Running to Mercy

Recently I’ve been reading the book I Choose the Sky by Emily Wilson of Lifeteen. There is one story and reflection by Emily that I would like to share with you that really spoke to my heart:

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table.  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner. ”  And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?”  “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

-Luke 7:36-50

{Emily’s Reaction}

“I want to be like her.

When I read the account of the sinful woman, I know there is much that she and I have in common.

The main commonality we have? Sin. Sin comes in a multitude of forms, with each sin I commit a conscious turning away from God, turning my back on His love, turning my back on the way I know is good. Sin is sin – and this woman and I, we both know it well.

The second commonality she and I share? The choice of what we do in our sin. It is a choice each of us receives… to run toward God or run away from God.

in the midst of all her grief and shame, in all her embarrassment and sin – she hears that Jesus is in her town. Upon hearing this news, she is faced with two choices… the first is to stay at home. Imagine the dialogue in her head, “Why would Jesus want to see me? I have messed up too greatly for Him to look on me with love.” Her second choice is to go out and meet Christ where He is, knowing deeply that in her sin, Christ is all she needs. This woman knows well where her need lies and she chooses the latter. She does not hide in her sin, nor does she recoil from Jesus in her shame… instead, she stops at nothing to get to Him. She finds the house where Jesus is visiting, goes inside, and showers Him with and enormous outpouring of love born out of deep emotion and genuine sorrow. She fervently seeks Jesus to lavish Him with all the love in her heart.

Oh, how this woman shows us how to seek Christ’s mercy with reckless abandon.

She shows us how passionately we are to seek God in the throes of sin and brokenness, and I want to live like her – in this moment – when I experience sorrow and shame. I want my response to be to run to encounter God right where I know He is.

Jesus does not walk this Earth in a physical body today. He does not stop by to have dinner with our neighbors or teach in the streets. But I know where Jesus is in my town. Jesus is present in the Eucharist in a church less than two miles from my house. I can get there in a quick bike ride or drive. I know what time Mass is, I know that the adoration chapel is open 24 hours a day, and I know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available on Thursday evenings and twice on Saturdays.

I know where Jesus is, I know where I can rest in His presence and His mercy, but there are too many times when I run the other way. In my human frailty and pride, I rationalize my sin as not being bad enough to enter the confessional. Sometimes I decide that I am too busy, and other times I just cannot look at His body on the crucifix at the front of the Church because I feel I do not deserve mercy for the mess I am making.

But God beckons me back; He gently tugs on my heart in those moments when I have run and asks me to stop and reflect… how many times have I regretted running to God in my need? None. How many times have I wished I had not gone to confession? Zero. When have I ever felt that visiting Christ in the adoration chapel was a waste? Never. But in those times when I feel I have let God down and turned away – I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, and I feel like a failure.

She may have felt this word – failure – as sin consumed her life over and over again, a cycle she could not seem to free herself from. She may have felt the same words ringing loud in her heart as we do:

Sinner.

Failure.

Shameful.

Unworthy.

Maybe she called herself those names out loud. I have.

In times of deep desperation I have spoken ugly words to myself aloud as I have cried into the mirror, into my pillow, into my hands – words I would never dare speak to another. Words that steal and destroy. Words that are lies from the mouth of the enemy.

She falls at the feet of Christ and showers Him with love, and does He utter any such word… unworthy, unlovable, unforgivable?

No. He calls her woman. He sees her.

“Do you see this woman?” Not failure. Not sinner. Not stupid. Not a mess.

When you wake up in the morning, Jesus sees you. When you go about your day, He sees you. When you walk into the Church – He sees you. When you sit before the priest in the confessional nervous, embarrassed, or filled with shame – He sees you.

When you open the door of that small confessional and enter into the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when you sit in that chair across from a priest in persona Christi, Jesus Christ looks at you and only sees “woman.” He only sees “daughter.” He only sees “forgivable.” He only wishes to shower you with love and bestow upon you the power of His mercy.

Jesus looks upon the sinful woman just as He looks at us and says, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Every last one of them.

With the knowledge of this truth, may we live our lives running one way…

Toward love. Toward mercy. Toward Jesus Christ.

His merciful heart is open to each and every one of us.”

___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___    ___

Before I got this book and read this story, I was constantly overwhelmed with the thought that I was too far gone for Christ to love me, I was too much of a sinner, and to big of a mess for Him to have mercy on me. But this story opened my eyes to the beauty of Christ’s love.

Last night, I went to confession and before hand, I read this story and reflection. After I came out of the confessional I genuflected to get into the pew and once I was down on one knee, I cried and realized this: I am not too far gone for Christ’s love or His mercy. I never will be, because He will always be next to me tugging on my heart telling me that He wants to shower me with His mercy, His love, His compassion, and His understanding. And that he looks at me, just like He did with the sinful woman and sees me for who I truly am: His beloved daughter.

 

He is not safe, but he is good.

I have become fascinated with the movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia; the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” a movie based off of a book by C.S. Lewis. I became fascinated with C.S. Lewis’ writings, because he is a very well known Catholic writer and I’m kind of obsessed with Catholic literature. But this movie goes so much deeper than just a story about a Lion, a Witch and a Wardrobe.

There is so much theology in this movie, and that’s what interests me the most. I’ve done some research about the symbolism of this movie and here’s what I’ve discovered.

I figured that the 4 children, Lucy, Susan, Edmund, and Peter all had some sort of biblical meaning, or represent a saint or some type of Christian. I found out that the oldest boy, Peter is supposed to represent the Apostle Peter, the one who started the Church. Edmund represents Adam from the story of Adam and Eve and it was his sin from which we fell. Susan is supposed to represent someone who had a strong faith in the beginning, but lost it. And my favorite, Lucy, I feel represents that child-like faith that we are all supposed to have.

With this being said, since Edmund disobeys Aslan who represents God, that is why Aslan dies in his place, in order to save him from being slaves to the White Witch. The White Witch obviously representing Satan.

I think that when Aslan died on the stone table (which  represents the cross Jesus died on) I think that not only represents Christ’s death, but also represents the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when we break the body of Christ, just as it was broken on the cross.

My favorite part in the whole movie is when Lucy asks Mr. Beaver, “Is he safe?” and Mr. Beaver said, “‘Course he’s not safe, but he is good. He’s the King I tell you.” This line makes me look at Christ so much differently. I always looked at Him as being someone safe, which He is. But to follow Christ is not safe, but following Christ is good, because He’s the King. I say it’s not safe to follow Christ because in the Bible, Jesus says, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (Matthew 15:18) and also says, “Blessed are you when you they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12) Christ tells us to rejoice when we are persecuted. Another piece of Sacred Scripture stands out to me as well, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

These scripture passages just back up what I’m trying to tell you. It’s not safe to follow Christ, because we will be persecuted, but for that persecution, He will repay us with grace and everlasting life.

No, He is not safe. But He IS good.

 

Taste and see the Goodness of the Lord

This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go with some friends to Benedictine College in Kansas. I stayed with the Regnum Christi house while at Benedictine, this is a journal entry I wrote while there:

“Benedictine College is so extremely beautiful. I feel that God is pulling me here. It feels like home, even though I’m out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt something so strongly deep inside of me as I do right now. I know my parents might not fully support this decision, but I feel that God wills it, and if He wants it, I want it too. There are so many Catholics here. They are passionate about their faith and have such a great love for Christ. Staying with the Regnum Christi girls, praying with them, talking about Jesus, and just loving each other brings me such extreme joy and hope. I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person and a young Catholic woman just by being here, and knowing that it was God’s will that I got to experience this. It’s given me so much more depth not only to my love of Christ, but to my life in general. This whole weekend, I’ve been surrounded with the love of these girls and I felt Jesus pouring out His love over me. I’ve come to know and realize the Father’s love because of this wonderful experience. I also got to sit in on a New Evangelization class, and it was amazing. We talked about Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: The Joy of the Gospel – Evangelii Gaudium. I’ve never read it before, but now, I want to. It was so beautiful how passionate the teacher was about the faith, and not only teaching it, but helping the students spread it. I enjoyed the class so much that I could’ve listened to the teacher talk for hours. I feel like my friendship with the girls I came with has deepened so much too. I’ve come to realize that our friendship is so genuine. I’ve realized that they don’t just hang out with me because they have no one else, but because they choose me. That makes me think of the priest’s homily at Mass on Saturday at Benedictine. He talked about how God doesn’t need us – He wants us. He chooses us. That is true love. This weekend, I’ve encountered Christ so much. I feel so extremely loved by being surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ. Especially at Benedictine. I think that’s why I feel so drawn to go there. I feel so wanted and loved. Praise God.”

In case you couldn’t tell, this weekend was such a life changing experience for me. This weekend, I also realized that I need to stop seeking a relationship (boyfriend) and just be satisfied with Christ. At Mass on Saturday night, one of the music ministry girls sang a song that I later found out that she wrote herself, that was about the prayer by St. Anthony of Padua: Be Satisfied with Me. It goes like this:

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone. To have a deep soul relationship with another, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied, fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone, with giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me. With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone. Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found, will you be capable of the perfect human relationship that I have planned for you. You will never be united to another until you are united with Me. Exclusive of anyone or anything else. Exclusive of any other desires or longings. I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you the most thrilling plan existing…one you cannot imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you. You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things. Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am. Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you. Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry, don’t look around at things others have gotten, or that I have given them. Don’t look around at the things you think you want. Just keep looking off and away up to Me, or you’ll miss what I want to show you. And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love far more wonderful that you could dream of. You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready, I am working even at this moment to have you both ready at the same time. Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me, and the life I prepared for you. You won’t be able to experience the love that exemplified your relationship with me. And this is perfect love. And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love. I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me, and to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection and love that I offer you with Myself. Know that I love you utterly, I AM God. Believe it and be satisfied.”

To tell you the truth, that prayer is the most beautiful and comforting thing I’ve ever read in my life. I feel like everything that I experienced this weekend has been tied together. I feel that my relationship with God the Father has deepened and that I know His love for me as His daughter. I feel that I came back from Benedictine knowing God the Father better than I’ve ever known Him. And that in order to love another, I have to be satisfied with Him alone, and I feel like He keeps satisfying me more and more. Because of this, I don’t even have the desire to seek a romantic relationship anymore.

When I got home, I told my parents, and my aunt who happens to be staying with us about the class that I went to and how much I loved it and told them how I felt like God was telling me that Benedictine was where I was supposed to be. And my aunt (who is not Catholic) pretty much says that it was great that I loved the class, but how is that even gonna happen? How are you going to be able to afford that school? It’s great that you’re passionate, but you can’t have that. I held off the tears and went to my room and prayed to Jesus, “Jesus, why don’t they understand that I feel like this is your will for me to go here, and that it’s where I’m supposed to be. And that if it is your will, it will be. Why can’t they realize that I feel that YOU want this for me?” I sat kneeling on the floor sobbing to Jesus just asking Him why no one was being supportive since I thought that was what He was calling me to.

My mom came in and we sat down and I talked to her about the weekend and how good the Jesus has been to me by allowing me to experience this college and these beautiful people who were so much like me. I told her so sincerely, “Mom, Jesus has been so good to me.” Immediately after I began to sob even harder than I had been before and just kept saying “Jesus is so good, I know His goodness. I know His goodness.”

The Lord is SO good to me. Praise God. Praise God.

A Soul on Fire

If you know me well, you know how much I love my faith.

But it wasn’t always that way.

I have to admit that the only reason that I am still Catholic is because of the grace of God, and with a little help from my friends the saints, and some men I call Father.

Now my dad did help me stay Catholic, but  I’m specifically talking about priests in the Church.

My dad is a devout Catholic most of the times, goes to Mass on Sundays and is in Knights of Columbus, which is great, but that’s about the extent of it. I’m not saying he’s a terrible father by any means at all. I’ll put things this way: My dad feeds me physically. He works and puts food on the table, which is very very important. But I, along with everyone else needs spiritual food, and that’s where my other Father (a priest) comes in. It’s his job to feed my soul the truth of Sacred Scripture.

I never really realized how important a spiritual father was to me until I needed the sacraments.

A while ago, I was going through a really rough patch with depression and I knew that Satan was the one dragging me down telling me that nothing was going right (which was obviously wrong, because Satan is a jerk) and I went into the hospital.

In the Church, we have 7 sacraments, one being Anointing of the Sick. It used to be called last rights, but was changed, blah blah blah. Anyways I knew that I wasn’t as spiritually strong as I should be, so I called the rectory at church and asked if Father would come up and see me and bring me communion (the Eucharist) and give me Anointing of the Sick, so he did. I felt so gloomy and conflicted before hand, and after he gave me anointing of the sick and Jesus Himself, I was so at peace and joyful. The sacraments are SO powerful believe it or not.

After being in the hospital, I started to appreciate priests so much more, like, THEY MAKE JESUS. That’s pretty rad if you ask me. And Jesus wants these men to do that for us.  If you think being a priest is lame, think again.

Priests are father figures too. When ever I have some kind of spiritual conflict or religious issue, I call Father. I really feel like I should have the rectory on speed dial sometimes. But the important thing is that like a good dad, he is there to help me figure out what to do and give me advice.

I attend RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) at my parish and my priest actually teaches it. Let me tell you, you can learn so much more from a priest who’s gone to school for six years than a person who was in PSR for 10. He helped me realize not only just how important the Church is, but how important Christ is.

Because I started learning more, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to go to more youth conferences and to get involved with youth ministry at my parish. Learning about the faith is so important in order to keep it, otherwise you might lose it.

I have to admit that my priest isn’t really the only one who influenced me. I’ve met several priests on retreats and seen several during conferences that have helped me realize just how important the Church is. They are so on fire for their faith, and they helped ignite the fire inside of me just by being faithful servants of God.

Thank your priests, they are so awesome. Thank you for serving God, and leading us.

Totus Tuus ❤

 

 

Matthew 25:40

One day I was driving around Quincy ( a town nearby to mine). At that period of time for at least a month up until then, I had been experiencing a feeling of emptiness inside. At that time I didn’t understand why I felt that way, because life was going great, and I had a great relationship with Christ.

As I was driving down Maine Street, the song, “Do Something” by Matthew West came on:

I woke up this morning, saw a world full of trouble now. Thought how’d we ever get so far down? How’s it ever gonna turn around? So I turned my eyes to Heaven and thought, “God, why don’t you do something?” Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty. Children sold into slavery. The thought disgusted me. So I shook my fist at Heaven said, “God, why don’t you do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you.”

Right as that last lyric played, I was passing Catholic Charities.

I felt God telling me, “There. That will fill your emptiness. That will show you your purpose. Go and serve me through others. Be a light of my love for them.”

I felt God nudging me to go into that building and volunteer, so that’s exactly what I did.

After that day, I stopped going for a while, but a passage from Matthew kept popping into my head:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”

The upright will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you?”

And the King will answer, “In truth I tell you, when you did this for one of the least of my brothers, you did this for me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

When that verse popped into my head, things started to click into place better. He wanted me to serve Him through others, so I started volunteering again.

One day in particular, there was a woman with what I assume was her granddaughter, who was probably only 3 years old. When I saw this little girl, I knew that what I was doing was important, I felt like I was needed, and I had found purpose in my life. In this 3 year old, I could see the child Jesus. This really opened my eyes and made me want to do more for these people, and their children.

The Baltimore Catechism says that man was made to know God, to love God, and to serve God. I knew God, and I definitely loved God, but I forgot I was supposed to serve Him too. I knew God was telling me to serve Him by serving the less fortunate around me. When I realized this I immediately started volunteering again. I have gained such a deep love for the poor. I have such a desire to tell them about Christ, and His love for them. And I pray that through my service to them, that they can see that.

There are people out there that are struggling. Really struggling. Our brothers and sisters are struggling to provide and feed their families. I see it every day. In the people I see, I know that we should be offering them more. Not more food, but more knowledge. More love, more compassion, a listening ear. We should be telling them about how Christ and His Church has influenced and transformed our lives, and how He loves us so.How even in the midst of struggle, of suffering, of hardships, He is there reaching out to us. He has such a deep love for us, and wants nothing but our love in return.

We need to be missionaries of the Gospel. I’m not saying that you need to go on a mission to some 3rd world country to do this. I’m saying that you can be a missionary, you can be an example of  Christ to the person down the street, next door, or even a random person on the street, you can tell them about HIm. Nothing brings me more joy than talking about Christ and His Church and what I’ve learned. I want to share that with others, so they know how truly good He is, and so they can come to love Him the way I do.

Please pray that I have the courage to tell more people about Christ and His love, and that I may continue to try to be a light in this dark world.

You’re in my prayers as well.

Pax Christi ❤

May it be done unto me.

The other day on my local Catholic radio, I heard someone talking about how hard it must have been for Mary, carrying Christ in her womb. Imagine, she, being around the age of 14, was probably mocked and made fun of, because some people didn’t understand that she truly was going to give birth to the Savior of the world. She risked so much just by saying “yes” to God and His will.

Honestly, I never really noticed how much Mary must have been mocked and judged because for one, she was pregnant outside of marriage (yes, it was God’s doing, but some people didn’t understand that).

Mary had so much courage to live out God’s will.

I’ve really started meditating on Mary, and thinking about the sacrifice she made for us as well. She carried Christ for us. That’s why we, as Catholics look up to her so much, and place her higher than any other saint. She is the mother of God, and also our mother.

Lately, I’ve been kind of stressed out about school and work. Sometimes I feel like God is giving me too much to handle. I know God’s telling me, “Dominique, you’re doing fine. I am with you, and I won’t leave you.” I try so hard to live a life of virtue and let me tell you, that is very hard to do in today’s day and age. I try to listen to God, help the poor, and do His will, and you know, that’s really not an easy thing to do. I have dreams of my own, but God’s plan for me is even greater. It’s so hard to grasp this.

I’ve heard it said that you’ll never be asked for anything more than Mary was, and that was simply, “yes”

I want to always be able to say yes to God, for whatever He asks of me. And when you think about it, God never asks for anything but your life, your heart, and your love. I know that seems like a ton, but compared to what His son gave us, that’s very little.

This year, try to listen to the voice of God, and when He asks you to do something difficult, let us respond with the words of our mother, Mary,

“Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

May we all accept what is sent to us — even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard.

“…to uphold the dignity of every woman…”

Two weeks ago at RCIA class at my parish, our priest talked about how women (especially referring to teenage girls) shouldn’t wear tight clothing to mass (especially leggings). And I totally agree with him 100% on that. He said they shouldn’t because it’s inappropriate for Mass and because it can cause men to fall into sin.

Yesterday, I found an article on Lifeteen that was entitled, “Leggings: A Catholic Man’s Perspective.”

It was such an amazing article that talked about how by wearing leggings without a long shirt to cover your butt, it can cause men to look lustfully at a woman, and that by dressing modestly (not wearing leggings as pants) you can help guys around you live out chastity.

“Many of my brothers struggle with pornography and are still trying to rewire their brains to be clean from all the horrible things they’ve seen in porn. When a woman in real life walks by in an immodest outfit — say, a crop top, something low cut, something sheer, or something very tight (like leggings), the visual parts of those body parts can recall images from porn to the front of their brains. It’s extremely hard to purify the brain, and we desperately need your help.” (David Leininger; Lifeteen)

People probably think I’m too traditional because I still believe in dressing modestly. Not just during Mass, but all the time. I don’t want to lead others into an occasion of sin. Jesus even says in the bible, “If anyone causes these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and thrown into the sea.” (Matthew 18:6) Some people may use the argument that “Oh well, he didn’t specifically say “lust”,but it can be applied to any sin.

Like I said, I thought it was a good article, so I shared it on Facebook — my mistake. I had over 19 comments on that post. I’m so glad that one of my friends came out and said,

“… as a man it’s very hard to live chastity in today’s society. Yes we should have self control, but it helps a lot if you don’t wear leggings.”

I know today’s society has warped the rules and beliefs of a lot of people, but I still stand on the truth. I believe that every person has great dignity and worth. We live in a world where women are often looked at as sex objects as opposed to human beings. This is why I continue my promise of chastity until marriage, I have value, I have worth. In this day and age girls and guys settle for one night stands and think that’s an okay thing. Children are born out of wedlock and often times, the father isn’t in the picture, leaving the mother alone to raise the child. How can people be okay with this?

I know my point escalated, but where does it stop? When will it stop? When will women respect themselves enough to put on clothing that doesn’t show cleavage or that isn’t skin tight? Help your brothers in Christ out ladies. It’s not enough to pray for them if you’re causing them to fall back into sin.

I had some arguments saying that “men are capable of self control.” Well, they certainly are, I agree. But self control is something that takes discipline, it doesn’t just happen in an instant.

Saint John Paul II said:

“It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”

Shouldn’t women help uphold the dignity of every man too? In my opinion it should really go both ways. We, as women, should help men live lives of chastity too.

 But please, just have enough respect for yourself and your body to keep it covered. You are first a child of God before you are anything else. Remember that.

Totus Tuus.