Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dandelions on the Way of the Cross

On Good Friday, I participated in the Way of the Cross at my college (Franciscan University of Steubenville). The Way of the Cross began at noon, and continued for two hours; it was a prayerful procession of people traveling on the pathway to Calvary. We walked to different parts of campus (all over campus!) under the warm sun, meditating on the Passion of Christ (as we journeyed, we stopped at five different stations that had scripture readings and meditations that corresponded with the Passion and Death of Our Lord.
This walk was painful, it was difficult. It really caused one to meditate and pray with the our Suffering Lord. Because after one hour, chances were:
1. You were hungry (after all, we were fasting. And we were walking all over campus, so we were burning calories).
2. You were tired (Exhausted from the Triduum so far, as well as worn out from walking campus for two consecutive hours).
3. You were uncomfortable (The beautiful sun was out, and it wasn’t that hot, but still…)
4. You were full of sorrow (at meditating on Christ’s passion and death).
So basically, this procession was a fabulous Good Friday activity, for it helped one to really unite themselves with Christ on His passion.
As hard and sorrowful as this procession was, I found myself smiling with joy on occasion.
Be a little child who sees the joy amidst sorrow!
As we walked along (or trudged), I noticed the little children who were racing around as we walked. There were so many beautiful families, I absolutely loved it! These little children (probably between four and seven years of age) were not simply “on a mission,” though. They were running across the grassy area next to the Way of the Cross, picking dandelion bouquets for their mothers. What? Really? Is it irreverent that those little kids noticed the dandelions on the side of the road during the Way of the Cross? Certainly not! In fact, we all need to take wisdom from these little children.
These children were seeing the joy and beauty on the Way of the Cross. Despite the pain and suffering, they noticed the beautiful dandelions that were growing alongside their sorrow. The children could see these dandelions because their eyes were opened. If their eyes were solely focused on being immersed in the sorrows and trials, they would have missed the beautiful dandelions and joys.
Trials come, sufferings come, and sacrifices must be made. And it is hard; trials and sufferings were difficult for Jesus, and He’s God! But, at the same time, we are called to rejoice in our sufferings:
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” ~Romans 5:3-5
So when those trials and sufferings come, we have two options: we can either focus solely on our sufferings, or we can rejoice and keep our eyes open—so that we can see those dandelions on the side of the road; those joys that God is placing amidst our sufferings!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Huge and Epic Tree!

Last Wednesday, after Household Inductions, I walked outside; I was going to wait for Jacob, so that we could talk and pray. It was probably about eleven at night, and very peaceful. There was this epic, huge tree, so I decided to lie down underneath it and relax while I waited. As I lay underneath the tree, I really looked at the way that the branches intertwined, to create a beautiful shelter for me. So many branches intertwined, and off of these branches, smaller branches grew. Off of these branches, more branches sprouted, and at the end, leaves grew. There were small patches where I could see the starry sky, but otherwise, the branches made a beautiful covering.
Or, in this case, God is the tree trunk, and we are the branches.
The tree trunk is strong and sturdy. And coming off of it are larger branches. Off of these branches come more branches; more branches come off of those, etc. The Apostles learned from Jesus Christ, and attached their lives to His life—they are like the bigger branches of the tree, which directly come off of the trunk. The smaller branches that come off of these main branches are the people that the Apostles evangelized to, and brought to the Faith. These people went out, and brought others to the Faith—the small branches that come off of them. And it keeps going—the tree keeps growing, and the intertwining branches create a beautiful landmark and shelter of Truth.
Now, what happens when a branch is cut off of the tree? The branches that were offshoots of it are no longer on the tree, and there is a bare space in the branches. When a branch is cut off, it can no longer grow and support further branches on the tree. When a person alienates themself from God and the Faith, he rejects his responsibility and honor of bringing others to God. He cuts himself off from helping other branches to grow off of him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be connected to God, living a life of Faith. Not only that, but his witness affects others. When a person has evangelized to others and brought them to the Faith, and then this person completely rejects the Faith, it is tragic. The people that came to the Faith through that person will hopefully stay with the Faith, and live for God. However, the actions of the person affect others, and people can reject the Faith due to a bad witness that they see. If I, AnneMarie, bring Tom, Susie, and Harry to God, to a life in Christ, that’s awesome! But then I decide to go crazy, and I completely reject God and His truths. Tom, Susie, and Harry see my behavior, and my terrible witness. They see how I was not faithful to the life that I brought them to, and they don’t think the Faith is a big deal. So, Tom, Susie, and Harry all reject the Faith, too. Thus leaving a huge empty space in the covering of the tree.
We all affect others around us, whether or not we’re aware of it. The encounters that we have—whether we talk to someone, or whether they simply see us—have a huge impact. We should always strive to “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words,” just as St. Francis of Assisi did! That way, we can all be flourishing branches on the base of Jesus Christ, and bring all others that we encounter to Him!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Balloons are wonderful!

I recall many good memories from my childhood, during which I would hit balloons back and forth, playing with my siblings. Our goal always seemed to be that the balloon not hit the ground or be popped. The funny thing is, ten years later, this goal has not changed. A few weeks ago, some friends and I set up a small surprise celebration for the birthday of one of our friends. Well, some of my guy friends set up a fan on the ground that blew upwards, and set balloons above the fan so that they hung suspended in the air. I love what college students do in their free time! Even though we are out of high school and "more mature," (I put that in quotation marks for a reason....) we have this incredible fascination with balloons. And why not? They come in all colors, styles, and can be used for a variety of occasions. I still remember that, during my freshman year of high school on finals day, my Forensics class went out side and released helium filled balloons into the air!


My dear boyfriend was talking to me the other day about how important it is to open ourselves up to however many graces God wants to give us; that we must pray to be receptive of all that God has to give us! Think about the Miraculous Medal; there are rays--signifying grace--shooting out of Our Lady's fingertips...but not out of all of them. Mary told St. Catherine Labore that the rays were not coming out of all of her fingers, because some people do not ask for graces even though they are available. Can you believe that? Our Lady wants to send us graces from God, but we don't ask for them! Crazy, isn't it?

Hmm....but then again, maybe we are guilty of this at times. How many times have we told God what we need; thereby dictating what graces He should give us? Don't get me wrong, it is good to realize what virtues we need to practice, and the graces that we need to grow in virtue. But don't try to put a lid on God and limit the graces. And there are those times when we tell God "Okay, that's enough. I'm good on graces and blessings now." Well, maybe not everyone does this, but I know that I used to. I would legitimately get exasperated with God; I would tell Him that I wanted sufferings and sacrifices, yet He would keep blessing me abundantly! And then there are people who claim that they have no blessings in life. Honestly, I have some great news for these people: there are graces and blessings to be had!

We have to be open and receptive.

So let's think about those balloons.

When you first open a package of balloons and take one out, it is not inflated. It's flat, lifeless, it limply lays there in your hand. So you stretch it, and blow a little air in it to help make it stretchy. Then you stretch it more, in all different directions. Finally, you blow hard, causing the balloon to begin inflating. You keep blowing, harder, consistently, as the balloon becomes larger and lighter, able to float in the air when given a little hit. The more stretched out the balloon is, the easier it is to inflate the balloon, and the more air it can take in to grow.

The more prepared you are by God's "stretching" through trials and purification, the more receptive you will be to those graces--you will be able to take in more air of the Holy Spirit, to grow. Let God stretch you beyond your limits. Then, you will be able to take in more graces, and be receptive to whatever graces and blessings He has to offer, even the unexpected ones.