Wednesday, December 24, 2008

May It Be Done

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
--Luke 2:38, NAB

I've been planning to write a blog post on Our Lady since Advent began, but after this weekend's Mass, I feel like this is the perfect time.

Allow me to steal a bit from my pastor's homily. I've heard the above verse dozens of times, sang it in the Magnificat in choir, and even made it my own prayer when faced with difficult decisions. Never, though, has it ever been put to me the way Monsignor did.

The most important part of this verse, he said, is the last sentence: Then the angel departed from her. Here Mary was, probably no more than fifteen or sixteen, betrothed to a man much older than her, but not yet married. What would you do if an angel showed up in your room and said you were going to be the mother of God? Probably not what Mary did, that's for sure.

Thankfully for all of us, Our Lady wasn't blindly accepting. That gives me a lot of peace--she asked Gabriel questions in confusion and doubt. Once her questions were answered, though, her heart was settled, and she gave the assent that would be our salvation. Without that Fiat, I shudder to think of where we would be.

The thing a lot of people--self included--tend to gloss over is that the angel left her. "Okay, you're pregnant with the Son of God now. See ya." Poof.

Suddenly, that miraculous moment was over, and Our Lady was plunged into the terrifying reality of what she had just done. She now had to ride out the rollercoaster of circumstances that comes with doing the will of God, including all the risks that came with it. Joseph could have left her. (I don't imagine most people would buy a miraculous conception as an excuse for being pregnant.) She could have been exiled--and indeed, the couple did leave. The old life she knew was gone. All she had was faith and the growing Divine within her.

It's not a life I don't think I could handle. Then again, God chose her, purifying her from the moment of her conception for that very purpose. This little fifteen-year-old was the Ark of the New Covenant! Her son, the Savior of the world, learned a carpenter's trade. Not exactly luxurious. Heck, she bounced around on the back of a donkey for three days at nine months pregnant. Her baby would be born in a dark, musty stable with even more donkeys for company. Some life.

I'm being lighthearted to try and paint for you the picture Monsignor did for us. On the outside, the Holy Family was about was ordinary and plain as it got.
The simplicity of their lives and the enormity of their mission was, and still is, incredible.

Look at what God did with a girl younger than just about all of us, and all because she humbly gave herself over to complete trust in Him.

Where can we give our own fiat? If we all learned to say yes like Our Lady, imagine what we could accomplish...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Vocation Rant

Now that my third semester of college is over, I can finally sit back and soak up what little is left of Advent season. Before I turn my attention to that theme, though, the topic of vocations has been coming up a lot recently in the circles I frequent. So, here we go!

I've always been one of those people to shrug and say "Sure, kids would be nice someday, I guess." I'd never given it much thought, but then again, I wasn't really at the age.

It's been nearly three years since I put God in charge of my life, and a little over 1.5 since my coming home to the Church. I have grown in leaps and bounds since then. It is really amazing how He has changed me for the better. On a totally mundane level, I've also grown up a lot, and have started to think about that mysterious life after graduation. Despite what I might feel, college isn't a perpetual state. ;)

I want to get married. Even when I was younger, I wanted to save myself for one person, if only for practical, yet romanticized reasons. When I was sixteen, I started to ask God where He wanted me to be and where I could best serve Him.

A few months later, I met my other half, and that was over two years ago. Since then, I have developed a lot of perspective on what a vocation is. Despite being serious with my OH, I've looked into the religious life with an open mind. They are beautiful witnesses to the Faith, and somewhere deep down inside of me is a yearning to be that close to God. I love the Dominican charism. I could see myself committing to prayer, study, and teaching--really see it. After a lot of prayer, though, I think that desire is a longing we all have to some degree. It's something that won't be satisfied until we get to see Him face-to-face without sin to weigh us down. As St. Augustine said, "My heart is restless until it rests in You." much as I love and want to yield to that yearning, I feel that there is something more for me. What I feel is merely emotional, and doesn't come with that instinctual peace that says it's the will of God. I understand that the religious life is the highest vocation, but I have a gut feeling that I would be wasting my gifts if I were to be anywhere else but right here in the world.

Marriage is a lot more than just the default vocation for those of us who can't handle celibacy--at least from this college girl's point of view. My friend Jeff said it best, and it's stuck with me for a long time: it's the desire to help the person you care about most get to heaven. More than that, when you marry someone, you share your life and very vocation with him or her. You serve God beside your spouse, and that idea to me has always been incredibly powerful.

One of my favorite passages from Scripture is from Ecclesiastes 4:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (9-12, NIV)
Spouses cover one another's weaknesses, and of course, "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). I cringe to use the infamous "a word" in this post, but it's worth noting that having someone keeping you accountable to God is an incredible weapon. I've heard stories of spouses consulting one another before hitting the confessional, as they sometimes know their spouse's shortcomings better than the person does. I totally believe this.

Then there are children--the other reason for marrying. I'll be honest with you here--I am petrified of having kids. The thought of actually delivering a baby, raising it to be safe, healthy and strong with good morals is a terrifying idea to me. There is so much that might not work out. Does that mean I'm not fit to be a mother and, therefore, a wife? I don't think so. Under my fear is the continuing encouragement from God, and my own knowledge of my strengths. I'm not a mother yet, and likely won't be for a few years, but I can learn. Mary did.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Before Bed

More Eucharistic awesomeness. Happy Advent! I'll be back with reflections soon!

Like love, the Eucharist does not need to be understood or explained, it needs only to be touched. In the Eucharist, as in love, the main thing is that we are held.

Perhaps the most useful image of how the Eucharist functions is the image of a mother holding a frightened, tired and tense child. In the Eucharist God functions as a mother. God picks us up; frightened, tired, helpless, complaining, discouraged and protesting children, and holds us to her heart until the tension subsides and peace and strength flow into us

... There is in an embrace something beyond what can be explained biologically or psychologically. Power is transmitted through love that goes beyond rational understanding.

That is why after Jesus had spent all his words he left us the Eucharist.

--Forgotten Among the Lilies by Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Perfect Mirror

Mother Angelica is, and has always been, full of wisdom. This quote, found in her meditations compiled from To Leave And Yet to Stay, resonated with me in particular, especially after my first experience with the Blessed Sacrament. Emphasis is mine.

If only we had the humility to realize that He alone is Goodness and makes us good. As soon as we come into His Presence in the Eucharist, our souls respond to the power before them like a sunflower turning toward the sun.

His silent Presence, hidden in the tabernacle, says to each one of us, "I love you. Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will refresh you. Come to the fountain of life and drink. Tell Me your problems. Listen to My voice. I tug at your heart, guiding your way and smoothing your path."

There is between the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and the soul, a silent exchange of love, a sharing of pain, an inaudible dialogue between two who know each other perfectly and love each other deeply.

It is as if the soul sees itself in a perfect Mirror and knows clearly its faults and imperfections. A strange phenomenon occurs as the soul gazes at Jesus. Its own reflection becomes brighter. Its faults fade away and one day that "soul is turned–transformed into the image it reflected." (2 Cor 3:18)

This being true, why do we permit our souls to die of thirst when the Fountain of Living water is just around the corner?

Food for thought, this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On Patience

Better is the end of speech than its beginning;
better is the patient spirit than the lofty spirit.

--Ecclesiastes 7:8

People in my life are always telling me that I'm impatient. I'm not sure if this is just an Italian cultural stereotype or not, but I've never been very good at biding my time, or bearing wrongs.

As part of a bit of a spiritual exercise given to me, I've decided to free write a bit about what patience is, what is means to me, and how I can make better use of it in my life. I think doing this would be much more pro-active than just trying to be patient about things.

First, let me start with a few different definitions. There are different facets to patience, and not all of them have to do with waiting for an event to occur.
  • "The bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like..."
This is the sort of patience that I think many people encounter most often in their everyday lives. The jerk behind you decides to pass on a double line, cutting you off with a rude gesture in the process. You're caught waiting forever in the line at the bank five minutes before close when the elderly woman ahead of you is counting pennies. Your significant other's mother falls ill, and you can't be there to support him through it. These are the challenges we are forced to face with the above sort of patience, one that I liken to charity--agape, selfless love for love's sake.
  • "Quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence."
This kind of patience is more subtle and refined, and in my opinion, it also requires more effort. In fact, this may be better labeled as determination. To keep fighting, even when you'd rather quit; to choose sanctity over sin; to deal with strife without complaint, and with hope for the future. Patience is about not losing your cool in the midst of chaos, and trying not to give in to weariness despite all life can throw at us.
  • "An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay."
Finally, the traditional meaning of patience, and often the most difficult to achieve. Life doesn't always pan out the way we hope it will. Let's face it, we all eventually find ourselves faced with curveballs and roadblocks that keep us from obtaining the things that matter most to us--work, education, love, success. Sometimes, those roadblocks are built by our own shortcomings and failures.

I have always had a problem with biting my tongue, and keeping my thoughts in check. I can be wrathful, judgmental, and unforgiving. At the same time, the people closest to me would note with concern that I can be too hard on myself, unwilling to accept weakness or failure. After a lot of time in prayer and many trips to the confessional, I'm beginning to learn that it's okay to be weak. I expect so much of other people, and am hurt when they let me down. I expect much of myself, but I will always be maturing; I'll only ever be perfect when I (hopefully) one day stand before God.

In learning to see weakness in others, and treat that weakness with empathy, charity, and love, I can slowly wotk my way up to treating myself in the same way. In learning to be patient when others hurt me, to listen more and talk less, to pray rather than judge, I will find Christ living within the people around me. When I can see that He lives in them, I will see Him in me, too. You can only truly love yourself if you know how to love others, after all.

That, too, will take time, practice, and patience. It's a good thing God has an eternity's worth.

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.
--St. Francis de Sales

Sunday, October 26, 2008

At His Feet

A few days ago, I did something crazy. Crazier than usual for me, anyhow.

After an overly long day putting together my college's newspaper (which, on an irrelevant note, still isn't done...), I asked my ride home to make a pit stop.

That was how I found myself standing at the back door of my parish thinking, Oh my God, what am I doing?, and then, a minute later, face-to-face with Jesus Christ.

We have a tiny chapel about the size of my computer room off of the main sanctuary at my parish. I've been in there a few times, but never for Adoration. The practice finds its foundation in John 6, where Jesus tells us He will give us His flesh to eat. The whole Bread of Life discourse is why we affirm that He is really, physically present in the bread and wine at Communion. The idea for adoring the Blessed Sacrament comes from St. Matthew's Gospel, where Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Apostles, who promised to stay up with Him, fall asleep multiple times during this vigil. Seeing this, the Lord asks them, "Can you not keep watch one hour with Me" (verses 36-41)? Adoration is our response to His challenge. As long as the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, someone is there with Him. It's really amazing, and I've felt called for a long time now to be a part of that, if only just once.

It was kind of funny, really--I ended up taking the back entrance to the parish, which opens into the gathering space that I've never once been in, despite being a parishioner there since I was seven. I was completely lost in my own church! I did run into someone who showed me to the chapel, thankfully.

I don't know what I was expecting, but she shut the door behind me, and just like that, I was standing in front of Him. Have you ever unexpectedly run into someone looking a mess? You stand there a bit awkwardly, feeling sheepish and hoping no one notices that your hair's a wreck and your pants have a hole in them.

Honestly, I was kind of unsure about the whole thing, so I just sat in the back pew and knelt to pray. For a while I looked at the exposed Eucharist on the altar, expectant, wanting to feel Him there, but there was nothing. Instead, I buried my head in my hands as I do during Communion, and started talking with God.

Over the next hour, I found myself grappling like a little girl with Him, and was surprised to find His voice answering my tantrums with assurances of love, trust, hope.

When I looked up again, suddenly I was overwhelmed with the depth of both the emotions I was experiencing, and the love He was trying to coax me toward. Not knowing how else to react, I cried openly, despite others being there.

In that short period of time, I realized a lot of things. In Adoration, when you're face-to-face with your Lord, you can't hide behind prayers or pretty words or a facade of happiness. When you're on your knees before Him, you're literally kneeling at the throne of God. There is something both very humbling and nearly terrifying about that.

Somewhere in the midst of that silence, I was thrown on my head. For so long now, I've been petrified of showing any sort of weakness. I've been fighting myself so hard, and Adoration broke down those walls. Instead of finding despondence and depression, though, I found mercy and comfort, much to my surprise. In letting my guard down and letting God in, in letting Him take care of me, I got my hope back.

Jesus said, "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." (John 16:33, NAB)

He has conquered death, and with it, my doubts, my fears, and my hurts. Things may get difficult, but we can have faith in the promises He's made to us, and one of them is that He will never, ever leave us.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Phil Wickham releases free album!

We all love free music, right? Especially when it's good free music.

Tonight, I give you Phil Wickham, an amazing songwriter/guitarist who does worship music the justice it deserves. And he's only 24!

Born in California, he's been leading worship around there since he was 12, and eventually made it big. He's an incredibly passionate vocalist and very emotional when he performs. Fortunately for his fans, he's also one of the precious few musicians these days who are as good in person as they are in the studio. (I'm not just saying that, even if I am a little biased toward tenors!)

The album is called Singalong, and it was recorded live from a church in Portland. It's got both classic hymns ("How Great Thou Art", "It is Well With My Soul") and some of his original hits ("Divine Romance" and "True Love" being my favorites).

To download Singalong, head to and follow the instructions. All he asks is that you sign up for his newsletter, which is no big deal. The album is totally worth it!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chrysalis: My Reversion to Catholicism

Time to face up, clean this old house
Time to breathe in and let everything out...
--Sanctus Real, "Whatever You're Doing"

Now that I have spent the last 18 months as a Catholic, I think that it's time to tell the story of how I got here--or, rather, back here. Unfortunately, it's not a common occurrence to find someone who is both almost nineteen years old, and trying to "believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God." When people find out that I do consider myself a serious Catholic, the reaction is a mix of incredulity and curiosity, with a question that is always the same: "Why?"

By writing this out, I hope to answer, in at least some ways, that "why". This whole blog is really an outlet for me to share my Faith--some of you have been with me since before I was even a Christian. I think all of you deserve to know where I happily stand today.

I'm going to pick up where Juxtaposition leaves off: in the winter of 2006, when I was freshly Christian. Please read that first if you've not already! :)


Waking up later on New Year's Day of 2006 was, in a word, surreal. For a moment, everything was normal, until the events from earlier that morning came back to me. The peace was gone, though, now replaced with confusion, and to a lesser degree, panic. The decision to hand over the reins as it were was mine, but what came next? My ExWitch elders stressed the importance of my finding a local, Bible-believing church to plant my roots, but I was overcome most of all with fear. My family knew next to nothing about my struggles in faith, forced to be victims of my emotional rollercoaster without explanation. What would they think if knew that their secular, broody, almost anti-Catholic daughter had suddenly, out of the blue, started to care? The potential answers were enough to keep me very far in "the broom closet" for a long while.

I had left ExWitch for some time prior to getting saved. To this day I have nothing but love and respect for them, but at that time I was feeling pressured to make the decision for Christ before I was ready. Cutting ties for a season ensured that the decision was truly mine, and that I could be at peace with it. It was after I got saved that I realized that I really did need other people to help me get by, particularly because I wasn't
involved in a church community. Catholicism, as far as I was concerned, was a non-option. They "didn't preach the Gospel," and were much too conservative for my liberal views, both politically and theologically. I didn't have any Christian friends, though, so for the time being, I was on my own.

It was in April, just before Easter of that same year when I was browsing ExWitch after returning. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I stumbled upon an inappropriate link posted by a troll just as my father was coming in to say goodnight. It was an accident, but it was too late to explain: all my parents knew was that I had found the link on some crazy religious website. I was forbidden to go back from that point on, despite the admin trying their best to explain the mishap. With the exception of two Christians and a Wiccan priest friend, I now had no one to help me answer the burning questions of my newfound faith. To further complicate things, I was still struggling seriously with temptations toward the occult. Sabbats were particularly difficult as memories of the rush of power and connection to Nature slammed on me.

A few days after the incident, both of my parents were still very angry about what had happened earlier that weekend. The tension was getting the best of me, in a show of brash courage I marched out into the living room, sat down, and told my mom about my past and present "adventures" in religion. It didn't go over as well as I had hoped (to prevent slander, I won't say more than that). Generally, she was extremely uncomfortable with me being involved in online theological forums, and asked if I would wait until I turned 18 to continue my seeking. Naturally, I agreed, even if that date was a year and a half away.

Spring and summer of that year were about as miserable for me as it could have gotten. My theology was heretical in almost every way: I denied the existence of hell and Satan, as well as the human and divine natures of Christ. Nevertheless, I prayed hard every night to know God and His Son, and for a way to be made for me. Most of all, I prayed for people to come into my life that understood.

That prayer was answered for me in late July, when I somehow stumbled upon a handle I recognized from ExWitch on a blogging website. We were more or less complete strangers at that point, our only common bond being the forum we both called home and eventually left. We ended up talking almost every day, until one night without warning, he confided in me that he had let his lust for the occult get the better of him after leaving EW, and it had now come back to bite him; he had caught the eye of a deity most would call a demoness, and she wouldn't leave him alone.

We were casual friends, nothing more, but his situation stirred up intense empathy from me, having been there myself only months before. I offered to help in any way I could, and in a moment of complete stupidity and protectiveness, I knew I had to do magick, to fight fire with fire and her power with a kind I knew could be controlled.

In that instant, I would have willingly thrown my Christian faith away in favor of my own power. Part of me still wanted, deep down, to atone for the botched rituals from when I was still practicing. If I could only do one right...and to help a friend was righteous! By the grace of God, my troubled friend put his foot down, refusing to allow me to go through with it despite his fear. If I was to be a Christian, he told me, I was going to have to act like one. Magick was no longer my answer. For the next three days, we would turn to prayer. My faith in God's providence when faced with something that belligerent was incredibly weak, yet in those three days I prayed harder than I had ever prayed before. He had terrible nightmares, and in some ways I was afraid that by fighting beside him, I, too, would open myself up to attack.

But by the end of those three days in Scripture and prayer together, tired as we were, the Spirit of God was stronger than either of us had ever seen. Verses kept popping up everywhere--on the radio, on the web, and in our Bibles--about spiritual defense and the God's ability to conquer; we both got rid of anything leftover with occult attachments and, by the end of that week, the worst had passed. He had been delivered, and God made Himself known to me in a way I could no longer deny.

After that, I saw a huge lift in my spiritual life, and immediately started pulling away from paganism completely while becoming more orthodox, though far from perfect, in my views. Something had changed between my friend and I through the experience, as well. We saw each other at our weakest, and going through that week had bonded us in a way that was hard to explain. In November, after only three months of talking, we stopped ignoring what both of us had been afraid to admit, and I've been incredibly blessed to call him my other half for the past two years now.

Belief over misery, I've seen the enemy
And i won't go back, back to how it was

I got my heart set on what happens next

I got my eyes wide, it's not over yet...

--Switchfoot, "This is Home"

That autumn, I started my senior year of high school determined to get myself off of my island and connect with other Christians in the "real world". The only outlet for this I knew of was at Alpha Omega, a Protestant Christian fellowship held after school. At club night early in the year, I spoke to their director, a bright-eyed, gentle man that scared me to death. Truthfully, he was the first Christian I had spoken to face-to-face, and I had an incredible fear that my paganism marked me with a scarlet letter. I feared rejection, misunderstanding, and sharing the intimacy of my faith with others. Swallowing all of that, when my schedule finally allowed me, a supportive friend and I went to AO. Being hugged by strange people, all who loved Jesus sooooo much, was enough to make my normally extroverted self withdraw into a standoffish shell. The worship was dry, and empty of the Spirit I had felt so strongly in my own prayer. It would be my first and last time there.

On top of that, after attending Protestant christenings for my baby cousins, I was feeling unsatisfied. Was this all that Christianity could offer me, the Bible and some pretty songs? Bread and grape juice? There had to be more to worship than songs, and more to our faith than parables and commands. Though I carried on, I was extremely frustrated; something was missing.

Over the winter near Christmastime, I was listening to Christmas music on the radio when I heard a song that would stir up a spark in my head. It was "Breath of Heaven" by Sara Groves, a song written from Mary's viewpoint, encompassing all the emotions she must have felt in carrying the child Jesus. It stuck with me for the rest of that day: if the Holy Spirit could move as He did for me, and for my boyfriend, then surely He could help a virgin girl to have a child. And if that Child was really fathered by the very Spirit of God...He wouldn't be a normal Child, but something else: God Himself.

Suddenly, it all made perfect sense. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of God! It was this first display of fides et ratio--faith and reason--that would lead me home someday. For that moment, I was thrilled; I would be a lot more like "regular" Christians now. That Christmas season was special to me after that day. Suddenly, I understood the Trinity as simple as my own address. Not only that, but I had come to this knowledge by first putting my trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary. That should have sent up the Vatican flag right away, but it wouldn't, not for a while yet.

In the mean time, I would slowly begin to make uneasy connections with some Christians around me. Still, it never felt right, and I wasn't sure if it ever would; every sinner has a past, but mine was--is, even--just too much for some people. At first, that would devastate me. In time, though, I would learn that those who accepted me would always stick by me, especially my friends who were there from the beginning.

I heard from God again twice that winter, and one of those experiences I will share here. Two days into Lent of 2007, I had made a firm resolution to rid myself of my attachments to some nasty sins that kept me from moving forward. In prayer, I asked for God's help to endure what I knew would be a long season, and clear as day, I internally heard "Come to the cross with Me."

Okay, I don't know about you, but I don't go around saying things like that. This experience was similar to the one I had had about six weeks earlier: brief, but said so much, and so unlike what I would think or say, yet perfect. It was just the consolation I needed--I told myself I would follow Him wherever He led me.

Just hold my hand a while and walk with Me, My dearest child.
I know all the things that you need,
'Cause I have been there too, and I am here for you.
And I want you, and I need you so desperately...
--Cheer Up Charlie, "More"

Lent was difficult, to be sure, but it was also an intense process of growing. It was in April, right before Holy Week that I was ready to buckle down and welcome Easter in. I had been feeling the pull again from Christians on both sides, and even Pagans, to think and believe a certain way. I prayed, "Lord, help me to filter out all this noise. What do You want from me? Let me hear Your voice."

The very next day, I lost my internet connection, and then my desktop stopped working altogether. The tech was very surprised when he took my computer apart. It would have literally exploded if we had left it any longer, he said. Interestingly, I now was cut off from every single one of those who had been influencing me either way. That last week was mine.

I spent it in Scripture and prayer, sitting outside and reading. One night on a whim, having nothing to do but watch TV, I was channel surfing and landed on EWTN. I hadn't watched it since I was seven. Mother Angelica was on, and that night, she was talking about Holy Week. I don't remember a lot of the 15-minute portion I watched, but she had said, "If you haven't been to Mass in a while, why not start? There's no better time than right now. He loved you enough to die for you. He misses you. If you've not been to Confession in a long time...I know it's hard, and often scary. But please. Go. Give it another try. Come home."

Even though it was a clear emotional appeal, the woman broke me. Though I refused to admit it, I had been thinking about Catholicism for a long time. In November of the previous year, I had written in my journal, "I need to re-evaluate my life and where I'm at, because I'm not happy. The faith I'm seeing is empty. I need something deeper than that--liturgy, tradition, history. I'm just trying to ignore that place for me may very well be Catholicism."

Here I was, nearly six months later, crying at knowing that yes, I did miss the Church of my childhood; yes, it had been a long time, and I just wanted to go home.

See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.
--Isaiah 43:19 (NAB)

It took about three weeks for me to persuade my parents that going back to Mass was what I really wanted--understand, I had gone from anti-Catholic to wanting nothing more than to be one again in a relatively short period of time. They relented, though, and on April 21st of 2007, I was absolved of paganism and apostasy and received back into the Church.

The priest who would hear my first Confession upon my return had the honor of hearing the first true Confession I had ever made--for ten years, I would lie in the confessional and brag about it later. More than once I was nearly thrown out of my CCD class for disruptive behavior. And yet, I sat face-to-face with one of the toughest, yet most encouraging priests I ever dared to speak to. Both he and my pastor, who knew me when I was younger, have been wonderful to me. Since my return, I've had the chance to learn my Faith as I hadn't before, particularly its solid foundations in Scripture, and the incredible graces found in the Sacraments. I've also had the pleasure of watching my other half make his own journey; Lord willing, he'll be confirmed in 2009.

It's funny how things work out. You would have never convinced me four years ago as I did my first ritual that I would be Catholic and loving it now. God, it seems, has a wild sense of humor, and a true love of irony. Above all, He has been incredibly patient and faithful with me, and for that, I am unworthy, but beyond grateful.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Juxtaposition: My Testimony

At almost nineteen now, my faith journey has been particularly winding, only to eventually lead me back to where I began. I think it's time to tell the whole story, so those of you that haven't known me for long will know where I came from. This first part, Juxtaposition, is the "Protestant" portion of the journey, from my birth to acceptance of Christ at sixteen. I wrote it two years ago, and will eventually follow up with an as yet unwritten second half. I'll be adding extra details to this part, as well. I apologize, too, for the length!

“Hoo boy."

This being the singular thought floating through my mind as I sit down to an empty window and try, once again, to tell my story. This being attempt number four. I've always believed a testimony to be an account of rock-solid faith, of conviction, whathaveyou, so I've often given up. I've told myself that 'I’m not in the right place, this isn't the right time, I'm not sure', along with a number of other things. Be aware, my friends, that I am far from being a person of rock-solid, stable faith. Nevertheless, I have a story. By telling it here, I hope that all of us can learn something worthwhile...I am writer by trade, and longwinded by nature. This is your only warning.

Juxtaposition- v., the act of placing two items side by side for comparison


I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, as all the generations before mine had been. My mother went to Catholic school for 1st-8th grade, and my dad was one of the troublesome boys in his neighborhood that hid from the nuns who went door-to-door collecting the kids for Sunday School/catechism classes (CCD). As was customary, we each did our eight year tour of duty and received the first three Sacraments, and then we were left alone. Most of the family lived secularly from that point forward.

The first four years or so of CCD were alright. I was faithful, prayed often, and Mom took me to Church on Saturdays, glad for the experience herself. However, by the time I was in 7th grade, I’d developed a social life and apparently had better things to do with my time than go to CCD. Imagine that! ;) I continued to go to classes (with much protest), but stopped listening or caring about what they had to say.

Why, you might ask, did I go through with it all if I didn't care? It was out of a sense of duty, I think; a tradition that was so very important to my Italian family. In Confirmation, I would not only be seen as an adult in the Church, but in my family, as well. With my godmother at my back and my family surrounding me, I was Confirmed in October of 2003, the beginning of my freshman year of high school. For an instant that day, in the midst of balsalm and an unflattering white robe, I felt God there. It would be the last time I would let Him touch me for a long time.

The transition into high school was a huge turning point in my life. I was always known for having an explosive imagination—as a child, I held a “séance”, made up ghost stories, dressed up and pretended to be a witch, you know, normal kid stuff—but really, I knew in my heart it was nothing more than fantasy. Throughout junior high I’d read about most major religions, always fascinated by other beliefs and cultures, almost envious and resentful of my "boring" Catholicism. Throughout ninth grade, I’d been reading Isobel Bird’s Circle of Three series, all “white-lite-and-teen-angst”, but the Wiccan theology practiced by the protagonists was intriguing.

The interest would stick with me, and in May of freshman year I was spending a lot of time with my cousin, who told me that she worked with chi. She introduced me to a few "fluffy" sites, and I was pretty much sucked in from there. Her boyfriend runs a group of energy workers around here, all high school and college kids. Their rules are strict to the point of being absurd, when I asked them why they were so rigid, I was told it was fear of the media finding out, or parents. In retrospect, they’re quite a bit like a cult. Shrugging off their paranoia, I continued studying alone after school got out for the summer.

I met my mentor, Malcolm, on a forum for energy workers in July of 2004. We started talking, and when he realized that I was being taught in a way that wasn’t only improper, but dangerous, he took me under his wing. I learned the science and logic behind what I was doing, and became an adept pretty quickly in qi gong, a traditional form of energy work that traces its roots to China.

By the time school rolled around again, I was pretty serious. I met Courtney online that October. She was Wiccan, and a lot like me. We clicked almost instantly, and that’s when I truly learned about Wicca and that some of the things I’d been reading were factual. It was hard back then to stay out of a fluffy crowd; it was really all I had. I barely kept my feet on the ground, but I managed. Somewhere around my 15th birthday in November, I started calling myself a Christo-Pagan. Sure, I had my issues with Christianity, but it was still a part of me I didn’t want to lose. With help from Malcolm and Courtney, I did a fair bit of hard research, and settled in as comfortably as I could with the theology I’d accepted. I didn’t get by without criticism, though; Christians and Pagans alike were confused at best and downright rude at worst when it came to me.

For a while, I was a happy little emo-closet-bunny. I hung around with the guys from my cousin’s group and the other little emo-closet-bunnies. My friend J and I were incredibly close. We’d been friends since we started high school together, and he was an occultist as well. The two of us trained together, sometimes along with my best friend, CJ.

Yule that year was special for me. Using a gift from an old boyfriend to prepare for the sabbat, I decided to "ground" all of my negativity into it, leaving myself free of energy that would cloud my thinking and work. Foolishly, I brought the amulet to class to show off, piquing CJ's curiosity, and after handling it for some time he paled, started shaking, and got goosebumps. Honestly, it freaked us all out. J helped him ground, and it made him feel better, but we still weren’t sure what to do with the amulet. We met up a few days later at a friend’s house. By this time, I was feeling extremely guilty about what had happened. I blamed my faulty magick for hurting CJ, and took it upon myself to make up for what I had done.

Together, J and I worked to “fix” the amulet, reversing and releasing all the negativity I had channeled within it. After a while, though, even J started feeling strange and shaking. By now, I was disgusted and angry with myself. Again, my work had caused my friends’ pain, and they were only trying to help. Reckless and upset, I threw myself into a ritual having no idea what I was doing.

Stupid doesn’t even begin to cover the wide spectrum of things I was that night. I’d felt magick before, but this? Laying on the floor afterward, nausea and dizziness eating at me, I realized that the path wasn’t as simple as it seemed. As cowardly and simple the whole ordeal seemed, at barely fifteen, I was terrified of the power that I had gone out of my control. Not knowing what else to do, I tucked my tail between my legs and hit the ground running.

Everything fell apart on New Year’s Day of 2005. J had started to cut himself regularly, I was giving up magick, others in my crowd were doing drugs…it was the most helpless I’ve ever felt. I’d never realized how attached I’d become to the people and things Wicca had brought into my life. Depression onset itself quickly, and I couldn’t cope. I either slept far too much or far too little, and withdrew from my former optimistic lifestyle. This spawned an ugly war between my mother and I as lashing out at her was a favorite hobby of mine. I put up a tough, rebellious façade, and cried while I knew no one was looking. Every esbat brought back memories I would have rather forgotten, and sabbats left me hungry for another taste of magick. If I could just do the right ritual, or train hard enough, I could fix the situations my friends and I had fallen into, couldn't I?

It was one night in February that I finally hit bottom. All I remember of it was sobbing and begging to be set free by Whatever chose to find me first. Dangerous, maybe, and it would be a while, but I would get there. At the end of June, I would be undergoing major surgery on both legs, leaving me with casts up to my knees, intense therapy and six weeks stuck at home. Midsummer (Litha) came and, three days before I went into the hospital, I dedicated myself to actively seeking a faith, any faith.

August brought me to, a Protestant outreach for those currently and formerly involved in the occult; and November, the Pagan & Christian Moot, a forum for interfaith dialogue. Finally, I had found people that had felt the things I did, and shared the same experiences. At first, I was confrontational and standoffish as the staff members tried, often aggressively, to evangelize me. Eventually I would take a long sabbatical from both places, rejecting their help in knowing that this was a decision I needed to make of my own volition, without their influence.

In the end, I traveled full-circle: I spent New Year’s Eve of 2005 with the same people, in the same place. But rather than being depressed, I was so proud of how far I’d come, and had a renewed sense of hope for the future. At 2 AM on the first day of 2006, I gave my life to Christ.

With my salvation came a myriad of emotions: disbelief, peace, confusion, comfort among them. Since then, I’ve had to grapple with a lot of things. Many vices have been kicked aside, and a few friends whom I hold dear have regretfully pulled away from me. My parents are very slowly coming to terms with my decision, but their love hasn’t wavered, and for that I am grateful. I have wonderful friends, Christian and Pagan, local and not. All of them have made an effort to reach out to me with support, love, and prayer (of all sorts!). Through these two years of intense trial, I’ve found my place, and have realized how blessed I truly am. Thank God.

To be continued...

The Mother

To compliment the previous post, a poem from the late Gwendolyn Brooks that I read for my Modern American Literature class last week.

The Mother - Gwendolyn Brooks

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you


Just a small thought--seemingly all my schedule leaves me capable of now, hehe--before I turn in.

Some of you may know that while I consider myself pro-life, I'm not incredibly vocal or zealous about it. As horrible as that may sound, it's only the truth; maybe someday, God will strengthen that conviction in me.

But tonight, something struck me that I wanted to share with you all, something that, for a few minutes, made me feel as passionate as many of my friends.

The thing about abortion is that, when we say no to life in favor of death, we are saying, "I don't want you. You're not wanted here."

Can any of us say we would react positively if someone told us that? Particularly someone who didn't know us from Adam? Imagine being approached on the street and being killed as so many are, simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of circumstance.

The fact is, that little clump of cells will grow to be a human being, with all that comes with it--dreams, desires, hopes, fears, talents, joys, loves.

Why do we say no to them? We have multiple chances to do the right thing. Those little ones don't stand a chance.

There's got to be another way...

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Today, as Hurricane Hanna pounded its way up the East Coast and headed to my home north of the Jersey Shore, I found myself doing a lot of praying.

Praying not only for the safety of my cousin and her young girls in North Carolina, but a little selfishly for myself, too. I have had a horrible two weeks, faithwise, and needed Confession and Mass very badly.

Amusingly, just as my mother pulled away after dropping me off at church, the rain which had previously held off now came in torrents. God, it seemed, had heard me.

After a long talk with my pastor, I ended up in the back of the church, which was still dark, aside from the lights in the choir area. Rain poured down outside, and I knelt to do my penance, glad to just be with Him again. So much has happened in these two weeks. I started my second year of college, saw my best friend off to school eight hours away, realized how much I missed the touch of a man, and saw someone very dear to me take the last few shaky steps toward Rome.

Frankly, I've been in a state of shock since last year when I started college. This transition from youth into adulthood is coming easily in some ways, but in others, it has been incredibly difficult. I've yet to find my 'land legs', and at times, I feel as if I'm just flailing around, waiting for things to make sense.

Being in the Presence of my Lord, really in His Presence, has been more of a consolation to me than anything else I've ever found. There are times where, seemingly without reason, I find myself choking back sobs before Mass, and in an hour's time, walking out restored, and truly whole.

I said to my other half once that it's like He comes and lets me empty myself out, so He can fill me again. It's a cleansing, a healing process.

And that struck me tonight. The storm raged outside, but in here, just for a while, everything else was okay. The physical world mirrored the spiritual. How lucky we are to have this in our matter where we go, anywhere in the world, we have the Mass. No matter what's going on in our lives, we take an hour once a week at least to let Him in, and calm the hurricane in all of us.

Life is ever-changing. But God? He is ever-present. And ready to accept us if we come to Him.

Friday, September 5, 2008


Everything rides on hope now...everything rides on faith, somehow...

Jesus, I trust in You.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Introducing Tenth Avenue North

Well My love is over, it's underneath, it's inside, it's in between,
These times you're healing, and when your heart breaks,
The times that you feel like you're falling from Grace,
The times you're hurting, the times that you heal,
The times you go hungry and are tempted to steal...

In times of confusion and chaos and pain,
I'm there in your sorrow, under the weight of your shame.
I'm there through your heartache, I'm there in the storm,
My love, I will keep you by My power alone...

--"Times" by Tenth Avenue North

Last summer, I had the opportunity to introduce you to Casting Crowns, and their now-hit album, The Altar and the Door. Now that summer is over, I thought I would pass along another recommendation, one that has never been far from my most played list this summer.

Tenth Avenue North, an indie Christian band based in West Palm Beach, CA, is definitely going to be a group to watch in the coming years. Their first album, Over and Underneath, debuted in late May, and without exaggeration, took my breath away.
"I think a lot of people are kind of fed up with Christian music, because while a lot of it deals with Truth, it doesn't deal at all with the wrestling--the struggling to believe that." --Mike Donehey, lead vocals
This struggling that Donehey mentions is the centerpiece of their album, and although the musical style fits neatly into the altrock genre, the lyrics can at times reach the darkest places in the Christian life, including feelings of isolation and abandonment by God.

The thing that makes Tenth Avenue North stand out to me is the continuous reference to having not just a relationship with Him, but truly loving and adoring Him. The songs Beloved and Lovesick (bonus track when you buy the CD on iTunes) have almost a mystical quality to their lyrics, imploring deep intimacy with God.

When all is said and done, you're left with a deep sense of how much God is willing to do for us, and how far His love really stretches. Great for worship, and also fantastic for just singing along and having fun.

Do yourself a big favor and go buy their CD--it's fantastic.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Comfort Zone

Summer is coming to an all-too-hasty end, and with it, most of my readers are heading to college, either for the first time or as a returning student.

Two of my good friends have been blessed to transfer recently to two very orthodox Catholic universities. This week, I start my last year at a local community college. This May, I'll graduate with my Associate's in Journalism, and transfer to a public state university.

You might wonder why, as an orthodox Catholic, I'm so adamant about staying with secular institutions, when my friends have access to daily Mass and a supportive community. For the most part, I was raised secular--I went to CCD like all cradle Catholics, and received my first three Sacraments, but didn't do much beyond that. My family, and the majority of my friends, are only nominally Catholic. While I've found fellowship in Protestants from my school, we'll never be on the exact same page.

That may sound lonely or uncomfortable, and yes, it can be, but I'd rather have it that way. As much as having access to the Mass and Adoration appeals to me, I fear that in that situation, I would become spoiled. I would forget how to function when God is absent in the community, and possibly end up resenting the cards that God has dealt me.

I've always said that people should never forget where they came from. Though I'm no longer an occultist, that period of time made a lasting impact on my life, and the last thing I want to do is close my eyes and pretend it never happened. It's because of paganism that I'm Catholic today, and my current faith is strengthened and has blossomed thanks to going astray.

The university I plan to transfer to has a Newman Center with a great priest and daily Mass. Yet, in some ways, I'm hesitant to take advantage of those opportunities. I don't want to turn the Newman Center into my crutch, only to be on my own again come graduation in 2011. On forums, I've read multiple stories of college graduates who struggled to adjust after leaving such a community, and some never do.

Does this mean Catholic schools are a hindrance more than a help? Absolutely not. I'd gladly trade places with them...but only for a little while. I've been planted firmly outside my comfort zone since my reversion, and until I marry, I will probably stay there. Until that day comes, I need to remember how to stand on my own. And that, too, has its perks. :)

Thanks, Mom...

My late night thought--or is it early morning?--for tonight:

Without Jesus, we can't be saved. Without Mary's "yes" to God on the night of the Annunciation--"Be it done to me according to Thy Word"--we would have no Jesus, no Son of God to give us a chance at eternal life.

Logic follows...

Without Mary, there is no salvation.

Think about it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It took me a while, but...

Better late than never, no? From our good friend the Belief-o-Matic, courtesy of

1. Eastern Orthodox (100%)
2. Roman Catholic (100%)
3. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (87%)
4. Orthodox Quaker (85%)
5. Seventh Day Adventist (84%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (73%)
7. Hinduism (69%)
8. Sikhism (68%)
9. Orthodox Judaism (67%)
10. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (63%)
11. Islam (60%)
12. Liberal Quakers (55%)
13. Jehovah's Witness (50%)
14. Unitarian Universalism (46%)
15. Bahá'í Faith (46%)
16. Jainism (45%)
17. Mahayana Buddhism (43%)
18. Reform Judaism (43%)
19. Theravada Buddhism (42%)
20. Neo-Pagan (28%)
21. Scientology (23%)
22. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (23%)
23. New Age (22%)
24. Taoism (22%)
25. Secular Humanism (21%)
26. New Thought (19%)
27. Nontheist (19%)

Monday, July 14, 2008

So Close, and Yet...

Sometimes when I pray, it feels like God is all around me--so close, that when I'm done, I almost hate to say amen.

--Laura Peyton Roberts

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Food for Thought

With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?

--Jay Leno

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


One of my favorite priests of all time is Fr. John Corapi, whom I discovered through EWTN a year or so before my reversion. His show comes on every Saturday night at 10:00 Eastern Time. Go. Watch. You'll be glad you did. ;)

Anyhow, on this past week's show, he had this to say:

"God is our Father. Mary is our Mother. You are nobility. So act like it."

A lightbulb went on when I heard this. Our Heavenly Father is the Maker of our world, and ruler over both His earthly and heavenly kingdom. His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As we're all children of God, the King of Kings is our spiritual brother.

Mary is the mother of Jesus, who is both true God and true man. This is where the Church gets the title Mother of God. If Jesus is the King of Kings, and God the Father is the ruler of all, Mary would be something special as well. From this, we get another title, the Queen of Heaven.

If we are Jesus' spiritual brothers and sisters, and Mary is His mother, then she would be our spiritual mother as well.

To sum up:
* The ruler of all the Earth is our Father.
* The Queen of Heaven is our Mother.
* The King of Kings is our brother.

We really are nobility. We are sons and daughters of spiritual royalty.

That should awe and humble us all at once. We'll never even come close to being worthy of this nobility we gain through Christ who died for us...and yet it's ours, a priceless gift.

Shouldn't we be doing whatever we can to show loyalty to and pride in our family?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Two weeks ago, the Church celebrated the beginning of the Jubilee Year of St. Paul. As we mark the 2000th year since the birth of history's greatest evangelist, there will be a great deal of attention paid to his writings, work, and ministry.

For me, I'm starting to wonder if it will mean more than just Bible studies of the Pauline letters with my other half.

As you may or may not know, I've always had a very difficult time talking about my Faith with other people. This is mostly because my spiritual life is such an intimate part of me; to share that with others would be making myself vulnerable to a level that I usually only allow my confessor to see in the presence of God. The other part is natural, and what I hope is understandable: a fear of rejection. I know we are supposed to willingly shake the dust from our feet, but as a young Christian I still carry a lot of reservations and fear.

Lately, though, situations have arisen in my personal life where I can't stay silent. I hate the way I feel when I try to dodge the topic, but I love the adrenaline rush that comes from defending and upholding the Truth given to us through Christ and His Church. My confessor once mused that the Church is losing people because those of us in her aren't willing to defend her; instead, we are letting people walk on us, over us, and ultimately away from us.

That shouldn't be. And, as frightened as I may be, I can't let it happen because of my sins, particularly those of omission. Not on my watch.

Every night, every day, I find that I have nothing I can say.
So I stand here in silence, awaiting Your guidance
I'm wanting only Your voice to be heard;
Let them be Your words.

So give me words to speak,
Don't let my spirit sleep,
'Cause I can't think of anything worth saying,
But I know that I owe You my life.

--Aaron Shust, "Give Me Words to Speak"

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr

I have to give some honor today to my patron, who's feast day falls on the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time this year. Maria Goretti was only 12 years old when she died for her purity and faith, making her one of the youngest saints of the modern era.

Her family worked very closely with their neighbors, the Serenellis. Their teenaged son, Alessandro, was captivated by Maria in more ways than one, and after several failed attempts, got Maria alone in her house. He told her to undress, and she refused, saying it would be a terrible sin. He became aggressive, but she consistently denied him, wanting to protect his purity. Finally, Alessandro turned to violence, stabbing Maria 14 times before leaving her for dead.

While she lived for several days in the hospital, Maria would eventually succumb to her wounds. One of the last things she said was that she had forgiven Alessandro for what he did to her, and that she wanted him in heaven with her someday. She passed away on July 6th, 1902.

Several years later, while serving his 30-year prison sentence, Alessandro had a dream in which Maria presented him with 14 white lilies. He was converted by the experience, and after being released from prison, he asked for her mother Assunta's forgiveness. Saying that her daughter did no less, the pair received Communion together the next day. They were also side by side at her canonization in 1950. Serenelli would go on to become a laybrother of the Capuchins.

Today, St. Maria is honored as the patron of young women, and of chastity. I've been very grateful for her being in my life, especially through my teens. :)

Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God's grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee , and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Prada, but Christ

From AOL News:

Pope Doesn't Wear Prada, Vatican Says

The paparazzi must be so disappointed...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Certainty and Change

There are times in life where everything feels certain. It's a kind of firmness in your gut and peace in your spirit that yes, you really are doing what God wants you to do.

You see it in Sacred Scripture, when the right verses tend to just--literally--fall into your lap. When your prayers are met with an internal yes, and your assurance is only strengthened when your choices are met with success.

So what do you do when suddenly, even years down the road, you feel your certainty fade? You ask God for help, guidance, or, if you're me, "a neon sign. Something obvious."

Within two weeks, in the span of an hour, your certainty is cut in two. Suddenly, living the life you have has been made nearly impossible for you. You had no backup plan.

Does God ever change His mind?

Nothing in life is certain.

From the ends of the earth I will cry to You;
When my heart is overwhelmed,
lead me to the Rock that is higher than I...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Swept Up in the Excitement

I'm very much enjoying the Holy Father's visit here. Thanks to all the coverage in English, without the tediousness of translators, I think I've been able to grasp so much better who our Papa is.

And I really, really like what I've seen and heard. Until this week, I've been mostly neutral about him.

There's a certain buzz that's tangible in the crowds at the papal events, even if you're not there to witness it for yourself. The leader of over one billion Catholics, here with us! Geez, talk about special. :) I only wish I could have gone to New York City for the Mass at Yankee Stadium's only three hours away.

Benedict, at first, came off as a mostly intellectual man. This visit has shown me his emotional, caring side--a true love of a shepherd for his sheep. To know that he cares about us so deeply, even though he'll only meet a fraction of us in his life, is touching.

Having him in this country has been a blessing. It's gotten all sorts of people talking--religious and secular, Christian and not--about God, faith, and what it all means. Not many things have that sort of impact. It comes at a time when a firm voice of Truth is needed as the country falls to moral decay.

For me, it has been a renewal, especially as he speaks to the youth. It helps to know that I'm not alone in my journey, and I never will be.

This week more than ever, I'm proud to be Catholic.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Did someone call the PapaRatzi?

Welcome to the United States, Papa Benedict!

It's going to be an exciting week. America needs the voice of the Holy Father now more than ever, but whether the country listens or not is another story, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, I pray for his success here. It's his 81st birthday today! He really seems to be enjoying himself already. Very cool.

Some photos of his address at the White House, courtesy of

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Christ is risen! Alleluia!

I don't think I'll tire of saying it for a good while. After holding it in for so long, I can barely contain my joy.

Sitting in the dark at Church last night was eerie in so many ways. I was still feeling somewhat ill from the intensity of Good Friday, and the nightmare-ridden sleep that night. I clung to my candle and tried to lose myself in the readings and psalms, punctuated at the end by a reading from Romans about Christ destroying our death.

When the lights came on and the Gloria rang out with bells, I nearly cried. Finally, an end to the mourning...

He is risen as He said!

And, as I knelt in prayer before receiving the Eucharist, I was flooded with an intense joy that I find difficult to put into words. But in that moment, this verse came into my mind (Revelation 21:4):

And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

This week may have left me emotionally broken, but the glory I've experienced today has really made all of it a passing memory.

Again, God made good on His promises. God said my mourning would cease, and it did. Christ said He would rise again, and He did.

For that, I am very, very glad.

Alleluia! Happy Easter, everyone.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy birthday...

Just because I know he reads my blog (and would be giddy at seeing his name in print, I think ;) ) happy birthday, Jeff! :)


Before I knew what Holy Saturday was about--Jesus descending into Hell--I always found it oddly placed in the Triduum. It was as if there was nothing to do but sit and wait for Easter to come.

While I may know better now, the waiting doesn't change. It is too late to go back and undo the events of Good Friday. We nailed Christ to the cross, killed him there, and stuck a spear in His side just to be sure. He has died, and for today, that cannot be changed.

That same realization comes before the Easter Vigil Mass this evening, when we discover the tabernacle left open and empty. The altar is bare and the Church mostly undecorated. The lights are off.

I remember particularly tonight the words the priest says after every Our Father we say at Mass:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy, keep us safe from sin, and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, He will rise again, destroying our death in His new life. Bells will ring out all over the world, signaling the end of the most intensely solemn season of the liturgical year.

It was too long this year. I'll only be at ease when I can sing the Gloria, and know in my heart that Christ has been and will be triumphant.

Until then, I'll wait.

Grief Before Joy

Tonight, a friend sent me a message wishing me an early happy Easter, filled with a joy she couldn't contain to herself. It lifted my spirits on a day that anymore is so grim to me.

I love Easter. But I have to get through today before I can get there.

Today, the Savior of the world went to the Cross at Calvary. For each of our individual sins, and for the sins of our society, He endured every torture and the most intense pains of this world.

But why?

Why did He do it? How could He do it, when on every other day of the year we are so ungrateful?

Well, that part is simple. He loves us. He loved us then, and He loves us now.

It's for that, if anything, that I find myself mourning today. I'm so undeserving of His love...we all are. And yet He gave us the greatest gift He could--the gift of Himself. In Him we find love, mercy, and infinite grace...whether we deserve it or not.

Though I mourn the death of my Redeemer, I guess my friend is right. There's joy to be found deep within today's in knowing that we are loved beyond measure.

All I can do is thank Him for everything, and try to love Him back with a fraction of that depth.

It's a good thing He doesn't care if we're not perfect. :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Passion Sunday

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"

The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

-Gospel according to St. Matthew, 21:9-11
This year marks my first official Holy Week. Though I was raised Catholic, we never went to Mass, not even for Christmas and Easter. I'm glad I was able to go to the Palm Sunday Mass last night. It was an intense, emotional roller coaster that will definitely stick with me for a while.

Last night, the weather was perfect for walking on the parish grounds. Mass began at sunset outside the church, where we were greeted and had palms distributed. Those of us gathered there that had palms were sprinkled with holy water; the water always reminds me of my baptism. Our deacon read from the Gospel the story of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and we all headed back into the church with our palms singing joyfully.

The joy of the moment didn't last, though. Our usual moments of song were punctuated with periods of silence, and the hymns were solemn and eerie. The Gospel was the Passion narrative in its quickly became clear why the liturgical color of the day was a deep scarlet. The deacon and priest read the narration and the words of Christ, respectively, while the congregation acted as the crowd who had assembled to ask for Christ's crucifixion (St. Matthew 27:21-8):

"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor.
"Barabbas," they answered.

"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.
They all answered, "Crucify him!"

"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"

All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

My stomach twisted as I found myself speaking those words. Were we not singing the praises of the Christ a half hour before? How quickly we turned and spat at him. We were the ones to sentence Him to death. Scarlet...the color of blood. His blood really is on our hands.

Finally, when Christ spoke His last words and gave up His spirit on the cross, the narrative paused. The congregation went to its knees, all eyes on the crucifix that hangs above our altar.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

From there, the Mass continued as usual, but there was a somber undertone to the whole thing that subdued us all. Instead of receiving the Eucharist with joy, I took it with sorrow, realizing that His Body and Blood were the last things I deserved, when I had helped to crucify Him with my sins.

And, with a final hymn that pleaded, "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom," we were sent out to prepare ourselves for the week ahead--one of fasting, prayer, and penance.

There's a light at the end of all this, however, and it is the hope on which we ground our faith. Christ will die...

And then, He will rise.

And we shall rise with Him.


Lately, I have had the privilege of spending time with some Christians from college. While they're Protestant, I still thank God for them often. They offer me fellowship that I've needed so badly since giving my life to Christ. When I was alone, it was very difficult to walk in faith; with them, I have a support network to fall back back on when things get tricky.

Sometimes, though, our differences are nearly tangible.

Just this week, the four of us went out to dinner with our one friend's pastor, and the pastor's wife. They were both very genuine, funny people whom I really enjoyed getting acquainted with. They asked me a few questions about my Catholic faith, which I handled as best as I was able before the topic drifted to Protestant theologians.

While listening to their conversation, I was hit suddenly with the realization that, honestly, I just don't fit. I don't belong in their crowd, and I never will.

It's not just because they're Protestant; indeed, that does play a part, but it's not the entire reason. Sometimes, it seems that all the Christians I meet are, well, exactly the same. We (they?) present ourselves with this image that we're pure and good and holy and righteous and--

Set apart.

So many Christians are cookie cutters, who all take on the same, plastic way of behaving. Maybe it's a defense mechanism (and, really, I don't blame them if it is), but it's really unnecessary. If God wanted a planet of robots, He would have created us that way.

We have identities. Can we not be ourselves in Christ? You'd think we'd be confident enough to think, to live outside those little molds society pressures us into.

Cookie cutters don't help anyone but other Christians, and even then, such molds can hurt people. It sends a message to new believers, or even older ones, that one has to act in a certain way to be a 'proper' Christian. There's a standard you have to reach, or you're not good enough. Though it's not always meant to be that way, that message can be sent subtly.

To non-Christians, it looks even worse. We're haughty, above everyone else, and seemingly unwilling to accept those who aren't spotless lambs like we are. That doesn't exactly make our faith look attractive.

As for me, well, I like being a little rough around the edges. I love being with a man who is Christian, yet just as real as the rest of the world. My closest friends in the fold will always be those who survived some of the nastiest physical and spiritual attachments life can throw at us, and aren't afraid to be honest about it.

We're not cookie-cutters. We don't really fit anywhere...and we like it that way, most of time. We've broken our molds, and as my dear friend John says, we're just cookies now.

Punny as it may be, it's true.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I Hate Pachelbel

I want to take a break from theology tonight with something that made me laugh straight through. Originally, this blog wasn't going to be all about matters of faith, but the muse had other plans. Yes, I'm punny, no need to mention it. ;) )

By the way, Pachelbel's name really was Johann.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Handmaiden

Let me begin by saying as a Catholic striving to live with orthodoxy, I acknowledge all the Church teaches us about the Blessed Virgin Mary, including her Immaculate Conception, bodily Assumption, and role as Queen of Heaven.

I bet you wish your mother was as awesome as she is. :)

That said, there's something that has left in me a sense of unease since my return to the Church. Have you ever noticed that, in times of trouble, many Catholics will flee to their rosaries? Some will talk about Mary more than even their own Savior.

Now, don't get me wrong; this is all well and good. Our Lady is indeed our number one intercessor. She loves to pray to the Lord for us and with us, and because she is the Mother of Christ, prayers from her are particularly powerful.

However, I cannot help but make an observation similar to the one Kimberly Hahn (wife of Catholic theologian Dr. Scott Hahn) made before her conversion to Catholicism. In their book, Rome Sweet Home, she writes:

It seemed that Catholics focused on Mary the way we [Protestants] focused on Jesus: she was the approachable one--you could hide in her skirts rather than face the Father in his anger; Mary was the broad back door into God's favor, while Jesus remained the narrow front door.

Again, let me stress that my concern isn't with the Blessed Mother, but with those who cling so closely to her. I don't blame them, really; who better to turn to than one who will pick us up and dust us off, rather than facing the shame and rightful judgment of the Almighty?

The truth of the matter is that it is a grey area. The line can be far too thin, it seems, when our pious devotions become more than the hyperdulia that we show to Mary.

It doesn't escape me that, as I seek the intercession of my Mother at my home parish, as I face her, my back is to the crucifix. My back is to the tabernacle that houses my Lord and Savior truly present in the Sacred Host and Precious Blood.

So what does Our Lady think of all this?

Well, she tells us in the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel:

48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

All generations did and do call her "blessed amongst women". But both Mary herself and modern Catholics extol her Son in the next breath.

Mary's eyes, in my parish, are not on those that pray before her, but on Christ on the cross. I think that if she were alive and among us today, she would pull us up from our place on our knees, take us gently by the shoulders, and turn us to face her Son. Blessed as she may be, she is merely human, honored by God with perfect grace and holiness. In the end, salvation comes from Christ alone. Mary knows that, but do we?

It is so important to know our place in the covenant, as Scott Hahn presents it: Christ is our brother, and His Mother is ours--but God is our Father. They, with all the saints, are there for us, but God is number one.

Still, it never hurts to tell our Mother that we love her.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the our of our death.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Modern Woman at the Well

This weekend's Gospel is one of the better known stories of the Bible: Christ encounters a Samaritan woman who has come alone to draw water at a well.

I'd like to thank Fr. Brian of for sharing this new perspective on the old passage.

Enjoy; expect a more substantial post sometime soon. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Freedom Isn't Free

It is with some sheepishness that I admit I have a soft spot in me for Christian music. I know there's nothing wrong with it, it's just not my style. ;)

In an introduction to Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)", the DJ remarked that because of our belief in Christ, we were saved and delivered from our "chains"--those nasty sins that hold us back--once, now, and forever.

Beautiful as that may sound, I find myself raising an eyebrow in skepticism.

If my chains were gone, then I'd not snap in anger at my parents.
If my chains were gone, then I wouldn't be careless in my language.
If my chains were gone, then I wouldn't need to fight my passions like an alter ego.

Right? Isn't that what "once saved always saved" means? Well, any Christian will say they still have sins present in their life that weigh them down--vices, hangups, and for some, even addictions. If salvation equates to our freedom from sin, then shouldn't these things have disappeared when we accepted Christ? Clearly humanity debunks this "broken chains" idealism faster than it can get on its feet.

Some Protestants believe that once we make that initial cry for salvation, there is nothing in this world that can separate us from God. Because we have called on the name of the Lord, we will spend eternity in Heaven. This, too, is a faulty way of thinking. Take, for example, a scenario in which a Christian murders his brother. Is this person saved? According to some denominations, yes, he is, even though the Bible clearly tells us we shall not kill. The wages of sin is death, indeed.

This is why salvation is not an event, but a process that takes our entire lives to complete. Yes, there is usually a moment when we call out for Christ, and He comes to live within us. However, our fates aren't sealed in that instant. We are made temples of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul tells us, but what happens when we defile ourselves with sins of both thought and deed? The Holy Spirit cannot live contently in something unholy.

Salvation is a journey. Every day, we make choices--either walk toward holiness and the promises of Christ, or walk toward sin and separation from our Father who loves us so much. Accept and work with the grace of God to overcome temptation, or reject it in stubbornness and remain trapped in sin.

I've been saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved in the here and now (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved at the end of my life (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). [Verses from]

We can only ever be truly free the day we stand before our Lord, and are welcomed with open arms into His kingdom. Until then, we follow His commandments and live in His love. With grace, maybe those "chains" won't be so heavy after all.