Sunday, June 24, 2007

What do you think heaven is like?

Our diocescan newspaper asked the question, "What do you think heaven is like?" and excerpted answers from the various replies they received. I liked my fellow parishioner Denise Duchesneau's answer and thought I would publish it in whole. Denise and her husband Mike are of the generation following mine. A generation that does not necessarily view life through the lens of irony. The Duchesneau's have three children under kindergarten age, which from experience I can testify is a handful to manage. As busy as Denise's life is, she is active in the parish with a cheerfulness that causes me to smile when I see her at Mass. We are not friends per se, but something else. We are sisters in Christ. As with Doris and Ed, Margaret, Terry, Rita and the others I see at Mass and around the parish, she makes me feel part of an ecclesia. Being in Holy Family parish with its warts and wonders makes St. Paul's epistles come alive to me.

A Taste of Heaven

Denise Duchesneau


“Macaroni and cheese!!” I exclaimed. A picture of an enormous bowl of Kraft’s most popular lunch choice for kids popped into my mind. Fork in hand, I stood staring at that bowl, wide-eyed, as white celestial clouds swirled around me.

“What is Heaven like?” I had asked my Mom. “It’s whatever makes you happy,” she told me.

Although excited about the prospect of a macaroni and cheese heaven, at six years of age I wasn’t yet ready for an eternity with my favorite food. I would miss my parents, grandparents, sister and soon-to-be-born baby brother here on Earth. As I grew up, I was too preoccupied with college and marriage to think much of God’s Eternal Plan. But now, 29 years after my initial cheesy thoughts, I look forward every day to getting to heaven.

What is Heaven really like? Do we know? Can we know?

Jesus gives us glimpses of heaven in the Gospels. There will be no marriage, no tears, no suffering and many rooms, one of which He prepares for us. Those that love God and each other, and care for God by caring for each other, will get to go. And once there, we will be the same yet different, as Jesus was the same yet different after His resurrection.

John’s book of Revelation also gives us this image of the saints that have washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb: they surround His throne singing and praising Him while incense burns at His altar. Catholic author Scott Hahn compares this image to our celebration of mass, which according to Catholic teaching, links the angels and saints in heaven to us here on earth in glorious praise of our Lord and His sacrifice for us. Saints such as the Therese of Liseaux (the Little Flower), St. Jude and Saint Anthony intercede there forever for us as part of the Communion of Saints.

It all sounds both comforting and strange, wonderful but a bit out of reach, and also hard to imagine or understand.

My Medjugore newsletter spoke about one of the visionaries who was privileged to see heaven once when he was just a young boy. He described it as a place of immense light, peace, joy and unending space, where people who were dressed in pink, yellow and gray garments walked around praying. They all knew each other. My Mom, whose favorite color is blue, remarked, “I’m in trouble – but I guess I could settle for pink.”

I hate to admit it, but we both agreed that it didn’t sound that great.

These thoughts and feeling disturbed me. Shouldn’t I desire heaven more that anything? Isn’t Jesus supposed to be the most important thing in my life? Why don’t I feel that way? Perhaps this is why I was afraid of heaven: I needed a priority check.

Thankfully, God always hears and answers those kinds of prayers -- the ones where we want to know Him and His kingdom more. I sat one day at daily Mass, with my three children ages four, two and one. It was around All Soul's Day, 2005. The readings talked about heaven. The visiting priest to our church that day said that although we can’t know for sure, it seemed logical to him that heaven involves a continuation of the relationships that start here on earth, in God’s love. God, who is Love, created us out of Love, to love Him and each other. I thought of Genesis. Adam and Eve messed it up in the Garden of Eden, but God didn’t want that to happen. He wants us to choose Him. Through Jesus, heaven is the perfection of our relationship with God and each other in love.

I was totally excited at hearing that homily. So it starts here!! It’s not something that happens only after we die. We can begin to know heaven now – with each other, and of course, the Lord! I was swept up with the hope that I could take all the good people, friends, relatives, and memories with me to heaven. My childhood fears were abolished, and at that moment I felt relief about the whole thing.

In the months that followed, it seemed like this vision of heaven was confirmed. I knew I had to get to know Jesus more. I turned off Law and Order and began to pray the rosary. I shared my faith with people. I stopped worrying as much about everything as I began to trust Jesus more in my life, for even the small (which are actually the hardest) things.

I began to see heaven every day. It was with me when I looked forward to talking with friends and realized that even though I had to get back to the daily grind, I’d have plenty of time in heaven to continue the conversations. Being seven hours away from my parents and Gram, sister and brother, seemed less burdensome. I trusted that my deceased grandparents could see my kids and were with us. I mourned less the inevitable growing of my children, and the recent loss of one by miscarriage, and kept them in my heart for someday in eternity.

That was just the beginning! God is so good and so eager to shower us with blessings. He is happy to give us a taste of heaven on earth. Scott Hahn is right – mass is an experience of heaven if I let it be -- especially when I can sing the Gloria. How wonderful to praise God with old acquaintances and new friends while our children dance around us! The Community of Saints is found in our Catholic Moms group, where I’m sure Mary intercedes for us. We Moms have found wonderful friendship and healing. Three women were blessed with pregnancies they never thought they’d have, and we hold one of these babies almost every time we meet.

Being a part of God’s kingdom is an honor and responsibility. God’s kingdom involves inviting others to join, and I feel a deep sense of peace and joy when I can do so. As much as I can, I add little moments of joy to my heaven bank: sharing hugs and snuggles with my kids, taking time with my husband, contacting old friends and making new ones, walking at the beach, breathing in the waves and sunset, jogging, giving out Communion, skating on the bay, looking in on my peacefully sleeping children before I go to bed. Jesus is faithful to those who seek Him. If we all understood how much Jesus wants to give us, and not just when we die, I can’t see why everyone wouldn’t want to be starting heaven now.

My two older children, Elizabeth and Daniel, are five and three respectively. They are beginning to ask me about heaven. A couple weeks ago I told them that I used to think it involved a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. But now, I add, I think it really means sharing a humongous pepperoni pizza and Coke fridge pack with Jesus, our family, and the whole bunch of our relatives, friends and people we have yet to meet, including the Baby. There’s probably chocolate of some sort for dessert.

Do you care to join us?

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him.”

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Father Alberione speaks

Does anyone out there understand Italian well enough to translate? I came across this sound clip from Blessed Alberione on one of the Italian Pauline web sites. I have listened to it several times and can make out a bit of it. I would love to have a transcript and then a translation.

Friday, June 15, 2007

reading Tryst to my granddaughter

I started reading Tryst by Elswyth Thane to Ruth today, even though her mom is skeptical/apprehensive because she's just nine and it's a supernatural romance. A romance between a shy 17 year old girl and a ghost of a recently killed 20-something British service officer (spy). Takes place between the two world wars. The book was first published in 1939, but my sister Marguerite and I discovered the Tempo 1962 reprint edition when a bookmobile came to our high school.

The tagline of the Tempo edition reads, "In the forbidden room at the top of the stairs, Sabrina found enchantment -- and love." It shows a picture of a prim young woman with her hair in a bun sitting in modest skirt, sweater and low heels. She is in full color. In front of her is Hilary, line drawn in green and black, looking straight ahead. He is transparent, so we can see Sabrina behind him.

I'd post a picture of the cover but I'm not near a scanner, and no images seem to exist on the web. I read that on amazon, that there are no scanned images of either of the editions of this book. If you read the reviews on amazon, you will see that this book struck quite a chord with the teenage girls like Marguerite and I who read the Tempo edition in the early 60's. I've got a gushing review myself. It's nice to see all the other Tryst fans out there.

I tried to find who owns the rights to her books, but struck out. Even the University in her home state which houses a collection donated by her estate does not know -- if I find out, they say, could I please let them know? I traced her literary agent to a small, one-person firm in NYC with which she apparently did business for years. After the agent died, the firm went out of business, with no forwarding information.

I wanted to option the rights to the book. It would make a terrific film, if someone would do it right.

The first chapter is a little hard going, lots of exposition and setting the atmosphere. I want to grab Ruth's attention, and right now she's being polite but I think she'll get hooked not long from now. We shall see.

Planned Parenthood - too disgusting for words

Planned Parenthood is making a profit, and we taxpayers are the ones ponying up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

marking time

I am on a countdown to retirement.

In 27 minutes (less by the time this posts) I will lock up my office and go home for the day. Tomorrow I get oral surgery (ouch) that will keep me out sick for two days. I'll have a four-day weekend, hopefully with good drugs for my jaw, then go back to work on Monday. And Tuesday. And .91 of Wednesday.

By this time next week, I will be RETIRED from the University of Delaware after 28 years.

Waiting is always an experience to put one in mind of eternity. Eternity of limbo, not heaven. Eternity when nothing changes, when you make no plans, take no actions, no new initiatives, barely eat, drink bad coffee if you're at a hospital where so much waiting takes place.

Waiting is a wildly successful trap for the fool that lives in each of us. In this type of waiting there is no future, no past, but one does not actually live in the present.

Instead, you vegetate. Withdraw from connections to the three-dimensional world (which is not my forte) and withdraw from the world of the mind, the spirit and the imagination. And you wait. In my case, I'm waiting for a predictable outcome that is also very much desired and welcomed.

So if I die tonight, what will have been the use of all this stasis?

My therapist says it's normal to shut down at retirement, when you're leaving your routine after a long period of work that has been both happy and notso.

poem from my sister Marguerite

Poetry saved my life once. My sister Marguerite is going through a tough time, and her muse is right there with her toughing it out. And helping to save her life.

Waiting for a man,
I am, it’s who I am,
and who I want to be,
and who I’ve always been.

But something’s different now,
than when it was back then,
back when,
I didn’t know the man
was not supposed to be
the thing that made me full.
That comes from somewhere else,
so I can have a chance
to make it with a man.

What’s different is inside,
where loneliness still dwells,
but sometimes doesn’t rule.
My body doesn’t burn,
instead it seems to bloom,
scrubbed to a nub,
open to everyone,
waiting for just one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Max makes a personal appearance!

Hold the presses... Here is Max the Poet Laureate making a deal with his agent. One of his poems has been optioned for Hollywood. Go Max!!

(Thanks Sr. Rose & Max's mommy!)

Which one will it be? I think the Fish poem has more of a dramatic arc. I see the fish from Big Fish doing a reprise performance, with Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Max. On the other hand, Max himself running wild through a kaleidoscope of talking flowers could work too. Done in the manner of Waking Life & A Scanner Darkly -- I can see it!

My fish talks
My fish is a monster
My fish has lasers

Flowers talk
Flowers feel soft
Flowers smell like the rubber on the balloon

Monday, June 11, 2007

Max the Poet Laureate: part 2

Here is Max's second poem. In Max's world, everything talks!

Flowers talk
Flowers feel soft
Flowers smell like the rubber on the balloon

Max the Poet Laureate: part 1

My friend Sr. Rose Pacatte has a nephew named Max. Max is six years old. Max writes poetry. Max's mom went to a poetry reading in his class, and here is the first of his poems he recited.

My fish talks
My fish is a monster
My fish has lasers

Saturday, June 02, 2007

John Paul II quotes Paul VI

From today's entry in Prayers and Devotions from Pope John Paul II, this nifty quote from Pope Paul VI:

The oxygen-rich breath of the Spirit came to arouse drousy energies in the Church, to awaken charisms which were asleep, to infuse that sense of vitality and joy which is at all times the mark of the Church being young and up to date, ready and happy to re-announce her eternal message to the new times