Thursday, January 30, 2014

Heather King + Magnificat = priceless

You may already know about the award-winning publicationMagnificat. It’s my go-to source for the Scripture readings of the day, night prayer, and daily reflections.

And you may also already know of Heather King from her popular and insightful blog ShirtofFlame, or from one of her published memoirs, or maybe you recognize her name from the lovely book “Shirt of Flame: a Year with St. Thérèse of Lisieux.”

But—have you seen yet Heather King’s collection of Magnificat reflections, “Holy Days and Gospel Reflections”?

This little book is truly a gem.

Using one or two page-long reflections—that short and punchy Magnificat formula that I’ve grown to love, Heather King gives new light and perspective to even the most common feasts.

With insight and discernment, King intuitively demonstrates that—whatever the topic—she’s thought about, pondered, prayed over, and finally, ingested what she hears God saying about it for her life.  And with sincere openness, she allows this Catholic faith to speak to her, daily.

I confess that I’ve loved Heather King’s writing ever since I read her memoir “Redeemed” –and I discovered her blog. I appreciate and am thankful for the way she allows herself to wrestle with the meaning and purpose of the personal events in her life.  She gets that life is in constant motion—and that our task is to say ‘yes.’

But perhaps the greatest gift that King gives her readers is her disarming honesty and vulnerability—and the fact that she writes about it, reminding us to be “real” in our common pilgrimage of faith.

Take for example this reflection in the book, the entry for “All Souls Day,” November 2nd.  On a visit to her aging mother, King acknowledges her life-long desire to connect with her mom, to “know” her—and to have her mom “know, see, understand” her, the oldest child.

“Mom,” I blurted, “do you think after we die that we’re reunited with the people we love? Do you think afterward we’re all together?”

“No,” she replied shortly. “I think when you go you just go. I just try to enjoy each day as it comes.”

My mind raced. Mom, a lifelong Protestant, believed in God: what about the Resurrection? What about the seed falling to the ground and dying and bearing much fruit? What about Jesus appearing to the disciples after the third day?

“Really?” I said. “You don’t think there’s anything afterward at all?”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” she waved me off. “That will take care of itself. Let someone else worry for a change.”

I looked over at that dear, common-sense face, and I suddenly saw that I must have driven her crazy with my incessant desire to over-bond, over-emote, over-worry. I saw my whole life I’d waited for a conversation that in this world didn’t, couldn’t, exist. Enjoy each day as it comes. Let someone else worry for a change. Everything is all right. Everything had always been all right.

Maybe the greatest gift we can give the people we love, alive or dead, is to free them from our expectations. I will pray for her, and all those I have loved, on All Soul’s Day.

But no one, not even Mom, can convince me that we’re not going to all be together after we die.

Or this one, a reflection on Damaris, a woman of Athens converted by St. Paul’s preaching in the Areopagus:

Damaris… her name appears nowhere else in Greek literature.

Paul is preaching the resurrection of the dead, a scandal in any era, and it is humbling to consider the unlikeliness that anyone is ever converted at all. It is humbling to remember that we go back in an unbroken line to these first few converts who were willing to believe what we want to believe but can hardly bring ourselves to believe: that death is not the end; that a lowly carpenter from the backwater of Nazareth entered human space, time, and history, and vanquished death.

I once attended a prison orientation in order to be able to share the story of my alcoholism with the inmates. For three hours the trusty went on about the hardened criminals, the crafty criminals, the criminals who would come for the coffee but not for the message. But to have broken through prison walls yourself is to know that someone else can, too.

At the end, I raised my hand. “A hundred won’t hear, but one will,” I said. “That’s why we come.”

That is how our faith is spread, then, as now.

Paul preaches. Damaris hears.

Trust me. This is one book you want to keep on your prayer table or nightstand.

I do.