Monday, August 28, 2006

Prudence is Calling

that I (sadly) take a hiatus this week from blogging. A host of meetings - one each day, in fact! - and numerous preparations for my Fall schedule will be demanding my time...especially because next week we leave on our real family vacation: camping in Michigan! And since I do have to leave a little time for sleep, the blog will have to rest for a bit.

It's unfortunate that this "time off" right now happens to be when I have about a dozen great posts in my head just waiting to be typed...but don't worry, I'll keep them there and you'll hear from me again on September 10th! Hopefully they'll just improve with age and be a little better seasoned when they do come to you. ;)

Friday, August 25, 2006

THE Question, Part 2

My many discussions off-shooting from THE Question have exposed me to what I call an American “stereotype”… that somehow, your life is on hold till you go to college. What most folks have no idea of are some of the other tremendous opportunities for service and experience in your “after high school years”. For two examples, the National Evangelization Teams (NET), or traveling dramas with Leonardo Defilippis' St. Luke's Productions.

While a College education is a good thing, it's not necessarily for everyone. For some reason, the minute we turn 18, we’re just supposed to be itching to leave home. Certainly a healthy spirit of independence is good -- but that doesn't mean every young person must leave home that quickly. Think for a moment what most young adults go to college for: the learning, the degree, the friends, the “life skills”, and the biggie: the experience. For one thing, it’s interesting to note how many working adults are for whatever reason not even using their college degree in their job. And second, who’s to say that one can’t learn, enjoy friends, gain life skills and healthy independence, and expand your experience aside from a college campus? My dad often likes to point out that many homeschooled students are privileged to graduate from high school with well-rounded life skills (such as those being learned by many college students) already developed.

I am not in any way discouraging or being unappreciative of higher education, I am merely pointing out that many young adults turn 18, graduate high school, move from home, and leave for college simply because it is “the thing to do”. And this shouldn’t be anyone’s main reason. One who goes to college should do so not just because it’s expected of them – but with the whole-hearted intention to make the most of such an opportunity.

My generation is very blessed to have the option of many outstanding Catholic colleges that have been founded within the last 20 years. I receive newsletters from and know students at such places as Thomas Aquinas College in CA, Magdalen College in NH, Christendom College in VA, and University of Dallas – all fantastic, orthodox, relatively small, and very formation-strong Catholic Colleges (among others). It is exciting and wonderful to see the well-formed and truth-equipped youth adults who come from these places, and great to explore these options as my first probabilities if I am called to go to college.

As for this year, I'm remaining at home to continue praying and discerning God's plan, as well as continue directing my movement, which by the grace of God is growing all the time. I smile because it seems that many who hear this assume I’m to have so much time on my hands…when in truth, I’m already realizing that I need to be careful not to over commit! I am thrilled to be teaching Religious Education at two different parishes this year (to 7th and 8th grade, and preparing them for Confirmation!). In addition, I am continuing violin lessons and active involvement in several church choirs, cantoring for Mass, as well as teaching piano and violin students from my home and being hired as assistant teacher for the Joliet Area Suzuki Strings Group. I have one more year in 4-H and will be blessed to remain a member of the Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club, as well as participating in this year’s unit study with the Saint Faustina Club on China. Mix in tutoring my sister in English/grammar, sitting in on a weekly Physics class taught by a homeschool dad, assisting with the Little Flower Buds Club, and various babysitting jobs, and “bored” will continue to be a word without use in my vocabulary. :) In between all this, I hope to find time for sewing and art projects, reading, writing, journaling... and of course, blogging!

THE Question

It's the question I'm asked by everyone from the next-door neighbor, to all my aunts and uncles, to all the elderly ladies from church. It's a question accompanied by [mostly] well-meaning cordiality, [sometimes] curious expressions, [frequently] followed by surprise and [often] followed by opinion. Of course, there are several variations.

"Are you going to college?"
"Where are you going to college?"
"What are you going to do now?"
"What are your plans?"

I always smile at that last one. Apparently, it's a must nowadays to have your "plans made". Apparently, it's a prerequisite to happiness, to fulfillment. Certainly, I can make plans. But I really only have one – to find God’s plan, and follow it. After all, why exert yourself to make “your own” plans when there’s a grand master plan already prepared for you?

This is not just wishful thinking, feel-good belief, or silly idealism. Not one of us is an accident. We are not merely a name, a number, or just somebody stuck here by our Creator and then left to figure everything out on our own. Each of us was willed. Each of us was created by the Master for a purpose. Each of us has a special mission. Each of us has a unique calling. Each of us has a specific vocation that no one else on earth can fulfill in the same way.

It’s really very simple. We seek to find, know, and follow the plan of the Master, and in return, we find real happiness. We find real fulfillment. We find real joy. Not necessarily always comfort and pleasure, but happiness. True happiness. Deep fulfillment. Lasting joy. And any human being who has ever walked the face of the earth longs for these three more than anything else.

So the simple answer to THE question is this: What am I doing now that high school is over? Seeking to follow the Plan of the Master, to find and follow my vocation – not only for my life, but for each moment.

It is quite common nowadays for this word “vocation” to be used in a limited sense only to mean a religious calling (i.e. the vocation of becoming a priest or consecrated religious), when in reality EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAS A VOCATION. The word vocation comes from the Latin vocāre, meaning “to call”. And each one of us has a calling…and therefore has a vocation, whether it be to Holy Matrimony, the Consecrated Life, or unconsecrated single life in service to Christ and others.
4. a divine call to God's service or to the Christian life
5. a function or station in life to which one is called by God:
the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage (examples actually given and italicized)
To be continued…

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm Still Here!

I had hoped to have some photos for you of where I was this past weekend, but alas! The computer and the camara have made a pact against me and refuse to upload them. ;(

The past two days that I have been home have been taken up with major house-cleaning, de-junking, and organizing. You know, trying overtake the stuff that multiplies before it completely overtakes you.

Have a blessed day and adieu for now!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Yesterday's Feast: The Assumption!

What an amazing, beautiful mystery -- our Lady's Assumption into Heaven. What prompted her Son to exult her body with this great gift? Her perfect purity. She was the lily untarnished by any stain of sin. The one who, without hesitation, said "fiat" to the Will of God. The one who was full of grace. The one who exclaimed: “Magnificat anima mea dominum…My soul magnifies the Lord!” Think about it: Mary's soul was so clear that it not only reflected the image of God – it magnified Him! This lily was too spotlessly pure to be allowed to decay on this earth. She was assumed in glory, taken body and soul to Heaven with Her beloved Son. What a reward! Indeed, the keeping of purity does not go unmerited by the King. Great things has He in store for those who have fought the battle...and won.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

24 years ago, you began a new life together...
and started an adventure
Through joys and sorrows, sickness and health,
you have stayed together...
And now, 24 years and four children later,
you're more in love than ever.

In a world which fears commitment, despises sacrifice, and no longer reveres marriage, thank you for being a living, loving example of this beautiful Sacrament! I love you both.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Lesson on Stage

Tonight, I happened to re-read this true story that I wrote back in 2003 and included in a newsletter I would send out to family and friends. It brings back such a powerful memory of this lesson that I thought I'd share it with you, my blog friends...

I have been blessed to be a part of yearly Catholic dramas as a member of The Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club since I was 8 years old, and in June 2003 I had the incredible privilege of playing Joan in our play “Saint Joan of Arc”. That unforgettable experience, and a true lesson of grace, was forever imprinted upon me in a rather unusual, but truly Providence-guided, way…

At our play practices during the week leading up to the performance, I was really “feeling” and getting into the role, and was finding it wonderful. People were commenting that I had “found my part”. However, on the night of the last rehearsal, I felt strange. I couldn’t feel any of the emotion of my part and wondered what was wrong with me. After the practice I told our leader about my dilemma and she assured me with a saying that her mother – who used to be in the opera – always said: “Bad rehearsal – good performance…good rehearsal – bad performance”. I hoped she was right and that it was just exhaustion from a full week of rehearsals.

So I went home to bed, slept late the next morning, and kept praying throughout the day that, when the performance came, I would act well and for the glory of God. But that night, when we began the performance, I began to get nervous…because I felt too composed! It was too much like the night before…I wasn’t “feeling” my part. I know it sounds strange – nervous about being too composed! Now, I am usually not nervous when I’m acting. It’s such a fun thing for me that I just enjoy myself and can’t even remember a time when I felt “fluttery”. This was the first time. That was when I came to the realization that whether I felt the part or not, I still had to be Joan. Not just play her – be her. I had to re-live Joan for the audience. It didn’t matter if I felt like a dud or like a spark – I was Joan and I had to be her.

So what did I do? I prayed. Every scene, every wait, every pause between scenes, every time I was not speaking, I begged for the grace to really be Joan. And do you know what happened? As I went along, determined to give the part my all whether I felt right or not, the emotion just came.

But I was still slightly doubtful about the last scene. That was the scene where I had to be intensely dramatic and real. I kept praying, and as the stage crew prepared the scenery for the burning, I was asking everyone back stage to pray for me as well (which I was later able to look back on and recognize the gift of those friends lifting me up at that moment!).

Then it was time. The curtain opened. I was led out and tied to the stake. I could feel fear gripping my heart as I imagined myself really about to be burned, but inside I was still praying, praying, praying. And then the most beautiful thing happened to me. When I began to cry out the name of Jesus (Joan’s last words were “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over), the tears began streaming down my cheeks. There was nothing fake about those tears. And the emotion was unbelievable. It was the most wonderful mixture of pain, sadness, and yet joy and peace at the same time. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It felt, as I described afterward, as if I was let go…I was freed. I was really acting…I was really Joan. I felt like I had reached an intimate connection with her…with what she felt when those flames leapt around her. And my “flames” weren’t even real! (A scenery rig with fans, yellow chiffon, and lights was my “pyre”.)

People told me that I acted well. They said I made them cry. But I know that it wasn’t me…it was totally God’s grace working through me. It was an unforgettable experience of faith – of what the Lord can do for you if you rely on Him. I knew afterward that my nervousness had a much deeper meaning than just feeling “too composed”. It was all part of God’s plan to teach me to have more confidence in Him than I do in myself, and that when I beg Him to give me His strength instead of relying on my own, He will give me what I ask for and much more.

What a beautiful truth! If you ask the Lord to use you for His glory and not your own, if you put complete trust and confidence in Him, He will use you to do unbelievable things! Imagine what we could do if our entire generation realized this and placed their lives and energies in God’s hands. We could change the world! I challenge each one of you to hear and respond to the call - and above all, to trust Him.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What are Your Seeds?

One specific verse from this past Thursday's Reading at Mass (2 Cor 9:6-10) caught me and held on:

"Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully...
God loves a cheerful giver."

I could not but think: How many seeds do I sow? Each day? Each hour? Am I sowing bountifully the seeds of faith, hope, and love? Or bountifully the seeds of mistrust, discouragement, and selfishness? If it is bountifully of the first, I shall reap the fruits. If it is bountifully of the second, I shall soon be entangled in weeds. If only we would remember this as we go about our daily interactions. What seeds are we sowing with our thoughts, our words, our actions, our attitudes?

And the last phrase: "God loves a cheerful giver." The key word here is cheerful. When I give, is it grudgingly, half-heartedly, pridefully? Or is my giving marked with a spirit of true Christian joy?

Lord, help me each moment to sow more bountifully the seeds of good...and more sparingly the seeds of evil. Help me to be a cheerful giver.

A Marvelous Article

by Elizabeth Foss is at Catholic Exchange today "On Being Ladylike". Check it out!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Saint Clare, Pray for Us

Today is my feast day! And also the Feast of Saint Philomena, virgin and martyr - one of my favorites.

This morning we were blessed to attend a beautiful Mass at our nearby community of Poor Clare Colletines, celebrated by our new Bishop J. Peter Sartain. And tonight I started reading a simply splendid book: Michael O'Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter...

Hopefully a "real post" will come tomorrow!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Something for Fun

My "five senses favorites"...

To Taste: Ice-cold homemade fruit smoothie, Fresh-steamed asparagus, French bread with garlic butter, juicy, cold fresh fruit, spinach lasanga

To Hear: harp, violin, piano, a baby's cooing, a sacred chant choir, an orchestra, the wind rustling through a tall aspen tree

To Smell: Sacred Chrism oil on the forehead of a newly baptized or confirmed (rapture!), any fresh flower, baking bread, simmering applesauce, cinnamon

To See: Beautiful churches, a family together, a baby's tiny hands and toes, a field of flowers, a majestic mountain, a clear blue sky

To Feel: Rose petals, a baby in my arms, the breeze against my cheeks, gentle sunshine on my face, the hug of a child, sand under my bare feet, smooth satin between my fingers, God's Love!

What are your "five senses favorites"? Leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pleasantly Surprised

Last evening, when my mom and dad needed their eyeglasses adjusted at Sears, I went along. Since it has been a very loooong time since I have been to the mall - and anytime within the past 5 years or so when I have, the clothing selections have been not only expensive, but completely undignified and unfeminine - I was somewhat eager to see what they have available this season. Granted, Sears was the only store I was in...but for one store, I was truly pleasantly surprised! Any lady who has felt like she's going in circles in recent years looking at "regular" stores for feminine, modest, and lovely clothing doesn't have to make that claim anymore. Tons of jackets, blazers, classic blouses, and gorgeously long, flowey skirts in fun colors and prints filled the racks I browsed through yesterday. Certainly, there were racks which obviously needed avoiding all together -- but there were plenty that didn't. And the prices too were really not that bad. Mom and I purchased eyelet jackets, originally priced at $58 (meaning that typically we wouldn't even look at them), but clearanced for $9.99!

And Sears isn't the only department store with nice clothing selections this season. We found versatile, comfy tiered denim skirts and lightweight linen jackets at Wal-Mart this spring (White Stag brand), and the many of the clothing photos featured on Kohl's website are very promising.

And I loved the little write-up that I read on the tag of one of White Stag's skirts at Wal-Mart the other day... "here at White Stag, we wear our skirts the way you would your comfy jeans!" I must say, it's nice to see someone catching on!

Perhaps I should have titled this "A Nice Flip to my Shopping Adventure"?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Qui Est Veritas?

After experiencing "The Passion of the Christ" for the first time on April 15, 2004, I went home and composed a number of writings from my reflections -- including the following: Qui Est Veritas? (What is Truth?). Since this blog was non-existent then, permit me to share it with you now...

What is truth? Truth…the undeniable longing of every soul, the quest embedded in each human spirit, the continually undefined mystery, the searching of every human heart…

Down through the ages, from the beginning of time, mankind has engaged in a continual search to find this essence of fulfillment. This quest of humanity is summed in the three words spoken by Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate in the year 33 A.D.: Que est Veritas? What is truth?

The very circumstances of his statement reflect the extent of how blind humanity can really be to truth – or perhaps the hesitance of man to embrace truth once exposed to it. For Pilate asks this question while standing before the very essence of Truth Itself: the second person of the Blessed Trinity, Divinity present in flesh, the God made Man…a living, breathing, walking, speaking embodiment of truth. Yet with this fullness before his very eyes, Pilate asks in confusion and wonderment: Que est Veritas? What is truth?

How does one attempt to define this mystery? The explanation of truth can be both very complex and very simple. Great philosophers and theologians may spend years, or even a lifetime, working toward understanding and defining the essence of truth, and yet it – like many other great mysteries – can often be simply and confidently unraveled by a small child.

Truth is beauty, and beauty is truth. Purity is truth, and truth is purity. Nothing is this world or outside of it that is good, pure, and beautiful is without truth. This truth may stand out clearly and recognizably, or it may be difficult to see. Mankind’s most formidable trio of enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil – never cease attempting to combine what is not true with the good and the beautiful. In many areas of society and culture today, they have succeededin luring and confusing human beings into following what appears beautiful, but in reality, is whitewashed poison containing no fragments of goodness or truth.

Could this be the reason for so much discontentment and unhappiness in our world today? Man, who was created with an inborn gravitation toward goodness, beauty, purity and truth, is turning in all the wrong directions to find it. None of the avenues endorsed by our current pagan culture will ever lead mankind to fulfillment. The human race will be left searching until it turns to God…the creator of good, the essence of purity, the well-spring of beauty, and the source of truth.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lead, Kindly Light

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's Father's Day!

No, I don't have my dates mixed up: today is the Feast of Saint John Marie Vianney, the awesome patron of parish priests. A truly amazing and beautiful unwavering prayer warrior, untiring confessor, fighter of the devil, and lifelong servant of Christ and His Church. If you don't know anything about the Curé of Ars, I challenge you to read his life story!

My favorite quote from the Curé:
"You either belong wholly to the world, or wholly to God."

Wish a blessed feast day to all our beloved priests!

Dress for Mass, Part 2

For part one, click here.

Casualness and Immodesty. While they seem like separated topics, in many ways they are actually connected. They even often go hand in hand.

A large factor of our modern society has been the rise of “casualism”. It is considered quite acceptable to show up for church, work, or dressy social events in clothing that is loungewear by nature, if not downright sloppy. And while perhaps some may be fond of the attached comfort they consider to go along with casual-wear, there is a downside. Have you ever noticed that, overall, the simple things in life have less meaning for us (as a whole) than they did 50 or 80 years ago? How much more it takes to satisfy us, to make us happy? Part of this is the attitude that “casualness” has helped to foster. These ideals are not isolated to a small compartment, but stretch to affect our whole personhood.

A far too “casual” attitude has been taken toward the Sacred – the sacredness of marriage, the sacredness of worship, the sacredness of life. We live in a culture of instant gratification, of focus on self, and of little respect. For example, many devout Catholics notice and grieve at the sad lack of respect and reverence for our Lord’s true presence in the Blessed Sacrament. If your Churches are as ours are here, then you’ve witnessed many Catholics completely fail to acknowledge the presence of their God (no genuflection, loud talking in Church, etc.).

A young lady in an email pointed out to me that she thinks of Mass as a place where she meets God as a Father, a Brother, and a Friend…and therefore she believes casual (yet modest) attire is appropriate. Yes, Mass is a place where we are meeting our God as Father, Brother, and Friend – but also as Lord. As king. As the infinite Creator of the Universe. And while we are quite free and appropriate walking into a room with our Dad or Brother and putting our feet up on the couch while visiting with him, I’m sure you would agree with me that this would be unacceptable in Church. The point I am making here is that while “casual” does not automatically mean “evil”, the attitude it fosters can be unhealthy in certain times and places. It can easily lead us to take supernatural gifts for granted. The preparation we make before going somewhere or doing something typically sets the level of awe or excitement or respect we have for that occasion – either consciously or subconsciously.

So yes, I believe we should always be dressed – interiorly and exteriorly – with neatness, care, and respect for Mass. This doesn’t mean that you have to be in a formal with nylons and an up-do, but that enough time and care should be taken to reflect in your dress and demeanor (as mentioned in Part 1) the sacredness of the sacrifice you are participating in. The Mass is not just an “ordinary” activity. It is the eternal sacrifice of Calvary continually offered to the Father – and we are privileged to be a part of it! We can ever have too much reverence for this amazing gift.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Just to be with Him

How comforting is His Presence! To be able to sit, just sit, before the Body of my Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament is a gift unlike any other. To have the Creator of the Universe right there before you. To look at Him, to listen to Him, to love Him, to receive His love. And as with true lovers, to know that that words, explanations, or intelligently organized thoughts are not necessary... it is enough just to be with Him.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

If Only We Figured This Out...

...we would have the secret to fulfillment, to peace, to happiness.

"He who trusts himself is lost.
He who trusts in God can do all things."

Check out the rest of Today's Saints on Patron Saints Index.

Where Has the Summer Gone?

If your summer has been anything like mine, it is simply flying by. Before we know it, autumn will be here, and with it, all the swing of regular activity…

With just about one month left of “vacation”, it would do us all some good to pause a moment and ask ourselves: have I been making good use of these past months? What have I done to further the Kingdom of God – through service, prayer, worship? What have I done to carry forth the love of Christ? Summer is a time like no other to do something voluntarily for others – whether it be working in a soup kitchen, helping out a young mother with her small children (how about taking them to the park for an afternoon so she can get her errands done?), volunteering to clean your parish church, making a meal for a shut-in, going on your own to daily Mass, making some extra holy hours of adoration, praying the rosary on your own, sending a spiritual bouquet of rosaries or Masses to someone in need, inviting your pastor over for dinner, visiting the abandoned elderly at a nursing home…the possibilities are endless!

That is my challenge to you: this month, do something to serve that would be out-of-the ordinary for you. Perhaps even something that might cause a little discomfort or sacrifice, something that you’ve always claimed was “out of your league”, or something that you’ve selfishly avoided.

Lord, help us remain with You constantly this month – in work and in leisure.