Friday, November 21, 2014

First Comes the Fast, Then the Feast

First of all, may I formally congratulate our very own Laura @ Life is Beautiful on her recent engagement!  Ladies, her post about her engagement is so, so, so beautiful and genuine.  Laura, best wishes and many, many prayers as you and your man begin formal preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage!

Secondly, my last post about praying for one's future husband received such a positive response that my mind went racing a wee bit.

Encouraged by the response, I wonder if anyone would be interested in fasting together for a particular intention.  I'm thinking of a weekly fast (yes, fasting for the entire week.  It might be a good preparation for Lent, especially for those who are not accustomed to fasting); the thing to fast from (which is certainly not limited to food, especially for those of us who have health concerns and/or dietary restrictions) will be up for discussion on CYW's Facebook page and I will formally announce it on Facebook by Sunday of each week (no fasting on the Lord's day!).  The week-long fast will be from Monday to Saturday evening -- Sunday begins with the vigil on Saturday.

We will begin our weekly fasts the First week of Advent (Nov 30), so please visit our Facebook page to see this post's link and we'll begin discussing what to fast from for the first week.

As this is inspired by my previous post, our first intention for the fast will be our vocations in general.   Many (most?) of us are still discerning, which -- at least in my experience thus far -- is a very difficult, and often a painful, place to be.  Those who have found their vocations are more than welcome to join us in fasting and pray for your intentions for your vocation.

The beauty of fasting together is that we can all pray for each other's intentions (this first time being all of our vocations) as well as our own.  'Catholic' means universal and the reality of this, especially when considered through prayer, is incredible!

Also, in light of this weekly gathering and in the interest of enhancing a group conversation, I am also wondering if anyone would be interested in a Facebook group (in addition to the previously established page).  Several of us here at CYW feel that the page is there to talk "at" people; we would like to mingle more and actually have a conversation with the beautiful ladies who follow this blog.

We look forward to your thoughts via comments here and/or on Facebook!  Many blessings 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CYW Book Club: An Interview with Colleen Carroll Campbell

Here it is, ladies! I couldn't wait until Thursday to share it with you! I'm so inspired by Colleen's words. What a delightful gift and privilege for us at CYW to have her share them specifically for us. Please keep her and her family in prayer as we thank the Lord for helping us grow closer to Him and His saints through her book My Sisters The Saints

An Interview with Colleen Carroll Campbell
for the Catholic Young Woman Book Club, Fall 2014

Laura: Hi Colleen! Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview! Our Catholic Young Woman book club has been thriving on My Sisters The Saints these last several weeks! With all that is going on in our world today, it can be difficult to be a young Catholic woman striving to follow Christ and His Church. What would you say is the most important focus for young Catholic women today? How can we balance being in the world but not of it (both contemplative and active), influencing the culture without compromise?

Colleen: These are tough questions, ones with which I still struggle at times. The best I can do is to point you to the advice we read in Scripture, and hear echoed by the saints: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes 5:16 – 18). I think that sums it up well. We need to maintain our joy, even when we feel outgunned in a culture hostile to our values. We need to put prayer first, since that’s where the Lord speaks to our hearts and tells us how to navigate the trickier circumstances of our lives. And we need to maintain a spirit of gratitude – for our faith, for the blessings in our lives, for the chance to be part of Christ’s redemptive work on earth, despite the suffering entailed. I don’t always do these things terribly well, but this is the ideal. And it’s worth striving for, even if we find ourselves falling short of it some (or most) of the time.

L: Can you share about your daily prayer life? What disciplines do you recommend? What helps you connect with God each day?

C: My prayer life has changed quite a bit since I had children. My favorite, most restorative time of prayer remains my Eucharistic holy hour, but what was once a daily habit is now more of a weekly one (though I often manage shorter chapel visits during the week). The same goes for my daily Mass attendance, which is now more like Sunday plus one other day per week. My husband and I continue to say our nightly rosary, a real blessing for us personally, for our family, and for our marriage. But much of life as a parent of little ones is a sprint – near-nonstop motion from the moment you wake up until the last little one goes to bed, and even after that, as you hurry to finish all the things neglected during the whirlwind of the day before your own exhaustion sets in. I find that brief snatches of prayer – morning offerings, the Angelus (when I remember) and simple, in-the-moment pleas to the Holy Spirit for guidance – are crucial to my spiritual life these days. I’m asking for God’s grace throughout the day, and with four children ages five and under at home, I need it! I think we all need it, of course. A house full of little ones can just make that more apparent.

L: A question from one of our readers, Elise: What practical advice do you have for us on how to grow in friendship with the saints?

C: Read their works. That’s the way I started my journey, and I think that’s the best entry point for most of us. As you read their life stories, told in their own voices, you realize how alike we all are, how our struggles as women and as daughters of God really are universal. Of course, I’d also advise prayer. Ask the women saints you admire to intercede to Jesus for you and your intentions, then keep your eyes open and you’ll see their responses. And ask the Holy Spirit which saints He wants you to get to know. Time and again, even since I wrote the book, I’ve found certain saints put in my path and I know it’s the Lord trying to tell me to get to know them and learn from them.

L: It was such a joy to read about the six saints in your book and see them come alive and be such timeless examples for women. Since writing My Sisters The Saints, have you developed any new friendships with saints?

C: Yes. My husband and I have been in something of a Franciscan phase for several years now (since well before the election of Pope Francis, actually). We named our third child Clara when she was born nearly three years ago, in honor of St. Clare and St. Francis of Assisi. Our fourth child, Joseph Francis, got his middle name from St. Francis of Assisi. I’m very attracted to the joy, simplicity and radical Gospel witness of these two figures. A great antidote to so much of what ails our world today.

God has also been putting a lot of pointers toward Catherine of Siena in my path lately. She’s a Doctor of the Church, a brilliant woman whose deep prayer life overflowed to make a tangible mark on the Church and the culture of her time. She exemplifies the Dominican ideal: “to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation.” That’s what I aspire to do in my own life and work. So I’ve been wanting to get to know her more, and learn from her wisdom and example.

L: I speak for all of us when I say we have been so blessed by your book. Through it, we've gone deeper into relationship with our Lord Jesus, His Mother, and the saints who have gone before us. God has certainly used you to speak to our hearts. How can we best pray for you in return? What are your prayer intentions we can lift up?

C: Please keep my family in your prayers, that each of us may do the work God has for us and, ultimately, become saints. I know that sounds a bit audacious (and anyone who knows me knows I have a long way to go!). But the universal call to holiness is exactly that: universal. It’s not just for priests and nuns or some elite caste of professional Catholics. Each of us is called to become a saint, and we can each play a part in transforming the world for Christ. As Catherine of Siena put it, “If you are who you are supposed to be, you will set the world on fire.” I think our world could use more souls on fire for Christ. I’d like to be one of them.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.

This fairy tale has had its share of fire-breathing dragons, damsels in distress, and tangled forests.

And to be honest? It probably will continue to.

But that's okay...“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 

Our tale?

Once upon a time we met in Summer 2011 at a church picnic. He fell head over heels. I was dating someone else.
The photographer claims she knew it was coming...

I joined as a chaperone for the mission trip in Spring 2012, no longer in a relationship.
Now I fall head over heels for this incredible spiritual leader.
Who also has all the charm of, well, you know, Prince Charming.

So we work together,

We laugh together.

We serve together.

But life gets messy. Really messy sometimes.

We wonder if God is really calling us to play on the same team.

We ask for a little help from our friends...

A lot of time, tears, grace, and growth. Dragons being beaten. Dark forests being traveled. 

And then one day...


He proposes. I say yes. 

And we live happily ever after.
Well, kind of. Because the goal of marriage isn't to be happy...
It's to be holy.
And to get to Heaven, where we'll be eternally happy.
So we're on this journey together with the hope of a happily ever after.
The end.

Just kidding. It's only the beginning. And I'm beyond grateful to be walking this path with this man whom I admire, respect, and love so deeply. What a gift. What an incredible joy and blessing from above. Thank YOU for your faithful friendship as a reader, for staying with me through the storms and sunshine. Please continue to do so, for I treasure you and love sharing life with you. Pray for us and know that I pray for you.

Life is beautiful. 

"Every person's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers." -Hans Christian Andersen

[Originally published on Life is Beautiful]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 7, Chapter 6}

Ladies, I cannot believe this is our last chapter!! What a gift this book has been! I received the responses from the interview with Colleen and I'm SO excited to share them with you! She is so beautifully authentic and sincere. Stay tuned for that! We'll also have a final discussion on the book, so it's not over yet. But for now, the questions for this week...ponder them, journal them, share them with us. 

Chapter 6: Triumph of the Cross 

Colleen writes about how her esteem for Mary grew gradually, and the more she turned to Mary, the more she felt drawn to loving, serving and imitating her Son, Jesus. In what ways has devotion to Mary led you closer to Christ? In what ways has following Mary’s example helped you grow in virtue? Colleen’s yearning for motherhood was her own cross to carry, but it also made her dependence on God that much stronger. What trials are you most thankful for? How have they deepened your faith? After having read of Colleen’s closeness to six saints, which saints would you like to learn more about, both in reading works and through prayer? 

Catching up or looking back? Here are the rest of the weeks' links:

Introduction/Note to the Reader
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Praying for Your Future Husband

unrelated photo... sorta ;-)

Marriage is on my mind today because it's the first anniversary of my sister and brother-in-law's wedding and I love that today's feast (the dedication of the basilica of St. John Lateran) works so beautifully with the Sacrament of Matrimony as Andrew and Anna began their domestic church one year ago today.

Like many girls, I dream of one day keeping house with my man.  I smile to think of welcoming him home from work but probably only after our children first smother him with kisses.  I could expand quite a bit on this dream, but that would actually be contrary to my point with this post. *grins*

In the midst of these dreams -- though quite healthy and natural -- there's a temptation to obsess on the thought and think exclusively of this fairy tale life.  Even in praying for one's future spouse, there's a temptation to entertain such distractions.  Yes, it is invaluable to pray for our vocations in front of the Blessed Sacrament (be it during Adoration or at Mass) but it is also important to remember the prayer of a sacrifice.

During their courtship, my now-brother-in-law was advised to pick a day of the week in addition to Fridays to abstain from meat as a sacrifice for my sister's intentions.  In a similar fashion, there is the option for us of fasting from a particular food, dessert, social media (or even just a particular website), choosing to do a particular chore with a genuine smile or offering some other small sacrifice as we go about everyday life that would bear much fruit and better prepare you for the man that God is also preparing for you.

I was 19 years old when I got my ears pierced (wait! hold on! I promise, it relates!).  Though I frankly was not especially excited to get them pierced (the outing was a Christmas present and the occasion was a girls' night with my mom and sisters), it did not take me long to discover that I really.really.really enjoy wearing dangly earrings.  I even once told a girl friend that I'd love for my future husband to buy me dangly earrings as gifts (unless he wants to make them himself, but I'd be surprised ;-).  Earrings would be lovely gifts then; prayers, including even especially the smallest acts of sacrifices (done with great love) are the most priceless gifts I can give him now (and, of course, then).

So, pray, dear sisters.  Pray hard and take every opportunity to offer a small sacrifice.  Your man is alive today and is subject to every temptation the world has to offer.  He needs your prayers; needs them desperately.  Every little prayerful sacrifice of dying to yourself allows the Holy Spirit to transform you little by little into the woman that God created you to be.  Live abundantly, and God will greatly reward you both.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

disclaimer: I'd have shared a practical gift a wife could buy for her husband instead of the earrings example, but I don't yet know my future husband's preferences and decided that beer was inappropriate...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 6, Chapter 5}

Is it just me or are these weeks flying by?! I was reading our book in the Adoration chapel yesterday afternoon and it brought me to tears yet again. Such a beautiful, inspiring story that makes the saints come alive and the reality of their friendship so powerful. I'm so sad we only have one more chapter! Here are the reflection questions for this week's chapter:

Chapter 5: Into the Darkness 

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote about the overwhelming darkness she experienced, even though her entire life was dedicated to God. Despite her depression, though, she never faltered in her good work. Is this frightening or reassuring? Why? When speaking of her infertility and waiting to know whether she would ever be a mother, Colleen’s mother told her that the waiting itself was her cross to bear. What crosses have you had to bear? Which are you currently bearing? How is God seeing you through? When has God made you wait for something you really wanted? How did the waiting stretch your faith? 

Catching up or looking back? Here are the rest of the weeks' links:

Introduction/Note to the Reader
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CYW Book Club {Week 5, Chapter 4}

You have no idea how much I'm enjoying gathering with you precious ladies each week to discuss this book. Your thoughts and reflections have at times brought me to tears! You are beautiful! I'm so blessed by your sincere, passionate, vulnerable, womanly hearts. Thank you for being a part of this.

And if you're just now joining in? Welcome! The previous chapter posts are all still open for comments and we'd love to hear from you.

Last but not least, did you hear the news?? Author Colleen Carroll Campbell is allowing CYW to interview her for our book club!!!!! I know!!! I'm SO excited! Don't forget to email me your questions and your question may be chosen for the final interview!

Here are the discussion questions for the week:

Chapter 4: A Mother at Heart 

Saint Edith Stein believed that each woman has a maternal spirit. What does that maternal spirit look like in you? Colleen writes about the dark side of a woman’s maternal inclinations, when those inclinations are distorted by sin. These negative traits and habits include nagging, manipulation, domineering behavior and gossip. What are some ways you have seen these weaknesses in yourself? What safeguards can you put in place to curb them? Saint Edith also wrote that “objective work” and daily quiet prayer are twin ways to combat these weaknesses. What are a few concrete ways in which you can apply this doctrine to your own life? 

Fun question: Which book have you re-read the most times in your life?

Catching up or looking back? Here are the rest of the weeks' links:

Introduction/Note to the Reader
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6