Saturday, August 29, 2015

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Adult life is hard, not going to lie.  Long gone are the days of decisions being made for you.  Now are the times where you must make choices for yourself.  Where you are going to school, your degree field, your friendships, your relationships, your faith are all just a small portion of the things that are now resting on your shoulders as you bravely step out into this crazy world called 'Adulthood.'

Maybe you, like me, are wondering how in the world this is going to work out.  How am I supposed to be responsible for the course of my life here on this earth when I still draw in coloring books and have to sing the whole alphabet to find out what letter comes next?

With a lot of help, needless to say.  So the latest partner in this walk down the path of adulthood has been Saint Ignatius, or specifically, Father Timothy Gallagher and his book The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living.  This book is amazing - and it goes through how to make a decision and properly discern in matters both big and small.

Let's tackle the big matters, shall we?  In three semesters, my undergraduate degree is finished.  Signed, sealed and diploma delivered.  And while I am counting down the days until I walk across that stage, shake the hand of the president of the University and trip my way down the stairs, I am also dreading that day.

Because it means more decisions.  And the decisions just keep getting bigger the older I get.  Adulthood is funny that way.

So how does one go about making those decisions?  Prayer? Yes - but it has to be more than that.  I can't sit in the chapel fourteen hours and leave angry because God didn't tell me what to do.  Instead, it must be followed up with understanding and action.

Be Aware:  You can't make a decision if you don't know that the decisions needs to be made.  Say that five times fast.  Basically, know where you stand and what is going on in your life.  Are you coming up on a decision that has quite a bit of gravity to it?  Where do you stand? What are your options?

Saint Ignatius describes this awareness as having his eyes 'opened a little' towards what was moving within his soul.  It's a realization that God has a plan for your life, and that the role you are called to play in that plan is an active one.

Yet we live in a world where the noise of the business and distraction blind us to the plan God has.  Saint Augustine says, "You were within, and I was without.  You called, you shouted and broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone and dispelled my darkness."  What is crowding your life right now that is blocking the sound of God's shouts and calling to your heart?

Understand: In my high school graduation card, a friend wrote one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes: "You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."  Key words that have always stuck out to me in that phrase: Steer and Choose.  This means that the knowledge and ability that you have after you've gained an awareness of your decision is active.  It requires understanding and reflection and choices.

Father Gallagher writes, "This is the interpretative step in discernment, and it too, like a spiritual awareness, is an invaluable spiritual aid.  A clear perception of the origin and direction of the spiritual stirrings of our hearts provides us with the necessary light to follow accurately the guidance of the Spirit."  You know that there is a decision to be made, and now have an understanding of the ramifications and consequences of the decision.  So now what?

Take Action: This is the most important step.  Ignatius boils this step down to two words: Accept and Reject.  Once you have looked at a decision and understood it in light of your spiritual life, it's time to do something.  Father Gallagher says, "Everything in the discernment of the spirits is directed towards action: towards firmly accepting what is of God and equally firmly rejecting what is not.  Through spiritual awareness and interpretation, accurate and decisive spiritual action is possible."

Accurate and Decisive Action. Is prayer important? Yes. Is asking people's opinions and thinking about the different facets of a decision valid? Sure! But if there is no action to back it up, then why even discern?

When the morning's freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly, nothing will be quite as you wish.  It is then that you must not hesitate.  (Dag Hammarsjold). 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Virtus in Media Stat

College is upon us...and the first week is done (well, for me at least.  Maybe you haven't even started yet, you lucky soul.)  As each semester rolls around, I always find myself with lists upon lists of things that I've made for myself in areas that I know I can improve.

I have lists and pinterest boards galore for polishing up my eating habits after a summer subsisting on root beer floats, organizing my closet that has exploded over the room, organizing my list of books to read and movies to watch...putting together exercise plans....which is usually the first one to fall off the bandwagon with the first Panera cinnamon roll that crosses my path.


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Each beginning of the school year presents with it a blank slate, open wide to the possibility of improvement.  It's a chance to smash down the wall between the current version of yourself and the best-version-of-yourself (#MatthewKelly) that is constantly seeming to escape our grasp.

What's the secret?  How in the world does the balance between schoolwork, social activities, responsibilities, and improvement happen?

A simple Latin phrase....Virtus in Media Stat. And the translation? Virtue Stands in the Middle.

So often it's easy to go crazy on resolutions.  You should see my list on December 31st that I ring in the New Year with.  Pages upon pages of things I know that I can physically and mentally accomplish, but by January 3rd (If I'm lucky) the list has been reduced to nothing because I've either given in or given up.
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Moderation. Temperance. The middle ground.  Middle Earth.  It's not just my mind wandering on a late Sunday night - J.R.R. Tolkien had some great things to say about starting new habits.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Sam's grandfather says, “It's the job that's never started that takes longest to finish.” 

It's not just a concept for hobbits...it's pretty practical in our everyday life as well.  So here are the top three tips I've received on becoming who God created you to be - fully alive.

1) Moderation 
It's easy to stack our planners full of things we want to do, are asked to do, feel called to do.  But take it from the girl who worked seven jobs (at one time) last summer.  Sometimes less...is more.  Don't be afraid of that open time in your planner.  Yes, you could be doing something.  But don't be afraid of spontaneous visits with friends, time to sit in silence and just relax, or that adoration chapel you've been wanting to stop into but never have the time.  Don't be afraid to schedule free time, as ironic as that sounds.
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2) Accountability
Are you going to try to make it to morning Mass more often? Planning on training for that marathon? What about that book you said you were going to read...two years ago? Ask someone to tackle the challenge together.  Maybe it's your room mate, sister, or girlfriend.  But don't be afraid to ask for someone to keep you accountable.  The path to Heaven is a journey that is meant to be walked together.

3) ForgivenessYou're going to slip and fall sometimes - if only because of the fact that you are human and not perfect.  What matters when that happens is how you learn from your mistakes and move on.  Don't spend the time after the mistake wallowing on what you could have done.  Now is time time of thinking how you can avoid that mistake in the future.  So find what triggers you to give up on your process of becoming a better person, and then remove that from that path.  But keep walking.

Do you have any tips for how you stand in the middle when it comes to virtue and self improvement? Share them below in the comment box!
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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 Tips for Catholic College Students

In less than a week, my last semester of my junior year starts. It's an experience that has flown by faster than you can say "textbook rental" - but I've learned so much along the way.  So whether you are just starting college, or returning for another year in the trenches, here are my top five hints that I've learned - advice from a seasoned college vet as you will.

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Calling all the college students


1) Make Time for Prayer

Conversation (talking and listening) with God is one thing that can keep the craziness that is college life in check.  However, prayer is usually the first thing that gets shoved to the back burner once college starts for me.  The hint that I got from a friend my freshman year was to make my prayer time an unmovable appointment in my calendar.  Literally pencil in 'time with God' in for a certain time during the day and keep that appointment.  You wouldn't call and cancel coffee with your best friend because you weren't suddenly feeling up to it.  So don't do that with your conversation with God.


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Running to my God appointment 

2) Emphasize Christ-Centered Friendships
The word for 'religion' and the word for 'relationship' have the same root - there's a reason.  No man is an island, especially in the sea of college life.  Find friends who are going to hold you accountable, who are going to challenge your faith life and who are going to push you towards Christ.  Friends who are going to get to know you well enough that when you say 'I'm fine' they know something is up.  Friends who don't let you pack your faith away with your high school diploma and who tell you when you mess up.  Friends to laugh, cry, and grow with.  Friendships centered in your most mutual friend - Christ. 

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which leads to.....

3) Find your Newman Center

When I was a freshman in college, the Newman center was on my way home from work.  I'd get off at 6 pm, and the center would open at 7 pm for fellowship on Wednesday.  I cannot tell you how many times I took the turn for home instead of the campus center and had to turn myself around and decide to go the campus center.  It's not an instant thing - there are going to be awkward moments, and funny moments, and moments you'll relive again and again once you get in there and get comfortable.  Some of my best friends from my Newman center are people that I would have never have guessed would know all the things they know about me now.  But I never would have met them if I hadn't gone to the Newman center.  So get yourself to one. 

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Surprise friends are the best friends 


4) Reach out and don't be afraid to evangelize 

Your Catholic faith is going to be challenged.  Despite the college you go to, the time spent at the Newman center, the friendships you form.  It's inevitable - someone is going to ask you why you're Catholic.  It could be in a class, where the only time the Catholic Church is talked about is when it's being bashed.  It could be in the form of a room mate who wants to know why Catholics do what they do.  It could be in a conversation in the cafeteria.  Regardless of where it is, don't be afraid to be blatantly Catholic.  The world needs more Catholic nerds - embrace it.  But also don't be afraid of not knowing the answer.  We belong to a church that has been around for over 2,000 years....questions that are asked in 2015 have been answered - we just have to do some research.  So never be afraid of the response "That's a good question - and I don't know the answer.  But I know there is one out there.  Can I do some research for you and get back with you?"  They're more impressed by your humility of admitting that you don't know then by you avoiding an answer.  

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I will find an answer....I promise



5) Find your devotion

Find something to keep you grounded in your faith life.  Similar to not letting your daily appointment with God down.  It could come in many different forms - maybe you're going to make it to morning Mass two times a week.  Or say a rosary every day.  Or learn more about the saints.  But have a game plan and stick to it.  Oh, and remember the friends you met in tip number 2? Don't be afraid to bond further with them over your commonly shared faith.  Start a Bible study together, or meet at the grotto to say a novena.  But having a goal in mind makes it easy to stay on target.


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When I talk about Eucharistic Adoration 

What were tips you were given when you started college?  Do you have any tips for those going in to college?  Are you starting your first year? What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!

In Christ,

Chloe 

 

Monday, August 3, 2015

What does Eucharistic Adoration Look Like?



When you get your own adoration hour 

One of my all time favorite forms of prayer is Eucharistic adoration.  It's there that I first really heard Christ speaking to me during some rough times in senior year, and it's there that I have been able to work every hard problem that I've had out with Jesus.

So just what is Eucharistic adoration?  And what do you do during the hour?

There are many forms that adoration is present around the world.  Perpetual adoration chapels in some churches, nocturnal adoration on the eve of the first Saturday of the month, daily exposition and benediction at some parishes.  There are organizations around the world that promote a holy hour, and also availability of a 24/7 adoration chapel where you can stop in when you have time, even if it's less than an hour.

The history of adoration is beautiful though -  As early in Church history as the year 325, around the Council of Nicea, there is evidence that the Eucharist would be reserved in churches, monasteries, and convents.  This was mainly for the purpose of having it available for the anointing of the sick and dying.  Yet the place it was kept was considered holy.  As monasteries and community life were established, the Eucharist held a special place in even the architecture of the church building itself. The place was referred to by many names: Pastoforium, Diakonikon, Secetarium and Protehsis to name a few.  Yet it was a separate room from the Church, akin to the modern day Eucharistic adoration chapel.

But there still wasn't adoration hours or chapels for the community, so when did those come into play? In the late 1000s, there was a movement that stemmed fom Berengarius, a deacon in France, who said Christ wasn't present in the Eucharist at all.  The heresy became so wide spread that Pope Gregory VII told Berengarius to retract his statement.  Pope Gregory VII himself had a deep love for the Eucharist, which was influenced by his time spent with the Benedictines.  In his writings, he said

 "I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration, there is present the true body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin and offered up for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and that there is present the true blood of Christ which flowed from His side."

Following this statement, and many others like it, the movement of Eucharistic reverence and appreciation began in the Church.  John Hardon, S.J., wrote about what this new found love of the Eucharist looked like.

"The churches in Europe began what can only be described as a Eucharistic Renascence.  Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were instituted; prescribed acts of adoration were legislated; visits to Christ...were encouraged; the cells of anchoressess had windows made into the church to allow the religious to view and adore before the tabernacle."  

So what does an adoration hour look like?  What are you supposed to do in one?  How do you start?  Here are five quick tips if you're new to the adoration scene.


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When you get your own adoration hour
1) Start off with silence.

The world we live in is crazy.  Noise comes at us from every corner - from our car radios to the constant alerts coming from our phone.  Eucharistic adoration is an amazing time to just go and sit in silence...with nothing to distract you...and just some alone time with Christ.

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My favorite quote on the Eucharist comes from a story that Saint John Vianney told.  He went into the chapel one day and and someone came up and asked him what he did all day in adoration.  "Nothing," he replied, "I just look at Him and He looks at me."  That's friendship - the time where it's silent and you don't need to say anything, but rather experience the joy of being with someone who you have a deep relationship with. 


2) Adoration
Well, it is called Eucharistic adoration, so this seems like an obvious one, but what does that word mean?  This is a time where you get to tell God how amazing He is.  A little while ago I wrote about the Psalms, and how they are God's love song to Himself that we get to sing to Him.  So take this time to praise Him for who He is.

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3) Contrition
We've all messed up, and what a better place to reconcile with the Lord (besides confession of course, which is also recommended) but Eucharistic adoration?  If a friend hurts you, what is the preferred apology - in a text or face to face? Face to face always wins out - there is something about the humility to say you are sorry to a person when you are standing in front of them.  


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4) Thanksgiving 

The word 'Eucharistario' means 'Thanksgiving.'  WHOA.  Can you think of a better time to give thanks to the Lord for what He has given you than when you are looking at Him in the gift of the Eucharist?  It doesn't just have to be for the big things in life - like a job interview or a great friendship.  It could be the small things (which I'm notorious for noticing): like how the pothole on your way to work today was filled, or how the wind was blowing while you were sitting outside.  Nothing small goes unnoticed by God - He keeps track of even the smallest of sparrows.  

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5) Supplication

God knows what is on our heart before we speak it, but there is something to be said for laying out your concerns and desires before the Lord in adoration.  Asking for advice on what to do, how to solve a problem, or what decision you should make is a fantastic thing to bring to His feet at adoration.  And after you bring your heart's desires before Him, pray that your will be conformed to His through prayer.

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"Jesus has made himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day.  He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to Adoration." Mother Teresa. 




Friday, July 31, 2015

Catholic Music Spotlight: Interior Castle




Two young women named Joanna Grennan and Emma Fradd started a band.  It's called Interior Castle.(Pause for Saint Teresa of Avila fan girl moment.) Jo and Emma mix the beauty of guitar and vocals into a beautiful combination of poetic lyrics and gorgeous music.  

They describe themselves as "One girl with a fringe, one without.  One from Australia, one from England.  One girl who sings and plays guitar, one girl who plays guitar and sings."

The band started when the two gals met in 2013.  So far, three singles have hit
the musical scene, the first called "Finished Dreaming," which came out in October
of 2014.  Then in January of 2015, "Listen & Talk" burst out onto the interwebs.
Finally, "Get Me Free" just hit playlists near you in April of this year.  

Currently they tour all over the United Kingdom and at the end of this year,
they'll release their full album. 

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You'll like them if you like: Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, and Passengers.

Fun fact, which will make you fall in love with these girls even more....Emma's
brother is Matt Fradd, the executive director of theporneffect.com and integrityrestored.com, a huge name in the Catholic world and advocate for the dignity of the human person.  


Their single 'Get Me Free' also has an official video, full of gorgeous sunset shots, frolics in the ocean with drums, amazing harmonies and Australian and English accents - can it get any better? 



So enjoy these beautiful songs and join me as I wait anxiously on the edge
of my seat for their new album to hit the market.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Value of a Soul

This morning I stopped by my favorite coffee shop for a vanilla latte, a quiet place to write, and the general peaceful atmosphere.  The atmosphere of this particular coffee shop is really neat - it's right off of campus and a general gathering place for some pretty intellectual conversation.  Poetry nights and political discussions are often hosted there and the conversations overheard tend to be interesting.

Today's conversation was between a young man and older gentlemen who were discussing the morality of determining how a person contributes to society.  The younger man said that ultimately we have to decide when to let someone go because, essentially, they are causing more problems than solving them.  Which, from the looks of the body language of the two, didn't set well with the older gentleman.  In all reality, it shouldn't sit well with anyone.

In light of the recent videos released concerning Planned Parenthood's selling of the dismembered parts of aborted children though, this topic seemed highly relevant.

While the news explodes over the death of Cecil the lion in a big game hunt, where is the media outrage over the fact that innocent children, made in the image of God, in possession of an eternal soul were not only brutally murdered in their mothers' womb, but were then dismembered and sold.  To what depths has society sunk in that an atrocity such as that is not greeted with unanimous uproar and demand for justice?

The reason there isn't such a response is because we live in a world where a the value of a human soul in the eyes of their fellow humans is determined by their 'value.'  Not the value of their inherent worth as a child of God, but their value to the societal whole.  What can they do? What are they worth? What is their contribution? Are they 'valuable'?

Yet in order to make these rationalizations, the values system used by society is based on man made notions and significance factors.  Which means that each persons' value placement will vary based on subjective beliefs and conscience formation of those assigning placement.  And in an instant gratification and result driven society, those whose contributions to the greater good is non apparent or whose affect is gradual are considered menial and unnecessary for the 'greater good.'

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You can't tell me that this gorgeous smiling girl is less valuable and wanted just because she has a disability.  Or that if someone is down on their luck, they don't deserve a second chance?  The person who is struggling deserves the least amount of attention, because the focus should only be on the success stories? If someone doesn't fit into your box of societal perfection and contribution, they aren't worth having here?  Pardon me, but that sounds a lot like the notions of a certain German dictator.

But in the end, those who place value and judgement based on their own morality are affected negativity as well.  Similar to Ronald Reagan's saying, "I have noticed that everyone who is pro-abortion has already been born," those who claim the authority to decide who is or isn't a contributing member of society primarily consider themselves the cream of the contribution crop and outside the evaluation of their peers for the greater good of society.

Ultimately, the point that I'm trying to vocalize, and tend to ramble on about, is that the value of a person and their eternal soul is something that can only be given through the objective moral compass prescribed by the maker and lover of the soul itself...God.  Who better than the originator?

Amazingly, we have the ability to see how God says each soul measures up.  In fact, He tells us Himself. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God says,  "The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Look at the example of Mother Teresa.  The people she spent her life around, in the eyes of the 'greater societal good' had no value.  The man dying from malnutrition and laying on the road was just seen as taking up space.  The child who had no one to care for him was a waste of effort.  Yet she poured her life out for them.  Why?  Why spend your days in the dredge of people who can never return the favor, and in reality, may not even make it back out of the hospital.

Because they deserve love.  Despite what they can or cannot give.  The beauty of the gift of giving though is that you can never give out of the love of your heart without receiving blessing in return.  "Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself.  Only in Heaven will we see how much we owe the poor for helping us to love God better because of them."  (Mother Teresa)

And even if you look at your relationship with God, you find that God loved you despite the fact that you can never repay Him.  If anything, we owe our lives to Him simply because He gave His while we were still sinners.