Saturday, April 26, 2014

Clothes for the Wedding!

As many of you know, I was blessed to get married back in August. And, as any bride preparing for her wedding, I went wedding dress shopping with my mom. A whole day of trying on gorgeous dresses, not afraid to spend money on something I’d only wear during one weekend of my life. Why? I was getting married. Could I have validly gotten married while wearing my purple gypsy skirt and black top? Sure! Could I have validly gotten married while wearing my brown hippie skirt? Again, yes. So why the wedding dress? Like I said, weddings are important, because at a wedding, a couple vows to each other and God to become one flesh, and sacrifice with and for each other for the rest of their lives. Clothes are external objects, which reflect an interior reality and mindset. My wedding dress reflected my internal understanding of the importance and solemnity of a marriage, and how a special occasion like that calls for special clothes.

Well, folks, while we may not all have friends getting married constantly-hence weddings to go to, and fancy dresses/suits to don-I have a shocking announcement: Weekly, and even daily, we are privileged to attend the wedding! The Wedding Banquet of Jesus Christ and His Beloved Bride, the Church.

Just let that sink in. A bride and groom get married. They experience conjugal love-sacrificial self-gift. And it’s epic. We go to Mass. Our Bridegroom comes physically. We physically receive our Lord. More than epic!

Don’t you think this event calls for great solemnity and celebration?

I can’t count how many times people will tell me, “Well, Jesus only cares what’s on the inside. He doesn’t care about what you wear.”

To those people, I ask:

“What about dressing for the occasion? Doesn’t Jesus like it if you dress up for Him?”

Think about going on a special date with your boyfriend or girlfriend. He/she has planned to spend an evening with you, going to a fancy dinner, and he/she shows up in shorts and a tank top. Hey, you only care about what’s on the inside, right?

I’m guessing that a lot of you wouldn’t be too happy about this happening. After all, for your significant other to take time dressing appropriately for the occasion shows a respect and desire to celebrate the occasion with grandeur.

Like I said before, clothes express an interior reality. When I’ve gone to job interviews before, I’ve made sure to “dress for success”—because my clean, tidy, tasteful clothes show that this is important, and I care about dressing for the occasion. Similarly, when a person goes to work, he or she is expected to dress a certain way. Imagine if a CEO would show up to his office in shorts and a t-shirt! What would people surmise from his body language and clothes? “Well, this may not be too important, so I’ll just do whatever…”

If you show up to a dance, and see women in long formals and guys in suits, you know that this is an important occasion. If people show up to Mass and see others dressed with care and attention to the Presence of the Lord, they will realize that it’s an important occasion. What if a person who has been away from the Church—or has never been to a Catholic Church—walks in, to see a bunch of people wearing shorts? Some even in their athletic uniforms! What kind of message does this convey about Mass?

 (Just so you all know, I'm trying to state this in the most loving way possible, and I don't just judge people who wear shorts. However, I do think it's a huge deal, which people need to seriously think about and not ignore.)

“Looks like it doesn’t matter what I wear…must not be anything too crazy going on here…must just be a chill atmosphere…I can just wear what I need to wear for the day, and fit Mass into my schedule, not worrying about changing clothes.”

While God cares more about our interior than exterior, the interior should flow to the externals. We need to interiorly realize and rejoice in the Paschal Feast of the Lamb! And we should celebrate this through our outward expressions! Like our clothes. Instead of fitting Mass into our schedules, and not worrying about our clothes, we should fit our schedules around Mass, and dress fitting to the solemnity of the Sacrifice.

Should shorts really be worn during Mass? Only if they are under a skirt or pants. Shorts are for Frisbee playing, beach parties, chilling outside in the summer, relaxing at the library, etc. Even if you have a cute pair of plaid shorts, they don’t scream “REVERENCE” like classy pants, a skirt or a dress.

It’s not difficult to dress up for the Lord. People do it when they go to the Vatican! (And FYI: the SAME JESUS is at the Vatican and your local parish. Why not dress appropriately for both places?)

I didn't take this picture (thanks Google Images!)
but I've seen it multiple times. Notice: Men pictures on the right side-
NO SHORTS. Women pictures on the left side: NO SHORTS
(dresses, skirts, and long capri pants allowed). 
It only takes a teensy bit of pre-planning: If you’re a woman, just wear a skirt (or looser pants) over your shorts. If you’re a man, just wear pants over your shorts. I still remember when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, and showed up at youth group. Our youth minister had just been to Mass, so once he showed up, he slipped off his pants because he had worn shorts underneath.

Keep a change of clothes in your backpack or car for after Mass. A quick change in the bathroom isn’t difficult, trust me. J

“But if I wear pants to Morning Mass, that means I have to keep wearing them until I have time to change at lunch!” It may seem inconvenient or uncomfortable, but remember that Jesus suffered intensely on the Cross—and for several hours beforehand—for you! I think you can wear your pants for a couple hours as a sacrifice for Him.

“But WHY? This doesn’t even make sense!!” Recently, I e-mailed a pastor at a church where there were signs posted in the doorways about ‘not wearing shorts, tank tops, tube tops, etc.’ in the Church. I asked him his thoughts on why shorts should not be worn. His response was short, sweet, and to the point, hitting to a practical side of the issue: no shorts makes sense because no one is left having to define just how short shorts can be. It just makes sense. I hadn’t thought about it, but it makes a TON of sense. I mean, I’ve seen the range of shorts out there. And some of them classify as “underwear shorts,” to quote a worker at the local Mission thrift store. We need to create a reverent atmosphere for the sacrifice of the Mass, and that makes sense, because the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith!!!

Several weeks back, a liturgically nerdy friend of mine dropped this quotation from St. Thomas Aquinas, which is pretty epic:

"External actions are signs of internal reverence." ~St. Thomas Aquinas

May we all continue to grow in deeper love and devotion of our Eucharistic Lord and His Sacrifice! God bless and have and epic day!!!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Alleluia! Highlights from the Triduum

Alleluia!!! Christ is risen!!

The Triduum was really, really epic and blessed. It's always a really nostalgic time of the year for me, because--besides the obvious extreme importance with our Faith--ever since I came to college, celebrating the Triduum has been different each year. Freshman year, Jacob and I were "just friends," and had a really spiritually intense and awesome Triduum. And on Easter Monday, we officially began dating. Last year, Jacob and I spent Holy Thursday and Good Friday in Paris, so we got to venerate the Crown of Thorns on Good Friday. EPIC!!! And this year continued to be different, but wonderful...

Holy Thursday was incredibly blessed; we attended St. Peter's for Mass, which was absolutely glorious! Fr. Huffman celebrated Mass ad orientem, and everyone received the Eucharist at the Communion Rail...Fr. Huffman and Fr. Shell are so cool!!! After Mass, I got to see my in-laws and catch up, which was also a lot of fun!

Good Friday was also amazing. I spent the morning at the J.C., setting up for the Resurrection Party. My household sisters and I were assigned to work on drawing and painting silhouettes....yeah, most of us weren't really artistic, so God definitely worked some miracles with those silhouettes for the windows! Immediately after setting up, Jacob and I went to the Way of the Cross, and afternoon of praying and walking sponsored by Communion and Liberation. It's really cool, because you are hungry from fasting, thirsty, walking around campus while meditating on Christ's walk to Calvary and Passion! Super beautiful. Also, lots of families were there, which was cool, because little kids are just plain adorable! After the Way of the Cross, we headed down to St. Pete's for a while, which was also wonderful. So much fruitful time of prayer and meditation! After the Good Friday service that evening, Jacob and I joined with about 12 other students in traveling to Pittsburgh for an 11 p.m.-1 a.m. shift. Each year, on Good Friday evening, the Students for Life host an all-night prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood in Pittsburgh.

The Planned Parenthood was downtown, in between two gay bars. So, we saw lots of interesting people in those couple hours. Us students are all pretty immersed in meditating on the Passion on Good Friday, so it's crazy to see how many people go on with their lives. The day where we recount Christ's death, there were lots of people going in and out of the bars, getting completely wasted. But, beautifully, Christ died for all of these people! And I'm sure that when Jesus died on Calvary, life for many people in Jerusalem, Rome, or other areas just continued in. People continued their lavish lifestyles, sinful practices, etc. Yet God is so merciful that He sacrifices Himself for each one of these people! Friday night/Saturday morning, I really saw how much God loves each person. Also, it was so amazing to be a witness of His love, especially to people who probably don't see His presence very often. At one point, there was a drunk man crossing the street who yelled out, "I'm gonna pray with the children!" and he walked over and joined our circle. One person was reading a scriptural meditation to us, but this man started going off, saying "Amen...amen...Lord Jesus, I pray for..." It was great : )

On Holy Saturday, Jacob and I spent some time with the Millers at brunch and went to a park. Since I'm not athletic, and was in the reading mood, I was sitting on a bench by the playground. But soon, this absolutely adorable young black girl walked up, and began pointing to me feet. I guess my toes must have fascinated her or something : )  She wanted to climb on different things, so for the rest of the afternoon, I became a "nanny" of sorts for three two-year-olds: this girl and her two cousins. And they were all absolutely adorable!

Easter Breakfast of Champions:
"Mensa Waffles" and Guava Mango Juice! 
That evening, we went to the Vigil Mass at St. Pete's, which was so glorious! An entire family-parents and three children-were baptized, which was incredible, and almost made me cry! It is so wonderful to see people entering into God's family and receive the sacraments for the first time! Also, after a penitential Lent, Easter is always so joyfully glorious! I absolutely love singing the Gloria, and hearing the bells being rung while the lights are turned on and candles are lit. He is risen! The Resurrection Party after the Vigil is always pretty fun, too. FUS hosts it, and there is candy everywhere, and people all over the place!

Easter Sunday, Jacob and I hosted dinner for his family, which was a blast! It was lots of fun to be hostess and celebrate the joy of the Resurrection with them! I got to talk with my family on the phone for a while, which was a huge joy and blessing as well! Also, for our breakfast that morning, I made Jacob "mensa waffles." In Austra, the mensa (where we all ate) gave us amazing waffles with nutella each Sunday. I hunted all over the internet to find "the" recipe, and I found something extremely similar! Our waffles weren't authentic, but they tasted pretty fabulous : )

Remember: every day is a solemnity this week, so party it up Catholic style! 

May the Joy of the Resurrected Christ fill your hearts! 
Look what $3 bought me at the
Mission thrift store today?
I'm so blessed, it's ridiculous!!! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Love Transubstantiates Suffering: Some Notes from Dr. Hahn's Talk

Happy Tuesday of Holy Week!!!

Last night, I had the tremendous blessing of attending a talk by Dr. Scott Hahn. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that last night was the first time I've ever heard a talk from him. Weird, right? But when I heard that there was a talk entitled, "Love, Suffering, and Salvation," I knew I had to go--even before I knew who the speaker was!

Some Notes from Dr. Hahn's Talk:
*The goal of Christ's 3-year public ministry comes down to 3 hours, His time on the Cross. These three hours come down to 3 words-"It is finished."

*The only way that you can understand Good Friday is to look to what Christ did on Holy Thursday! In fact, Holy Thursday is what transformed Friday into "Good" Friday. To quote Dr. Hahn, "Holy Thursday turned Good Friday into a wellspring of life."

*Jesus saved us, not by how much He suffered, but by how much He loved! Suffering itself is not redemptive, and love, all by itself, can become warm fuzzy feelings. What proves whether or not love is genuine? If you follow the commandment to lay down your life for others.

*Love transubstantiates suffering into sacrifice. To quote Dr. Hahn again, "Charity endows suffering with redemptive power...Love does not diminish our capacity to suffer, it enlarges it."

*We must look at the Cross in light of the Eucharist. If the Last Supper was just a meal (not the Institution of the Eucharist), then Calvary is just an execution. But the love of God binds together Calvary and the Last Supper with His sacrifice, the Eucharist. Instituting the Eucharist transformed Calvary.

*"You don't have to die to go to Heaven, you just have to go to Mass." ~Dr. Hahn

*"The inner logic of our Faith is divine love." ~Dr. Hahn

I really found the timing of Dr. Hahn's talk providential, because it was further confirmation and expansion upon topics that I have been discussing heavily with a few household sisters. My household is Sacrifice of Love, so the whole realm of Christ's Passion and sacrifice is the core and heart of our commitments, formation, and lives. An important distinction must be made, which I think Dr. Hahn phrased quite beautifully in his talk: Anyone can suffer, and everyone does suffer. But as Catholics, we sustain the joy, hope, love, and reality of Christ's triumph over death in the Resurrection; we can suffer with great love. Suffering with this great love then transforms our actions into sacrifices. 

Tips for Sacrificing, not Suffering: (and I'm continually learning, and am by no means an authority on this)

*Sacrifice with purpose. Many of the great saints talked about how doing a small action with great love can save souls. Are you stuck at a traffic light? Offer it up lovingly for souls in Purgatory.

*Sacrifice with joy. We don't have to constantly be happy when we're going through intense sacrificing. Mary wasn't all happy-go-lucky at Calvary. But, we are called to sustain joy at all times, holding onto God's goodness, with full trust in Him. For example, "I'm having a rough day today, but I'm offering it all to the Lord, for He is good!" is a lot better than, "I'm having a rough day, and I don't know how it'll ever get better." Joy brings the fire and love of God to others, and when we have joy in our sacrificing, we can draw so many people to Him!

*Sacrifice with others. Seriously, having accountability and community as you sacrifice is a wonderful thing! I'm glancing down at my TEC cross right now, remembering how much I continue to learn through that ministry. In TEC, I found a community--a family--of people who sacrifice for each other all the time. In household, it's very similar. But in the Catholic Church, we are a mega-huge family, and we can ALL sacrifice for each other! All the time! 

*Cast yourself into the Ultimate Sacrifice, the Eucharist. We can all deepen our devotion and love of our Eucharistic Lord more and more. He is the Sacrifice of Love, giving His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity freely to us each day! How many people go through the motions at Mass (I know I have!)? How many people don't make daily Mass a priority? Seriously, get to one or two extra Masses during the week, and deepen your devotion to the Eucharist, and you have beautiful transformations in your life.

May the Joy of Christ Fill Your Hearts!

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Tomb

Happy Friday! In case you haven't noticed, today is the LAST Friday of Lent this year! Isn't that wild? I feel that Lent has flown by

We are in Passiontide right now, and Holy Week begins in just a few days. As we prepare for the Passion of Our Lord, it is so important to be with Mary. She is our mother, and has gone through every kind of sorrow imaginable, especially witnessing her Son die a violent and horrible death. One of the most famous pieces of religious artwork is the Pieta, where our Sorrowful Mother, Mary,  holds the Body of Jesus. 

From the 21 years of my life, I have seen that mothers want to be with their hurt or sorrowful children. They want to comfort their children, to be close to them. What mother would not want to be like Mary, cradling her deceased child? Imagine how devastating it is for a mother who does not know where her dead child is. No way to visit her child's tomb and mourn or remember him or her. 

The other day, I was filled with incredible sorrow for the mothers of aborted children. The mothers of these children have may have experienced an incredible amount of grief and sorrow at some point since their abortions. Even if they have not openly grieved, there is something torn inside of them-a human life has been nourished in their bodies, untimely ripped out by abortion. Many times, the remains of aborted children are thrown into dumpsters or trash cans, so these women would not be able to visit the remains of their children and grieve. 

I invite these women--and all people affected by the evils of abortion (and everyone has been affected by abortion in some way)--to the Tomb of the Unborn at Franciscan University. 

The remains of seven aborted children lie here--not in dumpsters, but safely in a tomb--guarded by an eternal flame. I hope and pray that the mothers of these children have the peace and know that we have the remains of their children safely here. They are in a place of honor, right next to our Perpetual Adoration chapel. We have prayed daily for them, their mothers and fathers, and continue to do so. Here one may pray, think, heal, and know that life is precious. And that a person does not pass on without his or her death being mourned by someone. 

For those of you not familiar with when the Tomb of the Unborn was erected, here's the description from the University website:

"On snowy January 22, 1987, the fourteenth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which summarily struck down all laws against abortion across the country, over 500 people processed from Christ the King Chapel to witness the entombment of two babies killed by abortion. They were given the names Francis and Clare. That tomb, one of the first in the country, stands as a monument to the sanctity of life. It challenges all who pray there to live their lives as a witness to the Gospel of life.
Since that day an eternal flame has been added and five more children killed by abortion have joined Francis and Clare."

We must not live in the darkness, and abide only in the hurt of abortion. We need to let Christ heal all wounds, and see the beautiful hope that He gives us! The Passion alone does not make sense; but the triumph of the Christ over death in the Resurrection brings us hope! He always brings His life and light through all suffering. During these final days of Lent, I highly encourage all people to visit their local abortion clinic or the Tomb of the Unborn, and pray for those hurting, that they will experience the fullness of joy and healing in God! To recognize that there is joy in the midst of darkness, pain, and suffering. 

Cling to your Mother, for she knows the sorrow of losing a child...but she also knows the fullness of God's joy and light, for she reigns as Queen of Heaven! 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Some Thoughts...

A Couple Thoughts....

1. Mercy Monday, one day late! 
I know that I have been struggling with keeping up my "Lenten regime" at times. Furthermore, I always have random obstacles and spiritual battles in life. And everyone goes through battles and struggles. Should we be afraid when we are going through intense battles? Should we worry about the outcome? 
From the Diary: 

"Then I saw the Blessed Virgin, unspeakably beautiful. She came down from the altar to my kneeler, held me close, and said to me, I am Mother to you all, thanks to the unfathomable mercy of God. Most pleasing to Me is that soul which faithfully carries out the will of God. She gave me to understand that I had faithfully fulfilled the will of God and had thus found favor in His eyes. Be courageous. Do not fear apparent obstacles, but fix your gaze upon the Passion of My Son, and in this way you will be victorious."
(Notebook 1, Section 449) 

Random picture from Fr. Z's blog! : ) 
Sunday, in the Extraordinary Form, was "Passion Sunday." At home, we covered our crucifix and large picture of Jesus with purple cloth, just as the statues and crucifixes at Mass are now covered. (Dr. Taylor Marshall, a blogger whom I follow, has an excellent-and short-explanation here)

During this Passiontide, let us focus our eyes on the Christ, our Passionate, Sacrificial Savior, so that we may truly die to ourselves! 

2. An incredible honor, opportunity, and blessing!
Last Friday evening, as I sat down to study for a test, I was blessed to receive an e-mail from "The Chastity Project," telling me that they had uploaded a blog post of mine to their blog! A week or so earlier, the man in charge of the blogging had told me that they would publish my post, but finally seeing it on the website and FB page was so exciting! I have been praying for all those whom the blog post has reached; I have been moved to tears of joy by some of the comments on it from people whom I don't know, as they reveal how God has worked in their lives through the post. It has been such a beautiful experience, and I am so grateful that God would allow me to be His instrument in that way! I continue to pray for all those whom will be reached through this post and other blogs/pages on The Chastity Project, and I am sure that God will continue to work wonders! 

3. Relaxation is a wonderful thing!!
The last couple weeks were crazy with papers and a test, and both the weekend and this week have been wonderful, with time to relax and play games! Every time Jacob and I play chess or board games together, I am reminded that we have an incredible gift in our leisure time. Time to relax with loved ones is a gift, which we must not take for granted!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What a Household Sister and Cicero Taught Me

Yesterday in Latin class, I had an exciting revelation (and, since I can't keep anything to myself, I told my teacher, who also thought it was interesting.). So of course, I must share it with all of you!

Last weekend, I was on retreat with my wonderful household sisters. It was truly a blessed time of relaxation and growth both spiritually  and as a family. Well, one of my sisters was giving a talk, in which she mentioned the need to be present to people in conversations.

"How many times," she asked us, "are you in a conversation with a person, but you mentally decide what to respond with while he/she is still talking?" She mentioned how we won't be fully present with others, but just be sitting around to jump in with our two cents. She encouraged us to listen to the other person, kind of formulate what you will say, but feel perfectly comfortable with a short period of silence as you respond.

Our Society Does It! (And so do I...)
And...I'm guilty as charged. In fact, sometimes, I'll be so awful as to map out in my head what I will say in a conversation before I even start talking with a person. I'm not being fully present and hanging on to a person's words; instead, I'm rushing ahead, taking part in a "conversation" just to get to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Granted, there are some occasions when people need to communicate quickly (like when you're working in the food industry, and you have to talk/work quickly many times). But seriously. Isn't it obnoxious when you're trying to talk with someone, and he/she is totally not paying full attention, or already seems to have a response mentally formulated? What's the point of conversing? Our everyday conversations are not job interviews that we have to plan out answers for! It's irritating, and it's even worse knowing that I have done this to people. But I'm trying to get away from this. I'm working to be present to people, and stop pre-planning my responses.

I definitely see a connection between our non-presence in conversations and our society of instant gratification. Seriously, many times when we're talking with people, we don't want to wait around and build relationships or see reasoning. We want it all now! We live in a culture of fast-food, texting, and flashes on information in commercials. We are taught from our youth to obtain our desires now. How often is it that, when we meet someone knew, we only last as long in conversation/friendship as he/she is interesting to us? Information, pleasure, whatever. It's something I call instant gratification.

My Revelation in Latin Class: 
We were translating a (very confusing) speech done by Cicero today. One of the factors that made it difficult was something which seems common to Latin: they don't seem to care about word order, and each word in the basic underlying sentence structure will be far apart from each other at times, with  bunches (and in Cicero's case, lots of bunches) of clauses in between. Our teacher explained to us that the early Romans spoke and understood like this. When talking with someone or hearing a speech, you would have to listen carefully to everything that a person said, so that you could understand how the clauses tied together in the end, and see what the person was trying to explain. The Roman mind understood language this way.

So, I naturally jumped in my seat excitedly told Dr. Smith what I had learned on retreat: that we need to be present to people, and really listen to what they are saying. Not just part of what people tell us, but to listen to all that they try to tell us. And that, from what we were seeing in Cicero's speech, I think we could benefit from a bit more of a Roman-mindset in this regard.

What We Can Learn:
The Roman culture had its definite flaws and sins, but I really, really think they nailed the whole language-thing (aside from their extensive use of the passive). We need to be present to others. I used to work at restaurants, and would get so sad when two people would be eating their food, and one would be playing with their phone, while the other would stare into space. Or how about people that would talk, but once they found a lack of things to talk about, just end the conversation and leave? No sitting in a brief silence to let ideas germinate.

Just have to throw in that the whole concept of "full present-ness" in conversations is crucial in marriage. Or any relationship, for that matter. I know it's super easy to let your emotions fly and make judgments immediately when another person says something, but this isn't necessarily the best route. Your spouse (or friend) needs to talk with you about something? Be a good listener and let him/her speak all the way through before responding. You'll be glad you did.

Let's actually converse with each other, being fully present, taking time to respond.

Let's turn around our culture one conversation at a time.