The domestic church is like an enclosed garden; a planned space
for the cultivation, nurture and care of the family.
The present is the only chance to build our family as a domestic church.
Instead of setting new externally-focused goals this year, I have decided to delve more deeply into my personal calling from God. Inspired by Simeon and Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:22-38), who both persevered in their lifetime of waiting for the promised Messiah, I want to recommit to staying the course set by God’s call in my life. Perseverance commonly connotes effort and hard work to complete a goal despite barriers and obstacles. In the Christian sense, however, perseverance is a virtue. Perseverance involves fortitude (which is both a cardinal virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit) and patience (which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit). Developing the virtue of perseverance requires both grace and personal effort, much like operating a sailboat and harnessing the power of wind to propel the craft. Simeon was not only a “righteous man awaiting the consolation of Israel,” but also “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Anna worshipped God night and day with fasting and prayer. The combination of grace and effort is also reflected in the Catholic Dictionary, perseverance – “remaining in the state of grace until the end of life.” This year, I hope to persevere (and remain in the state of grace) in prayer, in my vocation, and in loving others.
There's a half-dead bird on the driveway," my daughter came in to tell me.
"What do you mean half-dead?" I asked.
"It is on its back with its legs up but one leg is broken. Its eyes open and close," she described.
"What shall we do about it?" I asked her. (I was going to tell her that it happens that birds get hurt and it is nature's way and that we should let nature take its course.)
"Let's put it on the grass," she replied.
(At that moment, a choice was before me: either tell her there is not much we can do about it and leave it alone, or recognize her kindness for this bird which can die on the grass instead of on the concrete.) "Let's go."
We were incredulous that our guest gave us a most unusual gift on Thanksgiving Day. Hosting international students to join our family in celebrating this American holiday, we usually receive gifts such as foreign candy, trinkets, scarves, and even a stuffed camel with actual camel hair. We were surprised to receive from one of them a shower head with a hose! We politely thanked our guest and wondered how he came up with the choice of this gift - who does that? We shared many laughs with family members at receiving a piece of household hardware. It was one of those things that make for interesting conversation and filed in the funny family memories. However, two days before Christmas, our shower head cracked - causing water to spray in numerous crazy directions all over the bathroom!
Entitled, "My Parents Should Let Me Get Guinea Pigs," one of our daughters handed us a paper she wrote. She proceeded to give three reasons why: first, she had enough money to buy a pair; second, she has proven herself responsible as she had pet hamsters when she was younger; third, she spent a year exploring the types of guinea pigs, the characteristics of each type, and the necessary daily care regimen for the type she wanted to get. She wrote this paper because we asked her to write one before we would consider the idea of guinea pigs as pets for her.
We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath and I don't know what I did differently last week besides lighting the first Advent candle. How can we make this Advent be different from all the past ones? "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His path," we heard at church. One of the most intriguing passages in the Bible for me goes, "More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Because tortuous means full of twists and turns, I imagine the the topography of my heart to be circuitous, tangled and meandering. "Make straight the way of the Lord." HOW?
A martial arts instructor teaches his students to guard against tunnel vision wherein one who is in active combat begins to focus on one feature of the fight or on one weakness of the opponent. He instructs his students to always be keenly aware of the whole arena and to orient himself to all that is happening around him with the opponent at any given time. Like the athlete, we can focus on our proximate reality and forget that as Christians, we have awakened to an immense reality much more expansive than the immediate world to include the spiritual reality and life beyond physical death.
While my son and I were praying, we got off on a little tangent. He asked me about the lyrics to a Christian song, The Proof of your Love by For King and Country. We listened to it and read the lyrics. I had heard this song many times. Funny how the refrain hit me like I’d never heard it before:
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
Oh, let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love.
It might have been the foreign missionary nuns who taught at our Catholic elementary school or maybe the stories of saints and martyrs or girlish idealism that gave rise to a vision of my life at an early age. It was quite simple and clear. I saw myself in a distant land living with people and spending every drop of myself everyday for them; when I felt completely depleted, more was demanded of me and surprisingly, there were more drops to exhaust.