As previously discussed here and here and here, life is hard. And it takes nothing away from God’s absolute goodness to say that. But, also, there are so many beautiful things in life. So many smiles from the Lord. So much tenderness. So many tiny and innumerable reasons for joy. The world is far more incredible and delightful then we sometimes feel it is when we get wrapped up in the cares of this world.
This last month has had its share of trials as I went through an autoimmune flare unlike anything I have ever experienced. During this time the tenderness from the few friends who knew what I was going through was so life giving. The daily texts of “How did you sleep?” “How are you feeling?” and “How can I pray for you?” made me feel like I was not alone, that Christ—revealing himself through his people—was truly with me. Friends who just hold space for you while you process your pain and make no demands are true gifts. I will never not be grateful for them.
While I was unable to get to Mass and was staying in the dorm at work, the priest brought me Communion. I had hoped he would, but I could not have anticipated how beautiful that would be. I heard the Communion bells ringing after Mass let out. Soon my daughter burst through the door, “Mama, they are coming.” Painfully, I sat up on the edge of my bed. The bells got louder as they actually processed with candles from the chapel to my dorm room. They were soon standing in my dimly lit space, an altar server with a paten and the bells (one with a candle stood outside) and the priest, with the Blessed Sacrament. We all said the Confiteor, the Our Father, and “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” which takes on new meaning when you are confined to being under your roof. When the priest elevated the Host and said “Behold the Lamb of God” I just wanted to weep. Jesus came to me.
Reception of the Eucharist has been powerful for me through all the healing. I have gone to Mass as often as possible. The grace is real. So are Sacramentals that are gifts from Holy Mother Church to strengthen us in our trials and in our sanctification. Life is hard, our faith provides assistance and consolation.
My kids during this time when I have been resting more and needing more care have been unwavering and have not complained even once. Even though some summer fun had to be postponed and even though they saw their mom at quite some weak points, they never complained. They were gentle, kind, and so empathetic. They were also not a bit squeamish, which helps when things are kind of gross. I believe it is because love motivates them. They think nothing of what they have had to endure, because they really do love me. And my love for them cannot be contained. I thank God for them every day.
Speaking of motherly love, yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Brown Scapular. It seems like every year on this day, Our Lady shows up for me, often in some very tangible way. One year it was through a big antique picture of St. Therese found at a thrift store and sold to me for next to nothing. Last year after a day that was arguably the roughest of the summer, the whole family went to a Saturday evening Mass and the priest enrolled everyone in the Brown Scapular who came forward and requested it. Yesterday, I made no demands on Our Lady, but I just wondered if she would show me a sign of her motherly care. I said nothing, I just kept it in my heart. My son went to Boston and bought me an icon of Our Lady, not even knowing that I was keeping my heart open for a sign.
Today was National Ice Cream Day, which my kids informed me on the way home from Mass. At first I thought it was possibly a ruse to trick me into stopping for ice cream. Then I thought, well, even if it is a trick, it’s the cleverest one they have come up with yet and I have no objections to ice cream. So, we stopped at the store, where we also found gluten free cones. So, dinner was ice cream sundaes on cones. It’s called parenting. Look it up.
Life is full. There are still new friends to get to know, berries to pick, jam to make, prayers to pray, incense and candles and herbal tea. There is the timeless Liturgy and texts from friends. There is the laughter of children, lime popsicles to eat in the sunshine, poetry and music. How amazing is it that in our struggles the beauty does not go away. We may cry in pain or whine in frustration, but we can also open the nearest book and read something as lovely as, “in this silent adoration he could imagine that a Being was present to receive their souls.” (Sigrid Undset)
Beauty is not only undeterred by the harshness of life, somehow God takes ashes and sorrow and broken things and makes them something beautiful. Is it possible that things are more beautiful after the brokenness? I think somehow, yes. Felix Cupla.