Holiness, holiness is what I long for.
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me.
These are some of the words to Sonicflood's song "Holiness." These words have been on my heart the past few days. I am coming off of two weekends straight of being fed and nourished in my faith. Last weekend, I travelled to Macon to hear a blogger (www.testosterhome.net) turned friendly acquaintance speak. Because the world is so small, I had been reading this blog for some time, commented on it to my friend, Fr. Tim, only to find out he is the godfather to one of her 5 sons. LOVE how the Holy Spirit works sometimes. Anyway, the thing that struck me the most from this pregnant mama of 5 is her belief that more than a perfectly clean home and gourmet meals, more than organized bedrooms and mopped floors, her children need a holy mother. They need a mother who is striving for holiness, an example of what Christian womanhood looks like. I felt the lump around my midsection and felt a deep, deep desire to be a holy mama for my little one. (my poor husband is now worried that he will have a holy wife and a dirty home but I tried to reassure him :)
This past weekend, Ross and I attended the Savannah diocese intercollegiate retreat. And while I don't always see eye to eye with the 20-year-olds I know (Katie), I was excited for a weekend retreat and time in prayer. I am now convinced that Fr. Tim got us down there under the guise of having us speak. He knew good and well that the weekend would provide the two of us, and consequently our marriage, with some refreshing new life. And ohmygoshgoodgracious did it. And because I can't put it into any kind of coherant paragraph form, we'll do this one wedding blog style again. Some of the more heart-piercing moments from the weekend:
watching one of the praise and worship leaders sing, eyes closed, mouth smiling so big as she and her amazing voice praised God. I want to smile more, in all things, but especially in worship. I don't think I'll ever forget the look on her face, the tranquility mixed with pure passion. You could see straight into heart. I want to worship like that.
hearing a talk on spiritual warfare by a great, great priest. Having the lightbulb go off as he tells us that Satan knows our unique weaknesses and uses those to pour salt into our deepest wounds. Being more aware of him makes me want to fight against him much harder.
taking a walk with Fr. Tim and Ross and being so grateful for the priesthood- knowing that there is wisdom in not having our priests marry. Our priests pour so much into us, into their spiritual children. I am beyond blessed to call some of these men friends.
Giving a talk to 30 college age women and wanting to hug each one of them, remembering the specific struggles of that age. I would not go back.
Not necessarily "feeling" like the talk went one way or the other, feeling a little insecure in what I said, but trusting that the Holy Spirit would do what was needed, only to have a few sweet girls come up and say they felt I related well to them and spoke to their hearts. 2 points for Holy Spirit.
Hearing my husband give a testimony of his faith walk. Seeing pure sincerity on his face and feeling thankful that I get to call him mine
Talking with Fr. Justin, another young, amazing priest. He told me about a woman who is a big deal in the Catholic church, and her struggle with body image post three c-sections. Hearing this both validated me and made me feel less guilty for missing my pre-baby thighs.
A presentation by the Mercer University kids. It would take too long to describe it but they did a stunning portrayal of how we ignore Christ everyday when we ignore the suffering of others (they depicted a homeless man but there are dozens of other people I ignore each day too). I literally shed tears at my own blindness to suffering and vowed to look more, to see more people.
A college guy from Valdosta in my break-out group. He reminded me of the very popular few guys, the "chosen ones" from our college bible study days. He is obviously a leader in his school but his humility and kindness stunned me. I'm sure I would have had a crush on him if I were 20 and a student in south Georgia.
Hearing the testimonies of students and after 7 years of child abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction work, still being broken by what people will inflict upon each other, especially children. Looking at those folks and being proud of their resilience.
Talking to a newly engaged 19-year-old who has doubts about her fiance, after my talk about not ignoring doubt. Feeling like she might consider waiting and praying more before she makes a decision her parents (and I) feel is pretty bad. Praying she does wait.
Talking to a young engaged couple with Ross and loving that despite a gap in age, the boys were still talking about jobs and schools and the girls were still giggling about wedding dresses and babies. I love the predictability of some things.
Looking at my husband and thinking, I think I love him more today than I did on our wedding day. Knowing that as we individually worshipped and praised God side by side, our love for each other was simultaneously growing.
And while there were more, there's one event, one part of this weekend that will stay with me forever. A beautiful part of the Catholic tradition is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As we believe that Christ truly is present in the Eucharist, a priest will often expose the Blessed Sacrament for quiet, reflective prayer. In many churches, there is perpetual adoration, meaning that in some small chapel, Jesus is exposed in the blessed Sacrament 24/7 and people sign up to pray before him and spend time with him at all of those hours. I have experienced great grace in those quiet hours before Jesus in the past and was happy to have some time before Him on this retreat. During the exposition, three priests heard confessions while everyone spent personal time in prayer. During that time, I watched a young girl (who was sweet enough to tell me of her story from wild freshman to searching Sophomore), go to confession and then spend the better part of an hour, maybe more, kneeling, ON CONCRETE, in prayer. She didn't sway or adjust to be more comfortable. I don't know what was on her heart, but to have spent that much time without moving her knees off the floor, she had to be deep in prayer. During that time I watched people come out of confession with tears falling down their faces, knowing all too well the pain and redemption involved in that Sacrament. I watched my husband kneel before Jesus and pray, so passionately. He held my hand as I prayed a rosary for a friend who in those hours was dying in Atlanta. He dried my tears as I struggled with not doing enough for that patient and encouraged me to pray. I prayed with all my heart, convicted again of the call I felt during Rachel's talk last week to be a holy mother for this person in me. I wanted more than anything on God's green earth, at that moment, to be a good, loving, holy wife and mother. It was almost a tangible need to be such. I watched 80 people, most of them students, pray so passionately, so fervently. I knew, with all my being, that Jesus was truly, actually, in reality, in that room. It was eerie and amazing and not even funny. He was there. And if I needed further proof, the little person inhabiting my belly moved throughout this retreat and throughout adoration. He is only just beginning to move, and hasn't done so (that I can feel) since I left Lake Ocmulgee, but he was active as all get out during adoration. Like John the Baptist in Elizabeth's womb, I think he knew Jesus was there :)
I am not doing justice to this retreat at all. It was one of those spiritual highs that we crave during our walks of faith. And, like all highs, we come down from them pretty fast and hit the world hard. But a wise oooollllld priest once said to me that when you pray and get the warm fuzzy feelings, it's God's gift to you. When you pray and receive (seemingly) nothing in return, it's your gift to God. So, as me and my many new Facebook friends from around the diocese start to feel the weight of the world start creeping back in, I hope we will go back to where our hearts were most full. I hope we go BACK to Mass. I hope we let ourselves receive the graces of reconciliation. I hope we calm our souls with Eucharistic adoration. Because if we do so, we many not feel on top of the moutain like we did this weekend, but we will feel the peace of Christ in our hearts- which is it's own kind of beautiful high.
And as I long for holiness, as I beg for the grace to be a holier woman, a holier mother and wife and friend and daughter, I will smile and think of this weekend, and know that I am loved by God on every step of that journey.