Unhand the Cheerios…

cereals in basket

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Both kids were scheduled to work this morning, so we went as a family to the five o’clock Mass at St. Pius. It was the first time we’d gone there together — gorgeous church, lovely organ music, and the homily was short, sweet, and … a little crunchy.

The priest observed that every parish in America sweeps up at least a pound of Cheerios each weekend — a kind of divine detritus (my words) left behind by parents of small children who just want to be able to pray for five minutes. Then one day as he was watching his two-year-old nephew grow frustrated over trying to play with a truck with two fistfuls of Cheerios, he said, it made him realize that Cheerios are the perfect metaphor for human desire. “God holds out the truck, and we won’t let go of the Cheerios long enough to take it. But that’s what God is asking … he wants you to let go of the Cheerios,” he explained.

I looked at my mother, sitting so intently next to me. It has been only about three weeks since our priest gave her the anointing of the sick while she was in the hospital with pneumonia — for her, it was a sacramental windfall that included first confession, first Eucharist, confirmation, and last rights. Thank God, she recovered … and has been eager to go forward to receive Jesus each week. Her eyes just light up with so much joy, you never would have guessed what a miracle it is that she was standing there at all.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that I was brought up believing Catholics aren’t “really” Christians. So to see God work it out so that my mother goes forward to receive Jesus each week is a little … strange. I’d had two aunts (one on either side of the family) who had married Catholic boys, and it didn’t end well.  (Interestingly enough, one of them — my namesake — wound up tending to my grandmother in her later years. I so admire her.)

All I know is that, for the past two years, mom has been going to church with us each week … and remaining in the pew as the rest of us went up. She would say all the prayers, and sing along to all the hymns, and listen intently as our Nigerian priest would break open the Gospel. At night I would tuck mom in and read to her from some of the books I’m currently working on, and one day she pulled out one called Catholic and Christian by Dr. Alan Schreck … and we started reading THAT.

Next thing I know, she’s telling Fr. John that she wants to be a Catholic. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s because her Catholic daughter rescued her from memory care prison. Maybe it’s because I refused to give up praying with her for her marriage. Maybe it’s because … well, maybe it’s because we were both ready to let go of the Cheerios, and hold out our hands for whatever God wanted to give us.

And so we did. And you know what? It was even better than we thought.

Weekend Ponderings: Triduum Begins

triduumThis coming Saturday, I’ll have been Catholic for fifteen years.  In 1994 I was confirmed through Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena, California. I tell part of the story here at “Church Girl Runs Home.”

Like many converts, I never lost  respect for the religious traditions with which I was raised. My love for God, the Scriptures, and old hymns … My appreciation for Keith Green, Second Chapter of Acts, and Michael Card … My contention that religious education should be both fun and thorough … all these things I picked up during the first thirty years of my life.

Becoming Catholic didn’t negate any of these things for me. It just gave me greater clarity about the big picture — and helped me see that all that may be known about God cannot be contained in the grey matter of a single person.

When I sing “Amazing Grace,” the words “t’was blind but now I see” resonate with me far more now than when I was a Bible school student, and whole-heartedly believed I had all the answers. When I talk to someone about the faith, remember that those who were the greatest influence on my decision to become Catholic never belittled my firmly held beliefs. They just loved … and prayed … me through the gates.

Contemplating the final week of Christ, and remembering the great suffering our Savior endured, helps us to prioritize things. When we think of how much He gave up, being right seems less important than being forgiving. And being kind becomes every bit as important as being observant.

As we observe the rites and rituals of the week, let us never lose sight of the fact that faith is first and foremost about relationship — first with God, and with one another.

I’ll be taking a break until Monday or so … Happy Easter!