To all appearances, she was indeed, barking at the rain, and I admit I shared her sentiments; I'm tired of the rain, too.
Lately, it's been pouring, and I'm not just talking about the crazy weather we've been experiencing for nearly the last year: the unusual extremes of winter followed by the unusual extremes of summer. And of late, the death, the crisis, the emergencies, the uncertainty....it just won't stop raining.
My friend died a week ago Friday, and it was with agony on that day that I reigned in my own grief and called the many other volunteers who knew and loved him, and then I called his students. And my co-workers.
Every so often I had to stop and take a deep breath, perhaps let out a little sob, only so that it would not interrupt my speech. I had to be professional, and still, on several of the calls, it was obvious both to the person receiving the news and to me that we BOTH knew the other was weeping.
I think what hit me the hardest was speaking to one of the students, catching the hitch in his voice, knowing he didn't want me to hear it and yet, I could nearly SEE it through the phone lines.
For years, ever since I began at my work, I knew I was not "called" to it. I hate the charismaticsm that surrounds me and rules my co-workers and any area of youth ministry in which I am involved. I hate having to conform to a spirituality I do not possess and find lacking, and then inflict it upon our youth as though this is the ONLY thing.
One of the pillars of my work, then, was the man who recently went to his eternal reward, because although he never expressed it, he and I saw eye to eye on this and worked together to bring our own more...contemplative...spiritualities into the realm of religious education. And I know, from him and from his students, that he truly brought himself into the classroom, engaging them with stories from his life and military service, showing his love for them through teaching our Catholic faith through example, devotion, and practice.
He died praying for "his boys" and all who instruct students in the Catholic faith. To my blog readers...that means he was praying for YOU and for YOUR students as well!
When I went to pay my respects, before I approached the coffin I waited to speak with one of his daughters, and in a way, felt very awkward. It wasn't "my parish" because I only worked there, right? Yes, my work parish is a second home of sorts, but...still. Who was I to enter into this moment of grief?
The second she saw me, though, his daughter threw her arms around me and sobbed into my shoulder, "He loved you so much!"
I hugged her back, instantly as tearful, hugging her as fiercely. I've lost my father, too, and now I've lost a friend who was HER father, and all I could expel between my own sobs was, "I loved HIM so much, too!" We cried together, shared joyful stories together, and, well, reveled in the love of a struggling-to-be-holy man who had touched so many souls.
While there I saw many other parishioners, and we alternately wept and smiled, for we all knew our grief was transient; we believe in the Resurrection, and we are happy this dear soul has been called back Home, where we all hope to meet again.
It was there that I understood my place in the parish; I, too, have a role, I have a place, and to those parishioners I am also a part of the the family. Although I had often called upon this man for help in various programs, and he has meant a lot to me, it was through his family that I learned how important I was to him...and to all of them.
They helped me, unwittingly, understand more deeply the bonds of friendship and service and that my parish work has effects I cannot possibly understand.
My friend, in his death, has taught me a great lesson, perhaps the most important I have ever learned, about the value of the smallest things I do in my employment in ministry and their impact on the people I serve, including my volunteers.
While learning this great lesson, I was in the midst of fear of greater grief, fear of losing my mother. Fear of being the only family member available during her procedure. Fear of making the wrong decision for her, contrary to her wishes and Catholic teaching.
I couldn't find my mother's medical directive so couldn't bring it to the hospital so trusted, as she'd shown me, that it was with her documents should it be needed. She had to fill out paperwork prior to arriving at the hospital, so when I arrived I thought it would be available to me.
No, it wasn't. Mom remembered her overnight bag, but left all of her documents...ALL of them...on her kitchen table. That meant that her pre-op was delayed as she filled out the permissions and history and contacts all over again, but it wasn't until I was brought back and sat with her for an hour that I learned she didn't have her medical directive.
My own heart nearly stopped when, 40 minutes into what we expected to be a 60-120 minute procedure, I was called back to the "Consulting Room".
I had been glancing at the clock, wondering how my friend's funeral was going, wishing I was there, praying not to be planning my own mother's funeral.
Then in the Consulting room, I was living in two places: planning the future and visualizing the present at which I was not...present.
Because I've written of it, you all know how it turned out...but I cannot accurately express my agony of that time.
It is fitting that I finally publish this post on the Feast of such a great Saint, for St. Rose of Lima was well acquainted with suffering, and chose it both for her own hidden humiliation but also to emphasize the necessity of our willingness to unite our own agony with that of Christ in His Passion.
How often I fail at this! How often I complain and squirm and wail and whine!
How often God must roll His Divine eyes at my caterwaling!
When I experience the slightest discomfort, I complain.
Elevated humidity? Oh, the suffering!
A pain in my knee? Oh, the agony!
A bit more rain than usual? Oh the torment and drama!
A bit of suffering with the chance of "offering it up"? Oh the refusal to rise to holiness!
St. Alphonsus Liguori, in "Uniformity With God's Will" wrote with simplicity about how easy it is to just...accept God's will in every moment.
I can't even stand a bit of discomfort. It's "too hot" or "too cold" or "too busy" or "too...whatever". Never mind the toil our Savior suffered for our salvation.
It's so easy to forget that we aren't here on earth to be comfortable and really shouldn't be so shocked at the trials that come our way. After all...we choose most of them for ourselves! Seriously, we shouldn't complain so much when we are faced with adversity of any sort.
While I can't speak for my readers, most of whom, no doubt, buck up so much better, I can say, with great shame, that I am all too willing to give in to venting and anger and passion when faced with the realities of life, when something is asked of me that takes me out of my comfort zone.
A couple weeks ago, the Gospel was about the woman Jesus called a "dog".
I know why He did this, and I know why she compared herself to one as well. She and I are one and the same and I realized it while I watched my German Shepherd respond with defiance to the downpour that was flooding our yard.
I am nothing more than a dog barking at the rain, for the rain will fall whether I bark at it or not. I know Christ and have been baptized into His Body, yet am nothing more than a dog refusing crumbs and barking at the rain, only to seek shelter as though the thunder and lightning do not exist.