Welcome to this week’s edition of Monday Miscellany! It’s been a busy few months for me and, as a result, this blog has been sadly neglected. I feel like I’m just getting into a good summer routine and now SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER! Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to posting semi-regularly soon. In the meantime, I’ve been collecting some interesting tidbits to share with you.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Last Friday, July 31st was the feast day of this powerhouse saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. the Jesuits, who is most well known for his Spiritual Exercises and Examen (a wonderful bedtime prayer habit!). I discovered two exquisite prayers penned by St. Ignatius and immediately fell in love with them. Perhaps they will be as helpful and inspiring to you as they’ve been to me.
HE IS RISEN!!! ALLELUIA!!!!! Easter is 50 DAYS LONG and I’m so happy to have a reason to celebrate. As we experience the joy of His Resurrection all over again, I’ve been reflecting on how many unexpected blessings have come out of this pandemic. Catholics everywhere are experiencing a renewed love and appreciation for the Sacraments. We’ve all been given a much-needed break from the busy-ness of our everyday lives. The Christian community as a whole has drawn closer together. Divisions have melted away, and people of all races, faiths, and political viewpoints are standing together in solidarity and lifting each other up instead of tearing one another down. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened during the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter. Things may be hard right now, but God is bringing new life to so many barren places.
I’ve been meditating on the Passion of Christ this week and thinking a lot about the endings of stories. There are so many different kinds, and they evoke so many varied emotions. Endings can be happy, sad, satisfying, confusing, or they can leave you wanting more. As a certified bookworm, I’ve breathed many a sigh of regret as I turned the last page in a book, wishing I could rewrite the ending, or that there was a sequel, or that the story just wasn’t over yet.
Holy Week is here at last and my heart is rejoicing! It has been a long, long Lent, and I am so ready to enter into the mysteries of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Holy Week always reminds me that the story of our salvation is truly the world’s greatest love story. God’s love for us will overcome all things, no matter how dark or scary they seem. He has conquered sin and death, and if that’s not worth celebrating, I don’t know what is!
This year, with so many people staying home, Holy Week is bound to look a bit different. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate! There are so many amazing (and free) resources being made available so that we can still experience the rich traditions of the Church at home, by ourselves or with our families. Today I want to share some of these resources in the hopes that they will help you have a prayerful, grace-filled, and blessed Holy Week.
The panic around COVID-19 has increased dramatically over the last few weeks as it suddenly got a lot closer to home. I think most people never expected the coronavirus to be more than a news story, never expected it to have much of an effect on their personal lives. It’s safe to say that at this point, nearly everyone in the world has been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the pandemic.
Last Friday, March 13, we were notified that our diocese had canceled all public Masses until further notice. I was absolutely stunned. I was prepared for the closing of schools but not for this. The following Sunday, we watched a live-streamed Mass. While I’m very grateful for the modern technology that allowed us to watch the Mass that day, I missed being present in church, missed worshiping in community, and most of all, I desperately missed receiving the Eucharist.
I’m reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son this Lent (following along with the Abiding Together Podcast’s book study) and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. The book describes Nouwen’s deeply spiritual encounter with Rembrandt’s depiction of the homecoming scene from the parable. This experience taught him not only to see God in a new way, but also served as a window into his own soul. I really appreciate Nouwen’s insights into the workings of the human heart and his willingness to be incredibly vulnerable and honest about the struggles and sufferings he experienced on his own spiritual journey. Because in the end, we’re all really prodigal sons and daughters trying to find our way back to our true home.
A voice, weak as it seemed, whispered that no human being would ever be able to give me the love I craved, that no friendship, no intimate relationship, no community would ever be able to satisfy the deepest needs of my wayward heart. That soft but persistent voice spoke to me about my vocation, my early commitments, the many gifts I had received in my father’s house. That voice called me “son.”
I wrote this piece for school, and since it’s Lent I thought it would be the perfect time to share it here. Suffering is an oft-avoided topic, but I think we do ourselves a disservice when we skirt around the issue. I would love to hear your take on the value of suffering in the comments!
Shall I despise you that your colorless tears
Made rainbows in your lashes, and you forgot to weep?
Would we were half so wise, that eke a grief out
By sitting in the dark until we fall asleep.
I only fear lest, being by nature sunny,
By and by you will weep no more at all,
And fall asleep in the light, having lost with the tears
The color in the lashes that comes as tears fall.
I would not have you darken your lids with weeping
Beautiful eyes, but I would have you weep enough
To wet the fingers of the hand held over the eye-lids
And stain a little the white frock's delicate stuff.
For there came to mind, as I watched you winking the tears down,
Laughing faces, blown from the west and the east,
Faces lovely and proud that I have prized and cherished,
Nor were the loveliest among them those that had wept the least.
"To a Young Girl," by Edna St. Vincent Millay
It’s rather a radical idea in our culture that suffering can be good, that it can transform us for the better. Most people are willing to use any means necessary to escape fear, pain, and sorrow—even accepting the shackles of addiction in order to avoid emotional vulnerability, whether with themselves or with others. The culture tells us that anything which causes us even the slightest emotional discomfort should be cut out of our lives, that it’s “toxic” and is keeping us from being the best version of ourselves.
The Lenten season is fast approaching! And yes, Lent is a time of penitence and fasting, but it can also be a time of spiritual growth and renewal. When we let go of the worldly things we’ve been holding onto a little too tightly, we allow space for God to enter in and transform us. Lent is a wonderful opportunity to grow in patience, perseverance, and holiness, and a much-needed reminder that a little suffering can be good for us. Below are some suggestions for ways to make your Lent more fruitful.