Gethsemane 2020

Thursday marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum. We’ll celebrate the institution of the first Eucharist and the Lord’s entry into Gethsemane. For many, this time of quarantine feels a bit like our own Gethsemane. We’re cut off from what we’re used to. The news is overwhelmingly bad. The number of cases continue to grow by the thousands. In Gethsemane, Jesus was left alone to take on the weight of the world.

In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for hours. I live in New England where we have the world’s best doctor’s and hospitals. Medicine and medical research will eventually get a handle on this disease, but prayer will help those doctors and researchers, whether they know it or not, and it will carry us through this.

The Fathers at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy have been putting a lot of encouragement on Facebook. Something that I’ve had to have drilled into my head by them, as well as Pope Francis himself is that God is merciful and understand the circumstances. Before Mass was suspended and churches were closed, I realized I had to go to confession. Then I couldn’t. God had to use several voices to convince me that I was forgiven because I really am sorry and intend to go to confession As soon as I can.

When I first joined the Carmelites, I was naturally curious, and I already knew a little about Saint Therese of Liseux, so last year, my mom and I listened to her autobiography in the car. After that it was like she wouldn’t leave me alone. She kept dropping quotes on my Facebook page, or I would accidentally find references to her in searches of completely different topics. At my clothing ceremony, the congratulation cards my community members gave me all had her picture on them.

In some ways, Saint Therese reminds me of myself. She’s playful and innocent, but also stubborn in her faith. On Saturday I came across another quote. She said that it is obviously grace when we receive the sacraments, but it can also be a source of grace when we can’t. I’ve had to think about it, but I think she’s right. Not being able to receive the sacraments means having to trust the Lord more, and to appreciate the sacraments more. You can’t miss what you’ve always had easy access to.

God doesn’t let bad things happen for no reason. When bad things happen, it’s usually because He can bring some greater good(s) out of them. I wondered what good(s) could possibly come from a pandemic. That had me stumped. Bishop Robert Barron had some insight into this. It’s hard to know if there’s an “umbrella” good for all of humanity in this, and if there is, it might be unrecognizable for a while. It is easier to see personal goods that have come of this. For me, the goods aren’t even difficult to see. There are really several goods that have come of this for me.

1. I’ve learned that God’s mercy and love are even deeper than I previously understood or believed.

2. Since I gave up shows and movies for Lent, I’ve had a lot more time to read. Granted, I’m reading a ridiculous fantasy story, but I enjoy reading, and I often lament that I don’t have enough time to. Really I do, but I end up watching Netflix instead.

3. I’ve come to better appreciate things I took for granted before: my health, takeout, going to the studio, Saturday night Netflix party with my friend, etc.

4. I know more clearly what I really want. When Mass got suspended, I said to the Lord, “I don’t even want Heaven; I just want You.” It seemed weird saying that, and I second-guessed myself. I’ve been praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with the priests at the National Shrine at 3:00 every day, and they have the Eucharist exposed. I realized that for half an hour every day, I can at least see Him, and I realized that this in itself is His Mercy. Yesterday, it came to me again, and I realized that if Heaven was an empty room with just Him in it, then that is sincerely what I want.

5. I’ve actually been able to talk to my extended family more than I did before. Since we started our virtual book club, I’ve been talking to my aunt, two cousins, and my grandmother once a week, and because we’re using Zoom, I can actually see their faces instead of just reading texts.

6. I’ve been seeing people use social media to connect with each other and make each other laugh instead of pointing fingers and spewing political nonsense.

When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He asked His Father, “Take this cup from me.” I’ve been asking the Lord for the same thing. God could have sent lightning bolts from heaven and zapped all of Jesus’ enemies so He wouldn’t have to endure the Cross. Jesus Himself said He could summon an army of angels to defend Him. Instead, the Father allowed the Jewish authorities and the Roman soldiers to exercise their free will, and Jesus allowed them to do this to Him so that humanity could be returned to right-relationship with God.

This is our Gethsemane, and probably for a multitude of reasons, the Lord is allowing it. That is not a reason to stop praying. Prayer keeps us connected to our God, and while it might not bring an immediate end to the pandemic, it can help individuals, it can help us in smaller, personal ways, and it will bring this to an eventual end. I’m convinced of that.

Jesus said that to be His, we would have to take up our crosses and follow Him. Easter couldn’t have happened without The Agony in the Garden. In Gethsemane, Jesus was scared, He was lonely, and He was terribly sad. To varying degrees, I think these are things we’re all feeling right now. This Sunday, Easter will still liturgically be celebrated, and we have to find ways to celebrate at home because Jesus is still risen. We don’t know exactly how long our Gethsemane will last, whether it’s weeks or months, but at the end of this, we will go back to the studio, back to the gym, back to the salon for a much needed haircut, back to school, back to work, back to each others’ houses, back to the movies, and we will go back to church.

I think Saint Therese is right in saying that there is a grace in this. In Gethsemane, an angel came to comfort Jesus. We’re not alone because He’s still here to comfort us. He doesn’t abandon His friends. Trust Him, and use this time. Slow down, pray, and look for greater goods. I’ll leave you with this:

Celebrate Anyway

Last night my dad and I watched The Giant Mechanical Man. It was a cute, simple romance about two quirky people who fall in love working at the zoo. As it started, I smiled and I realized something. I told my dad, “This is the first time I’ve smiled in, like three days.” I haven’t left my house in a week, and I didn’t realize how hard that would be. It’s hard not to watch the news when you’re stuck inside with not much else to do. The news is never hopeful, so at dinner time I go to the kitchen where my mom has the TV on and hear about more cases and more deaths because of of the Corona virus.

My plan for this Lent was to give up a game I play on my phone and read The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Avila. Then my dad decided to give up shows and movies. Since he’s my movie buddy, I did, too (we watched one last night because it was a feast day in the Church). Then the Virus got serious and we quarantined ourselves. I’m a very picky eater. My mom has been pretty creative about food, and I have to give her serious credit. Still, I very much miss takeout.

This past weekend was the first in a very long time that I didn’t receive the Eucharist. I’ve been telling myself that this waiting will make receiving Him for the first time once this is all over that much sweeter. I had planned on at least going to Adoration and praying with my friend at the studio, but everything has been shut down. The priests at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy have been streaming the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00 every day, and I’ve made a commitment to do it with them. My Lenten plans got seriously messed up, but I’m doing the best I can.

I prayed a lot last weekend wondering, since I couldn’t go to Mass, what I should do. A strange idea came to mind, and I think it was from the Lord. The Mass is, among other things, a celebration, and I got the sense that I was supposed to “celebrate anyway.” I struggled with this. I reminded myself that priests are still celebrating the Mass with or without the people there. I tried. I thought, “What do you need to celebrate…? Usually when you’re celebrating something, you need food and people.” I ate a cookie. I was not in a celebratory mood.

This thought that I should celebrate anyway has stuck with me, though. When things started getting really serious, I realized that we wouldn’t be celebrating Easter–at least not at our parish. Ultimately, that doesn’t change facts. At the Easter Vigil, which I’ll watch online, I’ll still say, “Christ is risen,” and it’ll still be true. My mom will probably make cookies, but it’ll just be the four of us–my parents and my brother and me; no aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, or grandparents. I’ll make a spiritual communion, and eat a couple of cookies.

I won’t feel like celebrating. That isn’t the point, though. The point is to honor and worship the Lord; our God who beat death and who can certainly beat this stupid virus. I think there’s more to this, though. When things like this happen, the question is bound to arise: why does a good God let bad things happen? I have wondered that myself in the past. This time, though, it just isn’t a factor for me. I know that a) He doesn’t want our suffering b) He’s with us through it, and c) He can bring about some greater good(s).

When Boston and then Portland suspended Mass in their dioceses I was, and still am upset. Then I remembered a book that sits on my desk. I pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, which is the official public prayer of the Catholic Church, every day. I’m not cut off from the Church–the Body of Christ. This especially feels like a lifeline. My personal prayer lately has been, “As long as You’re here, I’m here,” because I know He is faithful. In a way, it’s more of a promise to myself than to Him. He is faithful to me, so I have to be faithful to Him. He’ll be with me–with all of us–through it, but we have to go through it.

I think this is an opportunity, albeit an unpleasant one, for us to really do some self-evaluation, spiritually speaking. I worried when I heard Mass was being suspended. Unfortunately, I think there will be some with “lukewarm” faith who will just “drop out,” and won’t come back. I decided that I would do the opposite. I decided that I would “lean in,” and intensify my prayer. I have to since I can’t receive the Eucharist. I discovered a live stream of perpetual Adoration on YouTube. It seemed too weird, or not “authentic” at first, and then I thought, “A computer screen isn’t going to stop You from doing what You do,” so I’ve gone to internet-Adoration a couple of times this week.

Several saints have written about consolation and desolation; in other words, when God seems very present and seems to be “love-bombing” you, and when you can’t exactly “feel” Him, or when you just don’t get any warm-fuzzies when you pray. The latter can happen particularly when external things aren’t going well. They ask this question: do you love the “gits” more than the Giver? I think He might be using this time when we’re cut off from the Eucharist to ask that question.

Freedom

Today is a day for celebration; a day for celebrating our country’s independence. Beyond that, though, it’s a day for celebrating freedom, a day for remembering what freedom can cost, and a day to pray for those who aren’t free.

My family and I are about to watch the fireworks in Portland Maine. We’re waiting for it to get dark so they can light up the sky. Earlier, though, I prayed. I prayed for people to be free from whatever holds them captive, but especially from fear.

This song is to celebrate family and freedom

https://writered.bandcamp.com/track/summer-day

He Is Risen

I went to bed around one this morning. My dad informed me that the sun would have just been coming up in Israel. That was a cool thought. Today is our every sunrise; our hope of Heaven; our blue diamond sky. Today we can sing hallelujah. Happy Easter, everybody.

Waiting

Holy Saturday is an awkward day. It’s a weird time between remembering something awful, and anticipating something awesome. I never quite know what to do on this day. I know what to do on Good Friday. Yesterday I woke up at ten thinking, “What would be happening right now?” Then I realized that Jesus would have already been hanging on the cross for an hour. I’m an emotional person. I worked on my book yesterday, but I cried, too, and incessantly looked at the clock until three. I prayed, and thanked him, and started to figure out how magic would work in my universe. Last night I think I figured something out.

On Thursday I watched the Passion of the Christ for the first time. I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. I was just horrified. I’ve tried for a long time to figure out what he sees in me; why he loves me; why I’m worth saving to him. Ultimately, from a human perspective, there’s some lovable, endearing stuff about me, and I know that, but none of that is why he chooses me. He chooses me because I exist. He saves me because he loves me. He loves me because I’m his. Nothing about me makes me more or less worth it. I’m infinitely worth it to him no matter what, simply because he made me.

Still, I’m left with the question. What do I do today? The only person I’d be more than willing to bet knew for sure that Jesus would rise from the dead on the first Easter was his mom, so I wonder what she would have been doing. I imagine she would have been trying to help the apostles get through this day, mainly. Still, even knowing what was going to happen, she did have to watch her son tortured to death just a day earlier. Even for her, I imagine today would have been a day of weird mourning and anticipating. My grandfather died several years ago from Alzheimer’s. It was a long, slow death, and I prayed that God would end his suffering. I don’t know if that was the right thing to pray, but it was honest, and it was sad, but also relieving when he passed. It could only have been relieving because of the hope of Heaven.

I guess that’s kind of what this day is for. This day is for hoping. I never knew my other grandfather. My mom’s dad died of cancer when I was just a year old. I didn’t even know my dad’s father very well because he was quiet, and started getting sick when I was pretty young. Because I hope for Heaven, I look forward to the day I get to hang out with both of them, and other family who I’ve never even known. I’m going to the Easter Vigil tonight. It starts in darkness, but we light up the church passing the fire of one candle to the next, and tonight we get to announce that Christ is risen. Until then, we wait, and we hope, and until he comes in glory, we wait, and we hope.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Cake

Everyone, firstly, I want to thank you all for following my blog. I don’t say that enough. I really do appreciate it. As a writer, it’s really wonderful to know someone sees and knows about what I do.

Secondly, I want to announce some very exciting news. I’ve reached my goal of twenty stories. Of course my book isn’t even close to finished, but twenty stories has always been a goal of mine. I’ve come this far through small bouts of epilepsy, generally being a scatter brain, family vacations, road trips, self discovery, sin, love, faith, learning, and certainly with the help of my God, so this post is meant to say “thank you” to him, too.

I’m quite excited because my friend agreed that when I wrote twenty stories she would make me cake. She makes darn good cake. I would like to celebrate with you all, too by sharing, in a way, a metaphoric piece of the cake. When I wrote my Creation story, I didn’t even know this would turn into a book. Now the first draft of the book is about half finished. So without further ado, I would like to share story number twenty.

Feorolf

As one might expect, Ferolf’s mere name struck unease at the very least, into the hearts of even the bravest souls. He was not a creature to be taken lightly. He was stronger than any man, and smarter and faster than any wolf. Yet, he was neither and both. He fought without weapons, in fact, he hardly fought at all unless absolutely necessary. He simply hunted. He hunted fear. According to legend, he did not always live in the Forest, but once terrorized the towns of an infant Kingdom. Finally, after many eternities, however, he was driven away by the earliest hunters of Kich. Some of these hunters were rumored to be descendents of the King and Queen themselves. Many were nearly mortally wounded in the effort to track him down even, because in those times there were many strange and dangerous wonders, fully alive, and without thought for human life. Luckily, it was during those times, however, that humans were mysteriously protected from death by the Barrier created by the Exile at the moment of Creation. This was, of course, before the Change.

Still, there were scattered stories of Feorolf’s mercy, and even regret about certain things. He would not hunt very young children, and would not leave them orphaned far from civilization. That is not to say he would not leave them orphaned at all, for he could be cruel. Feorolf was not a simple brute like any average predator. Though his mind was certainly not human, he was intelligent. He was strangely trusting of humans who generally wanted to hunt him down, and creatures that no one else would trust; even making the mistake on several occasions of trusting the Faceless. This never turned out well for him, but he was a forgiving creature.

Oddly, it seemed that, in a way, Feorolf’s nature was like that of the Transient spirits. It was not that he often changed without explanation, but simply that he was unreadable. It was assumed that he had his reasons for acting the way he did, and he did not share them. The truth was he was alone, and he knew it, and regretted it for it was of his own doing. We know this because he shared it with the Wisdom who always shares her knowledge with us, especially knowledge of the Creatures of the Outer Realm.

The story goes that Feorolf was the second Creature to awaken in the Outer Realm, after the Falcon of Destiny. The world was young and fearless in that first eternity, before Reome and Fritam were made by the spirit Time, and Feorolf reveled in this fearlessness. When Time faded, and fear entered the minds of the first humans, it gripped Feorolf’s heart, and all he wanted to do was kill it. In that first eternity the Falcon of Destiny gave the first humans fire. They loved it, and it filled them with joy, but they became dependent on it. Without their fire, the fear returned, and all he wanted to do was kill it, so he attacked. He ripped to shreds some of the first made humans, but to his utter dismay, he realized that this only increased his hatred of fear and the human fear of him. He wanted to help them, but he had to stay away. Any time he came close to a human, two things happened. They panicked, and he almost always went into a frenzy; compelled to destroy the fear in their hearts. He knew how to bite, and tear, and rip, and shred with claws and teeth, and he knew only contempt from humans and Creatures alike. He was eventually forced into Thorn Forest, where he lived in solitude, and slowly even grew to hate himself because he could do nothing to destroy the thing he hated most.

In time he grew darker, seeking the company of Creatures like the Faceless and the Night Bearer. It is unknown whether he ever found the Night Bearer, and in fact, its existence is entirely unverifiable. However, It is believed that it was the Night Bearer that brought fear into human hearts to begin with and that it was a creation of Chaos. It is rumored that Feorolf found it, but could not kill it, but another story says that he defeated it, and it became his slave. Still, there were occasions on which Feorolf interacted peacefully with humans. He even helped those who passed too close to Thorn Forest find safety from darker beings, and he certainly had a sense of his own responsibility for their fear. He always felt it was his duty to protect them. Still, this was rarely possible due to the fact that their level of fear was usually too overpowering for him to handle.

Feorolf treasured brave souls. He had no true friends, but the memories of bravery kept him strong. He hoped for a day when someone would come who truly did not fear him, but he doubted that day would come. Sometimes, if travelers happened to be passing through or very close to parts of the Forest, and he could find them asleep and therefore unafraid, he would try to find and steal books. He needed food, yes, but he was fully capable of getting plenty on his own. He was not a normal animal, and could survive on nearly anything and almost nothing. What he really hungered for was the truth. He needed to know where fear came from. Through eternities, he had come to believe what many humans do: to defeat one’s enemy, one had to know that enemy.

Though he spent much time sneaking and thieving and learning, it seemed that he could not come to a satisfying answer. Then it occurred to him that the answer was simple. He did not need to know where fear came from. He simply needed to usurp its power, and he knew immediately just how he would do this. People were afraid of him, largely because of stories they had heard. He needed to change the story. Among the things he had taken in his time were notebooks, many of them filled with things he had written on his quest to discover the root of fear, but some, empty. He began writing his story, and this is how he told it.

“My name is Feorolf. I am neither man nor wolf. I am no beast that is known to humans. Some of what has been said of me is true. I have killed, but it is not for the reason people think. I do not need humans for food, nor do I hate them. In some sense, I fear them as much as they fear me. I was one of the first Creatures to awaken in this world. When this Realm was formed, there was no fear, but somehow, fear entered, and I hated it. I have always hated it. I sought to destroy it, but in doing so, I made a terrible mistake. I thought killing the first humans to fear would kill the fear itself, but it only made it stronger. I have been banished because of what I have done, and rightly so. I want to right the wrongs I have done. I want to change, if I can, but if I cannot change myself, if I cannot destroy my hate for fear, I must destroy it in a peaceful way. This is my gift to all who have been affected by the fear of me, and the fear of anything else. I shall take it away, as best I can, though I do not think it will ever be possible for there to be a true bond of friendship between humans and myself. We are strangers to each other, and our natures too different. I am not an animal, but I am a beast. I freely admit this.”

He then left this, attached to a tree with a sharpened tooth he had lost. Feorolf was accustomed to using tools, though not tools one might easily recognize. Then he left that place and went far away, so someone could find it, and he would not feel the fear in them. He then wondered if he could detect other feelings in humans since he could feel fear so strongly. He decided he would try, from a safe distance. He began practicing, and after a while, he realized that he could. The trouble was that, in the Forest, fear was generally the strongest feeling. Under the safety of night, he finally decided to venture into a town rather close to the edge of the Forest. It was late, but there were still people out. He stayed in the shadows, listened to conversations and tried to feel what people were feeling. The array was like a beautiful symphony to him. He felt everything from sorrow to joy, and hope. Very late that night, he heard a man and a woman talking to each other in an upper room of a house. He could tell from their emotions that they were the only two there. He was able to catch snatches of what they were saying. They were talking about “makers,” whatever those were, and of leaving and going to Kich. He heard one of them say the name “Lydia,” though that meant nothing to him, and he heard a mention of the Falcon. He felt for the first time what he later learned was love between them, and there was joy again, too, and he felt hope so strongly coming particularly from the man, that it brought him to his knees, and he wept.

He loved hope as much as he hated fear, and he began to hunt it. He followed people cautiously, but more closely, to catch pieces of their conversations, and when he learned that they had lost something, he would seek it out, find it, and leave it somewhere with a note that read “From Feorolf.” Other times, if he learned that someone was hoping for something to happen, he tried to find ways to make it happen, and he would leave them messages, explaining what he had done. People still feared him, but slowly, outright terror morphed into cautious curiosity or perplexed wonder. The bravest souls wandered deeper into the Forest, and people in general seemed to travel with a bit more ease in their hearts. True to his nature, he still made mistakes. He still caused damage. In the worst cases, he still took lives, but he did his best to repent, and he always left notes; in many cases, leaving long letters lamenting his failure and begging the forgiveness of those he had hurt. Once, he received a letter back.

It read, “Feorolf, I’d be willing to bet you weren’t expecting a reply. I want to let you know that I forgive you, and I hope other people do, too, because I know you don’t mean to do the bad things you do, but I’m not sure other people do.” He didn’t know what he had done to whoever this was, but he was overwhelmed with gratitude. After much thought, he finally decided to leave another note for them to find. Again, he was not expecting a reply, and again, he received one. A strange correspondence grew between them, though he never learned who he was writing to. After the Change, he worried about them, but was very happy to learn that they were made young. When they grew old, he left things out for people to find, with notes explaining that the person he was writing to needed help. Eventually he received a note that read, “Feorolf, my name is Kyle. I recently learned that you were friends with my father who died several months ago. I am sorry if this is the first news you have received of his passing. His name was Andrew. I just wanted to say that you have helped us, and thank you.”

Happy Easter

 

 

This is a day late, but we had partying to do this weekend.

The Easter Vigil starts in darkness. Everyone takes an unlit candle and finds their place. The priest lights one candle and then, from that person, we all light each others’ candles. There are several readings from the Old and New Testament, and then, after weeks of waiting, the lights come on, and we sing “Glory to God in the highest,” and we celebrate and worship because Jesus beat death.

Happy Easter everybody!