The Old Rugged Cross

Sometimes I feel like a walking contradiction. And that is not because I’m SSA and Catholic. But rather it’s because in general I consider myself (and I think that friends and family would agree) to be a pessimist, a realist, someone who, while a believer, has the type of personality that would find it difficult to believe in the miraculous, the divine. I’m the type of person that who would be quick to doubt if I met someone who had had visions like St. Faustina. In a way, I am very much like Agent Scully from The X-Files. But at the same time, I can easily, at times, believe that God speaks to me, even in the most subtle of ways. Take today for example.

As usual, my alarm went off at six o’clock this morning. I know, I am too lazy to adjust my alarm times for the weekends. So I just kept hitting snooze for about half an hour until I shut it off, not wanting to continue that game for another hour, which is when I actually wanted to wake up. So I fell back to sleep, and had one of those dreams that is just all over the place. Maybe you know what I mean if you’ve ever woken up briefly, and promptly fallen back asleep for a short period of time. Now there were several interesting aspects to my dream, but only one has to do with this topic: my mother was in this dream.

Now, it’s not unusual for my mom to be in one of my dreams. But her behavior in this dream was not usual. Now, ignoring the uneasy and erratic dreams I had in the months following her death, her behavior in my dreams is usually pretty consistent, and a lot of the dynamics that I had with her in life are present. I’m snarky to her, and she is snarky to me. That’s the gist of it. But this morning, it was very different. She didn’t say or do much of anything. In fact, I don’t think she said a single word. She was merely present. Her attitude and demeanor was not usual. It was a kind of happy sadness. I don’t know if there is a word for that or any other way to describe it better, but that’s what it was. 

When I woke up again about 45 minutes later, I just knew that I was supposed to pray for her, that I needed to offer up Mass for her as my intention. I can’t explain it. While it wasn’t an apparition or a vision as many Saints have described in relating visitors from Purgatory, and it wasn’t a direct spoken message from God, I had no doubt that it was a message from God. So I got up, did my morning thing, and went to Mass. I did the best with what I have to be intentional, and to participate in the Mass. I sang, I tried to focus on the readings, and I tried to absorb and learn from Fr. Johnson’s homily about complaining (certainly felt like he was talking directly to me). And when it was time for the offering, I simply asked God to give my mother the mercy and grace she needs. I tried to put myself on Calvary during the consecration, and receive Holy Communion worthily, but I must admit that my mind did begin to wander. Once I realized that my mind was now on some random political subject, I became disappointed in myself. I had failed to really pray for her, my mom.

And then: On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…the emblem of suff’ring and shame…

Many people will tell you that my mom’s favorite hymn was either In the Garden or Bringing in the Sheaves. If you’re Catholic you may never have heard of either of these hymns. But I know that my mom really really liked The Old Rugged Cross. And so when that was the post-Communion song that they chose for Mass this morning, a song, that I have only ever heard one other time in a Catholic Mass, it was all the confirmation I needed that indeed my dream was not some coincident, and that my petitions for my mother had not been of no effect, but that they were being heard.

I do believe that God speaks to his children, and that he can speak to us in many different ways. Some he speaks audibly and visually. To others he sends his mother, or a saint or angel. And to others he speaks subtly in dreams or music, or events he coordinates in our lives. But we must be sensitive and open to these promptings. Make that your goal today, to ask God to speak to you and to receive the grace to hear his voice.

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