What I’m up to these days…

Final exams are finished, thanks be to God!

However, I can’t make the trek back home yet, as my practicum project has a Christmas Eve service that I need to be at. So in spite of the fact that I’ll be going home ON Christmas Day, I’m enjoying the break and the time to relax by myself for now. I’ve got a knitting project on the go, as well as some books to read. One is a biography of St. Jean Marie Vianney by Francis Trochu and the other is a book on the Eucharist entitled Jesus:  Our Eucharistic Love by Fr. Stefano Manelli. In addition to his own personal thoughts, he uses many quotes from the saints and Scripture to emphasize the beauty and greatness of this sacrament. An excerpt (from page 37):

When Jesus is mine, the whole Church rejoices:  the Church in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth. Who can express the joy the angels and saints feel at every Holy Communion worthily received? A new current of love enters Paradise and a new delight comes to the blessed spirits every time a creature unites himself devoutly to Jesus, to possess Him and be possessed by Him. A Holy Communion is of much greater value than an ecstasy, a rapture, or a vision. Holy Communion transports the whole of Paradise into my poor heart!

I’ve been taking this book to Mass with me and spending some time prior to Mass reading and reflecting on God’s Love of mankind. In Advent and at Christmastime we remember how God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to become Man and die for our sake. Jesus’ meekness at His birth in Bethlehem was only the beginning of His life of humility, and that humility is likewise made manifest in the Eucharist. The Son of God, King of Heaven and Earth, and Messiah of God’s people becomes present on our altars at Mass and even more! He enters our very selves when we receive Him in Holy Communion. Truly, He is Emmanuel.

I’m not even halfway through this book, but I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a terrific read for anyone who wants to grow closer to Our Lord through reflection and meditation on the love of God. The Mystical Body and Blood of Our Lord is the nearest to Heaven that we can get during our life on earth, so I encourage you to think about this next time you receive Holy Communion.

Until next time, peace be with you and God bless!

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University Life!

Well, I moved out and have been living in a university residence for four weeks now. The homeschooler is alive and in fact, thriving! I’ve certainly learned a lot in the past few weeks, about myself, my family, school, city life, and people in general.

#1.  Homeschooling can prepare you for life ‘in the real world’.

September 7th dawned bright and sunny, and the whole of creation seemed cheerful that morning. I was feeling anxious, though. It was my first day of school. Ever. With the exceptions of a driver’s ed course and giving a presentation to some fourth graders on composting, I had never even set foot in a classroom before. So as I left the residence, I recalled Julie Andrews singing “I Have Confidence” in The Sound of Music and by the time I reached my first class, I was feeling much better. This ‘real school’ thing is not as hard as I thought it would be, and all 6 of my courses are going very well now.

Because I have some dietary restrictions I opted not to eat at the cafeteria. So that means buying my own groceries and cooking for myself on top of school. Good thing I have lots of practice in this area! Cooking for the family over the past four years has certainly paid off. Grocery shopping and budgeting are not new to me, but I am still learning to check flyers for savings, use the store rewards card, and avoid impulse buys. The nearest grocery store is a 15 minute walk from my residence, so I can combine exercise and errands into one trip.

Learning to manage my time throughout my high school years was the biggest blessing in disguise. Although it was difficult at the time, it prepared me for living on my own and university life. In high school I used a study technique called the Pomodoro technique. I do 25 minutes of studying/writing/reading, take a 5 minute break, and repeat. A few hours of studying go by very quickly this way. I can complete projects way before the deadline if I manage my time and exercise self-control. Weekends are my time to catch up on laundry, cook for myself, or spend some time with friends, which leads to my next point…

#2.  Have a support system.

There is no way I would be coping so well if it weren’t for the support of my friends here in the city. My family lives 3 hours away, so Mom has been texting me often to make sure I’m doing alright and sometimes the fam-jam will call me or Skype message me because they miss me quite a bit. This contact with them is great, but it doesn’t replace real life contact. Thankfully, I’ve got friends here in the city and in the past few weeks, we’ve gone for walks, had coffee at various shops, gone swing dancing, went for a beer after Adoration, and sat on a park bench watching the sun set and the city lights come on. This support system has kept me optimistic and I know that no matter what struggles I face, I am not alone. 

#3.  Prayer life is vital.

vital:  adj, essential to or supporting life; necessary to existence. From the Latin vita meaning life. 

Indeed it is. When planning out my day, I set aside 45 minutes for prayer in the morning. Angelus, morning offering, Rosary, and some time in silence can be fit into this block. I find that this time in prayer is a good way of preparing for the day and fortifying myself through God’s grace. I feel WAY better when I start my day like this. Because of my class schedule, I can’t make it to daily Mass, but I try to go to Mass or Adoration at some point between Monday and Friday. I need to recharge and be filled by my Savior.

That’s all I have for reflection now. Praise God for all the blessings He has given me! Not everything has been perfect, but His love endures and overcomes even the greatest sorrows. Remember that He loves you and nothing can separate you from that love!

 

A Better Lent Than Last Year

Over at The Catholic Gentleman, Mr. Guzman has a post on 7 Ways To Have A Good Lent. Check it out, cause it is solid awesomeness. Also on that page is a link for a worksheet, which can help you make … Continue reading

Discouragement and keeping the faith in this time

With the synod going on in Rome and all of the disparaging reports coming out of it, I feel extremely discouraged. This is not like my usual self. On most days, I am joyful, eager to do God’s Will, and full of energy. The past few days have left me very worried and sick about the division among the cardinals. So instead of wasting all my time on worrying, I made a list of little phrases and thoughts to encourage me and keep me going. I would like to share them with you.

-Have courage!

-The Church has survived this far.

-Christ will not abandon His Bride and leave Her to the wolves.

-Fidelity…fides…faith…

-Be hopeful.

-There are still some who defend the Truth.

-“Christ will guard His own!” St. Agnes

-The bishops and the Holy Father may not have a solid plan of attack, but God does!

“Remember, I am with you always until the end of time.” Matthew 28:20

-Pray and fast, giving glory to God.

“…and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

-Trust in God’s plan.

-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

-Keep busy serving the Lord.

-“Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Psalm 23:4

-Love beyond limits, imitating Christ.

-Thank God and praise Him for His goodness!

-Be a saint every minute of the day.

Also, this.

 

What I wish I had said

I spent a good part of my summer at camp. By “a good part”, I mean six weeks. First there was Camp St. Louis, then Captivenia, then more Camp St. Louis, then Ignite to finish things off. It was a great summer. I met wonderful people and got to counsel a lot of great kids. They always make me reflect a little on my own life, too. In the younger kids I see the innocence of faith and the simple, pure love that Christ wants all of us to have. In the older kids, those in their early teens, I see that same struggle that I felt not so many years ago; that struggle for power within them. “Will I serve God or not? What is my choice?”

Many of these kids come from Catholic homes and no doubt, they hear it in church or at school: the Church has called for a New Evangelization. Of course, they don’t know exactly what this means, or how to carry it out. There is the evangelization that must take place outside of the Church, but there is also the evangelizing within the Church that must take place. The point that I want to focus on the most is the first one: showing those in the secular world the light and beauty of the Catholic faith.

The best way of doing this is by example. If you practice virtue and live as the best Christian you can, people will notice and take interest in your religion. You must practice your faith to the fullest! Become a living saint! That is how you draw people to Christ.

Now, I doubt that saying that would inspire them. More likely, they would run screaming in the other direction. So thank God I didn’t give them that lecture. But I wish I had said something to them, now that we’re after the fact; something along these lines: when you are among others who know you are a Catholic, you become for them a representative of the Catholic Church. There is a little food for thought. When an artist goes to paint someone’s portrait, he wants his representation of that person to be as true to life as possible. Likewise, we should try to represent the Catholic Church (or even further, to represent Christ Himself) to them.

Powerful Love

I was at Adoration a few nights ago and I was reflecting on something that happened when I was eleven or twelve. At that time my mom was expecting her sixth baby and she was having a few health problems, so of course, our whole family started praying for her and the unborn baby. Her health problems became a bit more serious and I got really angry at God. First I thought He didn’t care about our family and He was just ignoring our requests, but over time I became more angry and quit believing in Him. I ended up getting very depressed. I kept the hurt inside of me and put on a happy face when I had to, but when I was alone I cried everyday and wanted to die. When my baby sister was born about four months later, I felt that maybe there was hope. All glory be to Him who knew that my conversion would have to be based in the intellect! I found my little sister to be truly miraculous. Anyone who has seen a newborn baby has likely marveled at the tiny fingers and toes, and this was true for me as well. Deep down I knew that something so small and perfect had to have been created; it could not have happened randomly or by mistake. In this way my belief in God was restored. God moved my soul in many little ways that summer until finally, about a year after I originally denied Him, I committed my life to serving Him alone.

Anyways, as I was reflecting on this a few nights ago I realised something. Jesus KNEW that I would deny Him when He offered up His Body and Blood at the Last Supper and on Calvary, yet He suffered it anyways. I was absolutely blown away by this thought. Love like this is powerful and basically impossible to comprehend! Just thought I would share this little thought with everyone….God bless!

This one is about chickens. Yes, chickens.

A bit of back-story first: a few weeks ago we moved our laying hens into their movable summer coop, which we tow ahead every few days. It allows them more fresh grass to eat than they would get at their winter coop. Around the summer coop we set up an electric fence which keeps the coyotes at bay. In a nearby pen, we also keep several llamas and alpacas. Due to their hatred of anything dog-like, they will chase coyotes away as well. However, we had a small problem with our chickens this year.

Chickens are creatures of habit, and shortly after we moved them out of the winter coop, three or four hens decided they wanted to go back. So they hopped over the electric fence and started on their way. We had already closed up the winter coop by that time, so they ended up living on whatever they could find around the barnyard. Now for the interesting part.

As I was heading out on my walk today I heard one of these chickens making a good deal of noise in the llama and alpaca pen. I walked a little closer to the fence so that I could find out what the matter was. I saw a coyote running away with a chicken in his mouth, and a llama chasing him. Once the coyote saw me climbing over the fence, he dropped the chicken and ran off with a little clump of feathers in his mouth. Sadly, the damage had already been done and the chicken was dead.

So what did I see in all this that made me want to tell you about it? Permit me to use a little analogy scenario. Say the summer coop, guarded by the electric fence, are the Catholic Church and Her teachings. The chicken is a soul and the winter coop is its former way of life; that is, before making its home in the Church. The llama is this soul’s guardian angel and the coyote is the devil (hey, its just an analogy!). When a soul ignores the Church’s teachings and hops over them as though they are only optional, it’s aim (though seemingly unintentional) is to go back to it’s old way of life. The soul can try to make do and live the best it can, but nonetheless, outside the Church it is far more weak and vulnerable. It’s guardian angel can only protect it from so much before the devil claims it for himself.

The chicken’s story had a rough ending: it is dead and nothing can bring it back. But for Catholics who have left the Church there is still a chance; they can still come home and make peace with God. Please, if you are a Catholic who has been away from the Church for a long time, know that God still loves you and wants you to belong to His son’s one flock. God bless you!

“Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.”
Joel 2:13, NIV

The Mother’s Day homily

A couple weeks ago my family and I went to Mass on Sunday morning as we normally do. However, even before we got to the church I had a feeling that the homily would have nothing or little to do with that Sunday’s readings. And sure enough, that is just what happened.The priest, who is retired and was just filling in that Sunday, managed to spend the whole seven minutes or so talking about mothers. He basically gave us a shallow sort of reflection on what mothers do (“She laughs with us, she cries with us, she is always there when we need her,” and so on). That was it! Did it slip his mind that it was Good Shepherd Sunday as well? There are a wealth of topics that develop from that one simple part of the Gospel. There is the matter of Christ as guiding Shepherd and Head of the Church; the matter of heretics or schismatics being outside the fold and the importance of being in the fold; the matter of one fold, one Shepherd, one Church; and I’m sure there are more topics out there that I am unaware of.

I don’t want to sound like some disparaging, mom-hating nutbar; that is certainly not my aim with this post, but the few points that I listed above are important issues in the Church today. Catholics don’t always understand that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church, so priests need to give the flock, “the milk of grace, of doctrine, and of guidance.” Catholics cannot survive on Wonderbread homilies alone. Our souls need real food to grow properly. Yes, moms rock and I appreciate my own mother very much, but can we keep the focus on God instead of ourselves? I mean:
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Oh, and the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion helped the priest hand out carnations to all the mothers before the end of Mass. Anyhoo…on that happy note, enjoy your day and God bless you!