Betty Duffy

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Redeeming Friday Night

Friday night, at the dinner table, my kids performed a gastro-sit-in over their unwanted succotash. My husband and I stood guard making sure no one deposited their veg in the trash, or dropped it on the floor for the dog. We were getting bored.

My husband got into the fridge for the caramel apple I had purchased, and was saving for a calorie window in my diet. He began licking the caramel off because it was too cold to bite. Each drag of his tongue over the surface of my apple seemed to mark it with germs, like a dog urinating on its territory. In seconds the apple would be all his—although this should have been a forgone conclusion when he took the apple out of the fridge. In any case, my “Calgon, take me away” vehicle was about to be consumed.

A tightness formed in my chest. I tried a new refuge: I closed my eyes and pictured myself riding a wild horse, bareback, splashing through shallow rivers, climbing snow-capped fjords, leaning over a blonde mane with the brisk wind in my own hair. It didn’t do much for me.

“Well, I guess I’d better run to the store and get some milk for breakfast,” I said. Last ditch refuge: the grocery store, the catharsis of driving in the dark, turning up some music, and maybe even buying a pack of cigarettes. It was Friday, after all. I thought that filtering my breath through a double drag on a Virginia Super Slim might dissipate the tightness in my chest. So away I went, leaving my husband to put an end to the kids’ stonewalling.

I set out for the grocery. I drive that route all the time, every day, several times a day because it is also the route to the post office, my kids’ school, and Church. It was seven p.m. by the light of the dash, and a faded memory began to take shape in my head. Something was going to happen on Friday night at seven…what was it?

I think I might have a photographic memory, because images flickered through my mind until I saw the little message board in front of our church. An old lady in the Parish puts pun-y religious slogans on the board like, “How will you spend eternity -- Smoking or Non-smoking?" And drivers by are supposed to think, “Those clever Catholics. I think I’ll join them for Sunday worship.”

Sometimes real announcements appear on the board as well like, “Benediction, Friday, 7 p.m.” I have a habit of forgetting events if they don’t happen on the same day every week. Benediction happens once a month in our Parish, usually on the first Thursday, so I almost always forget about it. But it seemed, Friday night, that the gods had arranged for a quirk in the Benediction schedule to coincide exactly with my frantic escape from my stubborn children and candy-apple-snatching husband.

I was glad to comply with the arrangement. I went to the Benediction and sang my heart out on “O Salutaris Hostia.” I was the obnoxious woman in the back row who holds the note just a bit longer than anyone else so that I could hear my voice dominating the others with uncalled for vibrato. It felt wonderful. My chest began to release.

I prayed, “Lord you are my refuge,” and seized on the word “refuge” as I had been doing all night long. “You, Lord, are my refuge.” My refuge is not the grocery store, or a wild-stallion daydream, or a cigarette, or sweet food, or the internet, or my book, or my writing. Here, with the incense, the golden sunburst around the Eucharist, the red and white satin vestments, the candle smoke, the elderly parishioners—my fellow children, here, is safety, peace, a refuge for my troubles.

“Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Consoler.” Our missal uses the word “Consoler” rather than “Paraclete,” and the word resonated that night in a way that “Paraclete” might not have. The “Consolation prize” has a bad reputation, but considering the failure of my substitute refuges to console, I consider the consolation of the Holy Spirit a true prize. It is the one absolute uplifting consolation where substitute consolations fail to yield anything but temporary refuge and heartache.

“Blessed be Saint Joseph, her most chaste Spouse.” This benediction always makes me happy. When I was living with the consas of Regnum Christi, our Benediction was in Spanish: "Bendito sea San José, su castísimo esposo." It rolls off the tongue so well, it thrilled me then too. I am now married to a Joseph, and I like to think that outside the realm of time and space, he has found his glory. I believe that the two of us will die, having been sanctified, even if that hope is just a dangling carrot to keep us on the path of salvation. This life will purify us, so that one day, I can share my candy apple with him without sin. (Ha. Clever, clever Catholics.)

1 comment:

Kristin T. (@kt_writes) said...

"My refuge is not the grocery store, or a wild-stallion daydream, or a cigarette, or sweet food, or the internet, or my book, or my writing."

Ah, how quickly and often I forget this as I stumble along in the dark, hands flailing for something to grasp onto. Thanks for the reminder (and for the laugh regarding the crazy slogans on signs outside of churches).