31 May 2017

The Encounter at Confession

I went to confession this weekend. Usually, I try to go once a month, but I’ve been a little lax lately and haven’t gone in three months. I knew it was time to go. You can tell. You get that feeling that things aren’t as they should be, and you need to come clean.

Well, I knew it was time. Yet, I had a lot to do this holiday weekend. So, I ran some errands, and as the morning wore on, my enthusiasm to confess quickly waned. There is always a long line, and I had so many things to do—and it started—thoughts that I could go some other time.

But, then I found myself driving to the church. I parked the car and sat in the parking lot, preparing myself by doing my usual pre-confession examination of conscience.

And I entered the church.

Now, going to confession itself can try your patience. And this weekend was no different. The line was long—10 to 12 people had already placed themselves in line for the confessional, so I took my place at the end and prepared myself for the long wait.

Then the chatter began. Two people began a conversation about priests, confession, the state of the world, and anything else that popped into their minds. And they were loud, disturbing the other penitents.

When this kind of thing happens (and it happens a lot) you have to try to remember where you are and what you are doing there. Then you have to control your thoughts. After all, you don’t really want to add to the long list of things you are about to confess.

So, I kept my cool and my thoughts positive.

Then I saw her.

A young woman was making her way down the center aisle of the church. She had a cane, and we could all see she was blind. We watched as she struggled. I didn’t really know what to do—help or not help. I wasn’t sure if she was going to confession or if she had just received the sacrament, and it is hard to go up to a blind stranger and offer assistance. You never know how it might be received. 

So, we all watched her, but it was out of concern, really, and one or two people asked her if she wanted to go before them, but she declined. It is a strange question to ask really, since she could stand like anyone else. But I think it was a way to try to lighten her burden. 

Finally, she made it to the end of the line—right behind me.

So, now my behavior changed. Each time the line moved I would shuffle my feet louder than usual so she could hear me. I didn’t want to keep telling her to move forward, and I didn’t want to treat her any different than anyone else. Yet, I was afraid to touch her and afraid to talk to her too much because I didn’t want to be condescending or question her independence.

I know. I was overthinking.

Then my mind started working. I thought about her bravery and how difficult life must be and how much effort it took for her to get to confession.  What a frightening thing, to be alone, without sight, dependent on strangers, especially in such a dangerous world. And I wondered why she was alone. She must have someone.

By the time it was my turn to confess, I was more comfortable with the whole thing and there were more people in line behind her. I asked her if she wanted to go before me. I had my reasons, but she declined my invitation.

So I went into the confessional, confessed my sins, received absolution, and opened the door. I called out to her, but she didn’t hear me. The man in line behind her seemed oblivious, so I had to walk up to her, take her by the hand, and lead her into the confessional. I told her I would close the door behind her. She thanked me and told me to have a nice day. 

I closed the door. 

Afterward, I watched her to make sure she left the church safely, and then I watched her walk down the sidewalk. I felt good when she pulled out her cell phone and began talking to someone as I drove away. She wasn’t alone. There was someone, somewhere, checking on her.

It seems like a silly story for me to tell, and I’m not sure why I’m telling it, probably because I don’t want to forget the encounter or the woman. I wish I knew her name. 
But, I remember how she looked, and she looked a lot like St. Gemma Galgani.  

26 May 2017

You Will Weep and Mourn

I'm sharing today's Gospel reading because it is timely for the age we now live in. Today's Gospel is taken from John 16:20-23. 

Jesus said to his disciples: 

"Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you." 

25 May 2017

Our First Lady with Our Lady

Our culture has turned ugly, and it is harder and harder to find beauty.

It’s been a bad week. The U.K. was hit with another terrorist attack. This time the carnage was inflicted on children—young girls—at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

We all know this.

It is heartbreaking.

We all know that, too.

I don’t watch the news much anymore. I try to shelter myself from it. It gets to be too overwhelming, and at some point, you have to unplug. But, even though I try to shelter myself from it, I can’t really. You are bound to get dribs and drabs, and I don’t want to put my head in the sand, either. I do need to be informed. But, I tried to shelter myself from the brutality of the latest terror attack. Now, I’m beginning to hear the stories of the innocent people who were killed and maimed that day, and again, it is heart wrenching.

I limit myself on social media, too, but again I need to be informed. So yesterday, when I came across this photo. I had to stop and take notice. It was a photo that captured something beautiful.

Now, there seems to be two camps out there—left or right, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, and people can be vicious. There are the Trump haters, and some of the comments made about First Lady Melania Trump have been downright cruel, signs of how ugly our culture has become.

So when I saw this photo, it warmed my heart. Here is our First Lady placing flowers (and prayers) at Our Lady’s feet outside Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital. Yes, Melania Trump is a Catholic—a convert, they say.

That, to me, is a beautiful thing. 

18 May 2017

Diving In

One of the strange things about writing is the ups and downs of the craft. Last week I was ready to throw in the towel (well, not really) and this week my novella is edited and nearing the final draft. I took the advice of one my characters who said, “Maybe he was afraid to wade in so he decided to dive in instead.” And that’s what I did. I forgot the fear of never finishing, ignored the fear of writing substandard prose, and dove in.  It’s funny when that happens. So many times my characters give me advice, yet I created the character and wrote the quote. But somehow I know that isn’t entirely true. Someone else is whispering to me, and I’m just putting words on the paper. 

11 May 2017

Thoughts of Quitting

So, what’s going on in my writing life right now?

Well, I wish I could say that I’m almost finished with book three and plan to publish it this summer. But I can’t. I am nowhere near that stage of the process. Things seem to be moving along at a snail’s pace. And the old feelings come back every now and then—is it really worth it?

Book three is turning out to be a massive project, and I can’t rush it. I think it is my “breakout” novel, meaning, it is different than the other two, and therefore, it will take time to get it right. The plot is complex and a lot of research has gone into the story. I have been working on it for almost a year now, which isn’t really that long. It took two years to write Vocation, and that wasn’t nearly as complicated.

I have to be patient.

But, writing is hard, and I have had thoughts of quitting. Maybe two books are enough. After all, most people don’t write any books. Yet, there is an important story that needs to be told in Incorruptible, and that is what keeps driving me forward.

So, while I’m working on Incorruptible (and Corruptible), I will be doing some promotion for Vocation. I am really fond of that novel, and I don’t think it’s getting the attention it needs. I have a call out to a small Catholic company who may be interested in offering copies of Vocation to their customers. Right now, we are in the preliminary discussions, but I have high hopes that I can reach a wider audience with their help. Just as Incorruptible needs to be written, Vocation needs to be read.  

I am also going to have a new author photo taken this spring. I’m not sure my first photo captured who I am as an author (and person), so I thought it would be a good time to make the change. I’m in the process of setting up a photo shoot. I want some outdoor shots, so I have to wait for the perfect weather conditions.

So, I keep pushing forward, trying to ignore the negative thoughts that invade my mind, thoughts that tell me to quit.