life doesn’t have to be complicated

autumn

Toni is a lover of the outdoors, and an avid sports person. She can hike, bike, or paddle more miles in a day than I could in a month. Okay…many months!

Toni is also the National Coordinator of LIFE Ministries for the Marianist Family. LIFE (Living In Faith Experience) is a summer camp experience for high school students. The latest LIFE e-newsletter came today, and included a Lenten reflection written by Toni. She has kindly given me permission to share it with you.

Last Lent, I picked up Fr. James Martin’s Seven Last Words. My intent was to read a chapter a week, but of course, the busyness of life & LIFE got the better of me. On Good Friday, I rode my bike out to the Wissahickon Trail and hiked a little up Forbidden Drive. I sat next to the creek for a solid hour or so, and I read the entire book. I was having a truly difficult year, and being able to reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, even if just for a short time, allowed me to put my challenges into perspective and move on.

I think the biggest blessing about that day, even more than reading the book, is that I got out of the city & had some desert time. I was alone, I had time to think in the quiet, and I was able to just “be” me. Sitting with nothing but the sound of the water, the birds chirping and the wind rustling through the trees reminded me that life does not have to be complicated. Choose your battles. Breathe. That is what this time of year is for. How can your life be simpler? How can your life be better because of this simplicity? How can you be of better service to others through this realization?

(Toni)

I like Toni’s version of Lent, focused on BE-ing more than DO-ing. Stopping to Breathe. Seeking – and finding – the wisdom you need at this moment in life.

Toni reminds us that “life does not have to be complicated”. Her “simple” questions hold so much wisdom and truth. How can my life be simpler? Better?

Seeking this simplicity isn’t just for my own peace of mind and soul. How can it free me up to be of better service to others?

May we all find our own desert moment this Lent. Time to BE amid the busyness. Time to Breathe. Time to…

Be still and know I am God.

(psalm 46:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

struggling with sin, part two

I’m still pondering the topic of my  last blog post, struggling with sin. It was an attempt to share my own personal struggles and questions. I didn’t mean to discredit or minimize my belief in sin. My worst fear was that I would come across sounding delusional about my own sinfulness. Did she just say that she’s NOT a sinner???

After I published the post, I was reminded of a saying that I referred to often, in my far away past as a catechist.

The greatest sin of the 20th century, is the loss of the sense of sin. (St. John Paul II)

Have I lost this sense of sin? Have I rationalized my own innocence in order to avoid those horrible feelings of guilt and fear of bygone days? Am I falling into what-aboutism, the current mode of avoiding guilt? I might have done wrong, but what about all those others who are much greater sinners than I? 

The topic of sin and guilt prompted thoughtful comments, which you can read here.  Instead of responding on the comments board, I’d like to include them in this reflection.

What does it mean to say that I am a sinner? According to Gilles, it is

…before all else saying that I am striving for unity, congruence, relationship, communion (which is Love, by the way)…and that I’m not there yet.

AMEN! I really like this. It emphasizes the journey aspect of our lives. It ties in nicely, I think, with Dennis’s approach to feast days like Ash Wednesday as “symbols-in-time”, reminders of realities that that are always present. The liturgical calendar nudges us, as individuals and as a community, to stop and ponder what is already there.

Jerry mentioned a title by Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”, reminding us of the sins of omission as well as commission. We sin by doing and NOT doing.

Marceta further expanded our view of sin. Our seemingly small actions, added together, contribute to inequities and injustices around the world,

Maybe thinking about our global impact is a way to understand our connectedness as our contribution to sinfulness in the world.

Like Joanne, I get overwhelmed with the thought that I’m not “doing enough”. This week has been especially heavy with sadness in the news. We are told that sometimes “thoughts and prayers” are not enough. We must act. But, what can we do? What can I do? How much am I can I be responsible for? It is overwhelming!

Prayer might not cure all the evils of the world, but it connects us to the divine goodness, love and peace that is God. And, God knows that we need more goodness, love and peace in our lives and in our world!

A special thank you to a new friend to the dialogue, Perpetua! Your words had me giggling. All wet noodles should be covered with Alfredo. Yum! 🙂

Thanks to all for helping write this post!

Lenten peace and blessings…

Isabella

P.S. Check out Perpetua’s blog, Life Is Like That. 

struggling with sin

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Ash Wednesday is here and I’m struggling with sin. My sin.

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offence, and my sin is before me always. Psalm 51

What’s the big sin in my life? I don’t think I have one! I know…I obviously suffer from the sin of pride and should immediately trot off to the nearest confessional. But, after a life time of catholic guilt, breast-beating and scrupulous fears of hell, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a bad person. I’m not perfect, but “sinner” isn’t my main identifier.  I’m a person trying her best to be good. I’ve done nothing evil enough to warrant me parading through the streets in sackcloth and ashes.

It has been the role of the church for centuries to convince us that we are all grave sinners on a fast-track to hell. Instilling fear and remorse into her people ensured full pews and full coffers. Who knows how much irreparable harm has been done on minds, hearts, and souls through the years? How much continues today?

So, I struggle with the call to show outward signs for inner mea culpas that simply aren’t there. My days are filled with what we used to call “venial” sins, but aren’t these simply the stuff of our too human nature? Yes, I try each day to be a bit more patient and swear a little less, but I don’t go to bed worrying that an F-bomb has consigned me to the fires of hell. What does keep me up at night are the sins of this world and those who hold the greatest power over life and death.

Why should I fast, or cover my head with ashes for my misdemeanours, when the headlines each day uncover more injustices towards God’s people? More sexual and physical violence? More refugees forced from their homes and refused sanctuary elsewhere? More rich politicians who deliberately rob the poor to fill their own bulging pockets? More “in your face” white supremacy, hatred, misogyny, homophobia and racism? More threats of nuclear war by inept, egotistical leaders who get in pissing matches with each other?

For what do I fast and pray? Perhaps this is the answer…

For the sins of our world, and all who suffer directly from them.

For peace and justice in all our lands.

For peace in our hearts.

And to constantly seek ways to DO good, not just be good.

Amen.