December Reflection

Happy New Year!

This past Sunday was the First Sunday of Advent, and the start of a new liturgical year!
I was reflecting on some of the themes of this special liturgical season which begins this next year for the Church– hopeful expectation, waiting. And for what? For whom? For Jesus, who is not yet come, and yet already here?


This spiritual reality can be confusing and hard to grasp. Not to mention waiting can have a very negative quality in our human existence today. Waiting tends to bring about feelings of boredom, restlessness and a sense of being punished somehow by withholding the good.

Yet the ‘waiting’ of Advent is a lesson Jesus and His Church may desire to teach to us this season. I have been sitting this week in my holy hour with the question, “Jesus, what do you want me to know, to rediscover, to receive, to rest in this season?” So far, He has started working in my heart with the concept of ‘waiting’ fundamentally. This ‘waiting’ is not a lacking, but a full, active and present place for Jesus and I to spend some time together. Waiting in the spiritual life holds a richness we can be too quick to dismiss or rush through.

Advent is a time of preparation and renewal. Waiting is a time to take stock of where I am and where Jesus is calling me to go– and, how we are going to get there together! Jesus is in the waiting, not just the prize at the end. This is the mystery of Advent! This is the earthly pilgrimage of Heaven-bound Christians. All waiting is an advent season marked by Christian hope, love, joy and Christ’s peace.

No matter where each of us is this Advent and Christmas– where we are spiritually, professionally, relationally with friends and family– Jesus comes to that place where you and I are. This should expel any temptation to think that in times of waiting, or preparation, or transition, that there is nothing of value or worth; the temptation to think there is only “almost” or “not quite” or “someday” or “not yet“.

There is a “today” and a “now“, and it is on purpose, for a purpose. “Now” is an inn, (or maybe a stable)– prepare Him room!

Sincerely in Christ,

Krysti Patient
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles

October Reflection

October 2019 has been declared by Pope Francis to be Extraordinary Missionary Month. The Holy Father emphasizes Jesus’ Great Commission to the disciples found in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church. It is her ‘essential task,’ for the Church is ‘missionary by nature.'”
I was reflecting yesterday, at the start of this Extraordinary Missionary Month, on what this means for me personally, my community and for the Church. In particular, I was praying with my Confirmation saint, as well as one of Women Youth Apostles’ patrons, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Therese is famous for her ‘Little Way’ of childlike trust. She is also named principle patroness, alongside St. Francis Xavier, of all missions and missionaries- despite being a cloistered nun in a Carmelite monastery until her death at the age of 24!
What can we learn from this little saint about being a missionary? For we are all called to be missionaries- for if this is the Church’s ‘essential task’ and she is ‘missionary by nature’, and if the Church is a people, you and me included, then this is our shared essential task! I think what we learn from Therese is to be a childlike missionary disciple, characterized by our humility, trust, surrender and zeal.
Humility, to know that we are always a work in progress, capable of and willing to be taught, to be formed. Humility helps us to know and accept where we have been, where we have faltered and where we have soared. St. Therese once said, “We must not be discouraged by our faults, for children fall frequently.” Humility helps us look at where we are now and where we need to go, with Heaven in mind.
Trust, in the Father’s love and mercy, recalling the ways He has led us to this moment, with confidence that He has good plans in store and will not abandon His children. Trust that wherever we are led and whatever we are given, it is for our good and our salvation, and likely for the good and salvation of others. This trust leads us to surrender.
Surrender, of our need for control, of our need for validation, of our need for attention. Surrender of those things- both bad and good- which are obstacles to our relationship with Jesus. Surrender of our plans, our designs.
And finally, zeal, which is the hunger of the missionary disciple. Zeal moves us to do God’s will for the sake of souls- ours and those to whom we are sent. Zeal is missionary energy fueled by gratitude, Christian joy and love born of conversion; Zeal is a fire ignited by the light of the Resurrection. Missionary zeal is not satisfied with anything less than Heaven. “I don’t want to be a saint by halves; I choose all that you will!” Zeal is love in action! Zeal would set the world on fire with love for the Gospel.

I pray that each of us would, in this Extraordinary Missionary Month, rediscover our missionary identity as disciples of Jesus Christ. I pray that, if you do not know the Father’s mission for you right now, that He would reveal it to you in prayer. I pray that each of us would adopt a childlike disposition with the Holy Spirit, allowing ourselves to be called and to be led in mission. Finally, I pray that each of us would seek to cultivate at least one of these virtues- humility, trust, surrender and zeal- this month, that we might grow ever closer to Jesus and help those to whom we are sent know, love and serve Him. Our young people, our families, our Church and our world benefits from our lived and shared relationship with Jesus!

Sincerely in Christ,
Krysti Patient
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles

God Speaks

This reflection was given by a sister, to sisters and guests gathered for a Holy Hour event this past week. The reflection was meant to illustrate the importance of Sacred Scripture, and as a means of prayer and relationship with the Lord. The first section comes from Jeff Cavins’ blog post, “The Bible is Inspired by God“. The second part from the prayer of the sister who gave the reflection.

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Pope Leo XIII said, “Scripture is a Letter written by our Heavenly Father” to his children for the purpose of revealing himself to them.

The Catholic Church teaches that divine revelation comes to us through three channels: the Bible, Tradition, and the Magisterium (the bishops of the Church). Dei Verbum (DV), the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, states these three channels “are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others” (DV 10).

While all three are infallible, that is to say incapable of error, only the Bible is divinely inspired. What do the words “inspired,” and “inspiration” mean? The term “inspired” comes from the Greek word, theopneustos, which means “God breathed” (Theos, “God,” pneo, “to breathe”).

Keeping in mind that breath is what gives life to words, we can more easily understand why the Bible is called God’s word. It is God’s breath that has filled human words with divine meaning. God, who is the primary cause of every thought and every sentence of Scripture, has transformed the common words found in the Bible into uncommon words by the fact that he is its author. Just as Jesus Christ came clothed in human flesh and was in every way made like men, so does the word of God come to us clothed in human words. The holy comes clothed in the common. This is why St. Jerome could say, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (CCC 133). Pope Pius XII said in Divino Afflante Spiritu, On Promoting Biblical Studies, “For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, ‘except sin,’ so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error” (Divino Afflante Spiritu, 37).

Not only are the Scriptures inspired, but they are written to inspire you. The question one needs to address is: “How will the Bible inspire you?” Jesus asked his followers, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” Since Jesus is the word made flesh, it is fair to ask, “what do you say about the Bible?” What is your response?

The Church teaches in Dei Verbum, “The obedience of faith is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him” (DV, 5).

By our response, the world will know whether we believe that God’s Word is inspired or expired.

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If today you hear [H]is voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95).

Yesterday’s Gospel acclamation is one of those tunes that I often have stuck in my head after Mass. The melody I have embedded in memory, and its words and meaning I have been taking to prayer.

Just yesterday the Church celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There is an older Portuguese woman who attends the daily Mass at the Newman House (the Catholic Campus Ministry house at Virginia Tech), and most of the time she prays Evening Prayer with Father David and I. Yesterday at Mass, Father David asked us to be seated before the final blessing, so that Irma could share some words with us. Turns out, Irma is a lay member of the discalced Carmelites, and has been professed for 12 years. She gave a brief presentation about the history of Carmel and her order, and the gift of contemplative prayer. I loved that Irma began by recounting the account from the first book of Kings about Elijah on Mt. Carmel, who basically challenges the false prophets of Baal to a prophet’s duel to see whose God is real by seeing which offering was consumed by fire. Irma smiled ear to ear and described it as “one of the most dramatic accounts in the Old Testament”. I don’t know if she has ever been to that mountain, but she loves that place and everything it stands for. To her, that holy mountain is a part of her story. The account of Elijah from 1 Kings is a part of her history. The faithfulness of God revealed on that mountain is a part of her heart. She is a woman inspired.

I think as women we are in a unique position to be inspired. Our femininity, our genius—that receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity—these are gifts which prepare us well to love Jesus, and specifically in prayer with His Word. I think being a sister in this community places each of us in a position to be inspired and to receive life. Our commitments call us to daily Mass, where we hear God’s Living Word. We are meant to pray every day, and encouraged to return regularly to the Liturgy of the Hours. When we read, pray and go on retreat together, we do so with Sacred Scripture. I think that a large part of our apostolate in loving the Young Church is sharing with the young people our love of Sacred Scripture, by helping them to know Jesus better and to be transformed by His Truth.

The Lord has already spoken His Word, but He desires to speak it to you anew. “If today you hear [H]is voice, harden not your hearts”.The prerequisite for the Lord to truly speak to you is a softened, open heart. The prerequisite for the Lord to speak to you is that you are listening.

By entering into the Word of God, listening to God in Scripture and taking what we hear to prayer, this is how our hearts can be changed.

As long as the words of the Bible stay on the page in front of us, they don’t have to change our behavior. That’s easier. Reading the words of scripture daily is a good start toward allowing them to transform us, but it’s only getting part of the way there. Truly meditating on Scripture means taking it into our hearts, letting it take root there and allowing it to change us from the inside. It means allowing God’s breath to give us life. It means allowing God through His Word to be a part of our story, our history, our hearts.

What has the Lord revealed to you in His Word, lately? With what kind of heart do you approach Sacred Scripture in your daily prayer? How do you enter into the Word of God?

I’ll end this reflection with three different simple, short prayers I use to approach Sacred Scripture:

Come Holy Spirit, inspire me.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Jesus, help me to know you better, that I might love you all the more and serve you well.

July Reflection

I love summer! By day there’s frisbee, swimming, hiking, picnics, beaches, and bicycles and by night it’s s’mores, citronella-filled tiki torches, and lightening bugs. And I especially love traveling for vacation, camps, and service trips. It’s a season of excitement, fun, and gusto, which I often enjoy experiencing through little expeditions and adventures.

In the midst of adventures I’ve found myself thirsty on an island without a way off for several hours, knee deep in anaerobic marsh mud, and boating through a swamp with alligators. Adventures have risks (and often leave me with a good story) but life begins when you go outside yourself with a sense of intentionality and purpose.

Bigger adventures have trained me to look for littler ones as well, such as introducing myself to a stranger after Mass or being curious enough to learn the about the history and culture of a new place I’m visiting. Adventures express hope for a new encounter and counteract my tendency to pass the hours and days with passivity and boredom.

Ultimately the best adventure we can embark upon is our relationship with God. We don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to let our heart, mind, and soul encounter His goodness and beauty. This summer, I pray that our activity makes room for a purpose greater than ourselves and that through seeking we are further transformed by grace, the very life of God dwelling in our souls.

Sincerely in Christ,

Tiffany Lambert

Directress, Women Youth Apostles

June Reflection

Today I had an atypical experience of heading to daily Mass on my own. While presently in Northern Virginia, my consecrated sisters had work commitments which prevented our usual morning common life of prayer. I chose to attend a noon Mass, and while the resulting late start to the morning was nice, I also had a “to do” list that needed doing and was unfortunately preoccupying my thoughts on my way into the church.

So when Father announced that this Mass would be a little different from the typical Tuesday of the seventh week of Easter in honor of a married couple in the parish who was celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, I’ll admit my very first thought was about the inconvenience. Would this add 10 or 15 or 20 minutes to the Mass?

Then a grace prompted me to pay close attention to the prayers of the Mass. I’d never been to a vow renewal Mass before, actually. This could be interesting. And the words were beautiful. I was struck with a realization: This is Easter joy, and this is Church! What better way or time to celebrate union than as the Body of Christ, in the Easter season.

My next realization was that my “to do” list wasn’t all too unrelated to the experience of this Mass. A lot of my time has been spent recently planning for ministry and a particular focus has been on how to have honest conversations with young people about vocation. While of course I want young people to engage more with and be open to consecrated life, I ultimately want young people to see God calls them to sacrificial love in any vocation, and to help them see this in married life, too.

In Father’s homily today, he said to the honored couple, “Your union says that love is possible. Love that is unconditional. That commitment is possible. You bear a special witness of Christ’s love for the Church.” I prayed, Lord, this is what I long for young people to know. This love that comes from you.

The closing blessing contained the words “May God bless you with joy…May He be always with you in good times and in bad…May the Holy Spirit always fill you with His love.” These words were not specifically addressed to the honored couple, but to the entirety of the congregation, the Church, the Bride of Christ. That we are His bride is something He said Himself.
I pray that Jesus would remind each of us in some way of His love and His promises. I pray also that we would recommit our own love to Him and to those He has called us to in our vocations, communities and apostolates; That we would recognize our special witness of Christ’s love for the Church.
May God bless each of you with joy, may He always be with you in good times and in bad, and may the Holy Spirit always fill you with His love.

Sincerely in Christ,
Krysti Patient
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles

May Reflection

Alleluia! He is Risen! Last Saturday we gathered with family, friends, and supporters at our 3rd Spring Tea. Moments like this prompt reflection on the work God is doing in and through our community and it was beautiful to see the grace of the Resurrection continuing in our midst today.

The Resurrection was communicated to the disciples in surprising and life-giving ways. Jesus conquered sin. Jesus conquered death. Jesus conquered hell. And instead of the pageantry of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, He sought people out personally, intentionally, and quietly. When I glimpse the awe-inspiring magnitude of the Resurrection, my instinct is to throw a party with fanfare and celebration.

But Jesus came to pour the grace of the Resurrection into hearts and souls, so He appears to women at the tomb, disciples leaving Jerusalem, and apostles in the Upper Room. It is very powerful to encounter Christ and hear a call to share the Good News. But to discover Jesus is doing a similar work in another’s heart is a double blessing because you are able to rest in the assurance that it is His work and not something you are manufacturing.

The joyful power of God’s work imparting new life in ways we could not have generated on our own is something Women Youth Apostles continues to experience in the growth of our community, the work of our ministry, and the renewed support of our family, friends and benefactors. May we all continue to bring the light, joy, and power of the Resurrection in new, hidden, and personal ways to a world in need, and through this may we find ourselves in deeper awe of the mystery of God’s plan of loving goodness!

Sincerely in Christ,
Tiffany Lambert
Directress, Women Youth Apostles

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.

BLOG: Sacramental and Community Life

In 1997, I was privileged to make a pilgrimage to Paris for World Youth Day, my first time The group that I accompanied was the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Youth 2000, two communities that were joined only because of the Eucharist and leading youth to Christ. What an awesome experience to be with them and celebrate with the Holy Father in France. After World Youth Day was over we had the opportunity to travel to Lisieux and to the site of St. Theresa’s birth, death and communal life in the Carmelites. What a joy to spend time in prayer where she prayed and lived. Her life was so short but so eventful and prayerful. She literally craved community! She begged the Pope to let her enter community life because she was able to listen to what God had in store for her. Even though she only lived a short 23 years, her love of community and the sacraments were such that it led her to be the great Saint and Doctor she is now.

I read “The Story of a Soul” many years ago and was touched by her discussion of community life and what it was like to be with those she loved and struggled to love. We all know that there are people in our lives that we love more than others and there are those that we struggle to love. After all, God said we had to “love one another” not “like one another” right? She struggled to be in community it appeared every second of every day, yet she stayed there because she knew it was what God wanted for her. Her struggles and joys were such that it led others in her community to be closer to God and even Saints! Isn’t that what we are called to do? Shouldn’t we be doing that in Community as well?

Community life is difficult but the Sacraments can overcome any difficulty. The more we celebrate our community life with one another and join together in the sacraments, the closer we grow to God and what He wants for our Community. It brigs us closer to each other and helps us to love one another even more. As it is said in “Les Miserables”, “to love another person is to see the face of God”.