Belong More Deeply

I don’t own the rights to this image.

On Monday night, Bishop Murphy spoke to a large crowd of Young Adult Catholics on his pastoral letter “Belong More Deeply.”  Each of us responds to God’s call differently.  For some, we hear the call and immediately seek Him with open hearts.  For others, we hear the call and take years of searching in order to answer and embrace it.  Call it the St. Therese and St. Augustine syndrome.  Or, as Bishop Murphy sees it, the shepherds and the Magi groupings.  

In looking at the Christmas story, he sees direct parallels to the Church today.  There are two important groups present at the manger: the shepherds, who follow the directives of the angels with joyful enthusiasm, and the Magi, who from afar seek the Child Jesus.  Both groups belong in the Christmas story, and both groups worship the Christ child.  “How blessed we are if we are among those who, like the shepherds, have come quickly to Jesus and regularly pay homage to Him by our active participation of mind and heart in the Sunday celebration of Mass,” Bishop Murphy writes.  “Yet we have also many of our brothers and sisters who are still searching for Him, may be longing to know Him better but, for one reason or other, they cannot find their way to the manger of Sunday Mass.  Like the Magi they want to discover the newborn King in their lives and have already followed His star by baptism and some closeness to Jesus.  But for many different reasons or circumstances, they are not with us at the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”

As the Church moves forward with the 3rd Edition of the New Roman Missal, the shepherds, those faithfully present every Sunday to worship Jesus at Mass, are invited to belong more deeply with the new translation.  We are called to embrace the new translation, not to gripe or moan about learning new responses and movements at Mass.  They are created in order to open our hearts more fully to God’s grace.  We are asked to go deeper in our prayer life and to build a more solid relationship with Christ. 

The Lord is always asking us to belong more deeply to the Church and to Jesus – it is a universal call that does not end when one reaches a certain age or status.  As shepherds, we are asked to say, “Count us in!  We will support the Church and contribute as we can.”  We are also asked to turn to the Magi, those who seek the truth, and say, just like Andrew to Simon Peter, “We’ve found the Messiah – come and meet him.”

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.  It’s the only news that’s always good and always new,” Bishop Murphy told the crowd.  It’s our mission to bring that news to the people who seek it.  When we joyfully participate in the Mass, when we allow God’s grace into our lives, when we live as if Christ makes a difference, and when we invite others to see the truth, we open the hearts and minds of others to Christ.  We will reinvigorate the Church when we ask ourselves and others to belong more deeply.    

Bright Maidens: Budding Hope

Week Four: Patron Saints
Less is More” by Elizabeth Hillgrove
 Saint Who?” by Julie Robison

 We three are writing a Lenten blog post series from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

 Budding Hope

Like any great friendship, when I look back at the early moments of this relationship, I find it hard to remember exactly what happened.  Did I reach out to him first?  Or was it the other way around?  Who expressed more interest?  How did I even meet him?

It was a time when I was in great need of friend.  I’d never been more lonely or disheartened.  Transferring to a new college had left me friendless, angry with God, emotionally exhausted, and frightened.  I wasn’t sure how I would make it through one more year of studying.  It was too late to go back home, and I felt like an utter failure.  Couldn’t fit in at either college, huh?  It must not be the colleges.  Must be you.

Though I was angry with God, I never stopped talking to him, and I begged, over and over again, “Please send me a friend.”  I joined every campus club, worked out daily, partied too much, and ended my days with hours of weeping, or, if I could sleep, suffering from terrible nightmares.  I also took a job at a local Catholic bookstore. 

On a slow Friday night, when the bookstore was empty, I poked around the bookstore and opened a novena booklet on St. Raphael.  The summary was short, but enough to pique my interest.  A disguised angel leads a young man to his future spouse?  Sounds awesome.  And he’s the patron saint of travelers, happy meetings, those seeking a spouse, and blindness?  I needed to meet him!  Wasn’t that, minus the blindness, everything I was looking for?  I quickly turned to the Book of Tobit and devoured the story.  How great that God sends angels to answer the prayers of his people, I thought!  I offered a prayer to St. Raphael right away and asked him to intercede for me.

Weeks went by and nothing changed.  I prayed the novena to St. Raphael and for some reason wasn’t disappointed when nothing new happened.  Maybe St. Raphael just needed more time.  I continued to pray to him with a small budding hope that he would come through for me.

After yet another disastrous week of loneliness, I cried in bed, sobbing into my pillows late at night, almost choking from the violence of my tears. “Please, St. Raphael,” I begged, my body trembling.  “Please help me.”  I hugged my covers to my chest, and suddenly, in spite of my desperation, I felt a deep sense of peace wash over me, and I feel asleep.

The next morning I woke up with renewed energy.  To the core of my being, I knew that St. Raphael had been with me the night before.  I began to trust him and talk to him throughout the day.  I read the Book of Tobit again, drawing strength from the fact that God sends his angels to guide us.  Raphael wrestled with my insecurities, reminding me I was a beloved child of God.  He asked me to let go of my anger and to trust God more.  At every stress point, he was there, gently guiding me to hope.  The rest of the semester flew by, and though I didn’t make any new friends, I felt more confident and peaceful than I’d had in the past 7 months.  At home for summer break, I spent my days babysitting my little cousins and hanging out with hometown friends.  My evenings ended with prayers, including the novena prayers to St. Raphael.

The next fall, as I returned back to college, I felt very positive that something would change.

And change it did.

Travelers:  As a transfer student, I’d traveled from one school to another.  After St. Raphael’s intercession, my final year of college was my happiest and most fulfilling.

Happy Meetings: Within weeks of returning for my last year of college, I made a bunch of new friends.  I felt accepted and welcomed on the campus where I’d lived for the past year.  It was with gratitude and amazement that I called my sister and said, “People like me!”

Blindness: Being lonely certainly affected how I thought of myself.  I had a very negative inner critic who was always informing me of how I failed at everything.  With St. Raphael’s help, I was able to banish her and see the truth about myself and others.  A veil over my eyes was removed, and I saw a lot more love and care in the world.

Seeking a Spouse:  Sorry to disappoint those who’ve been Googling “Can St. Raphael find you a boyfriend?”  but, no, St. Raphael didn’t find me a boyfriend or a spouse that year.  He renewed my confidence that God has a plan for me, and I went on many dates that year, happily knowing that God was guiding me. 

St. Raphael was a great friend to me during this time of need.  He worked a great change in my heart and continually pushed me to seek and trust God.  If you’re seeking a friend to guide you to God, know that you can count on Raphael.  I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who lift the prayers of the saints and serve the Throne of the Holy One” (Tobit 12:12-15)

Less is More

Week Four: Patron Saints

“Less is More” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the fourth post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

A few months ago, Jen Fulwiler created and shared a “Saint Generator” that randomly conjured a saint’s name and brief bio for users. She suggested we say a prayer and adopt the resulting saint, giving him or her a little test drive with the impression that we were meant to “get” that saint.

Drum roll, please, I thought. CLICKSt. Thomas More. Hrmpf.

Don’t misunderstand: he’s a fascinating, intelligent, wonderful man we can all look to for sound words of wisdom. But I already knew about him.

I wanted to get a random saint I’d never heard of and converse with them over their bizarre life. “You had how many animals? And with how many swords did they impale you? Cool!”

Most of my English literature classes in college revolved around the Reformation, so I have read Utopia, heard the story of St. Thomas More from the mouths of secular professors, and danced politely in a discourse with my fellow students about the split from the Church.

St. Thomas More was old news. Or so I thought. In preparing for this post, I realized how my chosen patron saint and this randomly selected adopted saint relate to a recent revelation.

Elizabeth Anne Seton

Like so many things about the beginning of my faith life, I sided with convenience and routine during my confirmation preparation. There is something to be said in support of ritual. 

Even prayers we invent as we lay down to speak to Jesus before we sleep have a pattern to them, all Christians can agree to this. Standing in a circle, holding hands with strangers or acquaintances so that we can join in unity with the words of the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer) is a ritual.
Many of you might have chosen your patron saints for spiritual reasons. I picked Elizabeth Ann Seton because we shared two names (cue Anne of Green Gables speech about Anne with an “E”).
Statue of Elizabeth. (I don’t own the rights)

My name, as the Church recognizes it, is Elizabeth Anne Elizabeth Ann Seton Hillgrove. I received books, medals, and pamphlets all about the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton and what did I know about her after two years of study? 
She was the first American-born saint, her husband died of tuberculosis, and she was the patron saint of widows, against the death of children, and against in-law problems. Dang, I picked a morbid one.
It’s possible she will help me with one or more of those (please, with the latter), but the fact that she was a convert from Episcopalian faith begs more of my attention today. This woman faced more tragedy and up-current swimming than many people half as busy as she was.

Her husband died in Italy, where they had traveled to nurse him back to health, and she found herself an Episcopalian widow surrounded by physical reminders of the Catholic Church.

Soon she was inspired, uplifted and felt called to convert, though she would soon be without finances. Her conversion alienated her from the family upon whom she would ordinarily be able to depend.

Liz meets More

Eventually, St. Elizabeth founded the Sisters of Charity and became the first American-born saint at her canonization in 1975. I don’t think I knew she was a convert when I picked her for my confirmation, but I’m glad she was.

My “I have this log in my eye…” post addressed my impatience with Protestants. I have a problem and I need God’s Grace to reverse it. It’s no coincidence that I have faced anti-Catholicism, now I resent it, and both my patron and adopted saint dealt with both sides of the same see-saw.

St. Thomas More (I don’t own the rights)

The intersection of my patron and my adopted saint affords me something to reflect upon. How to stand up for the Church, how to attempt intelligent discourse among people with whom I disagree, how to be willing to offer up my suffering or how give my life in martyrdom.

This seems like a coincidence, and of course I’m focusing on this aspect of their similarities, but recognizing the connection between my saints has opened a can of worms. They weave themselves into my day. I’m still learning what this connection means, but I’m doing so with a simple approach.

I just suggest that you recall your patron saint, say a prayer, and click “Show Me My Saint” on Jen Fulwiler’s Saint Generator. See what kind of connection is waiting to happen in the Communion of Saints.

Saint Who?

Week Four: Patron Saints

“Saint Who?” by Julie Robison
“Budding Hope” by Trista at Not A Minx
“Less is More” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

This is the fourth post of the Bright Maidens. We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

When I was little, I was given my first book of saints. I love reading about the saints and their lives: the martyrs, the virgins, the consecrated religious, the lay people, the Doctors of the Church, and thousands of witnesses to the power of Christ in one’s life. I love the litany of saints at Mass, and I love that the communion of saints is still hustling and bustling in the vibrant body of Christendom. Saints were fallen humans too, who faced the same world, and still rose to the challenge of following Christ. They sanctified themselves, in order to help sanctify the world, to paraphrase St. Francis.

The saints, through my now 23 years on this green earth, have been my constant companions. St. Anthony and I have a special bond. I lose things, send up an intercessory request for him to help me, and I usually find it within moments.

Then there’s St. Thomas Aquinas (patron saint of academics) and St. Joseph Cupertino (patron saint of test-taking), whom I was frequently begging for help. Don’t forget St. Maria Goretti, the patron saint of young women, or St. Philip Neri, the patron saint of Rome (and a prime example that holiness can have a sense of humor), or St. Thomas More (patron saint of civil servants and large families) or St. Francis de Sales (patron of writers and journalists), more favorites. There’s even a St. Julie Billiart! She founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Those are only a few; there are hundreds of thousands of saints! My confirmation saint is St. Elizabeth of Hungary, another favorite saint. She is the patron saint of bakers, countesses, death of children, falsely accused, the homeless, nursing services, tertiaries, widows, and young brides.

You can imagine my excitement then, when Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary posted her Saint Generator, and my anticipation of who my “saint of the year” was going to be.

Want to take a gander at which saint I got? No really, guess!

Did you guess St. Hyacinth?

Have you heard of St. Hyacinth?

Say it with me: Hy-a-cinth.

My disappointment was palpable, to say the least. I might have even frowned.

I know! That was naughty of me, and ungrateful. To make matters worse, everyone was talking about which saints they got. Jen got St. Francis de Sales. Elizabeth got St. Thomas More. Lisa got St. Jane de Chantel.

Enter the green-eyed monster and a grumpy demeanor; I was feeling seriously dejected. Why didn’t I get a cool saint like them? (I know, I’m breaking the 10th commandment at this point.) I looked up St. Hyacinth and found barely anything. Well, he was a Dominican. That made me happy. I love the Dominican order.

Scroll, scroll, scroll. Click, click, click. I was determined to find something.

Now- don’t get me wrong. St. Hyacinth is a neat saint. He’s called the “Confessor of the North.” He spread the Faith until his death in 1251. He brought the Faith to Poland, as well as evangelizing in Denmark, Greece, Norway, Russia Scotland, Sweden, and Turkey. One of his miracles include saving the blessed Eucharist in a Monstrance and a statue of the Blessed Mother during an attack on a monastery in Kiev, with the very heavy Monstrance and statue becoming weightless so he could run away with them.

He’s the patron saint of Lithuania, I read. I could feel my spirit sinking again. None of this really “applied” to me. I was confused. But I, a non-Lithuanian, am also a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. Why did I get this saint, I kept thinking.

Then I saw it: patron saint of those in danger of drowning.

When I was little, I used to go up North to my cousins’ house for a week. Once, my sister and I were playing Frisbee outside. She accidently threw it over the fence and it landed on the neighbor’s covered pool. Being the big sister, I volunteered to climb over the fence and retrieve the Frisbee. We thought our cousins would be so angry that we lost their Frisbee.

So over the fence I climbed. The neighbor’s pool was disgusting. I could see the algae the way you look at the ground and see grass. They barely used their backyard, let alone cleaned their pool. They were an older couple with older children. The pool was covered with a tarp.

I reached my little arm out toward the Frisbee. There was nothing, not even a branch from a tree (well, maybe a branch, if I had snapped one off), to help me inch the Frisbee closer. My little sister was watching me with expectant eyes, but my arms were not long enough. My finger tips gripped the cement edge of the pool, and I reached farther, and fell into the pool.

I used to think that my fear of dark water and not being able to see into the depths was caused by my sister and I watching “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” (the zombies coming out of the dark water episode, specifically, even though our parents forbid us to watch that show), but now, as I write this post and remember, it may have been from falling into a dark pool, filled with algae, and covered by a tarp.

I remember grasping the Frisbee in the water, panic filling my body as I tried to find an opening in the tarp. But under the covering, it was all dark. I pushed up against the heavy plastic and it gave me no out.

So I prayed for God to help me see my parents and siblings again, and I asked for help to get out, because I didn’t want to drown. I was no Russell Kirk, who fell out of the boat and sank to the bottom, calmly sitting there at the bottom, legs crossed, as if he was in a waiting room, until the homeless man out fishing with him swam to the bottom and saved his life.

No, I was flailing. I wasn’t ready to die. Ever since I was little, I have wanted to be a part of something big, important, honorable, and worthy. I wasn’t ready to die for a Frisbee. I prayed harder, and hit my hand against the tarp, and tried to stay focused as water was filling my little lungs.

Then I saw the light, and I breathed oxygen. I threw the Frisbee out of the pool, towards the fence, where my little sister still stood, trembling. It had only been a minute or two, but to us, it felt much longer. I pulled myself out of the pool, covered in algae, and climbed back over the fence.

Then I went upstairs and took a shower.

I don’t remember what happened after that, or how we told our cousins, or when we told our parents, but 12 or 14 years later, when I got St. Hyacinth in the Saint Generator, that was no mistake. It happened for a reason, and now, I am aware of his presence in my life. I have no doubt in my mind that St. Hyacinth helped intercede on my behalf; that he helped save my life; that he assists and will assist in my pursuits to helped spread the Faith. He’s also helped me increase devotion to the Blessed Mother, Eucharistic adoration and frequent communion, not to mention further convince me that the Dominicans are still, and will always be, my favorite order.
St. Hyacinth, pray for me!

Gratitude Giveaway

The wonderful Maria from This Crazy Love is holding a Gratitude Giveaway!  I find her to be encouraging, insightful, and challenging!  Check her out!  She was one of the first Young Adult Catholic bloggers that I encountered, so she’s pretty great in my eyes!  

My reason for this gratitude giveaway is that this blog and my dear blog friends have really helped me get through these long winter months on the couch. It’s provided friendship, intellectual stimulation, and sparked my creative fire. I LOVE writing and I love this blog.  
– She’ll pray 2 decades of the Divine Mercy Chaplet (remember, 1 for you specifically, 1 for another intention you have), AND a decade of the rosary for the end to abortion – just leave a comment.
– Post this on your blog and you’ll get another 2 decades of the Chaplet and another decade of the rosary.
– Follow me and get 2 more decades plus a rosary decade.
– Mention this on Twitter and get another set.
– Please don’t mention this on Facebook as she wants to put a privacy boundary at that point.
– Leave a comment letting her know what you’ve done AND what your favorite post is and why you liked it.
Her next giveaway will be prayers AND a simple knitting project.

Quick Takes Friday (14)

Things I Loved This Week:

1.  From Introduction to the Devout Life Part III,CHAPTER XLI. One Word to Maidens: “O YE virgins, I have but a word to say to you. If you look to married life in this life, guard your first love jealously for your husband. It seems to me a miserable fraud to give a husband a worn-out heart, whose love has been frittered away and despoiled of its first bloom instead of a true, whole-hearted love.”

2.  From Introduction to the Devout Life Part III, CHAPTER XXIX. On Slander : “Do not pronounce a man to be a drunkard although you may have seen him drunk, or an adulterer, because you know he has sinned; a single act does not stamp him for ever.”

3. Catholic Answers Live with Anthony Buono titled Discerning Marriage : Helping Your Cause.

4. 48 people LIKE Bright Maidens on Facebook!
Things I’m Preparing For:
 5.  Bishop Murphy will be attending Faith on Tap this Monday.  He’ll be speaking on his message “Belong More Deeply” and doing Q and A afterward.  What should I ask him or get across to him?  I want to make sure that he knows that Young Adult Catholics need support from the Diocese.  Any additional thoughts?
6.  I have a job interview with a children’s book publishing house today at 2 p.m.  If you have a moment, please pray that this interview goes well!
What I’m Most Excited About:
7.  Tonight I’m going to my aunt and uncle’s house to watch my little cousins for a few hours.  I can’t wait to get my cuddle on!