Hiding, basically.

My last activity here was in February. I wrote about finding, igniting, and maintaining your “blue flame.” That is, the passion that makes you feel and become alive – the very thing that makes your heart jump and your soul spark.

Since that day in February, I didn’t write a single word for publication. I thought about it, sure. I started drafts, purchased a nice notebook, tried to take a blogging course, maintained a journal at the turn of the new fiscal year (under the impression that my children would donate my papers to assorted alma maters after I died), and stared at blinking cursors and blank pages. Even when other bloggers offered to feature me on their pages, I hemmed and hawed.

The reason for my silence is that I’m hiding.

I’m hiding in my own frustration at the lack of traction in my own writing – the fact that I feel like I’m just another faith-based blogger shouting into the darkness that we call the Internet.

Nobel Prize or Not at All

I don’t know about you – but when I want to do something, I want to do it well. Very well. I’m a perfectionist of the highest order: neatly written to-do lists, perfectly sequenced strings of a daily Rosary, praying all of the entries of the Liturgy of the Hours, sorting my books by size, straight A’s. It’s no surprise that this bleeds over into my writing habits – a needling sense of perfection. That, if I don’t write the next viral blog post or conceive a memoir worth of the Nobel Prize, then it’s just not worth it.

This is difficult: I want to write. I believe I was made to write, as it’s part of my vocation.

I once read that your occupation is what you’re paid for and your vocation is what you’re made for. If you’re lucky, sometimes the two overlap. In my case – that’s not the reality. I believe I have a way with words, the gift of telling stories that people get. More often than not, my regular readers tell me how much they enjoy my writing and how accessible it is. Yet, to be wholly transparent, I hate how little recognition I receive from my writing. The internet is an information void and I’m one pixel drifting in and out the collective consciousness.

Drive-Thru Writing

When I write, it’s like I’ve prepared this giant, wonderful banquet for my family and friends. Except when they arrive, they tell me that they decided to swing by the McDonald’s drive-thru on their way home and just aren’t hungry right now. It’s deflating to labor on a well-thought out piece, only for it to receive up to 50 separate views on a very good day.

All the while, I see Susan write primarily about her two home-schooled kids and how much those little angels *love* praying the Rosary before breakfast, making paper dolls of the saints and angels, all while her son “plays” the Mass with his toy kit in the well-decorated living room.

“Little Aquinas has discerned a call to the priesthood and he’s only 3 years old!,” says Susan.

I’ve rolled my eyes so hard at these blogs that surely one day my eyes will dislodge from their sockets. Why does Susan gets mega views with her cupcake recipe and I’m over here with 20 views on my post debunking myths believed about Catholicism?

And I get it, Catholic moms are a big audience with many needs. All moms believe that, at some point or another, they’re surely messing up their kids and they want someone, perhaps a friendly blogger, to tell them that everything will be okay. They need a Susan, and for better or worse, I’m not a Susan.

I can’t write about the best homeschool curriculum or the most engaging Advent activities for littles. I can’t tell women that everything will be okay when they’re practicing NFP and found themselves pregnant again. I don’t know how to keep kids quiet in Mass because I don’t have kids to take to Mass.

That’s just not my niche right now.

“Wow Sarah, why do you hate Susans and mommy blogs?” 

I don’t hate women named Susan and I don’t hate mommy blogs. However, I sense that for female writers, especially in religious spheres, she has to tap into the common experience of motherhood and the mundane. Primarily, blogs for moms about sanctifying your time as you wash the dishes or how to pray a chaplet very quickly as your child naps.

My most hurriedly devoured pieces aren’t about explaining doctrine of the Immaculate Conception or why Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation – it’s the posts about what I’m wearing and where I’m traveling to next. Essentially, lifestyle content. Even more discouraging is when I write for other Catholic outlets, most of my pieces are met with a “That’s nice” or nothing at all, all while others are flooded with inspirational comments.

(Full disclosure: My most popular post on this blog is a reflection on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary).

I cringe at these statistics because I don’t want to be just another female blogger who writes about her hair, her shopping trip, or that time she tanned on a beach in Europe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing about shopping, shoes, and sunbathing, but I want to write substantial pieces that challenge my readers’ beliefs in a positive way – even if they’re not Catholic and have no desire to become Catholic. Faith matters, and even if you’re a nonbeliever, faith still permeates all parts of our society despite the growing onslaught of secularism.

There is a joke that says once you convert to Catholicism, you automatically receive a book deal and successful podcast, but it looks like the Vatican, after my confirmation, may have lost my address via the Diocese of Lexington. I just want to know that my writing matters and that it’s worth the time and the energy I funnel into it.

Yes, if just one person reads what I’m writing here and finds faith in the Lord Jesus – it’s all worth it. Sure, I don’t need human recognition for anything to matter, but knowing that the big literary meal I’m cooking up will soon be devoured by a hungry audience is a good motivator. I don’t want my blue flame to fizzle, but without a clear purpose, it seems like it might extinguish at any given moment. I don’t want to be salty, but honestly, I’m feeling very salty.

But for now, I’ll linger around, try to pull myself out of hiding, and keep clacking on my keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Myths About NYC Living

Often, when I tell others that I live in Manhattan, I am met with wide-eyed amazement. For many, the New York borough of Manhattan is the place where dreams are made. If you think about it, most television shows we watch are centered in Manhattan. Random photos of city scapes we see in magazines are from New York City. Everyone can recognize the New York skyline in any given moment.

Yet – some people know about visiting The Big Apple – but few people know about living in The Big Apple. As a New York City resident for nearly four months, I’d like to address a few myths that many have about those of us dwelling in the mystical New York metropolitan area.

  1. We do New York “stuff” all the time. The average New York resident does NOT do New York stuff. You know – visiting the Empire State Building, journeying to the Statue of Liberty, or going to Times Square (avoid at all costs). If you were born in the tri-state area, odds are, you’ve probably been to these places once, twice, or three times at the most. It’s just not what city dwellers do. We usually leave those sites for the tourists. Oh, and visiting Times Square on New Year’s Eve? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
  2. Life is always glamorous in the city. Watch any television show or movie about New York City – and you’re presented a glittery, and cozy, image of Manhattan. Every window has a skyline view, people always eat leisurely brunches in sidewalk cafes, and Central Park is never crowded. Alas, New York is like any other city on the planet. Once you cut through the tourist-y veneer, New York is found to be dirty and crowded. At the same time, it’s an amazing city in which I feel instantly at home.
  3. New Yorkers are rude. It’s a common misconception that that New Yorkers are rude, crass, and will run you over without a moment of hesitation. I, however, have found this to be largely false. In many moments, New Yorkers have helped me find my way around a crowded subway system or have pointed me the way to the right city bus. Sure, if someone bumps into you, they won’t say “Excuse me,” but that’s normal here.
  4. It’s expensive. Sure, lots of places in the city are pricy – thanks to tourist demands. But, if you know where to look – you can find $1 pizza slices and $1 hot dogs on the same street. You don’t have to break the bank eating in NYC, and it’s easy to find cheap eats. Likewise, you’ll find that many museums have pay-as-you wish or totally free admission. Entertainment in the city is often cheap, but you just need to know where to go. With a little research, NYC can be done well.

It’s not just New York City that has it’s myths. If you live in a rural area, there are many misconceptions about those places as well. Do you live in NYC or a major metro area? What are some common misconceptions you’ve experienced? If you live in a more suburban or rural area, what are your experiences? Let me know below.

As always, may God bless you and thank you for reading.

Love for Beginners: Recognizing the Dignity in Everyone

“For, by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.”

– Vatican II

I don’t know if you can remember the first time you struggled with or recognized sin in your own life, but I know I can. Even as a young child, I was often filled with undue pride and arrogance at my self-perceived properness and heightened dignity. Simply, I thought I was better than almost everyone else.

See, I was born into a life that so many would literally kill for. I was raised in home with married parents who were nurturing and supportive. My brother and I get along splendidly and have never one time had an argument or disagreement. By the time I was 18, I traveled to all 50 states with my parents and to the Holy Land with my mother. The little town I grew up in, though insulated, was perfect for raising up children who retained their innocence a little longer than most. In most ways, I lived a healthy, idyllic life.

The Dangers of Privilege 

Unfortunately, an idyllic childhood does come with drawbacks, though it’s few and far between. For me, that drawback was the failure to recognize the dignity in every person I came into contact with. For example, if I scored higher on a test than most of my classmates (which was often), I pondered my own outstanding intellect. If someone participated in hobbies that I found banal (watching and playing sports, not reading voraciously), I determined that person was uncouth and in need of culture. Oh, and people who went to the beach every year for vacation? Get up on my level and go somewhere educational and exotic.

For years, I harbored this belief that I was somehow better than everyone else by the virtue of my family, my behaviors, and my hobbies. I prided myself as someone who would have followed Jesus had I lived during His time on Earth. In reality, I probably would have turned up my nose at the sight of the Holy Family. 

Love One Another

One of the most commonly quoted bits of Holy Scripture is from Jesus when He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). What is originally a profound and deeply influential command is often twisted by our society. It’s turned into a kitschy saying that we decorate our homes with and quip on social media.

But, have you thought to ponder what it means to truly love one another? Jesus does not instruct us to only love those whom it is easy to love. While we are to love those who are the closest to us, it’s also an imperative that we love those who cause our hearts to clamp up in dread. After all, Jesus said that even the pagans love those who are lovable (Matthew 5:47). The simple, yet sacrificial act, of loving those we struggle to see the dignity in is what can change the world.

Love for Beginners

I am convinced that none of us will ever become experts in loving our neighbors, at least on this side of eternity. We have all sorts of hangups: baggage, presumptions, and the scourge of original sin. All of these things distort how we view and love our neighbor. Sin causes us to discard the lowly and to place a preference on our own selves. We fail to see the inherent God-given dignity of those, especially those we don’t like, around us.

Since my conversion to Catholicism, I have grappled more with my own sin of arrogance and judging others. I think this is primarily because, once I converted, my faith became my own and was no longer something I doing just to avoid hell. Often, I thought about Church teachings on the dignity of the human person . Through my journey, I discovered little ways we can learn to value those around us.

Recognizing the Dignity in Others

A few ways to do this are:

  1. Realize that God created each and every person, and knows them intimately (Psalm 139).
  2. Know that Jesus wildly loves each person you encounter. According to Church teaching, every person is assigned a guardian angel. Just think: God loved you and everyone else enough to appoint a supernatural being to protect and watch over you. Knowing that each person has a guardian angel has greatly influenced how I view those around me.
  3. Pray for those you don’t like. This is tough: Easily said but not easily done. Whether you start out with a simple Our Father or Hail Mary for that person, it’s a start. As you progress, watch how God will slowly chip away the barriers in your heart.
  4. Give of yourself. Volunteer for those who are less-fortunate. It’s easy to pity the poor, but the real change is found in working to improve the conditions of those who are the most vulnerable. This very act takes you outside of yourself, and while humbling, it can help you recognize the dignity in others.

Seeing the dignity in others is hard and arduous. It often requires that we step down from our own high places and come face-to-face with the reality of our littleness. Let me know below if there are other ways you recognize the dignity of others. I always love to hear from my readers. May God bless you, always.

 

 

 

Guest Post: The Way Back – Finding Faith by Kyle Howatt

I want to send a special thank you to Kyle Howatt, a digital friend who has graciously offered his time and talent to my blog. Please consider subscribing to Quelpart for more posts on Catholicism and daily living.

I’ve spent the better part of my now nearly 30 years in this world largely outside of religion. I was born and baptized into the Catholic Faith, but outside of attending funerals, weddings, and the occasional first communion, my baptism was the only experience of mine in any Church at all. Until now, that is, as I’ve begun a journey to find Faith and build a relationship with the Lord that has been absent in every facet of my life thus far.

I’m apprehensive to admit that in my late teens and early twenties I considered myself what is called an Agnostic Atheist. For those who don’t know what that means, I generally referred to myself as a believer in an unknown power or deity that is not God or a God-like being – essentially, I believed in a higher power that is unbeknownst to us as human beings. I say apprehensive to admit so because I now look back and think that holding such a belief was childish – childish to believe that there isn’t a God.

I used to be one of those people that “needed the proof”. Show me the facts and prove to me logically that God exists and I would change my mind. I fault this largely on the premise that I was not raised religiously. But I’ve since grown. I’ve changed my perspective insofar as that to believe that we as human beings are capable of understanding everything that has existed or ever will have existed is nothing more than arrogant and egotistical thinking. I’m not ruling out that there are still other powers or sciences we have yet to even scrape the very surface of, but to dismiss that there is a God because no hard scientific evidence exists to prove otherwise is absurd.

He is out there – in one way, shape, or form. Perhaps in other ways we haven’t thought possible yet, too. Perhaps he’s even walking among us at this very moment in time. I no longer need any hard proof.

My grandparents on my Mother’s side were devout Catholics. If anything, they serve as a consistent reminder to me of all that it means to embody Faith, Tradition, and a life lived in service to the Lord and to all in good Faith. I recall that in the twelve years they lived in Florida in their retirement, going to Mass was an everyday occurrence for them. I’ll always remember them telling me this on family vacations to Myrtle Beach. If only they were still here so I could talk about my own journey in finding God with them. I can’t do Mass everyday myself just yet, but I can certainly go every Sunday.

They also always dressed their best, too – with no exceptions – for the purpose of not only showing their greatest respect for the Lord and the Church at Mass, but also to show respect and order in all that they did and valued in their lives. I’m sure my Grandfather’s military career and upbringing had a lot to do with their life approach. If there’s one improvement I could suggest people make at this moment, especially Men, it is to dress better for Church. I suppose it’s a respect thing for me. Regardless of the Churches I’ve attended – with the exception of one over the last four months – I always showed up in a suit. We can all do better with this, I think. I’m not picking on a single Christian denominational Church here either, I’m simply speaking for them all. The standard has got to change.

My Mom, raised Catholic, decided to break away from the Church when she was 18. My Dad is non-religious. Nonetheless, my Mom was adamant that my brothers and I were all baptized Catholic. Again, though, my participation in the Church thereafter, and consequently, my brothers’, was very little. No Sunday masses, first communions, confirmations or anything seriously involved with the Church or Faith. My Mom decided that she wanted for my brothers and I to find faith on our own, if we so chose to do so. And that is where I am now.

While my own personal history is rooted back to the Catholic Faith, I didn’t rule out other denominations of Christianity – at first – as a place to call home. I started out attending my local Catholic Church back in early May, and I’ll be honest, I felt right at home. Structure, order, and a beautifully conducted Mass. All of which, I believe, are lost arts by today’s measures. At least the former two of the three things I just mentioned are – people have very chaotic lives and often construe structure and orderliness with unimportant busywork and non-meaningful obligations. I figure with any sense of the word, going to Church time after time will bring more true order and structure to my own life in the Traditional sense. Massive change begins one by one, after all.

I’ve also attended my local Lutheran and Episcopal Churches in addition to a nearby Christian Community Church that a friend of mine goes to – in case you were interested in where else I’ve explored.

After I attended my first Catholic Mass in my local town back in May, I met a kind gentleman by the name of Brian who proceeded to refer his contact information and encouraged me to reach out. He is part of an organization affiliated with this Church and was interested in talking to me more about the Faith and God. I have yet to do this, but the more I progress through the different Church denominations of Christianity, the more and more I am leaning to Catholicism. While yes I was baptized there, it is more the whole concept that all of Western Civilization was founded upon the principles and morals of this Faith. And with the current state of society being where it is, I find I am being drawn back to the roots of where it all began. It’s now probably time to give Brian that call.

Some of you might be wondering what kind of a crazy person would want to join the Catholic Faith now in light of the most recent and currently ongoing sex abuse scandal(s). To that I answer that Faith is much more than corruption. Society, and the Catholic Church, are both in dire need of help, and it’s going to fall on my generation’s heels to correct the course of action – for both. I see it as an opportunity to not only worship on Sundays by attending Mass, praying for those in need, and building my own relationship with the Lord, but also as a means to help a hurting entity. A hurting Father. A hurting Mother. A hurting child. A hurting family. Hurting believers. To help those who want to believe but just can’t find the courage right now. To help restore the very foundations in which a strong civilization and society can stand. I’m taking my own leap of Faith to show that, even in a time that would seem said restoration consequently impossible, there is still hope for a better tomorrow.

As an aspiring Traditionalist, I know that I can not truly live out the capacity of the Traditional lifestyle if I have no relationship with God or have no Faith. I need to find a way to incorporate the religious values a Traditionalist holds near and dear into my own life to meet this goal if I have ever a prayer of living by example. But I have to show the way first before others will follow, and while there are many other ways in which I live out my life Traditionally right now, this is an area I need to fix, build, and expend into daily practice. It’s an area of my life that I need to bring into reality. Once I do this, I can then offer my help and show the way for others. And are we ever in a time now where we need more people to step up, take that leap of Faith (if they haven’t), restore Faith in those who’ve lost it, and show the way – the right way. I want to be an example of this kind of person, and while I do believe that this, too, is what God wants for me, I have to do my part in fulfilling this mission. So long as I’m willing to serve, I know the He will be by my side.

Hebrews 6:10:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Next Sunday I go back to the Catholic Church here in my local town. And this time, I believe, I will be there to stay.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post about my journey to find a relationship with the Lord. And thank you to Sarah for allowing me to write a guest post for her blog. I am grateful to you all.

Please feel free to share insights, tips, and your own practices for living your best Catholic life in the comments below. Much change is still on the way for me, and I wholeheartedly welcome your input as I transition. Thank you.

 

Roamin’ Catholic: USA Edition

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post regarding all of the Catholic places I’d like to visit. Sites included the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France. All of these places are wonderful, holy sites that can enrich our faith. But, when you live in the United States and hopping a plane to Mexico City or continental Europe on a whim isn’t an option, it’s favorable to check out the holy places in your own backyard.

Below is a list of a few places I would love to visit, especially in the near future when I move to New York City. Certainly, I will miss some worthy places, so drop a comment below and let me know where I should visit.

Roamin’ Catholic: USA Edition

  1. St. John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
  2. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.
  3. Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, AL
  4. Shrine of St. Therese, Darien, IL
  5. Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, WI
  6. Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, CT
  7. Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, WI (The only Vatican-approved apparition site in the USA)
  8. St. Kateri National Shrine and Historic Site, Fonda, NY
  9. Shrine and Parish Church of the Holy Innocents, New York, NY
  10. Shrine of Our Lady of La Sallette, Altamont, NY
  11. Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Philadelphia, PA

Where are places you’ve traveled? Drop a note below!

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!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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

Imagine Sisters

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.