Friday, April 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 29)

1. I'm to that point in the school year where I'm coasting until everything wraps up. That means instead of being productive, I just make lists of what should be getting done while I count down to the end.

2. 6 hours until my weekend starts.

3. 13 days and 4 tests until I’m done with school.

4. That’s really only 3 class days and 3 exam days.

5. 28 days until I’m done with work.

6. 33 days until I’m headed to Scotland!

7. 45 days until I move (unfortunately, not to Scotland, just 45 minutes up the road).

Check out others' Quick Takes here!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Uncomfortably Comfortable

When I first got my hands on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I read the entire thing in 10 hours. I was too eager to get to the ending to truly enjoy the book. It took a second reading for me to truly read it. Even now when I reread it, I’m tempted to glaze over some passages to get to the parts I want. And that’s how I treated Holy Week. I already knew the ending, so I wanted to skip ahead to that part. The fact that I was joining the Church made me just that much more eager to get there as fast as possible. The result is that I didn’t properly appreciate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

So now that the rush is over, I want to go back and read at a better pace, even if it’s a bit liturgically off.

I want to be able to meditate on the suffering of Christ. But the truth is, I don’t know how to. I don’t know how to relate to suffering. It seems like such a foreign concept. I can know that bad things happen, but knowledge doesn’t make it feel real. I’m in my white, upper middle class bubble, with my stable family who spoils me. The biggest problem I had this week was that I got in a 2:15 section of a class when I really wanted to get in the 9:45 section. As a senior in high school, I would jokingly complain that I couldn’t write a good college admissions essay because I had never overcome anything. Five years later, it’s still true. I have a very, very easy life. And some days I take that for granted, but for the most part, I have learned to be truly grateful for the plethora of blessings I’ve received.

The flip side of that, of course, is that I feel very undeserving. With so much wealth and opportunity, I should be doing more. Since I’m not one of the needy, I should be helping them. I know my charity far under-represents my wealth.

Which goes back to not knowing suffering. It’s difficult to throw myself into a cause without feeling passionate about it, and it’s difficult to feel passionate without having experienced it. It’s hard to fight for workers’ rights when my only knowledge of labor injustice comes from reading The Jungle. It’s hard to know what the needy actually need when I’ve never been hungry, or homeless, or swamped in debts, or abused. I don’t see them in my daily bubble. I just hand over donations of money or clothes or food, which I know helps in some way, but it doesn’t teach me anything about suffering. I feel like to better know Christ, I have to know suffering. It feels like cheating to celebrate the victory of Christ without having suffered with Him.

My only solace is that even if I knew suffering, it wouldn’t equal His. There isn’t the “perfect” status or amount of suffering that makes someone closer to Christ. So, maybe, for me, mediating on the suffering of Christ isn’t as dark and painful as it is for others. Maybe it’s just me looking at Him and acknowledging, “I don’t understand, but thank you.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 28)

1. Holy Week was so amazing! I’m so happy to be a part of the Church.

2. It was also an exhausting week. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, I spent close to 11 hours in church services alone. But I loved it.

3. Everyone (Protestant and Catholic alike) has been so nice about my decision. It’s comforting how much everyone at my home Presbyterian church has supported me.

4. I still feel like I’m lacking the cultural heritage to be able to call myself a Catholic. But I’m sure it will become easier in time.

5. Summer and Fall registration is today. I’m hoping that it will be easier getting into the classes I need than it was for this spring. I’ve already redone it twice as classes have filled up before my registration time. Oh, I miss having early registration.

6. I seriously love being a student, and I’m excited to be a full-time student again in the fall. If only I could figure out a way to fund being a full-time student forever. I can think of three or four other degrees I wouldn’t mind getting.

7. The writing bug came back! I’ve been able to work on some fiction this past week. I’m really hoping I can get a lot done before the feeling passes.

Check out others' Quick Takes here!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oil, Bread and Wine

How can I even begin to describe the Easter Vigil? I could list what happened (fire, music, readings, prayer, confirmation, mass, amen). I could mention how I felt (prepared, nervous, bored, excited, unworthy, overwhelmed, amen). But I lack the skill to express what really happened, assuming the words exist at all.

Euphoric, or exultant, or entrancing, or ethereal—something with an e should come close.

I’ve felt the Holy Spirit before, but this time, I experienced being washed in the Spirit. Washed is the right word, because the feeling was thick like liquid, pouring down my head and along my body. I felt frozen by surprise, yet it seemed like an effort to stay standing.

And while that was wholly unexpected, I had braced myself for the Eucharist. I set the bar low as I’m apt to do, told myself not to expect too much and not be disappointed if it wasn’t life-altering. But I’d also told myself to be braced in case it was, because it was something for which I had been yearning for so long. And I was right to brace myself, because wow. It was a miracle in itself that my feet somehow got me from the chalice back to the pew. And for the second time in two weeks, the joyful tears came.

I don’t feel any different for the experience. I’m still as likely to sin making the same mistakes I’m apt to make. I’m still someone who holds her emotions in from others. I’m still a perfectionist. I still can’t say, “Before such and such date I believed that, but now I believe this.” I know this is supposed to change me, and maybe it has and I’m just too close to see it. But I don’t feel like a different person. I just feel more me, like I was always Catholic and just happened to be walking into the wrong building for the past 1,200 Sundays.

I think the reason I don’t feel different is that I didn’t do that much. God did. He brought me closer to Him. Why me and not others? I don’t know. What does this mean for me now? I don’t know. And I’m okay with not knowing. I know all I need to at this time. And I have a lifetime of continued conversion to figure out more.

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Surprised by Grace

Though there isn’t much to say, I did want to write a little about my first Reconciliation last week. I wasn’t looking forward to it, because it meant confronting years’ worth of the worst of me. But at the same time, I was looking forward to it, because it was to be my first Catholic sacrament, and therefore important to me.

I tend to be a person who tries not to expect much out of things. Setting the bar low means being disappointed less and surprised by joy more. So I went in with no emotional expectations, to just experience it for what it was and not force anything else upon it.

The joy was surprising and premature. The night before I actually went, I did an examination of conscience. The following day, I just felt better. I was happy and energized and couldn’t quite tell why, except that I felt unburdened without even knowing that I was previous burdened.

Despite being nervous because this was my first Reconciliation, it was a positive experience. Afterward, on my way out, I decided to pop back into the nave for a few moments, but once I was there, I realized I didn’t want to leave. I felt good, I felt clean, and I didn’t want to step back into the real world where I would inevitably mess it up again. I just wanted to stay there kneeling, feeling good for as long as I could.

There have been many times that I’ve almost cried in church, but as I’m not a weepy person, usually the feeling passes before actual tears come. This time the tears came. And I was grateful for them. I didn’t stay much longer after that, because at some point my being there wouldn’t be an act of worship but an act of cowering from the world in which I sin. So I left. But the joy remained because I can always go back. Over and over. As much as I need, as much as I want. I tend to see sacraments as a before/after experience. You get baptized; you get married, and then you are forever baptized, forever married. But some sacraments, like Reconciliation and the Eucharist, get to be repeated. I get to fill my life with sacraments. There truly is an abundance of grace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Doctor (part 2)

In the first article, I looked at the Doctor, who I see as a Christ figure. Now I want to look at a character who is often treated as a prop: the TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space). But I believe this blue box is a very important character. She’s the Church.

I admit, I didn’t first see this metaphor while watching the show. Rather, it was in church when the tabernacle door was open. The little box was dark, and I couldn’t tell how deep it was, and I thought about it as the resting place of Christ and thought, “It’s bigger on the inside than the outside.”

That is the same phase that’s often used to describe the Tardis. There is more than meets the eye. Like the Church, the Tardis is a structure that is personified, even referred to as “she” by the Doctor. Where the Tardis is, there is the Doctor. She carries him through time and space, and he takes care of it. Theirs is a symbiotic relationship.

The Tardis is the constant. Companions come and go and the Doctor's appearance changes, but the Tardis is always there. For the companions, travelling in the Tardis is how they come to better understand and love the Doctor. She can respond to calls for help, protect people within its walls, and carry the Doctor to the places that need him most. The Church, too, is a constant through time and space. She’s our vehicle to Christ.

Great literature (even in TV form) is great when it transcends its own story, when it hits upon truths that teach us what we already knew. God is too big, too infinite for us to comprehend, so we use similes that try to say, “God is like this, only much, much more.”

In Western culture, our heroes are commonly Christ-characters; virtuous, solitary, sacrificing. Over and over, we want to see that kind of love, that kind of sacrifice, acted out because it’s too unbelievable to comprehend the first time. Collectively, we delve into literature looking for the truths to surface. If Truth is true, it will arise across time and space, over and over. It will always be true, whether debating philosophies or just watching a TV show about a crazy man with a blue box.