Everyone’s a Bit Knotty

Finally getting back into writing. Please read my latest post published at Dead Philosophers Society and Catholic Exchange…

“I don’t think it accidental that this image of Mary’s fingers passing from knot to knot in our lives is similar to how our fingers pass from bead to bead in meditating on the life of Christ in the mysteries of the Rosary. Mary’s hands are waiting to give your strained fingers a rest.” (Read More Here)

Relinquishing Roses

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One rainy day in November, Siena (5) and I stopped by the grocery store to return some items. A wilting rose lay on the customer service desk, its long stem hanging over the edge of the counter. Not tall enough to see what it was, Siena reached up and grabbed it to happily discover a beautiful rose bud at the other end. I told her to leave it alone since it wasn’t hers, and she put it down; moments later, she grasped it again to briefly gaze upon the beauty of the rose. I shooed her hand away from it and sternly told her not to touch it. So, she grabbed onto the edge of the counter and started hopping up and down just to steal glimpses of the flower. I finally settled my business, and the kind clerk smiled at Siena and told her she could keep it. Siena’s eyes lit up as they glanced up at me for permission. I nodded and smiled as she hurriedly took possession of her new rose, lest the clerk or I change our minds.

We then headed out to the chapel of perpetual adoration. I peered in my rearview mirror at Siena who was simply twirling her rose, admiring its beauty. We pulled up to the chapel, and I explained to her the importance of what we were about to do: “God wants all people to be like a big family. We should love everyone and help one another reach heaven, even people who have died. Most souls go to purgatory after death, which is fire that cleans their souls so they can be with God forever. Our prayers can help them get cleaner faster so they can go to Heaven.” I briefly told her that the week after Halloween is special because we can request gifts from God called indulgences for the poor souls. We hopped out of the car and raced through the rain. Together we threw open the chapel’s heavy, solid oak door to see 5 elderly women inside. Siena proudly paraded her pretty rose in front of the kneeling ladies, sharing her joy over this wondrous blossom of God’s creation.

Siena plopped down in the front pew while I genuflected. It was such a cozy atmosphere with the warm lighting overhead as the rain streamed down the oversized stained-glass windows. We cozied up to each other, and in a hushed voice I told her that people often leave flowers at graves and statues to show their love for those who are in Heaven, since they can’t get our hugs anymore. Then, I asked if she would like to give her rose to Jesus to show her love. She nodded excitedly, and I took her hand to walk her up to the altar. I unlocked the guardrail, and I didn’t dare look at the faces of the women around me, for fear of looks of disapproval. I kept my eyes fixed on Jesus, hidden in the simplicity of the Eucharist, and I led Siena to the altar, where she placed her beloved rose at the foot of the monstrance. We smiled at each other and exited the altar, locking the guardrail behind us. She glanced over her shoulder as we walked back to the pew, and her smile faded into a fretful frown. Turning to me, she asked in a sweetly sorrowful voice, “Wait, do I have to leave it there forever?” I brushed her hair away from her big blue eyes and sat her on my lap and whispered near her ear: “Oh no, sweetie, you don’t have to leave it. Jesus only wants it if you want to give it to Him. But, you know what? You have a treasure chest up in heaven, and every time you show God or others love, He pours a treasure of graces into your chest. When you get to heaven, He will give you all the treasure you stored up in your life.” I didn’t want her to think Jesus would be disappointed if she didn’t give up the rose, so I told her she could take it back if she wanted; He would still be happy she let Him borrow it for a little while. Siena shook her head and insisted Jesus keep it. She smiled, but that light in her eyes from when she held her rose had clearly been extinguished.

f297734e9ae7178be7dd99e69007fdb1I started to feel guilty, thinking, “Uh oh, did I just guilt her into giving up her rose? Did I make a totally bad Catholic-mom move? Will she grow up and point to this moment as the single reason she will never raise her kids Catholic?” Before I was entirely consumed with worry, I put myself in her shoes, thinking back on my faith as a child. I remembered watching the ushers at mass bringing the baskets of money to the altar. When they returned, their baskets were empty as they placed them on the floor next to our pew. I would sit in awe at every mass, believing God to have magically taken up the money Himself to distribute to the poor. A peace washed over me as I felt confirmed I hadn’t done anything wrong. So, in an attempt to cheer her up, I beckoned the beliefs of my childhood: “Siena, how about we come back tomorrow, and if Jesus wants you to share your rose with someone else, we can take it back from the altar. But, if it isn’t there, it means Jesus took it to heaven to give to the souls who are entering heaven because of our prayers today.” The light beamed in Siena’s eyes once more as she pondered aloud, “I wonder if Jesus will give it to Mary for me.” Then, I told her He absolutely would because Mary loves roses, which is why we have the Rosary; when we pray it, we are offering a bouquet of flowers to Mary, who is our mother in heaven.

We stayed for the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Siena’s voice was boisterous each time she prayed the responses, “Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.” She probably just liked hearing her voice echo off the walls of the chapel. Nevertheless, it was very moving hearing her little voice among the typical women’s voices at the 3 o’clock hour. I could feel how much Jesus loved this little child’s prayers: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants you have brought perfect praise” (Matthew 21:16). Despite any lack of understanding Siena may have had, there was certainly no lack of belief. To my surprise, when we were leaving the chapel, a woman with a wooden walking stick chased after us. She stopped us to tell Siena she felt so blessed to be there to witness her offering the pretty rose to Jesus. Siena just smiled, clinging to my leg. I was happy I wasn’t the only one to appreciate the beauty of a child’s faith in that moment.

We returned to the chapel the next day, and Siena was all aglow with wonder when she saw the rose was no longer on the altar, “God took it to heaven, mommy!” I told her He must have really loved her rose and wanted to share it with souls in heaven and with Mary. I explained that her love for the rose made the rose so much more valuable as a gift to God, more precious than gold. How often do we forget Christ’s command to be childlike? There’s so much we can learn from the simplicity of children, especially when it comes to the faith.

We are welcomed to stop and appreciate God’s beautiful creations, but we must always have our heart fixed on Christ: “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”[1] We must be ready and willing to give up what we love most because sacrifice is inherent in love. Sometimes we don’t have a choice, and possessions or people are taken away from us too soon. So, it is best we develop the habit while we can, preparing for times when our only options are to accept the path God has called us down or to rebel against Him. Joachim and Ann offered their loveliest rose—the presentation of Mary in the temple. Mary offered her priceless rose—her Son’s presentation in the temple, where she was told a sword would pierce her own heart. The greatest rose of all, however, was God’s gift to man: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The fruit of this pure, sacrificial love has been our salvation. Are you prepared to relinquish your rose?

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[1] C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain  

“Do What He Tells You”

 

So many people think it odd that I pray to Mary, but my relationship with Mary is so precious to me that I feel compelled to give a short and simple defense. If someone dissed your mama wouldn’t you come to her defense? Well, I think there is a wrongful equating of prayer and worship, first off. Prayer is not itself worship, but a conversation. How many of us have friends or family who have died, who we believe we can speak with still as they “watch over us.” God is the God of the living, not the dead, after all (Mk 12:27). So we believe our beloved’s soul is now joined with God in eternity. We ask our friends and family to pray for us, so why wouldn’t we ask those who are at God’s side to pray for us as well? Who better to ask to bring our petitions before God than Mary? She is surely more perfect than I and more worthy to approach God’s throne in Heaven. Who is closer to God than she who bore Him in her womb and lived 30 years with Him during His private life? Surely, Jesus could have spent his 20s doing His public ministry? But he didn’t, He gave those years to Mary and Joseph.

I love praying the Rosary, which allows me to contemplate Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. When you meet a significant other, who is the best person to meet to get a more complete picture of who he is? Who is it that will sit you down and pull out the old photo album and share the best stories about your beloved that you’ve never heard before? Mom of course! In contemplating the mysteries of the Rosary, Mary takes my hand and guides me through each event in Christ’s life, helping me to see it in a new light and, being my mother as well, she helps me see how I can imitate Christ better in my own life. Let’s look at Jesus’ last words on the cross in John’s Gospel: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27). All that is included in the Bible is significant for us; there is no action or words of Jesus that were meant solely for those standing before Him. The most weighty words a man can utter are those as He lie dying. He chose as His last act to give Mary as gift to us, to take into our homes. If we are all to “put on Christ” and if we are all indeed members of Christ’s body as Paul tells us, then how much more must Mary truly be our spiritual mother? She holds our hands and guides us into Christ. If you love your spouse’s mother, is he going to think you love her more? Absolutely not, he wants you to love his mother! You can’t love Mary more than Jesus did anymore than you can love your spouse’s mother more than he does.

One of the most telling mysteries of the Rosary about the relationship between Jesus and Mary, I think, is at the Wedding Feast at Cana. We read in John 2:3-5, “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’” I absolutely love this intimate interaction between Mary and Jesus. Mary perceives a need of the wedding couple, which may seem somewhat trivial in the grand scheme of salvation, but to the couple would have been very great indeed. So often, there are many trials we experience, which when seen within the big picture are very small, but personally they exert the weight of the world on our shoulders. Mary sees the little things, and being a loving mother she longs to help by asking the one Person she knows can and will help. Jesus responds that the time for His public ministry hasn’t arrived yet. I wonder if perhaps Jesus, knowing the implications of starting His public ministry, desired to have a little more time in the intimacy of His family life with Mary. Mary knows that once Jesus performs a miracle, there is no going back to the life they knew. But Mary longs to take care of people in things both great and small. She not only wants to help the wedding couple, but she also longs to begin the work of salvation in the world. Even after Jesus’ seeming objection, Mary still tells the servants to listen to Jesus, having confidence that He will answer her intercession. Jesus does do what Mary asks, even though He seems to think it is not a matter of import. This is exactly how I see Mary interceding on our behalf up in Heaven. If you love your spouse, you will pursue a relationship with his entire family, especially his mother. So, why is it so scandalous that we as Catholics love and honor Mary and praise God for giving us such a splendid gift? I am in love with my Spouse, and I also have plenty of room in my heart for His mother, not in spite of, but because of my tremendous love for Him. Do we need to go through Mary to get to Jesus? Nope. But I need the support of a big spiritual family, and we could all use all the help we can get. So why not open your hearts to Mary, who is waiting for you to ask for her help? She is a loving gift from God to us, but of course it’s up to you whether to take advantage of all He has given to aid in your salvation.

Photo Credit: http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/cana2.jpg