The Hunter and I took The Baby Moose to the noon Mass on Friday in the Cathedral chapel.
As tired as he was (why do babies refuse to believe that naps are good for them?) this Baby Moose was as good as gold throughout. He divided his time between smiling at people and staring intently at the altar. This Moose is a stop-people-in-their-tracks-beautiful baby, and that combined with his perfect behavior, meant we had a lot of attention directed towards us.
The funniest part of it all was that a number of people thought he was our baby. Some of the older gentlemen went so far as to look at The Hunter in a mingled grudging respect/What The Hell kind of way. I can only attribute this mistake to the age of the congregation (they need glasses), or the soft lighting in the chapel. Or perhaps my moisturizer is really all the label says it is.
When I commented on this later, The Hunter replied: “Well, why not? After all you are the one called Elizabeth…” Which, while very clever, leads me down paths I don’t want to contemplate. Talk about having one’s life careening off in an unexpected direction.
The next day, I started reading St. Teresa of Avila’s The Book of Her Foundations. The edition I have is labeled as “A Study Guide” and the co-author with St. Teresa is Marc Foley, a Carmelite priest. Each chapter contains St. Teresa’s original chapter, a commentary by Fr. Foley explaining the context of St. Teresa’s writings, followed by a reflection which brings the writings into the present and show how St. Teresa’s challenges are the same ones we face today. Finally, Fr. Foley proposes a question or two to focus you on how to apply whatever you’ve just read to your own life.
I’m less than a quarter of the way through the book, but so far I would put all the reflections and questions into the category of “what to do when you find yourself with the unexpected.”
Certainly St. Teresa was an expert in the unexpected – from her entering the Monastery of the Incarnation in the first place; to leaving it 26 years later to found a new, stricter monastery, St. Joseph’s; to founding 7 more monasteries over the next 9 years (in difficult, if not, impossible circumstances); to suddenly being appointed (against her will) Prioress of the Incarnation (the monastery she had left 9 years earlier); to (after her 3 year term as Prioress was over) founding 8 more monasteries in the final 8 years of her life.
It was not what anyone would have expected when the beautiful, spoiled, vivacious, pleasure-loving girl who was to become St. Teresa first entered religious life. But then, are any of our lives what we expect? And more to the point, when the unexpected happens, how do we react? My first line of defense is to whine, stomp around and rant, which, you must admit, is not at all helpful or productive or grace-filled or saint-like, but there you have it.
While St. Teresa was known to have been highly exasperated on a number of occasions, (Tossed out of an overturned ox cart, lying in the mud and shaking her fist at the sky while exclaiming: “If this is how You treat Your friends, is it any wonder You have so few?” comes to mind), you have the impression that when all was said and done, her attitude towards the unexpected was: “Well, what do You want me to learn here? What do you want me to do?” Once she had even a glimmer, she would gather her patience and respond with love. And then hold on for a wild ride as things took off in another (unexpected) direction. A lesson for all of us.
What a perfect book for this week. After all, Holy Week takes in “the unexpected” in a big way: from Jesus’ victorious entrance to Jerusalem, to His death, to His resurrection, to, well, Salvation. Everything – joyous and horrible – is unexpected; everything is unsettling, but still, everything is perfect.
So, bringing the baby moose back into this: at Friday’s Mass, he was extremely tired and he was in an unfamiliar place. This was not part of the routine he had expected when dropped off at Grandma’s that morning. Yet, he smiled. Follow his example, not mine.