When Simplicity Must Be Chosen

When Simplicity Must Be Chosen

Nearly three years ago, I strapped on a hiking backpack and walked five hundred miles.  As I walked El Camino de Santiago, people crossed my path who were completing the pilgrimage for the second or third time.  While beautiful, I wondered why people would complete this trek multiple times.  Once will be enough for me, I thought.

Yet now and again, I find myself longing to be on some dusty trail in the midst of the Spanish countryside.  It isn’t because of my love for travel, although I suppose that does play a role.  My desire to be on the Camino for a second time stems largely from my desire for simplicity.

On the Camino, it is easy to be simple.  In fact, it is almost a requirement that one be simple.  On your back, you carry all of your clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries, etc.  Everything you think you will need along the Way, you must plod every blessed mile with it fastened to your back.

Sometimes it annoyed me to live so simply.  I wanted a different outfit to wear.  I was surprised at how much I found myself longing for a real towel and not the travel towel I would use each day.  At times I wished to simply remain in the same place for more than an evening.  There were several things that made me not like living simply.

Yet, in a very authentic way, I realized my heart was made for simplicity.  When my closet of clothes overflows and the laundry basket is full, when my bookshelves no longer have room for the books I insist on buying, or when I find myself shopping online for things I realize I do not need, I remember that my heart is a simple heart.  Yet I wish simplicity was forced upon me instead of needing to be chosen.

My possessions have a weight and I want to be free.

Sitting in a cluttered room, I find myself slightly jealous of my older sisters and their vows of poverty.  To be free to be poor.  I know I romanticize poverty, but there is a longing in my heart for less.  And in that less, I know I will find more.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

For over thirty days, I walked the Camino and if I did it again, I would pack less.  There is a simple beauty in choosing between two outfits.  There is a simplicity found in needing to walk a few miles each day.  I’ve never been so aware of my feet before.  And rarely have I felt like I’ve spent the entire day just being and walking in the Lord’s company.  Those lovely, simple things make the Camino something I wish I could be doing right now. Continue reading “When Simplicity Must Be Chosen”

Maybe Friendship Could Change the World

Maybe Friendship Could Change the World

Not too long ago, I went out for supper with a friend.  There were couples and families out at the restaurant, but I was struck by the groups of women there.  One long table was filled with women who appeared to be out celebrating some event.  But there were at least two other booths of women and it made my heart glad to see them there.

Between bites of food and conversation, I would glance over at the booths of women.  They were already seated by the time we got there and, after we had a leisurely meal, they were still there when we left.  Perhaps it seems strange, but seeing these groups gave me encouragement.  What they were doing was simple: it was a handful of women out for food and drinks.  I never saw them photograph themselves or their food.  Instead, they were talking and listening to one another.  I couldn’t hear their conversation and I didn’t want to, yet it was obvious that it wasn’t superficial banter.  Different ladies would speak and the rest would listen intently.  It was obvious that they were drawn together by bonds of trust and friendship.

Did they speak about work successes or any difficulties involved?  Did they discuss dating relationships or family matters?  Were they discussing ideas or the state of world affairs?  I don’t know, but I am convinced they were discussing matters that they held close to their hearts.

I will never argue that I am the best at maintaining or building friendships, but I know that true, authentic friendships add a richness to life.  While I had friends in high school, I think my first experience of deep friendships happened at college.  I’m not one to have lots and lots of friends or share deeply with many people, but I found a great joy in entering into intimate friendship with people who pursued the same values I did. Continue reading “Maybe Friendship Could Change the World”

The Evangelized Family

The Evangelized Family

I am a long way from having a family and kids of my own, but this morning I was led to consider what I would want it to look like.  Although I didn’t come up with specifics, I reflected on a few elements that I would like to implement somehow.  From my vantage point, I am still able to be filled with high-minded ideals and hopeful expectation of a peaceful family life.  In the midst of fighting children, endless laundry, and a whirlwind of activities, I am sure my ideals will be made a bit more practical and a bit less perfected.

While at times difficult to discern, parents have a tremendous impact in shaping their children’s personalities and values.  Yesterday, my sister and I took our niece and nephews to a play.  Throughout the whole play, my niece would slide over to me and say excitedly, “I can’t wait!” or “I’m so excited!”  It never really made sense to me until I re-told the story to her mom later.  My sister-in-law said that her daughter was probably saying what she had been saying over the past few days in anticipation of moving to a new home.  If this can happen for phrases or actions, then the same would be true for matters of faith.

Parents are the primary educators of their children in the faith.  When parents model the faith, the children will seek to do the same thing.  It is a monumental task that can seem a bit overwhelming.  At their baptism, you promise to instruct them in the faith and lead them to Heaven.  So this morning in Mass, I considered: how does one do this?   Continue reading “The Evangelized Family”

His Terrifying Vulnerability

His Terrifying Vulnerability

There is a terrifying vulnerability in how His arms are outstretched.

I’m not certain I had ever quite seen it that way before.  At Sunday Mass, I was looking up at the large crucifix behind the altar and I was slightly fearful.  That wide open heart, that vulnerable heart, that posture of being unable to defend oneself is what He wants from me.  And it scares me.

A nail pierces each hand, fixing them in place.  He is unable to shield Himself from anything: not the hurled insults, not the mockery, not the physical blows should it come to that.  Briefly, I pictured myself unable to curl up into a ball to protect my heart, to shield my face.  It was terrifying.  I would not be simply defenseless before loved ones but before my enemies.  That place of weakness seemed to be too much to bear.  At least in the face of persecution and mockery, I like to appear to be strong and resilient.

And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!  (Luke 23:35-37)

Continue reading “His Terrifying Vulnerability”

An Encounter of Love

An Encounter of Love

October is known as “Respect Life month” in the Church, but it is important to not reduce this to merely life in the womb.  Pro-lifers are sometimes accused of being only pro-babies and at times that accusation rings a little too true.  Babies, you see, are easy to love.  They are adorable, helpless, and are fun to shower with affection.

Yet while babies are a delight to love, it is the other people I struggle to love.  To be pro-life, though, means to be for the lives of every person, regardless of their personal appeal or state in life.  Such a worldview is one that is hard to cultivate.  However, if we claim to be pro-life we must work to achieve that broadness of heart.

When I was in college, I had multiple encounters with a living pro-life saint, Msgr. Reilly from Brooklyn, NY.  Few can rival his dedication to the pro-life movement.  He stands for hours outside abortion clinics, praying for the people who enter and offering alternatives accompanied by a genuine smile.  While he is located outside an abortion clinic, he is not simply offering love to the pregnant mothers and fathers.  He is loving the doctors, nurses, clinic escorts, men, women, and friends.  Each person who enters or passes by the clinic is shown an authentic witness of love.

My heart is much smaller than Msgr. Reilly’s heart, but I learned quite a bit from him.  Initially, I was all about the babies.  Through his words and witness, my heart began to be changed.  I began to feel love for the mothers and fathers who entered the clinic.  Then I began to experience an authentic love for the clinic escorts who thwarted our every attempt to offer help and compassion.  Finally, I was moved by love to encounter the doctors who performed abortions. Continue reading “An Encounter of Love”

Living Authentic Desires

What if I lived how I truly wanted to live rather than how I wanted to live right now?

Maybe there doesn’t seem to be a difference in those two versions, but in my life, sadly, there is.  I’m a bit dense.  It takes a while for things to sink into this head of mine.  While I often know what would be best for me, I take the easier path and attempt to satisfy deeper desires with more superficial things.

St. Paul understands this little heart of mine.  Perhaps it is simply a condition of humanity.  “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  (Romans 7:15)  Even if what I’m doing isn’t sinful, it isn’t living up to the calling God has for my life.  I settle for mediocrity when I am called to be extraordinary.

Examples needed?  My life yields plenty of material.

I truly want to go pray.  I’ve thought about it several times in a given day and I know it would bring peace.  But I’m tired.  So I scroll through Facebook.

I want to go for a run.  But I’m tired.  So I take a nap instead, planning to go for a run the next day.

I want to spend some time reading a book.  But I’m tired.  So I watch a movie instead.

There are a couple trends that should be noted.
1. I’m tired so often.
2. While I know what I should do (and what would actually satisfy the desires of my heart more), I tend to opt for the path that requires far less of me.

Yet when I actually put aside my momentary desires and do what requires a little more effort or discipline, I am always amazed at the internal peace that occurs.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through the internet, I go to adoration.  I’m far more pleased with myself (because even as I’m wasting time on my computer, there is a nagging feeling that I am not doing what I ought) and I feel a deeper peace because I did what my soul needed, I did what I actually wanted to do.

Sometimes what I want to do, isn’t what I actually want to do.  And sometimes what I don’t want to do, is actually what I really want to do.

It makes me wonder why following my own heart’s desires is so difficult.  Sadly, it is far too easy for the true desires to get overlooked by far more superficial, temporary wants.  On the drive home from the church, I was thinking, “What if I always lived so that I was actually doing what I wanted to do and what was best for me?”  My internal response?  “Huh.”  As though following my authentic desires was a novel concept.

Yet this is what the saints did.  They lived!  As saints they fulfilled the deepest, authentic desires of their hearts and did not succumb to the lazy wants that surfaced.

I could be such a better person if I followed my true desires (at times, genuine promptings of the Holy Spirit) instead of what I felt like doing in the moment.  I could be a saint if I did now what I knew I should do, instead of waiting for a later, more convenient time.

The path to sanctity is now.  And it is truly what I want.  So why not start?

“Do now- Do Now- what you’ll wish you had done when your moment comes to die.”   -St. Angela Merici

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A Reflection of Authenticity

A Reflection of Authenticity
A Reflection written in France
 

Among the swarms of people, residents and visitors, that bustle through Paris, I am merely a face.  Living in a city causes people to think and act in different ways.  Just being with the people, riding in the Metro with them, traversing their streets, I began to feel how closed off they are to the world.  Everyone is wearing a mask–to protect themselves, to not let others see their true selves.

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At one point, I was deeply frustrated with it.  I feel like the quest of the last few months has been to learn authenticity.  Who am I really?  Who is God really?  How is our relationship doing?  It has been all about not staying on the surface but delving deeper.  “Become who you are!”  I was in Paris meeting peoples’ eyes and smiling, but then I remembered city people don’t do that and it could send a message I don’t want.
Riding on the Metro I knew I stood out with my large hiking backpack, but I felt like I fit in more when I acted bored, had a blank look on my face, and appeared to care little about the stops.  We encountered young ladies near the Eiffel Tower who wanted signatures to help the deaf and the mute.  I’m not entirely sure how their attempt to target only English-speakers would actually help the deaf and the mute of France, but that was their mission.  The beggars at the churches–are they actually poor or is it all a ruse?
It bothered me to be living in a world of masks when I was striving for authenticity.  I hate trying to evaluate people’s motives when my innate desire is to trust.  I want to believe in people.  At one point I looked at the crowd and thought of how each person is a well, their depths cannot be plumbed.  Yet if we cut off the deeper parts of ourselves, if we live as masks instead of just hiding behind them, if we live so long in the superficial and shallow, we will begin to lose our ability to go deep, we will lose our belief that we even have depth.  We will become the masks we wear.
Perhaps this is why the faith appears to be dying.  People are tired of masks of holiness.  They, whether they know it or not, crave authenticity.  And the pagan world presents at least one thing authentically–I want to live without rules or morals but simply in the pursuit of pleasure.

How does one live authenticity in a world of masks?  I don’t know exactly but I have some ideas.  Don’t feign indifference when you actually care.  Care less about appearance and more about actuality.  Live deeply.  Penetrate the inner depths you have and seek to know others at a deeper level, too.  Refuse to be content with living in the shallow end, but rather put out into the deep!