1/8 – Year of Mercy

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The Jubilee Year of Mercy began on December 8, 2015 (the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) and will conclude on November 20, 2016 (the Solemnity of Christ the King).

Pope Francis has, at the cornerstone of his pontificate encouraged mercy and forgiveness as well as reconciliation and communion between the three Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as well as all Christian faiths and tolerance for those who do not believe the same or believe at all.

The plenary indulgence may be gained by passing through the Holy Doors that are opened during the Jubilee Year in the Basilicas of Rome.

To make it more accessible to more people, Pope Francis authorized a Holy Door in all of the Cathedrals across the world as well as in some parishes and shrines, including my own home parish.

Pope Francis called for pilgrimage, but since I didn’t have to go to Rome, I thought of other ways to continue my pilgrimage of faith that I had begun two years before my baptism and welcome into the church.

This was something tangible that I could participate in. My faith and my writing intersect on many, if not all, levels. I did not want to simply walk through the door and have that be it. I discerned and meditated on when I would walk through the Holy Door, and what it would be the beginning of.

It took me weeks to feel the right feelings. I wasn’t sure I cared too deeply about plenary indulgences – I wasn’t even sure what they were, but I did know that I wanted to participate in the Year of Mercy, not only for myself but for the world around me.

Having mercy and offering forgiveness is so much more than not being judgmental and not holding a grudge, and I think as someone who does both, I wanted something spiritual that would teach me and let me expand what I was feeling and needing.

This year is also the year that I turn 50, and I’m not sure that was so much coincidence as fate to get me to this place at this time.

I stood in front of the Holy Door as parishioners went in the main entrance. I studied the picture on the left and the short prayer on the right.

I prayed the Holy Father’s prayer for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy that he provided.

And then I opened the door and stepped in.
There was a whoosh of warm air as the outside air met the inside air, but maybe it was something more. I stood still for a moment as the warmth settled on my face, and then I sat in my regular pew for the regular mass.

During the course of the year, I’ve said the Pope’s Prayer for Mercy several times. I’ve attended the Divine Mercy Mass with the Bishop and recited the Divine Mercy Chaplet on the rosary beads. I’ve gone to reconciliation and said my confession, both on Divine Mercy Sunday and throughout the year when I’ve felt the need to be absolved. I’ve received the Eucharist. I’ve prayed for the Pope’s intentions.

My pilgrimage was a bit more complicated and I’ll talk about that in the weeks to come. leading to the conclusion of this Jubilee Year.

Join me as I post seven more of these, one each Sunday until November 20th.

50-17 – Manchester

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​I thought I was just afraid to fly. I thought I was really afraid to fly. I had a talisman to hold onto from my friend, a bottle of Xanax from my doctor, and even then I wasn’t sure if I’d get on the plane or not. I’m wasn’t worried (and still not for the most part) about the plane crash landing, but the enclosed spaces get me. I want an aisle seat every time, and that doesn’t really help. It gives the illusion that I have an escape route.

Psychology. It’s mind-boggling.

I didn’t find out until about three years later, but that fear of flying wasn’t a fear – it was anxiety in the form of disorder. It was diagnosed when I was diagnosed with depression, but at the time of this transatlantic holiday, I thought I was afraid to fly.

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50-16 – Grandma’s Basement

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Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Mystery of the 99 Steps, 1966


My grandmother’s basement was perfect for reading Nancy Drew mysteries. It was the kind of basement you’d expect to find a body buried in. It was scary and exciting, and inviting all at the same time. There was a window that you couldn’t see out of because of all the overgrowth in the yard just above the window line.

It was a finished basement with a floor and paneled walls. Between the brush shadows and the paneling, it made for a very dim space. Dampness hung in the air, but that didn’t dimish its charm to a preteen girl reading mystery stories.

There were built in shelves filled with dusty books for all age ranges. I remember a lot of different blue hued books. Blue seemed to be a popular color for a book cover. None of them had book jackets that I recall.

There was a couch and a round coffee table in the center of the seating area.

There was another side to the basement that I don’t remember as well. I don’t think we went on that side or if we did it was rare. That is probably where the washing machine was and the furnace – those important things that keep the house going, but remain invisible to visitors.

There was also a door leading to the garage. It was a one car garage at the bottom of a steep driveway. It smelled of oil and gasoline, and every time we drove into the dreiveway, I thought for sure we were going to slide right through the closed garage door.

But the other side, with the books and shelves and seats, that was where we played and read and pretended. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and whatever else came to mind.

When I think of my grandmother’s house, this is invariably what I picture in my mind.

Google Image, 2016. This is the outside of my grandmother’s house. It is a little different than when I visited her there in the ’70s.

 

50-15 – Bart Conner and Nadia Comeneci

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Many of these begin with ‘when I was a kid’ or a teenager or in college, but so many of the things that I rmember are from those times. Sometimes they stand out because of the people I was with or I’m reminded of them because of a recent event or circumstance.

When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on Bart Conner. I loved watching all of the gymnasts – male and female – compete both at the world championship level and at the Olympic level. I was a big fan of the Olympics and u sed their subject for several papers and speeches throughout high school and college. I was a fan.

For a long time I followed the careers of Kurt Thomas – up until his retirement to coach, and Bart Conner. They seemed ot always finish one or two, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who finished where.

I got ahold of Bart’s address in college – the University of Oklahoma at Norman and sent fan letters, letters of congratulations and the like. He returned with a postcard and a Christmas card. The Christmas card is long lost. I have a photocopy of it from my friend, Susan who joined me on the Christmas card writing.

Many years later, after we’d moved to the upstate New York area, I saw an advertisement that Bart Conner and his wife, Nadia Comeneci would be signing autographs in the local mall.

How could I pass up this opportunity, not only to meet my crush and hero, Bart Conner while making a fool of myself reminiscing about our high school correspondence, but to meet Nadia Comeneci, the most famous international gymnast in the world. During the 1976 Montreal Games and at 14, she became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at an Olympic Games.

It was beyond thrillling.

If it occurred today, I would easily ask for a photo, but back then, about eighteen or so years ago, I felt I was intruding despite them being there for their fans in the first place. I was so intimidated with stereotypical jelly legs and stammering voice, but they were both kind and lovely, and someday I will find that autographed picture.

Meeting your heroes can be either a blessing or a curse. I’ve been lucky that in all my instances of meeting celebrities and sports figures, I’ve been very lucky that I have not been let down. It is a testament to their seriousness as role models in their fields.

50-14 – MahJong

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​When my mother died a few years ago, I asked for her mah jong set. No one else cared; no one else wanted it. I was probably the only one who had any real memories of it in action. In our childhood neighborhood, and at aunts’ and uncles’ houses in the Bronx and Queens there were weekly games.

Bubbly hair that was so full of hairspray it could withstand tornado, nuclear blast or the annual wedding dress sale at Filene’s. The cat’s eye glasses that is so central to the 1970s vintage look that then was merely in its infancy.

Four folding chairs, unfolded and set around a card table taken from the hall closet. No tablecover that I remember, but four different colored tile racks, the top for showing your play and the tilted one (like Scrabble) that no one could see what still remained in your hand.

I didn’t know how to play. I still don’t,but when I was a kid, I thought I did. I’d move the tiles around. My mother’s set has jewel toned racks, and I brought out the green one to display on top of the case – it is very much like a briefcase with two latches on the side that keep it closed, but doesn’t require a key to open. The rest of the set is housed inside the case.

I keep it on the bottom of my barrister bookcase. That’s one of those bookcases with a glass front so you can see what’s inside. It fits perfectly on that bottom display.

Whenever I look at it I think about the card table and the food we weren’t allowed to touch. We were sent outside with the other kids.

I don’t remember if everyone shared one set to play on, but everyone had their own set. Maybe the host provided the playing set.

Even now, I can hear the clattering of the tiles on the racks. They look like marble but from their weight, I’d guess that they’re not.

I can hear the bam, and the dot, and the joker and dragon.

Wine flowed, crudite crunched, and tiles clattered while we kids ran around outside, and then through the living room being chastised and sent once again on our way and our of our parents’ ways.