Monday, April 21, 2014

A Passion Walk with Jesus

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 
John 3:16
         Every year on Good Friday, my church parish puts on what is called A Passion Walk with Jesus where they walk nearly 12 miles from Immaculate Conception church, to St. Mary's church. It begins at 6:30am, early Friday morning, and ends with the 3:00pm Mass. The walk consists of going through the stations of the cross(one each rest stop), praying the Rosary, singing, and taking turns carrying a wooden cross.
          This year I was able to go. I've been two or three times before this year, but I was much younger. I was expecting really nothing more than to be able to get in some awesome prayer time and time with my friends who also went on the Walk. But, God works in mysterious ways.
          I started the Walk after getting only three hours of sleep the night before. Wasn't to excited about that. My group started out carrying the giant Rosary in this picture -->
Being made of wood and chain, it wasn't the lightest thing, so not something you would want to carry early in the morning, but we did. Being that it was on Good Friday, we are called to fast and abstain from meat, so I had a handful of grapes for breakfast. Well, after walking for about six hours, with frequent rest stops, we stopped for lunch. We were over our half way point and getting quite sweaty and sunburned by then. Couldn't really eat much at lunch because of the heat and it being a fast day. Well, it finally came time for my group to carry the cross. The last group to carry it.
       I had never actually carried it before in the past years. I just never really wanted to. But I did this year. And although I knew Christ's cross was heavy for him to carry, feeling the weight of the cross on my sunburned shoulders was an eyeopener. And this cross has a wheel on the bottom, so I wasn't even carrying its entire weight. I was tired, hungry, thirsty, sore, and carrying a replica of Christ's cross on Good Friday. That really struck home for me.
        I just kept thinking of the pain Christ went through for us. He must have been exhausted. He was covered in sweat and blood. His own blood after being scourged, tortured and beaten for the remission of our sins. For my sins. He was forced to carry that heavy wooden cross on his bloody and bruised shoulders. He was thrown onto that cross, which was already covered in His blood, and nailed onto it.
      When we reached St. Mary's, we went straight into Mass. We kissed the Crucifix in remembrance of Christ's passion and death which we remember on that day. Then we received Him in Eucharist, body, blood, soul and divinity. We received God!

       After Mass, I'd realized that I hadn't drank or eaten very much all day, despite being in Louisiana heat and sweating all day. I'd only had 8oz. of water. I realized this when I walked into an air-conditioned room, and felt like I was going to pass out. On the cross, Christ said "I thirst." After all He had been through and was undergoing, those simple words were surely an understatement. Going on the Passion Walk made the extent of Christ's sufferings and sacrifice even more real to me. Feeling the weight of that cross made it more real. The hunger, thirst, sunburn and soreness made it more real. So incredibly real. It was hard to keep back tears as I carried the cross. God certainly had more in store for me during the Passion Walk than I ever anticipated. His sacrifice and sufferings are not only known in my mind, but also deep within my heart. He revealed to my heart the extent of the pain Christ felt during his passion and crucifixion. How he suffered for me in atonement for my sins, and the sins of the whole world. Although I have always known this, growing up in a strong Catholic family and all, Christ truly used my experience to reveal deep within my heart the extent of His love for me and each and every person He creates so uniquely. Christ suffered and died for you and for me! Open your hearts and love Him and receive His love as we celebrate His miraculous resurrection in this time of Easter! My He bless you always and keep you close to His most Sacred Heart!

Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.
 --St. Faustina--

For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.
--Saint Maximilian Kolbe--

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Marriage or Religious Life?

     After two years of discernment, I came to the understanding that I am not called to the single life. So that left two possible vocations for me. Marriage and Religious Life. Finding God's calling to us on vocations isn't always an easy question to answer. Typically much discernment and prayer takes place before the question gets an answer. We are all called to a specific vocation, we just have to find out which one.
  The Answer 
     And after about three years of discernment and prayer, I have my answer. It honestly wasn't the answer I was expecting, but I know I can and will be happy living out my vocation of marriage. After receiving the signs which I knew were meant for me, I felt like I was floating on air! As if God had spoke to me face to face! I felt filled with love and peace, the Holy Spirit! I litterally skipped through the rain to the car!

My Signs 
The first sign: Last summer I attended a Steubenville Youth Conference which marked two years of discernment for me. All that weekend I prayed for a sign, or even a hint towards my vocation. Friday came and went and nothing seemed to have answered that prayer, so I continued to pray that prayer throughout that Saturday. I've been taught not to come to retreats with any expectations, that way, you won't be disappointed if your expectations aren't met. So not receiving any sign that Friday didn't really disappoint me, because I wasn't expecting one that weekend. But God had a different plan. Saturday evening after woman's session, my small group decided to walk to the church for confession. After going over the Examination of Conscience, I began to pray. I had just finished my vocations prayer, when I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard someone whisper that a priest was free and ready to hear my confession. So I went, and after confessing and receiving absolution, I was about to go, when the priest looked at me and said, "One day, you are going to be a wife and mother." I was so shocked! Then the priest just smiled and said "God Bless you." I went back to a pew to do my penance, and I was so shocked, it took me a few minutes to remember what the priest had given me for my penance! I continued to discern after that because I concluded that it could be taken two ways, marriage, or becoming a sister and taking God as my spouse and becoming a mother to all the children of the earth.

“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is "timing"
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.”
― Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The second sign: This time, it was everywhere. People would randomly tell me that I'm going to be a great wife and mother, which brought back the memory of what the priest had told me at Steubenville. I'd pray for direction in my vocation, then be watching or reading something and a wedding or proposal would be in the book or TV show I was reading or watching. Signs like that led me to pray for a big and final sign that I was called to marriage. 

 Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Pray for us!

The third sign: On February 11, 2014 I attended daily Mass a friend in celebration of the anniversary of her Baptism day. We walked into the church knelt, and began to pray. Before I took my seat, I prayed the same prayer I had prayed before receiving Confession at Steubenville the summer before. Just after the priest processed in, before the Mass began, he announced that we would not only be celebrating the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but also the Sacrament of Marriage! I was completely and utterly shocked! What are the odds of attending a wedding during a daily Mass, on a day that I just happen to be able to make it to daily Mass, and after praying my vocations prayer!? It was amazing! After Mass, the priest placed the Eucharist in the Monstrance, on the Alter where we were able to spend some time in adoration. And after this, I skipped through the rain to the car. Just such an amazing night! And many prayers of thanksgiving for answered prayers have been said since! 

     And now, I continue praying for my future husband to seek God with all he is, to put Him first before all things, and to stand strong when faced with weakness, and to be a light of the Church that he may lead others to God through his actions and words.

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
-- Matthew 19:4-6 --

 "Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous.
It is not inflated, it is not rude.
It does not seek its own interests.
It is not quick-tempered. 
It does not brood over injury. 
It does not rejoice over wrongdoing,
But rejoices with the truth.  
It bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things."
--1 Corinthians 13:4-7--