Spiritual Ebbs and Flows and My encounter with Christ helping my mother shop for a purse

A.M.D.G.
J.M.J.
A.T.C.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in æternum! Amen.

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary of Time

I am going to be honest with you all and say that the last few weeks have been a struggle in so many ways.  Not just in the ways mentioned in the previous post but more importantly in the realm of the spiritual.

I have been struggling with ebbs and flows in my spiritual life. I know that many go through this but I am not used to it and thus it is a bit of a new experience for me.  I am used to feeling a close connection with the Lord.  Not like I am in a constant state of ecstasy though I think I have had a taste of that a few times.  Both states are indescribable using such a finite means as human expression/language.

And no, I am not telling you all this to show off.  I am just being honest.

Why am I telling you all of this?  I really don’t know but I am sick of holding it in.  I hold too many darn things in and they eat away at me with anxiety and such.  The Evil One knows all of my weaknesses.  He exploited a couple quite a bit before but now I have started to develop a stronger defense against his wiles there (without letting my guard down) so now he is moving onto something even more dear to me: my spiritual life.

I hate it.  I have never been this unfaithful to my praying the Office.  There have been nights when I just don’t pray Vespers and Compline.  There have been mornings where I have tried to pray Lauds in the car but praying in a car is different from being alone with the Lord in church making a holy hour before Mass.

I think the Evil One is exploiting the fact that I no longer go to Mass every day.  It’s like going cold turkey.  It sucks.  On.  So. Many.  Levels.

I miss going to Mass every morning!  It was the source of my sustenance to make it through the day.  Going twice a week doesn’t cut it for me.  I need that time with the Lord.  Who gives a crap if I am pulling a pay check if I cannot sustain my relationship with the Lord?

I know, I am caterwauling about something that many deal with without all the rigamarole.  It’s hard for me to put into words the pain it causes me to miss Daily Mass.  It’s affected my spiritual life.  When I went to Daily Mass, it set the rhythm of my day.  I prayed Office of Readings and Lauds, then do some spiritual reading, then spend some time in silent prayer before the Lord, and then Mass.  After Mass, I would pull out my beads and pray my daily Rosary on the way home.

I am also a creature of habit who does not like it when her routine is disturbed too much.

I know I am complaining.  It’s almost like a “First World Problem.”  I can’t go to Mass daily and thus my spiritual life suffers.

And there are aspects over which I do have control.  I just know that the Evil One is exploiting this to get the better of me and I am stupidly letting him have the upper hand.

I should probably stop that … ASAP.  I know, “Master of the Obvious,” much?

Case in point, just tonight, I was just going to go to bed sans even praying to my Infant of Prague (I have been faithful in changing His vestments according to the day).  Then, as I was about to lie down, something (probs my angel) told me: “Pray your Office, Allie, just do it.”

So I grab my Breviary off my bed stand, pull my veil bag out of my purse (I veil for private prayer since I cannot do so at the parish at which I attend Mass) and go to my spot before my Infant where I typically pray my Office.  I open my Breviary to move the out-of-date ribbons and notice that there is some frayed card stock in the pages.

I flip to the section from whence the torn paper came and my heart stops: one of my most treasured and beloved holy cards got caught in the zipper of my leather Breviary cover and got torn up a bit.

I decide that it can wait until after prayers are done because if I am going to do this … I gotta do it now!

So I set my ribbons for the right pages and get down to bid-ness.

Lord, it was nice to just pray.  If I am alone, I pray aloud because it helps me to concentrate on the text before me and what the meaning of the psalms, readings, and other prayers are.  I always pray the Magnificat/Benedictus in Latin and I close every psalm (unless otherwise noted) with the Gloria Patri (including bowing during the naming of the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity).

I got to Compline.  Everything went smoothly.  I know more of Compline in Latin: I can pray from the Responsory on in Latin (when I would listen to the Vatican Radio podcast of Compline, I picked up the Latin rather fast including the intonation which helps me remember it better).  After the prayer, I usually recite the Salve Regina unless it’s a Marian feast or a Saturday then I sing/chant it.  Yes, I know I was praying Compline on a Saturday night but I wasn’t really paying attention there.

Something was messing with me because it would not let me get past the first line.  It would seriously just change the words I was saying.  I would start “Salve Regina, mater misericordiæ …” and then my mouth would start saying something totally random, still part of a prayer but not that prayer.

Getting annoyed at myself, I decided that since I was alone, I could sing in one of the tones I know:

As soon as I started singing/chanting it, I felt better and my self-annoyance ended. I also felt such a profound peace in my heart I didn’t want to stop singing to Our Lady.  It was like she was surrounding me with her mantle of protection and love.

After I have blessed myself from the little vintage porcelain Marian holy water font from my great-grandmother’s collection of churchy goods (the majority of which I “inherited”) at the end of Compline, I sprinkled my room with one of my bottles of holy water (yes, one of my holy water bottles … lol) while reciting the Saint Michael Prayer in Latin.  I usually sprinkle my bed in particular since I will be sleeping in it through the night and a little bit of holiness can’t hurt.

I just need to be more disciplined with my spiritual life.  I pray that I be able to go to Mass more often once again because the Holy Mass is such an integral part of my spiritual life but I also cannot use that as my excuse to not be faithful to my prayer life.  When I start to waver there, things start to happen that I don’t want to happen.

Oh!  I must share this with you all.  It may not seem like much to many but it was a profound experience for me.

Last Sunday, my mother, father, and I went shopping to help her find a purse for a wedding they were attending (it was mostly my mother and I looking and my father patiently waiting for us to finish).  We don’t usually go to this particular store but she was a bit crunched for time so she figured she would give it a go.

As we are looking through the purses, there is this older lady also searching through the purses.  She begins to talk with us saying “The purses I like, I cannot afford and the purses I don’t like, I can afford.”  My mother and I respond to her in agreement because that was basically our problem too (my mother likes the finer things in life but in these times, spending close half a grand on a purse seems sinful … I couldn’t spend anywhere near that without praying about it).

The lady keeps talking with us.  She was making small talk about the places she shops for purses and how much she likes them but she wanted to check out this place because they were having a sale and she wanted to see if she could get a deal.

My mother had gotten distracted by another area of the store (honestly, she wasn’t “escaping”) so I kept talking to her because I was immediately reminded of my time working at the parish.

When I worked at the parish, there were certain persons who would come over to the office and just talk to our receptionist or anyone who would listen.  They tended to be older and usually either widowed or never married.  They tended to come in on Mondays and Thursdays when we have Adoration in the chapel at the office (it was the convent for the sisters who taught at the school).  Sometimes, the receptionist would just sit at her desk and listen while getting work done but there were other times when the person was looking for more attention and the secretary had things to concentrate on but she didn’t want to give them the cold shoulder.

That’s when I would get called to the front.  I used to work in the room next to the reception desk so if she ever needed me, all she had to do was roll her chair back and look at me, I would know what she needed by her expression (or she would mouth something for me to lipread).

I would come over to the front desk and start talking to them.  Or we would go into an unoccupied meeting room and just talk for a bit.

My heart always broke because it was clear that these persons were very lonely and needed human interaction … some interpersonal communication in the flesh.  They would talk about themselves and their family.  A lot of small talk.  Just loving the fact that there was someone (anyone) sitting across from them and genuinely listening and interacting with them.  They would talk about the loved ones they had lost (some tended to be recently widowed) and what they loved about that person and how much they miss them.  The list goes on.  The older ones also had a tendency to repeat themselves but I would just sit there and listen because that’s really all they wanted: someone to listen to them and care for them.

Then we also had the persons who would call the office.  Sometimes the receptionist would have the phone to her ear while she worked on other things and talk with them but there were times when we were in a our peak time for calls or when she was getting an unusually high amount of phone calls.

That’s when she would put the person on hold for a moment and tell me to go over into another office and she would forward the call to me for me to talk with them.  Sometimes they would basically be the in person conversations only over the phone.  Other times, the calls were persons who were afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s because they would call repeatedly and every time their story would change.  One lady (God love her) always got angry by the end of the phone call or would randomly hang up on me.  Sometimes she would yell at me and other times she would be nice.  I would listen just the same.  I would answer her questions and talk to her as much as I could.

This older woman I encountered at Macy’s reminded me of the kind older ladies who would come in: typically her husband had died recently and was still getting used to living without that companionship to which she had grown so accustomed.  She kept making small talk with me that it was obvious that she was in need of this interaction.

After I said my farewell to the lady and my mother conceded defeat, we left.  As I was sitting in the back of the car, I thought about that lady.  I recalled the people who would come into or call the office who were just like her.  How much they just wanted someone to listen to them.  How much they just wanted someone with whom to talk and share even the banal things.

Then it hit me: I had encountered Christ in this lady.  Just like I had encountered Christ so many times in the people I talked to (including the lady who would yell at me and hang up on me).

It reminded me that all of us is called to be Christ for the other.  We are to find Christ in everyone from the sweet old lady or man who comes in for Adoration to the angry old lady who yells at you, threatens to report you to the pastor (for what I don’t know), and hang up on you loudly.

To some that encounter in the purse department would have just been one dealing with an old busybody who talked too much and was disturbing one’s own plans.  But to me, I did meet Christ.  I met Christ in the purse section at Macy’s in the disguise of an old lady who was very lonely and longing for human interaction, for someone (even a stranger) to take the time to care.

All right, sorry for the abrupt end but I am getting tired and I have Mass in a few hours.

Have a blessed Sunday!

-Allie

About Ms. Allie

I am a Catholic young woman who works as a Theology teacher at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of the Detroit. In Spring of 2015, I graduated with an MA in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology. My MA thesis was titled: "Mary as Woman of the Eucharist in the Theology of Pope Saint John Paul II." I also hold a BA in Theology (with a dabbling in Philosophy) and is a member of Theta Alpha Kappa (θΑΚ), the National Theology/Religious Studies Honor Society. Prayers are appreciated.
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