This Sunday’s Gospel: January 31, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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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What is Moral Authority?

The Big Girls in the Dance Studio
When I was a little dancer, I looked up to the “big girls” at my studio. I wanted to be just like the girls who helped my instructors teach my dance classes. They were beautiful dancers, but they were also kind, smart, and fun to be around. These girls were my role models, and I wanted to grow up to be them.

Fast forward to when I was in high school, and I became one of the older girls. It took me a long time for me to think that I was a beautiful dancer. My technique was not the best, but I brought so much heart to dance. I was on staff for three years, and it was such a fruitful and rewarding experience. My students were my pride and joy, and I loved each of them. I felt the overwhelming responsibility of being a role model. Every day their little eyes would watch me, and I had to set a good example for them.

In some ways, this is just part of growing up. We go from being the young, impressionable minds to the ones who directly or indirectly teach the little ones how to behave and think. At my dance studio, I was always intentional and I wanted to be my best for the younger dancers. I remembered the dancers who taught and inspired me when I was small, and I wanted to return the favor by being someone worth looking up to. In many ways, this is exactly how the Catholic concept of moral authority works.

What is Moral Authority?
What is Moral Authority?

Defining Moral Authority
I give this example not to boast or to make myself sound important, but to describe moral authority. Whether we know it or not, we look up to those around us, and their lives affect us. Moral authority is the ability to lead others not by title or position, but by the way we live. Yes, as a junior teacher I had a leadership position in my dance studio, but it was my character that mattered and affected the ones watching and looking up to me.

As Christians, we don’t–or at least we shouldn’t–make moral authority our goal. We don’t wake up each day with the intention of wanting everyone to look at us and think we’re such a great follower of Jesus. Moral authority is the result of our personal faith journeys. It’s what we gain when we surrender our lives to Christ. When we make Jesus the center of our lives, that demands something of us. Surrendering to Jesus means that we change our lives for good, resolving to follow Him and desiring to draw near to Him at all times. If we’re truly living the Gospel, then our lives won’t look like everyone else’s The choices we make, the habits we form, how we fill our minds, and how we spend our time affects our moral authority.

Effective Evangelization
At the heart of moral authority is a quiet yet strong way to evangelize. When people see our example of living joyfully for Jesus, they’ll know we’re different and want that for themselves. I came into college with a steadfast faith, but when I met the upperclassmen and the FOCUS missionaries, I knew that I could dive deeper. At the Newman Center, I was surrounded by women on fire for their faith, and I wanted to be like them. As a freshman, I had no idea what a holy hour was, but when I was a senior, I was praying holy hours regularly. I learned to love the Mass so much more, and I went as often as I could. I detached myself from earthly things that distracted me from God learned how to live in such a way that glorified Him.

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Moral Authority as a Responsibility
The moral authority of the seniors and missionaries evangelized me. Their example of joyful godly women inspired me to be like them, and therefore, be a closer disciple of Christ. Now that I’ve been transformed by their witness, I have the responsibility of doing the same for others. Reflect on your own life and think of the role models who nurtured you during your faith journey. What was their relationship with God like? How did they pray and how often did they receive the Sacraments? What did they do to keep God their first priority? Now apply these questions to yourself. Have you taken on the responsibility of moral authority? How have you been a good spiritual example and modeled Christ to others?

When we practice moral authority, we become more like Christ. Just like Jesus led His disciples to become more like Him while He was on earth, moral authority allows us to imitate Christ and help our friends and family become more like Him.

Stay radiant!

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St. Vitalis of Gaza

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Matthew 5:11

Misunderstood
I think we all know how it feels to be misunderstood. No matter the reason why, knowing that those around us don’t understand us makes us feel frustrated, disheartened, and most of all, alone. People can easily judge or condemn us when they don’t really know us. When we’ve only heard a fraction of someone’s story, it’s impossible to fully understand who that person is.

St, Vitalis of Gaza was extremely misunderstood during his time. If I told you that St. Vitalis of Gaza was a monk who spent every night with a different prostitute, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Either that, or you would think of a different narrative than what had actually happened. The truth is, St. Vitalis imitated Christ in a profound way that was only publicly revealed after his death.

St. Vitalis of Gaza
St. Vitalis of Gaza

St. Vitalis of Gaza’s Life
St. Vitalis lived in Gaza in the 600s. As an elderly hermit, he often hired himself out as a day laborer in Alexandria. At the end of the day, he used his earnings to hire a different prostitute each night. He spent his time with these women talking and praying with them. He reminded them of their worth and dignity. Because of St. Vitalis, numerous women gave up their lives as prostitutes and became holy wives and mothers. He helped them to understand authentic love and forsake use and lust.

Of course, St. Vitalis’ ministry caused his reputation to suffer. Other people only saw that a holy man was paying for women, and didn’t see the good that he did behind closed doors. Naturally, people grew suspicious. When St. Vitalis eventually died, all of the women who he impacted came to his funeral and testified that he had changed their lives. The once misunderstood Saint became more widely beloved.

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Imitating Christ
Jesus warns us that by following Him and doing His will, not everyone will see or understand the good that we’re trying to do. Surprisingly, this can be a good thing! We don’t have to be understood or praised for our work in this life, and we shouldn’t strive for that anyway. Our sights should always be on Heaven because our reward is there, not on this earth. Besides, Jesus was misunderstood and even hated during this life for what He did. If we’re treated the same way, then we’re all the more like Christ.

Jesus encountered prostitutes and other sinners during His earthly ministry. By encountering Him, they repented and followed Him. As His followers, we’re called to do the same. St. Vitalis of Gaza probably took this example to heart as he spent his life reaching the souls who need Jesus the most. He inspires us to risk our reputation for something more important, an eternal soul. Let’s look to St. Vitalis of Gaza as he reminds us to encounter our brothers and sisters and bring Christ’s light in the darkest places.

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: January 10, 2021

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

I was born on March 4, 1998, but I was born again later that month. On March 22, 1998, I was Baptized at St. Stephen’s Parish and I entered the Church. Although I don’t remember it because I was one month old, it was the most important day of my life.

Of all the ways that we surrender ourselves to God’s will, the first and one of the most important ones is Baptism. It’s a form of dying to yourself and this world so that you can rise for Christ. Water has always been a sign of life, so by the holy water of Baptism, our new life in Jesus begins as we’re born again in Him. This Sacrament that juxtaposes death and birth is what makes us sons and daughters of God.

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In my blog about why Jesus was Baptized, I talked a little bit about my Confirmation classes. I mentioned that my class often prayed with what God the Father said after Jesus was Baptized. The words “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” still echo in my heart. In His goodness, the Lord constantly reminds me that I’m His beloved daughter. As I follow Him closely and choose Him, I feel that He’s pleased with me.

Baptism is our first death to the world and our birth in Christ. As His followers, we’re called to constantly die to the world by turning away from sin, resisting temptation, and not indulging in material things or worldly comforts. Every day, we choose to follow the Lord and renew our love for Him. Every time, we can remember the Baptism of our Lord to encourage us as we remember that we are God’s beloved children, and He is well pleased with us.

Stay radiant!

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How to Set Spiritual Goals in 2021

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Isaiah 43:19

Can you believe that it’s 2021 already? Now that the new year is here, you might be setting resolutions and intentions for 2021. I prefer to use the term “goals” instead of “resolutions” because I feel like goals are more realistic. I’m better at setting goals than resolutions, and I find that I’m better at reaching my goals than following through with my resolutions.

For 2021, I have several goals, big and small, for different areas of my life. Of course, I set about three goals for myself to improve my faith life. My blogging friend Isabella from Bearing Good Fruit has an awesome blog post about spiritual goals and several examples and ideas which helped me to set some concrete spiritual goals and inspired me to write this post! After I set my faith goals for 2021, I thought I’d share my process and some tips to set some for yourself!

How to Set Spiritual Goals in 2021
How to Set Spiritual Goals in 2021

Decide how or where you want to grow in your faith
Think of specific, tangible, and realistic goals that will help you improve your faith journey. Do you want to pray every day? Do you want to go to Confession more often? Do you want to read Scripture or Christian books? Whatever you want to do in 2021 to further your faith journey, make that your goal.

Bonus tip: Discern and remember the “why” behind your goal. Your “why” will inspire you to keep striving for your goals. For me, one of my faith goals for 2021 is to read the whole Old Testament. My “whys” behind this goal are to read more Scripture and to gain a deeper understanding of Salvation History.

Write your goals down
I once heard the saying “A goal not written down is only a wish,” and I took it to heart. The goals that I write down are the ones that I’m more likely to reach. Whether it’s in your planner, your notebook, your prayer journal, your phone, a vision board, or even just a sticky note on your wall, write down somewhere where you’ll see it often.

Have an accountability strategy
Now that you’ve discerned your faith goals and you’ve written them down, figure out how you’ll keep yourself accountable for achieving them. Maybe you have a friend or family member who has the same goals, and you can work on them together. Maybe you can write down your progress in a notebook. No matter what you choose, make sure you have a way to keep yourself on track.

Tip: Use a planner or a notebook to track your growth. After you write down your goal, you can write down your progress on the same page, or you could use the whole thing to journal about reaching your goals. At the end of the year, it’ll be such a rewarding feeling to look back and see how much you’ve grown! I’m using my faith planner to write down how much I’ve read each day as well as verses that I want to remember.

Ask God to help you
Pray about your spiritual goals and ask God for the grace to achieve them. God wants to answer our prayers, and He wants us to grow closer to Him and become holier. Naturally, He’ll happily answer your prayers when you ask Him to help you with your faith goals! Before you sit down to read Scripture, ask Him for understanding and for a deeper love of His word. If you want to pray a Rosary every day, ask Him for a deeper devotion and ask Mary to intercede for you. Remember that you’re not on this journey alone. God wants you to succeed and He’ll help you every step of the way. We just have to show up and ask Him to help us grow. When we give God an inch, He’ll give us miles and miles.

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I hope these tips help you as you discern and begin working on your spiritual goals for 2021! I’d love to know what yours are, so comment below so I can pray for you as you work on your goals!

Stay radiant!

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This Sunday’s Gospel: January 3, 2021

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

When I was little, I remember seeing saying “Wise men still seek him” printed on Christmas cards and decorations. At the time, I thought it was a clever way to “keep Christ in Christmas,” as they say. I found myself remembering that saying every Christmas to remind myself of the reason for the season.

With Epiphany on its way, I’ve been reflecting on the wise men and what it means to seek something. When we seek something, we go out of our way to look for it. We make what we’re looking for our priority, and when we find it, we hold it close to us. The wise men sought Jesus when He was born and were some of the first to encounter Him. Today, we know that Jesus came to earth and He’s still with us, so why do we need to “seek” Him?

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Like the wise men, we do still seek Jesus, but in a different way. We’ve learned who He is and what He did for us, but now we seek to know Him personally. Our search for Jesus consists of falling more in love with Him and strengthening our relationship with Him. As we remember the wise men today, we can continue our journey with Jesus knowing that we’ll constantly seek Him and confident that we’ll find Him.

Stay radiant!

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