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 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!


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:

-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!


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.


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!



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?



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' 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...