Monday, October 24, 2016

All in the Name of...

My reflection on the name of things, including myself.  My name is Brother Stephen Bernard. I am very pleased to meet you if you are a new reader.  Brother is the title I use in place of Mister because I am a monk in The Community of All Angels, Benedictines in Exile.

Christ, The Divine Physician
Stephen is my baptismal name from my baptism by Father Doody at Saint Mary Immaculate Conception Church, Michigan City, Indiana, Diocese of Gary, on Pentecost Sunday, 1966, after Saint Stephen the Protomartyr. Stephen is also the name of the King of Poland who turned back the Muslim invasion of Europe. Historically, if not for Saint Stephen, Europe may have gone the way of North Africa and Asia Minor and we'd all be speaking Arabic today. Such are the powers of names in history!

Bernard is my confirmation name taken at my confirmation at Saint Patrick Church, Terre Haute, Indiana, Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and the name I was given when I first entered religious life with the Brigettines at 16 in Woodside, California.

Due to my disability, I now live with with mother and sister at All Angels Priory (our condo) in Kings Point in Tamarac, Florida.  As to Tamarac and Florida, I'll have to do some more research.  As to Kings Point, it is quite royal residence oriented.  We live in Fairfax but have a view of Southampton and Clairmont across the water from which I can see Queen Eleanor of Acquitane easily in my imagination approaching around the bend in her barge to the tune of "Eleanorae Regina, Adorae, Regina..." from Lion in Winter with Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn.  Given the distance in the days from our independence from the crown, I doubt there are any loyalists here.  If there are, they are likely quiet about their treason.

We live in Building I.  "I" for Israel, "I" for Incarnation, "I" for Immaculata, "I" for the Holy Innocents, etc.

Terese's Dream - The Lion and I

A few weeks ago, I thought I was dying with a heart attack.  The pain in my left chest was unbearable and I was alone at the time.  As I am already preparing to die, there was no need to call 911.  I called my sister to come because I didn't want to be alone but they lived about 40 minutes away and I was completely panicked.  I was texting my friend, Yahnia, earlier in the day, and when I grabbed by cell phone I was able to text her back and forth.  The pain was such that I really couldn't talk but texting seemed to work okay.  About 20 minutes into that conversation, it dawned on me to call The Nuns in Indiana.  Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to talk much and they were startled at first because of the distress I was in, however, they quickly assessed the situation and started soothing me with beautiful memories and lots of tender words.  Just then my sister and mother arrived.  

As it turns out, it wasn't a heart attack (such a drama queen but I never had a heart attack before and the pain was unbearable).  We first put it to pleurisy but later determined it was a herniated thoracic disc, not high on the list of medical priorities given my other health issues and the pain subsided within the week with a trip to the hospital and some muscle relaxants and pain pills.  After the hospital, I had to call The Nuns to let them know it wasn't a heart attack (much to my embarrassment).  The good news and the point of this blog post is that the conversation gave The Dreamer in Terese a dream of me as a young blond child in a field with a grown male lion.  In the dream, I walked over to the lion and placed my hand on his forehead.  My immediate Jungian associations were my inner child and the Lion of Judah (Jewish Scripture) but Terese went Gospel with Aslan from CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.  Reflecting on the dream further, I was also thinking about the inner child and the lion as psychosis and rage.  The child trying to comfort the lion.  In the end, I look at the dream as a signpost for peace in my journey home.  The great Prophet Jeremiah said, the “lion and the lamb shall lay down together” - a prophecy speaking of a literal utopia on earth to come or my eventual requiescat in pace. My own Dreamer has begun a series of navigational dreams, both moral decisions and physical directional choices...good or moral, evil or immoral, North or South, East or West, etc.  Like the journey of the mythological heroes (the realm of the archetypes), my Dreamer is preparing the road map for my return to Zion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Don McLean - Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With Lyrics

This song was dedicated to me by Rev. Walter Zebrowski, my Champion against the straight boys and the gay boys with extreme internalized homophobic ideation at Saint Mary's College, Orchard Lake, Michigan.

One evening in the men's dorm, I was down the hall visiting a friend in his room doing homework and talking.  We heard this huge banging noise and the yelling of several people down the hallway of the 3rd floor.  We both rolled our eyes (as good queens are want to do) because we thought it was the basketball team out of control again.  We shrugged it off and went back to our studies.  When I went back to my dorm room, I found a huge hole right through the middle of my wooden door to my room.  Now, I don't know if they punched their fists through the door but it was kind of thick, so maybe they used something else to do it.  In any case, when I open the door, there was a white piece of ruled paper with the three-hole binder holes.  In red ink (magic marker), it read, "NO FAGGOTS AT SAINT MARY'S!"

I was horrified!  My dorm room was the only home I had at the time.  I was also in priestly formation, so I was afraid the faculty would find out that the boys thought I was a faggot (which of course any reasonable person should be able to discern about me since the age of 4).  Let's just say I never really had to come out because I don't pass for straight!  A butch, I am not.  I went back to my friends room and the high drama really started!  My friend was indignant and wanted them all caught and expelled (of course he was my friend).  He marched me right down to the Dean of Men's room with the note.  We escorted the dean of men to my room on the third floor, told him we found the note inside, and what we had heard while we were studying down the hall.  The Dean said he would take care of it and that I was not to be afraid because nothing else like this would ever happen again.  I was immediately incredulous because the Dean of Men was very young and was also the Coach of the basketball team.  I don't think I slept that night at all.  I slept on my mattress on the floor in my friend's room.

The next day, I was called to the College President's office.  The President said there was nothing wrong with the boys or Saint Mary's and it was my fault because of my effeminate mannerisms.  His advise to me was "to act more manly" and he said that it was a lesson he, himself, had had to learn.  I kept my composure till I got outside the Administration building and then I went fetal.  I, in my keen sense of justice, felt utterly abandoned.  Furthermore, when I got back to the men's dorm, my room was empty of all its contents.  I panicked, thinking I had been expelled for being a queen! That sort of thing happened in seminary and religious life not all the time but it DID happen enough to terrorize most of us.  "Here today, gone to hell tomorrow!"  And without even the simple courtesy of a goodbye to their friends.

I went down to the Dean's office, completely demoralized, and he said don't worry you haven't not been expelled and you are not even going to be disciplined.  He had the basketball team players move the contents of my dorm room down to a room on the first floor where he lived for "my protection". To my knowledge, none of the boys were ever identified and no one was disciplined.

Later, that afternoon, I had my World Literature Class, which was taught by Father Walter Zebrowski but it was obvious to him that I had been crying.  He asked me what was going on and I told him the story.  He put a note on the blackboard for the other students that class had been cancelled for the day and that I should go back to my room and try to rest.

I later found out he marched down to the Administration building, into the President's Office.  I'm not sure what the exchange was but my friend's who worked on the switchboard later told me there had been a huge fight between Father Zebrowski and the President....yelling and shooting and the like. So loud that other people left the building and were standing on the lawn.

When I went to the College Cafeteria for dinner that night, as I entered, the whole place when dead silent and my heart sand and my stomach came up into my throat.  I tried to hold my head up and just go into the line for dinner.  I did it, talk about GRIT!  After dinner, when I was leaving the Cafeteria, Father Zebrowski, was also just leaving the Faculty Dinning room (across the hall) and he greeted me and asked me to go for a walk.   On that walk, he told me that if anything remotely like this happened again that I was to go to him immediately.  He then told me to ignore the President.  He said if he had been President, he would have expelled the Basketball Team from campus if not from the college altogether because no one would come forward.  Young Republicans!  He told me that he could imagine how I must be feeling inside and that far from believing that I did anything wrong, what I should embrace about myself were the lyrics to Don McClean's song "Starry, Starry Night" which he said he was dedicating to me and that for the rest of his life, he would remember me when he heard that song.  I didn't know the song but I thanked him all the same for being so kind to me.

Somebody must have said something to the College boys because I never had a problem again.  The two RA's on the 1st Floor, Matt Piwowar and Jay Faught (one of the most handsome men I have ever seen in my life!) used to keep a close eye on me and nothing like what happened ever happened to me again.   Well, at least from the college students and the basketball team players.  The teasing and taunting, however, continued throughout my days on the Orchard Lake Campus because we had the three schools.   The endless chorus of Faggot! from the prep students used to force we to walk only in certain areas of campus (but we've all seen the Lord of the Flies and boys will be boys!).  The other smirks and looks of disapproval came from the Polish Seminarians.  Being Polish myself, I know for a fact that the majority of Polish people struggle with their understanding of homosexuality let alone tolerance of homosexuals.

In any case, this song was dedicated to me by the sweetest champion a little 18 year old gay boy could hope for.  One year later, my champion was killed in a freak boating accident on Orchard Lake. Such is the general tenor of my luck in life!