Tag Archives: adoration

Father Larry Richards – Adoration & Healing

Day three of  Father Larry Richards’ mission centered around adoration, healing, and thanksgiving (You can look up older versions of this talk on YouTube.)  Our opening prayer centered on thanking Jesus for all that He has done in our lives.

We started by reading Revelation chapter 4, which was written by John.  It’s all about the Mass, which cannot be understood without understanding Revelation.  When we attend Mass, we are experiencing Heaven.  He read through John’s description of Heaven in chapter 4 and how everyone there is constantly singing praises to God.

Most of us Catholics always want something from God.  We want forgiveness, happiness, you name it.  We’re constantly saying, “gimmee, gimmee.”  But our main focus should be thanksgiving to God for His incredible mercy.  Jesus gave His life for us and that should be our focus.  We go to Mass to worship Him, glorify Him, praise Him, and thank Him, not to get something from Him.  After all, He gave us the most precious gift we can ever receive in His death on the cross.

Father Larry then spoke about Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after exposing the Eucharist.  The bishop of his diocese was not keen on adoration, but Father Larry wanted an adoration chapel in his church.  Despite the bishop’s refusal, he was able to eventually start holding perpetual adoration.

There were many naysayers, but he didn’t care.  He had faith that the adoration chapel would come to fruition and after that, he had faith that through the prayers of his parish in that chapel, the local abortion clinic would close.  After only a few months of perpetual adoration, the abortion clinic closed.  Then, when it opened again two years later, it was only open for two weeks before closing again.  There is now no abortion clinic in the entire diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania.  

It’s so easy to lose hope in evils like abortion as a Catholic living in the year 2017.  It seems to be so common today that some people give up in their fight to end abortion.  But part of the problem is that we lack the faith to truly believe that abortion can be ended as a result of our prayer.  God can do anything and we need to start believing that.  We don’t see miracles because we don’t believe in His power.

As a pastor, Father Larry challenges his parishioners.  He makes the men of his church attend the nightly hours of perpetual adoration since it is located in an urban area.  Anyone who is an extraordinary minister of the holy Eucharist must have a holy hour.  He says that if they do not have an extraordinary devotion to Jesus Christ, then they should not be distributing His flesh at Mass.  

His job is to get every parishioner to be a saint.  So is he demanding? Absolutely.  But when someone dies, will they really be upset that they had to spend on extra hour per week with Jesus?  A good pastor gets you to Heaven; he doesn’t just take your money and build things.

My mom’s parish in Connecticut has had a perpetual adoration chapel since Ash Wednesday of 2003 and she goes to her holy hour from 2 to 3 am on Tuesday mornings.  Through her witness, I have seen the tremendous blessings that have occurred as a result of her weekly holy hour.  It is not easy for her to wake up in the middle of the night to pray, but it has changed her life.  

Father Larry said the same thing, adding that churches with perpetual adoration have many more people who have discovered their vocation to the religious life.  He prays for an hour in adoration every day and he encouraged us to pray in adoration once a week.  He also says that he can tell a priest with a good pastor when he sees that pastor sitting in adoration.  Priests must pray for their parishes and if that is not the case, they are not doing their job.

When on the road, he likes to stop into churches that he passes to say a prayer.  Sometimes he finds locked churches.  This happened once in Illinois and six months later, the pastor contacted him to ask if Father Larry would hold his mission at their church.  He refused since they do not keep their church open to the public.  He explained that although his church is in an inner city, he still keeps the door open. Sure, he has security cameras, but it is important to have an open church so that people can go there to pray any time of the day.

He also told us how he was kicked out of seminary.  His preaching was “overly optimistic” and the Franciscans did not believe that he had a good grip on reality.  His first talk in the seminary was about how everyone was called to be a saint, but they wanted him to instead tell messages of God’s love for us.  His second talk was about our need for a daily prayer life and again, they asked him if that was actually realistic.  How would a person with a high-paying job have time for that?  He couldn’t believe that they were upset with him for that message.  How can we not have a daily prayer life and call ourselves Catholics?

So he was thrown out due to “an apparent lack of self knowledge” and a “Pollyanna attitude toward life.”  He didn’t like that term, Polyanna, so he had them change it.  The newer version said “excessively optimistic” attitude.

During seminary, he had a daily holy hour, and people thought that was too extreme.  They looked at him like he was crazy, but he knew how crucial daily prayer life was.  

On another occasion, a parishioner told him that he should leave the priesthood because of his personality.  He was living in Pittsburgh, so he drove 45 minutes to Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, to pray at the Portiuncula Chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  He was in tears praying to Jesus, telling Him that he would leave the priesthood if that was what God wanted.  He then felt hands on his shoulders and a student said, “Father, thank you for being a priest.  We need you.”  God clearly met his needs, which happens for each of us when we pray to Him and share our needs with Him.

He then spoke to us about healing and healing services.  There have been people who were physically healed of their illnesses, but that is not God’s will for everyone.

Father Larry himself even had a mass on his lungs that doubled in size over the course of a month.  The day he had an MRI, he spent some time on his knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament, prayed 10 Memorares (a mini-novena) and then soon received a phone call that the mass was completely gone.

Too many of us believe that sometimes healing works and other times it doesn’t.  But that is not the case.  Healing ALWAYS takes place, but it isn’t always in the way that we expect or desire.  We need to believe that and then we will more easily see God’s miracles in our lives.  

We also have to realize that the greatest healing is death.  Our end goal in life is to end up in Heaven.  This world isn’t our home; we’re just passing through on our journey to Heaven.  We become satisfied by worldly goods.  If we live in a nice home, we feel content, not realizing that the fleeting joys of this life are nothing compared to the ecstasy that is Heaven.

People sometimes say that they don’t understand how God can allow children to die, but an innocent child or baby who dies at only one year old is more blessed than the person who dies at 100 years old because they can skip most of life’s suffering and have a quicker path to Heaven.  That teaching is difficult to accept since we cannot fathom the joys of Heaven, but that is what Jesus has promised.  

Father Larry proposed an interesting analogy.  For nine months, we lived in our mother’s womb.  Everything came from her even though we couldn’t see her until we were born.  We’re in God’s womb, with everything coming from Him, but we can’t see Him until we are born into eternal life.  That is why the saints’ feast days are the days on which they died because that is the day that they entered Heaven.

Life doesn’t truly begin until Heaven and once we accept that teaching, we will stop being afraid of death.  It is what we do now that will determine where we will spend eternal life.  When we die, God will give us whatever it is we loved the most, but if that isn’t Jesus, then Heaven may not be our end.  If we hold onto too many worldly objects, people, and desires, we show God that He isn’t what we love the most.  That is why we need to show our commitment to Him every single day.  We must prove that He is the one we want and love the most.

That is a quite challenging concept.  We want success, love, acceptance, and other worldly pleasures, but none of that will gain us eternal life.  

After discussing adoration and healing, he took Jesus around the church in the Blessed Sacrament.  Having attended Franciscan University, this is something that I was familiar with, but some people may have never understood the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament until that evening.  

He told us that while he was going around with Jesus, he wanted us to make an act of faith.  He wanted us to cry out, “My Lord and my God” in our hearts.  To receive healing, faith is necessary, so of course we cannot be healed if we don’t believe it.  For any sacrament to work, we need faith.  We can go to Mass every Sunday and receive communion, but if we don’t believe in Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, nothing will ever change in our lives.  The same is true during adoration.  Do we really believe that Jesus is there with us?

He told us not to consider the healing that we wanted for ourselves, but to say, “God, whatever You want, I want” in order to let Him give us the healing that we need.

I saw many people wiping the tears off of their cheeks as Jesus passed them by.  Although I try to attend a weekly holy hour, and I have been to adoration many times, I, too, was moved with awe for Jesus’ love and mercy and I had tears falling down my own cheeks.  

After that, we blessed ourselves with the oil from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada.  After blessing ourselves, we said, “Saint Joseph, heal me.” And in the event that we receive a physical healing, we need to remember that we were not healed in order to enjoy the rest of our lives; we are healed in order to give greater glory to God.  We are healed so that we may serve others.

One of his last promises for us was that we would die.  We will all become dust, and we can be in that form forever, or we can live forever; it’s our own choice.  We can live our lives for Jesus Christ and spend eternity with Him, or we can avoid Jesus.

He then invited those of us who wanted to surrender our lives to Jesus to kneel down and repeat this prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and I am sorry for my sins.  Please forgive me.  Come into my heart, take control of my life, be my Lord and God and Savior. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and make me Your disciple.  I love You, Lord Jesus Christ, and I give You my life forever.  Amen.”

Again, he reminded us about the two promises that he made to us at the beginning of the mission.  First, we would not be bored and second, our lives would be changed forever.  Upon surrendering or re-surrendering our lives to Christ, our lives were changed forever.

Father Larry says that he is set on fire by the same Holy Spirit that wants to set us on fire.  God wants us to end our mediocre lives and begin to change the world.  We can do it if we surrender to Him, maintain faith in Him, and heed His will for us.  God wants to use us in mighty ways, but we have to let Him.

In order to allow God to transform us into His disciples, we must do three things:

  1. Sit at the feet of the Master (daily prayer)
  2. Develop the attitude of the Master (be a servant)
  3. Be transformed into the Master (be another Christ…we are called to show the world Jesus)

And he told one last story about an American who was captured in a prisoner of war camp.  He was near a Japanese man who was being tortured for being a traitor.  The American man was a Christian who eventually knew that the Japanese man would die after a day of brutal torture.  He tried telling the Japanese man about Jesus and the Japanese man said that if Jesus was anything like the American man, he couldn’t wait to meet Him.

That’s what it means to be another Christ.  Can the people we encounter say that same thing?  Our husbands, wives, friends, parents, children, employers, employees, neighbors, strangers?  “If Jesus is anything like you, I can’t wait to meet Him.”

We must show Jesus to the world so that they can feel that desire to meet Him.

And ultimately, we must always remember to pray and to love.  That is the best summary of his mission.  Pray and love.  If we do that for the rest of our lives, we will be saints.  We are all called to be saints, which will happen as a result of prayer and love.
Father Larry also asked us to pray for him.  Since he goes around preaching God’s word, the devil goes after him.  He needs our prayers to help him to continue preaching the Truth, staying faithful, not doing anything contrary to the teachings of Christ, and not ever doing anything that brings scandal to the Church.

I wish I had been able to attend the first two days because Wednesday and Thursday were both amazing talks.  I highly suggest looking up some of Father Larry’s videos on YouTube, or his homilies on iTunes.

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My Bible study group (Young Adults in Faith) with Father Larry Richards

God is so Good

I’ve been wanting to write a blog regarding my recent joy and gratitude for a while, but because I’ve been so busy (doing a bunch of awesome things), I just haven’t had the time.  So here are some of the things that have been taking up my time:

Bible Study

I am so incredibly thankful for the new amazing Catholics that I have met in my area, mainly as a result of attempting to start a Catholic young adult group here.  Through that, I met a great new friend and through her, I learned about a Bible study that meets each week.

Basically, we meet at a different person’s house most Thursdays for dinner and Bible study.  We share a meal and then study the Bible together.  The first time I was invited, it was a group of 6 or 7 of us.  This was some time in July.  I thought that these people had been close friends for years.  Only weeks later did I find out that their Bible study had started recently and some of them didn’t really know much about each other at all.

Since then, our numbers have continued growing.  Now we also have once a month Thursday holy hours, holding them at a different church each time.  I had been praying to find local Catholic friends basically from the moment I graduated from Franciscan University in December 2009.  It took a while, but I am currently so blessed in that I have met so many amazing passionately Catholic young adults.  And what is crazy to think about is that I didn’t know any of these people before June.  Most I’ve only known since July or August.  It’s interesting how quickly life can change in such dramatic ways.

This past Thursday, I hosted Bible study in my apartment.  We had 15 people there.  It was a little tight since I have a small apartment, but that was a great problem to have.  We just keep growing and meeting more amazing Catholics who desire to grow in their faith.

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Bible study

Kayaking

I lived here for almost a full year before getting to use my kayaks.  It was tricky getting my ocean kayak to the beach by myself.  There is also a river where I can kayak, but I can’t get either kayak on my car alone.

Toward the end of the summer, I used my kayak twice in the ocean.  Then I figured out how to get both of them to the river by putting one in my trunk and one on my roof rack.  I’ve gone kayaking there 4 or 5 times since September with two of my friends.

I love living in a place where I can walk a few feet and be at the ocean or drive a few blocks and be at the bay.  (They call it a river, but to me it seems to be a bay since it’s connected to the ocean.  I don’t know).  It’s pretty awesome.

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Kayaking Shark River

It’s also great that I have a job where I can finish a full day of work, be home by 3, and still get a few good hours of kayaking before it starts to get chilly.  It has been a nice autumn because the weather has been pretty warm even into November.

Here’s a quick video of getting to see the train while kayaking and also seeing the drawbridge:

Tenth Avenue North concert

I went to this concert back in October and it was just amazing.  They are my favorite Christian band and I had never seen them live before.  It was just what I needed at the end of a great, but long week.

This is my video of compiled video clips from the concert:

I am so happy that my friend Amanda invited me because I would have never known about the concert if it hadn’t been for her.  She is another friend who I met as a result of trying to start the area young adult group with my church.

At the concert, the lead singer for Tenth Avenue North talked about Compassion International, which is the organization I found in order to sign up to sponsor Patience, my sponsored child in Rwanda.

I know from my own experiences in meeting Patience back in August 2015 in Rwanda that Compassion International seems to be doing great things across the world, but hearing even more accounts about it solidified my view of the organization.

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With my sponsored child, Patience, in Rwanda

What is great about Compassion is that they don’t bring in Americans to do the work overseas.  Rather, they use local churches and hire people within each country to oversee the program.  In some places where other sponsorship organizations were denied the opportunity to work in some dangerous areas, Compassion is allowed since they are based out of churches  that already exist in the community.

Catholic Underground

For Catholic Underground, a group of us from our Bible study drove up to NYC.  The church we went to for adoration was completely packed.  They had confession and praise and worship music during adoration and then there was live music downstairs afterwards.  It was an awesome experience, and great to get to know some of the people from my Bible study a little bit better through the long car rides.  I am so thankful for all of these new friends, even though I have only known them since this past summer.

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Some of the people from our Bible study at Catholic underground

I’m also excited about Catholic Underground because I met a guy from Connecticut there who also has an interest in overseas volunteering.  Through him, I might be able to find a connection to Catholic volunteer organizations to potentially serve with in the future.

The beach

It’s so simple, but I just love the beach so much.  I never expected this fall to be so warm that I could continue swimming so late into the year, but I’ve been lucky.  Maybe it’s a sign of global climate change, but for now I’ll just be thankful for the many beach days I’ve had since the end of the summer.

I’ve gone out for many morning beach walks, looking for beach glass and seashells.

I was even able to go swimming the day before Halloween!

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And THEN there was a whale at the beach on a few separate occasions.  Most recently, though, the whale was really close to the shore and it was feeding, so it kept leaping out of the water.  It was so incredibly exciting.

There is a person who lives in a house that overlooks the ocean and early last Saturday, I saw that he posted a live video of a whale.  I could tell it was right by my house.  I was still wearing pajamas, so I pulled on some leggings, threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera, and ran outside.

It was incredible.  The whale stayed in the general area for over an hour.

The picture below is just amazing.  I didn’t take it, but I did see the whale doing that multiple times.  The picture was taken by the guy who lives in the house right by the beach.

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Who needs to pay for a whale watch when you live right by the ocean and can watch them swimming on a random Saturday at 9am?

Here is my video of the whale:

Atlantic City Marathon

Although I’m not completely satisfied with my result since I had an injured achilles tendon and subsequently didn’t beat my previous marathon time of 4:20 (I finished this one in 4:29), I’m happy that I have gotten my health back to a place where I’m even able to attempt (and finish) a marathon in the first place.

When I first moved to New Jersey, I was pretty healthy, but then I quickly started experiencing my Lyme symptoms again.

Last February I started going to hot yoga and that has helped a lot.  Last March I started running again for the first time after almost a year off.  In that  year I did go running, but never enough to actually train for any races.

I also found that I love yoga…something that I had never expected.  I always looked at yoga as glorified stretching, but it’s definitely more than that.

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Backyard yoga practice

I think that yoga helped me to get back into running.  It also seemed to make me faster.  I ran a 10k in May in Sandy Hook, a half marathon in June in Connecticut, a five mile race in July in Belmar, a relay race across the state of New Jersey in August, a half marathon in Sandy Hook in October, and a full marathon in Atlantic City in October.  I had a full year off from running, completing no races at all in 2015 and then I was able to compete in 6 races in 2016.

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Now that I finished the marathon, I have to take a few weeks off from running to rest and heal my achilles.  I know that I would have done better if it hadn’t been for the injury, so I need to make sure that I don’t get back into running too quickly only to re-injure it.


I’m so incredibly thankful for my faith.  It’s not easy.  Sometimes I wish I learned about my faith about an older age.  But right now, I’m so at peace with my life in general and I think that a huge part of that has to do with my faith.

I know that God has a plan for me.

It’s really interesting because it’s the first time I’ve been single in five years.  I’ve been single now since February.  Back when I was in my last two relationships, I really thought that I was happy…especially in my more recent relationship.

Was I happy?  Sure.  But now I feel so much more peace and joy.

I have never been the type of person who needed a relationship to give me confidence in myself, but at the same time,  I liked being in relationships.  They were comfortable.  As a person who likes routine, I liked knowing what to expect each weekend.

But I realize now that both of these relationships were holding me back.  Yes, I was Catholic, and my exes were Catholics as well, but I wasn’t being pushed to grow in my faith.  I was remaining static.

Upon finding myself single last February, I started focusing more on God.  When I prayed, I kept getting the same message.  “Wait.”  Through the entire spring, I just kept doing just that.  Summer arrived and I was still without local friends.  I was still just trying to follow His advice, but it was hard.

I turned to God and running to maintain some sanity.

And then, without even realizing it at the time, things started changing.  I started to meet new people who have turned into new friends.  I found out about Bible study, which has led to many other events.  I found out about the race across the state which led to other new friendships.

Here I am now in November.  I’ve been single for almost exactly 9 months.  And I feel so incredibly joyful.  I feel like my life is exactly where it needs to be right now.

I am healthy.  I am running and going to yoga.  I have awesome students this year at my job and I’m getting to teach the AP class that I love so much again.  I’m living by the beach going for walks, bike rides, and kayaking.  I just got a stand up paddle board this week.  I have amazing friends and Bible study.  God is a main focus in my life right now, and I just feel so blessed.

I didn’t know how to word this post because I know that other people are facing more struggles than I am right now, so I don’t want to sound like everything is sunshine and rainbows.  But at the same time, I can’t contain my gratitude.

I literally drove to work this week with a smile on my face, just thinking about the place I am right now in my life in general.

So if you’re a person who isn’t yet in a good place, you need to turn to God first.  None of my happiness found me until I left it in God’s hands, waiting for things to fall into place.  I was on my knees in tears at adoration.  I was at Stations of the Cross on Friday nights with no other plans for the upcoming weekends.  I was at Mass by myself each Sunday just praying and trying to be patient.

Things do get better.  It may not be according to our own timeline.  God’s timing may not be what we want.  But I don’t think that the joy I feel now would be the same if I hadn’t had the difficult times last winter and spring.  I needed that to now see the dramatic shift that my life has taken.

I don’t know where things will go from here.  But I am content in my belief that God has good plans for me.  He is in charge of my life and I am trying my best to make choices that reflect His will for me.

And right now, it all seems to be working out.  I am joyful, I am thankful, I am blessed.

Laying Down My Life

Last night I went with four friends to Catholic Underground in New York City.  It was my first time at Catholic Underground.  There are hundreds of young adults (in addition to people of all ages who are there to worship Jesus.  It is simply amazing.

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Catholic Underground NYC

First is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  During adoration, there are a bunch of priests hearing confessions.  They sing the night prayer and then they turn down the lights while singing some praise and worship music.  After adoration, they have music downstairs in the basement of the church, with different performers each month.  While the music is playing, people share in fellowship, meeting new people, and finding old friends.  I was excited to run into a friend from college who is now a sister, which I hadn’t even realized.  It was so nice to see her again after so many years.

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My friend from college

So the main song they sang last night was Hillsong United’s “Touch the Sky.”  I had not heard this song until last night, but the lyrics really struck me.  Today when I woke up, I had the song stuck in my head, so I looked up the video on YouTube and I watched it on repeat a few times, tears streaming down my cheeks.  These weren’t tears of sadness but rather tears of awe in realizing all of the blessings I have received from God in the past few months.

Here is the video if you aren’t familiar with the song:

Last night, this part of the lyrics kept being repeated while we prayed at adoration:

My heart, beating

My soul, breathing

I found my life, when I laid it down

Upward, falling

Spirit, soaring

I touch the sky, when my knees hit the ground

The line in particular that resonates with me is this: “I found my life, when I laid it down.”  I always try to remember to ask for God’s will when I pray for the desires of my heart.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether I am following my own path or the path that God wants me to follow.  But I also believe that the things that I want the most, in the depths of my heart, must be things that God also wants for me.  Not passing wants like material items, but the things that I yearn for in the depths of my soul…I believe that God placed those yearnings there because He wants them for me as well.

It had been my desire to move to New Jersey for years, since high school or possibly even middle school.  I was so excited to finally move here last September.  I had wanted to live here for so long, and it was great in the beginning, but then when my boyfriend broke up with me in February, I was a mess.  My Lyme was acting up.  My job was stressful.  Things seemed to be falling apart.  I started wondering if my move was a big mistake.

I began doubting myself and my trust in God, wondering if maybe things weren’t working out because it had been my desire to move here and not His.  But now that months have passed, I can see how His plan was unfolding all around me while I was completely oblivious.

I didn’t move here because of my boyfriend, but he definitely made the transition a lot less frightening.  I knew him, his family, and his friends.  I knew which towns I liked, which schools I might enjoy working in.  I was relatively familiar with the area.  We were both confident that our relationship was headed toward marriage.

So February tore me apart.  I had envisioned us together forever, without a doubt in my mind.  Suddenly all of my plans for the future were discarded.  I was left alone, without a single friend in the area.

I was lonely.  I didn’t understand what God wanted from me, but I focused on Him as much as I could.  I was on my knees in adoration, crying, not understanding His plan.  It was lent, so I was at Stations of the Cross every Friday.  I was reading the Bible and devotionals.  I was coming closer to Him than I had been in a while.

Eventually, through a small Catholic young adult group, I met someone who I now consider to be one of my closest friends.  During my loneliness, I really just longed for a friend.  I dated a little bit, but I didn’t really want to jump back into another relationship after having been in 2 long-term relationships back to back, which accounted for the past five years of my life.

It required me losing everyone around me to find this new friend, and I bet that if I had still been in a relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I may have never ventured out to the young adult group.  I may have never met her because I had been spending most of my free time with him.

So my friend (her name is Gabriella) invited me to her Bible study.  Through this Bible study, I have met even more Catholic friends in the area.  Some I am closer to than others, so I was excited when Gabriella invited me to Catholic Underground last night because we would be carpooling with three other members of the Bible study who I didn’t really know too well.

The five of us drove to NYC, talking, praying, and learning about each other on the way.

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The five of us from Bible study at Catholic Underground

During adoration, I thought about myself just a year ago.  At the time, I thought that I was happy.  I was with a guy I was positive I would marry.  But that relationship wasn’t truly fulfilling the desires of my heart when I really think about it.  We went to church together, but we never prayed together or went to Catholic events together.  We didn’t really talk about God all too often.

Then I thought about my sadness back in February, without any friends in the area.  I felt like life was just ruined.  I hated the weekends.  During the work week, I was busy, but weekends would come and I had exactly zero plans.

Now I consider this weekend.  On Friday night, I went to a Tenth Avenue North concert with one of my new friends from my young adult group.  Yesterday I went to Catholic Underground with four friends from Bible study.  Myself back in February would have never believed me if I had told her to just keep waiting and praying and that everything would get better.

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My friend and I at Friday night’s Tenth Avenue North Concert

Last night I realized that although I didn’t intentionally lay down my life for Christ, as the lyrics in that song mention, it is what happened unintentionally after my breakup.  I had nothing but my faith.  I was falling to my knees in adoration (“I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”) and slowly I started to meet people.  My breakup was in February and I don’t think I met Gabriella until around June, so it took a little while for things to start falling into place.  I needed that time to myself to focus all of my energy on the Lord.

Today I am so incredibly grateful of the way everything has happened.  I now can’t imagine life without these new friends.  We meet every week on Thursday evenings for Bible study.  We have a young adult holy hour once a month.  This past Thursday there were 12 of us at Bible study.  12 young adults eating dinner together, reading the Bible together, providing advice and a listening ear to each other, laughing together, and simply sharing time with one another.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

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This past Thursday’s Bible study group

Last night all of this really hit me because it’s so easy, like mentioned in today’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19), to forget to thank God for all that He has given us.  It is easy for me to turn to Him when I am brokenhearted, sick, or dealing with the loss of loved ones.  He is my go-to when I am struggling.  But I sometimes forget to look back in thanksgiving to see everything that he has bestowed upon me.

I am now confident that my move to New Jersey was by no means a mistake.  Instead, it was a leap of faith that has now enabled me to grow so much in my friendships and in my faith.  I had to lay down my former life.  I had to move away from the people I knew in Connecticut.  I had to be left single and friendless.  I had to seek God with all of my heart, and slowly but surely, joy has reentered my life, and for that I am incredibly grateful.  God is so good and His plan for our lives, if we listen to Him and pray to follow His will, is more glorious than we could ever imagine.

“I found my life, when I laid it down.”

My 2016 Goals

Most people do this in January.  It’s March, but that’s okay.

This is what I hope to accomplish in 2016:

 

-Get back into a regular workout routine of running, lifting, plyometrics, and taking hot yoga classes

-Eat healthier

-Run either a half marathon or more obstacle races (or preferably both)

-Learn more Portuguese before I go to Brazil for Spring Break, using Duolingo

-Practice my Spanish so that I don’t continue to forget it, using Duolingo

-Go to Eucharistic adoration on Monday evenings at least once a month

-Prepare spiritually for my mission trip to India in August

-Write in my journal

-Continue to write blogs

-Walk to Mass whenever the weather is nice

-Drink two 32-oz bottles of water every day (more if it’s especially hot or if I’m working out)

-Remember to take my vitamins / herbal supplements

-Listen to Christian radio on my drive to work even after Lent is finished

-Read books even when it’s not summer and it seems like I don’t have time to read for pleasure

Focusing on Me

Life has been a bit hectic lately.

-My boyfriend dumped me almost 3 weeks ago

-I live in a new state where I don’t really know anyone other than my ex and his family

-My job has been extra stressful lately, due to some deadlines that are quickly approaching

-My Lyme disease has been acting up

-My mom, who I usually call after work, is on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (which is completely amazing, don’t get me wrong.  But selfish me is sad that I can’t call her)

Although my breakup is definitely not easy, I figured that the timing was pretty good since Lent is a time to reflect and make sacrifices and focus more deeply on God.

That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  I’m trying to focus on God and also focus on bettering myself, in terms of my faith, my diet, and my exercise.

Faith

Although I’m absolutely still upset, I’m finding moments of peace with God.  So in terms of my religious journey this Lent, this is what I’ve been doing so far:

  1. Every morning I read the day’s devotional from the book, God Calling.  I then read the day’s devotional in a Lent booklet that I got at church.
  2. On Fridays, I go to Stations of the Cross.
  3. On Saturday or Sunday I go to Mass.
  4. Last week I remembered that Mondays are a holy hour of Eucharistic adoration at my church, so I went to confession and then to adoration.
  5. I had given up all non-Christian music for Lent, so I’m listening to the Christian radio station or my Tenth Avenue North cd on repeat since I just love it so much.

Food

I usually eat pretty healthy when I’m by myself because I really don’t mind eating the same things over and over.  I don’t mind eating healthy (or even bland) things.  So these are some of the foods I’ve been eating lately since they’re easy to make and also healthy (minus the random desserts that I obviously sneak in):

  1. Quinoa
  2. Kefir
  3. Black beans
  4. Broccoli
  5. Green Beans
  6. Organic chicken breast
  7. Wild salmon
  8. Greek yogurt
  9. Guacamole
  10. Fuji and golden delicious apples
  11. Sweet potatoes
  12. Kidney beans
  13. Carrots
  14. Wild Rice
  15. Mushrooms
  16. Organic skim milk

Exercise

I’ve also been focused on getting back into shape.  2015 was not a great year in terms of my Lyme symptoms.  I am determined that 2016 will be better.  So this is what I’ve been doing to better myself in terms of exercise:

  1. Hot yoga – I’ve never done any kind of  yoga, but I signed up for ten 75-minute sessions of hot yoga.  It’s way more difficult than I expected, but I’m definitely starting to enjoy it.  So far, I’ve gone three times.
  2. Running – I used to be able to run a half marathon, no problem.  Now I’m slowly working my way back up to distance running.  Last week I ran a 5k (3.1 miles) in 29 minutes and I was pretty happy with that since I haven’t been running much lately.
  3. Walking – On days when I’m too sore to run, I go for walks on the boardwalk or on the beach if it isn’t too windy.
  4. Lifting – I’m slowly starting to lift weights.  My shoulders have been very tight, so I’m going easy on the weights for now.
  5. Plyometrics – I do some of these exercises to gain strength for my running.  Squats, jump squats, lunges, jump lunges, burpees, etc.

Unfortunately, the end of this week was not great in terms of my exercise, due to stressful situations at my job, but I am trying my hardest to relax and stay calm and not allow the stress to cause my back to hurt too much.

Now that spring is quickly approaching, I am ready for a new beginning for myself in so many ways, and the first part of that requires me to focus on my health and well-being so that I am able to more easily accomplish my goals.

Why I am so Thankful for Franciscan University

Attending Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio was a complete blessing.  It absolutely changed my life.  I appreciate every moment that I attended that amazing university for 3 1/2 years from 2006 to 2009.

I miss it incredibly.  I try to talk to people about life at Franciscan, but nobody really seems to understand how great it is unless they have been there and have experienced it for themselves.

Franciscan is a small, passionately Catholic university.  “Passionately” is the key word there.  In my search to find a Catholic university closer to home, I found many supposed options.  But upon further examination, each of these other so-called Catholic schools turned out to be Catholic in name only.

Christ the King chapel
Christ the King chapel

I won’t name any names, but I visited other “Catholic” colleges.  At one of the places, we took the whole campus tour and although we saw every detail of the athletic facility, they never even mentioned anything about a church or chapel.  My mom had to specifically ask about it and rather than taking the tour group there, they simply pointed us in the right direction since we probably seemed strange for caring so much about that part of campus, which was obviously not the focal point.

I wanted to go to a school where my faith would be nurtured, not where I would be one of the few students getting up to go to mass on Sunday morning, probably sitting alone in my pew.  Franciscan was the ideal place with that goal in mind.

Some people are surprised that I attended a school that was an 8-hour drive away from my home.  “Aren’t there Catholic schools closer?”  Not really, at least nothing that is even close to the faith-filled campus that is Franciscan.  There are other strong Catholic schools like Ave Maria in Florida and Christendom in Virginia, but both of those schools are also far from Connecticut, and they offer fewer majors.

Other people didn’t understand why I would not even consider going to a state school, or any other school that lacked religious affiliations.  Some even had condescending attitudes about Franciscan, saying things like “wouldn’t it show that you’re a stronger Catholic if you maintain your faith somewhere else that is more similar to the people you will encounter out in the real world?”

I sometimes think about that question.  I like to believe that I would still have my strong faith if I attended a school like UConn (since I was living in Connecticut, UConn probably would have been the place I went if I stayed in-state).  But when I think about it, I’m not really sure if I would have been as strong as I would like to believe.

Upon entering college, most students are only 18 years old, just barely adults.  Although I had been raised Catholic from the time I was a baby, I only began to truly care about it after attending the Steubenville East retreat the summer after my sophomore year of high school.  That means that my faith had really only been ignited a meager two years before I went to college.

In those two years, a lot of things changed in my life.  I no longer wanted to go to UConn, instead seeking a Catholic school.  I wanted my faith to be the center of my life.

But what if I had gone to a different college?  Would those two years of “hardcore” faith have been enough to help me to pass all of the temptations present at a different school?  I don’t know, and I’m glad that I never had to find out.

I don’t think my decision to go to a place that would build me up makes my faith any less strong.  I know that there are plenty of good Catholics who are able to maintain moral lives at regular colleges, but by going to Franciscan, I was able to rid those 3 1/2 years of my life from most temptations.

At Franciscan, we didn’t have the wild parties that are present on most college campuses.  I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I would come home to a roommate having sex in her bed, or puking in the trash can, nursing a hangover.  Sure, some students drank (most who did were already 21).  Some students partied, but even those who did were not nearly as extreme as the majority of college students across the country.  The students who did party were the far minority, and they all lived off campus.

We would spend our Saturday nights at a festival of praise, watching a movie, playing games with friends, or playing frisbee golf outside.  We went to the many events sponsored by various groups.  There were coffeehouses, dances, formals, talks, concerts, etc.

One of our winter formals
One of our winter formals

We didn’t have fraternities or sororities or any of that hazing.  Instead, we had households: groups of females or males who would go to one mass a week together, life each other up in times of need, and celebrate the Saturday holy day together, which consisted of prayers, singing, etc.  Each household had its own commitments.  Some would have a weekly rosary or a weekly adoration hour.  Commitments depended on which household a student was in.

Our rules in our dorms were strict, but I appreciated them.  There were certain hours during the weekend when we could have members of the opposite sex in our room.  At first, that seemed too strict, but it was nice to know that I wouldn’t walk in my room to see my roommate making out with her boyfriend.  Since I did have a boyfriend freshman year, it helped to ensure that we were rarely alone together, always instead with a group of friends.  Staying pure is difficult, but it’s easier when the temptation isn’t right in our faces.  We did have common rooms, where we could bring members of the opposite sex to watch movies, study, or just hang out.

And it wasn’t just the lack of temptation that was significant, but also the many ways that Franciscan helped to mold me into a better person in general.

At 18, we feel like we’re grown up and mature, but now that I’m 27, I know how much I still had to learn back then.  Fortunately, I was able to learn so much about myself and my faith at Franciscan.  Each day, I was called to holiness.  I didn’t have to find time for Jesus because He was everywhere on campus.

Each dorm had a chapel.  The main entrance to campus takes cars up a hill to the rosary circle.  Christ the King Chapel had three daily masses…and all of them were packed, often with standing room only.  There was the Portiuncula Chapel with perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, the tomb of the unborn, the stations of the cross.  Every classroom had a crucifix hanging above the doorway.  Many of my classes started with a prayer.  One Saturday night a month, Finnegan Fieldhouse was packed with students attending a FOP, aka Festival of Praise, with amazing praise and worship music.  Friars and nuns were always wandering around campus, ready to play a quick game of frisbee in passing.

the tomb of the unborn child
the tomb of the unborn child
stations of the cross
stations of the cross
Portiuncula Chapel
Portiuncula Chapel

Although I may have been able to maintain my faith somewhere else, it would have been just that: maintaining it.  I didn’t want to simply maintain it; I wanted more.  And that’s exactly what I was blessed with at Franciscan — a place where I was pushed every single day to be a better person and a stronger Catholic.

I was completely humbled by my amazing peers at Franciscan.  Everyone had such interesting background stories.  Some had intense tales of their conversion, or the conversions of their friends or family members.  I think that we had students from 48 or 49 states during my freshman year.  One of the girls in my dorm was from Hong Kong.  The diversity in all of our background stories and our paths to Franciscan was so interesting.  Yet at the same time, we all had one thing in common: our faith.

While Franciscan obviously has a focus on Catholicism, it also offers rigorous academics.  I was completely prepared for my first day as a high school English teacher thanks to my professors and my course load at Franciscan.  Every education major has to complete a student teaching experience, but at Franciscan, we were already entering high school classrooms during our second or third semesters for “early experiences.” Early experiences were a combination of observing teachers while also teaching some lessons.  I was able to have experiences at the following types of schools:

-A small, Catholic school in Steubenville, Ohio

-The large, public high school in the diverse, urban city of Steubenville

-A mid-sized high school in a more suburban area of Ohio

-And finally my student teaching at Brooke High School in West Virginia, a public school in a suburban/rural area

When I first started teaching, it was obviously overwhelming, but I felt completely prepared to handle everything necessary to be a strong teacher and I owe it all to my amazing professors and the curriculum that allowed us to enter classrooms from the very beginning of our college career.

I remember one professor who taught one of my freshman-level education classes.  On the first day, she gave each of us her business card.  She told us that she knew that many of us were very far from our families.  She wanted to make sure that we would always have someone to call if we were stuck at the Pittsburgh airport without a ride.  I was amazed to see how much this professor truly cared about each of us as more than just her students.  Thank you, Dr. Calabria, for not only teaching me crucial material about teaching students with special needs, but for your passion for your content area and your love for your students.

I took those 3 1/2 years for granted.  I knew that people called it the “Franciscan bubble” and I knew that life outside of that hill in Ohio would be different, but I don’t think that I realized quite how different it would be.  It is very difficult to find like-minded friends.  It is difficult to live a moral life in our sex-driven society.

I was fortunately able to nurture my faith enough at Franciscan that life in “the real world” is a little bit easier to handle because I know that, even if they don’t live near me, there are thousands of young adults who have attended or are currently attending schools like Franciscan who believe in the same teachings as me.  I know that I’m not alone, even though it sometimes feels like it.  I know that I will stand up for what I believe in, even if it makes me an outsider and even if it makes me appear “uncool” to the people around me.

During college, you’re still young, still finding who you are. Being surrounding by the amazing friends, friars, and faculty members at Franciscan helped me to grow with the right type of people by my side.  They say that you can learn a lot about people by looking at their friends.  I wholeheartedly agree with this.  At Franciscan, each of my friends was someone who I respected not just for their personality and personal characteristics, but also for their passionate faith.

If I’m being completely honest, I think that my faith was stronger when I was at Franciscan than it is today.  That’s not something that I’m proud of, but at Franciscan it’s just so easy.  There’s a daily mass early in the morning, at lunchtime, and again in the evening.  There is always a way to get there.  Confession is just a walk away.  There are constant opportunities for service and faith formation.

During Spring Break, there were 15 mission trips during the years that I was there that would send groups of students on trips both nationally and internationally.  There were a variety of clubs and organizations to get involved with that were all centered around Christ.  There were retreats for women, for healing, for engaged couples, you name it.  You just had to sign up.

Mission trip in Ecuador
Mission trip in Ecuador

Am I still Catholic? Absolutely.  But do I attend daily Mass? No.  Do I go to confession as often as I used to? No, I don’t.  I try to find places to volunteer, but it’s not as easy as it was during college.  I look back at those years in Ohio in awe of the opportunities that I had on a daily basis and I am incredibly grateful for them.

Franciscan is also the place where I encountered my love for mission trips after experiencing my first mission trip during my junior year.  I took a spring break trip to Ecuador with a team that was focused on bringing the sacraments to people living in the remote jungles of Ecuador while also bringing nurses, doctors, and medical care.  Since then, I have traveled on trips to Haiti and Rwanda for volunteer opportunities, and I will be headed to India this coming summer.  I’m not sure if that would be the case if I hadn’t experienced the mission trip to Ecuador during college.

Mission trip in Ecuador
Mission trip in Ecuador

Upon graduating, I heard how colleges always start asking for donations from alumni almost immediately.  My first thought was yeah right, college is so expensive, the last thing I need to do is pay them more money.

But that thought didn’t last long.  I am now eager to get the phone calls from the students whose job it is to ask for donations.  I enjoy hearing about how much they love Franciscan the same way that I did when I was there.  I always send in a donation because I want to help other students to have the opportunity to nourish their faith at Franciscan.

I am incredibly grateful of my experiences at FUS, and I am also thankful to my mom for supporting me.  When I initially told her that I was considering Franciscan (this was probably during my sophomore year of high school), she basically acted like it wasn’t an option.  I mean, it’s an 8-hour drive away.  That does sound unreasonable.  But eventually, she realized that we should at least check out campus and see what it was all about.

During the drive out to Ohio, I remember how long the ride felt.  I remember being somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania and telling my mom that we should just turn around because there was no way that I could go to college that far from home.  But the moment I stepped on campus, everything changed.

I knew almost instantly and without question that Franciscan was the place that I wanted to be.  It didn’t matter that the day of my visit was a dreary, early spring day.  It didn’t matter that everything was gray and that it was raining.  I joined a tour group led by four students.

I attended two classes to get a taste for the instruction.  I remember being surprised that class was started with an “Our Father.”  Attending public schools all my life, I wasn’t expecting to pray in class, even at a Catholic college.  I remember attending the noon mass where there wasn’t enough room for all of the students flooding into the chapel.  At the time of my visit, I was a young high school student,but I remember how the students were all so welcoming.  When they asked me where I was from, or how I was doing, I could tell that their questions were sincere and that they were waiting to hear my answer.

Fortunately, my mom had a similar experience.  We both knew that it would be difficult for me to be so far away.  I grew up in the same home during my whole life before Franciscan.  I had my dog and my mom at home, and that was it.  No dad, no siblings to keep her company while I was away.  I was scared of flying.  I was not the student that anyone expected would attend school so far from home.

But that seems to be the case in life.  Sometimes, the most unexpected or even scary events are the ones that end up being the most rewarding and fulfilling.

Although I was thrilled when I received my acceptance letter from Franciscan, I had also never been more terrified in my life.

I remember how I was so excited to graduate, but so fearful of leaving everything that I knew in Connecticut.  All summer after high school, I was basically in denial of the change that was about to come.  Little did I know that Franciscan was about to be even more amazing than I had ever dreamed.

The worst day was the end of orientation: the day that my mom had to drive back to Connecticut after we had driven out to Ohio and she stayed with me for the first few days of orientation, when parents were welcome.  I remember that family farewell mass.  Never in my life have I cried that hard.  Actually, that’s not quite the case anymore.  Never, until last year when I had to put my dog to sleep, had I ever cried that hard.  I didn’t even know what the homily was about because I was more focused on trying to quiet my crying.

Most crying is rather quiet and unobtrusive.  This was not that type of crying.  This was absolute sobbing.  The kind of crying where you are left gasping for air, your chest heaving up and down.  That was me and that was my mom during that farewell mass.  We could barely even say the sign of peace.  I remember how people with whom we shared the sign of peace looked at us with such sympathy in their eyes.  It was absolutely awful.

I remember how I continued to cry as my mom got into her car to drive away.  I went back to my dorm room, eyes red and puffy, and continued crying, but eventually I had to get cleaned up to go to the Dinner with Twelve Strangers.

Basically, during orientation, students were split into small groups to get to know each other.  Each of the small groups had dinner at the house of either a faculty member or an alumni.  Our female group joined a male small group for the dinner.  Before getting dressed, I had been psyching myself out.  I was sad, I was lonely, I just wanted to cry in my bed all day.  Being social didn’t really sound like my cup of tea.  Instead, I wiped away my tears, cleaned myself up, and joined my small group for the dinner.

At that dinner, I met some friends who I was close to for the remainder of college.  I also met a great guy who would end up being my boyfriend for about a year.  It was amazing how quickly that sad day turned into a fun, enjoyable one.

My small group at the dinner with 12 strangers
My small group at the dinner with 12 strangers

Other than a few hours of that first day without my mom, I was never homesick.  Franciscan was my new home.  I know that my mom hated when I would be home for a break and mention something about “going home,” meaning Franciscan when I said “home.”  But that is what it was for me: a second home.

So thank you, Mom, for not only allowing me to leave you and to attend Franciscan, but for supporting me throughout the entire process, even though it was hard on you.  Not everyone in my life at the time was supportive, but she was there for me the entire time, even though she was obviously not thrilled with the idea of me being 8 hours away.  Thank you for still being supportive when I stayed on campus twice for Easter and once or twice for Thanksgiving…and again when I decided to go to Ecuador instead of going home for spring break.

And ultimately, thank you Franciscan University of Steubenville, for not only preparing me to be strong disciple of Christ upon graduating, but also for preparing me to be the best possible teacher.

And now for a few pictures of some of my good memories while attending Franciscan:

Soaking up some sunshine
Soaking up some sunshine
Lots of afternoons spent studying and relaxing on the hill
Lots of afternoons spent studying and relaxing on the hill
Kayaking at Raccoon Creek
Kayaking at Raccoon Creek
Hanging out at the coffee house
Hanging out at the coffee house
Dunk booth
Dunk booth

29499_538102342880_2843258_n

Playing on a playground
Playing on a playground
Typical jumping picture
Typical jumping picture
Rope swing
Rope swing
Dinner with friends when we lived in Assisi Heights
Dinner with friends when we lived in Assisi Heights
March for Life in Washington, D.C.
March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Food and friends
Food and friends
One of my dorm rooms when I lived in a loft
One of my dorm rooms when I lived in a loft
Cheering on our friend's intramural team
Cheering on our friend’s intramural team
Working as a sports medicine assistant with the athletic trainer
Working as a sports medicine assistant with the athletic trainer
Intramural basketball team
Intramural basketball team
Playing intramural frisbee
Playing intramural frisbee
Working as a sports medicine assistant at a rugby game
Working as a sports medicine assistant at a rugby game

lake

Volunteering with children in Steubenville
Volunteering with children in Steubenville
ResQ and II X rapping at a coffeehouse
ResQ and II X rapping at a coffeehouse
Graduation
Graduation