Beauty

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Well, the latest update on moving to Deutschland is that I finally have a place to live for my first six months! I guess it will be similar to a WG.  I’ll have my own room but will share the bathroom and kitchen with the others living on my floor.  Not yet sure how many that will be.

But, this is not really what I wanted to write about.  Instead, I want to honor the example of my house mate.  So yes, this is a topic not related to my upcoming move but I guarantee that you will love this post!

Last week my laptop gave me the ‘BSOD’ two times and I decided that it was time for me to buckle down and invest in a new laptop.  My house mate was also looking to buy a new laptop so we went to the store together to begin our search. Along the way we were starving and decided to grab some food. My house mate had never been to a coney island before (say, what!?) so of course that is where I took her. 🙂  As we were looking over the menu, our waitress came by to ask what we would like to drink.  My house mate looked up at the waitress and said,

“Oh my goodness, you are just so lovely and beautiful today.  Your hair looks great and your make-up is perfect.”

Immediately the waitress’s face gushed forth in shining delight.

“That is the best thing someone has said to me all week. Thank you so much.”

We ordered our drinks and food.  When our waitress brought us our food she set the plates down, began to walk away and then stopped and said,

“I just have to say thank you again.  You’ve made me feel like one in a million.”

My house mate replied, “Well, you really do look beautiful.  Your haircut is perfect for your face structure.”

The waitress then explained to us, “You know, this is the first day I came to work without my wig on.  I lost all my hair due to chemo.  I did not want to come to work without my wig because I was worried what people might say.  My husband told me not to worry what people would say but I just felt like an ostrich.”

My house mate then said, “Oh, I didn’t even know.  Get your head out of the sand because you are beautiful.”

I tell you, the waitress had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen.

I was quite inspired by my house mate.  We had a lovely conversation about the importance of having women know that they are beautiful.

To all the women out there, you are beautiful just the way you are.

Companionship

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Earlier this week, on the Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude I heard a homily that sparked something within me.  During the homily the priest pointed out that we celebrate the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude on the same day because the two were both martyred together.  The priest then asked, “If you were going through a time of great suffering or tribulation, who would you want to go through it with?  Who do you want to die with?”  He pointed out the importance of companionship and asked, “So, who do you want to live with?”

We are on a journey, a journey of a life with Christ.  We seek to live for Him and to one day be completely united with the Lord in Heaven.  We cannot journey alone.  Jesus sent out his disciples two by two.  Our companions on the journey are most important because we are able to help one another along the way, encourage each other, support each other, pray for each other, fraternally correct each other, witness to each other.  Surely our companions on this earth are very important but perhaps there are other companions, too, that we must not forget about.

This brings me to today’s feast.  Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.  Originally this feast was called the feast of All Martyrs.  It was a day to commemorate anonymous saints; to remember those who laid down their life for Christ in martyrdom and yet whose names we do not know.  During mass this morning I thought of all those who are united with our Lord in heaven whose life gave witness to their faith in Christ, those whose garments were washed white in the blood of the Lamb.  Even though they are in Heaven, they do not forget about us who are still pilgrims on this earth.  Rather, they encourage us from Heaven.  They are our companions.

The veil between this life and the next is so thin.  Let us pray for the grace to see the power in the prayers of those who are our heavenly companions, who encourage us to continue striving for holiness.  May our life be a witness to our love and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Enjoy this reflection from St. Bernard:

“Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself.  We long t share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins.  In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints.  But our dispositions change.  The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it.  The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent.  The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.

Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on.  We must rise again with Christ, we must seek he world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven.  Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us.  We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness…”  – St. Bernard

Patience, People

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Lately, I have been asking the Lord for the grace of patience.  It seems that many of us have lost a sense for the importance of this virtue in our lives.  By patience I do not mean quelling one’s anger during rush hour traffic nor do I mean waiting to download a document on a slow internet connection.  In short, I am not talking about patience needed for a short temper.  No; rather, I mean a long-term patience that requires our trust as we wait for God.  That is, the patience of waiting for God to reveal our primary vocation or the patience to allow God to orchestrate the circumstances, timing and details of our next major life decision or just the next turn on our life’s journey.

As I was thinking about this kind of long-term patience that we often seem to neglect or forget about, I saw more and more instances of this kind of patience – the patience parents must have as they raise their children to be persons of faith and love, the time of Advent and Lent in the liturgical calendar which are times of waiting and patience, and how Christians should live their whole lives in patience as we wait for the second coming of our Lord.

How can we learn more about this virtue of long-term patience?  Here are two examples to ponder:

Our Lady.  As the name of this blog indicates, we must ponder like Mary!  Much of her life was spent trustingly waiting on the Lord.  After receiving the message of the Angel Gabriel and giving her “Fiat” Mary had to patiently wait as the child in her womb slowly grew until it was time for Him to be born.  She had great patience as she watched her Son as a child, knowing that he was destined for the fall and rise of many.  She waited as her Son was on trial.  She patiently endured the suffering of her Son and trustingly waited at the foot of the cross.  Her patience did not run dry during the three days between His death and resurrection.  She had patience until He called her home and she was assumed into Heaven and reunited by His side again.

The Farmer.  Think of the farmer and how much patience he must have!  He works hard planting the seed, nourishing his crop and waiting…..waiting….waiting. He waits as the seeds grow into that which he can harvest.  He labors greatly for the sake of the harvest.  Does he know that the harvest will be abundant?  He does not.  A million different things could occur which would ruin and destroy his crop.  But he trusts.  Yes, the farmer trusts and he waits.  In the end he bears a fruitful harvest.

I, too, must have this patience.  I, too, must wait.  I, too, must trust.  I must trust God that he will reveal His plan at the right time and at the right moment.  I may want to enjoy the harvest now but now is not the time to rejoice in the harvest.  Now is the time to patiently and trustingly labor, knowing that if I am faithful my life will bear a fruitful harvest.

So, be patient.  Don’t be afraid to wait.

Busy Schedules and Prayer Life

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My schedule this semester is crazy.  Some days I not only feel like it is hard to stay above water but I literally feel like I am drowning.  And when you get so terribly busy then it is more difficult to maintain your prayer life.  I am sure that we have all experienced those days or seasons when our prayer life has seemed to have been swept away by the waves of our complicated, hectic and tiring schedules.

Last week I was sharing with a priest about the busyness of life and prayer.  Because this semester is particularly challenging I have had to be more realistic and not so hard on myself when I am not able to put in all the time that I wish I could into prayer.  Normally I like to spend at least an hour before the Blessed Sacrament each day.  I relish this time to be with Jesus and allow him to speak to me and love me.  Recently, however, I have had to be satisfied if I can get 10 minutes of that beautiful, peaceful silence with Him.  This priest shared some great advice and I would like to pass it along – though the compiled list and reflections are mine.  So, if you are finding yourself stretched for time to pray, perhaps this may help you to see things through a different lens:

1. Be realistic.  No one is more realistic than God.

2. Rest with God.  Think about the things that you do everyday, even if you are busy.  Things like sleep, eat….and rest?  I used to think that I was ‘wasting’ time by perusing through facebook or instagram.  I realized that this was really my times of ‘rest’ throughout the day.  We all need to step away from work once in a while.  Instead of resting with friends through facebook, try to rest with God instead, even if it is just for 5 minutes.

3.  Evaluate the form of your prayer time.  I realized that I spend most of the hours of my day reading and writing and thinking abstractly.  My life as a philosophy graduate student takes a lot of mental energy.  Although in the past I would spend time every day meditating or doing spiritual reading, I found out that it was not so successful when I have spent the majority of the day pondering arguments about act and potency in the separate intelligences or whether perfect happiness does consist in an act of the intellect.  Sometimes it is more beneficial for me to sit with my eyes closed and pray the Our Father slowly than to pick up a spiritual book only to find myself becoming more tired and stressed.

4. Offer up your schedule as a prayer to God.  The many hours I spend every day using my mind and philosophizing is my work for the kingdom.  It is the instrument by which God is currently calling me to serve Him.  So I begin everyday by falling to my knees, asking God to be ‘Lord of my life and King of my heart,’ and then I simply give him my day and its work.

As Edith Stein has said, “…all one can do is try to live the life one has chosen with ever greater fidelity and purity in order to offer it up as an acceptable sacrifice for all.”

5. Trust in God’s love and find peace.  Attack your work for the day with the confidence and peace that God loves you and is using it for His greater glory and honor.

Rheumatoid Awareness Day

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It was September 15, 2004. I’ll never forget that date.  I nervously sat in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

“It’s going to be bad news.”

“Why do you say that?” My mother responded.

“It’s the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It’s going to be sorrowful news.”

The previous eight months were spent in pain, swelling and daily fatigue.  Some days I couldn’t even walk up stairs.  What was wrong?  Why had icing and physical therapy not worked? Why did the x-rays and things always come back normal?

My story is not unlike many stories of going undiagnosed for months, even years.

Sunday, February 2nd is Rheumatoid Awareness Day.  I would like to share some information about my own disease.  And although I haven’t always been very open in the past about it, I want to come out of my shell, just a bit that is.

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I have oligoarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis rheumatoid disease:

  • They only call it juvenile if you were diagnosed before the age of 16
  • This usually affects the major joints of the body (and organs as well)
  • I hate telling people I have “arthritis” because that is not accurate.  I have an autoimmune disease which means I have a hyperactive immune system.  My body is attacking itself.
  • This is an invisible disease.  Even on my worst days I look pretty normal on the outside.
  • Flare-ups can occur for days, weeks, even months
  • There is no cure. Any treatment I get is only treating the symptoms – NSAIDS, DMARDS, Biologics, steroid injections are used in various fashions for different people to treat the disease.
    • Side effects: not fun
    • It is a heterogeneous disease. Someone with the exact same diagnosis as me (though I have yet to meet someone) could have totally different symptoms.

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Despite this, my disease has taught me numerous things. It has taught me a lot about suffering, compassion and concern for others.  It has taught me patience. Chronic diseases are tough. They don’t go away. But I’ve also learned to be patient with other people.  You never know what he or she might be suffering from.  You can’t always physically see diseases.  Along this journey I have also learned to accept all things as the will of God.  If I am in remission, then praise God. If I’m not, then praise God.

It is so important to spread awareness.  What would Rheumatoid Awareness mean to me?  For me raising awareness would mean finding a voice for all those who daily suffer from this disease.  It would mean better treatment, greater understanding and more research into finding a cure. It would mean taking the word “arthritis” out of my diagnosis.

A Journey Begins

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My life has taken many twists and turns from the time I graduated high school to now being a doctoral student studying about the wonders (and craziness) of the big questions of life. So, hey, why not write about my adventures?  I hope to share here a glimpse into my life and my world – a life of papers, thinking deeply; a life of being in relationship with Jesus, striving to live for Him alone; a life filled with memories and hopes for the future — all while being in a world full of joys and sufferings. Come journey with me on this adventure we call life!

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