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Ch-ch-changes

8 Jan

First of all, I would like to say that I’m in love with the fact that my old, faithful Secret Vatican Spy domain was taken over by a Brazilian branch of Anonymous.

Also, it terrifies me.

Second, I would like to invite you to join me at my new blog, kassierutherford.com.

A few caveats:

1. I am not blogging strictly about Catholicism. I’m keeping this blog around for the heavily Catholic topics, but most of the topics at the new blog will be about writing, feminism, dating, probably fashion because I can’t stay away, and general life posts.

2. There will probably be more language there than there is here, but I promise I won’t blog like a sailor. Do sailors blog? Now I’m curious? Actually I’m just referring to one graphic whose creator I cannot for the life of me track down, but really, nothing summed my emotions up better. So there.

It’s been a year of introspection, and the challenges some of the most important people in my life have faced have been deeply sobering. A lot has changed for me, and a lot has stayed the same. But I’m ready to dive in to 2013, and hopefully keep my head out of the water.

Join me?

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Lord, make haste to help me (or send us a mechanic, quick!)

3 Jun

ONE
Friday, all of the Tulsa Diocese teams left training in Kansas so that we can get to our parishes by Saturday evening. About an hour or so outside of Wichita, the car began rattling (you might even say it was rattling something fierce. That was for you, Brandon).
Alfredo, our fabulous team leader, in his eloquent and level-headed way, announced the following:
“You guys. There’s something wrong with the car. I think it’s the tire.”

He pulled over immediately, and yes.

The tire was flat.

Quite, quite flat.

TWO
We stood stranded on the side of the road, making frantic phone calls to the other teams, and the two men decided to take off to what looked like a fire station about a pasture or so away from us.
“Don’t leave!”, they yelled.
Don’t worry, guys. Don’t you worry.
My fellow female teammate Jessica, huddled under a blanket with me (because, oh yeah: it was SIXTY DEGREES on a sunny June day with NORTHERN WINDS) cheered us up with the following:
“This is how horror movies start. Alfredo will die first, and then me. Because we’re Mexicans. Brandon will almost make it out alive, but then he’ll give himself up so you can live. And you’ll survive because you’re the white girl.”

THREE
At this point, we hadn’t had much luck getting in touch with the other teams. When, on the horizon, a familiar car sped by and parked in the distance. Out of the car piled three members of another team. The three people ran toward our vehicle: another young woman, another male team member, and….

Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty.

I’d tell you his name and show a picture but it’d embarrass him. And he’s a seminarian, so he probably doesn’t want his name attached to a blog that links the Eucharist with Doctor Who, forgiveness with llamas, and has posts about hymens.

But seriously, you guys: he looks just like Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty.

Now, his other two team members were running with Godspeed toward us. But the Priestly Prince? (he won’t be a princely priest for a few years)
He jogged effortlessly, the early evening sun casting beams upon his face. He looked positively saintly. I’m voting for his canonization as the Patron Saint of Stranded Missionaries.

Or the patron saint of Priests Who Look Like Superheroes.

Or the patron saint of Handsome Priests Who Break Hearts With Their Vocation.

(Are you blushing yet, Prince Phillip?)

FOUR
Another team answered the distress call soon after; once we figured out the men had everything under control, we women stood by taking pictures on Instagram.

Except for one of the men who was not mechanically inclined; he is a doll who makes rosaries and reads books about Mother Theresa and prays the rosaries in the sweetest way. Basically, my sister needs to convert by the time he is finished discerning his vocation.

Prince Phillip and Company and my teammates headed off to a tiny town called Ponca City to find a place to change the tire.

FIVE
Except.

By the time we made it to the buzzing metropolis of Ponca City, driving 50 miles an hour on back country roads, the entire city bit of Ponca City was shut down.

Because I’m back in Oklahoma, where the entire state is closed by 10, on a late night.

SIX
Our awesome (awesome) director Anthony booked a few hotel rooms for us so we could get a good night’s sleep and get the tire changed ASAP Saturday morning. We did, and we made it safely to our first parish on Saturday afternoon (shout out to St. Benedict’s in Shawnee, OK!).

SEVEN
So what is Totus Tuus? Basically, Totus Tuus is a summer catechetical program for grades 1-12. There are teams of two men and two women, and we travel to a different parish every week and pour into the lives of their youth and students Sunday through Friday, then move to the next parish on Saturday and do it all over again. I’m thrilled to be a part of this! It’s going to be an exciting summer. Keep us in your prayers — I’m looking forward to sharing the awesome things God is doing in the Diocese of Tulsa and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Space, Time and the Eucharist.

30 May

This past week I have been in training for Totus Tuus, a summer catechesis program for kids in grades 1-12. I’ll fill all of you in on that and how it came about later — but let me just say that this summer has barely started and my life is already changed. I think I’ve cried more in church during the last week than ever before. I’m pretty sure my teammates think I need Prozac and more Jesus.
I have been in prayer, Mass, fellowship, and have under teachings with other (fabulous) young adult Catholics — all of the teachings have been good, but one priest said something in a lesson that might have just wrecked my life.

(That would be you, Fr. Aaron).

When you get a group of young, theologically informed Catholics together in a classroom and pump them up with copious amounts of coffee, someone is going to start asking questions that none of us teachers will ever face this summer.
(Unless, as a fellow teacher pointed out [that would be you, Rachel], you get a homeschooled kid. I have no excuses. It’s true).

During one of these discussions, Father pointed out that someone’s objection to something (I don’t remember what it was — they were a seminarian and the question went over my head) was invalid because God is outside of time.
I grinned when I heard that, because it reminded me of Doctor Who, and I began making more analogies connecting Catholic theology to the Doctor, because that’s how I roll. I didn’t think anything else of it, and went through my next classes.

Tonight, each Diocese present at training took an hour for all-night Adoration. I had recently received news about a tragic, painful death in the family of friends from home and was having a hard time focusing on prayer. I was tired, I was sore, I was hurting for my family and my friends; honestly, it’s the first time all week I just wasn’t “into” it.
But I heard Fr. Aaron’s voice in my head (a voice that is neither still nor small), saying “God is outside of time.” I didn’t remember a single thing said after that, but I continued meditating on it.

If God is outside of time, when I’m in his presence, I can have peace.
Because his body holds all of eternity. And in his time, everything I’m going through has already happened. He has already won the victory. The people I mourn for, grieve with, and ache over have received their joy. Our night of weeping is over, and we have found hope.

In his time, every motherless cry is being held in the arms of his mother. Our mother. Being surrounded by the love of our Father and restored by the Holy Spirit.

When I’m in his presence, I’m not just in the presence of the Body and Blood.

I’m in the presence of the Crucifixion. I’m kneeling there as Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of the Father, he who is fully God and fully Man, is being brutally slaughtered on a crude Cross for my salvation. For our salvation. For the salvation of the entire world, throughout time.
I’m clinging to Mary, whose only desire is for us to follow her Son and Savior. In that moment she isn’t a smiling statue. She is a mother whose son is mutilated and naked in front of her. The fruit of her sacred womb, the ark that held the fulfillment of the New Covenant.

At the same time he’s smiling and laughing and telling the disciples to “Let the little children come!”, I’m a little girl in a tiny storefront country pentecostal church, cutting a paper heart with my name scribbled across and placing it inside a gold box, barely able to contain my joy at giving Jesus a Christmas present — but I’m also a 21 year old woman being baptized in water and spirit in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A 17 year old praying in an orphanage in China. A 3 year old welcoming a new sister home.
It’s not just the adulteress he’s telling to “Go, and sin no more.”
It’s me.
I’m there.
I’m rejoicing in Bethlehem.
I’m weeping with Hanna.
I’m witnessing the unwavering faith of Abraham and the obedience of Isaac.
The courage of Esther.

But more than anything, I am present when Christ fulfilled every single promise of God ever made in all of time. I feel the earth shaking, the unspeakable power of time. Time. Time. Shifting. Moving. The power of restoration. The power of the resurrection. I fall on my face as he rises again from the dead, the chains of death powerless to control the creator of all that is seen and unseen. The darkness of death unable to extinguish his marvelous, glorious light. He is victorious.
And there is where I find my victory. That single moment in time and space is where my victory was won, is won, is being fought for. Everything centers around that. Nothing else matters, because in that moment everything else is contained.

I believe.

28 May

I believe because I can’t deny the power I’ve felt in my life.
I believe because I’ve witnessed my sister near death, and her divine, complete healing.
I believe because I’ve knelt with my broken, shattered, torn heart before his precious body and blood, and he returned it to me healed and whole.
I believe because when I’m numb and can’t feel a damn thing, the church universal lifts me up, raises me up, and I am carried on the shoulders of brothers and sisters I’ve never met, never seen, and never will.
I believe because I have no choice; I have felt a brand I can’t deny, can’t undo, can’t block.
My soul has been killed. It’s been buried. I have sacrificed it and it has been resurrected.
I believe in God the Father.
I believe because one day, I will stand in the aisle with my family, and kneel in the presence of the Most High, the perfect and blameless victim, the one who gave me life, gave me his church, gave me his mother, gave me grace. Triumph over death. Everlasting, everlasting, everlasting communion with God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
I believe.
I believe.
I believe.

It’s The Little Things

23 Apr

20120423-155236.jpg

I was at a job interview/trial run with a family down in the Peninsula all weekend. Slipped into a tiny cafe in San Francisco for some coffee when I got off the train this morning, and this candle was burning on my table.

It will be a few days before I know if I got the job, and I’m anxious.

But this tiny little candle (and it was the only one in the cafe; I asked) comforted me.

I walked around the block to a tiny parish I had spied earlier, and knelt in the closest pew. There’s something about old churches. They smell like old prayers and years of faith. No flashy new programs can make up for that.

It was awkward. It’s been far too long since I’ve just sat and prayed.

I left my suitcase in the aisle and knocked on the rectory door. Confession. I needed it. Desperately.

And the kindest, sweetest priest I’ve ever met, welcomed me in, his eyes overwhelmingly compassionate as I started crying, right there on his doorstep. He reached for his stole without me needing to say a word, and walked with me back to his office.

I didn’t have anything horrific to confess. But he listened, nodded, prayed.

And as I walked back into the sanctuary to do penance, I saw the following inscription under one of the stained glass windows:

“You have made us for yourself, oh Lord. Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

One year ago today I felt the waters of baptism. I’ll never recapture that feeling again. And that’s okay. The memories of childhood bliss don’t propel me forward in adulthood. But I can look back on them, and be anchored in the knowledge that I have family, I have friends, and I have faith.

This week I’m striving to stop my restlessness.

Even in the midst of change and uncertainty, I can find peace, and strength, and rest.

Let my heart rest.

Save Me, San Francisco.

18 Apr

Erm.

Hello.

Do you hear that sound?

That’s the sound of me begging your forgiveness.

When I last left you, I was moving back to Texas. Well…I moved!

….to California.

…which was equal parts the worst decision I’ve ever made (think, reasons I can’t even legally talk about on my blog) and one of the better decisions I’ve ever made (think, northern California is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen in the world).

I’ve been tormented and have wanted to flee back to you, dear readers, for weeks. The catalyst came this afternoon while I’m walking the streets of San Francisco (because oh yeah, I’m basically homeless and living out of a carryon suitcase and price lined hotel rooms) slipped into a coffee shop and sat on the patio enjoying the sunshine. I overheard the following statement from a guy hanging out with some friends.
They were clearly hipster theology majors.
The unwashed hair, tattered copy of “A History of Christianity” and stench of old marijuana gave them away.
(I still love y’all, theology majors.)
“I can’t wait until the very first married priest says ‘F*** you’ to the Vatican in his homily.”
The friends solemnly nodded their agreement. And I just couldn’t take it anymore. “Considering the Eastern rites have had married priests for centuries and the Roman rite didn’t disallow married priests until the middle ages, that ship has sailed. Not to mention the married Protestant pastors that convert to Catholicism and can receive dispensations to become ordained.” I know there are more nuances to it than that, but really, the amount of Catholic hating that occurs on the West Coast is even more intense than the Midwest, and I’m feeling particularly volatile right now.
The budding Hauerwas glared at me and countered, “Who the f*** do you think you are? A secret Vatican spy?
Well.
Since you mention it.
This post is for you, sir.
Please wash your hair.

I really wish I could tell you everything that has happened, but I can’t. Maybe I can have coffee with each and every one of you some day and then we can swap stories. Or we can meet over a few beers and swap even better stories!

In the meantime:

I remain yours. Faithful in spirit if not in deed.

Which, ironically, has been the sentiment held by more than one ex. Whatev.

-Kassie

Screaming, then silence: what hat-wearing llamas taught me about forgiveness.

16 Dec

As I once again reduce the entire meaning of my existence to a handful of cardboard boxes, I’ve thought about the last few years of my life in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I’ve fallen in love.

I’ve fallen in lust.

I’ve just fallen face-planted.

I’ve been wronged.

I.guess.i.can.grudgingly.admit.that.i’ve.wronged.others

And “I’m a big girl,” I like to say, with my tongue pressed firmly to cheek. “I’ve moved on. I can handle this. I have forgiven.”

But that’s a lie. As my two favorite llamas demonstrated to me in the following video:

 

I see engagement announcements from my ex-fiance, when I’m still receiving “Tell Us About Your First Year Of Marriage And Win A Second Honeymoon!” promotional emails, and I want to scream. Not because of any residual feelings left for him (because I assure you they do not exist) – but sheer anger and frustration at stealing my happy ending, and leaving me in the lurch back in Tulsa picking up pieces and scrambling to find a new normal, by myself, hundreds of miles from home.

And every now and then, the ghosts of arguments past will sneak up behind me and jab me in the heart with their hurtful words I can’t ever un-hear. Some of the refrains have come up more than once.

“You can’t be what I need.”

“I just want to be friends.”

“This was a mistake.”

Variations on the age-old theme of You Aren’t Enough. 

And these words don’t send me spiraling into a cloud of morose emo groveling – because Pride and I are well acquainted – they make me angry. Oh so very angry.

I cringe when I remember things I said to people while flying off my hot-tempered handle, things that are probably hurting them to this day, and that I so desperately want to crawl to and beg, beg, beg forgiveness. But I can’t.

And I thought I had forgiven them, and forgiven myself. I did.

I was defining forgiveness as “Gee, I no longer want to commit homicide when his name is mentioned.” Which is, you know, a radical improvement on some counts.

But when I was kneeling in the confessional last week, crying and pouring my broken, wounded heart out to the priest, and facing the consequences of some decisions I have no one to blame for but myself, and other decisions that I had no say in whatsoever. . .I heard a quiet voice in my heart.

That is what forgiveness sounds like.

Screaming, then silence.

All through mass, it’s the only thing I could think about. And when I went forward to receive communion, I heard it again.

That is what forgiveness sounds like.

Screaming, then silence.

I knelt down in the aisle, and cried again. We’re talking, two sobs away from ugly cry.

Because I wanted to forgive not just the new and the recent and the fresh, but to chase down the ugly tangled leftover roots of unforgiveness left behind, and destroy them, too.

I wanted them to drown.

And for the first time, I could do that. Because the beauty of the Sacrament is that the Eucharist, if you let it, is like a form of divine regeneration. It restores the broken and the tarnished and the scared and the bitter and transforms you into something new, something beautiful, something Christlike. Something very much you at your core with all your memories, and your hopes and your dreams – but very much different. Something holy.

And in that moment, I found silence.