Spiritual Hangovers

Believe it or not this fantastic expression was not invented by me but rather the wonderful Mother Angelica. I’ve included a link here where she explains it in detail but in summary, it’s the idea that just as one can overindulge in alcohol and experience a response of pain from the body one can also overindulge in un-Christian feelings from the past or projections of the future and live in a “spiritual hangover” of bitterness, resentment, hatred or fear rather than in the graces God provides in the present moment.

Mother Angelica in her writings always strikes a wonderful balance between an understanding hug and swift kick in the pants and I find on my spiritual walk that I am in need of both those things. I love her metaphor because I find it both funny and convicting. How often do we justify ourselves in our feeling rather than trying to overcome them? Certainly more times than I’d care to admit on my blog…

But rather than share any personal reflection (because I’m sure you’re sick of those!) I wrote this blog post more to share a resource that I think is just great and which I hope gives you something to think about as well as a sincere chuckle.

Hope everyone is having an excellent summer so far! I can’t believe how fast it’s going.



You Will Never Wash My Feet

As a loveable screw-up, I have a special fondness for St. Peter because he is my constant reminder that God loves not just the worthy but the ordinary. People like me and people like Peter who have high ideals and good intentions but are weak and often fall short of them. And what I love about Catholicism is that the thing that redeems those shortcomings is both the love of Jesus and the grace of repentance, which gives us the faith, hope, and love necessary to try again until we finally stumble into the gates of Heaven.

More to the point, it is St. Peter who gives this post its unusual title. I was talking to a very close friend of mine the other day who is very religious and currently very anxious about the future since this upcoming school year will be her senior year of college. She reminds me exactly of myself during that time of life, wondering what she ought to do and what God wants her to do, struggling with that age-old question: what is the best way to be happy?

I could hear the influence of the general collegiate atmosphere in her voice. The anxiety that demands a plan to attain the ideals of a perfect romantic relationship, lots of friends, and a successful career in order to lead a life full of purpose, meaning, and influence. Throw in my friend’s anxiety of also wanting it to be pleasing to God and it’s easy to see how one could be too overwhelmed to choose anything at all. Being the basically ancient age of 25, I tried to offer her the wisdom that got me through that turbulent time by asking, “how much of yourself do you truly share with God?”

When I was younger and more proudly independent than I am now I had a very similar attitude to God that St. Peter had when he faced the prospect of Jesus the Master humbling Himself to wash his own dirty feet. In the face of Jesus’s offer Peter responds, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:8). It’s such an endearingly human response and it was precisely my attitude the first time I imagined what it would be like to actually receive that offer from Jesus. While I had a relationship with God as a (younger) young adult I admit I held back. I would let God share with me moments of questioning, moments of peace, and moments of success but I would never let Him “wash my feet” if you will. I would place a barrier between the most broken pieces of myself and God, limiting my thinking to surmise that since those were the parts of myself I had trouble loving it would be a real risk offering them to God and expecting Him to love them in the face of His many perfections.

But this is precisely the attitude that has to be overcome if one is ever to have the true peace and true joy that marks an intimate relationship with God because, as you will find out if you finish reading the scripture passage with the washing of the feet, this is precisely the part of yourself that God has to love and serve and heal if you are to make it to Heaven. Jesus literally responds to Peter,  “Unless I wash you, you can’t share life with Me” (John 13:8).  

As we experience the love behind this humble service we are healed of our human eyes that only love when we see something or someone loveable and we are slowly able to love more like God does. This, I would argue, is a much more effective testament to His glory than preaching with fire, having millions of followers or attaining political or social influence. Those flashy things mimic the glory of the world, they glorify the self or glorify the cause. Yet God is so much bigger than that, so much grander and far-reaching than that. God is infinite and God is love, which means that truly learning to love not only changes the world you live in now but resonates down through eternity.

And if you find yourself scratching your head wondering how this relates to my friend fear not I am about to explain. Before she or anyone else learns their purpose or accomplishes great things for God they will have to learn to humble themselves and accept God’s tender care in the midst of their misery, trusting that His love is enough. To let go of the sweeping perfectionism the world teaches them to hide behind and practice offering themselves to God in each moment no matter what condition they happen to be in, even those moments where they feel utterly repulsive and would opt to be alone.

The world has a way of wanting to steal the present moment which, wherever you are and whatever you happen to be doing, is your direct encounter with the living God where this love is made manifest. Instead, it offers empty distractions, entertainment, and the temptation to always live in unknown projections of the future. However, learning to reject that fear and go beyond the distractions in order to live in the present moment with God truly gives you the peace of never having to worry about the future because you come to realize that no matter what happens you will always have God and God is all you ever really needed.


One Scandalous Silent Night

So in case you haven’t heard the show Scandal had an episode featuring the main character Olivia something or other (obviously not a viewer) getting an abortion to the tune of Silent Night.


It’s an interesting world we live in because why would I be bothered by a show I don’t watch covertly using a religious Christmas song to promote abortion in light of the heated debates surrounding Planned Parenthood? I mean if I don’t watch it, it obviously doesn’t affect me directly and why should I care if the character chose to have an abortion? She has her fake life to live and I have my real life to live so why can’t I just peacefully go back to eating my Chick-fil-a and not drinking Starbucks? (Couldn’t resist peppering this post with more stereotypes, it’s quite vogue these days. Although Chick-fil-a is delicious.)

Well it bothers me because the juxtaposition of an abortion, an act that ends the heartbeat of a human baby who been deprived of his human rights because he or she has not reached 24 weeks of age (the qualifier of being considered human in the eyes of the law), with the religious song that celebrates the eternal God taking on the form of a man in the ultimate act of love and humility is an abomination. It was intended to insult and provoke.

It is disrespectful and in poor taste, not to mention intensely hypocritical because imagine what would happen if they insulted the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement sweeping college campuses or flagrantly mocked the Muslim or Jewish faith. Seriously, take a moment and think about what would happen, the waves of protest that would ensue.

But it’s okay to insult me and my religion because I’m just a Catholic which automatically places me under the banner of ignorant Christian and in the secular movement that is the new atheism it is completely acceptable to insult me and my religion. I am as dispensable as a less-than-human fetus in their eyes because I also am an unwanted member of society. The producers, writers, editors, actors and all who worked towards making that episode wanted to hurt me. And if I come forth with my hurt it will not receive the same treatment as any of the movements or religions mentioned above, they will not apologize or claim their intentions were innocent or say it was a misunderstanding, and no one will have to resign from any position. Because backlash is precisely what they wanted. They wanted to insult my religion because they hate my religion and the opposition it represents to their new agenda.

And I honestly think they are looking forward to having Christians come forth with their outrage so that they can belittle us even further, calling us paranoid, ignorant, and behind the times. Continuing to treat us as if we were an annoying family member at Thanksgiving that they have to tolerate because it would be too rude to come right out and say, “no one wanted you to come.” Because that is a problem in a world without Christian morals, the code of acceptable actions is simply determined by what other progressive people would think about you if those actions came to light. (Note not all people, just the progressive ones who subscribe to the same progressive channels you do.) That’s why an abomination portraying doctors performing an abortion to Silent Night roughly a month before Christmas (which, believe it or not, is an extremely significant religious holiday for Christians everywhere that is in fact sacred– I linked to the definition for clarification purposes just in case) is absolutely fine and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly overreacting.

And that is what bothers me. I’ve read so many articles about other people’s pain in the news. And reading the particular article discussing the abortion to the tune of Silent Night pained me not just because of what it represented, but because it was intended to offend me and demonstrated a total disregard as to whether or not it offended my God. It was a slap in the face to Him and his followers and, instead of opting to respect other people’s God’s as a sign of respect for them even if one is a non-believer, they reveled in the act with a rebellious glee that only comes from hatred. And that makes me sad on so many levels.

Because people don’t understand that I’m not just offended on a moral level, I’m offended because I love God. And many people don’t understand that when I say I love God I don’t mean in some sugary sweet, extremely peppy, camp-counselor way. I mean it in the same context as when I say I love my mother, or father, or best friend, or any significant relationship because it is the most significant relationship I have in my life, judge if you want to. And by the same token when you insult my God it hurts me as much as if you had insulted my mother, or father, or best friend, or any significant relationship.

And no one cares. And not only do they not care, they don’t even care enough to keep up the pretense that they care. And society finds this attitude completely okay, it is entirely socially acceptable to not care about people if they are not like you, to want them scourged from society because they are inconvenient and/or a nuisance. At its core it is utterly selfish and that is frightening to me because selfishness and pride are like a cancer to the soul and I see the symptoms of it everywhere, even in myself sometimes. Except when I see it in myself I do my best to fight it with everything I have, whereas society seems to prefer making it trendy and justifiable- even packaged as something that you deserve because you’ve managed to become so sophisticated and urbane and why can’t everybody else just get on your level?

It leaves me shaking my head because I know God loves still loves humanity, but I worry that we have so given in to our selfish human nature that by the time He comes back there won’t be any humanity left in us.