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How I bring my faith into my office

The Lord has been leading me through some big changes and beautiful blessings lately.

My year of service with Franciscan Mission Service ended in late July. This time serving in Washington DC was an unforgettable experience filled with so much growth. Shortly afterwards, He lead me to my new job.

In August, I became the new Development and Communications Coordinator of Habitat for Humanity, and to say that God has been good to me is an understatement. He gave me a job that I truly enjoy and feel fulfilled in, not just a job that utilizes my skills and interests. I’m working for a Christian organization with a mission that I can lend my heart to. Even today, I still find myself thanking Him for giving me this job.

Of course, working for Habitat Choptank is very different than working for Franciscan Mission Service. It’s in Maryland instead of Washington DC, I’m working more with communications than with development, and Habitat is Christian, but not Catholic. As I settled into my new role at this new nonprofit, I’ve found a few ways in which I can incorporate my Catholic faith into my job.

How I bring my faith into my office
How I bring my faith into my office

1 Praying with the daily Mass readings
I tend to get to work pretty early, so I spend the extra time before my day begins reading and praying with the daily Mass readings. I keep my Magnificat in my work bag so that I can read the Mass readings each morning, and I have the Spiritual Communion Prayer written down so that I can pray it every morning.

2 Reading Blessed is She’s devotionals
After praying with the Mass readings, I love to read the Blessed is She devotionals that I get in my inbox every morning. They help me to delve deeper into the Mass readings, and they help me to apply them to my own life. It’s inspiring and encouraging to read about other holy women who are pursuing the Lord and striving for Sainthood from various vocations and walks of life.

3 Listening to hymns and worship music
I rarely work in silence, and when I do, it’s uncomfy to me. While I work, I love to listen to my Jesus Jams playlist on Spotify and also Mass hymns. Listening to hymns and praise and worship music lifts my thoughts to God, and it also helps me to dedicate my work to Him.

4 Decorating with Bible verses
When I got this job, I was so excited to have an office of my own! I still have a lot of decorating to do, but the first things that I put in my office were some decorations with Bible verses on it. I keep a decorative prayer card on my shelf that reads “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. ~ Proverbs 16:3,” which reminds me that all of the work that I do is for God, and I keep my favorite Bible verse, Psalm 34:5 on my wall.

5 Keeping Tiny Saints on my keychain
I’m obsessed with Tiny Saints! I have so many of them, and I change the ones that I have on my keychain for their Feast Days or Liturgical seasons. Not only do they make me smile when I look at them because they’re so cute, but they remind me that they’re in Heaven praying for me.

6 Using Sacrifice Beads
Work is work, and it isn’t always fun. When I have to do something that I don’t want to do or when something “inconveniences” me, I pull a Sacrifice Bead and offer it up.
in the grand scheme of things, I know that these crosses are small, but I still let Jesus enter into my little sufferings, and I find joy in knowing that they bring me closer to His Heart.

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I find that when I offer my work and surrender my day to the Lord, I’m more likely to be productive, to find joy in my work, and to remember Him in what I do. God is never outdone in generosity, so by inviting Him into our work days and offering our work to Him, He blesses us with more than we realize.

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An Administrative Ministry of Presence

Ministry in a Non-Profit Setting
At Franciscan Mission Service, we learn and practice a ministry of presence. As lay volunteers and missioners, we make relationships our first priority. While the projects and work that we do are important, we care most about encountering our brothers and sisters in Christ. Joining Franciscan Mission Service has helped me to be fully present with whoever is right in front of me. I learned to grow in empathy and humility as I look for Jesus in everyone I encounter.

My year of service with FMS involves serving as a DC Service Corps volunteer. In this program, my mission is domestic instead of overseas. As I serve as the Development Associate for FMS, I assist with several facets of non-profit management. My position involves fundraising initiatives, donor relations, and grant writing. From 9-5, I spend my weekdays working in the office or from home, so sometimes I forget that I’m a volunteer. 

I look at myself and at our lay missioners serving overseas, and I sometimes feel inferior. They have tangible ways of serving, and their ministries change lives. They carry out the ministry of presence every day, and I sit at my desk in the office and wonder how I can possibly live the ministry of presence. Conversely, I sit at my desk, look at the work that I do, and notice that I embody the ministry of presence just as much as our missioners.

An Administrative Ministry of Presence
An Administrative Ministry of Presence

Gratitude-Filled Letters
One of my favorite things to do in the office is write thank you letters to our donors. I type their names and addresses into a template, print the letters, and when our executive director signs them, I mail them. It’s a simple task, but I love it because I get to see firsthand how many people support FMS. It brings me joy to see so many people supporting our organization and our lay missioners during their time on mission. Because of them, we can accompany orphans, the elderly, survivors of abuse, prisoners, and asylum-seekers every day, and because of that, I craft our thank-you letters with so much love and gratitude. Although I’m not the one who signs them, I leave a piece of my heart with each one.

The Impact of Appeals
A long-term project of mine involves the Mission Cooperative Program, or MCP, which allows dioceses and archdioceses to partner with organizations and religious orders that focus on mission. I spent my first weeks at FMS researching dioceses and archdioceses and writing them letters of request, asking them to consider us for their 2021 mission appeal cycle. During this project, I learned that mission appeals aren’t just about money. When we visit parishes, we educate parishoners about missions and show them that lay people can serve overseas. They gain a deeper awareness of missions and inspiration to serve. 

In 2018, a girl in college heard one of FMS’ mission appeals at her home parish. Because of this, she felt inspired to apply for the overseas lay missions program, but after some discernment, she applied for and accepted a position with FMS’ DC Service Corps instead. That girl was me, and now that I’m part of FMS, I understand the importance of mission appeals and how they can impact lives.  

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Service Through Work
I can’t deny that the lay missioners and I have completely different missions, but although I’m staying in the country and working a 9 to 5, I’m still finding ways to serve with a ministry of presence. Inspired by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I’m finding new ways to offer the gift of myself and do little things with great love. 

Because I’m doing a year of service, I always remind myself that I’m not just working, I’m serving. I look at the other volunteers/associates in my office and I remember that our workplace is our ministry site. The things that I do in the office, no matter how big, small, interesting, or mundane, have lasting impacts. Helping FMS as an office associate allows the organization to run efficiently and supports our overseas missioners as they serve poor and marginalized communities and work for peace, justice, and hope.

Stay radiant!

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How God Healed My Broken Heart

Him and the Heartbreak
“I don’t think this is working out,” he said as he stood in the rain outside my apartment.

I met him on an English department trip to Canada the summer before our junior year. We talked all summer, and we made things official the weekend before the fall semester started. Leading up to that moment, I had told him about my faith. I told him that I love Jesus more than anyone or anything, that I want to get married and have lots of babies someday. Finally, I told him that I want to wait until marriage. Although he didn’t share my faith, we wanted to date each other anyway. He was kind, he was funny, he was a great cook, he was smart, he loved music and musicals, and at the time, he loved me.

After two months, he broke up with me. He must have changed his mind about being fine with dating a Catholic girl, or maybe he never was. I thought we wanted the same things, but as it turns out, that wasn’t the case. Of course, all of this is okay, but in the moment, it broke my heart. Although I’m sure this wasn’t his intention, he left me feeling inadequate, empty, and unworthy of love. I cried that night until my head was sore and my voice was hoarse.

How God Healed My Broken Heart
How God Healed My Broken Heart

My Good Heavenly Father
I had dated a lot in high school, but in college, I waited and prepared myself for something serious. Prior to dating him, I was single for about two and a half years. After spending those years of praying for a boyfriend and for myself to become holier for one, I felt like I had lost my chance. I hoped that the next boyfriend I had would be the one God wanted me to marry. As He usually does, God had other plans. I would ask God to help me love my future husband the way that He created him to be loved. I would pray that my future husband was growing closer to God and preparing to meet me and love me. As I prayed, God in His goodness was at work, but He’s full of surprises and He kept me on my toes.

I can’t say that I was mad at God. I didn’t shake my fist at Him and scream through my tears, but I cried while I layed in bed and simply asked Him why. For two months after that breakup, I went to Him like a little girl goes to her dad when she’s hurt. I didn’t want to talk about it with Him, but I needed Him for comfort. Despite giving Him the silent treatment for a while, my Heavenly Father was patient with me. He let me feel sad. He waited until I was ready to let him in little by little.

After this intense and painful heartbreak, I learned that God doesn’t show us gold and give us silver. He gives us good things according to His perfect timing. When he sees that we have something that isn’t meant for us, He removes it, like any good Father does. Of course, this might make us upset, as children often are when they’re told “no.” I thought my boyfriend at the time was the one for me. I realize now that God had someone else in mind for me, my fiancé Nathan. Although I could go on and on about the sweet love story that God wrote for me and Nathan, I have a few more words to write about heartbreak.

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Let Him Be Near to You
Our Heavenly Father doesn’t want to see His children sad, but He’s present with us in our heartbreaks. During times like these, I remember verse 18 of my favorite psalm, Psalm 34, which reads, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted.” We can find comfort and even joy in knowing that God is close to us when our hearts are broken. He lets us rest in Him to find the peace and comfort that only He can give. He’s constantly working in our lives to share His goodness with us.

If you’re struggling with a broken heart right now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that God is always with you and always there to listen, to soak up your tears, and to be your soft place to land. I understand that it doesn’t always feel like God is there. Sometimes He can feel so far away, but from someone whose heart was completely obliterated and pieced back together, I urge you to hold onto whatever sliver of hope, faith, and trust in God you can muster up. He loves you more than you can fathom, and He’ll never leave your or forsake you. As much as you’re able to, place the pieces of your broken heart into His caring and gentle hands and let Him renew it.

Stay radiant!

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The Great Commission and the Holy Trinity: This Sunday’s Gospel 5/30/2021

For the Gospel and other Mass readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, click here!

A few days after I came home from SEEK 19, my first FOCUS conference, I sat down to write all of my thank you notes. I fundraised my registration for SEEK, so I wanted to write a handwritten thank you note to all of my donors. I expressed my gratitude, told them about my favorite speakers, and shared how much I grew in my faith during the conference. At the end of every card, I wrote Matthew 28:18-20 under my signature. These verses encompass the Great Commission, and I included it in my thank you notes as a nod to the call that we all should heed as Christians.

There are so many ways that we can take part in the Great Commission. Jesus invites all of us to spread the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations, but we all play a different role in this call. There’s a saying related to mission that goes, “some give by going, and some go by giving,” which explains that those who give financial support help make missions possible. The friends and family who donated so that I could go to SEEK were participating in the Great Commission. Because they gave, I was able to attend a conference and encounter Jesus. On the surface, donating money might seem like a basic way to take part in the Great Commission, but it’s necessary and so appreciated.

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After attending SEEK, thousands of college students and I had gained a responsibility. We left the conference significantly more formed in our faith, which means that we were tasked with using our knowledge to share Christ’s love and to spread the Gospel. This seems straightforward, but there are countless approaches to doing this. For a while, I thought that I would participate in the Great Commission as a FOCUS missionary, but that didn’t work out. Now, I understand that I can share the Gospel as a writer, as a future wife, maybe someday as a mama, and in whatever career God has in store for me. Whatever our calls in life may be, we can always find ways to make disciples of all nations.

On the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, we reflect on the mystery of the Trinity and adore the three Persons of it. Maybe we read the Great Commission for today’s Gospel because the Trinity is at the heart of it. Jesus leaves us with the Great Commission before His Ascension because He wants us all to be gathered in His Father’s love, and the Holy Spirit descends upon us so that we can play our parts in the Great Commission. Maybe right now, you’re not sure how you can make disciples of all nations. If this is the case, root yourself in the Holy Trinity. No matter what role you take in the Great Commission, strive to grow closer to God the Father through Jesus, and invite the Holy Spirit to work through you and bear fruit.

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Placing my Job Search in God’s Hands

Chasing my own will
Last year when I was a senior in college, I was filled with anxiety over what to do after graduation. I applied for FOCUS and got rejected right off the bat. I tried to apply for grad school and realized that it wasn’t for me when I was almost done with my applications. I applying for jobs with Catholic organizations and even went on a Saint Paul’s Outreach chapter visit before I ultimately said “yes” to FMS. It was there all along, and I didn’t think to discern it seriously for a long time.

In hindsight, I feel like I was chasing my own will instead of trying to follow God’s will for my life. I definitely was just trying to do something impressive after graduation, whatever that may be. It took me a long time to place my trust in God and put my next chapter into His hands.

Placing my Job Search in God's Hands
Placing my Job Search in God’s Hands

Time for my next adventure
Now, the time that I knew was coming has almost arrived. The end of my year of service with FMS is just around the corner, and it’s about time for me to find my next adventure. If I would have stayed the same anxious young woman, I would be applying for jobs constantly and spending my spare time worrying about what I’m going to do in a few months. Strangely, this isn’t the case for me at the moment.

Maybe it’s because I’m feeling secure in knowing that no matter what, I’m going to marry Nathan and we’ll get to live together in Maryland. With that being said, getting married and moving are two huge transitions, and I haven’t had much mental capacity to think about where I’ll be working.

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God will provide
When I do look for jobs and apply, I do so knowing that my future career is truly in God’s hands. Maybe I’m not worried about my job search because I have other things to focus on at the moment, but I also believe that I’m not worried about it because I know that God will provide. I don’t mean to sound passive and like I’m not trying, but I say this knowing that God is guiding me throughout my job search. As I get leads from friends and search online for jobs, I can feel Him prompting me to give an opportunity a shot or to wait for something else. When I write, I feel like the Holy Spirit works through me to say what needs to be said. Because of this, I can tell that He’s writing through me when I spruce up my resume and craft my cover letters.

As cliché as Jeremiah 29:11 has become, I find myself remembering that God has plans to prosper me. I can trust that God has a plan for me. Whatever God has planned for me, I can trust that it’s good and life-giving. As I end my year of service with FMS and seek my next opportunity, I’m excited to see what God has in store for me and how I’ll make a living in the near future.

Stay radiant!

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Come, Holy Spirit: This Sunday’s Gospel 5/23/2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings for Pentecost Sunday Mass during the day, click here!

On my first day of work at the office, I learned everything that I had to do. I was responsible for processing checks, writing and sending thank-you letters, and more development and operations-related tasks. At first, I didn’t think that I could do it. I was a little overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities, and I was worried that I would make mistakes and get in trouble. At most of the jobs I had before, I would be treated like I was stupid if I asked a question, so I tried to avoid asking my supervisor questions.

With little confidence in myself, I sometimes wondered why I was there in the first place, but then I remembered that it was God’s plan. He brought me to DC to do a year of service for a reason. All of this was to help me learn, grow, and be a closer disciple of Christ. During morning prayer at work, I would dedicate my day to Him, and when things would get stressful, I would offer it up and ask for His grace.

In hindsight, I see the ways that He sent me the Holy Spirit. When I thought I couldn’t do something, the Holy Spirit and His gifts helped me to thrive. Now I know that I can do hard things, but I can’t do them alone. The Holy Spirit helps me to fulfill God’s will for me and remain faithful to Him. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple Come, Holy Spirit to remember that He’s with me, strengthening me, and giving me what I need to do God’s will.

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After the Resurrection, Jesus met the Apostles where they were. Huddled in an upper room, I can picture them feeling alone without Jesus and anxious about what would happen next. When Jesus came to them, He let them receive the Holy Spirit, which they would be filled with again on Pentecost so that they could do what He knew they could do. With the Holy Spirit, the Apostles spread the Gospel, healed, and forgave sins so that thousands of their brothers and sisters became disciples of Christ.

Because we’re His followers, Jesus gives us hard things to do. It might not seem like it, but we’re capable of His plans for us. We can fulfill His will with the help of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost Sunday, let’s remember Him and ask Him to fill us with His gifts so that we can bear fruit. If you don’t know what to say or how to ask, just offer Him a Come, Holy Spirit and let Him do the rest.

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Can I be a Saint?

The Saints as heroes
Because I went to Catholic school, I was blessed to be surrounded by pictures and stories of the Saints throughout my childhood. From a young age, these holy men and women were my heroes and role models, and I wanted to be just like them. I loved hearing the stories of Saints like St. Francis, who showed gentleness and compassion to all of God’s creation, and St. Thérѐse of Lisieux, who loved God and her neighbors by doing little things with great love.

As I grew up, my role models became St. Mary Magdalene, who was a close disciple and friend of Jesus, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered to die in the place of another prisoner in Auschwitz, and St. Catherine of Alexandria, who debated and defended the faith so well that pagan philosophers converted to Christianity.

Can I be a Saint?
Can I be a Saint?

Sainthood is within reach
As I got older, I began to give into the lie that holiness was out of reach. The gap between myself and the Saints grew, and I began to view them as distant and completely different than me. Listening to the world, I thought that holiness and Sainthood were reserved only for a select few. Who was I to think that I was special enough for that? Giving into despair, I allowed myself to believe that I could never become a Saint.

Fortunately, when I went to college, my lukewarm faith caught on fire when I went to the Newman Center and joined a vibrant Catholic community. I understood what it meant to be a Saint, and I realized that God desires Sainthood for all of us! Now, I truly believe that we all can be Saints. God desires Sainthood for you and for me, and we should desire it too. Nothing is impossible with God, so holiness and Sainthood are within reach for all of us as long as we keep choosing God and living how He guides us.

From learning about our faith and the lives of the Saints, I ascertained a few things they did that made them Saints. Because we all should strive for holiness and Sainthood, I wanted to share them with you.

1 Pray every day.
Prayer is the cornerstone of your relationship with God. In prayer, we talk to Him and get to know Him more. We share our joys and struggles with Him, we entrust Him with our intentions, and we praise Him for His goodness. We become more aware of how He’s working in our lives, and we conform our own will with His. If we want to be Saints, then we need to make God our best friend. Our best friend is someone who we talk to as often as possible, so we should talk to God as much as we can.

2 Receive the Sacraments often.
If prayer is how we talk to God, then the Sacraments are how we spend time with God. The Sacraments give us real, tangible opportunities to be with Jesus, particularly because He’s fully present in the Sacraments. The priest acts in persona Christi in Confession, and the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. By frequenting Confession, Mass, and Adoration, we receive His graces in special ways. When we experience the person of God, we come to want what’s good and holy for us, and we’re more likely to avoid near occasions of sin.

3 Read the Bible, the Catechism, and other holy books.
Whether you’re a reader or not, these resources are great ways to learn more about God, the Church, and even ourselves. Understanding these things helps us to deepen our faith, and when we know more about God, we fall more in love with Him. No matter how long we’ve known our best friends, we can somehow always learn more about them. Until He gives us the beatific vision in Heaven, we can always keep learning about God.

4 Do little things with great love.
Some of the greatest Saints didn’t necessarily do “great” things. They loved deeply and were intentional about serving God through others. Their example should encourage us because we can easily do little things with great love. Although it might take some practice at first, we can humble ourselves to always put our neighbors first.

5 Consecrate yourself to Mary.
Have you ever been on a mission trip? Mary is the most perfect missionary, and her mission is to bring all of us to the Heart of her Son. According to Fr. Michael Gaitely, MIC, Marian Consecration is “the surest, easiest, shortest, and the most perfect means” to become a Saint. It’s a way to entrust ourselves to Mary so that she can share her graces with us. When we consecrate ourselves to Mary, she brings us closer to Jesus and helps us to love Him more. Some of the greatest Saints were devoted to Mary and consecrated themselves to her.

6 Fast and sacrifice.
Fasting and making sacrifices can make our prayers more powerful, and they can also shorten our time in Purgatory. The more penances we do for our sins on earth, the less time we’ll spend doing penance in Purgatory. Hopefully, we’ll do all the penance we need to do on earth so that we can go directly to heaven. It’s a fact that we’ll have to suffer in this life, but when we suffer well and intentionally offer it up for God, our suffering will sanctify us. The Saints often gave up good things in their lives so that they could pursue God. When we fast from food or sacrifice things like social media, and sleeping in, we give up something good for a greater good.

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Worthy of God’s Kingdom
God wants us to spend eternity with Him in His Kingdom, so the way that we live our lives should prepare us for that. In St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he encourages us to “lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). In other words, the way that we live should reflect God’s glory, which we’ll share with Him in Heaven someday. This is exactly what the Saints did. Whether they were single, married, in religious lives, old, young, cradle Catholics, or converts, they lived their lives in ways that made them worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

No matter how God is calling you to spend your life, there are always ways to choose Him. If we keep God at the forefront of our lives and do our best to follow His will, then we’ll surely be Saints.

Stay radiant!

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Proclaiming the Gospel: This Sunday’s Gospel 5/16/2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, click here!

After three years of being with Him for His public ministry, the Apostles were about to say goodbye to Jesus. The last thing that He told them before He Ascended into Heaven became known as the Great Commission. He instructed the eleven to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). It’s a big task, but Jesus gave it to them knowing that it was something that they could do. As His disciples, we’re also called to do our part in proclaiming the Gospel to every creature.

We’re all invited to be part of the Great Commission. By our baptism, and as followers of Christ we’re called to share the Gospel. At first, this might seem like a daunting endeavor. You might wonder how you can make Christ known to others, but God gives you the ability to do this. We all have different gifts and talents, so we all share the Gospel differently.

Teachers can share the Gospel by teaching it to their students. Missionaries and volunteers can also do this by being like Jesus to others and sharing His love and mercy. Priests, deacons, sisters, and those in religious life give us examples of the love that Jesus and the Church have for each other. Wives and husbands show us what sacrificial love looks like, and when they become mothers and fathers, their children are their disciples as they raise them in the Church.

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Whatever your gifts are and whatever your vocation is, you have a role to play in the Great Commission. Jesus calls us to share the Gospel in unique ways, and the way that He invites you to share the Gospel is the way that only you can. However you proclaim the Gospel, proclaim it with joyfully, overflowing with the love you have for Christ.

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How I Find the Book of Judges Relatable

Catching up on the Bible
I’ve been delving into scripture a lot this year. One of my spiritual goals for 2021 is to read the whole Old Testament, but during my break in April, I had lost a lot of my momentum. As my break came to a close, I found myself catching up on my reading plan to get back to where I wanted to be. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing, because when I got to the book of Judges, I didn’t want to put it down. This was my first time reading Judges, and it was so much more exciting and intriguing than I had assumed it would be.

How I Find the Book of Judges Relatable
How I Find the Book of Judges Relatable

What Judges is Really About
With a name like “Judges,” I didn’t expect this book to be such a page-turner. The image that comes to my mind when I think of a judge is someone in a long black robe and a white wig. But the judges in the Bible were heroes who God raised up to fight for Israel. Although God’s chosen people had promised to be faithful to Him, they often forgot about their covenant with Him. After Israel had entered the Promised Land, it went through cycles of turning away from God, falling into sin, and becoming oppressed by other nations. Each time this happened, they would repent and call upon the Lord, and every time, He would raise up a judge to liberate Israel.

If you think that all of the judges were perfect examples of holy people who followed God closely, you might want to think again. God helped the judges do great things, but the judges weren’t always great people in the sight of the Lord. Some judges made idols, like how Gideon made an idol which Israel eventually worshipped as a god. Some judges gave into sin, like how Samson became violent and promiscuous. Some judges failed to know who God really is, like how Jepthah sacrificed his own daughter. Although they did some terrible things, God still used them as instruments of His justice. Despite their sins, He worked through them to liberate Israel.

Many passages in Judges shocked me, and I often asked myself “Why would they put that in the Bible?!” I never expected to read about so much murder, treachery, and sexual sin in one book of the Bible. But of course, God still works and does good through flawed people, and that’s what the book of Judges taught me. I learned that God can take the sin, challenges, and bad things in our lives and turn them into something good because He is the most good.

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Remembering Whose I Am
Reflecting on my own life recently, I haven’t been pursuing the good, at least not as much as I should. With my break after Easter, I fell into a prayer slump and neglected my much-needed time with God. I’ve found myself slacking with my responsibilities and choosing to be lazy. While this initially came from the need to rest, I let myself get carried away with my season of restfulness. I gave myself and inch, but I took a mile. I felt awful about myself for giving into acedia, but in His goodness, God brought me back to Him and reminded me of who I am and whose I am.

I recognized in Judges that God worked through the flawed judges of Israel. He works through imperfect people all the time, so He can easily work through me. God reminded me of my worth and my identity as His beloved daughter. He patiently waited for me to return to Him, and when I went to pray for the first time in a while, He was there and ready to welcome me home. After reading the book of Judges, I’m more confident in God. I know that nothing can overcome His goodness, and nothing I can do can exhaust His patience or His love for me.

Stay radiant!

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Jesus’ and a Mother’s Love: This Sunday’s Gospel 5/9/2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings, click here!

Jesus and His disciples are gathered around the table. Having finished the Last Supper, Jesus gives His friends a few last words of wisdom before His Passion begins. I can imagine the disciples listening to Him intently. He shares important instructions, theological truths, and most of all, His love.

Although it might seem like a stretch at first, I think this Gospel passage applies a lot to Mother’s Day. I think of all the meals I shared with my mom, and all of the lessons she taught me. I remember our after dinner conversations while we’re still sitting around the table filled with stories, lessons, and post of all, love.

Jesus repeats His command to love each other often, saying “Love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). As He stresses His love, Jesus gives us a glimpse of His infinite love. As we strive to be like Jesus, we’re called to love each other unconditionally. Some of the most beautiful examples of unconditional love that I’ve witnessed have been in mothers. The reminders from my own mom of “I love you no matter what,” show me that unconditional love is real and give me an idea of what Jesus’ love for me is like. Loving as perfectly as Jesus does is difficult, but my mom shows me that it’s possible.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Here, Jesus is talking about sacrificial love. I used to think that this verse only referred to actually laying down one’s life for someone. Now, I know that you can sacrifice for someone without literally dying. It might be a small death to yourself, but it’s worth it because it’s for someone else’s life. Moms do this all the time. Aside from Jesus, I think of mothers when I think of sacrificial love. I see in my own mom the ways that she sets aside her own wants for my needs. She prays while she cleans the house and listens to Catholic speakers while she cooks dinner. With such a constant example of sacrificial love in my life, I remember Jesus’ sacrificial love, and I’m inspired to grow in this virtue.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, godmothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, step mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, and all women who generously give a mother’s love.

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We’re All Called to be Disciples

Growing in Discipleship
I noticed that I write about discipleship often in my blogs. This subject has become an important part of my faith journey, and as followers of Christ, we’re all called to be His disciples. You might think that the only disciples lived 2000 years ago and encountered Jesus face-to-face, but we can still be, and we should be, His disciples today.

I always knew about the disciples from Mass and Catholic school. I knew that the first disciples were 12 men who followed Jesus and evangelized after His Ascension. In college, however, I understood and appreciated the concept of discipleship. When I met the FOCUS missionaries, they taught me about discipleship, invited me into it, and prepared me to make disciples of my own. Growing in discipleship had its difficulties, but they were all worth it. Now, I think discipleship is one of the most beautiful gifts in the faith, and I love sharing about it.

We're All Called to be Disciples
We’re All Called to be Disciples

What is a disciple?
Disciple comes from the Latin word discere meaning to learn. Back in Jesus’ time, young Jewish boys would go to school and study the Torah. If a young boy was very apt and passed his tests in school, he would be invited to discipleship. A Pharisee would say to the boy “follow me,” and he would follow the Pharisee everywhere and do everything that the Pharisee does to learn from him and be like him. They even had a saying that went, “May you be covered in the dust of your discipler,” meaning that they would follow their disciplers so closely that they would catch the dust that flung off of their discipler’s sandals!

Jesus invited the first disciples to follow Him in a similar way. When He met Andrew, Peter, James, and John, He invited them to follow Him. From that point on, they went wherever Jesus went. They did what He did, learned from Him, and became like Him.

Discipleship is how we follow Jesus in order to learn more about Him and become like Him. Although we can’t physically follow Jesus around in the same way that the first disciples did, in His goodness, we can still be with Him.

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How to be Jesus’ disciples
One way that we can be with Jesus is through the gift of the Eucharist. Because Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, we can encounter Him when we go to Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. In Adoration, we can pray, talk with Him, and simply be with Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist at Mass, we receive Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and come into communion with Him.

Another way that we can follow and be with Jesus is through prayer. I love to think of prayer as spending time with Jesus. When we pray, we don’t just ask for things or check things off our list. Prayer isn’t all about praying for a certain amount of time, reading a specific number of chapters, or saying the right things. Time that we spend praying is time that we get to know Jesus. When we pray, we open our hearts to Jesus and grow closer to His most Sacred Heart.

When going to Mass, praying Lectio Divina, or studying scripture, pay attention to the passages where Jesus is with His disciples. I listen carefully to passages that begin with “Jesus said to His disciples,” because I am His disciple and He’s speaking to me. As followers of Christ, we’re His disciples, so His words to His disciples 2000 years ago still apply to us today.

Making Disciples
Finally, an important part of discipleship is to make disciples. During the parable of the vine and the branches, Jesus says “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become My disciples” (John 15:8). Naturally, when we follow Jesus and become like Him, we’ll share His love with those around us. Then, our brothers and sisters will come to know Him through us. When we share the Gospel and help our neighbors to know and love Jesus, this not only fulfills God’s will, but it also glorifies Him.

Jesus stresses the importance of making disciples again before His Ascension. When He gives the Great Commission, He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Whether that be our friends, our students, or our children, Jesus desires for us to make His presence known to everyone around us. He calls us to be instruments of His love, share the Gospel, invite those whom we encounter to encounter Him.

Perfectly Reflecting Him
The more time that we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Him. Like how we reflect the friends who we spend the most time with, we come to reflect Jesus when we grow closer to Him. Jesus desires us to be like Him and His Father, and He encourages us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Through discipleship, we strive to be like Him. The most beautiful thing about discipleship is that it’s for everyone! Through discipleship, Jesus gives us a way to grow in holiness and become His faithful followers and close friends.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: May 2, 2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings, click here!

I sat on a beautiful porch in Florida, changed forever after returning from a mission trip in Nicaragua. My team and I sat in a circle for a debriefing session before we parted ways and returned to our respective campuses for the rest of the spring semester. As we have done so many times over the past week, we opened our Bibles to pray Lectio Divina together.

This passage filled my mind with images of vines and branches drenched in the light of Christ. Prior to my time in Nicaragua, it was just another lovely parable. Now, I read it with a new perspective. I experienced Jesus working through me as I served as an instrument of His love. I imagined myself beautifully intertwined with Him like twisting and turning vines overtaking a sturdy branch.

Jesus nestled the word abide into my heart. This beautiful word brought a smile to my face when I discussed it during Lectio Divina. It truly describes Jesus’ desire to dwell with us and be close to us, and I began to joyfully feel the same way. I eagerly wanted Him to help me grow, to bear fruit for Him, and for Him to prune me so that I’ll bear more fruit.

“Pruning hurts though,” Becca lovingly pointed out. Wrapped up in consolation, the difficulties of discipleship didn’t cross my mind. As I continued my journey with Jesus throughout college, He began the pruning process, holding nothing back. Knowing that I desired a relationship with Him, holiness, and Sainthood, He strengthened me with trial after trial.

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Although I didn’t always endure the pruning gracefully, I know that it happened for a reason. He helped me bear more fruit because I longed to abide in Him. I wouldn’t trade the pain of pruning for anything because it’s the price I pay for abiding with Jesus, and apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

Let’s strive to be as close to Jesus as a vine is to the branch. Let’s abide with Him and let Him wrap Himself around every part of us.

Stay radiant!

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Resting to Restore

It’s been a while!
I’m back! It’s been a minute (about 28 days) since I posted a blog like this on Radiant with Joy, and it’s simply because I needed a break. It started as a short one, but I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of it that I needed more time than I thought. Because transparency and vulnerability is my mission as a writer, I want to share what happened during my break and how I’m doing.

The Big Break
Around Easter Sunday, I found myself taking an unannounced, unplanned, but certainly necessary break from blogging. I don’t think it was because I was tired of Radiant with Joy, but I was just tired in general. I feel like I always talk about how crazy life is, but it’s my reality. Although I enjoy being busy, I feel like my days are always booked. When I look at my planner, each week brims with work, activities, and things to do. For Easter, Franciscan Mission Service gave us Good Friday and Easter Monday off. I relished in having a few days to rest, but as I usually do, I didn’t notice how much I needed those days until I had them.

Sometimes my body is smarter than my mind, so when my body tells me I need rest, it’s great at making sure I get it, whether I like it or not. It’s nice to have designated time to do nothing, but it also makes me feel bad about myself. As someone who likes to stay busy and be productive, I find it hard to make time to relax and to value that time.

Resting to Restore
Resting to Restore

Too Much Rest
Some time to rest is good, but as always, indulging too much of a good thing doesn’t end well. I began my period of rest by doing life-giving things, like reading and enjoying the beautiful weather, but sooner or later, I started I staying inside and scrolling on my phone for hours. Before long, I felt myself turning to laziness, and wasting my free time became a bad habit. I began to neglect my time in prayer, which only made me feel worse. This month proved what I had always known about myself. If I don’t make time for God and pray every day, the other areas of my life seem to deteriorate. When I don’t pray, I’m constantly anxious because I don’t have the peace that only God can give.

God desires us to work, but He also wants us to rest. The word “rest” comes from the word “restore,” which implies that rest should rejuvenate you so that you can return to work from a place of abundance. With this being said, work and rest go hand-in-hand. We need to rest so that we can work well, but we also need to return to work after we’ve had adequate rest.

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Now that I’m back…
Returning to blogging has been difficult. Caught up in doing nothing, I had lost motivation and inspiration to write. In my despair, I didn’t think that I could or should write anything meaningful. I wanted to get back to writing so badly, but I didn’t know how. Fortunately, I remembered “This Sunday’s Gospel,” which gave me a low-stakes way to return to Radiant with Joy. I had set myself an unspoken goal of writing something like this by the end of April, and by the grace of God, I did it in the nick of time.

Our God is a God of second chances and new beginnings. I feel like I’ve had enough time to restore my desire to write, and especially because of my return to daily prayer, I’m ready to begin again. Now that I’m returning to blogging, I’m reminding myself why I started and why I write. During my break, I learned that if I neglect my prayer life, my writing will suffer. More importantly, my relationship with God suffers. Moving forward, I plan to make spending time with God a priority in my life again. By doing this, God will become the forefront of my life again, and my writing will outpour from my relationship with God.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: April 25, 2021

For this Sunday’s Gospel and other Mass readings, click here!

When I think of sheep, I think of them as adorable fluffy animals. They always look so pure and perfect for snuggling. But they’re also and fragile, and they need to be watched and cared for. Because sheep are so precious, they need to be protected. This is how Jesus views us. We’re His flock of sheep that He guards and keeps safe.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, I’m reminded of Jesus’ gentle love for us. I think of images of Him holding sheep with tender loving care. On one hand, I like to contemplate these sentimental images, but on the other hand, they seem watered down. The cutesy pictures of Jesus snuggling lambs don’t do Him justice as the Good Shepherd.

More than simply the fact that Jesus loves me, Good Shepherd Sunday reminds me of the depth of Jesus’ love for me. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus explains the lengths that He goes to to protect us and find us when we’re lost. Unlike a hired shepherd who flees when his sheep are in danger, Jesus says that He will lay down His life for His sheep, and He did on the cross.

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While sheep are adorable and fluffy, Jesus thinks of us as His sheep because we’re precious to Him. He doesn’t make any profit or gain anything from keeping us safe. He does these things for us out of His infinite love for us. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus constantly protects us from evil and leads us closer and closer to the Father.

Stay radiant!

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Good Friday: The Most Passionate Love Story

The Greatest Love Story
I used to love dramatic romance novels, the kind where a couple fights to protect their relationship against all odds. I would root for them as they clung to each other through obstacle after obstacle. I would swoon over grand gestures of one’s love and passionate scenes of intimacy. Oftentimes, the story would end with a climactic sacrifice of one lover laying down his or her life for the other. These stories inspired many a daydream for me, and (understandably) stirred up unrealistic expectations for my high school relationships. As a teenager, I would delve into these romances and dream up a love who would at least be willing to die for me.

As it turns out, I had the most perfect lover all along, and He already died for me on a cross before I even knew Him. When I realized this, I began referring to Christ’s Passion as “the greatest love story of all time.”

Good Friday: The Most Passionate Love Story
Good Friday: The Most Passionate Love Story

Passionately Suffering
During the Easter Triduum, we remember Jesus’ Last Supper, Passion, and Death. I always wondered why we refer to Jesus’ Way of the Cross as His “Passion,” and fortunately, I found out why from a podcast a few months ago. As a lover of words, I learned with interest that “passion” originally referred to suffering. Passion in it’s truest sense isn’t merely steamy scenes of physical intimacy. However, both intimacy and suffering require the body. Because of this, we can see why this notion can be skewed.

If Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane wasn’t the beginning of His Passion, then it was certainly a prelude to it. Overcome with anxiety, He shed His first drops of blood in the form of sweat. This condition results when someone undergoes extreme levels of stress, which causes capillaries to burst and blood mixes with sweat. He shed even more blood as He was scourged at the pillar the next day. I can only imagine the pain He felt when whips tore the flesh from His back. When He was crowned with thorns, fourteen sharp thorns pierced Jesus’ scalp, and they only dug in deeper while He carried His Cross. Exhausted from the weight of His Cross, it bit into His shoulder with every step. Finally arriving at Calvary, Jesus was stripped of His clothing and left completely vulnerable. I’ve always cringed at the thought of Him being nailed to His Cross, so I can’t bear to describe what it would have been like. Jesus hung on His Cross for three hours, gasping for air the whole time before He breathed His last breath.

Grand Gestures
It truly is hard for me to imagine Jesus bruised, bloody, and humiliated. When I really think of it, I can hardly bear to picture the face of Jesus in the midst of His Passion. I love Him so much, and it’s hard to think of your loved one suffering. Jesus teaches us that suffering is the price we pay for love, and His Passion and Death is the epitome of sacrificial love.

When I used to see grand gestures of romance, I found it hard to believe that someone would ever do something like that for me. Now that I’m older, I’ve definitely experienced some lovely gestures, but of course, none of them will ever top the greatest act of love of all time. Honestly, reflecting on Jesus’ love, especially during His Passion, can be overwhelming. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that Jesus was thinking of me during His Passion. I sometimes stop and think that He suffered and died for me out of His infinite love. Despite all of my past, present and future sins, all of my shortcomings, and the times that I chose other things over my relationship with Him, Jesus died for me so that He could welcome me with open arms when I return to Him. I remember this because each time I look at a crucifix, I see His outstretched arms and remember His perfect love.

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Passionate and Sacrificial Love
Whether we refer to passion in the context of romance or suffering, passion cannot exist without love. To be passionate with a romantic partner without love would result in lust and use. To suffer, especially for someone else, without love would be pointless. All of this reminds us that authentic love requires sacrifice, and sacrifice is supposed to hurt and be difficult in one way or another. In other words, sacrificial love requires suffering. Amidst His Agony, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with Thorns, His Way of the Cross, and His Crucifixion, Jesus without a doubt suffered tremendously for us. “Passion” appropriately describes His sacrifice, as it was the greatest act of love of all time.

He loves you and me more than we can ever imagine, and every time we look at a crucifix, we can be reminded of His never ending love.

Stay radiant!

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How the Annunciation Reminds me of Discernment

Revealing His Will
I love to reflect on the Annunciation, when Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would be the Mother of God. It resonates with me for several reasons, including Mary’s fiat, or her response to the Annunciation, meaning “let it be done.” In this moment, Mary learned of God’s plan for her, and it was life-changing to say the least. In college, I would look forward to the day when God would reveal His plan for my life, hoping that I would learn of it in a blaze of glory. I know now that this won’t be the case, but I still find myself musing over the Annunciation and romanticizing it. I think I do this because I realize that the Annunciation can teach us a lot about discernment.

How the Annunciation Reminds me of Discernment
How the Annunciation Reminds me of Discernment

Growing While We Wait
It goes without saying that none of us are born knowing what we’re going to do with our lives. God doesn’t share His plans with us on day one, and understandably so. We have a lot to learn and we need to grow a lot before we can say “yes” to God’s will for us. Needless to say, Mary had a life before the Annunciation. Born without original sin, Mary always chose God and followed Him perfectly. Mary’s plans for her life probably didn’t include being the Mother of God, but when Gabriel revealed this plan to her, she graciously said “let it be done.”

Like Mary, we won’t immediately know how God will call us to know, love, and serve Him, but this is a good thing. He calls us to use our seasons of waiting well. While we wait and discern, we can learn more about God and fall more in love with Him by strengthening our faith. Saying “yes” to God in little ways, like spending time with Him in prayer, doing acts of penance, and loving the ones He placed in our life will prepare us for the big “yes” that we’ll give Him later. Praying, receiving the Sacraments, and serving will make us more open to God’s will for us so that when the time comes, we’ll be able to say “let it be done.”

Discerning with Openness
Mary is always open to God’s plan for her, and she always seeks to do whatever God wants. As much as we desire this openness, it’s often easier said than done. I remember the days when I radically claimed that I would do whatever God wanted me to do and I would go wherever He wanted me to go. Then when I was discerning missions, I realized that I wasn’t so open to go just anywhere. I recognized that I didn’t want to be too far away from Nathan. I know you’re probably thinking that I turned down mission for a boy, but this turned out to be a good thing. In discerning out of something that would potentially take me far away, I was free to discern marriage with Nathan, which was the vocation that God had planned for me all along. As it turns out, God was asking me to be open to His will in a different way.

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Some Encouragement for Your Discernment
When I was unsure of God’s plan for my life, I would pray and ask for the wisdom and courage to say yes to His will for me. I think that Mary was gently leading me to the path that God forged for me, like the perfect mother that she is. Now that I’m consecrated to Mary, I notice the ways that she leads me towards her Son, and I strive to be more like her. If you’re in the middle of discerning and you’re wondering what God has planned for you, know that you’re not alone. It’s not fun when you’re in the thick of it, but God will journey with you and you’ll make it out with clarity and confidence in Him. Dive into prayer, ask Mary to intercede for you, and know that you’re in my prayers.

Stay radiant!

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According to His Timing

For this Sunday’s Gospel and the other Scrutiny Year A readings, click here!

When I pray, I ask God to answer my prayers in His “perfect timing.” I lift up my friends and family and offer Him my intentions. After my laundry list of prayers, I end with “Father, I ask that You answer these according to Your will and Your perfect timing.”

I’ve been told that God’s timing is perfect, but deep down, I don’t always believe it. There are things that I want to happen right now, but God gently asks me to wait. There are things that I don’t want to happen yet, but God reveals that it’s time. Whether we like or understand it or not, God’s timing truly is perfect. He has good and beautiful plans for each one of us, and He makes sure that they unfold exactly as He sees fit. Whether God’s timing is exactly when we want it to be, or if it’s not what we expected at all, it’s still greater than our own.

According to His Timing
According to His Timing

In the Scrutiny Year A readings, we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus intentionally waits to go to Judea, and by the time He gets there, Lazarus had been dead for days. Martha approaches Jesus and tells Him that if He had arrived sooner, Lazarus would still be alive. I see so much of myself in Martha. I can recall quite a few times when I grew irritated at God because of His timing. I remember asking Him why something couldn’t have happened sooner, or if He would’ve worked a little harder or a little faster, something wouldn’t have happened. But then, Like Martha, I realized why God answered my prayers with a patient “not yet.”

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Witnessing Jesus heal Lazarus would have been great, but witnessing Him raise Lazarus from the dead must have been even greater. Earlier in the story, Martha and Mary didn’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal Lazarus. When Jesus made Lazarus to walk out of the tomb, they knew that He had something better in mind than just healing him. Through this miracle, He affirmed that He is the resurrection and the life. Just like Lazarus’ sisters, we don’t always understand God’s timing in the moment. We might get to see the reasons behind God’s timing in this life, and if not, we’ll understand when we meet Him.

Stay radiant!

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A Lot Can Happen in 23 Years

23 Years Later…
Today I turned 23 years old, and needless to say, I’ve grown and changed a lot from when I was born. I love to look back on the plans that 3-year-old Madeline dreamed up versus where I am in life now. I spent my days playing dress-up and making crafts. I thought I would grow up to be a ballerina or a princess. Twenty years later, I still love to dress up, and I still love to dance. Although it would be nice to be a princess, I have other career goals in mind now.

As I grew up and navigated life, one thing stayed consistent. No matter where I went to school, who my friends were, the extracurriculars I did, or what I dreamed of doing with my life, I always loved God. Of course, my relationship with Him developed and I grew closer with Him as I grew up, but He was always in my heart.

A Lot Can Happen in 23 Years
A Lot Can Happen in 23 Years

My Lifelong Faith Journey
When I was really little, I knew that God was important because I went to Mass with my family every single Sunday. At the time, I would have rather played with my Barbie dolls, but I’m glad that my parents taught me the importance of worshipping God. I was fascinated by the Bible stories I learned about, and I heard “Jesus loves you!” and “God made you special!” all the time. I think my faith first ignited when I received my first Holy Communion. When I received our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time, the way I approached Mass changed because I felt more connected to Jesus. After that, I felt more involved in the Mass, and I looked forward to going.

My faith only grew stronger when I prepared for my Confirmation and when I was Confirmed. I saw some of my peers question and fall away from the Church, and I knew I never wanted that to happen to me. I related to Peter when he told Jesus “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). God has loved me for longer than I can comprehend, and I can be united with Him in the Eucharist. I knew that I could never separate myself from Him and that I wanted to be with Him forever.

In college, I grew radically as a person, as a student, and as a disciple of Christ, especially because I learned what it means to be a disciple in college. For most of my life, I thought the disciples were just the twelve men who followed Jesus while He was on earth. Now, I understand that anyone desiring to follow Jesus is His disciple, and He still calls us today to be His disciples. With the encouragement and friendships I made at the Newman Center, I fell more in love with God. I encountered Him through my authentic friends, at Mass, and in Adoration.

What Changed in One Year
So much can happen in 23 years, but a lot can happen in just one year too. The world and I have changed significantly since my last birthday. When I turned 22, I had no idea that we would soon be plunged into a pandemic. I didn’t know that my amazing evening at Slippery Rock would be my last one there. I went from celebrating my 22nd birthday with Nathan and a few of my good friends at the Brewery in Slippery Rock to celebrating with my Franciscan Mission Service community in Washington, DC. I went from not knowing what I was going to do with my life to having at least a little more clarity. Nathan became my fiancé. My faith is stronger, and I’m able to trust in God and surrender to Him more.

In my 22nd year, I learned that everything is temporary. When my life seemed to crumble, I was so angry at first, but I learned to cherish the memories more and to really savor my time with my loved ones doing the things we love. I learned that God truly does have a plan, even when we can’t see it unfolding. Because of this, I finally surrendered control of my own life so that God can take the reins and guide me to do His will.

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Thanking God for My Life
Today, I’ll FaceTime my family and Nathan, and I’ll probably celebrate with my community tonight at dinner and tomorrow evening. No matter what, I just want to spend today being thankful for the gift of my life. To me, my own birthday isn’t a huge deal. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a special day. I love to celebrate it and have fun with the people I love, but I never go crazy for my birthday. It’s a day that I’m happy to be me. On my birthday, I thank God for creating me and loving me and giving me the gift of my life. I’m thankful that He blessed me with another year of life so that I can share His love and come to know Him more before I meet Him face to face.

I’ve grown so much in my relationship with God in the past 23 years, and I look forward to seeing how much closer I can be to Him in the remainder of my life. So much has happened in my 22nd year, which just reminds me that we never know what God has in store for us. 23 holds unlimited possibilities, but no matter what, they’re part of God’s plan.

Stay radiant!

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