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.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Oh, my child...

Dear Little Teeny Baby,

Do you know I love you? I want you to know I love you, even though the  last thing I expected when the doctor called after my blood tests was the news that you existed.  I wasn't expecting to be pregnant, but you know, God has different plans than ours, and His ways are better than ours, and I loved you right away. Can you even imagine that He picked me to be your mother?  I started to take the medicine we all thought was going to help you live, but the blood tests showed the numbers were starting to go down. Your dad and I weren't expecting to lose you so soon, but God has different plans than ours, and His ways are better than ours.  I want to let you know that I love you, even though I won't ever get to stroke your little cheek, blow on your downy hair, kiss your toes or even know if you are a boy or girl.  You know, you have lots of brothers and sisters in heaven, and Dad and I love them so much, too. You also have lots of brothers and sisters who live here in our house, and I love them and they love YOU.  They're pretty sad they won't get to meet you until their time here is over, but they're happy you'll meet God.   I want you to know that I love you, and I am grateful that for a while you lived inside me.  Your short life showed us how good God is to us, you made us see yet again how wonderful your brothers and sisters are, you reaffirmed how important the gift of life is to us, and you sure did make us realize once again to never EVER take anything for granted. Your life is important, and now you get to live in heaven, too, that's how important you are.  I submit to the will of Our Lord, even though I love you so much, and don't want to let you go.  We've been through this before, and know what to expect, but  I want you to know that I still love you, and I miss you.  Even though we lost those other siblings before, it doesn't get easier, and you are unique, and wonderful, and your life has such meaning, and now it's even more significant because you will be forever pure, and you get to be in paradise! Do you know I love you? You do, better than I could ever tell you in words, because you live with God now.  Until we all meet again and our family is whole in Heaven, I love you, my wee little child. Please pray for us.

Love, your mommy

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Embrace the Fire

" 'I have already forgiven you. You are absolved. I do not remember your sins! Why, then, do you sanctify them? Why, then, do you make them holy to you?' This is what God tells us! Leave the ashes. Do not dwell in them. Embrace the fire, instead!"

"The Bible, you see, is a book containing the fiercest love story, between God and us. Why then, do we look at it as a book of rules and regulations and restrictions? We do this when we do not believe that we are TRULY forgiven!"

- Fr. John Welch

In the ongoing saga of life, doesn't pride rear it's ugly head, again and again and again!  Who are we, that we feel we are so special that our sins are so great that the Blood of the Lamb does not cover them?  Anger, sins of the tongue, sins of omission, sexual sin, yes, even murder - none of these things bars us from the salvation of God if we truly are sorry for them and place them in front of Our Lord in the confessional!  They are not unforgiveable. If we feel that way, that absolutely makes vain His sacrifice! Why did he do this? Why did he hang on the cross? The cross that he carried and that so wounded his shoulder? The cross under which he fell TWICE on his way to Golgotha? The cross the Cyrene had to help him carry? Oh His Precious Blood! It washes us clean and purifies us so that we shall not die, but live! But, see, here's the rub: we must believe it! Now let's get over our big bad selves. Let us leave the ashes. Let us embrace the fire, instead!