Monday, November 25, 2013

The Year of Faith Revisited

With the end of the liturgical year culminating with the Feast of Christ the King yesterday, we say goodbye to the Year of Faith. The Year of Faith began in October of 2012  commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Year of Faith was to call to mind the anniversary of this great, game-changing event in the Church and it was to end on the Feast of Christ the King, 2013 which was yesterday.

As I was praying after Mass yesterday, I reflected on the readings for Year C of this feast and I also thought about how I had lived this "Year of Faith." As I already mentioned, the Year of Faith began in Oct. 2012, when Benedict XVI  was still our pope. As the YOF comes to a close, we have a new Holy Father, Pope Francis. And this significant change I think definitely plays a huge role in this YOF for the Church. Pope Benedict XVI was (and still is!) a great theologian. I remember having to read one of his works for grad school and I also (because I am a nerd) read many of his works for fun, too. He was (and is!) great with the written word. But I think something we see now with Pope Francis (the first to take on that name) is a pope of word and action. Granted, Benedict was not able to move and act as much as he would have liked, which is why he stepped down. But our current Holy Father is drawing many people back to the faith because of his actions, which is a great way to close out this year of faith. Benedict XVI "opened the Door of Faith" and Pope Francis is leading people in. It's so cool to reflect on how that worked!

And then I thought how I personally have lived this YOF, and admittedly, it is not as much as I would have liked. I started off strong, reading the document Benedict released, blogging about it, sharing the information and letter with my students. I began the New Year also talking about this theological virtue of Faith. But then it seemed that my faith was more tested than anything else in this year of faith. Since graduation and moving in May, I have had to struggle and rediscover my vocation and purpose since I no longer had a goal to strive toward and I have extra time (and space!) on my hands. This summer was certainly a struggle for me, working instead of traveling and jetsetting like I had the year before. 2012 had been such an exciting year with all of my weddings and travels, and 2013 has been a year of tests- literally and figuratively.

But reflecting now, isn't that what faith is? A series of joys and tests? Belief in things unseen? This year in particularly I certainly have had to have faith. Faith that I could get through my tests and believe that good will come from them. Faith is not always the sunshine and rainbows that come with joy and feeling close to God. Faith is also persevering when God does not feel so close. Our forefathers and foremothers have certainly shown that throughout Salvation History.

The readings for the Feast of Christ the King are really interesting in Year C. For those of you unfamiliar, I think I've mentioned this before, but our Sunday readings are on a three year cycle so that we don't hear the same readings year after year and we get to read more of the Bible. The Gospel for this Feast in year C is the passage of Jesus dying on the cross and speaking to the two criminals beside Him. One yells at Jesus and tells Him that if "He is the Son of God to save Himself and them" and the other says "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom."

This is not the reading that comes to mind when I think of Jesus as a King. I think of His many parables about what the Kingdom of heaven will be like or something from the Ascension with the Son of God rising on a cloud to take His Throne. But this year's Gospel gives us the kind of King Jesus truly was and is: a king who is merciful, humble, broken for our sins. One who is like us in every way BUT sin. The Son of God who took on flesh to save us.

I use this story of the two criminals and Jesus to teach my lesson on judgment to my sophomores. Here are two men on their death bed. One continues to jeer and mock Jesus even to his death, needing proof of His divinity, and the other believes with a sorrowful, repentant faith.

Which are we more like right now? Do we still need Jesus to prove Himself to us? Or are we willing to believe, even if we are suffering?

I know this year I have needed much proof from God of His work in my life. But as we come to the end of this liturgical year and year of Faith, I like to think that I am going out the "Door of Faith" stronger and ready to release control.

Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise." - Luke 23:43

I met with my spiritual director to try to come up with ideas for Advent. I am really excited and looking forward to it. Advent is usually seen as a time of waiting. I am certainly in a time of waiting right now as I wait for what my next adventure will be. But my SD and I decided to focus more on the present moment and living Advent as it comes each day very presently for its own sake, so I am excited to give this active, present waiting a try.

I'm also soooooooooo looking forward to this Thanksgiving break! As you can tell, November has been a very reflective month for me and I am very grateful for it!

May you all have blessed Thanksgiving and blessed end of the liturgical year!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I began this year of blogging highlighting the fact that this was the first year in three years that my friends and I had not began the year with a retreat. 

I have been fortunate enough, however, to end this liturgical year with two!

I was asked a couple of months ago to be the music minister on a retreat for the youth group that I used to be in charge of before I entered religious life. It was an honor to be asked and I knew that since I would just mainly be providing music, I would have some down time to reflect myself. Not only had I felt like I come full circle (since this was the youth group I had essentially helped create- see my post on this parish here) but I was humbled that it truly has been 10 years now since I had graduated from CUA and began ministering to high school students full time (with only a brief detour in mid 2007-2010).

I was grateful for the opportunity not only to reflect but also to minister. Since I have finished my Masters, I've had lots of down time which at first was very welcome after years of studying and writing and researching all whilst teaching full time. But now I'm looking for ways to use my gifts outside of just teaching again. So this music ministry gig was a welcome opportunity. 

And I got to spend it praying HERE. A place I used to take my retreatants when I was the youth minister at this parish:

It was so breathtaking and peaceful and, like I said, I had some time to reflect on the year since I had not been truly able to while working on my Masters. 

While I was there, I worked on my plans for the upcoming Kairos 3 retreat at school as well as taking some personal prayer time. I've mentioned several times in this blog about the power of these Kairos retreats.  I believe the Holy Spirit allowed me to be open to the message He wanted for me personally and also that I was to share with the students on Kairos. 

The Kairos 3 retreat was this past week and it was even more successful, perhaps, than the 2 before it. Word has gotten out that this retreats are really powerful if students are open to it, so the students come in ready to experience it fully. I was absolutely blown away by the student leaders and all the students on the retreat this time around. They reminded me how open and vulnerable teenagers really are and how they desire true love and God's friendship. So many of them just wanted to know how they can have a relationship with God. This, to me, was the sign of a retreat well done and the Spirit moving in our world which gives me hope!

I have been praying this year to be more vulnerable and open and God continues to show me through the youth I encounter the challenge that I need to accept. The challenge to let He and others in. It's true that I've already let God into my life and I believe that the teens look up to me because I've done this and they want to let God have control of their lives. But it is a constant challenge to re-open myself to others and God in new ways. And now that this chapter of my life- my moving out of living in a community and my Masters degree- are done, I need to be open to whatever happens next.

For the first time in 3-4 years I truly have no idea, no direction of where God wants me to go. But He helped me to reclaim and reaffirm my commitment to youth ministry through these latest retreats. He continues to bless and honor me by allowing me to be in the lives of young people and minister to them. I've decided I'm going to continue to do that full force as long as He continues to call me. To just invest in what He has called me to in the present moment, which continues to be youth ministry.

I was growing nervous these past couple of months over having so much free time and what God might be calling me to do next, but after these two retreats, I've reclaimed, like I said, the here and now and the present moment. I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing and take every opportunity that comes my way to use my gifts in ministry to the best of my ability until He calls me to something else.

It's always been about the next thing for me. On the Kairos retreat we tell the students to participate, not anticipate. Anticipating was definitely making me a little crazy last month. And so I've decided to just participate in whatever God gives me in the here and now. It's kind of fun not having a clue about what is next (famous last words, I'm sure)!

I AM looking forward to, however, some Spiritual Direction this week as well as Thanksgiving break. Beyond that, I have no plans, no anticipations. Advent is going to be very interesting this year because I don't know yet what I'm "waiting" for!

Here's to the end of another liturgical year, anticipating Advent, and participating in the present!


The Year in Review

It's really hard to believe that next week is the Feast of Christ the King. That means Advent is right around the corner and another liturgical year is come and gone. It is usually around this time in Nov. that I recap the year and take a moment to look at its highlights. I still feel like, though, so much good is yet to come! But we only have another two weeks!

My sister is due in these next two weeks with my little niece, so that will certainly be another highlight of 2013. But here is what else the year has brought me:

I rang in the New Year in LA and made another trip out there over Spring Break in April:

 I celebrated my Babci's 90th birthday! And then she got to come to DC to help me celebrate my Masters

I said goodbye to some of my favorite students:

And hello to some fun kids that I would spend much of my summer with nannying:

I got to have a much needed respite in Florida in July:

 And see two of my best friends get married:

I celebrated my 10 year college reunion...

And made some time for some trips to Philly, Richmond, Ohio, and (of course) some wineries.

When I look back on 2013, finishing my Masters degree is going to be one of the biggest standouts, as well as moving into my own apartment, and the year I decided to spend my summer as a nanny. 2013 definitely had it's ups and downs, and it has left me needing to rediscover myself in a way as I wait for what is next.

I truly can't believe 2013 and this liturgical year have come and gone. Guess it's time to embrace the waiting of Advent and 2014! I really have no idea what is next and that is scary and exciting!