Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Salvation in slow motion - a thank you and goodbye

So this is it, my friends. In a couple of short hours I will be heading down to the monastery with my parents and grandfather to spend the night before my entrance in the morning, and by the grace of the Lord my godparents get to attend vespers with us and see my new home for the first time. It's bittersweet to write this final post, for this blog has been such a huge part of my life for the past seven months and even though I'm not the greatest writer, it has provided me with an outlet to share my vocation journey with you - which has brought countless blessings and graces for which I will spend the rest of my life giving thanks to the Lord. I pray that you who have generously followed my journey through this year have found some consolation in how beautifully God works to draw us closer to Himself, even when the trials of the world seem almost impossible to overcome. All things are possible for those who love God and desire to serve Him with their whole lives!!

I am so thankful for all those who have helped me in many different ways especially the sponsors who contributed to my marathon and half through my fundraising site and sending donations by mail; the Diocese of Fresno and everyone who showed me such kindness working in the Vocations Office (please pray for our wonderful seminarians!!); the Knights of Columbus throughout the country and especially those who were so supportive in my home town; my home parish - St. Mary's, as well as everyone who has supported me from the Cathedral of St. John, St. Anthony of Padua & the TLM Society, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, OLPH, St. Helen's and the many different parishes throughout our Diocese. I have seen the young adult community grow and flourish in and around Fresno this year, and it fills my heart with such joy! Thank you to all of the amazing, holy young people who have inspired me to a deeper prayer life and to desire to become a saint through as many sacrifices as the Lord will demand of me. Thank you to the National LIFE RUNNERS Team for all your support, and for allowing me to contribute to your efforts in my small way. I may not be able to run anymore once I enter, but I will be racing in spirit toward the finish line and fully expect to see all of you there with giant crowns and medals on. There are so many people who have blessed me this year, I am sorry that in these final hours at home I can't name everyone specifically! But you know who you are and how important you have all been to me.

These past few days have been so full of prayers and hugs and goodbyes and so much smiling that my face hurts a little. Oh well I'll offer it up!! There has been more laughing than tears, but the tears do come and I'm sure there are more in store for the next 24 hours. All in joy for the glory of the Lord, and while it is quite difficult to leave friends and family to go where He calls me, I have never felt more ready for anything or at peace about any decision in my life. The spiritual trials of religious are many, and they are sure to come. So I ask for your continued prayer, my brothers and sisters. I wish to be ready for whatever the Lord asks of me, but while the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, and even nuns need the prayers of those faithful servants who labor in the world. Oh if we could only comprehend how much mercy He desires to give us through our prayers! The world might stop because we would never leave the chapel for all the fulfillment we would get from our glorifying Him through word and song.

Last night I was surrounded by so many of the greatest people who have ever come into my life. Most of whom I have known for less than a year. They will never understand how much they have touched my soul. We sat and adored Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and the love that flowed through the tiny chapel was almost overwhelming. I can't imagine a better way to have spent my last night at home. The Lord is truly bringing future saints out in the world, making them known to each other so that they might be united in fervor for sanctification. This is why I am leaving, my friends. Because I have seen a holiness in you that I can support no better way than through my prayers.

Litany Run was so much more than a fundraising effort. This has turned out to be the greatest lesson in humility and sacrifice I have ever known, and yet through this effort I have barely even scratched the surface of the humility and sacrifice to which we are all called. I pray that God will give me the strength to embrace the cross that awaits me within the cloister, and that you my friends will willingly embrace the cross He offers you - no matter what vocation He has called or will call you to in life. I have always prayed that you will become saints. Now my prayer is that you desire sainthood with such utter abandonment that you will follow wherever He leads you, do whatever He tells you, and find joy in being quiet and still, and knowing that He Is.

I go now to join my sisters in the mountains, where life will move just a little bit more slowly in pursuit of quieting the soul so that God may speak the sweetness of His commandments in my little heart. While we run this race toward salvation, let us remember that it isn't a sprint. Let us run slow and steady so as to win the prize that awaits us in heaven. And when we see another runner stumble along the way, let us pick him up and carry him to the finish line. For the Lord gives us the strength to do this. And we must give all we have. We take nothing with us.

"Learn, O dust, to obey; learn to humble thyself, earth and clay, and to bow under the feet of all. Learn to break thine own will, and to yield thyself up to all subjection. " - Imitation of Christ

Ad majorem dei gloriam.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Oh Mercy

In the silence of our hearts and through the love we leave unspoken, a sacred space is prepared within us for the Lord where He may settle and fulfill every worldly desire of which we are, in our fallen nature, so guilty of allowing to dwell inside our souls until we reach perfection. Oh Lord, renew our strength by the grace of the sacraments, which You command us to receive throughout our lives. What glory is revealed each time we behold the small and yet magnificent presence of Your Son in the Holy Eucharist. Truly only by your mercy are we capable of standing before the True Presence without dying of joy for knowledge of the humility you possess, in condescending to come down from the heavens that we may consume You in our unworthiness.

These are the final pages of my journey to entering religious life. I’ll write a few more times before Tuesday afternoon, and then will be off to the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph for vespers with my parents, grandfather and the holy people who baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Oh what unfathomable grace has come from their spiritual guidance for the last 26 years.

It would be impossible for me to put into words how very thankful I am for all of you who read this. Everyone who has given so much in prayers and finances this year, to help me reach the goal that I truly believe was set by the Lord Himself – for me to enter religious life on this upcoming Feast of St. Augustine. I came home to spend the year with my family and enter religious life in August, 2013 – and by your generosity, my friends, the Lord has made this possible.

If I could attempt expressing the joy in my heart and how humbled I am by the mercy of the Lord, I might liken myself to one who was lost at sea, just a few miles from the shore with rest and relief in sight. But instead of having to swim against the crashing waves in an exhaustible effort to reach dry land, you have been like angels sent by God to rescue me, pulling me into the boat before I am fatigued, that I might have the strength venture further out to sea in search of others who need help instead of moving toward the shore where I will find my rest. Oh what strength comes from the gratitude we have when we are shown kindness by others! Oh Lord let me give thanks for this mercy I’ve been shown, by never resting until You have saved many tired, broken souls through the unworthy acts I offer You. On this Feast of the martyr St. Bartholomew let us remember that the book is called the Acts of the Apostles, for these twelve men did not merely stand and believe, but acted boldly and generously to spread the Gospel of the Lord, even unto death. 

This week has been filled with many thank-you’s and some goodbyes, which will continue tonight as my parents welcome a few friends and some family into their home to pray with me one last time and crush a cup of wine as I tie up the last of my business before entering in less than 4 days now. I have been so preoccupied with clearing out my life (clothes/books/other sentimental, nostalgia-inducing worldly possessions/bank accounts, etc.) in the days since my last entry, that I have found only one occasion to go running! That has been quite distressing, but I offer this lack of time to the Lord and give thanks for having been given the strength to run so much this year already. Not running 5 times a week is just something I’ll have to get used to! I’m excited about going out for a light run tomorrow before mass, and possibly once more over the next couple days before I leave. My friends, if you are blessed with legs and the ability to run on them for any amount of time, rejoice! Offer a jog for poor sinners and my vocation sometime soon please J. There are so many people who are not able to run. Let us not waste this gift the Lord has given us. Be active and be healthy! You take the Lord into your stomach… make it a worthy place for Him to dwell.

Running aside, letting go of all the other worldly stuff has been quite an adventure in itself. Some of my friends have inherited some of possessions I valued most, my car is packed with things ready to be taken to charity on Monday, and I wait in hopeful anticipation of the arrival of the trash man on Tuesday… who will finally come and take away everything that no one else in this world would ever have any use for. Some of that stuff has meant a lot to me and there are many memories sitting in those trashcans outside my house. But they’re not really memories… just proof that stuff happened in the past. And there are no important experiences in life that require sentimental objects to be held onto as proof. When we begin to see this world through the veil of eternity it is much easier to find relief in the release of all things that we cannot take with us to heaven. And that is everything except our faith and the souls we reach through prayer and work.

There is nothing in the world that can satisfy. Only foreshadowing of the wedding feast in heaven. That being said, it sure is a lovely foreshadowing and even though I have been busy with preparation this week I have not been without time to look around at the beauty of the world and appreciate the glory of God that is revealed in it. I’ve been blessed to travel and experience much in my short life, and as the time draws close for me to enter into a community where I will leave behind much that the world offers, I give thanks to God for having blessed me with such a colorful youth. I see Christ in the faces of so many people now, almost everyone I meet! How beautiful to look into the eyes of another in the knowledge that we are each made in the image and likeness of God. We are truly blessed to be offered the gift of loving each other in this way. Oh Lord, if only our wholes lives could be lived as if we were coming to the end of our time in the world – that we might give you glory and praise you in thanksgiving at every given opportunity and desire nothing else!

I fear I share too much with you sometimes, my friends. But it is only because in my sinfulness I fear and worry that you will never understand how undeserving I feel of having your support.  Soon my writing will cease in holy obedience. So let us pray together for a few more days.

St. Faustina & Bl. Rev. Michael Sopocko, ora pro nobis.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The road trip of a lifetime (A very long account)

I haven't written a post this long since the day I came home from WYD in Madrid... just beware.

Alrighty heeey! So you wanna hear about the road trip of a lifetime? I for one am in awe of how the Lord has saturated this entire week with His grace and has made His presence known so generously!

A short time ago my grandfather gave me a little bit of money not for my loans, but to do something nice with my friends in view of my upcoming entrance. For months now people have been asking me what kind of things I'd like to do before I enter and sure, I've had my little bucket list of things that would be fun to experience in the time before my entrance. But really the only thing that I've really wanted to do for some time now, was visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I went when I was 19 and fell absolutely in love with the little town of Ashland, and have wanted to go back every year since then! I'm 26 now, and I've only just had the chance. Since a few of my girlfriends so lovingly decided to come and support me in my half-marathon, we decided that it might be worth one last hurrah up the coast of California to the Oregon border!

Traditional, single-sided altar facing the east at St. Stephen the First Martyr.
This is the only parish in California dedicated to celebrating the holy sacrifice
of the mass exclusively in the extraordinary form. There is an ancient renewal
happening in this church. I think you have to walk inside to understand. 
Thankfully the Lord blessed us all along the way, and especially in our trip-planning. One friend is about to head off on a two-year mission soon, and another is on her way back to college at Franciscan. We have another friend who we all wanted to visit in Sacramento before we leave, so last Friday after work we all packed up my car and made our way there just in time for her birthday party, where we had a lovely evening of cake and karaoke. The next morning a couple of us were blessed to attend mass at St. Stephen the First Martyr - which is home to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Each week one of these priests travels down from Sac Town to Fresno to celebrate the single Latin mass in our diocese at 3:30pm. It it always beautiful and they give wonderful homilies (and confessions too if you ever get the chance...). How wonderful to pray in the church they call home!

Sunday evening my friends and I were invited to dinner at the sisters' convent
after attending High TLM mass were they chanted, a social hour with some of their
parishioners, and then Solemn Vespers where we were all delighted by a surprise
visit from His Excellency Bishop Robert Vasa (who is awesome).
We had wonderful conversations and it was a beautiful opportunity to learn more
about their community and how I can support their vocations from the cloister!
After mass we said goodbye to the birthday girl and made our way through the breathtakingly gorgeous wine country, to Santa Rosa where we were met by Mother Teresa Christe, MSSR. The Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa were SO generous in providing us with accommodations in a wonderful space just behind St. Eugene's Cathedral, which is an AMAZING parish. If you are ever blessed to find yourself near Santa Rosa, CA... do make ever effort to visit the cathedral and the sisters! They've only been established there since 2011 and the fruits of their prayers and presence are REALLY apparent. Their apostolate is incredibly and beautifully focused on living the fullness of the Church's liturgical life... and they are about to explode with vocations - so watch out world. Here is their FB page!

Yes, that is a bottle stopper race medal.
We had a lovely Saturday evening of great conversation, a (somewhat) healthy dinner, time with our Lord (in the perpetual adoration chapel which was downstairs from our bedrooms), and then some much needed sleep. Sunday morning we headed out early for the Water to Wine Half Marathon, which I ran through PERFECT cool and overcast weather - finishing in 2 hours 14 minutes. Praise God! The course was so beautiful and I was thankful that the clouds shielded us runners from the sun, keeping a very relaxed atmosphere all throughout the 13.1 miles.

I may never wear this shirt in another race, but I will always run for the
dignity of the human person and the right to LIFE from conception
to natural death. St. Maximilian Kolbe, ora pro nobis. 
 The course was progressively downhill in elevation from beginning to end, but in between the hills were a bit more tough than I had anticipated. There were a good number of steep downhill slopes that went by really quickly, followed by several long inclines. After training for a full marathon, God allowed this half to be substantially easier as far as my overall endurance throughout the race, but it was still tough! In addition, I had been training with recordings of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet which I was planning to run with during the race. But for some unknown reason I could not get my earbuds to work! So I ran in silence and kept track of the prayers myself! And was humbled to offer each of those long hills for a different intention. I ran through the beautiful Dry Creek Road which is framed by a ton of wineries... and all of the grapes are ripe on the vine right now! It was so gorgeous. And amazing to think about how it will soon be harvest season. The laborers will come and pick those grapes off the vine and transform them into delectable bottles of wine, not unlike the wine that became Christ's first miracle on earth. I won't write too much about the race at this time. I'm still gathering my thoughts, but suffice it to say that it was sobering and humbling to run my final race with the support of so many amazing people, and the special privilege of wearing my Life Runners T-shirt.

 The race was not a huge one and there weren't a lot of places for spectators to catch a glimpse of the runners, but somehow my friends found me and got to cheer me on almost exactly at the halfway mark, just like they did at The OC Marathon! Then they met me at the finish line and we spent the rest of the morning marveling at the generosity of the Lord in giving us such beautiful running weather - followed by a spectacular break in the clouds that brought the sun out just in time for post-race brunch!

 After I got cleaned up we were making our way from our accommodations into the cathedral for mass at 1:30pm... when we were stopped on the sidewalk by a lovely woman who asked us who we were and where we were from. I think she was excited to see new young people. She immediately invited me and my friends to attend the young adult gathering inside the parish hall later that evening, which we did after dinner with the sisters! How good is God? Our evening was full of holy conversations, new friendships and discussion of our holy father's homily from his visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida just before World Youth Day. We were so thankful for this opportunity for fellowship. Oh how easy it is to build community when someone is willing to just say hello to someone they've never met before!! Thank God for this woman who stopped us on the sidewalk. Let us pray for the strength to invite someone new into our lives this week, and share with them about the goodness of the Lord.

My girlfriends and I attended mass inside the cathedral before heading off onto the next part of our trip on Monday morning. We took the whole day to drive up CA-101, passing through the Avenue of the Giants, stopping for a drive through the Chandelier Tree, a peek at Confusion Hill, and a chat with Paul Bunion. It was a full day of gazing and gawking at God's creation. It is truly an incredible sight to behold.

No photo could ever do justice to the beauty that is found along the Avenue of the Giants.
I mean... I didn't take this picture. So... no offense to whomever did!
But still. You knowI speak the truth. 
At a certain point I was in awe of the number of redwoods we were driving through - when one of my friends brought to my attention just how immense the roots of those trees must be in order to support them. And I realized that, even growing up with the sequoias practically in my back yard, I had never once taken into consideration the tremendous root system that is planted under the earth in all our forests. Can you imagine the beauty that must lie beneath our feet? The complex intertwining of roots that support the beautiful flowers, plants and fruits that we see? It was one thing, as I drove beneath the majesty of the giant redwoods, to appreciate their greatness... but quite another to be faced with the realization they are nourished and their lives are sustained by something that we can't even see. Hidden roots beneath the earth give these trees everything they need to grow as marvelous sights to behold. Those roots are so important... vital, in fact - the most essential element of the tree! And yet we hardly ever give them a thought. It was just... interesting, and humbling.

Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church - humble from the outside,
BEAUTIFUL on the inside! Well, humble inside too, but quite striking.
In Ashland, OR we were blessed to have been offered a place to stay at the Walsh Memorial Newman Center, directly across campus from Southern Oregon University. My friends, PLEASE take note... this - is - an - AWESOME Newman Center (their website doesn't do it justice... I have no idea what the community is like during the school year, but I hope it's a thriving one!). It is a big house with lots of rooms and space for fellowship, but also has a sort of inviting feeling that would welcome a group of young people to come in, pull up a couch and spend an evening discussion scripture and catholic theology! Quite interestingly - the university campus ministry shares the Newman Center with the local Orthodox community, which has its chapel adjacent to the house. On Sunday morning one of my friends woke up early to chant the Morning Office at sunrise with me. We were on our way outside to begin, when we heard the orthodox community chanting Matins inside their chapel! Not wanting to disturb, we went to the other side of the house to pray ours. But when we walked back in the door to the chapel was open, and we met the community's priest who was very friendly, and told us that we were welcome to pray inside the chapel anytime during our stay. What a blessing!

Fr. Andreas Blom is originally from a loving but non-religious
family in Sweden! He converted and is building the orthodox
community in Ashland with his wife and two daughters. He
seems young and full of the holy spirit. May God bring us all
back in to one family, for we are one body of Christ. 
While our orthodox brothers and sisters are not in communion with Rome, we do recognize that they have apostolic succession and therefore valid sacraments. What a grace to be invited into their chapel to pray in front of Jesus! Orthodox churches and chapels are always so beautiful to me. They are filled with breathtaking icons of our Lord, our Lady, and many holy saints from their own tradition as well as many that we share! There is something amazing about being surrounded by these icons as you pray. It creates such a tangible realization that we are surrounded by a communion of saints, especially in the presence of our Lord.

Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in Ashland, OR
 At noon on Tuesday my friends and I attended mass at Our Lady of the Mountain just a few minutes away from where we were staying. It was a simple and modern church but with such a wonderful reverence! A couple of people came over to us after mass and asked where we were from - thinking that we might be arriving into Ashland as new university students. We shared with them about ourselves and then were very happy to go over and meet Fr. Angelo Te - the pastor, who I contacted in hopes of finding accommodation for ou trip! He had put me in touch with the director of the Newman House who was more than pleased to provide my friends and I with so much more than we could have asked for! It was great to meet this pastor and to pray with the catholic community in this little town of the Bard. The tabernacle is inserted into a carved out space in a stone wall! There's a strangely ancient feel to that particular space in the church.

That afternoon we took a stroll through the famous Lithia Park, which is probably my favorite park of all time. It was even better than I remember it from my first visit to Ashland seven years ago. There are concrete paths laid out, but they are not as intricately planned as paths you see in most parks. They weave in and out of trees, ponds, small hills and a gorgeous creek, in such a way that you feel more like you're walking through a forest that just happens to have some concrete laid down - rather than a park planned out by people. In each section of the park we found something new that made us appreciate the diversity of this small college town, all the different kinds of people who reside in it, and all the people who visit it because of their love of the arts. There was something incredibly freeing and childlike about hopping on rocks up the creek and then walking single-file along a dirt path during our 3pm Divine Mercy Chaplet. I think we all experienced the love of the Lord a bit more personally there in the splendor of the park where people seemed to be truly at peace and content. Oh what a wonderful world it is, and how marvelous when God gives us to see it in such radiant light. It makes the sacrifice of total abandonment to Divine Providence all the more bitter sweet when we recognize the goodness found in a life to which we know we are not called - and the grace that comes with offering our desires to the Lord for the salvation of souls.

You see my friends, it is no secret to those who have known me for any number of years that I have an incredible love for Shakespeare that has, at times, lightly brushed the surface that lines the realm of devotion. When I hear, read or recite iambic pentameter it affects me on an emotional level just about as much as music does for most people and while the tales in his plays are not really original, they are told through a uniquely timeless beauty that I have yet to find have been matched or succeeded. If I could reach heaven reading nothing but the Bible and the Bard, I'm sure my heart would be ecstatic and fulfilled. Before discovering my vocation to religious life I cannot remember any time in my life that I love more than the semesters I spent teaching actors how to "speak Shakespeare" during grad school in London. Being immersed day in and day out with this poetry and wit gave me... well... just a whole lot of joy. Let's just say that.

On top of the fact that Ashland pretty much lives and breathes Shakespeare everyday for about 10 months out of the year, it just so also happens to be the cutest little college/retirement town ever. I remember falling in love with the town the first time I visited - but that was a time when I was practically counting down the minutes to my exit from small town life and my move to New York City. I had no intention of ever leaving New York once I moved there for theatre school. I was a 19, but still very much a child when I visited the first time. But upon this second visit to Oregon, it was quite a different experience of recognizing the potential for a peaceful family life one might build there. It seemed such an inviting place for children to run around and play - filled with greenery, water to splash around in, a small welcoming catholic community, and the potential to help build up the kindgom of God through helping minister to students who go there for college. So much opportunity for good works and holiness! From the moment we entered town to well after we left, a million thoughts crossed my mind about how holiness and sainthood could definitely be reached through life as a lay person working in a community such as the one I encountered in Ashland. Oh how the Lord might use me in this place which gives me such happiness!

Alas, even while Shakespeare was, and his plays are, surely and resoundingly Catholic, for me they are a worldly pleasure. The happiness I experienced walking around the town, praying through the park, and even finally sitting down for a WONDERFUL rendition of Cymbeline at the end of Tuesday night - are all good and worthy gifts from the God, but they can also be distractions found along the straight and narrow path upon which my Lord calls me toward Himself.

Through my own fault and inability to articulate the things that go on in my heart, it has been difficult to... convince (for lack of a better word)... some of my closest friends and family - that yes, I do recognize the goodness of the world and how the gifts/talents God has given me could be very useful as a wife and mother or even active sister. But brothers and sisters, this is simply not the life I am called to! At least for now I am absolutely positive that the Lord desires I enter my Nobertine community and devote as much of my life to Him as possible through prayer. Yes, I am quite sure that I would be immensely satisfied and extremely happy if I were blessed to be called to a life in the world where my gifts could be used to touch the lives of His children and minister to their hearts. But He has blessed me so much more than I deserve - in calling me to offer Him my greatest gift - the gift He works through to deliver many graces to His children - my prayer! And the prayer of my sisters. It has been made so unarguably clear, my friends, that right now He is calling me to labor in meditation and chanting the Divine Office. This is the very best work I can do for Him. The very best gift I can give back to the One who gave everything for me. It is a sacrifice and a consolation at the same time. It is humility staring me right in the face. Who am I that the Lord should give me the opportunity to accept, from within the shelter of the cloister, His offer of pursuing humility - this virtue to which we are all called? I can do nothing but accept with the full knowledge that at any moment this gift could be taken from me, or that by my own fault it may slip through my fingers. And so I must cling tightly to it.

On Wednesday morning we traveled about 20 minutes north the the town of Medford for morning mass, since there is no celebration in Ashland on Wednesdays. It was amazing that the Lord saved the most breathtakingly beautiful church of our trip - complete with an image of Divine Mercy hanging right over the exit - for last. Ok well, almost last... we actually decided at the last minute to pop into the Cistercian Abbey of New Clairveaux for Midday prayer with the monks just about an hour outside Sacramento on our way home. But mass at Sacred Heart in Medford was simple, peaceful, and the perfect way to end our time in Oregon. We were only sorry that we had to get right ont the road, and didn't have time to stick around for coffee with all of the nice parishioners who tried so hard to get us to stay! The people of Oregon are truly and genuinely amazing. They are friendly and welcoming in the most sincere way I have ever encountered, God bless them!

I had no idea how much of a grace this trip would be when I was planning it out with my friends. Not only did I get to pray through another race for you and all of my sponsors, giving thanks to God for how much he has blessed me through Litany Run, but I also had so many experiences of fellowship and witnessing the hope that is found in the people of God... that I lost count! There are so many smaller graces and blessings that came from simple conversations that I haven't written here. It would take all day to write them. I think I take for granted the company that I keep sometimes. The Lord has blessed me with such holy friends and I always underestimate how much nearer He will draw me to Himself as I spend time with them. I cannot express how thankful I am to be constantly surrounded with people who desire so greatly to give their entire lives to the Lord, regardless of what vocation their gift of self is manifested in.

And so fo now I am resolved to have seen the best of Northern California and southern Oregon for the last time. I even forgot to write above about our stop on the beach on our way up the 101. That was probably one of the greatest moments of the week - standing with my toes in the warm sand, and then the cold ocean water, and then the warm sand again. Staring out into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and giving thanks for the gift of being able to behold it one last time. Oh what a gift sight it! Please Lord let me never forget that I was once blind, and now I see more clearly every day. Let me never stop thanking You for these eyes You have given me to bear witness to the glory you have bestowed on us through the magnificence of our world. A life enclosed in California, forsaking the possibility of ever again experiencing the pleasure of an ocean breeze... this is going to be interesting.

So now life in Fresno resumes for the next 12 days as I tie up all loose ends and do my best to spend every free moment in prayer with my Lord. Please pray for me brothers and sisters, that each of these coming days is filled with more and more peace as I look forward to entering the community through which my Lord is calling me to Divine Espousal. God please make this poor sinner even a little bit worthy of coming into your presence.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oh hey - I'm entering in two weeks

My dear friends!!! Happy Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe! He is my confirmation saint and has been such a blessing in my life, interceding for me for many years! Thank you for your patience since my last update right before my race, but I hope it was worth the wait…

I am beyond ecstatic to announce to you that by the grace of God, a family (who has asked to remain anonymous) has offered to assume payments on my loans in September, so that I may officially have assurance that I may enter the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph – two weeks from today! Praise God, I’m going home on August 28th! They don’t celebrate birthdays in the cloister … feast days take the cake! And even though there is already a Sr. Mary Maximilian in my future community, my confirmation saint’s feast day will always be dear to me. No better way to celebrate today than by giving thanks to the Lord for this incredible gift – that through the generosity of others I will finally be able to give my life fully and completely to God, and enter the cloister on the entrance date that has been set for me. I wish I could express how thankful I am, but there are really no words and tonight my mind is in many places.

For now my fundraising site will remain open for donations. I know the family that has offered to assume debt, and while this is an amazingly generous gift, I know it will be an incredible sacrifice for them. I ask you now to pray for them and that the Lord might send a few more souls to make donation and help reduce their burden before I enter. They have assured me of their intention to complete repayment of my loans, but if there is anyone you know who might be able to help them out in any way, please ask them to consider sending a gift through my fundraising site soon! I will close it on August 27th. 

I have just returned home from the most incredible road trip that I have wanted to take for years, with the holiest of company, which included my half marathon,  dinner with the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, a picture with Paul Bunion, and a splash through the creek in Ashland, OR. I’ll write all about this most blessed excursion tomorrow. For now I'm off to sleep! All glory to God!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ready to Run

Friends, thank you so much for supporting my vocation. I'm with the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa and some amazing friends for a weekend of running, prayer, fellowship and SO. MUCH. FUN. I can't wait to pray for you all during my race tomorrow. The Lord is so good and I have been so humbled by these past 8 months of training. Today is my parents' 28th wedding anniversary and I could not be more thankful for their saying YES to God's will. And for the gift of life. Tomorrow I will wear my National LIFERUNNERS Team t-shirt in thanksgiving for my life and for the gift of your support. I'll be praying in a special way for families, especially parents of the unborn and those who have been victims of the abortion holocaust. It's a beautiful weekend here in Northern California and I can't wait to run my last race. It will be a bittersweet end, but the running the race toward heaven is simply the sweetest of missions.


Pray for me, dear friends. I am praying for you. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone.

Hey. Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me.
The first step before anybody else in the world believes it, is you have to believe it.
You got a dream.
You gotta protect it.
People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it.
You want something, go get it. Period.
It’s real simple. It’s not about winning.
It’s about you and your relationship with yourself and your family and your friends (and THE LORD).
It’s about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn't let them down because you told them the truth.
And that truth is that you did everything you could.
There wasn't one more thing that you could have done.
No matter how impossible your situation may see, stay on course.
No matter what you’re going through, don’t quit.
 The secret is in not giving up.
There are some things in life that all you gotta do is outlast.
No matter what you might be going through, don’t quit.
I guarantee you’re gonna fail but you don’t know what’s gonna happen if you keep going.
Look at your heart. What do you see? What makes you so great?
Push yourself just a little bit more.
We get one opportunity at life.
One chance at life.
Because everyday is a new day.
Every moment is a new moment.
But effort? Nobody can judge effort.
Because effort is between you, and you (and GOD).
If tomorrow wasn't promised, what would you give for today?
You are my everything.
 It’s very simple.

This is what I believe and I’m willing to die for it. Period. 


9 days of fundraising left. 

St. Jude, let's do this.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Vanity of Vanities & How I Know Belong in the Cloister

As my entrance date gets closer I find myself being asked more and more frequently, “Are you SURE?” …which is usually followed immediately by a list of reasons it would be better for me to stay in the world. I often speak/write of being “in the world,” so I suppose one might consider the opposite of that as… not being in the world?  Being out of the world? Leaving the world? I’m not quite sure. But allow me to clarify something, brothers and sisters: not for a single moment have I experienced any sort of delusion where I think I will actually be stepping into some other state of existence separate from the world in which I currently live.  I don’t at all think that my worldly responsibilities will cease to exist once I enter the cloister. Quite the opposite in fact – those called to contemplative life recognize their responsibility to respond to the Lord’s command for us to evangelize the nations, magnified to a higher degree than that with which even the most impassioned and active disciples may be comfortable. It this arrogance? Perhaps. But there is no denying how clearly Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part. 

Stepping into the cloister does not cut us off from the world, but rather allows us to experience and penetrate the world in ways that, due to the many distractions and temptations of everyday life, simply are not possible until we are able to truly commit our every waking moment to doing the will of God. You see, my brothers and sisters, I know that I am called to the cloister because here, in the world outside its walls, even my greatest and most sincere attempts to give Him glory in all things become occasions for a sin  from which I cannot but surrender that I am a lost and desperate child in need of protection which can only be provided by those older, wiser women who have spent years seeking nothing by unity with God – the sin of pride. Allow me to give you an example. 

Yesterday evening, I had every intention of spending a quiet Sunday night at home, with a book that has been giving me the evil eye from the corner of my bookshelf for some time. However it was the final evening of my home parish’s annual summer festival, and I figured it would be good to go and spend the evening with the community instead. I ended up sitting under a canopy with various young adults and, for about two hours, talking with a handful of different people about our call to holiness, Pope Francis’ encouragement of missionary zeal, and our responsibility as young people to educate children, so that they grow up with hearts on fire for the Lord! Most of these were people who have never really left home or seen much of the world like I have been blessed to do. They had questions when I would start to speak about holiness and our common vocation to become saints. Mostly they just seemed delighted to have someone to whom they could pour their hearts out about their desire to please God, and to live as true Christians! It was wonderful and exciting to discover that there are more vocations soon to come out of my home parish – while it has been dry for at least 20 years to the best of my knowledge… 

It was an extraordinarily action-packed evening of holy conversations, and I was happy for the opportunity to share with other young people and support their desire to grow in virtue, in the service of our Lord. There is a hope that as been building in our generation. It’s exciting and reassuring to know that while I will be doing my part in evangelization through prayer from inside the cloister, there are others who will be at the frontlines of the battlefield out here “in the world” who are becoming awesome missionaries, catechists, active sisters, priests, husbands, wives, teachers, doctors, gardeners, janitors… everything and anything for the greater glory of God! But you see the problem with these wonderful and holy conversations was that, even for very brief moments, I experienced temptation (which is actually a good thing to experience since it gives us opportunities to grow in virtue... but if one can avoid temptation, one should). Through recognizing the gifts God has given me to communicate with people, it is easy to slip into wondering what kind of great things I could do to further the New Evangelization outside the cloister. To wonder what a great good I could do to help young people grow in fellowship and discipleship. To think about my experience as a teacher and a speaker and flatter myself, that I have been given the ability to gain attention. And then so quickly to slip into thinking that these people need me. That if I leave – who will there be left to listen to their desires for holiness and give them moral support, and encourage them to keep responding to God’s call? 

But there you see… how easily it becomes about me. How even through a noble cause – the desire to further the kingdom of God – so quickly I fall into pride. Because the truth is that yes, at that precise moment in time (last night) those people did need me to be there to listen and encourage them. But when the time comes for me to leave, if it is God’s will, then they will not need me any more after that. Not to sit there and listen to them anyway. If they need someone to encourage them, God will provide someone else. If there is a young man discerning the missionary life and needs to hear from an experienced missionary, God will provide it – he won’t need me (not that I know much about missionary work to begin with). If there is a young woman discerning religious life who needs advice, God will show her where to go – she won’t need me. If there is a whole group of young adults who need fellowship and truly want it for the Glory of God – God will move their hearts to make it happen, they won’t need me to show them how. If there is a person who is newly interested in learning about TOTB, God will provide them with the right resources – they won’t need me. There will always be someone better and more fully equipped to evangelize the culture more effectively. For God orders all things perfectly according to His will.

It is in recognizing my tendency toward pride that I acknowledge, more and more everyday, how the Lord is asking me to sacrifice even the joys that I experience in seeing the fruits of my labor for Him – and to instead seek higher counsel from those noble and learned women who have come to know Him in the way that He is calling me to know Him. He asks me to surrender even all of the potential I have to do good works for him in the culture – so that He can fulfill His purpose for me from inside the cloister. What that purpose it... I have no clue. What I know is that I cannot go around pretending that I think my good works are more fruitful than God's answers to my prayers. He has made it clear that my best work is done in meditation, and so I cannot but continue further down this road. 

What I do know about “leaving the world” is that it usually involves dying. Most people will be blessed to carry out His will for them on earth and then begin their new life once their hearts stop beating and their minds go dark. But some of us are called to begin our new lives while our bodies are still very much functioning! And so He requires us to die to the world, and to ourselves, through leaving all things familiar, in pursuit of holiness and true unity with Him. Only when we are able to sacrifice the joys of the world can we be free to let Him stop our hearts, which beat with love for the vanities of life, and replace them with new hearts which beat with love for nothing but Him. Only when we allow Him to remove us from all distractions can we be free to let Him darken our minds to every idea not directed toward Him, and to fill our brains with such brilliance that every thought is founded on the splendor or Divinity. 

For my part, He has called me to this greatest role in all of it. Am I sure? Well… I am sure that He is offering me the chance to be reconciled in a way that not all are privileged to be offered. How can I refuse?

Ecclesiastes 1: 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Final Match, and then some

Ave Maria!

Somebody named Skyler drew this. Thank you Skyler! :)
The final amount donated between July 16th - 31st was $7,435... and that means that over the course of two weeks you helped support me with a total of $14,870.00 ...
A. MA. ZING. !! Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed so far this year, especially those who have supported me through prayer and through sharing my story, whether or not you have been able to help me financially. I cannot express how grateful I am for your kindness, my friends. I am truly blessed by you and by God.  I am taking each of your prayer requests to Him as they come in, and with me every time I go running. They will be going with me when I enter the monastery, so that I can continue praying for you for the rest of my life! ... But my fundraising effort is not over yet!

I now have 10 days left to go before the Water to Wine Half marathon - where I will be praying for all of you and giving thanks to God for the abundant graces He has sent me! This time around will be a little different - I will be praying full rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets throughout the race - in 5 different languages :). Each rosary and chaplet will have a different intention, and some individual decades may even have their own specific intentions. But be assured that I will be praying for each and every one of you during the race - as well as during the mini-pilgrimage / retreat I will be making out of the weekend.

The amount left to raise is just under $18k (slightly more than the numbers reflect on due to site fees and loan interest...), and I will be informing Mother Mary Augustine of the status of my debt on August 15th - the day we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Friends, you helped me raise almost $15k in just two weeks... I fully trust in the Lord that He will move the perfect number of hearts to support me with the perfect amount of finances to enter my community in His perfect time. I know many of you have given more than once and I can't thank you enough... so now I am asking that you please share share share with everyone you know. Even if you encounter a person of faith who you know can't help me with money... please share my story with them and ask them to pray for me. And to pray with me, for we are all members working in prayer together, as one Body of Christ!

If you have been following the 99-Day Novena Relay you know that yesterday we capped off the 9-days of prayer through the intercession of St. Jude & St. Rita. The patron saints of lost causes and desperate situations! I mean... is it any wonder why you were moved to be so generous during these last 9 days? I think not! Today we handed off to those who are praying through the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux. The little flower! Patroness of my home diocese :). All around good gal. This is Leg 9 of the Relay! Wow after this we will have prayed NINE novenas in a row for religious vocations and all of our personal intentions. There must be some special indulgence for that or something. :D kidding! Only two more Legs to go after this!

Also a couple of you have noticed that I have stopped posting the daily reflections/meditations that correspond to St. Louis de Montfort's Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary... which I said I would be posting until the 15th. I stopped for various reasons - but the main (albeit selfish) one is that I just don't think I can commit the time to posting every single night for the next 15 days! Haha. God is keeping me occupied with His work elsewhere. But hopefully you have had a sufficient taste of one element of the consecration - and will now go off to find out more about it on your own. Hurry up! The next start date is August 6th remember?? Don't be afraid to allow Our Lady to penetrate into your life in a magnificent way. And don't be afraid of loving her too much like lots of people in the world say we catholics do... you can never love her more than Jesus loves her!

God bless you my friends. Pray for me please.