Tuesday, June 5, 2012

SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

I have recently come to realize just how many books are born of pain and the search for reasonable explanations.  Browse the bookstores and see how many memoirs, autobiographies, self-help books and how-to books are born from the pain of the author.  I venture to say that even great books from literary giants - stories about crime, stories of war, stories of passion - are the result of a writer's search for answers and understanding.

Bumper stickers and billboards often proclaim "Jesus is the Answer", but even for those of us with a deep faith in God and Jesus, the answers are not that simple.  How do we reconcile the idea of a loving, all-powerful God, with the chaos of our world?

So we search.  We read the bible, we study science, we search the history books.  We join a new group, visit a new church, try a new religion, investigate new philosophies.  Maybe the answer is here.   Maybe the answer is there.

I just finished reading a book called "Devotion", a memoir by Dani Shapiro chronicling her search for answers.  Dani is a successful writer, happily married, with a bright young son, but as she looked back on her life she had questions -- questions about her father's strict Jewish Orthodox observances and her own Jewish upbringing; questions about her painful relationship with her mother, and her son's long battle with Infantile Spasms, an almost always fatal disease.  

In her quest for truth she found truths, "pieces of wisdom" in Christianity, in Buddhism and in her own Jewish heritage. But her search continues. "I can only know what I know now." she concluded.  "Hopefully we'll know more an hour from now. And Tonight. And tomorrow. And next year."

Searching for answers - trying to make sense of our lives, of our purpose, trying to make sense of the pain we feel and the suffering we see in this world - is at the very core of our nature.  It is part of what makes us human. 

Some believe that there are no answers.  I believe there is an answer, an "Absolute Truth" that we call God.  But I do not believe that any one religion, any one book, any one individual in any one lifetime can ever know or contain all of that truth. 

So I hope that we all will continue to search.  And as we find pieces of wisdom to live by and to share, we will make this world a better place.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Goals for my life

Today I came across one of my journals from 1990.  On July 14th I wrote what I consider to be the eight beatitudes for my life:           
           
            if I can make someone laugh
            if I can help someone feel better about themselves
            if I can inspire someone to do something good, something creative
            if I can open a new door in someone's life
            if I can discover and share a new idea
            if I can turn on a new light in someone's mind
            if I can help someone to love, to recapture love, to be aware of love
            if I can touch someone with love ...
                        then I will be happy!
           
Although I am in very different circumstances now than in 1990, these words still define what I consider to be the ideal for my life.  So today I print them out, paste them to the wall, and promise myself that every day I will accomplish at least one of my personal beatitudes.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What One Person Can Do!


What One Person Can Do!

I went to Mass this morning, as I like to do on weekdays whenever I am home.   Fifty or sixty people gather in a small chapel next to the main church for the service.  Many, like myself, are regulars and most sit in the same pews everyday.

Since there are no alter servers during the week, volunteers from the congregation assist the priest.  The hand-held bells, which are rung during the consecration, are placed on a bench in front of the first pew, and Norm, who likes to sit up front, always rings the bells.

But Norm was not there today.  The front pew was empty. 

When it came time for the consecration, I looked at the empty pew, and looked around.  Sometimes John or Marianne or Susan, or someone else nearby will step up to the front and ring the bells.  Today no one stepped up.  I thought about moving up to the first pew, but kept my seat, reluctant to step up in front of everyone.

At the consecration there was silence!  A deafening, soul-piercing silence!  Any one of us could have stepped up.  Anyone one of us could have filled the church with the sound of beautiful chiming bells -- but no one did. 

In the guilt-filled emptiness of that silence I thought about how often I have hesitated to step up -- how often so many of us hesitate on much more important things.  We hesitate for many reasons: because we are too busy or too shy; because we are fearful of consequences or uncertain about whether one little action can make any difference.

Sitting this morning in that silence I wondered how different the world might be if we did not hesitate to step up and take action. We might find out just how much one person can do!

Monday, November 1, 2010

ASAP - A New Definition

I thought this was worth sharing - hope you agree.

Here's another way to think about "ASAP"

There's work to do, deadlines to meet;

You've got no time to spare,

But as you hurry and scurry-

A.S.A.P. - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER

In the midst of family chaos,

"Quality time " is rare.

Do your best; let God do the rest-

A.S.A.P. - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER.

It may seem like your worries

Are more than you can bear.

Slow down and take a breather-

A.S.A.P. - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER

God knows how stressful life is;

He wants to ease our cares,

And He'll respond to all your needs

A.S.A.P. - ALWAYS SAY A PRAYER.



Sunday, September 19, 2010

My mom would have been 100 years old this month. Unfortunately, she died in an automobile accident on Sept 11th, 1976. So every September, as we memorialize those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I also pay special tribute to my mom, with a sincere appreciation for all she taught me.

The example of her faith was one of Mom's greatest gifts to me. She was a devout Catholic who believed in the church, but she taught me to look deeper into religion -- to look beyond individual personalities, and specific rules.

Mom always said "religion should make sense, and if it doesn't make sense to you, find out why." She taught me that questioning the rules was not only OK, but an important responsibility, a necessary part of personal growth.

As I questioned and looked deeper into the church I began to understand some of the reasons behind the rules. For example, fasting on Fridays during lent strengthens our self-discipline, and required attendance at Mass every Sunday provides important learning opportunities as well as encouraging us to take time for prayer.

Thanks to my Mom, I've been able to go beyond the "letter of the law". And thanks to her I've been able to recognize the church's faults and shortcomings while still appreciating the importance of the church's guidelines for our spiritual growth. After all is said and done, the only mission of the church as an institution, is to teach us about God, to make us aware of our purpose here on earth, and to help us attain the promise of the afterlife we call "heaven".

Thanks Mom for all your guidance! I know you are enjoying heaven.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Constitution, Article 6

Standing in line at the grocery store I see the tabloid headline "Shocking Proof, Obama IS a Muslim" ... and I'm thinking, what happened to Freedom of Religion in America?

Of course the answer is obvious ... since 9/11 we've become paranoid about Muslim extremists who vow to destroy us. But shouldn't we smart enough to realize there are extremists in every group, whether it be political, religious or racial? (And if you are worried about Muslims in America, I suggest you read "Acts of Faith" by Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Corps. More about him in future blogs)

I think that maybe right now we need to remind ourselves of the importance of freedom of religion as guaranteed in our constitution. It is one of the basic ideals of our country; one of the principles on which our country was founded. Are we on the verge of sacrificing the basic principles of our Constitution because of the actions of extremists?

When it comes to questioning Obama's religion, refer to Article 6 in the Constitution. It states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"

The questions we should be asking about our President are not what religion does he profess, but is he a man of integrity? Can we trust him to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States? Will he put the interests of our country first in all of his decisions and actions? Will he lead this country in the right direction as we see it? If the answer to these questions is yes, it should not matter if our president worships God in the traditional Protestant religion or if he is a Born-Again Christian, a Catholic, a Jew ... or a Muslim.

Friday, July 30, 2010

ON SINGLE PARENTING

I've often said that God knew what he was doing when he designed the creating of new life to require two parents. It's not the creation or even the birth that's so hard ... it's the years that follow. In the ideal design, two parents share the physical and emotional challenges of taking care of children. Two parents support each other, reinforce each other. They teach children respect and demand respect for the other parent. And they comfort each other! ... and God knows, at the end of the day, all parents need lots of comfort!

Unfortunately, in the real world, the "ideal design" is often interrupted because of circumstances beyond our control or because of choices we make. Single parenthood is a common reality today, leaving one parent to carry double the load without the emotional support and comfort ... and I can tell you from personal experience It Ain't Easy!

When my husband died I had to finish raising 6 children, ranging from 10 to 18 years in age. In one sense I was more fortunate than some single parents. My husband had been a strong father, very close to the children. I could draw on that strength as well as his memory and the foundation we had built for them together. Most of the single parents that I know don't have as many children, but they are starting, almost from scratch, to build that family foundation by themselves.

When people ask me "how did you do it?" All I can say is "with a lot of help from God." I kept remembering the old saying we were taught in Catholic school: "God doesn't send you any problems you can't handle." Well, first of all, I don't believe that God "sends" us the problems (more about that in a later blog) but I do believe he is there with special help for single parents.

There were many times when my mind was a complete blank on how to handle a situation or what to say to a child in trouble and somehow the right words came ... through my empty brain, out of my mouth, straight to my child. When I heard my self speaking I wondered "where did that come from?" But I really knew ... and had to say "thank you God."

When all of my shortcomings hit me in the face, as they often did, I tried to say "I'm doing the best I can." And I was ... but I knew that "the best I could do" on any given day, wasn't necessarily "my best". Often it was far from it. So I had to learn to forgive myself and keep on trying. It helped to remember that God forgives us, and gives us the strength to keep going.

I pray every day for single parents, that they be open to the special graces of wisdom, strength and comfort that God is surely sending them.

PS - My own story of single parenting has a happy ending. My children are all grown now, and although there are certainly some "holes" in their upbringing that I could not fill, they all turned out pretty darn well! (if I may say so myself.) And I now have a wonderful husband to share the new challenges of life and the joy of grand-parenting.