Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Seven Last Words: Utter Abandonement


Christ Crucified by Velazquez

This continues a series of short meditations upon the statements made while Jesus hung on the Cross.

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"Eli, Eli, lema sabacthani?" ("My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?") (Matthew 27:46b; cf. Psalm 22:2)

When the crowd heard this from Jesus, they responded by saying He was invoking Elijah. They must have forgotten Him saying there was Someone greater than Elijah amongst them. They also must have forgotten this was the opening line of a Psalm surely heard at times in their synagogues.

While all words in the Bible lead to the Word, some more than others point directly to Him. Psalm 22 is a case in point. Still a Teacher, still calling out to Israel to see Him as He truly is--their redeemer, Jesus leaves no stone unturned as His humanity begins to drain away. Indeed, as He said earlier in His ministry, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.

Yet, how eerily these words echo in Heaven as well as on earth. A member of the Trinity, a union of Perfect Love, wondering out loud if He is no longer part of Them. Has God rejected Himself? The Begotten Son, forgotten? The Beloved, unloved? We can't fathom it.

Such is the Paschal Mystery. We can find the paradoxes. There are times when we seek answers to those contradictory questions. But, as Fr. John Powell, SJ, wrote in several of his books, we need to seek not peace of mind, but rather peace of heart. "Then God's own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Perhaps, Jesus thought of another passage to help His align His will to the Father's in this time of seemingly utter abandonment. It is a quote to quiet our souls and asks us to trust in the One Who is worthy of that trust. Maybe, just maybe, it helped Him in this moment.

"Be still, and know that I am God."

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Originally posted 4/12/2006.
Re-posted 4/5/2007.
Re-posted 3/19/2008.
Re-posted 4/8/2009.
Re-posted 3/31/2010.
Re-posted 4/20/2011.
Re-posted 4/4/2012.
Re-posted 3/27/2013.
Re-posted 4/16/2014.
Re-posted 4/1/2015.
Re-posted 3/23/2016.
Re-posted 4/12/2017.
Re-posted 3/28/2018.
Re-posted 4/17/2019.
Re-posted 4/8/2020.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Seven Last Words: Gifts Of Others


Crucified Christ, by Francisco Goya

This continues a series of short meditations upon the statements made while Jesus hung on the Cross.


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"Woman, behold thy son. . . .Behold thy mother." (John 19:26-27)

Although other accounts of the Passion mention other people near the Cross, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary and the disciple whom Jesus loved who had the courage to draw as close as possible in His agony. A love greater than their fear, they stood in the place of Adam and Eve, in a sense. In proxy of all humanity.

Jesus, in His humanity, would have never remembered the words of Simeon. Jesus, in His divinity, would have known them intensely. I don't think it is possible to determine who's heart was more broken at this moment; between the Son and the Mother, they both had to be aching infinitely.

Yet, in this moment of incredible anguish, love still abounds.

Jesus gave His Mother His adopted "children", those who worship in Spirit and Truth, those who Love as He demonstrated time after time, those who observe the Great Commandments, those who He has saved.

Jesus gave St. John, as the representative of His Church at this moment, the greatest example of what holiness is, the sign of what His grace can do in us, the model of what saying "yes" to Him means, the true meaning of what humanity is.

No small gifts.

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Originally posted 4/11/2006.
Re-posted 4/3/2007.
Re-posted 3/18/2008.
Re-posted 4/7/2009.
Re-posted 3/30/2010.
Re-posted 4/19/2011.
Re-posted 4/3/2012.
Re-posted 3/26/2013.
Re-posted 4/15/2014.
Re-posted 3/31/2015.
Re-posted 3/22/2016.
Re-posted 4/11/2017.
Re-posted 3/27/2018.
Re-posted 4/16/2019.
Re-posted 4/7/2020.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Seven Last Words: The Promise

Crucifixion by Matthias Gruenewald

This continues a series of short meditations upon the statements made while Jesus hung on the Cross.

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"Amen I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)

From the website Catholic Community Forum:
One of the thieves crucified with Jesus, the other being traditionally known as Gestas; Dismas is the one who rebuked the other, and asked for Christ's blessing.

An old legend from an Arabic infancy gospel says that when the Holy Family were running to Egypt, they were set upon by a band of thieves including Dismas and Gestas. One of the highwaymen realized there was something different, something special about them, and ordered his fellow bandits to leave them alone; this thief was Dismas.
While St. Joseph taught Him the skills of carpentry, Jesus was actually a farmer. Recall the Parable of the Seeds, the need for harvesters, the call to die to self in order to be fruitful. While He was very familiar with wood (first the Manger and now the Cross), He came to reap and gather the most precious crop of all--souls.

Seeds of grace are what He planted. Some sprouted quickly (St. Paul). Some needed nurturing (the Samaritan woman at the well). Some matured with the help of others (St. Augustine, thanks to St. Monica). Some died on the vine (Judas). Now, one which had laid dormant for some 30 years blossoms.

The Church teaches it is never too late to repent. Salvation is close at hand when sincerely sought.

++++++++++

Originally posted 4/10/2006.
Re-posted 4/2/2007.
Re-posted 3/17/2008.
Re-posted 4/6/2009.
Re-posted 3/29/2010.
Re-posted 4/18/2011.
Re-posted 4/2/2012.
Re-posted 3/25/2013.
Re-posted 4/14/2014.
Re-posted 3/30/2015.
Re-posted 3/21/2016.
Re-posted 4/10/2017.
Re-posted 3/26/2018.
Re-posted 4/15/2019.
Re-posted 4/6/2020.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Seven Last Words: Lacking Knowing


Kreuzigung by Bernardo Daddi

This begins a series of short meditations upon the statements made while Jesus hung on the Cross.

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"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

One has to wonder how many times this thought crossed the mind of Jesus during His ministry before He uttered it at His crucifixion. Certainly not when people converted upon encountering Him, whether by His words or deeds. Certainly not when people asked Him in faith for something. And certainly not when He showed forgiveness through His words and deeds.

Yet, one will find example after example of those who "know not what they do." The Scribes and Pharasees debating Him. The rich young man walking away from His invitation. James and John asking for their seats. The crowds shouting their "Hosanna". Peter--well, pick an incident.

Judas Iscariot. Caiaphas. Herod. Pontius Pilate.

We, when we sin.

Yes, there are degrees of culpability. But, because of Original Sin, there is damage done to our wills and intellects. And it is that damage that does not allow us to truly realize in the very core of our being what our sinfulness does to us. It is in that sense we "know not what we do." It is the war within us mentioned by St. Paul.

Yet, is that not what metanoia is all about? Is that not why we, "with the help of Thy Grace," seek to uproot in our souls that which separates us from God? Is that not why we examine our consciences and seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to continue to strengthen what has been weakened?

It is the level of sanctity asked of us ("Be therefore perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect."). It is the level of sanctity achieved by the saints. It is a level of sanctity we can have. The Son has asked the Father with the Spirit that this may be. It continues its fruition when we seek it.

"Father, forgive them."

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Originally posted 4/9/2006.
Re-posted 4/1/2007.
Re-posted 3/16/2008.
Re-posted 4/5/2009.
Re-posted 3/28/2010.
Re-posted 4/17/2011.
Re-posted 4/1/2012.
Re-posted 3/24/2013
Re-posted 4/13/2014.
Re-posted 3/29/2015.
Re-posted 3/20/2016.
Re-posted 4/9/2017.
Re-posted 3/25/2018.
Re-posted 4/14/2019.
Re-posted 4/5/2020.

Those "Words" Again

Holy Week is here.

Palm Sunday is upon us.

The most important time in the liturgical year has arrived.

Once again, we begin our journey with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into Jerusalem as He begins "His hour". And while the route seems familiar and the events easy to recall, one can find a way to perceive this most sacred event in a new way. We can enter into the Paschal Mystery humbly and open our ears, minds, hearts, and souls to the denouement of "The Greatest Story Ever Told".

As I have since the inception of this 'blog, I once again offer you my reflections on the "Seven Last Words", the sentences spoken by our Lord while He hung upon the Cross. This series of short meditations, incomplete as they are, are nothing but an invitation to discover others who have much more to say, both in volume and in profundity. Like my series on the "O" Antiphons, they are a way to bring this time of preparation to a culmination.

I hope you find them useful.

I hope to see you later.

When "His hour" arrives at last.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's Breastplate


From New Advent, the following is a literal translation from the old Irish text.

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I bind to myself today:
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today:
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today:
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today:
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today:
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues:
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today:
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today:
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
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Originally posted 3/17/2006.
Re-posted 3/17/2009.
Re-posted 3/17/2010.
Re-posted 3/17/2011.
Re-posted 3/17/2012.
Re-posted 3/17/2013.
Re-posted 3/17/2014.
Re-posted 3/17/2015.
Re-posted 3/17/2016.
Re-posted 3/17/2017.
Re-posted 3/17/2018.
Re-posted 3/17/2019.
Re-posted 3/17/2020.

Monday, March 08, 2021

In Memory Of...

Helen Marie (Sheely) Rolling
Born: March 1, 1939
Died: March 8, 2020
Requiescat In Pace.

Another Death Remembered

For many, 2020 will always be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the drama surrounding it. Yes, that affected me as well, but it wasn't the most important event of that year. Something more personal took center stage, a different kind of life-or-death scene, one I didn't mention in my annual year-end review because it deserved a post of its own.

Well, this is it.

This is the one-year anniversary of the death of my mother, Helen Marie (Sheely) Rolling. Unlike my father, I knew her demise was coming. However, like my father, the promise to stay close to her was never realized.

And, like my father, let me relate the story of her final moments on earth, as best as I know them.

Lines Of Communication(?)

You have met her before. I mentioned her in my re-telling of my father's passing and my move to Utah. Like me, she had her financial struggles, but at least she was able to find work as a waitress in the small town where she lived, much like she did when I was growing up. It would seem she did alright, for there were two occasions when she gave me money. Let's just say I owe my siblings and nieces and nephews a little something for her dipping out of her estate like she did. (Only a mother's love....)

The contact between us was sporadic at best, especially after my move here. She was better at calling me than I ever would be. There would be the occasional letter from her, many of them obituary notices of relatives. And while I would send Mother's Day and Christmas cards, I would frequently miss her birthday. There was encouragement to be more communicative. I do and don't know why I wasn't. (The knowing why is an excuse.)

She kept things to herself so as to not worry those around her. That made the next piece of information stunning.

"Double, Double Toil And Trouble...."

My younger and only sister has been the go-between for her and my other siblings, communicating things on a need to know basis. When she contacted me in late September, 2011 requesting a phone call, what she relayed to me during that conversation was troubling.

Mom had developed breast cancer about two months earlier. She was set for removal of some lumps the doctor found and then would start chemotherapy about a month after that, I was told. I was glad it was discovered early. I was optimistic about her chances for recovery. However, she did not respond well to the chemo after two rounds, so she went on a hormone regimen that was to last for 5 years. I was still optimistic. 

Shortly after that conversation with my sister, my maternal grandmother, her mother, died. The trip back to the midwest for the funeral would be the first time in over four years that I had seen her; in fact I spent that time living with her in her apartment. Unfortunately, we didn't have much to say to each other. (Was that really the right time to thaw out a relationship which seemed to have grown icy?)

Then, early in June, 2012, my sister infomed me Mom had surgery to remove part of her colon. She had developed cancer there. But, again I was hopeful because they caught it early.

And on the medical front, nary a peep was heard. Until...

The Beginning Of The End

It was a short note written by Mom. (While the only postmark was December 6, 2019, after I had re-read it, I just wonder if it wasn't written a day earlier.):

Hi Ron!

I should have written this back a while ago.

The cancer has come back, also I have a mass in my stomach.

There isn't much more I can tell you at this time. I've been through a lot of tests and now it seems to be a waiting game.

If you think you want more information you can talk with (my sister's name).

Take care!

Love you!

Mom

Quite the Christmas present.

It wasn't until early January when my sister called me. She told me the breast cancer had metastasized in her ribs and the mass in her "stomach" (actually, her colon) would require complete removal of that organ, which my mom didn't want. My sister confirmed what I had suspected--any further treatment was only going to delay the inevitable. After 8 and 1/2 years, she wasn't going to fight it anymore.

She was preparing to die.

End Of Days

And I had to prepare for that as well. No prognosis was given. And I had no way to get out to see her at that time. My plan was to save up enough money and go see her during spring break, which was the end of March.

That didn't happen.

A message from my sister on February 27:

I got a call early this morning that mom was in a lot of pain. I've been with her all day and we seem to have the pain under control. The nurses said she couldn't be alone any more so I will be taking her to (a hospice in the city where my sister lives) tomorrow morning.

I had sent a birthday card earlier that week; I could only hope it got to her in time. March 1, her birthday, came and went; but I could only wonder when the hourglass would run out of sand.

The answer came March 8 (from my sister):

Morning. The nurse on duty feel that Mom will pass today. I'll call when she does but trying to give a little notice. I have my phone on silent so you can call but I might not catch it right away.

And the waiting began. It ended at about 10:55 PM, when the phone finally rang. My sister told me about what time she died and that she went peacefully. (Thank you, St. Joseph.)

Post-Mortem

Monday was spent getting ready to leave:  purchasing a bus ticket, arranging for substitutes crossing guards until next Monday, and letting my supervisor know. The director of the choir in which I sing, who had been in the loop for the past two months, provided some funding for my trip. The bus route was all too familiar and relatively uneventful; the leg to Denver, with a full coach, some hints of sickness, and a cranky toddler, was the only unpleasantness I encountered. My sister picked me up at Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday morning for the drive home, where I took possession of my mom's car (pre-arranged in January) and some items from my mom's apartment. A maternal cousin offered me a room in her home for the duration. Thursday morning saw me driving to Mankato, MN, where I reintroduced myself to my storage unit, picking up a few more items and re-arranging things.

The wake was Thursday night. Familiar faces came and went (sometimes after they reminded me who they were).Townsfolk spoke glowingly about my mom, and for seemingly good reason. The priest modified the rite a bit, I think mostly to appease the lapsed and non-Catholics there. But he also said my Mom received the Apostolic Pardon. I still prayed a Rosary before her coffin, as it wasn't done until then.

The Mass of Christian Burial was Friday morning. Mom had selected both readings and hymns for this liturgy. I found myself in a very familiar role--Lay Reader. The selections for the Liturgy of the Word:

1st. Reading:  Isaiah 25:6-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-6
2nd. Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10
Gospel: John 14:1-6

I had an opportunity to speak to the cantor/psalmist and keyboardist before Mass, just to make sure we were on the same page. (UPDATED 5/22/2021--I had the Entrance and Communion hymns reversed.) The hymns:

Entrance:  Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Offertory:  You Are Mine
Communion:  We Walk By Faith
Song of Farewell:  O Loving God (The text is a variation of In Paradisium, sung to the tune of "Londonderry Air".)
Recessional:  On Eagle's Wing
(My only critique of the soloist was with the Responsorial Psalm. It seemed like she put every syllable in its own box, instead of a more recitative-like quality.)

The homily was very good. The priest paralleled the last two months of Mom's life with Lent. He noted she started Lent early and was well prepared for Easter.

After the Rite of Christian Burial, I reacquainted myself with the parish cemetery. My parents are not the only family members interred there; there are also both of my paternal grandparents, a paternal aunt, and my paternal great-grandfather. (There may be other, but those graves were in the area.) Extra prayers were in order.

The lunch afterward was a great time to begin reconnecting, however slightly, with both sides of my family. The last time anyone on my dad's side saw me might have been at his funeral. The bonds are tenuous but there. The ball's in my court to strengthen them.

After a couple of hours everybody began to go their separate ways. I spent one more night here.

The Return Trip

I wanted to stay an extra day, but the weather forecast heading back was a bit iffy. The country was also beginning to shut down, as the pandemic was just beginning to rear its ugly head. Come late Saturday morning, I was on the road, stopping for lunch in Mitchell, SD.

The goal was to overnight in Cheyenne, WY. Other than a brief rain/snow mix outside of Rapid City, SD, the weather held. I left Rapid City around 6:00 PM, traveling unfamiliar roads. Fortunately, I did borrow a GPS, so that made navigation a little easier. It was a very winding route, though, Then, about an hour outside of Cheyenne, I ran into one of those famous Wyoming snow storms. Visibility was minimal; the fact one of my headlights burned out didn't help. Just on the outskirt of the capital city, a signal warning me I was running very close to empty sounded. I made it, and then found a gas station and a room for the night.

Sunday morning broke clear and cool, as if the squall the night before never happened. I assisted at Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary and was headed west shortly after 11:00 AM. A lunch stop at Larramie, a gas stop at Evanston, WY, and shortly after 6:00 PM, I was back home.

Just in time, as it turned out.

Teachable Moments

Now, after a year, there are things upon which to reflect.

My mom did reach out to me at various points in my life. She was the one who told me how proud she was of me after I graduated high school. She was the one who said to me, "I love you;" words that had never been uttered in that household until after my father's death. I never doubted her sincerity; I still haven't been able to enthrone them in my being. I didn't know how to accept them. I know she was trying to en-courage me; I don't think she knew how many holes I had (and have) in my psyche. There will always be a perception in me that I have failed my parents.

But, if I ever want an example of how to die well, I don't have to look far. She showed grace, dignity, peace of heart, and acceptance of God's will in that moment.

I can't make my relationships with my parent right anymore, but perhaps this is the motivation to start mending fences with my siblings. The focus of the 4th. Commandment is gone, but not its intent.

I know nothing on earth last forever. But what I can make better, I should.

Dad and Mom, I do love you. I just didn't know how.

Requiescat In Pace.

Monday, March 01, 2021

March 2021 Morning Offering Prayer Intention

 Here is the intention for this month when prayer the Morning Offering:

Sacrament of reconciliation. Let us pray that we may experience the sacrament of reconciliation with renewed depth, to taste the infinite mercy of God.

A reflection for this intention is found here.