Monday, June 20, 2011

A New Father for Father's Day

My friend, now FR Brian, giving his first blessings as a priest

This past weekend was pretty epic for many reasons, but one of which being that I got to witness my friend Brian become Father Brian.

I know Brian from my year with NET- we were on the same team. We had both just graduated from college- 8 years ago already!!! When I re-located to Arlington after my year of volunteering with NET, we were able to keep in touch and visit because he, too, was from VA. We became closer friends even after the volunteer experience.

I know I wrote about the beauty of ordination to the priesthood a little bit last year with my friend Ed (also from my NET year!) but I still thought of much to reflect and contemplate on as I witnessed the event and then also the event of Brian’s first Mass as a priest today- Father’s Day.

The first thing that always blows me away about my friends who are becoming priests is their ability to sacrifice. They are truly laying their lives down for the Church and for us so that we may be able to continue to have the Sacraments. And they WANT to do that for the Church and for God! I was moved by both of my friends’ first Masses because I knew how much they wanted to celebrate that first Eucharist for their friends and families and their new Bride- the Church.

In my own spiritual life, I have been coming back to elements of self-sacrifice too. One of the things that drew me to the convent and that draws me to the Church is that element of self sacrifice. Our Church is real good about getting the point home that love involves sacrifice. But do we appreciate it? Do we recognize God as the source and strength for those sacrifices? I know for myself, there is always that temptation to twist the sacrifice and say: “look at me! How noble am I that I am SACRIFICING for the good of others? Did you notice that I was SACRIFICING today??” Ugh. That’s SO not the point!

And my friend Brian just has always been so pure, I believe, in his intentions to be a priest. He’s asked himself all of the questions, looked at the alternatives, and still chosen this path because he feels so strongly about it. It’s so admirable.

And so what do I do? I get a little envious! God is clearly working in the lives of and through these men! Men that want to sacrifice for the good of God and others EXIST! ;) And I am so grateful to have some of these men in my life! But I do get a little envious that God seems to be keeping them for Himself! ;)

So, purity and sacrifice. We can twist sacrifice and make it something ugly, but it really is beautiful when done purely as my friend did so this weekend. This notion of sacrifice, as I said, has crept back into other areas of my life. While in Richmond, I was sitting with my friend whose house I always stay at when I'm in town, and we were sharing our thoughts on men, as we often do ;) And it struck me that this element of sacrifice is really important to me, not only in my relationship with God, but also my relationship with others. I do strongly believe that Love involves sacrifice and that the sacrifice is beautiful when pure. Sometimes I want to throw that purity and sacrifice out the window, but I know and trust in the beauty of when love is done right (with sacrifice), as demonstrated by my friend who became a priest this weekend.

My other thoughts and observations on the ordination yesterday:

- the litany of saints really got to me. I may have gotten choked up just a little. Just the idea that so many men and women whom we name have also given their lives in sacrifice for the Church and now my friend was committing to the Church they gave their lives for. It made me in awe of the community of saints and their witness to ALL of us in our calls to holiness.

- the Old Testament references (of course! "We GET IT, Julia- you teach Old Testament" is what you are saying to yourselves...And now I’m going to be doing directed research with an O.T. prof at CUA in the fall for credit!)Anyways, the priesthood was instituted, as we know, at the Last Supper, but has its roots in God appointing Moses and Aaron and the Levite priests which the bishop reminded us of at the Ordination

- the laying on of hands and the oil as the matter for the Sacrament. So simple, but passed on from the apostles. They would ordain new priests just by the laying on of hands as we do today, and the oil is something we receive at Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick- it is a symbol of strength which is so needed for Holy Orders!

- PEOPLE WERE VERY EXCITED for my friend and the other young man ordained with him. People kept clapping after EVERYTHING! It made me think of Rebecca Black, sadly- “We so excited!” ( I would include the video, but it got yanked off of you tube! So you are WELCOME for its absence here…)

- These men are set apart by their call. So are married people, but do we see marriage as being set apart for God and for one person? We tend to think religious life is so isolating, but really, marriage is also a being “set apart” in a sense, too.

I think that’s it. The people around me at the ordination must’ve thought I was a news reporter (or just crazy) because I kept pulling the pen out of my purse and jotting down thoughts during the ceremony…WHO DOES THAT!?

I’m SO HAPPY for my friend Brian. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. May we all be inspired by his sacrifice and seek to make our own sacrifices for love of the Church and others.

I’m also SO EXCITED ( there it is again! “we, we so excited!”) for Workcamp! It starts this week! Pray for us too!

There is just no stopping the Holy Spirit during this time post-Pentecost! And I’m okay with it.

Also, I can’t believe I forgot- I AM DONE WITH MY FIRST YEAR OF TEACHING!! Success!!! Thank you for all your support of me this year. When I rolled out of bed at 8:15 this morning without an alarm and realized I had all of the time to work out, pray, run errands, etc. I thought to myself: “I am going to LIKE this summer thing.”

Okay, that’s really it now. And I’m signing off until after Workcamp. Thanks for your prayers!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Heart Pentecost

Three years ago on Pentecost, I was packing up my belongings which would all fit in my sister's Honda Civic (some of which would go on my now brother in law's lap who was riding with us) and leaving the place that I called home in St. Louis (aka-the convent). I moved in with my sister (who happened to also live in St. Louis- no coincidences!) for about three weeks and then flew back home to Ohio to try to figure where the Lord wanted me next.

Only a week or two into being home in Ohio, I had landed a job in DC and been asked by my current roommates to move into a house with them in MD. The Holy Spirit had moved quickly! So it took me TWO car trips at that time and I moved all of my belongings to DC.

The Holy Spirit and I have this ebb and flow relationship, I am finding. It took me a good 2-3 years to discern religious life before entering. It took me a good 2 years to find the comfortable role I have now teaching. These are the ebb moments, I imagine. The Holy Spirit moving away for whatever reason to do His work and taking His time to show me the next thing. But the Holy Spirit can also whisk me away, like the moment mentioned above.

Now here I am, sitting amid boxes again, this time that will necessitate a truck, but I doubt will fill it. I pretty much have the same few possessions, except for a bedroom set of my own now and definitely more clothes :) I found my new living situation rather quickly, so I'm wondering if I'm in for another ebb moment or entering into another realm of some kind of discerning.

During those three weeks that I lived with my sister Janet in St. Louis between the convent and moving back to DC, I walked each day to Mass at a Church within walking distance of her apartment. I did the same thing today, only this time to my new parish in VA, and I realized I have been within walking distance to a Church for the past 5 years of my life. In Leesburg, in St. Louis, in MD, and now back to VA. The Lord knows I need Him close in these transitional moments.

So here we are, Pentecost- 3 years later. And I am once again moving. My current roommates, too, are moving on- both engaged. I move on to another community of holy women (also a trend for the past 4-5 years of my life!) I am not sure what all the connections and cycles mean, but I do now see that this is how the Lord works in my life. Quick when things need to happen quickly, and sometimes super slowly when it's a decision that will bear much weight on my ministry or vocation.

He knows me. He knows I like to be productive and efficient when the goal seems clear and achievable. But I like to take my time when I'm not sure.

In my last post, I talked about some of the ways I know there are no coincidences; that everything is a part of his plan. These bookends to the past few years of my life also show this.

One of the examples of these "bookends" is rather humorous.3 years ago, when I returned to DC I had about 2 months before the house in MD was available for us to move in. So I stayed at a friend's condo who was living in a religious community (discerning at the time- now professed!) and had the condo available. I didn't have much stuff (like I said- two car trips!) and he had shut off the cable, so I remember coming home from my days at my new job and watching his "Arrested Development" dvds.

(Gob and Tobias respectively :)

I now sit at a house with not much stuff and no cable as I wait for my new roommates to move in. I watch my OWN collection of "Arrested Development" dvds though now, as my friend had turned me onto the series because of the move 3 years ago.

It may seem like a stretch, but I see Bookends. No coincidences.

When I was teaching my students last week and we were going over the final chapter from the text which sets up how Christ fulfills the covenants of the Old Testament, I straight up asked the kids, "do you think we are grasping for straws with some of these parallels? Are we reading TOO much into the details?" For example, the fact that Moses' first sign to Pharaoh was changing water into blood with the first plague and then Jesus' mirst miracle would be water into wine, and then eventually wine into His Blood. Are we stretching it?

The fact that Isaac had to carry the wood for His sacrifice which he was going to go through with willingly because his father asked him that too much for us to say is like Christ?

12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles...part of a plan or part of a Biblical technique? I could go on and on as the Bible is full of these typologies. Some for literary sake, but at some point we have to use our faith and say- no coincidences.

I question these things myself. At some points in my life, I don't want to see or believe the parallels or typologies. I don't want to think they are part of a plan. But at this point in my life- and at the time I was discerning religious life- I matched each and every one of those signs up and believed because I wanted to. The Holy Spirit helps us to do this.

So as I transition once again this Pentecost, it may seem like I haven't moved much. Like I said when I started this post, three years ago, my brother in law was just my sister's boyfriend and now he's also the father of my nephew! Phew! For some, the Holy Spirit moves quickly! But 1.) we can't compare ourselves to others and 2.) I know that I have done alot- transitioned from religious life, worked for a non-profit, traveled, started graduate school, ministered to friends, volunteered, dated- and most importantly, I am confident I am where God wants me to be because He has given me these affirmations, these "coincidences" which I know are not just that, but a part of His plan.

Father was saying in His homily on Pentecost today how crazy the apostles must have looked when they received the Holy Spirit. People thought they were drunk! (It's in Scripture!) And how we, too, look crazy sometime when we go with the flow of the Spirit. But Father pointed out that with the Spirit, it is a "sober intoxication". Sober because it should be peaceful. And intoxicating because it does seem crazy at times to do what the Spirit asks. We have to surrender and let Him be in control. We have to surrender to let Him take over- that's what intoxication is- letting something else take control over us.

I do feel the peaceful "sober-ness" of the Spirit (to continue with Father's metaphor) and I think I'm ready again to become intoxicated (wait for it )...with His Spirit. COME ON! I know there are SO many intoxicated jokes I could make, but this is a SERIOUS blogpost, if you couldn't tell! (You can read my infamous Seafoam post if you want to remember me at my punchiest. Today's just not that day :)

Anyways, AHEM. I'm open to what He wants to do next. Come Holy Spirit, Come.

As for the immediate future, these next couple weekends are going to be blessed for sure. Last year, I got to see one of my friends from NET become ordained for our diocese. This year, I'm going to attend the ordination of oe of my very own teammates from NET in the Richmond diocese! I'm soooo happy for my friend because he is one of the holiest guys I know and will be a beautiful priest. It is bittersweet for him, though, as his brother just recently passed away. Please keep him, his vocation, and his family in your prayers.

And the following weekend- the last weekend in June- brings about the first week of Workcamp already! I've been blessed to volunteer with this camp for the past several years and I always wonder why my friends and I love volunteering for this camp so much. I have come to find that it is because it's a week lived how Christ wants us to live- in simplicity, in community, serving others, and taking time in prayer and worship together.

The Holy Spirit is already doing such great things. And I'm excited for what's to come!

Happy Pentecost!!!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Beloved and The Advocate

I keep having sporatic inspirations for good blog posts and then they disappear amid car accidents, phone failures, breaking leases and THE END OF THE WORLD. That's right ALL of the things in my life are breaking, but we're still here! PHEW!

So I guess it's not ALL bad. Especially since....

It's time for the Pentecost Novena!!! My favesies!!!

I really did have a crazy couple weeks. A lady decided to BACK HER CAR DOWN A MAJOR STREET IN REVERSE and hit me. Geico and the auto place I found were on it in a flash, but then seemed to forget about me as I STILL am driving a rental. Grrr. But at least I'm getting around and not having to pay for it!

Then, today, my phone decided it didn't want to power on. Or rather, it just wanted to continually appear to be powering on but never actually do so. I had to take it to not one, but two Verizon stores before the collective dudes finally got it working.

And this is all while I'm trying to move from my beloved Conover to this new place:

But you know what?! It's ALL GOOD. Because these are just THINGS. And Father had a really awesome homily this morning at my soon-to-be NEW parish: St. John the Beloved.

Before I get into the awesome deets of the homily, I would just like to say that in my Scripture course the kids and I talk about how Salvation History can't be a series of coincidences. I mean, I suppose it could be, but that's not what faith is. We trust the string of events from Adam to us is part of a perfect plan because we have the faith that God loves us that much. Plus, those would be a TON of coincidences!

God, I think, has recently made it clear that there are no coincidences with the fact that each parish I've been a parishioner of in the past 8 years has been named after one title of St. John or another. My first 3 years in youth ministry I was working at and a parishoner of St. John the Apostle. When I moved back to MD after the convent, I became a parishoner of St. John the Evangelist. Now, I am within a 5-10 minute walk of my NEW parish- St. John the Beloved. All different titles for the same guy. Coincidence? Time to start praying to St. John on the regs.

I am now taking to prayer and reflecting on how God has called me to be each of those titles in some aspect or another at different times in my life and how I can continue to try and be Apostle, Evangelist, and Beloved. John is also a signifcant name in my family. It's my dad's name, both of my grandfathers' name, and now the middle name for my nephew. I looked up what the name means and it means: "God is gracious." A good reminder and another thing to take to prayer!

So I set out to run over to the latest St. John's in my life- St. John the Beloved- and find that on First Saturdays of the month they say a rosary, have Adoration, and do "first Saturday" devotions in accordance to the messages of Fatima. They also had started the Holy Spirit novena as a parish which I was, of course, so excited to be reminded about!

Now back to Father's awesome homily. I hope I can re-convey the awesomeness. 1.) it was not lengthy or preachy, but straightfoward and to the point 2.) he actually preached on the Gospel! Amazing how it seems that happens few and far between with some preachers.

He took the line: "When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted" and expounded on it, mentioning that isn't this what we do? We see so many signs, yet we still doubt. And this line seems contradictory- to worship but still doubt? Yet we do.

He also mentioned that the Ascension isn't complete without the feast of Pentecost, which I was particularly excited about. Jesus rose into heaven with the purpose of sending us His Spirit. I just loved contemplating that thought. All of these events (the Glorious Mysteries!)- the Resurrection, the Ascension, and next week- the descending of the Spirit at Pentecost- had to happen as part of God's plan so that we could be united with His Spirit while on earth.

The other thing I was contemplating about regarding this time in the liturgical year is why does Pentecost happen for us at a more relaxed time in our calendar year? Of course, the Western world is not the only place where the liturgical year is honored, so it may not be so in other parts of the world, but it just seems for us that summer is when we wind down and relax- not try to be sent out on a mission which is what the Spirit urges us to do! But then I thought, this is probably the perfect time to receive the Spirit! We need It to stay motivated and not lazy!!

So amidst the crazy, the Spirit-our Advocate- is working! It has also been very humbling to be cleaning out a house which I moved into 3 years ago after leaving the convent. I am grateful to my roommates who took me in, as they were the perfect community for me at the time. (I'm also grateful that I haven't accumulated many more possessions after three years!)
(my roommates and I at our house celebrating Steph's bday two years ago)
It's definitely the end of the era. I'm also grateful for this time to find myself again and I rebuild. And I'm looking forward to what lies ahead!

Hope you will join in me in praying to our Advocate during this time before Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit, Come!