I Saw His Side, Now I’m a Believer

April 21, 2015

I know it’s been a couple of weeks since we heard the story of “Doubting Thomas” at Mass, but I have been thinking of it quite a bit over the past few days. Mostly because I think I empathize with Thomas. And quite frankly, I think out of all the disciples, I am most like him.

Why do I think that? I think he seems to be the one with the worst luck. Imagine all of your friends are gathered—and it’s the one night you’re not with them—which just happens to be the night Jesus comes back. Figures. I’d be pretty mad. I’d tell them I’d want to see what they saw to believe it, too, because that would only be fair.

Even though I’m not a theologian, I couldn’t help but think about it this way: Could I believe that Jesus rose from the dead if I were Thomas, without seeing? Maybe. But for sure I wouldn’t trust the word of the ragtag group of men Jesus chose as his closest friends and followers.

In my own life I realized how often I don’t trust people when what they say has to do with something outside of my own admittedly limited experiences. For instance, I have a friend who can do complex math problems in their head. I didn’t believe them until I saw them do one with my own eyes. I know it’s a silly example, but it goes to show that even with people we know and say we trust, there is always a little bit of doubt. When we haven’t experienced something, it’s hard for us to relate.

Yet, what if we didn’t need to relate more to people unlike ourselves, we just needed to trust them? I’m not talking “world peace” level trust here…I’m talking about trusting more in the people in your own circle: your friends, your family, your co-workers.

Instead of automatically putting up your guard and saying “That can’t be true,” how about taking the person for their word, hard as it may be, and believing in them.

Have you been in a situation where someone didn’t trust you? Or perhaps you didn’t trust someone else? Please share your experience as it may help someone else.

Asking a Question, Not Knowing the Answer

April 17, 2015

At St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie the other day, along with my fellow reporters, interviewed seminarians who are about to be ordained as priests in May. The assignment is one of my favorites because I get to spend so much time talking about the reasons why a man chooses to become a priest which I view as such a heroic vocation.

I have been doing the interviews for nine years now, but I still am filled with anticipation and anxiety before I go because I want to make sure that I ask the right questions and really get to know each and every man individually so I can best tell his story. I always enjoy the interviews, which generally turn into conversations by the end of the session.

In one particular interviewing session, I posed a question to a seminarian that once I asked that I kind of wanted to know the answer to in my own life. The question was: “What centers you in your life that keeps you moving forward toward your goal?”

When I began to think about how I would answer it, I came up empty. I don’t, for example, go to daily Mass or receive the Eucharist frequently or pray the Rosary every day or spend time in Holy Hours on a regular basis. I don’t have any prayer practices that put Jesus at the center of my life each and every day. No wonder ordinary stresses keep blowing up like balloons into extraordinary sizes all the time. So it comes as no surprise when big problems come, I get so overwhelmed I shut down completely.

I went to the assignment for work, to do a good job with the stories I am to tell of the men in an upcoming issue of Catholic New York. But I came out of the seminary with so much more. I have a goal now…I have to find my own way of putting Jesus at the center of my life.

Lent is Over. What Now?

April 8, 2015

My husband and I are two different creatures. Generally after a long road trip, he likes to stay in the hotel room and relax. I, on the other hand, am usually full of excitement and want to explore wherever we are right away. That’s usually how I feel after the long penitential season of Lent when Easter Sunday finally arrives.

But this year, something was different. When Easter came, my husband and I attended church. I responded during Mass, I sang, I listened. I went through all the proper motions. But that sense of elation and joy was absent. Perhaps it was because I knew that this Lent I didn’t try as hard as I usually do to keep my Lenten promises. (I gave up shopping for non-essential items, among other promises.)

Now that this particular liturgical season is over, I find myself asking, “What now?” Then I remembered something that the pastor said during Mass at the church we attended on Easter (St. Patrick’s in Yorktown Heights). He said, “Try each day to be a little more Christ-like.”

That stood out to me out of everything he said because I’m generally a go all-in type of person. I like to do things all at once and get frustrated if I can’t. This method of doing things in baby steps has been a new revelation for me for the past while, and here it was again, said in church, right when I felt like a huge failure.

Sure, Lent is over, but if you’re like me, there is still a lot more work to be done spiritually. I plan to try to do it little by little, day by day. And if it has to be, minute by minute. Lent may be 40 days, but there is no time limit on how and when we choose to get closer to God.

Emergency Care

March 30, 2015

On Sunday night last week, as I was prepared to settle in for the Sunday blues to hit, something far worse struck instead. It felt as if a giant sword, just brandished from the fire from a blacksmith, was thrust into my left side. I had experienced this pain before. I had a kidney stone.

I woke my husband up from his slumber, and asked, all the while hunched over, grasping my back in agony, “Can you take me to the Emergency Room. I think I have another kidney stone. I’m in a lot of pain.”

He immediately jumped out of bed, threw some clothes on and off we went to the nearest hospital. After a wait that seemed like forever, a doctor did a CAT-scan and confirmed I had two kidney stones. I was given medication and sent on my way.

Today is Reconciliation Monday, and parishes are open to hear confession—which for me is kind of like a spiritual emergency room.

Sometimes I feel the same way about my soul as I did about my body. “I think I have a stone in my soul. I’m in a lot of pain.” In those situations, Catholics do have an “emergency room.”

Confession is one of the most healing and, I think, one of the most beautiful moments, Catholics can experience—a chance to start over, to renew our souls, to unburden our hearts. God can fix what is broken and start to remove piece by piece our spiritual pain. What a wonderful way to start Holy Week.

St. Patrick and “Snacks”

March 17, 2015

I don’t know much about St. Patrick, and I really should. Not only is he the patron saint of the archdiocese–he is the namesake of our cathedral.

The time-period in which he lived, around the 5th century, is a time in history in which I majored in, and am partially obsessed with. The problem is, my area of expertise was more along the lines of Europe. But, today, in honor of St. Patrick, I tried to do a little research and exploring. But first, I tried asking a few friends and family members if they knew any interesting tidbits.

One of my brothers immediately responded, “He chased all the snacks out of Ireland.”

You read that correctly. His phone’s autocorrect changed the sentence. I’m sure he meant to type, “He chased all the snakes out of Ireland:” referring to the popular legend surrounding the saint. I let out an uproarious laugh at my desk at work. I couldn’t help it.

I imagined St. Patrick, a missionary in a strange land, fending for his life as he tried to spread the faith to a people who didn’t understand (hence the use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity). In almost all images of him, he is portrayed with a shamrock and a walking stick.

The image of St. Patrick with the shamrock and the walking stick made me think of my own life. Do I try to explain to others (or even to myself, really, about my faith?) and do I go out and try to walk in the footsteps of Jesus? Am I living the life Jesus called me to live? Those are tough questions to answer. And honestly, I don’t have an answer for myself right now, but it is so worth it to think about.

Tears for the Cardinal

March 10, 2015

When the editor of Catholic New York first came out into the newsroom and announced “Cardinal Egan died this afternoon,” his own voice full of shock, I couldn’t help but cry. It wasn’t that I knew the cardinal well, or at all, really.

Sure, I knew him by hearing him speak at numerous assignments over four years, and even rode in the elevator with him on a few occasions, but that’s about it.

So the tears that came were quite a surprise. When they came again on Monday at the end of a long day working on a special issue in his honor, I was again, surprised. By Tuesday, when I caught a snippet of the Funeral Mass on the news, I knew the tears would come…and they did.

So why all the crying?

I tried to spend some time thinking about that and I think one of the reasons is because as I grew in my faith and obtained my job at Catholic New York, Cardinal Egan was in a sense, there to teach me. I learned about St. Joseph and Mary at his vocations Masses at the seminary; I learned about the importance of all life at his confirmation Masses for those with disabilities; and he taught me about the history of the faith at countless other Masses along the way.

He didn’t know me, but I knew him. And through him, I came to know Jesus better.

Stay With the Stations

March 3, 2015

Every year I say it. I’m going to pray the Stations of the Cross. And every year I become stuck on one station, and don’t make it through the rest. I skip over some, and never make it to others.

One year it was Jesus Carries His Cross; and another it was Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross. One particularly important year in my life it was Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Repentant Thief (because to me it represented the hope of the repentant thief).

This year, the station that is resonating with me is Jesus is Stripped of His Garments. I honestly never gave this station much thought. If anything, it made me uncomfortable to read, to think about, or to see portrayed in television and movie versions. Because of that, I’d skip over it, ignore it or pretend it didn’t exist.

This year the station brings to mind one word for me: dignity. Perhaps I’ve matured, or my perspective has changed, or maybe it’s because dignity is being discussed more; whatever the reason, I empathize with Jesus. I feel that everyone at some point in their life has felt their dignity has been taken away or has suffered to some degree. For example, maybe you have felt your dignity stripped away to varying degrees from bullying, abuse, a badly timed joke, or an insensitive comment.

Can you imagine how Jesus might have felt? Here He is, the Son of God, stripped of the last shreds of His human dignity before a crowd that wants to see Him dead, before His mother, and His closest friends. Of course it is impossible to know how Jesus felt, but if I were in that situation, I think it would be unbearable. But Jesus was willing to endure that for us.

I think that it’s okay if we don’t make it through all the stations. Maybe one station will resonate with you this Lent like this one does for me. Stay there; perhaps that is where Jesus wants you to be—with Him showing how much He loves you.

Behind the Book Curve

March 2, 2015

I’m slightly behind the curve when it comes to reading heavily recommended and popular books. That was the case with Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. But when I finally did get a chance to read it, boy, was I ever happy that I didn’t pass it by on the way to another story on my list.

Without giving away too much of the story to the few of you who may not have read it or have seen the movie, its about a World War II bombardier named Louie Zamperini who is taken prisoner by the Japanese. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it. It’s not a Catholic book, but there is a faith element in it.

unbroken

As I was reading, there was quite a few times where I stopped in shock or awe at what some of the men in the war went through. How did they survive such dire circumstances? How did they NOT break? The story doesn’t go through all of that, but it does focus on the survival of Louie.

There were a few lines in particular that nearly jumped off  the page for me. I’ll highlight just one. After Louie returns from the war, he’s struggling, as are his fellow POW friends and other veterans. The author notes: “There was no one right way to peace; every man had to find his own path, according to his own history.” (Page 349.)

I thought that was such a profound statement, especially as we all go through this period of Lent. Some may be suffering through hardships, and might be at breaking points for different reasons—it’s not for us to judge those reasons or hardships—everyone has a history that they are trying to fight through find their peace.

Lent is the perfect time to find that path to peace. Catholics can connect their suffering to Jesus’ as He makes his way to the Cross.

Anyone reading a book for Lent that is really moving them and bringing them closer to God?

Walk the Line

February 23, 2015

There have been a lot of posts and articles out there that talk about how Lent is not a time for self-help, or a way to diet, or to kick a bad habit—rather, it’s a time of sacrifice. I know this. It is not about me, it’s about God and taking away the things that distract us from Him.

But, I’m of the opinion that the two go hand-in-hand. As anyone who has given up something for Lent that’s habitual, like smoking, or drinking coffee, and I bet they’ll tell you that when it comes time for that break, they are thinking of that item first, and God second. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Resisting temptation and turning it into a sacrifice is supposed to be hard. There’s no way I can tell for sure, but I think that’s when prayers are pretty strong, or at least the most heartfelt, at least for to me.

There probably is a line that Catholics have to watch out for…a line that separates us from doing things only for ourselves and not for God at all, but otherwise, I’d have to say, God wants us to be the best we can be, so if we get a little self help or dieting in on the way, so be it.

I was thinking of the Johnny Cash song “I Walk the Line,” (hence, the title) because of the lyrics “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time; I keep the ends out for the tie that binds; Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

I think it’s a fitting way to go through Lent.

Next Rest Stop: 40 Days Away

February 17, 2015

If you’ve been on a long trip you’ve seen the signs that point out when the next rest area is coming. Today, Shrove Tuesday, is the like the last “rest” area Catholics will have before the biggest, best rest area to come: Easter. The hard part is getting through those 40 long days.

I’m not good on long trips. I get fidgety, I change the music constantly, I feel the need to stop at every rest area along the way to get out and stretch my legs. I’m the same way in life. For the most part, I change my interests constantly—my hobbies, my favorite movies and books, and especially how I pray. Lent, with its continuity is difficult to say the least. At the same time, the challenge is appealing because I feel that it helps me grow spiritually, and that, for me, is what life is all about.

So what am I doing for Lent this year? I have no idea. Yet. I’m hoping that something will strike me tonight as I indulge in the last stop before the long and winding road of sacrifice and contemplation begins.

One of the pictures I like to keep in my mind during Lent is of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James and John. While he prays, his three closest friends fall asleep. In Matthew 26:40, it says, “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” It’s an odd picture to have during Lent, perhaps, of failure of the three disciples—but it is one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. It shows Jesus at one of his most human points, I think, scared, maybe a little angry or upset with his friends; but ready to accept what is coming ahead (His Crucifixion).

gethsemane

But I relate to the disciples. The go to pray with Jesus fully prepared to stay awake and be with him, but they fail. Jesus wakes them up and, in my mind pretty much says, “You couldn’t even do one thing and I’m going to die for you!?!” The disciples stay with Jesus, and epically fail another two times.

Why does this image mean so much to me? I think because it shows that we, like the disciples, are going to fail many times, maybe more so during these 40 days of Lent, but we can keep trying.

What are you doing for Lent? Please Share.


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