Sunday, November 22, 2015

SHARING IN SUFFERING

When my husband had been gone for over two years, I went through a new period of loneliness.  It was different than when he first died, when it was sharp, and would stab me at unexpected times.  Suddenly, it seemed as if the rest of the world walked by in couples, and I struggled on alone.  Our parish began to offer a date night for married couples, and I thought somewhat bitterly that it had never been around when my husband and I could have gone to it.  Without my husband, our home, which was built to house ten people (the two of us, our six children and my parents), at times seemed to threaten to swallow me up, even with my son helping and a gardener doing most of the work outside.  

One morning, as I was praying the Morning Offering, I realized that here was an opportunity to offer up my loneliness especially for our bishops--and one in particular who had worked with us in Worldwide Marriage Encounter. They, along with our priests, have chosen a life of celibacy that includes loneliness.  I didn't choose such a life, but after a very happy married life, that is the path I now walk, and I can choose to walk it in company with them.

In addition, I can walk it in company with those who struggle with same sex attraction and who are also called to a life of celibacy.  I hadn't thought about their situation very much except when friends shared their journey of heartbreak over family members who experience same sex attraction.  When one of my daughters sent me a link to an insightful video ( http://www.blackstonefilms.org/thethirdway/ )that enabled me to relate to them as my brothers and sisters, I was pierced to the heart and felt called to reach out to them in prayer as well.  I didn't choose to be a widow any more than they chose same sex attraction.  We can carry our crosses in the footsteps of the One who carried the cross that ultimately can set us all free.

Monday, November 9, 2015

THROUGH THE EYES OF A SON

On the third anniversary of my husband's death, my son posted the following on his Facebook page.  Of course, it made me cry, but I also feel fiercely proud of my son, who was able to capture so much of who my husband was.  It speaks so eloquently that several of my daughters re-posted it to their pages.  We were all blessed to have shared our lives with him.
Three years ago today, my dad passed away of cancer.  I feel incredibly lucky and blessed that I got to spend twenty years with such an amazing man. This is the man who once drove from San Diego to Phoenix to pick me up at the airport at 9 pm, and then turned around and drove me back to San Diego, just so I wouldn't miss taking the PSAT, and despite the fact that we got back at 4 am he was still up at 6 the next morning to go to work in Irvine, and never complained.  The same man who, when I called from jail, just said, "Well, I'm assuming there's a good story involved in this one."  [There was--but that's another post.]  He never missed an opportunity to help you learn or grow, and when you messed up, he would share a similar time from his life, and try and help you learn from it. He was the smartest man I've ever known, yet he would happily admit when he didn't know something. In conversations he would find out what you were interested in and then somehow he would happen to know something about that subject and he would talk to you for hours about it, whether it was the Australian political system, the interstate numbering system or his personal favorite, Abraham Lincoln. He never complained about all the work he did and never expected anything in return for what he did, even when he was dying of cancer.  I never saw him complain about being in pain; instead he would make jokes to the cashier when he had to buy adult diapers.  Growing up it was pointless arguing with him because he was far too smart and too good at debating to ever hope to win, but anytime he was wrong on anything, he would go to you and admit it and sincerely ask for forgiveness even for little things. He exhibited strength, humility and intelligence in such a way that instead of making you feel insignificant compared to all the things he was, it made you strive to be more like him and a better person.  He treated his cancer as an opportunity and a way to tell everyone around him how much he loved and cared about them one last time. I'm so grateful that I was given the chance from my father, not only to learn how to live life, but also how to leave it.



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

SWINGS

A recent prayer of reminiscence carried me back to my grade school years at a parochial school in the Midwest that is now over a hundred years old.  While I had many good friends there, I am also an introvert, and I was often just as happy to play alone and invent elaborate adventures with my imaginary family, which included Sir Lancelot and Squire Brian from a television series popular at the time, and Honey from the Trixie Belden books.

But one of my other solitary activities was to climb on one of the swings and swing as high as my legs could pump; on a good day my toes might even just touch the leaves of a tall tree nearby.  These swings were the institutional sort, with huge metal poles on either end, and another pole suspended between them, and the swings hung from that pole with metal chains that ended in rubber seats. These swings were never subject to the bump and sway familiar to those who have swung on swing sets not securely cemented in the ground. When I started to swing at school, I was transported to another world, where I could fly through the air at dizzying speed, hoping I might reach the leaves, delighted in the sheer freedom of swinging, with a firm clasp on the chains but my feet soaring.  When the recess bell rang, I felt as if I had returned from another planet, or at least from touring the skies.

Reflecting on this from a spiritual vantage point, I can see my swinging as a reflection of living in the state of grace--and love.  The homily this morning, on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, who was the patron saint of Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II), was on the last section of the Prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, called "Above All - Charity," which quotes from the Roman Catechism
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends.  Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.

I think of swinging as living in that divine love, and springing from love into the arms of the Father, who then sets us on the way he has fashioned for us to carry his love into the world. The recess bell has rung, but the buoyancy of grace can carry us back into the classroom of life with a fresh air glow we can share with everyone who surrounds us.