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Encounter

Rising to the Occasion

August 1, 2018

“He became so much involved with man that He Himself became man. Through Jesus, God became “an affectively attractive presence,” to the point that it would challenge our hearts forever.” (Fraternity Exercises- First Lesson pg. 11)

I am honestly not sure when I have read a more true statement.

Each and every day, I find myself in awe of the world around me, and the goodness and beauty that reside in my life.

Friends who text me to tell me they love me. Friends who ask for prayer. A new style of workout that is fun and engaging. A burning desire to know more and become better.

These things do not happen as mere coincidence. Jesus challenges my heart in every moment of every day. In the times when I have no patience but need an ounce more. In the times when I am tired but I need to give just a few more moments to be a listening ear. How often has someone given me these precious gifts- moments of peace and security in an otherwise troublesome world. How often someone has been the face of Christ to me.

I want to be like Him. I want to sit with the people whom I love and listen to their stories. I want to be a part of their story. I want to share in their experience. I want to be able to build others up when they need the support. I want to love at no cost, and love when there is not enough to go around in this world.

I want to rise to the occasion of this challenge, and never stop trying to be the person that He is asking me to be.

Trusting.

Loving.

Caring.

Gentle.

His.

Encounter

Your Life is a Gift

June 6, 2018

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Mr. Rogers

We live in a world that is in turmoil.

It seems like every day, we hear of someone else that we looked up to succumbing to addiction, peer pressure and darkness.

The news is full of unspeakable horrors that happen so frequently they seem common place.

Yet we live in a time where Mental Illness is still stigmatized, and often times, it causes feelings of great shame to ask for help.

Last year, I was involved in youth ministry when 13 Reasons Why was released. Having read the book a decade earlier as a high school freshman myself,  I was surprised to see the book brought to the “big” screen. I plugged through the 13 heart wrenching episodes so that the people I was working with would have someone to discuss the show, their feelings, and their life with.

I thought the story was complete, and as gruesome as it was, I felt it provided many talking points, and a common starting ground to open the door to those really difficult conversations.

But then 13 Reasons Why Season 2 came out. I debated whether or not I would watch this most reason season. People were saying it was even darker than the first season, and that it was difficult to watch.

Let me go ahead and confirm that:  it is difficult to watch. If you haven’t already watched it, and are planning to watch it, this is me encouraging you to watch it in a safe environment, with your parents, an older sibling, or someone you love and trust.

Mental Illness shows no bias. It can affect anyone. In fact, it most likely affects someone you know and love.

It may even be affecting you. 

In a time when the world seems dark, we need more people like you in it. We need the gifts and talents that you alone give to this world.

You are important.

You are loved.

You are Irreplaceable.

Your life is a gift. You may never know how many people you have affected with just your smile, but you, sweet friend, are a gift.

If you are having a hard time remembering this fact, please, don’t go it alone. Find someone to talk to. Talk to a priest, minister, therapist or counselor.

You are never alone. 

There is always someone in your corner.

I am always rooting for you.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-8255

Encounter

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

May 24, 2018

“How many times have we spoken about it and have we experienced it in our lives: the distance of our heart from Christ becomes distance between each other, so that we often feel like strangers to each other.” (Father Julian Carron, Fraternity Excercises 2018)

Something about this really struck me tonight.

Time is flying by at a pace I really didn’t believe to be possible, and as I look at my calendar, I am faced with the reality that not only has my hardest 6 months in recent past nearly come to a close, I also have done so without keeping in touch with any of my friends.

I have been so overwhelmed by the tenacity of my class, and my work that I have forgotten the people in my life that I love. I have pretty much become a hermit, surviving on Netflix and copious amounts of coffee.

So often in the past few weeks I have had someone that I love dearly say: “How are you? I miss you. I feel like we haven’t talked in forever.  I hope you’re well.”

I can only respond with the usual pleasantries of how nice it is to hear from the, and how I promise that soon enough I will be done with the craziness, and will be able to get back to being a human being again.

But reading this, I realize that my community, and the friendships that help me to the the best person I can be, are actually as important as I think they are.

They are important enough not to put on the back burner.

It is in these friendships that I come to encounter Christ, and the more that I think that I can do it alone, the more I close myself off to the mercy and support that God wants to give to me through these beautiful people.

Now look- I can’t make any promises. My weekends are still cuckoo bananas. I still go to class two nights a week. But if you’re reading this, and you’re one of those people who has been wondering if I fell of the face of the earth- shoot me a text or a message of some sort.

I miss you. I miss my village, and I can’t wait to get back into seeing you all again. Because I know that as soon as I fall into the rhythms of fostering strong and beautiful friendships, I will start to see God in my life on a regular basis again.

Encounter

Seeking Him In The Ordinary

May 3, 2018

“Man recognizes through every sacrament, what Christ is.”  (Giussani, Why The Church pg. 199)

This is one of the most true statements I have ever read.

I don’t remember my baptism, but I have been to many baptisms since then, and in that moment when the baby is covered with water, something moves in my soul. I am so excited for this tiny person to become a part of this great, big, universal family that we are a part of. The joy is contagious as family comes from near and far to celebrate this big occasion.

I remember receiving reconciliation for the first time after weeks stuck in a dingy basement studying my religious ed book. I brought a small list of my sins to the priest and confessed and asked for forgiveness. I still receive this awesome sacrament (albeit, not as often as I should) and the peace that I feel as the priest (usually a friend of mine) utters the words of absolution stir a deep sense of awe in my soul.

I remember receiving my first communion. I picked out a tiny white dress and a simple veil. I practiced really hard not making a face when eating raisins (a food I really didn’t like so it had to compare to wine… right?). Each day when I walk to the altar to receive the Eucharist I am humbled to know that the savior of the universe stands before me, and wants to spend time with me and give me extra graces.

I remember when I received anointing of the sick for the first time. I had a major surgery coming up, and the priest gave me this sacrament so that I could be ready for what was ahead. As he anointed me and said the prayers, I was overcome with gratitude that we have a gift that helps people to be ready to come face to face with their maker, should that day come.

I remember the day I got married. Looking into my husband’s eyes and promising that in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, till death to us part I would be there. And in that moment I had goosebumps from the grace that poured out on our marriage. Marriage is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done- but it has taken a lot of hard work and sacrifice that is fueled by the graces we received from those promises.

These sacraments brought me to an encounter with Christ at very important moments in my life. They also help me to continually seek Him when I show up on a ordinary day. How lucky are we that these are available to us at all times?!

 

Encounter

Reaching Out For Our Goal

April 26, 2018

“The existence of a person who believes must be bonded as one with the object of his faith, for man is only himself when is convinced, enlightened, and reaching out for his goal.” – ( Giussani, Why The Church pg. 197)

Last week we talked about the freedom that comes in being made to be one with Him;  a striking idea that I don’t often sit with.

This week, as I read this line in particular, I am captivated by the truth that my existence is utterly entwined with the full pursuit of reality.

I have a lot of opportunities to think and drive at this current phase of my life.

And I keep having this recurring scene play out in my mind each time I drive.

Right now, God has closed quite a few doors in my life. Honestly, it sometimes feels like I am never going to catch my break and that He is just going to keep slamming doors in my face.

But as I have started to think about who I am, and what I want, I am starting to gain a much clearer picture of what my end goals are, and how I can possibly get there.

In this scene, I am standing in a dark hallway and just as I am about to start jiggling the handle on the door in front of me, one on the opposite side of the hall creaks open just enough to let a sliver of light out and make me wonder what is behind that door.

Now, I have two options. I can keep trying to open the door in front of me (even though it is clearly locked and is not where I am supposed to be going) or I can head towards the one that is open and kick it down Dean Winchester going in for a vampire style.

Clearly the Dean Winchester option is far superior. But… am I gonna do that?

Honestly? I have no idea.

What I do know, is that I am suddenly faced with a re-evaluation of my hopes, dreams, and goals, and need to start really diving into what that looks like.

In this re-evaluation, I should be able to come to grips with the truth of my reality, and start to move towards my end goal again- making me free and fully alive.

Have you ever taken the time to answer the questions “Who am I?” And “What do I want?” [This is a post for another time, but now that I have thought of it, I will try to figure out how to squeeze that one in!] If you haven’t, I highly recommend giving it a shot. It really helps to clarify things.

goals

Encounter

The Power of Creativity

April 18, 2018

“The more powerful a person’s creativity is, the more the person’s creation has, so to speak, personality. It exists, lasts, and affirms itself as time passes. This, in fact is the characteristic of a work of art, just as everything born of God’s genius and infinite power acquires an unmistakable identity of it’s own, for the simple reason that it participates in God.” (Giussani, Why the Church, pg 194)

Have you ever heard the phrase “made in His image and likeness”?

I have heard it countless times, in so many different capacities. You are worth it, you were made in His image and likeness. You should help this person, after all they are made in His image and likeness. Stand up for this cause. Vote for this politician. Don’t wear this. Don’t watch that. Only listen to praise and worship.

This idea that being made in His image and likeness limits me to looking and behaving in a cookie cutter way always bothered me. It seemed like the things that made me most myself were the things the church didn’t want me to be.

But what if being made in His image and likeness gave me an absolute freedom to continually seek His heart and become who I was meant to be, in a way that allows me to still be me?

This quote explains perfectly to me (a creative artistic, type), what being made in His image and likeness means. God the Father as the master creator made me. Not to be his carbon copy. But to bring glory to Him through being the best version  of me that I could possibly be. He created me to have my own personality, and to constantly be striving to find Him in my every day encounters.

As I read this quote, something stirs deep in my soul. I am His work of art. And He created me- all of my good qualities and all of my quirks. He loves me through my imperfections and wants me to constantly work towards being the best I can be.

So, what does that look like?

Jack’s Mannequin on my morning commute. Law & Order SVU when I can’t sleep at night. Bible Study with my friends. School of Community. Instagram stories. Morning hikes. Tom Clancy novels.

Maybe I am biased, but… that looks like a pretty normal twenty something woman  to me. God didn’t create me to be placed in a box. He created me to be fully alive and to constantly be striving towards Him.

YOU are an irreplaceable work of art. YOU are His incredible creation.

What does this journey look like to you? I want to know how you encounter God in your daily life.

 

Encounter

The Perilous Voyage

April 12, 2018

“To put the matter another way and use a metaphor much favored by antiquity, the man who has partaken of this mystery has already made harbour in the next world and is nevertheless on a perilous voyage; he carries upon his soul the seal that gives him clear passage upon his heavenward journey, yet during that journey his enemies, the evil spirits, still lie in wait for him…” (Hugo Rahner, taken from Why The Church pg. 191)

No matter how many times I read this book, this passage will always stand out to me.

In this section of reading for School of Community, Giussani spends a good amount of time discussing the sacraments in relation to man’s freedom. This is something I at one point struggled with. Confession and weekly communion seemed more like rules I had to follow than an encounter I could freely accept.

Once I had come to grips with my freedom in relation to the church, this passage really began to make a lot of sense to me.

If I was created for eternity, and my whole life is geared for moving towards that destiny, than everything I do should bring me one step closer that reality.

There is a sense of wonder and mystery that come with the sacraments. A person that you see during the week, sits in persona christi and can forgive your sins. A small piece of bread becomes the living God.

Each time I participate in these sacraments, I move one step closer to my end goal, one step closer to my final destiny.

The idea that always strikes me is the one that states that I basically have a ticket that I show the conductor that says my end goal is eternal life. I have a direct route, but along this route there will be so many moments when I want to get off the train.

This desire to get off the train is an every day battle. The world is big and offers so many good enough things that sometimes, I lose sight of what really matters.

But the sacraments that I freely participate in are the very things that give me the strength to try for just one more day.

I recently committed to going to confession once a month instead of twice a year. In fact, it’s actually probably time for me to call my priest and set that up since we are half way through April.

I also try to go to daily mass as frequently as possible, to continue to receive that extra grace.

What sacraments do you participate in on the regular? I’d love to hear your experiences with encountering Jesus in these awesome tools the church has given us.

 

Encounter

Osmotic Pressure

January 25, 2018

“The Church communicates truth through a method best described as osmotic pressure: it is by remaining within, by living within the ecclesial community that, almost by continuous osmosis, these truths penetrate the membrane of our consciousness, day by day, in an incalculable way, enabling us to attain that certainty and clarity of truth which we need to face life.” (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church?)

There is something astounding about this thought. The thought that a church could be passed along for thousands of years through community in the most passive of ways stops me dead in my tracks.

This community I call my faith was built on sharing experiences together. Just the every day life kind- a shared meal or a much needed coffee date. Sure documents and teachings are important but… sharing is even more important.

So often I feel like I am too busy to even shower every day, let alone make the time to find Christ in the people I surround myself with. Stopping to think about that today, I have to wonder… if Peter or James or Andrew or any of those crazy people who dropped everything and followed Christ didn’t have time for community experiences… would we even have a faith today?

This kind of smacked me in the face. Just as I was starting to think I should become a hermit for the next year or so, I am reminded that not only do other people experience the truth by being with me, I experience the truth by being with them.

And when I find goodness, truth and beauty in my every day life, I am able to face the good, the bad and the ugly that comes at me each and every day.

That seems worth it to me. Whats a couple extra hours taken out of my only free night of the week? Sure I could be binge watching Homeland (an awesome experience in it’s own right, don’t get me wrong) but I also could be encountering beauty in the people that I call friends.

I am going to work on finding that balance- between self care and friends. If anyone knows how to do it, please let me know! 😉

Encounter

Christianity is a Love Story

January 17, 2018

“Only Christ gives meaning to the whole of our life. Fr. Giussani always kept the eyes of his life and of his heart fixed on Christ. In this way, he under- stood that Christianity is not an intellectual system, a packet of dogmas, a moralism, Christianity is rather an encounter, a love story; it is an event.” (J. Ratzing- er, Homily at the Funeral of Fr. Giussani, February 24, 2005, in The Work of the Movement, p. 297)

Christianity is a love story. What a powerful statement. This person came to us, lived with us, breathed with us, died for us, and brought us new life because He loved us.

It is so easy to make Christianity about rules and regulations. And though I hate to say this, it is so easy to make Christianity a popularity contest. Look at how well I follow the rules. Look at all the things I do. Look at how good of a christian I am.

But this misses the point entirely. Jesus didn’t come to be the most popular. On the contrary, he was quite the opposite. Not only was he born on the outskirts of town, but he was from the super out there parts… Nazareth. *shudder*. I mean… I’ve never been there but from what I gather, he wasn’t really the coolest kid on the block. He lived an ordinary life. Learned a trade from his adopted father Joseph. Then went out and hung out with people. He talked to them. Welcomed them back into his parents home for dinner (probably). Walked with them. Listened to their sorrows. Mended their broken hearts. Healed their weary souls.

This is the point. Jesus met people where they were at, and loved them. These encounters changed them, and made them want to tell everyone to come and see what this guy was all about.

I want to be like that. When I should be doing chores, I want to take the phone call of the friend in need. When I want to be watching netflix, I want to open my doors and welcome people to share in my family, in my small community located in the back corner of the condo complex that their GPS won’t be able to find. When I don’t want to wake up early, I want to rise and make my morning an offering for someone else.

I want everyone in my life to come to know Jesus because they have spent time with me. This is the true spirit of Christianity. A living, breathing, encounter that brings each of us closer to Christ with each dinner, cup of coffee, or letter written.

I want this Christianity.

I want this love story.

Encounter

Pressing Pause and Resetting

January 11, 2018

“Maybe in this period I did ‘everything,’ but I lost myself. This ‘everything’ without Christ is emptiness. In fact, just as He gives everything to me, so He asks everything of me. I realized that I was living Christianity without Christ.” (Davide Prosperi, Page One: At The Beginning It Was Not So!)

Do you ever have the feeling something was written exactly for you, in this exact moment that you are living?

This line from Page One is that feeling for me. For the past year I have gone to mass every Sunday, even gone to mass a couple of days a week if I can swing it. I have purchased multiple journals, I read daily reflections and attended a bible study. I volunteered at a youth group, started picking up holy hours all over the place and went through the motions of what I believed a “really good Christian” should look like.

But as I went through these motions, I started to feel dead inside. I am exhausted. I am burnt out and I most certainly have been living Christianity without Christ. That sounds like an oxymoron. You can’t do that… can you? I thought the same thing, but upon reading this small part of this article, I realized that is exactly what I have been doing.

This is a major wake up call for me. I need to be encountering Christ each and every day, and honestly? It makes so much sense that this is what I am lacking. I have been so focused on helping others to find Christ, and letting him use me as a vehicle for that encounter, that I have forgotten to encounter Him myself.

School is stressful. Work is a lot. But this weekend, I am going to try to get back to the basics of this thing we call christianity. That is the whole point of this blog isn’t it? To seek beauty in the common, to find Him in all things, to make my life real and full and lovely.

This weekend will be about slowing down. Finding His love in my cup of morning coffee. Feeling his presence as He helps me to make the time to do my homework, and spend time in the office and do all of my laundry. Establishing a routine and practicing self care so that I am in a good place mentally, physically and spiritually. This weekend is going to be a reset.

I don’t want to live Christianity without Christ any more. I want to find Him in all my great big adventures, and in all my mundane everyday tasks. And I hope that in finding Him in everything again I can better serve Him and follow His plan for my life.

There are so many things that are unknown. But there is so much peace in knowing that He has it all under control, and all I have to do is find Him.

Cheers to the long weekend, and to rekindling a sense of Him in your life.