Before I had faith and accepted grace into my soul, my world view was me-centered. I was constantly anxious about what other people thought of me, and I judged my relationships based on that. Does this person like me? Do I like him? What will he do for me? What can I do to make sure he likes me? It was the same with my children. Am I making her happy? Is she making me happy? What if she doesn’t like me? Such a view creates an impossible standard. No one can make you perpetually happy. Sometimes the best people cause you pain.
Going to the Catholic Mass changed my perspective, especially the Holy Week services. The masses during this week are long and intense, and require reverence. They are nothing like the carefree Easter celebrations of secular society. While much of America focuses on the Easter Bunny and Spring Break, Catholics focus on Palm Sunday, the Institution of the Eucharist, and the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. For secular society, it’s a gleeful holiday. For Catholics, it’s a Holy Week, a time to plunge ourselves into the most painful depths of humanity so that we might discover the most glorious heights of salvation. The celebrations draw us into a deeper communion with God to grow in knowledge and understanding of the holy mysteries, and thus, to grow in the greatest mystery of love.
Holy Week services radically affected my personal relationships. Instead of the bunny-ish show-me-the-fun attitude, I learned to observe, with some detachment, the people in my life so that I could know them as they are. I started to think in terms of communion, not entertainment. I began to understand that relationships are an entrance into the mystery of the other person, and as such, a foundation for growing in love and for knowing myself better.
Instead of worrying what choices my children will make, this perspective has helped me to study what choices they do make so I can offer them what they need when they are ready to accept it. It has allowed me to know I’m a good mother because of what I do, not because of what my children do. This perspective has allowed me to love my husband for who he is, and to reveal to him the ugliest aspects of who I am because I believe in him to love me. Go back to that me-centered, anxious-ridden, empty existence? Never. Give me reality.
That’s one thing Holy Week reminds us. We are not chasing a fictional happiness. We are striving for real holiness.