Hunger

The older I get, the more I realize there is a lot in life I just don’t understand. For instance, I initially began writing Merciful Moments blog in conjunction with our parish Lenten reading initiative, inspired by the Church of Mercy by Pope Francis.  That was over three months ago and I’d like to say I’ve learned and grown in the process of reading and reflecting more deeply on Pope Francis’ words.  I have many favorite the Church of Mercy quotes, but the one I keep coming back to is:

…the mediator is one who retains nothing for himself but rather spends himself generously until he is consumed, knowing that the only gain is peace.  Each one of us is called to be an artisan of peace, by uniting and not dividing, by extinguishing hatred and not holding on to it, by opening paths to dialogue and not by constructing new walls!  Let us dialogue and meet one another in order to establish a culture of dialogue in the world, a culture of encounter.”

So, what’s the problem, then?  Hunger.  Not the “oh I wish I had a Snickers bar” kind of hunger.  I’m talking about a deeper hunger that permeates one’s soul, a yearning for something, perhaps even for something yet undefined.  When I went on a short trip recently, one of my goals was to spend a few hours at an art museum I’d always wanted to visit. I was hungry for something lovely, an oasis of culture and art and beauty.  That dream was realized and I must say standing in the presence of paintings and works of art I’d only in the past seen in books was awe-inspiring. It is a day I will never forget!  What I did not anticipate, though, were some of the people I encountered on my way to the museum and the unsettled feeling I now have, safely back home almost seven hundred miles away.  And I just don’t know what to do with all that, except re-visit this in prayer/reflection.

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’  He said to him, ‘yes Lord you know that I love you.’  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’” (John 21:16)

I had a conversation at the train station on Tuesday with a man named Tony.  When he approached me in the Great Hall, he asked me for Sixteen Dollars so he could stay at the rooming house that night.  I was sitting down on a long wooden bench surrounded by people and it was broad daylight so I was feeling braver than usual.  I looked up at him and asked him, “What’s your name” and we made eye contact. He said his name was Tony and I told him my name was Kristine (why so formal, I think now…was I afraid to be too familiar?)  I said, “Have you eaten today?”  He told me he needed the money so he would not “lose his stuff” at the rooming house, that he had reported for day labor and there was none for him that day, he “just didn’t want to lose his stuff.”  He accepted a banana and a bottle of water from me and sat down next to me to eat the banana right then and there. We talked just a few more minutes.  All I could give him right then was a five dollar bill which he accepted gratefully.  We shook hands and I told him I wished him well.  I will never know if Tony was really his name or if he was legit or not but somehow it doesn’t really matter to me.  I took the time to “see him” as a person.

Okay, so in the Great Hall with lots of people around I was brave and did a tiny little good thing.  Outside the train station Friday in the .9 mile walk to the art museum, I was not brave and avoided eye contact with most of the people begging on the street.  I carry very little cash, always have, and I was overwhelmed with the number of “asks” and acutely aware of the fact that I just walked by many a person in need.  Outside of my comfort zone, I just didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t feel quite so merciful and that feeling lingers.  I know I don’t have all the answers but I am capable of learning more, of doing more.  Maybe that’s the essence of hunger.

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Encyclopedia Catholic?

I have fond memories of watching black and white Mickey Mouse Club re-runs as a girl.  I mainly followed the short serials such as Spin and Marty and The Hardy Boys, but there’s a short Jiminy Cricket film that I remember this morning called Encyclopedia.  In it, Cricket sings of the wonders of these big books of knowledge and how they satisfy one’s curiosity.

Our parents proudly purchased a set of encyclopedias for the family in 1972 or 1973, almost around the same time that we got our first Zenith color television set.  Those encyclopedias sat on a shelf below the TV and were well-used over the years for our homework assignments.  We were taught to respect the books, to always return them to their rightful place on the shelf and to take good care of them.  They also, however, became an integral part of proving one was right in a multitude of disagreements in our large family.  While the thirst for knowledge was recognized in our home, so was proving that one was right at all costs.  Running and grabbing the correct encyclopedia to prove a point was very common.  It was almost a survival of the fittest at times…or quickest with the answers. And in someone proving himself or herself right, subsequently someone else was wrong or at least not as fast to defend their case.

I believe for a very long time this was pretty much the way I lived my Catholic Faith.  Maybe I was, to coin a phrase, an Encyclopedia Catholic.  I could list the Corporal Works of Mercy or with some prompting, even the Seven Deadly Sins, both helpful if playing a round of Catholic Trivia.  But it was not until I started reading Scripture daily that I began to look at what it really means to encounter Christ, to love our neighbor, to show compassion or mercy.  I dare say I never “owned” my Catholic faith until I began to grow in understanding of Jesus’ encounters with others in the Gospels.

“The truth is not grasped as a thing; the truth is encountered. It is not a possession; it is an encounter with a Person.” ― Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy

 The only drawback to “owning” one’s faith, however, is you never can sit back and do nothing again.  From that first spiritual awakening, it becomes obvious that in order to encounter Christ, we must walk with others, we must work with others, and we must laugh and cry and be with others.  We learn to realize that our actions have consequences and sometimes our words can inflict pain.  The Catholic Christian, in his/her awareness of this, must strive to see each person as one of God’s beloved sons or daughters, with their own stories, their own “baggage,” their own sorrows and joys.  If I fail to see Christ in you, I fail to see Christ at all and am only being an Encyclopedia Catholic.  Today, LORD, help me to see the person of Christ in EVERYONE I encounter.  And please help others to see Christ in me.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Three Little Words

A funny thing happened this morning on the way to communion.  Okay, maybe I should not start the story out that way, but three little words triggered the thought process that would develop into a blog entry some ten hours later…let me start from the beginning…

I brought my husband’s parents to a church for Sunday Mass that was close to the hotel where they were staying.  I really did not expect to see anybody I knew there, especially at 7:45 in the morning.  My brain still had that pre-coffee fog, so I must have done a double take when suddenly I noticed a woman from daily Mass at MY parish was standing next to me, smiling.  She proudly proclaimed, “I BELONG here!”  It was clear to me that she really likes her home parish and was happy I’d have the opportunity to share Sunday worship today with her there, on her home turf.  Her enthusiasm was contagious!

Don’t we yearn to belong somewhere, to belong to someone, to be a part of something greater than ourselves?  As we go through life, don’t we find solace and safety in our “family groups,” some genetic and some formed through life circumstances?   I witnessed so much of this at college graduation ceremonies this weekend.  Many graduates were sporting regalia that indicated membership in college institutions such as honor societies, fraternities and sororities.  College marshals carried the flags of each individual school of the University into the convocation. Graduates lined up with their particular schools.

In the Church of Mercy, Pope Francis states “The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel, is the language of communion that invites us to get the better of closedness and indifference, division and antagonism.”  Instead of dividing and antagonizing, it sounds like Pope Francis is urging us to move toward uniting and reconciling.  As common members of the Earth family and the Human family, we owe this to one another.

As we celebrate Pentecost and move back into Ordinary Time, let’s remember that communion with a little c means “an act or instance of sharing.”  Everyday encounters, like the one with my friend at 7:45 AM, are such communions.  Receiving the Body of Christ in Eucharist (Communion) and encountering others throughout the week in conversation, in helping each other out, in praying or sending good wishes via text, telephone, mail or social media; all these acts or instances of sharing help us to live in the Spirit of the Gospel.   Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful…

Love

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend the annual Mother’s Day Mass at our parish church where a men’s choir comprised of husbands, fathers, sons and brothers provided the music in honor of mothers, wives and grandmothers and women who are like mothers to us.  The church was quite full  and although I was by myself, I did not feel lonely.  On the contrary, I was filled with joy as I gazed at all the people gathered together in prayer. I love this place and I love these people, my parish family.  My spiritual home.

“St. Paul says that ‘the love of Christ compels us’,  but this ‘compels us’ can also be translated as ‘possesses us.’ And so it is: love attracts us and sends us; it draws us in and gives us to others.” ― Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy  

The love we feel in a parish community or our own families is life-giving, sustaining, in fact, at times intoxicating!  And yet, there are occasional moments where love involves grieving, worrying, and tears.  We take the good with the bad, the sorrows with the joy, the pain with the laughter.  And together with one another and with the love of Christ Jesus, we get through it ALL.

Loving involves risk and trust but the rewards are great indeed.  With love comes new life. As an Easter people, we must remember this as we move through Pentecost and return to Ordinary Time.  Let us continue to reflect the light of Christ to others in our actions and in our words.  Alleluia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Family

“I can do it my SELF!”  Isn’t this a common phrase uttered by children who are trying desperately to assert some sense of independence?  It usually starts out with wanting to choose their clothes to wear, pour their own cereal or milk, ride without training wheels, etc.  As parents, we know it’s our job to raise independent, capable, caring young adults.  It’s not an easy journey and there are plenty of bumps in the road along the way complete with laughter and tears, small victories and occasional defeats. We chalk all this up to experience, life’s lessons.

As kids, many individuals got all that yearning for independence out of their systems early in life.  For other late bloomers like me, we spent a few decades trying to show how capable and independent we were only to learn that many of life’s moments are best when shared with the people we love the most.  And the people we love the most really don’t expect us to prove ANYTHING to them.  As a huge Dr. Seuss fan, I think Seuss describes this phase of our lives beautifully in Oh the Places You’ll Go:

“I’m afraid that some times

you’ll play lonely games too

Games you can’t win

’cause you’ll play against you”

One of the best lessons I have learned so far on life’s journey is that I love to be part of a family.  In fact I have three families that I love dearly:

(1) My own family and extended family including all relatives near and far, living and deceased,

(2) My community, a handful of dear neighbors and a wider circle of people in our town and our children’s schools from over the years,

(3) My parish families, past and present, and all those people in ministry who I have been blessed to call friend through the years.

Even though there are still times in life when I occasionally feel the need to prove I am capable or I am strong, most often I soon realize that the source of my happiness lies in community with others.  Pope Francis speaks of this journey in the following words:

“I think this is truly the most wonderful experience we can have: to belong to a people walking, journeying through history together with our Lord, who walks among us! We are not alone; we do not walk alone. We are part of the one flock of Christ that walks together.” ― Pope Francisthe Church of Mercy

 A few years ago I added a very special community to my prayers:  the Communion of Saints.  I used to toss this term around like any good Catholic girl, but I had no idea what it really meant.  What I’ve come to believe about the Communion of Saints is that they are all those men and women who have died and gone to heaven before us.  They’re with us in prayer and they can help connect us to God as we can reflect on their lives and learn by their examples.  Remember, most saints were ordinary people chosen by God to do extraordinary things.  With God all things are possible, so walking with the saints seems like the best path for this next leg of the journey.  Thanks for walking with me!