Spiritual Fatherhood

As part of my personal spiritual preparation for Christmas, I decided to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation earlier this week. I try to go on a regular basis, but especially before really big things like Christmas. And the Confession I had this week, was one of the best I have ever had in my life. What made it so special was the priest who I was talking to really entered into the role of spiritual father in our conversation. Not only could I see the love and forgiveness of Christ in him, but I truly felt like I was being given wise advice from my father. He helped me see more clearly on something I had been dealing with and spoke truth to my heart. Not surprising because I’m a woman, I have recently been reflecting a lot about relationships. Eventually I would love to marry a handsome, Catholic, faithful man, but recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means for me right now. I love to think about what my future husband might be like and how I might meet him, but after all I am a sophomore in college, clearly not ready to be married and living family life. I was told once (by another priest) and really take to heart that “everything worthwhile requires preparation.” I would say that marriage is definitely worthwhile and as a result requires preparation, even before you necessarily know who your spouse is going to be. Therefore, it makes complete sense that I would already be thinking about it. But the thing is, before this somehow came up in my Confession this week, I really didn’t know if my thinking was logical. I didn’t see the connection that my thinking about what kind of man I want to marry is simply part of the preparation for what will be one of the most important aspects of my life. I thought that I was being ridiculous. I couldn’t see the truth in this situation because my sin was clouding my vision. Father allowed me to speak from my heart and took the time to help me to see the underlying truth in what I had been thinking and feeling. He spoke as a wise father, helping his daughter along the path of life. The beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation gave him the grace to be able to absolve me of where I had fallen short and where I had failed and show me the truth and direction of where I needed to go. With my sins forgiven and my being given a clean slate, I was able to clearly hear the truth he spoke to me.

But the thing is, what made this Confession and other Confessions in the past so remarkable has been the priest. Not the individual priest, but rather the way each priest was living out his role of spiritual fatherhood to me. We don’t just call these men “father” for no reason. They are truly called to be spiritual fathers to all of us in the Church, and truly beauty radiates when they take this call to heart and allow themselves to receive the grace to carry it out. Beauty is in the world as a means of drawing us to the source of beauty, which is God. When priests truly enter into their role as spiritual father, beauty radiates. Through this beauty, we are brought to the heart of Christ. Forgiveness is at the heart of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and forgiveness is at the heart of a loving father. Just think about the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is also known as the Parable of the Forgiving Father. (Luke 15:11-32) Where forgiveness takes place, the beauty of fatherhood is most clearly demonstrated.

The thing is, every human being needs a father. Most basically, boys need true fathers to learn to be true men and girls need true fathers to learn how real men are supposed to treat them. In society today, we are dealing with a poverty of fatherhood. There are so many people growing up with either the absence or negative image of fatherhood. I firmly believe that many of the problems in our society will not get any better until we fix the fatherhood crisis. With that said, the role of the priest in our lives is so incredibly important. Although we may not have been given the best or any father in our family, we are all given spiritual fathers in the priests in our lives. What a gift this is to be able to have men of character in our lives who have devoted their lives to help us encounter Christ, to speak truth to us, and to give us wisdom about the journey of life. They literally act in the person of Christ. They are present at every moment of our lives. They rejoice with us, mourn with us, laugh with us, suffer with us… but most importantly, they forgive us. Praise the Lord.

St. John Vianney, universal patron of priests, pray for us and for our priests.

Beauty: Holly’s Perspective

I would just like to introduce you to a friend, and household sister, of mine. I mentioned her in the last post about the seniors, so you may remember her. I find SO much beauty in this woman. I am continually reminded of this in every conversation I have with her. I have a running joke in my household about how I want to be her. (I may or may not have pulled several pranks regarding this… ;)) But in reality, I am just so inspired by her. There are so many adjectives I could use to describe her… wise… beautiful… faithful… but I think you would get a much clearer picture based on the interview I had with her this evening. I hope you are able to get a glimpse of her beautiful heart through this. 

Me: If you could be an expert at anything, what would it be? 
Holly: Gardener! I would love how to know how to garden really well, but I just don’t.

Me: What is your definition of beauty? 
Holly: The Blessed Mother. We try to emulate Mary the Mystical rose, and she is the most beautiful flower in God’s creation because she is constantly turning towards the Son. She says she magnifies the Lord, and anytime I see anything beautiful I like to see it as magnifying the Lord…The people I see as most beautiful in my life are those I see Jesus in, whether it’s in their demeanor or what they do. 
Me: Who is someone you see as truly beautiful and what makes them so? 
Holly: Ann Hoover, my little sister in household, because in her life she lives out a total gift of self. You can just tell that even when she’s not doing something which would be perceived as religious or spiritual, she is pursuing God. She is so beautiful inside and out. She is so gentle and kind…she is so physically beautiful, but I think a big part of that is she is so beautiful on the inside. 
Me: What do you think it takes to be a person of depth? 
Holly: To be a person of depth I think first we have to move beyond ourselves and realize that the world is not about us. I know on the forefront we all know, but on the inside we all struggle with it. When we move beyond that and reality that it’s all about Him and others, is when I can be a person of depth. 
Me: What is one way you see beauty in those around you? 
Holly: I don’t always remember to do this, but if I could remember to see people’s hearts and souls.
Me: What is one way you see beauty in yourself? 
Holly: I see beauty in myself in that God finds me worth pursuing, even when I run away from Him and even when I don’t see that in myself. That He STILL sees that I am worth pursuing. If He sees me as worthy of pursuit, than I must be beautiful. Beauty is a manifestation of goodness, then there must be goodness in me. 
Me: If you had a chance to combat one lie that women believe today, what would it be and how would you go about it? 
Holly: The lie that you’re not enough and that no one would ever love you as you are. I try to combat it by uplifting people where they’re at. Letting friends, family, people I encounter know that they are loved by me. If they can experience love from a person than maybe they can come to a greater understanding that God loves them, too. 
Me: What do you do to speak truth to the lies in your own life? 
Holly: By trying to recognize where that lie stems from…that way you can root it out, and not only that, but have God root it out. I ask God to tell me who I am. Someone once told me that, “if you don’t let God tell you who you are, then Satan will tell you who you’re not.” 
Me: If you could say one statement to all the women in the world today collectively, what would it be? 
Holly: Everybody has had terrible things happen to them in their lives, and everyone has done things that they regret, but those wounds and those lies that you believed and the things that you’ve done don’t have to be who you are. You are good and you are beautiful and you are made for love. Just because those things happened, they don’t have to define you anymore because Christ makes us new. 
Me: What is the most important value or virtue for a person to have in your eyes? 
Holly: Profound humility because humility is the root of all other virtue. So go big or go home…True humility is realizing how God sees you – no more, no less. 


I hope this gave you a glimpse into the beautiful friend and sister I have in Holly. I am so grateful for her presence in my life. :) 
Our Lady Rosa Mystica, pray for us. 

Sisterhood

This past weekend my roommate wrote a beautiful blog post about one of her household sisters, and she inspired me to write about my own household sisters. I am going to be studying abroad in Austria next semester, and so this was my last semester with the seniors in my household. This is extremely bittersweet, because although I am beyond excited to be going to Europe, I am going to miss them terribly. They are honestly some of the most beautiful and wisest people I have ever known. They have taught me so much and I know they will continue to be lights for the entire world. They are a living model of the fact that true beauty – not the world’s superficial definition of beauty – is possible, attainable, and REAL. And so this post is going to be a tribute to them… :)

Danielle embodies true sisterhood through little acts of love. Her beauty radiates especially through her smile. She teaches me the importance of the little things. The Wednesday night hang outs Danielle and I would have were often the highlight of my week, because Danielle and I would have the best conversations. If we all lived with the genuine care that Danielle does, the lives around us would change.

Leah is a model of strength for me. This woman has been through so much in her life, yet she is one of the most joyful and supportive people I have ever met. She shows me the beauty of having a deep interior joy that no suffering can shake. If more people lived their lives like Leah, the world would be a much happier place.

Sarah is pure joy. She is always ready to rejoice with me, cry with me, or just grab dinner if I need someone to eat with. Although she is busy and has lots going on, she has always had time for me. I distinctly remember one night this semester when she had a huge test to study for the next day, but she still went to dinner with me. She just studied at the table as she sat with me, for she knew it was important to be there with me. In a world where time is one of the most valuable things we have, time can be one of the most sincere acts of love.

Allie is genuinely herself. There is something radiantly beautiful about authenticity, and particularly her authenticity. She has shown me that you don’t have to have your entire life figured out to be genuine. Her life is an example that by striving to do what you love, striving to love, you can give the world a taste of authenticity in the face of so much superficiality.

Liz is very much herself. Radically herself. I wish I had gotten to spend more time with her this semester, but one thing that continually strikes me is her confidence in herself. Indecision is a huge problem for many people today. It is truly refreshing and radical to be around Liz who knows she is a beautiful woman of God and lives it.

Christie is continually present to me. We, as human beings, need people we can rely on and Christie is definitely a sister whom I can rely on. Whether I have a joy to share or something to freak out about, I know she is there to listen. We live in such a distracted culture…even while writing this blog post I have been on facebook…twitter…and it is truly a beautiful thing to have a friend who is present to me.

Holly continually shows me the beauty of simple wisdom. There have been several times when I have written down what she has said to me in simple conversation because I wanted to remember it. Many times just talking to her is a day-changer. She is striving for holiness, and it is beautiful that she allows those around her to join in on her journey. Ultimately, we are all journeying together on this road to heaven.

Jenny brings so much joy to my heart! I would say that I know her better than some of my other household sisters, and as a result she knows exactly how to make me laugh – most of the time until I cry. Sometimes when school or life is stressful, if I see Jenny I forget what I was stressed about, because she makes me laugh so hard. Jenny is a model of how to be a light through joy.

Amanda is a gentle soul whose smile brings me so much joy. I have not gotten the chance to get to know her as much as I would have liked, but every time I am with her I just feel peace. She has a loving spirit that continually reassures me.

Catherine has incredible depth. She knows a lot about our faith and it is such a gift to be able to hear her insights about different Scripture readings, because she usually has something to share that goes much beyond the surface. This world tries to keep things on the surface, but Catherine continually shows me the beauty of living deeply, as we were created.

Lydia has only been my household sister for a little while, but I have learned from her. The very fact that she joined our household as a senior shows me that she is open to what God wants and isn’t afraid to go after her heart. Many people wouldn’t join a household senior year because they think it’s not worth it, but since Lydia had the courage to do so, we are all able to experience her beauty. She has SO much to offer. What a blessing.

Britni is a model of femininity. She always dresses in an extremely classy and feminine manner, which brings glory to God. Through her beauty she brings those around her to Christ. True beauty, including external beauty, is of Christ. We live in a culture focused on the externals, but Britni shows me that even this aspect of our culture can be redeemed, by a simple decision to bring dignity through what we are wearing.

Pom is a light to our household and a light in my life. She has been in household the longest out of all of us, and she brings a light of wisdom that comes with experience. One of the beautiful things about life is that since we are all in different places, we all have different gifts to offer. Since Pom is very experienced, especially being a founder of our household, she offers us so much. She constantly gives herself to us in love.

To sum it all up, true beauty is…
Little acts of love.
Strength.
A gift of time.
Genuine.
Confident.
Present.
Wise.
Pure joy.
Gentle.
Deep.
Open.
Feminine.
Light.
Sisterhood.

O Come O Come Incarnate Beauty

Sometimes, we have to go out and search for beauty, but sometimes it seriously just hits us right in the face. And tonight, I was officially SLAPPED in the face with it!! Ask my roommate, I was definitely just freaking out about it. There is just BEAUTY in this blessed season of Advent! 
I have recently been thinking a lot about Advent and about how we have these four weeks to prepare our hearts to receive Christ! What an exciting time! This picture I included below is one I found a few days ago, but I think it just really captures the beauty of what is going on in this sacred season. Christ, the God of the universe, really entered our world (through the human womb of Mary!) to be our light and to save us!! When it comes down to it, Christ IS beauty. He is beauty incarnate. The only reason anything or anyone is beautiful is because they reflect God Himself! All I have to say is glory!! 
And then the link I also included is to a version of my favorite Advent song, O Come O Come Emmanuel. This version is by The Piano Guys, and ever since my friend shared it with me earlier tonight I have been playing it on repeat… Honestly, it is simply beauty in a song. 
Art and music. Such human and created things, but so capable of bringing us into deeper beauty that is only of God. Praise the Lord. 

Alive. Joyful. Fulfilled.

Today was SUCH a grace-filled day, that I just HAVE to write a post about it! The purpose of this blog is to share little ways in which I see beauty in the world, and today just hit me in the face with beauty! And so, we have this post. :)

Although there are countless numbers of beautiful places and things in the world, there is really nothing as beautiful as the human person. I am continually reminded of this, but I was especially struck by this today, after really good conversation with household sisters. It is easy to be inspired by breathtaking scenery or an intricate painting. However, nothing is quite as deeply inspiring as making a connection with another person. I don’t know about you, but the moments in my life when I feel most alive, most joyful, and most fulfilled are after I have really solid conversations with other people. It just gets me so excited about life! And that is exactly what happened tonight when I was talking to my household sisters over dinner. We were just sharing our hearts, talking about life, learning more about each other, laughing a lot, and growing as sisters. We were all completely present to each other and I believe truly grew closer together this evening. And so as I take a step back to think about this beautiful encounter, it made me wonder… what was it about this conversation that made it so beautiful? I mean, I have numbers of conversations a day, but honestly, they aren’t always life-giving. What I came up with is that it ultimately comes down to…

Vulnerability.

This can be such an uncomfortable topic for many people. Sometimes just hearing it can send shivers down spines. But honestly it is absolutely necessary in life. At least, it is necessary for truly encountering beauty. And I honestly feel that this was a factor in the beauty I experienced this evening. If we hadn’t been willing to become a little bit vulnerable with each other tonight, the conversation wouldn’t have gone past silly jokes and surface topics. It is so easy to have a conversation with anyone about surface level things. I can easily talk to a stranger about the weather, classes, or jobs. But this type of conversation is not satisfying at the level of the heart. We were created for community. God wants us to be in communion with each other. Even God Himself is a Trinity of Persons in one God. Even God is in community. It only stands to reason that we would feel most alive when in true communion with those around us. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with each other, we share a part of our hearts. We grow together in community. If we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we will stay isolated. No one enjoys being lonely. It is contrary to who we are as people. But on that same note, there is a battle going on for our souls. Satan tries to isolate us and take us farther away from each other so that he is able to speak lies to our hearts. It is much easier to fall standing alone than standing together. And God knew this and made our hearts in such a way that we seek community, we seek union with each other, and we feel most fully ourselves when we receive that.

With that said, vulnerability is hard. Opening your heart does not just mean the possibility of communion, but also the possibility of getting hurt. However, this is tricky. If we do not open our hearts in vulnerability to each other, we won’t receive the community that we seek, but if we do open our hearts we will most likely get hurt at one point or another. C.S. Lewis once said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.” With that said, we have a decision to make. The beauty we find in other people is very much linked to love. If we love, we will get hurt at one point or another. We have to decide if we are willing to make this choice to open our hearts and receive beauty and love through community. It is what our hearts crave, but it is our decision. Take the risk.