Monday, March 21, 2011

Lenten Check In- Week 2- Not Being a Slave to Sin

Sooo...not surprisingly, perhaps....Week 2 isn't going QUITE as planned.

We had a couple feast days in there (hey, St. Patrick. 'sup, St. Joseph) and I used to be VERY disciplined back in the day and totally not buy into the whole 'Feast Day'/'Sunday' excuse for indulging in the things we have given up for Lent. Unfortunately, for some reason with age, I have become lax in this discipline. And so for like 3 days this past week I wasn't too concerned with keeping my Lenten promises. Sigh.You HAD to be the patron of people who like their drink, didn't you, St. Patrick? I'm not a bit Irish, but I do like an excuse to drink Guinness.

The students are prepping to go to Confession tomorrow and so I was going over the Examination of Conscience with them (which is always a super fun lesson for me. Things inevitably get SO awkward around Commandment #6...especially with freshmen. FUN.)

Amid the jokes and the ridiculous "What If" questions that teeangers LOVE to ask about every possible sin they can think of to entertain their classmates:

(ie- "but what if someone killed like 40 people and then they went and confessed it but they knew they were going to kill more...THEN could the priest break the seal of confession?" You think I'm kidding...)

One of the freshmen girls today raised her hand and said very honestly and vulnerably: "sometimes when I come out of Confession, I am immediately tempted to do the thing I just confessed."

God bless her honest, little soul. How true it is! I immediately commended her for her observation and told the class, "think about it: you are a SAINT once you've said your penance. You've done the right thing! And the devil hates that! He's going to do everything he can to make you want to sin again."

Her comment made me reflect on how I had just gone to confession, was all clean and such, and then let the "off days" of Lent get the best of me.

St. Joseph's Feast day was supposed to be a joyous day for me as I ended my novena. And it was- I got to witness two very holy people get married. A wedding on the feast of St. Joseph! Can't really beat that!

But perhaps I wasn't as focused on Lent and my Lenten promises as I should've been. You know with weddings comes a lot of people you haven't seen in a while and with that (for me) can be the breeding ground for gossip.

So I didn't win round one of Lent as I had wanted (as if it were a competition. I don't know who the round went to if it wasn't me, actually...St. Patrick, perhaps...). Week 2, however, has started convicting me again, it seems. Again, only MONDAY. We'll see if we can get back on track.

I did take some extra time for prayer, however, this weekend and finally finished the part on St. Teresa of Avila in "The Four Teresas" which I had been reading. This passage really convicted me and kind of ties into last week's reflection:

"Thinking of the love Jesus has shown us on the cross helps us to love him in return...If we want to experience a similar conversion in our lives, we can follow her [St Teresa's] advice to always fix our eyes on our crucified Savior. When we do, keeping the commandments becomes easier and easier...."

Truth! Like I said last week- nobody's surprised that when we pray the Stations of the Cross, it's much easier to surrender and give our best to Jesus. HOWEVER, the opposite is also true:

"On the other hand, when we are not seeking a loving relationship with God, we want to be 'free' to act selfishly. Rooting out that selfishness is a necessary first step to loving God."

I know I am seeking a loving relationship with God, but I am also seeking to be selfish at times.

We have these twisted ideas about freedom. Yes- freedom is GOOD. But what we think freedom really looks like can be messed up. I also know I've written about this before, so just bear (or bare? bear. I never get that right) with me.

We think freedom means being able to do whatever we want. And as a single person this temptation, I can tell you, is totally there. But as I found with the whole 'feast day fiasco' sometimes doing whatever we want can really tie us down.

I know I would struggle if some of my freedoms were taken away (convent, anyone? ;) but there is something to be said for the discipline of routine and being accountable to others to an extent. Dependency (versus independence-y?), too, can tie us down. So we just have to be CAREFUL, I guess, no matter our state in life and our gifts, to not let anything (SIN) or anyone limit us.

Last time at women's group, I was reading a passage from True Devotion to Mary that touched upon this topic of slavery. Enslaving people is bad. And so we have this negative connotation of it. But to be a "slave" to Jesus is actually giving our whole selves to Him and it's actually easier because then he can direct us. I know it sounds weird and crazy but this book was talking about the difference about being a slave to Jesus and a servant. A servant just puts in his or her time for a wage and then gets the heck out of there. A slave is indebted to his/her Master and committed to them fully.

I mean if Brit can be a Slave 4 U....

I was going to put a pic of Britney's "Im a Slave 4 U" video or VMA performance here, but I thought a pic of her baring mid-drift amid this Jesus talk would be a stretch...ah, Britney.

...can't we be indebted to Jesus? I mean, we are kinda already there.

Anyways, I know this concept sounds weird and dated- it jarred me at first too. But I do think my perception of freedom can bring me down sometimes. Sometimes I just wish God gave us instructions! Though, I know that's not how free will works.

Freedom/Independence, of course, also brings me much life. I was thinking about this as I was on retreat with the senior students this past week. If I weren't single, I don't think some of the students would connect with me as they do. They think 30 is old, but when you are married with kids it kind of seals the nail in the coffin (no offense to my married, mommy friends! You know how kids' minds work ;) I think they see me as in the same boat as them to some extent and I think this helps my street cred.

Now as beautiful a gift as this is, I'm fully prepared for when God is ready to start taking away some of these single freedoms :) Well, maybe not fully prepared. I'm getting there.

Ah, freedom. Such a beautiful, but dangerous gift. This is why surrendering to Jesus makes everything easier. Imma work on that this week.

Until next time!



Friday, March 11, 2011

Taking Up the we go! Week 1

Lent is off to a good start!

I know it's only been like 3 days, so I shouldn't count chickens or ducks or whatever, but I've actually been really surprised at how I've caught myself a couple of times (Okay, MORE than a couple... ) wanting to speaking negatively about an individual and stopping myself.

ALSO- I found out that my new friend St. Teresa of Avila also was prone to gossip in her day...Huzzah! I mean, imgaine that! There's hope!

Really the fact that I'm able to do ANYTHING about fasting from gossip this Lent is through the help of the Holy Spirit and good friends who are holding me accountable. Truth.

I'm also really proud of my women's group. We said we were going to be better about meeting regularly, and again- it's only been a month- but we met, though just 3 of us. And we had a conversation that, for me, flowed really well from last month's get together.

We talked about Lent (naturally) and also allowed the Holy Spirit to lead us through some spiritual reading. My friend G and I were commenting on how we like the liturgical seasons of Lent and Advent because there are goals and it is for a set period of time. It is somehow more difficult to stay committed to something if the goals are not concrete or end is not in foreseeable future...go figure.

The Lord continues to show me that this direction of working on vanity and selfishness and also being more focused on others/relationships is the way to go this Lent. I felt more convicted of this as I prayed the Stations of the Cross this first Friday.

Again, I don't know why I'm ever surprised how helpful the Stations of the Cross are in leading me to deeper unity with the Lord. I mean - DUH- it's kind of hard to think of anything else when you are walking through various points of Christ carrying his cross!

When I teach sacramentals to my juniors, we mention Stations and as an activity I have them get into groups and come up with their own ways of praying each station. I assign each group a station, they write a prayer as a group, and then we pray the 14th stations as a class. It's worked really well with each class and I'm always impressed with what they come up with.

Teenagers can relate really well to the stations. That may seem weird in this age of entitlement, but I think it's true. I discovered this when I was in parish youth ministry and they always requested to pray stations on retreat, regardless of the time of the liturgical year. I mean, if you think about it, there's a lot that is parallel to their lives: The falling and having to get back up- more than once. The carrying a cross they'd rather not have. The burdens. The trying to see something outside of themselves. Meeting people on their journey like Veronica, Mary, and Simon who can help them.

I used some of the stations that my students had written to guide my own meditation this week. I was particularly struck by a line for the 9th station- when Jesus falls a 3rd time. The student who wrote the station asked the Lord to help us to get up from the fall (which is to be expected) but then he alluded to conversion- a concept I wouldn't expect from a teen. He asked that the Lord help us to CHANGE and to not make the same mistake again.

I don't know if the student grasped the theological truth behind this. Perhaps...he is a smart kid. But it IS true that when we fall, to get up, we need to have a conversion. There needs to be a change to get up and want to keep going.

So this Lent I am working on and hoping for a change. And I agree with my friend G that the finite time limit to focus on this helps.

G and I are also doing a St Joseph's novena. St Joseph really came through for her last year along with Our Lady. I'm hoping the dynamic duo can pull through for me as I journey through Lent with them as my companions.

The sun is starting to peek out from behind those winter's to changes during this Lenten journey.

(Also, need I remind you that at the end of this journey, I will be dying to my 20's as the Lord "sends up His Spirit". There will most definitely be spirits involved on my end as well. Just another thing for me to reflect on as I contemplate conversion...I see what you did there, Jesus).

Cheers for change! ;)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hippies, Hipsters, and Fasting from Myself

So, this weekend I kind of hosted my own, personal 'Bed-In for Peace' John and Yoko style...

It seemed many of my friends were busying DOING stuff this weekend. And that's fine, because this week I WAS BUSY DOING STUFF TOO. Humph. I am very important.

I actually kind of burned the candle at both ends Wednesday night so much so that I overslept Thursday morning (eep! Made it to school jussstt in time!) I went to an awesome show with my awesome friends- E and Nicole- and we went to see these guys:

(band= Middle Brother. Made up of members of equally awesome bands- Deer Tick and Dawes who also played).

Funny that I saw a band named 'Middle Brother' because I am teaching about Noah and his sons to my freshmen and inevitably the kids ask, "What about Japheth?" (the middle son). Shem- the practically only oldest son in the Bible who doesn't get screwed out of his inheritance- and Ham of the "Tower of Babel" fame are mentioned at length, leaving the kids (who I can only imagine are middle children themselves) protesting in true "middle child syndrome" fashion.

(ps- 'Middle Child Syndrome' is an actual thing. I'm not making it up.)

Actually, since I was left to my own personal bed-in this weekend due to circumstances beyond my control, I started developing a little bit of middle child syndrome myself. Looking at Facebook can also do this to you. (also not making this up).

We start to wonder- as we look at everybody's pictures of BABIES or WEDDINGS or find that people have crazy, exciting lives with jobs that travel or give them fame- what about us?!

Well, hello there, Middle Brother!? What about us indeed?

Which brings me back to my sit-in.

I have always felt the need, for some reason, to be out and about because sitting home is for "LOSERS" (or so I think in my head). Now, often times I choose to stay in because I've been out the night before (again, I am very important) or am just tired of dealing with papers/teenagers/etc. and need to curl up with a glass of wine and breathe for a second lest I curl up in the fetal position.

But when the sit-in is not self-imposed, I start to wonder- what's wrong? Why is everybody else out having a good time without me? (Also, see this fabulous flowchart- ha!)

This is the work of the devil, friends! This weekend's bed-in forced me to not give into temptation, but to exercise PEACE. John and Yoko knew what was up.

Or did they? Was their intention to draw attention to a cause? Or was it a little self indulgent?

These are the thoughts I'm left reflecting on before Lent.

As I mentioned last week, Lent is fast (heh- no pun intended) upon us. This Wednesday! I mentioned some of the resolutions I was tossing around in my head, but I think I've nailed some things down. I mention them to you so you can hold me accountable and maybe we can do some of these in solidarity with one another:


- gonna get back on the Daily Mass train

-stations of the Cross on Fridays (either in private or in community)

- journeying with Teresa of Avila and also the Blessed Mother by praying rosary and doing more spiritual readings/check-ins with these ladies...



Yeah, I shamefully admit that this is the sin that does me in. I share this with you very vulnerably, but please DO hold me accountable to it.

I think the Daily Mass thing and journeying with the Blessed Mother will surely help me in fasting from the gossip. I also am going to try, in substituting the gossip, with reaching out to people more. Fasting from myself, really.

The past couple years I've been trying to build myself up from a life change. I finally got the job I wanted, but now I've been wrapped up in it and perhaps focusing too much time on my work and studies. These things have to happen, but my little sit-in made me realize there's a time for self, and a time for others. A time for studies, and a time for parties :) A time for...'s gone back to 60s love-ins, hasn't it?

Happy Lent, everyone! I take solace in the fact that we are all in this together ;)