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aine greaney

Guest Posts, religion

The Only Part of Catholicism I Miss

February 21, 2016

By Aine Greaney

I used to tell myself that I missed no part of being a practicing Catholic–not the nighttime rosaries nor the Sunday masses nor the Easter and Christmas services.
Yet, when you grow up in Ireland, as I did, you cannot delete it all. Some mornings, for example, an old school hymn replays in my mind, so I belt it out to my fellow drivers on the southbound highway toward Boston.

Or there are those times when an American friend or colleague frets and confides about her child’s upcoming prom night and its inherent risks of binge drinking and condom-less sex.  I empathize; honest, I do. But I can’t help conjuring my own convent-school assembly room where my classmates and I sat sipping tea and nibbling on finger sandwiches, waiting to be summoned to the makeshift stage for the  Sisters of Mercy to bestow the little black bible that was our senior-year goodbye. I chuckle at the incongruity between generations and places, and I also know that I would gladly swap my own “prom” for something more glamorous and secular.

However, there is one part of Catholicism that I really miss: The monthly sacrament of Confession or what, since my day, got re-named as the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Confession is where Catholics get to examine their consciences, then go to church to confess and atone for their wrong-doings.   Of course, this practice of atoning for our sins is not unique to Catholicism, but it’s what I have known and once practiced and, eventually, abandoned.

No, I’m not rushing off to kneel in a tiny confession box to whisper, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”  And I must admit that, sometimes, especially in the busy season, confession felt less like a sacred sacrament and more like a morality gumball machine (insert sins; get forgiveness).
Confession box aside, though, I miss that concept, that spirit of checking in with myself, that regular and ritualized atonement for what I did wrong.

Contrition. Atonement.  How archaic these concepts seem now—and how ill-suited for our win-at-all-costs society.   Formal religion aside, we seem to be losing the will and skill to behold or admit to our own wrong doings.

In the past month and based on the American headlines alone, it would be easy to assume that we have lost our ability to recognize what “wrong-doing” actually is.  It would be easy to conclude that ego and cowardice and money and addiction have skewed our 21st-century sense of right and wrong. Haven’t we all worked or volunteered alongside someone who would rather conceal than confess, who believes that bluster and spin substitute for accountability or substance? We’ve all honked at that distracted and dangerous driver, the one about to cause an accident, only to get that hand-sign that suggests that we, not him, were in the wrong.  Last weekend, I asked a restaurant server to please exchange my dinner entrée for one that was actually cooked through. He changed it, but instead of an apology or a table visit from the manager, I got that shrug that said, another picky customer.  And here’s my pet, pet peeve: the apology that isn’t actually an apology, the one that goes, “I’m sorry you feel like that.”

Yes. I know. “Sorry” ups the risk of litigation and that our opponent might win. “Sorry” means not being top dog. “Sorry” makes us fallible and human when, nowadays, we’re expected to pose and posture as infallible and super-human.
In our drive to appear Facebook-y perfect, we can’t face our own in-born character flaws or lapses in judgement. So how, then, can we confess or atone for them?

I have my own list of past and recent sins. Some of them I committed against myself and my own wellbeing.  Some I have apologized and forgiven myself for. Others, the ones I still dream about at night, I have not.

In 2011, amid my country’s gut-wrenching reports on decades of clerical child abuse, there was only one shining hour:  When Cardinal Sean O’Malley washed and dried the feet of some of his church’s abuse victims.

From the boardroom to the courtroom, to the halls of state and national government, we would do well to remember that admitting we are and did wrong reflects human strength, not weakness.

In our own kitchens or bedrooms, there is no more redemptive and relationship-saving gesture than to face our spouse or partner or close friend to say: “Bless me sweetie, for I have sinned. For this and for all my transgressions, I am truly sorry.”

Aine Greaney is an Irish expatriate writer living in greater Boston. Previous placements include The Manifest-Station, Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, Feminist Wire and others. Follow her on Twitter @ainegreaney.

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Compassion, courage, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts

Keep Calm and Carry On Being American: But Do We Remember How?

November 30, 2015

By Aine Greaney

One summer night in 1987, an American man I knew took me to one of those big-venue country music concerts.   It was just six months after I had immigrated here from Ireland, and the gig was somewhere south of Albany, New York.

Since my wintertime landing at JFK Airport, I had seen and enjoyed a small slice of snow-bound USA, but that trip to the country music concert was to be my first safari into big, full-blown Americana.

I may be fusing memory with nostalgia here, but that night, I remember feasting on those sights and traits that, back then, I tagged as “American.”  Though we were miles away from cowboy-country, many of my fellow concert-goers were in full regalia–lots of John Wayne Stetsons and red `kerchiefs and fringed jackets and pointy cowboy boots.

***

Then there was that all-American smileyness—a party sense of shared bonhommie.  Also, before and after concert night, it was a very safe bet that, had I been hungry or thirsty or suddenly fainted, at least 80% of those folks would have turned good Samaritan and come to my aide.

That warm New York night, I would never have guessed that, 28 years later, I would find myself at another summertime concert at another outdoor pavilion–this time with my American husband and on Boston’s waterfront.

Of course, 28 years have brought lots of personal changes and life lessons. The first and best expatriate lesson:  The minute you think you’ve pegged America–this huge, polyglot country where many people’s grandparents were born in another country–you are already wrong.  It’s hard to say what makes Americans American.

However, last month in Boston, I would need to have been drunk or distracted not to have noticed that America has, to quote from W.B. Yeats, “changed utterly.”  For starters, we have all grown cautious.  We have learned to keep our mouths shut. We have learned new and sinister meanings for heretofore ordinary sights and phrases. Continue Reading…

Binders, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, Holidays

Valentine’s Day: My Preachable, Teachable Holiday.

February 14, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Aine Greaney.

Valentine’s is that holiday I always forget. Then, on an after-work power shop at the drugstore, foraging for emery boards or Pond’s cream, that rack of greeting cards reminds me. Oh! right. Valentine’s Day. Again.

I want to snarl at all that pink and puce, while my inner adult tells me to get over it, that there’s no need for the V-Day attitude

And there isn’t. I’m married to a man, who, for the past 27 V-Days, has propped a card against my morning coffee mug.

So grow the heck up. 

Mind you, I’m not a total Valentine’s Grinch. Here in America, I love how it’s a sort of all-age, intergenerational love fest.  I love how Hallmark retails cards for Mums, Dads, grandparents, children and grandchildren.  Young parents tell me that, from Kindergarten to fifth grade, their kids craft or buy a card for each little boy or girl in the classroom. If I searched long enough through that drugstore display rack, would I find a non-romantic love note for the family pet or the cable-installation girl?

The psychologists would tell me that this isn’t about forgetting, but remembering. Or it’s about memory triggers—those sights, smells, anniversaries or holidays that make us re-feel a past loss or hurt.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Continue Reading…

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