Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Heaven on Earth

I was a lector that day.  After the consecration, I was standing behind the altar with the Eucharistic ministers and the altar servers.  The priest, Fr. Mongeon, was saying the final prayer before giving communion.  "Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb."

And suddenly, I felt a wave of peace.  A moment in which I truly believed that God could and would take away the sins of the world.  That we would taste the joy of Heaven.  My heart was flooded with love.  My eyes filled with tears.  I knew, in that instant, what Heaven feels like.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

RIP John Michael

13 years ago, as I was just beginning my walk as a Christian, I joined the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship forum online.  Through it, I met many good people.  I went to the annual convention.  I wrote about my conversion to Christianity and it was published in a book on UU Christianity.  I eventually left the Unitarian Church and lost touch with most of my UU Christian friends, but over the years, one of the most lasting things was a correspondance with John Michael Keba.  

John was raised as an Eastern Catholic who had explored different faiths, including Unitarianism.  He was a hot head who got into vicious debates with UUs about all kinds of things.  He was a very smart, very fiesty man who eventually got himself banned from the forum.  For a couple of years we didn't connect.  

Then, one day, I knew that I could no longer be a Unitarian.  I began searching for a new church.  A Christian Church.  My search brought me to many Episcopal Churches.  But one Sunday, I decided to visit St. Teresa of Avila, a Catholic Church in Providence.  At the time it was pastored by a wonderful priest name Fr. Ray Tetrault.  I cried through the whole Mass. And though I knew that I wasn't ready to become a Catholic, for the first time I thought that someday, I might end up there. 

On the way home, driving under an overpass on the highway, I remembered John Michael.  I remembered that he was Catholic.  I decided to write him an email telling him that I had visited a Catholic Church.  He relentlessly tried to convince me to join the church.  I resisted.  I wasn't ready and I knew it.  But nevertheless, we continued to email each other, sometimes daily, usually weekly.

Thus began a correspondance that lasted over 10 years.  

The irony was that over the next several years, as I was drawing closer to the Catholic Church, John was leaving it.  He eventually chose the absolute polar opposite and joined the Religious Society of Friends.  And even there, in a faith about peace and quiet and the gentle calling of the spirit, John was a rabble rouser.  He was fiesty and cranky and got into all sorts of trouble, I think.  I believe that he was seeking peace.  He believed in peace.  He yearned for peace.

In some ways, John was actually responsible for my choosing to work at CareNet.  He insisted that if God was calling me, I had no right to refuse.  And if there was doubt about the call, he was having none of it.  John was fiercely pro-life.

Once I started working at CareNet, I would occasionally write to him, especially when things were particularly tough.  I asked for his prayers.  He prayed.  He encouraged, exhorted.  But somehow, after his father died in 2014, our correspondance dwindled. 

This morning, I woke up thinking about him, and for some reason, felt sure that he had died.  I went online and found that yes, indeed, he had died over the Christmas Holidays.  There is no obituary.  No record of his death save for a brief comment on his facebook page.  His extended family didn't even seem to know about it. Fortunately, one of his friends was willing to message me back on Facebook and tell me the story of his passing.  He died alone in his home. He wasn't found for days.  No one seems to know if there is a grave somewhere.  

Dear Jesus,  I pray that John is at rest in your arms.  He was deeply aware of his sins.  He loved you with all his heart.  He was a man who yearned for peace.  The peace that surpasses all understanding.  I pray, my savior, that he is with you.  May his soul rest in your peace forever.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Life in a Catholic parish

We have a new priest at St. Catherine's.  His name is Fr. Plante and he seems like a good guy.  That isn't really all that remarkable.  What has been remarkable for me, as a new Catholic, is the way that the new priest was installed.

In my old Episcopal Church, when the priest retired, it was nearly a two year process to replace him.  There was a 'self study' conducted that took months.  Surveys, meetings, ongoing conversations.  An interim priest was assigned (two actually) to shephard the congregation through the process.  A hiring committee spend months gathering resumes, conducting interviews, talking to references.  Finally, a team flew all the way to Paris to listen to the final candidate preach.

In my Catholic parish, it went like this:

My priest asked the Bishop's permission to retire.  The Bishop assigned a new priest to the parish.  On the day after my priest's retirement, the new guy was saying Mass.  That's it.

Here's the amazing thing: This process, for the most part, works just fine.  Yesterday was the first Sunday for the new priest.  I sat in the pew and felt such a sense of love and welcome.  The folks in the pews were a little excited and nervous.  We are, understandably, a bit concerned about how this new priest will work out, especially since he is going to be pastoring two parishes now.  But the overall sense was one of warmth and expectation.  Love and encouragement.  We want to love this guy.

I was very moved, to be honest.  Here, in action, there was a sense of trust in God.  There was the implicit belief that God has brought this new priest to us and we are going to have open hearts and open minds.  There is a humilty in that.  There is grace in that.

It made me grateful to be a Catholic.

The deepest truth about me....

is my faith in Jesus Christ.  It is the thing that drives everything.  It is the thing that has taught me to love you unconditionally.  The thing that draws me to try and do good in the world.  The thing that helps me ask forgiveness when I screw up.  The thing that has helped me raise two stunningly wonderful young men.  The thing that keeps me coming back, even when it is painful or challenging.  I know this truth is uncomfortable.  It has been challenging for some of the people in my life to come to grips with it.   To you, I say, I will not take my toys and walk away angry.  I am right here, loving you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

out of the darkness

I have been struggling for most of the last year with desolation.  It has been a dark time for me.  It has been very hard.

Fortunately, through all of it, I never really lost the sense of God's presence.  I felt him there, quietly egging me on, inviting me to plumb the depths of my soul, inviting me to trust him.

In desolation it is easy to second guess every decision, question every inspiration, regret everything.  It feels like a deep spiritual depression. And oppression.

A few weeks ago, the desolation began to lift.  I could see tiny cracks of light peeping through.  I could feel a shift in my spirit.  I began to feel a clearer sense of God's reassuring presence.  I have moved towards consolation and it is such a relief.

In consolation, the word is trust.  I trust the decisions that God lead me through.  I trust him to take care of my tender and weak soul.  I trust that I don't have to be in charge of everything.... just let him draw me towards him.  In consolation I am not alone.

This year, for Lent, I gave up desolation.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hey Jesus, got a minute?

I knew this was going to be hard.  I had glimpses of how much of a challenge this was going to be.  But Jesus, I didn't know it was going to be this hard.  This painful.  I had no idea how agonizing it was going to be to feel this isolated.  This is one heck of a cup, this chalice of yours.  Never, since following you, have I struggled so much.

Jesus.  I wonder if I had known, would I have still converted?  I honestly don't know the answer to that.  I think it would have been impossible for me to understand what I was in for.  It is like trying to explain to someone what childbirth is like.  It is like nothing else, so how can you describe it?  So it is with conversion.  If I could speak with my past soul, what would I say?  Would I tell her to ignore the Call?  Would I suggest she run away, hide, drown herself in distractions?  Would I encourage her to deny the groundswell that was rising beneath her, drawing, pushing, dragging her towards the Church?  And if I did... would she have listened?  I think back to that time, not so long ago, when the longing for the sacraments was so powerful, so overwhelming, I couldn't imagine any other alternative.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The desert time

Given the many things I was worried about as I considered joining the Catholic church, isolation never really came up.  I had no idea how alone this was going to feel.  I never realized how hard it was going to be to always be going to Mass alone.  How it was going to be to essentially be in the closet with my faith at work.  In a weird way, my experience mirrors that of my Christian business leader colleagues who struggle with sharing their faith at work.  In my case, I am blessed to have a staff I can be honest with and pray with, but otherwise my faith is mostly unspoken, hidden.  It is heavy.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Baptism of the Lord

...instead of feeling guilty that I am not going to church with my kids and husband, maybe I could take a moment to relish the quiet emptiness of my house.  The sound of the birds.  The feel of the black leather bound copy of the Liturgy of the Hours in my hands.  The gentle gnaw of hunger in my stomach, reminding me that I am fasting in preparation for the most Holy of Holy things... Communion with my sweet Friend.

Maybe for just today, instead of pangs of guilt, I can accept the silence of my house as a gift from my Father, who wants all good things for me.  Who has given me the gift of his Church.  Who has invited me to step into his waiting arms and cherish with him the Mass... that taste of Heaven on earth.

Today is the Feast of the Lord's Baptism.  It is a day for me to reflect on the beauty of baptism.  As the readings this week have said, because Jesus once stood in a river in Palestine, now and forever, ALL water is Holy.  The Jordan flows to the sea, the water evaporates and falls as rain.  Nothing will ever be the same.

 'Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God' [John 3:5]