Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Millennials and Memento Mori

"For you are dust, And to dust you shall return."
-Genesis 3:19

When I first learned of the Latin phrase, "Memento Mori," I had no idea what to think of it or what all of the craze was about on Twitter. I could figure out from the words that it had something to do with remembering our death, but why was this simple phrase popping up daily on my news-feed with a little emoticon skull next to it? Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP gives daily reflections on Twitter about the skull on her desk and how she remembers to keep her impending death in mind, but what was this skull on the desk thing? Why all of the hype among millennials and why the daily reminder to keep in mind that yes, we all will die? What does this ancient Christian tradition have to do with being Catholic and why did Saint Benedict in Chapter 4 of his Holy Rule emphasize this very concept, "Remember to keep death before your eyes daily"?

This ancient Christian tradition has everything to do with being a Catholic. I recently discovered a great explanation for us Christians as to the very reason of keeping in mind daily before our eyes that we will in fact one day die, and why it is important to be reminded that it will happen to all of us. The following is an excerpt from the online article, "Memento Mori: 5 Benefits of Remembering Your Death" from The Catholic Gentleman:

1. Use of Time – Time is a precious resource. A moment, once possessed, can never be recaptured. Moreover, what we do with our time will last for eternity. Time is also extremely limited in quantity, and none of us knows exactly how much we have. We could live another 20, 30 or 40 years—or we could die on the way to work this morning. We simply do not know.
These considerations should motivate us to use our time well and not waste it on frivolous activities that have no benefit. That isn’t to say that we can’t relax, enjoy ourselves or have fun, but true wisdom keeps these things in moderation and does not seek a life of pleasure at the expense of one’s soul.
2. A Holy Fear – Read Matthew 25:31-46. This passage should strike a holy fear into your heart, for we will all be judged on our works. Many like to claim the name of Catholic or Christian. Maybe they have a rosary hanging from their rear view mirror. Yet, substantively, if you look at their lives, there is hardly any difference between them and a wordly person who does not know God.
We are not saved by faith alone. Scripture is quite clear that we will be judged not by what we believed, but by what we did. How terrifying it would be to hear the words, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into eternal fire…”
Are you living in such a way that you can be confident that Christ will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Your life proves what is in your heart. Live well so that you can die well.
3. Live with no regrets – How would you live today if you knew it was your last day on earth? Would you live any differently if you knew you would die tomorrow? My guess is that you would.
Yet, the truth is, today could be your last day alive. You really could die tomorrow. You simply don’t know. So examine your life in light of eternity. Are you living with purpose or drifting aimlessly? Are you putting off something that you know our Lord is calling you to do?
To the world, living with no regrets often means seeking your own interests over those of others, of seeking maximum pleasure in the time that we have. Yet, this is an empty and vain philosophy. To live with no regrets is to give our lives to Jesus and to others. This is the only life that matters. For in eternity, we can only keep what we have first given away.
4. A Legacy of Love or Pain – Each of us leaves behind a legacy interpersonally. Sometimes that legacy is one of pain and broken relationships, of bitterness and resentment and spite. Yet, in many cases that legacy is one of love and warmth and joy.
Everyone you leave behind will remember how you treated them. Do you love your wife? Do you invest yourself in your kids? How do you treat your parents, your siblings, your friends, even your enemies? How will they remember you? Reconciliation is also a matter to consider: Are there broken relationships that you could mend before you die? Don’t delay to do it. Forgive and seek forgiveness. Your grudge does not matter in the grave.
On our death bed, we can either be surrounded by those who love us, or we can die alone because we have driven everyone away. We can be remembered with tears of sorrow or with a sigh of relief. How do you want to be remembered?
5. Sainthood – Life is short. Eternity is long. In the end, there is only one thing that is really worth living for—holiness. Many are under the impression that holiness is boring, and that sanctity isn’t worth the pursuit. But holiness is not boring. A saint is the human person supernaturalized and transfigured—filled to overflowing with the Divine life of God. How exactly is this boring?
Our culture is obsessed with superpowers and superheroes. In the past, society was fascinated with saints. There is a correlation in that, deep down, we know that there is more to the human person than meets the eye. We are capable of extraordinary things by God’s grace, and the call to holiness is a call to a supernatural life. No, perhaps you will not do miracles or levitate—but you can know God and participate in his Divine nature as far as is possible for a creature. And that’s a miracle in itself! There’s only one thing worth living for: sainthood. Don’t waste your life. Be a saint.

We never know what tomorrow will bring us or even the next moment in our lives, but if we live our lives in full acknowledgment that we will die then we can embrace the love that Jesus has for us, and we can share that love with others. We can remember to live our lives in humility and humbleness and to understand that God gave our lives to us for us to truly live. Not all people who are alive truly live their lives. We have received the precious gift of life from God and it is up to us what we choose to do with this beautiful gift. As God has given us the breath of life we need to allow the message of Christ to permeate into our souls so that we can be a light for others, especially in the times of darkness in our world today. Remember to keep death before your eyes always so that you may truly live your life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Millennials, Be the Light of Christ"

 “Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are.”
-St. John Paul II

When I first thought about becoming involved in young adult ministry I was quite hesitant and doubted whether I should  put the time and energy into something that  was seemingly hopeless to me. Many young adults have embraced an attitude of being spiritual, but not religious, and are absent from the pews on Sundays.  I wondered if embarking on such an endeavor was worth it, but deep in my heart I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me to embrace the Church's movement of the new evangelization. I  felt at peace with knowing that all of my efforts might completely fail, but  at the same time thinking, "What if all of my efforts don't fail"? Our Church has so many opportunities to become involved in our parishes with the rest of our Church family, whether it is  Eucharistic Adoration, Adult Faith Formation Lectures, a Faith-Sharing Group. Rosary Group, a Spiritual Retreat, or even a parish picnic. I realized that in embracing the new evangelization I wanted to be able to help young adults to learn about these opportunities that are offered to us, and then to be able to help them to journey back Home to the Church or even if they are already active in their own parishes to be able to meet other young adults from other parishes. I realized I didn't want to start a regular young adult group, I felt called to start a young adult group that comes together to show their presence across various parishes on Staten Island taking part in the various events and gatherings already offered to Catholics at their parishes. We are the millennial generation, and we are the future of Our Church, and it is up to us to keep spreading our faith and to be the apostles of today. Even if only one young adult shows up to an event, that one person still makes all the difference, and although at times being faced with challenges and frustration I believe young adult ministry is important, and I feel blessed to be able to be involved in a ministry for the echo boomer generation.

This is a poem I wrote about having hope for the future that more young adults will come Home.

Echo of Hope
Walking through the western doors
one can hear a lull of silence.
Solitude stands amidst the crowd;
the dearth of a millennial echo,
soft whispers from an invisible voice,
and the solemn sound of the muted lyre.

There are words of sweet lament,
and the untouched cup of joy and sorrow.
A distant voice calls for the eternal glory,
and weeps for the hardened hearts.

An illumination of perpetual light
ignites the pristine presence,
and the celestial choir awaits
the hour of a joyous serenade.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Grace of Suffering

"Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Saviour; in suffering love becomes crystallised; the greater the suffering, the purer the love. (57)" -St. Faustina

We all have experienced some kind of suffering in our lives, and it seems by the grace of God that He seems to allow us to experience a similar suffering time and time again. Why does the Lord allow us to keep experiencing a emotional suffering or spiritual suffering or physical suffering? Because He knows the suffering that we are best able to endure and then survive because of our strength. We know that the Father only gives His children what they can handle, and I think it makes sense that throughout our journey in life we are confronted with similar situations that result in a familiar kind of suffering.

For me the most familiar suffering that I have experienced throughout the course of my young adult life is emotional suffering, which can be considered a curse, but it is also a blessing. Emotional suffering is a curse because the scars inflicted upon you are worn from the inside, where you can still wake up each morning with a cheerful grin on your face and allow others to believe everything is fine. But emotional suffering is also a blessing, especially when you know that each time it happens you gain more wisdom and strength.

I feel that we do learn from experience, and each time I am confronted with emotional suffering it takes less time for me to recover, and I am able to forgive much sooner than the previous time. I embrace the emotional suffering that I have experienced and I bear my cross because I love the Lord, and I have done and continue to do whatever is His will. Jesus suffered on the cross to save all of us from our sins and I know that it is through the suffering we experience in this world that we grow even closer to Christ and  we are there with him at the foot of the cross. I have learned to be able to offer up any suffering to the cross, and for others. Through the pain and hurt that I experienced in religious life and in my departure  from my former religious community I have found solace and peace in watching friends of mine have joy as they move forward in their journey of formation in religious life and I am able to experience that joy along with them.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

No Apologies For Being A Catholic

(CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)
 I love my Catholic faith, and as a young adult the strength of my faith has increased even more because of experiences in my life. I have come to realize how much my faith means to me and no matter the obstacles and challenges that I am confronted by in my life I have never allowed anyone to take my faith away from me. I stand by our Church despite the troubled and chaotic times of this new millennium, and despite being attacked for my faith by even other Catholics I will not yield or surrender because the dogma forever lives loudly within me. I proclaim that I believe in ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH  and I accept ALL of the teachings of the Church, and that doesn't make me "too conservative," that makes me a CATHOLIC, and proud of it. This is a poem I wrote about having to choose between what others were doing around me and to follow them or to stay true to my Catholic faith.

"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
-2 Timothy 3:12

Forever Faithful
A blanket of frost
and the crisp, autumn air,
the trembling of leaves
and the breath of despair

A fierce gust of wind
The earliest of hours
An igniting of the flame
becomes a quest for power

The poetry of praise
becomes a mocking chatter
Seeking Him always
should be the crux of the matter

Frozen in the moments
and the breaking of a heart
The word one dares not speak
would tear her soul apart

A silent tongue
The art of protest
a concluding of the verse
the most strongest detest

A fiery tempest
and the swirl of the shell
The mysterious message
that one can foretell

Her voice of wisdom,
the sight of her face
This cosmic woman;
a presence in the gathering space

There is nowhere to run
no place to hide
A tirade of emotions
within a depth do reside

A pain so deep
like no other
A betrayal of faith
she turns to her Father

A folly of divine petition
creates a deep sea of tears
yet outstretched arms
calm all of her fears

The army of angels
as her guide
Oneness of Godhead,
a truth deep inside.

Father, Son, and Spirit blest
The Triune God,
the only Glory she will confess

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Be Still and Know

 "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

-Psalm 46:10

During challenging times and hitting roadblocks on our journey towards a closer intimacy with the Lord it is important that we never lose hope or sight of God's overall plan for us. We do not always know what the plan is that God has for us, but in trusting God we can find strength to help us through the difficult times in our lives. We all have our own vocation given to us as a gift from our Father, and sometimes it takes time for us to receive that gift. I am blessed that God has given me the gift of being called to religious life, and because of perseverance and love I know that one day I will be able to open that gift when I am able to say "Yes", to Him as a beloved bride of Christ.

Divine Romance
A solemn shadow stirs the soul
as the flute whistles a tone of midday dreary.
The crimson core weeps deeply,
around the shore of silence
with raindrops gliding down her cheeks
she sees the footprints in the sand.

The wind steadily howls
and dances across the dune
as the heart thunders loudly
with a flash of lightening
and a torrent deep and wide.

The seductive serpent crawls upon the ground
with an evil hiss and
a fiery, sharpened tongue.
He takes his refuge beneath the elder tree
lurking in the bushes
as the young lioness roars
underneath the warm rays of the sun
and blue velvet sky.

The music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the soft melody of the harp 
with a gentle voice calling out to her
grace sweeps her off her feet
and ignites a burning fire in her heart.

The fluttering of the quiet flame
and whispering truth
the swishing sword shatters the dark
as the stream of the Divine
with rushing water flows through.

A gaze in the mirror;
face unveiled
eyes upon the tainted glass,
the love of Christ revealed.

The Beloved beckons to her
as he heals the open wound,
he embraces the small, shepherd girl
with a holy kiss,
she knows this divine romance is true.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Trust in the Lord

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding."
-Proverbs 3:5 NASB

Beginning the discernment journey to exploring one's call to religious life is not a decision made at first without some hesitation and question.  When I was in my early twenties and the first thought of religious life entered into my mind I wanted such a thought to dissipate from my mind because my entire life all I had ever focused on was going to college and then becoming a teacher.  I knew what I wanted or at least I thought that I did at the time, which was to focus on having a career and then if the right man came into my life I would get married.  That is what all of my friends were doing at the time, and I figured eventually I would join them. I would go on the Vision Vocation website and explore the different communities and even filled out the survey, but I could never bring myself to click the submit button because I was too afraid of what others would think, especially my parents.

When I was in my mid twenties that gentle tug at my heart returned to me. I remember one day praying before the Blessed Sacrament, and feeling overwhelmingly sure that my heart's innermost desire was to live out the will of God. It was at that moment I realized that although I had considered marriage to a man, the calling in my heart was to enter into a more intimate relationship with Jesus as his bride. I was finally ready to accept God's will in my life since it was obvious to me the feeling that had come back to me would probably keep coming back to me. It was through daily mass, Eucharistic adoration, and praying the Rosary that I was truly able to listen to the quiet in my own heart and hear God's voice. There were some days I would even sit in the silence on the beach and watch the waves flow back and forth upon the shore. It was definitely a struggle to go to Church more than just on Sundays and have it be unnoticed by my parents because I was not ready to tell them that I felt called to become a religious sister. My father became suspicious and upset because he thought that I was secretly dating someone and leaving him out of the loop. When I told him I was going to Church, sometimes more than once a day, he didn't believe me. How could I tell him that I wasn't dating just any guy, I was dating Jesus?

Now that I am almost thirty years old, and have been in religious life, it is definitely a challenge to keep answering God's call because it would be so simple to just go back to my life previously before I entered a community. But I know that I could try to walk away from my vocation to religious life as much as I want, but God is not going to walk away from me. He is going to keep calling me until I answer Him, and go forward with becoming a religious sister. Although my journey of discernment has had bumps along the way, I will keep on this path because a difficult road leads to a beautiful destination.

Discerning religious life is like waves in the ocean; the feeling of being called to religious life can come and go, but if someone is truly called to religious life the gentle flutter in her heart will keep coming back to her. It is not easy to embrace a calling to religious life, especially when we are met with difficulties or challenges, but we have to remember that God's plans are not always the same as our plans, and our will is not the same as God's will. We need to be open to the Spirit, and accept the wonderful, beautiful story that God wants to write for us if we allow Him.  St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, "We are all pencils in the hand of God".

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Carry Me to the Cross

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life."
-John 3:16  

When I was fourteen years old after viewing The Passion of the Christ movie with my parish youth group I remember having such an overwhelming sense of such absolute love and admiration within the depth of my soul for our Lord, Jesus Christ. I remember feeling as if I was right there at the foot of the cross watching our Savior suffer in pain and agony as he made the ultimate sacrifice to save us from our sins. God sent his only Son to grant us eternal life with Him if we choose to follow and believe in the light and the way of truth of Jesus Christ. We are able to look at the cross and to know that no matter what we are experiencing in our lives Jesus is right there suffering along with us. We are never alone. He knows of our pain and our sorrow, and if we trust in him and hold onto beautiful hope that the best is yet to come we will experience the promise that God made to us. We need to remain open to His holy will even if we are faced with challenges and obstacles along the way. The following is a poem that I wrote when I was a freshman in high school expressing my profound love for my beloved, Jesus Christ.

My Beloved
A virtuous Son
with hair the shade of deep autumn
cascading down about His shoulders.

A glistening complexion
and overflow of a serene and innocent gaze of
the mysterious traveler.

The reflection of divine grace,
a teacher,
a doer of splendid works.

Advocating with modest fervor,
and curing men with His words and touch,
He saved the world.

The Bread of Life,
The Foundation,
He laughs, He cries, He loves;
My Beloved.