My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Living Stations of the Cross at University of Illinois

My family attended this living Stations of the Cross at the University of Illinois, in Champagne-Urbana on Good Friday, put on by the Catholic students through St. John Newman Catholic Church and the Newman Center on campus. The reverence of the students at this well-attended Good Friday devotion was inspiring.

Top two photos by Marianna Bartholomew, remaining photos by Ed Bartholomew.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Nature of Faith

Photo by Daniel Bartholmew
The Nature of Faith

We shape our lives 
by rebellion or acquiescence.

To rebel 
is to slingshot our identity 
into the netherworld
where questions stand 
thick and solid as skyscrapers.

To accept
is to ascend the tallest bell tower
with an overview of the city.

Most of us transcend 
then fall
then fall again 
trodding the same worn plot
like a sentry guarding city gates.

Determined to defend 
what seems unattainable
we guard we know not what

until, with faith,
we gain eternal entry.

By Marianna Bartholomew

Rebellion can either serve or defeat, as can acquiescence. To rebel against status quo in seeking excellence or truth is a great thing. If society tells us to "fit in," but also to set aside all that is moral or good, than obviously, we need to rebel against that pressure. 

Rebellion that sends us into the "netherworld"  is misdirected, often born of pride. To rebel, but then avoid a sincere search for truth, leads us to that existence "where questions stand thick and solid as skyscrapers." 

Fine. We are all inclined to rebel now and then, an instinct born of human nature. But do we use this instinct as a catalyst, taking time to really dig for reasonable answers? So often, people fling about in an orgy of experience and disbelief, seeking what "feels right," instead of filling in the gaps with some real answers born of research and reflection. 

Regarding tough questions about my faith, I've learned to launch an investigation, just as I would for any story I write. I explore early Church writers, Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encyclicals. This kind of rigor is so satisfying when it comes to thinking and praying about life's great mysteries. In the end, I've discovered the beauty of informed acquiescence. 

Rebellion has another facet. Do we rebel against life circumstances? Sometimes, that type of rebellion can be productive, helping us transform a harmful home, school, work or even civic environment -- if we initiate change with a healthy respect and consideration of others. But if we are presented a tough circumstance, like a child with a terminal illness or a catastrophic accident, do we rail against that event, or accept and move on in faith?

Rebellion and acquiescence. How do I choose one over the other? God knows, my natural instincts lead me to push back fiercely at times, averse to pain or difficulty. But learning to thrive within certain limitations, builds rich character. To respect ourselves, we must put up a fight -- for the good -- learning to work optimistically and at peak level within restrictions. 

Who is God calling me to be? Moving blindly through an unexamined life is dissatisfying. Thank God for the light He gives, that turns rebellion into inspired acts, as the soul hungers to accept God's Will.

As for that "same worn plot," those old, ingrained sins get tedious after a while! Thank God for the Actual Grace of His sacraments, that frees us and strews flowers along the path. I am no Mother Teresa, who strived through decades of dryness. I've experienced time and again how God gifts the weak with consolations, like Padre Pio once fed chocolates to new converts. 

May our Holy Week be blessed! 

© By Marianna Bartholomew 2012

"Let us unite ourselves to the Passion and death of Jesus Christ in the conscious way we live each moment of our Holy Week so that our hope may grow." -- Father Pater John Cameron, OP, Holy Week, 2012, Magnificat.