Sunday, March 2, 2014

QUOTIDIAN MYSTERIES



In the wake "Beautiful Loser," last Wednesday's post, I received this e-mail:

"good morning heather! greetings from freezing miserably cold CT!

just a quick note to remind you how much i love you and your gift of words.

the way you can take a reading that i have heard over 500 times, and pull out a word or a phrase that i NEVER considered before, reminds me so much of Father Peter Cameron., who i secretly am in love with. what an incredible gift and ability you have, and what courage you have to share it.

'since childhood' [re the parable of the demoniac, Mark 5:1-20]......how did i never hear this????

thanks so much
gotta get kids to school and myself to mass, where i will offer up very specific prayers, and thank God for the losers.

much love
Laura"


Now this is from a woman with school-age kids, a wife and mother from the Newtown, CT area which, not to put too fine a point on it, has probably has not been the breeziest, most light-hearted spot on earth to be raising kids, or even to be within a stone's throw of, these past years. And she is going to drop them off and go to Mass.

I don't know if this ever happens to you all, but every so often I start thinking My God, I am some kind of religious crackpot. I'm a total phony. I've never abandoned myself to God AT ALL. What is with this frenetic daily Mass-going? I'm trying to capture God, possess God, take God off to a little corner.  It's a show; it's a distraction; it's an attempt to escape from the messiness of "real life." It's an attempt, one more time, to be special. Who am I kidding?: I don't even like people, hardly. I'm testy, I'm exhausted. I'm like the guy in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov: the more I love humanity, the more I dislike individual people. I need to spend my time getting ORGANIZED. I need to stop being OCD and neurotic, as if the world, or even Jesus, cares if I go to daily Mass.

Just the night before, though, I'd read these passages from The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris:

"[A]s Soren Kierkegaard reminds us, 'Repetition is reality, and it is the seriousness of life...repetition is the daily bread which satisfies with benediction' "...

"I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who manage to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self."

"Ironically, it seems that it is by means of seemingly perfunctory daily rituals and routines that we enhance the personal relationships that nourish and sustain us. I read recently, in Martin Marty's newsletter, "Context," of a study that monitored the habits of married couples in order to determine what made for good marriages. The researchers found that only one activity seemed to make a consistent difference, in terms of the ability to maintain a stable, happy, long-lasting relationship, and that was simple affection, the embracing or kissing of one's spouse at the beginning and the end of each workday.

Most significantly, as Paul Bosch, the author of the article reports, 'it didn't seem to matter whether or not in that moment the partners were 'fully engaged' or even sincere! Just a perfunctory peck on the cheek seemed to be enough--enough to make a difference in the quality of the relationship.' Bosch comments...that this "should not surprise churchgoers. Whatever you do repeatedly," he writes, "has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person--even if you're not totally 'engaged' in every minute!' "

And when I woke the next morning, very early, I opened that email from Laura (Phelps, for the record; check out her blog Shine). Right away my whole being underwent a kind of correction Right away my desire coalesced into a single point: I prayed, I got dressed, and I drove to the 7 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. I was a couple of minutes late and sat in the back and cried, because I hadn't been to daily Mass more than once or twice in a few weeks, and I realized all over again there is nowhere on earth I'd rather be--unless it's a meeting of my fellow alkies, which is another kind of Eucharist.

Afterward I went and sat in the Blessed Sacrament chapel for awhile and thought, among other things, of all the mothers back East in the snow and cold and relentless storms, taking their kids to school and their husbands to chemo and themselves to Mass, and how when any of us go to Mass, we go for everybody.

And that morning I got to go myself. I got to participate.

Mass is both as ordinary as bread and the biggest mystery in the cosmos.  Does God care if we're OCD, neurotic, badly organized, exhausted, afraid, tormented, and/or testy? He doesn't. He can't.

God likes repetition: He invented it. No-one likes repetition more than a kid. A trick, a funny face, a story: "Do it again!"

"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and do not prevent them; the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."



4 comments:

  1. Thanks, I needed this post. And now I will get ready for my AlAnon meeting. :)

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  2. "It is consistency that God seeks."

    - Matt Talbot

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  3. Dear Heather,

    In the mid-afternoon when your blog arrives via email, I am usually in the midst of a hectic workday and skim through your precious words hoping to only catch a glimmer that will lift me up and inspire me through the remainder of the day. With this post, however, I slowed down to more than a "skim" and actually relished your words.

    I only recently stumbled upon Laura Phelp's blog, Shine, through a comment she left on someone else's post and am just amazed at how joyful and upbeat her words are and how she seems to cast beauty upon the world so effortlessly (although she may say it takes quite a bit of effort, I don't know.) Perhaps it is because she attends daily Mass that she is able to find and spread good in this world. I, too, a mother of five, attend daily Mass, although, thank God, my husband is not in need of chemo. But somehow I am certain that if I were to stop attending daily Mass, I would stop breathing. I cannot live without the Eucharist. Your words here, about sitting in the back pew after not attending Mass regularly during the week for the past several weeks, and realizing there is no place on earth you'd rather be, really hit home for me.

    You are beautiful, Heather. Thank you for sharing your life in this blog. You bring the joy of community to a wide and varied world. In you, we can each find a bit of ourselves but we'd never know it if you didn't write about it. Please keep writing forever.

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  4. It's been a very long time since I read it, but I think Thomas Merton in The Seven Storey Mountain says that was pretty much how his conversion began and was nurtured -- going to Mass every day, even before he fully believed.

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