Category Archives: Prayer

Human Solutions

I didn’t write yesterday; I may not write anything else today.  I have days where I just drop my face onto my keyboard and think, “Ugggghhhh,  I can’t write.  I suck.” 

This usually happens after one of three things happen: 

  1. Someone tells me how much they liked my writing.  I always feel this manic tick go off inside me that tells me I have to top, then, whatever I wrote before, so as to actually be deserving of praise.  Right now. This instant. I need to pump out something absolutely epic, that will change the life of the reader with my gritty insight.  Something poignant, yet witty.  Then my eye starts twitching.  I told you from the start— I crave approval, but when I actually get it, it does weird things to me.
  2. I start reading other people’s blogs;  blogs written by people I very much admire.  And when I finish, I slump my shoulders, take a long drag from my coffee, think, “Uggghhh, why didn’t I write that?  I’ll never be able to say that kind of stuff without sounding like an idiot.  Well, who cares? It’s not like anyone’s actually reading your blog.”  Face:Keyboard. 
  3. I have an idea for a post, but haven’t worked it out to the point where I can articulate it and am consequently consumed by a need to get my thoughts on paper.  But since the thought is half-formed, it comes out looking like:  “sahsadfdhgfdhgf-soap-nachos-conclave-synergy-Armando Guebuza-ashdkgkhghg.” 

Yesterday, all three happened, which sent me into a spiral of artistic and melodramatic self-loathing.

I’ve learned that if I’m in a bad mood, coffee is actually not a good idea for me.  This is counter-intuitive, since I usually think: Coffee + Happy = Energy = More Happy.  But apparently, Coffee + Bad mood = Energy = Restless Crankiness. 

So, having had multiple cups of coffee by the time I got home last night, I really was not keen on a quiet evening at home with my book, alone with myself and my dumb writing.  I tried, I really did, to just sit with my book and my soup.  But in the end, after a phone call from my sister, I went to Panera in search of just some basic human contact, had another cup of coffee (and a bagel) and tried to read again.  No luck.   With the dangerous combination of intellectual frustration, caffeine-induced restlessness and your average bout of moodiness,  all I wanted was a good, real life conversation. 

I’m not really a lonely person.  I spend a lot of time by myself, and I’ve never been the type who minded that so much.  In fact, if I have just too much time with too many people, I start to want to kill them and so I go catch a movie by myself and I feel better.  Most people tell me that going to the movies by yourself is lame and asocial, but I’d like to remind them that it at one time may have been the only thing keeping them from an untimely death.  Rachel, I’m talking to you.

But this time, I was cursing the year I was born as two years too early to be able to go to a dark bar and spill my troubles to a chatty bartender like a Freudian psychologist patient with daddy issues.  I drove around for about 20 minutes in a residential area, not totally sure where I was or where I was going, until I popped out, unexpectedly, onto the route I take to get to the church. 

Hey, I can take a hint. 

I sat in Church for a little while, not really saying much, or feeling like I was hearing much on God’s part.  This is usually okay with me.  When I worked at the church, if I just needed to get away from the soul-crushing florescent-ness of the church’s kitchen, I’d go up to the chapel, just to sit.   Sometimes I’d have deep thoughts, and sometimes I’d just think about whether or not the spaghetti sauce could use more basil.   I used to think of it like sitting in church and not saying much was like being able to sit in comfortable silence with a friend.

After a while, my inability to pray and the ensuing silence between God and I started to feel like “awkward silence,” and I wondered if it was my fault because I didn’t come to church often enough anymore.  Annoyed that I had come all that way to the church and not felt any more at peace,  I heard the piano playing downstairs.  Well, I sighed exasperated, that was it.  Any little bit of prayerfulness I had was waning fast, as my mind kept wondering who was playing the piano, what they were playing, how nice it sounded, but how goshdarn distracting it was, etc., etc.  So I walked out of church, leaving my purse and missal behind, and went downstairs.

It turns out that of all the people who could have been on the otherwise-deserted property,  there was no more perfect person to have picked that moment to distract me from my attempt at meditation.  Once thick as thieves, though granted, fraught with complicated adolescent hormones.  He was my best friend until unique circumstances eventually ended our former closeness and by now, we hadn’t talked for more than a few minutes in a long time.  Things change, and people grow up, lives diverge into different paths. But if you’re lucky, there’s still a solidness there in a friendship, and a bond still intact, no matter how long its been stagnant, even after its been deluged in a lot of pain, misunderstanding or separation.  The bond’s changed, but it’s there, simplified and laid bare, and better for that.

So we caught up for a solid half hour– more than we’ve talked in seven months, and left with promises to pray for each other,  and no matter how long  it is before we catch up with each other again, an almost tacit agreement that we would still be friends.  “I’ll be there… I mean… you know what I mean.”  “Yeah.  Me, too.”

It’s funny how God works.  And not to sound cheesy, but it occurred to me what a generous gesture it was.  He gave me, who doesn’t come make visits often enough as it is, an answer to a prayer against loneliness in human form, when His company should be all I need.  He wants me to come to Him, but when I do, lets me leave.

[UPDATE:  I was trying to think of a better way of explaining what I meant by this.  It’s like a Father seeing His child, sad and lonely, and instead of making it another unhappy lesson in coping, and blind trust, sent me off with a piece of candy, knowing there will be plenty of other times for me to learn the hard way. In other words, He gave me a good break.]

I went back upstairs to get my things from the chapel, and as I walked out, I mouthed a thank you.

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Fish on Fridays: Catholics aren’t bothered, why are you?

I’ve only been to Bella Casa, a pizza place on  the corner of 16th and Farnam, a handful of times, but already I’m recognized by the owner as the girl who gets cheese pizza on Friday. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to have the once-a-week-vegetarian talk with people I know.  If I go out to eat in a group, I spend the most time looking over the menu, trying to find something meatless (and I don’t do fish), that will also satisfy my need for protein.   I’ve become accustomed to asking waiters what they recommend for vegetarians and with that becoming an increasingly popular trend for health or ethical reasons, they’re more than happy to help. 

It’s really not a big deal.  I actually really like veggie burgers, and grilled portobello mushrooms make a good, filling meat substitute without tasting like meat at all. 

But when I explain to people why I’m being such a high maintenence foodie,  I get the whole gamut of reactions.  Everything from interested questions, timidly insincere nods, to being publicly quizzed on whether or not I know why Catholics are called to abstain from meat.  “I bet you didn’t know that Pope So-and-So only instituted that practice because he had family in the fish mongering industry.”

Actually, I have heard that one before, several times, in fact, and I’ve done some research. I’ve found nothing conclusive to support that claim.   In fact, it was surprisingly hard to find anything that answered my question about when and why that tradition came into being, other than that we do it in memory of Our Lord’s Passion, though no one said why it was the meat of warm-blooded animals. 

I heard long ago (and found some others say it on various forums that popped up on Google) that because warm-blooded meat was a rich man’s food, and fish, a poor man’s food,  the pope wanted the rich to identify with the poor in this way.  This doesn’t seem likely to me either,  but a whole heck of a lot more likely than the idea that a pope was taking religion-changing measures to help out the fish industry during a time when, due to the availability of fish and the conditions of the majority, it was probably doing well enough on its own.  I get that there have been corrupt, power-seeking popes in the Church’s history, but I’m just not buying it.   

Eventually, I found that the teaching is first mentioned in The Didache of the Apostles, written in the 1st Century.  Hey, good enough for me!  The Didache contains basically all the other core truths of Christianity.

Whatever happened in history, though, I can think of one reason that abstaining from meat on Fridays is good for Catholics: It reminds us of who we are.   Most of the week,  it’s easy to forget you’re Catholic.  Since high school, I’ve gone months at a time where every waking moment was spent either at a church, at a convent, with nuns and prayer schedules and in all other ways, identifying as Catholic in a routine that was just taken for granted.

Between August and December of last year, I worked at my Church and its school and went to Mass every day. When the semester ended and I got a paying job, I still went to Mass several times a week until moving to the other side of town made only Sunday Mass possible.  And I miss it.  I miss feeling as Catholic as I did.  And yet, there are people who’ve never had the opportunity to have daily reminders of who they are and their duty to the Church.  For all of us who have to live in the world and can’t spend life kneeling in Adoration, we have Fridays.  Fridays that make us think before we order a Bacon Double Cheeseburger: “Oh, shoot, it’s Friday. Guess I’ll go home and… make a PB&J.”  Whatever was in the heart and mind of the man who first gave us this duty, God surely saw the benefits of this. 

The same goes for my scapular, and my veil, and all the other little things required of Catholics that make us put in the little extra effort, that remind us that men are meant to be in the world and not of it.

I don’t mind explaining to people that there is one day a week that I don’t eat meat.  Some people are genuinely curious and thoughtful.  I’ve had very nice people, non-Catholics, say how much they love my scapular, and sound proud to show that they even recognize one when they see it. 

No, what bothers me is the people who presume to tell me that my traditions are dumb.  People who won’t say anything negative about Muslim women in a Hijab, (these are often feminists who, I would think, would be the first to recognize this as a gross injustice against women by their male oppressors. Instead they admire the courage it takes to go against the American-Judeo-Christian grain in such an open way.  Apparently, sticking it to one Man is more important than sticking it to another) or even acknowledge that they’ve noticed it out of fear of being accused of bigotry or hate, will openly laugh at my religion’s traditions.  Literally– the same individuals.   Jews have much more finicky diets than Catholics in regards to meat, (for much stranger reasons) and I don’t hear anyone scoffing at them.

“I went to Catholic school,” I said once.

“Oh, so that’s why you are the way you are,”  sneered my coworker.

“Probably.”

Replace “Catholic school” with “Buddhist monastary” or something like that, and I couldn’t imagine anyone having the gall to act like it’s anything less than extraordinary.  And dare I become indignant at this offense, and it just fans the flame, while being accused of a hate crime against any other racial, ethnic or religious group is seen as the ultimate taboo. 

People seem to think that most non-Christian religions are exotic, exciting and progressive (read: trendy) compared to stodgy ol’ Christianity.  Quote Gandhi and every 20-something (and anyone who read “Eat, Pray, Love”) in the room will solemnly nod in agreement; quote the Psalms–sublimely poetic, in even a superficial way– and you’re a religious fanatic.   Then they feel they need to fix you, to unravel those crazy ideals of yours when they’re obviously so 1489.  Outdated. Obsolete.  In so many words, I’ve been made aware my “corruption” is some people’s personal undertaking.  No, they don’t even pretend to respect my religious sensitivities.

Yes, I have a persecution complex.  Yes, this makes me angry that I, a bigoted, brainwashed, bitter (how’s that for alliteration?) Christian am more respectful of my tolerant, enlightened, open-minded liberal friends than they are of me.    It upsets me that some of my friends, who care about me, won’t read my writing because I spend too much time talking about “Catholic stuff.”  Yes, it hurts.  But that’s reality, and being Catholic is all about living in reality and dealing with it as it is. 

I’m probably preaching to the choir.  Pretty much all the Catholics I know will be nodding in agreement, I think.  We all know that the people who are crying out the loudest for “tolerance” are the ones most likely to be incited to anger or condescending antagonism  at the sight of a Catholic living his or her Faith.

Providence

Whew.  That last post really took it out of me, so this one will be far shorter. (I hope. There’s always the chance that I’ll hop on the Tangent Train and won’t jump off)

Anyway, all I want to say is to trust your instincts, because they’re almost always more than that.  They’re directions when you don’t have a map.   How many times have I begged God, “Just tell me what to do! SEND ME A SIGN!” when in reality, He’s probably already pulling me to the right thing every time, and I would know that if I would just shut up for two seconds.  

I always feel like I’m looking at the world with new eyes when I realize that something I was doing, seemingly without reason, was indeed for a very good reason. 

Prayer is much more than talking to God.  Prayer is letting your heart sit silent so God can get a word in edgewise.