Hills and Valleys

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Have you ever felt like you’ve hit rock bottom? Like your life couldn’t get any worse?

I’ve felt this way probably two times in my life if we’re talking rock rock bottom. Now I’m not going to waste my time dwelling upon these things. We all have hardships in life. Pain, sadness, suffering – it’s all part of life.

I recently had my second “rock bottom moment” as I like to refer to them. I was having a rather normal day over Christmas break; actually I’d say it was a pretty good and relaxing day. But that night something happened that just made my whole day turn upside down. Everything hit me at once, and I was, I kid you not, lying on my bedroom floor crying. Now, I don’t want to seem like some over dramatic girl who cries over everything, but in this instant when I felt like my life was crumbling in front me, I lost all strength to hold myself up – hence the reason I ended up lying on the floor. I physically did not have the strength to pull myself up off the floor. I couldn’t gather up the strength to simply stand or even sit up. I felt as if I was carrying so much weight on my shoulders that I couldn’t move. But eventually I had the spiritual strength to rise from my circumstances because of God’s grace, mercy, and relentless love, and that’s what I would like to share with you now.

In the midst of this “rock bottom moment”, I had my Jesus music playing, and a song that I had never heard before came on. It was a song called “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells. These lines immediately stood out to me:

“On the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there.
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there
When I’m standing on the mountain, I didn’t get there on my own
When I’m walking through the valley end, I am not alone!”

We all know the hills and valley analogy. The good times are the hills and the not so good times are the valleys. Well y’all, this Tauren Wells guy just took it to a whole new level I had never thought of.

Whenever we are on a mountain top – whether it be a spiritual peak, a sport peak, a relationship peak, etc. – GOD PUT YOU THERE. We can never reach a mountain peak without the help of God. We hear this directly from the bible in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from God, we can do nothing. Every achievement on this earth, every mountain peak we have reached, we have been granted to by God’s grace, love, and mercy. We did not get to the mountain top alone. And y’all this is not something to be ashamed of. When we reach that mountain peak we should rejoice that the Lord’s love is so great that He would help us get to the top of the mountain. That the Lord loves us so much, He believed we could achieve that goal.

Now, whenever we are in a valley, or maybe we are stuck in a ditch in the valley at rock bottom, God is with us. Even in the darkest times of our lives when we feel abandoned by all else, God is with you. You are never alone. God sees you at all times. When you are at your worst, maybe when you’re on your bedroom floor crying, God looks at you and sees hope and loves you regardless of your flaws. So, in the dark valleys in our lives when we simply cannot find the strength to get up, look up to God because He is watching you and He is there. He will grant you the strength you need to not only climb out that ditch you are in, but He will also give you the strength you need to climb the mountain and reach the peak. And the best part is that He does this because He loves you.

How awesome is this that we have a God of ‘Hills and Valleys’?! A God who helps you reach mountain peaks. A God who sees you in your darkest times and stands by you.

Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” I find this quote very fitting with my message today. No matter which way we go – left, right, up, or down – God will stay next to us. He will remain at our side forever whispering into our ear the correct way to go. He will forever be calling us to Him. It is our job to listen for that calling. Our job to respond to that calling. Our job to take the first brave step in the direction of His calling. God tells us the way. It is our job to walk in it. Why would we not walk in it when we have a God who pulls us out of ditches and onto mountain, out of darkness and into light?

I am praying to St. Theresa for all those who read this little message. I’m praying for you that in your times of darkness, times at rock bottom, you may remember that God is next to you, holding your hand, whispering into your ear the right way. I’m praying for you that in your times of light on the mountain peak, you may remember to show gratitude for the Lord and His mercy, love, and grace.

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us

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Death Does Not Equal Fear

The older I get, the more prevalent death becomes to me. Every one dies eventually, we all know this, but have you really thought about it? The first several chapters in the devotional I am reading out of these days is all about death. Yes, the first couple sentences of this entry could sound quite dark or morbid, but death is real and we’re only alive to prepare for it. There, I said it. Here we are, created and loved by God, in the world of all things that He made “good”, He made us “very good” and wants us to strive to be with Him again.

The other day, my mom and I were leaving the house to go to confession when we bumped into my dad.  We proceeded to almost beg him to join us. After about 10 minutes of talking about it, my mom and I failed to convince him and went by ourselves. When I asked my dad why he would not go he didn’t really answer the question. He just kind of brushed it off like he was too busy and what not. During this encounter though, my dad threw into the conversation that it had been probably been close to 30 years since the last time he experienced that sacrament. I nervously tried to explain to him that death is so relevant and that he needs to pick up his sinful booty and get to the confessional.  He then agreed with me and sent us on our way. So if somebody IS aware of death and has faith in God, what could possibly be stopping them? Pride? Nervousness? In James 4, it is written that if we “draw near to God and he will draw near to you” and that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”. If you read all of James 4 you will know and understand that God doesn’t call us to be perfection.  Yes He likes us to try, but He just wants us to know for ourselves that we are not perfect, because nobody is. This is what He is trying to prove to us through Confession, which if you go and really express your desire to be forgiven, God will not hesitate to do so. He just calls us to not hesitate and give Him our sins and worries.

I once read that the best way to realize that earthly values are temporary, is to look at the ones you had in the past and how relevant they are now. Where are the enjoyments of last year? The more I think about this concept, the more I think about eternal life. What attracts me here on earth is not going to be what attracts me in the after life. None of this matters, and when I think about that, Heaven comes to mind. In my head I think about how amazing it will be: that everyone is actually loving to be one with God, and I will be truly happy. I wouldn’t mind dying right now. I have accepted in my heart that death is not the worst thing in the world, but unfortunately, not everybody looks at death like this. To someone like my dad, they may think of death as scary, thinking “what will come of me?” You do not have to be ready for death all of the time, as perfect as that would be, but we are sinners. However, I once read that you shouldn’t just ignore the concept. Not thinking about death, does not make it go away. So, why not just think about it often, so that you can be ready when it comes. I have a feeling that my dad does not really think about death much at all, and that is why he does not see confession as necessary.

“The most terrible death in which can come to me is the death that will find me in mortal sin.” This is what I read in my devotional at night. Mark Bartek once said, “death is not the worst thing that can happen to you, sin is.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, death is not scary! If you live a life of sin, shame, and pride, it can be scarier if you do not think about it. But, if you receive God’s graces and mercies that He is constantly gifting to us, then there is nothing to be afraid of. We are really only on this earth for God. We were created by God, for God. So live your life for what He created you for. If your love for God doesn’t stop you from sinning, then your love for yourself in that moment is far too great. We must use the gift of compunction to correct our faults. Compunction is a deep and lasting sorrow for your sins. It is important that we utilize this and put in a honest daily effort when it comes to walking like Christ.  We have to be brave enough to renew my intentions and good resolutions each day. These are ways we will become more willing to accept death and your view at life will change forever.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us. Amen.

Society’s Biggest Lie

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Last week’s post- Unwavering Identity– dissected Daniel 3.  Today, I would like to continue the dialogue of identity as I reflect upon quote I stumbled across in The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.  The Imitation is one of my absolute favorite books that has become my go to read for spiritual guidance, after the Bible.  It’s filled with advice that is neither watered down nor written with the purpose of consoling your soul, but rather written with the purpose of bringing your soul to Christ.  It is a book that will ‘kick you in the butt’ and- yes- will sometimes drive you to the confessional over a restless conscience, but it will also turn your eyes inward as you search for the Lord and find Him dwelling in your heart.  The bluntness and honesty of The Imitation has proved to be incredibly refreshing in a culture that avoids correcting our actions, no matter how wrong they may be, in order to avoid offending anyone or forming an awkward situation. While there are many times when I come across a line in my reading that I disagree with or do not fully understand, the Lord has granted me wisdom and acceptance in ways that have revealed Truths to me that I have previously rejected- many times due to the culture of this earth.

I had one of these moments a few months ago when I discovered one of the biggest lies that society teaches us, and that is the lie that we should ‘go and find ourselves.’  I have been reflecting on this since I first read it, but it has taken me so so long to fully understand what Kempis is talking about because this is advice we’ve all gotten hundreds of times, and probably even given a few times ourselves, yet it’s advice that Kempis disagrees with.  The quote that provided this realization reads, “If you seek Jesus in everything you will certainly find Jesus.  However, if you seek only yourself, you will find yourself, but to your sorrow” (The Imitation of Christ Book 2 Chapter 7).   

When we go out and find ourselves, we go out and search for our identity.  We find out what we like what we don’t like.  We search inside us.  We find out our habits, our good qualities- yes- but also our bad ones.  We find our sins. We destroy ourselves because when we find ourselves, we find someone we are dissatisfied with.

Over and over again we put our identity in the labels that our Earth gives us, and when we go and find ourselves all we are doing is going to find a new label.  When we do this, we become confined to the label maker of the world which sees only with eyes that see the outer appearance not the heart- with eyes that sees only the sorrows of earth not the wonders of Heaven.  When we find ourselves we find that we are labeled someone who is a swimmer or a runner but feels dissatisfied or maybe inadequate to be given that identity.  When we find ourselves we find our addictions, our annoyances, our weaknesses, we find brokenness.   We find failure.  And we become devastated.  So the label maker spits out a label that says failure, inadequate, or insufficient.  You, my brothers and sisters, are NOT inadequate.  You are NOT a failure.  You are NOT insufficient.  You are a beloved child of God.

Imagine what would happen if instead of trying to put your identity in earthly enjoyments you put your identity in the Lord.  Imagine what would happen if instead of seeking your sins, you seek mercy and courage to detach yourself from the addictions you have become attached to.  Imagine what would happen if instead of seeking yourself you sought Jesus.  Because yes, the Lord does call us to find our talents here on earth and to find enjoyment.  The Lord does call us to search our souls and to find these sins that we struggle with.  However, the Lord calls us to do so through Him. He calls us to find our brokenness, but to allow for it to be fixed by His healing hands.   He calls us to give Him our everything so that all happiness on earth is received through Him.  We were not made to be searching for sorrow.  We were made to be searching for Jesus.  Because Jesus is going to bring you joy by showing you the talents that He has given you.  Jesus is going to bring you peace for your future by revealing to you the plan of greatness He has for you.  Jesus is going to bring you mercy by revealing to you His abundance of mercy.  Jesus is going to bring you to Heaven by illuminating the pathway to sainthood.  Jesus is going to show you the person that He created you to be by helping you find yourself.  You ‘find yourself’ by searching for Christ. You ‘find yourself’ by doing God’s will.  You ‘find yourself’ when you put your identity in Christ not in the world.  Your identity in the world is perishable, but your identity in Christ is everlasting.

Jesus is, “the way, the Truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  So let us follow Him.  Let us take off the labels that this earthly label maker has made telling us that we are failures, insufficient, and inadequate, and instead put on the truly perfect identity- the truly eternal identity- of daughters and sons of Christ.  Stop going out to “find yourself.”  Stop believing that you are not worthy of this life or the life to come, and instead start finding Jesus.  Start finding peace.  Jesus Christ Himself, died on a cross to prove to you that you are not inadequate.  To prove to you that you are made for greatness that this world can not offer to you.  To prove to you that you were made in both the image and likeness of God, and therefor worth all suffering.  Jesus proved it, now let’s start believing it.  Let’s start finding Jesus with the confidence that He will lead us to become the person He created us to be.  Let’s take up our label and wear it proudly.  Let it say ‘I am a child of God.’

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us

Unwavering Identity

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As the New Year approaches, I found myself starting to reflect on my identity of self.  Over the past year I have realized that I define myself by the sports I play, the grades I get, and the school I go to.  As the New Years approaches, I have started to reflect more on my identity of self and have become determined to change this perspective of my identity and put it instead in Christ.

While reflecting on this, I came across this bible passage while watching a talk on youtube by Emma Mae Jenkins, and I wasn’t very familiar with it: Daniel 3. In this chapter of Daniel, the Babylonian king, King Nebuchadnezzar, (who I’ll refer to as King Neb from now on) has just come to Jerusalem. He takes a few things, including some Israelite men, back with him to Babylon. Among these men were three named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. King Neb gives these 3 Israelites new names.  Hananiah was now Shadrach, Mishael would now be called Meshach, and Azariah’s new name was Abednego.

In Babylon, King Neb builds this GINORMOUS golden statue. He commands all his people that when they hear the sound of a musical ensemble they must “fall down and worship the golden statue.” King Neb also tells them that whoever refuses will be “thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” When the music begins and all of King Neb’s people fall to the ground in worship.  However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remain standing. Some nobles of the king then turned in these three Israelites, and King Neb asks them “It is true?” THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.

Here we have three Israelites who have refused to partake in idolatry. Now, they are questioned, “Is it true?” This is an even greater test than resisting idolatry. It is one thing to take a stand for God, but it is far greater to stick to your stand for Him when questioned. These three men stood their ground and did not give into idolatry.  Even when given the option, they did not take the easy way out by denying their refusal to worship an idol.

So you’re probably thinking “hey this is cool and all, but what does this have to do with identity?”

Well let’s go back for a second. Let’s look at the meaning of these three men’s names.

Hananiah, Misael, and Azariah are the names given to these men by God.  Hananiah means grace, mercy, or gift of the Lord, Mishael means who is asked for or lent, and Azariah means God helps.  These are the men’s identities in the Lord.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the names given to these men by King Neb.  Shadrach means command of Aku (the Babylonian god of the moon), Meshach means who is as Aku is, and Abednego means servant of the god Nergal.  These are the men’s identities in King Neb.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have fallen to their knees at the sound of King Neb’s music. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have fallen to their knees and worshipped the golden statue.  What did these three men actually do? They took a stand and stuck to it.  They refused to practice in idolatry. They refused to worship anything other than their one, true Lord.  Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah kept their identity in the Lord.  Their identity did not waiver for one spilt second.

So how does this apply to us?

I see King Neb as society.  King Neb commanded his people to worship this golden statue or they would be immediately burned. This is similar to the message society sends us. Today, if we don’t have the newest brand name things, if we don’t go to parties, if we don’t participate in a culture of today’s world that has been labeled as “cool,” we are immediately ostracized from society. This has caused us to put our self worth and identity in what society deems as important. However, look at Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Despite what the world around them was doing, these three men did not waiver in their identity. When EVERYONE fell down in worship of a golden statue, they remained the only three standing.  How did they remain standing? How did they take their stand and stick to it?  They put their identity in God.

They did not put their identity in society. When we put our identity, our self worth, our value in society, then our self-identity becomes a never ending roller-coaster of ups and downs. When we base our self worth on what other people say about us, what other people do, what we see on social media- we will NEVER be satisfied.  When we put our self worth into the colleges we are accepted into, the sports we play, the awards we receive, the grades we get in school, the appearance of ourselves- we will NEVER be satisfied with who we are.

BUT if we put our identity in God, our steady ground, our life line, our rock solid foundation- our identity will never waiver. If we define ourselves as children of God, then our identity will never waiver because God is the only consistent and promising thing in our lives. He always has been, always is, and always will be.

Now back to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These three men are thrown in to a blazing furnace because they don’t worship the golden statue, but they remain unharmed. After they have been thrown into the fire, King Neb looks into the fire and sees four men. The forth man resembles the son of God. Y’ALL THIS RIGHT HERE IS SO SO IMPORTANT.

Time for an analogy. Everyone knows what a silversmith does right? (He makes things out of silver) Now when a silversmith is making his silver, he heats it up, placing it in the fire, BUT he NEVER lets go and always has a firm grip. He NEVER takes his eyes off of that piece of silver. And do you know why? Because as soon as that piece of silver reflects his image back to him, he removes it from the fire. As soon as he can see himself in the silver, he takes it out of the fire. Y’ALL! God is that silversmith, and we are that piece of silver. God may allow us to be thrown into a blazing fire with the heat seven times higher than normal, BUT He never stops holding us and watching us. He is always there. He waits for us to stand our ground, stick with it, and reflect His image.

So in conclusion, I pray that we all may be able to not only find our identity in God but to always keep it there. I pray that we all may be on fire with the love of Christ, stick to our stance, and reflect His image at all times!

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us

The Intercession of St. Joseph of Cupertino

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Last year, one of my school’s missionaries introduced me to St. Joseph of Cupertino as I was preparing for a major chemistry test.  I remember walking out of that test, knowing my prayers for St. Joseph’s intercession has been answered in an incredibly radical way.  Since that day, St. Joseph has been my go to saint when dealing with test stress.  So, when it came time for me to prepare for my finals, St. Joseph was my go to Heavenly friend to ask for intercession.  I not only said this prayer before studying and taking my exams, but I also increased my knowledge about him so that I could know St. Joseph in a more complete way.

I walked into my hardest exam after hours of studying and a steady devotion to both St. Joseph and Mamma Mary.  Despite the test anxiety that settled in, I felt prepared with my studying and knowledge that I had a power squad in Heaven on my side.

During my prayer to St. Joseph I promised to make him known if I obtain the graces from God that I was praying for (wisdom, understanding, enlightenment).  So, when I walked out of my exam knowing I did totally average I began to wonder if I still had to make St. Joseph known.  Were my prayers answered? Did my prayers to St. Joseph make a difference? The night after my exam I brought this question to prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  Durning my holy hour, the Lord revealed a thing or two to me about the power of prayer.

Many times, we as Christians, can look at prayer as the magical words we need to say in order for our wishes to be preformed.  We look at God as a magical genie that, if He hears our prayers, will make all of our wishes come true.  This is so so dangerous.  For starters, this suggests that the prayers that the Lord doesn’t answer are not heard by Him.  This is not the case.  The Lord is all knowing.  The Lord knows your actions.  He knows what’s in your heart- what’s in your mind- always.  The Lord hears all of your prayers, answered or not.  However, that ‘not answered’ gets dangerous as well.  I was always taught that every prayer we say is answered in by God in one of three ways: no, yes, or yes but not yet.  This is how the Lord answers our prayers: with the knowledge of what is best for us, and the power to turn any trials into goodness.

However, I believe saints are a little different.  I believe saints only answer our prayers one way: yes.  This is because when we pray to saints, we pray for their intercession.  We are asking them to take our prayers to the Lord in a more perfect and powerful way due to their closeness to God in Heaven.  None of us, upon being asked by a friend to pray for them would say no.  Therefore, why should we believe that a saint- who is all the more perfect in practicing love- answer our request for prayers in any way but yes?  Due to this, I fully believe St. Joseph was up there in Heaven praying that the Lord would give me knowledge and understand as I took my exams.

So then the question becomes why did God not answer St. Joseph and my prayers in a more radical way? I have a sweet friend who always tells me that ‘the Lord will give you exactly he grade that you need.’  Now this doesn’t mean that we can slack on our studies because yes, the Lord will provide but we must remember that doing the Lord’s will requires both spiritual and physical work from us.  2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”  When we prepare for tasks both physically and spiritually, we can rely that the Lord will provide us with the results needed to fulfill His will.  I can personally testify that after studying, the Lord did give me exactly the grades I needed on all of my exams.  We must simply trust that the plans the Lord has for us are both filled with goodness and joy.

So, let us continue to ask our saint friends in Heaven for their intercession as we go out and trust in the greatness of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us.  All prayers are heard.  All prayers are answered.  St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us

 

Zeal for the Lord

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In 1205 AD, in a small town in Italy, a humbled man received a call from the Lord.  The Lord said to him, “Francis, build my Church.”  When I think of this story, I like to imagine St. Francis of Assisi hurrying with great love and joy to complete this call from God.  I imagine that he worked quickly and intently, putting all of his energy into this one assignment.  I imagine that, in the end, he stepped back from the San Damiano Church and looked upon his great labor with so much pride.  I imagine he said ‘Lord, I gave You my ‘yes’.  I accepted Your mission, look what I have completed for You!’  I then like to imagine the Lord looking down from Heaven upon His beloved child with great love and joy.  I imagine God smiling as He sees the masterpiece that His servant created for Him as an answer to the call He had given him.  I then I like to imagine God thinking, ‘What a great idiot.’

Now, I have a feeling this isn’t exactly how this whole situation went down, however, this story began my love for St. Francis.  It’s obvious to us that the Lord didn’t want Francis to build a church, but to build THE Church.  However, look at how St. Francis reacted to his call from the Lord.  Francis went out with zeal and a heart ignited with the Holy Spirit.  Francis wanted to do nothing but to do the will of the Lord.  So, he took up the cross of pain, suffering, and poverty in order to build a church.  Sure it wasn’t the ultimate plan the Lord had for Francis, yet it shows how passionate Francis was about the will of God.  For here we have Francis, completely and totally in love with Christ.  Completely and totally filled with zeal for the Lord.  Completely and totally wanting to do God’s will and believing he is doing God’s will.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Francis was living how the Lord calls us to: joyfully, prayerfully, and trusting that He will guide us.

So often we get so caught up in wanting to do the Lord’s will, that we end up doing nothing.  We pray for hours and hours asking the Lord to reveal His will for us, yet the signs the Lord gives us are not grand enough to satisfy our anxieties and we are constantly unsure if what is on our hearts is actually the will of God or just our human desires.  Often times we get so caught up in possibly being wrong that we never go out and try to do what is right.  We get so caught up in misinterpreting the Lord’s plan for us that we never take action to complete God’s will.  And then there’s Francis.  A man who heard the call of the Lord and immediately said yes.  A man who took on the identity of poverty to sacrifice himself to the Lord.  A man who, in striving to do the Lord’s will, ended up building a church instead of ministering the word of the Lord.  Yet, a man who trusted that the Lord would reveal His plans to him.   A man who without a second thought did exactly what  the Lord told him to (maybe just a little too literally).  A man who trusted the Lord would turn him around to follow His will as long as he prayed and kept an open heart.  A man who did build Christ’s Church.

We aren’t perfect.  Sometimes we may get turned around.  Sometimes we may renovate a building when we should be renovating hearts, but St. Francis shows that while yes doing God’s will is incredibly important, how you do God’s will is just as critical.  Do you think that God was ever disappointed in Francis for building the San Damiano Church? Of course not! I like to believe the Lord was overjoyed by Francis’ passion and love for Him.  God took that church, took the detour from the path of His will, and turned it into something so so good.  For Francis did this work of love with joy and with zeal for Christ.  We should all be like St. Francis.  We should all share in the zeal that he has.

Zeal is so important in doing Christ’s work.  One moment that has always stuck out to me is the zeal the apostles had right after Pentecost.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, these men went out and started to preach the word of the Lord in many different languages and with much love and excitement.  The people that heard were confused, and some said “they have had too much new wine” (Acts 2:13).  Peter responded “These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning” (Acts 2:15).  These men were filled with so much love, so much passion, so much zeal for the Lord and for the Truth that when people saw the joy they had they could only assume that they were drunk!  How crazy is that! How powerful is that!  THIS is how we should live our lives! Completely and totally radically filled with joy! So totally in love with Christ, so fully believing in His teachings that when people see us they know there is something different about us.  They know that we have something that they don’t, and that something is the Holy Spirit.

I have found many times we obtain this zeal for the Lord after important marks in our spiritual journey.  Many times after retreats, beautiful adoration hours, or intense times in prayer.  Many times, we come out of these ‘spiritual highs’ with a mission from the Lord.  Many times we leave so ready to complete this mission, so ready to do the Lord’ will.  Yet, many times a few days or weeks or months later, the zeal dies and we get lost.  We wonder if this is really the will of God.  We doubt.  We sin. We lose our zeal.  Friends, in these times let us pray to St. Francis to intercede for us to keep zeal burning in our hearts.  To keep our trust in the Lord the compass of our hearts.  To pray- yes- but to also not get so caught up in determining what the will of God is that we end up doing noting.  Let us pray that instead we focus on how to obtain the joy that God calls us to obtain.  If we pray and trust the Lord will always show us His plans.  We may go astray, but let us trust that just as the Lord made the San Damiano Church great, He too can lead our lives and our actions to greatness.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us

The Stone of Condemnation

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I’m sure we’ve all been to a Mass before and had a priest’s whose homily is just not sticking with us.  Right? I mean who hasn’t? Well today, my church had a priest from a different town come visit our parish. He was a lot different from our parish priests in the way he talked, prayed, and presented himself. At times, he would talk so fast it was hard to understand him. At other times, he would talk so slow his voice could lull you into a sleep. He was rather soft spoken and had a pretty much monotone voice.

This priest gets up to give his homily, and he’s talking suuuper slowly.  You could tell that people were having trouble following him. In his homily, he made an analogy that related being kidnapped to the season of advent. The point he made was actually very interesting. He asked everyone to imagine that they had been kidnapped and had no idea where they were.  Their kidnapper allowed them to have one phone call. He told us to imagine how urgently we would be asking our family members for help in that one phone call. We were told us to imagine how much we would be pleading for mercy and asking for help. He then says how this is very similar to the season of advent. How advent is not a time of celebration, but rather a season of sorrow. However, he said that in this sorrow, we can find hope – hope in Jesus.

He talked about how we have that phone call to Jesus, asking him for mercy and forgiveness from the things that have in a sense “kidnapped” us from the Lord. So, as you can see, the point the priest was making was actually really intriguing and important, but- unfortunately- the majority of the congregation was too focused on how slowly he was getting to his point to appreciate what he was saying.

Fast forward to the Consecration. Let’s just say the priest took about a decade to get through the entire Consecration. He took his time saying each prayer and paused for a minute while raising both the bread and the wine. NOW this is where my point is so stay with me!

Let’s recall the story of the woman who committed adultery in John 8. The Pharisees are condemning a woman who had committed adultery and they are planning to stone her to death. Jesus arrives at the temple, and the Pharisees ask Him if He thinks they should stone the woman. Jesus replies, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” One by one the people who had gathered began to leave.

 I read this passage not too long before I went to mass, and something that stuck with me was that we should never condemn another when we ourselves also sin. What makes us any better than the sinner standing next to us, and who are we to judge others for their sins when we have sinned ourselves?  During mass, as my friend and I giggled silently to ourselves about this priest, I though of this story in the Bible. Who was I to judge this priest? I wouldn’t be able to get up there and give a homily any better than he could.

In respect to the Consecration, I began to think how amazing each and every individual that God created is. I found beauty in the love this priest has for the act of Transubstantiation. I think sometimes we forget that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life. The Eucharist is SO important. For me personally, one of my favorite parts of mass is the Consecration. So, instead of looking at this priest and wondering when Mass would be over, I fully submersed myself in this moment of worship with him and just prayed. The silence and the pauses were, yes very long, but these are both very important things in our relationship with God.

I began to think how amazing all of God’s creation is. He could have made all priests think and act the same way, but instead we have some who excel in the preaching, some who excel in the prayer, some who excel in the works- together all making the Body of Christ. If we were all the same, Christ’s Church would not be nearly as beautiful or on fire with love!

So I thought I would just share this moment I had in church today with whoever may stumble upon this blog! I hope you found something just as meaningful in this as I have! Remember to never throw the stone condemning another, but instead find God’s beauty and love within them!

St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us