Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Last night on EWTN's The Journey Home, a Dominican priest revert said something that resonated profoundly with me: "In the spiritual life, you're either progressing or you're going in reverse. There is no status quo. You're either spiritually growing, or spiritually dying."

That's heavy, for sure. But the more I mulled that over, the more I realized it to be true. When things are good in our walk with God, there is always that tendency to relax, to sink down into our peaceful security and maybe get a little too comfortable. Maybe our walls come down, even just a little. And when that happens, little by little we find ourselves praying less, focusing less on Him, and going about our business convinced that we're okay and don't need to hold onto Him so fiercely.

Then, perhaps before we know what hit us, we're on our faces wondering went wrong. As I am tossed around like a stone in the ocean and am getting all my rough edges smoothed out this summer, I find myself again sensing that urgency I did over the winter. We can't allow ourselves to get cozy in our faith, or really in any life state. There's a constant ebb and flow of things, and if we don't stay on our toes and keep our head up, we'll be pummeled. And given the consequences of that, it's no wonder that Jesus seems so insistent that those who intend to follow him act immediately without looking back.

Check out part of the Gospel from this past weekend:
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."

We can't stay stuck in the past, or hold so tightly to the present that we are unwilling to be moved. If we linger on things that are behind us, we'll never reach our full potential, never grow, never heal.

So, just ride the waves with Him before you. It's definitely better than getting stuck in the riptide.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Tiny Spark

Just some quotes tonight.

"If there are people in your life who have left the Church, God has put you there, not to condemn or judge them, but to witness to what Jesus has done for you. They will see your love and peace...but most of all, your joy. Not happiness, but joy that He has given you."
--Mother Angelica

"Sometimes I want to rewrite the Padre Pio quote so it says 'Pray, hope, and DON'T FREAKING WORRY YOU STUBBORN, ANXIOUS MULE.' I am inclined to think that's the way it actually went, given his temperament, but that's just me. I think the new version is much better."
--Myself (a lot of my friends liked this one)

"If a tiny spark of God's love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter."
--Saint Charles Borromeo

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Counting Blessings

Sometimes, when the darkness of this world settles in around us, the effects can be paralyzing.


And at the bottom of them all, a question: Why?

It's an ages-old dilemma that philosophy and theology have struggled to reconcile in who knows how many ways. Heaven knows that I lost many a good night's sleep wide at my apartment on campus pondering just that, and often crying bitterly to the God who I believed had shut the door on me.

I've since come home for the summer, dead-set on healing. With time, it's happening, even as the chaos here grows thicker. Receiving consolation on Pentecost was the motivator I've needed to rekindle my relationship with God, and while it's been a cautious and difficult road, I'm getting there. Given the gravity of the situation, I find I have little choice but to lay myself down at His feet and trust that, when the time comes, He'll carry me.

Until then, I've developed a deep sense of gratitude for what blessings do come my way. If I really allow myself to examine my life, it's amazing to me how many answered prayers I really have gotten this year. The fellowship I've needed for so long has come to me in more abundance than I ever could have asked for, I have spent 20 wonderful years with my grandmother, am slowly beginning a new and comfortable friendship with my ex, have a great summer job, close family, and a confessor that refuses to let me walk alone.

I am so lucky. And when I consider that, I find joy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hearing Voices

On Monday, I was privileged to have the opportunity to meet internationally-recognized speaker Johnnette Benkovic at a feminism conference in town.

She referenced St. Francis deSales several times, specifically his Introduction to the Devout Life, which says that God speaks in that silence at the bottom of our hearts.

I'm not going to lie -- I've been reckless lately. There's been things coming out of my head and mouth that haven't done so since before my reversion three years ago. That spooked me, and needless to say I've been showing my face at the confessional a lot these days.

Yet, last night, as I was seconds from cutting that rope that ties me to Christ yet again, a voice resounded loud and clear at the bottom of my heart, so much so that it actually spilled out verbally.


...Excuse me? I'm trying very hard to forget my problems, enjoying that fact, and I end up crying "NO!" in the midst of it?

Stopped me in my tracks, that did. The still, small voice of God that was planted in my soul at baptism, sealed in Confirmation and is brought to fruition at every Eucharist is sometimes, to my shock, louder than my very will. And trust me, I'm Italian; I know plenty about strong wills.

That one moment has been enough to inspire me today. Three years ago, I didn't know how to hear that voice. Two years ago, i wasn't sure how to yield to it. It was in that first 18 months as a Catholic, when I went head to head and will to will with my old confessor (also Italian!), that I as truly formed and learned to respond to my conscience.

Now, miraculously, it seems that the grace of God is finally inspiring me to listen both for, and to, that voice.

Who is this woman, and what did she do

Monday, June 7, 2010

Making the Choice

A small thought before I turn in for the night...

Almost daily I still struggle with anxiety and fear about the future. In a way that has pleasantly surprised me, I find that it's slowly becoming easier to cope. I'm noticing the physical effects settling in, and am able to shut it down once I recognize it. And I'm learning to relax, to focus on the present, and reaffirm my trust in God.

Nothing in life is ever certain--I've said that more than once here. As much as the Church claims certainty, this humble laywoman cannot claim her faith with utmost assurance. I pray for that grace daily.

What I can give is my fiat. I can give myself up with joy to whatever He wants to walk with me through. Holding out my hand and trusting that He will not only hold it, but guide my steps on this journey is a very difficult task, but I can do it.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my pastor who just recently lost his father. I said, "Monsignor, how did you cope when he suffered? How are you getting through it now?"

What he said resonated as a profound truth for me. "I get through one day at a time, no more than that. Sometimes, it's one moment at a time."

That's all I've got to give, my choice to believe. God sets Himself before us in the midst of a world that can be calloused, dark and terrifying, and says, "Choose."

I choose to live a life of joy, compassion, hope, redemption, and trust that the Lord I confess is One who keeps His promises.

I may be wrong. But if I am, I know that my life at the end will have been rich and honorable.

That assent is a very small step. But that's really all He ever wants or needs of us--a mustard seed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Regime Change Revisited

Time and again, I am learning a real lesson from God this summer.

I need to rely on Him, not only most of all but as my sole refuge.

A while back, I was talking to a sympathetic and intuitive Baptist friend from my early days as a Christian. We were talking about the people that go in and out of our lives with time, and I mentioned how I sometimes miss my old confessor. More to myself than to him, I asked, "Why does God always take away the few people I've grown to trust with my faith?"

His answer was telling: "Maybe God is teaching you to be more open with others, and to trust Him."

The next day, I got the news that our chaplain has been put on part-rime status, as he's now been appointed chaplain of every state university in the diocese. Yikes.

Today, I learned that the assistant director of our Newman house has accepted a job at a different university.

Suddenly, two of the people I relied on most at school are leaving. I understand this to be God's will, not only for them, but for me as well.

My friend was right--this is a rough season for me, to be sure, and I'm grateful in saying that it's eased so much already. I worry what going back to campus will be like--will I fall back into apathy and nihilism?

Not if I rely on Him. I have always made excuses about how it's always good to have someone, "you know, tangible," to be my shoulder. I admit that with four priests now assigned to my parish, I worry about losing my confessor, too. But I have God.

The other side of this tunnel is close and bright. And at the end of it, my relationship with God will be so much stronger. That is a serious silver lining.

Friday, June 4, 2010

On Relevance

The other day, I was talking a lot with my friend Jenn about liturgy, and the direction the Church is headed versus where it's been. Eventually, we got into a discussion of our favorite Catholic artists, some of whom have become affiliated with the LifeTeen program.

We both have different issues with LifeTeen, but for me, it was striking that they try so hard to be "relevant" to the youth. And in today's Protestant communities, relevant is rather often a combination of emotional preaching and flashy lights and sounds.

The issue there is simple: that does not build faith. That builds a psychological response to some nice aesthetics that youth confuse for faith. It leads to an incredible mountaintop experience, but as soon as they head back to their "regular" Mass, the thrill is usually gone.

Now, I'm not saying the whole program is a wash. I tend to support them--and when they hit a kid with the real truth of the Church and Christ in the Eucharist? The changes are profound. But let's be honest with ourselves. How often does that happen there before the sounds and shininess of it all gets to them?

Beyond that, there's something very obvious here that's telling. Our definition of "fresh" and "progressive" and "exciting" changes over time. And so often, a lot of denominations are constantly stretching themselves in trying to reach others by using the things that are fresh and relevant. But what happens when the cool things change so much they can't keep up? We lose the core.

And then, despite all of the ridicule and pressure she receives from both within and outside her boundaries, Catholicism remains mostly unchanged. Certain huge denominations in the United States are being ripped apart right now over ordination of women or GLBT individuals. Every denomination has accepted birth control now, a reversal of position that we all held universally until the last century.

God is unchanging and beyond our whims. Truth, then, is the same.

Where, then, is the Truth? I would say it's where the Truth and foundation of worship remain unchanged.

"Upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."

I'm so glad to be Catholic.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Patient Affliction

(I had set a private quota of four posts a month. I fell short for May, so look out. I'm gonna set the place on fire for June. Get ready!)

Admittedly, when the dark night first came on me in February, I dropped mostly everything spiritual from my life. I still went to Mass three times a week, but my appearances there were more physical in nature. More often than not, I found myself in front of the tabernacle just...sitting there, waiting for something to happen.

And then, on Pentecost(!), something did.

Really, should I be surprised? How big is God? Alleluia. :)

The reading we used was one from Ezekiel, where he is given the power to create life from dry bones. Something stirred within me. We humans are little more than sinew and bone, knit together by millions of cells and kept alive by the blood coursing through our veins. It's all so simple, yet at the same time, so terribly precise and complicated.

Had one thing gone wrong in our evolution, we'd not have survived. Had the world not been created in the exact circumstances it was, there would have been no possibility for life. The odds of it turning out just right like this are billions to one. And all of that hit me in the midst of a thirty-second reading.

There is a God.

Couple that with the reverence around me and my confessor's homily spearing that core desire for revival in everyone's soul...and like that, I was back. I believed again.

Since then, the Holy Spirit has been tugging at my heart something fierce, likely wanting to make up for lost time. I've compensated by catching up on the 2.5 months of daily Mass readings I never read when I was feeling down. Over and over again, the theme of patience under affliction came up, like this from St. Peter:

"Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly."

And then of course, "My peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you."

Christ's peace isn't going to feel like the comfort we often wish it would. Our reward isn't here. This isn't home.

But James tells us if we endure to the end, we'll be crowned with glory. Revelation says every tear will be wiped away.

We just have to tough it out, and trust. Easier said than done, that's for sure, but for now, grace is with me.