Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good Friday

Part Two: Good Friday...The day the Catholic Church (and Christian churches alike) remember Christ's suffering and death on the Cross.

I had to go to work on Good Friday, which made me sad.  It's like I think that I can't live a religious life and work...which is completely ridiculous to sit here and type, but it's how I behave.  I was dreading school because I couldn't "meditate" on God all day (like I really would have anyway!) and INSTEAD I had to finish my report cards AND lesson plan for the next week. 

Then, enter Fr. Rick into my head (again) and all the people who are workers for the Church.  Here are people whose busiest week of the year is Holy Week.  They don't get any time off....ever, during that week.  Does God just forsake them?  NO!  There has to be promise in their days too.  So, why couldn't this be true of my life??

There have been many times (at school mostly) where I've had entirely too much that needed to get done in one day just for me to keep my job.  And always, without fail, I get these things done WHEN I offer them to God first.  So, here I was: 7:15am Good Friday morning saying, "Lord, I'm mad at you (see Holy Thursday post) but I know you are the ONLY One who can help me get all this done....so here goes."

And, boy did it go!  Not only did I finish my report cards, I was able to lesson plan for the new week, AND an incredibly generous mom helper came and did my copies, too!  It was all done AND I was ahead!  Shocking!  With those things out of the way, I felt like I was really able to enter the Way of the Cross procession we had with CL later that afternoon without thinking I neglected something at school. 

My Good Friday was amazing and not because I escaped school (please, I still had a ridiculous amount of papers to grade on Saturday) but because I was able to embrace my job as part of my vocation--as a way to love God on his Holiest Week of the year.  And this was freedom!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Holy Thursday

My first installment is the FIRST day of the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday or the celebration of Jesus' last supper with His apostles.  It's also the day we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist AND the commissioning of priests...so it's a big deal!

We're also focused on when Jesus stooped down and washed his friends' feet.  A sign of ultimate humility, especially for someone who was God!

I attended Holy Thursday Mass at St. John's downtown and was surprised to see hardly any people in the pews and more priests than I could count!  We had the privilege of having the assistant Bishop be with us AND priest-to-be Deacon Dustin Boehm....and Roncalli 2002 graduate.  (my class...just sayin)

I will never forget the message of Dustin's homily...sometimes the word "servant" is just a word...but Jesus put flesh to those words when he washed the disciples feet or mounted the cross.  Today, since Christ lives NOW, priests put flesh to those words...going to be alone every night so he can spend his waking moments serving his brothers and sisters (God's creatures.)  The priest does this simply to show us Christ now, because without the priest's life, words wouldn't be enough.

Dustin's insights made me want to live better.  Sure, it's not necessarily a committed choice, but I too, go to bed alone every night.  And I've asked myself several times, "What's the deal, God?  What's wrong with me?  Why can't I just get married like everyone else already?"  This Mass helped me ask the REAL question underneath all of the superficial ones..."God, what are you asking of me NOW?" 

I don't have a husband, I don't have kids...so what is He asking me to pay attention to instead?  I instantly was made aware of all these things that limit me seeing what my purpose is today because I don't stoop down to serve others.  Instead, I think I'm owed something (like a day off for Easter..haha).  I see my vanity, my immense pride, not loving my students well, not seeing God's delight in me because I don't delight in others, etc etc.

This immediate awareness into my heart on Holy Thursday made me see that I truly NEED a Savior...someone who can walk with me amidst all my limits and motivate me to keep going when it feels hopeless.  I recognize this Savior at daily Mass, in the middle of my family and friends, and in front of prayer that I've stayed ever faithful to since my silent retreat.  My heart was crying out, "I desire you, O Lord." just like the saints say!

THEN...I screwed up five minutes later.  Of course.  I was hungry, so I went to get food and missed the bus to go on a tour of Churches in the city that night and "sit with Jesus"...an action to similar to what Jesus' disciples were asked to do before He was handed over to be crucified.  Instead of me spending my night in peaceful prayer with my friends, I ended up driving around the city like mad trying to find the group.  Crying and cursing God the whole way because I thought we had this mutual understanding that I was going to spend time with him.

Should I have gotten food?  I guess not, but I didn't feel like the punishment fit the crime.  I was ticked at God for probably the first legit time in my life.  THAT in itself shows growth because I don't think I've ever thought of God as real enough to get mad at.  Holy Thursday night, I basically went to bed frustrated....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lessons Learned During The Triduum

The Triduum (Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday) are considered by the Catholic Church to be the three holiest days of the entire year.  And yet, I didn't get a single day off to celebrate them.  Yes, I was bitter.  How's a girl supposed to live a life of holiness when she's got progress reports due on Good Friday and papers to grade on Easter weekend?

How can I make Christ the center of my life when I feel like so often the circumstances are totally against it?

And, as always, God responds to my foolishness and helps me see.  The Church is an institution with over 2,000 years of wisdom, so these Holy Days really can't be disputed.  Despite how tired I was or how much I thought I had to do, I made all the gestures of Holy Week priorities and kind of left the rest to fall into place.

When you pay attention to life (in the moment, not just when you're praying at night or riding home from events or whatever...) you discover that the present is rich in intensity.  The events of the last three days of my life are entirely too much to write in one post.  So I'm breaking it up into three (or four) installments.  In the end, it helps me put words to a deep experience of Christ's passion and Resurrection and what exactly it has to do with my life.  If it helps you too, GREAT!  An added bonus!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Incurable Wounds

I was reading today a reflection from a hermit monk that lived in 397.  This actually makes me laugh even as I'm typing it.  "WHY? I'm a reading something from a monk in 397?  What does his life possibly have to do with mine in this 21st century??"

This is how I know that Christ is real--because writings of the heart from 1600 years ago still resonate with my experience today.  This hermit was talking about how we have the same stench with us that was with Lazarus before he was raised by Jesus from the dead.  These gross sins that make us ugly in the way we hurt others, attach to things that make us unhapy, or make gods out of things that are finite.  We stink, basically of these festering wounds that cannot be cured on our own.  We might not be paying attention to our stench all the time, but it's there and you see when things kind of fall apart!

So, am I screwed?  Can I be saved?  How can all my hurt, anxiety, desire to control and manipulate have any kind of purpose?

It is in front of these questions, that the deepest need of my heart screams, "NO, I'm not screwed!"  There is a balm, medicine, an answer to all of these wounds--and it's a PERSON.  His name is Jesus.  It's NOT just positive thinking into some kind of fairy tale...He's real.  And through my exposure to the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, an increase in my prayer life, and the fact that my idols are kind of crumbling before me all the time, I'm starting to see.

I have overcome (and am continuing to work in overcoming) some serious heartbreak (some done directly to me and others putting hope in false things!)  But, I would never excuse this suffering for anything, because it is in this desperateness that I'm finding peace and solace in something much more real, reliable, and constant than I've ever found.

My only hope is that I can continue to fall in love with Christ who I'm seeing more and more real every day and that the attractiveness of this Presence in my life makes me attractive for the world to see.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Word from St. Susanna School

I felt especially moved to share the most recent article I wrote in my classroom newsletter.  Every week I use the space to write a note from me to the parents of my fourth graders and it's turned into a little mini-blog in its own rite!

Hope you enjoy!

So, the BIG visit we’ve been looking forward to all year from the Accreditation team of the Archdiocese FINALLY came yesterday!

With people in our building all day, I wasn’t exactly nervous, just very aware of my teaching: How was I speaking to my students?  Did I have all my materials prepared?  Are these lessons engaging to the students?  Is my room looking nice?

It’s amazing the clarity that is brought when you know someone is watching.

Then it hit me: SOMEONE IS WATCHING US ALL THE TIME!  God, our Father, the Creator, has never left us.  He sees me mess up, not care, shrink on some of my responsibilities, yet He still blesses me with this awesome community here at St. Susanna, with motivated and curious fourth graders and amazingly supportive parents.  I should be living every day as if I were up for review (like yesterday) because it is in my daily life and choices that I’m either giving God glory or forgetting about Him.  May I always be helped to remember that there’s always ONE MORE in my classroom of 19 students.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In the Silence....

I know. I know.  It's been awhile since my last post.  But this does NOT mean that I haven't had my share of life in the last few weeks.

And I've been thinking forever, "I need to blog about THAT!"  Now, here it is.  Three weeks later.  But, with some awesome insight.

I had the great opportunity of taking a SILENT retreat this Spring Break at St. Meinrad.  It was nothing huge--just three and a half days of me (attempting) to not turn on my phone or check my email AND not speaking.

What came out of the silence was LOUD AND CLEAR! 

1) The need for discipline in my attitude towards life.  I had no idea how many times a day I'm thinking about the future, worrying about it or fantasizing about it, or thinking about the past (wishing for it back OR regretting it)
2) The desire and call to live a truly authentic life.  One that is in unity with how Jesus lived here on Earth and how the saints continue to show us how it's possible to live today.  I want my thoughts, my words and my actions to all be in unison--with no more war!  I want to truly desire how I know I should act--not just act that way to impress people. (and this has caused probably the largest growing pain of all!)
3) The goodness of Sacred Scripture in my life.  It's amazing, but before I was asked to give a talk recently on this subject, I tried to pretty much avoid any personal reading of the Bible.  I've had a few bad encounters with people who I thought knew the Bible better than I did and it just made me discouraged.  This silent retreat, with my spiritual director's help and all the other books I was reading, hit HARD for me the need to put Scripture into my daily life.  IT is what I want to fill my mind now instead of all the other crap I make up...IT is the truth.
4) A huge, huge need for silence.  I live most of the day in a reactionary stance to whatever is going on in front of me.  Wouldn't it be nice to truly LIVE instead of just REACT? 

My time at St. Meinrad was one of the greatest, FULLEST moments of my young adult life and I realized that although I can't take silent retreats all the time, I CAN practice silence every day.  And my heart longs for it.  Times in the day where I'm quiet--not that situations or quiet, or that I'm even in a quiet place, but that I'm truly at peace in my heart, head, and showing it in my actions.

Now, this hasn't made life easier by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I've cried every day since Wednesday wanting/desiring to live this life of holiness that I'm not yet at.  I want to love my friends freely, I want to not worry about the future, I want to trust in God's unconditional love and mercy for me...but I have a lot of thoughts/habits that have been building up for YEARS that don't come crashing down in a week.

And so, I'm experiencing the pain (suffering) of detaching from myself, my plans, my ideas and truly living the present--no matter how ugly the present may seem to me or how scary!  And I'm asking for God to make this suffering joy-filled...whatever THAT means.  But the saints did it, so it must be possible for me, too.

It's analogous to me of running a race--you can't sprint a marathon right when you've just decided to get your butt off the couch.  The training process is painful, but little by little, you begin making progress.  For me, the progress this morning was looking at my students with love DESPITE the fact that they keep making some of the laziest mistakes on their work I've ever seen.  But, I was patient, calm and it was fresh in my head that they are only ten year-olds.

There might be a lot of uncertainty in my life over what God is asking me to do practically in the future but one thing is for certain--He is here with me.  And in the words of St. Peter, "Lord to who else would we go?  You have the words of eternal life."