Friday, November 5, 2010


When I attended Saint John's seminary dinner began and ended with grace. The Rector (College President) would announce grace after dinner by striking his water goblet with a spoon. We were not excused from the table until grace after dinner. A classmate and good friend of mine David chafed at this requirement. I've got things to do! He'd protest angrily.

David represents a very contemporary American attitude about meals. You are there to eat and move on. After all, we invented the drive-thru, microwave ovens, and T.V. “dinners.” The last of those inventions actually replaced human conversation with a passive observance of an electronic gizmo throughout the meal.

That was precisely the rationale for grace after dinner. We were required to stay and have conversation. To share our thoughts on the latest book we’d read (now I’m really dating myself), the news of the day, travel. Meals historically are far more than merely about “eating” they are about interpersonal communion. It is not a mere coincidence that major western religions center their worship on meals (the Mass, Communion Services, Seders, etc).

In a few weeks families across America will sit down to share Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is far more than the consumption of turkey and all the fixings. Eating a Thanksgiving dinner alone would be pointless and empty. Thanksgiving is about all the loved ones at that table with whom we share, not just a meal but also our lives.

Many LGBTQ people will sit down at tables across America not with their parents, siblings and relatives but with friends. There is actually a saying I’ve heard “friends are the new family.” This is a bittersweet sentiment. The Book of Sirach 6: 5-15 contains an insightful meditation on the various types of friends one encounters in life and their value. Friendship is a form of love and as Sirach says, a treasure. Still, there is void, a painful absence at holiday meals for LGBTQ people and their families.

Religious leaders who value controlling people more than loving them have caused these hurtful divisions. They have instructed members of their communities that acceptance and love “really” mean exclusion and rejection. The poison fruit of these men will be found at countless family gatherings.

I have seen many people in the ICU pick up the phone and have a conversation with a family member they have avoided for decades. Many have said to me, I wish I’d had that conversation years ago. Don’t wait for the ICU, love is the heart of humanity, spirituality and meaning, everything else is counterfeit spirituality and a death-dealing lie.


Michael Dodd said...

A friend -- I was in his wedding in Iowa a year ago -- let me know recently that he had received an email that his mother had died. When he came out to his family and left the church ten years ago, his mother told him goodbye and made it clear that she meant goodbye. He never saw or spoke to her again, nor I believe any other family member. He made the painful decision not to attend the funeral because his family apparently made it clear that he would be unwelcome. He and his partner plan to visit the grave and pay their respects in their own way and in their own time.

This is a successful young man with a responsible position in DC. You have probably seen him (without knowing it) on TV in the background when the President or others are making public appearances. He is married to a dear friend who is himself a former priest. The family will never know the treasure that their son has brought into the family ambit.

My friend plans to journal, to write a letter to his other, no deadline, no rush. But just to say all that he feels and all he was unable to say and/or that she was unable to hear while alive. I hope that now that she is, we pray, in a place of total light and love, she will hear, see and understand with the Love that is not bound by all our human foolishness.

Laura said...

Hi Father Geoff -
I think this post is great. However, I also encourage you to consider: who is cooking this meal? In the 'olden times' in the U.S. (pre TV-"dinners," etc.) those cooking the meals were the women, the mothers, the wives. Sexism is implicitly tied into meals and nourishment in the U.S. Not to mention classism: who has time to cook a full meal if you are working two or three jobs?
Again, I appreciate your point, but I encourage you to consider the other sides of this issue.