It's been a week now and I'm not praying. Maybe in some way I'm praying, but not my usual praying. Mostly, I'm not listening. Don't want to. Why?
Probably a lot of reasons. I've gone through this three other times recently. Shortly after Mom died and when I started to come out of it, my brother died, and then when I started to come out of it I realized it had been one year since my Mom died, and now it is the one year anniversary of my brother dying and I can't pray.
I'm sad. That's definitely part of it. There is still some residual anger and distrust with God and not just because two people I love died, but because it put my own life into a kind of tail spin. I've been doing the Ignatian Spiritual Exercise with a spiritual director and those two things keep coming up--distrust, especially--, and God keeps comforting me and making me feel not so angry and not so distrustful and I think, "Hey, I think this is over! Now I can totally love God!" and then it starts again. Bleh.
Suddenly I'm in spiritual apathy. Again. Sometimes it's called acedia, and sometimes sloth, which, theologically speaking, is not pure human laziness, but when all spiritual goods start to lack luster and you just sort of give up. Its cause, for me, is many pronged: depression, temperament, situation, psychology, and spiritual warfare. So, I should be fighting it on many levels, right? I've talked to a counselor, priests, my spiritual director, friends, family; I've read lots of books and know all sorts of prayers and ways of dealing with wayward thoughts and I know I should go out for a walk, and listen to some uplifting music, and sit before God and feel sad and let Him help me. It's not a problem of knowing what I ought to do, it's that I have no desire to do it.
When I say I'm not praying, I mean Lectio Divina. Meditating on Scripture is very powerful. You sit before the Living God and he Does Stuff. Sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but rest assured, if you invite God, He comes. Most of the time my prayer is consoling. Most people hear that word and think it is all sweetness and light, but I don't mean it that way. Consolation is when we feel God's presence in our prayer, and sometimes that presence is sweetness and light, but other times it is God coming beside me to hear me cry or listen to my rant and Do Stuff that makes it all seem bearable.
That is not to say that it all gets fixed, but things get changed, and most of that change is simply comfort in knowing that God is there beside me in all my messiness. It's not waves of sudden insight or a magic fix that makes me all better. It's more of a slow drip, drip, drip of grace eroding my stony heart to reveal the heart of flesh that lies beneath.
And today--Sunday--grace got through, because I woke up and thought, "I don't want to go to Mass." I suppose if some teenage kid reads that, they'll be like, "So what. I feel like that every Sunday." Not me. I look forward to Sunday Mass. Even if I go to daily Mass all week, I'm excited about Sunday Mass. Everyone is there. I get dressed up. I find myself singing, "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king..." (I realize that's an Advent song, but when I sing it I'm thinking of the Eucharist and how Jesus will be there, really be there, and it makes me happy. Also, I just sing the chorus, so it doesn't seem so weird to be singing it outside of Advent) Sunday is special. It's the Lord's Day. So, this not wanting to go really bothered me.
I thought to myself, "So what you don't feel like it! Do it anyway. Get showered, get dressed, you are going! Are you going to let the enemy1 win? No way." And I went.
Right away, the Collect2 got me, right in the heart. And the reading from Deuteronomy is one of my very favorites. "You already know what to do! Now do it!" I mean, sometimes God just knows when we need to be knocked up on the side of the head--or heart--doesn't He? And it continued with the Psalm--"I'm in pain God, help me!" He replies, "I will help you. Come back to me and be renewed."3
Like the Good Samaritan he poured wine and oil on my wounds, picked me up, and delivered me to the Inn to be healed, paying the price by His blood on the cross. Again, though, not magic, not instantaneous. I went home feeling better, but still sat around and cruised the internet, and played a million games of free cell on my iPhone until I had to say, "So what, you don't feel like it! Get over yourself. Go. Do. Pray." I had to say it, not once, but about 50 times before I finally did.
Now I'm tired, which is good, because normally in this state I can't sleep and stay up all hours thinking, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, pphhhbt!" about life in general. Now my mind is at ease and there is that peace that you can't explain, but you know when it's there and hunger for it when it's absent.
Someday, maybe, grace will crack that shell around my heart that seems so thick and sharp and craggy and the heart of flesh will be there. Until then, I'll listen for the steady drip and know that God is at work. Doing Stuff.
1Here I use "the enemy" in a broad sense "which besides Satan and demons, includes the tendencies in our own psyches which spring from egoism and disordered sensuality and also from other individual human persons or society insofar as these are an influence for evil in our lives." The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living, Fr. Timothy Gallagher (Crossroads Publishing, New York, New York: 2005) 33.
2I would quote the words, but apparently that would be violating copyright laws, so you will have to look them up yourself. Sorry. See this post on Free the Word to understand. : (
3Total paraphrase of Psalm 69. This is a psalm about Israel being under foreign rule and taken captive. In the light of the New Testament it can be read as Christ struggle in his earthly ministry and on the cross. Spiritually, it can be read as a spiritual battle (see note on "the enemy" above. My focus was especially on verses 1-3, 5, 16-18, and 32-34.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
My version of 7 Quick Takes Friday. Thanks for hosting, Jen.
Lord, thank you for the blessing of helping others. Today I helped my sister put together a computer hutch. It was fun spending time together and we ended the day grilling hot dogs and brats with all the fixings! However, Lord, whoever wrote the directions and said it would take two hours is crazy. Please help them. We’ll have to finish Sunday…
Well, Lord, I don’t know what THAT was about. Went for a walk and as I was returning I kept feeling like I should go to the Vigil Mass. There it was, 4:30, and I was hot and sweaty. No time to really clean up or put on something nice. Barely time to freshen up, but it seemed very urgent. So, I went. Nice homily, saw people I knew, but no major epiphanies. Kind of anti-climatic, really. Well, sometimes these promptings are from you and sometimes it’s just my crazy imagination. At any rate, thank you Lord, for the Holy Mass and the ability to receive you in the Eucharist.
Hutch complete! Thank you, Lord, for giving my sister joy in such a simple thing. Thank you for all that went into creating it—the wood, the knowledge, the creativity, the tools, the ability. All is grace, Lord, all is grace. Thank you even for the crazy person who said it would only take two hours!
Thank you, Lord, for the chiropractor who fixed my back which I strained putting together that hutch.
Lord, I attended Mass in a small chapel with a small gathering of people. The final song was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This was the song we chose as the final farewell for my brother, the ex-marine, who has been with you for almost a year now. Thank you, Lord. At first I thought, what a strange song to choose, but then I saw it was your Holy Spirit at work. It was as if my brother was saying, “I’m fine. I’m good. I’m here with God.” Thank you, Lord, for such a wonderful blessing.
Well, Lord, I was driving down the road thinking ‘profound thoughts’ and how I’d like to share them today. Then I got busy, forgot to write them down, and for the life of me can’t remember what it was all about. So, instead, I’ll share this quote from TheRoad of Hope: A Gospel from Prison by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, whose cause for canonization is under way.
"Though it is impossible to avoid tension completely, it is possible to diminish it. In the first place, remember that God does not expect you to do everything; and secondly, God gives you the time and the means to carry out the work he has entrusted to you. If despite all your efforts and good will you cannot fulfill a task, then it is not God’s will for you to complete it. Do not be tense or disappointed; remain calm!"
Feels like a spaghetti and movie night, Lord. Many thanks for The Princess Bride and marinara.
 My apologies for the inability to use the correct diacritical marks in the name of this Servant of God.
 He wrote these from prison on scraps of paper as a way to encourage the Vietnamese people. Click the link and read his 10Rules for Life. Very inspiring man.
Religious experience is one of the hardest things to share with others. They can be profound, such as the one experienced by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. They can be more of a gentle awakening, or realization that some Truth from Scripture or Church teaching has moved from your head to your heart. How do you capture the Living God in words? The use of symbolism, personification, metaphor, simile, and other poetic forms is more suitable than prose. Perhaps that is why I like Blaisé Pascal's Memorial so much.
In the year of grace 1654
Monday, 23 November,
Day of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr
from about half-past ten in the evening
till about half an hour after midnight
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob
Not of the philosophers and the learned.
Certainty, certainty heartfelt, joy, peace
God of Jesus Christ
God of Jesus Christ
DEUM MEUM ET DEUM VESTRUM.
Thy God shall be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything other than God
He can be found only in the ways taught in the Gospel.
Greatness of the human soul.
Good Father, the world has not known Thee,
but I have known Thee.
Joy Joy Joy and tears of Joy
I have separated myself from Thee
(FONTEM AQUAI VIVAE)
My God wilt Thou leave me?
Let me not be eternally separated from Thee
They have life eternal, they that know Thee
Sole true God and He Whom Thou has sent
I have separated myself from Him
It is I who fled, renounced, crucified Him.
Let me not be eternally separated from Him!
One is saved only by the teaching of the Gospel.
Sweet and total renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
Everlasting joy in return
For one day’s effort on earth.
I will not forget Thy word!
 “My God and your God”
 “They have forsaken me, the Fountain of Living Water”
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Session6 of Lawn Chair Catechism, hosted by CatholicMom.com, is titled “Thresholds of Conversion: Can I Trust You?”. The summary for this week is posted at the bottom.
You can check out my other posts in this series: The Introduction, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 4.
The questions for this week are:
In your faith:
How was the bridge of trust built for you? Who are the people who helped you to come as far as you have in your personal journey? Have you ever been that link of trust for another person?
In your parish:
What are actions you can take at your parish to make your congregation a place of trust? Are there barriers in the public imagination—such as a concern about scandals or financial misdeeds—that require increased transparency in order to foster genuine trust?
I love being Catholic. I love everything about it. I love the Holy Trinity—all three of them. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I love Mary, their daughter, mother, and spouse. I love that we have both the Novus Ordo and the Tridetine Mass. I hold no grudge when someone prefers one over the other. I love the prayers, devotions, sacraments, and liturgy. I love its history, even the weird stuff, even the bad stuff. I love the saints and the sinners, and the sinners who became saints. I love the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium that teaches us how to understand both.
I love that Catholicism is as broad as it is deep. I love that its members over the last two millennia have been rich and poor, educated and uneducated, slave and free, kings, queens, peasants, ordinary men and women from every nation and every walk of life.
Most of all, I love Jesus in the Eucharist. I want everyone to be Catholic, because I want everyone to share in this great gift. I want everyone to draw close to Jesus, to fall in love with Him, to be filled with His Spirit.
I realize not everyone feels the same way, not even all Catholics. But, I have been surprised by some of the anecdotes in Sherry Weddell’s book. People who are actively involved in the parish or in defending the Church, yet, they admit that they do not have a personal relationship with God. Or, in this chapter, an active apologist (a person who defends the faith through reason) says that he trusts the Church, but not God. In fact, his response was pretty vehement.
It’s not surprising that there are people who feel this way, what is surprising is that these are the people who are actively advocating for the Catholic faith. How can you teach, defend, or live a faith you don’t believe in, don’t trust, don’t have a personal connection to? As the saying goes, before you can evangelize others, you must first evangelize yourself.
As I pondered further, it occurred to me that I was confusing two things: love and trust. After all, as much as I love Jesus, I have gone through a time of not trusting Him. For many years I felt Jesus’ guiding hand in my life and believed that He put me in the right place at the right time. Teaching, the monastery, taking care of my mom—each thing seemed to define the purpose of my life, a way of serving God. When my mom died, it was like the rug was pulled out from under me. What was my purpose now? Each thing I turned to seemed to not fit quite right and I was left unsettled and searching. Where was God?
The thing is, not trusting God is not the same as believing He is not worthy of trust. In other words, I knew it wasn’t God who needed to change, but me. Rebuilding that trust has taken time, prayer, and a good spiritual director. This is what is means to “evangelize yourself.” Most people seem to think it’s all about knowing the Catechism or the Scriptures or reading encyclicals and Church history or going to Mass and trying to “do the right thing.” The truth is, all of that is great. We should do that. But if we do that without having, building, maintaining, repairing our relationship with Christ, it will be worthless. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not Love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).
We can’t give what we don’t have. The New Evangelization begins with each individual. When more people in the parish have connected to the living Jesus, then we’ll have vibrant parishes full of intentional disciples.
 Kind of a Hmmmm there. I mean, if you trust the Church and what it teaches, don’t you trust the teaching that says, not only that you can, but that you should, trust God? Talk amongst yourselves.