Today we celebrated Ash Wednesday at Presentation High School. To non-Catholics, this must be the weirdest cult practice that one has ever experienced! Being doused with ashes in the shape of a cross and being told to turn from sin and live the gospel. The scriptures proclaimed at Mass today told us that we are forgiven and loved and invited to be our best selves! These students certainly look happy, don’t they?
I’m so proud of my Catholic faith. It has really emerged as a positive force in this troubled world. Our Pope has taken great pains in living a simple life and rejecting the pomp and circumstances of Vatican City. We are encouraged, during the season of Lent- the forty days and nights before Easter- to do something positive in our lives rather than give something up.
Be kind. Serve the poor. Love your neighbor.
When I was in high school I practiced all the Catholic rituals without understanding them. These students are doing the same. They have no idea how this gospel message will come to nest in their souls and take fruit in their lives. God bless them! They are beautiful young women with the whole world at their feet.
I pray that they go forth and make a difference. That they love tenderly and serve with open hearts. That they become women of God with lives that impact others in a positive way.
I feel so blessed to be able to witness their transformation to womanhood and support them as they look forward to all of life’s blessings.
When I lived in Portland, Oregon one of my favorite things to do in the evening with my neighbor Clara was walk around the neighborhood and just catch up on the day, build our friendship, and look into peoples’ windows.
From the sidewalk of course!
Homes at night, illuminated from within, reveal so much more than the typical daytime drive-by viewing. There’s often an interesting lamp or a curious seating arrangement. There is the lighting and the color and the architecture and the moisture on the windows that speaks of warmth and conversations and relationships within.
Clara and I would muse about the decorating but also about the family dwelling inside. What were they like? Most houses kept their draperies open in the evening as if to invite such speculation.
As if to say “see me”.
See what I’m like inside. I may be awkward and not good at conversation. I may be boorish or abrupt or seemingly uncaring or selfish or grouchy or cross. I might appear unkempt and desperately in need of a hot meal and some sound sleep! But look inside me. See the me illuminated from within. See my intentions and my efforts. See my brokenness and my longings, my fears and insecurities.
In this season of light as we are hurrying to make some magic for our families, as we cook and bake in between 9-5 jobs, as we volunteer at soup kitchens or church pantries or reach to give a dollar or two to a person with a sign on the corner outside the Safeway (after purchasing $200 worth of groceries how can you not?)…
Stop for a minute and look inside where the lights illuminate who we truly are. Who the stranger is. Who my neighbor is. Who the homeless woman is. Who I am.
Can you see me now?
This is my next door neighbor’s house. They are the first house on our street to have their lights up and their tree decorated. I noticed this Sunday evening as I was walking to my mail box across the street. (I hadn’t had time to get my mail for a few days.)
I said to myself Jeez! A bit anxious aren’t we? I then heard a voice in my ear saying “bah humbug..”.
I looked a little closer and noticed through the window people eating and laughing. My neighbors were having a holiday party and the guests looked cozy and warm inside- the windows somewhat fogged from the heavy breathing, fun laughter, and everyone talking at the same time.
I was transfixed.
It was a rainy night yet I felt compelled to walk by their house again later that evening just to take it all in. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting and it stirred within me a nostalgia for days less busy, less hurried and less hectic. Days filled with the care and feeding of three little boys, putting together puzzles with them, dancing to wild music on the turntable and baking Christmas cookies. Days when the mail man at the door was one of the most exciting events of the afternoon!
I have to admit, I’ve been a little bit of a Scrooge lately. With a full time job, preparing for Christmas often feels like taking on an additional part time job! It always has a lovely ending though the beginning can be rough, plagued by my bad attitude and feelings of impending doom.
Sunday night changed all that. Something wrenched itself loose in me and I wanted what I saw inside my neighbor’s cheery and festive home. Love and Joy. Friendship and laughter.
All things calm and bright…
Let the wild rumpus begin!