A Mother’s Day Memory

9 May 2016

The rain started out fast, and before I knew it my doll and I were drenched!   I raced down the alley with my doll carriage, but Susie fell out and into the muddy alley.

I was hysterical, of course. My beautiful mother went out into the rain to look for her. I was stunned to realize that my mother was not completely magical. Even she, with all her wondrous powers, couldn’t find my beloved doll.

Ah, but two days later she came into the house carrying Susie! It turns out that the Doll Hospital had taken care of her and then called to say Susie was ready to come home.

Susie must have been very sick. Her skin wasn’t as cuddly, her eyes weren’t the same color, and her red hair was now brown.  I missed her red plaid dress, but the blue dress they gave her in the hospital was pretty too. We went out to play. Twenty-five years came and went.

On a Wednesday morning in January, 1981, a cloud lifted from my memory, and I started to giggle. I called my Magic Mother. That wasn’t really Susie you brought home that day. Without missing a beat, she said, I’ve got the dumbest kids in America.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night was going to keep her from consoling her little girl.  She was going to find Susie, whether she had to swim to her, or dig her out of the mud, or enlist the “doll hospital” to do it.  And you know what?  She’s still rescuing me, still consoling me, still loving me, thirty years after her death. That’s the strongest magic of all.

Tell your mom, whether she is here or with God, a favorite memory of her.

Kathy McGovern ©2015. Originally published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom!

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

4 May 2016

Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29

Some burdens are carried for no good reason, and some things are borne because we have a deep intuition that the kingdom of God is built on the muscles acquired from carrying them.

Take fasting, for example. Please. Some fasts―like cutting calories in half for an extended period of time―are excruciating, and may or may not bring us closer to those who are hungry in this world. But other fasts―like cutting gossip at the quick, or disallowing ourselves the luxury of ignorance about the needs of others―build character, and are, in fact, the very character of God.

In the earliest days of the infant Church, some of the Orthodox Jewish-Christians living in Jerusalem were happy to allow Gentiles to join in the Jesus Movement. Certainly! All are welcome! There are just a few requirements, of course. Naturally, the men will all need to be circumcised. Yes, it’s an extremely painful and dangerous procedure, but God demands it. Now, if they had had the good sense to be born Jewish, they would have been circumcised at eight days old and would have no memory of it.

The Holy Spirit was so evident in those early years.  As the good news of the Risen One advanced throughout the Gentile provinces, it became beautifully obvious that the burdens of kosher dietary laws and circumcision no longer applied. Come to the feast! Partake of the table of mercy. And every day, hundreds were added to their number.

It’s nearly Pentecost again, that festival of inclusion that strengthened the disciples to preach Jesus to the ends of the earth. They traveled light, and, thank God, left the heaviest burdens behind.

In what ways are you joyfully lifting burdens from those who long to draw near to Christ?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

25 April 2016

Reflecting on John 13: 31-33A, 34-35

I break all the rules in the weight room of my inner-city Parks and Recs gym. I don’t keep the code of silence that demands that tattooed strangers grunt their way through agonizing routines while keeping their eyes straight ahead, never acknowledging anyone else.

AARGH! I say to the guy who can lift himself up and do about a thousand crunches on the ab machine. How do you DO that? I’ve been coming here half my life and I can’t do one. And just like that, Scary Guy becomes Kind Guy. Oh, sure you can, he says. Let me see what you’re doing wrong.

I love that moment of encounter, when two people from different backgrounds find a common place where gentleness and graciousness so easily spring forth. And it almost always happens when I ask strangers for help.

Yesterday I smiled at a Scary Guy who was sitting on the bench, waiting for space on the basketball court. Could you help me, please? I don’t have the extension in this leg to tie my shoes. Like that, he was smiling and saying, No worries! Is this tight enough? Do you need me to tie the left one too? And then his adorable daughter came running over to show me her shoes that light up, and how she can tie them herself.

Love one another as I have loved you, Jesus says. My daily exercise―and I’m not talking about leg curls―is to find opportunities to break the weird silences between us in traffic, on elevators, in the gym. As it happens, I do need help sometimes. It’s in asking “strangers” for help that lovely moments of warmth and friendship break open.

This week, ask a stranger for an easy favor. Watch how grateful they are that you aren’t asking for money!

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

21 April 2016

Reflecting on John 10:14

I like to think about all the great shepherds I’ve had in my life. My grade school music teacher, Sr. Genevieve, comes to mind. “Kathy,” she said to me when I was twelve, “here’s the key to the back door of the church. Let yourself in, go up to the choir loft, turn on the organ, give yourself the first note and sing the Mass.”

I remember, shortly after my Confirmation, being picked up after school and taken to an inner-city parish to help with a Religious Education class. “Kathy,” said the wonderfully kind director there, “Here’s the book. Here’s the kids. Sing to them. Tell them stories. Teach them to love Jesus”

I remember Father Frank Syrianey, he of blessed memory, who was the pastor of my parish when I was in college. I had no idea then the great blessing of having such a wise, warm priest at the helm a few years after the Council. I rang the doorbell of the rectory one afternoon, and he answered.

“Hi, Father,” I said, “you don’t know me, but my name is Kathy.” And he said these unforgettable words to me: “Of course I know you.”

That’s a good shepherd. The one who calls forth gifts, who inspires young people to lead, who knows us by name―that’s the Good Shepherd so desperately needed today.

A few weeks ago, as they were working on the music for Holy Week, about a dozen of the stunningly talented teenagers in my parish had to be shooed out of church by their brilliant choir director because it was time to lock up.

You know what? one said. Church is my favorite place to be.

Who are the good shepherds who are helping to build the next generation of believers?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle C

9 April 2016

Reflecting on John 21: 1-19

We watched a stupid movie the other night. The wife has been disfigured, but transformed through plastic surgery. Now, beautiful again, she is shocked that her husband doesn’t recognize her.

“Oh, brother,” said my husband, “I would know you if you were a foot taller and bald. The second you even took a breath to say a word, I would know it was you.”

And I would know it was Ben. That’s why it’s so intriguing that the disciples, who have been with Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry at the Sea of Galilee, don’t recognize him when he appears at that very sea after his resurrection.

All but one, that is. The Beloved Disciple realizes at once that it is Jesus.

Who is this mysterious “disciple whom Jesus loved”? This anonymous disciple reclines next to Jesus at the Last Supper, stands with Mary at the foot of the cross, races to the tomb with Peter on Easter morning, and, now, is the first to know that the stranger calling from the shore is Jesus himself.

My student of many years ago changed my understanding of the Beloved Disciple forever. He said, “Kathy, whenever I read about the disciple Jesus loved I just put my name there.  I say, ‘and then Jose, the disciple Jesus loved, put his head on Jesus’ breast.’ Or, at the cross, ‘Woman, behold Jose. Jose, behold your mother.’”

Now that’s the way to pray the gospels. Try it. Put your name there.  Imagine that is you racing to the tomb, and you seeing the angels. And, yes, it is you who is given the charge to “go and tell the others.”

Are you afraid to talk about the resurrection of Jesus in our increasingly secular culture?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Divine Mercy Sunday – Cycle C

5 April 2016

Reflecting on John 20: 19-31

Like Thomas, I long to see miracles face to face. That’s why I loved the wonderful new movie Miracles from Heaven. The film, starring Jennifer Garner, tells of a miracle that took place in a young girl who was undergoing treatment for an inoperable abdominal obstruction at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The glorious miracle, of course, is the most heart-stopping part of the movie, but it’s the short montage towards the very end that inspires me every time I think of it. In this too-brief section, we see the hidden kindnesses of many people who left their comfort zones in order to extend mercy to the traumatized family in the months before the miracle occurred. They made what they did look unimportant, but we find out at the end that each of them sacrificed something ―a day off, a night off, a possible termination from their job― in order to give this struggling family every possible comfort.

Those hidden acts of mercy are miracles in themselves, and we have experienced them countless times in our lives. It doesn’t matter that, like Thomas, we were not in the room with the Risen One that Easter night.

We have seen him, and touched him, and received the Holy Spirit from him in a thousand ways. How? Through the gracious kindness of those who have sacrificed their time and energy in order to care for us in illness, or listen to us in sorrow, or even just call us by our name.

Blessed are they who have seen miracles. How much more blessed are they whose gracious kindness opens the doors to miracles for others. That, too, is the Divine Mercy we celebrate today.

Are you aware of some of the hidden kindnesses of others?

 

For Peg and John, who are accompanying their beloved ones through the hardest time in their lives.

Kathy McGovern ©2016

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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The Resurrection of the Lord – Cycle C

26 March 2016

Reflecting on John 20: 1-9

Easter, 2016

Dearest Mary of Magdala,

Mary, did you know that he whom your heart loved would not be in the tomb when you went to minister to his body that sad spring morning?

Mary, did you know that he who’s dreadful death broke your heart in half would break open the graves of all believers?

Mary, did you know that when you bravely ran to tell the news to the Beloved Disciple and Peter, your wonder-filled race would mark the very first steps of the faith that would change the world?

Mary, did you know that when the angels in the tomb asked you why you were weeping, they were asking the same question to all of us who would follow you, too afraid to hope, too full of wonder not to believe?

Mary, did you know that once the men departed the empty tomb and you were left there, weeping, your Lord would appear and call you gently by your name? And that, yes, it was your name the gospels would record as the first name spoken by the Risen One?

Know this, dear sister of Magdala: On this Easter morning we race with you to the tomb, we stand in grateful wonder at the angels in our lives who have asked why we are weeping, and we turn our faces from the grave, knowing that the Voice we hear is Jesus, calling us by name.

What things do you know for sure about Jesus?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – Cycle C

19 March 2016

Reflecting on Luke 22: 14-23:56

It’s weird, the things you remember. I’m sure I’ve been thirstier, or hotter, or in more pain than that sweltering hot Good Friday many years ago. But carrying four bags of groceries up several flights of stairs at three in the afternoon that particular day imprinted on me an awareness of just a fraction of the pain of Calvary, and that’s the day I realized how central to our faith is the Suffering Servant.

It’s not that the Father requires it. It’s that we require a God who knows thirst, who knows pain, who knows terror, who knows us. I can’t think of an experience of sorrow that Jesus didn’t know, and I take much comfort in that.

He knew the little stuff―like arms burning from carrying a few bags up a few flights of stairs―because he endured the big stuff, like carrying the crossbeam of his cross up the hill of Calvary.

He knew the pain we suffer when our friends don’t love us, because the night before he died, Peter, withering under the scrutiny of a maid in Caiaphas’s courtyard, denied that he had ever known him.

Do you have asthma? Jesus knows what it is to struggle for breath. It was the particular torture of crucifixion that the victim eventually asphyxiated from pulling up to get air, then collapsing down again.

Someday the little pains of our lives will magnify. The diminishments of old age will bring us to our knees, and we will pray one last time, Jesus, remember me.

And then he who was obedient unto death, even death on a cross, will say to us, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”

What particular affliction in your life did Jesus also suffer?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

14 March 2016

Reflecting on John 8: 1-11

Don’t miss the underlying theme of the three wondrous readings today. The Church has chosen them carefully. That poor woman dragged out for Jesus to condemn―the Pharisees knew she couldn’t be put to death, of course, but they wanted to get Jesus on record defying the scriptures that said she should be―surely thought there was no way out for her. She had the stone-bearing Pharisees ahead of her, and her difficult past behind her. And there, writing in the sand, was the Rabbi. She would soon understand that he, whose other name is MERCY, was the way out.

Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus was writing? I suggest that he went straight to the scriptures and wrote the verse we hear today from Isaiah: Remember not the events of the past; the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Do you not perceive it?

Or maybe he wrote what his great apostle, St. Paul, would later say to the Philippians: Forget what lies behind; strain forward to what lies ahead.

Jesus had us in mind as he wrote, I’m sure of it. He begs us to remember God’s mercy in the past, and to remember not the injustices and losses and sorrows that may have us pinned to the ground, unable to move forward.

We don’t know what happened next to that “woman caught in adultery.” Did she spend the rest of her life bitterly remembering that humiliating experience? Or did she bravely step out into a new life, filled with grace as she remembered her encounter with Jesus?

God is always doing something new in your life. Do you not perceive it?

How are you open to the grace to “remember not the events of the past”?

Kathy McGovern ©2016

 

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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Fourth Sunday of Lent – Cycle C

7 March 2016

Reflecting on Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

For over twenty years the diocese of Saginaw, Michigan was led by the brilliant and insightful Bishop Ken Untener. He was known as a great reconciler. Wounds didn’t fester in his diocese. You’ll see why in this beautiful piece, The Forgiving Father―With a Mother’s Twist, gratefully reprinted with permission for one-time use here:

While the father and elder son are arguing in the back-yard, the mother comes out and says, “Now I have had just about enough.”

To her husband: “You’ve always favored our youngest and you know it. Our elder son works hard every day and you take him for granted. I hardly ever hear you say ‘thank you’ except to the hired hands. It’s about time you started noticing your family for a change.”

Then to the elder son: “And you … always the martyr. You act as if you’re the only one who has to go the extra mile. Well, I have to do it and so does everybody else. It’s time you learned to swallow hard and rise above the things in life that are unfair. Stop your silly pouting.”

She then goes and gets the younger son. “And you, the spoiled little prince — in there celebrating and you never even thought to ask about your brother and apologize for leaving him to do all the work. It’s about time you realized that the whole world doesn’t revolve around you.”

Then to the three of them: “Work out your differences some other time. We’ve got company, so get in there and start acting like family instead of three-year-olds.”

Reconciliation can be complicated. But that’s no reason not to reconcile.

Does your ongoing feud with family members need a mom who’ll deliver some tough love?

 

Thank you, dear Rita Albright, for bringing this great piece to my attention just in time! It’s reprinted from The Little Black Book, based on the writing of Bishop Ken Untener. Learn more at www.littlebooks.us  (989) 797-6653

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

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