Because of Candlemas

Guest post by Allison Salerno
This morning I went to Mass, inspired not so much by a spiritual quest as by a need to get moving earlier in the day than I have been. My allergies, brought on by mold in our old house, have been annoying me, and it has been nearly a week since I exercised. So I walked our 10-year old son to the bus stop at the corner and then power-walked a mile and a half in the chilly February air to my parish’s Eucharistic Chapel for daily Mass.

When Mass began, and our pastor was blessing candles, I realized I had stumbled into a celebration of the Feast of the Presentation, otherwise known as Candlemas. It happens 40 days after Christmas, because by Jewish law that is the time when parents were to present their firstborn child in the temple for dedication. This Catholic feast day commemorates two elderly and devout Jews, Simeon and Anna, who had been waiting patiently for years at the temple in Jerusalem for the Messiah.

My parish’s Eucharistic Chapel sits on the first floor of a building that once housed a convent of Franciscan sisters. The community is gone. The parochial school where the sisters taught shut its doors years ago due to dwindling enrollment. A few years ago, the building was razed to make way for a large parking lot. The convent now is our parish center, and the lone Franciscan sister in our parish lives offsite in an apartment. She lectored to a small group of elderly parishioners this morning, recounting how Simeon and Anna recognized in the baby Jesus the Savior of the World. Simeon told Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

Our pastor’s homily highlighted the faith of Simeon and Anna. “Faith requires patience,” he said. Here were two elderly people, waiting for years for the Messiah to arrive. In our world of instant gratification, accelerated by the ease of technology, we often lack the patience we need to see God’s plan for us. I was moved by the faith of elderly parishioners, many of whom I know personally. They cope with loss and illness, and the prospect of their own deaths, and yet they manage to place their faith in God’s providential care.

I have long stopped believing in coincidences. I had come to this Mass for a reason, and it had nothing to do with my allergies or my lack of exercise.

I have been unemployed since August 2008, when I was unceremoniously laid off as communications manager from a foundering nonprofit.  In the intervening months, I have struggled to discern what my path is for this next phase of my life.  I now teach writing part-time at a local community college and attend night classes for alternate-route teaching certificates in both English and Special Education. I hope to find work this fall as a high school English teacher.

Right now, our family budget is tight. We had to pull our two sons from their private school, where our younger son was receiving excellent learning support for his special-education needs. Even with scholarships, the tuition payments were not possible. Our house needs lots of maintenance and repair—a fresh coat of paint on the outside, new front stoop stairs, a new boiler, and so on. Our family vacations now are “staycations”—day trips to local historic sites, hikes through local parks, and visits to the beach.

While this time could be an opportunity for despair, it is not. Because I am Catholic, my faith gives me the patience to see the myriad blessings that already surround me: a strong marriage to a wonderful man, two happy and healthy sons, a warm home, food on the table, and time to help our boys transition into their teenaged years. Because I am a Catholic, the faith of my fellow parishioners, clergy and laity, sustains me.

Jobs come and go. Our faith in God, and His love for us, lasts forever.

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • LOVE THIS!! Miss you. Elaine

  • Ferde

    Keep the Faith, Allison. With that attitude, you'll be back on the job in no time. The Lord, as He says, knows what you need before you ask for it.

  • Anonymous

    Your posts are wonderful – I'm glad Webster "connected the dots" for us last week so we have a better sense of who you are. Much appreciated in this virtual community!I love the quote, "faith requires patience." Women understand this the minute they discover they are pregnant – and it certainly comes into play many many times as they rear their children and even when faced with an empty nest.I second what Ferde said about your attitude. Sheila

  • Dorseyps

    What a touching moment. Sometimes don't they come unbidden and stay with us for a lifetime! Dorsey

  • Allison Salerno

    @Elaine: I am just a click away. @Ferde: Thanks. I am also realizing I don't have to wait for a new job to feel blessed about my life. @Sheila: What an excellent point about pregnancy and patience required to be a parent.@Dorsey: Thanks for reading!

  • Maria

    Allison: I too am unemployed and have been so since 9/09. Hardon SJ likes to remind me that nothing happens outside of God's providence. We know that. We take it as given. But, Lord. Some days it is hard, isn't it? Remember, He is always working "behind the scences". You count your blesings and then you "stumble into a celebration". Isn't that just like to Lord to lead you there? A few words on Simeon. I was struck by this fact of the Gospel: He waited for his Savior and did not see him until he was OLD. Isn't that something? I waited for my Savior for a long time too. I couldn't find Him until the long arm of suffering finally led me to Him. Interestingly, the meaning of patience derives from the Latin, patior, meaning 'to suffer'. Just as an aside, Hardon SJ tells me that there is no heaven without grace, no grace without prayer and we have to keep praying, no, begging Him ,for help. Lord, how I beg.I got a call this afternoon for an interview. You will too. Let us know. I will keep you in my forever, begging prayers.God Bless

  • Allison Salerno

    @Maria: Fascinating, about the origin of the word "patience." I appreciate all the insights of your response.Thanks for keeping the faith!Blessings to you,Allison