Wrap Your Mercy

I have a favorite song. The title is Last Six Hours of Summer, but I always refer to it as the mercy song. You might get a better feel for why it is my favorite if you heard the music, but that I don't know how to do in this space.    Wrap your mercy around me.  Bury me in light.

   All the days get older and older then die every night.

   Last six hours of summer,  driving 'round the lake,

   Silver lights dance over the water 'til day starts to break

                Follow me back home, let the daylight into our bones

                Starts and it stops, breaks all the locks, there'll be peace

                when the morning comes

   Take these chains from my body, hang them over your door

   I don't want to carry the weight  of my sins anymore

   Give me back to the water, lay me down across stone,

   Let the moon call all her waves back to shore,  take my bones

            Follow me back home, let the daylight into our bones

           starts and it stops, breaks all the lock there'll be peace

           when the morning comes.  Repeat

(© Mike McCullagh)

I've been part of a Tuesday Morning Prayer Group since we moved to Texas more than twenty years ago. We were, at the time, a gathering of mothers with young children. Now, twenty years on, our kids are grown and some of us are grandmothers. For all these years, we have been with each other through good times and tough times, through births and deaths and struggles with faith, with life.

Just this week we had an emergency meeting to pray for one of our mothers and her family because they are going through a terribly difficult time. Seven mothers were able to attend, seven mothers praying the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary with the hope and faith of sending hope and faith and relief to this family, who are dear to us.

These small communities of faith are perhaps the best kept secret of the Church. Many times they are the only face of the church that its members can belong to, for a very, very long list of reasons. Dark nights of the soul, family troubles, illness, depression, confusion, spiritual warfare, just to name a few. The struggles of life that many of us might succumb to if we didn't have a manageable faith group to catch us. There's the Church and there's the church, the small gathering of saints and sinners meeting in each others homes, holding each other together in prayer and fellowship.

Wherever two or more are gathered, you know.



When I taught Baptism prep classes to parents and godparents way back when, part of my job was to relate the physical elements of the sacraments to the spiritual gifts. God works through the physical as a means of bestowing grace.  I find this a comfort, a reassurance, a reminder of God in the everyday objects such as water, wine, oil and touch as transmitters of a grace beyond our comprehension. Here's a little excerpt from my forthcoming novel:

“How we doin?

“Behind by four. But there’s time. Ohh!! Make that six.”

Jimmy’s face is pointed toward the television. No reaction to the shot. He holds the coke can in his hand. He’s not watching the game. He can’t. They’re way beyond basketball games in search of common ground. His right hand is getting jittery; the left is tucked under his thigh.

“Need a smoke.”

Jimmy goes through the kitchen to smoke on the back porch. First stop is the refrigerator to grab a beer. The long cold drink rushes down his throat, wave after wonderful wave. It hits his belly in a splash, immediately releasing its magic. There’s his old friend. Now he can relax, get his hands steady. He tosses the bottle cap toward the metal can. It pings and misses. He leaves it in the mud.

It’s dark. He turns right, to the aurora of street lamps along Forest Park Drive, to the diluted light pushing its way through the trees that have arbored this area for generations. Wind whips up under his shirt and slaps his back. Jimmy steps out from the awning. A smoldering cigarette in one hand, an empty beer bottle in the other, he raises his arms over his head breathing in the cold, clear, wet dirt smell. His upturned face receives the sharp needles of rain. A baptism.

The wind and rain pick up. A crackle of light breaks blue deep into Forest Park. Thunder reverberates his thin frame, tolling out the bell of him. Somewhere in there, somewhere in here, I still am. I still am.   

Keep the Lights On

Most nights the porch light is on till two or three a.m. while one of my sons goes about photographing interesting sights and lights and shadows.  So, naturally, I do a dose of worry/prayer to keep him safe. Most nights I read for several hours by the light of my I-Pad. I read and think. Think about all sorts of people and situations since my childhood, little bits of this and that, faces, personalities and events. Mini-reviews of my life.

And I pray for them as their faces pop up in the video that runs in my head each night.

I watch the news in the morning; I watch the news at night. There is so much good in the world, yes, there really is. Good people, beautiful days, events filled with love and gratitude, laughter, joy and compassion

Gratitude might be the key here. ‘Gratitude, the Heart of Prayer’, a title of a book and good advice. (That and the ‘Spirituality of Imperfection’ are among my favorite titles in my bookshelf).

Of course, I know there is much that is not good. The doctrine of Original Sin covers some of that: we are good with a propensity for sin. I used to teach Baptism prep classes and at the time the trend was to emphasize community and welcoming and to shy away from the bummer that is the doctrine of Original Sin. One woman, a grandmother I believe, got up and left the class when she asked about when we were getting to that. I explained that we emphasize the welcoming aspect of Baptism. The one-with-community aspect, joining in our imperfect communion of saints.  We were leaving the whole Original Sin thing like an embarrassment in the corner.

I often think of that woman being annoyed with my noveau approach to teaching baptism.  I imagine she was raised in the St Augustine school of thought, as I was, that emphasized our need for grace to strengthen us against the real and present danger of sin and here I was telling the folks to baptize their babies because it is good to join in the community.

It is good to join in the community. It is good to not be alone against the evils offered by the world to ruin our souls. It is good to be washed clean of Original Sin, a doctrine that fell out of favor in the do what you will and its all groovy craze that took hold in the last half of the twentieth century.

But there’s that grandma leaving my come on in the water’s great class to search for someone who could deal with sin.

Good for her.

Because there is darkness and evil and yes, sin. You’d have to be very young or very naïve to think otherwise.  And I'm pretty sure that with every act of sin, the world gets a little dimmer, a little darker: veils layered between the sun and us.

But, wait. That is not what we hope, that is not what we place our faith in.

So, while most of us are feeling virtuous or massaging our own neuroses, there are people in the world who are keeping the lights on for the rest of us.

Pray-ers. That’s their job description. Monks and nuns in monasteries. Parents teaching their children the Our Father; parents staying up nights reciting the rosary or whatever prayers they learned in their youth to get their children home safely. Aunt Jule with her list of people she prayed for each night dating back to the 1890’s. People of all descriptions poking holes in the veil. And, boy do we have our work cut out.

This is how I picture it: with all the prayers against the darkness offered up by pray-ers, those layers separating us from the light are peeled back, worn away. But the darkness is unrelenting, you might say. Yes it is.  But it is our jobs, amateurs and professionals, to keep the lights on.

PS:  I've been away so long from this site because I was finishing up work on my novel, The Narrow Gate. Now, my quest is to find an agent and a publisher, so if you have a minute, could you pray that I find one?  Thanks.

Please visit  Melissa Embry's blog. I am a guest blogger on her post as of last week.