One sunny Saturday afternoon in August 1981, my Grandma Jessie drove me to the Livingston Mall to buy me a dress and shoes for my bat mitzvah the following month.
Of course, they had to be blue—my favorite color.
I chose an ankle-length, short-sleeved dress of patterned Indian cotton that was primarily a muted, cadet-blue shade, and Famolare-style sandals to match. It was a daringly hippie look for a temple service, even for a liberal Reform congregation such as mine, but my very understanding grandmother (a Cornell drama grad who was quite the bohemian in her time) was happy to buy me something that made me feel pretty. And it was a pretty look, the dress flowing and feminine; today I would call it Marian.
Grandma's gift came to mind Sunday as I prayed the Sanctus at Mass yesterday. Time telescoped for a moment and I thought of the moment at my bat mitzvah, twenty-seven years ago this Thursday, as the congregation prayed the Kedushah, the central prayer of the Shabbat service—"Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh... Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord of Hosts, the whole world is filled with His glory."
At that same moment, I remembered that a year after my bat mitzvah, to the day, my grandmother passed away. Around this time would be her yahrzeit, the lunar anniversary of her death. Jews are obligated to pray on loved ones' yarhzeits. Although I felt my grandmother to be in heaven, I prayed for her at that moment of the Mass, knowing that, if she were already enjoying the presence of the Lord, she would pass the graces on to those in need of them.
My bat mitzvah was a sort of last hurrah for the Jewish spirituality that had played a role in my childhood. It shouldn't have been, but, for many reasons, it was.
What I am experiencing today, as a first-semester, full-time M.A. theology student at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, given back the years the locust has eaten. Like time stopped and restarted with me put where I was supposed to be all along.
Twenty-seven years ago this week, I chanted in Hebrew the words of Isaiah 54: " Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD. ... "
Today, I can say that anyone who has been helped by my book is one of my "children." Better still, I now have the opportunity to become a better "mom" through the inspiration of studying under and with others practicing spiritual parenthood, including, among my classmates, many future priests—men who, with God's help, will be spiritual fathers to thousands.
As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was fond of saying, God can write straight with crooked lines. I thank Him for doing so with me, and pray that this pen will realize that His grace is sufficient to prevent its ever again rebelling against its Author. In praying this, it gives me strength to remember how St. Maximilian, faced with trials immeasurably harder than anything I have experienced, asked Our Lady for aid, and so could say with confidence, "the Immaculata is helping me."
"My heart is inditing"—Handel, performed by the Holland Boys Choir
Thank you for your prayers as I continue to focus on my studies. I hope to resist blogging again until at least the weekend after next.
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