01 October 2014

Ma Joie!


I want to live for a long time still,
Lord, if this be Your desire.
I would like to follow You in heaven,
If this would please you.
Love, that fire of our Fatherland,
Never ceases to consume me.
What matters life or death to me?
My sole happiness is to love You only.


Longtemps encore, je veux bien vivre,
Seigneur, si c'est la ton desir.
Dans le Ciel, je voudrais te suivre,
si cela te faisait plaisir.
L'Amour, ce fue de la Patrie,
Ne cesse de me consumer
Que fait la mort ou la vie?
Mon seul bonheur, c'est de t'aimer.


"Ma Joie!
" A poem by St. Therese


Happy Feast of St. Therese!


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13 August 2014

Story of a Rosary

On the 30th of March 2013, I was gifted my Rosary. Anyone who has been around this blog for a while or who is exceptionally good with dates will know that was the day before Easter. Later that evening at the Vigil, I would be confirmed. Those three hourswhile many lament such a duration for Masswould be some of the best three hours of my life.

Before the Vigil, some family and friends joined me at dinner. Less than a year prior, I would have been surprised that anyone wanted to be at the Vigil with me. Sitting at a table surrounded by people who had so influenced my life and faith was gift enough. Still, some brought gifts for me. My aunt gave me a box with a card attached. I opened the box to see...



This Rosary, my aunt explained to me, was made by a woman who crafted and gave away Rosaries for free. As I lifted the Rosary from the box, my aunt continued, telling me she had the Rosary blessed. To anyone else raised in the Church and celebrating their Confirmation, such a gift would be normal, perhaps expected. It was so unexpected that anyone in the family would give me something quite obviously Catholic that I couldn't find any words which seemed proper. "Thank you" tumbled out at some point as I turned beads over in my hand.

I remember the first time I said a Rosary (or at least five decades worth). C and I walked around my campus at night, me trailing behind in the prayers, ruffling through a booklet's pages for the next mystery in streetlamp light. I remember the street corners we turned and the spot where I finally had the Fatima prayer down. After that night I said the Rosary daily. I know it didn't last for any grand stretch of time consistently, but I returned to it in early mornings, fell asleep to it at night or began reciting Hail Marys when faced with some anxious or nervous situation.

The cross of the Rosary surprised me, as it wasn't the usual crucifix. Instead, flowers cover the surface, which remind me of my Confirmation saint, St. Thérèse, who is associated with flowers (Little Flower, anyone?) and especially roses. It also reminds me of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who graces my Rosary with her presence on the centerpiece. In this depiction she is not crowned Queen of Heaven, not stricken with sorrow; rather she looks young, as if at the Annunciation when she says yes, where she obeys God and Christ is made Incarnate. She is ever faithful and abundantly feminine.

On the opposite side is carved Jesus Christ. Again I think of the Incarnation: Christ is made from Mary. On this side, it looks like love shines from His Sacred Heart. Still other times I look at it and I can see Christ instituting the Eucharist: instead of his heart, he holds the chalice. I'm guessing it isn't supposed to be both images, but I think arguments can be made either way from the picture.

As beautiful as the Rosary is, I was surprised to receive it, even on superficial bases. Red isn't really my color, yet burgundy beads abound. The crucifix was absent, which was strange since I had such fascination and adoration for the crucifix at Mass. As time went on, and especially this Summer, I realized how fitting each detail is to my life, not much more than a year later.

When I see the flower-covered cross, I remember St. Thérèse, my dear sister in Heaven whose intercession I rely upon. When I see Mary on the centerpiece, I want to become more like her in every possible way. When I see Christ, Sacred Heart version, I remember the great suffering He endures for us because He loves us, and I long to become holier, to ease His suffering, if only by a small amount. When I see Christ, Institution of the Eucharist version, I pray for priests: for their faith and love of God to increase, for valid Masses to be said, for an increase in the number of priests throughout the world, to one day have a son to give to God in the priesthood. I pray that all Catholics will truly, firmly believe in the Real Presence. I pray that we always reverently receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. When I see each red bead, I remember Christ's blood shed on the cross, wine changed into His blood and martyrdom (which each day seems more probable).

Perhaps it is advisable to have only a couple devotions, tops. It makes sense: you have to sacrifice the breadth of possibilities for the depth of understanding which can only be had in a few. Still, there are so many good values I should imitate. There are so many important truths which demand attention. There are so many valuable people who need love and prayers.


When I see my Rosary, I see the person I want to be, the realities I cannot deny and the men who make living as a Catholic possible. A Rosary is not just a collection of beads. It is a story of Christ and His Mother, of redemption, of love without bounds. It is patience and obedience, charity and good will, perseverance and suffering. It is my story linked together with that of Christ.

Already parts of the Rosary are showing signs of use, but I hope this Rosary is part of my life for a long time.

08 July 2014

The Thing No One Talks About

It was on an evening of the second week of Totus Tuus that one of the girls, N, I roomed with told me: "H is thinking about quitting."

"What?" I responded, "Why?"

H is a seminarian in our group. From what I could tell, he was a rather optimistic and excitable person, very good with the kids, super energetic... Basically all the things I feel I have deficiencies in. I didn't know him well, but I knew him enough to be surprised that he would think of leaving Totus Tuus.

N proceeded to tell me that H had been feeling really down, filled with a negative attitude about the program. He wanted to be there, but something was wrong. As she explained, I recalled what I had felt only a few days previous. Each Saturday we travel to the next parish to attend Vigil Mass and meet our host families. When we arrived at our second week location, it seemed as if I had some mental and emotional block put up. As our group heard Mass, I felt very distracted and had to continually remind myself to refocus. I could not engage in the homily given and struggled through the prayers. I understood rationally that I wanted to be there: there is no better place to be than at Mass. But emotionally, it just wasn't working.

As we exited the cathedral and the girls met with our host family, I felt...less than enthused. I wasn't excited about the new parish. I wasn't excited about the new family. I did not want to be there and only barely attempted small talk as we drove down the street. I would even have struggled to say that I cared. It was like I was completely checked out except for the times I forced myself to try to get back into the real world. It was as if something gloomy and dark was resting upon me.

That is when I realized, as I told N and Y (the other girl we roomed with), that I'm fairly certain the struggle I had had was inspired by Satan.

Okay, watch now as everyone has some sort of "That's a bit far, don't you think?" comment. No. Not at all. As the title of this post suggests, this is the thing no one talks about: the fact that the devil is prowling like a lion seeking to devour us. That imagery makes it seem as if the devil is obvious in his work, but he isn't. He, being an angel, knows far more than a man knows. What's more: he knows man's weaknesses. He knows which buttons to push and when to do so.

I can sometimes be an emotional person, which does not mean that I cry constantly, but I understand and experience some things best through emotions or feelings. While I strive to be rational (since emotions can waver), emotions do play a good part in how I experience things like Mass. That does not mean that if I don't feel blown away, I'll think it was a bad Mass. Of course not. Instead, if I feel as if I cannot connectif my mind strays, if my heart doesn't seem to be in it, and so onit is actually much more difficult for me to hear Mass as I am supposed to do. That is exactly what happened to me on Saturday.

It makes sense of course. Our Totus Tuus team is educating children, teaching them about the faith from very basic concepts to very intellectual reaches. We work constantly to inform, inspire and correct these students we have been allowed an amazing opportunity with. The opportunity is worth it, as I remind myself every day, but it is still a lot of work to do. Of course Satan would encourage us to quit, to turn us away from an opportunity to really open up someone's eyes about the faith.

Now that N had told me about H's doubts, I saw how Satan was working. I've even seen since then (this now being more than two weeks later) that when our team becomes stressed, Satan plays upon those chords to make our exhausted, scatterbrained selves even more stressed. He wants us to notice how little sleep we got the previous night. He wants us to replay in our minds the disagreeable conversation we had with someone. He wants us to question how worth it this job is.

So how do you respond when you feel as if Satan is bearing down on you?

Pray. Our group prays a lot. We pray Morning, Evening and Night prayer. We pray the Rosary. We pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. A team member is praying during every class period. We pray at the opening and closing of each day, before meals and during class with the students. We ask for prayers and pray for each other. We have a huge support system at the parishes. We have daily Mass: the ultimate prayer.


Prayer is so important in the Christian life, but I fear we do not pray as often as we should. Do not be discouraged! It is so easy to add prayer into your life to make it a regular thing. If you pray before bed but always fall asleep, pray when you first wake up instead. Pray at set times by starting up the Liturgy of Hours. Pray with your friends and family. Pray as you commute to work or school. Pray the Rosary every day, even if only one decade. Prayer is not only a conversation with God; it is both our sword and shield.

It is a constant battle, or maybe it is battle after battle. Satan doesn't want to give up. But as Y told me earlier today: we may lose a battle, but I want to win the war.


Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against
the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
cast into Hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

28 June 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Pan Dulce, Tennis, Ice Cream, Misspellings

I have become so busy that these {phfr} posts are the only ones I'm consistently doing! I do have other post ideas, but I'll have to get to those later. Here's my week and all its lovely moments...

{pretty}

The third week of Totus Tuus brought us to a new location. I was the only girl on the four-person team this week, so I was on my own at my host family's place. It felt pretty lonely at first without the girls to hang out with, but the kindness of my host family really made up for the change. The Vs are an older Mexican couple, whose kids have all moved out (though, most of them live nearby on the land the family bought years ago). Both retired, they spend their days hosting family, watching movies, working in the garden and enjoying life simply. The woman is chatty, joking and feeds me like I am her granddaughter. "Did you have enough?" she always asks. The husband is much quieter but chimes in with his own humorous anecdotes, and he and his wife go back and forth talking about their life together. It is a charming but realistic picture of marriage painted before me.

About  mid-week when I returned to the house after the teenage session, the wife invited me to the table where a plate of these beauties lay. Her friend had brought over pan dulce, sweet bread, earlier in the day. Some had apple filling, others were like cinnamon rolls. My favorite is the pink one in the lower left. They are perhaps the simplest, but I think they're so pretty...



After a very crazy week last week (with over one hundred kids), this week was relaxed in terms of attendance. Each day we had between fifteen and twenty kids. I did almost every class with the younger ages (first through fourth grade). Each day we teach one of the Luminous Mysteries and, after all of the material has been covered for the first period, free time is spent coloring images of the particular Mystery of the day. T also taught the younger kids a lot and would tell the kids to make it a contest where he would pick the winner. I think he may have picked himself every time, though, because he would say, "Ooh. This is the best picture I've ever done. It is so prrrreeeeetty." The kids would reply that he had said the same thing the day before, which was true. The image below was from the Transfiguration (the fourth Mystery). T made it especially colorful and I couldn't deny it: it was prrrreeeeetty.



{happy}

Stress relief activity spotted throughout the week is always necessary. I certainly never thought this job was going to be very easy. Honestly, teaching is probably the easiest part. Corralling dozens of excitable kids for Mass where you're meant to be quiet and still? Much more difficult for me than teaching. I am learning valuable lessons in patience, that is for sure.

Anyway, having fun during the week needs to happen in order to give us the energy to tackle another day. One day, we walked over to the nearby school tennis courts and played for a bit. I wasn't wearing the proper attire for tennis (hello, dress which is super affected by the wind and jumping) so I spent some time just taking pictures of the sport. I actually used to be the sports editor of my high school yearbook and was thinking of the two top rules of sports photography: 1) get the whole body of the athlete in the picture and 2) get the ball of the sport in the picture. This one is my favorite of the bunch I took.


{funny}

One of the best parts about being in this town this week was Father F. He and C went to the same seminary, though the were at different levels when they were there together. He is the reason C and I are working with Totus Tuus, because he asked us if we were interested. Father F could probably be best described as eccentric, but in a way that I find funny. I can't think of any concrete, easily explainable examples, which I know is suuuuuuper annoying and unhelpful. Anyway. One night he had the team members and one of the families of the church over for dinner. His home is filled with the usual suspectsheavy Missals, religious art and two rambunctious dogsbut he also has a small pipe collection. I know nothing of pipes, but they do have a coolness factor.


T loves Father F because the latter is well-aware of the former's ice cream addiction and actively supports it. That is, buys several gallons of ice cream throughout the week supports it. T could not be happier, and the rest of us are quite fine with it as well. The thing is, a bowl isn't enough for T. When he isn't finishing off a carton with a spoon, he's loading up a plate with cream and sugar. Twice. I honestly can't take him seriouslythough he isn't a very serious person to begin with. At such times, T loves Father (but not when Father is dumping two liters of soda poison down the sink; at those times, T runs through the hall proclaiming, "I have to save the sodas!"). A very happy trio:


{real}

Last night (Friday) my host family invited the boys over for dinner. I sometimes forget that Mexican food exists because I eat it so rarely. It isn't really worth it if it isn't going to be good, right? I ate everything on this plate, plus another two enchiladas, the beans C didn't want and some of the enchilada he also slid onto my plate because it had beans touching it. I guess I know what not to cook for him in the future....


I was super full from dinner, but that didn't stop C and I from going out. We hardly have time with just the two of us since we are constantly working in a group or, when not in a group, we have to sleep. He wanted to go for a movie, but I wasn't interested in anything showing, so we went to Starbucks where I redeemed my free drink (but gave it to him, since I didn't want something as big and heavy as a frappuccino after eating so much) and he bought me a tea. Free drinks are always nice. Spelling my name incorrectly, on the other hand, isn't my most favorite thing in the world. I have the simplest possible spelling! I don't get it. 


We now have a week off from Totus Tuus, which I am definitely going to enjoy. C and I plan to spend a couple days with the family we were with the first week, then we're going down to New Orleans for a few days, then heading up to our next week's assignment. We never stop.

22 June 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Onward...

Volume 3 up in here! Have a look at my week...

{pretty}

Before we (me, C and another team member N; our other team member T stayed in and got much needed sleep) left our first week's location, we went down to the boardwalk (which had no boards and was more like a promenade). All the lights along the river cast a beautiful rainbow along the water's surface.


I tried a new hairstyle later in the week. I french braided all my hair, then gathered the length of the braid into a bun. I twisted back a small piece of hair I had left out and pinned it with this pretty pin C got for me when he went to Vienna last March.

{happy}

As the weeks go on, I am thankful that I said yes to this opportunity. The days are long and draining mentally and physically, but it truly is worth it to be able to teach about the Catholic faith. I feel like I am learning right along with the kids. After all the hard work, fun time is definitely a necessity. Here I am with C by the river. With everything that changes each weekthe town, the parish, the people, the scheduleit is so nice to have him as a constant.



This week, two groups of four became one group of eight for a larger parish assignment. While this move was practically important because of the larger size of this parish, it was also important in keeping me sane. I stayed with two other girls (the aforementioned N and a new girl Y) at our new host family's home. One night we painted our nails the same color. If anyone noticed, they probably thought we were silly, but it was a nice, small bonding experience. This week without them, I feel much more alone. Still, I'm thankful we had our week together with much needed girl talk.



{funny}

Every Friday for Totus Tuus, there is a water balloon fight (assuming the kids get a score of 10 for Mass behavior and participation). This week, the kids were very near to missing out. We told them they'd received a 9.5 and, after silence fell over the room, C announced that, since they had sung very well, we'd actually decided to give them a 10. The cheers were quite loud enough for this quiet person, so I retreated to our supplies room where I had some work to do. Not long after, these three hooligans (T, H and C) came in, readying themselves with war paint and water guns. Really, these guys are no different from the young boys when it comes to the water fight...



{real}

On a trip to get Mr. C here a water gun. This picture is a fair snapshot of our typical expressions: me happy, he serious. I guess water guns are more serious than I thought...



One afternoon, the large group of us returned to the girls' host family's house. Within twenty minutes of eating dinner, three boys were passed out all around the living room. Totus Tuus is honestly one of the most tiring things I've ever done. While we do have breaks in the afternoon, those are usually filled with cleaning up after the day session, eating dinner and planning for the next day. We start at 7AM (or later, for when we've woken up late) and don't really settle down until 10PM. When we can get in the sneaky nap or two, we take advantage of it. B doesn't look very comfortable here, though, does he?


Now we've all moved on in two groups of four to our next towns. I am with C, H and T, which means I am the only girl. This also means I am housed by myself, separate from the boys and separate from the other girls who are now about two hours away from me. It is weird to be alone, but this family is nice and I know I won't be alone for long, because we have far too much work to do together.

I am going to Mass in a couple of hours (Extraordinary Form!!) and then a few hours after that, our first teenager session begins. I am sure that when this week ends, I will be looking forward to our week off very much. :)

Unless You Eat

From today's Gospel reading:

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day. 
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him. 
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me. 
This is the bread that came down from heaven. 
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi.

13 June 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Totus Tuus Be Cray

What a week!

This week kicked off the start of Totus Tuus, which I talked about in some detail here. It was a week packed with traveling, meeting people, adjusting to new schedules, enjoying/enduring Southern weather, saying Rosaries, hearing Mass, teaching the faith, laughing off a sugar rush and avoiding water balloons. I am so looking forward to some relaxation this weekend.

{pretty}

Our first host family has a truly beautiful home. It is easily the nicest house I've ever been in. C and I just looked at each other and laughed when we pulled into the driveway. The bonus is that the indoors and outdoors match in beauty. During the afternoon break of our first full day, we walked through the yard and garden. These orange flowers are called canna lilies. I think they are such an unusual and boldly vibrant color. They are intense in their prettiness.

{happy}

Our host family also raises chickens for eggs. I am very interested in this kind of "urban homesteading" and asked several questions about the chickens when we returned inside. These gals are cute, but snobbishly gluttonous.


The family has honestly made the best effort to make us feel welcome in their home. It is such a nice change to see how a Catholic family operates. Actually, it's a bit of a relief: I can see how the Faith infiltrates every aspect of the home life. The mother homeschools and promotes the classical teaching method at breakfast. The parents both engage me and C in discussion about souls after dinner. There are icons in the kitchen, prayers posted in the bathroom, crucifixes on nearly every wall and religious books everywhere. We share so many of the same values and understandings, which I don't always come across. I have certainly taken notes on how I might like to create and maintain my household in the future.

{funny}


And this family has a dog. Not the usual kind I like (beastly, massive things), but he is cute and fluffy and had his tongue sticking out in the first picture I managed to take of him. He growls if you don't pet him and will play catch with you for days. It's amusing how much a kick he gets out of the game, honestly.

{real}


As it turns out, teaching children and teenagers for eight hours a day is pretty exhausting. This is me only on the first or second day, too! It's so fulfilling when you get to bring up good discussion points and the kids understand what you're saying (or you can get to that point with more discussion). It is also hard work. It's nonstop: teaching the faith, playing, going to Mass, (in my least favorite moments) helping hurt kids, planning for the upcoming weeks, traveling, being super honest about the faith... It is intellectual, physical and emotional work.

Alright. I'm off with the other team leaders to enjoy the evening (hopefully with ice cream).