“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7
As I type this blog, my muscles ache and my toes hurt, but it is all worth it because I completed my first ever 10-mile race! A big run like this has been on my bucket list for quite some time, but I was not sure if I would ever accomplish it. I am the furthest thing from a runner but I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of doing it.
I started this 10-mile run with thousands of other people- young and old- at a little after 7 in the morning in the pouring rain and with the sun just starting to make an appearance. It would have been incredibly easy to have thrown in the towel right off the bat. Really? Rain? It was only barely above 50 degrees. But the support from the fellow runners and the spectators was something I will never forget!
The first 4 miles were easier than I ever could have imagined. I had never run 4 miles straight in training and I doubt I could do it again right now, but as a group it didn’t seem like quite as big of an obstacle.
The whole run I thought about how a race such as this is so similar to our journey in life. There are hills- some that seem too high to climb- and maybe we can’t sprint but have to walk it. There are obstacles that try to shift our focus, toes and muscles that hurt, or unexpected downpours. Finally, there is always the devil putting thoughts into our heads like “I can’t do this” or “it’s too far” or “I am only halfway?”
The 9th and 10th miles were the hardest for me. My muscles were so stiff and my whole body was exhausted. There were extra fans cheering us along this part of the race. There were people with funny signs that got us all laughing, and kids that were dressed up giving everyone high fives and yelling “keep running, you’ve got this!”
At times I did not have the energy to run like I did the first couple miles, but I knew I had to keep moving, so I would walk as quickly as I could until I could run again. I think this is exactly how we have to take life- when we think the obstacle we face is too steep to climb, sometimes we have to take a slower pace so that we have the strength to make it to the top, because each and every obstacle we are faced with can be conquered.
My challenge for each of you is to create the best possible support system to run this race with, and when you see others struggling up the hills of life to cheer them on and run it with them. You may never know how much strength a simple smile or high-five can give someone who may be contemplating giving up.
I’m sure most of us can relate to this experience: you go to Mass, find yourself refreshed and rejuvenated by God’s goodness and grace, go home, and before you know it you’re yelling at a family member or complaining about some inconvenience or insignificant problem. When you take the time to reflect, you’re angry at yourself, and lament the fact that even though Jesus literally just came into you in Holy Communion, you just as quickly turn away from Him and fall into the same sins.
Defeated. That’s how I feel every time I give in to my own pride and say things I don’t mean, or argue my point needlessly. That’s how I feel when I give in to my own selfishness and spend my time only on myself, and get frustrated with those around me for interrupting ‘my’ time. I think to myself, How can I receive such incredible gifts of God’s love and grace, and then fail to live those practically in my own life?
As I mentioned in my last blog, I recently began a 10-day self-directed retreat called ‘Lift Up Your Heart’ by Fr. John Burns, based on the 10 meditations of St. Francis de Sales in the Introduction to the Devout Life. It’s been so, so good for my heart so far, because it’s made me really reflect on my own life and grow in self-knowledge, which is something that’s always been hard for me! I just have to share this part of one of the meditations, because it gave me a new lens through which I see my own weaknesses and sinfulness that I think is so incredibly helpful!:
“In quiet reflection, name your own limitations. Admit them—as many as you can recognize. Then, with a deep breath, hold them up to God’s gaze and simply ask for help. Hear God say to you, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Then you can say with St. Paul, ‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness’ (2 Cor 11:30). At first it sounds foolish. Consider this: if you were not weak, you would not need God; because you are weak, God can work in you. This means, surprisingly, that the places in your life most attractive to God are the places of greatest weakness, because in those places He can most easily undertake the work of making you whole” (Lift Up Your Hearts 9-10).
That last line has really stuck with me: that the places of greatestweakness in my life are the most attractive to God, because that’s where He can work the most powerfully. He’s not scared off by my struggles with selfishness and pride and laziness, but those are exactly the places He wants to come into most!
There’s a Christian song called “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Batistelli which says, “I’m a mess and so are you/ We build walls nobody can get through/ It may be hard, but the best thing we can ever do/ is Bring your brokenness and I’ll bring mine/ His love can heal what hurt divides/ And mercy’s waiting on the other side/ If we’re honest.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like to admit to myself that I’m a mess. In fact, I just don’t like messes in any shape or form! Even my room has to be neatly organized and clean, or it drives me crazy. I want my life to be a tidy little package where everything is ‘just so,’ and nothing is out of place. But I know that nothing could be farther from reality! And the truth is, that’s the reality for each one of us. But that’s where Jesus wants to meet us—in our messiness, in our woundedness, in our brokenness. He wants to meet us there so He can heal us most profoundly.
Fr. John goes on to say, “God sets the terms and timelines for healing and wholeness, but nothing can begin until you show the sickness to the Divine Physician” (Lift Up Your Hearts, 10). We can’t wear masks with God. He knows our weaknesses better than we do, but that’s exactly what He wants us to bring before Him, with humble and docile hearts. How freeing that is, that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect! He just expects us to be honest. He’ll take it from there. God will do the healing, but we first have to bring our wounds and weaknesses to Him to be healed. It might be a slow process, but God knows how best to sculpt our hearts in order to make us into the masterpieces He desires us to be, the kind that can most clearly reflect the genius of the Divine Sculptor. What a beautiful truth, that takes away our tendencies to hide behind our shame and distrust of God rather than humbly bringing them before Him with the faith of a child, completely confident in the love of the Father. So we don’t need to be afraid of our weaknesses, because it’s precisely in our weakness that God wants to meet us, to show us His power and love.
Do you ever watch an interaction and your heart just melts?! Well I have seen a number of these moments recently so I figured I would share a couple of my favorites!
My mom has an in-home day care and the kids are always so fun and full of energy. We have two brothers, Noah and Cole, who stole my heart the other day.
After lunch, the kids take a nap; some of the older kids do not need to take a nap and play until their friends wake up. Noah is at the age where he does not necessarily need a nap, but Cole is still a bit young. Cole likes when Noah takes a nap with him so every day Noah lays down next to him so he knows he is there. This particular day my mom told Noah he had the choice again, he could either stay up or take a nap. Noah came over to me and said, “I really want to have an up day so I can play with my friends but I will go talk to Cole.”
Out of curiosity I followed and listened to their conversation. Noah very gently asked Cole, “Hey Cole, can I have an up day or do you want me to take a nap?” Immediately Cole says he needs to take a nap. You could see the disappointment in Noah’s face and he was quietly sitting there thinking. I jumped in and asked Cole if Noah could just come down and check on him every so often or if he could sleep with a toy Noah picked out. He shook his head and his eyes filled with tears. I will never forget Noah’s next move. He took a deep breath and looked at me with such compassion in his eyes. “It’s okay Tricia, I will just take a nap with my brother.”
He then gave Cole a big hug and reassured him that he would lay next to him so he wouldn’t be sad. My eyes were filled with tears as this kind of love for our brothers rarely exists anymore and it was so neat to see!
The next day I was helping with a brat sale and there was an elderly man walking ever so slowly with his cane across the parking lot. A middle-aged woman was walking into Coborn’s [grocery store] and hollered at him, “Slow down there, sir!” And he stopped dead in his tracks and pretended like he was hitting the lady with his cane and they both laughed and laughed.
These two stories show me how much love and unselfishness there still is in this world. It seems like the people you typically hear about are filled with hate and selfish desires. I think if we all put a little more effort to highlight the love and unselfishness that we see on a daily basis, we would constantly be reminded of our focus in life- and that is to love as Christ loves.
This line in Scripture from the account of Peter walking on the water always makes me laugh, because I can only imagine what my reaction would be if I were in Peter’s place: “Look around, Jesus! Have you SEEN these waves? Isn’t it a bit unfair to call me ‘you of little faith’ in this kind of a situation?!”
Hearing this line in the Sunday Gospel a few weeks ago, I was struck by how matter-of-fact Jesus’ question is. He asks Peter why he doubted because it should be so clear to Peter that Jesus can be trusted. This was an epiphany moment for me, because trust in God is always something I’ve struggled with. In fact, almost every time I pray, Jesus at some point says to me, “Trust in Me, Mija (My daughter).” It’s easy for me to look at Peter and recognize his lack of faith, but I quickly realize that it’s just a mirror of my own.
A few weeks ago I had the incredible privilege to see my best friend, Sr. Anne Thérèse (formerly Mary Wilder), make her final vows as a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville! It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the joy to witness, as she laid down her life completely for her Beloved, for the rest of her life. But it was also a poignant moment for me to reflect on all that God has done in my own life. You see, seven years ago I thought I would be there with her, at that altar, making my vows to Jesus as His Bride, alongside my best friend.
To make a long story short, Mary (Sr. Anne Therese) and I met my sophomore year of high school, when my mom signed me up for a ‘nun run’ with Fr. Greg Mastey (even though I had absolutely no desire to go and even begged to stay home!). On that trip, we visited the Nashville Dominicans, and Mary and I absolutely fell in love with them. I can honestly say I have never experienced more joy and genuine beauty than at the motherhouse of the Nashville Dominicans. They radiate Christ’s love in a way that I had never seen before, and it’s hard for me even now to put into words just how beautiful they are!
Mary and I became close friends on that trip, and a few months later while we were having a sleepover at her house, she confided in me that she felt like Jesus might be calling her to be a Nashville Dominican. I was stunned, mostly because I also was feeling like I might have a calling, but I hadn’t told her yet! I am so incredibly grateful that God let me meet her and that we were able to walk that journey of discernment together.
The October of our senior year we went on a retreat at the motherhouse together to continue to discern our call. She later admitted to me that on our way there she felt like one of us would leave overjoyed, positive that she was called there, and the other one of us would leave devastated, knowing that Jesus wasn’t calling her to enter. In her own words, “I know it was selfish of me, but I was praying I wouldn’t be the one to leave deastated!”
On that retreat, I was filled with a restlessness and lack of peace that penetrated deep, and Jesus made it clear to me that it wasn’t where He was calling me, even though I had already told my family and friends that I would be joining and had even started giving some of my things away! It was hard for me to accept at first, and I struggled with the feeling that God had rejected me. But now, looking back after seven years, I know it’s because He had greater plans for me than I ever could have imagined for myself!
This past year while I was leading RCIA for the parishes where I’m blessed to be a Faith Formation Director, I told my story to the group as we discussed discernment, and one of our sweet candidates said to me, “I can’t claim to know God’s plan, but it sure seems like God has you exactly where He wants you!” These words have stuck with me, because as much as I doubt God’s plan, He is constantly proving to me how faithful He is, how incredibly trustworthy, and how true those words are!
I’m currently in the middle of a 10-day self-guided retreat, and yesterday I read these words which made me smile, because I knew they applied directly to me:
“We misunderstand the goodness of our present state, and in turn, we fail to see the goodness of the process by which God is leading us into the future.”
I so easily forget that life isn’t a race. Sure, I’d love to be married right now, have kids, and “get into my Vocation already”, but God keeps reminding me that He wants me right here, right now, and He is working on my heart in my present state.
To be honest, I still don’t understand what He’s doing in my life most of the time, but I know I can trust that it’s good. He’s a faithful Father, and I can rely on Him with crazy, reckless abandon. He never reveals very much of the path at a time, but I’ve learned to concentrate on the next step- not the whole journey at once. If I had known then everything these last 7 years would bring, I really don’t think I would have been ready to receive it—my sickness and surgery on my stomach the summer before my freshman year of college which led to endless ER visits, the beauty and suffering of college and grad school, my job as a Youth Minister and now as a Faith Formation Director, the sickness of my mom, and everything else that God has brought our way in these past few years. He only shows us what we need to know right now—and then asks us to trust Him with the rest. And you know what, I think I prefer it that way! The more we get to know the heart of the Father, the more we learn that we can trust Him—we can walk out on the water, not because of how great we are, but because of how great He Is. He’ll never let us down.
Reflecting on this past month, I am filled with an incredible number of amazing memories. So many fun things took place that this blog could easily be made into a book!
Here are just a few of the highlights from the last month of my life:
At the end of June two friends of mine were ordained to the transitional diaconate and will become priests in just one short year!
July 1st my little sister, Briana, married the love of her life! Of course, we had the bachelorette party, Grooms dinner and the other festivities that come with a wedding!
Nikki and I were also given the wonderful opportunity to chaperone a group of high school students to Rochester for the Steubenville retreat!
I have learned so much through these experiences. First off, I never realized just how much work goes into putting on a wedding! But as much work as it was, I would wish we could re-live the day and do it all again because it was such a blast!
As hard as it was at times throughout the last month to be present in the moment and not anticipate the next fun thing, I learned that each day goes by so quickly, and to enjoy everything that comes your way, good or bad.
On the wedding day we started getting slightly behind schedule. There was a misunderstanding between the bridesmaids and the bride, so we showed up for pictures at the wrong place which put us even further behind! One thing I admired greatly from my sister was how she handled this little misunderstanding. Most brides, heck probably me, would have been anxious about getting things going and getting to the church, but Briana took things as they came. She was truly living in the moment and just embraced everything that came her way, never letting that smile leave her face! It would have been so easy to be so focused on getting to the pictures that we would have missed the fun of getting ready; or so focused on the reception that we missed the beautiful ceremony.
Overall, I took from this past month that focusing on the future will guarantee that you miss opportunities in the present!
“The present moment is never intolerable. What’s intolerable is what’s going to happen in the next four hours. To have your body here at 8 pm and your mind at 10:30 pm, that’s what causes us suffering.”
—Anthony de Mello (1931-1987), Jesuit priest, author and speaker.
Walking door-to-door handing out “missing person” flyers in the pouring rain was not how I expected to spend my Wednesday evening [May 17]. Ever since the 17-year-old Aaliyah [Kazimer] went missing last weekend, I had been following her story. Something this big, happening so close to home, really struck a chord with me.
I had never met Aaliyah; all I knew is that she was clearly a very gorgeous girl that had so much more of life to live. Yesterday I came across an article saying they needed more people to help with their search efforts. I didn’t think twice when I rounded up two of my cousins to go see how we could help.
When we got there tonight we were given a pile of fliers and told to go from house to house and ask if they had possibly seen this girl or knew anything that could help us find her. The people that answered their doors surprised me with their sympathy and their promise that if they see or hear anything they would call 911 immediately. It definitely showed me that there still is compassion in this world even though we maybe don’t see it as often as we should. After a couple hours in the rain we made it back to our car and headed back to the search headquarters.
When we walked into the shelter there was a different type of energy than when we had left. I immediately got a phone call from my dad that they had found her! Everyone in the shelter was so happy!! There was supposed to be a prayer service at 7pm and instead, it turned into a celebration that she had been found-ALIVE! We were talking to two girls from Aaliyah’s high school and they were saying how sad everyone was that she would potentially never see the day she got to graduate, but now there was a chance she would be able to graduate, this Friday.
Ever since I got home this evening Aaliyah has been on my mind. Just how rare this type of ending is. How lucky she is to be alive. And just how great of a guardian angel she has!! This opportunity has made me realize just how much I take my own life for granted. Every day is a gift, and we should not let a single day go by without telling our loved ones just how much we love them, and God how grateful we are for the day we have. I think it is also so important that we all continue to pray for Aaliyah as she processes and heals from most likely the scariest and most life-changing week she will ever encounter.
Since May is the month of Mary, I have a special blog post in her honor! My family and I made St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Jesus through Mary when I was pretty young, so I have always felt a special connection with our Blessed Mother.
Now normally I am hesitant to put personal experiences in a blog for just anyone to read, but I feel like if people were more open to sharing their experiences in life this world would for sure be a different place. So here I go!
Back in high school… many years ago…(Yes, I’m that old!), my mom signed my sister and I up for a Steubenville retreat. This group was going to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, for the conference and had a couple fun stops on the way. I wouldn’t say I necessarily really wanted to go, but my mom signed me up so I went!
Growing up I struggled with anxiety and an overall uneasiness. I would worry myself sick. I had ulcers way more than any kid should. If I thought I offended someone I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I worked it out with them. My grandma had surgery and I remember being beside myself, so worried something would happen to her. I also had a lot of dental work done as a kid and I would worry about that appointment months before it came, dreading the day with such a fierce passion.
When we were at the Steubenville Conference, we were faced with a lot of encounters with the devil. Now I have been to many Steubenville conferences and I have never experienced another one like my first year. The devil definitely knew we were at a crucial point in our lives because he was trying everything to make us doubt God and leave the conference.
During Adoration, I kept seeing snakes in the curtains, slithering around, but I refused to take my gaze off the monstrance. When I would glance to the side, I would feel anxious and nervous, but when I kept my gaze on Jesus I felt such peace. Later that night, Nikki and I were supposed to go to bed but we were both uneasy and sort of scared. We both laid on the bottom bunk hugging as we tried to sleep. When we said goodnight and closed our eyes, less than a minute later we both shot up and both instantly started bawling. We both saw the same image: a beautiful picture of Christ that turned into the ugliest face of the devil. Terrified, we ran out of our room to our mom’s room. As she consoled us we told her that we saw the exact same image. I will never forget my mom’s calmness as she hugged us, smiled and said, “Girls, I know exactly what we need to do. Where is your rosary?”.
As we prayed the rosary, the terrified, anxious, uneasy feelings I was filled with slowly drained out. With each Hail Mary I felt lighter and happier. When we finished the rosary, we went back to our rooms with smiles on and slept like a baby. From that day on the devil has not scared me. I think I finally realized that what we have is so much stronger than the devil. We have Mary, the saints, and Jesus Himself. And what better way to ward off the devil and the evil that this world possesses than with one of the most powerful weapons we have- the rosary.
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?
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!
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?