Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Feast Day of Saint Alphonsa


Hey everyone, just popping in to wish you all a blessed feast day!
On July 28th, we remember Saint Alphonsa and the holy life she lead as an example to us.

Last night my mom and I were watching Spice Goddess on the Cooking Channel and we were inspired to make an Indian dish. We always like to try new recipes and we have never made any Indian food before (I've never even had Indian food period). And as I was going online to print the recipe for dal, I simultaneously googled Indian Catholic Saints...just to see if there were any.

To my delight (and utter surprise) there were a couple! St Alphonsa was the first one I clicked and her story really spoke to me and my spiritual journey at the moment. She struggled through much of her short life of 35 years: first with the death of her mother followed by a series of illnesses that took a toll on her both mentally and physically. However these struggles drew her closer to Our Lord, as she had a great devotion to the Cross, and her pains & sufferings she shared with the suffering of Jesus on the cross. [Her suffering was shared with Christ, not apart from Him.] This shared bond deepened her faith and understanding of the Catholic life and how all Christians must suffer to truly appreciate the sacrifice of our Lord. So naturally, Alphonsa welcomed all suffering and was said to have had euphoric trances afterward. She was later quoted saying that she believed her life was to be an oblation to God. She wrote “Since only grief and suffering have fallen to the lot of my Spouse, I too lovingly embrace them, and my soul is at peace, though my body continues to be tormented. For the last seven years I have ceased to be my own, being given over entirely to my Divine Spouse. You know all that; and now let the Lord do as He will with me. It is not a cure I am anxious for, but only that His Holy Will be fulfilled in me.”

What a trust she displayed! I can only hope to someday attain such a complete devotion and trust in Christ. In the midst of utter darkness, all she saw was the goodness of God. How amazing! She's a great role model to keep in this area of the Christian life & struggle (& a great person to remember if you are sick! She went through a lot of that).

She believed in dying to one's self so that Jesus can fill us with His goodness instead, and that has been something I have been working on for weeks. Dying to one's self, becoming humble, and accepting suffering with joy has been the hardest part of this walk for me, but this summer, that has been exactly what I have been practicing and praying for. Praise God for sending me this encouragement!

Her prayer is as equally beautiful as her story:

"Lord Jesus, hide me in the wound of your sacred heart. Free me from my desire to be loved and esteemed. Guard me from my evil attempts to win fame and honor. Make me humble till I become a small spark in the flame of love in your Sacred Heart. Grant me the grace to forget myself and all worldly things. Jesus, sweet beyond words, convert all worldly consolations into bitterness for me. O my Jesus, Sun of Justice, enlighten my intellect and mind with your sacred rays. Purify my heart, consume me with burning love for you, and make me one with you."

So as you can imagine, when I read her feast day date last night, I was floored! It was the next day, the 28th (today). And to top it off we planned to make dal for dinner today and I think it's a sweet coincidence and a nice way in which I can remember this remarkable woman!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Eastern Rites

Sorry about the absence...again!

I have been studying quite a bit lately. I'm taking a class on Russian culture next semester (as I've always had this insane obsession with the Romanovs as a child) to get rid of a general ed. requirement and I cannot help but be super excited. So excited, that I went straight to the bookstore & picked up some Tolstoy to read in the meantime.

In doing so, I discovered Tolstoy was actually a very radical Christian believer. He was very determined to separate himself from the teachings & traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church, as he had his own interpretation of Jesus' sermons & parables.

So as I read Anna Karenina I am excited to see this man's interpretation of Christianity, as this novel is semi-autobiographical (says the back of my book haha) since Tolstoy infuses his characters with his own qualities, struggles, behaviors, and spiritual questions. I am also intrigued by the influence of the orthodox church. I follow an Orthodox blogger or two on here and, during Lent especially, I saw how different our traditions & worship can be. I am very drawn to their sacrifices during Lent (no meats/cheese etc I believe...they even have special cookbooks for fasting families because of the intense restrictions!) and wish I had the will power to give up such luxuries...and God willing I will be able to someday.

This then got me curious about the Eastern Catholic Rites. I believe John Paul II said that the RCC breathes with 2 lungs: The West & the East. Such a cool visual. Just thinking about the immense diversity and powerful tradition that lies within the single body of the Catholic Church thrills me! I am so big into different cultures, languages, traditions-and most importantly, religion. This just combines all my interests into one! I know there is an eastern rite catholic church near me, I'm just too nervous to go.

I hear that ER services are much like the Orthodox services? In which case I would have no idea what to do...on top of that this one is in a different language I'm pretty sure! I don't want to interrupt or ruin the mass by being uneducated as to how they conduct things.

Has anyone here ever been to an Eastern Rite service? Or an Orthodox service for that matter (if they're similar in any way??)? Was it nerve racking, did you know anyone there? How did the mass go? Can I even attend a mass if I am not from that rite? What rite am I...Roman rite, right? haha ahh this is so confusing, but it's a whole new world I never really realized was here!

Exciting! So just beware I may be lurking around more
or simply posting about my findings instead. Woooooo!

Please send any info you have/know because I am a novice :P
Love & Peace/Pax/Salaam always
RA

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where to Draw the Line?

After writing my last post, I went on a mini-vacation which involved much outdoor relaxation. During this beautiful R&R session, I was reading Marie Claire, and one article in particular jumped out at me, as I just wrote a whole post about secular countries being angered by immigrants bringing their cultures with them, rather than assimilating. The article was about a girl named Noor Almaleki who was killed at age 20, in November, by her father.

Following part may be explicit: read at own risk.


The Iraqi family moved to the USA, and I believe Noor's father was becoming a citizen...if he hadn't already. Faleh Almaleki (the father) obviously benefited from moving to America, but he was not satisfied with his daughter "fitting in" so easily. She was making too many decisions for herself, and *gasp* living alone! This poor girl was harassed by her family, forced to move back in, tricked into returning to Iraq, entered into a forced marriage, returned to the US, escaped again and finally started college & a new life...only to be extinguished far too young. Faleh was worried about his "honor" being tarnished by Noor and her behavior, so he ran over her with his car...twice. How can a person be so enraged with his or her own child that they can brutally murder them? And over "HONOR"?!

This article hurt me so deeply, especially since I have been actively following Jesus and his teachings on forgiveness and love. Knowing, & partially understanding, God's love and how we as humans must imitate this perfect Being, makes it hard to read this kind of story. This man did not know God...he can never enter the Lord's presence with such filth covering his soul. When the police told Noor's mother of what happened she said something along the lines of "good, this is just was Noor needed!" and then when the police realized what was going on and refused to disclose her location to her, the mother shouted "We cannot kill our daughter, we are Muslims".

But they DID kill their daughter! This girl was so frightened by her family, that when they finally tracked her down in the hospital and spoke to her in Arabic, her heart rate monitors showed her HR doubled and they had to be BANNED from her room. These people tortured this girl physically, mentally, and no doubt spiritually. Preaching a set of rules and behaviors that Jesus never taught...to protect their "honor" and manipulate her life. The parents were quoted saying they couldn't control their actions because they were "tribal/clans people", as in Iraqi's live their lives based on old tribal traditions.

The thing that really sent me over the edge was that we cannot prosecute these MANIACS who do this (honor killings are becoming more and more common) because they are classified as "domestic disputes". This is not happening to the average American family. This happens in immigrant families from the middle east and parts of asia, and sadly, Muslim families. These people do not assimilate because "tribal" and or cultural traditions are incredibly strong. Taking this into account, I feel unsafe. I want our country, and those in Europe, as it happens there too, to take action! How can you sit back and allow these young, beautiful, promising ladies to be murdered so violently? Do they not mean anything to you? They mean something to me, and most definitely to God.

I am on the verge of tears just writing this. The article describes other honor killing cases and it just gives me flashbacks from last year. During my orientation there was a Bangladeshi girl who participated in the team dance competition and placed in the top 3. The winning teams would perform on the first weekend of school in the fall. I was so excited. Coming in to watch the dance off at the start of the school year, her team all had matching tee-shirts, as a tribute to her. Her father "honor" killed her because he was afraid of her going away to school & making bad decisions. How does that make any sense, when these men make the worst decisions of all? Murder.

I can only thank God for not placing me in a family such as this, or in the Middle East/parts of Asia where these traditions seem to thrive. I can never offer up enough praise and thanksgiving, because as much as we think we are shielded and safe from incidents such as these, they're never far away. I never would have dreamed someone would be killed just weeks before freshman year began...by her own father. It just breaks my heart, but it reaffirms how truly dependent on the Lord I am...I don't know how else I could live in this world without the comfort and peace He sustains me with.

So where do we draw the line? Western Europe and America are wealthy, appealing nations that attract people who live in these poor, restricted countries. But they bring their extremism and fanaticism with them and ultimately harm us in the process. Why should we support these people? I know there is no way to ban only "possible murderers", duh, but why aren't there laws in place, and I'm talkin' strict, severe laws, that warn and punish these horrible monsters?

Please pray for these girls who have payed the ultimate sacrifice for the ignorance of their families and their cultures, for girls who are still in situations such as Noor's, and for me (because I am feeling so affected by this).

May God just bring us peace upon this Earth!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

La langue fran├žaise

Bonsoir mes amis!
Tonight I have been lounging on the couch, channel surfing due to a long day of walking at an amusement park. My poor feet are killing me! But anyways-back on subject. Whilst watching tv I saw that La Belle et la Bete was being played on the old time movies channel. I watched this movie (the original French film "Beauty and the Beast") in my high school French class and just loved it! I have always been a B&tB fan since I was a child, well of the Disney version that is, and so the film being in French fascinated me more. Seeing this tonight and hearing the sweet sound of the language float through the air made me nostalgic for school and studying.

Since switching my major at uni, I haven't been paying much attention to my French skills. I had an epiphany after the first semester that I really did not like France...or French culture...and what they have been standing for lately. I traveled to France a few years ago and had my romanticized dreams of this fabulous, cultured country shattered. Perhaps it was because we were traveling as a high school trip (though there were only 15 of us) that the Parisian locals were far from friendly. I had a scarf I was buying thrown at me (not hard, but enough to let me know she wanted me to move on out of her store) and my friend, who didn't speak french, was called an "annoying child" to her face, for no apparent reason.

Now, when I see foreigners in my city, or at an amusement park (like today), I smile. I'm kind. I'm polite. Because I want to represent my country in a good light...and for the sheer fact that they are human beings too and want to enjoy their stay here. Why do the rules change in some countries? I've heard many similar stories from friends and family who have traveled to France and I am just dumbfounded.

This country has such a rich history-not only for the advancement of the west, but also in the Catholic Church. So many saints hailed from France...so many kings defended our Church and her teachings...what has happened to this once religious nation? For my French studies at university this year, I had to go to some out of class lectures from French scholars and French citizens. Some were fascinating, but some just boiled my blood. One in particular was about the dilemma of culture facing France today and how the surplus of immigrants are not blending in. I totally support this cause because studies show that much of western Europe will lose its "European" identity in the next 50-some years. That's extremely scary!

Perhaps it freaks me out so much because I am a huge history buff. I love Europe...the historic sites, the languages, the traditions, etc and I simply do not want to see these countries lose the remnants of what makes them so unique. I am convinced that secularization is the root of this dilemma. When these countries let immigrants in, the immigrants hold tight (naturally) to their OWN cultures. (Who wants to adapt to a culture that basically gave up the things that made it a "culture" in the first place?! Not to mention, the ways from home are always a comfort to people moving to a new country...I cannot blame them.) Thus I simply cannot pity France for the "crisis" they see themselves in now because they are trying so hard to strip themselves of their identity (with the exception of language and food) and their relation to the RCC, the faith that was the basis of so many achievements in their history.

So what was one of the solutions to make "France more French" in the speaker's speech? A ban on the hijab in schools and on burqinis/too modest swim suits. WHAT?! Sarkozy's brilliant idea was to ban all religious symbols and apparel in schools. That not only bans head scarves (which is not simply an "immigrant" thing, which obviously insinuates a "Muslim" thing, but Jews, Christians, & some Hindus practice forms of head covering), but also forbids the wearing of cross/crucifix necklaces and other religious jewelry and apparel. Swimsuits that cover too much skin have also been labeled "unhygienic" and have been banned from public pools. What happened to freedom of religion?

To someone who actually takes religion seriously, this ban threatens their whole way of life and how they are training their children. This won't matter to an everyday agnostic Frenchman, but to a religious person, you have stripped them of their identity. Head covering is mandatory for Christian women according to the Bible (I know many of you will argue that). Paul says we must cover when in prayer and to pray without ceasing...meaning I need to be covering full time. France will be forcing women to sin and to feel like outcasts. Even if this ban is lifted, the statement has been made that headcovering is "un-French" and not normal. Way to make your citizens feel free and like they belong/have the right to their own identity.

The whole thing with the swimwear also angers me. I am notorious for having "weird" swimwear. Long board shorts and wet suit shirt things...or long cover-ups. I would not be allowed access to a pool for practicing modesty, but young girls can prance around in bikinis, almost exposing themselves, and that is just safe & fine!

The France I read about in books, watch in old films, and study in school is dead. I would not feel comfortable living in France (which is what I would have had to do for my French major) for an extended period of time. The people not only seem bitter, but the government in suppressing my right to religion. Their concern is for "trying not to be taken over by what they would call an Islamist ideology.", when in reality, they are confused about what it is they are trying to combat. Islamist ideology is not the hijab or modesty. Those seem to be the symbols associated with Islam and, unfortunately, terrorism. Yet, these issues are something France once stood for. Good French women wore head coverings (Anne Boleyn brought French style coverings to England in the 1500's) and were always modest in whatever activities they participated in.

It is one thing to want to avoid adapting shariah law (that would be Islamist ideology, not a simple piece of cloth) and preserving a more European style of government, but this is not the way to do it. If you preach freedom of religion in your country, live it and let your citizens practice their faiths fully.

France, you could learn a thing or two from Islam. I know you fear it oh so much, but if you just saw how much dignity Muslimah's have...and how a woman is not liberated by exposing herself and denying any obligation she has to God. Maybe you would see how far you have strayed from your own faith, your Church. I'll be praying for the awakening of France, and Europe as a whole. It just hurts me to see how blind and mislead they have become...May God restore these countries to Him, amen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Update

I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart.
~Psalms 40:8

I have been praying about the direction of my blog over the past few days...and even before I posted about my doubts/closing it down. I received great encouragement from you guys to keep it going and I just want to let you know how thankful I am that I have such amazing readers!

I know many of you have expressed your concerns about not understanding my faith completely, or my choice to "revert", or that maybe some of you don't have an interest in the Catholic faith at all, and that's fine. I feel as though it's my duty to put my faith out there and make it as interesting as I can for you all, Christian and non-Christian alike, so that I am fulfilling my obligation to God to witness and spread His Word.

I think I need to make a new "mission statement" for my blog, because I have found my truth and am no longer in that "pursuit" phase. I'll always be learning, but I know God wants to use me and this blog for other reasons now. Originally, posting here helped me sort out my thoughts, meditate on scripture more profoundly, and discuss issues with other bloggers. And I believe God did a great work in that phase of my life, but now it's my turn to encourage others and teach them all that I have learned both in scripture and in the world.

What my real desire is is to inspire other young religious people to persevere in their faith. Coming out of my first year of college, I see how much of a wolves' den the world really is and despite religious background, we all look "weird" to the average secular teen/young adult. (And honestly, not fitting in can be really hard!)

I have my personal favorite topics: modesty, head covering, love, courtship vs. dating, etc, but I also want to incorporate topics you readers want to hear about. I know there are bloggers of all ages and walks of life who pop in here, so what is it that you would want to read? Maybe I should post on the basics of Catholicism and the common misconceptions that seem to keep us divided? Or maybe stuff on my personal life/walk in the world...or maybe LESS on that (hahaha sorry I seem to post on myself a lot...especially when I am in a rough spot with those who completely don't understand my religiousness.) Or maybe you want other little things sometimes that have nothing to do with religion...like new recipes I am trying (I experiment a lot...but seeing as I am quite picky, very few make it into my "reuse" pile haha) or music I like...or...something! haha

So please send feedback when you can. You do not know how much i appreciate your comments because it lets me know how I am doing...if I am catering to your needs/interests well enough. I want to keep this going for God's glory alone and for my continual learning (posting still helps me meditate on spiritual topics...and you guys teach me loads as well!). I just need your support...and the chance to pick your brains!

Thanks my lovely readers,
and as always, I hope the Lord continues to do good
works in your lives, blessing you every step of the way!
Peace to you all,
RA

Thursday, July 15, 2010

John Chrysostom & Our Female Body-Consciousness

On Barbie's blog The Mary Mission, she posted a letter written by John Chrysostom in 390 AD. I was so inspired and encouraged by this, as it applies to the modern day woman (and the always popular topic of modesty!), despite being such an old document. (I guess women have been the same throughout the generations! haha)

Just read this with an open mind, as it can be a little harsh, but really think about it in relation to your own life and your own body issues. Do you ever feel "not pretty"? Do you think you need to dress in the latest fashions to impress someone? Do you ever leave the house without makeup or is that just unheard-of? After my first year in college my self confidence plummeted (as discussed in earlier posts) and I became obsessed with looking my best. But in reality...do we not look our best when we are in our "natural state"? The body God put us in? The one He hand crafted for you? So give yourself a little break and don't believe the media...we do not need makeup, or fancy clothes, or awesome hair to be beautiful. God made you the way you are because He saw beauty in His design and His creation in you!

I don't believe makeup is "evil", but when used with the wrong intentions...and when applied in certain styles...it can really be a stumbling block for our brothers in Christ!! Do everything in life in moderation and abandon the urge to change yourself so others will be attracted to you (boys) or jealous of you (girls). When we exude confidence in our God given bodies and features, we truly are beautiful and powerful. We don't need to succumb to the world's standards to find self-worth, because we know we're worth so much already: our God desires us and OUR love so badly! So liberate yourselves (funny how feminism says we need to liberate ourselves through the objectification of our bodies...psh) and people will see your beauty...inside and out!

********

I wish you women not only to abstain from other hurtful practices (here he has thus far talked about not practicing exterior adornment by the wearing of comely, expensive clothes but rather simple modesty) but also from the practice of painting your faces and adding to them, as though the workmanship were defective. By doing so you insult the Workman. For what are you trying to do, woman? By using rouge and eyeshadow you cannot add to your natural beauty nor change your natural ugliness, can you? These add nothing to the beauty of your face, but they will destroy the beauty of your soul. For this meddling with nature testifies to your interior weakness. Especially are you heaping abundant fire for yourself by exciting the looks of young men, and attracting for yourself the eyes of the undisciplined; by making complete adulterers of them you are bringing their downfall onto your own head.
It is fitting and helpful to abstain from this practice entirely. But if those women who are caught in the grip of this evil habit should be unwilling to give up the use of cosmetics, at least let them not use them when they come to the house of prayer.
Why, tell me, when you come to church, do you adorn yourself this way? You have come to worship God and to make confession to Him in atonement for your sins. Does He look for this beauty? No. He seeks the beauty from within, he looks for activity which expresses itself in good deeds: almsgiving, temperance, compunction and strict faith. . You have forsaken these virtues, and you are trying to trip up many of the careless ones, even in church! By what thunderbolts do these actions deserve to be punished? You arrive in port and cause your own shipwreck. If some women in the past were so careless of their own salvation, let them now be persuaded to rid themselves of this outrageous practice. If the Apostle (Paul) forbade the use of expensive clothing, much more would he forbid the use of cosmetics and eyeshadow.
-from his baptismal instructions, given at Antioch 390 AD

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why I Know My Faith is True

I just feel this strong urge to post today, maybe it will encourage you as well. (which is ALWAYS my desire, Catholic or not, Christian or not!)

I was thinking a lot today about love and its relation to God, as God IS Love. That title, or statement rather, never truly made much sense. Sure God made us and made our emotions to love...that's fine and dandy, but true love is not easy. It is not fun. Love is what is left when all the happy/fluttery emotion has left us. And sometimes our love for another will only bring us blood, sweat, and tears because in Christianity we are commanded to love God first and then our neighbor second.

In my household we are all being tried in this department. There has been one crisis after another and God has been calling us to truly love during this hard time. But the thing is, we don't seem to want to. Now I have been trying to discipline myself in charity (doing good works/being nice, especially when every fiber of us is screaming NO WAY!, for God's pleasure & glory) so it's been easier for me to forgive, throw my own desires last, and just love, but I've noticed how hard my mom is struggling with it. (and for good reason)

I've tried to explain to them how God has called us to this life. Jesus preached this simple message of love and I doubt that most people truly recognize its meaning. Do you know how radical of a teaching this was back then, and still is today? He wanted his followers to love and forgive their neighbors, even the hypocrites and one's own enemies. How dangerous a task that is. My mom has her hang ups right here- if I am called to this, do I not deny my own self worth? And that was what got me seriously thinking...again haha (I know I have posted about this before)

Why would our God call us to love (and thus forgive...seeing as you can't really love someone 100% without forgiveness), despite all obstacles, even when such a command can backfire on us and cause us more pain than we started with?

Because our God knows only love. He doesn't understand our pride, our hate, our selfishness, our desires to hurt one another. He IS love and he made us to love. We do not walk a step, take a breath, bat an eye without God's sustenance and He sustains us because He so desperately loves us. When we come to Him in true repentance, He forgives us no questions asked. Our sin has been expunged forever in His sight because He just wants the barriers keeping us from Him (i.e our sin) to be gone so He can love us even more.

How many times have we sinned the SAME sin over and over and over? Yeah many a time over here lemme tell you! But every time I mess up, I return to God, ask for Him mercy, and am cleansed by His blood. He will never stop forgiving me because He loves me, so how can I, who is called to imitate Christ, refuse to forgive, and thus love, someone else, even when that person has hurt me deeply and repeatedly? Because God does and God is love.

And it is not simply just about forgiveness, but about charity, gentle speech, good works, selflessness, and courage in relation to others. Just look to Jesus for a model...was he ever anything but pure love? Did His lips not speak the truth? How did he conduct himself around others, even those who persecuted him? He was firm in his speech and mission, but he never exuded anything but kindness, forgiveness, charity, and love. And that is because He was in fact the Word made flesh. God's love for us was so deep He had to intercede on our behalf's because, somewhere along the way, we forgot how to love and we built such a divide between each other, and most importantly between us and God, that He was the only one who could mend it. His love, His sacrifice, and His mercy are what sustain us and keep us living day to day. And as our Father, He teaches us to go in the right way, to follow His example.

True religion cannot be man made and I am convinced that Christianity is the only true way to God because Jesus has been the only "person" to preach such a ridiculously hard command. There is nothing harder in this world than to love our neighbor as ourselves. Revenge, war ("holy" or not), hatred, etc is so easy to do...it's so HUMAN. God cannot encompass such qualities because He created us and obviously for a purpose. He knitted us into being with true, pure love so we could love Him back (...just like the Father loves the Son and the Son the Father, generating the Holy Spirit from such a union.)

He never created us for chaos, so take a step back from your life and think about your walk. Are you living love? Are you yet in tune with the One True God who is love and only love? Do you really know what it means to love? And are you loving everyone? Even those who mock your faith, betray your trust, hurt you emotionally, physically, or spiritually? If those people who torment you ask God for forgiveness, He will grant them forgiveness. But what will He say to you on the Day of Judgment if you failed to forgive the sins of others, and consequently failed to place love where there is indeed pain & hatred?

Our souls crave love, and love leads to peace...just imagine if everyone obeyed Jesus' command to love...where would the world be? In perfect harmony, because there cannot be sin or hurt or pain if everyone is practicing pure and simply Love.

God bless always~

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blog's Direction...

Sorry for not posting in weeks. I don't even have a valid excuse seeing as school is out, although I have been busy. But I have had plenty of chances to post, with some pretty interesting topics. What has been keeping me from posting is a little discouragement. I don't have the same group posters I used to have and I feel like no one reads what I write anymore. It's not like my blog has ever been super popular, but at least I felt that I was reaching people. Since my topics have made a radical turn toward Catholicism, people have fallen away and lost interest. I wish there was more 0f a "demand"for Catholic-related material, especially for young Catholics such as myself.

I guess at this stage, I'm pondering closing down shop. I may keep the blog up so i can continue following other blogs I enjoy, and even to re-read my posts in the future, but I don't know if I'll be posting anymore.

I'll be praying about it!
Until then,
Pax Vobiscum