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

365 Days of Love Notes, Weeks 35 & 36

Sunday March 29, 2015

Ended the retreat in the morning with Stations of the Cross to kick off Holy Week

retreat 2015

And then I came home to this surprise. God is Good. You can read my piece here.

IMG_1837 2

Monday March 30, 2015

Dinner date with Miss Sandi at Moes 🙂

Tuesday March 31, 2015

Cuddled with this mush:

IMG_1839

Wednesday April 1, 2015

Last installment of the Lenten Series at Hofstra: Lust and Chastity. And of course, Mass on campus is always my favorite.

Thursday April 2, 2015

The Mass of Our Lord’s Supper. My friend Sean and I were able to have our feet washed at a local Parish as we prepared for our Mission in Eastern Kentucky. The water was cold, but it was a grace-filled experience.

Friday April 3, 2015

Good Friday:

IMG_1841

Saturday April 4, 2015

Left for Kentucky with these incredible people:

IMG_1917

Then we stopped in Washington DC, had dinner with Our Lady of Guadalupe, and went to the Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill.

easter dinner

IMG_1916

Sunday April 5, 2015

Continued the drive to Kentucky. Later in the evening we arrived, made dinner, and had Mass at the Foley Mission Center.

IMG_1851

Monday April 6, 2015

We went on a hike and had an easy day before work started on Tuesday.

hiking
Photo taken by Bridget McCormack

Tuesday April 7, 2015

We began working on a new front deck and a new ramp for our Participant.

Wednesday April 8, 2015

We made significant progress, and fell in love with our work, our Crew leaders, and Amandog.

IMG_1876 IMG_1874

We also had a little concert with Mitch Barrett, a local folk artist.

Thursday April 9, 2015

Another day of hard work. BUT we had mac and cheese for dinner, and learned a little bit more about CAP and Appalachia at an information session.

Friday April 10, 2015

Finished up our project, met our participant, and spent some quality time with some wonderful ice cream (and a Cat).

IMG_1915 IMG_1885 IMG_1899

Saturday April 11, 2015

We left beautiful Appalachia for Morgantown, WV where we relaxed and ate burritos. We also got lost and ended up stumbling upon WVU’s Catholic Chapel and Newman Center. It was a good detour.

IMG_1903 IMG_1912 IMG_1908

I’m looking forward to telling you all about my trip in more detail! Hope you had a great Easter week!

Find more Love Notes at Story of a Rose

Celebrating Irish Literature

I can't think of a case where poems

Yesterday, there was an event held on campus. Now, this event was one that I wasn’t going to, but at the last minute, my professor begged the class to go. So, I rearranged my schedule and I went. We were each asked to pick a poem to read. Now, it had to be an Irish poem, it didn’t have to be in Irish, but it had to be about Ireland or of Irish origin. I knew what poem I would read. It was going to be by Seamus Heaney, because he is who I did my major project on last semester, and if need be, I could talk a little bit about him. I decided to read “Scaffolding,” mainly because I didn’t want to read “Digging” or “Mid-term Break.”

SCAFFOLDING

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

The program opened with traditional Irish dancing (soft-shoe) and a reading from James Joyce’s “The Dead.” Yeats was a crowd favorite. One other reader chose Heaney (“Blackberry Picking,”) that comforted me. Old Irish poetry was also read. My old professor did an interactive storytelling, much like what we experienced in Salt Hill.

What makes me sad is that this reading, this celebration of art, was not greatly attended. The University has been doing different series centered around Literature. For instance, the Great Writers, Great Readers series has been a success. But, that series doesn’t allow students to get up and read something that they love. It is a great event, because students have the chance to interact with other writers. It holds a different purpose than these poetry readings though. There is also an event where students read their works, after they have been accepted into the Literary Journal, on campus. Again, this isn’t a highly publicized event.

I’m glad that I went to this reading. It was an hour and a half of appreciating great works of art with other people who also appreciate it. The quote above is attributed to Seamus Heaney, that’s probably why I picked it. But I think that it still holds true. Poetry has never changed the world, but it does change people, and people change the world. Literature is a lens that allows people to better understand society. Hopefully, these little readings will continue to grow.

I know, I know…

But its that time of year. December is where all of the world’s events collide, especially for a college student. I feel as though this year it’s especially bad. Maybe it’s because I’m a senior. Maybe it’s because I spent all of my money on Christmas presents. Maybe it’s because all of my finals include multiple in-class essays, but I’ve been slacking. To be honest, after I handed in my term paper for Irish Studies, I was done. I don’t think I have written for pleasure since that due date. But that’s okay. Because after Thursday I have a whole month of glory to read and write whatever I want. The book list is already starting… I may have pulled from a few MA programs reading list (U Dallas has a good, concise one).

In other news, I have begun the processes of: applying for summer internships (eeck), looking into possible grad programs (dreams), planning for Cancun in February (my sisters wedding), and adding to a pretty awesome Christmas playlist on Spotify.

Two days until complete Freedom. I will have one more semester of my undergraduate degree completed.

ff66187a5dc7bbb6b2b7a58b7776ec9d

Random Acts of Kindness Day 2014

This past wednesday, the Newman Club put on the third annual “Random Acts of Kindness Day!” You can read about last year’s event here. I wasn’t around Campus for most of the day, but this year Newman had different organizations take part in different events throughout the day. There were a cappella groups singing, anonymous compliments via facebook, love letters hidden, and encouraging messages scattered throughout campus. Searching through instagram and twitter, one could see the impact that our preparation had on the campus community (you can check it out too… #hofstrabekind)

IMG_1443

The really cool thing about this little day, is to see its effect on campus. It can make you notice that someone held the door for you, or offered a friendly hello. It can make you appreciate those little acts of kindness more. The Newman Club’s real goal is to have people choose kindness everyday, because sometimes a “Random Acts of Kindness” Day is just the little jump start that some people need.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” –Mother Teresa

Affirmations

IMG_1432Have you ever done an activity that makes you really, really happy? This past monday the Newman Club put on an activity to affirm one another. Here’s how to play:

– Have one person stand in front of a wipe board

– Have multiple dry-erase markers ready

– Other students write affirming phrases and words around the lone person standing in front of the board

– Everyone steps back after one minute of writing

– The lone person stays at the wipe board and a picture is taken

– After the meeting, the pictures are posted online

affirmation 2014

It’s a nice little activity, and its the type of thing that one can go back and look at. If you help out with or run a youth ministry or campus ministry program you should try this activity out. It’s really, really wonderful.

“Burial at Thebes,” a translation of “Antigone”

This past Sunday I was able to see a performance of “Burial at Thebes.” This is a translation of “Antigone” by Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and translator. I went into the play knowing the plot of “Antigone” but had never read Heaney’s translation.

Dramatic Opening
The play opened with lights off. The audience looked down upon the stage, which was covered in hay. The stage lights came on and focused on a group of people, dressed all in black, fighting among one another. It was here that the audience was able to understand that Eteocles and Polyneices are both killed. I really liked the way that the theater decided to open up the production. It was dramatic and helped the audience understand the severity of the event that begins this play.

Translation
Listening to this unique translation of the text was very interesting. Hearing words like “Keening” outside of an Irish plot was not expected. Keening is an Irish form of mourning which often includes loud singing and wailing. Instances like this one allowed the audience to remember who translated this version of the ancient text. Seamus Heaney translated it! Of course there are going to be instances of Irish Culture scattered throughout the text.

Meter
I have heard that the meter used in this translation was intentional. I don’t know that much about it but there was a scene of the play where the meter was emphasized. The furies stood all around the theater and stomped a beat. The characters then spoke along to that beat. It showed how the important the meter was to the play and to the translation.

Favorite Scene
My favorite scene in the play was when Tiresias confronted Creon. The actor who played Tiresias had an awesome costume! He had in some type of contact that made him appear blind. His lone, but important scene was chilling. The costume design of his character made the effect of the scene that much more powerful.

Although I had to attend this play for credit, I am glad that I went. Seeing Heaney’s translation played out opened windows to the understanding of Heaney and the ancient text. I now have a greater respect for the plot of Antigone having seen it spoken aloud as it was written to be. I’m interested to see what my professor does with this text in the context of Irish History and Literature (although I already have some ideas)

If you’re in or around Long Island, you should consider seeing it for only $10! Really, it was well done. If you’re interested you can read about it here. This play made me appreciate “Antigone” in a new way, I really am grateful for the opportunity to go.

“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” Sophocles, Antigone

Agape

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. We love because he first loved us.
John 4:18-19

IMG_1388
This past weekend I had the opportunity to go on a retreat with the Newman Club. The theme of this retreat was Agape, or unconditional love that is always giving, the love of God. We stayed at a beautiful camp on Shelter Island, NY. The house was big and beautiful. It was full of little quirks of old world charm. I fell in love. I kind of wish I could live there full time. But, I had to come back to the real world. Either way, I am incredibly grateful for the time I was able to spend pondering God’s love for me along with some wonderful people.

fall retreat agape
Photo by Bridget McCormack
Above is a picture of those who attended the Newman Retreat. For those of you who don’t know, the Newman Club is a Catholic Club that is present on most campuses that are not affiliated with a particular religion. To date, there are 31,806 Newman Centers. We were blessed to have 23 people attend our annual Fall Retreat. These are student run retreats that are centered on a particular topic of faith. As I mentioned ours was Agape. The retreat had five different topics relating to Agape where an e-board member would witness to Agape in their life. These included things like: obstacles of love, creative love, and loving others. Then we would discuss in a smaller group on how these parts of Agape related to our own faith lives.
IMG_1375
And of course, our lovely Campus Minister was ever-present. Her love and Joy is something to be admired.
IMG_1382IMG_1385
God’s beauty was also ever present. Present in those who attended and in the beautiful setting that surrounded us. I mean, check out the colors of the rocks and sea shells on the shore! The funny part is that I realized how much I need God in my own life and I need to take the time to recognize him (more) in my daily life.
seniors
Photo by Bridget McCormack
seniors 2
Photo by Bridget McCormack
I feel like the entire senior class enjoyed the retreat. I know that I did.
IMG_1390
Camp Quinipet was the perfect place for my last Newman Retreat. Contemplating God’s unconditional love was something that was needed.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
1 John 4:7

Love and prayers,
Mary

The End of a Week

fall retreat agape

So I’m apologizing for being M.I.A. for the past week or so. Last week I had midterms, but I was able to end my week with a retreat. I travelled to Shelter Island, NY with the Newman Club for a weekend centered around Agape. More to come on that later. I just wanted to let you all know why I had been quiet. I’ll be around again soon.

Love and prayers,
Mary

Oh, the humanities!

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 4.38.17 PM

I know, I get it all of the time. So what are you going to do with your degree? It’s constant. Since I finished my junior year, weekly, I am asked this question about my imminent graduation. Besides the fact that I graduate in may, and that is still months and months away, there are people who insist that I know what I am doing right now. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing a year from now, but most people don’t. Things may be unclear, but I am ever-grateful that I was lead to this particular major. My education has benefited greatly and here are some reasons why:

1. a new sense of perception

I don’t think that it comes as a surprise that anyone who majors in the humanities ends up reading for a living. This is not a bad thing. Aren’t we in college to broaden our horizons and to become knowledgeable of the world? This is where the whole reading thing comes in, one can no longer look at things and take them as they are. Pulling from a book of essays on Lyric Poetry, Victor Shklovsky is quoted:
“The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of                      perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end to itself and must be prolonged” (Townsend, 231).
Shklovsky is on point (he is published after all), the purpose of art is to make things unfamiliar so that one may take the time to perceive it in the way that it was meant. This also is true for the study of art.

2. the development of an analytical mind

Knowing how to think, how to write, and how to argue those thoughts on paper is an incredibly valuable skill. I met someone the other night who is now an editor but she was an english literature major in college. She told me exactly what I had been thinking, and what I had been told by my professors, that the skills of an english major are valuable. Anyone who studies the humanities is forced to think critically on a daily basis. There is no clear cut answer for most things, but I can defend my opinion because of x,y,and z.

3. a greater understanding of the culture that surrounds me

Reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in its original middle-english may have been an acute form of torture, but it was beneficial (even if some may not think so). Now, Chaucer is just one example, but reading the works of people who came earlier allows young people to better understand the culture that we live in today. Reading these works allows students to enter another world and understand it. And on a side note, people like Chaucer and Shakespeare are responsible for many words that we use on a regular basis today.

4. organizing your thoughts into ideas becomes your specialty

This is directly related to the second point. Since an english major is constantly writing and thinking about what they have read, they become very good at organizing thoughts into ideas worth writing about. I’m sure that everyone has looked at a paper topic and been baffled, but this is a part of what a liberal arts education is supposed to do. Problem solving is just one of the many benefits.

5. because being able to write is important

It just is. It is so important to be able to write well. Whether it’s an email or a blog post, the skill of writing well comes in handy.

And although Sheldon Cooper may not think so, having an English Degree is valuable.