Whatever God Chooses Should Be All the Same to Us

Whatever God Chooses Should Be All the Same to Us

I didn’t expect to feel sadness at a wedding.

Anything near tears, I assumed, would come from the overwhelming joy of seeing a good friend get married. And while I was definitely happy, I was startled by the profound loneliness that pervaded my heart, even as I sat in a pew with beloved friends and was surrounded by many people I knew. Grateful that my friend was receiving that for which she had long prayed, I discovered a sorrow that I didn’t want to find at that time or in that place. The human heart frequently seems inconvenient, but I’ve found that leaning into that is more helpful than ignoring it.

Near the beginning of the liturgy, I heard the priest proclaim a single word in the midst of a longer prayer. He said “home” and I was immediately asking the Lord where my home was. Looking over the priest’s head, I saw the crucifix, arms stretched wide and side pierced, and within myself I heard Him say that my home was there. In His side, opened so that mercy could pour out, was my home, my refuge, the only place I belonged on either side of Heaven.

As my blog slowly moves from being thoroughly unread to something that people I know and don’t know read, I find myself hesitant to ever speak of being single. Some of my former students occasionally look at my blog as do co-workers, and it feels odd to share this particularly deep desire, even if it seems obvious or assumed or commonplace. Yet it also feels odd to share so many other parts of my heart and then withhold speaking of the vocation I feel called to, simply because God hasn’t fully answered that prayer.

I’m a melancholic and as such I am accustomed to longing. One of the most enduring longings has been for marriage and a family. It isn’t my only desire, but it is the one that seems the most fervent. This newly married friend is one I often spoke of this longing with, as we questioned when it would be fulfilled and wondered how it would happen. So I understand to a degree why this wedding also filled my heart with a bit of sadness. It was because my compatriot had what she longed for and I was still waiting, still hoping, still wondering when and if it would happen.

Continue reading “Whatever God Chooses Should Be All the Same to Us”

The Church Showed Up Again

The Church Showed Up Again

Last fall, I saw the Church show up in a downtown bar to listen to a talk and grow in community. Last month, I saw the Church show up in an expected place (a church building) but in an unexpected way.

The Knights of Columbus organized a pilgrimage with the heart relic of St. John Vianney. I attended a crowded noon Mass and then waited to venerate the relic. Ever the romantic, I was waiting for the church to clear out and for the chance to approach the relic with ample time to pray. I imagined the crowds would soon dissipate and people would return to work.

That did not happen.

As time passed, the crowds did disperse, but people kept trickling in, causing the line to remain stretched down most of the center aisle. People came after work or on a break or once they picked their kids up from school. For nearly the entire afternoon, the line stretched down the aisle and about three-quarters of the way toward the back of the church.

The few hundred people who showed up at noon Mass surprised me, but the consistent flow of people throughout the afternoon surprised me more. It was a striking response to the distressing news that keeps being unearthed in diocese after diocese around the nation and world. The day before, our bishop released a letter listing priests who have abused minors in our diocese. Hours later, the Church showed up as hundreds of lay faithful and priests were falling on their knees before the incorrupt heart of a priest.

Our prayers were urgent and heartfelt. We need priests who have priestly hearts, mirrored after the heart of St. John Vianney but even more so after the High Priest Jesus Christ. Scandal within the Church simply highlights even more the great need that we have for holiness in the Body of Christ. Acknowledging the fragility of humanity, we interceded for the men whose consecrated hands confect the Eucharist, whose words extend absolution, and whose presence is sought from birth until death–and some of the most significant moments in between.

Continue reading “The Church Showed Up Again”

The Church Showed Up

The Church Showed Up

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”

The Grace of Lesson Plans That Get Overthrown by Questions

The Grace of Lesson Plans That Get Overthrown by Questions

The lesson plan for the day was to discuss the argument from efficient causality.  Yet they managed to completely derail that plan.  When students ask questions that are about the faith and yet truly interest them, it is nearly impossible for me to continue with class as planned.  Interiorly, I am torn between following a schedule or curriculum and the desire to answer questions that organically spring up in their hearts.

Nine times out of ten I go with the questions they present to me.  I don’t believe I’ve ever regretted it, I only wish that each class would then magically divert itself in the same way.  Genuine curiosity and ponderings aren’t things you can manufacture in other classes.

“So is this argument saying that all things are caused to be by other things?  Or it is saying not all things are caused to be by other things?” I asked.
“I have a question that kind of relates but is off topic.  If God is caused or even if He isn’t caused, what is the point of life?  Like why did God make us?  What is our purpose?”

Those questions, dear readers, will definitely sidetrack me.  When senior boys are curious about why they were created and the meaning of life, I will dropkick lesson plans to spend time answering some of the biggest questions of life.

This is the class that argued with me about gravity objectively existing.  The day before this class, instead of working on an assignment they chose to ask me a thousand inane questions about my car, my hometown, and where my parents live.  So hearing one student start a conversation about the purpose of their lives and why God made them, and then hearing several other students jump in with follow-up questions, was a pure delight.  The only problem was the lack of time before the bell would ring.

To begin to answer their questions, I went back to the beginning.  The Trinity.  I spoke of how the Father and Son pour out a love that is so strong that it is another person, the Holy Spirit.  Within this communion of love, there is nothing that is lacking.  God was perfectly satisfied within this exchange of love.  Therefore, we are not needed.  God didn’t need us. Continue reading “The Grace of Lesson Plans That Get Overthrown by Questions”

Communal

Communal

Every Thursday morning I spend about 45-50 minutes with a handful of high school girls.  And it impacts my heart.  This isn’t because profound things are said (although sometimes they are) or because I’m such a great discussion facilitator (that is a skill I do not have), but simply because we are in community.

Our human need for community is evident.  I am an introvert and I find myself baffled at times that I need other people.  Often, I want to be away from people or at home with a few select individuals.  Crowds and chaos aren’t my thing.  Yet my soul needs community.

I discover it when I am with my housemates.  When I first moved in, we bonded over “Parks and Rec” episodes.  I had never seen the show but their conversations were peppered with jokes lifted from the comedy.  So I started to watch the show and loved it.  Yet I don’t think I would have enjoyed it quite so much if I was just sitting in the basement binge-watching the series by myself.  Instead, it was a couple episodes watched over supper with one of the housemates or a weekend evening relaxing together.  Eventually, we would stop the show and naturally enter into conversation.  Recently, we had that experience again.  This time it was with “Stranger Things” (a bit different from “Parks and Rec”) and I loved how we would analyze, discuss, and predict where the show might lead or what different aspects  meant. Continue reading “Communal”

David

David was an American.  The first American that we encountered as a hospitalero in the Spanish albergues.  My impression of him, initially, was terrible.  That wasn’t because I was quickly judging him or disliked him in appearances.  It was because he came off like a jerk.

We showed up, with our minimal Spanish and tired legs, and inquired about beds for the three of us.  “Tres?”  The single word was a question indicating more than we wanted to attempt in Spanish.  The man with a full head of silvery hair was unimpressed.

“Yes.  I see three people.”  We were taken aback and weren’t sure how to proceed.  If I had an ounce more of stubbornness and more energy in my body, I might have left the albergue and walked to a different one or a different town.  Instead, we awkwardly stood there, feeling bad for our spokesman and wondering if he was the only one in charge.

He briskly asked for our passport and credentials.  Annoyed, I tried to kill him with kindness.  I openly smiled at him when he handed my documents back to me.  He didn’t seem quite certain how to take it.  I would have thought he would be excited or interested to meet some people from his country, but he was clearly not.

The other hospitalero came down the steps and she greeted us in Spanish.  David’s unenthusiastic voice chimed in, “They speak English.”

“You do?!  Wonderful!  I can talk to you!  My name is Patricia.”  The shift in emotions was quick.  David was brooding and annoyed while Patricia was bubbly and patient.  We watched them interact, assuming at first that they were a married couple.  She wanted to know what the men had discovered about the water situation.  Three times David gave a rude or unkind answer, but she persisted.

“No, really, David.  Tell me what they said, so I can tell those who are asking.”

Finally, he gave a genuine response that satisfied her.  My impression at this point was rather favorable to Patricia and dismissive of David.  I wasn’t here to get walked on or be the point of his melancholic sarcasm.  She convinced him to show us to our beds, a task he wasn’t pleased with but completed with minimal grumbling.

And so it was, the first American volunteer and already I was wishing one of us was from a different country.  No wonder people dislike Americans if they all act like that, I thought.

My next main encounter with David was at our communal meal.  Between Patricia and David, the plan for the evening was presented: supper followed by singing and then watching the sun set.  David kept walking in and out of the room while we settled into our seats.  I thought I had him pegged–they were a married couple and she wanted to volunteer and he came along because of her.  Not because he wanted to, but simply for his wife.

Yet within the first few minutes that theory was flipped on its head.  They weren’t married but had met the previous year when they finished the Camino in Finisterre.  Both wanted to volunteer and decided to complete the undertaking together.  He was from the States and she was from England.  This information was nothing to what happened next.

Cool, detached, collected, sarcastic David began to speak.  He revealed that this was their last night of the two weeks of volunteering.  The next day they would be leaving for a holiday.  David got choked up numerous times during his speech, his voice cracking and squeaking as he struggled for control.  It was completely and utterly unexpected.

The meal of lentil soup with meatballs was served.  David would take our bowls, with a large smile, and refill them before passing them back down the line to us.  I was baffled.  This hardly seemed to be the same man.  Here he was trying to be polite and kind, a contrast to the seemingly self-absorbed American I had encountered hours earlier.

David was one of the greatest surprises of the Camino.  I’m not sure I ever again saw such a transformation.  The first David was, unbeknownst to me, struggling with the idea of leaving the tiring but beautiful work of being a hospitalero.  He was also under stress due to water problems and trying to communicate in his rather terrible Spanish.  I didn’t know that but immediately felt not welcomed.  Patricia was more patient and knew more of his heart.  When he obnoxiously refused to seriously answer her questions, she patiently waited for him to be sincere.  That evening, David told all of us that Patrica was his best friend.

They sang silly songs, making fools of themselves for our entertainment.  Then we took a group picture outside and watched the sun set.  The colors were lovely but weren’t quite as grand as South Dakota.  In the morning, we set off, waving goodbye to companions from the previous night.  David surprised me.  At the center of our hearts is a desire to be known and loved.  We may build up walls all around us and shield ourselves with steely hearts, but there is always a chink in the armor.  Because there always remains the desire to be known by others.

Even supposed jerks like David can turn out to have hearts of flesh after all.

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.”  Ezekiel 36:26