Friday, November 16, 2007

Random thoughts from a tired mind

....Deer season...On my way home from a meeting in another town last night, I was made more aware of my guardian angel hard at work....The route wound around in the back roads, quickest route, but this time of the year, fraught with dangers of deer encounters of the close kind. "Deer-in-headlights" is an appropriate expression, not only for the fear that is reflected in Bambi-type beings, but for the paralysis that momentarily takes over said creature and human driver as well. Thank you, St. Michael and all angels for the extra hard work last night in keeping me safe. Three deer was plenty to keep me awake

....Incongruities...I drive past this Tae Kwon Do studio everyday which advertises on its marquee board all sorts of specials. This week it's: Get rid of the holiday fat, sign up for classes! God is Love. You see, no matter what the special or ad, always at the bottom is this reminder that God is Love. Sometimes it's comical and other times, in the midst of bumper-to-bumper traffic, the little reminder burrows into my consciousness and helps me bear the exigencies of living in a city with ever-expanding population stresses.

....Worst job in my book...also daily, I drive past a person in a smiling giant mobile phone costume waving at traffic. I am sure the person is a he by the vigor of the wave. There is a specific rhythm to his wave, a flinging from the wrist of quick, slow, slow, slow. Throughout the dreadfully hot summer season he was out there waving at cars passing by. I wonder how much business he has actually garnered, and what logic his boss might have used to rationalize such an excruciating torture. There are some days where I will wave back at him and he raises his arm to break that monotonous waving rhythm in acknowledgment. I hope that he is paid well for the effort. If not, then perhaps some day he'll remember the arduous work and appreciate all of life's gifts.

....Autumn they're more brilliant on grey days. And when you look up as wind sweeps down, the falling leaves almost remind you of falling snow. When it's rainy, and a wet sweet gum leaf falls on your face, it's almost like a hand caressing your face. Yesterday, it was wet, overcast, and cold. Today, it's windy, sunny, and loud with rustling. I love autumn.

....Angels among us...the youngest son of one of my closest friends loves the Mass. He is quite young and yet knows in his heart that he wants to be a priest. The day revolves around "playing Mass" with most prized possession, a child-sized Mass kit. For all his love of the liturgy, during the Canon, he becomes excruciatingly agitated and has to be taken out to be comforted. Finally, last week, my friend asked him why and he said, "Well, I see Jesus and the angels behind Father during the Prayer." It's easy to dismiss this statement as "precious" or "cute". But I wonder...Unless you become as a child...

....Still, small voice...sometimes, in the midst of life's crises, when one comes to the point of wondering how to manage the weight, God breaks through in the most exquisite stillness and quiet. There is an elegant simplicity to God's answer that makes you stop and breathe again, to make you realize that you have been holding your breath too long with the strength of your own efforts. "Come away, my love," he says. "Oh, but the field needs plowing," you say. "And who will bake the cakes if I don't." "Take my yoke upon you...." Yes, Lord.

....May your Friday devotions lead you to a greater love for the Cross of Christ and the Eucharist that makes Christ present.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Elegy Podcast

I haven't forgetten the poetry podcast. In honor of November being Holy Souls month, the next one will be Rainer Maria Rilke's First Elegy from the Duino Elegies. Here's an excerpt.

The First Elegy from The Duino Elegies

It is truly strange to no longer inhabit the earth,
to no longer practice customs barely acquired,
not to give a meaning of human futurity
to roses, and other expressly promising things:
no longer to be what one was in endlessly anxious hands,
and to set aside even one’s own
proper name like a broken plaything.
Strange: not to go on wishing one’s wishes. Strange
to see all that was once in place, floating
so loosely in space. And it’s hard being dead,
and full of retrieval, before one gradually feels
a little eternity. Though the living
all make the error of drawing too sharp a distinction.
Angels (they say) would often not know whether
they moved among living or dead. The eternal current
sweeps all the ages, within it, through both the spheres,
forever, and resounds above them in both.

Relics of St. Andrew at Sant'Andrea, Amalfi, Italy

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why did I leave?

It never fails that when a person continually rubs you the wrong way and challenges your ability to love, one day, out of the blue, they'll surprise you with the most piercing statement. And all the animosity which, you know you must for Christ's sake hold at bay, melts away like ice on a hot day.

She hobbled through the door last spring a half hour into class time. She made such an entrance that I knew here was Christ disguised. She was a fallen-away Catholic having spent decades dabbling, first with the Pentecostals, and then with the Mormons. She was trouble spelled out with capital letters.

Every question she asked was just this side of insane, but it was my duty to answer with as much charity and intelligence as I could muster. Eyes were upon me and I prayed constantly for patience. The times she was absent were times that I was relieved and the class seemed to be relieved as well. There was no pattern to her attendance, absent for weeks and then suddenly making an appearance, my heart sinking when she struggled into her seat. Then lifting bright eyes toward me, I would think that she looked suspiciously manic.

Incomprehensibly, she has an affection for me and treats me with warmth and respect. Guilt would wash over me whenever annoyance toward her would rise up. She would smile and say, "Hey, sweetie! How've you been?"

One of the more infamous discussions we had occurred when she wanted to know what little thing she needed to do to get the "prayer machine" to give what she wanted. It took all my self-control to not answer with sarcasm. My husband keeps reminding me that God brought her to this place and to this time and that I was "standing in the gap" for her. I am reminded of Isaiah: "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."

She is that for me, that tender bruised reed trampled upon by life's vicissitudes. But desire for God smolders within her and though people tell me she doesn't belong in RCIA, I know my husband is right, that she is here now for a purpose.

I have spent the last three weeks teaching the catechumens about Real Presence and Eucharistic Adoration. I invited them to come to Holy Hour to learn about adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. My Bruised Reed objected and demanded to know why she had never heard of Eucharistic Adoration before. She peppered me with questions as to how to go about making a Holy Hour. "How can you just stare at it for an hour? Isn't that like wasting time?" she asked. Silently, I gave thanks to Romano Guardini and said, "Yes, it is an hour of wasting time for God's sake." I gave her the simple Jesus Prayer to try doubting that she would come.

I should know better than to doubt, because last week, she came. And all throughout the hour her head was bowed in concentrated effort. After the Benediction, she hobbled toward me, embraced me and clung to me. She said, "That was the most beautiful thing I'd ever experienced. I just kept telling Jesus that I love him. Was that alright?"

Emotion caught in my throat. Yes, indeed, telling Jesus over and over about her love was adoration in its simplest and humblest form. She put me to shame with my stack of devotional books and purposeful Holy Hour. "Unless you become like a child..." I thought to myself. And here was my Bruised Reed with that simplicity of heart.

Yesterday at class she stunned me when she said, "Why did I leave the Faith? It's so beautiful. How could I not know how beautiful it is? Where was I all these years? I had it all along but didn't know it."

I caught my breath knowing it was a moment of transcendent encounter. I smiled at her and said, "Welcome back." Tears were running down her cheeks.

I knew then that we were there for each other's salvation.