Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Body in Christ

Two summers ago, I injured my lower back by straining my lumbar muscle. With a combination of different medicines, physical therapy, and some minor lifestyle changes (i.e. watching my posture!), I was able to get the pain under control. Since then, I barely have any back pain and very rarely have bad days.

Until two days ago.

That's me on the left. I should've been the one on the right.
Apparently, lifting a toddler multiple times, improperly bending over to grab huge stacks of files, and leaning over a computer typing data for four hours straight put a lot of strain on one's lower back. I could feel the twinges of pain that evening, but I was hoping that a good night's sleep would give my body the rest it needed.

Unfortunately, I woke up the next day in more pain than I had been when I first strained my back two years ago. I couldn't sit or stand for more than a few minutes, and even lying down didn't relieve all the pressure from my back. The pain got so bad throughout the day that I ended up sobbing on the phone to my mom, who told me I needed to get to a doctor right away.

I was in the "danger zone"!
Faced with the prospect of getting to a doctor on a Saturday, with my family 500 miles away, and a hurricane blowing outside my window, I started to feel very alone. How could I get to the doctor? I don't know anyone here with a car. How could I even begin to ask someone to brave the storm to drive me? Why do I live so far away from home? I wish I wasn't single, so I had someone to be there for me. Why is this happening when there is a hurricane storming its way along the coast?

That's when God started reminding me that we are never alone here on earth, because we are "one body in Christ" (Rom 12:5). I set my irrational worries aside, and started to cash in on the interconnectedness in which we all share.

I called my car-less friend, who upon hearing my explanation through my sobs, dragged her boyfriend out into the storm, hopped onto the metro, grabbed a cab to my doorstep, and drove me in my car to the ER, waiting with me while the nurses went through the process of getting me muscle relaxants (which included taking a pregnancy test... that was a cause for some laughs between us!) and a shot of intense pain medication (in the bum, nonetheless!). After depositing me safely home, with a new supply of drugs and my heat pack, she and her boyfriend once again braved the public transportation in the tropical storm to get back home.

Gotta love the communion of saints!
Later that night, while trying to fall asleep, unable to get comfortable from the pain, I remembered a while back when I discovered that there is a patron saint of back pain. Without leaving my bed, I was able to pull up a novena to St. Gemma Galgani on my handy dandy iPod touch, and I started praying for healing, or at least the grace to offer up my suffering for my special intentions. My pain hasn't miraculously disappeared, but with St. Gemma as a guide, I know that my suffering is not nearly as bad as it could be, and it most definitely is not in vain.

Unable to drive myself to Mass today, much less sit in a pew for an hour, I texted my priest asking him to pray for me. He quickly offered to bring me Holy Communion, even though I live outside the city and Sundays are pretty busy for priests. He arrived a couple of hours later, prayed with me, and gave me the Eucharist, which I know has and will continue to provide healing in ways I can't even begin to understand.

Yes, there are definitely deeper theological implications when St. Paul repeatedly speaks of the body of Christ. It is a reminder to us that Jesus did not leave us to fend for our own selves on earth, but to support each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually, even when it is unexpected or makes life more difficult. From friends here on earth to those that have already passed on to their heavenly existence, we are all connected in Christ and thus, we are never alone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deep Thoughts

Since those of us who are active in the Catholic blogosphere tend to spend a lot of time contemplating very deep thoughts relating to the Church, moral issues, and secular culture, I thought I would lighten it up a bit with some "deep thoughts" that have often plagued my mind.

(No, seriously, I have spent time contemplating things on this list during my metro commute, in the shower, at work, and as I try to fall asleep at night. I do not jest.)

Please feel free to add your own "deep thoughts" in the comments, as I will continue to update this post as new thoughts monopolize my time.


  • In Canada, if "about" sounds like "abOOt", when you are about to "boot" up your computer, are you actually abOOT to "bout" up your computer?

  • If we're going to sell hot dog buns and hot dogs in different amounts, then why do they sell shampoo and conditioner in the same size bottle? Elizabeth calls this the "Disproportionate End of Bottle Syndrome." It is a tragic syndrome to have.

  • How do people who are blind buy new clothes? Do they worry about buying clothing with patterns and different colors?

  • If a bird figured out how to update its Twitter account, would it still be called a "tweet"? What if the bird tweets the word "chirp"?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Readings for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (from last Sunday!)

We as human beings tend to have a lot of expectations.

We expect to have the perfect childhood. To graduate from high school and go to college. To get a great job that pays a lot but doesn't expect too much from you. To get married and raise a family.

Sometimes, Prince Charming looks like Hugh Dancy!
I know that when I started college, I expected to meet my Prince Charming at school and be married by the ripe old age of 22... maybe 23. When I actually reached that ripe old age, I realized that not only was I in no way ready to be married, but that my plans from four years before were completely laughable!

But then again, it has been said that if you want to make God laugh, all you have to do is tell Him your plans.

I also expected to be able to easily find a job in my field after obtaining a graduate degree. We see how well that's turned out so far.

Again, ha ha. I can hear you having a good chuckle, God!

Itty, bitty living space!
We not only have expectations about how our lives will turn out, but how God will be a part of our lives. We have expectations of where to find God and what He will do for us. It's as if sometimes we expect to rub the magic lamp and have God grant us three wishes!

The readings this past Sunday allude to these expectations that we have about God. We first see Elijah from 1 Kings waiting for God as He passes by on a mountain. Elijah expects to hear God in the strong wind, the earthquake, and the fire that threaten to crush the mountain. We can only imagine Elijah's surprise when he doesn't find God in these manifestations of power, but instead hears God in the "tiny whispering sound." (1 Kings 19:12)

In the Gospel, we encounter Matthew's account of walking on water. Peter and the disciples are caught in a terrible storm, and they see Jesus walking towards them on the water. They are afraid, but Jesus cries out for them to take courage. Peter, in his usual boldness, asks Jesus to command him to come to him on the water, and he begins to walk towards Jesus with complete faith. Yet, when he sees how strong the wind blows, he starts to doubt, and as he sinks, he cries out to Jesus to save him. Jesus can only say, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31)

I'm sure the disciples were a bit shocked to see Jesus walking towards them on the water. They never expected to see something so extraordinary. In doing this, Jesus calls them to faith, or as Pope Benedict XVI has said, Christ shows them what happens when "something meets us that is greater than anything we can think of for ourselves."

"Jesus, save me!"
Peter expected the walk on water to be a breeze (compared to that gusty wind!) because he completely trusted in Christ. In an unfallen world, complete trust in God would be easy. However, Peter failed to account for his own human weaknesses, letting himself get in the way of fulfilling his expectations for that journey across the water.

I'm sure there were many thoughts running through his mind as he started to sink, but I can bet one of them was some sort of mental anguish with God: "But I did what you commanded, I trusted you and believed, I expected not to sink!" What Peter failed to see was that it wasn't his expectation in God that failed to deliver - it was his own failures that caused him to sink. When we, like Peter, place our complete trust in God, only to see how strong the wind is, we become frightened and falter. We like to place the blame on God, and how He failed to "rise" to our lofty expectations, when it is in fact our own pride and fear that stands in the way. Dom Lepori explains this much more eloquently than I ever could:
To the amazement of his friends, Peter climbed over the side of the boat. Before his feet even touched the water, he knew that it was really Jesus out there waiting for him... Jesus was not moving. Was he close? Was he far away? It was impossible to tell. It was as if the distance between him and the Lord varied according to the thoughts and feelings of his heart. And just when Simon started to feel proud of what he was doing, a gust of wind blew in between him and Jesus, and somehow in that moment he lost sight of the Master. Far from the boat, without Jesus in view, he suddenly found himself suspended above the restless lake. The only thing he could do was sink. And in fact, he felt himself plunge down, not only into the water, but also into the dark thoughts and doubts that had tormented him all night long. His anguish was complete: he realized that he was sinking not out of weakness but out of pride and that death would not seal his powerlessness but his rebellion.
There is nothing wrong with expecting God to take care of all of our needs, and trusting in His will. Yet, it is wrong to have the expectation that things will always go smoothly and according to (our own) plan. When we let these prideful expectations cloud our view, the distance between ourselves and Christ grows larger. Our hearts no longer purely seek him but instead are plagued with fear when things go awry, doubt in how things will turn out, and pride when our expectations give us a feeling of control.

This is something that I have been struggling with in my own life over the past few months. I had come to expect everything to start to fall into place, and when it didn't, I let my trust in God falter. As I've been slowly sinking into the abyss, I continue to ask God where He has been all this time, instead of evaluating my own actions.

The good news is that this gospel reading doesn't end with Peter drowning, but with Jesus reaching out his hand to save him from the crashing waves. All Peter had to do was ask for help, and he received Jesus' hand and forgiveness. Unfortunately, it's not always as easy as simply asking for God's help. We also have to combine this with trust in Him, a recognition of our own failures, and an acceptance of HIs expectations for us. Sometimes it isn't easy to see or hear God, but He can always be found in the tiniest whisper in the wind, with his hand reaching out to us from the darkness, begging us to come back home to His love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (#30)

 Head on over to Conversion Diary!


I don't have enough political knowledge to understand everything that is going on with Obama's new mandate for insurance coverage of contraceptives, but there is a lively discussion happening over at Leila's blog. Be sure to check it out. The whole thing just frustrates me from both a religious and financial standpoint.


Along those lines, we can all contact our representatives and senators to urge them to support the bill that protects our religious freedoms and restores our conscience rights. You can find the information at Catholic Vote.


On a less serious note, I'm considering getting Twitter just so I can tweet about my new favorite show, Suits. OK, not really.

But seriously, I don't usually like lawyer shows, but I am already in love with this one. It is quirky and fast-paced, with my kind of humor. My only qualm with it so far? They like to use the not-so-nice version of "gosh darn-it." In a perfect world, television shows wouldn't see the need to use such offensive language to make their characters seem rough and tough, but I'm still holding out hope for the world of secular television!

Did you read about all the great book recommendations that the Bright Maidens had for the summer? If you didn't, check them out. Here is my list of summer reads! I think I might do a little tab on my blog of a collection of book recommendations, because I really love giving them (and sometimes people actually ask for them!)


I finished The House at Riverton, a book that I mentioned in my last post. It was such a great read! I really enjoy historical fiction that really gives you an idea of what life was like during that time period. This novel takes place around the time of WWI, which reminded me of Downton Abbey the whole time I was reading it, so now I am watching the miniseries again! It's just so weird to think that life was like that less than 100 years ago! I highly recommend both of these if you're looking for a good read or a great show to watch (and this show is fairly wholesome, so far).


So after I finished The House at Riverton, I had to decide what to read next. I got a lot of great recommendations but wasn't ready to make a trip to the library just yet, so I decided to read Ella Enchanted for the umpteenth time.
For those of you have been following me for a bit, you might remember that this is my all-time favorite book. So good. Yes, it's a book written for 8 year olds. Yes, I still get a little choked up at certain parts. Yes, it's still amazing every time I read it.

If you haven't read this book, please do. It doesn't matter how old (or young!) you are. If you feel you are too cool for school to read a book way below your reading comprehension, then read it to your kids or those kids you baby-sit. I promise you that you will enjoy it as much as they do.


I haven't heard back yet about that job that I really wanted (and thought I might get)... so I am pretty much giving up hope, sadly. This means that I am back at square one, which is a bad place to be when you've been living off of no paycheck for three months. At this point, I am looking for ANY kind of job that will hire an intelligent human being with two college degrees. I never imagined it would be this difficult to find a job after getting a master's degree in chemistry, but it is. 

For those of you who have been praying for me through this whole process, thank you. I have been trying to enact the prayer army over the past month or so while I continue my search, so please keep praying for me! I think this is teaching me that there is only so much control I can have over my own situation in life, and with everything else, I have to really learn to depend on God.

Hope you all have a great weekend! A special shout-out to my sister, who celebrates her 19th birthday today!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Reading List

I am joining the Bright Maidens once again, because I love to talk about books!

Surprisingly, for the amount of free time I've had recently, I haven't been doing a lot of reading. I have managed to make it through a few books, though, and I have a few more on my list for the summer, too. I've tried to mix it up by tackling both spiritual and non-fiction reads with some lighter fiction in between.

Also, be sure to check out my all-time favorite books that I wrote about before! I look forward to reading about what you all have been reading, and I welcome any recommendations you have for me.


State of Wonder by Ann Patchett - I just finished this novel a couple of weeks ago, and I gobbled it up. Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors, and this is her latest gem. It documents a journey through the Amazon jungles and the development of a pharmaceutical drug that would extend a woman's ability to have children indefinitely (an interesting moral dilemma as well!). The characterization especially is excellent, and so I would really recommend picking up this book. Also check out Bel Canto, one of my all-time favorite books, by Ann Patchett.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton - I first discovered Kate Morton earlier this year when I found The Forgotten Garden at a used book store. I bought it on a whim, because I enjoy fiction that delves into the history of an era. I loved it, and immediately started searching out her other novels. The one I'm reading now, The House at Riverton, reminds me of the miniseries Downton Abbey, and I am fascinated by the WWI and WWII eras and what life was like. I would really recommend reading a novel by Kate Morton, who is newer on the writing scene but looks like she will have a great career!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - I finally read this while I was on retreat. My hope is to check out the rest of the series eventually!

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman - I found this book on the shelf at the retreat house I stayed at this summer. I really found it interesting because it detailed life in a cloistered convent, which may or may not be accurate, but I still found it interesting. It was also insightful for me because this (along with my retreat) was definite confirmation for me that I could never be a cloistered nun (not that I was ever really thinking about it!).

I really would like to read some more fiction this summer - do you have any recommendations for me?


I don't normally read non-fiction, but it's something I've been absorbing a lot lately.

Unplanned by Abby Johnson - I finally was able to read this book when Leila offered to send it to me! I gave a brief mention about my thoughts on it before, but I do recommend that everyone read it!

How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul by Jason and Crystalina Evert - Elizabeth gave a great and thorough review of this book and so instead of me echoing all her sentiments, just read her review and then read the book! I will say that I found the later chapters more helpful to me, as a young adult living single while trying to remain open to dating or another vocation, but I did think the earlier chapters provided a lot of good material that I can use in discussions with friends, family, and peers.

Modern Saints by Ann Ball and My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J. - I have been really interested in reading about different saints recently, and I recommend both of these collections for reading informative but still interesting biographies about different saints. I also have The Catholic Martyrs of the 20th Century on reserve to read next. Do you recommend any other saint biographies or compilations?

Enjoy your summer reading!
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