Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Holiness Project Homework

My brother-in-law is engaged in project which is researching holiness, and who we know in our everyday lives that might be holy. 

 According to the defined purpose, "The goal of the Holiness Project is to discover holiness among us by promoting greater awareness of the spiritualities sustaining the lives of  ordinary individuals."  

Based on that, there are some criteria by which holiness is defined.  They are:

  • A confident sense of God or a transcendent Being in their life
  • A sense of faith that helps them live through the doubts and sufferings of this life
  • A manifestation of the transcendent as generative, moving them to compassion and service
  • An acceptance of the limitations of this life
  • A sense of delight in the mystery and unknowing of this life
  • A sustainable, enduring quality of the individual’s spirituality

With that as the backdrop, I'm fortunate to say that I have a couple of holy people in my life.  But I'd like to call out one in particular for my personal nomination.

I'd like to nominate my mother-in-law, Marion.

There are a few people that one encounters in life in which one can feel God when in their presence.  Marion is one of those people.  

She's quick to smile, and keeps a positive outlook.  Even very late in life, with aches and pains (both physical and mental) sapping wherewithal, her peaceful and pleasant demeanor belie one whose focus is on the spiritual much more than the tangible.  

Her life has been a hard one.  She grew up in the depression.  She endured painful relationships while trying to raise a daughter on her own while her husband was at war.  She raised seven children, and lost one.  She scrimped by on very little money her whole life.  Now in her 90's, she's seen most of her siblings die.

But despite all of that, if you asked her, she'd tell you all about her wonderful life.  She'd mostly tell you about her family, and the fact that she's now a great-great grandma.  She'd give you a cup of coffee, and would quickly turn the conversation to you.  She'd do so because she cared about you.  Really.

And that is Marion.  An impeccable cook for nearly all of her life, she took great joy of lavishing love on her friends and family by what came out of her kitchen.  Meal time, and what it meant - prayer, sharing, conversation, laughter, communion - was incredibly important for her.  While the food - that incredible food! - could easily be called the centerpiece, Marion would describe it much deeper than that.

Marion maintained her deep Catholic faith for her whole life.  She faithfully attended mass and the sacraments,  prayed often, and if you asked my wife, had a private line to God.  While Catholicism is important for Marion (upon my second-ever time meeting her, we were washing dishes together in the kitchen after one of those incredible meals, and Marion stared our conversation with "So, Vera tells me you're Catholic!"), she holds out love for all faiths (of lack thereof) and races.  

To me, ultimately, God is love: 100% pure, overwhelming, unimaginable, eternal, and unquestionable love.  And if that is true, those that love - that truly love - those are the people of God.  And Marion loves just about everyone she's encountered.  A testament to this is Marion's relationships with her children's ex-spouses.  Despite bitter separations, all of the exes love Marion (and she them), and nearly all have very close relationships with her.  

Marion has worked a hard life.  She's lived simply.  But she has loved so very deeply and profoundly.  And the ripple effect of that joy, peace, and love will continue to reverberate around her family and friends, and those with whom they encounter, for years to come.  

It doesn't get much holier than that.

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