Care

Every year in our parish we host a week of summer faith formation classes for our middle school and high school students.  This year’s theme is Mercy.  With our classes taking place in the upcoming week as I sit down to write this blog, I am reminded of a children’s book I read to my own children many years ago.  It’s a story about a boy named Pierre and how he just didn’t care about anything or anyone other than himself.  In the story, by beloved author Maurice Sendak, Pierre learns that in order to be truly human, truly alive, and truly happy, one must turn their gaze outward to others.  I borrow from a pope other than Francis this week with the following wise words:

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” ― Pope John Paul II

This week, our young people will be given a working definition of mercy and one of the first things they will learn is that “the opposite of mercy is indifference.”  How easy it is, for you and for me, to respond to hurt by closing our hearts, mainly in the hopes of avoiding further pain or anguish.  That’s a survival tactic, isn’t it?  As Easter people, as people of hope, we are challenged to love even when loving is not easy, to give of ourselves even when we feel as if we have nothing left inside to give.  While this is counterintuitive to everything we hear in the media, we are to forgive “seventy times seven times.”  (Matthew 18: 22)

“Real peace is not just a matter of structures and mechanisms. It rests above all on the adoption of a style of human coexistence marked by mutual acceptance and a capacity to forgive from the heart. We all need to be forgiven by others, so we must all be ready to forgive. Asking and granting forgiveness is something profoundly worthy of every one of us,”   ― Pope John Paul II

So, this week, our young people will learn all the nuts and bolts about mercy but more importantly, we hope to reach their hearts as well as their heads.  We have all been hurt and forgiven, we all have hurt others and have asked for forgiveness.  We all have been saved by our loving God’s mercy daily.  We must keep our hearts open.  That’s when love and peace can happen fully, really, and truly.

 

 

 

 

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Earthen Vessels

One of my favorite verses from 2 Corinthians 4 appears in today’s first reading:

“Brothers and sisters:   We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”

Have you ever had a scripture passage really resonate with you more on a given day?  I read today’s readings after a visit yesterday to the National September 11 Memorial.  My last visit to Ground Zero had been with my husband in December of 2004, long before the Memorial was finished. Walking into this place of remembrance left me at a loss of words.  My husband, my daughter and I spent a long time at the reflecting pools, reading the names of almost three thousand men, women and children who had started out on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001 like any other weekday.

414 names are carved into the stone that surrounds one of the reflecting pools.  They are listed by their Engine Companies and other Emergency Response teams. These people lived and died together in service to others.  They made the ultimate sacrifice.

Standing in the midst of hundreds of people making a visit to the Memorial on Sunday, my daughter commented on what the waterfall walls in the two enormous reflecting pools might symbolize.  Could it be the washing away of the purely heinous acts that took place?  Are the waters in some way restorative?  Trees surround both pools and ground ivy and patches of lawn are everywhere, perhaps another reminder that we were “struck down, but not destroyed” on September 11, 2001.

Our weekend trip to New York was filled with merciful moments, mostly just witnessing everyday encounters such as someone giving up a subway seat for another person who might have needed it more.  I heard people say thank you to police officers for their service on the streets outside of Grand Central Station.  An older couple walked hand in hand along a path in Central Park, the man appeared to be helping the woman walk along.  A young bride and groom appeared to have just been married near the boathouse.  I said a silent prayer for them as I walked with my family, hoping that they would find happiness in the little things of life and be ready to weather any of the difficult moments that will appear from time to time.  Are we not all earthen vessels?

 

 

What I Wish I Could Go Back and Tell my High School Self

 

What I Wish I Could Go Back and Tell my High School Self

 

Something strange is going on.  I have been thinking a lot about life.  I’m also noticing more wrinkles around the eyes lately, but I’m okay with that. It appears that those lines appear more when my eyes are wide open in amazement or during a genuine belly laugh.  If that’s the way those wrinkles came to be, I will celebrate their existence rather than search for some wrinkle-removing cream!  I’d like to think it could be wisdom creeping into the second half-century of life, but that’s probably a bit of a stretch.  One thing I can say with great certainty, however, is that the following four life lessons have become incredibly clear over the past few decades:

Snarky people need love too, maybe even more than non-snarky people.

 So as to not sound “Pollyannaesque”, I fully admit there ARE mean people we encounter in our daily lives.  Some might be a little cranky but others sometimes are just not very kind.  Why?  I don’t know, could it have to do with the fact that they are HUMAN?  Imperfect, yet created in God’s image and likeness?  Hmm, when I remember that everyone is a beloved child of God, somehow I can look a little deeper for the good. Pope Francis reminds us, in the Church of Mercy, “The heart of a catechist always beats with this systolic and diastolic movement: union with Christ, encounter with others.  Both of these: I am one with Jesus, and I go forth to encounter with others.”

 Just because people don’t “get you” doesn’t mean they hate you.

 I wish this lesson had not taken so many years to learn!  Not everyone is going to like the same things you do, nor should they have to.  Don’t take it personally.  Cafeteria lunchtime conversations can be the worst!  At age fifty, I can handle my neighbor’s dislike for tuna fish sandwiches a little better than when I was fourteen.  I also can learn to be a little considerate when I know something bothers someone I work with or live with.  In time we learn that the things that make us different from others are gifts, not burdens.  But in high school, our desire to fit in can make us lose sight of the bigger life picture. Be patient.  When we start to celebrate our uniqueness and respect others’ differences, we grow.

Someone you know has things worse off than you.

 There are no perfect families, no perfect jobs, and no perfect lives.  Some families are happier than others, but everyone has ups and downs.  It can be easy to get caught up in wanting something better, when in reality, we often have more than enough.  When you get to know people, you begin to understand what makes them smile or cry.  Remember, everyone has a story.  Don’t judge.  That could be you in those shoes.

Having a family and/or caring faith community helps.

 Don’t try to go through whatever life brings you alone.  Our families and faith communities can be our lifesavers, our support system, la raison d’etre. We see Jesus did not send the disciples out on their own, but rather two by two.  We need to lean on one another sometimes and occasionally we need to lift others up. There are many lessons to learn in life, and I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’d love to hear any additional “wisdom” about life and faith you might have.  Comments welcome!

 

 

 

Thoughts while packing

 

Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood,  

Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood,  

But I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River line,  

I’m in a New York State of Mind

Billy Joel, New York State of Mind

I’m not really taking a Greyhound to NYC, but as I write this week’s blog, I’m waiting for the clothes to dry so I can pack the suitcase laid out on the bed.  How are you doing, dear reader?  If you are like me, your head may be filled with the tragic events of the past few weeks.  I’m having a hard time processing all of the facts and I am left with so many questions as to why all this has happened and where do people go from here.   It’s getting kind of hard to write about merciful moments when we are witnessing violence and bloodshed and people grieving everywhere.  And yet because of all the pain and suffering, I am compelled to remain vigilant in an attempt to bring even a little bit of mercy into our daily lives.  I take comfort today in the wise words of Pope Francis, who again reminds us of the importance of dialogue and encounter:

I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue.   (Pope Francis, 1/24/16, Communications)

This week I look forward to plenty of time during travel to reflect, read and pray for family, friends and for the many communities needing healing and peace.  I hope that the students traveling with us will find God’s presence in a whole new way through their encounters with high schoolers from around the United States and Canada.  I hope the music and prayer and guest speakers will touch their lives in a whole new way.  I pray that we who gather for an adult conference will grow in dialogue and through Francis’ spirit of encounter as well.

I hope you have an opportunity during these summer months to slow down and reflect on your own relationship with God and others.  I hope you also have time just to kick back and relax, read a good book and simply…be.  Summer is short and life moves fast.  Don’t miss a single merciful moment.  Please pray for our safe travels.

Thank You–Kris

 

Endings

I have never been a fan of endings.  When a friend takes a new job in another city, when a store in our home-town closes and people lose their jobs, I feel great sadness.  I see good-byes as endings and the simple platitude, “When God shuts a door he opens a window” makes me insane!  Why?  Because I’m left wondering why the door has to shut in the first place.  I wonder sometimes if my reluctance to say good-bye, “to let go and let God” as the saying goes, is on some level a lack of faith or trust on my part.  In the Church of Mercy, Pope Francis addresses this very fear:

“Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness God brings us, the newness God asks of us.  We are like the apostles in the Gospel:  often we would prefer to hold onto our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past.  We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

A couple years ago, I made the decision to begin each day with a few minutes of prayer and reflection on the daily readings.  Those few minutes, I believed, would connect me a little more with God’s presence in my life.  Some days the words I read and pray mean more than at other times.  This morning’s reflection reminded me that sometimes it’s in our most trying moments that we become closer to God.  For any dear readers struggling with endings of some sort or another, my sincere hope is that you will find strength in these words.  We may be, in the words of Pope Francis, “afraid of God’s surprises” but we know one thing is certain: morning always comes even after the darkest of nights.

I’m not down-playing the pain of some endings.  But the older I get, the more I can see how past experiences that at the time were painful or caused great anxiety ended up leading to something wonderful.  Endings AND beginnings are part of the ebb and flow of life as we know it.