What's Your Weird? - 7QT

Friday, October 28, 2016

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

We all have those things about us that are a little weird. Be it preferences, pet peeves, or the odd hobby - I feel like these are the things that really help you to get to know each other.
So let's get acquainted!

I really hate pants

I've written about this before, especially during Pants Free July with Rosie at A Blog for My Mom, but it remains true. I hate pants. I don't know what it is about my body shape, but pants do not stay on and I spend all day having to pull them up.
I could probably find the magical perfect pair if I really set my mind to it....or I could just wear skirts and dresses. That's where I've ended up and I'm pretty happy here.


I have strong opinions about puns and humor

This annoys my husband to no end, and I seem to be surrounded by punny people, but I find very few jokes or puns funny. Funny has to meet the following criteria: clever, well delivered, and well timed. I do well with British humor. If I hear the pun coming, it's not funny anymore.
Keeping 'em on their toes here.


My least favorite type of music is Rap

When we had to make a Do Not Play list for our wedding the first thing on it was a whole category: Rap. This opinion has been somewhat reformed by the musical Hamilton. Apparently I like rap the same way I like my humor. At least I'm consistent?


I'm a bit of an overdoer

When I had to do taxes for the first time, I memorized the tax code that might have any chance of applying to me. When I went to school for the first time, I read the entire student handbook and made a strategy to get the highest rank points to I could be Valedictorian (and succeeded). 
Being home with the kids, in charge of my own schedule, and creator of any structure I want to have has relaxed me a good bit.
This *is* me being relaxed y'all.


I'm fabulous in emergency situations

When I was a kid, I would lead my sisters in doing tornado drills, black out drills, and pretty much any other drill I could dream up. When someone is bleeding, something is on fire, or some other disaster strikes - it's like the world slows down for me. I go into this weird decisive, calm, surety about what I'm doing. It's useful.
Now how I would do with long term hard... we'll have to wait and see.


I'm hyperextended and hyper flexible all over the place

It's the gift that should be better than it is. When I came back to ballet after a substantial break, I expected to be stiffer. Come to find out, flexibility is something I have naturally.
This should be awesome, but flexibility means nothing if you don't have the muscle strength to control it. We're not talking base strength, I've got that in spades, this involves those tiny hidden muscles in your legs, back, and feet that are really only useful for dance or athletics.

My son seems to have these same gifts. Hopefully I can help him learn how to control the flexibility. Because even though my arms and knees can keep twisting, that's really a terrible long term plan.


Texas is a primary identity for me

When I'm abroad I don't just say I'm from the US, I'm from Texas. Texas has a culture all it's own. It's southern with a little western independant tenacity. It's the music, line dancing, queso, football, and saying "bless their heart". I feel a little sad for the rest of the country missing out on homecoming mums and Blue Bell ice cream.

So tell me, what's your weird?

All Saints/All Souls 2016 - JEI

Thursday, October 27, 2016

It's time for JEI (Just Enough Info) with The Zelie Group!
Link up your answers to this week's questions or answer in the comments!

This week we're talking about our upcoming feast days of All Saints and All Souls, and Halloween! 

1. How do you celebrate the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day feasts?

I call these three days the Catholic Halloween Trifecta. Because why have one day for remembering the dead and dressing up when you could have THREE?!

We do Halloween big y'all.
All Saints - I have dreams of this day involving a pageant with other Catholic kids dressing up as their favorite saints. Right now we page through our saint books, watch a CCC saint movie, and talk about how awesome heaven must be.

All Souls - This is the day I focus on prepping our family altar for the month of remembering the dead. I cut out a big, red, construction paper heart and I write the names of all of our friends, family, and loved ones who have died. (This might be the year I make two. I'm gaining a lot of buddies waiting in heaven.)
Ideally we would visit a cemetery this day, but I think that will happen this Saturday instead.
We are planning on attending mass as a family this day to honor our family's little saint.

Our friend's are hosting an All Souls potluck the following weekend. We're supposed to bring drinks or dishes that mean a lot to us in memory of someone who has passed.
Kind of like a wake for everyone you've ever known.

I really love celebrating all three days because this is one of the few times in our society when discussion of death can be had when the deaths themselves are not as raw as they are at a funeral. As a Catholic kid growing up, the idea of the communion of saints was such a comfort, and these feast days are an opportunity to have a tactile interaction with that concept.

2. What was your favorite costume as a kid growing up?

My mom sewed my sister and I matching Thumbelina outfits one Halloween. I was very into Thumbelina since the movie had just come out that year, and my sister and I were used to being dressed alike. Being 10 months apart will do that.

(Y'all, I couldn't find one picture of this dress to show you that wasn't covered under copyright. Just google Thumbelina 1994 and you'll find some examples.)

3. What candy are you most likely to “test for safety” from the kiddo’s loot?

Well, I have a secret for y'all......I'm not really into chocolate. Or candy. Or really sugar.

It's not that I don't like it (I do!) but I never hit that "oh my gosh this tastes amazing and I want to keep eating it" thing. I feel a little bit like I'm missing out on some awesome human experience. I can see that other people very much enjoy these things. I love that you love it, ok?

Twix is probably the closest thing I have to enjoying chocolate. I'm a very not hipster milk chocolate + caramel person.

Your turn! Answer the following questions:
1. How do you celebrate the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day feasts?
2. What was your favorite costume as a kid growing up?
3. What candy are you most likely to “test for safety” from the kiddo’s loot?

Next week - we're talking sports and exercise!
What sports do your kids play?
What do you do for exercise?
In the Mom Olympics, what would your event be?

Library Haul! 10/25

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Finally linking up with Christina at A Gentle Mother for library haul!
We get a lot of books every week (like 20+) so I'm just going a put a handful up at a time. 
You're welcome.

Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tale

Oh my goodness does John love these books! There is also Work, Dogs, Work and Dig, Dogs, Dig.
I try to space out when we get them so John will be open to reading something else. By the end of the week I want to read anything else, but I do love to see him associating books as something that can bring him a lot of enjoyment and excitement.

Cheaper by the Dozen

We're starting a new chapter book this week!
Our past chapter book read-alouds have been: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Little House in the Big Woods, The Ballet Shoes, and Farmer Boy.
This is the story of the Gilbreth family. Set in the 1910s-1920s, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth are Efficiency Experts (Lillian would go on to become one of the first successful female engineers in America) raising their 12 kids. Written by two of the kids, this is largely the story of their Dad and made better by being a true story.
We haven't even had it for 24 hours yet and we're already on chapter 4. It's addictive, hilarious, and highly recommended!


This is not for the kids (just in case you hadn't guessed.)
I'm starting a poetry study for myself using the annotated bibliography in The Well Educated Mind.
I've been able to fudge my poetry knowledge from knowing Shakespeare well, but it has been a hole in my knowledge base. Time to remedy that!

There are whole blogs devoted to following Bauer's lists, but I highly recommend checking your library for the book itself. The annotated bibliographies note editions that are particularly good, sections to focus on, and the chapter intros contain great overviews of themes, styles, and history one needs to know in order to read that type of literature.

What are your library finds this week?

Day Seven: No Greater Love - {For the Love of the Church}

Sunday, October 23, 2016

This week I'm running a series, For the Love of the Church, written by my friend Jacob Boddicker, SJ.
Jacob is a Jesuit scholastic originally from Iowa, and is currently studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in preparation for ordination. He has an academic background in archaeology, history, and philosophy, and his interests include music, science fiction/fantasy, and writing.
Make sure to check out: 

During the summer after my time at Marquette High, two experiences of prayer—one during my annual retreat and another while on the road with the Hearts on Fire Mission Band—made it clear to me that Jesus was wanting to work on my heart a bit regarding my love for His Bride.

While in Milwaukee I saw a beautiful, youthful, Church, and I worshiped in a parish that offered a sumptuous Mass; especially when it came to music. I was, in a way, spoiled. I wasn’t seeking it out, nor was I choosing it over any other parish or way of worship on any sort of principal, but it was what I found and what I came to cherish. I knew as much about California and the Church there as I knew about thermodynamics, but I did know I was going to miss the Church as I knew her there in Wisconsin.

My first experience of prayer, in brief, came through the aid of St. Gemma Galgani (for those who know me, this comes as no surprise). She helped me to recall that she, having given herself entirely to Christ, was His Bride, and so was the Church. If I could love St. Gemma and find her beautiful and inspiring, even in the moments of her life when she was devastated by illness and infirmity, then I must also love the Church, no matter how she is when I encounter her. I of course knew this, and I asked Gemma to always help me to do that. My second experience of prayer is deeply personal, but suffice it to say I knew Jesus was inviting me to share, in a way, in His own suffering, for love of the Church. I have always trusted Him, and of course I said yes.

The summer ended and I came to Milwaukee, and soon I realized the importance of those graces. Things are very different out here; the Bay Area is much more diverse in its cultures and beliefs, such that Christianity—much less Catholic Christianity—is not as dominant. It also strikes me, in many ways, as simply a more secular culture. There is a budding young adult effort here that I think, in time, will really take off, and I’ve met some wonderful young men and women who are working hard to build it up, but I found myself already missing the opportunities I had back in Milwaukee.

Church architecture out here is not, at least at your average parish, what it is in many places in Milwaukee! I did not realize how much I would miss the great dome of the basilica and the artwork all around; the stark walls and track lighting of our school chapel was very, very difficult to get used to. There was no choir as I was used to, no quiet church to arrive at early to pray the rosary while the choir warmed up; none of my friends were there to surround me as they arrived one-by-one to pray and then chat after Mass. There were no more Confirmation classes to teach, no more lessons to prepare for my high school students; I was a stranger again.

Gradually I realized how attached I had become to all these beautiful gifts, enough that I was unable to accept the more subtle but equally good gifts the Church was able to offer me here in Berkeley. When a priest would take a liberty in his style of celebration that I disagreed with or—worse—I knew was wrong, I found I had two options before me: I could get angry and let that set its claws in my heart and cloud out any possible good that Christ wanted to give me, or I could concern myself more with the fact that if there was, indeed, an offense against the truth, then I have an opportunity to be with Christ in that moment.

In other words, Jesus was trying to teach me to love the Church unconditionally: to love the Church as He loves her.

St. Isaac Jogues All Saints Day costume
I realized this past summer that I would be very upset with a man who tells his wife what to wear to please him, and to demand that she dress primarily for this purpose, if his love for her hinged on such outward, material things. How would I be any better than such a man if I, in my own heart, were to expect similar things of the Church? If I were to say, “Bride of Christ, I would love you more if you offered me a Mass more like this, or sang this kind of music, or had a congregation made up of this type of people, etc.” I was reminded on retreat that a priest ought to love the Bride of Christ because she is the Bride of Christ. Period. My beloved Church is taking her time during these years of theology study to remind me that I’m not the one she seeks to please! Rather, I ought to love her and count myself more honored—in this regard—than even the highest angels because I have been asked by Jesus to be a Joseph to His Bride; no angel has ever been asked such a thing, and the Church is absolutely worthy of my complete, unconditional love because it is the kind of love CHRIST has for her.

In a sense, I suppose, the Church has been seeing if I really mean “in sickness and in health,” even unto death, so that when I am lying face down on her concrete floor at my deacon ordination in October, I am sufficiently dead to my own preconceptions, preferences, and attachments that I’m not in the way of the One who wishes to love her through me, as His minster. “Jacob, do you love me,” she asks, “even if I am wearing sweat pants and Crocs? Do you love me even when I carelessly prepare the Lamb’s Supper? Will you love me even if I seem lazy, or too worldly, or even if it seems like I disregard the Magisterium, or if you perceive me as deficient in any other way? Would you still love me? Would you still lay down your life for me?”

It is easier now to say “yes” since I am so close to ordination, but it was very hard my first year here. But she’s waited this long; a few months is nothing. I love her, no matter what, because she’s the Bride of Christ, and that is all I need to know. She has always taken me back; how could I ever turn my heart away from her? As I let go of my stone-set image of what I wanted her to look like, the Church was able to show me just how magnificent she really is. She’s an incredible fashionista, able to take even the simplest things and still show me her beauty and goodness. I’ve met wonderful people out here whom I’d never have met had I continued a desperate search for people like those I left in the Midwest. I now serve in a parish that is as vibrant and alive as a greenhouse full of blossoming flowers. The last two years have been challenging, but I can see—as can others, I’m sure—just how much I’ve grown and how Jesus and the Church have continually shaped my heart into the heart He desires and the Church really needs: a heart that can lay itself down for her sake, a heart that is able to die to itself for love of her.

She is, after all, the Bride of Christ, who died for her. If every priest is a Joseph, is a spouse of sorts to the Bride, then we have to follow His example, He who “loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

And yesterday he DID say yes! I watched Jacob, along with other close friends, become ordained to the diaconate yesterday. I'm so immensely proud of all of them!

And here's My Sunday Best with David Paternostro, S.J. After his first two masses serving as deacon!

Day Six: Someone(s) to Lean On - {For the Love of the Church}

Saturday, October 22, 2016

This week I'm running a series, For the Love of the Church, written by my friend Jacob Boddicker, SJ.
Jacob is a Jesuit scholastic originally from Iowa, and is currently studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in preparation for ordination. He has an academic background in archaeology, history, and philosophy, and his interests include music, science fiction/fantasy, and writing.
Make sure to check out: 

Near the end of my time in St. Louis, while I was simultaneously soaring on Cloud Nine singing with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra chorus and freaking out over a final paper/exam every Jesuit takes at the end of Philosophy Studies, I also was awaiting word regarding my regency assignment.

Regency is generally a three-year period of apostolic work in which a scholastic lives and works with other Jesuits; this tends to occur in a high school setting but it is not necessarily so. I had interviewed at both Red Cloud Indian School on the Pineridge Reservation in South Dakota, as well as Xavier High in Cincinnati. I felt a very strong pull toward the former in my prayer, and though sure it was where God wanted me to go. Then the phone call came, and after asking how I was doing and such my formation assistant says, “Jacob, how would you feel if your assignment was…not at a high school?” “Well, I guess I didn’t think there were any other options. What are you thinking?

“We have been looking for someone to serve as the minister of the infirmary in Milwaukee, and we don’t have any men currently available. The provincial and I talked about it and we began wondering if a scholastic could serve in that capacity; your name came up in subsequent conversation. The men there still talk about you from your service during novitiate. Would you be open to this as a third possibility for your assignment?”

“Of course; I’ll go wherever you send me.”

A couple weeks later, I was assigned to the province infirmary. I was so humbled; the minister of a community is vital, and to think I would be second-in-command over a large community of men who tended to be three times my age spoke volumes regarding the Society’s trust in me. I fielded several emails from concerned Jesuits who were wondering “what happened” that I not being sent to a high school like they all were; I assured them that all was well.

My youngest brother brought his little Dodge Neon to St. Louis and helped me move to Milwaukee. I wasn’t there for more than a couple days before I decided that I wanted to make sure I plugged into the local Church somehow, and so I began looking for a parish. I remembered visiting St. Josaphat’s Basilica when I was in Milwaukee before entering novitiate, and I thought to attend their 10am Mass on Sunday. I was completely blown away by the beauty of the place; how I could ever have forgotten such a beautiful church is beyond me. The equally beautiful music combined with the well-executed liturgy sold me in a heartbeat; I knew this was going to be my parish. My heart swelled with love for the Church, and the next day I was calling the director of religious education and making her dream come true:

“Hi, my name is Jacob Boddicker; I’m a Jesuit scholastic here in Milwaukee. I’m wondering if you have any needs I might be able to help with? I’m happy to teach or assist with anything.”

“Oh my gosh, really? Confirmation; would you help with Confirmation?”

“I’d be happy to.”

Friends, let me tell you. On the surface that phone call seemed really simple; I felt like I was doing what we tend to call “a nice thing.” But she put me in touch with Talia, who would quickly become my first friend in Milwaukee and one of my dearest ever; I also made my second Milwaukee friend when I met her partner-in-crime, Aaron, who also taught Confirmation. Through them I entered into the amazing young adult Catholic world of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and made so many amazing friends. I became involved in several archdiocesan events and found myself giving talks to groups at different parishes; the Basilica even invited me to give one of their Lenten talks, which is the largest group I think I’ve ever spoken to.

Now, that’s all wonderful of course, but here is where my darling Church comes in. My tenure at the infirmary was short-lived, and after one year I was assigned to Marquette University High School to teach Sacraments to sophomores and Catholic Social Teaching to juniors, all boys. I had never taught before, at least not in such a professional setting, so I was nervous. I loved the creative challenge of making the faith accessible and relevant to youth, and I’ve been assured by many that I did really well.

But as anyone who has ever taught knows, teaching is incredibly hard, especially your first couple of years, and ESPECIALLY if you have no training or background in it whatsoever. In the infirmary I enjoyed the luxury of free nights (and reasonable bedtimes), early mornings, a full but manageable schedule, and a great deal of flexibility. When I was teaching, I was lucky to get six hours of sleep in a night, assuming all my grading and prepping was done, along with any house responsibilities I had. The prayer life I enjoyed since novitiate quickly dwindled to Mass and what scraps I could bring to my poor Jesus at the very end of the day; some days more, some days less, but always something. Mass became my spiritual everything, and I learned how to “suck the marrow” out of it and receive the spiritual nourishment and experience the closeness to Christ I needed to make it through the day. The Church was there for me, keeping my soul alive during two years that demanded everything I had; everything I gave came from Jesus through her.

Besides Mass she also supported me through the mob of friends she brought into my life during the previous year. To this day I still cannot believe the generosity of God in blessing me with such people in such numbers. How many weddings have I served? How many meals have I enjoyed with you all? How often did we randomly encounter each other as some Catholic event somewhere in the city? To all my Milwaukee friends: you cannot comprehend the graces that came into my life through your encouragement, kindness, and generosity. As deep as a mountain is tall is the hole of my debt to you, and I lie at the bottom of it unable to repay!

Without this Church, without this network of support that fed and supported my heart and soul those two years, I know for absolute certain I could not have served my students with the energy, joy, dedication, and creativity I strove to bring every day (some days better than others, of course!). Every wedding I’ve served, every bit of spiritual advice I’ve given, every tear I’ve let fall on my clerics, every engagement announcement I’ve been among the first to receive, every baby I’ve prayed for, every tragedy I’ve walked through with you, every question I’ve answered, every opinion I’ve given…all of these I give because it is all I have with which to repay you all.

I will leave this (long, sorry!) entry on this note, to illustrate the significance my regency Church has played in my vocation, how the Bride manifested herself in the most challenging years of my formation. Two summers ago I was on retreat, and I was contemplating all the ways God has showed me His love, both throughout Salvation History but also in my personal history. I imagined St. Peter’s in Rome, and the square was completely packed with people, save for a path that a group of angels had cleared out; their widespread wings held the crowd back. As I walked down this path toward the basilica, I looked around at the mass of strangers, recognizing not a single face. I asked one angel what the crowd was, and he said, “These are all the souls of heaven.”

I got to the basilica and a pair of angels opened the enormous doors; inside the pews were packed and everyone stood. As I walked toward the main altar where Jesus and Mary waited for me I looked around and saw not only many saints whom I admire and have a devotion for, but I also saw the faces of so many of the people I came to know and love in Milwaukee specifically: friends from the Basilica, from Holy Hill, from Cor Jesu, from Arise, from Marquette High, and many other places. I asked another angel who all these people were and he said, “These are all the people in heaven and on earth who pray for you.”

Church, who am I that you would want me, of all people, to be yours? When you are so generous to me, how can I refuse you, even if what you want—ME—makes no sense? Yet when my debt of gratitude is so great, how can I give you anything less than my entire self?

At the end of my days in Milwaukee, with many a fond and sad farewell, I departed for Berkeley, CA to begin my theology studies and, yet again, the Church was ready to continue surprising me.

 If you missed the first installments, pop over to read: 

Day Five: A Short Honeymoon - {For the Love of the Church}

Friday, October 21, 2016

This week I'm running a series, For the Love of the Church, written by my friend Jacob Boddicker, SJ.
Jacob is a Jesuit scholastic originally from Iowa, and is currently studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in preparation for ordination. He has an academic background in archaeology, history, and philosophy, and his interests include music, science fiction/fantasy, and writing.
Make sure to check out: 

My vows took place on a warm Saturday morning, and after a lovely reception I was loading my things into my best friend's car and heading to my folks' place in Iowa. The next morning I attended Mass at the parish where I grew up, seeing the faces and places that connected me to my earliest memories of my fiance, and afterwards my friend and I were back on the road headed to St. Louis. I already knew the Church was waiting for me there; I couldn't wait to see her.

I arrived late in the afternoon on a cloudy, humid day, and my Jesuit brothers helped me carry my meager possessions up to the third floor of an old, brick house just off the campus of St. Louis University. I said goodbye to my friend and spent the next several hours unpacking and thinking about vows and the new life I had just begun. Classes would start in a week and I would begin studying philosophy, something I knew precisely nothing about.

The first day of classes came and I was hit with a sudden realization: I am on a college campus. After two years in the novitiate, surrounded by men, I was suddenly tossed back into the sea of the world, and there were attractive women my age all over the place. This is not to say I suddenly doubted my vocation; not in the least! Nor is it to say that I feared for the integrity of my vow of chastity; hardly. What it is to say is that I realized I had no idea how to live that vow of chastity in a positive way; in other words how do I, as a chaste celibate, love an attractive person?

My heart knew only one way of caring about someone I was attracted to: I called it "the heart of the prince." This is the heart that pursues, that throws itself out hoping to be accepted, the heart that seeks relationship and, ultimately, a shared life. I knew that this wasn't how I was to love anyone (except the Bride of Christ, of course, and I already "had" her heart and she had mine). I knew, too, that Christ had called me to love all people, and I could not withdraw my heart from someone just because I found them attractive and feared, say, falling in love. What to do?

In my prayer I brought the matter constantly to Jesus, and over time I began to see that there are two hearts, primarily, by which a man loves a woman totally and chastely, both of which I knew Christ was asking of me regarding everyone I encountered. A husband loves his wife totally and chastely; a father loves his daughter totally and chastely as well. The latter heart is the one I needed; the former heart is the one I had. I needed a new wineskin of a heart to contain the new wine, and so began the slow and steady interior work of reshaping my heart. The Church, as is her wont, helped me immensely, bringing into my life a number of religious sisters that really put a "face" on her and made her that much more real. One of my earliest friends ended up joining a religious community at the end of my first semester; now she is Sr. Rachel of the Eucharistic Lamb. My best friend, after two years, joined the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I met SrColleen Mattingly, SrSusan Francis Graham, SrChristine Kiley, SrChristine Hoffner, and many other wonderful sisters that really helped bring the Bride of Christ to life for me.

But what really changed my life was the opportunity to be the chaplain for a group of women on campus called the Daughters of Isabella. Just when I had, in my prayer, begun to realize I needed to learn how to become a spiritual father to the people of God, one of my brothers approached me and asked if I would take over his position as chaplain for a group on campus once he graduated. When he said they were called the Daughters of Isabella, I knew it was an answer to my prayer. Daughters. How perfect.

Thus began two years of such blessed ministry and growth, and to this day I am still friends with several of the women I served, and a few of them I do very much consider "daughters". One of them has since become a Carmelite sister; another is in discernment. Another spent two years as a missionary in Thailand; another teaches at a beautiful Catholic school out west, and the others have spread all over the country doing God's work in their own way. Since then Jesus has brought many "children" into my heart, and there are a number of people who, contrary to what I deserve, look to me as a father figure in their life. For the past few years in particular, the number of Father's Day greetings I receive on Facebook, via email, and via post far exceeds what would have been possible were I to have wed and had children of my own.

When I entered novitiate, I thought I was entirely giving up that part of my heart that desired to be a father. Yet I have discovered in the last ten years that everything I gave to God in my vow of poverty, He has returned to me, but in His way. I won't dare say God is finished perfecting my heart, but He has brought it a long way, and some of the greatest graces in my life has been to have that privileged insight into the work He is doing in the soul of someone to whom I have ministered; as I described it to one of my spiritual "daughters," the greatest joy of any parent is to see their child grow up. To see a soul mature in the Lord, to heal or to overcome obstacles that kept them from living the abundant life Christ won for us on the Cross; there's hardly a greater joy for me.

While I learned a tremendous amount during my study of philosophy, the re-education of my heart from a princely to a fatherly heart was perhaps my greatest lesson, a heart that belongs to Christ and His Church and loves from that vantage point rather than any other. For all the many, many people--men and women, priests, religious, and lay--who have helped Christ in this work, thank you. You know who you are! It doesn't take a village to form a priest: it takes a CHURCH.

 If you missed the first installments, pop over to read: 

Day Four: Both/And - {For the Love of the Church}

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This week I'm running a series, For the Love of the Church, written by my friend Jacob Boddicker, SJ.
Jacob is a Jesuit scholastic originally from Iowa, and is currently studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in preparation for ordination. He has an academic background in archaeology, history, and philosophy, and his interests include music, science fiction/fantasy, and writing.
Make sure to check out: 

I entered the Jesuit novitiate completely trusting that somehow God was going to clear everything up. My heart was still mending from giving up on the young woman I was very much in love with; my hopes for a wife and children had not simply gone away. All I had was the unshakable certainty that the novitiate is precisely where God wanted me to be at that point in my life, and I had promised Him it was a road I would walk until He told me to turn away from it.

Meanwhile the Church, yet again, followed me, and this time she wasn't subtle at all. In my college years she would move down the street from me, or on the other side of campus; in the novitiate, she had a ROOM IN MY HOUSE. I had never lived somewhere with its own chapel, nor had I access to daily Mass like I did in the novitiate. I didn't quite know what to think, and though I didn't think of her much more often than I already did, she was certainly entering into my daily life much more obviously.

It wasn't until Jesus broke the ice that my relationship with His Bride took a more serious turn. One day in our Sacraments class we were reading about the Eucharist in the Catechism. That was the day when I learned, for the first time, what--rather, WHO--the Eucharist was, and it changed every. Literally. Everything.

I remember standing in the doorway of her room, that chapel where silence was as thick as the air, and the diffused light of day filled the dark brick place with a gray light, and the scent of beeswax candles drifted by. I just stood there, afraid to enter, staring across at the tabernacle, now knowing why there was a lit candle, now realizing that this was someone's room; I wasn't alone here. "What do I do now?" I thought, and the first thing that came to mind was this: I should start treating the Eucharist like a person, rather than a thing. And so I did: every time I entered the chapel I made it a point to make eye contact with Him, to recognize the fact He was there, to mind my way of doing anything in the chapel such that I never acted as though no one else was around. It changed everything for me; I can't begin describing the difference it made in my life to know that at any time of the day or night I could leave my cell, walk down a single flight of stairs, and go kneel before my Lord and talk with Him about whatever I desired. Or just be silent with Him; whatever my heart needed. He was there.

And how did I come by this knowledge, this gift of Jesus' radically Real Presence in the Eucharist? You guessed it: HER. SHE brought Him to me, and by my baptism brought ME to HIM. I began to realize that this woman who has fawned and fussed over me my whole life...to her I owed everything, because it was through her love for me that I came to know His love, to know who He is, to receive Him every single day...how could I ever repay her?

Oh Church, you clever Bride! You knew--you knew!--that one day I would realize the unpayable debt I would owe you! And you KNEW that once you revealed and gave to me your greatest treasure, I would have to give you the only thing you wanted of me: myself. And this is precisely what Jesus began to make clear to me as I continued in my formation: like Peter, He would say time and again, "Jacob, do you love me?" I would say, "Yes, Lord! I love you! You know I love you; have I not followed you here to the novitiate?" "Feed my sheep, and tend my lambs," He would say, which I took to mean, "If you really do love me, be my priest; give my Sacraments to my people, heal and guide them."

He was cornering my heart by assaulting it with love from all sides and, eventually, He had me between a Rock and a Church, yet I could not give up my heart's deepest longing to give myself to a wife and children. It came to a head during the Spiritual Exercises and I turned the whole matter over to Jesus: "The ball is in your court, Jesus; you bring it up later if we need to talk about it." And that was that.

A year and a half later I was on retreat in Missouri, looking ahead to making my First Vows, excited to do so, and I realized I never actually asked God what He thought about me making vows. The grace I sought on that retreat, therefore, was confirmation: "God, do you want me to make vows in the Society? Do you want me to be your priest?" Meanwhile the Church stood off to the side, eyes wide with anticipation, ready for her Lord to unlock the final door in my heart that remained closed to her.

During my retreat, while contemplating the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, I was struck with the realization that Mary--near-bursting with Christ and desiring nothing more than to bring the Messiah into the world--was so much like the Church. Not only did she bear Christ into the world, but the world told her time and again that there was no room. How deep was Mary's anguish! I realized also that the Church is the Bride of Christ; Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, by Whom she came to bear the Son of God. I never realized that parallel before: the Church and Jesus, Mary and the Spirit. Then I thought: what about Joseph?

Joseph, Scripture tells us, was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19), who desired like any good Jewish man to have a wife and a family. To Him God, in essence, said, "Joseph, I love you and I trust you, and I know your desire. I offer you my spouse to be your spouse; you must love her, serve her, provide for her, protect her as though she were totally yours but remember she is not: how you love and serve her is how you love and serve me. And I entrust to you Our Son, to love and provide for and raise as though He were your own but remember He is not: how you love and serve Him is how you will love and serve me."

It hit me that Jesus was saying the same to me, offering me His Bride to be my own, and their many children to be my own, and Jesus reminded me that they will all call me "Father" for a reason. In this Jesus showed me that my desire to be a husband and father and His desire for me to be a priest were not two different things, but rather the same desire with two potential means of fulfillment. Now I could make a true and radically free choice, for I knew my options.

When I weighed them in my heart I found time and again that I could not refuse the offer of being espoused to the Bride of Christ. This is not to say that matrimony is somehow less! Rather the sense of fulfillment I felt in the very depths of my heart was such that I could not say no. I couldn't. It wasn't a lack of freedom, nor the thought that "well, it's what God wants, so what choice do I have?" But it was so good, so very good, so fulfilling to me that I couldn't say no. I knew, more certainly than I knew the existence of gravity, that not only did God desire me to be a priest, but it was what I had always wanted as well; it was just that I had never entrusted my heart's deepest desire to God before, and thus He could never help me to see.

And so, after so many years of giving her the cold shoulder, and a couple of recent years of light dating, I asked the Church if she would marry me, feeling like her Father had already given me permission to ask for her hand. She, of course, said what she'd waited 25 years up to that point to say: YES!

Thus began the longest engagement ever and WOW, what a marriage prep program Jesuit formation really is. But these ten years have been the absolute best of my entire life.

If you missed the first installments, pop over to read: 

Day Three: Her Crazy Proposal - {For the Love of the Church series}

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

This week I'm running a series, For the Love of the Church, written by my friend Jacob Boddicker, SJ.
Jacob is a Jesuit scholastic originally from Iowa, and is currently studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in preparation for ordination. He has an academic background in archaeology, history, and philosophy, and his interests include music, science fiction/fantasy, and writing.
Make sure to check out: 

In the fall of my first year at the University of Northern Iowa, my girlfriend broke up with me, the one who was occupying the heart the Church so wanted to move into. The ending of that relationship left a far bigger hole in my life than I ever realized, and it also awakened me to the realization that I really had no idea what to do with my life. Sure I was studying history; what was I going to do with it? Is history what I really wanted to give my life to? Who knows what I should do?

Well, I thought, God knows. I just gotta ask Him...and listen...but I don't know how. As I searched through the dusty archives of church-stuff there in the back of my mind's closet, I came on a small relic of a thought: the rosary. I'd never learned how to pray it, but I always carried one in my pocket because I'd joined the Knights of Columbus my freshman year out in Wyoming. I knew which beads were Our Fathers and which were Hail Marys and that was it, and I trusted that this would be good enough for God. So I prayed the rosary that way in every spare moment I had.

In the days to come my heart would grow more and more fond of another young lady who lived in my building, a young lady who loved Jesus and knew Him as I realized I did not, and my desire to love her and know Him intertwined. I saw the errors I'd made in my past relationship, and brought many a matter to confession for the first time in many months, and there the Church was to wipe the dirt from my face, wash my muddy feet, and put me in a clean suit. As a my love for this woman grew and as the Church went about her healing work in me, the Bride of Christ pulled a fast one on me--watch out! She's a wily one!--and knocked me right off my horse.

One afternoon while watching this young woman bake Christmas cookies, I was left to myself, guarding her cooking supplies in the dorm lounge while she went about delivering the latest batch. Having nothing else to do, I prayed my rosary, and it was during this that I first really "met" God. It was terrifying; I did not understand what was happening. When my friend returned she listened patiently as I tried to talk about what happened, but it was the priest at the Student Center the next day that provided the guidance I needed to to begin understanding. "Sounds to me like God is trying to get your attention; keep praying, and don't change everything except to tell Him that you are listening." So I did, and a month later I found myself in the basement of the church building sitting with an RCIA candidate, listening to a university professor give a one-hour lecture on the history of the Church. I can't imagine the Bride's excitement as this professor made his grandiose introduction of her to me, and how her eyes lit up when he mentioned--in the briefest detail--the Jesuits. It must have been her hand on my shoulder that send chills up my spine at the sound of my future order's name, because I knew in that instant I had to find out more. The more I read and the more I prayed, the more I realized that God was asking me to to trust Him and to take the next step.

To what? I honestly didn't know: my concept of religious life was limited to Friar Tuck and the Sound of Music. But every time I asked God what He wanted me to do I felt like He was constantly saying, "Jacob, do you trust Me?" And I would say, "Yes, Lord! I trust you; tell me what you want." "I want you to trust me." "Yes, Lord, I trust you! What do you want?" Over and over and over...I just didn't get it. My heart was torn between pursuing this amazing young woman, or pursuing the Jesuits; God just wanted me to make a choice. In my ignorance I saw it as a choice between marriage and family--something I fiercely desired and had since a very young age--and Jesuit priesthood, which was something I still knew little about save from what I had read.

As many who have heard my story know, events would unfold to clarify this cloudy situation, and it was again that cradle-robbing, stalker-esque, Bride of Christ that was just waiting for an inroad into my heart. While I languished in the pit of the greatest heartbreak I had ever known, it was the Church that brought me comfort in the counsel of my priest, the nourishment of the Eucharist and the rock-steady presence of Christ in the tabernacle. It was she who invited me to sing in the choir, in which I would be encouraged to audition for the university chorus, at which I met Dr.Nicole Lamartine who would, in her unforeseen way, be the one through whom God would assure me it was time to apply to the Order. The Church was so crafty about it all, knowing the delicacy of my heart at this time, knowing my desires and hopes and dreams and not wishing to tread upon a single one of them. She knew what she wanted: she wanted me, and come hell or high water--none of which concerned her one big, standing dry-shod on the indomitable Rock of Peter--she was going to get me.

I was accepted, said my goodbyes to possessions and people alike, and entered the novitiate, utterly clueless as to what God was going to make of all this. And there the Church continued to wait in the wings, along the walls, in the quiet, calling no attention to herself, with the patience of two millennia and the wisdom of ages as she and her Lord worked on my whole person. Did I want to be a priest? I wasn't sure; I only knew that I wanted to love with my whole life and I wanted to do God's will. But the Church knew what she wanted, and I couldn't possibly have foreseen how she'd go about getting it.

Check back tomorrow for Day Four: Both/And 

If you missed the first installments, pop over to read: 
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