Friday, April 16, 2010

Where has all the hatred gone?

     I was at a Woman of God conference when I sat down and opened up my journal to write. The title I wrote down was “When will healing come?” I felt that it was the appropriate place to meditate on the feelings and emotions that I was feeling at the moment. After writing down the title I put my journal away to listen to a speaker and didn’t think about it again until the next day.
     Strangely enough, as I was ironing, I began to revisit the previous two days I had spent at the conference and what had transpired. God must have sensed me teetering on the brink of moving forward towards my relationship with him and decided it was time He give me a swift kick in the butt. He put people in my path that weekend that He knew would answer some of my questions and clarify others for me. Each of the women whom I was fortunate enough to spend time with had had their own struggles and willingly shared their stories with me and listened as I shared my own struggles.
     To transgress a little, it all began after I arrived at the conference Friday evening. The conference came to order and the Bishop began his welcome speech. I slowly realized that all of the hatred and animosity that I had been harboring towards him for the past two years had miraculously disappeared. As much as I tried, I could not conjure up the angry feelings. They were gone. As I learned in a breakout session, I was caught between resentment and resistance. Finally, I realized that the anger had dissipated. I just could not figure out what was going on. God was going on; I had just not yet come to the point of acceptance.
     The feelings that I had toward the Bishop ran quite deep and that would be a story of its own, perhaps even a novel. It wasn’t until the end of the conference that I realized (probably a knock on the head from God saying “Hello”) that He had taken forgiveness out of my hands and showed me what I was to do with it.
     At the conference I was surrounded by Christian women who seemed to have it all “going on.” They seemed to know where they were going and were doing so with overwhelming confidence. I had a constant longing to be on the same journey as they were; going to the same place that they were. This picture popped into my head of everyone in little cars, sort of like the Dr. Sueus book, “Go Dogs Go.” I have felt many times that I had finally found a car and was on the road but couldn’t find the on-ramp to the freeway. This weekend I felt that not only had I found the on-ramp but I had also started up.  I am still trying to merge and I may be on the on-ramp for a while but I am now aware that I am moving forward in my own journey.
     I was born and raised Catholic but never seemed to grasp what it meant. I would see others with their heads bowed in prayer but the feeling that they seemed to be experiencing always eluded me. Throughout the last few years and after many trips to the “Lost and Found” box, I finally realize what it means to be a Catholic.
     It was a culmination of events and discoveries that led me to this point. My first hurdle was the Lord’s Prayer. After going through a painful divorce and subsequent alienation of my daughters from me, I found this prayer extremely hard to recite, much less feel, especially the part, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I struggled with these words. How could I forgive such a horrible act and the person behind it? How could I forgive someone who would betray a child’s confidence with such manipulation? I know that this prayer is a prayer of forgiveness but I just could not forgive. I eventually changed the words so I could pray the Lord’s Prayer. God created me so I am sure he understood. I added the word ‘try.’ I would try to forgive. In time, I was able to move on and eliminate my change.
     At the conference I was lucky enough to speak with a young lady and this subject came up. She is a youth director and she told me that the group of teens that she directs did an exercise where they broke down each line of the Lord’s Prayer. What she told me that I found quite profound was that she teaches the youth that Christ knew how difficult it would be for us to forgive so He left us with the Lord’s Prayer. I had not heard that particular view point before and was intrigued by it. It made sense to me. I could wrap my head around that.
     We also discussed forgiveness. I told her that I was trying hard to keep the forgiveness in my heart but when phone calls from my daughters were not returned or emails left unanswered, the anger would come flooding back. With her wisdom and kind words, I was able to discern between forgiveness and anger, the feeling and the emotion. I can forgive but that doesn’t mean I cannot still be angry.
     Something else that I struggled with for most of my life was that Catholics believe that during the consecration of the host, the wine and bread become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how much I thought about it or reasoned with it, I could not grasp the concept. I did eventually come to terms with my own beliefs and those were that in as much as Catholics believed in their heart of hearts that the wine and bread become the body and blood of Jesus, I believed just as deeply that they represented the body and blood of Jesus. Believe me, with this revelation I have sparked many a debate, but have always found that I was not alone and that always surprised me. It seems as though there are many Catholics who struggle with this.
     The young lady that I spoke with revealed a magnificent vision that God gave her. She too, it turns out, had been struggling with this very concept. But first, before telling me of her vision, she told me of a conversation she had with a doctor friend of hers. She giggled as she said she felt doctors were smarted than priests and she was quite interested in hearing of his beliefs. He told her that what cemented the belief for him was realizing the miraculous way the body can turn the food it is fed into blood. She then told me of a vision of Jesus Christ lain out on the alter during the consecration and of his body being offered up to God. Being a “picture” person, this vision from our conversation helped me understand the consecration in a different light. I do not feel that I am at the point of believing that it is the body and blood of Christ but I still feel that it represents him. It does bring up another question that I will eventually need to answer for myself and that is can I still consider myself Catholic if this is my belief. Does this mean another trip to the lost and found?
     I shared with this young lady my beliefs for the offertory part of the mass. A few years ago I read an article explaining the parts of the mass in a religious newspaper. It was told by a woman who claimed that the Blessed Mother had visited her in church and as each part of the mass was happening, she explained the part more fully. The explanation that has stayed with me in the following years was about the offertory. The woman claimed as the gifts were being brought up to the alter, angels would leave the people in the pews to bring forth their prayers. Some of the angels were glowing, others more solemn, and still others hung their heads and were quite sad. When the woman inquired as to why this was happening, the Blessed Mother told her that the people who had God in their lives and had a lot to offer were the one with the angels who glowed. The angels of those who were troubled and had few prayers to take to the alter were the more solemn angels. And lastly, the downtrodden, the down and out, those with little hope or faith had angels who could only hang their heads as they had very little to offer. I told her that this story almost always comes back to me at this time in church and I try to have my prayers ready so that my angel will have an abundance of prayers to take up to the alter to offer to God for me.
     Another part of the mass that has become quite clear in meaning to me is the Eucharistic Prayer. I was browsing through my bible during bible study one day when I came upon a passage explaining that the Eucharistic Prayer is a reenactment of the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples. I find that instead of being distracted by the long prayer, I am now able to focus and understand what is happening. And so with all of these little pieces fitting together like a puzzle, the Catholic mass has begun to make sense and I feel more like a Catholic than I have ever felt before.
     The weekend that I spent at the Women’s Conference was an enlightening one. God put quite a few women in my path to help me along my journey. There were some great messages being showered upon all who attended and many prayers answered.
     And while my life is void of my daughters for the present time, I can feel free to enjoy those that God has blessed me with in my life right now. I have to trust that I am where I am supposed to be, that God will meet me here, and that He has a plan. And, He will reveal that plan in His time. And maybe my trips to the Lost and Found will become less frequent as my faith continues to grow, although I am sure there will be many fender benders as I inch my way up the on-ramp towards the freeway as I continue my journey. And if I can forgive the Bishop, who knows what else I can do?

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