Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lessons from my Papa

Today the Church will say goodbye to its physical head as Pope Benedict XVI abdicates his role as Bishop of Rome.

For the first time in my life as a practicing Catholic, the Chair of St. Peter will be vacant.

There will be no Papa.

And oddly, it's not because he's died.

In so many ways, this resignation allows me to rejoice. So many young people of my generation will always hold up Bl. John Paul II as "their" pope, the one who crystallized their faith and encouraged them in times of weariness.

I never had that grace. When John Paul died in 2005, I was still actively involved in the occult. As far as I was concerned, he was not my pope.

And yet I still found myself glued to the TV that day after school, unable to turn away from the vigil taking place in St. Peter's Square.

Something flickered in me then, and I felt it tangibly. Perhaps it was the flame of grace that would lead me back home almost exactly two years later.

The flicker came again a few weeks later, when I watched Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger emerge from what we still all considered John Paul's apartment, wearing John Paul's clothes, giving John Paul's blessing.

It felt strange, even to me.

But that shy man's smile stuck with me that day. And so did the stories that poured in as we learned more: his love for cats, his classically-trained piano skills, and his reluctance to accept the papacy.

Maybe we should have known then that he would leave it this way. Indeed, it seems now that he left us little signs everywhere. We just failed to see it then.

The day Benedict announced his resignation brought a storm of mixed feelings in the Catholic circles I'm in. Most were confused. Some were even angry, asking how he could abandon us, abandon his mission, like it was nothing. They compared him to an absent parent, to a Christ who came down from the Cross because it was just too much.

And they all spoke of John Paul and the hero's death he died after bearing the terrible burden of Parkinson's disease.

But I saw something different that day.

I saw a man who grappled long and furiously with the ever-increasing demands of his Church.

I saw a man who was self-aware, honest and humble enough to admit that the role he held for eight years was now overwhelming him.

But most importantly, I saw a man who was brave enough to let go. He knew that the best thing for the Church and for his flock was to step back, lay down the Cross, and allow Jesus to care for his wounds.

I was in bed that day, still very sick after weeks of a viral infection, and crippled emotionally by the sudden, vicious return of anxiety that's stalked me for years.

And in that moment, my Papa's actions said to me, "You don't have to be superwoman. You can let go. You can get the help you need and deserve as a dignified daughter of God."

He has followed the invitation of our gentle Lord: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are weary, and I will give you rest."

He has gone to rest and gone to heal. And thanks to his example, I will do the same.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Waiting in the Wings

Happy New Year. I missed it all in the flurry of holiday parties and cold nights curled up with that man I love so much. I've been feeling guilty, almost, about not being present here. It's that journalistic urge to archive and document. It gets upset when I let the moments pass undocumented.

But I wanted to forget all that for a while and just live.

I wrote this after some time spent poring over the beautiful soul that is Sarah Koller. Her words woke up my muse again.

My resolution this year is to be real. Normally, I would hesitate to post this ... but it is about as real as I get. I won't hold that back.


I am a bundle of unopened potential.

So often I look at myself as a butterfly still encased in her chrysalis, her wings still knitting together bit by bit, cell by cell. The process, the waiting, it's all painstaking. It makes me want to MOVE.

I don't want to wait. I want those wings, here and now, today. There is a place for me, a ministry, and God pulls with such vigor on my heart that all of me aches to GO.

But I can't. Not yet. I need to still the longings that threaten to burst out of my seams long enough to realize a bit of truth. I am living with my head, my heart, my soul engaged in a moment -- a version of myself, even -- that hasn't been born yet.

 I ache for Wife. I ache for the moment when I can do more than sit and watch two separate and separated lives unfold. I am restless with My Life and all its beauty because my heart is so invested in the hope that is Our Life.

I ache for Mommy, for the grabbing little hands at my skin and little smiles at my heart. Even if they aren't my flesh and blood, I want nothing more than to pour love out on little souls like water to flowers. I want to watch them blossom. I want to raise up love and joy and courage in young hearts, so that they can mend a little of this world's broken one.

I ache for youth minister and blogger and teacher and freelancer and neighbor and a million other things.

But along the way, I feel a bit of gentle urgency in my head, a little voice of reason in the midst of all that heart: "Do not forget today. Do not abandon now. Do not bury YOU."

Sometimes, I forget to be content with me. Content with my weakness and vulnerability. Content with a hair part not quite straight, a shirt that doesn't fit quite right, a sandwich taking 20 minutes to make, a heart not quite committed, a soul not quite convinced.

But that is Me. She is ME. I love her. I have to love her now, today. Not when I get to where I'm going.

Love, it grows. It’s knit together in that chrysalis, just like me.

I need to be patient. The little growth of today is in itself, at its core, a miracle. My days are a work of God's artistic brilliance.

The chrysalis is beautiful. Its fragility, its safety, its promise ... that is where I live today.

And even though sometimes I catch myself forgetting, I do like it here.