Revive Us Again

shroud.jpgHeading into Holy Week, my parish (Queen of Peace in Mishawaka, Indiana) is hosting a special display of the Shroud of Turin. (Not the original cloth shroud, but a photographic likeness flanked by displays outlining the history of the shroud and the scientific research done to ascertain the identity of the man whose image was miraculously imprinted upon it.)

As I sat pondering the display, I found myself thinking about a homily I heard a couple of weeks ago, while traveling to Atlanta to visit my elderly parents. It was serendipitous; I had merely picked the church closest to our hotel. But when the priest started talking about the raising of Lazarus as a “resuscitation” rather than a “resurrection,” his explanation stayed with me.

When Jesus raised Lazarus and others, prior to his own resurrection, these miracles served as a sign of who Jesus was — and what he had come to do through his atoning passion, death, and resurrection. And yet, the priest reminded us, this was not “resurrection” in the same sense that Jesus was raised, in his glorified state.

“Imagine what Lazarus experienced,” Father said. “He awakened, no doubt stiff and sore from lying on a stone bench for three days. He was still subject to pain and illness, and would one day die again. His was not the glorified state, a true resurrection. Rather, it was a sign that he still had work to do.”

On Saturday, the Church welcomes thousands of new Catholics — some receiving all the sacraments for the first time, others are simply confirmed. But each in some way suffers a little death, a putting away of the old and a putting on of the risen Christ. And each of us, whether our faith can be measured in minutes or decades, have work to do.

As a Catholic mom and writer, I confess that right now I feel very much in need of revival. If parenting were a marathon, it feels as though I am sorely in need of a second wind. And so, this year I look forward to the Easter season with great anticipation, trusting God for a “second wind” for my family. Like Lazarus, may Jesus breathe new life into us by the Spirit, that we might finish the race strong.


40-Day Challenge: Palm Sunday

   Happy Palm Sunday!

 On this final Lenten Sunday as we head into Holy Week, let me congratulate you on making it this far in the Challenge. With each passing day as we abandon ourselves more fully to our vocations as Christian wives, God takes up residence in the spaces left as we abandon old habits and seek to establish loving virtues, to strengthen our marriages in perfect love.

In honor of Palm Sunday, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite hymns, written by my confirmation namesake, Amy Carmichael (whose biography A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot, is one of my all-time favorite books), entitled “From Prayer That Asks” (to the tune of “Faith of Our Fathers”):

From prayer that asks that I may be sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fainting when I should aspire, from faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things; from easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus are spirits fortified; not this way went Thy Crucified.
From all that dims Thy Calvary, O Lamb of God, deliver me!

Give me the love that leads the way, the faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire, the passion that would burn like fire.
Let me not sink to be a clod; make me Thy fuel, O Flame of God!

Weekend Ponderings: Holy Week Break

Tomorrow is the final day of Lent before the Triduum begins. Easter is the one time of the year I miss living in California … especially my “home” parish of Holy Family in South Pasadena where I was welcomed into the Catholic Church. This is where I received the Eucharist for the first time, where I took my confirmation name after a Scottish missionary Amy Carmichael, whose writings and hymns inspired me along the unconventional path I believed God had called me to follow. 

I was thirty years old at the time. I was restless, caught between the life I wanted and the one that I had because of a series of my own less-than-optimal choices: a dead-end job, a dead-end relationship, and feeling completely isolated from those who loved me most.

That Easter Vigil provided the impetus I needed to get a fresh start on life. Within six months, I had relocated halfway across the country to begin my dream job as an editor of a religious book publishing house. A few years later, I met Craig. A few years after that, we had our family. 

Of course, becoming Catholic wasn’t a cure-all. From time to time, there is still a disconnect between the life I want and the one I have. And I still harbor flaws and weaknesses that, try as I might, I find difficult to shake.

For example, tonight an extended family member gave us a generous gift — a summer excursion for Craig and the kids and me.  While I was delighted at the prospect of taking this trip, a part of me was bothered by the fact that we were being sent rather than taken. We wanted to spend time with this person … but that desire never seems to be reciprocated.  

One of the dirty little secrets “extraordinary families” sometimes face is that extended family doesn’t always embrace the new family unit with as much enthusiasm as we might wish. Some discharge “familial responsibilities” as perfunctorily as possible, lavishing the lion’s share of attention on those with biological ties. Helping such family members overcome their natural reticence can be a real challenge — and there may be times when it’s better to simply overlook it.

This is much harder to do, of course, when the children notice. “How come ________ gets to spend Christmas with ____, and we never get to see them? How come we don’t get to sleep over _____’s house?” Responding to questions like this can be tricky.  Striking the right balance between honesty and kindness is key. But even more important is to find a way to exorcise any residual resentments you may be harboring yourself.

This is the explanation I’ve been practicing, to serve up at the right time. “People show their love in different ways. Some people like lots of hugs, and spend lots of time together. Others like to give presents. Some people have lots of love in their hearts to share … and others are more careful about sharing their hearts. It’s sad, ’cause they miss out on God’s best gifts that way!  We need to be patient, and ask God to help us show love, no matter what. That’s what Jesus wants us to do.” 

During Holy Week, we remember all the people in the life of Jesus who didn’t reciprocate the love He so freely gave them, in the way He must have longed for them to show it. With some notable exceptions — Mary, who anointed the Lord with oil and dried His feet with her hair; the beloved disciple, who never left His side and who took His mother into his own home; St. Veronica and St. Simon, who came to Him along the Via Dolorosa — after those who had followed Him most closely during the three years of His public ministry, fell far short of fidelity. And yet, He loved them still.

This week, we have another opportunity to love not as we are loved by other frail and flawed human beings, but because of the divine love that has been poured out upon us, especially during this holy Easter season.

Happy Holy Week … and Happy Easter!