Monday, April 6, 2009

Some Things I Love About Being Catholic

This weekend, DH and I attended the wake and funeral for the woman who died last Monday. It was a very emotional and difficult experience. We weren't close with her or her family. We were friendly acquaintances. Yet, we've both had a hard time dealing with the reality of her being taken so suddenly... of her husband and daughters left without a chance to say "goodbye."

Saturday morning, as we sat in a pew of the six-row-deep-standing-room-only church (seriously, think high mass on Easter Sunday and add a few dozen people!), I found myself reflecting on the beauty of the Catholic funeral mass. It's been a while since I've attended a funeral mass. The deaths in DH's family these past few years have only had brief prayer services at the funeral home. And I realized what had been missing from those services: hope.

As Catholics, we have a beautiful way of sending our loved ones off to their final reward. We mourn, yes. We remember their life. We talk about the legacy left behind. All of those things were done in the prayer services, too. But, in the mass, we look forward as well. We celebrate the hope that our loved one now rests in Christ. We celebrate the hope that one day, we will be reunited in God's Kingdom. We see, touch and consume Hope. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we see the Risen Lord, and we hope for the same for our loved one... and ourselves.


Saturday afternoon, I needed some time alone. It was a beautiful day, and I couldn't bear to be stuck inside the little Adoration chapel that I so love. I needed to be outside, feeling the wind and the sun on my face. I drove over to the bike trail, and walked along until I reached a patch of woods near the creek. I slipped in between the tree limbs and fallen trunks, and tucked myself in the nook of a tree, right at the edge of the creek.

I wanted... needed... to pray. But I couldn't find the words for everything that was tossing in my heart and swirling in my head. I sat, quietly, for a bit. And then I turned to the words I knew... the prayers I had learned as a small child... for comfort. I realized what a gift it was to have these prayers, ready at my fingertips, for those times when I just didn't have the words.

After some time with spoken prayer, I felt myself calm enough to just "be" in God's Presence. I sat there, noticing His amazing creation, and giving thanks for the joy of experiencing it right then. For a while, no words were necessary. Eventually, I began to pray in words again; this time, my own. And the first thing I prayed was thanks.

Thanks for the gift of this faith, to help me find a way to make sense of this tragic loss. Thanks for providing the tools I need for comfort, when I can't comfort myself. Thanks for the gifts of community, of hope, and of connection. And thanks for the peace of that moment... sitting, fully aware, in the Presence of the Creator.

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