Sunday, February 18, 2018

Photo: Into the desert; tempted by wild beasts

Spirituality: “Shrove Tuesday” By: Henri J. M. Nouwen

Today the Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you in special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made at every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life which you have prepared for me. Amen.

Source: The Road to Daybreak, as found in Eternal Seasons: A Spiritual Journey Through the Church’s Year, pp. 97-98.

A beautiful soul

My mother was restful today largely because of the morphine she is being administered. While she has always been cold and needed to be covered by many blankets, todays she was covered only by a thin bed linen. The nurses covered her and she threw the blanket off of her. The medication is largely having a positive effect.

We talked for a while and she held my hand. She uttered many words but they often were inaudible and were incoherent. I just soothed her, held her hands, and ran my hands through her hair. She becomes a bit agitated if she takes off the oxygen tube from her nose. As soon as it is placed back on, she begins to calm down. The nurses and the hospice staff are doing a terrific job to make her feel comfortable. They are very tender to her.

We prayed the Lord's Prayer together and added in a few Hail Mary's and Glory Be's. I sang to her "You are my sunshine" because she sang it to me as a boy and she sang it to my sister for her death in 1999. My sister hung a poster on her bedroom wall that reads the title of the song. We just hummed it together as a lullaby.

It is striking how she seems like a newborn. She rests and sleeps and needs to be fed. She drank a bottle of Ensure from a straw. She was very thirsty and had some difficulty with the straw, but she found a way to drink 7/8's of the bottle. I think she could have taken more. After she drank it, she said, "I have to burp." "OK. You do that." I was afraid to rub her back because any touch on her body gives her pain, but I felt proud that she had most of her meal, just the way a parent is satisfied when a baby eats the entire jar of pureed carrots. It is satisfying to know that you meet the needs of the one who is vulnerable.

Just like a newborn, we are attentive to every movement she makes. We try to take care of her needs and we ask if she has pain. Fortunately, it was time for her to receive another dose of medication. After she received it, she was much more relaxed. She grasped my hand and nodded off.

Like an infant, she rests and sleeps. When she awakes, we are there to smile and to catch her eye. If she makes any movement, we are there to respond to her. Suddenly, my mother ceased to be my parent, but she became a beautiful soul on her ascent to God. She became a person on the last stage of her journey - a beautiful soul moving along the trajectory of life, and human life is a miracle.

Adults around newborns will make promises for the future life ahead of them. They realize how much they are gifts from God to a world in need of love, compassion, and kindness. At this stage of life, the same feelings of promise welled up within me, but it was not for the life that she lived, it was for the beauty and gratitude for her life and her life's strivings, and yet the promise was for the wonderful new life that is to come for her.

Just as parents of newborns soak the child with love that cannot be returned, this is a time to return the same type of love they once gave us. Parents of newborns gaze upon their child with wonder and admiration, just the way God gazes upon us in astonishment. It is like God is saying, "Look at you. You don't have to do anything or be anyone but yourself. Let me just gaze upon you and see your beautiful face. You have the most beautiful face and all I want to do all day long is to gaze upon you. You are a beautiful soul and you are mine." I wish many of us realized how much we are beloved by God.

Soon, Connie Costantini Predmore will return to the God who loves her deeply. God will take the beautiful soul that God gazes upon each day and will welcome her into his arms and will cherish her deeply. God will surely sing a lullaby and will say, "Welcome home, my daughter. I'm glad you are with me again."

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Photo: A Winter Wall

Spirituality: John Muir

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Photo: Pine Branch

Prayer: Thomas Aquinas

Give us, O Lord, steadfast hearts, which no unworthy affection may drag downward. Give us unconquered hearts, which no tribulations can wear out. Give us upright hearts, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may final embrace you.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Photo: Bouquet

Prayer: John Chrysostom

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works… Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.