Lent. It kinda sucks.

So, I don’t know if you’ve realized it or not, but we’re almost done with Lent.

Crazy, right?

In some sense, it’s kind of nice that the end snuck up on me. It gets me just a little bit closer to eating Raising Cane’s again. (My husband and I gave up going to Raising Cane’s together for our joint penance. I will not disclose how many times I have dreamed about going there since Lent started. It’s a little too embarrassing for the internet.)

Christ on the Cross Rembrandt, 1631

Christ on the Cross
Rembrandt, 1631

But as the Passion of Christ approaches, I’m reminded of one simple fact, over and over again: Lent isn’t supposed to be fun. In fact, it kind of sucks.

I start out each Lent, every single year, with amazingly high hopes. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but they’re never fully realized. I have this idea in my head that I’ll make a complete 180 during these 40 days – every sin I’m falling into will be totally not tempting by the end of Lent. I’ll be so much further in my spiritual life. I’ll have total self-control over myself because I gave up x and y and z. I’ll be so much happier, so much closer to God, so much of a better person.

And without fail: it doesn’t happen.

Why? Oh yeah, because we’re human. Because we’re frail.

Because Lent isn’t about us. Because Lent is about Him.

Sure, we offer small penances, trying our very best frail human tries to unite them to Christ’s suffering on the cross. We attempt to devote our hearts and minds to Him, fasting with Him for 40 days, trying to make the journey to Calvary together.

Every year, without fail, around this time, I’m reminded of how human I really am. I’m disappointed with my “performance” throughout Lent. I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve failed in my Lenten penances. I get discouraged. I try to justify each one, and then I get even more discouraged.

But then Someone nudges me, reminding me: “Hey, it’s not about you. It’s about Him.”

Praise God for that, don’t you agree? Because if Lent was about me, it’d just be a depressing reminder every year of my frailty, my concupiscence, my inability to change at the blink of an eye.

But no. It’s about Him. It’s about His ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. It’s about His unending Love for us, His glorious and limitless mercy, His desire to share in Eternal Life with every single one of us.

That lifts my spirits a little bit.

And helps me resolve to live these last two weeks in pursuit of Him, with the beauty of the cross drawing me towards Him, and the promise of the Resurrection giving me hope.

I pray it does for you, too.



St. Joseph nailed it

(Alternative pun titles: St. Joseph, building relationships. St. Joseph, constructing marriages. St. Joseph, wood’nt doubt him for a minute…)

I had every intention of posting this yesterday on St. Joseph’s feast day but then I (somehow) got sucked into some March Madness (#1 in my family bracket, y’all!) and then didn’t get it done.

But, redemption is real and St. Joseph will understand.

Ever since my junior year of college I’ve had a devotion to St. Joseph. Initially it started because I saw lots of people kneeling by Mary and I felt like St. Joseph was a little neglected. I’m a sucker for underdogs (hence almost all of my MM picks are upsets. Gonzaga for the win!)

I looked up more about St. Joseph and discovered the beautiful litany for him which includes such titles as; terror of demons, head of the Holy Family, solace of the wretched, and Protector of Holy Church. Amazing and pretty hard core. So no longer did I view St. Joseph as this simple and quiet man who gets overshadowed, but an integral player for salvation history. He protects Mary and Jesus, he guides them away from danger and into Egypt, he is responsible for their well being. Can you imagine being responsible for the well being of two perfect people? Or protecting this perfect (and moderately helpless) family from actual murderers? Herod’s men were being sent out to kill babies, it was the law of the land. And the angel appeared to Joseph to tell him to take his family into Egypt.

“Not in my house”

My discovery of St. Joseph also came a pivotal part of my spiritual life, which is not surprising. How often do we “randomly” discover a saint who “happens” to speak into our personal struggles.

Anyway, at this point I was a senior in college and recently discerned away from the religious life. Previously, I was pretty sold on the idea. I had an order picked out, I had an official visit date set, I had my application in, and I had my personal belongings divvied out between my friends. But, all of that fell through (for the better) and I was crushed, disappointed, and a little confused. And now I realized I was probably called to marriage (dun dun dun).

So, turning to my new spiritual BFF, I told St. Joseph that I didn’t want to just date around. I had dated a fair amount in high school and was a little boy crazy in my early years of college. I didn’t want to just date for the fun of it. But ultimately I just wanted to do what Jesus wanted me to do. I figured that the foster father of Jesus probably had a pretty good idea of what that was.

But I decided to be bold in my prayers. I told St. Joseph, “If it’s okay with Jesus, I would like the man I am going to marry to ask my dad for permission to date me”.

I don’t even know why I said it. It seems like a totally ridiculous request. Like, seriously, who asks for a dad’s permission to date their daughter? But my heart was sentimental and I was emotional. So I made the request and forgot about it until a year later.

Fast forward one year, I’m on a great date with an amazing man and as he is driving me home he hands me his phone.

“Hey, will you put your dad’s phone number in my phone? If it’s okay with you, I’m going to ask for his permission to date you.”

I laughed out loud because who does that. And who asks for that in prayer? But Jesus and St. Joseph knew my heart, they knew my prayer, and (Praise the Lord) my request was in favor with God’s ultimate plan.

So I punched in my dad’s number under “Caitlin’s dad/Craig”.

Fast forward a year-plus-some-months-later and John and I got married.

Catholic-wedding-money-shot (Mel Watson Photography)

Catholic-wedding-money-shot (Mel Watson Photography)

Also John’s confirmation saint is St. Joseph. No surprise there.

I’m not saying that St. Joseph is a match-maker (he might be a little bit) or that if you ask for some random request he will grant it like a genie. But I am saying that he is a powerful intercessor. He knows Jesus and Mary personally and intimately. He is our spiritual father and wants to provide good things for his children.

I didn’t dive head first into this relationship because I knew that John was “the one”, whatever that really means. But I knew that Jesus had blessed the beginning of our relationship and had given me a huge gift in this sign. So I was more fully invested in prayer knowing that the relationship was a gift and I wanted to honor it and honor John.

Take some time to get to know the spouse of Mary, the protector of child Jesus, and the universal patron of the Church. Or read this cute article about Pope Francis and Pope Benedict and their love for St. Joseph.

Thanks, St. Joseph. Praise Jesus, now and forever!



Casting into the deep

Cast into the deep

//Luke 5:1-11//

1 It happened that he was standing by the lake of Genesareth, at a time when the multitude was pressing close about him to hear the word of God; 2 and he saw two boats moored at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had gone ashore, and were washing their nets. 3 And he went on board one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to stand off a little from the land; and so, sitting down, he began to teach the multitudes from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Stand out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch”. 5 Simon answered him, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and caught nothing; but at thy word I will let down the net”.

All day you’ve been out in your boat, sun beating down on your back, the salty spray stinging your face, and the cold water splashing up against you. You’ve fought the waves and the currents, you’ve sent your net and pulled it back in and nothing, nothing, nothing. A full day of work and nothing to show for it. Your companions are disappointed and discouraged, you are tired and defeated. You step back onto the shore and begin the tedious work of untangling your nets, gently patching the holes and tears, carefully dislodging seaweed and sticks, and, finally, folding it up for a new day tomorrow.

You had all the tools, all the skills, all the knowledge, the perfect conditions, but no catch.

You notice a crowd approaching the shore and that a single man seems to be leading them. As the people are herded onto the beach, the man reaches the edge of the sea and notices that he is running out of dry land. He gets into your boat and asks you to cast off a ways. Limbs still aching for a full day of work you push the boat back into the waves. It is then that he begins speaking to the crowd.

After speaking, he turns to you and tells you to go back out into the deep water and let your nets down. You are tired from a full day of work, your heart is weary from many failed attempts. The idea of dirtying the nets again weighs on your mind and the fear of more failure causes you to hesitate. But the words he spoke to the crowd are in your mind, and you respond in half-hearted faith.

What is your “failed day of fishing”? After many attempts, perhaps in Bible study attendance, working hard in class, in reaching out to that one friend, in trying to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker or friend, in patching up a damaged relationship, a failed Lenten sacrifice, or maybe fully investing in prayer, what is it that you want to just pack up and leave for later?

You have all the tools, you have the skills, objectively, you have everything you need just like Simon did in order to fish.

Why is Jesus in your boat? What is your second fishing attempt? Do you have faith in how the story ends? Will you leave you allow me to make you a fisher of men? Simon is called away from his profession, from what he had always known, from his “normal”? Do we allow Jesus to call us away from where we are? Do we allow Jesus to surpass our wildest dreams?

Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.