29 January 2014

Modernity Strikes Again

I think a lot about Catholicism and the world: how the general population views the Church, how different or similar the two are, why the two seem in such opposition and how to remedy it somehow. Usually, it's random thoughts as I'm going throughout my day, sometimes coming from myself, sometimes a reaction to something someone else says (or assumes, most often, as I find myself wondering, "Do you have any idea what you're saying right now?").

Perhaps the most key aspect of the modern age that exaggerates this Catholicism vs The World battle (that stands out to me, anyway) is apathy. We are an apathetic people, quick to feel too guilty and uncomfortable for taking a stance that offends someone else when we're "caught in the act" of disagreeing (and completely losing any guilt when it comes to offending God). So the easiest, most comfortable thing to do is say, "Well, whatever. You're totally right." And sometimes it is the case that someone else is right, or they bring another perspective to the situation and they help you understand. But other times, no matter how much you'd like to keep up this friendliness you have going, what they're saying is in direct opposition of Church teaching. That should make you more uncomfortable than rocking the boat. The truth matters more than political correctness.

I came across an article through social media by someone who claimed to have re-examined Scripture and found a better interpretation of it that allowed him to still hold on to his faith while also supporting positions the Church does not (granted this guy is Protestant, so he isn't usually going out of his way to side with explicitly stated Catholic doctrine, but it is still a matter traditional Protestants agree with Catholics about. The point is: he is now denying the faith he professes). In reading it, I found myself laughing at the foolish way he seemed to say, "I realized I was wrong by following what my faith told me all of my life, but then I changed my mind completely and am still in good standing with my faith. Even though I contradicted it because I made my faith work for me instead."

The dangerous thing about interpreting Scripture for yourself is having the freedom to make t to say what you want it to say. This can be accidental or intentional, so that Scripture reinforces an incorrect opinion. You can convince yourself that thousands of theologians before you who handed down the Scriptures from the apostles themselves to your neat little verse-marked pocket-sized book simply had it all wrong and weren't with the times and would completely agree with you if they could only see the world as you see it now.

But then you've got yourself into another problem and that is the one of assuming that the world has changed so much and that it needs to be tackled differently by people of your faith. "With the state of the world the way it is, I just couldn't do x" and "I can't imagine how messed up the world is since x happens" is hardly an inspiring outlook nor is it an original one. Paul talked about the same broken world we see, but he didn't tell his brothers and sisters to just "get with the times."

From Galatians: "Now the works off the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God."

How much trouble have these works caused? How much have immodesty or fornication invaded the intimate bond of marriage, pulling people into despair or adultery? How much wrath and quarreling have we shown each other in our thoughts, words and deeds to the point of abandoning friends and family or of producing horrific acts of terrorism? How easy is it at times to give in to drunkenness or hooking up (as one of my favorite priests would colloquially say) or mere comfort to ignore the world because it easier than being brave and standing up for what we know is the truth, for being accountable to someone other than ourselves?

As we learn in John 10, it is the ones who persevere who will spend eternity with God. "Jesus said: 'My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish...'" This passage speaks of eternal life, but it is not granted to every person. Only the sheep who hear His voice and follow Him, who remain faithful and loyal to Him will be given eternal life. While Pope Francis' airplane interview is often quoted, how often do people forget the entire quotation: "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?" What of the people who forge their own path, guided by the world instead of faith? What of the people who mislead others into thinking their faith really is about what the world wants, so they needn't do anything to preserve their own and win other souls? These people are not obedient to the Church. All their open-minded ideas will not earn them applause and shouts in Heaven: anyone who serves himself first will not see Heaven.

This is big bad scary business, isn't it? Oh, but it is. It really is when souls hang in the balance, when they are so close to the Evil One's grasp because they have been lied to, because they prefer their self-love over God's selfless love. No amount of complacency or fraternity with the world will buy one a ticket to Paradise. It will do the opposite. Their secular acceptance and admiration will last a fraction of a second compared to eternity.

Let us continue to pray for the Catholic Church in America, for conversion (of both Catholics and non, as appropriate) and abundant loving mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

28 January 2014

Where the Road Began

"My journey to Catholicism so far has been as rocky as the mountains and even more beautiful. Though I have struggled frequently, I know the timing has been exactly right. I trust that all things work for good, and believe this to be the greatest decision I will make in all my life. I find proof of this every time I enter the chapel: I let out a sigh of relief, dip my fingers into cold holy water, inhale the musky scent of incense and cross a silent threshold into home."

"Reading the OT in its original language. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course, but that sounds like you could definitely be Catholic..."

Er, not quite, I thought to myself in response to the all-too-curious graduate student. Little did I know that this graduate student would become my fiance. Little did I know that this first mention of Catholicism was a seed being dropped into eager soil.

During my freshman year of college I fell in love--eventually with the aforementioned boy, but more importantly with a church, with the Church. I didn't realize what was taking root that Winter. I didn't know that the first Mass I went to on campus would only be the first step to a race I never want to end. I have perhaps never been more naive throughout my university years than in those months I said, "I just want to learn the differences." G. K. Chesterton aptly wrote, "It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair."

I recently passed three year mark since the first Mass I described going to here. Sometimes it is hard to remember being that girl, the girl who knew nothing, to whom all these actions and prayers were unfamiliar. I know the differences when I'm at Mass nearly reciting the priest's part in my head or when I'm home singing the Gloria under my breath as I complete cleaning tasks. Other times, I see the similarities between myself and that girl, the girl who was struck by wonder, in curious awe of what was happening before her. I know the similarities when I'm straining for a glimpse of the Blessed Sacrament or when the image of the Crucifix pierces my heart in a new way.

I have so many fond memories of what I now label the "Early Days," which for now is the last three years, though I'm sure as I get older the window will get wider. The first Mass, the first mid-day hour I spontaneously said, "I'm going to the chapel" (which, if I remember correctly, was during Holy Week; that seems quite appropriate), the first time I had a conversation at Mass with a young man who was in RCIA at the time, the first time I said I wanted to convert, the first Rosary, the girl assigned to be my sponsor who became one of my most favorite persons in the world, the boy I discovered I shared multiple courses and now faith with, the first Confession, the first prayer to Mary for my family, the first friend I brought to Mass, the first post-Mass adventure with friends with whom I could celebrate, commiserate and not need to explain because they just knew.

Lately, I have noticed many little "hints" to Catholicism, as I think of them, planted throughout my life. They were small seeds--my Catholic great-grandmother's very Catholic jewelry box bequeathed to me at her death, Rosary-themed songs in a pile of sheet music given to me, the back-of-the-brain prickling feeling that there was a piece I was missing in the faith puzzle at ten years old--that bloomed into realization only in the last couple of years. I wonder how many of the "Easter eggs" were planted in my childhood and how many are being planted right now that I will not fully understand for another ten years. The faith is truly beautiful as a rose: it slowly opens, revealing more and more layers, delighting the heart as time goes on.

I still wake up or pause throughout my day, realizing, "I'm Catholic." Sometimes I'm surprised, because waiting for Easter Vigil seemed to last ages. Other times I'm thankful; "I get to be Catholic." There was a beautiful way about the "Early Days," which I will try to describe. I think back on moments in the chapel or immersed in conversation or simply being in the presence of those in RCIA and everything seems light, weightless. Of course faith is a very big deal, and conversion should be considered with absolute seriousness, but often it felt as though every RCIA Thursday night or Summer Sunday morning was a small victory. I doubt I thought of it in such a way at the time--I was too busy wrapping up against the cold or weaving through busy sidewalks or climbing up the stairs and sliding into pews as Father began the sign of the cross. Each moment stands out, but is united with the others, and I now see a theme.

Freedom. I was given the freedom to explore the most freeing thing I've ever known. I could just sum it up as "right time, right place," but there's more than that. There's "right people" and "right words," "right Gospel passage" and "right hymn," "right gesture" and "right smile." Even then it isn't enough. These right people didn't sound like a broken record when they spoke about Jesus Christ: they sounded like they firmly believed everything they said. And those words weren't just words, they were words that stuck with me, that made me think about my own life in ways I never had before. And the right Gospel passage said, "You know you've been failing in this area," while the right hymn said, "God knows you better than you know yourself and will help you with this." The right gestures felt like hugs and the hugs felt like your entire body smiling and the right smiles felt like finally "getting" the "one body in Christ" bit in a way that wasn't "Let's all get along now," but was more "We're bonded in a way no other group can be."

I know an air of persecution at the time would not have stopped me from converting. Perhaps I lucked out with the glowing experience I had. Perhaps it was only one season--an educational one, a fairly easy one, a simple "here is the truth" season. Now there are more seasons to experience. However, I cannot be more thankful that my conversion occurred in a Spring-like season of my life, where the sunlight lit the path and seeds of understanding took root. It was a season during which I learned about things more important than my college courses could tell me. Whichever season I am in now, I find my mind wandering through halls and pews, nostalgic as I often am, but thankful nonetheless to have entered the Church in the way I did.

Opportunities for instruction, discussion, prayer, answers and questions abounded. I feel lucky to have had the enriching soil of these opportunities around me. Every time I tread across the cobblestone courtyard or ascended the stairs or hastened down a chapel aisle, every time I bowed or drew my eyes to the Crucifix or made the sign of the Cross, every "And with your spirit," every "Thanks be to God" and every "Amen" matters. My conversion would not be the same without them.

27 January 2014

An Epidemic

There seems to be an epidemic going around. The epidemic encourages people to do whatever they can to avoid looking for and settling upon the truth. This strange fad is concerned with more than just truth in religious terms. It also infects the moral and political scenes of our lives.

The best and most seen example I have of this is abortion (naturally). Now, it is already a huge topic because anything concerned with life and death is a huge matter. More than by any other position, I am baffled by those who teeter back and forth on a vague fence saying women must be in difficult situations when they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. "These women face decisions that must be difficult, that are decisions we would never personally wish to take, but that we should meet them with understanding, caution, patience" and so on. To which, my brain usually picks up and I am ready to wager my savings that they will see even something as slight as vague "inconvenience" as a reason to terminate a pregnancy and end a life.

But that's the thing: no one wants to admit that the resolution to a "difficult position" is the ending of a life. No one wants to acknowledge an unborn child's right to life. Instead it is passed off as a woman's right to the conduct and regulation of her body. Then, once you've asked some defining questions and gotten a discussion going to make them confront the issue, they feign some sort of superior understanding--that such discussions are not best discussed this way, or even discussed at all (what??); that this is a much more subjective issue than it is; that not being female or a minority means you can have no accurate analysis of the problem; that sticking to rules and right and wrong is not the way to go about living life (again, what??)--and exit the conversation.

It would be one thing if people settled on taking the opposite view: abortion is right in all circumstances. All should be free to do whatever they please. Some people do advertise these claims, whether their media is a comment section of a webpage or the streets of New York City fit with megaphones. At least in these cases, people are being completely honest with what they believe and advertising it as such.

But what middle ground can you fall upon on serious matters? Is there any point at which when you say, "I believe abortion is only okay in x, y and z cases," that it really means only that and does not mean that you are marching along with the rest of the pro-choicers? What value can you put on life when you claim abortion is okay in some circumstances? When you start talking about rights to abortions and how such a right is a women's health issue, you start to lose credibility with me because you are blatantly ignoring the real issue here. From the moment of conception, a person begins. A person separate from your body, a person deserving a chance at life, a person who should be treated as more than an inconvenience or a difficult decision or a private affair to be dealt with by those in the relationship, because life is of concern to more than just two people. How many lives have you affected by existing? The number far surpasses the two whose genes and mistakenly-spent night made you.

You know what should be dealt with in a relationship? The possibility of children before they actually happen. Responsibility for themselves and any life they bring into the world. If we do not act on reason and responsibility, how different are we from animals?

Perhaps this is what drives the desire for not using labels like "right" and "wrong." People want to avoid responsibility and instead accept any choices because either (a) it isn't our business or (b) responsibility is never an issue if it isn't defined. This ambiguous treatment of right and wrong will only infiltrate every important matter until everything is acceptable. Though, as more time passes, the only thing that becomes unacceptable is the voicing of one's differing opinion. No matter how mildly or generally it is expressed, it is taken as a harsh personal attack. Shouldn't we converse about these things--as rational creatures do--before jumping to conclusions which make it harder to narrow down the truth at hand?

26 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day IX

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Nine looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for "repentance, healing and peace, in every heart and nation."

The goal throughout this novena has been to bring just the above--repentance, healing and peace--to everyone. With over 50 million legal abortions occurring in the country over the past forty years, we need exactly these things. Abortion can no longer be treated as the private matter of one woman it is advertised to be. Nor can we accept the celebratory attitude in which people regard it. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, recently said, "We no longer tolerate abortion, we venerate it as a totem." Instead, we must recognize abortion as the problem that it is and seek to bring others not only to this knowledge but also to the loving forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Reflection: Today's reflection is on today's first reading from Matthew 4:12-23:
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, 
he withdrew to Galilee. 
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, 
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,  
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet 
might be fulfilled: 
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, 
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, 
Galilee of the Gentiles, 
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, 
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death  
light has arisen. 

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, 
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, 
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, 
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. 
He said to them, 
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 
At once they left their nets and followed him. 
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, 
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. 
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. 
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father 
and followed him. 
He went around all of Galilee, 
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, 
and curing every disease and illness among the people. 
The USCCB also comments,"Repentance is necessary for healing, but the Lord doesn't want us to remain stuck in misery over our sins. With healing comes peace and the joy of knowing we are loved and forgiven by God. The message of the Gospel of Life is one of great joy!" They also leave us with this awesome quotation from Pope Benedict XVI: "It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring.... The Gospel is the 'good news' that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true!" You guys know I dig a good Benedict quotation. :) I love that the USCCB and Pope Benedict both reveal the truth and remind us that the truth is, above all, good.

Act of Reparation: Say three Hail Marys for your parish priest. Without our priests, we could not have the sacraments.

I came back home this week from vacation, so this act seemed appropriate. We have two priests which take care of three parishes. I can't imagine how much work that is, so I definitely appreciate both of our priests. They also give very convicting homilies that always have us checking our beliefs and actions, making sure we practice the faith we profess. I loved the priests my school parish and I'm thankful to have such good priests at home too.

25 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day VIII

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Eight looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for "scientists and pharmaceutical employees who help create and manufacture contraceptive and abortifacient drugs: that the Lord will open their eyes to the moral danger and health risks these drugs pose for women and prompt them to work only on medications that benefit human life."

The small side effects of birth control are pretty well-known: bloating, headaches, weight gain, mood changes... Did you know the more serious ones: blood clots, increased blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, a higher risk of certain cancers...? Before we even get into potential lives destroyed in the womb by birth control, we have a host of health problems to worry about. Can we address women's health, actual women's health, in a way which side-steps all of these side effects while simultaneously respecting life? Haley's NFP series at Carrots for Michaelmas does much more work than I could on the subject, and I especially like Melissa's (Faith in All Times, a blog for Catholic women dealing with infertility) post on treating endometriosis with NFP (how awesome is that?).

Reflection: Today's reflection is on today's first reading from Acts 9:1-22:
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. 
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.  He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.
He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. All who heard him were astounded and said,  “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 
Saul was "breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord" and sought to capture them. Certainly this is not much more drastic than anything we experience in the country today, but sometimes it seems as though it is only the next step in what Christians will experience. However, the story doesn't end this way. Saul is converted by his encounter with God--truly the only way anyone can be converted--and given a new name, Paul, who becomes one of the most revered saints. When we despair with this right to life issue, or with any issue, we should remember St. Paul's conversion. With God, all things are possible.

Act of Reparation: Do you love your cup of tea or coffee in the morning? Fast from caffeine today or try your coffee black.

I asked my mom to make sure I'm up early today because we have a baby shower we're going to today and I wanted to get a few things done before (like this blog post). The first thing my mind jumped to was a nice hot cuppa. Then I remembered the acts of reparation for today. You don't really appreciate the privilege of something until you can no longer have it, so no caffeine is kicking my butt right now.

I also wanted to do "Read about a Church teaching that you don't understand in the Catechism." I think I'm going to read up on Part Three: Chapter Three. God's Salvation: Law and Grace.

24 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day VII

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Seven looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for "elected leaders who oppose any restriction on the abortion license: may God allow them to grasp the brutal violence of abortion and the reality of post-abortive suffering experienced by countless women and men."

One of the most difficult parts about being pro-life is seeing how enthusiastically pro-choicers adhere to their platform. It is honestly impossible for me to understand abortion being a "women's rights issue" or something we should celebrate. The good news is we can celebrate life in response. The truth of pro-life convictions is powerful enough to change hearts and I hope will be what we rely upon to bring good news to the suffering.

Reflection: Today's reflection is on St. Franics de Sales whose feast is 24 January. "St. Francis reminds us that all of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love, and that we find our freedom in living the truth. As we defend the dignity of human life, let us ask St. Francis de Sales to pray for us so that everything we say and do for unborn children and their grieving parents is imbued with both compassion and truth."

The USCCB hits the nail on the head with this one: the only way others will see the good of the pro-life movement is if we communicate it in a spirit of love. We are not out to judge people or stick our noses into people's bedrooms. What really matters is defending life at every stage with compassion.

Act of Reparation: Fast from snacking today. Eat three meals only.

I am so bad about snacking when I'm bored, especially now that I'm back home where snacks thrive. I definitely need to work on eating more healthily in general, so this is some good motivation.

Another act of reparation option for today is "Go to Confession--today, if possible--or during this week." or "Today, go visit an adoration chapel and spend an hour with Jesus."
 Adoration in my area is on Thursday and there is no Confession at my local parish today but there is tomorrow and I'd really like to get going. Vigil Mass is right after, so I can have a whole evening encountering Christ. :)

23 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day VI

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Six looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for "those whose work involves promoting abortion and contraceptive use: may God help them understand that the casual sex they foster undermines the capacity for self-giving, faithful and enduring love that is the longing of every heart."

"I hate when adults use the term 'sexually active,'"  Juno MacGuff from the movie Juno says. "What does that even mean?" That's kind of how I feel when people say, "Practice safe sex." "What does that even mean?" I think to myself. Well, when people usually said it, they meant using some form of contraception to avoid pregnancy. I never was comfortable with the term "safe sex" to avoid pregnancy: it seems more appropriate to call it "preventative sex." Is that being particular?

Still, "safe sex" ignores other consequences of sex. How do birth control pills protect you emotionally? How does an IUD ensure that you are having sex with a person who values you and will give to you selflessly? When we interfere by the use of contraception, we make sex suit us instead of celebrating the procreative and unitive purposes of sex.

Reflection: Today's reflection is on "the newly canonized American saint, Mother Marianne Cope, OSF (1838-1918). St. Marianne Cope emigrated with her family from Germany as an infant and grew up in Utica, NY. She joined the Sisters of St. Francis at the age of twenty-four and later helped to found and operate two regional hospitals in upstate New York. In 1883, she answered the plea of Hawaii's king to operate hospitals and care for the victims of leprosy, traveling to Hawaii with six Franciscan sisters. During the last thirty years of her life, she chose to be exiled on the island of Molokai where she cared for women and children with leprosy. She was a life-long witness to the equal dignity and value of every human being. She brought beauty and order to the lives of these outcasts, and provided them with educational and religious instruction as well as teaching them music and the decorative arts. St. Marianne, help us to see the beauty and value in every human life!"

Throughout this novena, I have found myself thinking more positively about others. Not that I go around all day thinking, "This person is awful and I can't stand that person." However, when you commit to fostering a pro-life attitude, you realize that the cause is about more than the unborn. You see in every day life the value and beauty of others. You learn to see people as Christ sees them. It is a very powerful thing. I hope others have this experience too, that they will see their family and friends and strangers not as burdensome or inconsequential, but as people who, as Pope Francis would say, bear the face of Jesus Christ.

Act of Reparation: Learn how to pray the Angelus prayer, and get into the habit of saying it every day--at noon or at 6 pm or on awakening (or all three times).

I actually have written the Angelus into my daily schedule and said it right before starting today's novena. Very cool how that works out! If you don't know the Angelus prayer, it is as follows:
The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.  
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour ofour death. Amen. 
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.  
Hail Mary . . .  
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.  
Hail Mary . . . 
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:  
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.Amen.  

22 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day V

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Five looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for "an end to legal abortion in our nation and for the conversion of all hearts, so that the inherent rights of every human being--especially those most at risk of abuse and rejection--will be upheld."

Today, 22 January, is the 41st anniversary of Roe v Wade. As has been the case every year after, March for Life is occurring today in Washington DC. I really want to make an effort to go next year, but for now I'm home, joining the March in prayer and rapidly refreshed Twitter feeds. Let us pray--in addition to the Our Father, three Hail Marys and Glory Be which go with each day of this novena--for the safety of those traveling to and participating in the March, for converted hearts of those in DC and around the world who witness our action and for an end to legal abortion.

Reflection: Today's reflection is on the anniversary of Roe v Wade and on today's Gospel Mark 3:1-6.

The USCCB writes, "Our laws now make it legal to destroy life by abortion, by abortifacient drugs, in destructive embryo research, in the course of in vitro fertilization procedures, and in some states by assisted suicide and the death penalty. How Jesus must grieve over this culture of death!" This is the truth we must communicate and the circumstances in which we must defend life the most. May we not casually identify with the "pro-life" movement, but be committed to life in every moment of our own.

If you're seeing this early enough, you can follow EWTN's livestream of the march for life here:

Act of Reparation: Today is a day of prayer and penance for restoration of the right to life. Step out of your comfort zone and witness publicly to life in a march or rally, or call your elected representatives to ask them to promote policies and laws that respect life.

I can get on my blog or Facebook or Twitter, but there is always more we can do to. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, announced a vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act next week. I'm hoping my representatives will be backing this act up. You can contact your representatives here.

21 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day IV

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Four looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for doctors, nurses and counselors who cooperated in abortion. We pray that they will come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for love and healing.

As I wrote for Day II, too often, pro-abortion arguments are scripted as if abortion only affects women, when it instead affects fathers, grandparents, society and, obviously, unborn children. The affect of abortion is much larger than is immediately obvious. So as we pray for mothers and fathers, we should also pray for grandmothers and grandfathers who knowingly or unknowingly motivated the mother's decision to abort. May they seek forgiveness and healing from God.

Reflection: Today's reflection is on St. Agnes whose feast is 21 January.

St. Agnes was a virgin martyr who died in 304 when she was young (twelve or thirteen, by most accounts). Agnes vowed she would remain celibate, despite the interests of many suitors, who supposedly submitted her name as a Christian to authorities who brought about her death. There are various stories of authorities' attempts to kill her from which she was protected (the wood around her at the stake would not burn, men who attempted to rape her would be struck blind). Eventually she died by sword (she was either stabbed in the neck or beheaded). St. Agnes is the patron of young girls, engaged couples, rape victims and virgins.

Holy cow, right? I first heard of St. Agnes when we read Keat's poem "The Eve of St. Agnes," in which a girl prays on that night to glimpse her future husband. A man comes to the girl's room and convinces her to run away and marry him the same night (it's actually totally sketchy sounding and I felt bad for the girl in the end because the man's intentions don't seem completely pure, but anyway...). There's certainly more to St. Agnes than this evening poem and her history is insane to think of for a girl of that young age.

Act of Reparation: Go to an abortion clinic and pray, or set aside an hour today to pray for those who are struggling with a decision of life or death for their unborn child.

We don't have an abortion clinic in my town (awesome!) so I was pleased with the second part of this option. Imagine if a third of the people who pray these novenas pray for people considering abortion. How much of an impact we could all make!

9 Days for Life: Day III

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Three looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for grandparents who encouraged their child to have an abortion. We pray that they will come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for love and healing.

As I wrote for Day II, too often, pro-abortion arguments are scripted as if abortion only affects women, when it instead affects fathers, grandparents, society and, obviously, unborn children. The affect of abortion is much larger than is immediately obvious. So as we pray for mothers and fathers, we should also pray for grandmothers and grandfathers who knowingly or unknowingly motivated the mother's decision to abort. May they seek forgiveness and healing from God.

Reflection: Today's reflection is on St. Sebastian whose feast is 20 January.

St. Sebastian was martyred in 288 during Diocletian persecution. He was shot with arrows, but brought back to health by the widow of St. Castulus, another martyr. Sebastian confronted the emperor and was beaten to death as a result. He is the patron of athletes and soldiers, fitting for the March for Life coming up later this week. May we be as persistent with our beliefs with St. Sebastian's help.

Act of Reparation: It's easy to put our headphones on and ignore our siblings or parents in the car. Instead, enjoy the opportunity you have to talk to them, ask them how they are doing.

This act seemed appropriate, since I came home from a long trip out East (which is why this post is a day light). After eleven hours of travel, my mom and sister picked me up from a train station in a snow storm. We didn't do much talking in the car, since we had poor road conditions and beastly semis to contend with, but my sister is always up for a chat, which we did more of at home. It was incredibly nice to relax after traveling but it was also nice to be welcomed home. Inside the house kind of home, that is. It's seven degrees out. I'm not messing with that.
nicer to look at than be out in

19 January 2014

9 Days for Life: Day II

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day Two looks like.

IntercessionToday's intercession is for fathers who have consented to abortion. We pray that they will come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for love and healing.

Too often, pro-abortion arguments are scripted as if abortion only affects women, when it instead affects fathers, grandparents, society and, obviously, unborn children. Because fathers are often forgotten, it becomes easier to leave off the influence of fathers altogether. How many teenage television shows show the unsuspecting boyfriend saying, "I'm good with whatever you want to do."? Let's pray not only for fathers who have consented to abortion, but for fathers who will take an immediate responsibility to defend life.

Reflection: Today's Gospel reading is John 1:29-34
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 
He is the one of whom I said, 
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me 
because he existed before me.’ 
I did not know him, 
but the reason why I came baptizing with water 
was that he might be made known to Israel.” 
John testified further, saying, 
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven 
and remain upon him. 
I did not know him, 
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, 
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
In today's Gospel, John the Baptist describes meeting and baptizing Jesus. "I did not know him," he says twice, which stood out the most to me when I read it. John does not know Jesus when he sees Him, but instead knows (1) the sign he will see when it is Him and (2) what to do when the Son of God arrives. We can apply John's story to the 9 Days for Life campaign too. Literally, the first sign we see when new life begins is a pink line or plus sign, depending on the type, of a pregnancy test. Knowing that we are called to defend and protect life at all stages, our first response (pun unintended) when we see that sign on the pregnancy test should be joy and thanksgiving. This child is a new son or daughter of God who deserves our love.

Act of Reparation: Read about the life of a modern (19th or 20th century) saint. You might be surprised by how much you have in common with them.

For this act, I chose St. John Bosco. Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco lived next to my university parish and were often seen in the halls and chapel of St. John's. I also got St. John Bosco as my saint of the year, so this is a good opportunity to learn more about him.

St. John Bosco lived from 1815 to 1888. He was declared blessed in 1929, was canonized in 1934 and his feast day is 31 January. When he was nine years old, John dreamt he stood in a field with many children who were misbehaving. A man whose face shone with light appeared to him and told John that he must be the leader of the children. John said it was impossible, but the man said John would learn by obedience and by acquiring knowledge how to do the impossible. The children changed into wild animals, but the man showed how they changed to lambs when they were led properly. John went on to work with neglected children and help them become more holy.

I've read this story before but I had completely forgotten about it. I wake up talking about or writing my dreams down frequently, probably four nights a week on average. I haven't been writing them down much recently, but really want to start doing so again. I like to think that dreams mean something, but I usually conclude that they are composed of pieces of things which have been marinating in the back of my mind, not that they are messages from God telling me of my future. It would be incredibly cool to have a dream like that. Maybe my dream about meeting Pope Benedict XVI will come true! I guess you never know. ;)

18 January 2014

9 Days for Life 2014: Day I

For each day of 9 Days for Life, I want to write down some of my thoughts in each stage. Here is what Day One looks like.

Intercession: Today's intercession is for mothers who have had abortions. We pray that they will come to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for love and healing.

I absolutely love that our first intention for the novena is for women. Cries of "End abortion!" from pro-lifers are often mistakenly interpreted as if we care only for children and not for women. This couldn't be further from the truth. The true pro-life stance embraces life at all stages and in any circumstance. Therefore, we wish to show women the love of Christ. We wish to tell them that none forgives like Christ. We wish to tell them that in Him they will find peace.

Reflection: Today's Gospel reading is Mark 2:13-17.

Jesus went out along the sea. 
All the crowd came to him and he taught them. 
As he passed by, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, 
sitting at the customs post. 
Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 
And he got up and followed Jesus. 
While he was at table in his house, 
many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples;  
for there were many who followed him. 
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners 
and tax collectors and said to his disciples, 
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  
Jesus heard this and said to them, 
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. 
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
To the surprise of the Pharisees, Jesus sits with sinners. "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" they ask. Even Matthew, one of the Apostles and one of the Gospel writers, was a tax collector. The people with whom Jesus associates seem unworthy and unlikely. Jesus answers, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do."

This reading goes well with today's intention. It is easy to look with judgement upon someone who has sinned. In the case of a woman who has had an abortion, we are incredulous as the Pharisees: how could she have done that? Jesus reminds us to look with compassion on others, for all have sinned. Those who have gravely sinned require our love and prayers most. This thought reminds me of:

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” - G. K. Chesterton

Act of Reparation: Pray for your deceased relatives and those how have no one to pray for them.

As a convert, this prayer is always a little bit strange for me, since I can't really recall relatives who were very devout Catholics (they were too many generations in the past). However, this is my one way to connect with them and I like to think that they would be happy I have joined them in their faith years later.

This prayer also encourages us to pray for those living and dead who have no one to pray for them. How many souls there must be in Purgatory praying for us while we do not know them. Having completed their earthly life practicing holiness and continuing the holy practice of prayer for us, we are indebted to the souls in Purgatory. While we benefit from their prayers, let us not forget to pray for them to sooner meet God face to face.

9 Days for Life 2014

The 9 Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage Novena has begun!

What is 9 Days of Prayer?
For those who don't know, 9 Days looks back on and prays concerning the Roe v Wade SCOTUS case, which this year is in its 41st anniversary. This year the novena begins 18 January and runs until 26 January. 9 Days prays for:
  • an end to abortion
  • consolation and reconciliation for those who have participated in abortion
  • renewed conscience of doctors, nurses, scientists and pharmacists who promote abortion
  • a greater respect for life in our country
and more.

How does 9 Days of Prayer work?
Each day, participants are encouraged to:

  • consider a certain intention (the above list includes examples),
  • pray Our Father, three Hail Marys and a Glory Be,
  • reflect on a passage of scripture or the life of a saint and/or martyr
  • and choose an act of reparation (which often includes prayer).

This sounds great! How do I get involved?
Thanks for asking! This year, there are four ways you can get involved.

  1. Join Online. This is a standard and basic option. You can find the intentions, prayers and reflections on the USCCB's website. You can also save black and white or color PDFs, which would be great for printing out and pasting to a notice board or somewhere in your house where you will see it often and remember to pray each day.
  2. Join by Email. This is the option I used last year which I will continue to use this year. It is ideal for those on-the-go with smart phones who can get the convenient reminder every morning when the phone dings. Should you continue this novena year after year, you will get reminder emails a couple weeks ahead of time to prepare you as well.
  3. Join by Text. Convenient for all cell phone users, this method requires only your texting "9DAYS" to "99000." Rates may apply for these messages, so do look into that.
  4. Join by App. Users of Apple and Android can download the newly launched 9 Days for Life app for FREE. This well designed app first asks for your Email or Facebook address, then asks what time each day you would like to be reminded to pray. The intercession, prayers, reflections and acts of reparation are all written out on their own pages for each day. Additionally, you can share through Facebook, Twitter or Email each day to encourage others to get involved. If Apps are your thing, I definitely recommend this one.

If you're joining in the 9 Days for Life, please let me know in the comments! You can totally join even if you aren't Catholic, too. Let's unite our prayers, thoughts and actions for an end to abortion and for a greater respect for life in our country and in the world.

01 January 2014

Welcome 2014

Happy New Year!

Usually when this time arrives, I'm mourning the ending of the previous year and am a bit worried about the year to come. The new one is unknown: anything could happen, and I often interpret that in a negative way.


I don't have that view this year. Instead I am very eagerly looking forward to 2014.

Here are five of the best/biggest moments from 2013:

I. Pope Benedict XVI Resigned

I mean, holy cow, right? "Does this even happen?" I asked myself as I scrolled through several articles on the matter. I do not envy Ratzinger or any Pope his job and I really wasn't one of those people that raised a huge fuss over the resignation. I appreciate what Benedict did for the Church and what he continues to do from Gandolfo. Love you, Papa Benny.

Aw, Papa. :)

II. Pope Francis Emerged

I don't think anyone who watched with bated breath as the new Pope stepped onto the balcony will forget the way Pope Francis quite shyly raised a hand in greeting to the massive crowd in front of St. Peter's. In the early hours, all I knew about him was his Argentinian background. As time went on, I learned that this Pope, so similar to and so different from Benedict, would lead the Church in a very simple way. As he always asks of us, let us pray for our Holy Father more throughout 2014.

III. Paris and London Were Awesome

I traveled to Paris and London for my Spring Break this year. It has hands down been one of the best things I've ever done in my life. Of course, it did nothing to still my desire to explore the world; in fact, it has only made my thirst much more unquenchable (is that a word?). Seeing ancient art, buildings and streets, eating new foods and enjoying a few steps on historical ground can be rivaled by little else. Here's hoping there are many more adventures to come.

My favorite painting and go-to moment if I could time travel.

IV. I Became Engaged

This one is kind of a can't-believe-it-happened but also haven't-I-always-been thing at the same time. I am truly so pleased to have found the person I want to spend the rest of my life learning and becoming holier with. I have a separate blog for wedding/marriage related things which I plan to be updating with more frequency as time goes on. This event is only second to...

V. I Joined the Church!

Exclamation point! Sometimes I still can't believe it has finally happened. All my life seems unimportant before my journey to Catholicism. I am always thankful for every difficult conversation, piece of art, quiet moment and mysterious experience that urged me on. So many people--my fiance, my sponsor, my RCIA director, the priests and sisters at St. John's, the Catholic friends I made at school, the friends I've found through blogging and Twitter, choir members, parish visitors, strangers I only ever saw once--taught me more about the faith than I thought I could know, answered questions, puzzled over other questions, gave me more hope, helped me in the daily grind, made me laugh, made me feel accepted and showed me what the love of the Church really is. If you reading are one of these people, thank you. Thank you for every way in which you have helped me.

Of course the list would be incomplete if I failed to include two brilliant women: St. Therese and the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Therese has been like a sister to me (pun?): gentle, inspirational and oh so sweet. If I can be half as good as she, I shall truly live well. Mother Mary...what can be said of her that has not been already? She has been a perfect spiritual mother, kind and loving, coming to my aid in the most loyal fashion. Non-Catholics miss out so much in not knowing how to love Mary.

So what's in store for 2014?

I'm not sure yet. I do have a few plans, though:

I. Keep Dance Partying

Can't beat a good dance party (pun #2?). I'm starting to seriously believe that spontaneous dancing keeps me sane. I have music playing at almost all times, at least in my head. If you haven't spun around your kitchen with flour all over your clothes and cake batter half way up your arm, you haven't lived.

II. Slow Down

I want to be better about living in the moment. Some time during this year, I'll be moving from home to the coast to get a solid job and some wedding planning made more official. I really want to take advantage of the time I still have at home. I know I won't realize how much I value that time until I've left it, so I intend to spend more time showing my family how much I care for them.

III. Organize

Somehow, I've let clutter cloud my living space, computer and brain. I need to detox my surroundings and become more organized this year. I need less "stuff" and more minimalist. I am not entirely sure how to orchestrate this goal, but if plans are successful, maybe I'll share my ideas here.

IV. Go to More Daily Mass (and Adoration!)

It was so convenient at school to go to daily Mass when it was offered at a lovely 12.05 PM instead of 7.00 AM. 7.00 AM?? Ouch. I guess that whole "Keep watch" business was pretty literal. Nonetheless, what do I really have to do that is more important than meeting Our Lord? Nothing, not even sleep (which is my real weakness here). From oversleeping to the max, spare us, O Lord. Plus: Hopefully I can incorporate some prayers to St. John Bosco into this daily Mass venture. I was given him from the Saints' Name Generator: completely random, no pop quizzes involved. Just pray faithfully beforehand and you will be presented with a shiny new penny saint to learn about and pray to throughout the year. I'm pretty stoked about this. :)

V. Read

Actual books. Blogs and articles are great, but I honestly don't remember which book was the last I read in its entirety. If you have any book recommendations, please leave them below. I have a few Papal Encyclicals, Catholic fictions, secular fictions, Scott Hahn books and the like on my list, but I also really want to get into history and art.

That is certainly enough for now. I hope you all have a blessed new year.
Don't forget: today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Have you got Mass plans yet?