Friday, June 24, 2016

where do you see God?

I woke up today dreaming of my Camino buddy Pat.

In my dream, she was not the spunky Pat that walked with me over 350 miles across northern Spain on our pilgrimage, but the Pat she became after surgery to fight the brain cancer that eventually killed her.

Sometimes the veil between earth and heaven is über thin, and I can almost hear the voice of those I love who no longer walk this earthly pilgrimage.

June will always be associated with Pat and the Camino for me. And the Camino will forever remind me of the wonder and awe that God delights in surprising me with—with each of us—at the most unexpected moments.

From my Camino journal, 13 years ago this week:

Notas:  Today we walked through the town of Castañeda, location of the 12th century lime ovens used to constroct the Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral! – Pilgrims once carried stones from Triascastela to these ovens.

Tonight we had dinner at the local bar during the “off” hours – the woman in charge, Ana, took pity on us and sent her worker/daughter? Maria to serve us -- in spite of the place being closed.  After dinner, when I thanked her for taking care of us she told me how once when she and her husband were traveling they arrived at the town early, too early for dinner. But they had to get some food – and the restaurant wouldn’t serve them because it was not the right time, although she could see the food already prepared... She swore she would never do that… thank you God for Ana!

Yesterday when Mass at the parish church ended, one of the pilgrim’s (an older man with a bushy beard whom I had see at the Melide albergue earlier) started siging an ode to Mary.  He had perfect pitch and sang with the trained voice of a professional.

It was amazing—and the regular parishioners stayed at the church to listen to him, reverently standing and facing the front altar until he was done.  He just stood there, holding a little book and singing… he seemed to have a German accent? Or perhaps French…

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

and add that your name is dirt

Stop trying to think out a solution for the moment: there isn’t one. One day there may be; God will then show it to you. In the meantime, accept it all as being the big thing for God and his Church that he asks of you—that, and the depression too. You will find the relief of merely accepting, instead of struggling, wonderful; and I include in this, accepting anything in yourself, during the crisis, which seems to you a failure or fault. Don’t exonerate yourself, but just say you are sorry, briefly, to God, and add that your name is dirt—that’s what is to be expected from you—but you’re sorry, you are forgiven, and it is over. 
During the war I was simply terrified by air raids, and it was my lot to be in every one that happened in London—sometimes on the roofs of these flats, sometimes in the hospital… I tried to build up my courage by reason and prayer, etc. Then one day I realized quite suddenly: As long as I try not to be afraid I shall be worse, and I shall show it one day and break; what God is asking of me, to do for suffering humanity, is to be afraid, to accept it and put up with it, as one has to put up with pain (if it’s not druggable) or anything else. I am not going to get out of any of the suffering. From the time the siren goes until the All Clear, I am going to be simply frightened stiff, and that’s what I’ve got to do for the world—offer that to God, because it is that and nothing else which he asks of me.”
~Caryll Houselander

I sure love it when I read some sort of reflection or essay and find myself laughing out loud at the words—especially when it’s because of the intimacy (with God) and honesty of the author.

“…and add that your name is dirt,” certainly made me laugh… and pay attention to the rest of the essay!

I have been fighting a stiff, painful neck for over a week. In the past decade or so, I’ve had a number of issues with my neck and shoulders, including surgery on my cervical spine, so it is safe to say that I have learned many things that help me when I’m struggling with this type of pain.

But this time, nothing I’ve tried is working. Nothing is making it go away—or even feel much better.

What I hear in Caryll Houselander’s words is the wisdom that comes from knowing – from living – acceptance, rather than struggle.  Surrender, rather than self-sufficiency. And confidence in God’s presence in the every day of life, every single aspect of it, rather than worry or fear.

In other words—why do I think I have to… get over / get better / be better / succeed / try harder / pray harder… before God can use me?  Before I can offer my day and myself to God?
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NOTE: if you’re interested in learning a bit more about Caryll Houselander, check out this blog post by my friend, the talented Heather King.

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"If we only have sense enough to leave everything to the guidance of God's hand, we should reach the highest peak of holiness."

~Jean-Pierre de Caussade,
Abandonment to Divine Providence

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NOTE #2: All photos are from my recent drive and visit to the great city of St. Louis for this year's Catholic Media Conference!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

wall mosaic, Walsingham, England © María Ruiz Scaperlanda

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,

they were all in one place together.

And suddenly there came from the sky

a noise like a strong driving wind,

and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
~first chapter of Acts

Thursday, May 12, 2016

remembering my dad

“Maybe you’re not supposed to get over it. Some things you can’t move past. They scar you. Change you permanently.”

~Agent Mae to Coulson on TV’s “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”

“If you can be still a suffer awhile, you shall without a doubt see the help of God come in your need.

~Thomas A. Kempis, Imitation of Christ

The bigger and deeper my emotions are, the less I seem to be able to find words to describe or even name what I’m feeling. 

And there has been a lot going on the past two weeks, all tugging at my heart for expression.

I’ve confessed before that I am a slow processor.  It’s taken me a while, but I’ve learned that – whether it’s a happy / joyous event or a difficult/ painful one, I simply have to give myself time to feel my way through it.

Ironically, in this kind of situation, writing, which is usually my avenue, does not work.  So instead, I turn to the things that nourish me: to music and to nature and to quiet prayer and to walking with my Siberian Husky Diego.

The funny thing is that, in spite of not being able to use writing to process what is going on inside me, I find the Holy Spirit reaching out to help me through the most unconventional means – like the quote above between two characters in the superhero television drama, “Marvel’s Agents of Shield.” 

God knows that I love superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories – so why should I be surprised? I already know that God does not waste any details. And as Saint Paul reminds me in his letter to the Romans,

And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” [chapter 8, verses 26 and 27]

Here’s where I am with my processing today.  As Agent Mae emphasized, some things in life you don’t “get over,” and what’s more, we’re not supposed to get over, because they change us permanently.

What a helpful reminder... especially as I remember my Papi on the second anniversary of his death.

God said, “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!”

~book of Daniel, chapter 10, verse 19

“…pray always without becoming weary.”
~Luke 18:1

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 19, 1995: why we must never forget

When I first arrived at the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, to report on the Oklahoma City bombing for Catholic News Service, police lines and makeshift shelters had already been drawn.
Budding spring gardens had instantly succumbed to military tents, hastily erected to serve as temporary morgue, as ATF/FBI evidence gathering sites, and as a canteen for rescue workers. Law enforcement and fully armed military personnel lined the streets. Breathing masks, bloodied bandages, and much broken glass testified to the human carnage that had taken place there hours before. Thick grey dust covered everything.
Northwest of the building, a block-long square area had instantaneously become an international media center, camera crews mixing with fallen debris, van food vendors, and cars demolished by the blast. Overhead, helicopters circled the downtown radius accusingly pointing flood lights at the empty streets. The sounds of sirens, voices, and motors blended effectively with the humming of drilling equipment at the site, where workers used lighted cranes to continue rescue operations around the clock.
On that fateful spring morning, 168 people died (171 counting theunborn) and hundreds of survivors were maimed and injured, forever scarred. The hundreds of rescuers from all over the world that came those first few weeks will be eternally haunted by what they saw at the site: debris, twisted metal, and shards of broken glass mingled with the smell of death and reminders of those who worked there-purses, pieces of clothing, toys, shoes, and grisly body parts.
"It's worse than the most horrible Friday the 13th movie you can imagine-you can't walk out of this theatre," told me 25-year-old Steve Mavros from the Oklahoma Canine Search and Rescue out of Tulsa. Mavros and his specially trained dog, Bucephalos, were one of the first deployed to the site to identify the location of humans and human remains. "We would have a hit-a human find-but only find a piece of a body."

I have no doubt in my heart that in those moments of such massive death and suffering, the veil between heaven and earth becomes so thin that we can, literally, recognize God’s Presence in our midst.

So it is important that we remember... that we never forget days like April 19, 1995.

Remember the lives of those who died, not only where they died. Remember the victims' families. Remember those who survived and are still struggling to heal. Remember the stories of tireless rescue workers (many who traveled here from states all over the country!) who risked their lives in the still-trembling building to find survivors, and eventually, to bring the dead home.
Remember how there was no looting in that wrecked downtown, and how crime was virtually non-existent for several days in this city of half a million people. Remember the thousands of devoted community volunteers. Remember how the money turned in after the blast from the Federal Employees Credit Union vault housed in the Murrah building exceeded the money originally held in that vault.
We will always remember that the stories of human goodness, generosity, and compassion overwhelmed and conquered one despicable act of evil.  

Note: I have written before about April 19, 1995. The above is an edited version of various posts, in this blog and others.  And the photos here are mine, © María Ruiz Scaperlanda. 

For more stories of hope, check out my first book, "Their Faith Has Touched Us: The Legacies of Three Young Oklahoma City Bombing Victims."