Tag Archives: Joy.

Agape

Earlier today a question occurred to me. Why, or how do humans love? What is love, anyway? I thought of this question because I keep coming back to the question of why God loves us. Ultimately, that’s an insanely difficult question to answer, so I decided to try and dumb it down for myself. The obvious next step was to “Google” this because I wanted to know what experts, whether they be spiritual or scientific, had to say. First I got scientific answers that really didn’t seem very helpful. They only really touched on romantic love, which wasn’t what I had in mind.

Then I rephrased my question and got the answer I somehow knew I was looking for all along. There are four different types of love according to Greek philosophy: Eros, or a love that is deeply related to the body and the senses; Phileo, or affection towards people and sometimes things; Storge, which is a loyal love, generally towards one’s family, friends, a cause one believes in, one’s country, etc; Agape, or an active, sacrificial love that is chosen simply for the good of others for no reason. Agape love cannot be understood in a passive sense. Agape is always a verb. Agape is to will the good of the other.

Agape is perfect love, and it is the kind of love that God showed us when he died for us on the cross. God is love. This is why he is a Trinity. He is a lover, beloved, and loving. The Father and the Son love each other, and the Holy Spirit is the love that they share. A human relationship is shared between two people, but if there is no love between them, there is no relationship. People need other people because we need to experience love, and we can’t fill our need purely on our own. God doesn’t need, nor did he ever need humanity to exist because the Trinity was already experiencing perfect love.

God created us knowing that we would betray him. He saved us even though he didn’t have to, and even though it would mean experiencing the worst we had to offer. The crazy thing is that even though God doesn’t need us to love him, he wants us to. This is revealed over and over in the Scriptures, and also through the writings of the saints. In fact, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is simply to love God. Loving God means a great number of things, and can be anything from enjoying and appreciating nature, to imitating Jesus and doing good for others, to stopping to pray or participate in some form of worship.

Jesus said that to find one’s life, one had to lose it. He also said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. To lose one’s life does not need to be understood in a literal sense. It is meant that one is to give one’s self away freely, and in doing so, one finds out who they really are. Similarly, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends means to sacrifice for people without expecting anything in return. To make sacrifices for God’s Kingdom is Agape love. It is the kind of love that God wants from us.

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Welcome Home

My parents and I have been arguing about where to buy our second home (their retirement home–I can work from wherever I want). We know we want to live in Maine where most of our extended family lives. My mom has fallen in love with a falling-down farm house in Naples, and though Naples is quite close to my godparents and Mom’s cousins, I think Portland would be better in terms of accessibility. My dad seems to like Portland better, but we’re all just going back and forth really.

A lot of people my parents age seem to be talking about buying a second home–another place to hang out and live. However, for years now I’ve felt like I have three homes. The first is obviously the house I live in and, by extension, my little neighborhood that goes around a loop, so there’s barely any traffic. The second is the music studio where I learned to play guitar and recorded eleven songs. In a way, I also learned to pray there because my teacher and later, producer happened to be Christian. The third is the church that I couldn’t stand as a kid, but am now seemingly magnetically drawn to. To be fair, I still think it’s the ugliest church in America, but the priests are awesome, the other volunteers and parishioners are really nice, and it’s just about a mile from my house so it’s easy to get to.

About two years ago another one of the teachers mentioned Eucharistic Adoration to some of the older kids around Lent. He didn’t elaborate much about what it was, but for some reason I thought it sounded interesting, so after a little while, I decided to go. The truth was I had never heard of it before. I went that week, and I honestly don’t remember what happened in particular, but I decided to make it a habit to keep going. I’ve been going almost every week now for the past two years.

Our parish also offers confession during that time, and at some point, for an inexplicable reason, I felt I should go. It was the first time I’d been since I made my confirmation, which meant it was the first time I’d gone in several years. I don’t remember what I confessed that night, but I do remember it felt like a humongous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. After that I got a little crazy and probably a little paranoid and started going about every two weeks, and sometimes more than that. Now I go about once a month, sort of like a check-up.

Going to Adoration is never quite the same from week to week. Sometimes it feels a bit futile, like there’s a tiny voice in the very back of my mind wondering why I’m there. During those times I pray anyway, but it kind of feels like I’m talking to myself. Other weeks, amazing things that I can’t explain happen. Last night I went as usual, not really knowing what to expect. I almost didn’t go because I was in the middle of working on one of the stories for my mythology, but I got a little distracted, and somehow came across the bit of Scripture where Jesus says, “Can’t you wait with me an hour?” So I decided, yeah, I’ll do that.

When I got there, I grabbed the little pamphlet with the prayers on it for the end, found my spot, put my phone away and waited. I’ll try and explain exactly what happens at Adoration the best I can since I know many of my readers are not Catholic. Catholics believe that the Eucharist (consecrated bread and wine) are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Some people take issue with this because it sounds like Christ is being sacrificed again. However, what it does, is it allows people to be present in his once-and-for-all sacrifice. That’s what happens at communion. Adoration outside of Mass is when the consecrated hosts are exposed so that people can look and sit and be in his presence.

I was a few minutes early last night, so I was totally ready to go by the time our priest came out and set everything up. For some reason I felt slightly awkward at first and I wasn’t sure why. It was like both of us (me and the Lord) were waiting. The thing is, when I’m nervous or scared, I ask Jesus to stay with me; just to be with me. Unfortunately, I forget to promise to do the same for him. There was nothing on my mind at all really for the first thirty seconds to a minute while I was there, and then I remembered why I had come in the first place, so I said, “Well, I’m here. I’m with you, Jesus,” and then one of those amazing things that I can’t explain happened. I couldn’t really think for several minutes after that. It was kind of like really seeing someone you love for the first time and fully understanding how much you love them and how much they love you and how awesome they are. Then of course I couldn’t shut up.

I sometimes have trouble praying at Adoration. Part of the reason I go is because it forces me to leave my normal life and sit still for an hour, and sometimes my mind just wanders. Last night I didn’t have trouble, though. In fact, I almost wished we had had a few extra minutes before the closing prayers that we all do together. I don’t know how much time it really was before the Katie in me kicked back in. It felt sort of outside of time. It could have been fifteen minutes, it could have been three. All I know is that whatever I felt brought me to tears.

Actually, at the beginning of this post I talked about the places I think of like home to me, but the truth is, they’re really just buildings. I think it’s really the memories and people associated with places that make them home. Really I could probably list off a whole bunch of places that could be home to me, including the camp ground we’ve gone to since before I can remember, Portland Maine itself, and the movie theater a couple towns over. Again, though, these places are home to me because of the memories and people I associate with them. I know that what I felt last night felt really good, and maybe it was God’s way of saying, “Welcome home.”

 

 

Day 3

I’ve had an interesting day so far. It technically started before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I lay in bed and made up a weird story for an hour and a half or so. It wasn’t bad for bored-at-two-in-the-morning. I remember a lot of it, but I don’t think I’ll bother writing it down. I think it’ll be my secret insomnia story.

I got up around 10:15 because I was supposed to come up with the lesson plan for today’s CCD class yesterday, which doesn’t take long, but I forgot, so I needed to have time to do that plus eat lunch. That all got done and the lesson itself went swimmingly, although I think I occasionally get a little too complicated for my nine-year-old students. When I was a kid I hated CCD. It wasn’t taught well. I just want them to know Jesus. I definitely didn’t know him when I was a kid.

After my lesson I came home and assessed my mosaic. My dad and I got a lot done last night, and I realized I just need to glue one more design piece down before starting on the background, which is going to be all black tiles. It was cool to realize that I now know how to complete the puzzle. We ended up talking a bit about mosaics in class today because, surprisingly, most of the kids didn’t know what they were. One of the kids asked me what mine looks like. I told him it currently looks like a mess.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do mosaic things, though, because I had to get upstairs before Kathy came over. She was super nice and cool and kind of reminded me of our family friend who lives in Florida. What she told me was so reassuring. I, Katie Curtis, can become a consecrated virgin. I still have a lot of thinking to do, but I’m pretty sure this is exactly what I want, and there’s nothing getting in my way that I can see. She said the next thing I should do is read a document on this vocation that’s provided online and meet with the director of vocations in Boston.

The most helpful thing she said, though was that, while I’m working through all of this, I can say that I’m dating Jesus. It sounds weird, but I’ve been wanting to be able to say that for a long time. I’ve loved him for a long time in a way that has felt more than friendship, and I haven’t known what to call it. It was just this weird in-between thing. I think I’m right. Everything is telling me that I’m right. It’s kind of ridiculous. Right now I’m listening to very weird music that I’m not sure I even really like, and I haven’t got anything done on my Mythology today, but I don’t even care. I’m in a stupidly good mood.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Politics

I didn’t vote. Many of you will be incredulously wondering “Why?” For me it was a matter of conscience. I did not feel that either candidate deserved my support. Of course no one is perfect. Everyone has some “dirt” on them. However, it seems to me that Mrs. Clinton is far too untrustworthy, and Mr. Trump has said far too many offensive, and quite frankly, disturbing things about far too many people, and I for one, believe that language matters.

What has been more disturbing to me, however, is how this election has affected relationships. Long-lasting friendships have fallen apart because of a presidential race. The fallout has even reached my fourth graders. Truthfully, I don’t know much about Hillary Clinton outside of what I’ve seen on TV, but I thought she gave a really great speech today and accepted her defeat honorably. I can honestly say I’m proud of her for that.

What I would love to see is the rest of society doing the same. I don’t like Trump, but the fact of the matter is, he’s my president. That isn’t going to change now for at least four years, so whether you’ve been a life-long Democrat, young progressive, Independent like myself, Republican, or anything else, it’s time to face facts. It’s time to band together. Our president is not our country. We are our country, and we make America what it is. Quite frankly, I don’t like the party system. It makes politics exactly that: politics. It takes the focus away from real people and real issues and narrows in on the superfluous competition. It becomes a question of who will win and who will lose, rather than, what can be done to make our country better.

What will make our country better? The short answer is: love. The longer answer is uncertain. It’s really up to us. Among other things, we certainly need to be kinder on the internet. We need to pay attention and learn what it means to be good Samaritans; we need to really see people. We need to recognize the significance and effects of language. We need to forgive. We need to be ready to speak and fight for what we believe in, and be kind while doing it. We need to learn how to take a hit. We need to learn how to graciously and quietly accept defeat. We need to laugh. We need to accept that jokes are meant to be taken as jokes. We need to celebrate. We need to read. We need to have fun. We need to stand behind our president and support our government when they make good decisions and be ready to fight when they don’t. We need to recognize, love, and use our freedom.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Moment Of “I Love You”

I’ve tried to write this several times over and haven’t been able to. Partly, I haven’t known where exactly to begin, partly I haven’t known what to include, partly, I find this kind of thing a bit cliche, and partly, it’s a bit of a novel. All that being said, I’ve decided to start with a preface. As I said, More often than not, I find a lot of “coming to faith” stories at least somewhat annoying. A lot of them have the same, or at least a similar notion that the writer was so terrible before, and drastically better, morally speaking, immediately after their conversion. I also find it problematic when a person shares their story and neglects basic rules of writing style, spelling, and grammar. While it may be more important on some level to simply get the story out, the neglect lessens its credibility. More could be said, but I think those are issues for another post. Now I will share my story.

I grew up Catholic, largely because of a promise my mom made. When I was a year old I was diagnosed with a kind of Muscular Dystrophy (MD) that would kill me by the age of five if I was lucky. I don’t really know the time frame for all this, but when my parents got the news, my mom started praying like a maniac. I had tests done, and the news continued to be bad. I need to pause for a moment to explain a Catholic peculiarity here. A common misconception is that Catholics worship the Virgin Mary. The truth is that she has a very high place of honor, being that she is Jesus’ mother, and we recognize that her prayers are helpful and influential. Now to get back to my story, the news was bad, and eventually my mom gave up. Rather, she stopped praying to God, and asked Mary to pray for her because if anyone in the world knew what it was like to lose a child, it would be her.

Circumstances continued like this for about six months, if I remember correctly until one day my dad called my mom. He had taken me to an appointment and inexplicably, things had drastically changed. What had seemed like a ritual reiteration of a death sentence for six months had suddenly turned to a promise of life. Somehow the test results had drastically changed. I had a kind of MD, the effects of which were not entirely certain, but I would grow up, go to school, and do “normal kid stuff.” I did mention that my mom made a promise. When she asked Mary to pray for me, she promised that she would raise me as a “good Catholic girl,” so CCD was included in the “normal kid stuff” I ended up doing.

The truth is I have always been a believer in the sense that I want things to be true; I’m a bit gullible; my natural impulse is to trust people. As a child I believed in God, but when I was very young I knew him only vaguely as the Creator of the universe, and even then, not necessarily one who had a conscious mind or paid any attention to us. Eventually that changed. I came to believe that he paid attention to us, but mostly like someone watching an ant farm. As an older child, particularly in my middle school years, I just lost interest in God. I got busy doing more “normal kid stuff,” as does everyone.

In particular, my friends and I became very busy defending Mythic Island, an invented universe that was under siege from the wolf demon Agorauth. One of my friends and I created a comic for the school newspaper. I wrote the story and she drew the pictures. Every Friday night we would all congregate at my house, eat terrible pizza and play Star Wars Battlefront. Of course, since it was middle school, it wasn’t all fun. We can only assume that our group was comprised of the most unpopular kids in school. We all got picked on in one way or another.

High school changed things drastically and quickly. The summer before our Freshman year, we ended our Mythic Island adventure. That same year, one of my closest friends got incredibly busy with sports, so much so that we could hardly hang out. He also got a girlfriend, and I realized that boys could be more than just friends. Towards the end of that year I got a guitar who I named Francisco. You can probably imagine why.

At that time, I was still in CCD, and for a reason that was inexplicable at the time, I was hating it less and less. Most of my friends’ parents had allowed them to drop out years earlier, but my mom was not going to break her promise. CCD classes in ninth and tenth grade were structured towards getting students ready to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, should they choose to receive it. A “Yes” signifies that a person is an adult and active member in the Church. The odd thing was, though I was becoming more receptive to what we were learning, there was little emotion in it. It was just another class.

Another friend of mine was enrolled in the program after his parents divorced in the middle of our Freshman year because his dad thought it would be helpful for him. He hated every second of it. He had changed after the divorce. It had made him a completely different person. He was dispondent and reclusive. He stopped doing homework; wouldn’t hand in projects; intentionally failed tests. He was also rather disrespectful to our teacher in CCD, which I did not appreciate. I only mention these details about my friend because in part, I think it made me want to make up for it, so I participated more in class and I really listened. I wasn’t passive during that time.

We completed the Confirmation class at the end of our Sophomore year. It concludes with an all-day retreat at which we had discussions, weird spiritual activities which I didn’t exactly understand, and a mass, if I remember correctly. There was also a lot of free time, and my friend and I spent that time silently playing cards. At the end of the day we were given a letter written by our parents. I don’t remember much of what mine said. I do remember them saying they were proud of me, and that from this point on, my spirituality was my business. Finally, we were asked, “Will you be confirmed?” I said I would.

At the beginning of my Junior year I went through the actual ceremony, and I did keep going to church, but had I been asked at the time, I would not have been able to tell why. For the next two years I can, I think, accurately say that I was a Catholic in practice, but an agnostic in belief. I still didn’t really know who God was. I knew what he did, but that was it. During that time, I had begun to feel an increasing sense of loneliness. One of my friends had already had a girlfriend and a break-up. My other friend had been in a relationship for three years. I had never dated. However, this loneliness was more complex than the desire for a partner. I constantly needed to be around people. If I couldn’t find someone to be with on Friday nights, I would sit alone and cry. I felt unneeded, and I hated it.

Inevitably, we all graduated, and my friends went away to college. Because I need help with a few basic things, I commuted to school and lived at home. It so happened that I applied to two schools, and was only accepted to one, so that’s where I went. I had hated the school search. The whole thing felt wrong to me, but something about Gordon was different. Their campus was really nice. The people there were really nice. They had a creative writing program, which sounded really nice. I somehow felt at home there. Gordon is a Christian school, and I think normally I would have had reservations about that, but unlike every school I looked at, it just felt “right.”

Starting classes at Gordon was like stepping into a whole new universe. We started classes by praying. We were required to attend chapel three times a week, and I enjoyed it. People freely talked about having a relationship with Jesus. This was all great, except that it made me more lonely. The one thing I hung on to was that my classmates and teachers and chapel speakers had taught me to pray in a way my church hadn’t. Don’t get me wrong, now that I’ve been Christian for five years, I appreciate and use the more formal Catholic prayers quite a lot, but first I had to learn how to talk. It was shortly after we had begun classes in mid August that I had begun praying that God would help me find someone to love me. I prayed this almost every night before going to sleep with increasing desperation.

I don’t remember the exact date, but I can conclusively say I truly became Christian one night in October, 2011. I was lying in bed, and I was crying. I was praying from the darkest, lowest, smallest, loneliest part of my being. I don’t know what would have happened had it passed like any other night, but for some reason I said, “I love you,” and I felt an overwhelming sensation of comfort and peace and warmth, and I felt like I wasn’t alone in the best possible way. It was spontaneous, and my only explanation is that he was saying, “I’m not going to find someone for you. I love you.” A lot has happened since then. I almost left the Catholic Church, but have since fully embraced it for a number of reasons, which I won’t explain here. I’ve never dated and have become perfectly content being single. What was sparked at the moment of that “I love you” has turned into a real relationship. I have a writing career, and am studying theology independently. I don’t necessarily know where it will go, but I trust God.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

Look At The Sky

The other day I realized just how much I stare at my phone. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I realized that for the longest time, I had not looked at the sky. After realizing this, I realized just how much I don’t pay attention to as an adult that really seemed to matter when I was a kid. As a kid I would just sit and stare at the sky and think about a million things and nothing. It seemed like there was so much more in the world. I didn’t notice when I stopped doing that. I didn’t notice as the world became smaller and faster.

I’ve been trying to make a point to look at the sky now. I still don’t always remember. I think it’s important. I used to see pictures in the clouds. I don’t see pictures anymore, but I still think the sky is beautiful. I think it’s important to appreciate the things God made. If it wasn’t important, he wouldn’t have made things beautiful. The world could have been black and white. As an artist, I don’t always know why I make things or write things. I just can’t help it, and even though I don’t have an explicable reason for them, I love the things I make. I imagine God feels the same way, particularly about people who can love him back.

It’s funny that a lot of things in the world can keep you alive in one case, and can kill you in another. I like fire. At one point in time, fire was integral to the survival of the human race. In fact, for several years we’ve heated our house with a wood stove through the winter because it’s been cheaper. Fire is something I can still stare at for hours and think about nothing and everything. I like to play with fire. I like to watch stuff burn (yes I know that sounds weird) because it’s interesting and beautiful.

I’ve said this before, but I have over one hundred cousins of various removes, etc, so I just call them all cousins. Anyway, at camp this summer my mom had to explain to one of my cousins who has some form of developmental problem that he couldn’t touch fire. He understood that it would hurt him, but he thought he could run to the lake and put it out before it got too hot. Like me, he thought fire was beautiful and interesting and just wanted to understand it better.

Two years ago, when we had a record-breaking winter, my dad went hiking and made a video. It was snowing and sub-zero on the mountain, but my dad had the time of his life. He loves cold and snow. When I was a kid I liked it. Listening to the weather forecast and hearing seventies and eighties instead of eighties and nineties makes me a little sad these days. At the same time, a part of me is hoping for another record-breaking winter. If it has to come, I’d rather it come in full force. When we got Seamus, we tried to give him some snow to play with. He was afraid of it. He’s a really stupid bird.

I wonder if it’s easier to appreciate things when you think about how you relate to those things, or when you project yourself into a story or an idea or a situation. In my last post I talked about Mythic Island. There was a specific way in which to get there. You had to build a fairy house. Fairies would show up and live there, and in return for building them a house, they would do things for you. In particular, they would create a magical portal that would allow you to get to Mythic Island. A fairy house is a tepee made of sticks and leaves and things. The better the fairy house, the more fairies it would attract. The more fairies you had, the more they could do for you. When we hung out in the woods as kids we would think about these things, and we would build fairy houses just to be nice. We had more of a reason for being there.

I think it’s harder to relate to the world when our worlds are our computers. On Facebook and WordPress and wherever else we “exist” we create the versions of ourselves that we want that particular world to see, and we see the manufactured versions of everyone else. We can look at pictures of clouds and fire, but they’re no substitute for the real thing. When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, it was like going back to Mythic Island. At the time, though, things from Mythic Island would come into the “real world” and we had to help dragons get back home. I guess maybe that made the world seem a little bigger, too.

What I didn’t realize as a kid was that the world is really big. It’s just my little piece of it that’s small. In Mythic Island we could ride our dragons hundreds of miles in a day, we were powerful, and time didn’t make sense. It was our world, and that’s why it seemed so much bigger than the “real world.” I guess I just kind of miss being amazed by the sky. The world really hasn’t changed. I’m just more easily distracted, and ironically, I think I’m less patient in some ways. For the longest time I didn’t want a cell phone. Everyone my age (eleven or so) had one, but I didn’t care. Then when smart phones became a thing my mom practically had to force me to get one. And a few days ago I realized that I forget to be amazed by the sky.

Don’t forget to be amazed. Even if you’ve looked at something a million times, look at it again. Listen to that song you love again. Smell those flowers. Climb that mountain. Eat that cookie. Go back to Mythic Island.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Was Angry At God

Two or three weeks ago I slept late. My cousin was at my house, and he, my brother, and my parents were trying to decide where to go for food. I invariably wake up hungry. After some deliberation we decided on a Mexican restaurant nearby. Between the time we left the house and the time we arrived, my epilepsy started acting up so that by the time we were ready to order, I couldn’t speak and my dad had to order for me. Most of the time my epilepsy doesn’t do much other than stop me from processing language.

For some reason I usually tend to have problems at home, or at least some place where I can escape from humans. This time was an exception, and on top of that, it was “girl time,” my hormones were a little wonky, and I was rather emotional about the whole thing. I don’t like people to see when I’m having problems. I want to just hide until it’s over. This time I couldn’t, and it pissed me off royally. By the time we got home my brain was fine, but I wasn’t. I went in my room and did the only thing I could. I went to bed and silently screamed.

I screamed, I cried, and I flipped out at the only person I knew I could; the person who loves me most. I didn’t want to be around people, but I didn’t want to be alone. I was angry at God for letting this happen. At the same time, I needed him. Any other person would have run for the hills if they had even an idea of how mad I was.

In less than an hour, my anger turned to desperation. I yelled, but my plea was, “Don’t leave me!” He didn’t leave. I knew he was there the whole time. What I’ve learned from this is that God is unfair partly because the world is unfair. I’ve also come to believe more that God uses our bad experiences to bring us closer to him and teach us things if we let him.

Last night I had insomnia because I slept late yesterday, and had brain fuzz pretty early, which made me sleepy, so I went to bed around ten-thirty. I woke up around one-thirty because my bird started screeching for no discernible reason. I was thoroughly awake at that point, so I started talking. For some reason, I find that the middle of the night is a good time to pray.

A lot of time has passed, but it was still bothering me that I got mad at God. The fact of the matter is, though, that I loved him, even in the deepest, darkest, angriest corner of my mind. I held nothing back, and he took it. He stayed, and when I realized that what I was doing was wrong, he stayed, and all this time while I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it up to him, and realizing I can’t, he’s stayed. I’ve thought about going to confession about this, but I got mad at God about something once before and my priest said it basically wasn’t a sin as long as I deal with it in a reasonable, healthy way. The truth is, God helped me work through it in that one hour. I know he’s forgiven me. I’m having trouble forgiving myself, and I need his help to do that.

I was finally able to put into words what the root of the problem was today. It’s been bothering me all this time because my anger was misdirected and unfair in the exact opposite way that God’s love is unfair. God loves those who don’t deserve it. I was angry at the one who deserved my anger the least. It’s often difficult for me to view my epilepsy in a positive light, but it’s at times like this that I am able to. The world is unfair, but so is God.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

We Took A Walk

Yesterday’s meandering started with resentment. I was annoyed about something, and I almost wrote about it, but that would have been unfair to the people involved. Instead I decided to leave it alone and putter around on Craigslist. I’m hoping to start a new ministry at my church for young adult types, so I figured I’d advertise a bit. After posting there and on Facebook, I was sufficiently distracted.

I thought maybe I’d try designing a new “thing.” Visual art isn’t exactly my strong suit, but I have a pendent that I designed that came out really well. It’s designed around what the Eucharist represents. It’s two hands together, holding a flower with a butterfly on it. It represents life, sacrifice, change, redemption, and togetherness with God.

I didn’t come up with a new design because a question occurred to me. If Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, what does that actually mean? What does it mean for us, and what does it mean for him? I googled a few things and watched a few videos on YouTube, but I couldn’t really find an answer, so I decided to go for a walk. Sometimes when I have a question, I look high and low for the answer and forget to ask God.

One thing I did find before I left was that when we receive the Eucharist we receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. That sounds great, but what does that actually mean? I started thinking about when he said “I become one with you, and you are one with me.” I also read that we become “vessels for the Lord.” All of this together was sounding very complicated.

So I left my house and started asking questions. We took a long walk. I don’t remember all of what we talked about. Something that bothered me at first, though, was the idea that a perfect God would become “one” with an imperfect me. What does that do to or for him? I started working with the analogy of someone taking care of a sick friend. The sick person isn’t necessarily going to make the healthy person sick.

My analogy started to get a little muddled, though, because I started thinking about how taking care of a sick person makes a healthy person better in other ways. They become more patient, or more compassionate, or what have you. But Jesus is already perfect. So what does he get out of it? What does he want to be with us for? Then it hit me. God is love. By necessity, he loves. It’s just God being God.

While figuring all this out, I was talking out loud. I would have looked like a crazy person, but I live on a busy street, and no one was around. I had been talking and asking questions the whole time, but at this point I was speechless. We got down to my church, and I thought I’d just see if the door was open. It wasn’t, so I started heading for home.

We wandered along for a little while, but I had to ask: “So, I still don’t get what it means that I’m a vessel. I mean, what does it mean for me that we’re ‘one?'” It means that he’s making me more like him. It means that he’s always with me. It means that I can do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

It also means that I have a job to do. I have to love like a crazy person. I have to forgive the unforgivable. I have to tell people who God is and what he does and why he does it. I finished off last night with this: “Lord, if you are light and you’re with me, let me be a light, too.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

What Christianity Is Not

To figure out what Christianity looks like, I think we have to figure out what it doesn’t look like. What actually makes someone a Christian? What are the duties of a Christian? What does it mean to practice what we preach? Why does it sometimes seem like the church is dead or ineffective? As I said, I think the best way to answer these questions is to first figure out what Christianity is not.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians have to prove that God exists, yet the Church spends ludicrous amounts of time, effort, and sometimes money to do just this. The fact of the matter is, it’s not our job. It is our job to tell people the “Good News.” However, I think even Christians themselves have lost their sense of what this actually is. Salvation is not about where you end up when you die. It’s about knowing that you are a sinful person, and that you are forgiven, you are loved, and you will never be alone.

Being Christian does not give you license to judge anyone. Look at the U.S. in particular, however, and you will find that some of the most judgmental people call themselves Christians. In fact, many will judge other Christians very cruelly because they belong to the wrong denomination. The Church is supposed to be the unified body of Christ, not a house divided against itself. Every denomination has something about it that is imperfect. We can not adequately emulate Christ if we are fighting among ourselves or even being downright cruel to people who adhere to different ideologies than us.

Christianity is not at war with philosophy or science. It can and should inform our understanding of both, and both can give us a more concrete understanding of how God works in the world. God wants to be known, and the fact that the world and the universe can be studied and understood by the human mind is a testament to this. He can never be known completely in this life, but he gives us clues through philosophy and science as to what he is like. For example, Jesus says that he is the light of the world. Genesis says that the universe was created when God said, “let there be light.” I once read that at the moment of the big bang, there was most likely a tremendous flash of light. I also recently read that scientists discovered a zinc spark–a kind of flash–that occurs at the moment of conception. Every human mind is unique. It’s like it’s own little universe. Chew on that for a bit.

In a similar vein, Christianity should not be afraid of art. I am unashamedly very Catholic. I am also a science fiction writer, I hang out mostly with atheists and agnostics, I watch movies and play games in which religion is out of the question, or other gods exist and have real power. Art never, under any circumstances, brings God’s  truth or omnipotence into question. Some genres portray sinful behavior as normal or even good. It’s up to the individual to decide whether these portrayals are personally problematic on a spiritual or emotional level. If they are not, then there’s no reason why the story as a whole should not be appreciated and enjoyed. Art should be primarily judged for its artistic quality.

Lastly, Christianity is meant to be personal, but it is also meant to be active. The reason why the Church often seems boring, outdated or “dead” is because many have completely internalized and abstracted the faith. It is true that Christianity encompasses a philosophy or a set of “rules” by which an individual should live. However, Jesus said that the most important thing is to love God and to love our neighbors. Love is communal and concrete. At the very least, two people must be actively involved. Love obviously can take many forms, whether it’s a work of charity, the act of forgiving someone, or a selfless personal relationship with another. Love involves giving of one’s self, but it is often misconstrued as something like an abstract, impersonal respect, particularly when it comes to acquaintances or strangers. Put simply, people just don’t pay enough attention to each other. Christianity demands that we start paying more attention.

People have lost faith. There are plenty of reasons for this, but I think the simplest is that we are no longer willing to believe the unbelievable. Why don’t we see miracles happening anymore? It’s because we doubt their validity. We see them as “magic,” and magic is directly opposed to what we know and are capable of through science. We have more faith in doctors and engineers than we do in God. I am absolutely guilty of this, so while I’m pointing the finger, I’m pointing at myself, as well.

Further, society has lost its sense of what sin is. Sin is a refusal to do what is right, and what is asked of us by God. By extension, it is separation from God. God is the ultimate good, and the true manifestation of love. Therefore, separation from God is separation from love. Sin isn’t always as concrete as people might think. It’s complicated. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect….” Obviously no one is nor can we be perfect, but it is something we must strive for. Union with God brings peace and joy. I’ve realized that something I have to overcome is impatience. Sin does not only refer to specific actions. It encompasses sentiments and ideas as well. What I want to emphasize is that being sinful does not make someone a bad person. It just means that one is imperfect and therefore, apart from God.

So what does Christianity look like in an actual, practical sense? We are given specific duties. I think these duties can be summed up in three commands.

1: Love God. Worship him and honor him, and pay homage to his kindness and greatness.

2: Tell people about God and about salvation.

3: Be kind. In other words, be self-giving.

It sounds straightforward, but actually, the way in which we do these things involves some creativity. This makes the task more personal, but can also make it more difficult. Furthermore, they are all intertwined. In doing one, we tend to accidentally, or intentionally do one of the others to some degree. Truthfully, we can’t love God without loving other people because God has infinite love for all people. Therefore, worshiping God involves spending time with people and being kind. Then there is communal and informal worship. Communal worship is what we do in church. Informal worship is more personal. Prayer is a kind of worship, and again, this is somewhat structured, but is still more personalized. Completely personal worship is when we do our work or create something in order to honor God. Loving other people and loving God requires that we tell about salvation because we should want people to know about the greatest love there is.

This is often difficult because people have been force-fed the wrong message and mistreated by those who claim to be followers of Jesus. The message that we ought to be spreading is actually rather simple. All we really need to tell people is, “What you believe is between you and God, but I want you to know that the God of the universe loves you, and you can know him and he will always be with you because Jesus paid for all the evil in the world and he is alive now. Everything will be made right.” The point is there is nothing negative in that statement. We can’t start with sin. Starting by telling a person that they are sinful does not work in a relativistic society. People have lost their concept of objective morality. We have to start with love and move towards a concept of sin, emphasizing all the way that we must strive for the good, but that we are safe.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Katie’s Can Of Worms

My bird is snuggling with me and chewing on my necklace, which is cute. I just beat my dad at our nightly racing tournament. I’ve been making a lot of spiritual progress in what feels like very short order. I’m being intentional about things. It feels like I’m doing everything right. It feels like I’m in control. At the same time, I feel weird, for lack of a better word.

I find myself thinking “I can do that,” as I read about being dedicated to God in one way or another. Normally details scare me. At the beginning of each semester in school, there was always one class that would scare the crap out of me as the professor explained the requirements for success, how much homework we would have and other details. It always freaked me out, and I always did just fine. I find myself thinking about this movement in my life like I thought about that class, except I find myself thinking “I can do that.” I’m going to have to learn stuff, and I’m going to have to change… but I can do that.

Today I got in touch with the “Delegate for Religious” (whatever that means), Sister Marian, for the archdiocese of Boston. I want to meet with her. She got back to me fast. She wants to meet in person. I guess I’m bugging out because on one hand, I hear God calling me–practically yelling “Hey! Hey, Katie! Tell people about me! Love them! Love me! You can do this!” On the other hand I find myself thinking, “I’m a sinner. I’m a scatterbrain. What the heck am I getting myself into?”

I almost didn’t send Sister Marian an email today. In fact I found her email address yesterday, thought about contacting her, and found stupid reasons not to. Today, as I was somewhere between sending and trashing my message, I thought, “What’s my problem?” Then I realized I was scared, and I remembered that Jesus said not to be scared, so I hit “Send.” My message to Sister Marian contained a question: am I jumping into this too fast? She said I’m not. In fact, I don’t think you can jump into this too fast. I think this is one of those things you have to jump into head-first. I’m taking a pretty freaking big leap of faith, and I don’t know what I’m going to find when I land. Then again, I still find myself thinking not only can I do this, but I want to do this. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a situation quite this perplexing before.

Actually, I’m freaking out about this because I’m in control. I have free will. I can say “no.” Saying “no” would be way easier. There are so many possibilities that would open up if I said “no.” In fact, as I write this, I’m realizing that life could be absolutely amazing if I said “no.” I don’t want to say “no.” For at least the last week I’ve been constantly reading things and watching things about nuns and other religious people and thinking “Yes! That’s what I want! That’s perfect!” This is actually hilarious, because when I was a kid I was scared of nuns, and when I was a teenager, I thought religious people were all old and annoying and weird.

I need a third (fourth?) hand because there’s another reason I’m freaking out. I intend to meet with Sister Marian. What if I tell her my story, and she says I’m not meant for this? What if she says, for whatever reason that I can’t take a vow in the Church? What if I’m wrong? What if I’m hearing God’s call, but I’m interpreting it wrongly? I feel like I do before any kind of audition. I hate auditions. I’ve had three big ones in my life. I auditioned for the drama club in my Freshman year of high school, and didn’t get a part. I auditioned to get into Berklee College of Music, and didn’t get in. I auditioned to be a singer for my college’s worship team and didn’t get the gig. I know this probably shouldn’t feel like an audition. I know God loves me and has a plan for me no matter what. It’s the people involved in the process that I’m worried about.

The fact of the matter is that I know God is calling me. I know for sure that he’s calling me to love people and to love him. I think; I believe that he’s calling me to something else, too, and I think I might know what that something else is. I really hope I’m right. While this process is scary, a part of me kind of feels like the kid who doesn’t know what she’s getting for Christmas and still believes in Santa Claus. I’m excited.

Okay, I definitely needed to open that can of worms. The worms have been buried outside and the can has been discarded properly. Maybe I’ll find another one tomorrow, but that’s okay. Apparently this is an emotionally complicated situation. I am now going to bed.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!