Wednesday, September 27, 2017

After Hours

In times like these, when the day is supposed to be done but my husband works late, the silence suddenly hits me. I've filled in the rest of the day with music, podcasts, and trying to make the baby laugh, but those things aren't quite filling the air. I suppose its because my mental day planner has closed and my ears are now listening for him to turn the lock on the door, even though I know its going to be another 3-4 hours until I see him. I should be making dinner, but that will wait until later, when we can eat together.

No, I don't really want any friends to be over to soak up the lonliness. Because they aren't my best friends. The sun goes down and I start to feel like its only me and my son in my own little world that consists of the living room, the bedroom and the kitchen. No, I don't really want to watch Netflix to pass the time, and I've cleaned enough today. I can't really focus on anything except how to deal with being alone.

Being alone is good and I want to be able to be alone. But right now I don't have that ability because I still seek gratification in many forms from people. Silence is also very good, and sometimes I crave it. But most of the time I avoid it because in the silence I feel like my consciousness is bare, allowing me to feel my lonliness and to hear my thoughts as I reflect on it.

Lonliness is always God's pleading to be me. It is a gift that is experienced differently by all people, but I shy away from it because I cannot face God sometimes. I am ashamed because I haven't given Him my best, and somehow I've placed the rule that if I am not at my best, I have no reason to approach Him at all. And writing this now, I see that this is how the evil one uses my shame to keep me away from God.

So I'll watch the shadows change and let the silence be. I will recognize Him and give Him my ears. And then my soul.

Monday, March 20, 2017

By The Number of Breaths I Take: Embracing Powerlessness

Today, for the first time in all my life, I was truly overwhelmed and terrified of the future.

Okay, bear with me because it may just be these pregnancy hormones that magnify every minute detail in life, but wow! I generally take things in good stride and haven't ever really bitten off more than I could chew. When I was single, I had a pretty good idea of what my limits were and stuck to it.  In our first year of marriage, my husband and I keep life very simple. We grocery shop and watch a show together on weekends, but most days are spent in silence. For my husband, the hours are spent studying or going to school, though the evenings he uses to unwind. That means I usually keep the house under control (except the laundry), maintain our budget twice a month, plan dinners and try to figure out what hobbies I like now that I'm out of school. Life is about to change, though.

In short, we will soon have our first baby and my husband will begin the second half of medical school. The second half means we will be moving and he will start putting in any number of hours into rotations at the hospital. Without going into much detail, I'll just say life gets crazier from there.

Knowing all of this, I did some research. I spend several hours reading blogs by the wives of residents and medical students and even delved into a few books I had purchased myself. By the end, I knew that medical marriages can be considered a special phenomenon, finances take extra care and attention, and family life must be crafted with steady hands and all the fortitude of the universe. And here I am, just 22, and I feel utterly incapable.

I know nothing and at the moment, I am searching for incentive and the inner voice that says "I can do this!". I'm not sure where all those motivational speakers found theirs, but pretty sure mine is lying in some deep dark cave somewhere. If I let my thoughts run deeper into my sense of despair, my self-worth will shatter completely. I simply have no idea what I'm going to do, or if I can pull this off at all.

 I'm going to stop wondering. This is my calling and I'm tired of looking myself in the mirror, asking if I have what it takes. I search my mind and soul, but I find nothing there to help me. I have already let myself down.

Our Lord has not, though. He has given me my breath, and every heartbeat belongs to Him. If I consider them as I own them, they are dull and hold no meaning. I can do nothing with my own functions. But if Christ owns them, if I surrender each heartbeat, each breath, each movement...

I can be happy to be small. I can find joy in the countless hours I stay awake, to ensure my children fall asleep, or to catch a rare moment with my husband as he comes home after so many hours without him. I will embrace each mess and frustration, even though I'll do so blindly.

Because I have no power, and I never will. I will never find that "special" ability within myself and no inspiration will ever be enough. I embrace that I cannot do it.

But only by the number of breaths I take, by the number of breaths He gives me. Lord, give me the grace.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Crucifixion List for Lent

I recently wrote an article for Ignitum Today about understanding our dustiness and being able to find our worth in being able to join Christ on the cross. So I decided to make a list of simple ways we can do that. Maybe we only choose to handle a few, or maybe we attempt to do each one at least once. You can always add your own goals to make a list of your own.

1. Make one simple sacrifice, even if it's only once. That could be your favorite drink, food, TV show or anything else that you regularly treat yourself to.

2. When having an argument with someone, try to let him speak first. Truly listen to what he is saying and let him finish his explanation. Don't think about your response until he is done and you understand him.

3. Be humble enough to ask for help. If you are used to doing everything yourself, try involving a family member or spouse. Also, be thankful even if the job wasn't done to your liking.

4. If you usually have trouble praying by yourself, ask someone to pray with you. I find this is the easiest way to tackle a rosary that I generally find myself distracted through.

5.  If you know someone who is having a hard time, take at least five minutes to pray for him/her right away and maybe even respond and send a reassuring message.

6. If you have a family member who is difficult to interact with, make a point to be extra nice, even if it's just being a little more patient within one encounter. If this proves to be difficult, simply pray for God to bless him.

7. Make time for your spouse at least once during Lent. If your schedules are hectic, make a point of saying no to a commitment or personal engagement to spend at least an hour with your spouse. If you regularly have time together, maybe add some effort to make the time more special. This could be through not complaining or criticizing, praying together, or simply doing something that draws the focus on each other.

8. If someone does or says something you disagree with, don't criticize right away. Think of the intentions and why the person said or did something. Words or actions that seem ridiculous or stupid to you may take on a completely different meaning for the other person. In other words, be charitable and understanding. Also, if you struggle with nagging, try once or twice to hold back.

9. Do something to care for your parish priest. Offer to cook a meal appropriate for Lent, do a chore around the parish or rectory, or simply say a novena for him.

10. Do a complete examination of conscience and take it to confession. Write it down and throw it away if you have to.

11. Take the time to learn about your faith and get any questions you have about Catholicism answered.

12. Look into resources to better understand the Mass.

13. Try to be more present when you take communion via meditation, journaling, prayer recitation, or simply being more aware of Jesus.

14. Read through the lives of the Saints and find your new best friend.

15. Read a short book or chapter from a book that is spiritually nourishing.

16. Before ranting or complaining, take the time to say a prayer and ask for God's guidance. It may be wise to still seek the counsel of others, but make sure you turn to God first.

17. If social media is sucking up a lot of your time, try to cut it down or out of your life completely for Lent.

18.  Take the time to thoughtfully encourage at least two people.

19. Choose to forgive one person. You could write a letter (whether you send it or not), pray for him/her, or ask God to take away your consternation with the situation.

20. Do something to care for yourself. It may be choosing something healthier, avoiding stressful situations, spending time outside, asking for prayers, finding an activity that makes you happy, or finding a small prayer that speaks to you.

This list may contain things you are already doing, but if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments! We can all contribute in making Lent a time to better encounter Jesus!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Finding Femininity at Its Finest

We are in a spiritual battle right now. Society is challenging women, and the men that support them, to rethink femininity and what it means to be a feminist. It is a conflict that demands increasing courage to face.
We shouldn’t have any consternation though; women are the daughters of the greatest human warrior we will ever know: the Blessed Virgin Mary.
She made a promise to St. Dominic saying, “One day, through the rosary and the scapular, I will save the world”. What a threat to Satan! God has promised she would crush him since the beginning of human existence. She is our commander-in-chief and provider of weapons. The rosary is basically our AK-47! 
So let’s remove ourselves from the confusion and get back to the basics with the one who is blessed among women, Our Mother. By her example, what is a true woman and what does she stand for?
She is an observer of the world
We are unique from men in the way we perceive the world. According to researcher Israel Abramov, of the City University of New York, we distinguish colors, sounds, and smells better than men. We also have a tendency to focus on people’s faces and bodies. Mary is the best observer of us all. She didn’t speak about things but rather pondered on them in her heart.
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be — Luke 1:29.

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart — Luke 2:19.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and His mother kept all these things in her heart — Luke 2:51.
By taking Mary’s example, we are better able to process what goes on around us. By reflecting on events, we can gain greater understanding, as well as charity towards all people involved. That way, whenever we do speak, our words carry meaning and truth. And like St. Augustine said,”The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself.” 
She brings forth life and preserves it.
We as women are granted the greatest gift on earth: to take part in producing life and preserving it. Our bodies are designed as temples to offer protection, nourishment, and growth for our children. Many of us are also teachers; we have the ability to enrich the mind and the soul. All of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual talents give humans the ability to thrive. God called Mary to give each of her gifts so that the Son of God would be able to carry out His Father’s will. She said yes.
How do we say yes, too? We can be open to life, without the input of foreign substances to “control” our bodies. We can care for our children and fulfill the responsibility of guarding their precious souls. Like Mary, we can care for our relatives, especially the elderly and our family. Luckily for us, God equipped us with motherly instincts and graces to help us along! These blessings create beauty and life in us whether we are single, married with or without children, or in the religious life. We are called to care for the children of God, so that means everyone!
She brings about dignity. 
If we’re being honest, men have a tendency to be a little more beastly. This is not a bad thing: men are often ordered towards hunting, fighting, conquering, and building… all necessary things for this world! Women are more often gifted with beauty, gracefulness, gentleness, and a quiet fierceness that captivates. We can rule with the expression in our eyes, face, and body. Anyone can observe “the look” a mother gives her child who may be misbehaving or the way a crowd turns to consider a woman who holds her head high. Women also more often have the ability to bring out the good in others and convince them to reach the best version of themselves.
Even the Blessed Virgin had to tell Jesus when it was His time to perform His first miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Jesus was divine, but it was His mother who prompted Him to start a long process of bestowing graces of God’s people. She also cherished the dignity of the most desolate when she chose to appear to the three shepherd children at Fatima and a poor young woman named Bernadette of Lourdes, France. We can mirror her by keeping our appearance modest and presenting ourselves in decency. We can also be mindful of the fact that we are daughters of God and our souls mean so much to Him. More importantly, we can extend this to others and help them be aware of the pricelessness of their souls.

She works behind the scenes. 
Our Lady speaks a total of four times in the Bible. She followed Jesus wherever He went, caring for Him and the apostles. Even on the way to Calvary, while her Son was being mocked and mutilated, she silently followed close behind. At the foot of the cross, she watched Him die without uttering a word. Her eyes stayed on His face, even as He was taken down and placed in the tomb. She didn’t oppose what God had planned or complain about her suffering. Some of her most important work was behind the scenes.
God often calls us to do the same, and this behind the scene’s work is most easily seen as a wife, mother, or religious sister. In today’s world, these callings are seen as the least glamorous and are often not openly encouraged for young women. But in reality, where would the world be without mothers and wives? Leaders would not be raised with the ideals they use to guide others. Workmen would break down more easily under the weight of their work without the support of their family. Society would not know the safety of the home. Moreover, the forces of evil would have a much greater advantage without the stronghold of the family to break through. Even the absence of consecrated women would result in the lack of spiritual support and education. So instead, we should cherish the opportunity to create, build, and support our families and communities. We can always be faithful to our marriages, even in the face of the worst circumstances. The world may not recognize or celebrate us often, but those closest to us will adore us for the work we do. God will also see every sacrifice we make and give us the graces to carry out His will. 
God gave us Our Lady as our constant help and example. We need her more than ever, as the most precious ideals that make up a woman are being attacked and modified in our society. Let us unite in prayer and ask Our Blessed Mother to help us become the women God destined us to be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Young Woman's Response to Lena Dunham's "100 Years" Video and Margaret Sanger

I don't normally post about such confrontational issues, but since the March for Life is coming up, I'd like to point out a few things about this video that is going to be aired to kick off the Women's March that is incidentally occurring January 21st, just six days before the March of Life.

The video starts out by telling about how Planned Parenthood got started. Back in 1912, a woman named Margaret Sanger happened to care for a woman who had undergone an abortion that went wrong. She tells about how the woman was in pain, suffering from fever. She dies later as a result of her internal injuries, thus prompting Sanger to never rest until she found reproductive solutions for women. Hundreds of women came to her, asking how to prevent more pregnancies so they would be able to handle the five, ten, or nineteen children they already had. Early devices and illegal abortions were in place until she worked to promote birth control and federally permitted abortions that were offered later by the growing number of Planned Parenthood clinics. It goes on to celebrate the many accomplishments of the women's clinic.

If you want to know about the values of a corporation or organization, take a good look at the founder!

What not many people know is that Margaret Sanger, the highly acclaimed founder and advocate for "women's rights", was actually raised as a Roman Catholic, being one of eleven children. This seemed to contribute little in her life, as she was also involved with Eugenicists, believing that the mentally impaired should not be allowed to reproduce. "Every child should be a wanted child" she used to say.

My first thought when watching the video was how awful it was for the woman under Sanger's care to undergo such a traumatic experience, which is exactly the response they are looking for! But here's something the crowds of people on march day won't think about: what of the baby? He/she too underwent a traumatic experience, perhaps even more painful! In addition, if the abortion was botched, there is a chance the baby survived and encountered greater suffering as it slowly died. That tiny soul was easily forgotten by a woman who was raised and lived in a world where children were burdens. Burdens she believed women had the right to relieve themselves of. 

Planned Parenthood is an organization that is supported and praised by thousands of people. But it was founded by a woman who had a distorted view of the world, especially of humankind. To begin with, Sanger had no understanding of what love is, or how love is integrated into human sexual interactions. As a reproductive educator, she was famous for her article "What Every Girl Should Know". Here is an excerpt from the section, "Sexual Impulse, Part 1":

"At the time of puberty, there comes both to boys and girls two impulses--one, the desire to touch and caress; to come in contact with, to write and to speak to an individual of the opposite sex. This impulse is much stronger in girls than in boys. The other is the impulse that impels the individual to discharge the accumulation of ripe sex cells and relieve himself of the nervous tension which this accumulation produces. This latter impulse is stronger in boys than in girls. One writer states that this is an unconscious desire for relief from physical congestion, not differing greatly from the sense of relief which the emptying of the bladder or rectum produces.

These two impulses together constitute the Sexual Impulse, and this constitutes the foundation upon which love, the greatest of all emotions, is based" (Sanger 1). 

So then love is related merely to an impulse, spurred on by physical scientific processes in the body? How demeaning to a force that motivates the impossible, creates bonds between human beings, and ultimately drove the Creator of the Universe to give His only Son to die for all mankind! Saint Augustine wrote that to love is to will the good of another. Even the early Greeks were able to distinguish four kinds of love: storge, philia, eros, and agape. That is, a closeness, affection, or devotion to family, friends, a mate, and generally to human beings as brothers and sisters. All of these reference activity of the SOUL, not of physical processes of the reproductive system. Surely people like Martin Luther King Jr, St. Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Francis, Abraham Lincoln, St. Pope John Paul II, and a plethora of others did not accomplish what they did, driven only by their body's physical impulses.What a disgrace to them, and what a shame for the women who were educated by Sanger. 

Thus it was that women were taught to disregard their natural, nurturing motherly instincts, and instead view their reproductive abilities as prisons:

"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body" ~ Margaret Sanger

There really is no logic in her statement. Never in the history of science or biology has a creature adapted or evolved with a natural bodily component that imprisoned its potential to survive or thrive. When examined scientifically, a woman's reproductive cycle contains a time of fertility and non-fertility. If educated properly, a woman can use her natural cycles to promote or avoid pregnancy. The imprisonment of women in Sanger's time was not in their reproductive system, but the lack of education and knowledge on it. This is still true today. Control of women's bodies is not what is needed. Control is for something that has the potential for disaster or disorder. In Sanger's case, pregnancy was the chaos. Rather, the utility of what is already naturally provided makes better sense. It also does not give fault to the wonders that a woman's reproductive system can carry out. 

Where is the soul then, Planned Parenthood? You speak about how "the doors will always be open" and that equality and freedom must come to every woman. But what is the point to "serve" these women, if you disregard their bodies and souls, as well as the beings they have the privilege of carrying? What does that freedom or equality feed? What do any of us work towards, if not the soul? For the body ages, dies, and returns back to the ground. It is the soul that gives the body dignity; dignity which demands freedom, equality, kindness, charity, and friendship. 

So I'm not going to be one of the hundreds of young women supporting the work of modern "women's rights" activists like Lena Dunham, marching together to take back what's ours. Nothing was stolen to begin with! What has been stolen in the last 100 years is the dignity of women and the beautiful gift they have to bring forth life. It has stolen the chance to educate women about their bodies and give them a deeper understanding of themselves. No thanks to you, Margaret Sanger. 

Thankfully, we have voices of our own and have every opportunity to prayerfully fight for the souls of every woman and child. I will be praying for each person who walks in the March of Life on January 27th. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

What I Learned in My First Six Months of Marriage.

A phrase that I've heard frequently in the last year is "time is going to fly by for you". Turns out, those people were right! Was it really a year ago I was starting my last semester of college? I've officially now spent my first "semester" outside of school; it was an experience that needs to be written about later. In any case, time has really seemed to flow much quicker. When I stop for a second, I have a moment of disbelief that I am already six months pregnant, and on that note, six months married.

I have this funny habit of reassuring myself that I have plenty of time, and then bury my head down in the everyday details instead. Which I guess isn't the wrong thing to do, since we must, after all, carpe diem! So while I've "seized the day" only a few days out of the week, the months have flown by. I'm a regular married woman now, with regular wifely duties like meal planning, picking up man underwear, ironing shirts, cleaning our disgusting  slightly messy bathroom, spending too much time on Facebook, and coming up with ideas that all came from Pinterest.  I've often silently thanked my mom from the bottom of my heart for all the skills she drilled into my being, and thus discovered I can do this whole wife thing after all. But here's the real question: do I feel any more sanctified?

My honest to goodness answer is no (what did I expect??). However, through the things that I've learned, I understand the meaning of sanctification better, and I have a much more concrete idea of the new challenges that God has set before me to tackle.

I have much less patience than I thought. 

      Before marriage, I thought I could work through most social and relationship obstacles while keeping most of my inner peace in tact. Yea, there were a few instances where an eye roll and a sigh seemed a mandatory response, but looking back, I realized I usually made a fast get away from whatever situation was bothering me. My mother was right: I avoid confrontation and consternation by simply avoiding people and not developing deep relationships. Of course I would offer sympathy and support for friends when they needed it, but I never let it get to the point where they could be privy to my faults or have a personal problem with me. Sunshine all around!

Now that I have a spouse, I have a different struggle. We share everything and he can see ALL my faults, even ones I didn't know I had! I can see all his faults, ones he previously ignored too. And heres the kicker: we have to help each other with our faults; we have to be INVOLVED! We must help each other carry our crosses. Thus, I have found I am not as patient as I thought. Fortunately, I know we (hopefully) have our whole lives to learn to bear each other's natural human failures better. We're in it for the long run, which means a lot of time outs, deep breathing, and understanding. Oh and love. Love makes it easier.

Mercy and understanding goes a long way. 

      Something that goes along with all that patience is mercy. Mercy actually helps with gaining more patience. As human beings, husbands will disappoint their wives in many ways. They get home an hour later than they say, they don't put the dishes away right, they wake up in a bad mood, they say rude things, and sometimes you wonder if they were raised by wolves. It could be anything really. I've recently discovered some things bother me more than I thought, so theres that.

My long time, long distance friend sent me a book for Christmas called "By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride" by Alice Von Hildebrand. It is a compilation of letters send to a young woman, recently married, by an elderly widow. As the young woman, Julie, encounters the first joys and disappointments of the first two years of marriage, the elderly woman, Lily, guides her through each one, contributing her wisdom. Partly because she is a widow of many years, she greatly encourages the idea of considering the sacredness of marriage from the start. A constant theme she uses throughout her letters is regarding the spouse with a Tabor vision of him/her. Jesus revealed his divinity to the apostles on Mount Tabor and in doing so, it deepened the faith and love of each of his closest followers. So too we must practice regarding our spouse with the same eyes God does. What made me fall in love with him? How do I find his soul beautiful? What has God destined for him? How do I fight for his soul? Once I considered each of these things, the small struggles carried less weight, and more opportunity to love him as God does. Now, is it always my go-to tactic when he disturbs my inner peace? Certainly not! Who am I, a saint? So that'll take practice.

Once I remind myself of his soul, I am reminded of God's mercy and understanding too. He hates cleaning the bathroom, and never does a very good job, but maybe the chemicals really gross him out and make his hands itch? Maybe the merciful thing to do would ask him to do another chore that's less aggravating. He said something very rude, but how about I ask him what he meant before I jump down his throat? He forgot our anniversary, but maybe something major occurred at work and really threw him for the day. Instead, I'll wait to bring it up at a better time, and we can work something out together. I know that he really does go out of his way to take care of the chores I hate most... particularly cleaning the kitchen. Its all about the times of give and take... and more giving!

At the end of some days, it keeps our love in a happier place. I also feel more at peace since I'm not brooding over how I've been wronged.

A Spiritual Life Together is More Confusing Than I Thought

       All of my previous life, it was a party of two: me and God. A two way street, pretty simple in terms of directional flow. Now I'm in this triangle situation, with only one component being the perfect one. The rest of us are at different levels and different understandings of spirituality. To be honest, sometimes I'm confused on how this is supposed to work.

We both are supposed to draw closer to God, the top vertices. The hardest part is being able to draw towards God, linked together as a pair. We have established a small prayer routine that we haven't wavered from since the beginning, but the question is how do we deepen our spiritually together? How do we ultimately become saints? It's very much possible, because look at Sts. Louis and Zellie Martin!

For one, I need to practice leaving more of it to God. I kept thinking that I needed to encourage a deeper spiritually between us. God knows exactly where Eric is at, and what he needs. I can do nothing for Eric by trying to understand and work with his spiritual state. Rather, I need to ask Him to do one thing: To make Eric into the man God wants him to be. I'm not going to pray that he has patience, kindness, or any other virtue I think he might need. God will tug on the rope that connects them, in whatever fashion is best. The same goes for me. God will bring me closer to Him in His own time, with whatever tools speak to me most.

As for the both of us, we must simply pray together as much as we can, and keep our eyes on God; even if it is out of obligation. I know that our life and marriage together will contain everything we need for growth. Whether its children, medical school, residency, home life, finances, losses, or gains,  each event will come with sufficient graces and lessons for the both of us to learn by. God will provide everything.

So my job now is to continue learning how to love him better and to cherish every moment with him. Someday, I may not be able to get angry at him for not taking out the trash and making the house smell like a landfill. I may not be able to appreciate how much room he takes up in the bed, or be able to hang up the ties he loving leaves for me on the closet floor. I won't waste my energy on the little things, and I will try my best to remember that the world isn't ending because we had a bad fight. I love him for who he is now, and I want to be there with him for who God teaches him to be. I think back occasionally on the other life choices I would have made for myself otherwise. I can assure you that none of them would bring me as much peace or joy.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

When Going to Mass is Hard

Because of the recent snowstorm we had, Masses for today were canceled at one of the parishes we sometimes attend. We were late for getting to our regular parish too and driving on ice isn't among my husband's set of skills, being that he is from Phoenix. So no Mass for today, although tonight we will pray a rosary together.

Thankfully, this is the only Sunday we have not gone to Mass. We try to be pretty faithful about getting to Holy Days of Obligation too. But can I be honest?

Going to Mass is sometimes the hardest part of my week.

For one, I have a terrible attention span. Ask my husband and he'll tell you I am awful at finishing book series, watching one Netflix series at a time, and sticking to one task at a time. I also occasionally burn food because of this. So when the time comes for us both to sit in our self designated spot in the congregation, my mind wanders as if on cue. And it stays wandering until Mass is over. It goes something like this:

We kneel down when we first come in, like we're supposed to. I find the tabernacle, to remind myself where the main point of the room is. Sometimes I even get to this part before the priest walks in. Yup, already starting out badly. I say "Hello, Jesus"... and then what? Well, I could tell Him how my day went, ask Him to help me be present at Mass, pray for my husband. But before I know it, my focus is gone. As Mass starts, I try to participate in the part where we say the Confiteor (because we always need that), and lose it again. At this point, as I am confessing my faults as part of the congregation, the familiar feeling of guilt creeps its way back in. Since Jesus is there and sees everything, I tell Him, "I'm sorry, Lord. I think its going to be one of those days".

Trust me, its gone on like this for years. I will have those Sundays that feel more grace filled and it makes things easier. But I wish I could make more of an effort to be there and let God know of my desire to be with Him. For my husband and I both, I wish with all my heart that we stopped coming to Mass out of obligation and instead went to be intimate with the third person in our marriage. Obligation gets you in the door and keeps you in the pew, and might even keep you Catholic, if habit and regulation means that much to you. But at what point will we understand how much value there is in what we do? At what point will we desire to be there?

I think maybe we understand the value in little chunks. Brief moments where we recognize the gravity of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I must believe that He enlightens each and every one of us at some point, because we are, after all, making the effort to sit there in front of Him. I thought about the fact that the Mass is the greatest prayer of all. So full of mystery, a phenomenon among the roughage of our daily lives. Of course we aren't going to be able to take it all in perfectly! It did take the saints many years to be able to understand and appreciate what was meant by the "Sacrifice of the Mass". The Eucharist itself is something I still have a hard time explaining to non-Catholics outside of "Yes, I'm sure its really Him!!".

So maybe God is telling me I just need to slow down. In that case, here are the parts of the Mass that mean the most to me; the ones that I try my best not to miss:

The Confiteor:

              Like mentioned above, this is something we all need. If you haven't taken the time to make an act of contrition or do an examination of conscience, kill two birds with one stone! The Mass is so brilliantly set up in the way we, led by the priest, approach God. We start out by acknowledging we are sinners, in front of everyone, so we're all on the same page. In the Traditional Rite, the priest doesn't even approach the altar until this part has been said. We speak the truth with our lips, slightly mortify our flesh as we strike our breast three times, and then we ask all of heaven with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph to help us do better next time. A perfect preparation receiving the Word of God in both senses, i.e. Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The Sanctus:

           The first and simplest reason I love this aspect of the Mass is because they always ring the bells when its being said. Bells are great because they serve a multi-function. That is, they announce when something important is happening and at the same time arouse parishioners from their sleepy/distracted stupor. We know why the consecration is important, but why is it necessary for the bells to be rung at the Sanctus? If you go back to Revelation, God is being proclaimed "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts" several times throughout the chapters. It is the chosen words of praise given by the angels, saints, and prophets of heaven. So why shouldn't we mimic their gift? I never understood the gravity of the Sanctus until I once asked a Benedictine sister to pray for me during it. She replied that what I was asking of her was a huge favor, because it is the prayer reserved for sole attention of the Holy One. She said yes, and I felt rather ashamed for asking for such a large piece for myself. In any case, it taught me a lesson. I love to pray it because it is the once instance where I always feel heaven and earth are speaking the same words. It is straightforward, and not difficult to remember for us sheep. :)

The Consecration (duh):

               This is kind of a no brainer; although I won't deny that I've been distracted through this one too. Isn't it amazing that in one moment, Christ humbles Himself as easily as He did on the day of Calvary, to once again be displayed in front of us? That in itself is the mystery, as well as a binding event of heaven and earth. The least we can do is this time instead of walking away from Him, we proclaim, "My Lord and my God!". Its also nice there's a partial indulgence for saying it. :)

Time with Jesus:

              I can't remember which saint said it, but the first fifteen minutes with Jesus are the most precious. There He is, inside you. Yea, He tastes a little bit like wheat, but that's all part of the faith-filled journey! Don't know what to say? Well, think about the fact that you are the closest you can get to your Creator. The very Being that formed you! Take account of your existence: find your heartbeat,  listen to your breathing, and locate all your extremities. Examine your soul. Then realize where all of you came from. Your Origin knows you, desires for your safety, and created you out of love. Jesus is your origin, and there is no reason to hide from Him. You don't have to say anything. Just be. That is exactly what He waits for. Imagine you quenching His insatiable thirst, even for just a few moments!

Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Dunn, NC aka our parish.

And thats it. Sometimes I can only muster one or two... all of them on a good day. It grounds me and helps me find my footing again. Even if I've been a heathen all week, the tiny amounts of time I can find in Mass make it better.

So heres to a Happy New Year, both liturgical and astronomical. Here's to many more happy Masses, whether we make it through like a saint or not. Because no matter what, Jesus is always waiting.