Category Archives: spiritual journey

Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.

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Prayer-Confession1

The idea of confession has always baffled me a little bit.  It seemed like a waste of time (not to mention incredibly awkward) to talk about such intensely personal things with someone that would see me around the school/church afterwards.

When I started going back to Mass in August, I found myself having this intense desire to go to confession, but I still couldn’t bring myself to go to my parish priest.  I argued with myself that it would be too embarrassing and that I couldn’t face him afterwards (he is this adorable little old Asian man).  I tried going to a different parish and confessing behind the screen, but ended up leaving without actually confessing any of my major sins (and then proceeded to almost have a panic attack in the car).

This discontent went on for more than two months and then God intervened for me – I had early dismissal from school and went to noon Mass at a neighboring parish (where I hadn’t been in YEARS) instead of going in the morning before school.  Their regular priest was out and they had a visiting priest for that one Mass and for some reason, when I went to communion, I randomly thought to myself, “I think I could confess to him.”  I tracked him down at his home parish and arranged to meet him for confession a week later.

To go back to confession after years of having essentially turned my back on the church was really hard.  I had trouble even speaking some of the words out loud, and at times I questioned my sanity since I couldn’t even do it behind the screen, and now here I was face to face with the priest. Ultimately, though, I’m glad I was able to do it in person, and I didn’t actually die from embarrassment like I thought I would. The priest was incredibly patient and let me set the pace, and when I had finally managed to stammer through the entire story and all of my sins, he seemed to find exactly the words that I needed to hear.  I left feeling better than I had in years.

Slowly, though, this little bit of doubt began to creep in.  How was it possible that I could have committed all of these sins and be forgiven that easily? (not that it was actually easy by any means)

Three weeks later, I found myself back in his office, trying to make sense of everything. I explained to him the difficulty I was having with accepting that I was forgiven, and he mentioned the Diary of St. Faustina and recommended praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  That very night, everything clicked into place – I don’t really know what changed, whether it was those specific prayers or that I was in a better place spiritually and was able to be open to the idea of forgiveness, but I really started to feel forgiven.  I felt (and still feel) whole in a way that I don’t think I have ever felt.

One of my favorite parts from the Diary of St. Faustina:

Today the Lord said to me, Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.

 

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As a deer longs for running streams…

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deerFor my first six years of teaching, my schedule on a school day started by snoozing my alarm until 6:30 AM, which put me frantically trying (and repeatedly failing) to get to school by 7:15 AM.  To say that I was not a morning person is a GROSS understatement.  In my pre-teaching life, I was a cubicle nerd and was able to hide out alone until the time/caffeine balance had been restored (usually around 9:30 AM), but teaching is an alternate universe where I am expected to be “on” by 7:25 AM.  For an introverted non-morning person, this has always been a challenge. 

When I decided to go back to Mass, I didn’t start by making a commitment to go to Mass on Sundays, which would have been a completely logical and normal place to start.  Instead, my first Mass back was at the ridiculous hour of 6:00 AM on a random Wednesday morning, freaking out my dad (who went home and told my mom, “You will never believe who was at Mass this morning.”).  I quickly fell into a habit of going to  Mass twice a week in the mornings – I wanted to go more, but my parish doesn’t have Mass until 8:00 on the other days, so it didn’t work out.  This went on for several weeks and I was finding that I actually felt better and was in a better mood on the days that I got up early and went to Mass, in spite of getting up an hour and a half earlier.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that there were other parishes that had 6:00 AM Mass, and soon I was going to Mass every day and feeling better than I had ever felt – it really transformed my life. (But I refuse to accept that I might have become a morning person.)

I use a variety of prayer books in class, but this year I have a new one called Psalms 2000 – it has a short inspirational story and then part of a psalm (working numerically through them).  The kids have really enjoyed it – I even tried to switch to a different one a few weeks ago and I had multiple kids in multiple periods ask, “What happened to the book with the stories in it?”  In October, I got to Psalm 42 (below) and realized that this is EXACTLY what I had been going through for the previous two months. I love this story so much, and the words just really expressed so well what was happening in my life – I was experiencing a thirst for God.

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The beginning of the journey

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I keep having this nagging idea that I want to start blogging at the most random times – in the shower, driving to work, in the middle of the night when I can’t fall back to sleep, etc. Somehow, I have my best thoughts when I can’t write any of them down. In my mind, I am this fabulous writer with so many stories to tell, and yet somehow as soon as I have five minutes with my computer, I can’t think of a single thing to say.

The problem is that I have a lot that I want to say – my brain runs nonstop all of the time and when it comes to issues of faith, I don’t have a lot of people that I can talk to, in spite of living in an overwhelmingly Catholic part of the country. I’m hoping that if I can get some of these thoughts and ideas out of my head, they will make more sense to me and maybe occasionally reach someone else.

I was born and raised Catholic in a family of four (I’m the oldest). We all went to 13 years of Catholic school, went to Mass every week, participated in ministries at church, etc. It never crossed my mind to be anything BUT Catholic – I was never drawn to any other religion or doubted my belief in God, but then I somehow ended up spending most of my adult life feeling very apathetic about the Catholic church. I would go to Mass occasionally, mostly when I was with my family and couldn’t avoid it without them finding out that I wasn’t going. I convinced myself that surely God wouldn’t keep me out of Heaven just because I didn’t go to Mass, because I was a “good person” (it seems absurd now to even type those words out). From the outside, I think most people assumed I was a “good Catholic”.

On the inside, though, I began to struggle more and more with what God wanted for me and from me. I had started teaching at a Catholic school, and the strain of trying to project the false front of being a devout Catholic on the outside when I really wasn’t feeling it inside was overwhelming at times. It took a fairly severe depression that I hid from my family and friends to finally make me turn to God for help.

I have thought for several months that this sudden spiritual journey came out of nowhere, but I have realized recently that it had to have come from God, and it came when I needed Him in my life the most. I started saying the rosary, and then surprised my dad by showing up at 6:00 AM Mass one morning (to say that I was not a morning person would be the understatement of the year). The more I let God be a part of my life, the better my life seemed to get. Daily mass eventually got me to confession, which changed my life (and deserves its own entry).

As far as I feel like I have come in three months, I know this is just the beginning of the road for me. Thomas Merton has always been one of my favorites, and this prayer has given me comfort, even in the times when I didn’t realize that I needed it.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you, and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.