Defeating the Distance

3,633 miles.  That is the approximate distance round trip from my house, to my sister, to the 3rd sister, to my parents, to the 4th sister, and back to my house.  It would take approximately 54 hours, not including stops, to make the trip to all places.  3,633 miles seems like a lot.  It is a lot.  You could travel across America, from San Diego to the northern tip of Maine or from the most southern tip of Florida to the northern corner of the state of Washington in fewer miles.  In fact, if you started your journey in Grand Forks, North Dakota you could go all the way to Costa Rica for about the same amount of mileage.  No doubt about it, 3,633 miles is a long distance.

With so many miles between us all and with everyone at different points in their lives, it would be easy for us to lose touch.  Easy to focus on relationships closer to home and keep in touch with the family just for holidays and big events.  But we don’t.  In fact, if you saw the four of us sisters with my parents, my husband, and my brother-in-law all interacting together, you would guess that we live within 20 minutes of each other and see each other weekly.

There is no awkwardness.  No searching for things to say or for common ground to connect us.  We don’t need to worry about small talk to take up time.  Despite the miles, we keep in touch more than a lot of families I know.  Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to my mom.  Not a week passes without talking to my dad and all three sisters in one way or another.  Sure there are times when we are busy.  When one sister is studying for college exams while the other is doing traveling the country racing as a professional runner.  Times when I am busy with work and my sister is trying to find time for writing a paper.  But we still make time for family.

It might be an hour on the phone in deep conversation about faith or it may just be a quick text on lunch break to say hello.  It may be a group video chat with all four sisters while our internet connections try to keep up with the commotion of four girls talking and laughing at once. It might be an inspiring story shared via email, a funny joke sent to make someone laugh, a card sent to their home to make them smile, or pictures of a new adventure shared with the family online.  Thanks to the technology we have at hand, keeping in touch is easier than ever.

But it is more than technology which keeps us together.  Mere computers and cell phones do not make the relationship we have so special.  The love that defeats the distance before us is the same love that we learned from our parents from day one.  It is the same love that, one by one, we are able to express in a new way with our husbands.  It is the love that comes from God.

We were raised with family meal time and grace before meals.  We were raised with family bedtime prayers every night, Mass every Sunday, and PSR (parish school religion) classes every Monday evening.  We were raised with family camping trips, board games, pool parties, hide-and-seek, and story times.  We were raised to dress up for church for the Lord, to be more excited about Mass than the Easter Bunny, and to make Christmas about far more than presents under the tree.  And it is all of that and so much more that keeps us so close today.  It is the countless family memories that shaped our childhood and the presence of God at the center of them all.

Being spread apart can be tough.  But we are stronger than 3,633 miles.  Our family bond together defeats the distance that separates us.  We know what it is to be a family.  We are united not only by the love we have for each other, but for the love of Christ that we all share.  No matter the miles, no matter how busy we may be, we are always there. To help each other grow, to listen, to talk, to give advice, to argue at times, to forgive at times, to share stories, share recipes, share laughter, share prayers.  We are always there to love each other.  And with that love the miles melt away and the distance disappears into nothing.

Love Stories

The world is full of love stories. Fairytale love stories. Tragic love stories. Funny love stories. We read books about love stories. We watch movies featuring love stories. Most of our television shows include some sort of love story. From the snippets we read online about a particularly romantic engagement, to the photos of an extravagant wedding, to the touching stories of a man and wife by each other’s side through the most trying of situations until the very end.

hOn August 2 my little sister took a big step in her love story. Family and friends from all over came together to be a part of her and her new husband’s wedding day. It was a beautiful Mass full of reverence and love followed by a joyous celebration at the reception. She is an absolutely beautiful girl but looked even more beautiful than usual as she was filled with the joy of marrying the love of her life. All the planning and preparing paid off as the day was absolutely perfect and a wonderful time was had by all.

In the days following the wedding I have found myself reminiscing about my own wedding three years ago and thinking about weddings, marriage, and love.  A joyous marriage with Christ at the center of it presents one of the best love stories we can live out in our lives.  After all, the love that a husband and wife share carries with it respect, forgiveness, patience, and a lifelong commitment.  What could be better than that?

“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.”  Archbishop Fulton Sheen

sacrament-of-holy-eucharistAll the love stories in the word, all the perfect wedding days and long lasting marriages and romantic engagements, cannot compare to the greatest love story of all: the love of God the Father shown to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We may not have been there at Calvary with the Lord.  But we are blessed to have the most precious gift of the Eucharist to receive our Lord and be filled with His love.

The love stories we write here on earth are only ever possible because of the greatest love story of them all.  Love is a wonderful gift given to us by the Lord.  The love between a man and wife through marriage is the human attempt to mirror the divine love of the Trinity.  Fully and freely giving of oneself to another as Christ fully gave of Himself to us.

We are called to share the love of the Lord.  With the love stories we take part in through marriage, family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers, we grow in love.  As we strengthen our own love stories, we find ourselves pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery of true love shown to us through Jesus Christ and made fully present to us in a reality far beyond our understanding in the Holy Eucharist: the greatest love story of them all.

Eucharist Image: http://www.family-prayer.org/sacrament-of-holy-eucharist.html

Walking on Water

“After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.  After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.  “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”  (Matthew 14:22-33)

387px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_Saint_Peter_Walks_on_the_Sea_(Saint_Pierre_marche_sur_la_mer)_-_James_Tissot_-_overallBeing out at sea tossed by the waves with the wind howling all around, the disciples are understandably afraid.  Seeing the Lord walking out on the water does not immediately alleviate their fears but instead terrifies them even more as they mistake Jesus for a ghost!  Peter wants proof that this man walking on the water towards him is in fact Jesus. Peter wants to trust God.  He asks for proof that this really is the Lord.  And when Jesus replies “Come,” Peter follows His instruction without hesitation. Peter does trust Him!  He trusts in Jesus so much so that he leaves the boat to go out onto the water with the wind whipping around him.

Peter’s faith in leaving the boat is quite strong.  But once He takes His eyes off of Christ and sees the wind whipping around him, he begins to panic and sink.  Even in his moment of doubt and panic, he still trusts in the Lord’s saving power, “Lord, save me!”

What makes this Gospel reading so relatable to me is that I can feel Peter’s struggle within myself.  I feel within me the desire to fully trust, to completely give it up to the Lord without any fear or doubt.  Being completely honest, there are times when I am too afraid to even leave the boat, let alone calmly walk on the water.  I see myself time and time again giving into the fears and doubts when I take my eyes off Christ and try to reason things out for myself.  I want to walk out on that water.  But, like Peter, I have a hard time keeping my mind off the winds and waves that surround me.

Peter, despite his flaws, was given the keys to heaven and was the rock upon which Christ built His Church (Matthew 16:17-19).  Despite his doubts, despite his denial, despite his fears, he still trusted in the Lord and the Lord saw the faith that was in Peter’s heart.  Even though Peter panicked while out on the water, in the midst of that panic he still called out to the Lord.  He knew his own trust was weak.  But as he felt himself starting to sink, he did not thrash about and try to save himself.  Instead, he called out to the Lord who immediately reached out His hand to save him.

We will all face fears and doubts in our life, just as Peter and the disciples did.  When we find ourselves scared to leave the boat, we need to pray for help in trusting the Lord.  We need to take the leap and jump out of our comfort zone to follow Him when He calls to us.  And when we find ourselves faltering and about to sink, we need to realize that God is always there by our side.  He will not leave us to drown.  Rather than relying on our own understanding to solve the problems and fears we face, we need to call out to God to save us and steady our steps.

God is always there even when we are too wrapped up in fear and doubt to realize it.  He knows our hearts, knows our desires, knows our fears.  Oh how I would love to have faith so strong that I would leap from the boat and stroll out without the slightest of doubts. Let us pray that our faith might grow and be strengthened so that not only do we jump willingly out of the boat but that we stay on top of the water, eyes focused on Christ, fully trusting in Him despite the winds that rage about us, knowing all the while He will always be there to catch us if we fall.

Image: “Saint Peter Walks on the Sea” by James Tissot

Helping God Out

urlDo you ever feel the need to help God along in His plan? Maybe we don’t say those exact words, but I think it’s something we all end up doing at one point or another. Sometimes it may be that we are called to pursue certain goals, work towards specific accomplishments, or follow a certain course of action. We believe that this is what God is calling us to do and so we do what we can on our end to work towards His will.

When we feel called by God to a certain direction in our lives, there is always something we can do to follow His call. But if we place the full responsibility and burden on ourselves, we become pulled down by the weight of it all and stressed out by trying to figure out and plan every little detail. We may become obsessed with how we feel we need to “help” God and lose sight of the fact that He already has is under control!

It has been almost two years that my husband and I have been trying for a baby and it has been a struggle emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Anyone who has dealt with infertility in any manner knows that there are tons of things you “should do”. Things to track, things to chart, things to eat or not eat, medicines to try, and so on. At the same time, the number one thing everyone tells you is “Don’t stress so much!” or “Just try not to think about it.” That can be frustrating to say the least. Especially when the act of daily charting, tracking, doctor’s appointments, medicines, and so on, makes it near impossible to take your mind off of it for even a little while.

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful man as my husband. As I thought about our marriage and our life together, I began to reevaluate my “plan.” I believe without a doubt that I am called to be a mother and I know in my heart that it will happen in God’s perfect timing. But before being called to motherhood, I was called to be a wife. On days when I feel frustrated at not fulfilling my call of motherhood, I need to remember that I am so blessed to be carrying out my vocation as a wife.

The second thing I thought of was how complicated it has all become. If I truly believe in my heart that God has called me to be a mother, why do I stress so about doing everything “just right” in order to make it happen? Do I feel the need to help God out? Do I doubt that He can do it on His own and requires me to meticulously plan each detail for Him? As much as my mind screams “No!” in answer to these questions, I know that my actions seem to state otherwise.

I have become so wrapped up in what I have to do to make this happen, that I have seemingly forgotten it is not up to me. All the charting, all the doctor’s visits, all the medicine in the world does not make a baby. God alone is the Creator of life. Despite what I may or may not do to “help out”, the truth of the matter is that I cannot control it. When it is God’s perfect timing, we will have our baby. But until then? I am resolved to stress less about what I need to do and to put it in His hands and trust more confidently in Him.

Of course there are things we can all do to follow God’s will for our lives. There are things I can do to help my body out as we prepare to have a family.  But in following His will, we need to be attentive to how He is calling us. Is He telling us to take a specific action? Or is He telling us that He has it under control and we need to trust? We need to remember that even though there are things we may be called to do and actions we must take as we follow the Lord, at the end of the day He is the one in control. He can do all things, and He doesn’t need our help to make them happen.

“Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;

-Psalm 37:4-7

 

What’s in a Name?

600px-Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgWhen I made my Confirmation in the 8th grade, I chose the name “Rose” as my Confirmation name. Choosing a new name for Confirmation is not mandatory, but is a popular tradition and expression of a new stage in life. We see many places in the Bible where a new name is given when someone devotes their life to God. Abram becomes Abraham, Simon becomes Peter, Saul becomes Paul. When choosing a new name for Confirmation, it is encouraged to research the Saints and choose that name of a Saint you can identify with and look up to. Someone who might serve as a role model and inspiration for you.

And so in preparation for my Confirmation, I read about many Saints and I decided to choose St. Rose of Lima. While I studied her before making my decision, I will admit that the biggest factor in choosing Rose as my Confirmation name was simple; I liked the name! I liked the way it sounded with my full name and I thought it was pretty and feminine.   I can’t say that I particularly identified with St. Rose, but I knew she led a holy life and that was good enough for me.

A few years later I found myself teaching a Confirmation class and instructing the students in the same way I had been instructed; to choose a name of a Saint they could identify with and look up to. I knew several of the students were likely choosing their names the same way I chose mine; by finding one that sounded nice. I wondered for a bit if I should have chosen differently. I began to study St. Rose of Lima more carefully and to really contemplate the life she lived.

452px-José_del_Pozo_(atribuido)_-_Saint_Rose_of_Lima_-_Google_Art_ProjectSaint Rose was born in Lima, Peru in 1586. She was very beautiful but did not want to be recognized for her appearance and so she would rub pepper on her face to mar her complexion. She wished only to serve to Lord. Her parents wished for her to marry and objected to her joining a convent. While she refused to marry, she wanted to remain obedient to her parents and so did not join the convent but instead became a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic and led a life a prayer and devotion to Christ from her home where she also served the poor and needy of the community.

Wow. How was I supposed to relate to that? At first it seemed I had nothing at all in common with St. Rose. But the more I thought about it, despite having little in common, I found that she could be quite an inspiration to me. I may not be in the same century or have the same vocation as her, but there are ways in which she can influence my life, and she has!

St. Rose worked to draw attention away from her appearance. While I may not go to the lengths that she did, that is certainly something I can work on and would do well to remember. How many times do I fret and worry over a stubborn piece of hair that refuses to go the way it should? How many times do I go through multiple outfits in the morning because I just cannot seem to find something that makes me feel good about how I look that day? How much time do I spend doing my makeup or painting my nails?

God created us in His image and wants us to care for our bodies. There is nothing wrong with taking care of our appearance so as to look nice for our husbands, to look professional when going to work, or to dress up for Mass on Sunday. But our primary focus should not be on our appearance. We should not worry so much about how we look, and instead focus our attention on the other qualities people can see in us. Rather than hoping for a compliment on a new dress or hairstyle, we should be praying that people notice the light of Christ and His love within us! I pray that St. Rose might help me to remember that beauty is more than what we see and that my focus should always be on Christ.

Another way St. Rose inspires me is her ability to help others in whatever way she could. She did not join the convent but instead found ways to help others from her home. There is always a way to help out. Whether through prayer, volunteer work, or donations. Just because I am not called to the religious life or to become a missionary, I am still called to serve those around me. We all are! As Christians we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ to those around us. Despite suffering in her own life, St. Rose found a way to serve those around her in whatever way she could. I pray that St. Rose might guide me to find ways I can serve those around me as well.

What drew you to choose your Confirmation name and how has your choice influenced your faith life? I may have thought I chose the name Rose because it sounded nice, but I know God led me to choose her for more than that. Despite the many differences in her life and in my own, she is still an inspiration to me. God drew me to St. Rose because of her name. And through her life, St. Rose is drawing me closer to God.

*biographical information on St. Rose of Lima from American Catholic.org

 

God Bless America

800px-US_Flag_BacklitTomorrow is the 4th of July and here in the United States of America, it is Independence Day.  It will be a day filled with parades, cookouts, family gatherings, and fireworks lighting up the night sky.  Songs like the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” will ring out and American flags will be proudly displayed.

As we enjoy our picnics and fun times, tomorrow should also be a time to reflect in prayer.  America was founded as “one nation under God.”  God has always been a part of our country.  Certainly with religious freedom not everyone must worship the same way or even worship at all.  But God has always been there.  284px-Rocky_Mountain_National_Park_in_September_2011_-_Glacier_Gorge_from_Bear_Lake

We have beautiful landscapes surrounding us.  From the Atlantic to Pacific, the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.  From the Rocky Mountains, to the Grand Canyon.  The Appalachian Mountains to the Redwood Forest.  The hand of God is certainly visible in this beautiful country.

Lately it seems that God is being taken out of America.  Under the guise of freedom, America is turning less to God and more towards man. America is a wonderful country filled with many, many people who know and love the Lord.  The media tries to make it seem like we are the minority.  But we are not.  God may not make the nightly news, but He is still present here in America.  People can try to take God away but they will never succeed.

This year, as we celebrate the 4th of July, I pray that all Americans turn once again to the Lord who created this beautiful land and who watches over us all.  I pray that the Christians here in America take a stand for what is right and just.  That we will work together to grow in faith and inspire others to know the Lord.  I pray that tomorrow as we watch fireworks bursting in the inght sky, we can gather together and truly mean the words we sing,

Fourth_of_July_fireworks_behind_the_Washington_Monument,_1986“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.
God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home
God bless America, My home sweet home”
 
“God Bless America” by Irving Berlin, 1918

Lives Filled With Wonder

images

Get up, eat breakfast, walk the dog, go to work, come home, walk the dog make dinner, eat dinner, clean up after dinner, go to bed.  Repeat.

Everyone has a daily routine.  Of course from day to day little things happen here and there that change it up a bit.  But for many, the same basic routine day after day begins to feel monotonous.  Sometimes it seems like you get to the end of the week only to look back and think…what did I do this week?   Where did the time go?

Even though our routines may be the same, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of just going through the daily motions.  Each day, no matter what we accomplish, where we go, who we see, is filled with wonder! We only have to open our eyes to see it all around us.

imagesOur morning routine might seem fairly boring.  It may not seem like there is any wonder in these tiny, seemingly insignificant tasks.  But that is not the case!  The food we have to eat, the toaster we use to make our morning bagels, the refrigerator that keeps our food cold, these are all wonders!  The nature outside, the pets we love so dear, the sun shining, the rain watering, each one of these tiny moments is wonder filled.  Even the simple act of getting out of bed, of having a bed and a roof over our heads.  These wondrous blessings we often take for granted.  But if we look further we can see that even the most boring days are filled with good and wondrous things.

In our lives we have moments where we search for meaning.  We fill our days with tasks and activities to try and give meaning to our lives.  But the truth is, the meaning is life!  The life we have been given and the gifts we have to offer others, that is what gives meaning to the daily routines we have.  Whether you are the head of five different volunteer committees, the head of a major company, or the head of your family. We all have our own individual calling.  One person’s call is not more or less than another person’s.  When we follow the Lord, it is not just the tasks we partake in, is the very way we live our lives!  That is what keeps our daily routine from becoming a boring, monotonous way to eat up time and transforms it into a wonder filled life of adventure in the Lord!

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”  James 1:17

imagesOur lives are filled with good things.  Even in the tough times, there are countless blessings surrounding us always.  From the tiny petals on a flower, to the shape of the clouds as they move across the sky.  From the smile on your husband’s face when he greets you after a long day at work, to the smile of a stranger on the sidewalk.  Each of these is a perfect gift from God.

God is not hiding from us.  He is surrounding us at every moment of every day!  He did not create us to walk this earth as robots.  He created us to truly live!  To take notice of His love poured out all around us.  To see the blessings He has bestowed upon us and to be filled with the love and joy that comes from them!  He created us to life lived filled with wonder!

We all have a calling.  And with those callings some responsibilities.  We have daily routines we must fulfill.  But as we go through our typical to-do lists, let’s all challenge ourselves to find more in our lives.  Each day, with each seemingly boring task, let us pray that we will take notice of a blessing within that task and use it as a moment to grow closer to God. Open our eyes to the beauty and awe that surrounds us.

Our lived are filled with wonder.  It’s time we start seeing it.