Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Life, Love and Faith

It's been quite an adventurous two days. Driving home yesterday, in the pouring rain, I was reflecting on this life I've been attempting to lead: all the places it takes me and all the great reward I have been given.

As you know, Sunday was my birthday and St. Lucy day.

It's a good prayer. It reinforces my desire to do more living my faith out loud. I'm finding that when I am deliberate in making God first in my life (and that of my family) it becomes more habit and less odd (to us. There will always be people outside who think it strange). I would never have thought praying a rosary every day when we're in the car would be anything but shouted down and now the shouting is all about who gets what decade. The Holy Spirit can do amazing things with our paltry effort.

So, when I suggested that we take my birthday cake to Mr. Ray and have dessert when we delivered his meal, they (in their big way) made it a perfect evening. Blondie did her best to play the Swedish St. Lucy ;0) and we all celebrated with our favorite adopted grandpa. I like to think he was heartened by our including him in the celebration. I was grateful we were able to have that time together on my birthday. It was a gift to me.

St. Lucy and star boy knocking on the door ;0)

group hug :0)
After the end of my birthday fete, the kids and I headed to Hagerstown, MD to stay overnight. The drive was long and dark and I was half-way there thinking, does this really even matter? I knew it did or the Holy Spirit wouldn't have hammered it so hard the previous few days. You see, we were heading to the funeral (actually Celebration of Life) of my dear friend's brother. If you've been reading you know he was young and it was tragic. We left the hotel around 10 the following morning to make the remaining hour trip to the church.

This was the view for most of the hour-long trip. The picture doesn't come close to the amazing site we watched develop in front of us. I told the kids it was what I always imagined the Ascension looked like; Jesus rising up through the bank of clouds to the glorious gate of heaven. I was happy we drove through the night, I was happy we came. This was what I needed to confirm we were heading the right direction.

The celebration was lovely and a good exercise for my Catholic-centric kids. Meeting my friend's parents after learning about them and reading her mom's blog, was a great moment for me. I like meeting God-centered people. Witnessing their strength and humility that day was not really surprising. I suppose I imagined them in that way because their daughter is so strong in her faith. (as a silly aside...reading someone's blog then meeting them in reality can be a shock...I would never, ever have imagined her mom to have a Southern accent (duh me, she's from the South). ) The testimony from these two parents who had just tragically lost their child was so good for my kids to watch. Through tears they spoke of their understanding that he was theirs temporarily, loaned to their family by God. Their faith was inspiring. I was also glad to see my friend in person and give her a long-awaited hug. There are certain things that email/phone/etc. can't replace.

The ride after was interesting. I mentioned my "Catholic" kids. The discussion was something like this...
      "I saw a cross but not a crucifix" "Wasn't it cool that they put the song lyrics on the wall?" "There were no kneelers" "I saw collection baskets" (that last one was my little guy..he makes me laugh).

As I said, it was good to see how other religious traditions process death and it was wonderful for them to see the deep faith of this family. It is good for them to know early that being Catholic doesn't give you a corner on deep faith (it certainly doesn't insure it). No matter your creed, you can be a person for whom God is first, in every part of life.

Now I'm probably going to say something that sounds uppity Catholic and appears to rescind what I just said. That's not the intention so if you get that from reading it, you misread, try again ;0) Sometimes when I have a carb-loaded meal (as frequently enjoyed by DH "would you like goldfish with that soft pretzel sandwich?") I crave a salad in a very real way. Today, leaving the beautiful Celebration of Life, I craved a church with kneelers, Marian statues and Mass. So, we were off.

As I said, the kids are reasonably good sports about my pilgrim ways and they had a snack and a movie for the hour drive so we all arrived happy and ready to explore. How blessed we were that we happened to arrive during the 40th anniversary of the canonization of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton? We had enough time to explore the gallery before heading upstairs to the basilica for Mass (It was a really cool building). The extra bonus was that it is a location of a Jubilee Year of Mercy Holy Door. Extra blessings!

Our first Holy Door...so exciting!
The basilica was all I could have hoped for...the stained glass ringing the main church were all the Titles of Mary! Ahh, it's nice to travel but I love coming home.
"Queen of Martyrs" and "Refuge of Sinners"
After Mass, the rain was threatening and I was starting to feel tired but there was one more stop that I felt we needed to make. When we pulled up and saw this...
I knew it was the right decision. The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was like going back to Levoca but without the 12 hours of travel. What an amazing place! The kids and I walked down the walkway that housed the Stations of the Cross, saying a short prayer at each station (short...the rain was nearly upon us).
Heading back up the walkway to Our Lady
The Grotto was so beautiful, as they always are and, as always, it gave me a minute to blow a kiss to Saint Bernadette and ask her to pass it along to our little one.

Then, the excitement...the spring that runs under everything that is spouted and has been blessed...free-flowing holy water that you can drink (no bathing, though...sign says! ug...who would?)

Yesterday was also the feast of St. John of the Cross. (We were blessed to be able to venerate his relic after Mass at the bascilica.) When I started writing this blog, I also found this quote.

It's also a good quote for me at the end of this particular journey. I doubt the world condemns (or much cares one way or another about) what I do but I do wonder what people think when they see us walking through a holy place, reciting the Divine Mercy chaplet or singing the Ave Maria with the bells.

This isn't a life I would have imagined two decades ago. I would have sent a card of sympathy to my friend and gone about my day. I would never have volunteered to cook a meal because I was "too busy". Vacations were times to get away from everything routine in life (including faith) and run to seek respite in corporal things.

Now, for better or worse, I have the grace to hear more of the whispers and I have learned that following, through love, will always come to good (even if I misunderstand the whisper at first!). God loves us so much...it is good when we can show Him our love by treating his other creations with kindness and care.

Perhaps this week, as the craziness of the holiday ramps up, you can remember that God loves you the same, no matter how many presents are under the tree or cookies on the table and you can just sit back and say some prayers in thanksgiving to Him, who created all that is good. Sounds like a pretty nice birthday present.

We are blessed.

1 comment:

  1. It was such a gift to have you and the kids there- glad the Holy Spirit led you :) And gave you some graces along the way.

    I've been past the National Shrine Grotto many times as a kid/young adult, but I was never Catholic and never happened to stop. It looks like a must next time we're down that way! And my goodness- the SEAS Shrine, too. She's my patron saint. I feel like a bad Catholic!

    Dom in front of the holy door- lol!