Snarky atheist

This week I’m so grateful for my dear husband and I’ve been reminded of how precious our marriage is to me. We’ve been married for 35 years this June, and are so comfortable and happy together. Yes, he’s an atheist, and a snarky one at that! But, just as I’ve frequently reminded him of late that I’ve always been religious, and was when we first met (so he shouldn’t be surprised at my recent rediscovered interest in Christianity), so too I need to remind myself that he’s always been an atheist as well.

A couple of atheist commandments...

A couple of atheist commandments…

He joined us when my oldest son and I began exploring Buddhism (wow, that was about 17 years ago!) because that isn’t a theistic religion, and because Buddhism has many useful tools that anyone can use, such as mind training and meditation. But of course he’s not going to join me in my interest in Catholicism.

On the other hand, although he’s become snarky about his atheism (which snarkiness began during the George W. Bush years due to the shift within conservatism toward anti-science and toward polarizing and hate-filled rhetoric) he’s never been snarky to me. He’s been a bit puzzled, but still very respectful and sweet. 🙂

So, this week’s gratitude journal has been filled with references to Jim. He was traveling last week, and just got home Monday, so of course I missed him. And then yesterday was my birthday, we had a sweet birthday celebration, Jim gave me a new iPod Touch, and a book I’d been wanting — in book form, rather than on kindle, because it has lovely pictures — Abraham Lincoln and the Jews. Can’t wait to read!

And we had a lovely dinner with the boys. Wine and cheese and salmon, and delicious cupcakes for dessert. So delightful!

Here’s hoping for another 35 years! 😀

Advertisements

Grateful for my dear local church…

Another Gratituesday rolls around, and this week I have so many things that I’ve been grateful for, that I’ll just focus on the Easter-related ones! 😀

  • I’m grateful for the beautiful Easter vigil service, and for the opportunity to be confirmed in the Catholic church, and for the others who also were baptized and confirmed last Saturday.
  • I’m grateful that I stuck with it all the way through the RCIA program, even though at times I wondered what on earth I was doing, why this was such a long, involved process (I’d truly expected that at most there’d be a couple weeks of study and then I’d be welcomed into the church) and considering my ADD whether I’d lose interest over the months of study! (I didn’t.)
  • I’m grateful for how lovely our little church is, with its many stained glass windows, and especially adorned with Easter flowers.
  • I’m grateful that our church celebrates mass every day, so there are many opportunities for me to attend.

One of the sweetest parts of Saturday’s service was during the Gloria, when the children ran up to the front of the church carrying the donated flowers, and handed them to a couple of adults who placed them around the altar, and then the children hurried to the back again to pick up more bouquets and carry them up front. It lasted a good 10 minutes at least, with so many flowers! It was so delightful!

Child with basket of flowers

I’m still contemplating Saturday’s vigil, it so impressed me and was so lovely…

Two Beautiful Evenings

The Holy Thursday and Good Friday services were so beautiful! I especially loved that at the Thursday service we actually sang a Latin hymn, the first time since I began attending this church! We sang the Pange Lingua Gloriosi:

 

.

So moving, to sing this ancient hymn. And yes, Father washed the feet of all the candidates and catechumens, but I’ve had such an unnatural calm lately (for me) that I wasn’t bothered in the least by having my feet washed in front of the entire church. I was just very thankful that the water was warm, because the church was sooo cold! Both nights, very cold, so last night I wore my gloves during most of the service, until my hands finally warmed up.

 

Good Friday was also very moving and beautiful. We did Stations of the Cross at noon, and the altar boy who held the cross at each station also attended Thursday night and held the basket to receive our towels after the feet washing. He can’t be more than 10 years old, and has such a sweet, round cherubic face. I have to consciously stop myself from grinning at him every time I see him!

 

At the Friday evening service they had the Veneration of the Cross which I’d never done before, and which touched me deeply. Good thing I have this new-found calm I mentioned (perhaps from confession and penance?), otherwise I might have cried.

 

During the prayers of the people, which Father chanted, I noticed that he would be praying for the Jewish People, and I thought, “Uh oh”. Because if anything negative or disrespectful had been said, I would have had to rethink all of this. Seriously. Because that would be something I would not be able to countenance. But I was very pleased, because the prayer Father read out (chanted, actually) mentioned the Jews as God’s Chosen People whom He’d first revealed Himself to, and prayed that God would bestow on them His redemption, but didn’t say “through Christ” or anything. That may have been implied, I don’t know, but it wasn’t actually said. So I thought, “Good. That’s okay then.” Because if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s any hint of supersessionism in Christianity.

 

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Romans 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Pope Francis

 

(I also love this quote from Paul van Buren: “The reality of the Jewish people, fixed in history by the reality of their election, in their faithfulness in spite of their unfaithfulness, is as solid and sure as that of the gentile church.”)

 

Two such lovely evenings, and last night everyone kept reminding me: “Only one more night!” I’ve never been to an Easter Vigil before, and am so looking forward to it!

 

Divine Mercy Novena Begins Today!

The Divine Mercy Novena begins today, in anticipation of Divine Mercy Sunday April 12. Please join in, if you can!

Divine Mercy prayers

The Divine Mercy prayers have become very dear to me since becoming a Christian, perhaps due to how effective they can be in developing compassion in the one praying. You truly open yourself to being a conduit of God’s mercy praying these beautiful prayers! (And one of the lessons I took out of my first confession: I can certainly benefit from learning a lot more about God’s mercy and forgiveness! 🙂

Click here to sign up to join in praying the Divine Mercy novena.

Gratitude journal

This past Sunday I began a gratitude journal — just a moleskin I keep in my purse to jot down a minimum of three things a day that I’m grateful for.

Here’s what I’ve written so far (two days’ worth), and the journal has definitely been successful in putting a smile on my face!

Barn I pass on my walk

Barn I pass on my walk

  • I’m grateful for the beautiful walk in my neighborhood, that I can take every day if I choose.
  • I’m grateful for the warmer weather and the buds and birds I now get to see on my walk.
  • I’m grateful for my dear husband and our lovely home that we enjoy.
  • I’m grateful for Father’s kindness at my first confession, leading me through it so it ended up being a positive experience.
  • I’m grateful for the beauty and serenity of the little sanctuary of our local church, its stained glass windows, the airiness, the large, solemn crucifix, the glowing stillness of the tabernacle candle. It is wonderful to meditate there.
  • I’m grateful for my collection of songs and hymns that I can play in the car while driving back and forth to town and sing loudly along with. Also grateful for the familiar, happy songs playing right now in the mall while I’m writing this [in the journal]: Eagles’ Taking It Easy, Bruce Springstein’s The Promised Land, and The Train They Call the City of New Orleans.
  • I love meals with my boys! Just had a lovely sushi dinner with my youngest [Sunday night].

I think I’ll start posting a few things I’m grateful for, every Tuesday. 🙂

First Confession

It’s now “crunch time” for RCIA candidates! Last Saturday I had my first confession, yesterday was Palm Sunday, this Thursday is the evening service where Father washes our feet (I hear he’ll only pick a few of the RCIA folks, and I sure hope it’s not me!) And of course Friday is Good Friday (Stations of the Cross at noon, and then an evening service) and Saturday night is our Easter Vigil.

Despite being coached on Confession at a couple of the RCIA classes, and again by one of the RCIA leaders right before my confession, I entered the booth and completely froze. I don’t know why, exactly. Perhaps the weight of 50+ years of sins? Perhaps just shyness (since I haven’t really met Father, not to have a real conversation anyway). But whatever the reason, I couldn’t even say the first line, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.”

But Father was very kind, and led me through the confession. I only had a couple of “major” sins to confess, the rest being more a wrong “attitude” or approach toward life, or bad habits. I’d made a list before coming in, but being tongue-tied, I know I didn’t cover all of it. But I believe I mentioned all the relevant “categories”, so to speak.

A major sin I confessed is the one time when I helped a friend get an abortion by driving her to the clinic. She didn’t want the abortion, I felt very uncomfortable driving her, but her boyfriend insisted that she had to get rid of the baby. I (and she) believed at the time that I was helping her, but I realized later that it would have been so much more helpful to have supported her in her wish to keep the baby. I’ve profoundly regretted it ever since (even though I wasn’t Catholic, or even Christian, at the time and didn’t look at it as a sin, per se). We never mentioned it afterward, and a few years later she died. I was never able to apologize to her for doing the wrong thing in not supporting her.

confession

Father and I were sitting facing each other (one of the confessional options, the other: kneeling behind a screen), and I brought up the reason I’d left the Church, a devastating time for me (since I’d been religious my whole life). I’d read the book The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal, an excellent book. Wiesenthal solicited essays from many great thinkers, both Christian and Jewish, about forgiveness, and I found, reading through them, that I agreed with every Jewish writer and disagreed with every Christian.

I agreed with the basic premise that one can forgive others for wrongs done to oneself, but one cannot forgive wrongs done to others. According to the Talmud, even God cannot forgive wrongs that man does to his fellow man, only wrongs that man commits against God. “God’s forgiveness, however extensive, only encompasses those sins which man commits directly against Him, bein adam la-Makom; those in which an injury is caused to one’s fellow man, bein adam le-ḥavero are not forgiven until the injured party has himself forgiven the perpetrator. Hence the custom of seeking forgiveness from those one may have wronged on the eve of the Day of Atonement, without which proper atonement cannot be made.”

Murder, therefore, cannot be forgiven, since the injured party is no longer present to extend forgiveness. Thus, in Wiesenthal’s example in his book, no one can forgive, on behalf of the Holocaust victims, the wrongs done to them. It’d be presumptuous to even consider that.

And yet that is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. He extends forgiveness to everyone, no exceptions. All one has to do is accept it. And this is not some minor theological point, but the heart of Christianity. That is why I had to eventually accept that I was no longer a Christian (after spending many days rereading the essays, talking with many people, pacing the floor while rereading excerpts again, and crying).

I didn’t give all this history to Father in the confessional, but just a highlight, and said that although I was coming back into the Church, I still agreed with the Jewish belief about forgiveness. I haven’t changed one iota in that regard! So I wondered if I should just ignore this whole issue? But Father said, No, that God’s forgiveness is vast, unfathomable, and that one (that I) should study it more and more. I can go along with that. 🙂

The penance Father gave me was interesting: before the Easter vigil I should do the Stations of the Cross, pausing at the sixth station to ask for Saint Veronica’s help to reach out to offer compassion. I will do the Stations this Wednesday before RCIA class (since Father said to do the prayers at actual Stations, in a church, rather than just the prayers). I was not expecting such a beautiful penance to do! Very happy…

Saint Veronica

(Just hoping my second confession goes a bit more smoothly and I don’t freeze like a deer in headlights again!)

A Beautiful Saint honored today

I was so moved by the story of today’s saint that I thought I’d post a link to his biography. Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was very humble, died fairly young, and is the patron saint of young people, students and clerics. Unfortunately most of his writings were destroyed, as he requested from his deathbed. A short biographical passage from the Catholic Culture website:

[Saint Gabriel joined] the Passionists, a religious congregation dedicated to the veneration of and meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ [in 1856].

After overcoming many difficulties, he carried out his resolution and received the religious name, Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows. Even as a novice, he was regarded as a model of perfect holiness both within and beyond the cloister.

Saint Gabriel did not stand out from his community in any extraordinary way — his heroism lay in his obedient attitude. He conformed himself to his community in complete humility. Little is known of his life — only that he was blessed with an excellent memory and other gifts that made him an outstanding student. He also had a great devotion to the Passion of Christ and the Sorrows of Mary. Pius X and Leo XIII especially desired that he be the patron saint of young people and novices in religious orders, as their model in the interior life. He died in the year 1862.

And here is a lovely quote from him about Our Lady:

Love Mary! …She is loveable, faithful, constant. She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme. If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you. If you are troubled, she will console you. If you are sick, she will bring you relief. If you are in need, she will help you. She does not look to see what kind of person you have been. She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her. She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you. She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

“I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own.”

Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!