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.

Blogger Tricks

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). 

10 June 2014

Totus Tuus

The last several days have been a whirlwind. Let's break it down....

A couple of weeks ago, a priest friend of my fiance asked if I would be interested in teaching at Totus Tuus this year in the South, in an area where teachers were still very needed. I was interested, but I little wary. I had never done Totus Tuus before. For those of you who don't know what it is, Totus Tuus is a Summer catechetical program for grade school through high school students. As a recent convert, I knew my knowledge would only be at the infant level anyways. What if these kids knew more than I did?

Nonetheless, my fiance and I both submitted applications and heard of our acceptance only a couple of days later. So...we headed South. Travel took a couple of days, but we finally arrived here last night and did our first day of teaching today. Because I knew so little about the program before jumping in, I'll give a good overview of the schedule and goals for anyone who may be teaching in the future and looking for some source of help.

As stated earlier, grade school and high school students are taught at Totus Tuus. A parish will host the week long program, often for the greater surrounding area than just the parish members (in fact, the program accepts non-Catholic children if they are interested in going). The grade school--1st through 6th grade-- and high school--7th grade through 12th grade--classes are split up: the younger grades meet from 9AM-3PM while the older grades meet from 7PM-9PM (approximately, depending on the parish schedule). For the younger students, we are currently teaching the Luminous Mysteries and the Ten Commandments. The day is divided into four teaching sessions with breaks in between. At mid-day, we hear Mass and have lunch. The older grades usually have a skit and a couple of discussion sections where the questions can be deeper and more involved concerning the Commandments, for example.

I was nervous about teaching the younger students because we didn't have all the information we needed until only a couple of days ago and it would still be nice for my own security to go through the schedule with someone who knew how to do it. Our team leader was incredibly helpful in answering questions and guiding us through the process, even though this is the first year she has ever done Totus Tuus as well. After a bit of a warm up to begin, classes were divided by age (often putting 1/2, 3/4, and 5/6 grades together; in this case, we had a small number of students, so we divided it 1/2/3 and 4/5/6. I had the older group). The first lesson of each day is the appropriate Luminous Mystery of the Rosary (first mystery on the first day, second mystery on the second day, and so forth...). For these, we read about the Mystery from Scripture and discuss important aspects of the Mystery. The next three lessons each deal with the first three Commandments in a similar fashion: Scripture is read and the Commandments are discussed. What we found really helpful was making a trivia game out of the content, breaking the class off into boys and girls (a pretty go-to kind of division). It turns out kids are really competitive. If that's what they need to be engaged in the material, I have no problem with it. ;)

One night a week, the older classes go through an Examination of Conscience and then we go to Adoration with the opportunity to go to Confession. This was the activity we did tonight and it really was such a good way to end our first day of teaching. Of course, education still continued after when we discussed aspects of Confession and other Sacraments, but the hour free from distraction and running and planning lessons with time to just focus on the Blessed Sacrament was really awesome.

At the end of the week for the younger students (Friday), we're supposed to do a water fight. It's Summer, so a water fight is fairly unavoidable. For the end of the week for older students (Thursday), we choose some group activity to do. I think this week we are going to watch a movie, but a lot of the planning is flexible. I'm quite alright with it, considering our next assignment has us working with about 150 kids, while this week has under 30. I'm sure that jump will bring its own stress, but for now I'm enjoying the program and feeling a lot less stressed about it than I thought I would be.

Alright. It's late and I have to be up and at it in 8 hours. Nos vemos.

06 June 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real} ~ babies, travel, dogs, food (aka the things constantly on my mind)

Do you know about this link-up over at Like Mother, Like Daughter? Each week, bloggers share pretty, happy, funny and real life moments (as the title suggests) from their week. I've seen it for ages and never joined up, but I thought it might be fun to begin doing so. :)

{pretty}


I gained a cousin in this lil gal in mid-March (not the 15th, so no need to beware the ides of March. Relax, people.). She is impossibly cute: I somehow forget just how much until I see her again. Her name is Rylin, but I have decided to call her Lady Ry (like Lady Di. Get it? Get it!?).  End of.



Professional sitter upper already:

Also, professional napper:

{happy}

The day after my birthday at the end of May, my fiance, C, arrived to pick me up from home (more on that later), then take us to the Chicago area to spend time with his family. I am always super pleased to spend time with him. Here he is, chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool...by the pool.


I am also gaining other pretty awesome people by marrying into his family. His cousin, R, had this whole spread for us the morning after our arrival. How much of a domestic genius is she? I mean, really. Her hospitality is always off the charts. I have secret not-so-secret plans to fashion my house after hers, our styles are so similar. I hardly ever eat watermelon and now, after eating a quarter of one at her house, it's all I crave.


 From the Chicago area, we left for the East coast (he has a fancy pants conference-y thing to attend), making a short but very enjoyable stop at the University of Notre Dame. The buildings are all this pretty light colored stone (someone smarter than I am, or who just cares much more than I do, should figure out what that is) and the grounds are Irish green, probably because of this giant lake around which the campus sits. Fun fact: the school is actually called Notre Dame du Lac. This view and the walk around the lake were so refreshing and necessary after a few hours in the car.


We continued on and I woke up to scenery like this in Pennsylvania. Most people would probably think it dreary, but I love cloudy grey weather especially when paired with rolling green hills and trees. The uncultivated-ness of it makes me imagine I am living in a different time. I can look on the far off rows of trees and pretend I'm living centuries ago. And then water splashes on the window from a neighboring semi and the spell is broken. Sigh...


{funny}


As we were queuing to pay a toll, a dog poked his head out of the back seat window from the car in front of us. I don't know why, but I found the image so hilarious and snapped a picture. It was also necessary that I do so because I have become so obsessed with dogs recently. I think it's because I've always liked dogs but lately haven't had a dog in my life. I want one so desperately and will jump at the soonest opportunity to have one. I sent this image to my sister immediately and we texted back and forth talking about and sending pictures of dogs for the next hour. Like we do. Every day. Necessary. 


{real}

I cannot be trusted with a bag of Doritos. I will eat the entire thing. Yet, my mother still thought it a good gift (part of a huge snack bag) to give me for my birthday. I guess she was sort of on to something because the bag miraculously still has chips in it, even though I've dug into the bag half a dozen times already. Moderation! I really don't think these are going to last much longer, though.

Yes, that's right. Just hook it up to your face like a feed bag.
You know you want to.
 While unhealthy eating is sometimes unavoidable on a road trip, finishing the road trip does not necessarily mean you're going to jump back into healthy eating. I like to consider this next image, my dinner the night we finally got home, as one of balance. While it contains loads of the protein I missed out on over the day and a half of travel, it also contains the super tasty, extra crispy skin from half of a chicken. No big deal, right?

 

[Note: these images spanned more than a week, because (1) I figured it was acceptable enough, as this is my first link up and (2) the last couple of weeks have all kind of blurred together because we've been so busy. Excuses, excuses. I'll be more exact in the future.]