Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Year in Review: Feast of Christ the King 2018

After the disheartening attitudes and sentiments that surrounded us in the "dumpster fire" that was the election year of 2016, 2017 forced us to deal with some hard realities. I still hadn't totally picked my head up, but started to put the pieces of my disheartened heart back together. 2018 has not been perfect, but I feel like it has been a year of reaping the hard work and foundations that were laid in 2017 (for at least me personally. 2018 also showed that we still have a long way to go as a society and a country, but we are starting to see the fruits of some hard work and movements that have begun).

This Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King which starts the last week of Ordinary Time. And so, our liturgical year is once again coming to an end. Everyone I've talked to has expressed that this year went by FAST. And I know that everyone says that about every year, but really. This year went quickly.

I personally was determined to try and pick my head up from the dreariness of the last year and a half or so, so I filled my year with all of my favorite people and things. From January to November, 2018 has been full and pretty fun. There have of course still be heartbreaks and set backs, but I am choosing to have an attitude of positivity and gratitude that I pray will carry over into 2019.

Before I do my annual "Year in Review", I want to talk about the readings for this Sunday because I think they are so important. In a year where the flaws in our Church and in the people of our Church were all too apparent, it is nice to be reminded of the wisdom that does still exist in areas of our Church, like in the lectionary. The Gospel for this Sunday which describes Christ as a King, is the story of Pilate asking Jesus about his kingship right before he sentences Jesus to death. It never ceases to amaze and humble me to think about Jesus exhibiting his kingship in this way. In a world where we think that weakness is undesirable, here is Jesus defining his kingship in one of his seemingly weakest moments. He is about to die, but yet, it is here He shows His humility and strength. This scene should be a constant reminder of leadership and strength for all of us- that true strength requires humility and sacrifice.

My students and I have been going through the Old Testament History Books currently and most recently the book of Judges. My students can't understand why the Israelites are still struggling to worship God after all that He did for them- bringing them out of slavery in Egypt, providing for them in the desert, parting the Red Sea, leading them into the Promised Land. But I tell them, aren't we like the Israelites? God provides so much for us and yet we fail to trust Him and fall into the same pitfalls and sin over and over again. Just like the Israelites start to be influenced by the cultures around them and start to worship false idols, how many idols have we created for ourselves that keep us from our God? This is another thing that has convicted me this last week or so- that while it is good that I am filling my time with things that make me happy- I need to spend equal amount of time with Him.

And now...a year in review :)

 I think one of the major changes for me this year, was re-discovering the piano as a source of income for me. At the end of 2017, I quit my bartending gig and went back to playing piano for secondary income. While the pay is less consistent, I have my weekends and sanity back. Worth it. 
After taking the last year off, I returned to a time-honored tradition of ringing in the new year with these fabulous people in NYC.

In March, we celebrated my Babci's 95th birthday. One of the heartbreaks from this year has been a turn that her health has taken, but I am grateful for the many, many moments and years we have been blessed to share with her. 

Another heartbreak from this year is the gun violence that continues to plague our country. It breaks my heart that we seem to value guns more than people. Above is my friend and I protesting at March for Our Lives in Washington, DC this past March. We continue to vote, take action, and pray for an end to this issue. 

 Highlights from every year are always the travels with friends! Above is a pic from my Nashville road trip with a friend from CA over Spring Break and below is a pic from our fabulous road trip out West this summer!

 Of course, I spent much of the year with these people who are like family to me and 2018 will forever be the year that we discovered SKIP BO!!!

 I filled my summer with many trips and friends as well. Above is a trip to the Outer Banks and below a pic from my Philly trip. Not pictured: an awesome trip to Baltimore with old friends and trip to Ohio to see family. Also, 2018 was filled with art! I feel like I've already filled many posts with pictures of my weird art, though, so I will spare you during this post. 
 My friend having her aura picture taken in PA. 2018 was filled with lots of weird and I loved every minute of it!
 2018 meant 15 years since I graduated from CUA (the first time ;) and reunions with these very special people. I don't see some of them nearly enough, but we will always be bound together because of our foundations of faith. 
 And what year could be complete without my RVA friends and I bringing it for Halloween once again? 

After taking the past 2 years to do my own thing for Thanksgiving (hibernating in a teepee and mourning the events of 2016 for one and giving back and building community with The Giving Heart in 2017) I am returning to a tradition of spending Thanksgiving with some friends in Northern VA and I'm looking forward to just relaxing and celebrating once again.

I'm overall very grateful for 2018. A lot of good things have come from the trials and struggles of the past 2 years and for that, I am truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving and end of this liturgical year!


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Saints

Fall is one of my favorite times of year, however, it is also one of the most hectic. And this fall has been no exception. I have picked up an extra duty at school this year which seems to be a seemingly appropriate fit- helping with liturgies at school- but it has been more stress so far than I would have liked. The beginning of the school year is always time spent emphasizing routines while juggling all of the non-routine things like special back to school events and activities. And now we are in October!

Even though it took the terrifying and destructive path of Hurricane Michael to do it, fall weather has started to set in. We have had so much rain and humidity this summer. It has been one of the wettest years that I have experienced in VA in a long time. Floods have become common place in our news and in our country this past year. It seems like my students and I are always praying for those affected by the extreme weather and we ourselves have been affected by it with Hurricane Florence and Michael of late.

The news continues to bring anxiety and gloom to us and this time last year, I was not in a good place. Perhaps the extra little stress at work has been a good thing for me as it has kept me from getting too overwhelmed with everything else: midterm elections, sex abuse scandals in the Church and in also in our Courts, Climate Change predictions that number our days just to name a few.

It has taken community that I have spoken much of this year and time to relax and pray for me to keep it all together. And reminders like yesterday's canonizations to give it all balance and perspective.

Saints Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero have been two of my favorites since I learned about them in high school and college. I was first introduced to Romero as my diocese of Cleveland had nuns that were sent to El Salvador and were also martyred there. We learned about Romero and his story in my high school religion classes. There was also a movie about him that came out in the 90s that I remember watching. I will never forget learning and seeing the scene in the film where he is shot while saying Mass. Not only was he a heroic martyr, but he put the people of El Salvador and their justice above himself and ultimately his own life.

Pope Paul VI I came to know a little later. I was a JP2 girl as John Paul II was the pope when I was born in the 80s and also from the country of Poland where my relatives are from. I didn't know too much about Paul VI. He was Italian as many of the popes had been. It really wasn't until I obtained my Masters degree and learned about many of the documents that came out of Vatican II that I began to appreciate his wisdom. Paul VI was very concerned about evangelizing to the modern world and as a Media Studies girl, I like to think that he truly thought along the same lines as his namesake, St. Paul and wanted to use all forms of media available to get the good news of the Gospel out to people. His documents and writings from the Vatican II era really were prolific and insightful. They were of their time but also leading us into the future.

In a time of crisis for the Church with more terrible sex abuse accounts being brought out against the Church, it is easy to feel hopeless and cynical. It takes a day like yesterday, with examples like these achieving sainthood to remind me that there are holy and good people that exist and that our faith does stand for goodness and justice when it is lived properly. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Seat at the Table of Wisdom

That blog post title sounds pretty deep, huh?

It is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time this weekend. We are in the sunset of summer as the season winds down and I find myself getting ready to back to work, back to school. The image for today's post comes from the first reading for this 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time and you all know I am a sucker for good imagery!

But first, a summer recap :)

My summers are usually full of jet-setting and the international travel that perhaps have become synonymous with my summers. This year, I kept my travel domestic, which maybe seems less glamorous, but I assure you it was still fabulous and time well spent!

I spent June touring art museums (and the whole summer doing so, really) and taking a road trip with two of my best friends. We had planned this road trip in the Spring and we made sure it was packed full of beautiful and weird adventure!

We started in Santa Fe, NM- a place I had always wanted to travel to and was told that I would love. Natural wonders, original Churches, and loads of colorful art? Yes, please!
 Above and below: taken at Meow Wolf. Google It. If you are ever in Santa Fe, GO TO IT. 

 Above: My friends and I stumble upon a late night TV scene in Santa Fe. Also, me in the smallest pew I have ever seen at the Cathedral of Santa Fe. We call this photo: The Patron Saint of Personal Space ;)

After a long weekend of museums and Churches (and even a Spa day at 10,000 Waves...also a thing you must check out in Santa Fe!), we rented a car and made our way across Route 66 through Arizona and ending in San Diego, CA with two weeks worth of stops along the way! Here are some of our highlights:

 We stopped at lots of National Parks: 4 to be exact! Above is the Petroglyph Park in Albuquerque, NM
 Also stopped at lots of weird Roadside Attractions: Above- Navajo County Courthouse in Holbrook, AZ. Below, Jack Rabbit Trading Post on our way to Flagstaff, AZ

 More beautiful natural sites in Arizona: Above- Grand Canyon! Below- Sedona, AZ

We saw lots of weird art in California. Salvation Mountain and the nearby art community of East Jesus were amazing (below)
We also stayed in a hipster trailer park outside of Joshua Tree, CA (below)...
 Before finally making it to La Jolla Beach and San Diego, our final destination of the trip. We were still smiling at the end!

And that just takes us to early July! ;) During previous summers since I have been a teacher, I have had a second job. I have been a nanny, worked at a winery, and bartended a grocery store bar. This summer, I had a couple of piano gigs, but really no job to speak of for weeks. This sounds great to almost everyone and no one wants to hear that I get bored sometimes while my friends are working 9-5 (shhhh. I know. No one wants to hear it), but that is my reality. And so, in order to avoid any "woe is me" moments, I stacked my summer with art classes and MORE domestic travel.
 Just some of the weird, abstract art I made this summer.
And I got to see friends in Philly, Baltimore, and friends and family in Ohio, too:

 Above: College and childhood friend and I in Bromo Seltzer Tower in Baltimore, MD.
Below: Family members and I ready for a day of fun at the Lake Erie Islands.

Above and below: My mom and I at the Infinity Mirror exhibit at The Cleveland Museum of Art

 Above and Below: even though I have made the drive through PA to OH many times, I had never stopped at the Frank Lloyd Wright houses- Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob- until this summer!

Phew! In my attempts to keep myself busy, I also was reminded of how incredibly blessed I am. I got to see so many people that I truly love and who I know truly love me. As a single person, it is good to have those reminders that love- true love- comes in a variety of forms. I set out to fill my summer with trips and fun things and it ended up being filled with true love. (oof. If I were speaking romantically right now, that would be enough to make anyone a little nauseous, amirite?)

So all of that happened and brings me to this weekend- the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is taken from the book of Proverbs and describes the image used for the title of this blogpost. Essentially, the author of Proverbs (attributed to King Solomon is telling us that Wisdom has everything all laid out for us. Her (Wisdom's) house is set and ready for visitors. We just need to forsake our foolish ways and have a seat.

These themes of food and foolishness are carried through the letter from St. Paul who also tells us to rid ourselves of foolish ways, to the Gospel where Jesus and the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus tells us that HE is Wisdom. He is the one who can offer us Truth and Life and Nourishment, if we take the steps to Him.

I was struck by these images of table and food used to describe much less tangible concepts like Wisdom and God. But food, of course, is the perfect image because we need it to survive and it is something that we need to seek out or is provided for us. It is the same with God and our faith. He nourishes. We need Him. And sometimes we have to seek Him out, but He always provides. We just need to pull up a seat at the table.

Looking forward to seeing where God leads during this new school year. I know that it includes me taking on some new responsibilities and roles which are a little stressful, but nothing I can't handle with His Grace and help.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It's That Time! Summer and St. Paul 2018

It's that time of year again: summer! Travel! And time to start the novena to St. Paul!

Y'all know about my love for St. Paul. It started when I discerned religious life and essentially started this blog over 10 years ago (WHAT?!). Learning about Paul and really praying with him that year, taught me a lot about him as a saint, a person, an evangelist, and also a lot about myself. I identify a lot with Paul. He was not perfect. He knew that and documents his weaknesses well in his letters. But he was passionate and sincere and even while in prison, the one thing that he wanted more than anything was for people to learn about Jesus and the new Church.

He was not into Christianity in the beginning- far from it. He reviled and even sought to kill Christians. It is said that he was at the first martyr- St. Stephen's- stoning. But then he has this intimate encounter with Christ and is completely changed. He is an example of Christ's love and forgiveness and how that can change us if we allow it as Paul did.

So over 10 years ago, I start to pray and discover more about this man Paul. He has two feast days that are recognized in the Church. One is in January and commemorates his conversion experience with Christ. The second is the feast that is coming up and that he shares with another pretty important apostle, St. Peter.

(Side note- a lot of people get confused about Paul being called an "apostle." He was not one of the 12 called initially by Jesus. His conversion and encounter with Jesus is unique in that he is called by Christ after Christ is ascended into heaven! He is considered an apostle because he was personally called by Jesus and was fundamental in establishing the early Church as Peter was. In fact, after his "Jesus moment", Paul meets with Peter in Antioch where the followers of Jesus first call themselves Christians. Then, he and Peter split up and essentially start founding the Church!)

While I also have deep feels when January rolls around and we honor the feast of St. Paul's conversion, I have had amazing experiences in praying this novena leading up to this June 29th feast as well. 11 years ago on this feast, I received a call that momentarily changed my life. I was accepted into religious life and given my entrance date. Everything I had discerned and applied for the year and a half prior, was coming to fruition and a new journey was beginning.

I struggled that year, and y'all know the rest of the story. After living in the convent for a little less than a year, I decided that religious life was not for me. But had it not been for that experience, I wouldn't have discovered my love for academics and Scripture, nor my love for St. Paul.

Flash forward a few years, and another feast of Sts. Peter and Paul really stands out to me. I had now been teaching for about 3 years and my teacher friend and I had discovered our ability to travel well together. We planned a road trip throughout Eastern Europe that was amazing for so many reasons. I had an off and on relationship leading up to this trip that I was trying to make sense of. I decided to pray this novena (which starts today! If this link doesn't work, someone let me know!)  and low and behold, on June 29 (the actual feast day), my teacher friend and I were in Prague. We had signed up for a beer tasting and walking tour of the city. We gathered in the rain that day to meet our tour guide and guess who we met? Our tour guide named Paul!

My friend and I with Paul as well as a lovely couple that we met and still keep in touch with from Norway!

I took meeting Paul as a sign that St. Paul had heard my novena prayers. And I do believe that I got an answer to my petitions. It may not have been the answer I wanted, but that is how novenas work sometimes.

After that year, I made praying the novena to St. Paul leading up to this June 29th feast an annual thing. The following year, my same teacher friend and I were in Italy (this is what teachers do in the summer!) and I had just discerned taking a new job and moving to Richmond. I believe that St. Francis had a little to do with all of that as we were in Assisi when all of that was going down, but on June 29th my friend and I were in Rome and we had an awesome day which included visiting the Catacombs and exploring the city. 

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome 2015! Having a spritz in a Roman garden to celebrate new job and our awesome travels! Also, Rome is where St. Paul was martyred!

2016 was a weird year for many reasons. Our country was in a tumultuous election cycle, my friend's dad was very sick, other friends were suffering from breakdowns and breakups, and I was working two jobs and feeling the stress of that. I was actually in Richmond for Sts. Peter and Paul that year, as my Australia trip was scheduled mid-July (you knew I had to get a summer trip in their somewhere!). So I wasn't anywhere glamorous for the feast that year, but I did manage to write this post. 

Last year, things were back on track with my travel bestie and we planned a trip this time to Spain, Morocco, and Portugal. By now, she had traveled a couple years with me during this novena time, and she knew that June 29 was an important day for me. We were in Lisbon, Portugal for the feast and we  made it a point to find a church and pay our respects to my boy, St. Paul, that day.

Here is our selfie in front of the Cathedral in Lisbon- St. Anthony's. 

And that brings us to the present. I will once again be traveling, but with some different friends, and we will be staying stateside with our travels. I once again have many intentions that I am bringing to St. Paul during this novena this year. I have my own personal intentions that I continue to bring to my friend, Paul, but this year, I also place our country and particularly the children at our borders in Paul's hands.

My friends and I leave for Santa Fe, NM tomorrow where we will be for a couple of days. We will then rent a car and drive to the Grand Canyon and will end up in Southern California. On June 29th this year, I will be in Joshua Tree and most likely checking out this glorious location (as seen in the Kesha video, "Praying").

Salvation Mountain, Salton Sea, California

While my friends and I put together all of the places we wanted to go on this trip, I didn't realize that this location would fall on my favorite feast day. I know that God and St. Paul have a pretty awesome plan for us. And I pray that our intentions for our country and our borders will be heard.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Church and Community

As we continue through the Easter season and also the cultural climate that is 2018 (and also as I continue to read The Holy Longing by Rolheiser and Madeline L'Engle's Walk on Water), I am realizing even more what I think I have already learned: that Church and Community can look different than our long accepted norms.

Through much of my 20s and some of my 30s, I have grappled with what community and Church are "supposed" to look like. I knew that I wanted to belong to both. Church, perhaps, came somewhat more easily as I accepted the faith that I had been born into. I studied it, explored it, visited it, and decided that it did fit me. Community, however, I had to keep trying on for size.

Looking back, I have always juggled many communities at once: athletic team friends, creative friends, smart friends, not-so-smart friends, choir friends, church friends, popular friends, not-so-popular friends. And I always fell somewhere amid all of them. Friends from in state, out of state, pen pals I had met, and those that I hadn't.

In Rolheiser's book, The Holy Longing, he creates this analogy about a woman name Betzy. He describes Betzy as one who doesn't really fit one particularly group or community, but rather, she has friends who are conservative, liberal, artistic, athletic, gay, straight, rich, poor, old, young, religious, non-religious, etc. And she invites them all to a party in her honor. Because she is there, they are all connected and they are able to co-exist for her sake. Without her presence there, however, the gathering might be much more hostile and segregated.

Rolheiser uses this analogy for Christ and our Church. He is "Betzy" or the connection between all of His gathered guests. Without Him as our center, though, the group can veer from its purpose and can become separate parts rather than a whole.

I could relate to Betzy in this analogy. Not to say that I can relate to being a Christ figure, but I can relate in the sense that I have a place in many different communities that may not make sense all in one room together. However, I'm sure this is the case for a lot of us, though. Why, then, do we make it make it seem like such a break from the norm to have these communities overlap, when many of us do exist in many of these different worlds? Why don't we bring these communities together to coexist more often?

I shared in my last post that L'engle's book about Faith and Art has made me see a lot of connection between the two worlds. The art world and the religious world have not always been such separate entities. They used to coexist for centuries. But as art changed and shifted and the Church remained the same in many ways, I think these two worlds or communities seem more different on the surface. However, as L'engle makes a case for, that at their cores, art and faith will always be linked.

I feel accepted and comfortable in the art community here in Richmond because I have found such welcoming, open minded people. Artists are open to mystery and the unknown and that which cannot be explained. Isn't this what the Church is also open to?

I am fortunate that I have been able to find a Church community as well. And sometimes, those two communities can overlap. I took part in an art show through my Church that an artist friend organized. I know that a local Catholic hospital is asking for art to decorate its hallways and many of my local artist friends are interested. However, I wish that these communities could overlap and coexist more. Maybe that is selfish. But I truly think that only when we come together, in spite of our differences, can we see what we have in common.

I also recently read a really beautiful article on Spirituality and Sexuality in which three queer persons of different religious backgrounds- Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish- expressed their ability to embrace both their faith and sexuality and allow those parts of themselves to coexist. Even as a straight woman, I have always felt accepted by the LGTBQ community. Probably because as a religious, single woman interested in all of the things that I am interested in, I don't fit the societal "norms" in some ways. I certainly have not had to struggle as those in the LGTBQ community, but I find more common ground and acceptance in this community, even as a straight, religious woman, than I do in some religious communities. And that's the tea.

In this liturgical season of Easter as we hear about the early Church community and hear of their struggles to establish the Church as Christ intended it, we also hear of their brokenness and their mistakes. Rolheiser also makes clear that it is in the brokenness that we really become Church because Christ was made broken in order to heal all.

And the early Church community was not a flawless, perfect family. They were a hodge podge, ragtag team put together in that common room (much like the Betzy analogy). They came together because of their love of Christ. So must we, too, come together because of love. Rolheiser says:

"Apostolic community is not had by joining others who share our fears and with them, barricading ourselves against what threatens us. It is had when, on the basis of something more powerful than our fears, we emerge from our locked rooms and begin to take down walls." - The Holy Longing

At Pentecost, the feast considered the birthday of the Church, this is what the apostles did. They went from hiding to breaking down walls for the sake of their faith. This is what artists do. They break down barriers and fears through creating new ways of viewing and thinking. This is what marginalized communities like the LGTBQ communities do. They emerge from locked rooms and begin to take down walls.

I am grateful that in 2018, we are slowly starting to see where lines cross and intersect which is literally everywhere, all the time. We just have to be open to the Holy Spirit to see it, rather than cowering in a corner clinging to confusion or old ways of thinking.

Here is just a small sampling of the people I consider community and family. They don't look like what society says that I should have at 37. They are not a husband with 2.5 kids and a dog. But they accept me and comfort me and challenge me and call me to learn more about love. And isn't that what family is?


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Easter Joy and the Incarnation

My love for the Easter season is well documented, but I can't help myself. We focus so much on Lent as Catholics. Lent is the solemn preparation of discipline that is valuable to appreciate the sacrifice that Christ made for us and it is necessary. However, the Church gives us 50 days to just rejoice and sing all of the Alleluias and I think that we don't allow ourselves to fully enter into it. So, I try to make the effort and remind myself that this is a season of joy!

This was a piece from an art show I participated in a year or two ago, however, it is not my work of art. I can't take credit for the work or the quote, but I do love the sentiment!

I love this quote from Pope Francis because I agree that for some reason we have to be bold and be brave in order to be happy, it seems. Happiness is certainly a goal for all, I would hope, but for some reason we won't let ourselves really live it or enjoy it.

The Easter season is a joyful time for many reasons. I love the readings from the book of Acts where the apostles are really living the Gospel on their own for the first time. They are preaching and teaching and going out and putting their faith into ACTION. They are becoming the Body of Christ and it is beautiful to re-hear at this time of year.

I am currently reading a couple of different books (I'm always in the middle of at least three books at a time...) that have meditations on the Incarnation. The Incarnation refers to God becoming Flesh, so we often think of the event of the Incarnation at Christmas. But Ronald Rolheiser, the author of The Holy Longing which I am reading with a group of Catholic women, points out that they Body of Christ is also a way that God becomes flesh. God becomes present through us and our actions.

So hearing about the Body of Christ being formed by the apostles during this liturgical season and reading about the Incarnation has added to this joy of the season for me (the beautiful, finally warm weather also helps) and it makes me think about ways that I am actively bringing about the Incarnation. How is God becoming flesh in the world right now? In what ways?

Our American Christian culture has a weird relationship with "the flesh" and our bodies. We are super into fitness, but then abuse our bodies with chemically induced and preserved food and things that are bad for us. We want to look perfect but then hate our bodies if we don't. We use our bodies to experience pleasure, but then often feel guilty about it later.

I believe that God became incarnate to show us that our bodies are good and how to use our bodies. Namely, he used his body to help others. He walked and traveled to heal and serve others. This is how we can use our bodies and our Body of Christ to bring about God on earth as well.

Rolheiser also asserts that we have responsibility for making our prayers heard and "in fleshed" as well. Because as Christians we pray "through Christ" and one of the ways Christ becomes present is through us. We need to be His hands and feet in a real way. If we are praying for healing, we need to do things to bring about that healing ourselves. We need to reach out to others, seek help, help others. Rolheiser uses the example of the woman with the hemorrhage in the Gospels as an example. She wanted to be healed, so she reached out and touched the robes and garments of Christ. She pushed through the crowd surrounding Him and she was healed. What are some ways that we need to "touch the hem of Christ" for ourselves? For others?

In another book that I am reading by the author of "A Wrinkle in Time", Madeleine L'Engle on Faith and Art, L'Engle refers to art as a form of Incarnation, which I totally agree with. A reason that I believe art and music transcend through culture and time is that the artist is somehow channeling the divine and making God come to earth in a new way. Art and music have been ways that I have tapped into the spiritual when maybe my prayer wasn't being "heard." It is a way for us to take our prayer and the Incarnation into our own hands and create something in which He becomes incarnate.

 This weird abstract took me way longer than you might expect... I enjoyed the process of getting to this maybe more than I enjoy the end result, but that's okay! The process is maybe the most important part sometimes.
I did this by looking at the negative space around the image which also was a really good exercise.

I really like these meditations on the Incarnation in the Easter Season. We do think about Christ in the flesh during this season, but it's really through the apostles and the Church that He comes "in fleshed" at this time. I love this meditation on all the ways that Christ becomes "in fleshed" and hope to carry it through to Pentecost!


Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Easter Alleluia 2018

Happy Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday! It has been a whirlwind of an Easter Octave, but a very good and blessed one.

As has been the case for the past three years since I've moved to Richmond and become active in the RCIA program in my parish, I took part in the Easter Vigil again this year. However, at the rehearsal the week of the ceremony, I was called to be a last minute sponsor for a 10 yo whose godparents weren't able to make it into town.
It is always an honor to guide someone in their journey with God and the Church, especially young people! It made Easter extra special again this year. 

Our Spring Break is always Easter week, so on Easter Sunday, I met up with a friend who is also a teacher and we took off for our planned road trip to Gatlinburg and Nashville, TN!

Hanging out in the Smoky Mountains

In front of the Grand Ol Opry!

So full disclosure- I'm actually not really a country music fan. I just love music in general and I know that some country stars are the roots for Rock and Roll and Pop music which I am more of a fan of. I also had been to Gatlinburg as a kid and remembered its kitsch and wanted to experience it again. My friend and I had fun in TN and kept busy doing all kids of quirky things like the Salt and Pepper Museum (yes, that exists and it is glorious!), climbing in the Smokies, driving to a Cherokee reservation, and witnessing the dinner theater treasure that is the Dolly Stampede (I remember attending this show as a child and it being called the "Dixie Stampede" then. I think it changed its name for political correctness, however, the "South" team still won in the competition we watched this week...yikes). 

Tennessee was fun and pretty but definitely an eye opening experience. My friend and I live in our cozy liberal bubbles in California and Richmond, respectively. While I do experience people who disagree with my political views quite often here in VA, I wasn't ready for the blatant racism and aggression that existed in the souvenir shops, roadside attractions, billboards, tshirts, etc all over TN. It was frustrating to see people holding onto a hateful past instead of moving on with unity and openness. 

I was also surprised by the ingrained evangelicalism there. My friend and I were often greeted with phrases relating to God and His blessings which I'm obviously not offended by, however, I'm not sure all visitors would say the same. After learning a little more about country music and its history in Gospel and Tent Revivals, it makes some sense why the evangelical Christian culture is also very deeply rooted. It was just an overall eye opening experience to see how this part of the country lives and I pray that we can all come to some middle grounds to heal the societal wounds that still obviously exist. 

Arriving back in Richmond made me appreciate this city a lot more! I love my quirky little artsy city. 
Today, I played for a Mass at a parish in Church Hill for Divine Mercy Sunday. The priest gave an awesome homily on Doubting Thomas and Mercy and I would like to share some of his points here. 

Father noted that Doubting Thomas (and the subject of today's Gospel reading) often get a bad rap. Father pointed out that doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. Doubt keeps us from getting stuck in our ways. Doubt can lead us to question the status quo. It can push us to find answers that move us forward. 

However, we have to keep our doubt from leading to fear which is where the problems begin. Father gave us a reminder for Fear as an acronym. He said it can stand for: False Evidence Appearing Real. I feel like this speaks volumes for the fear and fake news in our country today. It speaks to some of the racist things I saw this past week as well. To relate it to the Gospel, the apostles were afraid after the Crucifixion. They went and hid in the upper room. 

Meanwhile, however, Mary Magdalene was brave and took a risk and went to the tomb that Easter morning. And she was rewarded by being the first to see the risen Lord. Father called her today the "apostle to the apostles." I love that! A woman as an apostle! It made me think that Pope Francis has so much ground to open up the possibility for a female deaconate and that is one of my prayers for the Church. I think we have so many examples in Scripture and history of women preaching the Good News just like Mary Magdalene. She was the one who went and told the others the Good News that is the crux of our faith- that Christ resurrected from the dead. That is pretty incredible!

Mary Magdalene and St. Thomas were not afraid to question and they were shown mercy. We are all in need of God's mercy in some way. We've seen it in a very real way this past year or so especially. Fear only brings about more false evidence. If we are brave and take a risk like Mary Magdalene or question like St. Thomas, we will be given mercy and more likely to show mercy to others- the mercy we all need. 

Happy Easter for the next few weeks! It's my favorite liturgical season!


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Selling the Drama 2018 Edition

Holy Week is coming to a close and the Easter Season is upon us. Not before, however, we unfold all that this week and salvation history has been about tonight at the Easter Vigil.

I have kept this blog for over 10 years which is insane to me. These 10 years, however, have been so much about growth and becoming the person that I am today. I looked back at some earlier posts in which I used this same title. I can see myself starting to grow. I had moved back to DC. Started grad school. I was starting to nerd out and geek out about my theological studies. I had a strong community of friends. I was becoming a teacher. 

And here we are today. In some ways, things are not that different. Still a theological nerd. Still a teacher. The location has changed, though only by about 90 miles, and I haven't shared a living space with a roommate in about five years, but I have rediscovered my need for community in new ways.

Another major difference between 27 and (almost) 37? No. More. Drama. 

The drama was on its way out, I think, towards the end of my twenties anyway, but by this stage in the game, the drama almost ceases to exist and it is glorious. 

Which brings me to Holy Week. In the aforementioned previous posts, I focus on the drama of Holy Week which is no doubt still there. The Church hasn't changed in 2000 years, it's not about to alter the celebration of Holy Week! However, my perspective on Holy Week has changed in my, ahem, older age. 

There is still no denying the drama that occurs during Holy Week, for that is what it is about. Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem in glory with Hosannas and palms on the back of a donkey, and by the end of the week, finds Himself in a tomb. There is a lot that happens in between. 

But something I experienced last year when I wasn't able to enter into the Triduum as I would have liked, made me realize that these Passion plays and rituals are good, but they are about us. We need the rituals to enter into this time in Christ's life. Christ doesn't need them. 

That doesn't mean that we shouldn't partake in the rituals of Triduum. That is not what I am saying. I went to Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday service yesterday and I can't wait for the Easter Vigil tonight. I am entering in this year! But Christ has already won the victory. He has already died and rose. These rituals are designed to draw us closer to Christ. We are the ones who need to remember. He never forgets. 

And all of this newfound thirties drama-less mindset brings me to Holy Saturday. In the past, I don't know if I appreciated this day. In fact, when I teach the Triduum to my students, there isn't much to say about this day other than Jesus is in the tomb. But this morning, waking up to the stillness and sunlight after the dreariness of Good Friday, made me appreciate this part of the Triduum in a new way. 

I googled Holy Saturday and a lot of images of tombs and crosses came up. For some reason, I found this building with the door mysterious and relevant. Insert female emoji with her arms up here!

What were the apostles doing on this day? Hiding? Mourning? Waiting? I know that the women were going to prepare the body, which shows me how brave and loyal those women were. While the men were probably in hiding wondering if they would be next on the Romans' list, the women were not afraid and were loyal enough to make that trek to the tomb after the Sabbath. 

And what was Christ doing on this day? Taking the holy souls to heaven finally? Enjoying some peace and quiet? Having one day's rest with the Father and Spirit? It is fun to meditate on. And gives me new perspective on death and resurrection. 

We are quick to jump on drama. We love the action of the palms on Palm Sunday, the Passion play unfold on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Today is Holy Saturday, and I believe that it brings a stillness and peace that we often overlook. However, we can't stay in the "tomb" forever. We need the joy and the action of the Resurrection to bring about new perspective, new life. 

Looking forward to tonight's Easter Vigil! I was asked last minute to sponsor a 10 year old coming into the Church tonight! I always love celebrating with my RCIA community at the cathedral. Please keep all of those entering the Church tonight in your prayers. And Happy Holy Saturday.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lenten Laetare Check In- 2018

Happy 4th Week (almost 5th week) of Lent! I told my students that we only had one more week next week until Holy Week and they were amazed. I remember when I was that age thinking that Lent took forever! It's a little sad for me to learn that they think that time passes as quickly as I do now as an adult. I have many theories on that, but that is a blog post for another time.

It is also probably important to note that today is St. Patrick's Day! I am not Irish, but I do love celebrating this day. It involves a saint's feast day, beer, and the color green...what's not to love?
 Remembering our dear friend Dan who loved St. Patrick's Day in 2015
Throwback to disapproving Irish Car Bombs, especially when put in plastic cups way back in 2007

St. Joseph's Day is another upcoming feast day that I look forward to- not just because it allows me another day to break my Lenten fast! I always pray the Novena to St. Joseph at this time and I have entrusted many important prayers to him in the past- like passing my comps in 2013 and looking after our friend Dan in 2014. In this age of chaos and selfishness in our culture and community, I am in awe of St. Joseph even more for sticking with God's plan for him and his family. If he would not have embraced his role as a foster father, who is to say what would have happened to us. St. Joseph, pray for us!

Laetare Sunday was last Sunday, which means we are more than halfway through with Lent. Now is the time to check in and see how we are doing with our Lenten promises of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If we have failed in any way, it's okay. There is still time to make preparations and commitments before the holiest of weeks in the Church coming up on Palm Sunday.

My fasting has been committing to the Whole 30 which is no dairy, no alcohol, no grains, no many things I love! I have certainly failed. But each time I did, I recommitted and kept going rather than call it a wash.

As far as prayer, this has probably been the most fruitful for me this Lent. I have been using the devotional book that the Christian feminist group I am a part of has been going through together this Lent. It examines the book of Exodus. The first couple of weeks were hard because we all struggled to understand why God would be so angry and vengeful towards Moses, towards the Pharaoh, towards His Chosen People. Exodus is also hard because there are so many sections about laws and practices that can be considered excessive and moot in 2018.

What I have taken away from the passages in Exodus:

- we need rituals and sacrifices and discipline, God doesn't. He gives us laws for us to learn and grow.
- rituals can bring community together. People can all use their gifts in different ways as offerings to God.
- We should not lose focus when other idols or "gods" tempt us from straying from following God
- Moses was given a really, really hard task. He probably should have delegated more! It would have been less stressful! His father-in-law, Jethro, tried to tell him to do so!
- We really need to trust in God and others, even when they seem untrustworthy or illogical
- Though Israel was the first to practice monotheism, God is for all of us. Christ expanded God's covenant so that salvation is for all people and we are all now chosen.
- We should not "veil" our worship or radiance for God. We need to share His light with others

And that's what I've got so far. I'm sure as we continue to journey towards Easter this salvific story will take new forms and meaning.

I also have been praying for many special intentions that were given to me at the beginning of Lent. If you signed up to be prayed for on my Google form that I posted around Ash Wednesday, know that I have been praying for you daily!

In regards to almsgiving, I always clean out my closets at this time and give at least 5 items to charity. I've done the closet cleaning, just need to take the items to the drop off location sometime before Easter.

Last year, I was searching for community, and so far this year, community has played such an important role in my self care and relationship with God. I continue to be grateful for His faithfulness and providence. I look forward to celebrating with all of the carbs and Alleluias in the Easter season!

Finally, this Sunday's Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent has so many beautiful and noteworthy elements. When I met with the RCIA group this week, someone was called upon to spontaneously lead us in reflection of this passage from John and the Holy Spirit really moved through her. It was awesome to see. We noted that the Greeks were following Jesus around, not just the people of Israel. And not necessarily because they were wanting to harm Him, but because they were curious about Him. We thought this was interesting for many reasons. For one, it truly shows that the Messiah is for all of us. And this really would have shaken the Jewish chief priests even more about Jesus' ministry. Do we want to be like chief priests who were intolerant of Christ and did not welcome His followers? Or do we want to embrace all who want to follow Christ like Jesus did, regardless of background?

Christ also uses this metaphor about a grain of wheat needing to die in order to live. He is foreshadowing His own death and Resurrection, but I think it is certainly applicable to our sufferings and deaths as well. Suffering and "dying" to self is necessary to produce goodness and new life sometimes. This is a good reminder as we near the end of Lent and prepare for new life in the Easter season.

Happy St. Patrick's Day and (almost) end of Lent!