I am sorry for the definite gap in my blog writing. While my ideas and drafts were abundant, I purposely shied away from writing until I had clarity of thought. I will express that I found the world moving quickly, changing at record speed, and unsettling. It wasn't easy to separate fact from fiction. Truth seemed to be gray and uncomfortably lacking in many areas. I was gravely disappointed in my Catholic leadership, and I hunkered down in my faith and trust in God, knowing that one can find peace in chaos.
My pilgrimage trip to Lourdes brought me back to the traditional Latin mass. In my journey, I explored religious communities such as the Fraternal Society of St. Peter (FSSP), the Institute of Christ the King, and other diocesan churches celebrating the Extraordinary form (the Latin mass) near my home and online. This adventure to my Latin roots wasn't easy, requiring new learning for high and low liturgy, Latin prayers and responses, and formal calendar feasts. However, I firmly believe that we can always learn at any age. I have found complete spiritual nourishment in returning to the Extraordinary Form, and the effort on my part was worth it. I would encourage you to explore this liturgy. You may be confused at first; however, my prayer is that you begin to see your role in the mystical body of Christ. I would encourage you to watch the film Mass of The Ages, which will help you with the historical changes of Vatican II and the profoundly spiritual reason for the Latin mass.
There is truth in the statement God closes one door and opens another, as there has been some opening and closing in my life. Firstly, while personally continuing to travel, though limited, I will no longer be offering pilgrimage tours and accompaniment. My new role as caregiver to recent grandbabies has increased, making long-term travel planning difficult. I have resigned from my hospital position at this time. This move was necessary, so I could be fully present to my sister and her family as we walked through the progressive state of my niece’s stage 4 brain cancer. These changes brought me back to finding balance. It is a reoccurring theme of finding grace to balance the suffering and loss I saw in the hospital and the joy of multiple infants growing and thriving. I realized how much I used physical exercise of walking, hiking, and gardening to grounding my prayer, sorting and digesting emotions and suffering. I encourage you to find how best to pray and take the time to understand your painful or knee-jerk reactions. Learn and explore what triggers you and how you react. Studying your responses can save you a lot of emotional trauma. I find journalling effective. I used to get hung up on "the proper way," but now I open a blank page, date it, and write away.
The beauty of journaling is that you can reread an older journal and see if you are writing about the same things. You may find the problem you wrote about doesn’t exist anymore. Good for you! You have released the emotional tie and power it had over you. Rip up the pages. You no longer need them. Sometimes you will find yourself going over and over the same situation and expressing the same emotion. When you see this pattern, stop and explore, for there is work to be done to untangle yourself from the feelings of the situation. All of this deciphering takes work and due diligence on your part. It would be best if you sat with yourself or a trusted third party and began to explore and come up with a plan for not going over and over the same situation again. In your prayer, ask God to show you directly what you need to do. It is a safe guarantee to say that you will need to make some changes, so get ready. Again many people do not want to change things which causes them to go around in the same circle of pain. My experience tells me to encourage you to make complex changes and see the beautiful outcome. Our Lord always wants our highest good, but He does require us to do the work of changing and fixing.
It is interesting to note that as I talk about life changes, November in the Catholic Church is the end of the Church calendar dedicated to the “Last Things” - death, judgment, heaven, and hell. While it is a time of remembrance of our departed loved ones, it is also a time to reflect on these four areas personally. It becomes a solemn time for me as I include deceased patients I have served along with beloved family and friends. This November was challenging as my niece and dear godmother died. This chaplain, who walks the way of suffering and death with others, provided comfort and accompaniment to her family. I reached out to my colleagues in my sorrow. I realized my chaplaincy doesn’t end with hospital employment but is an extension of who I am and how I see and interact in the world. It brought me close to the redemptive properties of suffering in our faith. Surprisingly the Lord put this dusty old copy of The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis in my pathway earlier this year. I would encourage you to understand how suffering is an essential and necessary part of the human condition and salvation.
As with life, the Church calendar begins again in December with the beautiful session of Advent, where we once again prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ child. Advent is penitential like Lent. Want to join me in fasting to cleanse and prepare the soul for the King of Kings? Wouldn't it be a lovely gift of self-sacrifice when the secular holiday indulges in spending, eating, and bustling?
Why fasting? Fasting is the backbone of our faith because of its spiritual benefits. God doesn't need us to fast. But we need to fast for the clarity it provides in the body, mind, and heart. It opens and empties the spiritual arteries (pardon the health field reference) in a way, a kenosis. It is creating a space to receive more of God's love. Adding an intention to the fasting, like the conversion of hearts, allows your spiritual practice to elevate in efficacy and join in man's redemptive suffering, which pleases God.
May God bless your families and our country abundantly this Thanksgiving.
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Mass of The Ages and the book title. Remember, you can always email me.