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Rejoice and be glad

Rejoice and be glad

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5

I hand over my ID to the officer, get my badge and walk right in. I walk past the waiting room filled with family members and friends of inmates, waiting to connect with their loved ones who are incarcerated. I walk through the door – oops, wrong one. The door reads, “Minimum Area” – nope, that’s not where I’m going. I spot the door on the other side that says, “Lockdown Area.” Yup, that’s where I’m going. Wait – am I sure? Yes. I’m sure.

I walk through the jail grounds and I start singing…”Be with us, Mary, along the way, guide us every step we take. Lead us to Jesus, your loving Son, lead us to heaven, come with us come.” Like a mantra, I sing and pray this song to calm my nerves. Didn’t really know what to sing, but apparently my lips just started moving to this song, so I went with it. Thank you, heart!

I wasn’t sure what road to walk down, so thank goodness there were signs. I remember turning myself around at one point because I was disoriented as to what direction to go in! Luckily, I found my way. I could only imagine what the officers watching the cameras were thinking. Oh well!

As I walked, I reminded myself of the prayers surrounding me and the Spirit that is with me. Many, many steps later, I get to the unit, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the sound of the heavy door buzzing me in. I jumped a little bit because it startled me. It is as loud as I could imagine a gunshot to be. And I have no idea what that even sounds like in real life. I walk in, check in, the officers greet me, and I go right into the room. Not knowing who or what to expect, I am there, and peace takes over. There’s a common smell that meets me when I walk into the dorm, and the officers announce that it’s Bible Study time.

A couple of the “Trustees” set up the chairs for me and greet me. Then in comes the group!

We reviewed the Beatitudes and discussed the challenges presented in society and culture vs. what God values and what matters. A man shared his “spiritual awakening” story – enough to bring anyone to tears. Not one word out of the men after this man shares his story. Just silence, as if we were all holding his words and tender heart. A few silent beats, and then they clap and a few men shook his hand. They were so moved. So many stories, so much hurt, and so much pain – deep-rooted experiences are carried in the tired eyes of these men. Within each story, it is almost as if you can feel their hearts speaking. And I do, and it is enough to silence me at times, and just let the moment reveal itself.

There is nowhere to hide, nothing to even try to conceal. They are who they are, and it is beautiful to listen to, and to be invited into. Tonight, one of the men shared with us, “I pray that the Bible may be like a cup of water for me. That it will quench my thirst, and be what I need when I am thirsty for Truth.” The brotherhood that I witnessed tonight in this group was a gift. The men affirmed one another, applauded each other, shook each others’ hands. I get to witness this?

I don’t think I said “Amen” so many times in the course of an hour of faith sharing. There was just no other word that would be appropriate. Often times there was no acknowledging response that I could give, other than, “Amen.” For someone who talks as much as I do, that hopefully illustrates how powerful those sharings were. I pray for these brothers of mine, and for the women I saw the other day. They struggle with fear of the unknown future and anxiety and uncertainty. Each day, I pray for hope and enlightenment. That they may encourage one another and build one another up, as they anticipate the next day.

I left the unit, breathing in the fresh air, looking up at the sky, and walking my little legs towards the “EXIT” sign. Just like that, I get to walk out. As I passed on by, I saw a few of the family members and friends a few steps closer to seeing their loved one. During visiting hours, they could interact with their loved ones through a glass pane, with a black telephone connected between them. I walk on by, close the door behind me, and say a prayer for them.

Probably wondering who I am, and how it is that I get to just walk in and out, I smile at them and drive home.



You know those times when you feel like you can’t do something because you’re sick or you feel like you’re not up to it, or you just really don’t have energy for something, even though you really push yourself to do it?

And you wish someone was there to take it for you, or you wish someone would offer to help you in that moment?

Today that happened to one of my students. She had to do something, she was feeling sick, and yet we knew where we could find a last-minute (literally) replacement for her. Her friend gladly agreed and accepted the challenge, knowing that her friend was too sick to lead a prayer of the PA.

Being available, and being open to what interruptions may come our way is a great quality. I’m grateful when my students show me what it means to be flexible and reflect openness with joy to God’s little surprises along the way! …even if it is something nerve-wracking like leading prayer over the PA for all the school! It’s the little moments that are not so little.

When Eyes [and Hearts] Are Opened…

When Eyes [and Hearts] Are Opened…

My day started off with a Diocesan Youth Retreat planning meeting. How great it is to be in the company of people who are as dedicated and enthusiastic about the faith as you are! And as dedicated to the formation of youth and young adults as you are! In this Lenten season when March Madness has indeed made everything in March, just that – mad…because of the busyness that we all get wrapped up in, it is nice to pause and it is refreshing to be rejuvenated with energy and faithful spirits. Lots of exciting things ahead and my eyes have indeed been open to the number of opportunities available to see God moving in my life.

From moving homilies, to songs with lyrics that tug at my heart strings, to God-centered conversations with friends, to hugs to hanging out at the park under the warm sunshine…God’s hands are all over it all, holding everything together.

When I visited the correctional facility today, my eyes were opened to the great insight that I sometimes forget. I was reminded that when others may treat me in a rude manner or may come off as non-friendly, I must not forget that they may be going through something, or perhaps they are having a bad day. Instead – pray for them. This reminder that came through from one of the women I visited today rolled off her tongue as if it was a mantra she repeated to herself throughout the day. Watching women shepherd and support one another through verbal affirmation as it comes through in our scripture study is absolutely beautiful. It is a gift for me to witness, and my eyes were opened today with a new sense of warmth, compassion, and peace.

Being filled up with energy and enthusiasm from the morning prepared me for my visit that afternoon. And from that visit from the afternoon, I was then ready to start my week. I love how that works out so perfectly! God, you are good!

The Future Awaits!

The Future Awaits!

Students are in the midst of discerning their college decisions. Some have already heard from their “dream” schools – some got accepted, some did not…and some are still waiting.

I remember what it was like, many, many years ago…waiting to hear back from schools, then after I heard back, then I was waiting to hear back from the Financial Aid offices, and then after I heard back, waiting to hear back from housing, to freshman programming, to course offerings, and the list goes on…waiting – lots of waiting! Such a stressful, yet exciting time!

Today, I reflected on many of the holy meetings I had with students so far who have stopped in to share some of the latest news they had with regards to college acceptances/non-acceptances. Today, please pray for the seniors who are discerning next steps after graduation. Some are even thinking about waiting a year or so until they hear back from a school where they want to go, instead of settling for a third or fourth choice. Lots of beautiful things ahead! Keep the prayers coming. The future generation needs them!