Easter, Family, Gratitude, Midwest, Motherhood, Personal Reflection

Home Again

IMG_20190425_142050_875.jpgThis is home. Where I spent my first 18 years. Where I fumbled my way through childhood and teenage ups and downs. Where I witnessed my six older siblings leading the way. Where my parents still reside, ready to feed us, talk Jesus, and start a 1000 piece puzzle any time we’re inclined. I treasure any opportunity to bring my children there so they can stockpile experiences and memories of the place. I’m well aware the opportunities will run out one day. I prefer not to think on that except to let it remind me of the value of those visits.

The kids ask multiple times a week when we’ll return. Well, not so much when we will return. They love more than anything to stay with Grandma and Papa on their own, without me or their dad. And I love allowing them to do so. I love their independence. I love their complete confidence that they will be happy and safe and cared for while they are with their grandparents. I frequently wish that my husband’s parents lived within a few hours drive too, so the kids could be collecting similar experiences with them.

We spent Easter Sunday at my parents’ home and the day was everything beautiful. It began with Mass at my childhood parish. Afterward, I cooked with my mom to serve a delicious dinner at the table that has gathered up our family and friends for countless meals. (Seriously, I didn’t want to stop eating. It was so good.) Then we spent a while soaking in the springtime sunshine.

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My fifteen-year-old stepson, who lives with his mother in a neighboring town, joined us for the afternoon too. Any chance to see the younger two excitedly enjoy time with their older brother is a heart-strengthening treat. Our family of five plus my father walked down the one road that I know better than any other road on this earth. We marveled at how high the creek is now that the snow has melted. We visited my grandparents’ former farm with its collapsing old barns. Lastly, we lingered at the pond, throwing rocks to splash in the water while I remembered all the summer afternoons spent wandering there and the winter days of ice skating on its hardened surface. It was one of those days when I couldn’t overlook my blessings even if I tried.

My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18

Catholicism, Easter, Faith, Intentionality, Scripture

Missing Your Chance… Or Not

I have a vivid memory of sitting on my sister’s living room floor watching her open her birthday gifts. One from me was a bookmark with a George Eliot quote that read, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” She unwrapped and read it then looked at me with wet eyes and asked, “Do you really believe that?” I nodded. She was in her early thirties and was at the start of a remarkable overhaul of her life. She was among the first people to convince me that there is never a good excuse to believe you’ve missed your chance to be who you long to be.

Which brings me to Easter. I intended to write a blog for Easter. A few non-coalesced themes floated around my mind. I even told myself it’d be best to write it early and schedule it to post on Easter. Hours and days passed and then the chance was gone. It was Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and now, here I am talking about my unfulfilled intentions.

And it is still Easter.

In the faith I practice and believe in wholeheartedly, we celebrate Easter for a full season. This season happens to be fifty days. Fifty days of joy, of a special call to gratitude for the gift of salvation, and of reflecting inwardly on the great miracle of Easter.

The memory of my sister and the reality that I missed my chance yet didn’t miss my chance to write something for you all for Easter has me boarding a train of thought I’ll ask you to ride with me. Here it is: could anything possibly be more appropriate to Easter than to consider how what we might assume is missed or finished is far from being so?

An arrest and beating; a turning of the tide of popularity and acceptance; a crucifixion and a grave: all indeed appeared finished.

We forget that our knowledge is partial. We cannot see the full picture or understand the complete, intricate plan. We forget that the shocking empty grave and mystical appearance of the resurrected Christ was not a shock to the One who orchestrated it all. If Easter is teaching me a particular lesson this year it is to never assume that the chance has come and gone to be who I am meant to be and live as I am called to live. The dream, the goal, the change: whatever it might be that you have resigned to past opportunities and assumed must be let go, think again.

The Father above ordained the day of your beginning. Do not concern yourself with identifying endings along the way, or even the final ending He also ordains (which even then will not be a true ending, if grace allows). He gives us our chances in abundance. Some we squander and some we take. Forgive yourself the former and be encouraged by the latter. Then start taking more and squandering less, and leave the rest to God.

Catholicism, Easter, Faith, Holiness, Jesus, Lent

We Are the Cross

We are the cross. The cross that was laid on Jesus’ back and dug into his flesh as he carried it through the streets; the cross that he held onto, bearing it past the taunting crowds and whipping soldiers; we are that cross. The fibers of the wood consist of our sins, our rejections of truth and goodness. It is made up of us, in all our weaknesses and shortcomings. Jesus bears us, lifting us on his beaten shoulders to bring us to the place of salvation.

We are the cross. The cross to which Jesus was willingly nailed; the cross which he accepted in unconditional love; the cross on which he bled; we are that cross. He united himself to us irrevocably. His mercy is scarred into his hands and feet, His blood covers us as it did the wood of that cross: seeping into it and becoming part of it. We are indelibly marked by his redeeming blood.

We are the cross. The cross that was the source of his suffering yet became his throne; the cross that appeared to shame him yet brought glory; we are that cross. He is enthroned in our hearts. He resides in our souls. Every repented sin becomes a glorifying display of the same mercy that held him to the cross.

We are the cross.

Audrey Assad – Death Be Not Proud
Catholicism, Easter, Jesus

Alleluia!

I am spending the first hours of Easter morn baking a few dozen cupcakes, dancing to David Crowder Band in my kitchen and basking in the lingering jubilation of the Easter Vigil Mass. Tonight I witnessed 8 children be baptized and 5 adults enter the full communion of the Catholic Church and receive Confirmation and Eucharist. Tonight I remembered exactly why I love serving in the RCIA ministry. It was a glorious night. It is a glorious morning. I hope you find it so as well.

“Yesterday, I was crucified with Him;
Today, I am glorified with Him;
Yesterday, I died with Him;
Today, I am quickened with Him;
Yesterday, I was buried with Him;
Today, I rise with Him.”
(from an Easter sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen)

Catholicism, Easter, Jesus

Keeping Vigil

“Are you sure He said three days? Maybe you’re remembering wrong.”

“I’m pretty sure. Wish I was wrong though.”

I wonder if any such conversation occurred between the disciples on that first Holy Saturday. It is the full day of Christ being dead in the tomb. The day of waiting, trying to avoid doubt, remembering all the things He said and promised. It must have been a terribly long day. If I were in that locked room with Mary and the eleven remaining disciples, I’d probably have been grumbling with impatience. “Why not this morning? Yesterday and last night were awful enough, why must Jesus make us wait any longer? If He’s coming back as He said He would, why not this morning? It’s the sabbath, after all, so wouldn’t today be appropriate? What is tomorrow? Sunday? Sundays mean nothing to us. He should have risen today.” It’s sad how easily I can imagine myself making these comments.

But with the death and Resurrection of Christ, God was doing something entirely new. Truly Sunday meant nothing to the world in the days when Christ walked the earth. The pagan religions certainly held it in no special regard, it was simply another day of the week. The Jewish people had their holy sabbath from Friday sundown through Saturday. What was Sunday to them? This reality in itself reveals the radical newness of the divine work of the Paschal Mystery. With the Resurrection, God gave us a new holy day. He sanctified Sunday as the weekly anniversary of His defeat of sin and death, making it a great high feast for all who belong to Christ. The influence of Christ is unstoppable and so we find Sunday to be ‘different’ from all other days of the week even among those who do not worship God or practice the Chrsitian faith.

Indeed God did something new and when God does something new it is on His terms – His wise and perfect terms. His terms often involve plenty of waiting time for our part. With the waiting comes a choice: grumble against God’s ways, perhaps mysterious, inconvenient or difficult, and try impatiently to move things along by our own will or keep vigil. The two approaches to waiting could not be more different. Keeping vigil as we wait upon the Lord to fulfill His promises and carry out His will implies so much. Hope- for why keep vigil if you have not the hope that what you are waiting for will come through in the end? Trust and surrender- placing that which we wait for into the hands of God, into the secure and steady grip of His love. Patience- refusing to demand God perform on our terms, we peacefully allow Him to take the lead, make the move and direct the work. A Prayerful Spirit- our vigil might not be free of questions or doubts or pain, but by prayer we bring all of that to the feet of our Lord; “with confidence [we] draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

This is a day of vigil. Indeed, each day is opportunity to keep vigil for we are all waiting on the Lord. For answers to prayers, for guidance, for mercy and ultimately for Him to welcome us into eternal life, we keep vigil. On the wood of the Cross we kneel at the feet of the enthroned Resurrected Christ.
Catholicism, Easter, Jesus

A Good Night

The patio door is open and there is a soft shower falling on the wood of the deck. It is the accompaniment to my thoughts. The weather has had 4 different faces in the course of this Good Friday and I have to say that this is my favorite so far.

Good Friday seems so purposely paced compared to the busyness that will come tomorrow and the rejoicing celebration waiting for us on Sunday. I can almost feel the Father’s hand on my shoulder, slowing me down as He points toward the Cross. “Do not pass it by unobserved. Look upon it. Look upon my Son. Let it sink in. There is so much wonder, so much greatness in Easter that cannot be perceived if this is not first observed. Don’t skip ahead in the story. The glory that eclipses suffering will come soon enough; enter into the suffering first. The suffering that was for you, the suffering that emptied my Son of life, the suffering that looked like defeat to all without faith; this is what digs the depths found in the Resurrection.”

See from His Head, His Hands, His Feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
(from “Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ” by Isaac Watts)

Catholicism, Easter, Jesus

Upon Holy Thursday Night

I really, really wanted to write a Holy Thursday blog. The Triduum – these most holy days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday – is the peak of my year each year. It is the culmination of so much work and prayer and efforts and more work for the RCIA process. It is approached via 40 days of sacrifice and contemplation. It is the summit of this strenuous walk through the mysteries of faith that takes place in each liturgical year.

I’ll be honest though, in my heart I feel like I’m still roaming the valley below rather than nearing the summit. I don’t like writing from the valley. At Mass tonight, the tension between the difficult and unresolved and the blessed and wondrous was nearly too much for me. I find now that I am unable to succinctly say all that I’d like to say. And maybe that’s alright. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow. Maybe I ought to just focus on one thing tonight. For the sake of a little peace of heart and because I won’t be able to think straight for too much longer as the nighttime pain reliever is beginning to do battle with this monstrous headache of mine.

What I kept coming around to as I contemplated Holy Thursday and as I prayed at Mass was the incredible gift that the priesthood has been to me. I’m not even talking broad spectrum, ‘the Church could not survive without the priesthood’ appreciation. I could expound upon the necessity of the priesthood, the beauty and gift of Christ’s ministers, the indispensible link between them and the Sacraments. But such catechetical themes aren’t actually on my mind. Today I gave a lot of thought to my friends, the priests.

Among people of my aquaintance, and I’m sure this is true for so many, there are plenty of individuals who either have no personal experience with priests, off-putting experiences with priests, or downright negative experiences with priests. Each time I discover this to be true of someone I am struck with fresh force by how radically this is not true for me. In my 28 years, I have accumulated innumerable holy encounters, blessed friendships, and upbuilding influences all through priests.

Fr. Ray Zuegner
Fr. Mike Steber
Fr. Dave Pivonka
Fr. Dan Pattee
Fr. Robb Jurkovich
Fr. Mike Chenier
Fr. Robbie Favazza
Fr. Jay Mello
Fr. Mark Vandersteeg

That’s my little litany, which I am certain is missing some important names. The presence of these men in my life at various stages and circumstances is a simple matter of Christ making Himself present to me. As teachers, as preachers, as friends, these men deserve my thanks and respect, my prayers and service.

Christ is my priest – my High Priest. He ministers to me; He extends grace and forgiveness to me; He admonishes and encourages me; He challenges me with truth; He intercedes for me; He works for my eternal salvation. Christ is my priest, and He shares His priesthood with men of this world that He might continue to walk among us and lay down His life for us.

“If we had faith, we would see God hidden in the priest like a light behind glass, like wine mixed with water.” (St. John Vianney, Patron of Priests)