There are no stupid questions,
Tuesday morning at the most terrible hour of 6:00 am I and a friend drove my daughter to the convention center to her graduation. Then we waited on line until 7:00 am to get into the hall and save seats for the rest of the family for the big event. Promptly at 8:00 am the procession began and by 9:10 am all had left the room. I think it was a record time for about 400 students to have their names called, shake about 7 people’s hands on stage, take a picture with the principal as he handed each their diploma case. This was in addition to the speeches by the superintendent of schools, principal, valedictorian, salutatorian, and class president; a song; and moving the tassels from one side to the other.
Our daughter graduated 9th in her class and had more cords then she was permitted to wear. Now, we have to get ready to leave for college in a month.
So, last Saturday we made the hour trek down to the Convention Center and watched our son walk across the stage for earning his Associate Degree in Culinary Arts. Peter graduated Cum Laude and is now a member of the American Culinary Association. And, most importantly, he has a job!
The behavior at the event left a bit to be desired: air horns, people leaving before it was over, not standing as faculty processed in were a few examples. What is the problem with people acting properly in public? I felt better though about the fact that poor behavior does not seem to be limited to Church events, it’s everywhere!
In ten days we will celebrate the birthday of the Church. The coming of Pentecost is a great time to pray the novena to the Holy Spirit and ask for the gifts we all need to navigate this world we live in. The link will bring you to a printable version from EWTN. http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/pentecost/seven_tx.htm
The Descent of the Holy Spirit is my favorite mystery when praying the rosary. I can see the Spirit rushing forth with a great wind, and then each disciple being so filled with the Spirit that the only possible reaction is to go forth and tell the world about our Savior. The courage and wisdom they received is for what I too pray.
Imagine if every Catholic in the world prayed for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and then acted on it. We would truly see the Kingdom of God!
When you are a DRE the end of the year brings First Communions. In my case, for 177 children, at three different masses, on two different days in two different languages. I think it is all ready to go for Saturday and Sunday. And I will not tire of answering questions that I find totally irrelevant and superfluous, but are important to parents. What kind of questions, you ask, how about this,”Are flowers in my daughter’s hair a problem since they cannot carry flowers?” or “Is a tiara okay if is not too big?” or the favorite this year is “Can my daughter, who has never sung in public before, sing a solo at First Communion?” The last one from a mother who does not even know who is in charge of music at our parish and wondered in the email if, “you, (the music minister) ever see or talk to the lady in charge of Communion, because I don’t know who it is.” The answers are, in order, flowers in the hair are fine; yes; no. I have learned to make no other explanations because if I do I may be a bit caustic or even border on the condescending. I just deleted possible responses, too ugly, even for me! Alas, the weekend will bring stories, I can promise you that, and they will make me want to laugh, cry, scream, and wonder. I just pray, so I can keep my tongue under control and it all seems to work.
So, this past Tuesday, 9 of us who have been studying together for 3 years graduated from our diocese’s “School of Christian Formation.” We were awarded certificates which state we are now an “Agent of Evangelization” and well equipped to teach all whom we encounter. We also got to shake our Bishop’s hand when he gave us the certificate at the Mass. I hope the pictures we took come out so I can put them in our parish newsletter.
The saddest part now is that we won’t get to see our wonderful instructor every week. We were so blessed to have him for every course. He is by far the most intelligent man I know, as well as a great priest and canon lawyer.
Now I am on to the next graduation… my wonderful son’s on May 19!
Easter Sunday dawned and with it our hope in the Resurrection restored. Christ our Light shines for us. Yet, since the Wednesday of Holy Week all around has been loss and sadness. My list looks like this: one of our parish priests is leaving to discern his vocation for the next two years, two sets of friends are moving to another state, i am getting my daughter ready to leave for college, my son had a car accident and now has no car at all, my husband still has not found employment, my grandmother is getting worse, a good friend’s ex-husband won’t help his daughter with college expenses, another friend had an unexplained seizure and is not quite herself because of the medicine she is taking, another friend has 3 brain aneurysms, there’s more but I am starting to feel like I am whining!
So, on the positive side: both of my children are graduating and excited to begin the next phase of their lives, we are all healthy, my son was not hurt in the car accident, my husband loves me and I love him, all of the pregnant women I know had safe deliveries and healthy babies, I have completed the lay ministry formation program and am graduating, my daughter has her prom gown, and more.
So, in the balance, I can trade my sadness for joy and tears for dancing. Lord, give me the grace to do so.
How does one live in our world, so often full of pain, without God and the hope He gives? Hope allows us to see grace present in our everyday, ordinary situations and in our suffering as well. “It is God’s desire from the beginning that we be full of grace, i.e. full of God and therefore wondrous (Dreyer 171).” It would therefore follow, then, that we are to be filled with grace and that is what will propel us forward toward God.
During some of our class discussions on grace a few people noted that prior to Vatican II there was this notion of getting grace only through the institutional Church and from its ordained ministers. Also there were rules about grace: you could store grace up or lose it by committing a bad act. And, finally, God kept a record of how much He meted out to you. There was the chance that you could not have enough grace to get into heaven. I do not have those ideas as part of my understanding of grace at all. I do not know if I had them once and discarded them or if they were simply not a part of what I believed once I could start to think about God on my own, apart from what I was taught in school.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that there are many forms of grace: sanctifying or deifying (#1999), sacramental, and special graces known as charisms (#2003). Within sanctifying grace is “Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call and actual grace which refers to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification” (CCC #2000). Sacramental graces are those which we receive when one of the Church’s seven sacraments are conferred upon us. The grace is given, but it still requires acceptance on our part. Special graces are the gifts or charisms given to people to use to build up the body of Christ. Some examples are teaching and healing.
The Church teaches us that grace is a gift from God and that we can do nothing to earn it. Grace is “the free relation of the Absolute communicating himself” (Rahner 588). When grace is viewed as God’s communicating with us we see that the above definitions of grace, though more open-ended than pre Vatican II ideas, still are trying to define grace and by defining it therefore limiting grace. To put limits on grace puts limits on God and that is not possible. By God’s communicating with us and giving us grace “he makes man share in the very nature of God” (Rahner 588).
The idea that grace is God’s self communication and that it allows us share in his nature is what propels me forward every day. Prior to this course, I had heard of Rahner but never read any of his work. As I read a few of his articles and his concepts in our texts, I was struck by how his understanding of grace resonated with me and my own experiences. It was a moment of the un-thematic becoming thematic.
Grace comes to us not only through the sacraments but also through prayer and other’s responses to events in our lives. Grace is a transforming power if it is accepted; “the actual and proximate ability to accept is itself a supremely free grace (Rahner 589). I often compare grace to strength, a power that enables you do and say things you may not want to do based on exterior motives but know interiorly it is the correct path to take. I am taken aback when people think I have a greater ability to be more patient or less judgmental than them. I try to explain that it truly has little to do with me, but rather my acceptance of God’s grace. The statement that “grace is …impossible to merit by man’s own powers, so that man can neither positively prepare himself for it nor obtain it by prayer” (Rahner 589) does not hold true for me. While I agree that we do not merit grace, I do not agree that we cannot prepare for it. Preparing for it is similar to hoping, and all of us need to have hope. If we do not obtain grace by prayer, then we cannot pray for grace; however, we can pray for the acceptance of grace when it is offered. Our act of praying for grace is not a trade of Hail Mary’s for grace, but rather to soften our hearts and open our minds to the grace all around us.
This takes us back to the point that grace cannot be held only in the institutional Church, but is all around us. Grace does not flow in a direct line from God to me as an individual and stop. That would be a waste of grace. Through the grace we receive at Baptism we are ontologically changed to be radically configured to Christ and are now to act on our call as prophet, priest, and king. We are constantly receiving grace and it calls us to be changed, to be more radically configured towards Christ, to be more Christ-like and to share our grace with others as God does. The gift of God’s grace “reaches in Jesus Christ its eschatological, irreversible culmination towards which it tended from the start and throughout, and which determined and formed the basis of its whole course from the beginning” (Rahner 596). To call ourselves Christian, we need to act on grace.
Grace is an expression of our Trinitarian faith, “God moves toward us so that we may move toward each other and thereby toward God (Ludwig 181). If grace is given to us as an expression of love, each time we act in love, we are living a grace-filled life and sharing the graces we have been given with others. Once grace is received it cannot be kept to oneself, for that would be the absolute denial of Trinitarian faith. The Trinity is God’s love overflowing into the Son and Spirit and so we must share grace given to us in response to God’s overflowing love for us. Our salvation is hoped for within the fullness of all the graces we receive.
As persons of free will we can accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. It is a timely topic to ponder as we have just finished the season of Lent and are now in the Easter season. Holy Week provides us with a recollection of salvation history from the Old and New Testaments and the high point of the Easter Triduum, the Easter Vigil liturgy does the same.
On Holy Thursday we recall the Israelites flight from Egypt and how God acted in that time to save His people and bring them out of slavery. We also look at Jesus’ final Passover meal and are given the gift of the Eucharist. Personally, though, the most moving part of the liturgy is the Washing of the Feet. Is it such a powerful reminder that Jesus came to serve and we are called to do the same.
On Good Friday, we replay Jesus’ final hours, meditate on His cross, and are thankful for His ultimate sacrifice which is our salvation.
Holy Saturday begins in hopeful anticipation when we light the Paschal candle and bless the water which will be used to baptize. We hear “Christ our Light” intoned as new light fills the darkened church and we respond, “Thanks be to God” as one by one the flame is passed until all the candles are lit and the people are bathed in the new Light of Christ. It is a visible reminder of all we have been given and also of what we are called to do. We must give others the light, Jesus, as He has been given to us.
The Old Testament readings remind us that God made us and tell how He acted in the lives of His people before He sent His Son. We listen to the stories of Abraham and Moses and recall the covenants God made with His people, calling them from slavery and bondage to a grace-filled life with Him. The Gospel reading finds us looking with the women for Jesus and celebrating when we hear he has risen. So now, we too can have new life in Christ through baptism, be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, and celebrate the new Passover-the Eucharist-and remember that before Jesus died He left for us an eternal reminder of His life.
The Easter Triduum is an encapsulation of our salvation history played out in our own real time. Salvation history is not only the specific events which occurred in the past, but is also an event that is on-going in each of the lives of those who believe.
Each of us is called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Yes, each of us was included in the saving work Jesus gave us by dying on the cross, but now we must respond. We must accept or reject the offer.