The first frost of the season came on a Friday morning in early October. Living on the third floor of our apartment building means that it is markedly warmer on our floor than the rest of the building, and for that reason we hadn’t yet turning the heat on. The chill was slight, but enough that its accompanying us in our morning routine made a difference.
In some ways I still consider myself a morning person. There are few things more satisfying to me than waking up with the sun, sipping a still-hot cup of coffee, and settling in with prayer in the silence of the house before anyone else has risen. If I could assure myself this ideal every morning, then yes, I would not hesitate to call myself a morning person. However, as any mom out there reading knows intimately, this is a true rarity. For an introvert, those few moments of solitary silence each morning are not just some pleasantry, they are a matter of necessity. Again, as any mom knows intimately, 5 AM is not now, nor ever has been, a reasonable time for the under-5 set to begin their day.
And yet, there they were. Before me in the still of the early morning, incapable of making a request sans whining, in a way notorious to overtired three-year-olds. The entire morning progressed from there, marked by familiar rounds of tossing cereal at the twins, dragging the 9-year-old from bed by his feet, ordering children of all ages to change their underwear, and pleading, “Brush your teeth, for the love of all that is holy.”
We made it out the door with just enough time, on paper, to walk three blocks to preschool, drop the kids off, and scurry myself off to daily Mass across the street. I had been making it a point to attend daily Mass as often as possible and despite our close proximity, I somehow managed to consistently make it to the pew in the middle of the first reading.
My desire to make it to Mass on time only revved up my impatience and annoyance with my littles. Preschool drop-off is a nightmare. Successfully coaxing one child into their classroom to remove and hang up their coat and backpack, then ushering them to the bathroom and begging them to go potty quickly and then wash their hands is a herculean task. And, I get to do it times two each morning; lather, rinse, repeat.
By the time I sunk myself into the pew I was feeling rather desperate for Jesus. I felt like I had been yelling and scolding for a solid two hours. My face was hot with residual anger. The anger melted into a profound shame as I reflected on my morning while reciting the Confiteor.
“Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault …”
Each strike to the breast felt more and more convicting. I once read somewhere that anger is a secondary emotion — it is always the result of some other feeling. Most often, I succumb to anger when I am confronted by the reality that I am not in control. I think I have some right to have my everyday go as I have planned. I feel upset when my children make it known to me that they are their own individual human beings, with their own free will, who will make decisions contrary to my wishes more often than not for the better part of my life.
Parenthood is hard. It is humbling.
I was beginning to feel at peace as I made my way up to Communion. Only about 30 people typically attend the 7 AM Daily Mass and I was alone in my pew. By habit, I allowed my finger to graze along the back of the pew in front of me as I glided up to the main aisle. I found myself lost in thought when my right index finger caught the end of an exposed nail about two feet from the end of the pew. Somehow I managed to refrain from yelling, though I am certain I audibly gasped. Instinctively, I swooped the injured hand up in my free hand, apply pressure to my finger. Pain seared into my entire hand. There was definitely a chunk ripped out. Bright blood beaded up from the wound and threatened to drip down my hand. I tucked my finger into the palm of my left hand and tried to fold my other fingers into prayer hands. I felt the anger begin to swell in me again.
This is NOT how I planned my morning. Here I am, a good and faithful Catholic, attending Daily Mass and am rewarded with what? A hunk of flesh violently ripped from my finger?
As I knelt at the Communion rail an odd rush of giddiness overcame me. I was trying to ensure that no blood dripped from my hand while I waited for Father to stop in front of me. My eyes fixated upon the crucifix; the image of our Lord, wounded by nails.
This is my Body, given up for you.
I carefully made the sign of the cross with my thumb and my middle finger, holding the bloodied index finger away from my body. While this was certainly no stigmata, I think that might be what stigmata might feel like. I found an inexplicable joy in the stinging in my hand. I felt blessed by this wound. I came to Mass, seething in anger. I felt wronged by my family for not complying with my schedule. I felted burdened by my vocation, wholly unworthy and I masked it with anger.
And yet, when I least expected it, in ways most unplanned, Jesus took me outside of myself and blessed me with suffering. I don’t know how else to describe the feeling but “blessed.” I was happy to have cut my finger on that nail protruding from the over-100-year-old pew. I was grateful to have been asked, in that moment, to suffer with our Lord as he was suffering. It was a profoundly mystical moment for me.
For the rest of the day, and indeed the better part of the week, I couldn’t do even the simplest daily tasks without being reminded of this paradoxical moment of consolation, by way of jarring pain radiating from pressure applied to new, raw skin. Typing, writing, reading, brushing my teeth, shaving, doing the dishes; all were made more difficult by this wound. And in a way, each moment of dull and unexpected pain became a prayer.
I hope it scars. I hope I carry this reminder of my call to suffering with me for the rest of my life on earth.
Copyright 2018 Amanda Torres