Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Birthdays Are Sacred

I've had a couple friends say to me, "What's so special about a birthday?  The sun is in the same position in relation to the Earth.  It's just another day to me."  or even, "I don't really like my birthday."

Especially after I celebrated my birthday this past week, I'm convinced that this statement is just so sad.  A birthday is the celebration of your existence, the start of your journey in life.  We, as a humans with life, have a rational mind.  We have desires and hopes and dreams.  We have attachments to people and places, and interests in things like foods, TV shows, music etc.  We are attracted to beauty in a variety of ways.  We possess a unique "me" and can't even explain how we got that way.

THIS FACT OF EXISTENCE makes a birthday something to really be celebrated whether you've turned three, or sixty-three.

Last week, I turned the big 2-9! It's hard to believe I'm already 29, especially considering that most of my life, I thought near thirty year-olds had it together....

I'm so grateful to my friends and family who still hold birthdays to be really sacred.  They showed this in all of the gifts, dinners, sweets, and quality time that was showered upon me in the last week and a half.  I am completely undeserving of such wonderful people in my life--and so enriched by their ability to see life as a GIFT any day of the week--not just for special occasions.

My birthday really did help me remember that God gave this life and everything I need to be fulfilled.  In my 29th year, I'm still asking for the daily reminder and probably will be until my (God willing) 92nd year.

"For God is our strength and our song," as we were reading last night in our CL meeting and I am certain that  He will be just that for me in all my days to come! "Strength" to battle the daily apathy and ignorance that bombards me and the "song" of sweetness when I find His Love.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  We have much for which to be grateful!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ain't No Rest for the Wicked: Reflection on All Saints Day

Cage the Elephant sings a little number entitled, "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," and it's always stuck in my head.  Stinkin' love this song.  A part of the refrain goes:

We can't slow down
We can't hold back, though we know we wish we could
There ain't no rest for the wicked until we close our eyes for good.

The song is tragic, really, about people and situations that are leading nowhere and how they can't find a way to change (because their hope is only in themselves and their own power).  In the end, the answer is death.  At least then, all our chaos will be over.

Juxtapose that with the Catholic feast day we celebrate today of All Saints' Day.  A beautiful celebration of life AFTER death---not as an absence of chaos, but an INDESCRIBABLE FULLNESS for the rest of time.  This day points to saints truly at REST with their Creator because life, for them, wasn't about just getting ahead of everyone else.  It was about Someone Else.  So, even in their earthly life, they had more peace than any of those "wicked" in the song.

We'd be missing the whole point, though, if this feast day didn't show us the desire to be saints ourselves.  The saints were normal people like you and me who simply said "yes" to embracing a relationship with God in the every day circumstances.  Some were killed for it and others suffered greatly (publicly or not).  But, EVEN DURING their lives, (not just when they "closed their eyes for good") they were filled with great peace.

All Saints' Day is my day to be thankful for the great wisdom of the Catholic Church and the gift that's given  by preserving the tradition of the saints.  Knowing their stories and seeing how human they actually were shows me that it's really possible to be a saint here and now. 

And here's this ARMY we have in heaven wanting that fulfillment for us!  They spend their entire day in Heaven, praying for fools like us who keep screwing up.  In my experience, when I ask the saints for prayers, I'm helped. Period.  Just like friends, we always seem to prefer a certain bunch over others.  For me, I tried to think of ten saints (I actually thought of a lot more...) who have played some kind of role in my life.  Here's what I've come up with:

1. Mary, Mother of God
            Praying the Angelus frequently has really helped me understand the power of a "yes" spoken to the proposal of God.  Mary was the most perfect of God's creatures and unblemished by sin.  My favorite place to pray is at the base of her statue in St. John's Church in downtown Indianapolis and I have offered her my pain in numerous breakups, asked her to watch over my friends, and asked her to pray for my family unceasingly.  Mary is likened to the moon because just like the moon only reflects sunlight, so she reflects God's light.  All I long for is an ounce of Mary's grace, but I'm certain she never forgets me.

2. St. Anne
            St. Anne was the mother of Mary, who offered Mary back to God immediately after she was born to do with her whatever He willed.  Praying St. Anne's novena this year was what FINALLY gave an answer to a question I'd been holding in my heart (yes, about a boy) for over ten months.  St. Anne has become a true mother to me.

3. Fr. Giussani (cause for sainthood opened this year)
           Fr. Giussani was the founder of the movement Communion and Liberation and his education has been the source of my faith life and continues to aid me in my journey.  All the good I do or say comes from his teachings and the friends I've met following this.  I had the great privilege of meeting Fr. Giussani six months before his death and the man IS a saint...whether it's ever formally recognized.  I've asked him to pray for me in situations where I felt so desperately alone, nervous about a leadership position I was in, or in thanksgiving for the awareness he brings to my daily life.

4. St. Anthony
          The finder of all lost things.  No seriously.  It's kind of eerie.  If you misplace something, pray to St. Anthony.  You'll find it within seconds.  My students and I use this method DAILY in the classroom.  You'd think St. Anthony would have better things to do than find a kid's math paper...

5. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
           I become familiar with this saint by visiting a historic site where she worked in New York.  She was a mother of five, then lost her husband and all children to various illness.  When she found herself all alone, she became a nun, founded an order of sisters, and started schools and orphanages.  As a teacher, she's my saint.  But, I mean, really?  She lost ALL of those closest to her?  It almost seems like all she lost motivated her to love God even more.  I want that zeal!

6. St. Rose of Lima
          My patron saint and the bomb diggity.  I already wrote a blog about her.  (Just click)

7. Saint Joseph
           Ditto on St. Joseph where I've already written a blog.  I will say that the statue at St. John's of St. Joseph is also incredible and I've given my desire to manipulate SEVERAL CRUSHES on boys over to St. Joseph--a true man.

8. Blessed John Paul II
            I wasn't all that interested in being Catholic when Pope John Paul II was our Pope and I feel I missed a lot of the goodness he shared in the world while he was alive.  HOWEVER, he was responsible for making Communion and Liberation official and legit for the Church.  He raised up young adults and inspired them to be priests and sisters.  My favorite priests were product of his love for our age group and an incredible number of my friends came to their faith in light of his initiatives.  I'll never calculate fully the depth of Blessed John Paul II's influence in my life.

9. St. Therese of Lisieux
           Much like Rose of Lima, my personality is almost polar opposite of St. Therese.  I'm blunt, loud and somewhat rash.  I love being social and going place to place to place.  St. Therese was a contemplative, cloistered nun and one who found daily joy in the smallest of tasks.  Especially when I see myself putting hope in something OTHER than God, I ask for her to pray for me.  I crave the peace she knew.

10. My Service Saints: St. Vincent dePaul, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Damien
            I volunteer about once a month for the St. Vincent dePaul Food Pantry here in town and I've enjoyed reading about St. Vincent's life and how he served the poor while preserving their dignity.
Also in light of serving others, I specifically asked for Blessed Teresa and St. Damien's intercession when working in Haiti with kids that kind of grossed me out and I was super uncomfortable being around.  If Mother Teresa could serve the dying in Calcutta and Fr. Damien the lepers on a secluded colony, why couldn't I serve our poor in Haiti?  After asking for their help, instead of seeing a couple of dirty kids, I saw Christ asking to be loved.  And yeah.  The transformation happened about that fast.

You can see ALL of my previous posts on saints/sainthood here.

"Expect a journey, not a miracle," has become a popular catch phrase in our group of CL members.  It's a reminder that life as a journey requires sanctifying work for which I have a role to play.  I'm thankful for my desire to be a saint and the Church's wisdom to put saints in front of our faces all year long as reminders of what life is MEANT to be.

Prayers for us all as we continue in this beautiful path to our lasting happiness!  The Saints are really pulling for us!