My Spring Reading List!

After the heavier reading of Lent, I thought I'd like to continue some inspirational spiritual reading through the Easter season as well. 

Here's my book list!

Private and Pithy lessons from Scripture - Mother Angelica
Little Book of Life Lessons - Mother Angelica
Three to Get Married - Fulton Sheen
The Little Oratory
Diary Sister Faustina
Getting Past Perfect - Kate Wicker
The Words We Pray - Amy Welborn
Perfectly Yourself - Matthew Kelly 
Crossing the Threshold of Hope - Pope John Paul II

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Touched by Grace part Four

I was very aware of the miracle that had just happened to me. How God knew my needs, and how he had cared for me, even in the midst of this terrible tragedy - the loss of my 6th child in my 23rd week of pregnancy.

It was difficult to get out of bed that morning. I felt that I had nothing beautiful or nice to wear. I was very aware that my abdomen still looked very postpartum, and my chest ached. I chose to wear a blue denim maternity dress with a black felt collar. It was comfortable, it was long, and modest. My little girl looked beautiful though She had on a very feminine little dress and I got much joy out of dressing her up.

My best friend from Flint was also there and she looked fantastic. I had much comfort from her presence there.

As we arrived at the church I was happy but surprised to see my sister and all of her children there. We hadn't spoken in almost a year. That day was the beginning of our reunion. I felt very loved and supported surrounded by my friend, my sister and her family, and my mother.

The church was surprisingly full of friends from my homeschool support group, as well as other people from the parish. One of the older ladies from the church gave me a magnet of Mary holding Baby Jesus, and she told me I could think of Mary as holding my baby too. Another lady taped the entire mass and gave me the tape. I listened to that many many times in the months that followed, and just relistened to it as I prepared this part of Raphael's story. It is a wonderful keepsake.

It was amazing how things just worked out. Two of my friends were available to do the first two readings. The other flutist in our church, who was semi-retired from playing, had some free time because her husband stayed home for a dental appointment. She was able to play her beautiful music for the mass. Another friend, who had just expected to be in the congregation, saw that there was no cantor and she stepped in and cantored, including the Celtic Farewell, which I'm sure she had never seen before. She did a beautiful job too.

The love I felt from all of the people who came, including Mr. Pete's work partner and employees, was just overwhelming.

We were at the back of the church when Raphael came in his beautiful new casket purchased by the St. Vincent DePaul Society. It was so beautiful, white, looked almost like Mother of Pearl in design. It looked to pretty to bury actually. And it was so light. Like lifting a feather.

Pete picked it up and carried it up to the front of the church, down the long carpeted aisle. Now I have to tell you, I had known Mr. Pete since he was 17 years old. I remember when he had long hair and wore a bandana around his leg at school. I remember when he rode is bike everywhere in high school and college. I remember him as my young groom. But my heart just opened and broke at the same time watching my man, my husband, the father of my children, carrying the precious casket of his 6th child down the aisle for his funeral mass. I truly had married a good man.

Mr. Pete, in his father's wisdom also arranged for Calvin and Sam to serve this mass. Sam had never served before in his life, but this was a stroke of genius because he had to think about what he was doing, and follow Calvin and Father Jackson's careful instructions. He did not have time to cry or get sick, and since he had been feeling the physical effects of his grief for his baby brother, this in a way gave him some relief. I had questioned it before, but during the mass I marveled at Pete's wisdom in planning it this way for our boys, but particularly for Sam.

Part of what helped my healing was planning Raphael's funeral mass. I became very acutely aware of how infrequently I would hear his name during the rest of my lifetime. He wouldn't be in Sunday School, he wouldn't play soccer, friends weren't going to come to the house to ask if Raphael could come out and play. And those types of thoughts led me in picking out our readings.

Our first reading was from the book of Tobit Chapter 12:

I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord."
Stricken with fear, the two men fell to the ground.
But Raphael said to them: "No need to fear; you are safe. Thank God now and forever.
As for me, when I came to you it was not out of any favor on my part, but because it was God's will. So continue to thank him every day; praise him with song.
Even though you watched me eat and drink. I did not really do so; what you were seeing was a vision.
So now get up from the ground and praise God. Behold, I am about to ascend to him who sent me; write down all these things that have happened to you."
When Raphael ascended they rose to their feet and could no longer see him.
They kept thanking God and singing his praises; and they continued to acknowledge these marvelous deeds which he had done when the angel of God appeared to them.

The parallels to what I was going through, to my mind, were stunning. My Raphael had been sent by God too. And though I had physically carried him within my body, suffered all the morning sickness, and weight gain, and stretching, it was now as though he too was not really there, a vision and now too he was with God. The ongoing theme of these verses to praise God and thank him, despite my loss, I found very supportive in the weeks to follow.

Our second reading was from 1 Thessalonians.

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, 3 will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together 4 with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

The words of hope, the image of falling asleep in Christ, and the reference again to an arch angel just soothed my broken mother's spirit.

Our Gospel reading, was the Beatitudes. That was the reading we had for our wedding. That was the reading for All Saints Day, which turned out to be Raphael's birthday, so it just seemed appropriate to read it for his special funeral mass.

1 When he saw the crowds, 2 he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, 4 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
5 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
6 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 7 for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, 9 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.
10 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Many of our friends followed us out to the cemetery. I remember Calvin seemed very reluctant to get to close to the casket to say good bye. I didn't force it. When I asked Gabe who was then 7 to step forward, he made the sign for "I love you" in sign language and said "Yo Bro!" That cracked folks up. Three-year-old Izzy gave the casket a little kiss.

The only other part of the cemetery service I remember is the deacon commending an angel to watch over the little grave. I wish I had the exact words. But just hearing that made me feel that it was OK to go and leave him there. It was OK.

My wonderful friends, had arranged an amazing funeral dinner complete with chicken and potatoes. I was humbled by everyone's hard work.

To Be continued.

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