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.