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Allison Welch Feast Days Ink Slingers Mary Saints

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

When I taught high school theology, it was one of many vocabulary words that students got confused: Assumption, Ascension, Annunciation. To help them remember, I offered a type of mnemonic device.  

Which vocabulary word is used to describe when Jesus bodily rises to heaven and which word refers to Mary’s rising? The word with an “m” in it is the word referring to Mary’s rising, I offered. “I thought you said all of the Mysteries of the Rosary were about Jesus…?” one astute student said, catching me in an apparent contradiction about the 4th Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, the Assumption of Mary.  

Ah, but even the Assumption of Mary is ultimately about Jesus, I suggested. Everything about Mary points us to Jesus; she magnifies the Lord. While Jesus ascended into heaven by his own power, Mary was assumed, not by any power of her own, but by her son’s. Glorious mysteries about the power of God indeed! 

As the mother of two sons, it gives me great solace to know Jesus came back for his mother’s body at the end of her earthly life. After giving birth to her son, through and with her own body, Mary swaddled and nursed his, gently bathing and burping his flesh at the beginning of his earthly life. Again in his death she held and washed her son’s body, none other than the flesh of the only begotten Son of God. Of course Jesus would take care of his mother’s body at the end of her earthly life, after she had dedicated hers to caring for him.  You can’t out-give God.  

It’s hard to imagine it–a body ascending into heaven. While the bodily Assumption of Mary is part of our Catholic Tradition (dogmatically defined in 1950), there are Scriptural precedents for it, namely Enoch and Elijah in the Old Testament. And of course, the Ascension of Jesus in the New Testament. Both Scripture and Tradition–and the Ascension of Jesus and the Assumption of Mary–remind us today of our most ancient creed as the Apostles understood it:  “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” 

The resurrected Jesus was not a ghost, a disembodied spirit. Scripture tells us Thomas touched Jesus’ side and that Jesus ate with the disciples.  Some of the earliest heresies involved the denial of the physical world, dismissing it as evil. “Right teaching” tells us that God entered into his creation by putting on flesh

Two thousand years ago Jesus, began the process of sanctifying and redeeming the created world, pouring out his blood to reverse The Fall of humanity. He did this out of love for us so we might not know eternal death, but live with Him as bride forever. We were created for the Divine life, and while separated from this by sin, we are destined for eternal communion with God incarnate. (Of course we must confirm this destiny, in the flesh, by surrendering our our will and intellect to the will of God to be animated by His eternal Spirit.)

In the age of the Walking Dead, many of my students had a hard time accepting as good the resurrection of the body. Their cultural understanding of the body was that it is more of a cruel cage that contains and restricts the soul and that upon death, we would be freed once and for all from its confines. This is not Catholic teaching. St. Theresa of Avila wrote: “The spirit is not in the body, the body is in the spirit.”  While evil can destroy the soul (Mt 10:28), it is the spirit that gives life to the body and to the soul.    

Because of sin we are mortal, but that is not God’s original or redemptive plan for us. Thanks be to God, we joyfully await the resurrection of the body.  This is the witness of the martyrs, who willingly and generously gave of their flesh in the way of Christ. 

Mary was such a beautiful example of another kind of martyrdom, a “white martyrdom,” that dare I say motherhood itself, done well, models for humanity.  In fact Mary is a perfect example of how the spirit is intended to animate us, body and soul.  “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:46-47).  This is Mary’s yes to the will of God. Thanks to her Immaculate Conception, she is so full of grace that she gives birth to the “wholly other.” While this may fill us with wonder and hope, the bodily Assumption of Mary should not surprise us for she is the first of His many disciples.

In Catholic theological terms we are “bipartite”–composite beings made of body and soul. It is ironic that in our earthly life, we spend so much time preoccupied by the body and its needs, often disregarding the needs of the soul. Then in death, we quickly dismiss the body and cling to the idea of an eternal soul. May God, in the person of Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit, come to our aid. May our spiritual Mother, Mary, pray for us.

On this Feast of the Assumption, let us do as our Church compels us: let us feed and nourish our body and soul with the Bread of Angels in the Holy Eucharist. Let us joyfully surrender to the wisdom that calls us into Communion with God and his Church, fully embracing in humility both: the human and the divine, united as one. 

I’ll see you this Thursday at the intersection of heaven and earth!

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers Parenting Vocations

Spring Break

Spring Break… Answering the Challenge

   Spring Break 1

 

   As Spring Break approached, it seems the talk of the school and even the city, centers around where everyone is going.  Florida, Mexico, cruises… they all seem to be popular answers. Those of us “stuck” at home feel caught up in still “making the most” of the week. When I asked the children what they wanted to do this year during spring break, two things won out.  

   The first was a major bedroom switch. Four bedrooms, seven kids in five days. It was no small task. Amazingly, it went well with even the attic being reorganized! Most of the kids are enjoying the new arrangement of rooms.  Our “Felix and Oscar” (think “Odd Couple”) no longer share a room, which will hopefully preserve their relationship in the long run! The only one who may have gotten the short end of the stick is our oldest who is now sharing a room with his much younger brother. He’s adapting though, so life lesson built in!

   The second request was a trip to the Dunes to go hiking. The plan was to go on Monday. It was cold and raining.  Tuesday, and more of the same. All week our plans to go to hiking were thwarted by cold, wet weather. It seemed maybe we would have to be satisfied with the room change as our only spring break adventure.

   Saturday dawned bright, chilly, and breezy. We decided to make a go of it, packed a cooler for lunch, and made our way to the beach. The balmy 45 degrees nearly deterred us when we arrived, but the horizon was bright. After a stopSpring Break 2 at the nature center introducing us to many different birds, we chose a trail. Our only criteria before choosing was that we wanted a moderate or easy trail. We figured relatively short was probably best given the low temperatures and short legs and wanted to end up on the beach to walk back to the parking lot..

   We chose a trail we’ve walked many times, climbing one dune and then heading straight to the lake. However, with the older kids running ahead of us, they wanted to try a “new” path. We veered off from our original plan to trail 8. We figured we would just climb the one extra dune and then meet up with our original trail back to the beach. Reaching the peak of the dune we enjoyed the beautiful view. The cold temperatures and the breeze were much more tolerable while moving. After a quick break, we headed back on the trail toward our original trail. It’d all be downhill from there, we thought.  Spring Break 3

   It was, for a while. Then, we started to climb again. Spring Break 4 Hmmm…. Reaching a second peak, one of our daughters pointed out that we had now completed two-thirds of a 3-Dune Challenge the Nature Center advertised. Not ones to back down from a challenge, what could we do but continue and complete the challenge of the dunes.  Spring Break 5

   The third dune was all stairs. Easier than sand? Um no. But we did it! From the top, we could see the waves breaking and the shoreline for miles. It was breathtaking. The challenge trail looped back to the Nature Center where started.  

   It wasn’t the adventure we planned. It wasn’t the easy trail or even a particularly short trail. In fact, it was the only rugged trail on the map we learned on our way home. We didn’t end up leisurely walking back along the beach to the parking lot. 

   As Lent comes to a close this week, I find myself reflecting on my plans on Ash Wednesday. The prayers, fasting, almsgiving all have helped me quietly reflect on Jesus’ Passion.  I feel myself resetting as I often do during Lent. The purposeful slowing down chips away at the barriers that grow during the year. Busyness, plans, commitments that seem harmless but in reality are walls building up between God and me, pulling me away from God’s plan for my life. Lent is the time each year where I refocus, which breaks down those walls.

   Getting off the merry-go-round of keeping up and doing more, I can see that the simple, the best, things come when we just let go and let God. 

   God has a plan for each of us. The plan tends to be so much bigger than we can comprehend. We can only see a little ahead of us so that we don’t become discouraged. If we had known what we were going to be climbing, it’s likely we would have chosen a different trail, afraid the one with all the dunes would be too much for our little ones to complete.  

   In the end we would have missed out by doing that though. We would have missed the camaraderie, the sense of accomplishment, not to mention the beautiful views. Asking the children if they had a good break was met with a unanimous “yes.”  God’s plan is bigger and better than any of us can imagine. We just have to take the first step in faith. He will do the rest.

   “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm
   you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Spring Break 6

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Ink Slingers

Witness to Confirmation

witness-to-confirmationThis weekend’s Confirmation Mass began with a bit of excitement and a late start. Our bishop came pealing into the parking lot from a Fairbanks priest’s funeral with just minutes to spare, but he processed into church cool and composed. I imagine it has happened before in his sixteen years here, with all the necessary airplane rides. He began his homily with a joke, always a good way to start, quipping that since he was late, his exposition of the Scriptures would be short!

And the Scripture readings were ideal for this sacrament being conferred, mostly upon teenagers.

Listen to the angst in Habakkuk: “How long O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence’, but you do not intervene. Why must I look at ruin? Then the Lord answered me and said, ‘Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets…for the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not be late (1:2-3; 2:2-3).”

Then we sang this poetry from Psalm 95: “Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker. For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts (6-8).”

The epistle was from Paul to a young minister Timothy, and was exactly what the teens needed to hear: “Beloved, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a sprit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us (II Timothy 1:6-8,13-14).”

And the Gospel we rose to hear, perfectly answered the ensuing questions about faith and service as they move on as newly confirmed by the Holy Spirit: “Lord, increase our faith. The Lord replied, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would tell this mulberry tree to be and planted in the sea and it would obey you … So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’ (Luke 17:5-10).”

Sacraments celebrate the salvation story using the goodness of creation. God proclaimed it all “Good” and even took upon himself human flesh, revealing that the things of earth are not obstacles to God, but are windows to Heaven. The wonder of creation enables us to glimpse the superabundance of God. We use the stuff of earth just as Jesus did –water, fire, oil, bread, wine, ashes, branches– to be drawn closer to him and to sing with the world, “Bless the Lord, you waters; bless the Lord, sun and moon; bless the Lord, all you winds; bless the Lord, mountains and hills … (This is a lengthy passage from Daniel 3, calling on every part of the earth to bless the Lord; it’s a treat to read!).

For Confirmation, the laying on of hands and annointing with oil are used as God is asked for the grace and courage of the Holy Spirit to boldly confess Christ. It is the flowering of Baptismal grace, the stirring into flame the gifts of God that Paul told Timothy was his by the imposition of his hands. We see it in the very beginning of Christianity, in the books of Acts. There are several instances (8:14-17; 9:17; 19:6) where an apostle laid hands on someone already baptized, to be filled or sealed with the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 6:1-2 lays out the walk of a Christian: “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” The candidates for Confirmation stood before the church, no longer children learning the elementary doctrines, but ready to go on to maturity in their faith. Our bishop placed his hand on their heads, called them by name, and said, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” to which each one answered, “Amen.” And then, “The Lord be with you” was answered with, “And with your spirit.” 

I was happy to witness the sacrament and to pray for them. I look forward to next year, when one of mine will stand before our church ready to move on to her own mature faith. The Mass closed with this blessing for everyone:

“The Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples and set their hearts on fire with love; may he bless you, keep you one in faith and love, and bring you to the joy of God’s kingdom.”

Categories
Amy M. Ink Slingers

Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa

            Ahh, the start of a new school year.  Supply lists, book bills, registration, homework, learning the ways of the teachers this year.  Then, add in extracurricular activities and sports schedules.  Oh, and an injured teenager preparing for surgery and learning to drive.  And a newborn… Life has been in some upheaval so far this school year.

            Our mantra is, “It will work out.  It always does” and “Once we get into a routine…”  My problem is that when things get this busy, I get more controlling.  We have eight activities scheduled between 3 and 7?  No problem.  It’s like a puzzle; we’ll make the pieces fit, call in reinforcements (Thanks, Dad), and get it done.

           Sometimes, this approach works out just fine.  What’s for dinner?  Whatever we find in the fridge… last night it was a combination of corn on the cob, pancakes, rotisserie chicken, and beet salad (NOT mixed together, I promise).  Running late from one thing to the next? Back-up plan into effect and forge ahead.  Everyone made it to every activity; homework was completed; showers taken. Thank goodness it’s almost the weekend.

           But something is missing when we run at breakneck speed.  Sometimes the finer points are lost in the tight control we try to maintain in order to have this crazy schedule.  Sometimes we lose living in order to maintain our life.  

           Thursday was that crazy day with so many activities planned.  One of the activities, right in the middle, was a cross country meet for two of our daughters.  I came with one of them while the other was carpooling with a volleyball teammate from volleyball practice.  I brought snacks for my little three who were there to cheer and planned to nurse the baby during warm-ups.  

            So far, so good… The three-year old and first grader found some other siblings, and things seemed calm – for now.  My concern was keeping the three-year old from running across the course and causing a runner trouble.  

            The boys ran first, to my dismay because I was so focused on “let’s get this activity done so that we can cross it off and move on to the next thing” that I wanted the girls to run first and leave.  I had lost sight of the team.

            Then, it happened.  This meet was small, so all boys ran together, 5th-8th grade.  One little boy fell behind the majority of the runners.  His older brother finished the race and then came around and started jogging with his brother.  One of our coaches was helping him along too.  Then a couple more boys joined.  By the time they came around the last turn, most of the team was running alongside him, cheering him to finish.  Suddenly, times and places didn’t matter.  What mattered was this little boy and his drive to keep going.  What mattered was the team pulling together for one person, no one left behind.  

            We were all beyond touched and so proud of these boys.  They stepped out of themselves, stepped beyond grade level, and looked out for each other without judgment and with love and support.

            I almost missed this moment because I was so ready to go as soon as my girls finished their race.  Arriving home and looking through Facebook posts, I saw that a similar thing happened with the girls.  Our family missed it because we were trying to gather up to head out.  We (I) had lost the point of team.  I had lost sight of helping others, of being there for our team.  

            In trying to control the schedule so tightly, I forgot to be present.  For now, I can only say I’m sorry, mea culpa, and that I will try to do better next time.  Thankfully, we serve a merciful God who wants us to succeed when we realize our faults and strive to do better and live more closely to Him.  I will learn from these kids who knew exactly what to do.  They lived what Jesus called us all to do when He said, “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”  

mea culpa 2

The goal of all our undertakings should be not so much a task perfectly completed as the accomplishment of the will of God.
St. Therese of Lisieux

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Karen Motherhood Vocations

Do You Know Who You Are in the Father’s Eyes?

Recently, I attended a monthly diocesan women’s night where women from the area are invited to listen to a speaker on a topic related to our Catholic faith, as well as have a chance for confession and Eucharistic adoration. It is a wonderfully enriching time!

On this particular night, Father Prentice Tipton spoke to our group on the topic of Jesus and the Baptism of the Lord, and specifically the the moment when God speaks to Jesus saying, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). -This is my beloved Sonwith whom I am well pleased.- When the Father said this to Jesus, it grounded Jesus. His identity was not wrapped up in how men viewed him, but in the love of His Father. His relationship with God and his identity as His Beloved Son came before ministry to others, and certainly took priority over the accolades of man. This carried him at every point of His ministry, both when crowds gathered to see him, and when the crowds called for His death on the Cross.

Just as Jesus found relationship and identity in the Father’s love for Him, we must also find the same validation through God the Father, Fr. Tipton went on to share.  We must believe that we are the beloved children of God and that He is well pleased with us too.

As God’s creation, He is pleased with what He has made. We did not have to earn that. We have His eternal Love regardless of our actions or self-perception. Whether we stay home with our children, work outside the home, get a PhD, are homeless, wealthy, a criminal, or a saint on Earth, we are loved by God. Certainly our actions impact whether we attain heaven– but those are choices we make, not measures of our Father’s love for us.

But how many of us truly rest in that fact? Satan would have us believe that we are never going to be worthy of God’s love; even that Heaven is unattainable entirely. Satan would have us believe that the whisperings of disapproval from others is the measure of our worth.

We need to instead trust God when He sends the message to us that we are loved and only need to follow Him and rest in Him to have a relationship and identity rooted in Him that gives us peace. It was this peace that pulled Mother Teresa through when she went through spiritual darkness. Even when she didn’t think she could hear God speaking to her, she knew her value was that of God’s daughter, doing His work. She might not have had constant exuberant joy, but she had peace in her role as God’s beloved daughter.

Fr. Tipton closed his talk by asking of us, “Do you know who you are in the Father’s eyes?”

Do you know

And so I ask of you, do you?

As mothers we are drawn, by the nature of our vocation, to sacrifice for our children. We sacrifice our bodies in pregnancy and nursing, and in sheer physical exertion in caring for kids and keeping them safe. We sacrifice our sleep when our children wake at night.  We sacrifice our selfish desires in those times where we comfort our crying child rather than taking that long shower we yearn for. We sacrifice our time when we play with PlayDoh with our child instead of reading a book we were interested in. We even sacrifice spiritual practices when we walk a crying baby in the narthex during Mass, missing the readings and homily. Some mothers had careers they sacrifice to stay at home. Other mothers have to work to help their family financially. We often sacrifice to the point of feeling exhausted and drained.

All this sacrifice is very sanctifying. It prepares us for heaven by allowing us to infect our selfish urges with a spirit of giving. It forces us to use our God-given abilities to help others, often without a second thought.

But much of the time, those tiny people never say thank you. That stranger at the grocery store gives you a thorough disgruntled once over with any number of reasons for their disapproval. Your extended family members tell you how you should parent your children. Moms at the playground give unwelcome advice or admonition about a perceived trouble, or brag about their child’s advancements in light of your child’s average skills.

Are you rattled when this happens? Rest in the Father’s love. You are doing His work. You do not raise your children the best you can so as to please your children, neighbor, spouse, friends, or family members. You are raising your children up because it is God’s will for you to do so. It is too easy to allow Satan to work in you with your doubts about your mothering when you experience the disapproval of others. All this sacrifice isn’t about them or for them. And your worth does not rest in them.

Focus on God. He is the One who laid out this vocation for you, and who gives this hard road to you in order that you may become sanctified and able to enter His Kingdom. He is calling out to you as his beloved child, and He is well pleased with you.

 

Do you know who you are in the Father’s eyes?