Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Vigil

At the Easter Vigil last evening, where I was received into the Catholic Church, the candidates and catechumens were asked to share something about their faith journey. This is what I said--it was for those of you who couldn't be there as much as it was for those who were in the audience.

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I wanted to share with you tonight two verses from Psalm 84, a psalm that I've been meditating on and praying for almost a decade now. Verses 6 and 7 read:

"Happy are those who find refuge in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrim roads.
As they pass through the Baca valley,
they find spring water to drink.
Also from pools The Lord provides water
for those who lose their way."

Pilgrimages are exhausting: your feet get dusty and your soul gets tired. Sometimes the whole world seems to have run dry. But as I was thinking this week about what I wanted to say here tonight, and as I was looking back on my own journey to this Easter vigil, I realized that I could hardly see the desert for the springs. I have always been surrounded by people who love me fiercly and who have forgiven me generously. Friends, family, mentors and teachers; people from different faiths and people who don't belong to a faith tradition. Many of them aren't here today, but some of them are. And I want you to know that I'm incredibly grateful for your presence in my life, and for the role that each of you has played in my journey here.

This has been a difficult decision for me. The terrifying thing about spiritual pilgrimages is that the roads aren't always straight. Sometimes they branch; and sometimes you're faced with a choice. And I don't know about you, but, for me, choices are scary. They're scary because they involve commitments, and commitments are future-oriented: I can't always see where I'll end up if I chose this path rather than another. But there is also beauty in commitment. At its best, it's a space where you're challenged to love more deeply, to doubt more honestly, to hope with abandon. It's a space where you're known. And you can't enter into it if you linger forever at the crossroads.

I've been at the crossroads for what feels like a very long time now. Catholicism, for me, has been an invitation to a radical intimacy with Christ and with his Church. It's an invitation that sometimes makes me uncomfortable; and it's challenging because it's an invitation I have to accept without knowing exactly how things will turn out. But I have come to love the Church. I love that her whole life centers around and leads into the experience of the presence of Jesus: his words and his body and his blood. And I'm here tonight because this is the space where I want continue my pilgrimage. In the refuge of this commitment. Where I'm challenged to live out my hope and my doubt, and where I'm invited into the presence of love. Thank you for being here with me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring is here.

I arrived back in New Haven after a quick trip home and found that the snow was nearly all melted (just a few gray humps scattered in the shadows). The trees are still resolutely bare, but the days are a warm 50 degrees Fahrenheit and an exuberant sunshine is blasting through my windowpanes. Welcome.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Happy birthday to my love! I can't believe this is already our fourth time celebrating together.

Books, yoga, prayer

There has been no real snow for several weeks now. This morning I woke to the scattered song of birds--a hesitant owl, the bright notes of a chickadee, and the groan of seagulls. Tight green buds are sprouting through the ice-covered bark of trees. And yet, it is colder than ever now. 

I am trying to make time to read this semester, usually for a few minutes before bed, but sometimes over breakfast or lunch. I just finished this year's Man Booker, The Luminaries (a zodiacal mystery set during the New Zealand gold rush), and have started in on Fugitive Pieces (a fictional memoir from WWII set in Greece and Canada). I liked The Luminaries  but was starting to get bored with the characters by the end, and even the astute character sketches, which I had enjoyed so much at the beginning of the novel, were stale, 800 pages later. Fugitive Pieces has the virtues of being shorter and, I think, better. The narrative sustains, but doesn't drive, layers of fresh imagery and poetic prose; the story is sad but satisfying.

I am still going to yoga, usually once a week. I'm trying out harder classes now and am constantly surprised by what my body can do. My favorite poses involve both balance and contortions: I become aware of my legs and hands and toes by themselves, independently of the activities of walking and standing and grasping. And when I'm not falling over, I relish sinking into the steadiness of the four corners of my feet. It's a feeling I've found useful to come back to as I go through the week. If I can move myself mentally back into that steadiness, it helps me to both assess and then plow through stressful situations.

And prayer. Before RCIA I had no prayer life. Prayer makes me uncomfortable, especially if it's vocal. But I'm giving it a go. A Sacred Space, which is run by Irish Jesuits, has a series of daily prompts that I've been using to give structure to my prayers, and for Lent, I'm embarking on Biola's new Lenten devotional project (if you haven't seen it yet, and you're observing Lent this year, I highly recommend having a look: http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/#).

I'm heading into the busy season now. The hope is that these three patterns will shape my days and keep them from going by too breathlessly. We may be dust, but there's beauty in these ashes that beat like wings.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


This is Nathan Hale, who had only one life to give for his country, outside my department, which is housed in the oldest building on campus. He's bravely weathering dusting after dusting of snow.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Yesterday my Facebook was filled with notes to Whitney, remembering her on the sixth year after her death; Alex has also been in my thoughts;  and I realized that this is the first February in a long time that I haven't been overwhelmed by a sense of sorrow and the (superstitious) dread of impending loss. I can remember without grieving, and that is a real relief.

The picture below is from my walk to campus this morning. We got more snow yesterday and then it rained warmly all night. You can't see it here, but some of the curbs have turned into lakes and then the lakes waterlogged my boots, which footwear is drying by the radiator as I write. Tonight my philosopher and I will wade back down to campus for a Valentine's date at the Yale Rep. We were supposed to go yesterday but the snow and my cold prevented the outing. My senses are still a little impaired, but not so much that I won't be able to hear a word--with any luck, I'll catch most of the lines.

Stay warm, and wear water-proof boots.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Snow day

I wake to snow and ice and cancelled classes. The windows on both sides of my room are hemmed in by the brown-white lace of heavy trees. A good day for staying in and catching up. I wear pajamas into the afternoon, serenade my senses with coffee and The Weepies, and read about atoms and Lucretius' void while pillows of snow slip-slide down the slanted rooves and into icicles. I won't complain about the gray.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

When we first arrived back from Colombia, the drifts of snow were muddy and melting and within the week they were gone. But now, every few days, I wake to new layers of white over trees and windowsills and the tang of more to come in the air. Against the backdrop of this blue-and-white world the days have fallen once again into routine. My philosopher and I eat most of our meals together and in the evenings we often watch something while we eat. Things we've been watching: Breaking Bad (the evenings we're at his house, with his housemate), Dr. Who, and The Bletchley Circle. The last one is about four British housewives-cum-code breakers who worked for intelligence during WWII and reband the following decade to put an end to a string of horrific murders in London. It was thrilling, but only has three episodes so far (so try not to get too addicted). Our other pastime is a Dr. Who puzzle, which my sister gave me for Christmas. I used to think I was bad at puzzles, but doing philosophy may have changed that; I'm actually developing strategies. The last two weekends have been full of early-semester get-togethers: game nights, a brunch, dinners out. And we also work, of course. We have two classes together this semester, and I have my usual rotation of languages (I'm reading lots of Lucretius and Plato). I'm still working on reintroducing exercise into this routine, but I made a start last week by returning to yoga. On Sundays we go to Mass and I go to RCIA. How I feel about this process depends heavily on the day. Sometimes I can see myself lighting candles at the Easter Vigil, and other times I can't. I think what I am most afraid of is of making a dishonest decision: what if I can't bring myself to believe everything? Is it dishonest to convert in spite of that? Or is it possible to make the commitment, believing in what seems to me to be most fundamental (the Eucharist), and acknowledging I have reservations that may resolve themselves into either disagreement or acceptance? I hope that this is possible, and I hope that God would hear in it an echo of the biblical father whose son Christ healed: I believe. Help my unbelief.