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 Lent – Holy Thursday

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I really believe that we see G-d everywhere if we choose to look. He is in our work, our hobbies, our cooking, our families. However, where he really and truly shows His Presence is in the natural world. I don’t mean holistic, organic, no preservatives, but in the things of the world that man hasn’t created.

This photo is a dichotomy of that. In the foreground is what once was a building with doorways and window spaces, but it’s built into the surrounding rocks and grassy mound. Beyond the wall is a larger, sturdier, massive wall of rock, a hilly walkway that brings you to the beach and at the top corner of the photo is the sea.

Look at the photo. Really look, and find G-d.

Sundays in Lent – Monday of Holy Week

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​”Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.”

Psalm 27:14

Read these words, and sit quietly with them.

What is the first thing you think of?

What do they mean to you?

What are you waiting for the Lord for?
Think of all of this, but especially the verse in the context of this week. Holy Week is a special time and it leads to all things, good and bad, and we must encounter and endure them all in order to get to the greatest day – Easter and the Resurrection.

Massaversary

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Tuesday was my Massaversary. By the calendar, it was really about a month ago, in March, but the first Mass I ever attended was on Holy Tuesday, which was two days ago.

I remember it clearly because of the recommendation of my friend, Tim. He said I should try to attend the masses during Easter’s Holy Week, that they were really lovely. I went to that first one on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, I went to the second one.

And then I discovered that that’s it for the daily  masses in Holy Week. Thursday and Friday and Saturday were all simple prayer services; the big services or masses were held in the evening.

I went to the following prayer services, and was shocked on Saturday to have been caught up so emotionally at the lighting of the Easter fire. It was overwhelming, and almost too much, but it was.

Going back to my first Mass on that Holy Tuesday, it ran just like a regular mass. The fabrics were still purple, the flowers were a mix of greenery and red, leftover from Palm Sunday, although at the time I did not know that.

I sat alone behind an older woman with a colorful embroidered jacket. She was also wearing a hat. I would find out later in the season that her name was Shirley.

I was struck by the synchronicity of it all. Everyone doing the same thing, at the same time, sometimes before the priest gave the signal to move. There was a call and response, and everyone knew all the words. Everyone except me.

I was also struck  by the exercise program of it all.

Sit, stand, cross yourself. Bend your head, sit, stand, cross yourself. Kneel, stand, raise your hands, drop your hands, kneel, stand, raise your hands, drop your hands, shake hands with your neighbor, walk to the front, eat, drink, and walk back. Bow and sit. Then stand, bow, and genuflect.

Add a little bit of music and you’ve got a Richard Simmons video.

It was foreign, and I spent most of my time watching the others, trying to emulate what they did, just slightly slower than they.

That was the beginning.

I still go to the daily mass; at least I try to. I have returned for Lent, and I have indeed missed it. I think I’d gotten lazy, but I’m hoping to make it part of my daily prayer time again.

This year, since last week, excepting today, I’ve stayed after the daily mass for the recitation of the rosary. I have some issues with the after rosary prayer, but that is a subject for another day. All in all, I get good feelings from praying to the Holy Mother; something I couldn’t have imagined five years ago.

So, happy massiversary to me!

And Happy Easter to all of you.

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.

Massiversary

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I was running late this morning, and wondered if I should even try to make it to the 9am Mass. Since it’s Tuesday during Lent (the last Tuesday in fact) there is another mass in the evening. I thought a moment more or two about which one to choose, and then decided to go to the first one.

I was glad I chose that one. Today is my Massiversary, so it was really important for me to be in attendance then.

When I first started showing up at this church, it was random. If I got the urge that I should stop in, I did. I’d find a pew, also randomly, and read that day’s readings from the Missal. Often, they were right on target for what I was feeling or what I needed to hear at that moment. I was going through a lot at that time, and all I wanted was a quiet place where no one would bother me and I could sit quietly. Somewhere I could be anonymous.

I wouldn’t describe it as a perfect solution to what I was feeling, but it was peaceful and what I wanted; what I needed when I needed it. I did this for a couple of weeks, probably closer to almost four. It wasn’t everyday; It was perhaps ten times in total but they were important to me. They centered me and got me ready for my recovery. I hadn’t realized what else I had to look forward to, but all that was on my mind in these first few moments was evening out my mental health. I still call it recovery.

I had been talking about my depression on Facebook and talking about my church visits and receiving encouragement from a small group of close friends who knew what was going on as I started my medication and therapy. One of these friends, T was a college student in Nebraska. He talked about going to the seminary, but was in college for a different major. He was an incredible friend during this time, posting encouragement on his own page that really resonated with me. Scriptures, Antiphons, quotations from saints and holy people. He sent me a very nice, personal note that I still look at on occasion and it gives me abundant feels. Another friend, B, loves choir music and he would also post a variety of encouraging things unbeknownst to him until I mentioned that I found the posts and the music encouraging.

On one of these days, T suggested that I attend an actual Mass, telling me that the Easter week masses were really quite beautiful and he thought I would enjoy them.

I took his suggestion to heart, and showed up on the Tuesday of Holy. Week. A woman was sitting at the end of a middle pew in the church. I noticed her because of her jacket. It was black with multi-colored flowers and stems and leaves embroidered on it. She was also wearing a light colored straw pill box hat. She would wear a hat every day. I loved the embroidery, so I sat two seats behind her. I stood when she stood, and sat when she sat. I didn’t kneel or cross myself, but I followed along as best I could.

The service really affected me, the priest’s homily hit on things that I, again, needed to hear,  and I went back the next day and the day after that. The day after was not a Mass, but a prayer service. At the end of Holy Week the masses are in the evening. We went to visit my mother in law and I borrowed one of the missals for the weekend. I read it every day that we were away.

That was the start. Over the course of that first year, I’d either sit directly behind that woman or two rows back, depending on when the other women arrived. We’d switch back and forth until one of the women sat right next to me. We still sit together.

Today when I arrived, an elderly man was in my usual seat. I sat behind him and about halfway through I realized that this was my original seat that first day, two rows behind my first church friend with the embroidered jacket who’s not here anymore.

I hadn’t intended to make such a memorable statement on this morning, but it was nice that it randomly happened that way.

It was nice remembering that first time. Every day, it’s like the first mass. Except I know what I’m doing. I pray, I cross myself; it all came in its own time, and each different ritual when I was ready. I hadn’t told myself that I was ready; I just did something and realized after that fact that I’d participated in some aspect of the mass.

The rebirth and renewal of Easter is the perfect time to remind me of my beginning with the church. I was baptized two Easters ago even though I’ve attended since 2012. This week is full of those anniversaries, but that first Tuesday will always be a special one for me.

As Holy Week Ends

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It’s full of run on sentences but that just adds to the breathlessness of writing about Wales. I’m really happy with what I did in my travel writer’s class in the twenty minute exercise. Like, really happy with it. Homework is to continue the piece, which I’m very excited about.

Excellent Walking Dead finale! Can’t stop thinking about it. I’m writing great meta in my head, but it won’t transfer to the page. Still working on it. I also loved the April Fool’s from Stephen King about writing an episode. It’s funny how I don’t read his books, but I like everything else about the man.

Excellent Supernatural! Loved every bit of it. Cas jumping into the playground door to heaven was badass. Crowley standing up to Rowena. Rowena’s face when she didn’t kill Dean. Dean and Crowley having a drink together. The séance. Bobby. BOBBY!

The Flash (SPOILERS) had the best moment on so many levels with Mark Hamill playing The Trickster. He leans down close into the copycat’s face and in telling him why he chose him, had a longish pause, and then says slowly and pointedly (and what I guessed was coming), “I am your father.” It was the perfect homage without the shark jumping cliché. I find that’s the best thing about The Flash. It’s really the one thing we love to watch as a family. It has a great pace, full of humor and adventure. Great cast, great story, and as I am the non-comic book reader of the family you don’t need to read the comics to really enjoy this show.

The Easter Vigil is tomorrow night. All throughout this week’s services and masses, people keep coming up to me, asking how I feel, patting my shoulder, hugging me, reminding me that it’s my first anniversary. I’m both excited and non-plussed as I don’t feel that different today than I felt a year ago after the vigil. This church is only becoming more of a belonging space for me. I’m asked to hand out papers and cards after mass. The ongoing support is continuing and welcome.

My son is on his school trip overseas, to France. Several of his close friends are also on the trip. It’s hard to believe he’s already 18, and he’s graduating this spring/summer. He’s just a wonderful person in so many ways.

The other two are fighting like cats and dogs and today is only the first day of spring break!

Last fish on Friday til next year and then turkey dinner for Easter. What should I make for dessert?

We’ll be visiting my mother in law next week. Many of you know that she was hit by a car in 2013 and has been recovering ever since. She is back in the rehab because of a slight set-back, but she is strong and feeling better. This rehab center gives her confidence; they are a good caring place.

I was originally going to write a reflection here on how I was feeling this Holy Week, but when I began to write this (more or less) social media update, I realized that it really spells out how my Holy Week is going and how it’s making me feel. While I didn’t do as much introspection and meditation as I would have liked this Lent, I think that was my own fault for committing myself to a daily reflection. Instead of being a spiritual release, on some days (not many), it became a burden, which was totally not my intention. I’ve never been a questioner about my conversion, but this Lent felt much more comfortable for me with a better direction and reasons for doing things. I found it easier to talk to my kids about Jesus and being Catholic, which was not something that I found stress-free in the past. This morning when I said that I wanted to bring them to the Good Friday service, they didn’t want to go, but when I explained that it was the day that Jesus died and I really wanted to attend, they understood the importance of that, and agreed to go with very little disagreement. They were also very well behaved and my son in particular joined in the group readings and sang along with the hymns. Not exactly something he does, so it made my heart warm. My daughter took out her Kindle and began drawing pictures of churches, steeples and crosses. That was her way of showing her respect and I thought it was right for her. (When I saw her Bike Race app however, I told her to put it away.)

The Supernatural family is still my family and The Walking Dead has sparked my creativity as has this new workshop for travel writing.  Currently, the television is off, although the kids are on tablets, but the house is quiet, which is always a good thing. I did one weekend retreat in February, one day retreat in March, and in May I have plans to do an overnight at the same retreat house. They are very welcoming and accommodating with my money situation. I am also hoping to go again to Spring Enrichment with the Diocese.

I know it seems as though my little world revolves around my church, but the church seems to have brought all of the me’s together to form the birth (or re-birth) of an authentic me, a genuine me, a me who I should be. Add into that my writing, my travel, my faith, history and advocacy, justice and beauty, motherhood and mothering, family and camaraderie. All of my belonging spaces coming together to create my loft house in the woods where I am the only one who can see how the paths converge and spread like the threads of a spider web, catching all of the ideas, all of the wants, all of the being that I long for.

I wasn’t looking for a new religion when I went into my church initially. I wanted quiet; and comfort. Receiving both of those I looked for nothing else. My skepticism held fast, but when Jesus came to me in a bright light, no words were needed; indeed the words are already there through the Gospels. He needed no words to lead me to His salvation, or mine I suppose; the light was enough to open my eyes.

For me, the first half of this is no different from the second half. What I do in my daily life, whether important or insouciant, it is all with the basis of faith; with the foundation of belief; with the heart of Jesus.