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."