The end of the novena always brings about a bit of sadness. It’s truly a wondrous week. Words cannot describe the magic of those 6 am mornings. While grand and beautiful in and of itself, the Cathedral Basilica can’t capture that in the morning. The sunshine, the spirit and joy that fill the little chapel is immense. Surrounded by faith and the majesty of the Blessed Mother, you do feel closer to her Son during this week. Sometimes it feels like it gets a bit lost in the grandness of the Cathedral. Because while we spend the week venerating her, talking about her Greatness, her Grace and her piety and her total surrender to God, it’s with that, we recognize the Greatness, the Glory and the Goodness of her Son. We as Catholic Christians should emulate her as best we can. It’s a feeling that I really can’t explain, it’s one that surprises me. While I witness this great faith, I still sometimes feel like I’m looking at it from the outside. I didn’t grow up with a strong faith. I don’t really remember when my family lapsed from the Church. The little that I learned, the history of the Church and my Catholic faith, I learned from the Christian Brothers (and lay teachers) at Catholic school. It was then, when I probably learned the most, and probably didn’t learn as much had I grown up in a home where we truly practiced and lived the faith everyday. My parents are Catholics, they believe, but they haven’t always been practicing. I don’t remember Sundays spent in church, I don’t remember being on my knees for three hours for Good Friday, I had never gone to a Holy Thursday service, I had never done the Stations of the Cross, nor participated in the any of the religious processions of my community. This year, I did all those things and was so totally overwhelmed and enriched spiritually, I will never miss them again. Hell, I didn’t even know this novena existed until my friend encouraged me to come with her last year. I'm ever going to be grateful to her for opening my eyes up to something so beautiful and so wonderful.
We didn’t pray the rosary at home, just at funerals and I always remember the words “our death amen” running together at the end. It always scared me a little to hear those words over and over and over. Now, when I say the rosary, I say the prayer slowly, surely and don’t find myself uttering our death amen as one jumbled monosyllabic phrase. I take the whole phrase and find comfort in those words.
I have a whole world of anxiety, worry and stress running through my head these days. I’m full of self-doubt, insecurity and I wouldn’t say despair, but I’m feeling a bit weary. Maybe it’s impatience and frustration. Despite all this, I would say I’m a happy person, but have a huge cynical and jaded side. I’m just beginning to doubt if my dreams will come true.
Early this morning I woke up in fits from a nightmare. I know it’s anxiety based and I have worries that have troubled me for a while and I know I should stop trying to put them aside and I should deal with them before it’s too late. In the dream I was trying to figure out how and if God talks to people. In it, I was talking to a priest at my church. I’ve been wanting to talk to one of the priests at my church about something on my mind so maybe that’s why he popped into my dream. He was himself in the dream and I asked him if he thought God talked to people in their dreams, or if it was just my anxiety stressing me out. I really wanted an answer. I don’t think he offered me any real words of wisdom—I don’t quite remember what he said to me—but there he was standing there offering some sort of comfort. Still it’s a bit disconcerting when I start dreaming about a priest from my parish.
The faith that I have, it’s still a bit shaky. I know why as Catholics, we do the things we do in Mass, and just how important the Eucharist is. I understand its significance and what it means to us as Catholics. I am even willing to believe by the priest’s words and actions, the bread and wine to change into the Body and Blood of Jesus. I can believe this because I believe God exists and because I believe that, I believe all things are possible. It’s one of those things my non-believing and my non-Catholic friends can’t understand or comprehend. I often wonder what think of me knowing what I believe—do they know truly what I believe? Have I lived my life by that example? I surely hope I have.
I think choosing to become or remain a Catholic is not always easy. I know for me, returning to the Church has made me think differently about many things as well. While I’m not a Traditionalist Catholic, I’m not a Call to Action type of Catholic either. While I’m politically a liberal, I’m spiritually more conservative. I see beauty in the Latin Mass but I prefer the ordinary form of my parish. I wouldn’t be upset if receiving Communion in the hands was disallowed. I also prefer to receive from a priest or a deacon, but sometimes there truly is a need for Eucharistic Ministers. I’m ok with hand holding during the Our Father, but sometimes I prefer not to and often it’s a mood thing and I often sit alone so I don’t have to. I can take or leave all the hand gestures though. I don’t like liturgical dancing, but I try not to be uncharitable so I don’t say anything. There are people who do like it, so why ruin it for them? I like the sign of peace, the unity of community and faith that is expressed is a nice feeling. I don’t mind it when the priest tells a joke or banters with us in the pews. While he’s a priest, specially chosen and consecrated by his ordination, he still is a human and it’s nice to see that side of him. It helps make him more approachable when we need him for something serious.
I believe the Church is timeless and that She will prevail, but I think if I stopped going to Mass on Sundays, it would be easy to pull away again. While I believe, I’m not sure if I’m strong enough to hold on. I struggle to pray. It’s not something that is easy for me. I can’t say I don’t know how, but I don’t know if my prayers are fruitful enough. I know God answers all prayers but that he doesn’t always answer them how we want them answered. He’s not some great Magic Genie in the sky granting our wishes to come true. He’s not Santa Claus or a vending machine full of things we want and can buy for $1. I think He’s elusive, enigmatic and knows what we want but he gives us what we need. At least I’d like to hope so. Maybe for that I pray. I suppose if it’s His will, what we desire most will come to be. I also know we can’t sit around and wait for those things to come to us just by sitting here and waiting either. We have to make an effort and try ourselves and pray that it’s His will for us. I think will can find strength and courage in and through God.
And today the archbishop said in his homily that we should always remember to give thanks to God, especially for the little things we forget. We always remember the grief, the sadness and heartache, but tend to forget about the good, like a glorious day, a much needed rainstorm, a kind word, a gentle touch and a loving gesture. Those he said we should try to remember, to write down… it’s important not to forget and to remember that All Good Things come from God. Now if only I can learn patience.