Author Archives: jtroutman

#35 Into the Triduum – Part I

I began this Holy Week as I should… by attending Holy Thursday services and the 11 PM aptly named Night Prayer during Eucharistic Adoration in our attached Chapel. Holy Week is something I hadn’t participated in as much as I feel I should have, and is something that I feel like many people do not understand.

It all began with a conversation with a student last Sunday. The Confirmation candidates are required to attend each Mass of the Triduum, and they were – as most 13/14 year olds – adamant against going.

“But, Mr. T, why do we have to go? What if we’re going away?” I kept facing those questions, and finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I interrupt, and respond…

Look, kids. There’s only one person you’re punishing by not going… YOURSELF. All year, we have been studying to be adult Catholics, and these three services TEACH YOU THE MOST ABOUT YOUR FAITH. You will learn far more than you have from sitting in my class all year, and it’s an opportunity that I DON’T WANT YOU TO MISS. THAT’S ALL!

And so, this will begin my series of our “40 Days, 40 Posts” Lenten experiment entitled “Into the Triduum,” whereby I discuss what I’ve learned and taken away from each of the three Triduum Masses.

First up – Holy Thursday. After I got the vengeance of “let my students wash my feet as punishment for 6 months of torture” out of my system, I got to really take in the entire service. Beginning with the blessing of Holy Oils (I was responsible for presenting our congregation with the Sacred Chrism – kind of fitting because it’ll go on my kids’ heads in a month and I will BAWL), we were plunged into a deeply educational and faith experience. We listened to the readings and the Gospel account of the Last Supper, whereby Simon Peter questions whether Jesus will actually wash his feet. We saw many members of our Church community have their feet washed by other members of our community (and NO, I didn’t make them wash my feet…), and gathered at table to partake in our own Last Supper.

Afterward, I was involved in the coolest thing ever. We transported the Holy Eucharist from the tabernacle to the chapel for adoration, much like Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Along with three other Knights of Columbus, I held the canopy over Fr. and the Body of Christ and we exited the Church, walking through a makeshift “street” lined with parishioners on either side singing, “Jesus, remember me, as I come into your kingdom.” It was an AMAZING experience. 

Overall, I feel in such a great place after participating in tonight’s service. Now, to sleep, and wake up for the Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, at 2PM tomorrow. 

#26 – As Time Goes By (AKA Stream of Consciousness)

Have you ever felt that time was leaving you behind?

I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately, and, I mean, there’s a lot going on lately that makes me feel old.

I was having a conversation with my sister yesterday where she said she really wants to be a vet. I said to her, “Eight years from now when you are at the U, you have to track down Dr. Gomez and you have to become his favorite, because he’s my favorite.” And then it hit me that eight years from now my little sister will be going to COLLEGE. I know it is a LONG time from now, but I mean eight years ago I was wrapping up my freshman year of high school…and that seems like yesterday.

I’ve been out of college for almost one year… May 29th is LESS THAN TWO MONTHS AWAY. I KNOW that God has a plan for me… and I have no idea what it is, and I’m getting nervous because I thought his plan would involve me, you know, starting life a little sooner than one year after I’m out of college.

No matter what… God has a plan for each and every one of us, whether that plan adheres to our schedule or not. 🙂

#25: May We Know the GOOD that Lies Ahead

This weekend is one of those weekends… one of those weekends when I walk around in a bummish mood, when it’s easier to lay in bed and contemplate nothing than it is to get up and take a walk. Maybe it’s the gray Moscow air that’s doing it to me… maybe it’s life in general… maybe it’s that every-so-often weird feeling I get when I see friends gearing up to be married, having kids, enjoying love, beginning new romances while I sit here finding it difficult to meet anyone. Maybe it’s that tomorrow is my last Confirmation class of the year… my kids are ready to go and “take the plunge” into being young adults in the Catholic Church, and I’ve really enjoyed our time together and am sad to see it end.

I feel these negative feelings are in tune with the season of Lent. Lent is by far the most “negative” season of the Liturgical calendar. We look at Jesus Christ performing his miracles, doing his thing, etc. but he is submerged in an ocean of negativity. He feels alone, feels like nobody cares about his story or where he comes from or WHO HE IS. He is led in on Palm Sunday and we learn about his being sentenced to death. For what? For being Him. 

But we know what’s to come on the Third Day. We know what happens when the tomb is opened on Easter Sunday morning. We know what is seen (or, really, more importantly, what is not seen). We know that things are bigger and better than we imagine them to be, or than we ever thought they would be. 

NEVER FORGET WHAT GOOD COULD COME!… As 20-something-year-olds, fresh out of school, in such a negative world, in such a negative economy, it becomes easy to think about what we don’t have, not what we do have. We are capable of so much.  

#20: May Those Who Live in Darkness See the Light!

As the Fifth Sunday of Lent has passed, we begin a transition into a darkness that is soon to be followed by light. The story shifts from understanding the temptations of Jesus and the miracles he performed that prove to the non-believers (who, I believe it was Charlie’s friends in Charlie the Unicorn encouraged us to shun) that he truly is the Son of God. Over the last two Sundays, I have listened to the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus and the curing of the blind man, two Gospel passages that truly show Jesus the miracle-worker. 

But now, we move closer to the darkness, and we shift into Palm Sunday, listening to the Passion account where Jesus was brought into Jerusalem to confront his fate. 

As twenty-somethings in today’s society who are in tune with our own understanding of the Gospel, I feel at times we exist in the darkness that is Jesus’s persecution. Especially now, we seem to be on the dark end, the unpopular end, of a great debate in our society. Recently, pressure has been put on our Congresspersons to provide contraceptives to women free of charge and free of co-payment, and that this coverage must be available to all women, even those who work for the Church. Now, something like this directly opposes Church doctrine. 

As the book of Genesis states:

“Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also” (Gn 38:8-10)

So, we have this Church doctrine. Put it together with a single statement from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….” 

I REST MY CASE. WHY IS THERE EVEN DEBATE ON THIS????? Forcing a religious institution to provide something which directly goes against one of its fundamental elements is obviously prohibiting the free exercise of said religion.

May we continue to be strong even as our political leaders prove to be weak. May they, who are stuck in the darkness that is the modern society in which we live, see the light and truly realize what needs to be done in our world. 

 

PS. WE’RE HALFWAY THERE WITH <2 WEEKS TO GO.

#2 – A Fish’s Lenten Reflection

During Lent, I remember the immense amount of suffering that Jesus went through during his thirty-three years on planet Earth. I remember how, through the suffering, he still remained selfless and true to his word – God’s word. That’s why I choose to give up something during Lent, and that’s what I implore all of our readers to do as well. 

If we give up something that’s truly important to us, or take upon ourselves a new “cross” or challenge, we are one step closer to discovering what Jesus went through during his life. How do we do so in order to not be selfish, though? How do we do so in a selfless way. Every one of us has our reasons for giving up something for Lent, for instance:

  • I’m going to give up soda because it isn’t healthy.
  • I’m going to give up alcohol because I spend too much time at the bar.
  • I’m going to give up Facebook because, well, it’s Facebook…and I check it 5,000 times a day… and I depend on it… etc. 

So, here it is… Here is my Lenten “cross,” with which I will become a little bit closer to those in this world who suffer.

This year for Lent, I am giving up any sort of excessive eating. I am only eating my breakfast, lunch, and dinner… and for those meals I am only eating one serving (I KNOW… IT’S SO HARD TO NOT GO BACK FOR SECONDS ON LASAGNA!). Why? Not so I can become healthier, but rather because we here in the United States are privileged to have these things. My “cross,” my selfless act for Lent, will be to figure out how those who are hungry truly feel when they cannot have food until the next mealtime.  

So, readers, here is my question for you. In addition to the poll below (which only has 3 responses right now…come on, get with it!), 

WHAT “SELFLESS” ACTS WILL YOU PERFORM DURING THIS LENTEN SEASON? HOW WILL YOU TAKE UP A “CROSS” OF YOUR OWN?
Only by doing so can one even begin to discover what Jesus did for us.

Everything Happens For a Reason: Forgiveness and the Nature of Man

Last night, I was leading a discussion on St. Augustine. As most of you know, St. Augustine was a person who experimented with sex and alcohol before eventually repenting, becoming part of the Church, and becoming one of the most prominent priests and later bishop that we have ever seen. The main point that I want to discuss tonight is a very basic one, though an often forgotten one.

Our Sins will always be forgiven by God, so long as we are truly sorry.

What does it mean to be sorry? The 2006 movie Just Friends (aside from being the story of my life) presents the character of Samantha James, a cross between Britney Spears and any other crazy, whacked out (possibly cracked out) superstar of the late 90s and early 2000s. Now, Samantha James and her character have absolutely nothing to do with my post (but everything at the same time…HA!), but she did say something in her completely ridiculous song, “Forgiveness,” whose Youtube video is attached here (I hope… I’m only a few steps above an Amish farmer when it comes to computers and electronics.) Anyway, one line really stands out from the song… “Forgiveness is more than saying sorry.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TRULY BE SORRY ABOUT SOMETHING?
Being truly sorry about something you have done is a relationship solely between you and God. Only God will know whether or not you are truly sorry; you might not even know it if you are. However, the ever-present God who has placed us on this Earth with a purpose that we must discover over time knows us inside and outside. He knows when we do something wrong, why we do something wrong, and whether or not we are truly sorry. Think about it… how many times have you said sorry to someone only to save face. “I’m sorry I called your girlfriend a slut, it was wrong and I didn’t mean it.” Meanwhile, inside your mind, you’re saying “I’m really sorry that you’re still dating that slut.”

When (not if) you do something wrong, repenting involves reflecting. Think about these simple questions (adapted from my own philosophy on Elementary Classroom Management… but it applies here):

  • What is the action that was wrong?
  • Why did I do this?
  • How is this action wrong?
  • When I am faced with a similar situation, why won’t I repeat this action?

The following is a question that one of my students posed to me last night. I thought it was really mature, and I am interested in your thoughts. In our discussion about sin and forgiveness of sin, twists were taken that I honestly didn’t think would be. When someone wrongs us, we are often told that “everything happens for a reason,” that some friends are not the person you thought they were, and that you’ll be a stronger person because of it. During the discussions, the following questions were asked, and I’m going to allow opportunity for you, the reader, to reflect on these questions and provide responses

  • They say that “everything happens for a reason.” Well, is that really an excuse for the actions that someone takes?
  • What about “free will?” If God created us to all be good people, and “everything happens for a reason,” what is the role of “free will?” If everything happens for a reason, are we really free?

 

Maturity and the Sacramental Life

Note: You’ll notice the source of a lot of my entries is my eighth grade Confirmation class. The true test of any educator is not what you can teach your students…but it’s realizing that you can learn a lot from them as well. A lot of my experience as a confident Catholic comes from teaching that class, and you’ll be able to tell!

Tonight, I’m heading off to teach my eighth grade Confirmation class again. This class is wonderful for me; it’s a chance for me to talk religion with a bunch of kids, who are just waiting for someone to come along and work with them, not talk at them, for ninety minutes. It’s tough with these kids, who really don’t want to be bothered with anything Catholic.

On my first night of class, I asked the kids… “why are you here?” Of course , 40 out of 50 say “because my parents dropped me off.” So I decided to make them write. I told them that nobody – not even I – will see their writings because I want them to be personal. And after they wrote, I discovered that many of them were there for reasons far beyond the simple drop-off by the parents (praying, for ninety minutes, that their parents will call early so they can go home.) Some of them were there for very deep reasons, which they chose to share with me and the class after writing.

So now we consider that again tonight. Tonight, I’m having them examine themselves. Well, Mr. T, what does that mean… it almost sounds creepy!? No, I’m having them examine their subconscious, making a personal determination regarding the Sacrament of Confirmation. AM I MATURE? AM I EVER MATURE? WILL I EVER BE MATURE? And that’s what this post is going to examine: “Maturity and a Sacramental Life: T-Man Style”

Are any of us really mature? I mean, face it, we all go around acting like a five year old every now and again. I know I do it a lot…and my fellow bloggers can attest to this. (Right, cherie, zoey, reenie…?) But what does it mean to be a mature person, specifically at age 13 or 14? That is what I want my students to figure out tonight… Maturity, to me, involves doing the right thing, especially when it is so easy to do the wrong thing. For instance, college. It’s a Friday night, freshman year. Your entire hall is getting ready to go to a house party. You don’t want to go, you know that drinking underage is against the law, and that (despite the low likelihood) if you get in legal trouble, it could come back to haunt you later on (like, say, when you apply for teaching certification or medical school). However, you don’t want to be the outcast in your hall… the loser. So you’re faced with a decision… go out, or don’t go out?

As Catholics, particularly young Catholics, I feel as though we are faced with those decisions day in and day out. It’s not the “cool” thing to be religious. Or is it? See, we in this blog believe that it is. We believe, as the name suggests, that we should be confidently Catholic. However, in most parishes, look around and see the ratio of older folks to twenty-somethings in your service. Many of the “twenty-somethings” are not mature enough to realize that Catholicism is cool… they’re too busy recovering from the Saturday night hangover to be caught dead in Church. The truly mature person, the one who is really “in tune” with his/her faith, is the person that won’t let this stop them.

So, what does this all mean to us? So long as we are mature about our actions, more are bound to follow and realize that there is nothing wrong with doing the simple things, like going to Church, or being active in your faith. Don’t be the follower and go out to that house party, be original and, I don’t know, start a travelling Taboo party yourself. The friends you meet at your private gatherings will end up being the closest friends you have… and the same is true with confident Catholics. You’ll become close with so many wonderful people.

Like any good teacher, I’m going to give you all a homework assignment. As you go about your week, I want you to think about maturity and reflect on the following questions. (I’m having the kids do this tonight…let’s see how that goes!)

1) What about you makes you a mature person? Try to come up with a few things. No matter how imperfect you are, you’re mature!

2) Reflect on one or two of those above characteristics, and think about exactly how that characteristic/trait brings out the best in you. How does it make you mature? How can you use that to help others?

3) What about you makes you an immature person? Again, try to come up with a few things. No matter how perfect you think (key word THINK) you are, you’re immature in some ways!

4) Reflect on one or two of those above characteristics, and think about exactly how you can change that imperfection, or immaturity. Or, is it really an imperfection?

Enjoy, and God bless! And send your prayers this way… this week really could be the beginning of the rest of my life, and I need all the help I can get!

~Troutie