Prayer Rush

I intended to write this morning about the homilies I heard on Friday and Sunday.  But at this moment, it’s hard to think about or write about anything other than what happened in Chardon this morning.  I don’t know about anyone else, but the thought that something so horrific could happen in a place so close to where I am is almost impossible to comprehend.  Columbine seems years and miles away from today.  I was 19 years old when Columbine occurred – long before the days of Facebook, Twitter or texting.  One thing I am grateful for is that so many kids carry cell phones now and were likely able to contact their families to let them know they were okay.  But there’s a double-edge sword in that as well.  For every parent that received an instant text or phone call, there were undoubtedly some who did not and were likely panicked.  There were exaggerated, inaccurate news accounts out there of what happened and who did it.  There were Twitter photos identifying the shooter that may have been incorrectly posted.  There is a rush in our society now.  A rush to find out, a rush to know and a rush to tell everyone what we think is the truth.

Is there a rush to pray?  I think so.  I saw many posts on Facebook talking about praying.  Praying for the victims – for their families – for the shooter.  Pray for the kids who never wondered or worried about being safe when they went to school.  Pray that their innocence might be returned to them.  Pray that evil can stop and love can spread.

Whatever you might pray for or to whom you might pray, it is never too late to start.  There is never a reason to believe that He is not listening to you.

The choice is yours.

You can get with this… or you can get with that.  Oh, the prophetic lyrics given to us by Black Sheep that more or less went forgotten until Kia revived the song a couple of years ago when they aired that adorable Soul commercial with the hamsters.

Life for everyone really is one big “Choose Your Own Adventure” story.  Each move we make determines what will happen next.  I’m not sure about others, but I have spent way too many moments wondering if I made  the right choices.  Should I have gone away to school?  Should I have moved to Florida?  Was ending that relationship really the right thing to do?  Often, I don’t pray before I make decisions, but I will notice a feeling in my gut when I end up doing what could be considered the wrong thing.  I try not to be too hard on myself and have used the adage, “I did the best I could at the time.”  The trouble one can run into with making bad choices is continuing to make them, even after nothing positive has come out of the decision that was made.  I think this is where God comes in.  I think that feeling in my gut – you know the one…the one that feels like someone is taking a shovel and digging everything out of the pit of your stomach – I think that is God.  I think that is God saying, “Think a little harder about what you’re doing.  Regardless of what you do, I’m going to be here for you, but really, really think about this.”

When I was a child and things didn’t go my way, I used to tell my mom I didn’t believe in God.  If there was a God, there would be no way things wouldn’t go my way.  If God is so wonderful and He loves me and wants me to be happy, then why did this happen this way?  She would try to explain to me the idea of free will, but for the longest time, I wouldn’t accept it.  I think I never really wanted to take responsibility for the things that were or were not happening to me and place the blame elsewhere.

If you’re lucky, you wake up each morning.  And from that moment on, each and everything you do is a choice.  I will shower and get ready for work or I’ll stay in bed.  I’ll say something judgmental about my co-worker or I’ll remain silent.  I’ll hang on or I’ll let go.  I’ll answer the phone or I’ll let it go to voicemail.  I’ll run the yellow light or I’ll stop for it.  I’ll be afraid or I’ll be brave.  I’ll love or I’ll withhold love. I’ll give or I’ll take.  I’ll pray more or I’ll ignore that pit in my stomach.  I’ll attend mass daily or I’ll make an excuse not to.

The choice is yours.

Not the kind where you get in a car…

I left mass yesterday wondering if I had already royally screwed up Lent.  The gospel reading talked to the behaviors of Christians during times of prayer, fasting and alms-giving – which is more or less what Lent is all about.

Matthew specifically says, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

So, isn’t writing a blog about your experiences attending daily mass during Lent 100% against everything this says?  I spent some time yesterday afternoon and last night thinking about it.  Why really am I doing this?  Am I writing to show people I’m a good person – a good Catholic?  Am I guilty of a “look at me!” move?

There were other parts of mass that stood out.  When I shared with a co-worker that I would be blogging about my Lenten journey, he asked, “Are you going to write about the car ride to and from church?”  It was his typical satirical way and I was amused – but when Bishop Lennon was giving his homily yesterday, he said, “It’s not the kind of journey where you get in the car and go somewhere… it’s a spiritual journey to get closer to God.”

So, if that is in fact why I’m doing this – to get closer to God – then I think I’m okay.


You Have To Do More Than Just Show Up…

As most of the free world knows, today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent.  Lent means a lot of different things for people – for some, it’s a time of self-sacrifice.  Those I’ve talked to are giving up everything from chocolate to sweets to booze to sex.  For others, it’s an opportunity to do more for friends, family or strangers.  I’ve “celebrated” Lent in various ways throughout the years… I’ve given up drinking, candy and shopping.  I’ve donated more money to charity.  But last year, I embarked on what was likely the boldest Lenten promise I’ve ever made to myself or to God.  I challenged myself to attend mass – not every Sunday, but every day.  If memory serves, I believe I attended mass 25 of 40 days last year.  It was, to say the least, an eye-opening experience… I realized how little I actually pay attention when I’m in church.  I would leave church, walk to my car and be unable to recall any of the homily.  I realized I was on autopilot throughout the service – responding to prayers like a character in George Orwell’s 1984 or in that creepy Apple Super Bowl commercial from years ago.  I didn’t like this at all… I didn’t like that I was devoting myself to spending time with God and was using that time to determine who I was going to go out with on Friday night.  I used the experience to become more involved at the Cathedral in downtown Cleveland and became a Eucharistic Minister on Wednesday afternoons.  I then began reading there every other Friday in addition to my bi-monthly reading at my home parish in Mentor.

My parents raised four children in a Catholic home.  Church and PSR were mandatory.  But when we became adults, Mom and Dad never forced us to continue going to church or take part in Catholicism.  Of my siblings, I am arguably the most involved in my native religion.  My brother has chosen a different path of Christianity and is very involved with his church… my sisters don’t often attend mass.  Mass and the Church feel like home to me.  Do I love everything about Catholicism?  Absolutely not.  But in life, do we ever love everything about everything?  Can we name a time when our employer made a decision or rule that we didn’t agree with?  Likely, but I doubt many left their job because of it… can we remember when our significant other or friend did or said something against what we truly believe in?  Surely, but we may have not ended the relationship because of it.  So no – Catholicism is not perfect.  But the last time I checked, neither was I.

Today, I embark again on a journey of attending daily mass for the next 40 days.  And I’m planning to truly listen – soak in the messages – enjoy this time with God and allow the words I hear to follow me out of the building and into my every day life.