Sunday, April 8, 2018

in defense of scars

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”

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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

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Death is meant to indelibly scar our hearts because love is meant to wound us in that way.”
~Ron Rolheiser,
"Dying into safe hands."

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For the past few weeks (yes, from the end of Lent and into the Easter season), I have been discovering, little by little, the album Evergreen” by Audrey Assad.

I find her lyrics quite compelling – and today, as I ponder the Gospel where Thomas says out loud that he needs to see Christ’s wounds, it is the beginning of Assad’s song, “When I See You,” that speaks to my heart:

You have loved me well, in a million ways
But my wounds are all I know
So I turn my head, and I hide my face
Too afraid to come back home

But all of the doors swing open
When I see You, when I see You
You make my heart unbroken
When I see You, when I see You
And I come undone, I come undone!

Every one of us is broken, wounded, and scarred in some way. This is, after all, a sign of truly living, of giving, and of dying for others on this our earthly pilgrimage. 

The scars left in me and on me by each wound, mark my life and define my spiritual journey. I would not be who I am today without each one of these marks, these scars.

This is reason enough to sing Alleluia on this second Sunday of Easter, don’t you think?

But our wounds not only tell our story. They also connect us to one another as the Body of Christ. Every one of my scars, visible or internal, can be– if I let them— a sign of mercy and an avenue for genuine compassion for others in their suffering.

Yes, I can speak to you of brokenness, because I, too, have been broken. I have felt despair. I have known unspeakable loneliness. I have walked the way of hopelessness.

Satan, the great deceiver, wants us to drink the Kool-Aid of fear and despair, the lie that says that no one can truly understand me, or my woundedness. Don’t believe it!

That which is most personal is also the most universal. Our personal suffering can and does unite us.

My friend Carrie, who fought until her last breath for more time on this earth in order to mother her young children as long as possible, described the gift of her scars this way.

The marks on her body, Carrie explained to me, was her road map, “a map I hope leads me to eternal life!”

In reality, Carrie and her scars were, and continue to be, a light post leading all of us to heaven. And I have no doubt that her suffering prayers on behalf of others as she walked through that pain, carried many people through their sorrowful journey.

Although I cannot take your pain away, I can walk with you—just as Christ, with all His visible wounds, walks with us.

In the words of my friend and retired pastor, Fr. Thomas Boyer, “As John tells the story, Jesus comes with his wounds, because a risen Lord with no wounds would not have much to say to the wounded people in that room or anywhere else… new life comes from these broken places, and this is resurrection; and it is a call to go, be broken and suffer a bit for the sake of another. 

ps. photos of Chihuly exhibit at Oklahoma City Museum of Art

Monday, April 2, 2018

Feeling the all or nothing of life, as is

There’s an incredibly intense, odd, yet distinctive, feeling that I get following every big family gathering, or rather, after family get-togethers that revolve around a special holy day—like Easter and Christmas.

This year, as has often been true in our family life, Michael and I shared the Triduum services with family members and special friends—Thursday’s Mass, Friday’s veneration of the Cross, and the Easter Vigil, the mother of all liturgies.

And at home, of course, everything culminated on Easter Sunday morning, when everyone gathered at our house for a full day of activities and a special meal – the kind of meal with recipes that are only made once a year.

Although the weather didn’t allow us to hang out in the back yard –my favorite! – we had a lovely afternoon full of laughter and games and storytelling, and not too many breakdowns J.

We seemed to move like a wave through the house, from room to room, ultimately retreating back into the ocean that is our large living room. That’s where we prayed together, where we had our Easter toast, where the kids drag us to read books—or to read books to us!

We had a traditional egg hunt for the Grands and their friends (11 kids total this year) – as well as the latest Scaperlanda Tribe tradition: a Hunger-Game-style egg hunt for adult “kids” under age 36. You’d have to see it to believe it.

Our meal menu has been the same for the last 23 years: garlicky leg-of-lamb, spinach and artichoke casserole, potatoes chantily, and home made rolls (courtesy of our best bread maker, Anamaría). The menu, by the way, comes from a ripped off page (now laminated) out of a Woman’s World magazine dated 4/11/95. The article was titled, “Amy Grant’s Southern-style Easter feast.”  Nope, I’m not kidding.

Today, as I sit in the same large living room that yesterday pulsated with the heartbeat of our family, the space is only filled up by scattered toys, books and empty plastic multi-colored eggs. 

I feel overwhelmed by what I can only describe as bitter sweet. I am spent, physically, yet also a bit weepy.

It’s not that I want my life to be different, or that I yearn for my life as it used to be—all those years of exhausting parenting when my awesome foursome all lived under our roof. I am genuinely delighted to watch my kids grow up, as well as to witness first hand the beautiful families that they are building.

Perhaps it’s the all or nothing of it all? That seems to be a constant element of this stage in our lives. Or perhaps I’m simply feeling the sadness that accompanies all true joy, the being truly here, then moving on. I don’t know.

Still, my house is silent. It is empty. There is something to feel here also. Life as is.

photo by Ignacio Ruiz
photo by Ignacio Ruiz

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

because even thirsty and hungry, I still resist

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

My soul is thirsting for God, the living God; when can I enter and appear before the face of God?”
~psalm 42

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“How quick we are to forget God’s faithfulness. we say we only have one loaf of bread, but remember that Jesus multiplied just a few loaves and fed thousands, with baskets of leftovers remaining.

God has been faithful in the past. God will be faithful again. Don’t let the leaven of forgetfulness grow in your heart. Just remember.”
~Fr. Michael Peterson, OSB
reflection for February 13, 2018, Give us This Day

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Be mine, maría

I am alone in the small second floor rectory chapel.

I sit with eyes fixed on the small crucifix hanging above the altar. Outside, the rumbles of city construction remind me, I’m not in Oklahoma any more.

I came before the Blessed Sacrament to offer not only my talk – an evening presentation I’m giving to college students on our beloved Blessed Stanley Rother – but also to offer myself.

Not my words, but yours.
Not my will, but yours.
Not myself, but you, Lord.
Señor mio y Dios mio.

“Be mine, maría

Yes, Lord. I see you.
I want you.
Grant me the grace to choose you
above all else,
above everyone else.

“Be. Mine. María

This time my reply is silence.

I bow my head in reverence, but also humility, realizing there are no less than six versions of the 1st person pronoun in my brief prayer response to God.

I close my eyes and see my Lord’s open arms, stretched on the cross, and I drop to my knees. 

My be-ing loved beyond measure.

“ Be *MINE* ”

“Be mine, maría