Sunday, June 24, 2012

This is not the end.

While my official job title involves work as a health reporter, I also work a few evenings a week on the copy desk, proofreading pages for the next day's newspaper.

A few weeks ago, I read this column by syndicated Washington Post columnist Esther J. Cepeda. It's short, so I encourage you to read the whole thing, but just in case you don't, here are the highlights.

Recently, all signs have pointed to the fact that a lot of people -- especially those of us with the unbending egotistical belief that we have what it takes to be among the few survivors of a cataclysm -- are sort of pining for "the end."  
How else to explain the zeal with which news of the bizarre Miami tragedy, in which a naked man attacked a homeless man by stripping his clothes off and then mauling his face, spurred rumors of a coming zombie apocalypse?

It's very true that the news has been exceptionally dismal and bizarre in this post-9/11 world. And Cepeda writes that some people took comfort in the possibility of the Mayan calendar predicting the Apocalypse this December.

After all, when things are this bad, they can't exactly get much worse, right? At least if the world ends, the violence and turmoil we're experiencing will go with it.

Poverty, war, injustice, abuse, divorce, abortion, infidelity ... they've always been with us. Read the Old Testament if you need evidence. Cepeda continues:
It seems like everything's going to pieces anyway, so why not entertain the possibility that the end is near? It's comforting. How else are we expected to cope...?
To those who lack faith, it's very easy to despair. Without faith, there's no way out of this. We are helpless and there's no hope, never mind an explanation of why this is happening.

But for those with faith, the truth is simple: this world isn't home. This isn't the way things were meant to be. We are called to something much greater. These things are written on the hearts of every person, theist or otherwise.

That's how I would answer Esther Cepeda. We cope because we believe this is not the end, and that there are better things in store.

More than that, however, we also believe that redemption is possible here and now. It takes a lot to change a society, but it begins with one heart at a time. Hearts can change.  Sometimes, all they need is someone to remind them.

Unfortunately, Jesus said it best: "The harvest is ready, but the laborers are few."

Clearly, we still have work to do. Let's get out there and do it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An invocation to the Sacred Heart

I'm finally starting to wrap my head around devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. It makes sense, especially considering that St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was draw as my patron saint for the year 2012.
O Heart of love,
I put all my trust in Thee;
for I fear all things from my own weakness,
but I hope for all things from Thy goodness. Amen.

Friday, June 8, 2012

"We're all phamily here, right?"

Back when I was in high school, it was still a little odd to say you had friends on the internet whom you'd never met before.

But for me, I've had faraway friends almost as long as I've been online. The first batch came from the virtual pet site Neopets. I still have all the letters that my friend Lieren and I exchanged from the time I was in 7th grade up through my early college years. 

In high school, I fell into the fandom of a wonderful novel-length story posted on I met Courtney then; she was older than me, and both of us were practicing Pagans at the time. She was there for me when I got saved, and I shared her joy when she made the same decision a few years later. We cried together when she learned she was pregnant in my senior year, and celebrated when she delivered healthy twin girls.

Then there was ExWitch, where I made many lasting friends, including the man who became my first serious boyfriend. We were together for 3 years, and while it didn't work out, I can say honestly that I wouldn't be who or where I am now if not for the time I spent with him. 

So it felt like the most natural thing in the world, then, when I piled into my boyfriend's truck with all my stuff and headed to Pittsburgh two weeks ago, a place I'd never been before, to meet some of the folks from Phatmass for the first time.

It wasn't weird. Not for a second. If anything, being with them felt like being home.

Here in the flesh were people I had laughed, cried and prayed with for five years, in some cases. The only difference was this time, we were finally in the same room. 

Living Catholicism with every drop of my strength is sometimes a very lonely road. I came to Phatmass just two weeks before I finally went back to the Sacraments. When I did, they were there. And they've always been there, every step of the way, teaching me and lifting me up and sometimes carrying my cross when I was too broken to do so alone.

One of the places we went together was St. Anthony's Chapel, which contains the largest collect of relics from the saints outside the Vatican. Before we left, I knelt at the old school communion rail to pray, and shivered. I was keenly aware that all the saints were there with me, praying with me.

I felt it again at out last Mass together at St. Paul's Cathedral, overwhelmed with gratitude that God could connect so many lives from all across the world.

We've always called ourselves phamily. Sitting around the table eating and drinking (and drinking more) together, it became more real to me I can express. "Wherever two or more are gathered in My Name..."

I love you, guys. See you next year!