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.

“Get Over It”

The world deals us crap and then dares us; maybe even expects us to smile, and fight a battle we can’t win. It’s like a game, or some kind of twisted performance that we have to take part in. As soon as it seems like things are okay, something terrible comes along that’s worse than the last one. Survival instinct or contemporary culture or something tells us to “get over it,” because the consequences are even worse if we don’t. We have to keep our eye on the prize, or at least keep our heads above water, because no one’s going to help us, and we can’t be left behind.

Jesus doesn’t expect you to fight. He doesn’t expect you to keep going. When all you can see is darkness, and all you want to do is fall, he says, “Go ahead. I’ll stay with you. Take your time. Cry. Scream. Do what you need to. I love you.” He doesn’t even expect you to “get over it.” Sometimes you can’t get over it. Sometimes the darkness is so overwhelming that it’s hard to see any light at all. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to see the good in things, but there is good in things. The world dares you to see it, but sometimes you just can’t. Jesus says, “If you can’t trust anything else; if you can’t trust what’s beautiful and good in this life, just trust me. Just trust that even if it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, the world will be made perfect. Your world will be made perfect. You will live. Everyone will live, and there will be no more hurt. I promise you that.”

This has been a bad week. I’m tired, and I’m honestly having a little trouble being the unshakable optimist I usually am. The world has been looking a little darker than usual. At the same time, I see a light on the horizon. Honestly, sometimes I’d rather let the darkness take over, but the fact of the matter is, it can’t. There’s simply too much life and light and beauty in this world. It’s sometimes hard to look at, but it’s there nonetheless. I know that God created a perfect world, and no matter how badly we screw it up, it can never be utterly lost because Jesus saved it, and he’s still saving it. I simply can’t ignore the fact that it was a perfect summer day today. I can’t ignore the sweetness of freshly-picked strawberries. I can’t ignore the strange, but good smell of my bird. I can’t ignore the way my favorite songs make me feel, whether I’m happy or sad. Love is alive in the littlest things, and that’s a fact.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Prayer For Children

Last night I heard a horrifying story on the news. An 11 year old boy was chained to the porch of his foster home wearing only a T-shirt and long pants in the cold with a dead chicken tied around his neck. There were 4 other kids living in that house, which apparently was filthy. The worst part is that the foster mother was working in social services and was supposed to have the best interest of children in mind.

I have an 11 year old cousin who is one of my best friends, and I can’t imagine anything like this happening to him, but the fact of the matter is that it did happen to this little boy who was probably a lot like Dinkens. He was probably in 5th or 6th grade, just adjusting to middle school, on the verge of puberty, interested in baseball, math and video games, and just kind of a goofy kid.

The truth is that I don’t want any kids of my own. I just don’t have that kind of patience and I don’t really know at what age you’re supposed to teach them things. I know myself enough to believe that I’d probably be an irresponsible parent. I don’t know what was going through this woman’s head when she adopted. 5 kids maybe she just wanted kids so much that she was willing to sacrifice their welfare in order to just have them. I don’t know. The point is that people should know themselves well enough to know that children just aren’t a good idea for them, and it’s incredibly selfish to go against that intuition.

Kids deserve to have good, fun, loving childhoods so they can grow into happy, intelligent, responsible adults. Please pray for the kids in that house and all the kids who are in similar situations. Kids who are born into this world deserve better. My mom says that when people have kids they are making a promise to live for those kids. I had an awesome childhood because my parents kept that promise. It just makes me so angry that this lady on the news didn’t.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!