Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Not Afraid

"If you pass through raging waters, in the sea, you shall not drown, if you walk amist the burning flames, you shall not be harmed. If wicked tongues insult and hate you all because of Me, know that I am with you, through it all.
Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me, and I will give you life."

"Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya, Oh, Lord, Kumbaya"

What do those two songs have in common? Well both are often panned by Catholic bloggers, especially those leaning toward the traditional. Kumbaya was popularly sung in churches in the early 1970's when everyone was experimenting with everything and throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Both the tune and the lyrics are really more appropriate for a campfire than mass. Be Not Afraid earns the wrath of bloggers for using the "voice of God" (and for not being classical music but I won't go there--too much). Another thing both songs do is bring back vivid memories of tears at mass; tears brought on because they were what I needed to hear at that time in my life.

I started first grade in a Catholic school in Wisconsin. One day Monsignor A, the pastor (who I adored) came in our room and taught us to sign Kumbaya (this was 1967). That afternoon Sister said we could sing it as our closing prayer. Eleven years later I was a couple of weeks from high school graduation, in Mississippi. I was at mass by myself that night. Kumbaya was the communion meditation song, and it brought back memories of first grade. My high school years hadn't been the greatest and I was ready to move on and out of that town, but I also knew a part of my life was over. I was excited, but scared. I was praying and I heard that song, and it brought forth emotions that I really couldn't describe, but which expressed themselves in tears.

Almost 25 years later, I was attending daily mass. I had become a regular at that mass for over a year; it fit perfectly into my schedule and I really liked it. It was the early spring and things just weren't right. My mom kept feeling awful and no one could figure out why. About the time she'd start to feel better, things would get worse. Also, I was having chest palpitations and my cycles were getting wacky. I'd been to a couple of doctors and had a bunch of tests. No one could tell me why I was having the palpitations. My gyn. found a strangely-shaped cyst on one of my ovaries. He said we would watch it for a another month but that if it didn't go way, he was going to do surgery. I was scared to death. I was afraid I'd lose my mom, and I was afraid for my own health and that maybe it was cancer and that maybe I was going to die and leave my two kids without a mom, and fufill one of my husband's greatest fears, that like his mom did, one of us will die before the kids are grown. I always got to that mass early because of my schedule and that was my prayer time. I was ok until Fr. announced the opening hymn and walked out singing "Be Not Afraid". At that point the tears started to flow and it took forever for me to get off my knees and onto my feet.

Those of you who know my know the rest of the story. A couple of months later my mom was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, and about three years later, she died of it. I did not end up having surgery for that cyst, it went away bythe next ultrasound. The doctor diagnosed PCOS and given my age, that diagnosis (which often leads to infertility) and my wacky cycles, we gave up charting figuring that it wasn't likely that I'd end up pregnant. We were wrong, and ever so blessed.

Why this post tonite? We had a special Thanksgiving mass tonite in Religious Education. Be Not Afraid was one of the songs. I guess our new pastor doesn't hate it. :)


  1. Beautiful blog. It brought back lots of memories.

  2. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Ruth, nice post.

    I gave you an award on my blog.

  3. Beautiful, and thanks for sharing it in the Carnival.

    I too love the song "Be Not Afraid" although I do have to say that it has been over-played. It's ever so much nicer when I've had the chance to take a break from it--and then it comes along and surprises me when I need it.


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