vultures.

well, march is over and the awaited Resurrection is here and the search is now out of the desert and into how to find that Resurrection joy in the daily, the boring, the gritty, the not feeling joyful. we all know it. you’ve asked it, no? “how do i hold onto JOY, how do i live like i believe Jesus changed it all?”

missionaries ask the same questions.

but i want to back up to tell you about something that happened during Holy Week. Setting: La Ceiba, Honduras (north coast). Plot: “Jesus en la Playa” aka “Jesus at the beach,” our annual mission full of all kinds of things from acting out the passion with children to SHOWING the film The Passion of Christ (yep, on the beach.) to playing a ton of soccer and getting very sunburned.

i’ll be honest with you: i really didn’t know what i was doing at Jesus en la Playa. except that i was in charge of dramas and “sports and youth” activities…anyway, back to God’s Providence, much more interesting and beneficial to hear about.

so the second day, Monday of Holy Week, a slightly aimless Kate volunteered for “obras de misericordia” (“works of mercy”), which is when we go find areas in the city to bring lunch to the homeless. i had heard that this was a very powerful experience, but i had no idea what was in store.

our equipo consisted of a couple Missioners, some jovenes from Ceiba who were helping out all week, a lady who organized the meals, and Fr. Herald, CFR. nine of us, packed in a modest SUV. off to la basurera (garbage dump). a quick prayer and we’re on our way.

it wasn’t until later that day when someone asked me that i realized i had never before seen what i saw that day. slums. i have encountered the poor, the dirty, the drunk, the homeless, the imprisoned, but not like i experienced poverty that day.

among gigantic smelly garbage trucks we drive up the last colina in the humble SUV, and i’m not talking painted green garbage trucks with WM logos on the sides. i’m talking derelict, run-down.

we park in a little empty patch next to a few guys working at the dump and get out of car. the first thing i notice (after a mountain of garbage and the stench of it) is v u l t u r e s. tons of them, all swooping about the garbage-mountain.

and i honestly did not think we were going to find 100 people to give out our 100 lunches to. because i couldn’t believe that human beings actually lived there.

as my senses adjust and i center my soul for a second, Father asks for someone to “go up with him” to invite people to come for the food. the rest will stay at the car, where we have the back open to give out the lunches, to guard it and be there when the people come down. of course, i volunteer.

up we go. scampering up matted down trash-pathways, i follow behind Father’s big Chaco strides. higher, worse-smelling, more horrible it gets. Father starts shouting “HAY COMIDA! VENGAN, HAY COMIDA” and other things, like not to run, to form two lines one for children one for adults, that there is plenty of food, to come down to where the food is, free, etc.

and people start to emerge, fast. out of their trash-huts, where they guard their goods from their fellow scavengers. they run, they are filthy, many are children.

they are beautiful.

i think it might actually have been because their bodies, clothing and skin, were so filthy, that their eyes, especially with the hope of real food, truly SHONE. especially the kids. i cannot forget those brown and golden eyes looking curiously up at me, anxiously packed in a hungry line. they’re beautiful.

pause for a quick second- THIS IS NOT A pity-the-poor, stop-drinking-overpriced-Starbucks anecdote. it’s really not. its a love story.

what did I encounter at the basurera that day? a lot of people suffering a lack of dignity that should not be happening in a world where there IS enough for everyone (i believe). yes. i saw suffering and tragedy; and some would say only that and nothing more.

but this is where EASTER comes in. having faith in Jesus includes a lot of listening. a lot more of listening even than acting, because we need the eyes of Jesus to see what is beyond what sometimes only appears through to what IS. reality.

“Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

-Saint Mother Teresa

that day, i discovered the presence of Jesus in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” i discovered a hunger not for simply food but for dignity and love. i encountered people who wanted even more than to be given food to be given it while looked in the eye and not pitied for who they were.

where the world says “you’re nothing” Jesus says, “that is where I will make my dwelling place.” like Mother T says, in the little bread, in the poor.

so for the “now what?” for the “and us?” this Easter time it’s about opening our eyes to the reality of the unlikely places God dwells IN OUR DAILY LIFE.

we don’t all encounter the distressing disguise of the poor as directly as i did that specific day, but we DO all encounter people who hunger for real love. we encounter boring tasks, mundane errands, and thousands of circumstances that in no way appear to be filled with the presence of Jesus. BUT THEY CAN BE. a relationship with him isn’t hard; we were created for it.

because Jesus wants us to know whats really up after the Resurrection. Love wins. He is so hidden in the world but SO REAL:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good Shepherd; the Shepherd cares for his sheep…” -John 10:10

Easter Challenge: don’t let the devil or any of his swarming vultures swoop down on you to convince you that reality is just what you and other people see and nothing more. JESUS IS RISEN. and he dwells equally in you, your neighbor, your mom, your coworker, as in the golden-eyed children of the trash slums. where he is most alive is where he is most hidden, but if you look for Him, you will find Him.

 

 

 

 

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Nely.

We had a guest in the house this week. Actually we had a few guests in the house, such that our guest rooms were full one evening. And so, I received the privilege of Nely’s  company in my room for a night. And the encounter, like those with Christ himself, left a mark on me. 

First, let me tell you a little about Nely. Nely es la hermana de Jenny, one of the Misioners who I live with.  

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Nely, left, with her sister Jenny on the right 

Nely is older, with 4 kids. And stage 2 cancer in her womb. which she just discovered last week. Nuestra casa is a much closer to a hospital where she can receive the care she needs that her own house, so she spent a few nights here with us. But this one evening, other guests occupied our guest rooms and so Nely was entrusted to my care.

Have you ever experienced that feeling of being around someone especially…fragile? you know, the very sick or elderly? Someone with the flu that’s fevering and moaning,  leaving you helpless to alleviate an ounce of their suffering? When a loved one of a loved one dies and their heart is ripping and you feel like being near them just might rip yours up too?

[I honestly think that those are some of the main reasons people don’t like being around the poor. It’s uncomfortable to not know how to help or what to say.

But it does help. We always think we have to DO SOMETHING to help. Sometimes. But more often, we just gotta love. Which often requires no actions nor words.]

Well I’m going to admit that I felt a little nervous letting Nely into my upright little world. That beast Cancer intimidated young and healthy and independent Kate. But with Nely I was so wrong. It was not at all a case of “I wish I could help you but I can’t and I feel bad that my being healthy is probably insulting to you somehow.” 


Let me tell you some things about Nely. 

  1. She was diagnosed with Cancer approximately one week before I got to know her.
  2. She does not look or act like someone just diagnosed with Cancer.
  3. She is more often smiling than not-
  4. Especially when she is talking about God’s faithfulness. 

All I have, God has given me,” she shined. (Ps. NELY HAS CANCER). “This cancer is just a new opportunity to trust him. He has given me a new chance to live every day, and having cancer does not mean he is going to stop taking care of me. God is going to help me get through chemotherapy and every other struggle that I will go through.”

This woman’s fidelity to the God who has given her life and could take it with this disease upturned my own reality. She knows her life is not hers. And unlike the most of us, she has made peace with it. For Nely, Cancer is not a thing to fear. Cancer is one more thing to lean into the arms of God and, with Job, proclaim:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

For over two hours, we talked of God’s faithfulness and how she knows God is caring for her through it all and I can only say that I encountered Christ. Paz con su enfermedad. New joy every morning at another day gifted to live. Peace tambien with what the Lord has taken away from her.

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(I promise I take pictures outside of my room too)

This is faith. Healthy, sick, young, old – faith can distinguish the difference between the unbreakable and intimate  l o v e  our Creator has for us from the  t h i n g s  he puts in and out of our lives.

Dorothy Day tambien grasped some of the essence of this faith too, in a different but equally real context. From within a strung-tight life of service that would have exhausted anyone living on their own strengths, she states:

“We may be living on the verge of eternity – but that should not make us dismal. The early Christians rejoiced to think that the end of the world was near, as they thought…Are we so unready to face God? Are we so avid for joys here that we perceive so darkly those to come?

We must just live by faith, and the faith that God is good, that all times are in his hands, must be tried as though by fire.” – Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love

Before she went to bed that night, Nely got on her knees and offered her vida entera right back to the One who gave it to her. It left me to look at myself and perceive how I’m leaning away from trials of faith and therefore opportunities to be purified. While I find good reasons to keep my life in my own hands,  Jesus is patiently asking, “My child. Do you believe that I love you?”

Update from Honduras: Learning Libertad

Back in Honduras for less than a week annndd. well. lots of feelings. So I have arranged a little update centering on the theme that has seemed to define my transition back: freedom.

After more than 5 weeks back in the States, I have become accustomed to a very normal and worldly and luxurous habit of freedom. In the USA, I can go where I please. I can speak and completely understand the English language. I can go running without worrying for my safety. I can sleep in…, things I am struggling to re-adapt to back in Honduras.

I miss going for long runs with my favorite songs blaring from my earbuds and a ridiculous grin on my sweaty face.

I miss teasing Amy and lauging with my friends.

I miss eating yogurt and driving and familiar things like Target and stop signs that are just part of going where I like.

And so, with these feelings of not having what I like and what I’m used to, it kind of feels like I’ve lost independence and freedom all over again.

Now it’s routine prayer. early wake ups. my little annoying friends The Ants returning with warm weather. feeling dumb when I stare at someone who’s simply asked me if I’ve see the blue cell phone, because the meaning of the word “azul” just didn’t come to me. running is only a thing at 5am if I can find people to come with me because it’s not prudent to go alone. etc.

Life has limits. There are restrictions. Everyone faces restraints of this type of “freedom” (libertad). The new parents with a baby preventing them to sleep in EVER. Jobs. Limited quantites of money to travel and buy all the things we would like. Bodies that don’t always and with problems we can’t always solve.

So is the pursuit of freedom just an attempt to circumvent those natural human limits? To be free FROM things we dislike?

The lovely Pope John Paul II reminds us that according to a Christian worldview “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

WHAT? So basically obedience. Freedom TO act a certain way. Well that is a little confusing I tend to associate freedom with the FEELING of doing what I like. Then how to remember that I am not defined by what i FEEL and EXPERIENCE?

It’s okay to feel things I do not like, but I don’t have to act according to how I feel. Shoutout to the parentals for raising me with the phrase “fake it ’til you make it.” It’s really a good idea. And it really coincides quite well with JPII’s definition of freedom too.

Also, God wants us to be truly free! and we can only find la VERDADERA LIBERTAD (true freedom) in Him.

Saint Paul writes in 2 Cor 3:17 that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” and Paul had more than his fair share of affliction, emprisonment, and hardship. We cannot find total and true freedom apart from our purpose and Creator, because it is a gift and a grace reserved for only those who would desire it.

True freedom is a peace that allows us to act as though we are beloved (because we are!) even when the circumstances around us couldn’t be worse. So I’m learning.

Quick caveat: Lest I leave you with the impression that life in Honduras is full of suffering and challenges, I must clarify with gusto that it ISN’T.

At this very moment, I’m sharing a lovely afternoon with my roomie Maggie while Jose is going about his day outside belting out some dramatic song in Spanish. Nick made muffins for breakfast today. I have clean laundry. I shed tears with Karen in the kitchen over a needed heart-to-heart. My room was surprise painted a gorgeous aqua

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Blogging in my room; my humble deco upon the pretty new walls
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My awesome roomate Maggie (surrounded by mostly my laundry…)

color during the Christmas break. I still get to do yoga every day. Hondurans are hilarious and incredible.– life is very beautiful and blessed here.

A final salute to my friends and family- Thank you for your support in so many ways! I thank you for your prayers and can say that you are all most definitely in mine. May God show you the true freedom that cannot be snatched away by anything. May He bless and keep you!

xoxo adios! -Kate

Follow After Me

I’ve gotten myself a little wound up lately with all the anticipation of Honduras lately.

See, I’m not there yet, but like anything  soon to come, preparation is needed. And like most humans, I’ve been preoccupied with logistical and human concerns. Fundraising over $9,000, for example.

A few days my last day of school in the South Bronx, I was looking over a lovely skyline view of NYC, reflecting over the challenges and blessings of the past year.

While organizing some fundraising information, I came across a Catholic website I’d never heard of, and a particular article caught my eye. It was an interview with the husband of his deceased young wife, Chiara Corbella.(https://aleteia.org/2017/06/19/after-losing-two-babies-my-wifes-suffering-had-only-begun/)

Below is one of their wedding photos. Beautiful, no?!

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The gist of their story is that they had several difficult, tragic pregnancies and yet never ceased trusting in God’s love and mercy. Losing their babies did not overcome them with grief, because they saw the value of life as beyond what most of us are able to see with a human perspective alone. Chiara became very ill and remained grateful to God even then. At the end of the article, Chiara is quoted saying,

“Whatever you do, it will only be meaningful if you think about eternal life. If you truly love, you will realize that nothing belongs to you, because everything is a gift.” -Chiara Corbella

She wrote this to her child when she knew she was dying.

Tears flooded my eyes when I read this, because my focus has been off target. I’ve been doing the normal thing where you’re concerned about normal things that happen in THIS life- food money fitness friends family work etc.

Clarity. THIS is why God is calling me to Honduras. Because eternal life is r e a l. And it’s what we were all made for. Which means God’s love for us is real and it’s time for me to trust Him a whole lot more.

Today again God told me what’s up. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his apostles:

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.”           – Matthew 10:37-38

Speaking of family, I’m going home this week (finally! I’m coming!). Until I leave for Honduras, I’ll be with family. But for me, these verses were about God calling me to courage. Who do we follow after but the ones we not only admire but love? And yet, I catch myself following after a lot of things that are not worthy.

To me, this is no threat of God’s. As the beautiful Mrs. Corbella said, “If you truly love, you will realize that nothing belongs to you, because everything is a gift.”

He Who has loved us first simply wants our love in return. It’s a simple matter of trust and gratitude, after all. Preparing our hearts is as important than what the world sees and says we need.

After some tears of catharsis and renewed spiritual orientation, I still need to fund raise over $9,000. BUT THE GOOD LORD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH KNOWS THIS. He knows all of our concerns, and to trust this is what f a i t h is all about.

Take heart, weak one, and remember Who you love.

 

P.s. Learn more about my mission and help me get there by copy and pasting: https://www.youcaring.com/missionersofchristkategapp-855699?fb_action_ids=10155325508018614&fb_action_types=youcaringcom%3Ashare.