Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Be Still In The Presence Of The Lord

By ANN BLASICK, Commentary | Published April 1, 2004

I normally end my day around 11 p.m. I’m fortunate because I’m one of those people who fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. But last night was different.

When I was a sophomore in college, a dear friend who was a year older than me and a student at the same college died in a tragic motorcycle accident. This was the first time anyone important to me had died. Tony had gone to Harrisburg, about 2 hours away from our college, to buy his first motorcycle, and he was in a fatal accident driving it home. After Tony died, his parents, Jean and Tony, adopted all of his friends. A week after my friend’s death, we were all seated around card tables in their home, eating pasta and grieving together. Tony’s parents and his sister, Rose, soon became like a second family to me.

Nine years have gone by since then, and my entire family has come to know and love Tony’s family. Our dads have bonded over high school sports and Italian food. My brother affectionately calls Tony’s dad by his nickname of “Sonny.” At Christmas, Jean gives me the same dollar-store gifts she gives her three daughters. And anytime I’m up in Pennsylvania, their family has an open-door policy and their town’s famous pizza waiting.

Last night I couldn’t sleep because Rose had called a few hours before to tell me that her mom had just died of lung cancer. I knew Jean had been sick. She had been weak when I saw her at Christmas, her hand shaking visibly as she offered me pizza and cookies. Tony had told me just last weekend that the cancer had spread to her other lung. But the suddenness of her death shook and deeply saddened me. I would miss her so. Because my mom died of cancer a few years ago, I knew what Tony and Rose were going through, and I hated that I couldn’t ease their pain except through prayer.

But herein lay my dilemma. Prayer meant facing my own pain, mortality and lack of control. Prayer meant being still in God’s presence so He could comfort me. I couldn’t do any of that. After a few minutes of tossing, turning and thinking, I got out of bed, turned on every light in our living room, switched the TV to Letterman, and began crocheting. Then around midnight to further distract myself, I made a huge pancake and slathered it with butter and syrup. Still not feeling physically tired enough to face the darkness and stillness, I logged onto the Internet. Julia Roberts was on Letterman, and I had to find out how old she was. (My brother said she was 37ish, and I swore she couldn’t be older than 33 or 34. He ended up being right. Julia’s 36.) Our dear friend had just died, and instead of talking about it, we were debating the age of someone we don’t know and will never meet. I stayed online until 1:30 a.m. Finally running out of late night activities, I retreated back to my bedroom, put a CD on to disguise the stillness of the night and fell asleep.

My weekly holy hour at Christ the King happened to be the next morning at 8 a.m. I awoke in the morning still feeling awful. The lump in the pit of my stomach and the profound sense of loss immediately greeted me. I wanted to distract myself by running from God, by going to the gym, getting to work, eating, moving, doing—certainly not praying, reflecting, or turning to God. But I was committed to this weekly holy hour and so I had to go. I figured I’d hit the gym first thing afterward so I went to the adoration chapel in my old gym clothes with my “bed hair” and without makeup. I wanted the hour to go quickly so I could move onto the sweating and moving portion of the morning.

I went into the chapel and knelt in front of the monstrance, but I couldn’t bring myself to pray. I certainly didn’t want to thank or praise God. Jean was gone, and Rose and Tony were in pain. I was in pain. I often knelt in the chapel and gave my life over to God, said that I was nothing and He was everything, said that His will and not mine be done. But this morning I was angry and so after a five-minute silent stare-down, I began a grocery list of all of the reasons I was mad. Jean’s gone, her family’s mourning, I miss my own mom, I’ve felt lonely lately, my life isn’t fulfilling enough, it’s raining outside, my hair looks awful and on and on.

This is the incredible thing about God. He loves us and wants to be part of our lives not just when we’re raising our hands praising Him but also when we’re clenching our fists in frustration, hurt and anger. He never said that we have to be meek, humble and pious in His presence at all times; he would prefer that we be honest so He can help carry our crosses. Our honesty allows Him to help. He can’t hold us in His arms if we’re too busy trying to do it on our own or filling our lives with distractions. Are you sometimes too busy crocheting, watching TV, eating pancakes and researching how old movie stars are to let God into your life?

After I finished ranting to God, I sat in a corner of the chapel and began this journal entry. The end of my holy hour came, and I suddenly realized that I felt peaceful and that the lump in my stomach was gone. As I left the chapel, I had a vision of my mom and Jean together in heaven happily exchanging stories about their lives, husbands and kids, knowing that we’ll be reunited again soon.


Ann Blasick is the program coordinator for the archdiocesan young adult ministry.