Thursday, January 19, 2012

The need for silence

Today was a very quiet day in the office, and around 10 am it started snowing, a beautiful soft snow that covered the ground very quickly but didn't accumulate too much. It was the most serene thing coupled with the fact that there were only 3 of us in my office today.

To be honest, silence makes me a little uncomfortable and if you would ask my peers, I think about 95% of them would agree with me. Sure, I have silence when I go to sleep and I think silence is really important during prayer, but the rest of my days are normally filled with conversations, music/TV in the background, my phone buzzing, the heater roaring, etc. Yet, today I relished in the quiet and I think that I could get used to this. Silence allows us to think out loud, allows for creativity in work & play, and allows God to speak to us, if we have ears to listen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My goals for 2012

A picture of me at a recent "Catholic Business Exchange" event in Indianapolis
Thanks to Denis Kelly for capturing it!

Well...I have not blogged since May 2011....while that's a bit of a bummer, I am ready to start afresh in the New Year since I am now settled in and while life has taken a lot of twists and turns since then, I am very excited about what the future holds.

I do not normally do "resolutions" since I like to reassess my goals on more of a monthly basis than just annually, but regardless, I have 7 personal goals that I really want to accomplish in 2012.

1. I want to read more- fiction especially! I just finished my first fiction for the year- "One wonderful thing" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and am getting started on my second, "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver.

2. I want to expand my repertoire of recipes, especially INDIAN! I love eating Indian but have always been too timid to try making it. With a large Indian population in Indianapolis, I have no excuse because I can get all of the authentic spices and ingredients at little Indian groceries under 5 minutes from my house. I may also try to learn how to cook Cuban for my dear fiance who will not know what to do once he can't eat Cuban food every day near his college.

3. I want to run the Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis. I have signed up with the particular intention of dedicating my training with the intention of the increase of awareness of vocations in the Church- priesthood, religious life, sacred single life, marriage: what's your vocation?! I last ran a BIG race in Washington DC, the Cherry blossom festival 10- mile race in 2010 so I have a lot of work to do to get ready.

4. I want to resume writing my book. It is a book/testimony to long-distance relationships and in particular, how to successfully discern marriage in a long-distance relationship as a Catholic man or woman. I hope to include stories of people I know (as well as my own) that went the distance in their relationships.

5. I want to finish planning a successful wedding for October 2012 when I will marry the love of my life and begin married life.

6. I want to be more involved with the pro-life movement. I recently attended a talk by Bryan Kemper who is a pro-life giant here in the U.S. He debunked the idea that certain people are CALLED to do pro-life ministry, but rather, we must all see that over 53 million of our brothers and sisters have lost their lives to this genocide called abortion and put an end to this horrific legacy that began 39 years ago by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. The toll on life and stakes are too high to be quiet! I plan to do this by being a prayerful presence at the abortion clinics, writing politicians/companies that endorse or support abortion, blogging/posting regular about life issues on facebook, and making conscious political decisions in the upcoming elections.

7. I want to blog more...I would like to blog at least twice per keep me honest on this!!

What are your goals for 2012?

In the spirit of setting goals, I remind myself that Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta said "You are not called to be successful, only faithful." My prayer this year is that I might be faithful to my professional and personal commitments and that I might do all things for the greater glory of God. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

My mom: A living saint!

In honor of all mothers, and especially my mother today I say thank you! Thank you for your selflessness, your courage, your love, your encouragment, your patience...the times you said yes to an additional responsibility because you know it would benefit your children or the greater community. Being a mother is not EASY, and that is why this beautiful vocation needs to be celebrated often.

Just a few precious memories I want to share of my mother growing up:

My mom is brilliant at finding lost items. She must have a 6th sense or St. Anthony in her pocket. Even if we are not in the same place (like when I am at school), she always seems to know where I left my wallet, my jacket, my earring, etc. What a grace!

My time in high school was probably the craziest time in my life. I was definitely OVERinvolved and was taking really challenging classes. I remember multiple times when my mom pulled all-nighters with me just so she could help or even be in solidarity with me as I finished my long-procrastinated project or paper.

My mom used to sew ALL of my Halloween costumes. She is a very talented woman....I got to be Rapunzel, Pochahantas, and many more wonderfully girly cool.

My mom taught me how to bake pies like it's nobody's business. She instilled a patient love in me for homemade pie crust & the delicate blend of fruit or nuts with sugar & spice.

My mom (and my dad) made sure that we went to Mass every Sunday and stayed involved with our parish. They fostered a love for the Lord in me at a very young age and we have all grown in the faith together as I went through high school and college.

My mom is a volunteer. She has worked in many ministries from helping with Boy Scouts, to being a great "Speech Team" mom, to preparing meals for the Sunshine club to contribute to funeral meals, to chaperoning a retreat, to now doing house visits for the St. Vincent De Paul's warehouse. She is selfless with her gifts and shares them with the community frequently.

Mom, for these reasons and many others, I am so glad to be your daughter.

I encourage all other bloggers to post a picture and memories of their moms today!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Simple Woman's Daybook

So, I read about this way to blog and have decided to give it a try after reading a fellow blogger's "Simple Woman's Daybook". I love it!!! :-)

For Today: Saturday, May 7th

Outside my window: A beautiful 68 degrees and lots of green grass, dusk

I am thinking: I am definitely exhausted as I antipated after working an overnight lock-in last night but I am so happy with how the lock-in went. The Holy Spirit was really present last night & this morning! Now I have to get get some homework done for my judicial politics class.

I am thankful for: A fantastic retreat, my relationship with God, my fabulous friends Maria & Meghan

From the Kitchen: Tonight for dinner I made a meal with rice, corn, and chicken sausage (with apples) along with from-scratch blueberry muffins. Scrumptious!!

I am wearing: shame!

I am creating: nothing today!

I am going: absolutely nowhere.

I am reading: "Cullen v. Pinholster" Supreme Court Case

I am hoping/praying: Consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort, praying for several friends' job searches & for a special married couple trying to conceive a child

I am hearing: my friends' Maria & Meghan's voices & laughing

Around the house: Candles are burning, dishes are washed from dinner, my room needs some reorganization

One of my favorite things: Getting crawl into my bed after a nearly 36+ hour Friday/Saturday....bliss!

A few plans for the rest of the week:

-Get a ton of paper writing done so that I can enjoy last memories with friends in St. Paul before I graduate

-Celebrate "The Signature" staff writers by a trip to get ice cream Tuesday night

-Celebrate VIA volunteers at the Wednesday night banquet

-Make more yummy meals

-Do yoga

-Go on a lot of long walks

-Catch up with my DF (dear fiancé) now that his finals are over :-) Yay.

Have a great Saturday everyone!!!!! Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Be a mentor!

You are never too old or young to be a mentor.

Tonight, I am heading to Wisconsin to help with a retreat for 8th graders from different middle schools who will be attending the same high school together. I am going with 5 other students from my school. Throughout the course of the evening, we will be giving talks, leading small groups, playing games, eating pizza, watching movies, praising the Lord, having Confessions, going to Mass, and more. This will be my 3rd opportunity helping to chaperone/lead this retreat in my time at St. Thomas. It is such a blessing to have this opportunity which is a 1x/year commitment every May...and what generosity that 5 other students were willing to come with me too!

Without a doubt, we each will have a unique opportunity to mentor tonight. That is, to be a witness and show, by example, that living a life for the Lord and being in relationship with Him is the best decision that you can make. I look forward to the conversations, the questions, and the fun that we will be sharing tonight. I know that I might have something to teach, and to learn and I am very excited to be a part of this overnight retreat. (even though it means I'll be EXHAUSTED tomorrow morning making the 2 hr drive back)

When I look back on my faith journey, I would not be where I am today (which is far from perfect, but I am striving towards Him) if it were not the presence of genuine mentors who cared immensely about me. Sometimes you meet someone and they make an impression on you.

When I went to "One Bread, One Cup" a liturgical leadership conference at St. Meinrad's in S. Indiana when I was in high school, I made friends with mentors (peers) and college-aged mentors. The retreat was based around learning how to serve at your church back at home, learning different lay ministries (music, lectoring, altar serving, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Homiletics, etc), learning about spirituality types/exploring different prayer forms, and building community with young Catholics from around the country. At that point, I liked being a Catholic and I enjoyed the friendships I had at Church but I did not really have a deep conviction of faith. Seeing these other young people with so much JOY for Jesus Christ left a deep mark on me that made me ask, "How can I have that?" And so I prayed, discerned, watched, and talked...and fully gave myself to the Lord during Eucharistic Adoration the night before we left the conference. My small group's intern kept in touch with me through e-mail, and because of her, I ended up considering, applying for, and attending the University of St. Thomas (where she was currently a student).

Whether its your siblings, the young people you lead in a small group, your friends, the people standing in the movie theatre line with you, we all have a chance to be a mentor. While obviously, the mentors that are most influential are those that commit to us in the long-term, short experiences like this retreat tonight will make a difference. When you surrender yourself to the Lord, He will use you as His instrument for good. Never be afraid to stand for the Lord!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blessed be the name of Mary, Virgin and Mother!

Mary, most prudent, Mother of the Church: Pray for us!
I owe so much to Mary...she is certainly my queen, my sister, my Mother, my friend. She helps me to grow close to her Son Jesus, and where she is, He is never far from her. Today when I was in my Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I decided to pray a rosary. I have to say, it is one of the forms of prayer that I struggle to be consistent in doing, especially individually. I love praying the rosary in a big group or with a friend, but it is harder for me to do it as a personal devotion. I am really striving in this, because I know how much it pleases her and it pleases Our Lord to meditate upon the mysteries of the lives of Jesus & Mary.
I recently read a quote by St. Josemaria Escriva which has stuck with me: "Blessed be that monotony of Hail Marys which purifies the monotony of your sins!"
The rosary can seem monotonous at times, believe me, I know. But faith, is not some sort of culmination of our emotions or feelings. Don't pray the rosary because you feel like it, but rather, pray the rosary because our Lord is good and deserving of all praise and honor. Remember, "Love covers a multitude of sins" and what better way to love than by praying for forgiveness, healing, and peace. Honor Mary, and learn her ways, so that you might conform your will in imitation of the way she accepted all things the Lord had in store for her.
On October 6, 2012, Bill and I will be married. Our first full day as husband and wife, October 7, is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It isn't mere coincidence that we chose this date. Bill and I want to honor Mary as we enter into the sacrament of marriage. Mary is a model for me as I strive to be a holy wife and mother, and I so much admire the relationship that Bill has with Our Lady, as his advocate, Mother, and intercessor. The rosary will certainly be a family devotion for us, as it has already been critical and life-giving during our relationship and engagement. So pray your rosary today! And God bless you!

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Journey into (and out of) vegetarianism

What's for dinner?: The adventures of becoming a vegetarian

As promised, I said that I would post a blog on my decision to become a pesco-vegetarian some 10 odd years ago when I was 12 years old and in the 6th grade. It is hard to have a completely objective view of myself at that age since it just seems so young, but I think I was a fairly mature 12-year old. I was a huge bookworm (still am I suppose!) and loved reading anything put in front of me. So when I began reading "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser, I initially saw it as just another book which might give me an insight into fast food. Up to that point I had never really even been a huge fan of fast food. My ideal fast food (if I had to have some) would be Subway, Penn Station, or maybe Boston Market.

I quickly found the book to be fascinating...and appalling! The conditions in which the workers were subjected to in the meat industry, the obscene slaughtering practices, the low regard paid to the processed meat, it all gave me the creeps. I was most concerned with the ways this industry failed to provide livable conditions for the workers within their factories. I remember one story of a large 10-15 foot blood draining unit for beef production. One man fell in while trying to repair it. In a desparate attempt to help his friend, another man jumped in too.

I had enough at that point, I was converted. I told my mom that I wanted to be a vegetarian. She took it very well surprisingly! She was more than willing to help me acclimate myself to this diet, as long as I was willing to do some cooking and as long as I talked to my doctor about it. I did both of these things, went vegetarian cold-turkey (pun intended) and eventually decided that I wanted to continue to eat seafood. Seafood had always been one of my favorite sources of protein anyways.

I packed a lot of my own lunches, enjoyed shopping at specialty groceries such as Trader Joe's and the natural section of my usual grocers. I faced several difficulties with limited options when I would help with a retreat/program or camp and meals were not veggie-friendly. I have been finding more recntly, however, that restaurants and programs are becoming more aware of the large number of people who have taken up a complete vegetarian, vegan, modified vegetarian diet. I feel so blessed to have been able to make that choice, and in fact, we are blessed with so many options of what we can eat.

So I went on this way for a long time...9 years long time! I ate a lot of veggies (salads), hummus, PBJ, fruit, yogurt, beans/lentils/soups, rice, seafood and meat substitutes such as Morningstar, Boca, and Gardenburger. I loved finding new ethnic restaurants to try and found that overwhelmingly, Indian restaurants boasted the widest selection for vegetarians. My city (back home) has a huge Indian population, and I even found an all-vegetarian cafe which had a terrific lunch buffet. Each year for our birthdays, the birthday girl or boy gets to pick the restaurant. I even got my family to go along with me to an Afghani restaurant (yum!). Being a vegetarian gave me an excuse to try all sorts of new recipes and new products. My parents came to love trying all sorts of new foods and to this day they are huge fans of veggie burgers. My brother Mike, on the other hand, has not, to this day, touched any "veggie" food of mine willingly. Ha!

As I matured, I learned a lot of additionally reasons for being a vegetarian. For instance, did you know that vegetarians decrease their risk of heart attack by nearly half? Or that vegetarians add an average of 6-7 years on to their lives. Wow! Eating no (or even less) meat is extremely beneficial, as long as you eat a variety of good foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

So, this all sounds great, right? What happened, you might be asking...?

Well, in the summer of 2010, I took an incrdible, transformative, volunteer mission to Chuquibamba, Peru for a month. During my first day there with the Servidoras del Señor y de la Virgen de Mátara, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. As is customary, we were all served a meal following the mass. The meal consisted of carne con aji colorado (spiced beef), potatoes, and corn. I was famished, I was grateful, and I realized that I needed to accept this meal so to be able to fully show gratitude toward the cooks. I couldn't believe I was actually eating meat...what was this!?!

During my time in Peru, I read St. Francis de Sales' book "Introduction to the Devout Life". This is a terrific spiritual read that was the first book on spirituality written for the lay faithful. I don't remember the actual quotation, but I remember reading in the sections on virtues, that accepting all food one is offered is a virtuous and worthy endeavor. By accepting the food that I was given, I was able to show my gratitude more fervently and I allowed all of my material needs to be satisfied by the Lord. As I tried different types of meat, I started realizing that I really did enjoy meat. One day at the orphanage, we received a cow that had strangled itself and could not be sold. Thus, we ate beef (and even cow stomach!) all week long. In giving up my vegetarian diet, I was able to receive more fully and genuinely.

When I arrived back in the United States, I was torn whether I should return to my vegetarian diet or continue on in my adventure with meat begun in Peru. I decided to do both. I still cook a lot of vegetarian food...a lot! This skill especially comes in handy during Lent on Fridays when everyone is looking for a good fish or veggie meal. Today for lunch I made a skillet using red potatoes, tempeh, tomatoes, cumin, avocado, and black beans. However, I decided that I would eat meat, and I have even been finding myself excited to try new kinds and experiment with it in the kitchen. It all still feels kind of new and exciting to's like I'm a kid in a candy shop!

In closing, one's diet certainly is an important thing. A well-balanced diet is essential to good health. Some people feel compelled to take on a vegetarian lifestyle, whiel others find healthy options that inlude both plant-based and animal-based products.

Are there any current or former vegetarians out there? What are your thoughts on vegetarianism?