I answer a lot of the same questions when I speak: Where do you shower? How do you get money? How did you decide to do this? And I don’t mind answering them, but sometimes I get really good questions that make me stop and think. A recent one was my favorite parable.1 So I got to thinking about some of my other favorites and thought I’d share them with y’all.
Now, I’m a rather indecisive person, so these are all subject to change. And some of them really might only be my favorite today and never again. But as of right now, here are my favorites:
Gospel: John. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”2 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”3 “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, do not sin any more.”4 “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage: I have conquered the world.”5 “And Jesus wept.”6 “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”7
Psalm: 20 (Grail translation)
May the Lord answer in time of trial;
may the name of Jacob’s God protect you.
May he send you help from his shrine
and give you support from Sion.
May he remember all your offerings
and receive your sacrifice with favor.
May he give you your heart’s desire
and fulfill every one of your plans.
May he ring out our joy at your victory
and rejoice in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your prayers.
I am sure now that the Lord
will give victory to his anointed,
will reply from his holy heaven
with the mighty victory of his hand.
Some trust in chariots or horses,
but we in the name of the Lord.
They will collapse and fall,
but we shall stand and hold firm.
Give victory to the king, O Lord,
give answer on the day we call
Sometimes, to memorize Bible passages, I set them to music. This one happens to be recorded on my computer, so if you promise not to be annoyed by the metronome in the background, you can listen in:
Book of the Bible: Isaiah. “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son and call his name Emmanuel.”8 “You are precious in my sight, you are beautiful, and I love you.”9 “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken my love will never leave you.”10 “Can a mother forget her children? Be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.”11 “You shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused,’ for the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your builder shall marry you. And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”12
And yes, those are all set to music in my head.
Bible Story: Jonah. I love what a drama queen he is. I love how he runs from God. I love how grudgingly he does God’s will. I love the fit he pitches after God works miracles through his reluctant obedience. I just really identify with him, I guess. Also, Moses and the buts, Elijah’s still small voice,13 and the sacrifice of Isaac.14
Gospel Story: The Anointing at Bethany (Mt 26:6-13). Scholars think that the oil she used on Jesus was her dowry. She kept nothing back, offering her past, her present, and her future in her desperate longing to be close to Christ. If only.
Place on Earth: Assisi. Have you been? Go! It can get crowded around feast days, but when it’s quiet, there’s a spirit of prayer that permeates the place. I love Rome, too, but Assisi makes it more possible to submerge yourself in the sacred without being dragged out by Vespas and lingerie ads. Do make sure you get to pray before the relics of St. Clare. She can be easy to miss in the hype surrounding Francis, but that spot before her body has been one of the most important places in my life.
Place in the Holy Land: the synagogue at Capernaum. You wouldn’t think it, given that I’m pretty much a professional Catholic, but I’m quite a skeptic. So visiting the Holy Land was hard for me–there’s just not a lot of evidence for the claims that this is the exact spot where Jesus died or this is the spot where Mary met Elizabeth. Since it doesn’t really matter, I didn’t much mind, but it did get frustrating, waiting in line for half an hour to see a place where Jesus maybe was 2000 years ago when I could walk right in to the chapel where he is right now. But Capernaum is definitely the Capernaum. It’s in the right spot and it’s even labeled. And while they like to tell you “This is Simon Peter’s house” or “This is where Jesus healed whoever,” eventually you get to the synagogue, which is the ruins of a first century synagogue. The only synagogue in the village, it’s pretty clear that it’s the synagogue from John 6. And the synagogue in John 6 is where Jesus gave the Bread of Life Discourse. Intense.
Saint: Josephine Bakhita. Okay, this is really hard. St. Damien and St. Catherine of Alexandria are my standard answers. I also love Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, Edmund Campion, Margaret of Castello, John the Beloved, and about a hundred others. But yesterday was Josephine’s feast day and she wanted to be a Sister so bad that she fought her “owners” all the way to the Italian courts for her freedom and then said that she thanked God that she had been sold into slavery because that’s how she came to know Christ. And then she lived the rest of her life in mundane religious obscurity. Yeah.
Hymn: Come Thou Fount.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Praise Song: How He Loves.
The lyrics are just exactly what my heart needs to be reminded of: how he loves me.
Feast Day: The Annunciation (March 25th) This is where it all began. Mary’s yes brought about God made man. In being incarnate at the Annunciation, God the Son consented to 33 years of poverty, ignominy, and rejection, culminating in betrayal, torture, shame and death. The Annunciation holds the promise of Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter, and all because one girl was willing to do God’s will. What a day.
Book: On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard. It’s an intellectual’s love letter to the Church. Howard has an impressive vocabulary–so much so that I read it with a dictionary–but he’s not showing off. There’s a richness in here that you don’t encounter in a lot of modern writing. Just go read it.
Liturgical Season: the Triduum. I kind of feel like it’s cheating to pick such a short and hardcore season, but it’s technically a season and it’s awesome. Tenebrae and the silence at the end of Holy Thursday and the empty tabernacle and the Seven Last Words and stations and priests prostrating and the darkened church and the seven first readings and the Gloria and the lilies and the Alleluia and the bells and the lights and the feasting! I always end the Triduum exhausted, even when I’ve been on retreat. It just makes my heart so tired–and so full.
Sacrament: the Eucharist. I feel as though I ought to pick Baptism since Baptism saves you and is necessary15 for salvation. And then I feel as though I should pick Confession since everything good in my life is the direct result of one good confession in 1997. But, oh, friends, the Eucharist! Jesus Christ in the flesh, holding nothing back, stopping at nothing to be close to you, desperate for you. Source and summit, “the center of existence” (Flannery O’Connor), “the one great thing to love on earth” (Tolkien).
Thing about being Catholic: Ditto. Also, the fullness of truth. Obviously, it’s the Eucharist. But a very close second is the confidence I have in the truth of Catholic doctrine, the knowledge that there is an answer to every question I have. It’s a truth steeped in theology, inviting questions and searching and hours of meditation, but the truth is there for the embracing. What a gift this Church is!
Okay, it’s on you. Tell me some of your favorites! Answer them all or just pick out the ones you can decide on. And feel free to throw a few new categories in there–I may even get around to adding them!