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!
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!
Here is their FB page!
|Yes, that is a bottle stopper race medal.|
|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 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!
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.
|Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church - humble from the outside,|
BEAUTIFUL on the inside! Well, humble inside too, but quite striking.
|Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in Ashland, OR|
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.
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.