By Brooke Champagne
Featured Image: The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute, Venice by Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1843; Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of
sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but
a powerful medicine and nourishment for the
weak . . . Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace
rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a
tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there
is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
—Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel”
The true vision and knowledge of what we seek
consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness
that our goal transcends all knowledge and is
everywhere cut from us by the darkness of
—Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses
I’m nine years old the day my mother dies and comes back to life and, if I ever believed at all, it’s the day I give up on Christ.
The reverse might be expected—miracles, the power of prayer—but when I make my final judgment, I don’t know yet, won’t know for a long time that she has died and returned. At that point, I’m only told she is pregnant and there are complications. The baby, my would-be half-sister, is gestating at twenty-three weeks and because my mother is sick, must be delivered. Everyone waits and prays. Doctors work and pray. At school, my teacher’s hand on my shoulder a few seconds too long in that comforting way, her eyes say: I’ll pray for you. Before bed I press my hands into a teepee and try earnestly at first, then only pretend to pray.
My mother’s singular death-day memory, she recalls later, is the moment when according to Scripture, she might have seen the light, though here the primary sense was smell: a priest with severe halitosis read her the last rites.