Project Miriam

Many of the talks we’ve been hearing this semester in both our Formation Program and our Women’s Nights have focused around what it means to be a woman of God and how our femininity plays into that. This has naturally brought up some discussions in our community
about vocation, especially for some of our juniors and seniors. Through God’s perfect timing, the Vocations Office in the Austin Diocese offered two day long retreats, one for the men and one for the women, to help people understand what it really means to be called to religious life.

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I went to the retreat for the women, Project Miriam, with Courtney and a few of the women in our Households. We spent the afternoon meeting the various sisters who were there and heard a bit about their communities and way of life. There were about ten different communities represented, and it was beautiful to hear how the Lord had brought them to their vocation to Religious life.

We all went to mass together, spent time in adoration, and heard about Mary’s “yes” at the Annunciation. Before she ever gave her fiat — her yes — Mary gave her ecce — her being. She is
the handmaid of the Lord, and gave herself to Him in her very being before she was ever asked to be His mother at the Annunciation. I was struck by that during adoration and it occurred to me that I want to become the kind of woman who doesn’t just say “Lord, what will you ask from me? Because I’m not sure I’m up to the task…” but rather “Lord, when will you ask me, because I’ve already said yes!”

It was incredible to be able to spend time with the sisters and the women from our Households. I went to brunch with the women the next morning and it was neat to hear how the experience had been for each of them. Most of us are unsure at this point where the Lord is calling us when it comes to vocation, but I saw how He’s been opening their hearts to the possibility of Religious life. Spending time with the sisters had helped many of them break down fears and misconceptions about life as a sister.

A few of us are continuing the openness the Lord has begun by going on a weekend-long retreat for discernment. I pray this will bring peace and clarity for each of us, and an increased
trust in the One who desires to satisfy us.

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Fan Into Flame

“I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.”

2 Tim. 1:6-7

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The very first weekend of February was our big Spring retreat called Fan Into Flame. We had over 70 students join us out in Caldwell, TX at Crossroads Retreat Center for a weekend full of incredible talks, testimonies, good community, and plenty of time for prayer. This retreat was focused on leading students into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Many of the talks were built around what it means to put Jesus at the center of our lives, and ranged from discussions on reconciliation and worship to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The talks were spread evenly throughout the weekend, and were broken up by testimonies, small discussion groups, and time for worship and prayer. One of the things that was emphasized over the course of the weekend was the power given to us in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We were reminded of the way the Holy Spirit was given to us first at Pentecost, and how He fills us with His gifts both at Baptism and Confirmation. Many college students we encounter have received both of these sacraments growing up, but have never really owned their faith or put the gifts they received from the Holy Spirit to use. Many students have never actually been asked “why are you Catholic?” or had a need to reclaim the faith they may have been taught in grade school. This retreat provided a space for many of these students to ask themselves why they believe what they believe, and to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle the fire He’s already given them in the sacraments of initiation.

32792180050_9331eadd83_kThis was the first time for the SPO Texas chapter to have a retreat led almost entirely by students. Each one of the staff members was in charge of supervising student leaders, but the students were the ones running registration, writing and giving the talks, and leading all of the discussion groups. This was a huge step for all of us as a community, and we came out on the other side with an unbelievable amount of trust in one another. The student leaders, many of whom live in Households, stepped up well and went above and beyond in their individual leadership roles. There was something very powerful for the other students on the retreat to watch their peers step up and share the way the Lord has worked in their lives.img_1802

Being a supervisor instead of giving a talk or leading a small group freed me up during the weekend to have an eye for some of the newer students who were just starting to get back into their faith. I had a number of wonderful discussions with some of the girls, and was impressed by how excited they were after the retreat to dive deeper into prayer with the Lord, and come back to the sacraments.

I’m excited to see how the Lord is going to continue calling each one of them into a deeper and more joy-filled life with Him. Pray for us as we walk with these students and encourage them to grow in their relationship with Christ!

Women’s Advent Brunch

Our Women’s Advent Brunch was last Saturday. Here are some pictures with a little explanation of how the morning went!

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Mini Advent wreath centerpiece waiting to be lit
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Regan and Angelica, my reliable helpers for the event. I couldn’t have done this without them!
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The women began the morning by singing some beautiful Advent songs.
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One of my fellow mission leaders, Teresa, gave a talk on the importance and beauty of the Advent season.
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One of the women lighting the Advent candle at her table.
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There was plenty of food to share!
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Happy Advent! May you enter this season with hopeful anticipation of what’s to come!

 

New Beginnings

“Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now then when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…” [Romans 13:11-12]

Advent came upon us quicker than we expected! We just got back from Thanksgiving break and it’s starting to feel stressful as the semester comes to a speedy close. Finals week is almost here, and my “to-do before Christmas break” list gets longer by the hour. One of the items on my list was to prep for the Women’s Advent Brunch we had on Saturday morning. I’d been caught up in the logistics of planning, worried about the details and all the errands I had to find time to run before the week was out. Before we ate brunch together, we had a time to worship the Lord and reflect quietly on how to wait for Him well during this season of Advent. In planning for this, I was reminded that despite how fast the weeks seem to be flying, now is the time to slow down and enter into this liturgical season well.

“I give You praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned You have revealed them to the childlike.” [Luke 10:21]

As I grow older, adjust to the details of this new job, and become more knowledgable and mature, I lose sight of the simple delights of the Lord. I take my faith for granted and allow the scriptures and the sacraments to become familiar, commonplace, and uninspiring. For the sake of becoming learned, I lose the childlike wonder I had when I first came to know Him. But childlike wonder is exactly what the Lord is asking of us.

When I was young, especially during Christmas, it was easy for me to enter into the excitement and delight of the season. I let my imagination run wild with thoughts of Santa and his reindeer, I watched in wide-eyed wonder as the Christmas lights were turned on for the first time, I stayed up late to see all of the candles lit around the manger at the Midnight Mass. But when I grew out of some of those childish Christmas traditions like Santa and his reindeer, I also seemed to let go of some of the wonder of the birth of my savior. Advent has become a time to start shopping for gifts and even when I do try to reflect on the birth of Christ, it is tainted by the knowledge that the calendar year is ending and my brain starts to skip right over Advent to what comes next.

Even though the calendar year and semester are both ending, the new church year has just begun. Christmas is a time of new beginnings as we celebrate the way Christ came as an infant to begin the work of salvation. Let us take these next few weeks to renew the childlike awe we used to have in His coming. The God of the universe humbled Himself to become man so that man may become like Him. When we allow ourselves to wonder at the greatness of our God, we are able to become like children again  — wide-eyed and eager to receive all He has for us.

I pray you are all able to enter into this season of waiting with a childlike wonder at the God who became man for us.

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!

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!