Posts Tagged With: Jesus

Giving and Receiving

Dear Pope Francis,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the passion story and service the last couple of days. About how best to use my gifts to serve God and to serve others, and about telling the difference between when I’m really serving others and when I’m serving myself.

Wednesday night, I stayed up until almost 3am agonizing about whether or not I would show up at the Legislature on Thursday in counter protest to the pro-choice rally planned. I thought about what I would do and what I would say if I was the only pro-lifer there, and I thought about the crowd shouting “Crucify him!” when Pilate tried to release Jesus. I thought a lot about Peter’s denial of Christ and for a while, I felt like not going to the rally would be akin to denying Jesus.

the_washing_of_feetWhen I thought about what I would do and what I would say, I also thought about how people would react, and about the publicity of being the only person there in opposition. I imagined sitting in a chair and knitting all day, with a Bristol board sign stating my opinion. And I decided not to go.

I sat at my desk, and over the course of an hour, wrote by hand the very personal story I had planned to share. It was the first time I had ever committed the entire thing to paper, and when the three sides of loose leaf were covered, I folded them up, sealed them in an envelope and went to bed.

I prayed for the hearts and minds of the people at the rally and for the politicians in the Legislature while I went about my day Thursday, but I did not go downtown until it was time for mass.

At mass, I was struck by Peter’s reluctance over Christ washing his feet. It made me think about how easy it is for me to try and serve others through a phone call to someone I know is lonely, or by knitting another square for charity, or by inviting someone over for supper. But it’s much harder to accept service from others, like rides to church or letting a friend pick up my tab when we go out for a beer and wings, or even just accepting compliments when they’re given (more on that next month).

I try to live to give, but I need to be more open to receiving what others are giving.

Part of that is also being more open to receiving what Christ has to give – forgiveness and grace, unconditional love, and redemption for the whole world. Jesus allowed himself to be tortured and then died in agony on the cross this afternoon to pay the price for my sins. How can I give his love to the people around me if I don’t permit myself to receive his love and his grace?



Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Week in the Field Hospital

Dear Pope Francis,

Holy Week is one of my favourite times in the liturgical year. While a large part of it that I’m left awestruck by the immensity of God’s love and overwhelming gratitude for the events of the Passion and Resurrection, it also goes much deeper than that.

I love hearing the Passion narratives because I can relate to the feelings of the different people. In these accounts, I see the true humanity of Jesus, Peter, Judas and the other Apostles. In their actions, I see my own humanity reflected. In Judas’ actions, I see all those times I blatantly betray God, otherwise called sin. In Peter’s denial, I see all the times I boast in my faith and then fail to follow through. In the disciples who fall asleep in the garden, I see those times when I become slack in my faith. In Jesus’ prayer in the garden, I see those times when life gets hard and I don’t either don’t know where God is calling me, or don’t like where He is calling me. Finally, in the Passion, I see those times when things get hard, but I follow through.

What all these snippets of the story tell me is that life won’t be perfect, and perhaps more importantly, that I don’t need to be perfect. There are so many times when I get caught up in the idea that I need to be perfect before God will work in my life to do fantastic things. When I say perfect, I mean perfect: I mistakenly associate my ability to get my school work done, volunteer for everything and be friends with everyone with how much God loves me. Except, that’s not how it works.

God doesn’t wait for me to be perfect before He intervenes in my life. He’s there all the time, whether I mess up or not. I think you put it best, Pope Francis, when you said that the Church is field hospital for sinners, not a museum for the saints (Big Heart Open to God, Interview with Antony Spodaro). So, just like the solely human people in the Passion narratives, I am human and will make mistakes. I need to be in the field hospital, among the other hurting and broken people. But I also need hope that from all the mistakes and wrong turns, God will allow something fantastic to happen in my life.

Hanging out in the hospital,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Swearing at God

Dear Pope Francis,

Thank you for sharing the message (in his homily on April 3, 2014) that it’s okay to be angry with God, to tell him when we think He’s not coming through for us and remind Him of His promises. This was very timely, because I swore at God on Tuesday night. Put simply, I ran out of words that were strong enough to express the hurt and anger that I had inside, and I said a few choice words because it was all I had left.

As a writer, I process a lot linguistically, whether that’s talking it through or writing it out. After I swore, I felt ashamed that my words had failed me so profoundly that I resorted to cursing. But I did feel much better for being able to share my feelings so candidly. There’s something cathartic about being able to find one strong word to let out your feelings, even if that word is a curse word.

I was talking with a friend about your homily and my experience. My friend suggested that while we can swear at God, we also need to be prepared for the times when God will swear back at us. This is interesting, since I don’t necessarily ‘hear’ God speaking to me in prayer; God’s responses are generally a physical feeling rather than a spoken response.

In response to my outburst on Tuesday night, I received nothing but compassion and soothing words and hugs from God the following day. The hugs came in the form of my friends who knew something was wrong, and the compassion and soothing words came from the first reading of the daily liturgy and the homily. The reading came from Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (49:15). The homily celebrated and expressed gratitude for the contribution that different people had made to the school community this year. It all felt soothing, like rubbing aloe vera on a sunburn. It didn’t solve anything, but it acknowledged my hurt and frustration, and most importantly, it gave me hope.

This reminds me of the best friendships that I’ve had in my life, the ones where I can be frustrated and hurt by what a friend says (or I cause the hurt and frustration), but with time we can patch it up. The friendship is so important to both of us that we can forgive each other for the hurt, and be friends again. God is big enough for me to hurl all my hurt, doubts, fear and frustrations at Him, even if that includes swearing. Instead of getting angry at me, he just holds me in patience and love, until I’ve cried and raged myself into silence, and then he reassures me. Only when I’m silent will he tell me that everything will be okay, that I just need to hang on, because He’s got awesome plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11-13). He knows to wait until the silence, because I won’t listen otherwise. And this leaves me speechless with gratitude: that God will wait and speak me to me in a way that I will respond to, even though I was so incredibly angry. The last thing I deserve is that kind of patience and love, and yet there He is, pouring it out.

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)

As we come closer to the Easter season, I am reminded of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:32-42, Lk 22:39-46, Mt 26:36-46), when he questioned God and felt abandoned. This moment resonates with me, because in it I relate to Jesus’ total humanity. Jesus went on to endure the most painful and humiliating death. But we can’t have the resurrection unless the Passion came first. So while I cry out  my rage, frustration and hurt in my own Gethsemane moments, I trust that God is big enough to take it all, and will be with me, ready to show me a new life in the silence that inevitably follows the outburst.

Feeling grateful,


Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The problem with modern apologetics

Dear Pope Francis,

I propose the anniversary of the election of a pope be called “poplectary” (poh-plek-tah-ree). I’m bored of reading articles about the anniversary of your election. The whole phrase takes up too much space, and also I haven’t invented a new word in a while.

Know what else I’m bored of reading? Articles about church teaching where the main argument used is ultimately an appeal to authority; usually God, the Bible, or the Church.


I think apologetics are great. There’s a huge need for them with so many people in the world trying to dissuade people from believing the truth of the resurrected Christ. Believers and non-believers both struggle with why the Church teaches what it does, and this struggle can become a huge pothole in their relationship with Christ.

We need to have a serious look at both what the Church is teaching and how we teach it though.

Yes, the Bible is the inspired word of God – but it is also an historical account of events in Jewish and early Christian history. All cultures have certain assumptions they make about societal roles which affect the degree of agency people have over themselves. We need to take note of the assumptions being made by the people in the Bible and see how those assumptions affect the message.

Yes, the Church has two thousand years of Tradition which have brought us to where we are today. But the early church grew out of the traditions of Judaism and evolved a great deal before it became the rich and powerful entity it is today. Growth in the early church was rooted in the core message of the Gospels: Jesus lived, died, and rose again in fulfilment of the scriptures.

If we examine our own Apostle’s Creed, known to have existed in some form since 390 C.E., the focus is clearly on the story of Jesus.

I believe in God, the Father, the almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Looking closer, the word “catholic” is not capitalized. When written with a small ‘c’ the word catholic means universal. The capital ‘C’ Church is the totality of Christians, the universal church, not the institution of the Catholic Church.

I think if we look at the Church today, growth is still rooted in the core message. But the Catholic Church has been diluting that message by focusing on adherence to Tradition.

I am a Roman Catholic. I attend mass every week, and I believe the presence of Christ is in the bread and wine we consume during the celebration of the Eucharist. I adhere to the Ten Commandments we adopted from our Jewish forefathers and mothers (well, I try) and I no longer do and think these things simply because someone told me to.


In the words of a Dominican priest who spoke at a conference I attended two years ago, “faith should be reasonable.” My faith is reasonable, and because it is reasonable I do not cite God, the Church or the Bible as authorities in arguments. I reasoned things out until I was satisfied the evidence for outweighed the evidence against.

It’s an exercise I’m continuing to do with the rest of church teaching. I believe in God and I believe he has a plan for this world. But constantly citing God’s authority as a reason to do or not do something is lazy. We have the ability and the responsibility to craft better arguments for what we teach. We can fill in those potholes.

Happy poplectary,


P.S. Sorry for not being able to get this up during the week of your poplectary! I was experiencing the human body’s ability to fill nasal passages with an unlimited supply of snot and spending pretty much all my awake-but-not-at-work hours drinking tea and trying to get rid of it all.

Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

One of Us

Dear Pope Francis,

I didn’t always feel connected to Pope Benedict during his papcy, but over the last month I think I am getting closer. When Benedict stepped down, some people questioned his motives, thinking that he was leaving behind some sort of mess for his successor to clean up. But, while these theories were appealing, I had a feeling that he stepped down after a great deal of discernment, and with great humility and love for the Church. The things I have been discerning aren’t nearly close to the magnitude of Pope Benedict’s, but they still greatly impact my life, and to some degree, the lives of those around me. Discernment is a tough process, whether it impacts one person or billions. I discern those things with great love, just the same way I think Benedict did as well.

After Benedict stepped down, and during the conclave, I was neck deep in school work, so I didn’t really follow much of the media coverage. One night, I did read a list of people that someone thought could be the next pope. I remember that you were on the list, and when I read your bio, I remember thinking how cool it would be if you were elected.

Fast forward to a week later, and I was at my school, which is a Jesuit theologate. We celebrated our community liturgy for the Conclave. When we finished mass and were preparing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we found out there had been white smoke. We rolled a TV into the student lounge and gathered around, decked out in our St. Patrick’s Day finest, eating Irish stew and soda bread, waiting to find out who you were. When you were first introduced we were all confused, you’re name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I knew it from. Then it was announced that you were a Jesuit, and it didn’t matter that we didn’t know who you were, because you were one of us!

One of us, I think that phrase summarizes what I had hoped for, and what I have seen over your first year. I hoped for a pope who would both inspire me and challenge me by his devotion to the faith. You have, because you acknowledge that you are a sinner, just like everyone else. You are pope, but you are still a child of God. I think immediately of the picture of you at the Curia retreat, sitting with the members of the Curia. I think of you roaming the streets to greet people after mass. You are one of us, a human being, seeking God.

Maybe, that’s why I find it so easy to write a letter to you week after week. I come from a radically different culture than you do. I am a young lay woman from a small town in a first world country. I didn’t see poverty or know corruption. But I still feel like you can understand some kernel of truth in my experiences. I know there was, and continues to be, a lot of speculation and drama around the hot button topics, like abortion, homosexual marriage, poverty and female ordination, especially in North America, and these influenced what many people wanted in the new pope. But my hope and dream for the new pope was much simpler. I wanted to relate to him, I wanted a real person that Christ was working through.

I am so incredibly grateful for your election, Pope Francis, because when I read an interview, or a news story about your latest activities, I feel hope. I feel hopeful that the Church can be relevant, engaging, and open-minded, but stay rooted in the mission of Jesus.

Thank you for inspiring me to find my place in this beautiful faith.



Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A lot can happen in a year

Pope-Francis-Dove-3x2-555x370Dear Pope Francis

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since you were elected Pope. The Catholics around me all went nuts from the day Benedict XVI stepped down. Some of them calmed down shortly after you were elected, others never did.

I remember being totally thrown off by the news, because I had never heard of a pope resigning before. It ended up piquing my curiosity enough to start doing some research into the history of the Church.

Then there was the papal conclave. I didn’t really know who any of the cardinals eligible to become pope were beyond what I could find in the newspaper (I read everything The Globe and Mail published on the subject.) and I didn’t expect it to be over so quickly.

I was in class when the white smoke came. The girl behind me saw it on twitter and told me. I have no idea what we talked about for the rest of the class because I spent it googling your name and reading everything I could find.

Then I got excited. I read about how you welcomed in single mothers and baptized their children, and I smiled. I read about how cared for an elderly priest and took public transit, and I thought “this is a pope who knows people.”

Pope Francis I appears on the central balconyFriends who aren’t involved in the church were interested for a brief time. Friends baptized but not practicing were curious but didn’t want to deepen their relationship with the Church unless the Church fundamentally changed. Friends already involved in the Church didn’t seem to know quite how to respond. Some were really excited, others concerned. A lot of people warned me that one man can’t change thousands of years of tradition.

Jesus did. He didn’t reject the traditions, but his actions and words while he was here on earth did change them by giving birth to a whole new tradition. A tradition which has morphed over the years and continued to build on itself as it reacted to an ever changing world.

Pope Francis, people tell me that you’re not really changing anything with the way you talk about homosexuality and about women. They tell me the media is twisting everything you say to fit what they want it to say.

I have a hard time believing those people, because it seems to me the tone you speak in is what’s different. It might not change the teaching, but it is changing the focus by shifting the conversation back towards how much God loves the world. That’s not a small change.

The Vatican has a press office. I’m sure if there were an egregious error in the story the mainstream media has presented about you it would have been corrected by the press office.


St. Francis of Assisi, whose name you took when you became pope once said “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” You do use words in your preaching, but it is your actions which have kept the world’s attention this year.

Thank you for reminding us of our duty to the poor, of the joy to be had in service to others. Thank you for being so different from every other pope I’ve seen in my admittedly short time on earth so far. Thank you for being a pastor to the whole church, because we need that care more than anything.

I can’t lie, there’s things about my Church I want to change. Things I want desperately for you to change. But if it comes down to big changes causing a schism, or little changes bringing more people to God and helping with the practical realities of life, I’ll pick the little changes every time.

Thanks Pope Francis. The way you pope makes me proud to be part of this.

Hoping to meet you somewhere between here and Paradise,


Categories: Meredith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lenten Commitment

Dear Pope Francis,

The last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on what I want to do for Lent. I’ve been tossing around the idea of giving up meat again and being a vegetarian. Except I did that two years ago and I think I learned what I needed to from it.

I learned being a vegetarian is not a deal breaker for me and there’s a lot of really good food that doesn’t have meat. I also learned that unless I plan to be militant about when my meals happen and track my nutrients really well, I should probably not give up food.

st dunstansThis year I’ve been thinking a lot about my prayer life, and about what I do in my spare time. Now that I’m working in banquets instead of housekeeping, a lot of my shifts are probably going to be in the evenings. Without work to go to, a lot of the time I don’t leave the house. I stay in and read and job search online and play video games unless I have plans with friends.

My parish has mass at 12:05 most days. I’ve been thinking about going for a while, but I never seem to get around to it. So this year, my Lenten commitment is going to be to go to mass every day unless I have work when it’s happening.

When I was at the NET interview retreat on the weekend, we talked about how if you do not pray at specific times you cannot pray at all times. Until now, my specific time has been before I go to bed at night. My routine is to say “Now I lay me down to sleep” and then thank God for at least three things in my life that day and ask him for help with something the next day.


It’s been a really good exercise for me in terms of keeping the conversation going, and in the two years since I started doing it I’ve noticed I say a lot more little prayers during my day; prayers for friends when I hear about difficult situations in their lives, prayers for patience and understanding.

What I’ve skipped out on over the years is conversations with Mary. For the days when I do have work conflicting with mass, or when daily mass isn’t happening, I’m going to commit to praying the rosary.

Lent is a time of preparation for the joy of Easter and the knowledge that Jesus died on the cross for all humanity’s redemption. It’s easy to remember the things we say no to. All the rules saying don’t do this or don’t do that. But I think it’ll be a bigger challenge, for me at least, to remember to say yes. To take that hour of my day to say yes to going to mass, or yes to praying the rosary.

Jesus said yes to death on a cross, I can say yes to more prayer.

Rising again from ashes,


Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The virtues we value

Dear Pope Francis,

A few weeks ago I was talking with my boyfriend about why honesty is so important to me. The gist of it was that as virtues go, I value honesty higher than any other because I used to be really terrible at it. He hugged me, and said “I know. That’s how it is with everyone. People value the things they’re bad at.”

At first, I didn’t think he could possibly be right, but then I thought about it. The young woman I knew who was most concerned with sexual purity and most upset by a perceived lack of it in anyone was addicted to porn. The most hard-working man I know used to sit around all the time and be frustrated that things weren’t happening in his life. Several friends who now value frugality spent far too much at one time or another.

For all of us, there was a period of disconnect between what we wanted and what we were. None of us were able to get rid of those vices overnight. As far as I know, we all continue to struggle with them.

What’s encouraging for me is that I can honestly say that I haven’t told a whopper in several years now, and when I’m calling to mind my sins at mass on Sundays, it’s not usually a list of all the little white lies I’ve told. Other things come to mind, like people I need to forgive, the coffee shop barista I was too miserly to tip even a little bit, and lately, all the times during the week when I haven’t been as gracious about my time off work and the wait for worker’s comp to come through as I should be.


Michael George, my ethics professor, used to say “people hardly ever change until they’re in crisis, because real change means deciding you give enough of a shit about your crappy life to change whatever it is that’s making it crappy.”

I’m 24 years old, and for the last six years, my New Year’s resolution has been to be more honest.

It started with allowing myself to be myself. When I stopped pretending to be perfect I started to actually enjoy the life I was living. I stopped feeling like I needed to invent stories about friends that didn’t exist and started being able to tell the real stories about the excellent ones I had.

Harder for me, was to stop expecting perfection of myself in my academics and hobbies. But once I stopped expecting it I started to be able to be honest with myself about what I had done instead of getting caught up on how I hadn’t formatted my paper correctly, or how the blanket I knit wasn’t symmetrical. I lost marks for formatting, but the professor really liked my thesis and thought I had a solid argument. The blanket wasn’t symmetrical and it had some stitches wrong, but the friend whose baby I knit it for loved it because I’d taken the time to make it. The story I wrote wasn’t well received, but it was important it got told.

It wasn’t until my family life went nuclear that I started being able to be emotionally honest with the people close to me. If I were to pinpoint the area I still need to work the hardest at, it would be this.

It took the collapse of a significant part of my social sphere to break the habit of protecting people’s feelings by avoiding the absolute truth. Ironically, the collapse happened because I told the truth. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

T-Ring Engraving

I had the words “Testify to the truth” engraved on my T-Ring, both as a summary of what I learned in university and a reminder to myself. (I couldn’t fit all of John 18:37.)

I don’t pray I’ll stop making mistakes. I pray God will give me the grace to recognize them, the courage to own up, the wisdom to learn from them, and the self-control to not keep repeating the same ones.

For everyone else, I pray they’ll give enough of a shit about their crappy lives to change whatever’s making them crappy. Because usually, it’s something within ourselves.

Honestly at peace,


Categories: Meredith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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