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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Reflecting on Service (2)

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A few weeks ago I left a beautiful group of people to come back home. My experience with Workfest was one that I won’t forget anytime soon. I was given the opportunity to serve for a week with the Catholic Campus Ministry at Hofstra University. My Campus Minister had spent a year serving with a group called Christian Appalachian Project, which works to better many communities in Eastern Kentucky. Our Campus Minister absolutely loves this program, and has been telling me about it for over a year. CAP, as its better known, runs short-term service opportunities over Spring Break like Workfest. During Workfest, college students from around the country go to Camp Andrew Jackson and travel each day to a home that CAP is currently serving. During the course of the week of Workfest, college student’s work on a variety of necessary repairs on the homes that the families can’t manage on their own.

When we left campus on the Saturday before Workfest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had been involved in different youth ministries, attended retreats as well as days of service but this was my first time on a real mission trip, and my first time working with students from all over the country. The car ride down was filled with laughter and music but come Monday morning we were divided into our crews. I was placed in the Brown Crew, and together we started to learn how to use different types of power tools. Some were more confident than others. The Brown Crew had students from Stevens Point Wisconsin, Cincinnati Ohio, Scranton Pennsylvania, Burlington Vermont, and Long Island.

It felt like we were in Kentucky for a long time before we finally began the work we were there to do. Our crew worked about 40 minutes from Camp AJ with the Smith Family. There we met Haley and her two daughters Kate and Anna. Haley’s husband, Joe was at work, and her son was at school. The Smith family needed a new roof, floors, as well as the front and back porch. The first few days were tough, I was a little homesick, tired, cold, and not quite used to the amount of mud we were working in. I can’t say that I was the most confident using some of tools, so I tried to help in any way I could. Even though our conditions weren’t ideal, we all tried to serve in ways that showed the love of Christ. The readings at mass each day were reminders that we were there because we love Jesus, and we love him by loving others. There were times that I moved debris, and held pieces of wood steady so that those I was working with could use a saw or a drill. But, each day we were called to come out of our comfort zones. And so each day, with the help of my crew, I contributed in new ways. We also were able to pray with our family several times a day. This was really a great part of how CAP operates. Getting to pray with and know Haley was a part of this trip that reminded us all why we were there. We were there to do Christ’s work and to love as he taught us. My crew’s experience with our family was one that allowed all of us to see how God works in the lives around us. Amanda shared with us that she had her son at a young age, and her life is not the way she had imagined. She wanted to work in a law firm, she hadn’t seen herself being a stay at home mom. She kept telling us that God had a different plan for her. Even though she was different from all of us who were working, she inspired us all with her faith. We were there to improve her life, but she was there feeding our faith.

Each night we were able to reflect with our school on the events of the day. We would start each discussion with roses and thorns, the good and bad parts of each day. On our free night our group decided to go on Night Hike, and do our reflections outside on the top of a rock. Seeing the stars in Kentucky and sharing in conversation and prayer with some of the best people I know was truly a blessing. It was also incredibly humbling to hear the stories of those who I had come with., and to see how God was using them. This was probably the turning point of this trip for me. Before our Night Hike, my trip was good, but after this experience, my trip became extraordinary. It opened my eyes to the world around us, the community we were serving, and the extraordinary people I was sharing it with. Although none of us would see the end result of our work, we were still becoming a part of these families in a great way. We were able to be a small part of God’s great plan for this family, all because we made the choice to follow him. .

My trip with CAP to Kentucky is one that was extraordinary and that I feel incredibly blessed to have experienced. Serving others is something that, when done with Christ, is not a burden but rather a blessing.

This post was first given as a reflection at a Lenten Prayer Service in 2014. All names have been changed to protect the privacy of each individual. 

Mary

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

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

“It’s who I am”

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Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, Graymoor, at dusk.

Lately, i’ve been reflecting on that song by Chris Tomlin, “Good, good Father”. It’s a fairly popular song among Catholic and Christian circles right now. I first heard it at Catholic Underground in September, and it has been stalking me ever since. Since I’m doing a year of service, I see a spiritual director about once a month. And as we were talking about my past, and my struggle with a consistent prayer life, my love of this song came up. He asked me to reflect on this song and why it resonates with me.

As I’ve reflected, and listened, and prayed, I’ve realized something. And to be completely honest with you, I think it’s because I have a hard time truly believing the lyrics. But I’m a sucker for repetitive prayer, this is something else I have learned about myself from SD. It makes me actually think about what I’m praying (taize or praise and worship), or think about what I’m meditating on (the rosary). This song is very repetitive and that’s a big part of why I find myself wanting to sing it over and over again.

The chorus reads:

You’re a good, good father, it’s who you are, it’s who you are. And I am loved by you, it’s who I am, it’s who I am. God, you are perfect in all of your ways. Because you’re a good, good father.

Now you may be asking yourself, but Mary these are basic Christian principles. You know, God so loved us (John 3:16). Why is this hard for you to believe?

Well, dear reader. Think about how radical this Love is!

I had a wonderful experience at DDA, or Day by Day Agape, (a student led encounter retreat that CYFM runs). One of the things that I realized about my relationship with God is that I am often reluctant to accept God’s love and the love of others. Often enough. I’d rather remain closed off. I would rather be completely independent.

And I am loved by you. It’s who I am, it’s who i am. You’re a good good father.

But we are so loved by Him.

Often enough, I am reminded of how the world sees Love. And I begin to believe it. That I can’t be loved. That no one can truly love me that much. That love is based on merit. That it can’t be unconditional because we live in a broken world.

but He is Love, and this has become my prayer.

I recently finished reading Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ. In the last chapter he reflects on that song “O’ Holy Night”. Everyone has heard it. It’s a Christmas classic. Fr. Greg reflects on this phrase:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

Fr. Greg talks a lot about how once the homies (the gang members he works with) realize their worth, they turn their lives around. Now, I won’t spoil the book for you, because you need to go out and read it because it’s incredible, but this part resonated with me. Just like the Chris Tomlin song.

He is love. He loves us with a perfect love. Even if it’s hard to comprehend in such a broken world. He appears and the soul feels its worth.

As we move to the end of the liturgical year, it is darker, and we become more aware of the new beginning that will be here this upcoming Sunday. Advent begins. It’s easy to commit to something for 30 days. So, will you commit to deepening your faith? I am. It’s kind of like homework because my SD will expect to talk about it in December when we meet. But, it’s good homework. And I’ll be sure to try because I’m being held accountable.

I’ve already started in a way. I’ve reflected on this song. I’ve read a wonderful spiritual book. And I’ve been trying to read the gospel of the day and do an examen with The Jesuit Prayer App, which I love. (It reminds me to pray twice a day!) It’s funny how God works because each day, the examen opens with this prayer:

God, I believe that at this moment I am in your presence and you are loving me.

And I am loved by you, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.

Capuchin Outreach and CYFM

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Being that I wasn’t able to visit CYFM during a retreat, I was invited to take part in their annual Capuchin Outreach Program. This is a service based retreat for high school aged students. I was asked to participate in the Vacation Bible School because this particular program had the most student volunteers and number of participants. There were about 40 kids, and 16 teens. Now, I had never been to VBS, or volunteered to help at one. And yet, I felt obligated to kind of know what was happening. After all, I was supposed to be the “Adult”, and at the same time I felt like I was to take a step back and really observe and try to understand CYFM as a whole. It was a bit conflicting.

We had survived the first day of VBS and successfully learned the choreography to “Stand Together” and “Stand Strong”. By the end of the day, I realized that the scripture sharing (which I was in charge of) would need to be altered for each age group. And I was exhausted. By the end of the day I had familiar feelings of loneliness and a sense of not being good enough set in. For as long as I can remember, these feelings follow a new day anywhere, even in Church settings.

But Tuesday was a new day. And it was better. And Wednesday came, and it was better. I had started to feel comfortable with the teens, and I had a better understanding of the needs of the kids at VBS. Water day was my favorite part of VBS, and I would say that this was my turning point, I had started to feel like myself again.

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Thursday came, and we played messy games and had a talent show. I wrote my prayer partner letter and spent time in the beautiful chapel. And then friday came. We finished scripture sharing strong and VBS was over. The closing ceremony after mass started, and I found out that the chaplain of CYFM had been assigned to pray for me. This was a big piece of assurance for me from the Big Guy. By the end of the week I had a better sense of why I was put there, and a better sense of the community as a whole. This year is going to be an adjustment for me, and that is something that I can’t ignore anymore. But when I got home Friday night, I had a spiritual high, and Chris gave me an anniversary present.

This present was super appropriate, and he knew that. It was a St. Therese of Lisieux medal, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the back. St. Therese, being the patron of missionaries, even though she never left her convent, and the Sacred Heart, the devotion of Saint Leonard, my saint of the year. Also, I totally just noticed this, but Saint Leonard was a Franciscan who gave Parish retreats and who was an ascetic writer. That’s almost too similar to what I’m going to be doing this year.

If you want to read about COP from the perspective of a current CCV, you can do that Here.

Before I leave you today, here are some lovely pictures from the two chapels at Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries, where I spent much of my alone time on the COP 2015 retreat.

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Love and prayers,
Mary

The Hudson Valley

Also posted on Dignitatem

Some of you know that I had an overnight visit and interview with Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries last week. This ministry is located in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York.

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Although, I didn’t get the chance to take any pictures of my own, I’ll have plenty of time to do that in the upcoming year. Before I left, I asked a good friend about what was appropriate to wear to this interview. Because, to be honest, I had no idea. So I took her advice and kept it casual for the visit, and went business casual for the interview. Before I left the house, I took a good long look at a gift from my boyfriends Mom that she gave me for graduation. It has that famous verse from Jeremiah on it:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I began my trip with Mass at my home parish. I packed an overnight bag, a towel, sleeping bag, and pillow. This is mainly because I forgot to ask about the sleeping arrangements before I left.

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I started my trip in Garrison, where the retreat house and offices are located. There I was given a tour, and introduced to the office staff at CYFM. The grounds were beautiful. They are right on the Hudson, but you can’t see the Hudson because of bamboo. I can’t wait to work here.

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After the initial tour, one of the current CCVs (Cap Corp Volunteers) took me to their place of residence. Before we actually went to the Red House, we stopped in Beacon, the little town that they live in. We parked, and walked over to a coffee house, which I am so excited to visit again. There was also a community garden in the town! Hollis (the CCV) told me that the garden is used by local restaurants. And then I fell in love.

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The rest of Tuesday was spent at the Red House, where the current CCVs made me feel at home. They also have access to an itty bitty Chapel, which is in their house.

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Wednesday began with Mass and breakfast. Then we went back to CYFM and I had my final interview. The CCVs, Fathers Marvin and Fred, and the rest of the CYFM staff saw me off and told me to get back to them with my decision. I celebrated with a caramel mocha latte from McDonalds.

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Many of you know how difficult this past year was for me in terms of figuring out what my next step would be. It’s funny how in hindsight one can see how God was leading them all along. I can’t wait to see how God is going to use me in the next year, and where he’ll lead me next. Please keep me in prayer!

Love and prayers,
Mary

but perfect Love drives out fear

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Driving home is rarely something that I enjoy. Yes, I love my car. Yes, it’s absolutely wonderful that I get to go home before rush hour, but Long Island is not a friendly place to drive. Feelings of anxiety often creep in. I don’t have a fear of driving. I drive every day. Nothing, except a massive amount of snow, has kept me from driving every day since I was eighteen. Yet, there is that small, meager attempt to frighten me. Being rear ended by a fast moving car does not happen every day. In fact, it only happened once to me, almost two years ago. But, the evil one insists on using it, each and every day. He wants to make me feel fear.

Fear. It’s a silly thing really. I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s first reading a lot. You know the one. Its from 1 John, and speaks to God being Love. Ah, yes, that one. It’s one of my favorites, and I was pleased to read it in the Blessed Is She email devotional yesterday. As I read, I felt drawn to verse eighteen.

 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
1 John 4: 18

I can recall the first time I prayed with this verse. I was eighteen, on a Newman Club retreat my first semester of college. I was still terrified to be there, and I was fearful for the future that God had planned for me. My vocation. That is what I was afraid of. For the first time in my life I was considering something other than Married life. Jesus loved me, and I knew that. I wanted to please him, but I felt so afraid. Religious life was so appealing, so beautiful. And so, I was given this verse to pray with.

Now a senior in college, I have those same feelings of fear. A future of uncertainty is ahead. It’s not as scary as it used to be. Learning how to trust has a lot to do with that. And yet, fear comes.

What if you don’t get an internship, or into graduate school?
What if you can’t find a job that you like? You’re going to be miserable.

I was having one of those moments yesterday. Where the evil one tells me toxic lies, and I begin to believe it. I took out my phone and frantically started to look at graduate schools, again. When I opened my emails, and saw the daily devotional with those daily readings. And I was pleased to read it. Then he held me within His Word, and whispered these words “but perfect love drives out fear.” And he continued to whisper it the next day.

As I was driving home, before rush hour in my beautiful little blue car that runs, I heard that whisper again. I was hit by spiritual 2×4 when sitting at a stoplight about five minutes from home. What could I possibly have to fear when there is a God who loves me beyond measure? This same God who loves me infinitely, died for me. And he has a plan for me that is more wonderful than I could imagine. Whom shall I fear? Perfect Love drives out fear, and the one who loves me is perfect Love.

So Long, 2014.

J.R.R. Tolkein

2014 was the year where I was made aware of how much I love my school, my professors, and my major. I started this blog and I left my heart in Kentucky, Ireland, and North Carolina. I prayed with St. Catherine of Bologna (although I may not have been aware of it). I consecrated my life to Jesus through Mary and the Lord asked me to trust in Him. I’ve become (started to become may be a better term) open to a plan that may not be exactly what I had wanted. I’ve realized that I’ll never be done learning. I’ve realized that Loving like Christ is hard. I’ve realized that I still have so much that I want to do. Looking back, its hard to believe how much I have grown in a year.

Looking back on my blog posts from A Lovely Little Flower and Dignitatem, I was reminded of how awesome this year was. So I went through and picked ten blog posts that I love, and that I think fully sum up this year. So, here goes nothing…

A Little Bit of Love, on Dignitatem
Salt, Light, and Being the Light, on Dignitatem
So I Will Love In This Life Till I Finally Have To Go (Run River North), on Dignitatem
After Withdrawing About A Stone’s Throw From Them And Kneeling, He Prayed. Luke 22:41, on Dignitatem
Peace, on Dignitatem
And They Lived Happily Ever After, an Evening with Rab Fulton, on A Lovely Little Flower
This Land Tells a Story, on A Lovely Little Flower
First Day of School, on A Lovely Little Flower
Patience and Understanding, on A Lovely Little Flower
Affirmations, on A Lovely Little Flower

This year was incredible. I hope that I can learn to trust and love and continue to write meaningful words in 2015. I also want to live my life to the fullest (whatever that means). I want to actually use that bike that my Dad got me, especially since I now have a bike rack. I can’t wait to go to my sisters wedding in Cancun. I hope to go to Kentucky for Mission. I’ll turn 22. I will graduate from Hofstra University with a degree in American and English Literature and Irish Studies. And after that, I have no idea what is in store. So, there’s that. We’ll see. I know it’ll be good.

Happy almost 2015!