In Thanksgiving for a Home

By: Amelia Gil-Figueroa, Candidate

Reflection originally written on the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle (21-9-2015)

“You are strangers and aliens no longer. No, you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. You form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape as a holy temple in the Lord; in him you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.”

– Ephesians 2:19-20, Reading from Morning Prayer

While those who know me may not agree, I am quite shy and insecure. Add on some natural indecisiveness and a sometimes overbearing aim to please and you get an interesting cocktail of social awkwardness/anxiety. While I tend to get along well with my peers, I have never felt as if I truly fit; like an outsider who is accepted out of common courtesy, or a person who said something funny, smart, or cool once thus giving them merit to be part of the group. I would always tell my mom, “I don’t know if I consider them very good friends. I can’t really be myself around them.”

Ever since I was little, my mother (i.e. my confidante) instilled in me the sense that my faith was my own. Though she taught me the basics, she reminded me that my relationship with the Lord is my own, that this relationship will develop and grow, and that I cannot compare my relationship with the Lord to anyone else’s (especially hers). I have always taken that to heart and in high school, and then even more so in college, I started truly making my faith not just something I professed, but something that I lived. This led me to find and become a member of the Women Youth Apostles.

Over the past two years as candidate in this community, I have learned so much about our Church, laughed and cried with sisters, been challenged and encouraged, and have grown in my faith. With the support of the community I have been pushed out of my comfort zone many times and have been given beautiful opportunities to encounter Christ in others, to sit in His presence, and meet Him in the sacraments. I have learned, and many times need to be reminded, to give the Lord all that I have – my insecurities, fears, awkwardness – and give new purpose to my aim to please: I must always strive to please the Lord in all my works.

You may be thinking “what does any of this have to do with the quote from Ephesians?” When I first entered community, we were blessed to have a community house not far from our brother Youth Apostles. We held sharing meetings, socials, dinners, and there I met with my sponsor. Unfortunately, there came a time when circumstances did not allow for us to have a house. While I didn’t live there myself, I loved going there, and I truly felt the loss of a home. A home is not merely a building; and while the sisters who lived there had to find a roof over their heads, we as a community were all affected, having no place of our own to meet and worship.

IMG_1341Recently in July, we were able to find a new house. Four sisters currently live there, and never has a house been more joyfully and excitedly talked about than this one.  While Paul in his letter to the Ephesians is referring to the fact that, though Gentiles, they are now part of the body of Christ, this reading reminded me of the joy that came with finding a home for our community. We as Women Youth Apostles “form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” How true it was reading that we “are strangers and aliens no longer”, that we are “fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God”.  Reading this on the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, I found that this passage illustrated the purpose of the home: “to be a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” But it also echoed the longings of my own heart: that in being a member of the Women Youth Apostles, I have found a community to call my home; a community that leads me to the Lord, and in doing so leads me to truly be and know more of myself.

Like the apostles, we all come from different backgrounds and have different personalities and ways of communicating with our Lord. But “through Him the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape as a holy temple in the Lord”. “With Christ Jesus himself as the capstone”, all the differences disappear, and we come together to work the vineyard of the Lord, bring the youth of our diocese into closer communion with Christ. On the outside, our house may seem like any other house, with people coming and going in a natural ebb and flow. But to us, it is a house blessed by God as a place to belong. For me, both the house and the community are just that: a place to belong, a place to call home.

Formation Night at the WoYA House

Read more about our Community House here.

BLOG: July Formation Reflection

Who better to tie together sacramental and community lives into one that St. Therese? Not only is she one of our patron saints as WOYA’s…but she’s brilliant and full of words of wisdom through her “little way.” She knows a lot about the sacramental and community life, despite the fact that she lived a mere 24 years, because she entered the Carmelite order at the age of 15. Need a little more information on her? Check out Father Martin’s video here.

As women of faith involved in youth ministry we have individually spent plenty of time developing our own strategies for how to develop communities of faith saturated in the sacraments. So rather than focusing on what we need to building such communities…I want to focus on what we need to beware of because they tear down communities. Two things comes to came to mind following our last Saturday formation meeting: gossip and pride.

Pope Francis further developed the first point (gossip) this reflection from May 2013. “When we prefer to gossip, gossip about others, criticize others- these are everyday things that happen to everyone, including me – these are the temptations of the evil one who does not want the Spirit to come to us and bring about peace and meekness in the Christian community”. “These struggles always exist” in the parish, in the family, in the neighborhood, among friends”. Instead through the Spirit we are born into a new life, he makes us “meek, charitable.”

The Holy Father then outlined the correct behavior for a Christian. First, “do not judge anyone” because “the only Judge is the Lord.” Then “keep quiet” and if you have something to say, say it to the interested parties, to those “who can remedy the situation,” but “not to the entire neighborhood.” “If, by the grace of the Holy Spirit – concluded Pope Francis – we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great step forward” and “will do us all good”. For our Holy Father’s full reflection you can visit the Radio Vaticano website here.

The second of these is less obvious. We all work with young girls and we are all too well aware of the fact that gossip is nothing but painful. But what about pride? Well pride gets in the way of bring (1) gentle and (2)humble which are the two qualities we mentioned during the July formation meeting at qualities we need (and are given by God) in order to have a fulfilling sacramental ad community life. These are two of the qualities that come to my mind…but what would you add?

Just a thought!

And what better way to end than with a “tought” from our Holy Father while in Rio for WYD:

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music, that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open sociable normal happy companions. we need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.” 

– Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013

*CORRECTION: The quote was wrongly attributed to Pope Francis…but it still a great bit of wisdom so I thought I would leave it up!