Vantage Point

I don’t know what it is about baptisms lately, but from my vantage point at Sunday Mass yesterday, I experienced an interesting phenomenon.  The Sacrament of Baptism was celebrated for two children at a Mass that was also honoring high school graduates.  Not just ANY high school graduates, but a class of students I and my colleagues have had the opportunity to work with since they were in seventh grade.  In a very real way, we have watched these young people grow up through the years.   During this one Mass, it was as if we were witnessing “bookends” in child development…the beginning of life in the Church of God for two young children and the sending forth of these recent grads toward college and beyond.

For the high school graduates blessed and sent forth, we become known as their parish family, the people they see on Sunday or in Faith Formation classes or in the parish office occasionally when assistance was needed or paperwork was submitted.  As they grew, a few of our students partnered with us in ministry as altar servers or Confirmation peer mentors, choir members and cross bearers.  Some lent a hand in classrooms.   Some journeyed to ND Vision in South Bend, IN with us for a deeper exploration of our shared Catholic faith.

Through the years, I had the unique privilege of getting to know these students’ parents.  Their children will probably never know that occasionally we laughed together, cried together, and prayed for their well-being…that’s all stuff that happens behind the scenes, where it should.   But from my vantage point yesterday, witnessing babies and high school grads, I thanked God for those special shared moments.  Yesterday, at Mass, those babies, those grads…I know they’re really not OUR children, but we are all one in the Church of God.  Welcome, newest members of our Church, and to our high school graduates, Godspeed!

 

 

 

 

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Laundry Day

This week’s blog was almost the blog that wasn’t.  I’ve kind of been at a loss for words lately.  It seems like more and more often things happen in life that just have me asking, “How could this happen?” or “LORD, how can I help ___________ get through this rough patch?” and “What can I say that will help heal the pain?”  So when I started formulating ideas for Merciful Moments blog I thought maybe I really am not qualified to say much of anything.  After all, I don’t hold a philosophy degree.  I am just an ordinary person who takes up space on earth and tries to spread a little joy in the process.  But then I went to the basement…

I didn’t really go down to OUR basement, but I had a memory when I awakened this morning of spending time in our basement as a girl on laundry day with my Mom in the summertime.  Where we lived, there were at least a few hot, humid days when our mother would bring a book and tackle the laundry and ironing where it was considerably cooler than upstairs or outside.  The ping pong table became the laundry folding table until suppertime, when she would bring an embroidered tablecloth down and ask us kids to “set the table” for dinner.  On laundry days, I was just expected to help with the folding and hanging of clothes, and putting folded clothes away.  The rest of the time I could read or talk with Mom about everyday things.  As I got lost in the pages of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, Encyclopedia Brown, Little House on the Prairie, Fifteen and the entire Donna Parker series, Mom tackled Leo Buscaglia, an entire John Jakes’ series, plus Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, Doctor Zhivago and every Mary Higgins Clark novel she could get her hands on!  We didn’t have lengthy literary conversations but we did talk about our books and more importantly, we talked together.  The television was off and far away upstairs.  This was before internet or cell phones and we were truly present to one another in those moments.

The basement in the summertime was a welcome respite from the heat but it also became a sort of sanctuary.  Do you sometimes just need to get away from the busyness of everyday life and find sanctuary?  To spend time with a loved one or spend time with God, alone in your thoughts, praying for wisdom, hoping for peace?  Being merciful includes taking care of our own health and well-being too, so that we have the strength to continue to carry on in our chosen life vocations, whatever they may be.  Sometimes our quest for mercy also involves letting go of anything that is more harmful than helpful. We have to be ready and willing to carve out some “basement time” or “porch time” or “chapel time” to quiet ourselves and listen to what God might be asking us to do next.  So, I am going to be a little more mindful of this as I plan the summer calendar.  Less meetings, more sanctuary.  Less driving away, more staying home.  Less television, more pleasure reading.  Speak LORD, your servant is listening.

The Ripple Effect

I am rarely one to be at a loss for words, but today I find it difficult to write as the events of the tragic Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub are still unfolding in the news.  We hear of fifty confirmed deaths and many more individuals fighting for their lives in Florida hospitals.  Each person who died at the hands of one hate-filled gunman was a son or daughter of someone, and a brother or sister in Christ to each of us.  We mourn and we ask, “Why?”

When the words will not come, I turn back to the book that inspired Merciful Moments Blog back at the beginning of this year’s Lenten Season.  In the Church of Mercy by Pope Francis, we read:

In the world, in society, there is little peace because dialogue is missing; we find it difficult to go beyond the narrow horizon of  our own interests in order to open ourselves to a true and sincere comparison.  Peace requires a persistent, patient, strong, intelligent dialogue by which nothing is lost.  Dialogue can overcome war.  Dialogue can bring people of different generations who often ignore one another to live together; it makes citizens of different ethnic backgrounds and of different beliefs coexist.  Dialogue is the way of peace.  For this reason, it is vital that it grow and expand between people of every condition and belief, like a net of peace that protects the world and especially protects the weakest members.

 In our own households, neighborhoods, workplaces and parishes, we all can be peacemakers by doing, in the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “little things with great love.”  You may say, but it is not always an easy task to be the best versions of ourselves, and you are absolutely correct.  We get tired or lonely or feel unappreciated or overwhelmed and it’s easy to use angry words or sarcasm at moments like this.  But we are compelled, as Catholic Christians, no—just as human beings occupying this planet, we are responsible, to look out for each other.  That’s the natural moral order of things.

The older I get, the more I realize there’s much about life and human nature I do not begin to comprehend.  What I do know, however, is that I have responsibility to do what I can each day to make the little space around me a little better through my actions and my words.  To the people I encounter each day, I owe you respect and kindness.  If our beliefs are different, I hope we can work together to find common ground, and at the very least, let’s keep the conversation going.  For all who read this blog, I hope you will commit to do the same.  You’ve heard of the ripple effect?  Well that is how peace can spread, in the spirit of Pope Francis, one encounter at a time.

 

         

 

Divine Interception

An infant child was baptized at our church last weekend and I was fortunate enough to be there in attendance.  It was an ordinary baptism, not even anybody I knew, but something happened during that Sacramental moment that sticks with me even now as I sit and write.  Allow me to explain…

I’m no stranger to baptisms.  As a mother of three, I remember taking our first baptism class with my husband over twenty-four years ago.  We were expecting our daughter the following May and class was held on a Sunday afternoon at 1 PM during Giants season.  This was probably when I witnessed the first of many sacrifices my loving husband would make over the years for our family, as at the time I don’t remember him complaining once about missing the game!  Other than our dear instructor, a beloved Sister of St. Joseph who worked in parish ministry, I don’t remember anything from that class, probably because at twenty-five years old I may not have fully appreciated then what our faith life in the Catholic Church would come to mean.  I just knew having our baby baptized and raised Catholic was “the right thing to do.”  We went on to do the same thing for our son and second daughter and raised all three children in the faith.

The funny thing is, somewhere along the way of making sure “to dot every i and cross every t”, I may have overlooked the beautiful simplicity of what it is that we believe. I may have taken what we believe for granted.  As our pastor led the parents, godparents and all of us gathered at Mass through a Renewal of Baptismal Promises last weekend, it was as if I were hearing those words through fresh ears.  As I made each response, it was if I REALLY was stepping up, saying, and “YES LORD, Send Me!  I don’t know what’s coming next, but I’m ready…”

Later that same day I was preparing for Confirmation Day at our parish and in the Rite of Confirmation, we once again renew our Baptismal Promises:

Do you reject Satan and all his works and empty promises?  I do.

Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?  I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?  I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, Who today through the Sacrament of Confirmation is given to you in a special way just as He was given to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost?  I do.

Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life-everlasting?  I do.

This is our faith.  This the faith of the Church.  We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.

My prayer today is that I will continue to appreciate the gift of faith, family and community.  That little infant’s baptism was a reminder to look at the world with fresh eyes, not ones clouded with skepticism and worry.  When it comes to faith, I will have to remember that KISS principle learned so long ago in the School of Management:  “Keep it Simple, Stupid.”