Around this time of year, conversations about sacrifice tend to increase, and in Catholic circles, we look that whole business of “offering it up” – that once common phrase and practice, not so frequently heard any longer.
Unless you’re me over the past three and half weeks.
You can find lots of articles discussing, justifying and explaining “offering it up” from a theoretical perspective.
I have no apologetics or extended argument to present today. All I have is gratitude.
Over the past weeks, I have been graced with innumerable gifts.
There have been very real concrete gifts of food and money. I’ve been sent gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores. I’ve received checks. And I am the awed recipient of a collection that the wonderful, already busy Danielle Bean organized, which collected enough money to pay for fully 2/3 of the funeral expenses.
How can I thank you? Danielle is going to be sending me the emails of those who donated through Paypal, so each of you will receive a note from me – as will those of you have emailed and sent cards. It will take a couple of months, but it will happen.
In addition to the financial assistance, every day, I have received word of a few more people praying for Michael and us – praying in various forms and ways.
Including offering it up.
Priests have offered Masses. Those going to Mass have offered their participation and prayer at Mass. People write saying that they offered their Communion for us. Rosaries. Holy Hours. An acquaintance wrote to say that she offered 6 hours of unmedicated childbirth labor for Michael’s soul. Two people are – and this just humbles me beyond words – offering their Lenten disciplines for Michael and for our peace.
And there are many more.
As I said, it is humbling. It is a reminder to me – a very strong reminder – to work towards being exponentially more generous in my own spiritual life. Why do I do what I do? What are my prayers for? Just for *me* and for the sake of my own personal journey? Or am I explicitly tying them into something more generous, more cosmic, more sacrificial?
Don’t ask me how it “works.” I don’t know. All I know is that once you accept the mysterious efficacy of prayer, it seems as if everything can be included, not just the words, “Lord, please help him.” It breaks open a whole new way of envisioning and living in this Body of Christ for me, and for that, too I am grateful.
And I can’t help but sense that it is bearing fruit for me. For us.
A reason why:
I have really been tortured – and that is not too strong a word – by an intense fear of death since my early teens. I have a vivid memory of the moment, when I was about thirteen years old, when the fact of my mortality struck me. I have struggled with this because I know that is not the way a Christian should be – but taking comfort in even St. Therese’s apparent fears before her death, and such.
I’ve always worked myself out of it intellectually – do I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that the disciples’ testimony is true? Yes I do. I mean – I really do. Then, I just keep thinking, walking along that road, logically, and I am eventually okay, placing my faith in Jesus, the reality of the Resurrection and my share in that – well, until the next time something hits me as I pass a cemetery, consider the obituaries or even consider the reality that in 50 years I’ll be gone and the world will turn without me and I won’t be journeying with my children on earth any more.
I was driving yeseterday morning and I realized something.
That fear is gone. I mean…GONE.
I even tried to get scared. I thought about my grave, about my body in a casket, about obituaries, about not being here to see, say, little Michael’s children (which is a possibility – I’m 48..he’s 4. Well naturally it’s a possibility anyway, no matter how old each of us are, as I have learned the hard way this month) if he has any…about not knowing, as my father said last summer, “how it all turns out” for everyone.
I thought about all the things that have, for 35 years, made me tremble with a fearful anticipation and a desire to avert my eyes and distract myself…
I tried. But none of it worked. I was totally at peace.
It wasn’t a Ghost and Mrs. Muir thing going on, where I imagined being with Michael again – although I do think about that at times, cautiously, not wanting to fall into wishful thinking. No, it wasn’t that.
It was really just this:
“Well, all right ” I thought. “Michael went on that road and he is okay – more than okay. I know it. I can go too because he led the way.”
It was odd and striking, somewhat expressive of our entire relationship and, I’m going to say to you, pretty much a miracle.
Who knows where it came from, who knows why. Ultimately God, of course – God’s grace. But working in those mysterious ways, through earthen vessels ready to be poured out, generously and sacrificially, moved by Love.
I am opening comments. I would like the conversation to be limited, if possible, to the idea of “offering it up.” Not arguing about it, necessarily, but simply discussing how it has worked in your lives.