The Vocation Operation

Some of you may remember that I used to have a project called The Vocation Operation, aimed at providing resources for those discerning a religious vocation that I ran with a friend. We both ended up busy and the blog fell by the wayside but I’ve decided that I want to start it up again. I’ve moved the blog and am working on developing the resources we had and want to change and add a few things. So if you’re discerning a religous vocation or just interested, please stop by and see what we’ve got – more will be added soon!

The Vocation Operation

 

Comfort

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good. [Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI]

As I said in my last post my faith has been tested and strained and faltered and failed. But I made a journey I never thought I ever would because I put my complete trust in God. I had to learn to trust God in a way I never had before, because I had never been pushed like that before. I am not an outside-the-comfort-zone sort of person, but when I felt that pull from God I made a leap I would never have made otherwise. And it was not an easy journey or a comfortable one. I’ve cried and thrown (internal) tantrums in Adoration. I was nearly sick from fear when I was on the hovercraft to St. Cecilia’s. I’ve made some difficult decisions.

If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. [C. S. Lewis]

Ultimately, I think I have learnt something very important. I have learnt that doing God’s will is not always easy. Faith does not mean you can sit back and have an easy ride. What it does mean is that you are not alone on the rocky road.

Saints are our friends!

There was a time when I didn’t really get the whole saint thing. When I was confirmed, I chose my patron based primarily because I thought her name was pretty (Saint Emiliana, by the way). Saint Agnes, who is to this day my favourite saint, was the first saint I really got to know. I think before that I had always approached saints as these strange mystical figures. Saint Agnes was the first saint who felt real and human to me. She was the first saint who felt like someone I could talk to and relate to (obviously not on the martyrdom front, but I’m sure you know what I mean). She became my friend. I’m sure any non-Catholics might find that entirely odd, that I consider a girl who lived in the year 300 AD to be my friend. I’m sure some people have much more formal relationships with their saint-friends. But I just talk to Saint Agnes, like I’d talk to you. And she made me see that all those in heaven with her aren’t so strange after all. So I can talk to them too, and now I have lots of saint-friends! I’ve written before about the saints that are my friends, here and here and here.

So if saints seem a little strange and scary to you too, remember they are your friends! You can just have a chat. Give it a try and see which saints become your friends.

Blessed Mother

I am by no means a theologian, so when I write things like this they come across I think as slightly disjointed. But not everyone is, or can be, a theologian. And while theology is a great thing, sometimes faith comes through in simple things. For me, it is in that simplicity that I find my greatest understanding of the role of the Blessed Mother. The way I understand her role most is through the wedding at Cana.

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said, ‘Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ [John 2:1-5]

The first thing she does is bring the problem before Jesus. They have no wine. Even thinking about a modern wedding one can see how embarrassing that would be for the hosts and the newlyweds (I’m not sure who would be the host at a Jewish wedding). The hostess in me is horrified by the very thought of not being able to provide for one’s guests appropriately. Mary only says a few words, but that is all she needs. She doesn’t press the issue, or even ask Him to do anything. I find it such a wonderful illustration of her intercession for us. When she hears our petitions, she brings them before her son. She joins us in our troubles and shares in our petition.

The second thing she does is to tell the servants to do as Jesus instructs them. Do whatever he tells you. Having given Him their petition, she simply tells them to do as He says. Her whole interaction here has been to point the servants to Jesus. She leads them to Him. This is also beautifully illustrated in one of my favourite depictions of the Blessed Mother. Hodegetria – She who shows the Way. My old parish had an icon of the Black Madonna of Czetochowska in the shrine to Our Lady and it always captivated me. It is such a simple gesture, Mary’s hand pointing towards the infant Jesus, but it speaks volumes. She doesn’t draw attention to herself, she draws it to her son. She shows the way to Him. And not only does she show the way, she reminds us to follow Him. She reminds us that He can help us, and to trust in Him.

Even when the problem seems impossible, nothing is impossible to Christ.

Hodegetria – She who shows the Way

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

Even More Saints (Part 3)

St. Benedict 

Coming from a girl who wanted to be a Benedictine, this really shouldn’t surprise you. When I was at St. Cecilia’s the readings were on the life of St. Benedict. I knew very little about St. Benedict actually, but I learnt that he was really a super cool guy. I keep a holy card and a St. Benedict medal in my purse.

St. Nicholas

No, not Santa. Real St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. He was very anti-Arian, and at the Council of Nicea, slapped Arius in the face. Now, he did a lot of other cool stuff too. During a famine, he convinced some sailors who were delivering wheat to the Emperor to give some to the city. They were reluctant, since they had a precise amount to deliver to the Emperor but St. Nicholas convinced them they would not lose out. When they got to the Emperor, the sailors discovered that they had exactly the right amount of wheat for the Emperor, despite having given away two years worth of wheat. But I feel a great affinity for him because slapping Arius is exactly the kind of thing I would do. Hehe.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

While I am not (and never have been) a Carmelite by nature, and usually Carmelites do not draw me, Blessed Elizabeth always has. When I started looking more into her life, I found that she was given to fits of temper. I find it greatly comforting to remember the weaknesses of saints, that these great holy men and women were human and had struggles just like us. Temper is something I have also struggled with, so to find that Blessed Elizabeth had the same weakness was a great comfort to me. It reminded me that we are all called to holiness, and that we can attain it despite our flaws and our weakness if we put our hope in God.

Habemus Papam Franciscum! Again…

So I already blogged about the new pope but I am still just filled with the same joy I felt when the white smoke came up. I was at the bus stop this morning just thinking to myself “we have a pope! we have a pope!” I do not remember the last conclave. I was about 14 and it wasn’t something that crossed my mind particularly. I was Catholic, but I was not practicing. I do remember watching the funeral of Bl. Pope John Paul II on television, but not much more than that. So this is a new experience for me.

One of the things that struck me the most was the emotional reaction to the white smoke. We didn’t know who the new pope was, but at the same time I was filled with love for this yet unknown person. I was chatting with some friends online at the time and we were all just saying “we love you Papa”.  The crowds cheering, “viva il Papa” before we’d even seen him. When the announcement was made and then when Pope Francis appeared to us for the first time, there truly was this sense of deep love for him. I’d never even heard his name until then but he already held a special place in my heart.

It was unexpected. But a very humble man appeared before us. Clearly moved by the weight of the office given to him, he came before a world that was waiting for him. And before he gave the blessing, he asked us to pray for him and he bowed in silence. It seems like such a simple gesture, but it was so deeply profound at the same time. He stood there not as a proud leader, but as a humble servant. He is known for taking public transport and  on the day of his election, he refused the car that was ready from him and took the bus with the cardinals. His humility is so striking that in just a few days I have seen people refer to him as Francis the Humble.

Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis, that the Holy Spirit may continue to guide him and the Church.

Habemus Papam!

Habemus Papam!

I am so excited. I’m watching the live feed right now and just waiting for our new pope to emerge. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited. I’m watching the Swiss guard now and just waiting and there are so many emotions. I squealed out loud when I saw the white smoke. I’d gone to the store and was desperately hoping I wouldn’t miss it and it came just as I got back. The joy and the excitement and the nerves.

Habemus Papam!

And the announcement has been made…Pope Francis! It’s strange how someone I know next to nothing about can hold such a dear place in my heart. It must be such a profound moment, to stand there and know how many people are watching you and have been waiting for you. Hearing his speech and his blessing, it’s just so beautiful.

Pope Francis I. I have been so full of joy since the announcement was made. He strikes me as a very humble man, and all account I have heard of him have only cemented this impression. The way he asked us to pray for him, humility really was the biggest thing that struck me about him.

Habemus Papam!

God Bless Pope Francis!

A bunch of random things

First things first, I apologise for being terrible at blogging recently. BUT my thesis was due this week so naturally that was my focus. Now that it is done (yay!) I can get back to blogging. I have a few posts in my drafts but they are ones that require actual thought and planning as opposed to my usual ramblings.

Secondly, the conclave starts on Tuesday (tomorrow!). So get praying! If you haven’t already, also adopt a cardinal. You sign up and are randomly assigned a cardinal that you then pray for. And then if your cardinal is elected you can feel awesome (just kidding…sort of). Also, what happens if you can’t be glued to your television all day, or you live somewhere in a super different time zone to Rome and are asleep and miss the announcement! Being English, I don’t quite have the latter problem but there is a site called Pope Alarm that will email you, or if you are in the US text you, when the white smoke appears so you can be watching for “Habemus Papam!” I think this is a genius idea for those of you who are far away from Rome. I, however, will spend all my waking hours watching EWTN because Rome is only like an hour ahead. And of course don’t forget to pray for the conclave and our new pope!

And now the actual post.

So recently I was on old forum-type website I used to be very active on but only really log in now to keep my account alive. It was a big part of my life for a long time and it’s one of those things that I’d feel sad if I just let it die. It’s not a Christian site, but there are various groups and I was part of mostly Catholic or Christian groups. This was when I was a teenager and was starting to get more into the faith and was in RCIA and everything. I kept it very separate from my real life and in a way I developed two separate  identities: the person I was in my real life, and the person I was online. I remember these girls who talked about nothing but Jesus and their church camp or whatever and were all these cookie-cutter copies of each other. There was this attitude that in order to be a “good Christian” you had to fit this ideal where there was no sense of personality and individuality. So for a long time I maintained this identity as a “Good Christian Girl” online, but in my real life I was a different person. For a long time I thought in order to be a “good Catholic” you somehow had to suppress yourself.

A while ago I saw someone (non-Catholic at the time now reconciled to the Church, praise God) say that they had a great admiration for St. Therese and if we were all like her then they’d be a Catholic. This comment made me think back to that idea that there is some mould that we must all fit into in order to be a “good Catholic”. Of course St. Therese was a great and holy woman, but she was also an individual. We try to emulate the saints in their holiness, not in their personality. It took me a long time to realise that I could be a Catholic and still be myself.  I don’t need to talk about Christ every single second for Him to be the centre of my life. God made us as individuals and it’s okay to embrace that.

Resignation of the Pope

So unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, the Holy Father has resigned.  I admit I was completely shocked and didn’t believe it for a minute until I checked another news site to make sure. It’s kind of sunk in now, but even when I first heard it the one thing I felt in my heart was that the Holy Father would not have made this decision lightly and unless he truly felt it was the best choice for the Church and in keeping with the will of God. I also felt assured that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide the Church, as always, and guide the cardinals as they choose the next successor of Peter. Some of the reactions from Catholics I know have disappointed me. The Holy Father is not quitting. He is not giving up. His resignation is an act of humility and of ultimate trust in the Lord. He has no desire to stop serving the Church, he is acknowledging that he can serve her better by allowing a new shepherd to take his place.

I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

A friend of mine is fundraising for her entrance to religious life, which will hopefully be this summer. She hopes to enter the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. Visit her Facebook page for more information, she will have donation links up soon.

Interesting Insights

Yesterday I went to Adoration. I hadn’t been in a while but was in town anyway so I decided to go. To give some background here, for a while I had been wanting to go back to St. Cecilia’s. I don’t know why, just to see it again or talk to Mother Mistress or something. As I discussed before, I have had some trouble “mourning” and I think it was to do with that. I was just kneeling silently in Adoration, not really thinking about anything and just looking at Jesus when I ‘heard’ very distinctly “don’t go back”. Since I hadn’t been thinking about it, I was taken aback for a moment but I clearly needed that moment. Obviously it’s only been a day but I’ve felt much more at peace about it since then.

I also had another interesting moment but I’m keeping that to myself for now. I need to think about it and pray about it for a while. But I am also applying for an internship to work with a Catholic pro-life charity here after I finish college. So please pray for me, I’d absolutely love to work with them. And of course pray for them and all who do pro-life work.