Tuesday, April 2, 2013

signs and symbols

On April 1, 1981, Michael and I announced to all our friends that we were engaged.

A very very young Michael and Maria, 
standing in front of the University of Texas Catholic Center, where we met 

We thought we were SO funny—not to mention clever—choosing April Fools' day to make the official announcement. As if our friends couldn’t already recognize the signs revealing where our relationship was headed!

I’ve been thinking a lot about signs, symbols, and the powerful ways that they genuinely reflect our inner lives, my inner life—and what’s important to me, while simultaneously becoming a metaphor for the big picture of (read everlasting) life.

It was a beautiful, intense and eventful Holy Week and Triduum, packed to the brim with symbolism.

And I hope you will forgive me, but even though we’re beginning the Easter season, it’s going to take me a while to process and digest the powerful liturgies of these past few days, particularly the Easter Vigil and all its signs and symbols.

following the yellow arrow, Camino de Santiago

Speaking of symbols--and before I forget, as promised, here’s what I wrote for the New York Times section “Room for Debate” on the topic, “What is the purpose of Lent,” which was published on Good Friday.  

By the way, the actual question proposed to me was, “is there a point to giving things up for Lent? 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 to read all of the entries.

I’m trying very hard to follow my friends’ sage advice to not read the comments published online! That being said, I want to thank you in advance for considering taking the time to write a comment at the NYTimes site demonstrating to the editor that you read my writing! 


  1. Thanks for this post; I've been away for awhile, so busy during Triduum, and not online as much.

    It was great to be pointed to the NYT post! And it was both a privilege and pleasure to post a comment, which I just did.

    1. Thank you Fran! I deliberately fasted from blogging, FB, Twitter, etc over Holy Week... I missed it! And I missed you :-)

  2. Oh, I forgot to leave a comment, Maria. I will go do that now! That picture is priceless! :)

    1. yes, priceless... that's the word I would use... HA!! we look like babies.