Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lessons from Baba

Written by  David Polzen
My Baba at Mass My Baba at Mass

Some days… okay, most days, I can be so easily distracted and caught up in the hectic pace, the to-do lists and the anxieties of the world around me that I miss out on the beauty and blessings occurring around me at every moment. I thank God that God does not give up on us “wanderers” and continually sends the Holy Spirit to nudge us along. Here is today’s nudging story:

I was sitting in the pew of a small Saskatchewan town church with family and my Baba. It was the day after we gathered as family to celebrate Baba’s 106th birthday. It was a great celebration but at 106 she is not quite up to staying up to celebrate that long. This was the first time in many, many years that I can recall that my Baba went to bed before me. But anyway… see I told you I am easily distracted and go off on a tangent just like that, so anyway… there I am sitting in the pew, and my wife nudges me and gives me one of those head twitches to look down the pew. At the end of the pew is my Baba, hands folded and lips moving in silent prayer. My heart stirred ever so slightly. I nod and smile to my wife and then carry on with my own little putzing around. 

Mass began and I attempted to make a good effort to stay attentive at Mass and not let myself be distracted by the numerous things happening around me or the cornucopia of things whirling about in my head but I was seemingly losing the battle even though Father preached a splendid homily on God’s will (see I was listening!) and we sang songs that stirred my heart and made my eyes sweat at times. It was pretty much par for the course for me. Then, after communion, for no reason known to me, my eyes turn down the pew and there at the end of the pew is my Baba, once again, hands folded and mouthing words of some sort.

My soul soared. My memory kicked in and I remembered a few years back when Baba was still living at home and had a bit more mobility than she does now, that we were calling it a day and heading to bed after a full day of working in the garden and such; as I passed by her bedroom, her door was half shut, I caught a glimpse of her kneeling at her bedside, quietly praying. Not sure what she was saying as it sounded like it was in Ukrainian, but in passing sometime there after she did tell me that she prayed for all of us her family and friends. Those images danced around my head and heart and continue to do so.

As we were leaving that weekend, Baba wished us safe travels and thanked us for coming, then asked if I would be returning to celebrate her birthday on the actual day which was that upcoming Wednesday. That day they would be celebrating Mass for her at the Lodge where she now stays and there would be a lunch and cake. Her invitation for some reason this year really pulled at my heart strings. Through God’s grace and a “boss” that said “well then, you better go” I made the journey back that Wednesday. Some other family members were able to come as well. We made our way to the room where Mass was going to be celebrated. Once again, I sat a few spaces down from Baba who was in her wheelchair, and once again she folded her hands and silently mouthed her prayers. Like in my memory of Baba, my guess was that it was all done in Ukrainian, and I could imagine her running through the list of all the family members by name. As I pondered this within my own thoughts, a lady off to the left of me, which if I would have to guess probably had some level of dementia or Alzheimer’s, fired up praying aloud in a language not English. She was very bold in her prayer. Once again, my soul smiled. Someone told Father that she was praying, in Ukrainian, the Our Father and Hail Mary, most likely praying the rosary. Then once the gathering hymn began the lady to my left ended her vocal prayers and she silently participated in Mass.

These moments have given me so much to reflect upon and to help evaluate my own prayer life. It seems that I can easily pray during challenging times, when I am hurt and in pain, as I face struggles and journey through the difficult times in life. I have however, been striving to offer more prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving for the countless blessings in my life. I am even trying to get out of bed in that grateful prayerful frame of mind…one foot out of bed and on the floor “Thank”; the other foot out and on the floor “You.” With a grateful heart, comes a joy and peace, the graces of a loving God - a joy and a peace that I saw within my Baba at those two Masses, a solace that she seems to find in joining the community at prayer. This has given me encouragement to continue to work on my prayer life, to slow down, to hush myself, to hear Jesus saying “Peace, be still.” (Mark 4:39), to enter into prayer to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10), to continue to incorporate a variety of elements broadening my prayer; but something still continued to gnaw at me. 


The gnawing began at a weekday Mass as we recited the “I confess” of the Penitential Act in the Introductory Rites. I said the words “…therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.” How many times have I said those words in the past, maybe millions by now. Those words “pray for me” echoed loudly within my soul.  It was an incredible awakening.  I was asking for all those gathered with me at Mass to pray for me… jazzy, I like it when others are praying for me, I need all the prayers (help) I can get; but YIKES! They are also asking me to pray for them.

The question came instantly to mind - “Have I been praying for them?” Some of them, yes; but not all of them, I don’t think. Not those strangers over on the other side of the chapel, and for sure not all those gathered at Sunday Masses…not by name, that is for sure. Oh dang, the Holy Spirit once again nudging and encouraging me to grow. So learning from my Baba, the lady at the care home Mass, and the Holy Spirit, I will continue to work at my prayer going beyond my own needs and wants, to a fuller prayer of gratitude, building upon what St Paul writes to the Thessalonians “…always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” To move beyond myself to include the many that have asked for my prayer directly and indirectly. So for all of you that now have claim to my prayers and to those that are in most need of my prayer, I am praying for you. This prayer is for you.

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