by Catherine Maresca
The holiday season was threaded by five deaths this year: two children, a sister-in-law, and two friends and colleagues. I know many of you have also lost a parent, colleague, or friend in recent months. I am grateful that these losses, along with the turmoil of church, government, and an unsettled world, were braided with the celebrations and gatherings for Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, and Epiphany, along with a bounty of care from friends and family, and the constant presence of Immanuel, God-with-us.
I was on an eight-day silent retreat in August when a premonition of the losses of the coming year arose. During those quiet days, I had a deep sense of God in “whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17, 28). For me, these words are best captured by the image of the womb of God. We speak comfortably of the heart of God, the word of God, the mind of God, and the hand of God. Yet none so powerfully capture being in God as the womb of God. Here we dwell in communion, sharing God’s life, wordlessly nurtured, comforted, and healed. In my prayer, I experienced God’s womb holding the universe as well as holding me. This image has comforted me in the months since then, knowing that those who have departed from this life live forever in God’s Eternal Love, and that those of us still here do so as well.
Periods of loss and grief are part of the context of all of our work in the atrium. And while atrium work may make a time of grief more challenging it can also be a great blessing. The busyness of the work may serve to get us through the day or the week. Our proclamation of God’s word may serve to deepen the roots of our own faith. And the children’s faith, echoed back to us in art and prayer, may give us hope and joy.
Here’s an example of that echo. We had a staff member at our school for a while who was a very private woman. During her time there her husband passed away. We knew of his passing, but there was no detail, memorial, or real opportunity to comfort her. The children of our class of 9-12-year-olds invited her to the atrium one Friday afternoon soon after his death. They had prepared a prayer service for her to comfort and encourage her.
Life is real. Loss is real. Children know this. There are times our proclamation nurtures them, and times their proclamation renews us in turn. The children do live and move and have their being in God – and remind us that we do as well.
With gratitude for those we have lost this year, especially for catechists Rob Soley, friend and colleague at Christian Family Montessori School, Washington, DC, and Elizabeth Hess, Director of Ministries for Youth and Children at Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, CA.
Moving Day, poems by Rob Soley
During 2018, Catherine Maresca was working with Rob on a book of his exceptional poetry. Before he died Rob and his wife Karen decided to donate the proceeds of the book to CCTheo. Moving Day, poems by Rob Soley is to be published this winter. We are currently estimating how many books to print. If you are interested in purchasing the book (projected cost is $15 each), please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your name, the best email address to contact you, and the quantity of books you are interested in. You are not committed to an order, but we will contact you when the book is published.