Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Cup o' Tea

It's been a tad bit chilly in Steubenville lately (and I am not complaining-when you don't have A/C, cool weather is a blessing!), so this morning I curled up with some theology books and a cup of tea. As I sipped my mug of cozy Earl Grey tea, memories began to flood my mind-and I discovered that one of the reasons I love tea is the way in which it binds together different life experiences. 

As I drink tea, I recall all the times throughout high school where I would sip tea and talk with my mom in the kitchen. I think about the numerous soul-deep conversations I've had with different women over cups of tea, and of all the times that Jacob and I would drink tea on cold nights in the St. Thomas More dorm lobby as freshman. I remember when tea has been warmly comforting, and when tea has made me a bit crazy! I remember when my mom took me to a tea house as a present when I was a little six-year-old, and I recall going to a Formal tea at the Cathedral in Wichita several years ago. And, drinking my  tea this morning, I began to remember how I acquired this particular tin of tea: 

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough 

or a book long enough to suit me.”~C.S. Lewis

The summer before I came to FUS, I did something uncharacteristic and crazy. On an impulse and a nudge from God, I went on a trip to Europe with a secular tour company. The first part of the trip took us to London. I love London! It was so much fun to be there, and I had a great time. While in London, I went to the ever-posh Harrod's department store. Let it be known, though, I'm not a fancy person- I was inwardly laughing at the high irony that I was walking around Harrod's in thrift-store clothes while seeing people purchase shoes that cost several hundred pounds! While in a game section, I casually picked up a board game to look at the back-and the whole display of games toppled over onto the table! (the man working in the section was very nice about it, and claimed that he had knocked it over a few days earlier) Well, I high-tailed it out of that department, and ended up buying a package of tea. And, for some crazy reason, I've been able to not binge on my Earl Gray tea, so I still have a tiny bit of my London stash left! 

Well, that was a really random story, but I hope you enjoyed it. Basically, I love tea. I love how it tastes, I love it hot and cold, and I really love how it can bring people together. I love the joy it brings with the companionship of fellow tea-drinkers. I love the memories that join together, connected with this amazing beverage. 

May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all your heart might desire. ~An Irish Blessing

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Wizard is Never Late-And Neither is God

Several years ago, I noticed a priest whom I didn’t know, and someone nearby said, “Oh, that’s Father so-and-so…he was a late vocation.” And that’s not the only time I’ve heard the term, “late vocation,” tossed around in conversation.  

Late Vocation?

As a side note, vocation comes from the Latin, vocare—to call. Simply put, a vocation is a calling from God. Many Catholics are probably familiar with the three big vocation umbrellas: Priesthood, Consecrated Life, and Marriage (It’s just good to make sure everyone’s on the same page here).

Well, in the circumstances where I’ve heard it, “late vocation” has referred to a newly ordained man who is a bit older than the other new priests, or a middle-aged woman who joined religious life. By using the term, “late vocation” to designate these people, are we saying that God is late? That He only gave them a vocation later in life, and they just have to rough it?

Let’s think about this for a moment. Is our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, eternal God late?

I feel a strong urge to reference The Fellowship of the Ring right about now: 

So God's not a bearded, fireworks-loving friend of the hobbits. He's even better than that. He's God. And he has a remarkable plan for all of us-so I'm willing to bet that He isn't "late" with His plans. 
In my experience, I’ve heard the term, “late vocation,” used a bit apologetically—people try to describe to me why so-and-so didn’t become a priest until his thirties. People feel the need to explain it, as if it’s an issue that needs explaining. While some people do run away from God’s call and choose not to commit to their vocations—which I do not advocate (and I will probably include this topic in a future blog)—we can’t immediately assume that every person does this!

We shouldn't live our lives aimlessly, waiting for our vocation to happen; you see, God is in the present moment, and our vocation is to be where He wants us in the present moment. We do need to discern, and see what God wants with our future, don’t get me wrong. It’s vital to prayerfully discern if God wants you married, in seminary, convent, whatever. We shouldn’t blow off our future vocation, and God does call people at all ages—I know ladies who’ve entered the convent in their late teens and early twenties, twenty-year-olds who’ve married, and eighteen-year-old seminarians. I’ve also known older people who become priests, religious, and gotten married. But we can’t just put our lives on auto-pilot as we wait for the first day of Postulancy, engagement, or seminary!

I’m going to step out on a limb and suggest that we stop using the term, “late vocation.” So that one man enters seminary when he’s in his middle twenties, instead of straight out of high school? Maybe he had to do all those years of volunteer work at a homeless shelter, mission work, etc. first, to realize God calling him to the priesthood, and God wanted him to bring all those people-who he otherwise wouldn't have met-to Him. So that woman enters the convent when she’s thirty? Maybe God wanted her to teach those school kids their algebra, work as a nanny, etc. and show God’s love to them in her single state. Shocking, I know. God sometimes chooses the strangely unpredictable routes for His children. Just because one man enters seminary at 18 and another at 25 doesn't imply that the latter is a “late vocation.” Just because some women get married in their thirties doesn't mean that they are “late vocations,” either. God’s vocation for you isn't just some distant, “late,” event in the future, it’s now!
Some fabric remnants, a ran
 (I threw this together in high school when I
was voted "Most likely to join religious life" in
our school newspaper)

I have difficulties with patience. I often become very passionate about things, and I want them now. Over the years, I’ve gotten a little better about patience, though it’s still a daily challenge. But, I remember when I was fourteen years old, I got some great “vocations advice” from someone at my church. See, I had already been praying/discerning/thinking about religious life, and was pretty sure God wanted me to be a sister. And I knew that He at least wanted me to look into it. But, I was impatient, because I just wanted to live out my vocation and do God’s will now! And in my mind at that time, the only way I could possibly live out God’s vocation for me was in a convent in NYC. The person I was talking with looked at me, and wisely told me to become the holiest woman I could be, because that would best prepare me for whatever God wanted of me.

Yes, this is way easier said than done. And while I still got impatient with my future vocation, I began to focus a lot more on my daily vocation. I worked at improving my personal relationship with God and the saints, I learned more about my Faith, I developed Christ-centered friendships with men and women. My junior year in high school, while praying on a retreat, the Holy Spirit went pow: “Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice,” (it’s from JPII) I read from a pamphlet. And I knew, without a doubt, that this was my vocation: My vocation to be a sacrifice of love in the present moment.

Here’s a juicy lil’ nugget from Love and Responsibility, by Karol Wojtyla (now St. John Paul II):
“In the light of the Gospel it is obvious that every man solves the problem of his vocation in practice above all by adopting a conscious personal attitude towards the supreme demand made on us in the commandment to love.”

I also feel this is an appropriate time to reference the ever-awesome St. Therese: 
“I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!”
Our rings with the Gospel reading from our Nuptial Mass. 

Over time, I stopped living in the future and started living more in the present. God eventually did show me that marriage was my vocation, and I love living out this vocation daily with my husband. Why did God call me to this at 20, and other women in their thirties haven't met their future husbands yet? It’s a question I asked myself a while back. But I saw that God didn’t want me to feel guilty about this, and He doesn't expect me to have the answer; He has a plan for everyone. I don’t need to know all the ins and outs, and I’m not sure I’d want to know even if I could. God has everything under control, and He does weird things we could never even imagine.

God has an amazing, epic, splendid, and grand purpose for you. Not just in the future, but in today. It’s ridiculously hard to be patient for the future, but I think it’s easier when we focus on what God is giving us in the present moment. Our reality is right here, right now, and God is waiting for us to take the plunge and be with Him, living our vocation to love.

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” ~G.K. Chesterton

And if vocations/discernment/patience makes you depressed/drives you crazy, here’s a great recipe I found the other day and made because we currently have a surplus of eggs and fresh lemons (seriously, what’s better than baking/eating food for therapy?). I didn’t have ramekins on hand, so I threw the batter in a greased muffin tin and it worked for me, but I’m also not a professional or a perfectionist J

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mercy Monday: Suffering and Glory

Happy Mercy Monday! 

Life has been a tad bit crazy, so please forgive me for not writing more. Here's this week's post from the Diary of St. Faustina! 

                  "Then I saw the Lord Jesus nailed to the cross.  When He had hung on it for a while, I saw a multitude of souls crucified like Him.  Then I saw a second multitude of souls, and a third.  The second multitude was not nailed to [their] crosses, but were holding them firmly in their hands.  The third were neither nailed to [their] crosses nor holding them firmly in their hands, but were dragging [their]crosses behind them and were discontent.  Jesus then said to me.  Do you see these souls?  Those who are like Me in the pain and contempt they suffer will be like Me also in glory.  And those who resemble Me less in paid and contempt will also bear less resemblance to Me in glory.

Among the crucified souls, the most numerous were those of the clergy.  I also saw some crucified souls whom I knew, and this gave me great joy.  Then Jesus said to me, In your meditation tomorrow, you shall think about what you have seen today.  And immediately Jesus disappeared on me."
 (Notebook 1, #446)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Not Just Tornadoes and Toto: 12 Reasons Why Wichita is a Great Place for Catholics

Before I moved to Kansas in the summer of 2005, I always associated it with—you guessed it—The Wizard of Oz and tornadoes. In fact, my freshman year at FUS, I got WoO and tornado jokes from other people on pretty much a daily basis! But many people from other states may not realize something about Kansas—Wichita area, specifically—which I only discovered while living there: Catholicism is alive and growing!  

While I cannot capture the sheer awesomeness of Wichita in a measly little blog post, I want to highlight some of the top reasons of why I believe Wichita a great place for Catholics in the middle of the United States:

1.      Mass. Everywhere. All the time. All throughout the day, every day, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated all over the place in Wichita! And a fair number of people attend many of these Masses. When Jacob came to Wichita a few summers ago, he was amazed at how many people (about thirty or so, I believe) would come to one—of the two—daily Masses at my parish. While many churches scattered across the U.S. are merging and Masses are more scarce, churches—and the availability of daily Mass—are on the rise in Wichita. And it’s awesome.

2.      Adoration! I had never really experienced Perpetual Adoration before coming to Wichita. But, what do you know, many of the (several) churches in Wichita have Perpetual Adoration. How cool is that? People of all ages, across the city, adoring Our Lord. Talk about epic!

3.      Free Catholic Schools. Yes, you read that correctly. FREE. While in many states, Catholic education costs thousands of dollars—and as a result, schools are small with many families unable to afford it—in Wichita, thousands of Catholic kids from all financial backgrounds attend Catholic schools grades K-12. Can I just say that this is mind blowing??? Many of these schools include daily Mass at least twice a week for the school kids, and some schools also schedule Eucharistic Adoration and other religious events (ie: May Crowning, all-school Rosary) into the schedule. Now, you may be wondering, how can this be possible???? Enter my next point:

4.      The Stewardship Way of Life. Stewardship is “The grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives his gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor,” according to the diocesan-wide definition. Practically speaking, what’s this mean? You give your time, talent, and treasure to God, your parish, and your community. This goes way beyond the 10% income tithe. Stewardship includes committing to Adoration hours, youth groups, soup kitchen outreaches, pro-life volunteer work, praying for seminarians, volunteering in liturgical ministries, etc. Each fall, every registered family receives a Stewardship packet which has age-appropriate forms for each person (and these things are detailed!) and you sign up for all the ways in which you will actively give to God in the coming year.

With the whole diocese giving in this way, the parishes pay the tuition bills for the school kids, hence the free education. Through all the stewardship, I really found the joy and beauty of actively giving one’s whole self to God at all times, not just putting money in the basket each week.

5.      Totus Tuus. This program, known throughout the nation, started in Wichita! Besides the weekly parish programs, there is also a Camp Totus Tuus in the Wichita Diocese (which has age-appropriate camp sessions for grades 5-12), as well as a week of Totus Tuus for special needs kids. It’s an awesome program, with teachers who are passionate for the Faith.

6.      The Midwest Catholic Family Conference. The first weekend in August each year, Wichita hosts this fabulous conference. Families come to Wichita from other states for this conference! It’s pretty awesome—superb speakers (to give you an idea, in past years, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Imaculee Ilibagiza, and Jason Evert have all presented here. To hear about the year Jason Evert came, look here), programs for all ages, great Catholic vendors, fantastic liturgies…if you live anywhere near Wichita, I recommend checking it out here!

7.      Churches scattered throughout the city. It is so easy to stop in and see Jesus whenever, or at least to see Him as you drive along the road. 90 parishes are in the Diocese of Wichita (the diocese spreads across 25 counties), filled with 114,195 Catholics, and it’s insanely awesome! And, while I’m not a personal fan of the architecture of many of the churches, there are some super gorgeous ones. Also, just outside the city of Wichita, there are small churches in different  small “farming community” towns, all of which are lovely.

TEC 128, which I served on the summer
before I came to FUS! 
8.      The Community. Wichita is weird. It feels like a small town, even though it is not a small town (in 2012, the population of Wichita was 385,577). There are many large families in Wichita, which probably has to do with this. People settled here years ago, had big families, their kids married, settled there, had big families—and as a result, there are many strong families who help build a sense of community. In general, the Catholic community is great; lots of Catholic diocesan events and parish events to build community, a Vietnamese community, a Hispanic community, and even a small Latin Mass community! There’s also a really strong Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) community, which I have made several good friends through. There’s also Theology on Tap, which is pretty big in Wichita, though I sadly have never gone. Also, in September, “Love & Responsibility Wichita” is starting up, in which people can study Man, Woman, and the Mystery of Love and L&R together. Plus, Wichita has a great Catholic homeschool community, which probably has about 70 or so families. There’s also a huge Christian homeschool group, which some Catholics even join to widen the scope of activites!

9.      The Catholic Culture. It isn’t until I met people from FUS that I realized how strange aspects of the Wichita Catholic culture are compared to other places. The biggest thing that hits me is dancing. I love to dance, and many Wichita Catholics do, too. In fact, for the young adult and teen community, the majority of include Adoration, a talk, and a dance. And I’m not kidding, I get Facebook invites for these at least every couple weeks. It’s so cool! Wichita Catholic dances typically involve swing dancing, line dancing, and some two-stepping. Turning 18 was a big deal for me, not because of lotto or anything like that, but because at 18, I would be old enough to go to country-music night clubs! In Wichita, there are two night clubs that are often frequented by Catholic young adults: Denim and Diamonds, and Club Rodeo (my personal favorite—it had a big dance floor and live bull riding, which was pretty cool). So, when I turned 18, I happily could join my Catholic friends in going to Mass, hanging out, two-stepping and swing dancing the night away, praying, and having an overall awesome time.

Photo Courtesy of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita
May 2014
10.  The Seminarians and Priests. The Diocese of Wichita usually has 40-45 seminarians studying for the priesthood; and a good number of the seminarians enter straight out of high school. It’s awesome to see so many men courageously and actively discerning God’s call for their lives, whether or not they stay in seminary! Plus, being friends with seminarians has a definite plus: if God calls them to be priests, I will end up knowing a bunch of priests who can pray for me! J There are a lot of young priests in Wichita, who are very personable and lively, bringing their parishioners to God. It’s really, really awesome!!!

11.  The Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. This order is really great. Unlike the few aging liberal orders in Wichita, the IHM sisters are orthodox, young, and lively! Many of them teach in the Catholic schools, giving the youth the awesome opportunity to be taught by a religious sister! And the IHMs love parties. Whenever I’ve had them as teachers, they always seem to schedule class parties for major Feast Days. The IHMs also run the “Handmaids of Mary;” a group that is in each of the three Catholic high schools. Handmaids is a group for young women who want to be like Mary, and strengthen devotion to her. Handmaids typically lead Marian devotions at their Catholic high schools, have parties at the Convent, and hang out with the Sisters. Yeah, it’s awesome.

12.  The Spiritual Life Center. It hosts a lot of cool retreats and days of reflection; when I was a sophomore in high school, my dad and I went here for a weekend-long silent retreat, which was super epic. The Spiritual Life Center also has an extremely awesome Adoration chapel, “the rock chapel.”

As I’m sure you can see by now, Wichita is indeed a quite awesome place for Catholics. Yet, because many people grow up in this environment and become used to it, it is easy for people to take it for granted, grow complacent, and eventually stop growing in the Faith. And this can happen to people anywhere. So what can we do about it?

1.      Frequent the Sacraments often. God strengthens us through His Body and Blood, as well as in Reconciliation. Get to Confession more often, and try to make daily Mass a priority at least a one or two extra times a week.

2.      Visit new parishes. When I lived in Wichita, I was set in a pretty strong routine, and routine is good. I highly support being a member of your parish. However, it can be good to branch out, change it up every now and then, and get to know the diocese! When Jacob and I visited Wichita, the first day we were there, we couldn’t make it to the usual daily Mass we would’ve gone to. So, we traveled an extra 8ish minutes to Our Lady of Perpetual Help for its Spanish Mass, and I was so glad! I had never gone to that church, and wasn’t connected with the Hispanic community at all. But we met a packed church (for a Tuesday evening Mass!) and a loving community that welcomed us (the pastor specifically called on us at the end of Mass to ask us where we were from and welcome us—we were the only white kids in the whole church J )

3.      Challenge yourself to grow. Pick something concrete, and do it! Whether it’s going through a spiritual reading book or volunteering at a soup kitchen, picking new things to do will help you grow, discover and enrich new gifts, and keep life exciting!

Have a blessed day!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let's Princess Things Up a Bit

Friday night while Jacob was at a Melee tournament, I watched an old favorite movie of mine, which I haven't seen in forever--The Prince and Me. So, while my mind is in this whole "princess" realm, let's princess things up a bit!

Several years ago, my mom instituted a tradition called "Daughters of the King" (not to be confused with the international Christian
We are Daughters of the King! 
Order, "Daughters of the King,").  Basically, every Sunday afternoon when my dad and brothers would pile into the TV room to watch football together, us girls would put on our tiaras, eat chocolate, read princess books/Jane Austen, painted nails/anything else girly, and just enjoy being daughters of the King of Kings. It was a very cool activity that we would do together, and a great reminder that we are royalty! 

Yes, you. You are royalty. Yet how often do we remember this in our daily lives? It's so easy to let society/others' expectations/peer pressure/horrible events get us down, so that we feel controlled by the misery that surrounds us. But really, it doesn't have to be this way. God doesn't want us to walk with heads bowed in discouragement or low self-esteem. He is our King, and we are His children. He is obviously in control, so let us remember that!

In fact, St. Faustina--yes, the mystic nun--talks about this very thing!

"I am going forward through life amidst rainbows and storms, but with my head held high with pride, for I am a royal child. I feel that the blood of Jesus is circulating in my veins, and I Have put my trust in the great mercy of the Lord." (Notebook II, #992)

When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my religion teachers, this wonderful Filipino woman, talked about a cool habit: looking at yourself in the mirror each morning, and saying "Good morning, your majesty." What a cool way to start out each day--acknowledging that you are royalty! Seriously, I believe that many peoples' lives would be more joyful and purposeful if they did this.

Whether or not you wear a tiara (and I fully support the wearing of a tiara), you must never forget that--though the world may push you down for following the Gospel--you belong to the King who rules over all!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Summer When I Finally Start Watching Bollywood

Earlier this week, I watched my first ever full-fledged Bollywood movie. For those of you who don’t know, Bollywood is the Hindi-language film industry that is based in Mumbai. Many Bollywood movies, I’m told, usually run around 3-4 hours, and are full of song-and-dance routines, as well as the portrayal of good values. I first heard about Bollywood when I came to Franciscan, for I became good friends with a few women who are fairly obsessed with that realm of movies. But over these past few years, I just never got around to it. Finally, earlier this summer, I saw Bride and Prejudice on the library shelf and figured that would be a good starting point. B & P is the tale of—you guessed it—Pride and Prejudice, set in modern-day India. The movie was made to be a blend of American and Indian cinema combined, with a bit of British cinema influencing it. I greatly enjoyed the movie, and found that I really, really liked the “Bollywood elements” to it. So, I wrote one of my friends asking for recommendations, she sent a list of movies to watch, and the library system happened to have nearly all of them.

And this is how it came to be that Tuesday morning found me wearing my Indian-elephant print wrap skirt and settling down (and jumping up to dance occasionally) for nearly 4 hours, while watching the movie Lagaan. Set in the late 1800s, this movie covers the story of an Indian village that is under the oppressive fist of the British military. Led by a young man, Bhuvan, the villagers take on the British in a non-bloody, epic combat. Within this whole plotline, the movie is full of saris, dancing, singing, a super-sweet love story, sacrifice, and unity among people. There are a couple stellar lines (though the movie has lots of great lines) that I have to mention:

“He who has truth and courage in his heart, it’s he who wins in the end.”

You know, it is so downright easy to succumb to the pressures of the world and society. Not just with behavior, but also with ideas. Society is pressuring us to buy into the idea that anything and everything needs to be tolerated, except that which Society doesn’t like. But if Society isn’t handing us the Truth—the Truth that is given by God—then we don’t have any business buying into it. Like the characters sing in Lagaan, we have to remember that when we hold truth in our hearts with courage, we will rise triumphant in the end. We may have to get through a lot of trials and hardships along the way, but if we courageously hold true to God, we will ultimately be fulfilled and live with Him in the glory of Heaven.

“Shame can’t even enter eyes that are fully opened.”

When I heard this line in the movie (well, when I read the subtitles, since the movie’s in Hindi) I immediately thought of Theology of the Body, and how in that original state of communion with God and each other in Eden, there was no shame. Genesis 2:25, anyone? "The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame." Yeah, it's cool. When our eyes are not clouded by sin or concupiscence, when they are fully opened to the light of God’s truth and love in purity, we will not be covered in shame; rather, we will be brought into deeper communion with God and others. Can you imagine how EPIC Heaven will be? To have fully opened eyes, to be seeing God and others will pure vision? I just can’t even handle this…

Another aspect of Lagaan that I enjoyed was the love story. I’ve been told that in older Bollywood movies (sadly, newer movies are conforming to “modern audiences” by throwing junk in) follow strict standards in the way of sexual content that is portrayed on-screen. In this movie, not only were there no sex scenes, but there weren’t any kissing scenes! But you know what? The love story was cute, and you could really tell that the characters loved each other. They didn’t need to wrap themselves up in the whole physical thing. I really, really appreciated seeing this on screen, and brought back memories of my dating/courtship relationship with Jacob. The first kiss on the lips that we shared was on the church steps immediately after our Nuptial Mass. And it was awesome, epic, and beautiful! It was a special gift and intimacy that we saved exclusively for each other. It was a sacrifice, but love is sacrifice, and this sacrifice deepened our love for each other. You don’t hear about “saving the first kiss for marriage” too much, and you definitely don’t see it in movies. So, it was super refreshing to watch a romance on-screen that did not focus on physical contact, but instead looked to the couple’s friendship and sacrifice with and for each other.

Another super cool aspect of Lagaan involved a crippled man. Following the caste system, the villagers labeled this man as an “Untouchable,” and were repulsed at this man’s very presence. However, Bhuvan admonishes them, explaining that this crippled man would be very valuable in their fight against the British. And you know what? That man put the British to shame. In 1 Cor 1:27, St. Paul writes, "God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong," which this part of the movie totally shows. It's so awesome!!!!

These thoughts on Lagaan don’t include all of the awesomeness of the movie, but I’ve been trying hard to not give any spoilers J I loved it, and I’ve already reserved my next Bollywood movie from the library, so the fun is only beginning!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Journey Through My Bible...Leads Me to an Awesome Challenge

This post is a bit delayed; I started writing it a while back, never finished it, then forgot about the post! But recently I figured I should put it up, just for fun:  

My well used "TEC Bible."
Recently while in Adoration, I pulled out the bible I received on my first Teens Encounter Christ retreat. It had been months since I had opened this particular Bible, since I’ve been using another bible for my classes and homework and such. Opening my “TEC Bible” hit me with a flood of memories, love, and prayers. My bible is filled with bookmarks, holy cards, random prayer cards, a couple pictures (that I had shoved in there for safekeeping on a whim) of people—some of whom I haven’t seen since high school, one of whom has since died—who I could pray for, and verses highlighted by myself and by friends on TEC retreats.
 I even came across a business card that I haven’t thought about in long time. Three years ago (or something like that) I was at church for daily Mass, and this random guy in the back pew was like, “wait a minute.” He scrawled out a message on this business card, and gave it to me. I stuck it in my bible, and when I looked at it later, I read that this man had recently lost a son, a son who converted shortly before death. This man was asking that I pray for his family. Coming across this business card again, I was able to pray for this man and his family.

I also came across a passage that was highlighted by someone from my table on my very first TEC retreat in 2010, with an accompanying note: “AnneMarie—I write to you by this highlighted verse because I see you resembling all these things.” My eyes glanced over to the yellow highlighter, and read the passage. Reading it, I was hit with “oh shoot, I don’t know what this person saw in me that weekend, ‘cause I have a lot to work on. I don’t feel worthy of being told that I “resemble these things” at all.”
What was this passage?

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, 

it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,6it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. 

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

Yes, I’m guessing many of you have heard this passage before. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Reading this, I thought about how earlier in the day, I had been impatient with Jacob, thought unkind things about another person, been judgmental…you get the idea. So, I decided to start using this Scriptural passage in prayer, as an “Examination of Conscience.” After all, we are called to image God for others—and God is Love—so we have to be the face of love for all people whom we meet. Therefore, I figured I needed to try and reform myself to become the face of Love. And right here, St. Paul gives us a fabulous outline of how to live a life of love.

I have found that I need to take the passage and turn it into a series of questions:

“Love is patienthave I been patient with others today?”

“Love is kindhave I been kind, both in my thoughts and words, as well as my actions?”

And so forth, you get the idea. I have to be honest, I don’t remember to do this particular “examination” that often, but when I do, I’ve found it to be helpful. Meditating on this passage challenges me to change my life in order to love better. And it's an awesome challenge : ) 

So my thoughts basically wind down to two major points today:

  1. I think filling your Bible with different holy cards, notes by verses, etc. can be truly awesome. Reminders to pray for random people are always great, and highlighted verses will hit you when you least expect them to!
2. St. Paul’s famous “Love Passage” can be an epic way to examine my progress in the spiritual life, and to see where my failings lie.

 I hope that you all have a blessed Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fireworks, Graves, and Frisbee: Our 4th of July Celebration!

Union Cemetery!
The 4th of July was fully awesome over here in Steubenville. We started off our day with Mass and prayer, which included a trip to Union Cemetery. If you find yourself in Steubie at any point, make it to that cemetery. It’s so gorgeous!!!! I had heard about it from a household sister (who went there on her first date with her now-husband), but had never made it there for whatever reason. We came across the grave of a soldier from the Revolutionary War (and it was the 4th of July—I think that’s totally awesome!!!), and two young deer. Then, we came across a little hill/descent with a path that led away from the graves. Following this path, we looked up to meet the gaze of Mama Deer. She just sat there, several feet away, looking at us. Then she left. And we continued to explore. Aside from the plethora of bugs, the little forest-y area was quite lovely. I told Jacob we could live there, if we had a pet bat to eat the mosquitoes.

Seriously, who wouldn't want to build a cabin/put up
a tent and live here? 
After our jaunt to the cemetery, we went up to campus, and ran into a former classmate, who is now a religious sister in New Mexico! It’s insanely cool that she lives near-ish my Godfather (a Catholic priest), and has seen him a couple times in the last 6 months, so she could give me updates on his life (I haven’t seen him in several years). God is so good!

We played at the park in the afternoon, and Jacob was the hero and saved some other women and I from a tent that went flying in the wind straight towards us! In the evening, we went back to the park for the fireworks. Ah…I love fireworks! They put on a really great fireworks display, with an awesome pre-finale and finale! We ran into some friends from FUS, which was cool, and we finished off the night with Wreck It Ralph. Can I just say it was an epic 4th of July?

Amid all of the many awesome things about our Fourth of July celebrations this year, I have to say one of the coolest aspects was my ever-growing appreciation of how God uses the Frisbee. Yup, this comes from the girl who has tried to stay away from Frisbees for much of my life (before I met Jacob, who has been teaching me how to throw a Frisbee—and I actually enjoy it now!). After all,

1.  I am not—nor do I pretend to be—athletic.
2    2. Watching a piece of plastic spin through the air at top speeds straight towards my hand is not my first idea of “relaxing, fun activity.”
  3      3. I have a terrible sense of aim, direction, and can’t approximate the distance between myself and the Frisbee to save my life

But have you ever thought about how God uses the Frisbee for evangelization? To bring about communion between people? As Jacob and I were throwing it around in the park before the fireworks, I was struck with the beauty of the situation. See, as the two of us were playing with the Frisbee, a nine-year-old-ish boy came up and joined us. Then, a little girl came along. A little boy—probably about two years old!—even came up and started playing with us. As did a group of young teenage guys. Yes, we all live in a town that is infamous for rape, prostitution, drugs, and gangs. Who knows what kinds of circumstances these kids live with? God brought a group of us together with a circular piece of plastic! We didn't have to sit down and have deep conversations with the kids; God gave us a chance to be a shining light of joy in their lives as we all played together. He gave us a chance to love these kids using a Frisbee!

It makes a lot of sense, really. Frisbees aren’t made for solitary enjoyment; you need other people to really enjoy a Frisbee for what it’s meant to be. Frisbees are like a magnet— how many of you have seen a group of individuals playing Frisbee, and you immediately have the burning desire to join them?

Throwing a Frisbee in the park=great evangelization opportunity.

Also, for anyone who passes through Steubie and likes Frisbees/throwing discs, Jacob and I also visited a local “Disc Golf” park—Beatty park—which was awesome. Just wear shoes, because it’s basically a forest with hiking trails and a couple disc golf holes thrown in the mix.

Have an epic day! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

An Outrageously Amazing Litany

Happy Mercy Monday!!!

While reading the Diary a couple days ago, I came across this completely epic litany!!! So of course, I must share it with all of you--it's a present from our dear St. Faustina!

—From St. Faustina’s Notebook II, 949

"Let the doubting soul read these considerations on Divine Mercy and become trusting.

Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, fount gushing forth from the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, from which wells forth all life and happiness, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, better than the heavens, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, source of miracles and wonders, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, encompassing the whole universe, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, descending to earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the open wound of the Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially for sinners, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in the institution of the Sacred Host, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the founding of Holy Church, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, shielding us from the fire of hell, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy in the conversion of hardened sinners, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy astonishment for Angels, incomprehensible to Saints, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in all the mysteries of God, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, lifting us out of every misery, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, source of our happiness and joy, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us forth from nothingness to existence, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, embracing all the works of His hands, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, crown of all of God’s handiwork, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in which we are all immersed, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, repose of hearts, peace amidst fear, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, delight and ecstasy of holy souls, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, inspiring hope against all hope, I trust in You."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On the Occasion that I Have a Wool Party and Contemplate Marriage

Hello, everybody! Happy feast of Blessed Junipero Serra!

Typically, I try to avoid naps, but...well, the thought is ever lovely, especially since today's been a bit overcast. As I was going about, making a "To Do" list for the day, and finding that I didn't have any major chores to do this morning, I pondered what I could do that would be more productive than sleep. My eyes drifted over to the bag of wool that was sitting on the edge of the living room. And the pieces clicked together. I needed to have a wool party. Meaning, I would spend a morning playing with wool and lovely fibers!

Watching yarn be created is so fascinating!
I love it!!!!!!!
A couple years ago at a festival, a person at a booth discovered that I spin, and gave me (yup, freely gave me!) a couple medium-sized bundles of unwashed wool. Well, since I lived in the dorms (which weren't very conducive to a wool-washing party), and was itching to spin, I had no qualms with spinning unwashed wool. Well, I never did finish off the yarn that I started with that wool, but a couple days ago thought, "hey, I need just a little bit of brown yarn for a project I'm working on. Hmm, I have some unfinished brown yarn on the spindle." Then, I realized that "Hey, I actually have space to spread out and wash this. This will be a blast!"

My setup: Unwashed wool, washed wool, and spindle!

                                                              I'm a bit unconventional at times, and didn't want to use the methods proposed by the internet to wash wool (the methods ranged from using a special cleaner to dumping your wool in the washing machine). Noticing my wig box, I decided it would be perfect. And, while my wool soaked in sudsy water, I began to finish off my incomplete batch of brown yarn. I had to spin it together, to create two-play yarn that I can use for projects!

Spinning is a relaxing, fabulously epic activity, and it provides a wonderful chance to contemplate the wonders of marriage. Marriage, when God bonds together two individuals in a strong union, just as I spun together two cords to create a strong strand of two-ply yarn.  Marriage is the building block of society, just as yarn is the foundation for weaving, knitting, and crocheting garments and fabrics. Even the most lumpy yarn (and I'm not a perfectionist by any means, I create some very lumpy and irregular yarn!) can be used to make lovely scarves. Even the most crazy marriages can be healed by God and be used to create more beauty and love in the world.

 In order to hold together a garment, the yarn must be strong, so that the garment does not fall apart. In order to hold together a society, community, and family, the marriages must be strong. Let us always continue to place our lives in God's grace, seeking to sanctify our marriages all the more!
A spindle of finished, strong, two-ply yarn!