Friday, February 27, 2009

Things I Love... (right now)

1.) Facebook Related Humor

If I didn't have to sign into Facebook to post this, I would make this my profile picture.
Sad that I think about this so much, right? Thanks, Stacie, for finding this! I love that there is a movement!

2.) Using the Media to spread the Gospel!

My friend Gina sent me this video of a CBS show interviewing Catholic author Immaculee about her story of survival in the Rwandan holocaust. They are apparently doing a whole series on "Forgiveness"! How awesome is that?! Keep the Good News coming, CBS!!

3.) The cooking priest!

I know, I know...I personally don't love cooking myself. But I do love that this priest is starting a revolution to get families to eat together, and again, using the media for good! He was recently featured in a Washington Post article. Yeah!

and here is his website:

In Love.

These were from my Valentine's Day "Don't Go it Alone!" party. My roommate Susan made them. She made some extra special ones for us singles (and the seminarians that were coming to the party :)

I Believe!!!

It's just sooo good!

I Believe in 'I Believe in Love'

...well, I believe in Jesus' Love that is told sooo well in this book that I continue to quote over, and over, and over again throughout my life and in this blog.

This morning, this was the paragraph that struck me, from the chapter on "The Apostolate" (that word is so foreign to our culture that spell check doesn't recognize it. Love it when that happens. I've seen it happen with catechesis too...yup, just did it. I'm gonna write my thesis, should I get into grad school, on why our culture fails to recongnize catechesis...anyways...):

"But you know, before the Apostolate of word and action, there is the apostolate of prayer and suffering, without which external apostolate would be nothing- nothing at all. Words and actions come only in the last place, after what I call the apostolate of silence in love, which was the great apostolate of Jesus and Mary at Nazareth for thirty years" (p. 167, I.B.I.L.)

What struck me about this, is how often our approaches to Apostolate (whatever the ministry might be- service, catechesis, etc.) are words or actions, and how that's what gets us into trouble soo often!

I also am always struck by the polarity in our Church; how we have people who live out the Church teaching very liberally or conservatively- rarely inbetween, it seems (and I am making broad generalizations here, I know). The conservative side usually chooses to minister with words, I find. And liberals focus on action. And yet here the author states that we cannot start with either one! That both are "nothing" without prayer and suffering.

We always want to skip the first steps of prayer and suffering because, well, they are HARD! You have to make time to pray, and to pray well there is vulnerability and surrender involved. And suffering, well, I don't think I need to explain why that one sometimes sucks!

But it makes so much sense that we need to make time to experience prayer and suffering and they should be the root for our word and action.

As part of my Lenten promises/penances, I am praying Stations of the Cross on Fridays. The media studies critical analyst in me is fascinated by how just the difference in the images of the stations can affect or move the prayer in a certain direction. Each artist portrays each station in a different way. Whether in wood or stained glass. Whether the officers give an evil look or a kind one. Wheter Jesus gives a loving glance or a sad one, Simon accepting the Cross with strength or reluctance- it can totally change the way we pray. Or least, the way I do :)

I am always struck, regardless of represenation, by the three times Jesus' falls. Because can't we all relate to that? And His example tells me, I don't have to be perfect! For even He fell multiple times and did until the end (though there is the not so fun realization that we will be falling over and we finally 'die' to ourselves....argh...)

But the ninth station- Jesus' last fall- was the one that struck me today. The station where I was praying at St. John's in Silver Spring had Jesus lying almost flat ontop of the cross. He looked desparate but you could sense that he was still going to get up because (well, because we know he does) but of His Love for us. I believe this image reflects what the author means about prayer and suffering being our first step.

You know in those moments Jesus was truly suffering, but at the same time praying to the Father for us and for strength. And then we all know what happens next- the prayer and suffering moves Him to continue up to Calvary and die. The words and action follow the prayer and suffering. Jesus was always moved this way.

I love the Stations of the Cross because there is no way to make the prayer ME focused. It ultimately always comes back to Jesus and His act of Salvation. HIS suffering. I can relate it to mine or others' situations, but not without first looking to Him.

I am praying that all aspects of my life can be so rooted in Him. That I will first look at Him in all things. His prayer and suffering can help us get through our first steps and move us to word or action.

God I love this book! ;)

Happy First Friday of Lent

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Closing the (Face)book!

Happy Almost-Lent!

I have made known my Lenten intentions to some of you, and I wanted to address one of the sacrifices I will be making this year for the sake of my Jesus:

I'm giving up Facebook.

I have been receiving way more amazed reactions from people than I thought. I thought many would say, 'Seriously? That's it? Big Deal." ( I am doing other things, btw) But it has turned out to be a Big Deal!

Many wonder my motivations for doing it. Some wonder how am I actually going to do it ( will I still respond when Facebook sends me a notification email? Will I sign on if someone posts a picture of me? Answers TBD! This is going to be a sacrifice as you go kind of Lent ;)

This is definitely a new type of sacrifice, but I can't take credit for the idea. Last year when I was with the Daughters, one of the teens from my youth ministry who kept in touch with me revealed she was giving up MySpace/Facebook. I was in awe of her sacrifice, because for a teenager especially, the constant connection with friends is essential for 'normal' socialization among peers. (This year, btw, she informed me she is giving up texting! A modern day saint in the making, I tell you! And she continues to one up me incidentally which I don't know how I feel about....:)

My use of Facebook started as a ministry tool. One of my youth minister friends from NET sent me the initial invitation, and I saw she used it for contacting teens about programs and events. Also, just to be a Catholic presence in the midst of a secular cultural phenomenon. I used Facebook pretty well, I would say, for almost THREE years (hard to believe!) that way, including when I was in the convent. Like this blog, it was a great way for people to keep in touch with me and see what our life was/is like.

But now the craze of Facebook is extreme- nearly every friend and family member has arrived on it! And I no longer just use it to minister, but rahter to 'check up' on people who I haven't even thought about in ten years and see how their lives measure up to mine, or just to kill and pass time where I could be doing something more productive for Jesus and others.

I also find it has become a source of instant gratification for me. If I am feeling lonely or I need to be affirmed, I go and read my wall, look at my pictures, see who is online to chat. I go to it when I'm seeking self, that is to say. It has no longer become a presence for others, but a very me-focused initiative, trying to satisfy an instant need for attention.

As you know, I am opposed to many things in our culture, but this instant gratification aspect is one of the worst traps we all can easily fall into. I gave up fast-food one year for the same reason. Not because I ate it all the time, but because I didn't like the convenience aspect of it. I needed to learn to take time to prepare, and work a little bit for the satisfaction- in one case, eating, and now for...I don't know, affirmation.

And so I'm going to be praying about ways to satisfy my personal needs and desires for attention (hopefully) and hopefully relying more on Jesus for that satisfaction and gratification.

I also deny myself alcohol each Lent as an added sacrifice (it just doesn't feel right to indulge in this way to me during a repentant season!) and I usually try to add another prayer element to my routine. I have found Stations of the Cross soooooo helpful when I've committed to it, so I will be making time to pray them at least once a week each week this Lent.

I just throw that all out there to give you all some ideas and to let you know where some of my thoughts will be for the next weeks.

And if you want to get in touch with me, email or call! :)

God bless your Lent! We will be in touch :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

"And now I'm all grown up..." But are you, Janet? Really? ;)


I think that most of you who read this blog will be familiar with Janet Jackson's debut record circa 1986. Just in case you need to be re-familiarized and/or educated on the song/debut album here is a link to the lyrics (complete with awesome youtube of the VIDEO! yess...I love the 80s!)

You may be wondering why I was thinking of things from 1986, especially in regards to an artist now known best for an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction (seriously, when I googled Janet's name that was like the second thing that came up. It's sad that is what she might be remembered for rather than the ground breaking Rhythm Nation. If you don't know what I'm referencing now, or just want to reminisce, click here:

and here:

Well, as I was praying this morning, to make a long story short, control was an issue that has continually come up in my life and I know the lives of many others. It's an occassion of sin and a source of anxiety for sooo many of us, but it's one of those things our culture and the devil like to disguise as "okay", when really, Jesus just wishes we'd stop stressing and give Him permission to do what is best for us!

Being a child of the 80's, and lover of music, the Janet Jackson song came to mind. In re-reading the lyrics in the link I posted, it is clear that Janet has fallen subject, sadly, to what so many of us do. We think that to be in control is going to help us. Sigh. In following my previous posts on the cycle of trusting and surrender and abandonment, it's clear that this is not the case.

To better demonstrate my point (i'm all about the visuals today!) I wish to use an analogy. Ahem...

Imagine that you are invited to a party on a cold day. There are lots of people inside the house as you approach it, and there are lots of signs of light and life that you can see through the window. But you don't really know or recognize too many of the people inside. It's people you don't know very well. It is uncertain what might happen once you step inside. So, rather than go inside right away to get warm, you just stand out in the cold hoping that someone you know will walk past you soon. You'd rather stand in the cold because there you have control of the situation. You are able to determine what you will encounter, what you see and take in, are cold!!!

Maybe that is a bad analogy, but I think it makes the point. It's like we would rather be outside alone in the cold sometimes, rather than risk the possibilities of the unknown, even though it is guaranteed to at least be a little warmer, if nothing else!

I see so many of my friends and so many people in our culture (poor, Janet Jackson!) giving up the potential possibilities for peace, love, and warmth, at the sake of having control. Myself included.

Does that make sense as I wrote it? I hope so! But does it make sense in our lives? I don't think so. Sorry Miss Jackson (cue Outkast song here!)

I don't know about you, but I like to think I'd pick being warm and inside, risking potential rejection (with the possibility for new friendships or love!) than outside and alone but in control.

It seems to make sense when we put it in this context, but just think of all the situations in which we isolate ourselves simply because we'd like to remain in control.

So today and in the week to come, I'm going to try to put myself in the 'warmth'. I hope that you will too! I know that Jesus will bless our risk-taking, even if it is uncomfortable. Being cold is uncomfortable, too, that's for sure! No need to make ourselves miserable! At least satisfy the obvious need for light and warmth at the risk of the unknown. Amen? Easier said than done, I know ;)

Have a good week! And remember, Surrender is better than Control :) No matter what the Jacksons and Cheap Trick and any other band of the 80s may say :)

Ah, thanks again for reading!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Circle of the Spiritual Life

I can't re-iterate certain points enough:

- I Believe in Love is a spiritual life-changing book for me and many. Just saying.
- this blog has turned into a complete love-fest for St Paul. Clearly.
- this blog is totally my ministry outlet since I'm currently not in direct ministry (bless you for reading it!)
- I am so grateful that is a helpful tool!

Okay, now that that's out of the way, here are my current reflections for the day/week:

I'm really impressed lately how everything just goes in cycles. Nature in itself displays this fact. I was thinking about the warm weather we've been having and how it truly is a sign of hope. People come out of their homes, out of their shelters and safe places from cold and dark, and greet each other. They open themselves up to one another in the light. Isn't this how it is with vulnerability and love and GOD? When we open up and come out from our cold dark places, we can meet God, meet others in the openness and light?

I can't make this stuff up, people! There is a plan! No coincidences, fo' sho!

So I was reading my blog from 05- 06 (which I've decided to re-attach to my profile for all to read 'cause it's just funny. Like really. I was pretty funny back then! I don't know what's happened and I've become so old and serious ;) and I'm struck by how much has NOT changed in my life. And how I'm kind of just re-experiencing things. For example- Once again discerning vocation, still in a low-income salary/single lifestyle, hanging out with the same friends. Still spending most of my time and money on weddings :) But I do know so much more now, and He's shown me that's who He's made me to be which is SUCH a blessing I can take confidence in knowing!

And our spiritual lives just go in cycles, as evident in this blog with all my many blog posts on trust, abandonment, vulnerability, hope.... I still kind of wonder why that is. Why don't we ever, ever learn?! Learn to trust? Learn to be vulnerable?

Well, the devil is a good part of the reason we go in some of these vicious cycles, but that's another blog. I was just reading in I Believe in Love (for like the second time in six months :) about that nasty guy:

"It is said that the Devil makes the gravity of the sin appear to be less during the temptation and greater after the fall."

How true is that? He lures us away from God, making us think sin is okay, and then makes us beat ourselves up after we sin so that we feel guilt rather than God's mercy and love! Ugh! That makes me mad! He just tries every way to steal us from love....who does that?!? The devil.

But enough about him. More about that mercy and love and how it ties into these cycles of life...

I mentioned in the last blogs that I've had a lot to pray for lately. I can go into a little more detail with some of these intentions. We found out about a month or so ago that my uncle has lung cancer, stage 3, and while he has his good days, over all, it has not been really great progress. He's in and out of the hospital, and it's been hard particularly on my mom, grandmother, and two cousins. So definitely keep them in your prayers. My cousin Leah's is one of the weddings I plan on attending this year as well.

While I've become pretty good at surrendering things to God's will, it's never easy to completely surrender, no matter how often that part of the cycle turns itself our way (know that praise and worship song, 'Trust, Surrender, Believe, Receive'? It just repeats over and over again. Such a spiritual lesson in singing that song! The cycle of our spiritual lives!).

But I've been reading the chapter on Abandonment in I Believe in Love (but Julia, didn't you already write about Abandonment in this blog? Seriously? Aren't you over that? It's the cycle, people!!! ;) and this quote from St. Augustine that the author uses was really powerful to me this morning. The author begins with some background on Augustine:

"St. Augustine relates in his Confessions [Julia's aside- another great book!] that when he lived in Carthage with his parents, he made the decision to go to Rome to teach. Augustine was not a saint at that time, but a great libertine. His mother, Monica, who wanted nothing but the salvation of his soul, thought that this departure, which took her son away from her influence in order to expose him to all the temptations of Rom, would be the end of all her hopes. But Augustine relates: ....' You (God) did not do what she was at that moment asking, that You might do the thing she was always asking'." (IBIL, pg 101-102) that's good stuff! St. Augustine isn't a doctor of the Church for nothing. And the author goes onto say that Augustine met St. Ambrose on this trip, which was life changing for him, as we know. So Monica's prayers were answered in the long run, but maybe not in the immediate or even in the way she thought would be best. Because (even though Monica's now a SAINT!) how do we know what's best better than GOD?!

So all this to say, we must abandon our wants and plans in prayer to God. And do it over, and over and over again. We may not understand it. But we have to hope and trust that it is for His greater purpose. Because if we believe in how much He loves us, we will know confidently that His Way is the best way.

And I know I've said it all before :) But isn't that the beauty of the cycle?

Thanks for your prayers for my family- keep 'em coming!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Young at Heart

So I decided to take a break from the biblical commentary and share a little with you some of my other favorite things- movies and music! And this film, Young@Heart combines both of them. Plus one of my secret loves...old people :)
There are so many movies that are great out right now, but Young@Heart is one I've been wanting to see for a while. It came out in 07 I think. I knew this film was coming out while I was in the convent, but never got to see it. I just rented it today.
Best. Movie. Ever. Well, that's dramatic, but it's definitely a good one!
A documentary about old people and rock music? Sweet old men singing David Bowie, Talking Heads and Coldplay?! Melts my heart! This is my kind of heart warming, feel-good movie that I think you all will love too. You can rent it- it's on dvd. Do it!

Monday, February 2, 2009

This is a scene of the Presentation taken from the front of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. I saw this firsthand...shoot! Almost four years ago! I love it! Oh! And the Messianic Secret continues Feb. 3 in the Gospel ;) It's a good one! Mark's 'sandwiching' style is featured as well :) Thanks, Fr. Soto and Celia :)

Feast of the Presentation

Today is the Feast of the Presentation and in recent years, I've really come to love this feast.

There is sooo much depth to this Joyful mystery that I probably won't even be able to skim the surface of it. I hope to reflect on it more later this day, this week.

This account of our Lord's Presentation sums up so much of what I've been praying about since this summer, it seems. It all goes back to TRUST and CONFIDENCE in the Lord. And also that the Lord is loving and humble, and loves us just as we are.

The Presentation reminds us of what we remembered at Christmas, that God became human because He loves us! It makes me think of Phil. 2: 6 which I know I've mentioned more than once already on this blog, but I can never get enough:

"Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. "

As humans I think that we think the opposite, or that we can somehow grasp God. We try to contort our brains to wrap our heads around God in kind of a "How does He do it?!?" magician-kind of way. And while it's true, God could put on a good show if He wanted, He will never reveal all of His tricks ;) (not that He's trying to trick us! Maybe magician analogy isn't the best...all I end up is thinking of is G.O.B from Arrested Development anyways: "Illusions, Michael...." ha! I'll stop there!)

Nor can we be like God, though our culture likes to tell us that we can. It's like the serpant and the forbidden fruit- we are tempted to try and play God in certain realms. But I love the Church because faith and reason go together for us. We can use our intelligence to come to certain conclusions, but leave the rest up to God because He wants it that way!

(side note- I recently started re-reading JP2's 'Fides et Ratio' on 'Faith and Reason'. The man was totally guided by the Spirit but also just really intelligent. I wish more people could see this part of the Church and read all that's out there! Unfortunately, JP2 is also kind of hard to read, but there are becoming more resources that break down his encyclicals. For JP2's list of encyclicals click here:

Yesterday's Gospel- (yikes! I'm realizing how convuluded this blog is becoming! My brain wants to spit out all it's thinking this week! Bear with me)- was from Mark and is one of the Gospel's "Messianic Secret" accounts. I loved learning about the Gospel of Mark in postulancy because Mark is so full of sassiness and symbols! He shows a sassy Jesus that I can relate to! :) So the Messianic Secret, essentially, is that throughout Mark's Gospel, Jesus is shown not wanting people to know that he is the Messiah right away. He yells at the apostles and, yesterday the unclean spirit, to 'Shut up!' and not reveal- yet- that he is the Messiah.

That is a whole 'nother blog in and of itself. But the priest yesterday talked about Jesus' authoritativeness and the amazement of the crowd at his miracle of casting out the unclean spirit. The priest challenged us to look at our issues of authority and also ask ourselves, 'when was the last time we were AMAZED by God?"

Good questions! Because this is a problem in our culture- we don't like authority, but we know we need it (ooo...I'm sensing a whole new blog idea on authority....for another time :). And, secondly, the priest pointed out, we don't recognize nearly enough how AMAZING God is!! When was the last time we were amazed by God, indeed! In the Mass?? In our daily routine?

End of tangent. Back to today's feast (though that all kind of fits, as usual :)

God humbles Himself to be like us, and we are reminded of this as we see Jesus being presented in the Temple through Jewish ritual. God sets the example for us....if He needed ritual, certainly we do as well! Which is a case for Sacraments and the Mass, no doubt, lest we ever 'question' authority on that! Sure ritual is monitored by authority, but it is meant for AMAZEMENT! (okay, so maybe my tangent wasn't finished after all. I think it is safe to say it is over now :)

Moving on- I also love the second half of this Gospel- that Simeon and Anna get to be present. Random, holy people, with no real relation to the Holy Family. But God chose them to be there to fulfill His promises to them. Ordinary people getting to witness God made man, God keeping His promises.

So ALL this to say, this feast made me reflect- as I continue to reflect on trust and confidence in God- hasn't He ALWAYS kept His promises to me in one way or another, like He kept them for Simeon and Anna? Even though they were growing old and had to wait longer than maybe they would've liked, God kept His promise to reveal Himself to them- and what a way to do it! Amazing! (though we can certainly always hope He works a little bit quicker for us ;) The beauty is God knows each of us and knows what we need).

This also gives me the HOPE that I've blogged about! That God is a faithful God, who understands us and keeps His promises.

So Trust, Confidence, HOPE continue to be themes for me to share with you :)

I hope they are helpful :) May we continue to be challenged and amazed by God's love for us.