Pray for That Jerk

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Dreading it as much as dental drilling, I forced myself to go to Confession last night.

During my face to face meeting with the priest (who listened intensely while I talked to my knees) I mentioned, among other transgressions, that I was finding it hard to forgive someone.

Exuding a holy, loving spirit through deep gentle eyes, he said ‘Forgiveness does not mean agreement.  You don’t have to approve what happened.  Just forgive.”  To forgive, pray for the person who offended you — it helps you to let go and cuts the cord.


forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

Pray for that jerk? Ask God to be good to he who was such an idiot?  The look must have shown on my face.

Father told me a story about one person’s approach to forgiveness in a very difficult situation.  His prayer: “Okay Lord, I won’t object if you help that SOB.”

Minimalist.  But hey, it’s a start.

Try it.  The effect for me was immediate. My heart felt lighter; my soul felt as if a layer of dust had been lifted.

Thank you Lord for a priest so full of your spirit.  His irreverent humor let me laugh, and led me to pray and forgive.  Amen.

Go to confession.  It’s not only good for your soul, it’s good for the jerk.


Where’s My High Five?

I taught CCD today (2nd graders) and the lesson was on the Last Supper and the Eucharist –very important as the children prepare for First Communion in the Catholic Church.  The lesson was… fine.

I didn’t want fine. I went to some trouble and wanted a ‘wow!’  I rearranged the room to set it up like the Last Supper, brought in a chalice, paten, candles, pictures of the Last Supper, and even sticker sets for each child to create their own Last Supper.  We didn’t get to the sticker sets—yes, the fun bit.  Ran out of time. Sigh.

Of course we’ll use it next week.  The children were fairly attentive and responsive.  It just left me a little flat.   This, on top of some other writing-related frustrations, left me low.

In other words: c’mon God!  High five me or something!  I’ve been praying.  I’ve been asking.

I was given insight, if not direct messages today.  Here is what I heard at Mass based on some excerpts from the readings:

In the Responsorial Psalm 27: 7-8,13-14

 “Hear O LORD, the sound of my call;

have pity on me, and answer me.

Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”

I’m calling, but is my heart speaking of God or looking for glory?  Hmmm. Do I want God to look good, or am I more worried about me?  Guess.

  “Wait for the LORD with courage;

 be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.”

 I am waiting…   Sigh.  I know.  I’m really just being impatient.  And selfish.  It’s not about me.  And God, I do know you’re not on my time.  Though I do keep forgetting that.

Then Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1

“…many…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.

…Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

 Like recognition?  Reward?  Achievement?  (You talkin’ ta me God?)

  “But our citizenship is in heaven

 and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

…stand firm in the Lord, beloved.”

Enough said.

Boy, I’m glad you speak to me Lord.  Thank you for reminding me what is important and loving me even though I forget, often.  Strengthen my faith so that I may stand firm in your ways and live humbly in your name. Amen.


Dental Freak-out (2): Friends and Toothsavers

A fair lady’s smile is worth more than a thousand ounces of gold. Chinese proverb. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Friday of my dental follow-up arrived (see Dental Freak-out) in which I was scheduled for likely extraction and implant.  I had steeled myself for tooth demolition and construction work.  I left a meeting early to make sure I was on time.  On my way, I ran into a friend, and told her where I was headed.

“Are you crazy?  Pulling a tooth — they shouldn’t need to do that.  They can save almost any tooth these days.  What kind of dentist is this?  Have you been to an endodontist?”

I didn’t know what an endodontist was.  My dentist’s specialty was cosmetic:  read, implants.  Endodontists specialize in root canals.  My friend used to work as a dental hygienist and is very knowledgeable about dentistry.   And I just happened to run into her now… Hello, God?

Her take: “You don’t want an implant.  That’s a foreign body inside your body, permanently.  Unless you absolutely have too. You need a second opinion.”

“But my appointment is in 15 minutes!”

“Don’t go,” she advised.

While I stressed, called my husband and fretted, she made a few calls and got me the name of a good endodontist.

I cancelled the appointment when I was already five minutes late.  They were not happy.

The endodontist looked at my teeth.  “I can see why the other dentist was worried.  That tooth is dead.  But you don’t want an implant back there — it’s the back molar, and too close to the sinuses and the brain.  Anyway, I can do a root canal right now.  Have you out of here in about 30 minutes.”

And, after a relatively painless procedure (how amazing is that?), it was done.  Whew.  What a relief.  Much cheaper too.

The endodontist has now referred me to a good general dentist.  Much more work is yet to be done. Ugh.  But at least I’m in good hands now.

Thank you God.  You sent me my friend in my time of need.  Thank you, thank you!  Help me to be a friend to others in your name.  And please stay with me through all this horrible dental work. I’m still scared.  Amen.

A Clear Answer, Especially for a Writer

IMG_7184 Hello again world.  After a blog hiatus during which I was co-chairing Catholic Schools Week at my children’s elementary school, I am back to the blog.  (Catholic Schools week was so much more work than I expected, but worth it.  More on that later.)   Thanks for your patience!

I had an enlightening prayer experience from this morning.  I had a simple decision to make:  should I go to my prayer group this morning (having not been in many weeks) or should I stay home and write?   I know I need to write, and I love to write, but that’s part of the problem.  I love it so much, it feels like an indulgence.  The prayer group is good for my soul, right?

Well, yes..  (Also, not going gives me a good case of Catholic guilt.)  I prayed: “God, help me. What should I do?”

As I sat down to have some breakfast, I picked up a Lenten Prayer booklet based on Thomas Merton’s writings.  Today’s entry is  The Healing Silence of Recollection, based on Psalm 62, verse 1:  For God alone my soul waits in silence; from God come my salvation.  The reflection includes this advice:

There should be at least one room, or some corner, where no one will find you and disturb you or notice you.  You should be able to untether yourself from the world and set yourself free…  O God, help me to seek silence to be with you.


prayer.. (Photo credit: aronki)

It doesn’t get much more direct than that.  The answer to my prayers is not always so clear, but today it is, and I am grateful. There is more than one way to be with God.  And today, for me, it will be through prayer and writing.

Thank you O Lord for your help and guidance, and for noticing even the small things in my life.  Help me to write well, through your will and in your name.   Amen.

Dental Freak-out

Common Dental Numbering. Diagram from Open Dental.

I’ve been resolving to go to the dentist for quite a while now.  I really hate going to the dentist.  It’s not quite a phobia, but it could certainly be called an aversion.  And I’ve never had a cavity.  Never.  I brush, I floss (sometimes), so I figured, I’m fine.

Then after Christmas, the toothache started.  January 2, I am at the dentist.  My mouth is a mess.  I need, virtually immediately, a root canal or an extraction.  He can’t tell because of my impacted wisdom teeth.  Let’s not talk about the gum issue.  This is to a woman who never had a cavity, never had novacaine (a shot in my mouth?  are you kidding me?), no major dental work.   And the cost — don’t get me started.  I had as much trouble breathing as chewing.

So on the way home, I am upset.  I rant to myself, and to God — who else would listen? How could you let this happen God?  Why me?  I know saints talk about the value of suffering, but this?  Really?  Even Jesus didn’t have to have dental work (yes, for a split second, I did think this.)

Then, the whole ‘nailed-to-a-cross’ scene did pop into my head.

Ok, ok. Maybe Jesus did suffer more than me.  And maybe this isn’t God’s fault.  (Could be mine, maybe.)  Sigh.

Now what?  God loves me.  Yeah, I know that.  But my tooth still hurts like hell.  (Ok, maybe not Hell exactly, but, man it’s painful!)  What now God?  How you gonna help me?
Very spiritual.  That’s how well I took it, even with my Year of Faith journey well on the way.  Sigh.

Medieval dentist removing tooth

Medieval dentist removing tooth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I cried to my husband about how terrible this is.  He assured me that lots of other people have gone through this, and that I would be fine.  And that in fact, the cost wasn’t as much as his dentist charged.

I talked to my dad, who was planning to visit.  (Otherwise, we could go for a week or two without talking.)  Turns out he had a sudden problem with his vision in one eye  —  just woke up, and with a sharp pain, serious blurriness set in.  He couldn’t read.  He couldn’t drive.  He couldn’t come to visit.

Yet, he teased me about my tooth.  And told me it wasn’t that bad.

Hmm, lost tooth vs. lost vision.

Worried about my dad, I wanted to make sure my brother knew.  My brother is the guy with ‘genetically superior’ teeth — his dentist actually told him that.  I was reluctant to call, because I knew I would have to report my dental issue.  I’ve spent years sharing his tooth pride.  We tell friends “Nope, no cavities, ever. No dental work. Not me.”   Now I am a sister with tooth decay.

As it happened, he had already talked to dad, who had broken my news as well as his own.  While I fretted about a shattered tooth fairy image, he laughed my issue off with “what’s with the tooth?”  I was still his beloved sister, and that was the end of that.  (And thankfully, my dad’s vision returned to normal within 24 hours.)

I realized I wasn’t only frightened about what was happening but I was embarrassed.  Not just my tooth, but my pride was hurting.  Once the important people in my life knew, and were very supportive, I didn’t feel so anxious.

Thank you God, for sending me support so quickly through my family on my day of need (aka the dental freak-out).  So many people have bigger, more important problems. (But, if you can manage it again, please help me when I go back to the dentist.)  Thank you for being with me and letting me rant.  And not punishing me for whining.  I am sorry for my truly selfish thoughts and my pride (in my teeth — how weird is that?).  Thank you also for helping my dad.

Aside from my obvious resolution to go to the dentist more often (which is not optional anyway), I resolve to remember that you are with me through everything God, even the tough times.  I will try not to blame you.  Please help me to remain in you and you to remain in me, despite my very weak human will.

And boy, I pray that you have a sense of humor, God, so that we can laugh at this together some day.  After my last dental visit…

To Newtown, with love

Oh Newtown.  How we wish we could turn back time and save your children, your teachers, your town.  In Newtown we have viewed a dark abyss, now punctuated by painfully petite coffins and children streaming into funeral homes.

Your grief is unbearable, yet you must bear it.   Remember that while you suffer and your days seem interminable, your children, your victims are wrapped in God’s warm and loving arms.  For you it is a lifetime until you meet again; for them, it is but a blink of God’s eye.  Today, their souls live and glow in the everlasting light of God’s love.  Through your prayers and their intercession, may you know this and feel God’s compassion.

You will never get over it, but somehow you will learn to live. Your righteous anger will be plentiful and just, but don’t let it eclipse your love for the people still here on earth with you.  I pray that with God’s grace and love, through the support of family, friends and community, you find comfort, strength and love.

The world will move on, too fast, beyond your tragedy.  The loss of innocent life everywhere, from senseless violence, war and other conflicts is far too common.  In this sophisticated and technologically advanced world, let us pray that we are smart enough to find ways to prevent such horrors.

Maybe a simple start, for us observers in particular: in honor of innocent lives lost, let us act as children want the grown-ups in their lives to act:  as ideal role models.  Let each of us engender and glorify kindness and love.  Keep violence as far from innocence as possible.

Newtown, may God give you solace and in your time, grant you peace.

Prayer for CT Victims

This prayer was posted by Fr. James Martin, S.J. (author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything) on his Facebook page.  Thank you, Fr. Martin, for giving us words for this difficult time.

Where were you, God?

We are crushed with grief, God.
We cannot bear to think of so many people killed.
We cannot bear to think of children being killed.
It is unthinkable to us, the worst tragedy.

Children.Where were you, God?
How could you let this happen?
Why is your world like this?
We are sad and angry and confused.But God, we know that you know what it means to have
A child die.
For your Son died a violent death.

And we know that your Son understands grief.
For he wept bitterly when his friend Lazarus died.
And he was moved with compassion when he saw suffering.
His heart broke like our hearts do.
He cried like we do today.

We know too that your Son raised Lazarus from the dead.
And that you raised your own murdered Son from the grave,
As a sign of the eternal life you have planned for us.
The life into which you now place the victims, whom you loved.
And love.

We know that you understand our terrible anguish.
You accept our bitterness and our confusion too.
And we know that your Son is beside us, weeping with us.

We know that you are still with us God, in the darkness.
In our compassion for the families and friends of the victims.
In the love that moves us to care for one another.
In the anger that drives us to put an end to violence,
As your Son tried to do in his time with us.

Most of all, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.