Friday, February 24, 2012

If Wishing Worked... Oh, Wait!

(a post by Ana Marx)

I can't tell you how many times my mama told me, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." For a wide-eyed and self-proclaimed (unfortunately for my homework) chronic daydreamer, it's a terrible thing to be told that just because you wish for something to happen doesn't mean it's gonna happen. Let's be honest. Unless you know a host of talking mice, are frequently mistreated by your step-family, or enjoy singing to reflections of yourself in bubbles, wishing for something isn't a sure-fire way of getting what you want.
Calm down, Cinderella, I just said it's typically not a dependable way of going about doing things. Most people would tell you that hard work, sweat, and even ruthless bribery in the form of freshly baked cookies is the only way you'll get what you want out of life. But as is so often in our fallen world, sometimes not even cookies can get us what we really wish for. Nothing is certain when it comes to wishes. Unless, of course, you know the secret to wishing.

It’s not that difficult to find out. Unlike the answer to life, the
universe, and everything, it doesn’t take a computer millions of
years to compute. It’s really quite simple. It’s extraordinary. It’s
revolutionary. I would drag this out longer, but I can already see
the fickle people heading out the back door, thinking, “Why did I
even stay this long?” The secret to wishing is: You just got to
make sure that whatever it is you’re wishing for is what God’s
wishing for you too.

Wait! don't leave yet! I know that you think you've heard this a million times. I know you're looking a bit like my lovely friend here, but hear me out. (If it weren't for Lent, I'd offer you a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie, but as it is, here's a coupon for one on Sunday.

But back to the point! Seriously, if all God wants for you is to be happy with Him forever in heaven, it only makes sense that He wants you to be reasonably happy during your time on earth, too. So how are we supposed to know what He's wishing for us? I mean, it's not like any of us are mind-readers.

Okay, well, not ALL of us are mind readers. But even if these guys could read minds, they didn't need to read God's mind to figure out His will for each of them. No, sir, the saints figured that out through a complicated method so foreign to modern society that I couldn't find a picture to illustrate it. Instead, I will describe to you the four steps required to complete the knowledge-bestowing, ancient, and mystical process to gaining exactly what will make you happiest.

1.Get in your car.
2.Drive to your nearest Catholic church.
3.Kneel in front of the Tabernacle.
4.Talk to Him.

You don't have to be holy; you don't have to know what you're saying. Heck, you dont even have to really be open to His will yet. The only requirement you have to fulfill is a wanting for your own happiness. (And if you're a selfish human being as I am, that shouldn't be too hard to muster.) Just talk to Him about what's going on in your life. Your hopes, your dreams, and, yes, your wishes, too. You might just be surprised to hear how many of your opinions match up with His. This technique is to be repeated as often as can be, but as it is a dangerous activity, I will leave you with this warning:

The more often you visit Him, the sooner you start to sound like this guy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down

It’s Ash Wednesday! This should be a little boy’s favorite time of the year—Christmas aside—because it is the one day everyone goes about looking as though they just finished having a nice roll in the dirt (if you have a sloppy pastor who just slathers the stuff on, you know what I mean). Toddlers should be thrilled, because now everyone looks like they do. Who needs a bath?

(^This is not my pastor!)

However, for me, it hearkens the dreaded I Can’t Have My Favorite Thing for Forty Days period. I used to spend the week before Ash Wednesday wondering what I could live without, and what my family and friends could live with me living without (it’s not coffee), and how grumpy I’d be by the end of the 4x10 days. The only highlight was being able to tell my friends I did it, when it was all over with (in case you are wondering, no, I did not listen to today’s reading (Matthew, Chapter 6: 1-6, 16-18)). Of course, I completely missed the entire purpose of Lent. I’ll be presumptuous and assume I’m not the only one.
Lent revolves around acknowledging that we all have faults. Giving something up is essential, because in doing so we acknowledge that Whatever We Gave Up On was impeding us in our relationship with God. Lent is about losing the Loser is us. And, as is usual with God, we lose to gain and gain by losing: Lent is all about the second purpose of pain. It focuses on the idea that, through the suffering of sacrifice, we gain virtues. We learn to depend more on God and less on whatever mundane thing we have come to depend upon. We learn prudence instead of greed, humility instead of pride, charity instead of selfishness, etc. “What are you giving up for Lent?” can just as easily be said “What are you getting in Lent?” The goal of Lent is to become a better person.

I'll admit here that I like to resolve to DO something in addition to abstaining, however. We are Catholic, after all, and defined just as much by our action as our lack of.

This Lent I have resolved to pray for forty people—one per day—and their special intentions. I have a few people on the list, but there is still quite a bit of room. If you have an intention and would like for me to pray for you this Lent, please send me an email at or comment in the comment section below.

I’ve also resolved to meditate on the Stations every day. I did this last year, and it was a disaster, because I am not very contemplative and am, frankly, bad at praying (please pray for me about that). If however, I come up with a good reflection, I might, maybe (probably not) post it here (I don’t think that would violate Matthew 6 because no one reads SHB anyway).

That all said, this is just the beginning of Lent. Today is the day where everyone is still fresh in their resolutions; their expectations for success are still high. That level will drop by the mid Lent. That’s when it feels like you have been coffee- or whatnot- deprived forever, and that you have infinity to go before you get it. Be doubly good, and offer that suffering up for a poor soul in Purgatory. If you do give in, don't beat yourself up over it. Remember that if you hadn't been so severely tempted, it wasn't much of a sacrifice to begin with. And acknowledging the need to Lose is the first step to gaining.

So, I’ll be praying for you this Lent—whoever you are—that you can find your Gift in your Giving, and that you can stick to your resolution. Good luck!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Divine Call

The following is a poem by one of my Phatmass friends, which she wrote before entering the convent. She does an excellent job of summarizing her longing for Christ, and to belong to Him as His bride. She was kind enough to allow me to post it here. I hope you enjoy it.

The Divine Call

No one...

no one, Lord

could occupy the place

that You hold

in my heart!

You captivate me,

Draw me,

Allure me...

We are one

You and I,

Your Heart draws me

to dedicate my life, my being

my every breath

to You.

This holy longing

which fills my soul,

gives me the words,

the voice to speak

When the unvierse seems to stop

So that I may respond in

Affirmation to You call.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Things to Do With Your Boy/Girlfriend

A while back, I came across a facebook “like” page entitled, “101 Things to Do With Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend.” Upon reading it, I wasn’t very surprised to find that every other one of the things listed involved having sex, and the other 50% was simply cliché. I was teaching Theology of the Body for Teens at the time, and an idea occurred to me: what if the TOB students compiled their own list?

“101 (Pure) Things to do with Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend.”

The project was exactly as it sounds. Since today is Valentine’s Day, I have decided to post a shortened version of that list. I hope you enjoy it.

1. Pick blackberries

2. Go mudding on fourwheelers

3. Ride horses

4. Play instruments/sing

5. Role play

6. Have an Airsoft/Paintball war

7. Write a list of everything you like about your partner

8. Paint a portrait of your partner

9. Write a Continued Story

10. Wash a car

Photographs by Gage Seaux. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Discernment Talk

Yesterday, I gave a short talk to some 1st-4th grade Catechism students on the subject of discernment… vocation discernment, specifically. The course of the morning saw me in four different classrooms, engaging students and parents alike, working from my own knowledge and experience of the subject matter. I’m a cradle Catholic, and so when I was little I had a vague idea of what a vocation was, but that was the extent of it. I knew that God created me after His own pattern—the same way Momma made scarves with her sewing machine—and that He wanted me to do certain things. I didn’t know that there was a word for this idea, and neither did the second graders yesterday; if they had discovered the concept themselves and had to give it a name they would call it “destiny” and “fabulous”. Now, they know the proper word is “vocation” and someday they will be able to spell it. The third graders had a better idea of what a vocation is; they could name two of the three types (full answer: marriage, the priesthood/religious life, and the consecrated life). They could name the first two, which was all I could do when I was four. At that age, I decided I was going to be a nun but, not having had much exposure to nuns, I naturally didn’t really know what they were. I was under the impression that they were exactly like priests—except they were girls—and I actually convinced my cousin to let me hear her “Confession” in anticipation of my ordination (don’t worry, Marian, the Seal has been maintained!). The majority of the little Catechism kiddos do not see religious extremely often, either, and were quite taken with the photos of priests, brothers, and sisters I handed about. They think they dress weird (and, sometimes, I have to agree).
Despite that, if these Catechism kids ever found their own orders, the world will be introduced to some wildly colorful habits; green ones, purple ones, and camouflage ones, among others. After all this lovely imagining, I dove into what I was there to talk about: discernment, and my experience of it.
I wish that someone could have spoken to me about discernment when I was little. I wish that they had been there to remind me of that Openness to God’s Plan, which is all discernment is. Maybe then, I would have never gotten myself into such a mess over my vocation. After the age of four I learned what nuns really were. And though my admiration for the religious life was great, especially as exemplified by the saints, personal enthusiasm for it was drowned in the appealing prospect of being a veterinarian. By the time the notion of being a religious occurred to me again, I was thirteen and did not think that God could possibly be calling me to that. After all, He wanted me to be a famous author, right? So, I looked into third orders as a compromise. I’d be free to write books, God would have a sort of a vow, I’d have a community…it’d be great!
Naturally, it didn’t work out, and I began to feel that God was asking something greater of me. So there I was, thirteen years old with no idea what discernment really was, thinking about maybe, possibly, not really telling my parents that I wanted to learn more about the Poor Clares. I essentially discerned discernment for quite a while. While I did this, I let myself fall in love with a guy (and I fell hard). Don’t worry—I was a ditzy fourteen year old, but not a sinful one. I never committed any crime except getting very, very attached to the guy. So, by the time this Poor Clare idea became a bit more than an itch, my interests and my heart each were sliced in half both ways. It wasn’t fun. It still isn’t, though I have a spiritual director helping me out now. I just wish sometimes that there had been someone there to remind me through the years that I do not know what God wants of me and that I need to be completely open to finding out. Maybe I would have never gotten into such a mess. Maybe I would have guarded my heart better, saved it for God until I was certain what God wanted to do with it. Maybe I would have given Him an honest chance from the beginning.

I hope that my talk yesterday might help some of those little kids, prevent them from falling into the same hole as I. I hope they remain forever truly and totally open to God’s will for their lives. I had a good time with them yesterday, and from the curiosity shown by the kids, their enjoyment of the pictures I brought, and the questions the parents asked (during and after class), I’d say it turned out well all around. Next month I will be speaking with the older Catechism students and the Confirmation class.

….I love kids. I wouldn’t mind being a youth minister…

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Third Purpose of Pain

When I was very small—only about eight or nine—my mother and I stopped to eat lunch at a McDonald’s. I remember the day very well; we sat outside at one of the red tables, mom eating her burger and me my chicken nuggets. Across from us was a little girl with her mother. She was just my age and was enjoying the same meal as I. However, unlike me, she did not possess the same amount of fingers as most human beings. She only had four fingers between two hands, and if ten chicken nuggets weren’t enough of a challenge, a container of barbecue sauce was thrown into the mix. I tried not to stare, I really did, but I could not keep myself from watching as she struggled to eat. Picking up one piece of meat, maneuvering it carefully to dip it into the sauce…the process was painfully slow. Her mother’s face was very sad as she watched her daughter strive and fail at what I myself was doing so easily across the way (or maybe she was sad because I was staring…). However, it is the little girl’s face which I will never forget. She was so cheerful. “Oops! I dropped my chicken nugget!” she laughed once, undaunted by the simple yet oh-so-complicated task before her. A pianist, I couldn’t imagine lacking even one of my fingers, much less six, but she was so composed, taking it all in stride.

I did not say one word to her. I do not know her name. But to this day, when I think of perseverance, I see that girl’s face. This is not an isolated experience, and I do not think it is just I who has moments such as these. Often do we learn things from the trials and sufferings of others. It is, after all, the third purpose of pain:

-To teach to others, through our own example, virtues and other lessons which
will help them become better people.

While the first purpose is obvious, and the second acceptable, not very many people recognize this third purpose and fewer still learn to appreciate it. In a materialistic and essentially selfish world, is it really to be wondered at? No one thinks of other people when they themselves are suffering, and many people are so horrified at the thought of suffering that they can only pity those whom they should be learning from (I plead guilty to this). But this third purpose of pain is the most important, for the very same reason most fail to see it:

It extends beyond the self.

It isn’t about us; the picture is much bigger than that. It is about the rest of the world. I saw that girl for all of ten minutes, and never saw her again. She will never know that I remember her; I doubt she remembers me. But she taught my little self something that day that will be with me and help me for the rest of my life. Who knows how many people you can touch, and have touched, by “suffering well” (as St. Therese puts it)? Not a single person may have ever said a word to you about it, but you could have touched more people than there are stars. It’s like those Liberty Mutual commercials… What could be less pointless?

And what if no one sees, you ask? (This is one of my favorite things about being Catholic) All is not lost. Jesus suffered. He was beaten with the most brutal torture devices, nailed to a cross, and left to suffocate to death. God Himself suffered and died. Jesus redeemed suffering and made it redemptive. Not only does this mean that suffering in itself cannot be evil (because God assented to it and did it Himself) but it means that everyone who suffers reflects Christ. Every time we suffer, we are united with Christ on the Cross, and His mission to save souls becomes our mission. This isn’t only accomplished when someone sees and takes our example. It occurs in the silence of our hearts and homes, locked in the deepest corners of our rooms and minds. We can help others—without their even knowing it—by uniting ourselves with the Crucified Christ and earning graces for them. We can suffer for the sake of living people, the conversion of sinners, the souls in Purgatory… United with Christ on the Cross, we assist in His redeeming mission. Even if no one sees it.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are
wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the
church.” –Colossians, 1:24

Next time I feel burdened by trials, my pain becomes unbearable, and I feel that God cannot be the all-good and all-loving God we believe Him to be, I’m going to grab this picture and look Him in the eye…

…and remind myself that no suffering is a pointless evil.

What are you going to do?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Been Fishing

A friend fished up THIS VIDEO for me. Please watch it while I finish the Third Purpose of Pain.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prayer in Disappointment

Lord, please help me to embrace this present disappointment and all future ones. Teach me to see this as a lesson in humility, obedience, and an illumination of my faults, that I may look upon it as a chance to better conform to Your idea of who I should be, and to Your Will. Amen.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Second Purpose of Pain

The first purpose of pain is fairly easy to see, in hindsight. The direct correlation between action and consequence is often difficult to deny, as with contraceptives and breast cancer. However, sometimes there is no discernible self-originating cause for suffering. Surely the child with bone cancer, the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, and those who are infertile yet want children did not create their own crosses. Some people call this type of suffering a "pointless evil." Where is the design of an all good and all loving God in this? The answer is not simple, but it is understandable.

-The second purpose of pain is to provide us with the opportunity to fully develop virtues we would have otherwise never learned.

Imagine if your parents never asked anything distasteful of you. You would have never gone to school, never learned to read or write. You would have never given your sibling that much-dreaded kiss, never made up with them... Your life would probably be miserable. Think about what sort of household you would have if you didn't give your children chores. They would not know how to keep their room clean, wash the dishes, or wash their clothes. They wouldn't be able to keep alive a pet or manage keeping a job when they grow up.

They probably wouldn't get very far.

Our parents didn't ask distasteful things of us only because we deserved it, and we don't give our children chores only when they have done something wrong. Often, things we see as unpleasant, bad, and "evil" are not dished out because we have acted wrongly, but because something good was expected of and given to us. We had to go through the unpleasantness to get it. Virtues are gained through suffering. One cannot learn patience if they have never had to wait for anything. One cannot perfect humility if they have never been humiliated. Oftentimes, we undergo the most despised situations only to come out better people on the other side.

One person could attest to this second purpose of pain very well. Her name is Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Thérèse was born on January 2, 1873 and became a Carmelite nun at the age of fifteen. After living a quiet and holy life, she died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four, on September 30, 1897. A few simple sentences illustrate how she realized the second purpose of pain working in her soul.

"I have noticed that the experience of suffering makes us kind and indulgent
toward others because it is suffering that draws us near to God... Trials help
us detach ourselves from the earth; they make us look higher than this

Her suffering showed her how fragile life is and brought her to greater awareness of her relationship with God and the goal of heaven. It taught her charity. What can we learn from our own suffering? Patience? Humility, fortitude, or chastity? Love of others? Love of God? Every "pointless evil" has something to teach us, to offer us in the way of becoming better people. It can replace Purgatory, purifying our souls, perfecting our hearts, and readying us to see Our Creator face to face.

Next time we find ourselves in a "pointless evil," we should see it as an opportunity. We should try--like Thérèse--to see the hand of a loving parent, kindly yet firmly teaching us what we will need to know in order to flourish in this life and the next. We may come to realize that it's not really an evil at all.

"I suffer much but do I suffer well? That is the important thing." -St. Thérèse
of Lisieux


A Vocation Poem

Vocation Poem

By Sr. Dorothy Anne Cahill, CSC

"How do you know?"
They ask me
Looking at me with
Earnest, questioning eyes.
"How do you know
When God is calling?
There are no beckoning lights
Cleaving the skies?"

"How do you know?"
Their words probe deeply,
Reviving anew the memories
Of the years:
Then was the world before me
For my choosing--
Its beauty, fame, and love--
There were no fears.
And yet
The taste of fame that beckoned
Lost its savor;
Ambition's drive seemed suddenly
To wane;
And love--
Love grew too large for loving
Without pain.

"How do you know?"
They ask me
"How did you know that God
Was calling you?"
How did I know?
I cannot answer.
I only know...
I knew.