Monday, December 15, 2008

Many things have happened

Take last week: Serena plays the trumpet in the sixth grade band at her school. The other kids in her class have been playing for two years, but she just picked up the trumpet this year, so she has had to work very hard to keep up. The band was practicing for a concert that was to take place last Thursday evening. All that week, their director threatened that if the kids didn't practice, they would have to play "Jingle Bells" with the fifth graders, instead of the more difficult jazzy arrangements they'd been practicing for months. Serena practiced so hard and had perfected the trumpet parts for the difficult pieces, but a couple of the kids in the band defiantly refused to practice -- and they even had solos, so that their inability to play the pieces was obvious. When Wednesday arrived and the music still wasn't working, the director announced that the whole sixth grade would indeed need to play "Jingle Bells" with the fifth grade. Serena was bitterly disappointed. And this experience showed me something new about Christ's presence in our unity -- if one member of the band doesn't play, doesn't follow his or her music, then the whole suffers. My daughter's disappointment revealed something of the pain that we often cover over or ignore. We just play "Jingle Bells" and pretend to be satisfied with it -- or blame our dissatisfaction on the conductor or the music or even on the people who wouldn't do their work. Pointing fingers, trying to locate the source of guilt is a way of avoiding the truly painful truth: that we need one another, that we can't play our part without the others.

∞ ∞ ∞

Since our Advent retreat, I have been trying very hard to live the three rules that Fr. Roberto gave to the group of junior high kids, the Knights, with whom he meets:
  1. God is proposing something great to me right now
  2. If I see it, I will tell the others about it
  3. If I don't see it, I will pray the Memorare to be able to see it.
Again last week, I volunteered to help with the Santa's Workshop at Sylvie's new school. Sylvie's only been at this school for a few weeks after a rough start in the first grade at her old school. My thought was to be involved, so that I could begin to get to know some of the other parents at her school. Besides, I like the idea of Santa's Workshop -- where the kids can shop for inexpensive gifts at school, have help wrapping them, and can then bring them home to surprise their families.

I sat down at a table covered in wrapping paper, scissors, and tape. Only one other volunteer was sitting there, and we introduced ourselves. After a few moments, another woman joined us. I introduced myself to her, too, but oncewe had exchanged names, it became clear that the two others were great friends and didn't want to speak with me. After trying (and failing) to jump into the conversation a couple of times, I thought: I know that you are proposing something great to me right now. Please help me to see it. Then I prayed a silent Memorare. My next thought was that when the first kids brought us their gifts to wrap, the three of us would work together, and a sense of unity would begin to blossom through sharing a common work. Imagine my surprise when a bunch of kids showed up, with multiple presents, and as I began to wrap one of them, the woman beside me took it from my hands and said, "We can take care of that." They didn't even want me to work with them!

So, I looked around the room until I spotted another table with just one woman sitting at it. I approached her and asked whether I could help her, and she graciously accepted. Many children had just arrived, and we worked beside one another, and it was indeed clear that sharing a common work is a sign of unity; however, something even greater became apparent to me. The children who brought us the gifts which they had chosen in love for the people whom they loved best, came to us with their hearts open. Just one friendly question or observation about a gift, or the way they addressed a parent or grandparent (Pappy? Poppop? Grammy? Nona?) brought out a flood of affection from them. There is something so disarmed about children. They will give their whole heart in exchange for a kind smile. I could discern, from listening to the conversations at the other end of the table, that my fellow volunteer was having the same experience. I was reminded that (Duh!) my vocation has always been toward children -- even before I was married, this was evident to me. If I had gone on with my own plan, that my reason for being there was to make new adult friends, I would have missed the best thing.

What most moves me now is a profound affection for Fr. Roberto, who first told us about the three rules. By following his authority, I was able to verify that life is indeed richer, fuller, more life, by following his indications.

∞ ∞ ∞

I was able to attend five out of six of the Nutcracker performances this year. Also, many more of our neighbors came to see the girls dance this time. It is really amazing that anyone comes, because the school and the theater where they perform is almost an hour away, and the weather is always a little dicey. Their presence with us is a clear sign of our belonging. Two great things that God proposed to me during these performances (aside from presence of my neighbors, which was truly great):
  1. Serena turned in flawless performances as the ballerina doll during all six shows. She hates to be noticed; she hates to be the center of attention. She has never wanted a lead role in a ballet, and when she heard she'd be the ballerina doll, she was terrified! It was hard for her to receive her First Communion, because she worried that people would be looking at her. The same worries surfaced during Confirmation. On both of those occasions, I really doubted that she would be able to go through with the sacrament. One of the promises that I had made to her, as she was preparing for Confirmation, was that if she could bear to step forward so that the bishop could anoint her and lay hands on her, she would receive great power, which would help her in the future.
  2. Sophie fell twice and lost her Arabian wig once during these performances. Why was this so great? It was great because these flaws did not define her as a person or as a dancer. What was most impressive was the way that she got up immediately and continued the dance, with the same smile and the same superior technique. And when her wig fell off, there were no titters to indicate that anyone in the audience had even noticed.
I am amazed and awed at what God can do in my life and in the lives of my children. Each of my daughters has prayed for the grace to overcome difficulties that only God, in his tenderness, could have granted to them. In front of His goodness, I feel so small and full of thanks. Much as I wish I could, I cannot give what He gives them.

∞ ∞ ∞

There is more, but I have already gone on for too long. Ciao!


clairity said...

Oh, I love your stories! How God is always making so many things *happen*. Thanks for sharing the rules. I will remember these! Love, Sharon

Fred said...

So, it occurs to me that these rules are for every moment and that the others are those near me. Do you find it curious that we ask Our Lady to remember things for us?

Suzanne said...

It IS funny! Of course she remembers -- we're reminding ourselves. But then, we can't presume, because every time she answers us, it's like a new surprise -- every yes from Mary is like the whole world being made anew. Of course she has the freedom to "forget." Just like us, I suppose...

Fred said...

I'm learning that prayer is asking God to do those things that He does. But we can't get complacent because as St. Thomas Aquinas says that prayer is how we obtain those things which God foreordains should be obtained through prayer. :)

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."