Wednesday, April 15, 2015

God's Children

I had just entered the chapel and begun my nightly rosary, when the little children filed in --- the VERY little children.  There were perhaps twenty-five or so, and two adults.  The children were, I would guess, four or five years old.
As they entered, some walked across the room, passing in front of the altar and monstrance there, focused on finding a good seat.  Others found a chair and searched for something to look at, a book to read, or perhaps pictures to look at, if they could not read.  And a goodly number of the children knelt down, put their hands together, and stared at the altar, praying.  And two went face down, stretched out on the floor before the altar --- obviously imitating a parent they had seen pray in this way.
And all were totally silent.
After looking at their entry and positioning, I myself looked up at the altar, and I wondered:  “What are You thinking of this display which just appeared before You?”  And as if in answer to my silent question I felt I could see God smiling:  these were His children.
After about 5 minutes, the adults stood up and without a sound headed toward the doors, and the children seeing them, silently followed.
I reflected a bit on what I had seen.  And after I thought about it, I surmised that perhaps that this event images how God sees us all.  Some of the children seemed deeply in wonder and awe at His presence, some were trying to pray as best as they know how, and some seemingly were unaware of His presence --- even though they were surely told that He was there.  That’s probably the view God has of us, too, and how we treat Him.
But I had this perception when the kids were there that regardless of the perfection of their love, He loved them all.  In a way, at that moment I know I did too.  I mean, they were kids, how could you not love them?
And, I guess, relative to his great majesty --- and mercy --- that’s how He feels about us.
That’s a good thing to remember, especially on those days when we don’t feel that “love-able”.  We’re just His kids, His family.  How could He not love us?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Do You Be a Friend?

“I don’t know why we get together; you talk and get excited about something and just go on …,” said my friend.
And so I went quiet.  I should have done so much earlier.
We had gotten together for dinner on the memorial date of a sad memory.  I went to her house with the idea in mind to celebrate the occasion as appropriate, but to not let the conversation --- and feelings --- focus on the sadness.  And when it came round to “how my week had gone,” I went on about the many blessings I had perceived --- the many, many blessings, in recent days.
Perhaps it was the enthusiastic joy I felt, or perhaps that she couldn’t get a word in edge-wise, but at length she voiced her frustration.  I don’t know that I have another friend who’d tell me --- in one way or another --- to shut up, and I appreciate that about this special one.
The rest of the evening was pleasant; we always enjoy each others’ company --- usually, but at home
later, and in the chapel now, I reflected on the question:  “How do you be a friend?”
Thinking on how the conversation went that night I wondered if I should have been silent on God’s goodness to me.  Are those thoughts meant for my spiritual director’s ears only – if that?  How much do you expound on how good your week has been --- not knowing how bad it might have been for your friend?  When is filling a void in the quiet being verbose?  When, in YOUR loneliness, is meeting with a friend only an opportunity for you to expound your self-importance?
When does a friend shut up, even into the silence?  WWJD?
I’m not sure I know the answers to my questions.  Reflecting, I DO KNOW that one thing missing from the visit to my friend was God:  I failed to pray for His blessing and presence --- invite Him with --- before my visit.  A prayer before dinner was just not good enough.  Perhaps in addition to a deliberate focus on God beforehand, there should have been a deliberate focus on the visit, beforehand, and some thought on things which should come up in the conversations, thoughts about what has happened in HER life since we last met.
God has been and is blessing me greatly these days.  Friends --- and even strangers --- seem blessed all around me, and I am aware of their blessings.  Perhaps it is good enough that God and I, alone, know these things; perhaps they are meant for OUR conversations, at Eucharist or in Adoration.
Perhaps some things are not meant to be shared.
I don’t feel I have answers to my concerns, but I shall try to be more concerned about them, when I next meet with a friend.
I sit in the adoration chapel with God in front of me.  He is a great friend Whose presence I greatly value.
And He says not a word.  Perhaps I need to be more like Him, in this manner also.
Just being there, and listening, that’s what friends are there for too.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Sounds of Mercy

No, I don’t know what mercy itself sounds like, but this morning I experienced mercy, and sounds were an integral part.  As I knelt in Christ The King Church, on the campus of Franciscan University in Stuebenville, Ohio, the student choir filed in and lined up near me.  They then sang some hymns with what I could only describe as heavenly voices --- surely the choirs of angels could not do better than what I heard --- and felt.  And I felt Him to Whom they gave praise.
As I read this morning’s Readings, from Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:1-7), some of the words spoke clearly to me, and I wanted to make note of them now.
·         When Christ our life appears, then you shall appear with Him in glory
·         Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth:  fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust that is idolatry.  These are the sins which provoke God’s wrath.  Your own conduct was once of this sort, when these sins were your very life. You must put that aside now:  all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language.
·         Put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge.
·         Clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another:  forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.
·         Over all these virtues put on love. … Christ’s peace must reign in your hearts.
·         Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.
·         In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another.
·         Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Give thanks to God the Father through Him.
There are many more thoughts I need to document, regarding Divine Mercy and this week, and this past weekend’s conference I attended here at Franciscan University, but I must hit the road home now.  These words and theire meaning will mean more, when I link them to my thoughts and experiences of this past week, but for now I am content to remember the great love and peace I felt this morning --- and mercy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why I Trust in You

He goes before them, and the sheep
follow Him, for they know His voice.
-- Jn 10:4
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him:
“Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you
have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said
to her: “Mary.”  She turned and said to Him
in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (Teacher)
-- Jn 20:15-16
As today’s gospel noted, Mary knew His voice.  I wonder how often He calls to me, but I am so distracted with my important worries that I think it is just the gardener?
            - - - - - - - - - -
I received a note yesterday that a friend’s baby was born into eternal life late Holy Saturday night.  She and her family are people of great faith.  The “older” sister said of her short-lived sibling: “Esther was just in time to join Jesus as He entered the heavenly party for Easter.”  And the sad announcement continued: “As (the parents) continue to grieve the loss of their child, they sincerely ask for your prayers.  Prayers for continued courage and strength, healing for all wounds, and trustful surrender to the will of God.  They rely upon the great blessing bestowed upon the family that prays together, and invite you to be a part of this blessing. In particular, they ask for us to join them in saying the Humility Prayer, Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet which are devotions held dear to their family.  We truly are one Body of Christ, especially in times like these.”  
These are people who hear His voice and Trust in Him, at all times.
            - - - - - - - - - -
As yesterday’s noontime mass came to a close, the priest gave the final blessing, stepped down from the altar, genuflected and turned.  And then, as now happens every Tuesday, the children came walking up the aisle to receive blessings and prayers from the priest and deacons.  Parents holding their new babies, very small children, and now I notice even a couple of teens, quietly line up.  The lines seem to be getting longer with each passing week.  And when their turn comes, each child bows in silence to receive God’s blessing.
This Tuesday, a very young boy stopped in the aisle right next to me.  He quietly bounced from one foot to the other, watching the events, nervous.  I heard his mother whisper to him: “It’s okay.  You can go up.”  Obviously, this was new to him.  Despite her urgings, he continued his nervous vigil as the lines shrunk.  Finally, the last father and his baby received their blessings and turned away, and then the priest could see the young boy standing alone in the center aisle --- as could the entire church.
The priest nodded to him, but the boy didn’t move.  Then Father Joseph went down on one knee, smiled widely and opened wide his arms --- and the young angel rushed down the aisle into the waiting hug.  The priest stood and, holding him in his arms, slowly blessed the boy, and then walked down the aisle carrying him, stopping only to transfer him into the waiting arms of his mother.
The open arms of the priest, the smile; the small running feet, the knowing that the waiting hug was meant for him --- that was a trust event that was beautiful to behold. 
That is the trust God wishes we all would have in Him, for He waits with open arms.
            - - - - - - - - - -
This morning my barber came and knelt in the church aisle next to me before the mass began.  Quietly he told me about HIS yesterday. 
He had written to the head of the religious order he wishes to join to tell him that it appears that another year must pass; he still is unable to free his business from debt so that he can freely enter the order.  In his note he said he asked the rector if he could spend this weekend at the order’s church, to spend time in retreat to discern God’s will about his vocation.  “Then,” he said, “I felt a great peace like I’ve never felt before, and I just couldn’t stop crying.  I’ve never felt so loved as at that moment.”  And then later on that afternoon “a stranger from the parish, somehow knowing of my situation, came to me in my barber shop and said he’d buy my business so that I could enter the religious order.”
“I am so blessed,” he said, as tears ran down his face.
            - - - - - - - - - -
One young soul goes home to God, another receives a loving embrace, and another He calls to work for Him here on earth.  The world around us is covered in so much evil.  So much of the world celebrates it, and our own country even proudly exports it.  Martyrs are everywhere.  Surely all this must make God sad, if not angry.  And yet, in the midst of all this, there are blessings; there are good people; and there is God’s mercy.
And me also He blesses, giving me some small consolations by making me aware of His actions in this world.  Events of these past days show me so clearly how much God loves us.  Can’t you see it?  Can’t you feel it?
It is why I can most sincerely say:  “I trust in You.”