Running the Race

As many of you know, I will hopefully be entering the convent in August 2013.  Before then, I need to pay off my student loans, which accumulate to about $25,000.  I figured out that I need to raise about $1,600 per month from now until then to be able to pay them off.  I’ll be launching a whole fundraising campaign (probably over Easter break) so be on the look out for more details on how you can help me out.  Also, I’d love to hear your ideas for creative fundraising.

Anyway, I’ve discovered one of the most popular ways to raise money for entering religious life is running a marathon.  At first I laughed at the idea because I’ve never run a day in my life.  Then I thought about it more and decided it might not be a terrible idea.  I keep saying I want to start exercising and I need a huge dose of discipline in my life – training for a marathon will help me achieve both of these things.  Running can also be meditative and prayerful (although I probably won’t feel that way about it at first).

So, I am stating this here so I can’t back down from it:  On October 13th I will be running in the ING Hartford half marathon.  Info will be up soon on how you can sponsor me.

The bible compares life to running a race several times, so I’m just taking it literally 🙂

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

I start training tomorrow so I’ll let you know how it goes!

Believe in God’s Love

The leader singer of my favorite band, Tenth Avenue North, comes out with video journals once in a while that just blow my mind.  This one is a plea to truly believe that God loves you and to let that love transform your life.

The Church Everyone Loves to Hate

The Catholic Church is so cool!  Since its very beginnings (aka Christ), it has remained faithful to its teachings and foundations, despite internal corruption and turmoil.  The Church has endured persecution throughout time and today is no different.  What has been a subtle persecution is becoming a full fledged attack on the institution which everyone loves to hate.  Here’s an example from the New York Times.  This ad is targeted at those who call themselves Catholic but don’t really follow the teachings of the Church; it encourages them to just leave.  I hope that the people who fall into this category will learn why the Church teaches what it does and embrace those teachings rather than just leaving.

Have you ever noticed that Catholics get the short end of the stick when it comes to cartoons, jokes and just generally making fun of religion?  People are very careful about not insulting Jewish and Muslim faiths, but have no problem with things like the ad that appeared in the NY Times.  For example, this article explains that the Times chose to publish this ad over an anti-muslim one because it is “safer”.

More than ever, Catholics are being challenged by society and our counter cultural and often radical beliefs are being questioned.  This is an opportune time for evangelization and for strengthening our convictions.  Persection usually serves to strengthen the persecuted.  JPII stated at one point that he forsees the Church getting smaller, but stronger and I wholeheartedly agree with this prophetic statement.  The U.S. Bishops immediate and unified response to the HHS mandate showed the world that the Catholic Church is still alive and well.  It showed that we will fight attacks against our beloved mother Church.

This article, from another great blogger who terms himself a “bad catholic”, details some of the failed attempts to attack the Church and how they are making us stronger.

And here are some encouraging words from the Savior himself:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” – John 15:18-20

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Matthew 16:17

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

This semester I’m learning a lot about the crazy problems going on around the world.  Between my social morality and social problems classes, it gets overwhelming sometimes.  It is easy to feel hopeless when we look at the devastating poverty that exists in some places and the violations of human dignity that take place every second in our own country.  I’ve been struggling to figure out what my response should be as a Catholic to all of this hopelessness.  And the answer is simple: hope.

We believe in a God who says that he will hold us in the palm of his hand and tells us to be not afraid.  He also gives us a vision of his kingdom where no one will be hungry, thirsty or lonely.  There’s a term I love that explains what all Christians are called to be – prophetic witness.  We are called to be prophetic witnesses to this kingdom.  That means we are called to share God’s vision of what the world should look like with everyone else.  In God’s kingdom everyone will live in right relationship with each other and God, in perfect imitation of the trinity.  Be a witness of that today!

Above all, our response to everything should be prayer.  I think something we have forgotten is the incredible power of prayer.  But that’s a whole other post…

The Dawn of a Beautiful New Day in Honduras

Our home for the week! Also, the future home for orphan girls.

I’m so sorry I haven’t written about Honduras yet!!

The top two things I learned: I need to learn how to speak Spanish for real and I need to start working out.

So, as a refresher, I traveled to Honduras two weeks ago with a group of students from my school.  We went to help an organization called Students Helping Honduras.  Their main purpose is to better the lives of children.  They do this by running children’s homes for orphans, building schools and improving the quality of their education.  The village we stayed in – Villa Soleada, was entirely built by this organization with the help of the residents.

My group traveled to another village called Bella Aurora to work on a school being

One of the village classrooms that doubles as a poolhall.

built there.  The first day, Sunday, we took a tour and saw the current “school”.  I put that in quotes because it consists of random classrooms scattered throughout the village.  Additionally, these classrooms double as bars at night.

On Sunday we also had a chance to be immersed in the culture.  We were split up into small groups of 3 or 4 and assigned

Baleadas!

a family.  We scattered to their houses and helped make Baleadas.  Baleadas are the traditional Honduran food.  They consist of a tortilla filled with eggs, refried beans and avacodo.  Sometimes other things are added like chicken, but that is the basic baleada.  My first experience of this national favorite was in the airport and let me tell you, the real thing is 100x better.  I was with the Ramirez-Ortiz family who had numerous adorable children and were very welcoming.  They also made us fresh pineapple juice(delicious!) and plantains.

After eating ourselves into a near coma, someone decided it was time to put us to work.  The task of the day was mixing cement and carrying endless buckets to be poured into the cinder block frame of the school (I think that’s how it works – I know nothing about construction).  Tired after only a few hours of work, we wondered what the next day would hold.

Monday brought 100 degree weather, more cement and salsa dancing.  After a long day of work, we were told the night would hold dance lessons.  Not knowing what we were getting into, we all climbed onto the school bus that was our transportation for the week.  Our driver Geo blasted the obligatory mix of American and Spanish music.  Soon we pulled up to the sketchiest looking bar ever.  It was portable and currently attached to a gas station.  Yup, that sounds even sketchier when I put it into words…

Anyway a couple of the country’s top dancers met us there.  We watched dumbfounded as they moved in ways not entirely humanly possible and then laughed when we were invited try the moves ourselves.  They simplified it though and we got the hang of it (some more than others).  They showed us the basic steps for the merengue, salsa and a few other dances.

Most of the week consisted of working on the school by doing various tasks.  We built a porch for the front, built rebar one day and spent an entire afternoon passing buckets of sand down an assembly line.  There was rain to contend with around Tuesday and then there was mud all over the place after that.  My sneakers are never going to be the same color again.

As I mentioned above, SHH also runs a children’s home.  Currently in Honduras all orphans live at state orphanages, unless they are lucky enough to be private homes, like this organization’s.  There are strict laws against adoption and kids get kicked out at 13, which leads many of them to join gangs.  One morning we went to visit the state orphanage and it was the most heart wrenching experience of the week.  The living conditions were obviously sub par.  The kids begged to be held and played with, because they probably don’t get much attention.  There was one physically and mentally handicapped child crawling on the floor pinching our legs to get attention.  The worst part was finding out that this orphanage is in better condition than the “old” one(which burned down).

On Thursday, we visited the other schools that SHH is in the process of building.  Students were having class at all of the

A "classroom" at another school.

sites so we got to see the current classroom conditions.  One school consisted of makeshift rooms of tarp and wood. At another, 600 students were crammed into about 6 “classrooms”.  Visiting these schools literally made me sick and I was cranky all day over the thought of conditions these children are forced to live and learn in.

As with most Hispanic countries, the Honduran people have a love affair with soccer, or football as it is properly called.  Or course, we couldn’t leave without playing a game of soccer.  Apparently this requirement couldn’t be fulfilled by kicking a ball around with some kids.  No, on Thursday afternoon, we participated in “cage soccer”, which as you might have guessed, consists of playing soccer in a cage.  Now I have zero athletic ability and some of the people I was playing with were way more invested in the game than I was.  My team played against some local girls, which was unfair from the beginning.  These people have soccer in their blood and could play in their sleep!  We lasted for a surprising amount of time though and it turned out to be fun.

Don Jose and his accordian.

The chaplain of my school was one of the chaperones and he managed to make friends with the president and spiritual leader of Bella Aurora, Don Jose.  One day we were invited over his house.  He said that he wanted to play some music for us and I was expecting a guitar but he came out with…an accordian.  We had a grand time listening to him.  He wanted to play a song we knew but we realized that the only Spanish song we might all know is Feliz Navidad.  At the risk of being labeled “crazy americans” we broke out into this well known Christmas tune.

On our last day at the work site, Don Jose revealed that he wanted to have a prayer service to thank God for bringing us all together.  What we thought was going to be a quick prayer turned into an hour of bible readings, reflections from both our priest and Don Jose, and of course singing accompanied by the accordion.  The connection between all of us was tangible and I’m not afraid to admit that I teared up a little.  Simply having a common faith in God makes us all an intimately bonded family, even across borders.

The name Bella Aurora means beautiful dawn.  Honduras has been getting much media attention lately and as usual, the news focuses on the negative events that are occuring.  My brief interactions with the people and glimpse into this country shows me that there is great hope.  I think that through the work of organizations like SHH, Honduras is going to get a chance at a new beginning and the dawn of a beautiful future.

The Risk of Surrender

Right before I visited the TOR Sisters for the first time I decided to take a huge leap of trust and not make any after graduation plans.  The tug towards sisterhood was too strong to ignore and I really felt like God might be calling me to enter right after graduation.  As a sign of surrender I decided not to apply for graduate school or a volunteer program (which I was originally planning on doing).  I trusted that God would show me the right order and that he has a plan.  Then I found the TOR Sisters, fell in love and was put on the fast track towards acceptance.

Well I recently received the psychologist’s evaluation a few days ago.  There wasn’t anything too concerning in the report, but there are some areas of self-improvement and self-discovery that he wants me to explore.  Then yesterday the vocation director called me and revealed the decision of the formation board: they want me to wait a year before entering.  I’m still accepted and everything, my application process is just being extended.  Still, my heart sank at her words.  I had gotten so caught up in the possibility of entering in August, that I had ignored the reality.  The reality is that I have a lot of growing to do, I’m still very young and I haven’t done any living in the larger world outside of college and school.

This is my first concrete experience of obedience with a religious community but it was surprisingly easy to accept their decision.  I think it’s because deep down I know this year is what I need. It’s almost a relief to have this decision made for me.

Up until now I’ve been reveling in the fact that I don’t really need to figure out what I’m doing after graduation.  Now I have to get a job and move back home.  I also need to be very attentive to how God wants me to spend this year.  It’s important the I engage in activities that will help me grow spiritually, as a person and in my relationships with others.  I need to sit down and think hard about what I want to get out of this year.

One thing God has definitely been placing on my heart lately is a passion for the pro-life movement.  I think he is asking me to get more involved with actively fighting the horror of abortion and widespread use of contraception.  If anyone knows of any opportunities involving this movement, let me know!

Every Life is Beautiful

Posts about Honduras are coming soon but I just found out about a new pro-life movie that is coming out on March 23rd in select theaters.  I’m trying to spread the word about it because it’s going to be an important evangelization tool if we can tell as many people as possible about it.

Here’s the trailer:

See the website for more info about the movie, a listing of showings, and information about getting a showing in your area.  Although the production company isn’t strictly Catholic, their website includes a page of Catholic resources which is awesome!