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01/12/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/12/2019 02:28

Why I Returned and Why I Stayed: Jesus Serves Pasta at the Heavenly Banquet

In December, Bondings 2.0 invited readers to share the stories of their relationship with the Catholic Church by writing on the theme of 'Why We Came, Why We Left, Why We Stayed.' We 'borrowed' this topic from a feature that Commonweal magazine published recently. We felt it was important for LGBTQ people to share their own stories, so we made the invitation to our readers.

We asked contributors to keep their contributions under 500 words, and also asked how they would like to be identified in terms of name and gender/sexual identity. Anonymity was offered as an option.

We received many responses, and starting today, we will be posting a selection of them them over the next few months. We are posting a single story today, and tomorrow we will be posting several smaller contributions together. After tomorrow, we will attempt to continue this series for a number of Sundays (barring any important breaking news).

Many thanks to all the contributors.

Today's post is by Linda Marucci. She describes herself as an LGBT person.

Why I Returned and Why I Stayed: Jesus Serves Pasta

When my mother died in 1998, I was 52 years old. My two long-term lesbian relationships had not worked out. I was without the 'girlfriend' who had been my emotional support throughout my life.

At my mother's funeral in the church of my Catholic childhood, I gazed in awe at the ceiling with its painting of the Virgin Mary and the host of angels attending her Assumption into heaven. The priest gave a homey homily honoring my mother's devotion to family, to cooking Italian meals, and he said, 'Now Jesus will be serving her.' The image of a servant Lord bringing my mother plates of steaming pasta and filling glasses of red wine made me smile. I also caught the joy at that heavenly banquet table. My mother loved to laugh, to be around people and to make everyone feel welcome.

When I broke up with one of those two long-term relationships, I came out to my mother. I just couldn't hide the tears. My mother immediately poured me a big glass of red wine and told me 'she isn't worth it.' Not exactly true, but something I needed to hear at the time.

Now, at her funeral, I reflected on the after-life of my mother, if there were such a thing.

Suddenly, I knew. There is life after death, and my mother is there and this guy Jesus definitely has something to do with it. There was no way I could believe the opposite, that my mother and the strong love she emanated could be gone from the universe.

I started going back to Sunday Mass, got involved in my parish and found a community of mostly straight people but a few I could come out to who were totally fine with it. The pastor had a conservative bent but enjoyed my intellectual mind and we became close. I even helped him organize a Bible study!

So when a parishioner, Lorraine, told me the pastor had refused to register her in the parish because she had a woman partner and an adopted child, I fumed. I went into his office and came out to him, telling him he should expel me from the parish, too. He said he couldn't do that. He valued me, and he was wrestling with his conscience about the issue. I shared with him stories of my friends who were in committed relationships, raising kids, and how they were sacrificing to create a loving family.

The next Sunday as I sat in a pew waiting for Mass to start, the pastor tapped me on the shoulder. He looked into my eyes and said, 'I just have to tell you: I have to do the loving thing.'

When I see Lorraine and her family at Mass, my heart feels that this is home for all God's children, the straight ones and the LGBT ones. It may just take a little nudging, a little love, and a cup of red wine to demonstrate that love is stronger than discrimination, stronger even than death.

As far as I know, this message of love that Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed is still being proclaimed by people in the pews, by brave parish priests, and by the amazing Sisters who walk the walk. We give each other hope that the message of Jesus will rise again in stony hearts.

-Linda Marucci, January 12, 2019