by Cathy Pankiewicz, Precious Blood Companion
I am no superhero, but I am determined to save lives. Be they stray animals, babies in the womb, or wilting plants in the garden center at the end of planting season, they call my name and ask me to give them one more chance. Lives that many consider insignificant tug at my heartstrings. I feel compelled to make use of whatever resources I have and wait for God to bless my efforts. Sometimes I feel like I make a real difference and other times I don’t. I just can’t stop trying.
In the middle of February this year, I attended my first Precious Blood LGBT committee meeting. I had no idea what to expect but left the gathering energized and excited at having met some very interesting people. I even volunteered to write a brief summary of my impressions and ponderings. Soon after arriving home, I was surprised to note that an amaryllis bulb I had rescued from the trash bin at Earl May Garden Center shortly after Christmas had abruptly shot three beautiful green leaves from its homely root ball. Frankly, even I had begun to doubt my “rescue amaryllis” would amount to much. For weeks the ugly thing pouted in the sunny spot I made for it in a south window. It refused to reward my generosity with the awesome display of flowers of which I knew it capable. I feared it was too far gone, hopeless as a dead caterpillar in its cocoon. But, to my surprise, my sleepy amaryllis has awakened and in about six weeks I will marvel that something so beautiful is born of something so unattractive. Never did I imagine how much life stirred beneath the surface of what my limited vision saw. The plant had been alive all along!
LGBT persons within the Church has have, like my amaryllis, their share of obstacles. For those who see the Church as being charged with drawing lines in the sand, making sure official Church teachings never waiver, and believing that is what Jesus wants, this ministry has caused an uncomfortable stir. I am sure that many of these good people are troubled or uncomfortable with the Church’s position, but have been led to believe they have to accept it. Others may go so far as to see homosexuality as evil, an attempt to destroy the family and make a mockery of scripture. Still others just want to avoid the controversy all together and are annoyed that it won’t go away. The young clerk at Earl May charged with post holiday clean out understandably wanted to toss out my amaryllis and replace it with something easy to sell and pretty to look at. I get it.
I suggest that far from wanting to discredit the Church, those of us who know and love our gay children and friends or who are gay ourselves are simply hoping for an “amaryllis” moment. Beneath the surface of things easily seen, the LGBT community has been active in the Catholic Church for years. Buried deep in the hearts of many, there has been growth and enlightenment, signs of life that are beginning to show themselves in a public forum that will no longer be silenced. Finally, many Catholics are becoming courageous enough to reach out to those who for far too long have felt different, who have loathed themselves, who have felt that their need for companionship and love would lead them straight to hell, who have felt they were “God’s mistake,” who felt unwelcome in Church and often in their own families.
Maybe it’s Pope Francis, maybe it’s the Holy Spirit, maybe it’s both, but at our meeting, I felt something akin to what I feel looking at my rescued amaryllis. There is real growth and real hope for those in the Church who are willing to look more at the spirit of the law than the law itself. With time, they will see the LGBT Catholics with new vision and won’t be afraid of them. Just as time and light have brought life from what appeared to be dead, real people, real education, and real experiences will bring about a new chapter in the Church’s understanding of human beings whatever their gender or sexual orientation. For me this holds the promise of beauty yet unseen in the days to come.
I have no idea what color my trash-to-treasure amaryllis will be. I don’t know if it will have four blooms or eight. I don’t know how long it will be before the actual buds appear and stand apart from the leaves. I do know that it will not release the delicate flowers until it is the appropriate time. In the same way, our LGBT sons and daughters will enjoy—in God’s time—a bloom produced by the quiet perseverance of those who are hard at work in the Church and have been for longer than most of us are aware.
My hope is that after it blooms, I can save my throw-away amaryllis and it will flower again next year. I have no proof that it will. I do know that I can’t make it bloom any more than I can make everyone support the Precious Blood or LGBT ministry in the Church. But as I try, I hope to remember what Saint James says, “The wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” To rise above anger and fear, enables us to love each other in spite of our differences.