Saturday, February 26, 2011
All that was needed was the list of penitents and the order in which they would see Father. At the last parent meeting I’d had everyone draw numbers for the sequence in which their child would receive the sacrament. Now I only needed to type up the list from the numbers. It took a few minutes. I printed it out, put it on a clip board and brought it out to our Narthex along with a freshly sharpened pencil.
Everything was ready for the children to sign in when they arrived.
One concerned little girl and her mother came early as arranged so that she could ‘practice’ one more time.
More families began arriving. The Narthex filled and was abuzz with excited chatter. Finally Father showed up and I asked his help with adjusting the volume for the background music which would be playing in the main church while the parents waited. Our confessional is off our daily Mass Chapel. One child would be in with Father and one more child would be waiting with the First Communion teacher in the Chapel at all times.
Everything went like clockwork. Everyone showed up—more or less on time—and even those who were a little late didn’t matter. The only glitch, an overlooked certificate, ended up being no problem at all. The mother was relieved when I apologized and said, “Is that all? I was afraid it was something serious.” And the little girl didn’t realize she was the only one in her class not to get a certificate because she was first and left before the other children—beaming. I’ll have her certificate by Monday when she returns to school.
So now that everything is over, why am I sad? The children came to Jesus in this wonderful sacrament. I did all that I could to facilitate the process. It was a joyful day and the occasion went well.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just simple let down. Maybe it’s just me being selfish and not liking to see things end. But maybe it’s something else...
Sometimes I think it’s because on days like this, when so many people—especially so many young people—celebrate a sacrament together, we come so close to Jesus, to the amazing, transforming power of His Grace and then, we just have to go back to normal life again. We were so close to Him, so near Heaven, we could almost peak inside the door, but it slammed shut again disappearing without a trace.
He was there today. I saw nervous children going to their First Confession; He met His little sheep coming to be forgiven. I saw shining, smiling faces emerge from the chapel; He made their souls white as snow again. Thank You Lord Jesus for this wonderful day; may my sorrow now remind me to guard my thoughts, words and actions so that I may please you in all things.
I look forward to the day when I can see Your Beautiful Face shining back at me. I pray You forgive me my sins as well.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
We’re snowed in again here in Oklahoma.
So I'm at home—working, writing, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. When I saw a big pile of stuff my daughter had put in the back room to donate to the next agency calling to pick up our ‘give aways’ I was inspired. Time to scour the shelves and closets looking for things I can ‘harvest’ and prepare to pass along.
Immediately I set to work.
Here’s something—a tape series on mentoring your teen. And how about this, some old homeschooling stuff. Don’t need that anymore for sure. So as I cleaned off a side table in the corner of the front room making piles, going through papers, books and things I hadn’t looked at in months, maybe years, dusting and rearranging I discovered some spiritual material from a long ago retreat which I could use for a meeting this week-end. Wonderful! Thanks God! I can’t remember the last time I saw that.
And then! Then!
My CAT NOTEBOOK! What?
My what? My Cat Notebook! This was given to me by my Mother-in-Law on the 28th of January 1988. It’s only a paperback book, roughly 8 x 10 consisting of (originally) blank pages, cat quotes and now bulging fat from all the cards, newspaper articles, stories, poems and miscellaneous truisms I’ve pasted in it. It’s a treasure chest of booklady wisdom collected over the years, meaningful only to me but very dear because of who gave it to me and all the odds and ends I’ve stuck in it. I’ve shared it with my husband, Mom, very special friends, and both my daughters at various times.
It has been “lost” for the past year or more. I’ve searched high and low for it but couldn’t remember where I put it, who (if anyone) I loaned it to or what could have happened to it. I tried not to worry but I missed it numerous times.
It made me smile. Another beautiful lesson: I needed to let go of some things in order to find what was lost.
Now! Let’s see what else I can get rid of! ☺
‘With the qualities of cleanliness, discretion, affection, patience, dignity, and courage that cats have, how many of us, I ask you, would be capable of being cats?’ ~Fernand Mery
And as I typed that last letter, my faithful CAT meowed to let me know he had followed me into yet another room ... as he has been doing all day long. ☺
His trademark is quiet surprise: the friend who is standing in front of you just when you desperately need her; finding something you weren’t looking for but have been missing for months; the package arriving in the mail from someone you barely know.
Such was the case with this book and another sent by Julie Cragon over at Hand Me Down Heaven. One day I came home from work to discover I had two books from a ‘friend’ I didn’t know I had. Julie had gone to a book convention and she bought me this book and The Four Teresas, which I’ve loaned to another friend and have yet to read.
Now That You’ve Gone Home is a sweet, gentle book. It enfolds the grieving spirit like a warm comforter in a bright sunny room. I imagine myself reading it at a friend’s house who lives out in the country with floor-to-ceiling picture windows on both sides and a fire dancing before me. A white winter sky flecked with the bright color of birds flocking to the feeder. Snow drifted outside, yet I am cozy and snug, drinking a mug of something delicious, further soothed by the words of the kindest of spirit guides, Joyce Hutchison and Joyce Rupp.
Both authors have experienced profound tragedies in their own lives but it is from the anguish of their losses that their deep compassion blooms.
It is the book I wish I'd had when my brother died 19 years ago. It’s the book I will recommend to anyone now who loses someone dear. It begins with short chapters relating Joyce Hutchinson’s journey through the dark days after her husband’s death. Reading it brought out tenderness toward my own dear spouse I wish I practiced every minute of every day. It was a reminder of the brevity and preciousness of this life—ours and those we love.
After Joyce’s stories, the book moves on to a collection of other stories from parents, children, siblings, persons married and single, from all walks of life and how each dealt with the death of loved ones. There was every kind of death imaginable from old age to suicide to illness to horrible accident, as well as many different responses and coping methods on the part of those grieving. Each story chapter concluded with a meditation, prayer and affirmation for the day.
I can hardly imagine a better resource to give someone struggling with the aftermath of personal loss except—of course—a devoted friend and constant prayer.
Thank you Julie for your generous gifts! You blessed my life; may yours be blessed as well.
Monday, February 7, 2011
My friend called last Friday night to remind me about the Oklahoma Catholic Women’s Conference the next day. With snow storms, no work or school and numerous other cancellations all week, I’d completely forgotten I even had any other scheduled activities except for Religious Education classes on Sunday—which I was still anxiously watching the weather and trying to decide on ... ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’.
“So?” she asked, “Are we getting up and going to 8 a.m. Mass? Or are we going to wait and go in when the first scheduled speaker begins at 10?”
We went to Mass because of course we knew we’d be much happier with ourselves and we were. Time was when I would have slept in, spent more money and left early. But Mass was worth getting up for, in spite of cleaning the snow and ice off my husband’s car and that cup of coffee afterwards was all the better for having waited for it.
I visited all the vendors but I have enough books at home. I just finished My Life with the Saints and The Secret of the Rosary (for the second or third time). I’m finishing Messenger and planning to read A Travel Guide to Heaven. I don’t need any books. What I was looking for was special little things which might inspire or encourage or help those I love. So many people I know are bearing crosses of one sort or another. Then I ran across this box of cards of “The Golden Hail Mary”. Each card reads as follows:
A Golden Hail Mary
One Fervent “Hail Mary,”
With love and thought said,
Is better than volumes of
Prayers poorly read.
If time and one’s duties
Prevent a long prayer,
Just say one “Hail Mary”
From the heart and with care.
The greatest of blessings
From Mary it brings;
Like flowers and birds
And the waters of springs.
We never will know
Till before Mary’s throne,
How that daily “Hail Mary”
Brought us to her home.
That’s what I bought. That’s what I’ve been saying ever since. It’s such a simple prayer. And yet as I learned when I read St. Louis De Montfort’s classic, The Secret of the Rosary, the Angel
‘Gabriel's greeting to Our Lady is one of the most beautiful hymns which we can possibly sing to the glory of the Most High. “I will sing a new song to you.” This new hymn which David foretold was to be sung at the coming of the Messiah is none other than the Angelic Salutation. There is an old hymn and a new hymn: the first is that which the Jews sang out of gratitude to God for creating them and maintaining them in existence -- for delivering them from captivity and leading them safely through the Red Sea -- for giving them manna to eat and for all His other blessings.There is much more, but that is enough for now.
The new hymn is that which Christians sing in thanksgiving for the graces of the Incarnation and the Redemption. As these marvels were brought about by the Angelic Salutation, so do we repeat the same salutation to thank the Most Blessed Trinity for His immeasurable goodness to us.
We praise God the Father because He so loved the world that He gave us His only Son as our Savior. We bless the Son because He deigned to leave heaven and come down upon earth -- because HE WAS MADE Man and redeemed us. We glorify the Holy Spirit because he formed Our Lord's pure Body in Our Lady's Womb -- this Body which was the Victim of our sins. In this spirit of deep thankfulness should we, then, always say the Hail Mary, making acts of faith, hope, love, and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of salvation.
Although this new hymn is in praise of the Mother of God and is sung directly to her, nevertheless it greatly glorifies the Most Blessed Trinity because any homage that we pay Our Lady returns inevitably to God Who is the cause of all her virtues and perfections. When we honor Our Lady: God the Father is glorified because we are honoring the most perfect of His Creatures; God the Son is glorified because we are praising His most pure Mother, and God the Holy Spirit is glorified because we are lost in admiration at the graces with which He has filled His Spouse.’
The important thing is simply to pray. Don’t have time for an entire Rosary? Say one Hail Mary—one GOLDEN Hail Mary—with all that is in your heart. Don’t have your Bible? Say one Our Father, the prayer taught us by Our Lord Himself, the perfect prayer, the prayer which says it all. Too stressed to think? Say the Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have Mercy on me a sinner.” Afraid? Say the Apostle’s Creed. There is power in affirming one’s belief in God. Too sick to pray? Call on the Holy Name of Jesus, the Name which is a prayer itself. Jesus! Jesus!
And I offer One Golden Hail Mary for all of you today!
Friday, February 4, 2011
If there had been a max on the snooze button, I would have reached it. Finally I got up. Was it Grace or my Guardian Angel? I know I don’t deserve the credit.
The snow was coming down in small flakes when I arrived at the nearly deserted gym. I admitted my lack of ambition to my trainer. “Good for you for coming anyway!” she cheered me on. While I appreciated her encouragement, I little thought I deserved it.
Surprisingly even though I had been mostly sedentary during the week, I had a good, if moderate, work out. No gold medals here unless they give them for showing up and hanging in there...
Later back at home, it was almost the same struggle to make myself pray.
I don’t feel like praying God. What is “praying” anyway? I’m just saying words... I guess this is what they mean when they talk about dryness... My prayers are like sawdust... Do they mean anything? Where is the inspiration? What is the point? Hello?! Are You even listening God?
You know some days God, I get a little irritated with You. You could make this a little easier, couldn’t You? I mean after all I am trying to do this right. Why don’t you at least tell me like my fitness trainer does, “Good for you for showing up and praying anyway!”
It would be nice to get some feedback. (sigh) Do you hear me God? I keep showing up and saying these prayers. Sometimes it feels like I’m just opening my warm house and letting all the heat out—to be swallowed up in the immense winter freeze outdoors. The ‘heat’ of my prayers seems to dissipate as fast as I generate them. What’s the point? Is there any?
My prayers are finished.
I pick up my phone and read a text from someone I spent a deal of time trying to help yesterday. I prayed for her, listened to her, talked to her, listened and prayed and prayed some more. Today she writes that what was troubling her yesterday is much better. She’s even laughing about what was causing so much pain.
As I read her words I realize I just got my prayer answer and my “atta girl”. They didn’t come the way I expected.
You never answer me the way I think You will God—but You always answer me. Thank You God! Forgive me for my lack of faith.
You are so faithful. I KNOW I can count on you. Why do I doubt? Have patience with me God.
Help me to keep ‘showing up’ every day, every day, and every day for my prayer time—no matter what.
In time, this patient persistence will equal progress; will result in an unswerving faithfulness that never questions You or Your purposes. I ask this in Your Son's Name.
See what the Holy Father says about Prayer.
God bless you dear readers!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Reading up about this tradition, I learned that,
‘According to Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to "buy him back" on the 40th day after his birth, by offering a sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24) in the temple (thus the "presentation" of the child). On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the "purification").Meditating on these customs of long ago, I thought about their applicability to my relationship with God today.
It’s been 40 days since Our Lord came to us on that glorious Christmas Day. We awaited Him with such joy and anticipation. Then He quietly stole into our world in the most unexpected and out-of-the-way place He could find, yet still fulfilling all that His prophets had foretold about Him. He came as a vulnerable infant, who could have been refused by His mother, denied by His foster father and slaughtered by His ruling monarch. Instead, His birth was sung by a whole Host of Heavenly Angels, witnessed by God’s chosen few and honored by a celestial event. But really that was 2000 years ago, even if we do relive the event every year when we celebrate December 25th or every time we pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
The Mystery of Christmas is all about the celebration of His Coming into this world. But what is the Mystery of the Presentation?
Is it Mary’s purification and mine? Do I join her in praying the beautiful words from the Magnificat, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid.” Unlike Mary, I only pray the next words as they apply to her. And yes, dear Mother of Our Lord and mine, all generations do call you blessed because He that is mighty, has done great things to you.
Yes, that is part of the Mystery of the Presentation. But there is more. There is also Our Lord’s Presentation. There are the beautiful meetings between the Holy Family and the two people, Anna and Simeon, in the Temple, their joy in beholding Jesus and our joy that at least they understand His significance even if all the rest are ignorant.
Jesus has come to earth, a gift to us from the Father and at the Temple He is offered back to the Father in accordance with Jewish Law, in recognition of the fact that He belongs to God. So Mary and Joseph offer two simple turtledoves in payment for you dearest Jesus. I like to think that they themselves are the little turtledoves and Our Heavenly Father was very pleased with their humble offering. He knew His dearly beloved son would be safe with such parents, young as they were, for they had such pure hearts.
And me? Am I only a spectator of all this? Do the mysteries of the Rosary and Our Faith merely offer us lifeless cold images to look at and speculate about? Or do they invite us into the story as a participant in the wonder and beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church, the Father’s bond with the Son and depth of love in the Holy Trinity?
I believe we are always invited into the mysteries in a personal way.
I have now come to the Temple as well. I come to present all I have. It isn’t much. It is only ... me. If I should be transformed into something which could fly—and Mary and Joseph are turtle doves—I think I would be a flea or a gnat. But whatever I am, here I am Lord. Please purify me, redeem me and accept this, my presentation, on Your Feast Day. Thank you Jesus for the gift of your life and the glimpse into this scene. Please allow me to go deeper into the Gospel mysteries each time I pray.