Roman Catholic female scientist with a PhD and a baby. Unapologetic ecumenical apologetic who loves a good old-fashioned Latin mass as much as she does a good charismatic healing mass.
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My apologies to any Contemporary Christian music (esp. Matt Maher) fans...
My catch-phrase as a child was "deixa-me em paz" which literally translates to "leave me in peace;” It certainly sounds a lot better than the American equivalent of “leave me alone.” The fact of the matter was, as a child...and even today...I do enjoy being alone sometimes. Don't get me wrong. I love people. I love good company. I love talking with people. You name it. However, when it comes to prayer, everyday spiritual life and such, I prefer to do it alone.
Praying the rosary on my own, for example, is one of the best parts of a typical day for me. I can take all the time I want to meditate upon a particular mystery ("The Agony in the Garden" is the one that calls to me most), change things up when it comes to intentions, and throw in a few Latin prayers at the end (my favorites are "De Profundis" and "Anima Christi"). I don’t think I would feel as comfortable adding prayers and intentions when I pray the rosary with my family. Firstly, a lot of people think funerals when they hear the “De Profundis.” I, however, find that it explains my longing for God quite beautifully… “my soul hath hoped for the Lord…From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord…Because with the Lord is mercy: and with him plenteous redemption….” I feel at peace when I pray on my own and it's something I have come to look forward to every morning as I make my daily commute from Jersey to NYC. (Oh great, now everyone knows I'm from Jersey...)
Today, my sister mentioned a Catholic group based in NYC that she thought I would enjoy. I looked up this group and saw picture upon picture of happy people hiking together, going on trips together, praying together in a community-type setting, etc...and as great as it sounded, this group was not exactly my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking and have even combined prayer with hiking. However, I prefer to do this on my own….like a modern-day Saint Benedict, sometimes I like getting away from it all to seek solace and enjoy God’s company.
This took me back to a retreat I attended a few years ago. I went because my sister thought it would be cool and she wanted me to check it out. For the record, she's one of the people retreats were invented for. She has no problem at retreats...in fact...she has a blast at them and keeps going back for more. I, on the other hand, found myself kicking and screaming on the inside. I just wanted to worship God in peaceful, quiet, solitude. These people, however, kept unintentionally interrupting my silent prayers and meditations. And then....the music started....the "loud music."
By "loud music" I mean Christian music that:
1. Does not include Gregorian chanting
2. Is not sung by a boy's choir from some country in Europe
3. Isn't composed by Paul Schwartz
4. Isn't organ-based
5. Wasn't composed during the Renaissance...or Victorian times at the latest.
I know what you're thinking and you're right...I'm a Traditionalist Christian music snob who prefers a group of anonymous monks over Matt Maher and any other modern Christian music star. However, truth be told, I’m the type of person whose emotions are overcome by a soprano singing a “Lacrymosa” even though I feel nothing when listening to one of the many Christian band songs my sister listens to. The two exceptions are “Mother India” and “The Dalit Hymn” by Caedmon’s Call.
This sounds so terrible, but it got to the point where I was going to strangle someone if they played "Shine Like the Sun" by Matt Maher one more time. Well, to be fair, everyone else got to that point eventually considering how many times they played this "theme song" ....but I was the first one who got to that point.
To make a long story short, (once the volume was turned down and my migraine subsided....) I did come to appreciate some of the talks we had as well as some of the guest speakers. One of the activities did help me better understand Christ's suffering and another activity helped me see how cruel and unforgiving I had become after years of complacency. After my stubborn pride reached a breaking point, I started the healing process as well as a major inner change. I had one of the best confessions of my life (will certainly share about it later) and I started to feel better about life. By Day 2, I had started to appreciate having other people present with me as I prayed and worshiped.
At one point, however, I had the option to partake in a retreat tradition (the Montclair vs. Ramapo football game) or keep myself occupied with something else during this time. Guess what I ended up doing?
Yep, old habits die hard...and I still felt like I needed some alone time to pray.
Therefore, I used up my free time to go for a walk. I walked alone, in silence...attempting to talk to Christ in my own quiet way….undisturbed. I marveled at the simple beauty of the woods around me. I contemplated my place in God's ultimate plan...and since I wasn't familiar with the place, I just put my trust in God and followed a small path that led to a beautiful grotto.
I felt like I was in some form of outdoor church whose domed ceiling was the sky above me and whose floors were comprised of rocks, dirt, and leaves. It was beautiful. As I stood there, I thought about where my life had led me and a wave of shame and disgust overtook me. I got on my knees and apologized for being so selfish. I apologized for all the anger I felt. I apologized for all the things I had done since my last confession before the retreat. I apologized for not being the best person that I could be. I apologized for ignoring Christ’s command to love. I prayed for my family. I prayed that I would escape my pride and my stubborness. I prayed that I would be freed from the sins that governed my life. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for humility. I prayed for compassion. As I prayed, talked with Christ, and simply enjoyed my quiet time with him. I noted that there was a pile of candles, holy cards, rosaries, etc. that had been placed there by many pilgrims before me. The small, makeshift altar of offerings looked like a mess considering how nature has a way with things. Leaves covered photographs of lost loved ones. Candles had tumbled over and broken. It looked like a mess.
I felt the need to clean it up and began to do so as I enjoyed my alone time with Christ. I read the holy cards that were placed there and sent up a few prayers for these people and any other individuals who had stopped by to be with Christ. When I talked, I could feel that he listened and when he talked, my heart listened. This experience touched me and by the time I walked out of that grotto, I was already on my way to becoming a better person…