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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sincerity in Truth

Just a moment's break from life.

Breath. Think. No, don't think. Just pause.

Two thoughts. First, be real. Clear the air around you. Clear your mind. Swipe away those cobwebs and maybe have a giggle about your coworker tripping on the stairs or something. Relax.
Second, ask a question. When did you last say something true?

When did you last say something true, and when did you last recognize a specific truth?
When did you last stand up for something true?
When did you last become strongly convicted of a truth?

Let these memories rise in you. Be in that place, that time, that emotion.

What was it about that truth that stuck with you? What was it that caused such a reaction in you?
Was it beauty? Was it injustice? Was it something you could empathize with? Did it effect many people?

I feel that many of us do not realize just how influencial truth is in our daily lives. Moment by moment, day in, day out, we are either affirming and asserting truth, or denying or sliding by truth. It is a black and white world. Sometimes the truth is that there are more than one good choices, or more than one bad, and so it would seem there is a gray area. Yet in reality, there is always a way to clear the fog and get the wind moving again, and to then see the truth in it's full light.

I believe awareness of the truth is much like a habit - we form an appetite for it, or a "sense" for it, similar to how we sharpen our peripheral vision once we begin driving. The more we allow our minds to regroup and refocus in various situations, the more we will learn how to sift through the silt in the water and find the diamonds that are buried there.

My hope is to encourage us all to consider each day whether we are building up our truth- gaining ground in the ever-going uphill climb - or whether we are chipping away at the foundation day in and day out. "Little white lies," exaggerations, "jokes" that are never clarified, blurring of the lines of what happened and what we want others to think happened... we all fudge the truth whether we're aware of it or not. The question is, how often do we mean for this to go on, and how often would we go back and clean up our mess if we could? If we decide we want to be people of sincerity, then we need to act like it. This means striving to be aware of the truth and to recognize it, and represent it in its fullness without all of our convenient alterations.

Clearly this isn't always possible, and we can face conflicting truths such as "such and such law" that isn't really just or fair, that if we fudge a little on, we won't be cheated, or we won't be ripped off, etc... Those tough calls we have to decide for ourselves which truth our conscience will be held accountable to. But no matter what, the most important thing is to see it for what it is. Call a spade a spade, not a shovel, not a drill, and certainly not a hammer or nail.

"Don't blatantly lie, don't indirectly lie, and most of all, don't lie to yourself," might be an acceptable creed. Once we allow ourselves to believe lies, we begin to live according to them, and then when we speak them to others or treat others according to our belief that some lie is true...we lose something very precious. We lose reality. Truth is more than a valiant moral code, or a noble ideal for the hopelessly dreamy romantics (although that definitely counts) is the air around us, the ground we walk on, the blood coursing in our veins. Truth is undeniable, inevitable, innate, inherent. To exist is to be real. To exist is thus to exist in the truth. We cannot get rid of it even if we wanted to, and to live a life of continually snubbing the truth or outright rejecting it only leads to sadness and despair. No matter how powerful we are, we cannot control the truth. It is bigger than anything we can create or develop. We are born into this world without the option of where we are or even who we itself is a gift given that is unanticipated. So we have to accept that the truth is the ever-present glue of the universe we exist in.

I hope and pray I will continue to challenge myself beyond my weaknesses into greater truth. It is so easy to find shelter in the rationalizations that make the truth a little blurry. The fuzzy truth is sometimes so much more preferable to the hard truth. One is cuddly, the other..isn't. Yet, no life remains wholesome when fuzzy is the foundation. We face a lot of bumping, bruising and falling if we're going to stand on fuzzies for the rest of our lives. We need solid, we need strong, we need real.

Of course I'm going to add that it is Christ who is the Truth, and therefore all the fullness and life-giving joy that we can encounter in our existence is found when we seek him with our whole hearts.

Let us sincerely desire to be in the Truth, and to never be parted from Him.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fatherhood under Fire?

This is apparently the month of me writing.

The following is a comment in response to certain public declarations made by our President this past weekend:

My comment:
Just want to say, my birthday is in June. Therefore, I'm a little possessive. And.. I don't appreciate the TRUTH being turned upside down and then smeared all over my month. Fatherhood is a gift.. given in the image of our Father in heaven, who is love himself. We should never condemn, for we do not have the right and we are all sinners. However, the LORD has given us truths through his Word and through the tradition of the Church, established by his Son, Jesus Christ, and these truths we can proclaim without fear and with fervence. Therefore, the natural order of sexuality as a full and whole gift of self between a man and a woman, for life, is established by Him, not by man. And thus it is not wrong to support this, proclaim it, and be upset and offended when a public figure of authority mocks this truth and presents a falsehood as something to be honored. That is scandal, and it is unacceptable.

C'mon Christians, we celebrate martyrs who wouldn't acknowledge the King of England's "divorce" and who were subsequently beheaded, but we won't publically speak out when another leader chooses to do a slipshot job of morality and we don't face consequences other than people telling us we're not "pc"? Sheesh! Hate the sin, not the sinner. No one should feel attacked, but the truth should be witnessed to, and if that challenges people to change, that is exactly what it should do. We all have to convert, daily, in different ways. We're on a journey together and we should be helping each other along the road.
(I would love to expound on this further, there are a million and one things to be said on the beauty of human sexuality, the purpose and dignity of marriage, its establishment in Scripture, etc... but those will have to wait. Feel free to visit links and check it out for yourself.)
These are the audiences of John Paul II on the Theology of the Body, chronologically listed:
The above with some edits and available in one volume:
Another good read by John Paul II:
Moving reflection on the love God has for us and marriage's image of this:
Cardinal Medina Estevez's reflection on the Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality - verrrry good:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wait in Joyful Hope

I hope that this post will be one many have been waiting for, though perhaps unknownst to them, and that it will bring much joy to the heart... the kind of joy that comes with the peace of Christ, the peace only God can give.

This is what the Christian life is about everyone. It is truly that simple. Of course, the words of Christ echo in our minds, "Be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect," and we wonder at him. How could that be possible? How could we even hope to be perfect, we who are so far from God? Then we hear proclaimed over and over, "love one another as I have loved you" and "love your neighbor as yourself" and "the greatest of these is love"... again, this is a theological virtue that comes with grace. How can we be expected to live like this all the time?

But perhaps we can draw from Blessed Mother Teresa here, for she understood how basic this call to holiness was, how truly simple Jesus' message to the human race was. We cannot be gods, nor can we reach the perfection of our Father in heaven... but we can learn from his Son the ways of holiness, by walking the same path he walked, with the same heart he held, one of perfect abandonment, holy trust, full peace at his Father's will. Jesus waited. He did not know his hour, the time or even the way in which he would bring about the Father's will. He waited for it to be revealed to him in the span of time which he lived on earth. Of course, being God himself he could know everything, for he was before all time and space existed, and he will be after all is gone. He is the Alpha and Omega. Yet, he chose, in love, to take humanity upon himself, and in this form of a slave he surrendered himself to a childlike faith in his Father, so that though he could never be separated from him, being the Second Person of the Trinity, he also chose not await revelation of things to his mind according to the Father's will.

Mother Teresa said, "Be humble and you will never be disturbed. It is very difficult in practice because we all want to see the result of our work. Leave it to Jesus." This translates into every area of life - we must expect that even in our journey to holiness, on our walk to the Father, we will be asked to lay down our control, to set aside our plans and our dreams and the ways we think that life should go. We will be asked to get in a boat and see where it lands, and to endure the storms that come up, and to rejoice when the weather is beautiful. We are asked to trust beyond just our family's health or our daily safety. We are asked to trust beyond the things we cannot control anyway. It is more than that. It is meant to be more than that. It must be more than that. We need to trust will ALL the things we can control. Our jobs, our co-workers, our friends, our families, our homes, our cars, our toothbrushes, our sandals, our pillows, our cats or dogs, our coffee...everything. This is how we learn to live as Christ exemplifies, in the same childlike trust and patience.

Moreover, this waiting on the Lord, this trusting and obedience, is hand and hand with two virtues - hope and joy. We wait upon the promises of the Lord, because "he is faithful even when we are unfaithful," and "hope does not disappoint," and "his word does not return void but accomplishes the task for which it was sent." His promises do not let go of us, and his promise is for truth, for love, for life. His promise is for fulfillment in joy, for a return to our home and our Father who loves us. His love bought us at the price of his Son, his Son's love purchased us at the price of his own flesh, his own life. His promise cannot be denied. So our hope is firm, and should grow more firm with every passing moment. As we live, we learn more and more of his goodness, his mercy, his grace working in our lives. This should be testament enough for us to never lose our hope! And this hope, this glorious gift of God, must inspire in us a true joy. Even in the darkest nights and longest struggles, and in the most lonely and forsaken times, joy should be the waves we ride upon because his promise is alive in us, it is Christ the Lord.

Consider Our Lady, Mary most holy, as a young woman who receives a great message of salvation. It is a message of hope, and a promise. Yet, so often we typify her as anxious or nervous, or at least a little fearful, for she could be stoned to death in Jewish law for becoming pregnant illegitimately. Yet, when she is kneeling in her room, surrounded by the glory of the Lord, hearing the sweetness of the angel's words, I do not think there could be any room for fear or doubt. Before that love, all fear is driven out, and all lies of the devil are disspelled. I believe that Mary's fiat was given as one wholly aware of herself, wholly possessing her heart, mind and soul, and yearning to give them to one who was revealing all the love in the world to her! Her Creator was coming to her as a lover, yearning to draw her near to his heart, nearer than she already was, and in response she yearned to give over her obedience, her life, in joy! In joy because what could she fear? What could anyone do to her when God the Father loved her so? What could this life bring that would be too bitter to taste, or too great a climb for her to endure? We know that her life faced perhaps the most bitter climb of all, to be the Mother of the Savior who would lay down his life for all men, and yet she still loved, and still waited, and still trusted, because her hope was God himself, and his promise cannot be broken, and in this her heart and soul found the joy to conquer all the evil of sin.

So my challenge to myself and all Christians is to pray for this grace. We need to seek the grace to practice this kind of faith, one that is hopeful at all times, and through this hope, joyful at each moment.

I know all too well that I fail at this daily. But if I could learn more of the silence, the internal meditation that leads to the awareness of the Lord's love alive and dwelling in me, the Holy Spirit made known in my heart... surely I would find the joy and hope I need in any situation? I believe it to be true, and the truth will set us free. So until that day when we are reunited with our Father, let us wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

And for fun meditation, a few Scripture passages on "hope" from the RSV:
Matthew 12:21 "and in his name will the Gentiles hope."
Acts 2:26 "therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope."
Acts 17:27 "that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us."
Romans 4:18 "In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, 'So shall your descendants be.'"
Romans 5:4-5 "and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."
Romans 8:24-25 "For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Romans 12:12 "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." 
Romans 15:2-3 "'in him shall the Gentiles hope.' May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Hebrews 3:6 "but Christ was faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope."
 Hebrews 7:19 "(for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God."
Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful;"
Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
1 Peter 3:15 "but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;"
1 John 3:3 "And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another Night, Another Dream...

But always you.

I'm a sucker for lyrics. Featured are songs which take over my heart when I hear them, and therefore are a playlist of their very own.

Yellow Card, Only One
"Here I go, scream my lungs out and try to get to you, You are my only one. I let go, but there's just no one that gets me like you, You are my only my only one"

Cartel, Only You
"Oh but theres only you yeah its only you, It's only you i see, Girl if its only you yeah its only you, Its only you and me yeah, Can you feel it now, I've weighed it all out, Here and now my world turns inside out"

BedLight for BlueEyes, Walk With Me
"Will you walk with me, Cause I can't see, Just where I'm meant to be, Replay the scene over and over, And never change a thing"

Dispatch, Walk With You
"And I will walk with you, using the stars as guides. On a homeward path we go Knowing our time is nigh I, and I will walk to be with you. All I've done, to be with you... So put your hand in mine, and lay your head to rest. We'll light the candles now - they won't be lit for long we'll know our day was blessed I, and I will walk to be with you. All I've done, all I've done Just to be with you... I, I, And I will walk with you, Using the stars as guides on a homeward path we go, knowin' our time is nigh, I, I will walk to be with you. All I've done, and all I say I, I, To be with you, to be with you, to be with you"

Backstreet Boys (judge me), Incomplete
"I'd try to go on like I never knew you, I’m awake but my world is half asleep, I pray for this heart to be unbroken, But without you all I’m going to be is incomplete"

Dave Barnes, Until You
"I need you now and forever so stay right here with me, Don't ever leave, Love was kept from me like a secret, And I swore that I was through until you, Until you"

Josh Groban, Remember
"Remember, I will still be here, As long as you hold me, in your memory, Remember, when your dreams have ended, Time can be transcended, just remember me, I am the one star that keeps burning, so brightly, It is the last light, to fade into the rising sun, I'm with you, Whenever you tell, my story, Remember, I will still be here, As long as you hold me, in your memory, Remember me, I am the one voice in the cold wind, that whispers, And if you listen, you'll hear me call across the sky, As long as I still can reach out, and touch you, Then I will never die, Remember, I'll never leave you, If you will only, Remember me"

Leona Lewis, I See You
"You teach me how to see, All that’s beautiful, My senses touch your word I never pictured, Now I give my hope to you, I surrender, I pray in my heart that this world never ends, I see me through your eyes, Living through life flying high, Your love shines the way into paradise, So I offer my life, I offer my love, for you"

Paramore, We Are Broken
"Keep me safe inside, Your arms like towers, Tower over me, Tower over me, And I'll take the truth at any cost"

The Rocket Summer, So, In This Hour
"So much feeling, Oh, my soul is singing, And everybody feels the same, Is this everything that you've hoped for? Is this everything you've dreamed? I think it is, If the real point is seen, So in this hour, Everything I do, Will be all for this moment, Everything's for you, My heart is open, And willing, So take it"
Something I love most about music like this is that so often lyrics speak on many levels, from more obvious situations of love among couples or friends or families to the deepest sense of love, between God and his children. It seems to me a testimony of the truth that He is Love, and that his love is the foundation that underlies our every desire in this life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reflection of the Year

Ok, I'm 24.

Let's talk about some of the funny/weird things of the past year...
1. I have sunburned hands and feet... thank you antibiotic that makes me burn.
2. I went to haiti and found a giant spider, sang "hey soul sister" a million times, bathed in a river every day, became far more tan than I've been since I was in high school and actually had time for laying out, prayed with haitians, tried to learn creole, had paint wars with friends, heard some of the most ridiculous conversations of my life, smiled all the time, saw the "old spice commercial" come to life when my friend was on a horse, and rode horses mostly bareback, ending with a large and unfortunate blister somewhere rather painful...
3. How 'bout, I went to Haiti. And I'm going back. In December.
4. I have an infection from being in Haiti that has been akin to leprosy, just peeling layers of skin over and over again. This is why I have the sun-burning antibiotic.
5. I saw Celtic Woman in concert. I laughed and cried. It was beautiful.
6. One of my best friends is getting married in October.
7. Three close friends up and quit their jobs and made life changes. I'm proud of them! It takes courage to trust and be faithful to your heart, and if you aren't in a good situation, then get out.
8. My sister came to live with me for 7 weeks! I love her. It is wonderful.
9. My dad wrote me a letter that made me cry. I love him so much. He is my hero.
10. My mom and I are much closer than we've been in a long time. I am so thankful for that!
11. I finished a year of grad school, one more to go starting this fall. My classes are amazing, and definitely challenging. I love reading. I love writing. I wish they'd give me A's but oh well... at least I'm realizing that "professional student" is probably my best job option.. if there was such a thing! :)
12. I continue to learn more about why I am so much a girl and yet so anti-girly.
13. Up with how much I dislike inconsistency is how much I dislike cliche. I also deeply dislike hypocrisy, duplicity and dishonesty. That being said, I have to always work on not being caught in those myself. It's always the things we see in others that bug us most that are usually what we ourselves are most tempted to. Moreover, I dislike attitudes that dislike things in general... why?! Why not be grateful. You have no choice, you know, in living. I mean, you either give up and die, or you live. Black and white as far as it goes. So if you are going to be alive, you really might as well appreciate things, and try to see the good, rather than be in a constant state of desparity and despondency, or anger and resentment. If you're in that state because of actual depression, please seek help! And if you're not sure what to do, start with claiming things. Give them less power over you. Tell those feelings to bug off. You are in charge of yourself, I promise. (Ever see the Labyrinth? I'm sure they weren't going for analogy there, but really, the little girl learning to claim "you have no power over me" is a decisive point. That's an important lesson for people who feel like their world is out of their control.) Anyway, this was a huge tangent...
14. I was in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Indiana, Washington DC, New Jersey, Delaware, Colorado and Ohio so far this year. Internationally I was in Austria (Gaming and Vienna) in the fall and Haiti in May.
15. I've been kayaking probably three times since it's been warm this spring/summer? I love it.
16. Went hiking in Shenandoah National Park! Did not see any bears...
17. I'm redeading Lord of the Rings... I have forgotten how absolutely beautiful these stories are! They are amazing parallels for many life lessons, and I keep drawing strength from my figurative solidarity with the characters as they face so many challenges with determination and faithfulness.
18. I am beginning to realize I love many things. Sometimes this is wonderful, and sometimes it makes me crazy. But it is intrinsic, imperative, innate and all together necessary to my person.
19. I read a book called "The Portal of the Mystery of Hope" by Charels Peguy, and I loved it. It changed me.
20. I have discovered that I love von Balthasar and Ratzinger as much as any theologians I've ever read. Possibly as my favorites.
21. Nothing is ever going to be a good bottle of water.
22. Summers in Virginia are definitely more intense than in Ohio. I love it. I'm also grateful that all the "we-never-get-snow-sayers" were incorrect the winter I moved here. Thank you snowpocalypse!
23. I plan on learning the piano and German this summer. I also have a book list that I will never finish... Let's hope I actually do some of it!
24. I have made some new friends this year, and I am so thankful. They are excellent people.
25. Rereading the Book of Job (Scripture) is great. Painful, but so beautiful.
26. A day without mass or adoration is... really empty. That is a grace! The Lord draws us closer when we ask, and I want to keep on asking :)
27. Life is good. We should never doubt that.
28. I lost my high-heel shoe while jay-walking across a four-lane busy street in DC... the result was me picking up my shoe and running across the street in a skirt ... into a snow bank.. (thank you snowpocalypse) and nearly dying. Did I clean off my dirty foot in the snow? Of course I did.
29. I've been converted (a little) to gmail.. I like that conversations can be seen piled one-on-top-of-the-other... much easier to read.
30. My family is amazing. I love them. My sibilings are hysterical, and we all get along so well (most of the time). I miss them always.

Ok, I know there are plenty of other things that have gone on but 30 seems like plenty of memories... in fact, I probably should have stopped at 24! Oh well. :)

Thank you God for the gift of LIFE, and we pray for all those who may be denied that gift, and for those struggling to realize that gift.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life Under Design

Wanted to make a quick plug for a great site - it's called LifeUnderDesign, and it's the Pro-Life Secretariat's Youth website. I'll be honest and say it's certainly out of date as far as recent news goes, but the information concerning some of the more imporant things, like facts on contraception, abortion, etc... are relevant and useful. The site itself is colorful and interactive... reminds me of the Trader Joe's website if you've ever gone there. :)
Check it out!

Life Under Design is now on facebook too, so become a fan!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Modern Day Pharisees?

Every Friday this school year, and there's only one more, I read Sunday's Gospel to my students. We discuss it as much as we can given the age group, and then color a corresponding coloring page. (psssst--Catholic educators and Moms: Sunday's Gospel coloring pages and word searches can be found at The site sucks otherwise. It's run by a group I'm not at all a fan of).

Anyway, this week's Gospel talks about Jesus dining at a Pharisee's house, some chick waltzing over the His feet, pouring oil all over them, crying on them, and getting her hair into an even hotter mess by wiping Jesus' feet with it. The Pharisee gets his panties in a bunch because Jesus is dealing with a sinful woman, Jesus tells them woman her sins are forgiven, tells the Pharisee that the Father rejoices when a sinner returns, and that's that.. To put it bluntly.

I am not going to take the typical "God forgives sinners," "No sin is too big," Kumbaya approach that I'm sure most clergy preached from the pulpit this weekend.

I pray that we all know that already.

No, my friends and fellow religious zealots, this one is for us.

The Pharisees get a terrible reputation in the Gospels. Jesus is constantly talking smack about them and--duh--rightfully so. But we need to remember to not become modern day Pharisees.


I would NEVER!

Not so quick, chicken.

The Pharisees were Jews who knew their stuff and studied their faith diligently.

Sound familiar? Is the Summa Theologica within view? How about the Catechism? How about Biblical commentary? Don't lie...

The Pharisees took their beliefs very seriously and were very vocal about it. (side note: It is believed that a Pharisee wrote the books of Maccabees. Pretty cool, huh? )

EWTN anyone?

What I'm trying to say here is this: It is great to take one's faith seriously, but to be altogether judgey just isn't kosher... Pun intended... We can all make contributions to society and to the Faith without shoving it down other peoples' throats. The Lord isn't asking us to wear a sandwich board and walk down the streets, warning people about the end of time (I never saw that walking down University Blvd in Steubenville or anything... Lies...). However, He is asking us to preach in our actions. Effective evangelization consists of the fewest words possible in my experience. To quote that corny church song (... and John's Gospel), "They will know we are Christians by our love." To love every person genuinely--whether he or she is your best friend or a stranger on the street--is to be a Christian. I know I am constantly guilty of wondering about the hear-after whereabouts of Obama shirt-wearing individuals, and that's just plain NOT what Jesus wants us to do. He tells us CONSTANTLY to NOT JUDGE (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37, 1 Cor. 4:4, James 4:11).

Let's not be modern-day Pharisees, K? We can certainly pray for those who do not make the same decisions as us, but love them anyway. You never know when your love, (and not condemnation) will bring them to a beautiful reunion with the King of Kings.

PS-Check out my primary blog: Expensive Wine and Cheap Cheese :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sacred Heart of Jesus

I could not fail to write something on the Feast of the Sacred Heart!

However, brief meditation seems to be in order. No book-writing today.
(PS - Britt, thanks for your post! Those are two books I do mean to read.)

John 13:23-26
"One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered..."

Contextually, this is not about a great devotion to the Sacred Heart. This is the beginning of the revelation of the Passion that Christ will endure. Judas is about to betray Christ, and John in his Gospel is going to recount the beautiful prayer Jesus offers to his Father on behalf of those he loves.

Yet, to be John at this moment. To be so close, so intimate with this man who is all things to all people, who is man and God, the perfect man and more than man and yet truly man... Jesus himself. To lie back against his chest, to hear his Heart beat. To feel his Heart beat, for you know if you've been so close to someone's chest you certainly can feel the beating.

Before the great challenges of life come our way, before giant waves crash and thunder rolls in and the earth itself shakes... we need to allow that gentle rhythm to sink into us, to permeate us so that peace is what we find our strength in, and not just any peace, but the peace of the Sacred Heart.

John is the one who manages to follow Jesus all the way to the Cross, and to stand before his Lord as he dies, and to accept his Mother from him. John somehow had this grace to be faithful to this Lord whom he loved, and it seems to me that if we yearn to do the same and to be faithful in our lives to Jesus, we too must find ways to lean against his chest and listen to his Heart.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque has a beautiful noven to the Sacred Heart which St. Padre Pio prayed everyday for the intentions of those who asked him.
"Sacred Heart of jesus, I place all my trust in you."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Miss me yet?

The blog looks spankin.' LOVE it.

I am a teacher for the next 8 days. Then I will figure out the next step in my life. I am having the same feeling I did when I was graduating college... I have an idea of what I want to do... It's just not set in stone yet. But, let's be honest, with the right attitude, things always work out.

This got me thinking about new chapters in life. When is it time to turn the page of one chapter and crack open the pages of a new one? When does being miserable in one stage of life force you to to embark on a brand new journey? When is enough enough?

God made us to be happy. The common misconception of today's society is that we need to be in bliss 24/7, having as much fun as we can possibly fit into the 24 hours of every day.

What is happiness?

Well, I could literally write a book about it, but unfortunately for me/fortunately for you, it's already been done.

My summer reading recommendations are:


Happiness and freedom go hand-in-hand. Check out these titles and I promise your life will be forever changed...

Trust me.


Steppin into some Shoes

I'm turning 24 soon.

It's right around the corner. This is the first time since I turned 21 that I can remember being really excited to grow older. It's stupid, I know, but 22 and 23 were years where there was a lingering attachment to the things of "youth" (especially college). Not that I feel any less free to be silly or childlike - in fact, all the more reason to keep a childish spirit! Yet, I do feel very confident that growing up a little more is a healthy and good thing.

We all say, "when I grow up I want to be..." Often we discover that those plans didn't come through, and where we are is not where we planned in our 8 year old minds. What I'm discovering, and what I think most of us know all along inside, is that it isn't so much the what of our lives, but the who, that is the defining character. It makes far greater sense, when you think about it, to measure our lives according to our personal growth and human development over our physical or material accomplishments in our society. The social maze has walls, limits, boundaries, etc... Certain degrees mean you can do certain things, specific work experience means you can move on to a better place, etc... It really is the game of Life out there, where you start with your little car and hope that you end up with the family, the job, the high salary, etc...

The game of Life, however, does not include personal strength, growth, virtues, or even happiness. It does not reveal to us how our internal castle is what we really spend our time on, where we really put our work into. Many "great" people in history have said things like "they can take my home or my family or my wealth but they cannot take my faith." The point is that there is an impenetrable fortress within each and every one of us, and it is our hearts, our minds, our wills, our dreams and hopes, our desires, our fears, our loves. We can choose to build the gardens and towers and halls of this fortress, or we can neglect it and allow the flowers to whither and the halls to decay. It only makes sense to continue to build it up, to foster it and till the soil, because within our hearts we cannot reach boundaries - there are infinite leagues to cover, infinite heights to climb, infinite depths to discover. In the world we will eventually be defeated, if not by the systems in place then by our own old age and eventual inability to work or even function. We remain limitless on the inside, able to ever-access the beauty and freedom of love.

So as I approach another year of life, I reflect on the dreams I've held for myself. I consider how many have not been accomplish, but how some have that I never imagined at all. I am surprised by my life as it is - this isn't what I had anticipated. Yet, I am grateful, for the steady building of my interior castle continues, and has perhaps been made more easy and more successful by the many steps that have lead me to this job I work and the classes I take and the people I live with.

What I resolve myself to for this coming year is to never measure myself by the ruler of the world. I am going to always fall short compared to some, and ever look impressive compared to others. It makes no sense and it is more often defeating than encouraging. I like to dream big and I do not want to stop. I want to trust my heart with all the reckless abandon I can muster, and throw myself into the winds of hope to see where I fly.

I know I am going to face greater stresses, bigger challenges, deeper wounds and harder climbs as life moves forward. I have greater responsibilities and more cares every day. These cannot control me or dominate my thoughts, however, and I implore others to do the same. Cast all the fear and anxiety away. Give it in faith to the Lord. It is not only the only way to live freely, but also the only way to grow as we ought. We need to ever remain God's little children, who trust and expect him to provide for our every need, both in the order of grace and in the order of the world. He will never leave us orphans, and so in confidence we should strive ever more to apply our whole hearts to every thing, every person, every challenge, every moment, every day.

I am going to be stepping into some new shoes very soon, and I plan on running with them. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I promised I would write something about this topic, but I really do not have much wisdom (especially since I am not a man). However, for what it's worth I will share some thoughts:

I will begin with a few examples who are the standards I hold men to- Jesus, and my dad.
Yes, without question I am a "daddy's girl," but mostly because the two of us have always been able to understand each other well, and I typically have been the translator for my family, i.e: "what dad is trying to say...", "what she meant dad was that...", etc... :) With many children and many different tempers, we've needed to learn communication skills over and over again.

But that is tangental other than to make the point that if it wasn't heretical to idolize my father, I would. And in many ways I do, though not often intentionally. I am blessed beyond words because God our Father has allowed me to experience so much of his Fatherly love and goodness through my earthly father, which so sadly is not the case for many people today. Ever since I was little I remember my dad fasting often for our family and for other intentions. He put us to bed so often with the rosary. He had us watching saint movies and reading saint books. He worked long hours and then took care of my mom (who was ill for many years) and all of us (I have 7 siblings). Sure, we ate a lot of mac n' cheese, grilled cheese and hot dogs - probably not the most ideal diet. Overall, my dad laid down his life for us in dramatic ways all the time, and it was very clear to me as I reached my teenage years exactly how sacrificial he was. There was nothing he would not do for us. As I grew older, the analogy of my dad's ongoing gift of self and all of his time, energy and love was more and more evident. God, our Father, loved me in just such a fashion, although infinitely more strong! I know my dad would fight anyone to the death to defend me from harm. And my true Father would do the same, although magnified to a strength that is beyond our comprehension!

Now for a moment on Christ. Jesus is ever the humble servant, the child who has acknowledged his Father as the one who gives him everything, and in return, gives himself wholly over to his Father's will. He is the child who patiently accepts every challenge and suffering, never demanding recompense or expecting an easy pass through some trial. He sees himself as a slave before he considers himself God, though he is. His humility is the greatest strength that exists, for it ever defeats satan's evil works of pride and then defeats death itself! This is the purity of heart that every Christian is called to learn and posses. To know ourselves also as children of God who have received all from him and thus give all back to him. To be children who do not whine and complain as if we ever deserved any of the good things we're given, but to be children who praise and thank our Father in all things, good and bad. To be children who acknowledge our need for grace to presevere and who seek the support and aid of our Father in all things, always striving for him to be more loved, more known, more praised.

So I see the ideal of "manhood" as one which incorporates and balances these two great goods: strength and humility. The kind of strength that may waiver, but never fails. The strength that is made from humility. The strength that knows its greatest asset is the strength to let go, to lay down, to sacrifice and give up everything. The strength that knows it is a tool possessed by a heart that loves, and never the one who posseses. The strength that is not the identity of the man but the gift the man has to offer because he himself received it as a gift, and will ultimately return it back to its Maker. The humility to know oneself before the Lord, or to never cease to strive to know oneself better. The humility to acknowledge defeat, but to never despair. It is more than just humility, it is poverty of spirit. It is purity in the heart that sees with the eyes of faith. Faith reveals the goodness and love of God at every turn, every impass, every mountain and valley. The more simple and pure the heart, the more easily comes the prayer of thanksgiving and praise at all times, whether in the heights of joy or the valleys of sorrow.

I think of Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia), or Aragorn (Lord of the Rings), male figures who understand the balance between shining strength that leads others to greater love and goodness, and the humility to be seen as weak, even mocked or despised, and yet triumphing in those times.

Now, is it in any way fair to say "the true man is like Christ"... yes. Certainly, no one is going to fill those shoes fully, and for many it is just a beginning of trying to get the shoe on that takes the whole lifetime. That is the point, however: the ongoing willingness to keep getting up, the goal at the end that is ever before the eyes of the man. As St. Paul says, he "runs the race" - it is not an instantaneous achievement or a personality one is born with. The world is diverse, man is diverse, and his call to holiness comes in many shapes and sizes and cannot be detailed out in a simple sentence. Yet, it is the call that is answered that is so surely formed in the image of Christ. It is the heart that is open to hear the call, the soul that is burning to follow the one who calls. It is the Christian journey for all people, but men are so often needed to lead that journey, to bring along many others with them. We are human. We sin, we fail, we get disappointed and depressed, we lose faith and sometimes even hope... but if we are striving to be humble children, hope will not disappoint, and God will always triumph, and as we pass through the purifications of life, we grow ever more into his image.

In some practicality, I believe true manhood is often marked by honesty, sincerity, courage, patience, generosity, and certainly mercy. Forgiveness comes hand-in-hand with humility. If we are quick to learn we will be quick to be forgiving. St. Francis of Assisi's prayer for peace says, "it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." That beautifully summarizes how mercy itself is the active verb of love. Love in action is mercy. We forgive, we let go, we strive to forget as God forgets. He does not keep tally of our many offenses, but wipes them away as if they never happened once we come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation... and so should our hearts yearn to love, in a way that is actively merciful.

I believe for many women, trust is a very hard challenge. We are living in a culture that preaches the greatness of individualism, and no matter how we were brought up, we cannot escape some formation in that mentality. It is one of self-reliance, and one that does not consider "trust" to be a wise move. You wouldn't leave anything valuable out in the open because you never know who will steal it. It is a mentality that assumes the worst and thus expects it, and therefore cannot be surprised or disappointed when it happens. Trust, as God proclaims it, is quite the opposite. It calls for blind obedience, hoping without any assurity that what you believe will be real. We are asked to take God for his Word and believe it, come what may. This virtue must be present in healthy relationships between men and women, and it is often hard for both to learn how to rely on one another in a deeply trusting way. It's easy to adapt to spending time together or sharing thoughts and ideals and dreams, but it is very different to let down the walls and unmake the barriers we all construct as we grow up in this world. Men, therefore, make trust far easier when our hearts encounter these virtues in them. We we recognize their honesty, their truth, their mercy, their fidelity, their humility... we see what our faith teaches is worthy of resting-in, worthy of being a part of. That is a great grace in manhood, to be able to help foster trust that is real and deep.

I would also say that a great threat to "the ideal manhood" is laziness or despondency. I have many friends who are men and five brothers, and from all of my experiences with them, I can say that most men come alive at a challenge, and love to be needed in a way where they have some control or power. These come in many different forms, for some men I know are great with counseling and understanding the situations of life, and they come into their own when you seek their advice or aid, and others it is practical things like fixing a door or putting a bike together that they are delighted to be needed in such a way. No matter what the gift or talent that they are most alive in, men need to be needed and they need to be able to give. Just as women find a deep sense of what it is to be feminine through the sacrifice and gift of self in child bearing and raising, so men find the same understanding of what is masculine in the sacrifice and gift of self for others, especially family or friends. It is important, then, to appreciate them often, and be grateful for their service and leadership. It is also important to ask for their help and give them ways to take a stand and be strong. The man that is least satisfied is the one with little to do and no one to care. It seems like an ideal vacation, but there is emptiness down that road, and it is not one that leads anywhere.

This has been a very idealistic and abstract reflection, but we are speaking of something very universal, and particulars are challenging. St. Paul says to imitate Christ, and moreover to imitate him, that we might greater imitate Christ. This is perhaps a simple key for men to greater learn what good things God has set out for them in this life - to reflect on Scripture and discover the mysteries and adventures God has called them to, and in what ways they can ever more come to know their Father and be like Jesus, the pure and humble Son.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI Reflects on Humanity

Some short quotes from Pope Benedict XVI:

"Of ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another I . We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else."
"... it is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist. If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: 'It is good that you exist' - must say it, not with words, but with the act of the entire being that we call love. For it is the way of love to will the other's existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again."
"We receive our life not only at the moment of birth, but every day from without - from others who somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.' "
--- All quotes used in Peter Cameron's editorial in the April 2010 edition of Magnificat. All quotes attributed to Pope Benedict's earlier writings.

Haiti, mwen renmen ou! (Haiti, I love you!)

This is me with Eurie, a little boy whose parents and baby sister were killed in the earthquake. He now lives at Moving With the Spirit's orphanage with his older brother and sister. He is a joy, a child who smiles at everything and laughs even more! This little one was so full of worms when the missionaries found him that he was lethargic and unhappy, and far too skinny. Since they gave him the proper medicine, he has become a different child, and clearly he's not having any trouble eating anymore :)

My heart misses him deeply.