Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Offering Them Up

Last week, my daughter was lector at the school Mass. One of my boys was altar server. Two more of my kids were in the pews, staring up at the gilded ceiling of the Sanctuary, thinking about God knows what, and I was in the vestibule, watching it all through a glass window, with a three-year-old, who loves trying to get his siblings' attention at school.

As the day would have it, I wasn't able to stay for the Eucharist. I had an appointment at nine, and I hadn't thought it would be too terrible to hear my daughter and watch my son, pray a little, and then quietly slip out the back. But once I was there, and Father began the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I started to feel disheartened about leaving.

I hadn't observed the fast, so I couldn't receive the Eucharist regardless, but it felt like a bit of a waste to be there and not partake of the graces of the Eucharist. So I asked God for a minor miracle: Let me have the graces I would have received from actually consuming the Eucharist, and I'll offer them for Mary's intentions. Of course there's no way of knowing how such a request pans out, but I felt a little wash of consolation at the thought.

It occurred to me then that there might be more graces to offer, right here in front of me, because I know my children, and they are very good kids, but there was no chance that they would remember to offer up their own Eucharists. I barely remember to do it myself half the time, and as a matter of fact, I'm not sure I've ever clearly articulated to them that it's something they could do. So just on the off chance it might work out for the good, I offered their Eucharists as well.

Then I looked out on the Sanctuary, at the couple hundred kids there, and, well, I offered theirs too, just in case. Why not? Roughly one hundred innocent little people were going to receive Christ that morning. Let their graces from the Sacrament go to the most needy in the world. Waste not, want not. And Mary will know what to do with them.

Then I made my exit as planned, and I'm not saying I felt good about it, but at least I'd done what I could with my short time at Mass.

***

Over the weekend, one of those little boys at my kids' school, a first grader, was killed in a car accident.

Last week he was in the pew. This week, he isn't. I don't know what to make of it.

***

After having my little experience last week with offering up the Eucharist, I'd been contemplating the idea that our time on earth is too short to waste any graces. There are so many of them, just ripe for the picking, and one grace leads to the next, but I've often been too hasty with my plans, and fearful of where God might take me, so I shut off the faucet of grace from the start.

It's happened with my kids, that the more I invest in my relationships with them, the more I realize I need to invest. I open myself to doing something little, like helping with their homework, and the interaction reveals that I've overlooked some other need of theirs, perhaps for gentleness regarding a weakness, or for more time spent reading together or just being with them. One interaction facilitates the next. And I'm ashamed to admit, that I have preferred at times, to remain blind to the vastness of their needs.

Got to get to my appointment. I'm busy, too busy to make the most of my prayers in the morning. It's good enough just to read the Gospel. Do I have to sit there and think about it too? What if it reveals something to me I don't want to know? What if it requires something of me? It usually does, often something I don't want to give.

I watched the movie Tree of Life several months back, and again on New Year's Eve, and my husband and I have been trying to make sense out of the last scene. All the characters who have presumably died, walk on a beach, reuniting and hugging one another. It looks purgatorial, in that there is still an earthly sort of environment, and people still have bodies and recognize one another.

A woman, who appears to be Mary, comforts the mother of the fictional O'Brien family, whose one son died young and the other lost his faith. We see the mother offering her son to Mary, saying, "My son, my hope, I give him to you," and it's not clear which son she's offering, if not both.

Water flows around their feet and waves beat the shore--and I am imagining this water as grace, poured out like a libation--as much as you want--as much as you can take--a slow trickle, a waterfall, depending on what you are willing to offer, or what you are open to receiving.

It takes one unimaginable death to put my costs into perspective. I have, so far, been asked to surrender only trivial things, the easiest things, my time, my comforts, my attention. There have been occasional bodily costs--the discomforts of pregnancy, the loss of pregnancies--but so far my investments are little in comparison to what others have been asked to surrender.

We all know what matters most in life are relationships, our relationship with God, the relationship with our spouse, our responsibilities to our children, the requirements and sacrifices of love. I haven't always done those relationships well enough, and already I can discern the wounds of my inattention.

I believe that grace flows back and forth through time, and our offerings today really can compensate for the ones we didn't make yesterday. I have the benefit of being able to make reparation while my kids are alive and well, to seize the graces offered to me today, tomorrow, next week, and offer them for the purification of past offenses, and future ones. There will be more failings to come, I'm certain.

And as always, I know Mary administers those graces especially to mothers who've lost children to death or sin. Peace of Christ be with them.

11 comments:

Peter and Nancy said...

I like what you've said here about realizing that my sacrifices so far have been small. We've been waiting nearly 3 years during an adoption, but this time around I'm not feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I'm remembering those children in orphanages, and praying for them instead.

I'm so sorry for this loss to your community -- what a shock. I hope his parents are feeling the support of church and school during these dark days.
Nancy

Anne said...

Wow! Amazing post!

Lizzie said...

What a shocking and beautiful post. Please know that you and your community are in my prayers...

This is just stunning Betty and, for me, it always seems to be when things are difficult that I'm reminded of these graces for the taking if I'll just accept them. Please God they work back through time too...

This - "It's happened with my kids, that the more I invest in my relationships with them, the more I realize I need to invest. I open myself to doing something little, like helping with their homework, and the interaction reveals that I've overlooked some other need of theirs, perhaps for gentleness regarding a weakness, or for more time spent reading together or just being with them. One interaction facilitates the next. And I'm ashamed to admit, that I have preferred at times, to remain blind to the vastness of their needs." -
speaks to me so very deeply at the moment.

I have so much on at the moment and my prayer for the last 10 days has been 'please Mary, give me the graces I need to be a good mother. Show me how because boy, I can't do it by myself..' and my goodness, the graces have been coming and as each one flows, it opens my eyes more deeply to my son's needs. I'm finding myself wanting to tend to his needs more but that voice of temptation whispering 'no, you have those emails to write, that problem to agonise over, that task to complete, that table to tidy...'

Betty, thank you so much for the gift of your writing and, again, I am so sorry for the loss of the little boy.

Lizzie said...

ps Obviously, it's God who gives the graces but you know what I mean about Mary!!

BettyDuffy said...

I really didn't know the family of the little boy, but the kids, as you might expect, are affected--especially the little ones. And I'm sure the family appreciates any prayers. The father was driving, and survived with minor injuries. I'm praying especially for their marriage.

I'll also pray for your intentions, Nancy and Lizzie.

Anne, thank you.

Julia said...

I think it's far harder to remember things like offering your communion when your load of suffering is light. When there are people hurting, and life hurts, the need is front and center.

BettyDuffy said...

I think you're right, Julia. I've noticed that when I have a special intention, I also become more aware of others' suffering. It says a lot about why a loving God might allow people to suffer--if it helps us to grow in compassion for others, and to be more in tune with his plan for our salvation, it really is a blessing.

MrsDarwin said...

Beautiful post.

What a terrible loss for the family and the community. I think that prayers for the parents' marriage are a very good idea, and I'll remember them too even though I don't know them.

On an icy day just after Christmas my husband told me that he'd swerved on the road and his car had spun around until it was facing the wrong direction. There were no other cars on the road at the time, so no harm was done, but I was shaken. I often worry that one day something will happen to him, but I hadn't been prepared for it that day. Real life and imagination never intersect neatly. Thank God for protecting me from my worst nightmare.

Anne said...

Thank you for your post. Just what I needed. These past couple of days I have found myself yelling at and getting annoyed with my kids more than usual-- It's not the kind of mom I strive to be. Your post has given me the renewed desire to have more patience. No snapping pencils during piano lessons today :).

Anonymous said...

Hello,

What do you mean when you say you can offer up your Eucharist? I'm a relatively recent revert and this is undiscovered territory, for me.

Ashley said...

"We all know what matters most in life are relationships, our relationship with God, the relationship with our spouse, our responsibilities to our children, the requirements and sacrifices of love."

That really resonated with me this morning. I seem to have forgotten that lately. I've been so preoccupied with trying to figure out what to do with my life (what does God want?) that I forget that my relationship with God and my husband are more important than me "doing" something.