Monday, October 6, 2014

Ambushed

It was a beautiful Sunday in October, NOT in May. I didn't know I had any cause for concern. So I go to Mass and what do I find? The diocese is celebrating a year on marriage and the family, and you may have heard that the bishops have a synod going on. A whole Mass about marriage and the family, and my tamer thoughts included, "Oh, hell."

Sad, isn't it? And this is coming from me feeling in general like I'm in a good place in life! I think maybe I'll move out of the diocese for a year. And find a particular church where they don't really think about or mention current events like synods on families. Too much, you think? If you have any other- less drastic- ideas about how to avoid having almost as much fun as Mother's Day on multiple occasions throughout the year, to be staged without warning, please let me know!

Don't get me wrong, marriage and family is of the utmost importance. I'm all for anything that we can do to uplift and strengthen that. But. It sucks to go to church and have it highlighted and magnified that you are alone in that pew, and that you are forgotten. If not forgotten, no one knows quite what to do with you. There is no meaningful place for talking about singleness, but if you're really, really lucky, someone will remember to tack on something about "singles" or "other callings/situations" at the very end. Not enough to actually be included in the real conversation, but I guess better than being forgotten completely. I think we got left out completely at this Mass, but I'm not really sure. I was kind of a mess by somewhere in the middle of the homily. Good times and great sneak attacks.

However, while I needed a moment to vent, I'm not writing this post to get stuck in the "woe is me" place. I still go there sometimes, but I try not to spend very long there anymore. While I was there, I got to thinking. There are SO many people that are going to feel left out and isolated in their pain when the subject of marriage and family is brought up. We all have an idea of what family is and should mean, but most of us have some sort of wounds or pain surrounding what actually is in our lives. Parents that never loved the way a parent should, children who have turned away from their parents, marriages that are not perfect, losses of parents/children, struggles with infertility and subfertility, having many children and finding yourself feeling alone and overwhelmed, divorces, struggles with homosexuality, children born out of wedlock, histories in so many ways do not match up to ideals, such as past partners, history of abortion, and so forth, feeling alone in the midst of a crowd of family, trying to do everything right only to still not have all of it work out the way that it should. What else, guys? What are some of the other things that belong on this list, that are leaving people in the pews feeling left out of the conversation because they don't fit the perfect mold? There are so many wounds surrounding the family, and if we don't make it less invisible, we can't start to address it.

In my opinion, as great as it is to have discussions and synods and focus on catechesis, it gets us nowhere if we don't figure out how to BE family to each other. As long as someone is sitting in the pew feeling invisible and isolated in the midst of their struggle, we aren't going to get anywhere. We all long for family in our lives. For that support, for knowing that we are not alone, and for knowing that we matter in someone's lives. We can't make every family an ideal situation. We can't make a support group for each individual category of suffering. But we can offer support to each individual in our life that is suffering. It really doesn't have to be much; having someone say, "I see you. You matter. I care" is often worth so much more than anyone could imagine.

13 comments:

  1. So sorry you were ambushed! Such a heavy cross to bear, feeling alone/isolated in a crowd! I clearly remember crying throughout who masses during which I felt like the odd woman out, just begging God to show mercy and blesse with the girt of children to love AND hold.
    Your heart is so loving and kind, your gentle presence in this hurting world is a huge blessing to so many!

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  2. As a longtime divorced/single with no kids, I say, "Great post."

    "...feeling alone in the midst of a crowd of family, trying to do everything right only to still not have all of it work out the way that it should." THAT. Especially if you meant that things not working out would include permanent breaks from one's family of birth for any particular reason.

    To add to your list: 1) Having your particular family be the outcasts on one or both parents' sides, and thus having your cousins on both sides grow up with each other and having a closeness and common memories that you will never have but see in other families. 2) Children having to turn away, at least largely, from their parents and/or siblings, for their mental, emotional and possibly physical and spiritual health as well. 3) Parents who not only didn't know how to love their children properly, but also who didn't know how to have a healthy relationship as spouses, and who, as their children's role models of marriage and intimate relationships, passed on that awful lesson which is difficult to recognize and unlearn.

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    1. Thank you for sharing and adding to the list. Because YES, that is exactly the kind of thing that I am referring to. Know that I will be praying for you!

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  3. So sorry you were ambushed! I spoke in length with one of my ingle friends a couple weeks ago about her feeling alone. She spoke on the desire to have someone to hold her during her struggles and although she knows Jesus is carrying her through the struggles she said it would be nice if she had a husband to hold her. I pray for my single friends on a regular basis because it must be so difficult. I love how you mentioned we need to learn HOW to be family to each other and not just learn catechisis! Praying for you.

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    1. * I meant single friends not ingle, lol!

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  4. OH NO! I'm so sorry, what a bummer. That must have been so tough. Ugh. It's crazy how things out of the blue can hit us like that. You are a champ and I admire you. I agree, with all this conversation on marriage and family I also think of those who may be lonely in society and in our parishes: those who are widowed, priests who give and give and give, families where someone struggles with addiction, etc, etc, etc. We need to remember to reach out to the "least of these". Like you said: As long as someone is sitting in the pew feeling invisible and isolated in the midst of their struggle, we aren't going to get anywhere. We all long for family in our lives.

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  5. I often think the people who feel invisible in these kinds of conversations are those who were abandoned by their parents, those whose parents died while they were young, those who grew up in foster care, etc. I can only imagine that the cross of singleness on top of these situations feels like a knife to the heart...while seeing and hearing about the importance of family that is always out of reach for them.

    I sat in the pews for many years, watching all of my friends meet each other (or introducing them) and then watching them get married and grow their families. It's such a hard calling to be single when you yearn for family life. I won't pretend I managed it well for the 7 years I walked that walk of singleness. My memories are not dulled by being newly married now either. I pray fervently for singles and all who sit in the pews feeling pain from the homilies being spoken to them.

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  6. I never like it when I get ambushed at mass either...not too long ago a couple had their baby baptized and the priest talked about how such a miracle this baby was for this couple was told they couldn't have children. The priest talked about how this couple was great and did a lot for the church. I turned to my dh and said "Well, we must not do enough and we are definitely not worth a miracle." That priest knows our situation. I personally think all babies are miracles...really. I don't think the priest meant to hurt anyone but he did. I felt like my dh and I were "bad" and therefore no miracle. I totally feel like my dh and I are the only couple at that church who do not have kids...it's horrible. I do know what it feels like to be isolated...I really do...much different reason but it's still there.

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  7. Yes!!! So much yes! I've felt left out at Mass many-a-time too. I realize that the majority of people there are married with kids or elderly, but that doesn't mean every homily and every petition has to be related to only them. Ok, so maybe I'm being dramatic, but it definitely feels that way often. Thanks for writing this! And sorry you were ambushed.

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  8. It is so not fun being surprised. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have looked at the bulletin and declared "Well, we're not going to that Mass." when there was a blessing of expectant parents. I've been fortunate that our current priest has switched to doing Baptisms after Mass; as large as our parish is, it would otherwise be a stream of young babies. It's tough enough that the baptisms are after the Mass we usually attend.

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  9. Ugh, sorry you had to sit in the pews feeling invisible :(. Beautiful post though!

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