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3 Intentional Ways to Practice Gratitude

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 9:1

An Attitude of Gratitude
How often do you practice gratitude? Lately, I’ve been learning that when you practice gratitude, you’re more receptive to the blessings that God gives you, and when you’re happy with what you have, you recognize the blessings that you already have more often.

My boyfriend, Nathan is really great about being grateful, and he inspires me to practice gratitude often. He often shares what he’s thankful for, and when I’m in a bad mood, he sometimes asks me to count my blessings. Nathan has helped me to be more positive and trust that God has good things in store for me. Because of Nathan, I eventually began making gratitude part of my routine. I thought of a few ways to incorporate gratitude throughout my day, and it made me happier and more receptive of God’s gifts.

As followers of Christ, we’re encouraged to give thanks at all times. We should view everything as a gift from God and always have our eyes open to His blessings. Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful every day. In light of the Thanksgiving season, we should count our blessings and have a more intentional attitude of gratitude. Because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, here are a few ways that I like to practice gratitude.

3 Intentional Ways to Practice Gratitude
3 Intentional Ways to Practice Gratitude

1 Journal
If you like to write or if writing helps you to remember things, write down in your prayer journal what you’re thankful for. It’s effective to do this regularly, so you write down something you’re thankful for every day, or at the end of every week, write down ten things you were grateful for from the past week.

2 Talk with Friends and Family
I love to tell my friends what I’m thankful for and share how God is working in my life. I also love hearing what they’re thankful for and seeing how God has blessed them. When you’re catching up with a friend or having dinner with your family, ask them to share something they’re grateful for from the day.

3 Pray in Thanksgiving
Because prayer isn’t just about asking for things, take a few moments in prayer to share your gratitude with God. The Lord delights when we pray in thanksgiving, so thank God for the blessings in your life. Ask Him for clarity when reflecting on your life so that you can recognize the blessings that He gave you.

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Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: November 22, 2020

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”

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Fr. John and I sat together in wicker chairs on a warm March morning. Surrounded by the flowers, concrete buildings, and children of the Diriamba Mustard Seed Community compound, he heard my confession and talked with me for a while. At the beginning of my time on mission in Nicaragua, he gave me a few words of encouragement. He told me that when I go to Heaven, Jesus will tell me “I was in Nicaragua, in all of the children, and you loved me.”

For the next week, I poured my heart out to all of the children. It didn’t matter that I spoke English and they spoke Spanish. It didn’t matter what disabilities they had. It didn’t matter that I only had a few days to spend with them. I loved every child that I encountered and treated each one like Jesus. I truly saw Christ in each child as they were so quick to love me and everyone else on my team. We didn’t do anything to earn or deserve their love, but they loved us anyway unconditionally.

My time in Nicaragua taught me so many things, but most importantly, it taught me to see Christ in everyone. I realized that everyone is my brother or sister in Christ and we’re all connected in His Mystical Body. When I hugged a child in Nicaragua, I was hugging Jesus. This week, try to find Jesus within the people in your own life. Ask yourself how you can serve Him through them. He wants to welcome us into His Kingdom, but first we need to show Him that we love Him, especially through the least of His people.

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How to Practice Holy Leisure

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

What is Holy Leisure?
I first heard about holy leisure when I started discipleship in college. Courtney, my discipler was teaching me about six-step planning, and she reminded me to take time for holy leisure. She advised me to save time to do something restful and life-giving as I planned my schedule for each week. We’re often told that self-care is very important, and holy leisure can be likened to self-care from a faith-based perspective.

Holy leisure is a form of rest or light recreation that glorifies God. Our Heavenly Father didn’t create us to be workhorses. While work is part of his plan for creation and his will for our lives, he also wants us to rest. Specifically, he wants us to rest well. Our leisure time should be restorative so that we can slow down to enjoy the life that God blesses us with. When we rest well, we can give from a full cup when we go back to our work, service, or ministries.

What we do during our holy leisure time matters. We should engage our bodies, minds, and souls in life-giving things. Holy leisure is NOT endlessly scrolling on social media, binge-watching a Netflix show, constantly sleeping, or eating because you’re bored. A great holy leisure activity should find a balance of engaging and relaxing your body, mind, and soul. Picture your activity in light of the transcendentals. If it’s authentically true, good, and/or beautiful, then it’s something worth doing.

How to Practice Holy Leisure
How to Practice Holy Leisure: What holy leisure is and 8 fun and restorative holy leisure activities

I wasn’t very good at doing holy leisure in college, but now I’m finding ways to incorporate it into my week. Here are just a few of my favorite holy leisure activities:

1 Reading or listening to a Catholic or Christian book
Curl up on a comfy couch with some coffee or tea and spend an afternoon reading or listening to an audio book. You can exchange favorite books with a friend, or start a little book club. Some of my favorite Catholic books are Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Dr. Edward Sri, and Called by Kevin Cotter, and I’m currently reading Meditations with St. Teresa of Avila by Megan Don.

2 Taking a short nap
A FOCUS missionary that I knew always said that taking a nap is an act of trust in God, which means that you trust that God will help you to get your work done and rest. Get cozy in bed for 30 minutes to an hour for some rejuvenating rest.

3 Making a craft/being creative
Getting artsy is good way to relax and have fun, and when you’re done, you have something special to keep or to give as a gift. There are endless ways to be creative, like painting along with Bob Ross, crocheting or knitting, or even decorating your planner with stickers. God is the divine artist, so he delights when we create beautiful works of art of our own.

4 Going on a run, exercising, or physical activity
Exercise is a great way to take care of our bodies. As long as you don’t push yourself too much, it can be refreshing and a good way to burn off energy. Go for a walk or run around the block, go to a class or do an at-home workout, or put on some music and dance!

5 Watch a movie or an episode of a show with a friend
Watching one episode at a time with a few friends makes binge-watching less likely to happen. Find a show or a movie that’s life-giving and inspiring to enjoy at the end of a long day.

6 Pamper yourself
Spend an evening painting your nails, taking a bubble bath, or doing a face mask. These restorative and relaxing self-care tactics are great ways to take care of the body that God gave you.

7 Listen to a Catholic podcast or conference talk
It’s easy to pop on a podcast while you’re driving to work or cleaning, but you can also have a seat and just soak in the conversation. A few of my favorite Catholic podcasts are The Crunch, Clerically Speaking, and Fr. Mike Schmitz.

8 Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
Having a warm beverage is always fun activity to do with a friend or by yourself. It’s an easy way to take a minute to yourself and step away from your work. You can easily brew a cup of coffee or tea at home, or you could visit a local coffee shop to support a small business.

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What are your favorite holy leisure activities? Which ones are you looking forward to trying? Tips!! Set aside time for it, do something that lifts you up and helps you think of God

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This Sunday’s Gospel: November 15, 2020

Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability. 
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two. 
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

“After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five. 
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. 
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities. 
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents. 
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. 
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. 
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter? 
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? 
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. 
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

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My very first parish priest was Fr. Andrew Stanko. He presided at St. Stephens, the parish that I was born, baptized, and spent my childhood in. He was the chaplain of West End Catholic, my Catholic elementary school, and he gave me my First Holy Communion. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds me of a homily that he gave during a student Mass. He called three students up and walked them through a little reenactment of the Parable of the Talents. He gave pennies to each student, and told one to put his penny in a plant to symbolize burying it. Fr. Stanko always knew how to engage us and teach us the faith in a way that we could grasp.

Earlier this month, I got a text from my mom. She told me that Fr. Stanko had passed away. When I prayed for him that night, the words “well done, good and faithful servant” popped into my heart. I found peace in thinking that these were the words that Fr. Stanko heard our Heavenly Father tell him. I looked up the Mass readings for this Sunday, and quite providentially, today’s Gospel reading is the one that reminds me the most of Fr. Stanko. Memories of his interactive homily flooded my mind and provoked thoughts, smiles, and even a tear.

With the Parable of the Talents, Jesus reminds us to spend not our money, but our lives intentionally. He encourages us to use the talents, gifts, and blessings that he gave us. Instead of squandering them by hiding them from the world, we have to use our talents to glorify God and serve his children. Fr. Stanko had a talent for giving insightful and thought-provoking homilies. He used this talent well, and I’m confident that when he met our Lord, he said, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

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The Weeds in Your Soul

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Matthew 13:30

Chores with the Community
Living in intentional community is great because we get to do everything together. It’s fun when we get to share meals, watch movies, and play board games together, but even when we do not-so-fun things together, we still manage to find joy. I don’t distain washing the dishes, cleaning the stove, or going grocery shopping because I get to do these things with and for the people who I love.

On a chilly October Saturday, we had our “Fall Cleaning Day.” We spent the morning and afternoon doing some projects around the big old house that we live in and lovingly call “the Casa.” Some of us re-grouted the kitchen tiles, some raked leaves, some replaced the garbage disposal, and some took the compost to the Farmer’s Market. After I came home from grocery shopping with two of my housemates, I helped to pull weeds from the front of the house.

Pulling Weeds
It was fun to pull weeds with a few of the girls who I live with. We had some great conversations about discernment and vocations while we uprooted the weeds and tossed them into big brown bags. When we were quiet, I found myself praying some Hail Marys.

As I pulled the weeds and tossed them out of the way, I couldn’t help but think of the parables in which Jesus talked about weeds. Every time, they symbolize evil and show how it can destroy the goodness that God sows if it overgrows our hearts. The weeds soak up the water and sunshine that are meant for the flowers and plants in an attempt to kill them off.

I found myself contemplating the many weeds growing in my life. There are weeds that I plucked out and continue to keep at bay, there are some stubborn ones that I have to fight to remove, and there are ones that are seemingly here to stay.

The Gone-for-Good Weeds
As I continue to grow closer to Jesus and strive for holiness, I look back on my progress and notice fruitful blooms where weeds once grew. I look back and notice that with sins and bad habits gone, God has more room to garden in my heart. It’s an ongoing process, but as I remove the weeds of sin from my life, there’s more space for God to sow seeds of grace and love. With less clutter, I’m more open to loving him, to receiving him in my life, and to wanting his will for my life.

The Weeds in Your Soul
The Weeds in Your Soul: 3 types of weeds that grow in our souls and how we can deal with them.

The Recurring Weeds
Of course, some weeds are easier to remove than others. As much as I’ve grown in avoiding near occasions of sin and of detachment from this world, I still have struggles that haunt me like pesky weeds. My own selfishness prevents me from growing in detachment. I know the importance of fasting and focusing on God instead of this world, but in my weakness, I choose comfort over penance. I’m so bad at the heroic minute and I love food too much. Sometimes I’m able to pull up these weeds, but before long, they spring up again. These weeds are harder to remove and I’ll need a little more time and help from God to get them out.

The Here-to-Stay Weeds
Finally, some weeds just won’t come out. They’re things that I’ll struggle with for the rest of my life. As painful as they are, they’re here for a reason. I probably won’t ever get rid of my periods of sadness, the nagging feelings that I’m not good enough, and miscellaneous pain from my past. I don’t know why I struggle with these things, but if they were gone, I wouldn’t be the same. If I were to uproot my ugliest roots, it would cost me my future Sainthood. The sufferings that we endure bring us closer to God and help those who will come after us to grow closer to him. Because of this, we don’t always get relief, and we shouldn’t always ask for it.

In the Parable of the weeds, Jesus doesn’t let the gardeners pull out the weeds because it could damage the wheat. They have to stay and grow together, but in the end, the weeds will be burned and the wheat will be gathered to him. We can consider these weeds to the crosses that we bear. They’re not pleasant and we want to get rid of them, but we have them for a reason. God doesn’t give us a hard time because it’s entertaining to him or because we deserve it. He allows these weeds or crosses in our lives because they make us holy. Like Jesus carried his holy cross to Calvary, we have to carry our crosses to make it to the Kingdom of Heaven. When they’re difficult and agonizing, we turn to the Lord and he gives us what we need to grow closer to him. We receive the grace to trust in his timing. We find his goodness and glory. We gain a way to encounter him and rest in his presence.

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Reflect on Your Own Weeds
Think of all of the weeds that you’ve encountered in the garden of your soul. What are the ones that have been easier to pluck out? Which ones have you successfully removed? Take a moment to thank God that they’re no longer keeping you from him. Which weeds are you still working on? What are some weeds that you thought you have taken care of, but have sprung back up? Ask God for patience in pulling these weeds, and ask him to guide you as you handle them. Which weeds seem like they’ll never go away? Which weeds have you been pulling at endlessly, but their roots are too deep to budge? Turn to God in your frustration. Surrender these weeds to him, and ask him to reveal to you the ways that they’re making you holy. Ask him to open your heart and your eyes to the ways that you’re depending on him and deepening your faith because of these weeds.

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This Sunday’s Gospel: November 8, 2020

Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 
Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. 
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. 
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus gives us another parable to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven. He stresses the importance of being prepared to enter the Kingdom by describing five virgins who kept their lamps lit and were ready to enter a wedding feast, and five virgins who let their oil run out and couldn’t enter the wedding feast. Jesus can call us home or come again any time. Because we don’t know the day or the hour, we always stay awake and find ways to make ourselves ready for him. The Parable of the Ten Virgins reminds us to be responsible for our own relationship with the Lord. We have to be proactive in our faith, and we have to keep ourselves accountable for growing in holiness. This is why the five wise virgins couldn’t give some of their oil to the other virgins. Their individual preparation can’t be lent to others. We wait in hope for the Kingdom of God, but we don’t wait in idleness. Jesus encourages us to always keep his Kingdom in mind, preparing for it in everything that we do.

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The Fruits of the Glorious Mysteries

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothes with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Revelation 12:1

I used to get distracted throughout the Rosary, and occasionally I still do. I announce the mystery, let my mind wander, and only remember which one I’m on when I pray the ninth or tenth Hail Mary. The things that help me to contemplate each mystery are the fruits of the mysteries. I ponder how the fruit applies to its respective mystery and I pray to embody that fruit in my own life. As you meditate on the fruits of the Glorious Mysteries, open your heart to receive the fruits and ask Jesus and Mary to reveal where you can grow in that fruit.

The Fruits of the Glorious Mysteries: Meditations on the fruits of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
The Fruits of the Glorious Mysteries: Meditations on the fruits of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

The First Glorious Mystery is the Resurrection
The Fruit of the Mystery is Faith
Jesus told his Apostles that he was going to suffer, die, and rise again. They knew all along that this was coming, but after Jesus died, they fell into despair. They seemed to forget that Jesus’ Resurrection was only three days away. When Mary Magdalene and the other women visited the tomb on the first Easter morning, I’m sure they weren’t expecting to hear that their Lord had risen, but when they realized that Jesus was alive again, they knew that his promises were true. Jesus really is the Son of God, and his Resurrection gives us eternal life. On the day that Jesus rose, he laid the cornerstone of our faith. While we should always hold onto it, when life presents struggles and difficulties, it’s hard to keep our faith. Even when we lose faith, Jesus is always near. He finds ways to bring us to him and to reveal his love to us.

The Second Glorious Mystery is the Ascension
The Fruit of the Mystery is Hope
Forty days after Jesus’ Resurrection, he gathered his Apostles to be with all of them in person one more time. He gave them the Great Commission, telling them to make disciples of all nations. After lovingly giving them this mission, Jesus returned to his Heavenly Father. The Apostles watched Jesus ascend into Heaven until they couldn’t see him anymore. In the same way that Jesus ascended into his Kingdom, he’ll come back to earth for his second coming. Contemplating Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven deepens our hope. We wait in hope for his glorious second coming and for eternal life with him.

The Third Glorious Mystery is the Descent of the Holy Spirit
The Fruit of the Mystery is Love of God
Given the mission of spreading the Gospel, the Apostles were probably hesitant, scared, and confused. For ten days, they and Mary stayed together in an upper room, praying unceasingly. Finally, on Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to descend on them in tongues of fire. Now, burning with the Holy Spirit, they received the means to do their mission. God gives each of us a role to play in the Great Commission. In some way, we’re all responsible for making disciples of all nations. While this mission can seem daunting, we don’t have to go forth alone. The Holy Spirit grants us the gifts we need to share the Gospel and to live a life worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we feel overwhelmed and discouraged, we can turn to the Lord, asking him to give us the wisdom, courage, piety, or whatever we need to continue our journey.

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is the Assumption
The Fruit of the Mystery is Grace of a Happy Death
As the Mother of God and the most perfect and precious part of God’s creation, Mary was assumed into Heaven. She didn’t stay on earth to decompose in a tomb. Instead, God brought her body and soul into his Kingdom. I can see why Mary’s death is considered happy, but no one else will die like she did. This reality leads me to contemplate what constitutes a happy death? When we find peace and even joy in dying, we have the grace of a happy death. As we prepare to leave this world, we can rest knowing that Jesus has already conquered the grave. Because of this, at the moment of our deaths, we can rejoice knowing that soon we’ll see the face of God and enter his Kingdom.

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is the Coronation of Mary
The Fruit of the Mystery is Trust in Mary’s Intercession
One of the FOCUS missionaries I knew from Slippery Rock always said that Mary is the perfect example of a perfect missionary. When I think of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth, I think of her taking responsibility for all of God the Father’s children as her own. Her mission in life exemplified and continued as Queen of Heaven and earth. Entrusted with all of us, our Blessed Mother constantly draws us closer to her Son. With confidence, we can turn to Mary as our Mother, our Queen, and our model of how to follow God’s will perfectly.

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If you enjoyed these meditations with a focus on the fruits of the Glorious Mysteries, click here to read another set of meditations on the Glorious Mysteries. Meditate on the fruits of the Joyful Mysteries, the fruits of the Luminous Mysteries, and the fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries here!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: November 1, 2020

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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In Catholic elementary school, I learned that the word “Beatitudes” means happy. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes to show us how to be happy. When we hear the Beatitudes, we learn who God blesses and holds close to him. The Beatitudes are one of the many things that make us counter-cultural as Catholics. Hungering, mourning, and being poor aren’t typically considered happy things, and being meek, merciful, and clean of heart aren’t always the popular things to do. By living the Beatitudes, we remember that we live to please God, not ourselves or those around us. We remember that this life is fleeting and that we should focus on eternal life. As we embrace the Beatitudes, we can rejoice knowing that our reward is in Heaven. Our Heavenly Father will give us unimaginable joy when we enter his Kingdom, and we can live in joyful hope as we wait and prepare for eternal life.

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The Fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries

Jesus was led away, and carrying the cross by himself, went out to what is called the Place of the Skull. There, they crucified him.

John 9:17-18

I used to get distracted throughout the Rosary, and occasionally I still do. I announce the mystery, let my mind wander, and only remember which one I’m on when I pray the ninth or tenth Hail Mary. The things that help me to contemplate each mystery are the fruits of the mysteries. I ponder how the fruit applies to its respective mystery and I pray to embody that fruit in my own life. As you meditate on the fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries, open your heart to receive the fruits and ask Jesus and Mary to reveal where you can grow in that fruit.

The Fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries
The Fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries: Meditations on the fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary

The First Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden
The Fruit of the Mystery is Conformity to God’s Will
After the Last Supper, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was anxious about his upcoming Passion, so he turned to his Father in prayer. Jesus knew that he had to suffer and die so that we could enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He did this out of love for us, but in his humanity, he was scared. Just like us, he asked God if he really had to do this. In the end, Jesus said “not as I will, but as you will.” Sometimes God asks us to do hard things. Naturally, we tend to feel afraid, question if we really have to do them, and look for a way out. In these moments, we can turn to Jesus in his agony and remember that he was there first. He accepted God’s will for him, and he can help us to want what God wants for us.

The Second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar
The Fruit of the Mystery is Mortification
When I meditate on this Sorrowful Mystery, I can’t help but picture how gruesome scourging is. It’s a sharp, stinging, bloody scene, and it hurts my heart to think of Jesus feeling that pain. It’s almost unbelievable that Jesus went through all of that for us. And then I turn around and assess my own life. I think of my attempts at fasting and mortifications and how I bargain and make excuses. I want to do penance for myself and for the world, but it’s difficult. I look to Jesus, bloody and exhausted from the Scourging at the Pillar, and remember what he endured for our sins, and I ask him to make me stronger so that I can share in his suffering.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery is the Crowning of Thorns
The Fruit of the Mystery is Courage
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, and he did this during the Crowning of Thorns. He didn’t fight back or run away. He didn’t have to stand and take the crowd’s mockery, but he did. Unfortunately, too many people still reject Jesus. The world still mocks and persecutes Jesus, and they do the same to us because we live for him. Regardless, we stand firm in Jesus. When we’re harassed and bullied because of him, we remember his courage. Jesus didn’t back down when he was taunted by the crowd, and the words and threats of those around us won’t shake our faith.

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is the Carrying of the Cross
The Fruit of the Mystery is Patience
Patience is a virtue that I’ve always struggled with. A few years ago, I learned that patience isn’t about waiting. It’s about keeping a good attitude while you wait. Jesus’ journey to Calvary wasn’t easy. As he carried his own cross and felt the stung of fresh wounds, thorns in his head, and words of spectators, he walked a painful road to the hill where he would die. He wasn’t exactly joyful, but not once did Jesus lose his temper or despair. He encouraged those around him and he showed love and kindness to the people he encountered on the Way of the Cross. In the tedious, difficult, and time-consuming tasks throughout our day, it’s easy to give in and allow ourselves to get irritated and frustrated. Instead, we can take our time. We can find ways to offer it up or to do little things with great love.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion
The Fruit of the Mystery is Forgiveness
By Jesus’ death, we were set free from sin. As he suffered and died on the cross, he took on a debt he didn’t owe. Jesus paid the debt that we couldn’t pay so that we could spend eternity in his Kingdom. We look to the cross to recognize God’s forgiveness as a free gift. There’s nothing we have to do to earn his forgiveness. All we have to do is accept it graciously. In the in the pain of suffering and the ugliness of death, we find the most perfect example of true love within the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion reminds us that there’s nothing that God won’t do to show us his love, so in all things, we can love him in return.

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If you enjoyed these meditations with a focus on the fruits of the Sorrowful Mysteries, click here to read another set of meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries. Meditate on the fruits of the Joyful Mysteries and the fruits of the Luminous Mysteries here! Meditations on the fruits of the other Mysteries of the Rosary are coming soon!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: October 25, 2020

Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

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The Ten Commandments that God gives us are built off of two basic laws that Jesus reminds us of in this Sunday’s Gospel reading. We must always love God above all things, making him the center of our lives and our first priority. We have to love our neighbor as ourselves, giving them the care and kindness that we’d want to receive. This reading reminds me of a quote by St. Augustine which reads, “Love God and do as you will.” Don’t be mistaken and think this means that we can do whatever we want as long as we love. When we’re so deeply in love with God, we will what God wills. We don’t seek to do what we want for our lives, but what God wants. I think this can also be applied to our neighbors. When we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we put their needs above ours. As we listen to Jesus’ commands in this Sunday’s Gospel, let’s truly take them to heart by loving the Lord more intentionally and living as an instrument of his love.

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The Fruits of the Luminous Mysteries

And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

Matthew 17:2

I used to get distracted throughout the Rosary, and occasionally I still do. I announce the mystery, let my mind wander, and only remember which one I’m on when I pray the ninth or tenth Hail Mary. The things that help me to contemplate each mystery are the fruits of the mysteries. I ponder how the fruit applies to its respective mystery and I pray to embody that fruit in my own life. As you meditate on the fruits of the Luminous Mysteries, open your heart to receive the fruits and ask Jesus and Mary to reveal where you can grow in that fruit.

The Fruits of the Luminous Mysteries
The Fruits of the Luminous Mysteries: Meditations on the fruits of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

The First Luminous Mystery is the Baptism in the Jordan
The Fruit of the Mystery is Openness to the Holy Spirit

At first, John the Baptist was hesitant to baptize Jesus. Feeling unworthy, he said that Jesus should baptize him. But Jesus gently persisted. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended on him and his Heavenly Father was pleased. Similarly, our own baptisms are pleasing to God the Father. We receive the Holy Spirit for the first time and enter the Church as his beloved children. No matter when we were baptized, we have the grace of being open to the Holy Spirit. We can pray to stay open to the Holy Spirit and receive his gifts.

The Second Luminous Mystery is the Wedding at Cana
The Fruit of the Mystery is to Jesus through Mary
Jesus performed his first miracle at Mary’s prompting. Like the perfect mother that she is, Mary notices our needs and fulfills them through Jesus. When she realized that the bride and groom were out of wine at the wedding feast, she knew what to do. Mary’s last recorded words are found in the Wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” She gave this loving command to the servants at the feast, and it still applies to us today. As we serve Jesus throughout our life, we look to Mary as an example of a perfect disciple. She truly did whatever he told her to, and so can we with her grace.

The Third Luminous Mystery is the Proclamation of the Kingdom
The Fruit of the Mystery is Repentance and Trust in God
Sometimes, we can meditate on this mystery as Jesus’ teaching as a whole. At first, I would meditate on the Beatitudes or other instances of Jesus preaching. I learned that the Proclamation of the Kingdom is specifically when Jesus sends 70 disciples out into the world. He sends them two by two into villages to call for conversions and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand. This message still stirs up a call to action in us. We don’t know when the Kingdom of Heaven will be here, and it could come before we know it. We assess our own lives and see where we can repent and trust in God more, and we encourage those whom we encounter to do the same.

The Fourth Luminous Mystery is the Transfiguration
The Fruit of the Mystery is Desire for Holiness
Jesus chooses Peter, James, and John to witness his Transfiguration. On a mountain, he revealed his glory to them. They’ve seen his human appearance, but Jesus gave them the gift of beholding his divinity. He became radiant, as white as snow, and appeared with Moses and Elijah. Meditating on the Transfiguration gives us hope to share in his glory. This mystery inspires us to allow Jesus to transfigure us so that we might be pure and holy like him.

The Fifth Luminous Mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist
The Fruit of the Mystery is Adoration
During the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated the first Mass with the twelve Apostles. On that night, he gave us the most beautiful gift, the Eucharist. In the humble form of bread and wine, Jesus offers us the gift of his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In other words, the God of the Universe not only died for us so that we can spend eternity with him. He also continuously comes to us. He willingly makes himself small and vulnerable so that we can be in communion with him. The Eucharist is the greatest love story. As we contemplate the Institution of the Eucharist, we deepen our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood and adoring it during Eucharistic Adoration, we spend time with Jesus personally and grow closer to our Savior in the most perfect way.

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If you enjoyed these meditations with a focus on the fruits of the Luminous mysteries, click here to read another set of meditations on the Luminous mysteries. Meditate on the fruits of the Joyful Mysteries here! Meditations on the fruits of the other Mysteries of the Rosary are coming soon!

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According to Luke

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:42

When I think of Jesus, I see his loving gaze and feel his heart on fire with love. I picture his arms outstretched, ready to embrace me. As I pray, I visualize myself holding his hands or wrapped in his arms. Resting in his presence, I pour my heart out to him. He meets me where I am and lets me rest in him, constantly reassuring me that he loves me.

While we read the Gospel of Luke, we always hear of Jesus encountering and loving everyone he meets. He heals the sick and forgives sinners. He stops to talk to the outcasts of society. My image of a compassionate Jesus comes from Luke’s Gospel because of the beautiful ways that he describes him.

According to Luke: Understanding St. Luke and his Gospel account
According to Luke: Understanding St. Luke and his Gospel account

Luke wrote his Gospel account, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, as a convert to Christianity. Because of this, his writing expressed that Jesus came for everyone. The Gospel of Luke was written for Gentiles, or non-Christians, to show them that Jesus gathers them to him too. Luke illustrates our Savior as compassionate, loving, and caring toward all whom he encounters. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus meets and speaks with Gentiles, Samaritans, sinners, and the poor to show that anyone can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

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In reading the Gospel of Luke, we learn that Jesus doesn’t deny his love or mercy to anyone who comes to him with a contrite heart. He showed kindness to everyone, especially the poor and vulnerable, and cared deeply for them. As we read Luke’s Gospel, we can learn from his depiction of Jesus. We can imitate Jesus and show his love and compassion to our brothers and sisters. We can show them that we’re here for them and we love them by spending time with them, giving words of encouragement, or wrapping them in a hug.

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This Sunday’s Gospel: October 18, 2020

Matthew 22:15-21

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”

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We have responsibilities as humans. We pay taxes, vote, and follow laws. These are our obligations as earthly citizens, but we also have obligations as children of God. We have to lovingly and obediently follow his commands. We give him the highest glory and honor. We worship God alone because only he is worthy of such high praise and honor. Jesus’ answer in this Sunday’s Gospel isn’t all-or-nothing. We live in a state of both-and. As we go about our worldly responsibilities, we also keep our sights on Heaven. We can’t get distracted by earthly things so much that we forget to give God what’s due to God.

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The Fruits of the Joyful Mysteries

They came upon him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. All who heard him were amazed.

Luke 2:46-47

I used to get distracted throughout the Rosary, and occasionally I still do. I announce the mystery, let my mind wander, and only remember which one I’m on when I pray the ninth or tenth Hail Mary. The things that help me to contemplate each mystery are the fruits of the mysteries. I ponder how the fruit applies to its respective mystery and I pray to embody that fruit in my own life. As you meditate on the fruits of the Joyful Mysteries, open your heart to receive the fruits and ask Jesus and Mary to reveal where you can grow in that fruit.

The Fruits of the Joyful Mysteries
The Fruits of the Joyful Mysteries: Meditations on the fruits of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

The First Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation
The Fruit of the Mystery is Humility
Mary had a life prior to the Annunciation. She had plans and an idea of what she would do with her life. Obviously, when Gabriel appeared to her and told her that she would be the Mother of God, everything changed. Mary could have felt confused, shocked, bewildered. She could have wondered if the angel came to the right woman. Instead of fighting it or running away from God’s plan, she gave her fiat, her complete, perfect, no-strings-attached yes. She humbled herself in the Lord, allowing him to work in her and through her. In her perfection and holiness, Mary remained open to God’s plans for her. Her “yes,” reminds us to let God’s will, not ours, be done. In this moment, she illustrates the most perfect example of humility.

The Second Joyful Mystery is the Visitation
The Fruit of the Mystery is Love of Neighbor
In her faith, Mary believed that she would be the Mother of God, but there was another way that she knew that Gabriel’s words were true. She visited her cousin, Elizabeth, who in her old age was pregnant with John the Baptist. The Visitation shows that Mary and Elizabeth had so much love for each other. They were probably so happy for each other in light of their pregnancies. Elizabeth felt such awe to be in the midst of the Mother of God, and Mary reverently reflected the praise to the Lord. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and I can’t help but wonder what they did together when I contemplate the joy throughout their visit. I like to think that they took care of each other and kept each other company as they approached a new and beautiful chapter in their lives.

The Third Joyful Mystery is the Nativity
The Fruit of the Mystery is Detachment / Poverty
Jesus could have come to earth any way he wanted. He could have appeared out of nowhere, or he could have descended from Heaven in a blaze of glory, but our Lord decided to experience all facets of human life. As fully God and fully human, the God of the universe chose to be born of a woman. He came into the world as a small and vulnerable baby. He could have made himself a king, or a wealthy person with servants to attend to him, but he was born to poor parents in a stable with nothing. When we look at our Nativity scenes beneath our Christmas trees, we tend to think warm and cozy thoughts. We tend to romanticize the Holy Family’s experience on the first Christmas Eve. They had no place to stay or call home, they most likely had little money and not much food, but what they did have was God. Mary and Joseph didn’t have much, but because they literally had Jesus in their presence, they had enough. As long as we have Jesus, we have everything.

The Fourth Joyful Mystery is the Presentation
The Fruit of the Mystery is Obedience
Honestly, I tend to struggle with meditating on this mystery. It’s truly, for lack of better terms, a mystery to me because I’m stilly trying to wrap my head around it. What grounds me an gives me something to contemplate on is its fruit, obedience, and how it speaks to the faith of Mary and Joseph. They knew that their Son was the God of the universe. He established the laws and commandments, and as the Almighty One, he answers to no one. But Mary and Joseph presented the infant Jesus in the Temple anyway. They didn’t consider themselves an exception to the rule. They followed the law and dedicated their firstborn Son. Because of this, God’s promise to Simeon was fulfilled. Simeon lived to see the Messiah. After a lifetime of waiting in hope and trusting in the Lord, Simeon encountered God Incarnate. When he held the Word Incarnate in his arms, he knew that God always keeps his word.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery is the Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Fruit of the Mystery is the Joy in Finding Jesus
I can’t divorce the Fifth Joyful Mystery from the Third Sorrowful Mystery. To find someone naturally implies that someone was previously lost. As Mary and Joseph sought their Son, I’m positive that their only thought was finding him again. Nothing would console them until he was in their care again. When they finally found him in the Temple, I can only imagine the wave of relief and happiness that washed over them. They must have held him tightly, never wanting to let him go again. The fear and anxiety that once overwhelmed them disappeared all because Jesus was with them again. Whether we’ve left the Church and we’re coming home, or if we’re coming closer to Jesus in prayer, we always feel the joy of being with Jesus because he offers us joy that we won’t find anywhere else.

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If you enjoyed these meditations with a focus on the fruits of the Joyful mysteries, click here to read another set of meditations on the Joyful mysteries. More blog posts on the fruits of the other Mysteries of the Rosary are coming soon!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: October 11, 2020

Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people 
in parables, saying, 
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son. 
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business. 
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them. 
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come. 
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests. 
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. 
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

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Those who God invited to the feast aren’t coming. They refused his invitation, so they refuse him. So now he invites the poor and lowly. In other words, the people considered “unworthy” of the feast are the ones who get to go. It might seem unfair, but they were the ones who accept the invitation. At the end of this Sunday’s Gospel, you’ll notice that the guest who wasn’t wearing a wedding garment couldn’t enter. During Jesus’ time, everyone who attended a wedding banquet was given a garment that they had to wear. Because a guest chose not to wear his garment, he couldn’t join the feast. The Lord invites all of us to come to his table, but when we accept the invitation, we agree to follow the rules. He has a place for all of us in Heaven, but if we want to go, we have to keep his commandments.

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How Our Lady and the Rosary Improved my Prayer Life

Although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately directed, with her and through her. The repetition is nourished by the desire to be conformed ever more completely to Christ.

St. John Paul II

My First Rosary
When I learned how to pray the Rosary during my First Holy Communion classes, my grandma gave me my first rosary. It had sparkling pale blue beads and a silver cross and miraculous medal. I treasured it and took my Rosary to school and Mass with me. Ever since then, the Rosary was part of my life

How Our Lady and the Rosary Improved my Prayer Life

Praying the Rosary
I grew up praying the Rosary with my mom, at Catholic school, and sometimes I would get together with my extended family to pray the Rosary. I found it difficult to pray the Rosary when I was little. I knew that it was a powerful and beautiful prayer, but because it was very long and repetitive, I didn’t pray it very well.

When I went to high school, my morality teacher encouraged us to never be bored with praying the Rosary. Even though we say the Hail Mary over fifty times, Mary never gets tired of hearing it. We tell our Blessed Mother “I love you” with each Hail Mary. Our moms would never ask us to say “I love you,” differently, and neither would Mary. With this piece of advice, Miss Ackerman changed how I pray the Rosary. To this day, when I feel myself losing interest in the middle of my Rosary, I remind myself that I’m telling Mary that I love her, and I want to say those beautiful words wholeheartedly and intentionally.

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To Jesus Through Mary
When I made my Marian Consecration, I fell more in love with Mary. I grew closer to her as my Mother and improved my relationship with her. Praying the Rosary is my way to spend time with Mary. She yearns to bring us closer to her son, and the Rosary is a perfect way to go to Jesus through Mary

It took me a while to be able to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary. I’d often announce the mystery and then forget about it until I was finished with that decade and it was time to start the next one. When I learned that the mysteries of the Rosary have fruits, I reflected on them throughout the Rosary. The fruits are ways that each mystery helps you to grow in holiness or virtue. As I pray each mystery, I contemplate the fruit that accompanies it. I ask God to grant me graces to grow in it.

If you want to learn more about the fruits of the mysteries of the Rosary, I’m working on a series about them! If you liked my last series on the mysteries of the Rosary, you’ll love this one! Be sure to subscribe if you don’t want to miss it!

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Simply Peaceful: The Holy Life of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Leaving Everything to Follow Jesus
In the Gospels, Jesus calls us to leave everything behind and follow him. During his earthly ministry, he called his disciples to leave behind their old life to find new life in him. They left their families, their jobs, their possessions, and everything they knew for Jesus.

He still calls us in this radical way to follow him, and a Saint who heeded that call beautifully was St. Francis of Assisi.

Embracing the Leper
St. Francis was born into a wealthy family in Assisi, Italy. His father was a successful cloth merchant, and Francis was supposed to follow in his footsteps, but he also desired to be a soldier. He wasn’t interested in faith until he encountered a leper one day. Moved with love for him, Francis got off of his horse to embrace and kiss the leper. At that moment, Francis became more compassionate toward all of God’s creatures.

Simply Peaceful: The Holy Life of St. Francis of Assisi

Rebuilding the Church
He began praying in the delipidated Portiuncula chapel before the San Damiano cross. One day, he heard Jesus tell him, Rebuild my Church. For you see, it is in ruins. Assuming that Jesus meant the church that he was praying in, St. Francis sold the material and clothes from his father’s business to renovate the Portiuncula chapel. Of course, his father was furious and demanded that he repay him. In the town square, Francis stripped off his clothes, denied his father, and vowed that God was his only father.

Now that Francis had next to nothing, he dedicated his life to God. He lived in simplicity and obedience, depending on his Heavenly Father for everything. Eventually, men from all walks of life witnessed his faith and desired to follow God like him. Francis created a community of brothers who lived simply and cared for God’s creation. After a wealthy young woman named Clare heard St. Francis preach, she was inspired to follow him and adopt his lifestyle. With Francis’s spiritual guidance, Clare formed a community of sisters who lived simple lives of prayer and poverty. These communities later became religious orders of brothers and sisters and identified themselves as Franciscans.

What I love the most about St. Francis was his devotion to the Incarnation. He thought it was so beautiful that God became man and dwelt with us. This inspired him to make the first Nativity Scene, which is now a tradition in homes and churches. Because of his devotion to God incarnate, he was blessed with the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ, a few years before his death in 1226.

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Becoming Franciscan-Hearted
As I live and work with Franciscan Mission Service, I feel myself becoming more Franciscan-hearted each day. I’ve been participating in simple living, which looks like decluttering what distracts me from focusing on God so that he can truly be the focal point of my life. I’m learning to empty myself of earthly things so that I can be filled with God’s love. I find myself becoming more intentional about caring for God’s creation, like the animals and plants around me, and my brothers and sisters in Christ. St. Francis teaches me that God entrusts us with the earth and everything in it, so we’re responsible for taking care of it as good stewards. Reflecting on St. Francis’s life, it’s clear that he viewed everything as a gift from God, and he lived every moment of his life with gratitude. When he dedicated himself to God, he lost his wealth and possessions, but gained the Lord and eternal life. We can look to him when we’re overwhelmed with material things and worldly anxieties. St. Francis reminds us that we have everything we need when we have Jesus Christ.

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This Sunday’s Gospel: October 4, 2020

Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. 
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. 
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned. 
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way. 
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

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Our Heavenly Father can never be outdone in generosity. He entrusts us with beautiful gifts all around us. We look around and see the plants and animals of the earth, our talents, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. He gives these and more to us, but they aren’t ours to keep. We’re responsible for taking care of them and protecting them because they’re precious to God. A month and a half ago, I met the community that God gave me. Everyone in it is made in his image and likeness, and he trusts me to love him as I would love his Son. The people in my community aren’t random strangers; they’re my brothers and sisters in Christ. Neglecting them and not serving, listening to, or spending time with them would be like forsaking Jesus. Instead of being like the tenants in the parable we hear today, who killed the landowner’s son, let’s embrace him and show him how we’ve been faithful servant who took care of what God entrusted to us.

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Guardian Angels Aren’t Just for Children

Angel of God, my guardian dear to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule, and guide. Amen

The Guardian Angel Prayer

My First Prayer
I feel like when you’re a child, angels are cute and magical, like fairytale creatures. We would want to dress up as them and pretended to be them. I didn’t just think I could be an angel when I went to Heaven, I wanted to be an angel so badly. In my First Holy Communion classes, we named our guardian angels and drew a picture of what they looked like to us. (I learned later that we really shouldn’t do that because angels already have names and we don’t know what they look like.)

I prayed the guardian angel prayer every night and asked for its help when I was little. That prayer was probably the first one that I learned to pray. It was comforting to know that my guardian angel was protecting me, and I thought about my angel with, for lack of better terms, childlike wonder.

Guardian Angels Aren't Just for Children

Growing Out of Guardian Angels
After a while, it seemed like praying the guardian angel prayer and being slightly obsessed with having your own personal angel was just for kids. When I outgrew coloring, playing dress-up, and having tea parties, I must have outgrown my guardian angel too. I regret to say that I sort of forgot about my guardian angel for a chunk of my life, but fortunately, my guardian angel never forgot about me.

There were so many times in my life when I could tell God was looking out for me. Looking back on those occasions, I think he sent my guardian angel to protect me. Throughout my years of dance, I never had a major injury. I had survivors guilt when I would see dancers with torn ACLs, concussions, and more and I would only have a few bruises. Growing up Catholic in today’s society isn’t easy, and there were times when I ran into someone or read or watched something that contradicted my faith. Instead of giving in, I’d dismiss it knowing that I have the truth in Jesus Christ and his Church. Again, I felt a twinge of survivors guilt seeing how I kept my faith while others tragically didn’t.

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Reuniting with my Guardian Angel
I typically think to pray to God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or ask Mary or the Saints for help and prayers before I think of my guardian angel. It wasn’t until college when I started thinking about my guardian angel again. I learned that angels are wise, so when you study, you can invoke your guardian angel to help you. I took the small step of rebuilding my relationship with my guardian angel by asking it to help me study for my exams. I honestly didn’t really talk to my guardian angel much other than that. Regardless, I knew that I still had somewhat of a relationship with my guardian angel. Even if I didn’t talk to it or ask for its help often, I knew that it was always protecting me. I might have only asked for help with my studies, but in that way, I still kept my guardian angel close.

Now I’m out of college and a “full-time adult.” Although I don’t talk to my guardian angel as often as I’d like to, I can tell that it’s keeping me safe. I genuinely hope that when I get to Heaven, I can ask it what it was like to look out for me all of those years. I can only imagine what it’ll say about what it was like when I fell and scraped my arm in Cathedral Falls. Because today is the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, I encourage you to say the Guardian Angel Prayer. As childish as you might feel praying this prayer, you’re never too old to ask your guardian angel to guide and protect you.

Stay radiant!

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How My 1st Year of Blogging Changed my Faith Journey

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall always be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:2

Happy birthday, Radiant with Joy
I’m not known for making spontaneous decisions, but I made one a year ago today that I’ll never forget or regret. A year ago, I got my rejection email from FOCUS, and I was left wondering what to do next. I was in the elevator on my way to a dance class when I declared:

I’m going to start a faith blog.

It was spontaneous, impulsive, but I went for it anyway. Looking back, I’m certain it was the Holy Spirit. I knew what I would name my blog right away, Radiant with Joy, after my favorite Bible verse. Psalm 34:5 reads “Those who look to God are radiant with joy; their faces are never darkened with shame.” This is how I want to live for my Heavenly Father, and I hope that my joy not only brightens up those around me, but also helps them to encounter God.

I always felt called to help people fall more in love with God, which is why I applied to be a FOCUS missionary. As much as I was heartbroken when they said they wouldn’t interview me, I took their rejection graciously, knowing that God had other, more beautiful plans for me. There’s beauty in the breaking, and from the heartbreak that came with FOCUS’s “no,” I was able to say “yes” to starting Radiant with Joy.

I started this faith blog with transparency being a priority. I truly believe that everyone can be holy and anyone can be a Saint. Remembering how much I’ve struggled with spiritual comparison, I knew that only sharing my spiritual highs, or the good things going on in my faith journey, would be toxic. Instead, I decided to write about the highs and lows of my faith journey, starting with the “no” I had to hear from FOCUS. It wasn’t always pleasant to write about the lows. It was downright difficult to be so vulnerable sometimes, but it was worth it to be honest with myself and my readers, and I believe this facet of my blog is what makes it so beautiful and precious to readers.

How My 1st Year of Blogging Changed my Faith Journey

Because of Radiant with Joy
Within this little ministry, I found that I inspired quite a few people. As the Peace Prayer of St. Francis goes, “it is in giving that we receive,” so as I wrote Radiant with Joy and poured my heart into it, my heart was filled to the brim.

My email wasn’t exploding with messages of gratitude, but when I would run into a friend at the Newman Center and they would say they loved my last blog post, I’d beam just knowing that someone read it and liked it. Having a faith blog kept me accountable for growing in my faith, so I made more of an effort to receive the Sacraments more and to pray every day. In writing about my faith, I found myself learning more about the Church and her teachings, and falling more in love with them. In this past year, I went to daily Mass more than I ever have, I prayed the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, I finally made my Marian Consecration, I did Fiat 90, I’m working on my second 54-day Rosary Novena, and I read more Scripture than I ever have in my life. Radiant with Joy gave me the push that I needed to strengthen my faith. It elevated my prayer life, revived my relationship with Mary, and deepened my relationship with God.

I grew in perseverance not only with prayer and growing in faith and virtue, but also with my writing schedule. By planning blog posts and making a content calendar, I grew in commitment. I found so much support from my family and friends, and from some fellow faith bloggers! It means so much when they support me and Radiant with Joy, and I genuinely love to cheer them on with their blogs.

When I decided to write a faith blog, I became vulnerable and open with my faith journey. Because of this, I could have placed my worth in the amount of readers or followers that I had or the success or lack thereof that I gained, but strangely that never happened. Through it all, I gained a deeper understanding of my worth and identity as a daughter of the Lord. Whether Radiant with Joy becomes a huge and successful ministry or a little way to share my faith, I know that the Lord is pleased with me. I’m secure in knowing that I’m his beloved daughter, which has made me more joyful in everything that I do.

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A Few “Thank Yous”
The Lord is first and foremost in my life, so first, I thank him for Radiant with Joy and its very eventful first year. Every milestone that Radiant with Joy reached during this year, I credit to my Heavenly Father. Without him, none of this would have been possible. As I watch Radiant with Joy grow, I know that this is his plan for me. I felt him guiding me as I got the domain, made social media accounts, watched my number of page views go up each month, opened an Etsy shop, and made the blog look prettier and more professional. I thank him endlessly for what Radiant with Joy has become in the last year, and I look forward to where he’ll take it in the future.

Thank you to my family for being my biggest fans since day one, especially my mom for commenting on all of my blogs and sharing every single one. Thank you to Nathan, for your genuine excitement and support each time I talk about Radiant with Joy or do something new with it. Thank you to all of my friends who constantly hype me and RwJ up, especially Bernie, for your loving words of encouragement. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and this blog. Finally, thank you, for reading my blog. Whether you’ve been here all year or if you’re new to Radiant with Joy, I hope you’re feeling the joy and love of our Father radiating from my words. Please know that I’m praying for you to always stay radiant with the joy that only the Lord can give.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: September 27, 2020

Luke 9:43-45

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

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I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “actions speak louder than words.” What we do tends to be more meaningful than what we say. I can tell my housemates that I’ll do the dishes tonight, and I can promise my mom that I’ll call her, but unless I follow through with these actions, they mean nothing.

Our actions speak louder than words as Christians, too. I tell the Lord that I love his commands, but I don’t always follow them. I say that I love my neighbor as myself, but I fall short. I tell God that he’s the most important part of my life, but I waste time on social media or being lazy instead of spending time with him in prayer.

When our promising words aren’t backed up with following God’s will, we’re like the first son in today’s parable. We can’t affirm that we’ll do what our Father asks and then not show up. This is why we need to let our actions speak louder than our words. Let’s answer our Heavenly Father’s call to take up our cross and follow him humbly, whether we vocalize what we’re doing or not.

Stay radiant!

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15 Saints Who Weren’t Too Young to be Saints

Ask Jesus to make you a Saint. After all, only he can do that.

St. Dominic Savio

Saints of All Ages
We often see icons of adults and old men and women, but we know that the Saints come from all walks of life and all ages. There are so many young Saints with steadfast faith who are deeply in love with the Lord. Being still on the young side myself, their stories inspire me to live radically for Jesus now. These 15 Saints show us that we can never be too young to be holy.

15 Saints who Weren't "Too Young" to be Saints

1 St. Agnes, age 13
St. Agnes was born to a wealthy family in 4th century Rome. She made a vow of chastity, and when a suitor tried to ask for her hand, she would say “Jesus is my only spouse.” Eventually, she was condemned to death for refusing to marry. When the guards led her to be burned at the stake, she was as happy as a bride walking down the isle to her groom. The flames wouldn’t burn her when she was tied to a stake, so she was beheaded.

2 St. Tarcisius, age ~12
In 3rd century Rome, Pagan rulers often threw Christians in dark and dirty prisons where they would wait to be martyred. A bishop wanted to make sure that the prisoners could receive the Eucharist, and the young St. Tarcisius volunteered to bring the Blessed Sacrament to them. He claimed that the guards would think he’s only a messenger boy, so his bishop allowed him to go. He carried the Eucharist under his tunic, close to his heart. One day, the guards found out that St. Tarcisius was a Christian and carrying “Christian mystery,” so they beat him to death. He’s known as the “boy martyr of the Eucharist.”

3 St. Maria Goretti, age 12
As a young girl living in poverty in Italy, St. Maria Goretti’s faith was remarkably strong and she always trusted in God. In the early 1900s, her neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli tried to rape her. St. Maria Goretti fought back, saying it was against God’s will, so Alessandro stabbed her fourteen times. As she was dying, St. Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro, and he later converted and even attended her canonization.

4 St. Gabriel, the Child Martyr of Poland, age 6
Born in a Polish village in 1684, St. Gabriel was an innocent and holy little boy. He often spent his time praying and contemplating Divine Province instead of playing. When he was only 6 years old, St. Gabriel was tragically kidnapped from his family. After 9 days of torture, he died from bleeding out of his pierced side.

5 St. Philomena, age ~13
Centuries after her death in 3rd century Rome, St. Philomena appeared to Sister Maria Luisa di Gesù in 1833. She explained that she was a Greek princess who took a vow of chastity at age 11. When she refused to marry a Roman emperor, St. Philomena was imprisoned for forty days. She survived scourging, drowning, and being shot with arrows before she was finally beheaded. According to St. John Vianney, “To St. Philomena, God refuses nothing,” which makes her a powerful intercessor.

6 Ven. Carlo Acutis, age 15
Born in 1991, to Italian parents, Ven. Carlo Acutis is probably the most tech-savvy of all the Saints. He was devoted to the Eucharist, and wanted to share the beauty and truth of the True Presence. Ven. Carlo Acutis did this by building a website which documented Eucharistic Miracles that occured all around the world. Moreover, he used his time on the Internet in holy ways, and limited his screen time so that he was free to pray and receive the Sacraments. He died of leukemia at age 15 and offered his suffering up for the Church.

7 St. Dymphna, age ~13
When her Christian mother died at a young age, St. Dymphna’s pagan father experienced mental health issues. This, paired with poor advisement, caused him to view St. Dymphna as his late wife and want to marry her. To escape his advances, St. Dymphna fled Ireland for Belgium with a priest, two servants, and a jester. While there, she built a hospital and cared for the poor and sick. Eventually, her father found her and killed her as she defended her vow of chastity.

8 St. Dominic Savio, age 15
Even as a child, St. Dominic’s faith was his at the forefront of his life. In love with the lord, he prayed often, and received the Sacraments regularly. After he received his first Holy Communion, he wrote in a journal four promises, which were, “I will go to Confession often, and as frequently to Holy Communion as my confessor allows. I wish to sanctify the Sundays and festivals in a special manner. My friends shall be Jesus and Mary. Death rather than sin.” When he became sick, he could tell that he was dying, so he requested that a parish priest visit him for Anointing of the Sick and he prayed the Exercise of a Happy Death.

9 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, age 24
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Little Flower. St. Thérèse entered a Carmelite convent in 1888 when she was 15. She discovered that the Lord delights when we depend on him like little children and have a spirit of childlike love. Because of this, she became known for her “little way” as she did small things with great love. Before she died of tuberculosis at age 24, she promised to send down a shower of roses from Heaven.

10 Bl. José Luis Sánchez del Río, age 15
During the Mexican Christero War, Bl. José Luis Sánchez del Río fought against anti-Catholic laws. He was taken as a prisoner of war and brutally tortured before his execution. Guards cut the bottoms of Bl. José’s feet and led him along a rocky path to a cemetery. Along the whole way there and until he was shot to death, he exclaimed “Viva Cristo Rey!”

11 St. Kateri Tekawitha, age 24
The first canonized Native American Saint survived smallpox as a child, but scarred her face and left her an orphan as it took the lives of her parents. When she was 19, she became a Christian and was baptized by Fr. Jacques de Lamberville, a Jesuit missionary. She took a vow of chastity and traveled by herself to Montreal, where she lived with a community of Christian Indigenous Americans until she died of an illness when she was 24. As a nod to her indigenous tribe, she’s known as “the Lily of the Mohawks.”

12. St. Joan of Arc, age 19
From a young age, St. Joan of Arc heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Margaret. They inspired her to help the French army fight against the English and to bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. Dressed as a male solider, she traveled with the French army and led them to victory at Orléans, which allowed Charles VII to become king. After being accused of heresy on account of her visions and dressing like a man, she was burnt at the stake.

13, 14, and 15 Sts. Jacinta and Francisco and Bl. Lucia
Our Lady of Fatima appeared to these three shepherd children when they were and 7, 9, and 10, respectively. Our Blessed Mother visited them six times over the course of six months, showing them visions and telling them important secrets. The children were encouraged to pray the rosary every day to “end the war,” and they learned what became known as the Fatima prayer which was added to the rosary to pray for the salvation of souls. The three children faced harassments and threats because of their visits with Our Lady of Fatima, but nothing could keep them from their Heavenly Mother or stop them from spreading the devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Although Sts. Jacinta and Francisco became ill and died a year or so after the series of Marian apparitions, Bl. Lucia became a religious sister and passed away at age 97. I have her listed here not only because she was a child when Mary appeared to her, but also because she lived the rest of her life with childlike dependence on our her Mother.

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Are you “too young” to be a Saint?
When I look at the lives of the Saints, I’m always inspired and encouraged to live like them. They make me want to actively pursue the Lord more and to keep choosing to live a holy life for him. When I look at the lives of young Saints, I’m reminded of the urgency of the Gospel. I remember that God doesn’t guarantee any of us a long life, so we should constantly say yes to him and live according to his will. What’s stopping us from living our faith heroically right now? These 15 young Saints lived very different lives, but none of them let anything separate them from Jesus. We might not be called to take a vow of chastity or wear the crown of martyrdom, but like these Saints, we can follow Jesus as closely as we can for as much time as we have in this life.

Stay radiant!

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How to Stay Catholic in College

I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.

St. John Paul II

You moved into your first college dorm. You hugged your mom and dad goodbye, and you’re on your own for the first time. Now, you’re tasked with making sure you wake up and get to class on time, staying on top of your homework because no one will remind you to do it, and doing your own laundry. Oh yeah, and making friends and finding time for self-care will be helpful.

So where does your faith fit in to all of this?

When I started college, I knew that I had to take my faith into my own hands. I made every conscious effort to stay Catholic, and when I realized I’d have no problem with this, I was able to deepen my faith and grow in holiness. Whether you just started college or you’re a little further into your college career and want to come back to the faith, check out these “dos and don’ts” of staying Catholic in college:

DO pray every day
I made the mistake of genuinely forgetting to pray during my first few months of college. Consequently, I felt myself floundering as I tried to live my faith on campus. Your prayer life literally makes or breaks your relationship with God. If you want to grow closer to him, you have to start by making time for him. Make time to pray, and even schedule it in your day if you have to. Start with a realistic amount of time, like 15 minutes, and add more prayer time gradually as you’re ready and as you feel the Spirit call you.

DON’T think that you have to do everything on your own
If you try to stay Catholic in college by yourself, you’ll have a hard time. Before I met my Catholic friends, I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t know where to go to Mass, or how to grow in my faith. We’re like hot coals that have to stay together. Otherwise, we burn out and lose our fire for the Lord. Finding friends and creating a community was releveling and comforting. Not only did it cure my loneliness, but I had a group of Catholic college kids by my side to grow with me and support me.

DO find a community
No matter where you go to school, you should be able to find a faith community. It could look like a club, a Newman Center, monks, friars, religious sisters, a local parish, SPO or FOCUS missionaries, but most likely, it’ll be a mix of all of these. God doesn’t want us to be alone, which means we’re literally made for community. No matter what the faith community looks like on your campus, hold fast to it. Plant you roots there and call it your home and the people in it your family. Your community will be your shelter in the storm when life gets hard. They’ll be there to show you God’s love, and they’ll run beside you as you pursue him.

DON’T give in to spiritual comparison
When you start hanging out with young adult Catholics, you’ll notice that not everyone is in the same place in their faith journey. You’ll meet the ones who go to Mass every morning and pray a holy hour every night, the ones who are just getting serious about their faith, and everyone in between. It can be easy to start to compare your faith with that of those around you. You might look at someone else who’s holier than you and feel discouraged. I like to call this spiritual comparison. When I experienced this, I was so hard on myself. I always felt bad about not having a stronger faith, but as soon as I overcame spiritual comparison, I experienced an outpouring of graces that allowed me to grow more than I thought was possible. I highly recommend avoiding this toxic form of comparison at all costs, but if you’re trying to break this habit, read about how I overcame spiritual comparison.

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DO receive the Sacraments often
When I was preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, one of my teachers told me that the Sacraments are ways of spending time with Jesus, and he was so right. Every time we go to Mass, we encounter him in the Eucharist. When we go to confession, he embraces us in our vulnerability and showers us in mercy. The more time we spend with Jesus, the stronger our relationship will get. Like with prayer, receive the Sacraments as often as you reasonably can, and work your way up from there. This is also a great way to build community as you can go with friends or missionaries!

DON’T forget who you are and whose you are
In college, everyone wants to find themselves. Everyone is asking “who am I,” “what’s my purpose in life,” and other existential questions. In the midst of discovering what makes you unique and finding your calling, don’t forget that you have a paramount identity that cannot be taken away from you. You are first and foremost a beloved child of God. He loves you so much that he became man to die for your sins so that you could have eternal life and be with him in his Kingdom forever. You are worthy of his love and mercy and a relationship with him. As hard as pursuing your Catholic faith in college can be, when you put God first, everything else will fall into place.

Stay radiant!

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Sharing in Our Lady’s Sorrows

And you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Luke 2:35

I meditate on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and I find myself on the outside looking in. I’m not a mother yet, so I can’t relate to losing a child. I’ve never watched one of my loved ones take their last breath. But if I zoom out from a microscopic view to a more bird’s-eye view, I notice that Mary’s Sorrows aren’t completely different than the ones that I experienced. I’m no stranger to feelings of sadness, fear, and loss, and neither was Mary. I’ve found little ways to relate to the Seven Sorrows of Mary to make them more tangible. As I did this, I understood them better and reflected on them more deeply.

1 The Prophecy of Simeon
Maybe a priest never told us that a sword will pierce our hearts, but I’m sure we’ve all heard bad news. You probably heard something from a family member or read something that broke your heart. When I learned that I wouldn’t be a FOCUS missionary, my heart shattered. I felt like a sword had pierced my heart, so I made a beeline to the Newman Center’s chapel to bleed out in front of the Lord. Eventually, I learned that God broke my heart to mold it into something new. I became thankful for FOCUS’s “no,” because their “no” allowed me to say “yes” to some other beautiful things that God planned for me. There’s beauty in the breaking. From the sword that pierced Mary’s heart, we find the image of her most Immaculate Heart. From her sorrows, we enter into her heart that loved Jesus more than anything so that our hearts might become like hers.

2 The Flight into Egypt
The Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape the Slaughter of the Innocents. I can only imagine Mary’s fear during this sudden change of routine. Like Mary, we also face uncertain times. The Coronavirus pandemic brought a whirlwind of emotions when it forced us to uproot our lives. I’m certain that I went through the five stages of grief when I found out my graduation was postponed indefinitely. When my classes and Rock Catholic meetings moved online and I couldn’t see my friends anymore, I overflowed with sadness, fear, anger, and apathy. When my graduation day rolled around, God blessed me with a beautiful day. As a pandemic graduate, I didn’t have the graduation that I expected, but it was still a memorable day filled with the people I love the most. During our seasons of change and periods of panic, we can look to the Holy Family and find our shelter in them.

3 The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
We all know what it’s like to make one mistake and feel like a failure. I’m sure Mary felt defeated in this moment. If I were here, I’d think that I didn’t just let my son down, but I also let down my Lord and My God. I feel this way when I go too long without praying. When I get caught up in other things and allow myself to get distracted from prayer, I feel my relationship with God deteriorating. When I don’t pray for an extended period of time, I feel like I lost Jesus, and because Jesus doesn’t leave us, it’s my fault. The beautiful thing is, he brings me so much joy when I come back to him. When I start praying again, rebuild my relationship with Jesus, and “find” him, I’m overcome with joy. There will be times when we won’t be near to Jesus. During these times, I think of Mary’s relief and happiness when she finally found her Son in the temple. We’ll feel lost and like Jesus is nowhere to be found, but when we’re reunited with him, we’ll experience the joy of finding Jesus.

4 Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary
Mary could have walked away after meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary. She didn’t have to follow him to the foot of the cross, but she did. Instead of leaving, she stayed until the bitter end out of love for her Son. Mary is a perfect example of encountering someone in their suffering and accompanying them. In high school, my best friend Mikayla had surgery for her scoliosis. I prayed for her constantly, gave her a blanket made by my church’s sewing ministry, and visited her when she came home from the hospital. When the only thing that I could do was be there for her, I showed up. The only way that I could really help was to be present, so in those moments, I gave her my heart. Mary walked with Jesus every step of the Way of the Cross, and likewise, we’re called to accompany our brothers and sisters in Christ.

5 Jesus Dies on the Cross
I think it was from a podcast that I heard that when Jesus sacrificed physically on the cross, Mary sacrificed emotionally as she watched him. Mary knew what it was like to helplessly watch someone suffer and know there’s nothing that can fix it. At the foot of the cross, Mary didn’t just watch Jesus die. She was present with him so that he wouldn’t be alone. Nathan and I have barely seen each other since he moved to Maryland and I moved to Washington DC. I have to be cautious amidst the pandemic so that I don’t bring anything into the house and spread it to my community. Nathan and I still miss each other tremendously, and we often talk about how lonely we feel. Talking as often as we can doesn’t shorten the distance between us, but it lightens the load of our loneliness. While we feel each others’ absence with heavy hearts, we look forward to the days we get to spend together with hope.

6 Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus in Her Arms
Images of the Pietà flood my mind when I contemplate this Sorrow. The beauty of Mary holding the body of Jesus juxtaposes her grief in that moment. The light of her life was now lifeless. Although she knows that Jesus will soon conquer death, Mary probably felt defeated. If she could have done something, she missed her window of opportunity. When I was nine, my Mom told me to pray very hard for my Grandma because she was in the hospital. I prayed almost every night for her, but she still passed away. For a long time, I blamed myself. I thought that if I prayed more, my Grandma would still be here. After a few years, I realized that God brought Grandma home according to his perfect timing, and I’ll see her in Heaven someday. When we mourn our loved ones, especially when we feel guilty, Mary comforts us. She embraces us in our suffering and helps us to remember the Resurrection.

7 Jesus is Placed in the Tomb
Mary knew that Jesus would rise again. She watched the stone roll in front of his tomb and knew that his Resurrection was just three days away, but she still mourned his loss. It’s hopeful but still difficult to know that things will be okay. There are times when we know that our wounds will heal and our tears will dry, but for now, our wounds are still stinging and our tears are still hot rolling down our cheeks. In college, a heartbreak debilitated me. After a boyfriend at the time broke up with me without warning, I sat in sadness asking God why and begging him to take away the pain. I waited in darkness for two months for the light at the end of the tunnel. We know what came after Good Friday. Jesus rose again, and he always redeems us so that we can rise with him.

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Every sorrow that Mary experienced didn’t last forever. Before long, her tears were dried and she shared in the joy that only God can bring. The Seven Sorrows of Mary allow us to reflect on the swords that pierced her heart, but we can also contemplate them and remember Mary’s hope. Throughout the sorrows of our life, we can turn to our Blessed Mother and her Son to remember that we’re not alone. We can rest knowing that our sorrows are only temporary and hope for the joy that Jesus provides.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: September 13, 2020

Matthew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?” 
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. 
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt. 
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan. 
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount. 
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused. 
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt. 
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair. 
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! 
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. 
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt. 
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiveness. Even though he gives us the number seventy-seven, he doesn’t want us to keep a record of how many times we forgive. We should forgive our brothers and sisters lovingly, generously, and almost recklessly. Before someone even asks for forgiveness, we can show it to them. When someone seemingly “doesn’t deserve” to be forgiven, we can forgive them anyway as the Lord forgives us.

No matter the multitude or the severity of our sins, God forgives us every time we approach him with a contrite heart. The best part is, he’s always so quick to forgive us, and he does it every time! He loves us so much that he welcomes us back and embraces us no matter what. A Bible verse that I’ve been pondering lately is Matthew 5:48, which reads “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Although we’ll never be perfect in this life, we can still strive to imitate our Heavenly Father and become as much like him as possible. One way that we can do this is by forgiving others with our hearts filled with love. When the occasion arises, don’t think of their offense when someone asks for forgiveness. Instead, remember the gift that they are and how much you love them.

~Stay radiant

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8 Ways to Pray Throughout Your Day

Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us.

St. Teresa of Avila

Talking to God
If we want to have a friendship, or any relationship, with God, then we have to pray. As St. Teresa claims, prayer is the way in which we talk with God. Think of the person who you’re closest to. How long could you go without any contact with them? I could never imagine not talking with my best friend for a prolonged period of time, so I don’t let a day go by without talking to God in prayer. Prayer is mandatory if we want to maintain and strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Of course, we’re only human. Sometimes we forget to pray, sometimes we’re caught up in other responsibilities, and sometimes we struggle to find the time. We understand the importance of prayer, but it’s hard to fit it in our day. This is understandable, but if our relationship with God is the most important part of our life (as it should be), we should do whatever we can to make our prayer time a priority.

It isn’t easy to do a holy hour every day or have a consistent prayer schedule, but we can start by praying little by little throughout the day. If you need some ideas and ways to pray, then check out this list below!

1 When you wake up
As soon as you wake up, thank the Lord for a new day. Think of Psalm 118:24, which says “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Keep a prayer card on your nightstand to start your day with a short prayer, or talk to God as your get ready, bringing him your joys or anxieties about the day ahead.

2 Daily Mass
If your schedule allows, daily Mass is a wonderful way to pray. If you can spare 30 minutes in the morning (or sometimes the afternoon or evening), you can pray the most perfect prayer and receive our Lord in the Eucharist!

3 Before work or when work gets stressful
As you begin your day, offer your work to the Lord and ask him to bless it and make it holy. Ask St. Joseph the worker to intercede for you and to help you work with God in mind. When you start to get stressed or frustrated, take a short break to pray and offer it to God.

4 Before and after meals
Thank God for every meal before you eat, asking him to bless the food and those who prepared it. This forgotten and sometimes overlooked prayer is a great way to incorporate prayer throughout your day. There’s even a prayer after meals that you can find on a prayer card in my Etsy shop!

5 Daily rosary
In all of her apparitions, our Blessed Mother recommended praying the rosary every day. It offers so many graces, its rooted in Scripture, and it brings us closer to Jesus through Mary. If you need a push to start praying the rosary every day, try the 54-day rosary novena, which is an especially powerful novena comprised of praying the rosary every day for 54 days.

6 Impromptu gratitude prayers
When something good happens, when you hear good news, or when you’re happy for yourself or someone else, thank God for those moments. Our Heavenly Father delights in his children’s happiness. Don’t be afraid to say, “Praise God!” or “Thank you, Lord!” throughout your day. It’ll open your eyes to how God is working in your life, and it’ll help those around you recognize the Lord too.

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7 Reading your Bible, praying Lectio Divina, or reading the daily Mass readings.
There are several beautiful ways to incorporate Scripture into your daily routine. If you can’t make it to daily Mass, you can read and reflect on the readings online. You can pray Lectio Divina and listen to what the Lord is telling you through his word. If you want to read the Bible more often, you can make a reading plan or commit to reading a certain number of chapters each day.

8 When you go to sleep
Before you go to sleep, you can pray an Examen of Conscience. Created by St. Ignatius Loyola, the Examen of Conscience helps you to reflect on your day and view it through God’s eyes. Instead of looking at your phone, keep a prayer card or a book on your nightstand to pray from before you sleep.

Making Prayer a Habit
No matter how you want to start praying, commit to a way to pray and a time. You can pick a thing or two from this list to incorporate into your daily routine and see how it works. Once you find consistency with a few small ways to pray, you’ll be able to work your way up and pray longer and more often. Little by little, prayer will become a habit, and you’ll find yourself growing closer and closer to God.

Stay radiant!

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Happy Birthday, Mary!

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

Luke 1:45

God loves women.
At Franciscan Mission Service, I’m so blessed to live in a community of people who are on fire for the Lord. I love to sit on the porch or around the dinner table and talk about faith with my community. I was talking to Fatima, one of my friends here about Mary about how its so amazing that God chose to come to earth through a woman. She said “He’s God, so he could’ve came here any way he wanted, but he chose to be born from a woman!”

God loves women. We’re so special and close to our Lord’s heart. As St. Edith Stein mentioned, we’re blessed not because of what we have, but who we are. The most blessed of all women is the crown jewel of God’s creation, a young woman from Nazareth named Mary. Whenever I hear people say the Church suppresses women or that God loves men more because he made them first (yes, I actually read that somewhere), I think of Mary. I think of how God entrusted himself to her. I think of how Jesus became human and the Word became flesh through her. I think of how Jesus loved her so much, that after her death, he brought her body and soul into Heaven and crowned her Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Happy Birthday, Mary!

The Perfect Missionary
A FOCUS missionary named Becca was the team director at Slippery Rock for two years. Whenever we prayed together, she always said, “Mary, you are the most perfect example of the perfect missionary.” I didn’t understand what Becca meant at first. I didn’t know how Mary was a missionary, and I contemplated this for a long time. I discerned being a missionary while I was in college, and if Mary was the perfect missionary, I knew I needed to be like her, but I needed to figure out how.

When I made my Marian Consecration, I finally realized why Mary was not just a missionary, but the perfect missionary. Mary constantly guides us toward Jesus in everything she does. Everything that our Blessed Mother does points us toward her Son. In her humility, she directs all of the attention and praise we give her to Jesus. Mary takes credit for nothing, but rather boasts in the Lord in everything. She takes our prayers and perfects them. She makes our brokenness beautiful. She takes all of our insecurities and imperfections that we want to hide and makes them into a beautiful bouquet for Jesus.

Keeping God’s Word
What makes Mary the most blessed of all women is that because she’s free from sin, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, and that she always does the will of God perfectly. I love to reflect on Luke 11:27-28, which reads:

While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

In these verses, Jesus isn’t discrediting Mary. He knows that Mary is blessed because he’s his Mother, but she’s also blessed because she listens to and follows God’s word perfectly. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she didn’t just call Mary blessed because she was the Mother of God. She also called her blessed because she had faith in God’s word.

Mary was blessed with abundant graces, and the amazing thing is, she wants to share that grace with us. We can also listen to, believe in, and follow God’s word, and we can look to Mary to help us.

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Sharing in Our Birthday Lady’s Gifts
Today, on Mary’s birthday, ask to share in her gift of grace. Our Blessed Mother longs to take care of us and lead us to her son, and she’s never outdone in generosity. Mary wants to embrace you, wrap you in her mantle, and share her grace with you. All you have to do is ask, and the best way is with the most perfect way of doing this begins with a Hail Mary.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: September 6, 2020

Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. 
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that ‘every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. 
If he refuses to listen even to the church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.
Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again, amen, I say to you,
if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 
For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

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I’m blessed to have been friends with a girl in college who is now a religious sister. Before Emma joined the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, we spent a lot of time together. She was in my Bible Study, we hung out together, and we went to a Catholic conference together. As she was discerning her vocation, she started having visions of Jesus, particularly while she adored him in the Blessed Sacrament. I’ll never forget her wonder as she told me about him. One evening, after I had prayed over her, she whispered, “He’s here.” Emma saw Jesus standing right behind me with his hand on my shoulder. She saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove flapping over my head. Every time I hear the final verse of the Gospel reading this Sunday, I think of this memory with Emma. Although we might not see him, Jesus is always with us when we pray. When you need to feel him near, gather with a friend or two in his name.

Stay radiant!

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How to Have a Missionary Heart, According to St. Teresa of Calcutta

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Faithful, not Successful
We can’t deny that St. Teresa of Calcutta did some big and incredible things, like create a new religious order in India and speak out against abortion in the United States. While these accomplishments are important, the little things that she did were just as important. Near the end of her life, Mother Teresa said in an interview “God has not called me to be successful. He called me to be faithful.” Mother Teresa understood how to love unconditionally. St. Teresa discovered the urgency of the Gospel and mission, and she shared in Jesus’ thirst for souls. As Jesus longs to love us, St. Teresa dedicated her life to loving everyone around her, even those who were the hardest to love.

How to Have a Missionary Heart According to St. Teresa of Calcutta

A Call Within a Call
Even as a young child, Teresa was absolutely in love with Jesus, particularly in his most Sacred Heart. When she joined the Loreto Sisters, she made a vow to never refuse anything of Jesus. Five years later, she experienced three visions which she described as a “call within a call.” Teresa saw crowds of suffering people and heard Jesus asking her to take care of them and bring them to him. She responded to this “call within a call” by establishing the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order that ministers to the most poverty-stricken individuals in Calcutta, India.

As soon as Mother Teresa started her ministry with the Missionaries of Charity, she fell into spiritual desolation. She experienced what’s known as “the dark night of the soul,” which made her feel like an atheist when she prayed. I never knew this about Mother Teresa until college, and frankly, I never would have known if a Catholic speaker hadn’t mentioned it in a talk. Regardless, Mother Teresa’s faith and love remained strong. She didn’t stop praying or serving the poor when she couldn’t feel God. I love to look to her when I feel discouraged about praying. Her persistence inspires me to keep showing up to prayer, and by choosing God even when it’s difficult, she’s a perfect example of true love.

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Loving “Jesus in Disguise” in Little Ways
Mother Teresa spent the rest of her life serving the least of her brothers and sisters in Christ. She went out to the streets to love and serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. Every day she encountered sick, homeless, dirty, and hungry people who were abandoned, forgotten, and left to die in the streets. When Mother Teresa looked at these people, she saw more than their condition. She literally saw the face of Jesus. In the people who others would view as not worth the time of day, Mother Teresa saw our Lord. She said, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”

Much like St. Therese of Lisieux, whose name Mother Teresa chose for herself, she did little things with great love. While it’s tempting to realize the masses of people in need and feel overwhelmed with work to do for them, St. Teresa of Calcutta teaches us to serve on a more focused and intentional scale. She gave her undivided attention to one person at a time and loved deeply and individually. With a little grace, we can have a missionary heart like hers. We might not be called to encounter the poor in the streets of Calcutta, but we can still see Christ in those around us and serve him through them. By spending time with a friend or even washing the dishes, we can spread love wherever we go when we remember that everyone we meet is Jesus in disguise.

St. Teresa of Calcutta loved like no one else, but everyone can emulate her love. I pray that we can find our own Calcutta wherever the Lord places us. May we always radiate God’s love to all of his children.

Stay radiant!

Fun fact! I’ve heart St. Teresa of Calcutta lovingly nicknamed “Mama T,” and that’s what I call my own mom sometimes because her name is Tina!

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Confessions of a Catholic Sad Girl

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

When I’m Not Joyful
People often tell me that they love how happy and energetic I am. One priest that I knew in college would always say to me, “thank you for your joy.” I love to share my joy with everyone around me. If my contagious happiness can make someone smile and brighten up their day, then I know I’m sharing God’s light and pleasing him.

As much as I’d love to be happy all the time, I’m not. While I try to live up to my favorite Bible verse and the name of my blog, I’m not always radiant with joy. I have bad days. I let people and circumstances get the better of me. I dwell on things. I give in to sadness, anxiety, and fear. Whether its a little case of the blues, a bout of sadness, or a borderline depressive episode, I’ve had my fair share of sad days. While I strive to be a joy to those around me, I have reason to call myself a sad girl.

Confessions of a Catholic Sad Girl

A “Healthy” Sad Girl
I’m obsessed with the musical Hamilton, and strangely, one of my favorite songs from it is “It’s Quiet Uptown.” The line that stands out to me every time is “The moments when you’re in so deep, it feels easier to just swim down.” I relate to this so much because whenever I’m sad, I tend to burrow myself deeper into my sadness instead of getting out. I lay in bed a lot. I sleep in late and take a lot of naps. I listen to my sad girl playlist to get in my feelings, and I stay there. It takes so much effort to do anything somewhat productive.

Don’t get me wrong, it is okay to be sad. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Inside Out, it’s that it’s normal and healthy to be sad, so we shouldn’t deny ourselves from feeling that important emotion. Sadness helps us to process our feelings and to connect with our family and friends. Because of this, I can justify getting in touch with my sad girl side. To an extent, it’s good to let myself be sad and just swim down. Although laying in bed and staying sad can be helpful and even comforting, I know it isn’t good to stay there.

A Not-So-Healthy Sad Girl
I used to be so bad about telling those around me how I felt. No matter the reason why I was sad, I would always make up an excuse to not talk to anyone about it. I needed to talk about how FOCUS turned me down when I applied to be a missionary, but I wanted to seem strong and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for me. I needed to talk about how an ex boyfriend broke up with me seemingly because I was too Catholic for him, but I didn’t want anyone to know how deeply I was hurt. I would only be truly honest about my sadness with a few people in my life, and while it’s important to have close family and friends to confide in, I shouldn’t have been so quick to close myself off to everyone and anyone. I thought that bottling up my sadness was the way to cope with it. No one else would understand or want to be bothered by how I felt or what was bothering me, so why would I share it with them?

Stopping the Sadness
For a month leading up to my move to Washington DC, I lingered in sadness. I stayed in my bed and camped out on my couch fearing and almost resisting the move. I was paralyzed by the fear of living somewhere new, all by myself with people who I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. I put on a brave and excited face to almost everyone around me. Only a few people knew how terrified I was. I made the move anyway, knowing that the Lord wanted me to go to DC. On the day that I moved in, I did something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before.

My supervisor, Meghan came to visit the house, and when she asked me how I was doing, I told her “I’m actually a little sad.” Not pitying me, but caring for me, she offered to talk with me on the porch. I opened up to her about my sadness from moving and now being far away from everyone I loved. After a brief but meaningful conversation, I felt better. Opening up to Meghan didn’t fix my sadness, but it was the first step.

Authenticity for the Sake of Community
Sharing my feelings and letting my community get to know me-the real me-alleviated my sadness within my first few weeks in my new home. Little by little, I got to know everyone. I talked with them about the sadness I dealt with and I told them when I was genuinely having a good day. This honesty and vulnerability helped my community grow and allowed everyone to know the true me. I like to think that by sharing how I really felt, they felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with me. As difficult as this was at first, I knew I had to because the Lord desires us to live and thrive in community, and my community deserves my authentic self. I was afraid of not finding my place in my new community, and I wouldn’t have found it if I hid and shut everyone out. When I let everyone see me as I was, the good and the sad, they embraced the authentic me and welcomed me into the community.

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How to be Sad
When you’re feeling sad, don’t feel bad about taking some time to yourself. Sleep in, listen to some music, journal, eat some cookies, or cry it out. It also helps me to remember that Jesus felt all emotions in his humanity. He got sad, he cried, he grieved, and he needed to be alone. When we’re sad, he understands, and he’s with us in our sadness. Jesus was in Meghan when I opened up to her. He blessed our conversation to show me that my sadness was valid, but I didn’t have to dwell in it any longer.

While it’s okay to want to be alone for a while, we don’t have to deal with our sadness by ourselves. When you’re sad, don’t be afraid to confide in those around you. They love you and they want to help. When it’s hard, just imagine that you’re talking to Jesus. Rest in him, find comfort in him, and eventually, he’ll turn your sadness into joy.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: August 30, 2020

Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised. 
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. 
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life? 
Or what can one give in exchange for his life? 
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

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What does it take to follow Jesus? What does disciple cost us? In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus explains what we must do to be his disciples. The first step is to deny yourself. We have to grow in humility so that we choose Jesus rather than ourselves. Next, we take up our cross. We accept the challenges that God gives us to help us grow, and we embrace suffering, finding the holiness in it. Finally, we follow him. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and when we’re prepared to take on the challenges of discipleship, we’re ready to follow him. Only then can we go where he goes, do what he does, and become like him. Jesus is honest about the difficulties of discipleship, but he still calls us to it and always encourages us. Today, let’s decide to lose our lives for his sake so that we can gain eternal life.

Stay radiant!

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Praying for Patience: St. Monica’s Example of Perseverance and Praying with Expectant Faith

Nothing is far from God.

St. Monica

The Patron Saint of Patience
The first thing that I learned about St. Monica is that she’s the mother of St. Augustine. The second thing that I learned about her is that she’s the patron Saint of patience, and it wasn’t hard to figure out why. She was always patient with the people around her, especially her family, and especially when they ridiculed her for her faith. St. Monica was patient with her prayers, knowing that they would be answered according to God’s perfect timing. She prayed avidly and unceasingly for the conversion of her son, and although it took decades, she eventually saw the fruits of her prayers. St. Monica’s life was far from easy, but she remained patient and steadfast in her faith through it all.

St. Monica’s Life
Monica’s parents arranged an unusual marriage for their Catholic daughter and a young pagan man. Patricius had a bad temper and harassed Monica because of her faith, but he still respected her as his wife. Monica’s bitter mother-in-law, who was as hot-headed as Patricius also lived with them. Instead of growing frustrated with them, Monica prayed for her husband and her mother-in-law. Because of her prayers, her husband and mother-in-law became Christians shortly before their deaths.

Augustine, her most well-known child, had a wild and immoral childhood. When he went to school in Carthage at the age of 17, he took on the Manichean heresy, which caused him to believe that “all flesh is evil.” When he told his mother this at the dinner table, she raised her voice at him and drove him away. After this, Monica heard in a vision that her son would return to the faith. Always praying and fasting for her son, Monica stayed as close to Augustine as she could, following him to Milan and Rome. Finally, when he was 29, Augustine was baptized by Bishop Ambrose in 387. Because of Monica’s fervent prayers, Augustine became not only a Christian, but also a great Saint.

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Praying for Conversions with St. Monica
What I love the most about St. Monica is that through arguments and spiritual warfare, she never lost hope. She remained steadfast in her prayers for her family despite all odds. She prayed with expectant faith, not merely wishing, but fiercely believing that the Lord would bring her loved ones back to him.

Click here to read How to Pray with Expectant Faith!

A prayer intention that became near and dear to my heart lately is conversions. I’ve always wanted to help people fall in love with Jesus and his Church, and I realized that, at least for now, the best way that I can do this is through prayer. For the past several months, I’ve been praying for conversions, particularly of loved ones. As I prayed, I found myself thinking of St. Monica, and recently, I finally started asking for her intercession. There’s nothing I want more than to be united in the Eucharist with everyone I love, but I often doubt that will happen. Knowing that the Lord wants to answer my prayers, when I feel myself doubting, I take a deep breath and say, “Lord, I believe that [name] will come back to you.” I’ve asked St. Monica to pray with me, and she encourages me to keep praying.

If you’re trying to grow in patience, look to St. Monica as an example and ask to share in her patience. If you’re praying to a loved one to return to the Church or to come to Jesus for the first time, ask for St. Monica’s intercession. When it becomes frustrating and praying for conversions seems futile, remember that St. Monica was there. She lived through that, persevered in prayer, and lived to see her son surrender his life to Jesus. When you feel like giving up, ask St. Monica to join you in praying for conversions and imagine you and your loved one together in Heaven praising God forever. Please know that I’m praying for your conversion intentions, too.

Stay radiant!

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More Than Beauty: St. Rose of Lima’s Simple Life

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

More Than Just a Pretty Face
As one of my namesakes and patron Saints, St. Rose of Lima is very special to me. Her radically faithful life inspires me to dedicate all that I am and all that I do to the Lord. Perhaps the most iconic facet of St. Rose of Lima’s story is her beauty and how she disfigured herself so that she could focus on the Lord. While this is a significant part of her life, there’s so much more to it than that. St. Rose of Lima’s faith was steadfast, especially amidst ridicule, and she devoted herself to prayer, fasting, and mortifications.

More Than Beauty: St. Rose of Lima's Simple Life

St. Rose of Lima’s Life
Isabel Flores de Olivia was born in 1586 in Lima, Peru. Because of her beauty, she was given the nickname “Rose,” which was also the name that she took for her Confirmation. Her beauty interested all of the young men around her, but Rose wasn’t interested in marriage. She wanted to become a nun, and she prayed and fasted fervently. Every day she received the Eucharist and adored the Blessed Sacrament. To make herself less beautiful, she cut her hair short and rubbed pepper on her face until it blistered. Eventually, her parents stopped trying to marry her off, and they recognized her vow of chastity and her desire to dedicate herself to the Lord.

Rose’s life was filled with prayer and fasting, particularly in penance. She slept only two hours so that she could spend as much time praying as possible. She fasted from meat at all times. On one occasion, she burned her hands as an act of self-imposed penance. Most extremely, Rose would wear a heavy, spiked crown to remind her of Jesus’ Crown of Thorns. The spikes would pierce her head, and sometimes get lodged in her skull. Rose died on August 25, 1617 when she was 31. In 1671, Pope Clement X canonized her, and she became the patron Saint of Latin America, the Philippines, embroiderers, gardeners, and people ridiculed for their piety.

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Living Simply
St. Rose of Lima’s life was simple. She emptied herself of worldly comforts and distractions so that she could fill up her life with the Lord. To support herself financially, she made and sold pieces of embroidery. Of course, she didn’t earn much, but it was enough for her simple life of prayer and fasting.

Now that I’m serving with Franciscan Mission Service, I’m understanding firsthand what simple living is. It isn’t forcing poverty upon yourself or just being content with few possessions. Simple Living is letting go of literal and figurative clutter and distractions so that you can focus on what’s most important. When we live simply, like St. Rose of Lima, God has more room to work in our lives and transform our hearts. Yes, God exists outside of space, but its on us to open ourselves up, make a space for him, and welcome him into it. A beautiful way to do this is simple living, and we can look to St. Rose of Lima as one of the best examples of this lifestyle.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: August 23, 2020

Matthew 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

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As I read this Sunday’s Gospel, a few questions arise. Did the other disciples know who Jesus was? Did they not know that he was the Christ, or did they know but were too timid to speak up? From this passage, it seems that Peter was the only one who really knew Jesus. This makes sense because out of all the disciples, Peter was closest to Jesus. But when he tells Jesus “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus implies that his Heavenly Father revealed this to him. Maybe God chose him to understand Jesus’ true identity, setting him up to become the Rock of the Church. Regardless, Peter confidently makes a profession of faith in this Sunday’s Gospel. He not only knew that Jesus was the Christ, but he proclaimed it unwaveringly. We also have the blessing of knowing who Jesus is. When the time comes to profess our faith, whether it be at Mass or with a friend, let’s do so with confidence, knowing that Jesus is the Son of the Living God who takes away the sins of the world.

Stay radiant!

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The Blessings of Friendship

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

to my best friend, Mikayla on her 22nd birthday

Little Gifts from God
We aren’t meant to be alone. God desires us to have loved ones, a community, people who love us and support us unconditionally. Having someone who you can have fun with, confide in, and share your life with is so special. That person, a friend, is someone who loves you, grows with you, and helps you become a better person. I learned throughout my life that we don’t have to have a large number of friends to be happy. A handful of solid friends will suffice. I learned this in high school when I found my core group of ladies, and I carried it with me in college when I found my dance family and my Rock Catholic Fam. A couple of friends who stick with you have so much meaning and hold special places in your heart.

Paul knew what he was talking about when he advised the Thessalonians to encourage each other and build each other up. I’ve felt these holy qualities in my friends throughout the years, and I’m so grateful for that. I have so many wonderful friends who have touched my life in different ways, and they’ve all encouraged me and built me up in a way that only they could. Friends are truly little gifts from God. I see him in my own friends, who remind me that he’s always with me. Through them, I feel God’s love, and becoming a good friend has helped me to find a friend in Jesus.

The Blessings of Friendship

Mikayla
One of my best friends and greatest gifts from God is Mikayla. Although we met a year or so prior, when we sat next to each other in chorus on our first day of high school, I knew we’d be close friends. Looking back at pictures of us through the years, it was amazing to remember growing up and glowing up with her. We were the two girls who loved to look cute and joke around all the time, and eight years later, as we laugh uncontrollably all dressed up in a nice restaurant, nothing has changed. During our high school days, we made memories as nuns in The Sound of Music, getting frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog every weekend, going to Disney World with the band and chorus, and having endless conversations of only our inside jokes. After we had navigated high school awkwardness together, we went to different colleges but somehow got even closer.

We always went to each other when college was getting rough, encouraging each other to stay strong and do what we need to do. We got coffee, Mexican food, or sushi every time I came home from school, and our excursions wouldn’t be complete without a random trip to Walmart, typically after 9 pm for some reason. Catching up on the funny and annoying things that happened at school was always a treat. I watched her get crowned Sommerset County Fair Queen, and I supported her as she earned the county, state, and national titles of Miss Agriculture USA. Whether we trek to a hipster coffee shop or the New River Gorge in West Virginia, we always have adventures when we’re together. When I went through a tough breakup in college, she sent me a care package with a succulent that I still have. She’s the first one that I tell about everything, the one who I love spending time with most, and the one who knows me better than anyone else.

Building Friendship Like a Virtue
Because friendship is a gift from God, we should cherish it and strive to become the best friends that we can be. I learned so much about Christian friendship from my friend Isabella’s blog, Bearing Good Fruit, particularly in her post titled “A Guide to Making Friends for Christian Women!” I like to think that Christians can build friendship as they would any other virtue. In a way, friendship takes practice. Just like how we become more patient through opportunities to be patient, we become better friends by being a friend. We get better at making time to see friends, listening skills, remembering their likes and dislikes, and supporting them as they reach their goals throughout our friendships.

I learned from Sarah Swafford, a Catholic speaker with a lot of virtuous insight on relationships, that friendship requires availability, vulnerability, and accountability of a person. These are the core qualities that turn us from good friends to great and even holy friends.

It’s impossible to grow closer to someone if you don’t spend time with them, so we have to be available to our friends. Sometimes it’s easy to meet for coffee or FaceTime all night, but sometimes our friends will need us when it isn’t exactly convenient for us, so choosing to be available for your friend’s sake is important.

I know it can be difficult to be vulnerable with others, but it’s worth it to allow your friends into your life. Opening up to those who you’re close to is special. It means that you trust them with information, feelings, or your past, and your friends will be more likely to be vulnerable with you.

When you share your goals with a friend, they can keep you accountable for reaching them. They can check up on you and ask how you’re making progress, and you can do the same for them. The most important thing that friends could keep each other accountable for is bettering themselves and growing in their walk with Jesus, and a great and honest way to do that is to continue growing in friendship.

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Encountering the Friend of Jesus
I feel like all of the friends who I’ve been blessed with remind me of Jesus in some way. My friendship with Mikayla has most clearly shown me him throughout the years. She helps me encounter him at all times and in so many ways. Through her joy, her kindness, her patience, her generosity, and her wisdom, I’ve gotten to know Jesus better through Mikayla. A big reason why Mikayla is my best friend is because she’s always been so Christlike not only to me, but to everyone around her. Our friendship has helped me become a better friend and grow in my walk with Jesus. Because of this, I think Mikayla and I have a truly blessed friendship.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that becoming a good friend helps you find a friend in Jesus. The attributes that I love in my friends and the traits that have made me a better friend, I can clearly see in Jesus. He meets us where we are to selflessly spend time with us. He talks with us so patiently and generously, and meets our needs. He knows us well so that we can turn to him and trust him. Once I started considering Jesus a friend, I found myself turning to him more often. We became closer and our relationship became less of a formal, required one and more of a loving and personal one. I recognized how to spend time with him through the Sacraments, through prayer, and through everyone I encounter, especially my friends. They say that you become like the 5 people who you spend the most time with, so Jesus definitely has to be one of those 5 people.

My prayer is that my friends continue to grow into the holy ladies and gentlemen that I see them becoming. I pray that I can always be the good friend that they need and that I can show them the love of Christ through me. If you struggle to find or keep friends, I pray that you find a friend in Jesus first. As you get to know him and follow him so closely that you become like him, I pray that you radiate his love and goodness so that you find your friends and community who will run towards Jesus with you. God delights in us alive with our friends, so look for his Son in your friends and share in his joy together as often as you can.

Madeline and Mikayla with sunflowers
Madeline and Mikayla with sunflowers

Have a happy, beautiful, wonderful birthday, Mikayla! I thank God all the time that he gave me a friend like you! I love you tons and I’ll see you again before you know it!

Stay radiant!

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The Goodness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Tell everybody that God gives graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask graces from her and that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be venerated together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ask them to plead for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for the Lord has confided the peace of the world to her.

St. Jacinta of Fatima

Growing up with the Immaculate Heart of Mary
I grew up around images of Jesus’s most Sacred Heart, and most of them were right next to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Because of this, I grew in love and devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart along with the Sacred Heart. In Catholic school and at home, it seemed like the Immaculate Heart of Mary was everywhere. From a young age, I loved the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I loved how it was surrounded by roses, and how it was on fire with love. As I got older and learned more about Mary and her heart, I loved them both more and more.

The Goodness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Imagery
Like the image of Jesus’ most Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Heart of Mary helps us to visualize and understand her love for us. The sword is a nod to the Prophecy of Simeon. In Luke 2:35, Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her heart, foreshadowing the sorrows that she would endure, especially during Jesus’ Passion. Some images of Mary’s Heart have seven swords pierced in it, symbolizing her seven sorrows. The roses that surround Mary’s Immaculate Heart express her love, beauty, and purity. I’ve heard that the roses that circle Mary’s Immaculate Heart are the ones plucked from the branches that formed Jesus’ Crown of Thorns. Finally, the fire above the Immaculate Heart of Mary burns with love for all of her children.

The Children of Fatima
The devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart was one of the secrets that she gave to the children of Fatima. When Mary appeared to Sts Jacinta and Francisco and Bl. Lucia, she told them about her Immaculate Heart. She said that our Heavenly Father desires her heart to be adored next to Jesus’ Sacred Heart and she wants the faithful to devote themselves to her Immaculate Heart. Jacinta’s final words to Lucia (quoted at the beginning of this post) were about Mary’s Immaculate Heart. She reminded her of the power of her Heart and the beautiful graces that it offers. She encouraged Lucia to spread the devotion to Mary’s Immaculate heart so that the world could have peace and share in her grace.

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St. Teresa of Calcutta’s Prayer
While I was preparing for my Marian Consecration, I read about St. Teresa of Calcutta and how she loved Mary and her Immaculate Heart. She would ask Mary to “Lend me your heart and keep me in your most Immaculate Heart.” This prayer is what helped her stay loving, patient, and service-oriented as she served the poor in Calcutta. When I incorporate this prayer into my day, I feel Mary outpouring her graces for me. She gives me peace and when she “lends me her heart,” she helps me to love everyone as my brothers and sisters in Christ. When she “keeps me in her most Immaculate Heart,” I’m able to run to her like a child and rest in her motherly love. She surrounds me in her mantle, directs me towards Jesus, and guides me as I do his will for my life.

Because August is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I’ve been beholding and contemplating her Heart a little more lately. I invite you to join me in praying St. Teresa’s prayer to the Immaculate Heart. Our Blessed Mother has an unlimited amount of grace. She can’t wait to give it to you, and all you have to do is ask.

Mary, lend me your Heart and keep me in your most Immaculate Heart.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: August 16, 2020

Matthew 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

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Have you ever noticed a loved one acting differently? Have you ever had to tell a friend “you haven’t been yourself lately?” Jesus doesn’t really act like Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel. He turns a woman away when she asks him to help her daughter. This is something out of character for Jesus, but he had a reason for this refusal. Of course he wanted to take the demon out of her daughter, but he wanted to see how strong her faith was first. I’m sure he would have gladly healed her daughter regardless, but he was even more pleased with the woman when he witnessed her faith and dedication. How often do we ask Jesus for something and give up? Do we pray with expectant faith and persist with our intentions? Although Jesus would never withhold good things from us, sometimes he allows us to wait so that we can grow in faith and trust in him. If you’re waiting for a sign or for a prayer to be answered, make your faith dynamic while you wait. Take this season as an opportunity to grow so that Jesus can grant you not only your intention, but the grace to strengthen your faith in him.

Stay radiant!

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The Sacrificial Love of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Let us remember that love lives through sacrifice and is nourished by giving. Without sacrifice, there is no love.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Love Requires Sacrifice
To love is the will the good of the other. Because of this, true love naturally requires sacrifice. When we love, we should be willing to set aside our own wants and needs, but our culture is selfish and needs to understand that without sacrifice, we can’t love others truly. Love is a choice, not a feeling, so when we love, we get uncomfortable and even suffer. I notice that my generation needs to understand this, so I recommend that we look to a 20th century priest and martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

The Sacrificial Love of St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Life
Raymund Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. When he was a child, he asked the Blessed Virgin Mary what would become of him. She responded by appearing to him, showing him a white crown and a red crown, and asking him if he would accept either of them. He understood that the white crown represented celibacy and the red crown represented martyrdom. Raymund told the Blessed Mother that he would accept them both.

When Kolbe joined the Conventual Franciscans, he was given the name Maximilian. He was passionately dedicated to the conversion of souls and shared the Gospel through various mediums. During his priesthood, he founded a publishing company which printed the magazine “Rycerz Niepokalanej,” or “King of the Immaculate.” He eventually founded a newspaper and a radio station as well, using the media of the time as a medium for evangelization.

Maximilian Kolbe had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother. In particular, he loved the Immaculate Conception and often meditated on this Marian title. While I was preparing for my Marian Consecration, I read about how he established the Militia Immaculata, which inspires total consecration to Mary for the salvation of souls. His mission was to create an “army” of consecrated souls for Mary. Kolbe said “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”

Click here to read about my Marian Consecration journey!

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Laying Down His Life
In 1941, the German Gestapo arrested Maximilian Kolbe. After a few months in prison, he was transferred to Auschwitz. One night, three men escaped from the death camp. To retaliate, the Nazi guards randomly selected ten men to die of starvation. The tenth man that they selected, Franciszek Gajowniczek, burst into tears. He knew that he would never see his wife or children again. Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and revealed that he was a Catholic priest. He had no wife or children, so he offered to take the place of the young man. The Nazis granted him this benevolent request, and they locked him and nine other men in a room to die. During his final days, Kolbe led the men in prayers and songs and helped them stay calm and joyful. He made their dark cell like Heaven on earth.

After two weeks, the guards returned to find that Maximilian Kolbe was the last man alive, so they gave him a lethal injection. According to his records, Kolbe died of a “weak heart,” but his heart was one of incredible strength. As a priest, his heart was transformed to love with the sacrificial love of Christ. He embodied John 15:13 by choosing to lay down his life for selflessly for another man. Because Kolbe took Franciszek Gajowniczek’s place, he survived Auschwitz. Gajowniczek returned home to his wife and children, and in 1982, he attended St. Maximilian Kolbe’s canonization.

How Do We Love?
Hearing and talking about St. Maximilian Kolbe’s sacrifice always makes me tear up, but more importantly, it makes me reflect on my own life and how I love.

Have you ever asked for something without really knowing what it is? Sometimes I tell God I want something and I don’t realize what I’m getting myself into. I think I first learned about sacrificial love from the FOCUS missionaries. I was immediately attracted to it, and I began to pray “Father, help me to love like Jesus. Help me to grow in sacrificial love.” Of course, God gave me opportunities to practice sacrificial love. For the past year, I found myself suffering physically and mentally. I’ll spare you the details, but through the ails that I experienced, I learned how to put aside my will and comfort for the good of someone else. I learned to use moments of inconvenience and suffering to pray for my loved ones, offering up my suffering and uniting it to Jesus. As strange as it sounds, now I’m able to embrace suffering because I view it as opportunities to intercede for others and grow in sacrificial love.

If you’re desiring to grow in sacrificial love, putting aside your needs or comfort for someone else is a good way to start. Little acts of kindness, like helping a friend study, buying a coffee for the person in line behind you, or visiting an elderly neighbor are great ways to give of yourself with love. Don’t ask “what can I get out” of a person. Ask “how can I give of myself” to this person. Who knows if we’ll be called to literally lay our lives down. We might not wear the crown of martyrdom, but we can emulate St. Maximilian Kolbe’s love by constantly and consistently offering ourselves to others for their good.

Stay radiant!

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Going Where God Leads Me

I am not afraid. I was born to do this.

St. Joan of Arc

An Unintentional Hiatus
You probably noticed that I haven’t been keeping up with my usual posting schedule. This is because I gave myself a break from blogging. I’ve been doing a lot of working, traveling, and socializing lately, so about two weeks ago, I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I couldn’t bring myself to work on Radiant with Joy. For one week, I couldn’t write or post any content. I couldn’t even tweet. Dropping the ball on this blog devastated me, but even though I didn’t want that break, I needed it.

Understandably, It was hard to get back into the swing of blogging, but I took baby steps to start again. When I started writing again, I immediately remembered how much I love to blog. I’m glad that I’m now well-rested and have a new sense of motivation. I have a lot of ideas for new posts, and I’m looking forward to documenting my year of service with FMS and continuing to share my faith journey.

Going Where God Leads ME

Letting Fear Get Me Down
I think a big reason why I shut down for a week is my upcoming move to Washington DC. I’m very excited to move and start a new adventure there, but I’m also so nervous that I’m almost afraid to move. During my final months of college, I couldn’t wait to join Franciscan Mission Service’s DC Service Corps. Unfortunately, my excitement dwindled during the summer, and I felt my joy fading. Instead of anticipating my move, I resented it. I grew afraid of all of the things I looked forward to, like exploring a new city, living in community and helping to run a non-profit. To top it off, hearing about FMS’s protocol in response to the Coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed me and added to my fear of moving.

These fears and anxieties sparked something of a depression in me, and it took a long time for me to shake it. I let my fear of the unknown and my sadness to leave home get the better of me. I spent a lot of time laying around the house doing nothing productive. On one hand, I needed the rest, but on the other hand, I knew this was no way to spend my last weeks at home.

Unfortunately, my sadness didn’t just prevent me from blogging, but it also discouraged me from praying. In hindsight, I realize that not praying only made my sadness and fear worse. I wondered whether Washington DC and Franciscan Mission Service was really God’s will for my life. I began to question his plan, and I felt a more than a little confused and abandoned. Doing nothing to get out of this desolation, it only grew worse as time went on.

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He Wants Me in Washington DC
On Sunday, I went to Mass at Resurrection Parish for the last time before I move. That morning, I was an anxious wreck, knowing that this was the week I would leave everything I knew to start a new adventure in Washington DC. When my parents and I arrived at church, I put on my mask and my veil, genuflected, and knelt to pray. As I offered up my fears and sadness to God, I realized something. It was like a light bulb moment when the simplest statement entered my heart.

God wants me in Washington DC.

I remembered back in March when I got the offer from Franciscan Mission Service. I clearly felt God calling me there. When I accepted my position with FMS, I felt his peace and knew that this was his will. For a while, I couldn’t contain my excitement to go to Washington DC and serve with FMS. I told everyone who would listen about it, and I made a bucket list of things to do in DC during my year of service. As soon as I remembered that God wants me in Washington DC with FMS, I remembered my excitement, and I looked forward to going again.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on St. Joan of Arc’s quote, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” If God wants me in Washington DC, then I shouldn’t be afraid to move. By speaking so sweetly in my heart on Sunday, he helped me to let go of my anxieties. He helped me to step out of my desolation and rest in him. I still have some fears and hesitations, but at least now I can still go to DC completely trusting in God.

Please keep me in your prayers as well as the rest of Franciscan Mission Service’s DC Service Corps.

Stay radiant!

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Approaching Life as an Adventure with Christ

Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.

St. Pope John Paul II

Blessed with Adventures
God has blessed me with so many things this summer, and it isn’t even over yet. Over these past few months, I did so much. The adventures I had were ones that I hadn’t necessarily planned, but they were better than I could have imagined. I learned a lot about myself and I grew closer to many of my loved ones. Most importantly, the Lord has been constantly revealing himself to me. He gave me the grace to encounter him in everything that I’ve done, making this summer not only an adventure, but an adventure with Christ.

Approaching Life as an Adventure with Christ

Learning to Love Water Sports
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in touch with my “athletic” side. I love nature and the great outdoors, but I’ve gotten comfortable with just sitting and observing them. This summer, I’ve been able to explore and adventure in ways that I’ve never done before and that I’m excited to do again. I learned that I love water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding, not only because I love being on water, but also because I got interested in them through my friends, and I made a lot of memories with them.

Allie, one of my best friends from college got married this summer, and I was overjoyed to be one of her bridesmaids. After her bridal shower in Pittsburgh, we had an unconventional bachelorette party, which was kayaking in North Park! Because I never kayaked before, I thought I was going to tip the kayak and fall in several times, but that never happened. It was so peaceful to drift along and listen to the water. It was a bit of a workout to row, but I was in a tandem kayak with a buddy to help me, and I took on the challenge of keeping up with the veteran kayakers in our bridal party. I loved talking and laughing with my old friends and the new friends that I made that day. Being surrounded by a huge lake, lush trees, and a breathtaking sky was perfect.

Almost a month later, four of my friends from high school and I traveled to Fayetteville, West Virginia for a much-needed girls weekend. We wanted to round up as many of us as possible for a trip before we moved, started working, or started our last year of school. We spent half of one day paddle boarding, which was something else that I tried for the first time this summer. I had no confidence that I would be good at paddle boarding until Mikayla told me that she thought I’d be the best at it. Claiming that I’d have the best balance because I’m a dancer, I said “bet” and made sure I was the first one to stand up on my board! I expected to fall in, and I did at least three times, but I wasn’t afraid. Even falling off of the paddle board was fun, and I was able to laugh at myself about it. At first we hung around the shallow, calmer waters, but soon we were ready to explore the New River Gorge. We loved going out in the choppier water where boats made waves that we rode on. As the five of us ventured farther and farther out, it was awesome to see everyone paddle out of their comfort zone.

Finding God in nature is something I’ve been learning to love lately. Especially when I went paddle boarding in West Virginia, I found myself looking around at the trees, cliffs, bushes, and rocks as I drifted in the New River. I couldn’t help but whisper, “Wow, thank you, Lord,” several times that day. It truly was the day the Lord has made, and there was so much of him all around us. I saw him in the beauty of his creation, and in the joy of my friends. He reminded me that he was with me through all of my adventures, constantly guiding me and protecting me.

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My Upcoming Adventure
God has given me so many adventures this summer, but there’s still more to come. In ten days from today, I’m moving to Washington DC to start my year of service with Franciscan Mission Service. I can’t believe that I’m finally starting my journey in our nation’s capital and embarking on my adventure with FMS. I’m so excited for this new chapter, but I’m also nervous to live farther from home in a new city with new people and doing new work. I think the Lord gave me a summer of adventures to show me that it’s good, and even holy, to take risks and try new things. He helped me to love life more, to take chances, and to get out of my comfort zone with excitement.

The word adventure comes from the Latin word adventurus, meaning “about to happen.” What lies before me with FMS in Washington DC will be an adventure without a doubt. I look forward at what’s about to happen and feel exhilarated, scared, and at peace. In the adventures and journeys that God blessed me with these past few months, he prepared me for the big adventure ahead of me. Moreover, he assured me that he’d be with me every step of the way. No matter what this next year holds, it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime because I’m embarking on it with my Heavenly Father.

Stay radiant!

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Following Jesus to the Foot of the Cross: St. Mary Magdalene’s Conversion and Devotion

Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her.

John 20:18

My Patron and Namesake
St. Mary Magdalene resonates with me in so many ways. When I was really little, I learned during a Palm Sunday Mass that I was named after her. From that point on, I considered her my patron Saint and I’ve always felt connected to her. As I learned more and more about her, I found that we have a lot in common.

As I grew up, I felt myself emulating her and I’ve seen her intercede for me. It’s hard to be a Catholic young adult because following Jesus isn’t the “cool” thing to do. I did my best to live my faith always, despite the chastisement that I endured. St. Mary Magdalene is the patron Saint of people ridiculed for their piety, and I felt her embracing me and praying for me during those times. Looking back on how I’ve grown in my faith, I can see how St. Mary Magdalene guided me closer to Christ. Through the mistakes and sins that separated me from the Lord, she inspired me to run back to him with my whole heart. She taught me how to stay by his side and follow him wherever he led me.

Following Jesus to the Foot of the Cross: St. Mary Magdalene's Conversion and Devotion

Her Past Doesn’t Define Her
I feel like we all have bad memories that stick with us. Sometimes you have a poor experience with something, or someone makes a negative comment that you can’t forget about. As pesky as these memories are, they form us. We learn to grow, to be better, to prove people wrong.

When I was in 6th grade, my teacher randomly assigned a Saint to everyone in my class to read about and write a paper about. I asked a friend which Saint she was writing about, and when she said it was St. Mary Magdalene, I excitedly shared that I was named after her and I loved her. My friend replied in a sour tone of voice, “She had seven demons taken out of her.” That comment killed my joy and left me feeling defeated. I knew that my patron Saint was more than that, but at the time, I couldn’t say a word.

While St. Mary Magdalene probably wasn’t a prostitute (contrary to popular belief,) it’s true that seven demons tormented her. In Luke 8:2, Jesus removed them, and Mary Magdalene surrendered her life to Christ. We know that where sin abounds, grace abounds more, so this exorcism allowed for Mary Magdalene’s radical conversion. One of the beautiful, relatable facets of St. Mary Magdalene is that her past doesn’t define her. She can’t be reduced to the woman who had seven demons removed from her. That’s only one part of her, and she became so much more than that. Of course that’s part of her story and it’s something that she can’t change, but she surrendered it to Jesus and let him work in it. She allowed him to change her life, and she lived the rest of it as his disciple.

Following Christ to the Cross and the Resurrection
Her story doesn’t end with her exorcism. As a disciple, Mary Magdalene evangelized to the women that she encountered. When she told them what Jesus had done for her and how he changed her life, they became followers as well. Mary Magdalene followed Jesus so closely during his earthly ministry, sometimes closer than the Twelve Apostles. When almost all of them fled during the Passion, Mary Magdalene never left him. Along with the Blessed Mother and John, she stayed beneath Jesus on his Cross until he breathed his last.

Because Mary Magdalene was so devoted to Jesus, he allowed her to be the first to find the empty tomb. Her fear and sadness at the thought of her missing Lord quickly turned into joy when he revealed himself to her. When the risen Jesus gently called her name, she knew it was him. St. Mary Magdalene is sometimes called “the Apostle to the Apostles,” because she told them the good news of the Resurrection.

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From Brokenness to Holiness
If I could go back in time to 6th grade, I wouldn’t let myself feel defeated when all my friend could say about St. Mary Magdalene was her demons. I’d ask her to consider how Jesus worked in her life and led her to him. I’d say, “It was so good that Jesus encountered her in her brokenness and called her to holiness.” I’d tell her that although she was far from the Lord in her past, she had changed so much when Jesus touched her heart. She became so close to Jesus that she wouldn’t leave his side during his Passion. She stayed at the foot of his Cross when he suffered and died, and was the first to learn of the Resurrection and to rejoice in the risen Lord.

Jesus longs to enter into our brokenness as he did for St. Mary Magdalene. In our imperfections and our humanity, we’re never too lost for him. When we allow Jesus to work in and through us like St. Mary Magdalene did, we’ll experience a great change of heart in ourselves and in those around us.

My friend Isabella from Bearing Good Fruit compares the empty tomb to St. Mary Magdalene’s past. She beautifully writes, “Dwelling on these losses prevents us from seeing how God has already redeemed them – he’s already at work designing a better relationship for you, he’s already forgiven your past mistakes, and he’s already set a place for your loved ones in Heaven.” While she weeps for the Lord and dwells in her brokenness, Jesus comes to her, comforts her, and helps her to let go.

When Jesus touches our lives, it’s impossible to keep it to ourselves. St. Mary Magdalene evangelized by telling other women about Jesus, but also by living radically for him. She stayed so close to Jesus that she could touch the wood of the Cross that Jesus saved her by, and embraced the Resurrected Christ who conquered death forever. On her feast day today, ask her to guide you to follow Jesus as closely as she did.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

Stay radiant!

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3 Reasons Why I Veil at Mass

The covering of the head with a veil symbolizes the reality of woman sheltered in the side of her Source and becoming one with Him. She becomes covered and hidden in her Divine Spouse.

St. John Chrysostom

In the months prior to SLS 20, the FOCUS conference I attended in January, I kept thinking about veiling at Mass. I wondered what it would be like, if it would improve my faith, and if it was for me. I felt called to try veiling at Mass, so when I found a booth for Veil By Tradition at SLS, I bought two veils and a pouch to keep them in. I veiled for the first time that night when I went to the Adoration chapel with a few friends, and I knew that veiling was right for me. There are so many reasons why I veil at Mass, but I’ll tell you about the three biggest ones here.

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1 Veiling is beautiful.

We praise God all the time with beautiful Churches filled with paintings and statues that remind us of his glory. We praise and worship him through music that makes our hearts rejoice. Veiling is another way to praise God with beauty. Along with goodness and truth, beauty is a transcendental, something that allows our thoughts to shift from earthly things to heavenly things.

Sometimes we go to Mass or Adoration preoccupied with distractions and thoughts of our daily life. The sacred art and other beautiful things that surround us remind us to focus on the Lord. Wearing one of my long lace veils helps me to transcend my mentality to worshiping God. When I genuflect, enter a pew, and put my veil on as I kneel, I remind myself to forget about myself for an hour and be fully present with my Savior, who is truly present in the Eucharist.

Click here to read How to Deal with Distractions During Prayer

2 Mary wore a veil.

If you’re like me, then every time you think of Mary, you picture her wearing a long veil. In fact, she’s rarely depicted in art without one. Mary is the only person who followed God’s plan for her perfectly and wholeheartedly. She always put her own will aside for God’s will, and she always thought of her Son instead of herself. She always points us towards him. My favorite example of this is the Magnificat. During the Visitation, when Elizabeth said “Blessed are you among women,” Mary responded with “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:42-47).

All of this is represented in the veil that she wears. Her veil is an outward sign of her devotion to the Lord. It expresses her humility and love for God as she hides herself to redirect attention to God. Our Blessed Mother does the will of God perfectly, so we emulate her as we wear our veils to show our reverence and submission to God.

Click here to read How I Started to Love Mary as My Mother

3 Veiling helps us to be hidden with God.

In our faith, we veil things that are sacred. This began in Biblical times when the Holy of Holies was kept behind a thick curtain, only for the high priest to see. Of course, this veil was torn when Jesus was crucified as a sign that we’re now reunited with God and we can be with him in Heaven. We continue the tradition of veiling sacred things as a way to protect them and as an outward sign of their holiness. For example, we keep the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle when we’re not adoring it or receiving it.

Veiling something shows that what is hidden is holy. As we veil our heads, we recognize ourselves as beloved daughters of God. While we wear them in worship, they help us to focus on the Mass or the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. In a world where everything is fighting for your attention, veiling gives us a way to center our sights on God. It’s also a way to recognize Jesus’ True Presence hidden in the humble form of bread and wine. In a similar way, we hide ourselves to show humility in his presence.

Ladies, if you’re interested in veiling, there are several veil shops out there! I got mine from Veil by Tradition, but there are seriously. so. many. If you feel a tugging at your heart to veil, one to Adoration a few times. If you’re looking for a way to deepen your devotion to the Eucharist and be hidden with the Blessed Sacrament, try wearing the veil. You’ll find yourself falling more in love with the Lord. When he sees his precious daughter wearing the veil, he’ll transform your heart to look to him and depend on him more.

Stay radiant!

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Blessings of a Pandemic Graduate

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

My college graduation, the day that I dreamed of for four years, was supposed to be May 9. Of course, the Coronavirus pandemic changed that, and and the commencement ceremony is now postponed indefinitely. I could dwell on everything that Covid ruined and let myself be bitter. I admit that I gave into my bitterness from time to time, but this never satisfied me. I remembered to keep turning to the Lord, which helped me to keep radiating joy during this time. There are things that haven’t been the same because of Covid, and it hurts and it’s okay to feel sad about it. While I let myself feel those emotions when I needed to, I learned to recognize the blessings that the Lord has given me through Covid, particularly on my graduation day.

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Not having graduation the way that I wanted it was a lesson in humility. Something that I learned from Fiat 90 was detachment. I’ve been learning how to let go of earthly things to seek the kingdom of God. Growing in detachment has helped me put my will aside to follow God’s will. It hurt to have to let go of my plans and dreams for graduation, but I’m glad that I did. He doesn’t take away something good from us only to give us something mediocre. God had plans for my graduation day that were still so good, and spending my graduation day at home was better than I ever could have imagined.

I’ve heard that you don’t know what you have til it’s gone, and I’ve heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Everything about this pandemic has taught me to appreciate blessings as they come. I talked on the phone with one of my best friends from college a few weeks ago. We caught up and talked about a few of our favorite memories together, like getting together in our dorms to do homework and listen to music, our heart-to-hearts, and bouncing artistic ideas off of each other. We certainly didn’t take those moments for granted, but we agreed that we would have cherished them a little more. I’m looking back on college more fondly now that my time at SRU was cut short.

At first, I didn’t understand how something good could come from something as distressing as a global pandemic. I kept praying to recognize the Lord’s goodness during this time. Slowly but surely, he softened my heart so I could see the blessings that came from this less-than-ideal situation. This is probably how I was able to enjoy my graduation day so much.

I celebrated my graduation with a beautiful day at home and then at my aunt and uncle’s house. I started my day with a holy hour and logged into to a heartfelt dance department Zoom call where my dance faculty shared some beautiful words with me and the other seniors. Nathan came to visit and we took beautiful graduation pictures. (My Mama should really be a photographer because the pictures turned out gorgeous.) We got together with some family to have dinner and play board games and card games. The whole day was filled with joy. Everything about it was lovely as I was surrounded by loved ones who made every moment special. It wasn’t the day that I expected, but it was a day that I’ll cherish forever.

I can’t exactly say that I’m glad that my commencement ceremony is postponed indefinitely. I still want to walk and see my friends in their caps and gowns. I’m glad that this was the alternative. The Lord gave me countless blessings that made my graduation day better than I ever could have imagined. It was filled with so many people and things that I love. I know prior to graduating I was heartbroken that my plans had been shattered, but looking back on how beautiful that day really was, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Stay radiant!

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