When Being an Easter People Is a Bad Thing

Easter candle liliesHappy Easter, friends! We are an Easter people over here–all 50 days of it. So along with my feasting (and there has been plenty of feasting) all during the Easter season I’ve been trying to use the stories from Acts as much as I can. After all, Acts is our Easter book, right? We read from it every day of Easter. So let’s be all about the Apostles and the amazing work they did, especially during this Easter season!

Until last week when I realized: almost none of the Acts of the Apostles takes place during Easter.1 Because during Easter, the Apostles weren’t out doing anything. For forty days they were being taught by Jesus, learning to forgive sins and feeling their hearts burn within them as he opened the Scriptures to them. And then he ascended. And maybe they felt empowered by the great commission or maybe they felt afraid and alone or maybe they wondered if this wasn’t another 3-day psych-out. But whatever they were feeling, here’s what they did:

They kept to themselves.

“They were continually in the temple praising God,”2 which is great. They “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”3 They were in fellowship and in prayer amongst themselves, but they weren’t going out. They weren’t preaching Christ crucified or offering his mercy to the nations.

They had an excuse: they hadn’t yet received the Holy Spirit.

What’s our excuse?

We received the Holy Spirit at baptism and his presence was strengthened in confirmation. We claim his name over our lives every time we cross ourselves. We’ve been called and filled and sent out.

But most of us are still locked in the upper room.

We’ve met the risen Christ and many of us have been transformed. Like Peter our sins have been forgiven, like Mary Magdalene our broken hearts healed, like Thomas our doubts satisfied. We’ve been made new. And now we’re sitting around doing nothing about it.

Oh, we might be in the temple day in and day out. We might be meeting in fellowship and even praying together. But we’re not reaching out to the world.

I wonder what happens when the Spirit comes down as tongues of fire and we refuse even to open the windows, let alone go out into the streets. My hunch is that it doesn’t look pretty and doesn’t end well.

That’s where we’ve been as a Church for far too long. In the West, at least, we’ve been focusing inward, trying (halfheartedly, in most cases) to take care of our own. But when a missionary Church locks itself in an upper room, nobody gets fed.

This year on the Vigil of Pentecost, people all over the world are praying in a special way for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They’re praying that the power of God will be released in their lives, that they’ll live in the freedom of the Spirit. I think one of the most powerful ways that we’ll experience this is by giving God permission to touch hearts through us. If we decide that we’re going to unlock the door and walk out into the streets, proclaiming Christ and living the book of Acts, we’ll be transformed just as much as those we meet. We’ll move past Easter (still filled with Alleluias) and live in Pentecost as though it were Ordinary.

This Pentecost, the Spirit is coming down. Let’s open our lives to him and go out to set the world ablaze.


  1. That we know of anyway. Certainly not during the first Easter season. []
  2. Luke 24:53 []
  3. Acts 1:14, though they weren’t really his brothers []

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.


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 []

50 Ways to Celebrate Easter

Well, the Triduum was powerful, with its veiled statues and empty tabernacles and pillars of fire…

Oh, was that just me?
Oh, was that just me?

with its monks at the foot of the cross and candlelit nuns…

Still just me?
Still just me?

it was a whirlwind couple of days, but now Easter has come and gone and we’re ready to move back into the Ordinary.

Except that there’s nothing Ordinary about it. It’s Easter! Every day this week is Easter Sunday and the Easter season won’t be over till June! The Church in her wisdom asks us to fast for 40 days and follows it up with 50 days of feasting. But (as with Christmas), we tend to forget it’s Easter by, oh, Tuesday and we lose out on some incredible riches. And I’m not just talking jelly beans, either. So how about this Easter we try to live like an Easter people?1

So here you have it: 50 ways to keep those alleluias coming all Easter long.2 It’s not as structured as the Advent and Lent Boot Camps, but it gives you a jumping off point. See if you can’t get all these in this season–and let me know if you do! I’ll devise some prize.3

50 ways Easter

  1. Figure out which of your Lenten resolutions shouldn’t stop just because it’s Easter. Don’t stop praying the Rosary or going to Mass because Jesus rose. Don’t start cursing or being uncharitable either. Easter shouldn’t be a time to relax our pursuit of Christ but to rejoice in the effort we’re making. You don’t have to fast as hardcore as you did for Lent, but don’t quit the prayer and the almsgiving while you’re about it.
  2. 2014-04-20 21.21.50Change the background on your phone to some stunning piece of artwork celebrating the resurrection.
  3. Buy Easter candy half price this week. Make sure to buy enough to last you 50 days.
  4. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
  5. Check out Maximus of Turin’s triumphant reflection on Easter.
  6. Use the word alleluia whenever possible. Try to replace all other positive exclamations with this one.4
  7. Have a party to celebrate the canonizations of JPII and John XXIII. Eat kielbasa and pierogies with cannoli and gelato for dessert. Read poetry. Open all the windows. Go skiing. Tell jokes. How very papal all those things are!
  8. Read this excerpt from a homily by St. Ephrem the Syrian.
  9. Have dessert every night. Explain to your kids that they get to have all the cake because Jesus loves them.
  10. Wait until Easter is half over. Give someone a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, saying, “Happy Easter!”
  11. Read the book of Acts.
  12. Go to Mass on Ascension Thursday—even if there is no Ascension Thursday in your diocese.
  13. Have an Easter party. In June.
  14. Greet everyone by saying, “He is risen!” Judge them if they don’t respond correctly.5
  15. Make a holy hour every week in Easter.
  16. Pray Christ the Lord Is Ris’n Todayespecially verse 4. Consider getting 1 Cor 15:55 tattooed on your face. Decide against it.
  17. Change your Facebook cover picture to something celebrating the Resurrection–and not something cheesy or kitschy, but something that will cause people to gasp for the beauty.Facebook cover
  18. Read the popes’ recent Easter messages. Tweet the highlights.
  19. Check out this piece by St. Peter Chrysologus.
  20. Any time you would have said, “I’ll pray for you,” ask instead, “Can I pray with you?” Then get comfortable praying out loud.
  21. Choose joy.
  22. Get an Easter-themed manicure. (I usually just paint my nails gold, but Easter lilies would be pretty sweet if you can find someone to do them.) When people comment on it, tell them it’s for Easter. Be prepared to explain that it’s still Easter.
  23. Don’t ever have an Easter egg hunt on Holy Saturday. If you already did, have another one in reparation, and switch your family tradition to Easter egg hunts during Easter. You have 50 days to hunt eggs—don’t do it on the one day Jesus is in the tomb!!
  24. Pray a rosary every day. Feel free to use the glorious mysteries whenever you want.
  25. Meditate on this passage from St. Augustine.
  26. 2014-04-20 11.10.26Change the message on your alarm to something that will remind you to rejoice from the moment your feet hit the floor.
  27. Wish everyone you meet a happy Easter. Even when it starts to get weird.
  28. Make a pilgrimage to a shrine in your area.
  29. Treat others as you would treat Christ. (Here are 100 ways to try.)
  30. Do a Bible study for 7 weeks. Read each of the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection.6
  31. Go to confession. Twice.
  32. Start reading the whole Bible through in a year.
  33. Trade your Starbucks habit for a McCafé habit. Give the money you save to the missions.
  34. Read this passage from a letter to Diognetus.
  35. Stand on a street corner with a sign that says “Free prayers!”
  36. “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen.” (Mother Teresa)
  37. Memorize 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
  38. Choose a spiritual book to read during Easter. Try The Imitation of Christ or Practicing the Presence of God.
  39. Forgive.
  40. Find a Eucharistic procession to take part in for the Feast of Corpus Christi. If there isn’t one, start one.
  41. Pray the Exultet.
  42. Keep holy water in your house. Bless yourself every time you pass it.
  43. Read this sermon by Theodore the Studite: “How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate!”
  44. Give a “welcome home” present to someone who’s just entered the Church.
  45. Stop in to visit the Blessed Sacrament every day.
  46. Change your ringtone to some sweet version of an Alleluia—but maybe not the Leonard Cohen one. It probably won’t evoke Easter joy among your more secular friends.7
  47. Meditate on At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing.
  48. Wear red on Pentecost. All red.
  49. Tell someone about Jesus.
  50. Orient your life toward being a saint. As yourself at the end of each day: Did I live today like heaven is the only thing that matters? When making decisions, ask yourself: What would I do if I were a saint?

Try a ringtone like this on for size:

  1. By the way, that “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song” thing that everyone’s suddenly qu0ting this year? Love it! And JPII did say it…but he was quoting Augustine. Just saying. []
  2. Thanks to Fr. Curtis at KU for the challenge! []
  3. likely immaterial []
  4. Sweet! Awesome! Cool! Great! Nice! []
  5. “He is risen indeed!” The judging part is a joke. []
  6. Mt 28:1-10, Mk 16:1-8, Lk 24:1-12, and Jn 20:1-10; Mt 28:16-20 and Mk 16:9-20; Lk 24:13-35; Lk 24:36-53; Jn 20:11-18; Jn 20:19-29; Jn 21:1-23 []
  7. And not to be a hipster, but it might be a little overdone. []

3 Reasons: The Octave

Linking up with Micaela to tell you 3 reasons I love being Catholic. (Props to my sister for sending me the info!)

1. Easter Liturgy

Image from Lawrence, OP, my favorite person on flickr.

How do you even celebrate the Resurrection without fire and candlelight and 7 Old Testament readings and a Gloria with bells and tympani and lights being raised and Alleluias coming out your ears after long weeks without? And how can you settle for an hour one morning to celebrate the greatest thing ever to happen EVER? In my Church, we celebrate Easter Sunday for 8 days and the season for another 42. So far, I’ve gone to 5 Easter Sunday Masses with Alleluias and Resurrection readings and even the Easter sequence chanted at Wednesday’s. In my Church, we don’t confine boundless joy to one day but stretch it over an octave and a whole season beyond.

2. Easter Feasting

I have literally eaten these jelly beans every day this week. Sometimes for breakfast. #itstheoctave!
Sometimes I eat jelly beans for breakfast. #itstheoctave!

Every day this week is a solemnity, and you know what that means: bacon and chocolate, all day every day. Seriously, I’ve eaten jelly beans every day this week and each time it’s prayer. When I have pie for lunch,1 I’m rejoicing in Him who made the heavens and the earth and called it good and then made all things new. And yes, pie is a sign of his love. But I’m not just justifying my gluttony, I’m transformed. Feasting in this Church reminds us that all good things are gifts from the Lord. It transforms the way we party with the result that all good partying leads us to him. Cocktails for Christ!

3. Easter Alleluias

Christ is risenLent’s hard for me, and not just because I’m so hungry. I use the word Alleluia (or Hallelujah, depending on how sassy I’m feeling) all the time. Seriously–when anything good happens or anything bad is avoided or anything edible is around, I’m Hallelujahing up a storm. So I literally have to bite my tongue sometimes during Lent–and I still fail most times.

One year, I made it all the way to Holy Thursday. I was road tripping and listening to Christian radio, but I was vigilant and turned down the volume every time I heard an Alleluia coming. For 40+ days, I drove with one hand on the volume button. And then, with 3 days left to hold strong, I was rocking out to “It’s Raining Men.” Windows rolled down, dancing in my seat, fist pumping out the sun roof while going 65 down the highway.2 And when the chorus started, I shout-sang “IT’S RAINING MEN! HALLELUJAH, IT’S–OH NOOOOOOOO!!!!!” After all that effort, what a way to go out.3

But, my friends, it’s Easter. Which means that every song at Mass is rocking Alleluias, every ice cream cone is accompanied by a round of Alleluias, and half the people I greet let out an Alleluia or two. We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song–and I, for one, will be singing that song of joy all season long.

In this Church of fasting and feasting, little things take on such meaning and the restraint requires of us bears fruit in this age, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. I love my Church because she governs every moment of my life, not just Sunday mornings.


So what about you? What are you loving about this Church of ours this month? Head over to Micaela’s and link up!

  1. No, I did not mean to say with lunch, don’t judge. []
  2. Admit it: you’re loving this image. []
  3. FYI: it’s okay to say Alleluia during Easter. We just don’t use it in the liturgy. But since it’s such a joyful word and Lent is a penitential season, I try to fast from even the word to make my Easter that much more joyful. []

Easter Passion

October 15, 2005 was one of the worst days of my life.1 If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you know exactly what I mean. Three years in a row we’d lost to USC2 by 31 points. 31 points each time–how humiliating. But in 2005, after three pathetic years, it was over. We came out in green3 and played our guts out and as time expired, we were in the lead!

My friends, I was literally in the process of rushing the field when the announcers shouted that if we didn’t return to the stands, Notre Dame would be penalized. “Penalized?” I crowed. “How are you going to penalize us? WE WON!!”

No, as it turns out. We hadn’t. Matt “Ballroom Dancing” Leinart had fumbled the ball out of bounds, stopping the clock with seven seconds left.4 USC would get one more play. And with that play, the game. Reggie Bush shoved Leinart into the endzone5 for the win. And there we were, having climbed back into the stands, shocked and miserable.

My roommate was so upset that she just went to bed. At 7pm on a Saturday night. She said she didn’t want to be conscious any more.

It was the only time in my life I’ve ever wanted to drown my sorrows.6

For weeks, every person I met who heard I went to Notre Dame responded, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” I’m not even kidding.

I know it’s pathetic and that football shouldn’t affect me that much, but Bush Push 2005 drove me to despair. And so I think I know a little bit what the Apostles were feeling.

They thought they had this one. On Palm Sunday, Jesus walked into the city amid shouts of Hosanna and they thought that after years of eating leftover loaves and fish and sleeping in a leaky boat they had finally arrived. They were so ready for their victory, so ready for Jesus to take control.

Jesus entombedAnd then suddenly the Hosannas were replaced by angry cries of “Crucify him!” and he was snatched from their midst and stripped and beaten and before they knew it, he was lying in a tomb and what was left for them? That Holy Saturday, there was a feeling that nothing would ever be good again. That no matter what happened, nothing would ever fill the ache of emptiness that Friday had left in their hearts. Maybe they lost themselves in wine or sleep or anything to dull the pain.

But then…

It’s like we were standing in that stadium, stunned and defeated and empty, and the refs called out “Please reset the game clock” one more time. It’s like we looked out onto the field and it wasn’t just Brady and Samardzija and Zbikowski. It was all 7 ND Heisman winners. It was all 11 National Championship teams. It was Rudy and the Gipper and the 4 Horsemen and every man ever to put on blue and gold. It’s like they lined up on one side of the line of scrimmage and looked across at Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, alone and shaking in mesh shorts and flip flops. And then the whistle blew and they pounded it in over and over again. It’s not just like we won that game but ran up the score on every game, erased every embarrassing loss. It’s like eternal victory was snatched from the jaws of crushing defeat and nothing would ever hurt that way again.

Call me strange, but that’s how I see Easter. It’s not just glowing Jesus walking out of a tomb, it’s Rambo Jesus ripping the gates off of hell. It’s demons cowering in the corner as Adam bows before his son and savior. It’s earthquakes and the dead walking out of their tombs and all creation turned on its head.

Easter bunnyEaster isn’t bunnies and lilies and butterflies–it’s a wild victory where there was no hope. It’s absolute power in the hands of a God who went to hell and back for you. It’s unending joy wrested from the bitter grasp of him who came to kill, steal and destroy.

That’s what we celebrate today, friends, and for the next 50 days: a love story that puts all romance to shame, the story of a man who gladly gave his life for his beloved and came back for her all the same. It’s an adventure so fantastic that you’d never believe it if it weren’t so clearly true. It’s drama that rips your heart out and somehow restores it new and whole like never before. It’s passion so great it takes your breath away.

When I meditate on the emptiness of Holy Saturday, the pain feels familiar. It feels like October 15, 2005 and it feels like every day of my life before I knew the Lord. But now I know what happens on the other side. Now I know that the darkness serves to amplify the light. Now I know the the emptiness and the futility are an illusion, that the only battle that matters has already been won and all I have to do is share in the spoils.

three MarysThere is nothing sweet about this story, nothing nice, nothing dull. This Easter, forget everything you know about the Resurrection and read the story with fresh eyes. Read the anguish of Friday and the desolation of Saturday but don’t stop there. Read the confusion of Sunday morning, the urgency of Mary’s sprint to the upper room, of Peter and John’s sprint back. Read the infinite tenderness of the word “Mary,” the shock of his appearance in the upper room, the shame elicited by, “Simon, do you love me?” But above all, keep reading. Read the power of Peter’s Pentecost message that brought 3,000 more into the fold. Read the confidence of “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise and walk” and the jubilation of the walking and leaping and praising God. Read the fearlessness of the cowardly apostles and the abandon of the community that held everything in common.

Then tell me: does your life shine with Easter joy? Do you radiate triumph like you’ve just witnessed a come-from-behind victory? Do you live in a hope that is stronger than your circumstances, a peace that passes understanding? Do you stare into the eyes of defeat and taunt with St. Paul, “Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting??” We are an Easter people, my friends, and alleluia is our song. How is your life going to witness to that truth this Easter season?

  1. It seems the Lord doesn’t think much of me if this is the height of the suffering I’ve endured. []
  2. Some Notre Dame students call USC the University of Spoiled Children. I find this terribly ironic. []
  3. Never a good idea. []
  4. Bear with me, non-football fans. I’m going somewhere with this. []
  5. Which is illegal, but anyone would do the same thing. []
  6. I didn’t. I went to the library to read a commentary on the Code of Canon Law instead. Shut up. []