Embarking on your Faith Journey

Have any of you ever read a really great book or watched a really great movie or heard a really great story? Now, what did that book, movie or story have that was so great about it? Maybe it had to do with some mythical place, or an incredibly interesting main character. Perhaps you were able to identify with it in some way. Something about that story drew you in. And I can tell you, that each of these stories has something very simple in common. They all have some sort of journey that you as the reader, watcher, or listener follow. It may be a journey to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, to Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia, Metropolis or Gotham. It might be a journey of self-discovery, or one where the main character saves the world. We are drawn into this story. We are drawn into the mystery.

Map_of_Middle-earth_in_Peter_Jackson's_films

I have this map up here. It belongs to my Dad, and it had a prominent place in my home for most of my life. It’s a hand drawn map of Middle Earth, the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created for his famous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. I grew up staring at it, memorizing the landmarks and physical obstacles along the way from the Shire to Mount Doom in Mordor. This is one of the stories that I was enamored with as a child. I loved the idea of the adventures that took place in Middle Earth. I wanted to meet characters like Bilbo and Gandalf, and I wanted to be a strong heroin just like Arwen.

Now, what if I told you that our faith can be just like one of these journeys.

Just like the ones that we see in our favorite books, movies, or stories.

 You might be thinking I’m a little crazy at this point. But, one of my favorite saints, St. John Paul II is quoted in saying, “Life with Christ is a Wonderful Adventure”.

There is a moment in every story where the main character is posed with a question. Usually that question is whether or not to take on an adventure. Whether they’re off to destroy a ring, find a horcrux, or save the city from eternal doom, there is a moment when the main character consciously makes the choice to do the right thing. And often enough, we learn that the main character was destined to take part in that journey.

So are we.

Picture1

This painting is one of my favorites. It’s called “The Calling of St. Matthew” and it was painted by a guy named Caravaggio in 1600. Here we can see a ray of light making its way to Matthew, while Christ is pointing at him. The story of this painting actually comes from a story in the Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew tells us:

 “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew- sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” – Matthew 9:9-13

We all have this moment. There is a moment where we are asked to join Christ on a journey. We are asked to accompany him on an adventure that we were made for.

My faith journey started out like many others. It was quiet. I grew up on Long Island, went to public school, lived with my Grandma, Mom & Dad, big sister Julie, and went to Mass on Sundays. I played with neighbors as a kid, and loved to draw and write stories. For me, this moment of encounter didn’t happen as a child, at my baptism, first communion, or confirmation, but rather, it happened on a retreat, kind of like the one you’re on right now. I had had a couple of really rough years in high school. I was anxious, depressed, I had lost friends, and a boyfriend who I was too dependent on, and my Dad had moved out and my parents divorced. I was a senior in High School. I wasn’t living a life for Christ, even though I had gone to Church, to youth group, and volunteered my time to the poor and to the younger children at my parish. I was living day to day, trying to fake a smile, and act as though everything was okay. I knew that I wasn’t though. I knew that I was loved, but couldn’t grasp what that meant, or how it could affect my life.

And so I went on this retreat. I didn’t particularly like going to youth group anymore, but out of habit, I went on the Spring Retreat. Ironically, or not so ironically, the theme of the retreat was “I will Follow” and we had to sing this awful song and do silly hand movements to it. However, I knew that being a scutch and remaining closed off was not going to be fun for anyone. So, I tried to be open and listen to all of the presentations and participate in the prayer services. Friday night we handed whatever was burdening us over to God by tossing a rock into the Long Island Sound. We were asked to quiet ourselves, and to think of what was burdening us. There were thousands of pebbles on the beach. We each picked up two rocks. One represented our burdens, and one represented a promise. We each threw our burden into the Sound, and held on tight to our promise. I began to open up then. But the true turning point for me was on Saturday night. I sat in adoration of the Eucharist, which is when the Eucharist is exposed in a gold stand called a monstrance for a prolonged period of time. I desired mercy; just like St. Matthew. I had experienced God’s loving grace in the sacrament of confession. And as I sat, for the first time feeling peace in front of the Eucharist, I cried, and felt a whisper in my heart to come, and follow Him.  I felt an overwhelming sense in my heart that I was loved. Truly Loved.

In that moment, just like St. Matthew, I got up, and followed Him.

I was drawn into the mystery.

Picture2

I found Joy on that retreat. For the first time in a long time, I found joy in doing simple everyday things. I even found Joy in getting stuck in the mud of a small Long Island Harbor, after running after my friends onto what looked like solid ground. In case you were wondering, I did ruin my flip flops that day. I had no idea what this journey would entail or what my destination would be. To be completely honest with you, I still don’t know what the destination is. I can tell you, that since I decided to get up and follow Him, my life has truly been an adventure. I’ve gone places, done things, and encountered people that I wouldn’t have even thought possible in High School. But, I had to take that first step and climb that very high mountain. I had to leave my comfortable life behind, and like Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings, I left the Shire.

I started to take my volunteer work seriously. I was a volunteer with the Middle School Youth Group at my Parish. I played silly games along the way with middle schoolers and enjoyed it. I even let a 12 year old do my hair with shaving cream for the “Edge Kids Take Over”. It took a few showers to get it all out.

I went on trips to places I had only dreamed about before. I walked the streets of Dublin and Paris with my Mom and sister.

I took in the beauty of one of the world’s oldest book of Gospels, The Book of Kells, in Dublin, and I stood in awe of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I went on pilgrimage to Madrid, Spain for World Youth Day 2011. I walked along the same cobblestone streets as St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross. I sat in the same churches as a Doctor of the Church. As a group, we went to Mass with various English-Speaking Cardinals, and eventually with Pope Benedict XVI.

Picture8

We stood and humbly waited in the rain, which was described as a hurricane over the announcer. There was obviously a mistranslation there. And we waited for the Pope to arrive. We met young Catholics from all over the world: Colombia, France, Iraq, Australia, Nigeria, and Malaysia. I found I had a friend in Jesus’s mother after I realized that each church I went into had the image that my Parish is named after, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This still happens by the way.

In college, I continued to follow Him along a path that I couldn’t quite see, and had some incredible experiences. I trudged through Washington DC in 10 degree weather as a witness to the beauty that Human Life is at the March for Life.

Picture9

 I studied in Galway, Ireland, after working up the courage to follow the desires of my heart and change my major from something that would secure me a job after graduation, to something that I truly loved: English Literature and Irish Studies.

Picture10

 I sat in the middle of a country road in a town where there were more sheep than people, and appreciated the beauty of creation with a sunrise at 4am with some of my wonderful classmates.

Picture11

 I took a bus and visited relatives that I had never met and shared in faith and tea and ice cream with them. We drove all over my Grandfathers hometown.  I felt a little silly standing with that tomb stone in the rain, but I knew that these were the family members that gave me my Catholic faith, this was the church where my grandparents and great grandparents worshipped a God who is Love, and so I complied and smiled as a cousin I barely knew took my picture.

Picture12Picture13

I walked across the Peace Bridge in a city where violence was the norm for so long. I shared in the hurt that my cousins felt from the past, but also listened to their hope for their city and for their home. I quite literally crossed the River Foyle with them and was present as they shared their story and their heart with me.

I traveled in a minivan, and my campus minister was pulled over by cop in West Virginia for going 83 mph, to a place that I had never been. There were mountains there. I served the poor of Appalachia in Beauty, KY with some of the most kind-hearted, loving people I know.

Picture14

The Lord helped me break out of my comfort zone by working with power tools and to truly be present with the people of Beauty. I was reminded by a cook that I met from Georgia, just how beautiful my soul was, and how she could see it in my eyes. I spoke of my love for Mother Teresa and the Catholic Faith with a nurse from the next town after she confided in me just how beautiful she found the Catholic Church, even though she was a Baptist. She met me with love, not judgment, just as Jesus had.

Picture15

I built a deck and a ramp that week along with 8 of my classmates and mentors. That is something I would have never thought I could do, much less that I would want to. My Dad still doesn’t quite believe it.  Even in the mud that week, I found Joy.

Picture16

More recently, Jesus asked me to climb an even higher mountain. He asked me to serve in a way that I had never thought before. He asked me to move away from home to a place called Garrison, and to run retreats where students could encounter Him. I laughed, but after much prayer and a leap of faith, I went. And I could not be happier. Those words that JPII spoke are true, “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.”

Will you get up and follow him?

This presentation was given on the Sophomore Retreat: Faith Journey through CYFM. 

Advertisements

The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge

thumb_IMG_2663_1024 thumb_IMG_2673_1024 thumb_IMG_2675_1024 thumb_IMG_2676_1024 thumb_IMG_2677_1024 thumb_IMG_2678_1024 thumb_IMG_2679_1024 thumb_IMG_2683_1024

On Monday (my day off) a few of the CCVs decided to walk across the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. We live less than a mile from this bridge that spans across the Hudson River. It was beautiful on Monday, so after we did our chores, we decided to go for a walk. It was gorgeous! There is a pedestrian pathway along side the The bridge was a little more rickety than I thought it would be, but still a great experience. All of the leaves were turning. It was sunny. And the temperature was perfect.

Apple Festivals and the Middle of No-Where NY

thumb_IMG_2571_1024

thumb_IMG_2573_1024

thumb_IMG_2574_1024

thumb_IMG_2575_1024

A few pictures from our trip to the Apple Festival in Warwick a few weeks ago. Warwick is where two of the members of my community run a youth group, so we were able to park at the Parish and go to the Apple Festival! It was about an hour from Beacon, and it felt like we were in the middle of no-where. People come from all over to visit this festival. The little town was bursting at its seams with people!

There was also cider. and donuts. and other delicious things.

It was a good day.

Life Lately

thumb_IMG_2597_1024

Life lately has been filled with retreats, trips to see Jason Evert, free Pizza, and trips home.

Our girls senior retreat was one that I really enjoyed. I loved seeing the senior girls share their dreams with one another.

thumb_IMG_2598_1024 thumb_IMG_2599_1024

Last minute we were able to go to see Jason Evert speak about chastity. This was really great for us, because it was a moment for the CCVs to relax, but also a moment to learn how to better explain chastity for our ministry. The parish also gave us two free pizzas!

thumb_IMG_2601_1024

Also, one of the reasons why I fell in love with CYFM was its location. We’re located in the Hudson Valley, so there are beautiful hills and mountains all around us. The fog in the mornings has started, and I am in love.

Also, I was able to go home and I sent pictures of my kitty cats to my community members. 🙂

thumb_IMG_2607_1024 thumb_IMG_2608_1024

Catholic Underground on Saturday night was awesome!

thumb_IMG_2610_1024 thumb_IMG_2612_1024 thumb_IMG_2613_1024

This past Monday we attended “Fraternity Day” with the Friars.

Fr. Fred was being honored for his jubilee year as a priest. The parish was beautiful!

Love and prayers,
Mary

Apple Picking at Fishkill Farms

On our first night in the Red House, the CCV’s decided to make a bucket list of things to do in the Hudson Valley as a community this year. One of those things was to go Apple Picking. And, of course, I had a place in mind from one of the various blogs I follow here on the interwebs. I found out about Fishkill Farms through Love Taza, one of my favorite blogs. When I saw that Fishkill Farms was near Beacon, I knew that I wanted to visit!
thumb_IMG_2582_1024
thumb_IMG_2583_1024

We decided to make the 20 minute trip on our day off. It was absolutely beautiful!

thumb_IMG_2580_1024 thumb_IMG_2585_1024 thumb_IMG_2581_1024

We decided to buy one bag to go apple picking (because we’re full time volunteers)
but it was more than enough for the five of us. : )

thumb_IMG_2584_1024 thumb_IMG_2588_1024 thumb_IMG_2587_1024 thumb_IMG_2589_1024 thumb_IMG_2590_1024

The farm also had this sweet little shop. They had coffee, tea, donuts, candy, t-shirts, and also all of this fun organic food.

thumb_IMG_2592_1024

I love this place. I can’t wait to take friends and family back to visit.
thumb_IMG_2593_1024
thumb_IMG_2594_1024

And bunnies. They had bunnies. (They also have a chicken coup, but the bunnies were cuter)

Love and Prayers,
Mary

Interlaken

Originally posted on Cap Corps Volunteers The Calling of St. Matthew // Caravaggio

About a week ago, the CCVs and staff had the chance to go on our own retreat. Now, as most of you know, our ministry is based around running retreats. So, you can imagine that this was a really nice way for us to bond and get away for a few days.

A major part of our staff retreat was the sharing of our faith stories with one another.

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine

Together we can see what we will find 

You know that song by Mumford & Sons? It’s called Roll Away Your Stone and our community is obsessed with it. It has these wonderful themes that fit so nicely with our faith and with our new found journey with one another.


The Christ Candle

During each session we would light the Christ candle, and pray for one another. Then, one person had 45 minutes to share his or her faith journey.

It seems that all my bridges have been burnt
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.

Each of us shared how we came to the faith, the hardships that we have endured, and how Christ changed our lives. I think that it takes a lot to share the most intimate parts of your life with people that you’ve known for only a month. Sure, we’ve been living and working together for that month. So we spend the majority of our time with one another, but there’s always a little hesitation in any new situation to share those most intimate moments with one another. 


Lake Cayuga, New York

I can remember feeling very anxious before my story. In my heart I knew that my new community would accept me and love me for who I am and how I got to be where I am today, but my head thought otherwise. I was very anxious. I knew my story. After all, I have lived it, but I still wanted to plan it out. That way I would be able to refocus if I became upset or nervous.


Our dinner table with a view of Lake Cayuga

Each of us shared the most intimate parts of our stories. These are the parts that Christ used in each of us, to touch our hearts, and lead us to a new life with Him. At the top of this post I chose to put The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio. This was partially because today is Saint Matthew’s feast day, and partially because I realized how perfectly it fit with this post. Saint Matthew, a tax collector, was called by Jesus to follow and live a new life. Each of us, in some way or another, experienced this very same thing. We encountered Christ, and were given an invitation.

It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start

We each decided to accept that invitation. We each accepted in our own way. We each have a different mission, but at this point in time we are called to serve together. 


The CYFM team at Taughannock Falls State Park, New York

I’m sure St. Matthew was very grateful for his encounter, and I am too.

With Love and Prayers,

Mary

Interlaken and Bonticou Crag

GUYS! We’ve had such a crazy week. We’ve been all over this great state of New York. We started by going up to Interlaken, New York, which is in the Fingerlakes. We stayed right on Lake Cayuga. Above are a few photos from our four days in Interlaken. I’ll be writing more about our retreat on the Cap Corp Blog within a few days 🙂

On Sunday we were able to go on a community hike with Tom and his wife, Julie. We hiked Bonticou Crag, outside of New Paltz, New York.  Most of the hike was pleasant. A brief period included a rock scramble. It was more like free-climbing boulders that were at almost a 90 degree angle. It was slightly terrifying, but we worked together and got through it. The view was amazing. To one side we had the Catskill Mountains and to the other side we had the Hudson Valley. Absolutely beautiful.

More to come in a bit 🙂

The First Two Weeks

thumb_IMG_2410_1024 thumb_IMG_2399_1024We’ve worked really hard in the past few weeks. But it has been wonderful. We’ve been enjoying the beauty of the Hudson Valley, and have been learning how to cook. It’s been an adventure. But Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure 😉

Our adventures with Food have been interesting. We’ve been improvising with leftovers a lot. The retreat center lets us take leftovers whenever they have them. But, we’ve made vegetables, banana bread, banana muffins, and chicken parmesan. We also took advantage of 2$ tacos at a local place. They were wonderful.

The little town that we live in is so cute. I LOVE IT. We’re between the Hudson river and the mountains (i’m not sure which ones…it’s either the adirondacks or the catskills). So far, we’ve been to a coffee house, an ice cream place, and a taco place. All are great.

Our community prayer life is really starting to take hold. As a community we’re required to pray evening prayer together 4-5 times a week, and go to mass together at least once a week other than Sunday. We’ve decided to go to mass together whenever the five of us are together. We have an itty-bitty chapel in our house, but we’re also blessed to be in an area where there are many Catholic Churches. So far, we have been to two parishes.

Tomorrow we head up to Interlaken, NY for our staff retreat. Please keep us in prayer as we refresh ourselves so we can better serve the CYFM community.

Love and Prayers,
Mary

New Beginnings

The first day as a Cap Corp Volunteer at Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries

thumb_IMG_2372_1024

Saying goodbye is hard.

thumb_IMG_2373_1024

But, new beginnings are exciting. Especially when you’ve only ever lived in your bedroom at home.

thumb_IMG_2374_1024

After 24 hours, things are starting to feel more complete. We now have keys to our home.

thumb_IMG_2375_1024

And then I was finally able to fully make my bed,

thumb_IMG_2376_1024

And eat cookie butter with pretzels,

thumb_IMG_2377_1024

And successfully go grocery shopping. We even came in under budget.

thumb_IMG_2378_1024

With some down time I was able to write a few good letters.

thumb_IMG_2379_1024

Overall my first day was good. We received a lot of information at work, and I’m still processing that. That’s okay though. I have all year to adapt, and get better with the way things work here. My room is mostly unpacked. It feels kind of empty, but that’s probably because it’s much bigger than my room at home. Tomorrow we have mass at the Red House and some more orientation. So, Jesus will officially be moving into our house (he couldn’t make it yesterday).

Lots of love and prayers,
Mary

Four.

Spread Love wherever you go, let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
-Mother Teresa-

thumb_IMG_2284_1024

Our day began with iced coffee, a bag of cheerios, and a lovely new St. Therese medal
(he gets me)

But for real, we drove out to one of our favorite places on Long Island. Greenport was bound to be bustling, so we stopped there briefly to take out cash so that we could visit Lavender by the Bay in East Marion. To the eye, it was beautiful, to the nose, it was delightful. Even the little busy bees were content. They were too busy checking out the lavender to pay attention to the people walking by. The little shop was bustling, so we decided to walk through the fields first. We decided to keep our day low key, and this farm ended up being the best way to celebrate.

thumb_IMG_2288_1024

thumb_IMG_2287_1024

thumb_IMG_2293_1024

In the shop we decided to pick up some dried lavender and soap for mom, and had enough left over store credit to get a post card. Then we walked next door to have a late lunch at The Blue Inn. One day I would love to stay there, but having lunch was absolutely wonderful. The food was awesome. To start we had fried brie with cranberry. That was incredible. I love cheese, but this took cheese to a whole new level. For lunch, Chris had cod and I had an open chicken sandwich. Both of our meals were specials of the day, and we weren’t disappointed.

To say that I am grateful for this relationship would be an understatement. A few years back, I read that marriage is learning to love like Christ. While we are not married, this still holds true. This relationship helps me to love like Christ each day. That’s a selfless kind of love. It’s funny, because we basically wrote the same thing in our cards to one another. We essentially wrote that our relationship is strong and beautiful because it is rooted in Christ, and we have grown in Christ, together over these past four years. It’s a beautiful thing.
thumb_IMG_2294_1024