Wednesday, December 31, 2014
How did I find myself clutching a rosary in Advent of 2014?It started, I am convinced, with a dream.In October of last year, I had an unforgettable, though very short dream.In it, I was standing on a city sidewalk looking up at two tall flat faced buildings.Immediately, the one on the left was covered with an unfurling banner with a picture of Christ the King.Next to it, another banner unfurled, Our Lady of Guadalupe.I heard her say to me,
" When you think of it, say,"Mary, Queen of the angels, pray for us."That is all and the dream was over.
In time, I found myself checking out Clark Strand's Facebook page and there, to my astonishment was Our Lady of Guadalupe.I looked further and discovered the Way of the Rose group.I joined and here I am on this journey with 200 plus others praying the 54 day novena.
Each day, as I escape to my prayer room, I feel this peace;doing what I thought I would never have time for.The Way of Joy and Roses.
Friday, December 19, 2014
In January of 2011, a group of friends gathered at my house to pray and seek the Lord's guidance.The night before I had an unforgettable dream.I walked into a small, silent chapel and saw Christ kneeling in the front pew.Behind him were five or six figures dressed in blue, deep in prayer. That is all there was.
During the day-long praying and sharing,a phrase kept coming to me;"You are under a shadow."I pushed it away as being a negative thought but it kept returning.I hesitated to share it but when I did, none of us knew the meaning.
The next day, I read an article about a visit by Hillary Clinton to the Basilica in Mexico City that contains the tilma of Juan Diego that is imprinted with the roses he carried to his Bishop at Our Lady's request.My curiosity stirred, I read further and found her words of comfort to this humble, unwilling man:"Do not be distressed, my littlest son.Am I not here with you who am your Mother?Are you not under my shadow, my protection?"
So she spoke then.So she speaks now.
Monday, December 15, 2014
I think of Guy often.And of what happened in Spain.
My husband and I were walking the Camino de Santiago in September of 2013.In my side pocket was a small rosary given by a friend for the trip.I often sat on a log or a bench when John was getting a place at a hostel, and I would pray.It was so comforting on that very hard trek.
On day 7, we stopped at Rabe' and at dinner, we met some Europeans travelling the same route.Conversation was loud and hilarious but the man across from me just smiled.Guy was from Brittany in France and there was a language barrier.He seemed so content to just listen and smile.Later, we all went to the local convent for the Liturgy of the Hours with the sisters.Guy sat behind me and I could feel his holiness.
On the way back to our hostel, up the winding stone path, I kept getting the strong feeling that I must give my rosary away.I didn't want to but the message was clear.
The next morning, in the dark, I watched as Guy left.I went out and put the little green rosary in his palm.He said:"Merci", and walked away.I don't think he realized what it was.I went back inside and sat down at the breakfast table.Then I looked up.There was Guy.He hugged me and said that the day before, he had lost his rosary on the trail.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
The first reading today is just so perfect.Isaiah,I love you.The words of this prophet, who is very present in Advent, never fail to touch."Comfort.Give comfort to my people."Is.40
As I sat in church, and heard this reading , I thought of the lovely picture above of my friend Kris, whose photos have blessed this blog.She is now a family and in her arms she holds her son, Gage.This baby needs a few things; food, warmth, dryness and holding.And there he is, filled and content.She is the glowing, beautiful provider of his comfort.This connection is eternal.
Words have meaning.The word puzzle is rough and has zz's that match the raising of eyebrows.Comfort, is said gently, softly and shoulders lower and face muscles relax.Comfort:to comfort.And now, once again, I ask you to stand and stretch with me.This may be hard but if you stay with it, ponder it, see it in your mind's eye and let the stories flow through you, maybe we will both be able to answer the question:what does God look and feel like?
The year is 1967 and I have been married a few months.I became pregnant in the Virgin Islands and knew it right away when my stomach lurched daily.Then one day, I woke up and felt completely normal again.I thought, well, "that wasn't so bad."What I didn't know was that the pregnancy had ended.In late August, I was on my way to the hospital and soon I was being wheeled into the surgery room to be cleaned up interiorly having lost the unborn.
I was terrified and alone as the gurney moved and I prayed for someone to hold my hand.Immediately, I felt a pressure on my left hand.It was if the hand holding mine was walking with the gurney.I remember nothing else until I woke up back in my room.In my very skeptical state of being, I dismissed the happening as a product of my own mind and told no one.
There is a second gurney story, told a few years ago.This time I had been walking by faith for many years.Again, I am getting scared waiting to be wheeled into surgery for a colonoscopy.I know, I am a big baby.Anyway, to my left and laying next to me was my deceased dog, Cooper.I could feel him but not see him.I "saw" his coat, fawn colored, smooth, with long shiny fur.The white star on his head and his pale nose that burned in the sun.He brought comfort.As did that hand of long ago.
I know what you are thinking but I no longer question, I just go with the flow and take comfort where it is offered with gratitude.By the way, when I got home, and this too is true, I opened Facebook and there was a post and picture of Cooper and my son that I had never seen before.The picture had been taken five years before and on that day, the owner posted it.
"Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care."Is 40:11
Saturday, December 6, 2014
The other day, a dear friend posted a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger on Facebook.I know, Susan Sarandon, he's a Nazi. The Cardinal who became Pope Benedict XVI, had some words that really helped me see a path for Advent.He wrote: "It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus open the doors of hope." What an awesome challenge. Not good memories, but memories of goodness.I dug around in the old trunk that is my mind and found two I would like to share.
The first involved my dear mother and drives we took together down Front St. to the town of Hempstead. As we turned onto Front Street, the public bus stop became visible. If she knew or even slightly recognized someone standing there or headed to the stop, she would pull over and pick them up. I begged and pleaded with her to keep going."Please don't stop!" She would pat my head and say,"Don't you think it is too cold to be out today?" Just because most of those waiting were frozen to the ground meant nothing to me. If they joined us, I would have to say hello or (shudder) talk to them. Horrors! In they got and received the gift of a warm old black DeSoto back seat and my mother's chatter.There was goodness riding in that car, but not in the front passenger seat.
Later, when I was in 19, and still in school, a married woman moved in across the street.She had wed a childhood friend and moved into his house to an upstairs apartment. I admired her greatly.She, of brown curls, sweet face and warm, smiling brown eyes. Although just a bit older than I, she seemed more mature.Sadie,Sadie married lady and all.
Jeanne and I became friends and one day she asked me to drive with her to Queens to visit her seriously ill mother. Queens was another world. This was an exotic trip. This next county over from us had apartments and houses so close together and "hoods."Those black leather jacket wearing, duck tailed hair boys.Oh, the adventure. Later, I lived in Queens and it is a fact that some residents were so tired of mowing their 3 foot by 5 foot front yard that they cemented it over and painted it green.True.
Off we went chatting and laughing our way West. I think her mother and father lived in an upstairs apartment. I remember climbing stairs and meeting her mother.Amazingly, as Jeanne washed and curled her hair, Mom let lose a steady stream of condemnation."You are a bad child. You never visit. Bad."Over and over.As callow as I was, I recognized that the Multiple Sclerosis was affecting her brain.The barrage never stopped and I had one eye on the door and the other on the drama.It was like a train wreck and I was fascinated in a bad way. This is what I will never forget: Jeanne smiling, singing little songs as she cleaned the kitchen. Planting a kiss on her Mom's face and teasing her. Loving the "real "mother that was far away.
On the way home, she chatted and I was very quiet, chastened by the surety that if I lived to be a hundred, I would never be as patient as she had been.
Jeanne passed away a few weeks ago and as she makes her journey to elsewhere, the first person I know she will see will be her real mother, in a place without sickness, pain, or loss, where every tear will be wiped and all that remains will be love.She belongs there.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
I have taken over another room.One with a single window where the pale winter sun shines in.I have an altar with a hand carved St.Francis, a wooden, hollowed out, simple Mary and an icon of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.And my bells.When I walk in this sanctuary, and close the door, my entire body breathes of relief.Quiet, simple, and with pure candle light in a block of wood.I wish I could tell you how much I love and yearn for my time in this room.
It is here that I ponder today's Bible readings which speak of the mountain of the Lord again and the promised banquet laid out for his lovers.What does that mean for my life?
When my second son was running cross country very successfully for Riverdale High School and then Georgia Tech, he would occasionally be reminded by a coach to keep his success in perspective.He would come home and say:"Remember, Mom, there are 2 billion Chinese people who don't know that I ran well today."I have thought of that often.
I can get caught up in my world of family, friends and politics and if I have let my prayer life go for very long, this is all that is on my mind.One can become so ensnared in the hurts, losses, failures of this life and forget about the banquet.
What does this real feast feel and look like ?It might be a call from our new, disabled friend to tell me that last night when he despaired of what he was to eat (he lives alone), the doorbell rang and in walked Florence from church with some soup.The joy in his voice made my day.Today, she called to say that this afternoon she and her husband were headed over to put up a Christmas tree for him and he just had to share that.
Fr. Richard Rohr says, "..Jesus is always inviting us to live in the final and full picture, and not get lost in the momentary dramas, hurts or agendas.In Latin we used to say sub specie aeternitate, that is to ask ourselves everyday,"In the light of eternity will this really matter?"
Monday, December 1, 2014
Mountains.I have always loved and reverenced that word.The night before leaving for three weeks in the Catskill mountains of New York, my mother would sit on our beds and sing,"The Bear Goes Over the Mountain" and our excitement would build.I recall being afraid to go to the Adirondack mountains because I had heard they were more beautiful than mine and then my Catskills would ever after disappoint.They never did.
Once, walking the valley road with my Irish Setter, I looked back at West Kill mountain in autumnal magnificence and broke down.Pure, undeserved gift.But there are other "holy" places other than peaks.Today, I visited two.
The Riverdale H Mart is Korean and heavy on fresh vegetables.When I walk the aisles, it feels like church as each fresh grown, bright and green vegetable offers healing, in my view.These are the products that help my body.Beet greens, bok choy, swiss chard, sprouts, kale, spinach and colorful fruit. For a girl raised on canned peas and carrots, this is a new Eden.
At home, I wash, put them in safe containers and google recipes for their use.I am here to attest that eating mainly vegan meals has given me more energy.That, and drinking more water. I keep masons jars filled in the refrigerator and at the ready.Later I count my jars, aiming for four empty ones by the end of the day.
The second place would be no one's idea of holy ground.A bare, spare, rehab facility in a neighboring town.Here, the infirm wait in beds and wheelchairs.Some are half people, limbs gone from disease.Televisions blare and the smiles of staff are few though I have been there often.The veterans have stars with their names outside of their doors and a bulletin board has their pictures.That they are there makes me sad.
When I visit a friend, I bring some cookies and get ice water.That's all I can do.If it is true that God is most present with the despairing, then he is certainly here.Day after day, the ill are washed and fed by good people with hard jobs and a good country that provides the salaries.This is holy work on God's mountain.
Richard Rohr says:"Suffering and solidarity with the suffering has an immense capacity to "make room" inside of us.It is probably our primary spiritual teacher."
."..Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,That he might instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths."Is. 2:3.