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Elle Stone Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

The Mass is EVERYTHING (so why doesn’t it feel that way?)

Kinda a Big Deal

So, the Eucharist is kinda a big deal.  No crap, Sherlock. It would be the first sentence of “Catholicism for Dummies.”  And even after that they would add “duh.”

But let me be real.  This is a truth that I know in my head…but whether or not I feel it in my heart, or actually conduct my life to reflect this truth, varies immensely.  Some days I’m on fire for the Eucharist, for Adoration, for Mass. My heart is filled. I can’t keep from singing or crying or outpouring my mind onto the pages of my journal.

But sometimes…sometimes I let it slide.  I go a while without visiting Christ in adoration, even though I definitely have the time for it.  Thinking about the meal I’m making after Mass is a lot more exciting that the consecration. For the past few weeks I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock when it comes to this Sacrament.  My mind isn’t present. My heart certainly isn’t present. I’m bored. I’m apathetic. I’m distracted. I’m disengaged. The priest is going too fast. Too slow. I can’t understand him.  The family in front of me is too rowdy. They played the one praise and worship song I can’t stand. I’ve got this big project at work…

And it’s extra bad that I let this slide, because the Church could not be more straightforward about how important the Eucharist it. According to the Catechism:  

“The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.” (CCC 1324; http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a3.htm).

So, yeah.  Kinda a big deal.

But if the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life…shouldn’t I…get more out of it?  It’s the source of, well, everything. This may sound painfully obvious, but… shouldn’t I get things from sources?  It’s the summit of all I do as a Catholic. Shouldn’t it just feel perfect?

Shouldn’t my heart be overflowing?  Shouldn’t my soul feel peace? Shouldn’t my mind be at ease?  Shouldn’t be strength be restored?

I recently read an awesome article, The Prayer of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini, and listened to a great podcast Praying Alone or in Community? from the Vici Mundum Show. Both really set me on the train of unpacking why I’m feeling separated from the Mass.  Bonus: they gave me insight into how I can change my mindset in order to reconnect a little better.  

I took three key nuggets of wisdom that have helped me get my head back on straight regarding the Mass.  They’re not a complete explanation or cure to why people might feel disconnected from the Mass by far–but rather three things I had not considered that I wanted to share with my sisters. <3

1. The Mass expresses the Universal Church, not us as individuals.

Stated more plainly, the mass is everyone’s prayer.  And I mean everyone. Every member of the Universal Church expresses their prayer through the liturgy.  This WAY changes the focus of Mass!

In the article by Guardini (referenced above), he states that:  
“The primary and exclusive aim of the liturgy is not the expression of the individual’s reverence and worship for God. It is not even concerned with the awakening, formation, and sanctification of the individual soul as such. Nor does the onus of liturgical action and prayer rest with the individual. It does not even rest with the collective groups, composed of numerous individuals, who periodically achieve a limited and intermittent unity in their capacity as the congregation of a church. The liturgical entity consists rather of the united body of the faithful as such–the Church–a body which infinitely outnumbers the mere congregation.”

So yes, a ton of words, but let me boil that down: Liturgy is not time for our individual prayer.  It isn’t even time for our local parish’s prayer. It is a bold, vibrant expression of our unity with the entire universal Church.

Yes, God reaches out to us in the liturgy–He reaches out to us at all times, constantly longing for our hearts.   And yes, our parish and ourselves individually should make a spot for our own prayers during Mass. But those prayers aren’t the point!

The Mass itself–and other forms of the liturgy–is our unique chance to pray with our ENTIRE CHURCH AROUND THE WHOLE WORLD.  Whoa.

I have received a ton of fruit from this paradigm shift–going to Mass as a chance to experience unity, rather than to quest for my own personal experience.

2.  The Mass must express the the full Truth, not just the parts that speak to us.

Some images of God, some mysteries, some saints, are going to resonate with our hearts more than others.  Maybe you’re more of a Good Friday person than a Holy Thursday person. Maybe Advent speaks to you in ways that Lent falls flat.  Maybe St. Therese is your girl and St. Teresa of Avila leaves your head spinning.

These are all natural experiences within our faith!  But what’s important to remember is that our Church is the fullness of all these elements.  Guardini points out that:

“If a prayer therefore stresses any one mystery of faith in an exclusive or an excessive manner, in the end it will adequately satisfy none but those who are of a corresponding temperament, and even the latter will eventually become conscious of their need of truth in its entirety. For instance, if a prayer deals exclusively with God’s mercy, it will not ultimately satisfy even a delicate and tender piety, because this truth calls for its complement-the fact of God’s justice and majesty. In any form of prayer, therefore, which is intended for the ultimate use of a corporate body, the whole fullness of religious truth must be included.”

Again, a lot of words–let me paraphrase.   Your heart might be SUPER moved by God’s incredible mercy.  Whenever there is a powerful reading about mercy, or the priest proclaims a wonderful homily on mercy, you can feel God’s presence, right then and there.

However, if the Mass were to focus only on certain things (God’s mercy, for instance), and neglect the rest of the picture (God’s justice), the mom of four kids sitting behind you, who’s heart is just wrapped up with imagines of God’s majesty, would be neglected.

What’s more, our hearts long for the fullness of truth.  If all we get is the same message of mercy over and over, but no justice, sooner or later our hearts will not be satisfied.

That means that sometimes–sometimes Father’s homily will fall flat on us.  And that’s totally ok–our hearts secretly hungered for that nugget of truth.

3. We expect too much of ourselves.

This final nugget of truth came from the Vici Mundum podcast, referenced above.  I’m going to paraphrase because it’s a little more difficult to transcribe from a podcast. (Definitely check it out though, awesome people with really thoughtful insight.)

One of the presenters expressed similar struggles as I had: not really feeling anything from the Mass.  Feel super disconnected. She mentioned that we can often get frustrated by this. But she noted that God is never frustrated with us.  He knows we’re human, He knows that we have a lot on our hearts. We might be expected more of ourselves from the liturgy than even God expects of us.

I loved this.  Because when I don’t connect with the Mass, I feel like something is totally wrong with me.  But that isn’t the case. God knows exactly where I’m at. He asks that I come to Mass, participate, and pray that my heart be open.  Other than that, it’s all in His hands. It doesn’t need to “feel” like everything. It just is, and I can rest in that.

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Advent Elle Stone Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Motherhood Spiritual Growth

Advent Within Me: Waiting on my Baby… and the Messiah

I’m really bummed I’m not having a baby in time for Christmas.

Well, knock on wood.  I’ll be 35 weeks at Christmas.  Which is a feasible time to have a baby, I think.  The better part of me, the part that is maternal and protective, wants the baby to make it to her due date of 27 Jan, so she can have as much time as possible growing strong.

The little kid part of me, the part of me that wanted a pony for Christmas when I was 8, would love to have a baby in time for Christmas.

I’d settle for the Christmas season, even.  So, just make it here by 6 Jan, kiddo.


Just think about it.  What could be better than the reflection of Christmas lights in your baby’s eyes?  Or all of those incredibly cute outfits on Amazon right now. The red, green, and white plaid dresses with a gold bow around her head?  Priceless.

But all in God’s timing.  All in Gods timing. And in the timing that keeps my little baby girl healthy.

What an incredible reflection of Advent. Pregnancy during Advent… especially third trimester pregnancy, when the baby is coming, so close. There’s a breathlessness, an eager expectation, a hope.

There’s a waiting.  An anticipation.

And something I didn’t expect.  A nervousness. For the pain of labor, sure.  I’m pretty darn scared about that.

Nervousness for the baby, too.  This bundle of joy. This little girl with the joy of Christmas in her eyes (definitely next year at least!).  She’s going to change…everything. Everything.

I think that’s why there are so many references to women in labor when it comes to the spiritual life.  The pain is there, but the joy, the incredible joy, waits at the end.  But the joy…The Messiah…he’s going to change everything. Literally everything.

Every consideration of my little baby girl is a wonder.  Sometimes all my husband and I can do is smile when she kicks. Everything is magical.  The stars shine a little brighter.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

But the pain I will go through will be long, arduous.  Until she appears, and it will all be worth it.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth


This nine months of weariness, of waiting, of that weird pain in that one spot on my back, carpal tunnel, and, well, what happens to me when I eat spicy food…I can’t even comprehend how much it will be worth it.

A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn


And Israel, which waited for so long for its Savior.  Which suffered for so long. My nine months is nothing in comparison to those longing for the Messiah.  

The incredible joy of meeting my girl…is nothing compared to God With Us.


Fall on your knees

Oh hear the angel voices

Oh night divine.

 

I’m overwhelmed with joy, like a little girl with the reflection of Christmas lights.  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

(O Holy Night Lyrics found here: https://www.41051.com/xmaslyrics/oholynite.html)

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Elle Stone Ink Slingers Motherhood Prayer Saints Spiritual Growth

My Baby’s Vocation: Reflecting on Pregnancy with the Benedictus

How do you even describe pregnancy?

I’m 28 weeks pregnant. TWENTY-EIGHT WEEKS.  This baby is coming, and she is coming SOON.  This is my first pregnancy to go past the first trimester (I have two beautiful little babies in heaven), and everything about it has been overwhelming and exciting and filled to the brim with anxiety and joy and fear and awe of our amazing Lord.  How do you even describe pregnancy?  How do you describe to someone what it feels like when the baby kicks you?  When Elizabeth speaks of the baby “leaping in her womb,” oh wow, it’s so different when you have a little one kickboxing right inside your abdomen.  It’s wild.

Physically, I’ve had an easy pregnancy.  Not too sick, not too tired, nothing too rough.  Praise be to God.  Emotionally—whoa.  Whoa.  There is a new bread of anxiety that I have never experienced before.  I’m a chronic worrier, and anxiety has been something I’ve struggled with for a long time.  Add to that mix a little baby girl coming on her way—and all of the pregnancy hormones!   There have been tears and fears.

Truly, it has been tough for me to put my faith in the Lord during this time.  I wish that trust in our loving father came more naturally to me.  But it is a constant effort to refocus my attention towards God’s amazing plan for this little girl.  Instead, I end up drowning in worries about my own limitations and brokenness.

Zechariah and Me

But, as always, the loving Father is so incredibly good to me.  I’ve found such joy and inspiration from perhaps an unlikely source.  I don’t know if you’ve had much experience with the Canticle of Zechariah, the Benedictus.  Lots of people encounter in in the Liturgy of the Hours—it’s said every day during morning prayer.  I’m not much of a Liturgy of the Hours buff, but it’s SUCH a gorgeous prayer, and such a beautiful way to start the morning.

As a bit of an overview, The Benedictus is taken from Luke 1:68–79.  It’s title, “Benedictus,” translates to “Blessed Be The Lord God,” which is the first line of the prayer.

It’s story is incredibly applicable to my situation.  God works a profound miracle, and Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, becomes pregnant with John the Baptist.  But Zechariah doubts in the Lord.  Due to a lack of trust, Zechariah’s voice was taken away.

Believe me, during this pregnancy, I’ve definitely had moments of doubt in which I TOTALLY would’ve deserved having my voice taken away.  I can so relate with Zechariah’s confusion, doubt, and questioning of the Lord in face of the profound miracle of life.  I have the miracle of a new life, here, within me, and still my heart is clouded with doubt.

The Benedictus

When his son (John the Baptist) is born, Zechariah’s voice is restored.  The prayer of praise and trust that he gives the Lord upon recovering his voice is what we now pray as the Benedictus.  It is so beautiful, I couldn’t help by include the whole thing here.  I’d love it if you prayed it with me:

 

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel!

He has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 

He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

A savior who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us.

So his love for our fathers is fulfilled and his holy covenant remembered.

He swore to Abraham our father to grant us, that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,

might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

As for you, child, you shall be called a prophet of God, the most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his people, by the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, 

to guide our feet into the way of peace.

(Source: lordcalls.com/dailyprayer/the-benedictus)

 

Reflection

I just…wow.  This prayer has blown me away this pregnancy.  Each line speaks an overwhelming truth to my heart, each stanza cements my trust in the Lord:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.  He is our God, His love for us is so overwhelming.

He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, A savior who would free us from our foes, from the hands of all who hate us.  He sent us His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins.  Hope beyond all hopes, we were saved from sin and darkness

So his love for our fathers is fulfilled and his holy covenant remembered. He swore to Abraham our father to grant us, that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. He never fails in His promises.  We fail in our promises, but He never does.  He has promised to love my little girl, to work His plan through her.  How could I not trust His promise?

As for you, child, you shall be called a prophet of God, the most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people, by the forgiveness of their sins.

WOW.  Wow.  So I know here that he was talking about John the Baptist, the great prophet to prepare the way of Christ.  But as I feel my little baby girl kicking me, I am overwhelmed by her vocation.  By the plan He has for her.  For she will be called to do her part to prepare the way of the Lord.  She will be call to be a light of Christ, to share with others the joy of salvation, of forgiveness.

Could anything fill a mother’s heart with more joy?  You, my child, my little baby girl, will be a bright, shining light of Christ, you will go forth and reach out to the hearts of those who don’t know Him yet.  You, my daughter, my beloved one, will help bring the joy of forgiveness to those who long for freedom from sin.

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

And, by living out her vocation, my little baby girl will bring God’s light to others.  She will share hope with the hopeless, those who are lost in the shadows.  She will be called to guide people’s feet in the way of peace.

I’m so overwhelmed.  I’m so overjoyed.

Categories
Elle Stone Ink Slingers Saints Spiritual Growth

When Work Sucks  – Bringing St. Augustine into the Workplace

 

October Blues

October has been…a tough month, sisters.  I think it’s awesome that the world is stuffed with tiny gourds, pumpkin spice lattes (pumpkin spice everything, really), and window stickies of witches on broomsticks, because this is such a great escape for me from how tough October really has been.

For us that work on an academic calendar (students, teachers, youth ministers, moms with school-age children), September was magical.  The world was new. I was filled with hope for the new year.  Everything was possible, all doors were open.

By October, the grind got me down.  Reality made an extremely unwelcome appearance.  The challenges are stacking up. Our resolve, although it’s made a good show, is more and more falling short.

Recently I’ve been talking with dear girlfriends of mine, truly holy women of God, who are falling to the October blues.

One’s a third grade teacher, whose students are struggling to learn discipline.  She’s being tough but fair, and…parents are enraged. They’ve basically started a vendetta against her.  That’s…that’s rough.

Another is a family member who works for the church.  Her program is on FIRE. It’s awesome. But she’s surrounded by coworkers who do less than nothing.

A third girlfriend of mine is a mom whose son is exuberant and energetic.  His pre-K classroom is inhibiting, lacking time for play and exploration. His teachers want to get him tested for ADHD because he can’t sit still.

Finally, I have a dear friend who’s lost all motivation in her classes.  She’s just…thrown the towel in. The professors are sending her to the moon and back over things that have little to nothing to do with her path of study.

 

ANGER

One thing that is so interesting about these women is that the October Blues don’t have them sad, miserable, or dejected.

Instead, these things have made them ANGRY.  

I talk with these holy women, and I’m hit by the force and power of their ANGER.

At first, this was odd for me.  Anger doesn’t feel like a holy response.  Anger feels like we’ve taken our calling to bring Christ into the workplace and shoved it into the trash bin.  It feels like the devil has already won, pulling us into these dark places.

Not so!  At least, if we do it right.  

 

Daughters of Hope

I found awesome insight from St. Augustine of Hippo.  He has such a crazy great quote for these workplace dramas.  Take a minute to read it a couple times, let it sink in:

“Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage.  Anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We come into work in September, full of this HOPE.  This excitement, this joy. Then we’re surprised in October when all we feel is anger.  St. Augustine, man, what a smart guy. This anger is not IN CONTRAST to the hope we felt before.  This anger is A DIRECT RESULT of our hope.  We come in with hope of being a good teacher, of having a strong church staff, of a great school year for our kids, of invigorating classes.  And then we see how flawed things really are—and we are filled with a holy, righteous ANGER.

 

Stuck

Although this anger is good and right, we do risk falling into the devil’s trap when we get stuck in anger.  Hope moves to anger, but if we don’t move out of anger we fall into a cycle of bitterness and resentment.  

St. Augustine calls us to a next step—a really terrifying step, actually.  He calls us to move from anger to COURAGE. We must have the courage to change things.  Instead of just staying angry forever, we have to change what we can.

And whoa man, this is BOLD.  There is so often at work that I try to stay under the radar, not causing waves.  Being the “yes woman” or the “nice girl” on staff. Sometimes this is out of genuine kindness, but TBH, a lot of the time this is because I’m not brave enough to go against how things are.

 

How do?

So, how do we foster this courage, and how do we live out true hope in the workplace?  Here are some ideas. I have very little work experience, but I am blessed to be surrounded by holy and experienced working women.  They have given me these amazing tokens of wisdom that help me navigate the toughest work situations.

1. Pray for discernment.  Get digging!  Before you do anything to change things at work, you need to get to the root of the problem.  Your coworker annoys you—why? But really, why? Don’t just say it’s because they steal the stapler, because that’s not good enough.  A huge part of this is you need to open yourself up to the possibility that you might be the problem. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up for things that aren’t your fault (I feel like us women fall into this ALL THE TIME).

2. Tackle personal failings in confession.  So, some things were your fault.  Take them to confession. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  This Saturday. Go. Make a commitment to change, and pray for God’s grace to do so.

3. Take responsibility.  Although some things might not be your fault, you can still take responsibility for improving the situation.  Your child might have a horrible teacher, which is not your fault. But you can take responsibility—you can make the commitment to supplement your child’s education, you can meet with the teacher, you can request a new teacher.

4. List five tasks/goals.  Delineate your five central goals or tasks at work (or at school/with your kids).  These are the five things that constitute you doing a good job, the five things that will mark your success.  Have your boss, your spouse, or a college mentor sign off of them. Your hope will THRIVE off of having tangible ways of measuring success.

5. ID Breaking Points.  At the end of the day, there will only be so much in your power to change.  But you need to decide what is going to far. Maybe your boss loads you with more tasks in a week than there are hours in year.  Maybe your professor is genuinely impossible. Maybe a teacher is killing the resolve and the joy of learning in your child. These are breaking points, and you know when these pop up, you need to act.

6. Increase the amount you say “no.”  This ties in directly with points #4 and #5.  Once you have your tasks/goals and breaking points, you need to say no to that which goes beyond them.  Practice saying no, even in silly situations. You’ll find a balance. I feel like we women feel like saying no is unkind—that we’re denying others our help when we say no.  However, if we’re aware of our limits, then there is a humility in accepting our limits and say “no.”

7. Make a plan for honest communication.  Spend a day and listen to how many times you hear yourself say that “everything’s fine” at work when it’s really not.  I do it ALL THE TIME. This is another thing that I need to practice, like #6. When someone asks me if things are fine, and they’re not, I have to work on saying the words to express that.  When someone offers to help, I have to practice accepting that help. I was amazed by how much my workplace changed for me when I started honestly expressing my needs.

8. Kill with kindness.  This one is a bit of an aside, but it has worked for me so well that I have to share it.  That angry parent? That nasty coworker? That inept teacher? Send them a thank-you note.  I’m serious!  Find something honest for which you can thank them (don’t thank them for their smile if all they can do is scowl).  You’d be amazed at how much relationship building you can achieve through a surprise (almost sneak-attack-style) dose of gratitude.

Categories
Current Events Elle Stone Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Broken Windows: A Response to the Sexual Abuse Scandal

A Small Lantern in a Storm

My heart has been broken.  My mother, the Church, feels as if she’s being ripped apart.  Anger, shame, confusion, disgust, sadness. It’s overwhelming.  And what makes it worse is we keep on being slammed in the face.  Over and over and over again.  I feel like I was just reeling from the last series of these scandals.  Is this really the new norm for our church? It’s so painful to consider.

This past Sunday at Mass, I was given a beautiful insight.  Not an answer to all the hurt, not by far, but something like a small lantern in a storm: a little light to guide me amid all of this darkness.  I offer it to you, sisters, hoping it might bring some courage as we work to remain a people of hope.

Catechesis of Distraction

I have a childlike wonder for beautiful churches.  Vaulted ceilings; enormous stained glass windows; painted dominions, virtues, and powers set aflight across the altar panel.  I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, and nothing could quite initiate a craving for beauty quite like the Cathedral of St. Paul.  My husband refers to that catedral as “Catholic Disneyland,” or rather, what Disney would build if tasked with a house of God.  I’ve never found a church that satisfies my hunger like the Cathedral of St. Paul (although I’ve never travelled to Europe, so I still have much to see).

My vocation, wife to an incredible husband who named the Navy his profession, stole me away from that stunning testament to the grandeur of God.  To be honest, not all of the parishes we’ve encountered have been exemplars of beauty (and that’s putting it nicely).  I hate to “parish shop,” but with an attention span as short as mine, I prefer to find myself gazing up at the spiritual art gilding the rafters, rather than critiquing a strange design of the sanctuary space.  (As a bit of a disclaimer, this is all personal preference, and as my husband likes to remind me, it’s the Mass that’s important, not the trimmings).

In all of our moves (I’ve moved four times in a year and a half), I’ve been exposed me to a series of parishes I refer to lovingly as my “coastal churches.”  The Navy puts you right on the coast (obviously), and I have a fondness for the little churches you find right on the beach, or close to it.  They’re little havens for tourists, and nine times out of ten you’ll find a little “St. Mary Star of the Sea” (or some variation), standing sentry like a lighthouse on the water.

Toppled Steeples, Fallen Walls

You wouldn’t expect it, seeing one of these innocent and precious little churches for the first time, but I’ve found that invariably each of these parishes carries an incredible story.  Each and every coastal church that I’ve encountered carries with it a hurricane story.  Tales of flooding, toppled steeples, fallen walls.

Tales of broken windows.

I’ve seen so many historical pictures of how these churches used to look, with beautiful, bold, reverent stained glass windows.  I’ve heard stories of such windows which would gleam, covering the congregation in technicolor during the 9am mass.  Windows special ordered from Tiffany’s, whose greens were emeralds.  Can you imagine, emeralds in the stained glass?

And then it was Hugo.  Camille. Katrina. Harvey.  The waters surged. The winds blew.  Homes were abandoned. Churches were left behind in search of higher ground. And the windows shattered.

I think of our beautiful Church.  That is to say, I think of the beautiful Body of Christ.  I think of the food pantries with which I’ve served.  I think of the college ministry which changed my life and set my heart on fire for the faith.  I think of schools I’ve worked for which are striving to form children’s minds and souls. I think of a boisterous, laughing mother of seven who still found time to serve youth ministry.  I think of a little old widower who volunteered his every hour to his parish. I think of a lector who could barely walk, who struggled to the lecturn to proclaim the Word of God, who gave his every step and his voice to God.  I think of a hardworking young adult professional who gave his two hours of free time a week to train altar servers.  I think of priests and seminarians that I’ve had the blessing to call some of my dearest friends.  I think of sisters who have called me out when my head was up my…well, not where it should of been.

I think of our beautiful Body of Christ, fitted together like a magnificent stained glass window, shining it’s colored light upon the world.  And I think of the hurricanes that have come through, the scandals that have shattered it.

How to Rebuild?

Now, what’s most interesting for me about these coastal churches is how they’ve decided to rebuild after hurricanes.  I’ve seen so many example. One parish did not rebuild, and now stands in ruins. One parish we attended replaced once glorious windows with a simple, less expensive (but less beautiful) design.  One parish raised money and replaced the windows exactly as they were, with an unclear answer as to what they would do if another hurricane struck. One parish simply covered their windows with plaster, leaving an ugly off-white as the first jarring sight.

One parish, however, amazed me.  They were completely wiped out. Not just the windows, the whole church.  The built a strong frame of concrete, able to withstand the force of a hurricane.  And within this strong frame they placed beautiful, inspiring and spiritually-uplifting stained glass windows.  They designed it such that, when (not if) a hurricane came through, they could remove the windows, stowing them in safety until the hurricane had passed.  Once the storm had passed, they could return the windows to their proper place.

Our Time to Rebuild

Sisters, hurricanes in our church are, unfortunately, not an “if.”  It breaks my heart to say so. The Body of Christ both shines with the divinity of our savior, but also bleeds with the vulnerability of our human nature.  We have suffered the effects of this particular hurricane that has gone on for too long.  Every heart is broken, every window is shattered.

The destruction is all about us, and what will we do?  Will we abandon our Church, refuse to rebuild, and like the church left in ruins?  Will we build in fear, leaving us with something only half as good, like the church with the simple windows?  Will we build only what we knew before, and leave ourselves open to the same vulnerabilities, like the church that simply replaced the old windows?  Will we repair, but in doing so shut out the light, like the church whose windows are covered in plaster?

Or will we rebuild something stronger, something safer, but still beautiful?  Will we build something which responds to the reality of sin and human weakness?  And at the same time, will we build something that is still beautiful, which still proclaims the reality of the Good News to the world, and still works to serve all peoples?

I know which path I will strive towards.  I know it will require effort, vigilance, humility, and courage.  I pray to the Holy Spirit that He might guide and sanctify me in this task.  Will you join me, sister?