Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A New Christmas Tradition

As humans, we are really drawn to tradition and ritual.  Just look at any sporting event that follows the same form or suggest doing something DIFFERENT for Christmas with your family, and you'll see how tightly we hold to tradition.

We feel secure.  Traditions give us peace and sense that when all things change, there are still some things left that are unchanging.

One of my favorite things I did this year was start a Christmas tradition of my own.  One that can be celebrated by myself or with others, that involves singing Christmas carols, reflecting on the BEAUTIFUL artwork and quotes that CL puts out for Christmas every year, and praying in front of my Nativity scene.

I was suprised by how much I craved the silent time but am scared I will only be distracted. Having an intentional structure made the few minutes spent on Christmas Eve in prayer especially rich and filling.  I wrote out the whole "program" so I wouldn't forget about it next year, and if there are people around, I'll ask them to be part of it.  I don't do it to be formal or follow rules, but because the time I spend preparing for Christmas I want to be meaningful.

In the end, I really encourage you, especially if you're living on your own, to embrace your "extra" time of silence (during the holidays or any other time) and do something "traditional" that maybe no one else will ever know about.  It's something special you can keep between you and God to grown in relationship with Him.  More and more, I want to experience this peace and deep joy opened up for us through the birth of our Lord, Jesus.  Paying attention and facing the silence is proving to be a great start for me!

Merry Christmas to all of my blog readers out there!  I'm so grateful for your kind words and praise God that what I say can move those of you who have witnessed to it.  What a beautiful gift we have to communicate life experience to one another so we can be sustained on the path.

Need more Christmastime blogging?  Click here for past posts :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our father who art in....Indy??

We can all read the facts about the newly installed Archbishop to Indianapolis, Archbishop Tobin, in our newspapers, watch stories on the news, or even get Twitter updates (I mean, that's where I get most of my news anyway...)--but a personal encounter is worth more than any of these, as I found out with about 200 of my closest friends last night at the young adult Mass in downtown Indy.

The fact that Archbishop Tobin is even with us is a bit puzzling.  He's spent the last 20 years overseas working in "big whig" jobs in the Vatican, with more feathers in his hat for Vatican stuff than I can really wrap my head around.  Honestly, he seems a little overqualified to be our Shepherd.  So, honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Is this guy going to be too smart for us?  Will the Midwest United States be below him or something insignificant?  (You know...we are just a "fly over" state...)

Only six days after being installed Archbishop of Indianapolis, he was celebrating Mass with the college students and young adults from all over the Archdiocese and this was the event I was privileged to be a part of last night.  This is his second time being with our age group, as he also celebrated another young adult Mass just a few days before his installation.  This is evidence, I think, of his preference for young adults--a group in the Church that is often overlooked or viewed as impulsive, noncommittal, or at best, misguided.

As I've grown in my friendships in CL as well as with the young adults in the St. John's community, I can tell you for certain that these adjectives I just used to describe young adults are definitely not the norm of the people I hang out with, and in fact, we are looking for stable, strong authorities to guide us on a path that leads to true happiness.

Our Archbishop is first in command of this authority here locally. Judging by the way Mass was celebrated last night, you could see that his presence with us was taken seriously.  We were more dressed up (I changed three times before going!), there was incense, seven servers, (and darn good looking men, might I add...but that might just have been because they looked so snazzy in their matching "altar boy" get up) and the Eucharistic prayer was sung.  The liturgy felt more like a Christmas Mass than Advent because it was so solemn--a true celebration!

Most striking was Fr. Rick kneeling in front of the Archbishop for a blessing before he went to read the Gospel.  Seeing my father and guide of our young adult community, looking to someone ELSE as his guide put into perspective again this line of obedience that we follow as believers in the Catholic Church.  The gesture of kneeling was totally beautiful and a realization of "freedom" that our society just doesn't understand.

During his homily, Archbishop Tobin spoke of finding the "quiet" of Advent, saying that "in the silence, we find our humanity."  Easy to preach, but after meeting him, I saw how he lived the silence.  Most of us at the social after Mass had an opportunity to shake the Archbishop's hand and tell him a little about ourselves.  I'm sure an others' witness is the same as mine: he had a profound calm in his eyes; he looked into your eyes when he met you (for me, it caused me to look away, actually, because I'm not used to being looked at like that!!); he asked questions about your life, your job, making any connections that he could to his own experience.

Additionally, when he met my group, as a part of Communion and Liberation, he had a lot to talk about, having lived in Italy for a number of years and having a lot of contacts with people of our Movement.  He even took the time to look at our bulletin board!  So awesome!  I think my favorite part were the Italian gestures he used in speech...which reminded me so much of all of my Italian friends! :)

One of my friends said of me after meeting the Archbishop, "Erica is totally on cloud nine right now..." I hadn't realized it at the moment, but it was SO TRUE, because when you meet someone who has been living the same history as you, and has been appointed to lead your community, you get excited! I'm so so grateful for Archbishop Tobin, his generosity, and honest interest in our lives.

I'm also so insanely proud of the Catholic young adults of Indianapolis, a group of broken people who still struggle along the path, but ultimately desire all of what is promised and know where to find it.  With the Archbishop in front of us last night, I understood more than ever how we are brothers and sisters mysteriously put on this journey together.  I can't wait to see the beauty that unfolds!