Friday, August 21, 2009

The Virtue of Courage

There is something inspiring about hearing stories of great courage. The courage of others gives courage to those who lack it. This story about Belmont Abbey College is one that is dripping of courage, of conviction, of passion, and of the kind of boldness that trust in God and belief in the Truth of Catholicism cultivates. Sometimes, we must brandish Catholicism like a mighty sword. And if we die by the edge of that sword, we die a martyr's death, having fought for and defended the only thing in this life that is truly worth dying for. That is what the President of Belmont Abbey College understands. That willingness to lay down oneself, to sacrifice the comforts of a prestigious job, to choose to never diminish the dignity of a life lived for something greater is what changes the world. It is what living the Chrisitian life is all about. It demonstrates exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross and to follow Him.

Who knows where I actually was.

Today during mass, I found myself sitting down listening to the homily. The sad part is I don't remember standing up and singing the Alleluia, any of the Gospel, or sitting back down again. I know that I was lost in thought, but I'm not convinced that I remained awake that whole time. Although I'm almost certain I was standing...maybe... Pathetic.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Underestimated Blessing

A few days before I left for school I was thinking and praying about detachment. It seems that as we detach ourselves from the things in the world (good things and bad things) we are more able to recognize them as gifts from God. When we remember that they are gifts and we live accordingly, the glory goes to God and our lives show more clearly the vision He has for them. Although I have been frustrated recently with the fact that my life is not settled (with moving back and forth from school for the past three years and all), I think that it provides me a constant reminder of the gifts in my life. It allows me to miss. And when I miss something, I know, without question, that that thing is a gift. When I'm home, I miss school. When I'm at school, I miss home. All of the moving back and forth and the temporary nature of my decisions helps me to remain detached. I can't get too comfortable. The reality that home and school (more specifically the life I'm able to live in each place) are gifts becomes very apparent. This is a blessing. Because when I know that what I have is a gift from God it is easier for me to listen. When I have concrete knowledge of the fact that I only have limited time to learn the lessons God plans for me to learn, to impact the lives He wants me to impact, and to grow in the ways He wants me to grow, I listen better. I trust more. I pay just a bit more attention to rhythm He sets for my life. That's when God's able to change me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Are You Leaving In Peace?

That question has been on my heart the last couple of days. As I prepare to go back to school tomorrow morning, I find myself doing major reflecting on my summer. There is a list of things (some big and some insignificant) that I intended to do that I did not.

I never went fishing, never shot a gun, never went horseback riding. The pile of books planned for summer reading is almost the same size it was when summer began. The writing I planned to do is saved in a document that was touched far less frequently than I had hoped. My room is far from the organized vision I had for it.

There is an even longer list of things I did (some big and some insignificant) that I had not planned on doing. Women's Night with the youth group was one of the biggest ways God blessed my summer. A couple random road trips with my family made the bonds of family stronger. Conversations that I never expected to have made the summer nights just a bit sweeter. However, these lists are not really the source of my reflection. My greater concern is whether or not I'm leaving in peace.

Am I at peace with the ways I have chosen to spend my time? Do I have peace in my friendships or are there too many things being left unsaid? Am I at peace with God? Have a nurtured my relationship with Him, or do I need to beg for His forgiveness for all the ways I did not? Do I leave the Parish in peace? Have I served it in the way God has asked me to? Have I build relationships in the way He intended? Is there peace in my home and with my family?

The time that I was physically in my house this summer was minimal. I spent a fair amount of time at work. I spent vast amounts of time doing youth ministry stuff. I had the occasional outing with close friends. There was a time when Pete called needing help with Steubenville stuff and work called needing help on the same day. I chose to help Pete. In that moment, I felt like I had begun making decisions the way I hope to make them for the rest of my life. Youth group was more important to me. And even though the work at the store probably would have been less stressful and I would have been paid, still I knew that youth group was more important. I really believe that it was what God was calling me to make my primary vocation this summer. I'm very much at peace with all of the time I chose to invest in the program.

I've been learning a hard lesson this summer about communication. This is mostly because I'm unhealthily afraid of intimacy and vulnerability. The thought of someone knowing what I'm thinking sends me into a state of paralyzing fear. God continues to place people in my life that challenge this fear, and He frequently rewards me with the peace and freedom of honest communication. This summer was no exception to that. Are there some things being left unsaid? Yes. And probably more than just a few. But I do have peace; it's the kind of peace that comes with knowing that even though I am imperfect God's grace is changing me. I have grown, and I will continue to do so.

Daily mass was far less of a reality in my life than it should have been. While I did frequent the adoration chapel, the source and summit of my faith was neglected. A lot of times it was because of sheer lack of virtue. For this I will make amends with God. Did I choose virtue at every turn? No. Did I follow through with everything His voice prompted me to do? No. Did I learn how to hear Him better? Yes. Do I regret the times I failed to listen? Yes. Do I have peace? Yes. Although it is only because I know that mercy redeems.

This summer I fell in love. The object of my affection? Assumption Parish and the life that is present there. Do I have peace? Yes. However this peace is marked with great anticipation. In many ways as I journey back to college I do so in the hope that I will grow in ways that will allow me to serve the Parish even better.

And my family? That is a bit more complicated. Is there peace? Perhaps. But in many ways my family life is characterized by conflicting values and opinions of what is best. I'm assured only by the fact that I believe God is working. He'll stretch my ability to be a good daughter.

There is deep sadness in my heart as I say my goodbyes and work to pack up my things. I'm temporarily leaving a life that I love in order to pursue a life that I hope I will grow to love. The beautiful thing is that there is an even deeper conviction that what I'm doing is God's will. I know that I could never be the person God created me to be without this last year at Benedictine. I hope that the power of God's grace meets the fertile soil of an open heart - even when my sadness leads to doubt.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Visionary Award

"This is a young adult woman, 18-30, who sees what others may not; a woman who sees reality from another perspective, makes connections others miss and has the courage to call others to change."

Today the Archdiocese of St. Louis is acknowledging the lives of 22 women by giving them this award; I'm honored to be among those women.

I hope to be a young woman of great vision. I hope that those words can describe me not because I'm idealistic or because I think up creative solutions to problems. Rather, I hope those words describe me because I strive to be in tune with God's vision.

I hope that I do see reality from another perspective; I hope that it is because I'm seeing it through the eyes of God, not my own. I hope that throughout my time on earth I will be able to see that all of life's joys, regrets, blessings, and suffering are deeply connected to God's vision for not only my own salvation, but also the salvation of all of mankind.

Today at the reception which followed the award ceremony, a man in his seventies came up to me and told me a story about how he had come to realize the Gospel of Christ is alive. He began by telling me that he and I had something in common, because he too is in love. He ended by telling me that when he saw the pictures in the Review, he knew that each of us were the living manifestation of the Gospel he knew to be alive. He reminded me that while it is true that I have vision, it is also true that I am young. In many ways that man's life is a far greater testament to the Gospel than my own. He has lived through more; he has suffered through more. I do have hope and vision. But I also have no idea.

I have great hope in the beauty of a holy marriage ... but I do not know the struggle and hardship that is part of giving your life entirely to another.

I have great hope in the beauty of carrying life within me ... but I do not know the insecurity and discomfort of being pregnant.

I have great hope in the beauty of natural childbirth ... but I do not know the pain of labor.

I have great hope in the beauty of being the sustaining factor in the lives of my babies ... but I do not know the confinement and difficultly of nursing.

I have great hope in the beauty of inspiring my students ... but I do not know the stress and frustration of teaching.

I have great hope in the beauty of a life lived for God and God alone ... but I do not know the pain and suffering that leads to the victory of the cross.

But I do know this: any vision for beauty is a gift from God, and His grace will carry me through the parts about which I have no idea. His grace is bigger than my youth. And His vision is one in which joy and peace surpass all suffering.

That elderly man was right about one thing. I am in love. Somehow, in someway, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with the King of Kings. And I know that it is with that love and through that love that I'll see God's vision become reality.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

To Be Truly Healed

How many times do we really experience healing? So often it seems that people settle for less than true healing. We pretend to be satisfied by endings that only vaguely resemble true healing.

If we really believe in a God from whom the circumstances of our lives are a gift, then when we experience hurt, we should seek the growth God intends for us through it. We should seek the purpose of His allowance of such things in our lives. We should seek to be healed of our pain by Him, because it is through His healing that we will come to experience the full extend of the peace and joy that God wants for us.

I think that part of the reason healing is so difficult is that it often (initially) involves more pain. This makes sense when we understand that God works through our pain to perfect us. So much good would come from truly being healed that the extra pain is almost a necessity. I think it all comes back to the fact that it is hard to understand God's ways. It is hard for us to consent to more pain, because it is hard for us to trust and hope that God has a bigger plan. And it is hard for us to trust and have hope because the reality of God's plan is so much greater, so far beyond, our meager human understanding. So much so that even when we do find peace, we cannot fully understand the magnitude of what we are experiencing.

Every time we encounter pain we stand at a crossroad. It is the crossroad between a lackluster way of living that involves covering up and pretending and the embracing of the life-altering pain and grace of true healing.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

God Became Man...

...and dwelt among us. I had one of those moments yesterday where truth that I have known for a long time hits me a new way. It happened unexpectedly at work. I was walking into the back room and suddenly more of the weight of the Incarnation fell upon me. When I think about what humanity is, my tendency is to think about all of the ways we've gone wrong. It is far easier for me to reflect on how we should be better than it is for me to reflect on how we already are good. Just look at a little bit of salvation history. God creates Adam and Eve. He (the God who is far greater than His creation) sees it all as good. Man breaks under the weight of his pride and falls into disobedience. God renews His covenant with man through Abraham. Man fails. God renews His covenant with man through Noah. Man fails. God renews His covenant with man through Moses and gives the 10 Commandments. Man fails. All of salvation history is the story of covenants and failure. Throughout that time humanity becomes more and more selfish and less and less consumed by God. So what does God do? He decides to become one of us. He decides to become man. God becomes man in the fullest sense of the word. He becomes the very people who have failed throughout history. He enters into the chaos that His creation has become in the very form of the being through which the chaos entered. And He takes the full weight of our sin upon Himself. He spends His life on earth loving us, caring for us, teaching us, and healing us. Then, He picks up His cross, walks the road to Calvary, and He dies a bloody and humiliating death for our sins. It's obvious which end of the covenant is really committed to our salvation. We have a God who has done everything He can and has ensured, by His very life, that nothing can stand in the way of our salvation. Nothing but our own choice.