Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of 12 he was still in Year 2, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students.” Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.” Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying? As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. “I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’ face burned red. She stammered, “Wh-why that’s very nice, Jeremy. N-now please take your seat.” Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?” “Yes, Miss Miller,” the children responded enthusiastically-all except for Jeremy. He listened intently. His eyes never left her face. The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out. The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.” Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, “My daddy helped me,” he beamed. Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty. Surely it must be Jeremy’s she thought, and of course, he did not understand her instructions. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another. Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?” Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy, your egg is empty.” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too.” Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?” “Oh, yes,” Jeremy said, “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up.” The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away. Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the cemetery were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his coffin… all of them empty.
Sarah-Leah Pimentel. God writes straight on crooked lines. This is our experience of life. Sometimes our perfect plans don’t quite work. Other times we feel that we are on the right path and circumstances turn everything upside down. The newly-born Schoenstatt Movement of 1914 could not ever have imagined the events that shaped the history of its first 100 years. God chose to write on these crooked lines. Time and time again, it seemed that everything was acting against it. Joseph Engling, Max Brunner, Hans Wormer – some of the first sodalists – didn’t even get to see the first five years of Schoenstatt’s life. The first Schoenstatt Sisters sent to South Africa and then the Americas had just barely finished their formation and they found themselves in a kind of exile in foreign lands where they had to figure it out as they went along. And nobody goes into a concentration camp and expects to live. This is hardly the best way to build the foundations of an international spiritual movement. And yet, it was on these crooked lines that God chose to write. So as we conclude this Lenten series let us look again at Fr. Kentenich’s description of the best kind of terrain for growth: “The outward conditions for growth are all sorts and degrees of difficulties, continual inner and outward battles.” (Joseph Kentenich, 1954/55, Kentenich Reader Vol. II, p. 25) And I’ll add the sentence that follows this quotation we have been working with for five weeks: “This is [what is] meant when we say that Schoenstatt is a child of war.”
Perhaps Lent this year went well for us, a profound time of confronting weaknesses out of love for the Lord. Or maybe it went rather poorly, and in fact was kind of forgotten in all the busyness of life. Either way, there is still time to take advantage of the opportunity the Church gives us to grow closer to Christ. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which unites the “royal splendour of Christ with the proclamation of his passion,” says the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (No. 138). Palms and olive branches are kept in the home as a witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the messianic King, and in his paschal victory.” Lent ends officially with the beginning of the Easter Triduum at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Through the Washing of Feet, we remind ourselves that we are called to love our neighbour and notice their needs. There is all, at the end of Mass, the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, available until 9.00pm — is the best way to end Holy Thursday. The Easter fast that many begin after Holy Thursday Mass is obligatory on Good Friday. “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fast and abstinence from meat. Mass isn’t offered on Good Friday; but a Communion service and veneration of the cross is. When possible, Catholics take a break from work between the hours of noon and 3 p.m., the time Christ spent on the cross. This is also a prime time to pray privately the Stations of the Cross. Holy Saturday is an silent time of waiting. No Mass is offered, not even a Communion service like Good Friday’s. It isn’t an official fasting day, but many Catholics eat modestly this day as we wait to celebrate the Resurrection. On the Saturday evening, we celebrate the Resurrection with the wonderful Easter Vigil. This is the greatest feast of the Church – as we carry in the Light of Christ and dispel the darkness. Easter Sunday is the great day of victory and new beginning!
The stars shone more brightly then ever before and the moon hung ever so high in the majestically black sky. I could hear laughter in the background and crying in the foreground. My mind was clouded and my palms a bright red from the bitter cold. It seemed like just yesterday I had sat with him laughing and smiling. I could still hear the slight crackle or his perfectly creased shirts, and smell the sweet aromas of cologne and dryer sheets. I remembered the brightness in his eyes and his glowing personality. I could hear his sweet voice and his assuring words. But now he was gone. It was only hours after I said goodbye, laid a single rose upon the ground, and watched his casket slowly fade into the deep earth tones. I was confused, numb, and deeply depressed. He had been my mentor, my guide. He had been my life. The days went by ever so slowly and the nights were never ending. I kneeled beside my bed and prayed each night while drowning in my tears. I was lost without him, and felt as if I had no reason to live anymore. I was standing on the edge. Finally it came time for me to clean out his belongings. I was going through albums and dresser drawers in his bedroom when I found a small white book and on the cover was a tiny angel with his initials inscribed. It looked as if he had sketched them in himself. I opened the book and began to flip through the pages. Page after page there were prayers and inscriptions from the bible. As I put the book down a small folded piece of paper fell out. I opened it and read it. It was a list of names he had written himself. It was in two or three tones of blue pen and had been folded and unfolded several times. On this piece of paper were his “thank-yous”. He had made a list of all the people who had made a difference in his life and who he cared about. Reading the names and inscriptions I felt the tears flow down my cheeks. At the bottom of the list it read: “These people have shown me the way through the toughest of times, but most of all I must thank God. For without him I would not have these people. When I get to heaven I will go to God and ask Him to watch over you all. I know He will be proud to stand next to you all when it is your time. Enjoy every minute of your time on Earth. Live through God.” With this I put the paper back into the book and finished packing things up. For the first time int he past month I smiled. I knew he was safe and he would be watching over us. And I learned to live through God, Our Saviour.
I was reading William F. Buckley’s Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith and came upon this story relayed by the late actor David Niven about a disaster at sea and the sacrifice of a priest. “David Niven told the engrossing story (I had never heard it) of a single episode in the chaotic flight from France after Dunkirk in 1940. One motley assembly, ‘Royal Air Force ground personnel who were trapped, Red Cross workers, women, ambulance drivers and, finally, the embassy staff from Paris with their children — by the time they got to St. Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire, there were over three thousand of them and the British government sent an old liner called the Lancastria to come and take them away, with three destroyers to guard her. They were just pulling up the anchor when three dive bombers came. The destroyers did what they could, but one bomb hit, went down the funnel and blew a huge hole in the side, and she quickly took on a terrible list. In the hold there were several hundred soldiers. Now there was no way they could ever get out because of the list, and she was sinking. And along came my own favorite Good Samaritan, a Roman Catholic priest, a young man in Royal Air Force uniform. He got a rope and lowered himself into the hold to give encouragement and help to those hundreds of men in their last fateful hour.’ ‘Knowing he couldn’t get out?’ ‘Knowing he could never get out, nor could they. The ship sank and all in that hold died. The remainder were picked up by the destroyers and came back to England to the regiment I was in, and we had to look after them, and many of them told me that they were giving up even then, in the oil and struggle, and the one thing that kept them going was the sound of the soldiers and the priest in the hold singing hymns.’” Winston Churchill hid the news of the deaths of possibly more than 7,000 men from the public as it might have damaged morale. He reportedly said, ‘The newspapers have got quite enough disaster for today, at least.’ Although the sinking of the Lancastria may be the worst maritime disaster in Britain’s history with more deaths than the Titanic and Lusitania put together, it has not been truly recognized as such. Such stories serve to inspire and, I think, force us to question ourselves. When I hear a story like this I am terrified at the lack of my own faith.
I dreamt that I went to Heaven and an angel was showing me around. We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received.” I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world. Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section. The angel then said to me, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them.” I noticed again how busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth. Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. “This is the Acknowledgement Section,” my angel friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed. “How is it that there is no work going on here?” I asked. “So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgements.” “How does one acknowledge God’s blessings? “I asked. “Simple,” the angel answered. Just say, “Thank you, Lord.” “What blessings should they acknow-ledge?” I asked. “If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness. You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day. If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation… you are ahead of 700 million people in the world. If you can attend a church without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world. If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you’re unique to all those in doubt and despair…” “Ok,” I said. “What now? How can I start?”
You say: “It’s impossible” God says: All things are possible (Luke 18:27)
You say: “I’m too tired” God says: I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: “Nobody really loves me” God says: I love you (John 3:16 & John 3:34)
You say: “I can’t go on” God says: My grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: “I can’t figure things out” God says: I will direct your steps (Proverbs 3:5-6)
You say: “I can’t do it” God says: You can do all things (Philippians 4:13)
You say: “I’m not able” God says: I am able (2 Corinthians 9:8)
You say: “It’s not worth it” God says: It will be worth it (Romans 8:28)
You say: “I can’t forgive myself” God says: I Forgive you (I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: “I can’t manage God says: I will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19)