Faith. I think about my Catholic faith everyday. It’s part of my job, my gallery wall, and my car. It’s obvious in the crucifix I wear, the books I read, my bumper stickers, music choices, and social media presence. But it’s easy for faith to become automatic for me, to forget to have a deep appreciation for the gift of faith, and to neglect to translate that into concrete action.
The original Epiphany we celebrated a few days ago commemorated Jesus’ physical manifestation on earth thousands of years ago. Now we think of modern day epiphanies as earth-shattering dramatic moments where we suddenly understand something previously unknown. Or is that just me? My life doesn’t contain too many of those. But there are many times when I’ve come to understand a concept in a way that completely shifted my perspective.
I was on my way to one of those moments in an airplane during spring break. It was a combined retreat and service trip, in a place I’d never been to, without a single soul I’d met before. I’m still not sure why I went, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience during my college years.
Of the many things I love about being Catholic, the season of Advent is definitely high on the list. Advent is the beginning of each new liturgical year. It’s a fresh start (we get TWO new years!), and a hopeful season in preparation for Jesus’ coming at Christmas.
There are so many ways to observe Advent, but much of what I see on the interwebs is how to observe it within the context of family life. As someone that doesn’t apply to right now, I thought it might be nice to share a bit of how I’ll be observing the season.
1. Decorating my apartment
It might be hard if you live with un-festive people, but fortunately that’s not the case for me. We already got a tree (still to be decorated) and set out our Advent wreath with a few other things and will be adding more soon. I think it’s fun to leave the mangers empty in nativity scenes and only add him on Christmas, but otherwise I say go all out. Chocolate calendars are not only for children.
2. Cutting back on social media
It’s a perennial problem for many people nowadays that we just need to put down our phones more. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, because I like to break self-imposed rules. But my mornings are awesome when I don’t get on anything before work, so that’s where I’m starting. I removed the Facebook app from my phone a while ago. We’ll see how this goes.
3. Making time for extra prayer
First, this includes saying the St. Andrew novena (starts today!). It goes from November 30 to Christmas Eve, and I highly recommend the beautiful prayer if you’ve never said it. My family said it around the lit Advent wreath every night growing up, so I’ll be making an effort to light the wreath more often with my housemates.
4. Making time for extra reflection and reading
This year I was overly ambitious and purchased In the Beginning as well as Rooted in Hope. I enjoyed Blessed is She’s last year – it was an excerpt from the Bible, a reflection, and journal space for each day. In the Beginning is the same format. I’m excited to do Rooted in Hope as well because it gives you space for lectio divina for each day’s Bible excerpt, which I think helps you dig even deeper into it and think about what you’re reading. I’m getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal to give more time to do this in the morning before leaving for work.
Ideally I would be going every month already, but never in my life have I gotten into that habit. Advent and Lent are always times I’ve gone, though, and I want to make this the beginning of a monthly habit.
6. Festive everything
Socks, pajamas, hand soap, FOOD, music (just bought this), earrings, you name it. Bring on the festivities. I am really not at all liturgically observant of the fact that much of the celebration is more appropriate in the 12 days of Christmas. I just can’t contain the cheer and yes, if you’re wondering, I am not yelling in my car at the stoplights. I am rocking out to festive music because Baby Jesus is worth celebrating. Here’s a pretty epic song to check out.
7. Christmas cards
Is it awkward for single young adults to send Christmas cards? If it is, I don’t care, because I’m doing it anyway (along with housemates). Snail mail is timeless and amazing and I love sending Christmas cheer. This year I designed the card by hand, digitized it, and had it printed, which is quite exciting.
Aaand I’m linking up with Kelly & fam for some Friday quick take fun. Head over there for more.
That’s it for now! How do you do Advent? Share below and let’s chat about all the ways we can celebrate the season. Jesus is coming!
We have a pope some people love for his focus on mercy and others hate due to his seemingly purposeful ambiguity on difficult issues. I put myself between those extremes. I don’t want to form beliefs about people until I have the whole story. But when a filial correction is sent after many attempts at clarification, and you find out about something like this where the intention is so unclear, it might be time to start thinking and talking about this more.
We already know about the ambiguity in Amoris Laeticia which is being interpreted in wildly different ways by different bishops (if you want more details, we can chat!). For any moderately aware Catholic, this can be unsettling and frustrating, which is why we need to talk about it. Ignoring it doesn’t help. These are stormy waters, and the world isn’t exactly for us, so we’ve got to work together to navigate these times.
When you’re a child, at least in my experience, you take many things for granted. Often the faith you do or do not grow up with is a default until one takes ownership over it and transitions into a more adult practice.
I have purposefully chosen and embraced my faith over the past several years by learning more about it and putting it into practice. But as I grow more deeply into the truth of Catholicism, I’ve only grown more aware of the challenges Catholicism has faced throughout history and is currently enduring too. It is deeply unsettling to come to the realization that your church is made of fallen people who are capable of making bad, sometimes evil, decisions. And I will never, ever, defend gravely wrong (or just dumb) decisions made by people just because they may claim the same faith as me.
If you’re aware of any pope, bishop, priest, religious sister, or any other person who represents the Catholic Church who has done confusing or frustrating things, you might be disturbed. You might decide religion isn’t for you. But when things like this happen, I think we need to dig deeper, together, as believers weathering stormy waters. We’re members of a church filled with imperfect people. So what is one to do with this realization?
Educate yourself. I think this is the most empowering action we can take, because regardless of what any mistaken individual might think or confusing thing people might say or do, we will actually know what the truth the Church teaches. There are clear and rich explanations for the tough positions we’re called to take, even if a leader doesn’t recognize that publicly. Looking for resources? Comment or email me and we can talk about where to find info on specific topics.
Don’t assume headlines are true. I want to assume the best of people until or unless they’re proven guilty, but that’s hard when headlines give an unproven verdict. So when people start saying crazy things about Catholicism or any figure within the Church, the facts are what gives the clearest picture – not headlines. Look at what the person actually said or did, not just what people want you to believe. Don’t make assumptions or rely on biased reporting (CNN, MSNBC, and LifeNews being respective extremes). It’s easy to get caught up in rabbit holes of despair and worst case scenarios when we don’t have all the facts. But when we have the facts of the case, it’s easier to see what’s actually happening.
Discuss the issues openly. One of the worst things people who are Catholic can do right now is to ignore this, not learn about it, and refuse to talk about it. We are not perfect and nor are our leaders. Being honest about that and not being afraid to talk about it publicly demonstrates our humanity, which I think is important when people have so many misconceptions about what we believe. We should be talking about the good books and articles we’re reading, the podcasts, songs, and projects that enrich our faith – most importantly, engaging in discussions on these tough topics, and arming ourselves with what we know our faith holds.
I can’t make Pope Francis clarify these issues. Nor do I know how to change the minds of misguided bishops, priests, religious sisters, and other leaders within the Catholic Church. There is only so much I can do about other people. And knowing motives behind confusing actions (or lack thereof) is not one of my super powers.
What I can do is educate myself and grow my faith deeper, because my faith ultimately can’t depend on other flawed people. My faith depends on Jesus Christ, who came and died for each of us personally. He is the rock my church is directly built on. He left a perfect church made of imperfect people.
So do Catholic leaders do confusing things? Things that are hard to imagine in a charitable light? Yes and yes.
Should that push us away from the truth? No.
Seeing other people’s flaws should not drive us away. It should drive us ever deeper into the faith we know holds the treasure not everyone sees. Have you found this pearl of great price? Do you know God loves you, even when people do confusing things? He is the glue that holds our universal Church together. He is the foundation of our belief, especially so when people on the same journey as us fall short. And when they do (because we all will fall short at times), we can’t let that rob us of the peace and steadfastness in our faith God calls us to exercise.
Let’s build our understanding of this foundation we’ve been entrusted with. Because if you grew up with some of the same hymns I did, you know that no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.
Time for some quick takes on this Friday afternoon! Head over to Kelly’s place for more.
1. This week I served jury duty. I was on standby the night before. Then when I checked back, I had 1:30 to report downtown. We all sat in a giant room (at least 200 people), and then I was one of 84 people called into a courtroom to start the jury selection process. The charge was read to us, and we filled out a questionnaire about related past experiences of ours. The next day, I was one of 24 called up to the jury box to begin questioning. It was a loooooong day. And I was SHOCKED at the number of people who had difficulty following instructions. I had to come in for a third day, and was thankful to be excused then. It was fascinating to see part of the process, but I have a trip coming up and it would have been too much time away from work.
2. Speaking of, I’ve officially been at my job for a year! It was quite the experience ending up where I am, but it’s good to be here. It’s not what I expected, and who knows what the future holds. But I’m thankful to be gainfully employed.
3. In other adulting news, my sister and I have been thinking of starting an Etsy shop with greeting cards and prints. We’re experimenting with watercolor and calligraphy. Anyone have a favorite quote or type of card you’d like but can’t find?
4. Have any favorite summer recipes?This salad is the bomb diggity. This lemon ice is refreshing and light and originally from an American Girl cookbook.
6. In better news, this is an interesting article about the boom in young Catholic women starting initiatives and organizations. I’ve noticed this trend, and am grateful for so many fellow young Catholic women living out their faith and fulfilling needs of our world hungering for our authentic witness. I do honestly wonder if guys have the same wealth of resources, though. Hmm. Any thoughts on that?
7. Lastly, Happy Memorial Day. Let’s give special thanks this weekend for those who have given their lives for our country.
That’s it for now! What have you been up to lately? Have any thoughts on my takes?
Do you know something kinda fun? Being on Planned Parenthood’s email lists.
They’re feeling very defensive right now (obviously, they’re going to be funded!), and are constantly asking for money. I found this email today a bit hilarious, but also sad: they feel threatened by 40 Days for Life.
If you don’t already know, 40 Days for Life is a pro-life campaign that happens twice a year where people commit to prayer and fasting, holding vigil outside abortion facilities, and community outreach for that time period. People literally stand outside praying, holding signs, or offering life-affirming resources (or a combination of those). It’s peaceful and prayerful if you’re into that.
I find it lame that they use scare quotes around this legitimate organization’s name. They can’t even give 40DFL the dignity of calling them by name. Their contempt for this peaceful, prayerful, campaign goes to show how deeply wrong they are about how we should approach this issue. Shouldn’t women be treated with this peace and understanding and empathy instead of these hideous and tiresome fundraising emails? What speaks to the heart of who we are as people? Yeah, not the emails.
Also, wow. Totally makes me want to back off from ending abortion when they use this campaign to raise $5,000. (LOL, nope, I’m not intimidated either.)
They are correct that this isn’t letting up, though.
Planned Parenthood is going to be defunded, I hope very soon. And we’re not going to rest until then, and until abortion becomes unthinkable. This is not an attack on women’s health, but our desire to see human rights for all – and BETTER healthcare that doesn’t kill people and lie to women. You want to know what good healthcare looks like? Check out The Guiding Star Project. I’ve known about them for a while, but was so impressed and inspired listening to their founder Leah Jacobson in this podcast yesterday. I’ll definitely be writing more about some things she said.
Get yo facts straight, PP. Anyway, I just popped on to talk about this because I don’t want PP to keep doing what they’re doing without being called out. I see them. I see you. And together, we’re bringing down this lying Goliath one step at a time.
What if I told you that there was so much more to be learned from Mother Teresa’s life than helping the poor?
As a Catholic, there are thousands of people we recognize as possessing heroic virtue, so it might be hard to pick a favorite saint. But Mother Teresa, whom I affectionately call Mama T, is hands down one of my favorites. Let me tell you why.
At first I admired her for giving up everything to help the poor. Who wants to walk the streets helping people who kind of (really!) don’t like you (at first)? Probably most of us wouldn’t jump on that opportunity.
It’s admirable and beautiful what Mama T did to help the poor, and I think most of us could make a greater effort to alleviate the suffering of those living in material poverty. That’s the easy to agree with message that so many people fell in love with Mama T for.
But there’s so much more to her. Here are some of the reasons (beyond helping the poor) Mama T is my homegirl:
She teaches us to trust God with absolutely reckless abandon.
I use those words literally because to most people, how the Missionaries of Charity live is totally reckless. When I spent a spring break with them, I learned that they never ask for what they need or want. Instead, they’ll pray for God to provide. And guess what? He always does – even if it’s not how we imagined. The soup kitchen I helped them run for a week was overflowing with food to share. And they had never put donation bins in churches or asked for people to contribute. They got up around 4am, didn’t have furniture in their chapel, hand washed their sari’s, got through each day helping others tirelessly, traveled around their city to help all sorts of people, AND were able to stay awake for an hour of adoration. We can’t all do this, obviously. But it was a good example of what can happen when we lean on God.
This story is another illustration of how Mama T trusted God (and shows us to!), which I try to remember. I’ve gone back to that story so many times. Her example is such a good reminder that God will never lead us to such deep waters that he can’t carry us across.
She showed me that being Catholic doesn’t mean you have a perfect relationship with God.
It might be scandalizing to some people to know that Mama T felt unloved by God for the majority of her adult life. To me, it’s comforting. It’s proof that being a good person doesn’t come from special spiritual super powers. Yes, she had to have a lot of grace to do what she did. But just like her, I can choose to do what is good and contribute something beautiful to the world even if it stinks sometimes. People we admire have struggles and feel alone sometimes. How awesome to know what we’re all capable of.
She helped me understand that loving is about giving.
Much like the quotable Fulton Sheen, Mama T had some mic drop moments talking about giving. Reading her words have been part of my understanding of Theology of the Body – that life isn’t about getting and having. It’s about being and giving.
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
During my mission trip, one of the sisters was experiencing severe pain in her foot. It apparently was getting worse as she was getting older. But we didn’t find out until well into the week, when it came up in conversation. Her response? “You don’t get old until you stop loving Jesus!” She just kept on giving.
She taught me that feeling unloved is a crisis unparalleled by material want.
To much of the Western world, being without a house and food sounds like one of the most horrible things that could happen to you. It is surely a sad thing. At some point, I thought how nice it would be to go to places like the slums of Calcutta and alleviate the suffering there. But having a bit more life behind me now (ha!), I get this. Material want can be fixed. And it should be, by people who have things. Want for love is so different. Whether it’s a broken relationship, a rough upbringing, or something else that’s cause for a feeling of alienation, there’s not as easy a fix. It’s complicated and messy and I hope that throughout my life I can help some people feel a little more cared for.
The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.
She showed me that you don’t have to go to Calcutta to change the world.
If you love Mama T, you probably thought about going to India for a hot second. Am I right? I did. Would it be awesome to see and experience her work? Of course. Yes. It would! I’ve found mission trips to be enriching and wonderful experiences. They’re great. But I think they also run the risk of us failing to see the people around us right here in our neighborhoods who need a helping hand. Mama T issues a challenge to us, which I hope to spend my life working on:
It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.
Are we up for the challenge?
“I Thirst” written beside every crucifix in their buildings serves as a reminder to spend our lives satiating God’s thirst for souls by bringing his love to the world.
You can find Calcutta anywhere in the world. You only need two eyes to see. Everywhere in the world there are people that are not loved, people that are not wanted nor desired, people that no one will help, people that are pushed away or forgotten. And this is the greatest poverty.
We’ve heard her words. We love her. Now let’s find our Calcuttas. Where is yours?
It feels like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.
Being just over a week away from graduation is something that always seemed way in the future. But now it’s right here. I am an adult who will soon have a degree and job.
My future is still not quite crystal clear, which is something I didn’t expect. At first when job leads became unsure, I insisted on looking at specifically Catholic or pro-life jobs. When nothing was happening with those leads, I expanded to non-profits in general and applied there. It’s been frustrating not knowing what the future will be like.
I’ve been praying about it and was grilling God a couple weeks ago questioning whether I was supposed to even work with Catholic or pro-life organizations. Were my standards too high? If nothing’s happening with those leads, am I not supposed to work in those areas? Why in the world would I have spent the last 5 years working in those fields only to be rejected to continue full time? Was I being doomed to work in a meaningless cubicle away from the work I’m passionate about?
So naturally, I gave God an ultimatum of sorts and said “Okay, but if you want me in those other places, show me. Open the door and I will walk through it, even if I don’t love it.”
Daring God is not the most intelligent or mature thing I’ve done, but it also gave him just enough room in this adventure.
I continued my job search online widening my horizons. It was rather discouraging. Those business jobs unrelated to missions of helping people are the jobs that are often highly competitive and driven by profit and dirty business. That’s not what drives me, so it’s difficult to bring myself to apply to those jobs. But wouldn’t you know? I think God’s got something up his sleeve because other leads started developing. And my applications for jobs at non Catholic/life-related jobs were rejected.
So maybe that was the point – to get to the place where I gave up my plans and started looking at what I don’t want to do.
After all, one thing taking Catholic Social Thought has taught me is that it’s not the specifics of our work that make it meaningful. It’s our co-participation with God in his plan to develop creation. It’s our dignity as creatures made in his image that gives our work meaning.
Who knows where God is calling me? Not this girl. I’ve been surprised, disappointed, discouraged, but also hopeful at different times during this process. Figurative doors have been slammed in my face. It has not been fun. It’s not something I wanted to do. And it’s certainly not over. But more than anything, getting to this point in life has taught me that the best things often happen when my plans don’t work out.
Recently I was absentmindedly humming Here I Am Lord, and this line stuck with me when I realized how applicable it is to senior year: “I will go, Lord, if you lead me.”
And for the first time in my life, I’m realizing that I actually mean that. God does not abandon us, EVER. Things like this that test us make us stronger. Bring on the fire! We can choose to lean into the change and let ourselves be molded, or we can crumble under the pressure. I choose to make the most of this. I choose to not be passive about finding what God has in store. I choose to find joy in this, even when it stinks. And I choose to allow God to unfold the masterpiece of my life.
Trust in God is one of the most horribly painful but awesome things ever. And it’s born from a place of realizing the gifts in life (basically everything) while developing an attitude of thanksgiving. It goes like authenticity to trust to gratitude.
That will never be easy to accept, but it has gotten easier. God’s got a plan and I’m out to find it. Are you?
It’s a funny thing to be at such an uncertain part of life when I was so certain this wouldn’t happen. But you know, God like to laugh when we make plans, right?
With graduation in just under six weeks, I don’t know yet where I’ll work or live. This might not seem unusual to you, but for me – I’m a planner and a doer. Summer plans until now have always ended up providential with the help of hard work and perfectly timed generosity. Networks have been built. Relationships maintained. The people I’ve worked with are important to me, and it’s so wonderful to keep in contact with everyone I can.
But things haven’t gone how I expected.
That’s okay. I know it is. I know there’s a plan (SOMEWHERE, RIGHT?!) that is better than mine. But it’s very strange to be asked what my post-graduation plans are and truly not have an answer. “But you’re the kind of person I’d expect to know!” people have said. You and me both, honey.
Sometimes it feels like a little bit of a failure. Earning my degree has not always been fun. I would have given up SO many times if I were that kind of a person. But sheer determination, the grace of God, and lots of coffee have gotten me here. So did I really work that hard to graduate without a clear path?
But that’s not true. I know my path. My path is holiness. It’s the call each of us has. And right now I’m waiting for God to open the right door. But in the meantime I’m knocking on ALL the doors to see which one cracks open. Which means lots of resumes and cover letter drafts on my laptop.
This all has been a reminder to me that I’m not really the one in control. And letting things go does wonders for ones sanity. How many times do I need that reminder? A lot, apparently. Things might not end up like I planned. But they still could. And I’d really like to know NOW. But this story keeps coming to mind:
“When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at ‘the house of the dying’ in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.
On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, ‘And what can I do for you?’ Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him. ‘What do you want me to pray for?’ she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: ‘Pray that I have clarity.’ She said firmly, ‘No, I will not do that.’ When he asked her why, she said, ‘Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.’
When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, ‘I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.’”
And that’s the challenge. Do I get frustrated? Yes. Does that mean I give up? No. It means I learn to punch doubt in the face and trust better. Isn’t that funny? It’s my word of the year. I’m sure many college seniors can relate that it’s easier said than done, but I’m just going to keep knocking and waiting.
A lot of what we do is in an effort to try to control our lives. We pick the perfect school, what we wear, how we act, the car we drive, the job we have, the place we live . . . all to build up the life we want. We snap and ‘gram the moments we want to share. It’s fun, really, to create the life we’ve dreamed of.
And then we lie in bed at night and wonder what in the world we’re doing with our lives.
We’re in an age where it’s easy to be connected with hundred of “friends” and feel unheard at the same time. We take in so much information but don’t take the time to think. We’re caught up in the everyday things instead of thinking long term.
And it all eats away at our peace.
I’ve been working on this for a while and can honestly say that it takes a lot to truly upset me now. I can rant about politics or contraception, but I don’t go to bed feeling sick to my stomach about the state of our world. There’s something deep down that takes a lot to shake. And it’s not because I posses heroic virtue (HA!). I think the deep sense of peace I have come to is because of:
When we surrender our perfect ideas, we let God make our lives the beautiful stories we’re made to be. Surrender comes when we give up control, when we admit that our plans aren’t always what’s best for us, when we pray for guidance instead of making a headstrong decision. Do that! Instead of claiming that you know best, create peace in your life by asking for God’s direction.
When we become detached from material things, it brings so much peace. I don’t own a whole lot of stuff (which will change when it comes time for an apartment of my own) and I like it that way. Well, except for books. Thaaat’s a different story. I try to remember that my things are mine to share with people who don’t have them. Now this is not easy. I am NOT a pro. But when I do choose to let go of how I want something, it brings a lot of peace. Try giving someone else the best muffin, letting someone change your plans for the evening to something they’d like to do, or giving away something you like.
Those are a couple practices that bring peace everyday. Other things that bring peace are:
Peace for me is about letting go. It’s taking a deep breath and recognizing that it’s okay if things don’t go according to plan. When they don’t, it’s often better than I would imagine. So give it a try, will you? Try along with me and let me know how it goes!
“Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Do not fear this sickness…nor anything that is sharp or hurtful. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” – Our Lady of Guadalupe