Friday, April 21, 2023

Welcome to our dear Jon

The story of your birth can't really be told without saying that we never anticipated having you at all. As time went on and Beatrice got older, your father and I realized that maybe the window for having more children was closing - or had already closed. There were many tears and many prayers, many questions and calls to doctors. Should we pursue another baby, with help, or leave it alone and leave it to God? These were not easy questions for us. We were still very unsure. 

And in that space of being unsure we realized you were already there, and we were shocked. So, so happy and so, so shocked. It wasn't long before I became very ill, which usually happens around 6 weeks for me, but this time, it lasted and lasted. I needed to sleep a great deal and eating was difficult. I had very little energy. But as I had tasted the possibility of no more babies, I could not be too distraught! I remained focused and grateful...another baby, another soul to mother. The privilege was keenly felt. 
So time went by. I'm not sure I bore my infirmities very well, but time did pass and I began to feel better. At least a little bit. And then we got a scan that told us that you were a boy! A boy? This felt shocking. I had basically decided that we only made one boy. The joy of telling David was so intense - he cried, we all cried. The girls were very magnanimous and decided it was only fair that David get a brother since they all had one another. (Except Beatrice, who insisted it was a girl anyway) 

I knew this time around that I could not return to the hospital, because I had been so unimpressed with the care there with Beatrice. In the wake of Covid, many doctors and hospitals turned their backs on patients and their need for care. I never even received any postpartum care from the doctor I saw with Beatrice, and stories of women separated from their newborns or forced to birth without their husbands and wearing a mask convinced me that I would never go there again if I didn't have to. I searched, and found a midwife via social media whose beliefs aligned with ours and who respected and valued bodily autonomy. She was an hour drive away, but we decided this time around to have our first home birth. Although your siblings had been born outside of a hospital, this would be our first home birth and it seemed fitting. I finally was at peace with the idea and so was your dad. We also knew there was a high likelihood that our midwife would miss your birth, because of the distance and faster births I tend to have. But that didn't deter us; we were confident that we could handle the birth ourselves and that the midwife probably wouldn't be too far behind. 

Unfortunately, during my pregnancy with you, we had several friends who suffered a great deal due to miscarriage, still birth, or premature babies. There was a great deal of sorrow surrounding many that weighed on my heart. So my goal became to hold you: it was all I could think about was holding you, looking at you myself, and knowing that you were okay. I held my breath at every appointment, worried that it would reveal a shadow to pass over us as well...but it did not come. So I kept thinking about the joyful moment when labor would be over and you'd be in my arms. 

The last part of my pregnancy passed by so quickly. Too quickly! I had many, many projects I was trying to finish: wallpaper, putting up shelves, Easter outfits. Not everything got done, but I got a lot done and I'm proud of that. Yet as time passed, and I got closer to term, I felt more tired than I had before. Due to the unexpected nature of your existence, we really were very unsure about your due date. Even ultrasounds had given us a rather wide range of possibilities. Yet we settled on February 26th (the day after Ash Wednesday) as the most likely date, and stuck with it. But as I hit 36 weeks, I just felt very tired and worn out. Physical movement at the end was extraordinarily difficult. I had never before felt as physically cumbersome as I did this pregnancy. Am I just getting older? I wondered. But I think now I may have been further along than I thought originally. 

I had a lot of anxiety about when labor would start. I felt unsettled about it for some reason. So I talked to you and I said, wouldn't it be nice if you came by having my water break like your oldest sister? That way I wouldn't make the midwife make the hour drive out here for nothing? I hate guessing if it's labor - so baby, if you could, would you start your journey with my water breaking? 

And then...well then the power went out, when I was 40 weeks pregnant. Yes, the power went out in the dead of winter. And that, well, that made me panic a bit. What if I went into labor and I was in a house with no lights, no running water? We had some friends reach out to us and offer us a place to stay. It was nerve-wracking to pack up and go stay somewhere at 40 weeks pregnant, but they were so incredibly kind and made us feel so at home. Then our power came we went back...and we waited. 

That Saturday morning (40+2) we went to confession. Hearing my confession, the priest offered to anoint me afterwards if I wanted to wait. So I did and he prayed over me for a safe labor/delivery, and anointed me with oil. It was very moving and gave me a great deal of peace! Another Sunday came and went. I tried to help with organizational projects that mom was involved in...Tuesday I went to bed, thinking I had until at least Saturday. I laid there listening to the rain, and thought to myself, a baby born at night in the rain sounds so peaceful. I love the rain.
But in the middle of the night, I felt you give two VERY strong movements - so strong they hurt! - and I felt a little pop. Oh. My water broke? My water broke! 2:30am. How funny - my two prayers about labor were answered. It was during a rainy night, and it began with my water breaking. The Lord truly hears our prayers. 
I immediately called the midwife and she told me to call back when I was having contractions. Well, I laid down and I thought something was starting, but I wasn't really sure I was just tired...but the time I realized they were contractions, walking was difficult. I got your dad and we headed downstairs to the basement, our own little "birthing suite." 
At some point, we realized it was getting serious so your dad called the midwife to tell her to head this way. I walked into the shower and enjoyed laboring in there. I managed to ask Tom to get Auntie Jen...I managed to ask for water..and at some point, I spoke to the Lord from the depths and said "I need to push now. I need for this to be over." Labor felt more difficult than I had anticipated. The midwife wasn't there yet, but that didn't concern me very much. So I started to push...and push...and push. It felt so very hard, so much harder than I thought it would with a fifth baby! Unbeknownst to me, your dad recognized that you were coming imminently and moved into position: he was ready and you were born into his waiting arms. The midwife was just five minutes away! I managed to sit down and your dad put you on my chest, and I was at peace. The moment I had waited for - I could hold you, look at you, and know you were okay. We had done it: we made it through pregnancy, and labor and delivery, safely, together. 

When Jenny the midwife arrived, and entered calmly into the bathroom, she didn't change the mood at all. She was completely at peace with your arrival and declared "he looks like he weighs 9 pounds!" We waited some time to weigh you, but she was spot on - you were nine pounds even, our biggest baby yet. Your head and your chest had the same circumference, by the way - that might account for a pushing phase that felt more arduous than expected. 

Humorously enough, after you were born, the power went out again! But I found this even less humorous than the first time, because I was so worried about you. Our friends kindly welcomed us again! And the power came back! So we went back home...and the power went out again a couple days later. This time, only for about 6 hours. It came back on at a very dramatic moment when Zuzu yelled "I just wish the power would come on!" BOOM. On it came! Everyone wanted to still sleep in the living room, by the wood stove, like we told them they could when the power went out - so all of your siblings had a sleepover. You and I stayed cozy upstairs in a real bed! 

It was quite an eventful winter between all the power outages and your arrival. But now you are here, and so loved by every single one of us, doted on by everyone. You have many nicknames, normal ones like Jon Jon or Little Jon, but also including "Pubbity" which then became "Pubby" or "Pubbs." I don't know why! It's just a nonsense name we invented when we were all being silly. We love you silly. You are so dear, our darling Jonathan. Named for your paternal grandfather, and also for the dear friend of King David in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 18:1 tells us that "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." That is certainly our prayer for your relationship with your brother, who waited for you for so long! And of course your middle name was given to you to symbolize the title of Mary that we have dedicated you to: Domus aurea, House of Gold. In the Old Testament, the Inner Sanctum of Solomon's temple was very dwelling place of God, called the Holiest of Holies. It was entirely made of gold. So Our Lady, as the dwelling place of God Incarnate, is a House of Gold: filled with all the riches of virtue and grace which she possesses in fullness. Our prayer for you is that the Incarnate God would find a worthy dwelling in your soul and that you will imitate the Blessed Mother all the days of your life. 

May God forever bless you, my darling boy. He has certainly blessed me by sending me you. 

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

One Candle for Joy (Beatrice)

For nine wonderful months I was pregnant with you.

I was so happy and so eager to meet you the entire time, my little one. Whether waking or sleeping I carried within me a lovely glowing light: you were going to be in my arms and I couldn't wait. In all honesty, this is the first time I have felt that way in a pregnancy. I usually feel comfortable but rarely do I focus on the person who is Going To Be. It's so hard to even conceptualize it - a new person! in my belly! But maybe by the fourth go around I finally got it and it made me so deeply joyful.

Early in my pregnancy with you, I felt the Holy Spirit direct me to seek out hospital care for you and I, instead of the traditional midwife and birth center. I could not tell you why, but it was a very strong message. So I did. It was a big change, but I trusted God that the still small voice was His and despite leading me into unknown waters, I had to follow. Very early on, there were some concerns...that you maybe had something wrong with you. You didn't - we would've loved you if you had. The day of your ultrasound was very shocking! We all had decided you were a boy. Poor David was deeply disappointed and cried. I think the ultrasound tech was worried that we were ALL that sad, but I certainly wasn't - and Zuzu certainly wasn't! I am glad that we gave David a long time to prepare for the reality of three sisters...(though truth be told, he adores you deeply now and never mentions wanting a brother instead of you).

That is what informed the nine not-so-wonderful months of arguing over your name with your dad! I knew above all that your name had to be connected to two things: the Blessed Mother and the word joy. Delightfully, there is a title for that - Mary, Cause of Our Joy! So any name connected to the words joy or happiness - and there are so many options. Felicity. Beatrice. Joy itself.

Around Christmastime, your father took me out on a date night to see a movie (something we haven't done, I kid you not, since 2012). He took me to see the movie A Hidden Life, about the life and death of an Austrian man named Franz Jagerst├Ątter. Safe to say, rarely has a movie made such an impact on me. The beautiful vistas of the farmlands and villages of southern Austria, nestled up against the imposing mountains, were stunning. But more amazing by far was the story of one man, and his family, who quietly decided that giving God his due mattered more than his own life. Franz refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler and for that he was killed by the Nazis, leaving behind his wife Franziska (Fani) and his three young daughters. He was the only man in his village to refuse - he was not given support by his priest or even his bishop. When he was imprisoned, his family was ostracized from their village: spat on, stolen from, refused aid, and cast out from local celebrations of Corpus Christi and the like. Franz gave his life, but his family bravely suffered for his choice for decades after. We have not stopped talking about that movie since.

Towards the end of my pregnancy with you, I certainly got uncomfortable! In fact around 37 weeks I started to have prodromal labor, which was VERY uncomfortable and rather panic-inducing. Luckily, I quickly realized it was caused by dehydration and it was solved. The discomfort didn't really go away...those are the last days of pregnancy, I suppose, but truth be told I didn't handle it very well. I would vacillate between zen moments of peace and then total basket case. I wasn't upset though, that you were taking your sweet time in coming...once I passed 40 weeks, I knew you'd come when it was right. My prayer was that you would come during the daytime, so that we didn't have to leave your siblings at night.

Time passed...the day before 41 weeks. We set an induction date (March 2nd, when I'd be 41+6). The next day was Ash Wednesday and they predicted a snowstorm - which made me think we might not go to Mass, because I didn't want to drive in bad snow while overdue. That turned out to be a moot point, because on Fat Tuesday (Feb 21), Rosie threw up in the diner where we were enjoying pancakes and we hustled home to hunker down for a stomach bug. That night, your dad got it too. Oh well, I thought, better she stays put. Your dad was so sick he missed 6am, 9:30am, and noon Mass - on Ash Wednesday! He wasn't so so bad, but rather queasy and luckily had subs lined up. I went to lie down for a nap that afternoon, sad about missing Mass.

At 2:30pm, I woke up with bad pain. I thought it was the stomach bug or you were in a bad position...nope. I went to the bathroom, then tried to go back to sleep. No - more pain. I'm embarrassed to admit it took me a few tries before I recognized it as contractions, maybe because I was groggy from sleep. I texted our friends who would care for your siblings and started timing them, but they were fierce from the start and I'm not great at communicating through pain. But - snow storm! It took our friends a while to get to our house because they had to shovel the drive and of course be careful driving! We set off at 3:44pm.

The drive was slow - we passed several big accidents - and the snow was bad. When we pulled into the hospital complex, I managed to tell your dad to use valet. Ever the frugal man, he wanted to question me...but I growled again "VALET." (It took us 30 minutes to get there - it normally takes 10) The line was several cars deep, so we left the car, and your dad grabbed a wheelchair and off we went - to registration! The lady there was none too bright, chatting away as I was clearly laboring. Luckily we were soon on our way to the elevator to the third floor...there were three labor & delivery nurses on the elevator with us, joking with your dad. I was completely silent with my eyes closed. They wheeled me onto the floor, into the room. The kind nurse directed me to the bathroom, and asked me to put the gown on then they'd check me. I stood up, walked into the bathroom assisted by your father, and they closed the door. I got my pants off, looked at your dad and said "okay, she's coming!" Your dad was a bit panicked and said "what?" Then your head was born! "You gotta catch her!" I cried and then your body was born and your dad did catch you, luckily, with nary a nurse nor a doctor in sight. He was yelling for help, but that bathroom might as well have been a vault and no one could hear. So I finally opened my eyes and spied the emergency pull cord, and yanked on that. The nurse came in calmly, then panicked and suddenly it felt like every nurse in the hospital was in our room and bathroom!

They got the cord cut, and me into bed, and checked you out. I didn't get to hold you right away because they were making sure we were both okay, but soon you were on my chest and I was so very happy. You were born at 4:31, 17 minutes after arriving at the hospital and less than two minutes after we got in the room.

After that, I spent 2 glorious days in "hotel hospital" as I called it, by myself with you. Your saintly father needed to be at home, with all of your siblings who had all gotten the tummy bug, and I needed to be with you, while they made sure you were GBS negative (I had the bacteria during pregnancy). It was this odd and wonderful time, where we just relaxed together - I held and nursed you nearly constantly for the first 48 hours of your life, while I watched Downton Abbey, texted pictures of you to everyone, and marveled at how precious you were.

Your name ended up being an easy decision: Beatrice Franziska. 8 pounds, 5 ounces. Absolute joy, from the start.

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Thoughts In Corona Time (early days)

I don't think I ever thought I'd be here - blogging in the time of a pandemic in America, in 2020, after having had my fourth child in a hospital, 4 weeks earlier.

Weird times.

It turns out I fell victim to a very sneaky kind of pride: pride in thinking we were so advanced that really bad things (like plagues) were only the stuff of the past. Oh we only have new advanced really bad things like terrorism to go with our new advanced stuff everywhere else. I'm glad to take a new dose of humility, but it seems a bit much that it takes a worldwide crisis and global economic collapse to make it happen.

Gallows humor aside, my new state of Michigan is now on what I affectionately refer to as "lockdown." We're not supposed to go anywhere but the grocery store, the doctor, or maybe a walk outside. No gatherings at all with anyone outside your household. When all this talk started about 10 days ago, I was pretty sanguine about it - honestly, as a homeschooling mom with a newborn, I figured it wouldn't feel that different to me. We have lots of weeks where we barely leave the house! turns out that wasn't true. We just leave the house a lot less than most other people. But both of my older kids have weekly music lessons, we had a weekly playdate, religious education, Mass on Sunday with accompanying coffee + donuts, weekly dinner with our next door neighbor. It turns out - it's very hard to lose your entire routine during the midst of a global health crisis in the information age. It is very easy to make news updates an idol that I stare at, waiting for my cues of how to live my life.

That is deeply sad, because I have been Catholic now for 14 years, and I thought I had taken to heart what Jean Valjean said - "my soul belongs to God I know/I made that bargain long ago." But, like the apostle I identify with the most, I took my eyes off Jesus and began my descent to a watery grave.

I don't know what this whole experience would be like as a single person, without other people directly in my care. I am confident in saying that situation has its own crosses. In my life, I have to manage my own maelstrom of emotions (anxiety - grumpiness - stir crazy - sad - frightened) while managing the emotions of several other people (emotions which may or may not be related to the current crisis). All while making sure that they eat, have fresh underwear/diapers, aren't wacking each other with bricks, or living in abject filth. I would love to binge watch movies and day drink until this passes. But little people are watching me, and sloth plus drunkenness aren't the best choices during a pandemic.

My kids are going to be affected and formed, in some way, by this crisis. Susannah more than everyone else, clearly. But it's up to us, the parents, to decide what that formation looks like. How do we - as Americans, as Catholics, as Orams - behave in a crisis? A crisis where we cannot leave our homes? What does my behavior tell them about how we are to act when a situation of this magnitude is before us?

God help me, up until now my behavior has set an example that has not been good. Yes, I'm just barely 4 weeks postpartum - yes, I'm getting little sleep and have hormones going crazy - but God knew that when he put me here. I have to quit making excuses and respond to the gently whispered invitation: to mother them, to be the warm heart of this home, to draw them close to his Sacred Heart and show them the light in this gloomy time. This is the strength of women, of so many generations who came before us and faced war, famine, plague, and death - on a scale we cannot imagine, with none of our modern comforts, with far less food. My weakness is proof of the relative constant comfort and entertainment to which I have thus far been accustomed; to the prosperity of the time and place in which I live. Can I shirk my burden, when it is so small?

When I first converted, I loved the stories of the early martyrs and the great saints that did so many amazing things. I wanted to do Great Things for God - to die, to join a convent where they wore no shoes in winter time, to be one of the ones who gave it all! But when he asks me to hold my temper with a small unreasonable child, I want to hold onto my anger instead; when he asks me to get up and tidy a room instead of scrolling Twitter, I clutch my phone tighter. When he whispers to me to bring order to my home, I turn my back and ignore my family's need for structure. It turns out I wanted to give everything, except the sins I'm currently indulging in.

May this Lent where I have so little distractions, where I am truly cloistered in my domestic church, give me the courage to abandon my sins, and truly repent.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Mary Rose Cecilia

For all nine months of my pregnancy, I didn't feel like writing. Didn't feel like writing, talking, cleaning, getting up - most everything that required consciousness, really. Never have I dreamed that I could be so uncomfortable while pregnant for the whole time - not truly sick, like those with hyperemesis gavardium, but just constant discomfort and irritation.

I didn't want to write this either, but Tom insisted. You've done it for the other kids, he said, so don't leave her out. It's taken me so long - life is much busier with you!

Your due date, Rosie-girl, was November 20th - the Monday of Thanksgiving week. Grand and Grandad drove up the Saturday before to be with us all that week in case you made your entrance on time, which is, as we all know, a statistical unlikelihood. I tried to be at peace with God's timing, but the fear that stalked me, that made me feel hunted and frightened, was that you would come and we would be alone - my little family would be on an island with no help. Being in a state far away from family had already made my pregnancy feel lonely and sad - I hoped to salvage it by at least bringing you home to a house filled with relatives who'd coo over you and make me drink water. By your due date, my desire for you to arrive while your Grand was here increased to a fever-pitch. I felt like wailing every day you didn't come. I was also incredibly uncomfortable, like you were just not positioned correctly, so I went to see a chiropractor - and that adjustment gave me near immediate relief (that was Saturday, the 18th).

Originally, we had had tickets to attend the Beatification of (now) Blessed Solanus Casey that Saturday. But I called it, and we gave away our tickets, because I was so uncomfortable and so worried that you would be born in Ford Field during the Mass! (wishful thinking, really, in retrospect)

On Monday, my due date appointment, I voiced my frustration, sadness, and general upset. Wendy and Jamie, my midwives listened empathetically and did a check - 4cm along already. I asked them to strip my membranes, because I really really really want to be in labor. After a thorough strip, we went to Somerset Mall and walked around - I was contracting, off and on. Nothing consistent, nothing great.

Tuesday passed and I was so sad - the chiropractor had said that women usually go into labor 24 hours post-adjustment! The midwives said the stripping could really get things going! Where oh WHERE was this baby?? (a silly and sad thing to ask, when I was only 40+1) Wednesday morning, I woke up contracting...and gave it an hour...and  soon I knew, it was going to be time for you. It was the day. We packed up our things and went downstairs, told Grand and Grandad, kissed Zuzu and David goodbye and started the 45 min drive to Nine Short Months Birthing Center. In contrast to the last few weeks, I felt such peace on the drive...such peace as a I breathed through my contractions.

We arrived, and they were filling up the tub (your brother and sister were both born in a tub). It was snowing, softly. I climbed into the tub...but immediately wanted to get out. The water felt too cold and I could feel the hard wood beneath the vinyl surface of the tub (it was a blow up tub, not a fixed one). I got out and climbed into bed...where I dozed, off and on, through contractions for the next hour or so. Your dad held me, and pretty much resigned himself to spending Thanksgiving at the birth center, since he thought me sleeping was a sign things were slowing down - he underestimates my ability to sleep through literally anything.

Once matters got more intense, I got out and crouched on the floor for a while, breathing and vocalizing through contractions. I was wedged between the edge of the bed and the hot tub, not a very convenient place! Wendy and Jamie encouraged me to move - I thought I'd try the birthing stool, but as soon as my posterior touched it's surface I jumped up with an emphatic "NOPE."  I ended up kneeling on the floor, holding onto the birthing stool and pushed there. In one, long, fierce contraction, you were born. As you were crowning, the midwives said "okay, lean back so you can catch your baby!" but I couldn't even say I couldn't - I just couldn't move at that moment in time (I was concentrating!) so I shook my head . Wendy said to Tom, "okay then it's up to you Dad - get in there!" Your father is a rather decorious person and was concerned with lack of gloves, so he hesitated but she hustled him down there. So your Daddy caught you!

Then came that near maniacal desire to hold you, so I was helped into bed and held you and marveled at your beauty. The first hour after you were born, the midwives try to give privacy to the new family for bonding - I'm not sure how bonding it was for us since you cried the entire first hour! Also, I am not entirely sure why I, a seasoned mother, didn't realize you needed to nurse? We spend most of your first two hours deciding on your name. You were very nearly Bernadette, with the nickname Birdie, and also nearly Rosemary. But in the end - you are Mary Rose Cecilia. You are Mary in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, Rose for St. Rose of Lima and Our Lady's title of Mystical Rose, and of course, Cecilia because you were born on her feast day!

But you were suddenly with us and it was all so very, very good.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

I'll Take Mercy for 500, Alex

I try to go to confession every Saturday. For two months, over the various parishes and priests I have visited, every single one has said a variation of the same message. "You need to focus on God's mercy."

My mind revolts at that message.

It seems such a screen to make excuses: excuses for my sinfulness, excuses for my committing the same sins again and again - and dammit, again. Like a smoke screen for moral laxity or a touchy-feely code word that wants to make everybody feel okay for daily refusing to take on the challenge to be a saint.

I want a priest to throw the book at me: I want to hear about hell, fear of the Lord, heroic virtue. I want confession to feel like purgatory - a burning away of the dross that prevents me from being pure gold.

Yet those men that God has put in my life to be Christ to me - these men have stood with one foot in Heaven and one on earth and the message they give me is different, again and again - and dammit, again.

They beg me to take up Christ's yoke of mercy.

Yet it seems so heavy, such a hard burden to bear, this mercy. My soul recoils, "what could mercy have to do with me?" Part of it is a misunderstanding of mercy - mercy does not excuse sin. Mercy does not say that sin is not sin; mercy is "love reaching down to lift people out of their physical and spiritual miseries." (see here) Mercy is God loving us so much, he provides us with a way out of our own sinfulness - through confession, through the life of virtue, through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

The crux here is that, to receive God's mercy, I have to admit that I cannot make a path on my own. I cannot, by any amount of willpower, mental tricks, or new routine, make myself virtuous. I cannot save myself. For me, an American millennial young woman, that's so hard to accept. I pay lip service to this concept, but my actions do not bear it out. Every day, I wake up and instead of begging for the grace needed to be virtuous just for today - I resolve to just be better! My new self begins today! Today will be Day One of Martha 2.0, no mistakes, no more being my same crappy self. Haha, I will just resolve that and I'll be fine, I will power through, just like I have powered through hard things before. Hey, I graduated law school, okay. I'm smart and capable! I'll make a chart, buy a new planner, look up routines on Pinterest, get some inspiration from some peeps who seem to have it all together, and get going!

It lasts for two hours, if I'm lucky. Sometimes the jig is up in 30 minutes if my kids are really on point.

Mercy demands that I be humbled, that I come to Christ as what I truly am - a sinner in need of a savior. I cannot save myself - I'm such a mess, I can't even successfully pretend to save myself. I have to sit at his feet and say, "how do I do this?" I have to listen to him - in prayer, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the words of the Church Fathers (and Mothers), in his saints and holy ones. When I listen to myself, to the messages of of this world, I'm just listening to an echo of nothingness - just 'sounding gongs' and 'clanging cymbals.' There is a path, an ancient path, to peace and joy, to Oneness with God. It is not an easy path! But it is the way of mercy and Jesus walked it before me, and walks it with me now. In fact, we are not even alone - there is a multitude, a great cloud of witnesses, that every moment cheers me and calls out how to go, warns of pitfalls, points back to the Way.

Dear Jesus, help me to accept your mercy every day: it will be enough, you will be enough, and united with you, even what little I am will be enough.

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