Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When I Die....or..."Is She OK?"

     Yep. I am SO ok it's ridiculous. No worries. But I am going to die. Not anytime soon, Lord willing, but, well, life is terminal.


Seriously, none of us leaves here alive. Well, alive in Christ, but we'll get to that. 
     
     For the past few weeks, my sons have been called to serve midweek funerals at a local parish, since they're available b/c of the homeschool schedule. I figure, since I'm there, I might as well go to Mass, too (I learned to do that from my grandmother). 

     I have some funny thoughts and observations from being in attendance with these grieving families, as well as more reflective ones. Let's do funny first:

1)  I want to be buried from Mass at 1:pm.
    
    My aunt's friend, Barbara, an Anglican, says, "no WONDER you Catholics are weeping and wailing at your funerals - you're EXHAUSTED!".  There is something to be said for that. Also, in solidarity with the parents of young families, have you ever tried to get your whole family beautiful (because it's a funeral, right?), make it to rosary at the funeral home before the Mass at nine, and then convoy over to the church for 10? BLECH!  So, 11:am would be better, but by the time Mass is out, it's lunchtime and there's a mini-rush hour and then everyone has anxiety about the funeral procession being broken by people who have to get back to work. So, 1:pm allows you to get ready, eat something so you're not dying (har har) because you haven't had lunch, and then after interment, you can reasonably have baked goods snacks! Then everyone's home in time for supper. boom, boom, done. 

2) FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY PLEASE NO "EAGLE'S WINGS"!! 

   Self-explanatory. Oh, and if you can throw in some Latin Hymns (maybe asking for the entirety of Mozart's Requiem is a little much), that would be great. Thanks. 

3)  I want altar boys. Maybe my boys. It's way nicer. 

     Now let's hit reflective:

1)  It's evident, from their demeanor, that many people haven't stepped foot in Church in a while,  at the funerals my boys serve. Maybe, just maybe, this experience will be a catalyst. It will be the thing that gets them there and makes them stop and think, "someday this will be me".  And they'll see that this, Church, is important.  At funerals, I ask the intercession of the loved one being buried, so that Our Lord will touch their hearts, and make them want to come back. So, when I die, maybe, just maybe, someone whom I love will step back into the Church, too, and maybe their heart will be touched and want to keep coming back...what an amazing thing, to have one life gather many in the nave of the place where the Holy Sacrifice is offered.  I suppose we all have the potential, with our funeral Masses, to witness to others. So, when I die, I kinda hope that happens. 

2)  The priest at that parish is really very good.  He protects the Blessed Sacrament by saying, "all who are in a state of grace and are eligible to receive, please come forth into the communion line." It's a gentle way of saying, "if you haven't been to confession in a time frame that is quantified in 'years', and if you're not a Catholic in communion with Holy Mother Church, you probably should skip the communion line."  At my funeral, I want that kind of priest.  See, because even though you're there because of the Dearly Departed, Mass is about Jesus. I mean, if it wasn't, any old place would do, right? So, even if a "few thoughts" are read outside of the parameters of Holy Mass about the person who died, the Mass is focused on the Source and Summit of the life of the loved one.  So, when I die, I hope Father does just as lovely a job keeping anyone who comes (presuming anyone comes) focused and trained on Jesus. 

3)  When I die, I don't want people to be sad. See, Jesus is Divine and Merciful. And I will live on, because I trust in His Mercy. There are a few things that I presumptively and selfishly will indeed ask for, though.  I want prayers for my sorry soul. I will need them. I want people to pray to God in thanksgiving, on my behalf, that I got this stunningly amazing gift - life. I don't want anyone to be dressed in black. Unless you're in a cassock. And mostly, I will ask that my family, my friends, my neighbors, my acquaintances, will remember why we are on this earth to begin with. See, we were not made for this place. We were made for Heaven. We need to encourage each other to that end. We need to live lives of service, out of love for God, manifest in our fellow man. See, when I die, my chances at doing that for others will have ended. But I want people to know that their lives go on, and I want them to do that, because they still get to work on their souls, which are eternal, and we were made to live on in CHRIST! really. Heaven is our real life. And because God is good. and because I have control issues...


4)  and really, in all seriousness, PLEASE NO "EAGLE'S WINGS"!!! 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

These Forty Days

He is Risen! He is not here!

Oh, my goodness, how light my heart is now that Easter is upon us and this Lent, this Lent, this LENT has passed. Lord, thank you for the Lent!

At Mass, on the first Sunday of this season, Father posited, "If we cannot deny ourselves the good things, how can we resist that which is harmful? How can we say no to sin?" Again and again, I reiterated those words to our family, weekly, as much to remind myself of the benefit of sacrifice.

So many fruits poured forth from the sacrifices made, the daily denials of little luxuries or pleasant options, and the extra "things I just don't want to DO".

Self-knowledge is surely one of those fruits. We discover, don't we, where we are weak, how easily we forgive ourselves, and how often we deny Our Lord, failing to even "stay awake one hour".  Lord, forgive me in my weakness and self-indulgence.

But He knows we are weak. He knows we fail. At the culmination of all of His sufferings, He saw us, as Father tells us, through the blood and mud and sweat and filth of His terrible via crucis. He trod forward in pain, bearing it for us. 

This act of love, this salvation for ME, who deserves none, edifies my soul that my life matters, is seen and noted, and my life is worth His being given, because of His great love. For me. Because He wants me to go to Heaven. 

Because then, of His Sacrifice, I chose to offer my Lent for another. The fruit of THIS is - closeness with Our Lord!  How much easier is it to bear a suffering when done out of love for another? For the life of their soul? And don't we, then, see why and how Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, bore His ultimate Sacrifice and Death on behalf of His children? 

So now these forty days are done. Our Lord is no longer in the tomb. He is Risen in Victory- Victory over death!

We commemorate it every year. Every Lent, every Holy Week, every Easter. And every Easter I am utterly astounded at the relief from penances and suffering (if you could call it that) we attempt to share with Jesus, and the great joy and love unmerited by me that He so freely and willingly bestows upon me, and us all. 

My heart is full, because of the parchness of the last forty days. My joy in the Risen Christ overwhelms me! I cry out again and again, "We are the Easter people! Alleluia is our song!". 



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Matthew 6:33

         There's a boy who lives here.  He's sensitive and obnoxious; precocious and juvenile; insightful and obtuse;  mostly he's just good.  We talk a lot.  We butt heads a lot, too.  We love each other very much.

     There's a mom who lives here.  She's well-intentioned and falls short;  a success in some regards and a colossal failure;  insightful and obtuse;  mostly she's clawing to keep her head above water and somehow get herself and her family to heaven.  She talks a lot.  Sometimes she even listens.  And she loves.


 

      As parents who want to pass along something so great as our Faith, we do a lot.  We keep Catholic our lifestyles, we observe the liturgical seasons, participate in tradition, and tell our children, every day, something about what it means to be a follower of Christ, and how to live out our Catholicism.

      And then, sometimes, as Catholic parents, we are struck with fear.

      One very late night, in a reflective tone, the boy says, "Mom.  You know how you feel close to God?  I know you do, because I see you get really animated when something moves you and all." "Yes, I guess I do feel close to God.  Not all the time, but mostly.  When I don't, it's because I've moved away from Him.  We're all human, so I fall a ton."  "Mom, how do you do that?  I want to feel that.  I want to feel Him in me.  I want to 'feel' like I'm close to God.  How do I know He's there? How do I get that?"

      Instantly, my heart breaks and aches on so many levels.  If one can internally sob, I think I did. My thoughts crash one upon another, "Have I failed him? Is it too late? Did I lose him? Did I never give him enough in the first place? Is my example too poor? Oh, child! I know...I know that longing!"

      I have to stop myself.  I have to collect myself.  I have to trust that I have given him good things.  Yes, I have given him knowledge and prayer and habit and examples, and examples of things to NOT do.  I have given him richness and beauty, a faithful lifestyle.  I have to trust that I've given him a foundation.  That I have been, and will continue to do my job as "carer for his soul".  I have to stop and think...

     Yes, I have GIVEN to him, and then I remember being his age (which really isn't as long ago as he would think).  I, too, had a foundation.  A long, storied, firm foundation.  I have good parents.  I have good grandparents (who also formed me).  However, there came a time when every day was closer and closer to me being farther and farther away from their influence.  And go away I did (don't press, just trust me, I did).  And then there came a time..when I had to go in search of instead of having it be handed to me.

     When I had children I had to decide how to live and what we would pass on.  Yes, I always knew we'd be a Catholic family, because, well, I came from a Catholic family.  But I had to make choices, grow, and learn.  I really hadn't thought about that as a stupid teenager.  I didn't realize that faith and religion had to be cultivated.  I just thought it "was".  So I understand completely how it felt to my boy; that faith is something that some people have and some people want, and how the hell did people GET it and why don't I have that strong feeling?

     "You know, I'm not sure how to answer that", I say quietly, "but I will try."

     Silently, I pray, "Holy Spirit, give me words..."

      "I had a child who was born with a pneumothorax, because he was such a strong baby and his first breath burst the alveoli in his lungs.  On the second night of his life, he turned gray because he stopped breathing.  They brought you back.  I know that was God."

       I whispered, "My eighth baby, the one who needed the most, had RSV, and then it turned into pneumonia, and then her lungs collapsed and then she went to the hospital, and it took three hours to stabilize her, and she should have died, and the hospital staff encouraged me to call a priest, and this holy, holy man administered extreme unction with a relic of Bernadette on baby's chest as he prayed, as he cried throughout the entirety of the sacrament, and then within hours she turned around, so that I could stop wracking my brain, wondering where we would bury her...I know that was God."

       "Not for nothing, but my third baby had RSV, too, when she was twelve days old, and was in Children's Hospital for eight days, and then she got better and we baptized her the day after she got home. I know that was God."

     "One day, and you know this because you were there, son, we all watched in horror as your four year old brother rode a bike with no brakes into route 140 at rush hour.  No matter how quickly we reacted, no matter how fast we ran, we would never catch him in time. Oh, my Lord, I wondered in that split second what the accident would look like, what his body would look like in the grill of a box truck....and so as we ran down the driveway I screamed 'JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!' the whole time and then, as if a hand were pushing them, the cars, in both directions, slowed. Then they stopped.  Ten cars in either direction.  And not one squeal of brakes.  I know that that was God."

     "These things, and a thousand more close-calls, and a thousand comforts when they're not close calls, but the real thing, these are signs to me that Our Lord is with me.  These are the things that make me feel Him in my life."

     "Before all this, though, I had to decide to have faith. I had to decide to trust God.  I had to choose to see him."

     I was able to say to my child that night.  We were both in tears; the written word cannot convey the emotion in what I told him.  I know that the boy had a sense of what I was trying to say, but I need to expound on it.  To give him just a little more.  Even if it's only a smidgen of what he needs.

     My son, (all of my children, for that matter)  I want to tell you something.  Jesus is always here.  You are never alone, even if his presence is intangible. These episodes that I mentioned, they are my signs, and you will have your signs, but before I ever ever EVER felt a closeness, I had to seek him.

      When I finally understood that I had to turn to God, I didn't have to look far, because He's always with us, but I did have to LOOK for Him.

     When we genuinely seek Him, we know the route to follow, because the Church gives us the rubric to being in a state of grace.  We have faith by knowledge, not feelings, but guess what?  When we have grace, we are blessed with the feelings, many times, too.  Not always, but very often.  Our eyes must always be open, though. We have to search for, find, and get to know God.  I didn't really realize, when I was a kid, that I needed to put myself into it, as well.  I never want you to not know that.

     My child, whom I love more than my own self, I want nothing more than to give you Jesus.  I have brought you to him.  He has given his own self to us.  You know what to do, and how to do it (read the saints, scripture, apologetics, good Catholic authors, receive the sacraments frequently, spend time before Jesus in the tabernacle and at adoration, live a life of service).  But, see, I alone cannot give him to you.

     You. You must seek him. Never stop seeking him.  He won't let you down, I promise.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Where's God?

     I am reading a book in which one of the characters, a monk, who is devout and loves Our Lord, describes the murder of his family, their torture, and the torture he himself survived during wartime.  In his agony remembering their deaths, he sobs, "where was God?".  What a seemingly strange query to come from a holy brother in a monastery...

     This plea led to me to reflect on our current time.  We have hectic lives, fraught with busyness, financial hardship, and exhaustion, and we often feel alone, suffering.  The details of life cloud our perspective (because sometimes it really all comes down to perspective) and make our own selves the center of our gaze.  We have a skewed vision of what suffering really is, don't we...

     And then, thrown in to our busy lives, sometimes the terrible occurs.  There ARE sufferings.  Real sickness, real homelessness, real hunger, real terrorism, real disease.  Real death.  When we are (I am) focused on how long-suffering we are, what could be the result when Awful Things happen?  We are human beings.  Sometimes the result is "where was God?".

     In our frenetic stupor, how often do we step back and make it a point to unite all of our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world?  How often do we judge if what we are doing is pleasing and worthy to offer? How close do we keep Our Jesus, so that we may converse with him often?  How willing are we to praise His Holy Name in all things, for better or worse?  Do we contemplate his Sacrifice and know that our little crosses cannot compare? We are not little gods, and our suffering simply can NOT compare..it's united with his.

     By human standards, our real sufferings often feel like the worst thing that could possibly happen.  We convict Our Lord by saying, "a just, merciful and good God could not allow these things!", when in reality, because we have faith by reason, we should know that the opposite is true.  When we suffer, especially in cases of atrocities, don't we know that Jesus suffers there with us?  That he has the MOST compassion for what we endure?

     Bad things are coming.  There will be incredible trials for every single person on Earth.  I mean, it is going to be terrible.  We need to prepare, by making God present in all the things we do - the things that tax us, the things that hurt us, the small things that irritate us, and the everyday things we must go through, as well.  We need to make him real and here and keep Him the focus of all of our days. We need to know that His ways are not our ways, and trust Him in all that he allows, so that when dark times (really dark) we are not left to wonder, "where was God?".  We'll know that He is with us, even unto the ends of the earth..

     This world is not the end game.  Paradise awaits.  There is no greater mercy...

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Patience for This

How tedious.

Each day brings another wave of articles, quotes, and heretical speech regarding the canonization of JPII and John XXIII.  Each day I hear people grumbling about new saints.  Can you even imagine? They're complaining about NEW SAINTS!!  Stop it. Stop it now.

I'm so happy to see that in your 20, 40 or 60 years on this earth your pride hath elevated your opinion to be greater than that of Holy Mother Church.

I'm not going to argue finer points with you. I'm not going to listen to one more theory on the legitimacy of the papacy since Paul VI. I'm not going to engage in "anti-pope" discourse with you. I am going to pray for you. I am going to sincerely wish for you that the saints you approve of greet you should any of us enter the Kingdom of Our Lord.


p.s. you may want to look "heresy" up in the CCC, or any reference book for that matter.  Claiming that the Holy Ghost left the Church makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

shoe, fly

Dropped off Matt at school.  Raced home. Appointment at 9:40, it's now ten til 9.  Bathed two babies. Oh, my word, I do believe their feet are stained black.  Clippers? can't find 'em, oh well, maybe doctor won't call DSS.  Cute outfits. Ish.  Well, they're clean anyhow.  That equals cute, here.

Now shoes.  We have shoes in baskets. We have shoes carpeting floors. We have shoes under beds. We have shoes lining the left hand side of every staircase there is in this house. We have shoes cascading out of closets and gym bags. Oh my word, I cannot find ONE matched pair for the babies!  EVERYONE! Start praying to St.Anthony, QUICK!  All hands on deck....SEARCH!  It's now 9:20.  Success finding the pippers that look like sneakers for Johnny.  Oh, geesh, there's one boot and one sneaker for Mary,,,WAIT! TWO SANDALS! woohooo! With socks, that counts as shoes!

Mad dash to strap them in and book it to the doc's.  Unload, diaper in hand (diaper bags are for rookies), barrel into office - "WE'RE HERE! phew!"  it's 9:51.  They graciously still take us. Because they're doing me a favor, right?

"Gee, there's a breeze at my ankles."  Look down from the counter where I am handing over co-pay money.  Mommy is wearing leopard print slide on slippers.

And the beat goes on....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

a lovely little transfiguration

Pueri Cantores 2014, New York City. The vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration.  

Firstly, I've never driven to NYC before. Never been there, ever.  It was much easier than I thought, though leaving at 5:30 in the morning with five children leaves a little to be desired. I anticipated a tired, cranky, restless bunch as the day would wear on, with an hours-long journey back home after the full day, but I remained hopeful. Practice for the festival began at 11, and we were at St.Ignatius in Manhattan on time.

Children are silly, itchy, and chatty.  This particular bunch was no different.  Mischief, squirming, giggling and talking at inappropriate times happened, but with roughly 250 children in one spot, that's to be expected.

The children's choirs (13 of them) were under the tutelage of a choir conductor from Chicago for the afternoon.  He handled them masterfully, and culled from them rapt attention and beautiful vocalizations that perhaps they weren't aware they were able to perform. The culmination of hours of practice blended these choirs into a well oiled machine, each performing their own piece then becoming one for Holy Mass.

During Father's homily, he mentioned how at Mount Tabor, Christ was revealed for Whom He truly was, transifigured before men so they might know His True Nature.

Mass continued, and the children performed piece after piece, lovelier and lovelier as they went along.  Even our beloved "Panis Angelicus" was sung so that it was the most impressive rendition I'd ever heard.

Then it was time for the recessional.  The opening strains of "Jubilate Deo" began.  At first, I dismissed how well I thought they were performing as a natural reaction from a proud mother. Then they sang louder, and broke into their parts, harmonizing and singing the refrain in the sweetest rounds. Yes, I was proud. But this was magnificent. I cried.

These children - itchy, silly, chatty, mischievous, and squirming - I watched them, on this Feast of the Transfiguration, experience their own little transfiguration during their emotion-evoking performances, so that we might see them as they truly are:  pure, beautiful, joyful, powerful young souls.

I can only imagine that we heard a small portion of what it must sound like in Heaven. I wish you could have heard them.