Daily Essentials Checklist

After having a wonderfully long conversation with Cherie this evening I realized that there are a few key components to our day that people tend to forget (myself included) and I got to thinking and have complied this list of essentials for daily life – aka things I believe are important to do/remember/think about during the day.

1. Pray.  I don’t think I could say this enough.  Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have in our lives and we need to remember to do it daily, especially on days when we don’t have time for it.  Think that’s contradictory?  It’s not.  When we are overwhelmed and stressed and don’t have time for anything we really need God the most.  God is the one who is in control and by reaching out to Him we will attain the peace we need in our day.  Which brings me to number 2…

2. God has a plan for each and every one of us.  This seems so matter of fact but you know the saying “If you want to make God laugh, make plans”?  It’s absolutely true.  Plans change; people change; things happen; we are never in control – God is.

3. We can do all things through Christ.  God has a plan for us.  Sometimes we may think we cannot handle His plan, but He would never give us anything we cannot handle.  He knows us better than we know ourselves which means He knows what we can handle.  But what He also knows is that we can’t handle it without Him.  We need to “let go and let God” a lot more.  Give Him our struggles, our insecurities, our crosses to bear.  He is so much better equipped to handle it which is why we need to remember to pray (see #1).

4. Take a breather.  We need to allow time for ourselves every once in awhile.  Find something that you can do to relieve the stresses of a busy day like painting,

painting really helps me

painting really helps me

or reading, or playing a game, or watching tv or singing, or dancing, or exercising…anything you love and that makes you happy that can bring you away from what you’re experiencing, but also helps you work through it.  This could also be prayer or spiritually related.  It can be anything you want it to be!  Get creative, think outside the box!  (leave suggestions in the comments)

5. Talk to a loved one.  Again, this can be God, prayer counts as talking to a loved one…NEVER forget that God loves YOU.  He gave up His only son for me and for you and nothing could ever replace that.  For some of us though, talking to a family member or friend can be extremely relaxing and helpful and a good way to relieve the stress of the day as well.

You Are Loved!

You Are Loved!

This is a short beginning to the list and I invite everyone to add other suggestions in the comments.  It is so important that we keep each other in our prayers as well and remember that God is there for us and we are there for each other.  Feel free to call or email me if you ever need to talk!!

God Bless, Juli

Confidently.Catholic@gmail.com

Prayer

I was at church this morning and during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass I somehow started praying and sort of whining to God about something in my life that I was pretty conflicted about…well, still am conflicted about, but that’s not the point.  After I looked up and then at my watch, a man came over and asked if I was okay.  I responded “I’m fine” a little too loud for Exposition and he probably knew I was lying (especially since I’m sure I had appeared to be crying, even though there were no tears).  I felt a bit guilty after that, especially since he was just being nice.  He held out a bag of Rosaries (Rosary’s?) and told me to choose one, that they had already been blessed.  I was confused, but it seemed that he had been giving them out to everyone that was there.  Then he told me he’d pray for me and asked me to pray for him.  I said ‘yes’ and asked his name.  His name is Ray (I think, I may have heard wrong, but I did repeat it and introduce myself as well).  The Rosary beads he was handing out had information on the back of the cardboard they were attached to about missionaries in Africa and I realized that my problems were so much smaller than others out there.  I started to think about how insignificant what I had been praying about was and maybe that was God’s answer to me…that I needed to stop dwelling on things we can’t change and worry about the things we can.  I left for work after that (and clocked in at exactly 9:00) but I held on to the Rosary all day, thinking about how blessed I really am and how I need to move forward and be happy with my life which is actually really good right now.  I hope this little story might have helped someone else, but I’m mostly glad that it helped me and showed me that God is truly among us.  So pray for me, and pray for Ray, and I’ll pray for all of you.

Love you and God Bless,

Juli

Taking Wing

God gave me my voice.

I think about that every time I open my mouth to sing.

I’m a good singer, I could have been great, but I was not a very disciplined teenage. To be great at anything you have to be disciplined, but to be great at music you have to be practically single minded.

But I loved to sing. I was uncomfortable in my own skin as a teenager, and singing was an escape from that. I could get lost in a song, be someone else for three or four minutes.

I wasn’t Reenie, the chubby teenager from New Jersey when I sang. I was Anna Leanowens, teaching the princes and princesses of Siam, I was Diana Morales fighting for her spot in a Broadway chorus, I was Fantine calling Valjean to heaven with her.

God gave me my voice.

As I got better, I stretched more. I sang “art songs.” There were no characters for these. So I imagined the girls who sang these songs. “Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite,” was sung by a girl at her pianoforte, in a parlor in the English countryside somewhere. “Caro Mio Ben,” by a maidservant in a renaissance villa while she went about her chores. “Ave Maria,” well, “Ave Maria” was different.

I didn’t hide in “Ave Maria,” there is no where to hide. There’s nowhere to hide in the notes, which move so slowly and deliberately that anyone can catch a mistake. And there’s nowhere to hide in the song. It’s a prayer. It’s the Hail Mary.

Even when I was young and insecure, I was devoted to the Blessed Mother. I cried over the “Ave Maria,” cried with frustration, with disappointment. I knew I couldn’t hide, I couldn’t find another girl to sing this one. That would be a lie, and she would know.

God gave me my voice.

Mary taught me how to use it.

The first time I ever sang “Ave Maria”, in front of people, was at the Mass that celebrated my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. I was seventeen. I was terrified. My grandpa looked at me, squeezed my hand and whispered in my ear.

“We’re all so proud of you. The Blessed Mother doesn’t care if you make a mistake.”

I was free then. I sang. I hit every note. I cried, but not in frustration, not in fear. I cried in relief.

To this day “Ave Maria” is still the only song I’ve never pretended to be someone else while singing. It’s also the only song that I’ve ever been great on. I know that.

Because God gave me my voice.

Mary taught me how to use it.

And I gave it back to praise her.

Challenges and God’s Plan

A year ago today, one of my closest college friends got married (Happy anniversary to the two of them!). That night, while hanging out with some other college friends, I accepted a challenge. You see, I had broken up with my boyfriend fairly recently and was used to having a boy in my life. I hadn’t really been single for more than 2 months at a time since I started college (so 5 years) and I hadn’t really been single a full year since I was probably 16. A friend challenged me to go a whole year being single. Well, guess what? I succeeded, and to my own amazement, I even grew quite a bit. Aside from getting to know myself better and becoming more independent, I also got to know God better.  In the past year, I’ll admit, I made some mistakes. I went on a few dates, but not having a constant boy in my life left me the time I needed to spend with the most important guy in my life–Jesus Christ.  While my friends began getting engaged and married, I started praying for my future husband and trying to discern my true vocation. I also realized that God’s plan is way more important than my own and He could take me where I never dreamed I’d end up! I’ve also learned that God’s got a great sense of humor and it turns out that when you pray for something enough, you may get more than you bargained for. God is making me make difficult decisions now, even though I understand that the choices I make will ultimately be the ones He knows I am going to make. I realized today that it is finally time for me to make my decisions and see where they may take me. I only ask that God stay with me throughout this process.  Much has happened in the past year, and I need to constantly remind myself that God is at work in my life big time and I cannot sacrifice our relationship for anyone–especially not a boy.  This year we have started this blog, I made adjustments in my life to make it single-Catholic friendly, I began attending daily mass, we started a young adult ministry at my parish, I began lectoring at mass, I went on Gospel Roads, I was asked to teach religious education, and I am ultimately feeling so much better about my relationship with Christ.  He has been there for me at every turn and picked me up as I’ve fallen down.  I know I could not have done this without Him.  So even though I set out a year ago to just live a single life, I was able to also fix and grow my relationship with God which, in turn, led me to cultivate existing relationships with my family and some friends. In essence, I wouldn’t trade any of this for meeting my one true love any earlier. So thank you to God, to my family, to my friends, and to our readers for showing me the support andI sending the prayers I needed in this past year. There is nowhere to go from here but forward and I intend to do so by “going forth and setting the world on fire”! I love you, God Bless!
Juli

sweet feminism

Just read an article about a particular brand of feminism that seeks to dissolve social gender roles completely, and the Catholic response to this position. I think about feminism and the relationship between the sexes often, but never had a very coherent philosophical position on it that I really owned. The article was good, nothing mind-blowing, but a comment ending with “no wonder men are becoming socially and biologically irrelevant” struck me as worthy of a reply. I wrote:

A strengths-based approach to the problems of our world is the only sane one. Thus, if we have two sexes with any meaningful difference between them, allowing men to become “socially and biologically irrelevant” involves overlooking 50% of our strengths. Building the Kingdom of God, or even a decent human civilization, requires the talents, virtues, and skills of every member.

The bitterness that exists between men and women is truly exhausting. I don’t have time for that. I unabashedly love men. I am deeply in love with a particular man, and in fact, there are millions of people in this country deeply in love with a member of the opposite sex. In this ridiculous war of the sexes, we’re constantly fraternizing with the enemy. Why not just call the whole blasted thing off?

Seriously though, men are great. So are women. That’s why God created both.

So there it is, my feminist manifesto. I don’t know which official feminist camp it fits best, but as my most polar opposite is the bitter feminist, I’ll just call it sweet feminism 🙂

Leprosy

I just moved to a new city in the NYC area and began work preparing my new charter school for our students, who arrive the last week of August. I’ll be busier than ever, but I hope to start posting more often, since I’ll have so much to reflect on and process. Meanwhile, here is an entry from an old prayer journal that turned up while I was unpacking my things. It’s a little dark, but honest.

                                              +AMDG+

September 2, 2009

Lord Jesus, Healer,

I just realized what lepers are. Physically, they are in need of healing, just as the crippled and the blind are.  But the physical or spiritual leper is rather harder to love than the blind. Leprosy is repulsive. It’s “eating you alive.” It is the horror-movie shock of seeing decay on a still-living person.

I am a leper. I’m not dead, but I’m starting to smell like it. My soul, my self-in-You is crumbling away, falling away at first in bits, but now it’s hard to tell if anything’s still safe. It must have been hard, as the Word who was present in the act of creating man, to see the leper’s body falling apart. How much harder is it, as the Creator of souls, to see the inner person decay?

We are all monsters. Horrible, disfigured, but we are salvageable by Your Grace.  Accept me, Lord, and heal me. Make me whole again and wholly yours. What You have done for us, no-one else would ever do (except in Your Love). You save not only those who never knew You before now, but also those who have loved You and betrayed You anyway. You love and help even the most leprous, zombified souls who are living dead. You are holy, selfless, and immeasurably good. Have mercy on us.

By the grace of Your Holy Cross, save us and have mercy.

Amen.

 

Yours in Christ,
❤ Cherie

The Ignatian Family

Because today is the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits), and as Juli explained, we all met at a Jesuit school, I’m going to talk about the Jesuit tradition in my family.

Both of my grandfather’s attended Jesuit schools, (Maternal Fordham, Paternal Loyola Baltimore), four out of my nine aunts and uncles (and two of their spouses) also attended a Jesuit school, and of course I did, as well as my younger sister and one of my cousins (so far…there’s still a lot of them, I have a really big family.)

As a result of this, certain Jesuit ideals just kind of crept in to the way that my entire family thinks about faith, but specifically became a big part of the way my mother taught my brother, my sister and myself about being a Catholic.

The big one was education. I come from a family that pretty much holds education as the third most important life necessity, after food and shelter. And because of that, I was encouraged to read and learn as much as possible. When I was curious about other faiths, other belief structures, my mom wanted me to read about them, to learn, and question. When I got to college and started to learn about Ignatian ideals, I learned that this was a big Jesuit thing.

One of the big things that the Jesuits taught us was that the only way to grow in your faith is to learn about it and question it. When I was about nineteen, I had a conversation with my mother about how I was considering leaving the Church. I knew I would still crave spirituality and some kind of structure, so I was thinking about becoming an Episcopalian. This way, I could keep the bones of the faith that I love, without some of the things that (still) drive me a little nutty about the Catholic Church, mainly, the exclusion of women from the ordained clergy and the dismissal of homosexuals. My mother’s answer was actually pretty cool (my mom also knows me really well…)

“If that’s really what you believe your heart is calling you to do, then you should do it,” she said simply, “but don’t do it quickly or rashly. Really do the reading, learn about The Episcopal Church.” This is the most Ignatian answer to this issue I have ever heard.

I did do the reading. And while there are still aspects of the Episcopal structure that I prefer (namely, their stance on women and gay people…but also the communal nature of their governing body.) I realized I didn’t want to give up the devotion to the Blessed Mother that’s always been a huge part of my faith experience, or the ties to the community and family that had always been a part of my life.

I feel like that story would have turned out very differently if my family didn’t have a Jesuit mindset. It probably would have ended in a fight or the parent dismissing the thought outright.

The best way to grow in faith is to more deeply understand that faith. That’s the Ignatian legacy that I’ve always depended on.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Today is the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.  Since we (the writers) met at a Jesuit university, I think it is only natural to recognize and thank St. Ignatius on this day.  His conversion experience has touched the hearts of many and his faith and love of God as well as his devotion to educating brought us where we are now.  Thank you St. Ignatius, for the impact you’ve made on our lives, may you continue to intercede for us to God so that we can live in His name, Amen.

Prayer for Religious Freedom

My favorite app just added a new feature, a “Prayer for Religious Freedom” and I wanted to share it with you!

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant,we pray,O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that,with every trial withstood and every danger overcome; for the sake of our children,our grandchildren, and all who come after us; this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible,with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

(Laudate App)

Rise

On my first post here, I wrote about Christ figures in popular culture. It’s a fascination of mine, I’ll admit, and has been since high school.

And because of that, I’ve observed that many, if not most, superheroes, can be considered Christ figures.

And for the most part, I pointed the finger, as most did, at Superman. I’d never considered my favorite superhero, Batman, to be a Christ figure. I just hadn’t. That wasn’t what Batman was about. Batman was about other things. He’s about   brutal justice, about capitalism and so many other things.

Batman could never be confused with Jesus.

But until this past week, The Dark Knight Rises didn’t exist.

The Dark Knight Rises is Batman’s Book of Revelation, and it’s final half hour is the second coming. I’m putting in a cut so as not to reveal spoilers (although, I bet everyone who cares knows what happened)

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