Thursday, February 9, 2017

All things Live for Him

Friends, I haven't been around much lately. I hinted about a month ago that both my mother and my brother had been very ill and asked for prayers.

My mother passed away on January 20th, at the age of 92 and after years of suffering with Alzheimers.

This weekend, we'll bury  my brother, David, who entered Eternity last Saturday afternoon, after a brief struggle with an extremely fast-acting brain tumor.

Both Mom and David were strong believers. Mom was one of the few Catholic parents during the 60s and 70s who perceived the sorry lack in post-Vatican II catechetics, and saw to it that we studied more traditional catechisms and scripture at home, and made us understand that sometimes, in those confused times, Sister X.  and even Father Y might teach or preach something that was not quite in line with Catholic teaching.   She also started a firm custom of the family rosary nearly every evening, starting when I was about 8 years of age. That habit stayed with my two siblings and I.   Furthermore, she (and my Dad) created a family atmosphere where spiritual things (such as saint's lives, reports of possibly modern apparitions,miracles and whatnot) were seen as interesting, worth discussing and reading about.  

Like all of us, Mom was not perfect. But she got it right in the things that mattered most. I couldn't be more grateful.

David, my big brother, overcame the youthful handicap of being that introverted, un-athletic, nerdy kid who had tended to be rejected by all but a few peers. (A family pattern: my sister and I were his female counterparts.) His passion for history lead to a career as a county archivist, where he distinguished himself as an expert in local history, and author or editor of several books about the Civil War and about slavery in the northern colonies/states.  He was always an ardent Catholic, and members of his parish study group tell me that his insights and comments would "light up" every meeting.  What I admire most about David was his selfless care of our Mom during her years in the nursing home, visiting almost every single day, coming up with creative ideas to stimulate her diminishing mind, and far surpassing the patience of the staff in getting her to eat a good dinner each day.   My sister and I, raising big families in far off locations, were grateful and relieved that David was able to take on Mom's care as his vocation. We are sorry that after she passed, David was not able to go on to years of pursuing his own interests free of concerns for her care. But God's will be done! We can   presume that even the most pleasant earthly pursuits pale in comparison to what awaits, and all that makes us happiest on earth will find it's super-counterpart in Eternity.

Thanks in advance for your prayers and kind thoughts; if you want to do something special for Mom and David, substitute part or all of the Office for the Dead on any upcoming day where there is no obligatory memorial (E.g. today, tomorrow, or any day next week except Wednesday) and offer it for them.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Psalter and Depression: Singin' the Blues with Psalm 77

I meant to post this yesterday, but was travelling across  Pennsylvania on I-80, and they tell me you shouldn't blog while driving. Yesterday, Psalm 77 headed up Morning Prayer. My Facebook pal, Harold Koenig, whose interesting little FB blurb on Praise of God appeared here pretty recently, has some new thoughts to share on Psalm 77. His first encounter (or maybe head on collision) with Psalm 77 came long ago, before he was Catholic, and while in a state of mind and soul that we children of the 1970s referred to as "messed up". So look what happened.

An acquaintance wrote that she went to Episcopalian "Evening Prayer," in search of solace, but "The Scripture reading[s] were not right for me tonight,..." I'd suggest reversing the phrasing thus, "I was not right for the Scripture readings tonight."

I'd suggest that it's too early to tell. Sometimes the Holy Word sneaks by our consciousness and is planted more deeply.  Some phrase or story may return unbidden.

When I was in college, dissolute, confused, and depressed.  I began to pray Compline from some Episcopalian book. I was, let's say, unmoved. But by grace, I stuck with it. And little by little, it soaked in.  "The devil walketh about ... seeking whom he may devour!" That was fun to think of.

Then we were assigned to write an analysis of a poem of our choice. I was at a loss, until Psalm 77 bloomed in my mind. It speaks to a depressed heart! 
"Is his mercy clean gone for ever? * and is his promise come utterly to an end for evermore?
  Hath God forgotten to be gracious? * and will he shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure?
And I said, It is mine own infirmity; * but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most Highest.
This is the blues!  You sing out your worst feelings until an answer comes! The answer: Remember the mercy, even a terrifying and mysterious mercy!

The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee, and were afraid; * the depths also were troubled.
The clouds poured out water, the air thundered, * and thine arrows went abroad.
The voice of thy thunder was heard round about: * the lightnings shone upon the ground; the earth was moved, and shook withal.
Thy way is in the sea, and thy paths in the great waters, * and thy footsteps are not known.
You're at the point where you feel like saying. "That's okay God.  This is too scary!" Then the Psalmist speaks gentleness!

Thou leddest thy people like sheep, * by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The cosmic terror, he in whose presence nature trembles and begins to fall apart, is a gentle as a shepherd! He cloaks his proper frightfulness in mildness and patience, even for dissolute and depressed college students!

I may have not been right for Compline, but Compline was right for me!