Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 34 - The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

Welcome to our Lenten series "40 Days for Vocations." Holy Week begins today!!!


I didn't post yesterday (teething baby and so little sleep for all involved) but I thought I'd share with you what we wore to Mass today (liturgically appropriate and all). Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple.





Your vocation is a love story. In fact, it is part of the greatest love story ever told.

I think a lot of people would claim Christmas as their favorite holiday, but Easter and Holy Week have been my favorite for as long as I could remember. Of course, this is in great part because of my own parents' love for Holy Week. I don't know that we went to the Triduum liturgies (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) when I was a baby, but I've gone to them for as long as I can remember. I never remember finding them boring - I was always captivated by them. 

Why? Why was I captivated by them even as a child? I'm sure I wasn't perfectly behaved at all of those liturgies. I'm sure I didn't always understand what was happening. I'm sure that the liturgies we went to weren't as incredibly executed as the ones I would later attend in college. (If you ever, ever have the opportunity to go to the Triduum at the University of Notre Dame - go! I've been to the Triduum in many parishes but none have come close to the beauty of those liturgies.) But why did they captivate my heart and mind?

Because this week we celebrate the greatest love story ever told. And it is your love story. 

This week, we remember the love story between Christ, the bridegroom, and all of us, His Church. 

But it is more than that - it Christ's love story with you. 

When Christ died on the cross, He didn't just die with "the Church" in mind - He died with all members of the Church (past, present, future) on His mind and in His heart. He died with you on His mind and heart. In His all-knowing divinity, He knew that you would exist. He knew every sin you would ever commit. And, with every fiber of His being, He wanted to save you from that sin, and to ensure that the gates of heaven would be open for you. Don't you see? Yes, Christ paid the debt of sin. But it wasn't a cold exchange. He didn't need to pay that debt of sin, didn't need to die. He did it for love. He is the lover who is so passionately in love with his beloved that He is willing to do whatever it takes to show that love. 

Do you know, can you possibly grasp, how very beloved you are??

That is what this week is about. It is about knowing that you are beloved. It is about knowing that the Divine Lover loves you so passionately that He died so you wouldn't have to. 

Your vocation, when you discern it and live it out, will be a daily sharing in that passionate love. Yes, your vocation is the way in which you can love God. But is is also the way in which you will come to experience God's own love most perfectly. I cannot understate that reality. In the gift of your vocation, you will daily experience a share of Christ's Paschal love. You will know His love, and you will learn to die to yourself and love like He does. 

Enter into this Holy Week, knowing that you are infinitely loved. And enter into this Holy Week and its liturgies, open to seeing the greatest love story ever told unfold. And know that you - in all your sin and weakness - are at the very heart of this love story.

You are so loved.





Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 33 - My Vocation Motto

Welcome to our Lenten series "40 Days for Vocations."


It's been a long day and it's pretty late, so all I have to share with you is this quote, which is (one of) my mottos for my own vocation. It encourages me when I struggle with not being able to pray, go to daily Mass, etc. as much as I'd like. Sometimes, God asks us to pray in other ways...

“It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must never forget that she is a housewife. And sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.” -St. Frances of Rome (source)


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 32 - Vocation and Disability (We All Have Weaknesses)

Welcome to our Lenten series "40 Days for Vocations."


Linking up with the ladies of Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Some of my dearest friends have been people who have faced some really significant challenges. One such friend is my friend Joy (whose name I'm changing for privacy, obviously). Joy lives in a residential community for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has severe cerebral palsy and also faces intellectual challenges. She's also just about my age (maybe a few years younger). And I have learned so much from her. She is a beautiful young woman through and through (and was also a bridesmaid in my wedding!). 

I spent a couple of summers working where Joy lives, and the second summer that I worked there, I had the privilege of being a sort of spiritual director for Joy. Mostly, I was just a spiritual friend/companion to her.

Joy's love for God was and is extraordinary. And she is not the only individual with IDD (Intellectual and Developmental disabilities) who I have met that has a deep thirst for God.


{pretty}


(Pictures are mostly unrelated, but...sun! And warm! So, I thought I'd share.)

I think I may have mentioned before that I'm a member/co-chair of the Council on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (CIDD) through the NCPD, which is to say that I find myself thinking about those in the Church with IDD, as well as those with any sort of disability. Most of the ministry work that I did, prior to deciding to stay home with Therese, was in the area of adaptive catechesis, and I could tell you tons of stories about individuals and their families and the unique roles that each of them plays in the life of the Church.

Suffice it to say - I've seen firsthand that those with disabilities have a place in the Church. But more than that...they have a role to play. Those with disabilities - even very significant ones (I'm thinking folks who are non-ambulatory and non-verbal) have a vocation.

{happy}


Right now, we're not in a place in the Church where there are religious orders that will accept people facing the sorts of challenges that Joy faces. I sincerely hope to see that change in the years to come. There are some people with developmental disabilities (not intellectual disabilities) that have mild enough disabilities that they can join a religious community or be ordained to the priesthood or get married. But in the society we're living in, there are a lot of people that that is not the case for. What this amounts to is the fact that a lot of people with IDD or the like never have anyone talk to them about vocation, or think about them in the context of vocation.

But I'm here to tell you that if you are baptized - you have a role to play in the Church. You have a vocation. 

Those with IDD and similar challenges need to grow in holiness as much as the rest of us. They aren't perfect angels without sin. They are born with original sin, and need baptism, and need on-going opportunities for growth and grace. They are called to be saints, just the same as every member of the Church.

{funny}


(I love that Maria is so eager to get outside that she's backing down the step to get out the door...)

So, why exactly am I telling you all of this? Because there is no us and them.

There isn't a "person with a disability" and a "person without a disability" in the Church. For one, all of us are only a breath away from any number of physical/mental/intellectual challenges. Any of us could lose the ability to walk, or talk, or process things intellectually. Some of us have those challenges now, some of us may have them in the future, some of us may never have those particular challenges. But all of us, regardless of our state or station in life will have to face challenges. All of us have aspects of ourselves that are weak.

Yes, some of us have weaknesses that are visible. Many of us don't, but that doesn't make them any less real.

Yet we all...every single one of us...has a vocation!

I know a lot people get so overwhelmed by their own weakness that they refuse to move forward. They focus so much on what they can't do, that they forget to see that God chooses those who the world deems weak in order to show His strength. As Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, "Whenever I am weak, then I am strong."

So, I'm here to tell you...embrace those things that the world deems to be weaknesses. It may be through those very "weaknesses" that God makes you into a saint.

{real}



Okay, and on that note....baby girl got herself some fancy gear to (hopefully) help her build up enough strength and stability to walk unassisted. Hooray for her! Unfortunately, they are very wide and make finding shoes difficult (and she has to wear shoes whenever she's wearing these so she doesn't slip). Any good shoe recommendations from fellow parents of SMO wearers? Thank you in advance!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 31 - What if My Vocation is Boring?

Welcome to our Lenten series "40 Days for Vocations." Today we're going to answer the question, "But what if my vocation is...boring?!"


I have something to tell you. No matter what your vocation, there are going to be aspects of it that are...boring. (Gasp!) If you are a religious, a priest, or a spouse, there are going to be boring things you need to do day in and day out. Even the most "exciting" vocations (like, maybe being a Missionary of Charity in Calcutta with Mother Theresa's nuns) is mostly going to be made up of the "boring" day in and day out tasks. Washing, cleaning, cooking...these are all tasks we need to perform. There will be a rhythm to your days, and that rhythm will be basically the same from day to day. 

I can speak in particular from the perspective of my own vocation. Every day I cook meals. Every day I change diapers. I do laundry ad nauseum. The house needs to be cleaned every week. The toilets need weekly scrubbing, too. But most difficult of all...my world has to be somewhat "tiny" during the day times. I need to slow down, to move at the pace of a toddler and preschooler. I need to stop and listen to their tiny requests (even the non-verbal ones). I need to drop what I'm doing and lay down to nurse the toddler to sleep or give the preschooler a much needed hug. Sometimes, I love these moments more than I could possibly say. Other times, my days seem tedious.

It's those days that I try to recall one of my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton:

"[Children] always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony." Read the rest here.

In other words...my boredom at the repetition is in no way a reflection of how significant or insignificant my work is. It is merely a reflection of my spiritual immaturity. 

The great secret is that the things that truly have meaning are those things that are repetitious. They are the ones that will make us holy. If we can get past the entertainment factor, we may be freed up to listen to God. We may find Him in the silence. Just as true freedom comes from commitment, true growth comes from repetition. It is only when we strip away our need to "feel important" that we realize how important the little things we do actually are.

In the end, the "boring" parts of our vocations may be what will make us into saints!

Please continue to pray for vocations with us!

O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.

Open the hearts of Your children

that they may discern Your Holy Will;

inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.

Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life

guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.

Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (source)







Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 30 - But What if My Vocation Makes Me...Different?!

Welcome to our Lenten series "40 Days for Vocations." Today we're going to talk about how you're vocation may make you feel "different."


(If my Blogger stats are correct, not all of my readers are from North America/the United States. So, some of what I'm talking about from a cultural perspective may not make much sense. Nonetheless, I'm going to address this from an American perspective, since that is what I know best.)

I think that it's important to except, at the outset, that if you are going to live out a faithful vocation in this culture we're living in - you're going to stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps a very beautiful sore thumb, but a sore thumb regardless. People who aren't where you are are just going to be a bit baffled by you.


Although American culture did start out Christian (it's arguable to what degree we can say it is anymore, or if we are now in the "post-Christian" era in our country), the Christianity it espoused was more Protestant in flavor. From the beginning, a lot of people were baffled by the ways of Catholics, and - throughout American history - persecuted Catholics in one way or another. Even in our current day, we see the battle that various Church charities, schools, and organizations have had to take on in light of the HHS mandate. Faithful Catholics are, by nature, called to be "in the world, not of it" and that means that sometimes we flat-out oppose it.

This carries over into the world of vocation. 

Let's consider the three main vocations in the Church - religious (or consecrated celibate) life, priesthood, and marriage. All require lifelong commitments. All require chastity. Two out of the three even require celibacy (which is totally foreign to secular ears). All three require a degree of faithfulness, even and especially in the midst of hardship. All three require tremendous sacrifice, and willingness to face suffering and discomfort.


But what does out modern world preach? Comfort! Content! Happiness! If you aren't happy, move on to someone or something else! Don't tie yourself down! Your impulses are good...don't stifle them!

Basically, the world's view of happiness is in direct opposition to the happiness and joy the Gospel promises. "Take up your cross." "Deny yourself." "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies..." So, yes, if you choose to faithfully live out your vocation, you are going to appear odd.

But...so what?! 

I think that it's helpful to keep in mind that Jesus warned us that this would be the case. He warned us that the world would not understand us, but that He did not make us for this world. The world did not, does not, understand Him.

So, in the end, we just need to own it. We need to own that our vocations will make us different, set apart. And we need to accept that that's okay! It's okay to be different, to be a bit of a puzzle, if we are choosing to be so for the right reason. 

Most importantly, there typically is something attractive about those differences. Who knows who we may attract to the faith by our willingness to stand out?!

Please continue to pray for vocations with us!

O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.

Open the hearts of Your children
that they may discern Your Holy Will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.

Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life
guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (source)


Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 29 - Spiritual Dryness and Doubt

Welcome to another week in our 40 Days for Vocations! Today I want to share with you about spiritual dryness and doubt when living out your vocation.



Okay, don't laugh at me, but...I used to have nightmares about being married. This was looooong before I knew Andrew, mainly when I was little and then maybe in high school? I can't remember. At any rate, in the dream, it would always turn out that I would find out that I was married to someone and I felt trapped. I knew I was stuck married to that person for life, and there was no out. 

Needless to say, once I met the man who I actually married, being "stuck" with him for life wasn't a scary thing. It was reassuring. I wanted to be "stuck" with him. ;-)

But that doesn't mean that I never have moments of doubt. It doesn't mean that in the midst of an argument that I never think, "Why am I married to this person?!" It does mean that, even in those moments, I remind myself, "I chose Andrew, and I will continue to choose him." Now thankfully, the vast, vast majority of the time I am just so incredibly grateful for the gift of Andrew in my life. But I think that every married person has those fleeting moments (or maybe even not so fleeting) when you wonder, "What am I doing here? Was this the right choice?" I'd imagine the priests and religious have those moments, too.

Likewise, there are moments in marriage where you don't feel "in love." There are times when you aren't flooded with those gushy feelings. In fact, I'd say that there are alot of times when you don't "feel" in love with the other person. It just feels dry. And, I'd imagine that this experience isn't unique to marriage. I'd imagine it's pretty common in priesthood and religious life, too.

I'm here to tell you that that doubt and dryness, is normal. It's not a sign that you made the wrong choice. It's not a sign that you should back out. It's a sign that you're on the right track.

Some of you may have hear of St. John of the Cross and his "dark night of the soul," the idea being that there are times in the spiritual life when God removes all spiritual consolation in order for your love for Him to grow deeper. The same thing happens in a vocation. Sometimes, you need to do the right thing without the good "feelings" and that absence of consolation enables your love to grow deeper. It's easy to do the right thing when you want to do the right thing, and when it feels good to do the right thing. What real love is made of is doing the right and good thing when it doesn't feel good. That's when true love begins - when you choose to love.

There's this myth in society today that if you no longer "feel love" for someone else, it means that you are unhappy and your marriage is a failure and you should just divorce. I couldn't disagree more. Because if you don't obsess about those "feelings" and let them bog you down...that particular stage will pass. In place of those feelings, and in place of that dryness, much deeper feelings will come. The love that follows will be far greater and more joy-filled - even in the midst of struggle. 

But you have to persist beyond the hard points. You have to commit to not quitting. 

That's why the commitment itself is so incredibly important. When you make that commitment, God floods you with grace. But the only way to fully experience the benefits - of marriage, religious life, or priesthood - is to commit to it for the long haul. The only way for it to really "work" and bring you joy, is if you commit to it no matter what. Once the wedding/ordination/final vows is over, you have to know that there will be no "out." 

But that is where true freedom begins. Only once you surrender the false freedom of choice will you find the true freedom that comes with vowing yourself to something or someone.

(We had a little sicky in our house, and had to tag-team it to Mass. Want to see what me and the other little girl wore on Suday? Just a tiny glimpse? You can also get a glimpse of the exterior of our parish behind us...)




Please continue to pray for vocations with us!

O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.


Open the hearts of Your children

that they may discern Your Holy Will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.



Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life

guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (source)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What my Confessor Taught Me...

Bonus post!

I'm over at Ignitum Today, sharing what a good Confessor taught me about parenting a toddler-who-shall-not-be-named.

I went to Confession one recent Saturday morning, planning on receiving the sacrament before Mass. As I drove to the church, I was doing my examination of conscience, and growing increasingly nervous. When I arrived at the church, it was dark and empty – except for the priest praying his Liturgy of the Hours in a pew. Frantically, I checked the bulletin on my phone and, sure enough, Confession wasn’t scheduled for that morning...

Read the rest here.

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