Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Third Week of Fasting


The fruit of silence is  P R A Y E R
The fruit of prayer is  F A I T H
The fruit of faith is  L O V E
The fruit of love is  S E R V I C E
The fruit of service is  P E A C E.

MOTHER TERESA

~*~*~*~*~*~

Those who are fasting with us are invited to give up Television shows this week.

Intention: healing of families, especially as the holidays approach.

Please feel free to make personal adjustments or adaptations as necessary!

How can we pray for you this week?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The True Reason for Advent: Why It's Ok to Hurt During the Holidays

--an old post I wrote last year during a particularly hard Advent...we all go through some form of hardship + loneliness during the holidays. So here is a reminder that it is okay to feel that. 


                                                                                               
I paused in the midst of an early Christmas celebration...I had no reason to be upset.

But for whatever reason that December evening, a well of tumultuous emotions rose up - the aftermath of a long week, dealing with hurdles, stress, tests, and hurting for others going through rough patches. Suddenly it was all too much and I needed to get away from the Christmas cheer and smiling faces...away from all the happiness and joy. It had been a long day, the kind that reminds you of all the things you haven't done or are behind in or simply all your inadequacies.

I drew positivity from my friends around me, but eventually realized I needed to slip away and seek refuge, to seek rest in quiet and solitude. Where I could cry a little cry in peace, despite not knowing why the tears came. And the moment caused me to pause once more...this time to ponder. The good, quiet, honest sort that comes after a cry, however brief or long the cry may be...

What is about tears and pain and hurt that seems so shameful and heavy? Why do we feel the need to hide it...to hide the hurt...the ache...the overwhelming sense of not being good enough?

It steals in quietly, settles down in our heart, drawing dull, aching pain and a steady chill...leaving us feeling like we're standing outside in the cold, alone. Hands in pockets, heart empty and unloved, eyes wet.

No one wants to feel like an outsider. Alone. Unloved, unchased. Especially during the holidays.

Perhaps that's what makes such emotions during the festive season all the more ironic. After all, it's a time of good will + cheer + smiles + Christmas songs. A time for family + friends. For Love and for gathering. For community.

                                                           
Sometimes, it's in a crowd that you feel the most alone though.

So many people, so many faces laughing and smiling and knowing each other and being. And all you can feel is fake because for whatever reason, there's no bells ringing in your heart, no cheer on your lips, and no holiday sparkle in your eye. Then the sense of failure and loneliness rise hard + fast within you, almost choking, and suddenly, it's so hard. It's hard to smile, to look composed, to feel all right and not cause anyone to worry and ask what's wrong because then they'll make a scene and that's the last thing you want.

Because no one wants to bring everyone else down, be the party-killer, make a fuss, cause unwanted attention, or be comforted + mollified simply for the reason that others feel guilty you're upset.

Sometimes it's a struggle to keep your composure, to keep your chin up, to smile politely when all you want to do is fall to pieces and cry.

Because it hurts so much. 


Maybe it's a horribly-timed break-up, maybe it's stress from work or school, maybe the loss of a loved one, maybe it's personal dissatisfaction or self-loathing; maybe it's guilt from all the things we haven't done, but should be doing. Maybe it's the ache to love and be loved. To care for and be cared for in return. Maybe it's a soul-deep hunger for another soul - for a kindred spirit, the one that will make your spirit soar. Maybe it's one of these or none of these that prompt such tremulous emotions...and the overwhelming desire to cry.

We like to be brave and strong. But oh, how we are not.

It's times like these, moments like these that we remember just how fragile we are...how little it takes to make our heart overflow with happiness or to break with despair + heartache.

And all it takes is the tiniest spark, the softest whisper to begin a litany that resounds in our head, echos in our ears, and forms in our own mouths.

'You didn't make it today...'

'That outfit looks bad on you...'

'People are laughing, but not with you...'

'She's so much better than me...'

'I'm not a part of the inside joke because I don't belong, because I'm not liked as much as him...'

'He's never looked my way and he never will...'

'You're not that good...the others are more talented...'

'Look at your face/weight/height/skin color...people think it's funny...'

and even worse

'you don't matter'

'how can you live with yourself'

'always the one saying something that no one hears'

'you're too small/stupid/heavy/tall/quiet/loud'

'you keep failing'

'there's no special someone'

'you're. not. good. enough.'

It's funny that we're the ones who can hurt ourselves the most...we're the ones whose words cut more raw and deep than anyone else's...we're the ones who refuse to offer a new chance to ourselves when others would offer one with a smile + love.

We're so determined to prove why exactly we are unworthy...why every thought in our head should be and is true.

Why?

Why especially during the most beautiful season of all - the season of Hope and perfect Love?

Maybe it's because during Advent we're reminded of how much we trip and stumble, of the dust + profanities that dirty our days + our souls...of the many ways we have failed. Of the many ways we are and can not ever be worthy of the Gift we receive...why would anyone love us? What is there to love?

But then...beneath the tears and the cold and the loneliness that swirls up...there's a faint light and a gentle, pure note.



Of Hope.

Of promise.

Because the Child didn't come for the "better" ones, the more talented ones...because they don't exist. Because everyone feels alone and defeated and like a failure at some point.

Because maybe that's the whole point of Advent...to realize how unworthy we are of the Great Gift we receive...and to be completely knocked over and overwhelmed by the unbelievable Love through which the Gift is given.

Because sometimes we get caught up in the world, in our lives, in our feelings, in things that ruin our peace and whisper discouragement in our ears. Advent is a time of darkness. But the good kind. It's the hushed, dark stillness of a private room, of a calm church, of the innermost part in our hearts. Because darkness isn't always a bad thing.

Source
Because sometimes the darkness is a sacred, silent place for us to rest and unfold and let everything messy and wrong and weak about us show...we turn off the lights and fall asleep in darkness because the good kind of darkness wraps around us like a blanket and hides us from the world.

In the darkness, we rest and dream.

After all, light cannot come without darkness.

And Advent is the season of a light flickering in the darkness. In the hushed stillness, a steady candle glows...casting light + warm. Casting hope. Casting peace.

Source
And somehow, in the candle's circle of lovely light, the darkness grows even more hushed and sacred as it gathers around the Flame that gives depth and meaning to it.

The Flame reminds us we are not alone...that light is always present. That Hope is always with us. Even when tears trickle, loneliness swells, and life is just hard.

So cry a little cry. It doesn't make you weak or more of a failure. Those tears will dry, I promise you.

You only have to light a candle.

Wishing you hope + peace in these last few days of Advent before the Coming of Christ, friends. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Second Week of Fasting



"I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness."
MOTHER TERESA
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~*~*~*~*~*~
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Those who are fasting with us are invited to resist the snooze button this week (Dec 8-13).  So if, like me, you have a tendency to set your alarm for ten minutes earlier than necessary (so as to allow sufficient time for you to press the snooze button at least once before you absolutely must awaken): you may now set your alarm for that 10 minutes later time and sleep-in for this entire week.  You're welcome! ;-)

Intention: souls who are most in need of God's mercy.

Please feel free to make personal adjustments as necessary!

The Saint Andrew Christmas novena continues! Please feel free to share your prayer requests and I'm happy to include them in my novena intentions.

How can we pray for YOU this week? 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fasting: Our First Week



Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

ROMANS 12:2

~*~*~*~*~*~

Those who are fasting with us are invited to give up their favorite social media site this week.

Intention: our vocations, whether we're discerning or have already found them.

Please feel free to make personal adjustments as are necessary!

Also, with the beginning of Advent comes the Saint Andrew Christmas novena!  It's one of my favorite devotions of the year and is certainly my favorite Advent devotion; please share your prayer requests and I'm happy to include them in my novena intentions!

How can we pray for YOU this week?

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...


This.



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]