Are You My Mother?

olow_outsideThe Catholic Student Center here at Texas State is called Our Lady of Wisdom Parish, and is home to a number of different Catholic organizations. Within the umbrella that is Wisdom there is SPO, FOCUS, and various others such as a fraternity, sorority, and Bobcats for Life. Each of these organizations has similar goals as far as leading students closer to Christ, but because our approaches are often different there’s a risk of the community feeling somewhat disjointed. One of our goals for the year is to face this challenge head on and work towards unifying all of these organizations to become a strong Catholic community at Texas State.

A few students from each organization have stepped forward to become Our Lady of Wisdom ambassadors to help bring life back into our inter-organizational relationships. These ambassadors have worked together to create what they call Bobcat Catholic Unity Night. It happens once a week for about two hours and everyone involved at Wisdom is invited and encouraged to attend, regardless of their organizational commitments.

Each week looks a little different, but for the most part the structure has remained the same. The ambassadors lead us in an ice-breaker game to give us the opportunity to get to know each other, and then we hear a talk that is followed by a brief time of discussion and prayer. One of the ambassadors gave a talk on the Eucharist, Fr. David gave a talk on the history of Halloween, and I was invited to give a talk on Mary at the Unity Night a week ago. I was honored to have been given the opportunity to talk about Mary, and a bit overwhelmed at where to even begin!

I had the freedom to talk about anything, as well as the burden of squeezing everything I wanted to say into 20-30 minutes. I went back and re-read portions of my favorite books on Our Lady, and spent a good chunk of time working and reworking the most important points. Over the course of my preparation, I realized how much Mary had been coming up in my life recently. From various, seemingly random conversations with friends to talks at recent retreats it became clear that there was something I was missing about her. There’s a saying I’ve heard that you’re often asked to give the talk you need to hear, and I didn’t understand that fully until I was asked to give this talk. The more I prepared for it, the more I saw how little I actually knew about Our Lady, and how much I had to grow in relationship with her.

If I had been smart, I would have just recorded the talk so I could post it here. But I wasn’t thinking, so you get the spark notes version today.

The majority of my talk focused around who she is as our mother, and more importantly olowwhat that means to us as individuals. I think there’s often some confusion surrounding Our Lady that’s born out of misunderstanding and half-heard truths. It seems strange from an outside perspective that we put so much emphasis on her, and often looks as though we’ve raised her to the level of a divinity. But that’s not the case. We honor Mary for the way God worked through her, but we don’t worship her. Worship is reserved for God alone because He is the only one worthy of it. Worship, in fact, comes from an old English word which literally means “to acknowledge worth” — worth that He alone holds. We don’t believe Mary has the power to save us, because only God can do that. But we honor her because God honored her first. What greater honor could there be than to be asked by God to be His mother? What greater honor is there than to be invited into His plan for salvation — a plan that didn’t need us in order to be fulfilled? The other thing to remember is that God’s glory is never diminished when we admire or honor the things He’s created. It’s like when we admire a beautiful painting or piece of music; we aren’t glorifying the canvas or the guitar but the one who created the art. When we admire Mary, God’s most beautiful creature, we give glory to the one who created her.

There are two specific scripture passages that help us understand her role in our lives, and both come from John’s Gospel. The first is the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-12), which shows us her relationship with Jesus and her care for those around her. She noticed the wine had run out at the wedding and, even though it was a small problem in the grand scheme of things, she cared enough for the couple to bring their need to the Lord. Not only that, but once she had offered Him their request, she stepped back and pointed to Jesus saying “do whatever He tells you.” Because He loves her as His mother, He honored her simple request even though it would launch Him into the public light.

pieta-jasonThe second is the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27), and reminds us how Jesus gave her to each of us to be our mother. He found the strength even as He was in unspeakable pain to say to John “behold your mother.” Through His sacrifice on the cross we became children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ; in this way we share His mother. John stands in for all of us who are disciples of the Lord, and we should hear Jesus’ words from the cross as words to us, “children, behold your mother.”

So what now? What do we do with this, and why does it matter that she’s been given to us as our mother? We follow John’s example and take her into our home. We follow God’s example and entrust ourselves in our weakness to her care, knowing she cares for us and is not afraid to bring our needs to the Lord the way she did for the couple at Cana. We can invite her into our life, into our fears and sufferings and joys. She stands with us in our sorrows at the foot of the cross. When we invite her into our lives, she can know how to pray for us better. That’s what a mother should do, after all: pray for her children and point them always back to the Lord. Mary knows Jesus deeply and knows best how to pray for each and every one of us. And, because He loves her so dearly as His beloved mother, the Lord is ready and willing to answer her requests on our behalf.

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All that to say she is our mother who cares for each of us individually and is waiting for us to ask her to pray for us. We can never honor or love her more than the Lord already does, and she will always point us back to Christ in everything telling us gently, “do whatever He tells you.”

Our Lady of Wisdom, pray for us!

Feminini-Tea

img_0536This past Saturday was our first Pure Silk event of the year. A portion of our events are funded by Pure Silk, and we used the donations to host a classy tea party for the women. My partners in crime (translation: the entire rest of the women’s staff) were unable to come, so I jumped right in to solo-leading an event. It went far smoother than I anticipated, but I’m learning very quickly that my strengths do not lie in delegation. Oops.

I used most of the week to do small things in preparation for the event, and then spent the whole morning at Our Lady of Wisdom setting up the large lobby space. A few of the men helped me roll out six large tables, Camille lent us her beautiful teacups and pots for the afternoon, and two of the women come early to help cut fruit and lay out trays of cookies. Courtney had made us a playlist for background music, but none of us could figure out how to make the big speakers connect to my laptop until Father David, the pastor at Our Lady of Wisdom, walked through the lobby. It wasn’t until he started working on the speakers that the music turned on. Nothing like a well-timed entrance, Father!

We had about 20 women show up to the event in img_0498their best dresses, and it was exciting to
sit back and watch how the Household women took it upon themselves to make the new comers feel welcomed. Andie, one of the women living in Household, gave a brief talk to start off the afternoon. She touched on the idea of our femininity, the way we as women show a specific image of God, and how we can encourage each other to live up to our feminine virtues by way of good sisterhood. We spent the rest of our time discussing the ideas she presented over tea and treats. My time was split between engaging new students in conversation at the table and running back and forth from the kitchen to make sure everyone had enough tea and cookies.

img_0496The only catastrophe that happened was one of the women finding a teeny, dead scorpion in the bottom of her cup. Thankfully she noticed it, and was very calm about the whole situation. That’s not something I would have ever foreseen happening! Welcome to Texas, I guess?
While I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, it was the kind of exhaustion that felt worthwhile. Even though I made the mistake of trying to do most of the work myself, I’m surrounded by people who have generous hearts and eyes constantly seeking for ways to serve. Many of the women stayed late to help wash dishes, put away tables, and drive people home. All in all it was a wonderful afternoon, and I was so happy to see women having a good time and engaging a great conversations with each other!

 

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A Week in the Life

After all the craziness of Welcome Week, I’ve finally started to settle into a semi-normal routine. My week varies quite a bit depending on what sort of events we’re planning, or who’s available to meet up with me on any given day. But I’ll try to give a snapshot of what life is like for me lately.

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The view from the top of Enchanted Rock

Sundays are typically pretty restful, with some time spent at Our Lady of Wisdom, which is the Catholic Church on campus. It’s less than a ten minute walk to Wisdom from my

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Kayaking in Austin

house, which is nice, although the hills make it feel longer! Most Sundays are very open, and I’ve used them to go exploring with some of the students. It’s been a great way to get to know people better, and I’ve gotten to see some of the nearby small towns and state parks.

Mondays are my day off since I don’t really get a break on Saturdays. They’re a much needed rest from the energy and work of the week. Most of the time I stick around the house, maybe catch up on some leisure reading, or hammock under my house for a while. It’s nice to get away sometimes too, though, since the majority of my week is spent near households anyway. There’s a big public library I’m planning to visit one of these days, and I’m hoping to drive out to some of the smaller towns to explore.

img_0254Tuesday through Fridays I’m up by 6 am (or 6:20 am if I hit the snooze button one too many times…), and pray morning prayer with the girls in my house at 6:45 am. It was a huge adjustment the first week I was here, but I’ve grown to love this time in the mornings in prayer. The front of our house is mostly large windows, and we can watch the sun rise as we pray. We use the prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours, which consists of three psalms, a brief reading, and a time for intercession and singing. I’ve fallen more and more in love with starting my day this way, and it’s good to have everyone in the house on the same page — literally. Some days we sound better than others (morning voices are not always the most beautiful), but we’ve gotten more confident in this type of prayer as the weeks have passed. Our Lady of Wisdom has eucharistic adoration at 8:30 am, so I have about an hour after morning prayer to eat breakfast and prep for the day. I’ve never been a morning person, but getting up so early for prayer has revolutionized my day. I actually have time to wake up and make a good breakfast! What a concept.

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Hammocking in Pedernales Falls

Mondays and Thursdays we have dinner together as a household. Two people are assigned to cook the meal each of those days, and we invite other students to join us for Monday dinners. We try to spend an hour at the table together for dinner, even if we’re already finished eating. With everyone’s schedules being so busy, these are a great time for us to reconnect as a house and grow in friendship. There’s always a lot of laughter, and it’s fun to see what each girl decides to make for her meal. Sometimes it’s an old family recipe she’s excited to share with us, and sometimes it becomes the perfect opportunity to experiment with new recipes.

Wednesday nights are Formation nights. All of the students living in household, as well as a few other committed students, come together each week to hear a talk on Christian virtue and how to apply it in their daily lives. Every other Wednesday is a talk, and the opposite Wednesdays are times for discussion.

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Watching “Sully” together at the Drive-In

Thursday nights are typically event nights. Sometimes they’re very planned and take a lot of prep time, and sometimes they’re more casual and relaxed. My fellow missionary, Courtney, and I are usually in charge of all the planning and prep work for those nights, and we’re starting to find a good system for event planning. She’s good at the big picture ideas and dreams, and I’ve found myself jumping into details and logistics. We make a good team, and so far all of our events have been a ton of fun and have given us great opportunities to meet new students.

I also have staff meetings in the mornings, and am leading two small groups each week. Scattered throughout these more regularly scheduled things are meetings with

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Hanging out (literally) on campus

individual students to get to know them better, make them feel connected to the community, and help them dive deeper into their faith. It’s a lot to keep track of, but a most of what I do is investing in relationships, which is something I enjoy. Sometimes the line between “work” and “fun” gets a little blurred, and it’s a constant struggle to balance all the practical things I need to get done with some much needed down time. Some days have a heavy load of admin work and prepping for events or small groups and feel very much like the full-time job that it is. Other days, however, when I go exploring with students, practice slack lining on campus, or go to a drive-in movie, I have to remind myself that this is my job!

Welcome Week

What’s maroon and gold and full of ridiculous amounts of fun? Bobcat Welcome Week! Or, more accurately, Bobcat Welcome TWO Weeks.


School officially started at Texas State University on August 29th, and I spent the following two weeks helping to prep and put on various events in order to meet as many new students as I could. The house I live in used to sit on the river before it was moved to it’s current location near campus, and so it’s built up on stilts. We usually park our cars underneath it, but for some of our welcome week events we moved the cars and set up events underneath. We had a party one night, complete with Bluebell ice cream, fancy lights, and two-stepping, and the next night hung up a giant sheet and watched a movie from our hammocks.  There’s also a river running through part of campus (I know, I was shocked too), and we invited some students to play sand volleyball with us in the nearby courts one night.

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Our big finale of events was a hog roast held out on the three-tiered deck behind the men’s house. We handed out over 1,000 flyers on campus, the men stayed up all night cooking the meat, and we made two huge crockpots of baked beans and 24+ pounds of coleslaw to feed around 200 people. It was chaotic and full of energy and new faces, but was a success!img_0357

Even though I was a pretty burnt out by the end of all
our events, I could already see the fruit of our hard work and planning. I had met a number of new girls, both freshmen and transfers, and was able to help them feel connected to the community. Many of them are away from home for the first time, and it was good to see them feeling right at home in our households. I spoke with one of the girls at the movie night, and she told me that this was the first time she’d really felt at home in a group of Catholics her age. It was so encouraging to be able to be a part of that for her!

Since then, I’ve had time to take a break and recharge. It’s been hard trying to adjust to a img_0379new place, new roommates, and a new work schedule all while trying to help others feel welcomed at comfortable at Texas State. Thankfully the people here are all unbelievably
wonderful, and have helped me feel very at home in San Marcos this last month. We’ve had some more relaxed get togethers and it’s been good to see the students I met during welcome week again. I went camping at Pedernales Falls State Park one weekend, kayaked through the skyscrapers in Austin, and climbed up and over Enchanted Rock.

I’ve been able to invite students into my daily routine, show them how to pray morning img_0288prayer, drive them home after a late night of movies and ice cream, or show them how to slack line when we’re hanging out on campus. It’s amazing how God can work through such simple things to make people feel like they belong. One of my favorite things so far has been inviting students looking for friends into our spontaneous adventures. It seems like such a simple thing to invite a freshman to a drive-in movie with us, or invite a girl to dinner at the house, but it’s in those moments that I can watch them relax, laugh, and feel at home away from home. It’s incredible to watch new friendships being built, and I’ve already seen how a few of the girls have been impacted in small ways just by experiencing how we live our lives in an SPO Household.

 

 

The School of the New Evangelization

Once our Mission Team Training ended, we moved all of our belongings over to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota for a week-long conference called the School of the New Evangelization (SNE). This conference pulled together speakers and students from all over the U.S. SNE is built around helping us learn and practice the skills we need this year to be rooted in prayer and focused on reaching new students on campus.


This was my first time, and it was the largest SNE so far with over 400 college students in attendance. Many of the students came from schools with SPO chapters (such as The Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota, etc.) but quite a few came from schools which don’t have SPO staff yet.
28961071565_5db9491843_zEach day of the conference had morning prayer, daily mass, and personal prayer time to help us grow in our prayer life and prepare us for the school year. We spent the majority of the day in various talks divided into three tracks: mission, community, and holiness.

I jumped around between many of the sessions, and often continued discussing the ideas with new friends during our meal times.

28309863683_b9189b7871_zI was thrilled to finally meet the students from Texas State University during SNE, and by the end of the week I was finally starting to remember all their names and faces. I spent a few of my free afternoons getting to know the women I’d be living with, and it was exciting to finally know a little bit of the community I would be jumping into in just a few short days.

It was an exhausting week coming right from a week of training, but I learned a lot, got to know my fellow missionaries and many of the students pretty well. I took full advantage of our free time to take some much needed naps, spend time with the students, and participate in the SPOlympics. We finished out the week with an unbelievable talent show, and parted ways to travel to our placements.

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Adoration on one of the first nights of SNE
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The first annual SPOlympics
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SPOlympic athletes in action
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Some of the incredible musicians from the Talent Show
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All of the students and mission leaders from SNE

 

Moving to Texas via Minnesota

FullSizeRenderLast week I packed the last of my boxes into my car, said goodbye to Cincinnati (and all the people I love there), and started my day-long drive to Minnesota. I was finally headed to training.

I had been nervous for a week before that because my car was still in the shop getting repaired. I had planned to drive to Columbus early for a wedding and then go from there right to training, but per usual my ideal plans didn’t pan out. The car wasn’t finished in time, so I had to rearrange my perfect schedule. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but allowed for two more days with my family that I hadn’t counted on. God is consistently trying to teach me to ease up on the planning and let Him take charge. It was a good reminder for me to trust Him. What better way to start mission work than to get a solid reminder to trust? Things are not always going to work out the way I want them to, but they will work out in God’s own perfect timing.

But that wasn’t the end of His little reminders.

About two hours from Minnesota, things got interesting. It was dark by that point, and I was tired from a long day of solo road tripping. All the available space in my car was packed full of my belongings, and my bag of dinner and snacks was sitting on the passenger’s seat next to me. I looked behind me before switching lanes and noticed movement on top of the largest box. Suddenly I remembered my mom’s words from the night before: “I think there was a mouse in here while the car was at the shop. The back of this seat is all chewed up.” Either I was completely delusional or I had a stowaway.

Images of a foot-long, hairy mouse attacking me in the darkness of my car flooded my mind. Surely it would jump out at me and cause me to swerve all over the highway. This was the end.

I got off at the next exit, pulled into the first gas station, and rummaged through all my belongings with my flashlight. Nothing.

Twenty minutes later, the bag of food to my right moved and I saw it. Mouse confirmed. To my relief, it was a tiny little thing. I saw it twice more during the rest of the trip, but every time I pulled off the side of the road to shoo it out the door, it scurried away under all the boxes and out of reach. I spent the remainder of the trip waiting for it to creep back out again, only slightly relieved that I wasn’t completely delusional.

I stayed with a family friend that night, and by the time I pulled in I was too exhausted to find the mouse.

I got up the next morning and had a long breakfast, knowing I had plenty of time to drive over to training. But my car wouldn’t start. Remember that thing about ideal plans? Thankfully I had stayed with incredibly generous friends who jumped my car and drove with my to get my battery changed. I’d been driving with a supernatural battery going on it’s sixth year of a three year life-span.

I finally caught the mouse, and am happily in the thick of our training session. I hadn’t planned on a delayed start, car troubles, or a furry stowaway, but everything worked out the way it needed to. My car battery lasted till I was in good hands, and I made it to training safely. My plans don’t always match up with God’s, but I’m trying to trust that His are always going to work out.

Besides, they’re far more creative than the plans I come up with. I wouldn’t have thrown a mouse into the mix if I’d been in charge.

The Ripple Effect

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SPO Texas

And just like that, this Ohio girl is moving to Texas.

Okay, so maybe not just like that, but here we are all the same. Moving to Texas. If you had told me a year ago that I would be sitting in Cincinnati, facing a summer of support raising, with an official SPO missionary email open on the next tab over, I probably would have squinted my eyes at you in confusion. Or just laughed. I laugh a lot. Especially when I’m not sure how else to respond.

But here I am. Official SPO email and all. And it feels so right! My terror at not having any solid post-graduation plans slowly and surely turned to freedom and excitement when I realized that meant I could do anything I wanted. Or more importantly, anything the Lord wanted (which includes Texas…or else I don’t have a clue what He’s doing).

I’m stocking up on sunscreen and psyching myself up to invest in a hammock and some boots. I don’t know what’s in store for me this year, but if I can toss even a tiny pebble into the waters on campus this year, maybe the ripples will change the world. God’s already taken my “yes” and run a mile with it, so I’m sure anything is possible at this point.