Tag Archives: Catholic

Reflections on the Triduum – The Easter Vigil

April 1, 2013

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Easter Lily For the last 7 years or so I have helped with the liturgy for the Easter Vigil at my parish.  I love helping with this liturgy.  Their is so much going on! Baptisms, confirmations, first communions and the history of the the Church all rolled into one.  When I went to my first Vigil some 10 years ago it was the beauty and drama that caught my attention.
The church was filled with flowers and banners and the choir was singing “Horse and chariots are cast into the sea!” and the night starts outside with a fire.    Even to a secular eye their is allot going on – I remember thinking “this is like a Cecil B DeMille movie or an opera!”

The history of the world unfolds in the readings.  Present day new Catholics are welcomed into the church.  The culmination of the last three days is given its context.
But their is such paradox and depth and mystery.  Every year I try to understand it more.

Their is always something that surprises me in this liturgy, this year it is the line from the Exulet.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Happy fault and necessary sin?

I went on line to read Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil  to look for insight.  He speaks of the surprises  too, but he speaks of the surprise of the  women as they entered to tomb.

“We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

I understand the fear – the fear of newness.  When I come on the unexpected I become fearful.  I want to control and if I can’t control the situation I usually lash out at those closes to me. When I left the Easter Vigil on Saturday night (well close to Sunday morning) My plans were set for the next day.  Family to church in the morning, Easter brunch at my sister’s house followed by driving my children back to their perspective colleges.

But something unexpected happened.

My husband got a call in the middle of the night.  His father was dying and he left to be at his bedside.  Suddenly, our world turned topsy turvy.

My father in law died on Easter in the afternoon.  Pope Francis words came to me.

“We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

The Easter Vigil, like every Mass is meant to remind us,

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6)

As I tried to find the words to comfort my mother-in-law and my husband, those words of the angels came to mind.

This isn’t the blog post I intended to write.  Things happened and we deal with the unexpected.

A little about my father in law.

Bob was once asked to a tryout for the Yankees baseball team, but declined the invite because of various complications. I think their were times in his life that he regretted that he didn’t try.

In the last few days of my father-in-law’s life he was asked, “Bob, if you get better what are you looking forward to doing?”

In those moments when a person is ill and the life here and our past seems to merge in our minds, Bob replied “Play Ball.”

The days and months ahead will be filled with grieving for Bob.  The thought though comes to mind that if we truly believe the Easter story, we wouldn’t be sad.

If we believe in the resurrection Bob will get to “Play ball.”

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Reflections on the Triduum ~ Good Friday

March 29, 2013

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Good Friday always confused me.  Like many people, Catholic and non-

On The Cross Licensed under Creative Commons - Archer10

On The Cross
Licensed under Creative Commons – Archer10

Catholic alike, the question is “Why do we call it good?”

In years past one part of the liturgy has always stood out to me.  The veneration of the cross. I would sit there in awe as I watched members of our parish walk up to kiss the wood of the cross.  One woman struggled with her walker as she made her way to the cross and knelt before it.  Another woman, widowed recently , venerated the cross and wiped a tear away as she returned to her seat.  Yet another person I saw was a man suffering from Cancer and wouldn’t probably see another Good Friday.  I’ve seen these scenes over the years…. And yet we call it “Good.”

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Lk. 14:27)

“Embrace the cross!” the priest said from the pulpit, but it wasn’t his words that struck a cord with me, it was his actions.

As the priest enters into this liturgy – he lays down, prostrate on the ground in front of the altar.  It is a humbling action.  As I watched this action a phrase rung in my head.
“Bring us God!”

I pondered as to why this was my reaction to this gesture by the priest. Was it that empty tabernacle again? Or was their something more I was to understand?  I had just read Pope Frances homily from the Chrism Mass so it gave me a little insight as to why this action invoked such a strong  and strange response.  In his homily, Pope Frances instructs his priests to go out.  To go out to the people where they are suffering and to also go out of themselves.  And when they go to the outskirts:

“they [the people] feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me Father”, “Pray for me”

Bring us God through the Eucharist, bring us God through reconciliation, bring us God through the word because without God we couldn’t survive the crosses of our lives.

So that is why we call it “Good.”  With this one gesture of Christ dying on the cross for us He gives to us himself so we never have to carry our cross alone.

In fact it would be impossible to.

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Reflections on the Triduum ~ Holy Thursday

March 29, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the Triduum! It was 10 years ago that I attended my first Holy Thursday Mass.  It was shortly after my “re-conversion” to the faith and I was blown away.
As I watched with wonder at  the beauty of the Mass and tried to understand the depth of the liturgy, I left the church that night in a bit of a stupor. As I stumbled out of the church past the priest, I walked up to him and said “It is like coming home.  It is like being away at college for a long time and then you come back home. It feels like that!” I don’t know if anyone else can understand that sentimentality, but its impact has never left me.
Each year I enter into this sacred week with certain expectations.  What I expect never seems to be what I get, but if I approach it with my eyes and heart open I most certainly hear God’s voice.
This year my personal, family life is in a bit of a disarray.  With two children at college and their needs and schedules changing- regular family traditions are a bit off.  Easter baskets have changed from candy and bunny rabbits to gas cards and cash.  To top it all off – we are remodeling our kitchen so we have no stove, sink or refrigerator. We will not be making Easter eggs, traditional ham dinner or even a pizza!

Trying to enter into a prayerful mood – I left my home an hour early to attend the Holy Thursday Mass. The sounds of saws, screw guns and hammers were interrupting my already distracted mind. I was looking for a little peace!

As I walked into the church – the first thing I noticed was the empty tabernacle.  It immediately brought to mind the thought that Jesus was not “in the house.” Their is something sad about an empty tabernacle.

As I sat in a corner to collect my thoughts and pray when I looked up at the hustle and bustle going on around me.  From a distance I noticed the choir rehearsing – a unified choir with our Latino and English speaking community.  I noticed a young man from our Catholic high school walking the other servers through server training.  I saw the sacristan putting out candles, readers looking over their readings, volunteers arranging flowers and ushers setting out worship aids.  All this action could have put me on edge since I came to the church to get away from the bustle of my home, but then I realized something.

Jesus WAS “in the house!”

Everyone there – a community – had come together to make this happen.  They were joyfully doing their part to bring others to God through the liturgy.

Of course the Holy Thursday Liturgy speaks of service.  Service to each other.  Service to those in need.  The Holy Thursday Liturgy also speaks of the Eucharist – the body of Christ.  And He was present there  in the people and at the great offering of the Sacrament.

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Two angels at the tomb of Jesus

March 28, 2013

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Resurrection at St. Andrew in Fairfax revised

Resurrection at St. Andrew in Fairfax revised

A Miraculous Encounter.  On Easter Sunday morning when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and a number of other women from Galilee went to the tomb of Jesus, they encountered “two men in dazzling garments” (Lk 24:4).

A Curious Discrepancy.  Each of the four evangelists mentions the presence of one or two mysterious figures at the tomb.  Matthew explained that “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow” (Mt 28:2,3).  Mark reported that the women, upon entering the tomb, “saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe” (Mk 16:5).  In the Fourth Gospel John the evangelist recounted how Mary Magdalene “saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been” (Jn 20:12).  In Matthew and Mark there is one figure, while in Luke and John there are two.  Who are they?  Why is the number different?

Unique Identity.  There are multiple details that reveal the identity of the figures present in the tomb.  Both Matthew and John state explicitly that they were angels.  All four gospels say that the figures were clothed in white or dazzling garments, a sign they came from heaven, the abode of the angels.  Each delivered an announcement from God that Jesus was risen from the dead, and it is the duty of angels to serve as divine messengers.

One or Two Angels.  Modern rationalistic philosophy and the scientific method strive for factual accuracy and precision, while the evangelists use details to convey a symbolic message.  There are several plausible reasons why Luke prefers two angels to one.  Luke uses pairs throughout his gospel:  Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, the cure of a leper and the cure of a paralytic, Martha and Mary, and many others.  When it comes to the angels, it is preferable for them to work together in tandem rather than by themselves, alone.  Furthermore, when it comes to the strength of testimony, in the Mosaic Law a statement given by an individual is considered insufficient or unreliable, while the word of two gives necessary corroboration and verification (see Dt 19:15).

The Two-Figure Symbolism.  There is a strong likelihood that Luke wants the reader to make a connection between the Transfiguration and the Resurrection.  When Jesus was transfigured, two men in glory appeared with him (Lk 9:30,31), and when Jesus was raised two men in dazzling garments appeared (Lk 24:4).  Moses and Elijah came from heaven and the two figures in the tomb also came from heaven.  Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31), and men in dazzling garments spoke about the completion of Jesus’ exodus on earth in anticipation of his future and final exodus, his Ascension to heaven.

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From Home to Rome: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Skirt

March 20, 2013

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Lisa skirtBy Lisa Weier

A couple years ago, I walked out of a Nebraska thrift store with the close friends I had come with, a couple new-to-me skirts I hadn’t, and the satisfaction of time and money well spent.  One of the skirts in my shopping bag was particularly feminine and flowery, and billowed out perfectly when its wearer spun around. My friend Lucy and I split its cost with the shared understanding that this particular skirt would dance its way between our closets.  We never really planned for it to go between our suitcases too.

When Lucy went to Rome in the spring of 2012, it was an easy decision to send the skirt with her.  I also, then, took the skirt with me this year on my own Roman adventure, having no idea how much of an adventure it would really be.  The Conclave, for instance, was unexpected.

March 13 was the most personally convenient time for a new pope to be chosen; I would not need to run across the city, dodging people and vaulting mini-cars.  Instead, we had set time aside to go and pray in the square, and of course keep an eye on the Sistine chimney. So I went, with the thirty-three other students in my Catholic Studies Study Abroad program.  And I wore the skirt.

I did a bit of singing and dancing in the rain down the streets of Rome, fabric swishing underneath my trench coat and over the tops of my boots.  When we entered the square, there were already many people present, from seemingly everywhere in the world.  Most of them were holding umbrellas, beautifully arched over heads, a ridiculous amount of patterns and colors.  We prayed, talked and waited.  And waited.  And a seagull, I presume wanting to be on TV, landed on the top of the smokestack.  And we waited longer.

And suddenly, there was gray smoke.  Gray?  Everyone was trapped in confusion for a couple seconds, but as we saw the smoke become whiter and whiter, our confusion turned into desire for a good view.  There was a mad rush for the front of the square, closest to the doors where the new Pope would emerge.  I grabbed onto one of my classmate seminarian’s book bags and listened to the joyful yells of another classmate seminarian gripping my shoulder as we snaked toward the front, “LISA! WE HAVE A POPE! WE HAVE A POPE!”

We waited in suspense for an hour under our group’s US and papal flags.  I was in a sea of umbrellas, cameras, reporters and conjecture. The Swiss Guard band played and marched.  Then they stood still for a long time (I sometimes think they are some of the best statues in Rome).

Someone turned the interior lights of St. Peter’s on to a collective gasp from the thousands below.  Something rustled the curtains inside the balcony door.  A cameraman emerged to groans. FINALLY the proclamation sounded, “Habemus Papam.”  An absolutely joyful noise erupted, screams and cries of “Papa!” emerged all over.

Once we quieted down, the cardinal announced the elect’s name to more confusion.  Who?  Finally the word circulated and was confirmed through technology, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, Papa Francesco.  Chants of “Francesco, Francesco!” prompted his first steps onto the balcony.  He stood, taking in the crowd, probably overwhelmed with the day he was having.  And then his words cut through the cheers, “Buona sera. Come stai?”  Good evening.  How are you?  We laughed and he went on.

He spoke in Italian, I didn’t understand all of it, but I did know he asked us to pray for him in silence; I’ve never heard Rome quite that quiet before.  I also could see that he loved us in humility.  I was so happy to have a Papa again.  In the midst of it all, I found it beautiful that I was still very much connected to home, holding the hem of the skirt.  Lucy, my family and other friends, were on my mind, in my prayers, and also under the subsequent blessing of the new Holy Father.  I like to think the skirt can retain a bit of it too… Viva il Papa!

 

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The Prodigal Father

March 6, 2013

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Liscensed under Creative Commons

Liscensed under Creative Commons

We all know the story of the prodigal son.  It seems to pop up in the liturgy this time of year and I have worn a crease in my bible in that spot so that it falls open to that story often.  Every time I read it I am brought to reflect on “who am I?” in the story.

There are times when I see myself as the one who ran off and enjoyed the pleasures of life and spent my life carelessly, but this time when my bible fell open to Luke 15, the resentful son seemed to look a lot like me.   Recently I was confronted with a disappointment in my life.  We all have them.  It could be that you are passed up for a promotion, or that your friend gets a new car, or that you weren’t invited to a social gathering or it could date back to being the last one picked on the playground some 30 years ago. We may have been wronged and we may want justice, but like the resentful son I can sometimes whine and only see my point of view.

It takes looking at this from the Father’s eyes for me to see myself.  I like to call him the Prodigal Father because it is from that perspective I need to see.

1prod·i·gal

adjective \?prä-di-g?l\Definition of PRODIGAL

: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish

The word Prodigal means to spend lavishly.  The father in the story does spend extravagantly, but not in a wasteful way.  He spent lavishly on the wayward son by hosting the big party, but he also spent lavishly on the son who stayed home and worked dutifully.

‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.~ Luke 15:31

Everything is there for me too.

God spends lavishly on us.  A small detail in the Cana wedding story opened my eyes to this.  In that story the servants fill the water jars to the brim.  Have you ever seen a container filled to overflowing?  The liquid seems to fill the space above the confines of the cup or jar. There is sort of a surface tension that holds it in the glass.  It is so full it can’t be contained but it doesn’t spill over! That is how I imagine Gods love for me and how I have to try, time after time, to remember to love others and myself.

There is another point to the story that also caught me this time around.  The Father doesn’t hesitate to point out the bad behavior of his elder son.  He does so with so much love and an invitation to join the party.  This gives me cause to reflect on how we might rightly handle the injustices we face.  By seeing it from the father’s eyes we can see clearly that a behavior or situation may be wrong or need correcting, but if we can approach it with lavish love it goes a long way.

I am, once again, resolving to be the prodigal Mother, wife, employee and friend and spend lavishly when I feel like pouting.  I invite you, even in this season of Lent and self-denial – Spend Lavishly!

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German Catholics in WWII play role in modern mystery

February 16, 2013

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“The German Suitcase”  (Premier Digital Publishing, 2012) is one more novel to feed my World War II addiction.
Greg Dinallo puts complex, likeable characters into an interesting plot with flashbacks to Nazi Germany to fill in the mystery.
Prescient readers may solve that mystery relatively quickly, but that doesn’t make “The German Suitcase” any less of a good read.

german suitcase coverThe fictional story includes a family of Catholics who assist Jews to escape the Holocaust. The fact that a contemporary author is writing anything positive about Catholics makes Dinallo’s bit of fiction unique today.

Of course, the page-turning story was going along swimminglywhen for some unknown reason there is a gratuitous reference to how the Vatican has handled the clergy sex abuse crisis. For the love of God I can’t understand why Dinallo included that in the novel; it doesn’t do one thing to advance the plot.

But here’s a theory: Major publishers think it helps sell books if there’s something in them to bash the church. Have you noticed, too? I’d love to hear from those who’ve found evidence in other novels that either prove or disprove my theory. — bz

 

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St. Scholastica, Virgin and Religious

February 8, 2013

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St. Benedict speaking to St. Scholastica detail at Seven Dolors in Albany

St. Benedict speaking to St. Scholastica detail at Seven Dolors in Albany

St. Scholastica (480-547) was born in Nursia, Italy, in 480 AD.  She is the twin sister of St. Benedict.  As a young woman she consecrated herself to God, and she remained at home to assist her father while her brother Benedict went to Rome to study.

St. Benedict is the founder of Western monasticism, the one who developed the concept of men living together in a religious community in a monastery for a spiritual purpose under a rule of life.  Upon his return from Rome he founded a monastery at Monte Casino.

In parallel fashion, St. Scholastica founded a house for women religious or a convent at Plombariola only five miles south of Monte Casino.  Previously women who wished to live a more intense spiritual life did so on their own in seclusion and occasionally a few women would live together.  St. Scholastica expanded the communal life dimension.  She gathered women who wished to focus more exclusively on God into larger groups, usually younger virgins and older widows.  In the convent they were able to separate themselves from the concerns and temptations of the world to concentrate on a life of prayer, mutual support, and good works.

St. Benedict was the abbot or superior of the monastery, and St. Scholastica was the abbess or superior of the convent.  Even though they lived separately they stayed in close communication and shared a strong spiritual bond.  Once each year they met for a single day to pray and discuss spiritual matters, and because Scholastica was not permitted to enter the monastery, their meeting took place at a home between the two.

They had a remarkable final meeting.  Scholastica was advanced in age and had a premonition that her time was short, so after dinner she asked her brother to stay longer.  The Benedictine Rule requires a monk to be in the monastery every night, so Benedict declined.  Scholastica said a quick prayer and almost instantly a violent thunderstorm broke out which forced Benedict to remain indoors.  Benedict exclaimed, “Sister, what have you done?”  She answered, “I asked a favor of you and you refused it.  I asked it of God and he has granted it.”

Three days later St. Scholastica died and St. Benedict, who was praying at that moment, looked up and saw her soul ascending to heaven in the form of a dove.

St. Scholastica is considered the founder of the Benedictine sisters; her symbols are a dove, the book of the Benedictine Rule, and a pastoral staff; she is the patron saint of women religious; and she is a special intercessor against storms and lightening, and for children suffering convulsions.

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Turning to our Mother in Times of Tragedy

December 17, 2012

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Madonna and Child

In the wake of the school shooting on Friday, I went to find solace in daily Mass on Saturday.
As I entered the church, the first thing I noticed was the Our Lady of Guadalupe picture in the sanctuary. The picture was left there as a remnant of the Wednesday night celebration. It was then that it occurred to me that the tragic killing of the 20 children and 6 adults in Connecticut is not something unique to our culture today. At the time of the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego in 1531, child sacrifice was common place. After her appearance, eight million natives were converted to the Church in the next 7 years – virtually eliminating the Aztec practice of sacrifice. Is our wonton cultural lack of seeing life as precious any different? Is this tragedy any different than the atrocities of child sacrifice?
In the wake of this recent tragedy we are left asking why, but maybe more importantly we should be asking what should we do? Stricter laws concerning guns –yes, more help for the mentally disturbed – of course, but maybe we should be turning to Mary in this year of faith to help bring about the conversion that was seen in Mexico 500 years ago.
In this Year of Faith I have made a personal commitment to get to know our Blessed Mother better. I have always been one of those people who just didn’t “get” Mary. I never had an aversion to praying for Mary’s intersession like some of my Protestant friends, but I just didn’t quite understand why I needed an intercessor – why not go directly to the ‘Big Guy?”
To get to know Mary better, I have started with memorizing some of the Marian prayers that I have never gotten around to knowing by heart.
I have been working on memorizing the “Hail Holy Queen.”
In the wake of this tragedy  it was the first prayer I turned to. Maybe it is something about telling your heart ache to your mother and if anyone knows the heart ache of the loss of a child, it is our Blessed Mother. The words are especially haunting; calling us all the “poor banished children of Eve” and the description of  “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears” is what drew me to first look to Mary in this time of tragedy.
If you read this blog post, maybe you will join with me in asking Mary’s intersession.

 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

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When you least expect it, God shows up

November 26, 2012

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God puts us where he wants us.

He puts others where he wants them, too.

Sometimes our stories and those of others become enjoined, our “where” and the “where” of others come together, and God makes his presence felt. That’s what seems to happen in ”Unexpected Presence,” a gathering of a dozen stories destined to awaken one’s spirituality and remind us we’re all part of a greater story.

In less than an hour you’ll breeze through this little, pocket-size ACTA Publications collection that’s subtitled “Twelve Surprising Encounters with the Divine Spirit.”

These are first-person pieces, the longest only 13 pages and a couple only six. Every one is a winner, though, a credit to Dave Fortier who wrote one of them and edited the rest.

A few of the writers are published authors, but not all.

Alice Camille, a well-known Catholic writer and religious educator,  shares the time when, burned out on church work and temporarily employed at an incense factory, she had to explain the parable of The Prodigal Son to her co-workers. It’s an unforgettable anecdote you’ll find yourself re-telling others.

Charlotte Bruney is a lay pastoral administrator in New York who writes about the Holy Week she spent not at the church services she loves but as chaplain in a university hospital with a very busy trauma center. She notes, “Its steady diet of tragedy felt to me like an eternal Lent.” Instead of attending the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday or venerating the cross on Good Friday, Bruney tells of baptizing an infant with a massive tumor, of holding the hand of a suicidal heroin addict going through withdrawal, of bringing communion to a woman with an irreversible condition, of encouraging a scared teen to go through with a bone marrow transplant — and finding God in each setting. She writes:

I was not where I wanted to be that week; it was not what I wanted to be doing. Still, should I really be so surpassed to find the Divine One lurking in the darkest of places?

These are heartfelt and heart-warming stories all. You love the punch line from Donald Paglia, the head of a diocesan family life office who finds that parenting is the last thing he wants to do one evening.

Fortier’s own “confession” is a worthy entry, too, one that will make readers reflect on, as he puts it, “the greater story” often hidden as we make our judgments about those whose lives touch ours. These are stories that reveal God alive in our world, and that’s something we all need to be reminded of. — BZ

 

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