Lent Day 8: Sink or Swim

The first week of Lent for some people can be a period of denial. “I only have to fast once a week. I can wait for the Penitential Service to go to Confession. I just have to give a little more at the collection plate, right?”

Sorry, buddy, but during this time of Lent, we are at the deep end of the swimming pool of life and it’s sink or swim. 

Now I know there’s that quote that goes: “If grace is an ocean, then we’re all sinking.” This is true. But guess who knows how to walk on water and becomes our lifeguard and swimming coach? That’s right, Jesus.

In the words of Patheos blogger Billy Kangas, “Lent is about God helping us.”

Lent is a time that God challenges us to push ourselves. Sometimes, that comes with suffering. But in the words of Harry Potter: 

And if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, here’s some encouragement from St. Philip Neri:

Do not grieve over the temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temptation as an invitation to grow in a particular virtue and a promise by God that you will be successful, if only you stand fast.
— St. Philip Neri

One challenge offered by Fr. Robert Barron comes in the form of almsgiving. Catholic website Busted Halo offers micro-challenges everyday in their Lenten Calendar

My challenge for you today is for you to break a bad habit. Go beyond giving up smoking or drinking. Think of the worst habit you have, whether it’s wasting time on the internet or snacking between meals. (Incidentally that’s the tip of the iceberg of my personal vice.) Pray to God for the strength to overcome these bad habits.

Lent Day 5: The Marathon to the Finish

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection today talks about what the finish line for Lent is: eventually celebrating Christ’s Resurrection. But that’s the finish line and we are only at the start of Lent and it seems like Easter will take forever.

It helps to view Lent not as a race to get to the “happy ending,” but a marathon. My friends Kateri and Rachel compared Lent to spiritual training. The end goal of Lent is that by the time we get to celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, we will have grown closer to God. The fasting, prayer, and almsgiving is part of our training.

Now if you’re like me and the thought of anything relating to athletics makes you feel exhausted, it’s okay. Just think of a 40-day long term project that requires complete and total commitment towards becoming a better person. 

There are times in this marathon that we might fall down, but that’s part of the process. That’s why churches offer Confessions after Stations of the Cross or have Penitential services. There are also retreats, Bible studies, fish fries, and other community-oriented events that take place during this time of year. So even though we are in this marathon, we’re not running alone. 

Keep your eyes on the goal this Lent. This picture of Christ in the form of the Eucharist represents Christ’s presence within our realm and what we are all running towards.

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Lent Day 4: Joy and Fear

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection focuses on an extraordinary woman named Mother Teresa, who lived out the joy of her mission of caring for the poorest of the poor. Fr. Barron says in his reflection that we all want joy. According to Aristotle, mankind’s ultimate end is to find happiness. However, we make the mistake of trying to fill up that missing part of ourselves.

My friend Joseph makes a case for this on his Lent reflection.

With the popularization of things like Facebook, Snapchat, and vlogging, one could make the case that today’s generation has become one of the most self-absorbed and self-centered generations of all time.

But I don’t think that’s really the point. And I would argue that my generation doesn’t exactly deserve that kind of criticism. I think the point is that we seem to be living in a culture that constantly promotes the fear of being forgotten.

Here comes the paradox of Mother Teresa’s lifestyle. The reason she is remembered is not because she actively sought attention for herself, but because she focused on giving her time and effort towards helping others. The joy of her calling is easy to see if you’ve ever seen pictures of her. Even when she was in a period of total darkness, nobody could tell because she made the best of that horrible situation by emptying herself more.

My photo today is of a gift my brother got me at SXSW. It’s a Companion Cube! In the end of Portal 2, it was GLADOS’s sign of good faith to Chell that (unless Portal 3 is created) GLADOS won’t try and get Chell ever again after Chell finally gets out of the Aperture Science labs. This has nothing to do with what I posted earlier, but I did promise that I would show what I picked for my 365grateful project and I’m gonna hold myself to it.

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Lent Day 3: Broken, Refined, Polished, Restored

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection today compared humanity as diamonds covered in the muck of sin. This reminds me of a verse from Malachi 3:3

He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.

Life is never an easy road. There are times that break us, times that test us, and times that heal us.

Today, I will post about a time that broke me.

This post is gonna get personal, so bear with me. I posted something about this in my first blog entry, but tonight, I’m gonna tell you about what happened in detail.

WARNING: If you have any emotional triggers tied to emotional abuse or manipulative and toxic friendships, please skip  to the end of the post which will have a cute picture of where I ate lunch today.

Back when I was in college, I had a friend whom I will call Narcissus Vanitas or NV for short. NV was the complete opposite of me, but he (using “he” as a gender-neutral pronoun) was there for me during a time that I really needed a friend. During my last two years of college, NV became my best friend and I helped him out during his own hard times.

However, last year things took a dark turn. Without even noticing, NV became codependent. He called me a lot, but I just thought it was just because we were helping each other with our writing. My subconscious started noticing that things were off, though, because whenever I wrote poetry, I wrote about having to leave a friend or feeling like I was being stabbed in the back.

It turned out that my intuition was right. NV wanted me for himself in the worst way. His constant calls were a way of isolating me from my family. He wanted me to change my name and all of my e-mails and cut myself off from my friends. Things went too far on March 7th, 2013 when he told me that he wanted to take my innocence. I was caught in the illusion, but my family staged an intervention and took my phone away before things could get worse.

At first, I was seriously defensive of NV until my parents gave me some perspective about the situation. I called NV for the last time that night, trying my best to try and cut things off without making it seem like my parents were making me say what I needed to say. But in the end, silence was the best answer I had to give him.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with cutting myself off from my now former best friend. But when I went to sleep that night, I dreamt of something. I saw myself at the cross, trying to hold onto it. Then NV appeared from out of nowhere and dragged me away from the cross. I kicked and screamed, telling him to let me go.

Ultimately, it was that dream that made me realize that my friend was leading me away from God, trying to hide it under the illusion of this whole “us against the world” complex that NV had.

At that point, I was broken. (Listen to Matt Maher’s “Empty and Beautiful” and you pretty much got how I felt during this time.) It took months for me to get myself together. I found new friends in places I never knew, found a strong support system through my family, and now, a year later, I can say that I have been restored.

As for what I wish I could’ve told NV, to quote my favorite character from Once Upon a Time…

YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT I DO OR HOW I FEEL, I DO!

Also Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” because NV hates Taylor Swift. Yes, I’m immature.

Have a drink from In-N-Out, where I ate today. On me.

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Lent Day 2: The Virtue of Humility

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection for today reflects on the virtue of humility. There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that I love:

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

Now the best way to NOT be humble is to brag about how humble you are AKA Humblebragging. So how exactly can we practice the virtue of humility?

Read about saints who were the embodiment of humility or the writings of saints who emphasized humilty. Think Mother Teresa, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Paul, St. Augustine.

One of my friends recommended Josemaria Escriva’s “The Way” as something to read for Lent.

As for me…

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This book is one of my favorites. This has been with me since high school, back when I was seriously lost. Although at the time, the book was way beyond the reading level of a teenage girl, there were a lot of passages that helped me put things in perspective. As an adult, this book still holds up, only now I’m reading it with a different mindset. Back when I was 16, I read the book to find words of comfort. Now I read this book as my Lenten reading.

Song for today: The Litany of Humility by Danielle Rose