Monday, July 13, 2015

Cheers from the UK!

Cheers from the UK!

It's been way too long since I last blogged.  I hate to admit that even though many urged me to get back to blogging, I think I allowed the enemy to get the best of me.  So many times God speaks clearly to my heart and I feel the urge to share it, and then, he talks me out of it.  "Who really cares?"  he whispers....."who do you think you are or why do you think you have a right to say anything to others?..."  I guess in the end he wins because I let it go and soon it's forgotten.  But in the last few days I've come to see clearly how often I am letting God down because if I really want to be truthful, "who do I think I am to suppress giving Him honor and glory by sharing the loving, sweet consolations He gives me?"  We are called to be salt of the earth; to share our lives in a way that gives flavor.  When we stop contributing salt, or flavor to the world, we are useless.  I don't want to be useless to God. So while this may or may not inspire you, I hope you know that I only share with you that which I feel God wants me to share with you; I little thought or funny here and there that might bring a smile to your face or warmth to your heart.  It is not meant to preach or boast, "for I pray that I may boast only in the Lord".

So, as most of you know, I am now living in Harrogate, England.  I won't bore you with the details of the past two years of my life, only say that my dream vacation in the Middle East came to an end and it was a good end.  It was time....I clearly felt the Lord taking our hand gently (He never forces us....we were tempted to pull back and stay and He would have allowed it, but thankfully, we listened to His promptings) and guiding us on to our next adventure.  And God never disappoints!!!  Oh how Great our God is!!!

Upon arriving, we found out that the base Chapel would soon be closed so after only two months of going to Mass there, we were forced to go out into the community and find another Church to attend.  We chose the one closest to us; St. Robert's and while it's bigger than the two base Chapels we had attending the past 3 years, it certainly is not bigger than Queen of Peace, our church home in El Paso.  It has been a transition; the British are...the British.  No holding hands at the Our Father; no contemporary worship music, Amen is AWWmen ;) but RICH in history and tradition, which to some might seem stodgy but to me is quite beautiful!  Nonetheless, it's different and we knew feeling at home would be a process. So we have made a commitment to St. Robert's and I'm trying to discern how/when to get involved in ministry.  I've also started to work my way back to daily Mass; especially to my First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart.

This past Friday, as I walked in to Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was still exposed. How blessed are we that we have the Blessed Sacrament exposed every day!?!  For half an hour before daily Mass, they expose the Blessed Sacrament and it's a blessing to be able to spend some time alone before Mass with Jesus.  It was a rare, warm day in Harrogate so walking in to the cool church felt like a refreshing respite.  I walked and knelt down and prayed and in too short a time, a little bell rang and Monsignor walked in to perform the ritual that would end Adoration.  He sings it!  He sings it and everyone joins in (maybe 30+ people there at noon on a weekday) and it's in Latin and I have no idea what they are singing.  I recognize some words and it's easy to follow along and I make a mental note to look up the words when I get home.  But it doesn't matter that I don't know them; I FEEL them.  And then it's over and he goes back to process in for Mass.  In those few minutes before Mass starts, I sit and I look up at the huge crucifix in front of me and I just smile.  I feel that peace that only He can give; that joy that comes from knowing you are with your beloved.  That anticipation of what's next to come.  And then it begins.  Another little bell and everyone stands and we begin to pray the Angelus.

I had heard about the Angelus; I didn't grow up praying it and we didn't pray it at our Church.  But in Bahrain, it was a very important part of our Cenacle group.  They were mainly devout Filipinos who always prayed it at 6:00 p.m.  If you don't know, the Angelus is supposed to be prayed three times a day; 6:00 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m.  It's an ancient tradition to pray it throughout the day to remind yourself to stop and give thanks to the Lord throughout the day.  It's a short prayer really and I think you can pray it anytime, but as all things that are good for us, there is rhyme and reason to it and I suppose the hours prescribed help us to stay focused on God throughout the day rather than letting the activities of the day dictate our minds and actions.  In Bahrain, I couldn't help make the comparison between the Angelus and the Call to Prayer the Muslims have every day.  They pray 5 times a day and the purpose is the same; to stop and give thanks to God and keep their minds and hearts focused on Him all day.  I think that's why I always loved the Call to Prayer and it never bothered me like it did many.  I loved the idea of stopping for a few minutes throughout the day and praising God.  No harm done there!

I've since memorized most of the Angelus, but it still sounds different in Yorkshire accent. LOL  But I know it and I quickly join in and pray with them - with my new faith family whose names I don't  know but feel deeply connected to in prayer.  The Priest sings the opening prayers and we all respond and when we sit down to hear the Word proclaimed, I feel this complete joy in my heart.  I feel connected; I feel in rhythm with the pulse of Jesus' heart beating in this place.  I'm uniquely aware and pleasantly surprised at how quickly I have fallen into the heartbeat or rhythm of this community and how at "at home" I already feel!

For so many years, I loved walking in to Queen of Peace in El Paso when no one else was there.  Like in the evenings when I would go and set up before choir practice or close up after a late youth group meeting.   I loved the smells, the familiarity of "my home".  I could walk through that church in the dark without fear and I could make my way around without any lights.  It was my second "home" and I knew it was where I belonged!  In Bahrain, the Chapel was also used as a training room so I never really got that "feel" for home, even though I loved our faith community.  But here, I am once again in a Church sanctuary; Jesus is present in the Tabernacle; you can feel His warmth in the flame of every little candle burning, offering up our prayers to God.  I can sense His Grandeur not only by the beauty of the stained glass windows and the ornate decor of the church (because nothing is too good for God!), but more importantly by the reverence in the people there; there is quiet; there is respect; there is comfort in knowing "Daddy's home" and all our needs and worries and anxieties will be taken care of.  There is deep gratitude for the ability to be part of a family who are all there for the same reason; because we love and need our Father and we need to hear His words of advice; of comfort; to be guided, nourished and strengthened.  It's like walking in at Thanksgiving; smelling the delicious smells and feeling the energy and love around you; and being so happy to see everyone again!  It's simply COMING HOME!

I don't know why I'm surprised.  There is a reason God wanted a holy place to dwell within.  Yes, He is everywhere, but He is Holy and He requested that a Holy place be built for His people to come and worship Him in; a place where the banquet is set every day!  And while I know that He is present wherever two or more are gathered in His name, I know that He is physically present in the Tabernacle and that He will physically come to me momentarily in the Eucharist!

I'm across the pond, as they say.  Sooo far from home.  I'm in one of the most un-Christian countries in the world, and yet Jesus is alive and present in His holy Church!!!  I guess I'm not surprised but rather, in AWE at the realization that regardless of where we go in the World, He is present in His Holy Church.  I'm feeling very grateful for the faithfulness of the Apostles, the early Church Fathers and for the Universal Church.  I'm feeling very humbled and blessed that He has put me in a position to experience that which I had always professed.  If I had never left my home, I might not have ever experienced this truth and reality.  And for this, I am blessed! Thanks be to God!  I'm Home and my joy is complete!!

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