Please don’t scroll past this video. Whatever you’re doing, I’m begging you to take the time to listen to this song and remember that you are a unique, handsewn, handpicked creation of God, who makes no mistakes. Stop trying to … Continue reading
I really feel like I need to write about my experiences at CAMP-of-the-WOODS, a Christian camp in upstate New York. I worked there for three weeks in August, and it was an eye-opener in many ways. I think while there, I finally heard that call from God I’ve been waiting on, but strangely He was calling me away from the camp. I’ll elaborate, I promise.
So, my family has vacationed in Speculator, NY, for the last two summers. We spend a week at the aforementioned CAMP-of-the-WOODS, an outdoorsy, evangelical experience one man described as “Christian Disneyland.” My parents had been bugging me to get a job, and they thought a faith-based place like COTW was my perfect niche. I had some concerns about the camp’s “nondenominational” Christian affiliation because experience has taught me that “nondenominational” is a misleading synonym for “assorted Protestant”. Still, I agreed to go on the camp site and fill out the application. That in itself was a daunting task. Lots of essay-style questions about my faith, my current relationship with Jesus Christ, favorite Scripture verses, etc.—I had to stop myself from citing Tobit at one point, hahahaha. But before I could hit “submit”, I had to agree to the Seven Non-negotiable Essentials of CAMP-of-the-WOODS. Yep, they pledge allegiance to sola scriptura, sola fide and all sorts of Catholic no-nos in there. You don’t know how badly my conscience ached clicking “agree”, but I gave in anyway.
They were excited to hire me as a teaching assistant for the Christian Education program. I was specifically designated as an aide to special needs children, but in the absence of special needs kids, they had me work as a floater, taking on a few different jobs. My first week, I worked as a teaching assistant with the kindergarteners. I loved them all, they were so precious and sweet. I thought the week would go by without incident, but one day, the Bible lesson was about the Last Supper and Crucifixion, and what the teacher said made my skin crawl. She explained to the children how Jesus was speaking figuratively when He said that the bread and wine were His Body and Blood—a way of foreshadowing that He was about to die for us on the cross. I was half-tempted to give in to instinct and aggressively defend the truth of the Eucharistic Mystery, but I knew that would be wildly out of place. I sat there silently, red in the face and shaking with unspoken conviction. That was a painful day. Another time, some girls gossiped about who was and wasn’t “saved”. It seemed to me that putting so much stock in predestination, by necessity, indicated little faith in God’s gift of free will. I saw other, lesser offenses over the course of my time there, but the ones that stick out to me are the ones I have listed.
In any case, being at COTW made me anxious—homesick, actually, not for Baltimore but for my Catholic Church and the truth She offered. My work schedule was jampacked, and I hadn’t been able to attend Mass in weeks. I didn’t even have a Rosary or a Catholic Bible with me. I did take comfort in singing hymns like Ave Verum Corpus and Haily Holy Queen, but I had to sing those quietly. I could feel my faith being stifled and suffocated in a place where things as innocent as Crucifixes and making the Sign of the Cross are taboo.
Then one day, things got better. This is an excerpt from my diary:
Yesterday was beautiful. I heard Your call, and I only pray that You will give me the grace to answer it.
I don’t know where to begin. I do know that a) you spoke to me very clearly in that empty church yesterday, and b) You want me directly in Your ministry, somehow. Also, I understand that CAMP-of-the-WOODS has been a learning experience, leading me to a greater destination. My decision to work here this summer has been absolutely crucial to my spiritual development, though it has told me that COTW is not my place. I’ve learned exactly what I’m not.
I took a long walk yesterday, through the empty town of Speculator. I didn’t know where I was going, but something deep inside me knew that if I walked far enough, I would find You. Here at COTW, they speak Your name, they sing Your praises, they read from Your own words, and yet they don’t know You. They don’t know what they’re missing, but being here, I felt that nagging absence eating at me and challenging my faith.
Lord, I was so inexplicably afraid and desperate while I walked. I knew that I needed to find a Catholic church, that somehow that would bring me back home. On the way, I just prayed to myself, over and over:
O my Jesus,
forgive us our sins,
save us from the fires of hell,
and lead all souls to Heaven,
especially those in most need of Thy mercy.
I’m not usually one for repetitive prayer. Now that I think about it, the only other time I remember praying like that was that infamous night on a red-eye flight to Los Angeles with Dad. I was so scared, Lord. I couldn’t stop crying, and all the while, I could do nothing but pray to You and beg to be sent home as soon as we arrived to LAX. You didn’t send me home, Lord. You kept me there all week and strengthened my resolve. By the time I got back home, I knew I was not going to see my dad for a long time. It’s a harsh thought, but I know it was Your will. You gave me healing in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Lord, You’ve never failed me.
Yesterday, I went into the empty church, and immediately, I knew I was home. The smell of holy water and offertory candles brought me back and put my restless soul to rest for the first time in years, I think. I cried a little in the pews, Lord. I heard You, I felt You, and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I cried because I’d forgotten the feeling of Your mercy and unconditional love. I cried realizing that You would choose me, a pained, wayward sinner like me, to serve You. The fact that this has been Your plan all along, Lord…incredible. In some ways, I think I really did believe that I was too far gone. Your grace is real, Lord, without a doubt, and it has the strength to melt the ice I’ve been holding in my heart for the last few years. I’ve found You again, and I love You, really and truly, not with words or with fuzzy feelings but with the whole of my existence and personhood. You have enraptured my soul, and I really, truly do sing Your name in the depths of me. I thought You were gone, a pretty fancy of my earlier years, but HERE YOU ARE. You’ve been here all along.
Lord, let me be only Yours.
Long and rambling and incoherent, I know. But God came to me, and I want everyone to know that He will not hesitate to come to You if you just let Him. Take the time, make the effort, sit in an empty chapel or quiet yourself with a Bible. You will hear His voice.
Followers of mine, I love each and every one of you. Have a wonderful night and remember that Jesus loves you.
I always go MIA for long periods of time, then come back suddenly. I guess you’re all used to that by now. I guess a lot has happened, and I really do need to “restaple” my heart to Christ. It’s been a hard year, but I’m ready to stop living in fear that I’m somehow beyond God’s reach. Depression, eating disorder, anxiety, Dad leaving me—my God is greater than the sum of my fears. Just a stream of consciousness prayer I wrote to God today:
I ask You constantly for things I can’t even comprehend, so I’m going to humble my prayers to layman’s terms. I’m looking for Your peace, Lord, first and foremost. I pray that You will help me to quiet the intrusive, fear-stricken voices in my head so that I may listen to You instead and come to hear the quiet words You whisper into my heart. I trust that You’ll bring me back to Your arms, Jesus, and I promise You that I will, by the help of Your grace, let Your gentle, loving voice lead me back home. I’m a little lost right now, Jesus, but I will not give up. I love You more than I can understand, and, if nothing else, I will always stretch my arms toward You as You pull me back to shore. Again, I’ll say it, Jesus: I love You. I’ll give You my nothing if it’s all I have.
Out of context, I’m sure this prayer is pretty incoherent, but in light of my faith life as of late, I feel like it says all that I’ve been wanting to say to God.
Repairing homes in Baltimore City and staying at a Trinitarian monastery may not sound like the ideal way to spend a week of your summer. “Free labor.” That’s what came to my cynical mind when I first heard about Baltimore … Continue reading
Well, I haven’t blogged in a long time, I know. Things have been pretty crazy, but I’m working them out, little by little. I’m getting better, even though it’s difficult and I sometimes resist the changes. The thing is, in November, on my senior retreat, I told my whole senior class about my eating disorder. I’d never told anyone before, except the priest in the confessional, so I don’t entirely know what, if not Jesus, moved me to speak up about it. So, yeah, my mom found out about my bulimia, which was scary and confusing, but somehow it ended up okay. My school was understanding and helpful, and they were prepared to be flexible as I received treatment. On November 20, I started the day program at the #1 eating disorder treatment center in the country. Twelve hours a day, seven days a week (yes, that meant missing Mass and school). No mirrors, monitored bathroom breaks, intensive therapy, a whole personal treatment team and a super-strict meal plan. I spent five weeks there, and yes, it was crazy and stressful and emotionally draining, but I do think it helped.
I think my attitude really did change. When I got there, I was so consumed with self-loath and guilt. I couldn’t even think about getting better because I was so damn focused on how horrible a person I was. If you’ve ever felt absolute despair, you must know what that’s like. You can’t forgive yourself for your own mistakes, and you certainly can’t bring yourself to ask for God’s forgiveness because you’re soooooo caught up in your own feelings of unworthiness. I just had this attitude of “I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness”—and it’s interesting because I now realize that I’m not sure whether my shame came from extreme humility or extreme pride that kept me from asking for God’s mercy. Regardless, I’ve found it. He came to me while I cried over myself and my own unworthiness. I’m doing my best to remember that God really, truly does love us at our very best and very worst. It’s so important that we allow ourselves to be forgiven, that we are open to God’s saving grace and mercy. Right now, I’m focusing on Psalm 95:
“If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”
No, I can’t think of any situation where this advice wouldn’t help.
– thelightiswhite ♥
I don’t know how to Tuesday. I’m tired. I left my phone at school. Tuesdays, man. No. I don’t know that I have anything important or inspiring to say today, but I thought I should post anyway. I’ve been journaling … Continue reading
Oh, no, Lord, I’m doing it again.
That thing where I put way too much stock into what other people think of me and feel like nothing I do is good enough. I’m doing that thing where I look for validation from guys so that I don’t feel hollow and microscopic. It’s so stupid and shallow. I just want to be told I’m pretty and smart and interesting and sweet and worth something, if only to one person. Posting too many Facebook statuses, counting my comments and likes and most of all, just WAITING for this guy to message me back. Lately, everything just hurts.
I just feel tired. Emotionally exhausted, like I’m incapable of feeling good simply because I’m me, a child of God. That’s not good. That’s why I have problems with bulimia and hair-pulling and anxiety and all that fun stuff. Why can’t I love myself? Is it not enough that Jesus Christ Himself told me I was worth dying for?
Living for validation from others is exhausting and actually heartbreaking because IT NEVER WORKS. The thing is, there are soooooo many people to please, and frankly, there’s only so much Katy. I’m one small person, but I have to remember that I’m good enough to do whatever my God is asking of me. I think that matters a whole lot more than whether this one guy thinks I’m worth replying to.
Another Tumblr post from last year. I’m proud of this one. 🙂
So, as you may know, I go to an all-girls Catholic high school run by the Nashville Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. I absolutely love my school’s religious curriculum. Juniors take Church History, and we’re all reading Letters to a Young Catholic by George Weigel. If you don’t know, Weigel is a distinguished Catholic apologist from my own hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Bl. John Paul II actually handpicked the guy to write his biography. This guy is incredible. Mind you, I don’t usually read heavy apologist writings. I mean, I’ve read some stuff from Peter Kreeft, but for the most part, my Catholic supplemental reading revolves mainly around Jason Evert, Mark Hart, and the like. c: You know, light Catholic material intended for people my age.
Anyway, back on topic.
I haven’t yet read any of Weigel’s other dozen or so books (I plan to), but I can see why he, of all the Catholic apologists, won the late and great Pope’s favor. He has a very unique style of writing that helps him to gently ease the reader toward his intended message.
In this book, he’ll start each chapter with a little history lesson or tell us a little about a place that holds significance in the Catholic world. Chapter 2, for example: “Rome —- The Scavi of St. Peter’s and the Grittiness of Catholicism.” Weigel begins the chapter with some background information on St. Peter’s Square.
The Vatican Necropolis, also known as the scavi, is a series of underground excavation sites that hold the ruins and remains of many early Christian martyrs of of Roman persecution, among them St. Peter. Archaeologists have uncovered all of Peter’s remains, except for his feet, which lead us to believe that he lost them during his martyrdom at Caligula’s Circus.
Weigel does not, however, aim to simply give us a lesson about history: at this point in the chapter, he changes the subject to martyrdom itself and what it means to give your life for Christ.
Peter…is being told, gently but firmly, that his love for Christ is not going to be an easy thing. His love is not going to be a matter of “fulfilling” himself. His love must be a pouring out of himself, and in that self-emptying he will find his fulfillment.
All in all, the chapter is really about the “grittiness” of Catholicism, the reality that faith means suffering and sacrifice. Weigel tells us that, especially in the secularized modern world, it is vital that we are willing to make these sacrifices to defend our faith. ”Catholics have relearned that lesson the hard way, in the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and the crisis that scandal caused when it was so badly handled by some bishops—-the successors of the apostles.” Even today, Catholics face the same persecution that the early Christians faced, and more than ever, we really are called to be martyrs, His witnesses to the Truth.
He closes the chapter with a message that really strikes a chord in me, and hopefully it will inspire you, as well.
“Weakness and failure, too, are part of the grittiness of Catholicism,” but “failure is not the final word.”
How on earth can I keep myself from getting angry and spiteful and fired up when I come across blogs like this? It’s really, really difficult. Like, really. I think Catholic hate from other self-professed Christians upsets me even more than hardcore atheists attacking religion as a whole. I just can’t help but feel like, just maybe, running a “Christian” hate blog about Catholicism and Islam isn’t all that Christlike. Correct me if I’m wrong.
I don’t think Jesus cries tears of joy in heaven every time one of His disciples verbally attacks another. I just can’t really see that happening. I mean, I know that we Catholics have done our share of casting stones, but even the one true Church—especially the one true Church—has to realize that we are first and foremost the hands and feet of Christ. People who don’t know Christ can only come to know Him through His Body on earth.
Getting into a religious flame war with the Christian Spook guy might feel satisfying, but in the end, it’s not about what I want. This is not about me. This is about the God I serve. If I’m truly His hands and feet, I have to swallow my pride, the part of me that wants to lash out. I have to act like Christ, not like Katy. That’s what I’m trying to do these days.
- Let’s stop grave robbing for Christ (melwild.wordpress.com)
I didn’t really find God until my freshman year of high school. At my school, all freshmen take Doctrinal Foundations as an introductory course to the Catholic faith. As you can imagine, that class involved memorizing a lot of Greek- and Latin-based vocabulary that only Catholics use. That’s how I learned the word metanoia, Greek for “change of heart.” I’ve never forgotten that word. It was just so applicable to everything I was going through at the time, and everything I still go through on a regular basis.
Right now, though, metanoia is applicable to the theme of conversion, one of the most wonderful things I can name. Just recently, I came across this article about Leah Libresco, a former atheist blogger who experienced a beautiful conversion to Catholicism. In popular culture, actor Mark Wahlberg speaks openly of the personal experiences that led him to become a devout Catholic who attends daily Mass with his wife. Do we all see how incredible metanoia is?
One of my favorite Scripture verses is Psalm 130:6: “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for morning.” Every soul thirsts for Christ and His love. Often, we just don’t realize it, so we end up searching elsewhere for something or someone to take the edge off our longing. I tried too damn long to drown out that emptiness before I found God. Nothing worked. God came to me in the peak of my depression and self-loath, and He blessed me with metanoia. That change of heart has made all the difference in my life.
Goodnight, you guys! I hope you all sleep well, remembering that Jesus knows your lowest lows and loves you all the same. Turn your heart towards Him, and He’ll never let you fall. ♥
~ katy, thelightiswhite