Of Saints and Sufferers

Today, if you were to visit a certain cathedral in the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily in the country of Italy, you might remember the 7th century St. Zosimus, who was the

bishop of Syracuse for 40Imageyears or so. I, however, was not in Syracuse gazing up at this impressive facade, but inside a chilly church vestibule in western Massachusetts sitting at a table with a small pile of books.

I remembered St. Zosimus, though, as today is his feast day. As some of you might know he is also Tim’s Confirmation patron, and I had ample time to think about both Tim and Zosimus today as I sat at my book table in between Masses, surrounded by a laptop playing the book trailer and a poster-sized copy of the book cover. I had some folks amble over to take a look at my display and sold a few books.

More importantly, though, I met four families who are still in various stages of grief over the loss of their sons. They each had a different story to tell and had found different ways of coping. Each parent, though, had a sustaining faith in God that bolstered them in the dark days. Sometimes it is only possible to muddle along, to pull the shades and pray as one woman said, but the prayer to a loving God who is always there and who loves the little babies, the depressed ones and those sweet men in the grip of addictions outweighs the heavy, pressing down of sadness.

Tonight I pray with the Holy Spirit for peace for all the families and I beg of Tim and Zozimus the grace of remembrance. May they and all those who live in the presence of the Most High rain down on us all the gift of perseverance and of lasting joy.

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Thoughts on a Snowy Day

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It is snowing again. Not surprising for winter in New England. Thankfully I have no place to go today and I can enjoy the beauty from my window and later experience it more personally outside with my shovel.

We are still awaiting the repair on Andy’s truck to be completed which means I have been without a vehicle for many days in the past month. I have tried to use the homebound time to good purpose, finishing up some long-postponed projects and finding others buried under piles.

One little sewing job that I accomplished last week might strike the average person as a bit unusual. I pulled out an envelope from the wooden trunk of Tim’s mementos and found the plain white envelope marked, “Tim’s last haircut”. At the funeral home before securing the top of Tim’s casket, Andy snipped a little clump of hair to save as a family relic. As Tim’s barber it was fitting that he be the one to perform this last service.

In the weeks following the funeral I had made a little brown cloth rectangle to house some of the hair and attached it to my brown scapular so I would have a little piece of Tim close by. For those familiar with the concept of saintly relics in the Catholic tradition, perhaps it does not seem too odd. I lost the last relic, though, sometime in the past year and so set about making a new little cloth envelope to house another few pieces of hair.

I find hand sewing very relaxing and if the house is quiet it provides the perfect moment for meditation. I thought about how dear our family is to us and how deeply we miss those who “have gone before us marked with the sign of faith”.

Pondering this train of thought a bit I remembered a little boy in a Boston hospital that we were praying for. Emails had gone out and were sent around asking others to pray for young Matthew. We could all put ourselves in the place of the parents in their concern for their suffering child.

Later when we heard of Matthew’s death, we all mourned, despite the fact that we had never met this lively ten year old. As a child of God he was another brother, son or friend we had never had the privilege of knowing, but whom love compelled us to pray for.

I remembered the weeks after our son Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was seven. With no internet then, I made phone calls and sent our postcards to all those on my Christmas Card list begging for the help of their prayers. Everyone was generous, even those who did not know our family. In the attic I still have a box of construction paper pages that children in Argentina made, lettering on them the little sacrifices that they would make for Paul’s recovery.

The prayer of intercession is a necessity for us; part of the design of Christ who admonished us to “love one another as I have loved you.” It is one of those essential components of Christianity without which we cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven. Think of intercession as the act of a spiritual “Good Samaritan”.

In a biography called, Edith Stein, Modern Saint and Martyr, Joanne Mosley writes that St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross saw intercession as hospitality. She was moved by the plight of the Jewish people in Nazi occupied countries; her people. She considered the Old Testament witness of Queen Esther standing before King Ahasuerus and begging for the deliverance of the Jews. As Esther stood before the King in her bravery, Edith would stand before God interceding that doors of hospitality be open to them. But it was not physical intercession or hospitality that she could offer, but spiritual.  We open up the doors of our hearts to others with the prayer of intercession.

Here is Joanne Mosley explaining:

When Edith stepped out of the parlor, she had welcomed her visitors into ‘the lodgings of [her] heart’; then, before the tabernacle, she handed them over, taking them ‘home to  [her] Saviour’s heart’. And so the chain would continue, Jesus handing over to the Father in turn: ‘He fetches you home to his Father’s kingdom.’ Intercession is hospitality. It is always in movement, it never stops at our door. For our hearts are only ‘lodgings’, temporary shelters on the path to God, our true home. It has been rightly said that without God, we will always be homeless.

In the end, this particular meditation comes back to Tim once more as I set down my needle and thread. It was the poor, little homeless orphans that held Tim’s heart’s door open to intercession.

Dear God,

If you know of any orphans, guide them to homes where people are to take care of them. If there are any around here (Do you know of any orphans around here, Mom?) send them to our house. Help us find space for them and money to buy their clothes and help the prices of food to be low so people could buy food for them.      Amen.

This is how I see Tim begging with the little birdseed of his prayer:

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Another Sad Day in January

January 22nd is always a sober day in which to remember the millions of lives that have been lost since the legalization of abortion in 1973. The statistics themselves are staggering when we consider that close to 57 million babies have been aborted in the 41 years that followed the decision. I read today that the number of abortions in a year in New York City would fill the seating capacity of the Super Bowl stadium in New Jersey, close to 83,000.

It is indeed mind boggling. Yet we need to reflect upon the reality that each individual tiny person is an immense loss in and of themselves, not to mention the impact that they will never have on their families and on our wider society.

May God help us all and may there someday be a generation that will not have to ride buses all day and fill the streets of our nation’s capital with their marching to mark another sorrowful anniversary.

This video gives us a little history and also a little hope:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ylD7ajPflqo

 

 

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Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

( Or banged up trucks, leftover eggnog or bruised pears)

We are having some crazy winter weather, alternating between warm and rainy and cold and icy, with a little snow thrown in for good measure here and there. It makes the decisions about how many sweaters to put on in the morning difficult and it makes us more cautious drivers when we venture to go out.

Last week we had a warm and rainy on Monday and then when everything had turned liquid, a hard freeze the next day. You can imagine the roads. Our son Paul and his family made the trip safely up the hill for our annual Adoption Day celebration, but Andy hit a patch of black ice and spun out not far from home. There were no personal injuries, but the poor, new-to-us, shiny white truck now has some major dents and broken lights after colliding with a tree. Nick was riding with his grandpa and came back full of the experience with conflicting emotions of fear and excitement.

The accident didn’t spoil our traditional pizza and eggnog dinner, though, and we had a noisy family celebration in Tim’s honor. Nobody drank much eggnog and I have come to the conclusion that without Tim here we just might have to scuttle that part of the menu. I could be mildly upset at this, but instead found a recipe this week for a lovely yeast bread that featured eggnog and chopped fruit. Here’s where the bruised pears come in. As I had waited too long to make the poached pears, the fruit had gotten pretty sad looking, so they became the chopped pieces for my bread.

All this is fodder for my meditation as I think about how we use the difficulties and disappointments that come our way on a regular basis.

We could cry over the spilled milk, accidents and food spoiling in our refrigerators but then anger, frustration and loss of our sense of peace would result in our becoming bitter and ugly people and more importantly, destroy our ability to praise God and to thank him.

Have you ever tried to pray when you are angry and upset? It doesn’t go well. We also rub off our negativity on those around us destroying their peace as well. More trouble ensues.

Enter my favorite verse from Romans,

                    ” For those who love God, all things work together for good”.

                                                                                                                                8:18

If we can maintain our peace, despite the circumstances, we have a good shot of remaining in God’s love; keeping it uppermost in our minds and calmly waiting for the good to peek around the corner. Like the eggnog pear bread. It is wonderful toasted with a little melted butter spread thin.

I am still waiting to see how God will bring good from the accident. I am patient!

 

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The Genealogy That Counts

The 17th of December. Another anniversary to remember. This time it is the date in 1989 that we celebrated the Baptism of Timothy Andrew soon-to-be Montanaro. He wasn’t formally adopted yet, but we obtained the necessary permissions. It is just what you do when there is a matter so important.

The Gospel of this day, in the week that precedes Christmas, is always the same, and for us, so full of significance. We hear recounted from the beginning of Matthew, the 42 generations from Abraham to Christ. We hear the genealogy of Christianity, the family lines of each of us that have been baptized into the Body of Christ. It is a reading that cements our brotherhood with one another, with all the baptized.

In a few minutes I will brush the snow off the car and if the plow has been by I might have to shovel a bit at the base of the driveway. It is snowing lightly so I will drive a little slower for safety’s sake down the hill to Holy Trinity’s noontime Mass. When I stand to hear the Gospel proclaimed I will be thinking of all the brothers and sisters in the Communion of Saints that are part of our family. I will remember Tim with particular fondness today and all his family, those of us who called him son and brother and uncle, but also those who knew him as friend or who now call him brother and son in the Body of Christ. He is known to so many more now through the pages of the book of his life, and they are a far-flung family. Mary who lives near Boston, John in Virginia, Sue in Australia, Araceli in Germany and Julia in Tanzania, just to name a few.

What a cause for celebration and for that great Deo Gratias!

1 (40) - Copy

December 17, 1989

December 17, 1989

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Faith and Gratitude

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

                                                                                       Pope Francis, November 23, 2013 Homily

So began our Holy Father this morning in Rome, reminding us of the journey we began a year ago with our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus now. I hope many of us have rediscovered the value and beauty of our faith this year. I know that I have. As Thanksgiving approaches, I deepen my sense of gratitude for this inestimable gift which has unquestionably lifted me up through all my days.

I am also grateful for the the people that I have been able to share my faith with this year as a result of the publication of my book. I know that it was no accident that this happened in the Year of Faith. God’s timing is always impeccable! Drawn by curiosity or empathy or just a lovely cover, Tim’s life and our family’s faith have opened a door for them to take a look inside.

As we sit around the dinner table on Thursday we will be bowing our heads to thank God for drawing us to Himself, so that at the end of our days we might find that “happiness for which our hearts long”, Jesus Christ our Sovereign King.

 

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Making Connections

Today is Tim’s birthday. I did the usual things. Baked a cake, made pizza, went to Mass and had the family over for dinner. We always light the candles and sing even though the guest of honor isn’t there around the table. Physically, anyway. It was a happy day and I enjoyed seeing the sweet faces of our grandchildren and watching their smiles as they opened the little dollar store presents I had wrapped for them. The happiness broadens out upon reflection and brings to mind a large measure of gratitude that Tim had a birthday and that he was such an integral part of our family for his 15 years.

For the past several weeks I have been thinking about Tim’s approaching birthday and the significance of the day on which he was born. In the Church calendar November 18th is the memorial of the Dedication of the Churches of Peter and Paul. At first it seems unlikely that I could make any sort of a connection with Tim and this memorial. What could he have in common with two churches in Rome or the great apostles?

Really, though, each of us, Tim included, has a great dignity through our baptism into the Body of Christ and also a purpose that is involved in building up that body for the universal church. In each individual person that purpose differs according to their particular gifts and to the place they occupy in time and location. I think of Tim’s gifts of love and wonder and enthusiasm, of his simple faith that is now working in the apostolic realm as he becomes known to people far and wide. We each have a gift for the universal church simply by our being. I can make layers upon layers of connections if I but take the time to consider the question from one angle or another.

I have also been connecting Tim with another little one he never met; a baby on the other side of the world who just had time to be baptized, loved and hugged and held by his family for a few days and then quietly returned his spirit to the God who brought him into being. This little Thomas was born on November 9th, the feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran, the mother church of Rome and of all Christendom. Two children, two days recalling church dedications, but what connections are there beyond that?

Thomas, by his baptism, becomes just as important a member of the Body as Tim, though perhaps his purpose for the universal church is shrouded in mystery for the moment. Two boys, loved by two families, proclaim to the world that life is important, is valued, is precious. Two families, by remembering the birthdays give dignity to the lives that have ended this side of heaven and bring hope that a life well-lived can bring a restoration of all the family within the embrace of Jesus. There is more of a connection between Tim and Thomas and their building up of the universal church. Someday I will know it.

ImageHappy birthday boys!

 

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