29 May 2011

Missionary: Day 1


This morning, I began my long trek to FOCUS New Staff Training in Champaign, Illinois. It started with an early morning wake up at 4:30 followed by loading bags into the car and heading to Love Field (Dallas's lesser known airport) to catch a flight. My big bag weighed too much so I had to move 7 pounds into my smaller one. No big deal :)
I flew to St. Louis on an extremely crowded flight, and then took another crowded flight to Midway. The good thing about crowded flights is that you can talk to the people next to you, and they have no where to go! On the second flight I sat next to a gentleman who teaches high school in St. Louis. I told him about FOCUS and about Auburn, and he went to Mizzou, so we talked a lot about football. When he asked where I was originally from, he recognized Southlake as being the hometown of former Mizzou QB, Chase Daniel. More football talk, etc., made for an interesting flight.
Then, at Midway, I met the lovely Ginny Jost for what would become the meat of our adventure. We dragged our baggage (literally hundreds of pounds between the two of us) to the 'L'(Chicago's "subway" named due to it's elevation above street level). We asked a few people for directions to Union Station, and got different answers from everyone, so we took the simplest route, given to us by a very nice man who worked at the subway station. We took the wrong elevator and ended up on the wrong side of the tracks, so we had to backtrack. We rushed to get on because we thought the doors would close on us, but they didn't, and we sat there staring at the open doors for about 15 minutes after we ran through them. We rode the L into the city and got of at Quincy, as we were instructed. The whole ride I seriously thought we were going to get robbed because we are two girls with 8 bags between us who look/act like we obviously don't belong. Thankfully, the people of Chicago had mercy on us and were very kind.
We got off the train and had to get all 8 of our bags down two flights of stairs. This is where it got interesting. We decided to leave our bags at the top and each take one down at a time. That was the plan until Ginny knocked down the bags and they came hurling down the stairs at me. I would have escaped, except I was trapped between this round door thing... it's hard to explain. Anyways, once we made it to the street, we had to walk 4(+) blocks to Union Station with all of our bags. Once we got there, we got our tickets to ride the train to Champaign which didn't leave until 4:05, so we killed a few hours sitting in a bar at Union Station. People kept saying it was hot in there, but we were freezing. It was only 57 degrees in Chicago today.
Once we got on the train (affectionally known (by us) as the Hogwarts Express), we narrowly avoided a disaster. There was a man wearing a football hat with orange and blue on it, and we had an ALMOST War Eagle Moment until we realized that it was an Illinois hat. War Eagle Moment disaster: avoided. Then our lack of sleep kicked in and we started laughing... and couldn't stop. Then we passed out for two hours.
When we arrived in Champaign, CeeCee picked us up and took us to the Newman Center. We ate dinner and got our room assignments and filled out paperwork etc. Then we prayed holy hour with everyone and it was AWESOME! It is so incredible to see how many people are dedicating their time to serving our Lord by spreading the Gospel to college students. I am so blessed! After hh, a lot of people went out, and Ginny and I (along with Brea and Ceec) decided to unpack instead. My FOMO (fear of missing out) almost made me go swing dancing with everyone, but my body said no... I did just haul 100+ pounds of baggage around the country. We got all unpacked, and now we're just waiting for Caralyn to get here tomorrow!

I'm sure that each day of the next five weeks will not be as hectic, and I promise not to give you minute by minute details about the happenings of Summer Training, I just thought you wouldn't want to miss out on the ridiculosity of this day! I am so happy to be here, I can't believe this is a reality, and needless to say, Ginny and I will not be doing arm workouts anytime soon.

Saint Christopher, pray for us!

22 May 2011

You Can't Choose Your Family...

... and thank God for that!!!

Today I got to spend time with both sides of my family. Not everyone was present, but a good time was had by all. First my mom and I drove down to Waco (~ two hours) for my cousin Samantha's graduation party. Sam went to five schools in five years, and changed her major a few times too, but all is well that ends well, because now she has a degree in business administration from Tarleton State (I think....). Congrats to her! Most of my mom's dad's side of the family (my mom's parents were divorced when she was young, both of her parents remarried, it's a long story... my grandmother says we put the "fun" in dysfunctional) was there, including three aunts, two uncles, and four cousins.

After we ate dinner, we drove home from Waco and I drove to Plano (~45 minutes) for my grandmother's (my dad's mom's) 70th birthday. When I got to the party around nine (three hours after it started... not so fashionably late), there were still a ton of people there. (My family LOVES throwing parties.... when I left around midnight, there were still many people there, and I'm sure they will be there for a few more hours). I got to hang out with ALL of my first cousins on my dad's side (my siblings were dearly missed... I love them, a lot) and quite a few extended family members, friends of the family, and of course the occasional "I have no idea who this is but they seem to know me so smile and hug them" person. Today is also my cousin Richie's thirteenth birthday. He is the youngest cousin on that side and it is so hard to believe that he is a teenager!

If I could have chosen my family, chances are that I would not have picked the family members that I have. We're all so different, but that's what makes us awesome. When I am around my family, there is nothing less than 100% reality, there is no one to impress, no point in being anyone but yourself, because they have to love you (and they already know all of your mistakes anyways!)

Tonight as I was driving home I thought, "maybe I should join a convent so that I can pray for my family all day everyday (because trust me, keeping up with them would be a full time job)." I'm fairly certain this is not the best reason to "discern" a religious vocation (haha), but I want to make a better effort to pray for the needs of my family. (It would also be really awesome to have a priest in the family!) Once I asked my sister what we were going to do when we had to bring boys home to meet the entire family and she said "I don't know, they'll leave us!" My future husband (if I'm called to marriage) is going to have his work cut out for him (if he sticks around after meeting everyone!) We really are dysfunctional, and scandy to the max.. but the Lord knows that and of course my future husband will be able to handle it...  he'll probably fit right in.

Saint Eugene de Mazenod, Patron of Dysfunctional Families (not kidding, you can't make this stuff up!), pray for us!

19 May 2011

Humility, Detachment, and Other Virtues

This week, I finished reading Conversations with Christ, by Peter Thomas Rohrbach. This book is about Saint Teresa of Avila's method of meditation and contemplation. Admittedly, Saint Teresa and I have had our differences. (It sounds strange to have differences with a Saint, but I think that just as different people on earth react differently to one another, even holy men and women in Heaven can connect better with some people than others) I read about half of The Way of Perfection before I was so mad that I had to stop reading. I suppose I wasn't spiritually predisposed to read this book. As I was reading, I felt like none of the topics pertained to my state of life and I was upset by just how detached Saint Teresa's writings are. I think if I read it now, I would feel differently... I hope. Anyways, before I read this book, I asked Saint Teresa to pray for me so that I could learn to love her better and understand her point of view, and the Lord has heard her prayers!

Unsurprisingly, Saint Teresa writes about detachment as a hindrance to meditation. Fortunately, the way she describes detachment is very relatable to me. 

Rohrbach (who is summarizing Saint Teresa's writings) writes:
"The principal hindrances to our love for Christ are two- external objects, to which we donate some of the affection due to Christ; and our own selves (self-love), to which we assign a greater or lesser amount of our interest and concern. We can combat the first source of misplaced love- exterior objects- though mortification, and the second source- self-love- through humility of heart." He goes on to write, "Mortification expresses the procedure of killing those affections which hinder our love for Christ."

Reading this, I remembered a homily given by Father Jim Morrison several months ago about giving up what is good to get what is better. When we give things up, we do it because these things are good. When priests and unmarried people remain celibate, they are not doing it because sex is bad. Rather, sex is so good, that offering it up to the Lord can yield much fruit. When I gave up Dr. Pepper for Lent, it wasn't because there is something inherently bad about cokes, but because my offering to God was worth more. If it were easy for Christ to die on the Cross, what sacrifice would it have been?

Luke 6:13 says "No man can serve two masters." Rohrbach comments, "The more we try to divide our love, the less capable we will be of loving any one thing perfectly.... Mortification and love go hand-in-hand; they increase simultaneously and reciprocally... Our exercise of mortification... should be generous and constant." Saint Teresa, in The Way of Perfection, writes, "Prayer can not be accompanied by self-indulgence."

Rohrbach defines humility as "a virtue which gives us a realistic understanding of our position in the universe through an evaluation of our inherent poverty." He writes, "... Humility strikes a lethal blow at self-love by disengaging us from our native fascination with our own excellence. Pride tends to focus one's affective powers inward upon himself; humility creates a dissatisfaction with self and turns the soul's love outward upon God... Humility is truth."

"I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Without Christ, we can do nothing. The only thing we ourselves are capable of is sin. Rohrbach writes, "This appreciation of our utter dependence upon God represents the first of two mental attitudes necessary for humility; the second attitude consists in a recognition of our inferiority in relation to our fellow-men." (Recall Saint Paul's words in Phil 2:3, "In humility, let each esteem others better than themselves.") He goes on, "Saint Thomas Aquinas (in Summa Theologica).. maintains that we may distinguish two separate elements in a human being- that which is of God, and that which we have of ourselves (namely, sin.) By comparing that which we have of ourselves (sin) with that which is from God in others (all their qualities, save sin), we may justly conclude that we are inferior to each person in the world. This habitual attitude of judging ourselves inferior in relation to God and our fellow-men will engender in us the virtue of humility." (Emphasis added)

I am learning to recognize God working in each of His people and to see the good in them. I also must realize that I can do no good, and the only good in me is from God, to whom I owe all praise and adoration. 

Saint Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

18 May 2011

Faith, Hope and Charity

Since I have been home, the Lord has been hard at work trying to prepare me for New Staff Training (in less than two weeks!) I got to hang out with Rob Muzyka (who is AWESOME!!!) and I've been motivated to pray holy hour everyday! (Praise God!!) I have also been learning to love people better. This has been something I have struggled with off and on for a while, and I am so thankful to be making some baby steps toward progress. 

I've been thinking also about the different sides of my personality. Each of us wants to believe that we are the same person all the time, but I am fairly certain that we are kidding ourselves. I think it is human nature to behave differently in different circumstances and around different people. (What do you think?)  Because of this, I have been trying to reconcile the different sides of myself. When I am home, I become a little less mature and slightly more absurd. (My roommates would find this hard to believe!) One of the best things about who I am at home is that I love better and I am less judgmental. In Auburn, I am scandalized by a lot of things that seem so trivial when I come home. When I am here, I can see the good things people do and forgive their faults much easier. I hope to bring this attitude back to Auburn when I return in August.

In today's Gospel, Jesus says "If anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47) Jesus loves us beyond our sins, and I pray that I can learn to love more and more. I also pray that I can be not afraid to leave the ninety-nine to go after those who have wandered far from the Truth.

On Monday, the meditation in the Magnificat was a poem by Charles Peguy, a French poet. I'm not usually a fan of poetry... or the French (haha) but I like this poem.

The Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep

And so that this lost sheep causes so much joy for the shepherd,
For the good shepherd,
That he would leave in the desert, in deserto, in a forsaken place,
The ninety-nine sheep that were not lost.
In what, what then is this mystery,
What does this one have that makes him worth ninety-nine...

Let's use the word unbeliever, you have to admit it, there's no reason to be afraid of the word.
Here is an unbeliever who's worth more than a hundred, more than ninety-nine believers.
What is this mystery.
What is this extraordinary virtue of repentance.
That surpasses a hundred times faithfulness itself...

And it's this one, and no other, it's this sheep, it's this sinner, it's this penitent, it's this soul
That God, that Jesus carries on his shoulders, abandoning the others...

So this sheep was lost, so this sheep was dead,
So this soul was dead and from his own death he is risen from the dead.

He caused the very heart of God to tremble
With the shudder of worry and with the shudder of hope
With the shudder of anxiety.
A mortal anxiety.
And so, and thus, and also
With that which is tied to worry, to fear, to anxiety.
With that which follows worry, fear, anxiety.
With that which walks alongside them, with that which is tied to worry, to fear, to anxiety. 
With an indelible bond, with an unbreakable bond,
With a temporal, eternal, and unbreakable tie
He caused God's heart to tremble
With the very shudder of hope.

Saint John of the Cross, pray for us!

13 May 2011

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

As I have previously mentioned, I strongly dislike change.

My mom said that I've been bad at goodbyes ever since I was little. Apparently, when it was time to leave grandpa's house, I would run away so that I didn't have to kiss him goodbye, and he'd have to come find me and force me to say bye to him before my mom dragged me away crying.

This week has been crazy. Two of my roommates (and a few other friends) graduated from Auburn! (Congratulations!) Their graduation party was a blast from the past with big names like Jenn and Philip (and their little one, Joseph!), Helen HunterRoss, and CeeCee making appearances. We are so blessed!

Yesterday, I said goodbye to Auburn and made the long trek back to Southlake. I cried most of the way to Meridian, Mississippi. I know I'll be back in Auburn in August, and that the summer will surely fly by, but it was still really difficult to leave. When I return in the fall, things will be different. I'll be a FOCUS Missionary!

I got my new FOCUS email address and I can not believe this is really happening! The Lord is allowing me to serve Him through FOCUS and I could not be more excited. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to give up everything that I am in order to follow Christ and allow Him to work in me and through me.

Last night, I was privileged to have a stimulating conversation with a dear friend of the family, Melba, about FOCUS' role in the New Evangelization. We discussed the need for the re-evangelization of our culture and the way that current college students will impact the world. Praise God! I pray for the opportunity to have many more conversations like this one in the next two years.

Being in Southlake for the summer will be difficult in many ways. I do not have people here who will hold me accountable to daily Mass and holy hours. When I'm going to pray for myself, I have a hard time finding motivation, but if you send me your prayer requests (through comments, email or text messages), I will feel obliged to go pray for you, which will be really great, and you can pray for me as well!

Does anyone know if there is a patron saint for making lists?

Saint Anne, grandmother of Jesus, pray for us!

08 May 2011

The Vocation of Women

This weekend has been difficult. I am torn. I am extremely upset about leaving Allison and Caralyn and Kelley and our cozy little apartment, knowing that when I do make my way back to Auburn in the fall, things will not be the same... (I hate change.) I am excited to go home and spend time with my mom (more on that later.)

As I lay in my bed for the last time until August, I should be thankful for this opportunity become more detached from earthly things. As of now, my room is NOT my room anymore. I have moved all of my things out so that my summer sub-leaser can move in, and I feel so weird. For anyone who has ever slept in my bed, you know how ridiculously comfortable it is. I am sad about leaving it for three months. I also just really love my room here... a lot. Detachment is hard for me, especially right now. I am going to miss everyone in Auburn SO much this summer and it is not easy to come to terms with my impending graduation in December.

On the other hand, I finally get to go home to my mommy! I haven't seen her since January, and I can't wait to spend the summer (minus the month of June) with her! God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave her to me to be my mom. She embodies sacrificial love and God was made real to me through her. She taught me to seek Him, and she loves me more than anyone ever could. I hope that (if God blesses me with children) I can love my children as much as she loves me, and that I can lay down my life for them as she has for me.

While I'm on the subject of mothers, I have been attempting to increase my devotion to the Most Holy and Perfect Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary has been hard at work praying for me and my family, and I can see her prayers coming to fruition in real ways. God answers the prayers of His Mother! This month of May is dedicated to Our Lady, and in this Easter season, hope and joy abound!

In Blessed John Paul II's apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women, 15 August 1988), he writes:

"Motherhood has been introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race through the motherhood of the Mother of God...

Does not Jesus bear witness to this reality when he answers the exclamation of that woman in the crowd who blessed him for Mary's motherhood: "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!"? Jesus replies: "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Lk 11:27-28). Jesus confirms the meaning of motherhood in reference to the body, but at the same time he indicates an even deeper meaning, which is connected with the order of the spirit: it is a sign of the Covenant with God who "is spirit" (Jn 4:24). This is true above all for the motherhood of the Mother of God. The motherhood of every woman, understood in the light of the Gospel, is similarly not only "of flesh and blood": it expresses a profound "listening to the word of the living God" and a readiness to "safeguard" this Word, which is "the word of eternal life' (cf. Jn 6:68). For it is precisely those born of earthly mothers, the sons and daughters of the human race, who receive from the Son of God the power to become "children of God" (Jn 1:12). A dimension of the New Covenant in Christ's blood enters into human parenthood, making it a reality and a task for "new creatures" (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). The history of every human being passes through the threshold of a woman's motherhood; crossing it conditions "the revelation of the children of God" (cf. Rom 8:19)." (Emphasis added)

God calls every woman to be a mother in some way. Selfless love is the fulfillment of our vocation as women, so Happy Mother's Day to ALL Mothers, both spiritual and physical.

Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Intercessor for all Mothers, pray for us, now and at our  hour of death.

05 May 2011

When Senses Fail...

Well, I did it. I made a blog. More accurately, my lovely roomlette, Allison, made it for me. (I'm not very technologically savvy, but I hope to redeem myself in the fall when I take COMP 1000).

I've been thinking about what I would write for the past few days, and even so, I find myself at a loss for words (shocking, isn't it?). I suppose I should start with the purpose for this blog's creation. As most of you know, I will soon depart from my beloved Auburn for the summer. I will be sad to leave my little apartment in the Loveliest Village on the Plains, but the Lord has called me home to Texas for the better part of the next three months. It will be great to be home, to catch up with old friends (who I, admittedly, am very bad at keeping up with), to spend time with my mom and family, and to try my best to be virtuous while away from the community that helped me to become closer to the woman God has created me to be. I want to do a better job of staying in touch with loved ones and to leave behind my "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, and this blog's purpose is to achieve that goal. I want to be a part of all of your lives, and I want you to be a part of mine as well. I also love to write letters, so if you're a letter writer, send me your address and we can communicate via "snail mail." (My apologies to Ross and CeeCee, to whom I owe long overdue letters at the moment.)

Sensuum Defectui is Latin for "when senses fail." Latin is a beautiful language that expresses sentiments that are often difficult to translate into English. I do not know it well, but I have loved to sing it since my middle school choir first performed a version of "Agnus Dei" when I was in the eighth grade. Since I've been in college, I have fallen in love with "Pange Lingua Gloriosi." The lyrics were written by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. The last two verses make up the well known Benediction hymn, "Tantum Ergo," which is typically sung as the Blessed Sacrament is reposed after Adoration. The Latin is beautiful, and when I listen to it in English, I prefer Matt Maher's version, called Adoration. This translation is slightly different from the one commonly used, but I relate best to it.

Down in adoration falling,
This great Sacrament, we hail;
Over ancient forms departing,
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son who reigns on high,
With the Spirit, blest, proceeding,
Forth from each eternally;
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.

My senses (sight, touch, sound, taste, and hearing, as well as perceptions, emotions, intellect, first impressions, et cetera) fail so often. In a recent placement questionnaire I had to take for FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) I had to write about my favorite saint. What a difficult question! There are so many holy men and women to choose from, and I am so different from most of them.

I thought back to a talk that I listened to called Second Chances, which was originally given at FOCUS Conference 2010 in Orlando. Jim Jansen (Team Director for FOCUS at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) talked about Saint Peter's life, and how he (like me) was often in need of a second chance. Jesus called Peter, an uneducated fisherman, to abandon everything follow Him. Jesus said to him, "You are Peter, the rock upon which I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) All Peter had to do was to get out of his own way, and Christ would work through him to shepherd the Church, and Peter failed so frequently!
Every time Peter did something well, his accomplishments were followed by a sin of pride, and consequently, a rebuke from Jesus. If you will remember, when Peter walked on water, he took his eyes off of Christ, failed to trust and began to sink, at which point Jesus was quick to his rescue. (This is also why I chose the image above.) Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to sift through him like wheat, and ultimately, doesn't Satan want to do that to each of us? Satan's ultimate goal is death for every soul, but Christ "... came so that man might have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) If I can learn to get out of my own way, Christ can work through me for the sake of His Kingdom, just like He worked through Saint Peter.

I will most likely write more about the commonalities I share with Saint Peter, but it is late and I have a Financial Markets and Institutions final in seven hours. Thank you for being patient with me as I strive to develop my blog's "voice" and to learn the ropes of blogging (and for forgiving my obnoxious parenthetical usage). I promise all posts will not be this lengthy... I guess I wasn't at a loss for words after all.

Saint Peter, Pray for us!