Betty Duffy

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Only Solution

Tonight I was driving all of my children around town in order to make drop-offs at swimming lessons and play practices, etc. The kids were nuts, screaming in the back of my van and jumping all over the place. I could feel myself dissolving into the driver’s seat. I was at the point where I typically snap and start yelling bloody murder, but the car was suddenly filled with the sound of pipe organ. I’d turned on an unmarked CD which happened to have on it the “Veni Creator Spiritus” as it was played at my husband and mine’s wedding, in an arrangement by Friedrich Froeschle.

The Church where we married has a long aisle with blood red carpet, and we processed to the altar to this piece, chosen to invoke the Holy Spirit upon our marriage. When I hear this music, I cry. Every. Single. Time. There’s something so humbling and comforting in knowing that whatever proceeds from that moment on the altar is God’s will because the Holy Spirit was there, and is there in our marriage. I count on it.

I was driving and crying, and the children were silenced by the pipes, at least I think they were because I’d turned the volume up so loud that I wouldn’t have heard them. And I had the sort of moment I always hope for, when confusion becomes clarity, where anger becomes charity.

I’ve spent the better part of this week thinking I have no answers for any of the troubles in the world. I teach a catechism class for adults at my Parish, and I’d been dreading it all week. What incredible over-confidence, to think I have something to teach these people. All week I have felt helpless about the poverty in the third world. I don’t know how to make the government operate how I want it to operate. I don’t know how to make my kids behave how I want them to behave. I don’t know how to be happy with all that I have. I have no answers, nothing to teach, no easy solutions.

Except for the Holy Spirit.

This happens sometimes, that I just feel ineffective in my positions. I’m no kind of mother, no teacher, no writer. Even striving to be Holy feels like an act of self-indulgence—because who can sit around examining their conscience when there are such abominable things happening in the world?

Last week discussing the Beatitudes with Pedge and Irene, I felt incredibly sad with its message. Blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, those who hunger for righteousness. I was none of the above. I was just about to comment on my ineptitude at living the Gospel when Pedge said, “I really am all of these things at one time or another. Sometimes I’m a peacemaker. Sometimes, I’m poor of spirit. Sometimes I hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

This keeps happening to us, that we can both read the same Gospel passage and glean from it the exact opposite. Today we read about the widow putting her last two coins in the basket, and I felt sad thinking that I haven’t given enough. And Pedge felt glad, because she interpreted the two coins as love for God and love for neighbor, and she felt that God had positioned her life so that she could give just those two things.

Driving in my car tonight the Veni Creator Spiritus reminds me that there is room for all of these different interpretations. There is room to find the cup half empty, or half full, because the Holy Spirit is going to speak to each one of us as individuals. The Holy Spirit is going to inspire Pedge to remark, “What gives God more Glory, to beat ourselves up because we have been given so much, or to be glad and spread what joy we have because it has been given to us by God?”

Teaching my class, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me, and feeling as lacking as I do, maybe opens more room for the Holy Spirit to fill me. It’s the only solution I have to the problem of teaching that class. The DRE is counting on me. People show up. I can’t hide. I must prepare. And then when I’ve combined my resources and drawn up my plan, I ask the Holy Spirit to make the right words come from my mouth. It’s the only solution I have, because I have nothing else to offer.


Jus said...


Here there are two types of students who come for a rotation.
The first sees the enormous amount to be done and works themselves crazy all the while lamenting an inability to truly fix anything.
the second comes and loves the work feeling all the while grateful to be able to do something in the face of such need.

One group will walk into a room of 10 and save the life of one without noticing only able to think of the nine while the other will rejoice in the 1.

Both groups work the same number of hours, accomplish about the same amount of "good" but they walk away viewing their experiences as opposite. One filled with sadness over what they didn't do and one filled with joy about what they did do.

The difference seems to be that the first group goes home - the second comes back.


TS said...

Great post BD; I can really relate to the Beatitudes attitude. Maybe this post is a sign I should get "baptized in the Spirit" at a Catholic charismatic service on Monday night.

mrsdarwin said...

This is something I really needed to hear today, Betty. Thanks.

Betty Duffy said...

Jus, I wonder how much of it has to do with temperament. Just a thought...

TS, go get Baptized. I was a skeptic, and it's not something I want to do again soon, but I have noticed long-reaching effects, having to do with a pre-dominating awareness of the action of the Spirit in my life. No huge miracles or healings, but definitely, a new dialogue that wasn't there before.

Mrs. D, glad I could help.

Jus said...

My guess is the vast majority has to do with temperament.

The thing is, there is this idea that your temperament does not simply inform your choices but makes them for you. I know my temperament. I am a dweller a worrier and I consistently WANT for a more graceful life without doing an enormous amount to achieve it, a "dreamer". I could spend an hour or two dreaming about it and not once think to get up and BE it. I think, like myself, the students fall in to the trap of allowing their temperaments to much power. We all do.

LOVE the newest post. I am ALWAYS looking for escape in places where I could never truly hope to achieve it.