Friday, October 31, 2014

The Quest to be Interesting on the Path to Heaven

When I was a wee child, I remember how excited I would get upon going to dollar stores. The toys would excite me; they looked really cool, flashy, and they were only a dollar! Sometimes, I would get a toy, but a day later, it would either be broken, or I would completely have lost my interest (side note: I’m not trying to knock dollar stores here. I’ve gotten some awesome things from those places). I’ve been thinking about how evil works in a similar way. It may appear really cool, interesting, and enticing at first, but then may lose our interest and will definitely cause some kind of destruction in our spiritual lives, and perhaps in the lives of those around us.

I’ve heard lots of people argue before that “the best characters are the villains, because the villains are interesting and complex.” While it’s true that villains are complex, and it’s interesting to see how they work, at the end of the day, the evil that they live is quite boring. Continually acting on concupiscent impulses, being a slave to sin and Satan, day after day after day. The truly virtuous character, on the other hand, is constantly striving for good and holiness, trying to resist evil, seeking true justice and dignity for all people.

Earlier this week, Matt Fradd gave a talk about the lies of pornography, and he mentioned that when women leave the porn industry and strive for virtue, they automatically become more interesting people. No longer are they living in the lies of sin and evil, but they are striving for goodness. I was talking with my husband about this the other day at lunch, and he phrased it quite well: at first, evil may seem really interesting, but that interest doesn’t last. Soon, it becomes boring. However, good is interesting at first, and it will continually become more interesting in the long run.

Yes, evil may appear glamorous. It makes me think of those Halloween costumes I saw trick-or-treaters wearing last night—glitzy, red sequined devil costumes, the epitome of glamor.
 (side note: I really wanted to walk up to the parents of those kids and say, ‘excuse me? Do you know that your child is dressed up like the DEVIL??? You know, the Father of Lies, the one that is trying to draw you away from God, that guy who wants you to be in hell forever. The same guy who really doesn’t care about you, and just wants your eternal suffering!’)
 Cheating, porn, the occult, stealing, witchcraft, lying, fornication, gossiping, etc. etc. can all seem to have a certain “glamor” at first. We probably wouldn’t choose sin if it didn’t appear to have a certain fascination about it.  But trust me; the glamor and interesting-ness will be as flimsy as those dollar store toys. They won’t last.

The most interesting people I know are the saints, and the saints-in-the-making here on Earth. Why? Because it’s fascinating that no matter what kind of suffering befalls them, they try to use everything to become closer to God (and bring others closer to Him, too)! Instead of falling into the impulses of Historical Man (concupiscence-which isn’t something gained, but a loss of grace), they live as Redeemed Man—the one who has been given grace and strength and redemption by God. Yes, they fall into sin, but that sin doesn’t hold any kind of goodness or fascination for them. They want to be holy. People will say, “Oh, I’m only human, so it’s whatever if I sin. I can’t really help it, I’m concupiscent.” I get it, you’re only human—so out of all of creation, you have been redeemed by God, you have been given loads of grace, you have been given the sacraments, and you are loved by Love Himself!!!! Yes, we all sin, I’ll be the first to admit that I am definitely a sinner. But I can’t really make excuses for myself. God doesn’t want me to sin, and I really don’t want to either. There are times where I look at sin’s glamor, and choose it, but it’s really lame. God gives us so many ways to live a redeemed life—how will we respond to that grace? Will we ignore it, and fall into sin—or will we act on it, and live as a redeemed people?

“In fact, already in the context of the same Yahwist text of Genesis 2 and 3, we witness the moment in which man, male and female, after having broken the original covenant with his Creator, receives the first promise of redemption in the words of the so-called Protoevangelium in Gen 3:15 and begins to live in the theological perspective of redemption. Thus “historical” man—both Christ’s interlocutors then, about whom Matthew 19 speaks, and human beings today—participates in this perspective. He participates not only in the history of human sinfulness, as a hereditary, and at the same time personal and unrepeatable, subject of this history, but he also participates in the history of salvation, here too as its subject and co-creator. He is thus not merely shut out from original innocence due to his sinfulness, but also at the same time open to the mystery of the redemption realized in Christ and through Christ.”
~St. John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (4:3)

Virtuous people are the most interesting. Let’s look at St. Francis of Assisi, my awesome patron saint. I love this guy. When I was a kid, I liked him, but I was accustomed to the whole birdbath/hippie St. Francis. And while St. Francis birdbaths are awesome (and one totally sat underneath my bedroom window outside the house before I got married and moved away), the real guy was so much more than that. When he had thoughts struggling with his vow of celibacy on one particular occasion, do you know what he did? He made a snow-family, and said (paraphrased) “this is my wife! These are my children!” and realizes the anxieties that would come if he left the vocation that God called him to. Isn’t that interesting? I agree! This is the same man who decided to go through many dangers in order to try and convert a Muslim sultan, and would’ve have been fine with martyrdom. However, the sultan was so fascinated by St. Francis, that he was filled with admiration for him! Yet even though St. Francis’ life was filled with much suffering, he lived in joy—every day, he chose to accept with peace and patience all that God put in his life, giving him true joy, faith, and acceptance of God’s will.

Photo  courtesy of 
And then there’s St. Catherine of Bologna. She was born on September 8 (the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary!) 1413 in Bologna, Italy. Her dad was a diplomat (her family was aristocratic) and sent eleven-year-old Catherine to the court of Marquis of Ferrara, so she could be a companion to the princess. When she was fourteen, Catherine became a Franciscan Tertiary (Franciscan lay woman), and a few years after that, became a Poor Clare. Catherine strove for humility and holiness in all things, serving the convent through the smallest tasks. She also continued to be very artistic (when she was a companion to the princess, she learned many things about painting and playing the viola). “With her the monastery became an increasingly prayerful place of self-giving, of silence, of endeavour and of joy,” said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Catherine had some mystical experiences, like a vision of the Last Judgment, and she offered her work and life as penance for souls. Catherine was sent to Boogna to found a new monastery there. On March 9, 1463, she died. Her body buried without a coffin. Eighteen days later, her body was dug up again, because there was a sweet scent coming from the grave. Catherine was found to be incorrupt and flexible. Her body is now seated in a chair, and while her skin has turned dark because of the candles that surrounded her body, her body is still very much intact.

 “She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light.” ~Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

So yes, I would say that the virtuous people are indeed the most interesting people out there. And there are other perks to the virtuous life, too! Like when we choose to live for God, we will someday live with Him forever!  Heaven isn’t some boring place, as Huck Finn was led to believe. Heaven is the most interesting, most joy-filled, most incredible place ever—because that is where we will live in the eternal gaze of God. And what could be more incredible than that?

“I see,” she said at last, thoughtfully. “I see now. This garden is like the stable. It is far bigger inside than it was outside.”
“Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is much larger than the outside.”
Lucy looked hard at the garden and saw that it was not really a garden but a whole world, with its own rivers and woods and sea and mountains. But they were not strange; she knew them all.
“I see,” she said. “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door! I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”
“Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.” 

~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mercy Monday: The Flower of Sanctity

Happy Monday! Here's a fun bit from St. Faustina's Diary:

This humble little rose has been
sitting in my household's common room.
A few weeks back, one of the girls
noticed that a new growth has
sprung off of it! New life can always
come forth from what is dying and
"O humility, lovely flower, I see how few souls possess you. Is it because you are so beautiful and at the same time so difficult to attain? O yes, it is both the one and the other. Even God takes pleasure in her. The floodgates of heaven are open to a humble soul, and a sea of graces flows down upon her. O how beautiful is a humble soul! From her heart, as from a censer, rises a varied and most pleasing fragrance which breaks through the skies and reaches God Himself, filling His Most Sacred Heart with joy. God refuses nothing to such a soul; she is all-powerful and influences the destiny of the whole world. God raises such a soul up to His very throne, and the more she humbles herself, the more God stoops down to her, pursuing her with His omnipotence. Such a soul is most deeply united with God. O humility, strike deep roots in my whole being. O Virgin most pure, but also most humble, help me to attain deep humility. Now I understand why there are so few saints; it is because so few souls are deeply humble."
(Notebook IV, #1306)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

St. JPII, We Love You!

Happy Feast of St. John Paul II!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's late, and I don't have time to ramble on about how much I love this saint, BUT, I knew I couldn't let the awesome feast pass without acknowledging it. St. John Paul II is incredibly awesome for many reasons, but one of the huge gifts we have are his writings. Not only did he write such amazing things as Love and Responsibility (it's amazing, I highly recommend it. I know it's tough to read, so grab a buddy and discuss it together), but he also wrote artistic stuff, like poetry and theatrical works (like The Jeweler's Shop. Also amazing). I love Wadowice, the place where he grew up. I was so blessed to travel there with a ton of FUS students, at the conclusion of a pilgrimage to Poland in Spring 2012.

Before I destroyed it with a knife.
Also in typical AnneMarie fashion,
I somehow managed to make the top piece
awkwardly smaller than the bottom piece : P
One of the cool things that you discover in Wadowice is pope cake. There are these cute little pastry shops in the town, and JPII would sit at the square and eat this delicious cream cake from the shops. He loved it, so it's been dubbed "pope cake," and is a very popular item. Jacob and I ate lots of it during that stop in Wadowice, and it's fantastic! So, in a very sanguine moment, earlier today I decided to make it. Problem is, everyone and his cousin has a different recipe, all claiming to be the "best" recipe out there for "authentic pope cake." So I found this recipe, since it's from a cafe in Wadowice. I used only the ingredients I had on hand, so I didn't do the whipped cream addition that's mentioned on the bottom of the page. I also didn't do the intense dough-making process, looking off other recipes, I just whipped all the ingredients together and chilled them. In my typical style, I don't think I got all the
conversions right, and then the cream wasn't thickening
properly because I omitted the pudding mix because I didn't have any, and sugar and flour are fine substitutes, right? : )
Overall, even if our pope cake wasn't the finest or fanciest you'd find in Poland, it was delicious and a great way to celebrate the feast of such an epic man.
So, the cream filling also had a tendency to spill out the sides, and
they weren't as tall as the ones we had in Poland
but they were good! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

So There was That One Time when Gianna Jessen Whacked Me on the Leg

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow!

So I was going to write my normal "Mercy Monday" blog post yesterday with a quotation from the Diary of St. Faustina, but I didn't have time, because I went to this mega-epic talk. But, as God would have it, the talk only reinforced what I've been reading in the Diary, which is quite wonderful. So without further ado--

Photo courtesy of
For the past couple weeks, I've been seeing posters around campus for a talk by Gianna Jessen.. I had never heard her speak before, but I knew that she is an abortion survivor and was an inspiration for the movie October Baby. So naturally, I wanted to go. I went in about 20 minutes early, because I love sitting in the front row. Quite a few seats were open, and I sat next to a graduated friend of mine who is back for a visit. I was chatting with her, sipping my hot cocoa (tons of powder AND two packets of coffee creamer=heavenly), when all of a sudden, this woman with bright red lipstick and a huge smile limps up. "Is this seat open?" she asked, pointing to the chair right next to me. It was, and she sat down. So this is cool. I don't know much about this woman, but I bet she's kind of awesome.   Mainly we discussed caffeine, and how we both get really distracted, which led us to discussabout how we struggle getting to things on time because we love talking with random people, which led to us discussing her super cute dress that she got from Modcloth (it had an owl on it, how cool is that? She said "I'm not sure if all the owls have flown away by now, but there might be some left!" Can I just say this woman is so cute?) As she was getting out of her seat to give a talk, she grinned and whacked me on the leg, and said "Hey, stay out of trouble." I started laughing, trying to get out an "I'll try" as she walked up to the stage.

And then she began to speak.

For the next hour and a half-ish, I was either laughing extremely hard or sitting in silence, still, stunned at her profound words. First off, I love the way that Gianna speaks. She's completely unstructured, and just stands up there, speaking from the heart with all the honesty in the world. We heard about her survival of a saline abortion, the days she spent in foster care, the struggles of having cerebral palsy, we prayed for the conversion of the head of ISIS, and we watched the men in the packed room get all William Wallace (she mentioned Braveheart at least four times, which I appreciated). Here is a woman who has suffered (and continues to suffer) complete rejection, physical pain, emotional pain, and abuse-to name a few-but she has complete, overflowing, utter joy, love, and healing! 

Gianna talked about how Jesus isn't a
"cocktail party Jesus," who makes
everyone happy and doesn't talk politics
or stir things up. We have a "Braveheart"
Jesus, who goes into battle!
Seriously, she had us laughing for a large part of the talk, because her joy overflows and affects all those around her. Gianna Jessen has forgiven her mother, and she has found that--though her families are broken and she suffers immensely--she is not defined by the brokenness. She finds her identity in Christ, and she sees the beauty that comes through her suffering. She kept mentioning how her cerebral palsy is a gift; how when people see her limping around, they are more comfortable hearing her talk about Jesus-and if her cerebral palsy can bring just one person to freedom in Christ, she would suffer through everything again. Gianna Jessen has made it onto my very-awesome-people list, because she is epic. A glowing, radiant, joyful, beautiful woman, who challenged us to live our lives adventurously, embracing the impossible (One of my favorite moments was when she said: Men! Do you want to see this country go to hell? If not, stand up and fight!) This woman is all about action. She acknowledged that she's very sensitive and an introvert, but she places her life in the hands of Christ, and is strengthened to to His work.

On household retreat this weekend, we discussed joy in suffering-a topic of my Theology of Healing class as well. We've talked about how joy does not mean happiness; rather, it is an underlying peace, hope, and continual trust in God as we completely submit ourselves to His will. When we accept with patience whatever God sends to us, we experience perfect joy (there's also a really awesome St. Francis of Assisi story about this). Gianna Jessen was bubbling over with joy last night because she has accepted with peace and patience all of the suffering that God has placed in her life. Furthermore, she sees the redemptive value in this suffering, and she takes joy in working to help further God's kingdom. 

As I mentioned earlier, what I've been reading in the Diary of St. Faustina lately has gone right along with this. St. Faustina finds joy in submitting herself to the will of God with peace, even though the sufferings are difficult:

"An act of total abandonment to the will of God, which is for me, love and mercy itself.

Jesus-Host, whom I have this very moment received into my heart, through this union with You I offer myself to the heavenly Father as a sacrificial host, abandoning myself totally and completely to the most merciful and holy will of my God. From today onward, You will, Lord, is my good. Take my whole being; dispose of me as You please. Whatever Your fatherly hand gives me, I will accept with submission, peace and joy. I fear nothing, no matter in what direction You lead me; helped by Your grace I will carry out everything You demand of me. I no longer fear any of Your inspirations nor do I probe anxiously to see where they will lead me. Lead me, O God, along whatever roads You please; I have placed all my trust in Your will which is, for me, love and mercy itself.

Bid me to stay in this convent, I will stay; bid me to undertake the work, I will undertake it; leave me in uncertainty about the work until I die, be blessed; give me death when, humanly speaking, my life seems particularly necessary, be blessed. Should You take me in my youth, be blessed; should You let me live to a ripe old age, be blessed. Sho
uld You give me health and strength, be blessed; should You confine me to a bed of pain for my whole life, be blessed. Should You give only failures and disappointments in life, be blessed. Should You allow my purest intentions to be condemned, be blessed. Should You enlighten my mind, be blessed. Should You leave me in darkness and all kinds of torments, be blessed.

From this moment on, I live in the deepest peace, because the Lord Himself is carrying me in the hollow of His hand. He, Lord of unfathomable mercy, knows that I desire Him alone in all things, always and everywhere."
(Notebook IV, #1264)
(sidenote: as I was typing this passage from the Diary, I was listening to the Doctor Who soundtrack, which just added to the epicness. Sometimes I wish I had a soundtrack playing throughout my life. Actually, sometimes I will have a sountrack in my head while I go throughout my day, and it really is awesome, I recommend it.)

I hope that you all have an abundantly blessed day, and take courage, accepting all that God allows with peaceful submission to His will (a tall order, I know-definitely something I struggle with). By doing God's will with peace, we will grow closer to Him, and bring His light to all around us!

(another sidenote: after the talk, I asked Gianna what her favorite Jane Austen work is, because she had mentioned really liking Austen. It's Mansfield Park, which I've never read, so now I have the urge to read it-so any Austen fans out there, say a prayer for Gianna when you pick up Mansfield Park!)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Don't Make Excuses...Make that Pizza!

Happy Feast of St. Denis and Companions!

A few weeks back, we didn't have much food in the house. I hadn't gone shopping for several days, and didn't really have the time to run out to the store and get groceries. In times like this, I usually turn to a tried-and-true dish: pizza. I love pizza; I grew up making it with my family, and it's an inexpensive, delicious, and easy go-to meal for Jacob and I.
But there was a problem: We didn't even have many pizza ingredients in the house.
Just one frozen chicken breast, a tiny bit of mozzarella cheese, pizza dough ingredients, and no tomato sauce. So what did we do? Improvisation time!
Our second go-around of white pizza: garlic sauce, tomatoes,
pepperoni, and chicken! 
We made white pizza for the first time ever. And it was epic. For whatever reason, we've never made white pizza before. Eaten it many times at restaurants (especially when I worked at a pizza buffet), but never ever brought it in the kitchen. And we've already made it a second time! It's seriously a fabulous dinner for those times when we don't have many ingredients at hand. That night, we took  our one piece of chicken, one ripe tomato, random herbs, made a white sauce, and voila-a large, delicious, awesome pizza! We adapt our white sauce from this recipe, and use our favorite honey-garlic-Italian herb crust. Then, we just throw on whatever random toppings we have lying around.

I've found that God likes to work in a similar way. We may see God moving us to do something, but we don't see how it can happen. "God, you've obviously got the wrong idea here, because I don't have the right tools. I don't have the resources. I'm not equipped." And so on. Just take a look at the Old Testament prophets; they all gave plenty of excuses.

The word of the LORD came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

 “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”*

But the LORD answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.
(Jeremiah 1:4-7)

When you actually listen to God, stop making excuses, and let Him work, crazy and epic things happen. If we had let a lack of tomato sauce and "proper" ingredients stop us that one night, we never would have discovered the beauty of homemade white pizza. If you make excuses and try to tell God that you can't do what He has planned for you, then how are you to discover the epic things He has in store for you?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mercy Monday: Live Like There's No Tomorrow!

Happy Monday!!!!! I'm trying to catch up on sleep, housework, and schoolwork, so I'll just leave a lil' something from St. Faustina's Diary here for you:

"O Jesus, I want to live in the present moment, to live as if this were the last day of my life. I want to use every moment scrupulously for the greater glory of God, to use every circumstance, for the benefit of my soul. I want to look upon everything, from the point of view that nothing happens without the will of God. God of unfathomable mercy, embrace the whole world and pour Yourself out upon us through the merciful Heart of Jesus.
(Notebook III #1183)

P.S. It was St. Faustina's feast day on Sunday (though of course it wasn't liturgically celebrated since Sunday overrides it), so wish her a belated "happy feast"!

P.P.S. Happy feast of St. Bruno!!!!!!! He founded the Carthusians, so anyone who has studied in Gaming with FUS owes him a huge "thank you" since we needed him to form the Carthusians so that we could live in the Kartause over there! : )