Saturday, September 13, 2014
A Mother receiving her children with love! Within this last week, the mother-in-law of our music director, Barb Hufford (husband, Steve), died at Wayne County Care Center. Her name is Neileen. Over last weekend, the sequence that many families experience at the end-of-life moved into play. Children and grandchildren travelled in from near and distant places. Barb has remarked at how moved she was, to witness how Neileen, despite a very weakened physical state of being, responded with clear recognition as well as affection, as each individual approached her bedside.
During my short visit with some of the family, I observed her reaching up her arms and hands to them, a gesture that must have required a great portion of her remaining strength. Barb believes that in addition to her joy of seeing her family by her side here on earth, she was also experiencing a vision beyond this world, that led her to utter, “I am so happy!”
I believe I have written and spoken fairly often about the ancient image of the Church as Mother. There are so many elements for reflection within this language. Here, in light of the Hufford family experience, I am specifically struck by the way strength and vulnerability come together in the Church. Clearly, throughout history, Catholicism has faced continual attacks from without, as well as controversies and scandals from within. There is no way to sugarcoat the effect of all this, as there is no way to avoid the harshness of the process of dying. Yet, even within these trials, the Church continues to nurture life and growth within its present members, even as she extends herself to welcome new persons. That is the Triumph of the Cross manifested!
Speaking of vulnerability, we are well aware of the delicacy of life within the womb. While a mother’s body provides the ideal protection and sustenance for a developing child. However, there can be many undermining forces from the outside to endanger the life. The Christian battle lovingly to oppose those forces is, I believe, most effectively carried out by appealing to the personhood— of the child, of the parents, of the members of our society— in such a way that we break down the perception that pro-life advocates are placing more importance on one life than on another. Christ cares about each and every person; therefore, as Christians we must display the attitude of Christ, even as we are facing possible dismissal, insult, or mockery.
As we look to October as Respect Life Month, we would like to create, to be displayed in church, a mosaic of ultrasound images of children within our parish. I believe this will serve as a beautiful graphic affirmation of the Culture of Life. To think that an eight-year old parishioner, for example, could approach the mosaic and say to her mom and dad, or to her classmate, “Look, there I am” will be a living testimony to the positive impact of this technology. If you have an ultrasound image that you are willing to have copied and displayed in such a mosaic, please contact me.
Peace, Fr. Stephen