Weekend Ponderings: “How Firm a Foundation”

Last weekend I drove to Atlanta to visit my parents for Mother’s Day — my husband’s gift to me was three days of precious time, so I could see for myself just how my parents are doing.

Part of my Mother’s Day gift to my Mom was to go to church with her and Dad. Normally we have the kids with us, and we go to Mass at the little Catholic church across the field from where my parents go. This practice does not thrill my parents, who say they cannot understand why going to a Catholic parish with the kids is so important. The important thing is that the family should worship together.

I understand why they feel this way. But I don’t agree. As a parent, I can’t tell my kids it doesn’t make a difference where we worship. It does matter, very much. I want my children to be a part of the Church founded by Christ, saturated in the sacraments and grounded in more than two thousand years of authoritative teaching. Anything else is a distant second best.

This weekend, however, it didn’t seem prudent to fight this particular battle again. And so I went with my parents to their church. (Yes, I could have made arrangements to go to Mass before or after, but this time I didn’t.)

Seated next to my father, I lose count of how many people stopped and offered the same question, “So, how are you?” with the same empathetic tilt of the head. “Radiation starts Thursday,” he’d say. (Later, we came up with pithier responses that he can trot out for variation … “At night I can pee down the driveway, and follow the trail home.” “Absolutely radiant … or is that ‘radiating’?” “Well, pretty good … but I’m growing a spare ____.”)

Lord, speak to me. I knew I was not in a good bargaining position. At that very moment, I could be across the field, participating in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Given the number of intentions on my heart, that probably would have been the wiser course. But like a child, I threw myself at my Father’s mercy, and hoped He would meet me there. I got my answer in the closing hymn, “How Firm a Foundation”:

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

John Rippon (c. 1787)

The waters are flowing deep right now. A couple of times, down and back, I could barely see the road through my tears. Life is like that sometimes … the woe comes in waves, threatening to overwhelm.

But they shall not overflow. He has promised to guide our boat safely to “that desired haven.”

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