Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Earth Day

I spent Earth Day killing plants.

I uprooted them, threw them away. I pulled them out of the ground so that they would grow no more. I disrupted the natural propagation process of trees and flowers. I say that I love the earth, but I spent the whole day impeding its natural processes, killing its fruits.

Or I could say that I spent the day weeding and raking, so that flowers could thrive.

It’s all a matter of how we look at things. One man’s love is another man’s hate. One person’s sin is another person’s justice. We take our best guests, our stabs in the dark, to try and live God’s will. But we can never truly know it.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is. 55:8

We can never know in this lifetime. Christ rebuked those who chastised people for loving God the “wrong” way. The goal is not to determine who is “right,” the goal is to love.

Let all you do be done in love.


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I support gay rights because I am Catholic, not in spite of it.

I grew up Catholic. Catholicism was early morning and late night masses, hot cross buns on Good Friday, wearing a pretty white dress for my first Communion, confused friends who wanted to know if I worshipped Mary. It was glowing candles on the dinner table during December, and palms folded into crosses in April. It was simple, and it was good. I believed it then, and I believed it now.

But it is not as simple now as it was then. Now I realize being Catholic isn’t defined by whether or not you attend Fish Fridays, but is a complex world of the orthodox and the not-so-orthodox. I am not an orthodox Catholic (used in the sense of one who follows every belief to the letter, not in the sense of the church that became identified as such during the Great Schism). And there is a reason that we have that term “orthodox” or “traditional” (the term my husband’s uncle, a religious, used instead of our term which I believe was “crazy conservatives” at brunch last week). Because despite Catholicism’s call for us to adhere to one set of beliefs, we do recognize, at least popularly, that there is a myriad of beliefs, experiences, and practices that create Catholicism. All this to say, my beliefs here do not reflect the beliefs of the Catholic Church, which opposes the legalization of gay marriage.

But I believe in it, and other gay rights, because I’m Catholic, not in spite of it.

You see, if the Church had wanted to turn me off of supporting the marginalized in our society, it should not have read the Sermon on the Mount to me each year. It should have silenced Jesus’ cry of blessings on the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the meek, the peacemakers, and those who thirst for righteousness.

The Church should not have taught me of the love God has for all of his people. It should have taught me instead that Jesus only came for those who were rich, who were white, who were straight, who were male, who were powerful, who were orthodox.

If the Church wanted me to oppose gay marriage, it should not have taught me that scripture is historical and contextual. It should have taught me instead that it is always literal, but it did not. It should not have taught me that God is love. It should not have taught me about the dignity of the human person, that everyone deserves a place to live, a place to work, a place to eat without being discriminated against.

It should not have taught me about the beauty of marriage. How the love between two people mirrors the love of God and his people. It should not have instilled me with the morals of faithfulness, commitment, and love if it had wanted me to discourage those practices in others.

The Church taught me instead about personal conscience (Catechism) and that “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself” (1790). It taught me that the conscience is inscribed on our hearts by God.

The Catholic Church taught me not to judge. And not in some trite “love the sinner but hate the sin” (but secretly hate the sinner too because that’s just easier) way, but in a deep, true way.  It taught me to look inwardly to my own faults, not outwardly to the faults of others.

It taught me to fight for the rights of the least among us. It reminded me that those whom society deemed okay to hate, we were required to love.

Of course, some will say that I am a shining example of the fallen American laity. They will remind me that the Church does not conform to the whims of modern society, and instead follows the teachings of Christ.

To which, I would respond that I agree. The Church is bigger than simple societal whims of oppression, of hate, of bigotry, of fear. I would say that the Catholic Church, at its core, preaches love and acceptance, hope and grace. If it wants me to adhere to another belief set, one of prejudice and marginalization, it should have taught me something else.

I support gay rights because I am Catholic. Not because I do not understand the teachings of the church, or because I simply choose not to follow them out of convenience sake, but because I do believe them, because I do follow them. And it’s not just me. A study  in 2011 showed that Catholics are more in favor of same sex marriage than any other religious group, and more than Americans as a whole.

If the Catholic Church wanted me to oppose gay rights, it shouldn’t have told me what Christ taught.

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Women saw him first

Women were the first to see Christ.

Mary became a temple to carry the living God. His heart beat inside of her, she felt his kicks, she fed him from her body. Mary was there.

Some years later, it was women at his feet as he hung on the cross, and three days later, it was women at the door of his tomb.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Jn 20:1-2

A woman was the first to proclaim the news of an empty tomb. And the men came, and then left. John tells us they believed, but did not understand.

But Mary stayed.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?: Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jn 20:11-16

 Jesus first appeared to a woman.
Luke fills us in on what happened after the women ran to get the male disciples.
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Luke 24:10-11
Women were the first to proclaim the good news of Christ’s resurrection, and they were not believed.
And today, when women say that they are capable to proclaim that good news today, they are still not believed. When women say they are able to hold the body of Christ in their hands, they are still not believed. A woman carried the body of Christ in her womb, woman proclaimed the news, and women are told to be silent today.
Women are not better than men, but they certainly are not worse. The disciples doubted, and Mary did not recognize the risen Christ. We are all human, we are all flawed, but women not more than men.
You can quote Paul’s letters when he tells women to sit down and shut up, and I can counter with historian’s belief that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was added in later. You can quote 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and I can point out all the women who did serve, did prophesy in the early Church. I can remind you those letters were written to a specific people, in a specific time and place, very different from our own. Women were not educated then, but they are today. We live in a different world, a one where a religion will not be laughed at and mocked because it allows women to lead. The disciples goal was to build the church, a church they did not think would last more than a few years. They were not writing to the 21st century, they were not envisioning a world where one day, women would be treated as equals. They had no time for that. A religion which gave women authority? Surely that would falter and fail.
The Catholic Church holds women in high regard, but I would suggest perhaps not as in high regard as we would like to believe. We honor women as saints, we recognize their human dignity, and we prohibit them from the altar.
What did Jesus say to the men who rebuked the woman who was attempting to serve?
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. Mark 14:9
I pray that the Catholic Church continues to grow, continues to evolve, continues to hold steadfast in its desire to be the body of Christ. I believe that his body includes women, though, and does not push them to the margins. I pray that we follow Christ, rather than acquiesce to culture.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Gen 2:18

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Today is a good day.

I haven’t touched on Lent yet this year, not because I am not observing, but out of my attempt to reflect the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6:16 – “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.” Not that blogging about Lent is hypocritical at all, I just wanted to do things on my own first and talk about it later.

Lent is a period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving leading up to Easter. Most people associate it with Catholics skipping hamburgers in favor of fish fries on Fridays and holding off on the donuts. But it is more than that. It is a time of peaceful reflection, of self-denial in favor of something greater.

Note, Lent is a "fast" not a period where we give up sins just to get back to them 40 days later! Still, its OK to use that time to focus on an area that is taking us away from God.

This year I gave up two things for Lent. Not because I am some holier-than-thou look how good I can do perosn, but because I kept wavering back and forth on which I should give up (trying to figure out which was “easier”) and figured I should stop being such a baby and give them both up.

The first was not buying food on campus. I did this my senior year in college, (which my roommate thought was pretty much the dumbest thing she ever heard!) and it was actually really tough for me. I will admit, I’ve broken this more than once. I had gotten in a habit of relying on vending machines and the market store in the University Center for lunch (typically a fresh roll, babybel cheese, and a pear). Not buying food on campus meant I had to either a) plan ahead, or b) go without. The money I saved will go to a charity – either our church’s sister parish in Colombia, or Partners in Health.

The second wasmultitasking. Yup, I gave up multitasking for Lent. I actually decided I should do this last year, but then in preparation for Lent I started cutting back in the weeks before. So when Lent rolled around I decided I didn’t really “need” to do it, but then I realized it was just me chickening out.

So what do I mean by multitasking?

– no listening to music or talking on the phone while driving/walking to or from school

– no reading on e-mails/blogs/news/magazines while watching TV

– no listening to podcasts/music while doing dishes or cleaning

– no watching TV/reading/playing on computer while eating

– no watching TV while cooking

I will admit that I broke all of these. A couple times I put on classical or Christian music so that I would stop going crazy and just finish the damn dishes. My rule was if someone else initiated (like called me while I walked home or if John turned on the TV) I was going to just go with it. Which meant I still ended up doing these things pretty regularly, though way less than I had before.

The hardest was not doing something wile eating. I had anticipated hours of quiet meditation over my meals – savoring every bite, being truly present to what I ate. In reality, I would scarf down my food because it was boring to just sit there and eat. It made me realize how loud the command in my brain to “DO SOMETHING!” is.

My goal with giving up multitasking was to create more quiet in my life, more time for reflection, more peace. To stop being bombarded with noise, news, information, entertainment all the time. To create more time to listen to God speak.

Did I achieve this goal? Yes and no. I have more quiet and I do feel calmer overall. But I don’t think I have conquered the “BE PRODUCTIVE! DO!” voice in my head. In a way, I almost feel anxious when I’m not “maximizing” my time, even though in reality multitasking helps no one. I don’t think I carved out the hours for quiet prayer that I wanted to, but I still think there is value in the silence and in focusing. It was a hard thing to give up, even if I caved in a lot. I hope that even when Easter comes and I am “released” from my fasting obligations, I will tone down the multi-tasking and focus more.

How did your Lent go? What are you doing these last few days to prepare for Easter?

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March is my least favorite month.

There. I said it. I feel very guilty about that since my husband’s birthday is March, but my dislike of March started well before I met him and hasn’t dissipated yet. March is a cruel month, stretching out the wait between winter and spring. And while I know that the spring will eventually come, March makes it feel as if it never will.

And seeing as how William and Mary hasn’t made it to the tournament in its past 320 years, the madness eludes me. Except that one time I did a bracket and won. Remember that, honey? And since I’m batting a thousand, I have retired.

March is long. It is cold. It is damp. It is unceasingly gray, with forecasts of low 40s and snow for the foreseeable future. It is the month of midterms and due dates, smugly nestled between the enthusiasm of a new semester and the promising glimmer of graduation. This weekend I have made it to page 98 of my thesis, an accomplishment made depressing by the realization my 3 committee members will be likely the only people to ever read it. But no matter how many pages I write (at least 20 to go), the sky outside of my office stays gray. 20120318-182329.jpg

And it’s in the middle of Lent. Somber, depressing, Lent. Lent is a time of fasting for Catholics (each person defines what their own fast is though), which lasts for about 40 long days.

But I love it. I don’t love it the sense of “oh my gosh! so much fun! this totally rocks!” love, but love it in the sense of I know it is good. It is hard, but it is good for me. It is amazing that no matter how spiritually subdued I am feeling, entering into this drab, dull season of the Church calendar can make me feel so alive.

I don’t enjoy it, but it’s good.

It’s what I always tell people about my time with JVC. Was it fun, awesome, amazing? Yeah, some days. But was it hard, challenging, stressful, overwhelming? More often than not. But it was good.

And I know that the earth taking this long, deep breath between snow and sun is good as well.

I might not enjoy it, but it is good.


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Why I am (still) a Catholic

The answer to why I am a Catholic is simple and would not be worthy of a post. I will not play ignorant to the realities of nurture, socialization, and culture – I am Catholic because my parents are Catholic.

The answer to why I am still a Catholic, however, is much more complex. I know my parents would still love me if I left the church. In my open and accepting community, I cannot think of any real social or financial repercussions if I was to go. So that’s not why I stay. I stay because the Church is where I call home.

The other day someone asked me how as a Catholic I can disagree with the Catholic Church on some topics. I will broaden that to a larger question – why do I stay if I disagree?

Catholics are called to believe in the dogmas and doctrines of the Church. Ask two Catholics what this means, and you will get three answers. In short, we believe in the truths of the Church and recognize that various practices of the Church may come and go; they may evolve over time. But I believe in the Nicene Creed – the first, the simplest articulation of our faith. I renew my baptismal promises without blinking an eye. Because I believe – I believe in a God, in a just and merciful God. And I believe in the Church.

On a logical level, I am Catholic because I believe in the “other”, becaue I look at the spiritual lives of people across time, across the world and believe it is something in our very soul, our very DNA that calls us to look for a life outside of ourselves. I believe in monotheism because a pantheon does not make much sense to me, as I believe in first mover theory. I believe that Judiasm suceeded while Zoroastrianism (the world’s first monotheistic religion) has largely died out, and I believe that Christ is the fulfillment of the Jewish law.  And I believe that the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox, I will split no hairs here) is the Church founded by Christ, founded by Peter, grown by Paul.

That is the Church I believe in.

I struggle with her. Some of her teachings, her decrees make me physically ill. I cried a bit when I heard that women would not be allowed on the altar during the Extraordinary Form (old school Latin style) mass. I cried because I care, not because I no longer do. But the Church does not call us to blind faithfulness to her, she calls us to Christ. James Martin, SJ, writes of people who are now saints who once were excommunicated. He writes,

The church’s long history of ”faithful dissent” offers both hope and perspective to Catholics in our time. It echoes the call of the Second Vatican Council, which, in 1964, declared that expressing opinions ”on matters concerning the good of the church” is sometimes an obligation for the faithful.

Each week at mass we pray for the leaders of the Church. We pray because we recognize the need for God, the need for God to prevent the likely failure and disappointment of our human selves. We are human. The Church is led by humans. She is the body of Christ, but a very human body.

We can see and justify changes in the Church in the past, but it is naive to assume those are limited to the past and we have already reached a state of perfection.  Were those who fought for the addition of the filioque to the creed heretics? What about Catholics who practiced the rhythm method before it was approved? Was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, a paleontologist who took part in the discovery of the Peking Man,  a sinner because his books were censured by the Catholic Church, even though they would later come to accept evolution? What about those who believed the mass should be in the Vernacular while it was still in Latin?

 And so I ask, is it a sin to believe that the Church might one day change it’s position on birth control since it has allowed it to evolve in the past? Is it blasphemous to believe priests should be allowed to be married, as they used to be?

Perhaps it is, and if so, I appreciate you allowing me the chance to struggle through anyway. But if a sin, a mortal sin, requires grevious matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will, I wonder if I really am fully consenting my will to blaspheme if I truly believe that I am attempting to follow the teachings of Christ.

On the other side of the proverbial aisle, there are those who feel as if I should leave as I profess to be a feminist, a liberal who believes in the rights of women and the righs of gays and lesbians. How can I lend my participation to an institution which discriminates so? I do not believe that abandonment is a solution. I believe in staying and calling for change. I believe in a Church which teaches love, equality, justice, and mercy, and believe that it will continue in its efforts to enact those ideals. I hope that my staying is not viewed as a statement of hate, judgment of condemnation of another group. That is not my desire; that is not my goal.

Some days I wish I had been born in to an Episcopalian family and I could have my church with female, gay, married priests and without all the controversy. Other days I am grateful I was born Catholic and do not have to make a decision about all of these complicated teachings before I decided if I want to convert or not. But it does not matter. It is not about me, it is about God and where I find him.

I am Catholic not because it is I believe in the perfection of each interpretation of its teaching, but because it is where I find God. I am Catholic because of the history, because of the richness, because of the mercy, because of the community. I am Catholic because I am willing to accept that I may be wrong, and no one has kicked me out yet. I am willing to follow the teachings of those who have spent much more time and energy reflecting on the complex issues than I have. I am also willing to accept that I am less mired in tradition, less pressured to conform, than many of these theologians, and believe I am no less a part of the Church than they. I am no less a daughter of God. But I do not want to strike out on my own, form a religion solely around what I happen to believe that day. I am willing to follow. But I am not willing to follow blindly.  I will call out what path I think is best, I will pray that are following God, and I will hope that no matter the path we take, we will end up with him. And that he will forgive us our missteps along the way.

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TheRemember how we all read The Perks of Being a Wallflower in our angsty, need more Holden Caulfield days? The book, I could take or leave but there is one sentiment I remember. What it is like to be driving down the road and the perfect song comes on and you feel simply infinite. It’s as if your soul swells up inside you, and it’s more than you can handle.

There are some songs that make me feel that way that I would like to share with you. Songs that, despite their intended purpose, make me feel infinite. Or have some spiritual meaning to them for me. And I would love to hear yours, the songs that touch your soul.

First up, Mason Jenning’s I Love You and Buddha, Too.

I don’t agree with all the sentiments in the song – I am largely not a relativist, however there are pieces that really speak to me. “You are unnameable, you are unknowable, all we have is metaphor, that’s what time and space are for.” I believe that the search for God, the search for meaning is fulfilling and noble, but I believe we can only do so much, go so far. I believe that we can only come up with more questions than answers. And I find comfort in that, in knowing this life is not a quiz, not a test to see who has the best answers, but a continual search.

Next up, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel.

Okay sure, this song is a little bit about sex and drugs. But there is more to it than that. It’s about searching, about leaving pain behind for the hope of love. We’ve all felt that fire under our feet at some point in our lives, an indescribable restlessness, an urge for something more. In this song it takes the life of a lonely man driving through the country in the middle of the night to find his true love, and while I’ve never done that, I can relate to the sense of urgency to find something more.

Next, David Berkeley’s Little Fists

If you haven’t listened to this guy, drop everything you are doing right now and go buy his CDs. Or look him up on Grooveshark. I saw David Berkeley a million years ago opening up for Nickel Creek my freshman year of college, and he remains my favorite musician to this day. (If you want to hear a fantastic song about the Civil War – check out ‘Shiloh,’ which I would have posted here but I can’t find a video for it. Did you even know there were fantastic songs about the Civil War?) This song, Little Fists, is about the futileness of fighting against war. He tells us we’re asking the leaves to change. Which is pretty much what faith calls us to do – stand up and scream for something better, no matter how difficult or unlikely it is.

Jesus, etc. – Wilco

I’m sure this song is one that is too deep for me to understand what it’s about and so I don’t want to read into what the artists’ original interpretation is supposed to be. But when I listen to it, I hear how everything around us crumbles except love. Anything we rely on is temporary. Anything but love.

Flogging Molly’s Therefore the Grace of God Go I

I’ve probably seen Flogging Molly more times in concert than any other band. Okay, maybe more than any other band combined. And I can never decide where they stand – rebelling against their Catholicism, or standing up for it as a part of their Irish Heritage? Or some complicated mixture of both, as it is for all of us. But this song, more than any of the previous, is as close as you can get to a hymn. The sentiment is simple – Therefore the Grace of God Go I. And so it is for us all.


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