All That’s Left Is God
Born in the heart of the Bible Belt, the author found refuge on the Front Range after a series of traumas. Through it all, she was discovering who she was—as a daughter, a woman, a partner, and a mother. One woman’s journey to faith and family.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Church §
Father Bill Breslin shifts in his seat. We are supposed to be talking about Lucas’ pending baptism, but Father Bill tells me that he is thinking about banning the children of gay parents from Sacred Heart of Jesus School, where Lucas is a preschooler. He mentions he has even asked Archbishop Charles Chaput in Denver to weigh in on the issue. He asks me, “What should we tell our students and parents when they question a child having same-sex parents?”
I say to Father Bill, “You probably know, but the director of your school has a child in my son’s class. Just the other day, in front of the other preschoolers and a teacher, this child asked me, ‘Why does Lucas have two mommies?’ I explained to her that there are all different kinds of families. Some kids are raised by a grandmother or just a dad or sometimes both a mom and dad, and sometimes two mommies or two daddies. The little girl looked up at me and said, ‘My daddy doesn’t live with us anymore.’ And I told her, ‘I’m sure he loves you very much.’
“Lucas didn’t choose his parents. None of us do. To deny the existence of blended families is to lie. We adopted a two-year-old, mixed-race, traumatized child, and we want him to be raised in a faith and to know God. I don’t see how that can be a bad thing. How can we punish or exclude a child because of who his parents are?”
I expect Father Bill to argue, but instead he asks, “Will you be re-enrolling Lucas at Sacred Heart next year?”
“No, primarily because of this conversation,” I say. My mouth moves, but I am thinking of Lucas—who has made friends and loves his teachers, the administrators, and staff who have been nothing but kind to him and to us.
“I’m glad we had this talk,” he says. “I’m just trying to figure out where I stand on it.” He ushers me to the door.
I remember Father Kos and my classmates. The boy who committed suicide. I say, “Maybe the church needs to prove itself worthy of my son and me rather than the other way around.” Father Bill scratches his beard. He seems to be thinking about this.
Lucas’ baptism goes on as planned, though not at Mass with the congregation in attendance. Instead, Sacred Heart holds a baptism for our child on a Sunday at 4 p.m., with empty pews and a service performed by a Naropa University priest, whose credentials I check online, just to make sure Father Bill hasn’t pulled a fast one.
I watch Lucas run serpentine after a fox and her kits before the animals disappear beneath the white clapboard porch of Mapleton Montessori School. Kids on swings and slides chant my son’s name. It’s a welcome that never gets old. I head to the Laughing Goat Coffeehouse and grab a cup of coffee and a newspaper. After six months, I’ve all but forgotten about Sacred Heart and Father Bill, until I read the headline in the Denver Post: “Boulder Catholic School Denies Preschooler with Lesbian Parents.” It is not Lucas. But it could have been.
According to the Denver Archdiocese, parents who enroll their kids at Sacred Heart of Jesus School are expected to follow the Catholic Church’s beliefs. As a private school, Sacred Heart is within its rights to accept or deny any student for any reason. But surely gay parents can’t be the only ones who aren’t following the Catholic Church’s beliefs. After all, Sacred Heart allows Lutherans, Buddhists, and atheists to enroll their children at the school.
I e-mail Father Bill and ask him if he is willing to “turn away the kids” of parents who practice birth control, or are undergoing fertility treatments, or don’t attend Mass regularly. He writes back, “I don’t want to simply jot off an answer to you that isn’t as thoughtful as your question. So, please give me time on a less busy day to get back to you. And will you remind me if a week goes by and you haven’t heard from me?”
I decide not to write back, and I never hear from him.
When I tell my mother about this latest development, I expect her to side with the Catholic Church. Instead, she says, “Suffer the little children come unto me,” and, “If they think being gay is wrong, they should want you to be in the church every time the doors are open.” For once, we agree, and I’m reminded that God is in the people, but the people are not God. Knee-high in lupine as spring edges toward summer, I stand beneath the Flatirons and teach my son to pray. And when the wind ruffles his hair, I tell him to listen close: The God who loves him, who loves all of us, has something to say.
Michelle Theall is currently at work on Teaching the Cat to Sit, a memoir. The founder of Women’s Adventure magazine, she teaches writing and photography at the Creative Conferences (creativeconferences.com). Her blog can be found at michelletheall.com/blog. E-mail her at email@example.com.