living liturgically (season one, episode two, advent 2021)

Content Warning: description of abortions and mention of incest, please skip this post if it would trigger distress in you.

The Advent candles remind us, as a new one is lit each week, of hope, love, joy, and peace. All of these things have been difficult concepts for me this Advent. I’ve been known to say that hope is a useless emotion, and I believed it for a very long time, but that has made me jaded and cynical and sometimes unable to hear the voice of God.

I think about hope in the context of justice, I was glad to see that Josh Duggar was found guilty on his child pornography charges this week. I’m thankful that the trauma that has been suffered by victims of such crimes is being recognized for what it is. If I can’t get justice for the crimes committed against me, if I will be thankful that the trauma of others is being legitimized by verdicts such as these.

I’ve had to rethink what justice means in the context of things that have happened to me, and what it might look like. I think that I’m going to have to trust that that God is just and therefore God knows what it looks like and I need to trust that God will take care of it for me. I’ve had to rethink what hope means in relation to justice.

This is difficult to write, and I wasn’t going to write it but I feel that I should. I was eleven years old when I had my first abortion. The child was a product of incest, and I did not have a choice in what happened to me. I was twelve when I had my second abortion, same as the last one, a medical, early second trimester abortion that a doctor who was a family friend made happen, and I was thirteen when I had my third abortion. I was told to dispose of the children by flushing them down the toilet. I felt grief, I felt evil, and the dreams about them have haunted me for twenty-five years.

So I look at cases like Josh Duggar and I’m grateful for the guilty verdict because I hope for progress, for a time where victims of incest, rape, and sexual abuse of other kinds will be believed. I hope for progress to where it’s the perpetrator’s that go through hell instead of the victims. I hope for society to open their eyes to the atrocities committed in our own neighborhoods, communities, schools, and even churches.

This week, as I continue to pray special prayers for the children so cruelly expelled from my body, I choose to be thankful that my children are with Jesus, and I hope for the day I will meet them. I chose them names that meant something: Rosaria Emmanuelle, (Rosaria means “Our Lady of the Rosary, and Emmanuelle is “God with us,” which is a result of Advent, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, which changes absolutely fucking everything). Dominic Raphael, (Dominic means “belongs to God,” St. Dominic popularized the rosary, and Raphael means “God has healed.” St. Raphael is an angel of healing, and I chose the names because it shows trust and hope that God will heal). Clement Zacharaiah, (Clement meaning “merciful” and Zachariah meaning “God hears.” Put it together and it says it all: the merciful God hears).

These beautiful, carefully chosen names, acknowledge that God in God’s mercy has heard my grief, my anger, my tears, my rage, my sorrow. God is and was with me, and so is God’s mother, Mary. They are a statement of faith and hope, saying “God has healed,” because I know God will.

As I process and grieve, Advent seems like an appropriate season in which to do so, rather than hope being a useless emotion, and being jaded and cynical, I can embrace hope and look forward to the day when God heals.

Published by MaryClare StFrancis

MaryClare StFrancis is a writer who sounds as boring as hell but who is intimately acquainted with the horrific and the sacred. For a long time, darkness has been her friend, but she now walks in the light of Christ. As a committed Episcopalian, her main contribution to the church is her ability to make the priests facepalm or swear, depending on the day and context. MaryClare has a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing and lives in Mississippi with her four children.

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