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by Anna Carter

Ragged Heir to the Divine Story,

you explore what’s possible in the Longing—

Hands tracing the Canyon’s colored layers,

Feet leaving patterns of dance in the dust before the Ark

Skin bearing the healed scars and open wounds of this Journey

Arms reaching and aching, open and empty in

the darkening expanse of twilight

Eyes waiting for those promised stars, as many as the grains of sand.

Child of the Creator,

with the mind, body, and heart He made for you,

you continue His wonders in this world

and we know that your story is still being written.

Branch of the Burning Bush,

Imago Dei!

Would you give us a moment to remove our sandals,

receive your story,

pass on the light of His fire in your heart to set the world ablaze?


When it comes to sexuality and gender in Catholic spaces today, the “identity” conversation can get pretty heated. What aspects of my experiences can I claim as my own? What is better to eschew? Could I possibly hold a paradox within myself?

In handling LGBTQ+ matters, sometimes—at least to me—it seems like the furthest “right” and the furthest “left” are two sides of the same coin. On the more “progressive” side, one rejects objective reality. Instead, there’s an unbridled embrace of the subjective experience. I can avoid suffering because the objective reality of the body—its identity and its complementarity—according to this paradigm, never quite spoke truth in the first place. On the more “conservative” side, one strong-arms the subjective experience out, whatever the method. In this other paradigm, I can avoid suffering by exorcising it, demanding God for alternation now, soon, on my terms. Or perhaps simply by ignoring it and avoiding the topic in polite company.

But every spring I feel the burnt-palm Lenten ash marking me. In a deep desert wilderness, I’ve spat in the dirt and dragged my own thumb through, marking myself in reminder of those essential, primordial words: You are dust, and to dust you shall return. In being human, there is something stranger than either extreme. I think I’ve found a phrase I like. I’m a Barefoot Royal.


There’s something primordial, something original, about being barefoot. It alludes to that time before time, when our first parents walked naked and unafraid in the garden. It reminds us that we weren’t meant to have a safeguard between ourselves and the created world we’ve been placed in. Once upon a time, all was harmony.

In our world today, there’s something suspect about bare feet. It can signal impoverishment. I don’t know how they possibly came up with this number, but some sources estimate that 300 million children go without adequate shoes today. It can also be a symbol of spiritual poverty, like historically with the Discalced Carmelites (“discalced” meaning “shoeless”), Poor Clares, or St. Francis of Assisi himself. Bare feet are also...maybe...weird? Let’s just acknowledge that. I do not understand the “feet pics” moment, but it’s definitely a thing. Perhaps the taboo comes from the fact that many people only bare their feet when swimming or bathing. Being a Midwesterner myself, feet aren’t weird. Due to our dynamic four seasons, it’s considered impolite to traipse through someone’s house wearing your shoes. Complete strangers have seen my day-worn socks and lackluster toenail polish.

When I say BAREFOOT is part of my identity, I mean two concepts: poverty and vulnerability. Perhaps they could be bundled in the concept “humility,” but it’s gauche to ascribe that to yourself in Christian settings.

A good friend of mine describes evangelization as, “one beggar telling another beggar where the food is.” What he means—and what Christianity means, at its core—is that the human person is utterly dependent on the grace of God. When I say poverty, I mean it existentially. I mean something at the core of what it means to be human. I mean this:]

  • I am a fallible creature, a contingent being, a body trending inevitably toward decay, a soul tugged simultaneously to sin and to glory (c.f. CCC 338, 400)

  • God has allowed this for me (c.f. CCC 309-314)

  • God actively descends to meet me in precisely this place. He has already shattered history to do this (c.f. CCC 461-463 re: the Incarnation), and He continues to defy human reason to bring this to bear sacramentally (c.f. lots of CCC re: the Eucharist).


And doesn’t the last point continue every day in the life of grace? Like the widow seeking the lost coin, the shepherd setting off into the wilderness after the one, or—like St. Thérèse of Lisieux puts it—finding us discouraged at the base of the stairway of perfection, and lifting us into His arms as an elevator.

Being barefoot, and embracing this poverty of heart, also means being vulnerable. Historically, I suppose everyone but hobbits started looking for shoes pretty early on to avoid stones, sticks, scratchy plants, and stinging bugs (I should know—I stepped on a wasp once). Walking barefoot indoors carries its own risks too. After all, who among us has not felt the piercing pain of an errant Lego brick?

To be barefoot is to be exposed. Or, as C.S. Lewis would say, “to love at all is to be vulnerable.” To open ourselves up to God, to the other, is to expose something of ourselves. If I live aware of my poverty and my dependence on God, my own efforts are stripped away. My self-sufficiency and self-assurance have been left on the shoe rack. One of my favorite books, The Way of Imperfection, puts it thus:

Often we rely on our natural energy and our willful temperament, and we try to climb the ladder of perfection starting with our generosity; this can last a certain amount of time, but it is not the path of evangelical holiness. We need to lower ourselves and descend into our poverty so that God’s power may be deployed in our weakness.

Living barefoot—and loving barefoot—means becoming vulnerable before God, first and foremost. It means admitting our poverty, and accepting that our lives are...well...our lives. That the cold, hard, reality of things isn’t something we can wish away or dress over. It’s admitting that we’re sullied with the muck of the world, and trusting that the God who walked the hills of Galilee and washed the feet of the Twelve knows what that means.

And yet, and yet, and yet...humanity isn’t merely shaped by dust. It’s infused by Ruah— spirit, breath, and mind-boggling dignity.


Forget all of your baggage about the house of Windsor. We’re royal because we’re heirs to the promise of Christ. As St. Paul puts it, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). This means a lot of beautiful, spiritual things, most especially that we now have access to the “family blessing,” so to speak—sanctifying grace. This grace enables us to embrace the theological virtues, to live courageously with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and grow in virtue in a new way (CCC 1266).

We’re also incorporated into Christ, and His Church, in a new way. As Beyoncé seems increasingly preoccupied with (c.f. Sixteen Carriages and Bigger), we’re bearers of a legacy. There are so many ways this legacy comes to pass. I wrote about this a few years back on the blog. We’re inheritors of grace. Of the Kingdom of Heaven. Of the virtues and blessing available to us when we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit (see above). As a Catholic, I also get the perks of claiming soaring gothic cathedrals, the Book of Kells, and the charts I needed to make in high school biology about eye color inheritance in my extended family—thanks Gregor Mendel!

And yet, and yet, and yet...royalty, inheritance, legacy...these all come with responsibility.

At the time of this writing, I’ve had a few funerals on my spring docket. This has got me thinking about the complicated nature of “legacy.” We eulogize the dead while simultaneously being aware of their imperfections. Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it thus (full poem here)...

I am all at once what Christ is | since He was what I am, and

This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,

is immortal diamond.

We have dignity and we bear complications. Further, as children of God, we feel the impact of God’s choices. God chose to create beings with free will. He chooses to permit free will’s consequences. And that creates quite a messy legacy. Oh, we know our inheritance promises it’ll all turn out in the end. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain. [for] the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). And, in the words of mystic Julian of Norwich, “all manner of things shall be well.” But we’re actively living in the million, billion year liminal space between the fall of the angels and the end of all things. And that reality isn’t

Being God’s heirs means sharing in Christ’s mission as our barefoot selves in a fallen world. St. John Paul II elaborates on this in Christifidelis Laici. (“The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful”). We’re heirs to the threefold mission of Christ—priest, prophet, and king.

For people with an LGBTQ+ experience, choosing the cross-bearing journey of discipleship is all kinds of complicated. There’s a sweet, wide road to happiness just at the edge of our peripheral vision, if we’re willing to slough off the burdens of traditional belief. Yet, in living the priestly mission of Christ, we’re “united to him [Christ] and his sacrifice in the offering [we] make of [our]selves and [our] daily sacrifices...even the hardships of life, if patiently born...become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (CL 14). But what would life be if it was an endless circling of Calvary? No thanks. For all of us—no matter our experiences of sexuality or gender—our truest hope is fulfilled when we reach the horizon line of Heaven.

In the secular world, queer joy is having a prolonged moment (just google the phrase - you don’t need an outbound link). Still, it’s usually tangled up with transgressive social norms and the ghost of erotic possibility. In the Church, an LGBTQ+ experience seem perpetually fraught with sorrow. Because if you find joy...well, is that the same thing as celebrating sin? Is striving to be at peace with the complicated some sort up? As if “cisgendered heterosexuality” was the target of the Christian life. But, as sharers in Christ’s prophetic mission, we’re called to “express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age [our] hope of future glory” (CL 14).

This is, of course, a daily work. As sharers in the kingly mission of Christ, we’re called to

“the spiritual combat in which [we] seek to overcome in [our]selves the kingdom of sin, and then to make a gift of [our]selves so as to serve in justice and in charity” (CL 14).

Being ROYAL has an outward focus, then. This leads me to the final point....


So far, we’ve been talking about BAREFOOT ROYALS as a disposition. It can also be a response.

There are a few iconic barefoot scenes in the Bible. One takes place in Exodus 3:1-5:

Meanwhile, Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must turn aside to look at this remarkable sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look, God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.” God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.

A reverence for the divine means laying something bare. It means setting aside some of our protections to encounter the other. As temples of the Holy Spirit, each “person’s heart should thus be considered ‘holy ground,’ a bearer of seeds of divine life, before which we must ‘take off our shoes’ in order to draw near and enter more deeply into the Mystery” (Christus Vivit).

Perhaps, dear readers, some may think this is too much. As if there are some people for whom we should keep our shoes on, thank you very much, lest they sully our propriety. I’ll leave you with this gem from author and mystic Caryll Houselander and move on. “We should never come to a sinner without the reverence that we would take to the Holy Sepulcher. Pilgrims have traveled on foot for years to kiss the Holy Sepulcher, which is empty. In sinners we can kneel at the tomb in which the dead Christ lies” (Reed of God).

One of Eden Invitation’s values is “Mutual Belonging,” and an associated posture is “I reverence each person as holy ground.” To be a BAREFOOT ROYAL myself means I must encounter others in this way. I recognize both their exultant dignity and gritty poverty. It requires patience, and brooks no assumption of intent. It’s a terrifying way to live, really. It’s mud clinging to flesh.

And yet, and yet, and’s beautiful. 


you are barefoot, yes

you are royal

child of dust, child of light

impoverished one, ennobled one

do you not believe I can hold your inherent contradictions? 

I, Who made the heavens and the earth

and allowed them to be fractured, so as

to be remade by My Body and Blood and sacrifice?

I, Whose grace seeps into every crack in the universe?

you, child, have walked barefoot in the rain

you know the pillow of long grass, the loamy scent of wet earth

you’ve stepped on rusted metal

and watched the red-spidering tendrils of infection spread

you’ve slipped into shoes in deference to the latitude’s seasons, but you’ve been brave enough

to let your skin touch snow

you, My child, are human

exactly as flawed and gifted as My Providence allowed 

why do you run from yourself?

why do you hide behind the trees of our garden? 

raindrops still cling to the leaves

come in now, child—you’ll catch a chill

do not worry yourself over the dirt clinging to your callous, cracked skin 

come to Bethesda, to Siloam, to the Jordan

to this basin I have prepared for you

come, child, stand in the portico

feel beneath your feet the Son-warmed paving stones of home


The patience of my staff (and creativity of Bernadette, who wrote the opening poem), Josh Garrel’s Chrysaline album, a sequence of rainy days and my dog’s paw-prints across the floor.

1 Comment

Chris Goodwin
Chris Goodwin
Jun 22

This is beautiful. I've been blessed to read it. Thank you.

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