The Holy Family
I am thinking about family today. Two years ago today (2012) my father-in-law (memory eternal) passed away, with my husband and middle son sitting at his side. It was a very sad event for all of us, because he was relatively young and the disease of cancer took him so very quickly. It was important to my eldest son and his wife that they be there, to introduce their newborn son to his great-grandpa, even if it was on his deathbed. It was a transcendent moment in so many ways. I remember about 28 years ago when my son, around the same age, was sitting with his great-grandfather as he lay dying. And it was repeated a generation later. We mourn the loss of my father-in-law today; my husband most especially. But my sons feel the loss deeply, as their grandpa was such a big part of their childhood and growing up. We have so many wonderful memories spent together as a family. Memory eternal, Joe.
In today’s reading, Christ speaks to the women who are following Him on his way to the Cross. “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me; weep instead for your children, for indeed the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'” (Luke 29:28-30) Today, as I was contemplating our family and our losses, when I read this, I also mourned all the children we have lost to miscarriage (there are seven in all). As I lamented the loss of my babies, I also feel blessed for not having a lot of children. That sounds odd, but being barren for most of my marriage has given me a heart for other women who cannot have children; a heart for those who have lost children in miscarriage as I have; a heart to adopt (which we did); and a heart for those mothers who lose their children later in life, and who go before their parents (disease, accident, war). It is difficult to comfort a mother who grieves the loss of a child.
Today online there has been much chatter about Ukraine and Russia. What is going to happen? Who is going to do what? The Russians moved troops? And I could not help but think of the grieving families in Ukraine, but also in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Africa, and in South America. There are so many “hot spots” around the world right now ( if I missed one, apologies). We mothers never stop being mothers, regardless of the age or independence of our children. And I worry for all those who must put on a uniform and bear arms against others. I do not want mothers to grieve over the loss of children to war, or any other cause. Is it truly the time when we will be happy we have never had a child, as Christ predicted? A friend sent me a link today to a Catholic organization (or movement or group…not sure how to categorize it) dedicated to just that, the “final battle.” And I thought, “Wow. Has it come to this? Are we really preparing for that last war?”
Great Lent is just about upon us. For me, Lent is a time when I come into a more simple, basic relationship with God. And for me, that works best when I strip away things that keep me from focusing my attention on God. During Lent, I work extra-hard on taking down those things that place a sort of blockade between me and God. The Church has us focus on food during Lent – why? Some far better bloggers than I am have tackled that today. What I took from them is that food is our original passion: Adam and that darn apple. What we choose to consume feeds a baser desire within us. Food and eating is an intimate act for a person. We have desires for food and quite often we are unable to separate our desires for satisfaction in our lives for satisfaction with eating habits. I am overweight, and for me, that means I have issues somewhere within myself that cause me to turn to food, when I should turn to something else, like prayer. So for me, Lent is an opportunity to tame a disordered part of my life and bring it into order. I try to really fast. This year my husband and I are digging in our heels and being stubborn. Last night he chose to not get dessert for the family while at the grocery store. A small, fasting-led, victory over our base-passions. (We will take all the victories we can get!).
During Lent, we are also asked to participate more fully in the life of the Church. We will be dedicating ourselves to attending as many prayer-evenings, parish functions, and community get-togethers as we can. We are also dedicated to simplifying the technology in our lives. Not as much TV, computers, music, iPods, and iPhones. We will be substituting spiritual reading in place of technology; or just being together, quietly, as a family.
And with all of this paring-down, cutting-back, and increased periods of quiet, I will think of those I miss of our family. I will pray for all our family members who are no longer with us; I will pray for my babies, already in heaven and waiting for me. I will pray for all those lost because of war, famine, and other disasters around the globe. And in the quiet, I will pray that this is not the “final war” that is spoken of in whispers. I will pray that my daughters-in-law will not weep for their children, nor I for mine. I pray that God will grant the world a respite from all the ugliness that is encompassing it. And when I see those first buds of spring flowers poke their heads over our snow-covered yard, I will once again smile. Spring itself seems like it is God’s promise of tomorrow. Perhaps all the quiet, the simple fare eaten, the time spent in prayer and reading, will lead me to a greater love for God and His desires in my life, because I think I can hear Him much easier in a quieter, simpler, less-cluttered life.
And this year, for the first time, I am organizing and really planning our family Easter Basket. The tradition of a family basket is shown in the artwork above; a Russian village is waiting for their baskets to be blessed. We will be preparing the foods and other items to go into our basket and I am so very excited – I ordered and received our basket cover! (It is so pretty – thank you Matushka Anita, for making it for me). I am looking forward to the preparation and assembly of our basket. And, rather than argue about what each person does, what they eat or don’t eat, I am focusing on my own spiritual renewal and re-commitment to my faith during Lent, and the plans for a joyous Easter celebration. Perhaps there will come a day when I weep for my children, or my grandchildren: I pray that it is not in my lifetime. For me, now, there is much to look forward to, and this time of Lent is preparing us for our future, our moment of Spring and sunshine, flowers blooming and birds chirping, and a nice roast cooking for dinner!
Memories eternal to Joe and Frank, our fathers who left us for their blessed repose.