Thursday, 24 December 2015

P. S. to Christmas and Depression

Somehow I wondered if I'd gone too far with that last blog. And then I wonder if I went far enough. It's not that I don't find joy at Christmas. But the joy emerges out of facing - living - the realities. And part of the struggle with the funeral of our friend was to allow people to be where they were. Not to try to offer hope in a God they don't - or many may not - believe in. Or, they may have other names for God. How to be true to being an Anglican priest albeit a rebel one ... whom he had said (unbeknownst to me) months ago that he wanted to do his service if he died ...  in a situation where the idea of God is anathema to some.  

So... God came into this world in all of its mess and suffering and despair and tragedies. God came because God knew what we needed. That includes respecting the diverse spaces different people are in theologically, emotionally, and in every way.

And how to put a word of hope into a situation of such profound grief? The only way I saw was to speak truth and to, in a small way, BE hope. Even if I didn't feel  hope. Because I certainly wasn't going to preach a message that would feel like abuse and be tossed angrily away.

Quiet hope. Advent. Waiting. A seed planted that perhaps one or more will come back to. The knowledge that they are heard and they are not alone.

Google Image

So many stories at this time of year hidden behind the masks of singing happily...

A young woman who went full term through a healthy pregnancy and her baby died at birth. May her heart and that of her husband be gently held by those who love them.

Cousins whose wee girl has been through two years of hell with cancer treatments - hanging in - a fighter - no clear answer in sight as to her future. She is loved.

Friends who are seriously ill and friends who reach out to them.

People in nursing homes with no one to visit them.

Others for whom this is the first Christmas without their spouse, parent, child... and we remember with them.

Refugees fleeing inhuman horrors - and refugees arriving and being welcomed in a new country :-)

Homeless and hungry people - and people at Mile End Mission and other organizations not just giving out Christmas baskets, but giving love and respect and understanding. 

Bombings, racism, earthquakes ... overwhelming... 

and Mr. Rogers mother told him:

Google image
I've found comfort theses past months attending almost daily Mass at a local RC Church late in the afternoon. Quiet. Peaceful. Not knowing what it is doing in my soul other than giving me strength to keep on keeping on, reminding me of how I was nourished in convent days by daily prayer and liturgies including daily mass. God is mystery. I'm listening and trying to respond - and it's out of this dailiness that a still small voice is heard of how best to minister. How best to live hope.

This is the world Jesus was born into. Because we need him. And people need us - to simply be. 

One old Roman Catholic priest who was a missionary in DRC for many years has a gentle, humble approach to faith. He suggested that we place whatever is troubling us into the manger - and that is the place Jesus will come. I'm thinking we'll do that tonight.

THE STABLE                     Sr. Mary Chrysostom, O.S.B.
The winds were scornful,
Passing by;
And gathering Angels
Wondered why
A burdened Mother
Did not mind
That only animals
Were kind.
For who in all the world
Could guess
That God would search out

Google image - Jesus Mafa art

Google image

God of light and hope; of stars and surprises: open our eyes to your glory and our hearts to your presence that we may respond with joy (and I add hope) to the angel song; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Christmas Blessing:  So may the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the magi, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas. And the blessing of God the one who created us, God the one who was born to redeem us, God the Holy Spirit who comforts and challenges us, be upon us and remain with us always.                       Amen.  

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Time to Talk: Christmas and Depression

Where to start? I love Advent - I'm never in a hurry to get to Christmas. I feel guilty - after all - it's about joy and celebration, isn't it? But somehow, I've always preferred Advent - deep, soft joy - in the midst of a night of waiting, longing, wondering ...
Found in Google images

I very recently presided at the funeral of a young person who took his own life. I woke up the morning of the service with an overpowering feeling, "I don't want to do this." Well, I didn't. And I began the homily at the funeral parlour by saying that - because none of us wanted to be there. Everyone knew what had happened. Everyone was overwhelmed with all of the emotions that accompany a sudden death - with a particular range that apply more to suicide. We were all living in a silent NNNOOO - so fierce a cry that it carries to the end of the universe. 

DEPRESSION:   Google image

So, I'm not breaking confidence somehow - at least I don't think I am. There was a room overflowing out into the hall with somewhere between 150 and 200 people - many in their 20's. All dressed in black. All grieving. All despairing. Some feeling guilty. Some willing to admit to anger - rage even. Many, maybe all, thinking in their secret depths what a waste of a life - a courageous, brilliant, kind, loving young man. And on it could go. Many without faith - or at least a traditional faith - and p'raps who, if they believe in God, hate this God that allowed such horror.

We live in unanswerable questions and must accept the unacceptable. NO! YES! Why? Why now? What could I have done or not done; said or not said? Reality: The person who takes his or her life makes a choice out of the depths of despair - and it is their choice. 

He was depressed. Very depressed. And this time of year, it is especially hard to admit to being depressed. After all, the Christmas carols begin at the end of October. Beautiful music piped in stores, on streets, on the radio that will end Christmas Day when those of us who celebrate the religious holiday are just beginning Christmas. 

The days are dark, so dark, and long. Joy (or what passes for joy, but may not be) and bouncy excitement and crazed shopping exhaust us - whether we're caught up in it all ourselves or aware of others in the whirlwind ... glitz and glamour and glazed looks. People are more likely to take their lives at holiday times. Perhaps because the noise and seeming happiness of those around them magnifies their sense of isolation and solitude. 

I reached out to one friend that morning who listened to my tears and fears,  sent me a few links, and offered to hold my hand from afar. This wasn't a church-y funeral... How to speak to hearts in a thousand pieces? Yet God was there. God of many names and above all the compassionate One.

A few thoughts:

We need to name the elephant in the room. To start talking. To speak truths. Our truths. Human truths. 

Grief is. It just IS. 

Mental illness is. Depression is. Suicide is.

GRIEF    Google Image from blog by Linda Vigen Phillips 

Buddha's first noble truth is suffering. 

Jesus says, "Blessed are they that mourn."  Urrgghh... sometimes I hate him. Need to remember that it wasn't facile, syrup. It is hard. Grief is hard. 

See the link below of Joanna Macy - in which she tells us we need to stop seeing suffering as the enemy - suffering is part of life. We don't need to like it obviously - but pain opens the heart.  I remind myself. 

The Wild Geese: Joanna Macy on befriending our despair  I hope the link works... 

Joanna Macy quotes a line from Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese: 

"Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine." 

And in the sharing, we can find hope - if not now, in time. Meantime, we break our isolation and take a step forward into remembering that we belong to each other. We are not alone. 

We never recover from grief. It will soften in time, but it doesn't go away. Maybe that's partly why I love Advent. It doesn't place expectations of jumping for joy on me. It allows me to wait and long and discover a deep spark of quiet joy while singing: 

"There's a voice in the wilderness crying, 
a call from the ways untrod: 
prepare in the desert a highway, 
a highway for our God!"  
Common Praise 106

The wilderness journey makes way for hope. And a re-connection with a community of truth-tellers and truth-seekers.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Proud to Be a Quebecer Today - New Gun Registry Promised

26 years ago late on the snowy-rainy dark afternoon of December 6, 1989 a gunman walked into the Ecole Polytechnique  at Université de Montréal and massacred 14 young women because they were women. Strong, bright, intelligent women - twelve of the fourteen studying engineering. 

Montreal lost any innocence it had that night. I was working on a master's in Etudes pastorales (pastoral studies) at the UdeM. When I got home from classes I found a frantic phone message from Jim, my brother, wondering where I was and if I was alright. I still hadn't heard of the tragedy ... but turning on the TV - there it was - chaos and the unspeakable... and I wish I could say unbelievable. The violence was, and is, only too real.

Part of the suicide note of the killer (I will not name him): 
"Would you note that if I commit suicide today it is not for economic reasons … but for political reasons," it read. "Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker … I have decided to put an end to those viragos."

Image from Ms blog

from Google images

Remember the women. Say their names. 

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

For years, Heidi Rathjen,  Suzanne Laplante-Edward (mother of one of the 14, Anne-Marie Edward), other survivors and family members of the victims fought for a national gun registry in Canada. All police forces supported it. We got it. Celebration short-lived.

from Wikipedia:
"In 1995, the Criminal Code was amended to include Bill C-68, the Firearms Act. It implemented a new central licensing system to replace the FAC system. It also required registration of all firearms and firearm licence holders; banned short-barreled and small calibre handguns ("grandfathering" in previous owners); and required a licence to buy ammunition. Most of the bills provisions came into force in 1998, and the registration of long guns became mandatory in 2003.[10]"

Along came a majority Conservative government in 2008, and Stephen Harper destroyed the registry. Stephen Harper is no longer our Prime Minister. Am I happy?  YES!

Quebec fought in the courts to have the Quebec data saved. Some of it may have survived. Today, our Quebec government announced it plans to pass a law requiring the registration of all non-restricted firearms. present in the gallery at the National Assembly in Quebec City: Heidi Rathjen, Nathalie Provost... and others.

Rejoice today - in deep sadness but with satisfaction that sometimes our governments know what is important and act on it. 

Our Quebec flag - from Google images
Thank you, Quebec

Thank you Mr Couillard (our Quebec premier in case you're from away) and the Liberals of Quebec - and all of you in Quebec City today who support this move. It is reported that all three parties stand with us on the gun registry initiative. Yes!!

Our Canadian parliament, as a result of the massacre, declared December 6th to be the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. 

from Google images

We remember and ...

Onwards, Canada - next we want the inquiry into the 1200+ missing and murdered Aboriginal women... 

Some links to powerful stories about December 6, 1989 and the ensuing years. Stories of courage and determination and the fight for equality and justice.