Monday, February 13, 2023

Keeping vigil

Darkness fell over the city as we brushed teeth, grabbed breviaries, donned our Sunday Best, and hopped in the minivan. Gentle anticipation building, we drove down the highway while praying Night Prayer. 

City lights twinkled across downtown, mirroring our joy and excitement. Soon, we turned onto a side street and saw the cathedral looming ahead. Rows and rows of parked cars met our eyes. We saw people exit and enter the cathedral continuously. We grabbed hands and ventured across the dark parking lot and through the large cathedral doors. 

We were met with a hushed awe. 

Several dozen people were scattered across the pews, and two lines of individuals snaked halfway down the center aisle. After greeting a friend of ours who stood in the back, ushering people, we joined one of these lines. Two of my children bent their small bodies sideways at they peeked down the aisle, to the gleaming silver casket that rested before the sanctuary. We inched forward as a family, filled with reverence and silent prayer. My fingers moved over the knots of a chotki. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” I prayed. My eyes, too, were fixed on the casket in the front.

My toddler scampered ahead several steps before turning and bouncing back to me. “It’s JESUS CHRIST!” she excitedly whispered, pointing to the large crucifix that hung over the altar. I smiled at her in assent, but she paid no attention to me. Instead, she turned towards the front of the cathedral again. Eagerly watching, patiently waiting. Finally, no one stood in front of us. We had made it. My husband and I shepherded our four small children forward as we gathered around the left side of the casket that contained the body of Blessed Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest who was killed in 1981 as he served his parishioners in Guatemala. Kneeling together, we rested our hands on the casket and prayed. After a few minutes, we kissed the casket and walked away; down the cathedral steps and into the cool night air. 

A short visit, but a powerful experience. 

When we asked one of our young children what he thought of this experience, he responded that "I need to see a saint!" He then proceeded to talk about Heaven, and how excited he is to live with God and all the saints in Heaven someday. 

Isn't this a gift that the saints offer to us? 

We see their lives and witness--which looked so vastly different from person to person--and remember that we, too, can be holy. Furthermore, we remember that this world is not our ultimate home. The saints point us to the gift of life with God in Heaven; they made choices, over and over again, to live for God, to prepare for that life with Him. Let's learn from them and courageously grow in holiness day by day. 

Blessed Stanley Rother, pray for us! 

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