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!


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 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 :)

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 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,