Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Ants Come Marching One by One…So I Prepare for Battle

It all started a few days ago. 
Jacob and I were sitting in our living room, when we saw it: a tiny ant, scurrying across the floor. Quickly, we killed it, hoping that no more ants would come along. As we were eating breakfast this morning, we saw another one. A carpenter ant (those are much bigger) was marching across our kitchen floor. Memories of “ant infestations” while living in New York rushed through my head. We need to end this before it goes wild, I thought. After praying our Rosary, I knew what to do. I figured that the only sensible thing to do in this situation was to gird my loins and prepare for battle against the ants.

I don't understand why more people
don't walk around in this fashion every day;
it's so practical and comfy!
(Plus it makes me feel like I've stepped
out of the Bible. Or Aladdin.)
Gird my loins? This phrase pops up throughout the Bible, and as a child, I had no clue what it meant. A few years back, at Totus Tuus training, one of our guest speakers—a Franciscan U graduate, I proudly add—demonstrated how to “gird your loins.” Simply wrap your skirt/tunic under your legs, and tuck it in your belt/hem in the front. The speaker explained that men in Biblical times did this to “get to work,” “be ready and alert,” and that kind of thing. Well, all these phrases describe what I needed to do this morning. I had to be alert and go to battle with these ants! So I girded my loins and began scrubbing every inch of the kitchen and bathroom that I could reach, so no ant would find crumbs of food or welcome tidings. I needed to show these ants that I meant business!

My hands covered in sudsy water, the truth hit me: just as I was preparing my defenses against ants—to avoid an onslaught of them—we all need to prepare ourselves spiritually before an onslaught of sin comes. It can be really tempting to “not worry about” keeping up a hardcore sacramental life when all is going well. Why go to Confession if you don’t have mortal sin on your soul? Why go to daily Mass when once a week is perfectly acceptable? Even if we don’t continually fall into mortal sin, we daily battle against the devil. We all have concupiscence, the tendency to sin, and the devil is only too ready to take us under his command. We shouldn't let temptations go unnoticed, and fall into small sins without a care. We need to attack the devil and sinful habits before they grow to be huge. The sacraments are a beautiful gift from God, and when we actively immerse ourselves in a sacramental life, we become drenched in the graces that God freely pours out upon us, and are much-aided in conquering sinful practices.

Honestly, I can notice when I've neglected to go to daily Mass or Confession. I’ll start being more short-tempered and impatient with others, more bitter, and less loving. I'm not actively participating in the sacramental life as much as usual, so it makes sense. The Eucharist, God’s own Flesh and Blood, is food for my body and soul. When I receive the Eucharist, God is in my body. How cool is that? What a wonderful defense against evil, what a tremendous gift, to be so intimately united with Jesus Christ! When I go to Confession, God is both forgiving me of my sins and pouring down graces to help me avoid sin.
 There is an awesome quotation from St. John Chrysostom, which really hits me with the sheer epicness of the Mass and the Eucharist:
“Let us return from that Table like lions breathing out fire, terrifying to the devil!”

It is vital that I “gird my loins” not just while cleaning/defending our apartment from ants, but I need to spiritually “gird my loins.” I need to take courage, get to work, and actively live a life in God’s grace (through the Sacraments) and daily trample over the devil. We need to be alert to both the movements of God and the sneakings (I just made up that word) of the devil, so that we may recognize temptation, overcome it, and throw ourselves into God’s arms.

“Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armor of God, so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” –Ephesians 6:10-17

Monday, May 12, 2014

Before We Head to Battle

May the joy of Christ fill your heart! Happy Mercy Monday!

Life is such a battle at times. I mean, just take a look at what's happening with Harvard. Yet still, amid all battles, struggles, and anxiety (especially as our society continually plummets downhill), we are called to have peace, hope, and trust in God! Before we set out to battle each day (because spiritual warfare is a daily occurrence), let us place ourselves in the arms of God!

From St. Faustina's Diary:

"My Jesus, despite Your graces, I see and feel all my misery. I begin my day with battle and end it with battle. As soon as I conquer one obstacle, ten more appear to take its place. But I am not worried, because I know that this is the time of struggle, not peace. When the burden of the battle becomes too much for me, I throw myself like a child into the arms of the heavenly Father and trust I will not perish. O my Jesus, how prone I am to evil, and this forces me to be constantly vigilant. But I do not lose heart. I trust God's grace, which abounds in the worst misery.

In the midst of the worst difficulties and adversities, I do not lose inner peace or exterior balance, and this discourages my adversaries. Patience in adversity gives power to the soul."

St. Joan of Arc was not afraid to fight
whatever battle God set before her!
St. Joan of Arc, ora pro nobis! 
(Notebook II, Sections 606-607)

The battle against evil awaits us each day; let us arm ourselves with God's grace, love, and truth, and set forth to change the world!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Summer Break is Here!

Happy Friday!!!

Today is the second full day of summer break, and I am loving it!! I've been having Olaf the Snowman jumping around my head a lot, and it's making me happy :)

I know for lots of students, who work so hard during the school year, summertime=laziness. And while relaxation is a good, beautiful activity, laziness isn't really healthy. Flopping around the house for weeks on end, saying "I'm so bored" is not my idea of a mentally, spiritually, or physically healthy summer break. Nor does it sound fun!

So, several years ago, in the hopes of not falling into the "summer lazy slump," I decided to make a big "To Do" list at the beginning of each summer. I'm guessing that lots of you, like myself, did "Summer Reading Programs" in the past, which are AWESOME. In many of those programs, you begin by setting a goal of how many books you will read. So, I decided to make my own goals. They would range from "Run a lap around the neighborhood lake," to "Read 'A Midsummer Night's Dream." And I have to say, my "Summer To Do List" worked well and was super fun, especially before I started working part-time in the summers.

The other day, while thinking about summer break, I had a mini freak-out. For the past few years, I've either been working or traveling or wedding planning like crazy during the summer, so there's always been a "big thing" to work on for those months. But this summer? Not so much. So I decided to resurrect my "Summer To Do List" plan. Yeah, it may seem weird to "prepare for summer," but in reality, it'll work pretty well. After all, we don't know yet what's happening after graduation next May (God knows, and He'll eventually tell us), so this summer break may be the last non-crazy, huge block of time that I have. It's a giant present, gift wrapped and sparkling, from God!

(Dr. Hahn mentioned something along these lines at a talk a few weeks ago, too. Since he's been on sabbatical all year, he said he had to do something since he's not in the classroom. So, Dr. Hahn told us he's been having a "Radical Sabbatical," making a bajillion pilgrimages abroad and whatnot. While I can't go to Europe right now, I can be crazy and radical...)

We kicked off summer break with homemade maple bars and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," since we hadn't seen it yet. Adding chess club at the library and talking with a couple friends who are graduating, it's been awesome! And now I'm ready to begin more epic crazy adventures! I read Jason Evert's "John Paul the Great" book,  I'm a couple pages into "Evangelium Gaudium," Pope Francis' first encyclical, and have started re-reading "The Screwtape Letters." Next on my list are "Confessions" by St. Augustine (after translating him during Latin class, and hearing Dr. Smith go on and on...I decided to take the Augustine plunge), and "A Severe Mercy," which I've been told is a "biography of love."

Whew! In the midst of it all, trying to keep up with my blog, hoping to write some freelance stuff to mail out, and occasionally contributing to The Chastity Project. Plus, keeping up on housework, narrowing down my thesis topic for next semester, spending more time in daily prayer, walking/jogging, and having adventures with Jacob when he's not working. Praise the Lord for His epicness!!!!! I am so excited for all of these projects that I have started, and for all the other stuff that God will throw in during the next several weeks!
Just some light summer reading : ) 

This summer is a beautifully huge chunk of time. Even if you have a job, it is so important to take care of your mind, body, and soul continually.  How will you work to grow spiritually? Intellectually? Physically? I encourage all of you to set some sort of solid goal, small or large, to achieve this summer. Have a blast!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Happy Mercy Monday!!! Since God's mercy is such a tremendous blessing, and a cause for joy, that's what I'm focusing on.

Last week, as I was writing a paper for my American Lit final, one of my favorite (well, they are all pretty much my "favorite"...) religious sisters here at FUS stopped by and started talking with me. Her name is Sr. Lucy, and she's a Sister of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George (how's that for a mouthful???)

Anyway, she was excitedly telling me about one of the Community's candidates, who lives in Africa. Before this woman joined the order, she had her own personal mission: Across a river nearby her home in Africa, there was a primitive tribe who had never been evangelized to. So, this young woman took it upon herself to row one hour across the river, in order to talk with them. It pretty much blew my mind to hear that! I think a lot of us Christians here in America don't really grasp the level of passionate evangelization that God is calling us to. We're squeamish if we walk up to a person on the sidewalk and talk to them about Jesus. Hello? This woman was rowing an hour each way, to get across a river and meet people and tell them about God's love for them. We can all be inspired by her example. I told Sr. Lucy how powerful that woman's example is, especially since a lot of us don't have that type of evangelization experience/struggle to go through every day.

“Yes,” she responded, “But we all have some kind of river we are rowing across in our evangelization. Even if it’s not physical, we have to struggle across a kind of river. And we have to remember to keep rowing.” 

I looked at her with an "you are way too profound/that is amazing/you are the coolest" kind of look, and as I continued to write my paper, Sr. Lucy's words were stuck in my head. And I resolved to blog about it when my life got less crazy :)

As Sister said, we all have various struggles when we evangelize. Sometimes, people aren't receptive. Other times, we are afraid for what will happen once we evangelize. But, like Sr. Lucy said, we all must keep rowing. If we don't, we'll be swept away by the currents of despair, and that's no good.

How do we persevere? We must hope and have joy in the Lord and His Sacrifice and Mercy!!! We don't even have to search for things to be joyful about when we're going through rough times; God loves us so much that He gift-wraps tons of blessings and sticks them all over our days for us to enjoy!

Yes, stuff like Finals (what a lot of us college kids are going through now), bittersweet farewells at the end of the school year, abortion, crime, etc. happening, it's easy to drop the oars, stop rowing, and get swept away by sadness.

But, we must remember what the St. John Paul the Great once said: 
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”

We need to actively live out hope, and use that hope to row across the river! God throws motivational blessings all over the place, so just open your eyes! 

Here are some of the blessings God has stuck in my life the past couple of days...

We have had an abundance of gorgeous dandelions all over campus and in
front of our apartment!!!!!! So wonderful!!!

Jacob took me on a Taco Bell date, and I couldn't
resist playing with the sauce packets. Seriously,
I would love to see people to have a complete
conversation with these sometime!

Our neighbor, "Mama Bird." She lives on our front porch,
and Jacob and I really like her :) 

My prayer circle at the abortion clinic this weekend.
Bishop Monforton took this picture and immediately
put it on his twitter, then joined our prayer circle :)
I'll probably put up a fangirl post about Bishop Monforton soon,
since he's pretty much one of the coolest people ever!