A Feast Day for Women

On the moveable Church calendar, today is the Feast of Corpus Christi. It’s a magnificent feast day. But not on the one I’m going to write about today.

On the fixed Church calendar (the one based on the calendar date, and not on it’s relationship to Easter/Christmas/etc.), today is the feast of the Visitation. It’s is absolutely one of my favorite feast days. Here are just a few reasons why.

Continue reading “A Feast Day for Women”

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On Fasting

We are squarely in the midst of the Lenten season. This beautiful but difficult season of prayer and fasting. This time the Church gives us to step back, deny ourselves daily, and try to take up the yolk of Jesus and call of the Gospel a little better.

I secretly love Lent. This is probably in large part because I am a notorious rule-follower. While it is difficult for me to deny myself things during the vast majority of the year, once we enter a season where we are specifically called to do so by the Church, it becomes much easier.

Typically, my Lenten fasts focus around food. This is both easy and hard. Easy, because it is easy to decide what to give up. Hard, because it is always things I love. (I love almost all food. See? Easy/hard.) Yet, each Lent it is good for me because (and if you’ve ever spent anytime at all around me, you can probably confirm this is true) I AM INORDINATELY ATTACHED TO FOOD. All too often, I am planning my next meal or the next restaurant I want to visit while eating my current meal. I feel a lot of pressure, at times, to properly curate my culinary experiences. How to take advantage of all my beautiful city has to culinarily offer while also on a budget and while I also love to cook? So most often, during Lent, my diet is without sugar or alcohol or wheat or fast food or snacks between meals or full size meals, or some combination of the above, etc.

This Lent has been different, and it’s helped me refocus on the purpose of fasting. I think true fasting is meant to help you put something in it’s proper place in your life. While it would be a stretch to say food is a true “idol” in my life, I certainly focus on it more than necessary for the substance that is primarily meant to fuel my body.

With the exception of sugar, I am not fasting from any foods this Lent. I am not trying to deny my body. Instead, I am trying to come back into a healthy relationship with food.  Continue reading “On Fasting”

On Work & Art

Last week, I moved from one desk to another at my office. I didn’t receive a promotion, but someone else moved offices and they decided to move me too. I packed my drawer of files, my stapler, my snacks onto a cart and moved them 50 feet across the area to my new desk. The first thing I moved over, though, were my photos.

I have about a dozen photos I keep near my desk. A photo of my family from my graduation day. A photo of myself and my love, Wesley, at a Cubs game. A picture of my sister and I all dressed up for the President’s Ball from college days. My dog. Very predictable photos anyone might have at their desk.

There is another photo that is less obvious. It’s a little blurry, actually. But it’s a photo of 45 (or so) people standing in a circle between rows of chairs on one side and a tall set on the other. My sister (sneakily) took this photo. It was my senior year at Wheaton College, the closing of the final show I was a part of at Arena Theater, as a member of Workout. Workout is the theater ensemble at Wheaton College, and one of the most impactful experiences I had in those four years. (Perhaps one of the most impactful experiences I’ll ever have, but that’s for another time.) It was a very clear end to a significant chapter of my life.

I sat at my new desk and looked at this picture for a good few minutes. It reminds me of my more creative, my artist self. I smiled.

There were days not that long ago that I felt like I had “sold out.” I graduated college in 2015 with some of my most meaningful work and experiences logged at Arena Theater. I thought, as I prepared (with great trepidation) to enter the adult world, that I might take a bumpy road forward. I thought I might stage manage or write or (in my secret thoughts) maybe just maybe even act for a living. I would work in a coffee shop or a restaurant to pay the bills and I would not have a lot of money but I would be happy. I would be living creatively and doing what I love, not sitting behind some desk for eight hours a day, miserable.

Yet here I was, sitting at the desk of my 9-to-5 job. Feeling very happy and so grateful. Continue reading “On Work & Art”

Reimagining our Tactic: The Pro-life Movement

Today in the state of Illinois, going against his promise to his constituents and the legislators of Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law mandated taxpayer funding of abortion for those on Medicaid. It is estimated that this will effectively increase the number of abortions in Illinois by the thousands – and the financial burden (and arguably moral burden, for many) of these will weigh on Illinois residents. This in a state that already has a much higher abortion rate than the states around us, and an infamous problem with our finances to boot.

As I thought about this, riding the El home from work today, I couldn’t help but feel that, politically, the pro-life movement seems to be losing, rather than gaining ground. In some ways. But abortion is still legal through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason. So yes, it feels like not much has changed.

Then I began to wonder, what would happen if we, as a movement, acted like abortion laws were here to stay?

To be clear, I am not suggesting we should stop lobbying for the legal protection of unborn children. But if ultimately the goal of the pro-life movement is to provide protection for the unborn, I wonder if the very tunnel-vision focus on changing abortion law is helping or hurting that goal. I guess this is what I am asking: if we could not change abortion law in our country, what would we do differently to change abortion numbers and save lives? Especially in the political sphere?

Would we lobby to provide better healthcare for women, especially low income women, so they felt more able to choose life when they become pregnant?

Would we advocate for better parental leave policies for both mothers and fathers so that women aren’t forced to choose between a career and a child?

Similarly, would we work to eliminate workplace discrimination against mothers, of whom it is often assumed they will be less committed to their jobs upon having children?

Could we even, as a Church, try to eliminate the stigma and shame that surrounds single motherhood in our own communities, allowing for grace and providing support to new mothers who are in an unexpected pregnancy?

On a day where it feels like we’re losing ground in the fight for the life of America’s most vulnerable, I am not giving up. I’m looking for new avenues to empower women to choose life, even if they have the choice not to. Will you join me?

A Small Aching

Is it possible to be homesick only 30 miles from home?

I know the answer to this question. In college, I would get homesick 2 miles from home. Sometimes I got in my car and drove back to my family’s house, for dinner with my parents and sister, to study where I knew it was quiet and the snacks were free, or even when the house was empty of people, just to sit on the floor with my small curly dog for a while.

I could do the same thing tonight, if I really wanted to. I’m only 30 miles away. Even accounting for the terminally unpredictable traffic on the Kennedy Expressway, I could be home in less than an hour. It’s just my dad and my dog there tonight. We could watch a few innings of baseball and drink a beer, talk, or not. I could just be home for a while.

But honestly, that wouldn’t help with the homesickness. I mean it would, for a little while. Yet even as I sat there in my white painted family room on the chocolate leather couch, the woozy feeling that attacks my heart and stomach simultaneously would sneak back in. (I was going to say creep, but that is not accurate. For me, homesickness attacks suddenly and viciously.) I’d know that all too shortly I’d get back in my car and drive east to my apartment. Even if I was to spend the night, sleeping in the bedroom that has been mine for 18 years, I’d go to bed with a slight ache in my gut, knowing the alarm would go off at an ungodly hour only adults rise at and I would be off, back to the city and back to work. Continue reading “A Small Aching”

An Open Letter to my “Not-Yet” Friend

Dear Friend,

Can I call you that? I’m not sure. We’re not really friends yet. Maybe we haven’t even met. Or maybe we have. Maybe we sat at the same table at a young professional networking event and struck up a stilted conversation for 10 or so minutes before the speaker began the program.

Maybe we learned that we both grew up in suburbs – you on the northern fringe of Chicago while I was straight west. Maybe we learned where we work now and what we studied in school. Then that awkward pause came, the one that inevitably follows reaching the end of the list of appropriate small talk questions. Then the speaker started.

After he finished, one of your friends from church came up on your left-hand side and you dove deep into conversation about the difficulties your brother is facing in school right now. I remained, standing to your right, outside of this intimate conversation, unsure how to enter in, unsure if I should stay nearby hoping to continue our conversation from before. Hoping to get a chance to become friends.

After a few minutes I snuck away, not even sure if I should interrupt to say goodbye and nice to meet you and let’s talk again some time, I think we could be good friends. (Who says that? Too bold. Yet, I often want to.) With that you became another person I want to be friends with. But we’re not. Not yet.

Like so many others. Continue reading “An Open Letter to my “Not-Yet” Friend”

An Advent Heart

I like being called to holiness, and not just reminded of my sins. (Don’t we all?) I was thinking of this lately as I considered the different impact Advent has on my heart and spiritual than that of Lent. They are both penitential seasons, after all; yet they impact me differently, and I started to wonder why.

Lent is heavy. Penance. I am a sinner and Christ died for those sins. I place my hope in his mercy and forgiveness. That sort of thing.

Not to sound casual, just trying to summarize. After all, it’s a beautiful season, and I am always eager for it when we get to that moment of the liturgical season. But it is heavy. I am called to contemplate my sins as I reprove my body with penance and fasting, helping my soul lean in to repentance and transformation by engaging my body in the action. It’s easy to feel the futility of that task, though, until I get to Easter and remember the story that makes the whole endeavor possible. Christ’s unending grace. Continue reading “An Advent Heart”