What do you give up for Lent when you’ve already given up fat, fried foods, bacon, ham, cream, and cheese for health reasons? That was my struggle this year. I was inspired by a homily to give up noise in my car so I would have more opportunities to listen for God.
No more would I race down the road making productive use of my drive time with news radio or Christian music. Instead, I would drive in silence and listen for what God wanted me to hear. The first day, as I self-congratulated my resolve, I expected to hear trumpets sounding and angels singing.
There was nothing that day, the next day, or the next week. But I continued my decision and found myself singing in the car. Last week, I resigned myself that my exercise in self discipline, listening for God, would yield no results. Well, it did have some negative results when my teens wanted to turn on the radio while riding with me, and I told them I gave up car radio for Lent.
Until today. It was a poignant St. Patrick’s Day as our daughter returns to college this afternoon. This was our last time as a family together at church until May. As we sat down in Mass, the Bible readings each spoke to me and then opened the most profound of visions.
First, in Isaiah 43, the lector read that God opens a path in the waters. We can forget the problems of the past and rejoice in His new creation. I thought for a moment of my wicked childhood, our struggles, our loss by fire, and my recent health issues and recognized that God is making a way for us to follow that is new and wonderful.
And so we could sing, “The Lord has done great things for us. We are filled with joy.” I was filled with joy – the joy of being there singing with my family.
Then we went to Philippians 3, where St. Paul writes he considers the things of the past a loss, and we have a new beginning. As we pursue this new path, we “strain forward to what lies ahead,” pursuing our goal of God’s promise in Christ Jesus.
My life feels like it is beginning Act 3. Act 1 was childhood, Act 2 was motherhood, and Act 3′s path is still being determined. Changing my lifestyle to make it healthier, and discovering new interests and talents, is definitely a strain, but I’m optimistic in the promise.
Then the profound Lenten gift happened. As the priest began to read the Gospel of the fallen woman where he taught the lesson on casting the first stone, for a few moments I saw a Renaissance painting come to life. The picture was a beautiful mix of reds, blues, and golds and was set in heaven. Christ was in the center, with Mary and the apostles surrounding Him, as well as saints and angels. Then I heard a voice from a past dream telling me, “We are still praying for you.”
It was a reminder of the Communion of Saints and of the dream that profoundly changed my life. Seventeen years ago, as we struggled with a high risk pregnancy, I had prayed begging for my son’s life. That night, which was the first step of my conversion, I was told, “We will pray for your unborn son.” I didn’t know what the communion of saints was, but I woke up the next morning determined to become Catholic and learn about my new faith.
Despite terrible odds and many setbacks, my son and I both survived a difficult pregnancy that included a month on bedrest in a hospital 100 miles from home, 4 PUBS blood transfusions to my son, 5 weeks of high dose IvIgg treatments, and a terrible hemorrhage from placenta previa. There is no scientific explanation for our survival; it was truly a miracle. During those months of struggle, we were prayed over by prayer circles around the country. I took comfort in my recognition that saints and angels were praying for us too in their “great cloud of witnesses.”
Now, as my children are no longer children but young adults beginning their own adventures and stories, I was reminded that I am still prayed for, as are they.
We each have a path to follow, and if we listen, we can receive guidance every step of the way.
After that brief flash of my Renaissance painting, I was back with my family, where I was then reminded to put faith first, family second, and my career third. (Thank you Mary Kay for that reminder!)
Had I not turned off the car radio weeks ago, and begun giving myself time to reflect and release, I don’t believe I would have enjoyed today’s epiphany.
We discover God in the silence. Sometimes it takes awhile to hear Him, but He’s most definitely there.