Mary, Our Mother

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA MARY!!!!!!

So today is Mary’s birthday. I usually call her Mom, which can be kind of confusing to people at times, but that’s who she is! My Mom! She is the love of my life and on the occasion of her birthday, I would just like to talk a little bit about her and what she has done for me, in the hopes that you will come to love her a little bit more. This is my journey of how I came to know Mama Mary as my loving Mom.

As many know, I love Mom a whole lot. It’s not much of a secret to those who spend even a little time with me. But the thing is, I didn’t always have this devotion to her. In fact, I didn’t understand for a while what all the “hype” about Mary in the Catholic Church was.

So one day I asked her to show me.

It was my freshman year of high school and I chose Mary as my confirmation saint. I didn’t really know much at the time, but I see now that it was really Mary who chose me. I read different saint stories, but I couldn’t see how any of the saints could top the Blessed Virgin. So me being me and wanting the best, of course chose the best and most perfect saint there is!

The summer after my senior year of high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Madrid. But if that wasn’t good enough, our first week of the trip was going to be spent in Fatima and Lourdes! As I prepared to leave for the trip, I realized that I still didn’t really get the Marian devotion thing. I didn’t get why people from all over the world travel to these Marian apparition sites, why she has such a big place in our Church… I knew in my head how she was the Mother of God and our Mother and I knew she was special, but it just didn’t reach my heart. I was missing something.

And so as I left for that trip, I simply asked Mary to show me. It was a simple petition for such a big trip, but exactly what it was supposed to be. Little did I know, but that pilgrimage was only the beginning.

Going to Fatima and Lourdes was truly beautiful. So many things struck me during my time there, but one thing really stands out to me as I look back. I was struck by how people came from all over the world just to come and be with Mama Mary in these two spots. As I saw them do the pilgrimage walk on their knees, pray the Rosary in every language, and process with candles around the shrines, the beauty was impossible to miss. You could see on the faces of all the people in prayer the love of Mary and the love that they in turn had for their Mother. It was so very real and so very powerful. I had never seen Marian devotion in that way, a way of pure love. To me it was a repetitive set of prayers that you’re supposed to say, not an exchange of love between Mother and child. However that exchange of love is exactly what I saw on the faces of those pilgrims.

Fast forward to my first semester of freshman year at Franciscan University. As is typical of freshman year of college, I had a night where I was feeling a little bit homesick. I don’t remember what brought me there, but for some reason I decided to go sit in my dorm’s chapel and ask the Lord to help me. As I told Him I was lonely, I realized in that moment that I really needed a mother. As this thought crossed my mind, I looked up and saw the large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that we have in our chapel. It hit me – I didn’t have to be lonely any longer, for my Mother was truly right there with me.

Second semester of freshman year, I started looking for a household to join. As I took the decision to prayer, the Lord showed me that Mama Mary needed to be the central aspect. Rosa Mystica – after Mary the Mystical Rose – was one I just couldn’t pass up. I was drawn by the fragrance and beauty of “the choice delicate perfect flower of God’s spiritual creation.” Mary is the epitome of beauty and it is that beauty that continues to draw my heart to hers, which ultimately leads us to the Heart of our Lord.

Mom has used my being a part of Rosa Mystica household to continue to draw me closer to her Son. I can’t really put words to it, but in this household I have encountered beauty upon beauty. I see it in the witness of my household sisters, our covenant, the sisterhood we share… Time and time again I am drawn to the beauty of Our Lady. Oftentimes it brings me to tears because beauty in its truest form touches the heart deeply. But there is no other response to an encounter with true beauty, besides love. And who is Love? Our Lord. Our Lady draws us through her beauty, but it is only to bring us into the Love that is her Son.

I have been a teacher for a program called Totus Tuus for the past two summers, and there is really something to that hard to pronounce Latin phrase. Totus Tuus Maria means “totally yours, Mary.” What this is saying is that I am giving my entire self over to Mary so that she will in turn bring me to her Son. This was our goal during the Totus Tuus program, to bring the children to Jesus through His Mother, and it should be the goal of every one of us. Jesus came to us through His Mother, Mary, and in turn we come to Jesus in that same way. Through Mama Mary!

This is just a little bit of the journey that I have had in coming to know and love the Blessed Virgin Mary as my own Mother. The more beauty and love she shows me, the more love I have for Jesus and Mary.

The journey is nowhere near over, but one thing is sure. When we draw near to Our Lady – for whatever the reason – we encounter our Mother, we encounter beauty, and most importantly we encounter the only One who can satisfy our souls – our Lord Jesus Christ.

Totus Tuus Maria! :)

Unconditional Love

We call priests Father.
Why?
Spiritual fatherhood. This means that priests can truly show us what being loved by God the Father actually means. It’s a real thing.

I think as Catholics, we hear this all the time, but when we truly encounter what it means, it is a beautiful thing. And today, I am so grateful to be able to say that I had such an encounter.

Confession is one of those things that I personally love, but is also really difficult for me. It is SO hard to go in there and confess that I am less than perfect. I get so nervous when I’m in line, I drag my feet, and sometimes (usually when I most need to go) I straight up dread it. But being forgiven of my sins and the peace that comes from that reconciliation with the Lord is ALWAYS worth it.

Today I knew it was time to go to Confession, so I dragged myself into the chapel and asked the Lord to help me make a good confession. But what I didn’t realize as I walked into the chapel was that the Lord was about to show me in a very real way that priests truly are spiritual fathers and through them we can tangibly see the love of God the Father.

As I stood in line waiting for my turn, it hit me that I had never completed my penance from the last time I had been to Reconciliation. I remembered it had been a very difficult one – involving initiating a tough and humbling conversation with someone I had hurt – and I realized quickly that I had been avoiding it since it was a really tough one. I figured I would have to reluctantly tell Father when I got into the confessional – dreading the whole topic – because I figured the penance would have to be even harder now that I had avoided it out of fear.

But the thing is, when I walked into the confessional, I was greeted by a merciful and loving Father and not the stern and disappointed one that I had anticipated. I timidly told him how I hadn’t completed my penance from last time, and after asking me some questions to understand the situation better he changed my penance from last time, as well as gave me my penance for this time.

What mercy. As any loving father would, he noticed that what had been asked of me previously had been too much for me. And out of mercy he gave me another chance. Fathers don’t like to see their beloved children fail. I had failed in what had been asked of me, and he had mercy on me for that.

As I think and reflect on this exchange, all I can see is the love of God the Father. Our hearts are longing for this unconditional love that is available to each and every one of us.
Our Father provides for us. Our Father loves for us. Our Father forgives us.

Mary, Mother of All Priests, Pray for us!

More Than a Chocolate Bar Happiness…

Joy.

For some reason lately, it’s been on my heart. It’s come up in conversations, I’ve reflected on it, and I think there’s something to that… so I’d like to share some of that with you.

Joy is what our hearts are longing for. I don’t mean happiness, because happiness and joy are not the same thing. Obviously, we want to be happy. But I would argue that ultimately it’s not happiness we’re after; it’s joy.

A lot of times happiness and joy are grouped together as the same thing, but that’s not the case. The easiest way to understand it – joy is lasting and happiness is fleeting. For example, my friendships that are rooted in Christ bring me joy, whereas a chocolate bar brings me happiness. When I go after what I want I have happiness for a short time, but when I go after what the Lord wants for me I have joy that lasts for a long time. The joy of the Lord goes so much beyond the happiness of chocolate. See the difference?

But here’s the thing. Joy makes all the difference. Joy comes from the Lord. He created us for joy, and so naturally, when we do what He has planned for us, when we follow in His steps, when we empty ourselves to be filled with Him, we will find the joy that we seek.

This is something I discovered in a huge way this past summer. I encountered a deeper joy this summer than I had ever experienced before. I spent it as a Totus Tuus teacher. This means that I traveled around to different parishes all summer with a team of 2 seminarians and 2 other college students and witnessed to the faith to 1st through 12th graders. It was hard work, but the burden was light. And that my friends, is because I was completely filled with joy. Filled to the point of overflowing. I have not experienced a joy like that before, and I am not able to put into words how it felt to have the joy of the Lord radiating from my soul. I say this not to be prideful, but because that is the closest I can come to explaining what it felt like.

But the thing is, in the eyes of the world it doesn’t make any sense that I would encounter such a deep joy doing what I did. I emptied myself this summer. It was truly hard and draining work to always be on, teach little children, meet families, and witness to teenagers every evening. I was so tired but had to keep going. By the end, I had nothing left. I was empty. But this is where the Lord is able to work. Since I was empty, the Lord was able to fill that empty space with Himself – with pure joy. I was no longer in the way of His work. That joy carried me. The joy came in various ways (especially through my teammates and their own radiating joy), but it was ultimately from the Lord. This is not to say that I didn’t have my difficult moments and my selfish moments of failure – because believe me, I am weak and failed all the time – but in the end, the Lord carried me and I had everything I needed to accomplish His work.

The Lord called me to Totus Tuus this past summer, to the specific team I was on, to the specific crosses He wanted me to carry, and to that specific place. I said yes to that call and accepted what came. By allowing the Lord to empty me and fill me with Himself (surrendering imperfectly of course, because I truly am very weak), I was given a glimpse of the joy that comes from the Lord. And it’s lasting.

But this joy – this joy I tasted this summer – is what each and every one of our hearts are created for and long for. And in the end, this joy only comes from the Lord because it is a gift that He gives us. It’s not something we can buy or earn or steal, and not even something we deserve. It is simply a gift of love from Him who loves us. In the hard moments we can ask Him for it and we should choose it, but ultimately it comes from Him.

This gift of joy is closely linked with the gift of our vocation (what God is asking us to do with our lives). My wise roommate really helped me put a lot of these pieces together last night in a great conversation we had. The Lord will indeed ask us to sacrifice in pursuing what He wants for us, and what He wants from us might not line up with what we want at first (there were so many other things I could have done with my summer). But He will never ask us to sacrifice His joy. His joy is a gift He gives us, as His vocation is similarly a gift He gives us out of love. When we say yes to whatever the Lord may be asking us to do, surely His joy will follow. If I hadn’t said yes to His call to serve as a Totus Tuus teacher, then I never would have encountered the joy He gave me this past summer.

I don’t know what the Lord wants me to do next, but I am sure of one thing. If I say yes to whatever plan the Lord has for me, then His joy – joy that satisfies my longing heart – will surely follow.

Ask the Lord to give you His joy. Ask Him what He wants of you. Do not be afraid, for His yoke is easy and His burden light.