…and kindle in them the fire of your love

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by Krysti Patient, Full Member and 2017-2018 Missionary to Youth

Today the Church celebrates Pentecost after fifty days of glorious Easter, and welcomes once more with great and grateful need, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the people of God. While reflecting on this time in preparation for this blog, I happened to also be preparing a talk on the very same season to our Girls’ CLC (Catholic Life Community, discipleship group) at All Saints Catholic Church, where I’ve been assigned for the past two years for ministry both as a volunteer and a Missionary to Youth through Women Youth Apostles. Providence aligned a few subjects or themes that provided a lens through which I wanted to look at this beautiful event- the birthday of the Church. I was inspired to dig up an old talk I gave to my own community and several other guests at our Annual Retreat two years ago on Mary, Queen of Apostles, for this, one of the oldest titles given to Our Lady comes from this blessed event in the Upper Room, where she was present with the disciples. Furthermore, it seemed appropriate to involve the Blessed Mother in my reflection given the month, for May is the month of Our Lady, and this coming soon after Mother’s Day. Finally, Women Youth Apostles just this past Wednesday welcomed guest speaker China Briceno to speak to us for our Formation meeting about “The Fight for Femininity”. China took us through John Paul II’s document, Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women). This document highlights attributes of the ‘feminine genius’ that I would like to use to provide some thoughts on Pentecost, the Blessed Mother, and my experience as a Missionary to Youth these past 9 months.

Receptivity

The receptivity of Mary is genius. This quality is what made her the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ and inspired her Fiat. This very attribute of Our Lady is what welcomed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her and bring into flesh the presence of Christ, the Word and Son of God. This openness to life, the life of the Christ child, and this trusting openness to whatever God has planned for me, is something I have asked for in prayer throughout these months as a missionary and in diving into youth ministry. In the Spiritual Life, I have made efforts in prayer to ‘do’ less and ‘be’ more, to allow the Lord to overshadow me and provide me with an understanding of His will. As a youth minister, and a sister in my community, I have recognized how key this receptivity is to become a vessel and then instrument of the Holy Spirit, to be used to bring that Christ-life to my sisters and the young people I serve. Our community spirituality places great importance in the Fiat of Mary, her radical ‘Yes’, and in fact the first line in our own community prayer is “Gracious Lord, we are your handmaidens”. This receptivity has been the first priority of my mission and impressing the importance of this quality on the young women in my ministries is the utmost goal, the first step to a life with Christ. For this was Mary’s first step. This Pentecost, receptivity is what is needed when we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit”.

Generosity

This attribute is so closely linked with receptivity. The very receptivity of Mary that welcomed the Holy Spirit and gave way to God’s will in her life was radically generous of her. It is typical for us to think of generosity in terms of giving, but this is not contrary to receptivity because we are first called to be generous with our very selves to our Lord and His plan. I often think of the story of Mary and Martha here as well- both of these women showed Jesus generosity, but it was the generosity of Mary’s prayerful presence to Christ that was most pleasing, not the material service of Martha. Another line of the Women Youth Apostle prayer that comes to mind here is, “Place within us a burning desire to do the work of your Kingdom here on earth.” This burning desire is the same as that ‘fire of [His] love’ when we invoke the Holy Spirit- “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.” We ask the Lord to be generous to us, with a generous outpouring of His Holy Spirit that will fill our hearts to the brim. This generosity of God’s is an active initiative that burns within His faithful. The Blessed Mother was generous with the whole of her life, submitting herself entirely to the Spirit, allowing the Lord to initiate a very good- the best- work within her, filling her to the brim and kindling a mothering heart for all that was generous with all. I have found myself in this year of mission asking for Our Lady’s intercession to show this generosity in my giving of self to the Lord, to my sisters, and to the Lord’s young people.

Maternity

               I mentioned Mary’s mothering heart, which leads to this third quality, maternity. Our Lady’s unique identity as both virgin and mother is so beautiful because through Mary we are to understand woman’s universal call to motherhood, no matter her state in life. From the cross Christ gave the world through John His own mother, and all of us the Church, to Our Lady as her new adopted children. From that moment on, the Blessed Mother looked upon each human face and saw the face of her son. The care she must have shown- a mothering care- for the souls of each of these children taken as her own, is a quality needed in our world, and especially by the young people. Mary was present there in the Upper Room with the disciples as they awaited the Holy Spirit, this woman who had received the Spirit herself at an important beginning years ago. I imagine her leadership, her maternity in that room for these men and some women gathered in anticipation and probable uncertainty. I think of her words in the Magnificat, “The Almighty has done great things for me” as she anticipated the great gift the Lord wished to give her spiritual children.

               Two ministry experiences come to mind as I reflect on Our Lady’s maternity at Pentecost. The first began earlier in the schoolyear, around the end of the Fall Semester in December, as we celebrated the close of the semester with our high school teens at All Saints with a family potluck and talent show. I watched many teens share their gifts with their peers and families, gifts I wasn’t even totally aware of, and a true celebration of this being a beautifully diverse Body of Christ. Later in the evening, one of the young women in the youth ministry, and a member of the Girls’ CLC, approached me to ask me to be her sponsor for her confirmation. Being able to pray for her in this special and intentional way in the months since has been a true gift of spiritual maternity (she receives confirmation tomorrow evening!). The second experience was on the two girls’ 8th grade confirmation retreats this past April. A simple reflection to be sure, but it was another gift to be able to watch several of our high school girls join us as assistant leaders and to witness their own qualities of receptivity, generosity and maternity in their care for their younger 8th grade sisters in the Church. I watch some lend musical gifts, others give talks, and all of them help lead and teach and offer personal experience to share with the 8th graders the truth of their experience of a relationship with Christ. Certainly watching CLC girls make commitments before an altar in honor of this very relationship and in the liturgy always catches me by the heart, because there’s a combination of joys between knowing what the Lord has done for each one of them while also assured of how much more He plans to do.

It’s amusing to realize that I’ve been in my missionary year now for 9 months, as I reflect on carrying the life of Christ and spiritual maternity. As I reflect on Our Lady’s presence at Pentecost, I recognize I have been blessed to have this sense of carrying, of holding something special and important, a not-so-secret secret that is the truth of God’s love and to have been able to share this truth with others and especially the young people I’ve been privileged to serve. I praise God for, and I have been blessed to witness the ways the Lord has done great things in the lives of the youth in my ministries, and am confident in the many ways He will undoubtedly do even greater things in their lives in the days to come. I also await with great expectation and assurance in my own inner Upper Room for the Spirit to come to me in new ways and to lead me along new journeys of trust, of receptivity, generosity and maternity as his handmaiden in Women Youth Apostles.

(photos above are of 1. Me giving a testimony to high school teens at our Sunday Lifenight program, 2. Our Girls’ CLC president giving a talk at the 8th grade confirmation retreat, and 3. A CLC girl making her final Full Member commitment before the altar at a commitment mass)

Go To Your Inner Room

An Ash Wednesday Refection by: Fatima Perez

A month or two ago, I remember one night I was rocking my son to sleep. He was having a tough time falling asleep on his own so I took him into my arms and sat us in the rocking chair. With each rock back and forth, and as he looked out the window and up at the stars, I was telling him how much I loved astronomy as a kid. I shared how one Christmas years and years ago, my parents bought me a telescope. There were many nights when my brother and I would hang out on the backyard deck to look up at space, at the stars. All of this eventually brought me to sharing with him, as his eyes finally grew tired, how the God of the universe, who made everything including every star in the sky, created him and loves him.

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This past Sunday, our sisters and friends returned home from our annual Women Youth Apostles retreat. The theme this year was centered on the reality that we are God’s beloved. This extended time of being “away” from the world was a great gift to each of us because it is in silence and prayerful reflection that we are able to more deeply dive into the depths of our heart, understand who we are by truly knowing Whose we are, and that we were created out of love for love; everything else is a result of this truth. This is so important to call to mind time and again because often we forget it as we are inundated with noise and distractions, feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness.

02.14.18 Ash Wednesday

Today, Ash Wednesday, begins the Lenten Season. When we go to Mass today we receive ashes on our forehead. The ashes remind us that we were not ultimately created for this world and the shape of the cross reminds us that we were created for Heaven, for it is in Christ’s death on the cross and rising from the grave that we are able to share in His life outside of this world—Heaven, where we were ultimately created for. This is why this liturgical season focuses on a deeper level of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because in doing so, we position ourselves to remember that we are not of this world, and this is how we prepare ourselves for the next.

In this preparation, it doesn’t take much to note how the world is full of so much noise and distraction. This is why going on a retreat was such a gift, and I’m sure others who’ve gone on a retreat would agree. In order to enter into a state of deeper prayer, we have to leave the noise, and go in the inner room of our heart. This isn’t because we are being forced to, but because it is by going in that we are able to meet with the God who loves us and Who will guide our path to Heaven, for it is in the silence of the heart that He speaks. It is even in the silence that He shatters our feelings of unworthiness due to sin, or inadequacies in living a life as a disciple of His… for He tells us:

“You are worthy,

You are enough.

Rest in My Mercy.

I love you.”

I pray that this Lenten season will bear great fruit for each of us. When we go into the inner room of our heart, may prayer help us to more closely examine our lives through a telescope, as its very purpose is to collect light to view things far away. May we be always reminded of the lasting light of God’s immense love & abundant mercy for us and as we journey in faith in this world, that we may keep our eyes fixated on where we were ultimately created for, a place much closer to us than we think.

Finding Joy Through Suffering

By: Sara Hammett

“You are being let go.”

Those are words any employee would dread hearing and I am no different. Having only been employed at this particular place for only three months, and with recent talk of downsizing, I knew that this may have been on the horizon. On March 22, 2017, I lost my job. Once asked to speak with my boss in his office, I met with HR, discussed parting procedures, and just like that I left. Overwhelmed with emotion, I began to cry. “Why God?” was the first question that popped into my head. Only three months before this very day, I felt the call to seek out this place; taking a cut in pay to serve His children in a unique way. In a matter of minutes, it was stripped from me. My world was suddenly dark, and for the first time in my life I had no idea what was ahead of me. I had no plan and no next step. I felt weak and powerless. I saw very quickly that I had two options. I could have either sat around allowing the Evil One to overtake me, or I could allow the Lord to enter. Later that day, I attended the Confirmation Mass of the parish I ministered with and was assured in prayer that the Lord had other plans. The next five months of my life became an incredible journey of finding joy through suffering; reflecting on the Passion of our Lord, and in recognizing that true joy comes from sacrificial love.
Early on in my unemployment, we had Mass on a Thursday night at our Women Youth Apostles House. Per usual, I was asked to altar serve and for the first time ever I remember not really wanting to. Feeling sad and rejected by employers already denying me, all I wanted to do was attend Mass and just get on with the evening. Nonetheless, I served and was struck deeply by one moment in the Mass. After prepping the altar, I stand towards the priest with the bowl to wash his hands, look up, and stare directly into the face of Jesus behind him on the crucifix. My eyes locked with the sorrowful eyes of Jesus as he endured His passion. It was in that moment that I felt comforted, protected, and united with Jesus. I was reminded in that moment that the Lord suffered and died so that I may live fully; not be miserable and not question the purpose He has for my life. It was that night that I chose to make my prayer during this time in my life to be, “Thy Will be Done.” I wanted to seek His will above all else and if that meant being unemployed, then that meant seeking how He willed to use me. Surrendering all to Him at the foot of His cross (literally) meant that I too had to carry my cross and seek Him first.

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Throughout the next five months of unemployment, carrying my cross meant suffering through applying to over fifty jobs with no call backs, having the frustration of having to watch every dollar I spent, and not feeling secure or comfortable with the road ahead. Time and time again I would feel the Evil One creep inside my mind and make me think I was a disappointment to everyone and that I would never get hired. I would take those thoughts to prayer and would be affirmed that I was on the path God wanted me on. Each of my days were spent caring for two elderly individuals and babysitting five children for one of my Youth Apostle brothers who was suffering with terminal cancer. Each and every day I would wake up, made sure I got to Mass, and fought to remain hopeful no matter how much the odds were against me. In serving and loving those who needed a light in the midst of life’s struggles, I learned that the Lord wanted me to pour my heart and time to serve them; using my time off to glorify Him.

Not every day was easy and there were some days I didn’t want to wake up. One thing I can say is that I went to bed each day full of joy. Through the suffering I went through in losing my job, I gained a new sense of life. Through the sacrificial love I gave daily to those in need, I got back so much more. I was humbled and blessed each day to share in their lives; sharing in their struggles and triumphs. “Thy Will be Done” was my constant prayer of surrender to the Lord and receiving Him in the Eucharist daily gave me strength. In choosing to love and be loved by others, I learned to trust in God’s providence with my whole heart. On September 5th, I began a full time position with Evolent Health as a patient outreach specialist. I couldn’t be happier in knowing I am beginning this next chapter of my journey and that it is in fulfillment of the Lord’s will. Suffering through these past months taught me to love courageously and always seek the will of God in all I do; for that is where I will find the greatest joy.

“Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It”

By: Krysti Patient
Starting this month, Krysti has entered into a Missionary Year through Women Youth Apostles. She leaves behind a full-time job and salary for a dedicated time of service to the Women Youth Apostles community and the young people at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, VA.
On Friday, August 18th, I said goodbye to the glass conference rooms and up-to-date technologies of my non-profit job, and most challengingly, to my coworkers. I also said goodbye to small, seemingly insignificant things like my work ID… that was actually pretty hard.

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This small chapter of my life came to a close in what felt like the quickest two weeks of my adult existence. This was my first full-time salaried job after graduating college in 2013 and being a waitress for two years. I was so proud of my cubicle, of my keys, my parking pass, my borrowed work-issued laptop, my annual work trip to Chicago. It felt like I had some time yet to outgrow them but then, when has my time ever been the Lord’s time?

It came as no real surprise, then (especially given the Lord’s tendency toward a pretty healthy sense of humor) that he had much to say to me in the weeks approaching the big transition, in living out the first wave of my “Yes” regarding poverty and humility. So much of my prayer surrounding the daily Mass readings for the past few weeks has been an affirmation from God that what He wants most from me through this year of service is my poverty of spirit. A poverty that “costs everything that is not the Kingdom of Heaven” (The Pearl, Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel). I have been taking note of the Lord strengthening my commitment to Him and calling me out of all of my cubicle-shaped comfort zones.

One particular reflection I had came from a Eucharistic Holy Hour in July, spent meditating on that day’s First Reading from Exodus. The Lord “summoned Moses to the top of the mountain” (Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b). When God summons Moses, He does so after Moses brings the people to the foot of the mountain, where there is fire, trembling earth and smoke. I immediately think, “Sounds like a volcano. They should get out of there.” In all seriousness, this somewhat sarcastic humor of mine echoed a real false warning, a worldly fear that I had in approaching God’s holy mountain – the mountain for me being this Missionary Year ahead.

All “signs” pointed to turning tail. I had a good job, a great work-life balance with ample time to devote to volunteering in ministry and partaking in community life, with some steady comfortable income. It was certainly easy to reflect the spirit of fear that Scripture describes of the Israelites in the midst of my decision. In my prayer, however, I had my version of the events of this passage in Exodus, where I was someone in this crowd of people, with Moses right beside me. As Scripture tells, Moses speaks to God, and the Lord answers in thunder. Moses seems to know what God is saying to him, but all I can hear this noise and feel this trepidation. My fear itself is a language barrier preventing me from understanding the Lord. Eventually, Moses is summoned to ascend the mountain and approach the Lord. But, Moses tells me, so am I.

Luckily, I have a few people in my life who are an example of Moses to me, who understand the thunder perhaps a little more, and a little more often, than I. By their encouragement and their own closeness to God, I am invited upward to seek Him and know Him more intimately, and I do not journey alone.

In light of this somewhat daunting (though wonderful) invitation, I have been searching more and more for courage, hoping that I can stockpile it for the climbs ahead. But I have found in my searching that a very important prerequisite to courage is love and humility. This is the real work ahead, but it is also what motivates me to give my “Yes” in the first place. My good Jesus doesn’t ask much, but rather, like Peter, He asks only “Do you love me?” I know and He knows my real love for Him, my sisters, and His young people. My “Yes”, my choosing to accept this Mission, is a simple yet confident, sure answer to that question. It is my way of saying “summon me, O God, to your holy mountain.”

We shall see what the Lord longs to reveal to me there.

Please pray for me and for the young people at All Saints in this year of ministry ahead.

Love Beyond Comfort: A Reflection on The Camino de Santiago and Engagement

By: Vania Dienzo

Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Spain to with my boyfriend Nate to hike El Camino de Santiago. We were invited by our friend, a priest from the Archdiocese of Newark, back in February to attend with a group led by another priest. When Nate told me about the invitation, I wanted to sign up immediately. Embarking on the five week long journey from France to Santiago de Compostela had been on my bucket list since seeing the movie The Way with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez a few years ago, but five days seemed much more practical in this point in my life. I knew God was giving us this opportunity to go and so we signed up and looked forward to going on a pilgrimage together.

map of routesFor those unfamiliar with the pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago (also known as the Way of St. James) consists of many routes starting in France, Spain and Portugal and dates back to the Middles Ages when pilgrims traveled from Jerusalem and Rome. The pilgrims end in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where St. James the Apostle’s remains are buried. Hundreds of thousands of people a year make their way from different starting points to venerate St. James. We would begin our pilgrimage from Sarria, about 70 miles east of Santiago, to fulfill the minimum 100 kilometers (roughly 62 miles) of walking on foot needed to obtain the certificate, or “Compostela.” We knew this would be an intense journey physically, emotionally and spiritually so we prepared for it as best as we could months leading up to it.

In preparation we did research online on what to expect and gear to get, which Nate is really good at doing when it comes to things like this. We walked several miles on the weekends that we could since April leading up to the pilgrimage. We also prayed the rosary on those hikes. Additionally we watched The Way again and a documentary called “Footsteps” about a group of men taking the five week Camino. In retrospect, even if I had walked and prayed more several months before, I don’t believe I would have been completely prepared for all the emotion and strength required for the pilgrimage.

I came on the pilgrimage to pray for others and pray about my vocation and my relationship with Nate. I knew this pilgrimage would allow me much time to pray in challenging way. A literal example would be on our first day, praying the rosary at the very first Camino de Santiago marker while hiking up a huge and unexpected hill; that was a very challenging prayer to start off with. Other moments of prayer were in the churches we visited, walking through the fields and farms, taking in the beautiful view at the top of hills or focusing to finish.

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While walking I thought about how St. James got through much longer than this with much less than we have. He took Jesus’ Great Commission to spread the Gospel to great lengths. This encouraged me to continue as a catechist at my parish. I have to do my part in planning and taking courses to prepare my future students with their discernment to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. If St. James traveled all the way to Spain to teach the faith, I can teach it in my home parish.

Every day was very difficult. Each day my feet and ankles were in pain, and that pain and soreness carried over into the next day. I kept repeating to myself to offer that pain and temporary suffering to God as prayer for those I promised to pray for. There were moments I was worried I would not be able to walk any further since Nate and I were far behind our group due to my slow pace. There were many frustrating moments, too. We were pushed to our limits and forced to listen to our bodies. Nevertheless, God carried us all through that and got us to our destination by the end of each day.

In addition to God and prayer, the people in our group helped me throughout this journey. The group was very patient in waiting for each other and looking after one another on the Camino. We had people share supplies and their knowledge, which God knew we would need each other for. At a certain point during our second day, a pilgrim became dehydrated. It was a scary situation but thankfully there were individuals in the medical field present. All throughout the pilgrimage, there was a beautiful showing of true concern for each other.

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In our sharing group time, I got to hear others profound thoughts, perspectives and struggles. I also got hear reasons for starting the Camino. Learning about each other over hiking and eating reminded me how God is working in each one of us. Our spiritual director, Father Mino, was amazing throughout. He got to know us by making time to talk to us as we walked. He shared his wisdom and didn’t just save it for homilies. I appreciate that time he made for each of us. God brought this entire group together to share in this experience.

The fifth day on the camino was the least difficult day. It was about a seven mile hike from our hotel to Santiago de Compostela. We ran into pilgrims we met throughout the week that traveled various distances. We could see the emotion in everyone’s faces knowing that they’ve made it to Santiago as a pilgrim led and protected by God. Finally making it to the main square, Praza do Obradoiro, outside of the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela was a joyous occasion. It was a long difficult journey for us and for other pilgrims, days and weeks longer. We finally made it. It believe it’s a tiny taste of what the kingdom of Heaven is like!

I didn’t cry immediately after reaching the main square like I thought I would, but I did when something some what unexpected happened shortly after. I say somewhat because I had an inkling, but wasn’t definitely expecting it. After our group threw our bags into a taxi to take to the hotel and we began to make our way into the cathedral of the Pilgrim Mass at Noon, Nate grabbed my attention. I could tell he was happy we made it.

He asked, “Are you glad we went on Camino together?” Of course I was!

Then he said, “Suffering. We suffered a lot on this journey together. Would you like to suffer with me the rest of your life?” With that, he knelt down to ask “will you marry me?” I said, “Of course I will!” and began to cry.

I was overjoyed that we just completed a difficult pilgrimage together. Suffering was a recurring theme in our walk and group reflections. I knew God placed Nate in my life to get through it all. These past two years in a relationship with him have been amazing but not without its many lessons. I’m certain God put us together to better each other and I trust God to lead us in our own camino to Heaven in our vocation, no matter what crazy terrain the journey may bring. This moment made the Pilgrim Mass all the more wonderful!

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Since coming back from Spain, I often look back on how difficult it all was yet I’m so grateful for the experience. This was hands down one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life so far. God is so faithful! He got us all through it. He reintroduced new friends into our lives and we now share this amazing experience. He got us through the unexpected travel woes and unexpected hills. He showed us His beauty in His creation in the countryside. Through the physical and spiritual struggles and joys of the Camino, He gave us a taste of what He promises in Heaven. Our Camino didn’t end when we got to the Cathedral – we just ended one stage and began another. There are still unknowns in our lives to come, but through prayer and trust in God, we’ll complete the journey and join Him in heaven. St. James, pray for us!

¡Buen camino!

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“I Thirst”

Today on Good Friday (4.14.2017) Youth Apostles hosted Food for the Soul, a monthly gathering for friends and benefactors. The talk was on The Seven Last Words of Christ and Tiffany Lambert, one of our members, was asked to present one of the reflections.

The Church has always understood that Sacred Scripture, being inspired by God, has layers and depth in meaning. Looking at one aspect often won’t fully capture everything that is going on or everything God intends to communicate. And God’s Word is living and active, His mercies are new every morning, so what He intends for me to know today as I encounter His Word can be fresh and personal depending on the different circumstances of that particular day.

Very early in the Church’s beginnings, a method for penetrating the depths of God’s Word proved to be fruitful, so I offer this reflection following the same method which peels away four layers to Sacred Scripture.

The first layer looks at the literal meaning of the words: “I thirst.” Here we think about what is physically happening to Jesus, what He experenced in His humanity. What happened to this person, a very real person who existed in history?

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There are two lines from different scenes we encounter in Lent that have always struck me as the most obvious comments. The first comes from the Temptation in the Desert which basically says “Jesus fasted for 40 days and afterwards he was hungry.” No kidding! You should see me when a meal is delayed 40 minutes. And the second is this line from the Crucifixion, “I thirst.”

For some people, just taking time to quietly imagine what Jesus physically endured can be very fruitful prayer.

So we can take time to reflect on some of the sufferings that would have contributed to His thirst prior to this expression of His need for drink – the lack of sleep, the overwhelming loss of blood, the heat of the midday sun, breathing in dust, the burning gasps for air.

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The second layer looks at how Jesus was fulfilling an aspect of the Old Covenant through His words and actions. There is a theory that connects this line “I thirst” directly with the Eucharist.

We know that the night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared a Passover meal with the Apostles. As the Passover meal unfolds there are four different cups of wine offered and shared. Before drinking the fourth cup, which is the highest point of the meal, there are 5 five psalms that are sung. Interestingly it seems that Jesus, as He was presiding at this Passover, did not offer the last cup.

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Toward the end of the Last Supper He tell the Apostles “Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). So He explains that He won’t be drinking the last cup to complete the Passover and then it says they went singing psalms into the night.Brooklyn_Museum_-_I_Thirst_The_Vinegar_Given_to_Jesus_(J'ai_soif._Le_vinaigre_donné_à_Jésus)_-_James_Tissot

Fast-forward to the carrying His Cross – remember how Jesus is offered wine and rejects it? His mission was not yet complete so He did not drink. Now at the very end, at the culmination of His life and mission, the Passover meal He began the night before, which became our Eucharist, Jesus completes as He states “I thirst.”

In the third layer we consider our response to these great mysteries presented to us in Scripture. Maybe after considering the great physical sufferings of Our Lord, we are renewed in our commitment to penance and sacrifice. Maybe there is a comfort or attachment we have been holding on to, but we are now inspired to let go, knowing nothing on earth is worth preferring to the love of Our Lord.

Or maybe we see how in the very last moment of His life, Jesus taught us the non-negotiable connection between liturgy and life, ritual and real love.

We may renewed in our commitment to His sacramental presence in the Eucharist and resolved to extend our participation in the Eucharist into a more sacrificial life.

The fourth layer, a little like the fourth cup of the Passover, is the culmination. It’s the highest point of our prayerful reading of Scripture because it shows us how God’s plan revealed in Scripture will ultimately be fulfilled in heaven.

The Greek word for “I thirst”, “dipso”, can also mean “to ardently desire.”

We know from St. Augustine and Aristotle, just about every song on the radio, and the sometimes emptiness of our own experiences that we are, in the words of Fr. Thomas Dubay, “incarnate thirsts.” We greatly desire happiness; and we will rest in this happiness in heaven.Henry_Ossawa_Tanner_-_Mary_1914

But for now, while our feet are planted here on earth, we are quenched for a time as we encounter him in prayer. “The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human begin. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him” (CCC 2560).

God thirsts that we may thirst for him. This Good Friday may we hear anew these words spoken by Jesus from the Cross – “I thirst.”

The Morning Star: A reflection on the Epiphany

By: Lilie Graybriel 

For most of us, the start of a new year sparks up old memories and gets us thinking about what new memories the future has in store for us. Some people even reach a moment of epiphany, gaining a whole new outlook on life or starting to see someone or something in a new light. Recently, one of my students asked me to explain to them the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord; and naturally, I turned to Google for some help answering.  I found that the word “epiphany” comes from the Greek verb meaning “to reveal.” As I explained to the curious young lad what we were celebrating, I couldn’t help but reflect on those the moments when God reveals Himself to mankind, in particular, through Christ’s birth.

The Gospel yesterday speaks about how God revealed Himself to the Magi through the Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12).  We are told that the Magi have followed a rising star in search of the newborn King of the Jews. Unaware of the true significance of this kingship, they follow the star to the future King of Israel after King Herod sends them to search for the child in Bethlehem. Upon seeing the star stopped above Jesus and his mother, Mary, the Magi are immediately filled with joy and kneel before him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

With this in mind, I couldn’t help but reflect on the appearance of stars in scripture, especially since they made in appearance in my prayer before the Blessed Sacrament just a few weeks ago, and again in a priest’s homily during Mass the very next day. Even from the beginning of time, God created stars to act as a revelation of His glory to mankind.

Genesis 1:15 says the stars “serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.”

In Psalm 8:4-7, “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you set in place, what are mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.” We are able to reflect on the greatness of God’s creation and how much more He cares for us than even the beauty of the His night sky.

In 2 Peter 1:19, we are reminded to heed the words of the prophets until the day God reveals this message to us as “the morning star arises in your hearts.”

Not mention the perfect revelation in the Book of Revelation! Verse 22:16 reads “I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you testimony for the churches, I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.”

How could he possibly be anymore clear in revealing himself there?

 
But, Jesus isn’t the only person of the Bible referred to as the morning star. In fact, it’s even one of many star-related names given to His Mother, Mary. Star of the Sea, Star of Purity, Our Lady of the Star, and even Our Lady of Light are all titles given to Mary. Not to mention the countless visions of Our Lady surrounded by light, wearing a crown of stars. Just as she does in artistic depictions of her as the Queen of Apostles.

Mary is the guiding light for each of us, always pointing the way to Christ, just as the Star of Bethlehem did for the Magi. However, she is so much more to us than just a mentor or a guide. She shows us the way to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. She’s our spiritual and universal mother.

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In John 19:26– 27, we are told “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” This wonderful gift of Mary as our mother comes from God, himself, as he’s dying on the cross for us. There have been countless times in my faith where I feel so distant and lost in my faith and I turn to Mary to bring me back. Praying for her intercession and turning to her as my mother always lights a spark inside that brings me right back to Christ. I could be in tears praying to Our Mother for help and those feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt just start to melt away. It literally feels like I’m curled up in my mom’s lap on the couch. It’s moments like these that I find so important to turn to Mary. Mary gets it. She’s been there. She can relate and empathize with our struggles.

During daily mass one day, I lost myself to my thoughts as I began to feel totally overwhelmed by life’s tribulations and suddenly I look up to see the priest hold up the large host and say “Take this all of you, and eat of it, for this is My Body, which will be given up for you.” After hearing these words for probably the thousandth time in my life, my complaints seemed so insignificant. My struggle paled in comparison to the suffering Christ would endure for us on the cross. I imagine this is how Mary felt every day of her life, giving it completely and freely to God. She experienced extreme suffering and sorrow as she stood at the foot of the cross and watched her own beloved Son be tortured and crucified; yet, she didn’t let this event tarnish her faith in the Lord, but strengthen it. She allowed her sufferings to merit grace for the good of saving our souls.

Saint John Paul II wrote in Salvifici Dolores, his apostolic letter on the meaning of human suffering, “For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within. And Christ through his own salvific suffering is very much present in every human suffering, and can act from within that suffering by the powers of his Spirit of truth, his consoling Spirit.” Suffering is a feeling of pain, whether it be emotional, mental, or physical. It cant be changed by anything other than God acting within us and through us. Mary allowed God to act in her own pain and unite us all in His consoling Spirit and in turn she is filled with this same Spirit in consoling us as our mother. It is in this same document, that Saint JPII writes of the Divine Redeemer wishing use the heart of His Mother to unite each and every one of us to Christ on the cross. It is truly through her that we are able to be united with him in suffering and allow God to bring about the good that will come from our suffering. It’s through Mary that we are made true brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mary’s virtues of faith, hope, and love, humility and obedience, and desire to bring us to closer to Christ can fuel our faith every day as long as we follow the radiant Morning Star. It is in turning to her, as our mother, for guidance that we are given a tiny glimpse into the glory of God and the love that He gives us. Inspired by Mary’s Immaculate Heart and imitating her love for her children we are given the chance to be filled with an overwhelming joy that we might kneel before Christ offering up not just our gifts, but also our sufferings – allowing Him to work within us, transforming our hearts to love as His mother does.

Building a Community of Love

By: Krysti Patient

The first weekend of December, Girls’ Catholic Life Communities from 5 different parishes in the diocese traveled out to West Virginia to go on their annual retreat. Four sisters of Women Youth Apostles were among the adult moderators there to lead and accompany the girls on this grace-filled weekend which fell in with the diocesan youth ministry theme for this year “I will love”.

I had the great privilege of giving the last talk of the retreat to the CLC girls on Sunday morning. All weekend the girls had been hearing about different aspects of Love, beginning with God’s love for us, and moving to our love for others, a sacrificial Christ-like love, and a love for God himself in the Spiritual Life through deep prayer. The last piece of the puzzle, my talk on “building a community of love” served to show the girls how all of this was meant to be lived out in community, and in particular, the Catholic Life Community they have each been called to.

No room for fear

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photo by Catie LeBouton

I have always found that fear has no place in community. I gave the girls a personal example of my first experience with a faith community while at college, and how my first challenge as a new member of that community was to rid myself of any and all fears. That meant no fear of embarrassment, no fear of rejection, no fear of comparison.  These are big obstacles to young people, and these are conquered only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in community. A community is a place of belonging, a place of love. Scripture tells us “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1 John 4:18)

The power of going on retreat is pretty amazing. I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of watching young people cast away their fears one by one as they immerse themselves into community, replacing those insecurities and hesitations with bold love and acceptance, growing more perfectly in love for themselves, their Lord, and for one another.

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photo by Catie LeBouton

Given to one another

I started my talk with the universal call to holiness and community in The Church that Christ himself established for the purpose of carrying on his saving work of love. This was for the girls to know the true normalcy for each one of us to find our place in The Church and to build that Community here on earth. I believe that in the course of the retreat, as they cast away fear and put on love, part of that beauty and really building that community there for the weekend (and beyond) is also in casting away what we think we know, what sin and doubt and fear have taught us- that it is not normal to long for Heaven. Not normal that we should love our God. Not normal that we should strive for holiness. Not so! In CLC, and on retreat especially, we get to watch these teen girls slowly regain or grow in their ability to see truth, which is that we were made for love, made for God, and made for Heaven- how then, could these longings not be normal?

In Girls’ Catholic Life Community, high school girls make commitments to one another. Community is a place of belonging, and though there are adult moderators to lead and guide, the teens do not belong to the moderators or the moderators to the teens—rather, each member of the community belongs to one another. So many young Catholics grow up in The Church and parish community, but in reaching adulthood fall away. Modern societal messages tell our young people that they need not commit themselves to anything or anyone. CLC provides these teen girls the chance to seek the truths of their faith and to take ownership of it. There are varying levels of membership promises to provide the girls the chance to commit themselves to their faith and to do so with their peers in common. In this communion with one another as sisters of CLC, they live out their commitments in openness, honesty, prayer, and in frequent receiving of the Sacraments.

The girls that feel a call to CLC have a desire to go deeper. They have sensed that there is a greater longing of their unsatisfied hearts and they have sought to know more, to love more. They have sensed their power and their purpose- to be saints, to help one another in this mission, and to love one another towards heaven.

A Reflection on the 3rd Week of Advent

By: Kelly Power

I absolutely love Christmas music this time of year (and yes, I listen all the way from the beginning of Advent to The Epiphany!). Although as I sing the lyrics of these songs on my way to school to drop off the kids or have them as background while we play and decorate, I cannot help but feel that they are doing a disservice to my Advent preparations. Are they helping me to enter in to the REAL Christmas story and encounter the REAL Christ child? These are the lyrics I hear…

“Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm all is bright” and “All is merry and bright,”

“The baby awakes, no crying he makes” and “O Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie,”

“Tis the season to be jolly,” and “Children laughing, people passing meeting smile after smile,”

All these carols we hear repeatedly throughout Advent are supposed to illustrate the true feelings and images of Christmas. Right? A Christmas that is quiet, jolly, still, peaceful, joyful and frankly perfect. So this is what we all strive for during the holidays.

But as I was praying recently and reflecting on the REAL Advent – Mary pregnant and unmarried, journeying by donkey to Bethlehem to ultimately give birth in a stable, and Elizabeth pregnant and though happy, was very old and I am sure facing challenges from both her age and judgments of others. It hit me as two of my babies were crying, one had a dirty diaper, and I was trying desperately to create the perfect peace and joy-filled Advent experience for them that I was probably experiencing many of the REAL feelings of the biblical Advent that of Mary and Elizabeth. The REAL Advent was full of worry, is was messy, it was smelly, it was loud and far from “all merry and bright.” As someone who just experienced pregnancy and birth and is currently caring for a newborn, Jesus probably cried when he woke up and the stables were loud and smelly, not calm and bright, and certainly not silent at night.

I have been looking a lot at miracles this and how God brought about these miracles – the root of Jesse, the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. He makes possible from the impossible. Mary and Elizabeth experience these Christmas miracles not in the midst of perfect peace, or joy, but Jesus comes in the chaos, the worry, and the mess. “Prepare ye the way,” is a phrase we hear often in Advent, though I began to realize this Advent that as I was getting frustrated, trying to prepare a quiet and perfect Christmas like the ones I hear in the songs for my family, that I was actually missing the miracles – the joy that God was already doing in the midst of my crazy, messy, not so silent nights.

So I am embracing the chaos, the mess, the imperfection and looking for the miracles, the grace, and the joy God is already bringing despite any preparation I may do. He is already here, the REAL Christ child. He brings the Peace, as the Prince of Peace, not me, and He brings the Joy, a joy that cannot be shaken by even the biggest tantrums or my own foiled plans. What all the characters of Christmas knew, whatever their state in life – Mary full of Grace or the rough life of a Shepherd – was that whoever this baby was He was special and they needed Him in their lives just as we all do right now.

So let us not lose sight as we prepare for the coming of our Lord, that He might be right in front of us! He is the only REAL thing we need this season! He is the only one who can bring us the REAL Peace and Joy we desire in our lives and the lives of our families.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Ultimate Outing/RALLY 2016 – I Will Love

By: Krysti Patient

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This past weekend, 6:00AM Saturday morning, I drove out to “The Ultimate Outing”, with All Saints and Holy Trinity Catholic Churches. The Ultimate Outing begins with a retreat and ends at Diocesan RALLY. Like perhaps most working adults, my initial expectations were leaning towards a more negative perspective- I was going to be up early, go to bed late, and in the meantime be totally energized, friendly and relational with 40+ teenagers who would undoubtedly be representing the whole spectrum of willingness to participate in the retreat. I knew it wouldn’t be terrible! I simply braced myself to experience all of the challenging parts I’ve become familiar with at youth ministry events and retreats chock-full of talks, small groups and activities. After a particularly busy week (well, month) at the office, I thought, “there won’t be enough coffee in the world to sustain me this weekend!”

rope-swing-krysti-lisbethThankfully, the Holy Spirit is an excellent caffeinator. I had forgotten that the last retreat I went on with teens was a Confirmation retreat-which I remembered fondly, but perhaps was more aware of the mandatory nature of that particular weekend. As a result, I was surprised right off the bat to find many of the teens I encountered at The Ultimate Outing were very open to whatever the weekend held in store. Even if some weren’t totally jumping up and down with excitement, there was a really beautiful surrender that wasn’t a “giving up” but rather a “giving in.”

From the beginning of retreat we introduced journaling as a form of prayer, and encouraged them to journal in places of quiet throughout the retreat, before coming back together in their small groups to share what God was revealing to them all. Throughout the retreat, I was pleased to find that every teen I spoke to was filling their small journal in those quiet moments of prayer. There was even a teen in my small group-who I had thought was fairly disengaged because she would doodle or write in her journal while the rest of the group shared-that later shared with me that journaling was the only way she found that would let her focus and really listen to what others, and also to what God, was saying. She told me she didn’t know journaling was a real form of prayer, or that anyone else prayed the way she did. I could tell this was a big deal for her.

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Later, in Eucharistic Adoration, several more teens who I may have mentally flagged early on as more difficult to reach, seemed to have the most impactful experience of the group when before Christ in the monstrance. Almost every single teen received the Sacrament of Reconciliation that evening. I wrote in my own journal my thanksgiving to Jesus for the gift of their vulnerability, “These young people are braver than most adults I know. Your kingdom truly does belong to such as these.”

kevin-bohli-rally-welcome-messageThat Sunday morning, we had one last talk and journaling exercise before packing up and heading out to Bishop O’Connell High School for RALLY. When gathered together to hear the welcome message, we received an introduction to this year’s youth ministry theme, and a keynote message from speaker Sean Forrest. The youth ministry theme comes from one of The Church’s newest saints-Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “I will love” is a mission statement, a call to make a firm resolution based on Jesus’ sacrificial love. As he spoke about his first experience serving the poor in Haiti, one line from Sean’s keynote stood out. He said, “I was more exhausted than I ever remember having been. That was because I gave all of myself, in love, to those who needed it.”

“And so today, when we have gathered here together, let us carry in our hearts one strong resolution: I will love. I will be a carrier of God’s love. For that is what Jesus came to teach us: how to love one another.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta in her address to the United Nations on October 26, 1985

Two workshops, inflatables, Sunday Mass with Bishop Loverde, bacon pizza, and a photo booth photoshoot later, RALLY concluded with a concert and Eucharistic Adoration. I watched my teens gather now with hundreds of other young Catholics to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and could see that the retrerally-eucharistic-processionat the day before helped them prepare for a beautiful encounter with their Lord. Most of my teens asked me if we could position ourselves as close to where Jesus would be as possible. In watching each of them give their undivided attention to Our Lord-their love for Him was tangible.

The final time in adoration was everything I needed to see that any extra effort or sacrifice on my own part from the weekend was worth it. I was exhausted, more than I had been in a while. In that moment, I too was glad “because I gave all of myself in love to those who needed it.” This is the true power of this year’s theme, this mission statement “I will love.”

Jesus came to teach us this and He is teaching me this still each day…how to love. There are a lot of things that make loving others difficult. However, if all I had to lose was a little sleep or a little of my time, I will give it all again in a heartbeat for one fraction of that moment with young people in Eucharistic Adoration-the teens knowing they are loved by Christ and watching them respond in love.