Sunday, July 21, 2013


   I'm finally back to blogging! I apologize for the 3 month hiatus -- life got a bit crazy lately, but hopefully I can make blogging a more regular practice again. :)

   Lately, my life has been in boxes, of sorts. Two months ago, I moved from my home in southern California to New Jersey because I was offered a full-time job. Yaaaayyyy! I am so grateful for my new job and am excited to be living with one of my best friends (and her family - my second family!), but transitions are never the easiest thing. I am now working at a full-time office job for the first time, living in a new space, and lacking a car to get around on my own. It's not always easy, but I am glad to be surrounded by friends and blessed to have a good job in a positive environment.

  In the last few months, the idea of boxes has come up in my meditations on several occasions. Boxes can be good - a place to hold treasures or keepsakes. A box can be a home - a place of safety and warmth. Tabernacles, Jesus' dwelling place on earth, are boxes...and we are called to be tabernacles, or homes for Jesus, allowing Him to dwell in us and work through us, radiating His presence to those we encounter. Boxes can also have a negative connotation; think "boxed in." Metaphorically, boxes can hold us back, containing something within us to an extreme. When I think of boxes, I usually think of the most mundane example of them: the cardboard box. There is nothing unique about a cardboard box. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all. There is something bland and confining about it if you see them in that light. I think of the song "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds, a hippie folk singer and political activist (she was friends with Pete Seeger, if that helps you place her). Apparently, she wrote this song while driving through California, seeing new housing developments popping up throughout the state. The song goes something like this:

     "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same....and the people in the houses all went to the university where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same."

   Take a listen if you don't believe me! :P I like the cute claymation video someone made for this.

  How often have you felt like this? Like society has a way for us to do things - grow up, go to college, party your way through college, get a degree, have a career, have fun, get married, have a family, maybe get divorced, maybe not if you're lucky, be happy, - or at least be something that resembles happiness...blah blah blah. It can be tiring just thinking about it! I have definitely felt like this. I have felt like I had to fit into some sort of a mold in order to be "normal," or in order to achieve "success," or in order to be "happy." Let me (be definitely not the first to) admit that happiness is rarely achieved by trying to fit into societal standards. Do you know what I've realized? We can't put our hope, our trust, our faith in these societal expectations. The only place we can put our hope, our trust, our faith is in God. By coming to know and love our Maker, we will come to know and love ourselves, come to know and love what is good for us (because it is willed by God), and come to find true joy and peace!! Doesn't that sound nice? It's not always an easy path - I'm finding it takes a lot of hard work, and willingness to surrender - but it is so worth it! God loves each of us in a unique way because in all of creation there is only one of YOU! Let Him love YOU.

   Still, I can feel at times like I'm battling with the world and what the world seems to desire for me. I want to fit in and be accepted. At the same time, I want to live a life of faith and live into the joy of being a daughter of God. Unfortunately, what the world seems to want of me and what God wants of me can sometimes be opposed to one other. In college, especially my first semester, I went to frat parties and drank because I wanted to be accepted by my peers. It seemed fun, but I was not fulfilled by  "going out." Still, I felt this intense pull to party and "have fun" because that was the normal thing to do and the only way to make friends, right? Sometimes, I felt like I was being pulled in two directions - in the way of the world, and in the way of God. I wanted to be able to, as the saying goes, live "in the world, not of the world," but I was often swayed to a life of the world and it always left me feeling empty. One day while I was thinking about the pull of these two opposing desires (interestingly enough, one desire is rooted in the way of Truth, while the other is rooted in a distortion of that same Truth), a distinct image came to my mind. Sometimes this interior struggle leaves me feeling like I'm battling inside myself. While driving and meditating one day (don't worry, I was the passenger in this situation), I thought of this Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a boxer. Much to my amusement, when I googled it on my phone to get the exact title of the piece (The Terme Boxer, or, Boxer of Quirinal), I found out that it was on view at the Met Museum in New York from June to July!! It would leave Italy for the United States for the first time in its history and be on view for one month in the city, and I would have missed it had the image not popped in my mind during my meditation. (Thanks for loving me, Lord! See, He does have a unique way of loving and speaking to each of us. Isn't that awesome??!?) An art history major's dream! You better believe, I booked it to the city for the last weekend it was on view. Here are some pictures (and analysis):

The Terme boxer, bronze, ca. 330 BC
    This sculpture is a prime example of Hellenistic Greek work. It depicts a boxer who is, obviously, not in the best of shape. He's been beaten pretty badly as is evidenced by the cuts and bruises covering his body; the artist filled these indentations in the bronze with copper to create the appearance of blood actively weeping from his wounds. (Sooo cool!) He has taken a rest from the fight and sits down, wearing only his boxing gloves. He is crouched, his torso bent and his arms placed across his thighs - an indication of either extreme fatigue, or defeat. Spiritually, this is how I feel when I try to live an active faith life whilst wanting to live by societal standards...after a while, I am utterly wiped out and defeated. I can't win this spiritual battle on my own - the pull of temptation/sin is too strong for me to fend off on my own...I need extraordinary graces! And this is the part that gets good. I love the boxer's gaze. He does not look down at the ground or straight in front of him; rather, he has his head turned over his right shoulder in an attentive gaze. We, the viewers, do not know what he is looking at, but we can make guesses. Perhaps his opponent is coming back at him? Maybe the crowd has begun to cheer for him? In my personal application, this gaze is a reminder to me that I am not alone in the fight. The way his head tilts upward - towards the sky- reminds me of God, who loves me beyond measure, and who helps me in the fight. In one sense, Christ has already won the fight for me, but He is also there to hold me up when all I want to do is sit down and give up on choosing the good. 

Can you see his broken nose and the cuts in his face??? 
  I am left thinking about the end of chapter 7 of St. Paul's Letter to the Romans: 

   "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ Our Lord!" 

  Don't lose hope! Even when it feels like these decisions are pressing in on you and you're going to fall and fall hard, know that you're not going it alone. Rely on the Lord! He wants to help you - He stands at the door of your heart, waiting for you to let Him in - but you must be willing. Let the Lord carry you and let your decisions flow from the knowledge of His supreme love! 

 Okay, I think I've rambled enough of my thoughts in this post...I think it's time to put this blog about boxes to rest (and for me to head to bed!). In conclusion, do not let yourself be boxed in by societal standards; rather, allow yourself to be a dwelling place (a temple/tabernacle/box) for Christ. Let Him radiate through you! Know that I am praying for you, reader. 

In His Grip, 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Strength in Hope

   You'll have to bear with me on this post. I'm writing on my iPhone in a coffee shop while waiting to go to work. Lately, I've been reflecting on how much I dread watching the news. When is the next tragic event going to take place? Sometimes, it feels as though another kidnapping, another shooting, another bombing happens every week. Just as we begin to recover from one painful event, another hits us in the gut. It's difficult to remain hopeful when it feels like we live in such a violent, hateful world. And yet, that is just what we need to do. We need to have hope that God will take care of all things; we need to keep up the hope that Christ has already conquered death and brought us to new life. It is no coincidence that the Cardinal virtues are faith, hope, and love. With these three things we can overcome any tragic event.

   Recently, I was reading a book and came across this quote which has given me much hope: "The most beautiful works have been realized during the most difficult periods of history. This is a matter of fact, and it gives the life to those who lose heart when faced with painful events." Blessed James Alberione said this, and it is so true! Alberione founded multiple religious orders, societies of priests, and organizations of lay men and women - collectively known as the Pauline family- during tumultuous times. He knew firsthand the struggle of keeping hope and continuing the work of the faith during difficult times. While he was founding these societies in Italy, both world wars took place, fascism overtook Italy and much of Europe, and times were rapidly changing. And yet, even in the most dire of circumstances, The Lord provides. He gives us the necessary strength and courage to be examples of good in a world that is seemingly littered with evil. There is a need for ever greater faith in the world today!

     In the darkest of times, the Light prevails. This sentiment is beautifully illustrated in a song by one of my favorite artists, King Charles. The song features vocals by Mumford & Sons, so if you like them, you'll definitely be hooked. ;) This song is called "The Brightest Light," and one of the lines really struck me- "The Brightest Lights cast the darkest shadows."

Wherever there is Truth, the devil will try to stop it. The most difficult times in history have produced some of the most wonderful examples of true faith and heroism. And in the end, the light will always overcome the darkness! How beautiful! I have to run to work, but let us take heart in these words from a recent homily given by Pope Francis:

    "The age of martyrs is not yet over, the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries...We pray to Our Lady to protect us, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is under the mantel of Our Lady. She is the mother who takes care of the Church. And in this time of martyrs, she is the protagonist of protection: She is the Mother. Let us state with Faith: Mother, the Church is under your protection. Care for the Church." Keep up the faith, brothers and sisters! Know that you are in my prayers and please, keep me in yours. 'til next time! :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Freedom of God's Will

           Let me start by saying that I will not always be posting this frequently, but I felt inspired to share with you a short reflection based on the feast of the Annunciation, which we celebrated yesterday. Don't worry if you thought, "Yea, but April 8th is more than 9 months before Christmas!" I thought the same thing...the feast was moved to this Monday because March 25th fell in Holy Week. Better late than never, right?

          There is so much that can be said about the Annunciation, when Mary gave her YES to God, becoming the Mother of our Lord. My reflection is taken from something I read in one of my iphone apps. Since I'm a poor college grad living at home, I cannot afford to buy myself the daily reading missals (like Magnificat). Instead, I've downloaded a couple free apps to my phone - Laudate and RC Calendar. Using these, I can look up the Mass readings, pray the rosary, read the Bible, and pray the Divine Office. How cool is that?!? Sometimes, these apps also have great reflections in them. Yesterday, I was reading RC Calendar's reflection for the Annunciation and was struck by a few things. First was this quote:

        "If God really wants us to do something he'll sweep us off our feet the way he did 
Mary, and if he chooses not to, it's hardly our fault, is it?"

           To backtrack, this reflection was defending the idea that Mary had absolute free will in her choice to become the Mother of God. Often, the argument is made that Mary, because of her lack of sin, was not able to say no to God's request. I held this belief for a long time. How could someone who walked so closely to the Lord have denied him in any way? It is important to remember that just because Mary was born/conceived without original sin (the Immaculate Conception), does not wipe away her innate God-given ability to choose. Everyone has to make choices on a daily basis; some are big and some are small. Most choices, especially if we are living a life of faith, are made between two good things and we are left to discern which way we think God is asking us to go. Sometimes, we become so obsessed with discerning God's will in our life (we think this is the only road to happiness) that we become bogged down and miserable. Instead of letting God search us out and reveal himself to us, we go on a massive, endless manhunt. I have been there! Throughout college, I was discerning whether God was calling me to marriage or religious life - two beautiful, but different paths. I was determined to find the answer by the time I graduated, but ended up being miserable when I couldn't say yes to one of these paths. I was afraid of missing that ONE moment, but what I had forgotten is that God created me and he knows me. He won't let me miss fact, if he wants me to do something, he will sweep me off my feet. And that's the moment that turned my entire discernment on its head, if you will. :) In the moment that the Lord nudged me and invited me to explore more deeply one of these paths, he also made it very clear in my heart that I could say no. Even more, I had the sense that if I did say no I would still be happy in the end! Do you know why? It's because the Lord loves me in a way that I cannot comprehend. He has given us free will and he respects our decisions. No matter what we decide, he will keep loving us in that profound way. How freeing is that knowledge?!? 

            So, Mary had a choice to make and she said yes to becoming the Mother of our Savior. (Imagine, even if she had declined the offer, God would have loved her in the same manner!) THANK YOU, MAMA! Everyday, I pray for the same docility, to have the courage and the wisdom to joyfully say yes when God sweeps me off my feet. 

               I will leave you with another, astounding quote from this reflection: 

             "The Almighty Father creates heaven and earth, the sun and all the stars; but when he really wants something done, he comes, the Omnipotent and Omniscient, to one of his poor, weak creatures - and he asks. And, day by day, he keeps on asking us."

            What is the Lord asking of you today? 

Daniel Bonnell, The Annunciation,

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finding the Risen Christ

        Happy Easter + Happy Feast of Divine Mercy + Happy Feast of the Annunciation! So many great things to be celebrating this week! So many graces for which to ask! :) The Mass readings this past week have been some of my favorites. Meditating on the Gospels, I have been inspired to start a blog based on my prayer. Last year, I wrote a blog on my year abroad while I was nannying in France. Since returning home 8 months ago (wow! Has it really been that long??!?), I've really missed having something to write about so I'm really excited about this project. I hope it is helpful for you in some way as well....and, if you ever have any suggestions or questions, please feel free to let me know. ^_^

       In this post I will focus on two Gospel encounters with the Risen Christ: Mary Magdalene at the tomb (ref. John 20) and the road to Emmaus (ref. Luke 24). I absolutely love Mary Magdalene's encounter with Jesus at the tomb. Warning: I may take some liberties using my sometimes quite vivid imagination, so if some things don't sound like they're straight from Scripture, they are probably just from my brain. Praying I don't become heretical in this approach! ;)
       Finding the tomb empty, Mary becomes distraught, and weeping, throws herself on the ground. Her beloved Christ (the one who had healed her), had not only died a gruesome death just a few days prior, but was now missing. Imagine if you went to visit the grave of someone close to you and found it dug up and empty? Quickly, you can begin to feel those intense emotions. At this point, you've begun to give up all hope of ever seeing them again (at least in a physical sense); where their body once laid, no trace of them exists. You would do anything to get them back. Since I'm an art historian (of sorts. Does a BA actually qualify me?), I'm going to add some art into the mix. Often, paintings or other images spark my meditation, or become a part of it. It is such a wonderful thing to place yourself in a painting - hear the sounds, the conversations, look at the surroundings, and feel the mood.

Detail, Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, Rembrandt, 1638

        This painting is a wonderful work. I have included just a detail of the larger work, which shows the Risen Christ approaching Mary outside of the tomb. Kneeling before the sepulcher, she holds a cloth- perhaps a piece of the burial cloth left after Jesus had arisen. She looks behind her shoulder as she hears a man ask her why is she crying, but does not recognize him immediately. In Rembrandt's painting, Jesus is seen in the garb of a gardener, wearing a hat and holding a spade which points to Mary Magdalene's initial confusion. The viewer, knowing the end of the story, can feel the momentum building towards Mary's recognition of Christ. How happy will that moment be! Rembrandt has painted Mary with her body facing the empty tomb, with which she is currently preoccupied. She is slowly turning toward Christ, approaching that pivotal moment of realization.

       So, at this point in the story, a distraught Mary Magdalene has placed herself on the garden floor outside the entrance of the tomb. Suddenly, she hears a voice, asking her why she is weeping. Assuming it is the gardener - the groundskeeper- she asks him to bring back the body of her Lord if he knows where it is. I was always struck by the thought that after following Christ for years, Mary fails to recognize his voice. How can that be?!? And yet, how often do I do that in my own life? I know that Jesus is with me at all times, and yet I quickly disregard that. Instead of letting him live in me, I often try to take control. Sometimes, I will admit that I like to sulk; I like to have things to complain about (similar to the Israelites in the desert!). I forget that God is with me, so I try to take control of things, and I ultimately fail miserably. I am left feeling unhappy, and can do nothing else but return to God. When does Mary finally recognize that this man is the Lord, the Risen Christ? It is when he calls out her name. How beautiful! The Lord calls each of us individually, in a special way. Personally, I can tell you that the few times I have heard the Lord speak to me in prayer, he has begun with my name. And what a tender way to begin! The Lord, our Creator, is recognized in the unique utterance of the name of his beloved creation (yes, that is you, too!). When Mary realizes who is standing before her, she throws herself onto him, wanting to keep him as close to her as possible. Yet, Jesus does not let her get too comfortable; He quickly sends her out to tell the world what has just happened. Again, the Lord does this to all of us. We are not to keep him to ourselves, but we are called to live out our faith and share him with the world. While I'd like to stay in Adoration all day long sometimes, I know this is not what I am called to be doing. At this time, I am called to live in the world and be the best witness to the faith that I can be. Sometimes I am not successful, but if I continue to return to the Lord, He will give me the grace to do his work.

    I know this post is quickly becoming a long one, so I will only quickly share on the Road to Emmaus. Once again, Jesus appears to two disciples outside Jerusalem but they fail to recognize him. Even after they have spent hours together and he has explained the Scriptures to them, they do not put two and two together. It is only when they sit down to a meal together and Christ blesses the bread that they realize who they have spent so much time with! Once again, we can meet our Lord in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. What a beautiful way to encounter him! If you are struggling with your faith or trying to grow in your faith, I encourage you to spend time with our Lord in the Eucharist. Again, the few times that I have heard Christ speak to me in prayer were all in front of the Eucharist. Further, Jesus once again does not stay long with his followers once they have recognized him. He immediately disappears, and the two disciples go out to proclaim this marvelous story. Are you seeing a pattern?: I think God is trying to teach us something! ;)

   Thanks for taking the time to read this! Feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions, questions, etc. Have a blessed week!

In His grip,