Archive for October, 2010

October 30, 2010

Too Good to Pass Up

October 30, 2010

The Right Way to Wait

I love this girl. A topic well worth being reminded of again and again.

— By Stephanie Weinert
I heard Archbishop Chaput of Denver say in a speech several years ago that according to new studies the average American had a seven second attention span. His Excellency also remarked that thanks to MTV (fast-paced always-changing music videos) and the media craze of the past generation, we’re a society that doesn’t know how to deal with waiting. We expect our fast food fast – not five minutes later. If it takes more than the blink of an eye for Facebook to load on our internet browser, we check the connection to see what’s wrong. And those of you who woke up early to shop on Black Friday – I’m sure the worst part of the whole day was waiting in line for the checkout clerk once you had decided on your purchases. 

The bottom line: very few of us enjoy waiting. [Dictionary definition: Noun : The act of remaining inactive or stationary. Adj .: being and remaining ready and available for use].

Single people face “waiting” in a unique sense. Some wait for that sense of loneliness and isolation to be replaced with companionship and inclusion. Some wait for the year they don’t have to face the holidays alone. Some wait for the excitement of having a boyfriend or girlfriend to do things with. Some wait for their anxiety over getting older and still not being able to find a spouse to be gone forever. And most, if they are truly called to the vocation of marriage, wait with longing hearts for the joy and peace of union in the sacrament of marriage.

This is my first holiday season that I’ll celebrate as a married person. It’s caused me to reflect greatly on the blessings of the past year, and also to think about the many, many years I spent being single during the holidays, and my usual demeanor and reaction to “waiting” for a spouse.

To my chagrin I’ve realized that I often considered my single years a “holding pattern” in life not meant to be enjoyed but endured. The waiting was not tolerated in a spirit of cynicism and complaining, but it certainly was no cause for joy and celebration. Instead of living life to the fullest as a single person, in many ways I was waiting for the fullness of life to begin. In my mind, that would only happen when I entered my vocation.

Liturgical Waiting

The beginning of December issues in a preeminent season for Catholics that has a lot to do with waiting: the season of Advent. This is a time in the liturgical calendar when the Catholic Church invites all of us to embark on the important journey of preparing our hearts and our lives for union with Christ.

The Church teaches us that Advent is a time of “joyful expectation.” With our sacrifices, prayers and good deeds we await the feast of the birth of Christ, and look for His second coming, with joy and gladness in our hearts. As Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’” (CCC 524).

I’ve always known that Advent had to do with both joy and waiting. After all, the priest and altar are always decked out in rose-colored garments on the third “Gaudete” (i.e. Rejoice) Sunday of Advent, reminding us that Christ’s coming is very near and we have great cause for gladness. However I often missed the intimate connection between the “waiting” part and the “joyful” part of Advent. I never considered that the “joyful” part of the expectation was to teach us as much about our everyday lives as it was to prepare us for Christmas.

In a Wednesday General Audience speech on December 18, 2002, Pope John Paul II discussed how our participation in the liturgy of Advent and the act of “waiting” was actually “intense training” for our whole lives. His words were eye-opening for me. The Holy Father said:

“The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.”

In other words, the joyful expectation of this short liturgical season is meant to train our hearts for the larger task at hand: waiting with joyful expectation for ALL of God’s good gifts in our lives, and especially His second coming in glory.

Waiting for a Spouse

So how does an understanding of the “waiting” process in Advent affect your desire for a spouse – a desire that is acutely felt during the holidays?

I realize that in my own life I often equated waiting for a spouse more to the waiting we do during Lent than during Advent. It was a sacrifice…it was painful…I didn’t like it…I couldn’t wait for the end. I didn’t attend Christmas parties in December with joy and gladness in my heart that I was going stag…I was in “coping” mode, hoping that maybe next year things would be different.

Clearly, my attitude was not an ideal representation of how a Christian should respond to waiting. Now that I am entering a new season of Advent with my new husband at my side and all the joy of married love, I realize how useless my anxiety was, how trivial my bad attitude during that period in my life when God allowed me to be alone. I wasted a lot of opportunities to take joy in many events, many people, and many situations during the holidays because I was concentrating so much on what I didn’t have.

Joy does not result from getting what we want. It comes from living out to the fullest what God wills for our lives in that moment. Is it more difficult to live with joy as a single person waiting to enter his or her vocation? Yes, I think so.

But the “single and waiting” time in your life will be twice blest, if you persevere with joy in your heart.

Bible Verses on “Waiting” to Meditate on During Advent:

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, and song of praise to our God.” – Psalm 40:1-3

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” – Psalm 37:7

“Love is patient.” – I Corinthians 13:4

“Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast.” – James 5:11

“The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you.” – 2 Peter 3:9

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10

http://www.phasesofwomahbood.org

Stephanie Weinert is a Catholic speaker, media personality, and freelance writer. She has spoken to thousands of college students and young adults on topics relating to the Catholic faith and pursuing pure love in relationships. She hosted EWTN’s radio talk show for young adults, NEXTWAVE LIVE, for six years before leaving her radio career this year to focus on her new vocation of marriage. Stephanie and her husband, Peter, live in the Washington DC metro area. She currently works part-time from home as the marketing director for Family Life Center International: www.familylifecenter.net.

October 27, 2010

ITI on EWTN

This is an episode from EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” featuring ITI, the school that I went to in Austria. The people I met there were all one of a kind, and the school is absolutely incredible.

October 27, 2010

“Writing My Own Story”

The lesson of vocation

Posted by Arwen Mosher in Faith on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 5:57 PM

I have several friends who like blogs, but don’t read ones written by other Catholic mothers.

“I can’t take the pressure,” they say. “Their lives look so perfect, and it makes me feel badly that mine’s not like that.”

Personally, I do read – and am inspired by – blogs by other Catholic moms. But I understand my friends’ point of view. It can be intimidating.

I’ve been part of the Internet community for years and it’s been a positive force in my life. I’ve been inspired and uplifted by the writings of many online friends. In order to keep it that way, I try to remember two things when I’m reading.

1) Perfection is an illusion.

Generally, other people are presenting the most competent and interesting versions of themselves. I know this is true because I often give in to the temptation to do it.

I do my best to keep it real but when I have a choice between writing about homemade pumpkin butter or the fact that we had nachos for dinner twice this week, I’m going to choose the pumpkin butter, because who wants to read about shredding cheese onto tortilla chips and putting it under the broiler? That’s a ten-word recipe. A blog has to be more interesting.

Also, many of a family’s most “real” moments are personal, too private to write about. There’s a reason the “marriage” category of this blog is so sparse – it’s uncomfortable (and, frankly, inappropriate) to write about the struggles of our marriages except in the most general way. It doesn’t mean we don’t have them. All marriages have struggles. It just means they’re not blog fodder.

2) Vocation, vocation, vocation.

Back when we were having fertility difficulties, it was painful for me because I’d planned to be a witness by having a bunch of kids, and God wasn’t giving me that chance. I prayed until my heart was quiet and journaled until my hand ached, and God taught me a lesson that he’s had to keep teaching me relentlessly since then: he wants me to keep my eyes on my own paper. Other people’s stories are lovely, but the one he intends me to write with my own life is uniquely suited to the talents he’s given me.

I’m constantly tempted to look at the other mothers around me – in real life and online – and think, “She’s so good at that. I need to do that.” And if “that” is something which doesn’t come easily to me, I get discouraged. How am I ever going to create beautiful nature crafts with my children, when I am neither creative nor a nature-lover? How am I going to learn to get up at 5:30am to start the day with an organized burst of energy, when I am such a night owl that the world looks blurry to me before 7:30?

But when I remember to quiet down and turn to God with these questions, he invariably gives me the same answer. You have your own vocation.

It’s a vocation that, for me, will likely never involve complicated nature crafts or crack-of-dawn rising. It will involve other things – including things that don’t come easily to me – but they will be things that God calls me to, not that I choose because they look good on other people.

Remembering vocation has given me immeasurable peace over the years. It’s God’s gift that enables me to find inspiration in the lives of other mothers, because I can recognize that we are different, and that’s a good thing. Varying vocations make the world go round.

It works both ways, too. When I’ve just been feeling discouraged and gotten the reassuring reminder to keep writing my story my own way, it helps keep me from thinking I have all the answers. For instance, I love to bake, so homemade birthday cakes are a given in my family. It doesn’t mean a less-oven-inclined mom’s grocery store cake is not as good. Her vocation just doesn’t involve serving her family that particular way.

It’s incredibly tempting to want to say to another mother, “You can do this, because I can.” But it truly does not work like that. So many of our gifts and limitations are hidden, in our hearts where only God can see them. We live better when we leave the calling to him.

In Real Life, Too

So when I read blogs, I try to keep in mind that everyone has hidden weaknesses, and that we each have a particular, private call from God to live our lives a certain way. It helps a lot.

And ultimately, I’ve found that these points are even more important when I’m interacting with other mothers in person. A blogger doesn’t know if I instinctively feel inferior or superior to her, but a face-to-face friend can catch the vibes even if I’m not explicit about my feelings. When I keep vocation in mind, it checks my pride and helps me to live the way I’m sure God wants me to – listening to him, and building up those around me. (This will be a life-long struggle, obviously.)

When I’m getting confused about vocation, it helps me to think about my love for my own children. I want them to be the best versions of themselves they can be, and that is unique for each individual child. God’s a much better, more loving parent than I am. Why would he want us all to be the same?

Other people can be examples, but listen for His call.

— Arwen Mosher

October 26, 2010

Where does my time/life go?

There are some things that are beautiful in life. Like birthdays, and vacations, and heavy cream, and bourbon, and fondue, and good books, and sleep, and pumpkin patches, and Scott and Kimberly Hahn. These are the things that my life has been made up of in the past few weeks. Oh, and work. A not so beautiful thing. Unless, of course, you are a chastity educator, which means that your days are filled with sunshine, jolly ranchers, cute 6th graders who giggle over the “s” word, and not-so-cute 17 year old boys who ask you to explain “why girls get cramps on their period.” Oh yes.

So, where have I been the past few weeks? Let me show you. So the jealousy can start.  jk.

This would be Maker’s Mark distillery. Can I get a jaw-drop? Imagine a beautiful Saturday morning, in sunny 70-degree weather, in the backroads wilderness of Kentucky with some fabulous bourbon….and that would pretty much be the story of one of my October weekends. Vacations with great friends are a fantastic thing in life, and well worth doing – often.

You know what else is worth doing? Making this fabulous corn chowder.

And even more? Barn dances, porches,  sleeping in, beautiful Kentucky riverside sunsets, blackberry wine, pumpkin scones, and the poetic writing of John Paul II. Another fabulous October weekend.

And, to put it all together, add in another out-of-town weekend at a wonderful conference with some more beautiful friends and a boatload of fantastic, inspiring, Catholic speakers. Marvelous.

For He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity into the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what He has done from beginning to end. ” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

October 2, 2010

“My Vocation is Love”

*Preface to this post: yes, I am a hopeless romantic. And am feeling very nostalgic.

Today I opened my copy of Theology of the Body to begin preparing for a talk that I am about to give in a few weeks. . . and a piece of paper fell out. It was titled “ITI Novena to St. Therese” ITI is the school I studied at while in Austria. St. Therese is their patron. One of the many memories I have of the Kartause was walking down the windy stone stairs, always pausing to check my mailbox on the way down. A plaque was placed next to the mailboxes, and it simply said “My vocation is Love.” – St. Therese.

I love St. Therese. When I was about ten my favorite “Vision Book” was “St. Therese and the Roses,” and I’m pretty sure that I must have read that book at least 45 times by the time that I turned fourteen. I never got tired of it . . . it’s a beautiful story. However, once when I was about eighteen or so I remember telling my spiritual director that I had grown tired of reading about the lives of the saints. I was never someone who was attached to watching saint movies like “The Song of Bernadette,” and for some reason I felt that the little synopsis story of saints was really about all there was to it. Somehow I never bridged the gap between the simple fairy tale-like stories of the saints and who they really are.

I don’t think I ever it a second thought until I visited France a few years ago when I was studying in Austria. Story of God’s grace. How I love Him. I can’t even begin to describe the lessons that I learned during that semester, and during that trip, but I doubt I’ll ever forget them either. 

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions,
nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.” – St. Therese

France is magical. I don’t know why. Lisieux is beautiful in a very peaceful way. One of the things that I loved about all of the trips that I went on during that semester was the fact that the young women that I was with knew the value of peace, and lived it. Every pilgrimage, whether it be four days or four hours, we’d stop. And rest. And pray. Alone. “Christ speaks in the silence of your heart.”

To Call God my Father and to Know myself His Child, that is Heaven to me...” – St. Therese.

One of my most joyful and dear memories of Lisieux came when I walked around to the back of her house and saw this scene. This was the scene I remember playing back in my mind when I was ten years old. I couldn’t stop smiling.

“Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what God wants us to be.”  – St. Therese

Lesson learned: Christ delights in our joyful trust in Him and in our awe of the wonder of His gifts. We weren’t supposed to go in this house. It was supposed to to be closed. What can I say, sometimes God wants to give you a gift.

There are few things better than having French sisters escort you to a quaint french bakery for lunch. And there are few things better than Pain au Chocolat. And there is nothing better than spending the afternoon praying and growing in God’s love with two of the most beautiful friends I have ever met. Lord, how lucky am I?

And how many girls get to spend their 21st birthday under the Eiffel Tower? Ha. I feel old all of a sudden.

Let us see life as it really is…
It is a moment between two eternities…” – St. Therese.

It is a beautiful thing to rest in Him.

Happy Feast Day!