I’ve been praying a lot lately. It might be because it’s Holy Week, but all this praying has made me reflect on all the times I converse with the Man Upstairs and what prompts me to lift the eyes to the heavens nowadays.
I haven’t darkened the door of a confessional in many moons, and though my soul is probably blacker than a raisin on a lunar eclipse as a result I pray for forgiveness nonetheless.
Take this past Friday around lunchtime for instance. I gaze upwards and mouth the words “I’m sorry” right after I spit “Oh f***! It’s Lent!” through a mouthful of corned beef reuben.
Mindful of this spiritual faux pas, I raise my gaze yet again to say an Act of Contrition for making the f word part of my prayer.
I call my mother, the penultimate church lady, to find time on her busy calendar for a wee visit. Ha! Good luck! It’s the week leading up to Easter, and don’t I know how the date book is chock full of Holy Thursday feet washings and Stations of the Cross this time of year?
That brings back a memory of the Stations. How I dreaded them in grade school! The kneeling! The genuflecting! The empty fasting Lenten stomach that churned louder than a gas generator during a blackout!
“He died for your sins and this is the LEAST you can do for him,” Mom would hiss to deflect our incessant complaining in the pew.
“He fell hard on the stone road carrying that cross for your sins through Jerusalem -- he would have killed to have the cushion on that kneeler yer knees are on, so be grateful!”
As the sun sets on this Friday, I nod my head and thank Jesus for shouldering my burden as I motor on past the church and drive through McDonald’s for the Lenten penance that is a filet-o-fish sandwich.
The clock struck midnight a few hours later and I find myself on the horseshoe in front of the high school. I’ve just loaded my daughter’s stuffed backpack into the shuttle van.
A knot of worry tightens my stomach and I want to throw up as I give her a hug and send her off to JFK Airport on her Environmental Club trip to Costa Rica. I look up at the night sky with moistening eyes and beg the Lord to take over. I am scarcely able to be with the vulnerability that it takes to entrust anyone, even my own maker, with the task of keeping my baby safe when she’s so far away.
A few weeks ago I reported in these very pages that I took up meditating with mixed results. It took a while to get the hang of it, but now, as they say in Tuam, “I’m flyin’ it, like!”
I start this past Saturday morning by lighting the candle and closing my eyes. Perhaps it is because of the leftover Baltimore Catechism binding that’s stitched in my DNA from 13 years of Catholic school, but I can’t seem to bring myself to use the Buddhist chants the yoga instructor recommended. She encouraged me to say anything mindless, so I chose the Hail Mary instead.
Yes, like you, I read what I just wrote and felt sad that all of that mechanical recitation over the years has rendered this sacred prayer empty and meaningless to me. Yet I can report that the image of the Blessed Mother’s face never fails to bring the peace and tranquility during these meditative sessions.
I shake off the dream like state and check my voicemail, alarmed by the sense of alarm in a friend’s voice. I call him back and discover that a dear friend and mentor that we shared lost her overnight battle with sudden heart failure.
A thick syrup of shock drizzles through my skull as I hold my head in my hands, praying that St. Peter is greeting this kind soul with open arms at the top of the elevator that empties out in front of the Pearly Gates.
I run to the barber shop for a shave and a haircut and soon discover that my long-time stylist died of a massive stroke the night before. I’m stunned with shock yet again!
A cloud passes by and I can almost see the barrel-chested Mike riding it, hair dryer in hand. I squint and notice his heavily inked arms are crossed. Uh-oh!
It seems the dead know and see all, so he awaits my apology for years of hypnotic gazes I made in the direction of his buxom daughter’s bountiful gifts while she bent over me to shampoo my cares away with those deliciously long nails. I shrug, whisper “I’m sorry” sheepishly, and pray for his soul.
The clock now says 1:57 a.m. The weekend is over, we are now into Monday, and I am racing to make a 9 a.m. deadline for this column. I will click “send” now, just in case I don’t wake up after this piece of potential blasphemy.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep...
(Mike Farragher’s humorous essays can be found at thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com)