Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

When I was thinking about what to title this post, I thought of this idiom, but then was confused as to which was the actual, appropriate idiom involving pachyderms because we have many:

pink elephants

white elephant/Yankee Swap/I'm sure I'm missing another name for it...

and the title of this post and the appropriate idiom-

elephant in the room.

(Also, for a good laugh on how ridiculous the English language and our idioms are, check out this. It still makes me giggle every. time.)

So what is the illustrious elephant in the proverbial room of which I speak? It's something I have avoided outright mentioning on this blog because I haven't found it necessary or important enough, but now folks- today is the day I come clean...

I'm single, y'all.

Alright, I may have mentioned it before ,and many of you know me, so it's no big secret. I do feel, though, that talking about singledom is something no one wants to really do. There's a stigma around it for the person and for people in general, I feel. People don't like to say they are single (for the most part) and others are constantly trying to find ways for their single friends not to be any longer.

But what's the big deal? I've had more than a couple newsblogs or mags come across my email with a "single girl" hypothesis attached lately. Articles from the Times, etc all trying to unpack this mysterious single girl enigma.

Shoot, I've even heard talks by priests and theologians say that in not so many words single Catholic women in this generation are kind of screwed (or not so much. poor choice of words on my part. heh).

And I have to admit, I've brought the quandary to God myself since it seems I know many awesomely exceptional single Catholic women, but not as much so in the dude department.

Now, God has ALWAYS sent me the right people at the right time in my life. This would be a SCIENCE FACT (if it had anything to do with science. It doesn't). But I have known it to be true.

Some people ask: how can a loving, awesome God exist or be so awesome if bad things happen? Now, I do not equate a dude shortage with the aformentioned "bad things", but can the same question be applied: How can there be a dude shortage if such an awesome God exists?

Well, we know the former question about bad things happening to be a fallacy and can often be explained to people: God is GOOD. But because of Original Sin, bad things happen. Also, sometimes God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him. Those are the truths.

So the same formula should be applied to dudes. If the first statement that God doesn't exist because bad things happen is FALSE, so then, ergo, hereto, therefore, hence, whathaveyou the latter question must also be FALSE.

To say that there are no good Catholic mens to be had is limiting our God's power and awesomeness. Am I right?! And while it can be true that the surplus of single Catholic gals could also be a result of Original Sin in society, it could also be God uniting us to Himself at this time.

So these articles that I mentioned that are trying to rationalize and justify and proove why so many single women are out there right now, they might have some truth, but I still hold to my truth. My God is great and has always provided.

Then why am I still single? Meh, honestly, I choose it to some extent. I like my SPACE. I like my freedom. And we all know how I feel about small children. I'm not in any rush. So apparently that puts me on the same page as God, and frankly, that's the only place I want to be.


Saturday, October 22, 2011


So last post I wrote about ALL of the things. This seems as the appropriate follow-up, then, to talk about having NONE of the things...right?

This past Wednesday I helped to lead a retreat for the seniors at school. I spoke to my sister on the phone later that night and pondered that I couldn't believe I've been attending high school retreats since I was 15- oh, 15 years ago. And the formats and themes of these retreats don't really change. But that's part of what makes them successful.

This past week was a successful senior retreat, I believe, and I pray that the students took their experience and messages to heart.

As I sat at the retreat, though, in small group with the kids or on my own as they got to have Confession and reflection time, I took the experience in- an experience and format I've witnessed SO. MANY. times before- and longed for a "first feeling" like (hopefully) some of the kids were having. You know, the kind of feeling of something NEW. The "Ah-ha!" moment where the light bulb goes off. I knew some of the students were having such an experience for the first time and I longed for one myself.

Even though the experience for me of retreat (particularly a high school one!) has become rote for me in many ways (I've given some of the same talks and testimonies for 8 years now...scary!) I KNOW that God still works through them and I am so grateful. The retreat this week- though pretty basic and familiar- was I know still blessed because we were prayerful and many kids were so open to the Spirit.

Enter the key: Openness.

I talked about this with many of the students in my small group, and this has also been a theme in some of my classes that I teach lately. Kids always want to know why they don't FEEL or SEE God. Many times the answer is: we aren't open to Him.

Some pics from the retreat:

Students in small groups presenting images of blessing (above) and my colleague giving a talk (below):

I my Paschal Mystery class, we've been focusing on the humanity of Christ and why he had to been born into poverty. This brings up the issue of money, the story of the Rich Man in the Gospel (Matt. 19:16-24), and spiritual poverty. We read a quote from Mother Teresa that says SOMETHING along the lines of (though I am paraphrasing): "I think it is more difficult for the wealthy to make room for God." And I asked the kids to agree or disagree with that statement. I got answers on both sides, of course.

But it brought up the issue of spiritual poverty and that no matter what- rich or poor- spiritual poverty asks us to make enough room in our hearts for God. If we are consuming our lives with ALL of the other things, that doesn't leave much room for Him. Spiritual poverty is emptying ourselves out for God and recognizing He IS God and we are not.

Hearing my students talk about emptying ourselves out to make room for God and being open to things God might be revealing to us convicted me this week. As I said at the beginning, I have been praying for one of those "Aha" moments, which I know will look different at 30 than it did at 16, 22, 26, etc...I have already experienced many of the things! But I can always approach these ideas in new OR familiar ways (the beauty of getting older- experience ;)

Am I even being open or empty enough for God to enter my life in new ways? Last week, I wrote about ALL of the things and they weren't bad things, but what are my priorities right now, even if they are good ones? And does it include making time for God and being open to His designs?

This leads, then, to detachment. For so long, I've longed for that feeling I felt when I was discerning religious life and much of that feeling came from the detachment and letting go of various parts of my life. I've even spoken more recently about feeling like I want to sacrifice something because of this.
But as my spiritual director pointed out then, we don't just go around making sacrifices for no reason. They are things we bring to prayer and are well thought out.

Detachment, however, is something we can practice more regularly, I think, and is similar to sacrifice. We just remove ourselves a little from some of the things we might love or desire in order to make more room for the Lord. We let go of ideas or thoughts that keep us from being open to Him.

St. Teresa of Avila- from whom I'm still reading pieces of "The Way of Perfection"- also convicted me on this idea of detachment this week.

She was talking about how in religious life, detachment is easy to an extent because many of the things are removed already for them. This is something, perhaps, that I miss ( at times. let's not get too crazy ;)

"With regard to small things, we must be very careful, as soon as we grow fond of them, to withdraw our thoughts from them and turn to God. His Majesty will help us do this. He has granted us that great favor of providing that, in this house, most of it is done already, but it remains for us to become detached from our own selves, and it is a hard thing to withdraw from ourselves and oppose ourselves because we are very close to ourselves and love ourselves very dearly. It is here that humility can enter, for this virtue and that of detachment from self, I think, always go together."

"For this body of ours has one fault: the more you indulge it, the more things it discovers to be essential to it. It is extraordinary how it likes being indulged; and, if there is any reasonable pretext for indulgence, however little necessity for it there may be, the poor soul is taken in and prevented from making progress..."

These truth-isms struck me this week and I've begun to think and pray about some thoughts and behaviors I can detach from- with the goal of making more room for an 'Aha' moment, or close moment with God.

Today is one of my dear friends from my women's group birthday today! She points out on her blog that this year she is sharing her day with the NEWLY "Blessed" John Paul II! It's his new feast day!

You may know him as the Pope we had from 1978-2005, I know him as the only Pope I ever had (until 6 years ago) and also as the guy my Babci has in a frame hanging in her kitchen (and in practically every corner of her house...only Polish pope! Holler!)

While I actually (surprisingly) enjoy reading Benedict's encyclicals more, John Paul II was very prolific and gave us many documents on ecumenism (traveling and other religions/cultures were so important to him- he was the most traveled pope!) as well as the Theology of the Body which we are starting to see the fruits of now.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us! That we may be OPEN and empty ourselves out to receive all God has for us...like you did.

Yeah, for Slavs! ha! ;)


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

(F)All of the Things

See what I did there?

Sometimes on this blog you get a rambling of my spiritual life or spiritual musings. Other times, you get life updates. Sometimes you get both.

Sometimes you get ALL OF THE THINGS.

This post will be the latter because it has only been a couple weeks into fall and I have already done ALL OF THE THINGS- ministerially and autumn-ly speaking.

Let's start with ministry, shall we? Last week was a big week. 1st) we had our annual all-school liturgy with the Bish. I have grown accustom to playing and accompanying Masses for His Excellency, so it was nbd (but really always kind of a big deal).

2.) I was invited to give a talk on MEDIA and using it in ministry to a group of youth ministers...fancy that! I think it went pretty well. I gave some quotes from Church documents that I've used in past papers to prove that the Church is all about the use of media for evangelization (Inter Mirifica, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Gaudium et Spes, etc) As well as some activities I've used in my classroom or at the parish. I also spoke about SEMIOTICS for all you Media Studies nerds out there. Holler!

Here's a pic a friend took on her cell from my talk- there was no place to put the mic pack, so they stuck it on my boot. Classic Julia:

3.) Later that week, I attended a liturgy workshop to learn about the new translation of the Mass that we are going to start using beginning the 1st Sunday of Advent. I had heard about the changes for a while and knew some of what was changing, but not all. And I- like many people- did not understand why. I wanted to make sure (especially as a religion teacher and music minister!) that I had some solid knowledge to share with the kids.

I could email you my outlines of notes that I took (LITURGY NERD!) but I will simply give you the highlights that I've already shared with my classes as well as these two helpful video links:

From Life Teen ( a popultar Youth Ministry resource and movement in the Church): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue4GaotluU4

From Spirit and Song- our music publisher that we use at school and for youth events in the Diocese: http://www.spiritandsong.com/Joyful_heart

There is an obnoxious radio show here on my Top 40 station that gives "5 Things you Need to Know" in the morning. If I were to give "5 Things You Need to Know" about the New Mass Translation, it would be:

1.) just the English speaking countries are being affected. The Spanish, French, etc. translations are fine as is 'cause they did it right the first time. This new translation will actually bring us closer to the Spanish, etc translations. For example, We now say "And also with you" when the priest says, "The Lord be With you". The actual translation from Latin is (and will now be) "and with your Spirit." The Spanish already says "y con tu espiritu"

2.) the changes will bring back a sacredness or mystery to the Mass. I know that "and with your Spirit" is not how we TALK. And that's why they changed it to such in the 60s to be more colloquial, but some of the translation also lost of some its sacred, mysterious meaning. Yes, the 60s translation is more casual, but the new translation does put us in the mindset that we are in Church and there is something deeper going on.

3.) The new translation will also help catechize. For example, saying something as simple as "and with your Spirit" teaches a whole bunch of things! That the Holy Spirit is present and will descend upon the Eucharist through the priest, etc...

4.) The changes are more connected to Scripture. For example: "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to people of good will" is what the angel ACTUALLY SAYS to the shepherds in Luke's Gospel. Though it definitely will be weird to sing after singing the other words for so long!

5.) The new language may seem more exclusive (ie- changing "We" to "I" in the creed and changing "all" to "many" in the Eucharistic prayer) but it again teaches us theologically that yes, we are all saved but we still have to be accountable for our actions and do what is right to help get us to heaven. The Scripture just last Sunday was about the heavenly banquet and how many were invited but few actually showed...

Anyways, if you have other questions, you can leave a comment or tweet me! :) @julz422 @MsStrukely

Speaking of Twitter, a dear friend of mine recently tweeted the following to me:

" @julz422 What in the world has gotten into you? Did someone shove a cornucopia into your heart or invade your soul with decorative gourds?"

This was after I had tweeted the following:

"Maybe I do just want to live on a farm in VA"

I JUST LOVE FALL THINGS! (And HATE winter things. Ugh...) And I got to do many of these favorite things this weekend.

So after a week full 'o' ministry I had a nice, long Columbus Day weekend. I started it off by hanging out in a field in VA celebrating 2 of my friends who got engaged (each to different dudes- that makes 4 engaged people at this party to celebrate!)

You're welcome for the math help.

It was super fun. Here is a pic of me and some of my friends celebrating:

So being out in the field was fall and festive. So was the yummy seasonal beer.

I got my lesson planning out of the way on Sunday so on Monday I could do more of the fall and festive. Apple picking and wine tasting!!

CHECK OUT THE GOURDS! (for those of you unfamiliar with my seeming obsession with decorative gourds, you should know that there is a HIGHLY INAPPROPRIATE but kind of hilarious McSweeney's article on "decorative gourds" that my friends and I recite to one another annually...)

Also, we know that I am NOT the Martha Stewart that many of my roommates tend to be, so I often lovingly mock them for the decorative gourds they distribute throughout our house to announce the arrival of fall...


My friend picking apples...

Fall can now end because I have done all of these things. JUST KIDDING! I DON'T WANT IT TO! I LOVE FALL!!!

So that's what I've been up to!