Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nobody Said it was Easy

These lyrics from Coldplay's "The Scientist" keep ringing in my head as I pray these last couple days (which is quite ironic in and of itself, I do realize. See, Science and Faith DO go together :)

But the chorus goes:

"Nobody said it was easy
Nobody said it was gonna be this hard
Oh let's go back to the start"

There are days when trying to live the Gospel surely makes us want to sing these words, and lately I've been singing 'em!

It's hard to live what one believes when a culture is telling us to do what is easy, what is convenient, what will get us ahead. And this isn't what the Gospel tells us.

Jesus pretty much tells us what Chris Martin says in these lyrics. He tells us this life isn't going to be easy, living the way He proclaims isn't always convenient, and it may seem crazy to the rest of the world. He certainly seemed crazy to a lot of people. His followers who jumped on the train thinking He was cool at first, eventually started to turn away when the Truth began to get to be to much:

"Then many of his disciples who were listening said, 'This is hard; who can accept it?...many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him."

How sad this must've been for Jesus. To be trying to share Good News with people, tell them about how He wants to give them His Life, and they walk away because it is hard.

This passage is actually taken from the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 which I LOVE just because it is so radical, but is the central core of our faith. Jesus tells the disciples in this passage that He is giving them Eternal LIFE if they believe in the Eucharist- that He will die for us, but remain with us on earth through BREAD. This is what we are saying we believe every day at Mass!

But I know myself I question all the time. And I want to give up because some of the things God asks us seem just too crazy these days. Especially when it seems no one else around us believes these things anymore.

"Nobody said it was easy"

I am blessed, however, to have many people around me who are willing to fight the good fight and are witnesses to me. This week when I was feeling discouraged, I had at least half the people in my phone to call and have them tell me they also knew how hard it was to live the words of Jesus, which is ultimately counter-cultural and not what the world says.

So this blog is a tribute to them and though I have been discouraged and frustrated, wanting to give up the fight, the witnesses of the friends God has placed in my life (many of you reading this blog) keep me going. I hope this blog will return the favor should you ever feel discouraged in your journey with God and what He asks you to do.

For even Jesus surrounded Himself with people He knew would not ultimately leave Him, but would lift Him up. After the discouraged disciples walk away from His Gospel message the Apostles remain:

"Jesus then said to the twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?' Simon Peter answered Him, 'Master, to whom should we go? You have the words of Eternal Life.'" John 6-67-68

We are working towards Eternal Life, friends, not the life that our culture tells us to live. And I am glad I have you to 'run the race' with me! The verse that spawned this blog- Hebrews 12:1-2- can be our guide!

Thanks for reading and for running.
Peace,
Julia

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reflection on the Manger by Blessed James Alberione

Reflection that one of the sisters sent me this Christmas on the manger (from the writings of the Daughters' founder, Blessed James Alberione)

From the writings of Blessed James Alberione

The manger is way, truth and life:

The manger is a way:
Descending from the heavens, Jesus does not choose to open a great university before men’s eyes. He comes to us instead, in a cave where the animals find refuge. And Mary, instrument of Divine Providence, places him in a manger. The reign of God begins always like a mustard seed. The works of God begin in this way. Blessed is the one who begins from the manger.

The manger is a truth:
The manger is the center of the story. The manger is a lamp for humanity, a lamp that must give light to all humanity: ”He was the true light that enlightens every man.” (John 1:9) Since then, everything flows from the Son of God, who is the light, the Truth and Wisdom of the Father, so then all of the human and theological sciences find their center in the manger, because the true Master is Christ. All light comes from Jesus. God in his mercy, gives us His wisdom.

The manger is a life:
The manger is grace. All the good things that we could ever desire or seek, we find in the Child Jesus lying on the hay in the manger. Jesus is totally poor as regards earthly goods but he is totally rich in heavenly goods, or better still, he is the wealth of the Father and of men. Let us go to him with trust and express to him our personal needs, the needs of humanity, the needs of our brothers and sisters, the needs of all we love and who love us. Let us remember everyone, widening our hearts, especially let us reach out to those in need of spiritual help.

Silent Night(s)

It's Christmas Eve- Advent has come to a close! And so now it's time for me to look back at Advent and see if I have prepared well for the coming of this new life in Jesus!

Advent is our 'new year' and so it is natural to look back at the year and make resolutions for the next. It is also the time to prepare for Christmas as well as Christ's second coming.

I must say (if I do say so myself!) I really tried to take advantage of Advent this year, perhaps because this year has been one of somewhat desolation- a lot of Silent Nights between God and I.

The desolation was good because it led me out of one vocation and has brought me into discerning again. And it has helped me to be more patient in waiting for the Life that will come at Christmas and in the next.

Through Advent we hear a lot about people in the Bible who are barren. Most recently there was Hannah who remained barren until the Lord gave her Samuel. Elizabeth was barren until John. Both Samuel and John are essential biblical characters meant to demonstrate Christ's coming from the Root of Jesse, the Tree of David.

I was praying about barrenness and the signifcance of it, though, because we've all experienced it to different degrees- times where we feel we are lacking something. The little 'blue book' I use for Advent reflection mentioned that the signifcance of the barrenness of these women was to show the importance and specialness of the child that then comes.

So this had led me to think about the barrenness in my own life this year. As I mentioned, there has been desolation. And in our women's group we often talk about suffering ( I know this is a weird message the night before Christmas, but I'll get there, I promise!) because it is something we can all relate to on different levels. One thing I've realized is that though there is always someone who is suffering more than we are and we can look to them to give us perspective on our own suffering, but we still need to embrace the suffering (the barrenness)that God gives us specifically. Because I believe it will show us the specialness, the importance of the Life that will come.

Whether or not that 'life' means, an event happening to us here on earth- finally figuring out a vocation, a fulfilling job, a spouse- or perhaps just the realization of how beautiful Heaven will be (because that is when we will only truly be fulfilled). Christmas is a time to look at the barrenness in our lives, but also the hope of life that comes through Christ and the gift that He is.

I hope this all makes sense, as usual!

So this Christmas I am tying in all that I've learned this year (or at least trying!) God puts us through some barrenness, so that we may come to see- either in this life or the next- the specialness of his Gifts of Himself and of others. May God give us Light and Hope this Christmas to embrace both the waiting and the gifts of the here and now!

I must say- since we are all waiting for something (ultimately heaven!) but a new job, or a baby, or a spouse- it is almost easier to live in the waiting period. We grow accustomed to it. It is much harder, for some reason, to embrace the here and now! So this Christmas I am trying to embrace the present, see that I am lacking nothing right now, and if I am barren in anyway, it is with the hope that life will come in God's time. Either here or in heaven.

Merry Christmas everyone!!! May you feel His HOPE and Love this time of year!

Peace in Him,
Julia

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I should also mention that today is my sister's 26th birthday and I am grateful for the support she has been to me throughout my life, but particularly this year as we both lived in (and left!) St. Louis. Happy Birthday, Janet! And congrats again on getting engaged to Josh! (my sister and I pictured with Babci, everyone's favorite Polish grandma!)

O, Antiphons!

It's that time- the octave before Christmas! Hard to believe it's already here! I feel like I just blogged about my Advent intentions- yikes! I haven't been keeping up so great with St. Paul as I had planned. I have been doing Lectio before bed, though, with the daily Advent readings and that has been beneficial during this time of Advent.

Last year with the Daugthers was the first time I really prayed the 'O Antiphons' probably because it was the first time I was consistent with the Liturgy of the Hours (some people love to pray it- I can't get into it as much. I like praying the Liturgy, but I have a hard time being consistent with it. So much easier when it is built into your community schedule!)

Anyways, the O Antiphons are the names for the Messiah based on the prophecies of Isaiah. Fr. Saunders- one of the priests from the Diocese of Arlington- writes in detail about it here:
http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0374.html

I don't know why I love them so much! Maybe because it helps really drive home the idea of our Salvation History. That there is so much rich history leading up to this event of Christmas! People waited centuries to experience what we take for granted now- a relationship with Jesus. And the O Antiphons easily describe and lead us into prayer about that relationship with Christ. He is our Wisdom, He is our Key, He is the Root of Jesse, He is Lord, He is King...I think I also like that it gives us different ways to think about and pray about all that Jesus is for us.

So anyways, enjoy these last days of Advent! I will be praying the O Antiphons with all of you in Spirit. And I also pray that we can live the O Antiphons- that we can live like we believe in the history it proclaims and the presence of Christ now in our lives.

Also, another fun link I just found a few days before Christmas- an interactive Advent calendar! The little doors open up when you scroll over them! The USCCB was never so cool...

http://www.usccb.org/advent/

Happy Octave!
peace,
Julia

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lookin' like Christmas!

Our 'Real' Christmas Tree
We decked our halls...

Shopping for Tree #2


Decorating the 'Fake Tree'- that's right, we have two trees, folks.



Stockings hung by the window with care for each Jinger...




Be Not Afraid

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception-

So let's address the common 'mis'conception, and get that out of the way- today celebrates the day MARY was conceived by St. Anne without original sin. Not the day Mary conceived Jesus.

Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to share with you my reflection today!

The first reading for this feast is from Genesis, and it is the fall of Adam and Eve. It is pretty common knowledge in the Church that Mary is known as the New or Second Eve. That she is meant to right what Eve did wrong. And so the readings today also show this. The Gospel is the Annunciation account, or Mary's 'Yes'.

Both Mary and Eve were afraid in their respective stories. The difference is how they react to this fear.

In reading the Genesis account, I always identify with Adam and Eve, as we all should. We are all born with the original sin that this story is meant to depict. And it can be a hopeless account, if we get stuck there. We can get paralyzed by the fear of sin, we can think that there is no way out. And there isn't, on our own. Which is where the Gospel- the GOOD NEWS- comes in.

Mary's Immaculate Conception is that she isn't born with the original sin we are. She was set apart. I used to think this made me not able to identify with Mary. I'd get a little jealous of her. It seemed so easy for her then. But then I think about her getting pregnant out of wedlock and what that meant in her culture and getting betrothed, and watching her only Son die violently. Hmmm...nothing I really have or hope to endure. She wins. I'll give her the no original sin thing ;)

The beauty of Mary is that she was afraid when the angel came to her and asked her to do something she didn't think she was prepared for. But she said 'Yes, let it be done to me'- her fiat. So rarely like us. We get caught up in our fear and let that control us, rather than surrendering to God like Mary did.

So Mary is the new Eve, in that she gives us a new example. Where Eve failed, she picks up and shows us if we rely on God- not our own control, or fear- then we are free.

And I often forget about the Sacrament at Baptism. This feast day also reminds us of our Baptism and the NEW LIFE promised through Mary's yes. Because Mary said yes, we have Jesus. And because we have Jesus, He died and rose from the dead, giving us freedom and new life-freedom from the chains of sin! And because of this, we have Baptism which wipes away our original sin and helping us to be more reliant on God.

May we thank Mary and Jesus for their 'yes' today. Thank God for sending them to us and caring that much about us. And may we think of our Baptism and what it means- that we can TRUST our God and our faith, and not live in fear like Adam and Eve.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Man- St. Paul

The man helping me meditate this year and in the New Year- St. Paul. I like this pic 'cause he looks like he's totally passionate about whatever he's preaching. St. Paul and I share that passion :)

Be Encouraged!

I guess I'm making up for months without much blogging this week! I think my spiritual direction, the approaching of Advent, and my studying/searching for grad schools has all sparked the analytical side of me!

I went to sit in on a class at one of the DC schools that I am looking at. I really am looking at the main three Theological institutes around here: CUA, Dominican House, and WTU. All have their pros and cons, so I'm just praying that God will make it clear where He wants me!

The class was Synoptic Gospels, which I have actually already taken with the Sisters, and it just reminded me of why I love our faith. I think I had written while I was studying with the sisters, about a class that really tried my faith. It was our Pentateuch class that revealed to us the reasoning behind the books, as well asproposed the authors of the written letters. It hurt me to think that there was possibly so much human agenda behind the writings- learning which authors wrote to what audience, etc. But then after taking a class on the Gospels later in the year, I found that despite the 'humanness' behind the Gospels, the purpose was to bring people to Christ. God chose these authors and inspired them to reveal to mankind His Only Son.

This is why I love St. Paul, I think. His writings are hopeful and persuasive, but his goal is solely to bring people to Christ. His love of Christ is his motivation, and his love of Christ shines through. Even if it wasn't even really Paul writing them! They then were inspired by Paul, who was inspired and motivated by Christ. It all comes back to the Lord and His love for us and our love for Him.

So all this to say, I've started my Advent meditation research a little early :) In preparation for this Sunday, I went to search for some St. Paul excerpts that I could mediate on for my Advent reflection. I started with Romans and was very encouraged by what I found!

Romans 1:1-7 really will be one of the first Advent passages I meditate on because it's all right there. God promising us Someone more than a prophet, through the lineage of David- His Only Son Who will lead us to holiness.

But I went onto read more because today is 'Thanksgiving' and verses 8-15 in my bible were subtitled under 'Thanksgiving'!

Paul thanks the Romans for their faithfulness, but then what he goes onto say is something that I really identified with:

"For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another's faith, yours and mine." Romans 1:11-12

How beautiful is that??? It was as if Paul and I share the same desire, as I'm sure all of us do- to minister to one another, to share our Love of Christ with one another. And to do this through our vocations, ministry, whatever ways God calls us.

And so my prayer for this thanksgiving... I am thankful that I have SO many examples of people who provide this mutual encouragement. And I pray that God will continue to reveal to us how we can share our spiritual gifts with one another, and with the world this Advent/Christmas season.

God bless- be encouraged!
Peace,

Julia

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Shepherd King

Yesterday was the feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, and the new Church year!

I can't believe it. 

I was getting a start on my Advent promise to 'Lectio' (a verb we created when I was with the postulants. It is the action of praying Lectio Divina ;) and prayed the Gospel readings for yesterday. I was struck by the 'Shepherd' images, although the feast is called 'Christ the King'. 

Why all the readings about Shepherds? Why not about Kings?

But then everything I had learned in one of my spirituality classes last fall with the Daughters came back. We had a whole course on Christ the Divine Master- the image of Christ the Daughters pray with- and how the Divine Master is not a Master that exploits His power, or derives power from the powerless as we think of today. He becomes powerless Himself, by taking on human form, and also the form of the Eucharist. Our daily bread.

And so it makes sense that the Church chooses readings about Shepherds because that is what a King is really meant to do, after all. It is amazing that our culture today automatically assumes power to be oppressive and authoritative, when that is not the power that God has shown us. God has shown us His power by sending us a 'Shepherd King'. 

Even reflecting, then, on the Kings and Shepherds who gather at the Nativity Scene...using once again my 'skills' from postulancy, this time from Fr. Soto's class. It does not matter if that scene is accurate. There may or may not have actually been kings and shepherds at the scene of Christ's birth. What matters is what the Lord teaches us through that scene He gives us, and through it, He does indeed show that Kings and Shepherds meet as One in the stable. They come to the manger together, just like they will in heaven, and just as they do in the Person of Christ.

I hope that reflection was helpful for you like it was for me. It's like the passage from St. Paul to the Philippians: 
'Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness..."
(Phil. 2: 5-7)
This passage gives me so much hope. That God does not demand we be equal to him, but rather he humbles Himself to become like us. That is how much He loves us!

If only our leaders could truly model His humility. That is something we will continue to pray for!

And in exciting, but somewhat unrelated Strukely family news...my sister Janet got engaged yesterday on this great feast! yeah! I was actually at Mass when I got the 'call', but I had known about it ahead of time. Her fiance, Josh, is great and was very thoughtful to call me ahead of time and let me know of his intentions and plans. I am excited for my sister and to welcome Josh into our crazy family!

God bless you all! Thanks again for reading :)
Peace,
Julia

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Community and Growth (shout out Jean Vanier!)

I started this blog to share my journey into religious life, and it continues to be a journey into (and out of!) vocation (with a little bit of funny life tibdits, because it's me, after all!).

I am finally embracing and recognizing how beautiful the unknowing is.

Don't get me wrong, it's still hard, but last year I struggled so much with the unknown. Now I'm finally seeing that the unknown is the everyday. And our world tries to make things known, but only the Lord can do that for us.

Not sure where this is going yet. Bear with me once again.

I just got back from spiritual direction. I go once a month, which is such a blessing after having spiritual direction every other week while living in the convent. It was one of my main priorities to find a spiritual director once I got settled. God has provided once again!

Alot of this blog has already been based on what I've received in spiritual direction. The 'Abandonment to God's Providence' is definitely what helped me the last few months of transition, and has helped me to come to the conclusion that I began this blog with today.

My next focus is- in embracing the unknown- how do I take action? I can feel myself wanting to take that 'next step'. I do feel like God has called me to be His apostle. He has called me to that through youth ministry, through the Daughters, and now even in my current job at the Pallotti Center. He continues to send me out from place to place, person to person, encountering Him and spreading His Gospel. And I love it!

But one thing I have also learned is that I desire so much to be in community. And He has shown me that. And He has led me back to this beautiful community of Catholic U friends, and friends affiliated with service in the Church...my big discernment now is, how can I be an apostle, but also have a stable community to live in?

My spiritual director pointed out to me that being sent, or 'going out', doesn't always have to be literally like I've taken it to mean thus far. It is the going out of myself, letting go and doing, in the everyday that He is now calling me to. And that is a little tougher for me.

One of the ways the Lord has given me community currently is through the Women's Group that some of my friends and I have formed. We meet once a month and take turns leading each other in spiritual readings, reflection, and prayer. We've only met twice, but both times have been so fruitful, because we get to step outside ourselves, share what the Lord has been doing with us, and also witness how He is working with others. It's been a perfect mix, for me, of apostolic 'reaching out' but being in stable community.

I really have been missing the 'reaching out' aspect of ministry, and am discerning maybe going back to grad school to get a Masters so I may become a campus minister or teach. That may be my 'next step' in God's plan for me, so I am praying about it.

Now to kind of switch gears, but it'll all tie back in, don't worry :)

Advent is coming up, so my spiritual director naturally asked me, 'how about Advent?'

How about it, indeed! I can't believe that this weekend begins the first Sunday, and I haven't even thought about what I'm going to do.

I have been journeying with St. Paul this whole year. Naturally, since it is a Pauline year and I lived with sisters who have a Pauline charism! The feast of his Converstion in January these past two years have also been spiritually fruitful for me. So, with the help of my spiritual director, have decided to journey with St. Paul (as well as the Blessed Mother) during this Advent. St. Paul's faithfulness and confidence and LOVE of Christ, despite the hardships sent his way, inspire me. But also, St. Paul was in waiting, waiting until he would encounter Christ again. And that is definitely what we are doing during Advent. And how did Paul wait? Actively. In communities, and in 'going out' to the people.

At our last women's group meeting, Gina led us in Lectio Divina, which I had done regularly with the sisters in St. Louis. I realized that I miss the practice, and also am going to try to get back into it for the Sundays of Advent.

I encourage you to think about how God is calling you to wait with Him this year. My spiritual director shared a beautiful reflection with me on how Christ literally grows in Mary's body during Advent. How are we going to allow Christ to grow in us?

Can you tell I just got back from spiritual direction? ha. It was so funny because when I walked in, the parish office looked like a doctor's office- people waiting in front of the receptionist's window to be 'seen' by the priest. I 'got in' right away since I had an appointment. But I thought that was kind of a beautiful sight and testimony to the priests of the healing power they have in Christ!

Sorry if this has been too much for one blog. I've been away for the past month it seems and haven't been able to breathe. I'm excited to have time to reflect on Advent!

God bless,
Peace,
Julia

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hangin' Tough


Meghan and Jordan can drink it up this time around.


Steph and her sister rekindle the NKOTB love.
That's right, it's a nightgown from 1990.
Thanks, Mom, for saving the stuff. We got The Right Stuff!

Step By Step!

Spoiler alert- if you do not want to know what the New Kids on the Block did in their latest show, read no further ;)

The show last night in DC was PERFECT. Everything 10 year old Julia could have dreamed and more.

First of all, props to my mom because my mom saves EVERYTHING. And these are the times when such a habit comes in handy! I asked her to ship all the buttons, the t-shirts, the hats, etc (the nightgowns were particularly classic) and I must say we were the most decked out that we saw at the show. They even took our picture for Mix 107.3 website ;)

Many people stopped to stare at us, compliment us, as my friends and I walked to the Verizon Center looking like we had come straight out of 1989.

Whoever decided that the New Kids should reunite after 15+ years was a marketing genius. They were still selling T-shirts, posters, and buttons, and women were still buying them!

 And kudos to the boys for getting it back together. For as my New Kids books circa 1990 informed us last night- Jon was born in 1968, Jordan in 1970, Joey and 1972....so these boys are now longer 'New Kids', but rather, literally 36-40 year old men.

But, when Joey sang, 'Please Don't Go Girl'....it just felt so right! (he can actually hit all the notes this time around!)

And hit the notes they did. Jordan sang in falsetto the whole night (who, by the way, of course I'm biased, but he's gotten it together since his stint on the 'Surreal Life'. He was looking a little rough on VH1's reality show, but last night he did this extraordinarly cheezy solo with wind blowing up his shirt, but looked so good for 38!)

Let me give you the run-down...because even if you think it's lame, you know you want to know what they sang.

They opened with their new single with Ne-Yo, appropriately titled, 'Single'. Though I'm pretty sure all are married but Donnie, all of the ladies in the audience (and it was ALL ladies. All in their 20's and 30's like us. So brilliant) went nuts, and we screamed like little girls through the whole show! It was reminiscent of one of the many Nsync shows I'd been too, though this time the girls weren't twelve and we were all drinking beer ;)

Then they did a medley of the classics: please don't go girl, the Right Stuff, My Favorite Girl...

They had a section in the middle of the show where Joey and Jordan broke out their 1998 career boosts- Joey Joe's Gospel hit, and Jordan's 'Give it to You'. Joey also showed some moves from his 'Dancing with the Stars' days. The boys can still move. Seriously. No hip replacements yet.

They did the new hits 'Summertime' and their songs with the Pussycat Dolls and Lady Ga Ga, which I could give or take...

but my favorites were still the ones that made me swoon back then, like 'TONIGHT' and "I'll be loving You Forever" (which I sang and played on the piano in a 4th grade talent show. There, I said it).

The encores (of course) were Step By Step and Hanging Tough

I have to hand it to the boys- they owned the old school and still looked amazing with all the dancing. I'm pretty sure they are actually better this time around, since they actually have to prove they can sing and stuff, considering they are now 40.

Ah, it was so worth every penny! I finally got to live the dream. I felt like it was 1989 all over again, and I kind of wish it were.

So, thanks NKOTB, for making us all feel young again.

Peace,
Julia

Friday, September 26, 2008

the book...



Abandonment to Divine Providence

I realize that is quite a title for a blog post. It is actually the title of the book I am currently reading by Jean-Pierre de Caussade (or as I like to refer to it as, 'ADP by some french guy')

My spiritual director (yes, I kind of have one! we only met once this month, but it went well, and I hope to meet with him monthly) recommended this to me after talking with me about where I'm at spiritually.

I know I've written alot about my spiritual status on this blog, since it all started when I took the leap to enter the Daughters of St. Paul. You are now watching me transition out of that life and struggle with God's Will in all of this...thanks for bearing with me!

This book- ADP- is ALL about embracing God's Will, and I think it can be helpful to alot of us. I like to use spiritual writings in my prayer time, and this book is full of so many nuggets that you can just meditate on. I highlight and star all over the thing. Here are some excerpts that really struck me today.

But first, I know some of my friends and I are struggling with where we are at right now in life. We didn't think we'd be (just some examples, no one in particular, except for maybe a ;)

a.) in and out of convent b.) single at 27 c.) married with children d.) married without children e.) living with parents at 27, f.) living without parents at 27....

The list could go on. What sounds like a great option for someone, is envitably what another one desires. The point is, we make our own plans, even if in our heads, and God's plans are not always ours. So how do we accept that? Because if our wills are supposed to be one with His, how can embrace a plan that was not ours?

Anyways, some quotes from the book:

"To this there is but one answer- that the will of God is the only thing necessary, therefore what it does not grant must be useless. My good souls, nothing is wanting to you!" (pg 30, ADP)

Now, these are bold words, I know. If we are desiring something we are lacking- like a spouse, a child, a parent, a home, a job- it doesn't mean that thing is USELESS in and of itself. But perhaps it isn't of use to us at this moment, and this is God's will for us at this point in time.

de Caussade goes on to say...
"Can the Will of God do me harm? Shall I fear or fly from the will of God?"

I know that I want to fly from God's will on a regular basis! And our culture tells us to go ahead and do our own will. That it is better to do what we want, even if it is beyond our control. There are some things we are not meant to control! And we can be much happier if we just accept that fact!

"When God speaks, it is a mystery, and therefore a death-blow to my senses and reason...The more obscure a mystery to us, the more light it contains in itself."

That last line is particularly beautiful to me.

So however obscure your mystery is right now, whatever it is, embrace it! I know I'm trying to. I know it is our human nature to want to use senses and reason to 'figure out mysteries', but I've learned in the past year to 'embrace the mysteries' of God, of ourselves, of people, of life. And embrace them because He is present amid that mystery.

Love you all, thanks so much for reading! I hope this touches you all in some way.
Peace,
Julia

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Susan and I agreed that when the first chill of fall was felt, she would unleash the fall home decor and I would dye my hair....it was chilly yesterday!

Winds of (hair) Change

It's been a year of changes, and I've learned to listen to the movements of the Spirit stirring. A wind that prompts me to make a move.

Is it possible that the Spirit also prompts changes in haircolor?

I really don't know what made me do it, otherwise. Now, I'm not equating discerning religious life with dying my hair, but both promptings kind of just seemed like the right thing at the time, and both are major changes! And both decisions have proved that people support me no matter what (though I've yet to hear what everyone's reaction to the hair yet, I'm basing this assumption on support received from entering convent life, a little more controversial ;)

What can I say? The Spirit makes me fearless! ;)

Okay, so maybe it's a little Carrie from the 'Sex and the City' movie after Big and her decide to call off the wedding, but I don't really think that's the case for me. I really can't say what made me go to 'the dark side', (so to speak) I just was toying with the idea, and took a poll amongst friends. (This is part of the discernment process, by the way...it's good to ask people what they think of the idea of you entering a community, religious life, etc. Also when making hair appointments too, apparently!)

All friends said they thought it would be a match, so like discernment processes before, I took the leap!

And the evil spirits always interfere (I'm totally kidding about evil spirits actually caring about my hair care process, btw) but it actually almost looked like it wasn't going to happen because my salon called last minute to reschedule because they had overbooked or something. Gasp!! This was a major change that you have to psych yourself up for! I had mentally prepared myself all week for this! Didn't they know this?!

So I rescheduled, but in a renegade manor, Stephanie encouraged me to find a different salon that would do it today! Now! As planned! And I think it was the right decision. The woman was really straight forward and honest- she asks me right off the bat, "are you gonna cry?" haha. I appreciated that! (and no, I didn't, btw- again, mental preparation!)

And so adding to the list of changes that have occured this year, I've gone from blonde to brunette. Not quite as life changing, and not sure how long the change with last...but perhaps until the Spirit moves again!

Peace,
Julia

Friday, September 5, 2008

G.O.B. with a soft G...like 'Jinger', apparently

Dirty Little Jingers...Steph, Susan, and I

Jingers and Current Obsessions

In order to update you on my life, I must explain the use of the name, "Jinger".

This originated with my current roommate, Susan Tramazzo. Well, scratch that, it actually originated with that "uber-Christian family with 18 kids who name them all J names" (you know who I'm talking about...if not, read this: http://www.duggarfamily.com/) But Susan is the first one of us who noticed that in their attempt to name their kids with the letter 'J', they had named one of their kids "JINGER".

How would you read and pronounce this name? If you answered like "GINGER", then you are the minority, but did pronounce it the way this family intended.

If you are like Susan, Stephanie, and I you read "JING-er". Like as in "JING-le". AS in rhymes with "Ding" and "Sing".

Now I come from a family where the family members are all named with J names. Granted, there are only four of us all together, but I can somewhat empathesize with the family's intent to unite the children with a common initial. Still, there are plenty of J names the Duggar's haven't used yet. Like mine and my sister's names, for two.

Anyways, what does this have to do with me other than my name begins with J? Well, as I said, Susan found this sad but hilarious and we kind of started coming up with our own conotations for the name Jinger (pronounced as it looks- Jinger with a capital JING).

What comes to your mind when you hear the word Jinger? Doesn't it sound like a name for bad person? As in, "you are a dirty little jinger?" We think so.

And so we have taken to calling one another 'jingers' and our new house in Silver Spring has become the Jinger home. Jinger, not only used in the Proper noun sense, as in "the house of Jinger", but we've taken 'jinger' to be an adjective, too. Like a you know...a jinger home. No?

Not all of this may make sense, but I guarantee it made you think. And if nothing else feel really sorry for the girl whose name is actually Jinger.

All of this to say, the Jingers- Susan, Steph, and I- are settled into our jinger home and really liking it! The house had some quirks- we had trouble with the washer, floors, etc- but such is the saga of renting. But we are now making the home our own and cant' wait to host our first guests and party! We'll let you know!

As for other current obsessions, other than the use of the word 'jinger', we have taken to quoting and watching Arrested Development. I know this show is five years old and canceled, but I didn't have cable in the last place I was staying in Alexandria, so I watched the first 2 seasons of Arrested Development dvds. I've now had to purchase them for my current jinger home, because Stephanie is also a fan and we've recruited Susan. The type of humor on that show compliments our jinger usage well. I'm pretty sure that if G.O.B knew the name Jinger existed he could empathize, because he also struggles with the usage of a hard vs. soft 'G' in his name.

This jinger is done for now- 'til the next update-

Peace,
Lil' Jinger

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bleeding Love

Do do you got a first aid kit handy? Ahhh....Lyrics from my current fav pop song (the ladies pictured below will tell you!) "Damaged" by P. Diddy's own Danity Kane. It's catchy, and I love to request this song to djs (again, the ladies below will tell you) and see their reactions because it's such the teeny bopper pop song, but I love it!

It seems lately my favorite songs are about the blood and guts of love. The title to this blog post is the title to Leona Lewis' summer hit (which I also loved until they out played it on the radio):
"my heart is crippled by the vein that you keep on closing...you cut me open". Pretty gruesome!

And there are- as there are with many pop songs- Christian analogies that could be made, and they are pretty obvious, so I won't patronize you by pointing them out. I will just say that I was contemplating in prayer this morning the vulnerability of Christ's love on the cross and I see how we as a culture long for this and relate to this, even if we don't recognize Christ as the source. We just long for the blood and guts of love, as is evident with such lyrics and songs.

We all fear being vulnerable and 'cut open'. We fear 'bleeding love'. Yet we all have gone through it and experienced it. I will argue that the reason that 'chick flicks' are so popular is because we can relate to the vulnerability of the main character, and we desire the climax where he/she finally reveals his/her pining love. Exposing their hearts, their love, for all to see. We secretly wish we were that brave. Or maybe we have been, and we know their pain.

As I was praying this morning, looking at the crucifix and seeing Jesus in the vulnerable position of hanging on the cross, not holding back love, but revealing it- and literally 'bleeding love'- I was struck by how we all long to be brave enough to do that. And we long to have that done for us.

Love is messy. Love is risky. Love is all out there in the open. It's scary. It can be gruesome.
But that's why we love it when we receive it, and why we long to see it for ourselves. We can't turn away from the trainwreck that is love!

I hope this is making sense. It all did in my head this morning.

I guess I'm just seeing the risk it takes for love and the scariness of it, but then there is always a happy ending- whether that be reciprocating love or not- there always is the Resurrection. Which makes the bleeding love worth it.

Today's Gospel was about a king inviting people to a banquet, a party. And they turned down his invitation. How many of us would turn down a free party? Even if we didn't like the person hosting, we probably would go for the free booze and eats. It's hard to put ourselves out there like Christ does- out on the cross, free invitations. We reject it, just like we might be rejected if we put ourselves out there, but as in any chick flick, there is always some resolution. Always some growth in character. And so we 'keep bleeding. keep keep bleeding love'.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My best girls who help get me through! Meg, Steph, me, and Susan at James' wedding Aug. 16

I'm Back

I know that I have been 'back' for a while, that is, I left the convent three months ago. But I don't think I spiritually or mentally was 'back'. This week, though, I finally feel like "I'm back". Back in the world, but back also with Jesus- back on the right track.

I've been told it takes at least half the time that you are in a relationship to recover from a breakup. It's been about a third of the time that I was in the convent, but I had been discerning for well over a year. And while, this is deifinitely not a 'break up', I felt a little confused the past couple months as why all the events of the past year or so had to happen like they did.

I wouldn't say I've been in spiritual desolation or anything, but I have felt a little removed from God, and maybe I even did that intentionally. You know that after a break up, sometimes you just don't want to see that person for a while. But this was between me and GOD...you can't really avoid Him. Well, you can, and I think I did, but I was finding that it hurt me more to do so.

So Jesus and I are talking again ;) We always were, but I've been making time each morning for prayer and going to Mass and the Sacraments regularly. I feel like He's finally giving me some insight again into His Plan. For the past few months I've been wondering 'why' alot, and now He's finally starting to show me...."oh, that's why!" That's why I'm back in DC. That's why I'm at the Pallotti Center, etc. And as far as God's time goes, three months is actually kind of quick to get some answers, so I'm grateful! He knows me and how impatient I am ;)

There have also been some things going on with my friends so it's made me want to step up and pray more for them, getting closer to God myself in the process. I'd been so self focused, now I'm definitely focusing on praying and supporting those around me. I've seen how much community is needed, ironically, outside of living in community! ;)

My new office is in the same building as the seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington and the guys are moving in today. I went for a walk at lunch and ran into someone I knew from youth ministry in Arlington. He took me in and started giving me a tour of the seminary, and I realized I knew like 5 other guys in there! When I think about it, I probably have 13 seminarians on my facebook, a couple of priests, sisters, postulants...my life isn't normal, I realize. But I'm just so in awe (especially now that I've tried it!) of these men and women who are giving themselves to the Church and Christ so selflessly and faithfully. As Alina and I used to say, 'There HAS to be a God because NO ONE would want to do this [religious life] otherwise!"

I'm really excited to be moving to Silver Spring in less than two weeks! I really think part of the reason I'm back in DC is to live with Susan and Steph. They are such good examples of holy women, living the way that God wants them to live. They will help me transition well, I think, as well as continue to grow. And we all believe in the Gladys Hardy ( an 88 year old woman who Ellen DeGeneres called on her show) mantra of life: "I love Jesus, but a drink a little ;)

Thanks for reading this long blog. I just wanted to share my joy that "I'm back!" in my routine of loving Jesus and focusing on Him as my 'Hebrews 12:1-3" blogaddress states!

Peace,
Julia

Monday, July 21, 2008

Our new home in Silver Spring
The beautiful bride, Catherine, and me

Monday, June 30, 2008

My So-Called Life





Pics from the last 2 months or so since I've been back in the "real world"
Janet and I in St. Louis, College friends and I at a wedding in Indiana, Chicago Museum of Art (Picasso's 'Crazy Woman with Cats'), My cousin Lauren and I in Chicago, family friend Liz and I in Chicago

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to DC!

I had to say good bye to St. Louis...nothing ended up working out job wise and it was time to move on. I had planned a trip to DC to visit my friends and so I scheduled some interviews in there as well. I enjoyed my time in DC so much, that when I was offered last week a position with the St. Vincent Pallotti Center, I had to say yes! And so now I'm back to DC to stay!

I begin my job as Director of Recruiting and Marketing for the St. Vincent Pallotti Center on July 7th. I'm really excited about it. I thought the Lord was calling me to youth ministry again, but I plan on definately volunteering for sure :) With my new job I'll get to travel alot and promote something I certainly believe in- Catholic long term volunteer programs!

And the Center is located right across from Catholic U. Apparently God has felt the need to bring me full circle. I may not understand His plan right now, but I'm trying to follow the best I can and I can't say I'm disappointed with the results ;)

This past weekend, I went to Chicago to stay with my cousin Lauren for a couple nights. I love Chicago in the summer and it had been a couple years since I'd spent time in the city. We had a great time. Then it was off to Gary, Indiana about an hour away to witness my dear Sally Oram marry Louis Santellano!! It was such a beautiful day. The weather was perfect, the Cathedral was a beautiful setting, and the bride and groom were oh-so happy!!! The reception was a fun time too. Us CUA folk still know how to party ;)

So now I'm chilling in Elyria, trying to get myself together for my move to DC! My friends Susan and Steph and I are looking for a 3 bedroom place. I really hope it works out because I would love to live with my girls! I am also looking for temporary housing because if we do move, it probably won't happen right away. It'll take a least a month or so. So it's back to couches and a suitcase for me. That time with NET has certainly proved beneficial in my life experience(s)!

God bless you all for your prayres and keeping up with me! Have a good summer and stay in touch-
Peace,
Julia

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lovin' the Lou!

I am still alive and well and in Saint Louis! My life has been so crazy, I haven't even thought about blogging. But now I'm spending most of my unemployed life on my sister's couch in her apartment, so I've once again found time ;)

On Pentecost, my sister and her boyfriend came to pick me up at the convent. We barely fit all my stuff in her Honda Civic. Josh and I both had boxes on our laps. How much stuff can you acquire in nine months at a convent? Clearly, the vows of poverty were not for me :)

It was a bittersweet moment as you can imagine. I'm horrible with goodbyes. I just like to give hugs and get out of there. But I also had a feeling I will see them all again, so it didn't feel like goodbye. I really love the sisters and they've been so good to me. I have a feeling I will always keep in touch with them. They will always be a part of my life.

And so began my weeks of couch sitting, unfortunately. I had applied and sent resumes to every Catholic high school in the diocese, as well as parishes, as well as parishes in schools in other dioceses too. I had some interviews, but alot of the schools want people with teaching experience, which is understandable. I try to explain I've done plenty of catechetical instruction with youth ministry, but maybe that's just not where God wants me...though summers off were sounding ideal!

I have a good prospect with a youth ministry position, though, here in Saint Louis. I've had 3 interviews with them already and even met some of the teens this week. It seems very similar to the parish I was at in VA before entrance- lots of families and very active. They also seem to have a very solid youth ministry program in place which is ideal for me since creating a program was kind of a struggle, though I'm glad I had that experience in VA.

I shouldn't say it's been all couch sitting. My sister and I have some quality time together drinking wine and watching our favorite reality shows ;) I've also been really blessed to meet some awesome young Catholics here in the diocese, so I've gone out to a couple events and a party or two. Today I'm meeting up with my friend Amanda who is from VA but lives in the Lou now. It's Memorial Day weekend, so there's lots going on!

One of the difficulties has been the uncertainty of if this is really where God wants me. But I lived with uncertainty for the past 9 months! God has definately taught me how to embrace the unknown and love mystery this year! But with it there is a peace. And I've had lots of time to pray these past 2 weeks as well.

My sister and I have had to share one car, which is easier said than done with her crazy schedule and my interviews. I finally rented a car the past 2 days so I could go socialize a little on my own. I can now openly express my love for Enterprise rental. They were who I worked with in the diocese of Arlington to rent all my mini-vans for retreats and such. I always I had the cutest sales reps and they are always so sweet! But this past week sealed the deal for me and my love affair of enterprise. My new friend at the rental place upgraded me to a convertible this weekend and yesterday was beautiful! I rode around with the top down all day and got a tan!
Convertibles make errands fun! I may consider getting one....when I get a job. And some money.

Thanks friends for keeping up with me and the blog! This was intended to be a blog about my experience with postulancy, but I may blog about the aftermath for a while! Love you all, thanks for your prayers!

Peace,
Julia

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thank You and Update

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for all of the Birthday wishes, calls, and cards. My birthday was very blessed and there is a full account of my celebration on the postulant blogsite: http://fsppostulants.blogspot.com.

I can't believe I'm 27...and still don't know what God's plan is for me!

I have discerned, as many of you may already know, that religious life is not what the Lord is calling me to. I have been meeting with my formator and spiritual director many times over the past few months and we are both at peace with my decision not to do a second year of postulancy.

The year has certainly been very blessed. I have so many great memories and life lessons that I've experienced with the sisters. I've written about God's faithfulness so many times on this blog! I feel so honored that I have been given this opportunity to live this life, even if for a short period of time.

It came down to where my passions and desires are. I do have a passion to be united to Christ and serve Him through evangelization. But I've discerned that He is calling me to use those desires and gifts as a lay minister.

So please continue to pray for me as I try to listen to where the Lord is calling me next. I am finishing my semester of classes here until May 11th- the feast of Pentecost and Mother's Day!
I entered on a great feast- the Queenship of Mary- it is only fitting that I leave on another great feast, one where the Spirit is sending us forth!! I'm gonna stay with my sister Janet for a couple weeks and hopefully in that time look for an apartment and job in the St. Louis area. I'm open to wherever God will lead, but I feel like He led me here for a reason. I've met some great priests and ministers here and it's a really strong Archdiocese with a passion for catechetics and evangelization- perfect for me!

Thanks again for your prayers. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. I hope this doesn't come as too much of a shock. Like I said, I've talked to lots of people and a few of the sisters, and everyone has been very supportive and Jesus is giving me much peace! I trust in Him because He has led me in beautiful paths so far.

God bless you all! Keep in touch!
Peace,
Julia


I

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Special Pictures from the Special Place

"sculpture park"
Yes, that is 55 steel balls in the middle of the woods.




note the large "eye" structure in background



The Special Place

So it's been a special week in a special place I like to call St. Louis, MO. I really do like this town. It's got a nice city feel to it, even in the suburbs. And these people love their Church... and their crazy art.

All the classes I've taken through the diocese have been great, many holy priests, and we've met so many people faithful to the Church here.

We've also found some really crazy places of art!

So two of my favorite things in one city: the Catholic Church alive and well, and abstract art!

On Monday of this week Alina and I once again went an a recylcing jaunt which always puts us in high spirits. Seriously- if you don't believe me, see the pics I posted from a few weeks ago.

And as usual, we pro-long our jaunts and explore the surrounding area before returning to the convent ;)

This week we stumbled upon a truly special place. For those of you who have facebook, I posted a whole album of pictures.

We had always passed signs for a "sculpture park" on our way back to the convent, but we had no idea that it was acutally acres and acres of woods and land with HUGE abstract structures in random places....

it is special because not only is it striking, weird art, but it's in the middle of the suburbs.

Anyways, it was mind boggling for Alina and I and we spent a good portion of our Monday morning there (instead of studying...whoops!)

Emily's brother came into town this week and so we had to take the two of them to our special place. Yesterday we went to the City Museum (also have old pics posted from when we went w/sisters around Christmas) AND the special place...how much crazy art can you experience in one day?? We were trying to find out!

Enjoy the special pictures from the special place...and please say some prayers for me. We are starting to pray about whether or not we want to continue postulancy for another year. I've talked to my formator a couple times already this week and I have a lot to pray about. It's been a blessed year, but a hard year. I know there is supposed to be much 'death' and sacrifice, but in the hope of giving life. I miss my old life alot still, and I know God wants me to be happy, I am still discerning where I can best use the gifts He's given me. So please pray for us! Thanks!

Peace,
Julia

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fifth Station of the Cross at Benedictine Monastery.
Emily and I with my current idol, Sr. Rose ;)
Fish Nibblers are back...in case you didn't know they ever were....
I loved the Benedictine Monastery, but it IS the hottest place on earth...I risked heat exhaustion with each morning cup of coffee and hot shower.

Inside Indie

On our postulant blog (http://fsppostulants.blogspot.com) you will find most likely some appropriate pics of our Easter celebration and exhibit in Indianapolis.

I offer you here the "off the beaten path" pics, if you will ;)

The week was really beautiful. Triduum was thoroughly celebrated with much reflection as you can imagine. We had a retreat on Good Friday and went to every liturgy imaginable for Triduum including a Maronite ritual on the eve of Holy Saturday (or also Good Friday) that was like a funeral for Jesus. They took the corpus off of a cross (not too big to be frightening for me ;) and put the 'body' in a coffin type thing and carried it around the Church while chanting lamentations in Arabic. I saw something similar in Guatemala, which I believe they do every Saturday to commemorate the Lord's burial before His resurrection. In Guate, they moan and throw flowers on the body...and the body is much more real looking for those of us with statue phobias (me!)....

Anyways, Easter was celebrated with Mass in the morning, a big lunch/dinner, and Easter egg hunt which, I don't like to brag but, I WON. Ha! It was all in good fun and so far every holiday we've celebrated, each feast has been very appropriate and fun for me.

Easter Monday, Emily, Sr. Jerome, Sr. Laura, and I were off to Indianaoplis for the NCEA- National Catholic Educators Association- convention. We had a table along with 500 other exhibitors! It was huge! Apparently over 5,000 people attended. We did meet alot of lovely people, and for me, I really enjoyed the mission aspect of the trip. This is our mission in action, and it was cool to be doing during the week the apostles were also going out telling the Good News of the Resurrection.

The highlight(s) of the week in Indie for me were probably hanging out with Sr. Rose, our "celebrity" sister who came in from LA to give a talk at the conference. She really embodies what I love about our mission- using the modern means of the media- like secular films and our culture- to preach and teach about Christ. She spoke about how we need to create discussion with kids and be "in the culture" with them...not block it out. She reviews movies for St. Anthony Messenger Press and has a blog on aol.com 'my journals'. You should check it out- Rose Pacatte- just google her name!

The other highlight, aside from meeting people and distributing our materials, was staying at a Benedictine Monastery. We stayed with the sisters instead of getting a hotel and it was such a peaceful place. The sisters were very hospitable and funny....I think the pictures will explain better though, so enough talking....

God bless your Easter Season! 62 days til my break! :)

Peace,
Julia

Monday, March 10, 2008

Balanchine piece from my sister's performance
ask me about the story
I wrote this awesome entry about a crazy story that happened here in the convent involving me, three nuns, and a coffeemaker. But Blogger decided not to save it and it was a really long story, so if you care for me to recount the story, just ask me to tell you the story of "One Cup". Alina even made me a t-shirt commemorating and aiding my re-telling of the story. I've included the picture of the t-shirt (yes, it is my first year workcamp shirt doctored up), so that may spark your interest. It's better in person, I think...which I'll be able to tell to some of you IN person in....80 days!

It's officially 80 days until our break. We've started a countdown. Is that weird? It's not a bad thing, like we want to leave, we are all just looking forward to going to our respective homes (we being the postulants). We have been given May 30-June 21 for our break, so I hope to go home to Elyria, then head down to DC for the first weekend in June, and then Chicago to visit my cousin and go to a wedding June 14th.

We (the postulants again) will be spending July in Boston to take some classes. I really, really hope to go to my BFF Catherine's wedding in July, so if you could pray for that, I'd appreciate God's will on that one! I know I've been to a ton of weddings, but this one is really important!! :)

My parents were just in town for my sister's spring performance. I went too and it was a really great show. The first two works were very modern and the second piece in particular (Circle of Fifths) I really liked 'cause it was so abstract. Then we all got to hang out with a family which is always nice. I still can't believe how much God has given me this great consolation of having my family so easily accesible in St. Louis!

We (the St. Louis community this time :) are doing a bunch of exhibits these next couple weeks. The Archdiocese has a Men's Conference which they expect 1,000 men to attend and Sr. Laura and I are going to have a display of our books there. Then, Sr. Laura, Sr. Jerome, Emily and I are going on a ROAD TRIP to Indianapolis to a big National Religious Educators' conference during Easter Week. We'll be there all week! I'm looking forward to that. A change of scenery always does me good!

So that's my update. Again, I'm so bummed that blogger didn't save my One Cup story. Enjoy the picture and savor the phrase: "I only made one cup". It can be a very spiritual reflection on community life...hmmmmm....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pauline Books of Interest

We are using this book for one of our Scripture classes. It is written by a Sister of the Good Shepherd which is an order founded by the same man as our order- Blessed James Alberione. The man founded like 10 orders/institutes which make up our "Pauline Family".

Anyways, this book isn't a scholarly book, and you don't need to be into Scripture to understand it. I really think it could bring anyone closer to Jesus. It just opens up the Gospel of Mark to help us better understand Jesus and His message. It's really easy to read too.

She has some for the other Synoptics as well, but we are starting with Mark and learning about the theory that he was the 'first' Gospel and Luke and Matt took their cues from him... I could tell you all about that, but I am still studying it myself :) Anyways, just thought I'd give this book a push 'cause I'm enjoying it and I think others would too.

Peace,
Julia

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Spotlight: Recycling




So I know it's been a while since I've written, and i swear we've been doing things, but i couldn't think of anything to write!

Things are picking up again. We're taking Scripture, Catechism, and Discernment classes. And we are also doing lots of apostolic stuff- our faith and film nights, lectures here at the center and at parishes. Plus, Lent has started, so there's been liturgies and much prayer.

But, I couldn't think of anything fantastic to write about. And when I look at this week, the highlight really was in the daily goings on.


So here's a look into a regular, weekly activity for us: RECYCLING!


Yes, that's right! Put it in the books- the Daughters of St. Paul recycle! And for some reason, Alina took her digital camera with us this time and we videoed most of our encounter with the Kirkwood Recycling Center (Kirkwood is where the council members were murdered last week. It's really sad. The community is a really nice community and very close to where we live!!!).


I'm not sure if she wants me to post the videos, as they are quite embarrassing, as most homemade videos are. So in the meantime, here are just some really unflattering pictures of me. Maybe she'll give me the okay and I'll post a video or two.


Unflattering pictures above: Time to go recycling! How much cardboard can you fit in a 15 passenger van? Talking to the camera.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul!

Today is the Church's feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It's not a big feast like Christmas, but today feels like Christmas to me!

For the Daughters, of course, this is a big feast for us. Not quite as big as St. Paul's Feast Day (the Church celebrates it on June 29 I believe), but for me personally, I hold this day near and dear.

St. Paul and I have a lot in common, I'm finding. Which is most likely why God led me to this order. We like to give people a hard time, Paul and I. We like to think that we are right. And then tell people we are right. And then God knocks us off our horse. And then that makes us fall in love with Him, because we see the Light, which is Him.

Last year this time, I had returned from a postive, enlightening experience of retreat with the Daughters in New Orleans. It was decision time. Was I going to let this positive experience change me? Was I going to take action on it? God made it clear that I had to. I couldn't let the opportunity pass by. His Light was too strong and too loving to turn away. This is what happened to Paul. He simply could not go back to his former way after he knew what he had seen, and that was Jesus.

We have all had these conversions in our life, I'm sure. I encourage you to reflect on moments Christ changed things for you and you could no longer go back- you were forever changed. Let us thank Him for these moments.

And so here I am today. A lot of dying to myself has had to happen these past 5 months, and I'm sure this is only the beginning. Things I thought I knew- like Paul- I had to have transformed by Christ's Light. And once again God helped me surrender, only to be filled with a renewal of His Light!

Thanks, St. Paul, for your witness of conversion and transformation! I am learning that we are never done being formed. We are constantly dying and rising with Christ. And it can be very painful, but ultimately very beautiful. That is why this day is so beautiful to me. It reminds me of all the conversions I have had so far in my life, and all the ways Christ has shown His Light and Truth to me. And also it reminds me of the conversions Christ has allowed me to witness in others. And that makes me want to "press on" and bring Christ's Light to all His people!

I pray you all will continue to see Christ's Light in new ways. May we all die and rise together with Christ like St. Paul!

Tonight we are having a Mass with our some of our local benefactors, family, and friends. I think my sister is coming as well as my friend from CUA who is now with the Jesuits. You will be in our prayers! Thank you for keeping us in yours. We are united in Him!

Peace in Him,
Julia

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Faith for Thought

We just had a Scripture class and it has given me new insights for the new year that I wanted to share with you all. It gives insight to our mission as the Daughters of St. Paul but also ALL of our mission as Christians overall!

The Scripture scholar who teaches the class (we listen to her on tape) knows everything about tradition and history. She has been breaking apart the Penteteuch for us and teaching of the different authors who were trying to share to their audiences back then about God, but also trying to make sense of their world. The first weeks of these classes kind of shook my faith a little bit, because if we are not careful, we get caught up in the human-ness of the works and forget they are divinely inspired and trying to show the action of God in our lives. But today in class, the lesson brought back the faith element for me and so I wanted to share with you the Good News :)

She said our job as evangelists and catechists is to come up with NEW metaphors and images to talk about Jesus. In other words, to put the Good News in the context of how people today will understand. When the authors of the Old Testament were writing, they were writing to a specific audience- people in exile. Of course we are still in exile today and the words apply, which is why the Bible is the basis of our faith. But we still need to explain, as Christians, how Jesus saves us TODAY in new ways. ESPECIALLY to a people whose world is changing so rapidly.

I share that just because I think that explains alot about the problems in the Church today. Some people are trying to speak about Jesus as we did as a Church 400 years ago. And while that is a part of our history, how are we going to praise and worship Jesus TODAY? Some of it is still relevent, but not all of it. It is more a preservation of history and old traditions, it seems, than moving towards what Pope John Paul II taught: the NEW EVANGELIZATION.

Pope Benedict's encyclicals, so far, I think, have been in tune to Pope John Paul II's message. I think the current pope speaks very much in our language and the encyclicals are easy to read. His latest one is on HOPE which definately what we need to look at as many of us look at the world in dismay.

I am reminded that the reason I entered this order is because our mission here is to come up with new ways to share the Good News of Jesus. But that is ALL of our mission as Christians. Let us in this new year come up with new ways for us to share our ever-changing encounters with Jesus! But always remember the history with love and respect as well. And look towards the merging of new and old with HOPE.

Amen!
Peace,
Julia

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

City Museum Pics





Above: The Awesome City Museum, Emily and the nuns discovering Ms. Pacman, Watching the 'Circus', and the reason we are not cloistered ;)

2008 is great.

Happy New Year! I rang in the New Year in front of the Blessed Sacrament last night along with Sr. Carmen, Alina, Emily, and my friend Cathy from home who was in town and staying with us.

We began with a community Holy Hour at 7:30pm and seriously, we stayed for four and a half hours. The time actually went fast. We could've left if we wanted to, but when Jesus is staring you in the face for the New Year, how could you say, 'See Ya later?' :)

Plus He was just saying all kinds of nice, good things :) 2007 gave me much to reflect on, and I am very grateful for all the ways the Lord used me and so many of you last year. He also gave me much inspiration and a spirit of Hope of much more to come in 2008. He reminded me there is much work to do and it won't always be easy, but He will always help me and give me the desires of my heart.

And so we prayed, and if I didn't mention you by name, know that you were definately covered in one form of petition or the other :) We always remember our families and friends and all those we promise to pray for in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Last Sunday was the feast of the Holy Family and Alina's family was in town from Miami. My friend Cathy was also here. We went to a Gospel type Mass at a largely African American parish and it was AMAZING. When there are times that I question, I pray I will always think of that Mass. I really think it is what heaven will be like: peoples of all races just praising God in the Holy Spirit with true joy and happiness. Singing their little hearts out, not caring about anything else or anyone else- just God- and happy to do so. The Holy Spirit was truly present and I know He always is, but we don't always allow ourselves to be channels. I pray to be more of a channel for the Spirit like the people of that community were.

I realize I also didn't share with you about our Christmas! We provided the music for the 9am Mass at the parish we go to often. Emily played piano, I played guitar and cantored. Sr. Jerome, Sr. Carmen, and Alina sang as well. We had rehearsed for about a month, and I must say our work paid off. Jesus blessed us with a beautiful Christmas morning Mass.

That day we had a nice lunch together and then, in true Julia style, I had to provide our new family with some entertainment. So I called upon the ghosts of Christmas past when my sister, cousins, and I would perform our own skits, songs, and dances for our family. I made Alina and Emily help me choreograph a dance to one of our crazy Christmas songs from one of our Daughters of St. Paul cds. I can't describe to you the music that our Sisters record. Most of it is very beautiful, but there are some songs that just beg for cheezy, showtune choreography. And so, I took it upon myself to give my gift of cheezy choreography to the sisters. I wish I could post the video (yes there is a video, naturally. All my genius, geeky efforts are always captured on film or now digital it seems) but I wouldn't want to put the Daughters at risk for any critcism or chastisement for allowing such silliness to occur :)

And then there were presents!!! My advent angel turned out the be Sr. Agnes. Alina and I were pretty sure Sr. Caritas and Sr. Agnes had us, but I thought mine was going to be Sr. Caritas. I've always admired Sr. Agnes for her savvy fashion sense (the woman's got some cute shoes and sweaters for 74) so I'm glad that she had me! God is good! I got a nice bathrobe and we each get each other little things, so I got two miniture baby Jesus', a handmade pillow, pillowcase, and apron out of the deal as well :)

The day after Christmas was crazy fun. We went to this awesome museum in St. Louis called the City Museum. Once again, words will only fail me, so I'll post some pictures of the place. It's got a skateless skate park, tons of chutes and ladders for kids and parents alike, and a circus inside! And much of it is made of recycled materials. We all had an awesome time.

Speaking of recycled materials, I was inspired to start a new hobby and make things out of recyclables as well. My first project has been a gift for Sr. Caritas birthday today. My friend Cathy introduced me to Mod Podge, so I'm honing my skills. I"ll let you know how it works out. You may see my work in a museum someday.

God bless your NEW YEAR!!! Hope to see you in 2008!!!

Peace,
Julia