Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life and Death

"Life and Death" by Walt Whitman

The two old, simple problems ever intertwined,
Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled.
By each successive age insoluble, pass'd on.
To ours to-day--and we pass on the same.

"Comfort one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." -1 Thessalonians 5:11

If on any particular day we do nothing more than give a little joy to a neighbor, that day will not be wasted. For we have succeeded in giving comfort to an immortal soul. -Blessed Contardo Ferrini

For all the faithful departed, and for those who desire to one day enter into the Kingdom, we pray to the Lord.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Living Stations of the Cross

This post is a bit later than I would've liked, but better late than never. At St. Thomas (the home parish for me), the Friday before Palm Sunday is always the night that the youth group does the living stations of the cross.

I've been fortunate to have been a part of this prayerful production. This year, as well as in years past, I was also the photographer. I don't think I have much photography skill, but I'm happy to oblige.

As always, the youth do a wonderful job. I believe I'm visually oriented, so praying the stations with a real-life picture in front of me is so beautiful. What's even more special, to me at least, is that our actors have no lines. They're totally stationary, which somehow makes it more powerful. Here are just a few images of the evening:

Above and below: The actors and actress playing Jesus, Mary, and Simon of Cyrene are brothers & sister. So awesome!

The whole crew: narrators, choir members, stage hands, and the actors.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't Fall Asleep

The other day, I had iTunes set on the "prayertime" playlist, and "Stay Here", one of my favorite Taize songs, started playing.

Stay here and keep watch with me. Watch and pray.

I kept chewing and chewing on these beautiful words. I came to no grandiose conclusions. What I arrived it was much simpler,

Don't fall asleep. Stay awake. Keep watch with Me. Pray.

But, oh how many times have I fallen asleep! I'm just as bad as the disciples were in the garden. I may think and tell myself that I'll stay awake, but no, there have been times when I willfully and sometimes unconsciously wandered away or fallen asleep.

So, let's all try to stay here and keep watch. Let's not let the gift of the cross and the resurrection pass us by, let's not let Easter go by as just another day of the year.

Let us all be awake this Triduum, this Easter. Be present and soak up everything that's around us during these beautiful liturgies.

I love Holy Week.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


This semester my RA decided to put up a poster with all of her residents' names. Every time you go to a program or any big campus-wide event, you get a star. At the end of the semester, the one with the most stars gets a prize of some sort.

A prize?! Yes! I'll play. But I also just like going to programs or university events (if I can and I'm interested in those, there are an awful lot of them all of the time). I like being able to show my face and give my support. So if I'm the only one who shows up to my RA's program, awesome.

However, I also love the thrill of victory and the taste of winning and the adrenaline of competition. Not that getting a star by my name gets me all pumped up to run a marathon or tackle a bear, but you know what I mean. I do get pretty happy when I earn another star.

As the not-so-awesome Charlie Sheen would say, "Winning!" Or if you're on Twitter, #winning

On Sunday and Monday nights, we had our most popular and well attended program. I came out Sunday night for a bit and was able to come back Monday night. More girls showed up or at least walked through, so naturally we chatted briefly. One girl said, "Who's Ashley S.?" I smiled sheepishly and said, "Me."

We were just talking about how many multiple names we have: 2 Ashleys, 2 Chelseas, 2 Kendras, and 3 Caitlins (...3 different spellings). The other Ashley was asking about me, because she saw that I'm the one in the lead right now! They're after me. It was all good fun though. It's nice getting to meet your neighbors, but it is funny because we only have a few weeks of the semester left and we just now decided to talk/have fun with each other.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Aluminum Cans

I don't know how else to approach the topic of capital punishment, other than, I don't like it. I've stewed over this post for the last few days, and I can simmer no more.

Whoa! Can of worms! Did you hear it being opened? I did from a mile away.

You know how people often cherry-pick Bible verses? Within the Catholic Church (and other Christians of the pro-life movement), I feel that abortion is almost always "cherry picked" over other issues related to the sanctity of life, like abolishing capital punishment. I don't know the official definition of pro-life, but when I hear that word and apply it to my life and my beliefs, it encompasses more than just abortion.

A quick Google search of "pro-life" turned up nothing related to capital punishment. Nothing! Maybe it is hidden away in some obscure page of the websites I perused, but I simply don't have the time to go through everything. Which brings me back to the point...why is there no highly visible presence for abolishing the death penalty? The only time I ever hear anything about it is when someone on death row in Tennessee is getting ready to be executed...the local stations usually report about the flood of last minute appeals and shout-outs to the governor to grant clemency.

But outside of those few moments, I honestly cannot recall a time when I heard about someone advocating for the end of capital punishment. All the time, all year round, I hear a constant stream of anti-abortion news, both triumphs and failures. Some days, I get a little annoyed with the flood. I think that my slight annoyance stems from my confusion as to why no one floods the media and our world with abolishing the death penalty.

I also realize that capital punishment is its own minefield.

Let's be frank. At this particular moment in time and in my life, I feel more connected to abolishing the death penalty than I feel connected to the "pro-life" movement. I don't know why, but I do. If feeling this way makes me less of a Christian, less of a Catholic, too bad. I don't want to keep hiding behind the curtain because I'm afraid of what people will think and say because I'm not overly-excited about anti-abortion. Because I'm not. I can't keep lying to myself. My energy is directed towards abolishing the death penalty.

Within the last 48-ish hours, I heard talk of ending abortion on at least 2 separate occasions. I heard about making moral choices and decisions. I listened as individuals spoke about the value of life. I listened as they stressed the importance of prayer and seeking God's guidance. Within those last 48-ish hours, I heard not a word about abolishing the death penalty. I heard nothing about how all life is sacred, including the lives of those on death-row.

Right about now arrives the "well, they deserve to die for what they did" point. And it is a very valid one. It is. Acts of unspeakable horror should never be committed against any living human being (and animal, but that's another topic for another day). No one's last look or feeling or memory on this earth should be one of immense pain and terror and sadness. No one. Families and friends don't deserve the pain, sadness, and suffering that comes with the sudden, brutal loss of a loved one.

And you're probably right when you say that they deserve it. But several years ago, by the grace of God I came across a quote that had finally articulated what I had always felt about the death penalty, which is
"Be against the death penalty. Yes, they deserve it. But thank God, 'that for your grace I don't get what I deserve.'" -Mother Antonia Brenner
Yet again, God chose to strengthen my heart and my resolve. On Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Sister Helen Prejean speak. What an incredible woman and inspiration! She came to campus as part of human rights week, and I did my best to take notes in the hopes that I will remember her words as time passes. Here are some of my favorites/highlights:

"Do you know what they write down on the death certificate as cause of death? It's legal homicide. Legal homicide." I had no idea. Actually, I never gave any thought to what was written down.

On the expensive enterprise of capital punishment: "Do you want to keep using resources for the machinery of death?" No! I certainly don't want to. Allocate money and time and effort into other areas that are actually worthy causes, not death.

She also spoke heavily about the social and racial side of capital punishment. From her many years in the cause for abolishing the death penalty, she's discovered that with many cases, the race of the victim was a huge determining factor in whether capital punishment was sought by prosecutors. People (of any race, but especially black) who murder a white person are more likely to be put on death-row.

Sister Prejean also noted that our culture keeps us from questioning the inhumanity of capital punishment. It is especially troublesome for victims' families because if they don't seek/want the death penalty, they are perceived as being weak...that they didn't really love the victim. Which is a total BS call. Once I had finally figured out how I felt about capital punishment, I broached the subject with my family. I told them that if something were ever to happen to me (no matter the atrocity), I hope that they will honor my wish that the death penalty not be sought. If my family, or any family of any murdered loved one, didn't seek the death penalty, that does not mean that they didn't love the person.

That being said...forgiveness, Sister noted, is seen as weak. If we forgive the murderer or rapist, then surely we must be weak. I can't fathom how forgiveness is is sometimes the hardest thing we ever do. It makes us stronger. She also added that forgiveness isn't just a gift that you give to another, but that it is a way to save and preserve yourself. Forgiveness allows us to keep bitterness from taking hold in our hearts. If we never forgave our trespasses, I think we would all be pretty ugly inside, and we'd probably act ugly too.

It all boils down to dignity. Each person has the right to be treated as a human being. Not being treated as a human being just sucks, to put it simply. Out of her entire talk, what resonates the most with me was this, that "We recycle aluminum cans, but we just throw people away." Sister Prejean nailed it.

To me it seems that in our self-centered, culture of instant gratification and aspirations of wealth and fame, it is easy to forget our humanness. We become objects. Once you become an object and not a breathing living loving human person, you are easier to throw away. Sure, we recycle paper, plastic, cans, and the like. But we really do throw people away. Once I sin, the first time you sin, the millionth time she/he sins, yer out! You get tossed on the heap of garbage which everyone thinks you belong in.

But, nobody deserves to be thrown away. Even the ugliest of us deserves the right to live. People wanted to throw Jesus away. And they did, on a cross.

If all life truly is precious and valuable, then how can a person be anti-abortion but pro-capital punishment? How can one advocate for the rights of one but not the other?

Murderers don't have the right to take away life, and neither do we. Because if we think that we have the right to take away their life, then, "Killing the killers makes killers of us all." -my Uncle, Dana Cole

Friday, April 8, 2011

A New Life

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. -Romans 6:1-11

The other night, in a moment of startling lucidity, I read the verse "Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

Whoa. What? In baptism, I die so that I may rise with Jesus?

I've heard that many times before, but I guess it never really stuck until last night. The gravity of such a wonderful thing never hit me before.

The waters of baptism let us rise with Jesus. We are dead to sin. And we are alive in Christ!

This post seems so scatter-brained and chaotic to me, but perhaps it is because even though I finally get it...I still can't wrap my mind around it. Such is the mystery and beauty of God.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sleep Deprivation

I should not be doing anything right now because I am so tired! However, I must hold out until 11p.m. If I go to sleep now or really before that time, then I will either a) sleep so much that once I wake up I'm still tired or b) wake up way too early and start this vicious cycle of not sleeping/sleeping/napping during the day all over again.

Not that you care to know any of that, but you know me, I like to share.

In other news, I resurrected my Twitter account. I've had it since September but stopped using it in October. Don't really remember why I let it fall to the wayside, oh well. But now I'm back and I love it! I do enjoy blogging and Facebook, but Twitter is also fun. I feel I can say more/do more there than I would here. If you have a Twitter, you should come find me @_horsesash

Haha! Get it? I'm punny. But the credit to that awesomeness isn't mine. My good friend Fr. Christian helped come with the moniker.

And since I have time for nothing else, here is yet another sampling of some of my favorite movie score/orchestra/awesome tunage.

"Still (Reprise)" by Hans Zimmer, from Black Hawk Down

"Hector's Death" by James Horner, from Troy

Estoy muy cansada. Buenas noches mis amigos.