Settling: Notes on Putting Down Roots

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

As I write this, I am somewhere over the American midwest, headed towards Dallas, Texas. If I had to guess, my plane is cutting across the sky where Tennessee and Missouri meet. Below me, I see a river and patches of farmland.

I am on the road again.

This time, I am flying from Kentucky back to New York City at the conclusion of a much-anticipated winter break. After a delay at my airport of origin, I am experiencing a reroute through Dallas in order to return to the Big Apple. While it’s totally out of the way to travel southwest with a destination in the northeast – I don’t mind. I love travel, especially by air. I love the vibe of airports, the anticipation of boarding a plane, the suspension of everyday life as the aircraft takes off and soars through time. I love the movement, I love the adventure.

Before moving away to college, I lived in the same house for 18 years. For me, moving away to college was an adventure akin to getting on the plane – the vibe was right, the spirit of anticipation was there. As I studied to become a teacher, I thought of all of the school districts in Kentucky where I could teach. From the far Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River – my opportunities were endless. I thought I would find myself teaching in the hills of Eastern Kentucky one year and in the Western Coal Fields another year. The idea of bouncing around the state was met with anticipation –  another sense of adventure.

After graduating from college, my living arrangements shouted “adventure.” I lived in South Korea with a Korean family for a year, taught in two separate school districts in Western Kentucky, and taught for three years in my own home county. My homes included an apartment situated on a busy main street, an apartment nestled between two retirees, my parents basement, and another little house. Now, as a New York City resident, I find myself living in an all-women’s living residence on the west end of the famed 34th Street.

However, between the movements, I found myself growing weary of the constant moves and change in jobs. Some changes were not my own choices, while some were. Yet, I longed for the days when I lived in the same little house on the same little farm. The adventure was fine, but it was beginning to grow old.

After moving to Manhattan, I started to make an effort to establish more roots in my local community. By nature (or social construction), New York City is an ever-changing place. One doesn’t move to Manhattan to settle down and raise a family – he or she moves there to say they lived in the heart of one of the best cities on the planet. It’s not a place of permanence for most people who live there. Instead, it’s a constant revolving door of people and ideas.

Despite the built-in opposition, I wanted to make Manhattan a home – if but for a little while. For example, many Catholic young adults who take their faith seriously want to find a parish in which they can connect. This can be tough for a myriad of reasons. I am no exemption, and in college, I was a notorious church hopper. However, after my first few weeks in my new home, I made an effort to register at a nearby parish. This was one small step to creating a home, to establish roots.

Finally, in big cities, the temptation to “wonder” is at an all-time high. I would wonder what it would be like if I lived in another borough of the city, if I had another job, if I could go and do so many other things. Yet, as I wrap up my first six months living in New York City, I found this “wonder” mentality detrimental – I couldn’t enjoy my blessings without wondering about everything else around me. This tiny shift in mindset alone helped me root my mind and heart in my current location – instead of allowing my mind to wander. Day-by-day, I root myself in my own reality and enjoy the city as it bustles and grows. The city is more vibrant, the world becomes a lovelier place to live.

Rootedness in our own culture is tough – we are always promised that something bigger and better is around the corner. We are encouraged to move around – to find what’s out there. Ambition is the new king of our hearts.

I encourage you, especially if you are making a move to a new city or new home – think about how you can cultivate rootedness – even if it is temporary. Maybe this looks like registering at a local parish or church, joining a social group, or intentionally making friends with your neighbors. For each of us, this looks different. However, I recommend that we all be still, if but for a moment, and reflect on how we can create homes and sanctuaries, right where we are.

Do It Anyway: A Guide for the Rest of Us

There is a famous poem attributed to St. Mother Teresa that goes something like this:

If you are honest, people may cheat you. / Be honest anyway / Give the world your best and it may not be enough / Do good anyway / If you find happiness, people may be jealous. / Be happy anyway.

I’m not sure if the beloved saint actually penned or quoted the poem, but it is surely needful in our current society. We find ourselves tangled in fear and hurt, and often, we’re afraid to do the right thing.

Lately, I’ve often thought of St. Mother Teresa and her impact on the world.

Earlier this year, I read an authorized biography of the saint from Calcutta, often moved by her ability to shun what the world finds important (awards, accolades), in exchange for what the world deems useless (the poor and marginalized). Before, I thought Mother Teresa was little more than a “coffee cup saint,” someone who said nice things that made inspirational mugs sell like hotcakes. Yet, the more I read, the more I discovered the power of love and how Jesus used Mother to change the world.

In December 2018, I began formation as a Lay Missionary of Charity (LMC) with the Missionaries of Charity (MC) sisters in Brooklyn, NYC. When I was a Protestant, I was a member of an ecumenical order of lay Benedictines and lay Franciscans. It was a good experience and a great introduction to monastic living in the “outside” world. After I became Catholic, I yearned for the rhythm of the monastic life, but I didn’t know where to turn.

I grew up familiar with the Dominicans who ran the local Catholic college and a few parishes near my home in rural Kentucky. Of course, I was acquainted with the Benedictines, but the Franciscan charism never appealed to me. After moving to New York, I considered formation with the lay Carmelites, but the charism also didn’t seem like a good match. I desperately wanted some “school” to help me follow Jesus better, but I was coming up short.

Yet, St. Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity always found a way to work their way into my daily life. A quote here, a reminder there. It was evident that that Jesus was pointed me towards formation with the LMCs. Honesty, I couldn’t believe that God would guide me to study the life of a saint who I believed was just okay and maybe good for a few quotes on social media. But, as Jesus often works, His plans are better than my own.

As I reflect on my brief time with the MC sisters and the small LMC group, I thought of my own spiritual practice, and how sometimes, it requires a nudge to “do it anyway.” Like the MC sisters, LMCs are required to participate in a variety of spiritual practices, such as praying the Angelus and praying some hours from the Liturgy of Hours. Sometimes, this can be taxing, and quite frankly, seem like an intrusion into my busy schedule. Reflecting on my entry into this new “school of love” with the LMCs, I present an updated version of the oft-quoted and oft-attributed Mother Teresa’s Do It Anyway. 

Do It Anyway: A Guide for the Rest of Us

Praying the Angelus will often seem a chore at noon, when your schedule is crammed packed. Pray it anyway.

Going to Mass during the week will be tedious and cause you to alter your life. Go to weekday Mass anyway.

Reading the Daily Readings may seem useless when your mind is filled with cares and worries. Read it anyway.

People will think you’re exclusive when you preach and offer them the message of Christ. Evangelize them anyway.

Your friends may not understand your joy when the world seems to crumble around you. Radiate joy anyway.

Praying for your enemies may enrage you and cultivate more anger for a brief time. Pray for them anyway.

Reaching out to the poor will require you to pour out yourself, sometimes more than you want. Reach out anyway.


May God bless you as we enter 2019. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Our Lady of Mercy, pray for us.

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST POST: Delight Yourself in the Lord by Allison Gingras

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I am excited to present a guest post from another digital friend and fellow Catholic blogger, Allison Gingras. May the joy of the Lord be your strength!

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Well, that seems easy enough. Though, I am not sure which intrigued me more when I first read it?  Whether it was wondering how one delights themselves in the Lord or which desire of my heart I longed to have fulfilled?

Continue reading “GUEST POST: Delight Yourself in the Lord by Allison Gingras”

Myths of a Different Kind: Two Falsehoods I Used to Believe About Catholicism

Solemnity of the Ascension // Our Lady of Fatima // Mother’s Day, 2018

It’s very common for inquirers about Catholicism to arrive in their RCIA classes or local parishes with misconceptions about the Faith. Often warned by well-meaning acquaintances about the dangers of the Catholic faith, those curious about Catholicism often have to work through this emotional and cultural baggage before (and sometimes after) receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

For those who convert from an Evangelical Protestant background, some “myths” run a common thread across denominational lines. Some of these common myths include the idea that Catholics worship Mary, Catholics must earn their way to Heaven, Catholics believe they can “just go to confession” (and keep on sinning), and that Catholicism rejects Biblical teaching in favor of man-made traditions.

For me, the experience was a little different.

Many Protestant groups teach that one only has to “accept Jesus” in order to secure salvation. Often, it is taught that salvation can never be lost, regardless of what the person does. Other groups teach that salvation is eternal, but if you continue to live a life of sin after acknowledging Jesus, then you probably weren’t really “saved” to begin with. Baptism is often presented as something one does as a sign of obedience after salvation, not as an act necessary for salvation.

Contrary to this dominant theology in Protestantism, my denomination taught the necessity of baptism for salvation and that eternal security is not a Biblical teaching. Since the Catholic Church teaches the necessity of baptism for salvation and the rejection of eternal security, I had no issue with this during my formation period.

However, there were other myths before my conversion that I carried with me into RCIA. Thankfully, these myths were resolved and I was able to understand more clearly what the Church teachers and how she operates in our world. While I’m not a professional theologian, hopefully I can help you untangle these misunderstandings and any other misunderstandings you may have, too.

Myth #1: Catholics Don’t Evangelize. A few months ago, I read an article (title and author I have since forgotten) about Catholic evangelization. Essentially, the author stated that helping  someone enter the Catholic faith was once almost unheard of. He mentioned that inquiring about Catholicism was like if a non-Italian walked up to someone of Italian descent and said, “I’d like to be Italian. Can you help me do that?” In case you didn’t know, you can’t change someone’s ethnicity.

I imagine, that at one time, Catholicism was easily viewed as a family tradition, rather than a relationship with God (which happens even today in all faith traditions to a degree). Often, for those born into a Catholic family, the idea of conversion may seem foreign or even odd. At one time, I thought people only converted to Catholicism because they were going to marry a Catholic. On reason I carried this belief was because I thought that Catholics simply did not evangelize.

However, when I was in RCIA and upon my confirmation, I discovered that this was farther from the truth. For example, the Saint Paul Street Evangelization creates street teams to encounter passerbys in public spaces in a non-threatening way. These teams often pass out medals, rosary beads, pamphlets, and Bibles to those who are interested. On a smaller scale, many Catholic parishes have envagelization teams. For example, my parish hosted a Discovering Christ and Sharing Christ sessions for those interested in telling their story of faith in social settings. Catholic evangelization is alive and well, even if you don’t see it shouted on your local street corner.

Myth #2: Catholics Don’t Care About the Bible. This myth is rampant, especially in some (but not all) Protestant churches. The accusations are varied: Catholics say a priest forgives you. That’s not in the Bible! or Catholics drink blood each Sunday. That’s not in the Bible! or Catholics observe Advent and Lent, plus they baptize babies who can’t consent. That’s not in the Bible! My personal favorite: Catholics don’t even read the Bible. They’re not allowed to! 

Unfortunately, many of these statements about Catholic doctrines not having a Biblical foundation are based on myths within a myth. Perhaps someone had heard a Catholic family member describe a faith practice incorrectly. Or, maybe someone has encountered a former Catholic who is angry with the Church (and is often poorly catechized), and is determined to spread their own understanding of Catholic teaching.

While I don’t have time to delve into the Biblical basis for Catholic teachings, I can say that Catholics have a strong reverence for the Bible as the inspired Word of God. If you attend any Catholic Mass, you will notice that the Mass is absolutely soaked in the words and story of the Bible. There are multiple readings: the Old Testament, a Psalm, often a second reading from the Epistles, and always, always, always a Gospel reading. That’s a reading from each part of the Bible each and every Sunday! In a three-year liturgical year cycle, a Catholic will have heard the entire Bible read. How awesome is that!

Another example, before receiving the Eucharist, Catholics say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only the say the words and my soul shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). So, each time we receive Communion, Catholics are reminded that though we are not worthy of God, He comes to each one of us in the Eucharist. There are so many ways that Catholics reverence the Bible, just in the Mass alone. In fact, Pope Francis admonished Catholics to carry our Bibles just like we carry our smartphones.

Food For Thought

If you’re a convert to Catholicism, are there any myths that you believed prior to your confirmation? If you’re a cradle Catholic, did you have misunderstandings that were cleared up upon further study? Are you a non-Catholic who may have a misunderstanding? If so, I’d love to hear your stories below. It’s important that we always promote the truth in charity and love. I look forward to reading your comments and stories. Have a blessed Sunday!

 

 

This Week: April 29-May 5

Love overcomes, love delights, those who love the Sacred Heart rejoice. – St. Bernadette Soubirous

I’ve always liked Mondays. It’s a new week: my emails are answered more quickly, the day is fresh, and it’s everything new. I pray your Monday is beyond blessed and you’re finding the joy of Christ in every moment.

What I’m Reading: At the start of the weekend, I finished Set Free: The Authentic Catholic Woman’s Guide to Forgiveness by Genevieve Kineke. Gevevive graciously sent me a copy of her book after reading my Catholic Stand article regarding the Feminine Genius and secular feminism.  Her book is a great study about as women, we can learn to forgive offenses from the smallest to the most horrendous. I highly recommend it. This week, I’m working my way through the Take Up and Read Rosary study, Ponder

What I’m Praying: This week, my fiance and I are going to re-start our habit of praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The Chaplet is a beautiful prayer with a special focus on the mercy of Jesus. In addition to my daily Bible study and prayers, I try to pray a full Rosary or at least a decade. The struggle has been real lately!

What I’m Wearing: This week’s handbag is the Coach Saddle 23. Dusty rose leather, gunmetal hardware, classic silhouette, and crossbody fit: it’s my new favorite purse. I love you, Coach.

What I’m Hearing: The highlight of my Sundays (or Monday morning) is listening to The Coaster. It’s a fun and lighthearted oasis in the world of Catholic podcasting.

What I’m Writing: This week I’m working on an article for Catholic Stand about St. Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes. In the past, I’ve written about Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Therese, and my conversion experience. During Holy Week, I was featured over at The Catholic Woman. This week, I hope to write a blog post about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Follow These Fine Accounts on Twitter: @DeanAbbott, @CatholicCoaster, @CarmeliteNick

What I’m Up To: Earlier this month, I was hired by a major charter school network in NYC. My new job starts this July and I am looking forward to the change. I will miss my family (especially my newborn nephew!) and wonderful parish family, but I am very excited about the opportunity to work in a new state and to live closer to my fiance.

Where I’m Going: In June, my mother and I are going on the Rhine Getaway with Viking River Cruises. My last encounter with Europe was 12 years ago on a 12 hour layover in France on a return trip from Israel. Like any 16-year-old, I drank a Diet Coke at midnight at the Eiffel Tower and thought I was very cosmopolitan. This cruise will take us from Switzerland to Amsterdam and I’m so excited!

Stay tuned and may God bless you this week!

 

Living Lent After Lent

It’s been nearly 20 days since Easter Sunday, and still, I feel like I’m living in the season of Lent.

Lately, life has thrown a lot of me. It’s not anything negative, but the simple busyness of life has come at me fast since Easter. I always feel like I’m running from one place to another, running on little sleep and 2-3 cups of coffee with Cinnabon creamer per day. My prayer and devotional life has suffered, and some days, I think, “I haven’t prayed, or I’ve prayed very little, today.” On these days, life is unsurprisingly more difficult.

But, today I forced myself to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. When I say “forced,” I don’t mean that it’s a requirement for Catholics to pray the Rosary. Rather, it’s totally optional, but a totally optional practice I had slacked on for the past few months. In the past, I had a habit of praying a Rosary every day, and it’s no coincidence that my life was better for it. In the busyness of Lent and Easter, the practice fell away. It was more difficult to get up in the morning for 20 extra minutes.

I let hustle take over.

But, today, I calmed my mind and I prayed. As this week has been yet another busy week for the books, I felt calmer and more at peace than I have for a while. It was as if a load was lifted from my shoulders. Just 20 minutes is all it took to achieve a noticeable peace in my daily life.

So, my advice to you is this: When the season of Lent is over and you still feel like you’re in Lent, take time to pray. Say an Our Father or say something in your own words. God is not seeking perfection, He only wants to hear from us. He knows what’s on your heart, but He wants so much for us to reach out to Him through prayer.

As this week draws to a close, think of how you can spend more time with God. Maybe it’s reading from the Daily Readings or simply sitting in quiet. No matter what that time is, it will never disappoint you.

Have a happy weekend!

 

 

 

For Everyone New: An Introduction

Hello everyone! Welcome back to the regularly scheduled programming.

At the beginning of Lent, I had a great idea. I thought that I would abstain from all social media, including blogging. In my mind, I imagined that this time off would help me recharge and revamp my writing ministry. As it turns out, the idea to fast from writing was not one of my brightest ideas. Since Easter, I’ve sluggishly turned to my keyboard, only to find myself staring at the blank screen. As it turns out, writing is a lot like exercising a muscle. The more you do it, the easier, and better, it becomes. Conversely, the less you write (or exercise), the more difficult the task is. So now, eight days after Easter, I’m finally writing to you.

Surprisingly, during the Lenten season, I picked up a few followers not only here on WordPress, but also on Facebook and Twitter. This post is for those who are new to Quelpart. However you ended up here, I am grateful. I hope my writing brings you the joy of Christ in your daily life.

What’s a “Quelpart?”

You can read more about the story behind my blog’s name HERE. In short, Quelpart is the French name of the island I lived on while teaching in Korea. But, the name means much more than that.

About Me

I’m Sarah. I was born, raised, and educated in Kentucky. I worked and lived in South Korea for a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved looking at and reading maps. My heart is always in East Asia. In the early morning, I rattle my rosary beads. By day, I’m a teacher. At night, I read books, write, and drink coffee. When I’m not working or reading or praying, I collect designer handbags. The wildest thing I’ve ever done is travel to Tijuana, Mexico for bariatric surgery.

If I’m not jetsetting or scouting New York City’s Flushing Chinatown with my Long Island fiance, you can usually find me at my parish’s adoration chapel. I’m a convert to Catholicism, and my only regret is that I wish I would have done it sooner. I love the Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy. I am devoted to our Blessed Mother, especially under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

About This Blog

Around here, I blog almost exclusively about the intersection of the Catholic faith and “real life.” Occasionally, I may mention my travels. But overall, this is a blog fascinated with the wild and sacred adventure of life with Jesus. I try to blog twice a week: sometimes more, sometimes less. Regardless, I pray you’ll stick around and keep reading.

to Him through Her,

Sarah