The day Robin Williams died I found myself out of sorts. I went for a drive. I sat in my truck by the lake and watched a kingfisher in the rain. I cried. I felt the heaviness of defeat hovering over me like the gray sky above. Not for myself, but a painful sadness for the desperate cries of those who end up taking their lives. The Catholics say that to despair is to sin. It is the ultimate in unbelief. I was suffering the pains of life in this world, with its failures and cynicism. I kept crying, and crying. At one point I was on my stairs, back in my home, when I finally surrendered to deep sobs and crying out to my Lord, “It hurts. Oh Lord it just hurts here so bad. So much suffering!” And then he was next to me; sitting bloody and torn with wounds all over and nodding in understanding. “Yes. Yes it does.” He was smiling, His tone lighthearted. He knew all my pain. And more. So much more. I felt a certain affinity toward Him; a connection.
As I write this I remember encouraging a pregnant woman who was only a few minutes from pushing. Her labor was at its most intense, and almost over at the same time. And she was looking at me with fear and in pain. She was so desperate. And I was smiling at her. Not because I had no compassion. On the contrary, I knew all about giving birth without the help of drugs or epidurals. And I knew it was well worth the effort. And so, she could look at me, and see my faith in her. My demeanor said this was a wonderful thing, not a bad thing. And she composed herself, got down to the business of pushing, and delivered her little girl.
“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” John 16:21-22
by Taylor Caldwell, and excerpt from a novel about St. Paul on this GOOD FRIDAY 🙂
Oh, you have embraced the folly of pride, and how dare man be proud? Of what can he be proud? His history? May God forgive us this blasphemy! You have often spoken of the future. The future is born in the womb of the present, and I see nothing in the present, or in the past that promises glory for man, created by himself. For he cannot rid himself of his baseness by his own effort. It is written that a man cannot earn merit by himself, for he is underserving of merit. History is our witness. Man was not born for his glorification. Scripture teaches us that man was born solely to know and to love and to serve God and nothing else, and in that knowing and loving and serving -alone- can he transcend his nature and become more than man. You have based your hopes on the world, which will pass away and be known no more among the suns and the Pleiades, nor will Orion know her any longer. On this frail orb that pursues her star you think to establish the golden city of man’s reason and man’s aspiring alone, forever and a day. You believe that it will be by the will and design of man alone that evil will be abolished- yet evil is the very nature of man, and immutable. He is a shadow, and on the shadows you would erect eternal palaces and pleasure-ways and advance urbane conversation and peace and what you aver are ethics. You know you are mortal, and in your shallow hearts you deny mortality, and speak of the far future as if you will be there, alive and triumphant! You do not know that future, but you have deluded yourselves that you will be there! Or is your vaunted ‘glory of man in the future’ enough for you, who will be dust tomorrow? ……………
How pathetic you are. Your own deaths in this little time has not been believed by you. You have really hoped you will be part of the future which to me appears terrible, not beautiful. You believe in pleasure, in the day’s tranquility and grace and conversation and the meeting of friends…You deny the resurrection of the dead which has been promised, for you believe that when men are dead they are no more than the beasts of the field. It is evil enough that you have betrayed God….
For peace in your time, and pleasure, and worthless harmonies, and prettinesses, and conversing, and pride and dainty perversities, and music …and dancing girls and money and handsome houses and villas and servants and laughter and strange women and theaters and baths and arenas and gambling and horses and evil little appetites and enjoyments, you have called upon your people not to resist, not to believe in the Promise of the Ages- to obey, to bow down their heads, to submit their necks to the yoke. You have taken God from them and for that you will not be forgiven!
It was your duty to sustain your people with the hope of Messias, to alleviate their hunger with your fortunes, to intercede for them, to nourish their faith in God, blessed be His Name, to exalt them with patience in their tribulations, to turn their eyes to the sun and to the stars, to repeat to them the Promise that has been given to us, to strengthen their endurance. What man will not suffer in quietude if he knows his Redeemer is nigh, and that god has not abandoned him?
The night I was voted onto the planning board, the chairman took me aside and welcomed me. He was a relaxed fellow with an easy armchair manner.
“It’s like watching paint dry,” he shared. I nodded. A slow-moving venture; I liked the sound of that.
Yesterday, Michael held the car door open for me to get in, and then scraped the near-April snow from the windows and mirrors and windshield. He was wearing dress pants and cowboy boots and had agreed to come with me to church. This is the man who I reached out to fourteen years ago with the gospel. This is the man whose atheism challenged me to convert him. This is the man who I fell in love with, dashing all of my evangelical confidence. This is the man who made me recoil and stop sharing the good news; for fear that I was not a trustworthy vessel. And now this man is my dear husband, scraping snow off the car so we can go to church.
Has he been saved? Not to my knowledge. Yet twice in the last week I have witnessed him pulling out his phone and sharing scripture stories and trivia with those gathered around the table. Those listening to his readings are perplexed, thrilled, or a little turned off. His own father says with some sarcasm, “I think he’s going to fill in for the preacher up there,” signaling toward the church uptown.
I beam with a smile I cannot hide.
I look back on the years this story has taken to unfold and wonder if it has even begun yet. He gets in the driver seat and off we go. My head spins a little thinking of the first conversation we ever had about God. We arrive at the Catholic Church. The standing and sitting and standing and sitting don’t deter him. But the big surprise was the kneeling. The man knelt down like the rest of us.
This is a little more interesting than watching paint dry. Even if the pace is similar.
There is a quiet commotion as the people leave their pews and make their way to the center aisle to receive the Body of Christ. I kneel to pray and the words come: Give us this day, our daily bread. The words take on new meaning:
Give us this day, our daily bread.
A friend recently told me that the priest has to do the communion mass every day, whether anyone comes or not. Every day. Our daily bread.
And there it is again. The Eucharist, the Body of Christ. The Lord our Righteousness. His body, His blood, His sacrifice. And we partakers. I smile. Focused on this one thing. This one thing.
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with his lips so full,
his skin amber brown
I watch him
and I wait
and I sigh sometimes.
I know he hears me
he knows I’m here
admiring his locks of thick dark hair
the sharp nose
the chiseled jawline,
the musky breath as he exhales
Intoxicating is my Xaviar
Weary, I kneel
To look, to smell, to love, to watch
It’s like a coma
He’s alive in there. I just know he is.
I dream of the day,
when he awakes. When we talk, and laugh, and share.
When the breath of his nostrils
Sounds like a blast
And my whole world is in a moment changed.
By that one rising
That waking up
That beautiful, heart stopping instant
For that I am here
quietly waiting. Matching my breath with his.
Smiling and thankful,
for this time. When I can rest quietly with him.
Admiring his beauty
as he is still, and quiet
Mother and Son
Planes and bombs
Mothers on knees
Wiping up blood
Killer. Mocker. Savage. Fury. Passionate. Evil.
Possessing enticing, calling and collecting
boys to men
Bodies defiled. Beauty ruined maimed chopped disfigured
Blood blood and more blood
Mary weeps, and wipes the place where her Son’s blood was shed.
Vengeance is mine
Killer will be killed,
Swords beaten into plowshares
While men weep
And mothers finally rejoice.
Recently I’ve discovered Catholic radio. For a few months now, whenever I am in my truck, I have the station set to hear what interesting broadcast is next. It’s the call-in shows that are the most fun. And once in a while I catch Mother Angelica. I’ve seen her a few times over the years on TV and always love her. She has little expressions that I try to memorize for future use like, “Now wouldn’t that be a Cracker Jack?” She makes it look like fun to love God and to be good.
Well for some mystical reason, these times in my vehicle with the catholics have made me miss communion. I mean really miss communion. I was raised Catholic until I was around eight or ten and we stopped going to church. My siblings say it was buying the cottage that did it. Once we stopped going in the summer, we stopped going when we returned home in the winter. But I’m not so sure. There were seven of us to dress, nag, and get ready for church. And my mother had cancer. At any rate, I went long enough to receive my first communion.
A few years later, after Mom’s death (and some other tragedies) I called myself an athiest. This lasted a good long time. I stayed mad at God and denied him for 10 years or more until I was in marital trouble and decided to pray for help. I remember being in the middle of a big messy crisis, and seeing this little pocket bible. I think I’d received it in basic training years before. I picked it up and opened it. The scripture I read said,
I’m pretty sure I threw the bible down. I stormed into my bedroom, opened the closet and sat down underneath my hanging clothes, batting them out of the way and feeling like a real idiot. I shut the door and sat there. I prayed (with some sarcasm) “Okay GOD…if you are real…here I am. Can you get me out of this mess?”
To make a long story short, I found Jesus, or He came and found me. However it was, it was wonderful. And I read the bible a lot. And I went to lots of different churches. Some full of nice people, and pot lucks, and some with lots of rules about clean living: no smoking, drinking, or cussing. Some full of robust laughter, and praise and song and shouts of “Hallelujah” and “Amen brother! Preach it!”. Some with robed choirs, some with alter calls to come and receive Christ and prayer, some with draping cloths for people who are slain in the Spirit around the alter. Some even singing Jewish songs and implementing Passover and Sukkot and other Jewish traditions to their faith in Jesus (who is Jewish after all). I checked out revival meetings, worship services, and huge gatherings that would dwarf a rock concert.
In all these things, I felt the Lord. But never more than when we broke bread. And for all these churches, and experiences I wanted more communion. I wanted to break bread every time I was with another believer. I would break bread at home with my kids if they were sick. And I would expect to do communion every time I stepped foot into a church. But that was not the case. So maybe that is why, after listening to the Catholics for a few months on the radio, I have this pull to go and take communion.
So I went to talk to the priest 🙂