Sunday, May 29, 2011

John 14:15-21

It is not the magnitude, or otherwise, of the work we have to do that should concern us, but the magnitude of the love with which we do it. It is a terrible mistake to suppose that if we simply carry out the commandments externally we have nothing to worry about. That can be no more than lip-service; it can be simply self-culture, the service of the self; and it can be a form of self-complacency and the kind of practical pelagianism which thinks it can get on very well without worrying too much about its radical sinfulness and need of God. Of course we have to try to keep the commandments; but the essential is to try to keep them in such a way that we learn to see more and more clearly our true Center, to keep our eyes more and more on God and less and less on ourselves, to say "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me." There are, in fact, two opposite heresies here which we have to avoid: the one says, If I am right it doesn't matter what I do. We have to try to live in God, to be right; but we learn to be right only through slowly and painfully trying to do right; and on the other hand if we were really living in God then inevitably we should, as a matter of fact, do right, for we should hunger and thirst after righteousness.

- Father Gerald Vann, O.P.

Friday, May 13, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (#25)

  1. I GRADUATE THIS WEEKEND!!!! It's kind of hard to believe that I'll officially have a Master's degree. It seems like it's been a long process to get here (which is a long story which never turned into a blog post because it would have ended up being a novel), but I am so glad that I decided to switch from the PhD program and "leave" school early with a Master's. I guess I'll have to change my "About Me" section Sunday afternoon!
  2. Now all that's left is to find a job... which has been cause for a lot of stress and anxiety - because not knowing my job situation leads to not knowing about my living situation which leads to not knowing what city or state I'll even be in past August. For someone like me that likes to have control of important situations and plans them out way in advance, it has been a very humbling experience, to say the least. It's definitely driving me to develop a deeper prayer life, that's for sure.
  3. Speaking of prayer life, I just finished a novena to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini for help finding a job (she's my confirmation saint and I'm pretty sure she likes me a lot!)... still waiting for all those job opportunities to fall into my lap! No, but in all seriousness, I've come to enjoy praying novenas because, if anything, it keeps me accountable for devoting at least 15 minutes of prayer time in a chapel somewhere each day... but I almost always end up getting to Mass and/or Adoration as well.
  4. This weekend is also a tough one because it means a lot of people are leaving town... I've grown really close to three of our FOCUS missionaries - spending lots of late nights laughing, doing crazy wholesome fun things, and having really thought provoking conversations. It will be difficult to not be able to spontaneously meet up with them for a drink and a good conversations anymore. Their friendship has had such a great impact on my life this past year, so I know we will keep in touch, but life will be a bit different without their joyful presence!
  5. On Tuesday this past week, our chaplain treated us "seniors" to a day trip to Atlantic City, NJ. So the other senior and I packed up a van with the FOCUS missionaries, our campus minister, and our chaplain and hit the road. It was such a fun and relaxing day to spend on the beach and hanging out with everyone before they leave. We also got to reminisce about all the good memories from this past year... yea it got a little bit sentimental. There are some fun pictures posted here.
  6. I'm pretty sure that if there was one prayer engraved on my heart, it would sound like this song:
  7. Well, I have a long weekend ahead of me, so I'm going to rest for my seventh quick take! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why Mary?

This post is part of the Bright Maidens series of posts. Thanks to those lovely ladies for opening it up to all of us!

I've never really had a relationship with Mary.

I've often struggled with talking to her in prayer. I've certainly never been good at meditating on the mysteries of the rosary (I didn't even pray a full rosary until a year and a half ago!). Honestly, in prayer, I've just always wanted to go straight to Christ. Yes, I love my little saint intercessory prayers (my new favorite is a little rhyme to my confirmation saint, St. Frances Cabrini, for finding parking places in downtown DC... it works every time). I also send more than a few "Hail Mary" up to Heaven each day, but when I get deep down into prayer (which isn't often enough), I attempt to have a conversation with Christ (key word: attempt).

Sure, I understand why Mary is important. Her "Yes" made her the new Eve. Her "Yes" brought the new Adam into the world to redeem us all. God chose Mary to be His mother. That's a big deal. I understand and truly believe all of this, but there has still always been a roadblock between me and forming a relationship with Mary.

I think the biggest stumbling block for me is when I hear women say that it is easier for them to relate and talk to Mary, that they always take things to Mary, because she understands how it feels to be a woman.

I've always been confused by this, because I usually feel the exact opposite. Mary was perfect here on earth, and now she's perfect in Heaven. How on earth could I ever hope to relate to someone who is the perfect human being, and how could this perfect embodiment of submission to God's will ever be able to understand me?

Then, on Good Friday this year, I finally watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time. I was shocked and amazed at the brutality that Christ suffered for us. Yes, I always knew and understood that it was the ultimate suffering, and so it would be bad, but seeing it played out made it all the more real. I cringed when his flesh was ripped from his body at the scourging at the pillar. I winced when the crown of thorns was pushed onto his head. I literally curled up into a ball on my chair when the nails were driven through his hands and feet.

But my eyes as I watched Christ suffer? My eyes were dry.

I'm the kind of girl that cries in movies all the time. I've cried during The Prince of Egypt (*sob* God is *choke* soooo gooood! *hiccup*). I tear up during the scene in Pride and Prejudice as Lizzy and Mr. Darcy walk towards each other across the dew-soaked fields (he loves her *sooo* much that he did all those things just for her *tear*). I have been known to watch The Notebook when I just need emotional release through a good cry.

But as I watched Christ's Passion, my eyes were not moved to tears. Yes, I had the proper visceral reactions, but I had thought I would sob like I never have before.

Was there something wrong with me? Was I so cold that I couldn't even shed a tear for the One who died to redeem me? Cry, just CRY!, I screamed in my head.

And then I saw Mary.
I watched Mary place her ear against the stone ground, right above Jesus shackled underground, just to be nearer to her son.

I watched as she comforted Mary Magdalene, letting the young girl cry on her shoulder.

I watched as she used crisp white towels to soak up her son's blood from the cobblestones.

I watched Mary's memory of Jesus as boy: watching him fall, running to pick him up, whispering in his ear that she was there for him. I watched Mary run to whisper in the ear of her grown son, who was carrying the burden of the world on his shoulders, letting him know that she was still there for him.

I watched as Mary accepted John as her son when Christ gave him to her from the cross. I watched as he accepted her as his mother.

I listened as Mary cried out in agony, "Flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, My son, let me die with you."

I watched Mary cradle her dead son as he was removed from the cross.

I watched her tears, watched her shake, watched her shudder in pain, but never to turn her eyes away from what her son was suffering. She always watched with a steadfast faith, even though her heart was being torn from her chest.

It was during these times when I watched Mary that I finally cried.

It was through this that I came to a new understanding of what it means to relate to Mary as a woman. It means relating to Mary as a mother, because all of us women are called to be mothers, whether it is physically bringing a child into the world or being a spiritual mother to friends and family. All women have that motherly instinct rooted within their souls, even though many "feminists" today try to ignore it and push it aside. 

I was in too much shock to shed tears watching Jesus suffer, but I was able to cry whenever I saw Mary, because that motherly instinct rooted in my soul could experience an ounce of the pain she felt as she watched her son die.

I'm not a mother, and maybe I'm not called to be a mother, but serving and loving others as a mother would love a child is ingrained in what it means to be a woman. 

This is why Mary is important to me, to all women, and to the Church as a whole. It's not just because she was perfect. It's not just because she was the vessel through which God was made flesh. Yes, those things are crucial. 

But now when I ask myself - and more importantly, when others ask me - "Why Mary?" - I'll know the answer. 

It's because she teaches us how to be women in how she teaches us to serve others by being the perfect mother.
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