Tuesday, January 16, 2018

We are the Pro-Life Generation

There is so much misunderstanding when it comes to the pro-life movement. Often the Millennial generation is labeled as being too concerned with only an anti-abortion agenda, and not having any concern with the care of the child after he or she is born. This is so far from the truth because we understand that human life is sacred from conception to natural death, and ALL life deserves respect and dignity and should be protected by everyone around the world. 

It is important that the unborn are recognized as having the right to life just as much as the poor, marginalized, immigrants, refugees, and victims of human trafficking. The unborn are often forgotten as a part of the social justice agenda in the twenty-first Century and that is why young adults have become so passionate about protecting these innocent lives. The unborn cannot create an awareness for the issue of abortion as it is especially our responsibility as Christians to fight for their rights as a human being, and fighting against the evil of abortion is just as much a social justice issue as is fighting for the rights of those outside of the womb. 

It is also our responsibility to continue to support a child after he or she is born because pro-life also means providing for an individual by meeting his or her basic needs. We cannot be truly pro-life unless we are also willing to provide for the babies that we have supported in the womb by promoting an overall charism of life. It is our obligation to help provide care for mothers during their pregnancies, and then to help those same mothers to care for their children once they are born.

Some of these babies will grow up and become a part of the class of poor, marginalized, immigrants, refugees, or victims of human trafficking and we need to also be concerned with providing aide to them at these stages of their lives too. Then when these same children journey through the stages of life and become elderly, we need to ensure that these same individuals still receive our attention, care, support, and love during this crucial point in their lives too.

I am a strong advocate of protecting the unborn, and I am a strong advocate of protecting ALL life from conception to natural death because a baby in the womb is a stage of life just as much as a child or adult who walks around on this planet. It is important that those of us who have a voice use our voices to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Social justice covers a broad spectrum of issues, and all issues deserve the same amount of attention and support by Christians as well as non-Christians. We need to come together to solve these issues and stop causing division among one another. The right to life is a moral issue that we all need to address together, especially us Catholics. When we create division we are hurting those affected by these social justice issues because too much of our time is being spent on arguing with one another. We need to come together and support one another in defending ALL life.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

God, Are You Listening?

“But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.”
-Psalm 66:19

There are so many times throughout the course of our lives that we may feel that despite our prayers nothing seems to be happening and we feel like we are just left hanging in the balance.  How can it be that I am praying and praying and yet God is not listening to me or answering my prayers? Why is God allowing this to happen in my life? I think we have all been there at one point or another when our frustration level is rising and our quest for hope starts to fade and all we are left with is a dimming light, or so we think. God, as our Father, will never abandon us and leave us in the dark. God knows that we need him, and is always with us through thick and thin; both the good times and the bad times.

Especially, those of us that live in the city know how our lives tend to be on fast forward since the moment we get out of bed in the morning, the day just progresses at the speed of lightening, and that is how we expect our prayers to be answered…at the speed of lightening.  When we do not receive an immediate response automatically we tend to jump to the conclusion that God must not be listening to us.  Patience is not something we are accustomed to have in our daily lives, but it is important that we learn to have patience with God since He is always patient with us.  When we err in our ways and make mistakes we know because of our faith that God is right there beside us to pick us up when we fall, and sometimes even carry us a part of the way until we can stand back up again on our own two feet.

We tend as human beings to think that we know what is best for ourselves and that God needs to listen to us immediately and take action right away to fulfill our requests.  The truth of the matter is that because we are only human we can get caught up in the moment and blind sighted by our needs and our wants, and we can forget that sometimes God's answer to our prayers is not how we envisioned Him to answer our prayers. But He does and will answer our prayers. Also, it's not always in the time frame that we set for our prayers to be answered by God, but again we need to have patience.

When we are small children we rush to unwrap a gift tearing away all of the pieces and making a mess with all of the wrapping paper, but once we push the mess aside we are left with the gift. In our lives sometimes we have to get through the messiness to eventually attain the gift, but we will receive that gift although the gift may not always be what we expect or even want at the time. God's gift to us may not be what we envisioned for ourselves, but He hears our prayers and will answer them according to His holy will. We have to try to remember that even when things seem to not be going in our favor it does not mean that God is not listening to us, it simply means that we need to be patient because God has our best interest in mind, and knows what is best for us even if we think we know better.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The New Evangelization: Searching for the Lost Sheep

Think door-to-door ministry is only for those who are Jehovah Witnesses? Think again. Some Catholics are knocking on doors to help bring other Catholics back home to the Church as a part of the call to carry out the "New Evangelization".

A contemplative-missionary community of religious sisters, the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, who have their Motherhouse in Monroe, New York have an apostolate of doing exactly that; carrying out the "New Evangelization" in neighborhood parishes where they work on behalf of the Pastor who helps to guide the Sisters towards the Catholics who have strayed away from the faith.

How exactly do these Sisters carry out a charism of being neighborhood missionaries and help to strengthen the relationship that each person has with Christ to draw them closer to him? How can they encourage others to return to the Catholic Church? The Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate meet people where they are in their lives, and bring Christ to them through their "compassion and gentleness, while upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church". According to their mission statement on their homepage a conversation starter for a Sister when first visiting a home can be as simple as, "Has anyone in the household ever been baptized a Catholic?" and such a question can lead to a Catholic who has strayed away from the Church being evangelized again and coming home.

I first learned about the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate from the Council Superior of Women Religious website and from their magazine, The Parish Visitor, given to me by one of the priests at my parish. The Sisters publish monthly magazines that illustrate the amazing work that they do carrying out their mission of the "New Evangelization" to help fallen away Catholics to have a deeper relationship with Christ and to find their way back home. Such a charism of imitating the Good Shepherd and striving to bring the lost sheep home truly has touched my heart.

As a young adult Catholic I am sadly aware of the amount of Millennial Catholics who have strayed away from our faith, especially young adults on Staten Island. I attend daily mass as well as mass on Sundays and often I am one of the few Millennial Catholics in the pews. I have listened to the stories of broken hearted parents who long for their children who they raised Catholic to return to our Church. How beautiful would it be to be able to take part in the call to the "New Evangelization" and strive to bring them home? How can we imitate the Good Shepherd and strive to bring all of the lost sheep home?

"The Parish Visitors speak to the people, face to face, and heart to heart."
-Servant of God, Mary Teresa Tallon (Foundress)


Friday, January 5, 2018

Just Jesus and Me

Who is Jesus to me? So many thoughts come to my mind when pondering on such a question, can I put who Jesus is even into words? Can my finite mind really come up with words that are deserving enough to even describe him? How can I really and truly in word and tongue answer this question and describe the Son of God, and what he means to me? There are no words that will ever be satisfactory or worthy enough.

The Son of God is my Savior, he is my true Beloved, the one who I know gave up his life for me so that I can spend eternity with his Father in Heaven. As the Son having two natures he is both one true God and one true man as perfect God and perfect man who is present to me spiritually and physically in my daily life. I experience his love, consolation, and compassion everyday in the Eucharist as I receive his true presence during mass and I can see him through my Catholic faith.  He is the Bread of Life where each morning I am able to be nourished of a spiritual hunger that gives me the strength, courage, and energy to continue on the rest of my day knowing that Jesus is with me. I knew that as I discerned with different religious communities the one, major requirement for me now to even visit a religious community was their devotion to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. As a religious Sister I know that I will need to be sustained by the Eucharist by receiving him daily and I will need to spend time with him in daily Adoration in order to fulfill my apostolates and service for the Lord.  How can I serve God and his people if I am not nourished first by the Son of God? How can I imitate the works of the Good Shepherd if I myself do not experience his compassion and gentleness?

I know that as a human who is a part of the world I cannot live without him, and I would be nothing without him. He is why I live my life as he is always the light in any darkness and it is in the Catholic Church with the Blessed Sacrament that Jesus is always present to me and to all of us. It is by spending time before the Blessed Sacrament alone with him that I was able to become open to considering the consecrated life and to be truly open to the will of God when I was in my mid-twenties. I was finally able to say, "Fiat, let it be done". When I visit Jesus in Adoration even when the seats around me are filled with others in those precious moments I feel that it is just Jesus and me. I am looking at him and he is looking at me, it's just the two of us; my Beloved and me. It is through spending time with Jesus that I continue to hear that gentle whisper in my heart that my Father is calling me to the religious life. It is through visiting different communities and sitting in the quiet of my own heart during Adoration that I was able to truly feel where God is calling me, and to feel at home with such an overwhelming sense of peace and expectant joy as I await to enter into a religious community.



My Beloved
A virtuous Son
with hair the shade of deep autumn
cascading down about His shoulders.

A glistening complexion
and overflow of a serene and innocent gaze of
the mysterious traveler.

The reflection of divine grace,
a teacher,
a doer of splendid works.

Advocating with modest fervor,
and curing men with His words and touch,
He saved the world.

The Bread of Life,
The Foundation,
He laughs, He cries, He loves;
My Beloved.

 


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Making All Things New

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
-Rev 21:5 NASB

The year of 2017 has been a year of numerous trials and tribulations for so many men, women, and children. I know many of us are very much looking forward to the beginning of a new year where we can start anew and embrace a spirit of hope. We want to be able to allow the love of Christ to burn deeply within our hearts and then share his love with those around us.  It is difficult to forgive those that have hurt us or have harmed our loved ones, but whenever I look at the cross and each day when I place my crucifix around my neck I think to myself that God who so loved the world gave us His only Son to die for us. He died for us to save us from our sins, and He is a loving God who forgives us over and over again if we let Him. If Jesus could forgive those who led him to be hung on the cross, and the men who nailed him onto the cross, and those that watched him hang on that cross to die then I can forgive those who have hurt me. Is it easy to forgive, absolutely not. Forgiveness challenges us each day, but if we hold onto anger, pain, and hate then it only consumes our hearts and minds. I know I need my heart and mind to have room for the love of Christ, and if I am consumed with thoughts about what has happened to me and why did God allow such to happen to me and why do those who have hurt me have no remorse then I am allowing the devil to rent space in my head and in my heart, and he's not welcome there!

I began thinking recently about how difficult it is for so many people to move onward in their life and stay strong after facing atrocities, tragedies, hardships, and challenges.  How do you celebrate the coming of a new year with a beaming smile on your face when the previous year has left you with "nothing," but heartache and a feeling of loss, sorrow, anger, frustration, hatred, etc.?  That word "nothing,"is a lie because we are never left with "nothing" as a Christian. God never abandons us, NEVER, and we have to believe that, really, truly believe that as Children of God.  God gives us hope that no matter what we have endured in our lives that for sure tomorrow will bring us a new day. And each day will get a bit easier, and as we place one foot in front of the other little by little we move forward from dawn unto dusk and from dusk unto dawn.  

January 1, 2018 besides being the first day of the New Year is also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Octave of Christmas.  How more appropriate is it that we celebrate this feast day on the first day of the new year? We turn to our Mother, of course.  Mary is the Mother of God, and the Queen of Peace, and we know that as Catholics Mary will always be at our side as we journey on a path of hope towards peace in the world.  It is also fitting that this day is also the World Day of Peace where we have hope not only for peace in our own lives, but that all of those searching for peace will find it. 

May the peace and love of Christ be with all of you as we begin together a new year. 

Veni, Creator Spiritus 
Veni, Creator Spiritus, mentes tuorum visita, imple superna gratia quae tu creasti pectora. Qui diceris Paraclitus, altissimi donum Dei, fons vivus, ignis, caritas, et spiritalis unctio. Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae, Tu rite promissum Patris, sermone ditans guttura. Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus: infirma nostri corporis virtute firmans perpeti. Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus: ductore sic te praevio vitemus omne noxium. Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium; Teque utriusque Spiritum credamus omni tempore. Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis surrexit, ac Paraclito, in saeculorum saecula.
Amen.


 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Keeping Advent

OSV Newsweekly
It was the first Advent season that I would be out of the monastery, and I wanted to be able to take it all in; the beautiful hymns and hues of this special time that we have hope in our hearts and expectant joy as we await the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I sat there back in my home parish, the small church that I loved and missed so much during the time that I had spent away in the monastery for two years. I recalled the Advent season before I had entered the monastery, never imagining that entering into religious life would greatly test my faith. If someone would have asked me before I was in religious life if I ever thought that the feeling of the liturgical season of Advent would be snatched away from me, I would have chuckled at the thought of that happening to me. How can the sights and sounds of Advent be taken away from someone, especially someone who enters into a religious community?


During my time in the monastery yes, we celebrated Advent, but I struggled with having the feeling of Advent that I had back when I was home in my own parish. For almost twenty-five years of my life I grew up with the familiarities associated with the Advent season; purple or pink (rose) vestments, the purple or pink (rose) altar cloth, purple and rose (pink) Advent candles, the ambo decorated with the colors of purple and pink (rose), and then just like that it was all gone. Everything I associated with the reminder of the liturgical season and that we are preparing for the coming of Christ was just taken away from me without any warning and without a rhyme or a reason. I recall sitting there the first Sunday of Advent in the monastery and being completely heartbroken that the community made a personal decision to use blue for the liturgical season, and not because it had any particular meaning to them, but because they simply could make that decision, and they had been doing so for years. I never did receive a proper explanation for why they used blue, and I know that in order to make an argument in good faith one must also listen to the reasoning on the other side no matter how much it may seem illogical and irrational.  


Why does our Church use these essential elements for Advent and why does it even matter? Because Catholic means “universal” and whether I were to walk in to my own parish or a parish in Canada I know its Advent because of those gentle reminders in the liturgy and this common liturgy brings us even closer together as Catholics. I know that we are not yet in the Christmas season, but we are soon approaching the Nativity of the Lord as we wait in a period of “devout and expectant delight”. The colors of purple and pink (rose) are not just any old colors that the Church haphazardly chose to use for this liturgical season, they have been chosen because of their symbolism, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops shares with us the Liturgical Notes for Advent:

The liturgical color for Advent is purple, just like Lent—as both are seasons that prepare us for great feast days. Also Advent (like Lent) includes an element of penance in the sense of preparing, quieting and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas. This penitential dimension is expressed through the color purple, but also through the restrained manner of decorating the church and altar:  "During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord…[also] the use of the organ and other musical instruments should be marked by a [similar] moderation…" (GIRM n. 305 and n. 313)

The third Sunday of Advent is called "Gaudete" Sunday (coming from the first word of the Latin Entrance Antiphon for this day, meaning "Rejoice") and the liturgical color may be rose instead of purple. This is the Church's way of further heightening our expectation as we draw ever nearer the Solemnity of Christmas.

As I am spending this Advent at my home parish I have come to realize how much even more so I love my Catholic faith, and I love our Church, and the absolute beauty and splendor of the different liturgical seasons. My Catholic faith is not something that I am willingly going to push aside and give up, not even for religious life, and I know that God is not asking me to sacrifice my faith to be a Catholic religious Sister. There are opportunities in the Liturgy for variation during this season as well as the other seasons, such as the hymns that we sing during mass, whether during the Feast of St. Nicholas we use the Common of the Pastor for Bishops or the Proper for the Season, which of the Eucharistic prayers the priest will choose for mass, etc., but the symbolism of the Advent Season is not one that any of us Catholics should have to compromise in any way.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent of Hope: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel!

The liturgical season of Advent is upon us. We share the hope and expectant joy with our new Catechumens and Candidates that we welcomed today in our parishes. I love the purple and rose colored vestments, and the overall feeling of wondrous beauty that radiates in our Church and amongst our friends and family as we prepare for the coming of Christ. We have hope as we yearn to feel the joy of His love astound as we embrace the Son of God. We soon will enter into the Christmas season and the joy of the birth of Christ will ignite the fire within our hearts to spread his love for us throughout the year. The following is a poem I wrote for the liturgical season of Advent.



Advent

The beauty of change in sacred verse
ignites a faith burning in hope
with purple, velvet skies,
and pine firs bending to the gale.

The magnificent dusk
settles upon the starry sky
with bursts of light from the Creator’s flame
glistening throughout the night.


The advent fire
flickers in the royal hue,
preparing for Him,
we light the lamp
for the coming of the King of truth.


The evening bell tolls
at the quiet still hour
with sweet fragrant smoke
uplifted in prayer.


The color of majesty
guides the path so near
with the heavenly kingdom
in our mist
we make the way for him
ceasing our sorrow
and wiping away our tears.


Her fiat she gives us
with humility and grace.
God’s most precious gift
she brings us.
In bated breath we wait.

The Word lives on,
a branch from the tree,
the heart of heaven on earth,
we await the Prince of Peace.

With heightened expectation
the sweet, scented rose of hope blossoms
O Come O Come Emmanuel
we proclaim his great name.

Longing for the Christ child
we raise our voices in hymnal praise,
Rejoice again, I say rejoice
before the great O's chime in.

The day will come with
the Nativity of the Lord.
We will sing in joyful tongue
on the day which the Son of God is born.


Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Advent at Ephesus Album

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Called to be a Priest or Sister?

Even at a young age I have always had a strong love for my Catholic faith, but the possibility of the consecrated life as my calling never entered into my mind. I always knew I wanted to become a teacher, and that was all I had ever thought about since my childhood. It was not until I was in my twenties that I even considered a calling to the religious life as a religious sister.

At the age of seven one day after mass one of our parish priest’s took me aside and explained to me  the different sacred vessels, the altar, and the Tabernacle, and it was that day that I had my first real experience of the truth of our Catholic faith. For the first time in my life I found myself understanding the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and even at that age I understood that there existed something much greater than myself. Then when I was fourteen years old after viewing the “Passion of the Christ” with our parish youth group I found myself feeling that I had to write a poem about the love of Christ. I remember someone coming up to me and telling me how special my relationship with Jesus must be for me to write such a poem, and when the priest leading our teen group thanked me for allowing him to carry around a copy of it I shrugged off any deeper meaning of it. I loved as a teenager being able to volunteer at the local food pantry that was run by a community of religious sisters, but I never came across any sisters because whenever I had to contact the sister who was in charge of the food pantry I had my mother reach out to her because I could not bring myself to talk with or meet a nun.


 Once I moved forward on the track to become a teacher I felt I had answered my calling in life until I began to feel that something was missing, the feeling that there must be something deeper in life, I wanted to become closer to Christ. I was afraid to reach out to religious orders. I feared what my parents would think and so in my early twenties when I was in my last year of undergraduate school I brushed off the idea of religious life and halted researching communities despite me confiding in one of my friends one night that a seminarian friend of ours had inspired me to consider becoming a nun.
I remember his passion for his vocation to the priesthood and it was the first time I thought to myself, "What if God is calling me to become a Sister"?

After several years of teaching in high school there was a moment for me kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament after mass one Sunday when I realized that I was finally ready to be open to what God had planned for me not what I had planned for myself.  I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me and through the intercession of The Little Flower and the Blessed Mother I came to accept and found such a deep sense of peace in having a call  to religious life.


Young women and young men who feel called to the priesthood or to religious life want to have God at the center of their lives, and they yearn to be able to live out the values of the Gospel and the message of our faith in a truly authentic and counter-cultural way as a priest or religious sister. They want to one day share the beauty of the priesthood or religious life with others so that they can pass down these precious fruits to future generations of men and women who may be called to the priesthood or to the consecrated life. For millennial men and women to pass on these fruits they need to be first nourished spiritually before they can even consider a calling to become a priest or a nun.  It is difficult for young men and women to consider the priesthood or religious life because many times they do not have the support from family or perhaps even their friends. I wish someone would have come up to me when I was younger and said, "Hey, have you ever thought about becoming a Sister"? There is no harm in asking, and I know speaking personally I would not have been offended by such a question. It is so important especially in our culture today that we try do create as much as we can as Catholics an environment where young men and young women can be open to considering  a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. 
 
As young adults discerning the priesthood or religious life sometimes we are misunderstood and judged as the millennial generation, but His love for us compels us to remain open to the Holy Spirit to do that of His will, and to continue to discern the consecrated life despite what seems like an uphill journey. For Christ to be able to enter into our hearts and minds we have to open the door for him, and now that I have opened the door I still feel humbled that God would invite me to follow Him. I am awaiting the day when I will give my "Yes" to Jesus, and become a Bride of Christ as a living witness in the world in a religious community embracing one another in merciful love.







Monday, October 23, 2017

Story of My Heart

I remember as if it were yesterday when I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament and I felt this deep desire to want to do the will of God. I had considered religious life when I was in my early twenties, but I was in college and I was fearful of taking such a plunge into the unknown sea of pondering the thought of becoming a religious sister. What would my friends and family think?  After teaching for several years and receiving my Masters degree, and accomplishing exactly what I hoped and prayed to accomplish in my field; the career that I had hoped and dreamed of since I was a child, I was finally ready to be open to God's will for me. This was the poem I wrote after praying one day after mass and being still in the silence with only me and Jesus. It was then that I knew that I needed to be open to the thought that God wanted me to become a religious sister; the thought that came back to me several years after it first popped into my head. God writes our story for us, only if we let Him.


Blush of the Rose
A tale of burning desire,
and the collage of thoughts interweaving
an intricate fabric.

The yearning for a deepest truth,
the twilight echo of a gentle whisper,
and a seeking of the solemn, stillness.

A conflicting moment of grace
reveals the secret wisdom of the soul,
ignites the crimson fire, and elucidates
the hushed voice of a pulsating core.

The invitation of a divine love
inspires the intimate mystery for a passionate affair
with a sacred embrace.

A white shroud of snow conceals
the dusty surface,
and the first breath of spring
awakens the essence of a blazing splendor.

The glistening reflection of a brilliant glow
illuminates the flickering flame,
and a blushing rose emerges into
the shimmering, sunlight.