Monday, September 29, 2014

The Anteroom

The Net Mender, Marianne Stokes
In April I wrote in another post that when someone in our family dies, we move into a little anteroom of death--not able to follow  our loved one to the place where he has gone, but unable to go back to the everyday world, and it's the rare friend who is able to come in with us. This is what I expected to experience when my mother died, but I didn't. I didn't feel at all removed from the everyday world, nor did I feel at all separated from those around me. When I thought about it later, I realized that the reason I didn't go into the room was that I was already there. This is where I live now. And this is where I'm at home.

I know that many of you probably think that this is morbid or depressing. I'm sure that a few years ago, I would have felt the same way. But it's not. It's just that I have reached that place in my life where I have done all I felt that I needed to do, and that everything that comes now is just a prelude to that step over that final threshold.

Don't think that I'm saying that I think this is imminent. I don't. I might live for another 20 or 30 years. I might be called to do a lot of surprising things. I'm happy with my life and I'm surrounded by people I love who love me. I'll be happy to stay, but I'm also looking forward to letting go. It's a very peaceful place to be.
Death is swallowed up in victory. 
Where, O death, is your victory? 
Where, O death, is your sting? 
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Should you want to comment and find that Blogger is being recalcitrant, try this, write your comment and copy it. If it doesn't post, paste your comment into a new box. For some reason, this seems to work for me. JTC

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Time to Go?

We are thinking about moving. Neither one of us really wants to move, but we are thinking that pretty soon, we must. So now, on my way to and from work, or wherever else we are going, I keep my eyes open. I want to store it all up--and it's making things very difficult.

It is almost as if, knowing that I am thinking of leaving, the world around me is courting, It's been especially beautiful lately because of the mist.  This morning, there was a blanket of fog hovering over the cotton fields and the sunlight was at just the right angle to lay a veil of gold over the gray. It reminded me of that song that Lancelot sings in CamelotIf Ever I Would Leave You

How can I leave now when the mist is rising and weaving new mysteries every morning, or in the winter when everything is that lovely grayish brown except the one cardinal sitting in a tree like a burning heart; or in the Spring because of as e. e. cummings said, "the leaping greenly spirits of trees/and a blue dream of sky;and for everything/which is natural which is infinite which is yes"

And summer, well I have to admit that if I have to leave, summer would probably be the easiest time. It's so often hot and sometimes so muggy that I can hardly breathe, and I might be tempted to go even if Lancelot said that, "[my] face [had] a luster that put gold to shame." Still, it will be even hotter in the city where the concrete doesn't cool off even at night and there are no stars to speak of.

When Jane Eyre thought that she would have to leave Mr. Rochester and go to Ireland to be a governess there, she said, "I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death." And that is what it is like. It will be like a little death. But, death holds a promise, and that necessity doesn't sound anywhere near as threatening as it used to, about which more later.

For the present, at least, we are here and probably will be for a while. It might be a few years or a few months. I'm going to try to go on as if I will be here forever, although I'm hoping to get rid of some stuff. After moving my mother's stuff twice in less than 3 months, after moving a good bit of my own stuff twice in three months last year, I'm not in any hurry to start packing, and when I do, I want there to be less to pack.

As you may have noticed, I haven't been writing lately. I've wanted to, and there are things that I very much want to write about, but I just have not been able to do it. I think that my thoughts have been too unsettled and I haven't been able to concentrate on any one thing long enough to write about it. Things have begun to settle down now, though, so hopefully it won't be another 6 weeks before another post appears. 


Thursday, September 11, 2014

St. Martin's Blog

I think that I have mentioned before in a post that the page with the Novena to St. Martin de Porres which can be found on the sidebar has had as many visits as all the other posts combined. Sometimes people leave prayer requests in the comments, but they don't show up in the Recent Comments box because it's a page and not a post.

Recently, I've been talking to a young man who asked for prayers fairly often, and I would like to invite you all to read the comments on that page, and pray for him as he is in a situation where there is little spiritual support.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Solemnity of the Assumption

My mom died Friday morning, the Solemnity of the Assumption. I am fine, although exhausted. It was very peaceful. The maintenance man at her apartment spoke with her at 11:15 am and went to get something and when he came back at 11:30, she was sitting in her chair and had died. She just looked like she was taking a nap. She had been anointed when she was in the hospital, so all is well. She had a great day Thursday. She got her hair done which is a big thing for her. She did her laundry! I can't figure out how you take your laundry and soap down the hall to the machine when you are using a walker. She had dinner with my sister, and played bridge. The best day she had had since she got home. I had dinner with her Wednesday, and talked to her probably half an hour before she died. Of course, we told each other that we loved each other. I got to be alone with her body for a while and kiss her good-bye. What a great feast day to die on.

Some of you have gotten a private message or email just like this. Sorry for the duplication, but things are a bit hectic.


Sunday, August 3, 2014


This week as part of my morning prayer I have been reading passages from Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. It was put together by the people who publish Magnificat, so it it a beautiful little book, filled with gorgeous art, and has a great selection of thought (and prayer)-provoking readings from Benedict XVI's writing. It seems to be out of print, but you can get a used copy here for basically the cost of shipping.

This picture of the Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli was a facing page between April and May. I had not heard of Albertinelli before, but when I looked at his work, several pieces were familiar to me.

This is the most compelling picture that I have seen in a good while. There is nothing ethereal or stylized here. These are real women--the kind of women we see everyday. They are beautiful with a beauty that comes from their essential characters. They are strong with a strength that is intrinsically feminine. This is one of the quarrels that I have with 20th century Feminists. Instead of mining this wealth of feminine strength, they relied on a poor imitation of masculine strength and lost on both fronts.The women in this picture haven't made that mistake.

And then, there's this look.

This is a gaze that is so intimate that is draws you in, and yet, how many of us could bear it if we were there in person? Here is look that is filled with love, concern for the other, and the deep knowledge that something beyond the knowledge of man is hidden within them. It asks the question, "How is it with you?" And the answers, "The Lord has done great things for me," "And why is this granted to me...?"  I can't imagine what Albertinelli drew on to create this image. 

As I was thinking about this painting, it occurred to me that this may have been the first time that two people looked at each other with a love that was informed by the love of Jesus, the first conversation between two people who knew that the Creator had entered His creation. How overwhelming it must have been to them. How comforting it must have been to them to be able to share the miracle within her with the only person in the world that could truly understand how it felt.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

I Will Consider

I have been attending a class on Ignatian meditation and contemplation. We are told that when we begin either one, the first thing is to think, I will consider how the Lord our God looks upon me. The first time I read that, I immediately thought, "Well, I'm sure He looks at me and thinks what a mess I am," or some such thing. Then I realized, "Wait, this is not what I'm being asked to consider." What we are asked to consider is how the Lord our God looks upon us with deep, and all-encompassing love, and how He longs to draw us into that love.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about, and experiencing a bit of, what it means to live in that all-encompassing love. I almost hate to try to write anything about it because I've read so much about it in my life, so many passages from the Saints that were beautiful, but effectively left me cold. It's obvious that most of the little epiphanies that we have in our spiritual lives are very personal and can't really be communicated to anyone else. Still, occasionally something that someone else has written serves as a sort of jumping off point for me, and so I write hoping that maybe this will be the case for someone else. Also, we build up a little treasury of head knowledge about our life of faith, and while it may lie dormant for a long time, sometimes Our Lord mines that little treasury for something, or a group of somethings to illuminate.

At the moment, the most brilliant gem in my little treasure box is the realization of the primacy of love. Of course, I know this, but I often don't realize it. There is a pendulum that is constantly swinging in the Church, and in our individual lives between the emphasis on this primacy of love and the importance of rules and right practice. You can't really swing too far in the direction of authentic love, but we often veer off into that insidious imitation of love that becomes mushy sentimentalism. When we realize the mistake we tend to try and correct it by rushing headlong toward the shelter that can be found in dotting all our i's and crossing all our t's, and generally being good girls and boys. And the rules are good, and right practice is good, in fact they are both great goods when they are in the service of love; however, we tend to veer off into a sort of practical orthodoxy that is grounded in fear, and pits us against our weaker brothers and sisters who lack our self-perceived perfection.

As in everything else, the answer doesn't come from separating these two goods but by bringing them together in their right relationship. The rules and right practice are foundational. They are important in the way a loom is important to the weaving of fabric. However, the really important thing is the fabric, and the material that we use to weave the fabric of our lives is the love that we have been given by the One Who teaches us our craft. When we make a mistake in that weaving, either because our loom is deficient in some way, or because we have made a tangled mess of the thread of love, He can use that mistake to make the fabric more beautiful than it would have been before. Occasionally, we have to adjust the loom, or mend a broken frame, but most of the time we need to be paying attention to the fabric because eventually, we are going to take that fabric off the loom, wrap it around ourselves and leave the loom behind.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I started this post over a week ago, and I really wanted to post it on the feast day of St. Ignatius, but I just haven't had time to write. My daughter was here for a week and now my sister is in town helping with my mother who has been in rehab for the past three weeks. Mother is going home today, and I hope she gets to stay there for a while. She moved just over two months ago, and since then she has spent over 5 weeks in the hospital. 

We have a lot of decisions to make concerning all areas of my mother's life, and a lot of matters that have to be addressed immediately. Please keep us in your prayers, both for wisdom to make the right decisions, and the stamina to be able to do all we need to do. Also, pray that we will be able to continue to be charitable to one another in our exhaustion.