Category : Passion

Jesus Calms the Sea Eugène_Delacroix_-_Christ_Endormi_pendant_la_Tempête
Faith, Grace, Hope, Lent, Passion, Prayer, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation, Virtue
0

Having Hope in a Time of Crisis

Having hope in a time of crisis is not easy. Hope is rooted in truth, and the truth is, things are not easy right now.

Let’s be clear: having hope is not foolish optimism detached from the reality at hand. Rather, it has to do with trusting in the promises of God… which is hard… which is why it’s called a virtue (and not a given).

Hope—trusting in the promises of God—is intertwined in trusting in God’s goodness. On Friday, Pope Francis spoke about this very dynamic in his meditation on the calming of the storm from Mark 4:35-41 (full text and video here). Caught in a violent storm, the disciples, who are experienced, life-long fishermen, fear for their lives while Jesus is lays sleeping.

They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”(Mark 4:38-40)

Pope Francis honed in on the spiritual struggle so many of us have in the midst of a storm like Coronavirus and quarantine: “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.” Like the disciples, our faith in God is evident in the way we call out to God. However, in the midst of a storm so violent that people fear for their lives, sometimes we question God’s goodness. We cannot understand it and question if God cares about us. Fear threatens our trust in God’s goodness.

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/urbi-et-orbi-pope-coronavirus-prayer-blessing.html

Trusting in God’s goodness opens our hearts to hope. In a time of crisis and fear, we need to remind ourselves and each other that there is abundant evidence of God’s goodness at work.

How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.” (Pope Francis, Urbi et orbi blessing, March 27, 2020)

In the language of faith, this is the Paschal Mystery – God works with us, in us, and through us as vessels of grace to one another. Even in the midst of chaos and crisis, we can see goodness.

In the language of Mr. Roger’s Mom, “Look for the helpers.”

Mr Rogers Notice the Helpers

Name and claim the goodness and joy that you observe. Know that God is the source of all goodness. Believe that the Holy Spirit empowers us to be vessels of grace,

Recall the insight from the Raising of Lazarus: we have faith not in a God who rescues us; we have faith in a God who Redeems. We have faith in a God who is the source of all goodness; who respects our freedom enough to let things unfold… even difficult, painful, stressful things. Because our God Redeems.

God doesn’t do evil to achieve good (or to teach lessons). God doesn’t intend, rejoice in, or plan for suffering. God redeems it.

And we have faith in a God who Redeems.

Cultivating Hope

Trusting in a God who Redeems is at the root of the virtue of hope, and like all virtues, we can strengthen and grow in hope with practice.

Here one practice that we have been doing in our family to cultivate hope:

The Rose: Every night, when we gather for family dinner, we pray The Rose, which is a family-friendly, loose adaptation of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen. I have always appreciated the way the Rose allows us to hear about aspects of each other’s day that we otherwise wouldn’t.

The Rose Handout(Note: if you cannot see the image above, and/or if you would like a printable copy of The Rose, click here.)

  • Rose: Naming the bits of laughter and joy, the successes (no matter how small), the connections… Naming goodness and grace is essential to the spiritual practice of gratitude. Do it every night while eating dinner. Share your gratitude for goodness with one another.
  • Bud: For my boys, anticipation of joyful experiences is just as (if not more) exciting than the experience itself. Naming our buds lifts our spirits. However. In the time of Covid-19, when all the things we usually look forward to have been cancelled, it’s becoming more and more difficult to identify things to look forward to. Which is why it’s becoming more and more crucial to our spiritual well-bring. Yes, most of our “buds” have looking forward to upcoming Zoom calls with friends… and getting to the other side of the Coronavirus! This is going to take some effort, but it’s also key to cultivating hope!
  • Thorn: As I wrote in How Are You, it’s also important to be real about the struggles in your day. Articulating your thorn is prayer when that lament is directed to God, trusting in His goodness. Need some guidance there? Check out the Psalms.
  • Root: As a family, we join together in specifically praying for people by name… and praying for an end to this pandemic.

What are you doing to cultivate hope today?

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Philip Kromer / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Faith, Grace, Lent, Life, Passion, Scripture, Spirituality, Suffering
2

How Are You?

Ironically, for as difficult as it is in this time of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, at least we’re all in it together.

Be reassured: No one knows how to do this. No one knows what they’re doing. We’re all figuring it out together.

In my last two posts, I talked about needing to Reevaluate Lent and my decision to Be Real and Have Hope (with key insights from the story of the Raising of Lazarus). So here’s me being real: I’ve been going through a difficult time and things have been hard.

Here’s Me Being Real

About 9 months ago, I wrote about my son suffering 2nd degree burns. Five weeks later, I wrote one follow-up post. But nothing else because… it was just too much. It was just too hard.

While in the Pediatric ICU, the doctors said 2nd degree burns heal within 2-3 weeks. So, 2-3 weeks is what we mentally geared ourselves up for.

It was actually 3 months of daily wound care and intense restrictions. The most severe 2nd degree burns (“deep partial-thickness”) take longer to heal and leave thick, raised scars, which need another 18 months of care, including wearing compression garments for 23 hours a day. It was a lot. It took a toll on everyone, in every way.

Believe me: I’m not complaining. All you need to do is walk into any floor of Shriner’s Pediatric Burn Hospital to have every possible complaint in your life be put into perspective.

However, this was—and still is—our reality. And quite honestly, it was hard… really, really hard.

How Are You?

When we see people out and about, most of us greet each other with, “Hi! How are you?” Generally, Americans subconsciously intend this to be a surface-level, friendly greeting. Generally, in the aisles of the supermarket, we are not inquiring about the status of a person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It’s not to say that we don’t actually care about each other. It’s just… usually, if we’re genuinely interested and aware that the standard answers of “good,” “fine,” or “alright,” aren’t actually the expected answer, we’ll lean-in and give permission to be truthful with something akin to, “No, really; how are you?”

For a long time, my honest answer wasn’t, “Good!” It wasn’t even, “Fine,” (which my mother considers to be a four-letter word). For a long time, I was struggling. And my personal integrity was taking a hit by answering with anything less than the truth – because things were just so hard. Eventually, I settled on a non-answer, “Hey! Good to see you!” or with a swivel, “Busy! How about you?”

The lenten promise to Be Real was born out of this struggle. For the sake of my sanity and integrity (aka—mental and spiritual health), I eventually decided I would be real with anyone I knew would want to know… whether they were prepared for it or not. I had a lot of conversations that started with me stumbling over expressing the truth: “Good! No. Actually, I’m not good. Things are hard.”

Speaking Truth

When I started “being real” and speaking the truth, I started to open the door to unexpected love and grace.

No. Wait. Actually, a caveat: Not everyone is entitled to know the truth. And frankly, not everyone can handle the truth.

you-cant-handle-the-truth

No joke. Some people are really bad at this.

But more often than not, I found support, love, and compassion. Sometimes I’d lay out my truth with a voice-quivering, “Things are hard.” Then I’d purse my lips and shake my head—tears might fall—and I’d whisper, “Can’t talk about it. Pray. How are you?”

Speaking truth opened the door to community; I wasn’t so alone.

Yes. This is hard.

We are all struggling with this “new normal” (which is hard), for an undetermined amount of time (which is—speaking from experience here—really, really hard).

It’s been a relief to hear more and more people being real and acknowledging that this is hard.

Acknowledging that this is hard doesn’t mean you’re complaining. Nor does it mean you’re lacking in faith or trust in God.

Take a look at the exchange between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16, right after the big question “Who do you say that I am?” (v.15) and Peter’s profound confession of faith. This is when Jesus begins to get real with the disciples, predicting the his suffering and death (v.21).

When Jesus speaks these difficult truths, he’s not complaining. He’s not lacking in faith or trust in God.

In fact, it’s Peter who lacks faith and trust in the one whom he just confessed to be the Messiah! Peter refuses to hear the difficult truth and rebukes Jesus: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mt 16:22).

Jesus has no tolerance for telling himself (and others) a lie that will make everybody feel better. Because although the pain and suffering of the Passion and Death will be hard, that is not the end of the story. (More on that another day.)

We’re all in this together

There is tremendous grace in hearing others being real and speaking truth. We’re reminded that we’re not alone. We’re reminded that we’re not doing it wrong. And in the broken Body of Christ, we’re reminded that our Savior is with us in our suffering, present to us through one another.

  • Is there someone you can call (old-school phone or Zoom) and be real about the things you’re finding most difficult right now?
  • Really. How are you?

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Raising of Lazarus Van Gogh via flickr
Divine Providence, Evil, Grace, Hope, Lent, Passion, Scripture, Suffering, Transformation
1

Being Real, Having Hope, and Lazarus

The other day, I talked about the need to reevaluate lent. The lenten practice that I’ve found really helpful, especially in this time of pandemic, is both being real and having hope, understanding that it’s important to do both together. It’s a practice that the Scripture story of the “Raising of Lazarus” has really helped me understand and practice.

Being Real and Having Hope

By “be real,” I mean to courageously acknowledge the truth of what is going on – in the world, in my community, and in my home – which includes honestly accounting for feelings, whether anxiety and sadness or laughter and love. Therein, it’s the humility to be real with both joys and sorrows… with both success and struggle… with both death and Resurrection… with myself, with others (including my kids) and with God.

By “have hope,” I mean to continually have faith in the transforming power of God in the Paschal Mystery. To hope is to both trust in God and to actively cooperate with God’s grace. Hope is a bit of an elusive virtue for many of us. We tend to take it to one of two unhelpful extremes, with either too much reliance on self (while lacking trust in God) or too much professed reliance on God (without bothering to discern how God may be calling us to cooperate with grace).

Hope Virtue with Extremes

I need to, I want to, and I have to do both: be real and have hope. To only focus on one without the other leads to more unhealthy extremes: negativity-and-panic… or saccharine-sweet-rainbow-unicorns. (Read more about the virtue of hope here.)

The Raising of Lazarus

The Gospel for the 5th Sunday in Lent, the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45), speaks to both “being real” and “having hope.”

Jesus receives word from his good friends, Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus is ill. But instead of rushing off, Jesus curiously stays where he is for two more days. By the time they arrive in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days. First Martha (v.21) and then Mary (v.32) each greet Jesus by, saying If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

How many times have we similarly lamented, “Why? Why didn’t God do something to stop this?” Even now, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, how many of us have wondered “Why has God allowed this to happen?!”

In The Passion and the Cross, Ronald Rolheiser, OMI redirects our “Whys?” simply and succinctly: Because our God is a fellow-sufferer and a Redeemer, not a Rescuer.

“God doesn’t ordinarily intervene to save us from humiliation, pain, and death; rather, he redeems humiliation, pain, and death after the fact” (38).

Honestly articulating our questions and struggles directly to Jesus is being real, but Martha and Mary don’t stop there. They don’t just speak their sorrow. Immediately following her lament, “If you had been here…” Martha models having hope: “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (John 11:22).

And Jesus. Even though he knew he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, we find Jesus deeply troubled by the reality of the situation. It’s here that we read the shortest verse in all of Scripture, “And Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Talk about being real with emotion!

Having hope in a God who Redeems (not rescues) means that things might not unfold as we would expect. Things certainly didn’t unfold the way Martha and Mary expected. Nor did things unfold the way the disciples expected following the Crucifixion.

Having hope in a God who Redeems means we are open to goodness and grace – especially when we least expect it!

(More on that in the next post!)

  • Are you able to be real and have hope about your joys and sorrows in the midst of all that is going on? (Or do you find yourself going to unhelpful extremes?)
  • Do you expect God to be a rescuer?

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Screenshot 2019-01-16 09.26.38
Article, Faith, Human Dignity, Joy, Life, Passion
0

“I cared about her more as a human being than as an athlete.”

After the video of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s “perfect 10” floor routine went viral, NPR interviewed her head coach, Valerie Kondos Field about her character and skill.

Katelyn had almost given up on the sport. “The elite level came at a price. Not just the injuries, but the body-shaming and the cut-throat competition that left her questioning her self-worth” (NPR’s Morning Edition).

Coach Val became a catalyst for change in Katelyn, who had stopped loving the sport at age 11. How? At the 1:40 mark in the two-minute interview, Coach Val utters the sentence that says it all:

“I cared about her more as a human being than as an athlete.”

And that was everything.

Caring more about a person’s humanity than about the role they play, regardless of the context, is the essence of respect for human dignity.

Want to know how to live your faith in the secular workplace? Care about people more as human beings than as coworkers and employees.

How does every single faculty and staff member live out the Catholic Identity of the school? Care about people more as human beings than as students and colleagues.

It really is that easy.

Care for a person’s well-being more than the function they provide.

Stop using people as objects. Stop objectifying the body for the sake of athletic or advertising success. Stop shaming. Stop the competition that leaves people questioning their self-worth.

We don’t have to choose between people and profit, between personal well-being and excellence, between compassion and success.

In fact, look at the results: not only does Katelyn’s routine earn a “perfect 10,” not only has the video of her performance gone viral, but in the words of Coach Val, “She just exudes goodness and love and joy.”

Be a catalyst: care about a person more as a human being than anything they can do.

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Boston College T sign
Calling, Holy Spirit, Life, Passion, Vocation
0

Workings of the Spirit Part 3: Deeper Passion, Bigger Challenges

In Part 1, I told the story of how I ended up at my undergraduate college as a theology major, explaining three indications that it just might be the work of the Holy Spirit:

  1. A series of uncanny coincidences with impeccable timing
  2. Realizing you have a passion about something
  3. Feeling certain that you need to follow your passion, even if you’re unsure of how to proceed.

Part 2 explained that: 

  1. Saying “Yes-But-No” (or “Not right now”) to the Holy Spirit doesn’t really work.
  2. Actually Living Out Your Passion involves taking some leaps of faith.
  3. Sometimes Things Fall Apart, but God is still at work.

As Dr. Seuss writes in Oh the Places You Will Go
ohplaces-4

It is tempting to think that Things Falling Apart is an indication that you have chosen the wrong path.  Sometimes, yes – that’s what it means (particularly when we say Yes-But-No to the Spirit).  Other times, no – not so much.  Rather, it’s the same path, only a different direction.  It’ll take some more story-telling to explain what I mean.  So on to Part 3.

Living the Dream

I mentioned in Part 2 that “I took the initiative to pursue a dream to go to…Boston College.”  I had held this dream for years, but kept making excuses for why it couldn’t happen: finances, time, relationships, etc.  But it stayed in my thoughts and in my heart.

The Holy Spirit speaks to us through our innermost desires and passions.  Gently nudging us along… until we don’t listen.  Then the Spirit smacks us upside the head. (I’m a tad stubborn, so I get smacked upside the head by the Spirit quite a bit.)  Which is how I ended up at Boston College.  It took an unhealthy work environment, the encouragement of a boyfriend, and the voices of two separate friends from different areas of my life to get me to even apply.

My time at BC was fantastic; the course-work and the community were exactly what I needed.  It gave voice and clarity to the leanings of my pedagogy (educational theory and practice) while deepening my background in theology.

Boston College-1

with Tom Groome

While I was in Boston, I continued to long-distance-date the areospace engineer I had met in Austin (which is really hard to do with a guy that doesn’t talk on the phone).  Peter had since completed his PhD and moved to the Washington DC area to work with NASA Goddard.  Somehow (I seriously don’t remember how), I was given the opportunity to help represent BC’s program at a conference in Washington DC. (I loved my program at BC so much, I would have happily gone anywhere to do this for them, but bonus: free airfare and time to visit Peter!)

“Thy Will Be Done” (Not My Will Be Done)

While explaining BC’s program to various people, I meet Malcolm.  His name tag tells me he’s a teacher at a school in Maryland.  I mention that I will be finishing my degree in the summer, moving to this area, and looking for a job.  He says he works for The Best Catholic High School in the region, and they are looking for a new Religion Teacher for the following school year.  While we exchanged information, I was pretty sure this was the first time I actually recognized the Work of the Holy Spirit while it was happening.

Met with the Principal.  Fell in love with the school.  However, she wanted to hire me as the school’s first full-time Campus Minister.  In addition to retreats and liturgies, the first big task the Religion Department needed was an overhaul of the Service Learning Program.

It just so happened that my Master’s Thesis was on Service Learning, but this direction wasn’t what I had in mind.  My love and passion were for teaching.  This is one of the many examples in my life where I had a hard time embracing God’s plan because it wasn’t exactly matching up with my plan.

You know the story of the Rich Young Man?

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false wwwimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”  “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:17-31)

I think the Rich Young Man gets a bad rap.  We don’t know whether or not he actually followed what Jesus said to do.  Scripture just says “He went away sad.”  Sometimes I have a hard time following God’s Will.  I go away sad.  But I do get on board (eventually).  It just takes me a little time to get over myself.

When I (eventually) said yes, I was comforted by the idea that I would at least be teaching one class.  So I finished my time at Boston College, moved to Maryland, and started working at Seton.

Listening to the Voice Within (Or Not)

While my thesis had help me create a substantive Service Learning Program grounded in Scripture and Tradition, my professors at Boston College had also helped me know that it would be necessary to prepare the community for a paradigm shift in attitudes in order for the program to be successful.

Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to the voice within.  I wanted to educate the whole community about both What the changes were and Why there were going to be changes.  The Principal said there wasn’t a need because these changes were considered a Religion Department policy.  I should have insisted.  I knew better.  But I was already so busy working with students and parents, so I conceded.

One of the reasons Seton is such a fantastic school is the community.  The faculty care deeply about the students whole well-being.  So when the students reacted strongly against the changes, (some many) of the faculty reacted along with them.  It was hard on me.  It took over a year of fighting the good fight (with the Principal always having my back, as she said she would) to get the whole community on board.  It happened (commitment to service became integral to the school’s identity); but it didn’t have to be so hard.

What was easy, though, was teaching.  The one little class I had was the highlight of my day, every day.  After a couple of years, I did listen to the voice within and asked to shift to more-teaching and less-campus ministry.  Yes, it helped that the voice within was encouraging me to do what I wanted.  But still.  I listened.

I certainly listened to the Spirit when Peter and I married.

4244_13_16

Seton’s Gospel Choir sang at our wedding, and two of my students were part of a liturgical dance that my friend Susan choreographed.





I also listened to Seton faculty’s suggestions to attend a professional development training by the Anti-Defamation League for Catholic Educators called Bearing Witness.  Through this amazing program – which is a partnership between the ADL, the US Catholic Bishops, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum – I found a new vehicle of passion, educating about the Holocaust, Judaism, and antisemitism, and fighting all forms of prejudice.

Through the ADL (and with the support of Seton), I was able to participate in the March of the Living in Poland.

Poland 083

In this March, Jewish high school students and Catholic educators joined Holocaust survivors in the two mile walk from the smaller camp of Auschwitz to the massive concentration camp of Birkenau.

What was once a march of death (to the gas chambers) has become a March of Life and commitment to Never Again.

Later that same year, I participated in the ADL’s Bearing Witness Advanced in Israel, which again deepened my passion and enriched my understanding of the Holocaust, Judaism, and antisemitism.


IMG_0614

at the Sea of Galilee

IMG_0963

Sunrise hike up Masada



Praying at the Western Wall

Praying at the Western Wall

IMG_1015

on the camel everyone gets a picture riding after climbing Masada and floating in the Dead Sea


I think it is safe to say that my parents no longer wondered what I would do with a degree in theology.

To recap:

  • The Holy Spirit speaks to us through our innermost desires and passions.  Live the dream by listening to that.
  • Sometimes God’s plan is slightly different from your plan.  Be open to it.
  • Listen to the voice within.  That’s the work of the Spirit as well.


Next up, Part 4: From My Plans to God’s Will


Boston T Party 114 – Boston College by Michael Femia licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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