FAITH: The Practice of Living the Questions



Painting by Sheila Moriarty

by Sheila Moriarty

“It is a mystery,” Mother said, referring to the belief that there were three persons in one God. “There are many mysteries in life, Sheila. We have to take them on faith because we are not supposed to understand them.”

The Holy Trinity was only one such puzzle. Each week when Mother dragged me with her to visit the Copley Square Library in Boston, I gazed up at the painting on the ceiling from the wide marble stairway that led to the second floor. Spread across the wall was a giant size mural of three godlike men dressed like kings, each one of whom sat on a separate throne. A single cloak was wrapped around their shoulders to symbolize their three-in-oneness. As I felt them staring down at me with solemn faces, I felt they could swoop down and snatch away any child who asked too many questions.

Though I was only five, Mother loved taking me to museums. She hoped these trips might imprint on me in my earliest years her own love for culture and beauty. For Mother, the trips were her escape from the humdrum duties of domestic life at our rented flat back in Brighton. Although I let her know these excursions bored me, Mother answered that one day when I was older, I would thank her.

One of the things I did not ask questions about was childbirth. In our Irish Catholic family, it was easier to discuss the Holy Trinity than it was to find out where babies came from. As far as I could tell, Jesus had come from Mary the way light flows through a stained-glass window. It was called a Virgin Birth. What about me? I wondered how I came to exist in the first place?

“God has known you from eternity,” Sister said. “You were always in God’s mind. Once you are born, you go on being a person forever. If you fulfill God’s plan, you will live with Him in heaven. If not, you will spend an eternity in hell.” I liked the logic of it all. But what if I were not part of any plan? What if I had only been a speck of cosmic dust floating in the atmosphere? I shuddered to think of it.

My faith in God was tested early in my life. My parents noticed that my vision seemed poor. They decided to take me to see an optometrist. The doctor sat my five-year old body high up in the leather chair that was usually reserved for grown ups. He looked carefully into my eyes, using various optical instruments to complete the examination. Then he turned to my parents “Sheila has an astigmatism . Her right eye is slightly higher than her left one. I think Sheila will need to wear corrective lenses for the rest of her life.” For the rest of my life!

I felt as if someone had sentenced me to jail for a lifetime. The following week, as the doctor fitted my new glasses with pink plastic frames on my face, he looked at me kindly and said “What a shame to cover such beautiful blue eyes with glasses.”

This was the first time any one had ever noticed my beautiful blue eyes. And now they were going to be hidden behind these big ugly frames. I was angry. Whose fault was this? Was it God’s? Later on when I was alone in my room, I thought more deeply about God and my glasses. Had God made me wear glasses so I would not be proud of my beautiful blue eyes; or, had God given me beautiful blue eyes because he knew I would always need glasses.



Photo by Peggy Ludtke



It is our own fault
they prospered here.
At first a few white buttons
freckled the landscape,
straining for space.
Who could blame them
for wanting a home where
shadows are pushed back
behind long summer days?

Isn’t that what we all want to be promised?

Delighted, they waved to us.
We saw no reason not to wave back.
Their bright spirits disarmed us;
it was a gentle invasion.

We mowed around them,
let them make their own borders.
They mingled further into the grass.

Soon they were a crop
as if a greater plan was at work all
along; one hopeful bunch set free
rallied over one hillside, then another.

We could have cared less.
Now look at the infestation–
the pursuit of happiness, everywhere!
—Peggy Ludtke



Photo by Peggy Ludtke



Where and what is supposed to be home?

Everything that was supposed to be family was taken from me.

Sometimes I think if I were thinner, I would find it

If I were not gay and trans and if I didn’t have a mental illness and if I weren’t unemployed or so emotional sometimes and if I had slightly better hair and if I didn’t have progressive politics


if I were more queer, more radical in my beliefs

If I were cleaner, had more money, were smarter, funnier – a better teller of stories.

If I were not an orphan of sorts and if I spoke the right way and dressed the right way

If I were different.

Maybe I would find this thing called beloved-ness, called belonging.

If I found the right friends, more friends…

the thing is I have found some friends, and I have a partner to share my heart with.

But what I’m slowly coming to believe more and more often is that the people I’ve found who love me are not where I live.

Ive been fortunate though, because they have helped me return to the only thing and everything I’ll always have on this earth – MY life, MY body, MYself.

If I want community, I need only be where I am, as I am. An authentic part of a greater whole.

And if I want sanctuary – I can find it in the gentle kindness of my own small, precious breath.




Walking this path has sent me on a journey of twist and turns. My soul and faith beckons me on.
– Ron Germundson


Let Us Pray and Let Us Vote by Peggy Ludtke

This week I took my 86 year old mother to the Chisago County Government Center to vote. My mother doesn’t drive and has trouble standing for a long time but she’s is as sharp and savvy about her civic rights and responsibilities as anyone I know. We had tried to get her an absentee ballot, but when the ballot didn’t show up in her mailbox, with less than two weeks before the election, we worried it wouldn’t arrive in time. We opted to go with the other available choice, voting in person at the closest government center when hopefully there wouldn’t be a long line to stand in. She wanted to look over the ballot before she got there, so I plugged in her address online, and found a sample ballot and printed it out for her. As she ages, she seems to worry more about being rushed usually by someone younger getting impatient with her. When I am with her, I try to match her pace; it is a challenge sometimes to slow down to her speed, and yet I know it is a worthwhile discipline in understanding and love. She studied the ballot before we got in the car and drove the ten miles from her house to the government center. When we arrived, she said. “Oh, I remember being here with your Dad, before to see a lawyer.” Since we were entering the building and had to place our purses in a tray to be X-rayed, I forgot to ask her why they had come here to see a lawyer. Perhaps too I was distracted worrying that the process of voting early at the government center would be confusing or taxing for my elderly mother. It wasn’t. My mother went up to the counter and told the woman behind it, “I am here to vote.” The woman adjusted her glasses, smiled at my mother and handed her a form. “There is a place to sit down to your left, where you can fill this out and once you have, come back and I will hand you your ballot,” she said. My mother sat down, pulled out her I.D. and her reading glasses from her purse and went to work. When she went back to the counter with her form, she was handed her ballot and envelope. The woman told her there was no need to stand in the ballot booth to completely fill in the boxes next to her choices; she can sit back down at the table where she filled out he application. Somehow this government worker seemed to be in tune with my mother’s need to sit. Then back at the counter, mom was handed a glue stick to seal her ballot. “Thank you for voting.” the woman smiled again. “Would you like a sticker?” “Might as well,” my mother said peeling the red ‘I Voted’ sticker off the strip, and slapping it on her jacket. We both left the government center feeling in sync with the greater good. I am clinging to this experience with my mother on this Sunday morning as I sit in church. It has been a hard week of such malice, bombs sent through the mail targeting prominent Democrats, and yet another senseless hate crime leaving 11 people dead for worshipping in their faith. The rancor in this country is mortifying. When the minister says,“Let us pray and let us vote.” I chuckle to myself but then it hits me. Voting or helping someone to vote, or reminding people to vote can all be acts of love. Helping or reminding people to vote is believing their hopes and choices matter as much as yours. When you vote, you personally are putting your faith in someone who will do the best they can to lead us all forward. I realize this is a rosy-colored view of our divided country. No doubt some people fill out their ballot as a means to be against something or someone rather than for something or someone that will make our world kinder for all. Still, I choose to think of getting out the vote, my focus for the next 8 days as a loving act. That will keep me going until the votes are counted and We the People stride onward. So, is there anyone out there who needs a ride to the polls?