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?
Continue reading “Crawling On Our Knees To Heaven”
When I started college, I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I have loved reading since elementary school and I wanted to encourage others to love reading, too. Along with reading, I also enjoyed writing. With these two loves, I assumed teaching English would be a fitting career.
The second semester of my freshman year of college found me taking a Theology class. Since I had exclusively attended public school growing up, this was my first formal Theology class. Other students who had attended Catholic schools didn’t seem as impressed as I was with the class. Simply praying before a math class at college was an exciting concept for me. Reading encyclicals and Church documents? That was a complete thrill and I remember marveling at how accessible I found them.
After this introductory class, I was hooked.
I kept slipping extra Theology classes into my schedule. Until, finally, my adviser asked what I was doing. My heart wanted a Theology degree simply because it meant I could study more about what the Church thought and did. So I dropped my Education major and paired my English major with Theology. While I still loved reading and writing, I knew that I could never be quite as passionate about English as I could be about Theology.
Even with a Theology degree and a day full of teaching Theology classes, it still satisfies a desire of my heart when I can sit down and read good theological works. Whether they are more dogmatic or more spiritual, I find the truths they speak to be balm for my soul. I read Bishop Conley’s address to a group of Catholic school educators and administrators and I found myself underlining several points. Bishop Conley said, “If you want authentically Catholic culture, you need authentically Catholic schools.” This makes me applaud and then question, “How?” Hearing about the faith is enlightening and joyous for me. Learning about my role as a Catholic educator is inspiring. It fills me with truths I know to be solid.
Despite the length of time I have spent on Theology (the beauty and the teaching of it), the inspiration for this post is not Theology. Rather, it was in conversation with a co-worker that I realized that while theological reading is beautiful and soul-lifting, so is literature. Continue reading “Avenues to My Heart”
Last year, Fr. Mike Schmitz came out with a video. And this year, I showed it again to all of my classes. Sometimes I mind watching the same video six times in one day, but this was not one of those times. Each time I watched it, I was filled with this desire to be holy and to persevere in running the race.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Before we watched the video, I put this passage on the board and gave my students time to reflect on it. Each class period, I found something new to consider in the passage. I could go through it, line by line, and tell you what stood out to me, but that probably wouldn’t be interesting for you. Instead, I’ll highlight just a couple. Of course, the video focused on the “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us and how the saints are there to push us forward when we want to give up. Yet I also noticed the “also lay aside every weight” as it shows that we are to, like the saints, strip ourselves of everything that does not help us reach the finish line. Finally, I was struck by how we are to run the race “set before us” and that it is not necessarily the race that we choose or would want to run.
In listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz and reflecting on that Scripture passage, I am filled again with the desire to be holy. Though my life is a good one, I do not always feel the adrenaline of being in the midst of a race. I want it to be exciting always, otherwise I tend to forget that I am in a battle/race. Continue reading “That Heartburn”