Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life Just Keeps Rollicking Along!

Welcome to one of the most awesome weeks ever! (one of the friars on campus declares that it is his favorite week of the year)
Just take a look at our lineup of awesome saints:

Monday, September 29: Feast of the Archangels
Tuesday, September 30: St. Jerome
Wednesday, October 1: ST. THERESE!!!!
Thursday, October 2: Feast of the Guardian Angels
Saturday, October 4: ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, October 5: since it’s a Sunday, she’s not really celebrated, but…ST. FAUSTINA!!!!!!!!!

I've been off the blog for a bit, so here’s a little update of my life and blessings from God that I've been rejoicing in!

1.      Turning in my first Creative Nonfiction Paper. It was 17 full pages of solid research about veiling and a couple of interviews with women who veil. A ton of fun, but many hours of work J I loved the feeling of printing it off and turning it in! Now onto the next paper, a 30ish page style paper, which I’ll ultimately combine with paper 1 for my final paper in December!
2.      Watching Frisbee games! Jacob plays intramurals and it’s super great to watch. My TOB professor is on Jacob’s team, so I always sit with his family and we watch the game together (and one of his young daughters and I will crochet together sometimes, which is always super cute!).
3.      Lots of classwork. Specifically, thesis work. Meaning, trying to wrap my head around a super epic mystic (St. John of the Cross) and his poetry. It’s beautiful, and I love it, but I need to actually start hammering things out…which is hard when I have senioritis about my thesis J Also reading tons about suffering for my Theology of Healing class, which is super awesome! (and it all applies so much to my household, Sacrifice of Love, it’s fabulous!) And yup, tons of the Theology of the Body reading. JPII blows my mind. Like, all the time!!!!!!
4.      Lots of games with my husband! We totally love games, and spend many wonderful hours each week playing Risk, Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Chess, cards, Mario Party, and a little bit of Melee on the side (I’d like to say over the span of our marriage, I’ve improved in my Melee playing…which doesn’t mean much, since I’ve never really been good/into video games J ).
5.      Another blog post up for the Chastity Project!  It’s always really exciting for me to see something that I wrote hit the internet, and I always pray that I can reach someone out there. If I can ever reach one person, that makes it totally worth it!
6.       Random fun stuff at school! A little over a week ago, the American Shakespeare Centre did a fantastic performance of Hamlet. It was hysterical and extremely sad. Wow. They were super talented! On September 22, one our friends hosted her yearly “Hobbit Party,” which was (as always) under a large tree in the middle of campus. We ate apples, mushrooms, and sat under a lantern and little lights while she read the party scene from The Fellowship of the Ring. I have to say, sitting under the tree, listening to her read, was incredibly epic! Also, there was a relic display on September 17, and that was pretty much EPIC!!!!!! The couple who brought the relics and gave the talk (they told stories of saints, talked about official documentation, all that jazz) are from Manhattan, KS, and they were hilarious! Also, they had some super rare relics, like part of the tablecloth from the Last Supper. And now my chapel veil is a 3rd class relic of the veil that Mary used to wipe up Jesus’ Blood during the Passion. Um…yeah…I’ve kind of been freaking out about that J J J J
A scene which The Passion depicts, but
I never knew it was a true thing-until
the relic people brought the piece of the veil-cloth
with official documentation!
7.      Household sisters. I love my sisters, and getting to have good conversations and crazy times with them is wonderful! And I got to Skype one of my graduated household sisters, which was completely awesome! J
8.      Getting into a new book series! Yes, this is DANGEROUS when classes are in session! I try not to let this happen to me during the semester. But, I was talking with a classmate the other day, and asked her what books she likes. “The Lunar Chronicles,” she said, explaining how the first one is about a cyborg Cinderella! Of course, what’s the first image that comes to mind when I hear "cyborg"? 
Bannakaffalatta proud!
            Bannakaffalatta, that self-sacrificing, adorable little cyborg in Doctor Who. So of course I would have to read a book about a cyborg. And add fairy tales into the mix? Oh yeah! Friday late morning I picked up the first book (Cinder) from the library, and by the early evening I had finished it. There were a couple elements here and there I wasn't too fond of, but overall, I really liked the book! It was really weird, extremely entertaining, and a great take on Cinderella's story. It made me laugh, and made me-almost-cry. The next two books are being sent to my library right now. Like I said, dangerous…
9.      And…all the festivities this week! This is just a great week! Party with my household for St. Therese, awesome evening talks by different professors, a talent show, the Transitus (which commemorates the death of St. Francis), the St. Francis festival…oh yes, I am thrilled! Here’s to an incredibly awesome week!

That’s basically been my life in a nutshell. I hope you weren’t bored to death J Have an amazing day, and an amazing week!!!! Party it up with the saints, a

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mercy Monday: Don't Be Lazy!

Happy Mercy Monday!

You know how sometimes certain words or phrases get used so much that they don’t really make you blink at all? You just get used to hearing them, and finally it’s a whole “in one ear, out the other” kind of thing. Well, there’s a phrase that I’ve heard thrown around tons: lukewarm. “Don’t be a lukewarm person,” we’re told. “Don’t be lukewarm with the Faith-God wants you to be passionate!” And after hearing this a while, people can easily ignore it. They really don’t think much about rejecting lukewarm-ness in daily life. They get complacent in their spiritual lives (I’m definitely guilty of this…) When I was reading the Diary of St. Faustina during our Holy Hour on Sunday, I came across this mega-legit passage that made me go “WHAT? Oh snap!”

So, I would love to share it with y’all!

“On one occasion, I saw Satan hurrying about and looking for someone among the sisters, but he could find no one. I felt an interior inspiration to command him in the Name of God to confess to me what he was looking for among the sisters. And he confessed, though unwillingly, “I am looking for idle souls.” When I commanded him again in the Name of God to tell me to which souls in religious life he has the easiest access, he said, again unwillingly, “To lazy and idle souls.” I took note of the fact that, at present, there were no such souls in this house. Let the toiling and tired souls rejoice.”
(Notebook III, #1127)

This week, let’s fight complacency and laziness, and see how we can grow in our Faith, always drawing closer to God!
(also note that there are many epic saints this week, who give awesome examples of holiness and all around incredibleness for us to learn from)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Musings on the Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, as I Procrastinate in Regards to Working on my Creative Nonfiction Paper

This semester, I am taking a class titled Writing Creative Nonfiction. In the words of my instructor, Dr. Sunyoger, in this genre you “take the ordinary and elevate it to the level of extraordinary.” A mission which draws me to write this genre. As I write, elevating seemingly ordinary things, I am reminded of how God works. As the old adage says, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” He takes ordinary circumstances, people, and objects, and elevates them to an extraordinary level. Just look at today’s saint, St. Joseph of Cupertino
It's a bird...it's a plane...it's a FRANCISCAN!

I love St. Joseph of Cupertino. There’s a great, really cute, old black-and-white movie about him, called “The Reluctant Saint.”  St. Joseph was a complete failure in life. He did awful in school, was rejected by the Friars Minor Conventuals, was kicked out of the Capuchins, and when he finally was accepted as an Oblate at a monastery near Cupertino, Joseph was given the job of working in the stable. It is by a sheer miracle and a few incredible acts of God that Joseph ever became a priest.

What did God do with this completely ordinary man, a failure in the eyes of the world? Well, Joseph had a tremendous love for God, a devotion to Mary, and was extremely open to the Holy Spirit-and God blessed him in tremendous, divine ways; For example, He would give Joseph the gifts of ecstasy and levitation. 

This whole ordinary-to-extraordinary thing is one of the reasons why I love Batman. I confess I haven’t read the comic books, but I’ve seen the three recent movies and the 1960s Batman, and I have so much admiration for the guy. He didn’t have any special superpowers-no spider bit him, no power to fly or superstrength. Yes, he did have lots of money, but he didn’t let it turn him into an egotistical jerk (cough cough Iron Man cough cough). In the movies I’ve seen, Batman makes mistakes, but overall he strives for truth, justice, and goodness. He goes from being an “ordinary” rich guy to an extraordinary hero. He puts his life and reputation on the line for others, instead of sitting around all day with piles of cool gadgets and cash.

In the BBC show, Doctor Who (I’ve only seen the reboot), the companions of The Doctor have pretty typical lives. Rose Tyler works at a store and lives with her mom. Martha Jones is training to be a doctor. Donna Noble is “just a temp!” as she often cries out. Amy Pond is a kissogram. Rory Williams is a nurse. Clara Oswald is a nanny. All ordinary-ish existences. And what happens to each of them? The Doctor pops up in the TARDIS, and shows them how to live each day in wonder, awe, and excitement. He takes their ordinary lives and transforms them into extraordinary adventures. We don’t have The Doctor popping up in his TARDIS to whisk us away from mundane circumstances. But even better than that, we have a loving, incredible, all-powerful God who invited us each day to step away from an “ordinary life” and travel on an extraordinary adventure of love.

I think many of the saints could testify that when they lived solely for God-on that journey of sacrificial love-they did not groan of boredom throughout their lives. Even something “ordinary” or “everyday” like going to Mass is really an extraordinary event-we celebrate the Sacrifice of Christ and we eat Him, physically taking the eternal, omniscient, amazing God into our bodies! If that’s not an epic adventure, I don’t know what is! And God doesn’t stop there. He continues to work through the people that we meet and the events that happen each day. When you dedicate each day to God, you may or may not see crazy things happen, but in the context of the whole Body of Christ, insane things might be going on. Your prayers right now, which may not seem to be doing cool things, might be saving lives and/or souls on another continent! Or in another time! Seriously, living for God is so incredibly epic and amazing!

You may not fly or go into ecstasy, run around in a black mask and cape, or zoom through time and space in a blue box, but, you are being called by God Himself to do a special mission for Him, each and every day. A mission to love sacrificially without counting the cost. A mission to courageously rise above an ordinary existence. A mission to take a plunge into the unknown with faith and trust in hand. A mission to be extraordinary. Have fun! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What I Rarely See at Vocation Fairs

The gym is full of chattering students, religious sisters in flowing habits, and friars joking around. Free candy sits on tables next to pamphlets about “Come and See” weekends for different religious orders. What’s missing in this picture?


On one occasion, at a “vocations fair,” I came across a Secular Franciscan table-a path for single and married people. But that’s been the extent of marriage booths I've encountered. Marriage is a vocation-so where is it at vocation fairs? Where’s the information about building holy relationships, NFP, and marriage enrichment? Where’s the information about chastity and purity in relationships? Where are the joyful married couples who seek to show others the holiness, unity, and strength necessary in marriage? Sadly, I am not surprised about this lack of marriage at vocation fairs-because there’s a weird ideology that goes around. One that I think of when I hear my least favorite petition at Mass (“For an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, we pray to the Lord…”). For some crazy reason, people seem to forget that marriage is a vocation, and that we need to pray for more holy, strong marriages!

--Though I want to add here that today at 6:30 Mass, Fr. Nathan added marriage to the petition!!! Sadly, I was zoning out and missed it, but after Mass, Jacob and some of our engaged friends excitedly told me about it. Let’s hope that more priests do this!!!

There’s this idea that the “big” vocations are priesthood and religious life, and that most people, if they aren’t called to those, have the fallback option of marriage. So clearly, since marriage is just a fallback, and priests and religious are super-holy, married people don’t need to worry about holiness, right? (please note the sarcasm) I mean, two married people are concupiscent, imperfect individuals, but they don’t need the level of holiness that priests and religious have! They just need to communicate their needs and try to please each other, correct? ‘Cause this mentality has really gone well in our world…
According to a study done by Julissa Cruz for the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University:

The U.S. Marriage Rate is the number of women’s marriages per 1,000 unmarried women 15 years and older.
In 1920, it was 92.3%. Since 1970, the marriage rate has declined by almost 60%-about 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women take place.
In 1920, less than 1% of women were separated or divorced. Today, 15% women are separated or divorced.
The proportion of women married was highest in 1950 at ~65%. Today, less than half of women 15 and over are married-the lowest percentage since the turn of the century.

I don’t know about you, but I think we may need to start praying for those with a vocation to marriage. Whoa there, that’s crazy. I mean, everyone knows that we only pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life, since there’s a “vocations crisis.” Really. How are we ever going to have priests and religious in the future? By having good, strong, holy, sanctifying marriages!

It’s true that God calls some people to priesthood and religious life. And it’s true that He calls some people to marriage. Marriage is a vocation, and it’s pretty important. The family needs to be built on the foundation of a strong marriage-the couples have to maintain their unity, love, and communion, continually calling each other onto greater holiness. This isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and it’s actually a pretty insane concept, when you think of it. I once read a magazine article where a priest talked about marriage being like skiing—you put two skis (the imperfect individuals) together and plummet downhill at top speed, all the while helping each other grow in holiness and raising children.
According to St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei,

"Human love and marriage duties are part of one's divine vocation. I have spent almost forty years preaching the vocational meaning of marriage. More than once I have had occasion to see faces light up as men and women, who had thought that in their lives a dedication to God was incompatible with a noble and pure human love, heard me say that marriage is a divine path on earth! The purpose of marriage is to help married people sanctity themselves and others. For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus Christ instituted. Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy, to identify themselves each day more with Jesus Christ, and to lead those with whom they live to God." 

Photo courtesy of BBC Doctor Who.
To quote Amy Pond, “Changing the future. It’s called marriage.”
Incidentally, these two are one of my favorite fictional couples EVER!
They are the main reason why I love seasons 5-6 of Doctor Who.
It’s kind of funny (and sad) how the message of “marriage isn't a big vocation” is normal for so many people. When I've ranted to friends about it, and mention the petitions at Mass and vocation fairs, they've said, “Oh. That’s true…I've never noticed that!”
It’s time that we start noticing it.

It’s time we show people that marriage is a vocation. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mercy Monday: Living for Heaven

Happy Monday! Earlier today, I was talking with one of the amazing women in my household about Heaven, and just how incredible it will be! A few class days ago, in Theology of Healing, we talked about how people in society live without looking to a future in Heaven or Hell...and then just today, I was skimming through the Diary of St. Faustina, and came across this great passage:  

The Soul’s Expectation of the Coming of the Lord.

                           I do not know, O Lord, at what hour You will come.
And so I keep constant watch and listen
As Your chosen bride,
Knowing that You like to come unexpected,
Yet, a pure heart will sense You from afar, O Lord.

               I wait for You, Lord, in calm and silence,
               With great longing in my heart
               And with invincible desire.
               I feel that my love for You is changing into fire,
               And that it will rise up to heaven like a flame at life’s end,
               And then all my wishes will be fulfilled.

Come then, at last, my most sweet Lord
And take my thirsting heart
There, to Your home in the lofty regions of heaven,
Where Your eternal life perdures.

               Life on this earth is but an agony,
               As my heart feels it is created for the heights.
               For it the lowlands of this life hold no interest,

               For my homeland is in heaven – this I firmly believe.
(Notebook V, #1589)

We have two choices each day: to live for God, and choose eternal life with Him; or to reject God, and choose eternal life away from Him. Which will you choose today? 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Books that Have Impacted My Life

As many of you are probably aware, lately on Facebook, individuals will post 10 books that have impacted their lives, and then tag others in that status. Usually I don't follow up on those kinds of things, because life is just too crazy to jump on every chain that comes along. BUT, this is literature we're talking about. Naturally, I couldn't just rattle books off my head, because I had to think deeply about which ones have impacted me the most. So I'm writing this blog post to express my deep appreciation for the following books (in no particular order): 

1. The Song of Songs. Read it. Pray with it. Meditate on it. An incredible book all about the unconditional, sacrificial love of God! Towards the end of my senior year in high school, I completely fell in love with this book when it was used for two retreats that I served on during that time. Hands down, my favorite verse is Songs 2:10: "My lover speaks, He says to me: arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come." Many of the great saints have written incredible meditations on the Song of Songs-yet people rarely talk about it any more! Let's delve back into the Song of Songs and God's incredible, merciful love for mankind!

2. Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, compiled by Raymond Arroyo. Everybody needs some spunky Mother-Angelica wisdom in their life. Even my Protestant Spanish teacher in high school read this book and was flooded with peace at her words. It's a book full of pithy sayings of Mother Angelica, including such gems as: "Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.” However, the hugest way in which this book impacted me was through her words on the Present Moment. Mother Angelica speaks about the need to live in the present moment, and how it's God's gift to us. Praying with those words, I really started to live in the present moment, and found God's tremendous joy and gift there! 

3. Pollyanna, by Eleanor Porter. When I was little, I was given a pocket-sized abridged version of this book. I fell in love with Pollyanna's joy and gratitude in life, no matter how rough things got to be. Whenever I would be having a rough day (because life as a nine-year-old can be ever so traumatic!) Pollyanna was my go-to book. I would run up to my room and immerse myself in the story, and I would become inspired to find the good and joyful things in my situation. 

4. The Lord of the Rings, by Tokien. They've got love, joy, war, tragedy, hope, and epic Catholic symbolism! Not to mention lively characters. These books and stories have been a huge part of my life for several years. 

5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. Another huge staple of my childhood. These books fired up my imagination with all of the characters and settings, and presented a beautiful allegory for the Christian life! I love them! 

6. The American Girl Books. I read these all the time when I was little, and I still go back and read them at times, to be nostalgic. These books helped me to see the utter awesomeness of historical fiction, and they taught me a lot about cultures in different time periods and places. 

7. The Little House on the Prairie Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can't even count how many times I have read these! Similar to the American Girl books, these books taught me loads about friendship, love, perseverance, and immersed me in various cultural settings (along with Laura's books, I was an avid reader of the Martha series, set in Scotland). 

8. Anne of Green Gables, by L. Montgomery. Ever since I first read this book, I have identified myself with Anne. I shared a lot of her characteristics, and I think reading about her formed me even more to be like her. I love her imagination, spunkiness, and passion. Such a great book! 

9. Love and Responsibility, by Karol Wojtyla. THIS BOOK IS EPIC! One of the best things I did this summer was read and discuss it with a household sister. It's very dense and difficult to understand in parts, and Wojtyla packs so much information and ideas into each sentence, there's no way to possible cover everything in one reading. This book strengthened and deepened my understanding of sexuality, love, chastity, and marriage, and it's just awesome. I know it can seen daunting to pick up, but find a friend and start it together, and you will soon be soaring through it! 

10. Francis of Assisi : The Man Who Found Perfect Joy by Michael De La Bedoyere and The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis by Felix Timmermans. I have to put these two books together, because I read them together towards the beginning of my 8th grade year. I had been experiencing a lack of something in my spiritual life, saw these on a bookshelf at home one day, picked them up and read through them (quite quickly, they were riveting), and knew that this is it: Perfect Joy! Thus began my quest for perfect joy, and my great devotion to the poor man of Assisi. Which has completely changed my life! 

Looking at all of these books that have impacted me--and those my friends have been posting--I think I can safely assume that books have an effect on us. It seems like a no-brainer, but I have encountered so many people who believe that books and other "entertainment" are sheer entertainment, and have no deep, lasting effects on us. But all of these books, even if I didn't intend them to change me, became a part of me--they impacted who I am today, and they still impact me. For this reason, I am a "picky reader" and a "picky movie-watcher"--because what we immerse ourselves in WILL have an effect on us, and life is short-so I want it to be something worth my while. 

I know that the semesters can get crazy for college students like me (well, for any students), but I highly encourage all of you to find a book. A book to read for fun, not required for a class-and read it! Enjoy it, immerse yourself in another world. Maybe it will teach you new things, perhaps develop your outlook on life, or even teach you new vocabulary. For myself, I will pick up The Princess Bride later this week. I've only read it once (back in middle school), so I'm excited to pick it up again! 

Happy Reading!