Why I: Am Not Meant To Be A Catholic Blogger

I’ve had this post in mind since Benedict’s resignation. I don’t think I’m able to write it better now than a few months ago, but if I wait any longer I’m going to forget it altogether.

I found my first Catholic blog by accident. It wasn’t long before I thought I would be a good Catholic blogger too. At the time there weren’t many known Catholic bloggers, in fact many young adult Catholics were being told to stay away from internet Catholicism.

I thought I could be a voice for young adult Catholics like myself. It made perfect sense. The internet didn’t scare me & I had plenty of resources at my disposal (at least then).

However it didn’t take me very long to figure out that I wouldn’t be good at it. I did compare myself to other Catholic bloggers, but that was only part of it. I just wouldn’t be good at it. I’m not meant to be a Jennifer, Arleen, or Chelsea.

I don’t find God in church.

There was a time when I never went to mass at all. It wasn’t doing anything for me, except for filling me with rage & anger. Then there was a time when I went to mass daily. I have to do what works for me when it works for me. I can’t go to mass if I’m not feeling inspired to do so. Mass is a piece of the puzzle that makes up my faith life; it’s not the be all end all.

I struggle with modesty.

 It was a long standing debate between friends and me whether I was dressing modestly. In the end we decided that it was best to agree to disagree. I find wearing a dress to be incredibly uncomfortable, in fact I didn’t own anything that wasn’t pants for a long time. I don’t understand the obsession that modesty automatically means dress & immodest equals wearing a tank top. In wind a dress can blow & expose everything, pants don’t move. Tank tops are more complicated so let’s just leave it at I like to have all my bits and pieces covered.

The Church (or rather churches) isn’t accessible.

It’s true that it’s not accessible for people intellectually but that’s not the type of access I’m talking about here, although all types of access shouldn’t be ignored. Many people with disabilities can’t even get into a church to celebrate mass. It’s true that many churches have a handicapped row at the front of the church and it does provide a great deal of access for those who choose to use it. I however find a downside to it. I jokingly call it the “crippled and lame” section. Everyone wants to feel a part of the community. Putting people upfront, because it’s the only place there’s space, can make them feel like objects on display instead of being part of something. There’s also the issue of ramps & elevators…..

The pro-life movement.

I consider myself to be pro-life personally but on a global stage pro-choice. I think the pro-life movement overshadows many of the other issues the Church should also be taking a stand on. I also feel like there’s a piece of the pro-life puzzle that’s missing. We shouldn’t be ignoring other issues for the sake of one.

A feeling of lack of understanding.

I’m guilty of this as well, so I’m going to attempt to treat lightly. One of the biggest reasons I turned my back on the Church was the lack of understanding (and even the desire to try to understand). People were too focused on trying to heal me and tell me I needed to be a better person. People are different and share and express their faith in different forms, even among Catholics

I don’t know the Rosary.

At one point I’m sure I knew it, but not anymore. Even more shameful, at least to some of you, every time I try to learn I miscount my Hail Marys and/or fall asleep in the process.

I can’t be a good leader if I’m not a good follower.

I can’t tell people how to be a Catholic if I’m figuring it out for myself.

*A similar version of this post was written on May 10, 2013

Why I: Joined A Discernment Group

Ten years ago I was looking to make a fresh start after a near crash and burn of my academic career & a list of personal issues. (Side note: The fact that I started college more than a decade ago makes me feel kind of old.)

Here’s what’s awesome about going to a university with an active campus ministry:

There’s always something going on.

It’s almost kind of ridiculous how much stuff you can be involved in (or not).

At the time I wasn’t a practicing Catholic, in fact I was still in the recovery from Atheism phase of things, because that kind of journey practically requires a recovery period. I called myself a Christian but I wasn’t ready to “drink the Catholic k00l aid” just yet.

I steered clear of any organized group outside of the theatre department my freshman year and I was reconsidering that plan for sophomore year. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, so I didn’t want to do the same thing.

There are always plenty of things to do in a theatre/drama department as well. There are always “other duties as assigned” (to put it one way) or a friend is working on some sort of project at all hours so if you want to see them it’s best to go to them (and then you end up helping on the same project, somehow). But I didn’t want to be a “drama kid,” at least not exclusively.

At some point during orientation, sometime after neighborhood orientation, I huddled into the campus ministry office with other new students to hear their “sales pitch”. This was some place I wanted to be involved. I knew that from visiting a friend earlier in the year. The how was the part that needed to be determined.

I’m not a try everything once type of girl but that’s pretty much what ended up happening. The first few weeks the only thing I had second thoughts on was solemn adoration; anything labeled solemn or somber means I’ll laugh uncontrollably. I needed to be better versed at adoration before the sound was turned off.

The first group I showed up for (I think) was women’s group. I loved that group. In fact many of the ladies I met thanks to that group I’m still friends with today (maybe I’ll tell you about that someday).

The next night discernment group would be meeting. I had no idea what “discernment” was but I figured it would be similar to women’s group so I showed up.

I probably should’ve looked up what discernment was before I decided to go to the group. But if I did I probably wouldn’t have gone.

Instead of sitting in the lounge area we met in the prayer room. And instead of one of the campus ministers facilitating there were two nuns, from The Little Sisters of the Poor (an order I knew nothing about, but have come to love dearly).

At some point during the hour I realized I was in a room full of ladies who were considering becoming nuns. I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t want to get up and leave (for fear of embarrassment only).

I may have countless sisters these days, but back then I had only known two, and the impression they left wasn’t one of full warm & fuzzy memories.

I left that night thinking I probably wouldn’t go back (because I wasn’t even in the same hemisphere of that life path) but when Thursday rolled around again I did. I’m still not sure why. The funny thing is I kept going. I think I only missed a few meetings during the year, when being a drama kid had to take a front seat.

I even went the night when we’d be saying the Rosary most of the time. When I grasped even less of it than I do now & I had to borrow a Rosary from the spares that someone always seemed to have on hand.

For me it wasn’t about discernment, at least not at first, it was about meeting people who just might be like minded. When that didn’t work out so well it was about having concrete examples of what I might aspire to. Not to mention meeting some religious sisters who were not only nice, but they went out of their way to invest in others.

I will never ever forget that Sister Mary David told me it was perfectly fine to fall asleep during adoration “because the Lord knows you need your rest.”

Never mind that I had agreed to sit up with the blessed sacrament only to fall asleep face down on a futon that was in our makeshift retreat chapel.

My original intent couldn’t have been any more off. However I think I got a lot more out of it than I realize (yes, even now). I made a mistake in judgment but it was one of the best mistakes I could’ve ever made (especially given my history with mistakes).

Even if I have come to have a love/hate relationship with the discernment process.

*A similar version of this post was written on September 4, 2013

Remembering Jack

From a school in Copper Valley, to a legacy of thousands.

As the story goes a group of Jesuits and some of their Sister friends went to Copper Valley to open a school for Native Alaskan children.

60 years later the legacy continues to make a world of difference.

One of the Jesuits from that Copper Valley School decided to walk to Bethlehem in the name of peace.

He and his fellow pilgrims arrived in Jesus’ birthplace on Christmas Eve, or so the legend goes.

(Did you think I meant the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania? So do most people when they hear this story)

That same Jesuit joined me in a buffet line one spring in Seattle and invited me (and my community) to a meal at the local Jesuit residence.

Just like people do every day, except this was only the 2nd time I’ve crossed paths with this Jesuit. Typically, this kind of gesture, although nice, would seem odd to me.

Except for the fact that this Jesuit seemed to possess a level of generosity and kindness of spirit that I hadn’t encountered before, and haven’t since. I knew he meant it.

This kind Jesuit with a boundless spirit and unforgettable sense of humor has touched many, a goal many reach for but very few achieve.

People thought he was nuts. I’m sure there were times he though his own ideas were nuts too. But he went for them anyway.

I laugh to myself whenever I wonder if I’m about to embark on something people think is nuts. Jack would probably be one of those people too, the only difference is, He’d tell you you’re nuts with a smile on his face, then tell you to go for it.

What the Lord can do with a restless spirit is truly amazing, and only something the Lord can do.

I have been truly blessed by his example.

fr-jack-greeting-card

Father Jack Morris S.J.
1927-2012

“Our human task, if you like, is to not flee from the ill-being but to transform it.”
–Jack Morris, June 2012

*A similar version of this post was written on October 8, 2012, October 22, 2014, September 30, 2015

Grad School: The Third Summer

This summer could have easily been titled “the summer of my discontent,” and school commitments played a big part in that, not just because it takes up a substantial portion of my summer either.

I learned a lot from last summer in terms of class logistics. It’s tempting to load up on courses since they’re readily available. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

One class a day is enough, because there are plenty of ways to fill your day; formation requirements, exploring campus, meeting people behind the avatars, and studying.

As much information you can get your hands on before class starts is good, but somehow it’s never enough. Thankfully it being my 3rd summer I had enough resources to pull together (read: friends) in the same situation so we made it work.

My days basically went like this:
-Breakfast in bed, literally as I didn’t pay for the meal plan this year, so I had some Netf!ix time then too.
-Class
-Lunch
-Library
-Back to my room to finish studying
-Dinner
-Shower
-Bed

For basically 2 weeks straight.

This was the 1st time I’ve had assignments due during the week other than “just” reading. Honestly I hope it’s also the last time, although that’s highly unlikely, because it made things more difficult. It’s hard to truly learn anything when you’re focused on the oral exam at the end of the week.

I’ve never been a fan of oral exams, like most people, they aren’t any easier as an adult.

I had it in my head that last year would be my “summer of suck” but I feel like I had two of them, for different reasons obviously but the feelings were/are the same.

I’ve never spent so much time in a library, ever. In an odd way I’m proud of how I stuck to much of what I had planned. Usually I say one thing and get caught up in the plans of others, however most of us where in the same classes so that had an effect on things.

I did have time to spend one on one time with a few friends, another benefit of not having the meal plan is that you have to get out of your room (and the library). As much as I have enjoyed having a sole focus for a week (in the past) I think my favorite moments from this summer are ones in which I spend time with classmates outside of class.

Many classmates graduated this past spring so they weren’t with us this summer, at least not physically, so I wondered how that would impact my experience this year. Thankfully, well not really, I was kept busy enough that I didn’t think about what was missing this year compared to previous years.

I also relearned what I love about this school and the community. Although I only spend a few weeks a year with people in person it doesn’t feel that way. It just adds to the feeling of community I have every day (even if some days it does mean being underfed, overtired, and stressed out; at least we’re in it together).

Sitting On Saints

Catholics have an interesting relationship with saints, we ask for their intersession, visit shrines, we may even stand in line to view their relics (which sometimes includes their actual body).

I admit that I don’t fully understand the significance myself. However, I also need to admit that I have also taken an already misunderstood relationship with saints to a new level.

I sit on them.

(Yeah, you might want to read that again and let it sink in.)

It wasn’t something I was planning on doing, but it just kind of worked out that way.

I made an offhanded comment about whether or not St. Joseph of Cupertino would intercede on behalf of the safety of my wheelchair during flight. Because every wheelchair user has at least one airline horror story that’s wheelchair related. He is the patron saint of air travelers, and I have admitted that I often refer to my chair as a person, so I didn’t think such a question was that far out in left field.

 

And before we go any further, my chair does not share a name with a saint, at least not from what I can gather. Besides, that would be a little too strange.

I had this idea to get a patron saint medal and somehow attach it to my chair. But it just didn’t work out. I might’ve had better luck if I was within walking distance of somewhere that has every patron saint medal under the sun, but that was so long ago now.

It the flurry of preparations for my swim meet the thought resurfaced, although I had no idea if there was indeed a patron saint for swimmers. I knew of St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes, but I wanted to find something a little closer, if at all possible. Because I really could use all the help I could get, even if I doubted it would make a difference.

There seems to be a saint for nearly everything, until you get specific.

It turns out there is a patron saint of swimmers/swimming, Saint Adjutor of Vernon, who, escaped, apparently swimming to freedom.”

Considering my history with swimming and my goal of not drowning during a race it seemed like a good fit.

I embarked on my original mission, with a different saint, get a patron saint medal and somehow attach it to my chair. However, finding anything on obscure saints is a challenge, and if it isn’t, it costs more money than you want to spend given one’s individual needs.

I got the idea of putting something inside my seat instead. Wheelchair seating typically comes in layers so it wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility to slide something under the cover and leave it there. But if the top layer gets wet it tends to seep all the way through, requiring a complete dismantle of the entire cushion, which is if nothing else, annoying.

I found a workable solution however.

Yup, pictures of saints in plastic baggies.

I slide them into my seat cushion and no one knows any difference (well now you do, because I said something).

There you have it, I sit on various saints, albeit in the spirit of intersession & reverence.

 

Grad School: The 3rd Spring

I thought this semester was going to be easy, instead it was a semester that looked easy on paper and was anything but in reality.

At first I was only taking one class, which isn’t uncommon for pat time distance learners, like myself, but I’ve been fortunate to be able to take at least 2 classes per semester (thank God for 1 & 2 credit courses).

Then all the practical pieces for my practicum came together and that’s where things got interesting.

Even my advisor was shocked, which should’ve been at least one clue.

I must’ve thought my practicum was going to be easy because there were no big benchmarks, like quizzes, tests, or papers. Instead it would be more of a “boots on the ground” class.

In other words, I’d be working with people.

It’s one thing to master concepts in a book but it’s another to put them into practice, or sometimes just attempt to.

Now I’m no stranger to working alongside people but this was semester was a lesson in interpersonal communications for sure.

I have a whole new respect for people who do parish work. I have even more respect for people who find it energizing. I think I would find it incredibly stressful if I worked at 98% of the parishes I’ve heard people talk about.

I appreciate the gifts of being able to work for myself, by myself, when, where, and as much, or as little as I want to, more as well.

I never imagined I’d look forward to learning about the Old Testament either, but that’s just how things worked this semester. I can honestly say that there’s more depth in the Old Testament than I ever thought possible, and the class just scraped the surface of it all.

I will not be changing to the Biblical Studies program with an Old Testament emphasis, just in case you were wondering.

The “easy on paper” semester ended up being the “hardest semester so far” in reality. I won’t lie I almost cried & screamed in delight when I logged in to check my official grades recently, which was probably a good thing because the library was morgue level quiet at the time.

I survived, that was enough for me, to be recognized for the hard work was just icing on the cake.

Now on to finishing with the summer……

Being 25 Years Old

25 years is a quarter of a century, which makes it seem like a long time.

In reality 25 years isn’t really that long of a time span.

I thought 25 would mean being an adult, until I was 25 and then I waited to feel like an adult. Now that I’m a few years past 25 I realize how far from being an adult 25 really is, for most people.

Within the context of organized religion 25 years is basically infantile.

Within the smaller context of religious orders 25 years is nearly unheard of.

I still remember when one of my closest friends told me she was entering a convent. I was still in shock when I started to tell people myself, which was probably spurred on by the shocked look I had on my face for God only knows how long.

People mainly wanted to know two things, how old she was and what order she was going to be a part of.

Naturally skepticism followed, because how many women in their early 20s join virtually unknown religious order?

sistersoflifeprofession

I, in a desperate attempt to be a good friend, felt the need to defend her choice, even while agreeing with everyone else.

Almost 10 years later I’ve gained more prospective on the situation.

I get “it” now, or at least as much as I can without joining the Sisters myself.

I especially have a greater appreciation for what it takes to create and more importantly sustain a ministry.

Happy 25th Birthday Sisters. May God continue to bless you all & those you serve for many more years to come.

vow-019

Why I: Don’t Suggest Giving Up Social Media For Lent

There are certain things I can count on as Lent approaches. Without a doubt, “What are you giving up for Lent?” is the most popular question to ask and/or be asked.

Now that social media has become such an important part of our lives it’s natural to consider whether or not to give it up for 40 days. I have several friends who engage in this practice, problem is most of them don’t use social media that much anyway. So is it really that sacrificial or are they really getting any benefit from it?

A point worth considering, but not the one I wanted to make right now.

As I write this there’s a snowstorm outside (I’m a write ahead & schedule blogging type). In fact at one point it was snowing so hard that it was snowing sideways. Thus my plans for the day have been canceled and I’m attempting to stay occupied indoors. In a way it’s going to make the point of this post much more poignant, at least I hope so.

The internet, and social media, has opened up everyone’s world. What I don’t think a lot of people realize is just how much it’s opened up the world for those with disabilities.

I wouldn’t be friends with many people if it weren’t for the internet, or at least I wouldn’t be as good of friends with people if things didn’t start on the internet. Let’s just say as an introvert with a disability it’s nice to get the “getting to know you” stuff out of the way when you only get to see people in person a few times in your entire life.

I can’t forget to mention Sara. If there’s anyone who taught me that just because you have physical limits doesn’t mean you can’t create solid friendships and an intentional community. Our friendship may have been short but it left me forever changed.

I don’t suggest giving up social media for Lent for one quasi-simple reason:

You may be part of someone’s community, and it may be the only community they have access to (especially in the winter months).

Giving up your social media routine for 40 days may seem like a good idea and in some ways it can be beneficial but if you do consider who you’ll be leaving behind for 40 days.

Here are some thoughts to consider:

How much can happen in 40 days?

Also consider your group of friends, do they also give something(s) up for Lent?

Do you all give up the same thing for Lent? If so, do you still have that same sense of community because you have other ways of keeping in contact or are you able to see each other in person?

Do you have one friend (or maybe more) that seems uncomfortable with your plan for a 40 day social media fast?

Have you ever stopped and really considered why someone is resistant to give up social media (especially if you “only” know them virtually)?

Lenten sacrifices are meant to make you a better person, but not at the expense of other people. If your sacrifice is harmful to someone else than are you really working towards a greater communion with the Body of Christ?

Alternatives to consider:

Cut back on your social media practices. Check in once a day or once a week.

Post the same thing on all of your social media accounts (idea borrowed from Pat Padley FYI).

Keep community connected through email or text, or an old fashioned phone call.

Make your intentions known early on, as in before today, so if any of your friends have reservations or objections you can engage in thoughtful conversation.

Have a way to contact you on your social media profiles and make it easy to find. Have you ever received an “out of office reply” with a contact email or number included? Like that.

I’m not saying that you absolutely shouldn’t give up social media for Lent.

I’m not God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit so I can’t say such things with absolute conviction. But I wish people wouldn’t make the decision as easily as they seem to. Virtual community isn’t the same as in person community but it’s still a community that needs nurturing, attention, and people to take part in it.

Cupcakes, Old Podcasts & Touching Reliquaries

I’ve picked up an awful new addiction during this semester, listening to podcasts, well the listening to podcasts part goes back to after my 1st CNMC but I’ve acquired the habit of listening to podcasts that I no longer in production.

I’ve listened to every episode of The SaintCast & In Between Sundays, some more than once.

I’ve listened to so many podcasts in the last few months that the audio jack, where I plug in a headset, on my computer has ceased to function.

Anyway….

I heard that the body of St. Maria Goretti would be touring the U.S. & wondered if there would be a stop close to me, I wasn’t holding my breath but I knew I’d probably wish I had made the effort if there was the slimmest chance.

If I’ve totally lost you go listen to SaintCast episode 15 and come back later.

I emailed my cousin to see if he’d be interested in going with me.

“How can we NOT go?”

He was right; it was so close, relatively speaking, that we couldn’t not go. I’m not the biggest fan of dead bodies, but how many chances does a person get to see a real saint?

I made the decision to take my wheelchair because I didn’t want to think about standing in a long line (even though I knew full well I’d be playing right into the misconception that people with disabilities have a greater need for prayer and feel more akin to the Communion of Saints). Plus my cousin has 6 kids and I wanted to give him some “off time” from having to keep tabs on another person.

It ended up not being as busy as I thought it would be, but then again we were going in the middle of the week, and in the middle of the day.

We found a parking spot quickly and headed inside, through the handicapped entrance so I joked that we’d probably get to skip the line because we were using a different entrance than most people.

It’s a running joke in the family that going out with me means that occasionally you get surprise privileges, easier parking, and better seating at sporting events, no lines at Disney; although not everyone has had the joy of experiencing it firsthand.

I’m happy (and somewhat sad) to say this was one of those times.

We went in and surveyed the situation. I thought about going to the back of the line but I noticed a priest assisting people off to the side of the main line, and closer to the door.

“Let’s just go up to him. We can probably jump the line” Yes, I do realize how awful that makes me.

We were told to wait until the person in front of us was finished and then we’d be escorted to the reliquary.

I thought an escort was a little much since I wasn’t going to be getting out of my chair. But there are plenty of other times when I wished I had such a privilege so I took it.

We were taken to the front, and I made space for my cousin to be next to me. On the other side of me I hear, “Would you like to touch the reliquary?”

It then occurs to me that this is the closest I’ve ever been to a dead body EVER, so I guess it’s a good thing that the first time was for a saint, there was no way I was going to touch it. I’ve touched one casket in my entire life and that was good enough for me. I might’ve felt differently if there had been some prompting by the Holy Spirit but I think it/he/she knew this was a big day for several reasons & I can only take so many breakthroughs in one day before breaking down.

“Nope. I’m good thanks.”

Yeah, I told a priest “Nope,” cause I’m full of politeness and class and all that.

After spending some time in front of the reliquary we parked ourselves in a nearby pew for some prayer, and if you’re me, people-watching-after-prayer.

I had been to this particular parish before, but I couldn’t remember when, or why. My cousin says we’ve both been there before, and together, so my guess is I was pretty young and passed to a bigger cousin or two.

After some prayer time we discussed whether we wanted to stay longer or leave. The conversation went something like this:

“Do you want to stay longer or are you finished?”

“Whatever you want to do, but if we go now we can get a cupcake.”

“Let’s go get cupcakes.”

There’s a reason why Catholics are referred to as practicing Catholics and not perfect Catholics, and even if that was a thing we’d both fail pretty miserably. And it’s pretty obvious that even though we’re technically both adults, we’re actually overgrown children.

I should also be noted that this is one of only a handful of times that my cousin and I have had one on one time. We both agreed that we had the best time and we should do stuff like this again (Are there any more saints touring the US anytime soon?).

An Obligatory Advent Post

Recently I asked my dear friend Tiffany if she had any ideas for blog topics. With Advent around the corner she suggested “Advent prep?” Which I quickly replied, “I have that covered.”

Well the joke’s on me, because I don’t. I mean I did, but if you were to go back and read what I’ve posted on a previous blog during previous years, well, it just doesn’t work anymore.

Add in the facts that the semester is almost over and I can’t stand the Christmas season starting before Halloween and I’m at “Christmas burnout” around the 1st week of November.

I put up with it, begrudgingly, but I certainly don’t like it and make every attempt to avoid anything out of my comfort zone.

Yes, I’m the person who says “No thanks” to office Secret Santa projects and grab bags because I can’t pull it together to buy a gift for someone else, not even with the benefit of online shopping.

I’m the person who says they may attend the work Christmas party and then back out, sometimes at the last minute.

I can’t deal with any of it; I don’t even want to try to.

I’m more of an introvert by nature, but the holidays make me want to crawl into a hole and never come out.

That being said I will tell you that I like the time of Advent, not as much as I like the Christmas Octave, but still. I like the idea behind it and I wish more people took it more seriously, yes even non-Christians, even just for the sake of Christians.

We all complain that the world is moving too fast, yet we buy into it.

If you want the world to slow down, slow down your world.

Maybe others will catch on.

I hope things reach a tipping point and we won’t be watching White Christmas while waiting for tick-or-treaters.

PS. If you’re looking for a good talk about Advent Greg & Jennifer Willits recorded one of their talks as a “podcast extra.”