Strangers in the Struggle

The stained-glass window at my home parish of St. Rose of Lima in Northborough

It’s not every day that a stranger comes up to you and tells you that she loves you.

I’ve been struggling. I’ve reverted to the quiet and reserved little thing that hasn’t really shown her face for a few years. Loneliness seeps in between the phone calls and Facebook messages that dull in comparison to what it was to be in close contact to those who are so dear in my heart. And faith? That’s been weakening, too, peaking in small moments but then receding as if some kind of drought has struck it.

Last Sunday, my parish priest appealed to the congregation to take part in the four-night Lenten parish mission that was to start that same day. I had every intention of attending on Sunday but the day got away from me and I wasn’t able to make it. Monday and Tuesday brought other conflicts, but Wednesday I was finally able to make it for the closing Mass. I slid into one of the back pews and took note of all the familiar and mostly older faces that surrounded me. There is something that I really like about going to Mass on my own, especially at home – it allows me to reflect more and take in the words of the Gospel and of the priest. I should have known it would be an interesting Mass when it opened with “Here I am, Lord,” the perfect service song that always reminds me of my days at Assumption. I closed my eyes and sang the words, loud and clear, trying to recall what discipleship now means to me in this post-grad life.

The presiding priest, a visitor from a parish in Uxbridge, MA, gave a stirring homily about always seeking God and letting Him be there to hold us and take care of us. My eyes welled with tears at several moments, as so much of what he preached was exactly what I had needed to be reminded of.

But the real God moment came at the end of Mass. As the majority of people filed out of the church, I knelt back down and prayed for much of what I have recently neglected to. I could feel tears well in my eyes as I reflected on the themes of the homily and the desire to be more present in my faith.  As I absentmindedly gazed at a spot in front of me and mulled over all my feelings in a jumbled prayer to God, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a sweet voice say with so much sincerity, “We love you, Dear.”

I turned to see a very elderly woman and her husband, both fixtures of the parish who I have probably interacted with only a few times despite having spent my entire life as a member of St. Rose. I just felt a sense of shock. I smiled and chuckled a bit and thanked her, and she grabbed my hand and gave it a little squeeze and hobbled away with the support of her husband. The two had sat behind me for Mass and in the recent months, I have witnessed this towering man patiently help her in and out of the church as well as to the front of the church to receive the Eucharist as it has very clearly become increasingly different for her to move around on her own.  It’s really a touching yet sad sight to watch, and made it all the more meaningful that she turned her attention from herself, presumably away from the pain, and reached out to me, who evidently looked like I needed a reminder of love.

As her and her husband progressed past me, I turned back and finished my prayer, despite the renewed sense of tears in my eyes. It had to be a moment from God, a way for Him to remind me that no matter how discouraged and frustrated and hard I have been on myself lately, there is so much love around me, even from strangers.

Conversations with You

I wish You were closer. I wish that we talked more.  I wish that this life didn’t strain our relationship. I wish that I trusted Your plan more.  I have so many questions for You, most of which I suppose You will never be able to answer the way I want You to.  Telling others I’ll talk to You for them feels like such an empty phrase lately. And You being you, You know that’s true.

But then You pull through. Just last week I asked for Your help and You granted it.  It may have taken 9 weeks, but You seemed to listen to me about that young women who is so dear to me, too. And the other dear one with the recent broken heart. Yes, yes, maybe You did bring them the peace I asked for, the love I requested.  That had to have been You, right?

Though no matter how much I talk to You, You don’t seem to listen to me when it comes to him.  Maybe I don’t talk to You about him all that much though.  You know how I’ve always avoided it – the pain is too much but it sits on my shoulder, causing my shoulders to hunch over and the corners of my mouth to turn down.  Tears form at childhood scenes and one word floods my mind: “Why?” One question, pestering and festering like an illness without a cure. I hear it from her, too. He caused her pain, too, after all, and that question fills her mind with a never-lifting fog. I guess I’m not the only one who is sitting here with scars, however much they may have healed yet ache when the memories flood.

Can I come talk to You?  Will You listen?  Maybe it’s up for me to listen, to open my ears and accept Your Word and Your love.  Will You bring me the comfort I need, the peace that I seek for concerns for the future? Will You protect my heart? That’s what I need most – for You to protect my heart. It’s at such a risk for breaking and shattering and coming undone. From splitting open and never being mended.

So, will You.

Protect.

My. Heart?

Please.