A lock is certainly an outward symbol of security.
I’m a big believer in traditions.
As a military family our surroundings changed constantly. Each move brought new experiences and ways to celebrate the Christmas season so things that happened within our family every single year were essential to defining our sense of home during the holidays…..homemade Chex Mix, the tree with the careful placing of ornaments collected over the years, watching It’s A Wonderful Life and White Christmas, making butter cookies and countless batches of english toffee, the sending and receiving of cards that connect us to people all over the world, the choir singing Christmas carols at mass, a house that glows with tiny white lights, both inside and out.
Except this year it’s all different.
Christmas is in storage.
I’m a cradle Catholic.
My cousin is a priest, my oldest sister is a nun, my father-in-law is a Deacon and my dad was a Eucharistic Minister. Many people in both my and my husband’s families have served both faithfully and well, in many capacities, through many generations.
I went to a Catholic school from first grade through my senior year in high school; my first day of college was the first time since kindergarten I’d attended class without wearing a uniform. I sang in the choir and was a lector at mass. I made all the sacraments when it was time, attended mass several times a week, and spent just about every family summer vacation in close proximity to a convent.
I was married in a Catholic church and raised my children in the Catholic faith but going to mass often felt like more of a habit or an obligation, not something I looked forward to doing. I frequently felt like I was doing it as an example to my children, because I was supposed to, or out of that good old Catholic guilt.
There are two exceptions to that. Most of my husband’s military assignments were less than two years. Many times they were only a year or perhaps eighteen months. In the two assignments that lasted longer than that I joined the choir and found church families but even then I’m not sure I approached mass with anticipation.
Life has slowed down for a period of time now that my husband is retired from the military. He isn’t done working and I know things will change but for this interlude we’re living life at a very different pace from the last thirty-five years.
For the first time in ages we’ve physically registered in a civilian parish rather than just showing up on Sunday. I don’t know a single person in the rather large congregation but something has drawn me to this place of worship every Sunday with more joy than I’ve experienced in quite some time. Being there centers me. I’m not wondering when the hour will be over so I can get to my checklist for the day.
It’s a beautiful place to worship.
And oddly enough, even without knowing anyone, I’m feeling a connection and the power of a church full of believers.
I’ve been saying the Our Father for all of my life but last Sunday I actually listened to and felt the voices around me raised up in prayer. It struck me that this time I was really and truly joining my voice with others and feeling the power of that collective prayer.
How have I managed to miss this for most of my life? Did I need this particular Lenten season and this particular season of my own life to arrive before I was ready to pay attention? Or perhaps knowing I would move held me back in all those parishes I attended, but only watched from the shadows. It was easier to emotionally attach myself to military organizations than it was to form those attachments in a church. Somehow it was safer and when the inevitable move came along, it would be easier to say goodbye to people who not only understood, but expected those goodbyes.
Was I just not ready? If so, it certainly took me a very long time to get there.
Sorta makes me want to go back a few decades and have a conversation with my younger self.
And Father Gerry, if you’re reading this with a smile on your face, I believe it’s justified.
“Your rotator cuff is frayed, not from any particular injury but rather, from overuse and the aging process.”
I really hated hearing that.
This is a pretty accurate representation of what it was feeling like at the time.
Surgery won’t fix it. Physical therapy irritates it. There’s no permanent fix; it just needs to rest and to be quiet.
While I was sitting in church Sunday my mind wandered as I was waiting for mass to start and it occurred to me that I often let my life exist in the same state. I overuse it, I over think it, I worry too much about what may or may not happen. I get distracted, I focus on things I can’t control, I forget that ultimately, I’m not in charge.
All too often I forget that the edges of my life are frayed, like the edges of most lives.
And I forget to pray. I forget that part of my faith is trusting and believing that He has a plan and that, in prayer, I only need to ask.
And so I prayed and will continue to pray. I’m Catholic, am convinced of the power of novenas, and have vowed to pray one continually for as long as I’m able.
Because unlike my rotator cuff, the frayed edges of my life can be mended. Trusting, believing and asking are the requirements.
I just need to be still for ten minutes out of every day. Be still and pray. And then perhaps the frayed edges will begin to knit together.
The responsorial psalm last Sunday was “Lord, your love is eternal, do not forsake the work of your hands.” My plan is to trust that he won’t.
I read this week’s weekly photo challenge and then immediately dismissed it. My uncle had just died and I was planning my trip and then traveling home.
It wasn’t until this evening that I’ve gone back to look at the images I took this week to see if perhaps light became an unintentional theme.
These are the images I found.
This taken from the window of the craft room/studio space on the third floor in my new home as the sun was rising.
One taken of a beautiful chandelier in the hotel I stayed in on my way back to Ohio.
And this, taken at the church, the morning of the funeral. The candles we light for special intentions.
Light sources….one natural, one man-made, and one….a light, rooted in our faith, that is kindled when we’re walking by faith and not by sight.
All of my attempts at defining the word “infinite” this week have been within my human realm.
When I tried to think of ideas to define the concept I came up short. Most of the things we measure in our lifetimes, although seeming impossible to actually count, could, if given enough time….be counted. The words we have to say, the number of days we’ll live, the people we’ll come into contact with, the number of addresses this military spouse will have (can you tell I’m expecting yet another moving truck within the month?)….all of these things, while sometimes incomprehensible, can theoretically, be counted.
What seems to be infinite…..what appears to be uncountable, really isn’t….
I can photograph this bridge from several different angles and it appears to never end but at the end of the day I can cross it and I know it has a finite existence.
Which brings me to grains of sand, raindrops, and blades of grass. Now we’re getting into the realm of infinite numbers. Since no human could possibly have enough time to count all of them does that define the word for me?
Almost, but those are all still things that exist within my human understanding.
I think the word infinite is best understood in religious terms and by those who have stepped beyond the bounds of our world. At that moment I can’t help but think that a hugely fundamental shift occurs in our thinking and yes, suddenly we understand the concept of infinity.
At that moment the finite no longer matters.
Ultimately, my truest grasp of infinity is through my concept of faith.
I can’t see what’s at the end of the road but I trust that it’s there and that it’s infinitely wondrous.