Friday, December 27, 2013

Introducing "On Starting Over..."



As the Christmas season reminds us to hope and trust in Christ again, and the New Year, with all of its resolutions and promises approaches, I would like to introduce a series called "On Starting Over...", in which I will write about how to recover after falling short of all you wanted to be in different areas of life.  The series will last through January, and the topics will include Goals, Relationships, Self-Worth, Spirituality, and Purpose.  Please be sure to check in if you find yourself feeling that all-too-familiar disappointment instead of peace and joy this Christmas and New Year.

May God bless all of you, and bring you grace and hope this Christmas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Few More Weeks...



Just a few more weeks of extremely hard work, and then I will be able to come home for a full month, my first semester of college completed!  It has been a very difficult couple of weeks, and the insanity that comes with the approach of Finals is just around the corner.  I can hardly believe that November is almost over!

But, in the midst of this craziness, Christ has been a constant, soothing presence, and during the time of year when my life is going to become the craziest, the Church's splendid liturgical calendar is starting a new year, and the wonderfully peaceful time of joyful preparation for Christ's birth also draws near.

So as you all- my dear, patient readers- mentally prepare yourselves for the craziness ahead as I am, take heart in knowing that the lovely season of Advent will be flowing like a peaceful current throughout the craziness, so let yourselves relax and let God fill your spirits with His stillness and quiet as the joyous exaltation of Christmas draws near.

And resist the urge to listen to that radio Christmas music!  Believe me, when Christmas actually comes, you'll be happy you did! :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Have You Forgotten Yet?


For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
 
 
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like the clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
 
 
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same,- and War's a bloody game....
 
 
Have you forgotten yet?
 
 
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.
 
Excerpt taken from "Aftermath" by Siegfried Sassoon
 
Images from Yahoo.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

College and Adulthood Begin...


Tomorrow will mark the end of my first week in college, and the day after completes my first week of adulthood.  There are a lot of big changes going on; life is very different now.  My family is not around me to support me, or to be a constant comfort.  The area is strange and unknown, the terrain totally different from home.  I'm responsible for myself and all of my actions- it is up to me alone to make sure I'm out the door, dressed, ready, at class on time, eating well, keeping deadlines, and honoring appointments.  It's a whole new world, and it is teaching me so much.

The amount of friends and family who have taken time to drop me a message, e-mail, or card expressing their support and love is incredibly heart-warming, and has led me to realize how truly blessed I am.  It is such a comfort to know that even when I'm far away, I will never be forgotten or unloved.  But being out on my own has also led my spiritual life to take on a whole new meaning- because for the first time in my life, Jesus is all that I have.  In the past, when I had a bad day or needed an extra hug, my family was always there.  But now- though I can call anytime- I cannot simply escape the weary world by coming home, I have to continue living in it.  This experience, I believe, is going to bring my relationship with Christ to a deeper level- for now I rely completely upon Him.

Thanks to everyone for their patience and support as I wait for my new life to settle down, and start figuring out how I am going to fit everything into my schedule. 

May God bless all those also starting new adventures, and may He bless all of you!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Not Alone: Resources


This week's topic is a fun one: "Are there any books, songs, prayers, etc that have helped you during this time of your life? Sharing is caring!".  Be sure to check out "Follow and Believe" for the wonderful suggestions of other lovely ladies struggling along the same path.

All right, here we go!

SONGS:
  • "Haven't Met You Yet"- Michael Bublè
    • I have written about this song repeatedly.  It is full of happiness and joyful anticipation as Michael sings about how wonderful it will be when he meets his future wife.  It is filled hope and patience: "I might have to wait, I'll never give up, I guess it's half timing, and the other half's luck"- or, as Catholic would call it- Providence.
  • "For Love of You"- Audrey Assad 
    • In this song Audrey sings about how God's love courses through her, and flows like a current throughout her life.  This song expresses love for God, and His love's for God, so beautifully it helps me set dreams of romance aside for the proper time, in order to focus on growing in my love for Him.
  • "Love Song for a Savior" - Jars of Clay
    • This song is beautiful and fills me with the same desire to love as Audrey's song.  It paints a picture of the loveliness of a deep relationship with God, and the romance that is found within it, and helps bring excitement and joy to a spiritual life that is struggling.
BOOKS:
  • Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love -Edward Sri
    • This examines friendships, relationships, and the proper way to view the opposite sex in light of Blessed John Paul II's encyclical Love and Responsibility.  It is eye-opening and written very well.
  • How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul- Jason and Crystalina Evert
    • Though the first half of this book goes into how to break away from sinful and detrimental lifestyles that many reading this series have not experienced, it is a wonderful resource for those who are stuck in a dark hole and do not know how to climb out, or for people like me how have yet to enter the dating scene, but want to be prepared to do so when the time comes.  The couple reaffirms each woman's worth, and teaches her how to value herself, thus saving herself from abuse and heartbreak.
  • Any kind of good, spiritual reading is a wonderful idea for this time, when focusing on a relationship with God will help make waiting for Mr. Right a little easier.
PRAYERS:
  • 54-Day Rosary Novena
  • Novena to St. Joseph
  • Prayers to Mary for purity and patience (these are all covered in-depth in my Not Alone post on prayer)

I cannot think of any movies that help me with waiting patiently or with discerning my vocation.  Are there any movies you all have found helped you wait for your future husbands, anticipate him virtuously, or discern your vocation?  And what resources have helped you all?



Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Curse of the Planners

 
 
Ever since I can remember, I have been a planner.  When a person loves making lists and has always been taught to be goal-motivated, I think it is impossible for him to escape developing such a habit.  From the smallest things to the biggest ones, I have a tendency to try to plan everything.  In many ways, this is a good thing.  After all, my plan to go to college motivated me to work hard in school and my plan to become an author led me to start writing online.  But there is one major drawback to being a person who likes to control and plan every major aspect of her life in advance: I have an incredibly hard time surrendering to God and His Providence.

As one of the few students who always dreaded group projects because it meant I could not be in charge of every aspect of my assignment, allowing another person to direct anything for me is a struggle.  Along the way my problems with stress and anxiety have made it very clear to those around me that though I might have a strong faith, I have much to learn about surrendering and trusting God completely.  I remember my Dad challenging me once while I was having yet another breakdown over college decisions, saying that if I was that worried about this that I was trying too hard to figure it out, and that I needed to reexamine my relationship with God.  In song lyrics, magazine articles, radio shows, and books I kept hearing about this process of surrendering everything to God, and the more stressed I became, the more the concept of not worrying anymore appealed to me.  Finally I asked my spiritual director how I could begin this process, and stop worrying so much.  He baffled me by laughing and responding simply with, "Just don't!".  Initially I was frustrated.  I was hoping for a step-by-step process, a how-to list, a plan.  But instead I received an impossible direction- to stop worrying.  Thinking that it would be of no use and that I would be able to call him in a month to tell him his advice was meaningless and that he needed to elaborate, I decided to put it to the test, and when I felt myself feeling overly-anxious about something, to simply try to stop.  This proved to not only be exceptionally difficult, but also incredibly perfect (irritatingly enough). 

Slowly but surely I learned to catch myself in the midst of stressful times and mentally slap myself out of it.  I started using phrases like "God-willing" or "I'll have to wait and see".  When I was tempted to give up or to convince myself that worrying was just something I did naturally and couldn't be helped, Gary Zimak's reminder that the quest to end anxiety is a daily struggle that must be fought saved me from giving up, and helped me revisit the challenge, though begrudgingly at first. And though I still have far to go in the process, I have found that just stopping and asking myself, "Why are you worrying so much about this and trying so hard to solve this on your own when God already has it handled?", has not only saved me many a headache, but also led me to discover the joy of living in the now.  As Christ asks His followers in Matthew's Gospel, "And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? [...] Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day," (Matt 6: 27, 34). 

So as these last weeks at home fly by, and I find myself tempted to worry about the future- how I'll survive without my family, how they'll survive without me, how I'll balance everything without being overwhelmed, or how I'm going to fit all my clothes into my tiny dorm closet- the words of Audrey Assad's song, "Everything is Yours", keep coming in my head, and I'm trying very hard to pray along with her, telling God that "If everything is yours, if everything is yours, if everything is yours, I'm letting it go, no- it was never mine to hold."

Though I'm finding that this is much easier said than done, I know that He will help me find a way.  And though I don't think I'll ever be entirely free of this cross, I hope that God will lead me to use this struggle as a way to find grace, instead of as a way to fall from it.

May God bless all the fellow worriers out there, and may I leave you with a prayer that my Mom gave me many years ago- a prayer that has continually helped me along the way:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
 
Amen.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trying to Take it All In...

 
As my last days at home fly by and I try to take in every moment spent with my family before going off to college, this Chesterton quote comes to mind.  If only I could learn how to love and appreciate things to that extent before losing them!  For my college readers- what helped make leaving easier, and what helped ease the pain of homesickness once you all were away?
 
Hope everyone is having a blessed Sunday!  God bless!
 
Image from the American Chesterton Society.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Not Alone: Who I Am


This post is a couple weeks behind; for my take on the current topic, "Is it possible to be 'just friends' with a guy", follow the link over to IgnitumToday.

To continue with the insightful "Not Alone" series, being hosted by the lovely ladies over at "Follow and Believe", it is time to answer the "big question".  Who am I?  Is my identity found in guys, in my surroundings, my friends, my possessions, or in something greater than that?  When I am all alone and in silence, what is left- in other words, who am I at the very center of my being?

Though at first glance the topic may not seem to fit the series, in all actuality it is vital to it.  If young ladies never take time to define themselves without a guy, waiting on that future husband to help them shape who they are, they will never be strong enough to be in a relationship, not only with guys, but with God as well.

For the first few years of my life, I moved around frequently.  And though we've been in the same place for over a decade now, changes in schools and locations within the city have kept me from every really being able to become too attached to one person, object, or group.  To be entirely honest, I used to hate it.  I did not like change at all, and though at times I would become restless and ready for something different, I would later end up regretting it, whether it was switching schools or trying a new hairstyle.  I wanted everything to stay exactly the same all the time, because when things changed, I felt uncomfortable.  Thus, I should not have been surprised when I suffered from horrible insecurities during the second half of eighth grade and the first half of ninth.  Though nothing tragic had happened, I was bearing the weight of several different crosses, and trying too hard to do so on my own.  But just like the classic story of the footprints in the sand, God was carrying me the whole time, and right in the middle of the pain and self-loathing, He reached down through my parents and made it clear to me that I was not alone.  He showed me that the times I had been persecuted for my faith and forced to defend it had served their purpose.

I had a very child-like faith up through middle school.  I loved God, trusted the Church, and believed what my parents taught me- for the most part- without question.  But when an unexpected person began challenging my beliefs, I learned to respect and love the Church in a whole new way.  For the first time I had to investigate everything the Church did, why she did it, and while taking all of that in consideration, still stand strong and call the Catholic faith my own.  This experience prepared me for life in a way nothing else could, because it made me proud of who my parents had formed me to be, led me to realize how blessed I was to be born into a faith led by Truth Himself, and helped me realize that the Catholic Church was not just some institution that I chose to follow- the Catholic Church was my guiding light, and "Catholic" was not just a word I used to describe my religious affiliation- it was the definition of who I was.

Keeping God at the center, and letting my identity be found in Him, is a daily commitment and struggle.  It is not always easy, and- to be entirely honest- is something I'm finding difficult now as I approaching the dreaded/exciting day when I leave my family behind to start college.  But I know that when I'm on my own for the first time, experiencing the biggest change of my life, I will need Him to carry me once again- and will once again learn to find myself in Him, before anything else.  And then- and only then- will my heart find the peace it is searching for...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Cross of Being Pro-Life

The Cross of Being Pro-Life

I highly recommend that you all check out this beautiful and insightful reflection on the wisdom of the Church's pro-life teachings, written by Chris Ricketts in light of his wife's fifth miscarriage.

More to come soon- have a great weekend!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Light and Serious

I hope everyone is enjoying their July so far!

In the past week I've post on the Ink Desk and over at Catholic Stand, and wanted to share the articles for all those interested.

Over at the St. Austin Review's "Ink Desk" I wrote about my difficult decision to add a country song to my iPod in the post "Sex, Drugs, and Country?".

On a more serious note, I wrote about the approaching reality of martyrdom for Catholic Stand; the article is entitled "From Bed to the Public Square".

Have a great weekend, everyone, and God bless!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Not Alone: Vocational Despair



"Most of us have times where we despair about our vocations, or, if we know them (i.e. marriage), we despair that they will never be fulfilled. How do we deal with that despair and what are our best tips on moving past the despair into hope?"

Above is the topic-of-the-week in the Not Alone Series, hosted by Morgan and Co. over at "Follow and Believe".  This week's topic is very timely, as the social media of today makes it much too easy to compare your life story to that of others, and quickly become depressed when it seems yours could never be as great as theirs.

Here I must make a confession- though I do not read many "mommy blogs", I am VERY guilty of frequenting wedding blogs, scrolling through all the gorgeous pictures, and then letting out one of those pensive, dreamy, "when will it be my turn?" sighs.  While reading about the bloggers who are just beginning beautiful, Catholic, married lives, it is easy to become impatient.  They sound so happy, so peaceful, so content, and it is much too simple to think "I cannot wait until I find my future husband, then I'll be happy".  But therein is where the problem lies.  Personally, I spend way too much time dreaming of all the fun I am going to have once I meet my Prince Charming, and not enough time living in the moment, enjoying every second of every day that God gives me.  This is what inspired a post I wrote on IgnitumToday a couple months ago entitled "The Top Five Ways to -NOT- Grow in Emotional Purity", which I invite all of you to read.   I truly believe that cultivating emotional purity is the absolute best way to avoid depression and despair in the days before your vocational calling is fulfilled.  By abstaining from songs or movies that trigger your thoughts in a negative direction, learning to view the guys around you as potential friends- not boyfriend candidates-, and centering your thoughts on Christ instead of Romeo, you will find much more peace of mind.  By working on bettering yourself, you will be doing the absolute best thing possible to prepare for your vocation- whether it is marriage, the single life, or religious life.

As far as moving from despair into hope is concerned, making sure that you do not allow all of your thoughts to become self-pitying ones is essential.  When you're having one of those days when it seems like everyone has a significant other except for you, and no matter where you turn you cannot escape the reality that you are the only human being out there who is still single, your mind stops thinking about anything but how miserable you are.  That is called self-pity, and it leads to judgment, jealous, envy, and selfishness.  It is important that when  you catch your thoughts heading in that direction, you stop and do something distracting and uplifting.  Put on some music that makes you smile and bake a cake.  Put on your most comfortable exercise outfit and go MOVE!  Grab your sunglasses and let some good ol' sunshine bring a smile to your face.  Call a friend or bribe a sibling and check out a local restaurant.  Go see a funny movie, or read a funny book.  Do NOT wallow in those thoughts, or make them worse by consuming an entire bag of Doritos while watching "Say Yes to the Dress" re-runs.  Doing something active will boost your energy, and doing something for or with someone else will help you refocus on the people around you, instead of yourself.  Or, to use the cliché phrase, work on finding J-O-Y by remembering what it stands for: "J-esus, O-thers, Y-ourself".

Focus on Christ, thank Him every day for your blessings, and when you are tempted to fall into anxiety or sorrow because your future vocation seems unreachable, say a prayer for strength, for your future husband/ religious life, put in a Michael Bublè CD, bake a batch of sugar cookies, and offer up your troubles to God, because it's hard to sing the words with a frown on your face!

May God bless all of you, and give you joy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Purgatory Examined

"And of that second kingdom will I sing/ Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,/ And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy". 

So begins Dante's Purgatorio, the second part of his legendary The Divine Comedy, in which he offers an unparalleled depiction of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven by traveling through them.  Following the despair and intensity of Hades, Dante's Purgatory is depicted as a difficult place.  Nevertheless, it is a place full of hope where Heaven's closeness is always at the mind's forefront, giving the suffering souls a reason to persevere in their journey towards the top.  Though the pain is real, it will end, and the Paradise awaiting will be more than enough to make the purification worth it.

This "middle stage" between Heaven and Hell has been artistically depicted in a variety of ways by authors ranging from the legendary C.S. Lewis to the "storyman" Neal Shusterman.  In every unique depiction, whether or not the author calls it "Purgatory" by name, the idea that there is a place before Heaven where souls who are not damned, but not yet ready for Paradise, go until they are ready, is the same.  And whether that place is one of punishment- as in Purgatorio- or one of peace- as in Cynthia Rylant's Heavenly Village- the inhabitants know that they cannot stay, and that a greater good awaits them.  In every story it is up to each person to work his way to Heaven while in this stage, whether by learning to let go of earthly pleasures, enduring penitential trials, or pursuing a lifestyle until it has served its purpose.  Some stories, like Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle", combine several of these concepts, and the main character must labor to be cleansed, and must also learn to lay unfinished business on Earth to rest before he can advance to the greater glories awaiting him.

Though Catholicism is the only religion that will universally declare a belief in such a place, the varied stories surrounding it prove that it is a concept that many have pondered- but why?  Why would various people of opposite backgrounds all imagine the existence of a place often thought controversial?  The simple answer is: because reason demands it.  When going to visit a king, one would not think of leaving the house without showering, dressing up, putting on his best things, and bringing a gift of appreciation.  Why then would it be any different when going to see the King of the Universe? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as the "final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned,".  It explains that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven," (CCC 1030-1031).  Though there are no biblical verses which clearly outline the existence of Purgatory, The Books of Maccabees depict soldiers praying for the souls of those who have died in battle- a practice which would be pointless if those who had died had certainly reached their final resting place.  St. Paul also speaks of a cleansing fire in which the works of those on Earth will be tested.  Since the earliest centuries prayers and Masses were offered up for the souls of the departed, in the interest of shortening their time in Purgatory and bringing the joy of Heaven closer. 

In his well-known City of God St. Augustine wrote that "temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment,".  Thus, Purgatory is the final cleansing place which God in His mercy provides to enable more souls who honestly lived for Him, but died with unfinished business or venial sins, to be able to enter Paradise with Him. 

May we all learn to thank the Lord for this ultimate second chance to purify the good intentions and correct the failed attempts of our mortal life, so as to enjoy immortality with Him.

See Catholic Answers' "Purgatory" tract for more information and biblical connections.

Image from Wikipedia.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Michael and His Angels

This morning Pope Francis, in the company of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, consecrated the Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel and St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus.  In the speech following his blessing of St. Michael's statue, he made a very eloquent statement regarding the constant presence of the angels in our lives:

"We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down."

What a beautiful way to start the day in which the Pope will publish his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, or "The Light of Faith"!

Have a good morning!

Story from news.va.
Photo credit: USA Today

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!


Go out, enjoy some fireworks, eat plenty of yummy food, and say a prayer for our nation on her Independence Day!
 
May God bless America, and may He bless all of you!
 
 
Photo credit: Yahoo!

Not Alone: Preparing for the Future



This week's topic is: "What can you work on NOW to prepare you for your future vocation?"  The description it makes it clear that this is something which will vary from person to person, and depending on one's vocation.

In light of preparing for marriage, there are a variety of fun and prayerful things young ladies can do to be sure they are ready when Mr. Right comes along.  Filling a Hope Chest with old notebooks, photo albums, articles and books on relationships, love, and marriage, little things one may have outgrown, but would love to pass on to future children, practical house items, and sewing projects is a great way to actively anticipate the coming joys and demands.  Many enjoy the practice of writing letters to their future husbands as a way to keep them in mind, and to show them how they were preparing for them long before their lives intersected.  Personally, I do both of the above- but not as consistently as I would like.  Since I've had periods of doubt concerning where my future would lead me, I was often afraid that filling a hope chest and writing letters for someone who might not exist would only make letting go of the dream of marriage harder if God called me in the other direction.  But now that I feel more certain in my calling, I'm hoping to revisit those lovely traditions.  A 54-day novena for one's future husband is also a wonderful thing to do, for it keeps one's thoughts on love and marriage God-centered. 

Most importantly though, no matter what one's calling is, the best thing each person can do to prepare for it is to work on becoming the best they can be.  Joseph Pearce likes to call it the "Healthy Trinity"- making sure the mind, body, and soul are being fed and exercised regularly.  Each tip of the triangle is an essential part of the whole- though the soul is the top.  Working out and eating healthy keep the temple of the Spirit strong.  Reading a variety of books, and making sure to go beyond what is easy to read in order to make the brain work a little, is an excellent habit to develop.  Playing a musical instrument, learning how to read music, and listening to classical tracks all help expand one's mind in an enjoyable way.  Above all else, make sure that time each day is set aside for prayer.  Things like fasting or reading a theological book are great ways to exercise two areas at the same time. 

Doing things every day to help remind oneself of the lifestyle to come, but also focusing on improving and becoming stronger now are the best ways to prepare for one's future vocation.

How do/did you all prepare for your future vocations?

Be sure to check out "Follow and Believe" for the host's thoughts on this topic!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Not Alone: What I Love About Being Single


When I read last week's topic, "What I LOVE about being single", my reaction was on the negative side: it seemed a bit counterproductive to write a post about the joys of single life when I feel that God has called me to the opposite.  But then I remembered something I read (possibly in a Jason Evert book) about the importance of remembering that though I may eventually be called to marriage- today-and most likely for several more years- I am called to be single.  Hence, it is important that I do not spend all my time now dreaming about, wishing for, and waiting on the days I am married.  Though happily anticipating this time is a good thing, allowing my life now to be less than ideal because I'm waiting for my vocation to be fulfilled is not what God intended.  If the years leading up to one's vocation were useless, then God would not have provided them.  Since He did provide them, assuming that He did so for a purpose would be safe.  So as I create yet another list, read in it the light of what I have written- I enjoy this time because I know God has designed it for a purpose, but when the time comes for me to trade my singleness for a wedding band, I will do so even more joyfully- knowing that I used the time leading up to that moment to prepare for it.

  • Accountability- Being a single lady about to leave for college means that I am about to be accountable to only one person- myself.  Though I will have teachers with deadlines and commitments to keep, ultimately I will be the only one making the decisions.  During childhood, I was accountable to my parents- and though going off to college does not remove the respect I owe them, it will be time for them to step back and allow me to make my own choices.  Once I am married, my husband and I will discuss matters before making a joint decision and be accountable to each other.  But for right now, I'm enjoying the responsibility and growth that come with knowing that I am acting because it is something I've decided is necessary, and if I do not do something I should have, it will be up to me to take the steps to correct my error and ensure I do not make the same mistake twice.  I think this is a wonderful lesson in being responsible, learning to humbly admit when I've made a mistake, and figuring out the best way to manage my time.  (Of course, I am always accountable to God above everything and everyone else, and it is of the upmost importance that I never forget that He is the master judge).
  • The Excitement- I'm in that wonderful place where I do not have a boyfriend, do not have any romantic history, but know that I have reached an age where beginning to experience such things is appropriate.  Though the relationship stage has its own set of rules, its own ups and downs, I know that the right time is closer now than it was four years ago, and that soon the man God has prepared for me- and prepared me for- will be with me.  It's fun to wonder about this: to wonder if I've met him yet, or if he's still miles away, to wonder what kind of person he will be and how we'll get along.  Songs like Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet" reflect my feelings as I anticipate the wonderful relationship God will eventually introduce into my life.
  • Growth-Sarah Swafford advised young women to "become the woman of your dreams, and you'll attract the man of your dreams".  In the same vein, she shared advice that a priest gave her regarding the search for her future husband: "“He said to run toward the Lord — and when you get there, look out of the corner of your eye to see who has been running with you,”.  This time is meant for becoming "the best-version-of-myself" (Matthew Kelly).  These years are set aside for me to work on personally growing closer to Christ, on becoming fit spiritually, physically, and mentally, and to set my foundation firmly on Christ.  Entering the dating world without a Christ-centered life could be disastrous, because when Christ is not the center, a guy could become that center much too easily.  Thus I will continue to try to use these years of singlehood to form myself around Christ, so that when God places the right man in my path, I will be strong enough to meet him.
Stay tuned each week for the newest Not Alone topic, along with other posts.  If you missed the introduction to this series, make sure to check it out, along with stopping by "Follow and Believe" to read the host's thoughts on singlehood. 

May you all have a wonderful week, and an blessed July!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Not Alone: Prayer


Week Three's topic in the "Not Alone" series concerned prayer: "How do you pray? Tips to staying disciplined? Give us anything you've got!".

Prayer is something I have blogged about before.  I wrote these tips on ways to make devotion easier for everyone.  The important thing to remember is that the Church provides many different forms of prayer and worship, and though some may be more popular than others, many of them are optional.  Since you all know how much I love lists, here's my top five favorite forms of prayer:

  1. Starting with Structure and then working from there.  I like to begin my prayer time by either reading a Bible passage, reciting a written prayer, or thinking about an inspiring quote, and then using it to help me form the rest of my prayers.  I think it is important to make sure that all of the prayers you recite are pre-written.  Going "free-style" and coming up with words yourself that best communicate what you need, how you feel, and the depth of your gratitude and love is important.  But, when you notice that you're just rambling on, then it's time to turn to one of the many wonderful prayer books that Catholic companies are publishing.
  2. Quiet MeditationIt is very important to make sure that you do not forget to add this regularly into your life (something that I need to remember).  I've written about how to meditate like a Catholic- and must caution everyone against the many resources out there that talk about centering prayer- which is harmful and not correct.  St. Francis de Sales's book An Introduction to the Devout Life is the absolute best Catholic meditation guide that I've found so far, but I would love to hear from you all about other resources you've found helpful.  Taking time to quiet your heart and just listen is essential; if you spend all your time asking God for guidance but never stop talking long enough to hear His answers, then you'll have a much harder time discerning His will.
  3. Hymns.  Some parishes use the annual Breaking Bread hymnals, and throw out the old ones each year upon receiving the new ones.  If you can somehow save one of those for your own personal use- do it!  I have an old hymnal that I love to use; I'll sit quietly, find a hymn, and quietly sing it, really taking time to reflect on the words.  For those of you who are not used to doing this, I would suggest "The Summons" as the perfect starting point.
  4. Novenas with different reflections for each day of prayer.  Aquinas Press has some absolutely gorgeous novena books that have a new reflection and picture for each day of the novena.  Novenas help one carve out time for God each day, grow in devotion to the saint of the novena, and are often very helpful in discerning how to best handle a situation.
  5. The Rosary is a devotion I am working on embracing more fully.  It is the perfect way to combine the above four into one prayer.  It is very structured, but allows for many different personal twists.  You can stop and really take time to meditation on each mystery, you could sing the Ave Marias if desired, or you could simply end the Rosary by singing the Salve Regina instead of speaking the "Hail Holy Queen".  And you can do Rosary novenas for different intentions, or add your particular novena prayer to the end of the Rosary.  This devotion has been highly recommended by the Church, many Popes have devoted entire encyclicals to promoting its use, and the amount of people who have found peace and clarity as a result of praying it regularly speaks for itself.
In order to stay disciplined, the trick is to start small.  Start with maybe the Morning Prayer in the Magnificat, or a hymn like "City of God" when you wake up, and a quiet meditation on your day, ending with an Act of Contrition at night.  Expecting too much right away is only going to cause you to burn out quickly, and thus not stick to any plan.  Start small, give yourself a schedule, and change it up regularly.  Also, make it enjoyable- something you look forward to doing.  If you love drinking tea or coffee, start your day with your favorite brew and a chapter of the New Testament.  If you love exercising, go for a run and as you warm up say a prayer for strength physically and mentally, and as you cool down ask God for the discipline to stay strong throughout the day.  Say a Rosary in the car, pray the novena together at dinner time.  Allow God to permeate every aspect of your life, and soon praying regularly will not be something you have to think about, it will be a habit.

How do you like to pray?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Not Alone Series



While reading through my blogroll this morning, I stumbled upon this series being hosted by Morgan and Jen over at "Follow and Believe".  This series started the first week of June, and there has been a new topic every week covering singleness, discernment, and dating.  After skimming the discussions, it's wonderful to see the great conversation that the series has generated.

Though I'm a bit behind here, I'm going to copy Lauren by jumping right in here and participating as well.  I'd like to briefly cover the previous topics in two posts, and then address the topic for this week in a third post.  I hope all of you, including those who are no longer single but would like to share their past experiences, to join in the conversation, offering advice and words of wisdom to those Christians out there trying to follow their proper vocations in the light of God's will.

Week One's Topic: Introductions

As you all know, my name is Abigail C. Reimel, and I am a single Catholic who will be starting college this Fall.  After many years of discernment and prayer (I highly recommend this nine-week novena to St. Joseph), I have come to understand that God is calling me to marriage.  Though I will admit that there are still times when the religious life appeals to me, something always happens to erase my doubts and draw me back to my original conclusion.  That being said, I am open to dating or courting, but have yet to have a boyfriend.  When I was younger, I dreaded the thought of not dating in high school, but as I began my senior year, I suddenly found myself at peace with the idea of not dating anyone until college.  As I've written in the past,  it is very important to me to only pursue relationships with Catholic guys who are serious about their faith, because I want my future husband and I to be able to have a strong, faith-centered family that will help us both come closer to Heaven, and that will result in children who will also want to live their lives for Christ and His Church.  You can read more about me in my "About Me" section, or by viewing my complete profile on the right.  Through my blog, many of you have gotten to know enough about myself, my opinions, and my beliefs, to have enough to go on, but I wanted to give a snapshot of my personal journey for the sake of the topics to come.

Week Two's Topic: Discernment

The discernment process is a very important part of any young Catholic's life.  It is necessary for one to take the proper time to consider the three different paths ahead of him, and to seek to know what God's will is, as opposed to his own.  As I began my teenage years, I found myself suddenly realizing that marriage was not a given, but was something I had to consider in the light of the Church and God's will.  The other two paths- the religious life and the consecrated single life- both appealed to me at different times.  There was actually a long period of time during which I was convinced that God was calling me to the life of a nun.  But something never felt entirely right about it, I would mentally tell myself that I had figured it out, but the idea never brought peace.  Occasionally it would bring jolts of excitement or happiness, but never peace.  This led me to reconsider and begin the discernment process again.  I went to a retreat where I listened to two different nuns in very different congregations talk about their lifestyles.  I read books about finding one's spouse and about choosing the right path. But most of all I prayed.  I prayed for clarity, for direction, and for guidance.  This greatly increased my devotion to Mary as I asked her for purity and implored her to make her Son's will clear to me.  I prayed Rosaries, novenas, and Masses all for the same intention of finding God's will for me.  I talked to my parents, to priests, and to others whom I trusted for good advice.  Throughout the process I came to conclusions slowly.  I knew in the beginning that my calling to write and be a public activist meant I would never be a cloistered nun.  As time went on I came to understand that certain desires of my heart, certain longings and feelings which I experienced regularly, were indications of what I had been created for.  I realized that God would not have placed such strong feelings within me for the sole purpose of having me deny them.  And then I prayed a nine-week novena to St. Joseph.  This novena highlighted different aspects of St. Joseph's life and purpose in a way that made my appreciation and devotion to him increase quickly.  Even though it had been recommended as a prayer guide for one's future husband, as I prayed it I asked God that through these prayers He would show me which path I was meant to follow.  And as each week went on, I found myself becoming more accustomed to thinking of a future husband, to dreaming of the day when I would have a house and kids of my own, and when the nine weeks ended with my mind- which had been open before- full of such a clear and beautiful dream, I knew God was confirming the little hints He had provided me along the way. 

All right, this post is certainly long enough now, so I'll tackle "Prayer" tomorrow and the current topic "What I Love About Being Single" on Sunday.  Be sure to check out the previous posts at "Follow and Believe", and to stay posted for more to come!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel

Man of Steel
-PG-13

Superman is the next hero whose story is being redone for the big screen.  Man of Steel is an intense, loud, and action-packed retelling of the story of Clark Kent, a seemingly ordinary guy who has never quite fit in, and who has a great secret he's hiding.  This movies focuses on what it was like growing up so different from everyone else, how he has had to carry on his life, jumping from job to job after heroic rescue efforts making moving necessary to remaining unknown.  Superman's character is well-developed, but after his story is set straight, the remaining half of the movie is explosion after explosion after the evils from Krypton come to reclaim the member of their race who was saved.  Except this time, they're not interested in saving him, they're only interested in using him to obtain what is necessary to bring back the culture of Krypton, using Earth as the foundation on which to build it.  Will Superman surrender for the sake of the people, or will he resist- endangering the race which he is very much a part of in an attempt to protect them?  This roaring superhero flick had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

What I Liked:

On the radio I have heard that there are several very Christian themes present in the Superman story.  He's a man whose origin in unknown, who has a father who is "somewhere else", and who comes and saves the world.  The actual Superman character is a very likeable guy.  I enjoyed his character development, seeing the more "human" side of him, how he struggled, but how he put himself last for the sake of others.  His mom was a good character as well, and the movie's slower, more developmental moments were nice.

Possible Concerns:

Despite enjoying the storyline, the constant blowing up and falling down of buildings in a highly populated city was extremely hard to watch, especially since this was all that was happening for about an hour of the film.  There are a couple of poorly placed, crass remarks which the movie really would have been better without.  As far as the other characters were concerned, Lois Lane was okay, the death scene of Clark's earthly Dad was a bit lame- I wish they had come up with either a more heroic or less dramatic way for him to die.

Overall, I wanted to see it badly, and am happy that I did.  But I will not be purchasing it when it comes out on DVD, because I do not think I would be able to watch the constant, destructive violence often enough to make it worth it.  I would recommend it only to those who are not bothered by constant violence, and would not pay any extra for 3-D or IMAX.  In this case, I just don't think it's worth it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Currently Digging....

 
Song:
 
"Demons"-Imagine Dragons and "I Won't Give Up"-Jason Mraz
 
Band:
 
Switchfoot and Relient K- perfect summer music
 
 
Movie:
 
The Great Gatsby
 
Book:
 
Perelandra by C.S. Lewis and Gifted Hands by Ben Carson
 
 
Activity:
 
Being in, on, or around the ocean!!!
 
Object:
 
My car, Blue Streak

 
Food:
 
Shrimp and Doughnuts (but not together!)
 
Website:
 
IgnitumToday (so happy it's back) and the Catholic Answers Blog

 
Video:
 
The new Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug trailer!!!!
 
Random:
 
Being done with High School!
 
 
Enjoy the hot weather and all the fun that comes with it!!!
 
Serious posts and summer reading lists to come...


Images from National Geographic, The One Ring.net, Amazon, and Legendary Doughnuts.com

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Poor Man's Psalter

The Rosary has become one of the most recognizably Catholic things in society today.  It is the one thing which other religions do not (officially) use or have their own version of, and is still highly popular in Catholic circles.  But since it is such a commonplace devotional, and since it has been a part of the Church's customs for many years, its humble beginnings and proper use have been forgotten by most.  In lieu of the "Q&A" yesterday, I'd like to present this brief history of the "poor man's psalter" and offer tips for how to use it most effectively in the question-and-answer format:



Q: How did the Rosary originate?

A:  While examining the life of St. Dominic (died 1221) we can find the first definite reference to this form of prayer.  The Saint taught and promoted the Rosary in France in response to a heresy which was endangering the people's faith.  This method of prayer was adopted by the Dominicans and they are still its most constant supporters.  But, it is highly probable (and often taught) that it originated earlier than that, as a way for the lay people to participate with the Divine Office, through which the monks recited the 150 Psalms throughout the course of the day.  Since the majority of people could not read at the time, they would instead say anywhere from 50 to 150 Ave Marias (Or "Hail Mary's").  Some began using ropes with knots to keep track of the number of prayers said.

Q: What does "Rosary" mean?

A:  Rosary literally means "crown of roses", in that it is a spiritual bouquet which is presented to Our Lady.

Q: Why should Catholics pray the Rosary, and is it required?

A:  The Rosary has been promoted and highly encouraged by countless Saints and Popes.  Our Lady herself repeatedly counsels the faithful to use this form of prayer during her apparitions, particularly at Fatima.  Many indulgences and spiritual promises are attached to it, and it is often prescribed as a form of penance after Confession.  It is a wonderful way in which to meditate upon Scripture while contemplating Christ's life and great virtues, and learning how to apply His example to your own life.  It is also a comforting way to offer up a particular intention to Mary, who is always at Christ's side.  That being said, the Rosary is only required if assigned by a priest as penance.  Otherwise, Catholics are not required to say the Rosary, and it is okay if they prefer a different form of prayer.

Q: How should the Rosary be said?

A:  To be technical, the Rosary is not "said", but "prayed".  Though praying it aloud in groups is fine, it is recommended that it be said slowly and quietly, so that one might meditate upon the mysteries, and to avoid the repetitious prayers from becoming words without meaning.  Pope Pius VI said this about how to pray the Rosary:
There has also been felt with greater urgency the need to point out once more the importance of a further essential element in the rosary, in addition to the value of the elements of praise and petition, namely the element of contemplation. Without this the rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation is in danger of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas and of going counter to the warning of Christ: "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words" (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are unfolded. (Marialis Cultus 47). 
Each day has a set of mysteries which are recommended, but not required.  When praying it privately, there is room for one to customize it as necessary, as long as the aim is still to spend time prayerfully reflecting upon Christ, asking Mary's assistance in doing so, and asking for Heaven's assistance regarding your personal intentions.

I'll leave you with a quote from Bishop Hugh Doyle, which sums up why the Rosary could greatly increase and aid your spiritual journey:

"No one can live continually in sin and continue to pray the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the Rosary."

May God bless you all today!

Information found at EWTN and Catholic Answers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A New Feature

Hello Readers!

Hope everyone is finishing up school strong, or enjoying their summer break beginnings!

I have several topics I'm planning on posting about in the coming weeks, but I would also like to add a new blog "feature"- which requires your help.

Every Friday is going to be "Q&A" Day, where I'll answer one or more questions submitted by readers.  You can submit these questions as comments- just makes sure you note that they are for "Q&A Fridays" so that I do not publish them as regular comments, but save them for official posting.

The questions can range from religion and politics to movies and music: I'm ready to answer anything.  Please, if you aren't Catholic, feel free to use this opportunity to ask about the aspects of Catholicism which bother you, or which you've never understood.  Important questions will always come first.

Hope you all will participate!  If I don't have any questions to answer from you all, I'll tackle some common misconceptions about Catholics in the world today instead.

Happy Thursday, and God bless!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

50 Ways to Heal a Heartbreak

As Summer begins, many people find themselves depressed because they're not having as much care-free fun as all the movies, commercials, magazine ads, and hit songs that come out during this time of year say they should be.  First of all, it is important to note that we, as fallen people living in a fallen world, are not going to be deliriously happy all of the time.  But, there are certainly things we can do to boost our spirits when we're feeling low.

So here's a list for all those out there who are heartbroken, and just wishing they could leave sorrow behind and enjoy the longer days.  I hope that something on this list helps bring a smile to your face, and lift a load off of your shoulders.

  1. Go to Adoration and give all your worries to God, and make sure that when you leave, you don't try to take them back...
  2. Watch your favorite comedy film
  3. Listen to your favorite music while going for a ride on a sunny day, and keep those windows down!
  4. Eat ice cream with sprinkles
  5. Call a friend and catch-up with each other
  6. Go get wet!  Go surfing, do the slip-n-slide, run through the sprinklers, swim in the pool- anything!
  7. Get all dressed up, just because
  8. Exercise- preferably outside
  9. Take in a play
  10. Finish that project you've been working on since Christmas Break
  11. Buy a new board game and play it with your family or friends
  12. Revisit that instrument you played as a little kid, and teach yourself how to play it again
  13. Pray the Rosary while sitting outside
  14. "Do something for somebody quick!"
  15. Visit a frozen yogurt bar and load up on colorful toppings
  16. Try a new hair style
  17. Spend the afternoon in the library, enjoying the quiet and the smell of books
  18. Read a good mystery- Sherlock Holmes preferably
  19. Or try a thriller- may I suggest Ted Dekker's Three?
  20. Watch a BBC film and smile at all the British accents and proper manners
  21. Listen to Michael Bublé's "Haven't Met You Yet"
  22. Watch a Blimey Cow video ("Making Time for God", "Playing the God Card", and "Why I Hate Going to the Movies" are good places to start)
  23. Go to a weekday Mass, pay close attention to the readings, and ask God to speak to you through them
  24. Go to a fair and do not leave until you've done the Scrambler ride and had a funnel cake
  25. Take in a blow-up movie in the park, and make sure you bring lawn chairs and cards
  26. Learn a new card game or trick
  27. Blow bubbles and play with chalk (this is especially fun if you do it with little kids)
  28. Spend an hour outside looking at the world as if you were going to lose your sight the next day; it's amazing the things you will notice, and learn to appreciate
  29. While doing the above, read some Gerard Manley Hopkins poetry, particularly "Pied Beauty", "May Magnificat", or "God's Grandeur"
  30. Play "HORSE" with your siblings
  31. Pick a windy day and go fly a kite in an open field or on the beach
  32. Check out a local trail
  33. Bake sugar cookies
  34. Brew sweet tea
  35. Enjoy the previous two things together while sitting on the front porch, waving at everyone who walks by.  Northerners, basically pretend your Southern! :)
  36. Read St. Therese's A Story of a Soul, even if you've read it before- and especially if you haven't.  Guys- this is NOT just a girl book
  37. Have a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars marathon
  38. Pray in front of an abortion clinic and thank God for your life as you pray for the lives of others
  39. Sign up as a volunteer at your parish, there are all sorts of things to do, from altar serving to reading, landscaping, or singing
  40. Buy a colorful piece of clothing and wear it as often as possible
  41. Journal about what's bothering you- writing things out often helps to sort it out as well
  42. Go to Barnes and Noble and grab a Wreck this Journal.  Even if you don't buy and do all the suggested things, just reading them will be entertaining
  43. Pretend to be a photographer for a day, and take as many amazing, crazy, unique, and beautiful pictures as possible
  44. Make a scrapbook of your favorites from the day before
  45. Take time to tell your family how much you love them
  46. Forgive someone who you've held a grudge against for a while- and ask God's help in order to do so, and go to Confession, to forgive yourself and ask God's forgiveness as well
  47. Learn about a different form of prayer (a type of chaplet, meditation, a novena, etc.) and experiment with it
  48. Go to the movie theater and treat yourself to the expensive popcorn- just this once
  49. Study constellations and look for them in the sky
  50. Pray EVERY day, and trust that God will never abandon you, keeping in mind that He always loves you.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why I'm Not Overly Excited About the Gosnell Verdict

Kermit Gosnell
The reports on the Kermit Gosnell case flared up, received as little attention as was possible, and were quickly ditched in honor of a different type of horror house.  During the miniature uproar, proud pro-lifers and staunch abortion advocates stood up, convinced that the chilling stories, heart-wrenching images, and bloody evidence would convert everyone to their viewpoints.  Pro-lifers cried, "We told you so!" and desperately tried to explain to the public that all abortions were done in these violent ways, that these "tools of mass destruction" were shared by even the cleanest abortion clinics, and that- just as the babies whose spines had been cut were murder victims, the children who are disassembled in their mothers' wombs hourly are victims also.  But just as they declared the need to turn away from this violent form of child abuse, the pro-choice sides pulled out their now cliché hangers, waving them as reminders of the filthy, dangerous, pre-Planned-Parenthood, back-alley abortions and warning America that if they outlawed abortion, they were just asking for all women to be subjected to treatment like Gosnell's. 

Well, both sides managed to create such a noisy havoc that neither side won.  Though the Gosnell case did open some people's eyes to the truth about what abortion is, for many it only solidified their belief that offering birth control and "safe, legal" abortion was necessary.  Despite this, what the pro-choice side tries to sell the public is deceptive, and the graphic images which came out of Gosnell's facility are not that different from the horrific sights abortion "doctors" see every day.  The suffering, scars, hurts, and wounds which Gosnell's customers were left with are identical to the lasting pains "safe and legal" abortion procedures cause.  Unfortunately, the media did not take this angle.

To a certain degree, justice was done.  Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of first-degree murder, but only of three babies who were delivered alive before being killed.  Though I am happy that he will suffer punishment for his outrageous abuses against life, I would have been happier to see him convicted for numerous murders- murders which jars of body parts promise existed. 

Which is why, though I am pleased that he was found guilt of something, I feel that other, more clear and triumphant victories which have upheld the pro-life cause and their growing power give more reasons to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Great Gatsby's Relevance

The Great Gatsby, the popular American novel known for depicting the Roaring 20′s with striking honesty, is now a major motion picture, starring the great Leonardo DiCaprio and superhero Tobey Maguire. As I read the book, I had a chilling sensation as I realized that our culture seems to be sliding back into the sinful, sexual habits of that long-gone era. That being said, this book’s story and message are particularly appropriate for the young adults of this age, who are being told by everything, everywhere, that a promiscuous lifestyle is fun, normal, and painless.

Unlike today’s sitcoms, the characters in Gatsby are living glamorous lifestyles, but are not happy with them. The narrator’s cousin Daisy is married to a handsome polo player (though he would rather not be known as such) whose frequent extramarital affairs cause her constant grief. Her husband himself carries on these affairs despite the pain they cause, affairs which not only pull him into adultery, but his mistresses as well. The narrator, Nick Carraway, is repeatedly put in the uncomfortable position of being trusted with scandalous secrets which he did not want to know or keep.

Gatsby himself outshines the filth of the culture around him because he is carrying a love which is more pure and unfailing than the affairs of his frequent house guests, the people of New York, who flock to the over-the-top parties he opens his house up to weekly. His love lasted for five lonely years, as he watched the object of his affection marry for money (partially out of necessity), and he fashioned his whole life around trying to win her back. Unfortunately, though Gatsby’s love is much deeper and more beautiful than that of most, he also makes the mistake of fashioning his life around an earthly love, a worldly longing, as opposed to an eternal one.

Thus, when Gatsby stoops to join the society around him in his efforts to be with his love again, his foundation being built on an unattainable, fallen person, he must suffer the consequences that come with believing “the end justifies the means”. Though his hope is unfailing- and is a virtue to be admired- it was misplaced, and thus failed him. But he is not the only one who suffers, and no one walks away from the glittering Long Island scene without scars.

The movie, which has been receiving quite a bit of mixed attention, captures the suffering endured in
a way which shocked me. Honestly, I had expected Hollywood to soften an ending which warns against the very lifestyle the cinemas sell to their viewers. But this adaptation of the classic novel does its job well, in my opinion. I enjoyed DiCaprio’s Gatsby, and felt he captured the magic, desperation, vulnerability, and virtue of the legendary figure effectively, while the rest of the cast performed well also, though Maguire’s Nick was dry at times.

Many people have complained about the soundtrack, which incorporates modern rap and hip-hop music and is set against the vibrant scenes, but the music helps fulfill a greater purpose – it takes this story and helps make it modern. As the director himself explained, “It’s gotta feel modern, of the moment.” This relevant feeling helps the audience to realize that the short thrills and long-suffering is not something of the past, but something that could happen again, could happen here and now, could happen to them.

Because there was one scene which went further than I feel was necessary, I would not recommend this to anyone not yet in the older years of ”teenagehood”. That being said, I feel that this book has a particularly important message, which this generation needs to hear. Within The Great Gatsby, Pope John Paul II’s words about the degradation of intimacy are played out. As the Blessed Pope wrote in his well-know Evangelium Vitae, “…sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other’s richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.” As the pages of the book and the scenes of the movie progress, the false, shimmering depiction of the shallow sexual lifestyle is betrayed, and exposed in all of its confusion and emptiness.

Though the book teaches a somber lesson, the reader is not left without hope or inspiration. Gatsby’s virtues, though misguided, are admirable, and hint at the heights one can reach when he holds onto hope unceasingly. And through Nick Carraway the brilliant author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, leaves his audience with a promise for a better future, if only they would “take arms against the sea of troubles” in the spirit of Shakespeare, and create a future that is brighter than the past:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter- to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning-
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
May this honest tale of disappointed hopes and wayward souls inspire this generation to rise above its influences, to place their hopes in a light more bright than green, and to finally reach that goal which all their lives should be striving towards- a goal which is truly worth fighting for.

Written for and originally published at Catholic Stand.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm Back Again!

Hello dear followers!

Long time, no "see"!  I apologize sincerely!  My computer had a blocking system which disabled me from being able to access my editing dashboard; now that the problem has been resolved, I will be able to update things here more regularly!

Quite a lot has happened in the last few months of my absence.  We have a new Pope- first of all- the wonderful Pope Francis.  The Gosnell case surrounding Philadelphia's House of Horrors has finally begun to receive long-overdue media coverage, especially now that he has been found guilty of first-degree murder, though the heart-breaking case in Cleveland has now become front-and-center.

There are some long-awaited movies coming out, and some interesting topics on the horizon, so I thank you all for your great patience and invite you to continue to follow me as I attempt to tackle as much of the upcoming news as possible!

God bless!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Frozen Footprints: A Stunning Thriller



Frozen Footprints
-Therese Heckenkamp

This is a long overdue review of Mrs. Heckenkamp's latest religious thriller, entitled Frozen Footprints.  For those in search of a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat thriller to cozy up with during the final days of winter, look no further.  Mrs.  Heckenkamp has outdone herself with her latest young adult novel.

The Perigard twins have grown up in their wealthy grandfather's home, where they have access to anything they could ever want, except love.  Charlene has always been the more sensible of the two, while Max is overly fond of pushing the limits.  The two eighteen year olds have a great relationship, though Charlene's motherly concerns for her brother tend to frustrate him.  After Max and his grandfather end a huge argument on ill terms, Max decides to run away.  He disappears, and a ransom note appears a couple days later, containing threats against Max's life unless the proper amount of money is delivered.  When Charlene tries to meet the kidnapper's requests, she herself falls victim to his schemes, and she and her brother must desperately try to hatch an escape plan that will work while fighting terrors greater than pain itself to do so.  "Devoid of all worldly comfort and consolation, will faith and hope be enough to get them through this chilling nightmare?"

I thoroughly enjoyed Mrs. Heckenkamp's first suspense novel, Past Suspicion, and was excited when she sent me this one.  In Frozen Footprints, Mrs. Heckenkamp's growth as an author is apparent; the writing style is improved, and the characters believable.  The glimpse into the lives of the rich is extremely interesting, and showcases one's inability to fill the holes in his heart with material goods.  This book is a fast-paced page turner, and will have you on the edge-of-your-seat until you finish.  It is religious without being preachy, and provides guilt-free thrills.  I especially liked the way that the author followed her characters beyond the horrible ordeal, and explored the ways they coped with the different burns they suffered.  It is definitely geared toward young adults, and would be too much for early teens.  The characters are very well-formed, react in realistic ways, and display both flaws and virtues.  The ending is unpredictable; this is the kind of novel which could draw anyone in, and hold them until the very last page.

I absolutely loved Frozen Footprints, and would highly recommend it to all those looking for a book that is wholesome without being boring, exciting without being inappropriate, and leaves you with a satisfied feeling.  I'm looking forward Mrs. Heckenkamp's future novels, and hope she will continue to produce books which are as thrilling as Hitchcock films, but still succeed in teaching valuable lessons.

Those interested in finding out more about the book, or purchasing it, can visit the book's site: www.frozen-footprints.com, or purchase it on Amazon.  It would be a great gift for a friend, daughter, son, or for yourself! :) Happy reading!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Keeping Goals?

Wow- talk about a long blog hiatus, much longer than anticipated!

During the break, a kind lady from Education Database Online contacted me and sent me a neat graphic which displays the human tendency to make, and then forget, goals.  I found the display quite surprising; we as humans really stink at sticking to our resolutions!

I wanted to share it to serve as a reminder to continue with- or revisit- all of those Catholic and/or New Year's resolutions, and to show how much writing the goals down pays off in the end.

So, without further ado, here's the stats!  Thanks to Ms. A. for sharing this with me and thanks to OnlineEducation.net for the image!


Setting Goals Infographic