My Easter Bag

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​It’s hard to believe that Easter was only one week ago. Most of my Holy Week was spent in church between morning prayer services, the parish community dinner, evening prayer and mass. There is a lot going on and a lot packed into the second half of the week following Palm Sunday. The three days of Holy Week prior to Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which is basically one long service beginning on Holy Thursday with the sign of the Cross and ending at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night the same way. At our parish we have hospitality or receptions on Saturday morning and evening, the former in celebration of the lighting the Easter fire and the latter in celebration of welcoming the new members to the Catholic church through the RCIA program.

It’s very fulfilling and spiritual, but it’s long and it’s tiring. Since my first Vigil, one of my yearly customs is that I will bring a small tote bag along with my usual purse to carry a water, cough drops, tissues. I’ll add my worship booklet so I have it for the entire three days.

At some point during Holy Week, I’ll realize that I don’t really need my pocketbook if I toss my wallet and kindle and phone and other necessities into the tote bag. That way I only have one bag to carry and keep track of.

Genius, right?

Well, every year, I’m surprised by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around at how heavy this tote bag is. I don’t realize it’s getting heavier as I add things one at a time until the very end when I go to grab it out of the car, and it pulls me back in.

Here is a picture of it when I arrived at church for the lighting of the Easter fire on Saturday morning:

The inside of my Easter bag on Holy Saturday morning. (c)2019

It has my large wallet, kindle, hearing aids, extra batteries for the hearing aids, clipboard and pad if the urge to write grabs hold of me, a pen, packet of tissues, bag of cough drops, daily reflection book for Lent, cell phone, rosary, Triduum worship aid, any of the other worship aids that I’ve collected during the week, bottle of cold water, umbrella for the upcoming rain (it wasn’t raining when I arrived but it was raining very hard when we all went outside to light the fire). I think there may have been a few other odds and ends in there. All I know is it was really heavy by the time I pulled it out of the back seat.
Admittedly, and embarrassingly, this one week later, it still has stuff in it, and needs to be completely emptied and put away. It doesn’t have much, but still, it’s long past time.

Easter Out!

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​Since my mother-in-law passed away, except for Thanksgiving which we spend with my sister-in-law’s family, we spend every holiday at home. We eventually get the dining room table cleaned off. We add a pretty table runner. No one drinks out of a can. Phones get confiscated, kind of. Each meal has its own traditions: Rosh Hashanah is roast chicken, challah bread, yams, apples. Halloween is pizza. Christmas is roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, caramelized onions, peas & carrots, dinner rolls, one year we had Yorkshire pudding. New Year’s are appetizers as is the Super Bowl. St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef and cabbage, mashed potatoes and carrots and of course, Irish soda bread. Passover is chicken, potato pancakes, carrots, matzo ball soup, matzo and butter, sometimes gefilte fish and/or chopped liver. Easter is roast turkey or chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, carrots, and dinner rolls. We seem to eat a lot of carrots, don’t we?

Our oven hasn’t worked consistently for over six months. We got very lucky for Christmas that it did indeed work and we were able to eek out a delicious Christmas dinner as well as our yearly birthday cheesecake for my son. A few weeks ago we tried to bake cornbread as a side dish to something that I can’t quite remember. After the apportioned hour, it was still gooey. The oven, which had been set for 350 was only about 200 degrees warm, which was not enough to cook it. I scoured Facebook for directions on how long to microwave the cornbread and dinner was saved, but not before realizing we were going to have a problem.

From then on, we have been using our crock pot. Lasagna, meatloaf, roast (not quite roast but fully cooked and tasty) chicken. I intend to try bread in it, but I don’t have the energy quite yet, and either way, it’s Passover for the rest of the week.

On the Monday after Palm Sunday, I told my husband that it was decision time, so what would it be – fix the oven before Good Friday or eat out on Easter? He would fix the oven. He did his research online, found the part he thought was the problem, and went to order it. He thought it was twelve dollars; it turned out it was fifty. We already know we’re going to need to replace this oven in the near future. We’re waiting on a tax refund to see if it’s doable or if we need to go another year on crock pot/stove top meals (which have been working out okay to be honest, if a little more time consuming). We decided to eat out.

My oldest son would come home in the early morning from work before he went to sleep and then back to his next shift for our annual Easter egg hunt. I know they’re old, but they all play along and they get some candy, and I get some pictures and everyone has a fun time and some sugar high donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast. Then we’d nap and have dinner much later.

It felt weird from the moment we decided it. Would any place even be open? I know that Dunkin’ Donuts is open, and several places do a we’ll make the meal, you heat it, but we ignored the situation for a day or so more.Then I got two emails – Applebee’s was open as was Texas Roadhouse for Easter dinner. Hmm…not exactly what we were looking for, but who knows?

We finally settled on Cracker Barrel. We thought that would be the closest to eating at home. We’d allow everyone to get dessert if they liked to make it a little more special than a regular dinner out. I even got a salad. I also mandated no phones at the table. That worked for the most part. Not perfect, but what dinner ever is?

It was a lovely change of pace. I enjoyed it, and I’d consider doing it again, but I don’t know that I’d want to make it a tradition, but it worked out for everyone, and I was actually surprised how busy they were. I thought brunch time wold be busy, but we were there just before traditional dinner time, at around four in the afternoon, and it was busy. No one was waiting but it was crowded and the waitresses were constantly on the move. On our drive there, I was alos surprised at how many other restaurants were open and their parking lots relatively full: Friendly’s, TGIFriday’s, Panera Bread. Starbucks drive-theough was still buzzing, although the supermarket was closed and its parking lot was empty.

All in all, a grateful Easter celebration with most of the family.

It was actually kind of relaxing.

Happy Easter!

Tragedy

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We were at a work event for my son’s job this afternoon when I found out that the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was on fire. Just the view on the computer screen with the white smoke, the bright orange flames licking the stones and rising higher and higher was speech stopping; it was mind-numbing to me. I have a sensitivity to viewing buildings burning. I think it brings me to 9/11, it brings me to California wildfire devastation, and with television and social media it brings it literally into our fingertips.

As of this writing, I believe the two towers have been saved even though the spire collapsed. One of the rose stained glass windows was destroyed, but three remained. The statues that had been on the spire were removed four days ago as part of the renovation. The art, artifacts, and holy relics were saved after being removed during the fire. These are all good things.

This church is nearly one thousand years old. The person who laid the first stone was not alive at its completion. As it has been before, it will be rebuilt because like the church of people remains in perpetuity, the building will be repaired, rebuilt, and it won’t be the last time. The idea, the ideal of the church family lives on in the people who will return to Notre Dame.

In the meantime, we can mourn the physical building as we mourn the death of a loved one and know it will rise again.

I have never been to Notre Dame in Paris, France, but my son visited while on a school trip in his senior year in high school. Knowing how close I am to my own local church and my Catholic devotion brought this home for my souvenir from his visit, ironically also during Holy Week. It sits on my bookshelf where I look at it every now and then, and after seeing the cathedral burning, upon coming home I took this pewter replica in my hand and turned it over, touching the carvings, pressing on the spire, tracing the cuneiform. It was sad and comforting at the same time. (c)2019

Sundays in Easter – Pentecost

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​​​Readings

Acts 2:1-11
Ps 104
1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
John 20:19-23

Reflection

“To each individual the manifestation of the spirit is given for some benefit.”

Just as Jesus showed himself to the apostles and sent them on their mission work as his Father sent him, we also have the holy spirit within us as a guiding hand, showing us which path is the one that is best for each of us.

Journal Prompt
Write about when you’ve felt the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Today is the day, Holy Spirit.
You come upon us and leave a breath on each of us.
Your give your spirit to be a part of us,
as a third to join with the Father and the Son.
A guiding hand
To support,
To encourage,
To console,
There when needed,
Received with gratitude.
Amen.

Sundays in Easter – 7th Sunday

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​​Readings

Acts 1:15-17, 20a, 20c-26
Ps 103
1 John 4:11-16
John 17:11b-19

Reflection

“He [G-d] has given us of his spirit…”
He is always with us even if we are unaware of it. As I write this, I am also planning an RCIA lesson for teaching the holy spirit, and in my heart it’s all there, but I can’t get the words onto the paper. I imagine that’s probably because the holy spirit isn’t an intellectual thing; it’s a faith thing. It’s ephemeral and other worldly. It’s in the heart, not the head. When we come to a crossroads, how do we choose? Is it the well-worn path or the not yet trodden, leaf-covered path? Left or right? Towards where the sun came from? Or where it’s going to set? We always choose, and what guides us is unmistakable and remarkable, and whether we’re aware or not, G-d remains in us, and we in Him.

Journal Prompt

What time do you remember making a decision that had the confidence of G-d guiding you or the holy spirit poking you in one direction or the other?

Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit
Take my hand,
Lead me in the way I’m to go.

Come, Holy Spirit
Show me the way,
Lead me to the lighted path.

Come, Holy Spirit
Guide me with your love,
Lead me to the truth.

Come, Holy Spirit
I trust in you.
Amen.

Sundays in Easter – 6th Sunday

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Readings

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Ps 98
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

Reflection

In the first reading today, the gift of the holy spirit poured out on the Gentiles. Peter ordered them to be baptized – cannot withhold water when they’ve received the holy spirit.

It’s not the water. It’s not the holy spirit. It’s not the cross. It’s all of those individual things becoming the greater thing, not only to guide us, but to always be within us.

When I was brought fully into the church four years ago I found out that the Easter Vigil is the only time the parish priests confer confirmation on the candidates. It is the only time that the bishop is allowed to be substituted. It is also the one time when the traditional sacraments are given in their order – baptism, confirmation, communion – rather than receiving the first communion between baptism and confirmation. There is something about being a part of such a longstanding tradition. When I participated and observed the Jewish rituals, I was always in awe of being a part of G-d’s chosen, descended from Abraham, observing things that had been observed since the beginning.

I feel that same way about my journey through Catholicism. In my studies, I’ve discovered that the mass hasn’t changed much since those first centuries.

The profoundness sometimes weighs on me, but the joy of it all lightens me.

Journal Prompt

This I command: love one another

Prayer

Accept the Father’s love,
Offer your love as he does.
Accept His saving power, and
Offer gratitude for it.
Follow his commands,
Absolve your sins,
Close your eyes, and breathe it in.
Exhale it out with thanks, and
Amen

Sundays in Easter – 5th Sunday

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Readings

Acts 9:26-31
Ps 22
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

Reflection

It reminds me of James 3:26: Faith without works is dead. It’s not the faith that’s important; it’s what having faith leads you to do. From giving money to giving time, our works and their reception increases our faith which increases our good works. Similarly, when we love both truthfully and through our deeds, we, and they, come alive.

Journal Prompt

“Let us love in deed and truth.”

Prayer

Remind me, O Lord that faith and love are paramount, equally deed and works will lead us to fulfillment and a deeper faith and abiding love. Amen.