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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Virtuous Speech

So just how important is the language that we use?

Now I'm not talking curse words and taking the Lords name in vain (never good). I'm talking about working towards virtue in our speech instead of focusing on the worldly goals of prestige, fortune and success.

The other day my niece and I were playing a game that she made up for us to play. Granted I was trying to study for an accounting test at the time but I will always welcome the beautiful distraction of a niece over accounting any day.

In this particular game she divided a piece of paper into a bunch of funky shapes. The point of the game was to write a word in one of the shapes and then draw a shape that has as many sides as the word has letters. So yes the game doesn't make a lot of sense but she's 7 and I applaud her imagination and I had fun so it's all good. Take a look below!

                              my niece                     me
1st round:              Wal-Mart                    lovely
2nd round:             money                      thankful
3rd round:              kindness                    gracious
4th round:              faithful                      gratitude
5th round:              familiy

From playing this game with her I watched how quickly her young mind was influenced by my actions. Watch how the words that she was choosing started to change after words of my own. Now I wonder what would have happened if I would have answered 'Wal-Mart' with 'Target' or 'money' with 'success'. What message would I have been portraying without even trying to?

How many times have little kids overheard arguments or complains or criticisms and changed their pure and innocent ways to mimic this? What if they heard us speak of love, kindness, tenderness, gratefulness, joy, sacrifice, service, prayer, openness, generosity, and fun instead?!

And these children with all of these thoughts in their mind and on their soul would grow up to be teenagers with these thoughts in their mind and on their soul who would turn in to adults striving for love, kindness, tenderness, gratefulness, joy, sacrifice, service, prayer, openness, generosity, and fun!

And oh how beautiful that would be.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God is Love

 Koinonia 14 is over :(  

Can you believe that? Because I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it. I know this seems cliche but it literally feels like yesterday I was getting home from my Koinonia 11 looking back on the fortified friendships and faith I gained from that weekend. SLK is doing great things here in Lawrence and it's been my privilege to be a part of the biggest SLK team and retreat EVER for SLK 14! 

The Holy Spirit was moving in everyone and it was beautiful to see. I had the honor of being a resource giving the "God is Love" talk on SLK 14 and although you can't quite get the same experience as if I were standing in front of you presenting the talk myself I thought I would share it with you anyways, so that you may be reminded of your greater call to Love in this life and the next. So without further ado:

God is Love

LOVE. A noun. 1a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; "love for a child"; (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests ;"love for his old schoolmates" b : an assurance of affection
That’s what you’ll find when you look up love in the dictionary. In all of these definitions you’ll find in one way or another that relationships are involved, but when we look closer at these worldly definitions we can see just how shallow they really are. So where do you look when even a dictionary points you in the wrong direction? In 1 John 4:8 he seems to tell it like it is: ‘God is Love’. Oh well duh! God is love! Why didn’t I think of that? I’m glad that’s settled and now we all know what love is [or rather who love is] so we’re all good...we can move on. Great.
Wait a minute...


Yeah, that’s what I thought too when I was chosen to give this talk. 
God is love? Cool. But what does that mean
What does that mean to me? 
What does God is love have to do with me and with my life? 
How can 3 very small words with a total of 3 syllables and 9 letters be so hard to explain?
     The answer: because God is a mystery, especially when it comes to relationships; because God himself is a relationship. One we lovingly refer to as the Holy Trinity. In this relationship we see the true and perfect example of love. We believe in 3 persons in 1 God and their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others. One Father from whom all things are, one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are. Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son and in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.
How exciting is that?! God wants us to share in the exchange of eternal love that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So how do we do that?
Well, we are called to live it. In the Gospel of John 15:9-17 it says:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment; love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my father. It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you; love one another."
So after reading that and remembering that we are called to share in the exchange of eternal love that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The new question is; How are we called to live this love?
Well in order to give love to others we must first remain in Christ’s love and He tells us how to do so by following God’s commandments. And he also tells us of the greatest love of all “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – a sacrificial love

Now God showed us the ultimate sacrificial love when he sent his Son to lay down his life on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins which you heard about in the Paschal Mystery talk and experienced yesterday during ‘Die Day’, but there are examples of this sacrificial love in all of our lives.

When I was 9 years old my parents sat my 2 older brothers and I down on the couch in the basement and knelt in front of us. My mom had tears in her eyes I knew something was up because this sitting on a couch in the basement with no tv on simply wasn’t normal. They had something to tell us, and my mom started in. 18 years ago when my mom was a senior in high school she gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl.

And that was the last time they had seen each other.  

You see my mom gave my sister up for adoption. Not because she didn’t love her or didn’t want to be with her, in fact her choice for adoption grew out of her love for her new daughter, because she knew that my sister could have a better life. This was a sacrifice that my mom would have to live with for the rest of her life.

But the story gets better I promise!

We were sitting on the couch that day not because of that news, but because of the news that my long lost sister had just turned 18 and when you’re an adopted child when you turn 18 you regain the rights to find your birth parents. (And 12 years later looking back I can’t help but to see God’s hand in all of this) When my sister was a little girl the mother that had adopted her had passed away and she was left without a mother. So when she turned 18 she decided she wanted to find her birth parents; which is when my mom got the call from her adopted dad, also the reason that we were sitting on the couch that very day. My sister wanted to meet my mom and in turn meet us

And that sacrificial love of my mother 29 years ago has turned into one of the biggest blessings in my life. I’m now blessed with the beautiful sister that I always wanted and in turn the two most amazing nieces. And I’m certain that the sacrificial love that my mom showed has affected the way that I love my sister and nieces today.

But a sacrificial love isn’t the only type of love out there. Actually there are said to be four different kinds of love. While in the English language we are restricted to one word for love: love. Like I love my family, and I love my friends, I love flip flops, I love God, I love all of you, I love scrambled eggs, and I love the color green; but I don't love you all like I love scrambled eggs. 

Which leads us back to Greek. You've already learned Koinonia which is Greek for Community and Metanoia which is Greek for "change of heart" and I'm about to throw four more words at you, because in Greek there are four different words to describe this love: Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape.

Storge is affection – This is often the type of love we find in our families; a fondness and automatic acception of others through being familiar with them, close to them, around them a lot. This type of love comes most naturally to us because we often don’t need to be convinced of its existence.  In Storge we can turn a blind eye to characteristics such as addiction, lying, and abuse that wouldn’t be deemed worthy of love in many other relationships.  It’s like the old saying “blood is thicker than water”.
Take Bambi for instance! I don’t know how much you remember about the beloved Disney movie but it showcases almost all of these loves in a pretty relatable way.

The love that the mother and father show for Bambi would be Storge. Especially in the scene from the meadow where Bambi’s mother warns him about the dangers of the unprotected meadow and the father rushes them towards the woods to protect them when the hunter comes.

So then there’s Philia, kindly referred to as ‘friendship love’. Now this kind of love you’ve probably experienced since you’re very first friendship when you were a little kid. Often this type of love is based on a common interest or activity. This love delights in just being in the presence of each other, a warm feeling that comes and goes with intensity; which is why our friends when we were five are not always the same people we’d count as friends when we’re 20.

The love that Bambi shares for Thumper and Flower is Philia. They come together as young animals of the forest and when spring comes they resolve to stand firm in their wants not to be “twitterpated”, or ‘in love’ like the other animals. When Thumper and Flower both find loves of their own this Philia is weakened because the friends no longer have that common goal.

Now Eros is a romantic love. This is the “in love” type of love, not to be mistaken for lust. Eros is a longing for an emotional connection with another soul. It’s also the only kind of love that God says is to be in strictly a male and female relationship.

Because of the fading Philia or ‘friendship love’ with Thumper and Flower, Bambi ‘happens’ to run into Faline and the Bambi that was so disgusted by the idea of being “twitterpated” quickly changes his mind about Eros when he falls ‘in love’ with Faline towards the end of the movie.

Now the last love... and the greatest of all of the loves... the virtuous love... is Agape. Agape love is one of the three theological virtues and the one that Christ tells us is the greatest. Another name for it is Charity.

Agape is God’s kind of love.

It is unconditional, it seeks the welfare and betterment of others regardless of how the giver feels and it brings forth caring regardless of circumstances. 

Like Green Eggs and Ham! Agape loves in the dark, in a park, in the rain, on a train, in a box, with a fox, in a house, and with a mouse!

It is a love that is freely given by the Lover and it expects nothing in return. It’s the kind of love that lets us trust completely in God because we know that His will is what is best for us even when we can’t see it ourselves.

...So now is the point in this talk where I’m supposed to give you this one perfect example of a time where I remember experiencing God’s Agape Love. And while I was writing this, I racked my brain to try and find it, but it wasn’t there! 

The reason I couldn’t think of one specific example of Agape Love, is because the perfect example of Agape Love is your life. It’s not a friend having your back when you’re in trouble, or your family there to help raise you, or sharing an emotional moment in a relationship. Agape love isn’t a once every now and again type of love, Agape Love is always there, never fading; Agape love is the gift, from the Lord, of your life.

Agape Love helps us see the silver linings in even the most difficult circumstances in our lives because Agape is also what I talked about earlier, a sacrificial love. Christ showed us the greatest expression of love when he became man to carry the weight of our sins and be the ultimate sacrifice, but he never actually said the words “I love you”. But we can see Christ’s love through his actions because for the most part, love is non-verbal.

So what do we do to show others that we love them as Christ commands us to? We may invite them over to spend an afternoon together and chat, or take a road trip with them, hug them when we see them and hold their hands, we might tell them that their talented and beautiful, help with the dishes and take out the trash when they’re overwhelmed, or make sure we have a gift waiting for them every birthday and holiday, or just because it’s Tuesday and they deserve it.

The ways in which we choose to show our love to others is referred to as our Love Language, it’s also how we like to receive love. There are five different Love Languages and much to Paul’s disapproval Food is not one of them.  

They are: 
Quality Time 
Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service

Now you may be asking what Love Languages have to do with God, and in my opinion it’s a lot. God calls us to love our neighbors, but how are we supposed to do this effectively if we don’t know how they receive love? We’re all individual and unique and the same goes for the way that we love. We all give and receive all 5 love languages, but some much stronger than others. Take me for example, I feel two love languages very strongly; quality time and physical touch. But I don’t perceive Gifts as an act of love at all.

Before we came on this retreat I asked the other resources to take the love language test so that I could use one of them as an example for how we are so different in our love languages. Unfortunately it kind of backfired on me, because believe it or not, every. single. resource. on retreat this weekend has a top love language of Quality Time.

Which I think speaks so beautifully to this weekend and to our community. We have this weekend to spend time together and grow in love for each other. 

It’s our job as children of God to use our knowledge and extend our love to others in what we say, what we do and how we act. It’s like the old saying “Actions speak louder than words.” He’s calling us to live a life of love and it’s our job to respond to that invitation with love.
So don’t just be a dictionary definition of love, don’t just have relationships but in all you do, your whole life:

experience the eternal exchange of love that is God.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Healing for the 21st century sin

I haven't blogged in awhile but this video/poem was just SO worth sharing.

This man is killing on #fsdub, if only everyone could hold this view.


So lets look at the subject
I'm a tell you why I'm disgusted
So tonight looks like sex will be our topic of discussion
Now see sex isn't evil for marriage is why God made it
But I know you're like come on man that's too outdated
This is 2011 bro we do it for recreation
And hey if you're in college you do it while your wasted
But I wanna question this logic I wanna pop off the seal
I wanna question something that we think is already a done deal
So take a rape victim for example and once it's revealed
When her bruises go away is she totally healed
Nah the damage is lasting you can see it in her eyes
But if it was just a view as recreation why did it ruin her life
I mean if sex is just for fun why does it take such a toll
Maybe it's cause you don’t just have sex with a body you have sex with a soul
Which means for me there ain't no premarital lovin
And it ain't just cause I don't want a baby in the oven
Its cause I'm staying pure until the day that I'm a husband
But see this wasn't always me that's a guarantee
Lets go back in the past see who I used to be
Now growing up I never learned how to treat a lady
If I learned one thing from my dad it was leave the mom ditch the baby
Now I don't say that to get sympathy I say that to be real
Cause according to stats about 40 percent of you know how that feels
So I let the TV show me what the music already told me
No dad at home so I was letting mtv mold me
And they sold me which is why my life revolved around what girl I could get next
My life revolved around this girl named sex
Shoot I'd get at her on the text but I gotta confess
It seemed the longer we dated the bigger the mess
But then my girlfriend was late on that time of the month
If you know what I mean you understand when I say my heart sunk
I started to think about abortion man I started to butter it up
But its funny they don't make condoms for sin you can't just cover it up
It was just a scare but I knew a father I didn't wanna be
Its funny how I was prolife until it happened to me
So dudes think twice before you desire her just cause she's hott
Cause the truth is your body makes a promise whether you do or not
Sorry I digressed though lets get back to the topic
And there's some dudes who pressure her even when she says stop it
You're not a man you're just a boy that can shave and put on a good cover
Cause if you don't respect her when she says no you certainly don't love her
So how bout you start studying her heart stop studying her booty
Or maybe invest the same amount of time in her as you do in call of duty
Cause what makes you think you can get this girl and all of a sudden get naughty
Cause you should have to touch her heart and her mind first before you ever touch her body
Cause she longs to be accepted she longs to be loved
So she gives herself up to another guys lust
She thinks it feels good at first but then she gets bitter
Cause the promise of satisfaction it never delivers
She's like I don't want to but it's just too tempting
So she keeps opening up the present just to find that it's empty
And then she starts to get confused
She keeps getting rejected by all these dudes
They tell her on a scale of the she's a two
But that ain't true if she only knew
That Jesus He loves and accepts us
Even when you don't want Him He'll never reject us
He heals us from that sin that totally infects us
And He does what condoms cant He emotionally protects us
And I know some of you hear this are gonna wanna indict me
But we gotta think rightly so I'll ask politely
Can your really say this isn't even true just slightly
I mean we touch the forbidden fruit not to realize it's poison ivy
Now we're numb and we're itchin and we got a distorted psyche
You know you think you just do it like you're name is Nike
Not realizing that the consequences of your actions are oh so pricey
So this last story though is for those who think they're too dirty
This last story is for those who think they're unworthy
Read John chapter 8 the woman caught in adultery
The religious leaders throw her naked in the temple while she yells don't murder me
They say Jesus the law commands us to stone this woman and you hear the hate in their tone
Jesus pauses it and says whoever is without sin you can cast the first tone
I mean can you imagine the sound silence all around
You hear footsteps walk away you hear stones hit the ground
And then Jesus kneels down the woman thought it was her demise
He lifts up her face you see the grace in His eyes
He says I don't condemn you go and sin no more
I love you I accept you mercy is yours
But if you're anything like me you're like no that cant be
Why would he ever die for me
See but then I saw that scene where I was redeemed
He reached out and touched me and said Jeff you're free
Instantly I was wearing the brightest robe I'd ever seen
I was perfectly spotless I was perfectly clean
So bright in fact man I thought I'd go blind
I said who's is this He said actually its mine
So think twice before you eat what society feeds us
Come follow the King His name is Jesus
-Jefferson Bethke

Lecrae's "identity", Shai Linne's "Penelope Judd", and C-Lite were quoted in this also.

My prayers tonight and tomorrow will be dedicated to those hearts that have turned away from Christ through sexual sin, that they will be healed by Christs touch, turn to the sacrament of reconcilliation and rejoice in the Lord's mercy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Praying for AJ

Earlier today I got the news that the health of a great guy/friend/classmate from the St.Lawrence Center has taken a turn for the worse. AJ has been suffering from health conditions for the past year has just been diagnosed with a rare blood disease that the doctors say appears to be untreatable. It is estimated that he will only have a few precious days to live.

The St.Lawrence Center community has coordinated a prayer chain at 5pm everyday for AJ. We will be praying both a chaplet of divine mercy and a rosary. At this point, our prayers are most valuable so if you have a moment to offer up a prayer for him we would all be so thankful.

I am awfully proud to be a part of St.Lawrence and I have definitely let it be known on this blog. But I have never been filled with such joy to be a part of this group as I was today when reading the reactions pour in with prayers and intentions for him.

I'd like to share some of them here with you now.
  • I had no idea. I'm in Costa Rica but am headed to the neighborhood church right now. Please please PLEASE let me know if there's anything else I can do…praying for aJ and his family and friends.
  • Im in new orleans for the next week. im so sorry to hear this news but i will definitely keep the prayer chain going.
  • I am in Texas but will try and get up there by Wednesday and will be more than willing to take people over there (to visit him)
  • Be assured of my prayers on my drive back to Lawrence tomorrow as well as the rest of the week.
  • This is obviously a very difficult time for everyone, but already it has been a truly beautiful witness of the power of Christian community. From one day of being present at the hospital, I can attest that AJ, his family, and his loved ones have received many blessings in the form of our presence and prayers, and I have great faith many more blessings will shine through this time of uncertainty as we unite for this more than worthy cause. Thank you all for your prayers and support, and continue to entrust AJ's well-being to the will of God. We can take consolation in knowing that he his much closer to heaven than we and that we may soon have a powerful saint to intercede on our behalf as we make our own way to our eternal destiny...
  • St. Lawrence has truly shown through today! I've been able to see AJ as well today and in the midst of some of the greatest trials and sufferings I've ever experienced, there has been much fruit! Keep praying! See you in the Eucharist or on the battlefield (the kind that we fight on our knees) with AJ until he makes it home!
  • Sending prayers!
  • It is beautiful to see the unity and love of the St. Lawrence Center and friends coming together. Please know there are lots of prayers for AJ coming from Texas. The Aggie Catholic Center will also be lifting up the St. Lawrence community in prayer as well.
  • My prayers are with you all! I'm afraid I probably won't be able to make it up, but please pass my blessings and prayers on to AJ and his family. I cannot imagine how difficult this must be for everyone.
  • Definitely keeping AJ's Family in my prayer!!! Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us!
  • AJ and all of the family: you are in my deepest prayers. We all love you so much.
  • storming the gates of heaven for AJ!!!..
  • stay strong! my prayers are with you!
The St.Lawrence Center is doing great things and it is evident in the community that it has established. Check out this article from the NCR about the St.Lawrence Center and the community that it is providing for us.

Koinonia is greek for community and that's exactly what we are; a community, a family. And that's exactly what AJ is a part of, our community of love for each other and for Christ Jesus.

Our Lady of Lourdes, patron of bodily illness, Pray for us!

Friday, August 5, 2011

My first Bright Maidens post Ever! Summer Reading

So I've been following the Bright Maiden's for a while now, ever since they started making their Tuesday posts. I've wanted to join in many times since the things they have been posting about have been really interesting.  Sometimes I'll even sit down and start typing away all of my thoughts but they just don't seem to flow, they feel forced and sometimes the posts are so awful I wouldn't even want to read it.

But I have long figured out that this blog is not my own, it's the Lord's. I am merely an instrument for His greater good. I have tried believe me, I have tried to write about what I want but every time it just seems dumb. And then that idea sparks from somewhere inside me and I write and I write until the post is done and I sit back, look at it and say 'huh?'. How did I do that? How did all of those thoughts flow so well together? Last month I tried to write about this and I couldn't write 3 comprehensive sentences!  Then I get that email, the one that says "Thank you for posting this, it's exactly what I needed to hear/see/understand at this exact moment.", and I see that it is all in His timing.

"I cannot do anything on my own" - John 5:30

So I try not to force things. I tried SO many times to write about Totus Tuus this summer. I tried before I left. I tried during training week. I tried during immersion week. I tried during our first week on our own. I tried during the break. I tried when there was 1 week left. And then Totus Tuus was over, I sat down and it just came, and I knew He had kept me from writing all summer so that I could focus on the work He had set before me. I really wanted to write. All summer I wished that I was near a computer so that I could blog. But I realized that I was being kept from blogging to concentrate on something greater. God had called me to teach Totus Tuus and he was calling me to be Totus Tuus(Totally Yours) to Him and to those kids.

But now Totus Tuus is over and I must find what I am being called to. For the first time I am being called to write a Bright Maiden's post. It may be a bit late but it's all in God's time. Ive spent the past couple days catching up on the books that everyone else has recommended and I found a common theme. Books for Catholics written by Catholics, and that's awesome! This summer however I dove into some Christian books written by non-Catholics. As I warned myself before I read them, do so with one eye open for things that would lead me away from the church, I would also warn others.
The first book I read this summer was The Shack by William P. Young. Now although there are some definite parts of the book that I disagree with as a Catholic there were some amazing things I learned from it. Since I could never write a review even close to the caliber of Fr.Robert Barron's stop by and read it!

The 2nd book I read was Captivating: Unveiling the mystery of a woman's soul by John & Stasi Eldredge. It talks about how every woman has 3 core desires: to be romanced, to play a role in her own adventures & to display beauty. In an age where feminism tries to take everything that's lovely about being a woman & turn it into something negative I enjoyed reading about how I was created as a feminine being. There are a couple of things to watch out for however. Stasi talks about her Catholic upbringing in a less than flattering light. They also point to Eve as the woman we should all look up to. I was disappointed they didn't take the opportunity to show Mary, perfect and without sin, in this role instead.

I literally had Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo started and finished in under 10 hours. This 4 year old boy describes heaven as if he had just finished reading the book of Revelation earlier that day. I found this particularly interesting/comforting/pleasing since so much of the Catholic Mass can be found in the book of Revelation that heaven would be so similar. He also takes extra care to point out for us Catholics such things like the whereabouts of Mary, at Jesus' feet or standing beside Him, and that Jesus still loves Mary like a mother, as we believe.

I wouldn't necessarily keep my first kiss until I was standing at the altar like Joshua Harris writes about in I Kissed Dating Goodbye.There's a part in this book where it is Josh's wedding day & he has just watched his beautiful bride walk down the aisle. They're looking at each other when all of a sudden every woman from Josh's past walks out of the crowd & takes his hand. His bride looks terrified. Now he has to tell her that he's sorry but he's already given parts of his heart to all of these women & she only gets what's left. It's a book of truly guarding your heart, of long and deep friendship before relationships and conquering modern dating traps.

Last but not least the most influential book I've read all summer, The 5 Love Languages:singles edition by Gary Chapman. Gary presents the idea that there are 5 ways in which people express love; Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Most people have one dominant love language which is the way they show and receive love. I've since learned that I have two dominant love languages after scoring an 11 on both Quality Time and Physical Touch. It makes so much sense since I generally do not feel a lot of love if people do not want to spend their time with me. It's made me more sensitive to showing my family and friends their primary love language. Take the test at and tell me what language you are!

Check out what the other Bright Maidens had to suggest for reading here!Peace and happy reading!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I said TOTUS TUUS to the LORD this summer!

I'm back!!!
Totus Tuus will do this to you!
Whether I can believe it or not, I am done working Totus Tuus for the summer! It seems like I just started but it's been 9.5 weeks since my dad drove my duffel bag and I to Wichita, KS to hand my summer over to our Lord teaching a parish summmer catechetical program.

Team 4!
Teamies: Nick, Jacob, Loretta and I

This summer I gave Him my waking hours, my sleeping hours, my I wish I was sleeping hours. I gave Him my control, my desire to be acknowledged and my distaste for small talk with strangers. I gave Him my appetite, my hatred for onions and my ability to clear my plate no matter what was on it. I gave Him my want to wear more than 7 outfits all summer, and my hopelessly dirty feet. I gave Him my most prayerful times and the 7:45am chapel time where prayer was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I gave Him my voice singing during adoration and yelling over 130 children. I even gave Him my love for social media and blogging and did without it! I am proud to say that I said Totus Tuus to the Lord this summer. 

I had Justin Bieber Fever in this skit. Definitely singing One Less Lonely Girl.

The training week cup washing ladies and our cute aprons!
But even after giving Him all that and more, I know that I couldn't have done it without His help. I'm more impressed with how much God taught me this summer than with anything I could have done on my own. He kept me sane and showed me how strong in my convictions I can stand with Him in my corner. With Christ I could be more patient when I asked for the opportunity and ability to practice it. In seeing Christ in others I could fight the urge to blow up when I was annoyed or tired or grumpy. Because I was doing the Lords work I was capable of so much more.

Totus Tuus bowling with Alex!

Me and Kirsten, University of Kansas representing!

It's like they say:
Nobody said it was going to be easy, they just said it was going to be worth it.
Teammie Human Sundae

Who puts fruit loops on their ice cream sundae's really?

And totally worth it it has been. He blessed me with all of the amazing people I encountered this summer. Waking up every morning at approximately 7:36 to leave the house at 7:40 so we could have meditation, pray morning prayer and the rosary as a team was worth it to grow in my spiritual life. To let the Lord be the source of my energy when at 9:00am every morning a swarm of kids from 1st-6th grade would pour in the door waiting for me to acknowledge them, listen to their stories, and show them they were important to me. The hours of classes during training week while I was dog tired covering the stories of Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Christ along with the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary at a college level were worth it when I saw the wheels start to click in the minds of my 5th graders every week. Wanting to take a 4 hour nap every afternoon but often skipping it to have Sonic Happy Hour/Glee watching/Pigeon Story Reading/Swimming time to create a bond outside of work with my team was worth the exhaustion I often felt when it came time for the 7th-12th grade program at night. And by 10pm it took all I had not to let my head collapse on my pillow before remembering that God is the reason I made it through the day in the first place without keeling over an dying, and to give Him some time before sleep, but it was all worth it. And even though I like to say I couldn't do it one more day... if they needed me tomorrow I'd say yes in a heart beat.

Christine, Me, Alex and Alice during training week!

Again on our last night together at the end of summer retreat!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Be Not Afraid

As many of you may have already known this past Sunday was the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Because with Him there are no coincidences, with the help of the Holy Spirit I had a pretty good conversation with God concerning my vocation after mass.

It was these words from Fr. Mitchel’s homily that got me praying:
It is often said that the moment after receiving the Eucharist is the best moment for discerning one's vocation. For it is at this moment that we are most inclined to hear Jesus' voice not with fear - not as do this because I told you so, or do that, or else - but with trust. We fear Jesus' voice when our pride tells us that Jesus cannot know us as well as we know ourselves, when our selfishness tells us that it would be foolish to turn any decisions over to him. We trust Jesus' voice when we realize he only desires to free us to be what we have always wanted to be, and to live a life of love that is measured by the beauty of his glorious cross. May Jesus then, fully present in the Eucharist, be the gate by which we come and go through life, and arrive at the true discernment of the vocation he has given to us, and to no one else.
I've probably reread that paragraph 24 times in the past 24 hours. It's beautiful. But there was a part that I heard during the homily that resonated with me:  

“ not with fear…”. 

Vocational discernment is a big deal at St.Lawrence and sometimes it seems like everyone under the sun is very actively discerning and getting answers. In fact four of my guy friends will be off to the seminary in the fall and some of my girl friends are confident knowing they are called to marriage. I on the other hand have no idea, no inclination, no compass teetering to one side or the other.

Let's face the facts; sometimes vocational discernment is intimidating. 

I'm a big fan of the dictionary references to drive a point home so here goes this one:

–verb (used with object)
1. to make timid; fill with fear.
2. to overawe or cow, as through the force of personality or by superior display of wealth, talent, etc.
3. to force into or deter from some action by inducing fear 

I'm scared of my discernment. But I'm not scared in the way some people are scared. I'm not terrified of the possibility of the Lord calling me to consecrate my life to Christ and be a religious . I'm not terrified that He may be calling me to the devoted single life. I'm not terrified that God could be calling me to a holy marriage. No that is not it at all. I am terrified of time.

I like to say that I want to know what my vocation is. Oh how simple it would be if He would just spit it out already, let's move on with the show. I pray for Him to reveal to me exactly what it is that He’d like for me. A swift kick in the right direction ought to do me some good. But the more I think about it the more I realize that I’m lying; to myself and to God.

I'm not ready to know my vocation right now! If I know what my vocation is then I’ll be obligated to live it out. I just got to college two years ago! What if my vocation calls me away? I'm proud beyond proud of my friends going to the seminary next year. The day I found out about one of them I was literally beaming. My boss even asked me if there was something different about me that day and then mentioned that it was because she hadn't seen me stop smiling since I walked in the door. But part of me is glad it's them and not me. Because they're leaving, moving on because God has asked them too. They're answering the call. Even if this becoming a priest isn't what God will end up calling them to in the end they're not too intimidated to answer.

If God reaches out to me in prayer tomorrow and tells me ever so obviously that I’m called to be a religious sister than I will have to take the first step in that journey. If he calls out to me and tells me that marriage is the way to go than I'll have to force myself to the vulnerability of being in a relationship. And these are what I fear. The future is a scary scary thing. Hearing the call for me, is a scary thing. Because if God calls than I'll have to pick up.

And what if I don't hear Him right? What if I make the wrong decision and choose the wrong vocation? What if I don't pick up in time and the opportunity passes? What if? What if?

While I was mulling over all of these things after receiving Christ's body in the Eucharist I heard the song Be Not Afraid in my head. Hearing God speak is an amazing feeling, one that I never truly had before St.Lawrence because I'd never taken the time to listen.

As I knelt in the pew after Mass I knew what I was supposed to do. I picked up the book of hymns, turned the page to Be Not Afraid and read the lyrics and Christ comforted me.

Are we certain that this songwriter didn't have vocational discernment in mind when he wrote this?

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
Be not afraid.
I go before you always.
Come follow me, and
I will give you rest.
If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
If you stand before the pow'r of hell and death is at your side,
Know that I am with you through it all.

And I thought about how even now when it seems like my discernment process is barren and unproductive there is a plan already set in motion and I will not die waiting for it. That I can find comfort following in the safety of God's will even though I don't know where He's leading me. That no matter where He sends me and which vocational direction He pushes me towards there is a difference that only I can make in it. That no matter what, as long as I am following God's will, I will see Him in that life.

It's like that sentence was meant for me that day. Be not afraid. Listen to Jesus "not with fear..." but with trust. He won't lead me down a path that He hasn't first been down Himself. I can find comfort and rest knowing that I can trust Him with my life, with my future.

And when times in my vocation are tougher than I ever imagined they could be and things don't seem like they're gonna hold together I'll get out alive. When there are people around me trying to persuade my choice in vocation out of their own selfishness listening to Christ will keep me on the right path.

He is there, through the whole process. When it feels like God will never reveal your vocation to you He is there, working on you. 

Be not afraid.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thank you for reminding me just how lucky I am to be Catholic

Let me preface this post by stating that there are not a lot of things that make me absolutely furious. This was one of them:

Over spring break I was at home and spent a day with one of my best friends. We were chatting away and she mentioned an experience she had with a christian church where they had a guest preacher (who happened to be a convert from Catholicism to a non-denominational christian) give a sermon about False Converts, aka Catholics. A friend from her dorm had asked her to go to a church service with her and she gladly went. Little did either of them know that for the next hour she'd have to sit there and listen to a man lie about the Catholic church, to criticize, deprecate, deride, discredit and belittle the only faith she's ever known.

I believe she handled it much better than I ever would be able to simply because she sat through the entire thing. I probably would've gotten up in the middle of the sermon and walked straight out the doors!

As we sat in her room talking about what the preacher had said, I found myself becoming more and more angry with everything she told me. This was my life, my passion, my faith, my religion that he was badmouthing! I wanted to kick him in the face! (not very Christian I know) Mostly it just hurt, it hurt to know that there are people out there that think this about the Catholic Church. I guess I find a little comfort in how much this hurt me to hear. How outraged I was about the lies that this man was spreading. It only confirmed how solidly I believe in my faith.

Still I had to find out for myself exactly what this man had said, where he was coming from and how he portrayed the Catholic Church to be. Lucky for me the church's website had recorded the sermon and I could listen to it online.

Some common objections he had. That as Catholics we:
 -are not born again.
-are the work of the devil; convincing us that we're saved when we're not
-are sons of the wicked one
-have no desire to follow Jesus
-are self absorbed and self centered - we love ourselves more than we love God
-believe we are saved because we are good people
-added baptism as the means of salvation
-still believe in indulgences
-believe law keeping is an extra requirement as a means to our salvation
-removed the repentance of sinners as essential
-removed the resurrection of Jesus Christ as essential
-removed the righteousness of God as essential
-believe in a false Jesus
-don't confess that we're sinners so we can't be saved (we have a whole sacrament dedicated to this!)
-believe in a God that would never send anyone to hell
-have a fervent zeal for God but seek our own righteousness
-believe that because we were born into the Catholic Church we will go to Heaven

He also mentioned:
-The goal of the Catholic Church is to keep men in their sin and out of the bible.
-He's heard many roman catholics say "I was born a Catholic and I'm gonna die a Catholic" but states his opinion; "not if you wanna be saved!"
-Before denouncing the Catholic faith his purpose was to make as much money as he could. He didn't realize this was a bad thing until he converted away from Catholicism.
-He visited a small town in Texas where 95% of the population was Catholic. The only light in this little town was the one baptist church.
-He knew that Jesus died for the sins of the world but as a Catholic he never knew why Jesus had to die.
-He said imagine that there are suspended monkey bars above hell and as Catholics we cling to the bars as we do to our baptism, good works, sacraments, indulgences, purgatory and law keeping and as long as we cling to those we don't have to fear hell. Imagine Jesus is suspended between us and hell and if we let go of those things that can't save us and trust in Him He promises to save us. If we still cling to those things as we die we'll lose our grip and fall into the eternal fire. Are we ready to let go and trust Jesus to save us?
I think Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen probably says it best:

"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics “adore statues;” because they “put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God;” because they “say indulgence is a permission to commit sin;” because the Pope “is a Fascist;” because the Church “is the defender of Capitalism.” If the Church taught or believed any one of these things, it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.
If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. ... the Catholic Church is the only Church existing today which goes back to the time of Christ. History is so very clear on this point, it is curious how many miss its obviousness..."
-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

My freshman year of high school I was in debate (nerdy I know) and a sophomore guy that was also in the class who knew I was Catholic confronted me all of a sudden telling me that I wasn't a Christian. I was accused of worshiping Mary, Saints and Idols. He started attacking my faith and telling me that I wasn't saved. I was a freshman! I tried my hardest to explain to Him that the Catholic Church was the first christian church and that if he followed the line of his church back it would lead him to the Catholic Church which would in turn lead him to seeing Jesus Christ as the founder. I tried to tell him that I believed Jesus Christ was God and savior. As he threw bible verse after bible verse in my face it shocked me that he would attack my faith in this way.
Still it shocks me today that this church my friend visited had an entire service dedicated to how awful it must be to be Catholic and how it is their duty to go out into the world and save us all.

After the service my friend emailed the pastor telling him how uncomfortable the service had made her. He efficiently emailed her back explaining that the visiting preacher had no intention to make her feel bad but only wanted to help and everything he said and did was out of love. She received no apology. He did reach out to her saying that she must recognize deep inside that she is missing truth in the Catholic Church or else she would not have come to the service. Again the desire to kick someone in the face arose. This friend is beautiful on the inside and out, always willing to be there for her friends. I'm so proud of the way she handled herself during this whole situation and I'm almost certian that she's grown to be a stronger Catholic because of it.

So thank you Mr.Visiting Preacher Man, for reminding us of how lucky we are to be Catholic.
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