Confession line

Today I was fortunate enough to make it to the sacrament of reconciliation at a nearby parish.

I ducked in the door a few minutes after 4:30 and immediately encountered a long line composed mostly of people with gray hair.

As I stood in line I prayed the rosary and asked my favorite saints to pray for my courage. The line didn’t move much. I checked the time on my phone. Still, the line hadn’t moved. I prayed for everyone waiting with me to have courage as well and mentally documented the saints staring down at me through the stained glass windows. The line stubbornly stayed put.

I started fretting. Would I make it before the confession was over? I had a fairly weighty question I wanted to ask. Would I be able to ask it?! What do these people possibly have to confess that is taking so long? What do you confess when you’re 80 years old, what sin can you possibly have committed?

Then it occurred to me. Repeated exposure to the ocean of mercy in the sacrament has the power to change hearts. There is a recently vacated gnome sized hole in the land of boring indifferentism and there-is-no-such-thing-as-sin and clearly-I’m-a-good-person-I-haven’t-killed-anybody. I have felt my conscience sharpen since I was snatched away by baptism.

I recently asked my agnostic husband how often he would say he commits a sin and he replied, “maybe once a month.” That one made me chuckle, I admit.

It takes time and exposure to mercy to mold and strengthen the conscience.

Maybe after 70 years of being repeatedly reconciled to God you become keenly aware of any sin which separates you from him. What a trip.

Epic Sunday Prints

Yesterday was an epic Sunday! It was both Trinity Sunday and the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the anniversary of my consecration to Jesus through Mary! I absolutely adore seeing the feast and solemnity fall on the same day because of Mary’s intimacy with the Holy Trinity: daughter of the Father, mother of the Son and spouse of the Holy Spirit! In honor of this beautiful day I created some printable files from a couple of watercolor drawings, just click on the image to see the full size, then right click and save. These are 8×10. Enjoy! auspicemaria1 visitation

Grounded in the Eucharist

Linking up today with Blessed Is She!

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My eyes bore into the wood grain on the table while my fingers trace the edges of the stray bottlecap from my open Fat Tire brew.

My father-in-law had gone into his familiar speech about why nearly every Christian in the world had misinterpreted Scripture because of a pesky little mistranslation of the word, “aionios”. If only people could understand their mistake then Christianity would become a very different thing. A correctly translated “aionios” read with simple reliance on the Holy Spirit free from denominational lenses would lead people to clearly see that there is no eternal Hell and no eternal Heaven, but only states of being that are endured for a time before giving way to other, non-defined states of being.

My father-in-law sounds very authoritative when he gives this speech. We listen dutifully. Oliver, the agnostic, has taken up care of the dishes and I have taken up the task of boring holes in the table with my eyes. I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable. Always an avoider of conflict, I am usually quick to agree with someone as soon as I possibly can. The eternity of Hell? Yeah, maybe I could waver on that.

An icy realization hits me. What if the Church is wrong, and our entire dogma is based on a series of biased mistranslations? What if everything I believe is off-kilter and I’ve just been a damn fool? I imagine my life turned upside down as I shed my denominational loyalty as a snake sheds its skin. Perhaps it should be just me n’ Jesus, as the Protestants say it should be.

I run through a mental checklist of everything that’s important to me and stop short as this Scripture emerges and trumps everything else:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. John 6:53

The Eucharist.

As Catholics we believe that when we take the consecrated host into our bodies at Mass, we literally ingest the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Lord of Heaven and Earth, always meek and humble of heart, gives us the gift of not only forgiveness of sins and adoption as children of God, but his actual flesh and blood to eat as we are united in his one body through the bread of life.

In comparison to the issue of the reality of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, every other issue falls by the wayside. What use is conjecturing about the end times or the nature of the afterlife when there are more pressing issues at stake? When I encounter doubt, my love and belief in the Eucharist keeps me grounded and faithful to the teachings of the (nearly) only church which offers it.

We also have really cool Marian Apparitions, but that’s an issue for another time!

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On the Absence of Dad

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Happy Easter! With eyes that say, “hurry up and take the damn picture so I can let go of this kid’s arm!”

I was nervous about going to Mass this Easter with my littles in tow.

I usually go to a specific Mass, sit in my designated spot right next to a pillar (otherwise known as a toddler blockade). I go to this particular Mass because it’s typically not crowded and I sit behind a kind family always willing to grab my rambunctious toddler and hold on to her while I wrestle with the baby. I go to Mass alone, yes, but not always without help.

This Easter I had to attend Mass alone and with no helpers. I recall one moment in which Baby Cara was strapped to my chest and Lillian bumped her head on the pew as a result of a certain level of mischievousness and started screaming, suddenly in dire need of being picked up and comforted. I had a baby on my chest, a toddler on my hip and sweat on my brow. Other parishioners couldn’t help but observing, “you have your hands full, don’t you?” My reply, “Yeah, it would be a great time for my husband to convert!”

There are occasions at Mass when I see families attending together and my heart aches. At moments like that it’s helpful to remember how lucky I am to be at Mass a baptized Catholic.

God spent years tending to little seeds planted in my bitter heart to bring me to this place. The fact that kneel before the blessed Sacrament and sing Alleluia every week without a hint of cynicism or irony while earnestly trying to quiet babies and occasionally hissing at a toddler through clenched teeth is a blessed miracle!

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Incense and White Sneakers

candlesIn the adoration chapel on Thursday night, Deacon kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament wafting incense from a censer onto the Host. He was wearing an alb under robes of white and gold that glistened beautifully in the candlelight. The scene was surreal and mystical until I noticed his nondescript white sneakers poking out from underneath the alb. A moment in which the mundane meets the spiritual.

He reminded me of Zechariah, who drew his lot and went into the temple of the Lord to light incense. He didn’t expect to meet an angel there, even though he knew he labored before God. We humans are very good at forgetting the spiritual reality which underpins our entire earthy existence.

I lose my bearings amid my anxieties, busyness and comfort. I tend to look at seemingly impossible situations and forget that with God, anything is possible. I turn into Zechariah, disbelieving God’s promises. When Zechariah questioned the angel’s message that Elizabeth would conceive and bear John the Baptist, he was struck dumb for her entire pregnancy.

Yesterday at Mass everything I had experienced for several days synthesized and brought me back to the glory of God as I sang the refrain from the responsorial psalm, “let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!”. Zechariah, indeed.

There is something that I have been wrestling with. I waver between thinking that it’s God’s will for me, and waffling because I see my own weaknesses.

Sunday He gently reminded me, anything is possible with God and I am not in it alone! Neither are you.

Saint Paula of Rome, Pray for Us!

paulaFor the past four years it’s been my tradition to visit Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint’s Name Generator and have it choose a saint to be my companion for the new year. My resulting saint has always been just the one I needed for that year.

The first year I did this I was not yet Catholic, but would be at the coming Easter vigil mass. My saint? St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, whom I was already planning to take as my confirmation saint.

The second year I got St. Paula of Rome, patroness of widows. This one baffled me because I prefer my husband very alive and very well. I was confused all year by this choice. Moving on.

Last year I got St. Elizabeth of Portugal, a holy wife and peacemaker. I became pregnant that year and gave my daughter the middle name Elizabeth in honor of this Elizabeth and Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and mother of John the Baptist.

This year I was given St. Elizabeth whom I mentioned above, mother of John the Baptist. Utter perfection. Bravo, God.

And Monday I finally figured out why I was given St. Paula.

Today I realized that Monday was her feast day.

Mind. Blown.

I guess more than the specific circumstances which I’m alluding to, the revelation speaks about God’s presence in the midst of what I thought at the time was a hopeless situation. He was there, helping me and guiding me even during those times when I thought he felt absent.

Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7

Rebekah’s First (illicit) Communion

olgI returned to my pew after receiving the body of Christ in communion and glanced sideways at my 10 year old, non-Catholic niece. She was holding the host in her hand as she whispered to me, “what do I do with this?” After dragging my jaw up off the floor I said, simply, “eat it.” She put the edge of the host in her mouth and broke a piece off. “Eat it!” I said, “It’s Jesus! Put the whole thing in your mouth and chew it and swallow it quick!” Before communion I had told her, “cross your arms over your chest so you can receive a blessing. Only Catholics can take the bread, but you can receive the blessing.” She got flustered when she made it in front of Father Paul and forgot what to do, and he put the host in her hand. So goes Rebekah’s first communion.

I had my first communion the same way and at the same age, but less innocently. I’d lived my life on the periphery of my family’s Catholic culture, one of those unbaptized babies whose parents say, “when you grow up you can decide.” To me it felt less like choice and more like being left out. Communion was this exotic thing that all my cousins got to do while my brothers and I kept our aching knees on the kneeler. My chance came while attending my aunt’s wedding. My slightly devious cousin whispered to me as people started forming a line, “come with me.” I agreed. Emily has always been the daring leader of our little posse while I have been the creative director. I wasn’t about to question her authority when the request echoed my own desires. I got in line behind Emily and she told me what to do.

I piled one hand on top of the other, slightly cupped. When the priest said, “Body of Christ,” I spat out an Amen and shoved that wafer right in my mouth, imbibing the God I’d always been denied.

The moment of my first, clandestine communion was one of those moments which seemed to come by chance or by force. In hindsight I see the moment dripping in the grace of God who tells the little children, “come.” I hope it can be the same way for my niece, whether she ever knows it or not.

Yet just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

So shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me empty,

but shall do what pleases me,

achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11-12

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Rebekah: “Is he the patron saint of squirrels?”