This Is Us

After many outstanding reviews from some friends, I finally caved and started watching the new show “This Is Us.” People had been telling me that it was “actually deep” and a “real” show, unlike most of the ones we see while flipping through the channels nowadays.

I was hooked after the first episode. Whoever came up with the plot is just plain brilliant. I knew the characters for only 30 minutes and I was already crying! Now of course, like most shows, there are some decisions the characters make that are not in line with Catholic teaching, but the show portrays real life issues and struggles that we all face. You either like what you see or you learn from it, as my mom would say.

“This Is Us” is about a young couple who’s pregnant with triplets and the struggles they face on their journey as first-time parents. That’s all I will say regarding the plot because I don’t want to be the one to spoil it for you!

Now I am only nine episodes in, but something has really stood out to me from this show. As they go back and forth from present to past, slowly you start putting together the pieces to a much larger puzzle. You begin to see how every decision a character made affected everyone else. You get to see how someone giving up their baby affected another couple’s struggling marriage, and how someone mourning the loss of his wife can affect a young couple who lost a baby.

From reflecting on this show, it made me think about how intertwined my own life is with so many others and how each of my actions affect so many people in ways that I will never know on this side of heaven. Our smallest actions, whether positive or negative, can change the entire future of another person.

I am a firm believer that God puts everyone in our lives for a reason and, like this show, we may not be able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle, until we are seeing it played back with Jesus by our side. Only then will we be able to finally see how we have affected every other person that we have encountered. Every one of our words and actions have a ripple effect.

So, the question we should ask ourselves is this: What kind of waves are we making on this earth?

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

 

 

“Without Wax:” Living the Authentic Life!

Chocolate bunnies.

Okay, okay, I know it’s not even Lent yet, much less Easter, but chocolate is already on my mind! Do you ever remember as a kid taking a bite out of a chocolate bunny, only to find out that it was just a shell rather than solid chocolate? Nothing was more disappointing than to find out that nothing was in the middle— even though the chocolate on the outside was good, the bunny was hollow!

I started re-reading “Rediscover Catholicism” with an RCIA candidate a few weeks ago, and one thing in particular has really intrigued me—the fact that we’re called to live authentic lives. To live authentically is to be real, sincere, genuine, hiding nothing. Our culture is largely based on appearances, which ultimately are superficial and don’t show what’s on the inside. Matthew Kelly points out, “Our hunger is not for appearances, nor is it for the fleeting and superficial; it is for something of substance. We are hungry for truth. The people of today are starving for the authentic, thirsting for the tiniest droplet of sincerity, aching to experience the genuine.”

We’re hungry for something lasting, something real. When other people meet us, is that what they find? Or are we like the chocolate bunny, attractive on the outside without anything of substance within?

I heard a story once from a Catholic speaker that in the Greek and Roman days, some column makers who wanted to save a buck would fill their columns with wax and sell them as genuine marble columns. They looked good on the outside, but the buyers soon discovered they had been scammed—the columns they had thought to be pure marble were really just hollow shells. Some etymologists even trace the word “sincere” back to the Latin “sine” + “cerus” which means “without wax”!

As we prepare to enter into this season of Lent, it’s the perfect time to take a good, hard look at ourselves. Are we sincere, “without wax”? Are we filled with Christ, Who makes us genuine and real? Or do we fill ourselves with a cheap imitation, with our own selfish wants, material things and money and TV and smartphones and a million other distractions? When we fill ourselves with wax, we sooner or later find ourselves to be hollow, and the state of our hearts soon starts to show on the outside, through selfishness and pride and resentment and other vices.

This week for me is always crunch time for figuring out my Lenten penance. Maybe the best way to figure out what God desires for me (and you!) to do for Lent is to start with this question: How can I become more authentic this Lent? How can I surrender more completely to what God wants to do with me so that He can fill me and be the center?

The more authentic we become, the more others will be able to see Christ in us. This is the most powerful thing we can do, before anything else—to become the person we’re called to be. Only then can others be drawn to that beauty, that goodness that comes from God alone. What our world needs more than anything else are authentic witnesses, people who have surrendered to God and strive to be sincere disciples!

“At every moment, the entire modern world kneels before us, begging, pleading, beckoning for some brave man or woman to come forward and lead them with the example of an authentic life.”

So what’s holding you back? What do you need to give over to God this Lent that’s keeping you from taking on this challenge to become an authentic disciple? Christ is calling YOU! Join me this week in taking time to ask him how you can become more authentic, more sincere, and more genuine than ever this Lent. I’m praying for each of you as we start this Lenten journey together! Come, Holy Spirit!

— Nikki

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

God, the Ultimate Driver

Photo courtesy of St. Peter and St. Paul parishes.

This past week, the parishes of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Cloud hosted a parish mission where Father Peter Schavitz gave different talks throughout the week.

One thing Father Peter did incredibly well was correlate our faith with real life stories. If you are like me, stories you can relate to and visualize tend to stick with you! Father Peter told one story in particular that really stuck with me:

A couple was stopped at a light and there was a car in front of them. This was in the time period when there was just one long seat and not individual seats in the front of the car. The couple in the first car were sitting so close it was hard to tell which one was even driving. The wife in the car behind pointed it out and laughed, looked at her husband, and said, “Do you remember when we used to be like that?” Her husband smiled and nodded. The wife pointed to all the space between them and asked her husband, ‘What happened?’ The husband smiled, looked at his wife and replied, ‘Honey, I haven’t moved!’

Father Peter related this story to our relationship with God. At times, we can get frustrated with God and ask, “Where were you?” or “How did you get so far away?” but God’s answer would be similar to that of the husband: “I haven’t moved!” He has always been in the same spot, but we are the ones moving away from Him!

At the times in our lives when we are stagnant or lukewarm in our faith, we are actually creating more distance between ourselves and God. Instead, we should be doing things to help us grow in our relationship and help bring ourselves closer to God, the ultimate driver of our lives. Think about your life at this very moment – are you scooting closer or further away from our driver?

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Why so loud?!

Picture this: the entire United States (including Alaska) stacked 7-feet high with thick paperback books. Sounds like our college reading assignments.

But actually, that’s how much information we Americans consumed as a whole in 2008. Can you imagine how much more that must be now eight years later?!

According to that same study, the average American consumed about 34 gigabytes of data and about 100,000 words of information each day — an increase of about 350 percent over nearly three decades. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, texting, TV, video games, radio, billboards — information is being thrown at us from all angles whether we like it or not.

Information is obviously important and even vital in our everyday lives. But the near extinction of silence in our world is starting to take its toll, like a toothache that when left ignored turns into a much more serious and painful problem.

You may have heard the song called “Noise” by Kenny Chesney which highlights this crazy new reality in our world:

Twenty-four hour television, get so loud that no one listens.
Sex and money and politicians talk, talk, talk.
But there really ain’t no conversation,
Ain’t nothing left to the imagination,
Trapped in our phones and we can’t make it stop, stop

 We’re just as guilty as the next person when it comes to relying on our phones, Facebook, Instagram … the list goes on and on. But lately we’ve really been noticing that the lack of silence has cut down our conversations with God and has left us completely exhausted and stressed out.

The song goes on to say, “We didn’t turn it on but we can’t turn it off.” But even if we can’t stop the craziness and busyness of our incredibly fast-paced world, we do have control over how we use our own time. It’s extremely hard for us to say no sometimes, but we must make time for silence in order to hear the voice of God, truly connect with others and just be.

St. John Paul II (our favorite!) said this perfectly: “This is what man needs today; he is often unable to be silent for fear of meeting himself, of feeling the emptiness that asks itself about meaning; man who deafens himself with noise.”

So what better time than the present to give this a shot? Don’t be afraid to turn off the noise and listen. What does God want to say to you today?

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the "Meet Our Bloggers" page.
Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

The Seventh Day of Christmas

The Ideal vs. The Real

Seven.

The number of perfection.

I’ve found myself being reminded a lot lately of something a Catholic speaker, Jeff Cavins, talks about—the clash between our ideal vs. our real life. We’re starting a brand new year today, and all of us have expectations of what 2017 is going to look like. Especially with my little sister’s wedding coming up and a trip to see my college roommate in Washington this year, there’s a lot to look forward to! But my ‘ideal’ vision of what this year is going to look like is conveniently missing one thing—suffering. We never like to think that suffering will be a part of our lives, so when it does come it almost takes us by surprise. We think, that wasn’t part of my plan! But that’s because we live so often in our ideal lives, planning what our days are going to look like, that when our real lives hit we immediately feel cheated and frustrated.

We’ve all been there—we have a long-awaited free day and immediately start to plan all the things we’re going to get done around the house and the errands we’re going to finish and the relaxation we’re going to get in, and then everything starts to go wrong. Suddenly our ideal life very quickly clashes with our real life, and that clash can make us quite irritable and angry!

I think the heart of it is that suffering, disappointment, frustration, or sickness isn’t something we can plan for—it’s completely out of our control. And being a bit of a perfectionist myself, I understand the need for control! We want to be in control of everything, and when we encounter suffering all that control over our lives is suddenly taken away.

Suffering ultimately is the tool God uses to get our attention and to remind us that our lives aren’t about us. Our lives are a gift from Him, meant to be given as a gift to others. Even our suffering can be redeemed as a gift for others by uniting that suffering to Christ’s Cross; then the graces of that suffering can pour out on those who need it most! When we live in our ‘ideal’ life, we face suffering with anger and resentment, thinking we’re owed good health and an easy life. But when we face our ‘real’ life with an attitude of trust in God, that’s when we can be truly happy. That’s when we remember that God would never allow suffering unless He knew He would bring a greater good out of it. And we not only know that intellectually, but we experience it in our lives through encountering Him in our suffering.

There was a time in high school when I had just had stomach surgery and had to be re-admitted to the hospital in Minneapolis because I couldn’t eat or drink anything and was becoming too dehydrated. My dad, at the same time, had major heart trouble and was admitted to the St. Cloud hospital over an hour away from where I was. My family was running back and forth between the two hospitals for different operations we had to have, and I remember it as a time of intense suffering for all five of us. But I also remember it as a time of coming closer as a family than we had ever been; we all learned the meaning of self-sacrifice in a deeper way that week and had to completely rely on God to take care of us. I was able to offer up my suffering for my dad, and I know he was doing the same for me. And when we were all finally back home under one roof at the end of the week, we just held each other and cried tears of joy to be together again. Even though the suffering itself was so hard to endure, we saw God bring so much greater good out of that pain than we ever could have imagined.

The word ‘perfect’ in Greek is ‘teleios,’ which can also be translated ‘complete,’ ‘full grown,’ or ‘finished.’ God knows what we need in order to be made perfect, just like the gold that needs to be put in the fire to be tested and purified! We know that God only wants good for us, and we can rest in that promise even when our ‘real’ lives are not at all what we thought we wanted. So as we stand at the beginning of this new year, let’s surrender 2017 to God’s providence and ask for the trust of a little child in order to embrace the life He wants for us. Because it’s only through embracing our ‘real’ life, rather than clinging to our ‘ideal’ life, that we can encounter true joy.

–Nikki

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

The Sixth Day of Christmas

And then there were 6…

Being 25 years old, the last number of years have brought some pretty drastic changes in my life. Moving to Kansas for college, moving to Wisconsin for my first “big girl” job, and then moving back home with my parents to help them out, you learn so much about yourself and your family in these vital formation years.

This year has brought a different kind of change that I had yet to experience- a brother.  For as long as I can remember there have always been 5 people in my family- my parents, my 2 younger sisters and I. As much as I demanded a baby brother as a child, I never understood why my parents wouldn’t just give one to me!

From left, sisters Nikki, Tricia and Briana Walz with Steven.

Briana, my youngest sister, met and started dating Steven at Ave Maria University in Florida last year. As soon as she told us about him, we knew there was something different about this guy. The way she talked about him and how giddy she was after hanging out with him made us realize they were more serious than we had ever thought!

Steven treats Briana the way anyone would want their baby sister treated. When Briana is having a rough day he shows up with roses and chocolates, or if she has to work until late he will drive her so she doesn’t fall asleep on her drive home. One thing is for sure – I know for a fact that Steven has Briana’s back and will be there for her when she needs it, which is incredibly comforting as the wedding date approaches.

Even though I always expected to get married first since I am the oldest, and as much as I assumed Briana would stay young forever, God has really shown me that He allows things to happen for a reason and that things will happen in His time, when they are supposed to. So even though things are not going the way I had originally ‘planned’ I am learning how much better I like (and trust) God’s plan! As much as I am looking forward to being married and having kids one day, I am grateful for this time to focus on my relationship with God and to be there for my family and friends!

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Loving God,

Is it seriously Thanksgiving already!? I can’t believe how fast time goes. I want to take a minute to thank you for everything I have in my life because without you I would have nothing!

First of all, thank youPetition so much for my wonderful family and for giving me such great friends. You know that when I am struggling in my faith journey I really rely on these people to lean on. So I appreciate all the great examples you have given me to learn from and model after.

I would also like to thank you for the roof I have over my head and the food I am fortunate enough to eat. I pray that no one has to go without food, this weekend especially. Thank you for keeping me safe as I commute to work, especially in the snow and rain we have been having lately!

As you know, the past year has been tough one, but I appreciate all of the Thanksgiving Celebration Tradition Family Dinner Concepttrials you have given me and for making me prove that I trust you. Through each trial this year I have learned so much about myself and I feel closer to you and my family each and every day. A special thanks for helping mom get healthier and stronger each day. Thank you for helping us learn so much about Lyme disease and be able to guide other people struggling with the same thing!

Last but certainly not least, thank you for giving me this day, my eyesight, the clean air I breathe and for the most amazing gift of the Catholic Church! I pray for all those searching for truth and peace that they will find you this holiday season to make it the most joyful yet!

THANK YOU!!!

–Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the "Meet Our Bloggers" page.
Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

No time for “sofa-happiness!”

“I worry when I see young people who have ‘thrown in the towel’ before the game has even begun, who are defeated even before they begin to play, who walk around glumly as if life has no meaning.” -Pope Francis

At World Youth Day, we were blessed with multiple opportunities to hear Pope Francis speak. He spent a lot of time encouraging us young people not to indulge in “sofa-happiness,” meaning we should not be laying around and just let things happen; we shouldn’t let our future be decided for us. We need to get up and make the change that we want to see.

“Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark. But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.”

I had to let that one marinate for a while: “Leave a mark.” How are we supposed to leave a mark on this world? We can feel so small in such a large world, but from being with the 2 million other young Catholics I soon realized we were doing just that. We were leaving a mark not only on Kraków, but we made a statement to the whole world. Our faith is so important to us that we were willing to endure countless hours on airplanes, stand in seemingly-endless lines, and walk for miles and miles (I blew my 10,000 step goal with a whopping 36,000!). We were willing to rely on a couple hours of sleep and limited food in order to strengthen our relationship with Christ and our Catholic community. What was truly amazing was that even though everyone was tired and even suffering from heat exhaustion- everyone was so full of life and joy. The pope addressed this energy that he had also noticed:

“Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. It is beautiful. It is the source of beauty. When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things.”

“He or she becomes capable of truly great things.” It makes sense. We can only make a mark on this world (the mark that matters, that is) with His help. We are not in this alone. I have been thinking of some practical ways that we as young adults can make a mark on this world. Seeing the effects WYD made, clearly we are stronger in numbers. So why not:

  • start a rosary group or find a group that is already formed
  • join or start a bible study with a couple friends
  • teach Faith Formation or volunteer with youth groups from the area (you may never know how much you can influence kids)
  • get a group together and go volunteer; or join a group like the Knights of Columbus

If you are in the St. Cloud area, a young adult group just started and you can keep in touch with us on Facebook under: St. Cloud Metro Young Adults. We hope that by connecting as young adults through this group we can help each other to make our mark.

At the vigil Pope Francis used the neatest analogy. He told us to get off our couches and put on our shoes – better yet, our soccer cleats! He said this world needs starters, not reserves. It’s so easy to expect others to make the change we want to see, but we can only win the game if we get out on the field.

“So today, my friends, Jesus is inviting you, calling you, to leave your mark on life, to leave a mark on history, your own and that of many others as well.”

-Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the "Meet Our Bloggers" page.
Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

WYD, Part VI: Wadowice- Walking in the Footsteps of St. JPII

Home. There’s something so great about hometowns—so many memories, milestones, and family ties forged there. I’m so blessed to have been able to return to my hometown after college; going back to where your roots are helps you to remember who you are and see how much you’ve changed and grown in your time away.

When we were in Poland, we had the incredible opportunity to visit Wadowice, the hometown of Karol “Lolek” Wojtyla, the future St. John Paul II! We visited his parish church where he was baptized and received his First Holy Communion, and when we went to the side chapel where the baptismal font is located I immediately noticed a picture on the wall behind the font. 20160723_055231(0)It was St. John Paul II, as Pope, touching this baptismal font and praying before it on his knees. That image really struck me—here was St. John Paul II coming back to where it all started for him spiritually, the moment he became a child of God. I can only imagine what must have been going through his mind—So much had changed since he and his dad had moved to Kraków when he was 18. Was he flooded with memories of his mother and brother who both died by the time he was 12 years old? Did he think of all the times he would come to this church before school in the mornings and pray before the image of Our Lady of Good Help? Did he thank God for what He had done with him since then—not only giving him the gift of the priesthood, but making him bishop, archbishop, cardinal, and then Pope?

After we visited the church, we got to see his home which has been turned into a museum about his life. One of my favorite parts was this window where John Paul II would always look out, the view being the side of the church. There was a sundial was painted on there with the words “Time flees, Eternity dwells” (in Polish, of course!). This really struck all of us—little “Lolek” would have looked out this window almost every day and had those words imprinted into his heart and mind. It’s so easy to forget about eternity and focus solely on this life—but St. JPII reminded us over and over with his preaching, life, and example of suffering that eternity should always be our main focus as the only thing that will last.

gunThe other incredible part of the museum was seeing the gun used by the would-be assassin in 1981 when St. John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s square. The gun is placed under glass in the floor, which was a neat way of showing that the evil of that act wasn’t on the same level of the things on the walls. And it was what was on the wall in that room that hit me—a huge picture of St. John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, in prison. JPII didn’t just talk about God’s mercy, which was a huge theme of his pontificate, but he lived it in the most powerful way possible, by forgiving the person who tried to kill him. That picture spoke more about what mercy truly is than a thousand homilies. He didn’t hold on to any grudge, but wholeheartedly forgave, even though Mehmet didn’t ask for that forgiveness and most likely didn’t want it. We often forgive the people we deem ‘worthy’ of being forgiven, who are truly sorry, and even those people we have trouble forgiving. But someone who’s not sorry, who would hurt us again if they could, are we capable of forgiving them? The two most powerful things we can say are ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I forgive you.’ In this Year of Mercy, who has hurt you the most and needs your forgiveness? Can you lean on God’s grace to forgive them, even if they’re not sorry?

-Nikki

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the "Meet Our Bloggers" page.
Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

7 Reasons Why You Should Want to Become a Saint

4This past weekend we had the chance to go to an awesome All Saints’ Day party hosted by one of our good friends. It was targeted for young kids, but since we’re kids at heart, of course we took advantage of the opportunity to dress up as well!  Who wouldn’t want to be a saint for at least a couple hours!?  It was quite a ‘cloud of witnesses,’ from St. John the Baptist, to St. George the dragon-slayer (one even with his baby brother dragon!), to St. Faustina, to St. Kateri, to St. Maximillian Kolbe, to a guardian angel!  There was even a sign when we came in pointing the way to Heaven (the party). Being surrounded by all these little saints in the making helped us reflect on why we want to become saints ourselves. So these are our 7 reasons why you should want to become a saint too!

  1. Because sin is so mainstream. Seriously, everyone is doing it. Striving to be a saint is the most original thing you can do! Catholic saints are some of the most unique and influential people in all of history.
  1. Your prayers will be so powerful that you will be like Superman (minus the goofy suit). Even though our prayers for others while we’re here on earth are pretty powerful, once we’ve finished the race and are purified of all sin & selfishness, our prayers will be even MORE powerful! We’ll spend all our time in God’s presence and we’ll be able to help those still on earth to stay strong and fight the good fight, which is pretty cool.
  1. Because little kids will dress up as you at Halloween and All Saints’ Day parties! Okay, maybe not unless you are canonized, but still you’ll have the chance to be a great role model and example for others, especially kids who are searching for someone to follow.  Remember that a saint is just anyone who has made it to Heaven, so even if you never become as famous as St. Francis, you can still be a saint!
  1. You’d be in great company. Jesus, Mary, the Angels, our faithful loved ones who have passed away, the whole communion of Saints… you could be chilling with Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II forever. How much better could it get?!
  1. You’ll never be bored. Imagine being completely happy, not needing or wanting anything more.  We may think of Heaven as boring, but it’s anything but!  Actually, it’s the exact opposite of boredom: it’s being filled to the brim and being happier than we could ever imagine being on earth.
  1. Because becoming a saint is the only real success that you can have. I mean, as impressive as your resume might be, I’ve never seen one featured at a funeral… nor have I ever seen a hearse which is followed by a trailer of all the material goods the person accumulated during their lifetime.  Sainthood is the one and only success that follow you when you die.
  1. Because Jesus tells you to. (and other cool people, like Mary, Bishop Kettler… your grandma) Jesus tells us to “strive to enter by the narrow door,” (Lk 13:24) so even though He makes it clear it won’t be easy, He tells us to follow Him and trust that He will provide the grace we need to become saints!  Don’t be afraid of being “too holy,” because we can never become too much like Jesus and our Blessed Mother!

So how are YOU striving to become a saint?  Do you have other reasons to add to this list?

We hope you have a blessed All Saints’ Day!  All you holy men and women, pray for us!!

Nikki and Tricia

Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the "Meet Our Bloggers" page.
Tricia and Nikki Walz are proud Minnesotans who were born and raised in the heart of St. Cloud with their younger sister Briana. Read more about them on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.