Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wedding Cake, Annus Fidei, and the epicness of Extreme Patience

Well, it's been an epic blast of a day!

This morning, I took the time to sleep in a little bit, scrapbook a ton, then get ready for the wedding of two good friends of mine from high school! It was such a blessing to be at their wedding Liturgy and reception, and I enjoyed being there with Jacob most of all :)  And it was great getting to catch up with friends. And the cake was delicious (I love cake). When we came back to my house, we spent the evening playing with my siblings (including a game that Jacob made up, in which we pretended our hands were swords and we had to attack each other) before a family movie night of "Father of the Bride." Yup, with only three weeks until the wedding, we're in wedding mode more than ever!

Which brings me to the main thought I've been having for quite a few months: This liturgical year has made such a huge impact on me. I remember that a few years back, we celebrated "A Year for Priests." So I prayed for priests more than usual. Nothing too crazy seemed to happen, and I didn't think about the liturgical theme that much. But this year is another story: The Year of Faith, which began on October 11, 2012 and ends on November 24, 2013.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI talked about the importance of Faith in his Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei. "I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ" (Porta Fidei, 2).

This year, I've definitely been exploring this theme in my own life, and seeing it played out in the lives of others; I've seen people rediscover the journey of faith, and how their actions show the immense joy of a life in Christ!

For starters, in the couple months leading up to the Year of Faith...

*At the end of last July, two of my friends from high school became engaged to be married! Definitely a huge step, pretty sure they were both 19 when they got engaged, and not everyone gets engaged that young (this is the couple that got married today--so excited!!!). It's a huge step in the journey of Faith!

*A little over a month after my friends became engaged, Jacob and I became engaged! Again, we were two 19 year-olds, completely in love and wanting to do the Lord's will. And there were definitely instances early on where God tested our faith. The "easy route" that some people said we should do would be to wait and get married at the start of senior year, or after we graduated. But we both knew--and prayerfully discerned--that God wanted us to step out in that journey of faith and get married just before our junior year.

Moving into the Year of Faith...
*In the winter, two of my other good friends from high school got engaged! (One was 20, one was 19 when they became engaged) They are getting married the night before Jacob and I. At the end of first semester, my roommate and her boyfriend got engaged! They are getting married a week after Jacob and I! A couple months ago, another dear friend became engaged; she and her fiance are now in the process of patiently discerning when and where God wants them to marry, live, and continue to do His work.

* I also found out that two or three of my other classmates from high school were also getting married this summer. And, within the past few months, I've had three friends all get accepted to Dominican convents, where they will enter this August! (two of the girls--one from FUS, one from Wichita--are even at the same convent!)

At ordinations to the deaconate this year, I was talking with one of my convent-bound friends about this very topic--the beautiful sight of so many seminarians discerning the priesthood, so many women discerning the religious life, and so many couples (young couples at that) getting married! And that, in the Year of Faith, it is so fitting to see so many people jumping out in Faith at God's plan for them! This whole liturgical year has really been pounding out that message in my heart and mind: step out in faith, and embrace the joy of Christ. In every situation of my friends stepping out in faith like this, I have not seen sadness or regret--I have seen the joy of Christ flooding each person. At the wedding I went to today, I saw the love, joy, and gentleness of Christ on the faces of my friends as they vowed their lives to each other. Talking with my seminarian friends, I see their eagerness and excitement at serving as priests. I see heavenly joy glowing in the faces of my convent-bound friends. And I am full of joy to overflowing so many times at the great sacramental mystery that Jacob and I are entering into!

Not only all of this, but among my single friends, I have seen some hard-core faithful discernment of God's will and living out of the Catholic Faith on a daily basis.  And, though it can be frustrating at times, they live with joy and purpose. Just because a woman may be single does not mean that she neglects to discern or step out in faith. On the contrary, I have seen single men and women dare to drop everything for God, serving Him through intense prayer, sacrifice, evangelization, and work. And it's beautiful. So beautiful. Honestly, I think one of the most amazing virtues practiced by my single Catholic friends is the heroic patience of Mary. Extreme Patience. The patience to live in faith and hope that, by living in a way pleasing to God, each person's ultimate vocation will be revealed. EPIC.

Faith requires patience. Patience to hold on, fight the good fight, live for God--because you may not (in most cases, will not) see results anytime soon...if ever. To faithfully discern your vocation is to put everything you have and are into the hands of God, and live in constant communication with the Holy Spirit all day, every day. Which can be extremely terrifying, but is totally necessary. And what helps people get through the hardships of discernment and uncertainties? Patience. Extreme Patience.

It's late--er, early--so my thoughts have come to a complete halt for the night. And who knows if any of this followed in a logical manner. Oh well.
 Be radical.
Live out the extreme patience of faith.
Embrace the joy of Christ.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Before the Morning, There Are Fireflies

Back in the fall of my senior year of high school (in 2010—how long ago that seems!), I attended a Teens Encounter Christ retreat weekend. During the weekend, I heard many songs, stories, and Bible verses; some did not stick with me, but others clung to me whether or not I was aware of it at the time. One such song is “Before the Morning,” by Josh Wilson. 

Good song and all that, though I prefer my Christian music to have more of a rock, pop, or rap edge. But a nice song. And I didn’t really think much of it. Until—less than a month after the retreat—one of my classmates died. And then God kept throwing that song in my heart. In the nearly two years since I first heard it, God keeps doing the same thing, over and over. Time after time, during difficult moments, God would (and still does) shout out this song in my heart, mind, the radio, through a friend, etc. The more I listened to it, the more I noticed how courageous a song it is. It presents us with a challenge:

“Would you dare/would you dare to believe/That you still have a reason to sing/’cause the pain you’ve been feeling/Can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

Whenever we go through periods of darkness, we know that we have to persevere; we must hope and trust in God and hold onto Him. But this realization does not make perseverance easier. Even if you know that the morning will come—that the struggles will be overcome, that joy will flood your life—getting through everything is not simply a piece of cake. Especially with our society, culture, and government being so pro-death (both to the body and soul), it can be easy and secure to despair. To lose God’s joy. To say “well God, I trust that you’ll take care of this, but things are pretty messed up right now and I’m just going to mope in my corner.” But to hope, we must have courage! To hold onto God’s love and joy, to see how He works during the times of darkness, and brings good out of them. 

To open your eyes to the fireflies.

Yes, the fireflies. I’ve never thought about them much; I mean, my childhood 4-H club was named after the bright little critters, and I always enjoy chasing after them in the summertime, but I’ve never really thought about them. And quite honestly, I don’t know much about their makeup or anything scientific (I suppose I could research it, though I’m very busy with the history of Hershey chocolate currently). But, a couple weeks ago, when chasing fireflies with my siblings, I sat on the grass, and really thought about them. It was dark. And sometimes, it didn't look like there was anything bright. A firefly would land on you, but stay dark. 

And then an unexpected firefly would light up for a time. And then go dark. Right after you chased down a firefly, it would flee from your fingers. Some of the fireflies sat on blades of grass. Others were hidden.

Grass concealing the firefly.
But regardless of where they were, the fireflies were present in the darkness. They brought light into the dimness of the evening. And even though my siblings and I couldn’t always catch them, we kept chasing after the fireflies in hopes of snagging that little bit of glow inside of our cupped hands.
In times of darkness—even if we know that God will triumph and shine through—it can be hard to trust Him joyfully and hope. Even the greatest of saints experienced dark times. But in these dark times, we cannot despair. No, we must cling to God’s joyful, loving works in everything that happens.

We must chase after those fireflies.

  As G.K. Chesterton said,
Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all,”

“Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.”