Monthly letters to help put the work of the catechist of the Good Shepherd into the context of the larger world · from the archives
by Catherine Maresca
Once again we come to Lent, a time of year when the parable of the True Vine can guide our observance. Last year at the beginning of Lent I asked myself, “What helps me to remain, to leave behind the tasks of daily life and relax into the presence of God?”
The answer came immediately: play the piano. As a teenager I used to come home from high school and play the piano. Once in a while my mother would whistle along, but I didn’t want this. The piano and I were wrapped in a cocoon and no one was welcome to join us inside. This was my therapy. This was my prayer.
Since those days I’ve returned to the piano often. Eventually I became aware that this was where I sat when I was distraught, or confused, or threatened, or discouraged. Playing demanded enough of my attention to stop the whirlwind of thought, but after a while it created enough space for some emotional breathing to begin.
Over the years I’ve acquired a special pile of music: beloved prayerful songs. These I play when I am intentionally using the piano to help me pray. I have one song I play at the beginning of every course I teach — every parish has a piano somewhere — to offer myself to the participants and to God during our time together.
And so I decided to play the piano every day during Lent last year, and again this year. To avail myself of the space for praise, for gratitude, for comfort, for healing, or for guidance that playing the piano creates for me.
I am so grateful for God’s graciousness, that we can each remain in a place so perfectly suited to our unique relationship with God. To know this spacious love helps us to offer it in turn to the children with whom we pray in the atrium. They may find their own cocoon with the materials of the Good Shepherd, at the prayer table, with the music maker or the calligraphy pen, walking in the courtyard or along the Fettuccia, curled beside the sacristy cabinet, knitting a prayer shawl, or tracing the path of a labyrinth.
We may expect both ourselves and others to remain in God’s love in some particularly religious ways, such as the Bible or the Eucharist. These are wonderful gifts that the whole church enjoys, and that may reveal to us some very particular ways in which God calls us by name at a certain time or even throughout a lifetime. They also unite us to one another in a community of faith – yet another way to remain in God’s love. There is no shortage of ways to remain with God, but there can be a narrowness of vision among us – expecting God to limit the ways we can encounter God in the world to those that are official, or traditional, or known to us. May we all grow in our own ability to let God be God – open-handed and open-hearted to all.
May Lent be a time for all of you to remain, nestled with others and with Jesus in the True Vine. What helps you to remain? What helps the children of your atrium?
Please share some of your insights in the comments below.