An open letter to my Catholic friends

I sat amongst my classmates, staring at the projector in utter disbelief, afraid of the tears that sat behind my eyes I thought would surely spill out for everyone to see. I wanted to stand in front of the class, apologize for the reality before them, assure them that this isn’t the way things should be, that there is good out there… somewhere.

It was the last day of my first year studying Journalism. I’d learnt a lot throughout the last several months, and my profs wanted to give us an example of journalism in its purest, raw, investigative form through a couple of solid historical journalism movies.

We’d started with All the President’s Men, a 1976 film depicting two reporters uncovering the details of the scandal that ultimately led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. I remember thinking it was interesting and exciting.

But I wasn’t prepared for the next viewing.

After my prof had told us we would be watching Spotlight, one of my classmates warned me – it would be difficult to watch it as a Catholic. Not entirely acquainted with pop culture and movies at the time, I didn’t know why he had made such a comment.

I quickly understood.

Personal stories of actual men and women who have been wounded so far beyond comprehension and, to make matters worse, have all of it covered up by the same organization that allowed it to happen.

As a Catholic, sitting amongst my peers, I wanted to shrink into a puddle of nothingness.

I swear, this isn’t the Church I know.

I’m sorry, this isn’t fair. None of it.

We’re all broken, but no one deserves what these people went through.

I can’t fathom it. I never knew about this.

I had known the Church had issues of sexual abuse scandals but didn’t know it was this bad. 

How could this happen?

How can I not be ashamed of being Catholic when these men have hurt so many?

Image result for collar priestSadness, brokenness, devastation flooded through me and I was torn in a million directions as I felt myself mourning the innocence of so many children who were abused, robbed, marred for life. A small part of me wished I hadn’t sat through the film, that I’d gone home early and continued living, blissfully ignorant to the scandals the Church has had on her watch over the decades.

But that would’ve been a disservice to me and everyone else. Half the shock of these situations is the very fact that it was covered up. We aren’t helping anyone by keeping quiet.

The reporters at the Boston Globe did an exemplary job in their occupations, reporting what people deserve to know. After all, the whole point of journalism is to inform. And, frankly, the abuse victims need people to know what happened.

One thing persistently runs through my mind as I read through the articles about Pennsylvania: I can’t believe we’re here again. But, I have been seeing the reactions of faithful Catholics on social media and couldn’t be more grateful they’re reacting. We can’t keep silent. We have the right to be angry and we should be – if we weren’t, that would be greater cause for concern. That’s the only way anything is ever going to change.

As a journalist, I strive to tell the stories that matter. And the whole ordeal really makes me wonder. Although I’m not directly reporting on anything remotely grave as these scandals in my day-to-day work,  the integrity of a newsroom is only as strong as its reporters and what they do with the information they’re given. So while Spotlight virtually made my blood run cold, I knew it would’ve been wrong for those reporters to bury their heads in the sand – even if they themselves were Catholic.

Had I been the one to stumble across explicit findings such as those mentioned in Spotlight, I know in my heart of hearts that I’d have a duty to report on what the public deserve to know: members of the Church have epically failed and destroyed the innocence of the most vulnerable.

Now that we, faithful Catholics, know of what’s happened, we have a duty to talk about it, just as any journalist would have the duty to report. We can’t be silent. The answer to this problem will be far from simple.

In the face of adversity, it is always necessary to cling to prayer and fasting. But this time, we need to go a step further. We have to talk about these issues. We must urge our priests and bishops to speak out against the scandals, be reassured that this isn’t also happening in our diocese. Because if it can happen in Pennsylvania, it can happen anywhere.

And chances are, it probably is happening elsewhere.

Speaking about these and other scandals, and allowing a platform for people to come forward is risky. It will likely lead to more discoveries and ugliness from the depths of the evil in the Church. People may well leave the Church in droves, and we’ll have but ourselves to blame.

But staying silent is no longer an option and never should have been. We need to speak about it. In the end, God will be victorious and there is hope. In the meantime, we hurt, we mourn, we cry, we rage, we try to rebuild our trust in God and in the Church. I encourage all to love and care for the good, holy priests that are in all of our lives. I myself have compiled a list of priests who I’ll be writing handwritten notes to because they’re also hurting.

The Church isn’t founded upon feeble humans such as the horrendous men who have broken the trust of thousands of victims. Our foundation is God alone. We don’t know what’s to come, but as long as we remember Him, there is hope.

 

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Today, and nothing more

Well, here we are.

It’s been over a year since I’ve kept up with this darn blog… And what a year it’s been.

A year of breaking down, rebuilding myself, and wondering where I’ll go next.

It has been a year of being stripped down to the core of who I am and answering questions about what I’m really doing. The last thing I’d want in the midst of the pain and transformation is a blog that exposes this all out in the open.

But, here we are.

The question of whether or not I’ll continue this blog on a regular basis is one of many I can’t answer right now. I’ll probably make, at the very least, a feeble attempt to put some words on this site, unsure as to whether or not anyone will actually read it. If you’re reading this, welcome back.

Lately, I’ve been on a journey I can hardly fathom, but it’s one that I’ll look back on and appreciate. Right now, all I can do is live one day at a time. It’s all anyone can ever do, but it’s something that I’m coming to learn in the most real and difficult of ways.

Tomorrow will come when it comes, but all I can do is breathe and be right here, right now.

So until then, hang in there. Live today and don’t think too far ahead or behind. There’s no use wishing time away when it’s guaranteed to slip through your grasp.

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Despite my faults, he stands with open arms

DSC_0387 (2).JPGI did that to him. I’m at fault here. Like all of those men 2,000 years ago, I am the one to blame. I’m the one who put him through all of it. 

I watched the Passion of Christ for the first time on Good Friday this year. With every brutal slash Christ was given and every bit of blood that trickled down his broken body, I couldn’t help but cringe inside. It wasn’t an easy watch — hence why, at 21, I had yet to see the movie.

It wasn’t hard to watch simply because of the violence and gore, but because I know that this story is real — and it’s my fault.

This has been something I’ve come back to time and time again during Lent; the idea that I was the one to put Christ on the cross. The paradox, of course, is that he died on the cross for that same reason. 

And yet, I keep making mistakes.

I don’t listen to God, I get anxious when he doesn’t answer my questions when I want answers, I tell him that the pains of life are too much. I put him on that cross, he willingly died on the cross for me, and I still mess up. He gave his life for me and because of me, and I can hardly get through the day without doing something wrong.

But I can’t get caught up in this finger-pointing aimed towards myself. After all, that’s not why Christ died. It’s easy to get stuck in this cyclical habit of blaming myself for Christ’s suffering and lamenting in my own, while forgetting what comes soon after the pain of the cross. This gruesome death Christ endured for my sake came at a price. He went through unimaginable agony on this day.  And while I did my part in causing this suffering, it wasn’t all for naught.

Today, I felt his agony in the deepest, ugliest corners of my heart. I felt myself carrying his cross — not a cross that he carried 2,000 years ago — but one he’s carrying today, for the sake of you and me.

I might’ve put him on that cross and maybe I continually put him there when I make mistakes every single day of my life. But he also came off that cross for us, too. Unworthy as we might be, he gives and gives and gives without asking much in return. His new life is one we have yet to experience, but I’m sure it’ll be well worth the trials and storms we face here and now.

I can’t fathom his love. Love is messy. Love is scary. Love is painful. Love is beautiful.

Love is a lot of things, but it’s not resentful. Christ gave himself for us on the cross. The very least we can do is stop grumbling and complaining when things don’t go our way in life. Easier said than done? Absolutely. But I’d rather live a life of troubles knowing he’s pulling me through them, than getting caught up in the messiness of my own feebleness. 

 

In the bubble

It’s 8 p.m. on a Monday night, my hands are warming with a cup of peppermint tea, my toes are covered by bulky, wool socks, and my legs are wrapped in a cozy crocheted blanket my mom made for me years ago.A hot cup of tea and book in a fireplace. by Eduard Bonnin - photography inside the cafe:

I sit in silence and my mind clouds with thoughts as I scroll through the news.

I browse my various social media accounts when I come across a video displaying the tragedies that are playing out in Aleppo. I shudder as I see posts about a menacing tsunami warning that has been issued for Japan. I roll my eyes as I skim past yet another story about Trump and the electoral college.

As I hold my cup of tea and snuggle deeper under my blanket, I feel a deep comfort. But this comfort, however nice it seems, feels wrong. This awfully uncomfortable comfort is a bubble.

On any given day, I likely consume more news than the average human does. I constantly read about the most awful of tragedies and the most heart-wrenching of stories. As I scroll through articles and rummage through pages of print, I often get this weird feeling in the pit of my being.

It’s in these quiet moments that I realize how much of a bubble I’m living in. And how much I take it for granted.

Earlier in the day I had been complaining, to nobody in particular, about how hungry I was because I hadn’t packed enough food in my lunch. There I was, grumbling about not eating for a few hours, when there are people in this same world who have lost loved ones to bombings and have been totally displaced from their homes. Little mishaps, awkwardness, insignificant moments. It all means nothing when you compare it all to the suffering our world is facing.

I want to cry in response to the heartbreak the world is facing. I cannot put it into words. I wonder, to no avail, why it is that I have been so blessed by this bubble I find myself in.

The bubble is not one that keeps me unaware of the darkness of the world around me, but it does serve as a means of protection. Seeing the world from my bubble doesn’t come with a feeling of satisfaction or pleasure. I realize that the place I am in, both figuratively and literally, is an utter blessing.

And I haven’t done a thing to deserve it.

I look down at the tea bag floating in my cup of tea, which has now cooled significantly. I am overcome by a feeling of unworthiness as I realize that there are people in this world who do not have the luxury of this simple cup of tea.

As I lay down in bed tonight and my head touches the excessive pillows which will comfort me for several hours, I will wonder why it is that I live in the bubble. With no clear answer, I will thank God that I live in it. But, I will also ask him to bring even a small amount of light to the world in a way no human ever could.

It is what it is

Tonight, I wanted to throw in the towel.

10 p.m. rolled around and I realized I had an assignment due tomorrow that I had not even started thinking about.

Some days, I am stretched so thin I think I am going to break.

Other days, I am so incredibly confident that I am where I am supposed to be.

Other days still, my mind wanders off and wonders how different life “could have” or “should have” been if I’d done this differently or said that thing.

With everything I have, I tell myself that this busy time is temporary. I’ll only be in college for another six weeks until Christmas comes around, at which point I’ll be able to breathe again. Then a few more months of crazy, and summer will be here.

I consume myself in my assignments and dive into work as though I’m some kind of emotionless robot. I get through each day and am practically falling over by the time I reach the end of a day, but I make it.

Only to realize that tomorrow, the same thing awaits me.

This is temporary, I tell myself.

But it is… isn’t it?

My studies are temporary. My job is temporary. My house is temporary. My bills are temporary. My food is temporary. My emotions are temporary.

This life is temporary.

We don’t like to think about it, but we need to be reminded. Tonight, I needed to remember it more than ever. The pain I might be feeling, the anxiety that might be swimming in my head, the assignments that keep piling up…

One day, it’ll be gone. Until then, though, I’m not meant to just “stick it out”. Some days, it’s all I can do and that’s okay. But I’m meant to live and not simply live for the sake of living.

We are meant to live lives worthy of a calling. Lives that make a difference. And it’s not gonna happen by chance. We have to intentionally pursue God and whatever crap life throws our way.

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I said yes to follow wherever He leads and that means accepting the crosses He’s giving me to carry. I often wonder why He allowed me to be so busy this year, but I don’t need to look very far to know He’s holding me and working wonders all the same.

Although I am busy with my studies, work, ministry, family, friends, food, bills, homework and goodness knows what else – I hang onto Him. I hang on through the storms of this temporary life with the trust in an eternal God who knows what He’s doing. When it feels like I’m falling apart, He’s holding me together. When nothing makes sense, I need only to look to Him and I am satisfied with whatever comes my way.

Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who possesses God lacks nothing. God alone suffices. – St. Teresa of Avila

 

You’re More Trusting Than You Think

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I can remember staying up into the wee hours of the night, tears streaming across my face, while I put off going to bed because I knew it would mean tomorrow was to come. Questions flooded through my head and without a single answer to be found, I felt as though I could stare at a wall for hours and not feel a thing.

I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing.

A little over a year ago, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. My plans had fallen through and it had felt as though my dreams were for naught. I lacked direction and, more than anything, I had zero trust in my heart. Talking to people about my life was one awkward conversation after another, which usually resulted in my questioning what I was doing and even more wall-staring.

I think back on those days and can’t help but marvel at how my life has taken a bigger roller coaster ride than I’d ever imagined possible. I stand here now, working and studying, and can’t help but smile because of the delight I have for the normalcy which is now in my life. I know what tomorrow will probably look like, and I have a pretty good idea about the day after that. Oh, and next week? Yep, I’m pretty sure I know what it’ll resemble, too.

While I still don’t have all the answers to my questions and little surprises come all the same, I’m in a different place than I have previously been in. Back then, I didn’t know what it meant to trust. I thought I trusted God and His plan for me, but I wasn’t seeing it play out whatsoever. I spent a lot of time wondering how to trust, wanting to trust, and feeling like I was utterly failing at the whole thing.

Now I’m still wondering, still asking questions. And recently, my question has been one of trust.

I was stepping into a bus the other day when I had a fleeting thought.

Every person on this bus is literally at the mercy of the driver. If the driver is careless, he might miss a stop or slam into the vehicle in front of us. But the possibility of things going awry doesn’t prevent any of us from boarding. 

But we don’t think of these things, do we? When I’m heading home after a day of work and school, I don’t just expect the bus driver to get me home – I trust him, as an individual, that he will get me there and do so prudently and safely. I don’t question his credentials or doubt in his ability to navigate around the city. Without giving it a second thought, I step onto the bus and zone out until I get to my destination.

If only it were that simple with God.

A friend of mine said the following to me, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forget his words:

Here I am, sitting on this chair. Now, I am trusting this chair to hold me up. If it were to fail, I would fall down. But I know and trust in the existence of the chair because it’s here and I know it’ll continue to stay solid beneath me. There is more reason for me still to trust in God, but I don’t. Why is that?  

I trust the bus driver to get me home safely. I trust the cashier to charge me the right amount of money. I trust my toaster not to burn the bread I placed in it (…this one definitely isn’t foolproof, mind you).

Maybe these things take little trust. Maybe we don’t even consider the trust we use everyday. But maybe we are all a little more trusting than we think.

If we can trust absolute strangers and even inanimate objects, then why is it so difficult to trust the God who created us and knows us better than any other?

The Grass will (eventually) be Greener

I was scrolling down my saved posts on Pinterest earlier tonight when I came across the following:

If you saw the size of the blessing that’s coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.

I get the obvious message here – we aren’t meant to get discouraged in amongst all the difficulties, because there are a plethora of wonderful things just around the corner!While it’s true and I was obviously touched by this at some point, tonight I saw this phrase in a different light. True, we often go through trials before the joys shine through, but does this mean that in the meantime, we’re meant to just stick it out and wait for the grass to get greener?

I don’t think so.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m waiting for something. And maybe I am. I feel I’m in the midst of a storm and I can’t really see the silver lining right now. I suppose I could accept my current circumstances as they are and anticipate the evident joy that’s about to fill my heart and soul – but I don’t think that’s realistic. I’m not at the end of my rope or having a ridiculously difficult time, but I do have an overwhelming awareness of the current battles that I’m fighting.

All this to say, I suppose it begs the question of what one is meant to do in the meantime. If there are blessings around the corner, then thank God. But who’s to say where that corner is, or when the storm might pass? Maybe the blessings are actually to be found in among all of the messiness of the battle. Though it might hurt and it feels impossible to break down all the surrounding walls, maybe it’s okay that the battle is being fought and that the blessings don’t seem present. If we are constantly waiting, longing for a better tomorrow – then what becomes of today?

Now, I don’t want to turn this into some cheesy “there is good in everyday so smile and be grateful!”… but, there is good in everyday, so we should smile and be grateful.

So yes, the current battle is probably preceding an incredible joy, but we shouldn’t let that distract us from the reality at hand. Sure, it might hurt. In fact, it’ll probably be tempting to give up hope. But overall, the most important thing is to simply be. Whether you’re covered in blessings or fighting your way through the day, be content there and don’t wish the time away. It will all work out in the end, so have confidence that if God has brought you to it, He will bring you through it. 

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