When the church hierarchy doesn’t guide, mom always points me in the right direction
Late one night, several years ago, as my mom was dying in my arms, I told her it was OK to go. We would take care of each other and daddy. “You taught us how,” I told him. She died the next morning.
My mother was a person of deep faith, and the Catholic Church was the foundation of that faith. The ward was our second home, and “Father Said” put an end to all disputes. We all participated in parish activities, and Mother beamed with pride as I walked in a procession, sowing flowers, and her sons carried the poles with red votives on top. In our house we were proud of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church
As for Mother: Stations of the Cross every Friday of Lent. Confession every week. Memorized catechism. His famous nut bread in every pastry sale. Never missed a PTA meeting. And, of course, Sunday Mass, in disguise, never to be missed. True to her faith, she never wavered. We were all happy to be able to count on our salvation. But my mother regretted that the children of her Lutheran neighbor couldn’t.
During my teenage years, the “said father” was gone. Replaced by “Mum said” even though Sunday Mass, Confession and our Rock of Faith continued.
Adulthood brought questions, and I realized I was losing my grip. There is a sense of loss in letting go of these sacred childhood memories, and the search was underway to find a replacement. It is not easy to let go of the certainty. Not being sure has a haunting and painful effect.
Certainty has been replaced by desire. There are so many things that I want to know and understand. What is grace? Truly. What does eternal life mean? Please tell me what heaven is. Where is the source of the moral code? Why do people continue to hurt and kill each other? How are prayers answered? Are prayers answered? Is there a perfect way to worship? And, of course, who is God? And does God really know my name?
The “Rock” – the rigid hierarchy of the church – didn’t help me much. If only those above could mingle, really mingle, with those of us below, there might be some hope. If only those above would embrace those of us below with a little warmth, maybe there would be some comfort. If only the rules of the game could be leveled. If only the pray the field could be leveled. If only there was neither high nor low, perhaps hands and hearts could be united in a great circle of love, life and hope. In the meantime, I find myself with a void that was once filled with loyalty, pride and a deep sense of belonging. It is a feeling of isolation.
I want to know. My only way to get over this is to trust the mystery. Even if I don’t want to. And to trust the theology that I was taught. I was brought back to my comfort zone, “Mom said. Marie is his name. She is my moral compass. My North Star.
My mother was well known for many things, but perhaps what captivates her most is the coffee that is always ready to serve to the multitudes who knock on her door. She always smiled and never felt interrupted when a visitor arrived without warning, including vagrants, whom she greeted with warmth and sincerity. And the food.
She gave her children a wonderful gift which is now on its way to another generation. Come in. Stop. Don’t be a stranger. Her bottomless coffee maker was just a symbol of her generous heart. No need to keep your heart. No need to measure your generosity. Many burdens were released as so many people confided in her.
She had no tolerance for racists or fanatics long before it was politically correct. She had a capacity for anger towards anyone who hurt or mistreated children. His – or anyone else’s.
It was the other “theology” that uplifted me. And my mother’s theology spread to the next two generations. I believe that some young people who go astray today do not have such a moral compass in their life. But do not worry. If any of the lost souls in this world meet the ones she left behind, they will not be taken to church. But they will not be judged. They will be fed. They will be clothed. They will be greeted with kindness.
It wasn’t easy to give up Rock’s allegiance to heart. Letting go has brought sadness, as the search for his replacement continues. My focus on what I not believe moved towards what I do to believe, with the Gospel as an anchor and my mother as a guide.
Mom would be heartbroken today to see her Rock of Faith crumble. But she would support what is close to my heart now: my new way of trusting the mystery. My theology is in his image. So I cling to it on a daily basis and I keep what I believe in. She was my teacher. She would approve.
I believe in love, kindness, generosity, laughter.
I believe in the words of a young carpenter. That we are called to love one another, to share our bread, to shine our light, to take care of children, not to be afraid.
I believe in the gratitude for being alive, for being loved, for being healthy, for being challenged.
I believe in loyalty. In bonds that unite, first in family, in friends forever, in unconditional love.
I believe that it is possible to hang on, to let go, to endure, to continue.
I believe in life. My life, your life, all life, all life.
I believe in peace. In swords in plowshares, in hearts without hatred, in the service of others, by embracing differences, in shared dreams.
I believe in mercy. In compassion, in empathy, in worry, in forgiveness.
I believe in beauty. The stars on a clear night, the work of an artist’s hand, the fields of blooming sunflowers, the words of a poet, the whisper of the wind, the roar of the ocean, the sound of a symphony , the face of a baby.
I think we’re supposed to lean on each other. Lend a hand, share what we have, stand side by side, live heart to heart.
I believe in courage. Change, listen, dare, challenge, trust, dream.
And in the end, I believe that to be in the presence of a holy person is to know the face of God. Of that, I’m sure.
For now, that’s enough for me.