Night Watch

Easter Vigil images

 

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”  (John 13: 7)

 The nights of the Easter Triduum are a time of watchful waiting.  Being a self-proclaimed homebody, for me to be out three evenings in a row past eight o’clock P.M. is an event unto itself.  But it’s one of the few times of the church year when I truly look forward to staying up late to gather in prayer with the members of our community and any visitors who come through our doors.

It’s reasonable for others to think that I attend Triduum because it’s somehow an extension of my “job” in ministry.  Perhaps that is true in a sense, but Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil never leave me quite the same and it’s a conscious choice made to attend. Through the simple rituals of foot washing, Eucharist, veneration of the Cross and gathering with community in common prayer, by the end of Good Friday the LORD finds a way to break through my guardedness and allows me to leave at the Cross worry, anxiety and pain. Seeing the bare wooden cross is a reminder that Jesus walks with us, that we are loved and will not be abandoned.  At the Easter Vigil, the lighting of the Easter fire sparks anew the desire to continue on this road of discipleship, to bring the light of Christ to others.
It’s as if the three nights of the Triduum force us to truly “wake up,” to stay alert to all that our awesome God has done for us through Jesus.  Alleluia!  He is risen!

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When the Blogger Learns a Lesson

istock_Kickball_H

Inspired by our parish’s The Church of Mercy Lenten reading initiative, this blogger began to share weekly insights on life and mercy five weeks ago.  It would be fun to share some anecdotal wisdom and journey with readers through forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  We’d all come out better, “Easter-ready” disciples at the end, or that was the motivating force behind the blog the week of Ash Wednesday.

What did not occur to this sometimes slow of heart amateur writer was that any kind of “real” soul-searching was going to take place.  This was all light and almost “pep rally” type reflecting, like cheering people on along the route of a road race….keep going…you can do it…just take Pope Francis’ advice and you’ll be fine…keep going.  That’s what I thought until about eight hours ago.

While mulling over blog themes for Holy Week, all at once I had this horrible, overwhelming realization that I could very well have been the kind of kid who would have inspired the “do-over rule” that was compared to our Lenten journey a few weeks back.  If you remember, do-overs in kickball or other neighborhood games were used to encourage camaraderie.  A do-over was suggested when an unhappy player threatened to take the ball or whatever toys and go home—GAME OVER.

Well, now that I’ve just “outed myself” as the occasional unhappy camper, I feel the need to dig a little deeper.  First, this discovery comes as a bit of a shock to me, and yet I am excited by the timing of this small revelation. It forces me to ask, what, then, as a child or now as an adult, would compel me to “leave the game” instead of keep on playing? Hopefully, wouldn’t I consider the feelings of others in such a decision?  Is it fear of imperfection or a sense of injustice that causes one to flee instead of remain?  Do things just seem too tough at that moment to even look ahead to the next inning?  Are things really that bleak or does ones perception get clouded by disappointment or a bruised ego?

Secondly, what helps one to “remain in the game” instead of quitting?  Are there people who, although sometimes distant, seem to show up and cheer us on when we’re practically running on empty?  You know the kind of people I’m talking about, the ones who might not know what to say at a certain moment, but just by their presence are able to draw out a smile or whatever courage is necessary to keep on going. Are these individuals “angels of mercy” sent to us in times of need or just genuinely decent people who love us in all our brokenness?

The third and final question that comes out of today’s musings:  Are we as merciful with ourselves as we are with others?  Or could despair in our own imperfections actually compel us to push others (including God) away?  Do we ever wallow in our inability to be lovable and even find some comfort in this?  How can we turn to God and others to help us remain in the game?  If we truly care about our brothers and sisters, isn’t it our responsibility to keep the ball in play, for the good of all?

Some days, it seems easier to grab all our toys and go home.  But at what price?  And only God knows what joy we may miss out on if we don’t stay out a little bit longer…Have a Blessed Holy Week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread Bag Wisdom and Other Life Lessons I Forgot Along the Way

shoe boots

Reading The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis as a Lenten project has been a bit of an adventure.  While the book itself is a mere 150 pages including end notes, each short chapter calls the reader back to look deeper, look inward, question current paradigms and only then move forward.  Our selections for Week Five of Lent are no exception to this rule.

In General Audience, 5 June 2013, Pope Francis states, “Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry!  I ask everyone to reflect on the problem of the loss and waste of food, to identify ways and approaches that, by seriously dealing with this problem, convey solidarity and sharing with the underprivileged.”

The Holy Father goes on to say, in Address to the Community of Varginha, 25 July 2013:  “No amount of ‘peace-building’ will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained, in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins, or excludes a part of itself…We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts…No one is disposable!  Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied!”

Reading these words challenges this reader to remember a time when virtually everything at home was saved and re-used, including the bags from loaves of sandwich bread.  After the last crust (or heel) from a loaf of bread was eaten, the bread bag was washed, rinsed and hung to dry on the clothesline in the yard or in the basement during winter months.  Such bread bags were used for a variety of things, but the most vivid memory is wearing plastic bread bags inside our boots as liners.  On very cold days, an old pair of Dad’s woolen hunting socks would be added for additional warmth.

Items were used and re-used because many of our parents had grown up during the Depression when waste was never an option.  Leftovers were part of the weekly dinner rotation.  If a beef roast was prepared for Sunday dinner, one could expect to see the metal meat grinder attached to the kitchen table Monday afternoon and Mom dicing potatoes and onions to go into a beef hash for supper.  (This would most likely be after carrying a roast beef sandwich to school, if one were that lucky!)  Chili night was followed by chili dog night, my best friend’s favorite time to come to supper at our house.

So where does this trip down memory lane leave us?  We need to be much more than sentimental.  Lessons we learned from our parents and grandparents about the value of our resources and the scarcity of food must be passed along to this next generation.  We involve the young people with food drives and Sandwich Ministry but we are called on to do more in our own households, schools, neighborhoods.  Lessons in only buying what we need, sharing what we have with others, gardening, composting, recycling—all of these are lessons that MUST be learned and become the norm. There’s a wealth of information and multiple organizations available to help us cultivate true solidarity, and move that much closer to peace.

 

 

Spring Cleaning

spring-cleaning-tips

 

We’re about halfway through Lent and I cannot help but compare the final weeks of Lenten practices to the phenomenon I was introduced to as a girl:  spring cleaning.  This was a little more involved than weekly dusting, vacuuming and bathroom cleaning.  Spring cleaning included taking curtains down to be washed, pressed and rehung, taking winter coats to the dry cleaners, unpacking the spring clothes and putting away winter clothes and boots.  Cobwebs disappeared and a warm, sunny day meant some window washing.  My brother got the fun task of sweeping the garage floor with a giant push broom, removing all that winter sand and salt that had been dragged in on the tires of the family station wagon, stirring up a huge cloud of dust in the process.

 

I hadn’t really spent a lot of time thinking about our childhood spring cleaning adventures until I read Address to the Missionaries of the Homeless Shelter Dono di Maria, 21 May 2013, found in Chapter 26 of The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis.  The Holy Father does not speak of cleaning in this address, but about HOME and all that it represents.  Pope Francis speaks of hospitality and again: it reminds us of the importance of encounter:  “This home is a place that teaches charity; it is a ‘school’ of charity, which instructs me to go and encounter every person, not for profit, but for love.”

 

It has often been said that “charity begins at home.”  What are our homes like?  Are they truly places of encounter, of acceptance, of peace and love?  Do we treat our family members like beloved children of God, being quick to forgive and slow to judge?  If not, isn’t Lent the perfect time to change our hearts?  What if, instead of giving up candy, or cursing, or carbs, we focus the next few weeks and beyond on making our homes true places of respite?  What if we fill our homes with more laughter and less criticism?  Less worry and more reliance on prayer? Can we knock down the cobwebs of apathy and replace any detachment with care and genuine concern?

 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 10)

 

So, how’s your Lent going?  What do you think of The Church of Mercy?  If you’re reading along as part of our One Book One Parish project, do you have any other insights you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear from you!