Feigning the Sacraments, Seeking the Treasure

by Rebecca Lynne Fullan

When I saw Sodom and Gomorrah peeking at me from the very top of today’s readings, a cranky grumpy feeling glowered back from inside. I had made my way to these readings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, and, along the way, I saw Archbishop Wuerl’s statement “welcoming” the “clarification” about how really, truly bad it is to ordain women, or, rather, play at ordaining women, since in point of fact the ordination of women is just impossible.

You may remember that Archbishop Wuerl and I have had some words before, so I was not pleased to see him again in this way, again snipping away at the shape of me in the church, the shape of my bisexual womanhood, all the while speaking of how valuable women are.

But hey, I was here to reflect on the readings, not the Archbishop, not this thing with women’s ordination, and for heaven’s sake people are probably tired of my tiredness, of my doubt and my anger. I know I am tired of it, but I have not found something else to take its place.

The readings. Time to focus. And there, at the top, Sodom and Gomorrah. Ok, I thought, grumpily, crankily, I can explain all that good stuff about how it’s not really about homosexuality, but rather about hospitality and violence and rape, but this isn’t really what I wanted to—

And then I read the rest, of all the readings for this week. And it made me feel quiet, like what I really wanted to do was read them out loud to you, and then just sit there so we could look at each other. Go read them now, with me, even if you just did a minute ago, or you just heard them this morning. Read them again.

Bother me, these readings say to me, from God. Be grumpy, be cranky, be sly (don’t you love how sly Abraham is, how obsequious and sly?), be persistent. Bother me. Knock. Ask. Wake me up in the middle of the night. Seek. Hunt. Poke around. Don’t give up. Make your friend (that’s ME! Did you get it?) get the heck out of bed and give you bread because you just won’t go away. If it seems like I’m pulling some crazy tempestuous stunt like destroying a whole city, bring me up short. Ask me again. AGAIN.

Well, gee.

Well, gee, God.

It makes me want to tell you a story.

When I was a kid, I had this illustrated Children’s Bible. It had a sort of marbled, tannish cover, and the illustrations have always stuck in my head. I really liked my illustrated Bible, and, mostly at Girl Scout camp, I would play church with my illustrated Bible. I would play at being a priest. I would pick out readings and songs and set them all up for my scouting congregants (who were amenable to this activity, as I recall).

I played at the sacraments. I feigned them.

Because sacraments, essentially, are play. They put into play the ungraspable holy things, freight them in moments utterly repeatable and mundane. They weave and try and stumble and connect, always connect, that which is ordinary and that which is extraordinary.

When I was in third grade or so, my Uncle Alan’s boyfriend, Jon, died of AIDS. This is part of the story because I was at Girl Scout camp at the time, site of my forays into the junior priesthood. I’m sure I had my illustrated Bible. It is also part of the story because he was, according to some definitions, a sodomite. As, of course, am I, and probably a number of you are, too.

I didn’t go to the funeral. I didn’t know Jon very well, and my mom decided I could stay at camp while she went. I remember being on the porch of our cabin with her car driving away. I remember standing on that same porch, holding the Bible open and reading from it, feigning the sacraments. I remember the sun on the book and my arms and my face.

Knock knock. Knock knock. Who’s there? Girls. Women. Queers. Sodomites. Visitors. Immigrants and travelers. Virgins. Drag Queens. Angels. Storytellers. Sick people. People whose bodies have betrayed, and have been betrayed.

Knock knock. Knock knock. Hey God? You asleep yet? I’m trying to have this dinner party and we don’t have any wine, ha ha, I heard you were good for it… Or maybe just some bread, or you know, some of you, I’ll take some of you. I hear you in there. I hear you moving around. Open the door, huh? Open the damn door.

Knock knock. Knock knock.

And the door is already open, the act of knocking throws it back, the act of reading those readings, the act of sitting down to write, grumpy, cranky, and yet I can feel it. I can feel the pulse of what I seek, and though I name it God I do not know how to speak of it, not really, not with all truthfulness, so I talk around it, see, I play, I feign an understanding and I play at the sacraments and I call it my life.

And with the church and me it’s something like a double Blind Man’s Bluff, isn’t it? Both of us in the dark, grasping at each other, saying in fear, “I can’t find you,” and “You were supposed to be me, I know it, so please don’t be something I cannot be, please don’t be something I’m not, please tell me you believe me, what I am saying, I am trying hard to say it, please believe—”

And God has me around the waist and is pulling off my blindfold, and it’s a little rough and it’s a little bright; I hardly know what I am seeing.

Play with me. Play with me. Don’t go to sleep. I am on a treasure hunt. A scavenger hunt for things I have heard tell of. God is running around wearing veils and dropping them all over and the scent is enough to turn even a straight girl’s head, and if the church won’t play then I guess it won’t, even if it did teach me how for heaven’s sake.

But I will. I will play, will knock, will seek, will look. I got the message. I still have my illustrated Bible somewhere, and dead relatives both queer and straight whose prayers I rely on like the ground beneath my feet. Sometimes I forget all this, but… meet me on the porch, scouts. Let’s have a little Mass. Let’s play a little game.

Knock knock. Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Rebecca Lynne Fullan thanks everyone who has ever opened a door for her, or sought her, or been there when she was seeking in the dark.

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