Reflecting on Service (1)

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Driving through the mist covered mountains each morning brought me joy. This simple pleasure was a surprise to me, and I looked forward to it every morning. To be honest with you, I didn’t expect to find God in the little things on this Mission. I was expecting a great revelation to occur; I was expecting a great sign from Him. I was expecting an answer. Instead, I was consumed by moments of Joy that were brought about through small actions of great love.

Our week was filled with laughter, and productive work. But on our last day at the worksite, I had the pleasure of being paired with a Nurses Aid who worked for CAP full time. We talked about her life, her daughter, her job, and ultimately about faith. The first thing she asked me was whether or not I was Catholic. I was taken by surprise, and wasn’t sure if she was going to react positively or negatively to my Yes. Just the night before, the CAP volunteers had been told about Father Beiting and the struggles he endured as a Catholic priest in Southern Appalachia. And so I responded, and she exclaimed, “I find y’all fascinating!”

And in this moment, I encountered true Joy.

I later found out that my new friend was a Baptist, but had a great love for Mother Teresa and Father Beiting. We talked about how she wanted to be Nun when she was a small child, and how later on in life she found Mother Teresa’s books. She loves to read. This was yet another way that we connected. We talked about how religious sisters exude Joy, and how you can tell that they love God with all of their hearts. She told me that loving God is so important, and that’s all that matters. We were able to have a real conversation about things that mattered to both of us. We were able to share in God’s great Love.

There’s a famous quote by Mother Teresa that keeps coming up for me in prayer, “Do small things with great Love.” I think we’ve all heard it before. Mother Teresa was known for her way of loving others like Christ, and I think this quote sums up my Mission experience in a neat little package. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39). This golden rule is something that CAP tries to live out each day. I’m grateful for that. Finding Joy in the little aspects of the day allowed me to see God in greater ways. Although I didn’t have a great revelation about my life, I was reminded of how important loving one another is. And love doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It can be small, and it can do great things.

This post originally appeared on the Hofstra Catholic Life Blog in April of 2015. 

Mary

That time we toured the North East (and the midwest)

Over the past few weeks I have been in the Hudson Valley, Long Island, Boston, New York City, the Hudson Valley again, Pittsburgh, Steubenville, and then finally back home in the Hudson Valley. It’s been a bit crazy, so I’m going to recap in the pictures below.:)

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One Wednesday afternoon, Val and I left our away retreat on LI for Boston, MA. To save gas, mileage, and our sanity we took the ferry out of Orient Point. I absolutely loved it, and would totally do it again. It was beautiful.

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The reason for going to Boston was for an accepted students day (that we both went to) and we were able to go to Mass and tour around Boston. It was nice to see where I’ll be living for the next two years.

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Here I am, in Downtown Boston by the Harbour. And below, by the sign for my program.

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After finishing the accepted students program, we headed back to New York for a family retreat in the city. It was totally worth it because the friary had a cat named Bella. This literally made my week. I miss having pets around.

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At youth group that weekend, we played some silly games (that were really about Easter) and talked about the Resurrection.

The following Tuesday, Sam, Fr. Tomas, and I drove west and spent the night in Pittsburgh. Here we had dinner with Sam’s family and saw the city.

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I don’t have any pictures from Steubenville (we were there for a career fair) but when we returned I went to a poetry reading with Fr. Bob.

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Then it was National Siblings Day, and my sister posted a picture.

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And finally we were rewarded with a Mets game (courtesy of Mary Ellen) and we ran into so many people, including Chris!:)

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The today we had a great day retreat.

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It’s been a crazy few weeks– but I don’t think I’ve ever been to so many places in so little time.

Mary

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

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Growing up, this was an image that I was very familiar with. I don’t know if I necessarily understood that there was a difference between other images of Our Lady and Jesus and this one, but I knew this image. My home parish is named for this icon, and there is one present in the side chapel of the church.

As I was preparing for my first holy communion, one of the things that we did in preparation was a class tour of the church. I remember walking into the church on that saturday morning, and it being dark. I had never been in the church without its lights on. There was something peaceful about that. I remember being aware of that, even at seven years old. A sacristan gave our little class a tour of the church, but the only part of that tour that I have a memory of, is the explanation of the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. At seven years old, the part of that explanation that I took away, was that Jesus was frightened of his passion, and he ran into the arms of his mother.

This was something that stuck with me as a child. That Our Lady was our Mother too. Jesus ran to her when he was frightened, and we could too. I can remember, whenever I did pray, praying a Hail Mary instead of a Glory Be or an Our Father. I knew all three prayers, but I always gravitated towards Marian prayer.

As I was preparing for Confirmation, I fell in love with Youth Ministry. And somewhere along the way, I thought that carrying prayer cards would help me to pray. At 12 my purse looked like it belonged to an elderly church lady. After getting a few odd looks and questions, I decided to pair it down to just one card. Can you guess what that card was?

Our Lady of Perpetual help.

The Catholic Company has a beautiful explanation of what this icon means:

The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help represents the Christian mystery of Redemption.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a Byzantine icon that is believed to have its origin sometime during the 13th -15th century.  The image is also known as “Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.” The icon is known for being miraculous; over the centuries countless healings and special graces have been attributed to it, so much so that the image has been honored and venerated by many Popes.

The miraculous icon is painted on wood and measures about 20″ in height (54 x 41.5 centimeters) and depicts the Virgin Mary, under the title “Mother of God,” holding the Child Jesus.

The Archangels Michael and Gabriel, hovering in the upper corners, hold the instruments of the Passion. St. Michael (in the left corner) holds the spear, the wine-soaked sponge, and the crown of thorns. St. Gabriel (in the right corner) holds the cross and the nails.

The intent of the artist was to portray the Child Jesus contemplating the vision of His future Passion.  Frightened by the vision, he runs to his mother for consolation. The anguish He feels is shown by the loss of one of His sandals as he quickly flees into the arms of his Mother.

Despite a forboding vision of suffering, the icon also conveys the triumph of Christ over sin and death, symbolized by the golden background as a sign of the glory of the resurrection. The royal crowns on the heads of Jesus and Mary also symbolize their triumph as the King of Kings with his Queen Mother.

In a very beautiful way, the Child Jesus grasps the hand of the Blessed Mother.  He seeks comfort from His mother as He sees the instruments of His passion.  The position of Mary’s hands – both holding the Child Jesus (who seems like a small adult) and at the same time presenting Him to us – convey the reality of our Lord’s incarnation, that He is true God who became also true man.

What Our Lady of Perpetual Help Means for Us

Just as the Child Jesus fled into the arms of his Mother when he was frightened, so too do we flee into the arms of our Blessed Mother with child-like confidence whenever fear envelopes our hearts. Just as the Virgin Mother consoled and comforted her Divine Child, so too does she console and comfort us, her spiritual children, in our afflictions. We can always come to her in our time of need and receive her help.

In this iconography, Mary is represented as the one who guides us to the Redeemer. The Virgin Mother is also our Help who intercedes with her Son on our behalf.  The star painted on Mary’s veil, centered on her forehead, highlights her role in the plan of salvation as both the Mother of God and our Mother.

To this day, the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome displays the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. They are the guardians and promoters of the holy icon, the only religious order entrusted with the task of doing so with a venerated image of Our Lady.  You can view a live image of the real Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon here.

As I got older and learned more about the actual image of OLPH, I began to listen to how Our Lady had interceded in the lives of those around me. I can remember some of the older teens in youth group talking about how OLPH followed them around. Then my youth minister mentioned how she did the same for him.

I thought that this was pretty cool. And so, the following February I had the opportunity to travel to Dublin and Paris.

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It’s a little blurry, and not actually Our Lady of Perpetual Help, but when I saw this image in Notre Dame I felt as though Our Lady was looking out for me, praying for me, and reminding me to look to her son.

About six months later I was on pilgrimage in Madrid with my parish, and this is what I saw:

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At this point, I understood that this image was actually Our Lady of Perpetual Help and not just an image of Our Lady. I knew that I had a friend in heaven advocating for me.

Over the next few years I grew in my love for the Lord and for my parish, and really began to understand the point of intercessory prayer.

Over the past few years, I would joke that OLPH follows me around a little bit. She lets me know that she is praying for me, etc etc. However, this year, she has taken it to a whole new level.

As many of you know, I took a big step this year and did a year of service. And as a result, I moved to the Hudson Valley. Within the first few months of my year as a CCV, OLPH came around quite a few times, reminding me to pray, and that I was doing the right thing.

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The image above can be found in the Parish that I do Youth Group in.

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These two images were found at Graymoor.

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This image was in my room at a convent that we stayed in for a retreat in the Bronx.

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This image was in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Pelham, NY.

However, when we visited Boston back in December, it was a little bit overwhelming with the amount of times OLPH showed up…

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This image was in the School of Theology and Ministry’s chapel in Boston.

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This image was in the room I stayed in during my time in the Boston Friary.

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The two images above were in the Parish where the CCVs did a retreat in Boston.

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This was outside of the Providence College Chapel.

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Finally this was on the cover of a book at the center.

It was here that I began to refer OLPH as my “Saintly Stalker” because she showed up everywhere I went. I’ve had some fun joking about OLPH being my stalker. However, she is a true reminder for me that I am loved by Our Lord, and that she is a great intercessor for me.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

 

Images for Easter

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As some of you know, I run the Cap Corps Volunteer blog. One of my favorite parts of that job is that I have the chance to make fun images for the blog and for social media. I personally like to use a website called Canva. This website is free to use, with the exception of some of the designs. But to be honest, you can get by just fine with using the free layouts and features. All of the images above were made using free tools.

I found Canva through some Pinterest research last year. I’ve also heard good things about an app called Word Swag. I haven’t used it yet, but once I do, I’ll let you know how I like it.:)

The three images above were created for the first three weeks of Easter. The John Paul II quote is up on the Cap Corps blog tomorrow for our post on Easter. The Divine Mercy image will go up next week for Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Acts of the Apostles image will go up the third week of Easter as a part of a reflection on the Acts of the Apostles and being a Christian.

Do you have any programs that you like to use to build up your online presence in ministry?

Mary

Mt. Beacon

When I first learned that I would be moving to Beacon, I started to look up different things to do in the area. And of course, one of the first things to pop up was to hike Mount Beacon. Now, when Val and Sam went last fall, I was away for the weekend. So I didn’t end up going. But now that the weather is getting nicer and the days are longer, we have more opportunities to do things like this.

Mount Beacon was a steep hike, but there were definitely points where one could stop and take a break if needed. All in all, we spent just under three hours on this hike. I think the majority of that time was spent on our way up because we are all pretty new to this. Once we got to the top, we spent some time just enjoying the beauty that surrounded us. Our trek down the mountain took about forty minutes, maybe less.

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Absolutely stunning. I will be hiking this trail again, hopefully in the near future.

To end our day, we ate dinner and then headed to Catholic Underground North at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Newburgh, just across the river.  Overall it was a great day, with an even better ending.

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Mary

Jones

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A week ago, the CCVs had a Youth ministry training in Queens. So, we took the opportunity to explore Long Island a little bit. Our first stop was Jones Beach, of course. After running to the water and walking around in the sand a little bit, we headed back to my home parish for the vigil mass. Then, we had a St. Patrick’s Day dinner with my Mom and Chris.

Overall, it was a really nice day. And I was able to show my housemates some of the reasons why I love my home.

Mary

Home

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I do love this little island. And sometimes, the thought of leaving it again, for a few more years, makes me quite sad. But I know that there will always be days like this one, when I get to come home on a whim. Days where we can drive out, and look for beach glass on a small strip of sand for as long as we see fit.

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Home is wherever we are if there’s love here too.

Mary

Life Lately (in pictures)

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The past few weeks have been pretty busy, but here are some pictures from the CYFM camera, and from my iphone. These pictures are mostly from Saints for Youth, our Young Adult Retreat, and Youth Group.

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My Saint for the Saints for Youth Retreat was St. Maria Goretti

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Amanda had Padre Pio and Fr. Tomas had St. Leopold (they’re both in the Vatican now!)

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I’m not the best with skits, so I was grateful to have a veteran CCV visit my group.

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Young Adults!

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Leaving room for the Holy Spirit

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Finding Therese’s roses all around CYFM

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Fr. Fred loves Therese!

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Last but not least, Youth Group.

Such fun. It’s been a good few weeks.

Mary

Images for Lent

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One of our online initiatives at CYFM is a Ferverini, or a brief pious or spiritual thought, which is posted on our Facebook page a few times a week. While in part this is to keep an active online presence, it is also a part of caring for those who attend CYFM spiritually.

I really love preparing these short spiritual thoughts. Our director sets up a schedule every couple of months, and we are responsible for 3-4 of these fereverinis. We are asked to look at the readings for the day, and to come up with some sort of reflection, and maybe a question or reflect on. We then send our reflection to Father Fred to proof and to make sure that everything in the reflection is theologically sound.

Another thing that I like to do for my Ferverini posts is to make images on Canva. I’ve always loved the images that ministries like Lifeteen, Ascension Press, and Chastity Project post. I think that it’s a great way for a Ministry to catch the attention of those who follow it on social media. The problem is that I have no graphic design experience and I don’t have access to any programs that are used in that process. So about a year ago, I was doing some Pinterest research, and found that many blogs use a website called Canva to create their images and to make their blog posts more eye catching.

The great thing about websites like Canva is that there are so many free tools to use. All of the images above were made using free tools on Canva.

The first image appeared in a Ferverini and a CYFM blog post on Ash Wednesday for the beginning of Lent. The second image will appear in a Ferverini on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. And the third image will appear in a Ferverini on March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day.

Do you have any favorite programs that you like to use for blogging or social media?

Mary

Esopus

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Last week the Cap Corps Volunteer community went on retreat to the Marist Brothers Center in Esopus, New York. A friar from the Province, Fr. Sam, gave the retreat to the five young adults.

The theme of this retreat was belonging. We explored contemplative prayer, poetry, and beauty. Our retreat began Tuesday evening and ended Friday afternoon. Each morning and night we had a “silent sit” or intentional quiet time. Our breakfasts and lunches were also had in silence. Each afternoon we had a couple of hours of free time, where we were allowed to relax, pray, or encounter Christ in reconciliation.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the retreat was our interaction with the full time volunteers at Esopus. During each of our meal times we were greeted with the same hospitality that we try to show our guests at CYFM. It was so nice to be on the receiving end of that grace though. The Marist volunteers have a blog too, you can check it out here.We had conversation at dinner, and some community time in the evening. We played games, had dessert, and tended to the fire in the living room.

Our introduction to contemplative prayer was through Thomas Keating and Centering Prayer. I found this practice particularly difficult. Although I am content with quiet, I often let my mind race and wander through parts of my day, my prayer life, and through past experiences. I usually end up taking one thing and thinking through it thoroughly, and not actually praying. This wasn’t really what we were supposed to be doing. And for some reason, I couldn’t actually focus on the point of centering prayer. Instead I thought about next year, and many other things.

To be honest, I probably should have taken the opportunity for “spiritual companionship” during free time. Rather, I took a shower, a brief nap, read for a bit, and took a walk down to the river.

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As I approached the Hudson River, I couldn’t get over the shards of ice that were floating along with the current, and getting left behind on the shore. It was kind of gloomy out. I say kind of because it was gray, but it was rather warm out, which made it bearable to walk around outside.

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I couldn’t get over how the ice resembled glass in appearance, but also in sound. The different pieces of ice clanked against each other, moving down the river, taking turns riding along with one another. It really was spectacular. On the way to dinner that night Fr. Sam and I spoke about how cool this was, but also serene and somewhat eerie. I think that this experience put me in a better place to reflect on beauty in the context of belonging.

We read poetry from Mary Oliver, Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as others. I had never studied any of the poets that we read, but I was especially captivated by Hopkins use of language in As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —

Isn’t it beautiful?! I never had the chance to study Hopkins, so I may be looking into some of his collected works in the near future… or when I have a chance to read (probably next year).

I think that the combination of contemplation, poetry, beauty, and a sprinkle of Laudato Si was beneficial for these Cap Corps. We spend so much time reflecting as a group throughout our normal (as normal as it can be) schedule. The quiet, although difficult for some, was nice. It was nice to spend that time with the Lord, in a more structured and relaxed way.

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Mary

*This post originally appeared on the Cap Corps Volunteer blog on 2/25/16*