Walking our faith: The unexpected birthday guest (column)
Walking our faith
Last Saturday I was set to celebrate another birthday alone.
I was determined to stay in bed, but was thwarted by the persistent ringing of my mobile phone from the living room.
Mom had called twice in the past hour and my sister had called once.
I called Mom back. My sister answered, before she handed the phone over to Mom, she wished me a happy birthday and said, “I love you, Sue.”
I don’t know when the last time my sister, or I, said that to one another. Her words were a gift.
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Mom said she was thinking about me and was concerned that I was spending my birthday alone. Mostly, I find solitude easy. Still, I wish I was better at making friends because there are times when alone is lonely.
I went into the kitchen and began mixing my birthday cake.
After I put the cake into the oven, my phone rang again. It was my brother and sister-in-law. They were on their way to a movie, but they wanted to call and wish me a happy birthday.
I went back to the kitchen, took the cake out of the oven and two dear friends called to wish me happy birthday.
Next, my oldest brother and his wife called. I hadn’t received a call from them in perhaps a year. Our conversation was lovely and I promised that when I came home to Florida in July, I would cook a dinner for all of us.
I frosted the cake with a thick layer of chocolate and then realized that if I hurried, I would be able to make the Saturday evening Mass at Saint Mary’s with enough time to go to confession beforehand.
As a convert to Catholicism, confession is something that still feels awkward to me, even after 25 years as a member of the Church. It is especially so when I have to sit face-to-face with our priest. Being the center of my own universe, I’m certain that he will look out at me during subsequent Masses and recall every word I said.
Standing outside of the confessional, as the church began to fill up as it always does on Saturday evenings in Breckenridge, I considered what I should bring to confession this time.
I decided to be frank. Which is different than being honest.
I entered the confessional and sat down across from a visiting priest. Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. And then said, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned, it’s been six months since my last confession.”
Then, instead of confessing a garden variety of gentle transgressions, I confessed that while I loved God with all my heart, and trusted God completely, I was beginning to doubt Him because of the lack of a long-sought-after answer to a vital prayer.
Because there were only fifteen minutes until the start of Mass and at least two more people waiting to have their confessions heard, the priest was very brief but consoling. I felt better because I was able to say out loud what I had held inside.
At the end of Mass, Deacon Jim Doyle (whose homilies reveal a fearless love for God) informed the congregation that our Pastor, Father Michael Glenn, would be undergoing brain surgery on Tuesday, March 22, and we were asked to join in prayer for his recovery, and that there was a letter to the parish from Father Glenn, in the weekly bulletin.
When I got home, I poured myself a glass of red wine, began preparations of my birthday dinner, and read the letter from Father Glenn.
I want to share the final paragraph of that letter:
“The patron Saint of Priests, St. John Vianney prayed: ‘Grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer all my life whatsoever it may please thee to lay upon me; yes, even for a hundred years am I prepared to endure the sharpest pains, only let my people be converted.’ Know that I will offer my suffering for the parish for our growth in holiness.”
Later that evening, my sister-in-law joined me by phone from Florida as I ate my birthday cake. And my mother called again, to make sure I’d had a good day.
Here’s what I received from God on my birthday:
When we are alone, even by our own doing, God will gently let us know that we are loved.
When we doubt God’s care and presence in our lives, He will show us through the words and actions of others, how great His Love is, and that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
When I profess my love for God, my faith is the size of a mustard seed compared to the passion of Deacon Doyle or the courage of Father Michael. Yet, God still loves me.
When everything seems impossible, God is performing miracles, turning the tears of our suffering into an elixir of love that will heal souls’ unseen.
I hope you will join the parish of St. Mary and Our Lady of Peace in prayer for the strength and recovery of Father Michael Glenn. He came through his surgery and now has a long road of recovery ahead. I believe God will bless his suffering for the spiritual growth and conversion of our parish and for others touched by his journey.
On this Easter Sunday and every day, Jesus lives. If we pay attention, we will see Him always at work in our lives. Turn toward Him and open your heart. God reigns in Heaven and on Earth forever and ever. Amen.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson writes a regular religion column for the Summit Daily News and is an author of ten books. Send comments to Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.co
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