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Walking Our Faith: Welcome home

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith

Oh I had big plans for the month of December. Big plans.

This was going to be my best Advent ever. I made a list of Catholic books I was going to read and returned everything that didn’t fall into that category back to the library.

I was going to pray the rosary every day and pray the Liturgy of the Hours morning, evening and night. I was going to go to weekday morning Mass three times a week plus once on the weekend.



To be honest, these are spiritual activities I generally do each week because I enjoy them. But in December, I was determined to do them all, perfectly.

I was so certain of my big plans that I shared them after Mass one morning with Father Stephen, who I think rolled his eyes. Before walking back into St. Mary’s, he asked me why seeking God‘s will should be limited to the month of December.



I was undeterred by the sting from Father Stephen’s bit of wisdom and veritably floated to my car on wings of newfound holiness.

I had begun this spiritual pilgrimage not out of a sense of humble longing, but because I was frustrated with God for not responding to my prayers in a timely manner. I was certain that God would reward my efforts with answers if I ticked off enough boxes with spiritual perfection. Yet after all these years, I should know God has his own ways of sharing spiritual wisdom. That Mass was the last Mass that I attended for the next three weeks.

Soon after that conversation with Father Stephen I caught a very bad cold. It was so bad that for the first five days I couldn’t leave my bed because my body was racked with pain and my lungs struggled to breathe deeply. No, it wasn’t COVID-19. I took the test and thankfully it came back negative.

But I was too tired to read the books I had planned to read, too tired for the formal prayers I had planned to recite. The best I could do on the nights when I couldn’t sleep was to repeat the name of Jesus. The conversations I had with God during those long nights are forgotten, but I remember a quiet consolation one night — that my simple prayers were enough.

My first return to church after this long illness was Tuesday, Dec. 21, when I slipped into my familiar pew for 8 a.m. Mass.

My heart was filled with a sense of homecoming. During the 30-minute Mass everything was familiar, yet new. I closed my eyes and let the prayers of the Mass wash over me and experienced gratitude for my faith that I had not felt in a long time.

Many of us will attend a Christmas service this weekend, perhaps for the first time in a year or a decade or longer. This week, I have prayed for each of us. As we come into the sacred space of our chosen church, my fervent prayer is that we experience what I experienced on Tuesday. The sweet recognition of coming home no matter how long we have been absent. I hope we realize that in God‘s eyes no time has passed, because God has never left us.

When Jesus entered our lives as an infant, grew up in a family like ours, shared his life with the best and worst of us, he did so to demonstrate his love for us just as we are.

I pray God‘s love will so overwhelm you that you will decide to return to church again next week and the week after that, to discover that a relationship with God will create a better version of yourself. The person you were created to be.

My spiritual pilgrimage was a success, but not in the way I planned. God was closest to me this month not when I was wrapped up in itineraries of my own construction, but when I was too weak to do anything except to simply repeat his holy name over and over and over again.

This is where God reaches us. When we are too broken to do anything more but simply be in his presence, God gently makes himself known and shows us how loved we are.

I wish you a very merry Christmas filled with the joy of family and friends and especially, God’s love for you.

P.S. Our priests and pastors will be overwhelmed as they serve the crowds that come to the multiple services held this weekend. Please take an extra moment to thank them for their service to our community. God bless you and keep you safe.


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