May is an exciting time of year for my husband and me. Summer is around the corner, and we are in full planning mode for our outdoor space. May also happens to be the month of Our Lady, and, coincidentally, among our favorite of outdoor spaces is our Mary garden. A trellis of roses along the back side of our house partially encloses a statue of our Blessed Mother. And surrounding her, we enjoy the juxtaposition of soft lavender and intensely bright marigold in full bloom by the time summer arrives. But the flowers are chosen for more than just their beautifully contrasting colors.
I love candles. They symbolize life, love and celebration. And I love burning them in my home, but I’ve had to resort to enjoying them only when the boys are out of the house. Between my husband being afraid of the house burning down, and my son playing with the wax like it is Silly Putty, the candles just don’t stay lit. So, their illumination is very short-lived in my house.
A typical Easter Sunday during my childhood included attending Mass with my family, then driving straight to the nearby hotel restaurant for a huge brunch. This wasn’t the unappetizing brand of brunch — dessicated scrambled eggs beneath a heat lamp and a picked-over salad bar behind a sneeze guard. For us, it was a special treat we all looked forward to, where my parents had to make a reservation several months in advance and open up the pocketbook. Large decorated tables with beautifully arranged food selections would greet us upon entering the hotel’s entertaining area.
I remember one day during lunch duty at the kids’ school, I saw a plate of dark chocolate and mint brownies sitting on the countertop in the kitchen. They looked so good that my impulse was to lift the clear lid and sneak one while no one was looking. I ignored the urge and carried on with my duties, but each time I stepped into the kitchen, they caught my eye. They tempted and taunted me. As I gazed at the perfectly stacked plate of brownies, one of the other lunch moms came into the kitchen and quickly grabbed them to pass out to her son’s class for his birthday.
I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I find that sharing the faith is not always easy. It can be uncomfortable knowing that a peer, neighbor or friend may not respond warmly when I insert a “foreign” religious reference into an otherwise “normal” secular conversation. And that is just with friends! I can’t imagine what the missionaries and evangelists throughout the ages felt when they preached the Good News to those who responded with physical violence.
The life of Pope St. John Paul II is well documented in photos and video, and I always enjoy seeing the many faces of this great and multifaceted man. I often am captivated by the images that portray him as an ordinary guy – on snow skis before a run down the slope, or in his youth acting on a stage, or endearingly, cutting into his favorite dessert, the kremowka.
Mercy. It is lovely and precious when we receive it. It can be arduous and challenging when we are called upon to show it to others.
Challenging it may be, but I don’t have to look very far to find examples of those who selflessly give their time doing works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. Often, I am overwhelmed by what others do in the name of Christ and his unending forgiveness. One such person stands out in my mind, since he has a gift of reaching out to those who have the most hardened of hearts; those who are arguably most in need of God’s mercy.
A year before I met my husband, I had hit a low point in my life. I was feeling anxiety and distress from calling off a wedding. Work was busier than ever, with much travel back and forth between the East and West Coasts. It was the perfect storm of emotional anxiety mixed with intense work stress. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a frightening incident with one of my flights.
To harbor the harborless is a corporal work of mercy that simply means to provide shelter or refuge to the homeless, but there are other facets to it as well. It can be showing hospitality to or welcoming a stranger, a lonely person or the weary traveler.
Laundry is at the top of my list of most daunting household chores. But there are times when I feel guilty for complaining about the washing, drying and folding of all our clothes, when there are folks out there who don’t even have a shirt on their back. So when I find myself whining about the piles of clothing and bedding to wash, I grab a donations bin and start filling it up.