Friday, April 29, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ave, Jen! Ruminations on trust.

How much am I loving Easter Octave? About 5 lbs. of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups much.

And Jen Fulwiler's "7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God" is a perfect companion to my Easter chocolate. ("Mmmm. Munch, munch, Lord. How can I, gulp, trust thee more? Lip smack."

This is one of my favorite blog posts ever. She takes five--or six, counting Mother Teresa--biographies of holy men and women who exude trust in God and distills for us seven sort of trademarks of trust. What does it mean to trust in him.

The first one kicked my pants:

1. They accept suffering. Yessir. Radical trust means being undismayed by the aches and groans of Brother Ass (St. Francis's fond nickname for his body). Their focus is the prize, the crown at the end of the race. Their concern is union with God, not release from pain.

2. They accept the inevitability of death. She mentions The Shadow of His Wings, one of my favorite reads from this past Lent. Why was this priest spared when so many died (a question Pope John Paul II asked himself throughout World War II)? Note: Not so that he could enjoy a long, successful, pain-free life. He survived to serve God more before he was taken home to heaven. Again, eyes on the prize.

3. They have daily appointments with God. After reading this post, I actually remembered to say my Office for the first time in a week. Oh, yes. It is easier to trust someone with whom you are in regular contact!

4. In prayer, they listen more than they talk. Yes.

5. They limit distractions. Jen writes: "Far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. That line has haunted me ever since I read it. I love technology, but it does come with a huge temptation to feel a general increase in urgency in our lives: I have to reply to that email! Respond to that comment on my wall on Facebook! Ret-tweet that tweet! Read that direct message! Listen to that voicemail! Here in the connected age, we are constantly bombarded with demands on our attention. Periods of silence, where we can cultivate inner stillness and wait for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are increasingly rare." This made me so sad when I read it. Yes, I have been losing those moments of silence. I can blame it on the kids and be frustrated, or I can receive what little quiet time I have as an opportunity to be silent.

6. They submit their discernment to others. If we really believe God speaks to us through others, we might try submitting once in a while. I know that leaning on the advice and wisdom of my husband and friends and parents has always born fruit. It's so easy for me to give advice to others: the solution seems clear to me, being on the outside. It works the other way around to: Sometimes others, especially those who love me, can see my life so much more clearly from the outside than I do from within.

7. They offer the Lord their complete, unhesitating obedience. I think of Peter and Andrew who left their nets at once. Let it be so in me.

This list is going up on my fridge. Thanks, Jen!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Surrexit Christus, Alleluia!

O filii et filiæ
Rex cælestis, Rex gloriæ
Morte surrexit hodie.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stations XIII and XIV: Jesus is taken down and laid in the tomb.

This is the final part of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and IIand III and IV and Vand VI and VII and VIII andIX and X and XI and XII.

Station XIII: Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in the arms of his mother.
"Now I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once."

"My body shall rest in hope."

Station XIV: Jesus rests in the tomb.

"He descended into Hell."

"Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” " ~from an ancient homily, Office of Readings on Holy Saturday

Friday, April 22, 2011

Station XII: Jesus dies.

This is part ten of a series of posts on theStations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and IIand III and IV and Vand VI and VII and VIII and IX and X and XI.

Station XII: Jesus dies on the cross.

"It is finished."

"Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto." ~Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Nietzsche regards himself as a prophet, heralding the rise of man. The death of God is a mighty deed, a definitive moment. It is definitive, but it is not our rising.

Oh, Nietzsche: Though we slay God endlessly (modern man is no great revolutionary--we have always killed God), still we look for him. We mourn for him "as for an only son." We look into the abyss and pray that you, dear Friedrich, were wrong.

Good Friday 2011

Hagios O Theos, Hagios ichyros,
Hagios athanatos eleison himas.

Holy is God, Holy and Strong,
Holy Immortal One , have mercy on us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Station XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

This is part ten of a series of posts on theStations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and IIand III and IV and Vand VI and VII and VIII and IX and X.

Station XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Stretched out, naked, on the bare wood. His hands held down so that he cannot jerk them away as the hammer falls. The nails drive deep through his flesh and nerves. He will not come down from this wood alive.

This is my God. This is my All. The only meaning behind any Beauty, the only reality behind any words. Stretched out and quivering in pain, nailed to rough wood.

At this station, my lethargy and disinterest vanish like the snow. I am all wound inside: "My God, my God, what have I done?"

He turns his head, gasping, and whispers, "Can you drink the cup of which I shall drink?" And the soldiers raise him high.

Station X: Jesus is stripped.

This is part ten of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III and IV and Vand VI and VII and VIII and IX.

The human body: Temple of all that is great and beautiful, source of deep shame and woundedness. Contrast the glory of a Michaelangelo nude with a victim of rape or torture.

Christ stands naked before the crowd and will hang naked, spread between heaven and earth. In sharing our shame, submitting to the worst we could think of, he secures our greatest joy: the Final Day, when our glorified and healed bodies enter the new heaven and earth.

Nothing is held back. Christ stands naked before us.

Image source.

Holy Thursday 2011

Have a blessed Triduum. Here to set the tone is Placido Domingo with "Panis Angelicus" at a papal Mass.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Station IX: Jesus falls a third time.

This is part nine of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III and IV and Vand VI and VII and VIII.

At this point in the stations, I always get a little antsy: "Okay, okay... so he falls again. I get it. Wow, this is starting to be long. Oh, wait, I should be meditating on this and feeling bad. Sigh." I start thinking about the hamburger I'm going to eat after Easter.

Oh, the guilt. The whole world seems like a landfill or a river choked with garbage and filth. And I am very much a part of that world. Jesus falls yet again, and all I can think about is red meat. Jesus is still suffering, and we are very much a part of his pain even when we're being pious and meditating on the Stations.

That's the point, I suppose. Instead of trying to be a perfect Catholic or Orthodox or Christian, instead of being angry at myself for failing to be that perfect woman, the third fall of Christ is a time to grieve but also to trust. He fell a third time and he rose. Entrusting my sin to his mercy, I follow on the way to Calvary.

"When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all." ~from the Vatican website Stations

Monday, April 18, 2011

Station VIII: The women of Jerusalem.

This is part eight of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III and IV and Vand VI and VII.

Station VIII: Jesus meets the weeping women.

Jesus meets the weeping women of Jerusalem: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children ... For if they do these things to the green wood, what shall be done to the dry?"

The desolation of human history can only be captured in another song.

This is from Gorecki: "He learned of an inscription scrawled on the wall of a cell of a Gestapo prison in the town of Zakopane, which lies at the foot of the Tatra mountains in southern Poland. The words were those of 18-year-old Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, a highland woman incarcerated on 25 September 1944. It read O Mamo nie płacz nie—Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie (Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always). The composer recalled, "I have to admit that I have always been irritated by grand words, by calls for revenge. Perhaps in the face of death I would shout out in this way. But the sentence I found is different, almost an apology or explanation for having got herself into such trouble; she is seeking comfort and support in simple, short but meaningful words". He later explained, "In the prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: 'I'm innocent', 'Murderers', 'Executioners', 'Free me', 'You have to save me'—it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an eighteen-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Station VII: Jesus falls again.

This is part seven of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III and IV and V and VI.

"To our falling again and again into evil, Jesus responds with his determination to redeem us, with an abundance of forgiveness. And, so that no one may despair, again he wearily raises himself, embracing the cross."

God does not simply save us. He does not simply forgive and forget. He does not simply reach down and fix our sundry problems.

He falls with us. He falls again and again.

"May our stumbles and defeats separate us from him no more."

For he has fallen, too.

"Just as a feeble child throws himself contritely into the strong arms of his father, you and I will hold tightly to the yoke of Jesus. Only a contrition and humility like this can transform our human weakness into the fortitude of God."

As we fall with Christ, we shall rise with Christ.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Station VI: Veronica.

This is part six of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III and IV and V.

The Anchoress tells a tale today (perhaps it's hagiography, but it makes little difference) about John Paul II: "Once the great pope, John Paul II was found, embracing the Tabernacle in his arms, and crooning a Polish song as a parent would use to comfort a child. When asked about it, he replied, “I don’t know how else to comfort Him…”

This is like the story (perhaps apocryphal, but it makes little difference) of Veronica. In the middle of chaos, fear, and anger, she steps out of the crowd to wipe the face of the Suffering Servant.

Veronica and the pope. What difference can these little gestures make in the vast ocean of God's pain? The suffering threatens to smother all comfort. The darkness mocks that Polish lullaby and it sneers at Veronica's veil. Tokens of love appear to be symptoms of insanity.

The veil and the song, however, are the only signs of sanity on the Way to Calvary. Human beings reach out in helpless gestures of love, to show and strengthen their trust that Love suffers only to conquer. Veronica wipes Christ's face to comfort him, but also as a sign that evil is never victorious. Her veil seems to be nothing, but it is evil that is in fact nothing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Station V: Simon of Cyrene carries the cross.

This is part five of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III and IV.

I've already thought a lot about Simon. I especially love this reflection from Mother Angelica: "Simon wondered, as he took those beams upon his shoulders, why he was chosen for such a heavy burden, and now he knows. Help me, Jesus, to trust Your loving Providence as you permit suffering to weave itself in and out of my life. Make me understand that You looked at it and held it fondly before You passed it on to me. You watch me and give me strength, just as You did Simon. When I enter Your Kingdom, I shall know, as he knows, what marvels Your Cross has wrought in my soul."

Simon encounters the cross passively at first. He is pressed into service by the soldiers and made to carry the cross. As Mother says, he "wonders."

But there is a possibility that, as he drew near Calvary, Simon began to embrace the cross. Mel Gibson (okay, yes, I know he went downhill again, but that doesn't totally eradicate his art) imagines a scene in which Simon decides to make the cross his own. He looks on Christ with pity, even if without understanding.

We don't know if this happened or not: the revelation of Scripture does not mention it. The scene, however, may become real in our own lives. If I can allow my heart to be softened, to go beyond my fear and frustration, then Simon will live in me.

And, like Simon, I, too, will understand someday what marvels the cross of Christ has wrought in my soul.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Station IV: Jesus meets his sorrowful mother.

This is part four of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II and III.

Station IV: Jesus meets his sorrowful Mother.

O all you that pass by the way, look and see, was there ever a sorrow to compare with my sorrow?” ~Lamentations 1:12

Sometimes a mystery requires a song.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Station III: Jesus falls the first time.

This is part three of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Here are Stations I and II. Image source.

Station III: Jesus Falls the First Time

“The worn-out body of Jesus staggers now beneath the huge cross. His most loving heart can barely summon up another breath of life for his poor wounded limbs.” ~St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way of the Cross

Failure. The weight of physical pain and suffering and a simply physical incapacity to take one more step—these directly lead us to a psychological sense of moral failure and weakness as well. Christ knows he is to accomplish his mission at the top of the hill, but here at the beginning he feels the full weight of failure (“I am not even strong enough to drag this cross a few feet.”)

The fall is also a part of his work of salvation. When he falls, the Fall of Man receives its fatal blow. In Christ’s moments of failure, he triumphs over all my failures—real and imagined.

Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” ~Isaiah 53

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Station II: Jesus receives the cross.

This is part two of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. Station I is here. The image source is Blog By-the-Sea, which has a great Stations of its own.

Station II: Jesus Receives the Cross.

After the condemnation, God begins the last, drawn-out way of suffering. The soldiers and crowd form a procession, a grotesque perversion of the joy of Palm Sunday. Jesus, barely standing now, sees before him the heavy cross-bar and knows his Father will permit this burden, too. His heart breaks: "I find my pleasure in doing they will, my God, and thy law dwells within my heart." (Psalm 39)

This is God's own will: to carry the cross. The order of Love, as Pope John Paul II put it, conquers suffering by willingly taking it upon Himself. The Son of God "strikes evil right at its roots ... These transcendental roots of evil are grounded in sin and death... The mission of the only-begotten Son consists in conquering sin and death. He conquers sin by His obedience unto death." (Salvifici Doloris, no. 14)

This is Christ's pleasure and joy as he takes that heavy beam on his shoulders and staggers on.

I watch him embrace the cross with such silence and love and I wonder. How much do I anticipate aches and pains, sleeplessness and failure, with fear? Anxiety and depression can drive us to obsess over future pain: Will I be well enough tomorrow? Will I ever sleep again? Will I lose my faith? With all these questions also comes a desire to avoid suffering at all costs.

In these moments, I can look back at my Jesus. He was not concerned in that moment with the coming pain: Will I fall (yes, he will)? Will I be unable to go on (yes, he will need Simon)? Will I go ever further into the darkness (yes, God will forsake him)?

These questions do not affect him.

He sees the cross-beam and receives it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Station I: We Condemn Him.

This is part one of a series of posts on the Stations of the Cross. I'm hoping to post once a day leading up to Good Friday 2011, but knowing life it may end up being Good Friday 2012.

Station I: Jesus is Condemned to Death

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Ecce, homo! Behold, the man!

The first image I found for "Jesus is Condemned" was from The Passion of the Christ. It was too gruesome to post here: By the time Pilate passes the sentence of death, Jesus is already beaten beyond recognition. He has already lost his friends. Judas and Peter have betrayed him. He has survived torture and scourging. The way of the cross, however, has only just begun.

Did he feel relief? Was there anything left in him that could even feel dread or sorrow? I want (and do not want) to follow him as he walks the final steps to see: What could possibly be left in a man so devastated?

Pilate, choosing not to sacrifice himself for this Jew, washes his hands in water. He proclaims his innocence, not knowing that he is not his own judge. He has condemned his Judge.

I have been both Christ and Pilate.

The moments when I feel condemned to another death--so small and petty compared with Christ's--also pass sentence on me. I confess, I have felt condemnation at moments when I should feel joy: That third positive pregnancy test comes to mind! I knew at that moment that, along with the great gift of a new life, we were also going to die to ourselves. Now, looking back, I have seen the life and resurrection, but in those first moments there was only the way of the cross.

But I have also been Pilate. When I saw that cross in front of me, I rejected it. I would rather, I tell my God, not. Really. You may be truth and life, but I really can't. You may say you are a king, but I have no king but me.

Christ forgave me even of this, and showed us his strength and resurrection in our third baby, Ana Therese. Condemnation--my condemnation of him, my condemnation of myself--became love.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Different Kinds of Happy.

The Anchoress is talking about happiness today and suggests, "The question can be deceptive; it seems simple, but becomes complicated when one is forced to consider it, head-on."

She has some great 1968 video of habited nuns walking around asking the random man-on-the-street (and woman, too) if he is happy and why.

It got me thinking, "Am I happy?"

Surprisingly, I have no hesitation in saying, "Yes. I am so happy." There is, as PG Wodehouse would say, a concatenation of circumstances in my life right now that should add up to marked unhappiness: chronic pain, financial stress, postpartum depression, side effects from medication, and on and on.

When I think about happiness, however, I can only say, "I am happy." So happy. How can this be? I think the answer, as the Anchoress also says, lies in gratitude. The list of woes fades rapidly in the face of my list of blessings. I almost giggle when I ponder how wonderful my life is.

Little joys and pleasures have become more acute: bulbs forcing their way through the earth. Warm fire. Colors seem more vivid. Comfort. Beautiful words strung together. A friend's encouragement. A brother's concern.

There is, of course, the children. They are a lot of work. I probably wouldn't be in all this pain without them. But I would be so poor without their presence and their needs and their gifts to me.

Then there is the Scientist Dad. There is so little left to hide from each other (although, in 15 years, God willing, I'll probably look back and see how far we've come). We've seen each other's darkest, each other's brightest. He bears my cross with me. And I hope I bear his with him. Sickness has made our marriage more real: The vows have been tested, are being tested. And they are our life.

And finally there is hope, which does not disappoint. I have hope of recovery, but I also have hope that nothing is lost. There is not a moment in my life that has been wasted or frittered--although I have tried my hardest to fritter! The time is flying by so quickly, and it is full. I am convinced that everything is accounted. All faults are forgiven and, like my tears, are nothing. All joys and good works are stored away for the Day of Rejoicing.

A life lived under Mercy is a happy life. I would not trade it for all the world.