What Will Happen to Us in the Desert?

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

I remember hearing this Gospel reading when I was little, and I always compared the season of Lent to being in the desert. Jesus intentionally took time to pray and fast in the desert, and since we’re called to be like Him, we spend a season of praying and fasting. We create our own “desert” by foregoing things that distract us from God and things that are good so that we can focus more on the Most Good. The Holy Spirit led Jesus to spend 40 days in the desert, and the Holy Spirit leads and guides us throughout Lent. As we take on Lent 2021, we won’t wander through the desert exactly like Jesus did, but we can be certain of three things that we’ll experience in the desert of Lent.

What Will Happen to Us in the Desert?
What Will Happen to Us in the Desert?

We’ll Pray and Fast
In addition to almsgiving, prayer and fasting are necessary for Lent. Jesus spent His time in the desert praying and fasting, so we should follow His example and be intentional about these practices. Prayer and fasting go hand-in-hand. Fasting enhances prayer, and prayer makes fasting redemptive. Both of these practices are ways that we can intercede for others and grow in sacrificial love. In so many ways, Lent is not about us. When we commit to prayer and fasting, we deepen our faith by leaning on the Lord instead of on ourselves.

We’ll Be Tempted
At some point, we’ll hit what I like to call the “Lent slump.” Lent will lose it’s newness, we’ll crave the things we’re fasting from, and we’ll count down the days until Lent is over. Eventually, we all will be tempted to choose something else over God, whether that be sleep instead of prayer, or eating a snack instead of keeping our fast. Jesus was human, just like us, so even He experienced temptations. But Jesus was also perfect, so He didn’t fall. We’ll be tempted, but we can look to Jesus for strength. He can inspire us to be perfect like Him, and when we fall, He’s always there to forgive us and love us when we return to Him.

Jesus Will Be With Us
Speaking of Jesus, He’ll be present with us throughout Lent. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus says “I am with you always.” Lent is a beautiful time of growth and renewal as we deepen our faith, but it’s also a difficult time of penance and discipline. Fortunately, Jesus will be with us through it all. This is a season of drawing near to Jesus, and the closer we get to Him, the more we’ll feel Him with us. Jesus wandered through the desert alone, but we don’t have to. When we’re feeling isolated and defeated in the desert, we can look up and remember that Jesus was there, and He’s here with us now.

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You might have started your journey through the desert eagerly, excited to repent and do penance. Maybe you entered the desert reluctantly because you’ve been dreading Lent. Either way, the Holy Spirit prompts us here to be close with Jesus. He’s inviting you to rely less on yourself and things of this world so that you can fall more in love with Him. The desert of Lent can be difficult and uncomfortable, but the growth it offers it’s necessary for our salvation. Jesus wandered in the desert praying and fasting for 40 days because it was necessary for His ministry. Those 40 days of sacrifice prepared Him for the ultimate sacrifice on Good Friday, and without Good Friday, there would be no Easter Sunday.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: February 14, 2021

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I love seeing how the different Mass readings connect. In the first reading, we see how lepers were exiled from their community. They would live isolated from everyone else, and when they were around others, they would make sure everyone knew they had leprosy by yelling “unclean!”

If I were in their shoes, I would feel so insignificant. I would wonder if anyone missed me or if anyone was thinking about me at all. I would feel so embarrassed to claim that I was “unclean” around everyone. I can picture people crossing over to the other side of the road, staring, and whispering to each other about me. It breaks my heart to think that this was the reality for people with leprosy thousands of years ago.

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The leper in this Sunday’s Gospel reading had incredible faith. Not only did he recognize Jesus, but he approached Him. In a time when no one would dare to get close to a leper, Jesus let this one come near to Him to encounter Him. The leper recognized that he was unclean, but he brought his illness and the ugliness that came with it to Jesus. I can picture him kneeling there, sore and broken, knowing he’s unclean. Through it all, he gathers his faith and humility to ask if Jesus could make him clean.

Looking at my own life, I realize that I often feel too unclean to approach Jesus. I convince myself that Jesus doesn’t want to hear me confess the same sins again. I don’t feel worthy to adore Him or sit and listen to Him talk to me in prayer. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that He loves me so much that He died for me so that I could be with Him forever. Before I let these thoughts break me, I muster up my faith and approach Him anyway. I fall before Him, I show Him that I’m unclean, and I say “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And out of His infinite love, He does.

He makes me clean each and every time I fall before Him, and He can for you too.

Stay radiant!

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A Radiant Love Story

I have found the one who my soul loves.

Song of Songs 3:4

A Deep Desire of my Heart
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to get married. When I was little, I would play dress-up as a bride. As I grew up, I mused over the romantic ways that my future husband would sweep me off my feet. In college, I saw married couples who prayed and went to Mass together with their babies, and I could clearly picture myself in their shoes.

There were times when I discerned being a religious sister or a consecrated virgin, but through it all, the deepest desire of my heart was to get married and be a holy wife. I heard that God puts desires like these in our hearts for a reason, so I was convicted that my vocation was marriage. Every time I prayed about it and asked God to guide me to my vocation, the one that kept popping up in my heart and gave me the most peace was marriage.

A Radiant Love Story
A Radiant Love Story

Praying and Preparing
In college, I prayed and prayed to meet my future husband. Every day, I prayed that God would make me holy enough for him and the kind of wife that would lead him closer to God. I prayed that my future husband was preparing to meet me, praying for me, and becoming a godly gentleman. I prayed that we would love each other the way that God created us to be loved. Of course, there were a handful of guys that I had a crushes on. While some of them were my friends, we never became anything more than that. Once when I was growing impatient, I turned to Scripture for comfort. I wanted God to send me my future husband already, but a verse from Song of Songs stood out to me.

Do not awaken or stir up love until it is ready.

Song of Songs 3:5

God spoke to me through this verse at the perfect moment. I had realized that a guy who I liked didn’t like me back. I felt disheartened, but I also believed that God had someone else in mind for me. Song of Songs 3:5 reminded me that God will unfold the love story that He wrote for me when I’m ready and when the time is right. This verse helped me to trust in Him more completely. For a time, I was comfortable in my season of singleness. I spent it growing closer to God and becoming the woman who He wanted me to be.

After a few months, I met someone.

The One Who Broke my Heart
Before God gave me the one who my soul loves, He gave me the one who broke my heart. I dated a boy who came into and out of my life in a whirlwind. We met, we dated, and he left without warning. In hindsight, I know that it’s good that he broke my heart and left me. In many ways, he was not the one who God set aside for me. Although he hurt me deeply, he still taught me so much. My relationship with him showed me what true love doesn’t look like. While I hurt for a few months after that relationship ended, I knew that God allowed my heart to break for a reason. When I was at my lowest, God gave me the biggest blessing of my life.

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The One Who my Soul Loves
Nathan, my gift from God, came into my life and showed me what true, holy love looks like. He was a sweet friend of mine before he began to pursue me. He was patient and gentle with me, knowing that I was still fragile from my breakup. Within a month, we were good friends. Nathan and I spent time together and got to know each other for a while, and then on January 25, 2019 he asked me to be his girlfriend.

Throughout our time dating, Nathan showed me what a Godly gentleman looks like. He shows me his love through kind words and thoughtful gestures. He always reminds me of his support and love. He does little things for me, like open car doors, give me flowers, and leave me notes, to remind me that he loves me. He showers me with hugs and kisses to show me that he’s close. He prays with me and for me often. In my relationship with Nathan, I learned how to love someone the way that they need to be loved. We’re certainly not the perfect couple, but we turn to God through it all. In everything we do, we try to give glory to God as we run to Heaven together.

On January 23, 2021, Nathan asked me to marry him, and I joyfully said yes. Now, we’re one step closer to beginning our vocation of marriage. God truly did guide us to each other. We still have a lot of planning, preparing, and praying to do before we say “I do,” but we’re at peace knowing that we’ll spend the rest of our lives together. Every day, I fall more in love with my gift from God. It’s an adventure to learn his heart, and it’s a blessing to love him and be loved by him. It took a lot of patience, growth, and trust in God, but I finally found the one who my soul loves.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: February 7, 2021

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How often do we thank God and praise Him for answering our prayers or for working in our lives? When we do, what’s the turnaround time? Do we praise Him right away, or do we delay?

This Sunday’s Gospel reading gives us an example of giving glory to God. Immediately after Jesus healed her, Simon’s mother-in-law waited on Him. Like she did, when God answers our prayers, heals us, or reveals Himself to us, we have to respond to it.

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When someone does something for us, no matter how big or small, we say “thank you,” and usually we say it right away. Sometimes we even send a card, give a small gift, or return the favor with another act of serve. There are so many ways that we show gratitude to each other, and we should do the same for God. We can show Him our gratitude in prayer by talking to Him or writing it down in a prayer journal. Like Simon’s mother in this passage, we can serve Him. No matter how we praise and thank the Lord, let’s not forget to do this. Whether He blesses us or answers our prayers, or whether we can’t see Him working, God deserves our praise and thanksgiving at all times.

Stay radiant!

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Her Humble “Yes:” Why I’m Doing Fiat 90 Again

Do whatever he tells you

John 2:5

Fiat 90 Discernment
If I can be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do Fiat 90 again. I thought about only doing Fiat 40. I thought about not doing it at all because I remembered how hard it became as I went on. But I kept feeling a nudge to say “yes” to Fiat 90. Looking back, I feel like it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to give Fiat 90 another try. I constantly reflect and write about how Mary always said “yes” to God’s will for her. I’m always inspired by her perfect discipleship, and I always strive to be like her in every way. I think God is calling me to do Fiat again.

As I take an honest look at my life, I see the places where I’m flourishing and the places where I need God to breathe new life. I’ll use the next 90 days as a refreshing reset as I surrender every part of me and every aspect of my life to Him. Fiat 90 will give me a reason to do better with fasting and penance, and it’ll help me grow deeper in prayer. With Mary’s help, I want to be transformed and renewed as I learn to depend more on God instead of myself or worldly things.

Her Humble Yes
Her Humble Yes

What is Fiat 90?
Fiat 90 is a 90-day retreat for Catholic women desiring to grow closer to God in a deep and meaningful way. As we grow in detachment, women who embark on Fiat 90 seek to live in the world and not of it. This retreat is all about putting small sacrifices to make a big sacrifice, and choosing God in the little things so that we can say “yes” to Him in a big way. If you want to learn a little more about Fiat 90, check out this blog post that I wrote last year about it.

As I journey through Fiat 90 this year, I’ll praise God with my body, my mind, and my soul in these ways:
Body I will eat three meals a day with no snacking in between. I commit to the Heroic Minute, waking up and getting out of bed on my first alarm. I will not eat sweets or desserts. I will not have seconds. I will go to bed by midnight six nights a week.
Mind I will watch one TV show or movie per week. I will only listen to things that point me towards God. I will not make any unnecessary purchases. I will not gossip or complain. I will not multitask.
Soul I will have a weekly holy hour. I will go to confession once a week. I will say the 3:00 pm Memorare. I will do a 54-day Rosary novena. I will pray my Marian Consecration prayer every day.

Although there are more things that I can be doing with Fiat 90, like going to daily Mass, and fasting from social media, these are the things that I discerned that I’m realistically able to do. I think that cutting back a little on the standard Fiat expectations will help me to complete the 90 days more zealously and will help me avoid the inevitable burnout just a little bit. Instead of having several points of Fiat to focus on, I’ll be able to be more intentional about these few that I selected.

From a Place of Humility
I’m not doing Fiat 90 for me. I’m not praying and fasting intensely to prove that I can do it or to show how holy I can be. I’m journeying through Fiat 90 again so that I can open myself up to God. I want to encounter Him more deeply, hear His voice, and discern His will. While I’ll be putting in a lot of work, Fiat 90 isn’t about me. It’s about surrendering more and more to Him. Mary asked the children of Fatima to do penance for souls, so I’ll humbly do this because I want to listen to my Mother and please my Heavenly Father.

One thing that I want to do differently this year is sacrifice intentionally. Having someone and something that I’m sacrificing for will motivate me to keep going. I wrote down who and what I’m sacrificing for, and on the days that I feel like I can’t do Fiat anymore, I’ll look back and remember why I started. I want to approach Fiat 90 this year with a sense of humility. When Mary gave her fiat, she did so from a place of perfect humility, so I want to have the humility to say “yes” to God like she did. Humility is about thinking of others before yourself. With this in mind, my Fiat 90 journey will not be about me. I’m not embarking on Fiat 90 for my own sake. I’m doing this because my Heavenly Father wants to draw me nearer to Him, because my Mother wants me to pray, fast, and do penance so that souls can go to Heaven, and for a special person and intention that’s close to my heart.

Please pray for me and for all of the women who said “yes” to Fiat 90 this year.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: January 31, 2021

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The takeaway that I gained from this Sunday’s Gospel is very simple, yet still profound. Jesus really is the Son of God. If you’re reading this blog, then chances are you believe this. You might think, “Well, obviously He’s the Son of God, Madeline!”

The point of this Gospel reading is that an unclean spirit recognized Jesus. a demon publicly acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of God. It’s amazing to know that even evil things cannot deny this truth. This reminds me of Philippians 2:10-11, which reads “at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Nobody can be neutral when it comes to Jesus. One way or another, we have to recognize that He is the Lord.

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If demons can’t deny that Jesus is the Son of God, then we can’t deny Him either. We’re better than evil spirits, so what’s stopping us from acknowledging His identity and presence? Let’s proudly and joyfully proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Let’s let our lives reflect His glory and our identity as His disciples.

Stay radiant!

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How Intentional Community is Preparing Me for My Vocation

A Radiant Announcement…
If you follow me on Instagram, then you might have seen the “radiant announcement” that I posted a few days ago… Nathan and I are engaged! We knew early on in our relationship that we were both in it for the long haul. We very much dated with the intention of marrying each other someday. Now that there’s a ring on my finger, our dreams of spending the rest of our lives together have become so much more real. We’re one step closer to beginning our vocation of marriage.

Preparing for Marriage
Of course, along with everything that comes with planning a wedding, now we’re preparing for our vocation in a more practical way. We’ve been talking, learning each others’ hearts, and discerning for the past two years, but now we have things like pre-Cana classes to guide us as we get ready for marriage. When I was in high school, I realized that I could love my future husband before I even met him just by becoming who God wants me to be. As I continually said “yes” to God and did my best to follow His will, I noticed some of the ways that He guided me and prepared me to be a wife. One of the biggest ways that I’ve grown and prepared for my vocation was being part of an intentional community.

How Intentional Community is Preparing Me for My Vocation
How Intentional Community is Preparing Me for My Vocation

Loving my Community
The community that I’m part of with Franciscan Mission Service has helped me to be more generous, responsible, and loving. When I first moved into the Casa, I didn’t know anyone, but I knew that I could love everyone. It wasn’t hard for me to quickly fall in love with my community. I simply recognized that they’re all children of God and worthy of my time and attention. God places people in our lives for a reason, and I constantly see the ways that each person in my community helps me grow and the things that they teach me.

Instead of living alongside each other, we truly live with each other. My community and I are interdependent as we take care of each other and share responsibilities. By cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and praying, and spending time with each other, we’ve become like a family. In these ways, I serve my community because I love everyone in it. Of course, this means that sometimes I have to choose between myself and my community. Maybe I want to snuggle up in bed and blog, but I know that I need to clean the stove. Intentional community teaches me to be selfless, especially when it’s difficult. I believe that this kind of selflessness is the root of sacrificial love. It isn’t easy, especially at first, to set aside your wants for someone else’s needs, but with some practice, we form this habit and build it as a virtue.

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Growing in Sacrificial Love
Someday when I’m a wife and (God willing) a mama, my life truly won’t be my own anymore. I’ll naturally put my family before myself, making myself inferior to them, not because of a lack of self-esteem, but because I’ve grown in humility. I’ll understand that loving my husband and my children go beyond hugs, kisses, and “I love yous,” so I’ll show my love by cooking dinner even when I’m tired, listening to stories about bad days, and doing the laundry when it never seems to end. As much as this can sound like lost control or independence, this is such a good and beautiful thing. I know that this is the life that God has planned for me and these are the ways that He wants me to know, love, and serve Him. When I’m in the thick of my vocation, I can think of my intentional community and remember how they formed me. I can tell that God led me to FMS for many reasons, and one of them was definitely to prepare me for my vocation.

Please keep me and Nathan in your prayers as we prepare for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We’re both so excited to start our lives together, and we want to keep pursuing God and running towards Heaven together.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: January 24, 2021

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In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him. When I was younger, this passage didn’t make much sense to me. Even though He was Jesus, I thought it was strange that these men left their livelihoods behind to follow a stranger, but when I learned about discipleship in college, I understood.

In Jesus’ time, a young boy who did well in school would follow a Pharisee as his disciple. They would accompany them everywhere they went and do everything they do in hopes of becoming just like their Rabbi. But first, they had to be invited. If a Pharisee didn’t ask a boy to follow him, then he would take up his father’s trade, as was the case with Simon, Andrew, James, and John. The first disciples followed Jesus because He extended a Rabbi’s invitation. They might not have known that He was the Christ, but they knew that He saw something in them and wanted to call them to something more.

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Jesus knows that we’re made for more too. We’re His disciples too, and He still calls us today to follow Him and know Him deeper. What is He calling you to leave behind for His sake? How is He inviting you to follow Him more closely? How can your life reflect His? Jesus still pursues us, gently saying “come after Me.” Let’s answer His call without hesitation like the first disciples.

Stay radiant!

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5 Secrets to Praying Every Day

When I was really little, Mom taught me how to pray. Before I went to bed each night, we sat in my bedroom to pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary. She taught me how to tell God what I’m thankful for, and how to pray for others. With our nightly prayers, my mom instilled in me the importance of praying every day.

In college, I was reminded of the importance of praying every day, and I gained a deeper understanding of how to pray. I learned from the example of the upperclassmen and the FOCUS missionaries to go to daily Mass, pray in the Adoration chapel, and pray the Rosary often. The Newman Center was where I cultivated some of my prayer habits.

As much as I love God and understand the importance of daily prayer, it’s difficult to pray every day. While I’ve been learning about my faith and forming prayer habits for most of my life, I began to settle into praying every day a month or so ago. These were the tips (or “secrets”) that helped me to make prayer a daily habit. Hopefully some of them will help you to pray every day too!

5 Secrets to Praying Every Day
5 Secrets to Praying Every Day

1 Have a designated time to pray
We’re more apt to pray when we make it part of our routine. If you establish 9:30 AM as your time to pray, then you’ll get used to praying at that time. When we value our relationship with someone, we make time to be with that person. Having a designated time for prayer is essentially scheduling a time to be with God. He always shows up for us, so we should hold up our end by keeping our prayer time reserved for Him.

2 Have a specific space where you pray
Having a space to pray will enforce the fact that you go to this specific place to pray. For some of you, that might be a chapel or an oratory. If you can’t leave your house and go somewhere sacred to pray, that’s okay. You can make a home altar or rearrange a corner of a room to make a designated prayer space. This space should have your prayer materials, like a Rosary, your Bible, and some prayer cards, somewhere to sit or kneel, and some sacred art to help you get in the right headspace for prayer. You can also add plants, candles, and holy water.

3 Have someone or something something to pray for
While it’s good to simply sit and be present with God, when we’re learning to pray every day, it helps to come to prayer with specific prayer intentions. Having a “why” behind your time in prayer will prompt you to pray. Remember that we don’t always see the fruits of our prayers in this life, but this shouldn’t deter us from praying. Praying for someone or something increases our trust in God by putting our intentions in His hands and letting His will be done.

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4 Pray what you love to pray
If you’re really into the Psalms lately, pray with the Psalms. If you love to pray the Rosary and have a special devotion to it, keep praying the Rosary. If you just learned about Lectio Divina and you want to keep trying it, keep doing it. No matter how you fill your time in prayer, make sure you pray in ways that fill you up and bring you closer to God

5 Commit
One of the biggest hurdles to praying every day is actually showing up to prayer. If I only prayed when I felt very inclined to pray, I would never pray. We can’t wait until the perfect time or when we feel like praying. Keeping our time in prayer and going to our space to pray really is half the battle. It shows God that we’re choosing Him over all the other things that we could be doing.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: January 17, 2021

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When I read the Gospels, I remember that we’re Jesus’ disciples. Because Scripture is alive and we’re followers of Christ, when Jesus speaks to His disciples in the Gospels, He’s talking to us. Of course we can relate to the people in the Bible, but we also are those people. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we’re the disciples who seek Jesus because we want to be with Him.

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As simple as it is, the little “come and see” section of this passage is so dear to me. John the Baptist points out Jesus to his own disciples and affirms that He is the Lamb of God. The disciples immediately follow Him. I recently noticed that Jesus asks a lot of questions in the Gospels. I wondered why He does this considering that He’s God and He already knows everything. When He asks the disciples, “What are you looking for?” Jesus wants to see their faith. He gets His answer when they respond with “Rabbi,” recognizing Him as a teacher, and asking, “where are you staying?” to show that they want to be with Him. Jesus invites them to follow Him saying, “Come, and you will see.”

Jesus extends the same invitation to us today. He’s still inviting us to dwell with Him and spend time with Him. When we accept and follow Him, we open our hearts to a relationship with them. Today’s reading says that the disciples stayed with Jesus for a day, but it doesn’t specify how they spent their time. Maybe they asked Jesus questions and let Him teach them. Maybe He told them stories, or maybe they just enjoyed each other’s company. Whatever they did, the disciples had an intimate encounter with the Lord and left changed for the better. This week, let’s remember to be open to Jesus’ invitations to “come and see” His goodness. As we encounter Him, let’s resolve to know Him more deeply and follow Him more closely.

Stay radiant!

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