Little Does She Know: Change Starts Here

When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to find it intimidating. When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to think of a long stint in Purgatory that I’d really rather avoid. When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to think of punishment for sin. Then I think of he riots across the country, and I find myself praying, “Let justice be done.” I realized that Mercy alone isn’t what’s needed. Justice would mean consequences for those who have damaged people’s property. It would mean jail time for the policeman who murdered George Floyd, and consequences for those who stood by and let it happen. It would also mean tangible action taken  to solve the problems of not just racism, but all discrimination  in our country. I realized that, actually, sometimes justice is the merciful thing.

No one is in the right in this situation. Protests that started as noble, peaceful demonstrations have devolved into chaos that proves nothing. I fear, too that innocent men and women in our nation’s police force will suffer hate and violence because of the actions of a handful of bad men. To be honest, my family has had a handful of encounters with police who have been arrogant and unkind. This does not mean that all police are jerks. I prayed for justice, but I also prayed that society would have mercy on police because the many good people shouldn’t have to take the hit for the terrible few.

I think justice and mercy get confused sometimes. Mercy is defined in two ways; “love in action,” and “kindness, or leniency where it is not deserved or earned.” When I think of justice, I think of fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, and in this sense, it seems synonymous with mercy. It also means making sure those who treat others poorly face consequences. When the riots first broke out, I was sad. It felt like I was watching a rerun. Every time something like this happens–and it happens far too frequently–there is a lot of anger and in many cases, violence. A lot of people post “Black lives matter” on Facebook and then go on with their day. There is a lot of rhetoric by police and politicians, and nothing changes.

I don’t have a solution. On occasion, I have felt the effects of able-ism. People have made assumptions about me based on the fact that I use a wheelchair without even speaking to me. Often in media, if there is a Catholic character, it is to make fun of the Catholic Church. The character is portrayed is stupid, bigoted, or hypocritical. Our world was not built for someone with multiple disabilities, and though I have a pretty easy and comfortable life, it is only because my parents are kind and relatively wealthy. Our culture is one that flees from absolutes and objective Truths, and religious liberty is something churches, Catholic service groups, and individuals often have to fight for.

Persecution and discrimination of anyone, to any extent, for any reason, is wrong. The demonstrations in city streets started because of the murder of George Floyd, but this  has become bigger than that. I saw an article someone posted on Facebook about police officers in various places standing in solidarity, and in some cases, praying with peaceful demonstrators. People need to see that, especially people who devalue others because of their skin color.

To be perfectly honest, I would have proposed a solution that involved actively and publicly shaming anyone I encountered doing or saying anything racist. It would have been easy. It wouldn’t solve the problem, though. It would only make more people angry and would probably just grow into more hatred and maybe even more violence. I was sad when this whole thing started, and to be honest, now I am a little angry. This is a problem that requires justice, but it also does require mercy. In the past several nights, people on all sides–rioters and police–have done wrong. They’re all people, though.

Whether you’re stuck inside in some small town somewhere, or you’re cooling off, reading this as someone who’s been directly involved, remember that the person you threw stuff at, or shot tear gas at, is somebody’s brother, sister, father, or mother. Remember that they’re angry and scared, just like you are. Before going out tonight, consider what Jesus said on the Cross; “Forgive them.” The ultimate injustice was that the most innocent Man ever was unjustly sentenced to death, tortured, and killed.

I’m not saying that anyone should just “take it.” I’m saying that any good solution starts with forgiveness. It also requires dialogue. This might mean being extra annoying so that you’re heard, but it doesn’t mean setting things on fire. It means listening. Too often I see posts on Facebook that say “I’m listening.” Too often I hear politicians say it on the news. Don’t just say it; do it. Shut up, and listen. Once you’ve listened, pose solutions; do something with what you’ve heard. It needs to go beyond that, though.

This is a heart problem. Everyone needs to look at the other and really see a person before them. We need to stop labeling people. A person who belongs to the republican or democratic party is not just a republican or democrat, for example. I am a white woman living in suburbia. Knowing that can lead my readers to make assumptions about me in the same way that it might lead some to make assumptions about a black blogger from somewhere closer to Boston.

There’s a literary device when the author is writing in the third-person omniscient; “Little did he know.” This is used when the narrator knows something the protagonist of the story doesn’t. I think it is useful to apply this to ourselves when looking at other people. We must see the other as good, beautiful, and unique; an opportunity to discover, to learn, and hopefully, to form a new relationship. We can’t just stop at the label. We can’t just stop at “democrat,” “republican,” “black,” or “white.” Imagine looking at this through God’s eyes; the Author of every person’s story.  Meet a new person, and imagine the Author of your story saying, “Little does she know.” It can be humbling to keep in mind our ignorance, and that humility is important. Change starts with humility, hope, admitting one’s culpability, and forgiveness offered and accepted.

Study Notes 3 (May 2020)

Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth
Excerpted in part from the writings of Sr. Patricia of Mary Magdalene

“In Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘meek’ is described as ‘mild of temper; patient under injuries; long-suffering; gentle and kind.’ This surely describes Jesus’ life and how He wants us to imitate Him. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’

“Because meekness and humility are almost always tied together, the virtue of humility should be the one to be developed under this beatitude.”

“We all have a temperament…. We constantly struggle through this beatitude, attempting to meekly and humbly temper our attitudes towards ourselves and others.”

“Physically, when there is the pain of an illness or an operation, or even a recurring health problem, we must humbly pray asking for the grace to bear our cross, not running away from it or regarding it as an evil thing or something to be avoided at all cost…. it must be stressed that it is not suggested or implied that one should not accept any form of relief”

The same pertains to emotional/psychological suffering; it should not be sought out, but it should be humbly accepted and dealt with as much as possible.

“What now is meant by ‘long-suffering?’ This is going even further than the first two
phrases, as it may require indefinite or extended or permanent suffering. This too can be physical or psychological.”

“Psychological ‘long-suffering’ may include the spiritual pain of seeing loved ones no longer practicing their faith, or emotionally supporting an alcoholic… To be ‘long-
suffering’ requires a high degree of humility, because often the very things that qualify under ‘long-suffering’ are problems we can do nothing about…”

“Gentleness clothes herself in patience and tenderness, while Kindness adorns herself in humility and affection.”

Regarding Saint Therese: “Her ‘Little Way’ consists almost entirely of being meek and humble of heart. She realized and accepted her littleness and humbly accepted God’s love in spite of any unworthiness. She was patient and kind under injuries, long-suffering both physically, because of tuberculosis, and psychologically due to the ridicule and insults often placed upon her by a certain superior and other sisters of her community.”

“Others, in becoming aware of their own imperfections, grow angry with themselves in an unhumble impatience. So impatient are they about these imperfections that they would want to become saints in a day. They do not have the patience to wait until God gives them what they need when He so desires.”
Saint John of the Cross

– Speak as little as possible of oneself.
– Mind one’s own business.
– Avoid curiosity.
– Do not want to manage other people’s affairs.
– Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully.
– Pass over the mistakes of others.
– Accept blame when innocent.
– Yield to the will of others.
– Accept insults and injuries.
– Accept being slighted, forgotten, and disliked.
– Be kind and gentle even under provocation.
– Do not seek to be specially loved and admired.
– Never stand on one’s dignity.
– Yield in discussion even though one if right.
– Choose always the hardest.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s suggestions of how to be humble

Study Notes 2 (May 2020)

Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted
excerpted from the writing of Sr. Patrician of Mary Magdalene

Question: Why is mourning included with Mercy, Justice, Purity of Heart, and Meekness?

Immediate thought: It is tied to compassion

This type of mourning is sorrow for our sins and what they cost Jesus
-self awareness, and love for the Lord

Conscious or unconscious longing for God
-longing for something permanent, perfect, and good

The Holy spirit is the Comforter

This longing/mourning builds the virtue of Hope

“And to those whom He gives here below the kingdom we ask for, He gives pledges so that through these they may have great hope of going to enjoy perpetually what here on earth is given only in sips.” Saint Teresa of Avila

Thought: The more He gives, the more I want

“We have given proof that a soul must renounce all possession of the memory in order to reach union with God in hope. The soul, therefore, must live in the nakedness and forgetfulness, …so as not to impede union of the memory with God through perfect hope.” Saint John of the Cross

“Only a soul that is naked and forgetful of its worthiness can have the perfect hope that leads to union with its Comforter. By renouncing the memory of all previous graces and consolations, the memory becomes naked and open to the hope of perfect union.” Sr. Patricia

Hope is tied to detachment:
-If we long/mourn/hope for something/someone “else,” we care less about things immediately available

Love Carries Me

On Saturday, the Lord made a mark on me that can’t be unmade. Saturday was the monthly meeting of our Carmelite Community, but it wasn’t like any other we’ve had this year. On Saturday I received the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and was officially admitted into formation. This signifies that I am officially part of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, I am consecrated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel (and through her, in a particular way, Our Lord), and I am dedicated to imitating Mary in humility, chastity, and prayer; contemplating our Lord. On Saturday, the Lord made me more His own than I already was.

Last week was a little chaotic. Nothing especially crazy happened, at least on a basic level; I was just busy, so I didn’t get to my reading for Saturday’s formation until Friday. Along with the reading were some reflection questions, and one of those questions was simple and to the point; why do you want to be a Carmelite? I knew my answer almost immediately; I want to know Him more, and be more His.

With mixed emotions I sometimes remember when I daydreamed about what my wedding might have looked like. For various reasons, I know that marriage is not in the cards for me. The Lord has other plans, and that’s just fine. After my clothing ceremony on Saturday, which I had with one other woman, several others made their First Promises (which for nuns/friars would be like temporary vows), and one made his Final Promises (which would be like perpetual vows), and I found myself thinking about that like a wedding ceremony.

For me, Final Promises is five years away, and I have so much to learn, but I want that. I find that the closer I get to the Lord, the more I want Him. That seems counter intuitive, but I think it makes sense given that He is infinite Love, and I’m finite. I think I’m finally beginning to understand really that He is my only satisfaction. Every good thing that exists has a limit. Every beautiful, fun, hilarious, heartbreaking, glorious story has an end; eventually the coffee in the cup runs out; my favorite songs fade to silence; one day I will have to return my bird to the Lord. God’s Goodness, and everything that comes with that; His Beauty; Mysteriousness; Faithfulness; Compassion; these have no limit, and my thirst for Him can never really be quenched.

The Scapular I received on Saturday is meant to be an outward sign of an inner change. I don’t feel different per se, but I know that I am different. I’ve changed a lot in the past year, and it wasn’t like I was hit with a lightning bolt on Saturday, but it was like hearing the Lord say, “I see the choices you’ve made for Me. Thank you.” I recently came across an explanation of what it means when Jesus says “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” To deny yourself means to choose what God wants when what you want is something else. I realized that this past year, I’ve done that. I’ve changed things about my life that if the Lord hadn’t called me to Carmel, I probably would not have.

Promises, to me at least, seem very much like wedding vows. I had a thought the other day that I can love the Lord in a particular way precisely because I’m a woman. Obviously men love the Lord, too, but I imagine it’s a love of deep friendship and loyalty. Of course I have these same feelings, but I think because I’m a woman, I can love Him in a kind of romantic sense. There’s so much language in Scripture about the Lord’s relationship with His people being like that of a lover and His beloved. In fact, the Church, is often referred to with feminine language. When the Lord finally comes, there is language in Scripture of a wedding feast.

For a long time, I was wary of this kind of language. I wondered if I was allowed to love the Lord in this way. The fact of the matter is, though, I think I’m kind of supposed to. It’s not a the same as a “normal” or “usual” romance (for lack of a better word) between a man and a woman, but it is a kind of romance. Increasingly, there’s this ache in me because I want so badly to physically feel Him and audibly hear His voice. I want to sit somewhere with Him, and maybe not even talk about anything, but physically see Him with my eyes. Simply put, I want Him.

I’ve been a member of our Carmelite Community for a year now. I invited the priest who suggested I check this out in the first place (Father Patrick), and he came and concelebrated (was a copilot for) the Mass, and I invited my Godfather who came all the way from Maine. I hadn’t wanted to make a big deal of this, but my Community did. I was buried in really wonderful gifts from everyone. People didn’t just give me cards, but people had put thought into the things they gave me, and the things they wrote.

After October’s meeting I had a meeting with the leaders of our community who asked if I definitely wanted to continue my formation. I immediately said “yes” because I’ve enjoyed our meetings and I’ve been interested in what we’ve been learning about, and certainly, I’ve grown closer to the Lord through prayer. For a month, at different times I had taken it as a given that I would continue; at other times I was sincerely excited. For a week before Saturday, I had different feelings.

I had the feeling that it was wrong, and I grew increasingly nervous, but I also had the suspicion that these feelings were not natural. I ended up talking to Father Patrick on Wednesday, and he agreed with me that the devil was messing with my head. I mention this because I was incredibly nervous before the ceremony on Saturday, but I knew for sure that it was natural, and after the ceremony, I was, and still am insanely happy.

I think for the first time really, it feels like I know where I’m going. For a long time, that wasn’t the case. If life is a journey, though, I know where I want to get to, I know where I don’t want to go, and now it kind of feels like I finally have a spiritual road map. The crazy thing is, I’ve only been a Christian, let alone a Catholic for seven years or so. What the Lord can do in less than a decade is kind of insane. The beautiful thing is that I know that it’s been love that has carried me to where I am today. At times that’s been the love of learning things, at other times it’s been the blind leap of faith to chase the Lord, and at times, it has literally been Love Himself picking me up and carrying me because there have been times when I’ve needed Him to.

When I Think About Heaven

I think about Heaven a lot. The fact of the matter is, I am obsessed with getting there. I think it would be accurate to say that more than anything, I want to just be with Jesus. It’s also a simple fact that I like to think about the things I will do in Heaven, and the people I would like to meet. In particular, I like to think about what I call The Library of Everything. I am almost painfully curious, and if I had infinite time and money, I would go back to school and just learn about stuff.

Jesus said to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, I have to be like a child. I think I’ve got that partly figured out in that the questions “Why” and “How” are on rapid fire in my head. I won’t spend all my eternity in the Library of Everything, but I will spend a lot of it there. Obviously I won’t be alone in there. I imagine the Library of Everything is enormous. It’s easy to find what one wants in there, and there’s a cafe where one can sit, drink coffee, and read. I imagine wandering around looking for things that sound interesting, and talking to saints who are interested in the same things, or who will help me find what I’m looking for. Probably, I’ll end up talking to the saints more than reading.

I’m a songwriter. I play guitar, but I’m not the best at it, and I sing, and I’m good, but there are certainly people in the universe who are better singers than me. I want to play the drums. I want to spend a lot of eternity in the Library of Everything, and I want to join a worship band, and bang on the drums like I’m crazy. I find myself in restaurants or at home or wherever tapping out 4/4 or 6/8 time because I have to wait, or because the song that happens to be playing is catchy, or for no reason at all. I imagine Heaven, or at least parts of it are LOUD. I imagine there’s always music playing somewhere. Angels are always singing; someone is always wailing on a guitar or banging on the drums; someone is always making beautiful melodies and harmonies on a piano or violin. When someone gets tired, someone else takes up their sticks, or pick, or whatever.

There’s a third place I like to think about when I think about Heaven. It’s an empty field with trees off in the distance. It’s a hill, and I like to think of myself and Jesus lying on the hill, and sometimes we talk, and sometimes we don’t. At the bottom of the hill there’s a lake, and sometimes we just lay there and listen to the water. Sometimes I like to read, and I imagine us there, and I imagine that I’m reading to Him; usually Lord of the Rings since I’ve just started Return of the King. I especially like to think about this place.

The funny thing is that I have absolutely no idea what to expect when I get Home. Maybe there won’t be a library. Maybe I won’t be a drummer. I do know that whatever there is when I get there, it will be better than anything I can imagine, and I have a darn good imagination.

Weakness

We don’t like weakness. We especially don’t like our own weaknesses. We pray that God will take them away, and sometimes he does, but a lot of times, he says “I have something better in mind.” Saint Paul begged God to take away the thorn in his side, whatever that might have been, and God told him, “My grace is enough.” So often we find ourselves asking God, “Can’t you just make this easier?” Maybe when we don’t get a clear response it’s because his answer is the same in the twenty-first century as it was in the first.

God chooses the weak and the messy. Think about his twelve apostles. They weren’t perfect by any standards. Ten abandoned him when he needed them most. One sold him out altogether. Only one stood by him at the cross (and there’s a theory that this may have been Lazarus, and not John the apostle). Later, he chased down Saul, a nasty persecutor of Christians, and asked him–didn’t make him, but asked him–to be his apostle to the Gentiles. If it weren’t for Saint Paul, we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament. He consistently chooses the least likely people to do his work.

He consistently chooses the uneducated, the humble, the simple, the sorrowful, the weak, to show the world that his ways are not our ways. That actually kind of freaks me out. What does that actually mean for me? I want to be a saint. I don’t say that lightly. I really do. That means really figuring out my weaknesses. I know what some of them are, and I don’t like them. The fact of the matter is, though that saints embrace their weaknesses. Jesus embraced human weakness. The fact that God decided to take on a human body that could get sick, and feel sorrow, and get hurt, and die, is insane. Still, he embraced that human weakness out of love.

Not many people know this about me, but I flipped upside-down before I was born. My mom was carrying me around so my head was upright. They were going to have to do surgery, but somehow I “miraculously” flipped back around so I could come out naturally. When I was about a year old, around the time I should have been learning to walk, I wasn’t, so a tiny piece of muscle was taken from my leg, and they figured out that I have MD. I wasn’t supposed to live passed the age of five. In fact, the likelihood of my even existing were very slim. Both of my parents somehow had the same defective gene that meant my body would be “weird.”

At times I have celebrated it, and at times, I have resented it. Had my body been “normal,” I probably would have played sports. I probably would have had very different friends and different interests. I also probably wouldn’t have figured out how to play guitar upside-down. I probably wouldn’t paint abstract pictures or make abstract mosaics. I probably wouldn’t have become an author, and I probably wouldn’t have come very close to God. I probably would have gone to a secular school half way across the country to get away from the boring suburban town I live in, and I may have lost my faith altogether. Instead, I went to Gordon, a small Christian school within driving distance of my house, so my mom could get me to my classes and then home. It was there that I learned that, not only does God notice my existence, but he loves me. It was also there that I learned nearly everything I know about writing. God’s love, reading, time, and failures have taught me the rest.

Yesterday’s post was about trust. I wrote about how God chooses to trust untrustworthy people. He’s made it quite clear to me that he loves me. Trusting someone with your love is a pretty big deal. Both of the priests at my church know that I think God is calling me to religious life. I asked one of them: “Why does God choose who he does? I mean, why would he choose me? There’s nothing special about me.” He effectively said, “I don’t know.” I know my weaknesses. I also know my strengths. I have physical weaknesses and I’m a sinner. I also deal with a few leftover insecurities from when I was a kid, but I know how to manage that stuff. I’m not just a writer; I’m a good writer, and I know that. I’m loyal. I know how to prioritize, and how to manage my time, even though I fail to do this as I should sometimes. The point is, I’m human, and so are you. For the remainder of Holy Week, this is my advice, from one messy human to the next: look at your weaknesses, and try to see them as God sees them; let him use them for his glory. Write about it, sing about it, cry about it, scream about it, and especially, pray about it because sometimes our weaknesses end up being our strengths.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Learning How To Run

It was either New Year’s Day or the day after that I decided what my New Year’s resolution would be. I decided that I would try to share a blue diamond with someone every day. A blue diamond is, metaphorically, in my mind, something that can make even just a moment a little better than it otherwise would have been. I decided on this because God has shared countless blue diamonds with me. I use this metaphor because of something that happened last September, which you can read about here. I decided on this because I’ve come to understand that God can take any tiny little nugget of faith, or any loving action, and turn it into something powerful and effective. The thing is, my resolution was that would share blue diamonds, but I’m finding that more difficult than I anticipated, so I’ve changed my tune a little bit. My new resolution is that I’ll share blue diamonds if I have them, but when I don’t, I’ll offer God my nuggets, and he can share blue diamonds.

When I woke up this morning, this verse came to mind, seemingly for no particular reason: “Love is patient. Love is kind.” I couldn’t remember the rest of it, so I looked it up. 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 says, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Honestly, when I was only half thinking about this as I was getting ready this morning, I couldn’t remember if it was Biblical or Shakespearean simply because I hadn’t read it in a while and it’s rather poetic. There are a few things in these verses that really stick out to me.

“… it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” God is love, and, particularly in the sacrament of reconciliation, he not only forgives, but he forgets even our worst offenses. In various places, God is described as being “slow to anger and abounding in love.”

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” This, I think, reflects how we are meant to respond to God’s love for us. God protects us, so we are likewise supposed to protect others in any way we can. We are also meant to trust God and trust the people we love. God is the source of our hope, and we can know that because he loves us, even when things look rather bleak, we have someone to look to for guidance. Love always perseveres. In other words, true love just keeps loving, no matter what.

“Love never fails.” I think this stuck out to me because it means that if love is our default operating system, we will achieve some kind of goodness, even if we don’t achieve what we want. If love is our default operating system, then we will achieve what God wants, which is likely better than what we wanted, anyway.

Last night it occurred to me that while it’s true that I’ve trusted God with my soul, I haven’t entirely trusted him with every aspect of my life. I’ve seen how trusting him, and learning how to “walk on water” as it were, has changed me. It changes everything. The fact of the matter is, though, that I can still see the shore, and he doesn’t want me to only go that far. He wants me to run, and we’ve got a long way to go.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!