Category Archives: Holy Week

When Our Candles Are Extinguished, Keeping The Faith

Passing through the narthex doors, the balance on my kids’ excitement meter tipped far right as they spied the ushers with those thin, white, paper-circle sheathed candles in hand. Of course, my meter headed in the opposite direction as I considered the possibilities ahead (think of two little balls of constant energy armed with flaming torches one inch away from flowing brunette locks and loose shirt tails). Ah, yes, a procession was in our immediate future on this Holy Thursday evening.

After ascending from the basement quiet room, with my smallest choir wannabe, on my way to receive the precious Body and Blood, I was pleasantly surprised (okay maybe just plain surprised) to find not a single candle was dangling limply from a crack down its center. Somehow in my absence Daddy had managed to keep the half a dozen sister-pokers safe or at least some inexplicable stroke of luck had been at play.
Once the last communicant returned to his seat, the altar boys began the domino of illumination. One by one, person to person, the Body of Christ passed the light from forward to back so that in moments the whole church interior was aglow in soft, flickering candlelight. And my proud offspring were smiling from ear to ear.
Seeing as the southern weather is bipolar this spring, we were woefully under-dressed for the outdoor procession. Daddy, therefore, volunteered to remain church-bound with the baby leaving me the honor of chaperoning the torch bearers single-handedly (one hand per flame wielding boy).
Cautiously we each made our way down the stone front steps as we followed the Blessed Sacrament. The initial downward movements left a few of us extinguished, so began the acts of charity as those still holding onto their warm glowing flames reached over to reignite our wicks. How beautiful it is when our normal pattern of pew-staking separateness is broken and we become the one that we are meant to be; sharing our space and our resources.
However, on this night the wind would seem the winner. By the time our feet made contact with the adjacent sidewalk, all but a handful of candles had succumbed leaving us all the more vulnerable in the cold night air. The kids, being “childlike” of course, continued their hopeful pursuit in search of re-ignition long after I’d resolved to walk in the chilly darkness.
Having wrapped my sweater around my five year old, my thin blouse was little consolation against the cold wind. Considering the open-toed sandals and skirted bare legs accompanying us in the procession, I imagine I wasn’t alone in my misery.
A few of my children had scouted ahead in search of light, but my position toward the rear left me mostly unable to see the canopy that led us. However, upon reaching the final corner I caught sight of the King’s memorial. The red altar servers’ torches at the head of the line had also lost the battle. Their glass cup protectors had failed to stave off the blustery air.
But the four tall, corner candles encircling the ciborium which housed the precious Body and Blood maintained their constancy. While we followers stumbled along in darkness, Christ’s Light remained leading the way. And isn’t that a visual portrayal of the Truth?
Earlier in the day, I’d chanced an encounter with a near occasion of sin. That is, I’d boldly and pridefully typed my two cents worth in challenge to a friend’s post on facebook (good thing confession is before Easter). The topic was local politics, specifically candidates running for office. As is the case with such discussions (okay, arguments) the lines were drawn and commentators claimed their sides.
I was heralding a long-shot runner, a devout Catholic who lives out his faith and sets his standards accordingly, but the opposition was quick to assess my choice as non-viable. Like stones in the hand of young David, they informed me there was no feasible way my contender could ever take down Goliath.
Yes, Noah’s ark was the creation of a doomsayer and David’s confidence was based on childish naïvete. Then there were those foolish disciples who believed some political agitator was the Son of God. Not to mention, all those stupid saints (like Francis) who traded riches for suffering.
How easily the winds of the world blow against our meager attempts to scatter Light. We’re left fumbling through the blackness- fearful and confused. Peter did this once the accusers dragged Jesus toward Calvary. Just hours before he’d pledged his complete devotion and endurance, but then all too quickly he recanted once the Source of his courage was withdrawn.
Though I may have given up on relighting my candle, I continued to follow the procession knowing where it was leading. Such it is in life, just because our human endeavors to evangelize may appear lost or insignificant against the spotlight of sin, we can be assured the Source of all Light, of all Truth will never cease to burn. Like Noah’s obedience, David’s courage, the disciples’ faith and the saints’ abandonment, so long as our path is illuminated by Jesus Christ we cannot go wrong.
We need only follow close, even if required to do so blindly. Whether we have benefit of other members of the Body to encourage and protect us or if we must walk alone vulnerable to the buffeting forces of opposition, we will not be misled. Christ reigns today as He did 2000 years ago and His Light will continue to shine through all eternity leading all who follow Him home.

Making Ready for Easter: 4 Posts from the Archives

With Holy Week in full swing my mind has been drifting toward Friday, but at the same time I am juggling the plans for our “new school year” which will begin next week . By juggling I mean: writing out five planners, cleaning the school cabinet AGAIN, distributing new books, and trying to formulate a new daily plan that includes more time and attention to writing for my blog all while cradling the baby and mediating sibling disputes. However, with all that being said I remember the focus of this week is not supposed to be on me. 

I decided to reread the posts I wrote last year at this time to help me recollect and prepare to make the journey from Holy Thursday to Good Friday and onward to the celebration of Easter. Won’t you join me…

Holy Thursday:

Envision reclining at table with Jesus, listening to the sound of His calm,mysterious words as He offers His Body and Blood for the first time. So many struggle with this abstruse teaching that they give up and flee the room. He speaks of a coming time when He’ll no longer be present, how confusing and worrisome. Perhaps, the Apostles desire a further explanation, but instead they must wait to fully comprehend the meaning of all that they are witnessing. Read HERE
Another:

Did you ever have a problem that you didn’t even realize you had? Like stinky feet or bad breath, no, not that kind of problem. Those kinds of maladies usual illicit someone’s notation. But, sometimes we can suffer from a dilemma without ever realizing its existence and impact on our lives. From childhood traumas to youthful heart breaks to adult disappointments, we can bear the invisible scars throughout a lifetime. Like an old sports injury, they can impede our present actions, cripple our faith. Read HERE

Good Friday:

So in hushed stillness, we sat in the first pew waiting for The Stations of the Cross to begin on this Good Friday. My eyes searched the bare altar, scanned the purple clothes hiding my favorite statues, all in an attempt to find consolation in familiarity. The lights still out and the sanctuary lamp missing from its stand added to the strange sense of loneliness. Read HERE

Easter:
Easter lilies, tulips, aromatic incense and the warm glow of candles filled the sanctuary. The altar was dressed in the full splendor of tapestries. As well, Our Lady of Fatima stood in a place of honor veiled in glorious white. My favorite saintly statues returned to greet me and the pews were filled with brothers and sisters donning their best attire. Servers surrounded the altar and Father stood clothed in a royal white and gold chasuble. Like heaven had leaned down and kissed the earth, this morning’s Easter Mass proclaimed the Resurrection. 
Read HERE


If you are inspired by any of these posts, would you please share my blog with friends and acquaintances who might also enjoy these posts. Just please be sure to link them back to my blog so that increases my traffic and encourages me to keep writing. -Tara

father

Are You Walking With a Spiritual Limp?

Did you ever have a problem that you didn’t even realize you had? Like stinky feet or bad breath? No, not that kind of problem. Those kinds of maladies usual illicit someone’s response. But, sometimes, we can suffer from a dilemma without ever realizing its existence and the impact it has on our lives. From childhood traumas to youthful heart breaks to adult disappointments, we can bear invisible scars throughout a lifetime. Like an old sports injury, those scars can impede our present actions, cripple our faith, or leave us with a spiritual limp.

cruthcesThough I was long aware that my personal relationships were influenced by the scabs on my heart, I’d remained somewhat oblivious to the spiritual limp I’d developed. Until, while sitting in my priest’s office and crying out my trials, Father made a subtle, gentle observation. Asking about my daddy-daughter bond, he explained that we often see and relate to God, our Divine Daddy, in terms of our earthly fathers. We place on God the same judgments we place on our worldly dads. Expect from God the same reactions and temperaments we’ve been conditioned to expect from our papas.

Wow and ouch! My father and I have had an on-off, relationship for as far back as I have memories. In truth, his own daddy-son bond was shattered.

Limping Along

As my priest related the correlation between our Heavenly and earthly dads, I became distinctly aware of the limp in my gait. At the same time that I was attempting to run to my Lord for consolations and assistance in bearing my crosses, my spiritual legs were holding me back.

What I’d perceived as an inability to pray was, in truth, a distorted perception of God’s ability to hear. Judging God, the Father, in terms of Old Testament wrath, I’d overlooked that He is the God of agape, of mercy, of compassion; the Father Who’d heard Moses’ argument in defense of a hard-hearted people and withdrew His hand of correction; the Father Who gave His only begotten Son in reparation for our countless sins; the Father Who loves unconditionally, forever. I’d overlooked His ability to forgive without reserve, without harboring grudges. I hadn’t fully internalized that God’s Fatherhood is unbreakable, our childhood unseverable.

A Visualization

Around the same time that my priest unveiled my handicap, my spiritual director created a visualization that has been etched into my mind ever since. He placed me on the lap of God, my Father. He told me how loved I am; called me God’s little princess.

How awesome is God that He knew my impediment and placed people in my path who could heal that wound.

He wants to heal you, too.

That mental picture has become a refuge, a source of regeneration. Now and again, I climb into my heavenly Dad’s lap, rest my head on His firm breast, slip my hand into His secure grasp and accept His tender kiss on my forehead. We talk very little, although He’d listen all day. He’s restored my brokenness, eagerly embraced me like the father of the prodigal son. He only needed for me to recognize my poverty, so that He could restore my gait and meet me halfway down the path to our reunion.

You Are Invited

Today is the celebration of The Last Supper. So, recline yourself at table with Jesus and the Apostles. Sit beside Jesus so that you can feel His shoulder brush against yours. Listen intently to His words, hear the tone of His voice. Watch His movements, His expressions, as He raises the chalice and transforms simple bread and wine into His Body and Blood. Know that you are truly in Christ’s Presence. If there are obstacles between you and Him, or between you and His Father or His Holy Spirit, let them be stripped away in the confessional. Let them drop to the floor like crumbs to be swept up and discarded.

Today, you are invited to The Supper of The Lamb. Your spot has been reserved, your chair is empty and cannot be filled by any other. Come, join the Lord. Let nothing get in your way. If your want to run to Him is slowed by some old injury, limp to Him. He will heal your spiritual wounds and restore the vigor of your faith.

Learning To Wait: Walking Through Holy Week Alongside Jesus

Walking down the hallway in my home, I glanced into the nursery which is in the process of being reclaimed and one word came to mind, “waiting.” The pale blue walls have been retouched and the trim work accepted a fresh coat of white paint. The unfinished door was finally finished and the little boys’ furniture has vacated the space. Now just a naked changing table and an empty dresser have moved in, along with an unoccupied bassinet.

Entranced for a moment, I imagine the day when the little room will spring back to life. Bustling with activity, as baby is swayed to sleep in that bassinet by a sibling, diapered on that table by daddy or when those dresser drawers are receiving tiny, folded onsies. But for today, the bare floor and sparse furnishings remind me that we are waiting, patiently anticipating.

While all of Lent signifies a period of waiting, Palm Sunday invites us, like an open door, to reflect in earnest on the week of waiting that lies ahead.

Imagine Preparing The Way

Imagine the Apostles’ thoughts as Jesus directed them to seek out the young colt and upper room. What odd requests those may have seemed on first hearing. If in their shoes, I’d have been excited and perhaps a bit anxious searching to fulfill my Lord’s command. Waiting to see if those prophesied resources were so easily secured.

Envision reclining at table with Jesus, listening to the sound of His calm, mysterious words as He offers His Body and Blood for the first time. So many struggle with this abstruse teaching that they give up and flee the room. He speaks of a coming time when He’ll no longer be present, how confusing and worrisome. Perhaps, the Apostles desire a further explanation, but instead they must wait to fully comprehend the meaning of all that they are witnessing.

Accompany our Sweet Lord into the Garden of Olives, kneel beside Him on that solid earth. Consider the spark of His Passion as Jesus beholds the face of each and every one of us (you and me). Two thousand years ago He studied your face, watched your life unfold, contemplated you while in the Garden and chose to offer Himself in reparation for your sins. He accepted your punishment. Fervently praying to the Father, the first drops of precious blood beaded on His tense brow in anticipation of what was to come. The Apostles, too weary to wait, drift off to slumber. Jesus, in solitude, remains alert; listening for the footsteps of His betrayer.

Upon the arrival of Judas’ kiss, how rapidly the setting transforms. Angry soldiers, confounded Apostles, an accursed betrayer and Jesus are triggered into action. But what does Jesus say when His followers draw their swords in His defense? He admonishes them. Further waiting is required as they witness the arrest of an innocent, the Son of God.

Enduring In Silence As The Accusations Fly

How do we endure in silence as the accusers line up to utter false statements against our beloved? Hearts pounding, heads spinning, we bite down hard to keep our tongues still, fearing for our own lives. Helplessly we’ll remain around the fray awaiting the verdict.

My heart breaks for our Blessed Mother, as the crowds demand the death of her only child. Each moment of torture seems unending as Jesus waits in between the cracks of a whip. Who can endure the thought without retreating into distraction? Ears cannot bear to imagine the grueling sound and yet she, along with His dear ones, listens and waits for the end.

From the sidelines, picture His torn shoulders buckling under the weight of that heavy, wooden cross. Broken and drained, Jesus struggles to lift His feet and propel Himself forward; forward to more agony. Breathing seems a chore as we bridle our want to run to our Lord, to lift that burden from Him.

It’s noon when His arms are stretched across that timber and with every smash of the hammer, His gentle hands are pierced more deeply. It seems as though our waiting may never be over. Several years ago, my family was audience to a reenactment of the Passion. In place of nails, the actor was secured to a cross with tight ropes. There was a moment when they up-righted the lumber that the actor was visibly pained and it took my breath away to see it. He remained tied there for some time and all that I could think about was wanting the play to end.

Our Lady and St. John stand vigil at the foot of that cross as the hour hand creeps around the clock again and again. And then that heart-wrenching utterance sounds as Jesus cries out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”) Who can withstand another second? If you’ve ever cradled a dying loved one in your arms, you know the conflict. Your heart aches wanting to keep them close, alive, but you pray for the suffering to be finished, for death to free them.

The World Itself Cries Out

In the hour of mercy the world itself is shaken, the sun hides its face and the Sanctuary veil tears in two, as Jesus relinquishes His Spirit. His lungs release a last breath. How eager His mother is to receive Him back in her motherly embrace, but again she waits on the cruel soldiers, witnessing their callous actions.

Finally, our dear Christ’s body is delicately wrapped in fresh linens, loving laid in the unoccupied tomb. We see the massive stone rolled into place, blotting Him from our eyes.

Today, we know the joyous ending that awaits us next Sunday. With perspective, we are privileged to appreciate what came on the third day. But before we arrange our Easter celebrations this year, let us first reside in the periods of waiting. Savor the week ahead. Meditate on the footprints which carry us from Holy Thursday through Good Friday. Sacrifice our time and accompany our Lord throughout the week’s memorial Masses.

As my journey through motherhood has taught me, waiting is a necessary part and tasting the bitterness of sorrow first, makes the flavor of glory all the sweeter.