“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.”
Truth be told, I found this year’s Assumption feast not so festive. My Mass had around 200 people, the vast majority double my age, gathered in a cavernous and dark church, murmuring to a particularly slow version of Hail Holy Queen. It was probably the fact that it is summer, and mid-week, and a real feel temperature of about 110, but the darker, cynical/egotistical side of me whispered, “is this what my life’s work is propping up?” My malaise carried with me into the weekend. Hearing the second reading today from Hebrews and St. Paul claiming some “cloud of witnesses” helping us to persevere in running the race, I thought perhaps the “cloud” might be taking an extended water break. “We’ve been invited to the Walker’s to pray a rosary,” my wife shared as we drove home from church. Some of you may remember my previous post about a 14-year old girl named Lily who is battling aggressive cancer. Lily is about to start weeks of intensive treatment and I felt honored to be invited to pray with her family. My family all put on our green “Team Lily” shirts and made the trip.
As we pulled onto the Walker’s street, cars were everywhere. Throngs of people, all in green shirts, were coming from every direction, flooding into the Walker’s backyard. I quickly realized this was no intimate family rosary. Except it absolutely was. From the stairs of their deck overlooking a sea of green, Lily’s parents and siblings, followed by her aunts, grandparents and cousins, followed by her best friends, led a backyard of witnesses in praying through the intercession of Our Lady, for our lady – Lily. With Lily watching from the window above, her mom Megan thanked us for coming and reminded us that the Blessed Mother was probably about Lily’s age when she was given the tremendous responsibility to carry Jesus. In carrying her cross so gracefully, Lily too, was bearing Jesus and sharing Him with all of us. Megan was overwhelmed by the turnout, sharing that they only made 200 copies of the prayers and they ran out quickly. Tears streamed down my face as I looked up at this beautiful, innocent young woman, basking in the love and prayers of a community that extended far beyond that backyard. I realized just how wrong my assumption on the Assumption was. In silence, I thanked Lily and the Walkers for reminding me that it is not what I think I am propping up. It is my faith, and when my faith is lacking, the faith of a cloud of witnesses, occasionally all dressed in green, who prop me up. We’ve got you Lily – and more importantly He does too!