Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

Duty is not a dirty word

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Today is Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.

For the last ten days, my parish (St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA) has been praying the nine-day novena to the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this novena, a 40-hour devotion was held in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I tried to live up to my duty and participate fully in this prayerful time but fell flat after the fifth day of the novena. Still, I was looking forward to mass this Sunday in my church.

However, duty called.

King George VI understood about duty, despite his stuttering which made speech making nearly impossible.

Attending to my duty

As some of you already know, my husband Rich is a deacon in the Melkite Church which is Eastern Catholic. The liturgy is celebrated in the Byzantine tradition. It is a beautiful celebration that touches greatly upon the mystery that is our faith.

My feet of clay

I am not always up to the lofty state of mind that one needs to be in to attend these liturgies. It requires that you stand for pretty much the whole hour. This is a challenge for my bad feet and sore back.

The liturgy is entirely sung. Everyone sings which is commendable but the singing isn’t always good. Unless I am caught up in the Spirit of God, the singing can prove to be quite distracting.

I am not proud of the fact that these minor matters get in the way of worshipping God during these liturgies. But they do.

I really wanted to worship at my parish where the music can soar. But duty came first.

Saying goodbye

Rich had told me earlier in the week that a longtime and key member of his church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), Corinne, was leaving the state to be near her children. This woman had served Our Lady of Perpetual Help for 30 years and would be sorely missed.

Corinne had been one of many at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who had welcomed me as one of their own.  I wanted to say goodbye and wish her well.

Duty called, and I chose to attend liturgy at my husband’s church rather than our own.

Where duty led me

Each morning I dedicate my day to God with a prayer that Henri Nouwen prayed. In part it says, “I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

I attended the liturgy. As a result, I experienced a gentle outpouring of the Spirit which I know I would have missed had I not done my duty.

The Spirit brings life

It began during the homily as Fr. Paul spoke of different times in the Scriptures when the Spirit was mentioned. He recalled Ezekiel 37 when the prophet Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones come alive again into living, breathing people because he did his duty by obeying God and prophesying over them. A valley of bones rose to new life as a result.

The Spirit promises

Fr. Paul also mentioned Joel 2:28 and the promise of the Spirit:

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.

What had the Spirit done for me?

It was then that I began to reflect upon the remarkable yet quiet transformation that had been going on in my life since I lost my mother two years ago.

In thinking about those readings, I realized that I was like those dry bones in the valley, brought back to life. I was dreaming dreams again. All of this because of the outpouring of the Spirit into my life.

Personal Pentecost

I began to experience a personal moment of Pentecost, becoming suddenly very aware of God’s presence pressing in on me from all sides. Rather than feeling oppressed, I felt liberated, deeply loved, and grateful for the wondrous gift God had bestowed on me in the wake of my grief.

And all this I was privy to because I had opted to do my duty.

Duty can be beautiful

Doing one’s duty is the most basic reason for doing anything. But as frail humans, sometimes it’s all we’re capable of at that moment.

How wonderful God is that He will bless my performance of duty! Because I had demonstrated to Him an openness to whatever He had in mind for me, I was able to receive His blessing.

Duty had opened the door.

I had prayed it that morning and performed it through my duty: “”I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

God works through the least of His creatures

Monday, September 5th, 2011

This is the story of the tiniest of crises in my life: a tale of a cat. And how God is right there in the middle of this most trivial of moments.

If you are an animal lover, you may disagree that this crisis is small. If you’re not, you’ll know exactly what I mean! :-)

It began 4 weeks ago when I had to take my elderly cat, Bacci in for his physical. Although Bacci had a history of being super sensitive to the slightest change in his routine, I felt he would manage with a physical.

As expected, Bacci was so fearful of the exam that he was shaking, and purred to comfort himself. At 14 he had lost significant weight and had developed an infection due to scratching around his mouth (his gums were bothering him). The vet cleaned up the area around his mouth, put a cone around his head, prescribed antibiotics, and then told me he had a hyperactive thyroid that needed treatment (the cause of the weight loss). I was upset to see the cone because I knew deep down this would never fly. I was so right!

Bacci became unhinged after that visit. He couldn’t cope with the cone and began acting out (by not using the litter box) until I had to remove the cone. The antibiotic did not agree with him and as a result, he was losing more weight. I could see that he was spiraling downward (something I had seen in previous elderly cats) and felt the end was coming. It did come, 1 week and 3 days after the annual physical.

I was devastated. Usually I have my husband doing the “dirty deed” but he wasn’t home. I could feel myself becoming unhinged as I prepared to take Bacci to the vet for the last time.

I felt silly calling upon Jesus and Mary to see me through this but I knew if I didn’t call upon the Lord now, I wouldn’t call on Him for more important matters. I began to pray to His mother for intercession and immediately I felt her unique touch of peace. I just wanted to hold it together so I could follow through with what I knew needed to be done. Bacci was suffering terribly and putting him down was the right decision.

After it was done, I cried and cried. Bacci had been adopted from my mother’s nursing home and I felt guilty that I had not been able to provide him with the peaceful life I promised. Bacci had had a tough time in our home as he was not used to other cats, and the other cats sensed weakness in him and tormented him. I felt it my mission to make this cat feel safe, showering him with attention, hugs and kisses. And ironically, just before the physical, he seemed to have reached a happier place. It was a bitter end to the story.

It was also the last physical tie to my mother and I began grieving over her all over again.

Such a small matter, putting down a cat. So many people are hurting in this world and I lose it over a cat!

And here I discovered that the Lord is truly in the midst of everything in our lives, right down to the most trivial of details. He showered me with unspeakable graces and consolation, even in this smallest of crises. My daughter came home on a dime when I called to tell her of Bacci’s fate. My son sent me a beautiful letter telling me that my care of Bacci despite all the difficulties showed him the example of kindness and gentleness that he wanted to emulate.

God’s light had actually shown through me by the care of one of His creatures. This trivial matter was used to broaden my heart and show others that love.

I learned through Bacci that God will use anything and everything to demonstrate His gracious, abounding and unending love.

Truly, God IS in everything!

Here I wrote a tribute to Bacci if you’d like to know more about this sweet cat of mine.

 

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Overcoming emotion before it takes over – a followup

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

You may recall in a previous post the story I shared about how anger and aggravation overcame me beginning with the task of vacuuming the pool. I shared that story with my spiritual mother who advised me to say the Jesus Prayer before I begin, and during the task. It worked like a charm! I vacuumed the pool yesterday and the prayer lifted me outside of myself so that I could remain peaceful throughout the task. It had all the elements of being just as aggravating as the last time, but this time I was armed with prayer. Yet another lesson in the idea of detaching from emotion through prayer.

You would think I would then immediately apply prayer to any other time when emotion would overtake me but I still have a long way to go with this lesson. Letting go of aggravation and anger was easy in comparison to letting go of grief and self-pity.

Holidays lately have been a little difficult. I still haven’t grown totally into the empty nester role and therefore miss the kids terribly. I grieved the loss of our family together over the 4th of July holiday. Add to that a dose of self-pity because our efforts to go kayaking were thwarted yet again, this time by my husband’s back pain. I felt very badly for him, but felt sorry for myself too.

It took all weekend to turn to prayer but I finally did as I waited for a fireworks display. I had asked my husband if I could go and he said that was fine. I went and found myself feeling especially lonely and nostalgic for past days when we would go as a family. Seeing other families around me just added to the pain. I felt totally alone, until I realized I wasn’t ever alone – God was with me if I would just call on Him.

I began with the Jesus Prayer and quickly turned to the rosary. At first I looked up at the sky, thinking of heaven. Then I turned my gaze on all the people around me, asking God to bless them, and I began to see Christ in all of them. The feelings of loneliness, grief and self-pity slowly began to dissipate as I became aware of the presence of my very best Friend, the one who will never leave me, deep in my heart, and all around me too in those people.

The fireworks display seemed extra lively and bright now that I felt surrounded by friends. Maybe next time I won’t wait so long!