Twice a month the staff of St. Gregory the Great Church send out a spiritual reflection to all parishioners for whom we have an e-mail address. What follows are the most recent of these reflections. If you would like to have your name added to our e-mail reflection list, please e-mail us at email@example.com, and we will add your name to our listing.
SPIRITUAL REFLECTION – PATRICK GODON – OCTOBER 17
“Our gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
As a musician, I know that words matter. However, in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, he insists that proclaiming the Good News must be more than words. This reminds me of a quote Fr. Brian has shared with us from St. Francis, "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if you must." This doesn't mean to not ever talk about your faith, or that words don't matter, but rather to have your faith in your heart as you talk about anything. Don't just talk about your faith, live it. That's tough. When you do try interacting that way, I can say from experience that you will feel the joy of love. Also, it's easier to change hearts and minds when others see you in your happy place without having to talk about it.
For me it means trying to empty my preconceived notions of people as I'm talking to them. I try to listen to what people are saying without thinking of what to say next as they are talking. This has been invaluable in learning how to listen and love by example. People often surprise me when I don't have a plan for what I think they should say.
We just started Oliver (5) on piano lessons. He currently knows two songs, "Twinkle..." and "Mary..." The other day I was practicing hard for an upcoming piano performance. As I was traversing the keyboard, who comes right over to the piano, but...Oliver! He finds his way through the tunnel that is my arms to the piano and sits in my lap. This process causes me to come to a screeching halt and beam from ear to ear. He then proceeds to make himself comfortable and launches into "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Without speaking he communicated, "Watch me, Dad, I can play piano now, too!" Communication without words works.
Gilbert (8) has been taking piano now for 4 years. It often takes a small army to get him to the piano bench for practice time, so the other day I decided to try something different. Instead of asking him to come to the piano, or rather ordering him, I sat down and started playing one of his songs as beautifully as I could. Once he heard me playing it, he listened for a bit, then made his way over and said, "Can I play that now, daddy?" I love those easily answered questions. It's essentially the Tom Sawyer fence painting trick without all the words. I'm so proud of my boys!
How do you live by example through the Holy Spirit with much conviction?
Come, Holy Spirit,
Fill us with the power and conviction
SPIRITUAL REFLECTION – AMY ALZNAUER – OCTOBER 3
This past April Sr. Barbara had a stroke, and at first no one knew how seriously it affected her memory. When I heard the news I thought selfishly of Sr. Barbara’s memories of my children, especially her memories of my first child, who died just weeks before her due date.
When you lose a child before she is born, the memory of her birth is all you have, those few moments while she is still warm and nestled and pink. In a frenzy not to forget I sketched her face and body, scribbling notes all around, her long fingers, eyes like her grandmother’s, cheeks wet with our tears.
Initially I thought my husband and I were alone in our attempt to remember, but at the funeral people came rushing forth to share in this work. “How is your body?” one woman whispered, and I realized she knew my baby didn’t just evaporate. “Every heart in this parish is broken,” said another. And I imagined all those broken, kindred hearts.
And of course, Sr. Barbara, too, offered her own memory in support of mine. Every year near Mother’s Day, which is when I lost my baby, Sr. Barbara looks at me with those bright, clear eyes. “You know I always think of her,” she says and then her expression shifts into a something impish, sparking, as if joy and grief are always linked for her. “I talk to her,” she says. “She’s one of my traveling companions.”
So again, when I heard Sr. Barbara had a stroke, I immediately thought of my daughter. But soon I thought of all the other memories she must hold for countless people in our parish, so much life and love and pain, being erased, unrecoverable. Who would Sr. Barbara be without her memories? Who would we be?
But it gradually dawned on me that Sr. Barbara is not the only person who remembers my first child as her traveling companion. I remember her remembering it. Just as she carried memories for me, I could carry them for her. “The being of man is not,” as Pope Benedict once put it, “that of a closed monad … We are ourselves only as being in others, with others and through others.” And the mechanism of this being, this interconnectedness, is memory.
Yet couldn’t all this memory still slip away with illness or death? Eventually we and all the people who remember us will be gone. But that is where faith comes in. In St. Augustine’s notion of heaven, all our time is gathered up (even the time we and everyone else have forgotten) and returned to us. We experience it again, he thinks, as if it were the waking, dear life we had once known. But Augustine only believed this because he also believed there is One who receives all memories and keeps them even when we can’t.
So let us continue on, sharing in the work of remembering, building our parish and becoming ourselves in and through each other, in faith that there is a Keeper who ensures that all this living will never truly be lost.