Ave Maria

Why not end today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary with some prayerful music. This is a recording of Elena singing Shubert’s Ave Maria at this evening’s Mass at St. Hubert’s Catholic Church in Chanhassen.

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Defining Belonging

I recently had a discussion with a young woman who was raised in the Mormon church. She no longer feels welcome in that church, as she is openly gay and in a committed relationship and the Mormon church firmly condemns homosexuality. It is obvious from the way she talks about it, that not being welcomed in the church in which she was raised – a church that she otherwise feels a strong spiritual connection to – is a source of great pain to her.

She told me that one occasion there are people who, trying to be helpful, offer her suggestions for a “gay-friendly” church she might want to go to. They clearly mean well, but she explained, the fact that a church is “gay-friendly” doesn’t make it a place that will speak to her spiritually.

And, of course that is the case (although it wasn’t until she said it that it struck me so powerfully what that must sound like to her). Many things contribute to what makes a particular religious tradition the “right” one for us. For many of us, the tradition in which we were raised has a strong pull on us, and that experience helps form the filter through which we experience God, to use a phrase used by a Lutheran minister friend of mine. To suggest that one’s sexual orientation be the criteria by which one picks a church, without intending to, collapses everything about this person into this one factor of her identity.

I share this (with her permission), in part, because I am deeply saddened at the situation in which people like this young woman find themselves – feeling cast out by the church they would wish to call home. Feeling a connection to a church, but also feeling unable to worship there.

But I also share it because I think we need to be careful about how we define and categorize people. Even when we mean well, we may say or do things that define people in a way that minimizes them.