You Are Still Alive.

I just received word through the social media grapevine that a couple that I knew only distantly in college suffered a great tragedy – the husband was killed in a car wreck late last night and she is now widowed with 6 young children and a 7th on the way.

Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of death of another friend from college who was diagnosed, fought, and died valiantly from an intense form of cancer all in a couple of months time.  His wife was also left widowed with 3 young children, pregnant with their 4th.

On Dec. 12, a lovely young mother here in town also died from cancer, after 6 months of fighting, leaving behind her husband and 3 daughters who are 3, 2, and 6 months old.  She was only 32.

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Eyes Wide Open

It’s been a rough 2 weeks.  I’m not looking for pity, and I know that others’ have crosses that are a lot bigger than mine, but the past few weeks have been one thing after another going wrong.  I feel like God’s putting me through a second Lent – a season of penance – but I don’t know why.  Didn’t I do Lent well enough the first time?  When do I get my Easter, damn it?

Again?  No!

Again? Please no!

That’s just part of an email I sent to a friend yesterday morning.  I was cranky and mildly depressed wondering why all of these little things kept going wrong.  Then, yesterday, I was reading through the letters to the Bishop written by the high school Juniors who will be receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation on May 19.  They write these letters to the bishop requesting the sacrament and telling him why they want it.  Even through they’re addressed to the bishop, I read each one.

This screening helps me discover who has slipped through the cracks in our Confirmation process and maybe isn’t ready for this Sacrament quite  yet:  “I’m really a practicing Buddhist, but my parents are making me do this.  I don’t believe in Jesus at all – but whatever.  Better safe than sorry, I guess.”  (Direct quote from a letter 3 years ago).

It also saves me the embarrassment of revealing the catechetical confusion that occasionally results from our faith formation classes: “I picked the name Jacob for my Confirmation name because he was Joseph’s dad. If Jacob done even one thing differently when he raised Joseph, Joseph might not have married Mary and become a father figure to Jesus.” (sigh)

See, Jacob's son Joseph was the one with the technicolor dreamcoat

See, Jacob’s son Joseph was the one with the technicolor dreamcoat…

Mary's husband Joseph lived thousands of years later and his father was...Oh nevermind.

…but Mary’s husband Joseph lived thousands of years later and his father was…

Awww hell, just forget it.

It’s not all weeping and banging my head on my desk though.  Often, I am privy to some deeply faithful insights.  Usually those make me beam with no small amount of pride, but I’m working on eradicating pride right now, so this year I read them asking God to reveal to me, through these teenagers, what I needed most to hear.  And then I read this:

“God plays a big role in everyone’s life.  You just have to open your eyes to see how. Sometimes He speaks in ways that seem little, but are really the most important.”

Bam. Read More

The Joy in the Tragedy

It’s been a week now since the tragedy took place at Sandy Hook Elementary school and I think I have finally gotten my thoughts together enough to write a cohesive blog about it.  I’ve been wanting to flush out my feelings on it all – about my outrage, about my sadness, about faith & free will, about the media, etc.  There’s been dozens of ideas and trains of thought running through my head and I haven’t been able to put pen to paper (so to speak) about any one of them.  I’ve started and stopped writing several blogs because there’s just too much to say about this one event.

The Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents

Like everyone else, I was shocked and sickened by what happened to all those folks, especially those innocent little children.  I can’t say anything more than what’s already been said in hundreds of other blogs, messages, memes, Facebook posts & statues.  My heart aches for the families.  My soul prays for them and seeks meaning in it all.  I know the world in which my own children are growing up has, once again, been changed in a dramatic way. Read More

The Morning After: An Important Lesson

I’ve always been a quick learner.  I was the kid in elementary school who could read the spelling words through twice and ace the test.  Throughout high school and college, I was the student who managed to get high marks without studying for a test.  I wrote lengthy papers at the last minute, with no editing or proofreading and pulled an A.  I’m not proud of these things – mostly because I did nothing to deserve my good grades.  Good memory genes – fluke of nature, gift from God – nothing I can take credit for.

That awkward moment when you ruin the grading curve.

Also because I ruined a few grading curves…never a good moment for a nerdy kid.

Married life has increased the learning curve for me a little bit.  For example, it took me all of 3 years of marriage to learn that “Love” is not a feeling that you fall into.  No, Love is a choice.  It’s the choice to act kind, loving and intimate all the time – on the days when I like my husband, the days when he’s being romantic, and the days when he remembers to take out the garbage…but even more importantly, it’s choosing to love him on the days when I really don’t like him, when he’s being a doofus, and when he’s eating chips two inches from my ear and I want to punch him in the face through the bag.

Take another handful of those chips, I dare you!

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Hope Floats

“Always be prepared to give a reason for your hope.” 1 Peter 3:15

I recently found myself in a conversation with a friend who is struggling with depression and feeling overwhelmed. At work, with his family, in his marriage, keeping up at home…he has been sinking under the weight of all of his struggles and responsibilities. At one point in the conversation I encouraged him to have hope that things were going to be okay.

He got instantly angry.

“What do you mean? How do you know it’s going to be ok? Are you going to get me a new job? Can you fix the broken relationships in my life? I cannot just ignore the problems and hope they’ll just go away. You may live your life that way, but I can’t function like that.”

In that moment, I had an opportunity to share the reason for my hope…to explain how my faith gives me patience to wait for God’s timing in my life. To witness to the ultimate hope in Christ and the promise of eternal life that keeps me going through the hard times. To connect with the Paschal Mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Christ that we just celebrated a few weeks ago. To show him how my Christian faith has totally transformed my life.

But I didn’t do any of those things.

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Hell hath frosted over

Hell must have frozen over because I have seen some things lately that probably indicate Frost Covered Treesthe end times are near. Let me explain.

I was running a retreat at a neighboring parish this weekend. It was one of those required one day confirmation retreats that try to give a retreat experience to those last 10% of kids who haven’t done a retreat yet. Nothing wrong with these teens, we love them, and it seems like church may not be the most important thing in their life. I think you get what I am saying.

At the end of the retreat we did a reconciliation service in the beautiful side chapel of the parish. At this parish, the tabernacle was kept in this side chapel, which was great for us; we got to pray before the Blessed Sacrament while preparing or praying through our penances.  About 40 minutes into our prayer time, this little old lady comes into the chapel and walks before the tabernacle. She genuflects, takes the tabernacle key from its hiding spot and begins to open the tabernacle.

Honestly, it was a bit of a shock. We had just spent all this time praying to Jesus who was stuck inside his tent, and all of a sudden, the tent flaps were opening and Jesus was coming out.  A crazy thing happened next. As I went to kneel, the entire room started moving from their various positions of repose (laying, sitting, leaning), and knelt while Jesus in the Eucharist was removed and moved into the main church in preparation for Mass.  It was a moment.  There was a palpable change in the room. The whispering teens stopped chatting. The sleeping teens awoke.  The teens reading a Bible out of boredom paid attention.  Seriously, it was miracle akin to Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection.

I was moved. Read More