02 January 2017

A Time (a tribute to 2016)

"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to destroy, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather. A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to get, and a time to lose. A time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew. A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. A time of love, and a time of hatred. A time of war, and a time of peace." — Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
I was probably fifteen when I first read this passage from Ecclesiastes. Immediately, I was drawn to it, though how much of that was because of the truth within the verses or because it reminded me of the opening lines of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...") is anyone's guess. What better time could one find such words than during teenage years, when we long to find contradictions if only to point them out to others, when we need someone to acknowledge that life isn't always easy or rosy, when we need assurance that light can return and shrink the shadows?

As I have grown older, I have realized two things: 1) dark, difficult moments do not disappear. When we're children, we think, "If only I can get older, then I will have everything figured out." Then we get older and think, "If only I can finish school, find a job and/or get married, then I will have everything figured out." We thought that having everything figured out, having everything be easy, was a given. But the problems we face do not become easier. Instead, all those decisions we made as children and through school and in our first jobs were only practice. Each "mini" milky problem set is followed by tough meaty problem sets. And if you didn't do well at the practice round, the real problems are going to be that much more taxing to solve. But I have also learned: 2) light-filled moments of respite exist, and these moments strengthen us for our next foray. There is forgiveness, there is mercy, there is healing, and all we have to do is ask.

So here are some of the times that I have remembered that there is dark and light and a time for everything.

Times that have made me weep:

the fear of being forgotten
talking about my deceased friend
not knowing how to help someone
knowing the right thing but choosing the wrong thing anyway

Times that have made me laugh:

scribbled lyrics in the back of my notebook
comebacks from eight year olds
enthusiastic responses to sweet potatoes
almost every conversation with my husband

Times that have paralyzed me:
not knowing whether the answer is "no" or "not yet"
realizing how much others' struggles eclipse mine
thinking I could have done more
knowing I can only do so much

Times that have made me smile:
easily doled out baby laughter
the fascination in toddler eyes at new experiences
the true, shepherding "dad-ness" of priests
seeing expectant mothers worry and assuring them "no, really. you're going to be a great mom." because it's true

Times that have strengthened me:
the right song at the right moment
kneeling at Adoration and being able to think nothing but "thank you, thank you, thank you"
making intentions and sticking to them
reuniting with creative writing

Times that have given me peace:
quiet moments with my husband
letting go of failure and frustration
walking out of the confessional
God's promise of a future and a hope

May your 2017 be full of healing, laughing and dancing. But when death, mourning and loss come, may you meet them with strength and grace.
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08 October 2016

A Reflection on Tragedy

It rained for the first time in a while. I awoke and a steady tapping caused me to peek between the blinds to see raindrops on the window. While some would frown at such a sight, I felt my lips curl into a smile. After a few days in which one tragedy followed another, I smiled, because when it rains, the leaves seem greener, avoiding a puddle-filled path becomes a complicated game of hopscotch and the very smell of the air is calming.
I think part of the appeal of rain is that it makes everything clean. The tragedies of the world can be washed and, if not completely healed, then treated. Rain brings new life, asks us to have a different perspective on our routine and reminds us that accepting the stillness and silence of tragedy can, paradoxically, bring us peace.

Without the rain, though, my perspective is different. At some point in my life, I learned that, when faced with troubling circumstances, it was better to bottle up emotions. Even if my mind was racing with doubts or worries, it was better not to let anyone know. The stronger and less affected you feel, the better. And so, I clamped down on the lump in my throat, blinked back tears, focused on the texture of clothing under my thumb, repeated a mantra in my head of "It doesn't matter," did anything to keep tragedy from getting to me.
Time, of course, will show you that this method does not work. Eventually, your body breaks. While your hands grab hold of anything you can reach in order to stabilize yourself, the lump in your throat turns into gasps for air between tears and cries of "Why is this happening? I don't understand."

The weird thing is that on one occasion during which a group was mourning, I heard the sniffs and saw the dabbed eyes of those who were crying and I didn't think, "They are weak." Instead I thought, "They are strong." It takes strength to sit in the silence, the stillness, the "I don't understand" of tragedy.

When tragedy strikes, we have two choices of action. We can choose to dwell on tragedy and see only tragedy: a bad morning turns into a bad day, grief paints the world in gray, one conversation highlights the desolation in your relationship with that person or in your experience with the topic at hand. Or we can choose to see the small good moments that hide behind a curtain of tragedy: the slow smile of a friend, the curiosity and restless energy of a toddler on wobbly legs, the determined glint in the eye of someone who will not settle for prior failure. These latter moments are beautiful, and I was only able to see them because I had sat in the silence.

Tragedy is still here. A few difficult days does not win us a "get out of tragedy for a week" card. But it does, hopefully, make us still, make us remember that our routines and friendships do not anchor us. That is a role for God and He will be in the stillness and the silence with us. He will be with us when it is time to return to our routines and friendships. And I hope that, because of the times we experience tragedy, we can more easily commune with those who suffer when we do not.

Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

09 August 2016

When Summer Blues Hit

Every now and then, I have a bit of a cruddy day. Sometimes it's a problem in my life that needs to be dealt with, sometimes it's just a funk, sometimes (especially as a woman) it's hormones being ridiculous (or maybe I'm being ridiculous). I can choose to wallow in "blah" feelings (let's be honest: this is often my first step) or I can take steps to relieve them. Since I am an introvert and an intuiter (INFJ personality type over here), I like to deal with an issue on my own first before I'll bring it up to other people. I just need more time on my own to process things. It seems silly that I'm only now figuring out what to do about such things at 24 years old, but this is a list of some things I like to do to combat what I am at this time calling the "Summer Blues."

1. Take a walk.

When I awoke, something in me could not stay still, so I had to get out of the house. I don't know if it's a vitamin D thing or what, but somehow getting outside and going for a walk can improve my mood majorly. Living so close to campus gives me a nice path to walk, as well. I can walk through the secret garden-esque grounds of a nearby library, amble along a line of rosebushes and pick one of several crisscross pavements to follow. One of my favorite things to do is sit by a centrally-located fountain and people watch as students cut across the quad to class or play with their dogs. Granted, such walks have to take place before 9AM if I want to avoid the brunt of Texas Summer heat, but the timing is nice, since even less people are out and about and I can enjoy the quiet time.

2. Talk to God.

This item should go at the top of the list, but it happened in conjunction with walking, so I've placed it second. I have been trying to get more in the habit of thinking of God when I first awake, thanking Him for one more day and trying to prepare myself spiritually for the day ahead. As I walked, I poured out my thoughts to Him. My worries, my fears, my insecurities, anything goes (preferably, I do this after thanking Him for some things. If I'm going to nag and complain, I should probably try to be a little bit grateful, too, right?). I know that He will listen and won't tell me how absurd my concerns are (some of them doubtlessly are, and I come to realize that). I remember the psalms: "Show me, Lord, your way so that I may walk in your truth. Guide my heart to fear your name." (Psalm 86) There seems to be a psalm for every emotion and state of mind. I might ask the saints to pray for me (Mary, Joseph and Thérèse are standard; other saints are included if I have a special case).

3. Write it down.

When my mind is buzzing with thoughts, it is comforting to write those thoughts down, if only to have them stored somewhere else (praying is good, of course, but there is something about doing tactile work to get restless energy out). Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I may never show someone the page. I may just throw it away after. The point is, everything is said. If I am dealing with a problem, it can also be nice to, once that problem is resolved, come back to the page and see that has been worked out or that the prayer within has been answered.

4. Do something mindless.

One of my first steps when I am stressed out is to do busy work. It usually manifests itself as cleaning, cooking or baking. I may even sit in my closet and reorganize my things. I don't think it is really appropriate as a first step, because it really is just busyness and does not address the issue at hand. However, after I have taken the above steps, I do like to do something mostly mindless as a way to "detox" from the stressful period. My mind goes from worrying, for example, to "hashing out" the issue with God and myself, to entering a resting state. I think it's best if I can do something that can be deemed productive, like the above examples. That way, I can at least feel a little good about being asocial for a while. ;) After the "busy" stage of mindless work, I can shift to something less productive and more fun. Singing and dancing like a silly person is always a good option.

5. Reconnect with people.

The danger of being mild and shy person is that I can stay in my head too much. After I've done the above steps, I need to reintegrate myself into social interaction. This can manifest itself as having a discussion with my husband, checking in on friends I haven't spoken to for a while, meeting with a friend (I think this is an especially good option if they need help with something), chatting with my sister, going to Mass, making plans for later in the week, reading about a saint, etc. If the things in my head are me-focused, it is a really good help to be around other people and remember that I am not the center of the world. ;)

Anyone have steps to de-stress? Would you add anything to my list? Leave a comment. :)

08 July 2016

Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis

Very late last night, I heard about the Dallas shooting (which is only about 100 miles from where I live) and watched as the number of deaths and injuries climbed. Last week I heard about the death of a kidnapped priest. A couple weeks ago, I found out that the priest who heard my first confession and confirmed me has been diagnosed with a brain tumor (contact him here, if you like). Last month, I learned about two couples who had both lost their babies during or shortly after pregnancy. A few months ago, we took a collection at Mass to support people who had lost their homes from a tornado. Before that were the Paris shooting, the scandals associated with the university my husband attends, the kidnapping of several young girls from a village...

It seems as if every hour offers a new crisis. Even this list, which includes so many awful things, does not speak of the homeless mothers who beg to feed their children, the men who have been laid off and can't find work, the sick children who doctors can't cure but instead offer to make the remainder of their lives as comfortable as possible, the elderly in nursing homes who rarely receive visitors, the addicts who try but just can't quit, the people who have counted every last cent but barring a miracle will not be able to make rent this month, or any of the people who see these problems and feel like hope is too elusive. At some point, we are tempted to say (or we really do say), "How much more of this can I take?"

I went to Mass this week and Father (who was a visiting priest) talked about gratitude and how we do not show it as often as we should to God. This is not to say that we should be grateful for awful things that happen (though good can come from bad events). Rather, when so many things happen in the world that we deem "bad," it can be very difficult to notice the good in the world. How can I look at a student's drawing and appreciate their creativity and passion if I am thinking instead about how other kids throughout the world don't even have crayons, don't even have an education, don't even have a supportive family to encourage such pursuits? How can I receive God's grace if I am focused on my sins and instead of doing something about them and myself, I am wallowing in my sinfulness?

But wallowing in thoughts of how many bad things are happening does not make good things happen. It does not bring compassion, mercy and kindness to those who have suffered. It does not bring light into the darkest of situations. It does not make us, as Christ's body on earth, do the job which was given to us: to teach everyone of God's goodness and to love as He loves. We may be the only Christian or positive influence another person encounters: we ought to make each moment of our lives a testament to Christ, so that even in those single moments, people see Christ in us.

So no matter what is going on in your own life, in the lives of your friends, or in the life of the world, do something to communicate God's love and grace to others. Take heart that chaos and crises are not the ultimate plan for the world. Take heart that there is great mercy in the Sacrament of Confession and (in Father Z style) go to Confession! Take heart that there is great grace and strength in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Take heart that the cross is steady while the world is turning. 

"In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world." [John 16:33]

"Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world." [Pope Benedict XVI]

27 March 2016


Happy Easter!

After a very long Lent, I am so happy it's finally Easter, and also happy that I can now say alleluia. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

This morning at Mass we prayed for converts, and I realized that I was received into the Church three years ago. Sometimes it seems that I have been Catholic for much longer, while at other times I feel very much like an infant. I don't know that I'll ever get over that contradictory feeling, nor do I want to: I want to be thankful every year.

And I am thankful. I think with all the difficulties and sorrows of life, it is easy to get bogged down or to do things in a robotic way. It is easy to forget the joy. It is easy to forget the Easter that comes after Lent.

But I can't forget Easter. I can't forget the evening I so anticipated. I can't forget the evening I was confirmed while my sponsor had my back. I can't forget the evening I received the Eucharist for the first time and felt absolute peace, as if Jesus was steadying my heart because He was holding it close to His own. I can't forget His forgiveness, His grace or His goodness. "What return shall I render unto the Lord for all he has given me?"

May you never forget the goodness of the Lord, and may you and yours have a very happy Easter. If you were received this Easter, welcome home.


22 March 2016

Lent 2016: Week Six (Holy Week)

Six Weeks Down

Here we are in the last week of Lent, which just seems bizarre. Though the husband was gone from Thursday until early Monday morning, I did not have a quiet week. On Thursday, my women's group swapped items we no longer wanted (hello, baking pans and cute skirt), ate many snacks and talked about the pregnancies of multiple women in the department. On Friday, I went to a potluck and met some prospective students who visited the department for the weekend (I didn't meet all of them, though, so now I'm wondering whether the accepted list will be people I don't know. Woops.). I also got to meet a new priest, so booyah. On Saturday, I had a much needed lie-in (after the most insane dream), then went to a St. Patrick's Day party, which was hosted by very kind and fun woman. I'm still daydreaming about the scones, so I may need to make some soon.

All the delicious food I wish I could eat every day.

Strangely, I almost don't want Lent to be over. Holy Week, however, is like the countdown to the New Year: the anticipation is now much more felt. In addition, the sorrow is now much more felt after Palm Sunday. Every year without fail, when the congregation recites the lines of the crowd who called for Christ's crucifixion, I cringe. I almost steel myself, as if I can will the Lord's subsequent suffering not to happen because it's just too horrible. I am still stunned that God came to Earth and this is how we treated Him.

I'll be thinking on these things throughout this week, and hope I am drawn closer to the cross by it.

Even my body shall rest in safety. For you will not leave my soul
among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay.


  • "Lift up thy face therefore unto Heaven; behold, I and all my saints with Me, who in this world had great conflict, do now rejoice, now are comforted, now secure, now at rest, and shall remain with Me everlastingly in the Kingdom of my Father." (IOC. 3. XLVII)
  • "And I the most miserable and poorest of men, how shall I receive Thee into my house, I that scarce know how to spend one half hour in true devotion? and would that I could even once spend something like one half hour worthily!" (IOC. 4. I)
  • "Jesus died outside the gate, to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us go out to him outside the camp bearing the insult which he bore. From here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come. Through him let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge his name." (Hebrews 13:12-15)
  • "The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress where his anointed find salvation. Save your people; bless Israel your heritage. Be their shepherd and carry them for ever." (Psalm 28:8-9)
  • "Ours were the sufferings he bore. Ours the weight of guilt he endured." (Midday Responsory)
Final Notes

Last week, an interview with Papa Benedict XVI came out like a surprise hug. You can read the full text here.
Prayer request: on Saturday evening, a relative died. Please keep Mary Jo and her family in your prayers.
Check your parish's schedule and go to a Tenebrae and/or Good Friday service this week.

15 March 2016

Lent 2016: Week Five (Passiontide)

Five Weeks Down

Passiontide is upon us. It's a bit of a shock to the system to walk into Mass and find the crucifixes covered with violet cloth (the weather was on board, though, because it poured all week). I usually spend a good deal of Mass looking at the crucifix, so to have that routine unavailable to me was like another small Lenten penance. Looking at the crucifix is a good practice, but it is good to give up even good things. Without the benefit of a visual aid, I had to focus in other ways. It made me think about the faith. We will not always feel so very close to God. We will not always have the luxuries (simple as they might be) we have now. We will need to stay on the right path anyway even when we don't feel like being holy, even when it feels difficult, even when we feel little consolation.

The Gospel reading on Sunday was about the death of Lazarus. Jesus goes back to Judea to see him, but he had already died. Martha says, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee." (John 11:21-22) Even in this seemingly impossible circumstance (Martha did not know what Jesus would do), Martha still has hope. She still believes that something good can come from the bad. We have all had bad circumstances in our lives, and we've probably heard people say, "What good can come from this?" I realized then that I haven't been asking that question with hope. Instead, I've asked it with worry. I've asked it without the assurance that Martha shows above. That's something I should change.

On a more delightful note, I have rediscovered the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast. A group of priests take turns in pairs hosting the show and they discuss topics from holy water to saints to artists to book passages to sacraments... Any Catholic thing you want to know about, they've probably talked about (or you could ask them to cover something particular, maybe). Some of them are in Rome presently, so I love when they talk about life in Italy. I used to listen to the podcast a lot while in college but somehow it went off my radar during my last semester (I think I thought they had stopped, which would have been a bummer). Now I have a good hundred shows to catch up on. Check them out. :)

Other highlights of the week included buying a coloring book (because I am secretly five) and taking a walk on Sunday evening to a point which gave us a great view of the river and surrounding towns. Now all the trees are very green and leafy, so it really feels like Spring (or Summer sometimes, to be honest). 

I obviously didn't give up childishness for Lent.


  • "Thou shalt not long toil here, nor always be oppressed with griefs.  Wait a little while, and thou shalt see a speedy end of thine evils. There will come an hour when all labour and tumult shall cease. Poor and brief is all that which passeth away with time." (IOC 3. XLVII)
  • "Unto Thee I commend myself and all that is mine, to be corrected: better it is to be punished here, than hereafter." (IOC. 3. L)
  • "St. Joseph, Most Obedient, Pray for us!" (join the St. Joseph novena here)
  • "O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge." (Psalm 7:2)

Stay strong. Look for the good. Buy some crayons. Happy Lent. xx