Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One of my favorite times of year

I know people who dread Lent. I do not. Perhaps this is partly because no one has ever been able to accuse me of being too hard on myself when it comes to mortifications of the flesh. Since I came back to the Catholic Church, I've found the season of Lent a wonderful time of interior retreat no matter what my outside circumstances.

During Lent of 2004, I was a widow of one year, with a new job, living alone (for the first time ever) in an apartment in a new city far from my home town. My taxing and rather erratic job and travel schedule prevented me from becoming involved in outside activities or meeting many people; to top it off, television reception in my apartment was poor. Seeing what I've just written, and knowing the warm and extroverted woman I am, it sounds like it would have been a prison. But it was not. I did not feel bereft. Instead, God was disengaging the gears that ennmeshed me within my life while he shifted them.

I was a practicing Protestant at the time, but there was a Catholic parish halfway between my apartment and work, so I began attending daily Mass. I started reading books and following Catholic blogs. Good friends answered my questions, including the Catholic gentleman who had taken me to dinner just before I left and who continued to keep in touch.

My life was simple, peaceful, rewarding, quiet, different.

On the Saturday of Palm Sunday weekend, I met the priest of that local parish and made my confession. I went to Mass later that afternoon and had to keep myself from lunging at the Eucharist (as I expressed it at the time to my co-blogger). On Sunday, I watched the Passion of the Christ for the first time. On Thursday, I flew home and participated in my home parish's celebration of the Triduum. I can't express to you what it meant to me.

What is Lent? For me, it's captured in the gospel reading we will hear in several weeks on the Feast of the Transfiguration: They looked around them, but saw nothing any more except Jesus only.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A devastating loss

Michael Dubruiel, beloved husband of Amy Welborn, died suddenly yesterday, February 3 while running at the gym. Amy's blog, Charlotte Was Both, has been among the most important of my sources of carefully considered, well written and God-loving commentary on the Catholic Church ever since I first considered returning to it. Michael's heart was in the same place: service to God and his family, spreading God's word and the faith to as many people as possible. His books are notable. [Update: I'd forgotten to include a link to Michael's excellent blog, Annunciations.]

I met Amy and Mike when Amy spoke at a local parish a couple of years ago. Mike worked the book table, the kids looked out for one another and did a little homework, and Amy was her completely comfortable and personable self. I wish I had had the opportunity to become better acquainted with them, but the combination of fans and old friends kept them well occupied.

I know what it's like to lose a husband, though my children were older and we had time to prepare. I won't forget the feeling of going through the hardest thing in my life without the person who always had helped me through the hard things. Even I can't imagine what strength and grace it will take for Amy and the children to deal with the next days, weeks and months. But I know, as does Amy, that the grace will be there.

If anyone wants to do anything for the family, buy Michael's books. It will bless you and bless them.

Well-wishers may want to add a note here.

O God, by your great grace and mercy, the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, and the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, receive your son Michael into heaven and give comfort and strength to his family and all who loved him. All you saints and angels, pray for us.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Do I really love God?

I'm not much tempted toward over-scrupulosity. My fault lies in the opposite direction: I am inclined to presumptuously take for granted that my efforts are acceptable because, hey, I'm doing the best that I can. (Well, I'm not always doing the best that I can and sometimes God and I have to have some serious discussions about that.) I tend not to be motivated by hearing "It's the right thing to do", but I will leap into action if I hear of something that will make a contribution to someone's life. My affections -- fortunately being drawn more and more into conformity with Christ -- are my spark plugs. But, in moments of doubt, people like me may ask ourselves, "Do I do what is right or am I locked into just doing what I feel inclined and motivated to do?"

Others may have the gift of being energized to accomplish what is right and just. They may say, "I want to do my duty faithfully. I am committed to God, I am loyal and I am at his service. My family, my work responsibilities, my service to God and Church -- these things come first." But they might ask, "Am I cold-hearted? God talks about loving him with my whole heart. Do I do that? I'm not sure I know what that means."

I found a very helpful piece of writing that went a long way to helping me understand the different ways God works in the human heart.
In people who pursue the spiritual life, you can distinguish two ways. The first strives for the love of God through the virtues. They mortify themselves in a spirit of penance; they practice humility because justice demands it; they obey because duty demands it. These moral virtues are geared toward restoring order in the soul and, little by little, they will lead on to the sphere of perfect charity.

Others take an opposite way. These immediately look to love. This is the virtue they wish to acquire . . . For them, this queen of virtues is, so to say, the only virtue from which all the others flow.

Achille Durant C.SS.R

I'm reminded that God's way with each human heart is personal and individual. Is one more valuable because of feelings and expressions of devotion? Or is another more admirable because of its strength in fidelity, fortitude and sense of justice? Though there are differences of degree (and we keep pressing on to make him our own because of Christ Jesus who has made us his own), we are different from one another as an orchid and a waterfall differ. Each beautifully glorifies God, not by resembling one another, but by displaying something unique God has created.


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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009