The land of the free

The anthem was too slow for my taste, but I’m particular about my Star-Spangled-Banner tempi.

We were gathered at the start line, bouncing up and down to stave off the early morning chill. The national anthem, sung by a talented local law enforcement officer, signaled to us that it was almost time to get running.

In a moment there would be a prayer led by a pastor from Newtown, and a tribute to the Boston Marathon, but we didn’t know that yet.

Connecticut State Capitol, HartfordThe anthem went on, and most of us were still and listening. I didn’t see a flag, but everyone seemed to be looking to the right, toward the capitol building, so I turned that way, assuming that a flag was in that direction.

At the end of the song it became clear what the singer’s game was: he liked to hold the note of “free” and give a huge crescendo. It was a nice effect.

He was singing “free”, and I was looking toward the historic gold dome, past the soldiers with guns hovering on a platform a few feet from me.

Has the world always been changing this fast? It had only been a year since the last time that I had gathered with tens of thousands on the streets of the city where I was born, and it seemed as if life had been turned on its head. There had been an unthinkable massacre in that state, there had been a jarring attack in my adopted home.

(I remember my mother talking about the first time she saw officers with rifles in an airport, and how she burst into tears. That was over ten years ago. So maybe things have been changing slowly after all.)

half marathon bagWe got clear bags this year. Instead of the usual cloth bags that participants have been given for years, everyone was given a plastic bag with the marathon logo on it. That was the only bag that would be accepted at bag check, and the staff had to be able to see everything in it.

That’s what I was thinking about as the baritone sang about the land of the free: plastic bags.

Has the world always been changing this fast?

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7 not-so-quick Hartford Half-Marathons

This weekend I will run my eighth Hartford Half-Marathon, my tenth halffy over-all. After a dismal start to my half-marathoning career at the New Bedford Half-Marathon on a brutal wintry day in 2006, I have learned a lot about myself (and taken two full minutes off my race pace). Here’s a recap of the previous 7 Hartford Halfs. 20120810-112226.jpg

— 1 —

2006 – 2:55:28

Although my nearly three-hour time had me coming in tenth to last among female finishers, this still felt pretty good to me. When I did New Bedford six months prior I had walked a lot of the race, and finished well over three hours. I’d decided to do that race because I was sick of sitting on the sidelines while my friends participated in events, so I put on some tough running shoes and started training.

This time I ran the whole time without having to stop to walk. Go me.

— 2 —

2007 – 2:57:00

Mom

I don’t remember much about this race, though I think it is the one at which I wore my “I Heart Jesuits” t-shirt. I don’t remember why I was slower than the year before. But I finished, and my mom drove me in just as she has every year, and met me at the finish line and poached some of the delicious food that they offer in Bushnell Park after the race. 

If not for her company, I probably wouldn’t keep doing this race. But it’s a nice opportunity to go home for a few days, fuel up on dinner with the family, and spend a day with her.

— 3 —

2008 – 2:40:00

Now we’re cooking. I was preparing for my first full opera role while I was training. I lost about ten pounds, which I have learned is the only thing that affects my pace (after losing that weight the director still put me in ghastly pleated pants that made me look like a mountain, but that’s another story).

This was also the year that I was accidentally given a marathon chip, so my time was initially recorded as being in the top ten for the full marathon (NB: even only having run the half, I still was not first in the full marathon listings. Ergo, there were 7 women who literally ran twice as fast as I did). I was listed in the newspaper which seriously confused my family, who know well my athletic limitations.

Notably, this was also the first race I blogged about.

— 4 —

2009 – 2:29:59

Nearly 45 seconds came off my mile pace between these two races. This one felt good.

I did a lot of soul-searching while training that year. The practice of writing that I had developed had me looking for lessons even more than I had previously. Here’s a section of what I wrote at the time.

So what have I learned from running? That when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t push any farther, you can always push a little harder – but if you collapse and cry (or vomit) there will still be people who will be nice to you and help you out. That it’s better to push to the top of the hill and then take it easy on the way down. That when it hurts in one place a tiny adjustment can take the edge off – although you’ll just end up hurting in another. That there’s benefit in doing the things which embarrass you the most.

— 5 —

2010 – 2:25:53

Just over an 11-minute pace! That was a huge accomplishment for me. During the race I was distracted and cranky, but it still yielded a great time. Just goes to show you can’t always trust your moods.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be my last half-marathon without Crohn’s disease. I wrote again about things I learned in that race. Here’s a summary:

1. Spectators never expect you to cheer for them first.

2. “The new course moved all the hills to the front of the race” is code for “the first nine miles are hilly as hell!”

3. Sometimes the most trying experiences result in success, not failure.

— 6 —

finish line

I always wear a bright headband so people can spot me.

2011 –2:32:44

Three things were notable about this race:

1.I had trained for a triathlon while training for the race, which got me in great shape.

2.I had an as-yet-undiagnosed chronic illness.

3. I had a sweetheart waiting for me at the finish line.

(Both the sweetheart and the illness had affected my training that fall. I can only blame the glow of new love for the “happy pounds” that may have contributed to my pace being a teeny bit slower than the previous year.)

— 7 —

2012 – 2:27:33

Last year the training was grueling, and included a mighty spill the likes of which I hadn’t had in years. The day before the race I was feeling symptoms and could barely eat dinner (I had two yogurts instead of the pasta my mother had planned). Still, I finished with one of my better times.

I’ve written many times about why I run: It gives me something to be bad at. It challenges me. It keeps me healthy. I can be totally uninvested in my success. It is a practice in humility.

I hope I have a good race tomorrow. I hope my health holds up so I can keep doing this. I hope my fast training runs are a harbinger of a PR. But none of those things needs  to happen. I’ll do what I can control: get up, tie my shoes, and put one foot in front of the other.

Do you have something you stick with even though it challenges you? 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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The God who holds

I had become so accustomed to not wanting.

My life was easy. Great family, job I could be proud of, self sufficiency, supportive friends: I had a satisfying life.

Then in the course of just a few months I had a long-distance relationship and a chronic illness. I try not to overthink their relatedness.

Suddenly I was filled with an emotion that I had never felt with such intensity: frustrated longing. At first I kept it out of my prayer. Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say I kept half of it out. I unloaded the frustration on God. I made no bones about being peeved.

Still, I couldn’t quite articulate the desire. I wanted my sickness to go away, and I wanted an easy solution to being a two-career couple living a few hours apart. I wanted those things badly. I still want them.

Petitionary prayers were always something other people did. One simply does not ask for miracles. It seems somehow déclassé. But I’ve never been one who was good at keeping a secret, so one day at mass my heart unloaded the weight of my prayers and hurled them toward the altar. I felt like I crashed through a plate glass window. In a good way.

At the same time, I was afraid. What if God was mad at me, because even though I still had all my wonderful blessings, and even though I had a new love that was astonishing, I was still finding something to whine about?

What if I didn’t have faith enough to survive not getting what I wanted? What if I couldn’t get past the childishness that made me wail and throw tantrums because I wasn’t getting my way? (At this point, I was crying a lot.)

One day I went to mass during a drought and we prayed for rain and afterward we got soaked. Literally. I thought maybe sometimes prayers are answered simply, just like that. But mine weren’t. And I’m trained in God-talk, so I know all about the standard “sometimes God says ‘not yet'” and “all prayers are answered, just not in the way we expect” lines. They were not helping.

There is a very popular professor at my alma mater who talks about finding “least wrong” ways to talk about God. Right now my least wrong way is this:

God is the one who can hold all of the prayers that feel to me as if they have been thrown into a void. God is the one who knows what to do with the fountain of nervous agony that I have been spewing for the last two years. The more I throw out there, the more God can hold, and I don’t have to understand it. Every novena, every special intention, every gasped, sobbed, whimpered plea has a place in that Glorious Love, and I know that I am drawn into that love by my pleading even when I feel rejected and angry.

When I was in Assisi I saw a statue of Jesus carrying a sheep. It was a modern statue, with thin, abstract figures fashioned on metal. I saw it on a day in the middle of a novena for health, and when I saw it I burst into tears.

I needed to see that statue, not because the Christ figure showed any particular brawn but because of the way the sheep was draped over his shoulders. The resting lamb was just as active in surrender as the shepherd was in support.

I didn’t take a photo of the statue because I knew I needed to hold it in my heart. I cried because I have not yet learned how to rest like that. I cried because I need to learn.

Posted in faith, prayer | 8 Comments

7 things I’ve learned from St Francis

Today is the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, which has always been a notable feast for me but which has taken on greater significance after I spent three recent weeks in Assisi. That town is rich in Franciscan history, not so much in Franciscan spirituality (don’t go there looking for austerity or simplicity!), but I still managed to learn much about myself as well as about Francis while I was there. It was a place of prayer.

Not everything I’ve learned from Francis was learned this past summer. Similarly, some of these lessons came from multiple sources.  Here, on Francis’ Feast day, I offer you seven things he’s taught me from across the centuries.

— 1 —

Friendship

St Clare

Francis and Clare were besties. At least that’s how I usually describe it in class.

They were friends who planned together, who prayed together, who talked of spiritual matters and the everyday. This fellowship, rooted in love, is not easy to come by, and it is even more remarkable for companions of different genders in this era.

As someone who has always had close friendships with men and women, I appreciate this model of a life-giving friendship.

— 2 —

Community

Of course, Francis is noted for assembling a community of brothers as well. Then, as now, I am sure that not all of the brothers would consider themselves friends, but the nature of an intentional, healthy community is one that values togetherness and collaboration regardless of the biases of personal preference.

— 3 —

Hermitage

L'Eremo delle CarcieriI am an extrovert, someone who gets energy from being around people. That is why it is essential that I get away from people from time to time.

Visiting L’Eremo delle Carcieri, a hermitage to which Francis escaped up the hill from the town of Assisi, offered an astonishing vision of the level of isolation that Francis’ sought. I don’t think I need to go quite so far as to find a tiny cave as Francis did.

As I seek a balance of hermitage and community, I try not to become compulsed by either. It can be just as tempting to escape into a large crowd as it is to escape into a cave.

— 4 —

Dramatic gesture

When I imagine St Francis’ renunciation of his father’s wealth and name in the piazza outside Santa Maria Maggiore, I don’t see Francis removing his fancy clothes, or the bishop tenderly covering Francis with his cloak. I see his father, who had known him his whole life and who had to have been rolling his eyes at him and thinking “Why are you always so dramatic??”

Though I can be melodramatic in my personal life, I don’t find myself often in a position to make grand actions like Francis did. Instead, I save all of the drama for ritual: the things we “act out” that show what we’re about. It’ s no secret that I love liturgy, and I’m learning that it is my way of acting out the drama that swirls around in my soul all the time.

— 5 —

Acceptance of the miraculous

I could be way off base, but I don’t suppose that Francis was particularly disbelieving when stigmata appeared. “Oh look, the wounds of Christ…that’s neat.”

At a certain point, spirituality has to let go and accept the irrationality that occasionally governs our lives. Sometimes, we just get a miracle. Best not to ask too many questions.

— 6 —

Work first, ask questions later

San DamianoIt’s conventional wisdom that when Jesus appeared to Francis in a vision and said “Repair my church”, he meant the universal church, but Francis “didn’t get it” and set about rebuilding San Damiano.

Maybe Francis got it more than we give him credit for. Instead of over-analyzing the message, coming up with a strategic plan, dreaming big, etc, he just got down to work and the rest of it all fell into place.

— 7 —

The created world is stuffed with grace

That’s all. It’s all grace.

Do you have any association with or affection for St Francis? What have you learned from his life?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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What I read: September 2013

After having spent the preceding weeks committed to a long volume of Tolstoy, I decided to play the field during September, dabbling in a few genres.

Memories of a Marriage

I took a chance and checked a book out from the “express 3-day loan” table at the library. This novel by Louis Begley was everything you’d want in a rebound relationship: short, easy, and not so good that you’re sad when it’s over.

An older writer runs into one half of a couple he knew when he was younger. This woman is not likable. He becomes obsessed with finding out why her marriage fell apart. You learn about how deranged she and her husband were without having to go to the trouble of processing any of the information, because the narrator is doing it for you. The one thing our narrator never lets us in on is why he cares so much about their decades-old relationship.

I read it in one day and felt like I’d accomplished something. Not a great something, but something.


District and Circle: Poems

The day of the same trip to the library was the same day it was announced that Seamus Heaney had passed. The library staff had thrown a bunch of his books out on a table and this was the one I’d picked up. Though I met Heaney once, very briefly, in college, I have not read much of his work.

I paged through the book, then picked it up and opened it to random pages throughout the weeks I had it checked out. What I discovered was poetry with a sense of place that resonated with a homebody with me. There were also a number of poems that had a truly fun of language. For me, the sign of a good poem is if I want to read it out loud, and I did that often with the poems in this collection.

One verse has stayed with me this month, from The Aerodrome:

If self is a location, so is love:
bearings taken, markings, cardinal points,
Options, obstinacies, dug heels, and distance
Here and there and now and then, a stance.
 


Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale

Reading two novels in short order is out of character for me, but this one caught my eye because of the weeks I spent in Assisi this summer. This book had jacket blurbs from a number of notable religious thinkers and writers. It was engaging, but not quite life-changing for me.

I should have seen that coming. Ian Morgan Cron’s main character is an evangelical pastor (who has bought into all the worst stereotypes of modern American religion – certainty, materialism, rationalism) whose crisis of faith drives him into the waiting avuncular arms of a Franciscan friar, who introduces him to all the best things about Catholicism and Franciscan spirituality.

I tend not to delve too deeply into the intermittent crises of Evangelicalism, mostly because my tribe has problems enough of its own. Perhaps someone who had would have read the main characters spiritual crisis differently, but all I saw was a train wreck coming a mile away. And when he “discovered” the highlights of Franciscan spirituality, I was happy for him but not as scandalized or surprised as a Catholic reader might have been.

Overall this is a good-hearted and informative novel, modest in size and only-occasionally-didactic in tone. It made for light, entertaining spiritual reading.


Becoming Charlemagne: Europe, Baghdad, and the Empires of A.D. 800

I wanted so badly to enjoy this book, and for the first few pages I thought I would. The authors tone is readable, and the book is full of information about an era that I want to know more about. Its structural problems, unfortunately, kept me from loving this book.

It’s a long way from Aachen to Palestine to Byzantium, and this book makes those leaps abruptly, and often for reasons that aren’t apparent. Jeff Szypeck clearly has an imaginative gift that perhaps could have been indulged more in a different sort of book. Many sections began with “one can imagine…” and went on to paint a vibrant picture of our protagonists, only to conclude with “but that’s not what happened” or “we don’t know what happened”.

In short: exhaustively researched, frustratingly written.

What did you read this month?

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Purchases made through these links send some change back into my piggy bank.

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7 things I wish I didn’t know

I hate to make mistakes. I try to be really precise in my language and terminology in all fields, especially professional ones. This usually has one of two effects: it takes me forever to say what I want to say, or it causes severe annoyance when I hear other people use the terms wrong.

I am aware that this is somewhat crazy. With that admission out there, I give you the seven things I wish I didn’t know.

— 1 —

What a denomination is

Or more precisely, what a denomination is not. There are denominations, there are churches, there are religions, then there are non-denominational…denominations? Honestly I am often reduced to just using the term “religious groups” in my teaching to avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of what that word means.

— 2 —

That not all Catholics are Roman Catholics

Melkite-Christ-the-King

Melkite Jesus says “Hey, Melkites are Catholic too!”

John Stephen Dwyer [CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

I once got a survey that listed Roman Catholic alongside Orthodox, Protestant, Muslim, etc, and does not offer an option for Catholics of other rites. So I wrote to the person who sent it to me and told them that not all Catholics are Roman Catholics, and that they shouldn’t leave out Melkite, Maronite Catholics, etc. It should just have said “Catholic” to be inclusive. Though Catholics of other rites are a slim minority, I’m sure they are relieved that I am looking out for them.

(I also wrote a novel in the margins of a health survey at acupuncture when they listed Colitis and then IBS/Crohn’s. Don’t they know Crohn’s is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, not an Irritable Bowel Syndrome? If I’m going to have chronic inflammation for the rest of my life, I at least want to get credit for it)

— 3 —

The difference between a nun and a sister

Nuns are cloistered. Sisters are not.

No one cares.

Admittedly, “nun” has entered common parlance , so I don’t feel quite so badly about using the shorthand. If Nuns on a Bus say it’s OK, it must be. Even though part of me wants to scream NUN ON A BUS IS AN OXYMORON!

— 4 —

That résumé has two accents aigus

This is another one that has crept into common usage in a modified form, of course as resume. I really don’t mind seeing it spelled without the accents. But when I send my artistic résumé to directors or conductors, I just can’t bring myself to say that my “rehzoom” is attached. So I either type in Word and add the accents, then copy and paste into Gmail, or I just say my “materials” are attached.

— 5 —

The plural of accent aigu

Seriously, this is why I have no friends.

— 6 —

That one is not supposed to congratulate upon an engagement

I read this fact once, presumably in an antiquated book of etiquette, and ever since have suffered through hearing screeching congrats upon said happy news, while I say “Best wishes!” like a character in an Austen novel. It’s not that I am not happy for people, but that I have decided that is the only rule of etiquette to which I am going to stick.

(The idea is that engagement is not an accomplishment in itself – one is not entering a new stage of life, simply announcing that they intend to enter a new stage of life. Congratulations should be reserved for the wedding. So sayeth Emily Post).

Another etiquette fact I wish I’d never read is that a couple’s names should be listed on separate lines of an address or invitation if not married and only on the same line if they are married. Now I notice this.

— 7 —

Homophones

If you graded papers for ten minutes you would already be tired of using the red pen on there/their/they’re, to/too, and (in my case) altar/alter. This is the supreme case in which ignorance would indeed be bliss. I want desperately not to care. But my profession demands it.

And sadly, my personality demands it too. I have an unfortunate tendency to notice and care. Since my mother taught me from a young age that it’s rude to correct someone as long as you understand what they mean, I never, ever mention to someone when they have hit one of these tripwires. That is a good first step. The next step is to stop being such a snob and get over it.

What do you wish you didn’t know?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Stay Focused: my guest post at ecatechist.com

Dan at ecatechist.com asked me to write some advice to catechists for his series of the same name. There was only one catch: I had to limit myself to 600 words! As always, there was a lot I wanted to say, but I managed to stay under my word count by following my own advice: stay focused.

If you’re like me, one of the things that keeps you in love with Catholicism is its richness and depth. Spanning from theology to history to literature to fine arts, there is so much to explore that one could spend their whole life plumbing its depths and never be done.

So it’s natural that when we’re teaching we might want to take a more-is-better approach. With so much for our students to learn, shouldn’t we fit in as much as we can during the time we have together?

In short, no. Read More.

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Faith and Innovation Summit, October 4

Lest I be accused of burying the lede, let me begin by saying this is the story of how I was added to the speaking roster at an upcoming Faith and Innovation Summit.

Faith and Innovation

I have a friend named Sam. He’s a Jesuit.

Sam and I met in college, but we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected at a friends wedding a few years ago. It was an Advent wedding. I wore a purple shawl and purple eye shadow in honor of the liturgical season. Despite all this, my new/old Jesuit friend chatted with me throughout reception.

About a year after that, Sam asked if I had time to throw some ideas around about evangelization and new media. I thought “geez, I’m not really sure I know what either of those terms means” but agreed to talk on the phone and see if I could fake it.

(The day of our conversation was the Wednesday of Holy Week. My now boyfriend was not yet my boyfriend and that was the day of one of our only arguments. Neither of those things has any bearing on this story. They’re just the things I remember.)

We had a very productive conversation, in which I startled myself by having something to contribute. It was then that I first admitted that sometimes I blog “for people who were disappointed by the homily that weekend”. More importantly I started to identify the ways that I use media, in the many forms I have available to me, for evangelization.

It’s not so much that I fall over myself to spread faith, but that I can’t not do it. Just like I can’t keep my feelings from being written all over my face, I can’t keep my religious convictions from being written all over my blog (even when I’m writing about books or feminism or soup).

Sam went on, with other SJs, to found The Jesuit Post, an up and coming web resource for which I am happy to shill. It’s pretty amazing.

He recently introduced me to another entrepreneurial Catholic, Adam Coughlin, who founded Plus Grace with his brother. They are hosting a Faith and Innovation Summit on October 4 in New Hampshire, and I’ll be one of the speakers there.

If you are in or around New England, you should consider coming to the summit. There is a killer group of speakers (including the aforementioned Sam), and lots of time built in for getting to know other people searching for new ways to set the world on fire.

I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until I started talking to someone else about it. If you feel passionate about spreading your unique message using all the new tools we have available, know that you’re not alone, and that we all have lots to learn from one another.

Maybe you can’t make it to New Hampshire on a Friday. We’ll miss you, but I should be able to share both what I present and what I learn at some point after the fact. If you decide to join us, make sure to let me know you’ll be there!

Edited to add: Unfortunately the summit had to be postponed until a later date. We’ll let you know when that is!.

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7 insights from Pope Francis’ interview

America Magazine published the highlights of an interview with Pope Francis from August 2013. The answers reveal a lot about our current Pope and his approach to our world. Though I plan to go back and read a few more times, my first reading helped me identify seven important insights from his statements.

— 1 —

We have a “journey faith”

Francis describes the life of faith in terms of action: a Christian must be fruitful, must seek God, must walk together. He refers to faith not as “a ‘lab faith’ but a ‘journey faith’, a historical faith. God has revealed himself as history, not as a compendium of abstract truths.”  Because of this “we must enter into the adventure of the quest for meeting God; we must let God search and encounter us.”

This is dangerous. It puts us in uncomfortable places. But we can’t sit still, convinced of our own sanctity and trying not to move so that we won’t lose it.

— 2 —

Art matters

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da - The Calling of Saint Matthew - 1599-1600 (hi res)As it turns out, Papa Francesco and I like a lot of the same writers, artists, and composers! Dostoevsky, Caravaggio, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mozart, Bach…this is definitely a sign that we will be best friends. Francis is able to make reference to works of art with familiarity and ease, something I also noticed in Lumen Fidei, his first encyclical.

The interviewer mentions an earlier interview in which then-Jorge Bergoglio remarked that art makes the tough aspects of life into something beautiful. The favorite pieces that he offers in this interview are all examples of this maxim. (He claims he “loves tragic artists”.) This is indicates that he is my favorite type of realist: one who sees the messy truth of life and insists it can be beautiful anyway.

— 3 —

God is always mercy-ing

Charmingly, Francis explains that he plays “Create-Your-Own-Gerund” with the word misericordia when translating the Latin in his motto Miserando atque Eligendo (“by having mercy and choosing him” – a reference to the calling of Matthew). To make up for the gap in the Italian and Spanish languages, he has invented misericordiando, which we would read as “mercy-ing”.

I like the idea of mercying (not only because it reminds me of Hopkins’ statement that “the just man justices“). God is actively “mercy-ing”, all the time.

— 4 —

Sin happens, and we go on

Francisco (20-03-2013)

By Presidência da Republica/Roberto Stuckert Filho (Agência Brasil) [CC-BY-3.0-br], via Wikimedia Commons

Why does God need to be mercy-ing? Because sin is real. Hat tip to Br Matt for isolating this acknowledgment in the papal interview. When asked who he was Pope Francis replied “I am a sinner”.

Again, I think this demonstrates healthy realism. Of course he is a sinner, we are all sinners. We all fall short of who we are supposed to be, we all damage relationships and have to repair them. But instead of falling prey to the temptation to write life off because of this reality, the Pope (like most healthy people) acknowledges his brokenness and gets back to the work of being a disciple.

I suspect he is able to do this because of his conviction that he is “looked upon by God”, to use his words. That’s a lot to live up to, but is a transformative blessing. So we fail, but we keep doing our best, and know that God’s always mercy-ing us.

— 5 —

People can grow

My favorite section of the interview was Francis’ reflection on his time as Provincial, why he was seen as a hardliner and didn’t please many of his brother Jesuits. He claims that having been appointed at the young age of 36 was “crazy”, and that his leadership style was poor.

He goes on to explain that this style has developed, and that he now knows more about how to be a leader and avoid authoritarianism. To me, this sounds a lot like growing up, and gives me hope that even if my youthful mistakes follow me around the rest of my life, I will still know that I have grown beyond them. It also reminds me that often reputations are built on things that happened a long time ago and don’t always reflect who a person has become.

— 6 —

The Church is the People of God

Another thing the Pope and I have in common is our fondness for the conciliar image of the Church as People of God. He speaks warmly in a number of places about people. In fact, he mentions that his choice of living quarters outside the papal apartments was due to his need for community. These comments are worth noting:

Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships.

Can I get an amen?

The images he uses are strong. Instead of just leaving our doors open, we must go out and engage the world. Instead of being small chapel or a “nest protecting our mediocrity” we should see the Church as the home of all.

This might be the point that takes the longest to set in.

— 7 —

Faith begins with the saving love of God

Pope Francis’ identifies this truth as where all preaching should begin. It weaves its way through many of his answers: why he won’t judge homosexuals, why we should live a journeying faith, why he accepted his election as Pontiff. God’s presence, which is a presence of love, is constantly with us, and that makes all the difference.

There was much more that struck me about this interview, but I’m trying to limit my scope. Two topics in particular, confession and discernment, caught my eye, in part because they were the themes of my masters thesis. What struck you about these interviews?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Summer ends now;

sunrise

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, yes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic–as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!–
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

 – Hurrahing in Harvest, Gerard Manley Hopkins

Autumn means less light, it means the discomfort of colder temperatures, it means rising before the sun is up, it means that everything that grows falls apart again, it means that we will die.

And yet – last weekend I sat under a blanket with my beloved and thought maybe, just maybe I can learn to like this season of decay and change. Maybe the people in my life who sweep in after the leisurely isolation of summer make it worth it to endure the cold. Maybe a season of change means that I can change too, that I can keep my eyes fixed on God’s world-wielding shoulder and let that be more for me than the grief I feel.

These things were here and but the beholder wanting.

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