A Tale of Two Easters, Seventeen Years Apart

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Creek Iowa 1998The most amazing Easter of my life was the year 1998. I was in Iowa, without a car, living in an eight-room suite with a group of people I barely knew and counting myself blessed to be out of the roommate situation I’d suffered the semester before. It came on the heels of a Lent of barren emptiness, of overwhelming homesickness and a feeling of great spiritual barrenness, of anxiety I was too afraid to admit. Of a loneliness and alienation that to this day gives me the willies to think about.

That was a semester of long, solitary walks to and from campus along the biking paths, while the creek slowly thawed and the snow eased back to reveal the cold green beneath.

I wanted so badly to be home for Triduum. But it couldn’t happen. I don’t even remember why now.

The Catholic student center in Cedar Falls needed a cantor for Holy Thursday. I don’t even understand why, because they had a choir that had been practicing for weeks. But they wanted a cantor. I volunteered.

St. Stephens Easter 1998I did not know my barrenness, my anxiety, my wasteland, had scoured my soul into a blank slate. Or perhaps, into fertile ground, cleared of weeds. That Holy Thursday evening, in that warmly-lit space, my soul responded in a way I had never, ever experienced. Kind of like salty and sweet, the pain of loneliness made that whole Triduum experience, three nights and a morning at the end, incredibly poignant and filled with the Spirit. For the first time I really got that connection between resurrection and new life, as the long Iowa winter crept to an end.

I’ve been hoping for an Easter like that to come again ever since, and it never has. Truly, I should be grateful; it’s the pain surrounding the mountain experience that makes the high ground stand out, after all.

Kids Easter

I’ll refrain from telling the story behind this picture. Suffice it to say not all is as it seems.

Easter these days is a lot more prosaic, with moments of extreme irritation and extreme hilarity coexisting. For instance: discovering, when I go in to make sure the kids wear their Easter best, that Nicholas’ closet is once again a mess in which you can’t find anything, let alone the suit I know is in there somewhere, so then pulling out a pair of khakis for him, only to discover that they have a hole in the knee (AAACK!!!! ANOTHER ONE?????? WHAT IS THE ****DEAL**** WITH THESE KNEE HOLES?????????????).

Or choir warmup being interrupted by an extended (and deeply fake) wail from my youngest, who wants what he wants and thinks he deserves it even if someone else has it.

Or looking up during the Communion song to find my two youngest children wrestling over the chair next to the piano, only to realize they’re not wrestling, but hugging.

Or looking up again during “Up From The Earth” at the end of Mass to find them both giggling and playing air guitars and air drums in the space between the sound board and the boom mics.

Or coming out of church and sitting down in my seat in the van only to be poked in the butt by a broken Power Ranger mask, which I’d forgotten I’d thrown there when I forced Michael to take it off before going inside for Mass.

Or trying to take the obligatory pictures of the kids after Mass with my strong-willed child refusing either to cooperate or to decide he didn’t want to be in the pictures.

These are not exactly mountaintop moments. But I’m in a different season of life now, and when I’m not in the thick of being cranky-hormonal, I can admit that I wouldn’t ask for the other. Petty irritations come with little moments of beauty, and this is a different kind of spiritual exercise than the one that led to that mountaintop experience. Different, but no less valid.

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Welcome, Risen Jesus (Giveaway!)

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Today I would like to welcome Sarah Reinhard back to the blog to answer everything you ever wanted to know about her Lent/Easter devotional for families, Welcome Risen Jesus.

The last book of yours we talked about was Welcome Baby Jesus, your devotional book for families to use with children during Advent and Christmas. I think everybody knows on some fundamental, gut level that December is badly skewed and that we are in desperate need of resources to help us cling to what really counts. But the same can’t necessarily be said for Lent and Easter. Why is it just as important to take time for devotions during this spring season?

The earth is springing to life all around us (at least here in central Ohio), or we are at least ready for that. And there’s something renewed about me when the days are longer.

I’m an Advent dropout. Every year–and this year was no different–I walk away from Advent as though I have a hangover, and the hangover was a whole season long, and it’s a baby’s fault. Hey! I’ve been through this before!

Every year!

So Lent is almost a palate cleanser. I know I need to do all that stuff I was supposed to do at Advent, and I failed. Again. So here I am with Lent ahead of me. Again.

I’ll fail. But it’s not about what *I* plan, is it? It’s not about what *I* have in mind, is it?

Or that seems to be the lesson I need to learn.

Every day during Lent, you offer a scripture, a reflection (“Think”), and sections titled “Act,” “Fast,” and “Pray.” Some of these “fasts” are really hard-hitting: give your favorite part of the meal to someone else. Give up some play time to do two chores around the house. Be cheerful today, even when you’re annoyed. You’ve really nailed some tough things for kids to do! What’s the key to getting kids to keep a good attitude, so they don’t say, “Oh, no, LEEEEEEEENNNNNNNT!”?

Wait a minute: I have to get my KIDS to do this stuff?

Oh yeah. Riiiiiight.

Well, Kate, truth is: it’s all been a theory to me. This is the year when I put my book where my mouth is. (Actually, I’m going to use YOUR book. I need a bit more distance from my own words.)

I can only tell you what I do for myself: I just buckle down. It’s like exercise: you know you have to do it, but it doesn’t have to be THAT bad. Sometimes the dread of a thing is WAY worse than the actuality.

Most books seem to focus only on the penitential season. Why do you think it’s important to continue the devotions through Easter?

What I love about being Catholic is that we take our celebrations seriously. Like 40 days of partying seriously.

In college, when I thought a party had to come with a hangover afterward, I would have been stunned to consider this kind of serious partying. 40 DAYS! FOR REAL!

Now, granted, we’re not supposed to get sloshed and silly: this is a time to draw closer to God. And what better way to do that than continue those things we were striving to do during Lent–minus the fasting, OF COURSE.

How important is it to do this every single day?

I don’t think it matters. At least, it can’t matter for ME, because I’ll get all obsessive and focused on that. And that is NOT what the focus is to be!

If you miss a day–and chances are, if you’re anything remotely like me, you will!–forgive yourself and pick it up the next day. It’s okay. Jesus understands. And he will be there risen in all his glory for you on Easter. Period.

Do you envision these reflections as self-directed, in other words, for older kids who can read the book themselves, or for younger kids who need the devotions read to them? Since the “act” and “fast” sections are meant to be day-long activities, how do you make sure you carve out time to do them as a family?

The first thing that comes to mind for my family is to do the reflections the night before, perhaps as part of an after-dinner (or even during dinner) discussion. I’ve even thought about making it part of our before bed ritual during Advent.

Then, the next morning, you can just remind each other of what the day’s focus is, maybe pray the prayer together, and out the door you go with your crazy day!

Thanks, Sarah, for taking time to visit with us about your book. Everybody, I hope you can get a sense of the down-to-earth approach she takes to faith. We all need some of that! Welcome, Risen Jesus can be found at your local Catholic bookstore or by going online at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or direct from Liguori.

AND…..just as we did during Advent, Sarah and I are giving away a set of our books. She’s giving away a set, I’m giving away a set. To enter, leave a comment below (or on Facebook!), and check out Sarah’s post by clicking below.

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