Tuesday, March 29, 2011

locked up for life...

I’ve mentioned that when I die, I want to be the one with the questions.  In the centuries of static between our present day and the words "What you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me…" (Matthew 25:45) I fear that I’ve re-interpreted that to mean “tithe, be nice to people who are nice to you and do what you can to help out”.  

I fear this has worsened as I get older and realize just how challenging it is to keep up with bills and carve out free time.  I love my life, I’m often smug about it.  I think to myself, “I made good choices.  If others didn’t and find themselves in a bad spot, this is not my problem”.  Then I wonder if I’ll be so confident saying that when I meet God face to face.  

So that's why I let myself get "locked up for life" to support Room at the Inn.  I've mentioned them before.  They are assisting mothers in need in the Lowcountry, giving homeless girls shelter and the assistance they need to choose life for their unborn children.  I've got to collect $1,000 in bail…  or apparently I go to jail.

When they asked me, I assured them that I was not friends with folks who could write checks for $500, $100 or even $20 (Lord knows on most days I sure can’t)…  But I thought to myself, I have plenty of friends who would give up a coffee or sacrifice a movie and could give $5 or $10 in support…  

Click here to donate on-line through pay-pal.  

Or, mail checks (put Room at the Inn of the Lowcountry in the Memo)to:
Room at the Inn of the Carolinas
PO Box 484
Colfax, NC 27235  

You don’t need to tell me what you give, but if you can let Monica, their director of development, know at mjenks@roominn.org so that, well, she doesn’t have me arrested…  That’d be great.

I'll have questions...

Originally published in the Bluffton Packet, March 28, 2011.

When I die and I meet God face to face, I want to be the one with the questions."

I heard this statement over the summer and I think about it constantly. The speaker explained that there were lots of moments in life that she planned to ask God, "What exactly where you thinking, allowing that to happen?" But, she said, she hoped God wouldn't have the same questions for her.
Obviously, God has his reasons for why things happen. But standing before the almighty, our reasons might seem a little weak.

This question was rolling through my mind a lot this January when I had the opportunity to tour the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., with the teens in my youth group. As an adult, I was the one getting their questions. And, let me tell you, it is a lot easier to answer questions about drugs, sex and rock'n'roll than why God allows bad things to happen.

Standing in the train that carted people to their deaths in Auschwitz, I was impressed that the teens asked not "Why did God allow this to happen?" but the more practical question, "Miss Alison, didn't people know this was going on? Well, why didn't they DO something?"

There are many inspiring examples of people who did "do something." However, there are many more who looked the other way. The hundreds of shoes collected from Auschwitz on display at the museum are a slap in the face reminding us that it was fellow human beings who allowed this to happen. Only God knows why.
It is a powerful examination of conscience for us to ask what we might be overlooking in our time.
Christ doesn't mince words. When people asked him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison and not minister to your needs?" (Matthew 25:44) he answered, "What you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment..." (Matthew 25:45-46).

Uncomfortable yet? I am. How many times have I ignored Christ in my neighbor? We're halfway through Lent and our sacrificing should be encouraging us to focus not just on our relationship with God but with those around us who are in need.

Opportunities abound, but if you're looking for some specifics in the next couple weeks, consider the following:

  • Invisible Children will be screening a film about victims of terrorism in East Africa at 7 p.m. April 7 at Park Plaza Cinemas on Hilton Head Island. The screening is free, there will be information presented about ways you can get involved. Contact Chris Rosenberry, 843-422-5848 for more details.

  • Room at the Inn, a local shelter for unwed mothers is in need of assistance in many ways. Learn more at www.roominn.org.

  • Neighborhood Outreach Connection works to provide assistance and encouragement to local families in need. Learn more at www.noc-sc.org

  • There are many ways to love Christ in our neighbors both locally and at an international level. When you die, be sure you're the one with the questions.

    Catholic Icing

    When I read this in the Miscellany I was reminded that team Catholic SC has a native who's doing some really great stuff when it comes to craft projects and catechetical ideas for younger children.  Actually, truth be told, I find some of her ideas helpful for bulletin board and middle school craft projects as well.  Follow Lacy on Twitter to get tips like when you can find Stations of the Cross stickers at the Dollar Tree and where to order rosary eggs from.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    why I'll eat meat today...

    Today I’ll eat meat.  And drink beer.  And it's not "cheating".

    I remember the first time I learned about solemnities during Lent.  It occurred, conveniently, during my freshman year of college when I had given up chocolate.  A box of fresh-baked cookies arrived in my mailbox from a well-intentioned friend.  As I sat in mass that evening, mourning the tragedy of allowing them to go to waste, the priest celebrating explained that it was the solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph—that we were “allowed” and even encouraged to celebrate the feast day by partaking in whatever we had given up.
    This caused a small existential crisis.  As a child I had always scoffed at those who “give up Lent on Sundays”.  I was homeschooled, after all.  A hardcore Catholic who knew prayers in Latin, not one of those slackers who gave up something random like blue starburst for Lent so that it’d be so easy they didn’t even remember what it was by Palm Sunday.  I did not “take Sundays off”.  However, in my short time at Franciscan I was realizing that perhaps my approach to faith had been a bit too regimented-- A lot about my will power and not so much about God acting.

    Franciscan was the first time I really tried to incorporate the liturgy into life, realizing if the Church had lived this “schedule” for 2000 years there must be something to it.  I began to get into morning and evening prayer, celebrate special feast days, Lord’s Days and tried to reserve the Sabbath for God.  There’s a real benefit to taking advantage of earthly reminders to remember eternal realities. 

    I ate the chocolate chip cookies that day, in honor of St. Joseph.  And ever since then, I have celebrated Sundays and solemnities in Lent.  Everyone's heard that Sundays don’t count as the forty days and all the theological reasons, but I’ve found that personally, it just allows me to experience the whole liturgical cycle better.  For example, if I go without chocolate or a glass of wine with dinner all week and then partake to celebrate on Sunday, it’s a physical reminder of an intangible reality.  Refocused in that way, the sacrifices of the week are more meaningful.

    When it comes to the Sunday debate about Lenten sacrifices, I don’t judge either way.  
    But I'm not cheating, I'm celebrating.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Except on Sundays and Solemnities.

    Monday, March 21, 2011


    Originally Published Tuesday, March 15, 2011 in The Bluffton Packet

    Even if you're not one of the more than two million people following Charlie Sheen on Twitter, you're probably aware of what he's been up to.
    I admit, while I usually don't pay much attention to celebrities, when Sheen's rants show up on TV or the Internet, I can't look away. On his profile, Sheen states that he is an "unemployed winner" and says things like, "Winning! Bring it!"
    Overnight, "winning" has become the go-to word to describe every ridiculous idea that people choose to act on. I'm not saying it's the end of the world, but Sheen is a blatant example of what St. Paul described in his letter to the Philippians when he warned that many "conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their 'shame'" (Philippians 3:18-19).
    Sheen, sadly, seems to be living this out almost to the point of parody.
    What I find more disturbing than Sheen's actions, though, is the way the world is looking at him as a sort of example -- affirming his claim that he is "winning." While most of us probably will never live quite as fast as Sheen has, we all have moments in which we confuse "winning" with, well, the opposite.
    Since the original sin of Adam, we struggle against temptation. For most of us, those temptations are minor, like gossip or laziness. But it's these small sins that start to lead us away. Sheen probably did not wake up one morning and decide to use cocaine (or, excuse me, "buy it," as he's been quick to point out in interviews), but whenever we allow our "god" to be our stomach, we set ourselves up for more trouble.
    I write this with ashes smudged on my forehead. By the time you read this, we will be one week into Lent. When I received my ashes this morning, I was told, "Remember... you are dust and to dust you will return" (Genesis 3:19). For the next 40 days, we focus on acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (sharing what we have with others) to remind our stomachs -- our desires -- that they are not the boss of us.
    Pope Benedict XVI states that because we constantly "strive for emancipation from God's will in order to follow himself alone, faith will always appear as a contradiction to the world."
    While Sheen is an extreme example, we need to be constantly aware of the ways that the world defines "winning" as contrary to what we are called to as those made in the image of God, called to be with him forever in heaven.
    The pope continues that Christ alone "is the reference point of the righteous life, its goal and its center." When the world ends, there will be "winners." Don't miss out on the opportunity Lent provides to truly understand what this means.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011


    Glee, Glee, Glee, Glee, Glee...

    I love your snark.  Your witty dialogue.  I love how you portray Kurt’s relationship with his Dad…  How you give me hope that if arts can triumph over cheerleading and football, then maybe someday youth ministry will too (a stretch, I know, but just go with it).

    The episode you aired this week was, by far, your worst.  I don’t look to you as a moral compass, simply to be entertained by the keen insights you have into the personalities of teenagers.  Often, you can perceive the exact reason I love teens—how they can be slightly self-absorbed one minute and then completely transformed by their motivation to help others the next.  You take no prisoners and mock everyone.
    However, this week you sunk to the sensationalized sexuality that is the reason I hate most programs about teens.  You glamorized sexual experimentation, gave mixed messages and had some very naughty prop placement that I can’t even describe (and I was homeschooled.  So if I picked up on it, you’re just sick…)

    Plus, what’s with “celibacy”?  NO ONE uses that word. 

    With the exception of the talk that Kurt’s dad gave him (while slightly misguided—still a poignant demonstration of his hope for his son) and clarifying that anyone under 18 making a sex tape is producing child porn and could go to jail —none of your adult characters provided any useful information to teens who were confused.  Teens are capable of courage (lest we forget Jordin Sparks dishing on promise rings at the VMA's back in 2008).  When your hormones are catapulting and you’re trying to survive high school, what teens need to be told is that they are stronger than their feelings…  not that any form of experimentation is ok, provided it’s to a perky soundtrack.

    I don’t expect a television show to form teens in virtue.  However, this week’s episode was an awkward mash-up of “Skins”, public service announcements and mediocore music.  And not even funny.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    In hectic lives, it's the small moments that count most

    Originally published in The Bluffton Packet, February 28, 2010

    I rarely arrive at work before our parochial school begins, which is at something like 8 a.m. -- an hour when I doubt even God is awake. But the other day I was in my office at 7:30 a.m., my eyeballs propped open with caffeine, watching the kiddos being dropped off for school, and I saw something that really left an impression on me.
    I already thought it was pretty benevolent of parents to give their kids a ride to school -- my friends and I, back in the day, used to have to take what we affectionately referred to as "the big cheese," aka the bus.
    Then I saw something that restored my faith in humanity, at least for the next few hours. A father, dressed for work, got out of his car and tossed a football with his son on the lawn for a few minutes before school. It was so Hallmark meets Norman Rockwell that I wanted to take a picture of it -- but quickly realized that would be creepy.
    Instead, I reflected on the moment. It's clichè to say, but it's actions like this one that make all the difference for kids.
    I once saw a billboard outside of a church that read, "Kids spell 'love' 'T-I-M-E." There are so many big decisions to make as a parent -- where to send your kids to school, who their pediatrician should be, whether the kids should play soccer or baseball -- that the smaller things, like just spending a few minutes truly focused on each other, can get lost in the shuffle.
    I can only imagine how difficult it is for families to make "T-I-M-E" in their incredibly busy lives, especially on those days when the kids are just not that easy to be around. I'm sure there are days when it would be tempting to drop off the kids at school early and then use those extra minutes to run to Starbucks before work. But, as a parent, you are the most important person in your child's world. Don't take this as a guilt trip, but as encouragement. Study after study shows this is true -- that's why so much money is put into the "Parents: The anti-drug" campaign.
    It might take a village to raise a child, but you are the only permanent residents. The coolest teachers and coaches (and even youth ministers having a great hair day) do not have the same influence as you do.
    The beauty of this is that making a difference and being present in your child's life doesn't require fancy activities, expensive programs or grand plans.
    Just you.
    The football toss I witnessed is just one example of a parent taking time out of the day to be present for his son. Other great opportunities for stealing a moment are: during car trips -- with the radio and phones shut off, of course -- while grocery shopping, at dinnertime or even doing household chores together, such as cooking or cleaning. I know that these are the moments I remember most from my childhood. As a bonus, that question or issue your kids really want to talk to you about most likely will bubble to the surface during these moments together -- when their guards are down and they feel most at ease.
    Parents have the hardest job in the world -- long hours, lots of sacrifice, rarely being thanked or acknowledged for your effort. But persevere. Your love makes all the difference.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    The House You're Building

    Today I talked to some middle school girls about-- to keep it generic-- friendship.  It was the typical "we all want to fit in but what's really important" chat, but I used The House You're Building by Audrey Assad as an introduction. What was really effective was this clip where she explains the song.  She says that it's about being a "misfit" and I have to say, when these middle schoolers heard her talking about how she still feels awkward and that we all have moments of feeling like we don't fit--  well, it resonated.  I think sometimes I forget that despite their matching school uniforms, none of them really feel like they fit in.  

    The song led into a great discussion about how when we try to fit in with each other it will only leave us exhausted and disappointed-- the important thing is that Christ is our foundation, He won't disappoint, and His Church offers us a place to belong.  Like I said, the usual stuff.  But starting with this tune reached them.

    While I love Audrey Assad, It hadn't occurred to me to use this song for this purpose until my friend Joanna suggested it. Just throwing it out there for y'all.

    sacramental chaos

    Every Taco Tuesday I tell myself to not drink so much sweet tea.  Yet every Tuesday evening finds me overly-caffeinated, and if there's no Glee and grape slushies (like tonight), attacking tasks that require energy and not too much thought.  Tonight I tackled my office.

    Because my parish is awesome, I have an office to match.  This year youth ministry went from a small classroom where I barricaded my desk in the corner with coolers and rubbermaid tubs to keep the dodgeballs from hitting my computer to a truly amazing multi-purpose room with a youth room and separate corner office.  It's exactly the type of office they warn you you'll never get if you work for the Church.  Kids, sometimes "they" don't know what they're talking about.  Remember that.

    Anyways, the only problem with this is that while I'm not a "leave old dishes that grow mold in my bookshelves" dirty, I am "why file paper when stacks on my printer, fridge and sacred spaces make it so much easier to find necessary paperwork" cluttered.  Also, I've found parents are delighted to fill out the same permission slip three times, should it get mis-filed.  

    Actually, I should work on that.

    This is especially awkward since, as a corner office, everyone walking by can see.  I am well aware that stacks of paper, 3 starbucks cups and a tooth brush littering my desk doesn't exactly say, "hi, I'm a professional you can trust with your children" so I try to attack it every couple weeks.  Tonight, as I was madly chucking christmas cards and permission slips from 2007, I encountered a conundrum.  A water bottle that I had been using for holy water.  This bottle has caused me sacramental awkwardness before, but now it was finally almost empty-- save a few droplets-- and I absentmindedly chucked it in the trash.  Then I realized this is a sacramental...  We don't throw out prayer books, rosaries or other sacred objects (not because we believe they are gods, but out of respect for the God they remind us of), so I rescued it and set it on my desk and wondered...  what do I do with a bottle that held holy water?  Well, what would anyone do...  I consulted social media.  I'm always amazed how #teamcatholic comes through with some great (never sarcastic) responses when posed with a ministry question.  I got some pretty amazing answers that needed to be shared:

     our thoughts here are that if it's dried out you're fine

     or burn it.

     I think you'd be ok to pitch it...if you're REALLY feelin' cautious, you could bury it...

    (which, I think would be bad karma from St. Francis...  holy water or not, plastic's not biodegradable).

      i'd say it could be recycled. The melting down is basically like the burning that's acceptable for blessed object

     Ooh - tough one. I'd fill it with non-holy h2o, pour that onto the ground, then dispense with the bottle.

     Go to a wake and sneak it into the open casket during the viewing.   

    And that was not all.  Facebook also held answers:

    hmm add more holy water next time your at Church and keep it a Holy Water container! Make it easy on yourself!

    The truly PC thing to do would be to throw it at a vampire who has a large carbon footprint.

    Can't you rinse it out really well in the church's special sink?

    melt it into a statuette of Jesus. He won't mind.

    Throw it away followed by 3 Hail Marys, that's what I do.

    So... Thanks, internet.  I am overwhelmed with options.  After careful consideration...  I think I'll just leave it on my desk indefinitely.  A paperweight for expired permission slips.