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Confession Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacraments Spiritual Growth Victoria K

Talking About Sin


Endorsing My Sins

Do you talk about your sins?

I think the gut reaction is, “of course not!” At least, that’s what the gut reaction is for me.  But my gut reaction…might have been wrong.

I thought that I was fairly clear-cut about sin. Sins were these evil things I wrestled with in the privacy of my own heart and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Private, tucked away. I would never talk about my sins to others, right?

But then, humility struck (man that pesky litany of humility really does change your life!).  This year, I’m guiding children and their families in preparation for First Reconciliation. It’s made me hyperaware about how I view and talk about sin.

As I endeavor to communicate the concept of sin to second graders, I’ve started to notice something.  I’m talking about my sins a lot more than I thought.

“This is totally gossiping, but…”

“Take one more picture. I know, I’m vain.”

“Maybe it’s gluttonous, but these chocolates are SO good.”

“I know I shouldn’t be complaining about my husband, but…”

“Oh my goodness, back in college, I used to do [insert all the bad tendencies I had before my recommitment to the faith] all the time!” 

Each moment was like a pinprick.  Was I really just openly acknowledging my sins and temptations?  And, on top of that, was I really basically acknowledging and endorsing them?

 

What’s the tone?

Let me get this straight: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever talk about our sins.  There is humility in being able to acknowledge when we’ve fallen short of the glory of God.  

Part of what’s so wonderful about the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ability to admit out loud the brokenness on our hearts.  What’s more, within our relationships and communities it is important to be honest about our shortcomings.

But I do think that sometimes we need to ask ourselves: what is the tone that we convey when we’re talking about sin? 

When I mention a sin I’m struggling with, is it to ask for advice and to be held accountable? Or is it to laugh about it and normalize it?

When I talk about my sins in the past, is it to reveal the glory of God that has worked through my life? Or is it to glorify all of the “cool” or “interesting” or “rebellious” things I did in the past?

The Devil is constantly working to downplay the impact of our sins.  How we talk about our sins can be very revelatory of the work he is doing in this regard. Do we make our sins sound interesting, fun, or just a part of day-to-day life?

What’s more, our sins are places of brokenness.  There are places in which we are in desperate need of healing.  We don’t go to the doctor celebrating the malignant tumor threatening our lives. We celebrate the doctor who works to heal us, and our efforts to aid the doctor in this task. In the same way, we don’t celebrate the fact we were sinners.

 

Conversion Stories

When it comes to the Saints, we obsess over conversion stories.  And rightly so! It is incredible to see the grace of God work in everyone’s life, in all lives.

But we need to be careful that our emphasis isn’t on the sinner, as much as the salvation.

Why is St. Paul’s story compelling? It’s because he preached the Gospel all across the Roman Empire, and was an enduring witness to the Faith. There might be a temptation to relish in his dramatic turn from murderer of Christians to evangelizer.  But St. Paul underscores what’s most important: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Christ’s victory is the focus, not our sins.

Why is St. Augustine’s story compelling? Because he wrote incredible books that are so foundational to our understanding of our Faith. Yes, his back-story reads like a tabloid.  But throughout his Confessions, his finger isn’t pointing at his sin – its God’s work shining through his life. He states in his Confessions: “‘For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?” God is the source of goodness, God our savior is the focus.

Why, on the other hand, do I have students who constantly complain that St. Therese’s story is “boring?”  She was an incredible witness to God’s love, and man, she’s a doctor of the Church with her incredible writings on love, simplicity, trust, devotion.  Honestly, she needs more attention.

 

A Change in Phrasing

So, with the inspiration of the Saints, instead of normalizing my sin, I can say:

“There were a lot of bad things I did in college, but Christ worked through the people around me to help me through it.”

“Let me know if it seems like I’m gossiping.  I need to work on that.”

“Can I share a struggle I’m having? I want to work through it.

And by sharing this, in the right context, with humility, I pray that God will have the triumph in my life.

 

Categories
Advent Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Spiritual Growth Victoria K

The Road to Bethlehem & The Flight to Egypt

Two Incredible Moves

Nothing goes together quite like military life and moving.  The longest my husband and I have ever lived anywhere is one year.  My stuff hasn’t been in one place for more than a year since 2011. The transient life can really get under my skin sometimes.  There are times that I really just want one neighborhood, one set of friends, one parish, one job, one doctor, one grocery store… the list goes on.

Focus on the struggles, and it can be unbearable. Last Advent and Christmas Season, however, I was inspired by another wife who found herself moving a lot: Mama Mary.  Her journey on the road to Bethlehem and her flight to Egypt.

After all my moves, I can’t just skim over these passages anymore – The Journey to Bethlehem and The Flight to Egypt hold a special place in my heart now.  They inspire me with their witness of trust and totally abandonment to God’s will – something that I pray for in my own vocation.

 

The Road to Bethlehem

Oh man, pregnancy.  What a beautiful time – and oh goodness but I was nauseous, sick, sore, the list goes on.  We moved down to Charleston and I was pregnant, navigating all the exhaustion and food aversions of first trimester.  It’s so uncomfortable traveling long distances that pregnant. There was no position I could sit in and be comfortable, and I had motion sickness something fierce.

I can’t help but to be struck by our Mama Mary traveling in third trimester (which was my worst trimester) to Bethlehem.  It’s overwhelming to think about all the facets of this journey. This journey for them was hard.  Physically exhausting.  Emotionally exhausting. 

I think about how hard these journeys must have been on Mary’s body.  How Mary had to deliver her child away from her parents, away from her mom, St. Anne. Yes, she had St. Joseph, but I know if I had to pick between my husband and my mama to be there for labor and delivery, I’d pick my mama.  Every day of the week.

How could she endure such a hard journey at such a critical time?

 

The Flight to Egypt

For our next move, we had baby in tow.  Mamas, I don’t know how y’all move with children. It’s stressful, hectic, and overwhelming. You end up packing up just the thing your baby decides she needs for the trip.  Everything is lost, all over the place, naps are messed up, overnight sleep is messed up, eating patterns are messed up, everything is messed up. We moved up to Norfolk with a baby screaming the whole way there.

Moving with a baby, I connect it with the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt.  How there was no idea of how things would be taken care of. When would they be settled? When would they come home?  Where was home?

How do you make such a dramatic move with a newborn?

 

Radical Trust

The answer to the questions is so simple and clear, but so hard to live out: radical trust.

If we have anything we can learn from the Holy Family, it is total abandonment to God’s call.  Both times they gave everything to God. Just look at St. Joseph’s response to the call to go to Egypt in Matthew 2:13-15.  They just went. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t complain like I always do about having to pack things and leave all my favorite places and people behind.

Finally, as I still encounter moving stickers, unpacked boxes, everything in all its newness, I contemplate  the Holy Family in Egypt. The bible doesn’t say a whole lot about that time. But they would’ve been foreigners in a strange place.  They would’ve started a new life. Worked, raised Jesus, form community.  

Although the bible never explicitly states it, I have to believe that they approached it with peace, with love, with trust.

As my husband starts his new job, and I work to raise my baby girl, and we all work to find our place in this community, meditating on the Holy Family in Egypt is a great solace.  

God has called my family and me to this life.  He has called all of our families to a myriad of crazy situations. For all of us, there are moments that are hectic, stressful, chaotic, difficult, messy.

  

 

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Ink Slingers Prayer Rosary Victoria K

The Rosary is Boring (and that’s actually pretty great)

The Rosary is Boring (and that's actually pretty great)

A “Boring” Prayer

Sometimes people complain that “the Rosary is boring.” And yeah, sometimes I would have to agree. The scripted words. The stanzas of prayer. The repetition. The seeming lack of personal involvement.  It doesn’t always win the prize as the most dynamic prayer.

But I’d like to suggest that part of its power is in the fact that it’s, well, boring. The Rosary is boring in the eyes of an age that craves novelty, that constantly changes, that centers on the self. Instead, the Rosary offers a script, a rhythm, repetition, and it’s separation from me. These may seem to “dull it down,” but I’ve found that they actually give the Rosary part of its strength

The Script

I’m late on a work project, and another task is coming in. The baby woke up early from her nap, angry.  My husband is gone on another work trip.

I’m alone, incapable, juggling more than I can handle once again.

The headache begins to throb in my temples. Color begins to flood my cheeks. Thoughts run slower, more jumbled. Anxiety. Frustration. Anger.

I know I should pray about it.  But it’s definitely something I know in my head without feeling in my heart.  My emotions want to do anything but pray.

And in the flurry of all of these emotions, what would I even say in prayer?  I definitely don’t have anything nice to say (and, as my father would remind me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”)

Maybe the Rosary is boring in its script. But this script enables us to pray when we don’t know how.  It is simple and easy to say when we don’t have the mind to think of words.

The Rhythm

Have you ever noticed that there’s a rhythm to the Rosary? Next time you say the rosary, actually say it.  Out loud. Maybe just try it out with a decade if it feels weird saying it out loud for the whole thing.

When I say it out loud, I find that the words fall into patterns. There’s a poetry to the Rosary that lends itself to breathing.

I find that it works something like this:

Inhale: Hail Mary, full of grace.

Exhale: The Lord is with thee.

Or maybe, even slower:

Inhale: Hail Mary

Exhale: Full of Grace

Inhale: The Lord is With Thee.

Intentional breathing is so important. It helps us to center ourselves, to focus better, to calm ourselves.

Maybe the Rosary is boring because the rhythm may seem to lull us to sleep at times. But this “boringness” helps us be mindful of our physical selves during prayer. With the poetry of the Rosary, we can enter the calm.

The Repetition

When my water broke, my darling baby girl decided she was staying put. 36 hours of labor and I’d only dilated 6 centimeters. Yikes.

Throughout that process, mantras were insanely important. A mantra is a short, powerful, motivational phrase, often repeated. During my labor, my husband and my mother would hold my hands and repeat these powerful phrases with me, slowly. I wasn’t capable of thinking (who is at hour 24 of labor?), but these phrases were short and to the point.

We’d come back frequently to “I’m OK, my baby’s OK.”  Over and over again. Instead of being bored by the repetition, I was strengthen by it. The positivity and the calm of this phrase washed over me. It reminded me that even in the worst contraction that I was OK, and my beautiful baby was OK.

Maybe the Rosary is boring because it repeats. But in this repetition is an incredible collection of mantras.  By repeating them, we can let their power wash over us. Just think of:

“Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

She prays for us. She is with us always, even at our darkest moment. Repeat that, over and over, and we know our mother is with us.

The Separation from Me

Advertising and Social Media encourages us to consider: “How does this apply to me? What does this have to do with me?  What are my thoughts on the matter?”

The Rosary is an invitation for a unique form of peace: detachment from self. When I’m overwhelmed, or anxious, or angry, the Rosary invites me to consider Christ, His Story, His mother’s story.

It reminds me that the story is bigger than me. God’s Will is bigger than me.

I still have a calling, I still have a vocation. God still calls me.

Maybe the rosary is boring because it’s not “about me.” But it gives me so much peace to know that when I mess up, when I sin, when I’m not perfect, the story goes on.

An Invitation

As many of you know, October is the Month of the Rosary. It is an incredible invitation to be intentional about the Rosary. The Rosary might not be your prayer for every season, but in the last week or so of October, I invite you to say the Rosary at least once. Or maybe say a decade of the Rosary for a few days. Let it’s “boringness” give you peace.

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Feast Days Loss Mary Victoria K

A Space for Grief: A Reflection on Our Lady of Sorrows

our lady of sorrows

A Confusing Feast

On first look, Our Lady of Sorrows is confusing. It’s a whole day, a whole “Feast” Day, devoted to sorrow. How does one celebrate and commemorate sorrow? What’s more, Mary’s the Queen of Heaven, and Heaven’s a place of eternal happiness. How does that fit with this Lady of Sorrows? She’s a woman, draped in dark clothing, a tear falling down her cheek, a sword of sorrow piercing her heart. What do we, on our journey towards Heaven, have to learn from this woman, filled with grief?

Our Lady of Sorrows made no sense to me for a long time. But there was a lot for me to learn from our mother Mary in her time of grief. What’s more, I found that I need her in my own sorrows.

 

A Self-Realization

For me, Our Lady of Sorrows was particularly confusing because I’m really bad at experiencing sorrow. Even now I’m trying to find a joke I can attach to that statement. Like, “I know, I know, how can someone be ‘bad,’ at being ‘sad?’” Or, “I’m the life of the party at funerals.” But I’m working to not gloss over this self-realization with humor.

This realization came to me at a very specific moment. A little over a year ago, my grandfather passed away. He was joyful, intelligent, and quick with a sly smile. You never saw him without a book in hand, reading on topics ranging from ancient Greece to films from the jazz age to the intricacies of ocean sailing. As I grew older, I would listen to him explain the books he was reading at great detail, forming my budding ability at critical thought.

On the day of my grandfather’s heart attack, my father called me while I was working, overseeing about a dozen middle school students working on their homework. I ignored the first call, and then he called again, and again. On the forth call I picked up. I remember distinctly not understanding what my father was saying, I knew the words but I couldn’t piece together the meaning.

After a time, his meaning finally clicked. My grandfather, while shoveling the Minnesota snow, collapsed from a heart attack. I acknowledged that I understood what my father was saying, and little tears fell down my cheeks. After hanging up, I wiped those tears away, and got back to work.

It was like nothing had even happened.

 

No Space for Sorrow

I ignored the event, and went on with my life. So, that on its own would not have been such a big deal. Sometimes it’s important to compartmentalize, to be able to get the job done, to not fall apart.

But I never gave my sorrow any space. At all. I went home. When I told my husband, it was like I was sharing another piece of news. I prayed for my grandpa, but it was mechanical, something I did because I was supposed to. The next day I went to work, never mentioning it to anyone.

I buried it and moved on.

Everyone experiences sorrow in their own way. There’s no right or wrong way for grief to appear. But the way I had buried it inside myself was not healthy for me. I loved my grandpa immensely. I still love him, and at times I miss him with a sharp pain (A sword of sorrow pierced her heart). To go on, pretending nothing had happened, was a lie. It cheated the love I felt and owed my grandfather.

 

All the Grief Came Gushing Forth

At my grandpa’s wake, I didn’t want to approach the open casket. I had so successfully buried my grief, and I knew, I just knew, that if I saw him it would all fall apart.

But I loved him. Like Mary, longing to be close to her son, I longed to be close to my grandfather. Therefore, just as Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, I approached my grandpa’s casket.

As I did, all the sorrow, all the pain, all the hurt, all the grief, came gushing forth. I wept. After burying everything for so long, I wept in front of everyone.

Shortly thereafter, we prayed a rosary in the funeral home. My attention was caught by a particularly beautiful image of Our Lady of Sorrows on a prayer card. I felt very strongly our Mother’s compassionate presence beside me, praying for my grandpa with me.

Our Lady of Sorrows, who had confused me for so long, started to make a lot more sense.

 

A Necessary Part of Love

Now when I see Our Lady of Sorrows, I understand. In our fallen world, where death and sin are our realities, grief is a necessary part of love. If we love, we will experience loss and hurt. For our hearts to be pure, sometimes, they will be broken.

Our Lady of Sorrows gives us a place for our sadness, our distress. She sits with us in the moments that can’t be fixed, that can’t be made better by ignoring them. Like a loving friend, she empathizes with our grief. She doesn’t judge or chastise, or tell us to “cheer up” or “get over it.” She listens, all the while pointing back to the hope that only her Son can provide.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

 

Looking for more reflections on this beautiful devotion?  Check out two reflections on The Seven Sorrows of Mary, Remembering Our Lady’s Sorrows and Seven Quick Takes: The Seven Sorrows of Mary.

You can also find a beautiful prayer and reflection here.

Categories
Domestic Church Ink Slingers Marriage Parenting Victoria K

Community, Detachment, and Military Moves

The military is a beautiful, unique vocation.  We have lots of military Ink Slingers who share beautiful insights of their experiences with the military.  I highly recommend this beautiful witness of vocation and a new sense of home. Military moves are an incredible test of this vocation, but also a grace-filled opportunity to develop community and detachment.


On the road again!  My husband just received his orders, so it’s another one of those military moves for us.   The longest we have ever lived in one place is thirteen months.  This upcoming duty station might be our longest yet at about *two years.*

When I first married into the military, the moving was a huge smack in the face.  My whole childhood was spent in one house.  I was used to being settled, living in the same home, with the same things, investing in the same group of friends, worshiping at the same Church.

But *the day* after our wedding, we packed up the cars and drove hundreds of miles away from everything I knew.

There is so much grace involved in moving so frequently.  It is a spiritual boot-camp in which God truly tests your trust.  During our first move, I was flustered, anxious, unsure, caught in the tumult of everything new and strange.  How do people… make new friends?  Pick a new grocery store?  Get involved at Church?  Not get lost everywhere they go?

During this move we’re undertaking now, I’m…still mostly stuck in the chaos. But, praise be to God, I’ve learned a thing or two.  Some lessons which may’ve taken me decades to learn living in the same place, I’ve learned in the span of months. 

I’ve learned really powerful things about forming true community on the fly and learning to detach from…well, basically everything. So, for what it’s worth, here are some tips I have to share about community and detachment.

 

Community in Military Moves

  1. Invest in the community, wherever you go, however long you’re there.

My husband and I basically speed date aspects of the community, and then quick commit.  When we move all the time, we don’t have time to sit around and to be lethargic about finding a community we like.  We’ll “test run” different young adult ministries, family ministries, youth ministries (we volunteer with high school youth), and work communities.  When we find things we like or that seem like a good fit, we lock in.

There are limitations to this.  Community life isn’t just centered around what you “like” or what “feels right.”  Authentic community involves investing in the people around you and overcoming differences.  However, when things change so quickly, my family really focuses on letting the Holy Spirit guide us in those early stages.

 

  1. Join those “easy-to-join” Church ministries.

Lectoring, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Ushering, Altar Serving, Greeters.  They’re almost the same wherever we go.  For example, we serve as lectors.  At one of our parishes we committed to a wonderful training for lectors. Now we use those skills at different parishes where we are.  This helps us to connect quickly with fellow lectors and other liturgical ministers, giving us a quick foundation of community at a parish.

 

  1. Ask new people for help.

I used to think that you needed to have a really solid longstanding relationship with someone in order to ask for help of any sort.  Something that I’ve come to understand is that it is really a beautiful experience to ask for help.  Some people are just waiting to be a blessing.  I’ve been amazed by wonderful people at work, at church, or neighbors who have really helped me out in a bind.   I moved to our most recent duty station already well into pregnancy.  So many people I had just met blessed us with meals, baby clothes, and help around the house during that crazy third trimester.

 

  1. Keep in touch with the friends you’ve made after you move.

Sometimes I can be very “out of sight, out of mind” about friendships.  I commit to the people around me but I struggle to keep it up after we move.  What I’ve found, however, is that the relationships I make at each duty station don’t just “wink out” when I move.  I love the people with whom I’ve formed friendships, and keeping in touch helps to maintain these really beautiful bonds.  In phases of life when there are breaks of free time (like when we’re in long car rides to new duty stations), it’s really beautiful to spend time on the phone and catch up.  Also, social media is a total Godsend in this way.

 

  1. Be a tourist in your own town.

This one is a lot of fun (because why should moving all the time only be difficult?).  We have LOVED taking time to prioritize exploring new places.  Gulf Coast Mississippi had such beautiful beaches and delicious Cajun restaurants.  Charleston was full of history and beautiful mansions to tour.  It is so easy to just get stuck in the grind of work, chores, tasks, and to not put in the effort to really get to know the new place.  Military moves mean free travel, take advantage of it!

 

 

Detachment in Military Moves

  1. Consume your consumables.

True confessions: There are twelve tubs of lotion which have loyally followed me around going on four moves now.  Some were gifts, some I bought (because I definitely needed new lotion at the time, right?), and all of them are somewhere between ½ to ¼ used.  To be honest, I don’t really use lotion all that much! 

This isn’t a push to be wasteful, or to consume things just “because.”  Instead, I’m working to be very mindful of the things I own and that travel with me.  With a little extra intentionality, the stuff can actually be used for its true function.

 

  1. Donate the excess.

“Once the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, the rest that one owns belongs to the poor.”  Pope Leo XIII.  This was a big call-out for me.  The extra stuff I have, all that stuff I’m not using, isn’t mine.  Those things are blessings that I’m withholding from the poor.

Moving is powerful because every move is a reckoning.  We go through all of our things in order to prep them for the move.  And I have to ask myself — if I didn’t wear that dress at this duty station, why do I still have it?  After some though, the dress goes into the

 

  1. It’s just stuff.

Things break when you move.  They get lost.  I’ve killed so many plants over moves (poor guys).  It’s a real, visceral moment of detachment.  Something you loved, or treasured, just doesn’t make it.  Or you’re faced with the prospect of transporting *all one million books you own* yet another time, and you find you just…can’t.

In those moments, it’s definitely time to face facts.  Stuff is just…stuff.  It is nowhere near as important as the friendships made, as the relationships you have with your family, at the relationships you have with God.

 

  1. Commemorate the places you’ve left.

There are some places we’ve lived that we miss a great deal.  Neighborhoods that were perfect places to live and thrive.  Cities that were so much fun to explore.  Friendships we’ve made that we’d love to reconnect with.  Parishes that were just so welcoming and loving.  I don’t think it goes against detachment to miss those places as we let them go.  We buy maps of the places we’ve been to serve as reminders of the places to which God has called us.  Celebrating these places helps us to remember that everywhere we’ve been sent, God has take care of us.

 

Through all of the turmoil and all of the moves, God takes care of us every step of the way.  This is so important to remember, not just for those in the military, but for everyone.  If you’re a member of the military, a military family member, or curious about how spirituality ties in with military life, I highly recommend fellow Inkslinger Anni Harry’s blog A Beautiful, Camouflaged, Mess of a Life, for further reading.