Pope Francis in Ireland

Pope Francis has been in Dublin, Ireland this past weekend for the World Meeting of Families, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I was blessed with the opportunity to see him!

I am studying abroad in Dublin this semester with Champlain College.  That in and of itself is incredible, and I am so excited!  I’ve had the dates of my travel for several months now, along with our orientation schedule.  So when I heard that Pope Francis was going to be in my new home city shortly after I arrived, I scrambled to check the dates.  Lo and behold, the free weekend I had available right after orientation was the exact weekend he would be visiting.

On Saturday, several of my fellow students and I took to the streets.  Pope Francis was driving through the city in his Popemobile, and we were ready with cameras.  The had barricades lining the streets where he would be, and my friends and I were able to get right up to the barricades themselves.  One friend in particular and I who share a love of photography and, incidentally, the exact same camera body, set up a competition.  When I arrived, he looked at me and said “All right, whoever gets the best picture of the Pope has to buy the other a pint—of water, because I know you don’t drink.”  I laughed and offered to up the ante by upgrading to the soft drink of his choice if he won.  Then we set up our shots and waited.

Almost an hour passed before the cars that preceded Pope Francis, and he whisked by in about a minute.  I snapped away furiously, and I was able to get some pretty good shots!  I love how he gently smiles and looks so friendly.

 

On Sunday, I bundled myself up against the wind and the rain to head to Pheonix Park for Mass.  Every street I walked along was closed to car traffic, and pilgrims were migrating to the park.  The further I walked, the more and more people joined the crowd.  We streamed along the red, green, and navy routes toward the heart of the park.  After a little bit of confusion, I was able to to find my section, and I settled in amongst all the people.

I was honestly surprised to find how empty my section was.  I expected, with sold out tickets, for every area to be packed, but there was really only a handful of people in my section.  The sections near me were similar situations.  I was a little bit taken aback, but I laid down my rain jacket on the ground and sat down anyway.  As it happened, the section that I was in had its view of the altar and stage completely obscured by a massive screen, but I was okay with that.  We were so far away, we wouldn’t have been able to see much anyway.

 

A half hour before Mass began, Pope Francis rode in the Popemobile again to greet everyone throughout the crowd.  As he drove through the channels, people in the crowd ran to his side just to get close to him.  The joy on people’s faces brought me to tears.

I am painfully aware of the abuse that has wreaked havoc on our church recently.  Between the McCarrick situation and the Pennsylvania grand jury report, it feels like the Church is falling apart around our ears.  Because of my travels, I have been largely alone in my faith as I’ve been learning about all of this.  I have not been able to connect with my faith family in the aftermath of this news, and it’s felt very isolating.  I have mourned in silence, and I have felt very alone.  But here, in this field teeming with Catholics, raucously sharing in their faith and eagerly braving distance and adverse conditions to come together and celebrate Jesus in the open air…  My heart became full.  I no longer felt as alone.  The only thing that kept repeating in my head was the phrase, “Our Church may be hurting, but our Church is here.”

I am not at all trying to erase the sadness and shame associated with this abuse coming to light.  But I believe that community breeds love and healing, and being around so many Catholics who were on fire in their faith despite the atrocities that have been rampant brought me hope.  It brought meaning to the messages of strength and encouragement that I have seen on social media recently as we all reel and recover from the headlines.

At the start of Mass, Pope Francis addressed the abuse scandals and asked for forgiveness on behalf of those who committed the actions, and on behalf of those who turned a blind eye to the actions.  He also prayed that this season of shame extend itself, and I thought that was really poignant.  We need to dwell in this shame for a time.  We cannot just sweep these difficult feelings under the rug and pretend they never happened.  We need to feel our shame, really feel it, so that we never allow it to happen again.  Catholics are no strangers to suffering, and we know that suffering brings salvation.  We cannot run from discomfort just because it is uncomfortable.  We run to the Truth, even when it hurts, and we pray that God bestows the necessary graces upon us.

Since the Mass ended, I have learned more disturbing news.  Pope Francis has been accused of covering up for McCarrick.  This claim has been disputed, but the truth is yet unclear.  And perhaps most concerning of all, when Pope Francis was asked about the account after the closing Mass, he refused to talk about it and told us to use our best judgement.  I am uncertain as to why he chose this response, but I am frightened for what will come next for our Church.  Even so, I have faith that our Church will survive, and I am grateful to have seen Her in stride this past weekend.

March for Life Memories

The March for Life is the largest annual national gathering of pro-life individuals.  It is a protest march held in Washington D.C. in late January.  (This date is chosen to commemorate the handing down of the Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973.  That case determined that women have the right to an abortion under the 14th amendment, and that states have limited rights to interfere depending on the trimester of the pregnancy.)

I have been blessed enough to attend that March for Life three times.  The first time was in 2013, the second in 2015, and the third in 2017.  It is absolutely incredible to be around such an immense crowd of people who value life in the same way that I am.  We are most unified by our stance against abortion, but the diversity present at the March is incredible.  There are groups of people who proclaim their identities as Catholics, Christians, Jews, atheists, scientists, feminists, post-abortive mothers, and so much more.  All kinds of creeds arrive to demonstrate their support for the preservation and sanctity of life.

Each March that I’ve been to is tied to specific moments and memories.  In 2013, I most prominently remember walking through light snowfall praying a rosary with my theology teacher.  This was my first year of high school and my first time at the March, and I was in awe.  We were probably three quarters of the way through the course of the March when my teacher offered to lead some other students and I in a rosary.  Throughout the decades, the jostling of the crowd scattered us, and I ended up being the only one who made it through the whole series of prayers with her.

2013 was a very cold year, but 2015 was surprisingly warm.  The defining moment for that year’s March in my head was standing around at the start of the March before our walking really got under way, and one of my friends stripped off layer after layer until she was just wearing leggings and athletic shorts because it was so warm, we didn’t need to be swaddled in endless fabric anymore.   We all stuffed extra clothes into our bags, which puffed up like microwaved marshmallows and looked absolutely absurd on our backs.

2017 is the freshest and the most courageous year for me.  The previous two times, I had attended the March with my high school.  We left directly from campus, were chaperoned at all times, traveled in a group, and had a specific itinerary that we kept to at all times.  In 2017, I attended the March with my college diocese.  They organized a bus to go down to D.C., and I was the only person I knew who signed up.  I walked 45 minutes to get to the departure point, and our trip was significantly longer than I was used to because I was much father north than before.  We would drive through the night, arrive in the morning to explore freely, march, and then return to the bus and drive through the next night to get home in the morning.  This freedom was intimidating for me, but I made friends with the woman I sat next to on the way, so we were travel buddies and found our way together.  This was the first time I attended the March for Life Expo, and I got so many free stickers and resources, it was incredible!

My strongest memory from that March, though, was truly a glory story.  After a long night of driving, our bus stopped in a parking lot around 4 in the morning to let us get an early breakfast before we got into the city.  We stopped at a rest stop along the highway somewhere in Maryland, and I was sitting at a table nibbling my way through some hasbrowns when I heard a voice say “Hauer?  Is that you?”

I turned around, and two girls from my high school were standing behind me.  We squealed hello and hugged, and I realized that more and more faces I recognized were all around the rest area.  My high school’s bus had arrived, completely by chance, at the exact same rest stop at the exact same time to get food, so I was able to connect with some friends and mentors at 4 in the morning before marching during the day.

I have a few photos from that year, which I’ll include below, but my favorite media from it was actually not produced by me. Students for Life of America set up a camera viewing the street and compiled a time lapse of the whole March.  Check it out!

 

 

The March for Life is a fantastic and meaningful experience for which I am always grateful.  I really hope to be able to return next year, but moreover, I really hope that someday soon the March will transform from a yearly protest to an annual celebration of victory because true change has been made!

Source:

Roe v. Wade Fast Facts

Inside… My high school chapel (again)

You may have already read my first post about my high school chapel, but recent events made it worthy of a revisit.

On Friday, May 18th, at around 1:30 in the morning, the chapel caught fire.  It continued burning for a couple hours, before finally being extinguished at around 4 AM.  This fire was no small matter; it was a four alarm fire that brought responding officers from three additional municipalities.  There were at least 168 firefighters who arrived to help.  It was suspected, but (last I checked) unconfirmed, that the cause of the fire was electrical problems.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had some mixed feelings about the chapel space.  Our chapel was renovated during my senior year of high school, and that was very hard for me personally.  I loved how things had been before, and it took me a while to warm up to the new design.  I still feel that the first version of the chapel was my true home, and I never quite connected as well with the new space.  But when I heard that the chapel was so ravaged that it would need to be knocked down completely, I was forced to a standstill.  I struggled to wrap my head around the fact that the very walls which housed me for four years would be gone.  The roof that watched over me while I fell in love with Jesus and grew in devotion to Him would be gone.  Every last physical remnant of the space where my faith started to have actual, personal, real meaning to me would be…  gone.

When a tragedy hits somewhere holy, it always begs the question of “Well, where was God?”  I don’t have a good answer; I don’t know where He was when the spark first caught.  I don’t know where He was when the skylights melted through.  I don’t know where He was when His house was turning into coal and ash.  But I do know that I saw His signature in the remains.  I know that He was not completely absent.

Many things were destroyed, yes, but some things were saved.  First and foremost, the tabernacle was rescued by some brave firefighters.  All of the stations of the cross were destroyed except the station where Jesus meets His mother, Mary – at a place called Mary Help of Christians, that’s a big deal.  Some of the sisters have shared stories of their meaningful personal trinkets that accompanied their prayer books being spared, even though the books themselves were consumed.  For example, Sister B talked about a butterfly pin that had sentimental value to her.  A charred Bible was left open on a pew to the book of Job, serving as a poignant reminder of the nature of struggle and suffering.

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Image from Sister B on Twitter

There are many more pictures posted on social media.  It was surreal to scroll through them all.  Seeing tiny images of the destruction in two dimensions on my phone made it almost feel like someone had photoshopped it all, and that it hadn’t really happened.  But it did, and now we have to move forward.

In June, I stepped back on campus for regularly scheduled adoration.  Since the chapel was unavailable, we set up adoration outside.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very pleased with what did happen.  Gathered in a courtyard full of young people who were talking and laughing and playing games, and then praying and singing to the Lord, was incredible.  It felt so wholesome and connected.  I distinctly felt like I was in a modern oratory being watched over by Don Bosco.  Whenever I think of Salesians now, this will be one of the most prominent memories I have.  Being outdoors led to some great imagery in my prayers, as well.  I was very strongly reminded of this verse:

“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” Matthew 6:26

I don’t know why our chapel burned down – but I know that God is with us even in the ashes.  We have felt His presence in the protection that He granted the Sisters as the chapel blazed.  We saw His signature in the wreckage when meaningful things seemed purposefully saved.  We have seen Him working in the hearts of those who have chosen to donate to the Sisters to help them offset the cost of rebuilding.  And most of all, we are grateful that His love never leaves us, even when physical things do.

Inside… My high school chapel

A quick note…  Some time after I first drafted this post, my high school chapel caught fire in the middle of the night and was completely destroyed.  I have left the post below as it was originally drafted because I believe that those thoughts and feelings are still authentic and valid.  Click here to see my additional blog post with discussions of the fire and the devastation it caused.  

This is my high school chapel after it was renovated. In all honesty, I still have mixed feelings about it.

The old design of the chapel was very near and dear to my heart. It was where I had seen my sister go through school, and where I arrived a few years later. It was the room where my freshman induction was held, and where retreat and school Masses were held. It was the room where I fell in love with Eucharistic adoration and where I found my home every month when I returned to His displayed presence.

I remember hearing that the chapel was going to be renovated, and I was a little sad, but I figured it would happen after I graduated. Then I heard that it would be renovated in the midst of my senior year, that I would graduate inside the brand new chapel. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t that big of a deal, but if I’m being honest, I was devastated. There had been a lot of changes on every level in my high school in the second half of my time there, and “taking away” (really, just changing) the chapel that I loved just put the cherry on top.

The chapel was closed for a while, and in the mean time, we had adoration in the school gymnasium. That may sound like it was weird, but it was actually pretty cool. Our theology teacher’s dad built us a “burning bush”, so the monstrance was elevated and illuminated with numerous candles. Sometimes we would scatter more candles on the floor all around us. I brought a floor pillow that I deemed my adoration pillow to every session, and it worked better than I thought it would. I should have known that God’s presence would still burn just as brightly even if His surroundings changed.

Eventually the chapel opened again, and we had a re-dedication Mass to celebrate the changes. The altar had been moved backward in the space, and the choir section which had existed behind it had been moved to the side of the chapel next to the organ. The altar itself was different than it had been before, and the entire decorative installation behind was new. The cross itself was also different – the previous one had been suspended from the ceiling before the new one was mounted here. The pews were now cushioned (which was super nice, but also less fun. We used to really enjoy sliding along the waxed wood to get to our places). The kneelers were upgraded, and the aisles were slightly different. The carpet was new, and some statues had moved. And thus, we were given what you see below. I took this photo during one of the first nights of adoration in the new chapel.

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I was hesitant at first, but over time, this new chapel has started to enter my heart. It is not the same home to me that the previous chapel was, and I still mourn that loss in some small way. Regardless, this space has taken on meaning for me, and I think that speaks to the spirit of God inhabiting a place. Environment is important, yes, but God’s presence is the core of what make a place meaningful, and this chapel’s change allowed me to accept that in a new way.

7 Brilliant C. S. Lewis Quotes

C. S. Lewis is, in my opinion, one of the most eloquent Christian writers of recent times.  The man had such a way with words, it is absolutely incredible.  As a writer, he very much inspires me.  I first became familiar with Lewis through the Chronicles of Narnia, and was pleasantly surprised when my father pointed out the Christian undertones in the story.  Later, I read and loved The Screwtape Letters, and I have encountered many quotes from Lewis in my theology classes because he so neatly summarizes important concepts.

It saddens me that Lewis never became a Catholic.  He got so many things so right, that it astounds me he did not complete the journey, so to speak, and dive deep enough to find the fullness of Truth.  Some digging around online shows me that his main concerns were with Catholics’ devotion to Mary and the saints, and their following of the Pope and allegiance to the Magesterium’s guidance.  While those things can seems scary at first to a non-Catholic, with proper study and meditation, one can find their basis in Christ and understand that they are intrinsically ordered to His will.

Regardless of his Anglican ways, Lewis has a really strong grasp on a lot of the concepts all Christians can share.  The light of Truth still shines through his words.  Here are seven of my favorite quotes by him, and what they mean to me.

1) My idea

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Image from Julie Cave

I had never thought about it this way until I ran into this quote, but sometimes, we accidentally limit God.  God is beyond our human understanding; He is infinitely greater and more wonderful than anything we can comprehend.  Elizabeth Elliot said, “[i]f God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn’t be big enough to be God.”  But that doesn’t stop us from trying to understand Him – and of course, we will always fall short.  Sometimes, in our attempts to wrap our minds around God, we condense Him.  We relegate Him to a certain role.  We think He is definitely going to act a certain way, and we don’t give Him the opportunity to act autonomously because we have already decided for Him.  This can be as simple as thinking “Oh, I’m not going to bother asking God for this thing, because I know He is going to say no.”  While there are some safe bets as to what God will refuse, we also must remember that nothing is impossible for Him.  With this quote, I am reminded not to put God into a box and think He can only be a certain way.  I want to be devoted to who God really is, not who I imagine Him to be.

2) Love

Image from InspiredbyJesuslove

This quote reminds me of a form of tough love.  It is never loving to know someone is in sin and darkness, and to leave them there to suffer without trying to bring them to the Truth.  Truth can be painful, and a lot of times, we don’t want to make people uncomfortable.  But sometimes, a challenge is necessary.  Sometimes, we need someone to call us out on our problematic behavior so that we can grow and change and become better.  It can be really tough to approach someone in that way because it’s risky; emotions may run high, and it may lead to rash decisions, such as even ending a friendship.  But to love someone is to lead them to goodness and Truth.  It can be scary, but if you can carefully and effectively do good for another person, then that may be how you are called to love them.

3) Shine

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Image from Quotes Daily

I love the humility that is the focus of this quote.  Another quote that I hold dear is the notion that Willam J. Toms states, “Be careful how you live.  You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.”  That is something that I connect with very personally right now, because I go to a very secular college.  I have run into many people who have never known a Catholic, and I do not take it lightly that I am their first impression of what it means to be a Catholic or a Christian in general.  It is a beautiful form of ministry, and I feel blessed by God that I get to work for Him in this type of outreach.  But this work is not about me.  I’m not doing this for my own recognition.  I want to use these opportunities to teach people about God, to bring them to His light.  With this quote, it feels like C. S. Lewis is cheering me on.

4) The Answer

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Image from Morgan Dowell

This is a great way to turn frustration on its head.  It’s very easy when talking with God to get upset when we don’t receive the answers we want.  Knowing that God is omniscient, it feels like such a strong denial, maybe even a betrayal, when He doesn’t wrap up information with a nice bow and hand us all the answers.  But God knows better than we do; He knows when we need answers and when we need to keep wondering.  I sometimes have to remind myself that God knows what He is doing, and I can trust in Him to take care of me.  I need to remember that God can satisfy every desire of my heart, and He is infinitely more fulfilling, just in His own nature and self, than anything else.

5) Paint

Image result for Remember that He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted.
Image from The Breadbox Letters

I talked in my post about Bible verses for anxiety that I struggle with a sense of control over my life.  I feel like I need to be preparing for everything in my whole life right now, and that if I am not working hard in every moment, then I will fall behind and fail.  This is a beautiful reminder that God is in charge, that He is guiding my life and helping build me into the person I need to be.  I need to remember to submit, to be still, and to allow Him to work in and through me.  I can trust His efforts because they will always be greater than I.

6) Soul

You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. C.S.Lewis. Circle of Daydreams. www.circleofdaydreams.com.au
Image from Circle of Daydreams

Living in this world, we often get caught up in the physicality of our bodies.  After all, they are the vehicles through which we navigate this existence.  Our senses are our method of input.  They are the framework through which we learn, so it is only natural for us to get wrapped up in them, and forget the importance of that which exists beyond them.  But our souls are so vitally important to our selves.  This is a reminder to fix our perspectives and view ourselves as the mystical creations God has created us to be.

7) Humility

Image from Thesouldoctor

It can be really hard to balance the needs of the self with the needs of others.  How do you balance self-care without being selfish, and charity with personal goals?  So often, we feel that we need to decrease our self-importance by trashing ourselves.  We focus on our flaws, we talk more about what we do wrong than what we do right, and we argue with people who compliment us in an effort to seem like we aren’t prideful.  But in a twisted way, that actually is a new form of pride.  You are considering yourself so important that you are the constant target of slander, but you are still fixated on yourself.  But this notion of thinking of yourself less frequently overall is a great way to explain humility.  You don’t have to trash talk yourself to be humble; you can be aware of your own goodness and still decrease in pride.

I could talk about these little nuggets of wisdom for hours, because they are so poignant and apply to so many situations.  I highlighted examples that jumped out at me right now, but these are so relateable that if I were to write this post again in a year, I probably could come up with entirely new things to write about that wouldn’t be any less fitting.  I think these are great to return to every so often and apply in new and innovative ways over time.

Featured image from Ligonier Ministries