Finding Joy in Our Crazy World

To begin, we offer a prayer for all those killed or injured in the shooting in Las Vegas, for the grieving families, for the soul of Stephen Paddock, for the peoples of:  Puerto Rico, North Korea, Syria, the Ukraine, Myanmar, the Congo and for all those recovering from hurricanes.

The news is overwhelming.  Maybe it always has been.  I’ve often said to Glenn, “The present seems crazy but the sixties must have felt worse when JFK and other national leaders (Martin Luther King Jr &  RFK) were assassinated.

How do you find joy in your daily life?  I, (Maeve), recently started taking tap dancing lessons and am enjoying them.  I’ve been inspired by the NYC ballets that I’ve attended with my dad in recent summers and by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

For our tenth wedding anniversary last year, I bought Glenn “Bert and Ernie” dolls.   He used to do puppet shows for his younger brother.   Now, he does them for me.

Through working at a school, I’ve rediscovered the simple joys of blowing bubbles…             IMG_2281                    ….and coloring, and have learned about “slime,” water beads and the Tooty-Ta dance….

Dancing with McKenna
Dancing with McKenna
And Dad
…..And Dad

I also enjoy writing whimsical poems, playing games with family and friends, exercising, and travel.  Naturally, you have your own list of things that give you joy.   Feel free to share them in the “Comment” section of our blog!

We also find great joy in God!  He’s the Creator of all the things that give us joy.  October has special significance in the Catholic Church as it’s the month of the Rosary and Respect Life month.   What’s joyful about these, you may ask?

There are four sets of ‘mysteries’ for the Rosary: the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries.  In the first Joyful mystery, the Annunciation, Mary is frightened when the angel Gabriel appears to her and tells her that she will conceive a child.  Scripture says that she was, “deeply troubled by his words” (Lk. 1:29).  But she still said ‘yes’ to God!

Henry Tanner, a 19th century American artist captures this moment well in his painting, “The Annunciation”;

ossawa-annunciation

In the second Joyful mystery, The Visitation, Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth.   Pregnant with John the Baptist, and “filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth tells Mary that the moment she heard her greeting..

“The baby leapt in my womb for joy.”  – Lk 1:44 

Elizabeth also affirms Mary’s trust in God…

“Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled”   – 1:45

Mary, having accepted her role as Mother of God, responds in a befitting way.   She exults…..

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior”  – 1:46-47 

Her joy is palpable.  It’s also meant for us…..that joy break into our lives.  Naturally, we’re not ‘up’ all the time.  Some days, it can even be hard to smile.  But we can let Mary’s joy and example of being open to God’s will  break into our lives and lift us up.   Ride the coattails of her joy in the Lord.

What’s joyful about Respect Life month?  When I was a kindergartener at St. Ambrose school in Latham, I had a homework assignment that I completed with my parents.   We made a little booklet about ourselves.  The word, “Celebrate” was written on the front cover.  My parents wrote things like, “Maeve was named after the Irish queen, Maeve.  She likes strawberry ice cream with sprinkles and enjoys making up words to the song, ‘On Top of Old Smokey.'”

Later, I thought this was a quaint assignment and in life’s tougher moments, I wondered where that happy little girl had gone?

Fast forward to 1999, when I taught English in Bolivia for sixteen months.  I came into a new and vibrant relationship with Jesus and started realizing how I am…

“…precious in God’s eyes…”   – Isaiah 43:4 

Eventually, I revisited that “Celebrate” booklet in my mind.  But now, I took the message in!!  God ‘celebrates’ me!   God ‘celebrates’ you!  He ‘celebrates‘ every soul that He has ever allowed to come into being.

Psalm 139 says,

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” 

We know that many circumstances of conception aren’t ideal, but that doesn’t change the fact that God loves us and has willed us into existence.  He asks us to respect, value, cherish and PROTECT life to the best of our ability.   At the beginning of life,  at its’ end, and especially,  in lives that are vulnerable and fragile, He has a purpose.

Glenn writes: 

October 13 is the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun that thousands witnessed in Fatima, Portugal.  This is one of those little-known miracles that nevertheless is absolutely stunning.

St. John Paul II credits Our Lady with saving him, when there was an assassination attempt on his life in St Peter’s square, in 1983.  Why?  The date was May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and the bullet just missed a major organ.

“One hand pulled the trigger, but another hand guided the bullet,” the Pope said.  Later that year, in his visit to the Fatima shrine, he placed that very bullet in the crown of Mary’s statue.

As we fast approach the Centennial of the Blessed Mother’s appearance to the children of Fatima, and as we recall the joy of praying the Rosary, let us also show ourselves to be a people who respect life in all its stages…

“...the new people of the redeemed cannot but respond with songs of joy, praise and thanksgiving for the priceless gift of life…”    

“The Gospel of Life”     — St. John Paul II,  P. 83

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

The Abbey Chapel
The Genesee Abbey Chapel

{This blog excerpts a recent homily from Fr. Gerard D’Souza O.C.S.O., the Abbot of the Abbey of the Genesee, with his permission.  For the link to the website of the Trappist monastery, see the link at the end of this post.}

My wife and I and two good friends, fellow retreatants, attended  Mass in the Genesee Abbey Chapel on the last Sunday of August.  With about fifty other people, we listened to the Gospel proclamation, which was Matt. 16:13-21.  Jesus described Peter as the “rock” upon which He would build his Church.  As if to echo that notion, we needed only to look at the walls around us.

The Lord is present in the beautiful Chapel

The chapel is constructed almost entirely of large rocks which were excavated from the nearby Genesee River.

The Abbot, Father Gerard D’Souza O.C.S.O.,  was the homilist that day.   In his typically disarming manner, he began:

” ‘ But you, who do you say that I am?’  …He hurls the thunderbolt at them.  ‘But you, not the crowds, not your family, you – who do you say that I am?’  I can imagine some of them wanting to hide, some looking down in embarrassment. But the fact is, the Son of God is asking them, each one of them, this question.  This tells us something about ourselves – we truly matter to God.  There is a deep mystery about us.”

Wait.  Didn’t he get that wrong?  Isn’t it Jesus who is the “deep mystery?”  After all, saints and sinners, scholars and college drop-outs have been struggling for two millennia to figure out how Jesus can be both God and man.  Oceans of ink have been spilled in the effort to understand this mystery of the Incarnation.

The Abbot continued;

“Our depths lie in the depths of God.   This is why He looks us in the face and asks us for own answer.  Otherwise, He would not have bothered… we must find our own voice.”

When we hear the Matthew passage, do we personalize it?  I’m afraid it’s far too easy for us to sick back and simply observe.  We let the eleven apostles ‘clear their throats’ until Peter boldly asserts the truth about Jesus.  After all, this is his ‘job description,’ isn’t it?

However, Father Gerard insists that we must answer this fundamental question for ourselves. 

“We must find our own voice.”

What holds us back?  The Abbot has a theory;

“We have been swallowed up by crowd-consciousness.  We find safety in the ‘herd.’ … we are programmed to admire the stars on the big screen and in turn, consider ourselves to be nobodies.  We lose our identity and our personal power…”

OUCH!  Have we lost our identity?  If the answer is ‘yes,’ then how did we arrive at this sorry state?

“…we like the anonymity of group consciousness.   Because solitude scares us, silence frightens us.  We flee from this into noise and busyness. This is why Jesus’ question is very challenging.  He is asking us to stand out by ourselves.  He does not want us to hide in the crowd.  He does not want ‘pat answers.'”

For us, a ‘pat answer’ might look like this; “Jesus is God’s Son, the Savior.  I’m a Christian.  I do my best to be a good person.  I go to Church, sometimes I even open up my Bible…”

You get the idea.  In direct contrast, Father D’Souza offers this perspective on what it truly means to identify who Jesus is;

“To say that Jesus is the Son of the Living God means to live as if He is the Son of God…. our lives are empty without him. That He is not just a universal savior.  He is our life.  This is faith.  Faith connects us at the deepest level to the Risen Christ.  His life comes streaming into us and our lives change.”

Phillippians 3:10-11
Phillippians 3:10-11

Has my life changed because I believe Jesus is God’s Son, who is truly risen from the dead?  Do I really and truly believe that He is “my life?”  My answers “will determine my eternal salvation” the Abbot asserts elsewhere in this homily.

The world we live in is rapidly changing.  The foundational truths of faith that were largely unchallenged for most of our lives are now under serious attack.  Morality is no longer defined by a higher power.  Personal autonomy, the ‘imperial self’ is now firmly enthroned where God formerly reigned.

What we believe about Jesus and how we live in response to the demands of the Gospel will make a critical difference…for today, tomorrow, and for a future yet to unfold.

No less than everything depends on our ‘finding our voice!”

The Abbot will have the last word;

“…. the Lord in His Word is asking each of us this question; ‘You, who do you say that I am?’  He wants you in the solitude of your heart to give your answer.  You must get in touch with the truth in your own heart.  Who is Christ Jesus for you?  You must confront in solitude the resistances…. if you are to answer this.

“Does He matter at all?  Does He mean everything to you?  This answer only you can give.  No one else can give it for you. 

“You must answer with your life, and if you do, it will change your life.” 

–August 27, 2017

To read Abbot D’Souza’s complete homily, click here.  Thus, you can navigate the website for the Abbey of the Genesee, which is recommended.  This monastery is a powerful place to visit and a superb location for a private retreat.

 If you would like to visit a previous blog of ours, from another retreat that we made, “Not That Abbey Road,” click here.