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 characters.....so 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: pajamas...no 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 http://www.saintmeinrad.edu/oboc/default.aspx 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 me....it'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?






Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drumroll please.....introducing "The Sheet"

Craving to communicate?: Try "The Sheet"


Happy April folks! I am sorry that I've been absent from the blogosphere so much recently. I spent a week on vacation (in Colorado visiting family and in Miami visiting Bill)and when I got back there was just so much to do that I spaced out on blogging until now. As you probably notice, my blog looks different! I hope you like it as much as I do. My friend Elly helped me to redesign the layout and I absolutely love it. Thanks Elly. :-) You will also notice that you can sign up to receive my blogs through e-mail which is pretty dang cool...I encourage you to do this, so that instead of having to check every once in awhile, you will be able to know instantly when I have posted.


Today's blog won't be long at all, I just want to share a powerful method to communicate with your beloved (boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé/fiancée, husband, wife, you name it!). Bad communication can really be a killer for relationships/marriages, and there is no better time to begin communicating than the present. I have found communication to be a huge area of growth for me, especially since I began dating Bill long-distance relationship. I first learned about "The Sheet" from my friend Kenna, who at the time was using it as she and then fiancé were preparing for marriage. I know that they still use it during their weekly "Family meetings". Bill & I use it on a weekly basis and make it a priority that we do "The Sheet" every Friday. We make a date of it, either on the phone, on Skype, or in person if we're lucky enough to both be in the same place together. We plan on using it once we are married, and we have both encouraged other couples to try it out.


So what is this "magical" sheet? Okay, okay....here goes. "The Sheet" is made up of different categories for discussion. Each person will do their "Sheet" a day in advance or throughout the week leading up to the time that they plan to discuss it as a couple. I like to take mine to my adoration hour to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and think about what I ought to bring up during "The Sheet" that week in my journal. I know other people who like to type it on their computer so they can keep track of it and watch the growth over time.


Here are the categories for reflection:


News

This is your chance to bring anything up that has not in normal conversation. For me, I normally give Bill a road map for what my schedule looks like in the week advance, we might talk about what kinds of things we'd like to do that week, tell each other updates about friends and family, etc. Pretty low vulnerability level, but very useful!


Puzzles

This is your chance to ask any questions to clarify things that your partner did earlier in the week. For instance, "Last night you mentioned you'd call me at 6 pm, but then you did not end up calling me until 8 pm...what happened?" or "Do you remember who committed to taking the dog on a walk every week, was it me or you?" It's important to stay away from sounding accusatory by asking questions very frankly but respectfully.


Requests w/ a proposed fix

This can be another touchy area. This is where you might make a request of your partner, respectfully and with lots of compassion. Perhaps it might be the opportunity to ask, "Would you mind if we had a date just the two of us next week? I love hanging out with your friends, but it has been a few weeks since we had quality me and you time." The best way to approach this category is by always having a proposed fix is you make any sort of criticism of his/her behavior/actions. Bringing up these kinds of things is very fruitful to good communication.


Anxieties

What is stressing you out? Let your partner know so that he/she can pray for you and remember to check in on you about these things in the near future.


Short-term Goals (3)

What do you want to accomplish in the next 1-4 weeks? These can be goals for your relationship, career goals, academic goals, spiritual goals, you name it! One of my short-term goals for the "Sheet" this week is to work on finding beautiful bridesmaid dresses for my wedding.

Long- term Goals (3)

What do you want to accomplish in the next month- 1 year from now? Sometimes these may stay the same from week to week, but that way, your partner is able to encourage you and ask how you are doing on them. One of my long term goals this week is to embrace inconveniences joyfully.


5 Things I love about you


This next section is by far my (and Bill's) favorite section. You get to come up with 5 reasons why you are madly in love with your partner. Why is he or she a blessing to you? What did you appreciate, in particular, that he/she did this week? It is best to be very specific since you need to come up with 5 new ones every time you do "The Sheet". For Bill and I, we blow each other a kiss after each one that we read. TMI!?! Haha, oh well. :-)


I pray that "The Sheet" will be a blessing for many of you if you are currently in a relationship or if you plan on doing so in the future. I cannot see why it couldn't also be used for roommate/housemate meetings, between mother/daughter, and so forth. If it is weird the first time you do it, try it again. It will certainly take some getting used to based on your personality styles. I would recommend that you introduce the sheet no earlier than 3-4 months into dating a person, just since until then you are still really getting to know the person. And of course, if you have been dating longer or are married, go ahead and share this post with your partner and I can't wait to hear about your thoughts about this helpful relationship tool that has really strengthened my relationship.


Jesus, I ask that you might bless all of my readers, the work and study that we have to do today, and thank you for this day, and the opportunity we have to glorify You in word and deed. May those who decide to use "The Sheet" be graced with good communication as we imperfect beings struggle towards the holiness you call us to in every dimension of our lives, especially in our relationships with those we love the most. Mary, pray for us, that we may make our lives a perfect offering to your son, Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A day full of blessings!

So many blessings today...

Turning in 2 papers, check!
The beautiful sunshine
"Wash my Feet" posters look fantastic
Mass is in 20 minutes followed by community night
Phone date with my Hunny
Lots of friends willing and ready to help serve
UST faculty who really care about me
An enthralling Catholic Studies class this morning
The smile and encouragement of one of my besties and only housemate, Maria
The good morning text I received from my mother
The feeling that I have finished everything that needs to get done before spring break which starts Friday!

God is good, and I am thankful for everything He sends my way.

I think the weather may FINALLY be getting warm. *Fingers crossed* I really hope to be able to wear a breezy spring/summer dress once I return back to Minnesota after spring break.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mom knows best


An Untoppable Chicken Salad: Mom's Recipe

Since returning to the carniverous world, I hadn't tried my mom's world-famous (in my opinion) chicken salad. Growing up most of my life I had always had her special tuna salad (I'll share that recipe a different day) but not the chicken salad.

Yesterday (Sunday) I took her recipe, went shopping, and made myself a large batch of it. It's good on sandwiches, salads (especially spinach), on crackers, and eaten by the spoonful. And maybe there are even more possibilities.

Anyways, it was TERRIFIC....yesterday I had it in a toasted sandwich and today as a salad. :-) My mom has made this for bridal showers/baby showers/pitch-ins and more. She told me that one time she used 24 chicken breasts....that's a lot of chicken salad!

I decided to make the lowest fat version as I could attempt, so I decided to nix the nuts and use low-fat Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil (green lid), non-fat Cool Whip (Target brand), and non-fat Jimmy's Slaw Dressing. Depending on where you shop, you should be able to find similiar products that will keep your recipe low in fat. I bought my ingredients at Target.

4 large chicken breasts (baked and torn into pieces)
1 lg. apple (peeled and shredded)
2 cups green grapes (halved)
1/2 cup celery (diced)
1 cup Mayo
1/2 cup cool whip
1/2 cup slaw dressing

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for 1 hour. Makes 4-5 servings.

I give it an A+. Make sure that your chicken to dressing proportion is correct. I did not initially make enough chicken (I have small chicken breast tenderloins in my freezer) so if you are not using large chicken breasts, you need to use at least 7 tenderloins, minimum.

I hope that you all enjoy this recipe and give me your feedback! :-) Blessings on your Monday.

Ideas of what you want me to blog about? Comments are always welcome and appreciated!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A few rising stars I've got to rave about!



Jammin' out today!: Some music you REALLY ought to listen to
Last night I had the privilege of going to a concert where Luke Spehar released his new cd "No other way" which has 10 new tracks. It is PHENOMENAL and it is the music that he wrote during his first year of seminary at St. John Vianney at the University of St. Thomas. To me, his is an Amos Lee meets Jack Johnson meets Dave Matthew...does that make any sense? He's got a really unique style and is a Catholic artist. He has a new website that he is still getting all set up which is www.lukespehar.com. you can also find him on Facebook. Unfortunately I can't find any videos of his new songs, but if you want a taste of his music, check out this video which has his song, "The Champion" from his first cd Be still : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvGjkjvE0dI

Hopefully his new album will be available to the general public SOON!

I also have a friend named Heather Bartlett who is going places! First of all, she is just about the most friendly, cheerful, sweet, smart, and fun girl ever. She just released an album that is on ITUNES. She has a gorgeous voice and sings pop with a twist. Her album is available for purchase in the UST bookstore, and also up on Itunes. One song that you CAN'T get on the bookstore copy ($5) is "In the End". If you buy this single, she will be donating the profits from the song so that a priest Fr. Loya (who knew JPII personally) is able to attend Pope JPII's Beatification in Rome this spring....way cool Heather. Such a good idea of a "fundraiser" of sorts. My favorite song from her album is "Two Straws". You see, I'm a huge country fan, so my favorite thing are stories as lyrics, and this one totally revolves around the story of a couple and their love story from high school through family life with 6 kids. A heartwarming story revolving around their growing love and constant enjoyment of strawberry milkshakes together. Makes me wonder what traditions will remain in my future marriage with Bill. Whatever they are...I sure hope we continue to pray always and trust the Lord, eat lots of red velvet cake (and cupcakes),take roadtrips, and slowdance to our favorite songs. :-) I'd be willing to trade all the skype dates and letters (oh long distance!) for those things.

Happy Saturday 'o studying folks! I'm always happy to promote the music and books of people who really move and inspire me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chastity: A Communal (and Personal) Virtue


Chastity and the moral life: It involves a cultural effort

I must say, I really enjoyed the talk I went to last night which was titled "A Muslim Perspective on Chastity". Students for Human Life of St. Thomas invited Professor Adil Ozdemir to speak. He is from the Theology department and Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center. Professor Ozdemir is a Muslim scholar and is a practicing Muslim from Turkey. We all ended up having quite the discussion about Islam in general, and specifically practices and viewpoints on the human body, sexuality, marriage, and gender.

One particular point I see as very similiar between Islam and Catholicism is the emphasis that faith is an integral part of life and we witness to that reality of God with our lives, bodies, words, thoughts...In his words, "Everything you do is related to your faith." "Muslims are to fight the good fight against temptations, against the Devil." I would completely agree regarding the Christian duty. He also reiterated that faith is not private or personal, but rather communal. Our actions (or failure to act) affect others. The Holy Quran gives Muslims a law to be observed to live and co-exist in harmony in the relationships in life. So too for Catholics (and Christians) does the Bible give a law to be observed regarding our relationships.

Then, he went on to discuss the masculinity and femininity of our bodies. He said, "God created male and female from a single soul as different genders so that we can know and discover one another." He said that the majority of creation was made in couples/pairs (fruit, animals...). A male and female who join together to be married complement each other and he used the analogy of clothing to describe the intimacy/closeness of mates. A person's husband or wife should fit so tightly in love, care, compassion, and respect for his/her spouse that he/she resembles clothing on the other. And thus, modesty is required for both sexes (inside and outside of marriage) to be able to protect the nature of the other. Sex is only permitted inside of marriage (like the Christian/Catholic teaching) because it is meant as a gift to be given to those who have made a covenant for their lives. When people choose to have sex outside of marriage, it can have multiple repercussions that hurt themselves, but also friends, family members, their potential offspring, and society at large.

I think Professor Ozdemir hit upon a critical point here. Chastity is about a lifestyle and it is fully integrated into the person's life. It is important to mention that there is a way to repent from past actions that have not been in accord with God's will for us. In Catholicism, it is through the sacrament of reconciliation where we confess our sins and ask to be made anew, and Christ wipes away our sins. The Christian journey is not about being perfect, because if we were perfect, we would not have such a longing and need for Christ. If we were perfect, God would not need to outpour his mercy upon us. God rejoices when we return to him wholeheartedly. In Islam, Muslims rely upon Allah (God) who is "All-forgiving", they repent sincerely during their time of prayer, even for those sins they aren't aware they committed. What a beautiful act of humility! Professor Ozdemir said that God's forgivenss and love is so great that it is greater than the love and anxiety of a woman looking for her newborn child who was lost in the desert. God loves us that much and is so eager for us to return to Him.

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about chastity? Well a lot actually and it is worth reading the entire Article 6 on the "The Sixth Commandment". But just to quote a small portion:

"Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being...The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and teh integrality of the gift." (2337)

The Church sees chastity as an integral virtue, one that is meant to be part of our daily lives, and that does not ask for us to repress our sexuality, but rather to embrace it fully in our words, thoughts, actions, dress. When we do this, we are saying with our actions that each person has utter dignity and the act of sex itself is beautiful and should not be compromised by seeking that gift outside of its proper context in marriage.

The Catechism also teaches:
"Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one's neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion." (374)

"Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is 'an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society.' Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life." (2525)

Chastity is a societal good! It can't be stated any clearer than that. When we recognize the dignity and goodness of each person (heart, mind, body, spirit) spiritual communion will be possible, and it may, indeed, be a foretaste of what is to come in Heaven. Cultures should help to build up a society that prizes chastity, and I'm sad to say that it seems in many ways that our society does not always value chastity. How many movies have you seen lately where the unmarried couple "hooked up" very shortly after meeting each other? Okay, now compare that to the times you have seen a movie that portrayed a couple waiting to give themselves to each other on their wedding night? The numbers are much more in favor of the first, I think. But it doesn't mean the fight is lost...why? Chastity "is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort" (1810). The Lord alone, who has more power than anyone or anything else, wants to give us the grace to be pure, if only we ask Him. And we ought to ask Him for this grace all the time, especially as young people who want to live purely.

Chastity is something I am very passionate about in my own life, and I know just how difficult it can be. I would recommend asking St. Philomena, Our Lady, St. Joseph, or St. Maria Goretti to be your intercessors for this intention. Look them up- they all modeled beautifully the virtue of chastity, and I go to them often to ask for this grace from the Lord so that I might embody holy chastity with my fiancé, my family, my housemate, my friends, and all that I encounter in my day-to-day life. There are also a lot of fantastic books on the subject, I would especially recommend "If you really loved me..." by Jason Evert, "Captivating" by John & Stasi Eldredge (for women), "Wild at heart" by John Edlredge (for men) and of course the "Theology of the Body" sermons by JPII if you're really adventurous.

I am so happy to know that Muslims share this foundational belief with Catholics about the beauty and good of sexuality and how we as a society ought to work for its promotion among all people so that we can truly achieve a spiritual communion and integration based on love, respect, and generosity.

To end in the words of one of my favorite Holy Fathers:
"Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happpiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness." -Pope John Paul II

Blessings on your day!!! Stay posted for my next blog post.

Comments on this post, please leave them below!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lent gets a bad rap sometimes

Today marks the start of Lent: Start getting used to seeing your priest in purple


Happy Ash Wednesday everyone! This year Lent is super late, depending on the calendar, some years it has been as early as before Valentine's day (rough for those who give up sweets). I'll be honest, until a few days ago, I thought I still had one more week before Lent began. I have been nervous for the arrival of Lent, just because it inevitably invites us to get out of our comfort zone to make sacrifices that will carve out more room for the Lord in our lives and steer away from the me-mentality. Now, Lent is here, and as Catholics, we begin this season by going to mass to break bread and receive ashes on our foreheads, a marking that associates us with Christ and the cross he carries, to be celebrated 40 days from now on Good Friday.


I found some excellent information on the origins/history of Ash Wednesday by Catholic Apologist Jimmy Akin at Catholic Answers. You can read his short essay here: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2001/0104fea1sb.asp


Ashes in the Bible are typically associated with mourning or penance. A mark on the head is associated with ownership. Thus, this mark reminds us "to adopt an attitude of prayer, repentence, and humility" (Akin). The ash cross is a sacramental, an exterior sign of an interior devotion. So it joins the rank of holy medals, rosaries, holy water, and the various other physical, tangible things that we use to grow closer to God, embracing our existence as physical, material, but also spiritual beings.

I just went to Mass a few hours ago, and BOY it was packed!! And the Chapel is not small by any means. Afterwards, I was talking to my dear friend Meghan about how the crowd compares to a Holy Day of Obligation (Ash Wednesday is not one) and it didn't even come close. And...there are a good 4-5 other masses on campus either at the Major Seminary or Chapel that I wasn't even at. Our conclusion: maybe more Holy Days need to have sacramentals associated with them...perhaps there could be a complimentary blessed rosary given out on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception or a blessing with chrism on the Assumption. I invite your suggestions. Anyways, I was just so happy to see the Chapel as packed as it was.

I remember two years ago on Ash Wednesday, I was interning in the MN State Senate and I had my ashes on at work as I had been to mass that morning. Wearing ashes in a secular setting really sparks conversation, and I ended up talking to a few people about the faith that I might not have otherwise. One of my co-workers even told me that my ashes had reminded him that he needed to find a mass to go to that night. Even though Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, I have found that PEOPLE WANT THEIR ASHES.... :-) Being sorrowful is something we can all relate to as humans, and we can enter into the season, knowing that Christ fully understands the suffering and persecution we undergo because he experienced it during his life. At Mass earlier, Fr. Erich Ruetton (UST Director of Campus Ministry) challenged us to "pick our team" as we anticipate Easter. He encouraged us not to merely jump on the bandwagon at the end, but to make the sacrifices willingly and loving for Christ as we get ready for the "quiz" at Easter. "Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises? Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,and life everlasting?" (Rite of Baptism) This, my friends, is our faith! It is important that we reflect upon these questions during these upcoming 40 days so that we might prepare our hearts to say No to Satan and Yes to Christ with firm resolve.

The number one question circulating at this time of year is "What are you giving up for Lent?". So I thought I would share my plan with you:

I am giving up Facebook, one of the biggest vacuums of my time and something that I surely can do without. I have the phone numbers/e-mails of anyone I'd need to talk to, and I think it will allow me to spend more time focusing on the Lord and in nurturing my friendships. It will be tough though, I check Facebook quite frequently. I will, however, still keep up this blog and check Facebook on Sundays.

I am also trying to eat more simply (spend less money at the grocery, no alcohol, less meat, no sweets, etc.). I really really enjoy food and cooking, but in an effort to simplify this Lent, I will make Sundays my day of culinary "splurge" and eat more simply during the rest of the week. Simple can still mean gourmet and I will try and post a few more recipes up here for your enjoyment. I know a lot of mean fish dishes from my 9 years as a pesco-vegetarian (sounds like a good topic for a blog post...shoot, I've got to keep a list of these!), and that might come in handy for those of you who have gone cold-turkey (haha) vegetarian for Lent or just for all of us on Fridays.

I also think that it's important to make some new spiritual goal. My spiritual goal this Lent is to spend more time with the Scriptures in the practice of Lectio Divina. I loooove reading good spiritual books, but sometimes at the expense of reading the Bible, so I'm going to go back to the basics and focus upon the word of God.

What are you giving up for Lent this year? Never participated in Lent before? I encourage you to give it a go...Catholic or Christian or non-Christian.
Some ideas:
  • Write a letter/e-mail each day to someone who is lonely/needs a friend
  • Go to daily mass
  • Give up sweets
  • Give up half your wardrobe
  • Don't wear make-up
  • Fast between meals
  • Pray 10 minutes per day (or more!)
  • Volunteer regularly
  • Pray at 40 Days for Life (in MN the prayer will occur at Regions Hospital) for an end to abortion
  • Baby-sit for a family with children (for free)
  • Give up coffee/tea/hot chocolate
  • Give up driving (if possible)
  • Give up shopping for anything other than necessities

Know that I am praying for all of you, my readers, if you need any particular prayer intentions prayed for, you can always leave me a comment and I will include your intentions in prayer.

Tonight, I am going to a meeting of Students for Human Life. The speaker will be giving a talk on a "Muslim perspective on Chastity". Should be very cool and maybe it'll be something I blog about soon. :-)

St. Veronica, pray for us!

Jesus, Merciful Savior who died for our sins, have mercy on us!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thoughts of a Senior...

Beautiful, snowy Gainey: Where I'm heading tonight for RETREAT!

Today I will be headed to St. Thomas' retreat center at the Gainey Conference Center for a Campus Ministry-sponsored Senior Retreat. It is an overnight retreat that will last through tomorrow afternoon. Although I am not exactly sure of what the retreat will include, I am hoping for enjoyable, shared meals with friends (Gainey has outstanding food), some time for reflection on the Lord's proddings in my life and relaxation, and some words of wisdom to take with me for the remainder of the semester. These are my expectations, so we'll see how it goes.

Anyways, so now I am thinking about life as a Senior and I want to reflect a little bit on some "big picture" lessons I have learned about myself and about life in general throughout my 4 years in college.

1. Relationships are critical and can never be understated. I have been blessed with many wonderful friends and as the cliche goes, to make a friend, one must be a friend. And truly, a person is fortunate to have a good 4-5 people that truly "get" you. Although I haven't always been the perfect friend, I have had friends who have stuck with me regardless, offering their love, support, and kindness. This includes high school and college friends alike. I have found that friendships that have developed based on shared faith and shared experiences tend to be the ones that stay the strongest over time. I love a good, deep conversation, and can rely on my friends to help me when I need encouragement and offer the same when they are in need.

2. Romanticizing the events of life really sets one up for heart break. In everything, that is. I was just chatting with a friend of mine about this the other day. Throughout college, I have found myself setting expectations so high that when the event or experience actually occurred I found myself let down. It still happens all the time! I get ready to go to the library (which is beautiful and highly romantic by the way), thinking that I will be having academic ecstasy by candlelight, but when I pull my books and notebooks out and pen goes to paper, I suddenly wish I was anywhere but there. On the other hand, there is one thing in life that can never be "romanticized" enough, and that is the Mercy of God. God will always surpass our expectations because we can not (in this world anyways) understand the fullness of His goodness and His love for us. Each day, I try to focus on the beauty that I find in the Lord's work so that I can escape the "romanticism" that I crave in other things. This is an especially easy temptation to fall into for us ladies, so the sooner we face the grittiness of human life (which has been affected by the Fall), the better for our hearts so that they can heal, mend, and be transformed more fully into the Body of Christ.

3. It doesn't matter what you major in, but rather how you study and what you learn. I love hearing about all the different classes that different friends are taking. And yes, there are several classes that I would have LOVED to take during my time here. However, there is only so much time, and I am so glad to have learned what I did. I encourage you to study what interests you, and explore. I think my favorite classes have surprised me, shocked me, and opened my mind to a new perspective I had not previously considered. Yes, I studied Poli Sci, Catholic Studies, and Spanish....but I loved my Geology class, thoroughly enjoyed my freshman English class and am so glad to have taken an Acting class on the voice and vocal techniques. How cool is it that St. Thomas allows for such a breadth of topics and courses.


4. Keeping your family in the loop is important. As an out-of-state student (my home is 11 hours away!) it would have been easy to avoid conversation with my family. However, the times that I did that, I found that it was so hard to strike up a conversation naturally because of all the events that had passed since the last conversation. I love talking to my parents, brother, and my aunts because it makes us feel closer despite the distance. Being in a long-distance relationship (and now engagement), I have realized the importance of phone calls, letters, Skype and now try to incorporate these means into the ways I communicate with my family as well.

5. Spend time discerning your vocation. At college, you are surrounded by people who are figuring out what it is God is calling them to do. Whether it is a Vocation to the priesthood (my school has 15o undergrad seminarians- woah! Talk about witnesses for Christ), couples dating to discern marriage, gals discerning lives as Sisters, people considering single, consecrated lives but in active lay roles, take the time to talk to people and ask where their hearts find rest. There are so many good mentors around, especially among the faculty and staff members. Although it is also important to discern the vocation or ministry that we are called to in work, that ought to accompany prayers reflecting upon our personal vocations. I posted on my engagement story, but perhaps I will dedicate an upcoming blog post to my vocation story to marriage with Bill. Stay tuned...

6. Pray, Study, and Play! I heard this motto from a seminarian friend of mine who was from Kansas. He told me that it was importance to do all of these three things, in that particular order.

Pray: Develop your prayer life! Spend time in front of Jesus thanking, asking, and just in silence. Pray with others, pray by yourself, receive the sacraments. All of it is so important.

Study: Don't forget that our vocation right now is as students...commit time to your academics and don't take on a course load that you cannot handle.

Play: Work out, play games, enjoy the company of friends. Discover what activities challenge you and provide relaxation. I am thankful for the Rock Climbing Club, Volunteers in Action, and the Signature, among other things that give me healthy outlets of fun and leisure.

7. Get outside the bubble. No matter where you may attend/have attended college, it is no doubt a bubble. I would encourage you to spend time serving/ministering in some capacity during your years of school. Even baby-sitting or attending a parish that has children/families will help give you some perspective. Colleges can be rather isolating, as we are with people are own age (and a small number of professors) day in and day out. It is important to remember that this is not "real life" and to regularly enter into "real life". Oh I know...painful....just kidding!

If you are a St. Thomas student, allow me to insert a plug for an INCREDIBLE opportunity to serve the community coming up in April. On Saturday, April 16th, 2011, we will be having an event called "Wash my Feet". The day will include breakfast, my wonderful friend and professional speaker Pat Millea http://www.pat-millea.com/, serving at a site around the Twin Cities (the list now includes Feed My Starving Children, Catholic Charities, Sharing and Caring Hands, Episcopal Homes, and many more), and then heading back to campus for a hearty lunch and a short time of reflection on the day. You can sign up for this opportunity by heading to the campus ministry webpage at www.stthomas.edu/campusministry and clicking on the link for "Wash My Feet". Why is it called "Wash my Feet"? Will I be washing others' feet? Yes and no...Jesus Christ washed his disciples feet, and they were surprised, appalled even. They did not understand why he did this. Peter even said, "You will not wash my feet." However when Christ told him, "Unless I wash your feet, you have no inheritance with me" he finally submitted. Christ also says,"I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do." (John 13:15) Please consider signing up for this wonderful opportunity!!! I would love for all of you that are close by to be a part of this day.
Alright, well I close my post asking for your prayers as I leave on retreat in a few hours. Leave me your comments, feedback and perhaps your reflections of where you are in life whether it be freshman, sophomore, senior, mother, high schooler, etc. I'd love to hear from you.

God bless!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Does your life feel like an opinion poll?

John Henry Newman: the importance of papal infallibility

What should I have for breakfast?

a) Oatmeal with fruit

b) Scrambled Eggs

c) Cereal

d) A Muffin

e) Other

f) No breakfast


What time should I start my homework?

a) 9 am

b) 10 am

c) 3 pm

d) 9 pm


What should I do with my spare time today?

a) Work out

b) Pray

c) Watch TV

d) Read a book

e) Some combination of the above


What religion should I be?

a) Hindu

b) Catholic

c) Episcopalian

d) Baptist

e) New Age


How should I succeed in life?

a) Cheat when necessary

b) Love unrelentlessly

c) Practice humility and serve others

d) Take advantage of anyone who could be of use to you

e) Never invest too much time in personal relationships, it will drag you down


Okay...so you catch my drift by now, right? I'm not trying to say that I feel like my life feels like an opinion poll, but rather draw your attention to the fact that our society seems to want to "weigh in" on what behaviors, actions, habits are good, and what are bad. The problem with that is that the media really has no authority to make such demands of me. Just because something is popular does not mean it is worth devoting my time or energy to it. Especially those last three questions, I think we need to be very discerning, because we must aim towards truth in all aspects of our lives, especially pertaining to how we live in light of our faith and morals.


Where does authority come from? Well in the area of faith & morals, our authority comes from the Pope. As the Vicar of Christ on Earth, he guides the Church so to follow the rule of God in our lives. Human nature longs for an authority. An infallible authority. Only the Church claims to have one.

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Mt 16: 18-19

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman spent a good portion of his life arguing for the necessity of an infallible authority. An Anglican clergyman at the time, this search led him to the Catholic Church. He argued that:

If God is a merciful God who wants to disclose truth to His people, he would find a way to secure the verity of that truth.

We accept that God is a merciful God who wants to disclose truth to His people.

Therefore, He finds a way to secure the verity of that truth.


Convergent probability (that is, we do not doubt facts and information presented to us unless there is truly a reason to be skeptical) informs us that since the Church makes the only claim to infallible authority in the Pope, that is how Christ chose to secure the truths of our faith.


Neither you, nor I is an infallible authority on faith and morals. But the Lord protects the Pope from erring in matters of doctrine and morals to enable him to lead the faithful.


Our consciences, when formed well, can also be a legitimate form of authority according to Newman, however, it is critical that we be discerning. It takes rigorous moral formation to be in a place when our conscience will properly guide us towards truth. Certainly attainable, but always in conjunction with papal authority. Newman even said that if he were to give a toast, he would first give a toast to the conscience (a God-given gift to each person) and secondly to our Holy Father. The Pope is accountable to God and he wouldn't be inclined to make any sort of proclamation on doctrine or morals without deep prayer and consultation with his closest Cardinals. How is papal infallibility guaranteed? By the power of the Holy Spirit working in the person of the Pope.


This is not to say that the Pope cannot speak on a variety of other issues such as war, current events, social justice, environmentalism, etc. and he does, but he is not speaking infallibly. This is an important distinction to make.


I'd love to hear your feedback on this important topic. In a culture teeming with relativism (You do what you want, I'll do what I want) it is important to note that we do have an authority. Christ is our divine authority and our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI is our authority on earth. He is a servant of God who truly wants to lead us to true happiness, freedom, and peace in the Kingdom of God. I am only a student, not a professor, so dear Catholic friends, please feel free to correct me if I have misspoken in any areas of this blog, I am not the most eloquent of writers and do not claim to be an expert on theology.


If your authority does not come from Christ speaking through Pope Benedict XVI, where do you get your authority? Is it important for authority to be infallible? Perhaps I will post again on other forms of authority, for example the authority a spouse has over his/her significant other, the authority parents have over their children, et cetera.


Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Friday, February 25, 2011

RAOK

More than a cup 'o Joe: Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts Of Kindness (RAOKs) can be witnessed everywhere and anywhere around my campus. I believe they are truly everywhere (not just my campus) if you have the eyes to see them. I'd like to take you back to this past Monday.


On Monday, we had a snow day. This was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up on homework, so I spent a few hours at a coffee shop near campus, first catching up with a friend and then hitting the books. While I was there, one of the employees approached the section where I was sitting and made an announcement. He told us that there was at that time a man who was outside shovelling the parking lot and the sidewalk. He had also been shovelling through the night before when people were stuck. Keep in mind....the snow was piling on more each minute, so it was getting pretty difficult to get anywhere and it was treacherous. The man was homeless, and he was shovelling through the night so that he could keep warm, but I don't doubt that he was also doing it out of the generosity of his heart. After all, there are 24/7 places open that are warm and don't require physical labor. The employee of the coffee shop then asked if any of us would be willing to pitch in a few bucks for him so that he would be able to stay at a homeless shelter for a few nights. Instantly, many people around me and I opened our wallets, empyting our spare change and dollars into the coffee shop's "tip jar". Just a few minutes later, I saw the man outside shovelling, and it all became so clear: 3 random acts of kindness had taken place before my eyes.


1. The generosity of the man who shovelled snow during a blizzard, helping individuals and the coffee shop alike

2. The kindness and compassion of the coffee shop employees to welcome this man's help and take up an offering for his well-being

3. The care of all those around me who were there merely drinking coffee/doing homework who gave their money to help a man we didn't know


I was so happy to have witnessed the random acts of kindness take place before my eyes on Monday. It really restores and reaffirms my belief in the goodness of people and our great capacity for virtue. Unfortunately, it's not every day that we are invited to be generous. Sometimes we need to ask others to be generous....of time, money, energy, prayer...the list is endless. We also need to be willing to accept the gifts of others. I was humbled today when a friend of mine told me that she and the girls who live on her floor had prayed for engaged couples a day ago, and so she was praying for me & Bill. I am always glad to be a recipient of prayers....seriously, that's the best gift ever. (Keep that in mind for my birthday coming up on March 29th....nudge nudge)


Lent is coming up, so I challenge you to think of a way in which you can :

a) Do random acts of kindness AND often

b) Invite others to be generous

c) Receive the generosity of others graciously

Thanks for reading! As always, leave me your comments and look for a new blog post soon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A snowstorm...again? Okay!

Great sledding potential: The snow has been falling all day in MN!

It has been snowing and blowing literally all day! It is hard to believe how quickly the weather changed from 45 temp days with lots of sun and with folks wearing shorts & flip flops to a frozen tundra (but at least the temps are in the upper 20s, that feels nice). That is Minnesota weather for you. Personally, I am pretty happy. My school has decided to cancel classes tomorrow which is not a common occurence in the slightest. Also, I don't really have any place where I need to drive to, so I am not freaking about getting somewhere, but rather just enjoying my time by working on homework, working around my house, BLOGGING, and staying warm inside. I did venture out earlier today for Mass, brunch at the SPO Women's House and my Volunteers in Action meeting on campus. I will admit, reluctantly however, that on my way to Mass when the snow was just starting to fall, I completely wiped out. I was body down on the sidewalk. Fortunately...no injuries, but it was hilarious to me. There is a layer of ice that has now been covered in snow which is a pretty scary situation. Fortunately, if you walk in the road, it is much better. The slick parts are all the sidewalks.

Before I went to Mass this morning, I tried out a new recipe from SPARK Recipes, which is a great site of healthy recipes submitted by normal folks for Zucchini muffins to bring with me to Brunch. I imagine it is hit or miss, and in this case it was definitely a hit! I am putting the link below for those who may be interested in trying it out. Just a heads up, the recipe makes 2 dozen muffins, so half it if you just want a dozen. I'm glad I caught that or I would have had a LOT of muffins.


Recipe for VERY yummy, low-fat & calorie (88.5 calories a pop) whole wheat oat bran zucchini muffins!



Today, my MOH (Maid of Honor) Maria and I have been creating a mix of songs for the bridesmaids. Just a funky, fun mix of music. I gave her some suggestions, but she is doing the majority of compilation. I'm excited to hear what everyone thinks. We have been doing a bit of work on the guest list (that's a hard part!) and getting some packages ready for the bridesmaids to send this week. I'm going to be booking the church this week, and start looking into reception venues once we have a finalized initial guest list. I may have to put off deciding on a reception hall until I am home over Easter. I am a visual person, and it would be great for Bill and I to view the possibilities together rather than just looking at photos online.


I want to emphasize that wedding planning is certainly not the only thing Bill & I are up to when it comes to preparing for marriage. In fact, preparing for the marriage is way more important than the wedding details themselves. Today we did the first meditation of a little devotional called "The Pearl of Great Price" by Julie McCarty. It is based off the model of Lectio Divina or "divine reading". Each meditation has a scripture passage to read and reflect on separately, and then a reflection, meditation, and prayer to do together. It was written for engaged and married couples and the first reflection was a very beautiful one. To quote McCarty, "Every engaged couple has dreams for their future together. Some of these dreams will come to pass, and others may not." The scripture used for this reflection is from the first chapter of Luke which narrates the Annunciation, Visitation, and birth of Christ. The reflection goes on to examine the expectations of the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph particularly as they prepared for their marriage. They most likely had very different expectations than what the Lord was planning for their lives. Yet...they were willing to drop these desires because their biggest desire was to fulfill the will of God the Father. Oh, how I really do long to wrecklessly abandon myself to God in each and every decision of my life. I pray that God might give me the grace to do so more and more each day. I pray for...humility.
I think for tonight the spirit has prompted me to close with a prayer about the virtue that often gets a bad rap: humility. It shows us the greatness of being meek and pure of heart. If you'd like to listen to this as a song, check out Danielle Rose's "Litany of Humility" on youtube or buy it on iTunes. You won't regret it....it is beautiful!
Litany of Humility
Written by: Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val,
Secretary of State for Pope Pius X
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled...
From the desire of being honored...
From the desire of being praised...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted...
From the desire of being approved...
From the fear of being humiliated...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes...
From the fear of being calumniated...
From the fear of being forgotten...
From the fear of being ridiculed...
From the fear of being wronged...
From the fear of being suspected...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I...
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease...
That others may be chosen and I set aside...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that
I may become as holy as I should...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feminine Genius

Today I went to a fascinating event called "A Divided Life" given by Dr. Deborah Savage at a Faith & Work breakfast downtown at St. Olaf's Church. You can go to this link to see future speakers and sign-up for a breakfast in the coming months: http://saintolaf.org/events-and-programs/faith-work-series/faith-work-speakers/

Dr. Savage is a professor at the St. Paul School of Divinity and teaches philosophy and theology courses. She is the mother of one adopted daughter, has worked in the corporate world for 25 years, and earned her doctorate studying the nature of faith and work. She had a lot of fantastic points about women's work, the feminine genius, and what our approach ought to be to work.

Although she said a lot, instead of completely just typing up my notes (which I am prone to do at times!), I would rather like to bring three points out specifically that really struck me, and then ask for your comments!

-The feminine genius is necessary in all realms of society.
-Work includes a much broader scope than we think and can help us transcend ourselves.
-The value and dignity of work is not based on the object of the work, but rather of the dignity of the person doing it.

JPII refers to the feminine genius in many of his exhortations pertaining to women and the language of the body. Women are distinct, essential, irrepeatable. Women have a unique contribution to make that needs to be present in the courtroom, the home, the Church, the classroom, the business, the enterprise, the senate, and the list goes on... Each woman is called to do work, and to make her contribution as a woman. Women bring something different, but completely equal to the table as men do, whether that is a broader vision, a care for detail, care for the significance of relationships, and you can probably think of so many more aspects of femininity that can manifest themselves as gift for the good of all of society.
To quote from the Compendium of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church:
"The feminine genius is needed in all aspects of society and therefore the presence of women in the workplace must be guaranteed."

Dr. Savage insisted that we have a way too narrow definition of work. It includes those things that we do for pay, those we don't, when we volunteer, when we mow the lawn, when we nurse a baby, when we take out the trash, when we write a letter to a friend, etc. The question to ask is: What can I turn to with my whole heart?

Savage quoted from a Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World by Linda R. Hirshman. In her book, Hirshman calls stay at home mothers "parasites" that feed off their husbands to support them as they choose to withhold their talents to stay in the home....this could be nothing further from the truth! I blogged back in 2008 about stay at home mothers and how much I admire women who choose to devote their lives to this. Certainly, it is not the only admirable calling, but staying at home is a critical type of work that need not be undermined.

Work ought to cause us to transcend ourselves, which means to go beyond our own abilities with the help of God. Gaudium et Spes says, "Man finds himself through a sincere gift of self." A "gift of self" which George Weigel calls "the law of the gift" is the antidote to the effects of original sin.

To quote Dr. Savage, "When I am united to another person, I am enhanced by my bein in interaction with that person."

Finally, the dignity of our work comes from our personal dignity, not just from the work itself. How can it? Physical things, corporations, even institutions do not have inherant dignity, but rather, it is the persons within them that bring dignity to those places and organizations. Thus, the dignity of work coincides with dignity of the person.

Some questions that remain:

Dr. Savage mentioned that even if a woman has a job and has a family, she will always have to work to achieve balance, and sacrifices will have to be made, at times, favoring one over the other. In those cases, what is the appropriate balance? What does that look like realistically/practically?

What are some examples from your life that illustrate the "feminine genius" either of yourself or of women you know?

Finally, I'd like to challenge some of my male followers to make comments or if you have a blog to make a blog posting on the "male genius" because I know that there is one, and I think women can only authentically realize our genius by an awareness of our complementarity to the male genius.

Well I am going to go eat my delicious (I hope!) lasagna that I just cooked up (new recipe taken from the recent Martha Stewart Living magazine...it has chicken summer sausage, chard, lemons, and lots of parmesan in it....can't wait to taste it! Yum....

John Paul II the great, pray for us! St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

Monday, February 14, 2011

How sweet it is, to wear your ring!

Living our love song: Bill proposed this weekend and I said "Yes"

Hello friends! I would have blogged sooner, but due to the developments of last weekend and the homework I have been catching up on in the meantime, I have been keeping rather busy. Friday will mark a week since I said yes to my (now) fiance Bill's proposal to marry him and spend life together. I have had many people ask me to post our engagement story, so here goes:


Last Friday, February 11th was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Our Lady of Lourdes is one of the patronesses of my relationship with Bill, and has been before we even began dating. Back when we first started expressing interest in each other as more than just friends, I entrusted our feelings and hearts to Our Lady on my way back to school (I was driving through South Bend, IN) at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes at the University of Notre Dame. I lit a candle in the grotto, and left it to her to do the rest. Since that point, she has not failed us in her constant intercession for Bill & me.


Bill told me that he would be "busy at the library" all day Friday with a daunting group project. I managed to convince him that we could at least pray the rosary at some point during the day...so he came up with praying at 7:30 am (my time), 8:30 am (his time). We don't normally talk that early, but no worries, we decided to go for it. So he, his roommate Bryan, and I prayed (I was on speaker phone) as he was in the car back from going to mass in Florida. We then said goodbye and I headed to class. What a sweet guy!


Little did I know...as I went to class, did homework, did some shopping, went to noon mass and did my daily activities, Bill was travelling across the country from FL all the way to my school in MN. I'll come back to this in a second.


Maria and I had a "Girl's Night" planned for the evening and a dinner reservation for 8 pm at a restaurant in a fun, trendy part of town. She had suggested that we use a gift certificate she had for dinner, nearly a month earlier, so I had put it on my calendar. So, I get home from my Interns meeting with my Catholic Studies Department and we both start getting ready for the evening. I try to dress nicely, put some make-up on, but I'm not suuuper fancy or anything. Just ready to have some fun! I even suggested that we maybe go see a movie at the theatre afterwards, Maria suggested that maybe we ought to rent one instead. Meghan, another fantastic friend of mine, had asked to borrow my car for the evening. She needed to go to "an orchestra concert" which is fairly common since she is a music major.


Anyways, Maria drives us to the restaurant since I did not have my car, and we get there in plenty of time. We walk from the parking lot to the restaurant, walk inside, and standing there, in plain view and dressed very handsomely is none other than my love Bill giving me a beaming smile. Right away, I am in shock. Why is he here? Is that really him? Wait, what is this? What's he doing here? But I go in for a hug and say his name.


At that point I look over at Maria, and say something to the extent of: "So this was all a set-up? Oh my gosh!"...and Maria wishes us a pleasant evening with a equally large smile as she has truly pulled off her part of the plan.


Bill & I had a spectacular dinner. He got mac & cheese and I got an unlimited Fish fry dinner. I am DEFINITELY going to have to come back here for Lent...it was fantastic. I hadn't seen Bill for a couple of weeks by then, and was just so happy to be able to hold his hand and catch up. We obviously talk often, but there are some things that are easier and even more fun to discuss in each other's company. I was nervous the whole dinner though...I knew tonight might be "the night" and I was really hoping that his plan was not to propose to me at the restaurant. He's a good man...that wasn't his plan at all, I should have just trusted, haha!


We finish dinner, and we walk to the parking garage where he has parked my car (remember Meghan borrowing the car, yeah that was a fib) and we drive back to St. Thomas. He asked me if I would like to take a walk. The temperature had gone up since earlier in the week, so with 30s weather, I said, "Sure, why not?". Although, I thought I needed a warmer coat and I needed to use the restroom. So I went to go use the restroom on campus, running into two friends, Megan and Logan, who both gave me hugs. They were waiting for a ride to their evening's activities. I went to go use the restroom and then joined Bill in the car again. He asked if I could perhaps wait and not get the warmer coat. I said that was fine.


So we parked on my street, and Bill and I went for a walk. He walked me behind the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas to the statue of Our Lady of Victory. From the distance, I could see there was a heart of candles that had been set up underneath Our Lady. I commented how beautiful they were, only then realizing that they had been placed there for us.


Bill asked if I would pray a "Hail Mary" with him, and so we did together. Then he reminded me of how much he loved me, knelt down on one knee and proposed to me in the snow, taking my breath away by the beauty of the ring he offered me and the vulnerability of that moment. I didn't keep him in suspense too long as I said "Yes" in a confident, but slightly nervous, excited voice! We hugged and kissed and thanked Mary for bringing us both to this point in our relationship. Bill and I want to continue to place Christ at the center of our lives together, and imitate the love that Our Lord has for each one of us. It is only through this love that we can share in the joys of Christ. So, we couldn't think of a better way to thank Jesus for our evening than by honoring His Mother.


We walked back to my place where Maria and Meghan were waiting for us with champagne and appetizers (and balloons!). The festivities continued the next day with an engagement party with even more friends with a full dinner.


We both want to thank everyone for the encouragement and prayers that we have been receiving this past week and the many, many hugs and "Can I see your ring?"s (Well mostly I'm asked that, not Bill...haha) from all of our friends.


Bill and I plan to marry in the Fall of 2012, although we are not sure about the particular date as of now. I am just so humbled by the way that this proposal was a way in which Bill showed his vulnerability to me (aka proposing a life together in the most perfect way), so I want to reflect for a minute on vulnerability.


I want to end with a quote from C.S. Lewis:


"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredemable." -C.S. Lewis


Love requires vulnerability. Friendships require it, relationships require it, our faith requires it. Vulnerability reminds us that we are humans, God is God, so we must surrender our hearts and our lives which are not our own. Leave me comments about a time in your life that you loved so much it hurt, loved so much it left you vulnerable. Whether it turned out well or poorly, what does this love seem to point towards?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wounded hearts seek healing

Our hearts are truly made whole in Christ

Last night I was sitting in Mass, listening to a terrific St. Thomas priest give a homily on the day's readings. If you didn't get a chance to read them, go on ahead:



Yesterday's gospel dealt with Jesus' teaching about the sin we commit coming from inside ourselves, not from some exterior person or thing. Sure, temptations are aplenty in the world around us, but when we sin, we choose with our hearts to do something that is contrary to the purpose God made us for. (To glorify him and love our neighbor) And, this priest said correctly, we humans are capable of some really nasty, wicked things. We need think no further than the front pages of the newspaper to know that is true coupled with the sin we each battle on a daily basis. But the next part is what really grabbed me. As Christians, we can sometimes be overcome with a feeling that "I am a good person, I'm a Christian after all". But we forget that any good that we do is completely by the grace of God and that the only difference that separates us in any way from another is that we have identified our hearts as wounded and have asked the Lord, the divine Physician to heal us. We are wounded hearts seeking healing, no more, no less. We have no reason to be proud, overbearing, vain, conceited, or hotheaded because of our relationship with the Lord. Rather, we must have the strength in humility and love for Christ to share the little we do have with our brothers and sisters. What a fantastic homily, it has given me lots to reflect upon and I wanted to share it for those of you who weren't able to make it to community night.


In other news, I am doing a health/fitness challenge called "Minnesota's Biggest Loser". It is a really neat program and you can learn about it/sign-up at http://www.competeforhealth.org/. Basically, you sign-up as a team (or individual) and track your nutrition choices, weight lost, and exercise completed. Then the computer calculates these variables to add up to a particular number of "pounds" lost. For each pound lost, this organization will donate a pound of food to a local foodshelf. Way cool! This is, perhaps, the easiest service project I have every been a part of and I am thankful that my neighbor and friend Amy told me about this fantastic opportunity. It will last for 12 weeks (through April 15th) and it is not too late to join. Note: You must live in Minnesota to be a part of this challenge. Sorry out-of-staters!!
I am looking forward to this upcoming weekend. Weekends full of friends, studying, cooking/grocery shopping are the best! :-) I'm also looking forward to next Monday night's Valentine's Day party which will include going to an amazing sushi/steakhouse, a movie night (chick flick!!!), making V-day cards, and eating yummy frozen yogurt...bring on the festivities!!
I would love to get comments from those of you who are reading my blog. I realize that I have just started, but it helps me to know if anyone has suggestions for something I ought to write on or any tips about formatting from those of you who have been blogging for much longer than I have.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Faith, hope, charity= confidence


A gem of a book: Based on the spirituality of the Little Flower
I just began reading a book that came highly recommended to me: "I believe in Love" by Father Jean C.J. d'Elbee. It seems as though everyone has been talking about it. It is written as a sort of at-home retreat for personal reflection by laypeople based on the spirituality of the Little Flower, St. Terese of Lisieux. I am 2 chapters in, and I was struck by a particular passage in "Conference 2: Humble Confidence".


"The word, confidence, summarizes the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity- sovereign virtues which bring all the others in their train. But if these are the highest virtues, then the greatest heroism is demanded of us in order to realize them in the face of the mystery of a 'hidden God'. "(25)


He goes on to write:


"A man must be heroic to live always in faith, hope, and love. Why? Because, as a result of Original Sin, no one can be certain with the certainty of faith that he is saved, but only with a moral certainty based upon fidelity to grace; and because as sinners we are constantly tempted by doubt and anxiety." (25)


Wow...isn't this just the crux of our faith? When it is most difficult, we are especially called to remain confident in faith, hope, and charity that God has endowed us with the theological virtues and that His grace and our resolve to live in that grace. We must always be ready to repent of our sins and believe He has reserved a place for us in Heaven. The author seems to be saying that Original Sin causes us to hesitate in our faith, and yet, we must have faith anyways or risk falling into the traps of doubt and anxiety. Doubt and anxiety are not of God, but from the devil.

Let's take a look at what the Catechism says about the theological virtues:

"The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being." (1813)

Let us not forget that we have the theological virtues beginning at the time of our baptism. Pay attention particularly to "They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit...". Although God is a "hidden God", we can trust that He is present, especially in the person of the Holy Spirit in our capacity to manifest the theological virtues.

And now for a quick summary of each theological virtue taken again from the Catechism. This is helpful for me too as it is so easy to get caught up in the secular definition of each of these words that we use on a daily basis:

"Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself..." (1814)

"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit..." (1817)

"Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God." (1822)



So yes, this new idea of confidence is a good way of understanding how the three theological virtues are combined so that we can strive for sanctity following His way and His will for our lives.

Here are some questions for you:

Do you agree that "confidence" is an adequate way to describe the unity of the theological virtues? Can they accurately be combined this way?

Is there a hierarchy to the theological virtues? Is charity more important than hope? Is faith more important than charity? Is hope more important than faith?

Which theological virtue is hardest for you? Easiest?

Last semester I received a sort of "Spiritual Evaluation" to examine which theological virtue(s) are strengths or weaknesses for a particular person. Most often, one particular theological virtue comes most easily. Personally, I tend towards charity, and I struggle most with hope. I will try and post this later today as it can be a very powerful tool for journaling and reflection. Obviously, it is important that we endeavor to be strong in all these virtues, however, I advise you to "know thy self" so that you can be fruitful in your efforts to embrace these God-given virtues.

Friends, we are all called to heroism in virtue. Let us allow God to give us the determination and strength to manifest a confidence in faith, hope, and charity with a profound humility of spirit. May we never tire of this journey, but rather, rejoice in every new opportunity to serve Him without reserve in light of our particular calling and vocation. Amen.

St. Terese of Lisieux, pray for us!

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Immaculate Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Happy Tuesday everyone! Until next time...

**Update** As promised, here is the Spiritual Evaluation on the theological virtues

The point of this exercise: to grow in self-knowledge in order to understand both what is a strength and what a weakness for the sake of clear-headed leadership

Faith

Do I easily get distracted from the most important unseen things by the immediate seen ones?

Do I tend to evaluate people and events around me according to a this-worldly judgment?

Do I tend to slide into the categories of success used by this world rather than by Christ?

Am I easily influenced by others who have not faith in my various environments, so that I begin to take on their way of thinking and acting?

Do I tend to greed, to storing things up, to delighting in having stuff, to wanting to be wealthy and secure and have nice things?

Sign of a lack: anxiety; easily distracted and tempted by things of the world

Hope

Do I find myself discouraged by setbacks, and tempted to give up?

Do I have a difficult time, remembering, or believing, the truth that I am in the thought of God, who has decided on extraordinary plans for me? Do I resist others encouraging me in this?

Do I tend to be anxious and nervous about the state of the world, or the Church, or the country, or my life?

Do I find it difficult to put off gratification or fulfillment of the present for a future good?

Do I battle to maintain fundamental joy in life?

Sign of a lack: sadness

Charity

Do I find it difficult to engage myself in matters that don't immediately touch on my interests?

Do I pay great attention to how my leadership or my performance is judged? Does praise make me soar and criticism make me sour?

Do I tend to envy others' accomplishments and praise, or become jealous of their gifts and their attentions? Do I find myself disliking certain people for no real reason except that they make me feel lessened somehow?

Am I easily offended, am I made angry when people don't pay me the respect I think I deserve?

Do I bargain with God, and find myself totaling up the things I have done for Him or given up in his service, so as to hold Him to it and demand something in return? (Peter and his question to Jesus)

Sign of a lack: anger/apathy