Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 9 - Vocations on YouTube

Hi, everyone! Welcome to another day in our 40 Days for Vocations. This week, I shared my vocation story with you. Today I want to share with you my favorite YouTube videos feature vocations. :-) (Linking up with Kelly.)


"We wish to start heaven here on earth." Best quote ever. 


This is such a powerful image of the priesthood!


I'm sure you've heard of these lovely ladies. ;-)


I love it when someone's vocation makes the world stop and say, 
"Why would you be willing to do that? To live there?!"


Who doesn't love a rapping priest?


I just love this video so much, as well as the story behind it. 


If you ever wanted a simple primer on you go!

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)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Day 8 - The Sacrament of Matrimony

Welcome to another day in our 40 Days for Vocations! Today I'm sharing with you the final installment of my "vocation story." (And since these throwback pictures have all kinds of loveliness, I'll join Auntie Leila today.)

When we sat down to pick a date for our wedding, we decided that we wanted to wait until after the summer semester, but get married before the fall semester began. That left us two Saturdays to choose from, one of which was the Feast of the Assumption. Andrew (whose favorite saint is the Blessed Mother, hence the name of our second born) was dead set on the Assumption for our wedding day, and soon won me over. My pastor was surprised and asked us, "You know you'll have to use the readings for the Assumption right? It'll be just like inserting a wedding into the Assumption Mass?" (Even though it wasn't a Holy Day of Obligation that year, it was still a solemnity.) Yes. Yes we knew. And that's why we were choosing that day!

(I've been grateful for that decision every year since then. We always have to go to Mass together on our anniversary, and we always hear the readings and prayers that we heard at our wedding Mass!)

When we were talking about what we wanted out of our wedding Mass (because the Mass was what we were investing the most thought and energy into) we decided that we wanted it to be something beautiful. We knew we would have people at our wedding Mass who were either fallen away Catholics or not Catholic or any faith, and we wanted everyone who came to be touched by the beauty of the Mass. We wanted the Mass to be a witness - not just to our love for each other, but a witness of God's love to us, and to the beauty of the vocation He was gifting to us. We gave great thought to what songs we would use, who our lectors would be, how best to include our loved ones in the liturgy. Andrew made up a beautiful program for the liturgy, complete with some catechesis tucked in.

There are a few other things we did, too, in preparation for our wedding day. We bought our wedding rings, of course. We wanted our wedding rings to be marked with the motto of our relationship/marriage, a motto inspired by St. John Paul II. Inscribed in our rings are our initials, wedding date, and the words, "Totus Tuus Domine," which translates, "All is yours, Lord." (And yes, we got a look of confusion from the jeweler, but it was a great moment for evangelization!) We wanted a reminder of the fact that we would always be in God's hands, and that our vocation would be dedicated to Him.

The second thing we did was to take time to write prayers asking for the intercession of our closest patrons (who were, at the time, St. Therese, Mary, and St. Michael the Archangel - we've since added St. Joseph, too) and officially "inviting" them to our wedding Mass. Of course, since it was a Mass, they would be there, but we just wanted to include them the way we included all of our closest friends. I cannot even begin to describe for you what incredible friends they each have been to us and to our family! I definitely recommend choosing patron saints for your relationship, from the time you begin dating. 

Our wedding day arrived, and the morning and early afternoon were full of last minute preparations. Then, we arrived (separately) at the church. We'd decided that we wanted to see each other before Mass, because we wanted to pray together. We met up in the small chapel behind the altar, and prayed a rosary together. It was so beautiful, so perfect to have those moments to ourselves before the wedding Mass. I got to privately see Andrew's facial expression when he saw me in my wedding gown for the first time, and I'll always remember that look of joy and love. Sitting there together, sharing Andrew's rosary beads, we both felt the peace and strength we needed for the next step. One of our con-celebrants walked past us and he later commented that he'd never seen a couple look so peaceful before their wedding!

If I could use one word to describe the Mass itself, it would be joy. I couldn't stop smiling. I just felt such joy! To have Andrew, and the Mass, and the Eucharist, and all the people I loved...all at once?! Truly a taste of heaven. When Andrew and I think back to our wedding day, we think that our reception turned out well, and various details fell into place as they should have. But what really is a treasure to us is that wedding Mass. And to receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time as a married couple? Bliss. 

On that day we became a family of two...

Then three...

And now four! And God-willing, one day more. :-)

Before knowing what my vocation was,  whenever I would think about vocation, I always thought of it as being my gift to God. When I finally found my vocation, I was so overwhelmed by the love I felt from God. My vocation was not my gift to Him - it was His gift to me. I felt (and feel) so unworthy of this beautiful vocation He's given me. It stretches me in ways I never could have imagined. When I was discerning vocations, I thought I knew what would make me holy. But God knew better. He knew that this vocation - marriage to Andrew and motherhood to the children God blesses us with - would be what would refine me, shape me, chisel away at my selfishness, and turn me into a saint. It is a work in progress, to be sure, but daily I am in awe of the ways that God is leading me to heaven through this vocation.

I think the most amazing aspect of this gift is the man that God has given me. I remember deciding, one night in high school, that I didn't want my life to be "ordinary." I wasn't quite sure what I meant by that, but I know now. I didn't want to live a life wrapped up solely in the material concerns of this world. I wanted to live a life pointed to heaven. I could have never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that God would send me a husband who felt the same, who longed for heaven as deeply as I did and do. Nor could I have imagined that He would send me a husband who would help me get there.

When we sign letters to each other, we often include the line, "I am so happy to be journeying to heaven with you." And it is so true. My deepest desire for Andrew, and his for mine, is to get to heaven. That longing for heaven has only deepened as I've grown in this vocation of mine. I've learned more and more, what real love is - the love of the cross.

My vocation brings me such profound joy. With my beloved St. Therese, I find myself able to say, "I've found my vocation! My vocation is love!"

Trust God with your vocation. You will know it when you find it, because it will bring you such profound peace.  I used to wonder, and I've heard others ask, "But how will I know what my vocation is?" I remember hearing others say, "You will. You'll just know." And I didn't understand that...but now I do. When God offers you the gift of your vocation, you are overwhelmed with humble gratitude and peace. You need only give Him your "yes." And if you won't regret it a day of your life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Day 7 - Engagement

Thanks for joining us in another day of our "40 Days for Vocations!" To read all the post in the series, click here. This week, I am sharing with you my personal vocation story.

October 1, 2008. The Feast of St. Therese. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and also the feast day of one of our special patron saints. I just knew Andrew was going to propose that day.

And he did.

The way he did it took me completely by surprise, though. He got me out of work for the afternoon, and drove me about an hour the Carmelite Monastery I had grown up visiting. There, in front of the statue of St. Therese, he got down on one knee and proposed to me.

It was so surreal. After he proposed, we went in to the chapel and prayed a rosary together, and it hit me – everything was different now. We belonged together in a special, beautiful way. We weren’t family yet, but it felt as if we were. We stopped by my sister’s college on the way home to tell her, and we told Andrew’s middle brother when we got back to Notre Dame (where he was a student, too). We called our families. It was so strange because soon...they would be one family.

I can’t fully describe what made engagement so different, but I can tell you this – I am not a dating person. I am a settling down, being home with family type person. Being engaged, being on the verge of settling down as our own family felt so right.

But there's still a temptation, when engaged, to make it all about the wedding. It was important for us to focus less on the wedding, and more on the future marriage. I remember the Friday afternoon that we spent looking around at different reception venues. Our budget was incredibly tight (as soon-to-be grad students) but we wanted the reception to be nice, and it was easy to get sucked into the mindset that the number of appetizers we offered our guests mattered. After looking at our potential venues, we went to Friday evening Mass at my home parish (where our wedding would be). After Mass, we stuck around to pray the rosary together, and as we sat in the back row, a number of people filed in and walked toward the altar. What followed was an incredibly simple wedding (that was probably a convalidation ceremony). It was beautiful. Afterwards, Andrew and I looked at each other, and said, "Let's go with that really simple reception hall. The reception isn't what matters...what happens here in the Church is all that really matters!" It was an important wake-up call.

(As a funny aside, contrary to the pomp and circumstance of other reception halls, the one we chose was the small hall belonging to the Greek Orthodox church. It was shown to us by the world's most adorable old Greek man, who unlocked the door, let us walk around, and then pitched the hall to us by saying, "You rent the hall, have beautiful children, be very happy!" or something along those lines. Who were we to argue with that?!)

Engagement is such an intense period of preparation, but it really is so tempting to focus on preparing for the wrong things! We spent little time prepping for our reception, but we spent alot of time planning our wedding Mass, and even more time preparing for our marriage itself. There were marriage prep meetings, NFP classes to attend, and some deep heart-to-hearts to have. 

So I can join in in all of Jenna's fun I'm going to share with you my five favorite things about engagement:

1. Closeness
Engagement was such a time of growing closer. The things we were tackling together were big things. We were planning a wedding. We were prepping for a marriage relationship. We were looking for a place to live after we got married. We were learning about openness to children and how to space them if need be, for goodness sake! With each step, I felt closer to the man I was going to spend my life with.

2. Recognition
The seriousness of our relationship was fully affirmed. No more was Andrew introduced as my "friend" or even as my "boyfriend" - he was my fiancé. There was a definite acknowledgement that our relationship was real, and that we belonged together in a specific way. 

3. The Ring (but not for the reason you think)
The ring Andrew chose for me was simple by lovely - exactly what I was hoping for. But what made that little glittery thing most important to me was that every time I glanced down at it, I felt incredibly loved. So, so incredibly loved. It declared to the world that I was spoken for, and it reminded me that the beginning of our marriage was not far off.

4. Having an Excuse to Spend All Our Time Together
When we were dating and engaged, we were still undergrads in college, living in dorms. Despite the seriousness of our dating relationship, I had a number of friends who didn't understand why we spent so much time together. They couldn't have fathomed that we would be considering marriage so soon! Once we were engaged, though, people admitted that it was good and right that we spend most of our time together - we were preparing to start a family! 

5. The Peace of Waiting
Okay, it was hard to wait for our wedding day. It was really hard. In our hearts, we felt as close as if we were already family - but we weren't. And we were still being chaste, with all the challenges that brings. So, waiting to begin our marriage was hard. But, at the same time, there was tremendous peace. After the intense discerning we had done, there was such peace in knowing that we were doing our part to follow God's Will for our lives. And there was such peace in knowing that we would soon belong to each other in such a special way.

But all of that aside, we were ready for our wedding!!!

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, February 24, 2015

Day 6 - Courtship and Dating

Welcome to another day in our 40 days for Vocations! This week, I am sharing with you my own vocation story.

After several failed introductions (that I don’t remember) I finally started noticing this cute boy who sat behind me in my “Theology of the Mass” class. Actually, he was really cute. But, I knew how this story went – typically, if I was this attracted to a guy he wasn’t as attracted to me. So, I didn’t get my hopes up.

Little did I know, this guy was actively pursuing me, in his own quiet way. (And he had actually been attracted to me ever since a large lecture style class that we’d taken together the previous Spring. He’d sat on the opposite side of the room and admired from a distance, but never gotten up the nerve to talk to me.) When I finally noticed him, he was more than ready to get to know me.
We hung out together for about a month – just getting to know each other as friends – before we went on our first date. From the first time we “hung out” together, I knew that there was something different about him. He was quieter and calmer than the kind of guy I normally was interested in (which, let me tell you, has been an absolute blessing in our marriage!). And, more than anything else, I felt so incredibly respected by him. That was really all I could manage to say, when my friends and family asked me about Andrew, “I’ve never felt so respected before.”

From the beginning of our dating/courtship, it was clear that our relationship wasn’t going to consist of fluff. We hit the ground running, tackling the tough issues together. We shared stories of our individual baggage with each other, and helped the other make some tough decisions. At the time we started dating, we were both facing a crossroads of sorts, and we helped each other through some difficult growing periods.

On or right around the time of our first Valentine’s Day, we sat in my dorm chapel and had a talk about chastity. We both desperately wanted our relationship to be a chaste one. Chastity is basically just keeping to whatever expression of sexuality is appropriate for your state in life, so it’s a bit subjective. The idea is, though, that the focus is on getting to know each other's hearts, not getting to know each other physically. We set standards for ourselves that we were both comfortable with (although would probably be considered pretty strict by most standards!), and we also spent a lot of our time hanging out in chapels. (Notre Dame has chapels in every dorm and most other buildings, so this wasn’t any huge feat). We wanted Jesus to be our “chaperone” – to be a part of our conversation, and to be our safeguard when it came to chastity. (Again, we were in a kind of unique situation, since went to a Catholic university with tons of chapels everywhere.)

What's not to love about a guy with a favorite mystery of the rosary?!

That time together, with each other and with Him, came to define our relationship. We were moving together closer than we had expected. The summer after Junior year, I was working not far from where Andrew’s parents’ lived, and so we got to go on a couple of dates a week. We always tried to have our weekend date include Mass or adoration. One of our first Sunday afternoon dates, we visited the National Shrine of St. Therese, and sat on a bench talking. I shared with him some of my fears and anxieties, and after that conversation...something felt different. We didn’t know what it was, but we felt as if God had been a part of our conversation that afternoon – enabling me to open up to Andrew and enabling him to show me the deep love and understanding that I needed. Low and behold – seven months into our relationship, we begin to feel that we were being called to get engaged...and soon.

Thus followed several months of lots of prayers, lots of very serious discernment discussions, lots of conversation with family to try and get everyone on board, and even a joint trip to my spiritual director. Andrew and I were (and are) both planners/by the book type people, and neither of us anticipated being engaged before graduation or married right out of college...let alone getting engaged to someone we’d known less than a year! But, God kept nudging us in that direction. One by one, the obstacles and fears fell down. Suddenly, we found that God had given us the peace we needed to give Him our “yes.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Lenten Sensory Bin!

Hi, friends! I'm at A Blog for My Mom today, sharing with you how to make a Lenten sensory bin. Thanks to Rosie for the chance to guest post! Hop on over and check it out.

Happy Monday!  I'm so excited to introduce you to Michele, who blogs at My Domestic Monastery.
Michele is a wife and mother of two beautiful girls, and a published author in addition to a blogger! Today she's sharing a Lenten Sensory Bin, which I guarantee your children will love and Ialso guarantee might terrify you a little bit!  The mess!!!  

Yes, there will be rice or pasta on the floor.  But your kids will adore it, and it may just become a regular activity in your house...

Day 5 - Before I Met My Husband

Thank you for joining us for another day in our Lenten series, “40 Days for Vocations.” This week, I’ll be sharing with you my own vocation story.

Long before I met Andrew, I had thought and prayed alot about my vocation. I had discerned whether or not I was called to religious life (I didn’t look at any specific orders, just took the idea to prayer a lot). I kept feeling the tug toward marriage and family life, but I struggled because I wanted to be holy. And everyone knew that most of the saints were religious or priests. I remember browsing my college library for books about married saints, and being really excited when I actually found one. (My college library wasn’t small. There just aren’t many canonized married saints!) I wanted to reconcile my desire for holiness with my desire for marriage.

My spiritual director at the time was wise, and she told me to wait and continue to take it to prayer. At some point I told her something along the lines of, “I feel like God is calling me to something that must mean that I’m supposed to be a nun.” I struggled with the thought that many people struggle with, “If I want it, that must mean God doesn’t want me to have it.” But God works through our desires. If He places a desire in our heart – a good desire – then it’s there for a reason!
At the beginning of my junior year, a potential relationship had just fallen flat. I was bummed. The guy had been nice enough, and he was a good Catholic guy. But he wasn’t interested in me the way I was in him.
One of my first nights back on campus, I was unpacking my dorm room and watching EWTN, and a show came on where a young couple was talking about their journey to marriage. The woman said that –after a number of failed relationships- she had sat down, written out a list of what she would want in a potential spouse, and taken that list to prayer. She set the bar ridiculously high, and then she told God, “Okay, it’s in your hands now.” When I heard that, I dropped what I was doing, went down to my dorm chapel, and did that very thing.

As I wrote this list, in prayer, I realized that the guy I was previously interested in – although a good guy – was not the kind of guy I needed to marry. I was surprised because, well, the guy I described in my list was very different than the sort of guy I was normally attracted to. Like the woman on the TV show, I set the bar ridiculously high and basically said, “Okay, God. I’m tired of worrying about finding a husband. This is in your hands. I think this is what I’d need in a spouse. I know it is. But these are pretty hard standards. So, good luck finding him...”

And shortly thereafter, I met Andrew.

It feels so surreal, remembering all of this now, and then looking around the room at my daughters playing. It's really nice to be able to see how the story turned out, you know?

Would you like to see what we wore this Sunday? ;-)

But wait! Where's the baby?!

Several hours later (finally holding still)...

Have a lovely Monday, friends!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 4 - Saturday Morning Inspiration

"Only by drawing from the eternal source of power can woman perform the functions to which she is called by nature and by destiny. On the other hand, each woman who lives in the light of eternity can fulfill her vocation, no matter if it is in marriage, in a religious order, or in a worldly profession." St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), "Spirituality of the Christian Woman"

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