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It was just about a year ago that I moved to my new home, a house I share with my mother. It’s a lovely house, in a suburb. There’s really nothing to dislike about it. But it’s been a pretty big adjustment for me, having lived in the city center for a number of years. I have a much longer commute to work and to the Dominican priory. I had to find, and join, a different parish. I feel out of place as an unmarried women living among young families. Even when I’ve found activities and events that interest me and that are close to home, I haven’t been able to get out and do things because I get home late in the evening. Or, in many cases, the activities of interest occur during the work week, during work hours.
For many months, I’ve been sort of drifting along, going through motions, without ever having the slightest sense that I belong where I am, that it is really my home. I’ve given in sometimes to discouragement, discontent, loneliness, frustration, anxiety–most of which I’ve tried to cure by just closing myself up in my room with a video game or television show. Naturally, this only increased my isolation, so that I fell into a downward spiral of depression. In trying to numb or distract myself, I also stopped putting God at the center of my life. I became lax in my prayer and religious obligations.
Fortunately, I did have the sense to go to Confession and dust myself off to try again. And fortunately, I also had Lent approaching quickly, and a new focus and purpose to put myself to. Of course, God and His grace are what have seen me through most of all.
So I started praying every day, several times a day:
Lord, please just help me settle down and be more at home here. Help me find ways to become part of this new community and my new parish. Help me find ways to contribute and form new relationships. I trust that you have planted me here for a reason. Whether or not that reason becomes clear to me, please help me to accept my new place and to flourish.
I can’t say that I’ve had any remarkable epiphanies. I can’t say anything has progressed. I definitely can’t say that I’ve discovered the reason for my being where I am. But at least I have my faith and am clinging closer to God’s side once more–and that always makes life so much richer. As part of my Lenten discipline, I am going to keep praying that prayer, along with all my other prayers and observances, and I’m not going to let myself give in to impatience or distrust. I know that the feelings will come, and the temptation to entertain them will be strong. But I’m not going to give in.
So, yesterday morning, as I was going about my business of getting ready for work, I turned one of the music channels on to help get my blood pumping. And this song came on: “Home” by Phillip Phillips. A song I’d heard before but never paid too much attention to. But this time, for whatever reason, I found myself really listening to the lyrics:
Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble—it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone
‘Cause I’m gonna make this place your home
It was one of those amazing, unexpected moments when words strike you and move you and seem to have been meant just for you. And you wonder: how did I not hear this before? I know that many people would just shrug it off as a coincidence, nothing important. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s no such thing as a coincidence–not in the sense of something unimportant and accidental. So, my spirit has been very uplifted! And I feel sure that my prayer to be more at home has been heard and will be answered.
But, you know, feel free to add your own prayers for me! :)
I’m blessed to share my home with two adorable furry housemates: Sabrina and Alvis. In addition to companionship, comfort, and fun, they’ve also given me occasion to ponder my relationship with God, how I see Him, and how He perhaps sees me. Granted, the analogy isn’t perfect; God sees me as His own daughter, not as a pet, and at the same time, He is far more superior to me than I am to my cats. But it’s been helpful nevertheless.
No matter how unpleasant your situation is, no matter how little sense it makes to you, keep trusting!
To my cats, getting locked up in a carrier, being taken to a strange place to be poked and prodded by strange people, then coming home only to be force-fed pills or vile liquids–sometimes with the added indignity of being wrapped up in a towel like a cat burrito–is nothing but a series of meaningless trauma. They don’t understand that these things are happening in order to make, or keep, them healthy and feeling well. And it is surely mystifying that the same person who was cuddling and feeding and playing with them just a short time ago should now turn so cruel and cold, ignoring their cries and their squirming. So it is sometimes with me and God. Sometimes life seems to take a cruel turn for no apparent reason, and sometimes God seems like a completely different Person, seemingly ignoring my pleas.
But just as I know that taking my cats to the vet and treating any ill condition is for their good, so does God know what good may come from times of testing, purification, building and re-building, fortifying my weak spots, strengthening me where I need it, and chiseling away ugly spots or sharp edges. And if my will toward my cats is so good, then surely God’s will toward me is far better still! And well, at least He hasn’t given me the burrito-wrap treatment… yet.
At the same time, be prepared to accept and to marvel that God is a complete mystery.
Each and every morning, my cats witness an astonishing ritual. Each and every morning they see me close myself up in a small, cramped torture chamber that–horror of horrors!–sprays water all over me. Water! All over me! And I submit myself to this insanity willingly, even with delight! What sort of messed up masochist does that?! And that’s just one example of the apparent insanity that possesses me.
Likewise, there are things I just can’t understand about God–things no mortal human can understand. Like the Trinity. Like the Passion and Crucifixion. Like the Resurrection. Like what exactly He sees in me that is so special that He created me out of nothing and holds me lovingly in existence, a little speck afloat in the unspeakable vastness of the universe–not only that but that He loves me! These mysteries–both majestic and intensely intimate to my little life–always surround God, as He surrounds me with His marvelous deeds, His tremendous power, His unwavering attention, and His boundless love. And how He must smile when we gaze toward Him wide-eyed and bewildered, just as I smile at my cat sitting nervously outside my shower!
How many people prefer to dismiss Him today as something impossible and foolish to believe in! How many people are eager to dismiss all things that are mysterious and marvelous just because they cannot be examined by human eyes or neatly defined by human definitions! What a magnificent relationship they are missing!
You’re always your best when you are simply yourself, flaws and all–there’s no need to fear rejection!
My cats sometimes make me crack up with laughter (see: Sabrina being silly at left). They do it without any shame whatsoever. They are free spirits who do whatever comes naturally in the moment. Sometimes, they make me shake my head because they don’t realize how incredibly comfy and easy their lives are–but I wouldn’t ever want it any other way! Sometimes they’re a real handful–like when I’m trying to give them medicine and they just won’t be still, and I have to resort to the burrito-wrap. But I understand and just do my best to make it as quick and painless as possible (knowing full well that they would beg to differ). And sometimes they are so incredibly sensitive and insightful and tender toward me when I am sad or sick or in any kind of pain that it’s like God is acting through them. They may never know what it means to me that they are just who and what they are, and that I love them for it.
I think God regards us the same way, whether we make Him laugh or shake His head or even when we squirm and kick and scratch and protest and do our darnedest to shove Him away. He knows when we are trying to lie or hide or BS Him. He sees straight through us. He knows how we are made. He knows our limitations. He knows our individual personalities. He knows them–He loves them–He even died for them. And no matter how much we may reject Him–for He made us free to do so if we truly wish it–He never wills nor wishes to reject us. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Sometimes, it’s a bit difficulty and even frightening to believe! We are so fearful of the rejection we sometimes suffer from our fellow man. We may instinctively try to throw up walls between ourselves and God.
But what liberty, what joy, what lightness of being and peace of mind can be ours if we will venture to just be ourselves before God! I could never reject my cats just for being the cats they are. And God would never reject me for just being the human being I am. Nor would he reject any one of us for being who and what we are.
As good as we are to our pets, those little creatures we share our lives and homes with, God is far better–infinitely better!–to us. And as much as we enjoy our pets, God rejoices so much more in us, His own children. And as much as we would love to spend our whole lives with our beloved pets, so much more does God desire to spend all eternity with us. So never doubt, never fear, never dismiss Him! Curl up in his arms with all the confidence and security that your pets curl up next to you with!
Alvis says “Relax!”
As the anniversary of my father’s death approaches, and as several people I know have recently lost loved ones, I have been praying the Divine Office’s Office for the Dead (this link, courtesy of the Holy Souls Sodality, gives the full text: Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer).
As I pray these beautiful Psalms, scriptures, and petitions, I find myself surrounded by such a comfort and peace. They brim over with hope not only for our deceased loved ones, but for all of us. They remind me that I too shall die and stand before God, but they also remind me how very merciful and loving God is, how eternal and beatific the life He offers to us, and what unspeakable joy and rest the soul of the faithful shall find in His presence.
Here is one of my favorite passages from Evening Prayer:
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on His word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
more than watchman for daybreak.
Let the watchman count on daybreak
and Israel on the Lord.
(Psalm 130 – De profundis)
How wonderful and refreshing it must be to finally have our waiting and longing satisfied… it’s hard to even imagine. But that time shall come for us all, sooner or later. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? A little frightening, sure. But as the Psalmist says, we can definitely count on the Lord, whom we revere for His mercy.
Happy and blessed 2nd Sunday of Advent. Today’s readings, and our pastor’s homily thereafter, were so beautiful and comforting. And I needed them so very much. I’ve been feeling like I’ve fallen into a deep ravine and can’t get out. Just as I was feeling so ready to move forward with my life, I’ve been brought down with a lot of grief. Such grief as I have not felt in a long while now. It’s hard not to panic a little. To wonder whether I will ever make it back up and be able to continue on my journey. And honestly, it’s hard not to feel a little forsaken. Does God care? Will He help me? Will anybody?
And what do I hear at Mass today? From the Old Testament:
God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
And from the New Testament (a quotation from the Old Testament):
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
From the Psalm:
Those who sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
And from the Epistle:
I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.
See what I mean? I like the parts about depths and gorges being filled, and about coming back rejoicing. One line from the Baruch reading says that the people are “rejoicing that they are remembered by God” (Bar. 5:5). These are people who have suffered captivity, exile, diaspora, and other tragedies. People who had probably suffered more than me. And God did not forget them–he will never forget any of us, no matter what. He will rescue us and lift us up. We can have complete confidence in Him, as St. Paul does.
Looking at my life, I know that God would not bring me this far just to drop me in a hole and let me rot there. Thinking about it like a rational person, I can see how absurd a fear that is. But, because I’m irrational sometimes, and stubborn, and a bit dense, I just need to be told over… and over… and over again. And God and the Church are very good about that. They never get tired and impatient. They know how I am made. They know how we all are made.
I have to say though, I have no doubt that the Advent season is working its wonders in me. Father said that Advent exists to shake us from our complacency, to make us realize what we are lacking, and to fill us with an intense longing for Christ and Heaven. That’s definitely going on with me!
I’m so happy that my parish is offering extra opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration during Advent. That really has filled a great need for me. It’s like a fresh oasis in everyday life.
And we get a Holy Day of Obligation this week, and for once, it’s not transferred to Sunday! I always consider that a bonus. It’s 8 December–the Immaculate Conception. I look forward to that!
So, anyway, I’m feeling happier and much better now. I hope it’s a happy and blessed week for all of you!