## A Formula for Epiphany

20 + C + M + B + 18

It sounds like a mathematical equation, doesn’t it? In fact, this is a house blessing, one of many traditions in the Catholic Church, and one of the earliest memories I have of my family. I remember early trips to see my grandparents and arriving to their door and in stark white chalk, these symbols (the numbers were different) blazed against the dark wood grain of their front door. But for the uninitiated, like I once was, what does it actually mean?

Saturday, January 6th 2018 marked the Feast Day of the Epiphany, the time in the Church when we celebrate the arrival of the Three Magi to the manger, and their gifts for Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The feast day, also known as Twelfth Night, was observed on Sunday and marks the close of the Christmas season and the return to Ordinary Time in the Church. This is why, for many Catholics (or for folks behind schedule), you may see the decorations and holiday lights lingering after the New Year.

The 20 and the 18 reference the current year (next year, it’ll be 20 + C+M+ B + 19) and the three letters represent the names of the three wise men: Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior.

It seems almost counterintuitive that the Bible, which condemns astrology and all forms of divination, would remember and honor these foreign sages who believed that the Nativity Star was a sign in the heavens of the birth of a great ruler, and they came bearing gifts. But there is no question that the manner of gifts they brought was divinely inspired. Gold, a symbol of His kingship, and which I like to think was what Mary and Joseph used to supplement their income during their time in Egypt; frankincense, a symbol of His status as our High Priest; and myrrh, a symbol of His eventual death.

On the feast day of Epiphany, my husband and I received a piece of blessed chalk (now in fun, bold colors!) and said a prayer of blessing over our home (provided by our parish) that God would help us in this new year to remember the gift of His Light, Jesus, and nurture the gifts that He’s bestowed on each of us, to bring glory to His name, and to reach out to a hurting world.

As we struggle to find our way in the midst of the darkness and the Storm, may God’s light shine in our hearts and through us, the watchmen on the hill, so that we may be ready for His sudden coming.

## Walk It Out by Tricia Goyer

The Specs:
Title: Walk It Out: The Radical Result of Living God’s Word One Step at a Time
Author: Tricia Goyer
Published: 2017 by David C Cook
Length: 224 pages
Amazon Categories: Religion & Spirituality; Women’s Issues
Source: Kindle purchase, \$2.99

Tricia Goyer has one of those personal stories that inspires from the pulpit and in print, and is ironically, the exact kind of story that I’d avoid reading, let alone purchasing. Attempting a just and fair description of a lifetime of pain and brokenness might cheapen the redemptive story of a life radically transformed by God. And that is certainly Tricia’s story, and the subheading which drew my attention one frosty January morning, idly browsing the bestsellers when the Holy Spirit prompted me to ‘read this one next’.

If I knew this would be the story of a teenage mother struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, a mother who had already terminated a pregnancy before, I’m not sure that I ever would’ve cracked the cover. As I am writing this, it is January and that is Sanctity of Life Month, so, it seems particularly fitting that God drew me to this book, in this season. What is remarkable about Tricia’s story is how God not only healed her pain, but used her story as a catalyst to reach out to others hurting from or facing the same difficult choices, and through Goyer’s apostolate of mercy, are being offered a better path.

Walk It Out emerged from Goyer’s decision to stop searching for a calling and begin taking God at His Word, and doing what He says, ala James 1:22. To sum up what the book is about, I offer this quote from Goyer (pg 32):

“Whether you realize it or not, God intended for us to do what the Bible says: take the gospel into all the world, care for the vulnerable, help the needy, tend to our most important relationships. These are guideposts that point us down the path of true living and eternal life.”

The next ten chapters proceed to do just that, addressing each of these different areas with stories from people Tricia’s spoken with, or from anecdotes from her own life. At its core, Tricia points us continually back to engaging with God in His work and His plan — choosing to be with Him — than filling our lives with empty actions as we try to be perfect Christians and miss Christ. If this message sounds familiar, you may not have noticed that Joanna Weaver (Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World) wrote the foreword, so, if you liked her book, you should check this out as well. Every chapter concludes with questions to reflect on and action steps to take and implement what you’ve learned going forward.

### Takeaways

There were dozens of passages that I highlighted in this book, mostly by Goyer, but others included quotes by my personal heroes (Elisabeth Elliot, Watchman Nee, Amy Carmichael) and some Franciscan prayers. If I had to pick one or two areas that really hit home, one of them would have to be Tricia talking about her early attempts at writing (pg 43):

“I wanted to write sweet, Christian romances. The only problem was my plots lacked conflict. Without hardship and longing, my characters had little motivation and few internal struggles. […] How could I write deep and impactful things when I refused to unearth and face my own deep pain?”

There is no way that I knew going into this book that Tricia would put a name to the face of my own struggles with fiction writing, and there was no way that Tricia knew, writing this book, that somewhere in the Midwest, a reluctant reader would hear God speaking to her through Goyer’s own honesty. Tricia did eventually go on to write fiction, more proof that God can heal our brokenness, and He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts.

There’s a lot to chew on here and as for me, I’ll be ruminating on some of the other chapters for months to come. For a short read, there was so much more that I could go into that won’t fit into this blog post but I encourage you to remain open to God speaking to your heart. If you feel that He’s directing you to reading this book, please do, and I am excited for your future. What are your thoughts? Start a conversation below. I look forward to hearing from you!

## Journey Through The Word: Exploring The Catholic Bible For The First Time

I’ve read the Bible before.  Honest. All sixty-six books of it. At least twice! When I was a kid, I even made a game of memorizing all of the book names and the order they fell in, the way some people memorize the order of the presidents of the United States. In my cognizance, I knew there was a Catholic Bible out there in the nebulousness of space and time, but I never owned a copy. Nobody in my family did. Let alone actually read it. That said, I’m not a complete heathen.

Continue reading “Journey Through The Word: Exploring The Catholic Bible For The First Time”

## My Decision to Veil

Three or four years ago, my husband and I attended an extraordinary mass at a local church (not our own parish) as part of a Christmas celebration they were offering with a free concert. For the sake of simplifying what’s the difference between an ordinary mass and an extraordinary one, the latter (from my non-Catholic perspective) is much longer, and in Latin, instead of English. Other differences I noticed included that there was a procession of the Knights of Columbus, and several priests or members of the clergy, who all faced the altar, not the congregation. Another major difference that stood out was the majority of the female congregants wore a veil.

Earlier last year (August 2017), I received an invitation to learn more about the Catholic church, as my husband and I have a ‘mixed-religion’ marriage. This means that one spouse is Catholic, and the other is not. Although collectively I have been attending Sunday mass 2x a month for close to a decade, and this is the third move, third parish that we’ve attended, the letter I received was the first formal invitation to explore the Catholic faith and the path to Conversion (more on that in a future post).

Last summer also marked the one year anniversary of the consecration of our home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a pivotal turning point in my walk with the Lord (that could be a blog post of its own), and a realization grew on me that would alter how I viewed the Mass.

If the Eucharist truly is the incarnate blood and body of Our Lord, why wouldn’t I, as a Christian, be vaulting over the pews to be near Him? If St. Peter can walk on water, surely I can handle a queue?

If the Eucharist is truly the Living Host, then surely Our Lord is worthy, not only of my reverence, but of showing that respect each time I drew near Him? And why not with a head covering? There’s plenty of sites out there with a well-composed argument to veiling (one I recommend is Veils By Lily). If a woman veils herself as a bride on her wedding day, why wouldn’t we in mass, where we represent the Bride of Christ?

The practice, which varies from parish to parish, held an old-fashioned appeal and I made the decision that, regardless of how my exploration into the Catholic faith would bear fruit or not, out of respect for the Living Presence, I would begin wearing a veil in mass, or in lieu of a veil, a head covering.

It’s been five months now since I started and my biggest obstacle to veiling has been putting to death my own fears each Sunday  (I’ve begun attending weekly masses now). A woman’s insecurity is a powerful weapon the Enemy has against us, as I, and perhaps others too, wonder, “Will I be the only one? If I’m the only one, people might see me”, “What if they laugh at me?” These are only a few of my insecurities but in them, a pattern emerges. The Enemy likes to turn our thoughts towards ourselves and our needs, but God turns our hearts towards others, and towards Him.

By choosing to veil, women participate in the Mass more fully (being both able to shut out distractions and focus on God, the Mass, and our prayers) but also as a symbol of reverence and feminity. As our culture of death seeks to rout all definitions of the family and home life, my decision to veil is my small statement of faith and a visible desire to see that culture be radically transformed by Jesus Christ.

For Christmas 2017, it was my first time returning to the parish with the extraordinary mass in several years and this time, I brought my veil. There were thousands in the celebration, and many women had head coverings: ivory veils, blush veils, Marian blue veils, black veils, black and gold veils, and white veils. Some women wore fancy Sunday hats with plumes, others wore knitted beanies and winter caps. I wore my brown and copper mantilla veil.

The following Sunday I returned to my own parish, and due to the freezing temps, I opted for a cloche. I may have been one of a few, if not alone, with a head covering that day. But whether alone or surrounded by fellow veilers, I’d like to encourage you — if you are currently considering adopting this form of feminine reverence, or have already begun — be bold in your resolve, be courageous, and pursue what draws you closer to God on the path to sainthood.

## The Pace We Set

There are many parallels with the Christian life being likened to a race, or a marathon, in the Bible and outside. I’ve never liked this analogy. Anyone who knows me knows that if I’m running, it’s because something is CHASING me. So, I’ve largely ignored this part of the New Testament, a metaphor for this thing called life.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m plenty ambitious. I take a lot of enjoyment in finding the most efficient way of doing a thing and then doing it fastest, first. I’m definitely competitive. Recently, however, I’ve been experiencing an onslaught of one thing after another, and feeling frustration for things not going to the pace that I’ve set for myself. Maybe you’ve said it yourself, or heard someone put it like this, “If only everyone was operating at my pace, everything would be so much smoother…”

This week, in a session of prayer, I  griped voiced my concerns to God, genuinely baffled and lost and feeling like everything was falling apart. I couldn’t understand it. That was when He said three words to me,

“Wait for me.”

It was a message that could have come from one child to another, and perhaps, that was His point, speaking to me like the five-year-old that admittedly, I feel, when the world seems to come crashing in, and I just want to hide under a table.

“Wait for me.” When someone is lagging behind you because you’re setting your own pace, going too fast for the other person. When it’s about you, and not them.

David Bonifacio put it succinctly another way, “Ahead, Behind, Beside, Always Moving Together“. While I didn’t read the entire article, one idea that I found compelling was his illustration of wanting to run beside his wife (emphasis mine) because of their relationship, not because of his own ambition or goal.

I’ll repeat that in case you missed it, because of their relationship.

Had I been setting my own pace … instead of running with God? We hear a lot about running from God, or running towards God, but running beside Him? Is that really what He wants — to be our companion?

The destination is the same, but rather than experiencing the frustration of waiting for God to catch up with me (because clearly I know where we need to be, ha!) or being the one trailing behind, never catching up, and feeling brow-beaten with discouragement, running alongside Him, for the race, and occasionally, He runs ahead to challenge our pace, to push ahead a bit more.

How often have I sacrificed developing a relationship in other areas of my life, for the sake of my own ambition?

I’m thinking of the trips I’ve taken, the antique malls I’ve browsed, ‘to spend time together’, where I’ve abandoned my friends/family and set my own pace. I’m naturally antsy and in an antique mall, I will breeze through an aisle and a half and loop back to join the remainder of the group, which has advanced a few booths down from where I left them.

Have I been unknowingly advancing my own ambition (to find the best deal, to unearth some new bauble) at the missed opportunity of developing my relationship with those individuals? The thought is a troubling one.

Maybe it isn’t for me to set the pace; maybe it’s His. To walk, to jog, to run.

To be together.

And to trust that His timing is always the best for our lives.