Monday, October 21, 2013

All I Had Wanted Was Some Free Candy

Last week, Franciscan sponsored its annual "Vocations Awareness Day," with over 75 religious orders (both men's and women's orders) setting up booths in the Finnegan Field house. Jacob and I went, because it's always fun to talk with religious, AND...they always have free stuff at their booths. (Note: the Byzantine booth is always really nice-looking, and there's this young woman at the booth who walks around offering people candy from her basket! How cool is that?)

FREE CANDY!!!!! I love it.

So Jacob and I started talking with some people, and even met a religious brother from an order that one of our friends (and a former RA of Jacob) has joined. Pretty cool! This really cool Father of Mercy, upon hearing that Jacob and I are married, enthusiastically gathered us under his arms and prayed over us. At another booth, there were stacks of free items, which the Assumptionist priest (or maybe he was a brother, can't remember) offered to us. There was a small, innocent-looking blue book that simply said "Prayers." I figured it'd be a good way to go.

Flash forward to a Holy Hour in the Port today. I figured that I'd open up this prayer book, and see what kinds of prayers were in there to meditate on. I discovered that this book was filled with brief, simple meditations of Emmanuel d'Alzon, the founder of the Assumptionist order.

Here's one quotation that struck me:

May your charity be enthusiastic:

(My thought: "Yup, I've got that covered. Enthusiasm...I love bouncing around, meeting random people and telling them about God, praying for them, etc. So, what's next?")

Bold, daring, 

(My thought: "Yeah, I can be pretty bold-no hiding around for me, I try to confront people with the Truth in love. Nice reminder, but what else is there?")

Full of Initiative.

(BOOM. "Wha...what?")

That's pretty much how it went. And I discovered how easy it can be to have charity for others: to love whoever God sends your way, to try to joyfully accept what God sends you (okay, it isn't always super easy, but it's doable eventually), to be bold and daring about loving others, but....full of initiative? That means I actually have to initiate charity. I have to go outside of myself and completely shower others with love without them doing anything for me first. It's a simple concept, but one that I can easily forget. Not going to lie, I can be self-centered at times, and wonder "how do I benefit?" (ie: Getting free candy from the Vocations Fair) "How does this possible event negatively impact me?" and those kinds of instances. God definitely was hitting me with a spiritual 2x4 of selflessness right there. I have to live charity that initiates--I have to take charge and love before other people can love me first--if I wait to love others until they extend kindness to me, my love is more limited--it is a love out of gratitude (not a bad thing) but it stops there. I need to love. Emmanuel d'Alzon furthered this thought with another prayer from this little booklet:

Who can say just how far the power of love might go, if it is You at work, stretching my heart?

God wants to stretch our hearts beyond the "capacity" that we assign to our hearts. I may say, "Well, God, I'll love this much--this person, that thing, etc. that's good for now." But what God really wants me to say is "Okay God, here I am--take my heart, stretch it, and expand it for Your work." This stretching is painful, and not easy, but becomes smoother if we let our will be supple in the Hands of God. We have to live for God, giving ourselves fully to Him in order to give ourselves for others.

Tonight, there was a marvelous speaker, Rocco Buttiglione, who spoke about giving a Christian witness in the world, specifically drawing from his experiences with a dear, long-term friend of his, Blessed John Paul II. Yup, this guy was personal friends with the Pope; had lunch with him, joked with him, the whole nine yards. Anyway, at the heart of this talk was the friendship that John Paul offered to humanity.

 As Rocco Buttiglione described the giving, loving, personal friendship of JPII, he kept bringing it back to this: Friendship is belonging to others. Buttiglione pointed out that many people seek "freedom" by belonging to themselves. It's all about "my rights," "my freedoms," "my choice." However, he mentioned that by being "free," many people isolate themselves in deserts, away from others. "What is the use of freedom, if not to be given?" Buttiglione asked. Blessed John Paul II was a friend of humanity because he gave himself to others. Totus Tuus was his motto. As he gave himself totally to Jesus through the hands of Mary, JPII gave himself totally to others. He did not belong to himself; he belonged to all people--he was our Holy Father, guiding us and leading us to Christ. JPII was a man who loved with initiative, and continually let God stretch his heart. Buttiglione told us a story, about how JPII went to Africa, and Buttiglione's older sister was a reporter, on the same trip. Afterwards, she called her brother and said something like "I did not go on all of the trips that the pope did, and I am exhausted--you need to tell him to get rest!" Buttiglione, like a dutiful younger brother, had lunch with the pope and told him to get more rest. To which the pope responded, "Tired? Africa rejuvenate me!"

Not only must we love everyone that God brings into our path, and joyfully embrace the sufferings that He sends, but we need to love with initiative--instigating acts of love for others, physically going out to others who are often neglected (like nursing homes), praising others for accomplishments, and showing them God's joy...the methods are endless.
My friends,

"May your charity be enthusiastic: bold, daring, full of initiative." ~Emmanuel d'Alzon

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dangos, Wedding Bells, and God's Epic Communion

A few summers back (I think it was the summer after Junior year in high school), I was introduced to the anime show Clannad. As the name would suggest (it’s Gaelic for “family”), the show revolves around the family and community, especially for a group of high schoolers. One of the characters in the show, Nagisa, is obsessed with the Dango Daikazoku (Big Dango Family). What is the Dango Daikazoku? Watch and learn, my friend:

When I first saw this video sequence, I was absolutely overjoyed. It was so cute, so sweet, and…so remarkably true of our Faith. Though people may think me crazy, I think the Dango Daikazoku (as well as the two seasons of this anime) has a lot to do with our call to love. I mean, why did God put us here? According to the Baltimore Catechism, it’s: To know, love, and serve Him in this life, so as to be happy with Him in the next.
But see, Catholicism isn’t an individualized, “I’m serving God so I go to Heaven, and the rest of you are losers.” It is very explicit in Scriptures, starting in Genesis with the creation of Man and Woman, that God created us for community.

“The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him. So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name. The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man. So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” ~Gen 2:18-24

This summer, I was pondering this universal, incredible call to communion a lot, as my family, myself, Jacob, and his family all prepared for the wedding. Preparing for the wedding and wedding reception this summer was basically what Heaven will be like (minus little bits of stress here and there). As we prepared for the wedding, so many people gave of themselves to help us in any possible way. So many people were going out and buying appetizers for the reception, a friend of ours spent hours planning, fine-tuning, and taking charge of the reception hall set up; neighbors I barely knew polished some of our silverware; lots of friends spent hours setting up the reception hall the day before; a friend of ours donated tons of her time to sew clothes for the Wedding Party; the choir director and organist at St. Anthony’s spent much time preparing with the choir for the Mass; Fr. Hoisington spent a lot of time making sure that he (and we) knew the ins and outs of Extraordinary Form weddings; a parish priest spent a bunch of extra time making sure that we had all of our necessary marriage prep done…the list goes on and on…

Oh yeah, and get this: when I was in the bride’s room getting ready for the wedding, my mom came down stairs and said “Honey, you will have very clean steps for the church today.” St. Anthony’s is downtown, not in the best area, and there are lots of poor, homeless, and down-on-their luck people in that area. Apparently, this man came by the church looking for funds. One of the parishioners who is in charge of opening the church told this man that if he swept the steps clean for our wedding, she would pay him a little something.

As soon as my mom told me this, I pretty much lost it. Those tears tried to come trickling out, and I’m not sure that I kept all of them back. A poor man that I didn’t even know was sweeping the steps to the church. This incident was a perfect gift from St. Francis; I felt that he was sending this man to be helped, but also to help and be a part of the community contributing to our wedding and marriage.

Well, I continued to be overflowed with joy as I processed down to Jacob in the church. I was so abundantly full of joy and love that my father was leading me down the aisle so I could marry Jacob, giving my life completely over to him and God. And then it happened. Our vows. So epic. See, in Extraordinary Form weddings, the marriage ceremony happens at the beginning—before the priest even begins to celebrate the Mass! So, Jacob and I were married (so completely epic!!!), but then we became simply participants, for the Mass then begun. I just think this reality is so BEAUTIFUL, for our marriage leads people to God, and mirrors the communion that God desires with us. So we get married, and then the priest offers the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Being newly married for an entire liturgy was beautiful, epic, and awesome. Words can’t even describe the occasion. But then, the reception of Communion blew me away more so than usual. Not only was receiving Communion with my husband super epic (for the nuptial bond of man and wife so clearly images the nuptial bond that Christ desires with each of us in the Eucharist!!), but so many people were brought to the Eucharist! The priest had to go back to the Tabernacle to acquire more Consecrated Hosts once or twice, because there were so many Catholics receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist. God flooded me with so much joy at all of the people that came to receive Him on that day. EPIC!!!!

And the epicness just continues. We’re in October now, which is a ridiculously blessed month! We began October with the Feast of St. Therese, the Little Flower. Today is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, who are epic (pray to your guardian angel today! Be extra nice!). Tomorrow there are just lots of cool saints who aren’t on the liturgical calendar and I’ve never heard of (but hey, they are awesome, because they are saints, and you could learn about them!). Friday is *drumroll* ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI!!!! PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!! Saturday is Blessed Bartholomew Longo, who was a Satanic High Priest before he converted (one of my new favorites. Seriously, the Basilica in Pompeii—which sadly, I have not been to—is the only Catholic basilica built by an ex-Satanist. God wins BIG TIME!!!). Sunday would be St. Bruno (founder of the Carthusians) except that it’s a Sunday, and Monday is Our Lady of the Rosary!!!!! So we’re starting off big-time with lots of saints. And at the end of the month, some extremely epic days—it’s like a Triduum of Saints. Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day are days that we can and should especially focus on the extreme epicness of the Church’s communion and saints and God and awesome stuff like that. It’s just cool.

Here's a gem from our Holy Father Pope Francis (not to be confused with our Holy Father Francis of Assisi) :)  all about the community of the Church!

“The image of the church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God. This is the definition I often use, and then there is that image from the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ (No. 12). Belonging to a people has a strong theological value. In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community. God enters into this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships...
The people itself constitutes a subject. And the church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows. Thinking with the church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people."

Have a ridiculously blessed day, everybody!!!