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. 


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. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014


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.