Archive for January 2014

Why I Cried…

January 26, 2014

Recently the mother of a friend of mine passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s.  Over the past year, as her mother’s health rapidly declined, I have tried to support my friend in the limited ways I was able: checking in with her, listening, and praying with and for her.  When I left for her mother’s visitation at the local funeral home, I had no idea that it would such a profound experience or that I would be crying for close to two hours.  There are many reasons why I cried, even though I never met my friend’s mother even once.

1)  It was very obvious that the deceased was well-loved by her family and friends.  As everyone gathered in the room, people were invited to come up to the podium and share stories and memories about the deceased.  I know that everyone says nice things about the deceased at a funeral, but sometimes you can tell when people are borderline lying to come up with something nice to say.  I felt sorry for my friend who had lost her beloved mother as well as her brothers, step-brothers, step-father, husband, children, and nieces who all lost someone they would miss dearly.

2)  The deceased was younger than both of my parents.  It’s inevitable to think about how one day I will be in my friend’s position, mourning the loss of a parent.  I thought about how my friend’s youngest children will have little to no memory of their grandmother, and how, even though my parents are in good health, that they might not live long enough to see my youngest reach her 18th birthday.  The feeling was similar to when my next door neighbor (7 years my senior) got married when I was about 14; I remember crying at the wedding because I knew that my childhood was kind of behind me and adulthood was ahead of me.  I got a sense of what is approaching.

3)  One of the people who stood up to speak was my friend’s aunt.  She started by joking that she had known the deceased longer than anyone in the room.  They had fought with each other, and they loved each other.  It made me examine my own relationship with my sister, which hasn’t been close in a very long time.  It made me imagine (hopefully) many, many, many years from now what it will be like when my girls must mourn the eventual passing of each other.

4)  And then my friend stood up to speak.  She and I met when our oldest girls were in gymnastics classes during at the same  hour.  We struck up conversation and found that we were both Catholic homeschoolers in love with the Catholic Church and worrying about the best ways to help our children get to heaven.  She invited me to join a new Catholic homeschooling group that she was starting.

My friend had prepared a short speech, typing it out, because she wasn’t sure that she would have the strength to be coherent speaking off the cuff.  Her speech was about the last lesson that her mother had taught her through the long battle with Alzheimer’s.  My friend spoke about the Catholic idea of redemptive suffering, aka “offering it up”.  She spoke with humility for those who may disagree or be ignorant of this idea.  She spoke with the strength of truth.  She spoke with pride at having finally understood something her mom had been trying to teach her for over 20 years and love that this was something her mom had tried to teach her at all.  And she spoke with a longing that others could learn this lesson, too.  She wanted the suffering her mother endured, the indignities that come with Alzheimer’s, to be united with the suffering of Christ for the good of others.

I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking through her and her grief.  And I was so proud of her.  I was proud to have someone like her as my friend.  So, I cried with pride.  And I cried with thankfulness to God for bringing us together.  Because it was truly God that brought us together:  our love of God, our faith in God, our trust in God, and our hope in God.

Faith Quick Takes

January 12, 2014

1.  Inspired by a discussion on Facebook, lately I’ve thought about the ways in which I don’t give God the best that I can offer.  I often give him the dregs of the day after everything else is done.

2.  I remember being shocked when I learned that Muslims were called to ritual prayer five times per day and that Protestants  sometimes went to church on Wednesday or Sunday nights in addition to Sunday morning.  Even though I knew Catholic churches offered Mass daily, and as a school we went to Mass on at least one week day, I thought that sort of thing was for Holy Rollers (aka religious weirdos).  It took me a long while to realize that we are all called to be religious weirdos, who long to attend Mass as often as possible and praying without ceasing every day in every thing we do.  After all the whole point of life is to become the best, most holy, version of ourselves, which means living every moment of our life as a prayer to God.  That’s an over-whelming and scary thought…scary because it just seems so impossible with all the pulls on our time and attention.

3.  I’ve been trying to think of more and more ways to remind me to keep God forever on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart (just like the three crosses we make before the reading of the Gospel at Mass).  I’m not saying this to brag anything about myself; I just want to help others brain storm little ways for themselves.  About two years ago I started trying to make the Sign of the Cross every time I pass a Catholic Church to acknowledge the Holy Eucharist kept in repose inside (a tip I read about online myself).  I started to schedule prayer times into my daily to do list.  I’ve posted copies of prayers over my desk and behind cabinet doors.  I set a daily afternoon alarm on my wrist pedometer.  I nailed a crucifix over my washer and dryer.  At first it was meant to be a reminder to stop whining about laundry, but now I try to genuflect before I close the curtains.  I’m just trying to find as many little habits and reminders as a I can to help me not forget about God as I go about my crazy life.

4.  I think often about an old post of  Jen Fulwhiler‘s (that I can’t find) that discussed how our home decoration is a reflection of what we value most.  For instance, if someone walks into your home and sees five hundred pictures of your family then they would assume that you really love your family.  If you walked into Delores Umbridge’s office at Hogwart’s you would assume that she really likes kitty cats.  If your home is decorated with holy statues and icons and prayer plaques, then one might suspect that God is one of the things you value most.   (Luke 12:34-“For where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”)

Of course we shouldn’t decorate our homes with holy things just to make other people think that God is the thing we value most; that would really makes us no better than the Biblical Pharisees.  But as I strive to put more reminders of God in my daily life, I find that religious decoration is conducive.

5.  I’ve been reading Matthew Kelly’s The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.  I think even non-Catholic Christians could get a lot out of it.  I’ve been using his suggested Prayer Process every night (based on St. Ignatius of Loyola).  It’s just amazing.  And it really ties in well with several steps in the recovery program of Codependents Anonymous.

6.  I love everything by Matthew Kelly that I have read so far.  My only issue is that his early books sometimes have the perspective of a young single man with a lot of freedom.  For instance, I remember  a chapter he had on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual importance of getting enough sleep.  I saw nothing wrong with his encouragement to try to get a good night’s sleep, but his tone implied that there was no valid reason (except illness) why someone shouldn’t get a good night of sleep if they just make good decisions to ensure it.  He obviously didn’t have children when he wrote that book.  He didn’t realize that sleep is a precious commodity when you have young children, especially if you ALWAYS have young children, like for a decade or more.  I would love to get enough sleep.  I would beg, borrow, and steal to get enough sleep.  But it ain’t happening most of the time.

7.  The other night on Relevant Radio Father Rich Simon was talking about when the centurions pierced Jesus’ side and blood and water poured out.  (The physical explanation is that his heart was pierced releasing blood and accumulated fluid on the heart.)  We all know that Jesus inferred that he was the Temple that would be destroyed and rebuilt on the third day.  However, I never realized that this instance on the cross was another time when Jesus was making it clear that he WAS the Temple.

Animal sacrifice for the atonement of sins was the business of the Temple.  Every Passover thousands of lambs would be ritually sacrificed, and as Father Simon said, the place would literally be a bloody mess.  Apparently, the Jewish Temple had a channel in which all of the sacrificial blood and the water to clean it up would pour out of the side of the temple just as blood and water poured out of the side of Jesus on the cross.  I love learning about those historical/metaphorical/metaphysical connections that I would have never understood in scripture without putting it in the context of Ancient Judaism.

8.  At the end of Mass one morning, we had a seminarian for the Diocese of Joliet share his vocation story.  I love hearing vocation stories as much as conversion stories.  The thing you hear in about 95% of modern vocation stories is that the person telling the story was usually approached at least three times by different people who said, “I think you have a calling to be a priest/deacon/sister.”  Often these pronouncements would come completely out of the blue.  And almost every time the person being called would laugh at the thought of accepting a religious vocation and try to follow a different path.  God always got them in the end, though!

9.  One afternoon when I was out running errands I decided to pop in the church for a few minutes to see if the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel was open.  The Church has taught since the time of the Apostles that the bread and wine are not just symbols but they are actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.  So if we sit with the Eucharist we are sitting physically with Jesus.  Some Catholic Churches have a small room where Jesus in the appearance of bread is displayed in a golden holder called a monstrance.  People can visit with Jesus there.

The door to the chapel was locked, but I could go into the actual church.  The red candle was lit, indicating that Jesus was present in the tabernacle (aka the big gold box).  I sat and prayed for a few minutes while a group of teenagers filed for Living Stations of the Cross practice.  I sat in a back pew and prayed for about 10 minutes, and then headed back out to the narthex where I met one of our deacons.  I told him that I had intended to visit the chapel but it was locked.  His response was, “Oh, He’s not there right now.  But he’ll be going there a few minutes after start rehearsal; we always start with praying before the Eucharist.”

It just struck me the way he said it so naturally.  “Oh, He’s not there right now.”  Even though I now fully understand that it is Jesus in the Eucharist, I still doesn’t come naturally to refer to the Eucharist has “Him” instead of “it”.