Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#SmallMerciesMiércoles: I'm grateful for... our Catholic liturgies

I've had a busy, non-stop kind of day, which means I'm writing this #SmallMerciesMiércoles post in the evening--as I wait for dinner. I'm not sure what my daughter Michelle is cooking for us tonight, but I can tell you that the smells making their way to my office are pretty spectacular... but I digress!

At our parish tonight we celebrated and prayed together a modified Tenebrae service, also known as "a service of shadows."  To read more about this monastic tradition go here.

I was very moved by this response, which we chanted throughout the readings, psalms, and prayers:

This is the holiest of weeks of the year, with liturgies that are rich in meaning and abounding in beauty, and tonight's service was no exception. It was lovely, reflective, and challenging, a perfect entrance to the Triduum we begin tomorrow. To read more on the Triduum go here.

As I reflect on the richness of our Catholic faith and traditions, what I'm grateful for today becomes quite obvious. 

I'm grateful for... our Catholic liturgies, and how they connect me across time, history, and space with the whole community of believers!

This will be my last blog post until Easter week, so I'll leave you with two thoughts. First, from my dear friend Father Thomas Boyer, a brilliant homilist, now retired:
"The Passion of Christ is not about how Christ suffered, what happened to him, and how awful we might think it was. The Passion of Christ is about his response, not his persecution...  
Watch and learn from the master. Despite his fear and his agony, he is focused on God and on others. He meets women who are weeping for him, and he tells them to weep for themselves. He hangs there with a criminal, and he comforts him with a promise of Paradise. No matter what happens in this Passion, it is never about him. He remains attentive and focused on God and the needs of others…   This is what we can learn from the Passion; not how Christ died, but what he still teaches us through his death about hope, about sacrifice, and about love for others."
And finally, something I wrote last year, published on Good Friday in the New York Times section “Room for Debate.”  The question was,  “What is the purpose of Lent.”  Here's my response:
Ten years after my friend Pat and I walked 350 miles of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, we laugh about the vigorous women we were then. Pat is battling life-threatening brain cancer, and I’m learning to function with a diminishing chronic autoimmune condition.
It would be too simple to say our physical circumstances are a metaphor for the struggles and challenges of the Camino. In so many ways, the Camino is a metaphor for our whole lives: I can’t anticipate what struggles today will bring, but anything is doable one step at a time. Every uphill has a downhill. Hardship becomes manageable with a friend. Every single thing that I carry weighs me down, so I must choose wisely. 
In our culture, pain, suffering, worries, difficulties and grieving are all things to conquer — and to anesthetize as quickly as possible. Each of us is an addict looking for a quick fix. Drugs. Food. Exercise. Sex. Shopping. Disposable relationships. Whatever it takes to not feel bad, sad, hurt. 
Thus the question for me is not whether there’s a point to giving things up during Lent, but whether I should ever stop fasting from all that numbs, dulls and deadens me to life, all of life, as it is today — the good and the bad. Fasting makes me willing to try. 
For Christians, Good Friday stands alone in holiness and singularity. The day defines who and what we believe — and what makes us different. Christianity scandalously proposes a God who becomes human out of love for humanity. The scandal deepens when this God-made-man willingly accepts suffering and death out of complete trust. 
The Passion of Christ is not ultimately about how Christ suffered; it’s not a documentary on the History Channel. The Passion is about Jesus’ response. 
In the midst of intense pain, in spite of undeserved persecution and profound discrimination, Jesus keeps his eyes on God, commending his heart and entire being to the one he trusted completely and without reservation. Each Lent, I fast to remember.
Go here if you'd like to read all of the other entries.

wood carving by a Costa Rican artisan, on our home's entryway

God of mercy, make these holy days
a time of hope and promise for your people!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Christ, my only king

my home's entry way, a couple of reminders that this week is unlike any other week
Christ is my only King; it is for him that I fight; it is to him that I have given my glove; it is him I would glorify and defend… 
There is only one truth, and that is to love Jesus Christ and to teach others to love him, to give him our poor miserable and lacerated hearts… 
Jesus’ preaching addresses itself not only to the outer man but to the inner. His task is to reach the heart of hearts. It is not just his power that he must display, as when he changes water into wine, multiplies the loaves, calms the sea. There are all those hard hearts, those hearts of stone that he must soften and melt by planting in them the spark of love and ridding them of the scab of habit and the ulcer of sin. 
This is why his whole campaign up to the very end is a profusion of good deeds; it is the suffering flesh that must be won over first. He gives sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. He straightens the palsied; he purifies the lepers; he drives out unclean spirits; he feeds the starving—if necessary he even raises the dead; but more wonderful still, he forgives sins! He knows that we cannot help loving someone who is good to us, and if it is through God that this good is done, well, perhaps we will begin to love God a little and to obey him, for it is clear and evident that in this way lies salvation.”
~Paul Claudel, 
I Believe in God: A Meditation on the Apostle’s Creed

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday: are you ready for this week?

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

                                                                                     ~Phil 2: 6-11

Friday, April 11, 2014

the mud and muck of Lent

Here we are, heading toward Jerusalem with Jesus. Palm Sunday is in two days, and all of sudden we’re neck-deep into Lent, aren’t we?

I don’t know about you, but for me this also means I’m immersed in the mud and muck, the nitty-gritty down and dirty of all my good intentions, misgivings, and desires.

All I have to say is that this business of loving our neighbor is not for sissys:
“This offering of ourselves, all we possess, and everything we have received from God forms part of our prayer of adoration in which we recognize and profess our dependence on God. For if we offer all these things to God, it is because we count on him to provide or to preserve them for us and because he has given them to us only so that we may render him honor and glory because of them.  
We ask God for the things we need to achieve our salvation when we beg him both to give us the graces necessary for us to do good and avoid evil and to grant us pardon for our sins.  
Asking God for the graces needed to do good means asking him to give us the opportunity and the facility to perform some good action that we find difficult, such as pardoning a person who has wronged us or who is ill-disposed to us, doing all the good we can for that person, or, more particularly, greeting that person, saluting when we meet, and speaking with much charity even if we feel great repugnance in doing this, or accomplishing some other action that we may have an opportunity of doing either now or soon."
~Saint John Baptist de la Salle, as published in Magnificat Magazine

Let us pray for one another 
as we walk with the Lord 
towards the cross of our salvation!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Small Mercies Miércoles! today I'm grateful for... spring!

What if the events of our history are molding us as a sculptor molds his clay, and it is only in a careful obedience to his molding hands that we can discover our real vocation and become mature people? What if all the unexpected interruptions are in fact invitations to give up old-fashioned and outmoded styles of living and are opening up new unexplored areas of experience? And finally, what if our histories do not prove to be a blind impersonal sequence of events over which we have no control, but rather reveal to us a guiding hand pointing to a personal encounter in which all our hopes and aspirations will reach their fulfillment? Then our life would indeed be different, because then fate becomes opportunity, wounds a warning, and paralysis an invitation to search for deeper sources of vitality.
~Henri Nouwen in "Reaching Out"

Between recovering from completing the full draft of my book project on Servant of God Father Stanley Rother and traveling to Charlottesville, Virginia, to visit family, I've been remiss in my blog writing.

Don't give up on me. I plan to do better! 

Today is Wednesday, which means it's time to acknowledge Small Mercies in my life--and there have been many.

I'm grateful for... signs of Spring in my backyard, a reminder of God's presence, power, and hope. Make me anew, Lord!

NOTE: ...with thanks to Dan Wakefield's blog on Patheos, who published the Nouwen quote [click here to read blog: "Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: 25 years of Image"]

Friday, April 4, 2014

this is a new country, what shall we name it?

I am traveling this week--visiting family in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

But I don't want to leave you empty handed until next week, so... I hope you enjoy this edited version of a previous blog post on one of my favorite subjects: dreams!

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem, 2012

I have had some crazy, vivid dreams lately. 

More often than not I will only remember one image, one person, or one event in the dream, but I’ve been trying to write down whatever I do remember, especially any strong emotions I remember feeling. 

The other day I woke up with only one line: 
“This is a new country, what shall we name it?”

It made me laugh out loud.

It reminds me of something I wrote a few years ago, as I tried to sort out how I felt about my physical condition and its limitations:
I feel a layer of anger swimming right below the surface of my awareness, like a layer of fat that needs to be discarded from a great soup. I feel betrayed by my body, and I am angry about it, and angry with me. It’s a crazy circle, and I know that it’s not productive, let alone healthy.
When I shared these ponderings with my spiritual director Joanne, a wise and beautiful woman, she just smiled at me and said: 
“Maria, you are learning to take care of yourself, and you’re taking it to other areas of your life! What I hear is calmness, trusting, a certainty that allows you to name the anger. Things are okay. I am so proud of you, your faithfulness to do the healing work. God will show you what’s next.” 
The healing work that I am committed to do involves all of me—my physical being, yes, but also my emotional, mental, and spiritual being. 

I may not, but God sees how good it already is.

It frequently does feel like traveling in a new and undiscovered country, a place where I’ve never been, and where I don't recognize the language. 

But this is a journey of a lifetime and not one that I have to conquer right now. The real challenge is whether I will be true to the journey, and faithful to the work it brings to me today.

[edited version of this post was first published under "the healing journey" on October 11,2012]

Monday, March 31, 2014

digging deep

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
~ Seamus Heaney                                          

[Note:  Click here to read the rest of the poem “Digging” 
by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. 
And click here to read an AMERICA Magazine column 
on Seamus Heaney’s poetry by Michael Doyle]

My middle daughter was at our house the night of the Academy Awards. She’s the daughter who happens to have a degree in film and loves to write film reviews. I love watching events like this with her because her depth of knowledge and interest in all-things-media inevitably surprises me—and I seem to be a life-long student at her feet!

I sat down to watch as 70-year-old  Robert De Niro and Penelope Cruz walked up to a podium and began to read the script for the Oscar for “Best Adapted Screen Play.”

The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing,” read De Niro in his best annoyed, irritated, bad-boy voice.
“Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self loathing and soul crushing inadequacy… and that’s on a good day.”
The audience roared with laughter. I, on the other hand, felt like someone had opened my brain, grabbed inside, and put into words my deepest insecurities. The truth is he had me at “The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing!”

“Yes, but if everything goes well,” interrupted Penelope Cruz in her beautiful Spanish accent, in the end… there is a [fill in the blank: screenplay, or novel, or book manuscript, or article].”

And so ended the best-written introduction to an Academy Award category of the entire evening.