Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week

A year has passed and here we are, again, at Palm Sunday, the day that we cry out with our own voices, "Crucify him!"—reminding us that we bear the guilt for His wounds and death, He who gave himself as a victim out of love.

This year, I spent the Gospel in the mothers' room at the back of our church, nursing a wriggly baby who refused to sit still. Yet the force and meaning of this day—of the palms waving in the air, of the statues throughout the church veiled in purple cloth—was at the forefront of my mind.

Now that I am a mother, I find that I spend a lot of time thinking about which of the countless possible traditions I want to incorporate into our home and family life throughout the liturgical year. Our baby is still too young to know or remember what we do, so I still have time to figure it out, and I want to choose wisely.

This year, we are planning to attend a Tenebrae service on Wednesday night. On Holy Thursday, after evening Mass, we have big plans to visit 7 churches in our city, provided the baby cooperates. Have you ever done the 7 Church Visitation? I didn't grow up with this tradition, but high school friends introduced me to it, and I love the chance to check out some of the beautiful, new-to-me churches in my city of Chicago, which is known for its breathtaking church architecture. On Good Friday we will attend Stations of the Cross and I will probably make hot cross buns for Holy Saturday. Maybe dye some eggs too. Holy Saturday we hope to attend the Easter Vigil, my favorite liturgy of the year, and Sunday will be full of family and feasting at my mom's famous Easter brunch.

I'm curious to know, what are your favorite traditions for Holy Week and the Easter season? How will you be celebrating these holy days both personally and with your community?

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Grass is Greener

---by Aspirer

HE > I

Where God is... that's where the grass is greener.

I just want to see His glorious garden.

Right now I'm watering my own little garden, trimming here and there so it can look as much like God's garden as possible. Because I want my garden to be reminiscent of Him. I want people to look at my garden and think, "Wow, you know, her garden reminds me of Someone Else's." So I weed out what's ugly and plant what's beautiful: I'm planting lilies. And pansies. And roses. But sometimes the thorns on the roses prick me and I bleed. However, that doesn't matter since I'll do whatever it takes to get my garden. And sometimes those little episodes are what I need because they make me stronger, more knowledgeable; I'll know that using gloves next time is better, or holding the stem in a certain way keeps me safe from scratches. And the fact that I keep gardening despite these hardships testifies to God that I love Him so much that it doesn't matter if I get hurt. In fact, it proves that my love for His things is stronger because of those hurts.

And maybe some people will uproot some of my garden, or animals will come and eat away what I've planted. But, if I ask, the Master Gardener will notice that I'm struggling, and He'll come over and teach me how to do things right. How to fix those offenses. How to make things truly beautiful. And once my garden is complete, He'll take me to view His own perfect paradise, more vast and more brilliant than anyone's ever seen or heard.

I just have to keep going. As long as I'm faithful to keeping up what I have for love of Him, it'll be beautiful by the time I'm done.

Aspirer is 17 years old, Catholic, and homeschooled with a love for all things pertaining to God's truth and beauty. She considers herself somewhat a tomboy for all her athletic pursuits but certainly enjoys singing, dressing up, and dancing as well. She blogs at Heavenly Aspirations. Join her there with a cup of tea?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fiat: A Meditation on Courageous Trust

---by Holly Sino

Recently I finished...no, devoured the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Father Michael Gaitley. If you have not read this book you definitely should! I was so consoled by this retreat alive with the message of merciful love and trust that I decided to write a reflection inspired by the meditations and words of the work. So take a minute, relax, and allow me to share with you what the Lord has inspired in me.

Slow down, take a deep breath, and Allow yourself to come before the Lord just as you are. Imagine the Lord hanging in agony upon the cross. You want so desperately to help Him but you are suddenly aware that on your own you are empty handed and begin to feel helpless. This is the moment of ecce- coming before the Lord as we are in all of our weakness and brokenness, just like Mary came before the Angel Gabriel, just as she was- a handmaid of the Lord.

You slowly look up and are met with the tender gaze of our Lord. In His eyes you find mercy and an undying, passionate love. But then you look deeper, and you find something else. The Lord is asking you to let go- to surrender everything that keeps you away from loving Him completely.

Turning, you find yourself looking at a gentle woman in blue standing near the cross. As you approach the cross you realize that the woman beckoning you forward is Mother Mary. She lovingly takes you into her embrace and lifts you up to the Lord. There you again encounter the glance of mercy and communicate your "yes" to the Lord through this intimate encounter. This is the moment of our fiat- although the the mere thought attempting to imitate Mary's fiat can seem overwhelming, she being our model of holiness shows us how to live out our own fiat, just as God has called us in each of our own vocations.

As we come down from the cross, transformed by this great grace of our fiat, we contemplate the Lord's infinite love in the arms of our mother, and there we live out magnificat- while praising and glorifying our Lord and Savior.

You see, when we proclaim our own Fiat, the stores of grace fall in torrents from the heavens and transform our souls. In our moments of Magnificat, we are able to praise and glorify God in all that we do by being a living witness to His goodness and Mercy- simply by our acts of humble and courageous trust that are so precious and dear to Our Lord's sorrowing Heart.

And so the journey of faith goes on.... 

Ecce...Fiat ...Magnificat 

Holly Siino is a college student who loves coffee, writing, books, and Mary and Jesus of course! She currently works at an elementary school and is studying to become a teacher someday.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Sunday of Lent: Repent and Believe

Remember that time when we fasted for particular intentions through Advent last year?  We do, too.  So we thought we might do something similar to that for Lent here at CYW.  Respecting that it is Lent and so it is the practice to give things up individually, we will not be suggesting a thing to fast from; merely an intention for which to offer our fasting.  Please visit each Sunday during Lent for the Gospel, the week's intention, and a short reflection.

Sunday Gospel

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Mark 1:12-15


Please keep in your prayers this week all those who are homeless, particularly during the cold winter months.


As Father made the sign of the cross with ashes on my forehead, he whispered the words: "Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel."  It occurred to me once again that, in order to turn towards something, you must turn away from something else.  Perhaps it's just as important to know what you are journeying away from as it is to know what (or Who) you are journeying towards.

Christ meets us with nothing less than love and mercy.  As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux says, "God, the Creator of all things, is so full of mercy and compassion that whatever may be the grace for which we stretch out our hands, we shall not fail to receive it."  Let us ask the Father for the grace of true repentance, to make a good confession this Lent, and to draw ever nearer and more completely to His Sacred Heart.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Laugh Lines

---by Iris Hanlin

I was watching random video clips on YouTube during my off time the other afternoon, I stumbled across a Nat Geo documentary about the (often ludicrous) lengths some people are taking in order to preserve their youthfulness, to find their own “Fountain of Youth.”

I was shocked and saddened by the whole thing…

One man has devoted his life to practicing yoga and urine therapy in the mountains and another has undergone over forty plastic surgery procedures.  They’ve spent their life trying to obliterate any signs of it on their bodies.

I love my laugh lines and my crow’s feet and my scars...

The way I see it is: why would I ever want to get rid of them?

They tell me who I am.  They share part of my story.  Some of my memories.

That I care.  And maybe even what it is I care about.

Call me too heavy.  Call me too old.  Call me too skinny and young and naive.  But I'm not afraid of telling the world that I think I'm beautiful.

I'm not a narcissist.

I am just a girl.  I'm just a girl who is sick and tired of commercials and corporations and people telling me that I'm not sufficient and how I need to fix myself.

I like who I am, and I'm okay with the way I look.

Sure, I'm not perfect, but I am me.  And I am working on my flaws.

So what if I have a bit of a belly or the beginnings of crows feet around my eyes - I am comfortable with that.

I just want people to know that it is okay to feel beautiful, and that self-love is not weird (to an extent).  It's okay to feel comfortable in your own skin, even if it's not perfect, or up to the world's "standards," if you can even call them that.

I'm fit, I'm healthy.

I'm just right.

You are too.

Iris Hanlin is a 19-year-old second-year formerly-homeschooled journalism student in small town Michigan. She lives a somewhat nomadic life as a professional petsitter, director of public relations for her local pro-life group, photographer, and blogger.  She operates under the tagline "just a simple country girl with a passion for life and everything that comes with it," and the motto "ad maiorem dei gloriam."  She blogs at Country Girl's Daybook.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why It's Okay to Move Slowly


My inner cat is emerging today...rare but welcome. I'm curled up in an armchair in a patch of deep golden sunlight as the sun fades slowly and gently, trailing its beams down the window.

I set my cup of coffee down slowly because I can. Because I have the time to be slow...because finally, as a junior, I've realized that you don't have to rush. 

That you can move slowly. 

I smile, because I'm surrounded by freshmen and I remember being a freshman, being tense and worried, praying and hoping for good grades, rushing from place to place, from activity to meeting to study session to dinner, to all-nighter, and so on. 

And it makes me smile because now I understand why all the juniors and seniors I that met my first year in college were so relaxed. Because by junior year, you start to realize that rushing and hurrying, that stress and worry really don't add anything to your life. 

That all nighters and insurmountable amounts of homework are not battle wounds to be boasted of proudly. That sleep really is more important than anything else. That the world doesn't end if you don't make an A or have a 4.0 GPA. That sometimes the most productive days are the days when you do nothing related to schoolwork. That at least one hour of each day should be devoted to alone time, to taking care of yourself.

  Of letting your soul breathe. 

That sometimes, we need to show kindness to ourselves before we show it to anyone else. 

Sometimes it means taking ourselves to that favorite coffee shop and studying with a cup of heavenly caffeine, or deciding to take the trash out tomorrow because it's okay if you don't do it today or accepting that today is a t-shirt and ponytail hair day. Or it could be as simple as sitting in the sun, drinking up the sunlight and gentle strains of music. 

Either way, I'm glad not to be running and hurrying. It's my natural instinct, and I still have have to fight it. But it gets easier. So if you're a freshman who feels the weight of the world on your shoulders and a life that never stands still and a to-do list that never ends....


It will all work out. I promise. 

It may not seem like it right now. But I promise you will learn to slow down, to place importance in stillness, in steadiness, in walking slowly. 

Because honestly, dear girls, you won't get where you're going any faster by trying to rush. Just let it all come when it does. Stop trying to run this invisible race that you've been told you have to win, that you've been told you have to keep up with everyone else in it. 

You don't. So don't worry about that. 

You do you. Get sleep. Take walks. Read something for fun. Soak in the sunlight. 

It's okay not to rush through life. You miss all the best moments in between if you do. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Love Modesty

---by Valeria Marta Sesenna

Lately modesty has gone out of fashion, killed by movies and television that want to convince us that if we want to be noticed we have to be sexy. And sexy means too much makeup and not enough clothes. 

Actually the word modesty suggests not really reassuring images: for me a modest girl used to be someone who dresses like a sack of potatoes. Obviously I was wrong, but I still personally prefer to use the word classy. Coco Chanel used to say, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” It’s the same with modesty: when we dress too provocatively, we distract men’s attention from ourselves and we concentrate it on our body. They will be too busy watching our legs to notice us. And they are right: if we don’t respect our body, why should they? 

Obviously modest makeup is as important as dressing modestly. I think makeup is a very important part of a woman's appearance, both because the first thing people look at is our face, and because dressing modestly will be useless if our makeup make us look like Moulin Rouge dancers.

Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to be beautiful and attractive, but in the right way. We should always look classy and choose very carefully what we put on our face. First of all we must be appropriate. The same lipstick might be out of place in one situation and appropriate in another. Red lips are very beautiful for a party but at the office they can look a little weird. And also the same makeup can look beautiful on one girl and vulgar on another, depending on the shape of face, eyes and lips.

I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t use. I think you have to look at the mirror and try different looks to figure out what you feel comfortable in. 

For my face, I decided to do that for school/office simplicity is the best way: foundation, a matte eye shadow, mascara, and a nude lipstick or a gloss are perfect. I want to feel beautiful but also professional because I’m here to do my job and I want my coworkers to respect me. 

For a special event, such as a party, a friend’s wedding, or a date, I like to use sparkling eye shadows or pink lipstick. If I want to focus on the eyes, I leave the lip makeup very light, so I don't overdo it.

Once the outfit is completed I always ask myself: am I beautiful or hot? Will my dress and makeup make people respect me or will they think I’m inappropriate? Sometimes the answer means that I have to change  something or add more clothes. A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous, not naked or hot. Men watch girls dressed in a provocative way but they don’t respect them and don’t fall in love with them, so modesty is definitely the best choice if we want to be loved and not used.

Valeria Marta Sesenna is Italian, 22 years old and she studies law in Milan. She likes reading and writing about fashion and bioethics.