Mary Had a Little Lamb

When I was in Catholic school, my sixth grade class wrote a poem based on the poem “Mary had a little lamb.” We changed it to be about a different Mary and a different Lamb with this picture as inspiration. I finally finished typing it up in honor of one of the twelve classmate’s birthday. Enjoy! Continue reading

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Jesus Is Always Present

I just started teaching second grade religious education and I am so excited to show them the beauty of the Eucharist. Right now I am working on making some resources for the chapter called “Jesus Is Always Present”.

Growing up is hard with all the pressures and issues that come up. I have seen kids so lost in pain and worry and I want to teach them that He is ALWAYS there for us. I want them to feel His love and to love Him in their beautiful innocence. You don’t always need to say a prayer that’s written out. You can talk to Jesus like you would your very best friend and that is a prayer. He will never put you down. His love is infinite and no matter what you do He will not turn His face from you.

The story of Jesus’s life and death is the most beautiful love story. He died so that we may live. We have a power in us to do good or to do evil. I want to teach them how good it feels to help someone, to say a quick prayer for someone who needs it, and I want to teach them to trust in the Lord for his mercy is never failing.

I am overflowing with joy. He fills me more than anything my mind can comprehend. I want to teach them to find things to thank God for every day so that they can realize what they have. He has removed so many obstacles from my life and I am seeing His plan unfold around me. I want them to look for Him in their lives, to see Him in everyone they meet.

Gosh do I have my work cut out for me. I pray that I can teach them things that will stay with them forever and I can make little evangelists!

“I am with you always, even to the end of time.”

A Selfless Gift…

Total Consecration to Mary is the most beautiful thing I have come across in my spiritual journey. When you consecrate yourself to the Blessed Mother you give her every part of yourself even the merits of your good deeds. One of the most radical things about this to me is that you don’t build up a store of wonderful things you have done to show God on your judgment day anymore because you have given every bit of it away to Mary. She will be your advocate in that moment and what human would God listen to that he would love and honor more than the Mother of His only Son. She knows better than we do who might need that prayer or sacrifice. Another really cool thing about this is that when people ask you to pray for them Mary remembers for you and you just give your little deeds to her and she will see that everyone is taken care of. She is the best mother any of us can have and it is truly wonderful that Jesus invited us into His family so we could share in their love. One of the things I was taught in religion class as a little girl was that if you found a beautiful apple in the dirt and gave it to your father it would be perfect to him because you are giving it to him out of love. If you gave that apple to your mother first she would wash and shine it, she would put that apple on the prettiest plate and make it more pleasing and acceptable to your father. This is what happens when we give Mary our prayers, she takes our imperfect sacrifice and makes it more beautiful and pleasing to our eternal Father in heaven than we could ever hope to on our own.

Now that all sounds great but how do you give yourself to Mary? There are many different publications and programs you can follow and you’ll have to find one that works for you and your life. There is a 33 day preparation period in which you will meditate and learn to die to yourself. Well that sounds a little harsh and more than you’d like to do. Understand dying to self is merely learning to put the needs of others first and teaching you to give more of yourself to Jesus through Mary. The act of consecration after the 33 days does not however mean you’ve made it, dying to self is a continual lifelong process that you need to work on every single day. We are casting off the spirit of the world and all the ties to worldly desires that bind us and make it harder to attain our eternal goal and prize which is heaven. During this period you will learn more about Mary’s role in Jesus’ life and now our lives. We through this endeavor grow in holiness and increase our faith, hope, and love.

I used two different books for my preparation the first was 33 Days to Morning Glory by Michael Gaitley, MIC, The second which was more rigorous and appealing to me was the Manual for Total Consecration published by Saint Benedict Center’s Mancipia Press.

33 Days to Morning Glory introduces you to three holy men and one holy woman. Saint Louis de Montfort is the first week’s topic followed by Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Pope John Paul II, Blessed Mother Theresa, and a review week. The book explains the profound devotion to Jesus through Mary that each of them had so that we may learn by their example.

The Manual for Total Consecration starts the day off with litanies and Marian hymns followed by a scripture reading (which I also used for Lectio Divina) and then mediations from Imitation of Christ or Saint Louis Marie de Montfort’s writings. It is rigorous yet understandable and it helped me grow in my faith.

I made my first Consecration this year on the feast of the Queenship of Mary, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, and the Visitation of Mary to Saint Elizabeth. It was a beautifully packed feast day and I was also visiting Holy Angels Convent. I look forward to renewing my consecration every year.

SMC sent me pictures of the prayer her community uses every year on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to renew their consecration.

Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of heaven and Refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to your Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to you our very being and our whole life; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To you we give our bodies, our hearts, our homes, our families, our country. We desire that all that is in us and around us may belong to you, and may share in the benefits of your motherly blessing.

That this act of consecration may be truly fruitful and lasting, we renew this day at your feet the promises of our baptism and our First Holy Communion.

We pledge ourselves to profess courageously and at all times the truths of our holy Faith, and to live as befits Catholics who are submissive to all the directions of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We pledge ourselves to keep the commandments of God and His Church, in particular to keep holy the Lord’s day. We likewise pledge ourselves to make consoling practices of the Christian religion, and above all Holy Communion as important part of our lives, in so far as we shall be able to do so.

Finally, we promise you, O glorious mother of God and loving mother of men, to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the spreading of devotion to your Immaculate Heart, In order to hasten and assure, through the queenly rule of your Immaculate Heart the coming of the kingdom of the Sacred Heart of your adorable Son, in our own hearts and in those of all in our country and in all the world, as in heaven so on earth. Amen

When you begin the process of the 33 days you should pick a feast day of the Blessed Mother Mary and begin 34 days before that so when you end your preparation you will consecrate yourself to Mary on her day. Both of the books I used had a cheat sheet that told you when to being based on which feast day you chose. I hope you have or plan on consecrating yourself to Mary, it has helped me more than I can say!

Understanding the Trinity

This past week I was on retreat at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I made several personal discoveries, which I shared with the sisters and they helped solidify and expound on them. I was at the end of making my consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary and I was reading a fantastic manual for preparation published by Saint Benedict Center in Still River, Massachusetts. The Manual had scriptural readings paired with various daily prayers and excerpts from The Imitation of Christ, and various writings by Saint Louis de Montfort.

I learned a lot about the relationship between Mary and the Holy Trinity. Mary is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. WHAT? In the Apostle’s Creed we say “…Jesus Christ, His only son, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…” I’ve been saying this prayer for years, yeah sure the Holy Spirit came to Mary I just didn’t realize the spousal connection they have. SMC explained to me that I could learn about the Spirit through Mary. Also the connection between the Father and the Son, or the love they share, is the Holy Spirit. This love is a constantly moving circle going from the Father to the Son and back again from the Son to the Father. Through the Spirit you will come to know the Father and the Son. 

By reading scripture there is a lot we can learn about the Son but not so much about the Father right? Wrong. I was struggling with understanding the Father until SG reminded me that in John chapter 14 Jesus says “Now that you have known me, you will know my Father also, and from now on you do know Him and you have seen Him.” So we read about Jesus and we learn to know the Father.

Okay, so the Spirit helps to enlighten us in our understanding. One way that SMC taught me this past week is called Lectio Divina. What you do is read a scriptural passage, then say a prayer to the Spirit asking for understanding. Whatever jumps out at you in the passage you then meditate on for thirty minutes.

Like this Passage from John chapter 14 :

Last Supper Discourses.

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4Where [I] am going you know the way.” 5Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Read it through as many times as it take for something to jump out. For me, I saw immediately “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” So I would then think about this. Through these meditations I realized, God loves me, Jesus loves me and I am worthy. He died to save me. He wants me to come to Him. Jesus is my best friend, He knows my deepest secrets, my deepest regrets and He loves me. Not in spite of the bad and the ugly but WITH the bad and the ugly. He sees that I am working on my issues and I am striving for Him and His kingdom.

Many of you have been asking if I am going to be a nun. Good question! I have no idea. When the time is right the Holy Spirit will enlighten me and I will know my vocation whether it is married life, religious life, or something else. I just ask that you pray for me as I go through this journey.

I know I didn’t really explain Total Consecration to Mary but I will next post!

 

Quest for Joy

 

I am still in the midst of my discernment journey, and I was talking about this to a man I met at church. He told me a great story that I want to share here.

 

There was a little girl that had a string of plastic pearl beads. She loved these beads and wore them every day. They were her most prized possession, the thing she cared most about in the world. Her dad came into her room and asked for the beads. She said, “But these are my favorite.” He replied, “I know, do you trust me?” She handed over the beads, and he handed her real pearls.

 

The point of this story is to remind us that when we give up something we really care about to answer God’s call or to do what we feel in our hearts that He wants, He will reward us with something much greater than we could ever imagine. The sisters have mentioned to me that everything you feel like you’d miss, like having children, a big house, ext. is replaced with an unspeakable joy. You become a different person, you begin to want different things, you find joy in all you do as you have a constant reminder that what you are doing is for His glory.

 

Trust… faith… these are things we should hope to find. I just attended a presentation on the lives of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa’s order. They don’t have a lot of money, they don’t have insurance, they have faith that God will take care of them. The lady giving the talk said that one sister needed a major surgery, she called a volunteer and said “We need an appointment with a orthopedic surgeon, and it has to be free, we don’t have insurance.” The volunteer called the office of a surgeon that was recommended to her and explained the situation to the receptionist whose response was, “right…” The volunteer asked for her to just ask the doctor. She did, the doctor said “I’ll give her 15 minutes.” She came in and 15 minutes turned into 30 and he agreed to do the surgery for free and he then said “Any sister that comes to me for help, till the day I die, will receive it.” There are many more stories like this one. They all seem impossible, but God always provides for these women and anyone else who lets go of themselves and puts all their trust in Him.

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Where I find joy

Discerning Your Vocation

What are we supposed to do with the talents, skills and interests we are given? I am working through this dilemma right now.Am I meant for married life, religious life, or something entirely different. I went on a retreat and met some fabulous nuns about a week ago. I had never even begun to consider the religious life. Some very wise sisters told me to never say no, to always be open to His plans. He knows where I’m meant to be. It may be difficult at times but even in our struggle He is forming us to become more like Himself, and to become a better example to those around us. 

I realized that we will always be engaged in a struggle with sin and temptations till we die and hopefully join our Father in heaven. There is never a point when you’ve ‘made it’ or you are suddenly off limits to satan. It’s the constant fight and acknowledgment of our shortcomings that make us more perfect and beautiful in His eyes. There is never a moment, even at our deepest point in sin, that He will abandon us or love us less. This is something that I have struggled with a lot over the past few years recently, however, I have found more trust in His plan. Partially because I was so confused and anxious about my future and I told this to the sisters even though it was probably completely obvious just by looking at me. They all came back with the same response, “We are working on God’s time.” It is easier said than done. Patience, waiting on Him, praying every day, giving Him time to speak to our hearts, and talking to others about their call are very helpful.

The sisters I spent time with are Benedictine, their motto is “Ora et Labora” or “Prayer and Work”. Sister M. C. told me if we were to pray all day we would probably be fidgety from sitting or kneeling all day. Our body and mind need to be worked so we can be free to be the right level of tired that we can sit quietly and appreciate those moments more and make the most of that time. I worked hard and I prayed hard. I was given a wonderful balance of those and other activities. I was given a lot of time to think, read,and talk with the sisters and I didn’t want to come back! 

I can’t wait for the day I finally know my calling and the peace and joy that will come with it.

 

 

“For God is not the God of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

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Teaching styles…?

I teach a group of fifth graders once a week. Once a week? Easy, right? NOT. I don’t have these kids long enough and by the next time I see them its like starting at square one. I don’t like disciplining my kids but they are so rowdy. For awhile I tried a three strike system. Every time they misbehaved I would write their name in the board and place a tally mark. When they got to three the would meet with the Director and so on climbing the disciplinary ladder that was in the handbook. It worked fine when I had a helper because we kept each other honest and didn’t let any kids slide past. Now I am the only teacher and I give them too many warnings and when they keep misbehaving I snap and give several of them two tally marks at one time. I’d appreciate any suggestions…

 

These kids aren’t always difficult though. I have kids who like to get hands on, it takes a lot of planning to keep them interested and I don’t set aside enough time to plan things they would enjoy. Last week a teacher was out of town so we combined fifth, sixth and eighth grades. I thought it would be terrible but the younger kids looked to the older kids and it was one of the best classes we’ve had. The eighth grade teacher and I took turns leading the stations of the cross. I was amazed how all of the kids said the prayers and sang the hymns. This is giving me ideas for other classes!


 

 

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Change

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly. – Henri Bergson

As a 21 year old my life is experiencing quite a lot of change all at once. Graduating college, passing my licensing test and becoming an LPN, getting a professional job and now I am being faced with some very difficult decisions. Many people have answers for me and how they think I should proceed. But they are conflicting, how am I supposed to know which way to go?

I pride myself on being someone who listens to various opinions and I choose the one I think is best. Right now I am faced with moving out of my parents house as they move 12-14 hours away or should I follow them? I need to become independent and care for myself. I realize that money will be tight for awhile and I won’t be able to do everything I want but I can still do it. As a wise friend likes to say “I can do anything for a little while.” I am changing, I am maturing and I am recreating myself as I go. I will never be perfect but I will be the best I can.

Confession

Why do Catholics confess to a priest?

“That you may know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sin…” (Mt. 9:6; Mk 2:7-10; Lk 5:21-24). The direct translation from the Greek is ben-Adam which means son of Adam. Jesus also commanded the apostles to absolve sin. He communicated this authority to His Apostles on Easter night, “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven, whose sins you shall retain they are retained” (Jn 20:19-23). This even provides instructions, the priest must decide what sins to forgive and what sins to retain. The penitent must demonstrate true contrition for their sin. Jesus’ passion and death merited forgiveness for any repentant sinner. This forgiveness of sins does not mean, “Hey dude you’re forgiven it’s okay to sin just jump right back out there!” In the sacrament to priest I confess to says “Go in peace with the strength of the Holy Spirit and sin no more.” Note that this may vary from priest to priest. It also gives great peace to hear the priest say in Jesus’ name “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Why not confess directly to God?

“By sin, it was God that was offended; and God set down the conditions for forgiveness. You cannot insist of God that He forgive your sins on your own conditions. And Jesus Christ did not bestow the power and responsibility to forgive sins to the Apostles and their successors knowing that all one needed to do was to seek forgiveness through prayer. The Church does not deny that sins will be forgiven via prayer directly to God, given of course that there’s true repentance coupled with firm resolution to avoid this sin in the future; however, the only way we can be sure of proper disposition of the forgiveness of sin with absolute certainty is via the means established by Christ – the sacrament of Penance. “  http://www.scborromeo.org/papers/confess.pdf

God is all knowing and merciful and who are we mere humans to set rules on Him? Catholics are following the prescription we read in the bible. God in His goodness may decide to forgive the murderer and they could find that after they die but the only way you can be sure your sin is truly forgiven is to be absolved by the priest. For a sin to be forgiven all that is necessary is to be truly sorry and the priest sees when we are truly sorry and forgives us as God’s mediator. I also find that it helps to talk over the sin especially if it keeps occurring so the priest can counsel you and help find ways to stop in a confidential setting. Chances are he has already helped someone through the very same sin!

 

 

 

Acceptance

“The thing about being an adult that no one tells you growing up is that you don’t feel like an adult. All your stupid insecurities and anxieties are still there, only you feel more stupid and insecure about being stupid and insecure because you’re not supposed be stupid and insecure anymore. You’re supposed to have the answers. You’re supposed to know. But we don’t always know. And those answers? They’re not always easy to come by. Well you know what? I’m done feeling stupid and insecure about feeling stupid and insecure. The truth is, I think part of being an adult is that you stop waiting for yourself to change and you start to accept who you are.”

Easier said than done right? Life, for me anyway, is a constant struggle with my insecurities and my anxieties. I am very good at calming other people down and grabbing them off the ledge, but I can’t seem to take my own advice. Ah well, one of these days I’ll figure it out. I will stop caring about what other people think of me and then I will be free and I will allow myself to have fun. The only one who is ever holding you back is yourself. And you are a worthy adversary. Just don’t let ‘you’ win forever. Life is always worth living and everyone makes a difference.