Paying Attention

February 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Matt and I went for a hike last weekend.  He took me to the Ceasetown Dam and we tromped through the woods, sliding like little kids on the ice that lay under the deep shadowed trees, squishing through the muddy water where the sun had worked its invisible magic.  It was one of those rare winter days in Pennsylvania where the air is a dance of contradiction, warm in the light and still chilly in the shadows. It was a day made for the sound of creeks rushing over little rocks and the lush scent of dead and rotting leaves. We took our time as we walked down the trail towards the lake.  I climbed a half-fallen tree but didn’t get very far.  The lichen was damp and gave my sneakers no purchase on the slanted trunk.  He found a long, thin stick and we had a mock sword-fight, with little bits of bark flying every time our branches clashed.  He showed me his favorite fishing spot: a giant boulder, spearing sharply up out of the water, steep and granite-cold.  We sat there for a while as the wind blew.  The tops of evergreen trees make a unique noise in the wind that sweeps off a frozen lake and into them, have you ever paid attention to it?  It sounds like murmurs; it speaks of peace.

We stood on the rocks at the very edge of the frozen water, looking out across a green and gray horizon.  The sunlight glowed in the air and then shattered off the ice into a glorious profusion of gold and silver and white.  Every shade of blue in the world glinted in front of me.  The colors were right at my fingertips, they were grace made visible, they shone like a benediction.  And I thought: let my joy rise like incense before You, my God.  

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Journal 9.3.15

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

September 3rd, 2015:

My prayer right now is for contrition, to understand more deeply how my sin wounds the heart of Jesus and to take strength from that, in order to not commit certain sins again. It seems to me that I get stuck in a loop, very easy to do when you’ve been born and raised with your faith like I have, and there’s really not a lot of major stuff going on in my life.  Loop: get frustrated, distracted, angry, sorrowful, commit sins, feel remorse, manage to make it to Confession on a Saturday morning, remember for a few days how good forgiveness feels, get distracted, frustrated, repeat.  But it shouldn’t be like that. I shouldn’t take it so lightly.  I think I’m struggling with futility right now as well. Just that horrible feeling that no matter how hard I try, I’m going to be stuck in this spot in my life forever.  Which is, in itself, a turning away from trust in God, from relinquishing control of my future to His care.  So, contrition and trust.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: my good friend Matt, who opened his own insurance agency and got me a better deal on car insurance!  What a grown-up thing to be grateful for.  Also, it’s my turn for a weekend at the beach!  I’m going to Longport to spend Labor Day weekend with my relatives there. Counting down the hours!

Today, I am not going to worry about tomorrow.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.

Journal 8.27.15

August 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

August 27th, 2015

My prayer right now is to come to a better understanding of my day-to-day vocation from God.  To find my balance between being in society, being a part of this crazy mixed-up world, and keeping my interior thoughts and heart focused on Jesus and the things not of this world.  Balance has been on my mind so much lately, as such a necessary part of life.  I know I feel better in every way when I spend time in solitude and quiet prayer with God,, but I also know I’m an extrovert and it energizes me to be around people, laughing and talking and staying up late.  The struggle to find the balance between these two ways of life is what I’ve been working on for a while now.

A few things I’m especially grateful for today: a few days of quiet at the house for me and my dad… while the rest of the family is on vacation down in Longport!  I’m so grateful for my relatives who share their blessings with us, like the beach house.  My mom texted me that she’s saying her morning prayers on the porch of the beach house, with the early morning breeze and the sound of crashing waves for company.

Today, I am not going to worry about: money.  Ha.

Mother Mary, comfort me.

Heart of Jesus, help me.

Holy Week and the Good Friday Meditations from Rome

March 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Over the past few years, one of the spiritual practices I’ve used during Holy Week has been to read the meditations written on the Stations of the Cross by the Pope’s chosen person.  For 2015, Pope Francis asked Bishop Renato Corti to write the meditations, and they were posted in advance of Good Friday on the Vatican’s site a few days ago.  Here’s the link to them and I highly recommend reading them.  My usual habit is to read two or three Stations a day and contemplate their resonance in my own life.  This is an excerpt from the meditation on the Fifth Station, Simon the Cyrenean Helps Carry the Cross:

Who doesn’t need a Cyrenean?

Lord Jesus, you told us that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”.[28] Make us ready to be “Cyreneans” to others. May those who see our way of life find encouragement, as they watch us striving to cultivate all that is beautiful, just, true and essential. May the frail see us as humble, for we too are frail in so many ways. Those who receive tokens of our generosity will realize that we too have a thousand reasons to be thankful. Even those who cannot run can simply stand and wait, for they are dear to us. They will find us ready to slow our pace: we do not want to leave them behind.

Bishop Corti has said that he wrote with a theme of “protecting” in the meditations this year, and that he was inspired by the role of Saint Joseph as protector of the Holy Family.  In this article on Catholic News Agency, he says:

Protecting will be discussed in three key topics: the Word of God, the Eucharist, and forgiveness. The meditations will be also filled with a prayer for the coming synod, so that “the works of synod will be accompanied by mercy and truth.”

“I also recalled some grave facts which exist, and which are negations of protecting; for example, the evil done to youth, the abandonment of the poor, and the already-forgotten pillars of peace as recalled by Pope John XXIII: truth, justice, liberty, love.”

Holy Week is the most spiritually profound week of our Christian faith. Even if you’re still working your 9-5 or doing whatever duties your state in life calls you to, even if you can’t make it to a Holy Thursday Mass or a Good Friday service (like Tenebrae!), we still have access to all these wonderful resources online that can help make Holy Week meaningful.  Keep a little quieter this week, pray and fast a little more, try to keep the Easter Triduum in your thoughts.  The Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus are approaching.  Solemnly, quietly, let us open our hearts to our coming salvation.

A Beautiful Reflection

January 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

From the USCCB’s Nine Days of Prayer, Penance, and Pilgrimage Novena, this is today’s reflection:

“On this feast of St. Francis de Sales, let us consider these words of the great saint: “All that we do must be motivated by love and not force. We must love to obey rather than fear to disobey.” St. Francis reminds us that all of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love, and that we find our freedom in living the truth. As we defend the dignity of human life, let us ask St. Francis to pray for us so that everything we say and do for unborn children and their grieving parents is imbued with both compassion and truth.”

What a beautiful reflection.  The one line in this really jumped out at me.  All of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love.”  I am not ashamed to admit that this is very hard for me sometimes.  Danny always tells me I get angry or upset too easily, and he’s right.  When I’m discussing abortion, or same-sex marriage, or any number of hot-button issues with people, it is so, so easy for me to grow angry, especially when I feel like people write me off or are condescending to me because of my religion.  But that kind of anger is never the answer, especially not where religion is concerned, because it’s just my pride being hurt.  A very wise priest once said to me during a Confession: “The emotions are morally neutral.  It is what you do with them that makes them wrong or right.”  And he’s right.  Anger in itself is not wrong.  It is not wrong for me to feel angry when I see the outrageous, egregious, horrifying numbers of babies aborted in the United States.  But to grow angry at someone because they don’t treat me with the dignity that I think I deserve, because they call me names and falsely represent my beliefs, to let that anger affect my mood, my day, the way I act towards other people… that is pure pride.  I struggle with that a LOT.  The internet makes it even worse.  People write very mean things on the ever anonymous internet.  To let myself get angry because someone who doesn’t know me, who doesn’t care about me, has judged me and my beliefs on the internet, is just plain silly.  Typing that out just now makes it seem even sillier.  But it happens.

You would think that the two attributes they mention in this reflection would go hand-in-hand, and maybe for some people they do.  But for me, having a “spirit of love” and finding “freedom in living the truth” do not always appear together.  As the Act of Faith says, I believe “all the truths which the Catholic Church teaches”, and I really do.  I try to live these truths and I have found freedom in that.  I know that the Love I believe in is true, and good, and wise, and the freedom in knowing that is incredible.  But then comes that other phrase again, that “all of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love”.  Just in time to make me step back and realize: I am not a saint, heck no.  Not yet.  Love is a sacrifice, a giving up of yourself, and I struggle to do that with those closest to me.  How hard it is to do it with someone I’ve never met before!  But that’s what I am called to do.  Love them, all those faceless internet strangers: the people who think I’m a bigot, the people who think I hate women, the people who call my beloved Papa Benedict vile names, the people who misrepresent my beliefs, all those unknown masses.   Sacrifice my pride for them.  Give up my anger for them.  Love them.

“…a spirit of love…”

I think that’s what I’ll try to work on during Lent this year.  (I always give something up as a penance and choose something to improve on.)  Although cultivating a spirit of love sounds really basic and simple and something I should be doing every day anyway, it’s just not that easy.  To me, that’s what Lenten sacrifices are for: to help us be more Christ-like in everyday situations.  I’ll try to stop getting angry so easily, and move towards a spirit of compassion and truth, towards a spirit of love.

Say a prayer for me, ’cause it ain’t gonna be easy!

Bl. John Paul II’s Prayer for Life

January 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

I thought it would be fitting, on this 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade law, to post the prayer written by Pope John Paul II, at the end of his Evangelium Vitae encyclical.  This prayer has been hanging on a wall in my family’s home for as long as I can remember.  I think I have it memorized without ever taking the time to actually memorize it.  Let’s all pray it together and end abortion in our time.

O Mary, bright dawn of the new world,

Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life.

Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers

of babies not allowed to be born,

of the poor whose lives are made difficult,

of men and women who are victims of brutal violence,

of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.

Grant that all who believe in your Son

may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love

to the people of our time.

Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel

as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude

throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it

resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will,

the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God,

the Creator and lover of life.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of John Paul II’s Pontificate.

Evangelium Vitae

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