Sunday, March 10, 2019

THE SIMPLE GOLD WEDDING BAND - A REFLECTION by JOANNE M. PALMISANO

Throughout my life, I always looked for my Mom’s wedding band on her ring finger on her left hand.  It was a simple gold wedding band. She never took it off.  The sacrament of marriage was a vital part of my Mom’s life and the ring symbolized it.

During my Mom’s two year stay at a nursing home, the band possessed a greater significance for me.  For me, it was a sign of normalcy during my Mom’s mental and physical decline. Something so important to her throughout her life was still present.

Despite her weight loss, the ring stayed on her finger. Wearing the ring never irritated her finger or caused her problems. My Mom no longer wore her glasses, watched TV, read books, worked with her hands, but she wore her wedding band.

Fearful that the ring would fall off or bother her, I asked her a few times to take it off. Her immediate reply was always the same “no”.  With other personal items missing from her room, my concern only grew.  I quickly put it in God’s hand to handle this situation. The ring never moved off of her finger until her death. I now possess the simple gold wedding band.

During my visits while watching her during various activities, thoughts overcame me about this simple gold wedding band.  Besides being a reflection of my Mom’s personality, the band represented years of love, care and commitment to not only my Dad but her children, grandchildren and extended family.  Her steadfast presence no matter the circumstance held the family together.  Serving as a witness, her actions spoke volumes on living a Catholic married life.

Despite endless moments of fatigue, doubts and disbelief, these memories fueled my visits to care and advocate for her well-being.  God provided these memories to me as a motivator during my Mom’s final years.  Being there for her wasn’t an option, it was a necessity just as wearing the simple gold wedding band was for my Mom. 

(Editor's Note: Joanne Palmisano has written many thoughtful articles for Trenton Cursillo over the years. The newest one, "The Simple Gold Wedding Band," is a beautiful memory of her mom, Josephine "Josie" Mrazik, and Josie's devotion to her marriage of 64 years to her husband, Joseph "Bud" Mrazik and to their family. Josephine passed away in 2017. Today, March 10th is Josie's birthday.) 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

A WITNESS by JOANNE HENDERSON (From the March Diocesan Mass)

With Lent just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about three things:

HOLDING ON
LETTING GO
OFFERING IT UP

For me, HOLDING ON means holding onto grudges and bad memories, which puts me in a negative state of mind and has a bad effect on my relationships with others. It also means holding on to CONTROL, trying to orchestrate the events and people around me. This comes from a place of fear, I think, believing that if I am not waving the conductor’s baton, the musicians will go off in a dozen directions, and the result will be a screeching mess! I need to remember that I am not the conductor: God is. 

Of course, either kind of holding on is contrary to how Jesus wants me to be, forgiving past hurts and trusting Him with the people and events in my life. The trouble is, when I am stuck in either kind of holding on, I have trouble with prayer. And prayer, and God’s grace, is essential to getting unstuck, isn’t it?

LETTING GO reminds me of all the times I let go of, or temporarily abstained from, something during Lent like chocolate or diet soda. There was always some level of difficulty, and letting go of that item might have been good for my health, but what did it really accomplish spiritually? What I ask to see is the habits I need to let go of and the things to which I am too attached. My sister Shelly once said, “JoAnne, there’s nothing you ever let go of that didn’t have your claw marks on it first!” It’s true. I’m slowly getting better at it, but letting go is not easy for me.

When I think about HOLDING ON and LETTING GO, I’m reminded of an experience I once had during meditation. I could see myself holding on for dear life to a pole with water beneath it. I was afraid, thinking that if I lost my grip, I’d fall into deep water and drown. I’d been holding on to that pole for a long time and my arms were very tired. Suddenly I saw Jesus standing next to me at the pole. He said, “Take my hand.” I cautiously gave him one hand, but I kept holding tight to that pole. The water below appeared so deep and frightening. Jesus said, “Trust me. You are safe with me.” I reluctantly let go of the pole while Jesus held onto me. Then, still holding my hand, he slowly lowered me into the water. I was astounded to realize that it only reached my ankles. “Do you see?” Jesus said. “The water wasn’t as deep or threatening as you perceived it to be. You never had to hold on so tight.” I realize now that even when I tie myself to poles of my own making, Jesus is always there, ready to help me down.

I mentioned thinking about OFFERING IT UP. I used to think that was only possible for heroic people like Sr Faustina Kowalska. Then occasionally, I would hear about a “normal” person offering up their chronic pain for the souls in Purgatory, so I knew that we mere mortals could do it too. But I didn’t know how it was done, and besides, I didn’t have a debilitating disease. Then something amazing happened two years ago that changed my thinking. I had recently come home after major surgery, and I had some bleeding that didn’t seem normal. I called 9-1-1, and by the time the ambulance arrived, I was shaking uncontrollably, probably from anxiety. I must compliment the EMT who started an IV in spite of my jerking arm. As we made our way to the ER, I continued to shake badly. Then it occurred to me: Offer this up. I prayed, “God, I don’t know how to do this, I’ve never done it before. But, if I may, I give this shaking to you. Use it for some poor soul who needs it.” I immediately felt calm, and the shaking stopped completely.

I no longer think of OFFERING IT UP as something for extraordinary people or tragic health conditions. Now I will offer up financial problems and difficult personal relationships, for example, and I don’t worry about doing it right. I know that it changes my attitude, and I trust that somebody somewhere is helped by it.

These last thoughts are inspired by a Father Mike Schmidt video that I saw this morning. Today I know that I need to continue repenting and changing. I need to love things that I should love and to stop loving things I shouldn’t love. I am not as I should be but, because He offered up his whole being to the Father, Jesus claims me as his.

I pray that God will show me what I need to let go of and what I need to offer up. Most of all, I pray for the grace to hold on tight -- to Jesus.

De Colores!