30 Days of Nano – Day 16

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I must begin by apologizing for missing the last three days. Things had gotten out of hand. Our schools were closed on Friday because of snow, and that just messes up with my body clock. I’ve also had a weak stomach, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed and continue read Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming (highly recommended).

This piece of advice may seem a bit self-serving (because it is), but it still holds true: cut yourself some slack, give yourself a break, forgive yourself for missing something.

It happens, and it happens to everyone, including the people judging you, although you’re probably judging yourself more harshly than anyone else could. So, 

CUT IT OUT!

Reflection on Reconciliation

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​Tuesday night was my parish’s annual Communal Reconciliation Service for Lent. (We also hold one for Advent as well.) This Lenten service lets me reflect on sins and good deeds and everything in between. I’m mulling over a couple of reflections as I pray and contemplate my sins I’ve committed and what I want to ask absolution for.

The service itself is about an hour long with a short service, that includes what is typical for a daily mass: a reading, responsorial, and a Gospel reading with a reflection in place of a homily. After that we all recite the rite of reconciliation together and are given our penance. We then have the opportunity to confess and receive absolution individually with a priest. The lights are dimmed and we choose our line. There are four priests in four different areas of the church for privacy. Playing the piano begins.

Our director of music is on hand for the musical portions of the service, and he remains to play at this time sharing several quiet, contemplative selections. It is the predominant sound echoing through the chapel, bouncing and being enhanced by the church’s acoustics. That, along with the buzz of a few quiet conversations lays the groundwork for the continuation of reflecting on what we want to say to the priest. There are young adults from the confirmation class lining up in large numbers, some looking a little uncomfortable while they wait, but still talking and laughing a little bit. This is not their first confession.

I think for as important as reconciliation is, and it is important, it is also beneficial to remember that this is a routine; it’s a normal part of the everyday life of the Catholic. It is not anything scary nor should it cause apprehension even though for many of us it does a little bit. The one thing to remember is that lack of judgment that greets you in the confessional. The confession itself and the absolution received is often a relief, and sadly it barely lasts the commute home.

There is that split second of a moment – it might last as long as two minutes where I am without sin, absolved of everything, a clean slate to try anew to be a better person, a better example, a better disciple of Christ.

Sinlessness.

And then it’s gone. As I notice a hairstyle, or curse at the traffic; or the rain. I come home to arguing kids and can’t find the charity that I give to strangers.

But right now, at this very moment, I am free of sin.

There is also the non judgment of my pastor as I alluded to above. He greets me as a friend, calling me by my first and last name, that funny way that people do sometimes, with a grin and a twinkle in their eye. The smile is there to make me feel at east, but not simply for ease’s sake but because he lives the Gospel and confession, reconciliation, penance and absolution are simply one more part of it. One fo the sacraments that allow us to continue our journey and accept the other sacraments and responsibilities of Christianity. One more piece to this spiritual puzzle. He also commented on my shirt which sparkled in the candlelight.

Penance is not punishment as in you were bad, now you are punished. Penance is a consequence. Punishment can be avoided; consequences cannot.

Forgiveness

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In death, sometimes people become more than they were in life. It’s not anything intentional or deceptive, but it’s the lost potential, the lost could have been. They also become bigger in life in that way a blue skyed spring morning can be look at that sky or that blue color is godly and vast and beyond that is the universe.

Brittany was my friend. She wasn’t a friend with a capital F or a best friend, but like a lot of friends we tolerated each other, liked each other enough, were kind and polite, cheerful and helpful to one another. All the things we should be to people we know and people we don’t.

Brittany taught me that mistakes are for everyone, they can be held close, thrown at people over and over again or they can be dropped on the roadside as we move forward. She taught me forgiveness and led me to deep breaths.

She gave me something that if I hadn’t accepted before she died would have been lost and that loss would have haunted me. Instead it is her loss that remains with me. Daily when I speak her name at Mass and yearly when I throw on my purple shirt and flowered scarf and celebrate her life with Mass and a cup of tea.

Today is that day.

Happy Birthday, Brittany.

2/8 – Prayer

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As part of this Year of Mercy, today is the Marian Jubilee, a Feast of Mary, Mother of Mercy. We can listen to the Pope’s homilies,.both for last night’s vigil and this morning’s liturgy in St.Peter’s Square.

I know that I’ve been looking at more ways to find and to show mercy and one of those has been to pray to Mary.

Prayer was never something that I was comfortable doing growing up. We were religious in the sense that we followed the traditions abd celebrated the holidays; we observed Passover and Yom Kippur. My parents lit yartzeit candles for their parents, and now I light them for mine.

I didn’t pray as much as talk to G-d when I needed to say somethihng or meditate on something or to ask for help or guidance.

I was really shown how little I actually prayed when I didn’t know how to express myself during a National Day of Prayer after 9/11. I went to a local temple with my four year old, and they didn’t know why I was there, and I didn’t know how to ask for what I needed. I sat with my son, and we muddled through, not knowing what to do or how to say it, but trying to do it anyway.

In starting my journey through the Catholic Church, I still didn’t know what to pray for; or how. There is a moment of silent prayer during the mass – well, several moments – and I never know what I should pray for. It feels weird to pray for people. I don’t know why that is…was.

In those prayers of the faithful I had my faithful trio of prayers, mostly for myself to get through another week, waiting for the anti-depressants to kick in or the talk therapy to take effect.

Patience.

Strength.

Courage.

I found Mary, Untier of Knots, and that really spoke to me. I was excited to find out that this was Pope Francis’ favorite devotional.It made siense in my life too – all these knots of crap happening, and I could slowly, methodically untie them, like Mary does in the painting and on the prayer card.

I began to say the rosary. I found it comforting, and deliberate.

I think I identify with her as a parent, and I try to emulate her unending patience and mercy for those around her, a perfect example depsite what was done to her son. She is full of forgiveness and accepting of G-d’s will.

Find your own prayers that work in your life, both in their substnace and the time to include them in your meditations.​ I will continue to try and do this in my prayer life.

Pilgrimage in the Year of Mercy

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“This (Holy Year) is the opportune moment to change our lives!” the pope has said. “This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched!…May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion.”

– Pope Francis

This is what Pope Francis said when he opened up this Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. I touched on the idea of what a pilgrimage is a few weeks ago, and as I proceed through this holy year, I’m still wondering.

I have several plans that involve retreats and learning; contemplation and writing, and I’m not sure where one activity ends and one begins.

Is that a pilgrimage? A retreat? A holiday?

And where does mercy fit in?

I honestly don’t know, and part of this year for me is looking for my own form of mercy; for me.

I’m much better at giving mercy to others, forgiving and letting things go, but I still haven’t done my pre-Easter penance for reconciliation, not because it’s too hard, but because it involves another person and that is the hardest thing to ask of me.

So I ask you:

What does this mean for me in particular as I take my retreats this year, and sort of a partial pilgrimage?

Or just wander through my notebook and my Kindle finishing projects and beginning others?

At the end of this holy year, will I have traveled enough to find my mercy?

Our parish is one of the lucky ones that is not a cathedral, but still has a Holy Door to enter. I’ve walked through it once, earlier in the year, simply as an introduction to myself and to G-d of my intentions, but I will be going through it again after some prayer and meditation.

It gives me joy to see it whenever I go to my church, and it also gives me the reminder that the year is not over yet. I still have time to find my way, and my way begins through that door.

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Holy Wednesday

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On Palm Sunday, we read the Passion of Christ for our Sunday Gospel. our palms were blessed with holy water and we sang Hosanna. This is one of those times during the Mass that many voices are heard: the narrator, the priest as Jesus, Peter and others voiced by one person and the crowd, voiced by the rest of the congregation. In my mind, when we are the ones calling for Christ’s crucifixion it is our reminder that we are all with sin and all seek salvation.

Christ dying for our sins isn’t a free pass to continue sinning; it is only the beginning of our salvation.

Throughout this Holy Week, the Gospels remind us of the difficult week that was in store for Jesus and his disciples.
In today’s homily our Deacon called it Silent Wednesday. When I went to look that up Google offered me the question, ‘why is the D in Wednesday silent?” Not quite, Google, but thank you for reminding me that wording is everything.

It is Silent Wednesday because we are unsure of what Jesus did on this Wednesday. There is no mention of his actions, although we assume this is when Judas put his betrayal into action. For that reason, it has also been called Spy Wednesday; spy having a slightly different meaning in ancient/medieval times and related to ambush. (There are a few Biblical scholars that have expressed the idea that the actual crucifixion took place on Wednesday, but I think that still needs some more research.)

For the modern Catholic, we look at Judas, the betrayer, the catalyst to Jesus’ crucifixion and wonder how as his friend, he could have done such a thing, betrayed his friend, his close friend. We can’t imagine any of us doing that to Jesus, and for me, it baffles the mind.

It causes me to think of the times I was betrayed or betrayed someone close to me. how did I feel? How did they? I know in one instance it took years of grudgingly thinking about this person before I finally dismissed it. I’m not sure if it’s forgiven, but it’s not as important in my life. I have a long memory and some grudges are really insignificant regardless of how much they hurt in the moment, even the later. moments.

I let go more now. I really do try to have no grudges. It’s hard. It’s human nature to blame someone else, and if they’re actually guilty, well, why not then?

But then I think – Jesus forgave Judas. He didn’t blame him personally. He forgave Peter for disavowing their friendship and hopefully Peter forgave himself.

Today is the day to think about that forgiveness and how hard it is and can be to forgive someone, to move forward in meaningful ways.

Reflect on those times you were forgiven and those times you forgave and try to hold the feelings of forgiveness and letting go in your heart on this quiet, Silent Wednesday.