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Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Word, A Name, and that Which is Part of Thee

I have been told I am difficult to manipulate.

I don't watch television, and therefore avoid much of the insidious propaganda. I am not given to over-emoting, other than the occasional high spirits or temperamental outburst over a temporary annoyance.  I dislike it when people try to "make me feel" a certain way, when they try to elicit the "common" reaction or emotion from me, when they try to make me "follow the herd".

I suppose that is largely why I am not just a Catholic, but an Orthodox one.  Yes, I really do believe Our Lord was born of a Virgin, and that the Virgin was Immaculately conceived.  I really do subscribe to the premise that birth control is harmful to the body and the relationship in which it is used.  I do accept that the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra in matters of faith and morals.  I firmly believe in the Real Presence, the existence of evil, and the inevitableness of death, the final judgement, heaven and hell.

Add to that, I love the Church's Traditions.  I love Her chants, Her polyphony, the constancy of Her Bridegroom's Word throughout Her daily practices, from Lauds through Compline.  I love Her Sacraments, I love the graces that flow from Host to hands to chasuble to us.   I love everything there is to love about my Faith, a Faith that bears the name of One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.   There is no other Faith that can be what She is, that can do what She does.  She is unique in Her qualities, in Her actions, and yes, in Her name.   A very important thing, a name.  A simple thing that we give to everything, from our plants to our pets, from our parents to our children.  It is the ultimate mark of identity in a world that seeks to know itself in every other possible way.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet", Shakespeare says, but to call it by name calls to mind the beauty, the peppery scent of its center, the waxy roughness of the petals as we touch them, the prick of the thorns that line the stem, designed to protect that which is beautiful.  All of that is conjured by an ethereal word that encompasses what the flower is.

I went to Auschwitz a few weeks ago.  My husband, an avid historian who did his undergraduate work on Joseph Goebbels, has often spoken of the Holocaust, of the savagery of this place.  It was not a place I went lightly.  I fully expected to feel a palpable evil here, to feel the horror of the millions murdered--especially knowing some of them to be Catholics, among them St. Edith Stein and St. Maximilian Kolbe.

There are areas in which we were forbidden to take photos.  Namely, the areas in which there were still human remains.  Enormous mounds of human hair, of spectacles, of shoes, of luggage, all things piled to show a fraction of the volume of people who passed through the gas chambers, who died from overwork and disease, all designed to manipulate one into an understanding of a brutality that went far beyond what we see in our everyday world.  I felt only a terrible sadness here, and I left feeling a bit guilty that I did not feel more.

A few days later, while in Prague, I visited the old Jewish quarter.  My intention was to pay my respects to Franz Kafka, but being less a fan than my husband, I made an error in finding his burial place.   I found myself outside of a synagogue through which I would have to pass in order to reach the old Jewish Cemetery that lay beyond it.  In my ignorance, I had thought this to be a functioning synagogue, and entered to find that it was not.  It had become a Holocaust memorial.  There was nothing here to remind one of the brutality of the Germans, no piles of clothing, no rebuilt barracks or empty gas canisters.  There was only an old altar with a list of the Death Camps running down the wall on either side, and on all the other walls--from the floor to the ceiling, in print not much larger than that which you are reading, the names of the dead and the dates upon which they were last seen alive or were known to have died.

This moved me.  Here there were no material goods, no physical signs of a people eradicated.  There was only a list of names, a listing of words that defined each individual in a way nothing else ever could.  The mention of any one of these would conjure up a particular way of smiling, an odd laugh, a freckle that only a lover would know, a mutual memory of another friend.  It would bring to mind an odd fleck of eye color, a way with words at weddings, a song that no one else could sing quite like that.  Maybe the name would remind you how to start a seed garden, or how to set stones in a fence without mortar, how to cut a tree to direct its fall.  There was no need to describe someone if you knew his or her name.  Those simple syllables would suffice.

Here I wept.  Here I offered a repetition of Chaplets to the Divine Mercy in reparation for the harm done to these people, the people of Our Lord.  I begged their pardon, and asked their intercession, and I wept, walking from room to room, reading the names, and then through the cemetery, where I could not read the Hebrew lettering, but still I prayed, and still I cried, and still I pleaded God's mercy on any world that could do this, that still does this, a butchery that defies the imagination, this destruction of names.

I am still here, born to this life when so many are not.  I was given the name by which God called me before He formed me, I have become all that He intended that name to be.   Through His Grace, I will continue that path, and on that path I shall pray continuously that our world will grant to each the right to be born, the right to grow old and die with dignity, to have a name, to be a rose in someone else's memory.   For surely, someone will always find such fragrance sweet.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Quiz from my Beloved Derek for all who have traveled the "Via Media"

Some of us who were blessed to enter what Newman called "the one true Fold of the Redeemer" began our Christian journey in God's own "Drones Club", the Anglican Church.  Born in blood and heresy, now reduced to ridicule and irrelevancy, Anglicanism has, in its 400-year history, nonetheless produced its share of sublime ritual, unequalled prose, mad eccentricity, and, I dare say, Great Saints!

For those of us who swam the Tiber by way of the Thames,  I offer this little quiz.  Forgive my focus on the Tractarians.  Try to avoid your search engines.

1)  What is H., A. and M.?
2) Who wrote "The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity"?
3) What color was Mr. Slope's hair, and what was that noble prelate's "real" name?
4) Newman wrote:  "I have ever considered and kept the day, as the start of the religious movement of 1833."  Who did what on that day?
5) What animal was killed by choking to death on a copy of the Book of Common Prayer?
6) Archbishop Laud was fond of cutting the ears off of these chaps.
7) In what short story did the Reverend Cuthbert Dibble appear, and who wrote it?
8) Where is The Martyr's Memorial, and whom does it commemorate?
9) Who was the first bishop (so-called) in the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America?
10) Who was the High Church politician who almost destroyed his career by visiting prostitutes in order to convert them?  (I leave it to your imagination as to what would be said if a politician today gave that as his reason for visiting prostitutes!)
11) What is Little Gidding, and why is it important to whom?
12) What is a "North Ender"?
13) Which Anglican minister supposedly said, "The only good thing I know of Cranmer is that he burned well."
14) What were "The Conversations @ Malines"?
15) In a nutshell, what was Tract 90?
16) And who was "Soapy Sam"?
17) What is "Stir Up Sunday"?
18) Although there were many reasons, what was the main objection of Rome to the validity of Anglican Orders?
19)  Who was "The Gloomy Dean"?
20) What was the title of the last public sermon Newman preached as an Anglican, and where did he preach it?

*Bonus Question:  At what time does the Church Clock stand in Grantchester?

90-100:  Congratulations!  You win a scholarship to Keble College and may take tea with the Queen!
80-89:  OK.  After 20 years of slaving as one of Archdeacon Grantley's curates, you may be appointed warden of Hiram's Hospital.
79 and Below:  You are obviously a Dissenter.  To the chapel, go.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Solitude, Order, and His Crowded House

I crave order.   Organization is an essential part of my well-being, my worldview, and even my flirtation with sanity.  There is no aspect of my life that is not subject to the natural rules of hierarchy, gravity, and orbit.  There is nothing that hasn't a place that was determined by efficacy and reason.

Order is my "Precious", and it is that which binds me in this place and time, and that which allows me make sense of all that is around me, to sort through what is important and what is not, to locate what I need and to abandon all else, to place humanity, deeds, and inventions in each's accustomed spot in what I know to be God's creation.

Thus, my concept of time prompted me to rise very early on a Saturday morning in June during a recent visit to Rome.  I had acquired a ticket to the Papal Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and I feared the crowds would prevent my getting a seat.  

It had been a very interesting two weeks for me.  I had journeyed to Rome alone, ostensibly to attend a conference on Music and Liturgy, but really because I wanted to see the city again with an unhurried eye.  My last visit had been as part of a pilgrimage tour, and while it was an enjoyable experience, it had left me tired and often confused, my memories blurred and the impressions of each day overlapping the next to the point that I could not distinguish one from the other.   The lack of leisure and the sheer volume of activities had distorted the beauty of the city, much like viewing a garden in a downpour.   I was determined to see less this time, but to see it well.

I sat by the Trevi Fountain before the crowds arrived with their coins and cameras, the hour or so spent with moleskine and fountain pen recording the events of the day before, which had found me spending long moments before the paintings of Our Lady in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, which led me to a chance encounter with a French couple who had retired to the hometown of Dali in Spain.  They spoke a little English, I spoke a little Spanish, we all mimed and chortled through our attempts to discuss the beautiful art before us, and finished with a discussion of music, particularly lai and Guillaume de Machaut.  I ventured through a horrible little wax museum and visited Our Lord in countless tiny chapels as well as in the grander churches for which Rome is famed.  I ate gelato.  I prayed.  I drank prosecco and cried.  I watched the sunset over the Pantheon from a hotel rooftop, and I enjoyed my solitude.  I found the eternal in my days.

It was rather sad, actually, to give that up when the conference began.  I saw old friends, made some new ones, and quite enjoyed the learning that comes with such things, but the unhurried peace that comes with lonely beauty quite vanished.  I found myself longing again for solitude, and so I rose early, and went alone to stand in a queue, intent upon finding the eternal again, in seeing My Lord in His Accustomed Place, and resuming my observation of a world that seemed better for its not observing me.

It was not meant to be, however.  Despite my reaching St. Peter's Basilica at seven, the line was already long.  My ticket, blue with a number well over seven thousand, convinced me that I would be lucky to see His Holiness during the celebration of the Eucharist (I am quite near sighted and rather short) and, with his soft-spoken words, probably ill-fated in hearing him speak, as well.  Crowds are not known for their silence, and the shifting of seats and thousands of bodies would disrupt the sense of the sacred, or so I thought.

Our Lord, though, is gracious and kind, and He knows best what we need, no matter what our longings are.  There were three ladies ahead of me in line, obviously American and of the Southern persuasion.  The queue was long, the morning young, and a conversation quite naturally developed.  They were from Louisiana.  I knew a priest there.  They knew him, too!  They were hoping to see him that very day!  (He was currently in Rome, studying.)  A common tongue and a common friend led to them offering me an "extra" green ticket, which allowed me to sit near the altar,  close enough to see the Sacrifice, to watch the Elevation of the Host, to glimpse the beauty of the chalice, and to participate as I had always done at Mass, with wonder and awe that Our Lord should come to us again in the form of bread and wine, that He would impart His Grace here, among the ruins and the art, among the relics and the living, among the noise and, yes, the peace.

"Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi..."

Then, suddenly, there was no order. The congregation became a crowd, pressing forward from all angles toward the priests who were distributing Communion. There were no lines, no ushers directing us, nothing organized about our movements, we were all just pushed forward, sometimes stepping over those who had returned to their seats, those who remained kneeling, those who stood waiting patiently for someone to tell them what to do. The priest nearest us simply turned from one waiting tongue to the next, protected by the rotational movement as much as by his vesture, the surging crowd shifting back and forth as more and more people pressed forward to receive.

I was irritated and annoyed. This was a Papal Mass. Surely, there should be a more dignified way to do this! This was a shambles, the priests distributing remaining calm, but being buffeted a bit and often turned by the pressure of the crowd around them. Where were the ushers? Why were there no lines?

Then, a thought occurred to me as I glanced about the Church. There was a continuity here, a bond that joined us to the earliest Christians. They, too, had crowded around the Lord, buffeting and bumping Him, striving to touch Him, hoping to reach just the hem of His garment, content with the mere sight of His Face as he passed among them. We were the same crowd, pressing forward to be near Our Lord, our eagerness was the same as theirs, we wanted to receive Him, in whatever way He permits.  We wanted to touch Him as Thomas did, even if only with our tongues. We wanted to know His Mercy, His Grace, His Peace, and we were creating a different order to do that, an order which found Him at our center, the only calm in a crowded place filled with beauty and disarray, a world that only grew calm again when we had all received Him.

This was my thought as I received my Lord and my God, kneeling once more, uttering my thanks for His forgiveness and the gift of salvation, grateful for my Faith, this place, and even this age. There is no peace in the confusion of the world, there is no order that is not centered upon Him, and there is nothing that I can do that will ever pay the debt I owe for the wounds He bore for me that Thomas touched and the other Apostles witnessed, and that He shows to the Father each time I plead forgiveness for my sins, an offering made again here, before a crowd that knew nothing more than it must press toward Him to be healed.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Silent and Unwelcome Witness

"What is he doing?"

My husband asked the question as we were driving through a small college town in Pennsylvania.  We had taken a long weekend to visit a bookstore another friend had mentioned and were enjoying a beautiful late spring day, driving up and down the side streets in a lovely little community, when we saw a man on his knees on the sidewalk, back ramrod straight, concentrating on something clutched in his hands, his lips barely moving, completely oblivious to those passing by on foot or by car.  As we drew closer, I saw what he held.

"He's saying the Rosary."

There was nothing to mark the building, but the posture and the action of this man told us that this was an abortion clinic.  This was a place where a beautiful young college girl could come to receive a secular absolution for her momentary indiscretion, where she could wipe out that stain on her worldly intelligence, where she could show her professors and parents that she really could act responsibly.  She could bring a friend with her  to drive her home, someone who would munch an apple while waiting in the car.   She could make all the arrangements.  She could walk in that door and act as if this were nothing more than a routine visit to her regular doctor, and when it was over, she could console herself in all the ways she had been taught to do, but as with everything else in this life, there are some things that they don't tell you.  There are some things that you find out when it is too late to save what is really important.  That newfound knowledge was written on the faces of the girls coming out the door, some still clutching their abdomens, the hollowness reaching their eyes.

We stopped the car and parked (illegally, alas) and walked over to the sidewalk where the man knelt.  Some other women had pulled up in a van and were hauling out the usual gruesome signs that one sees in front of abortion clinics from time to time, but I was drawn to kneel with the man already there on the sidewalk.  My husband joined me and we knelt to pray for the poor girls who felt driven to this, for those who had done it before and now had the anger of the self-deluded to convince them that this one didn't matter any more than the last one did, and we prayed for those who brought them, those who sent them, and for those who weren't here by choice.  Then I couldn't pray anymore, I could only kneel and watch the quiet gentleman beside me telling his beads, joining my heart to his words, joining my pain with that of the girls within the clinic.

My husband rose to go move the car and I stayed behind to wait for him, still kneeling.  The other ladies had set up at the far end of the building, their signs and their offers of brochures meeting with little success, and quite a bit of hostility.  One man, jogging by with a large dog, began to curse them loudly as he passed, pausing by the two of us kneeling (our backs to him) long enough to set his dog to barking and growling at us.  "Get 'em, boy, get 'em!"   I prayed for him, too.   Such virile hatred for something as innocuous as prayer.

But it isn't innocuous, is it?  It is our most potent weapon here on this earth.  We beg our daily bread, we plead for forgiveness, we offer praise, all through prayer.  Those with vocations offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and call forth the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments for us.  Those cloistered bear the weight of the world,  tiny titans in wimples and hoods who lift it daily before God and remind Him that what He has created, He can destroy, but surely He will spare it  for the fifty good souls pleading for it?   Perhaps for the twenty, maybe the ten?  Or perhaps just the one kneeling before a thick white "no trespassing" line telling him he is not welcome, but who stays there anyway to pray for the children who might have been.  

He continued telling his beads even as I rose to leave, making the sign of the cross and thinking of Christ in the noonday sun, and His Holy Mother standing near His torn feet, clutching her abdomen too, feeling the loss and the hollowness that only a mother who has lost her child can feel.   She, that most silent Witness of them all, would hear the prayers uttered by those gathered before this new Golgatha and would bear them before Her Son, and plead as only a mother can do for the fate of Her children.

May God have mercy where we show none.  Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Veering off the Via Media

It occurs to me that, as of this Easter, I have been a Catholic longer than I was an Anglican.

It seems incredulous to me, for these last thirteen years have flown as time does when one reaches a certain age, that point at which we lose not only the child's understanding, but that innocent connection with eternity in which a summer lasts forever and Christmas is always distant.

My faith in God was well established as a child.  There was never any question in my mind that He who created the universe had time to not only tend the lilies and sparrows, but help this little girl catch fish.  That faith never wavered.  It still hasn't, and it has brought me through much when nothing else would have helped.  It was what gave me the hope of salvation, I needed no proof of anything beyond it, it was sufficient enough for me to trust.

It is a bittersweet truth that we cannot remain as children, though.  Belief does not always require understanding, but without it, it will not survive into adulthood.  The world is full of pain, cruelty, hardship and evil that calls even the most devout to question God, sometimes even calling us to question His very existence.

Gratefully, my life is not such that I ever truly doubted, but I did ponder the whys and wherefores of the  religion into which I had married, and when my husband chose to convert, I reluctantly followed, finding, even with that reluctance, a fuller Truth, a complete Faith that never ceases to thrill me in Her day to day lessons, that explains so much and yet still holds a Mystery that compels me to attend Her repetitive rites, finding in them that which is Eternal, that which is the Same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

It is an humbling thing, this acceptance of a Sacramental God.  For the first time in my life as a Christian, it was no longer about simply believing.   There was a consummation in this Faith, much as there is in a marriage, that left me altered, much as Saul became Paul, the scales removed from his eyes by the sacramental touch of the Apostle.  In taking the Body and Blood of Christ on my tongue, I was compelled to change, to grow in this Faith that I had consciously chosen and publicly professed.

Here, before these altars, I found that there is no middle way.  There is no lingering in those things that bring me complacent comfort.  For the first time, religion became more than merely believing, more than an acknowledgement of the Eternal Truth, but the consumption of it, and in that act, that willful acceptance of Our Lord's Body, I recognized that the faith I once found sufficient was hardly enough to offer to the God who became man, who gave Himself as a Pure Victim, spotless and holy.  I needed to do more than to believe.  I needed to offer myself to God sacrificially, to immolate that which I knelt to worship and adore, that which I owed my all.  

I am glad to be a Catholic.  May I be an acceptable one to Our Lord, and may my prayer always be that He make me worthy of the perfection He has promised us in eternity, and until that moment, may He order my days, our days, in His peace.  Amen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Love or What You Will: An Awkward Way of Persuasion

"There were four of you," I said. "Cara didn't know the first thing it was about, and may or may not have believed it; you knew a bit and didn't believe a word; Cordelia knew about as much and believed it madly; only poor Bridey knew and believed, and I thought he made a pretty poor show when it came to explaining. And people go round saying, 'At least Catholics know what they believe."

This time of year causes me to return to favorite places, be they real or imaginary, to refresh my memory regarding those things that have profoundly influenced me, and so I am reading Brideshead Revisited again, what is possibly the greatest Catholic novel of the Twentieth century. It is a novel of great faith and great failing, two things that are inseparable in the fallen world we inhabit. A story of friendship and lovers, of innocence and knowledge. It is a microcosm containing both the extraordinary and the mundane, the "Sacred and Profane".

For those not familiar with the novel, it is the story of the aristocratic Flyte family, the story told by Charles Ryder, a friend of the family's youngest son, Sebastian Flyte. They met at Oxford, when the very charming but inebriated Sebastian vomited through the window of Charles' room, leaning into it, not out of it. Hardly a pleasant way to start a friendship, but the apology was elegant, profuse, and the evidence of the faux pas deftly removed by a well-tipped servant. All was well, forgotten amid plover eggs and cointreau, and Charles began his metamorphosis, his eyes swaying toward Beauty, becoming drawn to different ideals than he had previously known.

Brideshead is not a happy book. It has moments of high humor, to be sure, and scenes of pathos that make one cry. It shows a Faith lived, not necessarily well, but even at its weakest it gives a pervasive substance to all: Charles, Lord and Lady Marchmaine, Bridey, Julia, Sebastian, Cordelia, even Anthony Blanche. There is no escaping knowledge acquired, it haunts you in the darker emotions, exciting guilt, encouraging anger, wearing one down to acceptance or to a destructive denial. The characters evolve toward these ends, finding the odd contentment, the occasional pure joy, both hating and loving that which draws them to higher things, that which draws them away from the shining baubles of this realm to the pure light of another, that which they can only dimly see, but that they know is there. They believe in that which is lovely, that which is Beauty, that which is Truth. They may not wish to believe, but they do, and it is that belief which defines them.

My husband, who introduced me to both Brideshead and ultimately to Catholicism, often tells me that I am a "Bridey" Catholic. By this he means that, like Bridey, the elder son and heir of the Flyte family, my religion pervades my daily life, often to the point of being an annoyance to those not religiously inclined. I can begin and end any discussion with a reference to the Church, I can draw any topic toward it, and I can turn off any number of people by doing so. Such is not my intention, but like Bridey, I can't seem to help it. In finding this, my Faith, I have become a zealot, and while I'm not the best evangelist or example on Her behalf, I love being a part of the Church, and in my own awkward way, I try to bring others to Her, to show them Her Beauty, Her Grace, the ways She already fits into their world, the ways they would fit so easily into Hers.

Yet, these things I see so clearly I cannot express. I hate preachiness, yet find myself falling into a pattern of it, I attempt to explain, and only muddle. It's like being in love. It is being in love.

I entered the chapel of Brideshead before I became a Catholic. I genuflected, as Charles did, to be polite. I eyed a Beauty that appeared too vivid to be described with the formality of Anglicanism or even the plain words of my childhood. I lingered in the doorway of Faith, adjusting to the gleam of the interior life that awaited me, not yet grasping just how affecting a single Host would be when I entered into Her Sacraments. Here was a richness I had never imagined, a loveliness that I had only dared believe because others had believed before me, and a Truth that I still may not fully understand, but that gives me the hope that I someday will. "To understand all is to forgive all", and here, at least, in this Holy place, is just that. Forgiveness from One Who inhabits an oddly decorated room, and in Whom I believe with all reason, and yes, because I find it lovely.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dogmas, Devotions, and Praying with Mary

My very first penance was to say the Magnificat.  I think it was also my shortest penance, but the priests I've tormented since know me better.  Of course, at the time, I didn't have the Roman Catholic version of the canticle memorized, and I could only recall the Anglican one by singing it, so that's what I did.  I sang my first penance before a white marble image of Our Lady.

Between that, my first prayer connected to the Sacraments, and the Regina Caeli, I never stood a chance.  Mary became my spiritual "Audrey Hepburn", the epitome of what I wanted to be and that for which nothing in my childhood had prepared me.  Alas, I will never be doe-eyed, swan-necked, or elegant.  I will never be full of grace either, but one must try.

It is a terribly flawed perception that the Protestant world has of Mary.  I know, for I once saw her as they do.  To them, she is a graven image.  She is a goddess.  She is a falseness that keeps us from the Biblical Jesus.  She is antithetical to the WORD.

I learned differently from listening to a quiet group of women praying.  I was there for choir, and they always started with a corporate Rosary.  I knelt with them, but my intentions were to say only the Our Father and the "Jesus" prayer.  Yet, as I listened to the soft rise and fall of the melodic voices of my new choral friends, I realized that the words didn't mesh with my understanding.  Literally taken, something Protestants are so wont to do, they weren't praying TO Mary, they were asking Mary to pray FOR them.

Such a simple thing, that concept.  How often had I heard my Baptist relatives and friends say to a grieving child, spouse, or parent, "Our loved one is with Jesus now, looking after us."  I've even heard them mention the signs they've received from those who have passed on, letting them know that all is well.

Yet, this simplicity is never applied by them to Mary, she who was conceived without sin so that she could be worthy to bear the Word Incarnate, she who was given to us at the foot of the cross as our mother and we, with John as the symbol of our race, entrusted to her care in that same moment.  She who was assumed body and soul into heaven...why should we doubt that she can speak to her Son on our behalf?  

There is an old hymn that I sang as a child that says "We'll understand it, all by and by."   I had to step out on faith, that what I did not understand might be a failing in me, that  I, like Saul, might still have scales on my eyes, that I needed something more to remove them.  "Blessed are they who believe without seeing."

This first grasp of what Mary was to us, as God's children, allowed me to look beyond my petty questions and lend myself to belief without understanding.  That came later for me, in what I have termed my clicking epiphanies.

 It was music that granted me the beginning of that understanding.  It was the beauty of the liturgy that drew me into the Peace of God, that first tentative encounter with the Joy that has nothing to do with material happiness.   I heard the Regina Caeli without understanding a word of it, but I recognized the Beauty of it.  I saw the incense rise, and it was easy to imagine our prayers and supplications rising with it.  I heard the words of Christ repeated, I saw the age-old actions of the Consecration, I saw Christ lifted and lowered from the cross, and in the breaking of the Host and in the receiving of His Body, I knew Him in a way that made me long to know Him better.  

So I decided to meet His mother.  I came to her through hymns and a rosary.  I met her as I traveled the Stations of the Cross.  I heard her commanding the servants at the Wedding of Cana to "Do what He tells you."  I admired her faithfulness at the foot of the cross.   Always, she is fixed upon her Son.  Always, her intent is to bring our attention to Him.   She, who cradled the unborn Christ (as all pregnant mothers do) accepted the Sorrows that came with being a mother.  Then she adopted us, too, and here we stand as John did, looking upon Christ on the cross, and hearing him say, " Behold your mother", even as she looks upon us and says, "Behold my Son."

So I ask her to pray for me as my choir mates did so many years ago now.   I approach Our Lady with supplications both flippant and serious, for me and for others, and while I cannot hope to be as effectual as those who have led me to this spiritual place, I do hope (to quote an old friend) that when I stand before Jesus, that He will smile upon me and say, "Darlene...Darlene...oh, yes, my mother spoke of you..."

Holy Mary, Mother Of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.