Wednesday, April 17, 2013

St. Benedict Joseph Labre

Widely known for his devotion to aesthetic living, St. Benedict Joseph Labre truly exemplified humility. After many disappointments in his life, he would have an epiphany and devote his suffering to the Lord. We can learn much from this amazing man, who inspires us to do more to serve and support the poor and homeless.

Labre was born in France in 1748, the eldest of 18 children. He would study to become a priest under his uncle, who himself was a parish priest. When he turned 16 years of age, Labre inquired about becoming a Trappist monk, but was told he was too young. An epidemic fell upon the city, eventually affecting Labre's uncle, which would halt his education.

Labre was denied entry to many different religious orders, on account of his age, delicacy, and sanity. This would, not stop him, for he would persevere, following God's will for him. This would lead Labre to join the Third Order Franciscans, and live a life of poverty and pilgrimage.

First off, Labre decided to travel to Rome bare-foot, in addition to traveling to many of Europe's most famous shrines. He would sleep in the open, in his dirty clothes, while living off what he received from begging. He even went as far as to share what little he had with the homeless, while silently praying often.

In addition to his great perseverance and humility, many magical characteristics were attributed to Labre, such as levitation and bilocation. Additionally, he was known for having cured the homeless, and multiplied bread for them. In the last years of his life, Labre would live in parts of the Colosseum.

On the last day of his life, Labre dragged himself to a church in Rome, praying for 2 hours before collapsing and dying of malnutrition. People immediately started informally calling him a saint.

Labre did not let his drawbacks affect his determination to fulfill whatever God had in store for him. It may not always be clear as to what God has in store for us. However, the best way to resolve this is to continue to pray fervently. God reveals his ways sometimes in a manner which we might not always expect. What is known is that Labre was truly a great man, a man devoted to the homeless, humility, his faith, devoted to God.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bust those exam blues!

I want to keep this post kind of short today because I'm sure we all have some studying to do with exams coming up this week and next.  So there are just a few things that I think we all need to be reminded of:

1. You are not defined by your grades.  If you receive an F, God will not love you any less.  And really, his opinion is the only one that matters anyways.
2. You can only do so much, so do you best.  If you give it your best shot, there's nothing more you can do, end of story.
3. Pray for God to direct your studying.  Pray to God when you feel completely stressed.  Pray to God when you finish your exams. Just pray, okay?!
4. Keep smiling, watch a funny video, put in your headphones and have a dance party, be a bit dramatic...and then laugh at yourself.  Life's too short to be miserable!

Good luck everyone, I pray that we all pass with flying colors and come out smiling!

Until next time,

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fresh starts

I'm going to start with a Henri Nouwen quote

"God not only says: 'You are my Beloved.'  God also asks: 'Do you love me?' and offers us countless chances to say 'Yes' to our inner truth.  The spiritual life, thus understood, radically changes everything.  Being born and growing up, leaving home and finding a career, being praised and being rejected, walking and resting, praying and playing, becoming ill and being healed - yes, living and dying - they all become expressions of that divine question: 'Do you love me?' And at every point of the journey there is the choice to say 'Yes' and the choice to say 'No.'"

This passage really touched me because I really identify with it.  Especially coming out of Lent.  I'm not sure how your lent was, but mine was...well...let's just say I'm so glad my lent was not taken for a grade and factored into my GPA.  But that's the thing, I felt God's love in my failures and shortcomings and I learned a lot too, so maybe that means it was a success.  My lent was filled with me trying to give myself a fresh start by saying, "Okay, I'm going to do better starting now."  And what a gift from God because every second we live is an opportunity to have a fresh start.  Like that Henri Nouwen quote says, "at every point of the journey" God is giving us chances to say "Yes" and to try again.

I heard this story once on the radio and I think about it often.  A child was playing in a tree in his backyard when all of the sudden his foot slipped and he was dangling by his legs.  Full of fear, he yelled out to his dad for help.  The father, of course, rushed to help his son out of the tree.  He didn't stop and think, "did my son make his bed this morning?" or "Has he been nice to his sister today?"  There were no conditions for helping his son.  Nothing mattered but that his child needed and wanted his father.

God is that way with us, we even catch a glimpse of that in the Easter story when Jesus forgives the sinner on the cross next to his own.  It didn't matter that the man did all of those bad things for his entire life, Jesus gave that man hope and saved him in the very last moments of his life.  It wasn't too late for that crucified man and it certainly isn't too late for us.  So, if you are like me and seem to be in need of motivation, I pray that we find comfort in knowing that we can start over at any point.  It's one of the many blessings that God has given us.  I pray that we all feel called to express our "Yes" to God in every moment of our lives and that God helps us along the way.

Until next time,

P.S. I find this song SUPER inspiring when talking about new beginnings and fresh starts:  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Here's to the Future!

                It’s getting closer and closer to graduation and I’m getting more and more apprehensive. I am ending my fourth year of college and am still unsure of what to pursue. I feel like I should know by now; you should know what you’re planning to do by the time your college graduation is three weeks away. It’s hard to apply to programs and jobs when you don’t know what to apply for.
                I’ve interviewed several professionals during my later years of college, hoping their stories and advice would help me figure things out. It’s funny that the most helpful answers have been the ones with the most unclear future and next steps. We seem to be taught all through schooling that we will find that one thing that we are meant to do for the rest of our lives. That everyone has a special talent or skill that will land them their perfect dream job. Well, my new-found advice is that this is not true. Yes, there are those people that know what they want to do from day one or figure it out through some awesome experience or moment of realization. For the most part, we find our way over time. Most of the people I talked to started in a way different place than where they ended up.
                In your career, sometimes you have to start smaller and somewhere different than you once expected; but that’s part of finding your way. And sometimes you won’t find that ‘perfect job’ that you just love and think about all the time. Sometimes your career is not that perfect thing in your life. For some people, it’s their family, volunteering, a hobby; it could be so many things and your career could be supporting what you truly care about in life. Of course it is necessary to love what you are doing, or at least like your job. Otherwise a person could be very unhappy.
                If it is hard to focus in on your talents and skills (because not all of us are going to cure cancer, release a hit album, unveil a master painting, or score the most points in football) try thinking about the little things that seem easy or normal to you. Ask your friends or family something special about you or a skill they admire in you. Your talents might not be loud and bright; instead they might be humble and natural. For instance, I play the trumpet but I wouldn’t say I could make a living from it, but I am a great listener, I easily empathize with others and help them help themselves, and I remain calm and my normal self under stressful circumstances. These are great talents and skills that often go unrecognized when I should put them in the spotlight.
                Figuring out your life, what you are good at and what you value and care about, doesn’t happen for everyone in the same way. Don’t put yourself down for not having everything figured out by a certain date. People are constantly changing and adapting. There are things you may not know about yourself for a long time; you might find you have a talent in writing poetry when you enter your 60’s. You never know. Just reflect on how God made you the perfect you and what special talents and skills He gave you. You’ll help people and change the world. You just have to look at it from the right perspective. Be excited for what's to come; they say the journey is better than the destination so here's to the future!

Good luck as you constantly discover something new about yourself,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blessed Francis Faà di Bruno

Many famous scientists, leaders, and thinkers have been practicing Catholics, including Blessed Francis Faa di Bruno. He is known not only for his great devotion to his faith but also to the study of mathematics. He is a great example of what people are capable of when they put their trust in God.

Francis was born in Italy in 1825 as the last of twelve children to Marchese Luigi Faà di Bruno and the Lady Carolina Sappa de' Milanesi. When Francis was born, there was a lot of anti-Catholic and anti-papal sentiments going around. It was a very turbulent time, which would have tested even the most fervent Catholic. However, Francis stayed true to his faith.

At first, Francis joined the Royal Army, rising through the ranks. However, he would resign to travel to Paris, where he pursued doctoral studies in mathematics and astronomy. Studying under the discoverers of Neptune, he would become a math professor at the University of Turin. Even though he was advancing his status in the scholarly realm, Francis also cared deeply about religion and asceticism. While he was pursuing his career aspects, Francis, who was friends with St. John Bosco, would establish refuges for the poor and elderly.

To further dedicate his life to religion, Francis decided to study theology, but the Archbishop would not approve of his ordination, since he was older than many of the other seminarians. It was not uncommon for younger men or boys to begin studies for the priesthood. Nevertheless, after appealing to the Pope, Francis was ordained at the age of 51.

After being ordained, Francis founded the Society of St. Zita, to provide support for maids and domestic servants, although it would eventually expand to included unmarried women. Later on in his life, he would establish another refuge, this time for prostitutes.

In mathematics, Francis's main contribution was Faà di Bruno's formula on derivatives of composite functions. He also published 40 articles in many different mathematics journals around the world.

It amazes me that one man can do so many great things. Francis definitely exemplified not only his Catholic faith, but the true essence of a Renaissance man, for he was gifted in many different areas. It just goes to show that not all great minds reject religion, but instead some of the greatest minds that have roamed this earth are the most profound examples of faith.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Salvator of Horta

Holiness is an amazing characteristic to have, but in some cases it can cause some unneeded public attention. Public attention is not usually a desire of very many saints, especially St. Salvador, who would actually suffer because of it.

Salvador Pladevall i Bien was born to parents who were servants, during the Golden Age of Spain, which was flourishing in arts, politics, wealth, and even religion. Orphaned at the age of 14, Salvador and his sister would move to Barcelona, where he would take a job as a shoemaker to support the both of them.

After his sister had married, Salvador felt free to enter the religious life. At first, he entered the local Benedictine monastery, tin order to explore monastic life, but would seek a more humble experience. Therefore, at 21 years old, he entered the Fransiscans as a lay brother, where he would be known for his humility and simple ways.

He worked as cook, a porter, and eventually the official beggar for the Franciscans at  a friar in Tortosa, Spain. While there, he became known for his charity and he would often heal people simply by making the sign of the cross. It was estimated that at one point 2000 people would come to Tortosa to see Salvador each week so that he could heal them. His superiors would become suspicious of him, continually transferring him to new friars. This would cause Salvador great gried throughout his life. Nevertheless, the sick kept following him wherever he went.

The public attention that Salvador received was relentless. It was said that people would tear off pieces of Salvador's habit to keep as relics. Salvador would eventually move to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia, where he died in 1567. 

It is great that saints are able to influence so many people, but sometimes all of the attention can detract from God's will for them. God has a plan for all of us, some people might atract more attention, but we are all important in God's eyes, and we should all strive to live as God wills us. 


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trust in God

                Sorry, I’m infringing onto Mel’s day here. I wanted to write for Kathe’s day yesterday, but I ended up being busier than I thought with a doctor’s appointment and going home for our spring break. I promise I won’t write as much J

                Kathe has taken a class every year that ends with a trip to Africa. It’s a great experience getting to learn a lot about public health and culture as well as helping with sustainable projects for the people there. Although she has a fantastic teacher and travels with her class, I worry since it’s so far away and such a huge trip. Going to a different continent and not having email or a phone is hard. It’s scary to me to not be able to hear from her or know what’s going on and I worry a lot. Last week before she left, Kathe told me that whenever I’m feeling worried or sad that I should pray. I kind of brushed it off thinking that it wouldn’t help me feel any better. It didn’t change not knowing if she’s okay. She told me to do it and trust in God because it really would help. So I have been praying when I’m worried and it really has helped. It’s funny to me that I’ve never really thought that maybe I had a trust issue and needed to strengthen my faith in that way, but letting go and trusting Him more has helped me a lot. I prayed just walking to class and I’ve been praying when I’m lying in bed falling asleep. It really has been calming and comforting and I feel like I am less worried because I am being more trusting in Him to take care of things. I think it was a good lesson to learn and I wanted to share it with you.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1


Monday, March 18, 2013

“Don't you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can't be exactly who you are.” - Lady Gaga

                I’ve been having ‘big’ thoughts lately thanks to some reading and a couple of groups I meet with every week. I’ll start with a little fact about me. I am borderline obsessed with Lady Gaga. I love her music, her personality and guts, and her message. Even with her provocative outfits and word choices, she has a strong, clear message she speaks. In case you don’t know her story, a quick background: Stefani Germanotta was bullied during her school years. She said that she was different and always felt like a freak. She struggled for years, but finally made it as a pop star. She speaks out as an LGBT activist, campaigned to raise money for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, started a non-profit organization for youth empowerment, self-confidence, and anti-bullying.  She really talks and tries to connect to her fans and speaks the message of self love and fighting against rejection from others and yourself. (To find out more about Lady Gaga, you can learn a lot on her Wikipedia page or at
                Anyways, my obsession with Lady Gaga comes into play with relating her message to something we’ve been talking about in prayer groups. After St. Monica-St. George’s retreat last month, the Women’s Group has been reading Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved. In a section of his book called Taken, Nouwen discusses how we are all the chosen children of God. He loves us unconditionally, with the good and the bad. This is a hard concept to understand, and even more so, fully accept. It is hard to think that if I do something wrong that really upsets me, that God still loves me just the same. Yes, He probably wants me to do better, but he never stops loving me. And if I do something great, I’m sure He is proud of me, but I can never do anything that will make Him love me anymore than He already does, or anymore than He loves anyone else. An excerpt from the section really stood out to me:

                 The world is “manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: “These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.”

                It discusses the reality that the world is not a perfect place. Actually, it can be quite terrible at times. Bad things happen and everyone, including you and me, has dark days during their lives. But through all of this, God loves you just the same. He loves you even when you can’t see why and even when you reject His love. After reading this I knew I had to print it out and hang it on my wall. You should too! I know it will be encouraging on bad days, and the good days too. Nouwen goes on to discuss how self rejection is a way of not accepting God’s love. We allow other people and things to determine our worth and make us feel rejected or unaccepted. Nouwen says that God has chosen us, we have a meaningful purpose in this life, and He loves us. This is where Lady Gaga comes back to us J

                “When the whole world has their eyes on you, if you say something that doesn’t truly come from your spirit and your soul, or if you wear something that doesn’t come from your spirit and your soul, it’s  an injustice to your position. And so, I’m really myself every single day and I do it because I know my fans would want me to.”
                -Lady Gaga

                Lady Gaga has found that she is happy being herself and that you should never let anyone else make you feel less than you are. She wears whatever she thinks is artful or meaningful to her and doesn’t let anyone else make her feel bad about it. She stands for what she believes in and won’t back down. It is a great message, I think, to hold true to. Be yourself! Stand up for yourself and what you believe in! Love yourself! You are a chosen child of God! Why not live up to your full potential when you are loved by God and he wants you to be you?! So, I hope this long post (sorry) has made you think about and appreciate God’s love for you, inspired you to go out there and be exactly who you are meant to be in this world, and maybe even sparked a little interest in Lady GagaJ I’ll leave you with a final quote from Lady Gaga that she spoke to her audiences during her Monster Ball Tour:

                “Tonight I want you to forget all of your insecurities. I want you to reject anyone or anything that ever made you feel like you don’t belong or don’t fit in or made you feel like you’re not good enough or pretty enough or thin enough or can’t sing well enough or dance well enough or write a song well enough or like you’ll never win a Grammy or you’ll never sell out Madison Square Garden. You just remember that you’re a superstar and you were born this way!

                May tonight be your liberation from all those things.

… I would pray and dream that one day just one person would believe in me, so when you leave here tonight, know that at least one person believes in you.”
Know that God always believes in you. So love the awesome person that is you!
<3 Katie

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"There's nothing like having a basic need met"

It's funny what things stick with you.  Clare has said a few times: "There nothing like having a basic need met!"  Usually referring to when you're super thirsty and finally get to take a drink of water or when you really really really have to go to the bathroom and finally get to go.  It's just a wonderful time really.

So why has that stuck with me?  I guess because it made me laugh...and because it's just so stinkin true.  Yesterday I decided to partake in a fast along with other St. Monica St. George parishioners and by the time mass rolled around at 7pm I had gone seven hours without eating.  Obviously I was nowhere near starving but I was definitely hungry and couldn't wait to finally have some dinner after mass (ya know, meeting a basic need).  Well as I sat down after communion, a satisfied voice inside my head went, "Nothing like having a basic need met!"

Hello epiphany moment!  Sometimes my brain can be pretty smart......or maybe that's just God talking haha. But really, that voice is true.  There's nothing like receiving Christ in the Eucharist.  There's something about the fresh start that is just so necessary to the human soul and the Eucharist gives that to me.  I need that forgiveness and acceptance and then the strength that comes from Christ alone.  I take all that mess that's happening in my life and after receiving the Eucharist, it all seems so small.  And man do I love that feeling.

So yes, Clare, I agree.  There's nothing like having a basic need met...especially when that need is met in the Eucharist ;)

Until next time,

Friday, March 8, 2013

It is what it is

Do you ever get so caught up in your to do list that nothing actually is accomplished except more worry and anxiety?  I feel like that has been the story of my last two weeks.  Because my semester is divided into terms, I just started a new class.  While I love learning about the miracle of life aka maternity childbearing, I must say I am easily stressed with the idea of a new teacher, new clinical instructors, and different testing styles. And of course my attention has been solely focused on classes, occasionally interspersed with work.  Lately, I have been living my life according to due dates for assignments.  And frankly, I have been quite a slacker when it comes to prayer. 

While I still might be doing alright in school and completing everything, I still feel like my life is slowly falling apart.  It is not like I have experienced a traumatic event that makes me feel this way.  It is all the little things that I keep telling myself are not a big deal.  For example, as I am sure you have noticed, I have not been very successful in blogging.  My night prayers are becoming far and few in between.  Not exactly the best way to start off lent. 

I like to be told “It is okay.  I am sure it is no big deal” because I think it allows myself to be less accountable for my mistakes and unmet expectations.  But, sometimes I just need to be told how it is.  This week I have discovered the little black book my parish handed out at the beginning of lent.  (It has been sitting on my dresser since Ash Wednesday, yet another example of slacking).    On Tuesday’s reflection, it talks about how last Sunday’s gospel is not a typical message that we normally hear.  Yes, He is a forgiving God.  But, I cannot go through life making excuses for myself.   The passage goes on to say “God is patient….but not doting.  God is forgiving….but not wishy-washy.”   Much in the same way of the gospel this Sunday, sometimes we just need to be told how it is.

Yep, I think it is fair to say God has called me out on this one.  I am not very happy with myself for letting precious time slip by without trying to gain a deeper understanding of God.  But, I do not want to let myself prolong attending to my spiritual needs any longer than I already have.  How do I fix this? Well I am not sure I have the space for that.  But I must say that challenge for the day is a great place to start.  The goal is to start taking responsibility for the choices I make today.   I think taking responsibility allows the depth of the situation to sink in: good or bad. 

I feel like this passage was a harsh reality check; but, obviously necessary.  Sometimes to move forward, I have to backtrack.  For today, I will hold myself accountable for my spiritual needs. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Servant of God Sylvester of Assisi

There are four stages in becoming a saint. During each stage the person that is being considered is given a title. The titles follow the order: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and, finally Saint. During the first stage, the bishop where the candidate died will open an investigation into the life of the individual, who is called a Servant of God. Today, instead of focusing on a saint, we look into the life of a man that is currently on the road to canonization, specifically in this first stage. Sylvester of Assisi was one of the first 12 followers of St. Francis of Assisi and he was the first priest of the Franciscan order.

Sylvester was the descendant of a noble family, and had sold Francis, who had previously renounced his family, some bricks. Francis was to use these to build local churches that had fallen into disarray. While Francis was with Bernard of Quintavalle, a local nobleman who had decided to follow Francis and give up all of his wealth and possessions, Sylvester complained that he had been paid too little for the bricks that he had sold Francis. Sylvester had fallen prey to greed, much like we all have. For example, has there ever been a time where you claimed more than you actually deserved?

Sylvester received his compensation, but felt guilty. Therefore, he change his mind, gave up all of his possessions, and decided to follow Francis. He ended up becoming one of the first priests in the young Franciscan order. He prayed very often and lived a life of poverty, even becoming a favorite companion of Francis, someone that Francis would come to for advice on all different matters.

It was said that there was a civil war raging in Arezzo, a city that Francis and Sylvester had traveled to, and Francis had instructed Sylvester to drive out the demons from the city. Sylvester proclaimed, "In the name of almighty God and by virtue of the command of his servant Francis, depart from here, all you evil spirit." Afterwards, the demons left and peace returned to the city.  

Sylvester was one of Francis's original companions and he is buried in the Basilica of St. Francis. The cause for his canonization has been brought up by the Friars minor. 

Do we sometimes put too much emphasis on material goods, power, or prestige. It is difficult, but we must realize that these things do not fulfill us, it is God that brings true happiness. This is the epiphany that Sylvester, and even Francis, had, and helped them to decid to devote their lives to prayer and evangelization. We can learn much from these holy men.

Pope John Paul II, 1983, Divinus Perfectionis Magister, Art I, Sec 1
"Servant of God Sylvester of Assisi". American

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Challenges for a Teacher

I'm a secondary education major and this semester I've had a challenging practicum placement.  I'm only in the school two days a week but I'm getting a taste of the frustrations that go along with being a teacher.  I mostly focus on the 12th grade calculus class.  They are all lower level, often lazy and unmotivated students.  Mix in senioritis and negative views of math and you've got yourself one hot mess!  Honestly, they are a hard class to control, especially because they just really don't care about the subject and they don't see me as an authority figure.  It's rough trying to get them to listen to what I say.  I repeat myself often because they don't listen the first and second time around and they get angry when I move on before they are ready.  It's frustrating and it makes me second guess myself as a teacher.  Can I really handle this job?  I become impatient and frustrated with my students for the lack of respect they show me.  If they will not respect and listen to me, then why should I care?

Thank heavens that God is not like that.  This teaching thing has given me a whole new appreciation for our amazing God.  How many times does he have to repeat himself for our sake?  How many times do we ignore what he says?  How many times do we not show him the respect he deserves?  And yet he responds with nothing short of infinite love and care.  He does not get impatient or think any less of us!  He is incredible to us even when we spit in his face.  I think about several of my students...I don't have quiet the same attitude towards them.  I love this new found appreciation for the amazing teacher that God is.  I pray that I can learn to be more like him to always respond with love to my students.

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows

Sometimes it is the little things that count. We must use love in even the small details of our life. It is the way we treat people each and every day that makes a difference. It pleases God not only when heroic deeds are done, but when we treat others with compassion. Who knows, the little things might lead you to holiness, much like today's saint, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Francesco Possenti was born in Assisi, to a large professional family, with his father working for the local government. Tough times had struck the Possenti family early on, for Francesco's father had to travel often because of his job, and his mother and two of his sisters had died when he was still young.

Francesco definitely enjoyed living life to its fullest, going to parties, dating different women, and even earning the nickname, "the dancer." Nevertheless, he had multiple brushes with death, which included falling ill and nearly getting struck by a bullet. He vowed to enter religious life after he recovered from these experiences, but it was simply brushed aside. Furthermore, one of his brothers died and another committed suicide. It was not until he fell ill again, that he put his vow into motion and applied to enter the Jesuits. Unfortunately, he was denied, most likely because of his age, but this did not stop him. Again, after another one of his sister's deaths, he applied and was accepted into the Passionist Congregation.

A large part of Francesco's family, including his father, tried adamantly to dissuade him from joining the Passionists, but this was to no avail. After arriving at the novitiate, Francis received his habit and the name "Gabriel of Our Lady of the Sorrows." Gabriel excelled both academically and spiritually, always remaining joyful. He prayed often, loved the poor, and cared about other people's feelings, never failing to focus on the small things. At this time, Gabriel started showing the first signs of tuberculosis, but this did not slow him down in the least bit.  His peers remained by his side, and he maintained strict observance of Passionist followings, showing amazing devotion towards the Virgin Mary.

Gabriel would have his writings burnt, for fear of the temptation of pride. And, before being ordained, Gabriel passed. However, immediately before his death, it is said that he sat up, with his face radiant, grabbing for a figure that was not visible. Some believe that he had seen the Virgin Mary.

Gabriel displayed valiant virtues in the short time that he was alive. He never gave up, he always kept a smile on his face. He was meticulous in his love, caring for every single person, no one was insignificant in St. Gabriel's eyes. St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows is a true example to both young and old of how we should treat other people and how we should live our lives as children of God.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Space In and Around Us

In this upcoming Sunday's Gospel, Jesus told this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found non, he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.  So cut it down.  Why should it exhaust the soil?'  He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.  If not you can cut it down.'"

This Lent I am part of a Facebook Lent retreat, which is really cool because it encourages me to read the upcoming Sunday Gospel all week long!  This parable really resonated with me because it reminded me of my own story.  In this parable the gardener knows how important it is to fertilize and cultivate the area around the tree.  The same goes for us, the space we create in and around us is important for our spiritual growth. 

I really understand this message.  For a long period of my life, and even occasionally now, I fed lies to myself.  You know, the typical insecurities types of things like "You're really not that pretty" or "No one would ever really love you because (insert character flaw here)."  I'm sure we've all been there.  That is NOT cultivating the space around me.  Those lies will NOT help me produce "fruit" and make the world a better place.  Then, when I got to college  I grew in my faith as I began to know God better and to know his character better.  I began to love myself because God created me.  As I really began to better understand  Jesus' undeniable, unfailing, and complete love for me, I began telling myself truths.  As awkward as it might be, I started to look in the mirror and smile because God made me beautiful because he made me me!  Most people wouldn't notice much of a change because I was always a happy person but I definitely noticed the incredible, deep, internal happiness I found as a result of these truths and recognizing my true worth, not the lies.  And with that happiness, the world was a much different place for me.  That's cultivating the space around me.  Love and acceptance help me produce fruit.  Why would I want negativity and doubts when I could have positivity and confidence?  Love is powerful and wonderful and that is what I need because they make me want to give back with everything I have!  And that is producing fruit =)

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto

The Church has always been cautious about endorsing alleged visions. However, there are benefits, such as people changing their lives after one of these tremendous events.

Our Lady of Fatima is a title given to Mary after she had appeared to three children on the thirteenth day of six consecutive months during 1917. This all took place at Fatima, Portugal, and the three children included Lucia Santos, and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. Besides the spiritual implications, these visions also had a profound impact on the local politics. Europe had been engaged in an extremely bloody war and Portugal was in political turmoil, with its monarch being overthrown in 1910, and all religious organizations being disbanded soon thereafter.

Jacinta and Francisco were typical Portugese children, they could not read, but, instead, relied on their rich oral history. They worked with Lucia to take care of the family sheep. After the visions, all three felt the need to save sinners through penance and sacrifice. Thus, many times they would practice self-mortification. Even though the 1918 Influenza epidemic was ravaging Europe, Jacinta and Francisco would insist on walking to church to prostrate themselves and pray for hours on end. The Blessed Virgin Mary had instructed them to pray the rosary in order to bring world peace and end war. They were to pray for sinners and for Russia, which had just overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was going to fall prey to communism. These children showed amazing dedication to their faith, even in the face of disease and death. It is amazing that they were able to trust God and put their lives into His hands to guide them. However, both died peacefully, with Jacinta offering her suffering up for the sake of all sinners. Amazingly  her face has been found to be incorrupt after many years. An interesting fact is that Jacinta is the youngest non-martyred child to be beatified. Jacinta and Francisco's cousin, Lucia, died only very recently in 2005. She became a Carmelite nun at a young age. Currently, the five year waiting period after death for beatification has been waived for her. The shrine dedicated to the visions of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by over 20 million people yearly.

These instances in history are truly amazing, but we must remember that, even though we are not able to see God, Mary, or Jesus, face-to-face, they are in the people that we meet every single day. It is faith that helps us to believe even when we are not able to touch or see. This event also shows that even children will go to amazing lengths to fulfill the will of God. We should strive to look to the saints as role models in our everyday life.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"Lord, I am not worthy..."

When I really started to listen to the words spoken at mass and really understand what those words meant, the mass took on a whole new meaning for me.  One of the most powerful parts of the mass is when I say, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.  But only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

Uhm hello, how crazy is that!  Here I am in my little pew, meshing in with the rest of the congregation and then there I go addressing God personally.  Because the truth is, I am so so not worthy to receive the body of Christ.  I honestly and truly mean it when I say, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."  I look back on my week and am overcome with my faults and failings.  I am not proud of everything I have done, even just that week!  There were times where I sinned against myself, my neighbor, and God.  There were so many times where I failed to put Christ and my relationship with him first.

And now I am being presented the body of Christ?  I do all of these things and then I am supposed to receive the most wonderful gift of all time?  But God, I am SO NOT worthy! And I admit that right then and there to God personally.  But the next part is the definition of grace: "But only say the word and my soul shall be healed."  My soul is healed by a word.  I am forgiven because God said so.  And that is overwhelming and wonderful.

What parts of the mass mean the most to you and why?

Until next time,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lenten Game Plan

I have a daily spiritual reader, entitled The Magnificat Year of Faith Companion, and yesterday’s reading was a suggestion on what I could do for Lent.  I thought it was a great idea and I thought I would share it with you all.  

On Sundays – Lectio Divina:  Devote a half hour or so each Sunday to reading Sacred Scripture in a prayerful manner.  You might begin with one of the Gospels, or perhaps take up next Sunday’s Bible reading.

On Mondays – Meditative Prayer:  Set aside time to pray by yourself and in silence.  You might repeat peacefully the Jesus Prayer:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

On Tuesdays – Fasting:  Choose one day of the week each week – perhaps this day – to fast.  Offer your mortification for specific intentions.  Pray that your spiritual hunger will match your physical hunger.

On Wednesdays – Charitable Works of Mercy:  Use this day to go out of your way to care for the poor, the needy, and the lonely.  Reflect on all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and commit to carrying out each of them during the season of Lent.

On Thursdays – Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament:  Make regular Eucharistic Adoration a priority of your Lenten observance.  Bring all you prayer requests and the needs of your family and friends before the Lord’s Eucharistic presence.  Let him gaze at you in love.  

On Fridays – Study of the Faith:  Build into you Lenten Fridays choice time to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Start with those areas of doctrine which you need to understand better. 

On Saturdays – Confession and Mortification for Sins:  Let your Lent be marked by frequent confession.  Resolve to give up certain pleasures and conveniences during Lent as a penance for sin. 
-        Father Peter John Cameron, O.P.
Hope you all have a great Valentine’s Day and feast of St. Cyril.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph

St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph lived a simple life, recognizing his sinfulness, but not letting it obstruct his destiny. He remained humble and would always think of others before himself.

Francis Anthony Postillo was born in Taranto, Apulia, a region of Southern Italy, on 16 November 1729 to very poor parents. He trained to become a rope maker, but truly desired to enter the priesthood. When Francis was 18 years old, his father died, leaving him to support the family. When he was 25 years old, with his family secure, Postillo applied to the Discalced Friars Minor of Saint Peter of Alcantara but was not able to become a priest due to his lack of education. However, Francis did not let this get in the way of the will of God, so he became a lay brother, serving in Naples.

Working for 53 years as the porter and gate-keeper of St. Paschal’s Hospice, Francis would often see the poor and outcast. He helped the sick, specifically lepers, traveling outside of the city to care for those that had been shunned. He also served as cook, and even beggar occasionally for the monastery, giving up all the food that he had obtained to the friars and the poor. He did this while consoling the poor and urging everyone to repent. Francis died of natural causes while in prayer and a large crowd showed up at his funeral to remember such a great soul, who care for the needs of the sick and isolated. He was canonized in 1996 by Pope John Paul II. 

It takes one person to strike up a conversation or even simply smile to brighten up the day of someone who is lonely, which St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph did throughout the entirety of his life. He did not care who they were, if they were poor or sick, he would still help anyone in need. Additionally, Postillo showed that nothing is impossible when you trust in God. Even though he was not able to become a priest, St. Giles Mary did amazing things in his lifetime that improved the life of many people. 

“Love God, love God”
-St. Giles Mary of St. Joseph


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Perspective Change

So I overslept 15 minutes this morning...and I freaked out.  Why is that?  Because I have a huge test on Friday and I have no idea how it's going to go.  I'm taking Analysis this semester and it is known that this is the hardest math class in the program.  And let me tell ya, I've taken some hard ones.  So here I am, waking up 15 minutes late and freaking out because every minute counts.  I think the thing that's stressing me out the most is that my professor canceled all of her office hours for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday!  Who does that?!  I really haven't been this nervous for a test in a long time.

And in the midst of this stress, I just have this image of God in my head smiling down on me.  Because he already knows what's going to happen.  And in the grand scheme of life, this test is sooo not important.  The fact that I've made it this far in the program is truly a miracle (haha) and that's partly how I know I'm meant to be here.  That's the thing about God, he already has a plan for our lives.  I don't think we can mess that up if we want his plan for our lives too.  If God want's me to be a teacher then I really think he's got it in him to help me pass this class (because let me tell ya, I certainly am trying!)

"And we know that God causes all things 
to work together for good to those who love
 God, to those who are called according to
 His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)

But even beyond all that, isn't it awesome that our worth, our value is not based on what grade we receive?  We are not defined by our test scores.  God doesn't think any less of us if we try our best and fail.  And really, God's opinion is by far the most important.

Sometimes we just need a little perspective change and writing this post helped me with that =)

Until next time,

"I Must"

                I’ve lead a somewhat lost life throughout college. I applied and got accepted to three different universities, each for a different major. I was bored in my intro classes as a freshman and didn’t know if psychology was the right choice for me. My second year consisted of a lot of ‘exploring’ around, taking classes in different fields of study, but I never found anything better so I stuck with psych. My junior year I enjoyed it more, but it still wasn’t completely right for me either. Now, in my senior year, although it still isn’t a passion of mine, I think I’ve found more liking for my major. I like people and human interaction. Personalities, social contact between peoples, and behaviors are all interesting to me. I haven’t found a true passion, but I’ve discovered a liking and different applications for my newly attained skills and knowledge. Not really having a set plan is scary. I’m graduating in a couple of short months and I don’t know what’s next for me. Do I continue school? Do I try to get experience? In what field? Do I try different jobs just to see if one feels right? Do I travel to Europe to find myself?
                Well, with a lot of uncertainty in my life right now I turn to God. I ask Him all of these questions and (as I hate to admit) I kind of wait for a sign. For something to call to me or for it all to just make sense. I wish I was at a point that I knew a few possibilities that could be for me so that I could just jump in and take the risk to finding out what my purpose is. Unfortunately, although I kind of eliminated and pinpointed some things, I just don’t have a small selection to choose from. I don’t know what I’m meant to do; I just find it really hard to pull out a career plan from my interests. It’s funny because my favorite quote is about doing what you love and I am not sure of what I love.

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread the roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of the night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in the assent, if you meet this solemn with a strong, simple, “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even in its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”
-          Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

                Recently, I’ve interviewed a few people about their careers and they said something that struck me. They, at times, were unsure too. They have changed careers. It wasn’t just a straight path to where they are today. But also, they might not be in their dream job. You have to love, or at least like, what you’re doing, but it isn’t always your dream or your true passion. Your purpose isn’t always in your career. It might be in your friends or family, your volunteering or hobby interests, or in your faith life. A job or career doesn’t define you. When you go deep within yourself to find what you are meant to do, you might be surprised with what you find. So don’t be too disappointed or worried about not knowing what major, career, or whatever aspect of your life is right for you because there are many parts of you. There are many sides to the life you lead, some deeper than others, and some more meaningful or important to others. One person might feel fulfilled through their job and another might work to pay the bills and feel fulfilled through their spouse and children. Another might find their passion through the church or through God. God doesn’t always make it obvious by throwing a sign at you or shouting an answer when you want it. You will know what you are meant for at the right time. 

Look inside and listen to God, you'll find what demands you to say "I must".

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

St. Paulo Miki

Today we travel to the Far East, specifically Japan. Japan might not be the most populous Catholic area, but there are many Japanese Catholics that played important roles in spreading the faith. One example is Saint Paulo Miki, who is one of the 26 Martyrs of Japan. He converted many Japanese people to Catholicism and stood for his beliefs in the face of enemies.

Paulo was born into a wealthy Japanese family, with his father being a prominent Japanese military leader. He was educated by the Jesuits and joined the Society of Jesus in 1580. I was very happy when I saw this because I was also educated by Jesuits at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. It is amazing to see how universal the Catholic Church is, and how people will devote there lives to spreading the Catholic faith.

Miki was known for his gift of preaching, gaining many converts. However, the Japanese emperor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was fearful of the power of the Jesuits in Japan, so he started persecuting Catholics. St. Paulo Miki was jailed along with his fellow Catholics. They were also forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto to Nagasaki. Along the way they sang Te Deum, an early Christian hymn of praise.

Miki was crucified when he arrived at Nagasaki, which has the largest population of Japanese Catholics. Giving his last sermon from the cross, he forgave all of his executioners. He was martyred alongside 25 other Catholics who were persecuted in Japan.

St. Paulo Miki spoke the truth in his words:

"The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain."

Missionaries did not return again to Japan until the 1860s, finding no traces of Christianity. However, to their surprise, there was still a large population of Catholics in Nagasaki, who had secretly kept the religion alive, perhaps to the credit of Paulo Miki.

I greatly enjoyed learning about this amazing man. A Jesuit, a martyr, and a saint, St. Paulo Miki inspires me and hopefully many people to stand up for their faith in the face of enemies. Even in distant lands, there are those who follow the will of God.

Luke Knudson

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Becoming Better Receivers

Many times we hear how important it is to important it is to love.  I had this new idea proposed to me this weekend that it is perhaps even more important to become better receivers.  Whaaaat? I know, sounds kind of crazy.  But lets think about it.

Have you ever had a time in your life where you just felt entirely blessed and completely and truly loved?  How did that make you feel?  Maybe you cried, maybe you couldn't stop smiling.  My guess is that it made you feel unstoppable, like nothing could touch you.  Well here's the thing.  Imagine if you felt that way every day.  Sure, struggles inevitably come along but you receive them trusting that Christ has a purpose, has a plan.   

Think about all the blessings and love we receive from God...if we really truly see that, imagine how our lives would be transformed.  Love is powerful, right?  It's probably the most powerful thing out there I would think. So if we were so completely full of love and everything that comes along with it (cared for, blessed, special, etc.), imagine how happy and how powerful that would be!  Imagine all the good we could do!  Our outlook and attitudes on life would be infinitely better.  I propose that we need to become better receivers.  Once we recognized how loved we are, we are moved to love others in the same kind of way.  We will be unstoppable.

So how do we become better receivers?  How do we recognize how loved we truly are?  First and foremost, we must pray.  Because prayer has a way of helping us see things better.  We must receive compliments better...the people who compliment you really meant what they said and wanted you to hear it.  So if you are told how wonderful you are, don't just brush it off but praise God!  Because you are beautiful and wonderful and loved.  But we must become better receivers of our sufferings too.  I have a hard time believing that we suffer for no reason.  Sometimes we need the suffering to experience how blessed we are and how strong we are.

Love is powerful.  I pray that God reveals to us each day how loved and blessed we are.

Until next time,

Metanoia: The Beloved

          Kathe and I decided to write this post together to best describe our experience this weekend for you. This weekend was truly amazing. We had the honor to be on the retreat planning team for St. Monica-St. George this year. It was called Metanoia, meaning a turn of heart or transformation. The theme of Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved led us through the weekend with a process of life including being taken (or chosen), blessed, broken, and given. We heard several talks during the retreat and reflected on our own lives from their examples.

“If we live our life as people who are taken, blessed, and broken, then we can give ourselves. We are taken, blessed, and broken to be given.”
                -Henri Nouwen

                Taken: You are chosen by God. He has a purpose for you whether it is clear or He reveals it to you in time. Not just your purpose as in a career, but also your spiritual and faith life. It’s getting to know yourself at the deepest level, not just the facts about relationship titles or skills you have, but what you stand for and what you truly believe in. By getting to know yourself at this deep level, you will eventually discover exactly who He meant you to be. We were all given freewill and we can make decisions over the course of our lives, but we can live His way and eventually come to the ending point that was always there. You can choose any way, but God will always lead you to be the person He created you to be. You will become a perfect child of God.   
                Blessed: God blesses every person. He gives you family, friends, a home, a job, an education, but there are many people who do not have these things. God blesses them too; He blesses us all with His love. He blesses us with people who shape us in to who we are supposed to be. He teaches us life lessons through them. Our relationship changes with Him over time; we don’t always realize how blessed we are. We grow with Him during our lives and we can learn to recognize and accept His love for us. He will always love us unconditionally. God blesses in so many ways throughout our lives, whether we realize it at the time or in hindsight, sometimes we just need to take the time to realize it.
                Broken: We are faced with challenges all the time. Some of them are small, minute things like a tight schedule, traffic on the way home, can’t find something you need, or caught a cold at school. Some of these difficulties can be horrendous times in our lives. People experience accidents, abuse, mental or physical suffering, and other traumas every day. We are broken in our lives, but it is what we choose to do with our brokenness that really counts. It is after we are broken that really counts. We have to choose to fight through and remember God at these times. Everything happens for a reason. We learn something from everything that happens to us. Sometimes we need suffering to see the good. Keep hope and faith during these times and remember that God loves you.
                Given: We have to take our brokenness and turn it into giving. We can use the challenges we have faced to teach others lessons to help them. Having faith through the tough times is inspiring to others. You can do so much for other people by being hopeful and faithful. You don’t have to have suffered greatly to show God to others; staying strong of faith through any difficulty is moving. Even just accepting God’s love and blessings is life changing to other people. You can give Christ to the world just by being the person He made you. Be your best self every day and let God’s love work through you all the time and for all people. You can be Christ for others and others can be Christ for you. You just have to work to realize that Christ is within all people, including yourself.  
       We definitely had some ‘turn of heart’ moments. I know I truly had moments of belief in God and people that I have not always felt during my life. Kathe had moments realizing that God and people in her life love her and have great reason to. We think that if you read and reflect on the theme of the beloved that you might find some ‘turn of heart’ moments for yourself. Maybe you’ll even read Henri Nouwen’s book to understand even more about living the life of the beloved. We are all beloved children of God. We just need to accept it and live it every day.

“We may be little, insignificant servants in the eyes of a world motivated by efficiency, control and success. But when we realize that God has chosen us from all eternity, sent us into the world as the blessed ones, handed us over to suffering, can't we, then, also trust that our little lives will multiply themselves and be able to fulfill the needs of countless people?” 
                -Henri Nouwen

“The word of the Lord came to me: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
                -Jeremiah 1:4-5

“Now eagerly desire the greater gifts . . . And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
                -Corinthians 12:31 and 13:13 (for the entire section, read 12:31 through 13:13)

Go and live out the life of the beloved, as God has always meant you to do,
Kathe and Katie