Curse of a Nurse: Social Justice Nursing in the World

The curse of a nurse is an educated mind often formed by religious and social backgrounds combined with work experiences which enable us to see things from a little different perspective. Principles of religion, education, and nursing practice illuminate what is wrong in our society.

We are both blessed and cursed with what we see and experience. The day of an average nurse is full. It is full of cultural perspectives, love and hate, grief and joy, violence and compassion, and fear and bravery. Nurses see people when they are vulnerable and willing to share truths, but they also see them when in the delirium of medication or pain they reveal what they would normally never give a voice. The nurse in the clinic or at the bedside sees the end result of failed policy, bigotry, and poverty. The nurse also sees those with privilege, success, and wealth and realizes the results of disparities.

Nurses experience all we see and what we see fills our lives with wonder and a search for the truth. There are days that we are bone tired with aching feet. The best we can do is ramble on about what we have seen to supportive family and friends. There are times when the mind is too tired to resist and in those times the truth is most apparent. There are also angry and frustrating times when we can identify with the worst instincts of humanity. It is a unique perspective and empathy that drives us to work for social justice. Out of our wonder, we find joy.

Many nurses are called to address social justice in the world and see it as part of what it means to be a nurse. It is tied to our spirituality. I write from my perspective as one who embraces the curse of a nurse and strives to pursue social justice in my small piece of the world. Love my perspectives or hate them, but know I have a thick skin and think we all grow through open and honest conversation even when it is difficult.

And so the [hu]manwho philosophizes and wonders is ultimately superior to one who submits to the despairing narrowness of indifference. For the former hopes?  – Joseph Pieper


Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis

women deacons

A detail from the “Procession of Female Saints,” a Byzantine mosaic in the Basilica St. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

His Holiness, Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace

00120 Vatican City

May 9, 2019

Dear Pope Francis,

I am writing to ask that you call women to be ordained deacons in the ministries of the liturgy, work, and charity. I am aware of the committee findings, but at some point, we must admit the evidence is clear. To say it is not is to ignore facts and history.  When we ignore the truth about women we are all diminished.

There was a time when I prayed every morning and evening and attended daily mass, but in the last few years, I have found it harder and harder to pray. The acts of men scream in my soul that women are less than men and do not share the same human dignity.  It is so loud at times it drowns out the voice of God. I question how I can belong when I’m seen as less than a man. When I express my pain over this issue there is a segment of the Church that is condescending, insulting, and generally hateful.

The history of the ordination of women runs throughout the early church. In fact, the only person called a deacon in the Bible is Phoebe. There are even documents saying how old a woman must be to be a deacon. I understand that many people have theological arguments that relate to the Priesthood, but those are rules implemented by men in more modern times. Do we really think we are closer to God than was the early church?

I want someone that can minister to me and understand my life experience, needs, and desires within the church. When I read With God in Russia about Walter Ciszek, SJ ministering to men in the Gulag I was moved and saddened. I could not help but feel pain for the women I had never met. Fr. Ciszek was able to minister to the men in a special way, but the women were alone. Did God abandon them? Did God think men more deserving or did the hardened hearts of men cause greater suffering for women then as they appear to today?

I have spent most of my adult life as a nurse working with the poor, the underserved, and those experiencing a disaster or seeking refuge in the United States. I now teach nurses so that others will go out and do the same.  I can’t imagine teaching them that because they were born male or female they couldn’t be a nurse. Likewise, I can’t imagine a world where there is no role for women to preach and minister.

When I worked in a prison almost all the ministers were men and so men in prison received greater pastoral care than women. We need more space in the church for women and especially for women that can go into the world and preach and minister to us in a way that men have not.

I believe in the equality and dignity of women and I struggle with a church that does support women as it does men. Please ask women to step up and be ordained deacons. It would send a strong message to the world that women have equal dignity with men, that we have value, and that we have much to offer the world.

I pray that one day I, and all women, will feel at home in the Church. I ask for your prayers and hope you receive this letter with the love and compassion with which it is intended.

With Warm Regards,

Roberta Lavin


The letter was inspired by women who I highly respect for their tireless work on the issue of women deacons. There is more information on women deacons in the Catholic Church and I hope all people will prayerfully consider writing the Pope. Women are not less than men. The question is do we let ourselves be run out by those men or do we stay and fight for justice? I think the Catholic church needs a new generation of Suffragettes.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 NRSV)


Spiritual Confusion and Gardening as a Measure

I’m a Catholic, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a “good” Catholic. I’m a Buddhist, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a good Buddhist. I would describe myself as a human being trying to live a compassionate life that respects the diversity of ways of seeking.

Almost everyone that knows me is aware that I am Catholic, but few realize I accepted the precepts of Buddhism (Jukai)  in 2015. I studied with Rosan Diado and now Dōshō Port. In Buddhism who one studies with is important. In Catholicism, it is not emphasized, but I will always remember that I first studied Catholicism with Fr. Gabriel Anderson, read Fr. James Martin and Thomas Merton, and truly touched the meaning of freedom, charity, and faith through wonderful Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Franciscans. Anytime I struggle I still think of Fr. Gabriel and the Sisters and what they taught me about the faith. Unfortunately, all Priests are not Fr. Gabriel and all cities do not have multiple orders of sisters that seek to teach first.

I’m on a journey. There are days the journey is to seek a closer connection with God, days it is transforming the mind, and days it is to find truth through science, philosophy, and nursing. Sometimes that means letting my logical mind rule while faith and myth are pushed aside. Every day it is to seek and express compassion, love my neighbor which I define very broadly, and seek social justice. There is never a day that my journey isn’t feminist in nature as I cannot conceive of a world where women achieve equality until equality is recognized in our spiritual lives and I do not mean separate, but equal spiritual lives.

This morning I woke up considering how I intend to pursue this journey. I was looking for something. I looked online for masses that may appeal to me because what I’m doing now leaves me detached. After the search, I decided to buy hostas instead and then mow the grass. I find more meaning infullsizeoutput_3961 mowing the grass, seeing each pass as a line to completion, and each step taking me closer to realizing my goal. It calms my mind and shuts down the words or worry, and to-dos. Then I hit a big metal hunk from the power poll that KUB dropped in the tall grass when they were fixing whatever blew up. My spiritual life is a hunk of metal stuck in the blades of my lawnmower. When the mower stopped all the words rushed back in (some profane) along with the worry. It is time to fix the mower and my spiritual path, but unlike the mower, I can’t pay someone to fix my confused spirituality. I need to do the work myself.

I have a plan. It is as simple and complex as Mu. It is a Rosary of Modern Sorrows. It is a search for meaning and truth that doesn’t require me to be less than and make me desire to be more than. My only vow is to follow where it leads, be willing to strip away what I “know”, never ignore the truth, and always be cautious of dangers in the tall grass.fullsizeoutput_2e00 When I can’t figure out the next step I will garden. I have a lot of work to do.

It was a good day…except for the broken lawnmower.

 

 

 

 

 

 


When Priest Pray for the Death of the Pope

I’m rarely shocked by the hate and vileness of religious leaders. I’m not numb to their hateful rhetoric directed toward LGBTQ, women, people of other faiths, and anyone that dares to disagree with them, but I’m not shocked by it. Who doesn’t remember the vileness of Westborough Baptist Church protests at the funerals of fallen war heroes or the Islamaphobic rants of Rev. Franklin Graham? And if you are a person that follows James Martin, S.J. who promotes of a church open to all and open tries to build a welcoming environment for those that are LGBTQ then there is little doubt you have seen the daily hateful attacks on him by Priest and lay alike. Today I was shocked.Screen Shot 2019-03-11 at 5.49.20 PM

As I was scrolling through my twitter feed today I came across a post that caught my attention. It was yet another post that questions what Pope Francis knew about a case of abuse and why he has not said more. The leadership not being open about abuse is not shocking as too many seem incapable of transparency about it. The shocking part was a priest saying “God has a fix for that; it’s called  “death”.” He then apparently had a brief moment of what I interpret as a realization that some may believe what he said as calling for the death of the Pope and followed up by saying, “For the record I abhor contemplating death for anyone. Better to pray for eternal life for all with the Church.” To me, this seems like a difference without a distinction. After all eternal life for all…does require death. While I think he is aware of what he wrote and the meaning of it how can any Priest encourage people to pray for the death of the Pope? What level of vileness is that and what a supreme lack of supervision by his superiors?

There were a couple of people that pointed out how shocking his comment was, but there were more that hopped on board. If we can’t look to religious leaders to promote peace and Church of love then it falls to each of us to let the world know that we don’t pray for the death of others. The laity must take back the Church least within a few generations no one can in good conscience support it. People are speaking with their feet we have already fallen from 75% attending mass weekly in 1955 to 39% in 2017.  Twitter may be our end as the hate in the hearts of too many comes spilling out for the world to see.

I love my Church and I won’t give up, but my days of being silent are over.

 


Women Mourn Jesus

Lent Obsession

Each year I obsess about what to do for Lent and then like my New Year’s resolution usually fail and give up in short order. This year I will try to fully engage with my spiritual side and give my rational mind a 40-day sabbatical to the extent possible for a professional.

I’m going to intentionally explore areas of self-denial, giving, and prayer rather than just picking some food item I could live without? I live in the world and I see it not as a pit of sin but a beautiful and hopeful place filled with more people of good will than bad intents. My practice during this Lent will be to find the Church I seek in my own spiritual life rather than looking for it others. I seek a Church that isn’t filled with twitter post by angry and vengeful Priests or those that are so rigid in their faith that they are unable to accept others who have different practices. I seek people that see beauty in the world and the beautiful aspects of the Church and the faith. I seek tolerance for all that that are searching. I seek a Church where it is more important to worry about and moderate my own desires than to obsess about the perceived sins of others. I will trust that others know when they are going against their consciences and they will in time address it. My role in their lives is only to provide compassion and when asked honesty that is soaked in love.

My Weakness

I don’t have a pet sin for which I have zero tolerance. I do have great patience for the person that has failed in self-denial of desires and who struggles and fails. At 56 most of my sinning days are behind me. I try to live lightly on the earth, give to charity, etc., etc., etc. However, my weakness is food. I love to cook, and I like to eat and drink wine so it would be hard to deny that I fall victim to the deadly sin of gluttony and spend an excessive amount of money on fine food and wine.

“The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine” (No. 2290).

My excess can be measured in wastefulness, quantity, and spending more on food and wine each week than a person making minimum wage earns. I’m going to use the CRS Rice Bowl recipes as examples of meatless meals that that are simple and frugal. Whatever I save I will give to the CRS Rice Bowl as a donation.

Prayer

I belong to Zen group and recently someone asks if the members prayed, did we think the prayers were answered and was it embarrassing to admit? My husband could not understand why anyone would be embarrassed by prayer. Being embarrassed expresses a sense of self-consciousness and confusion that should ideally be absent in prayer or meditation. I haven’t been able to let go of that as I have never been able to utter a public prayer. Once Sr. Joan, the Provost at Clarke University, suggested that since I should start meetings with prayer that it might help me to write them down so all I had to do was read them. It did not help.

Lent is the only 40 days of the year. This year I’m going to let myself obsess about religion and faith. My goal is not to be embarrassed that my rational mind loses out to my faith. Rational mind be damned I’m going to try and grow during this season. At my age, it is good for the continued functioning of the brain to learn something new. I’m going to learn some more Latin (good for the aging brain) and practice by attending a Latin mass or two during Lent and memorizing some of the Rosary in Latin. I don’t want to be the person that is so rigid in my faith I can’t be open to the beauty others find in theirs and in this case a Latin Mass. I admit that I have a bias against it. I often associate it with the vengful Priest that are too critical and those that are so rigid they only see the sin in others. It is odd that I hold this view as the one person I know that attends Latin Mass regularly is a very kind young woman. This will be an exercise in addressing my own biases and looking for beauty in a different kind of practice.

Giving is Easy

The easy part is giving. Donating what I save on food and wine to the CRS Rice Bowl is obvious. I will also make a sizable donation to the parish or order of the Priest I read on social media that says the fewest hateful, condescending, or uncharitable things about others. That includes not publicly criticizing what he sees as the sins of others. Fraternal correction is not the same as public twitter comments or criticism. Twitter is filled with blowhards that appear to think being critical of others is their pastoral calling.  I think good behavior should be rewarded and maybe a potential donation will mean something to a parish or order that can help me to see the beauty of the faith through kindness in their approach to the many rather than the few. 

Women Mourn Jesus

Stations of the cross at St. Andrew’s Abbey


Open Letter to Catholic Bishops

Maybe I have reached the age when I no longer care if I’m complicit in evil. I cannot make people behave the way I wish, and I cannot walk away every time they do not act. I worked in a prison where on a regular basis I cared for those I did not think belonged there, but could not change their circumstance. I worked in an immigration detention facility where for too many the crime was crossing a border without permission; they forgot to say mother may I. Was I complicit? Yes, I was complicit, but I doubt they would be better off if I had not been there. I cared passionately about their well-being and ensuring they received quality healthcare. In the same way, I care about the Catholic church, but I cannot get to the same place in my reasoning.

I’m Catholic, and I love being Catholic. I hate it that too many of you (Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals) sexually assaulted or abused men, women, and children and even more of you covered it up and have continued to do so. Don’t bother trying to tell me it is only 1%, or that it is less than in the general population, or that teachers do it too. I know all of that, but I don’t look to any of them to help me grow stronger in my faith or be closer to God, or even to be able to be more compassionate to my neighbor. Sadly, too many of you are apologists for sexual misconduct of all kinds. We see it in our Church, and now we see you doing it in society.

As Bishops, you offered arguments for the coverup and allowed it to become embedded in your culture for too long. It seems every day we learn of some new old case that was hidden while the offender maintained his position and comfortable life as his victims struggled. Making lousy matter worse you tried to blame the scandal on the sexual revolution, which is utter nonsense as the sexual revolution was about consenting adults having sex without guilt and never about rape or molesting children or even sexual harassment. The sexual revolution was about freedom and control of one’s own body while what the Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals did was about power, control, and violence. The sexual revolution and the scandal in the Church had nothing in common. In an attempt to further cloud the issues those of you that disapprove of LGBTQ tried to blame them. It is as if you did not know that a homosexual man is no more attracted to a child than is a heterosexual man. People attracted to children are pedophiles, and they are not attracted to adults. These attempts to deflect blame are easily refuted, but how many of you care what caused them to commit such evil? We can’t fix every broken person, but there are some positions which the broken should not hold. What I don’t understand is how you were so blinded to this evil in your midst and why you still try to blame others for your failings.

Sadly, I have no power to make a change in the Church. I don’t know any of you on a personal or professional level. You don’t know that last week I chose not to attend mass, that I stopped my automatic donations two weeks ago, and told some friends I was leaving the Church because I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel powerless and deeply troubled by the decision to go and desperately wanted one of you to say don’t do it. That would require you to be aware enough to recognize my absence or give damn once you did. As one of the many that have written to my Bishop and never heard back, I hope you heard my vote when I walked out and took my money with me.

I tried to convince myself to leave the Church because I don’t want to be complicit with evil. I don’t want to give money to people I can’t trust, and I don’t know who to trust. I wish each of you would write down what you knew and when, what you did to address it, and how you reconciled your actions with your conscience. I wish you would then personally address an envelope to every member of your diocese and sign the letter you wrote and once they are all sent have as many listening sessions as it took for us to all vent our frustration. I would not want you to answer questions or to say a word. I want you to listen and then take what they hear to heart and know the pain you have caused not just to the victims of their sexual violence, but to all those they have victimized through the harm you have done to the Church we love.

I wondered aloud how all this could happen and the answer was the culture of the church makes it possible. The same culture that I love.

  • It is the culture that says we all have a sinful nature and by that nature will make mistakes, but we are not defined by our worst moments.
  • It is the culture that says for every sin there is forgiveness, and with that forgiveness, there is hope that the person will sin no more. There is hope that we will learn and grow closer to God and be what we were born to be.
  • It is the culture that believes obedience to rules is essential. The same culture that made me a successful officer for 20 years. Rules matter.
  • It is the culture that says when someone confesses a sin it is confidential never to be repeated to anyone. As a healthcare provider and even a professor, I wish I shared that level of protection of confidentiality that is given to priest. I am grateful you have it and that you would never break the seal of the confession, but I think some may have used it with the intent to keep you silent.
  • It is the culture that says we do not recognize the power of the State over us, but instead, we handle issues within our courts, our own rules, and our laws. And it is here where the failure occurred. Because we believe in freedom of religion and separation of church and state, it is here that absolutely must fix our house least we all turn to the state to fix our Church.

Instead of leaving I should have said what I meant. I’m mad as hell, and I won’t take it anymore. I’m the person that will be at every meeting. I will write you letters and I will show up at your office. I will stage a sit-in if I have to, but you will hear about my dissatisfaction with the job you are doing. Consider this the beginning of your 360-degree evaluation. Sadly, I’m not that person. I won’t force myself on people, and I don’t participate in protests. I take my money and my faith and go home.

I feel bad for those that are good, but like me you were complicit, and you remained silent out of obedience to the false god of scandal. I will be back when there is real change, but in the meantime, I’m looking for a church where the people have a voice in the leadership and where the rules don’t result in the clergy being silent in the face of evil. I’m looking for a church that doesn’t support men that sexually assault or harass others or think a man can sexually assault anyone so long as he professes to be “pro-life.” I’m looking to ease my conscience for not taking a stand sooner.


Moving In

This morning as I was going to Mass I passed a mom hugging her son and crying as the father stood by stoically. The son kept reassuring her he would see her soon. It was clearly a struggle to let him go. She had done her job and now she was sending this young adult off to find his way in the world. He will face new challenges and if he embraces the challenges he will grow into a productive member of society that can give others what his parents have given to him.

I love move-in days because it is a hopeful time of the year for students, parents, and faculty. Parents are sending us their greatest accomplishments in life and trusting us to help them transition into adulthood. We will help them build on the foundation their parents gave them. It is our responsibility to help students seek the truth, but not to define that truth for them.

As an instructor of nurses, both novice and experts, it is my responsibility to introduce students to the art and the science of nursing at multiple levels. It is also my responsibility to foster in nurses a sense of duty to those we care for that must sometimes outweigh self-interest. As with any art, nursing requires a passion for the vocation because without passion the skills and knowledge alone will not sustain one when there are too many patients, too few nurses, or not enough resources. Likewise, with students, it is the passion for nursing that will sustain them when there are too many pages to read, too many papers to write, and not enough time to memorize every possible medication.

As a teacher, I strive to recognize students that are having difficulties and help them to find a path to success. I have found in my career that it is those that came to me with the greatest difficulties, that when nurtured, became the most loyal and productive. I know from my own experience that early failures are not always a predictor of future success and thus it is important to look past grades alone and assess work habits, drive, and determination. The student is responsible for embracing his or her vocation, striving to learn, exploring personal motivations, and seeking guidance and assistance when needed.

We began Mass in the presence of new students and their parents singing “All Are Welcome“. It is never more meaningful than the beginning of the academic year.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions… All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

The students enter with hopes and dreams for the future. Some will cling to what their parents taught them and some will choose another path. I hope that in all I do I encourage students to seek the truth through academic endeavors. I always remind myself that students see me in all I do and all I say. Let us all embrace our status as role models and know that parents are looking at us to be the role models in their absence.

It is time once again to help students fill their intellectual toolboxes, but it isn’t our job to ask them to throw out the gifts their parents gave them.