During two summers in college, I was on a Totus Tuus team that traveled around my home diocese and ran catechesis for elementary through high school students. When I started, I knew I wanted to share the message of Jesus Christ with the youth of the diocese and I had encountered a zeal in teams from previous years that I desired for myself. By the end of the summer, I knew I had been thoroughly tricked. I wanted to share the Gospel and yet I found a deeper need within myself to encounter the Gospel personally. Returning to college, I told people that Totus Tuus is really about my own personal formation, not primarily about the youth I interacted with at the different parishes. It was a surprise, but it wouldn’t be the first time the Lord would change me despite my desire to be the one provoking change. Continue reading “When the Gift is More for Me Than Others”
I mentally planned for the day. I supplied myself with some resources, I opened pertinent tabs on my computer, and I waited for the moment. Unanticipated, I felt a sick pit grow in my stomach and my heart ached a little at the prospect of what I was to do.
So I started with gauging their prior knowledge, as some teachers are apt to do.
“Have you heard about the sexual abuse scandal in Pennsylvania?” Depending on the class and the age, a few or most heads would nod the affirmative.
“How about Archbishop McCarrick? The papal nuncio Archbishop Vigano?” Fewer heads nodded with each question, a few gesturing with their hands to show that it sounded vaguely familiar.
Then, to the best of my ability, I outlined for them situations that had been unfolding for the last several weeks. I emphasized the lack of clarity and focused on what our bishop is asking from us as a response. In a textbook we use for class, it says, “One of the few things in life that cannot possibly do harm in the end is the honest pursuit of the truth.” And while that doesn’t mean that the truth won’t be painful to uncover, I encouraged them to pray for the truth to be revealed, regardless of the personal cost involved.
As I spoke to them, I felt a certainty in the Church settle into my heart and I felt like an older sister or a mother as I gently explained to them things that pained me. While the circumstances are awful, the Church will endure and new saints will rise up to combat the evils of the present age.
Each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.
Most of the classes listened closely with sad eyes and asked a few questions to understand the situation more. One class reacted with more anger and bitterness. It wasn’t entirely unsurprising because it is a situation where anger is justified. Yet for young people who are initially uncertain about the Church, the blatant hypocrisy of the scandal is too much to take in. I saw the scandal through their eyes and I wanted to cry. My small heart ached and I felt the weight of these sins in a manner that I hadn’t yet permitted myself. Continue reading “In the Wake of Scandal, Choose Sanctity”
This, I thought, is not the cross I wanted. Can’t I have something different?
I’ve heard that if everyone could throw their particular struggles and crosses of life into a common pile, we would go through and pick again the one we already have in our lives. That when we would compare our crosses to what other people are struggling with, we would realize that we didn’t have it too bad the first time. Or maybe that we would recognize that the cross we have, perhaps oddly and strangely, is one customized for our lives.
It might be true, if I knew the secret things you struggled with, that I would recognize that my cross is far more manageable than I initially thought. Yet at this particular time, I’m simply wishing I could choose something different. I survey the struggle and it doesn’t quite seem fair, this thing with which I’m saddled. Or things, to be more precise.
When I speak of these struggles, I don’t always mean failures or weaknesses. Sometimes, the cross in our lives is simply a matter of circumstance. It isn’t anything we can choose to alter, rather it is something we choose to embrace, or at least endure. The crosses of circumstance might be some of the most difficult ones to bear because we find ourselves unable to fix the recognizable problem. Continue reading “My Little Cross: An Avenue for God”
When I scroll through Facebook, it is difficult to not feel at least a little discouraged. My mini-world of online Catholic life, neatly curated based on my interests, is overflowing with article after article of questions, deception, and Church hierarchy. I haven’t joined the fray and posted yet another reflection on the duplicity found within some of the Church’s most elevated ordained men. It didn’t seem necessary after millions of words have been spilled over it and it doesn’t seem to help the hurting. Despite not posting about it, I feel the increasing weight of the problems and wonder what will happen next.
My faith isn’t shaken–it wasn’t rooted in bishops or the Holy Father to begin with. I don’t feel compelled to even consider leaving the Church–She is my home and I would not want to be an orphan in this crazy world. I do, however, ache for the hurting and I frequently consider how this must look from the perspective of my students. When hypocrisy is so blatant, it is a struggle for them to see why one should belong to such a fragile, sinful institution.
Despite the fact that I am unshaken in my desire to remain in the Church, the Lord gave me a generous gift. Yesterday, the Lord gave me what I didn’t know I needed.
I attended a Theology on Tap.
I know the coordinator pretty well (she is my sister, after all) and so I have known about the progress of the launch of this new program every step of the way. Yet when I walked into the gathering space, I was surprised at the number of people already present. And as the minutes continued to pass, I was soon blown away by the number of people who came streaming in. An event that initially had aimed for fifty people and then optimistically raised its hopes to seventy or eighty, eventually rounded out at about 150 people.
The attendees? They were young college kids, adults in the first decade of “adult” work, middle-aged parents, and grandpas and grandmas. A gentleman at my table graduated from high school in 1956. A priest stood behind me. A co-worker sat next to me. My parents were nearby. A couple sat on the floor near the bar, all available seats having long been snatched up.
The attendees? The Church. Continue reading “The Church Showed Up”
School has commenced!
In general, teaching can be a bit tiring. However, the first week always feels more exhausting. By the end of the day, I must fight to keep my eyes open and most days this week I’ve surrendered to a nap, at least for a little while.
The swirl of names and faces to remember can be fatigue inducing, but I am glad to be back. I am most looking forward to knowing my students. Getting to know them is nice, but having a relationship built is, in my opinion, better.
A couple of students from last year stopped by earlier in the week. It was refreshing to see familiar faces, to know how to joke with them, and to know a bit about them already. I enjoy seeing them in the hallway as they pass by, recalling random moments from last year as they walk into somebody else’s classroom. Building relationships takes work and time and while I know it is always worth it, I enjoy basking in the beauty of already formed relationships. (A while ago, I wrote about the beauty of “not-new” friends, and I think the mentality applies here, too.)
I am looking forward to seeing what these classes will become, how friendships will unfold, and how we will grow together as we experience things this year. Will the class that worries me be the one that proves the most difficult? Or will another surpass them in ridiculousness? Will we share joys and tragedies together? Will there be good and authentic classroom discussion? Will they trust me and will I trust them? Will we become saints together? Continue reading “Year Seven, Week One, Day Three, Tired”
Recently, I came into possession of Alanna Boudreau’s “Champion” CD. And I’ve been listening to it on repeat pretty much since then. As with all CDs, there are some songs I like more than others and certain lines in songs that move me more than others.
Her song “Controlled Burn” is one of the songs on repeat a bit more than others and I want to highlight a couple of the lines that stand out to me.
“And I ache, I ache, I ache / When I see all the nothing / That could have been something / That should have been you”
This line is perhaps the most perfect summary of these months of summer and maybe even the past year. From the silent retreat near the beginning of summer to my sister’s home visit to being on the brink of school beginning, I have felt an ache for the nothingness that surrounds me. Sometimes I am a bit fearful about the judgment that will come at the end of my life and how I will need to answer for all of my time. The “nothing” that I did should have been replaced by the Lord, by perfectly following His will in all things. Someday I will regret that wasted time even more than I do now.
I’m not saying that every moment needs to be filled to the brim with productivity. Americans, however, aren’t particularly good at true leisure. We binge watch TV shows, waste time on our phones, and fastidiously document our lives on social media. Obviously, these are all generalizations, but our inability to truly embrace leisure is evident. So when I say I waste time, I don’t mean I neglected to work, work, work. Rather, I was isolated too much, preferring to spend time on my own rather than setting up numerous coffee dates or road trips or nights out with friends. As an introvert, it is an easy hole to fall into and an even easier one to justify. Continue reading “Controlled Burn: A Song of Longing”
Whether it is cleaning a room, getting into an exercise routine, or starting a new school year, I’ve discovered that it gets worse before it gets better.
Somehow, I’ve managed to turn a blind eye to the state of my bedroom for the entire summer. I knew it was a mess and yet it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I saw it with the eyes of reality. As I began to move some boxes around and sort through a pile of clothes, I realized that it was getting worse. My attempts to clean were making my room more unlivable. Yet I reminded myself that it needed to get worse so it could get better. It still isn’t great, but my room is looking better, bit by bit.
The same was true a couple of years ago when I picked up running for a while. The first run was tiring as I realized how out of shape I was. Yet the next couple runs were worse as my sore muscles protested being used again so soon. Eventually, though, it did get better. In fact, I ran a 5-mile race and finally understood why runners say they need a few miles to warm up. Having never been a “real” runner, I always thought I should conserve my energy, but as I finished the race, I could feel that I was running far better than the first couple miles. Continue reading “It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better”
Tastes and preferences change over time, for which I am grateful. When I was younger, I didn’t like spicy food like hot sauce or horseradish sauce. Over the past couple years, I’ve started to enjoy sprinkling (sparingly) some fiery sauce over my eggs or potatoes or whatever might seem good. The surprising craving for horseradish came as a result of an encounter with a Blue Apron recipe I tried. After roasting broccoli and potatoes, the recipe called for a creamy horseradish sauce to coat the vegetables. Since then, I’ve been randomly working the interesting flavor into different meals.
As taste buds change, so also personal preferences change. What used to be unattractive, has changed over time into something which draws my heart. St. Mary Magdalene is one person who fits into this category. I’ve met several people over the years who have loved her and for many of those years, I was a bit confused. The people seemed to have nothing in common with this well-known sinner-saint, yet they were attracted to her life and witness. I can now number myself among those who love St. Mary Magdalene. While I don’t identify very closely with the particulars of her life, I identify very much with her heart.
She was a woman who was forgiven much and loved much. In an act of total self-surrender, she broke her jar of precious ointment and poured it on the feet of Jesus. Wiping His feet with her hair, she laid her entire life before Our Lord. In exchange, she was one of His closest followers, one who sat at His feet to listen to His stories and who was driven by grief to weep at His tomb after the crucifixion. In her need to be close to Him, she was sent as “the apostle to the Apostles” and was the first to witness the resurrected Christ.
St. Mary Magdalene loved with a love that was all-encompassing. That need, that desire to be a total gift for the Lord is something that resonates within my own heart. Earlier this summer while on retreat, I prayed with that passage of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus. In a way that it hadn’t before, the words of the Gospel moved my heart and invited me to share more deeply in the relationship Mary had with Our Lord. Continue reading “A Heart Like St. Mary Magdalene”
The image of the Polish Madonna was one I never really cared for until a few years ago. In the artwork, Mary is hanging clothes on a line as Jesus sits on the ground nearby, playing with a couple sticks that form a cross. While I didn’t initially love it, later I realized the beauty of the image. In the simple, ordinary events of everyday life, Mary was pursuing sanctity. Laundry (clearly, a result of the Fall) was a part of Mary’s life and she did all of it with a gaze towards Our Lord.
The past few days I have been cooking for a summer camp that I attended in my youth and was a counselor for in my college years. Now, I spend hours in the kitchen, preparing food that will be consumed in mere minutes. As soon as one meal is finished, preparations begin for the next one. The work isn’t overly complicated, yet it is more tiring than one would think initially.
I strive to meet Jesus in the ordinary moments of the day, knowing that I am helping nourish bodies so that the souls may be formed. Yet it is an encounter with humility, too. My heart wants to make some sort of impact, so I flip the hamburger patty on the grill and flinch when the flames flick toward my hand. I desire the campers to encounter the mercy of God, so I wash the same pan for the fifth time that day. I want to create a space where the Lord can move, so I reach into the ice water, crack the egg on the counter, and peel off the shell. Continue reading “When God Calls You to a Kitchen”
In my foolishness, sometimes I am more inspired by trends than by the Gospel.
Minimalism is a trend that has been around for a few years. Whether it involves paring your wardrobe down to a few essential items or selling everything to live in a van, the belief that less is more appears to be appealing to people today. The reality that minimalism is a trend in a world overrun by material possessions seems to indicate that the Gospel applies to the human person, not simply to the Christian.
There are books that speak about keeping only your cherished items, blog posts galore about capsule wardrobes, and podcasts about how to fully embrace a lifestyle of few possessions. People speak of how there is freedom that is found in ridding themselves of excess and instead focusing on what is needed.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
This passage from Matthew’s Gospel was read at Mass last Friday for the martyrdom of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. After watching a short video clip where a young woman experimented with minimalism, I was struck by how many things in our culture are simply the Gospel repackaged and devoid of Christ. I don’t believe these trends are a bad thing, but I find it interesting that lifestyles that would ordinarily be considered burdensome gain traction when shown to be an alternative lifestyle.
Another example is fasting or intermittent fasting. Research done by some scientists indicates that fasting can actually be good for your health. The different studies and programs encourage people to fast for several hours and increase up to full day fasting. Interestingly, fasting can now be considered a healthy, trendy choice. In the Church, fast days are often viewed by the faithful as begrudging days of denial. For me, mandatory days of fasting are strangely always more difficult than voluntary (or accidental) days of fasting.
Finally, abstaining from meat is also being proposed as something to do for the sake of your health. Secular advertising suggests that we should embrace “meatless Mondays” so as to help the environment and our bodies. Some think the Church is irrational for asking adherents to abstain from meat on Fridays, definitely during Lent but encouraged year round. My students can’t imagine what it would be like to never eat meat on Friday and many profess to forget several times during Lent. Something seen merely as a duty can be viewed as burdensome, but when it is undertaken for personal health it is manageable. Continue reading “Minimalism, Fasting, and Meatless Mondays: The Secular World’s Abbreviated Gospel”