As I’ve done for the past three years (2014, 2015, 2016), here is my 2017 year in review. Last year, I was incredibly thankful for having met my new friends from Bible study and starting a new relationship. Now, I have even more to be grateful for this year. So here is what happened since last year:
-AJ and I rang in the new year at Devin and Elise’s wedding in Connecticut
-Then we went hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT and Kent Falls in Kent, CT the next day
-Frost Valley in Claryville, NY
-I met up with Lizzy in Philadelphia since she was there for clinicals for vet school (before graduating in May!!!)
-Camden Aquarium with AJ
-Hiking with AJ and Bolt in Freehold
-Hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT again with AJ
-Grandma’s birthday party
-Valentine’s Day dinner at Rooney’s in Long Branch
-Going to Absecon Lighthouse, the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Lucy the Elephant in Margate with AJ, Sway, and Denielle
-My mom’s birthday
-Escape room in Freehold with AJ, Daniel, and Brady
-AJ’s 25th birthday party
-United States Marine Corps Educator Workshop in Parris Island, South Carolina
-Sway’s Confirmation at the Easter Vigil
-Easter in Connecticut
-Hiking at Bushkill Falls for AJ’s birthday
-Finishing the Spartan Beast with AJ in Vernon, NJ
-Bible study at the Freehold Mall
-Battleship USS New Jersey in Camden
-Father Larry’s talk with Bible study
-Abby & Lauren’s Irish step dancing recital
-My cousin Lauren’s first communion
-Scoring AP exams in Tampa, Florida
-Acro yoga in my back yard
-4th of July in Connecticut for my grandpa’s birthday
-Vacation in LBI with my mom
-Churrascaria for my early 29th birthday dinner
-Acro yoga attempt #2 in my back yard
-Volunteering in Uganda with Go Be Love International. Sole Hope in Jinja
-Free day at the Nile River
-Volunteering with Go Be Love International at Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja
-Phil and Marissa’s wedding in Pennsylvania
-Chris and Grace’s wedding in Pennsylvania
-Visiting Franciscan University for the first time since I graduated 7 years ago
-Jersey Shore Half Marathon in Sandy Hook
-Getting engaged on October 9th
-Connecticut for a family party
-Pro-Life dinner at Doolan’s in Spring Lake
-Lizzy visited & we went Halloween bowling
-AJ’s cousin, Jared, took engagement photos for us
-Celebrated Thanksgiving with AJ’s family in Somerset, NJ
-Hiking at Hartshorne Park
-Christmas Eve in Connecticut at Grandma & Grandpa’s house
-Christmas Day in Connecticut: morning at Grandma & Grandpa’s house, shoveling snow, and then Christmas Day at Aunt Suzi & Uncle Bob’s house
-Young Adults in Faith Christmas celebration at St. Robert’s in Freehold
2017 was a great year. Looking back at January, when AJ and I had only been together for a month, I never expected that by New Year’s Eve, we would be planning a wedding, figuring out where we want to live, and having intense conversations about the future. So much can change in one year and I am thrilled to see what 2018 entails.
I thank God for all of His abundant blessings and pray for an amazing 2018.
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:
Sit at the feet of the Master (daily prayer)
Develop the attitude of the Master (be a servant)
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.
This past week, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, hosted a four-day parish mission led by Father Larry Richards. I was unable to attend the event on Monday and Tuesday due to prior obligations, but I made it to Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday focused on confession and Thursday focused on adoration and healing.
Wednesday, May 12 – Confession:
This is one of Father Larry’s most famous topics of discussion, so if you were unable to attend the event, you can see him speaking about confession at one of his other parish missions with a quick YouTube search. (Here is Part One on YouTube. It has four total parts). [see also: Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four]
Father Larry’s confession talk is extremely powerful in that he is able to make his audience examine their consciences in a way that probably goes deeper than ever before, but he is also able to cause them to feel absolute awe and wonder at God’s mercy.
At different times during the talk, I felt a combination of guilt, shame, gratitude, and overwhelming love.
He explained that mercy is when someone gives something good to someone who doesn’t deserve it. That’s exactly what Jesus did for each of us in dying on the cross. Jesus never sinned, yet He experienced excruciating pain in order to enable us to be forgiven for our sins and to one day reach the kingdom of Heaven. As Catholics, we know this to be true, but often we take it for granted.
Father Larry holds many conferences for men, so he initially spoke to the men and husbands in the audience. All of us, both men and women, should be praying daily, but it is the husband who is responsible for protecting and praying for his family. If that is not the case, he is not doing his manly duty and it is problems like this, sins of omission, that are often the most grave sins.
He spoke about the many scrupulous Catholics who are constantly going to confession over every little mistake, but they fail to realize that venial sins are forgiven during Mass. He says that Catholics should go to confession once a month, unless they have a mortal sin, in which case they must confess that as soon as possible.
He has a very blunt attitude about him, which is refreshing because he speaks the truth, not sugarcoating anything or trying to be politically correct. There are probably a lot of people who were offended by his words not because they were wrong, but because they were challenging. Any lukewarm Catholic was probably a bit frightened to understand that simply attending Mass on Sundays is not enough to inherit the kingdom of God. Even those of us who consider ourselves to be passionately Catholic were pushed in our faith, feeling humbled at the inadequacies he exposed in each of us. Priests were not exempt either, as he was very clear about the responsibility of priests to pray for their parishes.
He gave us a really good analogy of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He once was working on a farm and had to carry a cow to a different area. While he was walking with the calf on his shoulders, it started to urinate, getting all over him and even into his mouth. This is the way that we treat Jesus. All He wants to do is bring us home to Heaven, yet we urinate all over Him through our sins while he is simply carrying us on His shoulders.
I have heard priests discuss the Passion and I watch the film, The Passion of the Christ, every year during Lent to remember Jesus’ suffering, but never have I heard it described the way it was on Wednesday night.
People sometimes wonder whether Jesus can understand their pain when dealing with the loss of loved ones, heartbreak, or even physical pain. Asking that sort of question is the equivalent of slapping Jesus Christ in the face. Of course He can understand our pain. The question is, can we understand His pain?
While Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was sweating blood. Father Larry told us how our capillaries can burst when we are enduring significant stress and fear. This is what was happening to Jesus because although He accepted His death for us, that did not mean that he was immune to fear. He was terrified about the pain that he would soon experience.
Then, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss on the cheek. When we are experiencing heartbreak, we sometimes wonder if he can understand. Jesus didn’t date or marry, so how could He understand the pain of a breakup or divorce? But those questions show our lack of full understanding.
Jesus IS love. He loves everyone with a deeper love than we can ever imagine. He loved Judas, the man who betrayed Him with a kiss. Did He experience heartbreak in that moment? Absolutely. We cannot fully grasp the extent of God’s love while we live in these earthly bodies, so it is we who cannot understand this heartbreak, not Jesus.
Father Larry continued to describe the pain of His Passion in a more detailed way than I have ever heard before. He described the way Jesus was scourged and how the pieces of metal and sheep bone that were attached to the leather straps on the rod would not just slap Jesus’ skin, but tear it away. This reminds me of the scourging scene in The Passion of the Christ when the metal on the strap gets stuck in Jesus’ side and is then ripped away with an extra tug. I am unable to watch that moment in the film, yet this was the way the entire scourging process unfolded.
Father Larry described the crown of thorns as more of a cap of thorns. The thorns were not like those on your average rose bush; they were one to three inches long and he said that they would have pierced his eyebrows, ears, and even his skull.
All of this pain, and yet the actual crucifixion had not even begun. It was then that Jesus had to carry the wooden crossbeam. It was tied to his arms, but he was so exhausted from the scourging that Jesus could barely walk. If I was to fall down, I would catch myself with my hands, but every time Jesus fell, He landed flat on his face, with the wood of the cross smashing into the back of His head.
On most crucifixes, Jesus looks to be in pretty good shape. We don’t want to terrify the people who enter our churches by portraying Him in a more realistic way, with chunks of flesh removed from his body and other strips of flesh torn and hanging, but that was the reality of the crucifixion.
I have heard so many people who refuse to watch movies about the Passion because it’s too much for them to handle. I, too, prefer movies that lack that type of gore, but it is necessary to understand. Father Larry did not mince his words in talking about the crucifixion. It was absolutely gruesome, but we must realize that in order to be truly aware of the awesome gift Jesus gave to us in His death.
Once He was nailed to the cross, His body would sag down and forward. He would be gasping for breath, only able to breathe once he pulled himself up by the nails in his wrists. He only spoke seven times while on the cross, probably because every word was a struggle.
He was hanging there, experiencing more pain than we can ever imagine, yet He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was forgiving the people who were killing Him at the very moment of His crucifixion. Yet we sometimes find ourselves unable to forgive those who hurt us years ago. During the crucifixion, Jesus also established His mother, Mary, as our mother, when he said to John, “Behold your mother.” He gave us the gift of Mary, yet some Catholics refuse to honor her as they should because they want to focus on Jesus. We take Jesus’ gift of Mary and say, “No thanks, I’m good.” She is a gift from God and we must give her the love and gratitude that she deserves as mother of our Savior. Father Larry told us how he completed St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary and now wears a chain on his wrist to represent how he is a slave to Jesus through Mary.
Because God cannot be near sin, Father Larry explained that Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” when He had accepted all of our sins. God could not be with Jesus in that moment because Jesus was sin, which could only be overcome through His death.
With that, many of us were already feeling quite guilty, knowing that we had a hand in Jesus’ death. I’ve met people who don’t like to say “crucify him” aloud when we read the Passion during Lent. But although we didn’t say that word for word, we say it every time we sin. We are the ones hammering those nails into Jesus’ hands and shoving the crown of thorns into His head with every sin we commit.
At that point, Father Larry started to review the examination of conscience with us.
When people hear the term mortal sin, they often think about murder, adultery, and devil worship. But mortal sin has three facets:
As a practicing Catholic who understands the Church’s teachings, that means that any time I commit a serious sin, it is probably a mortal sin since I know the teachings and I have chosen to commit that sin. That is absolutely terrifying since it only takes one mortal sin to end up in hell.
Missing Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation is a mortal sin unless we were really sick or otherwise unable to attend, yet there are tons of Catholics all over the world who are not at Mass each week. Sure, some of them fail to realize that is sinful, but many of them do and are therefore culpable.
When Father Larry spoke about the first commandment about not having false gods, he explained that most people never confess that sin, but all of us are guilty of it. Unless God is always first in our lives, then we are culpable of that sin. We often value money, success, and relationships more than God, which is shown in our priorities. If we don’t pray daily, we definitely are guilty of this sin.
Father Larry did not shy away from sins of a sexual nature. This can be an awkward subject for many, so some Catholics shy away from this topic, but it is a sin that so many people struggle with. He admitted to dealing with his own lustful temptations on a daily basis. I think it’s extremely honorable for a priest to stand up in front of over a thousand people and admit to that. It also helps us to realize that we are not alone, that we all face temptation, but that we also all have the strength to avoid that temptation.
He also said how too many people focus too much on feeling bad about their sins of lust while forgetting about the sins of omission, arguably the worst sins.
He said how he often asks people in confession what they have done to help the poor and whether or not they pray every day. Failing to do either of those things is much worse than many of the sexual sins that we focus on. We should all be helping those in need as much as we can, giving 10% of our income away.
We must confess the sin if we ever had an abortion or helped anyone to get an abortion. He suggests making a good confession and then asking God to reveal the child’s gender. Then they would name the child, pray to him or her in Heaven, and ask that child for forgiveness. They will then be united one day in Heaven.
It’s also a sin if we use artificial contraception. This is a topic that many priests avoid. Many people don’t want to make too many waves, but we must not forget about pivotal Catholic teachings as a result. They want to pick and choose which teachings they believe in, but that is not how it works. When we think back to Jesus’ suffering and death, we know that it was a result of each of our sins. It is not up to us to decide.
Many frequently people say “oh my God!” That is a sin that used to be punishable by death. Just because we hear other Catholics and sometimes even priests or nuns say it does not mean that it is not a sin. We have no right to take the Lord’s name in vain.
People often think they’re safe in terms of the fifth commandment since they haven’t killed, but we commit that sin every time we feel anger. Anger is not of God. Father Larry admitted to struggling with this on a daily basis. Again, it was refreshing to understand that we are not alone in our struggles. Priests aren’t immune from temptation and sin either.
After he reviewed the examination of conscience, we said the Act of Contrition aloud. There were eleven priests who would be hearing confessions and he told us to be quick, not using it as a time for counseling since there were so many people there. He also said that if we were one of those scrupulous people who had just been to confession three days ago, we needed to go to the back of the line to allow other people to confess their sins.
The next night, he said how he ended up hearing confessions until 12:10 am and how there were some people there who had not been to confession in over fifty years. He wanted to make sure that people in situations like that would not have to stand in the back of a line, possibly changing their mind and leaving with all of that sin hanging onto them.
Although I go to confession regularly, I felt even more renewed after confession on Wednesday. I had never delved that deeply into an examination of conscience. I had never felt so guilty about the sins that I have committed but simultaneously, I had never felt so loved and grateful for God’s mercy.
When my CCD students went to confession this year, I explained how fortunate they would be if they ever died on a day they went to confession. They were obviously taken aback, but Father Larry explained the same thing, how if we died following a good confession, we would go straight to Heaven. He even mentioned his movie idea of a priest who performs confessions and then slits the throats of the person who just confessed his or her sins since that would get them straight into Heaven.
Father Larry promised that during this mission, nobody would ever be bored and that their lives would be changed forever. Through his animated, enthusiastic speech, jokes, and storytelling, we were definitely never bored. And our lives were definitely changed forever. I will never consider my examination of conscience the same way I had before hearing this talk. I am so grateful that I was able to attend Wednesday night’s talk and I hope to be able to share Father Larry’s messages with the people who were not able to attend the mission.
A little over a year ago, I started attending hot yoga classes. I have Lyme disease and I find that sweating helps to decrease my symptoms. In Connecticut, I belonged to a gym that had a sauna, but here in New Jersey, I was unable to find an affordable gym that had one.
Instead, I decided to try hot yoga and I have had very positive results.
However, I remember hearing a Catholic priest warn us against yoga back when I was in high school. I hadn’t ever practiced yoga at that point, so I didn’t look into his reasoning. More recently, I decided to look into the stance of the Catholic Church on yoga.
“Catholics should not participate in any of the “spiritual” aspects associated with yoga, but technically can do the actual physical exercises. However, many people who practice yoga caution that it is often difficult, if not impossible, to separate the exercises from the meditations.
For example, a common mantra repeated in yoga is ‘So’ham’ that roughly translates to ‘I am the universal self’. This focus on the self is contrary to the focus on God to which we are called. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: ‘Christian prayer… flees from impersonal techniques or from concentrating on oneself, which can create a kind of rut, imprisoning the person praying in a spiritual privatism which is incapable of a free openness to the transcendental God.'”
“Should you take up yoga? As a spiritual path, yoga is incompatible with Christian spirituality. But if you can separate the spiritual/meditational aspects of yoga from the body postures and breathing techniques common to yoga, then you might be able to use those postures and techniques beneficially for health. If you’re at all unsure of your ability to do so, you may well be advised to find another form of exercise.
It is important for Catholics to know that yoga should neither be hallowed nor damned. As a spiritual path for Eastern peoples unfamiliar with Christianity, it may serve to assist them as ‘they seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust’
On the other hand, Christians seek as the goal of their prayer to ‘flow into the way to the Father, which is how Jesus Christ has described himself. In the search for his own way, each person will, therefore, let himself be led not so much by his personal tastes as by the Holy Spirit, who guides him, through Christ, to the Father’.”
So to me, it seems that the practice of yoga could be acceptable if a person practices for the exercise and breathing techniques without the spiritual aspect. That is what I do in my yoga class. I like to work on my strength and stretching but I do not consider it to be a spiritual activity. I also prefer certain instructors over others.
One of the instructors always reads from a yoga book that has lots of spiritual passages. Every time I hear them, I think about how everything that she is saying is good, but it should be centered around Jesus rather than “the universe.” “The universe” is meaningless. It is God who reigns supreme; the universe is simply His creation.
So when she reads these passages, I either ignore them, or I think about the way they relate to God.
I do the same thing when it comes time to set an intention. The instructors tell us to set an intention for our practice, a place to send our energy. I don’t believe in that part of the practice. I don’t think that by exercising, my “energy” is going to go heal my sick loved one. If it did, I would go work out for hours a day to cure the ailing people across the world. That’s just not reality.
So when it comes time to set an intention, I either just wait for us to move on, or I say a prayer in my mind since I believe that saying a prayer to God is more significant than choosing some place to send my energy.
At times, yoga also seems too selfish to me. The instructors tell us to pat ourselves on the back for giving up 75 minutes to ourselves each time. Yes, we must take care of ourselves, but some of the instructors seem too interested in this, which is opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church. They act as though we are the center of the universe, which I do not believe to be true.
So I will continue to attend my yoga classes, but I will substitute a prayer for an intention and I will focus on my practice as a physical exercise rather than a spiritual exercise.
I am currently still in a state of shock. I cannot believe the ways that God has blessed me as of late.
I had recently been feeling very stressed financially. For the first time, I owed money back when I completed my taxes. So instead of receiving at least $800 as I had expected, I actually owed $1200.
I was also overwhelmed because I have to decide whether to fix some things on my car or to purchase another used car. Plus, Friday night was one of my payment deadlines for my mission trip to Africa. All of these numbers and bills were piling up and I wasn’t sure if I would have to drain my savings to get by. I felt like maybe instead of volunteering, it would be more prudent to have a summer job, since I technically could work full time in the summer (since I’m a teacher), though I would prefer not to.
I knew somewhere deep in my heart that God would provide, but at the same time, I saw dollar signs looming on the horizon and I couldn’t help feeling worried about it.
Had I made a bad decision in my choice to volunteer in Africa this summer? Maybe I was taking on more than I could handle financially. Should I have opted for a cheaper, week-long mission trip somewhere in South America, which would have been more affordable?
Had I been too lavish in buying mainly organic produce, and meat? Maybe I should risk the health concerns and go back to the antibiotic-infested meat and fish and pesticide-rich fruits and vegetables. I really didn’t want to, but somehow, my finances had become a burden.
A few weeks ago, I was receiving phone calls from Franciscan University, my alma mater. I knew they were calling for donations, as they typically do once a year. I love that school so much, so I donate every year, but this year the timing was less than ideal.
After a week or so of intentionally not answering the phone, I finally picked it up one night, deciding that I needed to show God that I did, in fact, have faith in Him. I couldn’t hoard my income and expect any fruit to come from that. So despite my anxiousness about my finances, I made a donation to Franciscan University.
On a separate occasion, I was listening to my friend on the Catholic radio station. It was their fundraising drive and initially, I planned not to donate because I knew that I already had too much to take care of financially in my own life.
But eventually, something made me realize that I couldn’t have that attitude. I had to give with the faith that things would work out for me in the end if I could be generous to those who needed it.
And sure enough, that is exactly what happened.
By Friday evening (April 22nd), I needed a certain amount of money in my account for my mission trip to Uganda, followed by the final payment that was due by May 22nd.
All day, I left the donation page open on my computer, knowing that I would have to just put the amount (over $1500) on my credit card and hope that I would be able to raise some more money in the future.
That evening, almost immediately before I was about to put it on my credit card, I received a phone call from my mom that a family member of mine was interested in helping to make a substantial donation to my trip.
I almost burst out crying. I am beyond humbled right now and incredibly gracious.
I feel so guilty for the amount of stress I have been experiencing lately with regard to my financial situation. I should have maintained my faith in God, but I just kept doubting myself and my choices.
Yesterday during Mass, I couldn’t stop smiling and thanking God for His abundant blessings.
I am so glad that I made those donations to Franciscan and the Catholic radio station (in addition to my regularly scheduled donations, like the monthly $38 that goes to my sponsored child in Rwanda through Compassion International.)
When we give, we also receive. That is so true in this very moment.
At the time that I signed up for the mission trip to Uganda, I truly felt that was my calling. I absolutely love having a teacher’s schedule so that I can travel to volunteer each summer. I have been blessed to experience a variety of mission trips serving in Ecuador, Haiti, Rwanda, and Nicaragua. When deciding where to go this summer, the description of the Uganda trip immediately stood out to me.
We will be working in a children’s detention facility through Sixty Feet (prisons, the justice system, and justice reform is something that I care about quite a bit). Then we will be working with Sole Hope, which holds medical clinics to remove jiggers from the feet of children (and adults) who have been infested. It then provides them with shoes.
Everyone is on this earth with a certain calling. One of my callings is to teach. Another is to volunteer, specifically overseas, which is something that many people are afraid of, or simply uninterested in.
I regret how I had been second guessing my decision to join this mission trip because of finances and I am now more confident than ever that God has had a hand in forming this team and that there is a specific reason why that trip is the one that stood out to me.
I am absolutely astounded by the way everything happened this weekend. I am beyond grateful to everyone who made a contribution to this trip. I have received donations from close loved ones, to anonymous donors, to people who I have never met, but they know one of my friends of family members. I am completely humbled by all of the support and I will continue to keep all of my donors in my prayers as I prepare for this mission trip.
In the end, God has our backs in every situation. He is there for us and if we are able to accept that help and turn to Him when we are in need, we will reap great blessings.
We must give without knowing whether it’s a prudent financial decision because He will pay us back in ways we cannot even imagine. We must maintain our generosity even when it seems most difficult to do so.
“Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” – Deuteronomy 15:10
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” – Proverbs 3:27
It’s so easy to become engrossed in the news right now, watching Trump’s every move as new president. So I would rather take some time to reflect on this past Sunday’s Gospel reading from Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Blessed are the poor in spirit. My 7th grade CCD students were confused about this one. They thought that “poor in spirit” meant that God was speaking about people who lack faith. I knew that wasn’t it, but I realized that I was also unsure about the actual meaning by the phrase “poor in spirit.”
I like the way that this verse was explained here:
Blessed are those who realize they are spiritually bankrupt, for this realization turns them to God, without whom they cannot fulfill what they are created to do and be. Much of the rest of the sermon rips away from us the self-delusion that we are capable of acquiring a state of blessedness on our own. It aims to produce in us a genuine poverty of spirit.
What is the practical result of this blessing? If we are poor in spirit, we are able to bring an honest appraisal of ourselves to our work. We don’t inflate our résumé or boast about our position.
Blessed are they who mourn.
He promises to comfort those who are experiencing sorrow. I know that these words have been a source of encouragement to me in times of struggle and sadness. I had faith that things would get better and that even if it took a while, God would remain by my side, comforting me through it all.
Blessed are the meek.
The word meek reminds me of someone like Mother Teresa / St. Teresa of Calcutta. Our society does not view the meek person with high regard. Our society favors the outgoing, energetic, charismatic personalities.
But with God, that is not the case. It is those who are humble and who do not boast who will inherit the land.
Those who work hard day in and day out without complaint. Those who volunteer in order to promote good in the world rather than those who volunteer for the acknowledgment and accolades. They are the ones who deserve to inherit God’s finest gifts.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
These are the people who, although sinners, thirst to lead a holy life. They acknowledge their shortcomings and failings and try to improve in order to become even more worthy of God’s love. It is they who will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful.
These are the people who forgive those who have wronged them. This reminds me of the Dylan Roof case. After he killed those people who were at the end of a church Bible study, many of the deceased victims’ family members offered kind words of peace and forgiveness.
I can’t imagine how it must feel to have my loved one murdered. It would be difficult to forgive the assailant. But that is what many of these people did.
It will be people like that to whom God will show his mercy. Their kind actions will be remembered when it comes time for their ultimate judgement.
So many people today harbor anger and ill will toward their fellow brothers and sisters. They hold grudges over inconsequential things that don’t even matter in the grand scheme of life. They are being called to step back and show some mercy rather than anger and hatred.
Blessed are the clean of heart.
It is the pure who will see God in all of His glory. When our souls are stained and blemished by sin, we cannot easily see God and His love for us. We end up dying to our sins and falling away from Him even though he is always there for us.
It is those with pure hearts who have the advantage of seeing God and understanding Him more full than those who are damaged by sin.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
It is they who strive to unite people who will be called children of God rather than those who separate themselves from others.
We are called to live peacefully, being slow to anger, open to forgiveness, and not dwelling on past wrongs.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
This last part is the section that stands out to me the most. Blessed are we who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Blessed are we who ridiculed, insulted, and hated because of our faith in God. Jesus was persecuted in the worst possible way, ultimately leading to his crucifixion.
We will never experience the full pain that Jesus experienced in dying for our sins, but that is not to say that life will we easy. If we are truly following God’s will for us and his teachings, we will not always have the popular opinion. We may find ourself the minority in some situations. We may find people who dislike us simply because we call ourselves Christians. The path of following God isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
Rejoice. That’s a pretty significant word to use there. We must not just accept these insults, but rejoice in them. We must take joy in this persecution. That’s difficult advice to follow. Sometimes our path in following Christ becomes difficult. People think that we’re crazy. People hate us. People utter false lies against us and the Catholic Church in general.
It is during these times when we must rejoice, with confidence that we are following the truth and doing what is right in order to achieve eternal salvation one day.
So while I, too, am nervous to see what happens with our country over the next few years, the Beatitudes give me a feeling of comfort and hope in the future.
I previously posted a blog about a few positive changes that have happened thus far as a result of Trump being elected.
The US will no longer fund abortions for overseas NGOs. I’m happy about that.
But there are some other steps that he is taking that are pretty scary.
I’m not a fan of Trump, but I also don’t think he is the devil. I do not like the idea of either him or Clinton being in office, but here we are, with America’s decision made. I am definitely uneasy about our future.
First off, I know that I have a lot to learn about politics. But I really felt that even if Trump was elected, he would need the approval from Congress to enact major changes. Apparently, I was wrong. He just keeps signing executive actions. He is eliciting a great deal of fear in a huge portion of the American population.
The Mexican Border Wall
He continues to speak about his his plan to build the wall on the border of the U.S. and Mexico. One way he plans to do this is either taxing Mexico on its exports or taxing the U.S. on the imports. Basically, that leaves us with two scenarios.
Higher taxes on Mexico – a country that already has a great deal of poverty
Higher taxes on American consumers on products that they purchase from Mexico
One of my friends from high school is a zookeeper and she posted this article about how Trump’s wall threatens 111 endangered species. His tax hike will already pose problems, but depending on his plan for the actual wall itself, he could potentially wreak havoc on many species of animals that are already endangered.
He wants a plan for fighting ISIS ready by the military in 30 days. He wants a “comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS” with no option for “accommodation or negotiation.”
I am not involved in the military, but it seems to me that 30 days might not be an adequate amount of time to plan a way to defeat a group that has been causing such chaos across so many different locations.
He has decided to ban refugees from certain countries from entering our country. Refugees from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia,Yemen, Sudan, and Libya are blocked for 120 days. Syrians are blocked indefinitely. These are all countries that are predominantly Muslim.
He denies that this ban is anti-Muslim, but that is precisely what it seems to be.
Pope Francis recently said, “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.”
Refugees are not the problem in our country. Most refugees are people who are fleeing dangerous situations. They are trying to save their lives and the lives of their families.
Fortunately, a judge filed a lawsuit to block part of this plan. According to an article on Yahoo, “It argued that the order violates a 1965 law that banned discrimination in immigration based on national origin.”
The lawsuit “will stop officials from removing individuals with approved refugee applications, holders of valid visas and people from the affected countries who have been authorized to enter — pending completion of a hearing on the matter in court.”
He plans to authorize work to finish the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe relies on the area in which the pipeline needs to be finished for their water. The tribe is concerned that the pipeline is a “high risk that culturally and historically significant sites will be damaged or destroyed” and its fear for the safety of its drinking water supply, according to this article.
Trump has made it clear that he is not against the use of torture in certain circumstances. Thankfully, he said that he will let the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “override” him. Mattis opposes the reinstatement of torture because experts have found that it is not an effective way to get information out of our enemies.
Trump disagrees with the studies that had been performed, and finds that “it does work.” During his campaign, Trump mentioned reinstating waterboarding, among other, even worse forms of torture.
This is the exact reason why I felt so conflicted about the election in the first place. I could not vote for Clinton because of her drastic views that would perpetuate a culture of death. But I also could not vote for Trump with his crass, derogatory comments, and plans that in my mind do not honor the dignity of the human person.
I have confidence in the American people and hope that if enough people stand up against Trump for certain things like the pipeline or the refugee situation, maybe something will change.
Despite my faith in God, I feel hesitant about the future of our country. I pray that He will guide Trump to make decisions that will benefit the good of not only Americans, but those in other countries as well. I know and trust that He can do all things. I have faith that He is with us.
As I’ve done for the past two years (2014: My Year in Review, 2015: My Year in Review), here is my 2016 year in review. Everyone seemed so eager to see the passing of 2016, but I don’t feel that way at all. While I am excited to see what this next year of life brings me, I am content looking back at all that happened in 2016. I feel beyond blessed at how different my life is today, January 2nd, than January 2nd last year. There are so many people I didn’t even know last year today who I am now happy to call my friends. I had a great year and I look forward to an even better 2017.
-I started off the new year in San Antonio, Texas, watching fireworks exploding all over the place at the passing of midnight and playing lots of games like jumbo Jenga before flying back to Jersey
-Annual trip to Frost Valley in Claryville, NY
-The end of my last relationship
-Caidin came to visit and we went to Twin Lights in Highlands
-My mom traveled to Israel / Tel Aviv / Jerusalem / Bethlehem / Rome for her birthday pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She got to renew her baptismal vows in the Jordan River.
-I traveled to Brazil for Spring Break. First, I was with my sister, Vanessa, and my brother-in-law, Carlos, for Easter. We went to see an amazing waterfall.
-Then I went to Manaus for my grandma’s 99th birthday. I am so thankful that I got to go and spend some time with her because that was the second and last time I would ever see her.
I also got to see lots of other family members while there and I went swimming with river dolphins with two of my uncles.
-My mom’s 60th birthday
-Although my mom’s birthday was in March, we had a family party for her in April
-My cousin, Dan, graduated from UConn
-I ran the Run the Hook 10k in Sandy Hook, NJ
-I went to senior prom to see my students
-Finished my first year teaching in New Jersey
-Traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to grade AP English Language & Composition exams with my friend from DHS, Elise
-While in Kansas City, I also got to see my friend, Kristin, from high school, who is now a zookeeper at the Kansas City Zoo
-Ran the Fairfield Half Marathon and set a personal record of 1:55
-Went to Connecticut for my grandpa’s birthday party
-Ran the Belmar five miler
-My friend, Juan, came to visit me in Jersey
-Met on Monday nights with the Belmar Area Catholic Young Adult group that I helped run
-Through the Belmar young adult group, I met my friend Gabriella, and through her, my Bible study, which has been such an amazing blessing and has brought me so many new friends
-Went to the sand castle competition in Belmar
-Went to Long Beach Island for a week with my mom
-I turned 28 in Long Beach Island
-Ran the River to Sea Relay race with an awesome group of people to raise money for Covenant House
-I started riding my bike all around the shore
-Traveled to Nicaragua with Living Water International
-We helped to drill a well to bring clean water to a rural village
-We also taught hygiene lessons and Bible stories to the women and children. I helped to translate.
-My friend, Lizzy, visited since she was in Philadelphia for vet clinicals, so we had a beach day
-Worked on improving my yoga and handstands
-Hung out with new friends from Bible study
-As of the 1st, I have officially lived in New Jersey for one year
-Started my second year of teaching in New Jersey
-My Brazilian grandmother passed away right before her 99 1/2 birthday
-Went to the Philadelphia Zoo with my friend, Adam
-Went kayaking with my friend, Adam
-Ran the Jersey Shore Half Marathon in Sandy Hook
-Tenth Avenue North concert with my friend, Amanda
-Went to Catholic Underground in NYC with friends from Bible study
-More kayaking with friends
-Ran the Atlantic City Marathon. My mom and my friend, Adam, came to cheer me on
-I saw whales a few times from the beach in the fall
-I went swimming in the ocean the day before Halloween
-I hosted our weekly Bible study once at my house in November. It was tight to squish in 15 people, but we managed.
-Bar Crawl in Asbury Park to raise money for Covenant House
-Did some November stand up paddling and kayaking in the ocean in my wetsuit from my uncle
-Kayaking Shark River with my friend, Kate
-Home to Connecticut for Thanksgiving
-Went to see the ice sculptures in Tinton Falls
-Out in Asbury for my friend, Stacy’s, birthday
-Weekend in the Poconos for Sway’s 25th birthday
-New relationship with AJ on December 11th
-Graham cracker gingerbread house building with AJ
-Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house
-Christmas day at my aunt and uncle’s house
-Devin & Elise’s New Year’s Eve wedding with AJ
So here is goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017. This year should be another great one, filled with more adventures!
I was watching an Ascension Presents video today from Father Mike Schmitz, entitled “Advent: More than a Chocolate Calendar.” If you’re interested, you can view the video below:
Father Schmitz talks about how Advent is a time of joyful preparation for Christ’s coming. Then he discusses the difference between joy and happiness:
“Joy is the abiding sense of well-being that comes from the fact that I know that God loves me.”
“Joy is not dependent on circumstances.”
“Joy is a choice.”
“I know the Father knows and loves me, despite my circumstances.”
These messages about joy really speak to me because I have felt this way quite a bit lately. I feel truly joyful. But that doesn’t mean that life is perfect.
Life on earth can never be perfect because true perfection can only be found with God, which we will only encounter if and when we reach our ultimate goal of our union with Him in Heaven.
If joy depended upon our earthly circumstances, then nobody would be truly joyful. There will always be suffering, whether it is our own suffering or seeing the pain of others, especially loved ones.
There will always be issues at work, within our families, in our relationships, with our friends, within our country, politics, and natural disasters.
If we wait for perfection in order to feel happy, then we will wait until death.
But joy is different. I can say that I am joyful right now because I am so grateful for the ways that God has blessed me and the ways that my relationship with Him has grown. Sure, there are still obstacles, but I know that He is with me, guiding me through life’s trials.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” -Psalm 23:4
Father Schmitz says that Advent has three main goals:
To worship Jesus
To celebrate His coming
To prepare for His second coming
He then poses an interesting question: “If Jesus came today, would there be any time for him?”
Our world, especially the United States, is so busy. This time of year is particularly stressful and overwhelming for many people.
Unfortunately, Christ often gets left out of Christmas. People instead focus on buying presents, putting up Christmas trees/lights/decorations, baking Christmas cookies, attending ugly sweater parties, sending Christmas cards, making gingerbread houses, drinking egg nog, cooking, and traveling to be with family.
None of those things is bad to do. But sometimes we get too wrapped up in the material aspects of Christmas instead of remembering the whole point — Jesus Christ.
Even traveling to visit family can sometimes hinder us. Some people end up missing church services because they are driving to visit family. But the holiday wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Jesus. He needs to remain the priority, or else what are we really celebrating?
If Jesus came to your house knocking on your door right now, would you have time for him? Would you be able to fit him in somewhere in the middle of that to-do list and that schedule of events? Or would you be so busy that you wouldn’t even notice the knock at the door? Would you ignore Him and continue moving forward with the hustle and bustle of the holiday?
It’s great that people focus more on family during the Christmas season, but we must remember to also focus on Jesus.
He is, in fact, the reason for the season, after all.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.