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.

Anyways!
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 alter...as 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 Savior...my 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.

Blessings!
RA

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 God...no 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~
RA

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.

Remember:


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!
RA

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 life...life 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 for...by 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.
RA

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Eucharist: Symbol or Truth?

Since having joined the Protestant group on campus, I have had a few friendly discussions/debates on Catholic doctrine. I simply love their fellowship and how they are choosing to alter their lifestyle to align with God's Holy Word. And naturally, questions arise between them and I: mainly it is I asking questions to better grasp their "culture" (because there are significant cultural differences! lol) and I am just fascinated by learning every minute detail of other faiths.

I read in my local Catholic newspaper that 45 years ago this fall, Pope Paul VI created the Nostra Aetate in an attempt to encourage inter-faith dialogue. I read this just in time to remind myself to be very open this semester, as many of the members want me to try their churches just for the experience alone (no conversions as promised haha). I am weary, but if I let this hold me back, what use am I to the Kingdom of God? I need to be willing and excited to open dialogue! As someone said on my comments, they were Protestant in college and by the example of a Catholic peer, they converted. *Not* that I want to convert anyone, that is definitely not my goal. I simply want to bring down the walls between us, as one of them expressed concern with the Catholic dogma. I want to prove their misconceptions wrong and bring them to a level of comfort with other Catholics...that they won't just dismiss us as "wrong".

So one of my friends from the group asked me to prepare a little list as to why I believe certain dogmas, and he would make a list of why he finds them to be false. (and he reads a lot of Reformist literature...something I never even thought to read, so ahh! nervous haha) But the main issue he had was *drum roll* the Eucharist and of course Mary/saints/rosary, but I'll just focus on my questions for you on his question...for...me...hahaha.

Ok! So this young man is concerned that I take the Eucharist as more than a symbol. I started by quoting the mass/Luke 22 "This is my blood, the blood of the new and ever lasting covenant, which will be shed so that sins may be forgiven...do this in memory of me". This alone was not significant to him, he said that the disciples did not take a bite out of God then and there, thus Jesus was not being literal, he did speak in parables after all. This made me think hard, because a lot of the Bible isn't literal. So why this part? All I had was this feeling in my heart that he was severely wrong, and I longed for him to know Jesus in the Eucharist so badly.

This brought me to my next point: If we trust that God made Jesus in the first place, why can't we believe that He can bring Jesus to us in the Eucharist? My friend said that Jesus is risen, no longer on earth, He has no place/business here until the second coming. (This made my flash back to another debate I had with the woman on the boardwalk: my Jesus is raised!)

I think this is where our differences stem on this issue: Is Jesus raised and out of our lives here on earth until the second coming? Does His cross still have relevance in our worship of Him? Or is that not how we should view Him since He conquered death? An old MJ friend would not wear crucifixes because she felt they portrayed Jesus in a way He wasn't anymore.

I was driven nuts by this discussion for hours after it had ended because I wanted to give him a better answer. I just kept singing this song from mass, but didn't pay much attention to it. The next morning I was yet again singing this tune and I was curious as to why I was singing it, so I ran through it again, this time letting the words hit me "When we eat this bread, when we drink this cup, we proclaim your death Lord Jesus, until you come in glory"

Wow moment! I was like, duh that's the answer right? Catholic worship is almost centered entirely on the crucifixion because that passion was the saving act that covered all humanity's sins. Why shouldn't that be a vital aspect? Yes, Christ has been raised, but our sin has not stopped. We all crucified Jesus that day, and continue through further sinning, yet He readily gave Himself up to a painful death. God's grace doesn't end because the crucifixion itself has ended. Jesus' death was an intimate sacrifice for us, it was personal and individually tailored to each of us who believe & trust in Him. And while yes He is indeed risen, we could not have been saved without first having received His death. Thus, Catholics will remember and proclaim this event to remind us of His purpose in our own lives...until He comes again! We're not going to ignore His human life until He returns to us here on earth...because His sacrifice is always present.

53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" -John 6:53-60


So we read here that the Israelites, who physically ate the manna in the desert, died. Jesus says He is the new manna...God miraculously sent down the original manna from heaven, so we cannot reason that that was a metaphor. Jesus states He has been sent from heaven (and any Christian does agree that miraculously, God sent us Jesus through Mary). And He tells us that we will need to eat & drink his blood, just as the Israelites ate the manna in the desert. The disciples were obviously shocked by this teaching and even questioned it.

I know I don't have all the answers, but this is just what I have reasoned thus far through study & googling for common Catholic responses to this problem between us. Please leave your comments/opinions/further reasoning here so we can all learn a little bit about the Catholic faith and stance, and about our other differing beliefs.

If you're a Protestant/Christian, what is your most difficult Catholic concept or dogma? It may help me in making my list for my friend and for doing my part in the Nostra Aetate.

And I am sorry if these topics bore you! I know I post on the Eucharist a lot...I just love the topic and the experience itself. And I love my new friends and have such a respect for their faith in Jesus alone that I want to understand their qualms a little better.

So thanks guys! Love you lots,

RA

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Have Been Tagged!

I haven't been tagged in months, but this is the first tag I will actually be able to do. I wasn't very tech-savvy back then, but I think I have improved since then :P I have been tagged by the wonderful Daughter of the King, her blog is one of my favorites so do give her a visit.

So here we go:

Books I've read recently...
1. The Bible (it's my first time reading it in its entirety, I just need to finish the OT from Joshua onward haha)
2. Anna Karenina (I'm still finishing this one)
3. The Duggar's book, 20 & Counting I think it's called?
4. Watchmen (it was for a Comp class, but it was good!)
5. Le Petit Prince in French
6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (ok I haven't fully read this either...college prevents me from having my own reading time!! lol)
7. The Other Side of Silence
8. continually reading the Catechism

Songs or albums I listen to all the time...
1. Both Taylor Swift albums
2. While I'm Waiting by John Waller
3. Glee soundtrack
4. Lots of Hall & Oats
5. Your Song by Elton John
6. Revelation Song by Kari Job
7. You are Holy (Prince of Peace)
8. Wonderwall by Oasis

Things I love...
1. Prayer/meditation/rosary
2. My electric kettle (essential for tea drinking college kids!)
3. Eating
4. My jewelry collection
5. My 19 Kids & Countings dvds (but ya'll know that :D)
6. The library here on campus...my home away from home: peaceful & air conditioned
7. The Our Lady of Ostrabrama icon I ordered
8. My puppies!

Things I've learned this year...
1. Living with a room mate, even one you love, is a daily challenge, but it forces you to have charity, mercy, and patience with others & can be a great blessing in disguise
2. That being a Christian in college can be incredibly difficult and that it is very important to search for like-minded friends to encourage your walk.
3. Sleep is secondary to study (ha!)
4. Separation makes the heart grow fonder (is that how it goes? anyways, I miss my mom! haha)
5. That I cannot control my life...whether it comes to my career or my future spouse or my walk in general...and that I need to surrender my trust to Him and let go
6. That dried cherries are awesome in plain oatmeal (w/ a little syrup of course!)
7. That being shy is not helping me any and I need to open up and let people in: what's there to be afraid of!? Nothing! :)
8. That the Eucharist is essential in starting my week and I should make the effort to receive it more than just on Sunday. And simultaneously, confession is super necessary at fighting sin & temptation and restoring oneself to God! Make it a weekly habit!


New Recipes I Want to Try and Make...
1. Veggie Burgers (I didn't like the last recipe I tried too much)
2. More Indian recipes! The dal was a hit so anything involving garam masala, curry, and lentils is ok in my book :D
3. Pumpkin bread for the fall (there was a pumpkin shortage last year and never got to make it)
4. Golabki: polish meat & cabbage concoction my Gram makes
5. my own sushi rolls (sans raw fish)
6. Homemade chili (I'm big on beans/legumes!)
7. Homemade hummus
8. Ginger bread house (never made one, but ma mere got the recipe from a magazine...must try this winter!)

Favorite Online Hangouts...
1. Blogger
2. Facebook
3. Hotmail/school mail
4. ewtn.com
5. Ja20.com (shut up I know I have a problem! haha)
6. Foodnetwork.com
7. Youtube
8. and then google.com for any research/questions/interests I may have!

Projects I need to work on...
1. My Mongol Invasion of Russian power point *eek*
2. Finishing my Bible and the other 8 million books I start and never finish
3. Finishing crocheting my scarf...*sigh*
4. My "go green" project...I'm failing over here, buying water bottles and not using a brita!
5. Painting my family room
6. Well this isn't technically a project...but learning to drive longer distances...haha
7. This blog...I need to be more dedicated to it/brainstorm ideas.
8. My mini garden & future vegetable garden...project still in the works!

Other people I think should do this...
1. Caraboska from The Fiddler on the Roof
2. Delta Flute from My Twisted Life's Journey
3. Bethany from Bethany's Blog
4. Barbie from the Mary Mission
5. Coffee Catholic from the Farm
6. Yesie/Jesse from Yesie or Jesse? The Right Path
7. Miss Fifi from Musings of MissFifif
8. NeverEver from Finding Guidance...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...!

This weekend I took part in two Catholic ministry activities. (As I stated before, I am actively trying to find people who share my beliefs this semester, so bear with me and please give your honest opinions!) I first went to mass with a *new* friend from the group. We handed out fliers to new college students who may be interested in joining the ministry club (which was no one...unfortunate, I know!) and a few hours later, I carpooled over to a barbecue.

It was so nice to get away from campus for an evening! The adult supervisor of the club cooked us dinner and we had a nice time hanging out as friends. There was zero "fellowship", which I was disappointed by (at the Protestant group, they do dinners like these, but it's usually bible based/faith related...and that's what I am thirsting for!!), but none the less, I was enjoying myself and making friends outside of my normal group of friends.

The ministry kids all went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic over the summer and I was just itching to hear about it. I was shocked that all I was hearing were stories about their drunken escapades. What about the charity? The volunteer work? The families? The children? The spiritual growth? I was just dumbfounded, but I let it slide.

I know I am different...I don't like to drink. Not only because the taste is horrific, but it is an expensive hobby, and I see the damage it does to unassuming souls. I don't condemn the activity altogether though. The Bible encourages moderate drinking: Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and frequent illnesses. -1 Timothy 5:23
However, I don't support the act of drinking to get drunk...which is the obsession across college campuses. I thought the obsession would die out in the religious clubs, but it is just as prevalent in the Catholic ministry as any frat house at my college. (Though I am almost 99% positive the Protestant group does not partake in drinking/party activities. They purposefully made weekend trips to give us an alternative, which I do appreciate!)

They were excited to be able to invite me to their private party in a few weeks, and I was so grateful to have been accepted in so quickly again (I had to skip the meetings in the spring for a science lab). So I logged on facebook and saw the invite....it's a party completely centered around a drinking competition. I don't know what to do. I know I am not comfortable drinking, they assured me I don't have to drink at all, just come. But am I compromising my values and my faith by participating? I can't get the scriptures out of my head that blatantly warn against drunkenness:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
-Ephesians 5:18

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,
idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. -Galatians 5:19-21

I so badly want to build friendships around my Catholic faith, but I don't feel I click so well with this particular group (again...I know I posted about my disappointment here last fall too). I tell them I don't drink and it's like "you will someday". No I won't...maybe for health benefits and in very limited quantities, but never as a means of "entertainment".

But at the same time, are my standards too high? Am I now just taking pieces of scripture far too literally/seriously? Should I just go to the party and make friends? I just keep staring at the facebook invite and I simply cannot decide.

All suggestions welcome!
Much love,
RA

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Accountability Factor

I have greatly appreciated the feedback from my Catholic readers about my 2nd confession and the struggles I had after it. I have been pondering my post-confession emotions since the event (haha I need to stop over analyzing...but in this case I guess it was necessary) and tried to figure out why I was so uneasy about the whole thing. I prayed about it a lot...just to ease the shame that followed me like a dark cloud. But out of no where I got this inner voice-revelation moment, as if God was telling me "Now you see how grave sin is".

When I sin I should feel disgusted and ashamed, and sometimes I do, but for the most part I quickly ask for forgiveness in prayer and move on. But those "little" sins are not so little in the grand scheme of things. Lies here and there become habits, gossip can hurt those around you deeply, fighting with your parents creates divides, and so on and so forth. Not only do we harm ourselves and our neighbors, but we crucify our Savior each time we sin. He had to die for our selfishness, our evil choices, and for us to choose sin, literally kills Him. A lot of you already know this...and probably have an easier time controlling yourselves than I seem to. I kept telling myself "oh that sin is little, you'll do better next time", but the next time was normally not better.

On 19 Kids & Counting (my favorite go-to example), Josh made a comment that he needed to keep himself accountable and if he had a hard time with something, even something mental, he would quickly tell his parents so that sin did not get the best of him. This habit made him stay on his toes and always be mindful of his choices...or else he'd have to confess them to mom & dad.

At first this sounded stupid to me...I would never admit my sins to my parents, especially my deepest, darkest ones. I have (unfortunately) grown out of my guilt phase of childhood where I would feel compelled to unload my antics to my parents. In our culture, once you become an adult, you have more freedoms. "You've been "raised" now make the right decisions" philosophy. But usually, we "adults" go the opposite way...our freedom is like a secret lair and we can hide our wrongs without fear of any real consequence from mom & dad. No one has to know what we do, so why feel shame? It's secret!

But God still sees us.

So after seeing the priest the other night, I realized the Duggar form of accountability wasn't stupid, but essential to a true Christian walk. We should feel shameful when we sin, whether a big or small mistake, sin is a statement to God that you don't fear Him and you don't feel the need to follow His ways. That's heavy stuff!! How could we treat our Perfect, Blameless Creator in such a way without feeling extreme guilt? How are we not more mindful of our choices?

Because we cannot see God...He feels so distant sometimes that it's like mom or dad's backs are turned...it's ok to mess up. However, He is always watching...every single one of us at every single minute of the day (what an insane job!).

You have a way out of temptation ("No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
1 Corinthians 10:13) And when the time comes when the choice between sin and righteousness is too difficult to make, the idea of having to tell another person your decision is a powerful saving tool. No one wants to admit embarrassing details...and accountability prevents that. I finally understand. I guess I always have...but not to this extent, and now I can honestly say the payoff is big. I do feel lighter...I feel closer to my Savior because I now recognize the pain I caused Him. I needed that little bit of discomfort & embarrassment to appreciate His cross more. I feel re-directed and renewed. I just feel like a better version of myself...a better follower of Christ.

I am no where near perfect, none of us are. I know a lot of people who have given up on their salvation because they have already sinned so much...and have done so many disgusting things...that they think God will never accept them again, why bother? I just want to encourage everyone that you can and will be accepted again if you repent & confess. You may feel discouraged that you cannot stay on the straight & narrow either, as temptations are strong, but this whole new world of confession & accountability is life changing & life saving.

God wants us sinners, even the worst of us. He just wants us to realize what our choices do to Him. So wake up Catholics/Christians...this is a war, but we can triumph over it by the graces God has given us. Stay strong, stay mindful, stay accountable.

Love always,
RA

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Second Confession and College Blessings!

Hey guys! I have finally settled into college for my sophomore year...I cannot believe I was home for 3 months already...and I cannot comprehend how I completed 1/4 of my undergraduate degree! Crazy!

But anyways, I made a promise to myself to actively make friends...and not just any friends, but friends who will build me up spiritually and not pressure me to participate in the "ungodly activities". So on Monday, I met up with a boy I met last fall (we'll call him John*)...he is very religious, but we differed vastly on what Christianity was. At the time I was one foot in messianic Judaism and one foot in Catholicism...neither of which appealed to him. So we just went our separate ways (unintentionally) and met up later during finals. There we agreed to give our friendship a second chance, whether we agreed on theology or not. So...on Monday...haha sorry for rambling...he asked me to go to the Protestant club on campus and I was hesitant. He assured me I'd have fun and he promised to attend the Catholic ministry club if I went to his. So the deal was made and I was wondering what I could have gotten myself into...I just needed to pray over it.

What I got myself into was a whole lot of fun. The kids were so serious about their faith and it was evident that they lived Christianity day to day. I learned a lot about the differences in their churches (as they were finding out where the freshman should go on Sunday and in which carpool) and I had some good quality "fellowship" :) I was quite surprised by the sense of peace that came over me at the closing of the meeting...I may have just met some life long friends. John wanted to take things a step further and asked me to attend one church service with him...I am looking forward to seeing what it's like at a Protestant church, as I have never been outside of a Catholic Church, but at the same time he warned me people may try to convert me. I just don't want to deal with that...I know they mean well, but I have never been one to witness or express my faith in such a way and it is a little out of my comfort zone always having to defend myself and prove I am not a pagan.

So needless to say I came back to my dorm dumbfounded! My room mate and I have been itching to make friends since last year our dorm style/location made us pretty isolated, lonely college students. God had not only provided me with an outlet to make the friends I had been praying for, but He was also diligent to work on my social skills...I had almost no fear! I kept reciting: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10, as I walked to the meeting and everything just...worked. My words were not all jumbled like normal and I found it easy to carry a true conversation with complete strangers (very rare!)

So with spirits uplifted...I looked forward to my Catholic ministry meeting the following day. The thing was, I had a million things to accomplish before then. I prayed that God would find a way for me to fit everything in...because the times simply were not. I had to do work, eat, do yoga with my friend & her sister, and shower all before the meeting...and the yoga ended a half hour-ish before the meeting started, so I was flustered! But suddenly as the day progressed, things were falling into manageable time slots. (The yoga didn't even happen because my friend forgot their ID card and we ended up doing our own things.) This was another praise God moment (it doesn't sound as awesome on blogger, but if you were me, you would be blown away too! haha)

So I get to the meeting after not having gone all last semester. I had a geology lab during the club in the spring and failed to attend more than 1 or 2 meetings. One of my geology study buddies was really humorous, I just never thought we had anything in common...it turns out, she's a religious Catholic! She had her first meeting tonight and I was just shocked. She was shocked too because she thought I was Jewish...even though we never discussed religion...ever haha. Not only did the entire club remember me, they were very welcoming. I feared they had a bad impression of me from last fall, I seemed a little aloof/shy...who knows what else. But that was another weight off my shoulders!

As I talked to my geology friend...call her Cara*, I admitted I had never gone to confession...since my first confession, and was feeling a deep call to go. I was nervous though and didn't know the process...she was in disbelief that I hadn't ever been and told me not to worry, that she'd guide me through it. The meeting itself went well, lots of worship through prayer, singing, chatting, etc. I was loving it! Then at the end, I approached the attending priest. I explained my confession dilemma...and yet again was looked at as if I had 2 heads...and he took me away to confess. I was so nervous and he was assuring me it wasn't going to be bad. He did a general confession...since my sins were so vast and uncountable. I have to admit I was very embarrassed going through this process. I told him things I haven't even told my mom...things I don't want to admit to myself. I tried not to sound vulgar...not to protect my dignity...and I just felt so vulnerable.

He was a very nice priest and he made the confession simple and overall not so bad...but I never had that "phew!" moment. As I walked back to my dorm, I felt naked...embarrassed...and no more forgiven than 10 minutes prior. I don't want to down play this important sacrament! But these are my raw, true feelings as a returning Catholic and I don't know what to make of them. I feel even more guilty for not feeling happy right now! I just cannot shake this lingering feeling of...like shame almost? Do confessions get easier? Am I just feeling this way because I let this all go for so long? And then I worry that I left out some very important sins, even though he said I have been totally forgiven.

I also dread seeing him again...now that he knows my baggage. I actually feel sorry that he has to hear confessions because there is a lot of guilt, anger, and sadness that go along with these sins we confess...it must be difficult to hear everyday how far we have fallen...even the young 19 year old college kids. I almost cried during it because I was so angry and ashamed at how stupid I sounded...all the wrong choices I made...and because he was a very inspiring speaker and I felt God's words of comfort seeping into me.

So I'd love to hear your experiences with confession...have you ever just had a bad one? Haven't you ever been embarrassed, especially if you have to see the priest on a regular basis? I really need some comfort right now. I am so happy I did it, and relieved I can honestly get the Eucharist without blemish, but Satan's still here bombarding my head with foolish thoughts and emotions.

Please pray for me, not only for my current situation, but that it gets easier!
Glory be to God,
RA

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Vacation Part 3: The Interview

Sorry this took so long, I have been packing for school all week, taking care of the fam since my momma broke her foot, & visiting my gram at the hospital. It's been a crazy couple of days...I'm exhausted already and the worst is yet to come...homeworkk!!! :O haha oh well part of life. I am excited to go back, but I'm a wee bit nervous. I need to break out of my shy box and meet good Christians & Catholics...I need to actively seek them out and not accept foolish company, because I too became a fool last semester. Prayers Please!

So here it goes: The Interview.

My brother & I were walking the boardwalk while on one of our many escapes from the vacation house. I saw this demonstration going on and I was intrigued...the man was using bright neon paints and I wanted to see what he was doing. Before I could see, a little girl ran up to me and asked me if I had gotten one of her pamphlets yet, and I couldn't help but smile and accept it. She was so cute! When I looked at the pamphlet, it said "Where will you spend eternity?". I was naturally loving it, I wanted to stay and watch! But my brother groaned and basically made it clear he was not going to be bothered by these people.

I just kept walking with him because I didn't want to make him annoyed or anything...but on the way back I stopped to listen to the tail end of the man's speech. It literally ended a minute later and we started walking again, but this woman ran after us...she had smiled at me in the crowd, but I figured she was just an audience member. She gave me another pamphlet and asked me what religion I was most familiar with. HA! I was "in heaven", but you could see the discomfort on my brother's face, he wanted out.

The woman was excited to hear I was "most familiar" with Christianity, and she proceeded to ask where I fellowshipped. Uhh?? I think that just means where do I go to church? So that introduced my faith-I explained I was Catholic & went to my local parish. And then I could see the smile on her face lessen (lol! I knew it was coming...but I thought she may have just accepted that we were both believers in Jesus...)

She told me how she and her pastor had done tons of research on my church and that there were things I "needed to know". Even though I had heard many of her arguments before. The few I was baffled by were as follows:

1. The Church does not teach purgatory anymore

She said her sister sends her kids to Catholic school and they refuse to teach this doctrine now. Uhm...I was unfamiliar with this? I thought it was still well in practice? She asked me to explain the doctrine to her, and I did, saying that at death, we being sinners cannot just walk into God's presence tainted by our evil...we need a period of cleansing to enter the pure loving presence of our Lord. It's not an evil place...and not just anyone can get into purgatory.

2. Purgatory is corrupt

On EWTN one show covered this-they said how only true believers can even get into purgatory, because they are already on their way to the heaven. This woman acted like any Joe-shmo can be in, and then, hopefully, his family will pay his way into heaven...WHAT?!! Pay??? I was soooo confused! I think she meant that in the middle ages, when the church suffered much corruption, many priests sold indulgences, promising the dead would be released to heaven? No matter what was true, she asked me how Jesus' sacrifice was even meaningful if we need to be cleansed of sin in purgatory...what purpose was His blood then? And that was where I was confused...I have never doubted the saving power of Christ's blood & sacrifice on the cross, but why isn't that sufficient itself? Anyone care to help a girl out over here? I totally dislike not being able to explain these things.

3. Purgatory didn't exist until the late 1800's because the Church needed money for statues

She then said Catholics created purgatory in the 1800's to raise money to buy statues...I think I just remember my mouth being agape because I didn't know how to respond. She assured me this was only her research and that she could be wrong...and I insisted she was. I was a little heartbroken that that was what some people are being taught about the RCC...who could even spread that information? At this point I realized I NEEDED to make a post about this for my protestant readers...because this was the kind of misinformation that creates tension between us and it's unnecessary. The woman then asked me if I thought Catholic art and statues was an ok practice...she reminded me how much we could do with that money instead...like to help charities. I did appreciate her concern here, but when you look at the facts, the RCC does help the poor, sick, orphaned, etc everyday in every country. There are so many Catholic relief funds & charities...perhaps our money spent on art could be useful elsewhere, but it's part of our tradition and worship to have beautiful art...to help us ponder the immense beauty that is our Lord and His creation.

4. Our Bibles are the same, read the Bible and see how false the RCC is

Well...I don't know what she meant by this because our Bibles are not the same. After the Reformation I believe, Protestants removed many books from the old testament (the apocrypha) that the Catholics retained. I believe the Jews removed these books from their Torah because they were not originally written in Hebrew and, thus, were not accepted as divinely inspired. But no matter what, the Bible that was compiled from the beginning was the Catholic Bible and in fact it proves how all Catholic doctrine is biblical because they made the Bible and drew from it!

She concluded with say how she loves us and how in the end we are both believers in the trinity and that was what matters. She encouraged me to always be researching & learning because when we die, we won't have our priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, etc with us on the day of judgment. We won't be able to say "well he taught me this...". And that's VERY true. We won't have help on that day, it'll just be us & God. Scary reality, but it made me think a little. Even though my brother was annoyed by this experience I was elated! Not only did she get to witness, but in a way, I felt like I did too. I liked the dialogue we shared, teaching each other truths of our own respective faiths and not being mean or impatient with each other over the differences. Sure I was appalled by what she had been taught, but I know it wasn't her fault entirely. I'm learning to not take these accusations personally anymore, and that is a trait I need to have.

We're all a little be lost on this journey, I understand completely!
That's why I think this blog is still useful in a way.
Dialogue between all faiths is key, so lets always be willing to talk & learn.

Peace always my dears!
RA

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Next Food Network Star Finale!

I don't know if any of you watch this show, but my mom and I simply adore it! We loveeee cooking together and the ideas these people have are incredible! Tonight is sadly the finale and I believe it just ended...so the winner is announced, but we DVR-ed it and haven't seen it yet so I am still in the dark :D
We are rooting for Aarti: she is competing for her own food channel show and her theme is Indian cuisine with an American twist. (The Spice Goddess and Aarti were our inspirations when we tried the dal recipe recently) This is something unique since many of the other contestants ideas have already been "done". We have yet to try her recipes, but I will post them here after I watch.(I don't want to ruin the surprise for myself!) Supposedly they are superb, and I am inclined to believe the judges because boy can they be brutal!

Aarti is also a Christian, something I learned from reading her bio last night on the food network website. She quoted scripture once in the show and I was quite pleased to hear that. So refreshing to hear someone speak about their faith on cable television ;)

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (In Regards to Christians & Gossip)


So the title is pretty thorough today, as I will cover topics on the feast day of August 15th, which is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and how this feast can be applied to our everyday lives as Catholics & Christians. I was so very inspired today at mass---not only because I had to miss church last week for the vacation (+dun dun dun+ part 3 coming soon!), but also because I just needed time with my Lord in the Eucharist.

Now this one church I go to usually disappoints because the priest "does us a favor" by making his homilies super short (c'mon gimme the meat & potatoes! I want a long inspiring pep talk to marinade in all week :D) But today his sermon was quite deep and the whole time he spoke I was thinking "wow this will appeal to Catholic & Christian readers both...especially us lady folk!" And surprisingly so, as it is the
feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and thus the whole sermon revolved around...you guessed it...Mary, the controversial figure for many Protestants.

So I don't remember everything I wanted to write due to the fact I had to do some back to school shopping and then whip up some homemade veggie burgers (if they're good, I'll post the recipe). So in one of the readings from mass today (Luke 1:39-56 to be exact) we come across the magnificat in which Mary says:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;

for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.

And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the
imagination of their hearts, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the empty with good things
,
and the rich He has sent empty away.

He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spok
e to
our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever."


Here we see that Mary was once an average Jewish woman, one we could call humble and lowly compared to others. By God's grace, he blessed her and made her great. Mary tells us that God will exalt all the faithful, of "low degree", who fear Him (not to the extent of Mary...she was the vessel to hold our Savior!) and bless us with "good things" out of His pure, abundant love & mercy. Tyrants & Kings have enormous amounts of power, they need not fear anyone. But the "lowly" recognize power and they fear the Lord, for who has more power than He? This promise is sort of a blessing in itself, as we followers in Christ now have a reason to hope & a reason to keep at this spiritual journey we are on...God will bless us if we do!

Now we are all sinners and we can all get on each other's nerves. Sometimes this leads us to gossip, and while gossip doesn't seem harmful, we must realize how much damage we are truly doing when we do not guard our tongues. When God distributes His blessings & gifts on the poor & lowly, He does so out of mercy, not because any one of us deserves it. We are exalted in Christ, yet gossip tears us down in the eyes of those listening. The person who gossips not only blinds himself to the goodness & blessings within the one he gossips about, but he also blinds his audience, those taking in the gossip (because those people now have tarnished view of that person). So as the priest explained, when you gossip, you rob your brothers and sisters in Christ of this promise & blessing Mary gave to the faithful followers of her Son. And consequently, through gossip, both parties are made poor and lowly again.

We need to stop trying to rob each other of our blessings...stop trying to destroy people with our words, even when they hurt us. Encourage each other and lift each other up rather than bring each other down. We are exalted by the Cross...the very sacrifice paid to save our souls. So honor that Cross and keep in mind Mary's words--God will have mercy if you fear Him and He will fill us with blessings and lift us up!

I hope your (feast) day is a blessed one!
Peace & Blessings be with you all,
RA

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Vacation Part 2

So we left off with my spirits lifted and hope in my heart. I was going to make this vacation enjoyable, and offer up all my suffering to God. As the week progressed, my brother and I would take our daily walks and beach trips when we had "time off", but they were short lived. The girl also had older siblings who I was never close to. Suddenly, one of the brothers wanted to tag along with us and take us places (he had a car), so we did...being polite and all.

I'm such a shy person, so this sudden addition was a rough adjustment. When I am nervous, I tend to just smile and give short answers/partake in bouts of small talk. When taking to this guy, it was obvious quick how little my brother and I had in common with him. He was fiercely sarcastic, a trait I tend to find rude when it becomes someone's entire personality. He also liked to brag about the bad stuff he does while at college and how he dated a girl, moved on to her younger sister, and then moved on to her youngest sister! I was not impressed by any of this and I frankly said "wow that's awful" on multiple occasions, as none of his shenanigans were amusing.

I then noticed him trying to spend time with us when we were unwinding for the night. He was around way too much. I already had to spend hours with the younger siblings, entertaining them, and now I felt like I had an obligation to spend time with him (and I enjoyed his company the least of everyone!) He started brushing the hair out of my face which I was not comfortable with and this progressed to "accidentally" touching my thigh. I would move away and he would do it again...and again. By this point I had enough. My brother and I tried leaving the property without telling anyone where we were going and yet this guy would catch up to us. We made a coffee run, and to my displeasure, he asked me if I had a boyfriend.

This was truly surreal, I was beyond discomfort at this point and on the verge of disgust. I disclosed this information to my mom, trying to seek out advice. She knows how conservative I am and how these things were not acceptable boy-girl interactions for me. Still we wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. My standards are not the world's standards and this could be simply innocent to him...maybe this is how he treats all his friends...who happen to be female.

So I decided to avoid him. I prayed a lot, I was so confused, why would God make this already difficult vacation worse for me? I shut my door for bed one night and was reading & highlighting my Bible (as it was my quiet time with God) and I heard him enter our house. He asked my brother where I was and he told him I was already in bed. Phew! I was so grateful to my brother. Then I heard a knock at my door and the guy walks in! All I could think of was WHAT PLANET AM I ON RIGHT NOW?! How was this ok!? He then proceeded to SHUT MY DOOR, us alone in a room. I started to get nervous, so I told him I was going to bed, yet he kept trying to make conversation. He looked through my books, spotted my Bible, and then sat on my bed.

I flung my covers off, jumped out of bed and left the room. I told everyone in the house who wasn't my family to leave. I had had it! I didn't care what the trials were, if God was trying to teach me something through this, etc. I was done and I wanted to go home.

Last night we said our goodbyes (I was relieved they were leaving a day before us). This guy still wasn't giving up, he tried to pull me aside to talk, which I did not indulge him with, and then he hugged me...and his hands slipped down to touch my rear end. I was just so sad at this point, I felt so violated-physically and emotionally. I'm upset just writing this. How could someone be so dense? Despite all the troubles I had at his family's camp, I never had a problem with the family directly. All that is shattered now. I have no desire to return to the camp or to go on this vacation with them next year. I want to cut off all ties with them, which I know isn't right or the proper solution.

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The only positive thing I have to say about this part of the segment is that I have made an official promise to myself now that I will only date (hopefully court!!) Catholic/Christian men. Perhaps God saw my temptations to leave the flock in finding love...as I admit I strayed a bit mentally. I met some awesome guys at school who had no real religious affiliation and I toyed with the idea of making exceptions in my love life because a part of me still liked to get attention from boys-something good Christian men don't show you. I have been praying all summer for God to cleanse me of this inner sin before college started up again so that I didn't slip up when faced with challenging temptations-especially in the lust/dating department! Needless to say, I received a lot of attention this vacation-none of it wanted or appreciated. The more I got, the more I was filled with an unquenchable disgust for not only him, but the sinful nature of this world and how people my age conduct themselves.

Please pray for me. I'm still trying to cope with this experience and I am actively trying to forgive this guy in my heart. I don't think he realizes that I am even angry or that he crossed a line when it comes to my convictions (heck, he may not even understand how seriously I take my Catholic identity!). Since I work at his camp, we are friends on facebook, should I delete him? And should I avoid working at this camp or going on this vacation from now on? I really want to...I just don't want to cause any drama between the families, as they won't understand my p.o.v and convictions like you all do.
(wow this was long, thanks for reading it!!)

Peace be with you all,
your sister in Christ.

Ps- Vacation Part 3 is going to be happy and deals with religious dialogue between Protestant (a lady I met) and Catholic (me!) believers!

The Vacation (+dun dun dun+) Part 1

Hello my lovelies, I am finally home and oh so relieved to be back! Normally I dread coming home from vacation, but this week was just not for me. School is just around the corner (next week! gah!) and the last thing I really wanted to do was go away. I wanted to be with my friends from home before school starts and see my extended family, you know, the little things!

But alas, every year my family takes this trip to the beach...with another family. We've known this family for about 10 years and they're very nice people, but as kids grow up into adults, personalities that once fit can start to clash. I do volunteer work for this family, as their daughter has a rare tragic disability. They have a whole camp for children and adults who suffer from this disease and I like to do what I can for them. Now as a result of the isolation and suffering of this disability, some of the kids seem to have emotional issues. I don't know if it's really attributed to their lifestyle, or if it's a reflection on their home life, but I have had my fair share of being verbally abused by these kids, sexually harassed by these kids, and drained by the stress and frustrations it takes to just volunteer.

Over the years, the experiences I have dealt with at this camp have made me a bit bitter. Just interacting with the campers makes me so thankful I have been given so many blessings from God, but at the same time I don't know how to reconcile my anger. I know many of them don't realize the hurt they put others through, as their pain is so significant itself, but if it were any other healthy teenager, their behavior would be classified as atrocious and unacceptable. For the most part I see past their disability because I have grown up around this particular family, and so I hold them to a higher degree than maybe I should.

So as we drove to this vacation, after just having finished volunteering at the camp a week prior, I was already in a weird place. I wanted to relax and enjoy the beach, but I also realized I had an obligation to help with their daughter and I just wasn't "up" for it (which I am ashamed to admit!) This girl is a year younger than me, but you'd never be able to tell. We were always so close when we were younger because I found her fascinating, she was so creative! Her imagination was surreal and really put my artistic "prowess" to shame. As we grew up, I started to separate my imagination from reality more and more, whereas she seemed to sink deeper and deeper into hers. For her, the line separating reality from her dream world is blurred and I don't think she can tell the difference between them anymore.

I wish I could say I enjoy spending time with her, but it's really difficult. The hours spent with her are always an attempt to keep her safe-both physically and emotionally. On top of that, I had to play a babysitter role a lot to her 6 year old brother (who can be quite the manipulator! Little boys can be a handful!!)

The thing is, I wanted to spend the last few weeks with my family. I wanted to treasure our time together and not have to spread myself thin just to keep these kids entertained. By mid-week I was just so frustrated! That was when I wrote up my last post. Immediately afterwords, I prayed for patience and compassion, manned up, and just hung out with her. I let her tell me stories about school (which were all fabricated tales-interesting in their own right though) and we had dinner together. I think she enjoyed me giving her advice about school and all those teenage/girly things and I felt a real peace in my heart.

Jesus never promised me vacation time in my life, but He did promise me trials and commanded me to have a servant's heart. So by taking up my cross and serving this creation of His, I did see my vacation brightening up!