Effie Caldarola

Waking up in a cold bedroom, bundled up under layers of blankets, I was happy to feel good. I was the beneficiary of a sound sleep. This is not always the case for me, often struck as I am by nighttime anxiety. I felt refreshed and very grateful for another day.

The dawn was breaking, although the gloomy, foggy winter weather that had hung on for weeks did its best to hide the sun.

My husband wasn’t awake yet, and it was early, so I found my rosary under my pillow and began to pray. The glorious mysteries, a gift. How much of this do I really believe? I asked myself. I repeat that prayer, “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I thought of a remark by the newly appointed archbishop of Philadelphia, Nelson J. Perez, who had served as bishop of Cleveland. He once told a group in Cleveland a story about someone asking him if he had hope in the midst of such a troubled world.

“I told him I gave my life to a faith that believes a dead man came back to life,” the then-bishop said. “So yes, I have hope.”

You can’t make things any more direct or simple than that, can you? It’s the crux, the center, the foundation of our faith. That empty tomb is the bottom line.

You either believe that that dead man rose or you don’t, and that makes all the difference in what you spend your whole life doing and loving. Good thoughts as Lent nears.

A journalist I greatly admired once visited a class I was taking. He was there to be interviewed by our group of fledgling writers, but my question was of a more personal nature. I knew his family, a large Irish Catholic clan, and I had known his old father at my cathedral parish where he served as an usher for years. Yet this writer, a columnist, was clearly a critic of the church and no longer a Catholic.

I asked him about that, and he agreed with my assessment and was gracious in his response.

“You know,” he said, “I’ve been told faith is a gift. And I guess I haven’t been given that gift.”

All these years later, I still ponder his answer. Yes, faith is a gift, the gift of a God who is always seeking us, gift in hand. But it’s also something for which we search. We knock at the door, we ask. We stick around when we’re in doubt. We say the rosary in the early morning as well as in the dark hours.

Soon, I went downstairs and made coffee in the chilly kitchen, turned the thermostat up and pulled up the window shades to reveal a white, foggy landscape. Some of my neighbors get up very early, bathroom lights heralding their preparation. Some had already left for work, tire tracks punctuating the two inches of fresh snow the night had deposited on their driveways.

There seems to be a contest among some of the retirees on the block. Who can get their driveways cleared first? The buzz of snowblowers punctuated the morning air.

I love morning. Morning is always a new beginning, a clean slate. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and made her discovery in the early morning. Babies and little kids get you up early in the morning. School buses trundle through the neighborhood then, eager neighbors crank up their snowblowers.

In the morning, we begin again and ask yet again for the gift of faith, the gift that will make all the difference in the day ahead.