Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Fun With Social Networking

In addition to the random gchat I just posted, I thought I also should include this tweet exchange I found humorous from today:

I tweeted: "Was thinking I needed to start a novena soon and realized O Antiphons start tomorrow!"

My friend in response to my tweet: "@julz422 I only understand a few words of this".

Haha! We Catholics definitely have our own lingo. I forget how strange we must sound....

...and yes, I tweet about novenas and liturgical seasons. Are we surprised?

Peace,
Julia

My YM Friends Try Group GChat and Talk Liturgical Colors...WHAT?!

It was a cold, snowy night tonight, and as those of you who have been following my blog for a while know- DC shuts down when cold and snowy merge together.

And so I sat with nowhere to go- in my snuggie, on my couch with my computer as I let it snow (x3 ;) and decided to engage in gchat- something I had not done much of since I became a school teacher. (Gchat had served me well when I worked a 9-5 office job- just saying. And that Google Reader wasn't going to read ITSELF. Geez... ;)

Some friends I had met up with the night before for happy hour were online and invited me to chat as a group so we could chat about the next time we could meet up for drinks.

This group gchat thing was new to me, but I must say, it produced the most ridiculously awesome conversation that I just had to share.

*Disclaimer* my friends are also young women involved in youth ministry...oh, and a seminarian. Okay. You've been prepped/warned:

After coordinating a happy hour for next week (amid other things ;) we begin discussing the origin of why my roommates and I call each other "jinger". If you don't know, you better ask somebody. Or look here: http://hebrews121-3.blogspot.com/2008/09/jingers-and-current-obsessions.html

Sem: Tell me again why it is 'jinger?'

Me: Oh, Jinger is from the Duggar family, but it sounds dirty, so we've made it commonplace ;)

Friend 2: making dirty things commonplace, eh?

Friend 1: sounds about right

Sem: soon I'll be making sinful things clean

Friend 1: he threw the purple card.... he just threw the purple card!

Me: I was just saying my seminarian friends become more useful to me when they can "do the sacraments" :)

Sem: See Julia, you can have a 4th category for male friends.

(he is referring to my "rules" for guy friends. I simply just have too many, so I've made them choose one of three things to earn their keep. Well, ideally. For seminarian friends, it is more difficult. Another friend made this genius flowchart to help: https://docs.google.com/drawings/edit?id=1iYG-5fOZTkG_kbL6URWsP9WzENMPgPA4W927fgq_AWc&hl=en)

Me: hmmm...i'll think about it. i suppose i can keep you around if you can say Mass for me and make my soul clean

Sem: [ going back to the 'purple card' reference] Are you a liturgical ref, [Friend 1]? We'll have to get you a uniform for that...

Friend 2: Friend 1 has plenty of outfits that coordinate with liturgical seasons...

Me: haha! YES

Friend 2:...and holy days

Friend 1: it's true. sad, but true

Me: The Church needs to make Shitake mushroom a liturgical color...or taupe. I have lots of neutrals...

Friend 1: perhaps they could do taupe on days where we celebrate hermits? or desert fathers?!

Me: YES

Friend 1: st. john the baptist?

Me: indeed!

Friend 2: Friend 1, you're the only person i know that would get all exclamation pointy over desert fathers. well, maybe julia too...

Me: I love me my mystagogues, too. WHAT.

Sem: not a bad idea. Except for that whole beheading thing.. gotta go with red

Me: but JTB was Christ's COUSIN he should get his own color

Friend 2: omigosh it's raining church nerds in here.

Andddd.....scene :)

Just another gchat in the life of a youth minister!

Yeah, we need to get out more. Let's hope this snow doesn't last long! As much as I would love another snowpacolypse..

Peace,

Julia

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today I Figured Out Why I'm Single

Now, clearly I title this blogpost with my tongue in cheek as it were, but I was observing at my LAST grad school class of the semester (whoo hoo!) with my fellow classmates the demographics of our class. Observe with me, won't you?


- A Latina Sister

- An African Priest

- A consecrated Christian Brother

- 2 single young women (both teachers! myself and one other twenty something...)

- 1 married woman

- and 2 married men

We were commenting on what a great representation of the Church this is. So diverse! But I had to beg the question...

where's the young, single, cool lay-guy, huh? If this is the perfect demographic of people involved in the Church, then....

Sigh. This is why I am single ;)

There are many theories on why this dilemma exists in the Church (okay, so I named it a dilemma, and I have many theories ;) and my spiritual director is very helpful in affirming me that it's not me it's them... (okay, not in so many words, but...) Anyways, he is just encouraging me to persevere in just pursuing holiness as best I can in the state I am.

Alright, thus ends the single girl rant for now. I swear I feel like Carrie from Sex in the City typing about my foibles as a single girl (the Catholic edition, of course ;)

I've mentioned the last couple posts how excited I am to enter into Advent because I've needed a renewed sense of sacrifice and zeal. I love how the Church has these penitential seasons built in to lead us towards this kind of reflection.

Father also pointed out to me this week in spiritual direction that the word Advent is within the word "adventure". Heh. Clever! This also helps remind me that Advent is about beginnings. We have to trust that God has adventure and new beginnings for us this season.

Anyways, also on the plus side of all of this- it was my last class for the semester and I breathed a sigh of relief that I will never again be a first year teacher and a grad student at the same time!!

Hope your Advent is going well!
Peace,

Julia

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Resolutions

I arrived home from Thanksgiving break last night to Christmas lights, a Christmas tree, and decorations galore! My Martha Stewart-esque roommate wastes no. time. It must be Advent!

Some of you have asked about what kind of Advent resolutions I am making. One that I can share is that I am making a conscious effort to say a rosary every morning. I have gotten out of the habit of saying a full rosary everyday. So I put my rosary that I usually carry in my purse by where I place my ipod in my car. My commute in the morning is usually 30-40 minutes, during which I typically pretend to be Sara Bareilles or Lea Michele from Glee and sing from the top of my lungs while downing my morning coffee. This ritual will now be replaced for the time being with a morning rosary. Upon completion of the rosary I can commence my delusional superstardom for the duration of the commute :)

Turns out, when you say a rosary in the car, one is also much less likely to swear at fellow morning commuters from behind the wheel. Go figure!

I also am going to make this season truly penitential and give up something. Typically done during Lent, I'm going to give up sweets this Advent. I know that with upcoming Christmas parties this is going to be a feat, but I hope it will remind me of the waiting that we are observing and make Christmas all that more celebratory!

I also want to unite all of my waiting with Mary and Christ. Anytime I get impatient or frustrated with someone or something in my life that I am having to "wait" for, I hope to offer it up with the waiting during this liturgical season.

I have a couple other little Advent observences that I'm offering up, but that's just for me and Jesus ;)

I am also looking forward to Spiritual Direction on Dec. 4. It is much needed! I'm sure I'll have more insight to share after I meet with Father this weekend....until then....

Happy Advent! What resolutions are you making this new year?

Peace,
Julia

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Year in Pics...

Girls Getaway Weekend, Wintergreen, VA, Nov. 2010
My dear friend and her little miracle! May, 2010

Me and my new nephew Lucas, Oct. 2010


Visiting friends in CA! May, 2010

Florida Trip! May 2010

Snowpocalypse Feb 2010

Retreat! Jan 2010

Youth Ministry Retreat Feb. 2010

Dressing up like Lady Gaga for my 29th bday, April 2010








Countdown to the New Year!

10! 9! 8! 7!...

The new liturgical year that is ;) Man, I'm such a liturgical NERD. For reals.

Today was the feast of Christ the King! That means a.) Advent is almost here and b.) it is the end of our liturgical year! CRAZY!

I was just looking back today on Facebook at my pics from this year. I was able to add yet MORE fall winetasting pics as I just returned from another great getaway weekend. As I looked back at my pics from this year, there were lots of fabulous trips filled with lots of faces of fabulous friends.

Christ the King/beginning of Advent also coincide with the American celebration of Thanksgiving. As I looked back at 2010 and this liturgical year, SO much to be thankful for. New job, new nephew, lots of trips like I said, grad school classes...and most importantly...I think I got my groove back ;)

I'm back in ministry, and I've had some boosts of confidence here and there...and yet I still find myself questioning God about the path He has led me on.

Today's readings for Christ the King really fit in with what I'm teaching the freshmen of late. We are talking about the Davidic covenant and how he was a man after God's own heart, though not perfect. Because God has a special relationship with David, he says that he will be a king and his descendants as well. Christ, of course, is one of these descendants and we all know that His type of reign as king is not what was expected.

I was thinking as I was sitting in Mass today (which was really a beautiful celebration. The parish I went to really did up the 'end of the year' theme right. They chose a lot of songs, too, that made me reflect on my days in youth group and music ministry as a teen. It was a good reminder of where I have been on my journey...) that if God can send a Savior so perfectly through the line of David...so many prophets predicting how He would be born and die, all of it matching up so perfectly...how can I question God's plan for me??

I'm also trying to stress to my teens that we are all a continuing part of Salvation History. Part of the covenant God made to David is that his line would never end. Some of the students questioned this...how could the line never end? Well, Jesus was a part of that line and he opened up all eternity for all of us! Done and done ;)

I remember when I went to spiritual direction around the time of Advent last year, Father called me out for being halfway through the season and not really having made any commitments to celebrate Advent. As I sat in Mass tonight, I also started thinking about how I could honor the upcoming season in a special way. As I wrote last week, I can feel this aching for reflection and for penance. I haven't been sacrificing as much as I used to. I think I was in waiting for so long- looking for a new job, and just re-grouping after my multiple 'life changes'- that I thought that was sacrifice enough and I've just been basking in the abundance of late. God certainly wants us to enjoy and rejoice, and I will continue to do so at Christmas, but I think it's time for a little penitential season-ing...time to make a little sacrifice as we all lie in wait for the Savior.

I'm going to take this week to meditate on how I can reflect more during the season and also offer up more in this season of penance as we wait for the light in the darkness.

How are you going to celebrate the new year? ;)

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Feast of Christ the King!
Peace,
Julia

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Gotta Feeling or Aching for Advent

One of my youth ministry colleagues tweeted this week that he could "feel Advent coming. Aching for Our Lord's return." And I thought to myself: "aha! That's what I'm feeling/missing..." His tweet made sense to me. (the power of Twitter, I tell you! Media! ;)

I've talked before about the cycle of the spiritual life and how we are often in tune with the goings on of the earth around us. We can sense the cold coming and we need the Lord to keep us on track- to be our Light in the Darkness, which is what we celebrate at Advent.

Last winter, my spiritual director led a retreat for some friends of mine and myself and it's time for us to start planning again. It feels like it is about that time. I am in need of Advent- a time of reflection. In need of a change of liturgical season to bring a challenge, bring repentance, bring me Jesus.

I remember before I left for NET and after I graduated from CUA, my friend put together a little photo album for me to take with me on the road. It had a message in it from our campus minister at the time who encouraged me to "bring 'em Jesus, Jules"- referring to the teens I'd be encountering that year and all the families I'd meet, really.

That message of "bring 'em Jesus" has been in my mind lately with teaching as I've switched from mere textbook lesson planning to really trying to bring ministry into the classroom. Last Friday, the chaplain at the school exposed the Blessed Sacrament for my two junior classes as we were wrapping up a unit on the Eucharist. I wasn't sure how the teens would react- I was pretty sure they would just talk the whole time, fidget, or fall asleep. I was surprised to find they were quiet and respectful, some of them even sung the songs with me! And after Adoration when we went back to the classroom, there seemed to be a different feel about them. A different tone to their demeanor and their interactions. I don't know why I was surprised- they had encountered Jesus- whether they realized it or not.

I've been really comfortable lately. My grad school paper is nearly done, I've gotten a handle on teaching and lesson planning, I have a good balance going between social life and taking time for other elements in my life....is it time for a change? I kind of want to hold onto fall. I love this season. And I hate winter. I hate the cold, I hate the snow. I want to hold onto the comfort of light coats and sitting outside in the sun with friends. I don't like that it is starting to get darker...

but with that darkness comes the need for the light. And I am ready for Jesus to enter into my life in a new way- to bring light to any darkness that might exist and shine light upon it.

Speaking of my time on NET, I know I've also mentioned before the Jars of Clay cd I purchased that year on the road and how it continues to be a "light" for me and in an aid in ministry.

I used this song when I was preparing teens for Confirmation at St. John's back in the day, and I recently used it in talking about the same Sacrament in my classroom recently:

Trouble Is- Jars of Clay from "Who We Are Instead"

My wings don't sail me to the sky
On my own, these wings won't fly
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Can't find no rest for my soul
Can't find no rest on my own
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead

I keep running the other way
My heart ain't built to stay
My heart ain't built to stay
And the world just ain't that way

Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead

My heart ain't built to stay
Jesus told me so

I use and continue to use this song because I think it raises that important thought that we "aren't built to stay" here. We are built for heaven. So it's a great song to use when speaking about Sacraments and just to get us thinking about the choices we make while on earth. It also reminds us that we can't do it on our own, we need Jesus and that's why He provides us with the Sacraments to give us the grace and strength we need.

Advent is also a good time to remember "Who We Are Instead". It's a penitential time to think about the ways in which we've tried to do things on our own and failed, but to have that hope of change and strength that is the Light in the darkness- Jesus.

Is it too soon to start singing, "O Come O Come, Emmanuel?!" I'm ready! Not ready for the Christmas commericals or the snow though...can't Hallmark wait 'til at least Thanksgiving to tug on my heartstrings?? ;)

Peace,
Julia

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Matters of Life and Death


Soo...I'm an aunt now.
My younger sister gave birth to Lucas John this past weekend. It's our parents' first grandchild, the first great grandchild on my mom's side, my first nephew, my first godson...
No pressure, kid. ;)
We were all super excited, of course. And everything hits much closer to home when it happens, well...at home.
Like, babies are cute and all, but I really do think he is just that much cuter 'cause he's related to me. He's got good genes, what can I say?
Lucas also came at seriously the perfect time. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it home for the birth, being a new teacher and all. I had a friend who said he would sub for me, but with Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, I thought I would just see what happened and maybe just make my next visit the big turkey weekend.
But God had other plans. And as usual, they are perfect.
When my brother in law called me on Saturday morning at like 9:30am, I immediately said I would hop in my car and make the 6 hour drive to Ohio. By the time I got there around 4pm, my sis had just started going into her harder labor and about 5 hours after that, we had welcomed Lucas to this side of the world (the outside ;) I had plenty of time to grade papers, get some sleep, and hop back in the car the next day.


Lucas' birth also comes at a time after the school where I work at had just suffered a shocking loss.
A young, new teacher who had just graduated from college and started teaching with me died suddenly last week. He was such a nice guy and still hasn't hit me that he's gone.


On my first day of training, he was the first person I met. Since he was new too, we comiserated about lesson planning and getting to know the kids as new teachers. We often had lunch together and had just chaperoned the Homecoming dance. When I got the email that he had passed away, I didn't believe it. I still feel like I am going to see him in the hallways.


Rob's funeral was today. The place of course was packed and it was very moving. The priest did a good job of making us laugh and cry at the same time, while focusing on the joy of Rob's life and the joy of his final resting place in heaven.


I've been teaching the kids in my Sacraments class about the Eucharist. I had just taught a lesson about the Eucharist being our Heaven on Earth. I have decided to forgo the textbooks a little this Chapter, since the Eucharist is so near and dear to my heart. I want it to be special for the kids. Lessons they will remember. Anyway, we had just talked about how- next to heaven- the Eucharist is as close as we can get to complete union with God. I really challenged the kids to ask themselves if union with God is something they even desire. We all know teenagers often get wrapped up in themselves, but one of my students when I asked, 'What do you care about?' honestly answered, 'Ourselves'. That is scary!


But the experience of birth and death takes us outside of ourselves and forces us to be in community. After that funeral Mass, I wanted to be with the community of teachers and students to share our stories of Rob and just be together. I wanted to be with my family during Lucas' birth and then to share the stories with my roommates and friends after.


The Eucharist is a communal event. I am trying to teach the kids that is highly personal, but also highly communal. Getting them to have a personal relationship with God one on one and then go out and share that relationship are two extremely hard things for them. But that is why we have the grace of the Sacraments. We cannot do it on our own.


Please join me in prayers of Thanksgiving for my nephew (and soon to be godson)! And please continue to pray for Rob and the repose of his soul. It couldnt of happened at a more perfect time, though- the funeral was on the feast of All Souls and we celebrated All Saints yesterday as a community too. I know Rob is in union with the saints and angels. I pray he will greet us with Christ one day.


Peace,

Julia

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From Babel to Baptism or Thank God for the Holy Spirit

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?"

Here comes that Holy Spirit guy again...

Not surprisingly, this quote from St. Paul was helpful to me in my prayer today. And also not surprisingly, it kind of ties in to what I've been teaching these days to my Freshmen and Junior (Scripture and Sacraments) students respectively.

First of all, let me just say I KNOW how annoying it is when all people seem to be able to talk about is their kids and I KNOW it seems like teachers are just as bad when talking about their students. I get it. I just can't help it, though, when all of these aspects of my life intersect. But I'm glad they do, and I believe God uses my prayer to help me teach. I just have to always be aware of what is for me, what is for them, and what can be used in both realms.

So I'm actually teaching about Abraham and his crew lately in my Scripture class. Let me just say the topics of sodomy, incest, and polygamy are not fun to teach about in general...let alone to freshmen in high school. You can imagine my pain; the looks, the comments, yeah. They are totally 15.

So today we were talking about Isaac and how he sees the beautiful Rebekah and then we do the math that Rebekah is Nahor's granddaughter, and Nahor is Abraham's brother. Isaac is Abraham's son, sooo....

Yeah. And it doesn't get better with Isaac's son Jacob. Two wives. Who are literally SISTERS. Umm...

How is this all part of our Salvation History again?

And the kids totally call me out on that. "Why does God allow incest? Polygamy? The like? And if it was okay back then, how come it's not now?"

Okay, first of all, do we really have to ask the question of why is it not okay now? And second of all, we know the all encompassing answer for "why does God allow...(fill in the blank here)" questions...right?

The standard answer is: God gives us free will. And he can use even our sinfulness to do His work through. Also, He makes all things new in Jesus.

Which brings us to the whole 'our bodies are a Temple of the Holy Spirit thing', which was an answer to a question in my Sacraments class: "What are the effects of Baptism?" ( I just went a little Jeopardy on you there. Can you handle it?! ;)


Well, we get all kinds of goodies at Baptism. Things that we often don't realize we have like: virtues, the Holy Spirit, membership into a mystical body...all that good stuff. But thank God for these gifts! The Scripture quote I started with from St. Paul reminds us that we can't do anything on our own, we need the Holy Spirit. And he dwells inside of us due to our Baptism.

Needless to say, our incesteous ancestors coulda used a little Holy Spirit and some Baptism, ya know what I'm saying? No? Okay.

Another one of my all-encompassing answers for the kids in the Old Testament class is that God makes all things NEW with Jesus. So the old ways are done away with because now Jesus is on the scene giving us new ways to follow. (THANK. GOD.)

And so it is with Baptism, our old sins are washed away, making us new in Christ. If only we would tap into those gifts of the Holy Spirit we are given...

Which is where my personal prayer took me today. I surely cannot do anything on my own. I keep remembering that (like I wrote a couple weeks ago when I was reflecting on how I would have to 'run to God' in these new adventures He's placed before me.)

I was also gearing up for this Sunday (as I have to play for a Mass and am picking songs to go with the readings), so I read this Sunday's Gospel which was PERFECT. I know we all feel at times like we are going to God with the SAME things and he must grow tired of hearing us and not want to grant our requests. This Sunday's reading reminds us that being persistant is something:

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, "There was a judge in a certain townwho neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,'Render a just decision for me against my adversary.'For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,'While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering meI shall deliver a just decision for herlest she finally come and strike me.'" The Lord said, "Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen oneswho call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:1-8)

That last question Luke leaves us with Jesus saying is something...what will Jesus find when He comes again?

Thank God for the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Hopefully, the answer to will be that when He returns we will be taking care of our living temples and not re-enacting one of those earlier biblical scenes...

Oh, yeah, I went there. Salvation history ancestry and all....

Today in my meditation I received hope and confidence once again through the Holy Spirit, who is inside of me with all I need. And God wants to hear and answer our prayers...even if we are being annoying about it.

A pretty good deal for a people who came from...well, technically....I guess....if you think about it...

Yeah. I'd rather not think about it too much either :)

Peace,
Julia





Sunday, October 3, 2010

Keepin' the Faith

How great were the Mass readings today, huh? Not surprisingly exactly what I needed to hear, as per usual.

It's all about faith. I think we forget that sometimes, as silly as that sounds. And what is faith? Belief in things unseen. Somehow I turn my faith into trying to make God show me things. Um, I'm pretty sure that's the laziest way to go about faith ever. I'm supposed to believe without seeing...right?

The Gospel doesn't mince words today. Sassy Jesus is in full effect. The apostles are once again bugging him, asking Him for things they clearly don't know about, and Jesus silences them by saying, "look...I'm only asking you the bare minimum here. These are things you are supposed to do irregardless of reward or increasing anybody's faith. You should only need the faith of the mustard seed. I have given you all you need."

So pop off, apostles!

Just kidding. He doesn't say that.

He's sassy, but He's still the Savior which requires an unfathomable amount of patience, I'm sure.

But yeah, I think we forget sometimes that faith means believing even without the proof. Just this past week, I mentioned that I was praying a novena to St. Therese, wherein, we ask for a proof that God heard our prayer. God allows these types of requests because he knows our hearts and minds are weak and small. St. Therese herself was always declaring herself the smallest, but had immense trust in God. So if these types of prayers are needed in order for us to exercise our trust in God, I believe God uses them as such.

If you are like me, though, even when I pray these novenas, I still don't totally believe the answer all the time. I think I received my roses on Friday...I'm pretty sure...but I still had to question. Is this, then, proper faith?

As Christ said in today's Gospel, we should only need the faith of a mustard seed. I think I've mentioned before that I'm teaching Old Testament to Freshmen and Sacraments to Juniors. Both of these topics require an immense exercise in our faith to believe their truth and power. Most of the book of Genesis is stories that the ancient Hebrew writers used as literary devices to declare spiritual truths about God. Without faith, it's easy for us to think these are just stories. We try to demand proof of their historical accuracy, and this is to diminish some of their value and purpose. Likewise, our Sacraments may use tangible things like water or bread, but without faith, they are just those things- bread and water.

Getting kids to understand faith is tough! They want proof. Did Noah's flood really happen? How does Baptism wash away sin? What do you mean the Flood is a prefigurement of that Baptism?!WHA!? (and this is where I watch their heads explode. Just kidding. That doesn't happen, either :)

We can't prove these things, and even if we could, that's not the point. We rely on faith. God wants us to exercise our faith in Him.

A good reminder today, those readings were. I too often sound like Habakkuk crying out all crazy like to God. But even then He recognizes our faith and answers us, despite the crazy.

And the reading from St. Paul is just plain beautiful, but we all know I'm partial to Paul :) He essentially tells us what Christ does in the Gospel- we have all we need. We just need to tap into it and stir up the faith within us.

Stir up that faith! Get it! Keep the faith!

Keep up prayers for me and the teens I now work with...Thanks!

Until later... (which is most likely when I finish most of my research paper for grad school unfortunately...sigh.)

Peace,
Julia

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Harvesting Grapes!
The "fruits" of our labor...


St. Therese...

...and St. Padre Pio- pray for us!



Relishing Rewards and Relics

I really shouldn't be spending my time blogging right now, as the end of the quarter at work is fast approaching and I have my own research paper to work on, BUT I just had to share about another moment of God's faithfulness.

I have decided that my Sundays must be spent in the library if I am ever going to get solid lesson plans and research for grad school done. So off to the library I was this morning after Mass. I decided to pop over to the Shrine first, however, to get in a confession.

I love when God surprises me with additional events He knows I would appreciate or might need to partake in. For example, finding out that Mother Teresa's relics are on display (which I wrote about) or when I walk into a church to pray and Adoration is going on without my knowing ahead of time or something.

Today, I left confession and walked out to a line of people venerating some relics of Padre Pio!

1.) Padre Pio is a modern day saint that mystifies me. The stigmata, bilocation and all. My friend and Catholic comedian- Judy McDonald- tweeted this week on his feast day that Padre Pio was the first "green" saint since he could save on gas and bilocate for travel ;) ha!

2.) I know Padre Pio was famous for reading souls. This always kind of freaked me out, but at this point in time where I am once again discerning God's call, I'm thinking I could use Padre Pio's help in knowing what I truly desire.

3.) I am teaching relics this week to my juniors who I am always trying to find creative ways to make the Sacraments a little more engaging. Since the Sacraments are, after all, meant to be experienced.

Love when God hooks me up like that! So I got a clean soul and a little help from the reader of souls all in one shot. God is truly good.

Also, I lucked out and got a priest that I happen to know for confession today. The sign on the door of the confessional just said "Benedictine", but I was happy to see that... (well okay, honestly, first a little embarressed that it was someone I knew, because I just get like that when I'm not mentally prepared to confess to a priest I know) but once I got over the initial human humiliation that is natural, I was happy to confess to him. And he mentioned the HOLY SPIRIT in the midst of administering my penance, and we all know how I like to be reminded of the Spirit these days...

So such a blessed morning! And after a really beautiful "harvest" yesterday...

Saturdays are my fun days that I have set aside for social time. In my last post, I mentioned I need to be more balanced between school, social, spiritual, and work, so I'm trying to do so ;) Yesterday I got to help harvest grapes at a friend's family vineyard.

We all know how much I love wine...so it is really only fair that I work for my Cabernet Franc yesterday ;)

The spiritual element of harvesting grapes was not wasted on me either. The bible is full of harvest analogies, images of grapes and wine, etc. Thinking about Christ being the vine and how I am connected to Him lately was a good meditation. As well as the fruits of the labor I've harvested spiritually and emotionally recently.

Today's confession and veneration of relics was certainly an amazing reward after a great harvest yesterday :)

So God is good! All the time. But now it's time for me to get back to work...

Happy Fall! St. Padre Pio, pray for us! Also, I'm praying a novena with members of my women's prayer group to St. Therese for her feast day this Friday! St. Therese, pray for us!

Peace,
Julia

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My 4 Step Program

I know there are programs that involve 12. As of right now, my life revolves around 4.

Before I started my new gig as a teacher, my spiritual director reminded me to make equal time for 4 areas of my life:

-work
-school (aka my personal development- something I'm doing for myself)
- social
- spiritual

Seems easy, seems like a no brainer. In fact when he mentioned these things to me, I was like really? I pay you for this? Oh, wait. Right. I don't pay him... ;)

But I'm finding, as usual, easier said than done. Especially with first year teaching. Work has come first. Social second. Spiritual and School have been a tie for last until recently with spiritual taking a late lead, only because I found myself going to Mass on Sunday not really wanting to be there... because I knew it would only make me think of work. Yikes! So I knew I had to kick up the one on one prayer time stat!

Such is the life of a youth minister or any area of ministry that we make our work. There is always the temptation to make that the way WE are nourished spiritually, and it can't be so! It was so clear to me on Sunday that I need to be making time for me and God just one on one, not bringing in possible lesson plans or thinking about what material I could use for class. Just talking to God and listening to what He wants to give me for just ME.

I knew right before I started getting into teaching and this school year that I was going to need to rely on God more. And I'm glad to be continually getting those reminders. I'm also so glad to have a ministry job at a Catholic school because it does inevitably get me thinking more deeply about faith, even if my "work" and "spiritual" categories sometimes get overlapped in a way that isn't necessarily helpful. I am grateful for the opportunities that come with the gig.

I also am again seeing how far I've come. A year or so ago, heck a couple a months ago, this passage from Proverbs I may have just glossed over (Proverbs, by the way, makes me think of the Scripture class I'm teaching. I just introduced the Wisdom books. I also think, why is the first reading tomorrow from Proverbs? We had just been reading from St. Paul. Wonder if I could use that in my Sacraments class. We are talking about liturgy....and so on and so on. See my problem?! My work-brain never. shuts. off now. Bah.):

"Two things I ask of you, deny them not to me before I die: Put falsehood and lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; (provide me only with the food I need);
Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, "Who is the LORD?" Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God." - Proverbs 30:5-9

Provide me only with the food I need. Certainly not a prayer I understood 2 years ago. "Abandonment to Divine Providence" and a little Divine Providence Himself have shown me how to love this type of prayer. That and also, I don't have time for an over abundance of anything right now :)

But I can say I truly only want what is given to me right now. I know it's all I can handle, and I trust that God will give me what I need when I need it. Progress?? I think so.

Okay, and maybe that progress involves more than four steps. Try: 29 years of life, 20+ years Catholic school education, 110, 209, 509 hard knocks, 1 volunteer year, 9 months in a convent, 2 or so years discerning...

Yeah. That's probably more accurate :) And counting...

Life is good! Teaching is hard! Teenagers are...teenagers! But I'm asking only for what I need in these moments and God is faithful. Please keep up the prayers!

Peace,
Julia

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Waiting in Hope- Part 4,329?*

* I've used the title "Waiting in Hope" alot for these blog posts, I'm pretty sure :)

I wrote a post a couple days ago but never had time to proofread the post because, yes, I've been just that busy with this new teaching business. And today I was praying and had another reason to be grateful- it is Saturday :) I got to receive one of the Sacraments that I am teaching about (Confession ;) as well as have some quiet time in Adoration.

And the fruits of The Sanctifier have returned! You thought I had finished with that book, didn't you? ;) Nope!

I had postponed reading the chapter on patience and longanimity, ironically. Or, okay. Intentionally.

I have been working on waiting, patience, suffering, waiting, hoping, etc for so long. This we all know. I didn't think I needed to read about it AGAIN. At least not so soon after God has started to fulfill some of His promises to me.

But today I forced myself to sit with the book and was struck by many of Martinez' passages, like this one:

"God is very slow because he has all eternity, because he knows perfectly the part that time plays in human life. God is very slow; thousands of years passed in order that Jesus, the Desired of Nations, might appear in the world. Souls are sanctified slowly...We would like our souls to be purified rapidly...But no, the law of life-of all life, the natural and the spiritual- is slowness."

This is a great reminder as I begin a new call, as I continue to reflect on the previous waiting I've experienced and the new moments of waiting to come.

Martinez makes many common points about patience and its virtue, that suffering and waiting produce this virtue, and without it, we would have no hope.

Martinez however, makes this assertion which I question:
"No matter what we seek, we go slowly to attain it. Slowly is the spirit formed in wisdom, slowly is the perfection of art achieved; slowly does man become rich; and slowly are hearts conquered. In this world, everything is done slowly..."

Hmmm...this book was clearly written in the earlier half of the 1900's before fast food, 30 second commercials, cars, and high speed internet controlled our life.

We don't go slowly to attain things anymore. Our society is ALL about being fast. How quickly and young we can get rich, how quickly we can lose weight, how little time we spend in the kitchen.

This is not a new observation, but again, just a reminder that God is slow. And we are not anymore. Thus, putting us at odds at times with Him and His Spirit, His timing. It is also, perhaps, indicates why we are at odds with Hope. If patience and suffering produce hope, and we spend our lives avoiding the opportunities to wait and suffer patiently, it makes sense that we are losing the understanding of hope.

Martinez says: "The fruit of hope is longanimity". I had no idea what the word longanimity means. If you are like me, here is the definition: "This consists of knowing how to hope and even to find an intimate satisfaction, a secret delight, in the slowness of God".

This seems like one of those trick virtues. You pray for it, and that means God works really slow in your life purposefully. But I suppose that is, well, the purpose.

Anyways, I wanted to share these little nuggets that I was able to reflect on a little today in my down time. I'm kind of shocked I'm also using my down time to blog when I am essentially writing blogs upon blogs in the way of lesson plans and grad school homework these days. But you are welcome :)

Grateful for all the Lord is doing! Even if He is pretty slow. But let's be honest, we're pretty slow on the uptake ;)

Let's pray that as a society we can embrace the idea of hope in waiting patiently, slowly, for God.

Peace,
Julia

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Heart Lectio Divina

So....first year teaching is kind of exhausting, in case you weren't aware. I know it's too soon to start dreaming about Christmas break- and I'm not quite there yet- but my mind (and time) has certainly been consumed with lesson plans, lesson plans, and yeah...lesson plans. And I will look forward to the day when I have a semester under my belt and can just re-use and adjust some plans I've already written and taught, as opposed to inventing the wheel every. day.

Today was a good day, though. And there really haven't been any bad days, I just come home each night really drained. My body hasn't gotten used to the early hours and the adrenaline that comes with having to be "on" in front of an audience of 30 each day.


I am teaching a course on Scripture and one on Sacraments. I thought after having taken my Liturgical catechesis course last semester, I'd be all up on, in, and around teaching the Sacraments, but Scripture is turning out to be my jam. (Perhaps you aren't as surprised to hear that consider Scripture has been the basis for much of this blog and I'm a St. Paul/Scripture kind of girl. Touche. ;)


Today I taught a lesson on Lectio Divina. We were talking about Scripture and Tradition as the two ways God reveals Himself to the Church. Yesterday we talked about Scripture in the Mass- the perfect marriage of these two revelations of God to the Church. Today, I really wanted the students to see another way Scripture could be used as a prayer.


I chose Matt. 15:32-39 for us to use in class. (It's the feeding of the 4,000). I wanted a passage that could create a vivid picture for them, but also had a clear, deeper meaning. For those of you not familiar with Lectio Divina, you read a passage 3 times. Two times before reflecting on the passage, then once more before picking a word or phrase to take with you from the reflection.


I was really impressed and humbled by the kids sharing. Not a ton of them shared (it is the first week of school) but the ones that did were able to get multiple deeper meanings and apply them pretty directly to their lives. It was so cool to witness.


And since I teach 5-6 classes a day, I got to hear this Gospel 15-18 times myself ;) I saw how- while I chose it to prompt quality discussion for the kids- that (not surprisingly) this Scripture is reflective of where I am at in my relationship with God. Very grateful for the abundance of grace and gifts He gives, even though I have so little to offer at times.


And an added little gift that God gave me- after a VERY long, full day yesterday- I had 2 planning periods today, one of which I was able to go to the chapel for some time and just rest in the Lord. He is good.

Please continue to pray for me as I unfold this new gift of the call to teach. And pray for the students that they would be open to all God has for them! Thanks!

Peace,

Julia


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Not Afraid

"Put out into deep water your nets and lower your nets for a catch.'

Simon said in reply, 'Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command, I will lower the nets.'

When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.

Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."

- Luke 5:4-6, 10

I know I have talked about this reading before in 'expecting more' from God. My women's group and I recently talked about this passage as many of us have indeed experienced God generously giving us abundant blessings of late.

But I know I've also talked about that guy the devil who likes to keep us from believing that this abundance could be true or lasting.

I just wanted to quickly reflect on this Gospel as I believe it was a little gift to me today. When I start to fear or believe that the abundant blessings in my life are too good to be true, Peter's confidence in saying: "Okay, we've tried it, but we're going to do it again at your word" inspires and challenges me.

Also, Jesus' constant reassurance of 'Be Not Afraid'....we have nothing to fear!

And- not surprisingly- makes me think of a current pop song:

Not Afraid- Eminem

I'm not afraid, to take a stand

Everybody, come take my hand

We'll walk this road together through the storm

Whatever weather- cold or warm

Just lettin' you know that you're not alone

Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road


Holla! I'm hollerin'! (Also, how many times have I wished that Christ's words literally meant I'd be a fisher of men? TMI? Just sayin')

We've all 'been down the same roads' in our own lives over and over again. Sometimes, this can cause us to fear simply because we wonder if we are 'lowering the nets' right. (Another song comes to mind: "Why Georgia" by John Mayer. 'Am I living it right?' Right? ;)

Peter's question makes total sense to me. His trust in Jesus, however, goes against logic and requires great faith. Jesus assures us to not be afraid in lowering the nets...and also not to be afraid of the abundance He can provide!

So, though I waver, I am not afraid. I am challenged to keep casting out into the deep, even if the abundance doesn't seem real or possible.

"for nothing will be impossible for God"- Luke 1:37

The angel Gabriel says this to Mary right after she questions the call she has been given, but accepts with her yes. Zechariah- her cousin Elizabeth's husband- also questions the gift he has been given of a son, but does not immediately believe with great faith. In both scenarios, the angel tells them to "not be afraid".

We can accept our call like Mary and Peter- with great faith, or like Zechariah (who is silenced until the birth of his son!) I don't know about you...but imma try to be like Mary, and take a cue from Peter and Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) on at least this one.

So I'm encouraged to cast out my net again and again today, and to expect the most from God. I'd like to believe the nets will burst- so why not believe with great faith and not fear?

Peace,

Julia

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just Jesus


"Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who causes growth. He who plants and he who waters are one...For we are God's co-workers; you are God's field, God's building" 1 Corinth 3: 7-9

School is officially in full swing! I know this because 1.) My roommate who is a mini-Martha Stewart recently changed our "garden flag" from the Summertime Watermelon WhatHaveYou to a School Bus and b.) My own grad class has started in addition to students returning to the school where I am now teaching.

As usual, I am suuuper nerdy and suuuper excited about my class this semester. Get ready to hear all about it in blogs to come ;)

After my first super nerdy/exciting grad class of the semester yesterday, I slipped into the chapel on campus that I have been familiar with for now over 10 years of my life (scary!).

I have prayed in that chapel, cried in that chapel, sang in that chapel, celebrated friends in that chapel. And while the previous year I found myself kind of dumbfounded in a "I can't believe I'm still here 10 years later" kind of way, yesterday, I found myself rejoicing and being thankful for the time that I will henceforth call my "foundational time" ;)

Many of my friends are turning 30 this year, and with that, comes a look back at our 20's. I have done ALOT the past 9-10 years. And being back in that chapel yesterday, I was reminded of how hard I have searched, worked, and grown because of the growth God has given me (hence the quote from today's reading from St. Paul ;)

And there have been for sure many times I was bemoaning that time of growth, feeling left behind and jaded in ways, but now I am so grateful that I have had that time in my 20s, rather than later in life. It is going to make me a better teacher, better friend, better minister, better single/married person, whatever God comtinues to call me to be.

It has been an overwhelming week or two as I mentioned last post; learning the ropes of a new school, new job. I sat in the chapel rejoicing, but still in a whirlwind of thoughts. I needed to just breathe.

Many of you are probably familiar with a form a prayer called 'Centering Prayer' where you select a word or mantra to repeat and focus on to...well, 'center'....you. It may seem new age-y, and I don't do it often, but yesterday I needed it. There was so much to think about, pray for, give thanks for, offer up....I needed to remind myself it was not about me or what is going on around me. It is all about Jesus. Just Jesus.

Now, those of you who are pop culture gurus like myself may recall a certain television sitcom where a character often was found saying, 'Just Jack", so I had to laugh to myself once again that I was bringing pop culture references to frame my prayer...but there it is.



It's true, though. All could fall away, and it would just be me and Jesus. As it always has and is meant to be.

Happy September! Hope you all are having a good start to the school year or whatever endeavors God has placed in your life...

Peace,

Julia





Thursday, August 26, 2010

...And I Will Live My Life For You

Any youth minister knows from which song the words for this post's subject originate ;) It's one of the songs YMs can come to love to hate. The kids love it, so we sing it with them. Alot. (The song is: You Are Holy (Prince of Peace), FYI ;)

I myself have sung that song probably hundreds of times between NET and my 3+ years of youth ministry experience at the parish, Workcamps, etc. But I have honestly never sung it the way I got to today.

First of all, I should say these weeks have been a whirlwind, hence my lack of blogging. I ended my time of employment with my previous employer last week, had two days off and a weekend, and Monday started my training at my new high school as a teacher! The days have been FULL of learning to grade, lesson plan, and the ropes of being a teacher at this particular school.

While I am a bit overwhelmed, nothing can cloud the joy and relief I ultimately feel from God keeping His promise- His covenant- to me. I am actually really excited to teach Scripture and Sacraments to these teens because of my experience with God keeping this covenant. Had I not struggled the past couple of years, I might not have been inspired to go to grad school and then been inspired to get back into ministry. I also feel like I will have a whole new perspective when teaching the basics of God's covenant in Scripture because of my struggles and His new gifts.

But back to the infamous praise and worship tune. The kids are not back to school yet, so it wasn't with the teens that we sang the song. It was actually at a funeral Mass. I am also kind of overwhelmed at the number of friends' parents I have had pass away in recent years. Today's Mass was for the father of a friend. Most my friends' parents have had cancer related deaths. I just don't understand that disease. I hope we find out more about its prevention and cure soon.

My friend is a youth minister herself and her siblings and parents were all students/supporters of Catholic schools in the Diocese. The church was full of priests, ministers, and faithful lay folks. As we celebrated my friend's dad, I also feel like we celebrated the faithful community we are in. I know I was personally so moved and grateful to see people I love and I know love me who are also some of the holiest people I know (they'd have to be to put up with me ;) jk!

It was my friend's father's request to close the Mass with the praise and worship song mentioned above. He wanted somethig all of the kids his wife and children ministered to could sing along with. I have never prayed that song so seriously in my life. The women's part in the chorus lists:

You Are Lord of Lords, You are King of Kings. You are Mighty God. Lord of Everything...

and goes on to list more powerful titles of God. I really was grateful in that moment and in awe of God. He is truly the Lord of Everything, whether we acknowledge it or not in our lives at various times.

Tonight, my women's group met and though I have been taking crash courses in lesson planning and freaking out all week about planning....I somehow volunteered to plan our 'lesson' or reflection for the evening too. I took to asking my roommates for some help on the topic. Many of us have had major, positive changes in our lives recently: babies, new jobs, relationship developments, etc. There have been many times we all meet to co-miserate, but we really felt called to come together tonight and rejoice.

I thought about the examples in the Bible of change coming into people's lives and their reactions to the change: Abraham being told about Isaac and his role as the father of numerous descendents, the apostles witnessing the death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ but then left to spread the Gospel with the help of the Holy Spirit...examples of great joys, great change- with great responsibility.

And I thought of Mary's change of being chosen to be the Mother of Christ and how she questioned, but then proclaimed God's glory with her whole being in her fiat (her 'yes') and her Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55). So we prayed Mary's Magnificat together and shared our stories of gratitude for the changes God is doing in our lives.

We know that with this change comes great responsibility. Mary was soon told her heart would be pierced with a sword at the Presentation...the positive does not always last. Consolation prepares us for desolation so that we have something to hold onto. But today I am truly relishing in the gratitude and greatness of God, and I was so blessed to have done it with many holy friends.

They say a change could do you good....I would say Amen to that! God has changed my life time and time again- welcome and unwelcome at times. But we still choose to live our lives for Him, no matter the change.

Thanks, ladies, for a beautiful reflection tonight! Grateful for many things.

"My soul rejoices..."

Peace,
Julia

Friday, August 13, 2010

The More You Know

Remember these helpful PSA's from the 80's/90's? I occassionally still see them on NBC...

A friend of mine and I have been told that we essentially 'write grad papers for fun' because we keep blogs on topics we have (or are currently getting!) our Masters in.

I realize that this blog is turning into a book review for Archbishop Luis Martinez' The Sanctifier, and I'm okay with that ;)

Last post I talked a little about Martinez' thoughts on piety. Today I read about- you probably guessed it- The Gift of Knowledge.

Martinez beautifully speaks about the difference between scientific/human knowledge and divine/spiritual knowledge. The two are connected, but also very different. He mostly then goes onto address (of course) the benefits and challenges of the gift of spiritual knowledge.

Along with spiritual knowledge comes the act of detachment. He explains this with the example of the lives of the saints, particularly St. Francis.

When St. Francis began to obtain spiritual knowledge from and about God, he began to detach himself from things of this world. He beautifully surrendered himself and 'married' Lady Poverty.

Side note- I remember when I was discerning religious orders being totally in awe of the Franciscan embrace of Lady Poverty. Franciscan priests and brothers essentially 'marry' this concept of Lady Poverty. If you ever get a chance to read Francis: The Journey and The Dream by Murray Bodo, it's a little 1960s in style (though published in the 80s, I believe) this book helped me understand the embrace of Lady Poverty in a new way. Just sayin'.

Martinez also sites Solomon (who is attributed to writing the Book of Ecclesiastes) saying that once Solomon obtained the gift of Knowledge from God, he could see "Vanity of vanities, all things are vanity" (Ecc. 1:2)

So this begs the quesiton in my mind: Which comes first, Love of God or Knowledge? Does it matter?

I think when we love a human (or creature as Martinez writes), the more we know them, the more we love. It can also be the same with God, the more we get to know about God and know Him, the more we Love Him too.

But Martinez seems to suggest that when we love God, then we can be given the gift of Knowledge and this knowledge leads us to detachment. We are all given the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit at Baptism and again at Confirmation, but certainly as we grow in Love of God, we also grow in the gift of Knowledge of Him.

What are your thoughts? Which came first, the knowledge or the love? ;) I do agree with Martinez. We open our hearts to love God, and he turn gives us the gift of knowledge to Love Him more.

Another complete side note- my journeys this summer are finally coming to an end! I'm currently in Cincinnati on my last business trip for my previous employer. I got to fly in to Louisville, KY, which you may or may not KNOW (see what I did there? ;) is where I spent some crucial years of my childhood (ages 8-13, to be exact!)

I rented a car to drive up to Cincinnati, but before I did, I stopped at some important places in Louisville (and I will be returning there tonight to hang out with a childhood friend- holler!). Important places like our old house, our Church, our school, and the country club where I spent my summers swimming ;)

I spent some time in this particular Church in Louisville yesterday where I pretty much began my music ministry. I had sang and played piano in our talent shows every year (FUN FACT- sang and played NKOTB's "I'll Be Loving You Forever" in 4th grade! No joke. I think I got 'honorable mention' that year, though God bless them for thinking that choice was honorable. Ha) and the music teachers signed me up to help with music for Mass shortly after that (it MUST have been that my Jordan Knight impression was that divine ;)

So it was cool to go back to this Church yesterday- though they've COMPLETELY re-done it- and just see where God has taken me with my music and how He continues to bring me back to these special places in my life.

After this weekend- last day of work, couple days off, then BAM! I'm a teacher!

Pray for me!

OH! And OF COURSE....today is the Feast of the Assumption!! Father at the parish I'm speaking at in Cincy gave a beautiful, short reflection on how Mary was the first missionary. Spreading the Good News indeed! Love it!

Mary, Queen of Apostles (and missionaries! ), pray for us!

Peace,
Julia

Monday, August 9, 2010

Run to You

That's right. This IS a picture of Whitney Houston from her movie with Kevin Costner called The Bodyguard. What were YOU doing in 1992?

I myself was eleven, and I had a number of cassette tapes that I liked to sing through in their entirety in my parents' basement, pretending I was actually Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, or the like. That's what I was doing in 1992.

Whitney Houston's Bodyguard Soundtrack made it into the rotation, much to I'm sure my parents' dismay, because you can't just SING Whitney. You MUST belt it. And no one can sing Whitney besides Whitney herself, let alone an eleven year old girl as much as she tried.

Oh and I tried.

Now, however, I cringe like any other person in America when I hear the starting notes:

"If I....should stay....I would only....be in...your way...."

All together now:

AND I!!!!!! EEEIIIII!!!!!!!!!! Will Always....LOVE YOUUUUUU.....

Sigh. I hear Whitney's trying a comeback, but it's such a shame she just couldn't see that 'crack was whack' in the first place. Now all I can really hear her belting in my mind is:

"Bobbbaaaayyyy! Bobbaayy!"

Being Bobby Brown? Anyone? Such a sad, sick show, but slightly hilarious.

So WHY am I expounding on Whitney Houston? Well, one of the songs (of course. because I don't speak normally to Jesus, there MUST be a running soundtrack) came to my mind today at Adoration. The song was from The Bodyguard Soundtrack that I reenacted in my basement some...SHOOT 18 years ago?!

whoa.

"Run To You" was the song that came to mind: "I wanna runn to yooouu...oooo...."

I feel like I've been running to and from Jesus for a number of years now. And I mostly find myself running TO Him when things are bad. When I have nothing else or noone else to turn to, I go to Him. I throw myself down at His feet when I am sad or scared.

And this is a good practice for sure, but what about the good times? In the Houston song, she's no doubt running because she's in love. When we see the cliched scene of a couple running to each other through a field in a movie, they are running to each other because they feel GOOD, right?

Well, today, I felt a little call to run to Jesus after work in Adoration and it was a good thing. Things are- for the first time in a while- kind of where I want them to be. So when I felt called to run to Adoration I had to stop and ask, 'Why are you calling me here now, Lord?'

But doesn't it make sense to go to Adoration when things are GOOD?And I realized once I was there for a minute that, 'duh...I've been given all these things of late...I'm kind of going to need to rely on Him MORE'

It's like the Gospel reading yesterday: 'To those whom are given much, much will be required". And oh, I've been knowing that for sometime now, so I must not forget it just because things are moving!

Also, the Holy Spirit is kind of re-arranging the way I think about relying on God. The Spirit is all about that possession, that love of God in charity that is without abandon...

Like today, I have started the second part of Archbishop Martinez' book and have gotten into the Gifts of the Spirit. Today's chapter was on piety.

I have always understood piety to be something solemn or saintly. And it is, but not in a rigid, boring, silent way is what I found out today. I think of a pious person and I think of the goody goody who doesn't do anything wrong and just wants to pray all day. In Martinez' book, he talks about piety in an almost reckless way. Because piety= abandon. We are not pious out of duty, but out of love. We are pious because we want to please the Father, but only because we love Him so much. When we practice piety, we love and serve without abandon. The saints were pious, but they were also radical!

I liked this new take on piety...maybe I will try to work on it a little more now...running to Jesus and all....

I also loved this past weekend's second reading from Hebrews 11 where Paul talks about the faithfulness of God and also of Abraham. My friend called me yesterday pretty much just to tell me that she was grateful for God's faithfulness. How great is that? Often we call to complain to each other, but what a blessing to just acknowledge to one another: "you know what? God IS trustworthy."

"By faith Abraham obeyed...by faith he was able to generate, even though he was past the normal age...for he thought the one who had made the promise was trustworthy"

I guess I think God is pretty trustworthy too ;) He has proven it time and again. And He WANTS us to be happy:

"Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the kingdom"

Pleased to give us the kingdom. Wants to give us everything. Kind of makes you want to run to Him open-armed, movie-style, huh?

Peace,

Julia

Monday, August 2, 2010

Holy Spirit 3, Devil 0

I could've come up with a more creative title for this post, but I really just want to jump off of what I wrote a week or so ago...

The Holy Spirit continues to empower and amaze me as I read Archbishop Luis Martinez's "The Sanctifier" and seek to apply it to my life.

I had an amazing week last week. And I went back to my prayer journal this morning to find out what it was that I had FINALLY done right?!

Of course, things don't happen because of our own merit. I didn't DO anything. It's all about God's timing and His Will. But I do believe my openness and understanding of the Holy Spirit helped :)

I went back to my journal and read my thoughts on the first few chapters of Martinez' book. So much knowledge have I gained about the Holy Spirit! He is love. He wants to possess us. He is the communication of love between Father and Son. He leads us to the Cross, but also the Resurrection and our Mission....He does it all!

And I like to think my being just slightly more in tune to Him set the scene for God's timing to be received and appreciated :)

Drumroll......I got a new job!!!

After 2 years of wondering how I could best minister again to youth, I have been hired as a full time Theology teacher at a high school. I never knew people could be so excited to be so under-paid, but it is true ;) God knows the desires of my heart and He knows that I want to teach the faith in whatever capacity He calls me to. Apparently, it is (finally!) time to do that professionally as an actual teacher!

Thank you for your prayers and for your turned ears/shoulders to cry on as I struggled these past couple years to find "the next thing". And I am seriously grateful to the Holy Spirit for wasting no time once I finally surrendered and let Him take over!

I just got back from another Diocesan Workcamp. This week was slightly crazier than the first week (which I blogged about) because we were shorter staffed. The camp went really smoothly, but those of us on staff did have our moments where the devil tried to damage the good we were doing. I just kept reflecting on the Apostles throughout the week and how they were asked to do much with limited instruction in a rag-tag group ;) I also just kept telling myself, "His Grace is Enough" and that seemed to be the key!

When we tell ourselves "His Grace is Enough" everything else is just bonus. And God WANTS to give us more than enough! But we have to realize we can survive alone on His Grace and surrender our other wants and thoughts to Him. He makes it happen in His time... and I'm just glad it is finally TIME! ;)

This month, consequently though, is going to be CRAZY. Have a wedding (of course! ;) this weekend, business trip for (old) job following weekend, then- BAM! I'm a teacher! Gotta learn how to write some lesson plans and develop a curriculum somewhere in between! But I am blessed to have many people and resources to pull from- I'm not too worried. God will stretch my time and efforts if I take it a day at a time and trust in Him.

So the victory is looking pretty inevitable for the Holy Spirit...was there any doubt? ;)

Peace,
Julia

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gimme, Gimme More!

Only I could use a phrase from a Britney Spears song to start a blog post on a great saint. I know, I know. Jesus is probably rolling His eyes at me somewhere in Heaven. Lovingly, though ;)

I want to give some props to a saint who has come in in the clutch for some friends and I of late. Don't let his name fool you...he is a lesser known, in my mind....but...:

St. Thomas More. The Catholic Encyclopedia has lots to say about him. But basically, I know him 'cause I watched a movie about him (it won awards! It's on the Vatican AND AFI's top lists! That doesn't happen often, people!)

Other than the movie, I didn't know too much. But a friend recently prayed to him and then another friend recommended I do the same- and he was a powerful intercessor for us both! He clearly wastes no time and works quickly! I would expect nothing less than powerful persuasion from such a keen lawyer ;)

Plus, it's all in the name...St. Thomas MORE? ;)

I know. The joke was too obvious. But he is for real! No joke!

Just wanted to pass on this guy's name along for you and your next intercessory need ;) You are welcome.

Peace,
Julia

Holy Spirit 2, Devil still 0

I know our faith-life goes in cycles as I've noted time and again on this blog. I have also noted that when the going gets GOOD (aka the Holy Spirit is in full effect) the devil gets GOING.

As in...going to make you crazy. As in going to make you think you aren't GOOD ;( Lies!)

The past couple of posts I have been at peace and raving about the Holy Spirit who I am contemplating and inviting more into my life.

Apparently, though, when you invite him in, you have to carefully guard who sneaks in from behind...This guy.

I didn't even want to google pictures of him, that's how much I didn't want to let him in! So I got this cartoon version. I still kind of want to stab him with that pitchfork.

I don't have anything really new to say about good vs evil, I could just use some prayers to not get frustrated when devil dude is trying to cramp my style.

I am really excited about having the opportunity to spend another week in ministry with teens from the Arlington Diocese at their Workcamp. As a friend reminded me, a week of prayer, unity, and service with others is a great way to combat the devil.

Another friend sent me this link from a non-denominational pastor who was reflecting on faith-life cycles. The popular Byrds song that comes from Ecclesiastes comes to mind and came to my mind in prayer the other day. Well, that's kind of a lie. I was on my way to pray and my friend texted me to tell me about her shopping trip that she was on. Our conversation:

Her: En route to outlets. Wish me luck ;)
Me: En route to Adoration...will do ;)
Her: you are getting the REAL deal
Me: To everything a season. A time to shop, a time to pray
Her: #ThisIsWhyWeAreFriends

(And yes, these are my actual conversations. I KNOW. I'm a nerd)

So the verse really came to me because I was trying to be cute via text, but after I wrote it, I did take it with me to prayer. It was a good reminder, like last Sunday's readings about Abraham and Sarah/Mary and Martha, that there is a time to reap, and a time to sow. A time to wait and a time receive.

But thank God it's always time for the Holy Spirit!

Another thing that has been a source of temptation for me- as much as I LOVE me some social networking- is Facebook. A woman in my prayer group had shared with me before her similar struggle to see all these people in her life post pics online of their babies while she and her husband were struggling to conceive. I have fallen into the trap as more and more people post pics of their engagements, weddings, babies, etc. too. I start to compare myself to others based solely on the fact that Facebook seems to be telling me this is where I SHOULD be in my life. Because I have 200+ "friends" who are one state in life, this is my basis for what I should want? Um, I don't think so!

Shoot, I even found myself of late looking at blogs and being like, "at least I'm not Jennifer Aniston". She gets torn apart in the press about being single and 40. She is a beautiful, rich woman! Why should I compare myself to her and/or rejoice in her suffering?!
This is the 40 year old "Old Maid"....right...

I've gotten plenty of "comments" on my travels of late from married friends or friends who are moms that are jealous of my freedom to come and go as I please. The grass is always greener. But this is why we need not to compare and be grateful for what God has given us.

The love of the Holy Spirit is the answer! And the devil needs to STEP OFF.

I appreciate your prayers at this time as I try to combat the devil. But it usually means good things are happening. Definitely pray for us at Workcamp this weekend and through next week!

Thanks so much,
Peace,
Julia

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meet Me in St. Louis

I had mentioned a couple posts ago that my summer travels recently took me back to a special place for me- St. Louis. I recently went there for work, but as many of you know, God took me there- shoot- almost 3 years ago to enter a religious community. As I sat on the plane for my first trip back in 2 years, I was still in awe that God called me to the city that my own sister (by blood, not convent ;) was living in for a very important year in both of our lives. I am still so grateful for that year and that gift of having my sister there during that time. Every time I question the whole journey, I can always point to the fact that we were both there in the same place at the same time and say- that was God. God did that for me.

So this trip back was good for me. I am in a good place right now. Sure, I still have plenty of questions for Jesus, but I think I was able to go back and present my best self to the people I encountered this most recent weekend and just enjoy the city that I got to know fairly well a couple years ago.

The Church is pretty alive there, which is one of the many reasons I loved being back. Being in a religious community during my original stay in the city, I got to know alot of parishioners at various parishes in the Archdiocese. I met a lot of priests and other diocesan ministers, and there are just a lot of good people doing good things in STL! So I enjoyed being hosted a parish this past trip for work.

When I was on NET, we stayed with 'host families' at nearly every parish we would do retreats at. So it is not unusual for me to enjoy a meal with a family I've just met through the parish where I am staying.

This trip to STL afforded me such an opportunity! I was speaking at parish for work, and had made arrangements to stay at the parish, but thought I would be on my own for meals. I was actually going to try and meet up with a friend of my sister's on Saturday night.

After I had attended and spoken at the Saturday vigil Mass, Msgr made sure I was all set for my stay and quickly added, 'oh, btw the way- we have a couple that will be taking you out to dinner.'

I was surprised, but not disappointed. It was going to be like my NET days re-lived.

So a sweet couple( probably my parents' age) came to pick me up at the rectory after the Vigil Mass and asked where I would like to go eat. Me, being polite but also NOT a picky eater in any way shape or form, responded: 'anywhere! I'll eat anything!'

Taking me a little off guard, the wife suggests the buffet at the 'new casino' in town. I was never taken to a casino by any host family on NET! However, these were my kind of people! Casino? Buffet? Um, yes please. These are moments where I love being Catholic. We know how to pray and have a good time ;)

The casino buffet lived up to all the 'hype'- it had great food! ;) And I had a really great conversation with the couple- the wife, whom, had recently become Catholic and the husband had became a deacon.

They told me this great story that I told them I would have to share:

The deacon (before he was a deacon) was attending a daily Mass at a more traditional parish. The tabernacle had a door on the front, but also a way in from the back ( apparently, there was a chapel or sacristy behind the altar so that there was additional 'access' to Jesus for the priest ;)

The priest saying Mass at this parish apparently spoke to Jesus each time He reposed the Sacrament, saying something like, "Good Night, Jesus!"

Well apparently (and perhaps you see where this is going), at this particular Mass, the priest went to repose the Sacrament and said his goodbyes to Jesus in the tabernacle, and there was a response back from the tabernacle!

"Good night, Jesus!"

"Good night!"

Um...can you imagine?

It was, of course, another priest who was opening the tabernacle from behind, but I can imagine it was a kind of hysterical (and maybe even slight creepy? ;) event.

After our trip(s) to the buffet and sharing stories such as this, we promptly played slot machines, grabbed a beer, and watched the Cardinals game.

Best. Host. Family. Ever ;)

Just another reason to love St. Louis!

I also did get a chance to have lunch with some of the sisters, one of whom i was pretty close with before I entered, and visit the place where I lived for a short time. It was good to have a type of closure and to return at just the right time in my life- I was ready and could see how I had grown in the past 2 years.

I also got to visit some of my favorite places that I would spend time at on my "days off" (we got one day a month to do whatever we wanted when I was living there)- my "Special Place" that I blogged about, the Art Museum which I loved (and saw this exhibit this time around. Yes, I know there are STATUES involved, but they were LITTLE. Ergo, tolerable for me and my phobia...but still admittedly a little creepy), and I did get to meet up with my sister's friend and have brunch in the Central West End- a place I frequented often for brunches on my 'free days'.

All and all a really lovely trip that I am grateful for! Have you ever experienced these kinds of moments where various people and places from your current and past life collide? I kind of love these moments. They affirm me of God's plan.

Where will my summer travels take you next, you ask? How kind ;) Well, I am of course, not slowing down! Helping with ANOTHER Workcamp in VA starting on FRIDAY! Going to a quick girls' getaway the weekend after we finish camp, then a WEDDING (of course! But sans bridesmaid dress, thank the good Lord!) and then ANOTHER trip for work! It will also be a trip where my worlds will collide a bit...

but we'll blog that bridge when we...er...cross it?

Thanks for reading! OH! And so that this blog is not completely void of SOMETHING prayerful/theological/reflective to think about...

I LOVED the readings this past Sunday: The Lord revealing His promise to Abraham that Sarah would conceive a child in the first reading and the Gospel of Mary and Martha. The first reading gives me a challenge and HOPE that God can and WILL do all things for those who serve Him in His time. And that we need not worry like Martha in the Gospel, but just throw ourselves at His feet like Mary.

Hope you all are having a blessed summer!

Peace,
Julia

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Running for 'The Hills'?


My Tuesday night television watching just hasn't been the same since the first season of Glee ended a few weeks ago. Namely, that there is NOTHING I find worth watching on Tuesday nights now! If I were taking classes right now, this wouldn't be a problem as it would force me to get up off the couch and actually STUDY. But it's summer! And I want to veg and watch some reality TV and campy musical sitcoms.

So I found myself turning on The Hills marathon, as the series finale was last night. I haven't watched MTV since I used to sneak into my parent's basement and watch Season 3 of the Real World while in junior high (that was the San Francisco season with Rachel and Puck. You know, when the show still dealt with real issues like HIV, politics, and when they had careers? Now it's just seven strangers drinking. No thanks. I can see that any night out in Adams Morgan if I want to).

Okay, so that's kind of an exaggeration. I have watched The Hills before. My roommates and I have watched maybe 2 or 3 episodes together in the past, only to mock the long, empty gazes the actors/characters/whatever exchange amid conversations about parties, shopping, and...that's about it.

So imagine my surprise last night as I actually UNDERSTOOD one of the "characters" and (almost) knew where she was coming from! She wasn't talking about money or drugs or plastic surgery, she was talking about finding herself.

Since it was the series finale, MTV has to tie up their "storylines" in a pretty little bow. One is taking the 'next step' by buying her own place, one is moving in with her boyfriend, one is getting sober (I wish I were kidding). And this last girl decided she needed some time alone, away from everything and was going to take a trip to Europe for an indefinite amount of time.

When she was talking about needing to move on and go do something for herself, she used a phrase that went something like, "I need to be scared" and it struck me. Mostly because that it was an odd phrase, but also that I kind of got what she was trying to say.

The times in our lives where we find out who we are usually involve some kind of risk or fear factor. Now, we can't live inside this fear, but when we are afraid, it puts us into survival mode. We have to look inside of ourselves and say, "No one else is around me now. What do I believe? What do I want for myself? What do I know how to do that will keep me going?".

Now, I don't know if that girl ended up going to Europe or if it was just a storyline MTV came up with (the show ended up weird where they let the viewer "in" at the very end and showed a Hollywood lot and cameras, leading the viewer to question, was any of this real? Not that we are surprised if it's not...) but I had to applaud her self awareness or desire to make herself vulnerable for the sake of learning about herself. Even if she didn't come up with this idea on her own ;)

To switch gears and make this theological....Reading The Sanctifier and learning about the Holy Spirit, I've come to learn that the Holy Spirit and it's love possesses us. Or It should. And this is scary for us, I think. We are taught as humans we shouldn't be enslaved or possessed by anything, and that is true! We shouldn't be consumed by our possessions and certainly should not enslave another human being!

But the Holy Spirit and LOVE are different. When they possess us in a pure and complete way, they make us better. They lead us to fulfill our call. So while this possession can be scary, we need to let ourselves be vulnerable to this possession of love through the Holy Spirit.

I found myself relating to a character on The Hills last night, and that was scary! ;) And so is letting ourselves be docile to a Spirit. But the character was speaking some truth, and the Spirit just wants to possess us with love. So who am I to limit how the Spirit works?

Does that have us running for the Hills? Um, lemme check: No. But making ourselves uncomfortable, nervous, or even a little "scared" in order to rely on the Spirit and let Him possess and direct us? I think, like, omg, totally ;)

Peace,
Julia

Monday, July 12, 2010

Today I Rant About Seafoam

Seafoam or Seaglass? Please someone tell me the difference.

Disclaimer: This post will not be theological in content in any way. But will have everything to do about my life ;) Well, not everything. I am already disgressing...

By some dumb, er, luck? I have been getting a free subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazines. I still feel like someone signed me up as a joke or it is being sent by my mother in hopes I would grow to love getting recipes and kitschy kitchen ideas.

I should also preface this post- I am kind of the anti-Martha Stewart. Don't get me wrong, I can throw a good party. But I usually just take care of the guest list and booze when our roomies have a get together. And frankly, if the party doesn't have winebottles and/or beer ("recyclables" as my friends and I call them) then I don't know if it's a party I want to be at. Humph.

So I get Better Homes and Gardens. And they pretty much sit there on the coffee table and mock me about how little I care about having a better home OR garden. My roommates, however, do subscribe to the Real/Simple/Martha Living mags, so I suppose the Better Homes ones don't stick out TOO terribly much in this house. I just mostly use them as coasters, though.

Well, folks, today I decided I was going to be a big girl and open the infamous mag over breakfast. And it almost had me too. Almost.

The cover had summer recipes for watermelon and grilling. I actually like watermelon and grilling. Summer BBQs I can handle because they usually have the aformentioned "Recyclables" present PLUS paper products as dishware. Bonus recycling. Less pressure.

I almost wanted to know about 15 ways to prepare watermelon and 5 great ways to skewer shishkabobs.

But then...

I stumbled upon the "better homes" section, apparently, and there were articles telling you how to add color to your house (they even suggested colors for laundry rooms. Really? Do you WANT your laundry room to look appealing so you spend more time in it?) and I read these words that let me know I wasn't ready for Better Homes OR Gardens:

"Seaglass is the new off-white".

This sentence spoke volumes to me. 1.) what the heck is seaglass? The fact that I didn't know it was a color, let alone trendy, made me feel isolated 2.) I didn't know off-white was ever "in". Really? I do know that it is universal...is seaglass really universal if I don't know what it is?!

Now I can keep up with fashion. I LOVE it. So perhaps, if these colors were being applied to a new shift dress rather than laundry room wall-color, I wouldn't have stumbled so much over the words.

But seaglass? This word to me means class separation. I don't know that seaglass is a color. Does that make other BH&G readers better than me???

The color I DO know of is seafoam and I mostly associate that with 80s bridesmaids dresses. I actually think seaGLASS is EXACTLY the same as seafoam but paint marketers didn't want that association. You can't fool me, Better Homes and Gardens. You are just trying to dress up seafoam. You can't put seaglass on a pig. It's still seafoam.

In other news...I went to St Louis this weekend for the first time in two years! Still processing the experience, but I can say it was certainly blessed. More theological reflections and life updates to follow!

In the meantime, contemplate the meaning and deception of seaglass...


Peace,
Julia