Friday, November 1, 2013

Nine Top Sinners Who Later Became Saints




We all like a good comeback story.  We also really want to be loving, patient, disciplined, and productive all the time...but let's be honest.  This is impossible when left to our own devices.  Today, on this Catholic feast celebrating all Saints, I wanted to remind us of huge sinners who still made it to heaven.  These guys (and ladies) show that more of life's journey might just be acknowledging that we screw up and ask for help instead of worrying about perfecting our systems so life goes smoothly.

It's all about relationship, baby.  And these gals (and guys) knew that their only answer to the desire for perfection was crying out to their Creator--despite all the destruction they may have caused.  In their best moments, they believed with whole heart that God loved them first, above all else.  The "about-face" that happened in their lives proves it.

My attempt at my own BuzzFeed list:

Top Sinners Who Made It

Saints Peter and Paul



Peter denied Jesus and Paul killed Christians. Peter became first Pope and Paul wrote half the New Testament. 


Mary Magdalene
Prostitute turned loyal follower, Mary Magdalene's heart was so changed, she was one of only three left at the cross of Jesus during the Crucifixion. 

St. Ignatius of Loyola
Soldier and ladies man, Ignatius, while recovering from serious battle wounds, discovered a spirituality never known before to himself (or anyone else.)  He is the founder of the Jesuits.
St. Francis of Assisi
This painting might depict Francis' life as a walk in the park, but this guy gave up the easy, wealthy, boisterous life for one of poverty and suffering.  He even received the wounds of Christ!
St. Martha
Oh Martha. Martha.  Easily a hero of mine who wanted help/praise for all of her work, instead of reveling in Christ's presence.  But Martha's truest heart was seen by Him who mattered, and now she just has a bad rap as the "busy saint."
St. Thomas
Thomas doubted, despite what all his friends told him, that Jesus truly rose from the dead.  I might have too, honestly.  Redemption came when he saw and believed.
St. Mary of Egypt
Her aching heart found respite as a hermit in the wilderness after years of living as a prostitute.  

St. Augustine
He was whistling a different tune from "Make me chaste, Lord, but not yet" to "My heart is restless until it rests in You."  Now, THAT'S conversion.


For information on these saints and more, visit http://www.catholic.org/saints/ and learn more about God's endless mercy and the capacity of the human heart to adhere to the Truth.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why September 11th and Bingo Are Forever Linked

A long time coming, this blog is written to honor my grandma, Ramona Kersey.  The day of September 11th for many is a solemn one, and rightly so.  For, it truly is a day that many of us will never forget.  For those in my family, aunts, uncles and cousins, September 11th has another significance as the birthday of the matriarch of our family.

Grandma Kersey was such a witness to her husband, nine children, and 23 grandchildren. (twenty-three? Did I count right?)  She was one who loved by doing--cooking, hosting guests, asking about your life.  Her main concerns involved keeping everyone in line--living by the Gospel and being simple in front of the pleasures of life.
Grandma and Grandpa Kersey in their yesteryear. :)

For as long as I can remember, we always have played Bingo for my grandma's birthday.  The whole family gets together.  We're loud and rowdy and we duke it out for prizes like coloring books, candy, money and toilet paper (the true prize!)  Any initiation into the Kersey family involves winning in Bingo. 


My Bingo prize at Grandma's last birthday party--Sept 2012

Grandma was a rock in her faith.  You didn't have to ask her what she believed because you already knew it.  I remember her giving me a rosary for my first communion--one I still have--from a MULTITUDE of beautiful rosaries she already owned.  Similar to my mom, she was visibly disappointed if you didn't find the same joy in Mass or "Catholic stuff" like she did.  It was yet another sign of how much living the faith made sense to her.  She wanted everyone to know that joy.

She died the day before Easter this past year, and as the biggest surprise of all, I feel closer to her now than I ever did when she was living in Lowell, IN.  Several Masses have been offered in her remembrance at my church in Indianapolis and on each of the days, something miraculous happens--whether it's a deeper realization of what I need to be doing for my own life or bringing my family closer together.

I have no doubt she's praying for us in Heaven, storming God in her stubborn way and providing us endless graces here.  I was moving into my new house last month, and started leafing through her prayer book (which still has her smell, by the way).  As a prayer card dropped out, I received the greatest sign that she really was watching over me.  "Now the time of preparation is ending" is within this vocation prayer.  It's the first time I'd ever read something like that and it was EXACTLY what my heart was feeling, but couldn't put into words.  I have no idea where a statement like that leads, but I know Grandma's got my back.

Grandma's Well-Used Prayer Book

For those of us she left behind, we have a remarkable model to follow.  But, more assuring, she's still with us, in an ever deeper way.  We will truly "never forget" Grandma Kersey.  It's a beautiful gift to be part of the legacy.

 Flower Arrangement from Funeral






Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why Catholic?


I spend a lot of time, energy and money living the Christian life.  Here's the concise reason why:

As I was growing in maturity toward adulthood, I found myself living like most.  I looked forward to "free time" and weekends, and once those came, kept looking ahead to the "next big thing."  When life circumstances went well, I was in a good mood.  Bad equaled a bad mood.  I followed rules and made choices to make others happy or to keep me out of trouble and my "squeaky clean" image intact. But I was a  machine, I didn't think for myself, and seeking shortsighted pleasure dominated my life.

About my sophomore year of college, I met a group of people who turned life upside down.  They lived with reason.  They lived in the present moment.  They weren't just constantly looking forward to something or looking with reverie on the past.  They were happy NOW.  They had knowledge of the Catholic Church, it's rules, but also the reasons why life is better following them. (I had MANY in my life prior to those moments in college who lived this way and I was being prepared for this moment. However, for some reason, in this time of college, I was given the eyes to see.)

In their company, life began to have color, taste, a different flavor.  I saw beautiful things as "beautiful" for the first time in my life.  I saw MYSELF as beautiful and a daughter who was loved despite her faults.  I found myself more free in front of things that didn't go my way because I was confident that, above all else, I was being loved by Someone who was present in that group of friends, but not limited to that group of friends.

Mass took on a new meaning.  School had meaning in the moment--not just as something to get through.  I cared more about my family and friends.  I wanted to read, hike, workout, serve. Everything changed.

It's true what we hear about the event of Christ being a present fact.  It's true that there's something within all of our hearts longing for this meaning and freedom.  By grace, those injected themselves into my life as I stayed with these lively Catholic Christians.

St. John the Evangelist decorated for Easter 2012
As life continues on, friends move away, relationships change, and my life continues to not meet the narrow vision I had planned for myself, these circumstances are opportunities to confirm ONCE AGAIN that there is Something beyond all of this.  A beautiful reality that is calling me, offering me a promise of peace of fulfillment.

This journey isn't just for saints.  It isn't for the good people.  It isn't just for Catholics.  It's for ALL of humanity to recognize the desire of their heart and find what satisfies without reducing to something lesser.  Christ said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."  We either investigate this claim, or we don't. But the choice is presented to us now.

I read this today in preparation for my weekly Communion and Liberation meeting and it expresses exactly what I know to be true about my own life:

"Seeing how confusion dominates everywhere around us, we ask ourselves why it does not reign in us. The reason has nothing to do with our being better or more intelligent or more coherent than others; this is not why we are not confused, but because we find ourselves continually before an irreducible Fact that constantly frees us from the general disorientation." --Message from Fr. Carron, President of Communion and Liberation, on a meeting of Movements with Pope Francis

I am blessed to have many people on this journey with me and I desire and invite many more to come and see with me.  There's plenty of Love and grace to go around, if we have the courage to embrace it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What Fire Won't Destroy

"Ok, good morning. Get ready for this text: Fr. Rick is ok.  The church seems to be ok. But it seems that someone set fire to the hymnals at St. John's this morning." 
(text I received at 5 am this morning)

If you've never had the privilege of visiting, St. John's is a beautiful church (inside and out) in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.  Most who enter the first time just mouth, "Wow."  It was built in the 1870's when the city was just beginning to develop and has been the place for thousands of baptisms, weddings, and funerals and countless testimonies of Christian conversion, stability, and community.  As Catholics today, we come together there every week, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in a gesture of unity, a need for correction and mercy, and the reminder of Who it is that we met on our journey.

Truly for me, and hundreds of other parishioners I know, a home away from home.


By now, the investigation behind the fire early this morning has been ruled an arson.  No one was hurt and nothing was taken from the church, but $400,000 in smoke damage was done to the building.  It's unfathomable how, when in front of so much beauty, the human being still wants to destroy.

Similarly unfathomable, was my reaction to the incident.  I wanted to destroy.  "Who did this?  I'll hurt them.  How dare they mess with my church?  After all the hospitality shown, this is what we get?"

My search for justice is, I suppose, reasonable despite the fact that I'm reducing this incident terribly.  Suppose we find the person/persons responsible for the damage and "punishment" is inflicted.  Then what?  Do I find my happiness when justice is served?  Am I certain it won't happen again?

What am I really upset about when I hear this news?  What does something like this reveal about my life?

First, my initial statement.  It's unfathomable how, when in front of so much beauty, the human being wants to destroy.  The most beautiful building doesn't fix a corrupt heart nor does it force a person's freedom to adhere to the Truth.  We're always in front of a decision, including this arsonist (or arsonists) today.  I, too, have seen times when I, too, choose to destroy in front of amazing Beauty that I either can't see in my pride OR choose to ignore.

Second, the church building is not Christ. St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is an architectural and sculptural beauty.  Its bells are heard at all hours of the workday by the thousands who work downtown.  Hundreds of homeless a week come to the doors to be fed.  Daily confessions, the celebration of the Mass, and countless initiatives taken on by the parishioners would not be possible without the PLACE of the Church.  However, if the place is destroyed, what is left?  Is there something left?

By God's grace and totally unplanned, I ran into a family from St. John's tonight at a local dining establishment.  We saw each other, laughed, and embraced because "our church almost burned down today."  What is this?  What is the Mystery that this specific place (on the corner of Georgia and Capitol Ave.) points me towards?  Within its doors, I find an invitation to a relationship with my Creator and Savior. A way of making daily living possible. Fires can destroy buildings, but fires don't destroy relationships.  This absolute treasure of a structure doesn't even closely reflect the treasure of Jesus Christ and Him pursuing my heart.

Third, although it would be easier to bear, I can't reduce this incident by trying to ignore that people are free to commit evil.  This is not an argument of if or when our church should be open.  Installing a set of perfect rules or security plan doesn't eliminate the evil of our world.  In the words of our pastor, Fr. Rick Nagel said today in his email to the members of St. John's:

"We are reminded of why God allows evil in the world… for a greater good to occur.  Perhaps the greater good will be the conversion of a soul or souls that are in trouble.  Our prayers as a community of faith are essential during this time of trial.  Thanks for joining me in praying each day either a rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet for the lost soul(s) conversion."

Last, this is an invitation into the Mercy that is our life.  We've been given hearts that long for him.  Everyone is given this same heart packed with desire for love, beauty, truth and belonging.  This is absolutely true for the person/people responsible for this mess today.  In the beautiful words of a great friend and young adult parishioner Michael Gramke, (stolen from his Facebook wall....)


"May we, as parishioners  be extra vigilant after this fire -- not to lock out our hearts by reacting in anger -- but to use this event as a means of bringing Christ's hope and mercy even deeper into our world.  Let's make our church even more beautiful -- as a sacred space made more worthy of Christ's true presence due not only to repairs of the church but also to repairs of our heart this Lent."


I don't want to be merciful just because it's the right thing to do.  Or it's cliche at a time like this or because it will make me feel better.  I want to be merciful because I have experienced infinite mercy (within the doors of St. John's and out) and in my thankfulness, I choose to love those who were given the same heart.  I pray for the arsonist, because underneath all the gunk, there is a person longing for God.  Similarly, underneath all my gunk, I'm looking for Him too.

I'm unbelievably proud of my community at St. John's, I love my pastor more today than any other day of my life, and I'm excited to witness again the freedom of a life lived with Christ in bleak circumstances. May Christ, through this struggle, continue to illuminate me and my fellow parishioners of St. John's, that our lives radiate a Light that could never be contained within our parish walls.



Thursday, January 17, 2013

Eating Clean in Pictures!

This post is a sister post with My Journey of Eating Clean.  I'm no photographer, and these were all done with my phone, but you can get it, I'm sure.
THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL.  WELL, AND MY FRIEND, BRAD'S, RECOMMENDATION

PLATES OF MANY COLORS
Rice, black beans, asparagus, chicken

Spaghetti and homemade meat sauce, green beans

"African Potatoes," fish, asparagus
Rice Salad: Brown rice, tomatoes, green onions, garlic, etc

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW--EVEN WHEN I'M ALMOST THIRTY!

So this yogurty, drink/milk stuff, sounds, looks, and feels nasty.  However, it doesn't taste half-bad (if you get the sweetened stuff) and is totally helpful with digestion.

Where has Aldi been all my life?? Now that I need many more groceries, I feel like I'm here all the time.  Cheap prices for stuff we all need and I like that it forces me to bring my own bags to shop with.

I never, ever knew how to peel a spaghetti squash and now, I'm pretty much obsessed.  Cheap.  Huge servings, and totally clean.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
BRAZILIAN SQUASH from Eat Clean Book
The good: Tastes so freaking good and is a little bit sweet

BROWN RICE PATTIES from Eat Clean Cookbook
Ugly and Bad: Kind of bland, didn't stick together and looks like poop on a cookie sheet

Egg Fritatas in Cupcake Containers (idea from Ali Blake)
Good, bad, AND ugly: Taste amazing.  Took forever to get my pan clean and I should have shredded up the spinach.  I don't think they look very appetizing...hence, ugly.

KALE CHIPS from Eat Clean Cookbook
Look how pretty!  These were YUMMY right out of the oven and really did satisfy my chip craving.  The nasty part about it is that they don't save very well by wilting and getting mushy. 

AND WHEN IT'S ALL SAID AND DONE....

I'm left with a crap load of dishes! :)  

See more about this new Eat Clean life at My Journey of Eating Clean





My Journey of Eating Clean

I'm so bad at New Year's Resolutions, mine had to start in September.

I had just gone back to school and working after a summer of visiting with anyone and everyone, and basically living "vacation" for six weeks.  I had eaten out to the point of not even enjoying it anymore, I had started gaining weight back that I lost two years ago and was just feeling blah.

God definitely knows that peer pressure is the way to make me move!  Two years ago, when I lost 25 pounds, I had started because a friend of mine lost 70.  This time, a DIFFERENT friend had just lost 40.  We were on a bike ride in early September and not only was he skinnier, he just seemed HAPPIER.  More energized, at peace.

"So, Brad, what's been going on?"

"I'm eating clean."

"What in the hell does that mean?"

Since we were on a 40 mile bike ride, he had time to explain, and I had time to be very interested.  "Eating Clean" is basically a term coined by Tosca Reno as a way of eating more naturally (lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low sugar, etc.) but honestly, nothing about this method is revolutionary.  You eat things you can pronounce.  You don't eat things from a box.  Basically.

It's kind of common sense to eat what the earth can provide and NOT processed stuff with a lot of ingredients we can't even pronounce.  I did read her book, though, and after I did, thought...I can do this!  A lot of things had been boiling up around this time: 1) I was spending too much money on restaurant food 2) I wanted to learn how to cook for my friends 3) I needed a way to make food that I wouldn't have to eat it seven times in a row for leftovers.

With some recipes and the meal guides, I really started to watch more closely what I ate.  I started cooking A LOT more and discovered that healthy food doesn't have to taste bad.  I had WAY more energy and wasn't craving the 4pm nap anymore.  I gained confidence in cooking for others.  I lived through temptations of eating food even when I wasn't really hungry. I stopped overeating.

Now, the holidays were REALLY hard.  I mean, I'm a celebratory person by nature, so give me a party and I will most likely eat or drink everything in sight.  So, I'm really writing the blog post for me, to open my eyes to what a gift it was to be able to eat things from the earth vs. things from a factory.

I'm lucky I have the means to buy those items AND time to make it.  I'm happy to say that with attentiveness to what I eat, I'm able to attentive to other aspects of my life--like being more patient and loving, hitting deadlines, working out, etc.  It is a total grace and a total gift to have a method that can guide you.  I don't want to be dominated by it and I don't want to be burdened, but I feel that eating in this way has helped me live more free.

Here's a breakdown of some of the MAJOR CHANGES:

1. Eating out 5-6 times per week to only maybe 1-2 (and that's always with friends)
2. Dishes, dishes, dishes.  I feel like I'm doing them all the time now.
3. Meal Planning.  Yeah, I really have a calendar on my fridge.
4. Grocery Shopping is actually kind of fun and I look forward to the Sunday afternoons where I try a boat load of new recipes.  Totally didn't know what kefir, parsnips, OR kale looked like before this adventure and I can say now that I've cooked with them ALL!
5. I invite people over to my house for dinner.  Previously, I would have been scared to make something that didn't taste good, or would burn.
6. A lot more energy and when I don't eat right, I feel like crap.

Surprises:

1. Notice I haven't really said anything about losing weight...I did lose a little, but the thing I noticed most was the huge energy spike.
2. I didn't really save much money.  Healthy food, yummy food is expensive.  It's an injustice to our world's poor.

You can see my post, Eating Clean in Pictures, to see some of the stuff I've made!  It's been a lot of fun!  Almost like artwork! :)

In the end, this is no way, shape, or form, the end all-be all for my happiness, I'm just glad that one place in my life (my eating habits) that I was always kind of embarrassed by and ignored for so long is getting some attention.  I'm learning new things, loving new things (hello? sweet potatoes, OMG!) and able to share with others!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Rebels on a Mission

In memorial of the 3rd anniversary of the horrific earthquake that hit Port Au Prince January 12th, I thought I would share this little slideshow I just made for a presentation at Roncalli High School.  It highlights some of the most beautiful pictures, favorite stories and insights on what I've learned from my mission trips to Haiti and my continued involvement in the Haiti ministry at St. John's.

I'm also blessed by people like my old German teacher asking me to do presentations on my experience.  This keeps the moments alive and fresh in my heart and so grateful that I've been able to see what I've seen and witness again to a God who loves and cares for us all.

Haiti still struggles to rebuild, even three years after the earthquake and with the multitude of disease outbreaks and hurricanes.  The people are in my prayers and I know, more than anything, they long for a friendship with those who are concerned with their needs and will listen to their pleading voices.

Even when I'm tempted to forget, reality (through being on committees, or getting interviewed, or doing small projects like this) tends to ask me to revisit my short stints to this impoverished nation.

I'm proud to be part of a parish that has a sister relationship with another parish in Haiti and more and more connections are being made every day!

Feel free to click on the slideshow and check it out for yourself!  The show is pretty simple, but then again, so is Haiti.