Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Lenten Leftovers

April 22, 2014

This past Lent, I gave up a few things that I love, like particular foods and shopping. I did better with the giving up of food than I did with the shopping, honestly.

 

But I learned something from both that I didn’t quite get before: when we replace material things or activities for God, we end up feeling unfulfilled in many ways.

 

Now that Lent is over, I’m back to shopping and eating all the foods that I gave up, but I’ve realized that they don’t have quite as large a hold over me as they once did. My mind is not occupied with them nearly as much.

 

Instead, I have found myself thinking of God more and more. Add to that the things I did for Lent, like reading the book Catholicism and changing the station in the car to a Christian rock station, and I feel like a new person. Which I think is what Easter is all about.

 

In a way, the things that have been left over in my soul are those things that matter—a craving for God and for Mass that I haven’t felt this strongly about in a very long time.

 

How did you do during Lent? Do you feel you have come out of the experience changed? Please share. 

The Light of Christ and Easter

April 21, 2014

My eyes didn’t have a hard time adjusting to the darkness at the Easter Vigil at St. Denis in Hopewell Junction. 

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Perhaps it was a sign for my life…that its easy to get used to the darkness.  But that darkness is not what God wants for us.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the Easter Vigil, the church is cloaked in darkness for half of the Mass, and each person is given a candle that is lit as part of the ceremony.) As each candle was lit by parishioners, one by one, I couldn’t help but be awed by the light. 

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The darkness also made it easy to focus on the only thing shining—the light from the Paschal candle; and the only things said—the readings and psalms. As each reading was read, it was as if the words took over the darkness and filled the space inside the church. 

 

I waited with anticipation for the part of the Mass when the lights would be turned back on.  My soul was ready for the light, and craved the light. 

 

During his homily, the priest focused on the vision of the empty tomb after Jesus had risen. Speaking in a strong voice, the priest talked of the empty tomb of Jesus and how we all have an empty tomb inside ourselves—that is, it is empty of Jesus—it is filled instead with all of our hatred, anger, shame and other negative feelings that we hide from everyone, including God. 

 

Empty those tombs and letting Jesus in, he said.  He said that God wants to fill us with peace, with happiness.  He told those gathered to let this Easter be the beginning of a new life. During his homily, I felt as if God through the priest was speaking directly to my soul. 

 

I have been struggling, as we all do, with the things I hide in my “tomb” and don’t always allow Jesus to come in and fill me with happiness, hope and joy.

 

Jesus, the priest said poignantly, took all of those feelings, nailed them to the cross, and overcame them.  That single word took my breath away…overcome.  Jesus already defeated all that we struggle with.  What amazing words. 

 

At the end of Mass, the priest reflected on all that he said during the homily and said, “Because of Jesus, everything is pretty good.”  I’d agree with that.

 

Hoping everyone had a happy Easter!

Windows to the Past

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.

stained glass

 

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!

Seventh-Inning Stretch? Not in Marriage!

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:

 

What Part Do You Play?

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. 

Questions to God

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. 

A ‘Mass Mob’ is Coming to NYC

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/

Book Bondings

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? 

The Frustration Factor

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? 

Emptying Out To Be Filled Up

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? 


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