A couple of weeks ago, Brian had his monthly weekend off from serving Mass – and we didn’t have Religious Education classes, so we went home to church. This is more than the parish for the town we grew up in, it is also my spiritual home, and the place where my conversion happened at age 10.
It felt warm and welcoming, familiar, and comfortable. Everything was just as it was when we were last there except that the choir was in the transept rather than the loft. And this time around, my beautiful family filled a pew to brimming. It did my heart good. So, so much good.
The altar where Brian and I exchanged vows 25 years ago, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, 133 years to the day after Ss. Louis and Zélie Martin.
The side altar dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. I was baptized at this font, and nearly a decade later, so was our oldest daughter.
“Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, an energy that showers blessings on the world” – Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, SVD
God sends us the grace that we need in all situations. We have had a tough year here, and it just keeps getting tougher. We had an episode with Olivia during Mass and I was utterly wrung out by it. Wondering if I can ever be the mother she needs, if she will ever stop traumatizing the rest of the family… all while attempting to keep up a happy expression so that we continue to be a blessing rather than a burden to our parish and community.
Our daughter Cat texted on Sunday afternoon to catch up about her weekend. She had a table of guests on Saturday who somehow got around to talking with her about big families. She mentioned that she was the oldest of eleven. To her surprise and delight, they proposed a toast.
“To Cat’s Mom”.
I stood in the kitchen and sobbed for joy and gratitude, reading that perfect strangers had thought of me enough to wish me well. Those kind words changed my entire day. I felt uplifted and was able to cast off the sadness that was preventing me from giving my best to my family. They blessed me, and I was able to bless them. God sent exactly the nourishment I needed to get me – and everyone – through a day that might otherwise have broken me.
Pettiness is a luxury we cannot afford to indulge in. There is too much to do that is of real import. Small, everyday things that are radical and profound despite their smallness. We need to hold a hand, smile at a stranger. Say “Hello” and “How are you today?” and really want to know the answer. We need to teach our children to speak gently to each other, to apologize for wrongs. We need to perform everyday acts of love.
Life is too precious to squander even a passing thought on whether a designer ought to accept or refuse the commission of creating a dress for the new First Lady; or to be offended by what an actor said at the close of a performance. Our world has become so vast that we too often fail to see the one right in our own homes. And it is dying for lack of care. And if the family dies, so goes the world.
When we do pay attention to things outside our own circles, we must listen with our whole hearts and minds, we must look through the eyes of love and mercy. We must try to understand the sentiment and the true meaning of people’s words. We must not instantly react because reacting before consideration leads us nowhere. It doesn’t advance our understanding of each other. It leads to two people (or two groups) reacting to each other – reacting to the other person’s reactions. And that is a waste of time and energy that is much better spent giving hope, making peace, spreading joy, and loving.
Let this be our mantra: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Next Sunday is the first in the season of Advent. It is a time of reflection and renewal as we prepare to welcome the Christ Child. May we recognize Him and serve Him in the least of His people. The Poor, The Lonely, The Lost, The Sick.
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton
A maple wood bowl filled with sweet fern and acorns.
I used to believe that happiness was a matter of intensity. I craved stimulation of all the senses, all the time. I needed to feel life in order to be sure I was alive.
Over the last year, I’ve had more stimulation of the senses than I could ever have dreamed. We all have. That constant onslaught makes you tender and sore. It makes you crave quietude. And it often makes happiness feel elusive. We forgot how to be happy in the storm that is trauma. Trauma is evil. Trauma steals all good things. It is hell.
And then Brian and I had a talk at a restaurant dinner table recently…
We were working through strategies for bringing back an abundance of peace and joy, hope and love into our home. I think we both started out thinking that we had to plan an elaborate distraction – a weekend away in a totally new environment with new adventures. But in the end, it was the small things that we decided would make the most difference – order and rhythm would restore balance and harmony.
The gentle, orderly rhythm that is provided by our prayer life and homeschool studies, the flow of the liturgical seasons, the joy of marking holidays and holy days with simple, joyful celebrations. That is what heals the soul, what brings happiness back to the hearth, what dispels darkness.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth
just as we were commanded by the Father.
But now, Lady, I ask you,
not as though I were writing a new commandment
but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another.
For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;
this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning,
in which you should walk.
Many deceivers have gone out into the world,
those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh;
such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.
Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for
but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God;
whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. – 2 John 4-9
Although I’m here in my little bubble, I am not unaware of the violence and upheaval going on around the country. I know about the ugliness being meted out between friends and families.
Two salient points from yesterday’s first reading from the Mass leapt out at me. Perhaps they will speak to you as well.
First – we must love one another. We must will the good of one another even if we don’t have affection for one another.
Second – it is not love to preach that which is outside of accepted Church teaching. We must not modify or innovate the Gospel,we mustn’t torture it to seem to support viewpoints or behaviours that are either explicitly contradicted by scripture and/or tradition.
We must love the person. That doesn’t mean we can’t abhor the words, thoughts, or actions of another. But always we must love. We must take care of each other. We mustn’t do harm in body, mind, spirit, nor to that which belongs to another person. We defeat evil by filling that vacuum with good… with love.
Anyway, that’s what I try to teach my children. I guess that’s what you try to teach yours. I guess that’s what nearly all of us were taught and what we want to teach. Perhaps we could try to channel that anger, disappointment, entitlement, braggadocio into something constructive, something to build everyone up. I wonder what that world would look like? I suspect it would look a lot like Heaven on earth.
“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta