beach basilica

IMG_3789

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. (Psalm 19)

I’ve visited many basilicas in my life, including the four major ones in Rome. They are gob-smacking, architectural monuments. Domes soar in the air with no visible support. Massive columns and statuary remind us of our own littleness, and the grandness of popes, bishops and saints. The glory of God sometimes competes with the glory of man.

I can still be moved with the beauty of our churches, cathedrals and basilicas. But, my heart yearns more and more for the glory of God in the heavens and firmament.

Hubby and I retired to the southern shores of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

(Manitoba is the province shaped like a mitt, smack in the middle of Canada. Lake Winnipeg is the largest lake, smack in the middle of the province. You can see it here.)

lake winnipeg

Our home is actually on a channel surrounded by marsh land, with water access to the main lake. Here’s a recent photo. The Canada geese were having a late evening practice run for their trip south. (With apologies to my friends in the south. The kaka bombers are coming!!!)

IMG_3331

We’ve been blessed with a glorious autumn. Here’s a view of the marsh on a late afternoon walk.

IMG_3709Southern winds have lowered the main lake levels in past weeks allowing more access to the shore lines. Hubby and I have been exploring beaches just minutes away by car. I fill my mind with mental pictures, and my camera memory with photos.

IMG_3674

I’ve told this story many times. Please forgive me for repeating it. Many years ago, a well-intentioned priest told us in a homily that the most important place to be in the world was inside the four walls of our church. His words angered me, and still do. Yes, our churches and church communities are important, but they are not the sole pathway to God.

In these early autumn years of my life, I am finding God more and more in daily life. People and places, relationships and creation form my sacramental moments.

And, in these glorious autumn days, the beach is my basilica.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. (Psalm 19)

 

 

empathy, gift and curse

Empathy is at the core of the moral life. Without empathy, a person is unable to make the mental and emotional transference to the other. For example, a psychopath is unable to feel the fear or the pain they are inflicting. Without empathy, we become self-centered to the extreme. We have no concern for the other. We cannot share their joys or their pain.

But, empathy comes with its burdens. Yes, we rejoice in the happiness of others. Their joy lightens our lives. It is the pain that sometimes becomes too difficult to bear.

And, yet…

It is precisely the burden of suffering that we need to share. When our shoulders are bowed by the weight of all, we reach out to friends and family to help us carry the grief. In turn, we offer our hands, our shoulders and our hearts to help carry the pain of others.

Empathy, if embraced too fully, can become the enemy of peace. Caring can become harmful worry. Instead of helping to carry the weight, we take on the full load and become overwhelmed ourselves. We lose our center.

We lose our peace.

We lose hope.

We become frozen in our helplessness, and are no good for others or ourselves.How do we find the balance we need?

There is a scene in the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar” when Jesus is overwhelmed with the crowds seeking his help, seeking cures and miracles. LEAVE ME ALONE! he cries. It’s a heart-wrenching wail of human angst. So, what does Jesus do?

The gospels tell us that Jesus often went seeking solitude. This was not to run away from or ignore the pain of others, but to replenish his soul, rejuvenate his own spirit. He went to pray, offering his burdens and those of others to the ONE who can handle the burdens of all.

Some of the kindest people I know, those with great empathetic hearts, are also faithful persons of prayer. Their love extends beyond their own circle, as daily they raise a litany of prayers for those in need of God’s grace and protection.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

(Matthew 11:28-30)

Pope: During Holy Week, ask which Gospel character you resemble | National Catholic Reporter

VATICAN CITY Preceded by young people and clergy waving tall palm branches, Pope Francis began his Holy Week liturgies by encouraging people to ask themselves which personality in the Gospel accounts of Jesus passion, death and resurrection they resemble most.”Where is my heart? Which of these people do I resemble most?” Pope Francis asked Sunday as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lords Passion.

via Pope: During Holy Week, ask which Gospel character you resemble | National Catholic Reporter.

Pope Francis was inviting us to enter into an Ignatian style of prayerful imagining. In the Passion story, who do you most identify with? For me, my heart, mind and gut are united with Mary.

My grand-daughter doesn’t like it when I call her my grand-baby. At the ripe age of 2 1/2, it insults her sense of maturity in relation to her one year old brother. I tried to explain to her that her daddy is still MY baby. “No, Grammy”, she argued. “Daddy’s not a baby!” It was useless trying to explain to her that the strapping young man who is now a wonderful husband and father will always be my baby boy.

One of the most glorious gifts of parenthood is rejoicing in all the accomplishments of our children, from first steps to graduations to careers to parenthood and beyond. One of the hardest aspects of parenthood is suffering with them through the many struggles of life.  As wee babies they stole your hearts and never gave them back. Their pain became your pain, and continues to be.

I resist pondering Mary’s agony as her son was tried, tortured, humiliated and finally put to a gruesome death. It is too much to bear. This was her baby boy, now grown and trying to fulfill God’s will in his life. How did Mary find the courage to stay beside him, to remain standing even at the foot of the cross when others had fled?  How does a parent survive the breaking of their own heart when they see their child suffer so?

Pope Francis, in his wisdom, knows that nudging us to enter into the gospel with our mind and heart can touch us more personally than soaring theological treatises or lengthy sermons. This is a powerful, yet simple exercise. What about you? Who do you identify with in the Passion readings?