Saturday, November 29, 2014

At Year's End: Conversions, Skulls, and Striving for Holiness in the Modern World

Happy End of the Year!
That's right, today is the last day of the liturgical year! Crazy, isn't it?

Go get your Advent on! 
Advent starts with the Sunday liturgy this weekend! Last Sunday (in Ordinary Form), we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, and the readings reflected on the judgment that will come at the end of time. This week, the readings at Daily Mass have been pulled from the book of Revelation, which also gears out minds to think about the End Times. One year closes, and another is opening. Each year, I like to make New Year's Resolutions for the liturgical year, focusing on a way to grow in my faith. This year, I have been focusing on Divine Mercy and ways to become more merciful in my daily life. While I still need to work on that, and am (still) making my way through St. Faustina's Diary, I have chosen a new focus for my life in the coming liturgical year: modern sanctity.

I love radical conversion stories. I love hearing people talk about how they were into drugs, prostitution, atheism, or any other crazy thing, and then God turned their lives upside down and they are fervent, passionate Christians or Catholics. Whenever Fr. Donald Calloway celebrates or concelebrates Mass on campus, I think about how epic it is that a man who was kicked out of Japan, dropped out of school, and lived a crazy sinful life is now a poster child for Divine Mercy. The story of Brother Andre Love made me go, "Oh yes, Catholicism is where the hip people hang out."

As much as I love these crazy stories of conversion, I think that there are times when I've gotten too focused on the pre-conversion life. I'll get swept up in the "He did what?" shock value, and--while not glamorizing the sin--pay more attention to the lifestyle a person used to lead, rather than the life of sanctity he or she is now leading. We're fallen, broken people, and we shouldn't become discouraged from a life of holiness--but sometimes, I think we use our concupiscence as a crutch. "Oh, well, I'm only human," we'll say as we "excuse" ourselves from a sin. "The world better not end now, 'cause I'm not ready," we'll laughingly joke, continuing to live in the same way we always have.

The fact of the matter is this: God has redeemed us, and we can and should work to overcome our concupiscence and embrace sanctity! This message is one of the major reasons why I absolutely love St. John Paul II--in his writings, he emphasizes that we do fall, and we are concupiscent, but, God does not want us to act on our concupiscence--God wants us to live like we're redeemed! God wants us to live like we're seeking holiness and being made holy through His sacraments and grace! So let's do it.

I recall a story I heard about St. Charles Borromeo. Once, while he was playing billiards, a person asked him what he would do if Charles knew that he would happen to die in 15 minutes. St. Charles responded that he would keep playing pool. If he was living a life for God, worthy of Heaven, then he would keep glorifying God in all of his activities up till death.

Done by Claudio Coello in 1669;
found at Museo Nacional del Prado
I've often heard people say, "Oh, well remember that people are only saints after they die, they definitely aren't saints while they live." While it's true that, while living on Earth, we sin and fall, that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for the greatest possible sanctity. If you strive for sanctity, what do you have to lose? Sinful habits? A good reputation in the world? I'd choose God over both of those things any day.

A year from now, I want to be holier than I am now. A week from now, I want to be holier than I am. In the spiritual life, we are continually moving further from God or closer to God. I want to move closer to God, remembering that I won't be on Earth forever; I don't have all of eternity to turn my life around. Death is real, and it will come. There are some awesome old paintings of the saints where they will be pictured with a skull. I once asked a religious sister about that, and she mentioned that sometimes, saints back in the day would have a skull in their place of prayer--as a reminder that they needed to live for God, because death would come when they weren't expecting it. We need to remember that death will come, and we need to live in readiness for whenever God decides to take us. We shouldn't be fearful; God doesn't want us to crawl into a hole our of terror. We need to live life abundantly, for God's greater glory. Today, the Franciscans celebrate the feast of All Franciscan Saints. At Mass, Fr. Denny mentioned how we need to be joyful, and how we need to be saints! Not just in Heaven, but on Earth. We need to live for God now!

Venerable Teresita Quevedo,
who provides one of the
examples of  "modern sanctity"
that I will look  at this year!
And so, this liturgical year, I will focus on what it means to be a modern person striving for sanctity. As I go about this, I will look at the lives of modern saints, blesseds, venerables, etc. I love crazy conversion stories, but I want to focus on how people lived after their conversion. How they embraced holiness each day. How they strove to become better images of God. How they brought true joy, light, and love into the world.
 This liturgical year, let's choose to be saints. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Redefining Our Image of Princesses

The years leading up to the realm of teenage life are very formative for any woman. That's the time when we're learning about our bodies, the world, and perhaps dreaming about a Knight in Shining Armor. I remember that during my pre-teenage years, there were a great many modern "princess stories." I love princess tales, romance comedies, and love stories in general. But over the past several months, I've been thinking about the ideas and images that many of these movies can insert into the minds and hearts of girls and women. Mainly, in regards to physical appearance.

Think about it: in many "princess" movies (or a love story), the main female "princess" character is either 1. Already the image of physical beauty and perfection according to society's standards (think the typical Disney Princess), or 2. Undergoes a transformation where she suddenly becomes a very appealing physically.

This really hit me several months back, when I watched the movie,
My Big Fat Greek Wedding. 
...And after!
 Thirty-year-old Toula has big glasses, plain looking hair, and drab clothes. She starts changing up her life academically and socially, changes her appearance, and voila! Boyfriend enters the picture. He didn't necessarily enter the picture because she changed her appearance, but that whole message still seems to be underlying there. 

And then I think about The Princess Diaries. These movies were great, and I really liked them when I first saw them. And I still like them! But think about Mia's transformation in the first movie. It's magical to watch her change from an ordinary, awkward schoolgirl to glamorous princess, but what kind of message is it sending? She underwent a dramatic physical change as she took on her princess status. Hello? Did it occur to anyone that she would have still been a princess even if she retained the frizzy hair and glasses? 

One of these days, I would love to see a good romance story/princess movie with a female character who exudes true beauty--beauty from within, that shines forth, even if she may not look like a fashion model. A female lead who is comfortable in her own skin, and knows that she is a princess and has beauty from her God. An overweight woman who isn't always obsessing about her weight or diets. A woman with acne who isn't frantic to cover up every zit with makeup all the time. A girl who has frizzy hair and owns it. How about a woman or girl with some kind of disability? (Hey Disney, you can totally steal any of these ideas. Could we have a Disney Princess who's a little on the plump side and recognizes her beauty? How about one with acne? Please?)
Every woman and girl is a princess, a daughter of the King of Kings. Yes, it's good to look presentable, to do our hair and makeup, and it's important to dress in clothes that reflect our God-given beauty (please don't hide your beauty--spiritual and physical--under a bushel basket of tents and potato sacks!). But it's extremely important not to get hung up in the physical everything. We don't want to be objectified by men--but then we turn around and focus on all these externals continually. 

A couple weeks ago, I was at a soup kitchen downtown, and met this awesome, beautiful woman who was eating there. She had such a huge heart, and took in all of the other individuals as her own children or grandchildren. This woman radiated the incredible love of Christ. Yes, she was a bit heavier weight-wise, and she wasn't wearing makeup, and her hair wasn't done up all cute. But do you know what? She was more gorgeous than a movie star. Her eyes sparkled with joy and love. I told her how beautiful her eyes were, and do you know what she said? "Really? No one has ever told me that before!" And she proceeded to give me an awesome hug. It became apparent to me that the message of true beauty isn't going out enough. Furthermore, as women buy into the objectifying myths of beauty that society and the media portray, sometimes men decide to join in on the objectifying action, and...problems galore.
 Let's stop objectifying the "princess" and see her true beauty shining forth.
Let's have a realistic ideal of body image.
Let's redefine our image of princesses. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I'm Franny and I Know It

This guy is one of my heroes. 
Franny: (noun) a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, who may have some or all of the following characteristics: will "FOP till he/she drops" (literally), wears sandals or goes barefoot at least 10 months out of the year, isn't seen without a Tau cross or Rosary, loves to pull "prayer marathons" of one devotion after another for an afternoon, talks about Jesus or the saints every few minutes, applies aspects of the Faith to literally everything (movies, books, random conversations about nothing, etc), randomly starts singing Praise and Worship music anywhere, also will pray over people anywhere/randomly asks people if they want to pray together, brings crucifixes, saint statues, or holy cards to put on his/her desk during class, has fifty billion devotions to various saints...I think you get the idea (the list could probably go on, these are just some things I've picked up during my time as a student here).

I remember that during the first or second day of Orientation Weekend my freshman year, a student on O-team heard about my Feast Day Hat and immediately laughed and said, "Wow, you are totally a Franny." And I own my Franny identity. I love it, and I wouldn't want to be any other way. Now I must note that there are "frannies" (meaning students) at FUS who don't with to be "Frannies," (see description at beginning of the post)  and that's okay. Some people want to be all St. Joseph in the background, others want to be John the Baptist-and it's important that people realize who God wants them to be, and that we're not called to all be the same. But no matter what personality a person has, and no matter what lifestyle, he or she is called to live out the Faith through and through. It's important to fully integrate the Faith into all aspects of your life; not just leaving it in the church, youth group, or classroom (if you go to a Catholic school), but bringing it everywhere! I know that lots of people don't like feeling that they're being preached to all the time, and it's important that we don't just walk around "preaching" and not living it out.

But seriously, if we live for God, letting Him be a part of every area of our lives, we will preach the Gospel message. And it's more than okay for people to see your Faith come through. Sometimes, I feel like people are just plain afraid of others getting "turned off" if they are seen doing something religious/Catholic. I think this is definitely a problem, though. Christianity is so cool, why would you want to keep it a secret? Even though the early Christians during the persecutions would have to sneak around sometimes, they wouldn't keep their Faith stuck under a bushel basket. A few weeks back, a speaker here at FUS mentioned how people say "oh, I should be like Jesus, so I can hang out with these people that are doing bad things." The priest mentioned that when Jesus hung out with the sinners and tax collectors, a couple things were in play. 1. Oftentimes, these sinners and tax collectors were seeking repentance and trying to change their lives; and 2. Everyone clearly knew where Jesus stood in the realm of morality and what was right, and He didn't tolerate wrongdoings. Jesus brought Himself (well duh), the Truth in Love, to everyone and every place. Remember, love is not toleration; love is sacrifice, and it definitely involves calling people out when they are doing sinful things.

If the Faith is important to you, let it shine through! When people enter your house, do they immediately know that God is a priority in your life? When people meet you, do they get the vibe that God is a big deal? That your religion is a big deal? Are you free to bring up the Faith in a conversation? How about into your studies, into your art, into your leisure? Just some food for thought.

Like I said, not everyone has to be (or should be) a loud, crazy, St. John the Baptist-style Franny.
I'm Franny and I know it--but if  you're Catholic, do you show it?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Changing the Culture-One Sunday at a Time

I remember learning the 10 Commandments when I was little. I’d decorate the little paper with the list of them, and hang it on the wall or off a doorknob. I would then memorize them. You know, “I am the Lord your God…You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day…” et cetera, et cetera. When I hit middle school, I learned the precepts of the Church. These were pretty new for me; I had never heard of them before. If you don’t know them, check this out:

According to the Catechism, the Precepts of the Church are: 
“set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:” (CCC 2041)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

To Remedy My Lack of Posts on Chastity


So as I was organizing stuff on this blog earlier, I realized that my "chastity" area is sorely lacking. Eep! I don't really have time to write new stuff right now, but figured I'd better remedy this ASAP. So I'll cheat, and link y'all to some articles I wrote for The Chastity Project over the past few months. Enjoy!

Marriage: Game Over?
Consumerism of the Body
Why Instant Gratification Never Gratifies
If Sex is Natural, Why do we Make it Artificial?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When the Weather Gets Cold: Enter the Eleventh Doctor Mittens!

Hello, all!

So the weather has started turning to winter...making it the perfect time for new mittens!

I love to knit, and so how else would I spend Halloween a few weeks back, except by watching "Singin' in the Rain," eating sugar, and knitting away? I found this awesome pattern for "Fezzes are Cool" mittens by Pixelated Mushroom (it was on Ravelry, make a free account and check it out), and knew I had to knit it up. I like this pattern for many reasons. First, it pulls together really quickly. In one evening alone of continual knitting while watching movies, I nearly finished the first mitten. The second mitten pulled together in between classes for a few days in the coming school week! (The only part that isn't "finished" is the button, because I've been too lazy to go to the store and buy buttons to sew on. But really that's not a rush, the red just flops around the palm of my hand a little bit since it's not buttoned down-no biggie.) Also, I needed knew mittens, because somehow I lost my awesome pair of flip-top mitten things a year or two back, and gloves don't always cut it. Furthermore, the fact that they are flip-top mittens makes me feel awesome at knitting them, but they are actually super easy to make. Finally, what could be better than strolling around with 11th Doctor-inspired mittens? Exactly.

So the most complicated part of this process is actually knitting the main color-mitten section and creating the flip-top section. It requires a bit more time and effort, but it really isn't that bad. Here's a visual:
Knitting tan into the back of the stitch and knitting red into the front
of the stitch at the same time? What kind of crazy person
thought this up? 

A handful of stitches in, starting to see the results!

Ta-da! A tan row and a red row coming off of the same
eighteen stitches! It's magical!
 I was pleasantly surprised at how simple these things were to make, and I really love the pattern. Seriously, it's totally the 11th Doctor. How awesome is that??? I also really loved how these flip-top mittens don't have a full thumb, because usually the mittens that I see or own that are flip top have thumbs, which makes texting impossible. But these are great! I can wear them as I text, type on the computer, or casually stroll around campus, waving at people so they can see  just how cool these mittens are.
Bowties are cool. 

(And fezzes are cool, too)

Happy knitting!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mercy Monday: When Life Gets Busy

Happy Monday!!!!!

I hope you are all doing fabulously!!
Since I'm busy writing my thesis, I thought it appropriate to post a quote from St. Faustina's Diary about being busy! No matter how crazy life gets, keep your eyes and heart focused on God!

1                "After Communion today, Jesus told me how much He desires to come to human hearts.  I desire to unite Myself with human souls; My great delight is to unite Myself with souls  Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul.  But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things.  Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love!  They treat Me as a dead object.  I answered Jesus, “O Treasure of my heart, the only object of my love and entire delight of my soul, I want to adore You in my heart as You are adored on the throne of Your eternal glory.  My love wants to make up to You (30) at least in part for the coldness of so great a number of souls.  Jesus, behold my heart which is for You a dwelling place to which no one else has entry.  You alone repose in it as in a beautiful garden."

                  (Notebook 5, #1385)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dear World: I'm Still Here! Love, Ordinary Time

After Mass on All Saint’s Day, Jacob and I went candy-shopping, because stores always mark down their Halloween candy as soon as the calendar rolls to November. We walked over to the “seasonal” aisle in Kroger, and saw that the shelves were completely empty, and instead of being decked out with orange and black, had Christmas and wintery decorations. The Halloween candy was in some shopping carts nearby, as if it was just a nuisance, something to be moved away so that Christmas could come in. My mental reaction/thought process went something like this:

1.      Holy smokin’ incense, what is this? Moving in Christmas already???
3.      Even though stores don’t adhere to the liturgical season, Catholics should definitely live up the liturgical season more!
4.      Then I had this little image of Ordinary Time jumping up and down (I’m really not sure how it was personified, it was a bit weird), shouting, “Hey! World, I’m still here!”

I love the liturgical year. Easter Triduum is my favorite liturgical season, followed by Easter & Lent, and then Advent & Christmas. Oh yeah…and Ordinary Time. You know, I underappreciate Ordinary Time, and I think a lot of other people do, as well. Ordinary readings, ordinary vestments, nothing crazy happening, just the same thing every day. Or at least, that’s what it can seem like. It’s not like you’re pumping yourself up for Christmas, or in hardcore penance mode before Easter. It’s just…ordinary!

But as I’ve researched into Ordinary Time more, and prayed about it, I’ve grown to love it more and more. First off, “Ordinary Time” is not the equivalent of “Boring/Standard/Normal Time.” See, “Ordinary” comes from the Latin word ordo, ordinis, which means order, rank, line. Ordinary Time is a season of ordered days outside of any other liturgical season. 

Furthermore, there is nothing boring about it! Ordinary Time is crammed full of epic saints, feasts, solemnities, and overall awesomeness. I mean, the Assumption of Mary is a solemnity and a Holy Day of Obligation—kind of a big deal—and it happens in Ordinary Time. What about the Solemnity of All Saints, which we celebrated the other day? Also fully awesome, and in Ordinary Time as well. Priests wear green during Ordinary Time, a color denoting hope and new life.
I found this really awesome quotation from Deacon Tom Frankenfield at Integrated Catholic Life:

"Ordinary Time is a time of quiet hope – a lush green meadow of hope. As you know, the Liturgical color for Ordinary Time is the color of hope-green. It is a change from powerful “mountain top” liturgical experiences in Christmas and Easter and “deep valleys” during Advent and Lent. Now we are asked to encounter the Lord in the lush green meadow of our lives."

Ordinary Time is a season for us to reflect on how God has been working on us, and how we can better live out the call to Christian discipleship. And I don’t know about you, but for me, that will more than the 33 or 34 weeks of Ordinary Time to figure it out.

My Suggestions for Living the Liturgical Year:  
Live in the Present: this year, it seems like the stores are in hyper-drive. I have a friend who went to the mall on November 1, and Christmas decorations and music were all going. I’ve had several other friends go to the store only to see a plethora of Christmas decorations and hear Christmas music blasting on the store speakers. But there’s a problem with throwing yourself so wholeheartedly into the atmosphere of very-future holidays (Christmas and Easter are some big ones). If you are living far in the future, you are making yourself less present to the beauty in the current liturgical season! There is more than enough time to prepare for Christmas during the time of Advent (or at the very least, after Thanksgiving. Though I understand now is a prime time to start on Christmas shopping—but Christmas shopping does not mean “Christmas atmosphere everywhere.”).

Celebrate the Saints: I think one of the reasons Ordinary Time can seem mundane is when we forget about the saints. But really, the saints are amazing, and celebrating their lives, legacies, and paths to holiness will keep a person very occupied during the liturgical year. Find a way to celebrate them that works for you, and go with it! (though it would be difficult to go all-out for every single saint on the liturgical calendar, pick  a couple saints each month to start with and build up) I wear a Feast Day Hat (a red and white hat that I wear on Optional Memorials up to Feast days for saints in the liturgy; I have a princess hat for solemnities), other people cook food (, others make saint-related crafts, and other people pray with biographies of the saints on their special days—and these are just a few (of many) options! Also, I have to mention two of my favorite blogs: Carrots for Michaelmas and Catholic Fire. Both have a huge focus on living out the liturgical year, especially with the saints! I glean so much wonderfulness from these two blogs, I recommend checking them out!

Celebrate Each Season to the End: Last night, one of my household sisters was bemoaning the fact that once Christmas Day is over, people act like Christmas is over! While various Catholic traditions celebrate different time lengths of Christmas (octave, 12 Days, etc.), none of them show that Christmas in only one day. In fact, in the liturgy, the Christmas Season extends to the Baptism of the Lord, which doesn’t happen until January—after the Feast of the Epiphany. From there, green vestments come back out, though the “Christmas Cycle” (more subdued than Christmas, but still focusing on Christ’s manifestation) is still celebrated by some who follow a tradition of keeping up the Nativity and such till February 2, the Feast of Candlemas J And the Easter season totally goes until Pentecost, so celebrate!

Learn about Cool Liturgical Traditions for Each Season: Every season has some. The Catholic Church is over 2000 years old, there are some awesome traditions out there. So research and find some cool stuff to bring into your life! Oftentimes, I don’t research much during Ordinary Time, so when a liturgical season comes, I’m completely off guard and unprepared in regards to the special traditions and devotions out there. Personally, in the next few weeks, I want to learn more about cool Advent traditions besides the Advent wreath, and possibly put together ornaments for a Jesse Tree (because those are insanely cool).

Really Try to Soak up the Liturgical Prayers and Readings: I know it’s tough, we all get distracted (myself definitely included here!!!). But lately, I’ve really started paying more attention to the prayers, and I keep being blown away by just how epic they are.  For example, here’s the Prayer after Communion for St. Luke’s Feast on October 18th (which we celebrated just a few weeks ago!): “Grant, we pray, almighty God, that what we have received from your holy altar may sanctify us and make us strong in the faith of the Gospel which St. Luke proclaimed. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (just read that! Isn't it amazing???)

Don’t let the retail stores steal your Ordinary Time joy! Celebrate the awesomeness of the Christian life, and have a blast with the rest of this liturgical season!!!!! Let’s live as liturgical people, continually worshipping God in mind and body, offering our lives and celebrations to Him!

To quote the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website:
“Christmas Time and Easter Time highlight the central mysteries of the Paschal Mystery, namely, the incarnation, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Sundays and weeks of Ordinary Time, on the other hand, take us through the life of Christ. This is the time of conversion. This is living the life of Christ.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What My Life is Like Right Now

The bomb represents my thesis, other schoolwork, writing projects from several months ago, etc. So yes, right now I feel a bit like I'm running around with this huge load, trying to put it somewhere, but that's not happening. But through it all, God is so abundantly amazing, and continually blesses me with chances for redemptive suffering, a husband who loves me and helps me relax and get things done, an amazing environment on campus where I am surrounded by joy and love, and the deep peace of knowing that in just two weeks from today, my thesis will be turned in, my Creative Nonfiction paper will be almost ready to turn in, and classwork in general will be winding down. Yet as excited as I am to see the next couple weeks of hardcore work disappear, I'm trying to remember to enjoy it as much as I can--after all, this is my second to last semester of college. WHAT?!"! So as I run around like crazy with a "bomb," I will be sure to have loads of fun and adventure :)
God is with us through the crazy and the calm, and for that I rejoice!