Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eeekk...And my Pilgrimage

Sorry for my absence. I went on vacation for the long weekend and have been buckling down for midterms for the past 2 weeks...and I still have 2 1/2 more weeks to go. How does that make any sense? lol Mid-terms should come at one time! Not one every week for 5 weeks! But alas, I suppose I get more time to study for each one. Keep me in your prayers.

I gave up my Saturday study plans to go on a pilgrimage to the First American Martyr's Shrine in Auriesville, NY. We had to leave campus verrrrry early, and alas I looked like a fool sleeping in the car ride up while some of the others were jamming out to their iPods :P ah well, we college kids will take any opportunity to sleep, as we are always running on low battery.

It was bitterly cold out (does anyone else think it's been an awfully cold fall so far?!) and the shrine was *obviously* an outdoor activity. First we spent some time in the gift shop, where I spotted the religious medals. Some had these red dots and patches on the back and were classified as "relics"...but I thought there was no way they were true saint relics, as they were merely $3-4 each. Can anyone explain this to me? Do any of you own these relic medals?

After wrapping that up, we headed over to the chapel for mass, but unfortunately no one was showing up and we were dumbfounded. There was supposed to be a mass being held everyday, so where was it? We finally found it in the coliseum church, *which was beautiful!*, but we came in during the sermon! Mass was already half over! Ugh. Needless to say I was utterly BUMMED! But the Lord seemed to be testing me and guiding me toward being a more patient and flexible servant today, as nothing was truly going "smoothly".

(The Coliseum Church, photo provided by Ten Kids and a Dog)

As you can see, the church looked like an old Fort. I absolutely loved the atmosphere of this church, as the alter (the 4-way in it had 4 alters due to the square shape it had) was in the center of the building and the pews encircled it. Simply awesome! While at church I noticed many families with the mothers (and their young daughters!) wearing chapel veils! I have yet to see any woman wear a veil to any church/mass I have been to and this was so powerful, I didn't want to stop staring...I was taking it all in. It's such a good feeling to see strong faith and piety being displayed outwardly, especially in the case of the veil, as I believe it to be required in the prayer life of us ladies. These parents were not only living their faith as a couple, with Christ obviously at the center of their lives, but they were setting great examples for their children (especially their daughters!). I was just very very pleased.

The grounds of the shrine were amazing. We took a quick look around before watching a video in the media center about the martyrs and Kateri Tekakwitha (the first Native American saint...or almost saint) The story of the martyrs was very powerful, but the story truly came alive and hit you as you walked the grounds and relived the events of their lives.

Saint Isaac Jogues was a priest who tried to evangelize and spread the faith to the Mohawk tribes. This was not ok with these natives and they became incensed by the practices of Jogues and his friend Rene Goupil. St. Rene and St. Isaac were walking around the village of Ossernenon, after a morning of intense prayer, and they came across two young Native American men. One of the men killed Rene with a tomahawk, but spared Jogues. As I walked the path leading to the Ravine (where Jogues would later bury his companion), I read the story again, but this time they had accounts written by Jogues. It was horrific to "re-live" this event in our Church's history.

(Note: gets a little graphic)

Jogues, distraught over witnessing this insane act, had to give his friend his last rights and prepare his body for burial. However, he was forced to leave and the native children tied a rope around the neck of Rene's body and pulled him to the Ravine. Jogues later took Rene and placed him in the Ravine, under heavy rocks, for burial later, but when he came back, the body had been removed. The natives placed the body in an area where other waste was placed for dogs, foxes, and other animals to feast upon. Thus, Jogues found the remains a year later, only bones were left. The bones were properly buried in the Ravine.

Some time later, Jogues blessed his food with the sign of the cross and his Mohawk friend quickly warned him to stop his "crossing" immediately, as that was what cost Rene his life.

I was overcome with relief...relief that I didn't have to live in a time where my faith could cost me my life. But I immediately felt guilty. I should be ready to give up my life at any time, and this story proves how fragile life really is and how strong beliefs are. Our lives are not our own, as they belong to the Creator himself, but our faith can be. We need to cultivate our faith every single day, we need to ensure it grows and doesn't weaken or plateau.

We must listen to these stories of the martyrs and learn from them, as we could be put in this situation at any moment. Perhaps not to such an extreme degree, our lives may not be threatened, but we are put to this test everyday. We are pressured into abandoning our Christian faith all the time, through politics, college, the music we listen to, the friends we love, even sometimes our own families. I can relate to St. Isaac in that I have been threatened to hide my outward signs of faith. Did he do so? No, he did not deny the Lord, and he would later be martyred for his religious zeal.

Throughout the Ravine are various bridges and shrines, all very close to the water-way in which St. Rene was buried. I was so moved, and I realized the need I had for Christ, the hunger I had for His Word, and the deep desire I had to know Him better. I sat in front of the statue of Jesus laying in a stone alcove, and I just meditated on His passion. What had he ever done to me to deserve such torment? Any how could I, regretting each an every sin I have committed against him, be afraid to suffer pain, ridicule, and even death for His sake?He is my Creator, Father, and everything!...and yet He still gets placed on the "back burner" of my life so often. I know now how imperative it is that He become the Lord of my life, and that I make every effort to strengthen our relationship now.

As I looked around, I saw the families from the mass looking on with the same deeply contemplative expressions I must have had, and I felt the unity. So often I feel alone in my walk, but I'm really not, as I have a huge family of believers struggling through the same trials and sufferings. We are one body: us everyday modern believers, the saints & martyrs, and those souls from generations past. Yet, while we are such an amazingly complex and beautiful Body, we-The Church- are just people and we are incredibly flawed. It hit me that I constantly put my faith in people all too much, and when they offend me or let me down in some way, I lose a little faith in my spiritual journey. We are made perfect through Christ, but I will never live to see this perfection played out, not until after death. Thus, the only One I should be putting my faith in is Jesus. Yes, people and relationships are vitally important in this life, especially for a healthy spiritual life, but I need to stop letting myself get so disappointed when they become tricky and messy.

Jesus is the beginning & the end: focus on Him with all your heart, soul, and might!
Visiting this shrine was amazing, despite the little bumps in the road & the weather. It just reinforced my need for Jesus and brought it so forcefully to the forefront of my heart, that I couldn't help but act on it & share with you my experience. I really encourage a visit to this shrine if you are ever in the area, and if not, or if you are not Catholic, to simply google & read the lives of these martyrs & of Kateri, as they are very relevant to this amazing faith we share. These men and women are an encouragement and a reminder that this life is a battle: you're either for God or against Him, don't allow yourselves to become lukewarm, and always strive to be readily willing to give up your pleasure, comfort, and lives for the Most High.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Witchcraft & Occultism: In Style?

It's funny how topics I randomly ponder to myself and pray over come up in my life or show up on blogger. I am reading the Bible in its entirety (should have been in one year, but it may take a little longer! lol) and I am making my way through the Old Testament now. In many parts in the OT (and even NT) scripture, we are warned not to engage in witchcraft, soothsaying, divination, etc.

Even though this is such a widely repeated warning throughout the Bible, hardly anyone pays attention to it anymore. I know of so many people looking to engage in these things, from simple horoscopes, to seeing a psychic for fun, to using a Ouija board, and having full on seances. I don't know how it formed into a trend...I think people like to be scared and we see these things occurring in our much beloved horror flicks and want to experience it ourselves. We like to be shown outright that there is another realm besides the world we live in now. We're curious, but God has no patience for it.

I prayed about this for the past couple nights, to see where I should stand. I had friends in the past whose parents banned Halloween and Disney movies/Harry Potter...and that was just so unappealing to me. My friends were trapped by this ultra-protective environment and they were the ones who ended up rebelling the worst.

My cousin came to me and asked me if I believed in psychics and mediums. She just lost her father in a tragic accident so her and her siblings have been constantly looking for "signs" from beyond the grave and have sought out mediums to connect with their dad. She wants to throw a "psychic party" by hiring a psychic and inviting all her loved ones to hopefully connect with the deceased and or get a good sneak peak at the future.

I love my cousins and I have been trying to hard to be gentle with them during this difficult time. At one point, I tried to ask if they ever thought this could be a harmful practice...they could be conjuring up false spirits and opening themselves to a world they were not anticipating. They don't follow any one form of Christianity thoroughly so they were unconcerned and adamant that this was true stuff. I don't know what to do...should I attend the party and just show my support for them during this grieving period? I wouldn't participate, but I also don't want to support the event itself...

I feel the Lord is convicting me to be more "separate" and firm in my faith. This is not tolerable to matter how harmless or noble our intentions are. But then where do I draw the line? How much Halloween is too much? Is this too another form of witchcraft? Does God detest the decorations with the witches, cauldrons, and ghosts? Am I misrepresenting Christ by enjoying this holiday? What about Harry Potter? I simply cannot bring myself to badmouth this awesome literary series...not only did it inspire a generation of kids to read (myself included), but it has awesome underlying morals.

What are your opinions on this matter?
Where do you stand in this "trend" that has quickly become a strong force in our culture?

Happy Fall & Blessings to all~

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Saint Francis Prayer: Near & Dear to my Heart!

I learned this prayer at my weekly rosary and thought I'd share it with you all, enjoy!

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cleaning Out Our Lives for God

Last night I spent a substantial amount of time clearing out my itunes playlist. I had recently read a great blog post about clearing the bad influences from our lives: tv shows, music, hobbies, friends that were bring us further from Christ rather than closer to Him. I took this to heart, seeing as these things do greatly affect me, I feel as if I am easily influenced at times by the emotions certain music, movies, and friends bring out in me.
I knew it was time for a change! Like Mrs. Duggar says "we don't put garbage in our mouths, so don't put it in your mind!" What a great philosophy ;) Fortunately, I don't watch too much tv anymore, only select shows I really want to watch: ie. 19 Kids and counting (which my roomie likes now! yay!) because my room mate doesn't like having the tv on. That was an adjustment for me, but a good one none the less! So I focused my attention on my music collection.

What shape is your playlist in? Your movie selections? Your favorite tv shows? Do they glorify God or do they tempt you in negative ways, toward sin perhaps? We must work harder at cleansing our lives for the Lord, as we are commanded to be separate from the world and to be a peculiar people. So even if we seem weird for boycotting crude music, or ungodly movies (Like Easy A...I refused to see it this weekend and that resulted in me getting confronted by my old room mates, as mentioned in the last post.) we need to stand firm and accept any suffering this causes us. Maybe our family and friends will be resistant to this change, and even persecute us to a degree, in trying to get us to revert back to old ways, but we need to rise above this and sacrifice these things for God.


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
-Philippians 4:8

College Happenings

Yet another hectic week of school has passed. I am swamped with the two clubs and their activities almost every night of the week...and I love it! Monday nights are Bible study nights, Tuesday I fellowship with the Protestant group, Wednesday I fellowship with the Catholic Ministry, Thursdays are women's bible study, and Fridays are the Christian alternative nights where the Protestant group hosts fun activities for those of us resisting the temptation to go out and party. And of course Sundays are mass days! Though that can change depending on student mass and other events.

I just wanted to share what has been happening in my neck of the woods this weekend, it was truly amazing and I am so grateful God has so drastically changed my college experience this semester! At the Friday night hang out, the group was invited by a local Christian family out to their farm for a home cooked meal and a good time. The farm was breath taking...I felt like I was warped back in time...the old farmhouse was like something out of a fairytale and the host family was simply the sweetest! The lengths they went to to feed us all! And after dinner and mingling, we were taken on a night time hayride and subsequent bonfire. Just looking up at the stars that night, I was starting to grasp what it meant to fear the Lord. This great big clear sky and the countless stars shining brightly down on us...knowing how far those stars were from us and how many years it took their light to reach earth was just mind boggling....and I just started to put together the pieces of God's magnificent creation. His creation is so much larger than just this earth and He ordained it all so perfectly that nothing went wrong, even though science tells us that our mere existence is a marvel. If the Lord could be trusted with such great a matter as creating us so perfectly, why do I have trouble trusting Him? Why do I defy His Word when I know His ways are surely the best? I should be in utter awe of Him and His great works and yet I treat Him as if He was my servant at times, expecting Him to grant me my every desire. It was a real challenging moment and something I definitely need to ponder more...

Saturday I was bogged down with work, but later in the evening I attended a Singles for Christ event. I guess this group originated in the Philippines and it's goal is to bring together single Catholics in fellowship/volunteering/etc? I wasn't quite sure, but yet again I was blown away by the generosity of those hosting the event. They brought together 3 colleges at my local church here at school for mass, pizza & a variety of home cooked Filipino dishes, and worship/fellowship. Another great night in my book. I met some great people and one of the ladies was pursuing her masters in the major I am currently in...which I was so encouraged by as I had been having my doubts. On top of that I received some wise counsel from one of the girls in my ministry club about our major that I was desperately seeking. So keep me in your prayers as the Lord unveils His plan for me career-wise! :)

Today I just continued my school work. My room mate and I spent hours discussing some of her struggles with college. Her and my old room mates are a little jealous that I have branched off from them and found new friends in these religious groups and so I had to spend a great deal of time just listening. A part of me was angry because I had finally found happiness and a group of people who believed and lived like me...this was what they encouraged me to do all along because they were not supportive of my lifestyle to begin with. I was the buzzkill, the "stuck up" girl, the "judgmental" one who didn't "try hard enough" to fit the party crowd. Not only that, but they treated me pretty badly last year so I assumed they just didn't click with me in general...and that's ok! We're not all meant to get along perfectly.

I have been so busy with school and club events that I have failed to "conform my schedule to theirs". I have offered my time to them between these events, but apparently I should skip my clubs once in a while for them? I simply cannot bring myself to want to do this for them. I feel as if I may not be being charitable towards these girls, but these clubs are bringing me closer to God...the people I am meeting are making me the better version of myself and I don't fear sliding into bad habits...I feel like I am finally glorifying God better throughout my days having this support system in my life! How can I/ Why should I give this up? Please, once again, pray for me that God gives me wisdom in this matter. That He grants me patience and compassion toward these girls who are obviously frustrated with college life like I was. Pray that they find happiness elsewhere and won't take their anger out on me, and that they will hear the Lord's calling in His time.

Blessings from a *finally* ecstatic college student!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Feast Day: Our Lady of Sorrows

Just got back from a great ministry meeting and an even better rosary circle! I just wanted to stop in to let everyone know today we remember the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, for her role in our salvation. Mary was not only an instrument to God, but she was a Mother. Yes, she was the mother of our Messiah, but that doesn't make her any less "mom-like", she suffered many heart aches in the process of trusting God to fulfill this plan to save a dying world. So if you would just briefly meditate on/remember the darkest moments Our Lady endured during her life as both a Mother and a servant of the Most High:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
  3. Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)
  4. Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
  5. Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
  6. The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
  7. The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)
This feast is dedicated to the spiritual martyrdom of Mary, Mother of God, and her compassion with the sufferings of her Divine Son, Jesus. In her suffering as co-redeemer, she reminds us of the tremendous evil of sin and shows us the way of true repentance. May the numerous tears of the Mother of God be conducive to our salvation; with which tears Thou, O God, art able to wash away the sins of the whole world.

Thank you Mary for enduring all the pain my sin has caused you, and most importantly, the True and Living God. Pray for us that we may turn from our evil and follow Jesus with all our hearts.

Holy Mother, imprint deeply upon my heart the wounds of the Crucified.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We Need More Sensitivity

Lately I have been harboring a wee bit of unresolved anger toward a muslimah blogger whom I used to look up to quite a bit. She's a convert and I have sadly noticed her becoming more and more radical. She compared me to that of a racist over a difference in opinions- because I would not accept her side, I was suddenly an "enemy" of sorts. Simply not true! So I had to just stop following her blog because it stopped being a place for sharing ideas/different opinions from different faiths and started being a radical 'one way or the highway' kind of blog.

I have started to see this breakdown of communication between faiths, cultures, and politics in many places besides blogger and I am absolutely horrified by it and simultaneously saddened. Maybe I just never cared enough to see that we Americans (well I guess anyone who lives in a 'free' nation) really aren't as tolerant as we say we are. And why is this?

We have the Constitution and laws protecting us so that no one will be maligned or abused for personal beliefs, lifestyles, politics, etc. Everyone is welcome here! Basically it's the law to be fair-we have established rights, so what is with the hostility? We're all free to choose our own path, and others theirs, without fear. However, with these freedoms, we start to get so caught up in our "right" that we forget charity and the needed sensitivity needed in using/expressing those rights.

I really didn't want to post about the Ground Zero mosque, but as it is 9/11 and so much of the news is spent on this discussion, I felt it appropriate to make a point. 9/11 was conducted by radical muslims, those who lost concern for human God Himself created. Not every single muslim should be held guilty for this crime, because most muslims are just as appalled as us non-muslims for the attacks that went down that fateful day.

I am 100% in support of muslim's rights and protecting them from disgraceful stereotypes. Do I have to feel or act this way? No, I could just as easily give it no thought like I do politics (couldn't care less to put my energy into it.) But I do make the effort because I know it is right and these are human lives...human emotions on the line. I need to make the effort because without this sensitivity for fellow man, we'll never bring peace to this world.

Now at the same time, Muslims need to reciprocate this sensitivity to the non-muslims in America...those who perhaps never even heard of Islam until the terrorist attack hit NYC. People lost family members, friends, coworkers, etc that day and sometimes human emotion runs so deep it's hard to heal without making irrational claims or harboring immense anger. Unfortunately, we humans always seem to need a scapegoat, and for 9/11 this has sadly become Islam.

We should be trying to heal these wounds together as a nation, Muslim along with non-muslim, teaching each other and condemning hate crimes. The issue I have with the mosque is not that of "do Muslims have the right to build a mosque 2 blocks from Ground Zero?" (Because yes America, they do! No matter how you try to twist it, it's their right.) But that there is no sensitivity in this decision. While we are people proud of our freedoms & rights, we are also a people guided by our hearts & emotions. Those in charge of getting the permits and everything in place are showing no charity toward those affected on that day. Perhaps there shouldn't be hard feelings toward Islam to begin with, but think about how the world reacts to violence in general:

How is the world handling the scandals within the RCC? Why is it that my Chinese friend is forbidden to date a Japanese man (her family harbors anger from the rape of nanking)? Or why did the Jews resist the RCC building a Carmelite convent close to the Auschwitz site years after the Holocaust had ended? Why is slavery still taught in a way to make caucasian students feel guilty? Why did my Lithuanian great grandparents dislike my Polish ones? Because humans have always, and will always (most likely), carry their pain & anger in their hearts & lash it out on the supposed "culprit" (even when those blames had nothing to do with the issue itself).

Those in charge are not paying attention to the utter uproar this is sparking across our nation. There is a Greek Orthodox Church that was damaged on 9/11 and the government won't give them their permits after 9 years, yet this mosque is all we seem to be talking about. The Muslim response to the resistance is that we Americans are biased, showing prejudice, etc when really it has nothing to do with the faith itself, but with association to the hijackers. If Baptists did this crime, and then wanted to set up a chapel, how would we react then? The same as in this situation. And Christianity would be slandered even more than it already is.

Believe me, I know what it is like to have my faith dragged through the mud. In my campus ministry groups, we vent that it has now become legitimate "education" to read Christian texts and tear them to shreds through discussion, commentary, essays, etc in the classrooms at our college. People mock the Pope to my face, saying his is a nazi or a child molester, I have been attacked over the fact that Christians caused the Inquisition, how Christian ignorance & anti-semetism caused people to kill Jews in the middle ages, etc etc etc etc....It's a never ending list of things I am guilty association. Does it make it right? No. But I know that the hurt is still there, and in a way, Christians did mess up all throughout history and I need to keep that in mind so I can further the Kingdom of God by doing the opposite. I need to be sensitive to those who still harbor the pain and anger because Jesus would want that. I cannot make a tense situation better by FORCE, even if my rights permit me to do so.

This applies to the Pastor who wanted to burn Korans today. "What a foolish thing to do" was my first reaction, but then I went through the steps again: Is it his right to do this? Yes, freedom of speech. Should he do it? No. Why? Because it is utterly insensitive to Muslims who revere the Koran.

I know there are many who won't agree with this because it is hard to look past your own perspective and stand in someone else's shoes, even when that means taking flack from others for situations that were beyond your control. But we have control over the future. Will we use it to heal and understand God's other millions of children, or use it to propagate more tension and animosity? I sincerely ask you to please be patient, please be kind, and please be sensitive to those who still hurt so that someday we can come out of this world spotless!

May God Bless you all on this day & guide you in your choices,
My prayers go out to all those who lost that day.