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"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

 

New radio time - Monday at 7:15 am (tomorrow)

Laura DeMaria

Folks, my Friday time slot on Morning Air got rescheduled to tomorrow morning, Monday, October 28 at 7:15 am. You can still listen live in the app, on your radio, or via live streaming in the player located here. We’ll be talking about my recent article on loss.

This morning was the White Mass at the Cathedral. This is celebrated every year in honor of those with disabilities, in recognition of the same divine calling we all have in Christ. White is to “symbolize the dignity shared by all who have been baptized into Christ’s body.”

I sat with the L’Arche community over by the choir and the big, grand organ. During the consecration Charles reached out from his pew and held my hand. Andrew decided to sit next to me, asked me and Meredith to shake hands, and then held my own for some time. I saw Johnny give freely to the collection, and a few core family members gently received communion on the tongue when Fr. John came to them in their pew. At the end, Francine hopped up to dance beside the choir as they sang.

The really big thing that L’Arche and my time with the intellectually disabled has taught me, so far, is how simple relationships are. And of course, how much we all desire relationship. Neither Charles nor Andrew had any question in their heart about being with me; they just reached out. The exchange of love from a disabled person doesn’t come with strings or premeditation. And it’s often a really big love - big hugs, big exclamations of joy. I am not saying every relationship in our lives needs to be this way, but that I think I learn something from the unpremeditated, trustful gift of self I have witnessed in L’Arche.

Something else coming up this week: All Saints Day; All Souls Day. Two things to mention: the thing about All Saints that always gets me is that it’s celebrated in honor of all saints, known and unknown. I am sure I have written about this somewhere (I cannot currently locate), but the idea of unknown saints is fascinating to me. Think of all the martyrs the world is oblivious to, or the devout widows who died alone in poverty, or the saintly man who never left his village and is therefore unknown to the world. And they’re with God, and they’re praying for us!

For All Souls, because I have been thinking about purgatory a lot (and how the souls there can apparently only pray for other people and not themselves), I am particularly interested in the tradition of visiting graves on All Souls and praying for the dead. Distinctly Catholic, eh? There’s an indulgence associated with that. I read somewhere that the practice of visiting cemeteries and praying for the dead (especially holy souls in purgatory) should be taught to children because, well, one day we may need those children’s’ prayers when we are passed on.

All the holy souls in purgatory, pray for us.

See you tomorrow on the radio.

Saturday thoughts

Laura DeMaria

Two things to mention this Saturday morning: one is that the novena to St. Jude starts today, per Pray More Novenas. St. Jude, as you probably know, is the patron saint of lost causes. I can think of a few of those. Please pray for me, and I will pray for you.

The other thing is, there is wonderful hubbub around the canonization of Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman, which occurred a week ago, which means I am learning much about him. The more I learn about this man, the more I love him, and his very ordinary, but brilliant spirituality. It has been noted that he was not a mystic, a stigmatist, or anything like that that would mark him as somehow different. In fact, he was very much the proponent of holiness achieved through commitment to doing the ordinary extraordinarily well.

From Fr. Matt Fish, Cardinal Newman wrote: “Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time; and you are already perfect.”

This also leads me to the thinking I have been doing about how lay people can (and must) have an order to life, just as those in religious life do. I am reading St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life and think Newman would agree with him on many points.

Bishop Barron has featured Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman in his “Pivotal Players” series and between now and October 31, you can catch the full one-hour episode for free here. It is simple and impactful in that Bishop Barron way - definitely recommend.

Have a very glorious weekend.

The Art of Losing (is really about trusting God)

Laura DeMaria

Hi everyone,

As promised, my latest article for Catholic Stand is up now. It’s called “The Art of Losing is Really About Trusting God,” and came about after some reflection on the emotions that can come up with loss: confusion, grief, anger, self-pity. And, how important it is to reframe our emotional/mental approach to loss by asking the right questions of ourselves and God, and by ultimately turning the matter over to Him and even praising and thanking Him, despite those feelings. (Like Blessed Solanus Casey said: Thank God ahead of time.)

Within the first few hours of it being posted, I received two comments; one a simple “thank you,” and the other a brief explanation of that reader’s own experience with loss and grief. As I state in the opening sentences, loss of all sorts is a fundamental part of the human experience, and one which we must all deal with. Receiving these comments so quickly affirms that.

And of course, I always like the opportunity to work in one of my favorite poems.

I will also be joining Morning Air next Friday, October 25 at 7:30 am eastern to discuss this topic. If you don’t have access to Relevant via traditional radio, you can stream the show live by opening up the live player here.

Enjoy!

“The Art of Losing” is Really About Trusting in God

We all experience loss throughout our lives.  It is an inevitable part of the human experience.

In the poem “One Art,” poet Elizabeth Bishop talks about “the art of losing.”

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”

She recommends in mastering this “one art” that one begin with small things: lost keys, or a wasted hour. Move on to larger things: a house, a city, a continent. And, finally, she admits that eventually losing one’s beloved isn’t so difficult – not even a disaster.

“­­­­­­–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”

Loss is a guaranteed part of life. You may lose your job, the dog, an estranged family member, a box of photos, the house you grew up in, your wife, your child’s artwork, or even the friendship you thought you’d always have. The important thing is to deal with the loss directly in a way that places it fully in God’s hands – to remove your own ego, and turn it into an opportunity to learn greater trust and reliance on God, and the truth of His unchanging love for you.

Jonah learns about loss

 In early October, the story of Jonah was part of the first readings at Mass. Jonah is the reluctant prophet who “rejected his divine commission” to go to Nineveh and ended up in the belly of the whale. It’s a rich story, very illuminating and human in Jonah’s response to what is asked of him and how he suffers through a perceived experience of loss.

After spending three days in the belly of a whale, Jonah is finally on the road to Nineveh. He preaches repentance to the Ninevites, as God commanded. But, he is still pouting.

“Jonah then left the city for a place to the east of it, where he built himself a hut and waited under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city.”

But God is patient, and he does something nice for Jonah.  He makes a gourd plant rise in the night over Jonah’s resting place to provide shade. We learn that, “Jonah was greatly delighted with the plant.” But in a turn of events, God sends a worm to destroy the plant, followed by burning winds, both of which are enough to cause Jonah to say, “I would be better off dead than alive.” To him, loss is death.

A right to be angry?

God responds to Jonah:

“But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry over the gourd plant?”

“I have a right to be angry,” Jonah answered, “angry enough to die.”

“Then the LORD said, “You are concerned over the gourd plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished.”

As I read those words for the first time, they went straight to my heart. You are concerned over the plant which cost you no effort and which you did not grow; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. Is this not the truth of everything we have? Every single thing in our life is a gift from God – marriage, siblings, a career, a house, a beautiful singing voice, the clothes in our closets. And it could all be gone in an instant.

But the greatest of these gifts, and the only truly permanent one, is His love. You and I have done nothing to earn God’s love, and yet it is the one thing we can never lose.

Turn it over to God

Do you really think Jonah is actually mad enough about a dead plant to wish his own death? It is more likely that he feels the loss of his own sense of control. He is indignant that God will not bend to his will. He has lost something truly good – can’t God see that?

Similarly, there is an underlying sense of self-blame in Bishop’s poem, hidden by the cavalier tone. This makes sense. We are naturally hard on ourselves, and if the person we love moves away, we often feel that we could have done something to prevent the loss.

The only option is to release this sense of control back to God.

The opportunity within loss

On a recent episode of Bishop Barron’s Weekly Homilies podcast, he shared a question he frequently hears from non-believers, which is that, if God exists, why does He allow suffering? Bishop Barron says that among the answers is the fact that it is possible that God will bring good from the bad.

I think of people who lose their house in a hurricane and devote their lives to helping others who lose everything in natural disasters. Or families who lose a loved one to a certain disease and start a foundation to find a cure for the disease.

People like this are able to see past the tunnel vision caused by loss, to a future of hope. Even if you don’t rebuild a city or find a cure, taking the time to be with Jesus in your loss, and building that trust in Him, becomes a profound opportunity for spiritual growth.

Rather than respond to loss with anger and despair as Jonah did, or with flippancy as Bishop does, I believe Jesus asks us to respond to loss with these questions:

  • Do I believe I am in control, or is God?

  • What is God’s will in this?

  • How do I align my will to God’s, rather than asking Him to align to mine?

  • Am I willing to forgive, as Jesus has forgiven me?

Our task is to learn to love and accept God’s will, even when its meaning is unfathomable, even when it is, after all, a disaster.

Prayers for letting go

Prayer is essential to overcoming loss. The serenity prayer says, “God, give me the grace to accept the things I cannot change.”

Job, who experienced incredible loss, responded by saying, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed by the name of the Lord!” (Job 1:21) Job is not only able to accept God’s will utterly, but goes on to praise him in the same breath! We could do well to meditate on these words in prayer during our own experiences of loss.

Mary can also understand your loss. There is a devotion to Nuestra Senora de La SoledadOur Lady of Solitude. Mary is in solitude following the death of her Son, Jesus. Tell her what your own loss feels like.

There are also the simple, wonderful words to pray, “Jesus I trust in you.” You may not trust Jesus in that moment, but I truly believe that praying it nonetheless will get you there. St. Ignatius assures us that in times of spiritual desolation, one must in fact double down on prayer and not let “the enemy of our human nature” use his lies to separate us from the true love of God. Stay the course.

I recently came across this quote from Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman: “God will give us what we ask, or He will give us something better.” I pray for all experiencing loss, that we may receive the grace to believe this, and to live with gratitude to God for all he has given us.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!