Thursday, February 18, 2010


Yesterday was likely one of the most intense beginnings to the Lenten season I've ever had.

The last three years have gotten me adjusted to what fasting was like, so aside from the occasional hunger pains, it really wasn't that bad. I split a salad with another fasting friend for lunch, and got chickpeas (garbanzo beans or ceci beans) in it for protein. Tasty, and also worked really well. The one thing I really missed was chocolate, but I had a pudding cup after midnight. Haha, I'm such a slacker. ;)

I had the privilege of getting to serve at both Newman Masses yesterday, one as a lector and the other with music ministry. The first was celebrated by the pastor of the parish a few blocks down from my campus--our chaplain was over in the Student Center giving ashes out. We were joined by a guy that works at our bookstore that also happens to be a permanent deacon. It was all very solid, and Father's homily gave me something interesting to take away.

Despite growing up Catholic, I've never been to an Ash Wednesday Mass before, so it was all new to me. I didn't realize that to rend one's garments was a sign of grief or repentance. He suggested that rather than beating ourselves up over our sins, to shake off our lethargy and keep moving forward. If we allow ourselves to despair, then we've allowed sin to conquer us. That's why it's important to bounce back, confess and get back on the bandwagon as soon as possible.

Getting ashes brought on a lot of staring, incredulous questions, and even some rude comments. Considering one of my biggest stumbling blocks upon my reversion was being open about my faith, accepting ashes was a huge milestone. I admit experiencing a cold sense of dread as people stared at me on campus, and really had to struggle not to lower my eyes. By the end of the day, though, I was confidently looking back at them, almost daring someone to say something rude. In a small way, being marked with ashes is a lot like carrying the cross. The only difference is that in the West today, you typically won't be fed to lions for wearing an overt sign of Christian faith.

Last night at our meeting, Father talked about Jesus' time in the desert, and how Lent is our own invitation to enter the desert alone, to find ourselves. Immediately, I blanched--I know the desert well already, and the thought of it getting any worse makes me break into cold sweats. Heh. That said, it was a hard discussion to participate in, and I felt myself railing against some of the things he said, even choking up at a point when he asked us if we ever prayed, "God, why do we have to suffer so much for Your sake?" I knew then that it was time.

After a week of scheduling and rescheduling, I finally got a chance to go for spiritual direction with our chaplain. I'm not going to go into the details as it was very, very raw, but he pointed out a few areas that I can work on that may help to ease this darkness. More than anything, I have to accept that things work on God's time and not my own.

Allowing myself to break, fully and without reserve, in front of him was so scary. I was completely bare and vulnerable, putting myself entirely in his confidence (praise God for the seal of Confession!), and I realize now that this is exactly what Lent is about. We're to rend our hearts, to rip them open and lay ourselves prostrate and wounded at His feet. Like Christ in the desert, we show our wounds and allow ourselves to be ministered to.

...I'm terrified of that.

But, at the same time, I have a gut feeling that this is the start of deep healing for me. For so long now, I've done a halfhearted job of covering up my struggles instead of attacking them at my core. With regular direction, maybe I can finally have peace. Even now, it seems like little more than a dream.

All things are possible with Him and through Him, right? I guess all that's left to do is turn to my old mantra, not with fearful anxiety, but with peace in knowing He will come through for me. He is faithful.

Jesus, all over again, I trust in You!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pre-Lenten Humor

As I savor the last little bit of this Ben & Jerry's ice cream--my penance this Lent--I wanted to share this video that I stumbled upon earlier this evening.

San Francisco's Judy McDonald is not only a seasoned standup comedian, but a solid Catholic as well. She tours the country to share her love for laughter and honesty, but a critical message remains at the core of her routines: the Truth of the Gospel.

It's so refreshing for me to see someone like Judy that has managed to take an unconventional passion and turn it into a witness for the Church. It's especially nice to see that she loves to focus on youth audiences--my generation needs to re-learn that God isn't dead. Beyond that, everything she says is just so true!

I hope this clip helps you to kick off Lent with a smile. It did for me. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love Never Fails

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds...
--Psalm 147:3

Up until about six months ago, I still looked at love with the idealistic eyes of one who had never been seriously hurt. Wronged, yes, but not let down.

These days, the way I feel about myself and about men is a toss-up. One day things will be fine, and I'll feel those old nostalgic affections coming back to me. They're so tempting; when I feel confident again, desired again, sin rears its ugly head. I have plenty of shameful memories to keep me out of trouble, yet the cycle continues.

In sometimes the same breath, affection gives way to something twisted. It's like getting ice water dumped over your head; moments like that wake me up. What the hell am I doing?, indeed. And as that shame gives way to anger, I remember something very important. More often than not, people are going to let me down. We're human. We sin, we fail, and we hurt each other--sometimes in ways that are cruel.

Love never fails.
God is love.

Using the transitive property of mathematics, then this means...
God never fails.

I can be let down, used, hurt and disappointed by a million men in a million ways, but He has remained and will always remain faithful. When I am battered by this world, I run to His Mercy, and I find comfort.

That's something I have done very little of, lately. Perhaps it's part of the problem.

Tomorrow (well, today), I meet with my chaplain. If God is truly on my side, we'll find a way for me to begin taking baby steps back into a life of embracing Him. I want that so's just life and all its pains and sufferings, my very self, that stands in the way.

Luckily, God loves even the messiest of His daughters. Deo gratias!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


What a hairy, emotional, draining month it's been. Forgive my lack of updates--between my schoolwork and inability to write when feeling spiritually down, things have been quiet.

I can't articulate all that has gone on since my last update, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure that I want to. There is so much going on in my heart, and in my personal life. To talk about it causes me a great deal of stress. Still, I feel like I need to say something.

Since around Christmas time--heck, even the summer--my faith has been a heavy burden on me. It has truly become a cross instead of a consolation, and rather than embracing its many graces, I find myself recoiling, violently so. But really, can I be blamed for that? Why on earth would anyone willfully accept something that causes great pain? It's masochism, and that is fortunately something I'm not inclined to. Over time, it has become increasingly more difficult to pray, to listen to Christian music, and to stay holy--and eventually that struggle grew into an outright aversion for faith.

I've been tempted to everything under the sun since then, yet still by some miracle remain in the Faith. There are moments when I am one step from running from the absurdity of this walk and getting far, far away. Away from this hurricane.


In those moments where I do manage to approach my issues rationally and with a calm mind, I feel an incredible sense of urgency. My gut tells me that if I can just work through this, just keep going, God is going to do incredible things. It's a burning, almost, even now...the idea that I am so close to breaking free, and embracing everything He has for me.

Getting there, though, is the trouble. Sometimes, I wonder if I'll crumble under the pressure before I reach the end of the tunnel.

Thanks to the gentle nudges from a few dear friends, I swallowed my stubborn pride and its desire to "work it out on my own." Earlier in the week, I reached out to both my campus chaplain, and my confessor from home (whom I hope will soon become my unofficial spiritual director--he's not been ordained long enough for formal direction). I am praying with all of me that God speaks through them. I need wisdom, courage and His gifts now more than ever.

More than anything, I need faith. I barely have a mustard seed right now. Will it carry me?

I can hope. I can keep walking through the dark, focusing on that tiny burning light inside of me, and pray that there really is something on the other side.