Monday, March 31, 2014

Finding What is Beautiful

 My heart goes out to all those enduring the long winter weather in the Mainland. For most of my life, I absolutely despised winter, with the exception of days when I got to ice skate outside or go sledding. However, someone once gave me a reflection on winter that made me rethink it a bit and even come to appreciate the season a bit (Cecilia S., if you are reading this, was it you? If so, I apologize if I get this wrong.) How we approach winter is great practice for how we approach life in general. If we can come to embrace winter, with it's dark, bitter cold, and find real beauty within it, then we can also learn to embrace suffering in the rest of our lives and find beauty in the midst of it. That winter after I heard this, I made it a practice to look for, for the first time, beauty in winter. I found it. I found it in the white and dark blue, almost black contrast of the night. I found it in my neighbors in Eastown, as we would work together in the evenings to dig our cars out of the snow and move them to the other side of the street for the plow trucks. I found it in the snowflakes that looked more like glitter as they glistened and glided under streetlights. Every winter since, I have looked, listened, and felt for something beautiful. Within the suffering that happens in daily life, I have also looked, listened, and felt for something beautiful. I've always found it, even if it took some looking.

Yet, this winter, it seems even those who ordinarily love winter are ready to be done with it. My mom is that kind of person. She has always loved winter, but this one has been rather difficult, to say the least. Fortunately, she had a respite. She came to visit me in Kauai, and it was a wonderful week! We thoroughly enjoyed the island, and most importantly, our time together.

For me it gave me a chance to view the island through fresh eyes and experience it with the best mom ever. I was able to see through a renewed perspective why tourists have almost perpetual smiles on their faces and call our home "paradise." Yes, even in a place as picturesque as the Garden Island, shielded from ice and snow, it can be easy to get caught up in everyday life. The people here are incredible and the aloha spirit is alive and well, but they are not immune to tragedy and heartache. The needs of the parish and school take up a significant part of our days. I both laugh and grieve with my students as I share in their joys and sorrows. So the week with Mom renewed my spirit and was simply fun.

Our extra-rainy rainy season made the waterfalls even better! This is Opaeka Falls.

The sunset at Kekaha Beach, just down the road from our school and parish.
Finally, beloved,whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. -Philippians 4:8

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Have a Happy Lent

Join in on the 2nd Annual Keep Love in Lent Link-up!
Add your inspiring LENT post at one of the following Catholic Blogs:

Catholic Bloggers Network

and discover NEW WAYS to Keep LOVE in LENT!

Happy Lent!

How many times have you heard that greeting? Admittedly, it felt a little awkward for me to type it. However, to think of Lent as a dismal season is to forget that through this season we are preparing to celebrate the Paschal Mystery, that is the mystery that our Lord's passion, death and Resurrection are a single event! We cannot have the Resurrection without the passion and death; the passion and death are meaningless without the Resurrection.

Upon further reflection of this mystery, we can also find meaning in our own suffering, for God makes all things new. He can and will transform something horrible into something better than we can ever fathom! Positive psychologists refer to this reality as posttraumatic growth. This exciting new adventure in science only confirms what believers have known for centuries: that there is a silver lining, there is hope, there is perfect joy. Our journey in Lent is our journey toward this perfect joy.

From the Vatican II Document, Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), we learn that "[the] season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery"  (paragraph 109). We can joyfully recall that through our Baptism we are sons and daughters of God. We are are important to our Father, and we are brothers and sisters to each other.

Knowing this, knowing that we are God's children and family with each other, can be a scary invitation. It changes everything, and leads us to want to change our very selves. Yet do we really change our selves, or do we become more authentically who we really are?

Since we are made with dignity, we are called to lives of dignity. Enter penance. When we think of the word penance, we might think of fasting and abstinence. However, Father Raffaele Pazzelli, TOR writes that these practices are "not the principal meaning of the word penance in the biblical context or meaning. It is only as secondary or derived meaning. The first meaning of penance in the biblical sense is the conversion of the heart, return to God, change of outlook, that is, a resolution for the future to follow the will of God...metanoia, penance and conversion in this context have the same meaning and are interchangeable." (The Spirituality of the Third Order Regular).

This is largely why so many of us have been encouraged to move away from giving up things like chocolate (who wants to do that anyway?) and toward things that truly lead us on the path to sainthood.

Again, I say it, "Happy Lent!"

Holiness is synonymous with happiness. So during Lent, if our focus is on becoming holier we will, as a fruit of our journey, become joyful. Our penance (our conversion) leads us to a life lived for God and others, which is exceedingly more fulfilling than living for ourselves. Again, this is confirmed in Sacrosanctum Concilium: "During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered in ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions, and according to the circumstances of the faithful" (paragraph 110)

Everyone's circumstances are different, and only you know how to spend your Lent in order to increase in holiness. No matter what though, if we resolve to "Keep Love in Lent," we will stay on the right path. God is love so the way to God is through love.

As a local community, we are taking the "external and social" aspect of penance to heart in order to increase our love and bond with each other. We are blessed to have a loving, supportive local community but we are always called to a deeper level of penance. As a result, we have added a weekly "game night" to our time together as community. I believe that we decided to play "Hand and Foot" tomorrow night.

So how are you going to Keep Love in Lent? Will you begin a weekly game night with your family? Will you start visiting your local nursing home? Will you help your friend repair his basement that has been flooded? Only you can know what is possible in your own time, in your own region, and in your own circumstances. By keeping love in Lent, despite what we may be going through in our personal lives, we can have a happy Lent.