The good news – I’m not a hypocrite.
The bad news – I’ve broken my Lenten promise in front of almost 40 twelve-year-olds.
The good news – this is a cause for…joy?
Being caught red-handed by 7th graders is like being caught red-handed by The Muppets. There’s something more than slightly comical about the whole ordeal, and yet their innocence makes the guilt of the red-handed party—in this case, moi—all the more serious.
In Part I of the Diet Coke Saga, 7th grader George called me out mid-swig in front of the whole class.
In Part II, I snuck into the school café with four quarters only to be ambushed by a table of 7th grade girls. Their eyes snapped up when they heard change clinking in the vending machine.
“Miss Sloan, I hope you’re not going to press the Diet Coke button,” said Rosa, as I pressed the Diet Coke button.
“But you’re our religion teacher!” protested Susanna. I slunk backward, twenty-ouncer in hand.
“I’m an example of…human weakness?” I countered, pathetically.
“No, Miss Sloan, don’t do it!”
“I’m sorry guys.” And I really was. But not sorry enough to throw away a perfectly good bottle of soda.
(At this moment I will apologize to the other 2/3 of the country that refer to said beverage as ‘coke’ or ‘pop’. Not all of us speak High English, see.)
So, my seventh graders see me as a spiritual sissy. But not all is lost. …
It is the kind of hot Georgia afternoon that makes me wish I were still a Midwesterner. I have two hours of seventh grade religion to look forward to, and an extra dollar in my pocket, so I swing by the vending machine on the way to afternoon classes.
As the Diet Coke rumbles from the machine I convince myself I am not really using Diet Coke to cope with 12-year-olds.
The bell rings, we pray, and 18 seventh graders pull out their notebooks.
“So yesterday we began learning about confirmation,” is my compelling opening sentence. I pause, drained by the brilliant opener, and take a swig of Diet Coke. A big ‘ol, bottle-crunching, cheek-busting swig.
“Hey,” George pipes up from the front row. “I thought you gave up Diet Coke for Lent.”
So caught. So dead.
I double over in laughter, caused by some combination of abject embarrassment and the hilarity of George’s quizzical expression. I hold the soda in my mouth, desperately trying not to spit it out. I turn and put my face in the corner in a violent attempt to compose myself.
At this point, the whole class is giggling. “What happened? What did he say?” one girl whispers.
I swallow the illicit soda and face the class. “George, you’re right.” I toss the bottle, still a third full, in the trash. “You got me. I gave up on my Lenten promise yesterday. But because you reminded me, I’ll stick to it for the rest of Lent.”
I really want a Diet Coke. …
St. Joseph seems to be regularly regarded as the historical third wheel to Mary and Jesus, making guest appearances on funeral holy cards and eternally smelling of lilies. Bo-ring.
Indeed, Joseph may be the most underrated saint (besides Magnus of Füssen, patron saint against caterpillars). Rather than a replaceable figure God threw into the Messianic scheme last minute, Joseph, too, was in the plans all along. Not just any man can raise the Son of God (talk about giving up your alpha-male role). Not just any man can be entrusted with finding a spouse for me, which is no mean task.
Here are four mini-meditations on this lion of a saint (though he is embarrassed, I’m sure, to hear me call him that).
The First Viaticum: Tradition tells us St. Joseph died before Jesus’ public ministry. Many paintings depict Christ and Mary at Joseph’s deathbed. My favorites are ones in which Christ’s cheek is pressed against that of his foster father. It evokes an intimacy reminiscent of Holy Communion, called, at death, Viaticum.
The Lover: “The boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.” Luke (2:44-45)
The angst with which St. Joseph and Mary sought the young, lost Christ reflects the lover in the Song of Songs. …
Today was ‘Classics Day’ at our high school, which involved the Latin Department Chair donning a toga and laurel wreath and quizzing students on Roman mythology, declensions, and other roads leading to Rome. (Thankfully the afternoon Teacher Pie-In-The-Face event did not make its triumphant return this year. I speak as a victim.)
The school also celebrated a Latin Mass. During the homily, Fr. Jason mentioned that Pope Paul VI summed up his spirituality with three Latin words: Miseria, Misericordia, Magnificat.
Misery, Mercy, Magnifies.*
Three quotes come to mind.
Miseria: ‘Our life on earth is a bad night in an inn.’ -St. Teresa of Avila
Misericordia: “My past, oh Lord, to your mercy. My present to your love. My future to your Divine Providence.” -St. Pio
Magnificat: “What is this feeling that my love will rip a hole in the ceiling?” -Matisyahu
I think my spirituality, and maybe yours, can also be summed up these simple, yet rich terms. No matter how wonderful life is, we often remember the misery of our human condition. From this need, we reach out to receive Christ’s mercy. We are moved to gratitude, barely recognizing our own selves bathed new in the light of Christ.
Friday food for thought.
*Apologies to the Latin scholars that can actually translate these words.
Girl Disappointed in Love
With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits–
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He, and He, too, finds no love—
why don’t you see? The human heart–what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.
It’s difficult to decipher the meaning of this poem. I’m still working on the ‘mercury’ part. But these lines cut me to the core:
You think you are the center of things. If you could only grasp that you are not. The center is He. And He, too, finds no love—why don’t you see?
As a single person, this is not terribly consoling—a far cry from the usual platitude, “Don’t worry, there’s someone out there for you!” Instead, when I lament, “I cannot find love,” Christ says, “Neither can I. I thirst”.
At first it feels like mistakenly confiding in that one friend.
Yet at a second glance, Wojtyla’s words challenge us to re-center ourselves in Christ and make our loneliness fruitful. Jesus felt the loneliness of the human heart (temperature, mercury and whatnot) so that even our loneliness for love finds a home in Love.…
Awkward Liturgical Moment #88: You are in line to receive Holy Communion when you realize you know the Eucharistic Minister ahead, and you feel like changing lines to avoid that I-should-be-focusing-on-Jesus-but-feel-the-need-to-acknowledge-you-seeing-as-we-know-one-another-in-some-capacity thing.
Well, anyway, I do that.
A few weeks ago at Mass quite the opposite thing happened. I received the Eucharist from an elderly Eucharistic Minister I did not know, a woman with soft white hair, a slight slump of the shoulders, gentle grey eyes and a flowered blouse.
“The Body of Christ,” she said, softly, slightly, gently.
After Mass, I stopped by the grocery store. I was busy averting my eyes from the white chocolate bars on the end cap when I ran into the woman. She was pushing a cart out of the pickle aisle.
I must have passed dozens of people in the aisles without realizing it. But this was different. As I recognized her a great joy welled up inside me and I had to stop myself from shouting, “I received Christ from you! Thank you!”
I smiled, and she smiled, and we went on our way. She to the meats. I to the pickles.
And I reflected that maybe my spontaneous joy at our encounter needs to happen with more people, more often. Maybe this teaches me something about how I should pass every person in the grocery store, the apartment complex, the airport bathroom. I received Christ from you. Thank you.…
Keeping in mind that Christ’s 40 days in the desert were spent in solitude, Christina Reis, editor of CatholicMatch.com, has compiled The Catholic Playbook: Lenten Reflections for Singles. See more and order here.…
On Monday, I headed to the post office to mail some packages. There was a dude (not a guy, not a man, but decidedly, a dude) in front of me in the line.
He was applying for a passport, and as he turned to make a copy of some document, I saw a large key ring dangling from his jeans. His name was on one of the keychains. Nathan.
So I thought about those times in movies when some stranger whispers the name of the protagonist intensely, and the protagonist turns, startled, and gasps, “How did you know my name?” And then the mysterious person dodges the question and makes some kind of vague but relevant prophecy. And I realized I was in that moment, except in real life.
He turns; his passport papers flutter to the ground.
“How did you know my name?”
“Nathan, that thing you are so worried about. Do not fear. All will be well.”
Tears form around the rims of the eyes. “Thank you,” he whispers, lip trembling. “Thank you.”
But before I could do that, it was my turn to mail a letter. And the post office is so slow anyway….I didn’t want to hold things up.
Recently I was spending some quality time with my friend Kaitlyn and her 14-month-old son Becket. We had finished dinner and were sprawled on the floor among Becket’s toys. He was ignoring his toys and climbing the furniture.
Out of the blue, Kaitlyn remarked, “One thing I now realize is how much time I wasted as a single person. What was I doing?”
Now that her every moment belongs to lovable little “B” (who was at that moment lumbering across the sofa), Kaitlyn’s perspective on time had changed.
Hm. How do I spend my time?
This calls for a pie chart:
Well [fold arms across chest], that doesn’t look so bad. Work is a large portion of my life, but it rarely feels like work. Food and music are my joie de vivre. Most teachers succumb to a mindless hour of TV. I don’t waste much time.
But is this chart completely accurate? If I’m honest, I know some true time-wasters pervade my everyday activities, such as:
Time is the easiest gift to squander. As a single person I have an abundance of time to spend at my discretion. My married friends envy me.
Yet so often, I wish I could more deeply share this time. I remember how playful and energetic my parents were in their twenties; this is something I hope to give my children. …
This is the first in a series of posts entitled Sunday Brunch: Feasting on the Good Things in Life, However Small.
Everyone’s eyes are on the man; it’s hard not to notice the lopsided clack and thump of his step as he drags a cane past his brown leather shoes. A young couple tithes their time and promises to save his seat while he gets a coffee from the counter.
Next thing I notice, he’s sitting down in a kind of calculated fall, jacket on the back of the chair, cane leaned on the wall. He has a lidless cup of coffee and a slice of yellow pound cake with a real fork on a real plate.
He pulls a new paperback book out of a shopping bag. He opens the book and it hangs in his hand, lopsided, the cover and first pages fighting to balance out the story to come, quite the opposite of the man whose hands it is in, the man whose story is in the last chapters, the man who comes from a time when people moved slowly enough to eat things off of real plates, when a lid wasn’t needed for your coffee because you weren’t going anywhere.
And though this man looks content as a honeydew, popping fluffy yellow forkfuls of cake into his mouth and turning the pages of his fresh book, I feel an immense tenderness watching him.…