April 15, 2014
The Cloisters Museum is one of my favorite places to visit. When I heard they had a special exhibition called “Radiant Light” featuring stained-glass windows from Canterbury Cathedral from the Middle Ages, I had to go (Medieval Studies was a major of mine in college).
This past weekend, my husband and I went with a couple friends to see the exhibit. The large windows were spectacular with their size and vivid colors. Each one depicted ancestors of Jesus, and each was created between 1178 and 1180. Although not a Catholic cathedral, it was an important pilgrimage site—it is highlighted in the well-known Canterbury Tales.
This window shows Thara and Abraham and is almost 12 feet high.
What is important in the depictions is the use of color and other methods of art to tell the story to a highly illiterate population. If you look closely at Thara (the father of Abraham), you can see that he is wearing yellow, which was associated with evil, and his body is twisted in form. Abraham, on the other hand, is wearing rich green and is seated normally on his throne.
I’m glad that I went to the exhibit because it reinforced my belief that Jesus was a concrete, flesh and blood person. Sometimes it is easy for me to forget that Jesus is not just an abstract concept of a God who is way above me. He was here. He experienced life. And he experienced death. It was a good way for me to start the time leading up to Holy Week.
Are there any pieces of art that showed you a new way of looking at, or reinforced how you look at part of our faith? Please share!
April 14, 2014
As any of my closest friends can tell you, I am not good with numbers. So when I woke up this morning, on my husband’s and my seventh anniversary, I thought that we had been married for 8 years. I’ve known him for roughly half of my life, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch to think we had been married for longer.
For some reason, when I realized we had been married for 7 years, the 7th inning stretch at baseball games came to mind. I think it is a real accomplishment to last 7 years, especially in the world today, and I know that in marriage, there is no such thing as a “stretch” or a break. I remember back to our wedding day, when we had the popular reading from Corinthians read in Portuguese. Even that day, I didn’t think much of the words of the reading because I had heard them so often, but part of the reading seems to mean more to me today than it did 7 years ago: Love “Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
The part of the reading that really struck me was the part that says that love always perseveres. That’s not just lip service. Now that my husband and I have a few years of experience, I think we both know how hard it is to persevere, especially through hard times. It would be easy at certain times in our marriage to take the easy road out: sickness, money problems, fertility issues, family issues, and other such problems. But, like the reading says, love always has hope and trusts that somehow things will work out.
In celebration of our anniversary, I wanted to share this beautiful video of an Irish priest singing an alternate version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at a wedding:
April 10, 2014
If your life were a movie, what kind of movie would it be? And more importantly, what part would you play? I’ve often joked that my life would be a “Made for T.V.” movie, probably for one of the women’s stations.
But on a serious note, I am beginning to wonder how I present myself to world, and how I want to be seen. Oftentimes, I believe that I present myself in ways that don’t show the “real” me. I don’t always take the leading role in my life, for example. I allow circumstances and those around me to dictate how I will act. Am I around work people? Then I’ll act a certain way and that way only. Around different groups of friends, even, I often act in very different ways.
Which act is the one that is most true?
In life that we all play different roles depending on the circumstances, and I think that’s okay to a certain degree. But lately I have been working hard to let the “real” me shine through so I don’t become a one-dimensional stereotype. It’s scary to “be real,” I admit. Sometimes we have to look hard at parts of our lives that aren’t so perfect. For instance, if you are an addict, or an alcoholic, or a victim, those parts and experiences can color everything else.
I am trying to remind myself, however, that God loves all of us, not just parts of us. Hopefully that will give me the strength to be me in all situations.
April 8, 2014
This morning, I read online an article about a little boy who wrote a note to God asking why his favorite team, the Mets, played so bad. The question made me laugh out loud, and also think about why bad things sometimes happen to good teams, players, and people in general.
I think that this is a question that we all struggle with—it’s even been the title of a book “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” I don’t have an answer for this question myself. In my own life, I question why bad things happen when I am trying to be on my best behavior. It also seems, on the other side, good things happen to bad people all the time. Is it God’s fault?
Even though I am not a theologian, my first response to that question is no—when bad things happen it’s not God’s fault. C.S. Lewis once wrote in his book, “The Problem of Pain,” “We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven, a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?” To me, this means that there are rules to be followed, just like in baseball, and sometimes good teams lose. The same holds true for people because almost always bad things don’t make sense to us at all. But like the quote implies, we can’t be happy all the time.
What do you think of the little boys question? And how do you resolve to love God when there is so much evil in the world? Please share your thoughts as it might help others.
April 3, 2014
I am not sure if you heard about this movement, but there is a group of Catholics out there who have gathered together to choose a church to attend for an upcoming Sunday Mass as a “Mass Mob.”
As soon as I heard the clever name of the movement I was intrigued.
After a little research, I found out that the concept started in Buffalo where Catholics gathered, all through communication through the Internet, and filled the pews of a select church on a chosen Sunday. The parishes also receive a boost in the income of churches that are struggling with the collections at Mass. It really shows the power of social media communications, which I think is a great thing.
Mike Cadigan is organizer of the Mass Mob in New York City. He said, “We are young Catholic activists who are seeking to evangelize and re-package Catholicism for everyday people. We want to show the world what Catholicism is truly all about.”
The ‘Mob’ has identified four churches— St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Manhattan; St. Stanislaus Kostka in Maspeth; St. Matthew’s in Brooklyn; and Blessed Sacrament in Brooklyn. Voting will be going on until April 6, at which time a church will be selected by the amount of votes it receives. I already voted for St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Manhattan, even though it lags behind in votes (Yes, I am biased towards the Manhattan church!).
For information and to vote, visit: www.facebook.com/NYCMassMob or http://nycmassmob.com/vote/
March 27, 2014
Yesterday I had my first official book signing at Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers after the parish mission featuring the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. I learned an important lesson last night at singing about bonding with other Catholics.
I didn’t sell a lot of books, but the ones I did sell, I think made it into the right hands. One thing that has been a blessing about writing this book is that people share their life stories with me. Sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are happy, but they all have one thing in common—faith in God.
Without getting into too many specifics I learned last night that a reader of one of my books decided to sign up for Bible classes after reading the book; a few readers were looking for something joyful to read; and others were looking for someone who knows what it is like to struggle with the faith, like I do. I know these things didn’t happen because of me; I know that it is not because I am a great writer or a theologian or anything special—but I am an instrument of God, and I can see His work for the first time through me.
It has been perhaps the one of the greatest blessings in my life.
It is something that each one of us can do. God gave all of us different gifts, and when we use them, great things can happen. There is a quote from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans which says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (12:21)
Have you used the gifts God has given you? What was is like for you to experience that?
March 25, 2014
Do you ever have one of those days where nothing seems to be going your way? I am having one such day today. It’s just small things, but sometimes those things add up pretty quickly. Projects that need to be done for work are being held up; I didn’t sleep well and I am just generally tired and frustrated.
I’ve changed my daily prayers from those of thanksgiving to those asking God for favors.
Then I remembered something that Pope Francis said about God: “He is not a wizard.” I know that my prayers are hollow because I can feel it. I feel guilty asking God for favors because I know it’s not the way to pray. He is not there to magically make all of my problems go away.
A day like today reminds me that not everything is in my control. For example, I can’t will myself to feel more awake. And those projects that are due for work? I have to wait until I get all the pieces together before I can finish them.
All of these minor frustrations change the way I pray so much that it astonishes me. When I’m frustrated, instead of leaning in to God and letting him take control, I wallow and dwell on those things that are not going right. It’s a habit I hope to break.
Do you find that you sometimes pray to God as if he were a wizard or a genie that grants wishes?
March 24, 2014
For Lent, I have been reading the book “Catholicism” by Father Robert Barron. One of the things he speaks about is how people try to fill the void they feel in their life with things that don’t really work.
He writes in the book, “Thomas Aquinas said that the four typical substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. Sensing the void within, we attempt to fill it up with some combination of these four things, but only by emptying out the self in love can we make the space for God to fill us.”
I knew that I had stumbled upon an important quote and stopped reading to think about just what exactly this could mean.
I understand that people do live for wealth, pleasure, power and honor. But I didn’t quite understand what Thomas Aquinas or Father Robert Barron meant with the “emptying out” part of the quote. Although I am not a theologian, after some contemplation, I realized that those four things aren’t bad, but they are when they overcrowd your soul and leave no room for God.
I myself have a problem with filling up my life with material pleasures. I am always looking for the thing that will make me instantly happy—shopping, eating, etc. When I don’t have that instant “fix” I get depressed. But when I remember to turn to God instead of the next material thing, I find that I am a happier, more content person. But it is a struggle every day.
What do you think this quote means? Do you think you try to fill your life with one of the four things listed by St. Thomas Aquinas?
March 21, 2014
A priest that I know gave me a small prayer booklet for Lent, “The Living Gospel,” by Sister Theresa Rickard, O.P., and the reflection today was on the parable that the stone the builder rejected has become the cornerstone.
The reflection says, “Christ is the cornerstone upon which you want to build your life; he is your rock and refuge, and he calls you to align your values and beliefs with his will and way.” The reflection made me see this parable in an entirely different way. When I first heard this story as a child—probably at Mass or in religion class—I thought that it was referring to the rejected people: the outcasts, the loners, those that seem like they don’t belong. I thought that it was these people who were to build up something great. Because I believed that, I often wanted to befriend the underdogs in my early life.
Now that I see this parable in a new way, in which God is the cornerstone, I again have a new way to look at life. Before, I was looking outward at other people and felt that it was the underdogs who were destined to do great things. Now that I have reread the parable in this way, I see that I have to look inward to see if God is the cornerstone in my life.
The reading goes on to ask, “Is Christ the foundation that holds up every facet of your life?” The answer for me is that I am truly trying. But somedays, especially the darker days, this is quite hard to do. It’s easy at those times to forget that Christ is literally “in our corner.” It’s something I am going to try to remember more often as I go about my day.
March 20, 2014
This week, I heard on the radio a story about Cristiano Ronaldo, a world-famous soccer player who has been known for his cockiness, and a good deed he performed that went above and beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary.
When asked to provide a shirt and boots for a community auction, Ronaldo asked what the donation was for. When he heard that a 10-month old baby needed surgery for seizures, he decided to pay for the neurological operation.
I was so moved by this story because of the generosity the act showed, but more for the fact that it totally went against how I thought of Rinaldo. I had viewed him in only one way—as a soccer player who showed off on and off the field. But this act of kindness reminded me that you really can’t judge someone for one aspect of their life.
It also made me want to check myself to see if I judge others by only viewing one side of them. Perhaps you do the same. Do you think of an annoying co-worker as just that, without trying to find out about their home life? Or do you have a friend or family member that you know as acting one way in their youth only to find that over time they have changed?
I think that Rinaldo did a great thing. And for that, he scores big in my book.