Monday, March 14, 2011

Random Thoughts for the First Monday in Lent

When my oldest daughter was four, she befriended a little Japanese girl in pre-school and the two of them grew to be the best of friends.  I was always amazed at how stoic Misho was, and her mother explained that it was part of their culture.  One hot July day the kids were playing with the hose in the backyard to cool off and one of the more mischievous boys squirted Misho in the face, full-blast.  I couldn't get to her fast enough to rescue her, but she didn't react other than to blink.  My daughter would either have screamed her head off or clocked the boy over the head.  Misho simply took it without saying a word.

As I watch the images coming from Japan, I can't but think of how that stoicism must be serving the nation now in the face of such destruction and uncertainty.  It's certainly refreshing to see a society whose inhabitants do not compound a tragedy by stealing and looting.  I simply cannot fathom the conditions and the magnitude of the loss.  I have to leave it in God's Hands.  It's hard to believe things could get worse.

This weekend at the silent retreat, the priest did something not normally done.  He left the doors to the tabernacle where the Monstrance sat open on both sides, both into the public chapel and into the nuns' chapel.  I, for one, was secretly delighted because this meant that every time the nuns gathered in their chapel to pray, we could hear them.  Around 11 am I heard their angelic voices chanting and I felt like I was being wracked into two pieces, the pain was so great.  It's hard for me to visit monasteries without thinking about what might have been.  Suddenly, it struck me that it's not the lifestyle that I long for, it's the freedom to center one's entire life on Christ and to be so near Him in the Blessed Sacrament at all times.

It occurred to me that what I have mistaken as a kind of missed vocation is really just a very natural longing for Heaven.  To me, the closest place to Heaven on earth is that Carmelite Monastery, although the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at my church fills that longing as well.   It also occurred to me that as much as I long for Him, He also longs for me, as He does for all of us.  What a great privilege to be able to sit in His Company all day Saturday.

As I have shared here before, my youngest was diagnosed with Marfan's Syndrome when she was just 2.  Before her diagnosis, we had to see many specialists, and as you might imagine, the uncertainty was the worst part.  Many times I prayed to God that He would not take her from me, but that if He did, it was His right, since she was only on loan to me to begin with.  After she was diagnosed and I realized she had something she could live with, I didn't think so much about God taking her from me.

Last week, she had a little episode that reminded me that she's still on loan to me, and I wondered what I would do without her.  My husband is a lukewarm Catholic.  I certainly haven't given up on him, but it's not the same as those families where both spouses are equally committed to the faith.  My son has the attention span of a gnat.  His first question whenever he's invited to church outside of Sunday Mass is "How long will it be?"  The oldest is in her own world, which sometimes includes God but most of the time does not.  Rebecca is the only one with whom I can share the faith.  From an early age, she loved going to church.  When my mother would mind her a few days a week, her request was always the same.  "Grandmom, take me to church."  She loves the Easter Vigil and Forty Hours Devotion as much as I do.  She loves the Traditional Latin Mass and never hesitates to come to the novena or Stations of the Cross with me.  What would I do without that?  What would I do without her?

I'm hoping never to find out.  The life expectancy for someone with Marfan's is longer than it used to be and hopefully, because she was diagnosed so young, she will live a very long time.  I do love God that much that if He asked her of me, I wouldn't hesitate to present her to Him.  But I pray that He will ask for her in a different way, one in which she would remain here on earth to serve Him.  May His Will be done!

At work, my Brown Scapular has captured a lot of attention.  Most of my staff is Catholic, as evidenced by the number who got ashes in the chapel last week and who talk to me about going to Mass, etc.   One particularly difficult personality has taken an unexpected liking to me, and I found it it's because she's a devout Catholic and heard I go to daily Mass before work.  She confided in someone else that she would like to have a Scapular like mine.  Then several other people chimed in that they, too, would love to have one.  So that's what I bought in the Avila Bookstore.  The one pictured here is identical to the one I wear.  The staff at my old job always asked me to cook for them or bring them treats from the Italian Market.  I think it's a pretty good sign that my new staff hasn't asked for anything  except the Scapular. I was all too happy to oblige.


  1. Brown Scapular - That was so nice of you. It is very pretty.

  2. Oh may your youngest live to a full life span. She sounds like a real blessing to you. I wish her the best. As I do the Japanese. I've really grown to admire their culture as I've learned a little about them over the years. They are such a proud people. They could have hated us Americans deeply for years after WWII and they didn't. God be with them.

  3. That scapular is so beautiful. I have lived out that "what might have been " scene to ..for many years. I still struggle with it because my hunger to be with Him just can't be quenched. Recently, my spiritual director made me to see that God brings us to the vocation that is tailored to make us saints. So ~ that will be a long haul for me since I'm an expert internal
    grumbler...Very un-Benedictine!
    For all those in your family , I pray-- and for Rebecca..Lord love her for the comfort she's been to you.

  4. I have thought many times over the last few days about the contrast of the Japanese people living through an unfathomable tragedy, with such dignity - and the folks in New Orleans after Katrina. My son was there with the National Guard - and they were shooting at the helicopters! What have we done as a society?

    The scapular is beautiful and I am also encouraged that others have asked you for them.

  5. Wonderful, wonderful post! I was just saying at dinner at Sunday how moved I was to see the victims stand in line peacefully and what a contrast to what I have seen here in America following a disaster...really gives you something to ponder. the Monastery. I am immediately at peace when I walk through there. How awesome the staff has approached you about a scapular. Next time the sisters have homemade ones, I will pick one up for you. They are made from their habits that they can no longer use. That is what I wear humbled. Have a wonderful day! (Keep you in prayer today...I am working for someone and will offer the sacrifice...)

  6. My heart just clenches at what you must go through at times with Rebecca and the Marfans. I have had a kid near death a couple times; right now I have one in a precarious life situation. Last night, right after I posted my silly flute- post, I went on facebook to put it up there, and I saw something she said that really worried me. So Bob and I rushed over to her place, where she was, thankfully and did talk to us for a while. I can't share her story here, only to say she has been through one of the worst things in life (I think) a person can go through. I can tell you also that she is being treated for PTSD. As with many "disorders" of that kind, that are tied up in a persons emotional well being, it is highly complicated, and has a lot of tendrils going in different directions. She is the one who was having seizures.
    I asked her to please move home with us. Until my two go to college in the fall, it is a bit of a squeeze, but she doesn't want to.
    If you think of our family at all, please pray for Corrie. I know that nothing is impossible with God, but my poor dim eyes can't see past all she has in front of her to overcome.
    Sorry I hijacked this Joyce, I began by commiserating with you and ended up with my problems. I just value all of your friendships and covet your prayers.

  7. Oh, and I meant to show you this (before I got going on my stuff) I am fascinated with the meanings of names, and how those meanings seem to weave their way into the persons life, whether we knew the meaning when we named them or not. Here is what Rebecca means- (read all the way to the end!:)

    Both Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names and the NOBS Study Bible Name List render the name: A Rope With A Noose. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names quotes Gesenius who suggests that this name denotes a woman who ensnares a man with her beauty. But although the Biblical occurrence of this name has to do with a lot, not with the snaring of a man by beauty. The name denotes merely a tying up of cattle, both for their own protection, the establishment of their home and to keep them from wandering off.

    Within this name lies the notion that individuals are placed together by something higher or smarter than they.

    The name Rebekah literally means Tied Up but more specific (and more friendly) is Secured.

  8. That's the most beautiful brown scapular I've ever seen.
    I have managed to stick green scapulars under the mattresses and in the apartments of many members of my family. I know some people frown on this practice, and say it falls into the gray area of superstition, but I call it " stealth Catholicism." Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I'm dealing with a lot of stubborn people here.

  9. I know about this longing. There was a Saint, Bellarmine I believe, who used to sigh and say: "Will I never die"?

    St. Teresa of Avila wrote:

    Remember that you have
    only one soul,
    that you have only
    one death to die,
    that you have only one life,
    which is short and has to be
    lived by you alone;
    and that there is only one
    glory which is eternal.
    If you do this, there will be
    many things about which
    you care nothing.

    Joyce, this is for you:

    On Trials and Holiness

    "No one becomes holy without trial, we must be tried and we do not necessarily have either the light or the strength to cope with the trials God sends us unless we ask for the help".

    Hardon SJ

    Apparently, we haven't a choice, either,in the trials He sends...I will remember your daughter in prayer this Lent.

  10. I wanted to mention your openness to God's will regarding your daughter is moving. That is a hard thing to say and you have said it beautifully. God Bless!

  11. Thank you Kathy, Manny, Mary Christine,Julie, Caroline, Kelly, Theresa, Maria and anyone I might have missed!

    Later, after dinner and a walk with Rebecca, I will post something about the history of the Brown Scapular, etc. that you might enjoy. You will want to begin wearing one, if you don't already.
    God Bless!

  12. Julie I gave green scaps to all my kids, and heartily believe in their effectiveness. And, Joyce, Father Check invested me with my brown one and it, I believe, has helped me hang tough in some really tough times!

    We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world!

  13. I want to say that I appreciate all the beautiful and heartfelt comments left in response to this post. Please believe me when I say I write about Rebecca with much reluctance. It's never my intention to call attention to myself or seek sympathy, although that is sometimes a consequence of talking about Rebecca. The point I tried to make and I think you all got it is that I love God THAT much that I would be honored if He decided to take the one who is most precious to me, though my heart would be broken into pieces. It's not something I worry about, though occasionally it does cross my mind. I think of St. Therese saying that "whatever He does, I love".
    God Bless!


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