Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Rainbow For Uncle Al

A Rainbow for Uncle Al

(Note: I wrote the following on the day that the Episcopal Church approved the development of liturgies celebrating and blessing the union of same sex couples. I have heard from many whose hearts were touched by what I wrote here)


This day is for you, Al

He was a tall man, jet black hair, worked hard at the Christian Science Center in Boston, managing the Buildings and Grounds. He loved the summer when he could cultivate the flower beds around the reflecting pool. In the blizzard of 1978, he stayed on duty for 7 days straight keeping the triangle between Belvedere, Huntington and Mass Ave open and passable.

When my dad died at Christmas of 1953, I was just a boy, he took over my dad's responsibilities and vowed to make a man out of me. He did so consciously and intentionally. He and Jimmy, took me to ball games at "Fenway Pahk", and hockey games at the "Gahden". We went on day trips to Cape Cod and Cape Ann and Horseneck Beach. I loved being with them. They never seemed to mind having me tag along. We went out for dinner at Giuffrida's Steak House on Rt. 1. It was always a treat to go out with Al and Jimmy.

He was not fond of the Church. It was, as he put it "full of malarkey". He was a good solid working class kind of fellow. He didn't mince his words, and if the air turned blue when he spoke, that was just  for emphasis. The word "malarkey" was the mildest word he used. For him the Church was a bastion of bigotry and prejudice. Its history was violence and bloodthirsty belligerence. He was rejected by it and so was his love for his partner Jimmy. He was perplexed by what Jesus taught verses what the Church practiced.

He was not pleased when I went into the priesthood. He didn't really understand my love for God and for Jesus. He had a high regard for Jesus. But he also had a high regard for Mohammed, Moses, and Buddha.  But the Church! The church said "NO" to him and to the love of his life. So did much of the world around him at the time. I remember one night, he was beaten to a pulp and he called me up to minister to his wounds. No use calling the police. Who needs another beating? This is what it meant to be gay in America at the time. It still does for too much of America.

When he died, it was just Jimmy, Al's coffin and me. I read the Burial Office. It was the one thing he loved about the Episcopal Church and he said so often. "Kings and little ones" as the practiced poker player put it, "we are all buried before God with the same words!"

There was a time when he was in his cups. That happened with some frequency. He was particularly animated and in a fit of ennui this day. "You with that turned around collah", he said with exquisite disgust. He despised everything that stood for. But me he loved.

"I know what your G-D Church thinks of me and Jimmy" he said, as the ice cube clanked against the side of his glass, "but I don't give a damn about that. I want to know what YOU think of me".

I told him I loved him very much. I told him he was fine with me just the way he was. I told him I would always love him.

He said to me; "Then stand up for me in that G-D Church of yours someday!"

As a matter of fact I did that in a book I wrote with you in mind; "Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven." I wrote that book with a certain amount of irreverence and impatience with the Church, but, like I say, I had you in mind when I wrote it. It was important for me to know that you and mom and dad and all of us got into heaven. I worked out the particulars in that book.

Al, today is your day.

The Roman Catholics, the Methodists, the Lutherans, and the Presbyterians have all said "NO", but the Episcopal Church has said "YES".

This day is for you, Al. I lived to see it. Your nephews, two of whom happen to be gay, have also lived to see it. Both of them sing in the Church. The song they sing tonight is a song many of us are singing in our hearts!

"Hail thee Festival Day!"

Blessing on ALL,
Fr. Paul

13 comments:

Exploring_Spirit_) said...

Well done! Congrats to us all. I love the shield!

411_Goddess said...

Love my Episcopal Church, love this story and LOVE the shield you've used... how do you feel about any of us borrowing it for Facebook?? I would LOVE to make it my profile pic for a while, but didn't want to do so without asking...?

Fr. Paul said...

Please. borrow anything I put up here. BTW I Googled that shield off images

Beth Marquart said...

Ah, Paul -- A tear in my eye early today. Lift a chalice today to Uncle Al and Jimmy, too.

Fr. Paul said...

God bless you Beth et al.
God bless us everyone. ~Tiny Tim.

Anonymous said...

Thank you

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Brilliant! Bravo, Alleluia, Amen.

Tanya Bradshaw said...

Uncle Al sounds like he was one heck of a man and he raised a fabolous man - glad he finally was vindicated and accepted as Jesus would have accepted any human being regardless of color,crede and sexual orientation...thanks for sharing

"Fr. Paul" Bresnahan said...

Thank you so very much Susan and Tanya. We loved Uncle Al a lot. I loved his spicy language and incisive wit. He loved PBS, read, studied all the time. He had a marvelous backbone and spirit. And I know with all my heart that there is a special place in God's heart for him...and Jimmy. Peace be upon them both.

The Blog Fodder said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for believing in the love of God and the love of Al and Jimmy.

Landon said...

Reading the news that day made me so glad to be an Episcopalian, and reading your post renewed that gladness in my heart. I think God always recognized Al and Jimmy's love, and now the Church does so as well. Amen.

"Fr. Paul" Bresnahan said...

Thank you Landon, there never was a doubt in my heart where Al and Jimmy stood with God. It was just the church and the people of God to work out the particulars. It will take some more time for some more people to figure it out. Blessings.
Fr Paul

David said...

Very nice! I completely understand how so many people never step foot into a church, but like everything else in this world, we have extremes. There are extremist Christians, Muslims, and anything else, there are the extremist. It's nice to know that I belong to the Episcopal Church regardless of what other Christians think of it. There is no man and no religion that can judge me. I remember sitting in a ******** Church (not mentioning the type of church) and hearing the preacher give a sermon so full of hate. Instead of turning my back on religion, I was led to the Episcopal Church. Since becoming a confirmed Episcopalian, I've learned much about the Bible. Only God makes that decision of judgment and I'm pleased to announce God loves me and is pleased with me. Long live The Episcopal Church and I hope more people will discover the love and support offered here. Praise be to God!