Monday, June 21, 2010

Faith of Our Fathers

So yesterday was Fathers' Day and for a girl who often complains about men and has an aversion to most things cute, I will say I recognize the sweetness of a father holding his daughter or the ador-ability (not a word, but you get it) of a dad playing catch with his son.

Dads are cute! There is an attractiveness there and even this rather unsentimental gal can see their beauty and sweetness. We need good dads!

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't state the obvious connection to "Our Father" when speaking about Fathers' Day. And while I rejoiced for the new dads in my life and express deep gratitude for my own father yesterday, it was indeed The Big Guy who I spent the most time with and reflecting on yesterday.

I mentioned last post that I was struck by the sacrifice made by my friend through his priestly ordination (he is a "new father"!) Parents make sacrifices all over the place for their kids, and this is certainly a characteristic of Our Father too- sacrificing His Only Son for us.

Yesterday's Gospel was Luke 9: 18-24: Jesus asking his apostles, "Who do you say that I am?" and then telling all that the way to follow Him is to "Take up your cross"*.

I was using the missal in the pew before Mass to read the day's readings, and there was a reflection included for the day written by an unknown author. The author connected this question of Christ's identity to His sacrifice. Christ was telling his apostles that he IS the Son of God. Most of them already got this or sensed it, but it was through his SACRIFICE on the cross- the denial of himself for love of all- that people said "truly He was the Son of God".

The author suggested, isn't this the same with us? Through our daily self-denial, this is where we find our truest selves, our true identity. When we sacrifice for love, we discover ourselves.

Can this be true? Is this what Christ is saying in the Gospel?

As twisted as this may sound, I think some people (myself included) can find the Christian life almost glamorous. I know especially when I was young in my faith- high school and college in particular- I allowed my idealism that comes with that youth to believe that there was something glamorous to living Christianity in a radical "rock star" kind of way.

I did alot of mission trips, I did alot of inner city service helping the hungry and homeless, I discerned religious life...strange to think these things as glamorous, but I can't explain how youth and idealism kind of puts these things on a pedestal. When we are young, we are fearless and enthusiastic. Not that I'm not young now or unenthusiastic...but do you feel what I'm trying to say here?

And (shocker!) Christianity is not glamorous. As much as Jesus tried to tell us and show us this, I believe the apostles got caught up in the first rush of it too. Christ was telling them all these great things, new ideas they had never heard before. New ideals and philosophies can be liberating, empowering- and Christianity certainly should be- but...

But then the reality of it hits. Which is where I am at now and where I believe the author of this reflection was trying to take us. Taking up our cross and embracing our identity as Christians is in the everyday self-denial of very non-glamorous events.

So back to 'sacrifice'. Thinking about fathers and how they sacrifice, how Our Father sacrificed for us makes me think (as I mentioned last post) I wondered, how am I called to sacrifice right now?

I keep getting in prayer the word "remain" lately. I am also capitalizing on my new found friendship with the Holy Spirit (#newbesties! ;) and reading this amazing book called "The Sanctifier" which my spiritual director suggested to me last week. I love it when you pick up a book and it is so absolutely perfect and so absolutely God's time for you to read it....

Anyways, I guess I always saw the Spirit as a mover and a shaker. Like I've already said- a whirlwind that just shakes things up, but then he moves on. I should know better than this. By our Baptism and Confirmation we know we got the Spirit IN US. He LIVES THERE. He is a house-guest that sets up shop, paints the walls, and installs cable. He is kicking his feet up with the remote as we speak. He's IN there.

So the Spirit IS moving, but because He is connected to the love of the Father (he IS the love between the Father and the Son) He remains. And the Father seems to be telling me to remain physically but also spiritually right now. And that is a sacrifice for me.

The Holy Spirit and the Father were all up in my prayer yesterday, as you can see, and this is only the tip of the iceberg, really. You can be sure of many more insights from "The Sanctifier" to come, 'cause that's what I DO. I SHARE THINGS I'm reading ;) You are welcome ;)

I hope everyone had a very blessed Father's Day. May we find the sacrificial love of Our Father(s) to lead us and remain in us. Amen.

*This Gospel verse comes just in time for Workcamp! Last year, I sang the song "Take up Our Cross" from Spirit and Song at least 20 times that week (with love and fondness- it's a great song! ;) . I'm leaving on FRIDAY for Workcamp #1 of 2 this year! Pray for us and the 300+ teens that will be attending!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reflections on an Ordination

My friends from NET and I

My friend distributing communion to the congregation for the first time as a priest at his Thanksgiving Mass.

The priests of the diocese blessing the newly ordained at Ordination.
Three men presenting themselves to become priests!

This weekend, one of my friends from the year I did NET was ordained a priest in the Diocese I used to work in! Actually, two out of the three men ordained for the Diocese were NET alum!

I had never been to an ordination before (but now I've witnessed all Seven Sacraments- holler! ;), and of course, me and my newfound nerdiness for liturgy were all giddy at the symbolism and meaning involved in the Sacrament.

First of all, this is not an easy time for priests to get ordained. Not that there's ever an easy time- the priesthood isn't easy! Having worked in a parish, I know it means lots of phone calls, hospital visits, telling people things they don't want to hear, managing and running a 'business' of sorts...when really they just felt a call to give Jesus more.

But even I as I sat there at the cathedral for the Ordination Mass...I questioned. Why are priests so fascinating to our culture? Why do we hear about them doing bad things? Why is the Sacrament of Holy Orders (as well as the Sacrament of Marriage) under attack? (answer- the devil hates when we try to do holy things!!)

Priests also are fascinating because they are so counter cultural, yet still live and are very visible in the culture. Whereas nuns are countercultural, they still kind of get "hidden away"- either by being cloistered, or taking vows of poverty. Diocesan priests very much live in the world. Sometimes this gets the best of them. Or it gets the best of us.

Part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders that I experienced yesterday was watching every priest in the Diocese giving their blessing to the three candidates, and then giving the three candidates a fraternal kiss after the newly ordained were, well...ordained. This made for a lot of going back and forth (it felt like we had 1o,000 priests in our diocese at that time, not gonna lie ;)

It was somewhat easy to see how people might look at all these guys (see above pic) and think it a bit of a boys club. But when you think about it, it's all historical. Christ founded the priesthood "in the line of Melchizedek"- a righteous Jewish priestly figure. The fraternity of the priesthood IS founded on ancient tradition. I know many people say the Church should change 'with the times'- and I don't want to espouse too much on that here- but personally, I think one of the beautiful things about our faith is how far back tradition goes.

I imagined as I was sitting there, watching the bishop anoint my friend's hands with oil, the mystagogical talk St. Cyril or St. Ambrose might have given new priests in the 4th century. I pictured all of us gathering in a cave (or wherever early Christians might have gone ;) and the apostles like Sts. Peter and Paul ordaining new men to "go make of all disciples".

We are ALL called by our baptism to "make of all disciples". We ALL as Catholics receive holy chrism when we are Baptized and at our Confirmation. So we have a role too! But these men are setting themselves apart so that we can have the sacrifice of the Eucharist every day at Mass. So that we can go to Confession, we can get married in the Church, and we can be buried with Christ.

The sacrifice that they make is not always seen or thought about, I think, as a sacrifice. Either priests are humble and we do not see the sacrifices they make, or the opposite- we see the sinful side. But they are still human. Yes, they are called to higher standard for sure, so I'm not trying to excuse anyone in anyway. I'm just trying to emphasize the point that we all are called to many things as Christians and we often fall short.

This example of sacrifice- that the priest becomes 'in persona Christi' and lays his life down, not exactly as Christ did, but in a symbolic sense- really challenged me today as I watched my friend celebrate his first Eucharistic sacrifice.
(Sidebar: So, much like wedding weekends, there are many festivities surrounding a priestly ordination! The Ordination itself yesterday with the whole Diocese at the Cathedral, and then the new priest's "Thanksgiving Mass" which is his first time celebrating the Mass himself for a congregation. And of course, a reception to follow- much like a wedding!)

Watching him perform the sacrifice of the Mass made me think of the sacrifices he has made and will make- 6 years of school, the vow of celibacy, giving himself totally in the service of others, the many parishes he will serve in, marriages he will perform, sins he will forgive, sick he will visit, people he will bury.

And it made me think- how am I called to sacrifice for the Church right now? I am not yet sure of my vocation. I wanted at one time to give of myself through religious life, but that is not what God is calling me to. So how are we each called to sacrifice for Him as lay people?

The cool thing about having priests as friends is they can give you cool blessings, say Mass for you, and hear your confession whenever you want ;) My friend gave me a beautiful blessing today at the reception. He knows of my struggles with vocation and he brought that into his blessing and I was really touched.

It is a beautiful thing for us to all be praying for each other- consecrated and laity, saints and sinners alike!

The readings for today were not necessarily perfect for an Ordination- adultery, sin, and forgiveness were the themes! But regarding the hurt in our Church right now, it did call to mind all of our sinfulness and all of our need for forgiveness.

Because I am also a music minister, I had to play for an evening Mass this weekend too (yes, I went to three Masses this weekend! Such is the life of a music minister) and the priest at my regular parish Mass brought the idea of community into his homily. Because the Gospel was the woman anointing Christ's feet with oil- she was in front of Christ's friends, in front of people who ridiculed her and did not understand her action-in the midst of community. She was in need of Christ's forgiveness, but also she needed to forgive those mocking her. We all need this witness of pouring out ourselves for Christ, that the woman does with her gesture, in our communities. And we also all need to be forgiven.

Actually, the Church where I played for that evening Mass just had a priest removed because of accusations. Amazing how in one weekend I was celebrating with a new holy priest, and also mourning with a hurt congregation.

The realities of our Church. The realities of our humanness. All the more reason we need the hope of Christ in our priests and one another.

I am excited for my friend- he was sooo happy! And I have another friend who was actually on my NET team getting ordained next month! God is moving...the Holy Spirit is is awesome to witness ;)



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weekend Update

I was driving up to New Jersey on Friday (yet another out-of-town trip! As a friend pointed out to me, I have consumed alcoholic beverages in about 6 of the American states in less than 3 weeks. Record?) for a Housewarming (or Housecooling as the case was!) of a close college friend. I put the ipod on shuffle as I was driving and this song came on and it prompted me to prayer.

Hold it Up to the Light (David Wilcox- also recorded by Smalltown Poets)

It's the choice of a lifetime - I'm almost sure

I will not live my life in between anymore

If I can't be certain of all that's in store

This far it feels so right

I will hold it up - hold it up to the light,

Hold it up to the light, hold it up to the light

The search for my future has brought me here

This is more than I'd hoped for, but sometimes I fear

That the choice I was made for will someday appear

And I'll be too late for that flight

So hold it up - hold it up to the light,

Hold it up to the light, hold it up to the light

It's too late - to be stopped at the crossroads

Each life here - a possible way

But wait - and they all will be lost roads

Each road's getting shorter the longer I stay

Now as soon as I'm moving - my choice is good

This way comes through right where I prayed that it would

If I keep my eyes open and look where I should

Somehow all of the signs are in sight

If I hold it up to the light

I said God, will you bless this decision?

I'm scared, Is my life at stake?

But I see if you gave me a vision

Would I never have reason to use my faith?

I was dead with deciding - afraid to choose

I was mourning the loss of the choices I'd lose

But there's no choice at all if I don't make my move

And trust that the timing is right

Yes and hold it up hold it up to the light

Hold it up to the light, hold it up to the light

A couple weeks ago, I reflected on 'conforming to God's Will' and while God has a plan, He wants us to choose things (even though, we'd rather He just order for us sometimes ;)

The words of this song helped me articulate some of my thoughts of late:

"This is more than I'd hoped for, but sometimes I fear
That the choice I was made for will someday appear"

Amen! We LOVE our choices. Our freedom. But sometimes we get overwhelmed by the choices and then we just get stuck or paralyzed by our fear. OR we fail to make commitments because we 'want to keep our options open'.

Having made some pretty important key choices in the past, I've kind of wanted God to take the lead for the while and steer me around. He's made it clear He's not going to do that.

So conforming ourselves to God's will is doing what this song says- moving and making our own choices (with the help of the Holy Spirit) but always holding our decisions "up to the Light" for God's blessing.

Because what the song says is true: "But there's no choice at all if I don't make my move"

We can't just wait around. We have to be actively passive.

So, Imma keep listening to the Holy Spirit, staying close to Mary, and checking in with God as I move. And:

"Trust that the timing is right" then "Hold it up to the Light".

My problem, of course, has been God telling me to stay put for the most part. I have come to realize that waiting is part of the move. Or as this Dirty Projectors (one of my FAV indie bands) says, "Stillness is the Move"

When the child was just a child
it did not know what it was

like a child it had no habits

no opinion about anything

maybe i will get a job
get a job as a waitress

maybe waiting tables in a diner

in some remote city down the highway

after all that we've been through

i know we'll make it after the wait

the question is a truth

there is nothing we can't do

i'll see you along the way baby

the stillness is the move

on top of every mountain

there was a great longing

for another even higher mountain

in each city longing for a bigger city

after all that we've been through

i know that i will always love you

from now until forever baby

i can't imagine anything better

isn't life under the sun just a crazy dream?

isn't life just a mirage of the world before the world?

why am i here and not over there?

where did time begin

where does space end

where do you and i begin?

This song is of course much more existential, but I like that sentiment that Stillness IS a "move". Sometimes THE move we make.

I have been moving and shaking amid my "stillness" lately, as you all know! This weekend was pretty EPIC, I must say. In a kind of ordinary but out-of-the-ordinary way.

While in NJ, I had the HUGE blessing of drinking a beer (or two ;) with my friend from college who a year ago was diagnosed with leukemia. And here he was with us- now married- and playing bocce ball. Hair grown back, weight gained, jokes being made. Such a blessing and yet another witness of God's faithfulness.

Then I drove back on Sat night to be home in time to play for a Mass Sunday morning and go to not ONE but TWO concerts.

The first was DIVAS! a show my dear friend was in which took us through the ages of great "Divas" in pop culture from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna to Lady Gaga to Judy Garland. Then, I saw another one of my fav indie rock bands, The National. If I could've designed a perfect day/weekend- I'm pretty sure it would've looked like last weekend.

"This is more than I'd hoped for...." why fear?


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Spouse of the Holy Spirit"

Still up on the Pentecost vibe and whirling in from another awesome trip (LA pics to come at end of post!), I finally took some time to go to daily Mass and pray today. I've been feeling a greater connection to Mary lately (since May was her month and all). Plus, reflecting on the whole Holy Spirit thing, I've come to realize- Mary and the Spirit are TIGHT.

-It was by the Spirit that Jesus was conceived.

-Her heart was pierced by the proclamation at the Presentation and watching her Son at Calvary (Sometimes the Spirit works in tears!).

-She was with the apostles in the Upper Room when the Spirit came and breathed.

-And she was assumed into Heaven...assuming by the power of the Spirit ;)

We call Mary by many titles- Queen of the Apostles, Queen of Peace, Tower of Ivory, Hope of Christians, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc, etc!

The title "Spouse of the Holy Spirit" has kind of come into my mind of late. I didn't even know if that was an actual title for her (it is ;) or if I made it up ( I didn't. I googled it, so therefore, it must exist ;)
But as I ponder, 'how do I stay close to the Holy Spirit?' the answer became clear: through Jesus. And through Mary.

In (still) re-reading "Abandonment to Divine Providence" I came across a few great passages this morning. One of which mentioned that Jesus was ALWAYS in tune with the Spirit. We reflected on this this past Sunday with Trinity Sunday- the awesome union/relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Of course Jesus is all-knowing because He is God, but also because He was always in communication and docile to the Spirit.

So as I sat there today and said, "How do I stay close to the Spirit? How do I know what He is moving me to do and stay in communication with It/Him?" The answer came: "stay close to Jesus. Stay close to Mary." They were close to the Spirit.

Done and done ;) Literally, when I got that answer I was up and out of Adoration. I was satisfied with that!

After Adoration today, a friend had told me last minute about some of Mother Teresa's relics that were to be on display at the Shrine. I don't think I was fully mentally prepared to see them, but I went.
In true Mother Teresa fashion, the relics were few and small and simple. Just a couple reliqueries with a piece of her hair that we were able to venerate and kiss, a piece of one of her saris, her rosary in a case, and her sandals.

The sandals struck me the most. They were sooo worn, which is also to be expected. You just think of the work she did in those sandals. The love she poured. The sweat. The people she held in those sandals...all for Jesus.

I had just been praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament for my vocation and about discernment of work. And here was a symbol of HER vocation and work. Even though she KNEW her vocation and call (and to boot- wasn't always sure of it! Her dark nights of the soul in Come Be My Light were so telling)...but even though she had a sure vocation and work....she suffered. That was powerful for me to realize.

While in LA this past holiday weekend for Round 2 of vacay, I met up with an old friend (not an OLD friend, clearly ;) from Ohio who was one of the key players in my conversion back in high school. I had dinner with him and his wife who are SO in tune with God and The Spirit. I had a beautiful conversation with them about our current struggles, and again, like Mother Teresa- though they KNOW their vocation is to marriage- they still have problems, struggles, things to always discern.

I don't know why some of my friends and I seem to think: "oh, once we get this, that, or the other, we'll be all good". God has made it really clear to me lately that this waiting- while hard- isn't necessarily any harder than knowing your vocation and/or call.

A last thought :) As my friends and I cruised around California this weekend, they kept teasing me because we were stuck in a car together more than once for longer than I had anticipated. While I was certainly enjoying the company and not necessarily upset that we were in the car for long periods of time, I was caught pulling the "are we there yet?" sentiment more than once. My friends teased me: "It's not about the destination, Julia. It's about the journey!"

(I beg to differ- when winetasting is involved, it is about the destination! ;)

Winery at Temecula, CA

Tasting the "Oh My Gosh" champagne ;)

But they are right. It IS about the journey. Especially our one with God.

And my journey has been pretty beautiful so far ;)