The Cross of Life

 

Happy Feast Day of Saint Francis! ¬†This day has gained special significance in the past year ūüôā

Rather than write a general post about this Saint’s incredible life, ¬†I thought I would share an interesting tidbit I learned about the Tau Cross that is generally associated with the Franciscans.

A few weeks ago the daily Mass readings were from Ezekiel. ¬†During this time, I was doing some research on this B.A. prophet and skimming through his adventures, when I came upon an interesting passage. ¬†This is from Ezekiel chapter 9:4: ¬†“and the LORD¬†said to him:*¬†Pass through the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the abominations practiced within it.”

My bible’s handy dandy footnotes told me that the mark Ezekiel put on their foreheads was actually the Hebrew letter Taw…as in the letter the Tau cross is based on. ¬†For all of you who think that St. Francis invented the Tau cross, yes you have been lied to. ¬†After getting over the shock of betrayal, I decided to investigate the matter further. ¬†I found this enlightening article which outlines the development of the cross. ¬†While others, such as the 3rd century monk St. Anthony, held a devotion to the cross, St. Francis certainly made it popular. ¬†He especially liked its simplicity. ¬†The Franciscan order’s habit is also in the shape of the Tau cross.

The Tau cross is referred to as the Old Testament cross and a precursor of the crucifix. ¬†Lately, it’s been on my heart to really devour scripture and I am continually amazed by the connections between the Old and New Testaments. ¬†It all points to one divine author and one savior, who took up the cross so that you and I might have life.

‚ÄúNor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins. ‚Ä̬†‚Äē St. Francis of Assisi

 

St Teresa of Avila

Today is the Feast Day of St Teresa of Avila and considering the quote in my tagline (Christ has no body now…) is from her I thought it would be appropriate to write a little post about her.

Picture a stereotypical Saint; pious, chaste and obedient.  Now picture the opposite; that was Teresa of Avila.  All in all, she was a pretty cool lady.  A detailed description of her life can be found here: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=208

According to this website, she was rebellious, vain and materialistic as a teenager.¬† Her father sent her to a convent to ¬†try to straighten her out and it worked eventually.¬† She did become a Carmelite Nun but she definitely did not turn into a Saint overnight.¬† She thought being in a convent would make it easier to avoid sin and temptation.¬† However, religious life during her time (the mid 1500’s) was in turmoil and many convents were corrupt.¬† Young women entered for the wrong reasons and were often more concerned with garnering donations than serving God.

Teresa had difficulty praying sincerely even as she got older and realized the error of her ways.  Eventually she was able to break down the barrier between her and God and she began to have mystical experiences while praying.  She finally began putting God first in her life.

Around the age of 43 Teresa’s gradual conversion of heart suddenly picked up speed.¬† Fed up with the Carmelite order, she decided it was in bad need of reform.¬† To achieve this, she resolved to open a new convent where the nuns would live as they should: a simple life of poverty and prayer.¬† She also believed that prayer should lead to action for the good of the world.

During her life Teresa was persecuted harshly because she made people uncomfortable by pointing out their sinful lifestyles.¬† According to catholic.org, “she was called “a restless disobedient gadabout who has gone about teaching as though she were a professor” by the papal nuncio.”¬† However she must have done something right because many young women joined her convents and after her death she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.¬† Her desire to reform one convent sparked a widespread reform of religious life and her writings have had great influence¬† on many well known theologians.¬† It took St Teresa a while to figure her stuff out, but once she did, boy did she get it right.

St of Teresa of Avila spent much of her life thinking and writing about prayer.¬† Here’s some of what she has to say:

“For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything.”

“More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.‚ÄĚ

“Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”

“Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.‚ÄĚ

I didn’t know much about Teresa of Avila before writing this post and I hope you enjoyed learning about her as much as I did.¬† The information here is just the tip of the iceburg and I hope the small taste will entice you to learn more about this incredible Saint.¬† I’m certainly going to add St Teresa of Avila to the list of holy people I model my life after.

The “G” Word

I want to have a really cool life.  You know those people who are introducedas having spent three years in the bush of the

I want to be her!

Congo, working for the UN and starting their own organization? ¬†I want to be one of those people when I’m older. ¬†As my last year of college flies by and the “G” word approaches, I can’t wait to start building up that list of experiences. ¬†I know that in my last post (I apologize for the severe lack of posting) I was all set to begin applying for the Peace Corps. ¬†However, anyone who knows me knows I change my mind about my life plans every week. ¬†Now don’t get me wrong, I am 99% sure that I am going to do some kind of service overseas after I graduate, but there are just so many options!

I have kept diaries pretty faithfully since middle school and I like to go back and look at them once in a while.  While doing this recently, I was reminded of my deep rooted desire to be a missionary.  I have felt a tug from God towards missions work for many years now and am finally realizing that I could be doing it in a year from now.  The fact that in a year I will probably be leaving the country and my family for at least two years is a terrifying and exhilarating thought.

As you know my faith is the most important thing in my life.  Part of the reason I am no longer interested in joining Peace Corps is because I would like to work with a religious organization which will support me in my faith.  The other reason is that Peace Corps volunteers are very independent and often isolated, whereas I would prefer to live in community with other volunteers and work as part of a team.  I am also thinking and praying about what exactly it means to be a missionary and how this would be different than doing a service program.

Here are some of the different organizations that I am looking at applying to:

Maryknoll Lay Missioners

Society of African Missions

Franciscan Mission Service

While the “G” word is somewhat scary, I am excited to see what God has in store for me!

Back in San Lucas…

Back in San Lucas, we finally got to get our hands dirty with some concrete service. ¬†A wall was being built by the women’s center, so they put us to work helping with that. ¬†We created columns to support the wall and all worked on different parts of that. ¬†It was cool that we all created a part of something bigger. ¬†That reminded me of the fact that we all have a role to play as part of the group and in the world in general. ¬†As part of our reflection we’ve been talking about how we’re all connected as one human family. ¬†We are all an essential part of this family and God needs each and every one of us to bring about his kingdom here on earth. ¬†This is an idea I understand intellectually but haven’t quite accepted in my heart. ¬†I’ve been struggling to figure out my role recently and where God is calling me. ¬†For example, building those columns felt meaningless until you thought about the fact that it freed up the more skilled workers to do something more important and helped get that wall built a little faster and the women’s center opened sooner. ¬†It’s all about perspective.

That afternoon we shifted gears and learned a little more about Guatemala’s people and it’s history. ¬†A woman named Shona who helps run the parish programs talked to us about her experiences in San Lucas. ¬†She has been living in San Lucas since before Fr. Greg came so she has experienced the incredible difference he has made first hand. ¬†She talked about how poor and oppressed the people were before he came, especially the women.

The most heartwrenching thing she talked about was a period of violence in 1981. ¬†There was a ton of¬†guerrilla¬†warfare in response to the severe oppression the people were experiencing. ¬†The Mayan people were coerced into helping the guerilla fighters who offered them land, houses and money. ¬†Once the government found this out they targeted the Mayan people as a whole and began killing anyone who was even remotely suspected of helping the¬†guerrilla¬†fighters. ¬†The families of these targeted people were often killed also. ¬†Shona’s husband was caught helping the¬†guerrilla, was captured and presumably killed. ¬†She never knew for sure what happened to him and has to live with that horror every day. ¬†She must have told her story a hundred times but still teared up when talking about her husband.

After her husband was taken, Shona and her children became a target also. ¬†Despite this danger, she helped countless mayans during this time. ¬†She told one story about traveling to rescue 11 orphans who were hiding in a church a few hours from San Lucas. ¬†They had to pass through three military checkpoints on the way back and convince the soldiers that all these children belonged to Shona. ¬†She literally risked life and limb for these children she didn’t even know. ¬†The thing about her story that amazed me the most was her complete trust in God throughout everything she went through. ¬†She kept saying, “Gracias a Dios” – Thank God. ¬†It would have been so easy to blame God for all of the terrible events of that year, but instead she leaned on him for hope and strength. ¬†I long for the courage to trust that completely.