Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I have been away from home for six and a half years (aside from a few summer breaks and other short trips).
Believe me, it sounds much longer than it feels.
This past weekend, we loaded up the car for some time in Tiffin with my family. Tiffin is a small town surrounded by fields and other smaller towns (some without a traffic light, most with one). We're talking, rural and very small town (people around here are always talking about how Cincinnati isn't really that big...perspectives are so different).
In my town you will find two Catholic churches and one Catholic High School. The kids from the parish schools feed directly into the High School. This means that for my entire childhood, High School was the pinnacle of existence. It dominated all conversation. "Did you know he was dating her?" "How 'bout them Senecas!" "Basketball team will go a long way this year."
High School dominated almost every Mass at my home parish I attended before High School and while I was in it.
Your proper response here is, "What?!"
In grade school and junior high, I blatantly remember thinking, as I looked around at all of the High School kids at Mass, that High Schoolers have it all. They have status...and by status, I think I meant: a girlfriend, a car, popularity, and a varsity letter jacket. In my little mind, that was everything you could ever want. And, when I got to High School myself, that is what I pursued. And did a good job of it. I became the idol for the younger kids, for the town, etc.
Now, only six and a half years later, this past Sunday, I was standing in Mass looking around (not unlike I did growing up).
Everyone looked incredibly old. That was my first thought. My second thought was, do I look that old after 6.5 years?
The third thought was what started to get me.
I realized midway through Mass that I spent all of my childhood aspiring to a certain status, and all of my High School time living the status...which was greatly affirmed by the praise I received from so many sitting in the pews nearby. I did this because I wanted to be unforgettable. What a genuine desire, right? I can't think of a single person that I know who says, "Man, I just want to be forgotten." No, that is unnatural. All of us want to be loved, affirmed and remembered. We want to be unforgettable.
But the world forgets. Those people who admired my status just 6.5 years ago have forgotten me, to the point that they may not even recognize me, and certainly have forgotten me to the point that I am no longer worth approaching after Mass.
I mean, how disheartening is that. I recognized in the course of just one Mass that I had spent the first 18 years of my existence pursuing a status that would make me unforgettable, just to realize harshly that I had been forgotten, replaced. (Recall here the great fear surrounding the toys in the Toy Story series).
But, grace abounds all the more. As I walked up to receive the Eucharist, weighed down by these thoughts, I understood something deeper than ever before.
"But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not for I have called you by name: you are mine. Fear not, for I am with you" (Is. 43: 1, 5).
I am unforgotten by only One. This desire that seems to be such a part of my nature, this desire to be unforgettable, this desire that led me to attain a certain worldly status that would "stand forever," cannot be satisfied but in the One who created me. The one who calls me by name, who formed me and knows me.
I am but a blip, yes in the scope of the history of the universe (as we learned in the video presentation on Sunday), but even in the history of my tiny hometown. Present then gone.
But not on the screen of the Father. I hope we can all begin to realize what this means and how it changes the way we perceive ourselves.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
These are all great things.
Adoration was probably about 15 minutes shorter than I intended...and I'll take the blame for that, because I wasn't able to communicate with Father before or during adoration.
Nonetheless, I still think it's good to leave adoration hungry for more. This corresponds directly to our desire to be satisfied and that God always has more for us, should our hunger propel us to seek Him.
This is exactly how we should feel leaving retreat as a whole. God came through big time on retreat; He filled you. But He doesn't want to stop just because you left the retreat site. So, are you hungry enough for more that you will seek Him?...in silence?...at Mass?...in adoration?...during your day?
The gaze of the Father does not stop; we stop looking. This is the work that must be done. We must keep looking at the presence of God before us, just as we looked at Him on retreat. Because He does not stop.
This quote from Fr. Julian Carron stands out to me: "When have I been more myself? You can
examine everything, scan your life; if you have a second of honesty, ask yourselves when you have been more yourselves: when you took care of your own business or when that unmistakable gaze introduced itself?"
What happened this weekend was the unmistakable, and very real, gaze of the Father upon His children. So keep asking yourself that question...when have I been more myself? How can I become more myself?
Monday, November 15, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Quite honestly, I think the biggest struggle of being a teen today is just that: we are teenagers. And so, we are viewed as teenagers. We have become our own group, different from adulthood or childhood, and so we are often treated that way. In society, teenagers are given their own stereotypes as being rebellious and troublesome, and so by hearing these stereotypes, we almost come to believe them ourselves. The only reason people still hold these stereotypes is because we, as teens, hold them ourselves, and in many ways fulfill them, if only because they are there for the sole purpose for us to fulfill. If we grow up hearing that we will be a specific kind of person, we will eventually expect to become that kind of person, like a form of self-prophecy. Having this “teenage culture” is honestly a very difficult challenge because things are expected of us and we are considered social outcasts if we do not fulfill these expectations.
With this category of “teen” already set out for us, others who are outside the realm of “teen” tend to treat all those within the realm of “teen” a certain way. We are not children, so we are expected to have a certain level of knowledge and responsibility, but we are not quite adults, and so we are not expected to be able to know or do many things that an adult can do. And in many ways, this is true; we are not ready to be adults. But that does not mean we can’t start trying. The very word “adolescent” comes from the Latin verb “adolescere” meaning, “to grow up.” But we cannot grow if we are not pushed. We may not like being pushed, and sometimes we might push back, but that is how we, as teenagers and as humans, grow.
Another thing to consider is that the very idea of “teen” didn’t exist until quite recently. The Wikipedia article on “adolescence” (an article that I find to be quite insulting and derogatory and I should hope many other teens do as well) states that G. Stanley Hall, a turn-of-the-century psychologist, is credited with his “discovery” of “The Adolescent.” In 1904. So, for the better part of history minus the past 100 years, teenagers didn’t even exist. There was no stage between child and adult. However, Hall’s “Adolescent” was misinterpreted to be a kind of “transition stage” between childhood and adulthood. In fact, Hall’s “Adolescent” was just a term applied to children who commonly rebellious and emotional, which thus led to moodiness, and eventually high risk-taking behavior. He used the term “Adolescent” because he saw that many children who were close to adulthood displayed these behaviors as they grew. So, I don’t know about the rest of teenage society, but I am not really cool with this. It’s actually quite derogatory. We, as American teenagers, are classified by a once derogatory term, and not only do we embrace it, but we allow adults to embrace it by treating us as inferiors.
Now, that was a bit of a tangent, but I had to get that out. I am not, however, going to rebel against adult supervision. Unfortunately for we American teens, we have actually earned ourselves this status. Generations of previous American teens have brought us to where we are today, and psychologically, I do not think we are ready to break away. And perhaps the idea of a “teen” is not a bad one at all; a transition stage between childhood and adulthood has always been present in human history, but not until recently has it been treated as its own stage. So, as consequence of our own human actions, we must accept that we may have fallen off track a little bit by creating this idea of “teen.” Yet, the greatest danger we can fall into is embracing “teen” and furthering this deterioration of humanity by self-fulfilling the stereotypes of “teen.”
So, I guess what I’m really just trying to say is this: for people who work with teens, I suggest trying to treat them less as the stereotypical “teen” and more as adults. A person cannot grow if some one is telling them not to. Dumbing down subjects and trying to make everything “fun” and “teenish” is only making it worse. Instead of presenting a challenge to teens and trying to encourage them to grow, it’s just telling teens, “It’s okay to be rebellious and we embrace you as such and you can do what is fun and easy and we’ll take care of everything else.” If any one good thing has come from the development of “teen,” it’s that the “teen,” by nature, is constantly looking for adventure and a challenge. We’re done with mediocrity and simplicity and everything easy. We want something deep and challenging, yes, even things that require some work and effort. Your average teen goes through some form of emotional heartbreak or injury due to an important relationship at least once throughout high school. And it’s no fun at all, we can all agree on that. But we learn from it. As humans, we are designed to learn from our mistakes. It’s like that line in Batman Begins: “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”
If adults keep picking us up for ourselves, we’ll never learn to do it ourselves. If adults keep treating us as intellectually inferior, that’s what we’ll be. The very definition of “teen” is to be growing up, and as such, our minds and emotions are very vulnerable and easily molded by outside influence, even if we don’t like to admit that publicly. Yet the power to mold a mind should not be taken lightly; it is an important role for an adult working with teens and one that should not be taken for granted.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but He invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person's friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change.
Address of Benedict XVI to pupils, London Borough of Richmond, Sept. 17, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
I'd like to ask that question to the teens. What are the greatest struggles you face today? What are the greatest challenges you face in trying to live out your faith?
Friday, November 5, 2010
You can check out Jason's website by clicking here.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Often, I find that I'm a little apprehensive about starting a project, because it will turn out to be much more work than I intended. When you start tearing into something, the problem is usually way hardcore...
Really, though, it is. I'm sure many of you have experienced this with any given project...a research paper you're initially stoked about, then you realize there aren't any primary sources for your topic, or you want to learn how to play piano and get frustrated when you don't pick it up in 10 minutes.
Sometimes the do-it-yourself projects turn out to be way hardcore.
More than we bargained for (I couldn't resist the rhyme).
So, typically in those situations, I seek help. And, I think this provides some insight into the spiritual life. See, we're all broken people. Sin breaks us. The sins of others break us. Most of us realize that there's a problem and we take it upon ourselves to shoulder the burden. I become Mr. Fix-it for my spiritual brokenness.
But the brokenness is too hardcore. Literally, it has made my core (my heart) hard...impenetrable...thick-sculled!
If when I begin a project in the material world that is far over my head and I seek an expert out, why do I not do the same thing in the spiritual life?
This is where the Resurrection of Christ comes in. See, most all of us spend a majority of time in the grave...sin...brokenness...you get the point. Christ has been there. He experienced it, but He didn't stay there. And He doesn't want you to either.
The Resurrection of Christ is an invitation for each of us to allow Him into our broken lives and make them whole. He wants God's life (grace) within us that we might be made whole, that we might have life.
The Resurrection of Christ demolishes our hardness of heart (our hard core), but only if we allow it. Meaning, only if we surrender our feelings of being overwhelmed at our hurt and the fear that healing might be painful.