Monday, February 18, 2013

Best Lent Ever?

I had one of my very dearest friends in town last weekend to come and see a show with me. This girl (though she will say we were not really friends until we life-guarded together my first summer in college) grew up where I did, went to the same schools as I did, and we were in youth group together. We have traveled together and she even came to stay with me when I lived with the sisters in the convent! She wins.

We are very similar- strong willed, well educated, quick witted, and we love us some Jesus and good music.

We even make going to visit gardens in the dead of winter fun!

When my friend was here, she was talking about how *excited* she was for Lent. Like, genuinely excited. All I could do was wrinkle my nose. I'm more of an Easter girl, myself. I love the drama of Holy Week and then the celebration of the Easter 50, which all leads to my FAVORITE day of Pentecost, as we know.

My women's prayer group also met last week and so we naturally reflected on Lent, too. And we discussed some of our "best fasts of Lents past" which led me to reflect on:

What makes a "good" Lent??

Each year with my students, I do a Lenten reflection on the gospel from Ash Wed: Matthew 6:1-6;16-18. Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. And each year I try to steal some of their ideas for what they are going to do for each :)

No, but seriously, they come up with some great ideas! One girl suggested she fast from not using her phone after 7pm. My geriatric self is practically in bed watching Wheel of Fortune in my snuggie at that time of night, but I know teens will start their idle text chatter and snap chat nonsense that carries well into the early AM at that time. I thought that was a really good idea for teens!

Even though, Matt 6:1-6:16-18 suggests that we don't go on and on about our fasts and observances, I do think it's interesting to share what we are observing for Lent with others. And so I will, as is now tradition on this blog, share my Lenten observances with you.

I was going back and forth about what to give up this year. I went to spiritual direction and Father and I agreed that I could give something up that I wanted to eliminate from my life (like swearing or gossip) but that I also should perhaps give up something that I could *celebrate* with on Easter. (For example, no one wants to give their Easter Alleluia by swearing up a storm just 'cause you now can again!). And so, I've given up gossip and particularly texting gossip. You may remember one year I gave up gossip, so this is the upgraded 2.0 version.  I've also given up beer and wine so that I can truly celebrate with something on Easter!

For almsgiving, I always try to be a little more charitable and patient with those around me (though I don't know if I'm succeeding thus far) and this year I'm also praying for the women in my women's group and their intentions. These women surprised me at the end of our meeting last week to tell me they were saying a Memorare each day for the next month or so for *me* leading up until my comps! I was sooo touched! And so I've joined in their extended novena by offering up my prayers for their intentions.

I'm also doing a kind of cool thing that my SD came up with me for prayer, but I don't know if it's worth explaining on my blog :) Maybe once I start to see the fruits of it I will share, but it's kind of tailor-made for me...prayer couture, if you will. Oooo! Get that phrase trending!! #PrayerCouture. I'm very fancy.

As I sat in Mass this first Sunday of Lent, I was really struck by the liturgy. As a music minister, I know that we are not supposed to do as much with music during Lent. And the parish I attended yesterday took this very seriously. And it was pretty cool, actually. The psalm was done acapella. The offertory was just piano, and there was no recessional song. Just silence. It reminded me of how are liturgy is supposed to help us enter into the season.

And then I began to think like my friend. Maybe Lent is pretty cool. It's kind of a mysterious time and certainly sacred. I'm going on another Kairos retreat this week and then going to Richmond this weekend- two of my favorite things! And the retreat will definitely be a great way to begin the Lenten season.

What have been some of your most fruitful Lents? What made them fruitful?
Now is the acceptable time!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cloud of Witnesses

So, okay. You guys. Today was kind of crazy. The Holy Spirit was all up and around and in my business today and I didn't know what to make of it, so of course, I'm blogging.

It all started after third period today. I have a very lovely new bunch of students as the 2nd semester has started. We had talked about some pretty intense stuff today- as you do in my line of work- and from time to time I will have to counsel some students when a topic hits them in a particularly personal way. No biggie. It's always a reminder, though, that this stuff that I am "teaching" is REAL. And personal. And did I say REAL?

I say "real" twice, because, crazy as it seems- even though I've given my LIFE to this Church, this faith- I can get SO caught up in the academics, mechanics, and day to day of it that I forget I am dealing with SOULS here; my own and those of whom I come in contact with. I'm sure many ministers have moments like this; where you are suddenly called back into why you have been called to this line of work.

Well, I had a double dose of it today as a different student sought me out after school to chat about something completely different but also very humbling and genuine and sincere. After twice in one day (which you would think, since i encounter 120 + students on a daily basis would happen more often, but this is a somewhat rare occurance) I went to God in prayer and said, "what gives? I'm grateful, but what is it about today?"

It's Feb. 5. Nothing has stood out to me about this date before. It's Lectionary Cycle C. I hadn't read the readings for the day (or gone to daily Mass, whoops!) so I decided to take a gander.

And there it was. Behold. A fav verse of mine that you might recognize:

"Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfecter of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him
Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners,
in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart."

Hebrews 12:1-3 y'all! The verse behind this blog!!

Well, I took this to mean that God was trying to get my attention for sure. First the students, then the verse. The Gospel for today was also a special one for me that I enjoyed studying in my Synoptic Gospels course and have used on retreats often:

Mark 5: 21-43: The death of Jairus' daughter and the story of the hemorrhaging woman. In the past, I've always focused on the story of the woman with the hemorrhage that is "sandwiched" (to quote my Synoptics prof) between the story of the dying 12 year old girl. But today, I was struck by Christ's words to the girl, "Little girl, Arise!" I felt like God might be preparing me for something! I'm not sure what, but I was on a roll in my prayer!

I also noted it was St. Agatha's feast day. I didn't know anything about St. Agatha, but after this sequence of events today, I decided in my prayer that we must be soul sisters. I mean, the readings used for her feast day are MY readings. And the spirit had moved me in a special way on this very day!

Ahem. Behold, St. Agatha:

Yup. Those are her breasts on a plate.

And this is her story.

I think I will just ask her to pray for me and leave it at that.

So the title of this particular blogpost today is taken from this reading from Hebrews 12 and one of the reasons I love it is that it calls attention to this "cloud of witnesses" that I believe to be the saints, the holy ones in heaven (St. Agatha, may she rest...), and the other faithful.

And as I was praying today...

okay, have you fully recovered from seeing St. Agatha's breasts yet???

I will give you another minute.


Okay. Moving on.

So as I was saying, I was praying about Hebrews 12:1 and also the virtue of faith as I have been trying to meditate on since this Year of Faith began. I was struck today by the community of believers our Catholic faith has. For better, for worse, Catholics have a strong tradition. I've been struck by this tradition and all it encompasses of late and now with my students coming to me today, and friends and relationships that I am blessed to have in my life, I amazed at the beauty of the community aspect of faith.

So there you have it, folks. Feb. 5, 2013. A date that will now mean something to me, even if it was the smallest movement of the Holy Spirit. I felt His presence in a special way today and I am grateful for it! May we all be more in tune to Its movements in our lives!