Life in the Face of Death

November 2, 2014 at 5:56 am

7 Camels.  20 Swami’s dressed in black carrying bundles of clothes on their heads, 3 burros, 3 wandering cows and a handful of beggars.  All part of a 30 minute drive forth and back from church this morning on All Soul’s Day.

The Church in India faithfully observes many of the devotions of the Church.  On All Soul’s Day, rosaries and masses are celebrated at the Catholic cemeteries in remembrance of those who have gone before us.  The Mass this morning included a long list of  departed family members for whom we prayed that God’s perpetual light might shine upon them.

Fr Pakieraj SJ shared many insights that emphasized how an understanding and awareness of our mortality can sharpen our experience of life.  We will live more fully and purposefully.  He mentioned with a smile visiting a local cemetery on All Souls Day that has an archway over the entrance that says:  Today for Them Tomorrow for You.

He also described  the mourning and grieving that he sees there including a spouse crying as she threw flowers on her husband’s grave.  How much better, he suggested, that we express such affection to our family members before they depart this life.   At the end of Mass, he sent us home with a homework assignment to sit with each other and quietly appreciate the other and the gift of our lives to one another.

He also mentioned the Jesuit spiritual exercise from the time of Ignatius where you use your imagination as you  lie down and imagine yourself as dead.  First, you lose the power to use your limbs, then hearing, sight, smell and taste disappear.  Your heart stops.  Then after 15 or 30 minutes, you wake up and are restored asking the Lord:  “  How will I use my life for you?  How will I use my lips, my tongue, my eyes, my feet for you?”

He also told the story of a woman recently hung in Iran for murdering a man who she said attempted to “violate her modesty.”  After enduring 7 years of jail and  trials in the court system, she wrote a note to her mother asking her to beg the courts to donate anonymously all of her organs to those in need.  A Muslim, she also wrote her mother that the judge, the attorney, the false witnesses would all be held accountable on that day that they appear before the Lord as she and  her mother would stand together in her innocence.

He used that story as a platform to emphasize our Christian belief that one day  like the Muslim woman and her mother we will all be together with Jesus and our loved ones in the afterlife.  In the meantime, he prayed that we might have a fantastic journey with Jesus in this life.

He also mentioned the Buddhist emphasis on the temporary nature of our existence; but he said, our life on earth is like blowing out a candle that lights the night but is no longer needed as the dawn of everlasting life with God breaks.  Death is no more than blowing out a candle that we no longer need in the Bright Light of our birth into heaven.

Let us remember in prayer our departed loved ones and heroes  this day who held candles for us to illuminate our lives and show us the way. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, priests, nuns, teachers, good friends.


Bird’s Nest in My Hair

November 2, 2014 at 5:52 am

A Hallow Eve reading From Courage to Change:

“Fear can become a power greater than myself.

I may not be able to make it go away.

But today, with a Higher Power who is greater than my fears, I don’t have to let them run my life or make my choices for me.

I can grab hold of my Higher Power’s hand, face my fears, and move through them.

Today instead of seeking relief from fear by trying to do battle with it, I will turn to my Higher Power.”

Some say that our brains are hard wired to expect the worst and be fearful.  As humans evolved, this instinctual fear enabled us to be alert and survive.  Some call it our “monkey brain.”   On top of this inclination, our life experience will give us more reason to be afraid.  As I experienced various dislocations and job changes over the course of my life,  fear became my dominant emotion and  likely ran my life from time to time.

Fear also creeps in ways that I do not even notice.  How often do I fear what other people think?  How many choices do I make so that I am accepted by others?  What items do I purchase?  What do I say or not say?  And doesn’t it all go back to the need to survive and perhaps listening to my monkey brain?

Rarely is life so stark or black and white.   I generally also had the habit of looking to The Higher Power, making conscious contact, and seeking guidance.  Yet,  I am sure that Fear frequently made it difficult for me to choose the better course or the higher good.

I know that at times I was aware of my fear, acknowledged it, saw it as a positive motivator, and followed its lead so that I and the family could be safe and secure.  Is this all bad?  As St. Paul says, “ All things work together for good for those who trust God.”    While being inordinately afraid is not good, fear is a god given emotion that in itself is not bad.

Of this I am certain,  there is much ambiguity and uncertainty in life.  John Dunne CSC encouraged  embracing understanding with your heart as opposed to thinking that you will find certainty with discursive reasoning.  Dunne is likely on to something there.  Even so, for me  trying to follow path of the heart’s desire does not erase the fog of decision making or guarantee that fear will not run my life.   Perhaps our hearts need a purity that is difficult to possess in this life of shadows, darkness and compromise?  Perhaps the path includes earthquakes, mud slides, and avalanches if we choose the wrong fork in the road?  Is there a wrong fork for those who seek  to choose in the light of truth?  Or may we think that we are on the path of our heart’s desire leading to God, but are not?

In the end, we may be in a bit of a fog from time to  time which forces us to recognize our need for God and our dependence on Her to help us find our way. For the past few weeks, I have been reading daily the following four quotes of Mother Teresa:

“If we really fully belong to God, then we must be at His disposal and we must trust in Him.  We must never be preoccupied with the future.  There is no reason to be so.  God is there.”

“Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”

“Don’t search for God in far lands—He is not there.  He is close to you. He is with you.  Just keep the lamp burning and you will always see Him.  Watch and pray.  KEEP KINDLING THE LAMP AND YOU WILL SEE HIS LOVE AND YOU WILL SEE HOW SWEET IS THE LORD YOU LOVE.”

“Today more than ever, we NEED TO PRAY for the LIGHT to know the will of God, for the LOVE to accept the will of God, for THE WAY to do the will of God.”

Living in the present moment, let us rest in God’s love in which we all swim.  May we see that we live and move and have our being in God.  We are grounded in Her Love.  It is very likely that we are free to choose our way and the Lord will bless our choices as we move toward fuller and deeper union with God.    Lord:  Reveal your love and mercy to us this day.  Let us know the Love that casts out all fear. Enable us to rest in your love.  Help us to “Be Not Afraid.”  May You rather than Fear be our Higher Power.

“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change.  But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”

  • Chinese Proverb