Who’s Your Favorite?

top tenThese “top 10 of this” and “favorite 5 of that” lists are very popular these days. Someone is always posting a list of these types of things on Facebook: list your favorite book (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier), favorite song (“Your Song” by Elton John), favorite color (pink), favorite day of the week (Sunday), favorite Beatle (Paul), favorite food (cheese), etc. Answering these things on Facebook is supposed to help your “friends” get to know you better. To be honest, I enjoy reading these lists on my friends’ posts every now and then.

jesus and god with holy spiritRecently, one of my husband’s coworkers, a devout Catholic, lost his mother and my husband and I went to the wake. He and his wife are active in their church parish, which is something his wife mentioned about my husband and me when she introduced us to a friend of hers. priest cartoonShe then shared a story with her friend and me. She said she had recently been on a flight seated next to a man dressed in clerical clothing. She asked if he was a priest and he responded that yes, he was a Catholic priest. They chatted amicably for a few minutes, and then she asked him a question. She said that she hoped he wouldn’t think it was irreverent or sacrilegious, but she wanted to know, “Is it okay to have a favorite member of the Holy Trinity?”

whoa“Whoa!” slipped out of my mouth before I could catch it. She laughed and said that the priest had a similar response. As Catholics, we are taught about the Holy Trinity early on in our faith formation: “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, God in three persons, the Holy Trinity.” If they are three in one being, then how could you have a favorite? They can’t be separated that way, or can they?

mary with rosaryIn the weeks that have transpired since that conversation, I have thought about it quite a bit, and then, yesterday morning, after daily Mass, the priest gave a brief reflection after the Mass. He recounted a story to us about praying the rosary in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary, while his father was very ill in the hospital. In the middle of the rosary, he had a feeling of overwhelming spirituality come over him, and he stopped his rosary to pray directly to God the Father. He said it was almost as though Mary had stepped back and away from him in order for him to have this intimate conversation with God the Father. After this brief interlude, he resumed his rosary and felt at piece with the many issues weighing on him involving his father’s illness.

So, this young priest had clearly separated God the Father from the rest of the Holy Trinity. This made me think that perhaps my conversation with this woman at the wake was not that unusual after all.

The story from our priest reminded me about a similar episode in my own prayer life. Sometimes in the early ‘90s, I had just found out some bad news about my mother’s health. I left work and drove home, crying and sobbing over the dismal news. rosaryWhen I got home I went straight to my bedroom and got my rosary from my bedside table. I knelt there at the side of my bed and said the rosary, but somewhere in the middle of a decade of the rosary, I stopped saying a Hail Mary and turned my prayer directly to God the Father. I asked Him to please not take my mother then, to allow her to watch my girls grow up, to give her more time with us. God heavenI talked to Him about how she had struggled in her life and how she had had so many crosses to bear, losing both her parents at a young age, marrying my father and being part of a completely different culture, her many ongoing health issues, and later, losing every single thing she owned in Hurricane Katrina. I told Him everything, and I asked Him for peace in this crisis in my life. A calm came over me and I returned to saying my rosary. Clearly, I had had a spiritual and intimate conversation with God the Father, but until Saturday morning’s reflection, I had not really thought of it in that way.

god the sonAs a regular churchgoer, I think of the Mass in terms of God the Son. He is there, up on the crucifix, up on the altar, present in the Eucharist. We hear His stories in the Old Testament, we are His invited guests at the Last Supper during the Eucharistic Prayer. So, when I am in church, particularly in Mass, I feel that I am having that same spiritual and intimate conversation with God the Son.

holy spiritThat just leaves God the Holy Spirit. Catholic middle school students are told at dances to “leave room for the Holy Spirit” when dancing to slow songs. We’ve all heard the phrase, “It was the Holy Spirit” that did this or that. Last May, I received a call from a friend who told me of a job opening at my parish school, where my daughters were educated, where my husband and I spend so much of our time. I had always wanted to teach there but there was never an opening when the timing was right. This was the third time an opening in my content area and grade level had come up, and this time, I decided I would go in and interview for the position. Changing schools was a challenge, as I had only ever taught at one school for my whole career. Many times, I had taught four or more children from a single family, had watched the whole family grow up, graduate, and go to college. I had (and still have) many dear friends on faculty there. But, I felt the Holy Spirit was calling me to make this change.

hands on the earthYes, it was a change, fraught with challenge. I have six preps (lesson plans) a day now which is twice as many as I had before. I am teaching 6th grade literature for the first time. At my school, the 5th grade is part of the middle school, and before this year, I was not around 5th grade very much. The student body is very diverse, with students from El Salvador, Peru, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Philippines, India, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and many more. Learning to pronounce and spell some of the first and last names has been a bit of work, to say the least.

keep calmBut, there have been many blessings as well. All of those cultures blend together to make a very interesting and rich classroom environment. They are lovely children, polite and courteous, full of energy and enthusiasm, the same as children from my old school. I have grown greatly as a teacher, improving in many areas of my classroom skills. With increased preps, I have become much more efficient in my lesson planning and grading; I use my planning periods much more resourcefully. The atmosphere in the hallways and among the faculty is positive and upbeat. There is laughter everywhere. My commute is now only 1.7 miles each way, and I can be at school in about 5 minutes. I am more fully a part of my church parish community. And, I have my friend to thank for it, or do I? We both have commented that it was the Holy Spirit that made this happen, and so I offer prayers of thanksgiving to God the Holy Spirit each day for this opportunity.

gold triangleThe Holy Trinity has been a part of my faith life since I was born and baptized into the Catholic Church, but until that recent conversation at the wake, I’ve never really thought of them as having distinct and separate effects on my life. Saturday’s reflection after Mass has given me new insight into my prayer life and how I view God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, God in three persons, the Holy Trinity.

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4 thoughts on “Who’s Your Favorite?

  1. Great reflection. This read has been so timely in my life, as I have just finished a five weekend “bible study” with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were really trying to convert me, and I brought my game to them. We ended amicably, in fact, the witness who has consistently been coming to my house was so grateful for the kindness and said more Witnesses may be coming my way! I told her that I could not accept the validity of the Watchtower, as they do not believe in the trinity. I told her it is heresy, and if she’d ever like to come over on a weekday while our older children are at school, she and her friends are more than welcome to study the bible with me; the bible that hasn’t been altered by the Watchtower. I love the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and I’m so glad you were able to express how you have a personal relationship with each person of the trinity – one God, three divine persons. I love it! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Michelle,

    I am so gratified that our conversation at the wake led to this thoughtful reflection. We will never know the full answer to my question, given that the Holy Trinity is a Mystery, but I cannot help but think that your sharing of your reflection helps move us up the Platonic dialectic ladder towards the Truth.

    I, too, find that in mass I am mostly focused on God the Son, due to the centrality of the Eucharist. I remember, from 40 years ago, when an evangelizing priest encouraged us during communion to think about how the Body of Christ links us with other believers across time and place–through two millennia and around the world. That profound concept has always stuck with me. It also helps me remember at mass the responsibility we each have to care for others around the world, particularly the less fortunate, whether they are Christians or not.

    But mass has deep Holy Spirit aspects for me, too, not only in the consecration when the priest asks God to “let your Spirit come upon these gifts,” but also in the readings from Scripture (which we believe were inspired by the Holy Spirit), in the music, and (hopefully) in the homily. Sometimes–particulalry in time of troulble–I am overtaken by emotion at mass, which I attribute to the Holy Spirit.

    While I have not thought about this as much, I tend to access God the Father through appreciation of our physical world. Perhaps this is because the creation story is in the Old Testament, which I associate with God the Father. Perhaps it is also because of religious art such as Michelangelo’s portrayal of creation on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which shows God the Father in charge of creation. Michelangelo claimed that God created his art, and that he (Michelangelo) was merely the means through which it was revealed.

    When the young priest and I initially discussed my question on the plane, I explained that by “favorite,” I meant a member of the Trinity who I feel especially close to, who plays a special role in the way I personally have come to know God. He asked to think about it quietly for a little bit. And he responded that he thought that my having a “favorite” was OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sandy, for sharing more on this. I think your point of accessing God the Father in the physical world is a valid point, especially fine art, good food, and dear friends. Well said!

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