Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul 2016

Today is, as you know by now, another highly anticipated feast day for me today! Ever since my discernment of religious life (and even a little before), today's feast of Sts Peter and Paul, the Conversion of St. Paul in January, and Pentecost have all been special days for me.

I always go back and look at where I was at these times of year in previous years and the past few years the Lord has been so faithful in answering prayers for me around these times. St. Paul is certainly my dude (if there was any doubt).

Last year at this time, I got the answer to my prayer regarding my new job. The year before, I got an answer regarding a specific relationship that I was questioning.

This year (as I've previously mentioned) I've been all over the novena train, praying before Pentecost, the feast of the Sacred Heart, and now today's feast. Pretty confident that the Lord is going to come through this year as well. I've covered all of my bases.

For the Year of Mercy, I signed up for some daily email reflections. Some days' reflections are better than others, and knowing what today's feast is, I was expecting something about the two main guys- Peter and Paul. Instead, I got this reflection from a favorite Franciscan saint, Padre Pio:

"Pray, wait, and do not worry. Worrying is useless. God is merciful and will listen to your prayer… Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to the heart of God. You should speak to Jesus, not with your lips but with your heart.’”

First of all, the headline said "God's Timing" which I was like...okay! On a day that I finish a novena? I get it, God! I need to trust in my prayers and your timing. So even if my answer to my novena doesn't come right away like perhaps it has in the past, I can trust that His timing is perfect.

Some watch faces I found when thrift shopping with a friend recently. I feel like the fact that they have no hands is appropriate way to know God's Time!

The email also had this little nugget from St John Vianney that I also found amusing:  "The Saints did not all begin well, but they all ended well." Touche! That is especially true with the two that we honor today- Peter and Paul- but more on that later.

My summer did not get off to the start that it usually does. Usually, I have some fabulous trip right at the beginning of my break, which has made my Timehop and Facebook feeds a little painful this week. Each day I open up to some exotic location or adventure from the past couple of years- touring Ephesus in Turkey, or eating gnocchi in Rome, driving from Berlin to Prague, etc. This year, my summer started off with my car breaking down and going into the shop and the power in my apt going out for 4 days. I've also started to get a little bored. I've watched all of the Netflix and read like three books already. (Note: I KNOW NO ONE FEELS SORRY FOR ME. I know that it is a blessing to have this time off and my summer will be gone before I realize it! Also, I have New Zealand and Australia coming up soon!)

Previous early summer trips to Greece, Budapest, and Italy.

I also have some friends that are truly suffering right now. It was like all was well and good in the universe and then June came around and BAM! All of the things: breakups, breakdowns, loneliness. Bah! It is when things are going well that the devil tries to creep up on us. I know this. Doesn't always make it easier, though.

But that's why the quote from John Vianney, Padre Pio, and the readings for today's feast of Peter and Paul are so great. We are not perfect, none of these saints started off perfect, and it is all about God's timing. We know the story about Paul persecuting Christians and then when Jesus called him, he turned his life around. But the suffering didn't stop. Same with Peter. We are all familiar with his denial of Christ, even after he was called, but when the Church was left to him on the Ascension, he stepped up his game and turned it around. Timing. 

pic of me rubbing the foot of St. Peter in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican last year. Still praying for what I prayed for in that moment. Come on, St. Peter! You always were a little slower than the others, I suppose...

I take comfort in that these saints persevered in spite of their flaws and sufferings and did come out successful. Things may not be perfect, but let's be honest, they never will be. I think the reflection from Padre Pio sums it up perfectly: Pray, wait, and do not worry. The best is yet to come. 

Yay, saints, sun, and summer!


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Summer and the Sacred Heart

Even though the Catholic Church teaches against superstition, there is an element to our faith that lends itself to look for meanings in things that may or may not be there. I don't think that the looking for meaning is wrong, as that is all we can do sometimes, but certainly if we start to place our trust in something that isn't there, we can get lost.

For example, I have taken to looking into the saints that the parishes I belong to our named for. I don't know if this is reading into things too much or not, but I am just always trying to make connections. In my adult life, I have belonged to three parishes named for St. John (the Apostle, Beloved, and Evangelist- all titles for the same guy! Soooo that has to be something, right?!) Maybe or maybe not, but I definitely have felt a draw towards St. John because of it (especially when I got to go to Patmos, Greece in 2012, where he was exiled and had the visions for the Book of Revelations):

Picture over the door of the Cave the Apocalypse in Patmos Greece with St. John and His Scribe

The man, the myth, the legend- St. John. Also, the Beloved, the Apostle, the Evangelist!

In keeping with that theme of the "beloved", my parish currently is The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Which never really struck me until recently when I was praying the novena to the Sacred Heart last week that this is possibly another connection for me that God wants me to explore.

(As an aside:

1.) I'm so into novenas of late

2.) This website is kind of great. It sends you daily email reminders which are oh so necessary these days. If I didn't have the reminder app on my phone to tell me most things, I would be so lost!)

I keep an image of the Sacred Heart that was blessed by a priest in my apt. In fact, sometimes, I make my friends pose for pictures with it (that's not weird, right?):

A couple of years ago, the Bishop of Arlington wrote a letter about the devotion to the Sacred Heart and encouraged all families to foster more of devotion to it. I took an interest then, but again, it was until recently that I started to put together that maybe there is something here for me- a message about God's Sacred Heart that maybe He wants me to take note of.

After praying my annual Pentecost novena, in which I used the website listed above to send me emails, the site informed me about beginning a novena to the Sacred Heart for which the feast was last week. I prayed the novena to the Sacred Heart and I believe that I am already seeing the fruits. I have noticed so many little acts of kindness and generosity around me. I believe that this is how Jesus continues to call me closer to Him, much like my girl, St. Therese. Not necessarily in big dramatic ways, but as Therese says: "the Little Way." ( I was reminded that I taught this regularly to my high school students when a former student recently mentioned me and St. Therese in his salutatorian speech at graduation this year. I am no longer at this school but it was nice to be remembered. And I'm particularly happy that he remembered that particular lesson! One never knows what kids take away from truly is the little things that get through sometimes!)

I am also still supremely happy to be at the school I am at and really recognize it as a fulfillment of last year's Pentecost novena. The Pentecost novena this year has also yielded fruit, of course, but I was really struck by this calling up the Sacred Heart for my intentions.

I know that I have talked about the RCIA program at my Church and how that has been a way for me this year to connect with my faith in a different way. I have discerned, after being asked by the Director of Faith Formation, to be a part of the RCIA team this upcoming fall. We had our first meeting tonight for people who are thinking about starting the Initiation process into the Catholic Church. We gathered as we usually do, with a meal and meditation on Scripture. It is such a simple, informal format, but always exactly what we need. (probably because the apostles had similar routine with gatherings of meal and Scripture...if the method aint broke, don't fix it, right?)

We usually mediate on the upcoming Gospel for Sunday and this Sunday is the Gospel of the woman who wipes Jesus' feet with her hair and oil. All of the readings this Sunday have themes of Mercy, which are super appropriate for this Year of Mercy. It also was a good reminder as we enter into this journey of conversion with candidates for the Sacraments. This woman in the Gospel takes a risk. She is a woman and is taking expensive oil and "wasting" it on Jesus. She also shows her affection for a Him in a very vulnerable, intimate way- by kissing His feet. It is a very humble act, especially in front of Pharisees who are judging her. It reminds me that Mercy is the reward or remedy for vulnerability. When we see people who are at risk or poor or vulnerable, we should show them Mercy. A message easier said than done when we sit behind our computers these days and just want to judge. The woman in the Gospel put herself out there and was rewarded. Do we do the same for others? Do we reward their openness with Mercy? or judgment?

I found this image when searching for an image of this story. What a beautiful image of Mercy.

This act of vulnerability in the Gospel, this feast of drawing close to the Lord's own Sacred Heart, and Therese's Little Way, are all reminders to me of God's intimate love. And just to tie it all back together as you know I like to do:

No doubt St. John the Beloved also drew close to the Sacred Heart, so I believe my saint and my current devotion are certainly connected and trying to teach me something!

St. John the Beloved, St. Paul, and St. Therese- my besties who were all besties with Jesus- pray for us!


Just another way the Lord is showing His Mercy this week! I truly am in awe of all the positive things happening around me right now, even if they are just "little things."