The first day or two that we were on pilgrimage in Rome, the students were entering church after church with necks that craned heavenward. It was the natural response to the beautiful architecture that we were encountering. They took pictures galore, marveling over magnificent domes and intricate mosaics that adorned the walls. Our hearts were overflowing with beauty. My students from South Dakota were encountering some of the greatest artists the world has ever had to offer.
By day three, however, they were growing bored with the church after church schedule, regardless how beautiful they were. One of the girls that seemed quite invested in photography went from executing creative basilica photo shoots to nonchalantly sitting in a pew during a stop in another church.
“Isn’t it funny how quickly we get bored of all this beauty?” I asked her as I watched other students mill around aimlessly. “Yes!” she replied, perhaps noticing for the first time how much her response had changed to the loveliness around her.
And we spoke for a few minutes about how amazed we all were the first day and how quickly we were tired of what had been novel only a couple days before. My tiredness didn’t match the students’ expressions, but I did have to remind myself to keep looking at the churches with wonder and not simply let my eyes glaze over.
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 The “nothing” that I did should have been replaced by the Lord, by perfectly following His will in all things.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”→
As I walked the Camino, I found within myself a longing for beauty. Mile after mile passed beneath my feet and I made commitments to myself about how I would like to live my post-Camino life.
Read poetry every day.
Look at new artwork.
Listen to classical music.
All of those commitments and ideas didn’t translate as neatly into my reality as I had hoped. In the rush of the daily grind, it is difficult to intentionally set aside time to experience beauty. Most days, my taste of beauty happens when I remind myself to take in the fall foliage before winter sets in. But an intentional pursuit of beauty? Generally, that is non-existent.
Last night, I flipped through a book of poems entitled Poems You Ought to Know. My English degree (with a concentration in British and American Literature) meant that I recognized most of the names in the table of contents. Some of the poem names even sounded familiar, but few were ones I could stop and say, “Oh, I love this one!”
Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” was there and I recalled that in college I taught a lesson on this to a classroom of high schoolers during an education class. It is a beautiful poem, I think, even with the natural morbidity found in Poe’s works. The poetic devices that I had reviewed with the class came to mind dimly.
It makes me wonder why I don’t read poetry like my heart desires. Why do I not sit down and read a Shakespearean sonnet in the evening? Why don’t I learn about the famous classical composers? Why don’t I use the gift of the internet to virtually explore art museums and learn about the different periods in art history? I desire it. Why don’t I do it?
“I don’t think God would send someone who loves Him and follows Him to Hell.”
A conversation about exorcisms somehow veered into a free-for-all rapid fire of questions. As I’ve said before, though, if my students ask questions about the faith and they are interested, I have a difficult time telling them no.
“I don’t believe the Church teaches that,” I told the student.
“But if I don’t go to church on Sunday, the Church says that is a mortal sin. I don’t believe that if I love God and He loves me that He would send me to Hell for missing one Mass on Sunday.”
Understandably, this is a question I hear quite often. My students find it difficult to accept that missing Mass is a grave sin. They aren’t skipping it maliciously, I believe, and so I get where they are coming from with their confusion. Usually, it is out of laziness or boredom or busyness.
So I did what I generally do–I tried my best to explain why the Church teaches what she does.
“I think if we understood what the Mass was, then we wouldn’t ask this question. God is asking us to go to Mass to encounter Him and receive Him. He is offering His very self to us out of love. And if we love Him, I don’t think we would say that we aren’t able to come for one hour once a week. The bare minimum in having a relationship with the Lord is this one hour. We couldn’t say no to encountering the Lord and letting Him live in us if we truly loved Him.”
The answer seemed to touch a chord and we moved on to other questions.
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.