I was participating in Mass yesterday at the Pastoral Center during the Catechetical Conference and an idea popped into my head and not a few minutes later popped right back out. Drives me crazy because normally when I receive something while at Mass, I want it to stick with me. Who wouldn’t? Right? It was a long day, setting up St. Mary’s Bookstore on 3 long tables a little after 7 a.m. then selling all day and packing up at 3 to take back to the store and return to the shelves, then close the store at 5. But, I had some great help and got to spend time with great people so I was all good. After dinner I watched a little football with my husband and promptly fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up, I asked about the game and my husband responded that Auburn just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. And that was it! That was the message I received at Mass! I couldn’t believe it. It’s all about Auburn…no, I mean, it’s all about getting out of our own ways.
This past week my youngest daughter had several volleyball games and as I watched them fall short for the 3rd match in a row, I thought, “they just cannot seem to get our of their own way”. They did more to beat themselves than the other team did to beat them. Not saying the other teams were not good or didn’t deserve the wins but come on….talk, work together.
During Mass, the thought came clearly. Come on. Stop beating ourselves. We all need to get out of our own ways and talk, work together. Because after all, it’s not really about who gets what or who did this or that, it’s about how we treat one another during this mass confusion we call living in this world. Every day we are given many opportunities to be kind, to love, to change lives by what we say or how we say it, by what we do or don’t do. Social media especially has become a major player in how we treat one another. Think about some of the things we read and some of the comments made. We really are not very kind to one another. What if we knew that every comment, every action was to test our reaction? Do we discuss topics and work with one another? Or do we react with anger? We are constantly and continually beating ourselves here. We cannot seem to get out of our own way.
I am not good about this but what if we used all the bad things that happen to us or are said about us as the chance to make a difference? Maybe even by not doing or saying anything. Or, maybe by turning bad into good. I think that’s the major difference between us and the saints. With the Canonization of Mother Teresa I guess all of this has made me start thinking of the simple things she and the other Missionary of Charity sisters did and still do that all of us can do. Granted, few of us are going to serve the poor in India, but there are plenty of poor in our own cities. Wait. I’m getting off course. We all know we can do and be better. My point here is that we need to stop working against ourselves. We need to stop making what is good and holy seem so difficult. We need to take the simple opportunities put before us day after day and complete the tasks. We need to be kind to the meanest and love the haters and do for the ungrateful. We need to stop beating ourselves with unforced errors so to speak. Let’s talk. Let’s work together. Let’s share our good thoughts and let’s stay out of our own way.
Last week Allen and I were in Chicago at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show bouncing back and forth between promoting my new book, Talking to God, and buying beautiful, new merchandise for the bookstore. In almost every booth we witnessed the excitement of the upcoming canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4th. When asked my thoughts on Mother Teresa, all I could think of were the parables over the past couple of weeks about the weeds among the wheat. For some reason, Jesus’ explanation to allow the weeds to grow along with the wheat for fear of pulling up the good while trying to get rid of the bad, reminded me of many holy people who dedicate their lives to taking care of the less fortunate, the sick, the poor, those many may consider problems. Mother Teresa was the perfect example of not just allowing weeds to grow along with the wheat but of believing that those who may be considered the lowest could be nourished and changed into something good. Who is to say that the sick and the poor and the lowly are not the wheat itself and those who walk around them are not the weeds who choke their possibility of becoming something beautiful? It’s just food for thought. The week and the Gospel readings made me think about what and who I am surrounded by on a daily basis. The merciful Mother Teresa who worked tirelessly for others, who saw in each person the face of Christ, who herself struggled spiritually, understood that Jesus was not just talking about allowing people, good or bad, rich or poor, young or old, to live together equally, but that we should help one another to be something more, that we should nourish one another and build each other up so that when the final sickle is wielded, we are not cut along with the others we did not bother to try and help. She understood that we could well be the weeds. We, who go to our jobs daily and work hard for a living and provide for our own families, may well be the ones who choke the possible goodness of the less fortunate. Every person is a gift. Every person deserves a chance. Some we may feel have squandered that chance but who are we to judge. Those may be the very persons that Jesus put in our lives to save us. What better way to close the Year of Mercy than with the canonization of one who was Merciful? What better way to continue the work of mercy than to emulate our great Saints, our wheat, those selfless people who knew that all mankind deserves the chance to be saved, to live a better life, to be fed and nourished, to rise above? Weeds and wheat growing together to the end. May we somehow learn to strengthen one another, to plant and to feed and to grow together so that in the end the wheat fields are full of the goodness that God intended.
“In the mountains of Emmitsburg, MD, about five hundred yards from Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary, Mary waits at the Grotto for those seeking peace, seeking a place for quiet prayer and reflection, seeking comfort. Drawn by “a light in the mountain,” Father John Dubois, a priest from France, founded the natural grotto formed from the water flowing off the mountain through the base of a huge oak tree.” “St. Elizabeth Ann Seton came to the mountain in 1809 and often taught and ate meals at the grotto. Today, as children wander around the stone walls, we can envision Mother Seton and her sisters who would “ramble for a time around the grotto” and “amuse themselves until time for Vespers and Benediction.” excerpt from “Visiting Mary: Her U.S. Shrines and Their Graces”
If you have ever visited this or any other Shrines, please share your experience so others will gain interest in visiting some of the beautiful Shrines we have in honor of Jesus and Mary and the Saints.
I love reading and writing about the lives of the Saints, those men and women who have gone before us, examples of incredible faith, giving themselves completely to Christ. To me, their stories are inspiring no matter how simple or how grand. As I have said before, I believe they intercede for us. They’ve been here. They get us. They understand. Many overcame tremendous difficulties, many turned their lives around completely and many have changed lives.
The bookstore is in it’s busiest time of the year. Communions, Confirmations, Graduations, Easter, RCIA, and Weddings keep us running up and down those four flights pretty much all day. I venture down from the office many times during the day to check inventory for reordering or to fill orders phoned in or pulled from the website or just to check and make sure the customers are served. Yesterday, much to my delight, I happened upon a woman in the basement looking for “the medal of a woman saint who her mother used to pin to her pillow when she was sick”. I know right now that all readers are trying to guess, Rita?, Agnes?, Lucy?, Anne? Well, I went with the Miraculous Medal and explained a little of the story of Catherine Laboure. The woman’s daughter was in a stroller and kept screaming out jibberish amongst the word mommy so we walked closer to her and that’s when the story began.
“You know, it’s funny how having children makes you remember the things your mother used to say and do when you were young. I remember my mom pinning some medal to our pillows but I cannot remember the saint. I am going to definitely get this Miraculous Medal and this medal of St. Nicholas. When my mother was pregnant with me, she got sick and had to be put to bed. I was delivered very early and with me, my brother who was still born. My mother felt like it was something she had done or not done that made my brother die until, in a dream, St. Nicholas came to her and told her that she would get my brother back. Soon after the dream she became pregnant with my younger brother. She named him Nicholas. You know, he is the patron saint of children.” “Yes ma’am, I know.” “My mother is not alive to tell me who the saint was but little by little I remember the things she did and I want to do them too.Thank you for your help.” “Oh no, thank you.”
People who have gone before us… Tell the stories. Ask for intercession. Pass on the traditions. Spread faith.
“He must increase. I must decrease.” I can’t help but mention a little about John the Baptist today because he brings to mind other “heroes of the Church” people seem to love to quote. John compares his relationship to Jesus as groom and best man right before the above quote. I love that image. He’s “overjoyed to hear his voice.” “The One who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth is earthly, and he speaks on an earthly plane.” He quotes Isaiah saying, “I am a voice in the desert crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord!” John constantly and continually points to Jesus. He’s the best man, the co-pilot, the altar server, the co-director, the aide. He works his entire life to bring others closer to Jesus. He works to raise Jesus up and to let others know that He and He alone is the One. The real deal. There are countless Saints and Heroes that we can say are similar to John the Baptist in that they have spent their lives bringing others to Christ. When I was working on the Lives of the Saints and the Visions of Mary mini bios, I read countless stories of people, just like you and I, who spent their days and their nights spreading the Good News. But the most recent that pop right into my head when I read “He must increase. I must decrease.” are Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. There are many others, I realize, who seem to point back to Jesus with all of their writings and each of their quotes. Their voices in the desert never seem to dry out or tire of saying, “Look! There is the Lamb of God.” Make straight the way! Anyone John the Baptist’ you’d like to share?