Saturday, December 27, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude

Driving to visit relatives yesterday, I flipped through the radio stations to hear some Christmas carols. To my disappointment, I found the same theme present as when I was looking for some holiday cheer on television: ingratitude. Now we live in a rural area, and we don't watch TV at home, and rarely listen to the radio, so I'm not up on all the current trends. But it seems to me that complaining about someone's thinking enough about you to give you a token of their affection at this time of year is a sad and sorry thing. And to bombard ourselves with the reinforcement of this type of thinking is not healthy for our own spiritual growth. I know it takes me alot of practice to have an attitude of gratitude. I need to guard my eyes with what I allow them to read and view, and my ears with what I allow them to listen to. It is easy to follow the ways of the world and just let the media dictate how I act and feel. I have fought too hard to pry myself away from that. At times like this I am grateful and reenergized by my choice to limit the media's access to me. Sometimes it is harder to pick up a book, or play a board game or imagination game with my family than it is to turn on the TV. But it can and has become a habit with us. I also am grateful for this choice when I watch my 5 year old son interact with his friends and cousins. Instead of reenacting media promoted attitudes, I see him holding his own practicing the disciplines and attitudes we have been working hard to teach him. I hope and pray this will continue as he grows and faces the challenges of protecting his own purity, guarding his eyes and his ears from what may lead him astray.

It is not easy to stand constant guard over my senses, to keep them from dragging me into ingratitude and depression and restlessness. It is much easier, while visiting, to sit and watch objectionable shows with the rest of the crew, or join in with the gossip, than it is to get up and leave the room to go read my book elsewhere. And it's alot harder to stand up for my son's innocence and purity in front of others who mock my "prudishness". But with practice it gets easier. And when I see the positive results in my son, my resolve strengthens. The strange thing about it, is that sometimes they seem to even respect me for it. Even if they don't, this is what I believe is right. I've been down the road of temptation and spiritual laziness, and I know how cunning, baffling and powerful those forces are, always lying in wait for me. To quote Buddha, "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." Others have said much the same thing: You are what you think about all the time. Garbage in, garbage out. There's alot of good, positive, uplifting stuff out there to choose from. We just have to seek it out. Fill our minds with the good stuff, walk away from the negative. Change the channel. Or turn it off.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, came and it was decided it was too cold "for the little ones" to have our procession through town. So we had our mass and rosary in the church, and the children put on a play in the hall afterwards, followed by a delicious feast. It is interesting to note, that on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother Mary on Monday of the same week, a Holy Day of Obligation (Immaculate Conception is also patroness of the Americas), Mass was attended by a very few. And although the church was packed for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, not a Holy Day of Obligation, a very few went to communion. Our Lady's purpose in each of her apparitions has been to draw us closer to her Son. Yet of those attending the mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a very few showed up on Sunday for Mass.

Where is our teaching going wrong? Somehow we've got them coming for the cake and passing on the meat and potatoes. We pass out Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation like it's an inherent right, not an outward sign of inwardly embracing the faith. We try to "collect" as many people as possibe, but then we don't continue to welcome and feed them once they're here. Is this the fault of our clergy?

Much as I would like to evade responsibility, I think the fault resides in ourselves as Christ's body. Here's my take on it. Priests say mass and dispense the sacraments. They guide and direct us. Nuns pray for all and teach, or whatever their particular ministry includes. We, the church, are the teachers. We are the ones responsible for reaching our brothers and sisters in the faith, in their daily lives, through our daily lives. It is our responsibility to seek them out and care for them. Especially the ones that only show up on Christmas and Easter. Not to preach at them, but by including them in our daily lives, to be able to witness by our very lives what joy there is in living our Catholic faith. To share the grace and healing we receive in the Sacrament of Penance. To show our joy and inspiration from worshipping at mass. To shamelessly turn to Jesus in prayer, to Our Blessed Mother and all the saints in intercession, through all our joys and sorrows, hardships, confusion and prosperity. And only in this way to get them back to Sunday Mass, confession and Holy Communion.

Now having said that, I can think of one friend in particular, that I have neglected because she has stopped going to church. Sure, I don't want to slide back down the path of worldly temptations, but it's not like I have to be her shadow. Just call and chat once in awhile, maybe get together for a playdate with the kids. Just the reaching out to touch those God puts in our paths occasionally. We are not one person's saviour. Jesus was that for all of us. But we are called to love, and as Mother Theresa so sensibly explained it, some of the poorest of the poor are the very rich, for they are dying from lack of love.