Friday, April 22, 2011

Lent for Losers

Another Lent has drawn to a close, another year's forty days of self-abnegation, self-denial, and self-emptying, during which, as in other years, I have barely shown up.  Usually I tell myself that I don't really need to give up anything for Lent, but, rather, to commit to a more devout and rigorous prayer practice, and then I've ended up doing neither.  I started off this Lent, for instance, saying a modified version of the daily office, but that fell by the wayside somewhere.  I also thought I should try to stop swearing (which, for what it's worth, I only do when I'm in a room by myself or inside of my own head -- well, mostly, anyway), but on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, I found myself starting my morning by eating a brownie for breakfast and dropping the F-bomb.  And so it went.  Every day for forty days I did something somewhere on the scale from neurotic to egregious. And I generally only said the entire rosary when I woke up in the middle of the night, as I often do, because it's a surefire way for me to get back to sleep.

This year, as in years past, I sought to rationalize my lack of effort by telling myself that because I was dealing with some difficult things in my life on a daily basis (my mother's fatal illness, my son's autistic behavior), I didn't need to impose other penances on myself (in other years, it was other difficult things: recurrent miscarriages, moving away from New York, or what have you).  Tonight I went to Stations of the Cross for the first time this whole year.  I also went to confession for the first time since the week before Christmas.  And my confession was as trite as it possibly could have been:  that I had had a bad Lent, and that it was through my own lack of effort, as well as through shifting the blame for my sinfulness onto other people and situations.  This was particularly embarrassing, since I feel sincerely penitent concerning my grave sins, and have no trouble owning them.  It's the small sins -- my daily fecklessness, pettiness, selfishness, and cruelty -- that I would deny with my dying breath if I could.

Tonight Otepoti (who, quite wonderfully, is visiting me from her home in what she calls the ass-end of the world) and I had a discussion about sin.  We were talking, specifically, about whether committing bad acts made one essentially bad, while, conversely, committing good acts made one essentially good.  Otepoti wisely observed that we are all essentially bad -- which dovetailed nicely with a realization I had the other day that we are, also, all essentially disabled.  Only God is good.  Only God is sound, only God is whole. And it is only -- only -- through His mercy that we are saved from our own neuroses, pettinesses, and egregiousness.

We are all losers.  That is why, at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.  That is why we need Him.  That is why we cling to Him, why we celebrate His death and resurrection.  To paraphrase another wise woman, if it wasn't for Jesus, we'd all be bad.

A blessed Triduum and Happy Easter and much love to you all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"We belong to a Communion of Sinners"

What kind of man would choose alcohol over family, work, and even his own health?  What kind of man is willing to admit that, at the very core of who he is, there is something profoundly distasteful and unnatural? . . . . A person exactly like you and me—not with some passing, analogous resemblance, when squinted at through a pious lens—but exactly like you and me.

I'm on light posting this month because of an intense level of busyness, but I wanted to make sure to link to Simcha Fisher's column at the National Catholic Register today.  It hits hard in exactly the right place.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetry Friday: Magic Words

This poem, translated from the Inuit, was the first poem I saw in New York City's wonderful Poetry in Motion project, which put poems in advertising spaces in the subways and buses.

In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody can explain this:
That’s the way it was.


More Poetry Friday at Madigan Reads.

Monday, April 4, 2011

"We are all beggars"

 My husband and I got married on the day that Pope John Paul II died, April 2, 2005, which was, that year, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.  I've always felt that the day was especially blessed because of the Pope's passing into eternal life.  As you probably know, he will be beatified on this year's Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011.

Should you ever have doubts about the man's own mercy and personal holiness, read on.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Poetry Friday: Thanks

with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is
 -- W.S. Merwin 

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at The Poem Farm.