Friday, December 30, 2011

Courageously Weak...And Random Sheep!

I gleefully jumped in the car today, ready to go have a picnic with my amazingly beautiful sister Ellen ( And, since I love music, I turned on the radio to full blast. Now, when I typically drive, I like to find a random station with bouncy, fun pop or rock songs. So many times, I don't switch on the Christian stations, because whenever I tune into them in the car, they are playing slow, quiet music. However, this time, I turned the radio to a Christian station for whatever reason (haha of course I know Who's fault it is that I did that :P ) And the first words that I hear blasting out of the speakers:
I know I'm not strong enough
to be everything that I'm supposed to be;
I give up I'm not strong enough
(Matthew West: "Strong Enough")
God knew exactly what I needed to hear, even if I didn't realize it at first.
Well, I met with Ellen, and we had a fabulous picnic; it was wonderful to be with her and talk--she is always such a blessing and inspiration to me! After a while, we left the park and headed down to one of my most favorite Adoration Chapels: St. Peter's, in Schulte. Sitting there, looking at Christ in the Monstrance. In silence. For the first time since the end of the semester. Whoa. And then, I heard piano music. Someone was in the church, practicing on the piano. What song are they playing on the piano? "The Summons."
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Ouch...God and I have a history with that song. Really, God? Of course, You WOULD have me hear that song right now...a few moments later, a new song was being played: "You are Mine."
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

So God was really laying it down heavy. I just looked at Him there...and thought about His strong arms holding me. And I was thinking about how epic it is to be held in God's Arms. Strong arms, that give support and hold me close to Him. So close that I can feel Him breathing, feel His Sacred Heart beating. And then the lyrics of "Strong Enough" started coming back to me from earlier in the day...And I began to contemplate the need to be courageously weak.

If we say that we're strong enough to handle whatever God puts in our path, and we're strong enough to take control in any situation, then there are issues. Where is reliance in God? In His plan? Trust in Him? In order to fully trust in God, to let Him take control, we need to let Him be the stronger man. We need to back off, and give control completely to God. We need to give up our own strength--we need to become weak, so that we can rely entirely on God's strength. And this is really, really hard. Because we like to be independent. We like to be able to support ourselves, to have control. We like to be strong. But God wants to be our strength; He wants to comfort us, to love us, to wipe away our fears and anxieties.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

Oh yeah. So after Adoration, we got lost. Like, we turned into this neighborhood, and were like "Well, if we keep going on this road, it should wind back around and get us where we need to be!" And this road twisted and turned and finally took us to a major road (119th street). Boom. And what did I see? SHEEP! Across the road, there was this house with a couple or horses. I see that kind of stuff in the Wichita area. But sheep? There were sheep there! And I have NEVER seen sheep in this area randomly! Goats, chickens, horses, but never sheep. And what do sheep symbolize? Well, us...we are the sheep, God is our shepherd. Sheep are typically docile and obedient by nature--they are weak in a sense, depending on their master. In fact, I have been told in homilies before that when sheep get lost, the shepherd will break the legs of the sheep, and carry the sheep with him. The sheep will become more dependent on the shepherd, and be discouraged from leaving the shepherd again--for the sheep knows his master. The sheep become WEAK in order to rely on their master. Hmm...

Oh, and I was just looking up a quote for a friend, I came across this St. Francis of de Sales quotation:
Be patient with everyone, but above all with thyself. Do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage.

Courageous Weakness. It takes guts to be weak and depend on God, totally drawing one's strength from Him.
Real Men (and Women...) are Courageously Weak.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Go in Haste!

I hope and pray that you all are having a blessed Advent, preparing for the Coming of Our Lord at Christmas tomorrow evening! This post has been delayed in coming; I keep intending to write it, but with the relaxation and craziness (what a paradox...) of break thus far, I have not been able to write it. I hope you enjoy, and take time for quiet reflection in the peacefulness of Christ this Christmas and always!

"During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth." (Lk 1:39-40)

Early on in this week, I was praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary with a good friend. And as I reflected on the 2nd Joyful Mystery (the Visitation), the humility of Mary hit me in a whole new way. Mary, after being greeted by the angel, informed of her divine motherhood, and of Elizabeth's pregnancy, set out in haste to be with Elizabeth for three months!

Whoa, hold on a minute...let's get just a couple of things straight here:
1. According to tradition, Mary was probably around the age of 14 years old when the angel appeared to her.
2. Pregnancy--in all of its beauty--entails suffering and changes in lifestyle; whether it be fatigue, morning sickness, etc. (especially in the first trimester!) And Mary is the sinless Mother of God, so she probably didn't have morning sickness--but she would still have to cope with the many changes of being pregnant.

So you have this pregnant teenage woman. And she's pregnant for the first time. It would be easier to stay at home, continue in the same lifestyle, and try to care for her needs first and foremost, before looking to help others out with thier lives. But what does Mary do? Once she hears that her aging cousin is pregnant, Mary gets up and goes off to spend her first trimester of pregnancy serving Elizabeth! Mary's humility is incredible; her love is unconditional. She is putting others before herself-big time. She did not delay her actions, making sure that she would have her needs met, then thinking about going to help others; no, Mary went in haste!

Let us always use Mary as our model, our example, so that she may teach us the ways of humility! So that we each may go in haste to serve others!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just Keep Skating, Skating, Skating!

I didn't fall down once.
Yes, one of my major awesome accomplishments of the evening was not falling down. And for me, a super klutzy woman, this is not a small feat.
Add the fact that I was on ice.
In ice skates.
For the first time.
And it was FANTASTIC!!!!!

So my lovely household had an optional Lord's Day today, since its the crazy time of finals and people leaving and such. And I definitely needed Lord's Day. Oh gosh. As in, I printed off my ridiculous philosophy paper and turned it in right before heading to Lord's Day! So standing there with the few other household women, praising the Lord (we had special permission during the quiet study hours to do our P & W--yes!) was fantastic. And afterwards, I grabbed a quick dinner with some of household, stopped by some of my other dear family to say "hi" and headed out to Pittsburgh. We reached the ice skating rink, and I grew more excited with each minute. It was an outdoor rink, and in the middle of the rink was this ridiculously tall Christmas tree, all lit up! Christmas music was playing, and there were several people skating around the tree. It felt like Christmastime! And it was so peaceful, so relaxing, and I felt like I was straight out of a movie! So after waiting for a while, we got in, got our skates, and headed out to the ice. Within ten or so minutes, I was shakily skating around by myself, occasionally grabbing the wall. Some of my future household sisters were helping me, giving me advice. And one piece of advice really resonated with me:

"Look at where you want to go, and you will go there."

I found this to be very true. If there was a small space in between skaters, and I was going too fast to slow down for them, I would look in that small area, and my feet would follow my gaze. And I would go through the narrow space successfully! Granted, I was not perfect by any means; there were two occasions where I nearly fell, but instead of falling managed to pull a 360 degree rotation and keep going. But the advice that I received at the beginning really helped me. If I didn't look where I was going, and it I was not aware of the presence of others around me, I would start to wobble and find myself going the wrong direction.

I began to think of this lesson in relation to the spiritual life. Our actions flow forth from our desires, and we desire what we longingly look towards. If we immerse ourselves in God, and turn our gaze towards Heaven and the Heart of Christ, then our actions will flow forth from our desire. We will find ourselves turning away from sin, moving towards God. There are times when we will shift our gaze to other things, and are not aware of the dangers around us; times when we are not vigilant. Then we will wobble, and may even fall. But we must not sit there on the ice, where we can be hurt, and where we can cause others to stumble. We must get back on our feet, and keep skating, looking to where we wish to go: Heaven.
(and trust me, if you desire Heaven and strive to get there, you WILL get there. After such a successful and splendid time skating, we went to the Cheesecake factory--a first for me--and procured some edible Heaven--Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake...)

So keep skating, and look at where you wish to go--because you will get there!