Monday, May 1, 2017

The Art of Lingering

"This is a love story. I never knew there were so many kinds of love
and that love could make people do so many different things.
I never knew there were so many ways to say good-bye."
- Maggie Stiefvater, "Linger"

     Growing up, I was the queen of Girl Scout Sing-A-Longs around the campfire at camp or at any given night of meetings. Anything from the "Princess Pat" to the "Littlest Worm," I basically had every word memorized and if not, I always had friends nearby to help me out. We loved the fast-paced ones, the ones with dance moves and of course, the sillier the better. We really weren't big fans of the slower songs. Honestly, we would rather tell ghost stories of Cabin #4 or Mary of the Lake. Trust me, I was really good at scaring the Juniors. Remember that one time...nah, never mind. Girl Scouts was my favorite thing in the world, a place I could really be myself. I loved camping, I loved being outdoors, I loved learning all about nature. Girl Scouts most certainly gave me the skills and love for the outdoors I have today. But there is one thing Girl Scouts has reminded me of more and more now as I am older and the message lies in that one slow song we actually liked: Mhmmm....I Wanna Linger. 

       Lingering - it's a lost art. Honestly, most of us were probably told many times in our lives, "stop dawdling," "hurry up," "we're running late," and more. I know I was and now I'm so time paranoid that I will give myself more than ample time to get ready, get out the door and make it to my destination with much time to spare. I hate being late, and I constantly feel like I need to be somewhere or do something. Now, one might think that being this type of way, I would be severely annoyed by late people, but that does not really bother me. Truly, it's only when I am running late (and mind you its just later than my projected time and I'm probably still going to be early just not sixteen hours early) that I get flustered. But slowly, I've learned the art of slowing down and lingering a bit. 
     My work study boss in college was consistently lingering. She would stop on our errands to talk to every single person, in English or in Spanish. She would ask questions about their lives, ask how their families were, and more. It was as if she every single person on campus personally. Now a days, I strive for that in my own life. I purposefully walk out of my office at the change of classes so I can greet as many students as I can, and though it's hard, I try to do so by name.  But there's more to lingering than just this. 
     When I visited South America, they would tell us one time but it wouldn't be until moments later (sometimes upward of a half hour) that whatever we had been invited to would begin. People there took their time doing anything and everything. The first week there, it was rough - why weren't people moving, where were the buses, how come nothing was ever on time. But by weeks three and four, we strolled casually down the streets after school and took our time visiting with the students, the teachers and naturally, our new friends. We lingered a little longer day by day and loved a little differently, each day, too. 
     Now, after years of slowly but surely breaking my anxiety about lingering, I linger a little longer. I find myself "dawdling" a little more and more each day. Sometimes, I feel the rush of "I got to go right now" and then attempt to rush off to something that, yes, probably could have waited. But there are more moments of my lingering now than my rushing off to the next very small, minuscule, minute thing. I think back to all the times I rushed out of a conversation with someone who is no longer around and I wish I could have learned to linger a little bit sooner. But life has it's lessons and lingering is one of them. 

      On the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus' apostles were walking and conversing when Jesus appeared is their presence. Sound familiar? It was the Gospel yesterday, the Third Sunday of Easter. I think about what would have happened if the two disciples were rushing off somewhere. Would they have said to the Jesus they did not recognize, "Sorry, gotta go spread the news."? I'm not sure. But I do know that Jesus and the disciples lingered together for seven miles and then for supper as well, when Jesus broke the bread. Imagine if the two disciples drove through the supper just like we do at McDonald's, Chipotle or even Wawa. The disciples and Jesus have taught us so many times, the art of lingering. There are so many instances of lingering in Scripture, and yet, we, whoever we may be, Christian or non, do not linger. 
     I have learned to linger. I linger with my students in the hallway. I linger with them when they pop in and need a friendly, non-academic conversation. I linger with my friends when they need prayer. I linger with my family, I linger with my colleagues at lunch. I linger a lot more often now, because if the disciples hadn't lingered on the road to Emmaus, Jesus never would have been revealed to them. When I linger, I know Jesus will be revealed to me. Mhmm...I wanna linger. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Take Him to the Nunnery

"A stranger's hand clutched in mine
I'll take this chance, so call me blind
I've been waiting all my life...
just take my hand.
Touch my soul and hold it tight."
- Tori Kelly

    Last week I spent five days with some of my students in Pittsburgh on Alternative Spring Break. As part of this adventure, we  tapped into a Discernment Chat with a dear friend of mine, S. Angela. We logged onto A Nun's Life Ministries and began to ask S. Angela a number of questions about discernment and religious life. My students had been immersed in a variety of service projects and one of them included working with the elderly sisters of the community. This vocation chat was a good way for them to ask questions about religious life and get to know the community a little better. It helped greatly that I knew S. Angela. 
     One of the questions the girls asked her was if she ever dated before entering religious life. She answered yes and said that he supported her in her journey to religious life. We joked and said, "Life Goals: find you a boy who will support your discernment." The girls enjoyed listening to the story and found it fascinating that many sisters dated before entering a specific community (this was a trend they found in talking to various sisters of various religious communities). What was unique, however, was how the sister broke up (or didn't) with her boyfriend before entering. It was quite shocking to my students that so many sisters dated and of course, I said - thank goodness they did. 
     The activity was good for my students and it was great for me to be able to support my friend in her debut on the discernment chat. Of course, I was texting her at the same time, chatting about life. I told her that I had tears welling up in my eyes when she talked about the support hew boyfriend gave her when she was discerning. It home too closely and it made me miss that special person in my life. As we have had many conversations about my discernment, too. He always told me - I'll be in the church on the day you make your vows, whether to God or to me. Life goals, right? How did I get so lucky? I'm not really sure. But I've been blessed a hundredfold, that's for sure. 
    So he supports me, up and down. He knows that I love the sisters and will always have nun-radar. I will always strike up conversation with the sisters and I have mannerisms that are very nunny. He's even said to me, "that's very nunny of you." What a compliment. He knows that God is the top guy in my life and prayer life will be a requirement to our relationship always; adoration is my happy place and given the choice between daily Mass and going to breakfast, I'll take Mass. He is by my side through it all, even if it means getting up extra early, to drive to my house so we can go to Mass at the convent together. Yes, you read that correctly. This Sunday, we went to Mass at the convent together. 
    I had mentioned to another friend of mine, who I had just spent the week with, that I would meet her at Mass at the convent on Sunday so I could see her, this time in Philadelphia. The convent was a particularly favorite of mine, one in which I spent much of my high school and even college days. The sisters there have known me since I was a dorky, nerdy 14 year old and perhaps, in their eyes, I may always be that little girl who loves nuns so much with curly hair. For me, there is so much peace in that little chapel, so many memories and yes, so many tears. Going there always means going home. And it was time I took Joe to visit, so I invited (dragged) him along. 
      As we pulled into the driveway of the convent, I felt a knot twist in my stomach - was I actually bringing a boy to the convent? Yikes. It felt like I was taking him to battle with no armor. Yet at the same time, I felt the necessity to do this. I began to tell him about all the sisters, fun stories of this sister and memories of that sister. I mentioned that it would be a little crowded because there were lots of visitors and that he'd probably meet the Provincial Superior. I could see him getting more and more nervous. We walked in, I signed us into the building and one sister casually mentioned, "Oh you have a male with you." Yes, sister. Indeed I do. Yikes. Then we walked to the Chapel and as I attempted to scan the Chapel for an open pew, I heard another sister behind me whisper hello. So I introduced the two and then we found a seat. 
     After Mass, I could see so many heads turn as we walked into the dining room. I said hello to many of my friends, introducing Joe and as such a gentlemen, he chatted briefly with each sister. Then, naturally, he met the Provincial Superior. I said hello first, she hugged me tightly and then gave me the eyes that said so much. The "Oh this is the boy" eyes.  Without saying anything, we had a whole conversation. He was terrified. I was enjoying every second of it. Many sisters came over to say hello, chat briefly and move on. Everyone wanted to meet the young man who came to Mass with their Becky. And in the end, I think they all approved. 

      The whole morning, I could only think of S. Angela's discernment chat and of course, all the advice she ever gave me. Joe is, to her, "her favorite boyfriend." Her support to me has been never-ending, through the ups and downs of discernment, as truly all life is discernment. Discernment doesn't end when you make a huge life decision, it includes lots of people and continues on for every aspect of life. Many of the sisters have taught me this and now Joe is apart of life's never-ending discernment. Today, I can reiterate S. Angela "find you a boy who supports you in your discernment..." Better yet, find yourself a boy who will willingly go to Mass at the convent with you! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Am So Much More

"We invoke Christian unity because we we invoke Christ. 
We want to live unity: we want to follow Christ and live in His love."
- Pope Francis via @pontifex

     I am 24 years old. By stereotype, I should have a big ego, be concerned about all the right things, and be a protester in my spare time. At least, this is what the media shows me. But instead I am a Pro-Life, Catholic, feminist woman. To so many, this is an oxymoron, because how can I simply be all four of those things? They do not seem to go together. In fact, it seems impossible that it could be so. But I write this blog post after two weeks of personal reflection and lots of prayer. I feel I need to do this. 

    Yesterday, I traveled down to Washington, D.C. and participated in the Annual March for Life. I was there with a colleague and four students. I was there with my extended family members and my immediate family members. I was there with religious brothers and sisters. I was there with Catholics, Christians and non-Christians. I was there with men, women, and children. And I was there with people who do not share my perspective. There was no violence, there was no harm, there was no hatred. I was surrounded by peace and prayer. And yet, I know that it is so hard for many to support me in what I did yesterday.
     Catholics and Christians who consider themselves Pro-Life have been under fire. I have felt the heat of this fire so directly but not in a harsh way. I see it on the internet, on Facebook and Twitter. Things being shared that say, "Dear 15 year old me, I'm sorry you marched for life," "Pro-Life is only Pro-baby," and my favorite, "Don't call yourself a Christian if you are Pro-Life but not Pro-child" (because I'm not really sure what that means!). I read these, I listen to the perspectives of the authors, and I scroll past. I wonder what happened to these people that gave them such a negative perspective of someone like me. I sometimes think, they can't be talking about me. BUT they are. Even those who once considered themselves Catholic post these things and I wonder, how it got this way. Perhaps it's not direct, but I feel the heat of these misconceptions. 
    Let's go back in my personal history for a second; let me tell you who I was and who I've become. I marched for life as a high school student and as a college student. Each time I only went with a few of my friends, because most of my friends didn't share the same perspective. I was never heckled for this and we never engaged in arguments. I have friends now who may not agree with my perspective and yet, I can respect them and they respect me. I also teach high school Theology, specifically Human Sexuality and Social Justice. Because of my experiences, I would say that this is the perfect position for me. Yet I do so with the understanding that the students who sit before may have warped perspectives of Catholicism, may not be Catholic or may have been in situations that seemingly the church may be against. I teach the doctrine of the Catholic Church with gentleness and compassion. It is not treading lightly, but rather doing all this with Love. 
     Now let's talk Jesus. He's my main dude. My students fondly refer to Him as a hipster because He broke stereotypes left, right and sideways. Yet, He did so with Love. That is my call, our call as Catholics. To preach the Gospel with Love, gentleness and compassion. This is something I remind my students daily, especially as we talk about the tough topics. It seems these days, there are more and more tough topics. 
    Catholics have a core belief called, "Catholic Social Teaching." There are seven pillars of CST and all of the social justice topics that have been mentioned these past few weeks in the news are in there. Being Pro-Life is the basis of this core belief and I'm going to briefly explain what that means in the next few paragraphs. Because truthfully, it hurts my heart to hear and see such a bad reputation given to Pro-Lifers. And since I was part of the age group that was the greatest represented yesterday at the March for Life, I need to. 
    Pro-Life is, by definition, "respect for life from conception to natural death." Now, I could give you the scientific reasoning behind why life begins at conception but I'll refrain; there's enough of that out there. But let's start at the basis of the belief. Historically speaking, Pro-Life is most often paralleled with the Supreme Court Ruling of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the United States. Yes, the March for Life is the annual march against this ruling. Yes, it began as a movement to protect the unborn. But no, it is not just the abortion issue. Roe v. Wade took place in 1973. Catholic Social Teaching started forming as a core belief with "The Just War Theory" during the Medieval Ages with St. Joan of Arc and continued with documents like Rerum Novarum in 1891 and so on. CST has been around much longer. Being Pro-life has been a Catholic concept for much longer than 44 years. 
    The Just War Theory is just one of many concepts within Catholic Social Teaching that exhibits the Pro-Life atmosphere of the Catholic Church. The Just War Theory states that unless absolutely necessary, after every peaceful approach has been considered and failed, and if a country or community is in extreme danger should war be declared. Thank you, Joan of Arc, for giving us guidelines for war which basically state that at all costs war should be avoided unless deemed absolutely necessary for protection of human beings. 
     In addition to the Just War Theory there are many other beliefs in CST that state concepts like, "welcoming the stranger and the refugee." If countries in power have the means, the space and the power, countries are obligated by moral reasoning to welcome the refugee with open arms and to protect them from the oppressor. We should also be providing a proper wage for all people to live with all their necessities; there should be no struggle because of low wages. There should be proper healthcare available for all people. There should be no segregation. There should be no racism, sexism, ageism. We should protect the environment and by doing so, protect those who rely on the environment (hey, that's us and all humans because we need oxygen). AND. SO. MUCH. MORE. 
     Yet, I fall into the category, because I proclaim myself Pro-Life, that is none of the above. But, I, in fact, very much am Pro-Life in all of these ways and more. I believe that all human beings, regardless of their distinctions, deserve fair treatment, fair wages, fair opportunities, and fair access to life's necessities. I believe this because I AM A PRO-LIFE, CATHOLIC WOMAN! Yes, this is why. Because my faith is my firm foundation and it is a core belief of my faith to live socially just. 
      Now, of course, I know that so many, perhaps, would still argue that I cannot possibly still be a feminist if I am pro-life and Catholic, especially because stereotypically speaking, the Catholic Church appears to be repressive of women. I beg to differ. I have been elevated to such high esteem by my Church for so many reasons. In fact, I would venture to say that I feel liberated by my Catholic faith as a woman, which is not the common perspective. But here is why being Pro-Life, Catholic and Feminist has led me to feel this way. 
     Now I do not have the time or your attention span long enough to put two courses of material summed up in one blog post. But I can say this. My Catholic faith has led me to believe that I deserve better in terms of my sexuality. I deserve better than to be given birth control as my only options for many health problems (especially because it can lead a woman into even more health problems when she and her spouse attempt to conceive a child). It has taught me that I deserve better than the health care provided at Planned Parenthood (so many of my friends have given me first hand accounts of the lack of health care provided but also the unfair treatment and down right cruelty experienced there). It has taught me that I deserve better than to have my self-worth lie solely in my sexual liberation. Finally, it has taught me that I deserve much better and my future daughters (and sons) deserve much better than to be considered choices. Women deserve better, on this I agree. But we must look for what the better actually is. 
    These past two weeks have been so politically charged and I don't think there will be a calm anytime soon. It has been one thing after the next. But I can promise to my God that I will continue to do what I can to further the Pro-Life message. Every life deserves rights but the greatest right is to live a life to it's fullness. This means, the unborn being born, the refugee and the immigrant being welcome, the homeless being housed, the women being given proper healthcare, the environment being protected and so much more. So please, know that I, as a Pro-Life, Catholic, Feminist Woman stand for the betterment of life for all. Please do not put me in a box created by the media. I am not just pro-baby. I am so much more. I am a sanctuary, a living tabernacle of life.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Year Without a Mommom

"If you are not living, if you have died, 
all the leaves will fall, 
if will rain upon my soul night and day, 
the snow will burn my heart, 
I shall walk with cold and fire and death and snow, 
my feet will want to march toward where you sleep, 
but I shall go on living, 
because you wanted me to..."
- Pablo Neruda, "La Muerta"

     Perhaps you've seen the very popular Christmas show from the 70s, "The Year Without A Santa Claus." Maybe you remember that Santa Claus decides to take a vacation during Christmas because he doesn't feel that people actually believe in him anymore. Or maybe you remember the argument the Heat Miser has with the Snow Miser in their popular duet. Or maybe you remember that Mrs. Claus attempts to make things right again. Or maybe you remember Jingle and Jangle, the reindeer, Vixen and their friend Iggy who are trying to make people believe again in Southtown. But for me, what I remember the most, is all the chaos when Santa Claus takes a vacation and how nothing seems right at all when this staple character just calls it quits suddenly. 

     Today, January 10th, 2017, marks the one year anniversary of my Mommom's sudden passing. It's been "The Year Without a Mommom." It's been a year of chaos since and there's been many Heat and Snow Misers, Jingles, Jangles, Vixens, Iggys and even multiple Mrs. Clauses. Over all this past year has been filled with people trying to make it right again. But the truth is, when the main character in your life takes a vacation, no one can actually it right again except the person themselves. 
     So many people have openly said that 2016 was the worst year of their lives. As I drove to our New Year's Eve gathering, Joe said something along the lines of, "A lot of people hated this year, but I didn't think it was that bad." To which I responded, more harshly than I ever would intend, "Yeah, but can you understand that for someone like, it was the worst. Ten days into 2016, I lost my best friend." There was silence after that as he put his hand on my shoulder and let tears drip down my face as we continued the drive. 
      Sunday, at Mass, I was overcome with sadness. I couldn't sing. I couldn't speak. I couldn't even go through the motions. I just silently sat at the end of the pew letting tears flow down my face and into one of the many giant, fluffy scarves I own. I was sad and I didn't want to be there. Not because I was mad at God - no, that was never the case. But rather because, last year on a Sunday, I was sitting in Mass, just a few hours before I would get the call that my Mommom was no longer with us. I kept thinking during Mass, what would I have done differently if I had known that in a few hours my Mommom would no longer be alive? Would I still go to the gym? Would I still waste hours driving down the highway to a friend's house? No, probably not. I know where I'd be - her house, with her, holding her hand for what might be the last time. 
       People say death changes you...the experience of death, that is. I've experienced death before and for the longest time, I felt that it helped me feel more. I would say that all the death I've experienced broke my heart open more and more. But nothing broke me more than the death of my Mommom. And to be honest, it changed me in a different way.
      She's in everything I do. She's the echo in the halls when I'm walking around school. She's in every quiet second I have. She's in every song on the radio. She's on every road I drive, every corner I turn, every bottle of wine in the wine store. She's in every corner of every room, every line of poetry, every drop of ink I write on every piece of paper. She is in every cup of coffee, every teaspoon of sugar, every ounce of flavor. She is in every tear and every smile. She's in every picture I take, every song I belt out pathetically in the car. She's on every mountain I climb, every waterfall I dance in, every single second of every day. By which I mean, I feel the emptiness of her presence in all this. 

      I haven't spent every moment of the past year in sadness, she wouldn't want that. I just can't help but feel the lack of her presence in every thing I do. I can't help but think that I would have laughed a little more on Thanksgiving, and snuggled a little more at Christmas. I would have made more desserts and more dinners for her. I would have dyed more eggs at Easter time, I would have sang more songs at the family reunion. I would have danced a little harder at every gathering I had with my friends. But something was missing.

     Now I know that many would agree, "Mommom is always with me." But she's not in the sense that I had been so used to for 23 years. I miss her hugs. I miss her smothering me with kisses. I miss her directing the show in the kitchen on the holidays. I miss the sound of her voice. I know she's here. I know I can always talk to her. But it's just not the same. Mommom's death changed me. It made me more conscious of who I am in relation to her - in so many senses, I am my grandmother's granddaughter. It made me okay with letting myself feel whenever I need to feel - when something reminds me of her and I feel sad, I don't hold back tears. It made me tougher - I'm not sure if I like it, but it made me tougher. It made me even more of a family girl - when I hang out with people, I want to hang out with their families, and as much as my family drives me crazy, I actually like when we sit around the table and roast the nearest human being. It made me more conscious of a lot of things, more than I can even mention here. Some people say that when you lose someone close like that you stop feeling. But for me, I think I started. 

     The year without a Mommom has been anything but easy. I've had so many happy moments, joyous ones, ones filled with laughter. Yet, her void has been felt in every second, of every minute, of every day. I miss everything about her from her shaking her head at me in complete misunderstanding, to her boisterous hugs and kisses, to her random Facebook comments. Mommom had the ability to always make me feel like I was important, that I had a fan club (a fan club of one, but still). She always knew what I was up to, always asked questions about my adventures or my latest interest, and supported me in everything I did. She would have known what I did on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and every weekend. She wouldn't ask what I was doing, but rather, she would ask about how it went. She'd ask, "how was class/soup kitchen/tutoring/school/Joe's?" She just knew what I was up to and made sure I knew she cared. 
      I miss that. I miss it because without her I've felt lonely. I've felt lonelier than ever, despite being almost always surrounded by people.  The felt of being lonely in a crowded room - a daily occurrence. And yet, here I am, sitting at my desk, with the sun shining directly on me. It's almost too bright for me to see the computer screen. Her love was like that - so bright, so obnoxious, so big, and so warm. I know it's her. I know she's with me always, of this I am sure. But that doesn't mean some days are harder than others and some days I just want to cry because I miss her. She was a beautiful woman who loved so much and I hope, if there's one thing I do with my life, it's love as greatly as she did. How rare and beautiful it is, truly to exist! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Perspective

"Dare to be the best you can -
at all times, dare to be."
- Steve Maraboli

    The memes have come and gone, much like the year 2016 itself, about how terrible a year it was. Generally one with a sunny disposition and positive outlook on life, I couldn't help but agree. The amount of loss I suffered, starting only ten days into the new year, was astronomical in my perspective. From my best friend, my mommom, to many other family members, friends and classmates, the deaths were too many, too quickly. It was a rocky year for other reasons, too, and overall I felt like I fell into the practice of finding the negative more than finding the positive. I was down on my self, I wasn't very happy most of time and I probably brought others down by being tired, exhausted and downright miserable at times. For a girl who tends to like even years better than odd years, I definitely was not a fan of 2016.
    So at midnight on December 31, I rang in the new year with some friends and a dog. It was quieter than usual, but still a good ringing in none the less. New Year's Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year. There's magic or wonder and awe present. I never spent NYE in a bustling, loud place. Usually it was with close friends or even alone in my room. Since I almost never let my eyes see the other side of the night, staying up til midnight was always a big deal, too. It's the latest I ever stay up and there's something so amazing about watching time change - one year to the next. Now some may say that the minute, seconds even in which the new year comes, is nothing more than that - a minute, a few seconds. But for me it is quiet, silence and suddenly the loud, fruitful, celebration in which a new year is born. The gentle reminder that with each death comes brand new life. There's fireworks and noise makers and pots and pans and NYE kisses and hugs and well wishes. How can you not love a celebration like that? All the noise for just another minute.
     We spent our New Year's Day sleeping in, eating donuts and drinking coffee (which led me to my first resolution: eat more consciously), and finally deciding to take a hike. Four friends and a dog hiking. Sounds like the title of my next big seller by which I mean, the next very boring story I tell in the faculty lunch room for the next week. But hey, a girl can dream. It was warmer than usual in January, temps flirting with 50. We were ready for a great few hours in the woods. We started in Valley Forge, hiking up Mt. Misery, realizing slowly but surely and quite stubbornly, that we were all out of shape. Which led me to my next resolution: hike more mileage, gain more muscle strength! We hiked to the end of the park and decided to keep going on a trail called Horse Shoe Trail. About 2.5 miles out of the park, we realized the true length of this trail: 140 miles to Harrisburg. Needless to say, we turned around, taking the low trail (once back in the park) back to the parking lot. For a brief 45 minutes, girls separated from boys, taking what we each thought was the best way back to car. A little friendly competition, which ended in the girls successfully making it back and the boys needing to be picked up by car since they got lost. But, we won't hold it over their heads for much longer. We ended our day with dinner...again, please see resolution number one.
     We laughed, we talked, we spent the day without worrying (resolution #5 - stress less, be blessed), we spent some time in silence, in wonder and awe, and listening, perhaps, only the heart beat of each other, found in the sound of our footsteps. It was a beautiful day and I wouldn't have wanted to spend it any other day. Nature is my favorite place to be. I spent the day in a beautiful place, with beautiful people, in a beautiful way. What more could I ask for? We documented some of the 24 hours together in joyous videos and pictures, but only because one of my goals was to make more home videos. You know, so my future family members can enjoy all the stories I have after I've forgotten them (please note: not a resolution, but more so, #lifegoal). I felt incredibly blessed and even though I was beginning to feel a cold coming on, I was happy. Stuffy and happy.
     The beginning of a cold became a full cold by Monday morning, and I was grateful for an additional day off to recoup as much as possible. I went to Mass and spent some time with the Sisters at St. Katherine's since I hadn't seen them all break (not the norm for me!). I had to bail out on the rest of the day, though, since the cold really was bogging me down minute by minute. A day spent snuggled in bed with my dog was what the rainy day called for. When I woke up, I decided it was time to get cracking on some resolutions, some goals and some writing. I opened a fresh journal and from the comfort of my own bed, re-visited the warmer, sunny weather, the mountains and foothills of Valley Forge, and of course, the laughter and stories from yesterday. Now we all know that writing down goals makes them more tangible and so, I did it. I wrote them down. In addition to the three I've already mentioned, I also have #3 write more often, #4 deepen my prayer life and #6 do something (anything) big and life-changing. It's day three of the new year and I can say that I'm well on my way with #1, 2, 3, and 5. As for 4 and 6, well maybe it's because I'm not the only one involved that I'm off to a slow start of accomplishment. But hey, 4 out of 6 ain't bad.
     I never was one for resolutions but as I get older, I find, there's always a reason to do better, to do more. And I found that if I make one big resolution, I can find little ways to make it happen. So my umbrella resolution, whether or not I maintain 1-6, is to be more mindful of the beauty around me - the beauty of God, of others and of self. Beauty is my word of reflection this year and I pray that I'll be able to be more open to finding beauty, even in the debbie downer moments. I hope and pray and that I'll be able to look at the new life after death and not focus on the death. And I pray that 2017 really becomes the beautiful year I am expecting of it.
     People often say, "New Year, New Me." But I've learned in recent years to be true to the authentic me. Of course, in order to be authentically true to myself, I need to find out who I am. And I've accomplished that - I am so self-aware these days. And besides, I like who that person is when she is authentic (note: not when I'm grumpy or not being truly me). So why, new year, new me? Instead, I'm choosing to say, "New Year, New Perspective." And that perspective will be putting on glasses that show all things as beautiful. Call them rose-colored, if you must. But for me and my year, they will show beauty. Please know of my prayers for you as you start out your new year. May you, too, find reason to see beauty instead of darkness. Peace.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Important to Satan

"When you is precious to God, you become very important to Satan."
- Ron Hall, "Same Kind of Different as Me"

      I haven't written in a while. Today, I am writing to begin my rebellion. It's not going to be easy, clean or fun. But I am rebelling. I'm rebelling against society, negativity and self-doubt. I am putting on armor and volunteering as tribute. I am rebelling against Satan himself - because you know what? He's getting on my nerves. 

      I tell my students often: "Be the woman, to whom, when she wakes up, Satan says, 'o crap, she's up.'" In the past few weeks and maybe even the past few months, I haven't been listening to my own advice. Instead of placing my feet on the ground in the morning and challenging Satan to battle each day, I've let him win too many times. In fact, I haven't even put up a fight some days. And as a result, I've become my own worst enemy. So yesterday, I decided I'm putting an end to Satan's winning streak. Like I say to my students, "Bro has GOT TO GO." 
      If you follow me on Facebook, you may have read my most recent Facebook status. Or you may have received a text from me or a phone call. I simply asked for your prayers. I asked for a few seconds of your day and a prayer in my intention. This came as a result of me realizing that I couldn't do it on my own anymore. I couldn't keep fighting Satan without back-up. If I continued, I would have lost miserably. But I asked for you to follow me into battle. I asked for you to prayer. And if Satan thought for a second he could win after that, then he was poorly mistaken. Yesterday, because of all my prayer warriors, Satan lost. And today - he lost again. 

       Many young people do not believe in Satan anymore. Or if they do believe in Satan, they do not accredit him with the "bad things." I know this because I teach a lot of young people. But I can also tell you that a lot of older people do not believe in Satan. I have heard many people accredit God with the bad things in life. How many people ask the question: "why does God let bad things happen?" Well the truth is, it's a two fold answer. God doesn't let bad things happen - rather he allows people to utilize/abuse the gift of free will. And if we let Him, God can make right with the wrongs. This is an uncommon belief, but I believe it. 
       And I believe that those who are most precious to God, the ones who speak to God the most, the ones who trust Him greatly, are the ones Satan puts at the top of his list. Because honestly - who is the biggest threat to Satan? Those who have completely entrusted their lives to God, those who live out His will, serve others in His name, and those who are not afraid to show their faith. It's those who go to Mass on Sunday and serve Him all week long in between Sundays. It's those who put on the armor of Christ and battle the war on Satan with their weapons of prayer. 
       I am a young person. I am a young person who vibrantly lives out her Catholic faith by being a Catechist, participating in the Mass as an Eucharistic Minister or Lector, running youth group, bible studies and praying like my life depends on it - because my young life does depend on it. So it's no wonder I'm top on Satan's list. If he destroys me, he gets to a lot of others. And you know what - it's flattering really. I know that God chooses the strong ones to put at the front of the battle line. And I know that's where I was this week. 

       So what does an attack by Satan look or feel like. Well, let me just give you a small view. It looks like the pictures of all my friends who go to the gym. Of course I'm happy for them. But it's the follow-up thought: you're fat. Thanks, Satan. I appreciate that. Or it looks like the green monster of jealousy when I see young people my age seemingly figuring out their lives - whether it's going to grad school, getting engaged or raising a family. It's the follow-up thought: what will you ever amount to? If you're the same age and you haven't accomplished any of what they have. It's the fears of feeling inadequate. It's the tears that follow each lie I'm given by Satan and I start believing him. 

      And maybe many won't agree with me. But I know that I've been victimized by Satan recently. I am sure of it. Because if I start praying for strength - Satan tells me God won't listen. But I know that it is the oldest lie in the book. My God DOES listen to me. And I know He listens to my friends and family members. I know God listens. I know He does because I received unexpected hugs today from colleagues, I received texts of support from those I haven't heard from, and I received promises of prayer. I received an army of angels surrounding me with armor. I know I'm not in this battle alone. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Delicate Beauty

"There is nothing more beautiful
than a person who goes out of her way
to make another life beautiful."
- Mandy Hale


      Look at this woman. She is beautiful. She has salt and pepper hair, a bright smile, and warm arms to hug you. She has laughter lines galore. But best of all, she has gentle eyes. Her gentle eyes look right into your soul and know, instantly, that which you are thinking. Her hands are soft and always willing to hold mine. Her arm is always ready to be linked with mine. Her soul is innocent and shines bright through her. She speaks only kind words. And she loves without judgement. Look at this woman. She is beautiful.

      I was blessed beyond compare to visit with my dear sister the other night. I hadn't seen her in a year, although it feels like it wasn't too long ago. She texts, calls and writes often making sure that I always know she is thinking of me. And as often as possible, I do the same. She had been visiting with her family but made sure to free a few hours for me, too. I picked her up, we stopped for some ice cream, sat for a while and then went for a walk in one of the places we used to frequent often when I was in high school. It was great simply being in her presence spending one on one time with her.
      When it was time to leave, she made sure to take my picture while I was sitting on the couch in the parlor of the convent. And after she took my picture, I took a selfie with her. She made me promise to send her a copy and soon it will be on its way in the mail. I couldn't help but pray, dear God, let this not be the last time I see her. I always pray that now. With so many people I love. I've learned to take each moment as if it might be the last. She hugged me tightly at the door, apologizing for forgetting her key which didn't allow her to walk me to the car. I told her to be safe on her flight home the next day, squeezed her tight and told her I loved her. She let go a bit of our embrace, looked me in the eye with her gentle ones, and said, "I love you very very much, you know that." Before I could cry, I turned for the door, got in my car and checked the rear-view mirror to see her waiting for me to drive away. I smiled. She was always watching out for me.
     When I got home, I wanted to find the right words to post with our picture. It really was a great picture - one I will cherish forever. I found the above quotation and thought that nothing described her more perfectly. I've always thought that she was one of the most beautiful people I know. I remember being in high school, accidentally finding her senior picture in the yearbook, giggling a little because I now was privy to her baptismal name, and realizing that she was one of the most beautiful girls in her class. I told her that a day or two after I found her picture and she just smiled.
     In high school, she was a mystery to me. I had known religious sisters before, but she was different. Maybe it was the fact that she was the first sister I had as a teacher. Maybe it was her gentleness. Maybe it was the fact that she sang to us in class all the time (Lord, you are more precious than silver, more precious than gold). Or maybe it was because she opened my heart and soul to a whole new religious community. Whatever it was, she was a mystery to me.
      She was the first sister I ever told about thinking about religious life. I told her in a letter and that has become something near and dear to us - letter writing. From then on, she took me under her wing. Sometimes, quite literally. I'm sure in the ten years that I have known her, things about me have changed. But she always tells me I've always been special to her. I'm glad that hasn't changed.
      I remember visiting Chapel after school as often as I could. Back when I went to Naz, the sisters still lived in the convent so they used the big Chapel for their own prayer. I had this thing where I would take my shoes off at the doors of chapel and walk in my socks to my pew. She knew where I kept my shoes and would always know if I was in Chapel simply by checking for my shoes. On Fridays, sometimes we cleaned Chapel together or watered the plants or prayed together. We would sometimes go for walks around the high school campus to pray the Rosary or faith share. In my high school eyes, she was amazing.
       Now, six years after I had graduated high school, I was looking at this picture of us, wondering want to say. In my young adult eyes, she is still amazing. But it's an amazingness that I can't quite define. All I know is that while she may be physically beautiful, she is even more beautiful in heart and soul. She makes my life beautiful by her presence. She makes my life beautiful by her ability to make me feel like the only person in the world that matters when we're sharing stories together. She makes my life beautiful when she holds my hand or wraps her arm around me in Chapel and we pray together. She makes my life beautiful with every card, note or text. And the best part is that she does it for so many people, not just me. I hope that I can make at least one person feel as special as she makes me feel.

      Look at this woman. She is beautiful. She lights up the room with her gentle compassion. She speaks only kind words of others. She loves with judgement. She holds so many dear to her heart. She prays so deeply and fervently. She believes the best in others. She makes each person she's with feel like the moon and all the stars. She holds on tightly when you hug her. She carries you in prayer. She listens to your heart. She wipes away your tears. She holds your heart in her gentle hands and protects it with all she can. Look at this woman. She is beautiful and I just want her to know that I think so. And I am so blessed to know her. Thank you, God.