Longing for Spring

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It has been one cold, teeth-chattering  winter. This past Saturday, however, the D.C. region was visited by upper 60s, early Spring weather and it proved to be a day for everyone to finally enjoy being outside again. Ah, I long for Spring.

Jonathan and I had the pleasure of taking my sweet little nephew Joey out to D.C. We’ve been meaning to visit the National Gallery of Art’s exhibit Heaven & Earth: The Art of Byzantium for some time. I had a feeling my almost four-year old nephew would probably enjoy it as well so we brought him along for our afternoon in the city. Plus, he has been requesting me to take him to his favorite place–The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (this boy says the entire name too)–so we finally did afterwards.

When we got to the Basilica, we first walked around the Crypt Church. At a certain point of holding his hand everywhere we walked, I eventually let him walk on his own and lead the way, mostly because I was curious of where he would go.

After I showed him to bow before the Lord reserved in the tabernacle, he then led us to the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Health. It was a quiet late afternoon in the Crypt Church. Peaceful, still. It was just us in there.

I took a seat in the single pew to the left and Joey did the same on the right side. He looked at me and I smiled at him. My heart at that moment was swelling with joy at the sight of this child’s faith. Then, he knelt on the kneeler for about 10 seconds, got up, walked to the statue of our Blessed Mother and said a prayer along the lines of: “Dear Mary, Mother of Jesus, (he mumbles something here) … Daddy, Mommy, and Maggie. Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” He crossed himself and everything. Then he repeated this at least five times more.

While I am still not sure what his exact prayer was, I still smile today when I picture that moment (shown above) because in my mind I pray, “…but You do, Lord.” God knows our hearts–even the heart of this sweet boy! Even he is praying for his daddy, mommy, and baby sister. Even if he doesn’t comprehend all that is going on, he is praying joyfully!

Like I’ve said before in previous posts, it has been a challenging year thus far, but victory is ours. Maybe not now, but it will be. I can’t praise God enough for continuously speaking to me through Joey; a little boy with big faith. I pray for the same childlike faith.

I long for Spring–temperate and spiritual. But for now, we endure the cold and we patiently wait in prayer and trust.

Prayer to Our Lady, Health of the Sick

O Most Holy Virgin!
You were chosen
by the most adorable Trinity
from all eternity
to be the most pure Mother of Jesus.
O Tender Mother of the afflicted,
grant me under my present necessities
a special protection.
Relying upon the infinite mercies
of your Divine Son,
and penetrated with confidence
in your powerful prayers,
I humbly entreat you to intercede for me.
I beg you to obtain for me
the favors which I petition.

O Mother of God,
accept my salutations
in union with the respect
with which the angel Gabriel
first hailed you “full of grace.”

I beseech you,
O comfortress of the afflicted,
to obtain for me the favors and graces,
which I have now implored
through your powerful intercession.
For this end I offer you
the good works I do and sufferings I endure.
I humbly entreat you
for the love of the amiable heart of Jesus
with which yours
was ever so inflamed
to hear our prayers
and obtain our requests.
Amen.

LIFE

“These trials are graces, because they are occasions for pure faith.”

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Already at the beginning of this year, the Lord has presented quite a handful of opportunities for me to make acts of faith–my brother’s failing kidneys, financial woes, the death of my dad’s brother, months worth of unresolved issues at work, and the routinely challenges to grow in virtues I lack. Needless to say, it’s been a trying month. In hindsight, I’ve found it amusing reading my previous post from January 6 and the mention of having faith the size of a mustard seed especially because that was before the more recent developments unfolded. Thankfully, I  managed to keep in mind that if I can continue giving God continuous acts of faith, even if it’s just a little bit, He can move mountains. Miracles can happen. Miracles have happened and will continue to.

Since Saturday morning, I’ve had St. Mark’s “Calming of a Storm at Sea” Gospel reading in my mind. This has grown to become more meaningful in my spiritual journey in recent months because of a book I read that offered an alternate response. Instead of waking Jesus up during the storm and pleading, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” the author of the book offered this:

“With You, Jesus, I cannot perish; You are always in the boat with me; what have I to fear? You may sleep; I shall not awaken You. My poor nature will tremble, oh yes. But with all my will I shall remain in peace in the midst of the storm, confident in You. You are hiding Yourself, but I know well where You are hidden: You are in my heart. I do not feel it, but I know it. I believe in Your love for me and I believe in my love for You.”

I find so much comfort in being vulnerable with God. It’s not always easy, but there always comes a point when you just realize everything in life is out of your reach, control. With just one word, He can calm a violent storm. “Who then is this Whom even wind and sea obey? –this is a tremendous source of comfort particularly as I wait for Him to waken.

Moreover, God has been reminding me again and again of joy. I attended my community’s annual silent retreat two weekends ago and the theme was on joy (inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium). Last night I attended a talk and the theme was on joy. Even in the midst of suffering, I am assured of the security of my joy. Joy cannot be taken away because it was never mine in the first place. I also know that the cross you and I bear leads to joy, just as the cross Jesus carried to Calvary and eventually died upon brought about eventual joy. Through His death on the cross, He brought new life.

There is plenty to rejoice in.

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

Ever Ancient, Ever New

There is something about a newness, a clean slate. I find such relief in the concept of new, whether that pertains to a new year, a new month, week, day, a new perspective, a new idea. What a joy it is to be aware of the newness and experience a breath of fresh air, new beginnings, new hopes, new resolutions, or even old resolutions with new methods. There is an attractiveness in these new things, such as one would be drawn to new products, new music or movies, a new episode of a long-awaited TV show, or even the innocence and purity of a newborn child.

The emotion of going through something new is rejuvenating and winsome. New Year’s gives way of thinking in our minds the hope for a better life and future. And then before you know it, the last week of December has arrived and you realize you’ve done frankly nothing, or haven’t done enough to push yourself harder, or to challenge yourself to grow more intellectually, physically, spiritually, or relationally. Another year arrives and perhaps the cycle continues again. “I need to be better this year.”

People are grateful for new starts, as am I, and reflecting on this concept of newness has brought me to think of something new in regards to my life in Christ.

Ruminating on this newness brought way to thinking of Christ in the Eucharist.  The great St. Augustine of Hippo in his Confessions described Christ as [the] “Beauty ever ancient, ever new.”  Christ, who remains sacramentally present in the Eucharistic species has been present in our world for thousands of years ago, and yet, there is an ever newness that awaits us each time we encounter Him in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery that the mind of a human can never fathom. And it is in within this mystery, within this relationship with Christ can one experience invigoration, excitement, and appeal through beholding the Mystery of Christ’s true presence. It is in His presence do we experience a breath of fresh air, a new beginning, a new hope with the absolute trust that it will be fulfilled. Why hopelessly wait for the coming of a new year to recall all the things you need to improve yourself on when you are given opportunity to receive the Eucharist and spend time in the presence of our Lord who is humbly, yet sovereignly exposed to us in the monstrance daily?

This Eucharistic Sacrament is so deeply steeped into a history so rich and so ancient, and yet Christ offers newness of life, grace, and hope to us every single minute of every single day.

What a joy. What a relief.

This 2014, may we consider spending [more] time in front of the Lord with an open heart and a faith that can move mountains; recall the size of a mustard seed (Mt 17:20). So as we finalize or put into action our resolutions for this new year, may we consider the time that can be spent with Christ, Who will give us a wholesome sense of purpose in life, making it abound in sweetness.

“You breathed Your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and  I burned for Your peace.” –St. Augustine, Confessions

Christ the King Weekend

Day 22

Today I am grateful for Em, who brings me a lot of joy and laughter (that sounds like lyrics to a song). It only makes sense that her Twitter handle is @EManatejoy! I am also grateful for her guidance and all the wonderful coffee dates we’ve had thus far.

Day 23

I can’t remember the last time I got to lay on my mom’s bed with her and just talk about life. Though I still live at home with my parents, we have very different schedules so it’s challenging to find quality time. Because of this, I’ve grown to treasure the simple conversations over dinner or praying the Rosary as a family on a different level. Their countless acts of service day in and day out speak volumes. I am eternally grateful for their big and small gestures of love.

Day 24

I am grateful for many things today. I had the opportunity to do service with my teens all morning, sorting an overflow of food donations. I also got to cook an early Thanksgiving meal with my awesome volunteers and some teens for dinner, which was fun and hilarious. But the icing on the cake was spending the evening together in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. There is no place I would rather be with my teens than in front of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, our King (Happy Solemnity of Christ the King!). Our monthly teen holy hours are made possible by Fr. B, so I am also very grateful for him, for the Holy Priesthood, and his love for the youth.

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Day 21: Jesus, The Stranger

The Office of Youth Ministry gathered the CYMs of the Arlington Diocese for an early, but perfectly timed Advent Day of Reflection. Fr. Searby led us in reflection the entire day and posed quite a handful of questions to meditate on in preparation for the new [liturgical] year, which begins in just over a week. Two questions that resurfaced while sitting in my bed, reflecting on my day, were: “Who did I serve today?” and “What opportunity did I miss out on serving someone today?”

After leaving St. Louis, Jonathan and I stopped by Target since I needed to return something I purchased days prior. When we exited Target, we spotted an elderly man trying to break into his car because he got locked out. I felt so bad for him and as we walked past, I told Jonathan how I wished there was something we could do to help, though he replied saying that he wouldn’t know how to help. Once I got into my car, I sat there feeling helpless and so sorry for this elderly man. I hoped that saying a quick prayer for him would help.

We were about to leave (we drove separately) and Jonathan came back around to my door and told me he was going to see if he could help. Slightly confused, I got out and immediately followed suit. We got to the man’s car and Jonathan asked if he could assist him in any way. We also asked him if he had a phone to call AAA or a relative. Fortunately and eventually, after Jonathan moved a clothes hanger into the perfect position (at this point, the man was exhausted and I am sure lost strength after attempting to unlock the door for an hour), it unlocked the door! The man was filled with great relief and of course shared his gratitude to Jonathan saying, “I couldn’t have done this without you!”

I walked away with happy tears in my eyes and told Jonathan, “We didn’t even know his name! I want to pray for him by name!” The Lord was truly with us in that moment because, not only did we answer to the call to serve this man when we could’ve just left, but the Lord gave us this opportunity to serve. Serve who? So while I stated that we didn’t know the name of this man, my wonderful boyfriend promptly replied, “that was Jesus Christ.” That made me tear up even more. While we initially assumed that we couldn’t help, turned out we did help.

Jonathan and I had the opportunity to serve Jesus in the face of this stranger in such a simple, ordinary way. I am extraordinarily grateful for that and for the Lord speaking through Jonathan in such a way that deeply touched my heart and left me with much to reflect on tonight. “Who did I serve today?” Jesus Christ.

Day 20: Dear Sally

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful parish staff that is very supportive of youth ministry; I don’t take that for granted one bit. One of my dear coworkers, Sally, has been touching my heart from the very beginning. During my first month on the job, unbeknownst to me, she left in my office flowers and a heartfelt note of condolence and hope after she found out that my Mama passed away. Since then and up until today, she continues to check in on me and would often times send emails, in which she would reassure me of her prayers and support. When I would share with her upcoming events with the youth, she would always reply with something like “if my kids were still in high school, they’d definitely go to that!” to affirm the set plans.

What I am particular grateful for, aside from all of these mentioned above, is her strong, deeply rooted faith and how that has been such a source of comfort and peace to me, personally. Not just as a youth minister, but more so as a daughter of God. She only works part-time so I don’t get to see her as often as everyone else. However, there have been countless occasions when I’ve encountered her in the Adoration Chapel–random days, random times. Those encounters, while no words nor looks are always exchanged, kindle my own faith by her simple presence with Jesus. There is this desire to love God more when I see her love for Him. And there is a pure joy that emanates from her very being, which in turn brings me much joy and love of God and for God.

Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.
–Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Day 19: Community

Today I am particularly grateful for my community, Women Youth Apostles. We had our early Thanksgiving dinner tonight and my stomach was filled with food as much as my heart was with gratitude. Because of this community of sisters (as well as the brothers in Youth Apostles), I have immensely grown in my faith and in my ministry with young people. I am very blessed to have these sisters (present tonight and not) in my life who continue to be my iron-sharpening friends.

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