“Who Are You?” Mentor and Memoir

window, portable

Who are you?

This is a question that my mentor, Mr. John D Meehan, asked me in one of a handful of face-to-face conversations that we had.  And when he posed it to me, different answers went through my mind.  All that I could really think of responding with, however, was, “me” – and that with a question mark at the end of it.  I chose not to give an answer out loud, just sat there thinking and waiting for him to continue.  I knew that he would.  He mentioned each of the ways that had flipped through my thoughts, the ways by which most people answered the question: professional identity, national identity, religious affiliation, familial or social association, maybe even a hobby.

But, Mr. Meehan said, none of these go to the heart of your true identity, to who you are.

He said that the truth of who we are is in relationship with Christ, then gave the example of Mary Magdalene.  She didn’t recognize Christ Resurrected, but as soon as he spoke her name, she knew him.  In this, Mr. Meehan was inviting me to find the answer of who I am.  Having been a teacher, I think that he could have spelled it out a bit more plainly to me.  If he had, maybe he would’ve said something like “you are a child of God”… but, then again, perhaps he knew that that answer would not have penetrated into my mind and heart because I had heard it too many times before.  Or, perhaps, he didn’t like that answer either, for the same connotative reasons that would have made me smirk.  I’ll never know now, because, last week, Mr. Meehan died. Continue reading

Brave

I feel very brave posting this.  Three and a half years of blogging here and I have been careful not to show pictures of myself straight on.  In fact, you’ll only find two.  Yet, here I am sharing a video of myself.

Why?  Right now, I’m really not sure!  A video of me reciting one of my poems with no makeup and no video touchup software?  (That would have to be some pretty awesome touchup software…)

But… there is something to be said about showing your wounds…

Being a Christian isn’t about standing on a soapbox yelling out quotes from Scripture or pointing at people “in sin” and warning them that they better change their ways.  Christianity is about Christ – and Christ is about love.  Christ is love incarnate.  So, if I want to share Christ with others, then I must not only love them in my heart and my actions, but also share with them my love – which includes my suffering.

When St. Thomas doubted the Resurrection, Christ came before him and showed him his wounds, let him put his fingers right into them.  We all have wounds.  We all have sufferings.  And we shouldn’t be afraid of them or even ashamed of them.  I am not proud of my defective gene (you won’t see me in any kind of SMA pride parade or whatever) but I am not ashamed to have a defective gene – or to even call part of me defective.  For that is the truth.

By sharing the truth of who I am – all of me – I hope that you may come to better know my love and, through that love, to know Christ.  God doesn’t make junk.  Everybody is sacred – every body is sacred.  And, sometimes, it is through our wounds that the glory of who we are is made known.

Now, remember mercy…

© 2017 Christina Chase

Trust in You

Trust is not something that I’m very good at.  I like to be in control, feeling that I can manage the outcome to my liking.  But, of course, I can’t always do that.  Some things are out of my hands – almost everything is out of my hands.

When I first became a Christian, I was actually glad that I didn’t control everything.  It was a relief to know that I wasn’t responsible for everything that happened in my life and the lives of my loved ones.  I can’t say that it was a relief to know that everything is in God’s hands – that actually scared me quite a bit.  But, if anyone is going to be in control, it should surely be the Creator and Master of the Universe – the One who knows best.

During my recent health odyssey, my problem with trust was made clear again.  I prayed for recovery, for the end of new illnesses – but I also worried every time a new illness appeared.  Legitimate concern is not a bad thing at all, for I do need to think about my body and make good decisions on taking care of it.  But, worry – well, there is no room (and really no need) for worry in the life of a person of faith.  And I worried a lot.

Sometimes, a song, poem, book, movie, or TV show can challenge our faith and inspire us to a better and closer relationship with God.  I discovered the song below during my health odyssey (which is not quite over yet) and it cut to my heart.  It is a challenge for me in my struggles – and a good inspiration to trust…

“Jesus, I Trust in You…”

© 2017 Christina Chase

Expire

Now, breathe out…

 

“His body is letting him down.”

We say this about a person who is getting old or becoming sick with an incurable disease.  Why?  Isn’t the end of life death?  Are we not all born to die?  We know that death is inevitable – so why do we treat it like it’s not?  Why do we act like our bodies are supposed to remain young and healthy forever – and then, when they begin to age or weaken through illness, why do we act as though we have been betrayed?  Betrayed by whom?

Nobody is promised endless youth and health.  Nobody is promised a life that won’t end with physical death.  Nobody.

It’s like we’re all delusional, in a way.  Some say that religious people suffer from wishful thinking – but, it seems to me that almost everyone in mainstream culture is suffering from that.  In my experience, religious people know that suffering happens.  Death is coming.  Catholics are certainly reminded of this quite often, invited every day to contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, uniting our sufferings with his, gazing upon the crucifix.  And every year, when the Lenten season begins, we (and other Christians) have ashes put on our foreheads and are told “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Suffering happens.  Death will come.  Not even God Incarnate lived a human life without it.  Continue reading

Joyful

A few words about joy.  Well, okay, more than a few…

I used to think that Catholicism was very dour, celebrating solemnities (solemn celebrations?) bemoaning sin and life in this world.  This was a false picture of the Catholic Church, however.  Sadly, I’m not the only one who has had this misconception of Catholicism – probably millions do right now.  The error, I think, comes partly from human attempts to depict the Mysterious Majesty of God and the profound honor, respect, awe, and even submission, due to God.  When contemplating the Immaculate Conception of Mary, for example, we don’t do so with silly giddiness or casual interest.  We must do so with solemn reverence and humble, awestruck gratitude – so, also with joy.

One problem, it seems to me, is that it’s hard to find an ancient image of Mary smiling.  (If you know of one, please share!)  Smiles probably didn’t mean the same thing then as they do now.  But, let us remember that the Bible does speak clearly of joy.  Mary herself cries out to Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”[1] Mary rejoices.  And so should we.

I do like this modern (1873) Greek icon of the Most Holy Mother of God…

Greek icon Mary Mother of God

Today we observe the “Solemnity” of the Immaculate Conception (celebrating the Mystery of Mary being conceived in her mother’s womb without the stain of Original Sin, so that she may truly be The New Eve).  And Gaudete Sunday (the Third Sunday of Advent) is being celebrated this weekend.  So, truly, it’s a fitting time to reflect upon the importance of joy in our lives of faith.  With the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, must also come the gift of joy – for how can we not be joyful when we believe that we are made to know, to love, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with God forever?  With this faith and hope we are free to love – and in the true freedom of loving others and knowing that we are intimately and infinitely love there is true and lasting joy. Continue reading

Gratitude

If you are not a grateful person, then you will never be great.

If you do not appreciate the people in your life, then you cannot receive their amazing value – only their cost.

If you do not say “Thank you” when you didn’t get what you wanted, but, rather, what you needed, then you won’t know true joy if you do get what you want.

Giving thanks is easy when you are surrounded by a delicious feast and a happy family.  But, how easy is it to be thankful if you are sadly without home, without family, or without feasting?  The awesome, powerful thanksgiving that transcends the 4th Thursday of November is experienced by those who do not lack gratitude even when life is hard.  For these are the people who recognize life itself as an eternal gift.crucifix-2-flash

The life of your soul is not a gift that was thoughtlessly or cheaply purchased.

It is given by the Giver with pure love…

Live your Thank You by loving – and let your unconditional loving be your joy.  May God help me as I strive to fully live with gratitude…

 

For more of my posts on Thanksgiving and giving thanks, please click and read

One Year of Blogging – and Still Thankful

Giving Thanks (While Gazing upon the Crucifix)

Giving Thanks – Eucharist

© 2016 Christina Chase

Hope, Part 1: The Four-Letter Word

Hope for a Cure

Another Labor Day has come and gone and with it, for me, vague feelings of nostalgia, anxious excitement, dread, and a kind of contempt for hopeful people. I was literally a poster child for neuromuscular disease. Here’s the proof on a national poster:

1980 poster MDA blog

And as Poster Child for my local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, in 1980 and 1982, I traveled the state of New Hampshire, smiling so long and so often that cheek-ache became a familiar sensation of childhood. The climax of my duties was to appear on our local cutaways of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Little, blonde, smiling and dimpled girl that I was, sitting in my wheelchair, I would look into the camera, speak into the microphone, and tell people to help fight MD.

It was at the MDA events and, especially, the Telethon, that I was surrounded by the hopeful people.

People used to tell me, with smiles, sweet voices, and encouragement, that I should keep hoping that a cure would be found for my disease and that I would be able to walk someday. But, I don’t remember having this as a real hope… maybe more like a fantastic wish. My mother tells me, however, that I once expressed belief that becoming Poster Child for MDA would mean that I would be able to walk. We can imagine, then, the disappointment that I must have felt at 5 years old when I became Poster Child and remained crippled – my hope so utterly unfulfilled.

An Amused Cynic

Despite having my hopes dashed, I want to make it clear that I was not a bitter child. I was generally and genuinely happy, finding joy in little things and easy to smile. I don’t even remember getting my hopes dashed. Whenever people mentioned that word “hope”, however, I remember within me an inner smirk of cynicism. Those people who were fighting so relentlessly for a cure, rallying me and believing that I would be able to walk one day – those people were sadly and foolishly falling for wishful thinking. And I never wanted to be a fool like that.

Entering my teen years and throughout those years, I developed a vague, unvoiced dislike for these hopeful people, overly enthusiastic, sappily patronizing people, so full of wishes and happy thoughts that any fairy would swear that they could fly.

Hope became a four-letter word to me. And somewhat amusing.

Hope of Heaven

There was another kind of hope that was introduced to me at an early age, because of my upbringing in the Catholic Church. The Christian understanding is that one’s ultimate and truest happiness will be found in Heaven. The sufferings we endure in this life will bring us great reward in the next. So, I remember, as a child, being taught and believing that I would walk in Heaven. My mother also tells me of my reaction on first hearing this from my older sister, when she came home excitedly one day from religious education. I was about 3 years old. On hearing from my sister that I would be able to walk after I died and went to Heaven, I exclained joyfully that I wanted to die. Hearing these words from her little daughter, my mother understandably tried to talk me out of my desire by informing me that she, my father, and my sister would not be with me in Heaven after I died. Loving my family so very much and only feeling comfortable and safe when I was with them, I stopped desiring Heaven.

That explains a lot, too.

Imagine There’s No Heaven

It is important to note that I have never truly wanted to die, for I have a natural and deep love for life, here and now. My general disposition is as a glass half-full kind of person. And I love what is real, because it is real. Not wanting to be a fool and not wanting to be cajoled, it isn’t much wonder that I became vehemently against the “comforting” hope of the afterlife.

“Poor thing,” people might say to me, “at least you know that you will have a wonderful life in Heaven where all your dreams will come true.” The hope of Heaven became something of a consolation prize for the losing hand that I was dealt or a kind of life-raft to which I was supposed to cling. But, I would have none of that. First of all, I knew that I, myself, was not a loser. Second of all, I didn’t want to cling to anything to help me “get through” life, as if I couldn’t hack it on my own. So opposed was I to this offered hope that it was one of the reasons that I became an atheist for a short while, around the age of 20. I wanted to prove that a didn’t need the vague hope of Heaven, that I didn’t need God to be happy. As John Lennon once sang, “Imagine there’s no Heaven – it’s easy if you try.”

Unexpected Cure

I have always loved the truth and will pursue it, no matter what. It isn’t that I hoped to find the truth, but, rather, that I was determined to uncover it. As an atheist, I really thought that I had revealed all the myths and fairytales and wishful thinking for the errors that they were, that I knew the truth.

But, the final discovery that I made was an unexpected and unwanted one: that which we call God is true. More on that story in another post. I have, thankfully, been cured of the spiritual deafness and blindness of atheism, although it was a long journey into Christianity. Now, as a believing Christian, devoted member of the Catholic Church, I still struggle with the belief that everything will be made “right” with eternal rewards in Heaven. By struggle, I mean that I don’t want to be coaxed into accepting suffering or into being good with the promise of some future treat, like a child. One thing I despise is to be patronized.

Now What?

But, if Hope is a theological virtue, then it can’t be a “four-letter word”. What do I do then, as a believer in Christ Jesus, with this thing called hope?

To be continued next week…

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase