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!