Humans are surprising creatures.
They have the unique capacity for acts of tremendous, selfless good. Yet they also carry within themselves the capacity for unspeakable acts of horror. Perhaps even more significant, though, is the capacity humans have for change and transformation.
I spent this past weekend helping with a retreat at a men’s prison.
Several times, I was asked by the inmates and the volunteers if it was what I expected. The truth was I didn’t quite know what to expect from the weekend. I was a bit nervous to enter in. Not nervous for the gate to slam behind me or to be locked into the prison. Not nervous that a riot would start. Not nervous that I would be injured or harmed. Rather, I was uneasy about how I would be received. What would we talk about? What would the men be like? Would they make me uncomfortable or would they be kind?
In the reality, humanity inside the prison is very much like humanity outside the prison. Some of the men were very kind and genuine. Others seemed to want an unhealthy amount of attention. Some wanted to share their hearts. Others wanted to stay only on the surface. Some admitted they made mistakes. Others insisted everything was fine or that they weren’t treated fairly. Some respected authority. Others used each opportunity they had to poke at the officers responsible for them. They reminded me an awful lot of my students and the world around me. Which isn’t all that surprising, but it was different to experience it instead of just think about it.
There was a unique point in the retreat when the group reflected on how God uses all for His good. In our small group, my sister mentioned that God uses everything and that even though they were in prison for something wrong they had done, they were still encountering Him on a retreat. Maybe this time in prison was a good, because God can use all for good. And it was beautiful to see at least some of them agree. They talked about how it was likely that they could have been dead if they weren’t in prison. If they continued on their previous course, it was easy for them to see how it would have led to their demise.
Continue reading “Amazing Grace: A Weekend in Prison”
This is a day that seems filled with disputes, particularly this year, about the Catholicity or Anti-Catholicity of the festivities. I’ve never been a die-hard Halloween person, but growing up, we did the typical trick-or-treating and dressing up in costumes, generally not of a religious nature. Nearly every year I went as something that could be assembled at home. One year I was a clown, another a scarecrow, and another year an old lady. (That last one was last year.) I enjoyed my mom’s creativity and how she pulled together costumes and matched it up with heavy make-up to play the part more authentically.
For a few years in college, though, I spent Halloween on a pro-life retreat in Brooklyn. We stayed in a monastery where Sisters of the Precious Blood lived and didn’t venture outside. In fact, I had to remind myself that it was Halloween when I was there. Immersed in talks about the history of the pro-life movement and the development of the Culture of Death, I wasn’t interested in Halloween or costumes, spooky or humorous.
Then, I graduated college and returned to South Dakota. My hometown had ramped up their celebrations of the day during the years I was away from home. Full-out murder scenes were staged in front yards. Even though they were clearly fake with faces roughly sketched on bedsheet corpses, I found myself oddly sensitive to the horror. It continues to mystify me that awful acts, when experienced in real life, are entertaining and fun when mockingly displayed. Chainsaws, torture devices, and bodies splayed open are “all in good fun” during a few weeks of the year. My heart, though, doesn’t pay attention to the time of the year. It is bothered by these scenes, regardless how fakey they seem or when they are presented. Continue reading “Halloween: A Call to Goodness (Not Another Origins of Halloween Post)”
They thought it would be funny to go into the club. It was a Saturday evening and we were walking downtown. As I fished around in my wallet for my ID, I could hear the strong beat of music that poured out past the bouncer, who waited with a flashlight and outstretched hand. This was a place very clearly out of my element.
We entered the club and I started taking it all in. I wasn’t really dressed for the place, but I wasn’t entirely a misfit. I tried to keep my facial expressions neutral as we climbed the steps to the second level.
One. I started a mental count of former students. Luckily, I never moved beyond one.
On the second floor, I saw the long bar, people pressed up alongside it four deep. I really wanted to not look like a fish out of water, but I must have failed because my friends were amused by my expressions.
“Just dance,” they told me, as the music blared across the sea of people. Continue reading “That Time I Went To A Club”