Waiting on a Voice

Though I've heard and read dozens of so-called "vocation stories" wherein religious and priests relate how they came to realize their vocation, I cling to one such story of a religious sister in particular. We'll call her Sister Rose. 

Sister Rose was blessed to attend World Youth Day in Madrid. She traveled across the ocean with a group of pilgrims from her parish to attend this gathering. Several days of festivities and prayer followed. At the heart of the city, thousands jostled each other as they moved in great herds toward an event one day. Sister Rose kept in pace with her group, though it was sometimes difficult to stay together because of the chaos. Suddenly, from the vast crowd came a solitary yell, barreling over the heads of thousands of pilgrims:

"Where's Rose?"

Once more, the disembodied voice called to Sister:

"Where's Rose?"

Rose whipped around, shocked that someone could be calling to her in this foreign city amongst the crowds. It turned out that a religious sister from home recognized Rose's parish group halfway across the world. But the sister did not see Rose amongst the crowd, and so called out to her. Rose remembers this as a turning point in recognizing God's call in her life. That single voice called her, only her, from among thousands of people. Rose saw that moment as God calling her by name to the religious life. Obviously, her vocational discernment was not quite so simple, but this incident was pivotal in her story. 

When I heard Sister Rose tell her story, I was moved deep within. I had an intense desire to be called by God by name, just as Sister Rose had been called years ago. I waited for the day when God would call to me so clearly. I envisioned an instant vocational clarity. I sincerely believed God had to call me by name, His voice cutting through the crowd to choose me and me alone. I would hear His mighty voice despite all the chaos around me. I would answer His loving call. 

That hasn't happened yet. 

That's not to say God won't call me by name. He has already done so; He is calling to me and me alone. I think of the woman in the Bible who touched Jesus' cloak in faith so that she might be healed (Mark 5:30). He knew her; he felt her touch despite the crowd pressing in around him. He knows everything about us, even that which we do not know ourselves. And therein lies a key human desire: to be known. 

I want to be known and called by name. I want to be known through and through, to be turned inside out and upside down and to have someone anticipate my every need, want, and sway of the heart. I want someone to discover the mystery of me. This is a natural desire that can only be fulfilled by His Love. We are all, after all, made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26), and our Trinitarian God is an infinite mystery waiting for us to discover Him. 

However, I and others often mistakenly expect those around us to know us in a way that only He does. I find myself annoyed when my friends or family members struggle to remember that my favorite color is green or that I value alone time after a tiring day. It is unfair of me to hold my friends and family to such unrealistic standards. 

If God calls me to the vocation of marriage, even my husband will never be able to anticipate my every desire, thought, reaction, or sorrow. Only the Lord will ever know everything about me! And what a comfort that is; surely, no man can do such a thing, and it is foolish for me to think he could. Yet I do, because I entertain a heavenly desire while on Earth. 

Sister Rose heard God calling her name in a tangible way, on the streets of Madrid so far from home. God may not call us by the same means, but He wants us to delight in Him just as He delights in us. He calls us all by name to Him, even if I do not hear "Where's Rebecca?" in some foreign country halfway across the world. He calls me right here in Steubenville, or wherever I am. He knows me and loves me, and He does the same for you. 

But now, thus says the Lord,    who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;    I have called you by name: you are mine. (Is. 43:1) 

Let Me Go Back to Bed, Lord: Reflections on Today's Readings

I was struck by the readings at Mass this morning. If you have not had a chance to read them or hear them at Mass, you can find them here; I will be pulling excerpts below. 

In the first reading, we hear of the calling of Samuel. Samuel is studying under Eli, who has grown old and whose "eyes had lately grown so weak that he could not see." Thrice in one night, the Lord calls to Samuel. However, Samuel, being unfamiliar with the Lord, and living in a time when "a revelation of the LORD was uncommon and vision infrequent," thinks that the one calling to him is Eli. Three times, Samuel rises from his bed and answers at his name. 

Then, we hear the Gospel. Jesus cures Simon's mother-in-law; that evening, the disciples bring "the whole town" to the home of Simon and Andrew so that Jesus can cure their sick. The next morning, Jesus wakes to pray:
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
Jesus' prayer is cut short by his persistent followers. The disciples spent the previous night bringing dozens of sick and possessed to Jesus for healing; Jesus likely had little sleep between the healings and "rising very early"; Jesus intentionally goes off to a deserted place to be away from everyone. Jesus is probably exhausted and in need of some private time. But here are his disciples, urging him on. Jesus could tell them to go away, but instead he recognizes that he needs to do the Father's will and, at this point, His will is that Jesus evangelize the surrounding towns. So Jesus does. 

I understand that Jesus is Lord, but he is also human, and humans become tired. In the first reading, Samuel awakes three times at his name. How do we feel after a night of restless sleep? Or, as in the Gospel, a night of little sleep? Certainly not refreshed and prepared to do the Lord's will! Both of these readings sing to me, a tired soul. The Christian life can be downright tiring. To do God's will is rarely the easiest path. This morning, as I dressed for a busy day of preparing for my return to school, I listened to the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North, which speaks of tired and heavy hearts:
My prayers are wearing thin/Yeah, I’m worn/Even before the day begins/Yeah, I’m worn/I’ve lost my will to fight/I’m worn/So, heaven come and flood my eyes  
The most important part of this song is not the lament of exhaustion, but rather the decision to look to Heaven in our tiredness. Samuel is shaken from sleep by Heaven's call; Jesus must relinquish his precious alone time, prayer time, to do his Father's will. I have a lot to learn from these two readings. I am tired, but I must find rest in the Lord. 

Worn // Tenth Avenue North

Prayer Is a Battle

For years, my parents had this worksheet from my younger sister's religious education class hanging in the house's upstairs hallway:

Growing up, this little poster reminded me that living a Catholic life meant "praying without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). As I grew older, however, I found it more difficult to do just that. Surely the Christian life is not meant to be easy, but to pray constantly often seems inconvenient or even impossible. 

Why do we receive this impression of prayer? 

Because prayer is a battle. I did not make that up; that's an exact quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Take a look:
The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. (CCC 2725)
I've alluded to the battle of prayer in several earlier posts (like this one). Now, I would like to share with you some practical strategies for keeping prayer a priority. Obviously, most of us pray at "chrich" and maybe even "befor" we eat. But how often do we pray "in the car" or "at the movies"? Do we make prayer a priority in our lives, or do we feel as though we don't have time to pray? Here are some ways I set aside time for personal prayer even when I'm swamped with responsibility:

Pray in the car or on your way to class. When I'm home for breaks from school, it's difficult to have a quiet space to myself. I take advantage of those quiet times I have while driving alone. Sometimes I'd prefer to listen to the radio, but I have to remind myself that prayer takes precedence and that these few minutes in the car might be the only quiet time I have that day. When I'm at school, I might pray while walking to class (although I must admit that I don't do this as often as I should). As I drive/walk somewhere, I'm preparing for the next event of my day. What better way to begin than in prayer? Even a few minutes of prayer can change my disposition for the day.

Pray in the shower. This one might seem strange, but we all need to shower! Instead of letting your thoughts wander or singing at the top of your lungs, use that time to pray. (Of course, don't forget that St. Augustine said: "He who sings prays twice.") Once, a priest suggested that I pray every time I go to the bathroom. After I got over the initial shock that an elderly male had acknowledged my restroom habits, I decided his idea wasn't half-bad. Whether it's showering or brushing your teeth, we all need to complete certain tasks on a regular basis; why not turn them into moments of prayer? 

Pray while completing household chores. I hate doing the dishes. It may be my least favorite chore. However, it gives me an excuse to pray even when I have a thousand other tasks to complete. Pray while vacuuming, dusting, or making dinner. If I am not praying while cleaning or cooking, I'm usually worrying or indulging in wandering thoughts. Prayer is more productive. 

Stop thinking about it. Just pray. Do I have time to go to the chapel? It doesn't matter; I can pray right here. While there is something indescribable about sitting in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, sometimes all we can manage is a two-minute-long teeth-brushing prayer. God appreciates both forms of prayer. 

The Catechism instructs us thus:
It is always possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no matter what tempests may arise. 
The time of the Christian is now. Pray! 


Stay tuned to one more catholic for updates on the Marian Virtue Project during this month of profound humility. 

The Marian Virtue Project

Way back in September, I had a bit of fun creating this post on what I thought the "Marian virtues" were when I first heard of them. All gifs aside, however, we can learn a lot from Mary, especially through each specific Marian virtue. 

In order to learn about these virtues, let's talk about the man who first enumerated them: Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. 

Bits & Pieces from This Week

On Thursday,  Dad and I stole away from work in the morning to go hiking. 

We had a bit of snow at home over a week ago, but it had mostly melted by Thursday. Still, we hiked up a small mountain and even just a little elevation gain can mean a lot more snow.

Fortunately, the trail wasn't too bad:

I'm a Beautiful Daughter of God Who Thinks She's Fat

"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:21-23)
True life: I'm a beautiful daughter of God who thinks she's fat.

You may be able to relate. 

For years, I've heard that I'm a beautiful daughter of God. It was once novel for me to hear that. It is still a wondrous thing. 

And I know that God loves me no matter what. 

But I am human, and I am worldly. And I have a tendency to believe I'm fat. 

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