Friday, April 6, 2012

Keeping Christ Out, No More

Every year, without fail, I always fight with myself at the Good Friday service. Always. It's the one that nearly gets me, know what I mean?

I wrestle with my emotions and whether or not I should let them loose or keep them reigned in. Since the first time I altar served for Good Friday a few years ago, it's always difficult to keep myself composed. During the Veneration of the Cross, the servers wipe the places where the faithful venerate the cross. Most people kiss Jesus' feet and a handful, the wood of the cross.

The first time I served, I watched people's faces as they came up. One time, a woman came up with tears in her eyes. As she leaned forward to kiss the feet of Jesus, I heard the choir leading the congregation in song, specifically "Jesus, Remember Me." It was the perfect combination of beauty, of love, of faith, of devotion, of mystery. But I held back my own tears and repeatedly swallowed the lump in my throat. I shunned the goodness that was coming out of darkness.

Every year since that first time, I've come up with ways to avoid being emotionally involved. I was always afraid of showing how I felt, and by that I mean, I didn't want to let the tears fall. As I write this now, though, I think it goes deeper than being embarrassed of others seeing me. It's because I was afraid. Afraid of opening myself up and completely giving my entire being over to Christ. We remember His death today, and I can't even bring myself to shed a tear. No, no. Not one.

This year, my strategy was working just fine. I didn't look at anybody, but I would occasionally glance up to see how far along the line was moving. I just focused on the cross and where people touched it with their lips or with just their fingers. At one point, a woman bent down, and I noticed a few tears drip down Jesus' leg and onto the cross.

That didn't bother me that much, just a tiny bit. And the line moved, and it moved.

More time passed and out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly woman processing up on her knees, with a friend or relative alongside to steady her, should she fall. The cross was lowered so that she could reach it. For the first time tonight, I looked at someone's face. At her beautiful, weathered, wrinkled, freckled face. Streaming with tears. She ran her hand over the body of Jesus and down the wood of the cross, as she said something in Spanish between her tears. She then kissed His feet and tried to stand up, but she couldn't. Her companion assisted, but it wasn't enough. I bent down to help, and she was able to get to her feet after a few seconds of momentous effort. Before she walked away, she touched the cross again. And you know what song the choir was singing in the background? "Jesus, Remember Me." The song that always gets me.

She turned to leave, and I looked away. I looked at my hands. At the cross. At my feet. At the clergy's arm. I looked in vain at anything that would distract me, but I couldn't find a single object to keep my thoughts occupied. Within seconds, this woman's deep faith and love began crumbling my poorly constructed wall, a wall designed to keep Christ out. Though, the wall didn't fall down all the way because I forced myself not to let it. It took me several times of fake coughing into my arm and many blinks to get rid of the forming tears, but I did it. Once again, like clockwork, I refused to open up and let Christ in. I'm sure that someone who was paying attention to me would've realized the moment/episode I had, despite my best efforts to hide it.

I walked back to my seat in a sort of daze, annoyed and angry with myself that I was too afraid to just be. Then I remembered the part of the Passion in which the crowd participates by reading aloud, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" I can easily say that phrase and sin left and right like it's nothing. What I can't do was become vulnerable, to become fully open. What I couldn't do was let the tears fall. Tears of mourning, of thanksgiving, of love.

I realized tonight that I have been fighting not just with myself, but with Jesus for a very long time. I prayed that tonight would be the last time I was afraid. Tonight, hopefully, will be the last time that I avoid shedding tears for Jesus.

You see, the season of Lent and the Triduum liturgies have always been my favorite time/liturgical season of the year. Tonight, God provided me yet another reason to love Good Friday, but more importantly, to love Him.

Blessed and happy Easter to all of you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Some Beautiful Things

This is in (mostly) list format. I should be in bed, got a long day tomorrow as I'll be traveling to Washington, D.C. with about 30 other students from Tyson House for the annual spring break pilgrimage. I'm excited! Hopefully I'll post about it when I get home.

Some things from this past week:

- I was trying to read the Communist Manifesto for history class, but there were way too many distractions pulling me away from an already boring/tedious homework assignment. First, the building has yet to switch from heat to air conditioning (and/or my roommate and I just haven't bothered to mess with the thermostat). Second, I sat on my bed with the window open, admiring the sunset instead of words on a page when all of a sudden every bird in the courtyard (and dare I say, the entire neighborhood!) started a-chirping away! I literally stopped what I was doing and just sat in complete stillness with my mouth slightly agape. It was a beautiful melody, a beautiful reminder of God's awesomeness.

- I went to a rather nice, fancy restaurant with some dear friends who also happen to be non-biological family. It was awesome, but I won't lie when I say that I felt a bit out of place, especially when I dropped food on my lap not once, but twice. The point of that was really, I think, that in my slight uncomfortableness, I'm discovering more and more of who I am and what makes me feel most at peace. Which is a beautiful thing.

- Also, it started to storm, quite heavily, right before we left. I wore the wrong shoes to walk in puddles, so I did what I do best...walked to the car in a thunderstorm, barefoot, holding my shoes in my hand. Beautiful.

- The same night, I walked from my car to the apartment barefoot, shoes in hand. Best feeling in the world stepping over the uneven brick courtyard and sloshing through puddles, climbing up stairs with bits of whatever clinging to my feet. I ran into my roommate in the stairwell. She too was barefoot and holding her shoes. We smiled and laughed at each other. This scene was comically beautiful.

- For the last two weeks, I was able to take care of some horses, more so than my usual shift at the barn. It was a special circumstance with Horse Haven, an influx of more than 30 horses. So much so that we didn't have enough room at our actual facility, so the local fairground/park/thing let us stay there for awhile. I didn't work nearly as many hours as a few other individuals did, but man, am I pooped. But man, was it worth for every hour, every dirty barn booger, for crusty/dusty orange/brown hands at the end of the night...and no amount of washing could make the dirt go away. Smelling like a barn, horses, and hay and feeling tired because of hard work...beautiful.

- I'm dealing with post-concert blues. I'll be okay. It still blows my mind that one of my biggest, happiest dreams came true. Awesomely beautiful.

- Because of Mumford & Sons, I've discovered new music. I'm talking, wicked cool stuff. Ben Lovett, the keys/accordion player, co-founded a live music night called Communion in London in 2006 which has since grown to include more cities as well as a record label. Because of Communion's blog and because of the artists signed to the label, I've discovered so much more music that makes me happy. Beautiful.

So today/tonight/this morning's word of the day = beautiful.

Peace.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finding Integrity

Not that I didn't have integrity before Monday morning...but I was reminded of what it feels like.

I checked my grades Sunday evening and discovered that my Spanish midterm was added, and I astonishingly made a 97. For about 5 seconds, I was super excited, but then I convinced myself that the grade was a falsehood. But, I shared in my excitement with others and thought nothing of it until I walked into class Monday morning...

My professor handed back the exams, and in reality, I actually made an 87! The blow wasn't crushing, since I had prepared myself. After class, I slowly walked up to her and said that my grade was entered incorrectly. I gushed my revelation and quickly followed it up with, "I didn't want to tell you, but I knew that I had to..."

She smiled and said thank you. A few hours later, my grade reflected reality.

I'm still doing well in the class, even with losing 10 points that were never mine.

I told Fr. David that over dinner, and after I stopped squirming in my chair out of sheer whateverness (I had sunk rather low, so low that my face rested on the dinner table), I told him that I wasn't sure how I felt about the whole thing.

He said, well, that's integrity. And you have it.

I know that the brief sentence seems rather simple, but to me, the concept was far from simple. It took a dear friend and excellent shepherd to point that out to me.

Integrity...it feels weird to remember it, but it feels good.

Also, this has nothing to do with integrity, but I went to see Mumford & Sons last week (finally! a dream come true, to say the least), and here's a new song for ya. Conveniently filmed at the night of my show, which makes this video find doubly cool.

"Ghosts That We Knew" - Mumford & Sons

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Plato & Maclaren

Though this quote is incorrectly attributed to Plato, I still find it incredibly relevant.

"Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle." - Plato

It is widely believed that the Plato quote came from a legitimate quote by Ian Maclaren, which is "Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle."

No matter which version you prefer, you can't deny the resonating qualities they share. Over the last few weeks, I have come to know firsthand that the idea is quite beautiful, powerful, and overwhelmingly true. For days, whenever someone did the slightest thing that perturbed me or hurt my feelings, I just wanted to shout at them, Hey! Don't you know that I'm having a crappy day/week/life-situation and you're just making it worse?

I never did that, but I wanted to.

I try daily to remind myself of the quotes and the lesson behind them because when I wanted the world to understand, some parts of it didn't. I'd like to try and do my part to be kind, to loved ones and to strangers, because I don't know what's going on in their lives. As I'm sure we all know, resisting the urge to be a jerk is hard.

Whether or not it was consciously or unconsciously done, the meanness and insensitivity amplified my pain. So now, I'm aiming to lessen the negative impact that I have on those around me. It's been no easy road so far, but I'm trying.

Won't you try to?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Be.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

"We Will All Be Changed" - Seryn

Friday, February 10, 2012

But...how?

"Has anyone who trusted in the Lord ever been disappointed?" -Sirach 2:10

No, at least, I think so. I guess not.

"Those who trust in Jesus are as simple as children. They cling to His garments and in every difficulty have recourse to Him. Filled with trust, they exclaim: 'Help me, Lord Jesus, to overcome this enemy and this obstacle. You alone can help me and I am sure that You want to do so.'" -St. Francis de Sales

Okay.

But how?

How do you do that? How do you trust that deeply? Where does it come from?

I'm struggling with a lot. Obviously.

I'll try to cheer up. But not for you dear reader, for myself. I know I'm being selfish, but I crave some semblance of normality and familiarity. I don't like change. I'm afraid of big messy hard ugly change.

It hasn't been the best week, and all of a sudden I found myself in an extremely foul mood earlier. I couldn't really explain where it came from. It went away, and I'm glad.

All of this jumbled mess to say, good thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated for the undisclosed prayers in my heart.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Here's to you, Spring Semester

So, this post was supposed to go out at the start of the semester, not 3 weeks after the fact. Oh well. Story of my life. I'd like to note that this week is the first full one we've had this semester at UT.

Here's what I originally wrote and never posted:
I'm excited about spring semester for a couple of reasons. In my current state of mind, one thing to be excited about is the increase in contact with humanity. I've been house/dog-sitting for almost a week now, and I think I've got a slight case of cabin fever. Walking and playing with the dogs around the neighborhood has been quite refreshing. I can't believe I've lived in Sequoyah Hills for several months and never explored it until now (because I have to, haha). It's beautiful.

But yeah, slight isolation plus the fact that a lot of my friends aren't back in Knoxville only adds to the anticipatory feelings of a new semester. That and getting all my books in the mail. I was super stoked when I realized I only had to buy three.

My backpack will be significantly lighter. Even though I have an 8 a.m. and a night class, my schedule seems to be more to my liking (on paper...I'll get back to you once the semester sets in). For some strange reason that most people are utterly confused by, I like getting a "head start" to my day. I don't like 8a.m. classes and waking up super early, but I also have a weird thing about not sleeping past 10a.m. If I do, I feel like I waste the day! Don't you?
As for the walking around the neighborhood, well, I haven't done that since I stopped dog-sitting, which makes me sad because I had a lot of fun being outside. The semester has indeed provided a significant increase in contact with other human beings, which I enjoy. Some days not so much, but for the most part, my re-entry into the world has gone swimmingly. Made a new pass-each-other-in-the-hallway-every-day/grocery store friend in addition to the class friends one always makes with each new semester. What's nice about the class friends is that the faces are more often familiar than not, as we're all in the communications or Spanish programs. You're bound to see each other again if you're in the same major and especially so if the department offers very few sections. Class/section availability is an entirely different animal.

And so far, yes, I've enjoyed my schedule. The whole 8a.m. class is still simultaneously sucky and nice. My professor for my communications topics class (Communicating Diversity: Approaches, Applications, and Appreciation) is wicked cool. She's hysterical and really knows her stuff. Night class with her at the helm should not be difficult!

My backpack is indeed lighter. I particularly enjoy that fact that my current and previous Spanish classes did not require a textbook. We do have to print out some things, but it's much cheaper than buying a book. And that's always a nice thing.

I went from this (fall semester):

To this:

I'm still in the process of creating a new routine, but the first couple weeks of class have been pretty good.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Withered Hands and Souls

The other day I was having one of those hot mess kinda days. You know, the day when all you seem to do is make one dumb decision after another. In my case, I was all over the spectrum of ridiculousness, and the train of herp-a-derp started the night before.

Fast forward to the next morning. As I hurriedly drove to work, I had two things on my mind: send that email as soon as I walked in the door and go to daily Mass.

I plopped into the chair, and as I was composing my email, I thought, maybe I shouldn't go to Mass today. After all, I had made some poor decisions and didn't think I should go to Mass. I was awful that day.

I put that thought temporarily out of my mind as I scurried down the hall to the chapel. In spite of my efforts, I was still a tad bit late.

Great, I thought. Another reason why I shouldn't be here. But it was too late for me to do anything about it. I couldn't really bring myself to walk up and leave, disturbing everybody yet again.

When it came time for his homily, Father Julius made a few funnies and then spoke about the importance and beauty of the Eucharist. It was a refreshing reminder of just how crucial and wonderful a gift it is to receive.

He also offered his reflection on that day's Gospel reading, which was about the man with the withered hand. He said something that I wasn't expecting and will never forget.

In his beautiful accent, Fr. Julius told us that, "You may not cure a withered hand, but you may help cure a withered soul."

I was blown away. That was something that I absolutely needed to hear. I mean, how much more honest and beautiful and amazing can that statement get? Jesus can cure withered hands and souls. We cannot literally cure a withered hand. But what we can do is help cure each other's withered souls. Because we've all got them. I was a shining example of one that day. And every day for that matter.

That night, with Fr. Julius' words still in my thoughts, I read my prayer/reflection, which was centered on the following:
Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so whoever eats Me will live because of Me. -John 6:57

"The Holy Eucharist is a fire that purifies and consumes all our miseries and imperfections. Do everything in your power to make yourself worthy of the Eucharist, and this Divine Fire will take care of the rest." -St. Hyacinth of Mariscotti
At Mass, I felt the power behind these words: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Oh how unworthy I was...and am.

But oh how beautiful it is to be consumed by the Eucharist, to be cleansed of imperfections, to be loved by God, to help one another cure withered souls.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Sandwich

Today, I bought lunch for a homeless man.

I almost didn't though. I got stopped at a busy intersection for what felt like a lifetime, and I could see him out of my peripheral vision. But I couldn't bring myself to look at him, to make eye contact. I remember dumbly trying to hurry up the traffic by wishing that the cars would go faster. Once I was able, I drove past him believing that I could stop thinking about him. I was wrong. Oh how wrong I was.

Immediately, I had this indescribable feeling, this compulsion to do something. What I felt called to do was more than just uttering a prayer for this man. But I was afraid of the unknown. I've never done something like that before. I don't think I've ever really been listening to God in such a way, being so vulnerable and open to what He asked of me.

Seconds after, this line was so beautifully sung to me through the speakers, "But you are not alone in this." Once I heard that, it hit me. Even though I was afraid of the unknown, I wasn't alone and neither was that man sitting by himself, asking for food.

I went to the nearest Subway and got a sandwich and chips. I drove back, but before I walked the food over, I pulled out a little prayer card/icon of St. Timothy, which my friend had just given me on Friday. I placed the card in the bag with the food, and I walked over to the man. We startled each other, then smiled. He shyly said thank you, and I cheerily said no problem. Have a good day.

And I meant it. From the bottom of my heart, I wanted him to have a good day. I wish I could've said something more meaningful or beautiful, but at the time, that was all I could think to say.

I drove away, and in the time between my first "listening experience" and re-entering the car, the CD I was listening to had changed songs. As I left the man behind in my rear view mirror, I heard:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die.
And where you invest your love, you invest your life.

And I wept.

Not because I was sad, but because I had listened. Because I opened my heart up, and received such grace and love that I had never imagined was possible.

Today's first reading is from the first book of Samuel. Needless to say, I'm glad I went to Mass this morning. If I hadn't heard this, I don't know how attuned I would've been to listening to God today. Or any day.

Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD
where the ark of God was.
The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, "Here I am."
Samuel ran to Eli and said, "Here I am. You called me."
"I did not call you, " Eli said. "Go back to sleep."
So he went back to sleep.
Again the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli.
"Here I am, " he said. "You called me."
But Eli answered, "I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep."

At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD,
because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet.
The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time.
Getting up and going to Eli, he said, "Here I am. You called me."
Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.
So he said to Samuel, "Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,
Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening."
When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, "Samuel, Samuel!"
Samuel answered, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.


I almost didn't buy a sandwich today, but I'm glad that I did. I almost didn't listen today, but I'm glad that I did.

Speak Lord, for you servant is listening. Finally.


They actually sing the verses that I mentioned earlier in French instead of English, but according to one youtube user, these are the French lyrics:
Dans ces corps, nous vivons (In these bodies we will live)
Dans ces corps, nous mourons (In these bodies we will die)
Où tu mets ton amour, tu mets ta vie (Where you invest your love, you invest your life)
Reveille mon âme (Awake my soul)

Either way, it's too beautiful not to share.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How Catholic Are You?

Last night, a new acquaintance of mine asked, "So how Catholic are you?"

I chuckled at the silliness of the question. I mean, what kind of question is that? Or better yet, how does one answer that?

Because this person started to zone out as soon as he finished talking, I never really got the chance to answer, but here's what I started to say:

"Well, two of my best friends are priests, and I'm going to a concert with them Friday night along with a deacon whom I work with. We're also going with the former Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for my home parish, and my friend (who's-a-sista-from-anotha-mutha) who happens to be a student at the University of Notre Dame."

Note that I said "home parish"...because I'm so Catholic that I go to two parishes. My bi-locating abilities are a product of geography: I live 4 miles away from the cathedral, and St. Thomas is 25 miles away from my apartment. So whichever parish I'm scheduled to be at for whatever liturgical ministry (of the 3 ministries that I'm a part of) decides which church pew I'll be sitting in. And let's be honest, sometimes I don't want to wake up earlier than needed to drive back to Lenoir City if I'm not "supposed to be there." And when you're a college kid living off of minimum wage, gas is a precious commodity that's more valuable than food if you're a commuting student like me.

I'm also an intern at the Chancery for the Diocese of Knoxville. I'm a godmother to my baby cousins and my friend, who is like my little brother, Diego. I love incense and literally jump and squeal with glee when I find out that we'll be using it during Mass. Oh and I love going to Mass.

I also just love God. A lot.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Few Things

I just had a million things running through my head, so I thought I'd write some of them down. So this is part resolution list and part whatever.

1. Smile more. My most recently acquired nickname is Smiley. It originated from being part of the "giggle girls" (the 3 interns), but the point is, I laugh and smile a lot. Apparently more than I thought. I think I'll keep that up. In fact, during Mass this morning I realized that my smile is a gift from God, and He wants me to use it. So I will!

2. I'd seriously like to get in better shape. Everyone looks at me funny when I say that, but really, just because you consider me small/skinny/slender/flaca doesn't mean that I'm in great shape. Ideally, I'd like to be healthy and fit enough to make my pipe-dream pilgrimage/hike that I could do this summer but most likely won't. If nothing else, I can meander around the Smokies more efficiently.

3. I find that I rather enjoy learning and being knowledgeable. Take this morning for instance. Dad, Ape, and I were watching a local sports talk show, and for whatever reason the host decided to incorporate the end of the Mayan calendar. He asked if the likelihood of the Mayans being right was more probable than the Vols winning some conference title. If the Mayans are right, he said, then the world ends on December 23. But the three of us felt pretty sure (and I looked it up right after he misspoke) that the calender ends on December 21. Strike one!

This poor fella went on to say that if only those Mayans saw Cortes coming with smallpox...blah blah blah. I laughed because the host was so wrong! Hernan Cortes never made contact with the Mayans...he made contact with and caused the downfall of the Aztecs. Strike two!

I heehawed, but then I later became thoughtful and thankful for my education. Not that this man wasn't (I mean, he knows more about UT athletics than I ever will), but come on, two strikes within 30 seconds...

4. I have a blog. I should use it more. Writing here is cathartic.

5. Eagerly, ridiculously, unashamedly, I wait for Mumford & Sons to release their next album.

6. Eagerly, ridiculously, unashamedly, I hope that several artists/bands that I love will make appearances within a 200 mile radius this year.

7. Love. Be God's light for others. Be the face of Jesus. Stumble but get right back up...and ask for help when I find that I can't do it alone.

Word. Happy New Year folks!