Scholar Fridays is a weekly series on Bearings Online where we interview 2017-18 Resident Scholars. This week, Susan Sink spoke with short-term Resident Scholar Asher Marron, who is a campus minister, theology faculty, and service learning coordinator at an all-girls Catholic high school in Oakland, CA. She spent November, 2017 at the Collegeville Institute. To view previous Scholar Friday interviews, click here.
Tell us about your project. When did you begin writing it and how has it evolved?
For the past year I have been writing a spiritual memoir: Unbind(ing). This project came out of my frustration with the scarcity of literature concerning the lived experience of LGBTQ Catholics. There is a great deal of silence around this lived experience because LGBTQ Catholics are too often sequestered to the margins of the Church. In writing this book as a marginalized person, I am putting myself at risk but I tell my story because I know that I am not alone. I want others to know that LGBTQ people are a gorgeous part of the Church; we are beloved by God because of, not despite of, our queerness.
Writing this book has been an experience of radical discernment and revelation. I am discovering myself through the writing. I am learning to listen to God as God inspires the particular way my book is taking shape. The most significant way my book has evolved is the style of my writing. It began as prose and is now more poetic and meditative.
Looking at your website, I see you identify as a “preacher.” How does that work with your identity and practice as a Roman Catholic? Where do you find welcoming opportunities to preach?
Yes, a significant part of my identity as a minister in the Church is as a preacher. Taken at its definition, a preacher is someone who proclaims and advocates. I strive to do this in every aspect of my work, including my teaching. Because I work at an all-girls school, I feel it’s critical for the students to see a woman responding to the Gospel. I frequently offer reflections on the Gospel and receive warm feedback from the girls. If my words open a door for the girls to see themselves as God’s beloved, then I am doing exactly what God has asked of me.
I also see from your sermons that your primary message is love. This is the heart of what it means to be welcoming, isn’t it? How does this message fit with your vocation as a theology teacher at a Catholic girls high school?
That’s right! I believe that everything we do must begin with the heart. To respond to the needs of others, to participate in a true democracy, to be courageous, and to never – ever – give up the fight for the respect of the dignity of every human being, love must be wildly alive in us. The pulse of Catholic Social Teaching is the practice of love. The purpose of my work as a theology teacher and campus minister is to spread the message of God’s unconditional love. This is the joy of faith. We were created to be in relationship with God and with others.
How has your spiritual practice changed over time?
That is a big question! I grew up in an Irish Catholic family. I knew how to piously kneel in the pew, to pray the rosary, and recite the parts of the Mass. I didn’t feel truly engaged in a spiritual practice until my last year of college. At that time I was also seriously concerned about what to do with my degree. I found myself in constant conversation with God. My first authentic spiritual practice was Ignatian contemplation. When I decided to attend graduate school for theology, I was exposed to many different kinds of prayer and discernment practices. My spiritual practice deepened extensively after I came out as a lesbian. Many people are surprised by this! Accepting my queer identity as a beautiful gift from God put me in an even more intimate relationship with God.
In my life now as a teacher and a writer, I find I am often in need of peace and quiet. I’ve turned to Buddhist meditation. I particularly like the teachings of Pema Chödrön. My spiritual practice also includes my teaching. My students expand my understanding of spirituality all the time. I see the Holy Spirit moving in them everyday.
How has your stay at the Collegeville Institute influenced your work?
The Collegeville Institute has given me the gift of time in a deeply calm environment. I feel a spaciousness here that has lent to the organic development of my writing. A capacious sense of energy reinvigorated my enthusiasm for my project. I completed my book during my stay at the Collegeville Institute. I am incredibly grateful for this time and support.
What are you reading for pleasure right now? Any book recommendations?
I just finished Roxane Gay’s memoir, Hunger (HarperCollins Publishers, 2017). I am also reading Amy Tan’s book, Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir (HarperCollins Publishers, 2017). I am almost always immersed in the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. I am enjoying the recently published collection of Rilke’s poetry, Prayers of a Young Poet (Paraclete Press, 2016). I would recommend all three!