He leans forward, eyes bright. Three Hail Marys are his. Each one he has started, and we have followed. He is four years old, sandy brown curls flopped in his eyes. His brothers have taken turns leading decades for weeks, and now he clamors for his chance, with all the gusto of younger siblings. He knows more than I realize. He hesitates in spots, but with a glance and a gentle prompt, his eyes sparkle again and he is off. Here is where he catches me. That breath between "...the fruit of thy womb, Jesus" and "Holy Mary, Mother of God." Where the prayer pauses. Where the first half ends and the second begins. Where Jesus meets Mary, child meets mother, leader meets follower, call meets response, breath meets breath, prayer meets prayer. I see the spark - in his eyes, in my body, in the space between us. It is the rare dazzle of holy. . . . Before I was bored, I am unashamed to admit. Catholic school kid in the pew, winding plastic beads around my hand. Not … [Read more...] about the spark of prayer
Before we lost our twin daughters after birth two years ago - suddenly, tragically, publicly - there was another loss. Smaller. Earlier. Quieter. Five years ago we lost a baby to miscarriage. I wrote about this loss here and in my book Everyday Sacrament. Miscarriage was devastating. It upheaved what we knew about parenting. How we expected things would (naturally) go according to (our) plans. How much more we've learned since then. Today is the due date of the baby we never got to hold. April 7th comes and goes silently each year, a ghost of an anniversary. But this year we get to fill today with hope. An announcement of new life all its own. At the end of 2016, Our Sunday Visitor approached me and my husband about writing a book on miscarriage. After all that I'd written about grief, would we consider writing a book on loss for couples - as a couple? Few Catholic resources exist on miscarriage, and the literature on loss is almost all written for women. … [Read more...] about Grieving Together: a book on miscarriage for couples
Here is today's first reading. The promise of the new Jerusalem, part of the prophecy of Isaiah. Here is today's Gospel. The healing of the royal official's son, the second sign in the Gospel of John. And here is my whole heart, caught between the two. The same Scripture passage from Isaiah was read at our daughters' funeral. (Among the handful of sentences in the English language that I wish I never had to write, that might top the list. That possessive pronoun and plural apostrophe still wreck me.) And yet, they were the best words for the worst day. The promise that one day there will be no more weeping, no more crying, no more babies who live but a few days. Sign me up. Let me hope. Pull me out of the pit. Lift me toward the light with the hope that one day no more parents will have their dreams crushed to dust. But wait: there is more. There is always the rub. Today's Gospel, too. Two sides of hope held in tension: the promise and the fulfillment. That … [Read more...] about I wanted the miracle. We got the revelation.
Right now are the waning days of pregnancy. Contractions come and go. Intense, then subsiding. I can't walk without waddling. Sleep is fitful, restless. Comfort is elusive. I wake a hundred times. Every morning the kids ask if the baby will be born today. No one knows. These are my last days to carry. To be a vessel. Soon I will become the passage. . . . Each time the priest lifts high the cup and plate, intoning the thundering prayer I've heard for decades, I try to understand. What does it mean for God to be held in human hands? To offer us a way to become holy? Eucharist is vessel and passage. Jesus said I am the Cup of Life and I am the Way, and people were so startled by his strange words that they remembered them, recited them under breath a thousand times, wrote them down and passed them on, pressed them into the hands of others saying, see? It is all here. If you can try to understand. If you can believe. What I believe is this. We gather … [Read more...] about to be vessel and passage