Musings of an Irish-American

Sometimes I think about stuff, and then I write it here…

Tag Archives: Catholicism

troubled

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” – John 14:1-3

This reading has followed me over the course of my life in the last seven or so years (or at least that is as long as I have been aware of it as it has surfaced). The first such instance was when my church music director in high school shared a David Haas album with me which included a musical setting of text from John’s gospel. I listened to that song almost non-stop during some of the more difficult stretches of my time in high school, doing my best to let the words sink into the depths of my being in those moments.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me. I will go forth to prepare a place for you, then I’ll come back to take you with me, that where I am, you may also be.”

I wasn’t as aware at the time that the Gospel reading is a (can’t think of a better term here) popular choice for funerals; my first interaction with it on the level of grief and sorrow was at the funeral service for former DePauw professor, Dr. Stanley Irwin. I was sitting in Gobin United Methodist Church in Greencastle when I heard the reading proclaimed and it was the first time I resisted the message.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

‘How can my heart not be troubled right now? This man, this educator, this joy, was taken from us before we were ready…how am I supposed to have faith now?’

A thought something like that crossed my mind as hearing these words that, for so long, had been a comfort were now bringing tears to my eyes in grieving for losing Dr. Irwin.

Turns out it came up again, when my uncle Jim Mahoney passed away.

Now, this week, I cantored more funerals than I ever have before (four in three days), and, since losing Maria D’Albert, that reading kept coming up. Just hearing the opening line brought my grieving to the surface, tears welling up, doing my best to be recovered by the time I’d have to sing again.

That word, “troubled”, just kept sticking out to me. A quick definition check of troubled gives us this: adjective, beset by problems or conflict, showing distress or anxiety.

When we lose someone, our faith is tested, and I mean that in so much more than a religious way; to steal a phrase from my mentor Michael Bernoff, I don’t care what you believe in, God, light, sound, horses, pigs, whatever it is that’s important to you, I mean your personal belief, your own purview of the world around you, is fundamentally shifted after losing a loved one, belief in God or not. If it’s not, then you’re most likely a sociopath and I have no idea why you’re reading my blog right now.

Do not let your hearts be troubled; you do not have to feel conflicted or anxious in your loss. You most likely will feel conflicted or anxious (or both or many other things), yet the operative word in that command statement is “let”. You let your heart be troubled or conflicted or sad or angry or any multitude of emotions; how you respond to letting yourself feel that way is the incredible influence we have in our lives.

Even as I write this, I feel the tears welling up, I feel the lack of understanding of why we’ve lost who we’ve lost, I feel grief and sorrow and joy of love. Yet I also know that these feelings are not who I am, though they make me realize that I am capable of great emotional depths and capable of giving and receiving a tremendous amount of love in my life.

I’ll leave you with this quote that I’ve been reflecting on about loss; do not let your hearts be troubled, my friends.

“Live so as not to fear death. For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening but sweet and precious.” – St. Rose of Viterbo

-MJH

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mercy

It’s been a rather emotional few days, what with having our closing weekend of It’s A Wonderful Life, a friend surprising me from out of town with hugs and smiles and the joyful anticipation of the Advent season into the quickly approaching Christmas.

I was on a training call with Michael Bernoff and the Core Strength Leadership team recently when he reflected back to me some of the strengths I have that I really wasn’t giving myself credit for. For all intents and purposes, I was taking for granted the fact that I work very well with other people, I’m willing to answer the call and say “yes” when the opportunity arises and I have a great propensity for thinking on my feet and rolling with the punches. It was part of a great exercise where we were taking “inventory” of what we have to give us strength and momentum into the new year.

Fast forward to today, when I woke up far later than I had planned and, despite not feeling great and not being in top form with my voice, I decided to crash Book of Mormon Equity auditions since they were in town. I did what I could (which in this case was, to some extent, sound strained and forget my lyrics; such is life haha) and then I was lucky enough to be able to have lunch with my friend Marshall, who I just closed Wonderful Life with. We had a great time talking about what we were working on in our lives, regaling stories of lessons we’ve learned in our experiences, and sharing a lot of laughs of some of the foibles we’ve gone through. I really treasure the time I’m able to personally share with people, especially the ones who have such life and vitality about them that I’ve attracted into my life these days. After that, I dropped Marshall off at his place and went to visit my family; I found out while I was visiting with them that some of them were planning on going to Confession at the local Catholic Basilica.

I realized that, in this reflective Advent season, I had not yet gone to Confession; the last time I had gone was during Lent (the precursor to Easter). So I decided to take the opportunity to join them in this important rite of my personal faith. When I stepped into the Basilica, I was overtaken by the presence I experienced; there was just a glorious silence that surrounded me. It reminded me of how noisy our lives can get, especially when we have so many obligations and events in a time of year like this, and how calming it can be to take time to remove yourself from that and be reflective for a period of time.

During the course of my own confession, I shared some of my own personal frustration with how my life has been progressing on some level. I know that I have made a lot of progress in the last few years, though I also experience a sense that I may not be doing enough. It was at this point that the priest I was sharing this with reflected back to me that that frustration was coming out of my own sense of compassion and the fact that, in some way, I was not being merciful with myself. “Mercy begins at home,” he said to me. It was then I realized what he meant; I was forgetting the many varied and amazing ways that I can (and do) contribute to the world around me, and, as I had shown to me just days ago, that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. The mercy I can show myself in recognizing how blessed I am and feeling empowered to continue sharing what I have to offer to the world is exactly what I needed to learn in that moment.

“Count your blessings” as the old song goes; however, I’m afraid that piece of wisdom falls into what Michael Bernoff refers to as “the good idea box”, when we miss the true value of a piece of wisdom by labeling it a “good idea”, putting it into that box and then doing nothing with it. I would much rather learn to live that advice, see the abundance that this life and universe offers me, cultivate mercy for myself to export to others and continue becoming that best version of myself that I know I am capable of being; isn’t that what makes this beautiful life we share worth living?

-MJH