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Mass, a prayer book, and St.Paul

Thanks to Gudrun Lisa Korell’s suggestion, from over at Prayers4reparation, I headed to Vespers and Mass early Saturday evening so I would have some time to browse through the bookshop, St. Pauls. I was a little overwhelmed by the size of the shop as it is much larger than it appears from the outside. I finally settled on a prayer book entitled “The Greatest of These is Love: Daily Meditations on St. Paul“.

I noticed quite a few books on animals and the environment in the ‘current topics’ section, but none of them really seemed to be calling me. I also noticed a bunch of books written by people who are currently being investigated by the Vatican, so I wasn’t totally trusting that everything in the shop was necessarily Church approved. Needless to say, I’m very happy with this little prayer book as I’m already receiving many blessings from it! (And lucky for me Westminster Cathedral has St. Paul’s Chapel which I can pray in, which I think is pretty neat!)

I’m an academic at heart and the combination of learning about Paul’s life throughout the Bible and the meditation and prayer given by Bishop Campbell strikes a great tone for me in my prayer life. What I really took away from today’s meditation was this line: “Like St. Paul, our vocation is to respond to the measure of Christ’s grace given us in the particular circumstances of our own lives.” 

I find the concept of vocation to be really freeing. As I mentioned in Saturday’s post, there have been a few times when I’ve felt called to travel down a certain path in life. These callings weren’t necessarily long-term vocations (religious life, marriage, etc.), but I’m definitely in the beginning stages of discernment for a longer-term vocation now. Starting in October I’m going to be working for ten months in service of others and I’m praying that through this time away from boyfriend I’ll discern God’s plan. I’ve found this article from the Archdiocese of Washington entitled “Six Principles of Discernment” to be really helpful. Those six principles are going to be meditated on a lot over this next coming year!

I hope everyone had an insightful Corpus Christi!

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Hebrews 1:11

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I’ve had a strong connection to this verse for a long time. At my Baptist school the graduating seniors got to have their life verse printed under their picture in the yearbook. I always loved browsing through and seeing which verses people felt strongly connected to. I didn’t stay on at that school for high school, but if I had to pick a life verse it would be Hebrews 1:11.

There’s something kind of mystical about this verse to me. I’ve been blessed to have a few moments in life where I definitely felt called by the Holy Spirit to travel down a certain path. To some this might seem a little strange. How could you know? Wasn’t that just you? After experiencing both, of feeling guided in certain instances and then in others left to make my own decision, I can say that there is definitely a difference, and it’s rather astounding.

I’m a big fan of Emerson’s writings. He is not Catholic, but I find his life and work very interesting.* He wrote that:

Our faith comes in moments; our vice is habitual. Yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences.

When I watch that flowing river, which, out of regions I see not, pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water; that I desire and look up, and put myself in the attitude of reception, but from some alien energy the visions come.

And in those moments of discerning, the realization that I was hoping for these things to work out was not just because it was what I wanted, but also because it was what I was being called to do. There’s a beautiful kind of mesh that occurs in which I’d like think that these were things that I also wanted to do, but maybe, just maybe, the whole thing was totally the Holy Spirit guiding me. Isn’t that amazing to think about? That the Holy Spirit could guide us in such a way that we don’t even know because we think it’s our ‘own path to follow’ and then perhaps one day we will have the humility to see the truth: there are no such things as ‘my interests’ or ‘my life’ but rather there are merely ‘my God-given charisms’ and ‘my life according to God’.

Another verse I really like is Romans 12:6 which backs this up.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

Every gift and charism we have was given to us for a purpose. It’s easy to look around and wish that you had other gifts or charisms, but it’s crucial to recognize that what we have been given has been intended precisely for us and it is no more or less important.

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*Which, of course, need to be taken with a grain of salt because he advocated a kind of pantheism.

Mass, Confirmation, and Ursula Ledochowska

Each day through learning more about Catholicism I am continuously amazed at how much either
A: I was too young to understand at the time.
B: The level of influence my Baptist (i.e. fundamentalist) school I attended had on me and my subsequent conflation of those beliefs with all of Christianity. (Evolution is wrong, the devil is a living breathing creature that wanders around and  actually attacks people, Jonah really did live in the belly of a whale, etc.)
C: Part of me also feels that it isn’t just A & B but also the way Catholicism was presented to me in CCD. Since I was attending a fundamentalist school, I had a lot of questions on the differences between the two branches, but the teacher I remember in particular (who worked for McDonald’s corporate office) never really wanted to talk about fundamentalist assumptions (perhaps he didn’t know?).

Anyway, it is through learning guided by individuals like Fr. Robert Barron which is really helping to bring me back to the Church and I really couldn’t be more grateful for the work that he does which is easily accessible online. I’m heading to 8 a.m. Mass tomorrow at Westminster Cathedral. This will be my first time at Mass in a long time, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve even planned out my outfit like it’s the first day of school or something!

            

 I recently asked in the Catholic Answer Forum whether I would need to go through RCIA in order to be confirmed. Just to be clear, I have no problem having to do this it’s just that I’m not going to be settled and having a ‘regular’ parish to attend for the next 18 months, so having to wait that long and having to do 9 months of classes seems like forever away! The good news is that since I’ve been baptized, had First Communion, and went through CCD (i.e. I’m definitely a Catholic, not a convert), Confirmation shouldn’t be that big of a deal. I might have to take a class or just have private instruction with a priest depending on the parish.

In the spirit of ‘I’ve definitely decided I want to become religiously observant again!’ I’ve been shopping around, so to speak, to find out who I might want my patron Saint to be.

            

This is Ursula Ledochowska.

[It] is not enough to pray, Thy kingdom come, but to work, so that the Kingdom of God will exist among us today.

Holiness does not demand anything great, beyond the ability of the person. It depends on God’s Love; every daily act can be transformed into an act of love.

Of course the latter is very important to me, as it is the same sentiment that has inspired this blog’s tagline: Cheerfully striving for holiness through the little things.

The former is, however, something I’ve been thinking more and more about today. We have this overwhelming sense of ‘But I’m a good person!’ in our culture, do we not? I guess I’m starting to see this as problematic because I think the majority of people would agree that being a ‘good person’ involves some sort of selflessness, such as almsgiving, giving your time to those who need it, advocating for social justice, which can essentially all be summed up as serving others.

But if we were to ask ‘What are you doing to serve others?’ after every proclamation of ‘But I’m a good person!’ what would we end up with? For sure we would end up with loads of people who are really and truly serving others, but we would also end up with a lot of blank stares. I’m not saying these are bad people in any way I’m merely challenging this idea that we can be ‘good people’  whilst only striving for the bare minimum in the things we don’t do (Well, I haven’t murdered anyone, so I’m a good person! I don’t steal therefore I’m a good person! etc. etc.) Okay, that’s a start, but the vast majority of people on planet earth have never murdered someone.

Let’s set the bar a little higher and, while not completely ignoring what we don’t do, give some precedence for what exactly we are doing.

As you can tell, I’m liking this St. Ursula a whole lot. 🙂

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Doing the bare minimum

No eulogy is due to him who simply does his duty and nothing more. –St. Augustine

I must confess that doing the bare minimum is something that I have struggled with over the past few years, but is something that I am determined to rectify. Falling prey to living in the moment and hence doing the bare minimum on certain things in order to have time for other things can happen to the best of us.

Where do faith and religion come in?

As St. Augustine implicitly points out above, the bare minimum is usually not best. In some cases it may be, but in the vast majority of cases it is not. I know when I’m at my best and, um, I haven’t been there for quite a while unfortunately.

Live in this world, but infuse your actions with a meaning and purpose that transcends it. –Allison Josephs

And in the spirit of doing my best, I’m off to get studying for an exam on the politics of the Middle East.

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