While I appreciate Shakespeare’s original romantic-tragedy, I remember sharing at least once on this blog that I’m much more a fan of the anime adaptation, Romeo x Juliet. Part of the beauty of it, especially in the English dub, is the use of the Elizabethan language as well as those same lines from the original play, including the one eluded to in the title (though “rose” was replaced with “iris”).
The romance between Romeo and Juliet was more developed, too, well past the “emotional love” I’m finding is only the start of such loves, and was seemingly the only thing the original pair had going for them. With such additions to the plot, like Juliet being a lost princess and Romeo being the son of a usurper, it only strengthens that original message of how true love overcomes what’s otherwise insurmountable, not just between them, but with the whole cast. I found it all so relatable to my life and the world I live in now, from how Juliet had to hide her entire identity (even her gender!) lest Lord Montague killed her, to that driving theme of how love, all loves, really does conquer hatred, even that of the feud between House Montague and House Capulet.
A/N: As you could probably tell, I could gush about this show all day, but as I have a point to make; time to refocus:
We, my new friend and I, recently had a conversation where we found out something about the other, on and to the point the world would say is “irreconcilable”. It’s most easily understood by simply saying it for it is: he’s liberal secular guy, and I’m conservative Catholic girl.
This made both of us a little worried, and on my end, as he shared more of his views…it made me scared. Knowing what I do about secular dating (from friends and media), I started wondering whether sex will be something he’d come to expect from me, or something he might even pressure me into.
In an instant, the memory of my abusers cast over him like a giant shadow until I couldn’t see him anymore.
That first night, I couldn’t sleep; I woke in the wee hours feeling so scared, I felt like throwing up. That hasn’t happened in…I actually can’t remember when. I soon realized that this was something I absolute must address before we go a step further. I don’t mean for there to be no desire; that’s an unrealistic thing to request from anyone. I just needed to know if he would want to take from me as those others did, to lust after me instead of love me.
I was so nervous of what he would say. I feared he’d react as my abusers would, with cruelty or emotional mind games. When I heard his voice, though, heard him calmly say with no trace of deceit that he would never pressure me into doing something I wouldn’t want to, something I wouldn’t consent to…the shadow lifted, and he reappeared with those words, that integrity. It countered all the things mother and my abusers said and did, and those fears were “put to bed” (yes, that was his accidental joke, and yes, I laughed).
…I’m sure this sounds naive to at least someone reading this. Part of me thinks I’m being foolish to expect anyone to keep their word after so many who came before him haven’t. Other things he says, though, tells me that he’s more likely to actually honor that boundary.
One of those things was how, near the end of the conversation, he reiterated that either as a friend or a girlfriend, he really does want me in his life. That’s something that never, ever happened before in my life. I’ve had guys I was friends with suddenly turn around, and ask me out. Then, when I said “no”, they would want nothing to do with me. That made me feel extra bad, losing that friendship just for not wanting it to be romantic. It brings to mind what my confessor said, about lust being about taking; it was like that friendship wasn’t real, and they really wanted something from me, acting as friends to get it. I don’t really get it, and neither does he (my new friend). He speculated that it was a sort of ego thing, and that it wasn’t my fault, as I’d wonder.
I’ve been thinking about all this, and about the complications that might arise from our differences. I thought to myself about what sort of image he might have in his head about Catholics, especially the Latin-loving, veil-wearing, rosary-praying sort I am. I thought to myself about the image I, and many of my Catholic friends, have about secular people. It made me remember my college roommate, a very secular girl. She once invited a “gay” friend over to watch some political thing on TV, cheering loudly when the liberal Democrat scored. It didn’t escape my attention that she kept glancing over to see my reaction constantly. I honestly didn’t have much of one, apart from a shrugging smile before turning back to my homework. I could see she was just trying to taunt me, and I had better things to do than play her game.
I look out at the world, look back at the elections, and I saw the same thing from just about everyone, from all sides, while I was often torn or trapped somewhere in the middle. (Did I say I was conservative? Yeah…no. Maybe more like conservative-leaning moderate now. Or just moderate #donewiththis).
While that all made me sad, (truly; I cried more than once over it) I realize now that there was some wisdom I could glean from it: I started to reevaluate how I conduct myself on certain matters. I remembered how very opinionated my father was on even valid concerns like abortion, and how that rubbed off on me, especially in my younger years. It also made me consider how mother would yell, scream, and threaten, and how, while that did beat me into submission to a degree, a part of me still defied and resented her. That happened with my father, too, and I saw how it only served to divide and isolate them, the family, into factions.
I don’t know if I communicated it very well to him in that first talk, or here on this blog…but I wish I could make it better known if it isn’t already that I try not to be the Pharisee some think me to be by virtue (or vice) of me being Catholic.
Now, I don’t condone or agree with everything others may think/believe, and if someone is out to harm me, themselves, or another, I’m called to do what I can to prevent it. That’s still not supposed to take away from the love and respect I’m called to give to every human person. That’s what being Christian/Catholic is supposed to be about; not a bully, not an enabler.
That’s what Jesus was about, after all. That’s what made Him so critical of His own people more often than not, that self-righteous superiority, what made Him call them “hypocrites” and “white-washed sepulchers“. This isn’t to say He withheld the hard truths, or condoned harmful/unhealthy behavior; it just means that, unlike my mother and other abusive people try to claim, He did all things, soft and hard, for love’s sake, for the good of the other.
This is something I’m called to do even for my abusers, as St. Maria Goretti or St. Dymphna did; I have to remember that they aren’t monsters, and are instead humans who did monstrous things. That sounds strange, I’m sure, but there is a distinction being made there. St. Teresa of Calcutta made a name for herself as giving indiscriminate care, once demanding a pressman to only refer to LGBT people (“homosexuals” was the word the pressman was using) as “friends of Jesus.” St. Josemaria Escriva had a similar encounter with a little Jewish girl concerned about her Jewish parents, and has many other saints before and after them.
I think all of us can look around, and see what happens when we fall into that very human tendency to demonize each other: isolation and division. At the same time, as my abusers are unrepentant, the most loving thing I could do is to not give them any opportunity to do anymore harm to me, to treat them “like the pagan and the tax collector” (Matthew 18:17), while doing my part to forgive, to pray for them.
I know there are those who try to use verses like “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1) or “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her” (John 8:7) as ways to emotionally blackmail them into allowing a certain lifestyle or behavior, or else be labeled as an intolerant bigot. At the same time, there are others who use verses like, “Do you think I have come to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Luke 12:51) to justify bullying or looking down on another for a certain behavior or lifestyle.
I think, instead of these verses, it might be better to consider the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:10-14), how the prideful Pharisee and his prayers thanking God for how good he is was of less merit to the humble tax collector who prayed for forgiveness. “One descended to his house justified, but not the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14) After all, the more one lives out goodness for goodness/love’s sake, the more goodness he/she will inspire.
I’ve read much more accounts of people of whatever outlook instead doing abusive, sometimes indeed monstrous, things to force the other into changing; therefore, it doesn’t surprise me at all that there’s an instinct to put up walls and get defensive/uncomfortable, not unlike what happened between me and the guy at work, or like when he disappeared for a moment there in favor of those monstrous people.
The truth is, we all have our own stories, and we all often make quick judgements as a means to protect ourselves. At the same time, I look at the very different lives of the saints, how they all come from so many different lifestyles or cultures, have so many different mannerisms, challenges, and opinions. The thing they all have in common, though, is sainthood, and humanity. Jesus became human to give us that fellowship, familial relationship even, with what’s otherwise untouchable and unknowable: God.
Like Mary, Jesus also is sometimes associated with roses, from the red petals evoking His sacrificial and sweet love to the thorns of His crown. He walked through the world like it was a garden, seeing the different flowers there, even the ones that were thorny or toxic, and loved them. He saw beauty wherever He looked, even when no one else can see it (i.e. tax collectors, etc.), or when they themselves have forgotten about it, acting in ugly ways contrary to that beauty (i.e. the Pharisees).
That’s who I’d like to be like. That’s what I’m called to be like. I want to be that flower that blooms for everyone. I want to change my little corner of the world (or the Internet) with love.
I don’t remember which counselor said that having sanity is having sanctity. I’m convinced that holiness and health are connected, though some things are genuine faults while others are simply weaknesses. Just because my story or weaknesses are not the same as the other person’s does not give me the right to look down on them. To do so is inhumane.
The thing is, and I think all of us forget, that above any faction we may align ourselves with, or whatever we may struggle with, bottom line is that we’re all trying to find Heaven the best way we know how to, that we’re all human.
“A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.“