Favorite Pins and Links

These past few months have been pretty busy! Chris and I got engaged, and we are both in the midst of starting new jobs. Adding in the start of a new semester, one could imagine how busy we have been. And although I’m bummed that we had to cancel youth group tonight due to the weather, I am grateful for the opportunity to rest and to share a little of my life lately with all of you. So, I’ve officially been engaged to my best friend for a month! *cue squealing* That being said, I’ve been doing a lot of pinning and dreaming. So here is a roundup of my favorite links that I’ve come across on the internet lately in preparation for planning our wedding.

thumb_img_0144_1024


Katie Prejean McGrady’s post NFP: Not Freaking Practical

This, just like every other blog we’ve shared, is a small snapshot into the difficulties of learning an entirely new rhythm to life, while also trying to figure out how to balance a budget together, live together, cook together, and share the covers on our bed (a constant, nightly battle). We took on the practice of NFP because we believe it’s what is best, and we quickly discovered it to be a cross that can be pretty heavy to carry.

I first heard Katie Prejean speak at the New York Catholic Youth Day this past Spring. I was there manning a booth for CYFM and gave a reflection during adoration. Katie was a keynote speaker and I was so engaged by her talk! At the time she was preparing for marriage and added tidbits of her love story into her keynote. Since then I have followed along on her journey through instagram, and more recently through her blog. I love this post because she didn’t sugarcoat NFP. Being that we’re recently engaged, I have been looking into different resources to get an idea and begin to plan for our marriage. Katie’s post made me laugh but was also one of first that I’ve read to explain that NFP a beautiful thing yes, but also a cross to bear.


Spoken Bride’s Not For The Perfect: How I Came To Accept and Value NFP

Though my body is my own, my temple was built by God. And even while sometimes I’d love to change some things about my body, it is beautifully designed. The fact that God gifted me with fertility and breaks from fertility is something I no longer take for granted. It turned out all the Church needed was that running start and open mind.

Spoken Bride has been a favorite resources over the past month or so. This post, like Katie Prejean’s, was insightful. I’m grateful for these resources during the very beginning stages of our sacramental prep.


Spoken Bride’s Getting Real About Wedding-Day Beauty

Fake? Like any other bride, I’d wanted to look my best on our wedding day. But I hadn’t given much thought to any reasoning beyond that, and certainly hadn’t set out to intentionally deceive anyone into believing I had a born-with-it blinding smile. Where, then, to draw the line on bridal beauty treatments, and how?

I’m so grateful for all of the resources on the internet to help us out in our planning and preparing. While the Knot and different instagram accounts are super practical, Spoken Bride is focused on the Catholic Bride. That means sacramental prep, with a few pretty things thrown in too. While we still have a year and a half until the big day, I’m grateful for this site and its emphasis on the sacrament of marriage. Also, I’m not super into makeup as it is, so the fact that this post focuses on our natural beauty makes me so happy.


This post on The Marriage Crucifix

When they interchange the marital vows, the bride puts her right hand on this Crucifix and the groom puts his right hand over hers. Both are bound together and united to the Cross. The priest covers their hands with his stole while they pronounce their promises to love one other in good times and in bad, proclaiming their vows to be faithful according to the rites of the Church.

I first heard about this tradition in this Fountains of Carrots Podcast and nearly started crying in the student lounge because of how beautiful it is. While Chris and I technically weren’t engaged as of yet, we had been talking about marriage for quite some time, so I was sure to store this beautiful little ritual in the back of my mind. I love the idea of searching for a crucifix for this ritual, that will later hang in our home. We’re getting married in June, so the idea of incorporating the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary into the crucifix sounds ideal to me.


Spoken Bride also features the photos and stories of real weddings. I love this. Here are two of their features that I absolutley love:

Becca + Kyle

I pray you make every moment with your beloved and those around you extraordinary, because Becca is right. We are called to heroic love. Becca and Kyle’s relationship shows that overcoming challenges and trusting Christ with our life’s steps is what we’ve been made for in our call to love.

Flowers. Lace. And so many pretty things.

Maggie + Eric

We look back with such gratitude on our wedding day, because what stands out to us isn’t the details we had spent the majority of our time planning–it was that we gave each other a sacrament in marriage, which has been a comfort and a stronghold for us during our first year as newlyweds.

Summer. Roses. And simple beauty.


As Chris and I continue our venue search, I hope to keep some of these pearls of wisdom from my research in mind. Please pray for us as we continue this journey!

Mary

Life Lately

Life during this semester has been a little crazy. From starting graduate school to shifting jobs to family obligations, fall of 2016 left little to no time to devote to this little blog.

It has been a season of growth, change, discomfort, and joy.

I’ve worked hard this semester, changed jobs, and attended a sweet friend’s wedding. I’ve hiked, prayed, and celebrated. More to come later, sweet friends. Pray for me in this time of transition and grace. I’ll be praying for you.

Mary

On being a cheerful servant

thumb_IMG_2810_1024

Student: If you could be any food, what food would you be?

Me: Hmm. I’m going to cheat with this one: I would be a cup of coffee.

Student: Why would you be a cup of coffee?

Me: Because it’s warm, inviting, it’s like a hug in a cup, and it wakes you up in the morning.

Student: I like that answer!

From the time that I was in High School, I have had trouble getting out of bed in the morning. So much so, that during my sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school I would arise ten minutes before I had to leave the house. My alarm would go off at 6:15am, I would then repeatedly hit snooze for a half hour, and finally arise at 6:45am. My Mom and I would then leave the house between 6:55 and 7:00am. I was a master at getting ready within ten minutes. I had the routine down to a science. My bags would be packed with my breakfast, lunch, and water bottle (at this time I hadn’t discovered the sweetness that is a cup of coffee). I would roll out of bed, brush my hair, use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and finally change. This became my routine each and every morning.

As I transitioned into college, this struggle became even more real since I had to do so on my own and drive 30-45 minutes to my college campus every morning. It was during this time that I discovered the wonderful perks of caffeinated beverages. I had a Dunkin Donuts gift card from my summer job and decided to use it each morning during my commute. This struggle of trying to wake up at a decent time has continued to be a struggle through my college and post-college career.

As I began my year of service with Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries, I knew that one of my greatest challenges of the year would be getting up and ready for the day before the students on the retreat. This proved to be especially difficult being that our retreats typically don’t wind down until about 11:30pm. This means that most of the retreatants don’t settle down until after midnight, sometimes much later. Being the “adult” it is my job to make sure that everyone is safe, in their beds, and attempting to sleep. I repeatedly tell them, “You know that I love you all, but do you know what I love even more? Sleeping.”

These odd work hours have become one of the greatest struggles of my Cap Corps year as well as one of my greatest joys. It is definitely the most difficult part of my job this past year. We constantly rearrange our sleep schedule based on different retreat programs. This is physically demanding, and lying in bed until the last possible minute doesn’t work in this field. One of the ways that I know helps me each day is waking up before the retreatants and being ready to wake them up. One of the struggles of this is doing it with a smile.

I realized early on in the year that this would be a challenge for me. In October of 2015, CYFM put on a Lock-In because of an unexpected open weekend. As bright-eyed, baby CCVs, we were so excited to put on a program that we were able to plan from scratch. However, with an overnight program filled with activities came little to no sleep. I believe I slept for a total of three hours during that retreat. The morning came, and myself along with four other volunteers and two friars had to be bright eyed, smiling servants.

As we prepared breakfast, and as the cherubs slowly rose and made their way down to the dining hall, I was actually cheery. To be honest, I still don’t know how this miracle occurred, being that I was actually exhausted. Fr. Tomas, being his normal, joyful self commented on my cheeriness and appearance of alertness. However, holding my warm cup of coffee in my hands, the only answer that I could come up with for him was that I was “faking it”.

This idea, for me, goes back to my time training to be a peer leader when I was in High School. I was a part of a ministry team that would be running the icebreakers, liturgy, and behind the scenes tasks at a youth conference in upstate New York (everything north of Westchester is upstate to a Long Islander, don’t yell at me!). The week involved Discipleship training, as well as practicing skits, games, etc. On our final day of the youth conference we were all exhausted. We rose at 6am to begin preparation for the final day of Ministry, and my youth minister was particularly cheery, as the rest of us were, well not.

I remember looking at him, with tired eyes, and asking, “Tom, how are you so awake right now?!” His response was simple, and it stuck with me (and stayed with me throughout my year of service).

“I’m not,” he replied “I’m faking it,” and he still had a smile on his face.

This idea stuck with me, not because it made my youth minister inauthentic, or made the job of ministry seem easy. This idea stuck with me because it made me realize that my youth minister was a real person, who genuinely cared about our well-being, and our souls. And although we were all exhausted, we were still there to serve, and we were there to be cheerful servants, not grumbly servants.

“Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.” Philippians 2: 14-18

And so, that morning in October, I was reminded of that encounter and the lesson that it taught me way back when.

Whether or not I kept this lesson in mind during later retreats is a different story. However I was reminded of this lesson towards the end of the year at one of the CAM orientation days. We were playing a question game, and one question that I was asked went like this:

Student: If you could be any food, what food would you be?

I thought for a minute and couldn’t think of a food. But, for some reason at that moment, I was reminded of one of my struggles this year: getting up on time, and doing it with a smile. And so, I cheated.

Me: Hmm. I’m going to cheat with this one: I would be a cup of coffee.

When I was asked why, I responded honestly, hoping that these attributes were part of my year. I hope that I was warm, and inviting to each retreatant, and to my fellow leaders. And I hope that I was able to wake everyone up in the morning.

Life Lately

For i know well the

Hello friends,

Since I last wrote a real blog post, a lot has happened in my life. Since April I have:

  • Led my last Confirmation Retreat at CYFM
  • Finished my year of service at CYFM
  • Participated/Led two Outreach programs
    • one local
    • one in Kentucky
  • Drove a very large cargo van to and from Kentucky
  • Said “See you later” to many wonderful, faith filled men and women
  • Traveled as a Pilgrim to World Youth Day in Poland
  • Moved back home
  • transferred Graduate Schools (maybe one day i’ll write about that journey, maybe)
  • Got a Job!
  • had a cold (boo)
  • been to the beach
  • found a cute coffee shop 15 minutes from my house
  • ordered many books for the upcoming fall semester

My August is nothing like what I thought it would be back in April. A lot has changed since then. Since my last real post, I have posted a total six reflections and talks from my year working with CYFM and from previous mission trips. Some of them are a little more lengthy than my regular posts, but if you’re curious about the ministry that I did this year, these talks below are a good example of the work that I did this year, and the heart and soul that I put into my ministry.

The Emmaus Witness
The Jesus Difference
Embarking on your faith journey
A Reflection on Mercy

These posts were talks that I gave throughout this year. While the Emmaus Witness, Embarking on your faith journey, and the Reflection on Mercy all speak to the same encounter they are each catered to a different retreat or program. The Jesus Difference was geared towards a Middle School audience.

Adjusting to life back home, out of the red house is interesting. Perhaps I’ll write to that soon. Thanks for reading some of my ramblings. Expect more posts soon since I have more time on my hands (at least for the next two weeks) 🙂

Mary

The Emmaus Witness

ORBEC Walk To Emmaus #10

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.

A conversion of heart occurs in this story from scripture. One of the great things about it is how many times this conversion happens for the disciples, and in how it shows how many different ways this conversion can occur. For me, it is a reminder that our conversion of heart, our encounter with God, doesn’t just happen once, but happens over and over again, until finally (hopefully) we rest with God in his Kingdom. I think that each one of us can think back on our faith journey, and remember our first conversion of heart. Perhaps you are still able to remember that moment. You can remember every little detail about it, the lighting, the smells, and that word, song, or talk that changed your life for the better. Perhaps it was in this very room.

In my story, my conversion of heart occurred in a room very similar to this one. But before we can get to that moment, we need to back up a little bit. My relationship with Jesus began when I made my confirmation in the seventh grade. And since I became a Cap Corps, every week, sometimes multiple times, I get up here to this podium, and tell seventh and eighth graders how I made the decision to follow Jesus at my Confirmation. I can give that talk because it is true. I found a home in the youth ministry program at my parish. I made real friends, and found that I loved learning about my faith. I shared that I had found a true friend in Jesus with the seventh and eighth graders who were here last weekend. And while all of these stories sound nice, and they are; and they can help a twelve or thirteen year old know that Jesus can be a friend to them, that moment wasn’t the turning point for me in my story. My full story is a little different. Sometimes, the story isn’t as pretty and put together; sometimes we’re the disciples running away from Jerusalem after the crucifixion.

In the eighth grade my parent’s marriage began to fail. And while their marriage hadn’t been the best throughout my childhood, it still allowed some stability throughout my young life. There was a routine, Mom got home at 5:30 and gave us dinner, and Dad’s schedule shifted because of his two jobs, but he would come home, eat dinner and watch TV, eventually. But, when my Dad stopped sleeping in his bedroom, my world changed. It was here that I truly learned to pray, and depend on God. Two years later, they finally divorced and my home life changed permanently. Youth group became my stable environment. And while there were adults who cared about me, and true friends who were there for me; I went to that blue door of the old convent, down the stairs to a blue room each week for my “Jesus fix”.

As time went on, the youth group year moved forward. And we began to discuss heavier topics like, the importance of the Eucharist, chastity, and pornography; I began to realize that the guy that I was dating, whom I believed I was in love with and was going to spend my life with, was not treating me right, and the things that we were doing, even though we weren’t having sex, were not chaste or holy. I couldn’t swallow that truth though. I knew that what we were doing was not right, but hearing that truth out loud made it all too real for me. These things that we did made me feel better. I was still dealing with that change at home. I was learning how to live in my house without my Dad, and many times, because of work, without my Mom too. This guy made me feel loved and wanted, I felt as though I had a purpose with him.  So, I made excuses, tried to push the Church’s teachings out of my mind, and eventually began to completely ignore the guilt and the pain that I was feeling.  I threw my moral compass out the window each time I saw this guy, and I began to run away from Jerusalem.

The next few years were filled with your typical teenage drama: heartbreak, angst, but also with depression and anxiety. When that relationship, which I thought was worth throwing my faith away for, finally fell apart, I was distraught. It felt as though I had to relearn how to live. By the time I reached my senior year of 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. I wasn’t so keen on going, and as we opened the retreat I wasn’t sold on the theme song. I had been going to counseling, so I began to get my depression and anxiety under control, and 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.

Jesus was walking with me, even though I didn’t recognize him. 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 about what was burdening us. There were thousands of pebbles on the beach, and the sun had gone down, leaving a beautiful blue-green color painted on the sky. We each picked up two rocks. One represented our burdens, and one represented a promise. Then we each threw our burden into the Sound, and held on tight to our promise. I began to open up then. Although I still didn’t recognize him, Jesus was walking with me, and I urged him to stay.  

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

I sat in adoration of the Eucharist. I remember that moment; it was when everything changed for me. I can remember every detail of that night. The room was dim; the monstrance was beautiful and was surrounded by candles. I remember the smell of the incense burning. Through tear stained eyes, all I could see was Jesus. Everyone else had disappeared. Then I heard the words of a familiar song,

“He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane; I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are, and how great your affections are for me. Oh, How He loves us.”

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 rest, to let go, and to come, and follow Him.  I felt an overwhelming sense in my heart that I was loved. Truly, truly Loved.

“And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss… I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way he loves us.”

Suddenly things made sense. Christ was truly present in the Eucharist. Heaven came down to earth each time Mass was celebrated. Each time bread is broken at table, Christ becomes recognizable to us in the most humble, beautiful way possible. That true love, that acceptance and guidance that I had been looking for was there right in front of me:

“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The gift of Jesus in the Eucharist, for me, is the most important aspect of my faith. It is why I am Catholic. We are able to receive him every day if we want to. That’s crazy to me. Since my encounter, I started to look at the Eucharist in a different light. I guess you could say that I started to take it more seriously. I went to World Youth Day in Spain that summer, and for the first time in my life, went to mass each day. Being able to receive the Eucharist each day helped my love for Jesus in the Eucharist grow more and more. Seeing young people from all over the world, who share the same belief, reverently, receive the body and blood of Christ changed the way that I receive the Eucharist.

However, as life moves forward, I still get distracted, and forget what gift of love is in front of me. There is another story from the Gospel of Luke that speaks to this:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

I think that many times, I can be a Martha. And I’m sure that many of you feel the same way. I’m a do-er. I pay attention to the details because in my eyes, without them, whatever you’re trying to doesn’t matter. Like if you’re running youth group, and you forget pens for your journaling prayer station. That’s an important detail! But God still shows up. Suddenly you remember that there are a few pens in this bag, and that bag, and then suddenly you have enough pens for your prayer station. I like to do service projects where I can see God’s grace pouring out to those we are serving. And sometimes, I forget the power that prayer holds.

mary-martha-lazarus

Like Martha, I am cleaning, cooking, and preparing for Jesus to enter my home. It doesn’t matter that he’s already here; there is a spill on the floor over there that I need to clean now, because Jesus deserves better. How am I supposed to host him if I don’t have any clean plates? How am I supposed to let him into my heart, unless my soul is in a perfect state of grace? How is he supposed to love me if I can’t love myself?

These are questions that run through my mind when I am brought before the Eucharist in Adoration. Like Martha, I am often anxious and worried about many things. I begin to think that I am unworthy, or that those things I did years ago still matter. And then Jesus reminds us that Mary has chosen the better part.  Just being with him in the Eucharist is enough. He wants us to spend time with him. Fulton Sheen once said,

“The only time the Lord asked the apostles for anything was the night he went into agony. Not for activity did he plead but for an hour of companionship.”

Mary understood the gift of love that was in front of her. (It must be something about the name.)

She chose the better part. Our Lord loves us so much that he humbles himself to become ordinary bread, we receive him and we adore him. In the breaking of the bread, our eyes are opened.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story, and how Christ has touched my life.

*This witness was given on the College and Young Adult Retreat in February of 2016 at CYFM*

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. 

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

perpetual_help

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.

olph paris

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:

olph madrid

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.

thumb_IMG_2729_1024

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

thumb_IMG_2736_1024thumb_IMG_2737_1024

These two images were found at Graymoor.

thumb_IMG_2813_1024

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

thumb_IMG_2814_1024

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…

thumb_IMG_2834_1024

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

thumb_IMG_2836_1024

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

thumb_IMG_2838_1024thumb_IMG_2840_1024

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

thumb_IMG_2847_1024

This was outside of the Providence College Chapel.

thumb_IMG_2922_1024

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.

 

My Sisters the Saints, by Colleen Carroll Campbell

  1. My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell (to finish this book)
  2. Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell (to finish this book)
  3. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge
  4. Wife Mother & Mystic: Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi by Fr. Albert Bessieres
  5. Therese, Faustina, and Bernadette: Three saints who challenged my faith, gave me hope, and taught me how to love by Elizabeth Ficocelli
  6. Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
  7. St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton
  8. Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly
  9. Jesus a Pilgrimage by James Martin (to finish this book)

thumb_IMG_2992_1024

We’re almost two months into 2016 and I have finally finished a book. My friend Britt gave me this book to read back in August when I moved to Beacon. So, it sat on my shelf as I adjusted to life as a full time volunteer. I barely read anything from August to December, which is pretty unlike me. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to incorporate more reading into my prayer life this year. I decided to start with this book because it was lent to me by a friend, and it is a spiritual memoir. So, it would be interesting (I hoped) and still fulfill the requirement of spiritual reading.

I started to read this book during the College Capuchin Outreach Program (College COP) in early January, where I had a few college students comment on how much they loved this book. So I started it before bed, and had a hard time putting it down. Campbell’s memoir was relatable to women in college, and beyond. Her spiritual journey starts as a little girl, but as a teenager she strays away. In college, she picks up a copy of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, and her life is transformed. (Don’t worry I’m not giving anything away, this is all on the back cover!) She writes of her father, and her profound respect for him and his faith, especially as his health declines later on in the book.

She writes of her prayer life, her journey with these incredible women saints (Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Edith Stein, Teresa of Calcutta, and Mary), and her career. I think that many Catholic women can relate to Campbell’s journey and discernment to place her career or her internal desires first. She is a talented writer, which is displayed throughout this text, but also through her career as a correspondent and speech writer for the White House.

I found the text enjoyable to read, but also spiritually deep and enlightening. One of my favorite parts about this text was the intertwining of the lives of the Saints with the different stages of Colleen’s life. For me, it was reminder of the incredible lives of these women saints, whom I have journeyed with before. Although I have read about all of these women before, this memoir inspired me to learn more about Edith Stein and Faustina. This summer, I’m making a pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day. Both of these women will come up in my journey. I will be visiting the Convent where St. Faustina lived and received her visions. I will also be visiting Auschwitz, where Edith Stein and many others were martyred. Faustina has inspired me to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet more and Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) has inspired me to read more of her texts on women. I knew that Stein was a philosopher, but I had no idea what she had written or how it could be interesting to me.

I finished this book last week while on retreat in Esopus, NY. I was so pleased to have finally finished a book on my list! But, a spiritual companion, or Saintly Stalker as I sometimes call her, showed up at the end of the book. In the chapter on Mary, Campbell writes about her wedding, and how she and her husband knelt before an icon of none other than Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I wanted to laugh and show the paragraph to my community, but I was in a chapel where the Eucharist was exposed, so I kept it to myself until we retired to the living room. They laughed too.

I’m happy that I chose to read this book first. I now realize why my friend lent it to me, and why so many others have raved about it. (It even came up in a podcast that I was listening to yesterday!) For my next journey in the world of reading, I will be diving into Matthew Kelley’s Rediscover Jesus. Although it isn’t specifically for Lent, it can be used for this season, and is purple. So it works. I read Rediscover Catholicism this past summer and I really enjoyed it, but also found it as good preparation for this year of service. I also hope to read a bit of James Martin’s Jesus A Pilgrimage during breaks from Kelley’s book. I have been “reading” this book since it was published, but I usually only read  one chapter at a time, with months in between. But it works for me.

Mary

365 Days of Love Notes, Weeks 50 & 51

Sunday July 12, 2015

Mass

Monday July 13, 2015

Received a lovely post card with a flan-stamp and had some snuggles with Ms. Cat.

thumb_IMG_2307_1024 thumb_IMG_2308_1024

Tuesday July 14, 2015

Happy Bastille Day, America! and some delicious peaches and I went to Fr. Jacob’s class.

thumb_IMG_2309_1024

Wednesday July 15, 2015

Some watercolors and old crosses

thumb_IMG_2315_1024 thumb_IMG_2316_1024 thumb_IMG_2318_1024

Thursday July 16, 2015

My missionary sandals came! And I bought “Go Set a Watchman” and went to Fr. Jacob’s class.

thumb_IMG_2321_1024 thumb_IMG_2322_1024

Friday July 17, 2015

Friday!

Saturday July 18, 2015

Drove down to Ocean City, New Jersey for a long weekend.

Sunday July 19, 2015

thumb_IMG_2324_1024

This was in the local parish bulletin. It made me chuckle.

Monday July 20, 2015

Beautiful Ocean City

thumb_IMG_2332_1024

Tuesday July 21, 2015

Drove back home and then went to Fr. Jacob’s Class

thumb_IMG_2334_1024 thumb_IMG_2335_1024

Wednesday July 22, 2015

Back to work…

Thursday July 23, 2015

Went to Fr. Jacob’s class, which was really, really good.

Friday July 24, 2015

Happy Friday!

Saturday July 25, 2015

Went to the Mets game!

thumb_IMG_2341_1024

Find more Love Notes at Story of a Rose

365 Days of Love Notes, Week 49

Sunday July 5, 2015

Mass

Monday July 6, 2015

Went to work and had a meeting at the Parish

Tuesday July 7, 2015

Work and some relaxation

Wednesday July 8, 2015

A free concert in the park with my Dad, and picked out this quote from Blessed Is She

“I know for certain that Christ called and used the Apostles in spite of their weaknesses and transformed them through their work for Him.”

Thursday July 9, 2015

Some room shopping for CYFM and Adoration with some good people

Friday July 10, 2015

Pizza and some time with Chris

Saturday July 11, 2015

A day at the Beach, Mass, dinner, and an event with some friends

Find more Love Notes at Story of a Rose