Monday, December 28, 2015

Tree of Light

The Mystery within...
Before Christmas I stopped at the Care Center and brought a small nativity ornament made out of olive wood from a tree in Bethlehem to my wheelchair bound ninety plus year old friend, Ginny.  She truly loved the little ornament, which made me happy.  While I was there she wondered if the Christmas tree at her parish would now be decorated because she really would like to see it lit up and said she is planning to call a taxi to come and take her some morning to see it.  I called the church office and confirmed the tree was up and offered to come the next morning to take her to an 8:00 a.m. communion service.  She was as excited as a little child.   

There is much more than a Christmas tree that draws Ginny back to her home parish.  The house she reluctantly left is next door to the church and she wanted to see if the statue of St. Anne was still in the backyard.  We could see St. Anne standing watch over her house from a side door behind the altar; a door Ginny would open every morning to set up for the many different priests saying mass.      

Sitting at the communion service with her my thoughts went back to my relationship with my former parish--daily attendance at mass, a place where I once found solace from deep grief, and sometimes direction when I doubted my path.  But I was also keenly aware of the patriarchy that I left.  I heard it in the deacon's readings; saw it in the restricted altar; and felt freedom from it in my mind, heart and soul.  As the deacon exited I told him Ginny would like to see the Christmas tree lit and asked if he could make that happen.  He walked around the tree and then disappeared into the office.

We waited--walked around the tree, visited the manger, commented on models of the two prior church buildings that once served members now long gone, lit a candle to St. Anne and waited some more.  I then went into the office and started to tell a woman behind a desk, "I am on a mission to…" when my voice cracked and my eyes clouded with tears.  My emotion surprised me but eventually I got the rest of the sentence out, "…get the tree lights on for Ginny." I was told no one knows where the remote is to turn on the lights; they thought we left so they stopped looking for it.  I felt so let down, not just because Ginny wouldn't see the tree lit, but for all the abuse patriarchy had perpetrated in my life and the lives of countless others.

I walked back to the darkened vestibule where Ginny waited and told her I wasn't sure we would see the tree lit and I am going to go to the washroom.  I took my time, slowly and methodically washing my hands hoping she wouldn't be disappointed.  When I came out there she was aglow in a thousand tiny white lights glinting off the gold trimmings on the tree.  A teacher had found the remote for she wanted to bring her young students over to see the tree.

Though I have no doubt leaving church was the right decision for me, letting patriarchy be would not be good for the children. 

What if we all questioned our relationship with patriarchy and what we can do for the children?


  1. Patriarchy belongs in the dustbin of history; however when the "powers that be" somehow suggest it is God's plan and we can't change - women will walk out.

    Change is the essence of growth and where did the "powers that be," in many faith communities, get the fax from God?

    BTW - to suggest that God is male works well for the "powers that be."

    Patriarchy will be the death of faith communities, what mother is going to suggest that her daughter be part of such faith community?

    In the day, when women entered the convent the architecture of suppression ruled - the rectory was spacious and gracious, the convent rooms were sparse and 9 x 12 - often ruled by the Bishop or priest.

  2. Thanks Mirabile Dictu for sharing you insights. I have come to know it is much more than just daughters that suffer from the patriarchal model; sons and the whole of society are also deprived of the integration of gifts both genders have to offer.