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.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sugar and Spice: Clare's New Year Letter

Dear beautiful women,

I haven't been around much, I know, and all my thanks goes to all the wonderful contributors on this blog who have kept it alive. Laura suggested we all stop by to write a New Year's letter, and so I'm going to share some of what has kept me so busy lately. 

Here's a hint:

December 2013 I found out I was expecting. So that was how we started our last new year... with happy, happy hearts. 

In January I had morning sickness. And that's that. 

In February we met up with my family at Disneyworld for my younger brother's Make-A-Wish trip. We looked at all the cute babies there and felt we couldn't wait. 

In March we started telling more people our news. 

In April I experienced a Virginia spring and relished all the flowers. We found out we were having a girl. 

In May we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. 

In June we moved out of our apartment into a tiny but cozy log cabin. 

In July we waited f o r e v e r. 

In August my mom came out to help with baby stuff. We went out to dinner a lot, went sightseeing, shopping, walking... anything to help the time pass. 

Then on August 25th, Alice Rosamund was born. 

And I stepped into the hardest, happiest, loveliest days of my life. She's cute, full of personality, makes the best expressions ever, and wins my heart. 

It would be really easy to torment you with dozens of photos of her adorable chubby visage, but I'll let you volunteer for that. I'm frequently on Instagram, and occasionally on my personal blog. Visit there if you want lots of baby stuff. 

I send love and prayers to you all, with hope that someday soon life will settle down enough that I can be with you more often. Many blessings!

In Christ,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Love One Another

---by Shannon Riordan

I’ve come to notice more and more how often I catch myself making assumptions and judging not only the people I know, but even perfect strangers! It’s a shameful downfall that I fight against daily and as a result I have learned a very important lesson. 

Recently, I attended a short evening retreat given by my college campus ministry, focusing on the topic of family. While I was there listening to others talk about their families, something hit me. Everyone has heard of dysfunctional families and how indifference, hate, and absence can destroy a family from the inside out. But what about the families who allow wholesome, courageous, abundant, and strengthening, genuine love to just work passively in their familial relationships rather than letting it actively flourish? 

No matter who you are or how “perfect” your family may seem, there is always someone who is missing the true meaning of loving one’s family. Maybe there is a family member who you love because their family, but liking them is another story altogether. Or the family member who you care for dearly, but from whom you are shown little love in return or are met with total indifference. Or maybe you’re a college student who now that you’re living away from home, no longer feels the need to remain connected with your family except for the occasional holiday break. Or maybe you are enjoying the company of your family, but without fully appreciating their love and support. 

Whatever the case may be, we all struggle with a situation in which we do not fully realize or understand something very integral to family life and the life of a Christian. And that is the fact that God specifically placed you in the family you are a member of. Equally true is that fact that each and every one of us was made in the Image and Likeness of God and therefore, He is reflected in us all. Now we don’t always exude this fact, especially during instances of sin. Nevertheless, what if I were to say to you that in knowing and loving your family more, you were actually getting a fuller and deeper understanding of God Himself?

Imagine that all the people in your life, family, friends, acquaintances, and even all the perfect strangers that you have ever met, were all singularly unique puzzle pieces to the Divine Image to which Our Lord wished for you to see and put together in order to experience a closer, deeper understanding and love of His Divine Being? Did your mind just explode with this amazing realization?! I know mine did when this idea first took root.

This amazingly unique opportunity to love the flaws and singularity of every individual because they are reflections of God Himself, offers us an even deeper meaning to Christ’s command that we love one another; for He has chosen to dwell in each of us.

So instead of assuming and judging others, let us first think what is it Christ wishes me to learn from this brother/sister of mine? Or even better, what is it Christ wishes for me to reveal about His Love to this person? I encourage you to take this idea to prayer and ask the Lord what it is He wishes you to see, learn, and love in each of your family members and all those you encounter. I assure you that you will be astounded by the abundance of grace God will pour on you in reply.

Shannon Riordan is just an ordinary 21 year old cradle-Catholic, sister to two siblings, daughter to two wonderful parents, and college senior still trying to decide what she wants to do after graduation!