Sunday, February 28, 2010


My junior year in college, I took a liberation theology class in which we read Jon Sobrino's Jesus the Liberator. It's been a while, but what I remember about the book, and the discussions that followed in class, is that Sobrino asserts that Jesus's life and death are what save us. I remember this because one of my classmates, Brendan, kept raising his hand to say, "But...but, what about the Resurrection?!" After all, we'd been taught all our lives that Jesus's Resurrection saved us!

Well, while as Catholics we do believe that Jesus's Resurrection is what ensures us eternal life--that the Resurrection reopened the gates of Heaven (or some such thing), how do we get there? What is it that allows us to fully embrace that afterlife? It is, as Sobrino says, Jesus's life and death as a model for our own lives. Living in the shadow and reflection of His example is how we choose to be saved, how we embrace salvation. Ulitimately, it is the life we live that is our truth. It is what we have to offer to God in the end.

I have death and dying on my mind right now--on all of the sadness and frustration that surround that process. In the last few weeks and years, though, I have been shown how to embrace the process with grace and dignity. I have been given examples of how to live until the end, how to love until the end. What more can we be asked to do? It follows the ultimate example--to live and love with reckless abandon, even when it's hard and unpopular--even as death stares you in the face.

p.s. My professor used to tell Brendan, "He hasn't written that book yet." A few years ago, Sobrino did--he published Christ the Liberator. I bought it, but haven't read it yet. I suspect it tells us how the Resurrection saves us.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


The Jesuits use the word magis when they talk about "the more." We need to do "the more" in service of one another. We need to be "the more" for our friends, for our family, in our work, for ourselves. It is an endless process, a goal that moves further away from us the longer we travel on the path towards it. When I was in college, to be a part of the Magis program, you had to be involved in the life of the school in a variety of ways. To fully embrace magis is to embrace love--love of life, love of other, love of the world, love of self. To strive for "the more" means to know that there will be failure, and that's ok (this is a tough one for me!). In striving for "the more" you will fall short sometimes, but you will go further than you would otherwise.

When I strive for "the more," I get overwhelmed. I predict failure and wish I'd chosen to strive for "the average." But then I get through, I come out the other side, and I realize that there has been growth. This week, I covered for a teacher who is out dealing with a family emergency. I volunteered to take on her courseload, not thinking of "the more," but simply thinking that someone had to pitch in, so why not me. It was far from a perfect week. I didn't do it all right, and in fact, there are some things I did wrong. But there were lessons; lessons about when to use humor and when to be strict, lessons about time management and about confidence. I know at least 50 more student names than I did a week ago right now, which means that 50 more students get greeted by name in the hallway.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
For the greater glory of God.

Friday, February 26, 2010

St. Theresa

May today there be peace within.

May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith in yourself and others.

May you use your gifts that you have received
and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content with yourself
just the way you are.

Let this knowledge settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.

I love this prayer. There is challenge (use the gifts you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you; be content with yourself just the way you are) and there is reassurance (trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be; singing, dancing, loving souls). On my best days, I believe what it says, and on the hard days, it serves as a reminder of what is true. There is a greater plan, we have the gifts we need to accomplish our purpose, we are exactly who and where we are supposed to be, and we should celebrate that fact.

Most prayers are phrased so that we are talking to God, but here, God is talking to us--calmly and gently reminding us that we are enough. I need this reminder, need to let it settle into my bones, need to let it chase away my insecurities and fears.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Even as I raised my voice to settle the girls today, telling them to sit down and stop staring out the window ("It's just snow, girls!"), I found myself gazing at the big, heavy, wet snowflakes, mesmerized. Snow is joyful, snow is peaceful, snow makes us slow down even if we don't want have time to be slow. A blanket of snow makes the world quieter, more serene. In that slowness, in that quiet, we are invited to be quiet and still ourselves, listening to what we can't usually hear.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Come Home

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.

Even Now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.

Even now,
Even now--- when you've been hiding from me for months,
Even now ---when you avoid me like I'm the plague...
I want you back.

Return to me
Return to me with your heart
Return to me with your whole heart.

Return to me where you belong- where you are home. Return to me ---so you can stop feeling so frantic, so torn, so baffled, so alone, so dazed, so numb, so scared.

The above are excerpts from an Ash Wednesday reflection inspired by the prophet Joel. I read it several times every Lent. Doesn't it sound wonderful? Wouldn't it be great if we could let go of the frantic, baffled, lonely, and scared parts of ourselves?

Return to God. See ourselves as God sees us. Accept our flaws and our insecurities, our fears and our struggles as part of what makes us unique and special. God sees right through those parts of us; God sees the talents, the strengths, the gifts, the joy, the goodness, and the hope. God sees the whole package--where we so often (or at least I so often) focus on the mistakes, the missteps, the failures.

Even now, with all your human frailties, with all your dark & twisty, scary & damaged parts, come home. See yourself as I see you. Feel loved because you are loved. I've been waiting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I have a hard time trusting good things. My friends just don't see the real me. If they did, they'd run screaming. I second guess things I say or do all the time. My friend Nichole calls this "being all Kris" about something. Sometimes I'll email or IM or call her, having worked myself into a frenzy about something I said to a friend, or a phone call I didn't return. Now she's going to hate me. Now he'll see what a freak I am. "Oh, Kris," says Nichole (and even if she's 200 miles away, I can see her shaking her head with a smile creeping at the corners of her moth), "don't be all Kris about it! Your friends love you. No one expects you to be perfect."

Oh, but I do...because if I'm not, if I say or do the wrong things, they'll all disappear. My friends will leave me behind and I will be alone. I want to be liked, but there are voices in the back of my head saying that I'm not very likeable. I'm a girl who is used to being on the outside looking in. I had a best friend in my elementary school class, but I didn't have a group of friends. In high school, I had a few good friends, but I wasn't a part of any group--I was on the outside of a few different groups. So, at lunch or in class or hanging out immediately after school, I had friends. But when they went to do something on weekends, they went as a group--a group that dind't include me.

I'd like to say that I've matured beyond this. That I am comfortable in my own skin and I can be myself without caring what other people think. But I am not. I trust my friends, I just don't trust myself.

I'm working on it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

writing and time

I have another writing commitment tonight. I need to write SOMETHING to submit for my writing teleclass, my virtual version of my beloved Monday nights in the Pioneer Valley. And this can't be it. I mean, I suppose it *could* be it, but I have a plan, so I need to go put the fingers to the keys and do that. I've had time tonight, but I watched the Olympics and fooled around on the internet and sent emails and talked to my friend in LA about her new job. But they ate away at time I needed to spend on writing, on grading, on preparing for tomorrow.

One more thing for today--I'm taking over a colleague's courseload this week while she deals with a family emergency. I'm teaching 9th and 10th graders (after primarily dealing with seniors all year) and...I love it! Who could have guessed that I'd love teaching teenagers?! But there I was, reviewing the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph with the 9th graders, talking about the wacky ways of the Old Testament. ("My wife is barren. My family is promised descendants as numerous as the stars. I will sire a child with my wife's servant!!" Two years later, "Crap! My barren wife is pregnant. Maybe God meant for me to be patient.") My days will be extra crazy, but I forgot the high I get from being in the classroom.

And so off I go to write a character sketch of one of my current mentors on this adventure in high school campus ministry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Today's Gospel told the story of Jesus' 40 days in the desert, and of his temptation there by Satan. Fr. Joe pointed out that Satan wasn't asking Jesus to do anything that terrible...turn rocks to bread to feed himself--and maybe the masses? What's the harm in that? Rule over all the known kingdoms of the world? You're Jesus after all--you could bring world peace! Toss yourself off the cliff? You're God...prove your power, use it for good!

But instead, said Fr. Joe, Jesus embraced his humanity in the desert. Surely he was capable of all those acts--and capable of using them for the greater good. However, Jesus' life and work wasn't about big moments. Yes, there were miracles, but even they were (mostly) small moments, in private, with Jesus asking those he healed to keep quiet. Jesus' life and work was about showing us how to live. He tried to demonstrate how we could live our every day, ordinary human lives in the service of God. As the Jesuit and liberation theologian Jon Sobrino asserted in his book Jesus the Liberator, salvation is found in the life of Jesus Christ. He saved us by showing us how to live.

And so our challenge is to avoid the temptation to be human. Whereas Jesus was tempted to act on his divinity, we are tempted to act on our humanity. Our temptations, or I should say my temptations are the everyday distractions of life--the computer, the tv, the crappy soda--the things that distract me from whereI should be focusing my time, energy and effort. Jesus rejected temptation by embracing his humanity. We in turn need to reject temptation by embracing our divinity. We are created in God's image and likeness after all...we each hold divinity within. To embrace it is to be hardworking, is to use our gifts and talents in the service of God--in the service of one another. We are called to be our best selves.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

3 pillars

There are three traditional pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Each play on the most basic theme of the season, that of sacrifice. Sacrifice, as I've mentioned before, isn't limited to "going without."

This is the pillar that is toughest for me. I am not good at prayer. I mean, there are prayers that I love (St. Theresa's Prayer, for example) and I am good at praying for people. God hears from me when someone I know and love needs strength, courage, guidance, wisdom, or peace. But prayer as conversation? Prayer as listening? I am not good. I "fill" empty or quiet time. I make my actions my way of letting God know who I am, what I know to be true, and who I want to be. And, sure, that's prayer too. Prayer can be action...but action is almsgiving (see below), so maybe this Lent I need to put more effort into developing a prayer life, into being still and letting God into my mind and heart.

When I lived in L.A., I would--without fail--bring a meaty lunch to work on Fridays. It wasn't until lunch for the kids was cheese pizza or bean burritos that I'd realize my mistake. Frankly though, the "no meat" isn't the true meaning of fasting. For some people, no meat Fridays isn't any kind of sacrifice at all. And for me, any excuse to eat seafood is fabulous.

The purpose of fasting is to remember
Jesus' 40 days in the desert. But it can also be used as a way to remember the 1st pillar of prayer. Maybe this Lent, every time I hear my stomach rumble in class or have a desire to run to the corner deli during a free period for M&Ms, I can take some time for God instead.

This is my favorite pillar. Traditionally, people think of giving donations (to the Church, to Operation Rice Bowl, etc.) as almsgiving. It is that, of course, but almsgiving is so much more than that, so much bigger. To give alms is to give of oneself, to offer one's time, energy, efforts, and gifts to the other. Money is good, but money can be easy can be mindless and can sometimes involve minimal sacrifice. To counter this, I've had friends who give their Starbucks money up for Lent. Instead of spending $3.97 on a drink at Starbucks every morning, they put that money in the Rice Bowl or the collection basket. The money represents something tangible, and, to me, grounds the act of giving back in something concrete.

But for me, giving alms is the act of doing something more for someone (even if it is doing more for oneself--blogging every day, for example!). I go back to work on Monday and I am going to try to be more aware of how I give of my time, energy, and talents to my girls and my fellow faculty. I will try to be more patient and not so quick to judge and/or go into the faculty room and blow off steam. My actions need to reflect the season, and what I will ask of the girls.

It is easy to move mindlessly through the day, mindlessly through the week, mindlessly through this season of Lent. My goal is to be conscious of how my actions come back to prayer, to fasting, and to almsgiving.

Friday, February 19, 2010

essay brainstorming

I want to go back to school. I need to go back to school really--I have a great toolbox of tricks and, well, tools to get 2nd graders to read, or wrap their minds around double-digit subtraction. And I have a good beginner's toolbelt of ideas and activities to explore faith with teenagers. But I am in need of more...and so I look at grad programs. The essay questions are fairly standard--and open-ended!

State your occupational and vocational goals as specifically as possible. Then state briefly how you hope to relate your experience at the Graduate School to your goals (2-3 pages).

Right. Vocational goals. When I applied for my current job last year, I wrote in my cover letter that working with teenagers was not something I sought out. It is a vocation that found me, and it is a calling that challenges me every day. The transitions from child to teenager to young adult are so crucial--and they happen so fast. There are so many questions and so many uncertainties and so many decisions. I want to be a resource, a safe space, someone who both holds them accountable and allows them to make mistakes. I know grad school won't do this for me. Experience will do this for me. But I have all these pieces, little bits of knowledge here and there, and I want to pull them together. I want to dive into books, but more than that, I want to dive into discussions, to hear what other people know. The thought of sitting in class with people who are on a similar journey is exciting to me.

This could be a career and a vocation that sticks. I get to teach, I get to laugh, I get to sit in the back of the room in awe of these young women who are so brave and so smart and so open. They're the reason I want to get better at this. Even on my most frustrating day, I want to be my best because they deserve it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

every day

I am loving the Olympics. Snowboard Cross--who invented that?! Short track speed skating--so exciting! Here are people who learned their craft, who practiced what they love--even when they didn't feel like it. Skiing is fun, but there had to be mornings where Lindsay Vonn would have rather stayed in bed, afternoons she would have preferred hanging out with friends. But she clipped into those skis every day.

Every day.

At my aforementioned alma mater, first-year students and their parents pull up to residence halls one Saturday morning in August. Their hearts are full of excitement, their stomachs full of knots, and their cars full of stuff. But they only need to worry about the excitement and the knots. Before they can even turn the car off, bright-eyed upperclass students and smiling staff and administrators have surrounded them, opening car doors and loading up mail carts with the car's contents. These enthusiastic worker bees wear t-shirts that say, "Live the Mission." Five hours into unloading cars my junior year, I remember breathlessly reminding a friend to, "Live the Mission!" We shouted it at one another for hours--more sarcasm than sappiness filling our voices.

I still have the t-shirt. I need that kind of call to "Live the Mission." This Lent, that mission is meaningful reflection, deliberate action, sincere effort.

Every day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

The title of my blog comes from the song that shares a name with this feast day, this beginning of the Lenten season.

"It's funny how you never know
exactly when you're asked to grow,
exactly when you'll take the load
or head up on your own road,
exactly which the day will be--
maybe Ash Wednesday
or Mardi Gras.
So I will change
'cause I have changed..."
(Nerissa Nields)

My friend D inspired this blogging-venture-as-Lenten-practice. Like her, I am more for "doing" than "giving up" when it comes to Lent, because there is sacrifice in "the more," or in magis as the Jesuits would say.

A little background on me. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Irish-Catholic. My parents and grandparents are the products of Catholic education.I went to Catholic school from kindergarten all the way through graduate school.

Even after all that, to the surprise of many, I am not a "fallen" or "recovering" Catholic. I am a (mostly) practicing Catholic. After college, I taught in an inner-city Catholic school for three years, then found myself back at my (Catholic) undergraduate alma mater where I worked for four years. Today, I am in the midst of my first year as Campus Minister and Service Program Coordinator at an all-girls Catholic high school, working again with a diverse, urban population.

I am lucky. I have had amazing role models in my life--grandmothers who had regular seats in the front pews of their home parishes and carry their own rosaries and prayer books with them wherever they go; parents who brought us to Mass every Sunday and, more importantly, showed us every day what it meant to be a person of faith; and incredible youth ministers and chaplains who demonstrated the potential for women in ministry today. In my expeirence, priests are compassionate, intelligent, and caring.

"So I will change, 'cause I have changed..."

This is my Lenten goal. For months, I've been thinking that I wanted to create a space to talk about my job--maybe even a place (big dreams here) where others can come to share ideas. I'm a "big idea" person...and lack something on the follow through. I can pass, half-assing my way through things, blessed with the ability to make half-assed look pretty good. Maybe this Lent can bring change. More than anything, I want to be good at this job. More than anything, I want to be good for these girls. I want to give them moments, experiences, and lessons that they look remember 5, 10, even 25 years from now.

It's time to grow.