Monday, July 14, 2014

adoration

encountering the God of all creation
present here
Author of truth and life
Love of my soul
You are my God.
the humiliation of the cross has given way
to the glory of resurrection
yet in all your glory, 
You choose to remain with us
humble, vulnerable; 
concealed by the appearance of bread. 
to eyes of faith, 
this bread is not bread. 
it is You - 
exquisite Beauty - 
true Love - 
infinite Goodness - 
everything.
my God, how could I not love You?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

merton

A prayer of Thomas Merton:

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me. 
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, 
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so. 
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. 
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, 
though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore I will trust you always, 
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, 
for you are ever with me, 
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."




Saturday, May 10, 2014

it's not about us


"Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them; 
his face shone like the sun 
and his clothes became white as light."
-- Mt 17:1-2


Have you ever experienced a spiritual "high"? Perhaps at a retreat, or maybe at Mass, or after spending time in Eucharistic Adoration?

Throughout the years, and particularly in the context of youth retreats - I've heard these "spiritual highs" referred to as "mountaintop experiences" - akin to the experience Peter, James, and John had when Christ was transfigured before their eyes. Peter's words to Jesus later in the above passage ( "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents... ") - indicating his desire to remain on the mountain, to continue to live that experience of Christ's revealed glory.

And really, who wouldn't want to continue to live that experience? Who wouldn't want to stay on some glorious spiritual high?

Who would want to come down from the mountain? Not many of us - and if we're really honest - probably none of us. The problem is that "coming down from the mountain" is often more akin to "falling off a cliff."

Spiritual highs - mountaintop experiences - intensely emotional experiences of God's presence, of God's love - are amazing, to be sure, and mere words cannot do them justice. However, although they may initially foster our faith, or strengthen our love of God, or help us to feel connected to him, they are not meant to last. None of the saints lived in perpetual ecstasy.

Yet many of us base our faith on these spiritual highs, and often grow frustrated or fall away when they fade (I strongly suspect most of us can relate here, I know I have failed at this more times than I can count...), instead of learning to seek a deeper understanding of ourselves or God, or teaching ourselves to grow in discipline through our difficulties. 

In other words, faith isn't just about how we feel.

Faith based on emotional experiences inevitably fades away, because emotions fade away - they are not a true foundation. True faith is like true love - though both may be colored by emotion, they are ultimately acts of the will. We "moderns" have, by and large, forgotten this truth about both faith and love being acts of the will and not simply emotional responses - and so we are often more than willing to throw away anything that does not make us feel good.


This leads me to another consideration: that there is an objective difference between worshipping God, and “connecting” with him. Worship is giving God the praise due to him - whether we feel like it or not - because he is God, and we are not. “Connecting” with God signifies an emotional response - "feeling" a connection to God. 


Although we do sometimes feel an emotional connection to God when we are at worship, or experience a spiritual high, feeling like we are hanging out on the mountaintop with the Lord - these emotional connections are not necessary for worship, because, simply put, WORSHIP IS NOT ABOUT US. Period. Our worship of God is about worshiping God - not necessarily about our experience. It’s for God, not for us. 


We don’t - or at least we shouldn’t - go to church for ourselves - our going to church should be motivated by a love of God and a desire to worship Him in a sacred space - a place that is set apart for that purpose. 


Many of the great saints of Christian history experienced extended periods of complete desolation, during which they felt no connection to God - yet continued to worship him. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila both wrote extensively of this - St. John of the Cross termed it “the dark night of the soul” (if you are unfamiliar, his writings of it are collected in a book of the same name - not an easy read, but well worth it). Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived in spiritual darkness for years, without knowing the consolation of God’s love, and feeling very "disconnected" from him. Even we who are average followers of the Lord may have known this in some degree; for Catholics, perhaps we have received our Lord with faith and love at Mass, in the Eucharist, and yet had no experience of his consolation. 


Perhaps the observation that so many holy people understood faith as an act of the will, regardless of emotional attachment, can teach us something else about God. The saints recognized that when God removes their emotional attachments to him, he was leading them to a deeper relationship - something beyond emotion. In a sense, it might be like being blinded by the light - God approaches us more closely, and his light is so bright we cannot see him anymore. 


None of this is to say that emotion is unimportant - but only that in the grand scheme of our relationship with God, its role should be smaller than we think. It's also not to say we should all run around stoically, without emotion. We humans are emotional beings, and that is good. And although it is an incredibly tall order, we need to learn to order our emotions properly, both in our relationship with God, and our relationships with one another. Our emotions may indeed color our acts of faith and love - but unlike faith and love, emotion is not a virtue.

"We walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

the stars in our skies


The stars in our skies... we all have them. 

The people we love, who make our corners of the universe a little brighter, even when things feel dark and cold - kind of like standing outside on a winter's night, looking up at the stars, swearing you can feel their warmth. 

They are the ones we love, the ones we laugh with, and cry with, too. They are the ones we gladly suffer for; we would willingly walk beside them through any dark night of theirs - first, because we love them, and secondly, because they either have, or gladly would, do the same for us. 

They are the stars in our skies. Some may burn brighter than others; some may fade over time. Sometimes they are close, and sometimes farther away, but no matter what, they always remain with us. 

May we love the stars in our skies. 

Say a prayer for them tonight, and always. 

Hold them close to your heart. You never know when they may need it most.


"If we are going to love others at all, we must make up our minds to love them well." 
- Thomas Merton


Thursday, May 1, 2014

the Way

"All the way to heaven is heaven because Jesus said, 'I am the Way.'" - St. Catherine of Siena

Scrolling through my Facebook feed last night, I noticed that Fr. James Martin, SJ, had posted the above quote as an evening meditation. I think it's beautiful.

I also realize that it doesn't mesh well with the way we think about life most of the time. It's good to think about quotes like this, and see what we can learn from them - even if it may turn our perspective on its head, so to speak.

If we acknowledge that Jesus is indeed the Way, and we are truly committed to following him - then yes, all the way to heaven is heaven.

But it's not, we say. This is no bed of roses. Life is hard. It can be painful. There's nothing heavenly about that.

Or is there?

I think it goes without saying that the difficulties and pain we experience in life are not a reflection of what we believe heaven will be like when we (God willing!) get there someday. Given this, how can the difficulties and pain we endure in life in any way be the "heaven" of which St. Catherine speaks?

Perhaps because the difficulties and pains - all the suffering that is associated with our human condition - are supposed to help us get to heaven. If that is the case, then we can begin to see the wisdom in the words of this great saint.

To some extent, it comes down to whether or not we believe our suffering has meaning, whether or not we believe our suffering is worth something. And when you get right down to it, it has even less to do with whether or not we believe our suffering is worth something, and more to do with how much it is worth to GOD. In other words, is our suffering redemptive? Can God effect the work of salvation in our souls when we suffer?

If we got into a discussion of why suffering exists, and why, as children of a good God, we still suffer, we'd be here for a long time. I don't claim to have those answers. I often find myself grieving for loved ones who are suffering in some way.

I do believe that our suffering can be redemptive, though. There's a Catholic saying as old as the hills: "Offer it up!"  The idea being, when you encounter some kind of suffering - whether it's a toothache or a heartache or anything in between - that you offer it to God, for an intention you hold close to your heart, or for yourself (that "refiner's fire," purifying your soul), or someone in your life... And God, who is loving and good, can bring about good through that suffering. We already know that God can bring good out of incredible suffering - all we need do is consider Christ's death and resurrection to remind ourselves.

It doesn't mean it's easy, and it's not. But I think this is part of what St. Catherine was getting at - we know Christ suffered; if he is the Way, that means we will suffer, too, on our way to him. When we know our ultimate goal is heaven, everything we go through to get there is part of heaven - because bit by bit, it's helping us get there. It hearkens back to the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, as she suffered with tuberculosis: "Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift."


Monday, April 28, 2014

divine mercy


I had thought yesterday that I would write something about Divine Mercy Sunday, but gave priority to spending some time in Adoration, offering prayers for a few special intentions. As I was at prayer last night, I found myself considering the thought that sometimes, when we pray for others, we must understand, and be at peace with, the fact that we may never know (at least, in this life) how God answers our prayers in the lives of those for whom we pray. Of course, that should be far secondary to our thoughts, because we should be focused on praying for those in need of our prayers - but in all our humanity, I would imagine that many of us have thought about this before.

As I pondered this, I was browsing through a prayer app on my phone, and found a prayer I had never seen before. I found dual significance in both its subject, and its author - I took St. Maximilian Kolbe as my patron saint when I was confirmed several years ago. It only seems right to me to share it here. Reading this last night reminded me that intercessory prayer is itself an act of mercy, to which we are called by God - and that, as always, God's ways are far above our ways - there is nothing beyond him; he holds all of time and space, all of our joys and sufferings.

Divine Mercy, indeed. Jesus, I trust in you!

A Prayer of St. Maximilian Kolbe
The day was long,
The burden I had borne
Seemed heavier than I could longer bear
And then it lifted – but I did not know
Someone had knelt in prayer;
Had taken me to God that very hour,
And asked the easing of the load, and
He,
In infinite compassion, had stooped down
And taken it from me.
We cannot tell how often as we pray
For some bewildered one,
Hurt and distressed,
The answer comes,
But many times those hearts
Find sudden peace and rest.
Someone had prayed, and Faith, a reaching hand,
Took hold of God, and brought Him down that day!
So many, many hearts have need of prayer.
Oh, let us pray! 


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

it's Easter!

"If you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; mind the things that are above, alleluia." 

I hope everyone had a blessed and happy Easter Sunday! 

It's a bit ironic that my last post had to do with silence. Ironic, because I hadn't intended to wait so long before blogging again after writing that! I'd thought I would try to blog my way through Lent - and ended up observing "blog silence" instead. 

That silence was motivated by a couple of things - first, a real - and unanticipated - need to actually be "silent" in terms of social media, limiting my Facebook and blog intake and output, and secondly, the level of crazy and busy that my life has catapulted to over the past few weeks. I'm used to things being at least a little crazy, and I'm used to being more busy than I want to be - but it really has been at an entirely new level for the past few weeks, and it's limited the time I've had for other things. 

No, it's not going to calm down any time soon, that much I can tell, but hopefully I am starting to acclimate to it a bit more. Adaptation, you know. It's important! 

In any case... Lent was truly beautiful this year; Holy Week, the Triduum, and Easter Sunday, so wonderful. It truly is all beyond words; I am inadequate to the task of description, except to say that our Lord is good and loving, and loves us far beyond our imaginings. 

True Easter joy. At home after the Easter Vigil, I found myself unwilling to go to bed in the early moments of Easter Sunday - and sitting in my living room, pondering the Resurrection, and feeling kind of like a kid on Christmas, with the best gift EVER. Resurrection. Easter. Eternal joy. 

Yet all of this Easter wonderfulness has made me think again about Lent. If the point of Lent is to strengthen our discipline and help us to grow closer to God, why are we sometimes so willing to cast aside all of our Lenten discipline as soon as Easter arrives?

Don't worry - I'm not suggesting that you should drop that chocolate bunny you're munching on right now. I'm simply suggesting that, if we who try our best to love the Lord and work toward serving him with pure hearts and minds, have strengthened our wills to do so through our Lenten practices... why do we so easily forget those disciplines when Easter arrives? 

I went to Mass tonight (eh, last night, as I am now posting this Wednesday morning) and when I walked into the chapel, I was immediately struck by how few people were there. Last Tuesday, the chapel was quite full. This evening, only a handful of people were there. 

Lent is over, I get that. What I don't understand is... Easter is here - so why did everyone leave? If we go through 40+ days of Lent, trying to grow stronger in our walk with God, why are we so willing to give up those things that helped us grow in strength, just because Lent is over??

It's EASTER, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. The season of the Lord's resurrection. Shouldn't we still be filling our churches on the weekdays, coming to receive the Eucharist, seeking that sacramental food that strengthens and sustains us? The Eucharist - truly the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ - is transformative. 

Do we really understand what we were doing during Lent? Why do we work to be close to the Lord for 40-ish days, and then drop the routine and go back to business as usual? 

(Note: yes, of course, I realize not EVERYONE does this... but I also realize that there are plenty of us - myself included - who have done it before!)

Lent should change our lives, should alter our way of life. I'm not saying you should give up caffeine or chocolate permanently. What I am saying is, we shouldn't only pursue self-mastery and a deeper relationship with the Lord during Lent. I think we all need a sense of Lent in our lives, all year long - because until we pass from this life to the next, we haven't run the race, we are still competing. Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it well:

"If a man is ever to enjoy communion with Christ, so as to have the blood of God running in his veins and the spirit of God throbbing in his soul, he must die to the lower life of the flesh. He must be born again. And hence the law of Calvary is the law of every Christian: unless there is a Cross there never be the resurrection, unless there is the defeat of Calvary there will never be the victory of Easter, unless there are the nails there will never be the glorious wounds, unless there is the garment of scorn there, will never be the robes blazing like the sun, unless there is the crown of thorns there will never be the halo of light, for the law laid down at the beginning of time which shall be effective until time shall be no more, is that no one shall be crowned unless he has struggled and overcome."

Alleluia! Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever! 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

silence

Our world is noisy - from our phones and iPods to all of our chatter over social media and other means. We have a need, it seems, to be constantly connected to one another, to the Internet, to Facebook, to whatever. 

While I would be hard pressed to give up my iPhone, and I enjoy my fair share of social media, texting, blogging, email, and all of these things, I have to admit to a love/hate relationship with them. Maybe you can relate. Although I appreciate the benefits of modern communications, I am often the person in my circle of friends who doesn't answer the phone, or misses text messages - because I left my phone on silent, or in another room. Oftentimes, I've unintentionally forgotten to turn the ringer back on - this is true. However, it's also true that I will sometimes leave my phone in "solitary confinement," neglecting it for hours at a time, just to disconnect.

Silence is important, particularly in a world addicted to noise - in my opinion, "noise" can encompass what we hear, read, and see - as we are almost constantly bombarded with sensory messages. All that noise may keep us connected to the world, but it can also distract us from thinking about things in our lives, and it can stifle our relationship with God, who doesn't always speak in loud or obvious ways. Scripture offers a great reminder of this in 1 Kings 19, where Elijah waits for the Lord to pass by - through wind and earthquake and fire; and when He does finally pass by, it is in the silence after all these other noisy things have happened. Silence is a powerful catalyst for conversing with God.

As much as we need our connections to each other, and as important as those connections are, we need silence. We need to unplug. Go off the grid. Observe radio silence. Find God in the quiet. Pray.

"Why should we pray? Well, why breathe? We have to take in fresh air and get rid of bad air; we have to take in new power and get rid of our old weaknesses. Just as a battery sometimes runs down and needs to be charged, so we have to be renewed in spiritual vigor. Our Blessed Lord said: 'Without me you can do nothing.' Oh yes, we can eat and drink, and we can sin but we cannot do anything toward our supernatural merit and heaven without Him." - Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Thursday, March 6, 2014

a prayer for Lent

Most high, glorious God, 
illumine the darkness of my heart, 
and give me, Lord, 
true faith, 
certain hope, 
perfect charity, 
and profound humility. 
Grant me, O Lord, 
sense and wisdom 
to fulfill your true and holy will. 
Amen. 

-St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday - that wonderful day of the year when some of us starve ourselves, and maybe run around with ashes on our foreheads - that might be shaped like a cross, depending on whose thumb put them there - and which may or may not end up falling into your eyes, onto your clothes, etc. Good times, these. 

I feel the need for an Ash Wednesday-themed "most interesting man in the world" meme, that would go something like this: "I don't always go to Mass on Ash Wednesday, but when I do... ..." 

Oh, well thanks, Google (and whomever came up with this, it is apparently from diylol.com):


#ashwednesdayproblems  +:-)

I saw a great quote on Facebook this evening from Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.: "If these ashes aren't going to find a place on our inside, we really don't have much business wearing them on the outside." 

How true. Will the manner in which we live this Lent show that the ashes we received today have found "a place on our inside"? Will this Lent - a word which means "springtime" - be a catalyst for spring-like renewal and new growth in our lives - in our walk with Christ, in our pursuit of self-mastery, in whatever good work we set out to do, beginning today?

"Behold, I make all things new."



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

because it's "Fat Tuesday"

Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. 

Well, I did take a King's Cake to work today, and had a breakfast burrito instead of my usual oatmeal this morning... a little chocolate tonight after dinner, with a glass of wine. Really thrilling Fat Tuesday, right? Kinda, sorta, but not really like... 


(Credit to whomever came up with this meme... I saw it on Facebook, and have no idea where it actually originated, but it was NOT with me...) 

Point being, I'm clearly not out getting wasted this Fat Tuesday evening. That's not how I operate. I am NOT for a Fat Tuesday that, like Father said at Mass this evening, would require all of Lent to make reparation for! ;-)

Actually, I've been thinking quite a bit about Lent for the past few days. Yesterday evening, my parish started its small group sessions for a program called "Living the Eucharist," which is being promoted by our Archdiocese this year. My husband and I are leading one of the discussion groups for our parish, and last night, I shared with our group the fact that Lent has never exactly been my favorite season of the liturgical year. It's not that I have a problem with giving things up. No, that really doesn't bother me so much. I don't really mind penitence (although fasting has made me physically ill on occasion, and I have at least once - after consulting a priest - sought other ways to fast). 

Really, it's that strange things seem to happen unexpectedly during Lent sometimes, strange things that are unusually unpleasant. And it's March in New Mexico for at least part of Lent, which is never very pleasant to begin with (hellloooooo 50 mph winds!). It's easier for me to accept "obvious" penitence, perhaps, than it is for me to accept the subtle, unexpected penitence that comes with "strange" happenings, or the unpleasantness of certain times of the NM springtime? 

It's true that I don't like surprises. In past Lents, maybe God has tried to help me learn to accept the penance of unexpected unpleasantness - to learn to accept the penance that can come through surprises - instead of the penances I've "planned" for myself during Lent. 

I don't know. In any case, I've never been very good at accepting it - it usually just kind of freaks me out. (It always ends with me asking our Lord, "Why do I suck so badly at this?") 

Will Lent be that way this year, I wonder? Of course, I don't know - but I certainly hope the string of interesting little surprises over the past few weeks are no indication - as there have been recent happenings that have made me wonder if I was seeing a foreshadowing of Lent. I admit it, I rather hope not! 

The recent days have been interesting, though - even outside of those few curious little surprises. I've been praying about Lent, and honestly, with some trepidation: in part because of past experiences, and in part, because I know of some definite changes that are coming my way in the next few weeks (regardless of the fact that it will be the Lenten season), and I don't completely know what those changes will look like, how they will take shape. 

However, in prayer, I've started to feel that perhaps God has a different plan for this Lent. Over the past several days, I have come to realize how profoundly I need healing in some aspects of my life - in ways I had not considered until recently. And I've had the sense in prayer that perhaps that's at least part of what this Lent will be about. 

I don't know exactly how our Lord intends to accomplish this - nor do I know if this "sense" I have had will be correct - but at the very least, right now, I am at peace. The words of this evening's Mass touched me deeply, beginning with the entrance antiphon: "The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom; he saved me because he delighted in me." 

I want so much to hide beneath the shadow of God's wings - not to hide from trials or penitence, but to seek His protection and healing there, to learn to sing a "new song" - the way Audrey Assad sings, "My ears are worn and weary strangers, in a strange land, and I need a new song... And all I am is breath, and vapor, and shadow, and all I have is what I need - this I know - that I need a new song... waiting in the night for You, burning in the sky for You... There's an aching in my body, within my lungs - I swear, this web of bones around my heart is coming undone, 'cause I need a new song, I need a new song..." - to enter more completely into the incredible mystery of love and suffering, and there, to truly learn to live. 

That would be millions of times more satisfying than my Fat Tuesday breakfast burrito. 

Lord, help me to love and seek you more deeply through this Lent.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

seven in seven, day six: a little bit late

This one'll be short and sweet, as I can sum up the lateness of this post in two words: Mardi Gras. 

We had oh-so-much fun last night. By the time we got home, I was exhausted, and it was nearly midnight. I opted for sleep instead of a half-awake blog post! 

Friday, February 28, 2014

seven in seven, day five: 7 quick takes Friday


Squeaking in right before midnight!!! First... I cannot believe how busy this week was, or how quickly it went, or that I've actually managed to get a blog post in every. single. day. Wow!!!


I had the day off from work today, and it was GORGEOUS. ~70 degrees F, sunny, with a few beautiful NM clouds - really, a lovely day. Kind of strange to think it's still winter...


I haven't worn a watch in nearly a month. This is bizarre for me - I am a nearly religious watch-wearer. Since my phone doesn't get to hang out in my office with me at work, I rely on a watch to keep an eye on the time. But for whatever reason, not wearing a watch hasn't bothered me all that much lately.


Speaking of wearing a watch, and the passage of time and such things... time, in our human sense of it, doesn't really matter when our ultimate goal is timeless eternity! (Although that begs the question of whether or not it really matters if I get this post done before midnight!)


In addition to the fabulous weather, today was a seriously awesome day. I went to Mass this morning, spent some time with a friend this afternoon, and the hubs and I enjoyed a fabulous dinner with wonderful friends (who are truly like family!) this evening. Wine included. What more could one ask for in a Friday?


We're going to a Mardi Gras party Saturday night. This will be interesting, and I'm sure it will be fun. I don't think I've ever actually been to a Mardi Gras party before... the theme is the Great Gatsby... hmmm, all Roaring 20s, and all...

I suppose I will have to document this with some ridiculous pictures!


Ha!!! I have made it through day 5 of the "seven posts in seven days"! Wooooooo hoooooo for me!!! ;-)  I wasn't sure if I would be able to stay consistent with this, as things have been so crazy in my life away from the computer - but hey, five down, two to go!

AND... I made it before midnight!!!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

seven in seven, day four: faith and unanticipated grace

Has God ever revealed his love to you in a way, or at a time when, you least expected it? 

Maybe it was obvious, and in a certain sense, walked right up to you and said hello - or maybe it was more subtle - but however it came, it made an impression on you. 

I think these graces speak volumes about the love of God - in part, because they are completely unanticipated, and because I do nothing to deserve them except be present. They are a beautiful revelation of the providence of a God who knows what we need, and when it is needed. 

The "unanticipatedness" of these graces reminds me that life moves fluidly, whether or not we are flexible enough to match its motion. It seems to me, more and more, that the only way we can find ourselves flexible enough to match life's motion as best we can - the only way we can bob, weave, tuck, and roll, and come out alive - is through faith. That's a good thing, a beautiful thing, but it's also a hard thing. 

It's even harder for us to recognize that there is beauty in the difficulty.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

seven in seven, day three: do you know your part?

Some of my readers who know me, have already heard some version of this story before. I recently shared it with the Confirmation students at my parish. I think it's worthy of a "7 in 7" post - and a week away from Ash Wednesday, it somehow seems particularly appropriate.

It was a chilly autumn evening - November 1st - All Saints' Day. I was away from home, on a business trip for the week. After what had been a rough couple of years, spiritually, personally, and professionally, I was exhausted - totally drained - so tired of trying to keep everything together. I’d reached the point at which, though I knew intellectually what I professed to believe, I was questioning its truth.

On that day, I was a lifelong Catholic who faithfully attended Mass and knew the mechanics of the Faith inside and out. In earlier years, I had definitely loved God (though not in any kind of mature way), and had a deep passion for his Church. But in those couple of years, my faith had been challenged. This wasn't something I was proud of, but it was the truth. I was tired of struggling to regain my spiritual footing - it felt like trying to hike uphill on a gravel trail, with the rocks slipping out from underneath my feet. 

And so, in a strange city, and with no human eyes watching to make sure I fulfilled my Catholic obligation, I nearly hadn't sought out a church where I could attend Mass that evening, and even then, went half-heartedly - more or less, to "check the box,” to say I’d gone, to make sure I didn’t have to go to Confession (if you're not Catholic, or otherwise unaware, Catholics consider missing Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation to be a mortal sin, which is a big deal) - or worse, die in a state of mortal sin if somehow my plane crashed on the flight home! 

I never missed Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation. 


That evening, I found myself sitting in a beautiful, Gothic-styled church, part of a small crowd that had gathered for Mass. The parishioners’ devotion for the mechanics of the Catholic faith was apparent in their behavior - their gestures, their actions - even before Mass began. Observing those around me, I realized something didn't feel right. As the Mass began, what bothered me became clear. Although the parishioners had all the polished outward signs of devotion, they were like robots - all part of a well-rehearsed routine, one in which they knew their part.

I don't claim to know the depths of the human heart. I have no idea what was in the hearts of the people I was at Mass with that night. But as I sat there, I couldn't shake the uneasiness settling in my soul, in part because I could see myself there, among the "robots" - because I, too, had always known my part. I knew it with my head, and in some sense, it was a well-rehearsed routine. It didn't require emotion, or heart... it required no love. Upset by this recognition, I almost left at the offertory. But something - a sense of obligation? or something greater? - held me in place, and I stayed in the pew. Glancing around the church again, I sensed a "moment of truth." So in my thoughts, I prayed, something like this:

"OK, Lord, look - I don't really know what I believe anymore, but I do know that if this robotic routine - is what you really want out of your followers - then I'm done. I can't do that. I can't do that anymore. And, if you are really there, if you really exist, I need you to show me. I just need to know, because I'm not sure anymore."

The rest of the Mass seemed to go almost unbearably slowly. I left as quickly as I could after the final blessing, and gave little extra thought to the prayer I'd made, not really expecting an answer. By the time I returned home at the end of the week, I'd all but forgotten it.

I had been through what seemed like some pretty rough times, and ultimately, I had forgotten that I loved God - and I’d substituted robotic participation at Mass in place of that love. My faith was on spiritual life support, and it was slipping away. Although I had been going to Mass every week and even going to Confession on regular basis, my prayer life sucked, and I was not part of a parish community that I could rely on for support in hard times. 

Do you know your part? Do you know it with your heart, or do you only know it with your head? Do you only know it with your emotions, or is it part of your being? Is it simply external, or is it part of your soul? 

Any of us who love God, whether that love is new, or a bit aged, must understand that the growth of that love will not come without suffering, but that suffering should not lead us to despair. And oh, how much easier that is said, than done. 

While it's true that God knows all, sometimes we still have to be bold before him - to paraphrase St. Augustine - we need to let God call, to shout, to break through our deafness. After I made that prayer at that Mass on All Saints Day, God truly did reveal himself to me in new ways - He got me off of spiritual life support, and helped me get out of survival mode. 

Sometimes life with Christ is a rocky road, but it's also an incredible journey.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

seven in seven: day two... Tuesday misadventures

What. A. Day.

I spent most of it stuck in an all-day meeting. It went well, which is what mattered, but it was certainly not the way I’d usually choose to spend my workday. I have better things to do, like actually being a scientist and - what a thought - actually doing some science for a change. Since that’s what I get paid to do. Science.  


NB: if you’re a guy, you probably should just not bother reading the rest of this post. Or at least skip the next few paragraphs and get to the end. Because this is basically about pantyhose. And you probably don’t care about pantyhose. 

Anyway… I dressed up more than usual this morning, knowing I would be in said all-day meeting, and knowing it would behoove me to go the extra mile in terms of my appearance. That meant more than my usual skirt/cute shirt/nice shoes ensemble - it meant the skirt/blouse/jacket/and-these-high-heels-mean-business ensemble. This is an ensemble that, IMO, requires pantyhose. Well, I was just about ready to leave the house this morning when I discovered that my pantyhose had unexpectedly sprung a run. 

Great. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have another pair handy, because my backup pair died a tragic death last Sunday after a lethal encounter with a rogue toenail (apparently, it is just not my month for pantyhose!). But this run was in an inconspicuous location covered by my skirt, and easily contained with a little nail polish. Or so I thought, until this afternoon. In the home stretch of today’s meeting marathon, I looked down as I crossed my legs from one side to the other, and… crap!!!!! I found that the supposedly easily contained run had escaped, and was attempting to run away!

There’s nothing like forcing yourself to sit still for the last hour of a day-long meeting when you’re feeling fidgety and tired of sitting.

By the time I carefully made it back to my office, post-meeting, the run hadn’t gone long distance - so I sprayed the hell out of it with hairspray, and hoped it would stay put for awhile. Three cheers for skirts that hit just below the knee when I’m standing - or really, maybe it’s three cheers for being on the slightly vertically challenged side of life! (I am ~5’6” - not really short, but not really tall - soooooo… slightly vertically challenged.)


In any case, that pair of hose hit the trash when I got home this evening. They survived the day, from meeting marathon through evening Mass, like a *mostly* good and faithful servant.

God always finds a way to remind me of His sense of humor - and that I shouldn’t take some things - things like my pantyhose, and all-day meetings - quite so seriously. By the time I got to the church for evening Mass, I was just glad my workday was over, so I could spend some time with our Lord, in peace and quiet. The run in my hose was totally irrelevant.


Well, peace and quiet was a bit of a misadventure. You know how, when you’ve spent most of your day keyed up over something (like an all-day meeting, or some such stressful thing) - you can become totally exhausted, and not realize it until later? Yeah. That was me, sitting in the chapel this evening before Mass. Finally, a chance to sit in silence and enjoy the quiet, I thought. But my body said… “Ooooh, a prime opportunity to spin down for the day!!” Couple that with trying to pray a rosary, and you have the perfect recipe for fighting to stay awake before Mass.

I did finish the rosary (though it took me nearly 45 minutes), and I was legitimately awake by the time Mass began. I even managed to make dinner when I got home. Now, I’m cozied up under a blanket with my fuzzy poodle and a glass of wine, writing this, and grateful for God’s goodness - in all-day meetings that end well, rosaries that take longer than usual, evening Mass, fuzzy poodles, glasses of wine, and soon, a hopefully good night’s sleep, knowing that tomorrow, I’ll go to work and maybe get to do some science. :)

And tomorrow, no pantyhose will be involved. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

seven in seven: day one... a rough start

I do a fair amount of browsing around the Catholic blogosphere, and Jennifer Fulwiler's Conversion Diary is always a good read. I managed to browse her direction a couple of days ago, when she threw down a gauntlet to her readers that I just couldn't refuse: seven blog posts in seven days. 

I've been pretty bad at regularly writing here since I started this blog - partly because of my crazy life - and partly because I just haven't felt very blog-motivated lately. I've had a few blog post ideas that I couldn't manage to turn into anything interesting. This is a pretty stark contrast to the last blog I kept, to which I was pretty faithful. Well, until I just quit writing there... FAIL!!

Needless to say, I saw Jen's 7 in 7 post, and thought, "Hey! That's a great idea! Maybe it'll give me some motivation to actually write something and SHARE it!" 

Riiight. (Cue Bill Cosby's "Noah" sketch...)




So here I sit with my laptop, wondering what the heck I'm gonna write about tonight - so apparently, the pressure of needing to write a thoughtful, articulate blog post is just too much for me right now. ;-)  I could blame it on the wicked migraine that sent me home from work today to sleep for several hours in a dark, quiet room, with plenty of ibuprofen to go around. I could blame it on the fact that I'm already thinking about the almost all-day meeting I'm going to be in tomorrow. Joy. That alone should be about enough to give me me another headache. Or, I could blame it on all the other stuff cluttering my mind tonight. 

Good grief, what is this seven-posts-in-seven-days supposed to be - redemptive suffering??? I thought the migraine had already taken care of that! 

I suppose it's one more thing to offer up tonight. :-P 
The Lord works in mysterious ways, right?

Day 1 of 7: it may not be pretty, thoughtful, or articulate, but this is it. 

Day 2 will be better, right?! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

unworthy

Work has more or less sucked lately.

Don't get me wrong, I love the institution I work for - and I work with some truly amazing people, for whom I am grateful - but the past few weeks have been a perfect storm of frustration, stress, angst, and irritation. At times, the irritation has shifted to outright anger, for some reasons that I think are understandable - but the reasons being understandable is, perhaps, no excuse when I do not seek a more productive way to deal with the situation.

Times like these. Oh, times like these. Days and weeks like these. They remind me of the need for strategically placed vacation days(!!!!!).

Lately, they have deeply reminded me of my need for God's mercy, strength, and grace - and my own unworthiness when it comes to these - and of the grace of weekday Mass. I cannot count how many times in the last few weeks I have felt completely drained, kneeling to pray before an evening weekday Mass, and simply thanking our Lord for getting me through another day, being grateful to finally have a few moments of peace, and honest silence, to clear my head, to pray, to examine my conscience. (It also often reminds me of how grateful I should be for stable, gainful employment, even when parts of said employment make me feel like a crazy person!)

At the end of it all, I know it is all just another piece of the puzzle known as journeying (and struggling) through life with Christ. We all have our trials, our pains, our joys, our sorrows - they are all for a reason, and they are ultimately for our good.

Still, as I knelt during the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass this evening, knowing that in a few minutes I would serve as an Extraordinary Minister during Communion, I acutely felt my own unworthiness - that, in all my imperfection, in all of my failings throughout today - I would have the privilege, first to receive the sacred Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist - and then, the privilege to give the Blood of Christ to those gathered for the Mass. It is rather scary to consider receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord, knowing well my failings that day; and then, to hold a chalice and offer the Blood of Christ to the faithful? I mean, seriously. This is GOD we are talking about. Ultimate perfection - ultimate perfection that is willing to be received into a really, seriously, truly, definitely imperfect human vessel... and then to let that human vessel offer Him to others?!??

The words of a familiar hymn came to my mind, over and over, during the Eucharistic prayer this evening:

"O Lord, I am not worthy
That You should come to me
But speak the words of comfort, 
My spirit healed shall be.

O come, all you who labor, 
In sorrow and in pain
Come, eat this Bread from heaven, 
Your peace and strength regain.

O Jesus, we adore You, 
Our Victim, and our Priest. 
Whose precious Blood and Body
Become our sacred Feast. 

O Sacrament most holy, 
O Sacrament divine! 
All praise, and all thanksgiving, 
Be every moment Thine!"

Lord, I am not worthy. You know that, even better than I, because you know me better than I know myself. My sorrows and my pain are insignificant compared to those of others, let alone in comparison to your own - yet you heal me, just the same. Let me not forget that I cannot do this without you.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

love, martyrs, and Valentines

I've been absent from the blog for too long!!

This past Sunday, my Confirmation students and I discussed the mix of history and legend surrounding St. Valentine - for example, that there appear to have been several martyrs named Valentine in the history of the early Church - and that one of those Valentines was a Roman priest who may have been arrested for marrying Christian couples, and/or assisting the many Christians under persecution by the emperor of the time, Claudius II. The story goes that Valentine was beaten with clubs and stoned - and when neither of these effected his demise, he was beheaded.

We also discussed the fact that the Church celebrates the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius on February 14 - not the feast of St. Valentine. Although St. Valentine is listed in the Catholic martyrology, his feast day was dropped from the Roman Catholic calendar in 1969 - in part, as I understand it, due to the ambiguity surrounding how many Sts. Valentine there may have actually been, and the histories of their respective lives. (It should be noted that the skull of one of these Valentines was found in a Roman catacomb during an excavation in the 1800s. It is currently on display in the Basilica Santa Maria, in Rome. Pretty cool.)

Historical ambiguities aside, I think the most important thing to remember about St. Valentine is his martyrdom.

It’s important because martyrdom is not something the world in general gives much thought to anymore - and in an increasingly post-Christian society, it seems that many people don't really understand what a martyr is. 


Like, a martyr - as in, one of those dudes who died for his faith in Christ?

Yeah, St. Valentine was one of those.

Think about that for a minute.

Doesn’t it kind of give a different meaning to asking someone to be your Valentine? If you think about it in this context, asking someone to be your Valentine is tantamount to asking them if they are willing to die for you. Takes things a little beyond the level of candy hearts and chocolates, doesn't it?

Obviously, we don’t usually take such a serious approach to Valentine’s Day - and I’m not necessarily suggesting we should. Candy hearts and chocolates and all the fun things we associate with Valentine’s Day aren’t necessarily bad. 


However, I am suggesting that we should think about love, and the nature of love, much more seriously than our society-at-large does.

Love, like faith, is not an emotion. Love, like faith, is an act of the will. Sure, the emotions we experience when we are around the people we love can make that act of the will easier - just like catching a spiritual high at Mass or from a great praise and worship session can make the act of will that we call “faith” easier - but as anyone who has been married for more than even just a few months can tell you - love is a choice you make. In and out of season. Regardless of how you feel. 


It’s great when love feels good, but let’s face it: sometimes, love hurts. (Someone cue up the 70s tunes in the back?)

Love demands sacrifice. Love is willing to sacrifice for the good of the beloved, even when this means certain, unavoidable pain. It means that we are willing to die, whether in a figurative or literal sense, for our beloved. 


If you need proof, look at a crucifix.