Posts Tagged With: joy

Coffee, Contrition, and Clarity

Saturday, September 8, 2012 – 1:10pm – Cafe Central Coffee Haus – Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

So I’ve been back in General Cepeda for about 2 months now. Earlier this week I realized that even amongst all the down time I’ve had from week to week, I’ve not left town a single time. So I decided to come to Saltillo for a few hours, just to get away. Hopped on the bus, and 35 pesos and 2 hours later I arrived. Having been here many times before, I had no desire to do anything touristy. I just wanted to walk around, explore a tiny bit, and relax.

I’d heard that just down the road from where the bus drops you off, there is a mall. Small, but nice. And the added bonus was stumbling upon this coffee shop. After I walked around the mall, I knew that this was where I’d have my chill time. Spending time at coffee houses is one of my favorite things to do back home. This habit first started during my high school days and cemented itself into my life during my college years. It’s a place and an environment where you can read, study, relax, visit, or people watch.

Did morning prayer from the breviary once I sat down with my frappucino. Also read alot from a book by Ralph Martin, a prominent figure within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. People-watched. Enjoyed the calm, relaxing atmosphere. The soothing hum of the coffee machines, coolers, and various other appliances. Realizing through all of this that we should always have some scheduled down-time, just to relax, refresh, re-energize, and get away for a bit. Also realizing that a key element in living apart from your favorite places and people is to always carry them in your heart. Another key element is to seek out a little taste of home wherever you are. A peaceful coffee shop. A city park. A grocery store. A shopping mall to aimlessly walk around in. These special things and little reminders are a part of who you are and what makes you unique. Embrace them. Rest in the comfort of these little blessings God sends you. They are part of what has made you who you are and gotten you to where you are. I believe in doing this, you will be more genuinely yourself and thus be better able to live and serve where God has you.

Another thing I want to share about is contrition, aka – sorrow for sins. As a Christian the more self-aware I have become, the more I have reflected on this. I feel like I am truly making progress in my spiritual life and that the Lord is helping me to find the proper balance in this area. What follows is a question I posed to several priest friends of mine and their responses. Names have been changed so that you can focus on the answers. And though not worded in exactly the same way, all of the responses essentially and basically say the same thing.

God Bless!
(the following is the question I posed to my priest friends and their responses)

Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation? Another way to phrase the question is, Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?

“My thoughts…Yes. One of the compounding negative effects of sin, especially habitual sin, is despairing emotions/shame. The progress one makes in combating sin is not all lost by a later fall. One truly does get closer to God and grows in his love and grows in trust. A later fall grieves us but our increased trust in God’s mercy dominants our emotional reaction to the sin.” –Fr.K—

“Yes, A healthy fear of sin, is a fear of the distance from God it brings. Being scared of sin means feeling that it’s bigger than God’s Mercy and therefore unforgiveable. count your blessings that you ‘ve been able to move beyond the previous despair. Despair is a trick of the Evil one, to lead you to procrastinate about Confession, to believe less and less in the Mercy of God and more and more of your worthlessness; both are lies. Sin, does not cause you to become worthless in the eyes of God. There’s nothing wrong about you, even if you’ve done something wrong!” –Fr.H—

“I think you are experiencing consolations of seeing some of the progress you’ve made. That is wonderful! I would say: yes, enjoy the good healthy reactions you have but also make sure to guard against the sin of presumption and do not let up in your efforts at self-mastery… Enjoy the consolations AND keep fighting the good fight!” –Fr.S—

“I certainly think so.” –Fr.B—

“I can only give a guess at what’s going on. First, there is a distinction in types of grace. You may have fallen from a state of “sanctifying grace” due to the sin and thus your conscience rightly pricked you making you aware of the fall. Seemingly God has blessed you simultaneously with an “actual grace” of hopefulness and love despite your fallen state. I would guess it was God presenting himself to you through “actual grace” in an attractive manner so that you trust in his future goodness and continue to follow him. You could prayerfully reflect upon this as though you were one of Jesus’ disciples in scripture before his actual death and resurrection. The joy and inspiration they received from his presence would have been more along the lines of “actual grace” (blessings from God) rather than salvific, since he had not yet offered himself in forgiveness of sins. (Of course, Jesus did forgive certain people along the way, but forgiveness was not yet offered to all prior to his death.) [The other alternative interpretation is that the feeling of “being okay” was from another spirit other than God. A way to discern this is reflecting upon whether your impulse at the time was to avoid the things of God (perhaps a subtle sense of joyful passivity and ambivalence to the things of God) or were you being drawn toward God and a deeper awareness of the peace and love that he reveals?]” –Fr.J—

“ the short answer is yes. Feelings are not a necessary part of the spiritual life. The spiritual life resides in “the will,” not “the heart.” And so you ought to have an intellectual fear of the consequence of sin and have the strength of will to avoid sin. If your feelings support those, super good! If they don’t, well that’s not a big deal. It is not necessary to feel sad or even frustrated when you sin. All that is required is contrition – which is an intellectual understanding of the consequence of sin and a disposition of will to make amends. Of course, all that’s very clinical. Unless you’re a robot, your emotions will play a part. Just don’t give them too much power over you. You can be contrite, even when you’re not “feeling it.” And contrition is what you need, not sadness or despair.” –Fr.R—

“Interesting that you ask this because I was talking about it with someone the other day. I think it is possible to have a healthy fear of sin and yet not be given to great sadness or despair in committing sin. Especially with sins that have been habitual to some extent in the past and from which we are trying to purify ourselves, I think we can arrive at a point at which, though we may fall into sin we realize that God is still working with us and trust in His mercy. There’s a book called “Clean of Heart” that is a 50-day meditation on sexual purity. In the introduction it speaks of a similar thing, namely when one falls they ought not too fall into great despair and get overly-consumed with the actions of the past but simply recognize one’s brokenness, bring it before the Lord in confession and continue the battle again. Hopefully that makes some sense.” –Fr.B—

“In a simple answer, it is possible. The more we grow in trust in the Lord the more we also grow in developing a healthy fear of sin. The challenge if one falls though, regardless of the sin, is to never become complacent. In other words, to recognize the seriousness of sin and go to confession as soon as possible, but at the same time not to despair because one has fallen. This comes with developing a healthy fear of the Lord.” –Fr.G—

“First off, I want to congratulate you for cooperating with God’s grace to create ways to protect yourself from sins of impurity. This is the point of confession: not just to shed the guilt of past sins, but (just as importantly) give strength to change these sinful behaviors and to break free from old patterns.

I definitely feel that your new perspective on sin is another a sign of God’s grace affecting your heart and mind.

That “normal” past sense of despair after falling into sin is healthy and necessary in the early stages of spiritual development. As you mentioned, our conscience must be attuned to the evil ugliness of sin and should thrust us into a healthy sense of guilt and remorse as well as compel us to go to confession ASAP. But as we grow and mature in the spiritual life, we should develop a greater sense of confidence in Christ’s victory over our sins.

So… Yes it is possible – and is in fact the goal- “to have a healthy fear of sin (a fear that, if healthy enough will get me to the confessional) without feeling sadness or desperation.” That sense of despair that you used to feel was in some way a lack of confidence in Christ’s power over your sins. This transition in thinking that you’ve described is a transition from worry about what you have done (sin) and what you now have to do (discipline) toward a confidence in what Christ has done (died on the cross/forgiven your sins) and what you and HE together now have to do (cooperate).

So… “Is it possible to have a healthy fear of sin without being scared of sin?”… Yes. Because with Christ by your side there is no reason to fear sin. He has already conquered it. 2000 years ago. It’s done.

This is the transformative power of God’s forgiveness given through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hope this helps.”

–Fr.M–

“When we realize that sin is not distasteful to God, but that we have messed up our relationship with Him we are usually moved to fix it as soon as possible. Humility tells us that we have more work to do. It is no longer a childish fear, but an adult understanding of what I have to do. We have hurt the One who loves us most and most perfectly. Sorrow is a condition that comes, but in itself does not necessarily give feelings. Instead, it is the movement to get things right.”

–Fr.B–

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We are our own best friend & our own worst enemy

Friday, August 24, 2012 – 4:00pm – under a bridge at the edge of town – General Cepeda, Coahuila, Mexico

Strange spot for a desert day prayer time, I know. But, it was the quietest and shadiest spot I could find. Even though it happens to be under one of the main roads in town. When you live in a small town like this, the “main roads” are not all that busy. We were also short on gas so we had to pick a close spot, and this was the best we could manage.

The bible verse I got today is Acts 16:9-10: “One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and kept urging him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the good news.” Now my point here is not to talk about visions, as great as they may be. And my point here is not to determine whether it’s better to have this foreigner or that foreigner appearing in your dreams. My point is simply this: God can work in your life much easier when you are relaxed and open. How much more relaxed and open can you be, than by being unconscious in a state of sleep? I think that’s why God so often has used and continues to use visions and dreams. But before you rush to the neighborhood pharmacy to buy some Melatonin, realize that you don’t have to be unconscious for God to speak to you. You just have have to be humble, willing, and ready to hear him.

A few other tidbits that came to me:

1.) We are our own best friend & our own worst enemy. – Sure, there are lots of things that are not within our control. There are also alot of things that ARE within our control. One thing that is always in our control is how we react to life happening. All too often we hide behind the lie of being helpless as a way to excuse how we react to certain things. All too often we see defects and problems that are noone else’s doing but our own, and we despair. How do you fix yourself if you yourself are the root of the problem? We are our own worst enemy because of this. But (there’s always a “but” in the vocabulary of the ever optimistic Christian), this should also give us great hope. If we are our own worst enemy because of the power we wield against ourselves, then it should follow that for this very same reason we are our own best friend. Who controls whether or not we react with charity or anger? We do. Who controls whether or not we go to Sunday Mass or stay in bed? We do. Who ultimately makes our choice for good or for evil? WE do.

2.) Giving out of our need – as a pretty frequent 10% tither in the past, I was comfortable. It was a little more than I wanted to give, but not so much that I felt uncomfortable. I knew I was doing good, and that was enough for me. Now, as a foreign missionary, I have become acquainted with giving out of my need, instead of giving out of my excess. 10% net tithing of an American sized weekly income, even when small, still leaves alot left. Giving ANYTHING when you live in excess of $6000 below the poverty line, is a little tougher. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where our words that we preach and profess are tried and tested, to see if we’re ready to live it. Never before did I ever think I’d be stingy about a single apple, or a few slices of bread. Never before have I felt the remorse I feel when I think I’ve not given enough to someone who is truly poor. And never before have I felt the immense joy of truly giving out of my need. It ain’t easy, but it’s worth it. For their livelihood, and for your holiness.

3.) Giving lovingly and not begrudgingly – It’s SOOOO easy to give begrudgingly. Resenting that poor person because you think they’re too lazy to work for it, or because they’re bothering you at an inconvenient time. How dare they do such a thing! And to tell you the truth, I have a long way to go in this area before I get to where I wanna be. But I’m glad it’s not easy. I’m glad it’s a challenge. Because I know that when I do get to a point in my life as a Christian, that I can give to those in need, and do it with LOVE, then I will indeed be blessed.

4.) Voluntary poverty – Now why on God’s green earth would someone choose poverty? That’s just straight up dumb! If that’s the hand life deals you, then ok. But to choose it? You mean to tell me that you WANT to be poor? You want to give up the securities of a financially comfortable life? WHY?!?!? I’ll tell you why. It’s for the same reason that our omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God decided to incarnate himself to save us. To truly serve with compassion those to whom God has sent us to serve, we can’t look down on them. We can’t be prideful. We have to live among them. We have to be friends with them. We have to suffer with them. We have to feel their pain. It is only then that we can truly minister to them with a sense of urgency, passion, and care.

5.) Maybe it’s God’s plan to allow us to struggle – This one ties in pretty closely with #4. Looking back on my first year of missions, I spent WAY too much of it trying to retain a level of comfort and security which would remind me of life back home in the States. I resented the fact that my mission partners, while cooking a sufficient quantity of food for us to live off of, cooked food that at times was humble and far from fancy. And not gonna lie, at times I could have eaten alot more that what we had. Mission life is hard enough already, why skimp on food? This year, I still struggle with not wanting myself to struggle. Since we’ve been here, and especially in my time since language school, it seems like me and my mission partner’s meager monthly stipends have been burning holes in our pockets. We have just barely enough to survive, but not enough to survive without having to worry. Part of me hates this. Why should I have to worry about whether or not we can put gas in our van? Why should I have to worry about whether or not I will have to live off of hotdogs for the next 2 weeks? But as these worries flood my mind, I start to realize some of what those who are truly poor have to go through all the time. And then I hang my head in shame. While I simultaneously thank God for all he has given me. God you’ve made your point. Well played, my Lord. Well played.

That’s all I got this week y’all. Hope you have a blessed week. Ciao!

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I know what I want

Saturday, May 19, 2012 – 6:20pm – Adoration Chapel @ Our Lady of Wisdom – Lafayette, LA

Just a few thoughts I had while in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament……

I know what I want. I want it so bad I can almost taste it. I see others who have also wanted the same thing and have received it. I try to be happy for them and not let it turn into envy, jealousy, or covetousness. It seems like the time for it is not far off, but it still isn’t time quite yet. I have to keep journeying towards it though. It’s tough to keep going when things aren’t always certain. It’s tough to keep going when so many times before it hasn’t worked out. It’s tough to keep going when you don’t know if your efforts will be reciprocated. It’s tough, for these and for so many other reasons.

Sometimes I wonder if I want it too much. But then I realize that God would not give me this desire for no reason. I really feel like this is the way that I’ll be able to love as much as possible. It’s the way that I’ll be able to identify most with Jesus and the way that he loves. I will suffer through whatever I have to suffer through. I will risk misunderstanding, humiliation, and heartbreak. I will sell all I have, if that’s what I have to do to gain this beautiful pearl. I will not wait until I’m completely holy, healthy, and capable, because I never will be. I will pursue it as I am now, hoping and praying that God will strengthen me where I am weak

And when I obtain it, my heart will be filled with joy. I will receive as much love as I possibly can, because I will be fulfilling the desire of my heart and soul that God has made me for. I will pour out my love like never before, never having to be afraid that I’ll run out, or that it will not be received. I know because of this that new love will spring forth. At this point, I can only imagine what it will be like. I look forward with faithful and eager anticipation to the day when I will know for myself what it is like.

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I will refresh you with living waters

Wednesday – June 15, 2011 – 6:15am – Marian Home Chapel – Castries, St. Lucia

One of the challenges I’ve discovered in my first few months as a Catholic lay foreign missionary, is that even though you may have grown enough to the point where God can use you as his instrument, you still are not perfect. I also commented last night as our group of SSME missionaries did Night Prayer, that the Devil does not like what we are doing and will come against us however he can. (Our scripture for Night Prayer was the one that talks about being on guard because the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour its prey.).

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been reminded that I still struggle with a lack of patience, joy, zeal, and humility. And since a big struggle in the past has been chastity (or lack thereof), the Devil has been throwing those kinds of temptations my way. It almost seems like the more and more I strive to be chaste and holy, the more temptations are thrown my way, and the more lies the Devil tries to get me to believe. On top of that, it seems like now that I’ve achieved a certain level of victory over sins of the flesh, that “sins of the spirit” that I mentioned earlier (impatience, lack of zeal, etc.) come at me with a fury. (Disclaimer: Even though I realize I’ve achieved a certain level of victory against sins of the flesh, I realize in humility that I must always be vigilant and on-guard and humble so that I do not fall back into these sins again.)

So taking all of this into account, you can see how my beginnings as a foreign missionary, though blessed, have been challenging and frustrating at times. This morning, as I was about to take a shower before Mass, all of this was on my mind again. Even though the wheels are always turning in my mind, I was puzzled as to why God allowed this to be on my mind at THIS time of day. As I step into the shower, turn the cold water handle, and feel a blast of cold water hitting my head, I think about how good it feels after a restful but sweaty night of sleep. Then I hear the Lord tell me “I will refresh you with living waters”. A sense of peace came over me. Thank you Lord for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

(Interesting sidenote: Right before my shower, I was reading Mrs. Genie’s 2nd book, and was at the part where she relates the story of how God revealed to her what their family’s missionary newsletter should be called. Having just read that, and then having the experience I just had, I decided that my missionary newsletter will be called “Living Waters”. It just seems so right and that it’s the perfect fit. Praise the Lord!)

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Vieux Fort Retreat – Week 1

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

here’s the link to my picture album on facebook, you might need to copy and paste it into your broswer.

Day 1 – Monday, May 23, 2011 – 9:00pm – Upstairs Living Room

I’m sitting here, writing this at the end of our first full day here. We arrived here yesterday around mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon getting settled in, cooking supper, and discussing with the sisters some of the things we would be involved with while we are here. Supper was delicious, and I think God multiplied our pasta, because there’s no way I’d have thought one pan of pasta would be enough to feed 5 adults and 10 kids, but somehow it did. I also really enjoyed chatting with Sr. Francis. We chatted yesterday and today about all kinds of things: ministry, culture, missionary work, etc… It’s nice to have somebody that I can talk to and discuss things. After night prayer, me, Sister Francis and some of the kids played Rummikub, a board game based off of the card game rummy. It’s an opportunity we had because of not having as much access to the internet here. Back at the Marian Home, we basically have unlimited internet because of the wireless signal we get from the sisters upstairs. And although we try and limit ourselves in our usage of it, inevitably you devote a little more time to that instead of devoting a little more time to ministry and fellowship. So, that was a nice change of pace. I think it will also help me to appreciate the contact I do have with family and friends. Since I won’t have it as much, I’ll appreciate it more. I’ll also be better able to enter into the “retreat” aspect of our time here. Ended up getting to bed around 10 o’clock (early for me). That was also due to not having as much internet access, thus not putting off getting the rest that I need. And believe me I need it since I wake up at 4am. (4:30 back at the Marian Home). I have to wake up that early so that I can get in my personal prayer time and Scripture reading before I take a shower, get dressed, and then go to morning Mass.

Today was a really nice day too. Woke up refreshed, enjoyed my personal prayer and Scripture reading time in the chapel downstairs (which has a tabernacle with Jesus Body and Blood! 🙂 ), and then joined the sisters in their morning prayer before we went to 6am Mass. (It was actually a communion service and will be the same tomorrow, since the priest is out until Wed. morning). After breakfast and morning prayer, me and Mark walked with Sister Francis on her way to a lab appt. and then headed off to the Super J (grocery store chain) to get a few things. Saw alot of locals and their streetside “market” where they sold all kinds of diff. fruits, veggies, and other things they grow. Passed by the local independence monument, and kicked myself for leaving behind my camera, although it’s such a small town and easy to navigate that I’m pretty sure I’ll pass by it again. After we walked home, we decided on a whim to go to the beach for a short while, about an hour. Besides wanting to go to the beach, we wanted to investigate our beach options. Since Vieux Fort is literally at the southern tip of the island, when you look out the west side of the house, you see the Carribean, and when you look at the east side, you see the Atlantic. Today, we checked out the beaches on the Carribean side. First off, I gotta say that we enjoyed our time at the beach. The kids were able to swim and play in the sand. I was able to take a dip in the water a few times and got to lay down and catch some sun. However, it was definitely a missionary beach experience, not a ritzy touristy one. Our trek that led us to our spot on the beach led us past rocks, pieces of junk and trash (litter is a big problem in St. Lucia), and some less than ideal walking spaces for such a large group. One of the guys that gave Mark directions on how to get to our beach spot had the world’s largest joint in his hand. At one point on the path, we walked past a free roaming horse and her baby (forget what horse babies are called). And I’m pretty sure I caught the scent of horse poo several times while we were at the beach. Like I said, it was both enjoyable AND interesting.

Made our way back to the convent, did my daily workout and took a shower, and had a pretty normal remainder of the day. Aside from our normal routine, one of the things Sister Mary did was to introduce us to some young girls nearby. She’s going to have some of the older kids help the girls with tutoring and I think she also wants these local girls to have someone to visit with, as I’m sure they dont’ get that very often. Me, and 3 of the Eckstines also accompanied Sister Mary to a planning meeting for a fundraiser for the Vieux Fort Children’s Society. It’s a non profit that has been formed with the hopes of starting a children’s home. Currently, the only children’s home on the island is in Castries (in the north), so the kids down here that are homeless, abandoned, come from abusive homes, etc… have nowheres to turn to. The meeting was a perfect example of Mother Theresa’s saying “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” Of course there were some minor details discussed that pertained to us, but 99% of our time there was spent watching and listening and doing nothing at all. I wanted to go because I had nothing else to do and wanted to spend my time as a missionary doing something constructive instead of being lazy. Another reason I was called there was to test my patience. I think too that aside from learning that and some other things from the people that were there, that hopefully they too were able to learn from our witness and presence. Came home after that, ate supper, and then did night prayer as well as some more retreat reflections and discussions.

The two themes that seemed to stand out today were Joy and God’s Guidance. Our scripture for God’s Guidance was 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, & the passage that related to Joy came from our morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. The summary of my thoughts on God’s Guidance was “God will send us brothers and sisters in Christ who can strengthen our faith and He will direct our hearts to his love and Christ’s steadfastness.” In regards to Joy I wrote “If we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and seek after the right values, we will have abiding & eternal joy.” Then during our night prayer tonight 7 of us were a assigned a gift of the Spirit to read, pray, and reflect upon. I chose the gift of Wisdom, which is something I yearn for and which fascinates me. I found some great references (Wisdom 6:12-16 & CCC #474) and my nugget of wisdom was that “true wisdom comes from God & helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding.” To demonstrate it, I came up with the following analogy: Knowledge is the certainty that the sun is bright and hot. Understanding is realizing it is that way because it is a gigantic ball of burning gas that emits heat and radiation. Wisdom is the ability to use that Knowledge and Understanding to warm ourselves, see where we’re going, or get a tan.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 9:12pm – Upstairs Living Room

Really enjoyed the day today. The rain stopped us from taking a walk around town this morning. We were also gonna take a walk by the lumberyard to see what materials were available for the work we need to do on the blind lady’s house. Ended up staying home all morning and doing alot of journalling and some reading. Ate lunch and took a nap. Woke up, prayed the chaplet and then we walked around town just to explore and familiarize ourselves. Got to see the Indepence memorial monument. Then did my workout and took a shower before supper. Had two different times today that we did our “retreat” portion of the day. So far, I’m really diggin’ this retreat aspect of our time here.

The gift of the spirit that I had to report on was Wisdom. True wisdom comes from God (CCC #474) and helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding. Reference Wisdom 6:12-16, Sirach 39, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:2-23, and Proverbs 2:1-15. Wisdom is being a good steward of God’s gifts in your life. Wisdom is know what to do with what you got. We need to be docile to the Spirit (malleable, flexible too).

Ministry reflection questions: 1.) What are my primary ministries? 2.)How are they going? 3.) Is what you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing?

1.) My ministries are primariliy visiting with the elderly at 4 different nursing homes, as well as having a ministry of prayer.

2.) They are going well. Both of them seem to fit well with my personality and gifts that God has given me. The necessity of both is evident. The elderly need someone to pray and visit with them. They need to know that they are cared for and not forgotten. My own life and spiritual journey, as well as the needs we encounter show me that my ministry of prayer is also important. I’m able to visit the Marian Home, St. Lucy Home, Adelaide Home, and Missionaries of Charity Home each week. Some of them I’m able to visit multiple times per week. On a typical day, my prayer ministry includes personal prayer in the morning (meditation, scripture, and intercessory prayer), Mass, grace at meals, morning prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, Noonday prayer, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Night Prayer.  At first I thought that I prayed alot because I wasn’t yet busy with what God really wanted me to do. But then it occurred tome that I’m supposed to pray because without prayer, which is my connection to God, which is how I receive God’s grace, there will not be much fruit that’s born in my life and in the lives of all for whom I pray and with whom I am connected.

3.) What I’m doing is NOT what I thought I’d be doing. I thought I would be teaching in a school and leading a youth group at a church. However, i’m not disappointed that this has happened. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the ministries I do, and how much I’m motivated to do them.

Random Reflection:

I’ll spare you the details, but I’m in need of the sacrament of confession. It looks like that won’t happen until tomorrow since the priest is out ’till then. I’m so used to having this sacrament readily available as soon as I need/want it. That has been a huge blessing for me. On the other hand, being in a situation where it’s not as readily available really makes the priest shortage so much more real to me. It also gives me an increased appreciation for the priests we do have, as well as helping me to appreciate all those who support and promote vocations. And since this time of retreat and prayer cannot be put on hold until I’m able to receive absolution, I have to deal with it the best that I can. I’m forced to live with and reflect on the tension created in my life and soul that results from choosing sin over God. I have to live with not having the peace of heart and soul that I could have. It also increases my desire to restore right relationship with God. Another thing I’ve realized is that it has almost forced me to confide in the protection and intercession of the angels, saints, and Mother Mary to protect me and guide me until I can receive the sacrament of confession and not be at risk of dying in a state of mortal sin.

The whole experience has also humbled me. It seems like my thoughts, reflections, and journaling is the best it’s been in quite awhile. My first guess as to why this is happening is because whenever I’m not in a state of mortal sin, a subtle form of pride creeps in. I allow myself to rest easy. “It’s ok. I’m in God’s grace. No danger for me. I feel at peace. I like not having to worry.” Yes, God wants us to have peace, but the Bible also tells us that we have to always be vigilant on our spiritual journey. The moment we relax too much, lose focus, and think that we have “arrived”, that marks the beginning of our downfall. So in a paradoxical and ironic sort of way, I realize my need for God and his mercy while I’m in this state of mortal sin. And I think this has allowed me to receive the humility that has allowed my thoughts, reflections, and journaling to be what they have been thus far. And while I’m discussing sin, it also occurred to me how many of our battles with sin occur because of giving ourselves excuses to do so. Under the guise of false concern, a defeatist attitude, or some other weak reason, we give ourselves permission to indulge in sin by not fighting against it.

One of these excuses, which is itself a sin, is the sin of presumption. It’s the sin whereby we presume that God will forgive us for what we are about to do. In other words with this sin we say “God forgive me for what I’m about to do, because I’ve already sinned and I might as well do this too since I have to go to confession later anyways.” Besides selfishly distorting God’s grace and mercy for our purposes, this also means we’ve fallen victim to the lie that when we’ve fallen into sin, all hope is lost & there’s nothing good we can possibly do. True, we have separated ourselves from God by our own choice to sin. But, we are still his child and we also still have angels & saints as well as our own brothers & sisters here on earth to put us on the right track again and assist us in doing good works. This is one area where for the first time, I feel like I was able to make some progress. In spite of my intial choice to commit mortal sin, I feel like I’ve been able to choose not to add sin to sin. It feels really good. I have a hunch that if God’s grace has allowed me to advance to this stage, then I’m really close to conquering this particular sin permanently.

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today started off differently than I had hoped it would. Sister told us Sunday that we’d have communion services Monday and Tuesday since the priest was out, but Mass would resume today. Well, I get to “Mass” and out walks the same layman that officiated the communion service the previous two mornings. He begins by telling us that the priest missed his plane. I hope the priest is ok, and my second thought was I sure hope he comes back tomorrow. The rest of the morning was low key. Mark and Lora went to the resale shop run by the Vieux Fort Children’s Society and did some other errands. I stayed home and watched the kids. About 10:00, the little kids were being too noisy and woke up the baby. So, of course he’s cranky and not happy with the world. Ellie tried holding him, I tried. And when he was trying to throw a tantrum, I tried quieting him, even spanked him a couple times. He finally calmed down a bit, but I could tell he just needed to get back to bed. So, after imposing threat of “getting in trouble with mommy and daddy” to get the littles to be quiet, I began my odyssey of getting the baby to sleep. I don’t have much experience with kids, but this one sure does fight the sleep. I sang the chaplet. He calmed way down, and his eyes even got a little droopy. But, now and then, he’d get a little whiney. So I finally decided to lay him down in his bed. Had to keep a hand on him, not so much to hold him down but moreso to reassure him that someone was there. He’s one of those babies that always has to have some kind of contact in order to not be whiney or fussy when trying to put him down for a nap. So, after at least 30 minutes of tahtah-ing him and reading a book to pass the time, he FINALLY zonked out. Praise The Lord! The only other thing really notable about the day we me and Mark walking to the lumberyard/hardware store. Yeah, I know, that’s how you can tell i’m a missionary on retreat. When the highlight of my day is walking to the lumberyard! 🙂 We needed to check out their materials and prices so we could get an idea of what we were lookin’ at to be able to fix up that blind lady’s roof so it didn’t leak. Mark figured $200EC (approx. $70US), which is not bad at all.

My first spiritual nugget of the day was a quote from the book “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual”. It states “….it is not likely that a person will love God unless he prays to him, unless he spends some time with Him as a person. It is the same with any personal relationship. Two people have to spend some time together or they will not develop a friendship and a love. The friendship will be broader than just the time they spend together. It will begin to penetrate all of their lives the deeper it becomes. But it is the time together that is indispensable for the forming of the bond.” I was drawn to this quote for 2 reason. First of all, it opened my eyes on how to approach my relationship with God. Do I really talk with God and spend time with Him everyday? Or do I just mentally acknowledge his presence, rattle off a few prayers, and call that a relationship? Second of all, it brought a whole new meaning to my discernment of marriage, and the process of friendship and dating that precedes engagement and marriage. It speaks to me of the importance of forming a friendship, a truly loving friendship that brings joy and happiness, and is centered on God. I also see in it the importance of devoting time to that special person. Of course, as a missionary, any friendships that I begin to form now will be long distance. But I feel like I can devote the time necessary to nurture these friendships, both in prayer and in conversation. Online chatting and video chat programs make it much easier to have some good face time. And in God’s time, I’ll have some actual face-to-face encounters as well.

Today’s gift of the Spirit was Understanding. During Ellie’s presentation of this gift, I came away with some good tidbits. I discovered that it is an intimate knowledge of God. Not just knowledge, but INTIMATE knowledge. (ref. Proverbs 2:3-13). Understanding will guard you. Understanding helps us to see what God is not; helps us to have a deep and abiding peace; helps us to be at peace with the mystery in life and to savor the mystery. I especially like the part about “deep and abiding peace”.

Well, I gotta go. Need to get MagicJack running on my computer so Sister Mary can make some phone calls home to the states. Then, gotta get back online and do some more researching of plane ticket prices.

Day 4 – Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

So, I’ve discovered that there are two reasons to not worry too much about what you’re going to do on any given day as a missionary. For one thing, it helps you to trust God and just be at peace with whatever he brings to you. It also saves you the trouble of saying that you’re gonna do something and then having to explain later why you didn’t do it! 🙂 Today was one of those days where I shoulda done that. It started off VERY well. I had been needing to go to confession since Monday, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, i was expecting Father to be back for Mass on Wed. morning. Well, since he missed his plane, I had to wait until this morning. He was very accomodating and agreed to hear my confession after Mass, and then even came over and met the rest of the mission team. We were also blessed to visit with Peter Fevrier this morning. He works for the Family & Life Secretariat here in the Archdiocese and was instrumental in getting us set up here with the sisters in Vieux Fort. Since the first day we arrived we were expecting him to come and visit with us. Today he finally made it here (he’s been VERY busy). I was thinking the whole purpose of him coming was purely practical. Maybe he was going to help us purchase supplies to work on Ms. Bibi’s leaking roof, or bring us food, or something like that. And while we did take a minute or two to briefly discuss practical matters, most of his visit was exactly that, just visiting. We must have spent almost an hour just talking about different aspects of pro-life ministry and things that are coming up soon. It was good just to sit there and visit with him, not have an agenda, and be blessed by his witness and enthusiasm. Later in the morning Mark mentioned that he and Lora would go by Ms. Bibi’s house sometime after lunch with the ladder to make some last minute assesments and then me and him would go to the lumberyard to get the materials we needed. Well, the rain changed those plans. Mark went to Ms. Bibi’s, by himself, without the ladder. And by the time he got back, the lumberyard was about to close, so we didn’t go. An unexpected blessing that I did receive came later in the evening. Sister Mary took me and Mark to visit a quadriplegic guy named Moses. He was probably close to my age. We briefly talked with his mom about building a ramp from their front steps out to the street, so getting him in and out would not be as difficult. Got to talk to him a little bit too. Understandably he wasn’t extremely talkative, but he wasn’t shy either. Sister even said that she was surprised at how talkative he actually was. I’m guessing he’s normally very quiet. Maybe having some guys there kinda made him feel at home and loosened him up a bit. I know Mark is the brains of the construction type of work, but i’m hoping to get a chance to just go and visit with him before we leave.

Our retreat time was good today, but we didn’t do quite as much as I thought we would. Can’t really explain why, except that it’s how rhythm of the day unfolded. In his homily this morning, father mentioned that “a wounded animal is the most dangerous. it’s desperate and has nothing to lose”. During our retreat time, Mark recalled this and posed the question to us: “how have we hurt or wounded each other?” Then as the discussion veered towards summer plans and what we would need for them to happen, Mark reminded us of Mr. Frank saying that we have to keep in touch with our donors, that way they can donate to us and so they can be blessed by our sharing and testimony. As Mark talked to the kids about whether or not they would be able to go to faith camp, he mentioned that if the Lord says no, then it’s a good thing. I echoed that by telling the kids how when God has said no to my heart’s desire (a loving relationship with a girl) he has blessed me with the incredible experiences of seminary and living life as a foreign missionary. Then I kinda reflected on all the wonderful things going on in my life right now, and realized that I am in a season of blessing. 🙂

Day 5 – Friday, May 27, 2011 – 9:34pm- Upstairs Living Room

Today was quite the day. Our team retreat this morning was really really good. The catalyst for the conversation was a question about how can things be improved. And that basically launched me and Mark on some really good reflections about what is so challenging about missions specifically for each one of us, and some of the things we hope to see happen in the next few months. It was very much a blessing to see Mark open up like he did, and Lora had some really good input too. I think it was the first time since we’ve been here that the three adults have really just laid it all out on the table. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we’re at diff. stages in life and still learning how to interact with each other. None of us is particularly outspoken, so it’s hard for us to just come out and say stuff. We also finally got over to Ms. Bibi’s house to start fixing her leaky roof. She’s the blind lady I mentioned earlier in the week. After Mark assessed the situation, and even went there yesterday when it was raining, he couldn’t tell exactly where it was supposedly leaking from. So we bought some tar-backed aluminum tape, and covered the holes and seams that we could. We’ll probably go back in the next few days with another roll or two to see how much more we can do. Got some really good action pics and got a pic of me and Mark with Ms. Bibi too. Me and Mark also got the chance to visit Moses again. I hung out with Moses and chatted while Mark made some measurements for the ramp out front and went around the house while the mother showed Mark a few other things. It was really good to chat with Moses. I felt like just being there as a Christian and as a friend was helpful. Not sure how many visitors he gets each day, but i know i wouldn’t mind having visitors myself.

Had some good reflections today too. So, you know during Mass, the penitential rite where we confess our sins to God and community? (“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, etc….”) As we were saying that during Mass earlier this morning, it struck me that I was just SAYING it but not PRAYING it. Then I got to thinkin’ about 2 things: 1.) How often do I say instead of pray? & 2.) Do I claim God’s forgiveness? What I mean by #2 is that this morning I noticed I was just saying the penitential rite instead of praying it. I wasn’t trying to claim God’s forgiveness and mercy. Naturally I then started reflecting on how many other times I’ve failed to claim his forgiveness. How much different would my spiritual  journey be if I did claim that forgiveness?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“….loneliness is the greatest fear of humanity. In isolation people cannot be fully human. Our experiences of life confirm this. People inevitably form into groups, associations, communities, organizations. Some are temporary, some long-lived. They have a variety of purposes, but all prove man’s need for sharing and living his life with others.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Day 6 – Saturday, May 28, 2011 – 10:00pm- Upstairs Living Room

So the first thing in my notes said “My prediction for today is that either we have a cleaning/work day or a beach day. We’ll see what happens 🙂 It definitely wasn’t a beach day. The morning started out with me accompanying Sister Mary on a few errands to prepare for the St. Vincent DePaul Society meeting later in the morning. Had to pick up some snacks and a few things from the store. Came back just in time for the start of morning prayer. Afterwards I decided to hand wash my laundry. I wanted to handwash for a few reasons. First of all, when I saw the clothes that Mark washed in the washer the other day, some of the shirts had a ridiculous amount of what i’m guessing was lint all over them. Not a fan of lint, so that had me sold on handwashing. Second of all, I had some little packets of Tide laundry detergent that was specifically formulated for handwashing of clothes. I bought them back in 2008 when I went to Australia/New Zealand for World Youth Day and I figured I should use up some more of it. Third reason was that I needed something to do. There wasn’t really any other work for me to do, and I didn’t wanna be a complete slacker either. Also felt like handwashing would be a way to toughen myself up a bit and sacrifice the ease and comfort I was used to. So after filling buckets (2), suds-ing, agitating, wringing out, rinsing, re-wringing out, and hanging up to dry, I was done. Took me about an hour or so. Did alot of reading the rest of the morning. After lunch, I checked email and then took a nap. Woke up, prayed a chaplet of divine love for priests, took a shower, and then went back into the house. After supper we had evening prayer and our retreat time for the day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my day.

(from earlier today) As I sit here, sippin’ on some coffee, doin’ my morning spiritual and scripture reading, a nice rain is falling. The doors and windows are open. A nice breeze is blowing. Several of the kids are sitting in the room, next to me, quietly reading. It’s one of those heaven moments 🙂

Oh yeah, one more thing. So as I’m sitting here, I’m wearing my Pope Benedict XVI shirt from World Youth Day 2008, and Isaac keeps pokin’ the Pope’s face and makin garbled goo-goo sounds. Methinks he likes the Pope! 🙂

Judging by the amount of good reflections I seem to be having and how having a small journal nearby makes it easy  to record them, I think I’m going to try and have some kind of little notebook on me at all times. Try to be more vigilant about rewriting these thoughts…

I was also doing some reflecting on friendships and relationships recently. I’m at that stage where my year-long singles commitment is almost up (Sept. 15th). And regardless of singles commitment or no singles commitment, I’m at that stage in life where it’s what I notice and think about quite a bit. My past relationships, my faith, and other life experiences have taught me alot about the opposite sex and how I interact with them and what to look for. One thing I’ve realized is that everytime I’ve acted unchastely or improperly towards or with a girl, it was simply a very misguided way of seeking true fulfillment. (If you’ve studied Theology of the Body then you’re familiar with this concept). It occurred to me that these actions represented my want and need to be able to open up to someone, for them to be able to see me as I am, and for them to open up to me too so that I can truly see them. I’ve also reflected on things I can use as a measuring stick for determining if I have a good connection with a girl or not. One of those is “Do I act chase with her, and do I also DESIRE to act chaste with her?” Chances are that if I don’t have unchaste desires or actions with her, then it means that she brings out the best in me, and that she’s a possible match. If however, I struggle with chastity in some way with a girl, then there’s a good chance that a good connection might not exist and that I need to be cautious.

I should be thanking God for my struggles because they show me what I need to work on. If these struggle were never made evident, then how would I know to correct them?

Romans 8:14-18

The gift of counsel makes us responsive to the enlightenment of God. It’s a good gift to pray for while at Mass, considering all the ways God enlightens us through the Mass.

When my mind wandered during our sharing, I used my ink pen to draw squares around all the freckles on my right leg.

You know, I kinda wish that one of the struggles I have right now, grumpiness, would disappear soon. No, I’m not one of those people that’s grumpy with the world. It’s just that being a missionary, even in a paradise like St. Lucia, is difficult. And i’m still working on trying to adjust to living with a family that has 10 kids. Sometimes adjusting to that plus dealing with my own shortcomings and struggles plus the normal stresses of mission life, it all makes me a little grumpy sometimes. I’m lucky that these kids being as good as they are, just kinda brush it off. But, they do notice it, and that’s what has me feelin bad. Whoever the patron saint of grumpy missionaries is, please pray for me! :-p

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A Joyful Meeting, A Joyful Apostolate………

So, I’m sittin’ in the Chancery waiting for the Vocations Commission meeting to start, when I spy this little magazine titled “The Voice of the Legion of Mary”. In it was an article, “The Joy of Being Catholic”. The whole article was fantastic. However, I was particularly fascinated by the two sections whose titles form the title of this post. I present them to you below.

A Joyful Meeting

The meeting should be the breeding place of Christian joy, and what Frank Duff calls “Legion Humour”.  It is at our meeting that we share the joy of the apostolate we undertake. Because of the harsh realities of some conditions met on Legion work, this makes it all the more important to develop his idea of a joyful attitude, in our fellow legionaries. He entitles a chapter of his book Woman of Genesis (published 1976), “Legion Humour”. In it he gives an explanation of the importance of humour in the Legion.It is in order to encourage at our meetings joy, happiness and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit where a joke/humour is concerned. A “heavy” meeting, in the eyes of a new recruit, could be transformed into being “not so bad” or even “good” by the delicate touch of Legion humour. The President of each praesidium is encouraged to rise about the tiredness of a busy day or sleepless night and be the leaven that raises the mood of each meeting. This is true of all the members and not just the officers.

A Joyful Apostolate

Our Apostolate should know no bounds. According to Frank Duff, one should be willing to walk the ends of the earth in pursuit of a single soul, but are we willing to smile? In his first publication, he emphasizes how much a joyful disposition can contribute to an effective apostolate. For him a “smiling face” and “cheerful words” will help those you visit to really look forward to your return. In his Encyclical entitled Christian Joy, Pope Paul VI speaks of the Joy we receive from having faith and he calls us to be Apostles of this joy, He says: All those who believe in Christ are called to share this joy. Jesus wishes them to have in themselves His joy in its fullness.

I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them. –John 17:26–

Our apostolate must be approached in the way of building relationships and no better way than with humour.

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Coreteam Retreat Journal Reflections……….

Coreteam Retreat – Butte Larose, LA – Saturday September 4th, 2010

Earlier this morning, I was sitting on the porch doing some spiritual reading when i decided to come inside to the prayer room for morning prayer at 8:30. My internal time clock must have been off, because it seemed like I was by myself for quite awhile. My first self-righteous instinct was to find some reason whine about it. But, I then realized that maybe it was a prompting of the Spirit, and by God’s grace my obedience allowed me to have some one-on-one time w/Jesus in front of the Blessed Sacrament. As I sat in there reading, praying, and reflecting, I was able to faintly hear people in the other parts of the house waking up, talking and visiting with one another. I think I even heard a little bit of music somewhere in background. I feel like God’s grace changed the way I interpreted that situation. Instead of getting annoyed and seeing it as a distraction from prayer I rejoiced at the fellowship and joy that was filling the house.  Then I realized that so far this weekend God has been blessing us with a lot of fellowship, happiness, and joy.  What more could you ask for?!?

Reflection Questions:

1 – What is your personal desire for yourself as a result of being in this Coreteam/community?

My personal desire for myself as a result of being in this community is to have a community I can connect with and be a part of. I want to learn about what it is to be in relationship with one another. I also desire to grow in faith and trust. There’s also an intense desire to learn how to be a faithful minister of God’s love, and really be able to reach people through the work I do.

2 – What specific gifts can you share with this community?

The most prominent gift I can share is my gift of presence. Just being there with someone and knowing that simply being present as someone who carries the Spirit of Christ, and that it can  help to heal someone, is amazing. My ability to be a sheepdawg and follow orders is another gift. Let someone else be the brain, and I can be the muscle. I also have the ability to be early/on-time.

3 – What areas do you  need help with, when it comes to working in a community?

My primary downfalls are my impatience, selfishness, & timidity. I am a  naturally impatient person which hinders my ability to relax and enjoy the moment. It also hinders my ability to be patient with others and put them first. My selfishness causes me to worship time as my own. It’s really hard for me to be comfortable in the present moment. I’m in a perpetual state of unsatisfaction, always waiting for the current moment to pass so that I can get to my future moment where there is a perceived “something” that I have a greater desire for, and where I (keyword: I) can be happier. My timidity is perhaps my greatest shortfall. I lack courage, backbone, and commitment. Simply put, I’m afraid to step out for the Lord and I lack conviction. And when things get tough, I tend to back down and weasel myself into a comfortable little hole where all is OK and confrontation is far away and unnecessary.

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Urban missionary’s spiritual battle ammo for extra graces……..

Thursday 7/22/10 – 3:30pm @ Awardmaster

You know how as soon as you get to work on certain days, that you can tell “it’s gonna be one of those days”? Well this morning certainly had that feel. For some reason, when my coworker asked me a question, I let my impatience mate with my propensity for placing blame and immediately started to get irritable. I noticed after a few minutes that I continued being like this and that I was just AGGRAVATED! Dunno where it came from either. However, something I did which I had not done well with in the past saved me. I prayed and asked for prayer in my moment of frustration. I sent a text message to a friend and asked her to pray for me, explained the situation and that I did NOT want to have a bad day. Listen to what she told me: “Smile though you don’t feel you can and offer it up for someone on your heart. You’re being given ammo for extra graces!” How true is that….. Praise God! I followed her advice and today ended up being a good day and my frustration never got to me. It wasn’t easy “offering it up” but it has made all the difference.

Another thing that has been a blessing for me is the development of new missionary-minded friends. There are three in particular that God has brought into my life and they are a TREMENDOUS blessing. When I was discerning the priesthood, one of my best friends who was also on that path was my rock. I could level with him about anything even the nitty gritty, and it really helped me on my journey.  The same holds true with these three. I feel like I can level with them about anything relating to my journey into missions. I feel like I can ask them for prayer. Whenever I talk with them, my heart is full of joy and contentment because I know that our faith is what brought us together, and because I know they have a heart for missions. They have not been in my life for very long but I am thankin’ God right now that he blessed me with their presence, friendship, and guidance. At this point I’m pretty sure that one of them will definitely be with me @ Intake and another probably  will be there too (don’t know for sure yet, since the application was just faxed in today).

In other news, I gave a missions talk at the Lafayette Men’s Ultreya last night. The moment I confirmed that I was doin the talk I knew I needed prayer. Had my amazing missionary friends (and some others) prayin’ for me and the talk was AMAZING! You coulda heard a pin drop these guys were so riveted to what I was sayin. They ate it up and even asked some questions afterwards. Was blessed to get some contact info to add to my mailing list. What really humbled me though was how they lifted me up in prayer both before and after my talk. The feeling of being blessed by this was simply overwhelming. God is good to me through the people in my life 🙂 Oh  yeah, Mr. Jim Whittington, the leader of this group, told me that he’d try to see if any other area Ultreyas would like me to talk as well. Anyhoo, I must be going. Gotta figure out some things for the Word of God conference this weekend in NOLA. I leave you with this verse, the story of my life: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

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The blessings of friendship (with the opposite sex)……

Tuesday 7/6/10 – 3:30pm @ Awardmaster (my place of employment in Lafayette, LA)

I find myself reflecting today on the blessings of friendship. Recently, I met up with a friend of mine (who happens to be a female) to go jogging at a local park.  I needed to exercise (hadn’t in over a week) and also wanted to spend some time with her. Now, typically, it has been very hard for me to visit with a female friend and not think ahead of myself (if you get the hint). My tendency is to think light years ahead at the possibilities instead of immersing myself in the blessings God has for me at the present moment.

In this case, the blessing of the present moment was enjoying the company of a friend, with no strings attached. It was AMAZING how much I enjoyed myself. Society, as a whole (myself included), has largely forgotten the value of friendship. Even within the youth and young adults of the Catholic Church, I think we tend to skip the friendship phase because we are so in love with “being in love”. I’ve heard from many solid married couples that say “I married my best friend.” Ergo, I draw the conclusion that friendship is a wonderful foundation for a possible future relationship. Even better is the fact that if a relationship/marriage does not happen, you still gain a friend. And frankly, who couldn’t use more of those? Someone whose company you could enjoy, whom you can confide in, someone to socialize with, the list goes on and on.

Anyhoo, I hope that my reflections have maybe reawakened the grace of friendship in your life, or that maybe I planted a seed of friendship and an appreciation of it. Another reason (as alluded to earlier) that friendship is on my mind is because of the struggle of a close friend of mine. To be fair, I also used to struggle with the same thing quite a bit, and though I’ve come far, I still have a ways to go. Plain and simple, he is just trying too hard to be in a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, my best friend actually. But he just keeps desperately grasping for this miracle, wonderful, “OMG it’s so great” relationship that will just make him forever content.

I’ve learned that relationships/marriage, if we’re called by God to that vocation, are like sand or putty in our hands. First of all, it has to be placed there by God. Second of all, if we don’t wait for God’s timing and try to grasp at it ourselves, it will always elude, only serving to further the frustration and desperation we feel. If in our attempt to grasp at a relationship we somehow succeed, then our tight grip will only cause it to slip between our fingers and cause us to lose it. It’s so hard to watch my friend go through this because everytime some sort of date or meeting is setup and doesn’t work out, he get’s so aggravated and depressed.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this, it’s that God alone is our source of happiness. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we will be happy, no matter what our relationship status is. It also means that we can truly let go, let God take control, and trust that he will bless us with the desires of our heart on his timeframe, not ours. My hunch is that when we let go, and when God finally fulfills the holy desires of our hearts, we will know a joy that can’t even compare to a thousand forced & failed relationships.

It seems to me also that women/relationships are like feral cats.  You cannot force things or just lunge at what you want, or else they will just scatter. They (both feral cats & women) can usually sense someone who’s desperate for attention and will steer way clear of them (I speak from experience). However, if you are patient, and take your time to gain their trust and treat them right, you’ll eventually have a friend for life and possible more. Let me leave you with a random missionary-themed bible verse, that coincidentally is one of my top choices for my next tatoo on my left foot: “How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of good news…..” Isaiah 52:7

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My heart is content………..

Tuesday 6/22/10 – 8:30pm @ the chapel in the main house at Big Woods

What a time of blessing the past two days have been for me. Living out here @ FMC, living the daily routine of work, prayer, and recreation has been so uplifting for me. Before I even got here, I was blessed because I got to pick up two other come and see participants from the airport. Showed them around town (including the Cathedral), stopped for some seafood @ a local restaurant, and talked missions and faith life on our way out to Big Woods.

The first blessing was not having to go home at the end of the night. I got to feel what it’s like to live here. 🙂 I like it! Of course I also am getting to experience the daily routine of meals, prayer, fellowship, study, etc….. I’m starting to feel like I’m a part of FMC, and that I belong here. It’s gonna be hard goin back home on Thursday, but I know now what I get to look forward to for Intake in September. A huge blessing for me has been the witness of the Eckstine family, a family of 10 kids and Mark & Laura, the parents. Their prayer, unity, & working together, especially when considering how many of them there are, is mind-boggling. Also mind-boggling is how generous they are with their time and resources. They are not wealthy by any means, but you will find it very hard to out-do them in generosity. In particular, their children have been a blessing to me. It’s been so much fun talking and playing with the kids. They’re like the brothers and sisters I never had. The joy of children is awesome!  If you wanna feel special and loved, then devote your time and love to a child and you will definitely be blessed 🙂

Another thing that has been on my mind is how much I want my  family (especially certain family members) to receive the joy and blessings that I feel I have received. The reason this came to mind was because of a bible verse I stumbled upon yesterday, 1 Corinthians 7:14. It says “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother.” What I feel like God is telling me was that as I strive to follow the call to missions, he will bless my family with graces to draw closer to him. I now know that in my absence, God will heal and bless my family, and draw them into a closer relationship with him. So that means my family is in good hands. 🙂 Well, the night is here, and my eyelids are beginning to feel heavy, so I bid adieu. Amen! Alleluia! Glory!

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