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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Man, Death and Their Mutual Friend

An original poem by Helena Noel

Might there be sweeter friend to man than Death?
  For Death, 'tis thee who, patient, holds the door.
Thy bedside watch endures 'til final breath,
  And thine the grasp our trembling hands secure.
A mother mourns the son beyond her reach,
  But thou, O Death, take each in thine embrace
To guard these guests within thy gothic keep,
  And how such saints are gladdened by thy face!
Yet would not all be hellish but for Christ?
  Without Death's King, thy keep? A brackish hole!
Thou wouldst leave all entrapped in lifeless night
  If not for Heaven's Light to grace each soul.
Thou dost indeed most sweetly hold the door,
  Yet thou art gate to He Who's sweet still more.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Does It Mean To Point Back To God

When I started this blog, I had no intention to talk significantly about politics and news, except maybe briefly on subjects that moved me. I wanted to spend time in reflection on the Gospel more than our culture. On poetry, prayer, worship. Even so, the news-related things that I suspected I would talk about were largely positive: Pro life successes, my hopes for a promotion of a culture of real love and chastity, perhaps mention or point out some inspiring public Christians. What I ended up talking about: Any and everything that breaks my heart.

Granted, a year ago I was bright-eyed and optimistic, and while I was convinced that society would get worse before they got better, I thought for sure it wouldn't take too long for them to get worse, and things would get super-duper better, really quickly. Because God is good and His Christians would labor, day and night, to bring about His kingdom. Well, with continuing abortion (supported by 'c'atholics), brewing divisions, a crisis of faith and vocations, attacks on religious liberty, and moral decay everywhere, we're clearly still in the 'growing worse' phase, and I don't pretend to know how many lifetimes that will last.

That's why I wanted to point back to God. Both in my own life, (because my life is nothing without my eyes on Christ,) and here, for our culture. What an awful trajectory we're on! We need to jack the track straight up if we want to ride it to heaven. Frankly, right now, we're dashing along at light speed horizontally, convinced we're flying.

Order of the Poor Knights of Christ
Emblem, Source: Wikipedia
I love our bold, tumultuous Church, and it seem right now she's in the another trough of the typical cycle of powerhouse faith and dangerous unbelief that our Church has tumbled through century after century. But all throughout them, every generation is filled to the brim with unsung saints and lovers of Christ: men and woman filled to capacity with his spirit who keep the rest of us soldiering on! They love God, pointing back to Our Lord with their words, deeds, and lives means orienting everything towards his glory.

Nothing changes the mission, not even an iota; although, it seems I must always take time to re-orient myself to this mission. As I've said before, its not God who changes, but we temporal earthlings who don't always cling to his heart like we should. I'm finding that I dart around the subjects of faith, and religion, and culture like a hyperactive child; unless I pause to reorient myself, I'm going to get lost.

Source: Wikipedia
It's the mission of each and every Christian to be an 'unsung saint,' and writing about my faith or about prayer helps me in part to immerse myself in the Church and God I love. Questions need to be asked and answers pursued: Where does God touch our world, where does He touch our lives, what part of our hearts are still in need of His light? The hyper-enthusiasm comes back so much stronger when I know where I'm running to!

And run I shall! Pointing back to God means being as quick to follow his commands as we are to preach them... and to preach them boldly! Not so that we may be saved by those 'good works,' or by keeping commandments, but rather that by accepting, with His Grace an enhanced and honest desire for goodness that spills out into our deeds. Faith's not a chore, but a joy!

God's Word, placed firmly in your heart, spills out into your life, making you a 'doer' and 'hearer' of the Word, and lover of His people.

Homeless Jesus, Buffalo, NY Source: CBS News
It means letting your Life revolve around Christ's goodness, so that when people look at you they see a mouthpiece for Joy.

It means living out his command to love one another as he has loved us, because they'll know we are Christian by our love.

It means seeing Christ in the lowly, and never ignoring realities that break God's heart.

It means a lot of things, and I'm constantly astonished at the ways faithful Christians around me lead the world to Christ.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rhythm of the Devotion: Need Some Funky Syncopation

My Prayer Life is Shiftless

Ten years ago, it was Shower, dress, morning prayer, mass, breakfast, school.
Today, I can't summarize my  routine in only a sentence. Lets just say that my life is a bit irregular, so if this prayerlife of mine is going to have a rhythm, the beat better have some swing. 

This morning, I woke panicky to a darkened room with burnt out light bulbs. Uh, well, slowly, and with a lot of hiding my head under blankets, flattening my face against my pillows, and procrastinating against looking at the nearby clock... but shut up. I have my OWN style of "panic!"

I knew it was one of my last days of the semester and therefore, deadly important. The more classical version of panic set in when I rolled over, opened my eyes, and noticed that the room was completely different than I remembered because someone re-arranged it while I was at work earlier in the week.

Where the hell was the clock? Why couldnt' I turn on the lights? What time was it?

Many hours later, I still have no freaking clue what the answers were. Let me summarize: I'm finishing *different* degree I started two years ago at ANOTHER school near to where my parents live. And so at the moment, I'm living with them. And the rest of my family. And so also sharing a room: dish me out an extra helping of chaos!

 I had to get dressed in the dark, blearily wondering if my dad left for work without taking me to campus, tripping over furniture I forgot had grown legs and moved and slamming into roaming desks.

I supposed this is the part where I say something about how what a wonderful morning devotion I had, or the great gospel reflection, or some other such 'devoted catholic makes time for devotion' thing. Uh, sure, I guess I did, but not in any spectacularly regularized manner.. Relieved that my dad's car was still in the driveway, I texted him to see if he was awake, and if he had work, and idled about until he texted me back. I ate cereal, I watched my siblings leave to catch their school bus. I charged my phone and put headphones on and listened to an audio book.

My dad didn't have work. I drove myself.

And NOW you're disappointed in me. Or not. If not, please be, because I really SHOULD have used that time to pray, and I've told Our Lord numerous times that I would give my mornings to him before perusing the things that I want: Facebook, audiobooks.. um.. actual books... (small list, but they are hella distracting!)

 My prayer life has fallen through the cracks in the past semester, although I still go to mass, hit up Jesus for chats, and pray to his mother when I can't sleep. Occasionally, I ask my angel to protect me. I'm a creature of habit, and prayer is a habit, but when the things I associate with 'prayer time' fall away, I fall apart too unless I allow myself to lash it to my new norm. Having moved home again, I haven't found that norm yet, and I can tell, gracewise, in peace and faith and confidence, I'm suffering because of it. God always has grace to dispense to us, but we've got to be open and asking for it!

So! I drove myself, which is spectacular because I tie my prayer to my habits. If there's one thing you ought to know about me and driving, it's that I love to pray and drive, and boy do I need it right now! Although it's been almost a year since I've had a car to use freely, old habits stick around. I tried very hard to listen to the audio book I downloaded,  But, praise God, I was buoyed up by force of old habits, and found that I couldn't help but pause it every so often to bring before God concern or care on my heart.

Where is Christ in my School?

When I walked into the campus building, I felt solemn. My backpack seemed to press me forward. Every muscle in my body was prepared to bow; I instinctively looked for an altar to venerate with that bow, and for a tabernacle to fall on my knees before. But of course, my campus is secular, and the disappointment my heart cried back at me hit me like a ton of bricks.

I met God in prayer today before school, but that was a fluke. An one, teeny, old habit happened to line up with what I did today: Driving a car, alone, with no passengers during morning time. But I work afternoons, and my dad typically takes me to school. THAT isn't going to happen again for a while, most likely. I'm adrift, with a yawning, cavernous emptiness in me that is waiting for a relationship with my savior to flood in. And my school is adrift, too.

There hasn't been a Christian Club of any sort on this campus for over a year. I just returned semester to find that the entire club is AWOL, the president isn't presiding, and no one knows where we're supposed to meet. Its remarkably similar to my last semester here, two years ago, actually. But at least in my first semester, they were hiding, (long story;) THIS semester, the club is defunct.

But a brighteyed freshman boy with brain-melting  powers of persuasion...
"We should find the Club!"
"Haha.. Okay.."
... lured me on a multi-week wild goose chase that ended with not one, not two, but THREE Student Life faculty members telling the two of us we needed to "take the bull by the horns" and become the leadership this non-functioning club needs. (What is it, the school slogan???)

And the lovely freshman said:
"I don't think I can be president, but you should totally do it..!"
"Haha.. Okay..!"


So, I am the unelected President Pro Tem of the Christian Club. And I brought about as much order to the club as I managed in my own prayer life. That is none at all, with resolutions and no action. I got a vice, got a secretary, recruited two members who never show up. all but three 'meetings' this semester consisted of hanging in the student union chatting about cartoons with a bible on the table, with only two focusing on club business and prayer, and only one actually having a bible study. And we barely agree on meeting time!

Courting Christ as a Student Leader and Individual 

That sorrow and that need for Christ in my life and in my campus still reigns, and reins in the hearts of my clubmates, goofy as they are. The problems are this:

Except for our first meeting, all the others took place simply because we happened to be in the same place at the same time.  Everything was incidental, just like prayers on my morning drive. Spontaneity in prayer is good, but is that what devotion looks like? Devotion is loyal enthusiasm, it has deliberate acts and bursts of spontaneous love, and there is no deliberateness in the way we go about things.

Its awkward, and being distracted is easier. I give in to my media distractions all the time. So, apparently, does my club. The fact is, coming close to Christ and his intimate, overwhelming, complete and unrestricted love is hard when we fall short, and putting it off is easier. The same is true of our club: every prayer group or bible study is awkward, because faith is intimate, and bearing our hearts to God is hard enough. Now throw in supporting friends and allowing yourself be supported as you study and pray. Majorly hard if you don't know the status quo, Established groups can feel comfortable by sticking to their groups form and pattern, but new groups are in danger of just squishing out and avoiding meaningful prayer and reflection all together.

Its scary to try and give what we fear we don't have. My function as Pres Pro Tem is limited. All I'm to do is redirect distracted members and introduce topics and relevant business. But every time I see someone straying, I'm too caught up in my inadequacy to lead to keep them on track. I can't keep myself on track and I'm afraid of my hypocrisy. I'm afraid of some hidden, unknown error in judgement I could make that would have been avoided by a prayerful Pres. So, I avoid prayer at home, avoid prayer at school, and so manage to stay, ironically, the un-prayerful pres that lacks the grace to bring about God's will for our Christian Club.

I won't let these things stand in the way anymore. A new semester is coming! I don't know who will be taking the bull by the horns in the future, but I know for the first few weeks it will still be plain old me: There isn't anyone else! The club must grow so that we can elect a better schmuck, but in the mean time I can take this break between semesters to prepare to give the three member it does have a form and routine and purpose: Weekly engagement and surrender to Christ, prayer, and study.

... in theory. We all have various schedules, so we'll need some swing in this prayer schedule, too. But everything is fun with syncopathic rhythm!
But Helena, "Syncopation" means 'irregular beat' while "Syncopathic" means 'shortened'...
Hush, you. With everything as wacky as it is, it will probably be both!

I'm tackling step one: Bending over backwards to decide a meeting time and place! That need to have a place to go to encounter Christ hit me hard this morning. But in truth, its been hitting me for many mornings, and for a while. I know my club members are hit, too. It can't remain like that. We WILL find a place that is FOR God, even if it's only for two hours or four hours a week, and only filled with the members of an unpopular club. He deserves that much and more. Hopefully, we will carry Him in our hearts out of that room, to our campus, and lives at home!

 Don't question the video. Just enjoy the song.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Remembering the Whisper is A Lie

Spring has ended, it's the dawn of summer (along with summer jobs): I've faced losing my job, finding a new one, making friends and losing friends, and a million things between. They've made my life messy as a tangled and tied wad of headphone cords! Ahead, the new Fall semester looms, promising to to throw this so-called "summer vacation" a tizy as I try to prepare for September. Nothing about gearing up for school, so far, is going smoothly. Yes, its only* just July and I'm already preparing to go back.... ugh..

Sometimes, when we're overwhelmed, we fail and fall apart. Crankiness rears its ugly head, Impatience nibbles at your toes and makes you snap at everyone, while Habits and Attitudes settle on your back like a cloak, slyly suggesting they can comfort you when really, all you needed was a nap. It can be tough to fend them off, and sometimes I don't want to admit that I'm fighting them.