Some of you may remember that Dark-haired Daughter experienced a great deal of trauma about 5 years ago. She still suffers from PTSD occasionally, and is reluctant to go just about anywhere by herself.
We moved in January, from a very rural area to an urban/suburban area. We also moved from a house to an apartment. It's taken her awhile to get used to all this, and frankly, she's still pretty skittish. However, about a month ago, on a spring day that Mother Nature teases us with every once in awhile here in Michigan, she decided to walk to McDonald's by herself. It's less than a block away.
"I'll call you when I get there, and then call you when I'm leaving, okay?" she said. (She was going to go, get a soda, and come home.)
"OK," I said, in my best nonchalant mom voice, quaking inside. This was a HUGE step for her.
Twenty minutes later, the apartment door opened, and she walked in, drink in hand. "I didn't even need to call you; it was so quick!" BIG accomplishment!
Now, once a week, she meets with her job coach at that same McDonald's for breakfast and a job search session. Her worker doesn't get there until 9 a.m., but I have to drop Daughter off on my way to work, so she has about 20-30 minutes on her own.
Yesterday, when I got home, she said she had something to tell me.
"Mom, when I was at McDonald's this morning, I saw an old man ("old" for her, of course, is anyone over 40) and he looked so sad. I walked over and asked if he was ok, because he looked so sad."
He told it was his 35th wedding anniversary, and she replied, "Well, that's a good thing."
He said it was, but his wife had died a few months ago of cancer.
She said, "OH! I'm so sorry!" She told me she wasn't sure what to say, so she asked if she could buy him some coffee.
He smiled and said sure.
She brought his coffee to him, and told him she was waiting for her worker, but she could sit and talk for awhile if he'd like. Yes, he said, that would be fine.
She kept him company for a bit, and then her worker showed up. He thanked her, and told her that she'd made his day better.
That is the Gospel lived out. That is Jesus, both in his most distressing disguise and as divine healer.
Yesterday, Jesus showed up at McDonald's, looking like a 21-year old young woman with an IQ of 70 and bipolar disorder. He was there as a lonely widower who didn't know what to do with himself on what should have been a joyful day. Jesus at McDonald's, looking like a cup of coffee, some conversation and an empathy borne of great pain.
Where will you see Jesus today?
I can't say I agree with all of his thoughts, but he does have a few ideas worth pondering. However, at one point, he talks about the reasons people give for leaving the Church. One of the leading answers is, "My spiritual needs were not being met."
My eyes rolled so hard my head sounded like a slot machine.
First, (and maybe you are aware of this, so forgive me) the Church does not exist for you. Yes, Jesus loves you. He died for you. He has made Himself present in all the sacraments for you. But get over yourself. There are a billion Catholics in the world. At any given time, someone is gonna feel like their "needs are not being met."
You know how when we were growing up, Mom made one meal for dinner? You ate that, or you were hungry. It's kinda like that. Some nights you feasted, and some nights you fasted.
Second, I wonder if those who've left because their "spiritual needs were not being met" ever gave much thought to the responsibility they have to sustaining their own spiritual life? Yep, YOU have a responsibility to feed yourself - not simply wait for someone else to feed you. We are not featherless baby chicks stuck in a nest waiting for Mom to come back and regurgitate worms for us.
Everyone past the age of reason has the responsibility to grow spiritually. And yes, I realize this is easier to do in some parishes than others. (Really, don't get me started.) But even if you belong to a parish where Father has not given an original homily since Ed Sullivan introduced Elvis (Go look it up, sweetie), there are marvelous things called books. Also, purchase a book of Catholic prayers. If you don't know how to say the Rosary, learn. And then say it. Every. Single. Day.
Examine your conscience. Go to confession. Read about the saints. Ask the saints to intercede for you in prayer. Pray for your priest - even if you don't like him. (Especially if you don't like him.)
Look for good religious communities of brothers and sisters and go make friends. Volunteer for your parish or diocese. Join the choir. Join the Knights of Columbus. Heck, start a Tuesday morning knitting group and pray for the folks in your parish as you knit 1, purl 2.
But DO NOT LEAVE.
Yes, parish life can be unsatisfying. It can be infuriating. It can make us grouchy. It can also sustain us and empower us and feed us.
Maybe you're one of those folks for whom parish life is unsatisfying. Before you leave, do this: take 3 months. Every day of those three months, pray the Rosary. Read the Mass readings of the day and ponder them prayerfully. Give thanks before every meal, even when you're dining out. Go to Mass every Sunday (bonus points if you go more often!). Read the life of one saint.
Then, at the end of those 3 months, if you still feel like leaving: go talk to your priest. Have a heart-to-heart. Tell him everything you've been doing, and that you're still not feelin' it.
But DO NOT LEAVE. We need you. You need us. And get over yourself. Worry less about your spiritual needs being met, and more about the needs of your brothers and sisters. You may notice a remarkable change in your spiritual life.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn. 6:67-69)
We are not supposed to be a little, hmmm, bummed on Easter, are we? Nope, we are supposed to greet Easter morning with and "Alleluia" ringing on our lips, sharing the Easter candy and belting out those joyful hymns. Good Friday is now a distant memory, and we boldly proclaim, with St. John Paul II: "We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song!"
But I'm a little sad today.
The terrifying incidents of Palm Sunday, as ISIS attacked our brothers and sisters, hangs like a pall over this Easter. How can one celebrate while burying a child?
None of my kids, save the one who lives with us, joined us today. That seemed so "thin" to me. I also saw many of my friends today with all their kids and grandkids, and yeah: I was jealous. I wonder if that will ever be for me.
I'm also missing my mom - still. So many things this week - Tigers baseball, the Triduum, visiting my niece and her family - just made me wish I could turn to Mom and say what was on my mind at that particular moment.
I feel like I failed Mom and Dad. They were so incredibly generous to us. We used much of the money they left us to update and refurbish our house ... which we ended up losing anyway. Did we waste it? Are they disappointed?
On top of that, the couple that had originally helped us out with the financing are part of our Franciscan circle. Every time I see them, I get angry. On one hand, I don't blame them a bit - the whole process took far longer than either of us had imagined and they had every right to say "enough." On the other hand, I'm not sure what driving us out of our home accomplished. Either way, it cost us that relationship as well.
I'm still trying to figure out what and how much I can do after my surgery. I fear the pain so deeply that I'm afraid to do too much.
I remember that - even as Jesus broke the chains of death and walked out of that tomb - He was different, but still broken. The holes in His hands and feet, the wound in His side - they weren't healed. He bore those terrible wounds - they weren't even scars, as the disciples put their fingers in them! Even Christ was not immune from the pain of the past, the sadness of betrayal, the sorrow that lingers oh-so-thinly under the surface of the joy of Easter.
That's the thing: joy always has that thinly-veiled sorrow. We feel it as we watch our daughter walk down the aisle; there is beauty and happiness, but also a stab that our baby is no longer our own. We are filled with joy in knowing that a loved one died a holy death, but the sorrow of loss is always there. We welcome a new baby, and then realize that the world will never, ever be safe again.
Can we ever celebrate Easter with nothing but full-throttled, wide open happiness, seeing the Resurrected Jesus with nothing but joy? I suspect not, at least not on this side of Heaven. I will, though, sing the "Alleluias" and the Regina Caeli, I will wonder at the faith of the women who hurried to spread the news of the empty tomb, I will marvel that Christ did all this for me - me with all my sins, grudges, foibles and doubts.
Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen, Alleluia!
About 15 years ago, our home experienced what Dear Husband and I refer to as the "Black Easter." All five kids had a stomach bug, which meant every sheet, towel and blanket was put into rotation. Just as one kid seemed to be on the upswing, another would fall. The first kid would spike a fever again.
Holy Saturday night found me in the ER with Dark-Haired Daughter, who was dehydrated. We drove home in a torrential thunder and lightening show. We never even made it to Mass on Easter.
Right now, it's Tuesday of Holy Week. Maybe your kids are sick. Maybe you are. Maybe you don't have enough money for the Easter Bunny to visit. Maybe you're depressed, and making it out of bed means you're having a good day.
What do you do when Holy Week takes a decidedly unholy turn?
- Pray the Stations of the Cross. Nope, don't go to church. Just find a nice reflection online or in one of your prayer books. It takes about 30 minutes to pray.
- Ask for help. Yeah, I know this is going to stick in the craw for a number of you. It's possibly my least favorite thing to do. Do it anyway. Call a girlfriend and ask her to pick up a bag of candy for your kids. Call your mom or your mother-in-law and say, "I need help." Whether it's getting caught up on laundry or finding the dining room table, people will be happy to help. But you have to ask.
- Give yourself permission to let go. Let go of your expectations of the perfect Holy Week. You aren't going to make it to every single Triduum service. And that's ok. It is not the end of the world. Rest. Catch your breath. It's ok.
- Sit down with your spouse and pray. If you're not married, sit down with the kids. If you don't have kids, ask a friend to pray with and for you. Pray about the important stuff: we're sorry for our sins. We want to be at the Foot of the Cross. Show us how.
- Remember, Easter lasts for 40 days. Yes, Easter Sunday is very important. But not so important that you need to drag your sick self to Mass. Find a way to celebrate a week later, or choose a wonderful Easter tradition (like dyeing eggs) that you can just as easily do 2 weeks after Easter as you can the day before Easter.
Sometimes, you plan Lent, and sometimes Lent plans you. Wherever you are at right now, do not take it to mean you cannot celebrate Easter. Celebrate! Christ is Risen! But don't kill yourself trying to be perfect - it's not gonna happen anyway.
Sorry. It's 9:30 a.m. and I've already had "5 Things Successful Parents Do" and "Are You Raising A Drug-Addict?" pop up on my Facebook feed. Don't you think if there WAS a formula we humans would have it in place by now?
Parenting is tough stuff. And every kid is different. Every parent is different. Heck, I'm a different parent to each of my kids. And the world keeps changing, so what worked for Gen X won't work for Millennials or whatever we happen to label this current batch of toddlers.
Most of us stumble along fairly well. We are horrified, of course, that first time our mother's voice comes out of our mouth, but hey, we turned out ok, right? Sure, Mom and Dad didn't know we snuck out almost every night our sophomore year of high school, or that our freshman year at college involved a ridiculous amount of cheap beer. We are now responsible adults in charge of raising the next generation of responsible adults.
Except when we "fail." Our kid turns out to be a brat or fails reading or gets caught with pot by the police dog. They flunk out of college. They decide heroin isn't a bad idea, not for them.
And then we find ourselves sitting outside a courtroom or a police station or an emergency room wondering, "How the Hell did we get HERE?"
I'll tell you: original sin.
Most of us do not set out to intentionally screw up our kids. No, we make them say "please" and "thank you" and "I'm sorry." We make them learn that when they forget their lunch they go hungry. We take them on vacations and cuddle and read to them. We yell, sure, but we also hug. We make sure their lives are filled with light and love and Jesus and all the saints.
And then: original sin.
Our kids got it, we got it ... it's all around us. Yes, we are baptized, but we are still stuck with concupiscence (my 10th grade morality class's fave word): that undeniable pull that sin has for all of us. We know we shouldn't look .... and we look. We know we shouldn't touch .... and we touch. We know we shouldn't take ... and we take.
The only surefire way to raise perfect kids is to be perfect yourself.
You know how you and your hubby used to say, "WE WILL NEVER use the tv as a babysitter" or "WE WILL NEVER allow the baby to crawl on a dirty floor"? And then you did?
Those titles mentioned above sound like that to me. Kinda judge-y.
Let's just be kind to other parents, ya know? Don't be too quick to judge and be a bit quicker to pray. Because you never know when it will be you sitting outside that courtroom or police station or ER. And the last thing you want in that situation is "I told you so." You want, "Oh. I understand. Let's pray."
I've always loved Mandisa. From the moment she first appeared on American Idol (and got that jerk, Simon Cowell, to apologize for making a crude remark about her appearance), it's been clear that this girl has got God.
Except when she didn't.
For the past 3-4 years, Mandisa was hiding from the world and shutting out God. She was questioning everything she knew, and was depressed. Her honesty is refreshing - and I'm glad she's back with new music, and a deeper, more profound faith in God.
I think I'm still recovering from surgery, even though I feel fine. I can pretty much do whatever I want. I also freely admit that I'm scared. I'm scared I'm going to go for a walk, and a mile from home, the pain will return.
I am really afraid of the pain. That pain that puts me down on the floor, screaming. That pain that makes everything black and red, seeing only a tunnel with no end. That pain. That pain that overwhelms me, makes me want whatever will allow me to escape it. That pain.
Lent is sort of about pain. We focus on what Jesus experienced. Carrying that Cross - my Cross - on his back that was torn open by the lashes of a soldier. Meeting those mothers who wept for Him and turning their sorrow back to themselves. Having to look His Mother in the eyes, knowing that everything He was feeling was tearing into Her Immaculate Heart. Yet he chose that pain, for that pain was Love. He risked Himself for love - His love for each of us.
You treat us not as we deserve but as you choose, and your choice is love. (Magnificat, April.)
All this pain and physical stress has turned me so inward. I've been so neglectful of Dear Husband. He is such a steady guy - always, always, always has my back. He does more than his fair share and does it with no complaint. We've been married almost 30 years, and I've been neglectful.
You treat us not as we deserve but as you choose, and your choice is love.
I've hardly done half the things I planned to do for Lent. I'm too lazy, too complacent. The pain and anxiety and stress of the last year have made me a bit of a recluse. It's just easier to stay home. I don't even date my husband when he asks; I make an excuse for a "quiet day." I'm so stupid. I choose myself over love. I've let the pain make the decisions.
You treat us not as we deserve but as you choose, and your choice is love.
Every single day, we are allowed the choice: love or not. I've been choosing "not" far too often. And Lent has gotten away from me. Let not love.
You treat us not as we deserve but as you choose, and your choice is love. Lord, let me choose love as well. Let me choose love for my marriage, for my husband, for our family. Let me choose love for that loud woman in the grocery store who rudely shoves my cart out of the way instead of asking. Let me choose love for my daughter who asks the same question 117 times. Let me choose love when I have to admit to a mistake at work. Let me choose love when the conversation turns to gossip. Let me choose love even when I am tired, in pain, grouchy, over-worked, stressed and afraid.
You treat us not as we deserve but as you choose, and your choice is love. Let me choose love as well.
Lent has gotten away from me. Let not love.
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