The Catholic faith, with all of the elaborate liturgies and rich traditions, is a testament to the incarnational reality of Christ. Rather than simply receiving Christ spiritually, we consume what looks like bread and tastes like wine but which we profess is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Rather than simply believing that we are forgiven, we profess our sins aloud and then hear the words of absolution extended as we are reconciled to God. Though not dogma, we profess to have the crown of thorns, nails from the cross, pieces of the true cross, and even the cloth wrapped around Jesus before He was laid in the tomb. The physical realities of the God-man are brimming in the Catholic churches around the world.
On a recent pilgrimage to Rome with some students, I was able to climb the Scala Santa or Holy Stairs. These twenty-eight steps of marble are believed to be the stairs Christ ascended as the Jewish authorities turned Him over to Pilate. Transported from the Holy Land to Rome at the request of Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, pilgrims have come for centuries to climb these steps on their knees as they recall the Passion of Jesus Christ. The ardent devotion of thousands upon thousands of pilgrims began to wear away at the stones and it was a desire of the Church to preserve them for future Christians. Around three hundred years ago, the steps were covered with wood to prevent their further deterioration.
A restoration process that has unfolded over the past few years led to the uncovering of the steps. As the restoration neared its end, for a few weeks during May and June, the Church allowed pilgrims to ascend the uncovered steps on their knees. The pilgrimage I was on happened to fall during the final week of the steps being uncovered.
Nine years ago, I climbed the steps during my first trip to Rome. Knowing the steps would be uncovered this time, I didn’t really consider how that would alter the experience of climbing them. The deep grooves in the marble, formed by thousands upon thousands of knees before me, made the ascent a bit more complicated than when it was on planks of wood. How many knees had been on these same steps? How many kisses had been placed on these marble slabs that formed the path Jesus took to condemnation? How many saints had made this same pilgrimage?
When I was little, I remember looking at the Minesweeper game on my family’s computer but having no idea how to play it. (Kind of similar to the Risk computer game…except I’ve never taken the time to figure Risk out.) I would click random boxes and then numbers would appear until, eventually, everything would explode. Not knowing the purpose or goal of the game meant success was unlikely to happen.
However, even now that I know the game, I still find it slightly frustrating that there is no perfect way to start it. Usually you don’t end up selecting a mine right away but sometimes you do. And there is no foolproof way to avoid it. You simply need to begin in a random place.
Sometimes I feel that way with life. Transformations that I desire to happen or significant projects I would like to complete often baffle me by providing no clear entry point. Where does one begin? What is the correct way to start?
For years, I’ve wanted to write a book. When I was younger, it was simply the broad idea of desiring to write a book. Now I know the topic, the title, and the general idea, but I still lack the plan I believe I need to be successful in the endeavor. I want some clear outline or step-by-step process that will enable me to have a fail proof starting point. However, the perfect beginning eludes me. Continue reading “To Begin”→
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”→
I have a friend who once said that some things are cliché because they are true. Phrases that seem trite and overused are sometimes the best way to say what we want to say. They have become clichés because they express a truth like nothing else really can.
At times, I fight against what it seems a lot of people like or consider to be the best. But sometimes, it is because it is actually good that so many people rave about specific things. On Facebook, I’ve seen quite a few people talking about how much they loved the show “This Is Us.” With the school year wrapped up, I decided to give it a try.
I don’t think a show has ever pulled at my heart as much as this one has.
I love how they portray the complexity of the human heart. In this show, families are messy, imperfect, and crucial to our own identity. As the show unfolds, perfect facades crumble to reveal that everyone is striving to get through life doing the best they can and making numerous mistakes along the way. It is very human, which makes it simultaneously beautiful and frustrating. Though the families can be chaotic, a theme interwoven in the show is the importance of family. Whether they are blood relations or adopted family, the experiences we have in our homes shape how we interact with the rest of the world.
In a world that seems to insist that families can be replaced with technology or friend groups, it is refreshing to see families upheld as the place where we grow, change, and become who we are. Imperfect families, with parents fighting their own struggles and children feeling their own unique pains, are the places that shape us and show us how to love. “This Is Us” doesn’t claim that all families are perfect or should be perfect. I would say they are simply claiming that the role of family is irreplaceable. Continue reading “This Is Us”→
When Jesus appeared to His Apostles after the Resurrection, His hands, feet, and side still bore the marks of the crucifixion. His glorious, death-conquering body held the holes that won salvation. To be certain, His body was different than it was before. He was strangely appearing and disappearing, passing into locked rooms, and yet still able to eat and be touched. Dying and rising had changed His body. Gone was the appearance scarred beyond human recognition. However, His body still showed where nails and a spear had pierced Him through. Why was that?
There are several theological reasons, but I would like to focus on one minor, personal reason. I would argue that Christ kept His wounds to destroy our image of perfection. Here is the conquering King, the One who has fought death and won and yet–He still shows signs of this arduous battle. As the commander of this battalion, as the King who leads His people into battle, Christ is not unaware of the price of this fight. Our whole lives seem to be a battle towards Heaven. Christ doesn’t need perfect looking soldiers; He simply needs faithful ones.
The burden of perfection is one we place upon ourselves. We want lives that are neat and tidy, yet none of us have it. Sometimes we brand others as perfect, but that is only because we see portions of their lives and not the whole of it. And when we expect this perfection from them, we encourage them to fake it instead of living authentically.
Often, when I tell people that my two older sisters are religious sisters, I can see them mentally placing my family in a certain type of box. Years ago, I gave my witness in preparation for a summer of catechizing youth, and one of the critiques I received was that teens probably couldn’t relate to my story. While I understood what they meant, I couldn’t help but take it a bit personally. My story of an aching heart being separated from my sisters was not something they deemed relatable. Since then, I have discovered that it is something to which others can relate. Perhaps they don’t have siblings in religious life, but many have experienced anger and frustration with God and a plan you never wanted for your life. Continue reading “The Burden of Perfection”→
Several months ago, I was making a mild attempt to listen to the overpowering political discourse, if it can be called that. As I heard one awful thing after another, I found myself seeking for something to hold onto, some hope or reassurance that things wouldn’t get as bad as some thought. That is when I remembered–Christ said that He would never allow anything to overcome….Oh. Yeah.
Christ promised that nothing would overcome the Church.Of the United States of America, Christ made no comment. He didn’t prophesy that this nation would come in several centuries and would be indomitable. Throughout Scripture, we hear about how the Lord will remain and endure. Throughout history, we see nation after nation fall. There are uprisings and reformations, divisions and unifications. All is changing and all is temporal.
Except the Lord.
He remains. He endures. He is steadfast. He is “I AM WHO AM.” He is existence itself. And He promised that His Church would remain until the end of time. He promised persecution, the cross, and many difficulties, too. But, He would always remain.
I don’t happen to think our nation is on the verge of dissolving. However, I do think it is clear that we need prayer and that we need the Lord. While I am fully aware of the separation of Church and state, I am also aware that one of the longest running institutions is the Catholic Church. It isn’t such because the leaders have been flawless; on the contrary, they were deeply flawed from the very beginning. The Gospels are replete with accounts of the fumbles and foibles of the Apostles. If the Church has not endured because of the perfection of Her members, it must endure because of the perfection of the Lord. Continue reading “As Promised, He Remains”→