Awakened by Grief

FB_IMG_1496196623038Grief is a funny thing. It has a mind of its own. Even though I try never to run from it, because it will chase me down, I still run. I don’t want to feel this emotion today or any day. I want to put it off; it suffocates me and it is painful. I know I should face it straight on and deal with my emotions, my memories, and the gifts that have brought me to this time of grieving. My husband, children, and friends are checking on me, just I am checking on my sister-in-law, nieces and siblings. With the passing of my brother, we have lost a husband, a father, a brother, and a friend.
This early morning, I woke for no apparent reason. A vision of my brother, a memory of him driving up to my parent’s home in a maroon convertible Triumph, flashed in my mind. The top was down and his long black hair was settling around his happy face as the wind had blown it freely on his drive. This was the first of many memories that flashed into my barely conscious brain. I have often written and said to others in grief: allow your memories to comfort you. That comfort is not without pain. My heart hurts, I will not see him again until I pass. I will not be able to use him again as my political moral barometer. I will not be able to hug him and tell him I love him. Of course, he knows these things, but they are no longer a physical reality for me.
As other memories formed I organized them chronologically, and through the tears streaming down my checks, I am comforted. My earliest memories revolve around our family, when we were children. I remember seeing him head off to school in khaki pants and a white shirt. He usually had a novel in one hand and his tennis racquet in the other. I remember going with my mother to pick him up at the City Park tennis courts; it was a beautiful place. I remember what he looked like when he would leave in his dungarees as a Sea Scout. He and I recently discussed his explorations with the Sea Scouts, an activity that he loved. I remember his kindness and love for me when I failed, when I succeeded, and when I our mother was ill. I remember in the summers he would pile all the neighborhood kiddos into his car and drop us off at the country club to go swimming. He would include my sister and me in his plans, going to drive-in movies, po’boy shops and so many other places. I remember the love he shared with us, and particularly his special bond with my oldest sister. They were a great brother-sister team.
He was twelve years older than me, so in many ways he always seemed like a grown-up to me. I remember sitting and listening to him tell our parents of his most recent adventure. He captivated my attention. I remember when he left to go to boarding school. I remember visiting him there, as well as his visits home. In his early college days, I remember the excitement of this new adventure. I remember the draft during the Vietnam war. I remember his struggles with what to do, how to precede, and his ultimate enlistment rather than draft. I remember eating Thanksgiving dinner at Fort Polk following his graduation from boot camp. I remember his growing pains as he turned into a fine and upstanding man. I remember his wedding and the joy that came with his love and relationship to his wife. I remember how he fell in love with each of his girls as they were born. He was a good brother, a good father and a good husband. He was not perfect, nor was I. We fought, we made up, and we loved one another. He taught me many things about myself and who I wanted to be. He was also my godfather. He helped me to know God as my sovereign, and later as my friend, offering unconditional love.
I remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that day, when my mother and I came into the house, he rose from a rattan chair with blue and white upholstery and exclaimed to my mother, “Do you know what happened today”? She sadly answered, “yes”. I had no idea. I listened and took in the trauma of losing such a prominent civil rights leader. I was almost ten years old. It was probably when my sense of social justice began to develop. I don’t remember having an understanding before then.
Today, as I watch the sun rise, it reminds me of my favorite Van Gogh painting, “Starry Night”. My brother is like the morning star. He brought light into my world, and that light will live on. In the Book of Revelations, we learn that we receive the gift of the morning star from Christ, who is light. This gift is given as an acknowledgement of our faith and victory over adversity (Rev 2:28). My brother was one who sought knowledge of, and relationship with, God. He shared his love and mercy. My memories offer comfort in my grief, but my grieving continues. God’s time is the healer and on this I will wait, remembering and loving my brother.

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How I Absorb History as a Personal Experience in Moral Growth

Anne FrankSeveral days ago, I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I did not anticipate the deep sadness that welled up inside of me. I am an emotional person, and I am usually able to reign in and bracket deep emotions when I prepare for them. I thought I had prepared. This day I unwillingly felt the tears roll down my cheeks; I was unable to control the enormity of my sadness. The secret annex was located above the factory owned by Otto Frank. As we approached a custom-built bookcase, the opening of the secret annex or hiding place, I experienced a feeling much like my visit to Auschwitz many years ago. It is hard to describe; it is a mix of fear and sorrow. The bookcase was beautifully crafted, the craftmanship of the piece is admirable. At Auschwitz, the beautiful flowers and gardens struck me in the same way, as we approached the opening gate. In each of these places I found myself experiencing the ordinary, and it is the ordinary that hides the horror of what became reality for others.
At Auschwitz, I moved through the bunkhouses struck by the normalness of what had been a military post, before becoming a death camp. Quite suddenly I found myself overwhelmed by the seized personal items from the captives, the shoes, clothing, and baby items. Following these display cases was an entire bunkhouse of human hair behind a glass encasement. The effect on me was even more than items one might purchase, such as clothing. Hair belongs to the person, no one has the right to shave it or take it. This is when I began to experience the acts of dehumanization perpetuated on these captives. They were treated as persons lacking in dignity, the dignity that belongs to all of humanity. My tears flowed without control, while the mix of compassion and fear fought over my emotions, an unsettling deep sadness formed inside my heart. Our guide told us that the hair we saw was discovered by the Russians as they liberated the camp. He also informed us the Nazis would bundle the shaven hair, sending it back to Germany to be woven into the Nazi uniforms as wool had become a scarce resource. I remember my son, who was twenty at that time, turning to me saying, “So the Nazi’s quite literally wore their sins”. My reply was a mortified, “yes”. As I went through the remaining tour and on to Birkenhauer, I was unable to shake the sadness of how one set of people can dehumanize another. The living conditions had been deplorable and the treatment was inhumane. Dignity of personhood is not about how others view your dignity, but that you innately know your own dignity. It seemed to me that one would have to fight very hard to maintain the mental capability to see their own dignity under such dire circumstances. My lesson for that day incorporated this experience, as limited as it may have been,
In the house of Anne Frank, I was struck by the normalness of the living conditions. Although the living was anything but normal. Anne Frank describes in her diary the loneliness of her life. Being unable to go outside, to see friends, and just experience her life. The lack of fresh air would have devastated the human spirit in me. Air and sunlight are gifts meant for all of humanity. The experience of breathing in fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun are necessary for the flourishment of the human person. The lack of these two simple but necessary human needs isolate the person and suffocate the spirit. This insufficient access would be enough to bring one to a deep place of sadness. I identified with Anne Frank’s description and incorporated them into my experience in the museum.
It is clear to me that her parents and the others living in the secret annex were anxious, but that they had a strong bond and trust. She and her sister Margot decorated their room with photos from magazines, a very normal teenage thing to do. Jan and Miep Gies, members of the Dutch resistance, celebrated their first anniversary in the secret annex; the menu for this celebration is on display in their bedroom. Again, all these normal activities through natural design lighten the experience of hiding and fear. I believe that fear and sadness dominated the inner core of each person, and despite hiding, life went on. The fear they must have experienced of creating any sound in the daytime struck me at my core. They feared anyone in the factory hearing and reporting their presence. I cannot fathom the tension that must have intertwined their experience. And yet I can also understand the boredom that must have penetrated each person as the need for quiet left them little to do. The quiet anonymity tied their survival to boredom, tension and fear.
At the end of the tour there are testimonies of others. Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, speaks about all that he did not know of his daughter’s thoughts and feelings. I cannot imagine the pain and sadness that he must have felt upon reading her diary. The unnecessary loss of his family must have been devastating. There are testimonies from others, famous and ordinary of her time and the present, on the importance of Anne Frank and her diary. For me, Anne Frank is a beacon that draws attention to the injustice of the Holocaust. My gut emotions remind me that she was a child bearing the weight of adult responsibility for self. This realization caused my tears to flow. No one should be robbed of life, of childhood, and of the ordinary. No one should live in fear of inhumane treatment. The anguish of fear and despair bought on by living without liberty is beyond what I know to be true for humans to flourish. The overwhelming sense of doom and injustice bear down on my chest and cause me to recognize Anne Frank not as an icon, but as a real person who reminds us of the perils of oppression and desolation created and perpetrated by others. What causes one to believe they have the right to prevent other humans from flourishing, and instead initiate abuse and annihilation? Is fear the main cause?
I fear the loss of this lesson through the passage of time. It has been two-thirds of a century since the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust, in the big scheme of time this is minimal. Moreover, there have been dozens other attempted genocides which have occurred since, such as in Rwanda and the Bosnian-Serbian war in Central Europe. Is this not part of what is happening in Syria and elsewhere today? I hear and see anti-Islamic, anti-Mexican, and anti-immigration rhetoric today, similar to the anti-Semitic rhetoric as in the days of Anne Frank. Have I allowed others to speak out against the Anne Franks of a new holocaust and not raised my voice against them? Will there be other Otto Franks discovering the diaries of their children after it is too late to save them? Is the fear of terrorism preventing us, as humanity, from recognizing oppression and the need for sanctuary for the oppressed?
It is my belief that God is Love. That if we are to truly care for humanity in the ways of God, then we are to truly love. It should not matter how we worship, but how we live out vocation in caring for one another. That is God for me, that is love for me. I will forever speak out in whatever manner is necessary. If I am ostracized for my blunt speech, so be it. My vocation is to be a host for my Lord and thereby a host to all. Safety for the citizens of every country is a sovereign right, but part of that sovereignty requires the sanctuary for the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed. I must hear their plight and come to their aid. Lady Liberty stands in the New York harbor as a reminder of our civic duty to one another. That is how I love. I am neither naïve or unaware that evil exist, but I truly believe that the defense to evil is love and mercy.

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Twenty-Four Hours in New York City

My husband, Eddie, and I are traveling to visit our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson in Amsterdam. My husband is a type A planner for vacations and I am a C+. I am okay with relaxing on vacation and missing a few important and unimportant landmarks. He, on the other hand, is early to rise and does not burn a second for the leisurely life, therefore our trip is meticulously planned several months in advance. On the advice of our daughter we considered the discount fares offered by Icelandair. The only requirement was that you have a stopover in Reykjavik. We thought cool, then we discovered we needed to fly out of Newark or JFK. We both had enough points to fly free to Newark on Southwest, again everything working according to plan. As it turns out we would be traveling on my birthday. I have been following Lin-Manuel Miranda for some time and wanted to see the musical “Hamilton”. We decided we could squeeze a show into our plan. I am willing to admit, I coveted those tickets. I was busting at the seams that I was finally going to see this historic and awesome musical. We researched our time, deciding we could see the matinee showing at 2:00pm and still make it to the airport for an international flight leaving at 8pm. I was feeling jazzed about how things were falling into place.
Our departure day finally is here, everything goes as planned. We arrive at our hotel. I am not jazzed that we are staying in Time Square, my least favorite place in NYC, but all things considered it is fine for a one night stay; and we are around the corner from the theater. I suggest to my husband as we enter the hotel that I check with the concierge about our time constraints the next day following the musical. The concierge informs me we need to be at the Newark airport at 5:30pm for an 8pm international flight. Uh oh, we hit our first snafu of the trip; the show ends at 4:45pm. We do not have enough time to make it to the airport if we encounter congested traffic. My heart starts to sink, all my birthday dreams are about to shatter. I take the elevator up to the lobby and tell my husband. He relays that our room is not ready; it will be about an hour or so. Even though the concierge told us the theaters do not buy back tickets or swap, we walk over to the ticket office of the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The box office is open and we tell them our story. They affirm they do not buy tickets back, and in addition, the show that night is sold out. My heart continues to squeeze a little tighter. They suggest that we stand in the cancelation line outside. We might get tickets. There is a lottery for tickets and many people do not claim them. My husband looks at me and we decide to take a chance!
There are five people ahead of us in line. The line begins to move and everyone is getting tickets. We tried to trade our seats, no takers. Then suddenly we are at the head of the line and they have two orchestra seats on the second-row center stage. We pay one fourth of what we paid for our mezzanine seats. Now what do we do with our matinee seats? My heart is not squeezing anymore; it is growing exponentially. I cannot help but smile from ear to ear. Our room is ready for check-in. We stop at the concierge and ask might they refer anyone requesting Hamilton tickets to us. The answer was a definitive “NO”. However, they had a plan B. Stubhub has an office close to Time Square and we could sell them online. So we head out again, only to discover that they moved the office, one block over. We are on a mission, determined to find the new location. Success is sweet and we proceed to the service office. We give them the tickets and up they go for sale on the Web. We priced them competitively, a little less than recommended. We just wanted to recoup the money we spent on the new tickets. Our decision to purchase tickets months in advance was worth spending a little more to be sure we had tickets, not that our plans had worked out so far. We worked up quite an appetite and stopped for tappas at Jack’s on 46th. It was a much-needed respite from the hectic pace of the previous two hours.
My husband received a business call he needed to take; I decided to check my phone. I have nineteen messages from my family. My brother had a heart attack two hours earlier, and this time my squeeze was real. It was about real people and my family that I love. I worried about tickets and real life and death was happening to my brother. Then I see a second set of text saying that the Cath Lab doctor could stop the attack and patch him up. The squeeze eases a little. I am concerned, but not ready to book-it to our home city. I text and continue to monitor. We continue our very disjointed day, but with gratitude for our present fortune. Hamilton was wonderful, it was incredible. During intermission, I check my messages to see if there is an update on my brother’s condition. I have a voice message from my brother. Again, my heart grows exponentially when I hear his voice and he assures me he is okay. I feel his blessings and know that love and family are the true blessings for each us as we travel our own personal journey. We are bits and pieces of each other and that is relationship; that is love.
This morning, my actual birthday, we slept in. It was glorious! We went to a very cool midtown restaurant, The Hourglass Tavern on 46th. While we did not have reservations and it is a small restaurant that was bustling. We were seated and treated like old friends. The owner, Beth, gave us a tour of all four floors, and then took us up to the rooftop to see her garden. During our meal, which was excellent (crab benedict for me and Belgian waffles for Eddie), our waiter brought us a champagne cocktail to celebrate. And best of all, I received another voice message from my brother, wishing me happy birthday. He sounded stronger. I am feeling the blessings of so many others. In the end, our matinee tickets sold, and after arriving at the airport we discovered that our flight was not until 8:45 pm. Ironically, we probably would have been able to make the original plan work. After reflecting upon the previous twenty-four hours, I realize by not despairing on events outside of our control we were able to create a better experience.

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Going to the Well

When I need to seek guidance from my Lord, I go to the well. For many years, I prayed by meditating on the scripture of The Woman at the Well. Her story is one of my favorite archetypes in the Gospel of John. She is a beautiful faulted individual, yet Jesus seeks her out. He seeks to relieve her burden in life. He seeks to reunite her in the community.
I generally begin with the Jesus prayer. “The Jesus Prayer is a short, simple prayer that can put you in the right frame of mind to get closer to God. And, at one sentence long, it’s quite easy to memorize!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner (Jesus Prayer, 2017)”.

I change my ending to this prayer based on the gift that I need in the prayer session. One of the ways that I alter this prayer is by asking God for his presence in the meditation. The prayer changes as follows,

          Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner and heal me.

The next step is to read my scripture, in this case
The Samaritan Woman.
4 He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11[The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; 14 but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” 17 The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,* the one who is speaking with you.” 27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” 39 Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman* who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” 40 When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 Many more began to believe in him because of his word, 42 and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world” (Jn 4:4-42).

Following the prayerful reading, I close my eyes and relax my breathing. I then call to mind the images of the scripture. I imagine myself at the well. I often imagine the well in detail. My meditation places me offering Jesus a drink and asking what am I supposed to do now; or I ask if there is something that I should know. Jesus does not always answer. Usually we sit quietly. There is peace and relaxation that takes over in the meditation. Sometimes I will move onto the thoughts of just being present with and to my Lord. The color green shows up often in my meditative prayers as a sign of life. Water is also present, and I interpret that as a sign of Divine presence and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is often the center of my mediation. The forgiveness I need to offer, myself and others even if forgiveness is not necessary for the relationship. I still need to acknowledge that I may not always be the best version of myself outside of prayer. I accept that my actions, my words and my recognition of relationships influence others. This moment of being with Jesus at the well offers light to guide my path and refresh my person. I end with a thank you. I come away from this meditative session with a renewed spirit for my ministry, and a renewed desire to be kind and patient. I feel the love that wraps the Divine presence around me.

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Not my message today, but one that is very important.

7 Edith Stein quotes every woman should read

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Offering Respect by Taking a Step Backwards

I find myself in the position of many faithful Christians. My adult children have concluded that organized religion and belief in the Triune God as “The One” is not for them. I thought that I had dealt with this issue and concluded that my children are good people, with good values. They possess virtues that I find desirable and helpful to the world around us. They treat others with respect, and most importantly they are raising children with respect. But there is a piece of me that cannot let go of my dreams for them and me.
I noticed over the Lenten season that my heart grew heavy with my desire to have my children and their children celebrate the Sacrifice of Jesus the Christ and the Joy of the Resurrection. I miss them in Mass; I miss their light with me in Church and I miss them in my community. As we began to plan our family Easter celebration, the ache washed over me to have them join us in our celebration of faith. After discovering my difficulty in understanding that Easter was just another Sunday for them, they rallied and came up with a reasonable compromise for our family time together. While I appreciate their respect, and love them for altering the plans, my heart still hurt.
You see I truly believe that God is good and that God is real. I truly believe Jesus of Nazareth‘s sacrifice revealed God’s love in an unprecedented way. I believe in the resurrection and the eternal life to come. I truly believe that I am called to live my life improving the world for Christ. I do not believe that all people who do not profess belief in Christ will be damned. I believe that God loves all his creation with an unconditional love. In the Gospel of John, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16). It is not for me to see the place of my children; I am called to see the light of Christ in them as a creation of God. How God will bring us all together is not for me to know.
So why do I struggle so if I truly believe that my children are able to live out their lives with their own convictions. I struggle because I miss the joy of knowing them through the lens of faith. I struggle because I believe that they miss out on the joy, the fun, and community of Christ. I struggle because I am their mother; I have woven a blanket to protect them. But the truth is that I cannot protect my children with my faith choices. God never intended for me to circumvent their freedom of choice. The freedom to choose our own path is one of the greatest gifts that God gives to all humans. It is not my place to choose for them.
I once had a conversation with a community member after a daily Mass. The conversation revolved around her daughter’s wedding. Her daughter had decided to be married outside of the Church. She was struggling to decide if attending her daughter’s wedding was sinful. I told her that my daughter got married outside of the Church that we had not only attended, but that my husband, her father, had walked her down the aisle and we paid for the wedding. She was aghast that we could commit such a sin. I did not see this as a sin; I saw this as offering my love to my child. You see I too had once walked away and Christ never stopped loving me. I am sad that my children do not know the love of Christ each day and with each breath, but I understand that their path in life is their path. My place in their path is to be steadfast in my love of them and my love of Christ. In retrospect, I found this loving response to be true in my life with my parents and their unconditional acceptance. They offered me love and acceptance as I found my way.
My spiritual director once said the threads that we weave into our children are always present, including faith. Bruce Springsteen stated on Story Tellers that if you are raised Catholic there are pieces that cannot be cut out of you; they will always be there (VH-1 Story Tellers, 2005). I believe that as well, and I see it in my children. I see light and positive decisions. Whenever I feel sad by what we do not share, I try to take a step backward, to be respectful of who my children are and give them space. I am also giving myself space to adjust to my call to be steadfast in my faith. I believe God is love and that love begets more love. God is pleased when we love, when we treat each other with respect. He would not have given us the parable of the Good Samaritan if we were not supposed to love as the Samaritan did. I am unsure that the sadness will ever disappear, but I am sure that loving is the light that guides me to my path in life.

Scripture for Thought:
Luke 10:25-37

The Greatest Commandment.
25There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? 26Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” 27 He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan.
29 But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. 31A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 32Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. 33But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. 34He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ 36Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” 37He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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Anger and a Spider Web

       Anger is a very powerful emotion that blocks the natural light that I see in others. I pray each day that I bring the light of Christ to others through the light that I emit. In Mass before Eucharist, and after the penitential prayer, I pray, “Lord make me a worthy temple so that I may see your light in each person I encounter and be your light to each person in need”. When I am angry, I am blocked from light, either seeing it or being it. I find it hard to pray when I am angry and even harder to function in relationship with others and God. My heart does not hurt because it is blocked from feeling anything but anger.

     I was trying to find a way to clear the anger out of my body, a cleansing so to speak. The image of a spider and a spider’s web formed. A spider weaves their web with one purpose in mind – a means of attracting a tasty morsel. Some spiders build their webs each night and take them down by day; other spiders build a permanent web, only rebuilding or repairing it out of necessity. Spiders are clever as they produce threads of their webs for capture and others for safety. They can navigate the web without peril. A spider will quickly move to wrap up the prey, without concern for becoming caught in their own web. Web properties preserve the blood of their victim as food for later, if necessary. When the time is right they will suck the blood for a scrumptious meal.

      This imagery is natural and beautiful, part of the cosmic order of life. However, when applying the same imagery to human anger, the beauty of nature takes on an ugly and unappealing form. I found myself to be a spider, but instead of weaving a web for nourishment, I was weaving it to capture and feed my anger. Each time I tried to take down my web of anger, I found a reason to rebuild it or repair it. I was destroying the natural light that emanates from me. Survival was not even a thought, nor was destruction. Anger was my only thought. Each day as I would rebuild my web, I would seek out any tiny incident, a tasty morsel to fed my wrath. I would wrap it up in my web and suck the blood right out of my prey. I became far too successful at hunting down each meal, nourishing and encouraging my need for blood. This need to suck the life from others was also sucking the life from me. The range of things that made me angry included interactions with my spouse, traffic, and politics, even inanimate objects. Nothing was outside of my sticky web, navigating was easy. Blame everyone else while refusing to take responsibility for hunting and capturing my prey, without regard to the insignificance of the prey. My web made life unbearable as my anger continued to grow with the need for a new victim.

     Light, like anger, takes on a life that seeks more light. The wounds of Christ are always before me and I have responsibility for the bloody mess I have created. I was deepening each wound of Christ and of my spirit as I wrapped up my prey. I needed to find a way out of my own web. I needed to stop rebuilding every day and find a gentle spot to reset and rest. I am an instrument of love, of God’s love. I had abused my friends, my spouse, and my God. How was I going to reconcile this behavior? I am a good person, thoughtful and loving. How was I going to stop so that I could be in relationship with God, my spouse, and friends. I kept going over this imagery in my mind, and trying to pray. Each time I turned toward what I know to be truth, prayer came easy. Each time I placed the real needs of others before me, I could set my prey free.

      My spouse, in his infinite wisdom, relayed my struggle to a few close friends. A friend called me offering her love and devotion as an agent for God’s love. Immediately I found myself on the cusp of giving over my anger. When alone, I talked to the Holy Spirit. I decided that if I love, then while there may be pain sometimes, there would never be a bloodletting. I do not presently have a relationship with my earthly shepherd. I am sure that he does not know my smell, but I have a community that does know me. My spirit has been lifted from darkness to light. My focus is clear and my love is returning in abundance. It is my prayer that my imagery and light may help others, lost in the milieu of earthy life, to seek their connection to the spirit and help them to let go of anger. Suffering because of anger is unnecessary and counter-productive to love.
(For a psychological approach in dispelling one from anger check out this article by Gary Trosclair – Transforming Anger Addiction: How to Use Political Anger Constructively )

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