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Ink Slingers

Woman, Why Are You Weeping?

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” asks Jesus of Mary Magdalen at the tomb.

How often in my life has Jesus asked this very question of me? Woman, why are you weeping? Grieving is necessary and appropriate. If I have not grieved, I would question the authenticity of my passion for a project or an idea or my love of a person or friendship. Grief is needed to process real disappointments and losses. There have been, however, seasons or situations in my life when I have experienced a grief that turned into something else entirely. At times I have gotten quite comfortable with sadness allowing it to cover me, tucking me in for a long nap. And this grief, while keeping me company in the mourning, has in time turned to pity. Pity is dark, cold and slippery. Pity easily gave me permission to wallow in the injustice of my disappointment turning it rapidly into discouragement. Self-pity has taken my sorrow or my suffering, turning it to depression and eventually despair.  I have experienced all these emotions in varying degrees at times in my life. I have had to work hard through therapy and counseling, prayer and proper self-care to better manage my emotions and thoughts. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” It is difficult to know how often I have been unable to see Jesus standing with me in the mess. I am unsure of how many times I have been unable to hear Him asking me, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  

Rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!

How often I wonder where God is when I am overwhelmed or suffering. Why God have you allowed this thing to happen to me? Why God does it seem You are not answering my prayers? Why God are You allowing so much suffering to go on? Recently it occurred to me that maybe it isn’t in the why but the how. In imitation of Mary, Our Blessed Mother, maybe I should be asking how is it that I am to carry on Lord. How Lord can I serve you in the suffering? How Lord can I find you in the sorrow? How Lord can I join my sorrows to yours? Because isn’t it true that it is not if I experience tribulations but when? When I find myself asking Lord, where are You, am I not already consumed by my distress? Fear takes over, peace is absent. Where is my Lord? Where has He gone? “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” I am weeping for a variety of reasons; many of them have to do with my perception of what life should look like or feel like in any given situation on any day of the week. I am a perfectionist working on recovery. Messy. Chaotic. Disordered. All of the stuff that is a part of being alive and caring for others is hard on me.  People are messy. Relationships can be as disordered as my emotions. Family life, well, ours can be a rollercoaster ride. And, far too often I forget to remember that this life is not without suffering. This life, if I am trying to live with my heart wide open, is not without pain. This beautiful gift, along with the people God has placed in it, is meant to shape me, refine me, teach me and mold me into the best version of myself God created me to be. “Whom, am I looking for?” Like Mary Magdalen, in the sorrows or frustrations of my everyday life, I want to be looking for Jesus? Am I seeking Him to be my teacher, my guide for this earthly journey? When the reality of life is harsh and heartbreaking I know I need to be running to Him for solace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. -John 14:27

I have found these four practices to be essential to keeping me centered and at peace. They have become incorporated into the routine of my life. In regularly participating in these four practices I have encountered Christ, and I have grown closer to Him. I have become more confident in His promises.  He is with us. Always and all ways.

Daily Morning Prayer. Every morning I get up. Make a cup of coffee and grab my prayer journal along with the daily readings. I open them up and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me in the readings. And, He does! All I must do is show up and pray. This has really changed my relationship with God.

Mass. I try to go daily. I need this to ground me for the day and to feed my spirit. It is what has healed me and sustained me through many a difficult time.

Confession. I know. I have a love-hate thing with this Sacrament. It is so hard to get myself there oftentimes but once there it is such a beautiful healing mercy.

Adoration. The most important regularly scheduled appointment I have on my calendar. Once a week for one hour I sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament in quiet. I drop all my stuff right there at the altar. I just leave it and pray, listening for the Comfort of my soul.

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.

Categories
Annette Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Vocations

Sanctifying the Ordinary

Sanctifying the Ordinary

I have been changing diapers for the last 14 years of my life- a task that I first approached with a mix of apprehension and excitement as a new mom. It wasn’t long though before it evolved into a task I often dreaded, and I’m not ashamed to admit I sometimes begged my husband to complete for me. It always seemed that the baby in question would need changing at the most inopportune moments – when I was about to leave to work, in the middle of Mass, while I was helping an older sibling with homework, and it sometimes involved me changing outfits as I was heading out the door, or changing the baby again after I had already done so. It was a task that, I’m ashamed to admit, I would fulfill begrudgingly, because I had to, because I was the mom. There seemed to be no end in sight. I have five children, and right when one was getting out of diapers, another baby was arriving.

A priest once told me that there is sanctity in our ordinariness. God calls us to holiness right where we are, even in the midst of changing diapers. Going about my daily duties as a mother gave me a myriad of opportunities to serve the Body of Christ, beginning with my family. I had never really realized how all the “chores” I have to do on a daily basis serve a higher purpose. Every day, God gives me the opportunity to perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. I feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, several times a day, sometimes all day with so many kids in the house. I instruct the ignorant as I homeschool my children and help them understand what happens in the world. I counsel the doubtful when I answer their questions or boost their confidence. I admonish sinners when I warn them about the consequences of their actions. I attempt to bear wrongs patiently, something that is often challenging for me. I forgive offenses willingly and comfort the afflicted every time that I break up an argument and deal with the “he did this, and he did that.” We pray together as a family, for each other, for our world, for our friends and relatives, for our leaders, for the living and the dead.

Tasks Can Transform Us

Changing diapers, a task I loathe, is a task that has the power to transform me, to strengthen my spiritual journey. St. Therese of Lisieux reminds me of this. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese details how she regularly performed tasks that she did not necessarily enjoy, like peeling potatoes or doing laundry while another Sister splashed dirty water on her. Instead of complaining or acting annoyed, like I sometimes do, St. Therese would thank God and embrace the “treasure” that God had bestowed on her. My vocations as a wife and mother, and all the sacrifices and tasks that they entail, are truly treasures God has given me. They are my road to sanctity, and through the little everyday challenges, I have the opportunity to grow closer to our Lord and experience the joy that comes from fulfilling God’s will. I begin my day with this Morning Prayer written by St. Therese:

Morning Prayer by St. Therese of Lisieux

O my God! I offer Thee all my actions of this day for the intentions and for the glory of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus. I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest
works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting
them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.

O my God! I ask of Thee for myself and for those whom I hold dear, the grace to fulfill perfectly
Thy Holy Will, to accept for love of Thee the joys and sorrows of this passing life, so that we may
one day be united together in heaven for all Eternity.
Amen.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe the lie that you have to do something extraordinary to serve God or become a saint. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:40 that “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Every diaper I change, every right I wrong, every mouth I feed, every tear I wipe is a chance to serve Jesus. What a different attitude I would serve my family with if I remembered His words. For now, I’ll welcome every opportunity that God gives me to serve, whether it be in little ways or big ways, and pray that the Holy Spirit may guide me in finding joy in all things.

Categories
Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year

Uniting Our Lenten Sacrifices with Christ Crucified

jesus-pictures-crucifixion-2This Lent I find myself contemplating the nature of sacrifice more than I ever have before. While I have often given something up for Lent, most of the time I view that something more as a challenge to myself than as a sacrifice that is supposed to help me unite my struggles or sufferings with the crucified Christ. But a convergence of events has given me greater pause this year.

Shortly after Lent began this year I returned to work after a nice, long maternity leave. About that same time I also started praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. My days are now very long, starting much earlier than I am used to and going until fairly late in the day. I am NOT a morning person and every bone in my body dreads the early hour at which I now get up.

I started Lent this year with the idea that I was going to give up chocolate. Again, it was one of those challenges to myself. As the season began and I had to get into a new rhythm in my life, I found that I was contemplating the Passion of our Lord in those wee hours of the morning when I had to drag myself out of bed to feed the baby before the rest of the household woke up. As I thought about what Christ sacrificed for us I realized how small and insignificant my “sacrifices” were. I also came to realize that my real sacrifices were being made for my baby. I was getting up for him when I would have much rather stayed in bed. I was breastfeeding him and thus giving of my body for him.

It is a greater struggle for me personally to get up early each morning and I have found breastfeeding challenging and very much a sacrifice as well. In this area, right now, at this time in my life, I do find myself looking to the cross more than I have in past Lents. Or really at any time. I dropped the idea of giving up chocolate for Lent. It was a simple challenge and not a struggle that was going to force me to look to Christ and unite those struggles with His ultimate sacrifice. No, chocolate was definitely not going to do it this year.

But as I struggle to face each morning, as I deal with the occasional pain of breastfeeding, as I struggle with latching, as I face the boredom of pumping during my workday, I find strength to carry on by looking to the cross. My sacrifices are still nothing compared to Christ’s, but they are definite struggles for me. I look to the cross and I know I can do these earthly things. The spiritual benefits seem much clearer to me now than in previous years.

My Lent has become focused on sticking to my new morning routine, which includes praying the morning office and getting up much earlier than my body wants so I can put it to work caring for and feeding my baby. And as I do these things each morning I think about Christ dying on the cross for my sins. I find that contemplating the crucifixion helps me get out of bed when I’d rather try to grab a few more minutes of sleep. Thinking about the torture Christ endured for us completely minimizes any physical difficulties I am experiencing as I continue breastfeeding. And  praying the morning office reminds me to not just contemplate the crucifixion, but to rejoice in the Lord and all He has blessed me with.

In the end, this is what Lent is about. We spend this season participating in some small way in the sacrifice of the crucifixion so that we may rejoice at the Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. Maybe giving up something like chocolate or TV or coffee is a true sacrifice for someone that helps them to experience the sufferings of Christ. I’m realizing that those kinds of things, while still hard, aren’t bringing me to a place that I need to be to fully experience Lent. Instead, my struggle to start my day an hour or more earlier than normal and spend time in prayer helps me to feel united to Christ.

I hope you are having a fruitful Lent and are finding ways to be united with the crucified Christ in preparation for the joy and praise we will experience on Easter. I pray that whatever your sacrifices are, that you can stay strong and persevere through the rest of this Lenten season.