Monday, December 01, 2008

My Midnight Mass

A letter to my grandson

(My grandson will be attending a religious retreat this coming weekend. He is fifteen. Family members and friends of the family were asked to write letters to him encouraging him in his spiritual growth and expressing their love for him. At one point during the retreat he will be given these letters to read in private. Below is the letter I wrote to my grandson.)

December 1, 2008

Dear Jakob,

At this important time in your spiritual growth, Papa and I want you to know that we love you more than words can ever convey. It is a love that resembles the love God himself has for you. It is unconditional love we have for you. It is love without strings attached. You did not earn our love and you will never need to earn it. It is free and yours forever and ever just because you are our Jakob. May this thought always be a comfort to you.

I have a special gift for you Jakob dear. It may take you a while, perhaps years, to fully appreciate it, because it involves heavy duty spiritual stuff. It is the story of my Midnight Mass. I hope it is an inspiration to you.

When I was a young girl of fifteen, your age exactly, I had an unusual experience during a Midnight Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in my home town of Manteno, IL. The year was 1955. That night at that particular juncture of the Mass the church was dimly lit by candlelight. The manger scene was situated in front of the Blessed Virgin’s altar. It was all decked out in Christmas greenery that perfumed the air inside the church. I was part of the Christmas choir and like everyone else in the choir I was dressed in a long white flowing gown. We looked like angels that had come down from on high to sing to mankind about the good tidings of the birth of the baby Jesus. Our choir stood alongside the manger scene. We faced the congregation as we sang.

The religious event had all the right ingredients in it for stirring the human heart, and at fifteen my heart was especially tender and easily stirred. So when our choir began to sing Silent Night, a lump started to form in my throat that would not go away. Soon after that my eyes welled up with tears and I found myself fighting the urge to cry profusely. Quickly I hid behind another choir member to escape notice. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. Then suddenly I realized I felt deep affection for the congregation and even for people beyond our church, people I didn’t know, people all around the world. For a few moments in that dimly lit church with the smell of Christmas in the air, I loved all of humanity. As I struggled to keep my emotions in check, I realized something else. I realized that I felt very close to God. I realized that in a profound and mysterious way which I would never be able to fully explain to anyone, I was experiencing God’s presence.

Our Christmas carol came to an end eventually. I managed to regain my composure as our choir filed back to our designated pews. Someone flipped on all the lights in the church. The Mass proceeded and then it came to an end as well. But the experience I had that night has remained fresh in my mind and heart all these years. Whenever I have had a strong need for a lot of spiritual sustenance, I have returned in my mind to my Midnight Mass and have relived those moments when I felt intensely close to God.

We are taught, Jakob, that God is everywhere at all times. I believe this with all my heart. The experience I had at that Midnight Mass has helped me to appreciate this. I am more sensitive to God’s presence in the most ordinary situations, too, as a result of my experience. A baby sleeps and I sense that God is there. A mother hugs her child and he is there. Someone hurts and he is there. I notice that he is with us always no matter the circumstances. He is with us in our joy and in our sorrow. He is with us when we succeed and when we fail. When we come and go, he comes and goes with us. He never abandons us. He is our constant companion, whether we are aware of it or not, and he is always available to us when we need to talk to him. I pray that with each passing day you become more and more aware of God and his presence in your life and his perfect love for you. I pray that you are drawn to him and that you come to cherish the time you spend talking to him or merely being with him.

The scriptures tell us that God is love. I believe this with all my heart too. I believe that God’s love is a forgiving love and the very life force in the Universe. This forgiving love is what overcomes all obstacles. This love is the good and the beautiful that triumphs in the end over the bad and the ugly. When we spend time in God’s presence, when we talk to him, we expose ourselves to his forgiving love and we gradually evolve into vessels through which his love flows. This is according to God’s plan as I see it. I pray that you become a vessel for God’s love.

God is Mystery. I believe this too. I have another special gift for you. His name is Mortimer Adler. But I will save this special gift for another time.

God bless you, my dear grandson.


Saturday, March 22, 2008


Tom, you have been so good about stopping by my blog from time to time to check up on me that I am breaking my vow to abstain from blogging till I get caught up with stuff in my life so that I can wish you and anyone else who might happen by Easter blessings.

I also want to very briefly update you and others regarding my grandson Nik. Actually he is doing quite well. He has adjusted nicely to his new school (alternative schooling). He is making good grades (A's and B's). His very best friend started attending this very same alternative school about a month ago and is in Nik's classroom. This makes Nik super happy. Things are looking up for Nik I believe.

I am always on the lookout for grandchildren who could use a little TLC from their Nana. Sure enough shortly after things improved with Nik, along came Sarah who is four and having a tough time adjusting to a new baby brother. From time to time I take her under my wing and relieve my daughter-in-law of the headaches Sarah can cause her. My son has aptly named me the patron saint of troubled grandchildren. It makes me feel needed.

Even though it is tempting to get back into blogging what with the politics the way they are right now so that I can express my political opinions along with the rest of you, I have to keep blogging on the back burner for a while longer. When I left blogging in order to have time to help my grandson Nik and his family, I discovered a multitude of other things that I had been letting go for months. These things have been calling out to me. I have to get them done before I return to the world of blogging. That is all there is to it.

In closing I have to tell you how I was more than pleasantly surprised recently. On March 9th I had an Open House for my husband to celebrate his 65th birthday. I put a lot of work into it and was appropriately exhausted when it was over. The house that day was full of family and friends including 25 children. We had a great time. But I decided that I could not manage another huge get-together for Easter on the heels of such a big event. So I told to my adult children that we would not get together at our house for Easter since we had been together for my husband's birthday so recently and, consequently, there would be no Easter egg hunt this year at our house for the grandchildren. I assumed this would be okay with the grandchildren. I thought for sure that the older ones anyway would be tired of the Easter egg hunt. We have had one at our house every year for the past 15 or so years. I could not have been more mistaken about how this news would be received. It was the older grandchildren in fact who were the most disappointed. Why? Because it turns out that the Easter egg hunt that I thought was of little importance to the older grandchildren was a family tradition that they cherish. We are having the Easter egg hunt this year after all except we are all gathering at my oldest daughter's house for it and a light meal. My husband and I made 30 sandwiches tonight for the meal. Plus, I am bringing along a few salads I put together today.

Many blessings to all of you and your families on this most wonderful of religious holidays.

SusieQ (Patron Saint of troubled grandchildren)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I almost forgot how to sign in...

I see I need to update all of you, answer your questions, and respond to your comments about Nik. How time has been flying by for me during the holidays and beyond.

Wow! I have been away from my blog for so long now that I almost forgot how to sign in tonight. I don't like the feeling of being that out of touch with blogging. I could not help it though. This past month has been a busy one for me due to the holidays and the birth of a new grandchild.

For most of this week my husband and I have had our son and daughter-in-law's three children (ages 6, 3, and 2) staying with us while she was in the hospital giving birth to their fourth child. Miguel who is 2 is into everything. So we had to watch him like a hawk. Chasing him around like I did and wrestling with him to change his diaper, which he did not want me to do most of the time, showed me just how old my body really is. Durnit anyway!

Benjamin was born late Monday evening. He had a little trouble with his breathing at first. However everything is normal according to the tests he was given. But he has had to stay in the hospital longer than usual waiting for the test results to come in. It looks like he will be able to come home tomorrow which is Friday. We are all looking forward to seeing him...and holding him. Benjie is our 15th grandchild. So we have been focused on these grandchildren lately and have had to delay for a while getting involved again with Nik to any great extent.

We had Nik and his sister for several days and nights over Christmas break though. I took that opportunity to continue our reading of the Spiderwick books. We finished book three and it is on to book four now. Nancy I know you are right about the importance of Nik reading every day. My daughter who works full time and is single with four children meets herself coming and going most days. It is hard for her find the time each night to sit down with Nik and read with him. She does the best she can under the circumstances. I wish so much that we lived closer to our daughter and her family so that I could just run over to her house and see to it that Nik gets in his daily reading.

I am considering doing his daily reading with him over the phone. I think we could pull it off with the speaker phone capabilities we both have. I intend to run it past him in the coming days and see what he thinks. Yes, and reading will increase his vocabulary Nancy. The Spiderwick books seem to be rich with unusual words that he doesn't run across much if at all. One that intrigued me was the word "bespectacled." I try to keep a good dictionary close at hand when I am reading with Nik so that we can look up these interesting words.

Nancy I like your suggestion that Nik be encouraged to write. I will talk to him about that. He is artistically talented. Maybe he could create a book for himself with writing and illustrations.

Josie you asked if Nik had ever been assessed for autism. That was considered in the beginning way back when he was five years old, but it has been ruled out for several reasons from what I gather. His noise sensitivity could involve something associated with his eardrums. After reading up on that recently I asked my daughter to take him to a hearing specialist and have that checked out.

We took him and his sister to the movies (Water Horse) over Christmas break. He was reluctant to go because movie theaters have a bad habit of turning the volume up so high that it becomes nearly intolerable for some people even those who don't have a problem with noise sensitivity. In fact one time my husband and I went to the movie theater and the volume was so high that I could not stand it. I went straight to the manager of the theater and complained. He turned down the volume pronto. There ought to be law. Seriously! Anyway, we promised Nik that we would sit next to an exit and if the noise became too much for him, we would leave. That seemed to satisfy him. Afterwards he admitted that the noise at times was hard for him to tolerate, but he never asked to leave the theater. The movie was fascinating enough to keep him there I suppose.

Josie, what is interesting is that Nik's half brother is autistic (Asperger Syndrome). I believe you mentioned earlier that your daughter works with autistic children. I would be interested to know what she thinks might be the cause for the escalating number of cases of this disorder. It was a rare disorder at one time. Now I believe one in every two hundred children suffer from it.

As far as what I want to do for Nik in the future aside from helping him with his reading, I'd like to help him gain some self-respect and self-confidence. He thinks so poorly of himself at times. He feels like such a failure at times. He gets down on himself whenever he loses it. I want him to respect himself and recognize his many personal assets and put those to work for the betterment of himself.

Earlier this week I watched an interesting documentary on PBS (Frontline) about the medicated child. As you know I am seriously concerned about the medications Nik has been on since he was five years old. If you did not catch it on your PBS station, you can watch this show by going here: Be sure to check out the discussion section too. There is a very interesting mix of letters written to Frontline reflecting the different experiences parents, teachers, therapists, and physicians have had with these drugs and children.

January is a busy month for me even without grandbabies arriving and grandchildren needing my attention. This is the month in which I get all our records in order on the business for our accountant. He wants this info by the 20th. Let's see, that gives me about 10 days to get my act together. Gulp! After I am done feeding this info to the accountant, I promise I will around to the different blogs such as Tom's and Paul's....and Nancy's and the other Susie Q's.....and Jenni's....and Josie's.....and Wreckless's. Have I left anyone out? Didn't mean to.

Thanks for stopping by. Finally, any suggestions as to how I can help our Nik (with self-esteem, self-confidence) will be greatly appreciated.



Susie, just did a post that’s on topic – here’s the permalink. Just something to read "whenever," I know you're not doing much blogging right now -Paul
December 20, 2007 7:16 PM
patterns of ink said...
I'm going to be away from internet access until after Christmas day, but I wanted to stop by and wish you and yours a Merry ChristmasThank you for those words. I may take the liberty to cut and paste the parts not about cancer to my comment section so Mom can read them. She would be encouraged by what you said. Nik et al seem like a great bunch of grandkids worthy of every minute you and your husband are investing in their lives.
December 21, 2007 5:44 AM
Josie said...
SusieQ, I just read your post about your little grandson. He sounds like such a nice little boy. Has he been assessed for autism? Often children with high functioning autism are not able to tolerate noise or too much stimulation, or too many people around them. Has he been assessed for that?My heart goes out to you. He is one lucky little boy to have you in his life!
December 28, 2007 11:01 AM
patterns of ink said...
Happy New Year. Well, the holidays are over, but I know your duties probably still call. I trust you and your husband and family are well. Did you get any of this snow I've been traveling in?
January 05, 2008 3:08 PM
Nancy said...
I thought you were not blogging now so I had not stopped by in a long time. I am sorry to hear about your grandson's problems but admire you for trying to help. I did teach for 32 years but mostly in the kindergarten age range but I do know that you are correct about his reading. Just keep him reading everyday and continue to encourage him. The more he reads the better he will get. Try to find something he is interested in to keep him engaged and read with him, as you have been doing. Even read for him when he gets tired. Reading aloud to him is an excellent way to increase his vocabulary and his attention span. Bless you for taking the time to do this. I will keep all of you in my prayers and try to stop back often to look for updates. Hang in there... it will be worth it.
January 07, 2008 12:35 PM
Nancy said...
I thought of one more thing that may help... WRITING! Let him write without worrying about conventions like spelling/grammar etc... He will say he doesn't know what to write about but try to think of something exciting the two of you have done or maybe even how he feels about your dog. He may even write about the explosive times that he has had which would be good therapy. Let him just sound out the words and put down how he thinks it is spelled. This experimentation will spark him to watch for word patterns and spellings as you read together. Encourage him to read it to you and ask him if he sees any words that need help. Let him guide you with his questions when he has finished with a piece (which may only be a sentence or two) but the more he writes, the better he will read, and the better he will write. I is a wonderful cycle that builds confidence. If he uses the computer maybe word processing could help or even a good typing program which teaches him the correct finger keys. He can always use grammar and spell check. Good luck- my heart aches for him as it did for so many when I was in the classroom. My own daughter did not read alone until she was in 3rd grade and I worked with her constantaly. The one thing I did right- I never gave up on her. We read and wrote everyday and by 8th grade she was on grade level. Today- she teaches kindergarten with the same passion I had. So, hang it there Susie, it will be worth it.
January 07, 2008 1:09 PM
wreckless said...
They are lucky to have you.I will continue to think and pray for you.
January 10, 2008 3:20 PM