The last Utterance

Catholic Priests & religious throughout the world pray five times a day. Whether you are a nun or the Pope, five times a day, we pray the same prayers. It is one of the many things that unites us as Servants to the Body of Christ.

The last prayer of the day is:

May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.

Thankfully, God continues to grant me the former, and not the latter!

It’s such a simple, and yet powerful moment, this the last utterance of the day. I have been saying this prayer since Seminary, twenty-five years so far, and it’s meaning and power are never lost on me.

It is an amazing experience! Every day, my sister and brother clerics and I are so willing to bear our souls so completely to God’s will and direction. Whether we wake up here to serve another day or wake up in Heaven, in God’s warm embrace- that we welcome the outcome without reservation.

Sort of brings me to ground. Reminds me that, regardless of where I am or what I am doing, at the end of the day, it’s up to God what happens next.

Sometimes, we need that reminder. Often a hard thing to admit- that we can so easily get ahead of ourselves, forgetting our true nature- our purpose driven life, and focus on ourselves- who we think we are, and all too often- who we want other people to think who we are.

A self-serving life is not a life of sacrifice and service to others.

Grant me a peaceful death takes on new meaning.

Grant me the peaceful death of my self-serving ego; my consumerism, and my self-centered ideal.

Grant me the peaceful death of my self-portrayal of personal importance, my self-aggrandizing, and my poor behavior.

We should all beg for the death of that person within us, so what when we awaken after the restful night we prayed for, we can be renewed, wiped clean, and ready to be Servants of God… and each other.

Grant me a peaceful death.

My Funny Hat

14 years ago today, I laid prostrate in front of the Altar of God. When I rose, I was a successor to the Apostles- a Bishop in Christ’s One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

Have I done a good job? Maybe… I won’t know until I see our Lord face to face.

Have I tried my best? Yes. Have I failed? You better believe it.

Am I done? No. Is God done with me? Doubtful.

The best part of being a Bishop is all of you. Your work is the church! Without each of you, there would be no flock for me to shepherd.

If that were the case, I’d just be another old man sitting in a field, wearing a funny hat.

Thank you all for keep me from looking like an idiot… Although, God does protect the foolish!

God Bless you all.

Oh, Gregorio!

My all time favorite ancient piece of Sacred Music is “Miserere Mei Deus” written by Gregorio Allegri . It was written in the early 1600’s for performance only in the Sistine Chapel, with an imposing threat of excommunication of anyone who attempted to make a copy.

In 1770, Mozart was in the Eternal City. Heard the piece performed twice, and in his brilliance, transcribed it note for note, word for word, all 14 minutes of it. The first unauthorized copy of the piece – he left with his Catholicism in tact.

This work is generally considered a prime example, and one of the most recorded pieces of late Renaissance music. It is based on Psalm 50, and is always sung in the presence of the Holy Father on Maundy Thursday.

This isn’t a song for a community sing along! In fact, it takes 2 choirs to sing it.

Why the music history lesson? Well, I was so pleasantly surprised on Ash Wednesday while attending Noon Mass at the Basilica that their choir, split in two and placed at different places within the Great Upper Church sang this amazing piece for us.

When I saw it in the worship leaflet, I leaned over to my son and said “be prepared for tears.” I cannot hear this song and not cry.

It bring me to a profound sense of the divine. My mind takes flight, brings me to a place where I focus only on prayer and supplication- to a place where, my soul resonates with the music.

Good music should be heard by the ears, processed by the mind, and sung by the soul, thus joining us to the choir of Angels in Heaven. Well written, expertly performed with instruments only finely tuned by the hand of God, music should always move us to a sense and awareness of the Creator, His Son and His Mother.

Music makes us better people- and better Christians.

In the 1700’s, playwright William Congreve, in his play The Mounring Bride, coined the phrase, “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast.” True words from British Neoclassical Period.

Music does sooth us! We meet through music, we fall in love with and through music, we breach divides with music, music engages our soul, mind, and heart. Music provides a background of sorrow and celebration for our lives.

And most of all, we sing prayers of thanksgiving to God through music.

Oh Gregorio! Thanks for helping me sing to God.

Amen

A Rare Evening at Prayer

It was raining- pretty steadily the other night. In spite of the dismal effects a cold winters rain has on many of us, it was the perfect setting for some reflective music, candle light, some reading and meditation.

… oh, and a visit from long past relatives.

My house is rarely quiet. Between my husband, 2 of my 4 sons living with us, a good friend couch surfing and the cat’s ruling over us all, it is indeed rare that I have the whole place to myself (well, the cats… but you know what I mean) so I decide to take advantage of the solitude.

So, I lit some candles, put on Gregorio Allegri (starting with Miserere Mei Deus of course!) and dive into a new book Amazon brought me that day.

The book, “A Book of Uncommon Prayer- 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary” written by Brian Doyle, was not at all what I was expecting.

It’s reflections had titles like “Prayer of Thanks for Good Bishops, as Opposed to Meatheads who think they are important.” & “Prayers in Celebration of Brief Things, for example, Church Services.”

Thank heaven for the Gregorio, or I may have chucked the book into the bin.

I then read a reflection that brought my soul into harmonious refrain with the Gregorio, and the choir singing it – which happened to be my relatives, long gone home to sleep in Christ, waiting for the Eternal Easter.

Prayers for Women named Ethel, and Men named Elmer, for We Will Not See Their Likes Again.

It speaks to these “cool, hoary names like that that reek of American character and dignity and hard work and laced dollies on Sunday before the Roast. For all the brave though quiet generous unassuming souls who came before us and built this country and built our cities and farmed our generous land and raised their children and never asked for much except the chance to breath free and love widely. “

And I wept.

I wept because in that description, I saw all my childhood memories in an instant. Names like Rose, Naomi, Edith, Albina, Eva, Antoinette, Francis, William, Mary, Otlie, Donald, Eleanor, Harold… all so fresh in my mind. They were homemakers, farmers, blue collar factory workers, truck drivers, railroad men and construction workers, living the small town American Dream, and more importantly, contributing to who I am today.

The reflection continued… “… their rough, worn hands and their seamed leathery faces that endured allot of a lot of weather and war and pain and loss but they kept working anyway.”

These passages remind me of my entire life back in small town Connecticut. It reminds me of my family, whose presence I felt with me in this dark, cold winter rain. Despite the conditions, I was warm, I was being embraced, and I was reminded of the deep love that family brings to us.

My thoughts then turned to the reflection in my mind- to the family I have. 4 wonderful, amazing sons. My wonderful relationship of 15 years, and our close, close friends who are also family. In each of them, I see my relatives.

As I reflected on my present day family experience, I see my relatives long gone, but ever present. Their examples passed to me are reflected in those who I pass along their wisdom, stories, and love, and I see the effect that ripple in the ancestral pond. That realization, until that night, was lost on me.

And I weep. I weep with sadness for those faces I can no longer touch and the laps I can no longer sit on. I weep for the loss of the farming lessons I will no longer receive, and how good a tomato plucked from the vine and immediately eaten has a taste that is truly indescribable.

I weep for the long gone family Christmas Eve, the every-pasta-ever-consumed for the first 25 years of my life came from a kitchen and not a box, and attending Mass every Saturday evening, 5th pew on the left, with scowls at the ready if some visitor took our pew. Oh, Saint Barnabas- what you must have thought!

I also weep with joy. Sunday Mass with the kids. Family dinners and trips, and truly the most amazing bond we all share.Watching them each grow into their relationships and the people they choose to bond with. I revel in joy that they are all in public service, working to help others in their hour of need.

This was such a cathartic experience for me truly. Thanks to my passed on family, for in that exact moment, you reminded me how you aren’t gone from my life, but that you define it.

The reflection ends, “For those names, which are mere sounds and handles, but mean so much to so many. And so: Amen.”

Indeed.

May God Bless you all.

The wedding crasher…

Recently, I attended a wedding party/reception (but not the actual wedding as it was in Ireland) and there was a wedding crasher of the most unusual sort.. and of course it was meant for me.

I met a very pleasant young man, who was there with his wife, who is a colleague of the groom– lawyers most of them in attendance (this is DC after all- you can’t swing a dead cat without… you know the rest) except this guy: you see, he is a priest.

Well of course, I can’t stop myself in mentioning that I too, am a priest- retired I assured him surely, and we exchanged small talk while waiting in line for the buffet. I certainly could have said, “I’m an ambulance driver” or something and that’s where it would have ended- but not today, and not for me.

We became completely disconnected from the entire reception, each of us casting aside our spouses for the good part of 90 minutes- literally sitting in the middle of the saloon on chairs, all but oblivious to everyone else, engaged in what our spouses and friends laughingly joked was “shop talk.”

Well, it got real…

We talked about the nature of sin, the current environment of “Fearful Christians” and what does it take to get Christians to “Stand up and Look up.” We discussed the state of the church catholic, the pope, gay marriage, female ordination.. the whole gambit.

It was a very deep conversation.. my brain hurt. Not in the “ouch too much tequila and too little memory pain” but in the stretched my brain to places it hasn’t gone in a while pain. Definitely took her out for a good ole run around the block.. it was a good ache, one I have not experienced in a long while.

After we returned to our spouses, I realized how much social justice we were surrounded by in this pub, which donates all it’s profits to open small schools in the 3rd world- 18 to date as I recall. I then realized that even in the midst of the examples of this socially responsible business, we priests had missed something, and it made me ponder what the evening meant.

In the midst of our deep conversation, surrounded by the reminders of social justice mission work, all the other attendees went to eat at the top floor of the bar (think loft space etc.) so there we were, two priests, talking about mission, ministry, lost souls, and getting people to stand up, in this room all alone; or so I thought. You see, off in the corner there was a young man… in a wheelchair… all alone.

It wasn’t until we were done talking and returning, him to his wife, and me to my husband, that we realized this young man was left all alone in a room full of people, seemingly forgotten- even by the priests who spent ninety minutes lamenting the fear Christians hold onto, which makes it too difficult for them to  stand up.

So, I have been pondering this experience all week and what it means. Some of my priest friends feel that events like this are reminders to me of my priesthood and that I should come out of my self-imposed retirement. I’m not so sure. More often than not, I feel God brought me into ministry, and then showed me it was time to step aside.  These reminders of my Christianity are very important to me, and I am certainly open to the gentle wake of the Holy Spirit as it moves through my soul- but I think my time as a true spiritual guide have passed. Still, all in God’s time.

Oh.. almost forgot.. that wedding crasher.. well, I guess I’m not sure. I thought, in my self-centered, self-aware, self-importance ego that the crasher was the Holy Spirit- there to upset my apple cart.

But maybe, The Holy Spirit was there all along, and the man in the wheelchair was his company to keep.

And just maybe, I was the wedding crasher.

May God give you peace…

M.