Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Bring Us Back

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
--from Psalm 30

This week, we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday, and for me, it's a very important weekend. The Third Sunday of Easter marks the day, liturgically, when I returned home to the Church. Of course, I didn't know that at the time, but in retrospect the irony makes me smile. I was much happier feeding on the grass from the other side, even though I was unsatisfied and flying by the seat of my pants more often than not.

It was also Family Day at Newman, and my parents both accompanied me to meet my friends--indeed, my second family--and chaplain. They also stayed for Mass, and their presence meant more to me than I can really articulate. I surprised them by playing piano, and they were both super impressed by the amount of work that goes into playing for a Mass. It's good to know that they'll always love and support me, even though we don't share that perspective quite yet. I'll keep praying.

Jesus is full of that same loving concern, only infinitely greater. He'd go to the ends of the earth and the depths of hell--and He did!--just to be with us through all of life's joys and sorrows. The humbling thing is that He still desires this regardless of whether we choose to recognize His Presence.

There are black sheep who have rejected Him outright, white ones who have never strayed, and then there are those like me...who, in the effort to be happier with the grass being greener, actually wander far, far away from home. By the time we realize, it's long past dark, we're lost and utterly alone.

Or are we?

He's always there. All we have to do is ask for the eyes of faith...these days, I know I am.

This is Paul Alan's "To Bring You Back." Its message is profound for this season. Please continue to pray for me and all those who are lost.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Living in the Present Moment

Some wonderful thoughts that soothe my soul tonight from the diary of St. Faustina, one of my "rockstar saints."

When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all.

It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.

O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of your omnipotence.

And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater glory.


I live from one hour to the next and am not able to get along in any other way. I want to make the best possible use of the present moment, faithfully accomplishing everything that it gives me. In all things, I depend on God with unwavering trust.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I do some of my best thinking in the midst of a piping hot shower at the end of the day.

I hopped in this morning at around 1:00, as some activities in my townhouse (for lack of a better word) kept me confined to my room for a while. By then, I was exhausted and depressed--after spending the night with great friends, the adrenaline and caffeine wore off, and I crashed hard.

Though as I accidentally tried to lather up with shampoo instead of shower gel (did I mention exhaustion?), I had a random thought that stopped me in my tracks.

I spent a few peaceful moments yesterday in front of the tabernacle in our tiny upstairs chapel. While there, for once the emptiness dropped away, replaced with calm. I can't say I had faith in that moment, but I prayed with ease for the first time in a long time.

Pondering over the afternoon, I was cheered up by Father dragging me out to sit in the sun, and the unprompted support of several close friends. The gratitude was humbling.

And then it hit me:

What if...it's not God who's ceased to console us, but us who have shut out His love?

Have you ever been so emotionally raw, perhaps after a great loss, that the embrace of a loved one doesn't even begin to mend the wound? I'm beginning to wonder if that just might be the case with me.

Just before this whole mess began, I was dealing with a terrible anger at God over some issues. Rather than working through them, I chose to pretend He just wasn't real--it would be much easier than accepting the Cross, I thought.

And when I shut that door, it suddenly became too heavy for me to open again. Literally overnight, my heart grew hard, and I was completely unconvinced of God's reality. Like quicksand, I found myself sinking and with every step I made to escape, I went deeper.

That's where I find myself right now. But I think there is so much to be said for just opening ourselves up to that Love! We celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday this weekend, my favorite feast, and essentially that devotion is rooted in the belief that God's unfathomable Mercy is beyond even our greatest pain.

He wants to heal me, and like a wounded animal, I'm too ensnared in my fears and worries to let it take root. I think it's time to try.

Please pray for me!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Come Awake!

Today, all I can say is ALLELUIA! He is risen again and risen always!

My pastor preached last night about how so many people are of the belief that "we live--we die. That's it."

My stomach dropped. God can be so funny. In the end, Monsignor reminded us that despite how bleak the world around us may be, God is NOT done, it is NOT the end, and greater things ARE coming.

Just hold on.

Happy Easter,

More Matt Maher for you. Really, go buy "Alive Again." Right now.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"This is the night..."

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

--from The Easter Exultet

No matter what is going on in my life or how stressed I may be, the Easter Vigil always fills me with an incredible sense of anticipation and joy. It’s a rescue for me, an invitation to cast off my despair, my fear, my pain, and rejoice with the Church. We are reminded year after year that our triumph has already been won, but sometimes, in the midst of all life’s turmoil, it can be easy to forget.

Oh, how I’ve forgotten this Lent. I think this desert has extended long beyond forty days. I am ready for the oasis of the Easter season. For Pentecost. Revival.

And tonight, at long last, it’s here.

For now, I watch the Passion as I wait for my friend to arrive for Vigil. I’m watching closely with each lash, reminding myself that this is not film or fantasy, but reality. He took this on for me, for all of us. One would think, had it been a lie, or a game of insanity, that someone would have said. Of the Twelve and thousands of disciples, one of them would have given up the truth as Pilate asked.

But, no. They wouldn’t have; not if He was Truth.

This is the night we accept Him again into our midst, along with the belief that without Him, without this, we would have nothing. We would be nothing. There would be no hope.

I have flirted far too long with nihilism and the coldness of supposed rationality. I am tired of this foolishness. I am tired of Satan and his petty little games.

No more!

Tonight, I will go to receive my Lord and boast in the face of evil that this war is won.

Life hurts, but if it didn’t? Well, we’d never have Him. We’d never know what it means to be entirely humble and selfless. We’d never know what real love is, what hope is, or what the important things in this world really are.

So for that, we thank Him.

Come, Lord. Bring life to this wasteland!

Happy Vigil, my friends.

A Song for the Triduum...

Tonight, I leave you with a song that has brought me to tears more times than I can count. It speaks intimately to the questions that I believe many of us have deep in our souls. Listen. And when you're done, go buy Matt Maher's album, "Alive Again."

Reflections on the Triduum

As I mentioned previously, last night was my first Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. Considering my devotion to the Eucharist, I was very excited to check it all out.

My friend Sarha (like Sarah, only messed up) and I were ushered to the front pew near the other people who had been selected to get their feet washed, so I had an up close view of the Mass. My chaplain concelebrated with the pastor of what will become our "university parish" and their two parochial vicars. It was also a bilingual Mass which, while a bit confusing at first, ended up being an interesting experience. While I was on the altar, I noticed the incredible mix of ages and races represented there. I don't think I have ever seen a more tangible incidence of the Church's universality. It was really inspiring. (Also inspiring was their choir loft--my home parish doesn't have one--and the fact that after Mass, both confessionals had long lines! That is something else we lack at home, unfortunately.)

The most profound moment of the Mass for me was the final procession of the Blessed Sacrament and the stripping of the altar. Slowly, one by one, the lights were shut off without ceremony. In silence, the priests and servers worked together to remove the flowers from the altar floor, and finally, the altar linens were folded and removed. Without another word, the ministers left, leaving us to adore Him at the altar of repose.

It may have been the incense that is only used at the most solemn of occasions in this area, but the entire ritual was reminiscent of a funeral. We laid Him to rest, and all that remained was the empty table and a grave by which we could keep vigil. He would rest there for three days. An eerie acknowledgment of this settled heavily on my mind, and I didn't want to stay long. I guess I can understand how the Apostles felt when, for whatever reason, they chose not to be present during His Passion. I left quickly.

Today, I was unable to participate in the Good Friday liturgy, but still made the most of the day outside, praying and soaking up both Scripture and sunshine. It was easy to reflect, but difficult to pray, I found--"Why am I doing this? He's gone," I remember thinking at one point.

What kept me going was the constant reminder that the empriness of this day is not forever. He will return to us in full, not only tomorrow as we welcome Easter but again at the end of time. Our suffering is only temporary. Time heals all wounds.

And this, the wound of our depravity, is the biggest of all.

Now, we pray and wait for Him. It's all we can do.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Trusting in the Face of Scandal

I originally wrote this post elsewhere, but wanted to put it here, too.

"This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased..."

This verse is probably going to be burned into my head forever now, and I'm honestly still reeling over the insanity that was God working on retreat. And this Holy Week, I've been reminded a half dozen times at least that everything we do and see in this faith is REAL.

Sometimes, that creeps me out.

Tonight, I went to my very first Holy Thursday Mass, despite growing up in the Church. Despite my grumpiness over agreeing to have my feet washed, actually experiencing it was neat. The one thing that stuck out to me as Fr. Matt started on my bare foot is that I had to trust him. I recoiled when the water first touched me, but then relaxed and watched. It was a symbol for me of the trust that we develop between priest and parishioner, confessor and penitent, and the trust we really *have to* develop to make that work.

Yet...a select few have failed us miserably. The trust we held in them was shattered in the reality of scandal. People have been scarred, disgusted, abandoned because of the Church's failure to do its job.

There's a big BUT here, though. Yes, they failed and did it gloriously.God only knows how many people have left over this ridiculousness. And the media, unfortunately, hasn't helped. It shames me to see journalists at some of the nation's most reputable papers acting more like attack dogs and less like the truth-seekers we're supposed to be. More often than not, I want to ask when being a reporter became a license to slander at will.

Maybe I'm too idealistic. Maybe I'm guilty of my own bias to the other side, being Catholic. But either way, we're ALL under attack right now.

That's why tonight came at the perfect time. We need a reminder that regardless of how much our Church of humans shows its humanity, we've still got God. He's still in the priesthood and in the Eucharist. No matter how bad things get, that's not gonna go away.

It's like letting someone wash your feet when you barely know them, in front of a ton of people, with Fr. Tom snickering gleefully at you the entire time and a while afterward. ;) Trust is uncomfortable, it's dangerous, and we might even get let down now and then. That's what Holy Thursday is. We get the gifts to deal with that hurt every single day.

So cheer up. We might not have the best reputation these days, but we're still gonna win the war.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


No matter how much excitement I may have over the coming Easter Vigil, getting through the Triduum is still the hardest thing of all for me. It's as if we're set on fire and made to suffer before being allowed to rise with Christ.

Sound familiar? ;)

My doubts have reached a terribly uncomfortable crescendo this week, no doubt because of the intensity and sanctity of these last few days before Easter. It also makes sense that the enemy would want to turn up the heat for Holy Week, especially given the light I finally found this past weekend.

Evenings are difficult. I do what I can to persevere. In a very sweet gesture, my chaplain gave me a Divine Mercy medal--I have a fierce devotion to the Divine Mercy even in the worst of times--and blessed it, telling me to pray the novena. I was already two steps ahead of him on that, but now I finally have a physical reminder of "the hope that is in [me]."

Tonight is my first Holy Thursday Mass ever, despite growing up in the Church. The pastor of the parish closest to my university has invited our Newman house to attend and have our feet washed. (Thanks to a friend, the liturgical, er...trickiness of that situation. I'm going to let my chaplain know and do whatever he tells me.)

It's going to be a cool experience, I'm sure. And then watching the altar stripped as we adore Him for the last time? I'm going to lose it.

That's not a bad thing. It makes my joy when this is over all the sweeter.