Stations of the Cross

The First Station: Jesus is condemned to death.

Jesus scourged

Pontius Pilate wasn’t a bad guy. He tried to let Jesus off, he really did. He tried to pacify the crowd by just beating an innocent man bloody. But they were so insistent. And sure, he had all the soldiers and all the power, but what if they had gotten mad at him? He couldn’t have that. No, Pilate wasn’t a bad guy, just a weak one. So weak that he permitted the greatest atrocity in the history of the world, crying, “It’s not my fault!” while he crucified the Lord of glory. You’re probably not a bad guy either. But is your refusal to stand up and be counted crucifying the Lord anew? Do you keep your mouth shut as your coworkers spew profanity or sit fiddling on your phone as your spouse slaves over dinner, dishes, bathtime, and bed? Do you make any effort at all, or are you sliding complacently to perdition having washed your hands of the need to stand up and be counted? Maybe it’s not your fight–but it wasn’t Jesus’, either, and he submitted. Shouldn’t you?

The Second Station: Jesus takes up his Cross.

Christ_Carrying_the_Cross TitianWhen Jesus took up his Cross, it wasn’t tentatively, fearfully, or with disgust. Any halfheartedness in bearing his Cross would have made our salvation impossible as it slipped out of his grudging fingers. No, Jesus embraced his cross, clinging to the torture and the shame and the loneliness “for the sake of the joy that lay before him.”1 There is no glory in accepting the suffering thrust upon us with anger and complaints. But if we embrace our crosses, rejoicing in the trials of life because we worship a God who bore them first and continues to bear them alongside us, we will be transformed.

The Third Station: Jesus falls the first time.

Jesus falls the first time Saulgau_Antoniuskirche_Kreuzweg_FugelThe very first thing Jesus did after taking up his Cross was to fall. He became like us in all things, even in failure and weakness. He understands what it’s like to be inadequate, to disappoint. Being a Christian doesn’t mean being perfect–it means offering our flaws to the Lord, then getting up and starting over. It’s running to the confessional, falling on our knees, and rising stronger. When you strive for virtue and fail, remember: your God was a failure, but he kept going and his failure became the world’s redemption.

The Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother.

Taken down from the CrossIt seems his one moment of respite, this encounter with someone who loves him not for what he has to give her but simply for who he is. As her heart breaks, she reaches out to hold him, pushing past her own pain to comfort him in his. As we become more like Christ, we also become more like Mary, loving those who toil and suffer enough to give them the strength to go on. But it’s so easy to be repelled by their needs, afraid of the sacrifice we’ll have to make to love them. Who needs you right now to look past their disfigured face, to move past your discomfort and love them? Are you willing, like Christ, like Mary, to move beyond yourself and live for others?

The Fifth Station: Simon helps Jesus carry his Cross.

Simon helps Jesus carry his CrossIn turning to Simon for help, Jesus sanctifies our weakness. Simon of Cyrene is a Saint only because Jesus was strong enough to be weak. James and John are Saints because Peter and Andrew recognized their inadequacy and asked them for help.2 Self-sufficiency is not a Christian virtue, particularly not in the area of combating sin. In what areas of your life do you need to humble yourself and ask for help? It won’t just give you support in carrying your cross–it may just make saints of the both of you.

The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

james-tissot-a-holy-woman-wipes-the-face-of-jesus

She takes a great risk here, running through the crowd, pushing past the soldiers, and falling at his feet. She tenderly pushes the hair out of his eyes, mops the blood from his battered face, and comes away with his image imprinted on the cloth. For her selflessness, she is rewarded, not with wealth or fame but with the joy of having consoled the heart of Christ. To be a Christian is to be radical, to make people uncomfortable, to suffer for Christ. But when we choose to live with reckless abandon for the Lord, we find ourselves blessed beyond imagining with a peace that surpasses understanding.3 It’s just a matter of trusting that he will do what he said and living as we already know we should. When we do that, we will find ourselves–against all odds–bearing the true image of Christ to the world.

The Seventh Station: Jesus falls the second time.

Jesus falls
By this time, I wonder if the soldiers aren’t annoyed. They have a job to do and this pathetic man’s weakness keeps complicating it. They roll their eyes, they jeer. They view the God of their salvation as an obstacle. If only we didn’t do the same. If only I saw the defiant middle-schooler as the purpose of Christ’s death on the Cross and not as a problem to be dealt with. If only I stopped resenting or tolerating people and started loving them. If only their weakness sparked compassion in me instead of exasperation. We expect the Lord to be strong in our weakness; what if we let him be strong in theirs through us?

The Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

women of Jerusalem Fr_PfettisheimCrucifixion is the most painful and shameful way the Romans could devise to slaughter someone. It was so painful, they had to coin a new word to express the agony: excruciating. And yet, beaten within an inch of his life, dragging the instrument of his torture and death, Jesus saw nothing but others’ pain. “Do not weep for me,” he says, “But for yourselves and for your children.” It’s so easy to get caught up in our own suffering and ignore the pain of those around us, especially when their pain seems trivial. Remember, though, that the greatest pain a person has suffered is the greatest pain in the world. Live not just kindness but compassion, allowing your heart to ache for those who suffer–and then doing something to relieve that suffering, by physical aid, listening with love, or offering prayers and sacrifices. We become like Christ when we love like he did, even when we are broken ourselves.

The Ninth Station: Jesus falls the third time.

Jesus falls third timeWhen Jesus fell the last time, there seemed no hope that he would rise again. He was spent, beaten and bloody, incapable of that last effort that would bring him to the top of Calvary. He could have just laid down and died right there, but he needed to be lifted up on the Cross for all the world to see. And so, in the face of hopelessness, he called on superhuman strength to persist. He kept going. And when he did that, he gave you the same power to let the Lord be strong in your weakness. There comes a point when we finally realize how completely inadequate we are to the task of holiness. We fall on our face, unable to resist the temptations or persevere in prayer. Then, at last, in our weakness he is strong.4 When we have nothing left to give, when we realize that we never had anything to give, then we allow him to be all in all. When we realize that we can never be good enough for him, we find that we already are good enough in him. Do not despair, my friends. It may be Friday, but Sunday is coming.

The Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments.

Jesus_is_stripped_of_his_garmentsJesus held nothing back. He suffered pain and loneliness, separation from the Father, and finally the shame and indignity of being stripped to hang naked as the crowds mocked. There was nothing he wouldn’t give for you. What’s your line? Do you offer him your Sunday mornings but not your Saturday nights? Are you willing to be martyred for him but not to be mocked? Do you hand over control of your relationships but not your internet habits? Allow him to strip you of the walls that you’ve put between your heart and his–your sin, your pride, your job, your standing in the community. The more you follow him, the more you will find yourself naked and unashamed in his piercing gaze. But you have to unclench the fists you’ve tightened around the garments you’ve clothed yourself with before you’ll ever find peace in him.

The Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

crucified Christ bloody
It was not nails that held him to the Cross. One would expect creation itself to rebel, the Cross to splinter and the nails to warp, when their Creator was crucified. But “Peace,” he told them, “be still.” Because even had the nails crumbled to dust, his love would have held him there. In his mercy, he became a slave to love and was never more free. You are not bound to stay in your marriage. Divorces are cheap and getting easier by the day. It’s not the law that keeps you there but your love. You are not bound to stay in your Church. God knows you wouldn’t be the first to leave. It’s not your obligation that keeps you there but your love. And so with your children and your job and whatever else may not seem worth it today. You stay because you are more free as a slave to love than you would be unshackled by all the relationships that hold you bound. And each moment that you choose love, each moment that you are crucified by your beloved, you will find that the nails bite less deeply as the pain becomes peace.

The Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross.

prudhon_pierre-paul-crucifixion

There is nothing in the life of Christ that is not also expected of his followers. So when he dies on the Cross, handing his life over for love of those who despise him, keep this in mind: you must do the same. This is the universal call to martyrdom, the requirement that all followers of Christ die daily to themselves in order that others may live. In order that Christy may live in them. We must die to our love of wealth that the poor may live. We must die to our love of rest that our families may live. We must die to our love of self that our neighbors may live. We must die to our love of mediocrity that Christ may live. Turning from laziness or pornography or Candy Crush or envy or rage or materialism or gossip or Twitter or complacency may feel like a crucifixion. That’s what you signed up for.

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the Cross.

Jesus taken down

Jesus’ corpse is pulled down from the Cross and lain in the arms of his mother. There is only one pain greater than the pain of a parent who has lost a child: the pain of a parent who has given a child. The Father knows that pain. Even though you mocked and betrayed him, even though you ignored and rejected him, even though you continue to deny him and will until you die, he thought you were worth it. And so he stepped back and watched his Son suffer for 33 years. And when it became almost unbearable for his sinless Son, he stepped back so far that God himself felt abandoned by the Father. He watched his Son die in agony and then looked at his broken, lifeless body and rejoiced. Because it was that misery that won him you. And you are worth it. Live like you’re worth it.

The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Jesus entombed
It is finished. Love has come and been slaughtered for his pains. Nothing, it seems, will be beautiful again. But Sunday is coming. In this moment of defeat, of silent agony and hope destroyed, lies the true joy of the Christian life: our God is bigger. He is bigger than death, bigger than divorce, bigger than sin and shame and shallow distractions. There is no wound he cannot heal, no death he cannot reverse. He may not triumph in the way you would have chosen, but know this: he will triumph. Know this, as you lie in your tomb, as you weep at her tomb, as you run from his tomb: for the Christian, defeat is merely the seed of victory. He will triumph.

  1. Heb 12:2 []
  2. Lk 5:7 []
  3. Phil 4:7 []
  4. 2 Cor 12:9-10 []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Beauty | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Bipolar Faith and Its Antidote

I’m staying with a dear friend who knows me very well. Because she knows me so well, she was awfully excited to tell me that we were going to the Chrism Mass this week. I think she was rather taken aback when I wasn’t gleeful.

“Can I tell you a secret?” I asked. “I actually kind of hate long fancy Masses. Isn’t that terrible?”

Mass is longI went to the Chrism Mass with her and spent the whole time reminding myself that it was okay that it was taking so long. I knew I shouldn’t be, but I was kind of annoyed that I’d spent an extra hour at Mass. I mean. come on. It’s not like I avoid time with Jesus. I just wasn’t really excited about an hour added to my usual (lengthy) prayer routine.

Yesterday, I found the only Saturday morning Mass in town. I left the church basement where I’d spent the night with a bunch of middle school girls and headed over there before 8. After spending Mass remarkably lucid (despite my 3 am bedtime), I was ready to get some prayer time in and then head back for coffee. But no. They pray a novena. And not the kind the little old lady in the front starts while people file out, either. Everybody stayed. Even the priest. And it was loooong. Like, at least 7 minutes. I tried not to be annoyed (because Mass had been short anyway), but I wanted to be done.

I had the same trouble last night. Heading to bed, all I could think about was how long Mass was going to be this morning. I knew it would be exhausting to stand through that epically long second Gospel–especially since there’s always a crowd on Palm Sunday. People always seem to show up when they know there are cool door prizes like ashes and palms. I was annoyed in advance because I was going to have to spend an extra 20 minutes with the Lord.

I make fun of other people when they do this. “Oh, you’re annoyed that Mass was 65 minutes? Good thing Jesus didn’t get down off the Cross after an hour.” “Oh, Mass is boring? You know what else was boring? Dying on the Cross!”1

But somehow I think I’m allowed to be annoyed at long Masses and extra prayers because I’m already doing so much. “If this were my only Jesus time all week, I wouldn’t mind it being long. But I’ve already spent 2 hours at church today!”

Pharisee.

The Lord blesses me with extra time with him–time when I don’t have a single other thing to do–and I want to get out because I’ve already done my time. I stay because I have to, not because I’m letting him touch my heart. And I was there in the first place because I feel I have to be, not because I’m seeking him.

CRUCIFY HIMI’m shocked every year by the two Gospels from the Palm Sunday Mass, by how dramatically the tone changes and how the congregation is swung from one extreme to another. We walk into the church shouting Hosanna and waving palm branches, welcoming our Messiah with joy. Not 15 minutes later, we’re crying out, “Let him be crucified!” I thought it was strange, this bipolar shift from worship to betrayal. And then I realized it’s no accident, not just a convenient way to get the whole story into one Mass. It’s the life of a fallen Christian, crashing from praise into sin without even noticing the change. It’s my life.

I praise him at Mass and then roll my eyes when the little old lady in front of me is exiting the church too slowly. I receive Christ on my tongue and then use that same tongue to belittle the sketchy or dull or tone-deaf priest. I revel in his presence during my holy hour and rage at the person who was supposed to relieve me when I’m stuck an extra twenty minutes. Hosanna. Crucify. God help me, today wasn’t just a particularly interactive Mass–it was my life in a nutshell.

I think it’s all of us, especially those of us who are good. When we’ve been sitting around all day playing Candy Crush, it’s not so hard to get up and change a toddler’s sheets. After all, it’s about time we did something worthwhile. But when we’ve played with them all stinking day and made dinner and washed the dishes and put them to bed and someone wants a drink we’re about ready to go NUCLEAR on their cute little tooshies.

When we’ve only spent 5 minutes with Jesus and someone asks us to pray a rosary, it seems like a good opportunity; when we’ve already prayed a rosary (and a chaplet and a holy hour and the Office…) it’s just too much.

Satan’s a clever one, isn’t he? He lets us pray and do good works, sure, but he makes very sure we only do the ones we want to do. And anything done because it’s your will is always less beautiful than something done out of humility and submission. My self-centered holy hour is far less pleasing to God than my reluctant Hail Mary. Hebrews tells us that Jesus was made perfect by obedience in suffering.2 Of course he was already flawless, but humanity is perfected only in obedience. And so he was obedient to Mary and Joseph, obedient to Caesar, obedient to Pilate and the Sanhedrin, obedient unto death.3 Our powerful God opened not his mouth,4 submitting to torture and execution not despite having done nothing wrong but because he had done nothing wrong.

As Lent gears up this week and comes crashing to a bitter end tinged with Easter glory, join me in asking yourself: what am I holding back? What crosses am I refusing to bear because they aren’t of my choosing? How has my self-congratulation gotten in the way of my hearing God’s voice? Get to confession and then make this resolution for Holy Week:

Thank for crossI will thank the Lord for every cross. Even the ones that are just minor annoyances that become crosses when I reject them. This week, I will live in the Hosanna. When my life cries out for him to be crucified, I will bite my tongue until I can muster the strength to thank the Lord for his mercy in allowing this red light or betrayal or stomach bug or extra litany or terrifying diagnosis or awkward conversation or rejection or commercial break. I will rejoice in the small inconveniences and allow him to break down the walls of selfishness I’ve built around my pious practices and nice deeds. I will let my piety become prayer by letting him direct it; I will let my kindness become charity by stopping at nothing. This week, I will be a saint.

And next week I will do the same. Hosanna.

My favorite prayer, by Dag Hammarskjold

My favorite prayer, by Dag Hammarskjold

  1. Yes, I’m kind of a belligerent jerk. You must be new around here. []
  2. Heb 5:8 []
  3. Phil 2:8 []
  4. Is 53:7 []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Goodness | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Reading the Bible through in a Year!

ignorance of Scripture JeromeAside from daily Mass and a commitment to silent prayer, the most important spiritual practice I’ve adopted as a Christian has been spending time in Scripture every day. Even having read the Bible 12 times, I still have to read with a pencil in hand. I’m always finding new insights, being shown new connections, and falling more in love with the Lord as I come to know him better. For me, it’s not enough just to read the books that I enjoy or the readings offered me by the liturgy–I need to wrestle with the hard stuff and find meaning in the boring stuff. And I need to know it all–not just so I can argue with it but so that I can live and breathe and love it. I need to replace the Beyoncé in my head with some Baruch and the Frozen (much though I love that movie) with Philippians. The only way that’s going to happen is if I’m in the Word every day. So that’s what I do.

The first time I read through the whole Bible, I started at Genesis and read till Revelation. It took me 5 years. Every subsequent time, I’ve managed it in a year. The problem with my cover-to-cover approach (among others) was that I’d get bogged down in Leviticus or Ezekiel and it was hard to motivate myself to keep going. When I switched to a yearly Bible schedule, I had a few chapters of Numbers each day but also a Psalm and half a chapter of a Gospel to keep me motivated. Plus the readings were associated with dates, so I couldn’t afford to get behind. I’ve used that schedule1 ten times and it’s served me well, particularly since it’s loosely linked with the liturgical year.

Lectio divina Bible handBut people have been asking me for years how to start reading the Bible, and my trusty old schedule wasn’t it. I began to realize that zipping through all of the Epistles in a month and then trudging through the Pentateuch wasn’t the best way to get much out of either. So I sat down and wrote out a whole new schedule. This one still gets you through the whole Bible in a year (and the Gospels twice), but it goes chronologically through the Old Testament (more or less) with New Testament books and fun books like Ruth and Jonah interspersed throughout to mix things up. It also gives you a chapter of some poetic stuff every day instead of dragging you through Proverbs for 200+ days. This schedule is more user-friendly, more reasonable for those who haven’t read the Bible before, and can start any day of the year. So now I’m passing it on to you!

Second century Christians would have given their eye teeth for my Bible's table of Contents.I will warn you: I didn’t start with the easy stuff. I can ease you into the Bible by giving (relatively) simple, pleasant stuff first. My approach here wasn’t to leave the hard stuff for the end but to put it in an order that made sense. So if you’ve never read the Bible before at all, you could take two days for each day on the schedule or start with just the Psalms and the Gospels. The important thing is to start.

If you print this schedule double-sided, you can fold it up to fit in your Bible. And when you print it, do yourself a favor and print out my Bible timeline, too. It’s one piece of paper that I keep in my Bible at all times–a quick explanation of how everything in the Old Testament connects to everything else. So when you’re reading Hosea, you can take a quick look and see that Hosea was prophesying to Israel before the Assyrian Exile. And you can even see that there are two kingdoms in the Old Testament, a fact that I missed until my third time through the Bible.

Halfway through Lent (Laetare!) probably isn’t the best time to hand this to you guys, but Easter doesn’t mean the end of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving. Maybe you can start this schedule on Easter? Or any other day of the year. Or read the Bible through using some other schedule. But if you’re a Christian and you haven’t read the whole Bible, I really think you need to change that.

  1. Which I got off the internet and don’t have a source for, unfortunately. []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Beauty | Tagged , | 6 Comments

A Money-Making, Grace-Filled Game-Changer

When you go to something like 100 parishes a year, you see a lot of different attempts at wooing youth. There’s a lot of pizza and a lot of awkward games and a lot of good people trying to lead a lot of reluctant teens (and some interested ones) closer to Christ. I’ve seen some great youth ministers and some great Bible studies but the most beautiful community of youth that I’ve encountered was at a random parish in Southern Maryland.

Two years ago (as I remember the story) the pastor of St. John’s in Hollywood, MD walked up to the youth minister. “I hired two teens for the summer, so…we need to find something for them to do.”

Fr. Ray and Rich started brainstorming and wondered: “What would happen if we got young people going to Mass and adoration every day?”

So they did. They set up a day camp for that summer and started hiring 16-22-year-olds to staff it. But this isn’t just a job for these young people: it’s a mission summer. Yes, daily Mass and a holy hour and a theology class are written into their contractual day. They have to go. But there are events every evening of the week, too: pool parties and encyclical study groups and girls’ nights and bowling nights. Some of them are intense and intellectual, others more concerned about building community; all are optional. But the staff knows coming in that their summer job is not a 9-5 deal. They’re there to serve and they’re there to be transformed.

Adoration at summer camp? Why not?

Adoration at summer camp? Why not?

Even on paper, it makes so much sense. Here’s a Catholic school standing empty all summer–why not use the facility? Struggling with low enrollment in your parochial school? Draw families in during the summer and they’ll become part of the community.1 Can’t afford a youth minister? Camp fees pay the summer program staff plus a full-time youth minister year round. Families coming in for Mass on Sunday but not part of the community? Build community for them. It’s easy to fill your rosters because you can charge less than any other camp or daycare in the area while still paying all your bills–and once the price tag draws them in, the Holy Spirit will do the rest.

Wouldn't you want to go to a camp where you could take lego robotics? Or American girl dolls? Or paper making or chess or film production or soccer or cooking or creative problem solving or "Exploring Religious Life" or anything you can imagine?

Wouldn’t you want to go to a camp where you could take lego robotics? Or American girl dolls? Or paper making or chess or film production or soccer or cooking or creative problem solving or “Exploring Religious Life” or anything you can imagine?

But you guys, this is so much more than just what is practical and reasonable. This program is transforming the parish. The families know each other so their kids want to be at church events. Some kids have been received into the church as a result of their experience with the summer program; other families started at camp because it was cheap or convenient and are back practicing the faith again after years away.

The biggest impact, though, is on the staff. These kids take a summer to serve and they come away transformed. They learn theology in their classes and discussion groups, but they also learn it in their conversations with their peers. They learn to pray both by being expected to do it every day and by being led deeper by leaders and friends. They learn what true friendship looks like by building community with the staff–community that lasts well past the end of camp.

It doesn't hurt that they're surrounded by priests, seminarians, and religious....

It doesn’t hurt that they’re surrounded by priests, seminarians, and religious….

And it’s not just relationships with their newfound friends that last. During that first summer, two of the staff discerned a call to enter seminary and one discerned a vocation to religious life. Two more will enter religious life this fall, strengthened by the support of this incredible community. The ones still in high school are volunteering as catechists and itching to get back to camp. Those who are off at college are generally going to daily Mass and spending serious time in prayer. Honestly, they challenge me, when we’re all hanging out and they suggest that we go to the chapel instead. Or when I tell them they can read the whole Bible in a year in just 20 minutes a day2 and they ask if that’s really enough time to meditate on it.

I’ll be real with you: I’ve never met young people with such hearts for Jesus. And it’s all because someone asked them to be holy. I’ve always thought the best way to reach young people was with truth and goodness and beauty, with the meat of the faith not pizza and cozy relativism. This summer program does it: no gimmicks and nothing washed down, just solid theology, intense prayer, and the expectation that you’ll give everything. Once you go all in, you’ll be amazed at what God can do with your meager gifts.

All you have to do is fill in the talent. Hey look, it's me!

Just fill in the talent. Hey look, it’s me!

Why am I telling you all this? Because you can do the same thing–and way more easily than they did. St. John’s believes in this program so much, they want you to have it, too. They’ve done all the legwork for you. They’ve put together all their resources: camp schedule, classes and curriculum, payroll info, even the forms you have to fill out to be accredited in Maryland. And they want to give it to any Catholic parish. For free.

Seriously, all you have to do is take the work they’ve poured into this money-making, grace-filled game-changer, write your name at the top, and sign at the bottom. They’ll help you through the whole process, simply because they see what the Holy Spirit is doing through their program. Will you think about it? Take a look at the St. John’s website to see what their camp is like, and maybe glance at St. Joseph’s, which is starting a camp this summer modeled after St. John’s. Then go see what they’re really all about and send the info to your parish. All you have to do to have access to literally all of their resources is contact the camp director and ask for the password.

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how this camp will translate under different leadership. I think a lot of the transformation of these kids comes from the fact that their pastor and their youth minister are holy men with hearts for youth and no apparent need for personal time. But if you’ve got godly leadership on board, this summer program could do more than use your space wisely. It can strengthen your parish and make saints of your youth all while putting your parish back in the black. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

And if you’re near Southern Maryland, check out the classes they have to offer:

SJSP schedule 1SJSP schedule

  1. In 2 years, the camp has brought in at least 9 new students to the school. []
  2. Speaking of which, I just revamped the schedule to give you a better sense of Biblical history, spread out the hard stuff, and generally make it more awesome. Expect that post next week, God willing. []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Random | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Ordinary Holiness

The very first talk I gave to a large group was when I was in high school. I stood up in front of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle1 during Advent and talked about how Christmas hit me harder than Easter because Easter told me Jesus died for me but Christmas told me he lived for me. “I’d die for Jesus,” I said confidently. “Honestly, I want to be a martyr. But it’s not because I’m brave. It’s because I’m lazy. I figure I can be holy for 5 minutes; it’s the prospect of another 70 years of holiness that terrifies me.” I’ve been giving some variation of that talk for the past 15 years and it’s never more powerful to me than when I’m meditating on the Annunciation.

The Annunciation by Carl Bloch. It's an odd way to begin such an ordinary life.

The Annunciation by Carl Bloch. It’s an odd way to begin such an ordinary life.

Our feast today celebrates a God who became ordinary, born to an ordinary mother in an ordinary town. Oh, of course we know there wasn’t anything ordinary about them–and yet for thirty years, their holiness consisted in the dull monotony of everyday life. Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection were the culmination of a life of quiet sacrifice, of dirty feet and skinned knees, of sweat and stomachaches and boredom and rejection and chores and loneliness. Mary, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, spent 30 years sweeping floors, fetching water, consoling neighbors, and getting sassed by her many (spiritual) children. St. Joseph sawed and sanded and carried out the trash and all three gave glory to God by the very ordinariness of their lives.

How many of us are content to be ordinary? We want to be marvelous and impressive, to have the world look on in awe at our holiness–or we want to be mediocre and comfortable. We see our options as daring, terrifying lives of holiness or everyday, ordinary adequacy. But the Annunciation tells us that holiness lies in the ordinary and that the ordinary is supremely sanctifying.

Cicely Mary Barker: Madonna and Child

Cicely Mary Barker: Madonna and Child

The great saints weren’t hobos or martyrs or visionaries–or at least not above all else. Above all else, they were mothers and brothers and lovers and friends. They were made saints by changing diapers, listening to complaints, shoveling snow, forgiving, begging forgiveness, chopping vegetables, wiping away tears, grading papers, and loving. Always loving. It wasn’t St. Gianna’s death that made her a saint; thousands of mothers have made the same heroic choice. It was loving her husband and washing dishes and sympathizing with her patients. Thomas Aquinas didn’t become a saint by being the greatest mind the West had ever known but by recognizing how small he truly was. Mother Teresa wasn’t a saint because she won the Nobel Prize or founded a successful religious order but because she loved one child of God. And the next. And the next.

The Annunciation by John William Waterhouse

The Annunciation by John William Waterhouse

This morning I was blessed to attend Mass at a beautiful Dominican parish where I received Jesus kneeling at the altar rail. Like Mary, I did nothing to deserve this gift. Like Mary, all I could do was say amen, let it be done unto me, not even reaching out my hands but just opening myself to receive. And now, like Mary, I am sent out to bear Christ to the world, not to kings offering gifts or to angels crying Gloria but to shepherds and widows and pagans and friends and enemies. I am theotokos to the cashier and the fussy baby and the man without hope. It’s everyday, ordinary, change-the-world holiness. It’s day-in, day-out, dull, radical holiness. It’s my cross and my crown, it’s tedious and glorious. It’s time I stopped looking for holy wars to fight and started looking for a holy life in what I’ve been given. I am an ordinary woman following an ordinary God, a great saint-in-the-making following a great saint-maker.

Fiat mihi. Let’s go be saints.

  1. No, I was not an athlete. It seems to be rather a misnomer. []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Goodness | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Only God Matters

I'm pretty tough.

I’m pretty tough.

I do a lot of things that look scary on paper: traveling to Palestine and Bosnia, showing up at strangers’ houses to spend the night, sharing my brokenness with the world at large. But there is nothing that scares me more than telling teenage girls that leggings are not pants.1

Now it’s true that leggings aren’t pants. I know it’s true because godly young men have given me a round of applause when I’ve said this and others have glared at me like I canceled Christmas. I know it’s true because while women may have stopped noticing the half-clad hordes surrounding them, the men I’ve asked have not, much though they might wish they could.2

leggings not pantsI know it’s true. And yet I’m terrified. If I tell them, they’ll hate me. They’ll get so angry and stop listening and tell everybody I’m an awful person. And so (on this as on so many topics) I keep my mouth shut to preserve their opinions of me. Or I say what needs to be said and feel miserable about it, obsessing over how people might feel about me.

I do a lot of that: having irrational emotions about other people’s opinions. I was born with a lot of feelings–big feelings–and I’ve been trying to chill out ever since.

Growing up with big feelings, you develop a lot of coping mechanisms. You learn to talk yourself down from irrational shame and self-loathing, to breathe deeply and process and occasionally to drive to the middle of nowhere, pull over, and scream and sob till you’re spent. When you’re the kind of girl who once burst into tears and stormed out of a room because a friend asked what you were making for dinner, the kind of girl whose college application essay was about what you do to calm down when you’re miserable, you spend a lot of time honing these skills.

It gets to be a habit. “It doesn’t matter that I sounded like an idiot in that comment,” you say, “because nobody there knows who I am anyway.” “It doesn’t matter because probably nobody noticed when I said that.” “It doesn’t matter because they’ve already forgotten about it.” “It doesn’t matter because if you think about it this way, I was right.”

I was proceeding through this litany a while back, using reason and logic to remind myself that probably nobody hates me and even if they do they don’t know me and I’ll never see them again, when God intervened.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, “because only I matter.”

“Yes, right. And also, that guy clearly misunderstood me. And really, it doesn’t matter because everybody else—”

“It doesn’t matter because only I matter.”

“Well, yes, of course, but also it was a long day and so what if I misspoke? It doesn’t matter because she—“

“It doesn’t matter. Because only I matter.

Now I don’t generally hear the voice of God when I pray. Some people do and that’s awesome, but I’m not one of those people. Not audibly, anyway. But there are times when I know exactly what he’s saying.

rest in God“It doesn’t matter because only I matter.”

The coping mechanisms I developed when I was an emotional adolescent wreck were terribly helpful. But I’m less emotional, less adolescent, and less of a wreck now. I’m still far more emotional than most people I know, but I’ve learned to let God use that for the good. Most of the time. And yet here I am, still trying to find peace in who I am instead of looking to who he is.

I spend so much time wondering if I’m pleasing other people. I’ve always been a people-pleaser. “Peggy the Peacemaker,” they used to call me,3 not because I wanted people to get along but because I wanted them to admire me. And now I wonder if I looked okay, if I offended anyone,4 if I was clever enough, if I was boring. I want so much to please people when all that matters is being pleasing to God.

be still my soulI justify it by claiming that I have to be likable to be an effective witness, but it’s not true. I just have to be who God made me to be. It doesn’t matter what people think as long as I’m being faithful. It doesn’t matter because only God matters.

A lot of what I write here I write because I’m trying to convince myself, not because I think I’ve arrived. So when I tell you that only God matters, I’m not saying it as a saint but as a sinner who’s been convicted. I keep worrying and caring and over-analyzing, but each time it’s interrupted: only God matters. I’m trying to let being his be enough.

Love others. Serve others. Live for others. But not for their approval. That doesn’t matter. Only God matters.

The inimitable Rozann Carter knows exactly what I mean. Read more here.

The inimitable Rozann Carter knows exactly what I mean. Read more here.

And pray for me: I’ve got some people to offend.

  1. I’m not judging you, it’s not your fault, you didn’t know, please don’t hate me! []
  2. One of these days I’ll give you my thoughts on modesty. Until then, Lauren said it well. []
  3. Back in the day when I went by Peggy, which is short for Margaret, just like Meg is. And just because you didn’t know that doesn’t mean it’s not true. People are always trying to tell me Meg isn’t a nickname for Margaret and I’m all “THOMAS MORE’S DAUGHTER WAS NAMED MEG AND HE CALLED HER MARGARET AND HE’S A SAINT!!!” Because I want them to know I’m right. Because I care too much what they think about me. And now we’re back to the topic at hand. []
  4. Which I usually have. []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Goodness | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Top Ten Ways to Fail at Lent

Lent’s a beautiful opportunity for grace and growth, but (like anything good) Satan can twist it. It’s easy for our penances to become about us, for us to be discouraged when we fail or arrogant when we succeed. 24 hours in, it’s probably about time for us to start checking our motivations and letting the Lord refine us. So let’s get judgey for a minute–judgey about imaginary people with imaginary problems so we can be convicted about our real problems.

1. “Super psyched about fasting this Lent. #skinny #40daycleanse”

The point of your Lenten observances isn’t to get hot or impress people. It’s to live for the Lord. Most of us will have some selfishness mixed in, but if it’s all about you, drop it and find something that’s more about him.

2. “I’m giving up TV for Lent, but it’s cool. I’ve got Netflix.”

Don’t sub out one empty pleasure with another. Read a good book. Call a friend. Go outside.1 Basically, if it feels like cheating, it probably is.

I love this guy.

I love this guy.

3. “Oh, chocolate? Gosh, I love chocolate. Too bad I gave it up for Lent. You’re so lucky that you didn’t give up chocolate. I guess I’m just really trying to be holy, you know? But not everybody can be holy like me.”

There might be some Lenten observances that you can’t keep quiet.2 And some might be encouraging to others.3 Or maybe you need some encouragement.4 But if you’re just bragging, shut up.

4. “Ew ew ew ew creamy peanut butter ew ew ew ew ew!! Ugh, this is so hard! My life is so hard!!!”

Sometimes it’s veiled bragging, but whether you’re showing off or not, complaining about your penance kind of defeats the purpose. Try asking yourself: is my fast worse than being crucified? If it isn’t, don’t complain about it. If it is, oh my gosh stop it right now!

sorry hungry5. “Shut up! SHUT UP!! Why are you talking to me??? Sorry…I gave up coffee for Lent.”

If it’s more of a penance for those around you than it is for you, stop. Also, deal with your addiction–just maybe not cold turkey.

6. “I love this no meat Friday thing! Seriously, lobster’s, like, my favorite.”

Please don’t use abstinence as an excuse to indulge in something expensive. Or even something delicious. If you really, really love seafood, you should probably avoid it on Fridays in Lent. Penance should be a sacrifice, not just a hoop to jump through.

7. “Yeah, I gave up Skittles but then I forgot and ate them so now I’m back on my diet of skittles as a side dish with every meal.”

Lent is like life. If you fall, you repent and get back up. Don’t quit just because you failed–recognize your weakness and rejoice that your salvation doesn’t depend on your penances. Then start again.

#ashtag #fasting #doesorangejuicecountasameal #sohungryrightnow #IcouldntfigureouthowtomakeducklipssoIwentwiththis

#ashtag #fasting #doesorangejuicewithpulpcountasameal #sohungryrightnow #IcouldntfigureouthowtomakeducklipssoIwentwiththis

8. “Aw, man! There were coffee grounds at the bottom of my cup and I swallowed them. Does that count as one of my three meals?”

On the flip side, some of us get so obsessed with the rules (even the ones we’ve set for ourselves) that we quit being broken sinners in the arms of a merciful God and start being Pharisees. Have mercy on yourselves and let him be the strong one.

9. “I gave up beer for Lent, which is awesome because I’m saving crazy money. I’m going to use it for a new tattoo once Easter comes.”

The purpose of your fasting is to make room in your life for the Lord. I’ve got nothing against tattoos, but maybe if your fasting is saving you money, you could send that money on and turning your fasting into almsgiving. It’ll help keep that selfishness from creeping in.

10. “I’m giving up homework for Lent.”

I’m sorry, every smart aleck kid ever, you can’t give up an obligation.

Speaking as one who’s probably committed every one of these, let me give you some consolation: it’s okay to fail at Lent. It’s hard to fast, hard to turn your heart back to the Lord, hard to live in the shadow of the cross. But as with so much in life, it’s not about you. It’s about Christ at work in you. Start over each day and let him teach you more and more to live for him. That’s what Lent’s about: not fasting, almsgiving, or even prayer, but a love of God that transforms you. Verso l’alto, my friends. Let’s be saints.

  1. Unless you, like me, are stuck in the frozen wasteland that is Michigan. []
  2. When I gave up sarcasm, for example, people kept wondering what was wrong with me until I explained my frequent tense silences. []
  3. “I’m doing daily Mass during Lent. Want to join me?” []
  4. “I can’t do it! I can’t live without Twitter!! Help me!!!” []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Truth | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Lenten Boot Camp

Update: Print off all the readings here (courtesy of Sara Larson): Lenten Boot Camp readings

Of course, that might just be the fasting....

Of course, that might just be the fasting….

Y’all know I’m a big fan of Lent. Fasting and almsgiving and prayer get my theologeek heart all twitterpated. And while I’ve got a million (well, a hundred) ideas of various things you can do for Lent, I think some of y’all may still feel adrift as far as jumpstarting your prayer life goes. So I figured the Advent Boot Camp was so popular1 that I might as well put one together for you for Lent!

It’s the same idea as last time: a daily regimen of prayer that grows in length and intensity as you get into spiritual shape. You’ll start your prayer time each day (ideally in a chapel) with a 5-minute warm-up, offering the Lord your distractions and discussing with him anything that might be weighing on you. When you’ve slowed down and entered into a spirit of prayer, feel free to begin. As Lent begins, you’re looking at 20-25 minutes of prayer time. By the last few weeks, it should be more like an hour, with longer stretches of silence.

Feel free to be flexible with your “silent time.” If a passage moves you and you end up doing Lectio Divina or an Ignatian Meditation for half an hour, don’t feel compelled then to sit for another 25 minutes. As with the Advent version, this is a guideline, not a foolproof plan. Feel free to substitute anything. What’s essential is that you’re spending time in silent prayer–not just prayer but silent prayer–and that you’re easing into it.

It’s pretty heavy on the reading and on the silence. If that’s not how you pray, try another way. But do try to be intentional about sitting with Jesus when you have “nothing to say.” That’s usually when he speaks the loudest.

Lent boot camp

Ash Wednesday Joel 2:12-17; Reading from St. Peter Chrysologus; 15 minutes silence

Thursday

Genesis 3; decade of the rosary; 10 minutes silence

Friday

Stations of the Cross (St. Alphonsus Liguori version); a few minutes silence after each station

Saturday

Matthew 4:1-11; decade of the rosary; 10 minutes silence
First Sunday Sonnet XIV (John Dunne); 20 minutes of prayer (your choice)

Monday

Isaiah 53; memorize Isaiah 53:5; 15 minutes silence

Tuesday

Rosary; 10 minutes silence

Wednesday

Lectio Divina on Hebrews 12:1-4, then silence: 30 minutes altogether

Thursday

CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers) 598-605; 2 decades of the rosary; 10 minutes silence

Friday

Mark 15:16-39; 15 minutes silence

Saturday

Matthew 17:1-9; Reading from St. Leo the Great; 10 minutes silence
Second Sunday O Deus Ego Amo Te (Gerard Manley Hopkins); 25 minutes of prayer (your choice)

Monday

Exodus 12; Easter homily by Melito of Sardis; 15 minutes silence

Tuesday

Reading from St. John Chrysostom; John 14; decade of the rosary; 10 minutes silence

Wednesday

John 15; CCC 606-611; 20 minutes silence

Thursday

John 16-17; 15 minutes silence

Friday

Stations of the Cross (Mother Angelica’s); silence after each station

Saturday

John 4:5-42; journal on the reading; decade of the rosary
Third Sunday O Sacred Head Surrounded (or listen here); 30 minutes of prayer (your choice)

Monday

Psalm 42-43; 20 minutes silence

Tuesday

CCC 456-460; Rosary; 10 minutes silence

Wednesday

Reading from St. Augustine; memorize Romans 5:8; 15 minutes silence

Thursday

Isaiah 50:4-10; Reading from St. Aelred; 20 minutes silence

Friday

Luke 23:18-49; decade of the rosary; 15 minutes silence

Saturday

John 9:1-41; write 5 things it tells you about who Jesus is; 20 minutes silence
Fourth Sunday When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (or listen here); 10 minutes silence; 30 minutes of prayer (your choice)

Monday

Jonah; 2 decades of the rosary; 20 minutes silence

Tuesday

Luke 9:23-26; Take Up Your Cross; 25 minutes silence

Wednesday

CCC 612-618; Psalm 22; 20 minutes silence

Thursday

Isaiah 58; 2 decades of the rosary; 25 minutes silence

Friday

Stations of the Cross (inspired by Caryll Houselander); silence after each;  Wisdom 2:12-24

Saturday

John 11:1-45; Ignatian meditation on the passage (feel free to use a guided one: Lazarus); 10 minutes silence
Fifth Sunday Ah, Holy Jesus (or listen here); 20 minutes silence; 30 minutes of prayer (your choice)

Monday

Ezekiel 16; Luke 15; 20 minutes silence

Tuesday

Scriptural Rosary; 15 minutes silence

Wednesday

Isaiah 53; make a good examination of conscience; 20 minutes silence

Thursday

Reading from Maximus the Confessor; 30 minutes silence

Friday

Matthew 26:14-75; 30 minutes silence

Saturday

Matthew 27:1-66; Office of Readings; 30 minutes silence
Palm Sunday The Hint of an Explanation; 30 minutes of prayer (your choice)

Monday

Genesis 1:1-2:2; Genesis 22:1-18; 30 minutes silence

Tuesday

Exodus 14:15-15:1; Isaiah 54:5-14; 2 decades of the rosary; 30 minutes silence

Wednesday

Isaiah 55:1-11; Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4; 30 minutes silence

Thursday

Ezekiel 36:16-28; Romans 6:3-11; 2 decades of the rosary; 30 minutes silence

Friday

Isaiah 53; John 19 (if not attending the Good Friday Liturgy); Psalm 22; 45 minutes silence

Saturday

Office of Readings; the Exultet; 45 minutes silence

One page PDF (with hyperlinks) here: Lent couch to 5k. All the readings (compiled by the fabulous Sara Larson) available as a PDF here: Lenten Boot Camp readings

Be holy, friends–and do let me know how this works out for you!

  1. By which I mean at least four people did it. []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Beauty | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

“How does this work?”

One of the top questions I get as a hobo (along with “Where do you shower?” and “How did you decide to do this?”) is about logistics: how do I know where to go next?

It’s a complicated question, this, because it’s different every time. For example, I know where I’ll be next February 4th, but Wednesday morning I didn’t know where I would spend that night. Sometimes people contact me so far in advance that I build my schedule around them. Other times I go to meet a teacher and find myself in his classroom all afternoon. Sometimes I plan all year to go see an old friend. Other times snow blocks my path to Chicago and I end up heading to see a classmate in Peoria. I keep my Google calendar and a map of upcoming travels open in Firefox all the time for “planning” purposes, but a lot of it’s about flexibility.

Travels (more or less) from January to May. (Excluding Hawaii, which makes Google maps freak out.) The further out I plan, the less detail there is and the more days (or weeks) there still are to fill.

Travels (more or less) from January to May. (Excluding Hawaii, which makes Google maps freak out.) The further out I plan, the less detail there is and the more days or weeks there still are to fill. So that Peoria to Albuquerque stretch will probably involve quite a few stops but I don’t yet know what they are.

I mostly plan around invitations I’ve received and then fill in the gaps with what makes geographical sense. So how do people find me to invite me in the first place?

1. My blog

I don’t actually much like writing. You might have picked up on that from the fact that I do it so rarely. But I enjoy having written, so I do it anyway. And then people read it and like it and share it and their friends start poking around on here and see that I’m a hobo and contact me to set something up. So it all works out!

2. Facebook

These days it feels as though Facebook has almost as much to do with the direction of my life as the Holy Spirit. I’ve got a gap of a few days, so I post the time period and the approximate location on Facebook and within 3 hours I’ve got a place to stay and work to do. Or I’m worried about the snow I’m driving into and post my location so I’ve got someplace to sleep if the weather gets too bad. If you don’t mind reading about all my travel plans (and woes) on your news feed, follow me on Facebook. Who knows–maybe I’ll be passing through your town and we’ll get to hang out!

Europe in October3. Word of mouth

Last night, I spoke to a group of grad students because a friend of a friend of a friend knew someone who was involved. I stayed with women who knew the woman who knew the woman who knew the woman who knew my friend. Of course, many of the links in that chain are my real friends now, but it all happens because somebody tells somebody. That’s how I’m going to Europe in the fall (do you live in Europe? I want to come to you!!) and how I may finally make it to Alaska this summer–people who know people.

4. Straight up Providence

It’s all Providence, of course, but sometimes it’s more obvious: the guy who comes to check on me because I pulled over in front of his house to make a phone call–and then ends up praying over me in the middle of the street; the priest who introduces himself and then offers me a house to stay in and a youth group to speak at; the lady next to me on the plane who says I’ve always got a home with her; the broken-down car resulting in a plane ticket donated by a stranger. The crazy stories that keep reminding me that it’s not about me.

In the end, I don’t have to plan or worry or figure anything out. I serve a mighty God who’s been planning my hoboing since before there was time. After so many years of running my own life (and doing a rather miserable job), it’s a relief to acknowledge the he was always in charge. How does this work? Grace. Providence. And mercy working on a broken heart learning every day to trust. Thanks for all your prayers and support, friends–I couldn’t do this without the Holy Spirit working through you.

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Random | Tagged , | 5 Comments

“Date” Is Not a Four-Letter Word

I got a Facebook message a few years back from a guy I kind of knew, a good Catholic man who was friends with a lot of my friends. “We should hang out and get to know each other better,” he said. “Want to go get coffee or a beer some time?”

Now, when a man comes out of nowhere to ask a woman he barely knows out for drinks, it’s generally assumed that it’s a date. But at this point in my life, I’d just determined that I was going to enter the convent (though I hadn’t yet told anybody). So I knew I couldn’t go on a date with this guy.

The trouble was he didn’t actually say date. And while I could have said no to a date, I couldn’t really say no to hanging out with a guy I was kind of friends with. I couldn’t respond to his message with, “Sorry, I’m not dating right now,” since he hadn’t asked me on a date. And I couldn’t say, “No, I don’t hang out with men,” because that’s strange.

Poor Bad Luck Brian. If only he had used the word date.

Poor Bad Luck Brian. If only he had used the word date.

So I said yes. I got there early and bought my own coffee. There was no chemistry. When I mentioned that I’d like to see a hockey game and he suggested that we go together, I changed the subject. When he said he had fun and would like to do it again, I changed the subject. I was sending as many signals as I could without rejecting an offer that hadn’t technically been made.

He called a few days later and asked if I wanted to hang out again. I emailed and told him I was pretty busy until the new year (it was mid-November). I hoped that was obvious enough,1 but in January he casually emailed to say he was going to the ballet and would I like to tag along. I’d had enough of subtlety, so I just bit the bullet and was straight with him:

“I’m sorry if I’m misreading things,” I said awkwardly, “but I’m not dating right now. If you’re doing something in a group, I’d love to join y’all, but I’m not interested in a relationship.”

My awkward email was met with an awkward response in which the poor man apologized if he had made me uncomfortable. As far as I can remember, we never really spoke after that.

I found the whole experience so frustrating. If he had asked me on a date, I could have told him I wasn’t interested and it all would have been done. No awkwardness, no games, no confusion. I was convinced long before this, but the experience cemented my position: guys need to man up and use the word date.2

Stop texting for weeks on end without making any kind of commitment. Stop hanging out solo without clarifying your intentions. Save her (and her girlfriends) from the hours of analysis of your every text and casual comment and tell her where you stand:

“I think you’re lovely.3 Could I take you on a date? Maybe this Saturday?”

The cards are on the table and your head is on the chopping block. I understand that. I get that in being clear about your heart you’re offering it to her to break. But consider this: your purpose as a man isn’t to get women, much though society might disagree. Your purpose as a man is to honor the women in your life. To love God and neighbor, of course, but particularly to guard the hearts of women. JPII put it this way: “God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.” And I can tell you that every man who’s asked me on a date—even if I said no—made me feel more beautiful and more worthy of love.

duty dignity

Consider that for a minute. When you ask a woman out, you’re risking rejection, and that is a hard thing to risk. But even if she rejects you, she becomes more aware of her value. She finds herself holding men to a higher standard. I think that’s worth the pain.

In 21st century America, you don’t meet a lot of damsels in distress. Men don’t get the opportunity to put on armor and fight for women physically. But the women in your life are under attack every moment of every day and they need you to fight for them. In the way you talk to them and about them and the way you look at them—the way you look at women in real life and the way you look at women on the internet4—you can fight for the women you love so much. By standing up to the guys who give men a bad name, by refusing to join their ranks, you are a warrior for your wives and daughters and mothers and friends. One way you can do this is by risking rejection to treat them with honor, to avoid games and weakness and commit yourself. Use the word date.

And ladies, please, please if a man has the courage to ask you on a date, be kind. My rule when I was on the dating scene was that I would give any man who wasn’t wildly objectionable one date. One date, I figured, was an opportunity to see if we might be compatible; it was not a preamble to a proposal. You might not feel comfortable saying yes to a date, but say no kindly. Tell him you’re flattered but you’re not interested. Thank him for his courage. Don’t tell everyone you know. Don’t lead him on. Do not tell him you’re not looking for a relationship if you’re just not into him. Recognize the sacrifice he’s making in putting his heart out there and honor him for that.

hey girl rosaryGentlemen, I really think it’s a win-win for you. You’re either going on a date with a beautiful lady or you’re a hero with a few battle scars. During my years and years of being “ugly” and “unloved,” there were a few guys who had the guts to ask me out instead of just dancing around the issue. Because the Lord was protecting me from myself, I wasn’t interested in most of the men who asked.5 But each time I said no, I felt like maybe I was lovable, like maybe I wasn’t too ugly and too loud and too abrasive and too worthless. I think about those guys sometimes. I’m so grateful to them, and even to the ones who couldn’t quite muster the courage to use the word date—they patched together some of the shreds of my self-esteem and handed it to me with their sacrificial love.

If there’s a woman you’re interested in, gentlemen, stop beating around the bush. Stop “talking” or making sure she’s invited when your friends go out. Stop conspiring to show up where you know she’ll be. Suck it up and take a risk. Ask her on a date. She deserves it. So do you.

  1. Guys, if a girl says vaguely that she’s busy for the next month and a half, she’s probably not interested. []
  2. There’s no official Church teaching that men should be doing the asking. It’s just my opinion. Having asked quite a few guys out in my day (and seen it done), I’m convinced that it’s not good for a woman’s heart. A woman needs to know that she’s worth pursuing and a man needs to know that he has what it takes to win her. Not to mention the fact that women read meaning into every touch and pause and preposition and we just make ourselves crazy when we’re debating asking a guy out. Y’all are welcome to be far more liberated and modern than I’ve become in my old age and defy all gender roles. But whoever’s doing the asking, someone needs to take the risk and use the d-word. []
  3. great/cool/fascinating/whatever doesn’t sound awkward to you []
  4. Pause for men and women in the audience to be struck by horror at their use of pornography and go get help. []
  5. Seriously, when I fall, I fall hard. In retrospect, I think God was protecting me in making me perpetually single. I could easily have stumbled into marriage simply because a reasonable guy happened to be interested. []

You might also enjoy:

Posted in Goodness | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments