Pope’s Fiat

Fiat. Much has made by the secular media of the little Italian-made car that transported the Holy Father these past days, during his visit to the United States… Rightly so, as the unpretentious car was seen as an outward sign of the Pope’s inner poverty, simplicity, and humility, practiced in full view, in full witness, for everyone who looked to clearly see.

Though the media has not been making a spiritual connection (at least none that I have read or heard), it strikes me that “Fiat” is a perfect name for a car in which the Pope travels. How Providential, it seems to me, that the Italian manufacturer choose that name for its little automobile in which the Pope was cheered on by enthusiastic crowds lining both sides of some major American roads and streets.

Fiat. Latin—Let it be done.

In a spiritual sense, then, what we were seeing and cheering—literally–was the lived experience and expression of the Pope’s Fiat. His “let it be done” promises of obedience and fidelity, promised to God, from his Baptism and Confirmation, through his Ordination, and now, in his Papacy. His willingness to be used, to serve, to go where the Lord sends him.

What brought the Pope to the United States was his Fiat to the Lord, expressed in and through his commitment of service to Jesus’ lambs and sheep–to His Church.

Fiat. Not content to have us watch him live out his Fiat, was not the Holy Father, by his presence among us and through his words spoken in his many addresses to us, challenging and cheering us on–reminding us of our own Fiats? Was he not saying to us—as Our Lady told the attendants at the Wedding Feast of Cana—“Do whatever He tells you.” ..Now. Get moving–as he quoted the motto of the new Saint Junipera Serra, whom he canonized, “Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward!” Open your eyes and your hearts. Reach out in loving service to the poor and needy around you.

And lest we (wishfully) think that the Fiat directive was meant just for clergy or individuals of particular importance, did not the Pope emphasize the call to each one of us, by virtue of our Baptisms to fulfill the mission our Lord has entrusted to us? “Et tu?” the Pope asked during his Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Philadelphia. “What about you?” A “you” addressed without exception to every Baptized person.

How fitting, too, that in every church which the Holy Father visited, he presented flowers to Our Lady, the woman whose Fiat brought us the Savior of the world, the Redeemer Whose Church Francis serves as its visible head on Earth, an Earth–the “footstool of the Lord,” as Scripture says, which is entrusted to our use, not abuse.

Viva, Papa Fransicso! Viva the Fiat that brought him through American highways and byways. Viva! Maria, Mother of Mercy, Mother of the Church, Mother of each one of us! Viva her Fiat that makes all our Fiats–for all humanity, for all eternity– more fruitful in, with, and through her Son, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity.

As the Holy Father continually asks for our prayers, let us pray on his behalf the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father prayer that contains, in its Latin version, the call to Fiat—fiat voluntus tuas; Thy Will be done. Amen.

Fiat. May our Fiats bring us safely home, and may we bring home many others. The Lord will welcome us–and them–most royally–in vehicle parades that far outdo the fanciest vehicles we have ever seen this side of heaven! (Not that we live our Fiats for that reason!)

We know about the Pope. What about you and me? What Fiat are we living?

Posted in Baptism, Blessed Mother, Church, Fiat, Holy Father, Our Father, Pope, US Visit | Leave a comment

Patient wannabee

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From my earliest days, I don’t think I knew I really had only one given name. So equally often did I hear two names from the lips of my mother.

Bobbie, on the one hand.   …PatienceChildPatience, on the other.

Not that my mother said Patience, Child, Patience as if it were an imperative sentence. (Which it truly was.)

No, she spoke those three separate words as one long run-on: “PatienceChildPatience.”

“PatienceChildPatience” was a name. My name.  A name my mother called me, even in my adulthood. A name she called me, frankly, up to her death.

Not a name that described my major virtue already attained, as often Native American names do. (Not that we were Native American. But I always felt a soft spot for the First People, given how unfairly they were treated. As an adolescent, my dream was to teach on a reservation. I never did.)

No. “PatienceChildPatience”–that name described more an inadequacy, a vice: impatience.

In that context, that name was more a goal to strive after. A name to work to attain. A remedy to be employed.

Suffice it to say, then, my mother’s discipline of me had a lot to do with curbing my impatience and anger. (I think those two faults go together.) As a parent, I don’t envy her!

Later (even till today), as an adult, I struggle with disciplining myself to be more patient—not only with circumstances, but with myself, as well as with others.

Some well-meaning friends have advocated my saying (a lot) the Serenity Prayer as a way of combating impatience. Others have recommended the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila.   One of the last lines of St. Teresa’s prayer, I admit, is very motivating:

“Patience obtains all things.”

Despite all my mother’s best efforts, as well as the efforts of my praying those recommended prayers to help me to change, what has spoken most powerfully to me, what has impacted me most of all to make a firm commitment to change, was reading  (I think it was from one of Fr. Henri Nouwen’s books) about the derivational linkage between the English word “patience” and the Latin word patientia which means (Are you ready?)….suffering!

Suffering!

When I am impatient, I am shaking my fist at suffering. Yes! That is true. Being patient is a great suffering. When I refuse to be patient, even in the littlest thing like waiting for a traffic light to change, I am refusing to suffer.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38

Uh-oh! Impatience is no little thing!

Having to be patient, for me, is a small death.

Now the only question is this: in the end, which death will come first? Physical death or death to my impatience?

Currently, I would have to admit—short of a miraculous intervention by the Lord—physical death. However, I would also have to admit that compared with how impatient I was before learning the etymology and Gospel implication of the word, I am much more patient since.

To quote Joyce Meyer, from whose television broadcasts I have learned so much, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

That is the good news, not only for me, but for everyone around me.

Who knows! Maybe my mother’s name for me, much like Native American names—or even Old Testament names— given to infants that prophesy a future virtue, will turn out to be truthful  in my case.

Believe me, only by the Grace of God will I ever live up to the name Patience. But it’s a good name to cooperate with the Lord’s Grace to bring to fruition.

Even so, my mother would be proud!  PatienceChildPatience is not where she should be, but she’s a lot more patient—a lot less impatient than she used to be—even since her mother’s death six years ago.

Bet my mother’s been praying for me!

And when I find myself getting impatient, guess what I hear myself saying—often aloud?

PatienceChildPatience. And the voice I hear has a ring to it that sounds suspiciously like my mother’s!

PatienceChildPatience. That’s me. “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”  Thanks, Joyce Meyer, for encouraging me.

With God’s Grace, I’ll have increasing victory over the impatience that has pained me from before I knew my name was really only Bobbie.

Posted in Childhood, Patience, Virtues | 4 Comments

Our Father–can you relate?

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Jesus told His Church–His body of followers–to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven….

(Overly?) Sensitive from my youngest years about being an only child, my friends’ complaints about having to share bedrooms, do without wished-for toys, or wear hand-me-downs didn’t dissuade me. Their “You’re so lucky!” jealous lamentations deeply pained me. …I didn’t want to be an only child. How to begin to explain?

Although I left my friends’ taunts unanswered in words, keeping to myself thoughts of:  Here. Take this. See if I care about any of these things you’re so jealous of, I answered them in works. I distributed my toys to my friends, not to gain their friendship, but to prove to myself, to my parents, and to them that it was siblings, not toys, that I wanted.

Our Father Who art in heaven…

It was in reading a reflection–unfortunately, not until relatively recently–on the Lord’s prayer in which the author noted that the prayer does not begin “My Father” that I had an amazing epiphany!

True! I had always prayed “Our Father,”  and had never—not even once—substituted “My Father.”  No matter. Though I might have prayed verbally in a communal way, the truth is, interiorly, I was thinking and feeling in a unilateral way.

An only child, I never shared my father with any other child. “Our father” was not in my lived familial experience or vocabulary–neither was “my sister” or “my brother.”

Friends, yes. Close friends; best friends—I thought so. But every time there was a Baptismal godparent or matron of honor to be chosen, my friends always explained that surely I understood that our friendship notwithstanding, they “had” to choose their sisters.

I got it. I could never be a real sister, no matter how close I got to others.  And, in addition to feeling sorry for myself, I admit having been angry. It wasn’t my fault that I was an only child. Before I understood that luck or magical thinking had nothing to do with gaining siblings, hadn’t I thrown coins into every wishing well within arms’ length? In addition–Hadn’t I asked? Hadn’t I prayed?

Our Father Who art in heaven…

As an adult, I’ve had a spiritual director advise me to think about Jesus in terms of my only-childhood. Jesus was an Only Child, too. And yet, with God as our Father, no one was more brother–truly Brother to every human being ever born–than He is.

I had never thought of Him that way! Realizing that humanly speaking, Jesus was an only child, too, and yet spiritually, every believer is His brother or sister was healing. Jesus, humanly an only child, based on His spiritual relationship to all humanity, was the first to say “Our Father.” That insight really helped me.

It helped open me up to reducing (but, unfortunately, not fully eliminating) a lifetime of  anger, jealousy, and resentment about being an only child to make room for recognizing, appreciating, and embracing the inadvertent spiritual benefits of my being an only child…

The appreciation of quiet time. The ability to be by myself. The detachment from some (not all!) material things; the preference to be simple in taste–even if I had formed these predilections in early childhood out of spite–to show my parents and the rest of the world  that I didn’t want the things my parents’ money bought for me, I wanted their love, expressed in a sibling.

And once I could thank God for the ways that being an only child had brought me closer to Him, then I could ask to be healed and to be taught to believe that I am part of a church community–not of so many individuals, many of whom are strangers praying, living the Faith in a parallel way–much the way toddlers engage in parallel play—but, truly, as brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of the one true Father.

Our Father Who art in heaven…

Am I there? No…Not yet.

But, by God’s grace, someday before I die, I pray that I will be open to the gift the Lord might give to allow me to fully think, believe, and feel a sense of Church as brothers and sisters of Christ, living out the Our Father, and when praying the words “Our Father” to really mean them, to intentionally really live them as part of Church–as a community of believers, united through Jesus.

Amen.   …As I journey on Thursdays and all days, I appreciate and welcome your thoughts and inspirations. Thank you for reaching out to me in prayer and friendship. (Dare I say holy sibling-hood?)

Our Father Who art in heaven…

Posted in Church, Community, Onliness, Our Father, Siblings, Spiritual Journey, Spiritual Journey Thursday | 8 Comments

Grandmothers, Carnations, and Unborn Babies

Carnations in white, as well as in many pastel colors, stems soaking in huge buckets of water, gaily filled our church vestibule this morning. Proceeds from the flower sale will help support women facing crisis pregnancies.

Today is Grandparents Day.

Knowing the cause for which the carnations were being sold, I couldn’t help connecting the flowers with the grandparents, particularly the grandmothers.  As I thought about all the grandmothers throughout the day who, like me, would leave the church clutching the carnations, I couldn’t help imagining…

Surely, some grandmothers will wholeheartedly rejoice, grateful recipients of the flowers, given by loving children and grandchildren, in tribute of their special day.

Just as surely, some grandmothers, sadly, will receive the flowers, too, as those at gravesides do. Their hearts broken by memories of grandchildren, whose birthdays, holidays, and other milestones they once celebrated. Grandchildren, still unbelievably—no matter for how long—have been deceased, so “unnaturally,”—before their grandparents.

And then, I supposed, there will be among those whose eyes will moisten in contemplation of the cause behind the carnation sale, those grandmothers who remember aborting children long ago, when Women Rights first championed their right-to-choose cause. Just unwanted “tissue”—not a child– is what they were told was being removed from inside their bodies.

Also among the grandmothers who will accept or purchase carnations, I imagined, will be those who are, in fact, unaware mothers. When various birth control pills came into popularity they were called “contraceptives”—literally implying that no conception could take place. Decades later, that nomenclature was revealed, at worse to have been a blatant lie; at best to have been inadvertently misleading. Conception was not prevented; no; only implantation after conception was prevented. Implantation does not initiate a new life; conception does.

Other women–mothers, I suspected, will purchase the carnations on Grandparents Day, never imagining, not knowing, that they themselves are grandmothers. Grandmothers unaware…whose sons or daughters, wittingly or unwittingly, had cooperated with God to bring new life into being, even if that child was never born, but secretly was aborted.

And this grandmother, whose grandchildren-birthstone-pin has three jewels, treasures in a most special way the second of those three. The one for a grandson spontaneously aborted from his mother’s womb at thirteen weeks’ gestation. And this grandson, never seen, never held, is the most precious to me, baptized as he was with my tears from the moment the doctors assessed that not even the most skilled surgeon, not even the most advanced surgical procedure, could save him.

And so, as I left church clutching the long-stemmed carnations I bought, I thanked God for the children and grandchildren I have seen and held, as well as those I haven’t. God is merciful. At the end of my life, as at the end of all the grandmothers’ lives, we all, grandmothers and mothers, aware and unaware, will be reunited with–or will be introduced to–the grandchildren and the children who have predeceased us—some of them, as total surprises to us.

And what a glorious surprise each conceived, but unborn, child will be!. .For once with God, there is no animosity on the part of our children. Only gratitude for our participation in the initiation of their lives for all eternity. No matter what happened, even if they lived only a nanosecond after conception, they were privileged to be with God forever—to live eternally, whether we knew their conception had taken place or not, whether we prevented them from being born, or whether we miscarried them–without ever knowing we were even carrying them! God is so good to all His children. (You know they say, apropos of this day, that God, our Loving Father, has only children, not grandchildren! We are all directly, His first generation. He knows, and loves, and saves each one of us, individually, as one of His precious children.)

And while I clutched the carnations, I prayed, also, that the young women in crisis pregnancies would receive the help and strength to give their babies life on Earth, to know the joy—albeit also the struggles and pain—of raising their children. I prayed that they, too, one day would celebrate Grandparents Day. And maybe even buy a carnation or two to help other women, as they once were helped, when facing crisis pregnancies.

Till heaven, dear grandchildren, already with God—now fully mature in him.

Till the unceasing, everlasting joy–never a tear to be shed again–yes!, by God’s Grace, we will join you, please God, in heaven.

How many children and grandchildren will run to embrace you, do you think, when at last you are with them and God in heaven?

(Thanks to our loving, merciful Father, whatever the circumstances, particularly those requiring His forgiveness, with the help of His Grace, I’m humbly, gratefully open to His revelation of many blessed surprises in heaven!)

Posted in Abortion, Babies, Contraception, Crisis Pregnancies, Grandmothers, Grandparents Day, Inspirational, Life | Leave a comment

9/11; 911: a call for help

Not a happy camper when, as an acquisitions editor, the publisher did some academic product list swapping and I lost a list I had begun, a list filled with authors and teachers with whom I had grown especially close. The list transfer was particularly disconcerting since it took place just a few weeks prior to the list-related conference I was looking forward to attending. I mumbled and grumbled to God about the unfairness of it all, particularly on the day when my colleague was heading off to perform a convention role that I thought should have been mine.

Needless to say, God knew what He allowed was for my own good–even if it took me a couple of years to figure that out. (I’m a slow learner, I suppose.) It wasn’t until one of the early anniversaries of the 9/11 tragedy that I “saw” what had been there all along. God’s Hand guiding me along the way He would have me…and on the day when America was attacked, I was not on the road at the conference as were my colleagues, whom I had envied. No. I had the privilege of spending that fatal day in the privileged position of being able to pray in the Eucharistic presence of the Lord.

Released from work when the second plane struck, I left the office that had a vantage of the heavy smoke emanating from miles away where the Towers turned to rubble. Instead of going home, I went to the place that so many times in the past had enclosed me in a feeling of safety–like another womb. I headed to a local monastery, resting on a hill, overlooking the devastation going on in New York.

And from that womb I prayed, unceasingly it seemed, Rosary after Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet after Chaplet, accompanied by the painful sounds of ambulances racing to New York. Every time I heard another siren, I prayed in thanksgiving, thinking it meant more and more people had been rescued. As much as I hated hearing those sirens, whose sound seemed to pierce into the depths of my soul, at the same time, I found the sound hopefully comforting. Aid and rescue were coming to the victims, my brothers and sisters in humanity and nationality. My brothers and sisters in God.

At a certain point, by popular request, a missionary priest who had himself come to pray quietly alongside so many laypersons, who had come for the same purpose, offered an unscheduled Mass for all those afflicted and affected by the terror attacks. He followed Mass with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In a most moving gesture, the monks kept the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar for the rest of the day and night.

With the Monastery exterior doors to the Chapel (where the Lord was reposed in the monstrance on the altar), uncharacteristically left fully open, the Lord Himself, it seemed to me, was most assuredly presiding over the ministering that was happening in New York, the World Trade Center being nearly perfectly aligned with the view through the opened doors. Nothing was more comforting that day than the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus in that strategic location, poised as His presence was in the direction of Ground Zero.

And inasmuch as the Lord uses our hands and feet and voices to minister to those in need, it was as if He were motivating, encouraging, overseeing, inspiring, blessing, and anointing all the good being done to overcome the evil that was an affront, not only to His beloved sons and daughters, but to the Lord Himself.

Among those who ministered that day, along with police, fire, medical, and other emergency personnel, were His Alter Christi, His priests. In accordance with the Lord’s own Merciful Heart, accounts were told of priests, prevented from being at Ground Zero, who nevertheless reached out to those injured and dying, as the priests stood in nearby buildings, looking out through windows, hands raised in blessing and reconciliation for all the victims.

No doubt the most well-known sacrificial priest that day was Father Mychal Judge, Franciscan friar and Fire chaplain, who died ministering to those trapped in the first collapsed building. Some name him as the first (at least known by name) victim of the terror attacks. How appropriate that the Lord’s Alter Christus would die first.

Likely less well-known are the anonymous priests from my home Archdiocese of Newark, sent out to meet all incoming trains from New York, all through the day, night, and into the next morning’s daylight, making themselves available to minister to grieving survivors. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I learned about this act of charity, which I’m sure our current Pope Francis would applaud as an act of the servant-shepherd-priests going out to minister to their injured and lost sheep, sharing their heartache; sharing their dust and grime and tears.

And it was outside one of the parishes of that archdiocese, a number of days later, that I found a special consolation after a memorial Mass for the 9/11 victims. It was dark when I exited the main steps after the Mass, still singing bits and pieces of refrains (not necessarily in the correct order) from comforting hymns that had been part of the very moving liturgy. “I know that my Redeemer lives… I shall rise again.. In my flesh, I shall see God…”  and.. .“do not fear to hope…”

I had cleared the last steps when I noticed a very low-flying, slow-flying plane overhead. Being in the Metropolitan area, relatively close to three major airports, having a plane overhead should not have been of particular notice, but after 9/11, I found myself noticing every plane overhead. Regardless, in all the years I had entered and exited the Church, I had never before noticed a plane overhead, much less a plane flying so low I felt I could reach to touch it, peer into its rows of seats. So slowly was it going, it seemed for a moment to be in slow motion, nearing suspended animation.

And that was not all. That plane was all lit. Red, white, and blue lights from the plane beaming into the night.

And I cried. You all are safe. You are with God. You are heaven-bound. And I prayed in gratitude for the sign of their safety, their affirming presence. Their thankfulness, perhaps, for the liturgy that had just concluded in their honor.

And there were other signs of God’s healing presence. One of the most powerful was the witness during another Memorial Mass at another local parish of a relatively recent convert who had become active as a catechist. Both of her only two children, her two adult sons, who worked on different floors, died in the World Trade Center that fateful day. And she stood and spoke of her grief, tempered by faith that her sons were with God and that while she didn’t understand why they were among those who died, she was not going to blame God. She was going to continue to serve Him, knowing that it was evil, sinful choices that took her sons’ lives. She took strength and was strengthened in her faith, she said, by the overwhelming outpouring of love from her parish family. Needless to say, there were no dry eyes when she ended her witness, thanking us all.

Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good. God bless the peacemakers. They shall see God. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend.

9/11; 911: a call for help. Let us call out to the Lord who is our only surety in the face of all that is evil. Our only hope to overcome evil inclinations, in and around us, so that, with the help of His Grace, we might always choose goodness, life, and love.

What good came out of 9/11 for you or your family? In an ongoing effort to overcome evil with good, what good can you facilitate or initiate in honor of those who lost their lives, and so that others might live?

Posted in Death, Dying, Hope, Priests, September 11, Terror Attacks, World Trade Center | Leave a comment

In the face of death–do-overs

“Don’t let Bobbie see me like this.”

Those were the last words I heard my grandmother speak before she went into a coma; the last time I heard her voice.

Unaware that I was standing in the doorway to the room where she lay dying, I was amazed, as my mother tried readjusting her mother’s head on the pillow, by the incredible length of my grandmother’s auburn hair–hair that I had never before seen un-bun-ded.

Mesmerized by her long hair, I longed to brush it, as my mother was doing. I wanted to draw near to my grandmother, no matter that she lay dying.  She was my spiritual mother. I loved her–more than, differently than–I loved her daughter, my mother.

Instead, respecting her wishes, I stood immobile,  not even uttering a whimper, though I was deeply saddened by her words. I wanted to call out that I loved her. I wanted to run into the room, yank the brush out of my mother’s hand and minister to my grandmother.

Long after she died–years and years after that March day when I was eight years old and she died–when I was married with teenage children and a dog, our dog of sixteen years died. But not before suffering a series of seizures and strokes one night–even though the vet had assured me, just a couple of hours earlier, that she would be fine, that she just needed some extra “watching” that night, as I did all night, laying on the floor next to her, ministering to her.

In the morning, when I knew I had to bring her back to the vet for the unthinkable, I had an irresistible urge to brush her coat. To make her look presentable for the vet, I told myself. So she looks well-cared for and loved, as she truly had been by all of us.

It wasn’t until weeks later, reflecting on my determined, almost desperate desire to brush our dog’s hair for the last time that I realized what I had done, and why I had done it.

The eight year old girl inside the woman’s body was acting out a drama she had missed–terribly missed–acting out years earlier.

And I remember thinking that inasmuch as my grandmother is with God, she knows–she has known, even without my realizing or articulating it, my motivation. And I think she accepted what I did for the dog as if I were doing it for her–as I had so longed to do.

And maybe that’s what the Lord meant when He said as long as we do something for the least of His brothers, we do it for Him. God gives us a chance to do for another person the things we never got to do for Him, as well as giving us an opportunity to make up for some goodness we neglected to do (or never had a chance to do) for someone else. God graciously give us that chance, even if we have to sublimate our desires through actions directed another of God’s creatures–even a dog!

And one Good Friday, as I listened to a Benedictine monk speak about the Shroud of Turin, I was struck by his observation that between the time His body was removed from the cross and laid in the tomb, likely someone “neatened” Our Savior’s matted hair–hair matted from blood and thorns. And it was His Mother, the monk supposed, who had lovingly done that work.

She knows, I thought. The Mother of God knows how I felt. Both times, she knows how I felt. She had the same impulse.

Funny how sublimation works. We do things, and often we don’t even know why. Glorious, mercifully healing–that’s what our God of another chance offers us–that’s how God’s infinite, timeless love works for our good. Restitution. Restoration. It’s a beautiful thing. As beautiful as gleaming hair that has been lovingly brushed.

What second chance has God given you to do something you wished you had done, for another’s sake–and your own?

Posted in Death, Dying, Inspirational, Resolution, Restitution, Restoration, Sublimation | Leave a comment

flower power: overcoming evil with good

Unlike those of us content to plant only shrubs, our next door neighbors plant all kinds of flowers, including sunflowers, which reach so far above the fence that tries to keep them contained, straightway within their backyard, that I can’t help noticing their over-sized faces every time I drive up our driveway—though they never look happy to see me arrive.

A dainty daisy and baby’s breath kind of girl myself, frankly, I find sunflowers overwhelming and intimidating—almost ferocious, if I can confide. (Think they sense that? Think that’s why they never seem to greet me with a smile?)

And so when I read that a husband and his children had chosen to flank a 4-mile segment of a Wisconsin highway with sunflowers, planted out of respect for their deceased wife and mother, as a cancer-fighting fundraiser, I thought, How appropriate—especially since they held a special place in the deceased woman’s floral heart.

Stand up to cancer. Defy it. Plant something powerfully, strikingly beautiful as a statement against its power in its wake.

“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

No wonder, I thought, too, the sunflower was her favorite. She had to be strongly rooted in her faith to stand so tall, to fight so hard against the cancer that ultimately released her from this life, and to have the charity before she died to suggest and request the fundraising enterprise.

As much as I was touched by the courage and generosity of the dying of the woman at the center of the sunflower-planting tribute, I was struck by the connection between the kind of cancer that took that woman’s life and the kind of cancer that took my grandmother’s. Multiple myeloma. Their cancers were alike.

When my grandmother was dying at  Memorial Hospital (now Memorial Sloan Kettering), the doctors told my grandfather that although they could not save her life, they hoped that permitting an autopsy would provide insights that would help prevent others from succumbing to the disease. As abhorrent as he and his children found the specter of cutting their beloved’s body apart, for the good of others, my grandfather allowed the doctors to do what they asked.

That was many decades ago. I was sorry to read that the woman honored with the sunflowers had undergone a variety of twenty-two treatments before her death.

…Still, I do not wish to think that my grandmother’s autopsy—as well as the experimental interventions she was given while still alive–were for naught.

…Likewise, I like to believe that the interventions and death of the woman at the heart of the sunflower planting, as well as the fundraising efforts in her honor, will make a difference–hopefully the ultimate difference in fighting the cancer that took their lives.

As I contemplate the continued deaths to multiple myeloma and other forms of cancer, I pray that all those sunflowers lifting their faces to the heavens act as reminders, pleas of sorts, to those that have lost their lives, to intercede for a cure.

And when the Good Lord (as my Grandmother always—and continually–called her Savior) sends children into the world with kernels of inspirations, like tiny mustard seeds of ability and knowledge, to grow into mighty warriors to fight cancers, I pray that they are not aborted before they have a chance to live and to let others live—others like the woman in the article and my Grandmother—who died before the cure.

Meanwhile, while families suffer, the love from–and for–all those who have died of cancer—and every other cause—expressed in goodness to others for their sake, in the Lord, is a beautiful sight—a bouquet of faith and hope and love, comprised of every kind of flower, from dainty daisies and baby’s breath to sunflowers, strong and tall.

Posted in Death, Dying, Faith, Family, Inspirational, Loss, Prayer | Leave a comment

Detachment simulation…Warning; it’s not easy!

The older I get, the more I realize how difficult it is to detach from people, places, and things. An eye-opening exercise in that regard took place for me years ago, during hospice volunteer training. (Sadly, I still haven’t  fully learned the lesson).

Step by step, the gist of the exercise went something like this. (Suggestion: for maximum impact, please do the exercise, as you read it. You need just paper and pencil.)

First, in a column, write these five categories: person, place, body part, talent or ability, and inanimate object.

Now, next to each category, write the name of whatever means the most to you.

Review your list. Make sure each one is the most important thing in its category.

(Okay. If you’re like me, you’re feeling really good, probably even smiling, thinking about those five things. You might be wondering what this exercise has to do with hospice training. Buckle your seat belt. Here we go.)

You just found out you are dying. Give up one thing. Erase or cross it off your list.

Take time to think about how you feel.

(Are you beginning to feel the grief? Which one did you choose? Why, do you think, did you choose that one?….Feeling safe? Grateful you get to keep the other four meaningful things? …)

Your condition has worsened. Give up another thing. Take it off your list.

Pause to take in how you feel.

(Getting the picture?)

Your health continues deteriorating. Eliminate another thing.

Take time to know what you are feeling.

Death is getting closer. Remove something else from your list.

Take time again; get in touch with your feelings.

There is one more thing on your list. Think about that.

Now erase or cross off from your list that one last thing. You have died. There is nothing left for you to possess or to lose.

I don’t know about you, but that exercise was a most powerful one, both to teach me what I hold as the priorities in my life—those most important things in each category, as well as the relative importance of the categories, themselves, as I chose the progression in which to let go of each person, place, body part, talent or ability, and inanimate object that was important to me.

At the end of the exercise, we were encouraged to share our thoughts and insights.

Most of us were too speechless to say anything. The intent of the exercise was to help us gain empathy for the dying persons we would be volunteering to serve—to realize, albeit vicariously, how gut-wrenching it is to lose the things you most value and love.

Having fully entered into the exercise, the result was a sense of our own immortality and the pain of progressive loss we will feel–unless we experience a sudden death.

And despite the pain of dying, I look forward, when nothing in this life is left, to trading in the entire list of things I possessed in this life for possessing and being possessed by the Lord Himself in the next.

Meanwhile, I know what I best do: detach, detach, detach; renounce all possessions, as the Lord instructs…in little things and little ways, every day…Hopefully each little detachment, each renouncement makes the final ultimate detachments—over which I likely will have no control or choice–easier to accept with the Lord’s Grace.

I’m wondering, what insights about yourself—your life, and your readiness for dying–did you gain from this exercise?

Posted in Aging, Death, Detachment, Dying, Grief, Hospice, Loss | Leave a comment

swimming with sharks

In response to Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si, beautifully summarized by Don Mulcare in a recent Catholic Writers Guild blog post, linked here, I was thinking about American surfer Bethany Hamilton.

What made me think of her, a young woman who lost an arm in a shark attack, while she was surfing?

More remarkable to me than her spunk in getting back into the water–still surfing despite having lost one arm–is her reaction to the environmental circumstances which changed her life.

To the surprise of many admirers, Ms. Hamilton did not strive, literally or figuratively, to strike back at the offending shark, and all his kind. She did not use her celebrity status and public sympathy for her loss to rally support for an all-out- shark-eradication campaign, as many (putting themselves in her position, I suppose) imagined she might.

That’s precisely why I thought of Bethany Hamilton in view of the Holy Father’s letter about the repercussions of human interaction with the environment.

Rather than resenting the shark who chewed off her arm, Ms. Hamilton respectfully and humbly defended him, explaining that she was the interloper in his environment. Like any territory-invaded animal, the shark did what was natural to him—he struck out at a perceived enemy. She bears him no hatred; wishes him and his species no harm.

Simple cause and effect. Simple law of nature. Swim where sharks live, and it could cost you an arm.

Creation is God’s gift for us to steward—not to abuse or to destroy. The Holy Father is calling us to greater accountability, as we fulfill our stewardship responsibilities toward the environment. How we interact with the environment matters, not only to the environment, but to human beings–near and far.

God’s creation is interconnected. Whether we surf with sharks or not, we need to respect the power of the environment to sustain or destroy life. Whether we know it or see it or not, all of humanity is at risk when some of humanity’s everyday consumer choices have detrimental effects on the environment, potentially triggering a deleterious chain reaction of events, events we might not have intended to trigger. But, unintentional or not, we do set them into motion, nonetheless.

Ms. Hamilton knows the personal risks involved in surfing when entering into sharks’ home territory.

As our shared home, we need to become better educated to the environmental risks we are entering into. By God’s Grace, as stewards of God’s Creation, humans might be “in control” of nature–but within limits. No matter how smart or technologically advanced, humans are stewards, not masters. We cannot defy God’s laws of nature without repercussions. Go into the water where sharks swim and you run the risk of losing a limb.

The Holy Father is warning us of far-reaching environmental risks and dangers that, unheeded and unaddressed, will make shark attacks look like pesky mosquito bites.

In what shark-infested waters of egotistical consumerism are we, individually and as nation, swimming?

In what other waters do we need to swim, do you think?

Posted in Consumerism, Creation, Environment, Inspirational, Laws of Nature, Responsibility | Leave a comment

(fresh) blood of the martyrs

Nowadays, I’m finding myself paying much more attention to Liturgical readings about the early Christian martyrs.

Thinking about either St. Paul’s being beheaded, or St. Peter’s being crucified, for example, has a different impact on me now.

Their beheading and crucifixion seem more “real” now, given that in 2015, our fellow Christians are suffering that same nauseating fate– almost two thousand years later.

And I’m wondering what difference it makes that humanity is enjoying so many technological and other supposed modernizing advances, and yet we seem to be capable of the same inhumanity, the same brutality, as demonstrated in ancient times.

Jesus asked if, when He returned, He would find any faith on Earth.

Those words give me pause today in a way they never did before.

Please, God, I pray so.

And as we enter into Presidential campaigning, I yearn for a candidate who will protect our religious liberty from attackers, within and without.

Will the Son of Man find any faith on Earth?

Please, God, enlighten us to elect leaders who recognize that faith in You, Who are our only surety, is our best defense against all the evil forces that seek to destroy us, as individuals, and as nations.

Posted in Christian, Faith, Freedom, Inspirational, Martyrs | Leave a comment