Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Music Monday: Future of Forestry

On this last Monday of Advent, all that's left is the harrowing journey to Bethlehem.

This song, part of a special Advent EP by alt-rock band Future of Forestry, reflects on what the journey must have been like for the Holy Family.

I stumbled upon this track through Spotify, and was pleasantly surprised at how perfectly it closes the Advent season. Not too shabby, for an indie band. ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paving the Way

While I primarily use Magnificat magazine to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (or at least something similar), I absolutely love their daily meditations.

A few weeks ago, there was a meditation by the late German Benedictine sister Aemiliana Lohr that really got me thinking. It was rather long, so I'll summarize it for you.

When ancient kings went on a journey, they would often spend days at a time on rough, bumpy roads, which was exceedingly uncomfortable. To deal with this, the king's slaves traveled ahead of him, smoothing out all those bumps and clearing obstructions. In this way, the king had an easy path on which to travel.

The cry of John the Baptist is a simple one: "Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight His paths!"

And that is exactly what we're to do in this Advent season, Sr. Lohr wrote.

Since reading that, an image has stuck with me that I've been unable to shake. Hills and valleys ... that's the way life is on a daily basis. And, too, so it is with my heart.

I thought I knew a fair bit about God -- who He is, what He wants of me. But to my horror, I've learned recently that the image I had of Him was backward. As much as I write here about His mercy and love, I never really embraced it for myself.

Scripture says that mountains will crumble and valleys rise up to meet Him. I see so many of those in myself. So many wounded places. I love my rough edges, but the King can't pass through as long as the way is blocked, right?

I think I'm finally ready to let God be who He wants to be: not my enemy, but my Healer.

It's already started, and the strides have been unlike anything I've ever experienced in my walk before. It's amazing what can be accomplished if we just let Him. Like Mary, saying, "Let it be done."

Maybe by Christmas, there will be a place in me for Him.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Music Monday: Francesca Battistelli

Sneaking in for the last hour of this Monday for the 3rd week of Advent, here's your video for the week.

Francesca Battistelli is a vocal powerhouse who broke into the Christian music scene just a few years ago, and since then she's been writing honest, catchy melodies that keep me coming back to her.

Every now and then, though, we're treated to a more reflective side of Franny. It's in those moments that I think her gift is truly evident.

This song was actually written by Nichole Nordeman, another rare female gem in the Christian world. While I realize I posted a Marian song for last week, too, there's no better time to reflect on Our Lady. Besides, it was just too beautiful to pass up...


Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Music Monday: Sara Groves

I've been working through a series of brief Advent reflections in the Little Blue Book this season, part of the wonderful series of Little Books for the liturgical year.

The reflection for yesterday was about Mary, and the humble circumstances that led to her becoming the Mother of God.

I'll be the first to admit that my devotion to Our Lady could be a lot stronger, likely due to the time I spent with Protestant leanings. But it's this time of year that draws me closest to her. As someone with a vocation to marriage and motherhood, it's easy to identify with the fear and wonder she experienced in those final weeks before the birth of her Son.

That image of Mary, so beautifully and blessedly human, seems more real than any other title or honor we give her.

Don't misunderstand me -- every aspect of hers is amazing.. But the simplicity and trust she gives to God in those early days, and on a daily basis afterward, speaks volumes to me.

This week, I'm sharing the song that first inspired me to reconsider Christianity. It's so honest and full of emotion ... I can imagine Mary praying these words as she prepared for the long journey to Bethlehem.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Welcome to the Advent music series!

Advent is upon us once again, and that means I get to share some great tunes. :) I did this last year with Advent Music Mondays and am looking forward to doing it again. Excuse it being a Thursday this week -- it just means you'll get two videos a few days apart. Not so bad.

To kick off the season right, here are guitarist Trace Bundy and Christian folk-rocker Josh Garrels doing the Advent hymn par excellence.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflections on the "New" Mass

After a few years of hearing about it, and a barrage of really terrible media coverage in recent weeks, the new translation of the Roman Missal was finally rolled out this weekend.

In general, it went exactly as I expected it would. We stumbled over ourselves. The priest tripped over his tongue. We laughed a lot as a congregation. And we left with the same saving graces we always do.

All that said, it'll take a few weeks for me to really soak everything in and make an informed opinion. This past week was hard to judge as the priest at my boyfriend's parish had a thick Polish accent -- I'm looking forward to checking things out at home this coming weekend.

I love the new Confiteor -- the triple "mea culpa" missing was a huge flaw, and it's really great to see it in the English with the beating of our breasts. That moment was very powerful. It goes without saying that I pray I'll never experience that in mortal sin...ha.

The Creed was definitely full of weirdness, but the actual language in concrete and expressive. It's not exactly conversational, but there's tons of meaning packed into it. In fact, that can be said of the entire translation -- very specific and sensory.

I really disliked the use of "it is right and just" instead of "it is right to give Him thanks and praise." Compared to the flow of the rest of the translation, this statement feels clipped and short, like there's something missing.

The only thing that really bothered me though was the change is what used to be "In Your mercy, keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety..."

Now, the priest says "save us from all disasters," which, while relevant, has a completely new meaning. As someone who has previously struggled with anxiety, the old line was always such a huge comfort to me. I'm sad to see it go.

While a lot of people will be scratching their heads for a while -- especially all the C+E Catholics that will show up next month -- I believe the translators accomplished what they set out to do: craft something more faithful and eloquent that lifts our souls to God.

Just don't ask me to like "and with your spirit." Ever. ;)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The past week or so has been a whirlwind of people to meet, places to go, and food to consume ... only now do I actually have the time to sit, catch my breath and reflect on it all.

God is so good. The depth of His providence this year especially has blown my mind.

A year ago, I made it a point to build as many emotional walls as I could. I needed to protect myself from that cold, scary world that was waiting after my education was complete. I needed to protect myself from men who could hurt me if I trusted them with my heart. And most of all, I needed to protect myself from ... myself. All of the brokenness, unresolved issues and fear would have to wait until later. 

After graduation as depression and bitterness settled in, He used a slew of family emergencies to help me see that I love my family more than anything; that I need their support to get me through, even when it hurts to admit. I'm holding them all a lot closer this year -- life is too short, too precious, to not appreciate.

He used my new, "grownup" job to teach me that, self-perceptions aside, I'm not a hotshot and I don't know everything. I'm going to make mistakes daily, but also learn from them. The same goes for every area of my life. I'm not perfect, but I get a little stronger every day. That's what counts: that I am always growing and moving forward.

He used Hurricane Irene to teach me about the darkness in my soul. I woke up to the fact that, at the end of this life, I will stand before Him alone. I am completely dependent on His mercy. I finally sought it through that weekend, and since then He has set me free of so much that was weighing me down.

He used the driver's manual that sat for months gathering dust on my desk to motivate me toward independence and conquering my fears. A few weeks ago, I passed my driver's test and got my license, a goal I wasn't sure I'd ever reach. God helps those who help themselves.

Most recently, He's given me an amazing man and used him to teach me so much. I am learning that I am strong. That complete surrender to God, love and vulnerability shows you how to live fully. That intimacy doesn't have to end in sin, use, and brokenness. That joy and hope are daily decisions that accomplish much.

Writing it all out fills me with a humility that's hard to articulate. He gives me more than I could ask for ... and still wants to give me more.

How amazing is that?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Kirk Cameron, faith and fear

I seldom use this blog as a soap box for venting, but I hope just this once I can be excused. I've been meaning to write about someone extremely popular in the evangelical world.

His name is Kirk Cameron. If you're immediately thinking of the young, sarcastic heartthrob of the 80s sitcom "Growing Pains," you've got the same guy.

During his tenure on the show, Cameron had a radical conversion experience that led him to Christ. Awesome.

His castmates would say years later that Cameron often pushed his new zeal on them, and ties remained strained in several cases, if not broken entirely.

After "Growing Pains" was canceled in 1992, Cameron focused his acting career on Christian films and preaching. First came the post-Rapture "Left Behind" movies, fire-and-brimstone imaginings of what life would be like for the unsaved before the Second Coming of Christ. Hello, sensationalism.

Recently, he starred in "Fireproof," a drama about a broken marriage healed through faith. (Keep your eyes open: I may review it here soon.)

A few years ago, Cameron hooked up with itinerant minister Ray Comfort. The two founded The Way of the Master, a ministry equipping Christians to go out there and WIN SOME SOULS.

Ahem. Let me give you an example of his methods.

Have you ever told a lie? Someone who has told a lie is a liar. And what does the Bible say of liars, you ask? I'll tell you: they're not fit for the Kingdom of God. They go to hell -- just like you will, if you don't accept Jesus right now. Today. What do you choose?

This is The Way of the Master -- Cameron's way -- of telling people about the mercy of Christ. I imagine he's been successful, but have to ask one question: do any of these people come to Jesus because they want to? Because they're ready to be forgiven and loved? Or do they come out of fear?

Unfortunately, I've seen countless people get saved this way, and they either fall away shortly thereafter or continue on with a stunted, warped view of who Jesus is and what our faith is really about.

This way of thinking was pushed on me years ago and I resisted, knowing that I could only embrace Christianity if I did it for me. The friends I keep from those early days were the ones who loved me right then, as I was, paganism and brokenness be damned. That's what He did, after all. Love. Not condemn.

Fear-mongering may be effective, but it's also cruel and damaging. God is waiting to cover us with mercy and dignity, not drop the guillotine.

I just hope those souls Cameron "wins" know that, too.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Samhain Reflections

Every year on Halloween, I can't help but flood my body with as much sugar as possible. It's not only All Hallows Eve, you see, but also the eve of my birthday. A time for celebrating, to be sure.

Yet quiet moments always sober me today, too. Today is Samhain, and there are moments where I can almost feel the Veil paper-thin again. Almost. For a brief moment, standing outside with the wind chilling my bones and the crescent moon overhead, I longed for magick. For that freedom again.

It lasted just long enough for me to get into the car and head to church, kneeling at His feet in thanksgiving for the true liberation I've been given.

It's been a long time now, and those days are well behind me. I said to one of my ex-Pagan friends today that it's amazing how much can change with time, and how healing that distance can be.

Back then, I thought I was taking control of my life by making the Divine my servant, instead of me serving Him. But I, along with so many others, learned the hard way.

Even after years as a Christian, I am still learning every day that this life is not my own. Like it or not, I am not in control. Unless I continue to surrender myself and lay down my life daily, I'll never find peace.

Most days, the pace of my growth is maddeningly slow. "Why can't I just accept it," I ask myself so often. "I wish I could be better than this."

Well, looking back on the person I was in 2005, it's clear today that I am better. I am accepting faith. And I'm growing more with every passing Samhain.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lessons in Silent Moments

It's hard to fight these feelings when it feels so hard to breathe...

I've had this post sitting in my drafts for three days now, cooking. And I hate that.

For me, writing is not only a career choice but an outlet. I've never been especially eloquent in my speech -- I'm about as casual as it gets -- and thinking too much only tends to exacerbate things. In writing, I can take my feelings, focus them, and then be done with it.

But for the first time in ages, I find myself totally at a loss for words.

But we don't need to rush this...let's just take it slow...

In the past six weeks, I've been thrown on my back by a relationship that is moving much faster emotionally than I could have ever anticipated. It's pretty terrifying, if only because I'm acutely aware that this is not in my hands and never was.

I don't think I've ever been so completely disarmed by anything before...

On day one, not sure what else to do, I surrendered all of this without reserve to God, telling Him to do whatever He needed to do to make this work. Man, I really need to start thinking before I pray that prayer again. ;)

Just a touch of the fire burning so bright, I don't want to mess this thing up, I don't want to push too hard...

This weekend, He needed to teach me a lesson in humility.

Sitting on my boyfriend's bed and playing with a thread unraveling from the bottom of my sock, I was trying not to let the heavy, noisy silence between us drive me crazy.

I kept waiting for him to break it, but no, he wouldn't. He was at the moment a bit too shy. And I was too broody.

Then, God arrested me. I had just thought to myself that I felt entitled to more than what, on that day, he was willing to give.

Everything you have is a gift from Me. You are entitled only to what I've given you, nothing else. And you can either wallow in your selfishness, or be thankful for what's in front of you. What do you choose?

And just like that, my heart changed. In the span of three minutes I learned the true value of holding another person's dignity up over your own expectations ... how precious that is, and how insanely, stupidly lucky I am.

I chose to rest in that: the mind-boggling realization that it is possible to be intimate only on emotional terms. I'm not sure if I quite know how that works yet. But I do know it starts with laying down my pride and caring for someone not because of what they do, per se, but for who they are.

As my friend Peyton put it so eloquently in a text to me on the way back home: "There's something so incredibly beautiful about falling in love with the personhood of another ..."

You know what? I think she's onto something.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gungor: A Musical Diamond in the Rough

In my last post, I wrote that in many ways, Christian music has worn out its welcome for me. Even Matt Maher’s latest record, Turn Around, came off as a collection of typical worship anthems, with a few exceptions.

The only artist these days who still captivates me is Audrey Assad. This should surprise no one. ;) Her new album is coming out in just a few months, and the few tracks I’ve heard so far have me on the edge of my seat with anticipation. By the way, if you think about it, please pray for her husband, Billy. He was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.

Anyway. A few weeks ago while listening to Pandora at work, I heard the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor for the first time. I was struck at first by the rumbling cello in the beginning – I have a real soft spot for strings – and then by the sensitivity in the lead singer’s vocals.

I looked up the band on Spotify, and was blown away by the depth of their lyrics and the real musicianship throughout the entire thing. It makes a lot of sense, though. Michael Gungor grew up leading worship in church as the son of a pastor, and later, he pursued jazz studies in college.

Together with his wife, Lisa, they have managed to put together something so genuine and raw and uninhibited with their music.

On his blog, Michael writes, “This is risky in a culture that promotes singles and 99-cent song downloads.  It’s risky in a culture in which people don’t often sit down and actually critically listen to music very much.  Music has too often become background noise in our culture. It sets a mood, but don’t make me pay much attention to it!

Gungor requires a deep listen, one with the headphones on and without distraction. First, there’s the variety of instruments you’ll hear: guitar and drums – both are staples of rock and folk music -- but then other things, too. Flute. Cello. Banjo. Even a glockenspiel gets lots of attention in the album, which I think is just awesome. I haven’t heard one of those used in anything but marching band sets.

And after the music washes over you, you’re hit with a lyrical honesty that is very rare these days. The first track, “Dry Bones,” is a haunting, rock-driven cry for renewal in a dead soul. The title track follows, which is a perfect downshift, both in style and tone; it’s about God being able to start with nothing and make something incredible.

One of my favorite tracks is “Late Have I Loved You,” which should immediately ring a bell if you’re up on early Catholicism. St. Augustine wrote a famous passage that begins this way in his Confessions, and the song is a verbatim musical rendition of the passage. Classy!

While it’s true Gungor just released a new album, Ghosts Upon the Earth, on Sept. 20, I really do recommend you check out its predecessor first. Beautiful Things is a journey that will take a while to move on from.

Here are two videos I’d like to share: “Please Be My Strength” is so simple but, again, just honest. And the second, while not on this album, is an incredible testament to Michael’s ability to shred a guitar like no one’s business. ;)

Seriously. Just go buy the album!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A little rant on Christian music

A lot of things move me, all the time. Let's face it: I guess you could say it's just really easy to evoke emotion from me. I'm one of Those People.

And, like many of Those People, music is something I have a very strong affinity for. It was Victor Hugo that said music expresses what we can't find words to, when it's impossible to be silent. I'm a singer and a musician, and having experienced the power music has in binding and impacting people, it's become an adventure seeking out some of the best I can find.

Of course, when it comes to the contemporary Christian music scene, at times the pickings can be depressingly slim. In a lot of ways, if you don't listen closely it can be tempting to say it's all the same. Much like contemporary pop, the same four chords are played over and over by the same guitar. Add in a zealous singer belting out how our God is big, wonderful, holy, and worthy of praise, and you've basically summed up the genre in three minutes.

Bonus points if you add the voices of a few small children singing or speaking relevant Bible verses. Ditto for crowds of joy-filled worshipers raising their voices at the choruses, Kumbaya style. Yawn.

Maybe it has something to do with my past, but worship music like that doesn't do it for me. It's not like I'm seeking after warm fuzzy feelings in my music -- even if I were, the last place I would find it would be in those fluffy little singles.

The Christian music I do listen to speaks of a faith that has been through the wringer, torn to shreds and even extinguished for a time, like mine has been. But in the end, there's a recurring theme that despite those times, we're stronger, and God has used those seasons to give us a deeper appreciation of what He can use for our good.

When I have some spare time, I'm going to share a review of an album that I believe is a diamond in a whole lot of rough. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No Offense

You know, there's something I've always found a little bit strange about practicing my faith: people treat me differently.

And no, I don't mean differently in the sense of persecution, though I admit that has happened to me plenty of times before.

What I mean is that a lot of times, people who are otherwise not religious will walk on eggshells around me.

For example, a friend of mine from undergrad once used a hefty expletive while talking to me over Facebook. Immediately afterward, she wrote, "Oh, excuse my language. I know you're religious."

I'm fairly certain that she was being genuine, and that her comment wasn't meant to be sarcastic. Feeling a little confused, I laughed and said, "What? Why apologize? Do you think my ears are going to bleed or something?"

"Well, no," she told me. "I just don't want to offend."

Oh, please. Spare me.

And just the other day, another friend wrote, "I swear like a sailor, except around..." another one of her friends, who I know is a proud and outspoken evangelical.

Attitudes like this blow my mind, not necessarily out of shock, but confusion. Have we suddenly turned into china dolls because of our faith?

When people say things like that, it proves that they don't really know me at all. Yes, I do swear. Yes, I am working on that. But half the time it's a wonderful literary device. ;) The funny thing is that if, in a rare moment I do let a word slip, some people will gasp and say, "Oh! I can't believe you just said that!"

I am no saint. In fact, I'm very far from, and I have no desire to show a forced, perfect facade to the world -- that time of my faith is long gone, thank God. More than anything else, those comments are just condescending. You don't see me gasping and clutching a rosary every time someone swears in front of me, after all.

I suppose that it makes people feel better about themselves if thy can "clean up" around supposed "religious people." In some ways, I can almost understand it -- I used to act the same way around priests, just because of who they are.

What I learned, to my great delight -- and what I wish people would learn when speaking to Christians -- is that we're really all the same. We all fall, and we're all broken. It's the human condition, and I think we'd be much better off if we stopped pretending to care and actually, you know, caring.

Instead of worrying about offending me, try worrying about offending God.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Life is an adventure...

On the bright side, I'm now the girlfriend of a ... physicist?

Don't ask me how that happened, because I'm still trying to figure it out. Ha!

Relationships have always been a serious thing for me, but have become even more so since my reversion because I am reasonably certain this is my vocation. Every time I start over, the question lingers in the back of my head, "So, is this what I've been looking for?"

It's probably that same question that leaves me feeling extremely reluctant to get involved at all. As much as I want commitment, comfort, security -- hell, even a family -- the incredible risks I have to take to get there can be overwhelming.

You might remember that immediately after graduation, I made a very brief reference to a budding relationship I wasn't ready for. At the time, the gentleman in question was leaving the place we both called home to pursue grad school, and I was adjusting to my new job, being back at home, and so on. Add to that the endless family emergencies at the beginning of summer, and all I wanted to do was be alone.

So I told him that as sweet as he was, we should just be friends, and sent him off to New York.

And damn me, weeks later, I started to miss him. So typical.

Though, by then I figured that I had lost my chance. Feeling sad and foolish, I left it all in God's hands and told Him to show me what He wanted.

Literally 18 hours after I said that prayer, my friend asked me out of the blue where I stood with him: if I still wanted to remain friends, or move forward as a couple. He needed me to make a decision.

While I still wasn't sure of what I wanted and had many fears about where this could lead, B wisely reminded me that sometimes, all we can do is take a deep breath and leap. My confessor believes God used him in that moment to force me out of indecision and into doing something for once. I think he's right.

So I'm taking this chance. I've learned a lot in the last two years ... that time was necessary to rebuild myself and figure out where I stood with God. But now, I'm finally ready to move forward.

God is good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God in the Dark

A few weeks ago, my parents and I planned a trip to Maryland to visit family. But as Hurricane Irene grew bigger and more daunting, we found there was no other choice but to cancel.

In the weeks leading up to that trip, I started to lose my footing again spiritually. I knew that I needed to get my act together, but apathy got to me before I could get to Confession.

Then, Irene clawed her way up the coast, eventually plunging us into the dark for the next three days. My parents spent most of that time sleeping, while I sat awake in the dark.

Cut off from all my tech "stuff" and God's grace, those three days forced me to actually take a look at myself. What was I doing? Not only did I not care about the position I was in, but in many ways I used it as an excuse to get in even more trouble.

Hey, no one ever said I was good at this walk.

As much as I had hoped to weather being back home, over time it started to get under my skin. By the time I realized, I was a tangled up mess. But actually making the effort to right things yet again seemed pointless. Eventually, I'd end up back in this place. Why bother?

Then, more out of boredom than anything else, I started to read the Bible on my iPod, starting with the Mass readings for the next day (Jer 20:7-9):
You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
Zing. Defeated again. And I had the answer to that "why bother:" He called me years ago and He calls me still, and no matter how much distance I try to put between us, despite all the lies and excuses I make to myself, I'm no longer happy unless I'm bound up with Him.

And sitting there in both literal and spiritual darkness, that stupid, persistent longing stirred up in me all over again.

It took three weeks for me to finally get to the confessional, but that waiting period ended up being very good for me. So often I take God and His mercy for granted ... and I think this is what I needed to wake me up.

He always knows exactly what we need, and for stubborn souls like mine, that's sometimes a bit of tough love.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten Years Later

Everyone has their 9/11 story -- where they were, how they felt. Here, in brief, is mine.

My uncle worked for the NY Port Authority in the North Tower. An engineer, he was the sort that was always punctual -- never, ever late for work.

So that day, not yet 12 years old, I watched his tower fall on TV in class as it happened. That same minute, the bell rang to switch classes ... I ran straight to guidance and stayed there for the rest of the day. I was sure he had died. It was too devastating for me to even consider survivors.

What I didn't learn until about 2 in the afternoon was that, for the first time ever, my uncle was late to work. He was helping my cousin move into her new classroom -- it was her first day as a teacher in Newark. When the planes hit, he was on the train into New York ... watched it all happen right out his window. He also survived the attacks in 1993, and got caught in that huge power outage a few years ago. Bribed one of the ferry workers to take him and some coworkers over to the Jersey side.

Why he got so lucky is still a mystery to us, but in the last ten years he's seen his daughters marry, become a grandfather 4 times over, and settled into retirement far away from the City.

For a few hours that day, I got a taste of the grief the victims' families still carry. One day was plenty for me.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What Do I Owe You?

Over and over again in the past six(!) years I've been a Christian, I've heard the same thing: salvation is a free gift. It's by grace we're saved. Without that grace, we'd have nothing. Nothing we do can earn heaven. And so on.

Now, coming from a Catholic understanding, I believe that our salvation is an ongoing process that's made authentic through works. If our faith doesn't bear fruit, and if we don't work to keep up our relationship with God, then it's basically a moot point. (That doesn't mean that doing a bunch of pious things can save us -- it can't, not without faith.)

I have to confess, though, that I think sometimes we all struggle with a sense of entitlement. We might think, "I'm a good Christian. I go to church. I pray a lot and read the Bible."

For Catholics: "Well, I go to Mass every day. I pray the rosary. I have a regular holy hour."

For myself: "I didn't have sex in college. I don't get drunk. I try to be a positive influence at home and work."

All of it boils down to the same thing: we act like good people, and so God owes us. We deserve to go to heaven. We deserve to have good things happen to us, and to have our prayers answered.

And that sense of justice leads to frustration when things don't quite pan out. It leads to pride in ourselves, and judgment over others.

But guess what? The Pharisees did the same thing.

I see this streak in myself more than I'd like to admit...and realizing it is embarrassing.

Once again, He calls me to lay down in humility and accept that, despite all the good I do, it's never good enough for Him. He owes me nothing. It's me that owes Him -- and I owe Him everything.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Turning In

It's been a while, hasn't it?

I'm changing again. Every now and then, God sneaks up on me like a whirlwind, and I learn something new. Whether I like it or not, life isn't spent in stasis.

The thing is, this time, I don't know if I like what I'm learning.

I wonder ... do I love God? Or do I just love all the nice things I've heard?

Do I know Him? Or do I just know a lot of stuff about Him?

The answers have humbled me, and in the case of my blog, stunned me into silence. I want to articulate it, but for the first time probably ever, words fail me.

I've been getting nowhere up until very recently. Lots of cool people have challenged me to dig a little deeper into what I'm feeling, so we're going to take some baby steps in that direction. Or that's the plan, at least.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 18, 2011

By Degrees

Today was a busy mail day.

I got an invitation to the first profession of a dear friend, and the first newsletter of the Newman House where I spent the past two years. Included in that newsletter was a mention that I'd been awarded the highest honor a graduating journalism student can receive. (I'm blessed.)

Tucked into the envelope was a note from my chaplain, asking me to critique this new endeavor for him, and assuring me of his prayers that my new job is going well, etc.

And just a few days ago, the director at Newman sent me a couple of devotionals that she had been stocking me with while I was still a student, along with a post-it: "Hi! Miss you. Thought you'd want these -- see you soon."

All of this acted as a warm, sweet embrace from the community and people I have grown to call family. With that, though, came a pang of longing. When I don't think about my college days, everything is fine. But at times like these, when I get news of younger friends or a note like that, I miss it all so much.

It's been two months now since I graduated, and scrolling down just a few posts only proves how chaotic it's all been. On the upside, I can say now that things have thankfully calmed down at the homestead. The various family medical crises have resolved -- unfortunately, not all of them happily -- and I no longer need supplements for my anxiety.

Over the past few weeks, I've finally started to settle into the new rhythm of work life, and with that, everything is feeling much more normal. "Welcome back," my best friend said last weekend. She's noticing that I'm acting like my old self again, too.

Of course, there's probably always going to be that sense of holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I don't worry about that. Though I lose my footing so often, with God's help I always seem to claw myself back to the present moment.

At little at a time, by degrees, I'm settling in. It may not be happening as fast or as smoothly as I hoped, but hey, I'll get there. Patience and persistence.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anything You Can Do

It's the feast of Maria Goretti. My feast day. In her honor, I had a root beer float. I often imagine that she were around today, we'd have a great deal in common. Poor as her family was, I bet gelato was a rare treat now and then.

As similar as she and I are, though, there is one thing that puts us depressingly at odds: where she succeeded, choosing to sacrifice her life rather than surrender her purity, I have failed and fail still.

Granted, things could be a lot worse, and I believe that there have been many situations where God has sheltered me from the consequences of recklessness. Now, looking back, I'm so grateful.

In my patron, I also find courage to look toward the future. While she was only 12 when she died, chastity was comfortable for her. If God had asked it of her, I have no doubt she would have lived her life that way. To me, not knowing yet where my vocation rests, it makes the thought of extended chastity a little less terrifying.

Today, I was thinking on seeing all those that have died when we reach heaven. I'm not especially devoted to any saint, except maybe Maria. "It would be so awesome to meet her," I thought.

And in that moment, I was totally humbled. At 12, she was able to do perfectly and without hesitation what I imagine I'll be fighting to do my whole life. Talk about being put to shame by a kid!

On the bright side, that's exactly why we have the communion of saints to draw on. They're not lofty people with unreachable legacies. They were ordinary people who, by grace, had the strength to do incredible things.

And if they can do it, well, why can't we?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dependent Freedom

My Independence Day was a quiet one, spent with my family at home. I'm grateful that I live in a place where I have that luxury. So many others aren't as lucky.

At the same time, over the last couple of weeks I've had a lot of time to reflect on my own personal independence. It hit me last weekend that now that I'm out of college, the rest of my life is entirely what I make it. I have complete freedom over the shape and direction it takes. That's an awesome, humbling realization.

Yet despite all that, I see a certain irony in it. Everything my country stands for -- personal success, wealth, possessions, pride, glory -- are the complete opposite of what life with Christ should look like.

We are called to selflessness, surrender, and as the Gospel reminded us this weekend, to be meek and humble of heart. It's a tall order, and admittedly, not a very American one.

But at the same time, in that same Gospel we hear that His yoke is easy and His burden light. It brings us freedom. So often, people are fixed on having to do everything alone, and that to ask for help is a sign of weakness. I have been victim of this myself over and over again, usually willing myself beyond my means before burning out and landing back in the confessional.

Slowly, by baby steps, I'm understanding what St. Paul meant when he said power is made perfect in weakness. In depending on God that we can learn to be truly free.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Putting the "real" in Real Presence

Corpus Christi is my favorite solemnity in the entire Church year, minus the three big ones (Palm Sunday, Easter Vigil, Christmas). You won't find it anywhere else in Christianity, though some traditions might try to do as we do. It's full of the sounds and smells and devotion that make us truly Catholic.

Well, at least it should be full of those things. Not everyone is lucky enough to go to "that sort of parish."

Sometimes, people in the pews don't know what the Real Presence is. They don't know what transubstantiation means. And very few of that demographic seems to care enough to ask someone.

Most of that is just bad catechesis. No one ever taught them the Faith, and if they were taught, it was done wrongly or not reinforced at home.

But then there's bad liturgy, and bored -- or worse, heretical -- priests. And there are the people that will rant, nitpick and mourn, yearning for the 1950s when clergy actually followed the rubrics, everything was perfect and no one sneezed at Mass.

I contend that looking for the ideal parish is like looking for the ideal spouse. Perfection doesn't exist in this world. In fact, sometimes we fall depressingly short of the mark.

But here's the beautiful thing about Christ and His Church: it subsists in the middle of all that mess. For the Eucharist to be valid, all we need are the right words, the right stuff, and the intention to do what Jesus did: give the people His true body and blood.

And even if the place is a disaster area, He'll come to dwell in the midst of it, uncaring priests and bad music included. He is just as present as He would be at St. Peter's Basilica.

Does that mean we should be content with mediocre worship? No, absolutely not. If anything, it's for that same Real Presence we should be working hard to ensure what we give is our best. It's just reassuring to know that in those moments we fail, He is still with us.

The way I see it, we can allow ourselves to be distracted and judge everything/one around us, or we can thank God for His reliability. He loves us a lot more than we do, for sure.

Simcha Fisher over at the National Catholic Register wrote one of the best blog posts on this topic I've ever read. You can check it out here. While you're at it, read her entire blog. She's a genius.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Corapi, accused priests get the short straw

Today is a very sad one for the Church in America. We've lost one of our most prominent, influential and hard-hitting priests, Fr. John Corapi, SOLT.

After an allegation of sexual misconduct was made against him several months ago, Corapi announced he has been indefinitely suspended from ministry.

The announcement was made via his YouTube channel earlier today. Corapi said that his superiors with the Society of Our Lady of the Trinity were strong-armed into removing him following pressure from certain bishops. You can watch the entire thing here.

I'm not going to make any comments as to his guilt or innocence. We can't know for sure what exactly led to the allegations, and from the sounds of things we probably never will. As much as I love my Church, we're not exactly fans of transparency.

And there, I think, lies the problem.

The abuse scandal has been going on for decades with varying degrees of publicity, and people both in and outside the Church demand answers. For the most part, I feel like we've gotten little more than canned, empty PR.

Of course, as a Catholic I can understand the need to protect our reputation. That's important. But in today's society, we can't expect to "keep things in the family" and have that be acceptable to everyone else. Corapi deserved at the very least a fair hearing. The faithful also deserve to have all of the details laid out in the open. Yet in this case, as with so many others like it, all of us will be left guessing.

Beyond that, the way we treat our accused priests in reprehensible. As Corapi said, in civil law we are innocent until proven guilty. Yet in the Church, if you sneeze the wrong way while wearing clerics, you can generally expect to have your ministry irreparably soiled.

We've done a lot of work to remove guilty priests of late. That's laudable. At the same time, I believe we should be a hell of a lot more aggressive ... but this is not the way to go about that. Not even close. Too often, we are throwing out our good men just as often as the bad. In doing that, the Church is only hurting more.

What we're left with is good men who are forced to live their priesthood in fear, both in their personal lives and in what they say at the pulpit. And, heaven help us, the true criminals.

Now if we could only be so merciless in dealing with bad doctrine.

St. John Vianney, pray for our priests.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time to Sleep

Well, today didn't go exactly the way I planned...

Over the past ten days or so, my cat has been gimping around on three legs, favoring her back paw. After waiting to see if it would correct itself, we decided to take her to the vet today.

What we learned was that at 14 years old and a whopping four pounds thanks to a thyroid condition, she had irreversible nerve damage in that leg. Soon, the vet said, it would spread to her other back leg, leaving her unable to walk.

We didn't want to put her through that. Instead, we said goodbye and let her go.

I wasn't there to watch it happen, but we spent her last hour together before her appointment asleep in my bed. She was curled up against my chest, my arms draped over her, both of our faces buried in my pillow.

Now, she rests tucked between two trees in my backyard, with her bed and favorite toys. As much as I'll miss her, I won't mourn for long. She was suffering, and it was time. The best part of making the decision today was that the huge personality and peace never failed.

She died as she lived -- with peace and beauty and joy. And from her I learned what perfect Christian love really is -- selfless, total, and loyal.

Animals really are amazing.

Rest well, my Missy girl. See you someday.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Believe

A week or so ago, I stumbled upon an article that eulogized a Canadian man who blogged his battle with cancer. He was unflinching and candid throughout the journey, and even had a postmortem post ready for when his time came.

Of course, that last post drew comments in droves, and one in particular stuck out to me: "I am not a religious man," the commenter wrote, "but in times like these, it would be so nice to believe that this is not the end."

I found myself in that moment full of pity for that man, and for so many others who contend all that waits for us is, well...nothing.

Are they wrong? I don't know. Is my faith correct? I hope. Many say we can have full assurance of the truth. But let's face it -- not one of us will know the capital-t-Truth until we get there.

Until that day, I choose to believe.

I believe because a world without faith is inconceivably grim in my eyes. What is there to hope for in the future if there is nothing but death after this? Why would my actions, my words, matter at all? Why do we live, and why in the world would anyone care?

It's a sad mindset for me, one that I'll never be able to fully wrap my mind around. I've been mocked, ridiculed and challenged for what I believe, but in my eyes, it's better to hope and rejoice than spend my life waiting for oblivion. That's not what I'm about.

I believe because I have seen the power of faith at work. I have seen relationships and wounds healed, and lives changed.

Maybe those other guys are right. Maybe it is a fantasy. But that "fantasy" is my hope and strength as this world hurricanes around me. It's what gets me through those irritating moments at work, and the crippling nights in bed wondering what the future holds for me and those I hold dear.

I am strong in my weakness because of Him, and able to have joy in the midst of terrible grief and uncertainty thanks to His promises. And you know, the one thing I've learned in the last five years is that He always keeps His promises.

That's why I believe. If I'm wrong, then I've lived my life with optimism and integrity, and have made a difference in the world for it.

If they're wrong, well ... let's just say I'm not going to hedge my bets!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tough Stuff

Some weeks are bad. And then there are some weeks where you want to crawl into a hole and never come out.

That kind of week is where I find myself now. There's work, where no one is returning my calls, a suddenly blossoming relationship that I am nowhere near emotionally ready for, and family problems.

A cousin of mine has needed a liver for 30 years. Last night, they found a match. My family rejoiced. I praised God, for just that morning I called all my friends and we prayed together for a miracle. Today, as they began the transplant, they learned that he has a secondary issue that for now prohibits transplant. The liver he needed was passed on, and now he remains deathly ill.

Our hearts are extremely burdened over this. I can say personally that I feel stabbed in the back and betrayed by the God who I believed was going to give us a miracle.

But as a coworker reminded me gently in a private moment outside the newsroom, sometimes His answer is no. And sometimes the only words of consolation we receive are "trust Me." Until then, we learn to walk in the dark and listen in the silence.

Now that I've had some time to process and write a letter to a friend, I'm a little more rational. This is not God's fault. Hating Him will accomplish nothing, and screaming at Him will only tire out my soul more. Considering the last few weeks, that's the last thing I need. (Really, it's pretty bad when you walk up to a random priest and ask for confession on a Monday. I'm trying to stay out of more trouble!)

One of the things I said in that letter was that it's the rough things in life that really make us holy.

I don't know if I like the way that feels. But for now, these are the cards He has dealt me. I've seen the consequences of running away too many times, and I'm learning in the midst of my anxiety (which I'm now being treated for) that I just can't be strong on my own.

That's okay. I need Him like I need air. And I can either accept that, or watch my life fall to despair.

I think you know which one I'm going to choose. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011


How often do we hear the voice of God? And when we hear it, how often do we listen?

This was the question we were asked this past weekend for Good Shepherd Sunday. That Saturday night came on the heels of my graduation, which was official Friday afternoon. God, in His great humor, had a way of speaking to me right where I was.

Lately, I haven't been listening...haven't listened, and haven't cared.

That's not for lack of desire, mind you. Knowing I can be open here, I imagine now is as good a time as any to talk about it. Lately, I've been struggling with horrible anxiety to the point where it's become a physical issue.

There are two things I'm learning from this experience: first, I know that my spiritual life taking a hit isn't going to help anything. One line of a Matt Maher song says, "My fear grips my faith, and I am left unmoved." That's where I'm at.

The other thing -- and this is perhaps most important of all -- is that I am utterly dependent on God. Without Him, I lose my footing, my center, my courage.

I'm not sure yet how I'm going to get out of this, but the first place I'm going to start is my knees. And the doctor. Please pray for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The End

It's over.

On Thursday, I left my chaplain's office and walked across the Newman house, wanting to stop in the little Adoration chapel one more time. Only the day before I was studying there, wanting to avoid the distraction of music, laughter and friends.

A month ago, I sat on the floor there with three of them, all of us praying for a relative of mine as he clung to life. An hour later, we learned of his miraculous recovery.

A year ago, I prayed for strength as I faced the end of junior year in the midst of troubled times at home, not knowing what I would find when I got there. God provided for me then.

And yesterday, I sat back on my knees for a minute in silence, watching the sunlight filter through the stained glass. For just a little while, I wanted to hang on to the embrace of all those memories and relationships.

Before I knew what hit me, I was crying both in sadness for the end of this chapter of my life, and in thanksgiving for God's fingerprints on every inch of it. In some ways, it's taken me until now to notice them.

Today, I turned in the keys to my apartment, packed my life into a pickup truck and headed home to my favorite chair and my cat, who's ecstatic to have me back. To my surprise, my parents are, too. ;)

For now, for this moment, it feels wonderful.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Being Catholic

I've been neglecting this place. I'm sorry. I'm barreling through my final days as a college student, and lately it seems that I've been trying to drink dry every moment of them.

Life should be like that. And sometimes, I find myself so consumed by the thought of, "Oh! I need to remember this so I can blog/tweet/Facebook/whatever it later!" that the experience I was trying to capture has passed by.

So, I've spent the last little while just observing. It feels good.

Two weeks ago now we were about to enter the Triduum. On Holy Thursday, I was working on deadline and panicked because everything hinged on a phone call. The call had to come that day, or I would be stuck until after the holiday. I carried my cell phone with me everywhere, and ironically when it rang, there were only 15 minutes to spare. (I was also in the bathroom at the time. So this is what journalism is about...)

With work behind me just in time, I flew down the block to St. Bridget's for Mass. When I slid into the pew and onto my knees, it took a long time to slow down my brain.

"Lift up your hearts," the priest tells us before Communion. We respond, "We lift them up to the Lord." For me, lifting up your heart means to leave behind your "life junk" for a while. I took a breath and steadied myself.

The Our Father came shortly after that as it always does, and my friends and I all reached for one another's hands. All around us, people did the same, and as incense floated over down over our heads, I could hear two languages chanting the prayer together.

That happens every day at Mass. But when I stopped and really listened, I was amazed at how much I missed around me.

Catholicism, more than any other flavor of Christianity, is so physical. Going to Mass slams all of your senses. Every gesture and word has a reason and purpose. All of those sounds and smells and tastes are tools that bring us closer to God.

The best part is that despite how different that huge crowd is, for an hour or so, we're identical. Maybe that's why we call ourselves catholic -- universal.

Friday, April 22, 2011


As I write this, there are five minutes left until Good Friday and, dutifully, I am shoving as much fiber and protein into my mouth as humanly possible.

Meanwhile, just a brief post tonight.

Last night (Wednesday), we celebrated an annual tradition at Newman: senior dinner. We all cook for one another as a rule, but once a year the underclassmen team up to prepare and serve something a bit more "fancy" to the graduating seniors, who enjoy candlelight, good china, and conversation by themselves.

There are ten of us this year, a huge chunk of the crowd. Many have been integral. The underclassmen tell me I am one of the ones that have made a difference.

(Midnight. Good Friday.)

Before breaking away to eat, they surrounded us in a giant huddle around the table while Father gave us a blessing. And afterward, one at a time, we had the opportunity to offer whatever was on our heart. Advice, thanksgiving, love.

All of that happened and there were lots of tears. As for me, I was toward the end of the line and had a decent amount of time to think about what I wanted to say. I wasn't sure until my turn arrived, but I kicked things off this way:

"You know, it just hit me. Tomorrow, April 21st, will be four years since I came back home to the Church..." Here, there were cheers and applause. It was a perfect way to finish my thought: "And ironically, almost four years to the day, I'm celebrating with the people that have helped me keep that faith. I came here isolated, and I'm leaving here with family."

It's not been an easy ride, by any means ... even recently I found myself being carried on the journey when I couldn't face hard times alone. But every year I am a little stronger, and a lot more humbled by how much God is teaching and transforming me every day.

Growing pains hurt like hell. But they, like anything worth having, are so worth it in the end.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Acting in Agony

I keep thinking about the Agony in the Garden. It's the time of year for that, both in liturgy and in that aching in my soul that I can't seem to kick.

Before He was betrayed, Jesus begged and pleaded to be set free of the circumstances that led Him here. No longer could He put the future out of mind. He was to go and die for people who didn't really know Him and mostly didn't care. What's worse is that He had to do it all alone.

And then what? He returns from that plea to find Peter and the others passed out. It's a beautiful piece of irony. I can almost see the slightest bitter smirk on His lips before the crushing sadness comes again. Just when I need someone to be there for Me, they aren't, Jesus might have thought. That sight was the salt of the earth He preached about being rubbed into the wound of grief.

Yet He went and did it again, and then once more, praying with a passion so intense and a grief so penetrating he sweat blood. Really. The capillaries burst under all of that strain and blood came out of the pores when there was no more sweat to give. How many people do you know who have done that?

But what happened next is perhaps the most important part of the whole story. He knew there was no choice but to go through with His Passion -- after all, it's not as if you can resign being the Messiah, or just erase whatever your life circumstances are. So He got up off the ground, dried His tears, and moved forward.

I can't even imagine the strength it must have taken for Him to rise from there and walk away. 

We can't change the past, and we can't freeze the present moment. Sometimes, things happen that are well beyond our control. The only thing to do is play the cards we're dealt the best we know how.

And we live with the promise that when we go to die, we will live again.

"I have promised, and I will do it," says the Lord.

Do we believe Him?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Daily Prayer for Personal Crosses

God, give me the grace to carry the cross that you've given me.
Help me to remember that You made it the perfect size and shape and form.
Keep my eyes forward and my heart steadfast as I continue this journey.
And may I never, ever forget that You are my Simon of Cyrene.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Finding Shelter

We will never walk alone again...

Well, after almost a year of admiration, I finally got to see live my two favorite Catholic artists ever, Matt Maher and Audrey Assad. They opened along with Derek Webb for Jars of Clay, and while I was a casual fan of the headliner going in, I now love them to bits.

Buy "The Shelter." Right now. Do not wait.

I have to admit, I knew that Christian concerts were different from their secular counterparts, but it's an entirely different thing to actually experience it. It was beautiful knowing that hundreds of people were all brought together for love of great music and faith. But it also goes even deeper than that: it's a celebration of the One who loves us more than we could conceive.

Beyond that, it was definitely the most joyful show I've ever been to. I'm almost reluctant to admit it, but I found a charismatic streak in me. It was a refreshing change, that's for sure.

In all four sets, there was a common thread: no matter what we're going through or where we stand in faith, we are never alone ... "The Shelter" is based on an old Irish saying that says we will live in the shelter/refuge of one another. That's how life works, and how the Church works.

We're a communal people, and most of the time I forget that. Despair is a tricky one for me to dodge, and when I'm not on point, it's easy for me to get lost in it.

It's funny, though. Whenever I really start to lose my footing, it seems the Lord is armed with people to put in my path. And this concert was one more slap from Him: Wake up, doofus. Look around. I am with you.

For once, I could finally answer as I should have been all along. "I know it, Lord."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unity and Eating Dirt

After youth group last night, I spent a while praying with a couple of friends, new and old.

As we prayed, I found myself impressed again by this new crowd. The Spirit is allowed to move freely, and it makes a tangible difference in the way the ministry runs.

Just as I pondered that, someone in the darkened meeting room said softly, "I pray for unity here, and that we all work together to seek the presence of the Holy Spirit and the will of God in us."

Zing. Once again, we were of one mind.

I say this cautiously, but will stand by it: these guys are doing what Newman is failing to do. That hurts to write, and I pray that the changes many of us hope for will come next year. The underclassmen deserve it.

But, I digress.

My friend Jesse from Newman introduced me to this new group, and he and I spent a while chatting. Something he said innocently struck a chord with me, especially in light of my recent "growing pains."

He said, "The first thing Jesus did when He received the Cross was fall down and drop it."

It's true, of course. I've read the Gospels; I've seen that passage many times before. But to hear him put it to me like that was something else.

It's okay to struggle. It's okay to fall. It's okay to feel so overwhelmed by the weight of our burdens that we just collapse.

The trick is to get up and keep going. We can't get to Heaven eating dirt. ;)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just a Reminder

"Beloved, bear your share of hardship for the Gospel..."

It was one of those Masses where all I could do, hidden safely up in the choir loft, was throw my hands up in a silent gesture of exasperation: You have got to be kidding me.

Shortly after that, I went to my knees and cried.

When I first came to Christ in 2006, I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of difficulty my new faith would bring. People around me who were Christians were so happy -- they had joy and peace, they said. And He could give that to me, too, if only I would ask for it.

What they never did tell me was that "in this world you will have trouble." I missed that part. I wasn't ready to drop my past, and when I did, the backlash was ugly not only within me, but in the reactions of those around me.

I had bitten off more than I could chew, and opted to put on a smile ... after all, we had to be examples at all times. We were witnesses.

You can probably guess what happened next: I fell on my butt. It took a couple years and some much-needed formation once I came back to the Church, but I'm so much more well-adjusted to the ebb and flow of faith.

Of course, I still have my moments. Sometimes, it feels like I can't live up to who I'm called to be. There are seasons where I grow so weary that I just...quit.

Then I read the second half of Paul's message to Timothy:

"Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God."

God can overcome anything.

"In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world."

And God can -- will -- see me through even the worst of trials. Sometimes, all I need is a reminder.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Still, small and hidden...

There isn't much left of winter now. As long as it's still relevant, I want to post this video from the beautiful and talented Audrey Assad (who, I'm sure you know by now, I never shut up about). I'm going to see her in three weeks!!!

This song has always spoken to me, in the sense that I am always looking for neon signs along my faith journey. Predictably, I usually only find them when I learn to rein myself in a bit, take a breath and humbly listen for His voice.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Very Acceptable Time

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.

I have a feeling that this Lent is going to be eventful for me. Eventful, and very productive. I'd love it if I emerged at Easter 47 days from now a bit less tied down by the roller coaster of my worries.

For starters, I'm going to get eight hours of sleep a night, no excuses. I think that a healthier sleep cycle will make everything else a whole lot easier.

My friend Megan and I are going to embark on some kind of Biblical journey together, too. She's mentioned something about a devotion to the shoulder wound of Christ, the wound that was formed as he carried the cross and all of our burdens.

It seems like it's just what I need.

I sit here now with a grilled cheese and a smudge on my head, a walking and talking "I'm Catholic!" sign. Last year, it was scary. This year, it was pretty fun.

There's never been a better time for change -- the second reading even said so. Rather than blanching this year, I'm embracing this opportunity. I'm not going to squander it.

For now, it's time for some much-needed food.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Lent is coming.

Lent is coming with all of its somber, relentless reminders that if we're going to walk this road, if we're really going to follow Christ, we've got to go to Calvary and die.

I don't like that. I've never liked that, and I'm not about to start. This woman's no masochist.

So, I pull up my big girl pants and do what the Gospel asks of me -- pick up the cross and follow. And now and again it gets way too heavy for me, and I drop it or fall on my face. Most of the time, it's both.

And then I run as far and as fast as I can, telling myself that I just need to get away from the burden of it for a little while until I can clear my head and get my courage back. If there's one thing I've needed in the last five years, it's courage. When I lose it, I crash. What you see instead is a pretty little brave face, but I've only been really good at faking it onstage. ;)

Okay, enough with the metaphors. I ran myself into the ground for the millionth time last week, after a month solid of ignoring it. Vice gets my mind off the fact that life is hard. It also gets me into a mess. That was fun in the confessional.

It's dealt with now and behind me. Redemption is still fresh in my soul. But...the cross is still sitting there, and I know it's time to get moving.

Yet all I can do is stand there and look at it. That's too bad, because in 24 hours I'll be "rending my heart" and starting the long journey to Easter.

Maybe somewhere along the way, I'll find my courage again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unexpected Surprise

At the beginning of this week, I sat at my computer desk like a sack of potatoes, nursing cramps and trying hard to console myself with sushi. It's been a weird few days -- a faith-based documentary we critiqued in a class led to a small crisis, but eventually, I got some interesting news.

There was a job opening in my field, and I was encouraged by the person who was supervising it to come in for an interview. This person knows me well. No application or resume was necessary.

After a 90 minutes of questions -- both from the relevant editors and many from me -- I left there with a job. A real job, post-graduation.

Blessed be God!

The position is a bit more than I would have expected for part-time work. OK, maybe a lot more. It has taken me this long to answer the question of whether or not I was even ready for this. While not getting into too much detail, I'm going to be in charge of a small publication that is released once a month with a daily paper. This means I get to brainstorm all of the content, implement the steps necessary for getting the content done, and coming up with photo ideas. All this needs to be finished months in advance of the publication date, just in case something goes wrong...which in journalism, things are wont to do.

I walked out of the newsroom and my mom asked if I was going to be sick. See, I thought I was going to be writing obituaries. This huge, amazing opportunity completely blindsided me and I was completely overwhelmed with emotions.

The night before, I had asked God to do whatever He felt was best for me. And then that happened.

So, if this is what's intended for me, I have no doubt I'll succeed. All I need is time to learn and adjust.

And faith.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Feasts and Seasons

I can't sleep. Like it or not, this time of year leaves me so unsettled. I grit my teeth and keep on. After last year, I know what this is and how to deal. For that, I'm thankful.

This week, we've had an unusual spike in warm weather; this has come in the midst of one of the harshest winters I can recall, at least temperature-wise. The appearance of 60s on the TV screen stirred something dormant in me, and I could have burst out of my skin once I got out of the house. (I did shed my coat in about 20 seconds.)

The warmth still hasn't melted all of the ice and snow, however. In fact, outside of Newman remains a stretch of ice several feet long and a good inch thick.

Still, as I soaked up the sun today with my first iced latte of the year, I couldn't help but note that shift in winter that means there's light at the end of the tunnel.

It always brings me back to the Wheel of the Year, even though my days of observing it are well behind me now. I've always found incredible peace and comfort in its rhythm and celebrations of the changing seasons. Now, it doesn't surprise me that I take that same comfort in the liturgical calendar. In both faiths, the cycle keeps me grounded and moving forward.

I'm still hyper-aware on the Pagan sabbats that share the day with Church feasts. Of course, the Presentation was celebrated a few weeks ago; I immediately thought of Imbolc and its rituals, of Brighid and her priestesses keeping the sacred fire alive. The two holy days are both on Feb. 2.

We were exactly halfway through the winter that day. Outside, the snow that has clung stubbornly to the ground since Christmas was melting into muddy piles of slush. Soon, I told myself. Not too much longer, and we'll be out of hibernation.

Ostara will come, then a month later spring's first full moon, and Easter just after it.

The whole world -- body and soul, physical and spiritual -- will come alive again.

It never ceases to amaze me. :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Against the Grain

I would be remiss if I didn't talk a little bit about the retreat last weekend, which was a lot of fun. The mansion holds so many memories for the upperclassmen who have been there before, and it was particularly meaningful for the seniors graduating in just a few months.

The topic for the retreat focused on living an authentically Catholic sexuality as a young adult. Heaven knows anyone trying to avoid the prevalence of lust and greed in the media is going to have a hard time. We all do, and this weekend we were given tools to make the fight to stay pure a little less agonizing.

It's the job of the media to inform and educate our audiences, but we also carry the added responsibility of influence. Whether we mean it or not, audiences take their cues from TV, print media, and the Web. And unless you've been living in a cave for the last few decades, you've probably seen how pervasive and damaging some of the content is.

Drugs. Excessive drinking. Meaningless sex with any number of people in any number of ways. Objectification. Oppression. Bullying. Violence.

There's also the porn industry, which due to its sheer size and spread deserves a category of its own. Understand, the Church sees sex as the most intimate, holy thing that two people can give to each other. They give themselves freely and fully, without reserve and with complete trust. Sex has incredible power over humanity, and it has the potential to create and bond, or destroy and demean. It's not something you want to mess around with, (This, in a nutshell, is why we take strong positions against extramarital sex and birth control.)

One of the poignant moments of the weekend for me was when we split into groups by gender for a private discussion. For the ladies, we all expressed frustration with the way virginity is stigmatized. If you've not had sex by the time you're about 25, most of the world considers you doomed or somehow defective. And porn has created an inaccurate picture of what sex is, and who women are. Many of us carry the secret that we have been made into victims and objects because of it. More than anything, women want to stand up and support the men in our life as they try to honor us. And at the end of the day, we only want to be honored, too.

Check out this clip from the ABC hit drama Grey's Anatomy. It came up in our discussion and accurately shows the way virginity is treated today:

It was super encouraging to be surrounded by 15 women who all support each other, even when we screw up. And I'm so blessed to have met many strong, Catholic gentlemen who are on the front lines defending our dignity. One day, I believe God will point one out to me.

Until then, I'm a 21-year-old virgin. I've been single for over a year. And you know, it's not so bad.

Friday, February 4, 2011

And now, for something completely different...

I have to hold my breath and cross my fingers behind my back to even write this next sentence:

My faith is strong these days. (Of course, my inner skeptic is always waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I digress.)

Advent and Christmas is always a wonderful time of year for me, but I usually approach the weeks that follow it with dread. I tend to go as bare and cold as the trees do, and after last year's adventure into nihilism, I was bracing myself for Something Ugly. It hasn't come, and I'm thanking God for every second of this unexpected calm.

I've been introduced twice now to a young adult group at a parish that's about ten minutes from campus. They're 18-25 year olds, most of them local, but some travel from all over because of their reputation.

You all know how I hate to sound cosmic, but allow it this once: the Spirit moves something fierce with these guys. And I confess that you will hardly ever find that at Newman, as much as I love them.

They come at the perfect time, as it seems God always works out for me. When I graduate, I'll no longer be allowed at Newman because it's a ministry for the university. But with ACTS, I know I am already finding a new home. I often asked myself until just recently how I would ever be able to transition from complete independence in my faith decisions to living back home where I depend on my parents. I think I have my answer.

I was going to write more on this, but for now, I'm leaving for my last(!!!!) retreat with Newman. It's snowing up at the mansion, so we're all very excited to be up in the hills. As always, your prayers would be most appreciated. I'll see you next week!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Media and the March

I want to talk about an event that consistently makes an impact on both the Christian and secular world: the March for Life held annually in Washington, D.C. But this time, you won't hear me talking about the Church's stance on abortion.

My issue this time is with my colleagues in the media.

First, some background: after the resolution of Roe vs. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton in 1973, the right to terminate a pregnancy on demand was declared a constitutional right for all.

One year later, anti-abortion advocates gathered at the Supreme Court to protest the decision and demand its reversal. They have done so every year since with increasing numbers, diversity and passion.

The 38th annual March for Life was held this past Monday, with an estimated 400,000 people, 50 members of the House of Representatives and one senator in attendance.

That's almost half a million people.

But ironically, you would never notice this by turning on the evening news or opening up the paper in the following days.

In fact, the media has been consistently notorious for avoiding any mention of the March, and when it is covered, the information presented is usually misrepresented and biased.

Let me say clearly that I'm not speaking as a Catholic as I write this. I'm speaking as a journalist who is confused by the almost universal error in judgment.

To show you what I mean, here is a traditional list of the eight elements of newsworthiness that have been drilled into my head since I was 18. Since then, I've done tons of exercises in the classroom to root out these elements in current events.

There is plenty of conflict in this story, one that has remained close to the top of political debates for decades now. And it was obviously timely with the anniversary of such a landmark set of cases.

The sheer number of people and delegates rallying at the Capitol and in smaller gatherings nationwide (like the Walk for Life West Coast in California) fulfills consequence and prominence -- it's hard to get half a million people to do much of anything, let alone gather for one cause.

Abortion is an issue that stirs the emotions of people on both sides of the debate, and affects every single person who has a child. That's something that appeals to human interest.

We can also say it's a good variety story because of the diversity of the people present. Christians from many denominations that typically argue over doctrine came together to pray. Feminists, men, old people, tens of thousands of youth of every race were all present. A friend who was there told me that he even saw a sign that read "Atheist Anarchists for Life."

So...that's six out of eight. Where was the coverage? Aside from Catholic broadcasting outlets like EWTN, it's anybody's guess. Do a Google search. Where are the prominent news names we expect to see?

Why are we letting our audience down?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Great Divide

ETA: Fixed a broken link. 25 Jan. 2011

This week has been set aside in churches across denominational lines as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

It's almost funny, though, that these days we're about as divided as it gets. Our chaplain made an excellent point tonight that the rest of the world looks to everyone who proclaims Christ as their example of what Christianity is ... and all we do is bicker, nitpick, and judge.

It's no wonder that so many dismiss us as irrelevant. We're all so caught up in our own drama that we barely notice how badly we're ruining our reputations.

The Church universal, it seems, is as broken today as the world we're trying to save.

As one very timely example, look at this list of common American denominations and their positions on human life. The number that believes it is okay to end a God-given life in the womb is mind boggling. As if that's not enough, we can't even agree on the simple basics of our faith, like the nature of the Atonement.

I can't figure it out.

That's not to say that the Church in Rome is any better -- look at our Mass attendance down to a quarter of the faithful in this country, those that don't know what the Eucharist is, those that support all kinds of insanity in the liturgy, and still others on the conservative end that believe the Ordinary Form (post-Vatican II Mass) is dysfunctional at best and abominable at worst.

There has been no better time than for a movement like this. I know what a lot of people say, but if we hope to move forward and piece together these shards, we need to work together, and we need to pray together.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Taking Stock of Everything

Hi. It's been a while for me. Sorry about that -- I was blessed with kidney stones right after the new year, and once that was resolved, there was a freelance assignment due. My editor was kind enough to suspend my deadline while the agony subsided. I'm fine now, thankfully, and am ready to get back in business here.

This week has been more difficult than I could have ever anticipated. On Monday we got the news that a friend I graduated with made the decision to end his life. He had a brilliant mind and a great heart, and while we weren't especially close, we shared best friends. Seeing three of them lined up in a pew last night at the viewing, all of them broken in grief, moved me to tears of my own.

I learned something very important in that moment. As Christians, our worldview is completely focused on joy. We are forward-thinkers. Many of the people at this viewing were atheists lost in complete despair because there was nothing after the death of our friend to hope for.

This mindset of hope has been so crucial to me this week. There have been more than one family crisis, and by the time I got home from having drinks with my friends, I felt crushed under the weight of it all.

I offered up a tired prayer this morning that I would find solace in the confessional. That was answered.

And afterward, a bigger reach: "Lord, I need to be reminded in a very big way that sticking with You is still worth it."

The readings today were all about strength. And our pastor's homily was surprisingly candid, about our first interaction with others being about acceptance as the person is, not doctrine and judgment. That Christianity at its core is a relationship with Christ, and that's the message we should be sending. Hope and love.

Without getting into details, it hit home. I felt like God was reminding me where my priorities belong. I cast my cares on Him and left happy.

This week, more than ever, I know how to be grateful.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Hello, 2011!!!!