Monday, April 30, 2012

A Most Unusual Funeral

A few weeks ago I received an email that really upset me.  It was about a funeral that was going to be held to bury the "unclaimed" dead in a city nearby.  The email explained that there were over 70 unclaimed dead that had never been given a proper burial.  I was so saddened by this email.  I couldn't imagine the number of "unclaimed" dead across our country if we had over 70 just in a nearby city.  How could this happen?

The email was not only asking for donations towards the funeral expenses, but inviting people to participate in their Christian duty by coming to bury the dead or by praying for them.  I quickly sent this email out to everyone I thought could and would help out---either financially or with prayers.  Then I added it to my calendar and shared the email with my husband and kids.  We added these unclaimed and those in other cities to our prayer list.

This email stuck with me for several weeks as I kept thinking about how awful it was for the families of these men and women not to have the finances to bury their deceased or how awful it was for the deceased not to have any family to bury them.  Over time, life got busy and my own problems pushed out the thought of this funeral and the unclaimed.

But in the week leading up to the funeral, our kids' Catechism lesson happened to be on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  When we began reading over the lesson, it hit me that we were going to have the perfect "field trip" to end this lesson.  I checked the calendar to find that we would be putting our learning into action right away.  The Holy Spirit had perfectly planned this for us to "practice what we preach."

Saturday morning rolled around, and Satan did his best to try to foil our plans.  Does he do that to any other family besides ours?  Anytime we try to get out the door to anything "holy," he slips into our house and causes chaos!  But when he does this, I know that whatever we are heading to must be really important to our spiritual growth.  The more chaos, the more I know we are supposed to be there.

We finally end up getting on the road later than planned with some unhappy travelers.  We had missed the rosary for these unclaimed souls, so we decided to say one on our 45 minute drive for those souls and for ourselves and the chaos the devil had caused in our home earlier.  The tears started to flow as I thought of how lucky, yet ungrateful we are to have each other and so many others in our lives that love and care for us.

We arrived at the Cathedral and found an empty pew.  Soon some of our homeschooling friends entered and sat near us.  I thought to myself how wonderfully, blessed I am to have such a great group of friends to help me along on this new journey.  The huge church seemed empty.  I was a little sad by this.  I wished more people would have shown up to honor these people.

I opened the program and began to read the names and ages of all whose remains would be buried that day.  I was overcome with emotion.  There were 93 names on this list.  Thirteen of them were infants with names like Baby Gianna, Baby Joseph, Baby Rita, etc.  Thirteen unclaimed, unnamed babies.  And the waterworks began again.  I had not thought about the fact that I would need Kleenex at a funeral for people I didn't know.  Had I known how emotional I would get, I would have brought in a case!

My eyes dried just as the side door opens and people begin to pour into the church.   They kept coming and coming and coming until the Cathedral was just about filled.  The tears began to well up again, but this time they were joyful tears.  How wonderful that so many people had shown up to participate in their Christian duty---on a Saturday, with beautiful Spring weather, when a huge festival was going on in this town.  Then a group of nuns entered and then another group---Oh, how I love to see nuns in habits! The second group were the Missionary of Charity sisters that we had gone to help out at Christmas time.  Seeing Mother Theresa's sisters again made my heart smile!

Then some of the Knights of Columbus entered in full uniform---swords and all.  I got the chills as I looked at one knight standing across the isle from me.  I am pretty sure I saw the face of Jesus.  He had long hair, a long beard, and the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.  He even looked up to Heaven and spoke to someone that I did not see.   As I was contemplating this, the Bishop entered.  Wow, buried by the Bishop, what an honor for these 93 unclaimed dead that had been forgotten for all these years!  And the tears came again.

I had assumed that these 93 had been cremated and that this was just a "service" for them.  I did not expect to see caskets rolled in.  So, my heart sank as the first one passed by me.  It was a very small silver casket which contained the remains of the thirteen unclaimed babies.  The tears began to pour.  The next casket was a light brown one which I assumed were the unclaimed women.  The third casket was rolled in and stopped right next to me.  This was a darker one which I presumed to have the unclaimed men. 

The Mass began and as I listened to the readings, the psalm, and then the gospel, I knew exactly why we had been called to be here.  It was exactly what we needed to hear.  As the gospel reading of the Judgement of the Nations began (Matthew 25: 31-46), I looked over at my husband.  He knew too!  This was the passage that had become our Life Theme the past few years without us even knowing it.  The past few months it has come up numerous times.  And here it was for the second time this week.  Confirming the call that we already knew deep down in our hearts.

The homily also was very moving as the Bishop compared a "regular" funeral homily to this one.  He stated how he would normally console the family gathered and share about the good things the deceased had done in his/her life.  He went on to explain that we were family.  That we are all family.  That we are all God's children.  He talked about how we are ALL called to take care of each other especially those that aren't able to return the favor.  He referred to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy which my kids had just studied and the main reason we were here---to do what we were trying to teach them to do.  They all sat up a little taller, proud that we had come to do our part as Christians. 

The Mass ended, and we followed the three caskets to the cemetery behind the Cathedral.  Veterans and American flags lined the sidewalk to honor those United States Veterans that had been forgotten and unclaimed.  It was very moving to see them all lined up paying their respects to these unknown fellow soldiers.   The memorial that was built to house the caskets of these men and women was beautiful.  The 80 names of the adults were listed on the side of the memorial grave.  The graveside ceremony began and, of course, the tears did too.

Then a veteran called the others in attendance to attention as the trumpet began to play.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband, an Air Force veteran, snap to attention.  It was almost too much for me to handle.  There are no words to describe how proud I was of him at that moment---proud to call him my husband, proud of the example he is to our kids.  He had grown so much since that day we said, "I do."  We had both grown so much.  I was so blessed!

By this point, I'm not sure if there was a dry eye anywhere around.  Everything seemed to stand still except the breeze which I knew was the Holy Spirit bringing the peace that I know we all felt.  We then moved to another area of the cemetery to lay the babies to rest in the mausoleum.  As they lifted the casket into that hole in the wall, I imagined those sweet babies resting in the arms of Jesus and Mother Mary.  I knew that they were not "unclaimed" as they had been labeled.  They were claimed from the very beginning as Children of the Most High God.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Just Call Me Doubting Thomas

As in my previous post, Tuesday was "court day".  It's always a stressful day, but I left home feeling on the top of the world.  I knew that I had people praying for us all over the country.  I had told everyone EXACTLY what to pray for---exactly what "I" thought needed to happen.  I knew without a doubt that I would get my miracle.

My joy continued as I arrived at the courthouse and heard the Cathedral bells chime 10:00 am.  I claimed that as a sign from God.  I didn't even lose "my inner joy" as I listened to the depressing stories of those in the waiting room and saw the awful sights I saw.  I still knew that God was going to come through for me and my family.  I prayed for the others to be able to find the peace and comfort that I had.  I smiled at everyone, trying to spread that joy and happiness to others in that room filled with such heartache and pain.

Suddenly, I overheard something from across the room that put a lump in my throat and doubt in my mind and ultimately in my heart.  I knew that what I had been praying for, what I had specifically asked people to pray for, was NOT going to happen that day.  I took a timeout from praying for the others and prayed harder for what I want God to do for me.  More over heard conversations from those involved in our case, led to more doubt.  "Dear Lord, help me!  You know best.  I trust you."

And he did!  I was called out into the stairwell and given some information that confirmed that He had taken care of the situation---NOT as "I" had wanted, but as He saw fit for our situation.  As I went back to my seat, I began to feel that joy coming back over me.  I continued to listen to the others around me and continued to pray for all of us including our own case (just to be safe). 

We were released for lunch, and I left the courthouse knowing that all would be fine.  During my drive to grab lunch, Satan decided to break my spirit once again by putting doubts in my head.  But on my drive back to the courthouse, I saw the Cathedral standing high above the other buildings in the neighborhood.  I decided I had time to make one more quick plea to Jesus.  I entered the quiet Cathedral and said a few short prayers and left there with my joy once again.

The waiting room wasn't crowded after lunch.  There was a quiet, peace in there now.  I sat and continued to soak in my joy.  I had a very reassuring conversation with another foster mom that happened to be adopting her own grandchild.  We were able to share with each other how awesome our God is, how He had blessed us in our times of struggle, and how He had helped our cases.  She was called in for her hearing and came out all smiles.  I knew God would take care of our hearing just as He had done for her.

Finally, we were called in.  I held on to my Holy Family medal so tightly that I'm sure Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph were smothering.  Everything went as planned, not my plan, but God's plan.  I smiled as I realized that even when I think I know what is best, He actually does.  Thank you, Lord, for always taking care of us and knowing what's best.

But just as court was about to be adjourned, a wrench was thrown into the ring from the "other" side.  They couldn't do this.  Could they?  Well, they could and did.  My heart sank to the pit of my stomach.  I couldn't breathe.  I felt as if I was going to throw up right there in front of the judge.  How could this be happening?  God, where are you?  Why are you letting this happen?

Court was adjourned, and I ran out of the courtroom.  I didn't wait for the elevator.  I ran down the three flights of stairs.  I needed air!  I got to my car just as the waterworks opened up.  Through the tears, I saw the Cathedral standing tall.  Jesus!  I needed to talk to Jesus.  How could He do this to us?  I drove to the Cathedral to ask Him personally, but all the doors were locked.  Are you kidding me? Who locks up Jesus?  I peeked through the crack in the door.  Spotting the tabernacle, I remembered that He had taken care of the other situations.  So, I thanked Him through the crack and left with a small bit of my peace and joy.

I got in my car to head back to town which was probably the most unsafe 30 minute drive ever.  I texted.  I made phone calls.  Each time I repeated the events, I grew more upset by that last wrench.  No matter how much I tried to look at the positive outcomes, that "wrench" seemed to be the only thing I could focus on.  And so the tears streamed in what seemed like the longest drive ever.

I finally arrived at my home parish to find that one of our priests was with someone.  Our other one was on a trip with some of our school kids.  So, I decided to go straight to Jesus.  I knew that this church would not be locked.  I got inside and knelt on the first row in the darkness.  Looking at the tabernacle, I poured out my heart to Jesus.  All my doubts, all my fears, everything!  I am sobbing and crying out, "WHY????? Why would you do this to us?" to Jesus as my purse began to vibrate.  I reached in my purse and pulled out my phone.

It was a text message from Jesus!  Well, not literally, but I'm sure it was inspired by the Holy Spirit!  One of my case workers had sent me a text message explaining what had just happened in the courtroom.  She also said that it was nothing to worry about and explained just what would happen.  She told me that she had tried to "catch" me after the hearing to explain it all to me because she knew I would worry, but I disappeared too quickly.  Fight or flight---I fly!

I put down the phone and turned back to the tabernacle laughing.  I spent the next fifteen minutes apologizing to Jesus for not trusting Him even though I had repeated all morning, "Jesus, I trust in You!"  I asked Him to forgive me for doubting.  I asked Him to be patient with me even though I was obviously NOT patient with Him.  Then I thanked Him for always handling my problems even when I can't see that they are being handled, even when I don't see or understand His plan, and especially when I think he's doing it wrong or taking too long!  He forgave me.  He understood.  He helped me get my joy and peace back.

One of my priests did call me later that night to check on me.  I informed him that I didn't need him anymore that I had gone "over his head straight to Jesus."  He laughed and reassured me that we all have those doubts sometimes.  Later that evening, I realized just how much I had grown that day.  Even in all my doubting, my faith grew leaps and bounds.

God showed himself to me in the midst of all my doubting just as He did for St. Thomas.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Day in Court

The first thing I heard when I opened my door at the courthouse were the church bells at the Cathedral just a block or two away.  My reminder that God was taking care of this hearing for me.  I smiled and walked across the street.

I entered the courthouse and went through the metal detector.  It beeped, it always does because of the medals on my scapular and necklace.  I showed the guard my necklace and medals, and she let me through.  I waited for my purse to be dug through and reminded myself again to bring a smaller purse with less pockets and zipper compartments next time. 

I made it to the 3rd floor to find a packed waiting room.  Standing room only as usual.  I found myself a corner to stand in as I scanned the crowd for any familiar face.  No familiar case worker was in sight, so I settled into my spot and waited.  Eventually, one of our case workers found me holding up that wall and told me to settle in because it would be a long morning.  I knew this.  I had planned for my day to be long and had already made arrangements for the kids.

A seat opened up on a bench across the room, I waited to see if anyone else wanted it.  No one did, so I moved that way and had a seat.  I began reading in a new prayer book that someone gave my husband.  As I tried to focus on "my" prayers and needs, I begin hearing bits and pieces of other people's stories.  I try to block them out, but as usual I can't.  I always forget about this extra anxiety that always gets added to my court day.

How could I focus on myself when there were so many others there that could use my prayers?  Besides, my God had me covered already.  So, there I sat looking around the room praying for each of these people:
        ~the grandma that is trying to adopt her daughter's child
        ~the lady who sat in jail for two weeks because they had her name wrong on some court document
        ~the teenage couple on the side of me that used the "F" word in every sentence they could utter in-between kisses
        ~the lady with the possibly mentally handicapped kid that the state wanted to take away and put in a home because she couldn't control him anymore
        ~the numerous moms and dads that claimed they had had there kids taken away by these vicious government workers for no good reason at all
        ~the people that were high on drugs and thought no one could tell
        ~the security guards, the social workers, the lawyers that were treated like dirt

The room was still packed.  No one was being called in.  No one had been called in all morning.  Everyone was antsy.  Everyone was stressed.  Everyone was aggravated and annoyed.  Everyone was pleading their case to whomever would listen to them.   And so I listened to their stories and prayed for them, for myself to be less judgmental and more compassionate, and for all the others out there like them.

Then I heard it.  The sound that makes me sick to my stomach every court day.  I put my head down.  I did not want to see it again.  It's too painful.  It got louder, and I prayed harder.  Clank. Clank. Clank.  The sounds of "criminals" linked together with chains got louder and louder and then stopped.  I knew they had made it to the elevator in front of me.  This was the routine I had seen play out each time court day came around.  This was the worst part of my day each time.

My heart ached for these men and women.  I told myself not to look up, but my eyes didn't listen.  As I glanced toward the elevator, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach and tears welled up in my eyes.  These were not men and women.  These were kids!  Oh, dear Jesus!  There were about 6-8 boys in handcuffs and chains being led out of the courtroom to the elevator.  The youngest one couldn't have been much older than my boys (12).  Then I heard someone say that it was "Delinquent Day".

The lump in my throat was as big as the one in my stomach, but neither was as big as the pain I felt in my heart.  I could see the embarrassment, the pain, the hurt, the neglect in their faces.  I wanted to "save" them all!  I just wanted to reach out and tell them that there was still hope.  That Jesus still loved them!  That they weren't "Delinquents" in Christ's eyes!  I prayed for the Divine Mercy of Jesus to pour out on these boys and for God to send each of them their own personal savior to show them the way.

As they entered the elevator, I looked around the room.  Was no one else affected by this?  Did no one else in the room care?  Did anyone else notice that these boys were children of God?  I seemed to be the only one.  And again my heart broke.  And I prayed harder for all these people surrounding me.

After the lunch recess, I sat with the security guard waiting for the afternoon session to begin.  I questioned him about the day to day waiting room crowd.  He informed me that it was pretty much like this everyday.  In my world, I had imagined that this only happened once a week on DCFS day.  Nope.  Everyday.  All day long.  And today wasn't a "bad" day. 

Before becoming a foster parent and having to sit in that waiting room, I lived in my own little happy world.  Yes, I knew there was evil in the world.  Yes, I knew that these things happened in "other" places.  But I had no idea how many kids there were without parents, the number of kids with kids, the amount of grandparents fighting their own kids for custody, the amount of drug addicted parents who had no clue what it meant to be a parent, the number of people who truly did not know they needed help. 

I ask you to pray for these people and all the ones like them in other courtrooms.  Pray for the kids in foster care, pray for their foster parents, pray for their biological parents, pray for their grandparents, pray for those "delinquent" kids that are in jail somewhere when they should be out being kids, pray for all the drug addicted parents who don't know they are addicts, pray for the case workers that are yelled & cussed at on a daily basis, pray for the judges who sit on the bench for these cases. 

This was one courtroom, on one day, in one city, in one state.  I can't imagine what our world will be like in a few years with this going on all over our country.  We have got to pray God back into families.  We can start by putting Him in the center of our own.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Renewing Our Vows

My husband has been a knight in our parish Knights of Columbus for a year or so now and has never actually been able to make a meeting.  The 3rd Tuesday of the month, the evening of the meetings, is normally his day to work out in the gulf.   He leaves at 4:00 am and doesn't return until about 7:00 pm.   Yesterday, due to rainy weather, his schedule changed. 

He made it home early enough to make his first KC meeting.  Knowing that he really wanted to get to this particular meeting because marriages were going to be blessed, I had all the kids bathed and ready to go when he arrived.  But just as we were about to leave, he said, "Hey, I think the wives are supposed to bring a dessert."  Are you kidding me?  I pulled out the KC newsletter and skimmed over it.  I read that we needed to bring can goods for the local food pantry.  "Whew! I can do that!" I thought.

But just before folding the newsletter and putting it back on the counter, I spotted the part that stated that the ladies should bring a dessert.  Great!  I ran to the pantry to gather can goods and to check to see if there was any fruit cocktail or anything that I could desperately throw together as a dessert.  There wasn't anything that I could fix in less than an hour, and I only had 5 minutes!  Ugh.  Our first meeting, and I would be that wife that comes with nothing.  And that's when the "mood" snuck in!

We loaded up the kids and took off only to noticed that no one had loaded the bag of can goods.  Now we were going to arrive at our first meeting empty handed!  Knowing that I was not happy, he suggested that we stop by the grocery store on the way and buy a dessert of some kind and some more canned goods.  Fine.  Now, I'll be "that wife that brings store-bought dessert."  Ugh, again!

I rushed into the store and found a Rocky Road bundt cake.  Better than nothing, but I still wasn't very happy with the situation.  I got back in the car and my husband asked, "Did you buy some more can goods to bring?" What?  I was only thinking about having to show up with a store-bought cake and had not thought about the can goods.  Mood NOT getting better.

It was too late to run back in, so we took off.  We drove up at the hall at the same time as one of our parish priests.  I then remembered why my husband wanted to make THIS particular meeting.  Marriages were being blessed, and he wanted ours blessed.   My mood started to lighten up.  We entered, and I quickly sent our daughter to hide the store-bought bundt cake amongst all the delicious looking homemade desserts.  She reported that there were some store-bought cookies on the table and that made me feel a little better!

Our kids quickly pointed out that there were no other kids present.  Panic!  Were we suppose to bring the kids?  I should have read that newsletter more carefully!  I felt like everyone was watching us as we took our seats for the opening rosary.  This first meeting wasn't starting out so well for us.  Eventually, a friend of ours showed up with two of his kids.  I relaxed a little more.

The rosary began, and peace began flowing through me as I listened to the men lead each decade.  There's something about men praying aloud that makes my heart happy.  Real men pray and lead rosaries.  After the rosary, we shared a meal and dessert.  Our good friend even cut a piece of our store-bought cake.  I'm pretty sure it was to make me feel better about it since that was the only piece missing at the end of the evening.  Guess what we are having for snack all week? 

After dessert, it was time for the blessing of the marriages.  My husband reached across the table and grabbed my hand to hold.  My heart melted like it was the first time he'd held it.  Then Father asked if we would like to renew our vows.  Wow, that's much better than just a blessing.  He called our son, the ever so faithful altar server, to hold his book in the front.  After the readings, each couple there stood, faced each other, and joined hands.  Father began.

Husbands went first.  As mine looked into my eyes and repeated what Father was saying, I saw something in his eyes that made my eyes start to well up with tears.  I remember tearing up at these very same words almost 16 years ago, but this time I knew what they actually meant and knew that he meant every word.  Then it was my turn.  Before I began, I looked away for a moment and saw our kids "witnessing" this very special moment. The smiles on their faces....

As I repeated the vows to him, I had to fight to hold back the tears, and my words sputtered out...."For Richer or Poorer, For Better or Worse, In Sickness and In Health, All the Days of My Life...."  These words meant so much more to me this time around.  We had lived through them all already.  We had been through times when we barely had money for food, times when it didn't seem that anything could be worse, times when illness had added enormous stress to our daily lives.  I knew that there would be more times like these ahead, but looking into his eyes, I knew without a doubt that he will be there by my side "For Better or Worse Until Death Do Us Part."

Our 10 year old said it perfectly when we got back into the car, "I think God changed your schedule, Dad, so that you two could do that tonight."  Thank you, God, for rainy weather and schedule changes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jesus, I Trust in You!

"Jesus, I Trust in You!"

This has been a reoccurring "theme" in my life lately especially the past year.   It even came up as my penance this past Divine Mercy Sunday after being my Holy Week reflection.  I still get goosebumps at how the Holy Spirit seems to do that sort of thing!

Sure, in the past, I said, "Yes, I trust God, " and did occasionally put things in His hands, but quickly took them back as soon as things got a little tough and "fixed" them myself.  Then when "my fix" didn't quite work, He always showed up to take whatever it was back and make it right.  If only I would have truly trusted, I could have avoided all sorts of anxiety and stress in the last thirty-something years of my life.

As my "faithful readers" (Ha! That's funny!) know, we took a leap of faith last year that set the ball rolling full speed ahead in our family life.  Things have been happening in our lives that we could never have imagined happening.   I really haven't had time to actually sit down and reflect on everything until this past Holy Week.  I was overwhelmed by all the blessings we had received because we simply said, "Yes, Jesus, I Trust in You!"   I saw all the times that we questioned God's calling, and how blessed we were when we eventually said, "OK, I trust you."

I realized that the more we truly trusted and followed His will, the happier, less stressed we became.  Things that used to worry and stress me out, don't really seem to matter much anymore.  I'm not perfect and neither is our life, but it is so much easier now that we follow Christ more closely even things that are VERY difficult seem to be easy with His lead!

Monday, April 9, 2012

My Favorite Time of the Year

Easter has always been my favorite holiday of all.  There was always something about Easter that made me feel complete.  I never really understood it as a kid, but as an adult I have begun to love the week leading up to Easter just as much even though it's a time of great fasting and sacrificing.

Holy Week has become my favorite week of the year.   We usually have school right up until Good Friday, but this year we were able to take off Holy Week.  (I love making my own schedule!)  I was able to pray, fast, read, meditate the whole week.  It was a much more meaningful week.  It was also a very humbling week for me as I realized just how blessed I am and yet how unworthy I am of all the blessings that I have been given.

Holy Thursday was spent reading, meditating, and praying.   I kept the lights low, so the house stayed very quiet even the kids read, prayed, and stayed quiet.  The Holy Spirit led my day and helped me to really see the way God was working in our lives and how truly blessed we are.  I was also led to the answers to some of the questions I had been asking and praying about throughout the 40 days of Lent through my reading and prayer.  It was a very peaceful and enlightening day for me.

This year several homeschooling fathers were asked to have their feet washed at the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  The fathers then in turn would wash the feet of their wives as a testament to the gospel reading, "Do as I have done."  As Father washed the feet of my husband, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I am truly lucky to have such a wonderful husband that tries his best to lead his family to Heaven by following Christ's example.

As my husband washed my feet, I was reminded at how blessed I am to have this man love me with all his being.  There is no doubt in my mind regarding his love for me.  This love is a true example of unconditional love.  He loves me as Christ loves His Church.  I was moved by his example again after Mass when we went across the street for Adoration.   I know that he was intensely praying for his family during that hour on his knees in front of that tabernacle.  He once again was doing as Christ did---praying for God's will for our family and courage to follow that call.

Good Friday is a day that our whole family looks forward to each year especially the kids.  Not because of a huge family gathering or because of a big crawfish boil, which are big in Cajun country on Good Friday, but because of a six-mile walk that we take.  We have been attending a 6-mile Way of the Cross walk in a nearby community the past few years.  We walk, we pray, and we fast.  It's a long day that seems to fly by.  It's a beautiful day of reflection on the Passion of Our Lord.  We begin at the church with the first two Stations of the Cross.  Then we pick up our crosses, both figuratively and literally, and begin to take part in a very, very small part of Christ's passion.  The men take turns carrying a large, heavy cross while the women and children each have smaller crosses of our own to carry.  We stop after each mile to read, meditate, and pray on two additional stations of Our Lord's Way of the Cross.

This year's walk effected me more than the last few we've done.  It was partly due to the fact that the numbers in attendance this year were greatly down from the past years.  It saddened me.  Another reason was that I had many "crosses" to carry this year.  Even though this past year has been wonderful for us, it hasn't been so great for others in my life.  So, as I walked, I prayed for those in my life that I felt could most use my prayers and my sacrifice.  I think it was more meaningful because I didn't offer up my discomfort (blister caused by broken shoe and hunger/thirst) for myself; I offered it up for others.  I was walking with a mission:  healing for others,  conversion of others, joy for others, reunification of families.

After the walk, we returned to our own parish for the Veneration of the Cross.  Once again, emotion filled me as our two priests laid prostrate before the altar.  The amount of reverence these two men have for our Lord on any given day fills my heart with emotion.  But on the day of the Lord's crucifixion, at the hour of His death, seeing them lying there in the most vulnerable position, was almost too much.

The line to "Kiss the Cross" seemed much longer than usual which helped to ease my frustration from earlier in the day at the sight of numerous "parties" that we had passed on our way to the church.  It made me think of the many years that I had done the same, and I felt ashamed that it took so long for me to figure it out.  During the Veneration, my 4 year old godchild caught my attention when she began to cry as her mom carried her back to the pew after venerating the cross.  A few moments later my heart melted when I noticed them back in line; she had been upset because she had not gotten to kiss the cross.  The innocent smile that crossed her face as she looked up from kissing the cross moved me to tears once again.

Friday evening found us curled up on the sofa watching Jesus of Nazareth.  For the past few years, the men of the house have watched The Passion of Christ, while we ladies watched a cartoon version of the Passion in another room each Good Friday evening.  This year we chose to watch something altogether.  It was a great way to end our day of prayer and fasting.

The Easter Vigil on Saturday would prove to be the perfect end to a very blessed Holy Triduum.  Our oldest son was altar serving, so it made the evening more special for us.  We began outside the church for the Blessing of the Fire.  We were up front and were able to see preparation of the Easter candle.  Once inside, the dark church began to fill up with the light of Christ as the altar servers began to light our candles and the light was passed on from one person to the next until the church was well lit.  Passing the light of Christ to others is exactly what we are all called to do.

I know the seven readings seem to turn people away from attending the Easter Vigil Mass, but I love hearing the history of my faith in the readings beginning with Creation.  I love listening to the chimes as God "speaks" in the first reading.  Then I anxiously await the turning on of the lights at the Gloria every year.  Such a little flip of a switch has such a huge impact on me each year.  It's almost as if Christ rises again in that very moment.  This year, we had three adults confirm at the Vigil.  It's always wonderful to see people returning to the Church at Easter.  We followed Mass with ice cream Sundaes before returning home (maybe a new tradition in the making).

Easter Sunday was spent celebrating with family and family friends.  The day had finally arrived, and we could enjoy the wonderful Easter blessings that we had fasted from and prayed about for the past 40 days.