Saturday, April 4, 2015

so much grace

Something about this time of year makes me want to put down thoughts somewhere and Facebook just isn't the right medium for it.

It's been a time of grace - the last few months.  Lent started in February and I wrote down a prayer or two. "Lord, grant me the wisdom and humility to see myself as you do....Help me to see."

And instead of caving into the temptation to do a million things for Lent, I picked 2 things - getting up when the alarm went off the first time and writing names of friends and family on a calendar and praying/offering the sacrifices of each day for them.  Both of my Lenten observances were works in progress.  The calendar worked when I remembered to look to see who I was praying for.  So many days the conversation went, "Lord, I am offering this Mass for whoever is on my calendar today."  I had even taken a picture of it on my phone, so I would have it.  But then most days for Mass my phone was in the car.  And getting up when the alarm went off...well, that went OK the first week, but then Daylight Savings Time happened, and the struggle was on.

God, for His part did grant the things I asked for.  Oh, indeed I could see, and there were other things that He put in my path that I took advantage of.  God would get an A+ for this Lent.  I was probably about a C-.
One of the graces of Lent was a Catholic Youth Fest held at a seminary a couple of hours from home in late March.  I had heard of it a few years ago, but at the time going just wasn't in the cards.  This year, it was.  Both of my boys and their girlfriends went, and ENJOYED it!

Tell me this is not a grace.  Of all the, bathroom, church tours... this was by far the longest. There were about 2 dozen priests scattered throughout the clearing in the woods, sitting under umbrellas. They said that over 800 people made their way through the confession line that day.  

 And this.  4,500 people  - most of them teens - at Mass with an Archbishop, 2 Bishops, and dozens of priests.  Right before Mass ended, the Archbishop addressed the crowd, asking for those young people who were actively discerning or who would be OPEN to discerning a vocation in religious life,  should the Lord call, to come forward.  There were hundreds who did so.  My youngest turned around and said to me, "Well, that's an awkward question to say "yes" to when your girlfriend is right here!"  Grace.
 Here's my four favorite young people at Mass.  Boys and their girlfriends - one Catholic, one not.  All claimed to have enjoyed the day and asked about returning next year.  Grace.
Young people praying in the Chapel Tent in the woods.  Quiet. Still.  Grace.

Early in the week, there had been a 90% chance of rain forecast for the day of the Festival.  Gradually, it subsided to 50%.  It was a beautiful, warm, spring day, and the rain held off until about 8 pm.  At that time, the events abruptly concluded before the final speaker finished and before the candlelit adoration.  But that was grace, too.

My "take away" was from the last speaker - a seminarian named Joe Bass.  He was leading up to Adoration, and told the teens, "Jesus did not come to bring you a good conduct report.  He didn't come to bring you a sticker and a Dum-Dum.  He came to meet you in your brokenness."

This year, our pastor was available for confessions on the Tuesday evenings of Lent.  Only 30 minutes, but it still beats Saturday afternoons.  I went one of the Tuesday evenings towards the middle of Lent, and I was #4 of 4 penitents, I think.  The Tuesday of Holy Week, he was available for an hour, and there was a much bigger crowd.  It was to this one, that one of my teens accompanied me.  When they were much younger, we used to indulge in ice cream after confession.  Some things don't change, I discovered. But it's grace when your young adults will still set foot in a confessional.  And for the record...that flavor of ice cream...worth every single calorie.  My penance that night was to offer Mass the next day in thanksgiving for God's mercy and to be open to His graces during Holy Week with a "warm heart".

Wednesday was our Tennebrae Service.  I always go, but don't always walk away inspired.  This year, I got a text in the middle of the day from our choir director asking if I was going and if I would read for it.  Being open to whatever graces might be there, I answered back "yes and yes".  I spent the day at our Special Olympics Track meet and it was hot and very sunny.  I was spent by the time the evening rolled around, but the music was lovely - you could just sit back, close your eyes, and listen, the Psalms, all came together.

Holy Thursday is my favorite day of the Liturgical Year, I think, and for weeks, I had contemplated taking the day off.  At some point, I got an email from one of my friends during Lent inviting me to the Passion Play on Thursday morning at her son's school, and I figured that was a sign to take the day off.  So I did.

The Senior Class put on the play, and it was well-done and moving.  My youngest son, who had gone to school with some of these kids in elementary and middle school also took the day off and came with me. Grace.

The next stop of the day was the Chrism Mass.  I've been a few times before, and love it.  My regular church lady friend couldn't come, so I invited my sister-in-law.  I sensed that she wasn't sure about coming, because she had a lot to do that day, but she did.  The priests of the diocese come to this Mass to renew their promises as a priest and also to receive the blessed oils (thus the name Chrism Mass) for use in their ministries and parishes.  As you see row after row of priests file into the pews, you are struck by the diversity of the priesthood.  There are fat and skinny, tall and short, old and young.  Priests in shiny loafers and priests in worn black sneakers.  Black, white, Indian, and Asian.  Priests who are bald and even a priest with a pony tail.  And then there is a deep appreciation for all of them - whether they are long-winded or short and sweet, arrogant or humble, simple or extravagant, funny or serious, - a deep appreciation for their "yes". Grace.

I have no pictures of the Chrism Mass; it would just not be appropriate to pull out a camera or an iphone and start clicking.  And it probably wouldn't capture it anyway...the sights, the music that is right next to heaven, the incense. When all was said and done, my sister-in-law turned to me and says, "We're coming EVERY year!"  Grace.

Thursday evening is the Mass of the Lord's Supper, and if I could only go to one Mass a year, this would be it!  I have no pictures of it, either.  It is a simple affair at our parish.  No feet are washed.  Adoration only continues for an hour after Mass.  But the Eucharistic procession touches me every year.  Our priest carefully wraps his vestment around the ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament, as a mother would wrap up a child going out into the cold, holds it close to him and slowly processes around the inside of the church, up and down each side.  It gets me every time - Jesus walking among us.  It is grace.  And the period of passes way too quickly, but it is a lovely, quiet time to reflect on Lent that is now over and to look forward to the events of Good Friday and beyond.  Grace.

There was a side note to my grace this year.  All during Lent, and even before, I have struggled with getting to daily Mass on time.  For the past few years, I have driven my kids to the bus stop, waited for the bus, and then proceeded to Mass, and the times worked out perfectly - I was seldom late.  Now my remaining high schooler drives himself most days, and the urgency to get out of the house is not the same.  I have brought the struggle to confession, once, twice, maybe more.  It has been way harder than it needs to be.  But the struggle is real, as they say.  I know that I checked the time for the Chrism Mass, and relayed the time to my sister-in-law.  I "knew" it was at 10:00, and we were there nearly an hour early.  10:00 rolled around, and things didn't seem to be starting.  Oops, it was 10:30.  As I sat there waiting, it occurred to me that God had indeed found a way to get those minutes back that I had been late.  Grace!

That would be funny enough, except that I repeated the scenario almost exactly for the evening Mass.  I had copied and pasted the Mass schedule from last year's (or the year before's) altar server schedule and missed the fact that Mass was at 6:30 and not 6:00.  I felt a little bad for my altar servers who were there an hour early, but they (and their parents) were good about it.  Grace. And God's sense of humor.

May God's grace find you in the celebrations yet to come as part of the Triduum and the Easter season. Look for Him with a warm heart and an open mind.