. Text to 838255. There is also a confidential online chat.

Missing Mass

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I’ve been trying to put these words to paper for days now. The last time I attended Mass was on Father’s Day, just over two weeks ago. I look forward to Mass, whether it’s daily or Sunday. They each have their own style, their rhythm of worship, their benefit, their own spirituality. There is more laughter during a daily mass. I suppose it is the more informal of the two. Sunday is more musical.

I hadn’t expected to miss so many Masses. The first week I had two sons graduating, one from the fifth grade and one from high school. My brother came up for a visit. The end of that week brought relief, the stress floated away. I meant to go Saturday night, and I don’t remember why I wasn’t able to. I think there was a conflict of time, and I slept through both of Sunday’s services. I felt a twinge of guilt, but not too badly. It happens. I read my Bible, my Lectionary. I prayed the Rosary.

I’ve never gone to Mass out of obligation. For me, it’s always been a want-to-be-there; not a “hafta“. I enjoy being there. I get there before the opening psalm and I know my parts as well as my priest’s by heart. One would think that would make it boring, but it’s a comfort to be that close to the Word. I find joy in every moment.

I listen carefully to the Scripture readings and the Gospel and while I don’t really put myself in the place of the Scripture story or message, I do bring the message to my life: how does it fit? How does it relate to what’s going on for me? Does it give me more questions? Does it give me a word or phrase to think about, to pray on? Does it give me comfort and a gentle hand on my shoulder.

I thought perhaps that the joyful Friday, the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality, the reminder to everyone that I already knew that “gay” rights are civil rights unconsciously kept me from going. I knew this was only the beginning of the celebration and the ongoing march forward. I’m still rainbow festooned on all of my social media. I’m not ready to go back to the blandness of regular life.

I’m proud of my stand on equality. I can explain my position and unlike many other good people I have no qualms about my stand, and my beliefs. I do not have a crisis of faith. I find it easy, in fact to reconcile my LGBT+ beliefs and my Catholic faith.

It’s possible that subconsciously I was afraid to go to church where surely people more conservative than I would be discussing their views.

I decided at the end of that weekend that I would return to the Daily Mass the very next day.

I didn’t make it.

And I didn’t make it five more times.

It wasn’t until reading today’s email from my online Ignatian Spirituality Retreat that a series of words clicked for me.

“Unfortunately, we can’t change others, but we can be attentive and make sure that the good spirit is driving our choices.”

I read that, and it gave me pause. I went about my morning, but finally I came back to it this afternoon, and thought about what was keeping me from my worship services that I loved; that I missed.

For the last two weeks, my church (and many others) have participated in a Fortnight for Freedom. According to my research for this, it is “freedom to bear witness” to the truth of the Gospel.”

That’s not what I thought it was. At least that’s not what it seemed in looking at what our community prays about (when prayers are aloud).
Perhaps it’s that sometimes our preachers get too hung up on how Christians are perceived in the US. I’ve heard from friends who feel that this country doesn’t respect our freedom of religion.

That is truly a ridiculous notion. I don’t mean to offend anyone who does feel that way, but my question for you would be: how is your freedom of religion impeded in any way, shape, or form?

My answer is: it isn’t.

You aren’t persecuted or prosecuted. No one forces you to take or not to take holy sacraments. Not being able to inflict your religion on others against their will, and against their own religious beliefs is not actually your freedom being denied. In fact, it is you denying someone else their freedom.

I did not want to go to church lately, and pray for freedom of religion in this country. It’s hypocritical. What we’re really praying for is for others to kowtow to our beliefs; to force them to follow our doctrines. And I won’t have that.

When I read that statement in my email this morning: “we can’t change others” and “make sure that the good spirit is driving our choices,” I realized that I didn’t have to pray what others pray. I could pray for people and places that are truly under persecution; places where freedom of religion isn’t free.

I can pray for the ideals of this country and that they carry on for all its citizens, regardless of what they believe or don’t believe.

Baking a cake for someone who doesn’t believe what you believe isn’t standing up for your religion; it’s bigoted, and it makes a mockery of truly faithful people, who believe in and follow Jesus’ words and deeds.

Bake the cake, and pray for them. Do you bake cakes for divorced couples? For couples who live together? Adulterers? People on diets? Isn’t cheating on a diet lying? What about the fifty-year old person who wanted the icing to read: Happy 29th Birthday Again. If your business was a grocery store, would you refuse to sell gay couples milk for their baby because you don’t approve of their “lifestyle”?

It’s only in the ludicrous examples that show how ridiculous many of these people are acting. This doesn’t change what you believe, what you pray, what you support. It’s simply good manners. I think we should all pray for that.

I don’t know when I’ll return to church. I want to. It’s not the attending; it’s the going, the getting there, but I will.

I haven’t lost my faith; just my transportation.

Called

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The imaginary lightbulb hovers over your head. We all metaphorically slap our foreheads wishing we’d had that V-8. We’re thrilled with our secular epiphany that we’re practically skipping along with excitement and trying to share it with anyone and everyone we meet.

In the church, I’ve found that they use different words to describe this sensation: their mission, a ministry, a calling.

It was brought home to me so clearly last year at my Rite of the Elect, signing the book of the Elect. I was called by name. G-d had my name long before I entered my church on happenstance. I was called by name again at my confirmation when I chose my saint.

This past week was my Diocese’s Spring Enrichment. I know I’ve mentioned it before. This week is one of those weeks that fills me with excitement, with dozens of light bulbs popping on, hovering over my head. I’m loving every minute of it. I had a full schedule of fourteen classes. I chose everything with a little help from my friend, and I can’t wait for next year to see the offerings. I don’t think I’ll take fourteen classes again, but I have some ideas of what kinds of classes I want to take now that I’ve got the hang of it.

I spent this week leaving some more of my shell behind. My comfort box is collapsing under the weight of hearing myself and the response to what I’m feeling and saying. My opinions and beliefs aren’t changing but the way I’m explaining and expressing myself is. I don’t expect to agree with everyone, but I do want to be able to have rational discussions.

I took a Pastoral Care and Depression class. I chose this, not because I’m a pastoral care associate, but because I have depression. I’ve had depression all of my life. It is only in my diagnosis and looking back that I can see all of the signs, the symptoms. I asked questions in class, I offered insights. I was able to bring up thoughts about how to support LGBT youth in the church – the heightened abuse, homelessness, and suicide of that age group. I was able to offer what not to say to a suicidal person, and what’s worked for others in that position. I asked about gender identity. Between Social Justice, Everyday Divine, and Pastoral Care and Depression, I found a little niche of note taking.

In the middle of that class, I had a lightbulb moment. I felt a calling. I can’t describe it as anything other than being called. One moment I was taking notes, the next moment, I was thinking how I could bring my experiences to the people who need it in my parish. How can I protect and support people who think that the church won’t be there for them and their struggles, whatever they may be?

This also fit in with the whole theme of the keynote address, taking the history of the church and looking at the aging of the church. The average age in the US is 37, but the average age of white Catholics is 45. In my parish, the ones that I primarily see are older than that. I bring up age because many of the people with the struggles – LGBT equality and issues, depression and mental illness, money – are in the younger demographic, but those caring for them are a bit older. This older group lived in a time (and some still feel this way) of stigmatizing mental illness, of don’t ask, don’t tell, of pink for girls and blue for boys. Much of this is a product of their times. Everyone I’ve met though are exceptionally giving and helpful. It’s not a matter of being unwilling to be supportive, but not knowing how to.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m in the older demographic of the forties and being a white Catholic, albeit a new Catholic, but I’m in touch with a younger generation. I have different thoughts about LGBT. I have the experience of having depression, and having been suicidal for a time. I have coping techniques that I can share. I evangelize and witness, but I also ask questions. Apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks. At least I try.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I’m called, and I feel the tug of actually using my experiences to help others. I was told recently to think about this and pray on it, and that is what I plan to do. However, my writing is part of my life and my ongoing therapy and recovery and spirituality, and here are my first thoughts about being called. Sometimes it feels a little overwhelming, but I do know that I wouldn’t be given more than I can manage.

It’s not the first time I’ve been called, but it does seem to be the most important calling because it affects so many others, both in my life and not yet in my life.