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Monday after Lent II–March 9, 2009

  • Posted on Mar 9, 2009

Treasures from the Well

Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35-36

Sometimes the times that are most difficult in our lives are the most critical to our spiritual growth. The crosses that we each carry in our lives are strange treasures. Margaret Silf, an Ignatian spiritual writer, talks about “going to the well” of our lives. A well is a place where we find the water that gives us life; yet, a well is dark, deep and frightening. For the Celtic Christians, a well was a sacred place. As Silf says, the well “is the source of life that is only reached by descending into the depths of a deep, dark shaft….To risk the journey to the bottom of the well demands courage. For many of us, that journey into darkness only happens when circumstances force us into an encounter with “rock bottom.” Must such an encounter be negative?” (Margaret Silf, Sacred Spaces: Stations on a Celtic Way).

Over my life, I have found that the “well experiences” in my life, the crosses that I am called to bear, have been transformative for me. At first, the experiences seemed only negative. After some time, I find that transformative treasures lie within a time of loss or suffering. This past week is always a difficult week of the year. The first week of March contains the anniversaries of the deaths of both my parents. Each year I have to work hard to fight the feelings of loss and grief–even many years out from the actual events. However, if I can stay especially close to God through prayer–even and especially when I am feeling low–grace happens in a tremendous, miraculous way to bring me hope. This year, on March 7th, the anniversary of my mother’s death, I was honored to officiate at the funeral of Anne Irvin.

Anne Irvin is the mother of Anne Madison. Anne Madison is the creative genius behind the Anglican rosary beads. Her mother, Anne, came to Memorial to live with Anne and her husband Greg about five years ago. She has suffered from confusion and frailty. After a slow physical and mental decline, she died last Sunday. Her funeral was a celebration of a life well lived. A life that involved being a single mother, a cellist, a teacher, a weaver. Anne loved Cursillo. Her funeral was a celebration of her life. As Monty Howard sang the Cursillo song “Des Colores,” I found myself smiling with joy as I walked down the communion rail. As the sun streamed through the church windows, I realized again that God’s love and the love of those we see no longer surrounds us always. I realized that every time I celebrate the life of someone who has died as their parish priest, I am made whole in my own grief and loss just a bit more. Some folks would say: how could you be at a funeral on March 7th? I’ve realized that a funeral full of joy was the very best place for me to be last Saturday. For those “well” experiences in our lives, sometimes the only place to heal again is to go to the well. The place of deep feeling. The place of deep loss. To realize that at “rock bottom,” there is God’s love.

How do you find a place to heal from loss? What do you do to find hope and the love of God on an anniversary of a loss?