Monday, January 24, 2011

To Steve:

I went to Mass today to pray for the intention of your getting a good job, to the 11:30 one at the Basilica. Monk said the Mass. He’s not really warm or emotional in his presiding, so even though I was praying for you, I was surprised by a really strong feeling of motherly love that I experienced around Communion time.

Mothers have a unique bond with their children. When Mary Sarah was born it almost felt like a physical cord between her and my heart. When she’d cry, there was a corresponding hurt in my chest. Weird, huh? Anyway, I’m sure fathers feel strong feelings for their children, too, but it’s got to be very different from a mother, who carries and nourishes a child through a very fragile period at the beginning of life.

And I was thanking God for letting me participate in creation, by being pregnant and giving birth. Then I realized that God the Father, who is the source of all life and the supreme Creator, must feel an immensely stronger version of my mother love. God’s love for you is personal, unconditional, and infinitely tender. I love you really imperfectly, but God loves you perfectly. Whatever comes—a great job, a tentative one, or whatever—you are loved.

It all made sense to me at the end of Mass. Of course, today’s the March for Life and I am at Notre Dame, so Our Lady must be interceding, stirring up grace in mothers’ hearts for all the children, born and unborn.

Love you, son.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How to live and how to die

Since I listen to Christian music when walking on the treadmill and sometimes when working at repetitive tasks, I find that important life passages are invariably embedded with specific musical memories from whatever album I happened to be listening to at the time.

So it happens that Jars of Clay's "The Shelter" will forever remind me of my sister in the Lord, Katy McShane--her memorable life and equally memorable death.

Katy was in college at ND when my husband Joe first ran for State Senate in 1982, one of the many student volunteers whose efforts propelled Joe to that first win. Katy and Kevin have always understood why our family has chosen the path of politics and they appreciated the things we've been fighting for over the years.

At her wake, hearing about Katy's generous, open-hearted service and hospitality to so many people was a great consolation to me. Though our paths crossed infrequently, I experienced Katy's kindness to my children, her enthusiasm at soccer and basketball games, and her apparently effortless reaching out in sisterhood, embracing the joys and trials of those around her. I received many kindnesses from her, as well as encouragement and hope.

Katy didn't sweat the small stuff in life. In facing death, she eschewed fear and embraced the future willingly, and even in her final days keeping herself accessible for those who needed to be with her and say good-bye.

Thank you, Katy, for sharing with us your generous love and for showing us true abandonment to the will of God. We will always be grateful for the years we lived "in the shelter of each other."

Friday, May 7, 2010

So much life all around

Bulbs have been removed from the ground and annuals are being planted in anticipation of begonias around the Grotto. The flowering trees were beautiful this year and relatively undisturbed by frost (though we might have frost this Sunday for Mother's Day).

The birds are riotously loud in the morning. So much to accomplish in these lengthening spring days.

This week we re-watched the History Channel's "The Real Face of Jesus" and I've been thinking about Christ's suffering in his Passion and Death as reflected in the Shroud. Then today it struck me that Eucharist is ground wheat and crushed grapes, made possible by the same Passion and Death.

Finally, Incarnation is a powerful image...wrapping the eternal God in flesh, omnipotence, power, wisdom, grace confined within human expression.

Lowly entrance into our world, a refugee baby, a King enthroned in poverty, opened Himself/His Way/His Kingdom to detractors, disbelievers, uncomprehending annihilators. All that for us. What Love!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"But what is, therefore, God?"

"God is the unattainable Perfection, God is the perfect Beauty, God is the infinite Power, God is the incomprehensible Essence, God is the unsurpassable Bounty, God is the indestructible Mercy, God is the immeasurable Wisdom, God is the Love that became God. He is the Love! He is the Love! You say that the more you know God in His perfection, the higher you seem to climb and the deeper to dive into two endless depths of shadeless blue... But when you understand what is the Love that became God, you will no longer climb or dive into the blue, but into a blazing vortex and you will be drawn towards a beatitude which will be death and life for you. You will possess God, with a perfect possession, when, by your will, you succeed in understanding and deserving Him. You will then be fixed in His perfection."
--The Poem of the Man-God, Maria Valtorta, vol. 1

Friday, October 30, 2009


I forget from year to year just how much I enjoy fall...the panorama of color, the falling temps and blustery winds, the collage of leaves shellacked by the frequent rain.

Today I felt a familiar thanksgiving as I walked through a carpet of vibrantly yellow ginko leaves. Their fanlike shapes never fail to amuse me, but their branch structure is even more hilarious with its randomness.

I'm grateful today because I got through yesterday and so far I'm getting through today. And like the ginko with its odd quirkiness, my life is full of the unexpected: unanticipated urgent needs from my family experiencing sickness and other trials, concern about my son's welfare when he's studying half a world away.

So I take time right now to thank the Lord for his grace that sustains me, for his word that lights my path, and for all the wonderful gifts he lavishes on us, including ginkos.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why blog?

We blog to hear ourselves thinking as much as to share our thoughts. When I look back at what I've written, it's like revisiting that moment, relearning the lesson, remembering...

I've been helping one of my children to work through some sensitive family relationships. It's been painful for both of us to assess what needs to be said, or not said, but mostly for my son to work through that situation.

Today the Mass readings were about Elijah being renewed by God, fortified with food and water to journey on to Horeb and continue God's work with the Israelites.

When the consecration took place a few minutes after this reading, the elevation of the sacred bread reminded me of the hearth cake that Elijah was given to eat. How blessed we are that Christ makes himself available in the Eucharist to us every day...sustenance for our journey.

Elijah was given water to drink. Why then do we receive wine, Christ's blood? To remind us of God's mercy in offering his life for us.

We, too, are fortified for the day's journey but it doesn't end there because we are called to feed and have mercy on those present in our lives.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday mornings do this to me...

I had a good talk with my husband yesterday evening and while I was sitting in church today some more thoughts came to mind. Our large congregation includes many young families. Most Sundays my attention to the service is interspersed with noticing the children's antics and parents doing their best to love and care for them.

In our backyard I have had a flower garden for many years. There are a few annuals and many perennials, including an area of nameless (because I've forgotten what they're called) "volunteer" plants which have seeded themselves year after year. At this stage of the summer they produce small flowers that are pumpkin-shaped and vivid orange.

Yesterday as I was deadheading some of my flowers, I broke off one of the little jack o'lanterns just to enjoy its shape and texture. It has a papery skin and when you break through it, there is empty space with a small globe inside. The globe is moist and full of seeds. I was struck by the beauty of its design and simplicity of its life cycle.

As I moved through my garden, cutting some things back for fall, I noticed that many of the flower varieties that have finished blooming are now drying out and looking dead. What's not apparent is that they are hard at work producing seeds for next year's growth. Nature overcompensates in this regard. Many more seeds are produced than ever grow into plants.

Human life parallels plant life in this respect; abundant seed in both man and woman produces a relatively small number of new human beings.

My husband and I had been talking about human life and the Father's infinitesimal knowledge of and deep personal love for each of us...even those of us who never taste life on earth.

The readings today were about being sustained by God's generous gifts--manna, loaves and fishes, sacrificial giving. The abundance evident in nature and human life is reflective of God's generosity, who not only gave us life but also walks with us as companion through our days.