Where is Jesus in it?

It is painfully beautiful to be alive.

I’ve experienced the piercing blade of beauty.  It makes you wince and feel more alive all at once.  The delicate blanket of fog that covers the lake nestled amidst the Swiss Alps.  A sunrise view atop a radio tower on a mountain in Austria.  Glorious fields of grain stretching to the horizon.  The crinkled eyes of a loved one when they are smiling.  Late nights spent talking with a friend you haven’t seen for too long.  In these moments, the beauty strikes our hearts and it is easy to see, take in, and embrace the glories of being alive.

Sometimes the emphasis seems to fall more on the side of pain as opposed to beauty.  Yet in most moments (I’m not certain if I can argue for all moments yet), one can find beauty in the pain, if one is willing to look for it.

The beauty found in the pain of: waking up early for work, a morning run with a dear friend when talking takes far too much effort, a heart overflowing with all sorts of emotions, and speaking difficult words that later bring peace.

And then there are the moments where life seems to blindside you, where the pain is evident but the beauty is masked.

A young person I barely knew recently died.  I guess I am uncertain what type of response I expected to have.  My heart ached and a heaviness filled it.  At one point, as captive tears broke free, I wondered if this is what it means to have a mature heart, one that can feel pain even when the tragedy doesn’t really change one’s life.  The pain didn’t just last for a few moments but seemed to linger, clouding my thoughts and casting a pallor over the next couple days.

It was uncertain how he died, but I kept imagining the different scenarios I was told.  At Mass on Saturday, I couldn’t help it.  My brain insisted on replaying the possible options, my heart aching with each dramatic death I imagined.  I hoped that maybe I would be able to speak to my spiritual director about it and gain his perspective.  Then I realized that I already knew what he would say to me.

He would ask, “Where is Jesus in it?”

So I tried it.  “Where is Jesus in this tragedy?”  I replayed the awful images but inserted Jesus into the mental video.  There He was–walking right beside the boy, tears coursing down His face, gently whispering his name.  It was a painfully beautiful experience as I watched Him carry him.  Soon I was including a guardian angel and the Blessed Mother into the picture.  It was transforming the scene.  The tragedy was still there, but the beautiful pain was making an appearance.

This truth that I had learned before was once again re-impressed on my heart: Christ never leaves us.  Regardless of what we do, how far we try to run, or what we tangibly experience, Jesus is always present, gently whispering our names, and desiring to enter into the wounds we try so hard to fill with insufficient medicine.

Throughout life, none of us walks or falls or lives alone.  Christ is always there in the midst.  And that is what makes life painfully beautiful.

“There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us.  There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered.  There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us.”     -St. John Paul the Great

El Cuerpo de Cristo

Setting: June, Rabanal del Camino, Spain

We are upstairs in the pilgrim house dorm room when piano music reaches our ears.  The playing is beautiful and my sister and I guess who is responsible for the beauty.  I guess one of our fellow pilgrims, Michael, and my sister guesses Fr. Javier, our beloved priest.  Curious, I creep down the outside garden steps and past the window that looks into the conference room with the piano.  It is Fr. Javier playing.

I leave for the chapel across the street for Confession.  When I return, the lovely music is still filling the house.  I peek into the room and my two traveling companions are there, listening.  I join them.  Sometimes I watch Fr. Javier play, glancing between his fingers and the music.  Other times, I sit with my eyes closed, simply delighting in the sound of classical music washing over me.  He finishes, we clap, and he smiles.

“What else?  Something by a Spanish composer.  Ah, yes.  This one.”  He finds the page.  “I’m a romantic.”  I want to chime in, “Me too!”  Fr. Javier continues, “This one is called “Eva and Walter,”  It is very nice.  Very simple.”

It is both.  As he plays, I am picturing Eva and Walter sitting on a bench or walking through a park.  At one point I believe I am in the perfect moment in time.  Fr. Javier is filling the house with music, a gentle but steady rain is pouring through the opening in the garden roof, and Patricia (the hospitalera) is it the kitchen preparing supper.  Here we are–a lovely family that eats together and prays together.  This is “El Cuerpo de Cristo.”

                                                   A little “Eva y Walter” for you to enjoy!

God is in the detail

“The Devil is in the detail” is a phrase I’ve heard but never really used.  It came to mind today and I thought, “Actually, God is in the details.”  Turns out, “God is in the detail” was the first phrase and the devil one is a spin-off.  Just like him, too.  Never being creative, simply sloppily redoing something of God’s genius and trying to pawn it off as his own invention.

God is found in the details of everyday life.  The other day, I was driving back to my house and took a moment to look around the road I was on.  I mean–to really see.  I noticed the pieces of icy snow alongside the road, the way the sun was shining on the cars driving under the bridge, and the lines of watery dust dried on my windshield.  It was a moment where I stopped and saw.  Too often I skim over the details.  I’m lost in my thoughts as I drive or I will drive past the exact same scene and never notice it really.

Today I went to Mass at the hospital, and I was absentmindedly staring at the stained glass at the front.  For as many times as I’ve seen the window, I should be able to draw it from memory.  But I couldn’t, even though my mind has often wandered to finding the different patterns in the window.  Or the other day, I was driving to the interstate ramp and noticed that the trailer court extended much further than I realized.  The stoplight consistently forces me to read the entrance sign for the trailer court, but that day as I drove by, I glanced back and saw how far it extended.  It was an entire community that I had only thought of as a handful of trailers settled near a busy road.

I realize that it wouldn’t be possible to notice all of the details all of the time.  With the rows of houses and flashing digital signs, I would be inundated with too much stimuli if I truly took all of it in.  However, I can do a better job at noticing my surroundings, of taking the time to pause, look around me, and truly see.

God is in the details of my daily life and maybe I am just not truly seeing Him at work.  My goal is to slow down and see the beauty that is found simply in the present moment and place.

Beholding Your Beauty

 

“The acute experience of great beauty readily evokes a nameless yearning for something more than earth can offer.  Elegant splendor reawakens our spirit’s aching need for the infinite, a hunger for more than matter can provide.”                                                          -Fr. Thomas Dubay

An acute experience of great beauty.  Sometimes beauty pierces the heart and the soul.  It catches your breath.  It very nearly makes you weep.  It is a heart-rending experience of something that makes you long for far more, yet causes tremendous gratitude that you were able to experience that small glimpse.

Photo cred for this one goes to my little sister

It can be something seemingly insignificant.  The most recent things that have caused my heart to swoon have been trees.  Last Friday, I was driving to Mass and passed a tree bellowing the glory of God.  It was the perfect shade of golden-red and I felt tears come to my eyes as I gazed at it.  It was a moment of intimate union in my car as I moved passed the tree.  It happened again last night at my parents’ house.  The tree was filled with beauty and sunshine and the brilliant contrast of golden leaves with scarlet was arresting.  Even with my arms laden with papers, I still took a few minutes to gawk at the loveliness of creation.

Yesterday, the priest at Mass focused on beauty and how it can pull us in to something beyond what we can see.  I was in love with his descriptions of different moments of beauty.  Part of me wondered if this is a common experience, the transformative power of beauty that causes one to stop and stare with unabashed brazen wonder.

It happened to me in Switzerland, a land I became firmly convinced that could never be home to atheists.  I wondered how they could look at their mountains and lakes and not see God.  Yet we can all be in beautiful situations and places and simply pass them by, not concerned with the truly monumental aspects.

Take a few moments to soak in the beauty of fall, the beauty of this world.  Gaze at a lovely painting, listen to a classical work, drive through the autumnal countryside–draw up into your soul all of the beauty that surrounds you and let yourself be drawn up into it as well.

I Desire a Heavenly Mindset

Last night, with the adventures of homecoming safely a week behind me, I found myself reminiscing about my own high school homecoming week.  It was quite easy to slip into romanticizing that time in my life because there is no risk that I will be caused to repeat it again.  My memories centered on the competition of the week, the class rivalries that emerged in full force, the class skits performed in which each teacher was fair game, and the exhilaration that filled the entire school for one precious week.  Throughout the week we would have games each day and the competition was fierce.  Seniors almost always won but it was the goal of each grade to produce an upset, one in which only obnoxious cheating would result in the triumph of the seniors.  My junior year was probably the most competitive.  The skits were hilarious and all of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) teachers were impersonated and analyzed.  (Note: As a teacher now, this is always a fear of mine when the students are given the chance to make fun of the teachers.  I sit in the gym, waiting anxiously, hoping that I wasn’t memorable enough or disliked enough to become the focus of students’ laughter.)  My junior year we won the “Olympics” and the triumph was palpable.  We gathered in our class sections in the gym bleachers and would chant our anthems. “J-U-N I-O-R…Junior, Junior, Junior!!!”  “0-8 0-8 0008”  The shouting echoed off the walls of the gym.  That memory is one of my favorites–the class anthems, the school spirit, the energy, the competition. 

I can almost trick myself into believing that that experience was high school.  It was not.  High school wasn’t traumatizing for me, but it wasn’t the best experience of my life.  I liked school and I was involved in numerous activities: choir, band, volleyball, track statistician, plays, oral interp, and TATU to name some.  It was a great time of development…but it wasn’t perfect.

That is one of my problems.  I am excellent at romanticizing the past and thinking of it in the best ways.  This doesn’t hold true for everything but for many things it does.  I think back (way back!) to college and I am able to make it free from any trials or difficulties.  I think, “Trish, do you remember that time that your job was to read theology books and write papers?  When you hung out with friends several times each week?  When you felt like you were changing the world by being in the pro-life movement?  Remember when you went to New Mexico and twice to Honduras for mission trips?  Remember traveling around Europe?  Wasn’t that the absolute best time of your life?”  And looking at all of those adventures and blessings, I am convinced that I should be there and not here.  What is very easy to overlook is the fatigue, the stress of completing two theses in one semester (even if that was my fault entirely), trying to finish the endless stream of homework, wanting to hang out with friends but not being able to, worrying that we wouldn’t fundraise enough for the mission trips, the excessive tiredness.  All of that is easy to forget in the quest to make college “the best years of my life.” 

The point is this: the past is easy to love because we don’t face its challenges in the present.  Of course there are difficulties in my present life but those are more keenly felt because they are the present.  In high school I was left with this feeling that nobody understood me.  The friendships I had weren’t rooted in Christ and therefore often seemed shallow.  In college I had the blessing of making those friendships and seeing how quickly they blossomed simply because we were rooted in the same soil.  Now I am able to see the beauty of those friendships even though I don’t find myself immediately surrounded by them anymore.  Instead I see from afar those friends continue to grow and impact the world.  They are getting married, they are having babies, they are continuing on with their lives.  As for myself, I am growing and changing, even if at a slower pace than I would like.  The past was necessary to make me who I am today, but now I need to live in today.  I need to live in today with all of its trials and difficulties–with the sophomores that won’t listen to me, with the seniors that are quick to roll their eyes at my statements, with the other teachers that don’t quite know how to take me, with the desire to live out my vocation yet being caught in a seemingly indefinite waiting place. 

Perhaps instead of gazing jealously at the past, I should look with anticipation to the future.  Imagine Heaven.  All of the beautiful people I know, all of the gorgeous places I’ve seen, and all of the lovely experiences I’ve been blessed with, all rolled into one and magnified greatly–this is Heaven.  When I focus on that goal, the end prize, the eternal life with God in Heaven, then the pains and irritations of today seem to pale in significance. 

“The Glory of the Lord, therefore, is the super eminently luminous beauty of divinity beyond all experience and all descriptions, all categories, a beauty before which all earthly splendors, marvelous as they are, pale into insignificance.”  The Evidential Power of Beauty

Simple Beauties

I like simplicity.  And I like beauty.  I am continually amazed by things that would be so easy to pass by or discount as being of little importance.  A simple cup of coffee from home on the way to work with the sun shining on the plains filled my heart with joy.  The Sacred Host exposed in vulnerable love as voices rise like incense to fragrance Our Lord’s throne.  A glorious sunset that mixes the palette of colors into a never before seen array of splendor.  The simplicity of a humble priest who, with eyes closed in a concentration that must have been often etched upon Our Lord’s face, raises his hand to absolve me from my sins.  The moment in the confessional when you say the Act of Contrition and you are struck for the first time by the words “but most of all because I have offended Thee, O God, who art all good…”  My heart desiring the simplicity of a human love that will rival all fiction and will lead me steadfastly to Heaven’s embrace.  The conversations with dear sisters placed hundreds of miles away from me.  This song.  A beautiful red tomato freshly picked from the garden and an apple harvested from the nearby tree.  This picture:

A moment to stop, look around at the countryside, and breathe in a deep breath of crisp autumn air.  The silence, the peace, the luxury of looking across the land and seeing no human person in sight.  The knowledge that I am because He always is. 

Sunflowers for the Teacher

Yesterday I probably should have been preparing or sleeping or doing something mildly helpful but instead I was watching the sequel to “Anne of Green Gables” and loving it.  She is a character that I like to think I am similar to.  While many mightn’t see the correlation, it is there–the competitive streak, the stubbornness, the ability to hold grudges forever, the teaching career, the desire to write, etc.  So after watching the movie, I went out and picked some sunflowers near the railroad tracks.  I felt a little like Anne as I did so.  As I meandered into the tall grass, I tried to keep my imagination from thinking of the snakes and various animals that could lie lurking amid the grass and stickers.  I cut some sunflowers, brushing off more than a few bugs, and thought of how Anne-like I would seem as I walked home with a bunch of sunflowers gathered in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other.  I was only missing a long skirt and a head of red hair.  [Not to mention a gorgeous man in love with me since meeting me.  Alas, no Gilbert Blythe for me.  Oh, well…that is of little importance.  🙂 ]

The little sunflowers, now smiling and nodding happily on my desk, have been a source of joy for me this entire day.  They are drinking up some cool, clear water and rest in a vase that I found at a thrift store with my sister.  Pale translucent green and delicate, the vase dazzles with the beauty of simple wild sunflowers in it and the sunlight streaming through the window.  I had prepared the perfect words for if my students asked about the flowers so that I wouldn’t have to lie and yet it wouldn’t be revealed that I live at home.  I’m not certain if they even noticed them.  Nevertheless, they brought joy to the teacher.

The Lord loves me through beauty.  The beautiful look of attention on a few students’ faces…the radiant sun sharing its warmth…the intimacy of Mass in a school chapel, surrounded by youth…the successful completion of my first full week of school…the satisfaction of a classroom of my own…the anticipation of family togetherness tonight…music that makes me dance or think…the knowledge that I have two blessed days that stretch out before me with no lessons to teach…time with my sister before she heads off to school…the enduring hope and eager anticipation of Heaven.  Thanks, Lord.

"Quo Vadis" — A Call to Bearing Witness to Authentic Christian Living

I recently read Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz and was drawn deeply into the story.  It is set in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero and tells the tale of the beginnings of Christianity.  While I enjoy history, I am probably far more uninformed than I should be and thus it took me a bit by surprise to read of the moral depravity found in Rome.  Sienkiewicz accomplished the arduous task of transporting the reader into the time period and understanding the tradition of the times.  Prior to the revolution of Christianity, Rome was a burgeoning epicenter of vice and immorality.  The feasts held by Nero were consumed with gorging oneself on food, drink, praise, lust, and selfish whims.

Enter Christianity.

The Christians are portrayed as being something entirely different from the rest of the Romans.  They are set apart and act with never before seen goodness, honesty, and courage.  When faced with betrayal and anger, they freely bestow forgiveness.  The Christian life is not presented as easy by any means, but it is presented as filled with light and being something beyond human powers.  As I read this book I thought about how beautiful it was that the witness of Christians to the truth in word and deed was able to transform a sinful culture.

Think about that: the witness of Christians in their words and deeds consistent with what they profess to believe was able to transform a culture of death and vice. 

Nero spread the lie that the Christians were responsible for the great fire in Rome but when the citizens saw the goodness that was at the root of the Christian life, they doubted the words of their emperor.  While the martyrdom of the early Christians seemed to provide a set-back for the Church, soon they were inundated with many people who wanted to be Christians.  The bloody deaths they endured do not seem to be good advertisement to prospective members, but they were drawn by their courage, love, and the manner in which they died.  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.  By their faithful witness to Christ and His teachings, they were the compelling force that spoke to the basic dignity of the human person, the freedom found in forgiveness, and the willingness to die for that which one firmly believes. 

I found myself thinking that if it happened once, what is to stop it from happening again?  We are again facing a culture of death and a world riddled with vice.  Yet the Truth is still living and active.  What if we became the faithful Christians who lived what Our Lord taught and by this simple witness were able to spark another revolution?  To be a Christian is in essence to be a revolutionary.  In Quo Vadis the words on the lips of Vinicius, one of the central characters, struck me as something that perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to proclaim today.

“It’s not enough, you see, to honor Christ with rituals and worship. You have to live according to his teaching, and that’s like coming to the edge of an ocean and being told to go across on foot. It’s deeds, not words, that matter to these people….There’s no longer a difference between the conqueror and the conquered, the rich and the poor, the master and the slave. Christianity means the end of all authority, of government, of Caesar, of the laws, and of established order as we know it. Instead there is Christ. There is an instant sense of mercy never found anywhere before. What follows is such superhuman goodness that it overturns everything we know about mankind…I tell you frankly there’s nothing more at odds with my character than this Christian teaching, but I simply can’t tell who I am since I brushed against it. Is this love or magic? I don’t know…I feel as if they’ve changed my soul!”

Our very souls must be changed, must be transformed by the very life of Christ.  If we simply go to Mass each Sunday, we are not giving a faithful Christian witness.  Our lives must be filled to the brim with the Gospel, it needs to find it’s way into every aspect of our life.  We must be the people that others look at and are amazed at our goodness, forgiveness, and zeal.  Not because we desire the praise, but because we are witnessing to what a life rooted in Christ actually is.  When I think of the early Christian martyrs the last words to come to mind are: mediocrity, comfort, politically correct, and fashionable.  If we desire to be like the early Christians, then we must also abandon the hopes of being able to live a mediocre, comfortable, and easy life.  When I look within myself, I discover that I am very attached to all of those things.  I want to be great and be a saint, but I also don’t want the sacrifice that is necessary.

Sienkiewicz very clearly presents the seeming contradiction found in the truth that the more you surrender to Christ, the more happiness and freedom you gain.  Vinicius wonders how he could be happy giving up the life of Roman decadence he has always known, but the happiness he discovers is of a far grander and long-lasting sort.  From the witness of the early Christian martyrs to the modern men and women who dedicate their entire lives to Christ in the priesthood or religious life, we see that Christ asks to be Lord of everything.  He asks for much but He rewards generously.  We may not be popular or comfortable in this world, but He promises to prepare a place for us in Heaven.  We may experience ridicule and humiliation, but then we would be simply following in the footsteps of the King of Kings as He was nailed to a cross. 

The world will hate us because we are not of this world.  But we serve a King who is not of this world and who has already conquered it.  The battle has already been decided.  Truth prevails, Goodness wins, Love conquers all!  Which side will we find ourselves on? 

If Rome can be transformed from vice to virtue, can not our world once again become what it ought to be?  I do not know what the Lord will ask of me in the future in order to bring about His Kingdom, but I do desire to have the grace and courage to do as He asks.  After a radical encounter with Truth, we cannot remain as if we have not changed. 

Imagine what the Lord could do with a few souls that do only His will.

Will you be one?  Will you say yes to the grace that is trying to flood your soul and pierce every avenue of your life?  Will I say yes?

Pray for me, dear reader, and I will pray for you.  May the Lord give us the grace to endure whatever may come.  The grace to follow Him to Rome to be crucified, to the classroom to be mocked, to the office to be scourged, to the public forum to be humiliated, to our families to be dismissed, and to our world to be belittled.  And may the world be transformed by the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that we bear witness to through God’s grace.

 

Oh, the humanity!

I have a secret that I would love to share with you.  It may shock you and take you totally by surprise, but it is something you should probably come to terms with now.

We are human.

It is true.  With all of the beautiful messiness that is involved with being a part of this human race, we sometimes forget this truth.  While it doesn’t mean that everyone is excused for anything wrong that they do simply on the grounds that they are a member of fallen humanity, it does change one’s perspective of the matter.  Through reading another blog I’ve been introduced to the author Heather King and I must say she is altering the way I think. 

She gets to the heart of things and tends to present things in a way that is both naked (i.e. uncomfortable and unvarnished) and refreshing.  One of the things that was emphasized in a book of hers that I was reading was that we are a beautiful mess, we are broken, we are fallen but that it is because of all of these things that we should embrace life.  In all of the sufferings and troubles, we are alive and that is something that she wouldn’t trade for anything.

The chance to suffer.  We don’t typically approach suffering with a sense that we are glad to have this experience.  Very recently I experienced the death of my grandpa.  It was a time in which I was invited to enter into suffering.  Yet while I am grieving, I have also been witnessing the ways that my family is dealing with their grief.  My observations have lead to many more prayers for my family.  The raw grief I see in some of my family causes me to wonder if I am experiencing this so much differently because I have a strong relationship with the Lord or if it is because I loved him less or if it is because I am allowing myself to remain detached.  I’m not quite certain which it is, to be honest.  The brokenness of the human person has again been revealed to me.  I view this not with a sense of condemnation but rather with a sorrow at the human condition.  We are all reckless wanderers without the cross of Christ grounding us. 

Welcome to this broken, sinful, beautiful, wonderful world filled with humans who are the same.  There is this hole within each of us.  Hollywood tells us that our weight or clothes can fill this hole.  Romantic movies tell us that our hole will be filled by that perfect man/woman we are waiting to find.  Other facets of the modern world encourage money, material gain, people, or feelings to fill this void we have. 

You cannot complete me.  I cannot complete you.  Whenever I get married, I will never want to hear from that man (as wonderful, charming, and romantic though he may be) that he completes me.  He does not.  I am a mere human.  I need something greater than me to give sense and purpose to my life, to ground me when the world is hopelessly and desperately spinning out of control, to love me when I am acting in ways that are completely unlovable, to understand me when I do not even know what I understand, to fight for me when I am giving up, and to reveal Truth to me when I am believing lies.  It is unfair to expect any human to do all of these things.  We are flawed human beings, but we are beautiful.  We are beautiful not in our brokenness but in the ways God desires to use our brokenness to bring about wholeness, to cause greater healing.  These deep needs that I have can only be truly fulfilled by Our Lord.

As a human, I will fail and make mistakes.  I will judge others, I will sin, I will hurt others, and I will fail to be forgiving.  As a human, I will let you down and I will fail to live up to the standards of a Christian.  But humans also make big comebacks.  I’ve seen them within my family and I’ve seen them within myself. 

God has a soft spot for humanity.  He knows what we are through and through.  He became man to reveal to us this great love He has.  But He is the one person (or three persons?) that we can rely on entirely, who can fill the hole in our hearts, who has lived in this beautiful and messy world and managed to make sense of it all by an act of extreme foolish love.  The cross–an act of folly that is the only true sense in the world.

Embark on the adventure of life today striving to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Try to see the beautiful ridiculousness of this world and to rejoice in the glories of humanity.  And then draw near to the cross of Christ, pray to each person in the Blessed Trinity, and lay the strongest foundation that you possibly can.  We are human.  God understands that.  Nevertheless, strive to be the saint God calls you to be.  And let’s learn to love like Him. 

Romans 5:8

Grace-filled Moments

 I stepped out of the humble house and into the early morning air.  Although I didn’t know what time it was, I knew that is was early despite the warm sun that was steadily filling the village with light.  Embracing the time of solitude, I walked to a hammock and prayed morning prayer, with pauses to watch the water crash on the rocky coastline.

Perfection. 

No, perfection was when I finished prayer and spotted a little boy who was creeping around, casting side-long glances at me.  After going inside to get my camera, I had a mini photo shoot with him and his friends.  They were adorable.  One moment they were posing for pictures and the next they were crowded around my camera, only to double over with delight as they saw themselves on the little screen. 

Or perhaps perfection was the feeling of being loved and acceptable absolutely as we entered a village unannounced and were immediately given food and shelter.  Each meal was the best that they could offer–we even had lobster for breakfast one time.  It was being invited to a captain’s house and hearing him explain that he would have been at Mass the night before but that he had been out in the water and didn’t know about it. 

Or perhaps it was the ride in the rickety old boat that seemed ill-suited for six people and backpacks.  It was a simple boat with a motor strapped on the back that cruised over impressive swells.  The water sprayed my face, the sun kissed my fair skin, and my excitement was mixed with silent prayers that we wouldn’t sink.  But then someone spotted a dolphin and soon after I viewed a wild dolphin racing in the water.

Or perhaps perfection was the joy of hiking through the coastal landscape–crawling over rocks, racing up steep inclines, stopping to enjoy the glories of coconut water while sweat ran down my face and back in rivulets.  The moments of pausing to dip our bottles into the cool springs so that we could filter the water to be suitable for our weak stomachs.  Walking to villages to which no cars can arrive simply to bring the best one could offer–Christ present in the Eucharist.  Watching the people unlock their churches with a sense of pride that is difficult to find in the “developed” world and then hearing them spread the word throughout the village that a priest was in their midst.   

Perhaps, in my mind, Honduras is perfection in every aspect.  I understand that the country is going through difficult times, that the homicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and that poverty is abundant.  But I experienced so much grace and perfection in Honduras.  The Lord blessed me with being able to go to Honduras twice for spring break mission trips in college.  As I saw the poverty of the people, I saw a simplicity that made my heart ache.  It made me want to return home and give all of my extra possessions away.  It made me want to become a missionary after college.  And right now it fills me with a desire to return to Honduras someday. 

Honduras has been on my mind lately because in just a few days another mission trip will be launched to that beautiful country and my heart aches to be with them.  Yet I can go back and embrace the memories and for a moment, I am in that grace-filled place again, walking through the coastal land, eating fresh seafood, celebrating Mass with people who manage to praise God in the midst of adversity. 

Heaven is indescribable.  I like to think that Heaven will be like all of the beautiful, grace-filled moments of my life linked together…and then more.  It will be the sum of beautiful adoration hours, hikes in foreign countries, the smell of incense, the feeling of a bed after a long day, the delirious joy of the Holy Spirit, the thankfulness of a student, the embrace of a cloistered sister, the glory of a sun-bathed afternoon, every delightful food, and the reunion of each beautiful friend…and more. 

In the midst of times that seem less grace-filled, it is nice to be able to go back and re-live some moments where I knew the Lord was working and present.  Yet not to get lost in them.  Simply to experience the joy and then return to the present with a renewed vigor to pray for God’s kingdom to come now…in me and in this world.