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 – On Choosing a Nun’s Life: The Road Less Taken by Christina M. Sorrentino

Welcome to the Fifth Sunday of Lent. I pray your time of reflection and sacrifice is bringing you closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we progress through the weeks, I pray that you have found my Lenten series of guest posts to be a blessing in your spiritual walk. Today, it is my pleasure to host Christina M. Sorrentino, a digital friend and fellow blogger. Christina is an aspiring nun and she’s sharing her vocation story today. May you be blessed by Christina’s witness to the faithfulness of Christ.

“And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

-Luke 1:38

Growing up I had never been around religious sisters as my entire education was in the public schools, and it was not until I was an undergraduate in college that one day while walking to class I happened to turn around and there behind me was a Daughter of St. Paul. I remember how seeing that sister in her blue habit bought a smile to my face that day while I thought to myself, “What are the odds on a public college campus there would be a religious sister”? That is the first time that I remember ever encountering a religious sister.

The thought of becoming a nun never entered into my mind until I was in my early twenties and met a young seminarian who was joyful and zealous about his vocation to the priesthood. I recall sitting with one of my friends at dinner one evening and admitting to her that seeing this seminarian preparing for his upcoming ordination inspired me to begin thinking about my own vocation, and I said, “I think I want to be a nun”. I was terrified at such a thought and pushed it right out of my mind almost immediately after I made the statement. Where would such a thought come from, me a nun? How could I give up my dream of becoming a teacher, a dream I had worked so hard to attain my entire life and instead enter into the convent? I was only a year away from a bachelor’s degree and having a career, and I was not ready to be open to the will of God at that time in my life.

Fast forward after several years of teaching, and having the experience of a lifetime in my dream career I started to think about becoming a religious sister again, and a gentle nudge to consider the convent came back to me. Now in my mid-twenties I finally felt that I had reached a point in my life that I could be open to God’s plan for my life. I loved my job, and I knew that I could go about living the rest of my life working and living a normal life like majority of everyone else, but I felt I wanted more in my life. I had this burning desire to not only be happy in my life, but to have this deep feeling of being content, and ultimately living a life of complete and total satisfaction and fulfillment. There was a moment for me kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament after mass one Sunday when God confirmed for me that I need to be open to His will, and I felt content with such a feeling, although scared of what this meant for me, and how others would respond to this choice.  But I was overcome with this strong desire to want a more intimate relationship with Christ in a way that could only be between a religious sister and her divine spouse. I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me and found such a deep sense of peace in having a call to religious life. I am also blessed to have received support and encouragement from the priests in my life, and through their vocation I have been continuously inspired to fulfill my own vocation.

I will be entering Marycrest Convent with the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, a contemplative-missionary religious community, on September 8th, the Feast of the Birth of Mary. How beautiful to receive a date on a Marian feast day! I first learned about the Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate from the Council Superior of Women Religious website and the magazine of the Sisters, The Parish Visitor, given to me by one of the

Religious Sisters

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priests at my parish, which further confirmed for me I needed to visit this community. The Sisters help fallen away Catholics to have a deeper relationship with Christ and to find their way back home to the Church. Such a charism of imitating the Good Shepherd and striving to bring the lost sheep home truly has touched my heart. They have a devotion to Our Lady and pray the Rosary daily as a community, and each day also have holy mass, Eucharistic adoration, meditation, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours together. Their life of prayer being centered on Jesus that expands out into to their apostolate missions makes them contemplative-missionaries, and searching for a community that is both contemplative and active was an important part of my discernment journey. I hope as a religious sister to be able to help others to come back to the Church and to know the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Christina M. Sorrentino is a millennial, cradle Catholic who is an aspiring religious sister, and a blogger and writer in Staten Island, New York. She is the author of Called to Love A Listening Heart – A Book of Catholic Poetry. She has contributed to Blessed is She, Pursued by Truth, Pilgrim – A Journal of Catholic Experience, Leonie’s Longing, Catholic New York, and the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals. She blogs about faith and discernment at “Called to Love a Listening Heart”. You can also find Christina on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Back to Basics: Learning More About the Catholic Faith

I have met many Catholics who have said, “I want to know more about the Faith, but I just don’t know where to start.” Or, “I’ve read the Catechism a few times, but I still can’t sort a lot of it out.” Even though I attended and went through a fantastic RCIA program that taught me quite a bit about Catholicism, there are still odds-and-ends questions about the faith I’ve had over the course of this year. And sometimes, when a Google search doesn’t quite cut it, you need a live person to help you sort out any questions you might have.

This is where Twitter steps in.

I’m a frequent Twitter user, and I believe it’s no accident that I encountered Larry Ford, AKA “Joe Sixpack,” a self-proclaimed “every Catholic guy” who just happens to be a Marian Apologist, author, and creator of the What We Believe…Why We Believe It bulletin insert series. Like so many of us, Larry is a covert to the Faith and he has a passion for sharing it with others. However, Larry’s work is not only confined to Twitter. He uses his own apostolate, Joe Sixpack Answers, to evangelize anyone who will read or listen about Catholic teachings.

A Digital Outreach

In a increasingly secular society where up to 80% of Catholics deny the reality of hell around 75% deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, effective evangelization is needful. In my personal experience, Catholic evangelization is often non-existent or it’s weighed down with terms and phrases that complicate already complex doctrines.

As an “every Catholic guy,” Larry’s Joe Sixpack Answers helps eliminate many of the barriers to Catholic evangelization. The most important part of Larry’s work, I believe, is that he makes Catholic teaching accessible to anyone while remaining faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Two Tools for the Sixpack Catholic

  1. One service provided by Joe Sixpack Answers is free webinars each Sunday afternoon. For the past four weeks, I’ve attended each webinar live or I’ve watched the replay on Larry’s YouTube channel. The webinars have ranged from the use of sacramentals by the faithful to the proof of the existence of God. As previously stated, the teachings of the Church are presented in an easy-to-understand, but not watered-down, format. In the event that you reach the end of the webinar, Larry takes and answers anonymous questions. He also answers email after any webinar (and responds quickly!).
  2. Joe Sixpack Answers also has an FAQ page with questions ranging from the morality of contraception, the origins of humanity, and consecration. You name it, Larry probably has an answer for you. If not, an answer is an email away!

It’s also helpful to add that Larry is not just a random guy on the Internet, posting what he thinks the Catholic Church teaches. Rather, he is affiliated with the Marian Catechist Apostolate, an organization under the supervision of Cardinal Burke.

How Can I Help?

Evangelization is tough. It’s even more daunting to think about starting to evangelize your friends and family for Christ. I believe that the first step to effective evangelization is to know what you believe. While many of us, myself included, think we know it all – odds are, we haven’t scratched the surface. It’s important, that when asked, we have an answer to those inquiring about our faith. Joe Sixpack Answers is an excellent resource to help you get started on a path to not only knowing more about Catholicism, but sharing it with your friends and family. Let’s get back to basics!

You can learn more about Joe Sixpack Answers by clicking here.

***

Thanks for reading today! Soon, Ash Wednesday and Lent will be upon us. While I will take time off from social media and this blog during Lent, I will begin work on a new e-book project. The theme will focus on Seven Sorrows of Mary. If you have a story about how the life of Mary has helped you draw closer to Jesus, please email me at sarahquelpart@gmail.com. I may use your quote in my project. God bless! 

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Dwelling Together: Maturing in Faith

Hello! Thanks for reading today, I’m glad you’re here. Today is a long-winded post, but I think you may relate to it (especially if you’re anything like me). 

Each week, I attempt to publish one to two quality posts about faith, life, books, and anything else happening in my day-to-day life. If you enjoy what you read, please consider sharing on social media and subscribing through email or WordPress.

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How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together as one! // Psalm 133:1 (NAB)

I have this persistent and terrible habit where I believe I am the only one. Foolishly, I think that it’s just me who struggles with anxiety, or it’s just me whose mind wanders during work, Mass, or while on the phone with my mom. I’m the only one who sometimes pushes the Holy Spirit’s nudging out of my heart when the conviction is uncomfortable. For a very long time (and even still some today), I wrestled with these feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and a sense of floating. I knew I could turn to Our Lord in the times of need, but overall, everything felt like a one-woman show. I had to take care of my own issues, it wasn’t the job of anyone else. These problems were solely my problems and no one else could ever understand my thought process. Unfortunately, this is one of lies that the devil tells us: You must depend on yourself to fix anything, all the time, no one can help.

In high school and college, I suffered from a terrible case of superiority complex. When classes were canceled on campus due to snow, I was out in my boots walking to mid-week Bible study while everyone else was cozy in the dorms. In high school, I purposely did not attend social events because, frankly, I was better than everyone else. Only unintelligent, uncultured simpletons attended football games on Friday night instead of staying at home with a good book.

If you couldn’t tell, I was simply a joy to have around.  Insert eye roll.

Because I believed that I was inherently better than everyone around me, I failed to form healthy communal bonds with those around me. While I formed lovely friendships, especially in college, I believed that only I could deal with my issues. I believed that my issues with anxiety or nervousness were so unique that no one could possibly provide a reasonable solution. In many a silly decision, I bypassed what were probably valuable campus meetings, designed specifically for women undertaking the transitions of adult life. I was determined to help myself.

Thankfully, age is the wonderful, gracious teacher.

Obviously, I am older than I was in high school and college. My faith and life is more of my own, my understanding of my need for others has increased (though it’s not perfect). Since my conversion to Catholicism, I’ve absorbed any resource at my fingertips – especially those tailored towards the needs of women. Podcasts, articles, devotions have been my closest friends in my walk of faith. I’ve realized that yes, I do need support in my walk as not only as a Catholic, but also as a teacher, daughter, and community member.

This morning I read this morning’s devotional from Blessed Is She, an online community for Catholic women. Patty Breen, today’s writer, penned words that cut to my core:

“The most difficult prayers I have prayed in my life (and still do) are ones of abandonment and submission to the will of God. For a type-A planner like myself, it is so easy to tell Jesus what I think the best option or plan is. But that is neither how God nor prayer works. We call that manipulation, not worship.”

Like Patty, I am a type-A personality: high-strung, organized, meticulous. I also struggle with turning over every detail of my life over to God and His divine will. My past habits tell the story: Again, I thought I was the only one who struggled with this. I thought I was too stubborn, too selfish, not worthy enough to let God take control in every nook of my existence. But this morning, I was informed in plain English that I’m not the only woman on the planet who struggles with any given issue.

I’m not alone, I’m not isolated, my struggles are common. Thankfully.

This is why community, and dwelling together, is especially important for Christian living. Reflecting on my past, I know I probably would not have subscribed to a daily inbox devotional as a teenager or college student. I didn’t expect anyone to know my needs, especially someone who didn’t know me on a personal level. As I mature in both age and faith, I realize that I do need community and that I do need support. I’ve finally understood that support can come from the most unexpected places through little acts of faith. I find that I am not the brilliant one-woman operation I used to be.

And that is a wonderful, merciful, graceful thing.

O Fount of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. // The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Our Lady of Grace, pray for us.

 

 

 

 

When She Shows You Her Son: A Life with Mary

About three weeks ago, my fiance and I were privileged to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville, New York. This was my very first visit to a Marian shrine, and as a recent convert to the Catholic faith, I found a particular warmth to the shrine property (I’ll talk about my visit in another post). As we walked among the trees and rain, I was so happy to have a space to reflect upon Mary’s role in my Christian journey.

Prior to my conversion, I possessed a deep admiration for Mary. “How special, I thought, for her to be chosen as Jesus’ mother! She just simply cannot be an ordinary person; There’s

Virgin, Mary, Madonna, Jesus, Baby

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much more to her than we could imagine,” I often pondered. Yet, my faith community viewed Mary as someone who was just “nice.” We would dress up as her for the Christmas play and someone would sing “Mary Did You Know?” On December 26th, Mary would go back into the Nativity scene box, never to be spoke of or seen again until after Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, many Protestants see Catholic devotion to Mary as unnecessary, or even worse, idolatrous.

A friend once mentioned, “I just don’t like the Catholic emphasis on Mary. It takes away from Jesus.” To this, I responded by saying that Mary doesn’t distract us from Jesus. Instead, she shows us the way to her Son.

For example, in John 2, we see the wedding feast at Cana. The wedding has run out of wine, and Mary tells Jesus this news. He replies with “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” Mary then responds to the servants, telling them, “Do whatever He tells you.” As the story concludes, Jesus performs His first miracle at Cana, turning water into the finest wine.

This is a powerful testament to Mary’s example for Christians. It seems, rather than fume that Jesus won’t comply with her immediately, she is patient, turning to the servants, saying “Do whatever He tells you.” In one simple statement, Mary spoke the essence of Christian life: to follow Jesus and submit our will to His. In today’s world, following Jesus unconditionally is difficult. We have so many distractions: cell phones, social media, our work, plans, worries, and anxieties. It’s hard to follow Jesus when we are preoccupied in our minds with everyday monotony.

Mary, Virgin, Jesus

Jesus and Mary: Depicted in traditional Korean attire (pixabay.com)

As a personal example, I struggle with anxiety. Daily, I find myself worried over things both big and small. Little, nagging worries occupy my mind. Obviously, Holy Scriptures tell us not to worry. We are told not to fear (365 times, actually!). At yet, at this, I fail. In spite of my failures, each day, I like to remember the words of the Blessed Mother, just as she told the servants at Cana: Do whatever He tells you. These words encourage me to not worry and to put my trust in Christ. Mary always points you and I towards her Son, towards obedience towards Him, and to the knowledge of Him. I’m not a professional Catholic apologist or theologian, and there are so many more writings about Mary you could read that surpass my skill. However, for my Catholic and Protestant friends alike, remember that a Biblical Mary will always point you to Jesus, never to herself.

As I stood in front of the shrine in New York, I was amazed at the detail. As Mary stood tall, she carried the infant Jesus in her arms. Rather than hold Jesus to the side, Mary held Him in front of her, the center of our visual focus. As I looked up, I said a prayer that day, thanking Our Lord His mother’s life and for her fiat. May you and I both, as the faithful on earth, always do as He tells us with joyful, hopeful hearts.

 

Sunday Thoughts: Transfiguration

Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The Transfiguration is an odd story, and it’s always been one that has caused confusion for me. I never fully understood what the Gospel writers meant when they told the story of the event or even what the Transfiguration meant for me in my Christian walk. I foolishly viewed it another wondrous account of the life of Christ on Earth. From there, I would often scurry along.

In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew (17:1-9), Jesus takes Peter, James, and His brother John on a “high mountain.” There, the men witness Jesus’ face shining like the sun, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. Surely, this would frighten any one: On one hand, you have the Son of God, whose face is radiant, and then long-deceased Moses and Elijah show up. On top of all of this, the voice of God descends from the heavens, saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” The men fall to the ground, but Jesus assures them, saying “Rise and do not be afraid.”

Until today, I rarely thought about the message God delivered to the three men: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Yes, of course I believe(d) that Jesus is God’s Son. But, after spending time today thinking and reading other devotions on the topic, I thought: “What would God say about me?” When I reach the end of my Earthly journey, will Jesus say that He is well-pleased with me? Did I allow him to change, or transfigure, me from the inside-out?

Metamorphosis, Transfiguration, Church

The Transfiguration (pixabay.com)

This is a difficult thought because change is hard. It’s hard when you want to go to Adoration for an hour after work, and then you think of the extra 30-minute drive (one way!) it would add to your day. It’s hard when you want to follow the daily Mass readings, but then it would require you to wake up 15 minutes earlier. It’s hard when you feel the Lord urging you to put a little bit more in the offering basket, but you want to keep that $5.

Selfishness often gets in our way (Note: If you couldn’t tell, all of those struggles listed before? They’re mine). We want holiness and good fruit in our lives, but often, we’re overcome by what’s safe and comfortable to us. It’s comfortable for me to stay home from Adoration and kick back after a long school day. It’s safe for me to hold tightly to my money. If I want Jesus to truly change me, I have to let go and “do not be afraid” of what I imagine I’m missing.

It’s not a coincidence, I think, that this past week I’ve been more intentional with my life and work habits. Personally, I use the Blessed is She liturgical calendar planner. I use the to-do list for each day to write out my daily spiritual goals: read the Mass readings, pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, write Mr./Mrs. XYZ a letter. I can immediately tell so much more peace has entered my life in the past week when I choose to put God first and allow Him to dictate my schedule, not the other way around. This may not work for you, but it helps me grow closer to Our Lord.

On this Feast of the Transfiguration, I pray you have or will encounter Jesus in a way that leaves an impression on your heart and soul. May we all change inside and out for His glory, so that one day, he will look at us say that He is pleased.

 

 

You Don’t Have To

This afternoon I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I hadn’t been since June 2001, and even then, it was a brief visit. Today,  I ducked into the Cathedral after crossing the street and fighting tight throngs of tourists. It was nice to sit in the church and take in all of the images and sights I ignored as an 11-year-old: The high ceilings, the shrines, the beautiful altar, and of course, the stained glass windows.

Twitter, Facebook, Together

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Around us, hundreds of tourists (many traveling in from outside of the United States), took pictures. The time spent of the photographs was often detailed, even with a high quality camera. As I knelt at my pew, I felt the urge creep up in the back of my mind.

“If you snapped a picture of the altar right now, it would look great on Instagram. Especially with the right filter. Think of the ‘likes’ you’ll get!”

As I live and breathe, the very thought crossed my mind. I don’t hide my love for social media. Through Facebook and Twitter, I’ve connected with old friends and friends I’ve never met in person. I enjoy posting photos of my travels, and I enjoy that other people enjoy the posts, too. Likes and hearts are nice.

However, I often find myself under pressure. Pressure to find a perfect Instagram filter, pressure to word a caption just right, pressure to share every event.

But, as I sat in the pew this afternoon, I mentally sat on my hands, thinking,  “You don’t have to document every single event, every single moment. It’s okay to let life fly ‘under’ the radar.”

As difficult as it was (and I struggled), I kept my phone in my purse. I didn’t take any photos at St. Patrick’s today. And the result is clear: I still feel as fulfilled and satisfied as if I had taken a photo, doctored it up with filters, and posted it on Facebook. More the same, while eating dinner at a kitschy new Korean restaurant in Manhattan Koreatown, I sat on my hands. I can eat galbi and bibimbap without posting a picture of it on Twitter. It tastes the same, and I enjoyed it without all of the pressure of “Is this lighting good enough for this picture?”

In conclusion, has this moment of clarity “cured” me? No. I have a picture of a flower and chocolate box window display in Rockefeller Plaza I’d like to post. I may, I may not. We will see. Only time and Instagram will tell.

But…

Next time, when you feel hurried or pressured to post an update or photograph of an event, remember: It’s okay. You can live life in peace, without the worry of likes and external validation.