#Lovewins

I’m sorry if you clicked through because you wanted my reaction on yesterday’s ruling.1 I’m not here to talk about the news. Or rather, I am.

Last week, a terrorist walked into a church and continued a long line of crimes against Black Americans. This week, emboldened arsonists continued the attack on Black churches while almost a thousand people died from the heatwave in Pakistan. Yesterday, ISIS seems to have carried out coordinated attacks in 3 countries.

#Lovewins

It’s been all over social media, being shouted from the rooftops by people radiant with joy for their futures and wild with excitement for their friends and just proud of their country. “Love wins!” they shout, as they dance and cheer and celebrate love.

And we whose reaction is less celebratory nod and smile, perhaps in spite of ourselves. There is much we may disagree on, but in this we can rejoice together: Love wins.

It has nothing to do with the news today. Or rather, it does, but it’s old News.

Love won two thousand years ago when he became flesh to cry out his Love for us. Each time he consoled adulteresses or welcomed Pharisees, Love won. He healed and corrected and challenged and gave life because Love wins.

Love won that black day when he took our sin upon him and destroyed our death. He shattered the hold sin had over us, ransoming our souls and winning us for the Father who is Love.

lovewins Jesus_crucifiedLove won when he broke the bonds of death and emerged victorious from the grave. He won when he came back for us, reminding us that not our denial or our doubt or our outright betrayal of him could stop his Love.

lovewins_empty_tombLove wins every time we see a person and not a label. Love wins when we refuse to define people by their sin or their closed-mindedness or their bank statement or their dress size or their age or their ability. Love wins when we too console adulteresses and welcome Pharisees. In each moment of reconciliation, of generosity, of compassion, of witness to the truth, of mercy, Love wins.

Despite evil and hatred and war and disease, Love wins. Because not even death can end his merciful Love. In the face of a world gone crazy with rage, we stand before the void and cry out this truth: Love wins. Because Satan has been defeated and the victory is ours. Because the victory of Love is not a victory of feelings but the promise that Love will never leave us or forsake us, that in spite of our feelings Love has triumphed and will fight for us until our last moment and perhaps beyond.

lovewins Eucharist_monstranceLove won last week in Charleston when victims stood up and forgave the one who murdered their loved ones. In a moment of mercy that will become a lifetime of trying again to forgive, they showed us just what it means when we say that Love wins: it means that Love is always more powerful than hatred, even when it seems hatred is triumphant. Evil has forgotten about the eternal epilogue.

And Love will win on the last day, when he drags every sorry soul he can get his pierced hands on into the kingdom. Despite our pettiness and our ugliness, despite our constant rejection of his Love and our desperation for cheap imitations of it, he will win.

Perhaps it’s more a cry of hope than a jeer of triumph, this declaration that Love wins. It’s the promise that the gates of hell will not prevail, not that they won’t seem to. It’s a challenge to us never to speak (or tweet) from bitterness or judgment or despair but to let God be God and trust in a love that makes us new.

Whether you found yesterday glorious or discouraging,2 in the end Love wins. Our task is to live for that Love. Whatever side you’re on, drop your weapons. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. You want Love to win? Live like it.

  1. But let’s be real. If you agree with me, you already know everything I’m going to say. And if you disagree, today’s not the day you’re going to listen. []
  2. And either way, I love you. But forget me–Jesus loves you like crazy! []
Posted in Truth | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Love Means Going through the Motions

She was seven years old that summer, the second summer she and her sisters came to live with me. Seven years old and still throwing the tantrums she’d thrown when she was three, tantrums so long and so violent I worried for her safety. I was at my wits’ end with that little one. I’ve known some tough kids, but this one took the cake. And I prayed for her and I prayed about her and it occurred to me that maybe she was lashing out because she needed attention. She’s a physical touch girl through and through, so I sat her down and talked with her about how maybe if we snuggled more it would help her to calm down. And I made her a promise:

“No matter how much trouble you’re in, if you can ask me for a snuggle, we’ll take a time out together and snuggle. Because I love you and I want you to know that.”

It’s a great idea. Trouble is, she really wanted me to prove that I loved her. So she’d push and push and push me until I was almost at my breaking point, then she’d look up with a glint of pure malice in her eyes and ask me to snuggle her.

And I would bite back every objection, every bit of justified rage, every shred of pride. I would take a deep breath and hold her and stroke her hair and murmur to her how I loved her.

I wanted to drop kick her.

As I sat there telling her how much I loved her, I wanted to scream and throw her out of the house. I wanted to be done with this child.1 I didn’t feel lovey. Not one bit.

And I don’t think I ever loved her more.

I didn’t like her much in the moment.2 I didn’t want to tell her I loved her or how sweet and good she was. I wanted to show her everything she was doing wrong. I wanted to fix her attitude and make her compliant so that all our lives could have a little peace in them. I wanted to change her. There was nothing there that the world would call love.

But that’s when I loved her the most. Not because I felt lovey feelings but because I chose to love her.

If you’ve been in any kind of relationship for more than 6 days–or seen Frozen–you know that love is sacrifice. It doesn’t just require sacrifice, it IS sacrifice. Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. And as wonderful as romantic feelings or maternal feelings are, they aren’t love. Love isn’t really love, I think, until it’s hard. That’s when it finally stops being about us.

This is why marriage is indissoluble: because it’s hard and the hard is good. That’s what kills our selfishness and makes us more like Christ. This is why babies are awful. Because as wonderful as they are, we might love them only for our own sake. When they’re colicky or teething or doing stranger danger and a sleep regression at the same time, that’s when we die to ourselves to live for them. That’s real love.

And I think that kind of love means sometimes you do what you don’t feel because you wish you felt it. It means stopping for a real kiss goodbye in the chaos of the morning routine. It means compliments on a job poorly done but well meant. It means murmuring soft words to a screaming child who you’d rather leave by the side of the road than spend the next 16 years–the next lifetime–nurturing.

It’s not being fake. You’re not doing what you don’t mean, you’re doing what you don’t feel. You’re saying or touching or smiling exactly what you want to mean. You go through the motions and that going through the motions is a powerful act of love and a step back toward the feelings you wish you had.

But you knew that. You learned about the whole “fake it till you make it” thing when you were stressing out about looking cool at your first dance.

Do you know it’s true of prayer, too? Not just that it gets easier as you just suck it up and do it. It’s actually especially pleasing to God when you just suck it up and do it.

For weeks now, I’ve been struggling in prayer. I’m always good about praying, but I’m not good at it and lately it’s been dragging me down. I’ll give an impassioned talk about how amazing God is and then go stare at a tabernacle and feel nothing, think nothing, get nothing.

So I keep sitting there before the Lord. And I keep saying this same thing:

Jesus, I wish I loved you as much as I pretend to love you.

Over and over I’ve sat there thinking how amazing my prayer life would be if I really felt all the things I pretend to feel. They’re not lies, just vestiges of things I’ve felt before. Things I really feel when I’m talking about them, maybe, but not things I feel when it’s just me and him. And I wonder what it would be like to feel those things all the time.

Jesus, I wish I loved you as much as I pretend to love you.

For weeks I prayed that prayer, not petitioning so much as stewing, until he told me:

You do.3 You act like you would act if you felt it. Not perfectly, of course, but you show up. Every day you show up, just the same as you would if you really enjoyed it. You go through the motions not because you’re getting something out of it but because you’re giving me something. You’re giving me yourself even when it feels I’m giving nothing back. You aren’t pretending you love me. You really love me.

You don’t have to get butterflies every time you receive. You don’t have to be totally focused in prayer. You don’t have to be zealous like Francis Xavier or humble like Thomas Aquinas4 or brave like Catherine of Alexandria. There were probably days when Francis wasn’t zealous like Francis and Catherine quaked with fear. Sanctity isn’t a measure of how you feel but of what you choose to do.

I’ve never been more proud of my little sister than on the countless occasions I’ve seen her speak sweetly to a wild, raging toddler. I know she doesn’t feel lovey in that moment but she chooses to act like she loves them. When she does that, she loves more truly than if she were rapturous at the thought of another moment with her cherubs because she is choosing love rather than being driven by her feelings.

I think the Lord feels the same about us. I think that when prayer is boring or faith is hard or NFP seems like it will be the death of you that’s the moment when heaven rejoices at your small victories in finishing the rosary or speaking truth or whatever seems so hollow and fake right now.

I guess all I’m saying is if you’re trying, even a little bit, the Lord is pleased with you. He sees your brokenness and sin and complete inability to love him well. But he sees that you try and the desire to please him does please him.

The best thing Thomas Merton ever wrote.

The best thing Thomas Merton ever wrote.

That little girl–now a big tough high schooler who still likes to cuddle–didn’t need me to feel good about her. She needed me to love her even when I didn’t feel good. In the end, that’s what she was looking for: someone who would love her when she was unlovable. Maybe God withholds the feelings we so long for to teach us to love him when he doesn’t seem lovable.

Keep on going through the motions. Do what you wish you wanted to do as though you wanted to do it–with God and with friends and with in-laws and with spouses and kids–and trust that you are enough. All he wants is your effort–he’ll bring it to perfection. Don’t let your inadequacies stop you. You are enough.

 

  1. There’s a reason parents come in twos. It is HARD to raise kids–especially defiant ones–without backup or relief or someone to talk things over with. If God calls me to have kids, I sure hope he gives me a husband to go along with them. []
  2. Though oxytocin’s a powerful thing, and I’m a physical touch person myself, so it did help a little. []
  3. I don’t hear voices in prayer. Some people do and that’s awesome. But I’m just going to paraphrase the sense I got in prayer. Don’t get all excited and think I’m a mystic or something. []
  4. Have you read The Quiet Light by Louis de Wohl? I love all his books but this one was incredible. []
Posted in Beauty | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Three Years a Hobo

2014-11-18 15.29.44

My home for the last thousand plus days.

Last Thursday marked three years that I’ve been doing this hobo thing. Three years since I last kept my books on a bookshelf. Three years since I had a reliable address. Three years since I saw any one person on a daily basis. Three years of deflating air mattresses and sleep deprivation and inconsistent eating habits and interminable drives.

Three years of audiobooks and stunning scenery, of granola bars and gas station coffee. Three years of trying to find an unlocked church and wondering where I’ll spend the night. Three years of awkward hellos and painful goodbyes, of changing trains in Brussels and changing oil in Missouri.

2015-05-28 20.48.33

Like sweet Emma, who wrote me a note asking that I would pray for her to become a saint. She’s 12.

Three years of visiting dear old friends and being loved well by people who really know me. Three years of making new best friends out of strangers who happened to see a Facebook post. Three years of walking with people through the hardest moments of their lives and rejoicing with them in the most beautiful.

I’m there for the highs and the lows and many of the in-betweens. I’m privileged to see the Holy Spirit at work and to witness the power of Divine Providence. I’ve stayed in well over a hundred homes and never once had to get a hotel room.1

I’ve learned to trust (kind of). I’ve learned that I’m worth something even when I’m doing nothing. I’ve learned to listen to the Holy Spirit like never before. I’ve learned the power of homelessness to remind us that this world is not our home.

The Darr family knows how to pray. For serious.

The Darr family knows how to pray. For serious.

I’ve seen incredible communities and desperate loneliness. I’ve witnessed deep faithfulness and radical complacency. I’ve felt admired and ignored and abhorred and adored and disdained and accepted and misunderstood and loved.

I’ve started a blog and a speaking ministry and a podcast and a new book project. I’ve been to 49 states and 12 countries and put almost 100,000 miles on my car.

Every day I’m grateful that you all let me love you. It’s not always easy, trying to be for someone different each day of the week with no idea who I’ll walk with tomorrow. But you’ve given me far more than I’ve given you. Thank you for your prayers and invitations, your words of encouragement and your Facebook shares. Thank you for inviting me into your homes and your lives, from London and Rome to Hicksville and Butte.

Has anyone ever looked that good at the end of a half marathon before? She looks better after 12 miles than I would have after 12 yards.

Has anyone ever looked that good at the end of a half marathon before? She looks better after 12 miles than I would have after 12 yards.

Cheering at the OKC marathon a few weeks back got me thinking: that’s basically what I do. I stand at the margins of strangers’ lives and scream for them to keep running. There are some who ignore me and some who grimace and others who step up their game when I beg them to. If you’re one of the ones who started running again after I stumbled through the words I thought you needed, thank you. I’m so grateful that the Lord lets me be a part of your path to him.

I have no idea how much longer this will go on. Some days it feels like it’s really beginning to wear on me. More often I lament that my life is far too easy; you don’t become a saint without suffering, after all. And while I have a marvelous extended community, it’s not the kind of community that rubs off your rough edges through daily annoyances. There’s a reason people don’t live like this, and it’s not just that nobody else is as extraverted as I am. It’s that people need stability and community and home. So while I’ve been given all kinds of grace to endure–more, to adore–an unnatural life, spring has me longing for a little old house surrounded by lilacs and filled with people who know me well.

Maybe I can steal my nieces and nephews.

Maybe I can steal my nieces and nephews.

And yet this life is good. And no place in particular tugs at my heart. So the pilgrim life continues. Jesus accomplished what he had to do in three years as a hobo missionary. It seems I’m less efficient. So right now we’ll aim for three and a half and regroup come December. Between now and then, I’ve got the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut2, Toronto, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland3, St Louis, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. So, you know the drill. If you’re in (or between–Washington to Texas is not a day’s drive) any of those places, drop me a note and I’ll come be your friend.

 

(Here’s what I had to say after two years, 15 months, and one year.)

  1. Though when people book them for me, I spend weeks looking forward to a little space to myself! []
  2. Anyone live between Hartford and Springfield, MA and want a houseguest? []
  3. Please! []
Posted in Random | Tagged | 11 Comments

Princess Saints Picture Book–Big Announcement!

If you’re a parent or a godparent, the most important thing you can do for your children is to introduce them to Jesus and help them learn to love him. But while you parents are the primary catechists of your children, you aren’t meant to do it alone, especially not in the midst of a hostile and noisy culture. With everything this world has to offer your kids, it’s no great surprise that most of them are drawn to licensed characters more than to the things of God.

I know dozens of little girls who love Elsa and Sofia the First and little boys who’d give their right arms to spend the day with lycra-clad superheroes or smiling trains. They hunger for heroes and long for stories of glory and beauty and triumph over evil. And all we give them is absent parents and petulant mermaids, vigilantes and vapid cartoons. We whose lives are fixed on the greatest story ever told, whose heritage is a host of heroes and heroines, we have forgotten how to tell stories and we settle for fictional heroes when the real ones leave even Atticus Finch and Samwise Gamgee coughing in their dust. And this Church of Dante and Michelangelo, having forgotten how to make sacred art, has even forgotten how to tell stories. It’s no wonder our children are drifting away–we aren’t proposing the Gospel to them as an adventure and a romance but as a dull board book with saccharine pictures. Most of us probably see it that way ourselves.

Now I’ve seen a few beautiful Christian children’s books, and even a handful that were both beautiful and interesting, but the majority I’ve encountered leave a lot to be desired. For years I’ve been lamenting the dull Saint books I’ve found, wondering how you can make a story as riveting as the life of St. Josephine Bakhita into something humdrum. So instead of reading the books, I tell the stories to children who stare, mouth agape, as they listen to the lives of the lovers of God. And I wonder why people don’t just write the books this way.

A few weeks ago I realized: I am people. I could write those books. And I have a friend who is a brilliant illustrator. Five hundred emails later, we’re working on a first draft.

This first book is going to be about Princess Saints. I figure most little girls love princesses. And since we have plenty of princesses who are far more worthy of emulation than even Belle or Anna, why not capitalize on it? When our little ones want to play dress-up, why not teach them virtues along with it? And our princess Saints are just as diverse as Disney’s. The book’s current cast of characters includes an archaeologist, a hermit, a philosopher, a nun, a mom, a head of state, and a social worker–talk about girl power! No waiting around to be rescued by some man here, unless you’re talking about the God-Man. There’s an Egyptian, a Byzantine, a Moor, an Ancient Roman, two eastern Europeans and a Western. Two converted from paganism, one from Islam. Four were virgins, three mothers. Only one martyr in this bunch, but plenty of white martyrdom.

The style of color will be like this.

The color will be like this, though the images will be more lifelike, as you’ll see below.

Lindsey and I have been researching like crazy to try to get the pictures right with the right clothes and races and architecture. We’re throwing in subtle Biblical imagery and allusions to other Saints, all in images that are even more striking than the ones on her blocks. Our hope is that the stories and the pictures are interesting enough that your children will begin to love these Saints the way they used to love imaginary heroes. We want them emulating St. Casilda instead of Jasmine, adventuring with St. Damien instead of Iron Man. And in each story, we’re trying above all else to show how the Saints point you to Jesus. So many Christian books tell the story and miss the point–we’re trying to avoid that.

Because these books aren’t just for your kids. They’re for you. I’m writing them in a way that reading them aloud will (hopefully) challenge you to reflect on your own life. Each story is teaching you how to love Jesus better and they’re all followed by some questions to discuss with your kids (or pray about on your own) about how you can better imitate these far-away Saints. I know a lot of parents whose only devotion time might be with their kids, and “Thank you God for flowers so sweet, thank you for the food we eat” isn’t making you a saint. My prayer is that these books will at least nudge you that direction.

So we want to share the first draft of one chapter of the princess book–with rough sketches that will be brought to life with watercolors. Read it (to yourself or to your kids) and if you’re still interested in this project, read on to see what you can do to help.

St. Catherine of Alexandria (November 25)

(280-305)

Princess Catherine loved to read. She had so many questions: where the world came from and why it existed and what her whole life was about–Catherine wanted to know everything. Lucky for her, she lived by the biggest library in the whole world where she could read all day long. She read so much that she didn’t have time for anything else. Not clothes, not friends, and not princes. That was all fine when she was little, but as she got older people began to talk. “She’s going to be our Queen!” they said. “And a Queen needs a King.” “Besides,” they said, “how are we supposed to get new princes and princesses if she doesn’t get married?” “That settles it!” they said. “Princess Catherine must marry.”

St Catherine in the library

This is what they think the Great Library in Alexandria looked like. And see those Egyptian symbols on the vase?

Catherine wasn’t interested in marriage, but she couldn’t exactly tell the whole country no. So she got a little tricky. “Oh, I’ll marry,” she said. “But I could never marry a man who didn’t deserve me. He must be richer than I and smarter than I and stronger and nobler and wiser than I. Much, much wiser.” Well, that was a tall order indeed! Catherine was rich and smart and strong and noble and the wisest woman in the land. Where could they ever find a prince who was good enough for her? Day after day, men came to seek her hand, and day after day she refused them. “Not handsome enough.” “Not kind enough.” “Not clever enough.” Until her people nearly despaired.

But one day, a hermit came to the castle gates. “I know a man who is stronger and kinder and better than any other man in the world,” he said, and the guards waited. “And he knows more than the most learned men,” he finished, and was led to the Princess. There, he told her about Jesus. Princess Catherine was a pagan, a person who worships false gods. In all the time she had been looking for truth she had never even heard of Jesus! The holy man told her that Jesus was King of heaven and earth, that He was merciful and loving and was the true answer to the question Catherine had been asking her whole life. Catherine knew then and there that she could marry nobody but Jesus. Away went her scrolls of history and science and philosophy and out came the Gospels and the writings of the Saints. The more she studied, the more the world made sense. Finally, she understood what her life was all about: to be loved and to love Him back. And the more she loved Jesus, the more she wanted to be His.

St Catherine and the hermit

That’s the woman at the well from John 4 and frogs from the Egyptian plagues. This one is obviously very unfinished.

With all her study, though, Catherine wasn’t ready yet. One night, she had a dream. The Virgin Mary, Queen of angels and Saints, took Catherine to her Son and offered her to Him as His bride! But Jesus took one look at her and said just what she’d said about all her suitors: “Not beautiful enough. Not kind enough. Not wise enough.”

Catherine was heartbroken! She sent for the hermit who had told her about Jesus to ask him what it meant. “My dear,” he answered, “You must be baptized and your sins washed away.”  That very day she was baptized and that very night she dreamed again. This time, Jesus came to her as her bridegroom, putting a ring on her finger and making her His own. At last, Catherine had found a Prince worthy of her—and been made worthy of Him.

St Catherine marriageBut Catherine’s people were not pleased. This was a long time ago, before people were allowed to be Christians, and they reported her to the Emperor. “Well,” he thought, “it must be a very silly religion to say that God could be a man. We’ll just have to show her how silly it is.” So the Emperor called the smartest men in the city to explain to Catherine that Jesus couldn’t possibly be God. One by one, fifty philosophers argued against Jesus and one by one fifty philosophers found themselves convinced by Catherine. One by one they cried out that Jesus is God, the Savior of the world, and one by one they were put to death for their faith, glorious martyrs given heavenly crowns.

You would think the Emperor would think twice once all the smartest men in the smartest city in the world turned to Jesus, but it just made him mad. He decided to punish Catherine for her faith by starving her. But angels fed the bride of Christ, and she came out twelve days later, stronger and healthier than she had been. The people were amazed by this miracle—so amazed that many of them became Christians, even the Empress!

The Emperor hadn’t been able to argue Catherine away from Jesus and he hadn’t been able to threaten her away from Jesus, so he made one last attempt to bribe her away from Jesus. “Marry me,” he said, “and be Empress of all of Rome.” “I belong to Jesus,” Catherine declared, “And will have no other groom.” Oh, the Emperor was furious at that! He ordered Catherine to be killed. And so the brilliant and beautiful bride of Christ, who had searched for truth and found Him, went home to heaven where she prays that all those who love truth will find Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

St Catherine the patron saint

I think she’ll be a little less stern in the final one, but doesn’t she look strong? That’s my kind of princess.

The End

When St. Catherine met Jesus, she wanted to learn everything she could about Him. What can you do to learn more about Jesus? How can you tell other people about His love?

Ask St. Catherine to pray for people who teach the faith, for people who seek the truth, and for all unmarried women.

“Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away. Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked.” (Song of Songs 8:7)

What do you think? Are you as excited about this as I am? And do you want to help support us? Obviously, what we need most is your support in prayer. Please pray for God’s will to be done in our work. All either of us wants is for people to love Jesus better because of these books.

Then there’s the material support. Because we’ve gone about as far as we can on our own. You see, I have all the time in the world–or rather, I can if I want to. But Lindsey has 5 young children, with 3 who are still home all day. If she wants to work on these illustrations, she needs a babysitter to give her some time. So if you feel led to make a donation to support the illustrations, you can do that here.

One of the most challenging thing about this whole business is our attempt to make the details as accurate as possible. So if you happen to be a historical expert (particularly on clothes and ethnic makeup), we sure could use your input.

Finally, we expect the hardest thing about all this will be finding a publisher. Neither of us has any desire to try to self-publish. We know too well how valuable a good publisher can be, especially in terms of guidance as to word count and page layout and all that. So if you know a Catholic children’s publisher and want to pass this along, that’d be amazing!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do for the Kingdom! If I didn’t have such an incredible group of supporters (both online and in real life), I couldn’t do anything that I do and I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed this project could come to fruition. But I know you all are prayer warriors and I know that God’s Providence works through you. I’m so excited to see what God has planned for this project and I’m so glad you’ll all be coming along for the ride!

Princess Saints a Picture Book

Posted in Beauty | Tagged , , , | 41 Comments

3 Odd Reasons I Receive Communion on the Tongue

I grew up, like most Catholics of my generation, receiving communion in the hand like there was no other option. It wasn’t until college that I began to see people receiving on the tongue. To be quite honest, it didn’t immediately strike me one way or the other. I’d seen it in movies and figured the people with their tongues out at dorm Mass were traddy types who were welcome to their own pious observances. I’ve never been one to be more drawn to something simply because it’s traditional, though the testimony of centuries of Christians does often call me to examine a practice more closely. But something about this was nagging at me. I felt as though receiving on the tongue was something I should try. And I did NOT want to.

That got my attention really quickly. Why didn’t I want to? Was it just the awkwardness of sticking my tongue out at a priest? The fear of licking someone’s finger? Nothing I could think of was a reason not to try receiving the way so many Saints had, the way I was feeling led to. So I tried it and I never went back. It’s not because I have unconsecrated hands or because I’m worried about sacred crumbs. It’s not because receiving on the tongue is the norm and receiving in the hand is a concession, though that’s compelling too.1 It’s actually a little odd–but so is eating the flesh of God.

1. I need more awkward helplessness in my life. Until I started hoboing (or maybe just until I gave away my car and had to depend on others for rides for 3 years) I was about the most self-sufficient person you could find. I was intelligent and independent and privileged and my life was totally under control.

The trouble with that is that my life wasn’t under my control at all. Nobody’s is. I lived with the illusion of control and it made me into my own God. When he asked me to receive on the tongue, he was asking me to be helpless before him, to be a passive recipient instead of the master of my own destiny. The reluctance to receive on the tongue was largely a fear of presenting myself helpless before another person, helpless before my God. Every time I receive with my hands folded in prayer, there’s a slight feeling of weakness and surrender. It reminds me that in eating the flesh and blood of Christ I’m surrendering myself to death for him who gave himself for me. It’s yet another way that I try to let him be Lord of my life. For me, receiving in the hands just doesn’t have that symbolism.

Sheen love story2. I’m kissing my bridegroom. This is really what pulled me to change my approach to communion in the first place. I’d been praying about how Jesus was the bridegroom and I was his bride, meditating on the fact that I walk down to the aisle to receive my bridegroom in the most intimate way possible. Communion felt like an embrace to me and receiving in the hand was too sterile. I needed the intimacy of the kiss to remind me just what was happening. I’m not saying that receiving in the hand is a handshake in comparison to the kiss of receiving on the tongue, but it began to feel that way to me. At the risk of sharing too much, I needed to approach my lover with my eyes closed and my lips parted. The Eucharist is that intimate whether I notice it or not but I prefer to notice it.

3.The tongue is extremely sensitive. In ten years of receiving in the hand, I don’t think I once had a meditation prompted by the way the priest handed me the host. He put it in my hands, I walked away. Simple enough. But if you receive on the tongue, you know there are a thousand ways it can feel different and the Holy Spirit speaks to me through that.

In the first few months after I switched over, it always felt as though Jesus was being pressed firmly onto my tongue. Then one day I was at Mass struggling with how hard everything in my life seemed to be. When I went to communion, the host was placed so gently on my tongue that it was like the softest kiss, my Jesus telling me that life wasn’t all hard if I was so sweetly loved by Love. Another time the EM barely touched my tongue and I had to grab at Jesus with my teeth and pull him into my mouth lest he drop. He reminded me that sometimes I have to run after him and cling to him. Sometimes a deacon will see my hands folded over my heart and think I want a blessing. Even that awkwardness reminds me how much I want Jesus, enough that my heart sinks when I think I might be deprived. Call me a Pietist but I enjoy having feelings when I pray and if doing something that the Church recommends draws my heart deeper in o prayer, I’m all about it.

There are plenty of better reasons to receive on the tongue than these. I certainly think that when it’s parish practice it reduces sacrilege.2 And I think personal practice increases reverence, if only because it feels so odd that it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re doing something remarkable.

Of course, none of this is to say that you must receive on the tongue. I’m not even saying that you ought to or that it’s inherently better. If the Church says we can receive in the hand then we can and that’s just fine.3 But I’ve experienced great grace through the awkwardness of sticking my tongue out at clerics. Maybe give it a shot?

  1. If you’re interested in the topic, click through. It’s a good read. []
  2. Non-Catholics often go up and receive because they don’t know better. It makes sense to stand in line and then hold out your hand for something. But if everyone’s opening their mouth for something, they may think twice about that. Besides, people who are stealing the host for foul purposes would have to carry it in their mouths at least until they get out of church and then deal with a saliva-soaked host, which I would hope would be unappetizing enough to deter at least a few. []
  3. And I still do on rare occasion, like when I think I’m about to sneeze. []
Posted in Beauty | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Praying Like a Nerd

The most important part of prayer is doing it. But the second most important part, I think, is being authentic, telling God what’s really in your heart instead of pretending you feel what you think you’re supposed to feel. I always picture my fake prayers going something like this:

Me: Oh good and gracious God, I praise you for your mercy and love. I give you thanks, Father, for your many blessings.

Jesus: Shut up.

Me: What?

Jesus: Quit lying to me. You’re just wasting my time. Tell me what you really think.

Me: Okay, fine. I’m pretty ticked about that conversation I had this afternoon and frustrated that I’m always such a jerk and also this is boring.

Jesus: Better. This I can work with.

So I’m going to be really honest with you here and tell you that my prayer is rarely beautiful. In fact, it’s much more likely to be dull, with a little bit of the nerdy thrown in. Hey, I’m just being me. Cases in point:

Newtonian Discernment

I was beginning to feel a tug away from something I thought the Lord ahd called me to. I’d wrestled and analyzed and discerned my little brains out and finally I’d had enough.

“Jesus, a body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. I know you pushed me along this path and I feel like my momentum’s been slowed by friction, but if you want me moving another direction, I’m going to need an equal and opposite force. I don’t feel any conviction in the opposite direction, so I’m going to keep moving this way until you push me another way.”

This is how nerds discern.

Declining to Pray

It’s been a long time since I studied Latin (as in 4th grade), but some things never leave you.

“Jesus, my heart…. Well isn’t that interesting. “My heart” there could be the vocative case, like a term of endearment. Or it could be the nominative, an unfinished declaration about the state of my heart. Really, it feels like an interjection, a cry of love and emptiness, of fullness and anguish. What tense would an interjection be?”

It was actually pretty powerful, that examination of how Jesus My Heart and my empty heart were interchangeable. Until I started trying to decline “cor…corde…cordis?”

This One’s Graphic

I’ll be honest. I could picture the graphs here, but it’s been almost 15 years since I took a math class, so I had to look up some of the functions.

“Lord, I used to think I was x³. Like, I grew a lot and I hit a plateau and soon I’ll break through and start shooting toward holiness. But I’m beginning to think I’m arctangent. There’s this horizontal asymptote I can’t break through. I just need to you to change my equation, Lord, if I’m going to be any better than I am now.”

Meg=f(x)

Meg=f(x)

Seriously, who prays about spiritual asymptotes?

A Different Kind of Nerd

While watching Frozen, sobbing, surrounded by 3-year-old girls singing their hearts out:

“That’s what I’ve done! I’ve built ice walls around my heart!!”

So there you have it, folks. There’s an old saying: Pray as you can, not as you can’t. So if you’re a nerd at heart, pray like a nerd. If you love movies, let movies speak to you. If you’re all about sports, try to imagine salvation like a football game. I’ve done all of the above. The only rule is that you have to be real. Beyond that, there’s nothing God doesn’t want you to hear.

Posted in Beauty | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Worst Week of Thomas’ Life

As part of my Triduum this year, I took the time to read the Gospel accounts of what I was living in the liturgy. I spent Holy Thursday reading about the Last Supper, the Agony, the betrayal, and the arrest and Good Friday reading every account of the Passion. It really helped me to enter in to the commemorations, but I didn’t have any epiphanies.

Easter Sunday was a different matter. Reading about Jesus different appearances after the Resurrection opened my eyes in so many ways. I sympathized with the women who were “fearful yet overjoyed,”1 saw myself in the Apostles who “worshiped but they doubted,”2 and wondered at the passion of Peter who does everything wholeheartedly, even when it seems rather an idiotic thing to do.3 But it was Thomas who really got me.

doubting ThomasWe know the story, of course. We heard it at Mass today. Jesus appeared when Thomas wasn’t there, Thomas doubted, then Jesus came and Thomas believed. A little late, but still. He came around–even became a great Saint, though he’s stuck with the name Doubting Thomas until the end of time.

The trouble is, we skim over the first part of John 21:26.

A week later, Jesus came back. A week. Between his doubt and his faith, Thomas suffered for a week.

Who knows why he doubted? Certainly the Resurrection was too good to be true. And maybe he thought the other Apostles had snapped–that the misery of the Passion had been too much for them and they were delusional. At first I’m sure he assumed they were just confused, that the body had been moved and would turn up. When they explained that they’d seen him, he must have started to wonder if they were lying to him. As they tried in vain to convince him, maybe he dug in his heels, refusing to be proved wrong. Maybe he wanted to believe but couldn’t see his way clear to.

I wonder if he didn’t start to think they were telling the truth. Did he wonder why Jesus left him out? Did he go over that day in his head again and again, trying to see how he’d offended the Lord? Was he blaming himself? Or did he start to get mad at Jesus for not showing himself to Thomas?

And as the week went on and Jesus still didn’t return, maybe he worried that his friends were really crazy. When he heard reports of other encounters, did it make him angry? Here he was, one of Jesus’ closest friends and the only one sane enough to know that the dead stay dead.

Did he feel left out? Or relieved that he hadn’t fallen victim to the same madness the others had succumbed to? Bad enough to uproot your whole life for a man who can’t even be bothered to defend himself before being slaughtered like a criminal–now he’s expected to live in some delusion. Still and all, it must have been hard to listen to them talk with hope and excitement when he was stuck in misery.

Caravaggio

Caravaggio

Did it take him until that next Sunday to believe? Did he really have to see the light shining through the holes in his hands? Maybe he came to believe days earlier and had to wait, hoping against hope that Jesus would come back, that Thomas would be there this time.

Was Thomas “too smart” to have faith? Was he too proud? Too mistrustful? I don’t know what caused his doubt. I don’t know what brought him to faith. But I know this: a lot of us are Thomas.

We’re supposed to believe and we just don’t. We might not even remember a time when we did. We’re surrounded by people who claim great peace in prayer and joy from knowing Jesus and we’re just going through the motions.

Or maybe we’re not going through the motions. Maybe we’ve given up even that, knowing as we do that this can’t be true.

Maybe we believe plenty but we still can’t sense his presence. We know Jesus rose but we can’t for the life of us see any resurrection in our own futures.

Wherever your doubt is coming from, remember this: Jesus came for Thomas. He knew Thomas’ obstinate doubt and he loved him all the same. He didn’t yell at him or cut him loose. He rose with holes so he could show Thomas, and when he finally appeared to him, I have to think he spoke with the very same tenderness I hear in his “Mary,” at the empty tomb. And he corrects him, indeed, but I imagine Thomas was overjoyed to be corrected by a God he could finally believe in.

Jesus came for Thomas. He brought light into Thomas’ darkness and healed his unbelief and he promises the same to you.

Still. He waited.

He waited an agonizing week as Thomas doubted his friends, his God, his reason, everything. He let Thomas stew. I don’t know why. But he knew. And if he’s leaving you in the darkness right now, he knows why he’s doing that, too. Be sure of this: he knows what he’s about. And just as Thomas’ week won him the confidence of millions of doubters down through the ages, just as Mother Teresa’s darkness won us all peace in the face of incessantly dry prayer, your suffering is working. It may not make you the greatest Saint of your time, but if it makes you a saint at all, it is well worth it. Hang on, my friends. Cling to those pierced hands. Sunday is coming.

I love you Jesus my love

  1. Mt 28:8 []
  2. Mt 28:17 []
  3. Jn 21:7, 11, among many others []
Posted in Beauty | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Meditating on God’s Love

I was leading a high school girls’ retreat the other day and was given the task of putting together some different prayer experiences for the girls. These had to be self-guided, which ruled out my usual Ignatian Meditation and Lectio options. I was stumped, but the Holy Spirit got to working and I wanted to share some of the results with y’all. So carve out 20 minutes, grab a piece of paper to write your answers down (if you want) and a Bible, and get to praying.1

God’s Love in Scripture

How would you describe yourself?

How do you think God sees you?

Look up Isaiah 43:4, Song of Songs 4:7, Isaiah 44:2, and Song of Songs 2:2. How does God describe you in these verses?

How would you describe your relationship with God?

How do you imagine God? What image best describes your relationship? (Father, judge, friend, etc….)

Read Isaiah 49:13-16, Hosea 2:21-22, Isaiah 54:10, and Isaiah 62:4-5. How does God describe his relationship with you?

How has God shown his love for his people? (Deuteronomy 10:14-15, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Luke 15, John 14:18)

How have you seen God’s love in specific ways in your life?

JPII sum of the Father's love

  1. Gentlemen, this exercise might not resonate as much with you–or maybe it will. Give it a shot, but don’t be too discouraged if it’s not your thing. []
Posted in Beauty | Tagged , | 2 Comments

St. Dominic Savio: What Have You Been Doing with Your Life?

Because God knew how far I could fall, he reached in and saved me from myself awfully early. My conversion was when I was 13, and since I don’t generally do things halfway, I was pretty serious pretty fast. I started reading the Bible and the Catechism all the way through and praying daily. By the time I was 16, I was going to daily Mass and praying the rosary every day. If you’d asked me at the time, I would have told you I was a really good Catholic.1 But even at the time, I knew I was mostly going through the motions. I was doing what I knew was right, but my heart hadn’t been transformed. My approach to the faith was more competitive than contemplative–I wanted to be the best at Church so I could win. And given the “competition,” it didn’t seem to me that it would take much. So I patted myself on the back and continued judging and hating and ignoring the Lord. After all, I was good. There was plenty of time to be holy once I was grown. For a teenager, I was doing as much as the Lord could expect. Right?

Then when I was 16 I went to World Youth Day in Rome. And everything changed. Not because of the catechesis or the fellowship or the visit to my dear Claire in Assisi. Not because I went to Mass with a million other Catholics or saw the Holy Father for the first time. Not because of a powerful confession or a new best friend. Because of a stained glass window and a throw-away conversation.

St Dominic Savio stained glassI was walking through some church in Rome with a priest and saw a stained glass window of some 14-year-old kid.

“Who’s that kid?” I asked Father, rather more dismissively than I might today.

“Oh, that’s Saint Dominic Savio.”

“Cool. What’d he do?”

“Nothing,” Father answered. I’m sure he went on to explain more about Dominic Savio’s relationship with St. John Bosco and his work for the sanctification of his schoolmates, but I didn’t need to hear that.

Nothing.

He’s the youngest non-martyr ever canonized. He had no visions, no apparitions, worked no miracles. He was a regular kid who lived a regular life, died a regular death at age 14, and people raced to his coffin to make relics of their rosaries.

What have you been doing with your life?

 

 

For me, that was a wake-up call. I realized that I had to live for Christ in every moment, that it was never too early to strive for sanctity. In many ways, it transformed me. March 9th is the feast of St. Dominic Savio. Maybe on his feast day you could spend some time asking the Lord how you can live your regular life heroically.

  1. Spoiler alert: if someone tells you she’s a really good Catholic, she’s probably not terribly holy. []
Posted in Beauty | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Hobo for Christ Podcast

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know about my exciting news: I’ve started a podcast!

Guess who got a fancy new microphone! Working on the inaugural episode of the Hobo for Christ podcast right now. Get excited!

A photo posted by Meg Hunter-Kilmer (@mhunterkilmer) on

I’ve been thinking about this for months but it seemed like a lot of work, so I’d been putting it off. Then Lent rolled around and I couldn’t think what to do for almsgiving–until it hit me: get off your butt and start that podcast.1

So I did all the research and bought a microphone and started recording and now here you go! I have to warn you: I’m not in this for any technical accolades. So things may be staticky and the levels will never be consistent.We’re either going to be okay with that or you’re going to volunteer to be my technical editor. Deal?

Half the reason I wanted to podcast was so that I could record some of my talks and send them out to y’all. Since I don’t have a decent video camera and I’m not sure people watch 45 minute videos anyway, this struck me as a better plan. Which means I’m recording on my cell phone stuck in my pocket.2 So it won’t be great sound quality. But maybe it’ll be something worth listening to–like the one I’ve got scheduled to come out on Saturday on Lent and the Cross, in which I break open Genesis 3, Genesis 22, Exodus 12, Psalm 22, and Isaiah 53 in talking about the Passion of Christ and what it means for our lives. I basically started this podcast because I wanted to share that talk, so get excited. Talks on marriage and joy are also coming your way in the next few weeks.

If you’ve ever emailed me about a real question, you may know that I’m terrible at replying. Often, I just write to find out where you live and then promise to come visit and talk it over. I’m just no good at corresponding. But I’m great at talking your ear off! So if you’ve got questions you want answered about anything Jesusy, shoot me an email at hoboforChrist@gmail.com and maybe you’ll get a whole show dedicated to your question!

The third format I’m anticipating–and the one I’m most excited about–is conversations with the amazing people I meet around the country. The second episode (which went up this morning) is an interview with my new friend Julianne all about what I do as a hobo. My friend Ellen and I will be talking about the Triduum later this Lent. I’m looking forward to discussing education with Christina, children’s literature with Mike, and the Ordinariate with Fr. Matt. When in doubt, we’ll probably talk through Sunday’s readings and then hope I can get it out in time for people to listen before Mass. Basically, I just meet a lot of incredible people and have a lot of life-changing conversations and I want to share that with y’all!

You should eventually be able to subscribe in itunes. Until then, you can go to the rss feed and subscribe there somehow? And if you’ve got ideas as to how I can make the libsyn/Wordpress thing less clunky, I’m open to suggestions!

Until then, here’s episode 2:

  1. Does it make me a jerk that I consider subjecting the world to more of my pontificating to be almsgiving? Something to pray about…. []
  2. This also means I have to wear my one shirt with front pockets any time I think I want to record a talk. []
Posted in Random | Tagged | 4 Comments