Hope is a Thing with Wings

“This City Never Sleeps”

This city never sleeps but it sure knows how to sleep tonight
And my heart knows how to beat but it don’t know how to beat right
And I can see the streets but I can’t see the street signs

With my eyes on the sidewalk
I was lost, it was so dark
I’m alone, I’m alive

And my hope still scrapes the sky
Like all these buildings I will try
To leave the world behind until my head is clear
Draw a new skyline… and change my atmosphere

It’s different now I swear
There’s something in the air tonight
And I can only stare at the glimmer of the night lights
And what I used to be scared of is making me aware of why

I lift my eyes from the sidewalk
I was so lost, it was dark
I’m alone, I’m alive

And my hope still scrapes the sky
Like all these buildings I will try
To leave the world behind until my head is clear
Draw a new skyline… and change my atmosphere
Yeah, yeah, I’ll change my atmosphere

My hope still scrapes the sky
Like all these buildings I will try
To leave the world behind until my head is clear

Oh yeah my hope still scrapes the sky
Like all these buildings I will try
To leave the world behind until my head is clear
Draw a new skyline… and change my atmosphere
I’ll change my atmosphere
I’ll change my atmosphere

This city, this city never sleeps
This city never sleeps
This city never sleeps
This city never sleeps

Let’s Not-Stick With Dualism

In the post “Man is a unity” I discussed our bad habit of attempting to separate the material and spiritual.  Why is it so important we see ourselves as whole persons?  God always, always works towards union.  Therefore anything resulting in disharmony, discord and disunion is turning us away from Him.  Everything is from God and he is continually drawing everything towards Himself.  We feel divided because we have two opposing desires within us – the desire to do good has been damaged and because of concupiscence, we tend towards sin.

This feeling of being divided often leads to a dualistic view of the world.  One of these dualistic world views is Gnosticism, a heresy which has stubbornly stuck around and continues to poison our thinking.  I feel like I should go get an accelerated degree in philosophy before I attempt to write this, but I’ll give it a shot.

Like most religions, Gnosticism attempts to answer the fundamental question: “why do we suffer?”  Gnostics believe that the material world was created by a flawed “false god” and therefore reflects his flawed and imperfect nature.  There is also a “True God” and sometimes they are referred to as half-gods.  So they are opposing halves – not a whole.  Since the material world was created by this false god – demiurge, it is seen as a prison which must be transcended by the spirit.  This transcendence happens through the gaining of secret knowledge – gnosis.

Hmm this non-stick claim seems to be a lie...
Hmm this non-stick claim seems to be a lie…

From gnosis.org:

Human nature mirrors the duality found in the world: in part it was made by the false creator God and in part it consists of the light of the True God. Humankind contains a perishable physical and psychic component, as well as a spiritual component which is a fragment of the divine essence. This latter part is often symbolically referred to as the “divine spark”. The recognition of this dual nature of the world and of the human being has earned the Gnostic tradition the epithet of “dualist”.

The rejection of matter of course has implications for understanding Jesus’s death and resurrection.  Gnostics still believe in Jesus as a savior, but offering a different kind of salvation:  “It is not by His suffering and death but by His life of teaching and His establishing of mysteries that Christ has performed His work of salvation.”

If the flesh is merely a prison created by a false god, why would God ever come in the form of man?  In Against Heresies, which specifically addresses Gnosticism, St. Irenaeus argues that, “”For that which He [i.e. Christ] has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole.”  Here is a great article which explains Irenaeus as the foundation of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

All heresy is simply a twisting and misunderstanding of the Truth.  For example, gnostics believe that most of us live in ignorance of the divine essence which dwells within us and that “This ignorance is fostered in human nature by the influence of the false creator and his Archons, who together are intent upon keeping men and women ignorant of their true nature and destiny.”  My gut reactions was: that’s true!  Except it’s the devil that keeps us ignorant of our true selves and our potential for greatness.

Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at Vatican
Pope Francis embraces Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at Vatican

Speaking of unity, our new Holy Father has continued to make active strides towards reunification with the Eastern Orthodox Church.  I recently started reading John Paul II’s “Orientale Lumen” and Eastern Catholics totally have a better understanding of this unity of man than we do.

From “Orientale Lumen”:

Christianity does not reject matter…the human body is disclosed in its inner nature as a temple of the Spirit and is united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation. This does not mean, however, an absolute exaltation of all that is physical, for we know well the chaos which sin introduced into the harmony of the human being. The liturgy reveals that the body, through the mystery of the Cross, is in the process of transfiguration, pneumatization: on Mount Tabor Christ showed his body radiant, as the Father wants it to be again.

Cosmic reality also is summoned to give thanks because the whole universe is called to recapitulation in Christ the Lord. This concept expresses a balanced and marvelous teaching on the dignity, respect and purpose of creation and of the human body in particular. With the rejection of all dualism and every cult of pleasure as an end in itself, the body becomes a place made luminous by grace and thus fully human.

To those who seek a truly meaningful relationship with themselves and with the cosmos, so often disfigured by selfishness and greed, the liturgy reveals the way to the harmony of the new man, and invites him to respect the Eucharistic potential of the created world. That world is destined to be assumed in the Eucharist of the Lord, in his Passover, present in the sacrifice of the altar.

 

I See You, Know You, And Love You

It is hard for me to pick favorites – songs, books, movies – but hands down, I can say for sure that One Night With the King is my favorite movie.  It is a dramatized and beautifully put together telling of the story of Esther.  She’s one of those often looked over, yet incredibly strong women of the Old Testament.

The book is only a few chapters long so I would suggest you just go read it.  Or the movie is on Hulu currently(yup I’ll be watching it like every day).  Here’s the cliff-notes version:  Esther, a Jew, lives in the kingdom of Persia, the former Babylon.  Her people are technically free, but still looked down upon.  The queen of Persia has angered the king and after divorcing her, he seeks a new queen. All of the eligible women of the kingdom are brought before him and Esther “pleased him and won his favor.”  She kept her heritage a secret, for fear of not being accepted.  Eventually, the Jews are once again targeted for persecution.  Esther, however, in a position to act as their savior.  Like many heroes of the bible she does not feel up to the task and is deathly afraid of risking her life.  This story speaks wonderfully to the perfect mystery of God’s plan.  Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, wonders, “Who knows but that it was for a time like this that you obtained the royal dignity?”  Going before the king with her request could cost Esther her life, but she is prepared to make this sacrifice for her people. “I will go to the king, contrary to the law.  If I perish, I perish!”OneNightWiththeKing (1)

It is often emphasized that Esther declines to array herself in mounds of ridiculous golden adornments.  Her only jewelry is usually a simple necklace given to her by her deceased parents, which, when caught in the right light, reflects the star of David.  Yet, in her simple beauty, Esther captured the heart of the king.  In the bible, we read that, “She glowed with the perfection of her beauty and her countenance was as joyous as it was lovely, though her heart was shrunk with fear.”

So Esther has the courage of a lion and beauty beyond all compare.  Why is this?  She knows her identity as a beloved daughter of God.

Knowing our identity as children of God is so, so important and Esther totally gets this.  When she reveals her true identity to the king it is as “Hadassah…child of the Most High God.”

Really knowing and owning this core of my identity is something I, and most people struggle with.  When we are bombarded daily with heinous lies about our worth, it is easy to miss the whisper of Truth.

This past January, I was blessed to be able to attend The Jesus Retreat.  The first time I went I met the TOR Sisters, so it holds a special place in my heart.  Much of the weekend is spent in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, praying with and for one another.  We allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit, and that means often praying for strangers.  At one point during the weekend, a man came up to me and asked if he could pray with me.  Without knowing me at all, and what I struggle with, he reminded me that I am a daughter of the King, a princess, and wonderful in God’s eyes.  He asked if I really believed this.  I told him yes, but later I wondered, do I really?  Although I might know this on some level, it doesn’t always reach my heart and I don’t always live out that identity.  When we don’t really believe this Truth, we look for worth in places other than God.  This leads to insecurity which in turn can lead to dark and empty places where we hurt God, ourselves, and others(aka sin).

We are afraid to reveal ourselves, or what we believe to be our true selves, because we are afraid of what others will think.  Esther, or Hadassah, revealed her true identity to the king, and rather than rejecting her, he was able to love her even more deeply.  He knew her, and loved her. (However we also must protect ourselves through chastity – Esther could reveal herself fully to the king because they were married – but that’s a whole other tangent)

If you can relate to this, I would invite you to meditate on the story of Esther and your worth, which is based solely on being a beloved child of God. Allow yourself to just be-loved!  The definition of beloved is “dear to the heart”; you are dear to His sacred heart!

“From the day I was brought here till now, your handmaid has had no joy except in you, O Lord, God of Abraham.”

Lost in the Light of Love

After not being able to come up with a song all morning, I somehow ended up with two.

The first is “Without You” by David Guetta Ft. Usher.  One of my friends introduced this to me as a secret worship song last year and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Look, even Lifeteen agrees with us! 

And just because they’re amazing, here’s a new Mumford & Sons Song.

 

Watch Your Language!

I was talking to a friend recently about her future and she revealed that she really doesn’t know what will make her happy and can’t quite put her finger on what her deepest passions are.  Another friend distressingly confided in me that he feels like he doesn’t know who he truly is.  As I take part in conversations such as this and get to know people in their mid-twenties, and even older, who don’t know themselves, my heart breaks to see us drifting away from who we are meant to be.

Over the lifetime of this blog, I’ve referred over and over again to the need to convert how we say things back into the language of the Holy.  The topic of vocation is no different.  We need to reintroduce a language of vocation, a language of calling, into the culture.

When I tell people that I’m going to be a Sister, they ask me how I decided that.  I didn’t decide! This shouldn’t even be a question – we should all be aware that we have a unique calling in life and know how to discern that calling.  Religious life chose me – it is my calling from God.  My vocation is a gift which I can choose to receive or refuse.

In reflecting on and praying about the apparent lack of self-awareness among my peers, I began wondering, why am I different?  Why, at such a seemingly young age do I know my vocation and have the courage to respond to God’s persistent call?  The reason is that God placed amazing mentors, spiritual directors, and friends in my life who asked the right questions. 

Whoooo are you? Cindy Lou Who, of course!
Whoooo are you? Cindy Lou Who, of course!

We ask children what they want to be when they grow up.  This makes no sense! We are not “whats”, we are “who.”  We should be asking one another, who are you? and really be interested in the answer.

And this brings me to another point – it is only through relationships that we can discover our true selves.  We are made in the image and likeness of a God who is a communion of persons!  We were made by Love, to love, and to be loved.

Another crazy Truth which has been revealed to me lately, which can seem a little overwhelming, is the fact that, since God is infinite, there are an infinite amount of ways to express His love.  We often try to box vocation into the categories of marriage, singlehood, and religious life, but the fact is there is an endless amount of ways to live out the universal call to holiness.  A vocation is a specific and deeply personal invitation from God.  Each person reaches holiness by living out Love in a unique way.

The fact is that the of the deepest questions of our hearts are: “what is my purpose?” and more importantly, “who am I?”

The YOUCAT (Youth Catechism – It’s wonderful) acknowledges the importance of asking these questions: “The purpose of our life is to be united with God in love and to correspond entirely with God’s wishes.  We should allow God “to live his life in us”(Mother Teresa)…Every man asks himself the question: Who am I and why am I here, how do I find myself? Faith answers: only in holiness does man become that for which God created him…Holiness…is union with the incarnate love that is Christ.”

Holiness=Wholeness

Guest Post! “Seagulls are gross. Nobody likes seagulls.”

After begging my friends for months to write guest posts, someone has agreed to be the first victim.  Enjoy!

******

“Reflections on the world’s most famous seagull”

+JMJ+

Everyone probably knows by now that a seagull alighted on the “white smoke” chimney of the Sistine Chapel during the papal conclave, supposedly almost around the time the cardinals were choosing Francis as our Holy Father.  Some said the bird was perched on the roof to protest that only cardinals got to vote for pope.  I saw it a different way.

St. Francis of Assisi, whose legacy our Holy Father certainly was evoking when he chose his pontifical name, is often depicted with birds.  For a long time, I’ve often disparaged that imagery of St. Francis, since it depicts him as a softy or a flower child.  He was neither.  He was a stringent and forcible voice for conscience and reform (much like his namesake Papa), once telling priests in his order that if they celebrated the Eucharist unworthily they were guilty of the Blood of Christ.  St. Francis, remember, was not a priest because he thought himself unworthy of the vocation, and was horrified that men who were graced with ordination would abuse their station in life.  He did not beat around the bush, but went for the jugular.  

So the bird thing softens St. Francis’s image, and I’ve frequently disliked this.  But, as I was considering the seagull incident, I was reminded of the Baptism of Our Lord, when God sends a bird down from heaven to tell the crowd that +Jesus is the Son of God.  I also remembered when God sent Noah a dove, symbolizing the end of the floods and the beginning of a covenant of peace.  Those images brought to mind, the bird’s alighting on the chimney took on a whole new, and powerful, meaning.  Peace, renewal, and salvation will come through this Pope who took the name of the humble man of Assisi.

And, speaking of this bird, why a seagull?  The Lord chose doves for the imagery in the previous two scenes, and the Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove.  If God was really trying to send us a message in sending a bird to the roof of the Sistine Chapel, why did He choose a seagull?  Seagulls are gross.  Nobody likes seagulls.

But then the Holy Spirit told me the answer:  that seagulls are gross and unpopular is exactly the point.  Our Blessed Lord was despised and unpopular.  St. Paul stressed again and again the indignity +Jesus suffered at the hands of the Roman and Israelite authorities.  Saint after saint, mystic after mystic, has stressed the importance both of embracing the pariah status true-blooded Christianity will undoubtedly bring upon a believer, and of seeing the face of Christ in the most vulnerable members of our society.

And nobody showed us this more clearly than +Jesus himself.  In the Gospel a couple of weeks ago, we saw the scene of the Samaritan woman.  A bit of historical context will show just how profound that scene is.  First of all, we have a Jewish man (+Jesus) engaging a Samaritan woman in conversation.  This violated two social barriers:  Samaritans were considered an inferior race, and woman an inferior sex.  Furthermore, this woman was living in sin, probably many times over.  The Lord tells her, truthfully, that she has had many husbands, and is now living with a man who is not her husband.  She came to the well, notably, at midday, in the heat, when nobody else would be there.  And yet, +Jesus was there, and she is the first person in the Gospel of St. John to whom the Lord reveals His true identity as the Messiah of God.  Why would the Lord want to go and do this?  He reveals himself to a thrice-condemned person, an outcast within a tribe of outcasts who belonged to an inferior sex.  

(He also reveals Himself to each of us in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of penance, and who among us can say we’re doing a whole lot better than she was?)

Again, that’s just the point.  The Lord tells us, with no holes barred, that the poor are to be blessed, and that which we do for and to the least of His people we have done for and to Him.  We are that poor, the least of His people, and we need to pray for the grace of daily conversion.  We are not doves:  we need doves to alight upon us and carry us, as St. Therese desired to be carried by her Eagle, to Heaven, because we cannot get there on our own.

That said, I don’t think it too much of a stretch that the Lord would send a seagull to signal His blessing upon our new Holy Father, especially when the new pontiff has taken the name of the holy man of Assisi who is the universal champion of the downtrodden.  The life St. Francis led was not glamorous, and neither will the work facing Pope Francis be glamorous.  The work of salvation is hard and tiresome:  St. Paul reminds us in Philippians to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  But, in the same letter, he tells us to rejoice in the Lord, for with Him we can do all things.

So pray for our Holy Father, and pray that we can, each of us, grow in holiness day by day so our prayers may support him in his ministry and give glory to God.

Papa Francesco!

Well the new Pope just picked the best name didn’t he? I’m not biased…

Here are my initial thoughts:

1. God always blows our expectations out of the water and the Holy Spirit loves to surprise us! Can’t wait to see what Francis’s papacy will hold.

2. Our Holy Father knows exactly what message his name sends: he has been called to rebuild and reform the Church.

3. This rebuilding and reformation will not include changes in fundamental Catholic doctrine (Sorry to disappoint you womenpriests)

4. Getting to know his namesake will give you some insights into his spirituality – Francis of Assisi was not a tree hugging hippie.

5. This interview with Cardinal Dolan just makes me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy.

Well this about sums it up.

 

 

“Man is a unity”: Part 1 of ????

Why is it that nervousness sends our stomachs into queasiness?  Why is it that heartbreak often feels quite literal?

My best friend over at CrossfitCatholithic and I, who are in the habit of discussing deep theological matters (interspersed with giggling of course), have recently been wrestling with the relationship between body and soul.  She wrote a wonderful blog post about her thoughts on the matter.  As the proverbial student, I’ve spent the last few days doing some more research on this subject – excuse me while I go write a dissertation.

The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual”(CCC 362).

In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man”(CCC 363).

The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:”(364).

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature”(365).

worksofmercyWe cannot have the corporal works of mercy without the spiritual and vice versa.  Everything we do is with our whole being – body and soul.  Why do you think we pray on our knees?

Our example of perfect unity is the trinity.  Although perfectly united as equal persons, the trinity still has a head, a leader – God the Father.  Likewise, although the body and soul are truly one, the body must be led by the soul.  The soul is what sets man apart from animals – what makes him a spiritual being, capable of understanding and loving his creator.

Since the fall of man, all things came to be disordered and disunited – the union of body and soul has not escaped that.  “My soul is willing, but my flesh is so weak.” – Matthew 26:41

“Flesh” means bodily desires, not the body itself.  The Greek word used for this is “sarx,” which is generally read with a negative connotation.  The word for body, “soma,” is used in such places as “this is my body given up for you.”

The flesh was corrupted by sin during the fall of man.  Then God did something wonderful – he took on flesh, and by doing so redeemed it.  He continues to come to us as Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, to remind us of this reality.

Eternal Love

As a future bride of Christ, I have the bad habit of making every love song about Jesus.  I mean every song is secretly about Jesus, obviously, and I just show it for what it is.  For example, one of my favorites is “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.

Heartbeats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow
One step closer

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more

Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath
Every hour has come to this
One step closer

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you

Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more

One step closer

I have died everyday waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I love you for a thousand more

Seeking the Infinite

adoration

Oh the vast infinitude of Him who is all things

Oh the woeful inadequateness of mortal men

He is like – He is Great – He is Holy –

I AM WHO AM

Who are you?

I AM LOVE

Love is Patient, Love is Kind –

I AM WHO AM

Flesh and Blood we understand –

Love flowing out as blood and water –

The infinite we consume

 

 

Meditation of St. Francis of Assisi


Let everyone be struck with fear,
the whole world tremble,
and the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is present on the altar in the hands of a priest!
O wonderful loftiness
and stupendous dignity!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
The Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that He hides Himself
for our salvation
under and ordinary piece of bread!

See the humility of God, brothers,
and pour out your hearts before Him!

Humble yourselves that you may be exalted by Him!

Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves,
that He Who gives Himself totally to you
may receive you totally!