Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All that Glitters

"The more hidden the divine operation beneath an outwardly repulsive appearance, the more visible it is to the eye of faith."- Abandonment to Divine Providence

Thus begins the section I am reading AGAIN from this book that I read almost two years ago when returning back to DC. And to which I say:

"I beg to differ, Jean- Pierre! I beg to differ!"

For how can this even be? The more hidden something is the more visible it is? And in something 'Outwardly Repulsive??'

Um...I have two things to say to our author*:

1.) I only like pretty things, thank you.

2.) you don't understand how 'hidden' works, do you?

Now, I get that there is hidden beauty in "outwardly repulsive" things. (I am a lover of reality TV, after all! There are life lessons in 'the Flavor of Love', I tell you...Life. Lessons.)

But I think de Caussade is talking about THIS kind of hidden beauty (in fact, I know so 'cause he wrote):

" the sight of God, poor and humble, lodged in a stable, lying on straw, weeping and trembling, pierced the heart of Mary..." (ATDP, p 21-22)

I get it. The kind of beauty that Mother Teresa saw in the lepers of India. The kind of beauty that we see in a piece of bread or a host. Indeed.

But my question for our author and for God is: what about God's presence in neither extreme? Neither the glamour and glistening of the Transfiguration nor the repulsion of the Cross?

Is God present in...dare I say... the ordinary?

Somewhere a diva a la Blanche DeVeRoe or Samantha Jones (because the Golden Girls and Sex and the City characters are exactly the same just give or take 20 years) is gasping:

"Oh, no! Not ORDINARY, darling!"
Ordinary is not in Samantha's vocabulary. Only fabulous.

But can we be ordinary AND fabulous?

Of course our author has an answer for everything:

"To consider God equally good in things that are petty and ordinary as in those that are great and uncommon is to have a faith that is not ordinary, but great and extraordinary." (p22)

So there it is! If we can find God in the ordinary that means we have extraordinary faith! I don't know about you, but this gave me great consolation. 'Cause while I do have extra-ordinary friends (as I mentioned previously!), formative experiences, etc. these things are neither flashy nor extravagant nor are they 'outwardly repulsive'.

It IS easier to see and KNOW God's will when He comes down a la Mount Tabor and is gleaming and transfigured in gold with a booming voice saying: "THIS IS MY SON":
Not so much when looking at host on an altar.

Or not as much when just going to the office. Or a class. Or outlet shopping...

That's not fair, outlet shopping is extra-ordinary ;)

But you get my drift. And I offer you more of de Cassaude's message of hope in the present:

"Pursue without ceasing...this beloved Spouse who with giant strides passes from one extremity of the heavens to the other. If you be content and untiring, nothing will have power to hide Him from you..."

I like the image of God leaping around heaven with giant strides...and that thing about 'nothing will have power to hide Him from you'.

But its true, we go from one extreme to the next and don't give much credit to the everyday where we live 95% of our lives ( give or take your level of extra-ordinari-ness!)

And according to de Caussade, finding God in the ordinary IS extraordinary. Which makes gives me consolation and motivation to not give up finding God in the everyday.

* "the book" is win- as if you couldn't tell- even 2 years later. I don't mean to mock the author in anyway. I am indebted to his thoughts! ;)


Monday, April 26, 2010

Birthday Bragging

So I haven't blogged in a WEEK and that seems like a long time to me now! I know, I have a social media problem.

But know that if I haven't been blogging it means a.) I'm actually doing my homework that I should be doing instead of blogging or b.) actually interacting with REAL people face to face as opposed to interface.

This week happened to be the latter. It was my 29th birthday, y'all!

And who knew 29 was so AWESOME!?

I wish I could say I wasn't accustomed to celebrating my birthday multiple days in a row, but I kind of am. I just have awesome friends and family who make it so. There has been many a year that I've been surprised with more than one birthday celebration. Por ejemplo:

- sophomore year of college when my friends blindfolded me and drove me 3 hours to Hamilton, VA. What's in Hamilton, VA, you ask? I don't know- I was BLINDFOLDED. But I do know that there was an IMAX theater because they took me to see the Nsync IMAX movie!! And THEN the following day, I was taken to lunch by my two roommates while more friends gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and waited there for me with a cake!! (I wish I had pics to post, but alas- this was before digital cameras, people)

- or the time my parents surprised me by driving down to DC with both of my grandmothers in tow and I was greeted by them and 15 or so of my closest friends at Maggiano's (again, pre-digital!)

- or the birthday octave which occured in the convent. My co-postulant and I celebrated our birthdays in the same week and so we celebrated each birthday (and every day in between :)

So I don't mean to BRAG at all, but I kind of win at birthdays. And this year was no exception.

It started on Wednesday when a friend coaxed me to joining her and some other YM peeps out in VA for some drinks ($3.00 margaritas? Twist my arm! ;) and thus began the "Birthday Vigil". After an hour of some lovely conversation and tortillas, I hopped in my car to meet my bestie and co-blogger back in Silver Spring for dinner. This was certainly a great start on the eve of my birthday. But oh, no! It didn't stop there!

I had just gotten home from dinner and was greeting my roommate, when I hear a knock on the door. It is not uncommon for us to have our friend/neighbor stop by at 11pm when he sees our lights still on. And so I wasn't surprised when I saw his smiling face, but I WAS suprised to see the 4 additional faces standing behind him with cake, champagne, and flowers!

And so we had a birthday vigil. Which turned into a birthday triduum ;)

My roommates had planned a dinner party for my actual birthday on Thursday with- seriously guys- my FAVORITE people. It was such the perfect mix of women's prayer group ladies, youth ministry friends, new friends, old friends, college friends- all on a Thursday night!

I also got some AWESOME presents- my friends know me well:

Yes, that IS an '@' symbol. Those of you who are familiar with Twitter and/or my obsession with Twitter are aware of why this is all things awesome and appropriate.

And here you will see a "Pants on the Ground" T-shirt, the McDonald's "Frankie-Filet-O-Fish" Fish ("Give me back that filet-o-fish! Give me that fish!" Oh, yes. It sings, folks) movie tickets, martini glasses, spa gift card, and more....

Again, not bragging. Just overwhelmed by the love.

And God bless those of you still reading, but there is still MORE!!!

I was not clued into the two preceding days'o'fun, and so I had planned on my own a little get together of sorts myself.

See, 29 to me is many things, but it most certainly is the culmination of my twenties, no? And so I thought it only appropriate to party like it was 2004 and pretend I was still 23. I invited my friends to join me at one of our favorite spots from our early twenties.

But to bring us into 2010, and well, just because it's ME...I made my friends dress up like Lady Gaga.

And again, because my friends are AWESOME...we went all out:

yes, those ARE cigarettes taped to my sunglasses. I don't ask you to understand. If you are a pop culture feen like me, you get it. I know, however, that not everyone loves LaGa. But this happened to be probably one of the best ideas I have ever had. The people at the bar absolutely loved it.

And thus concludes the Birthday Hat Trick/tri-fecta/Triduum/what have you. But the weekend continued to be win as we celebrated another friend's bday on Saturday and then capped off the weekend with some outlet shopping!!! (Yup, sure did not get ANY studying done this weekend. Whoops!)

I made a grown up purchase that I am proud of and believe will send my twenties out in style:
My very own Coach purse!

Please don't take this post as bragging about material and superficial things. I really just wanted to give tribute to my friends and show how truly loved I felt this week.

This week definitely more than made up for the many months of wondering "where is God in all of this?" It is evident He is HERE- in the community He has given me. I know others have accomplished different things in their 20's: marriages, babies, houses, the like. But I have come to an awareness about a lot of things, experienced some fantastic places, had some intense journeys, and established some "holy and fabulous" friendships ;)

I say "holy and fabulous" because this was apparently a phrase coined by my friends on Saturday night in my absence after I had left my friend's celebration. It is certainly a phrase I want to aspire to. Perhaps it can be the title of my memoirs? ;)

Anyways, all this to say, I have holy and fabulous people in my life. And I am grateful. Thanks, everyone, for a fantastic birthday week! ;) It was certainly a gift from God above all else.

I can't wait to see what 29 looks like. If this is any indication, it will be above and beyond and an absolute blast.


Monday, April 19, 2010

I love a man with a mission...

Recycling Rationale

"The order established by God and His divine will are the life of the soul no matter in what way they work, or are obeyed. Whatever connection the divine will has with the mind, it nourishes the soul, and continually enlarges it by giving it what is best for it at every moment. It is neither one thing nor another which produces these happy effects, but what God has willed for each moment"- Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Jean Pierre de Caussade

Experiencing deja vu? Feel like you've seen quotes from this book from me before? Yup. That's because you have.

When I returned to DC almost two years ago after my year in the convent, my then "new" spiritual director, recommended this book to me and it became my second Bible.

I will recycle and revisit books time and again, but I must say, I wasn't thinking I'd have to revisit this one so soon.

Now it is SPRING and it is a BIG WEEK and it is still EASTER. So I REFUSE to be a Debbie Downer (whomp whah!)

Reduce, Re(f)use, Recycle?

I will simply say it seems I need to be reminded again that God gives us all that we need in the present and I have to unite my mind to His Divine Will. That's all.

My friend, women's group co-founder, and fellow blogger recently posted something on her blog that I found very heartbreaking, but also comforting. She has been struggling with infertility and God's Will in all of that. Her response to the many years of pain and prayer is: "Jesus, I trust in You".

It gets harder to say with years of embracing the mystery and no immediate results, but it is a beautiful release at the same time.

My same friend recently made a pilgrimmage to Lourdes and Rome and she shared her journey with us at last women's prayer group meeting. It was more than just a presentation on a trip, but truly an encounter with the larger, universal Church and her prayer- what a pilgrimmage should be! And it was just what I needed to snap me out of my personal funk and see that God is at work through the Church and Her history (despite what recent events might lead us to believe. Not to detract from the pretty awful things going on in some parts of the world, but there is also alot of good still going on. I loved reading recently this address to young people from The Holy Father).

Anyways, it's not just about what He is doing in MY life. Go figure! ;)

God is so much bigger than the limits I have been putting on Him! And still it is in the small things that He reaches out to us. He reveals His great power in humility, even though He could do it in much larger ways. I have to remember that. He CAN do all things, GREAT things! But He chooses to be close to us often in the small things (ie- the Eucharist!)

Along with the witness of my friend and the encounter with the Church at large to snap me out of my inward reflection...this is a great week! So much going on! I work for an org that promotes volunteering and this week is National Volunteer Week. It is also Earth Day on Thursday, which happens to also be my 29th birthday! (I am holding onto the last year of my twenties...there will be some re-visiting/recycling venues and practices that were upheld in my early twenties, which I am looking forward to!)

On the volunteer front, I volunteer weekly at a fine arts center, but I have been recalling lately my larger mission experiences like time in Guatemala and my year with NET. (Perhaps it was all the attractive foreign service men I met on Friday, along with a couple Peace Corps volunteers- call me! Sigh. Nothing more beautiful than a man who has given a year or two in service to others ;)

But NO ;) It's the call to step outside myself and give myself to something bigger that I am re-calling.

And I will continue to recycle prayers it seems for at least the time being ;)


For resources on National Volunteer Week go here
(ps- I'm not in a habit of getting my news from USA Today, just saying! But I thought the article was concise. You can also go to

For some Earth Day resources check here

Thursday, April 15, 2010


It's a two-for-one kind of day!

Along with the FIRE! (sale) you get this added reflection! BONUS!

Perhaps I was inspired by the monstrosity that is the KFC Double Down that emerged this week into our cultural sphere...

That's right friends, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is TWO pieces of FRIED chicken used as BUNS.

Why things like this are not yet illegal in our country, I do not know. So I refuse to give KFC kudos even though the marketing is kind of genius for lack of a completely better word.

Okay, so back to reflecting! Today is a beautiful day, so I took a little loop around outside the building next door (as I often do) and a song that my roommate and I were discussing the other day came into my head:

"More to Life"- Stacie Orrico

I've got it all, but I feel so deprived

I go up, I come down and I'm emptier inside

Tell me what is this thing that I feel like I'm missing

And why can't I let it go

There's gotta be more to life...

Than chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me

Cause the more that I'm...

Tripping out thinking there must be more to life

Well it's life, but I'm sure... there's gotta be more

Than wanting more

I've got the time and I'm wasting it slowly

Here in this moment I'm half way out the door

Onto the next thing, I'm searching for something that's missing

I'm wanting more

I'm always waiting on something other than this

Why am I feelin' like there's something I missed.....

This song was popular circa 2003 in the Christian realm which happened to be part of my year with NET. At the time, I looked at it a.) as like the ONE song that we could all agree on to play in the van and b.) as something that would speak to the teens and others who were into obvious "temporary highs" a la drugs, sex, rock'n'roll...

Oh, naive little me.

Today it struck me that this song is not just about the obviously sinful temporary highs, but anything that occupies our mind more than God. This song fits me at my stage in life now and I do not have but maybe 1 of those 3 proverbial highs (Rock'n'Roll, people! Rock'n'Roll..)
and I don't even have much of that. I only wake up feeling like P.Diddy maybe but a couple times a year...

"Why am I feeling like there's something I missed"? What are my temporary highs that I use "to satisfy me"?

Even the things we think are good and holy on this earth can keep us tied in the same spot and keep us from finding more. Because they are precisely that: things on this earth. We are made for something more.

And if we eat things like the Double Down we may find that out sooner than I right?


FIRE! (sale)

The Holy Spirit is coming!!

Pardon my Paul Revere like greeting. It is one of excitement and anticipation, I assure you. I also- funnily and randomly enough- when reflecting on the Holy Spirit found myself exclaiming a la Lindsey Bluth:

"South Coast Boutique. They're having a Fire Sale?" (hence, the Tobias Funke pic above. One of my fav "Arrested Development" scenes)

We're having a fire sale! ;)

I know, it's a stretch for anticipating the Holy Spirit. (And perhaps this is why I do not get immediate response to my prayers...distraction, much?)

But anywho, Pentecost is coming! And why am I excited like Lindsey Bluth? (also, side note-is it wrong that I find myself identifying with this character all too often?)

It's because Jesus continues to take me through these liturgical seasons pretty literally, apparently. Lately I am feeling kind of clueless like the apostles post Resurrection. There was the death and the drama of the Passion, the peace and joy of what?

For Holy Week, my spiritual director asked me to look at the discourse in John Chap. 13-17 where Jesus is essentially saying 'goodbye' to his apostles. Of course, this meant that I sat down to read it on Holy Thursday...(when did I become a procrastinator? old school, overachiever Julia wants to know)

I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel at my parents' parish after the Sacrament was reposed and read the Gospel we had just heard at Mass (John 13). I got to about John 14 and stopped. There was so. much. there. So much that I needed to hear, and every verse was like a swift kick to the head/heart:

verse1: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. " [BAM!] "You have faith in God; have faith also in me". [POW!]

verse 2: "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" [KAPOW!]

And then there were the tough questions/answers:

verse 4: "Where (I) am going you know the way." [Oh, reeaalllyy, Jesus. Do tell!]

verse 5:
"Thomas said to him, 'Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" [cosign, Thomas]
verse 6: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." [Alrighty, then!]
verse 14: "If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it." [Anything, you say?]

And here's where the Holy Spirit comes in:

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. " (John 14: 16-18)

Awww, that's really beautiful, Jesus! And I really have been praying with these last verses. The daily readings at Mass have been in anticipation of this Advocate, this Holy Spirit. And while Pentecost is still about a month off, boy, am I in need of an Advocate these days! Anyone who wants to speak highly of me FOR me, go right ahead...

(Mr./Ms. Spirit, how are you at job interviews?)

The point is, I need all the help I can get! We all do. We need someone, something willing to fight for us when we are too weak, when we are confused, unable to see/speak. I have amazing friends and family who have been advocating for me for years, but the Holy Spirit is it!

On a slightly different note, the circles our lives seem to go in are frustrating, but there is something comfortingly (think I just made that word up...) familiar about them. Hence, the beauty of the liturgical seasons. Christmas, Advent, Easter, Lent- they all hold past memories and present challenges.

I was looking back at journal entries from earlier this year, and I can't believe the retreat we went on back in January was over three months ago! But it was interesting to see how God led me from the novena of last fall to Advent, to that post-Christmas moment of retreat. And the retreat I went on at the beginning of Lent has led me until right about now.

The Holy Spirit is coming. And I'm trying to cast a big net for some big things this next phase of the liturgical year...

It was on Pentecost 2 years ago that my sister and (now!) brother-in-law came to pick me and all of my stuff up from the convent. It was definitely a sending forth then. The beginning of something new.

Last year, it seems, I was still looking upward rather than outward. I stared up like the apostles and focused more on the Ascension of Jesus and His leaving us on earth.

Regardless of what this next part of the liturgical calendar brings, I've decided I am going to be relying on the Holy Spirit for many things. I don't know why I always forget about It. At Mass today, Father referenced the Holy Spirit as "the forgotten one" of the Trinity. He also said the Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.

I could use some Holy Spirit-style lovin' and movement in my life right about now! ;) Come, Holy Spirit!


Monday, April 12, 2010

A Little Reconciliation Reflection

I know I am such a geek, but I do so dig this liturgy class I'm taking.

I recently had to write a reflection on why I think the reception of the Sacrament of Penance among Catholics is declining. As Catholics, we are asked to receive the Sacrament at least once a year. Most do around Advent and Lent as common practice. Really, we should try to go more often than that, because let's be honest, if we only cleaned our houses or our bodies once a year...that would be just nasty. Why junk up the soul?

Of course, there is much debate as to why we have to go to a priest to confess our sins. I don't think I am naive- I know there are a lot of realities that play into why we would or not want to divulge our sins to a man. I also know, in some cases, we may even find ourselves having to forgive members of the Church because of human failure. This can bring a lot of hurt and trust issues to the table and reconciliation is a vulnerable business.

The reason for the Sacrament is biblical and something Jesus left us with; to go to one another and reconcile. And we do believe that in that moment of Confession, it is not the priest but Christ who forgives us and is truly present. (And if we believe in the Sacrament of Holy Orders that the priests receive, we believe that they are given special graces to help us in those moments of needing forgiveness).

I don't want to use this post to espouse reasons why I think participation in the Sacrament is declining. Sure, I have my theories. I will submit that we as a society do not understand the value of forgiveness, though we all crave it. We have video games, movies, wars, and laws that promote revenge, not forgiveness, and perhaps this translates into our view of God. Maybe we don't believe forgiveness can really be given so easily and freely.

I just realized in my reflecting that this is more of a complex issue than I realized- why don't we believe in the Sacrament of Confession? Why don't we seek God's Mercy often? And if we do, why do we go? Do we go because it makes us "feel good"? Because even that is not a great reason to do something. We often fall into sin because it makes us "feel good" too.

So this post is not to give any answers or even any witty commentary, really. I just wanted to share the question- why do we or don't we believe in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? And what about our culture helps or does not support us in this belief?

(I do know, however, we as a culture love free stuff! And God's Love and Mercy in the Sacrament is totally free! Just saying ;)

I suppose I've also got Mercy on the brain since yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday. It's always the 2nd Sunday after Easter and it is a day we recall this freely given Love and Mercy of God. It's kind of like the concept of Valentine's Day in some ways, I think. Like, we can express our love for others any day, but we particularly recall it on Feb. 14.

So too, Jesus' Divine Mercy is there each day for us (especially if you happen to live in a place with regular opportunity for Confession!) but we remember it in a special way with special devotion that day. We also recall St. Faustina and the messages and image the Lord gave to her about His Divine Mercy.

Lastly, I was able to witness God's amazingly real Mercy on Saturday as I gathered with friends to celebrate the marriage of my friend Dan to his wife Hannah. I know I've mentioned Dan in the past- he is one of my best guy friends from college who was diagnosed with leukemia last June. He has had a long year, with many painful moments, but God's mercy was so evident when we were able to gather and see him happy, healthy, and recovering on his wedding day...

...because the beauty of Mercy and Grace is that they are not individual gifts for just us. When we receive them, we in turn share them with others...

Free stuff for all! ;)

(ps- would love to hear your thoughts/comments on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Like I said- total geek! ;)


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Real. Big. Fish.

So I was wondering when Easter would finally 'kick in' for me. We get this whole octave and this whole 'Easter Season' but I've been so busy I haven't had time to let it sink. in.

And I wonder if I haven't had a little bit of this Thomas syndrome that a priest who preached yesterday at a young adult event in DC referred to. The Gospel for this coming Sunday is the one about everyone's favorite doubting apostle- Thomas. Mostly our favorite because we are like him(Father even pointed out that Thomas means 'twin'. Hmmm...our twin?) More than ever as a society we want to see, feel, touch- before we believe. We will believe it when we see it.

Father submitted to us that this Gospel reading happens on the Second Sunday of Easter because Thomas was most likely hanging out by himself in disbelief at the events of Good Friday still up until this point. I myself, I think, got stuck a little in this. We all do. When things freak us out or don't go right we isolate or move inward, rather than seek outside ourselves which is really what we need.

Thomas was probably being kind of emo, contemplating all the crazy things that had just happened to his mentor, leader, friend- His Savior. And now he was hearing talk of what, a ghost? Jesus risen from the dead? Ssssttttop talking... (Ke$ha anyone? No? :)

Well, unlike the proposed Mopey McMoperton (aka Thomas), my Easter Sunday was awesome. I slid into Mass a little late, but as I accounted to one of my dear friends and faithful blog readers, one of the good things about being single is that you can slide in late to things real easy-like. Movies, Church, etc. Only need room for one! If I would've been dragging in a brood of little bodies, our tardy selves would've been relagated to the bleacher seats fo' sho. Not this girl! Front and center in the nick of time! I win!

So Church was good. Post-Church meal at Babci's (my Polish grandmother) was real good. I got some great quotes and pics from Babci up on Twitter this weekend, one of my favs being:

My aunt (watching the Cleveland Cavs game on was a close game): "All they need is a couple good shots!"

Babci, 87 yrs old, without missing a beat: "That's all need too!"

Here's a pic of Babci pouring us our Easter vodka shots:

Afterwards, my cousin and I went for a beer (or two) at a bar on the Lake. It was such a beautiful day:

And we also stopped by the perpetual Easter basket that stands erect in Lorain, well, year round. We're not sure why (note: this pic is clearly not from this weekend, but rather from my sister's wedding last year):

Ah, Northeast Ohio. Who knew you were such an Easter people? Perpetual Easter baskets? Gotta love quirky Midwestern kitsch

So Easter was a beautiful day. And then the business of getting back to the swing of things after a long break happened. And like Father was saying about Thomas and the apostles, rather than retreat (whether we mean to or not) in these vulnerable times, in these joyful times, we need community.

The events of the Paschal Mystery are crazy! And so, too, can be our lives. We may not understand parts, and there is need for time in personal reflection, but I liked Father's point today about also the need for community in these times of paradox, question, and rejoicing.

But even community can't always cure our funks. 99% of the time, it totally does for me. If I start moping, I know one of the first things I need to do is reach out to others or think about others. HOWEVER, also when I start moping, I need to think about Jesus and all He does for us, corny as that sounds. I need to believe He's got some good stuff prepared for me.

Today's Gospel from John was- like the account about Thomas- another revelation of Jesus after His Resurrection to the disciples. This one, though, involves the disciples catching fish. They go out to sea and catch nothing. They see Jesus, but they don't recognize him. He tells them to put their nets back out- after catching nothing all night- and then they get all kinds of fish like its nobody's business. Then they have brunch!

This reading really struck me because I, even in this season of rejoicing, still feel like I'm shooting blanks, tossing the net out only to catch nothing. Is it because I don't recognize Jesus? Am I not listening to where He is telling me to cast the net? Is it not the right time?

Maybe this is one of those times to pray for encouragement. To pray for an opportunity that is so big, it is bursting at the seams. But with great gift, comes great responsibility, right? (Or so it says, I think, in one of the Spiderman movies...) And that kind of freaks me out, if I'm honest. But I have to trust the net will not tear.

It doesn't in John's Gospel account: "Even though there were so many [fish], the net was not torn".

That's, I think, going to be a pretty big prayer for me as we continue through the Easter season. Give me something big, Jesus! And let me trust that You will help me handle it.

After all, Jesus takes care of us! He even slices and dices:

A la chef Jesus: "Come, have breakfast." John 21: 12

(It's a good thing He can cook 'cause I sure can't ;)

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Christ Our Light (Thanks Be to God!)

Is it wrong that when the lights turned on for the Easter Alleluia last night at the Easter Vigil that the first thing that popped in my head was: "Thank God! Lent is OVER!" ??

Ah, the reality of our humanity.

So I'm sure you all are wondering how my experience with the Easter Vigil was in LIGHT (see what I did there? ) of my 15 page paper ;) I'm so glad you were wondering! But first...


Let it be known also that the first thing I did AFTER the Easter Vigil was turn on some Gaga in muh car. I'm sure Jesus was rejoicing with me (despite what some religious protestors might say..."God hates Gaga?" No way, I say!)

Rather than re-write a whole new dissertation on the Easter Vigil, I submit to you part of my 'mystagogical reflection' from my paper. Is this too self-indulgent? Probably. But I wanted to share my reflection from last night:

I experienced the Easter Vigil at my parents’ parish in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. It is a multi-generational parish with a combination of the old and the new in both its members and its physical structure.

The congregation stayed inside as we heard the priest bless the fire from outside the Church. Doing this reminded me that in Easter Vigils past it had at times literally been too cold for us to go outside! But tonight was actually warm, and the heat from the fire only added to that warmth. Some lights were on in various pockets of the Church, but I was really struck by the light shining in from the outside through the stained glass windows. The stained glass windows in this particular Church tell stories of Christ’s life. Looking at them reminded me of the stories we would hear in the Old and New Testaments tonight.

An eager altar server started to light all of the candles in the Church as he no doubt usually does for Sunday liturgy. The deacon had to approach him and tell him essentially, “tonight the Church needs to stay dark!” I had to smile to myself. The boy was doing what he thought was right, but tonight is “different than any other night!”

When Father entered the Church with the Paschal Candle lit and chanted the words, “Christ our Light” it seemed like Christ truly had entered the scene. We began to ignite our candles from the light of the Easter Candle. Mine would not light! (the author will interject here: Go figure, right? Sigh.) It took two tries from the woman standing next to me. A couple behind me were also having difficulty. It seemed the fans were blowing too strongly above us! I tried to protect the light with my program and Missal. I did not want Christ’s light to go out!

The parish opted for the shorter Liturgy of the Word with only one reading from Genesis, Exodus, the Epistle and Gospel. Two Psalms and an Alleluia were sung. I was a little disappointed, only because I love the readings from Isaiah which so perfectly parallel Christ’s life. Plus, the drama of the darkness would have been carried out a little longer. But I was very relieved that the darkness was over when the Alleluia was sung and thereby Lent came to an end! The Church was now gathered in light. I was struck by how now outside was the place of darkness and the Church would be a source of light for anyone wanting to come in.

The priest in his homily defined the word “Vigil” as waiting for something to happen. It made me think: what was I waiting for this night in the liturgy? After Easter? He continued to say that we all have pieces to the puzzle. I liked that image of each us bringing our own piece to the Easter mystery. He also tied in that the readings from the Old and New Testaments were each pieces to this puzzle too and why we read them this night. Genesis and Exodus are stories of our history, the epistle brings the realization of our Baptism, and the Gospel- our Resurrection. Father also brought in that the liturgy “really recalls from the past, but Jesus is here now”.

There was one candidate for Baptism and one for full communion with the Church. I felt a little of what the fourth century Christians must have felt when the priest called the woman and she announced, “present”. For some reason, this just seemed for me very nostalgic of a secret, ancient ritual. He called her over to the Baptismal font and invited anyone who wanted to get closer to see “what was going on” to do so. I liked that he invited the community to be a closer part of this initiation. The candidate for Confirmation was called forward in the same way (to announce himself “present”) and I enjoyed witnessing a Confirmation and joined my prayers to the Holy Spirit as the choir sang, “Come Holy Ghost”....

Anyways, there you have it. My class has been emphasizing "mystagogy" which is essentially reflection on experience, so this was my own mystagogy of last night's Vigil.

I hope you all have an enjoyable Easter! I am carrying a phrase from this morning's Easter Sequence with me today: "Yes, Christ my hope is arisen".

Carrying the light of hope for one more year, kids!! ;)


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why is This Night Different Than Any Other Night?

So usually with this blog (and some other blogs I've written) I will go ahead and say that I let content suffer for humor's sake. I know it shouldn't be that way, kids. But let's face it. Catholicism doesn't always have a punchline (though why can I now think of so. many. here! ;) Or let's just say maybe it's not always appropriate ;) But I am digressing SO far off the track like if Lindsay Lohan and Kate Gosselin were train-engineers (train. wreck. Am I right?? God bless 'em).

I wanted to write this post to share a little bit about what I've already been experiencing this Holy Week with the help of our Jewish roots as Catholics. I know I have a couple friends who read this blog (Holler!) who practice Judaism- so I hope I do their traditions justice as the Seder meal and readings from the Torah have been kind of clutch for me this week.

The other morning I went to Adoration and just kind of sat in front of Jesus and said: "This should be enough, Jesus. That you gave Yourself to us as Bread, that I have the opportunity to sit in front of You while on should be enough." I said this a.) while quickly following it with: "HA! But somehow it's not for me!" Go figure. I suck. b.) not knowing that this is pretty much what the Dayenu is in the Seder meal!

Via Twitter (viva la Twitter!) someone who I follow began tweeting parts of the Dayenu and I realized this was totally an answer to my prayer that morning. The Dayenu (which I didn't know existed until I saw it on the social networking site...WHY AREN'T YOU ALL ON TWITTER YET?? ;) is part of the "Go and learn" section of the Seder meal (according to Wikipedia. Hey, at least I did my research this time! ;) and it is essentially fifteen stanzas of examples of things the Lord did to deliver the Israelites. The idea is any one of those saving acts would have been enough for us to praise God. But He always did more. And does more.

Partly because I am lazy, but also partly because the symbol means alot to me, I chose to write my latest paper for one of my classes on the use of light during the Easter Vigil. How convenient, right? Like I said, I am lazy. Over achiever, I am not. But, the use of light has always been a sign for me from God. Something He uses to answer prayer for me, something I always am moved to praise Him for. (Plus, the Easter Vigil is SO FULL of symbols of light...15 pages worth...just like THAT! ;)

I mean, we enter the Church in the DARK. We have a FIRE outside and CANDLES. The first reading is the story of Creation- "Let there be Light!"

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Tonight begins the Triduum- Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Why do we call it the TRIduum if there are 4 days involved, you ask? Good question. Because we follow the Jewish form of keeping time. Shout out #1!

During the Seder meal, the youngest child present ritually asks: "Why is this night different than any other night?" This is part of the Mah Nishtahnah (again, me with the Wikipedia) "The Four Questions" where the reason and history for the Passover rite is inquired about and celebrated.

Why is Holy Thursday different than any other night? For so many reasons. I will let you come up with some yourself, but some of the basics:

1.) Usually Mass can be celebrated at any time by a priest if he would like to say Mass. On Holy Thursday, only one Mass is said (well, except for the Chrism Mass where the oils for the Vigil are blessed, but that's only with the Bish) and it's the one in the evening with the whole congregation.

2.) The first reading is from Exodus and is the Lord telling Moses and Aaron how they are to celebrate Passover. The Psalm speaks of our cup as a communion with God. It is interesting to note (I think!) that it is in St. Paul's epistle that we hear Christ's words "Do this in rememberance of Me". We don't use our actual account of the Institution of the Eucharist to parallel the Passover. While Jesus in the Gospel is preparing to celebrate Passover with His apostles, the Gospel we hear is the Washing of the Feet. Not the Institution of the Eucharist.

I can't tell you why. I'll leave that up to your reflection. I just thought it interesting to note.

3.) Then we have the Washing of the Feet...everyone's favorite highlight of Holy Thursday! Kind of love seeing the priests humble themselves in this way, no? And its humbling for the 12 of the congregation too, I'm sure.

4.) The tabernacle is the place of repose for the Eucharist we will receive on Good Friday. I mean, the tabernacle is always the place of repose, but we make a big deal of it tonight. We all get to process over if we want and stay with Jesus like we were in the Garden with Him (We love the role playing drama, remember!)

Whew! That was way more than I expected to write about Holy Thursday. I wanted to write more about the Easter Vigil on Saturday! But I will just write this one thing I noted. In keeping with our Judeo-Christian theme, I will submit that part of The Exultet that is sung at the Easter Vigil is a nod to the "Four Questions" referenced earlier. Where the Mah Nishtahnah asks "Why is this the night?" our Exultet proclaims:

"This is the night when you first saved our fathers. You freed Your people of Israel from their slavery and led them dry-shod through the sea"

And we have 3 other "this is the night" phrases which compliment our Christian beliefs:

"This is the night where the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!" (in the Old Testament this occurs but also Christ is our 'pillar of fire', no? See what we did there? ;)

"This is the night when Christians everywhere...are restored to grace and grow together in holiness" ( beautiful is that?)

"This is the night where Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave"

Almost makes you want to sit through the entire Easter Vigil, huh? ;)

Happy Triduum, all!!!