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