My Love Affair with Saint Therese

I love the saints.  There really isn't anyway to sugarcoat it.  They're as close to me as my friends here on earth and I talk to them on a very regular basis. In fact, Saint Maria Goretti and I had a great chat in my car on the way to work today.  
It's hard to pick favorites, but I have to say that my list of top saints would include Edith Stein, Pope John Paul II and Pierre Giorgio Frassetti.  Then toss in Maria Goretti, Cecilia and Theresa of Avila and you have yourself a pretty good saint mix if I do say so myself. 
          :      Edith Stein | ... in Hawaii: Recommended Reading: Edith Stein: Life in a Jewish Family  
All of my favorite saints just crash onto the scene of Catholicism and give me this amazing example of an in-your-face Catholicism that just exploded and invaded their entire life.  I was inspired by Pope John Paul II's rugged outdoors life and insane people skills.  I was emboldened by Edith Stein's writings on women.  I wanted to learn to ski just to be closer to Pierre Giorgio.  I wanted to change the course of history and people's lives like Maximilian Kolbe.  I wanted to be a great saint - and I was surrounding myself with these amazing role models.
But when I chatted with people about their favorite saint, one beautiful lady kept popping up in conversation and I wasn't sure how I felt about that.  Now we get to the honesty hour.  Where I admit that, for the longest time, I couldn't stand Saint Therese of Liseux. Whoa, that's sounds harsh. 
Maybe it was her neatness.  Her gentle smile that seemed to find me in every chapel that I went to, a stray holy card there, a statue here, this constant presence of roses.  She was the epitome of humility, and I was over here, struggling with my biggest vice of pride.  She was tidy and calm and I was internally wrestling and externally the definition of chaos.  She was easy to read and liked to give signs.  I was all over the board and was trying to get out of my comfort zone.  She didn't appeal to me.  She wasn't relate-able.

But gradually, as more and more of my friends sang the praises of Christ working through Therese in their life, I realized that I needed to give her another chance - or rather, stop shutting off my heart to what Christ was trying to tell me through her.

Then I realized why I didn't get along so well with Saint Therese - she challenged me too much.
Here I am, looking at these lofty goals, these high aspirations.  My college career, my possible path towards grad school, my big 'V' vocation, my life.  See where the emphasis is placed? 'My.'  As if this life is mine to live.  All the while, Saint Therese is over there smiling, shaking her head more than likely and saying things like "I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifices to all ecstasies.  To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." 
                                            no chris pratt
I did N-O-T want to heart that at all.  I would rather hear things like "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."  YES! Bring it on Saint Catherine of Sienna! Action! Power! Whoo!  None of this pin-picking up business.  
But Therese kept hitting me with these amazing little quotes that dug at me day in and day out.  She made me reconsider my mission field.

I was looking at things with a very broad scope vantage point lens.  Let me take on the world.  My campus.  My career field.  But Therese was sitting beside me, nudging my finger on the zoom button of that camera, constantly pulling my vision closer and closer to the individuals who were closets to me.  My best friends, family, classmates, professors.  She kept saying that they were my mission - my mission in my backyard...and I didn't want to have a thing to do with that.

That was personal.  That was messy.  That was sticky.  There wasn't any glory (I thought).  It felt like settling to me.

She kept proving me wrong - if only proven by her patronage.  Saint Therese the Little Flower, who went into a cloistered convent is the patron saint of missionaries.

                                       new girl hp hermione granger hermione vomit

What? But it was true - this little saint who pushed herself along her little way was rippling out and effecting many more than just those in her four convent walls.  And I was being challenged to do the same.

Am I saying that God isn't asking big things from you? No.  But I am saying that maybe the stage where you're called to start that role in His plan is looks a lot like the dinner table at your house.  Or that 2:00am conversation with a roommate who needs to know that she's loved.  Or a little brother who needs challenged in his faith life.  Maybe it's not big...maybe it's doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.  
I'll let Saint Therese of the Little Flower end as she does best, short and sweet: "Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them."
So embrace the little things, take on the courageous cross of great love, keep striving and Be Not Afraid.

              

5 Tips for Catholic College Students

In less than a week, my last semester of my junior year starts. It's an experience that has flown by faster than you can say "textbook rental" - but I've learned so much along the way.  So whether you are just starting college, or returning for another year in the trenches, here are my top five hints that I've learned - advice from a seasoned college vet as you will.

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Calling all the college students


1) Make Time for Prayer

Conversation (talking and listening) with God is one thing that can keep the craziness that is college life in check.  However, prayer is usually the first thing that gets shoved to the back burner once college starts for me.  The hint that I got from a friend my freshman year was to make my prayer time an unmovable appointment in my calendar.  Literally pencil in 'time with God' in for a certain time during the day and keep that appointment.  You wouldn't call and cancel coffee with your best friend because you weren't suddenly feeling up to it.  So don't do that with your conversation with God.

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Running to my God appointment 

2) Emphasize Christ-Centered Friendships
The word for 'religion' and the word for 'relationship' have the same root - there's a reason.  No man is an island, especially in the sea of college life.  Find friends who are going to hold you accountable, who are going to challenge your faith life and who are going to push you towards Christ.  Friends who are going to get to know you well enough that when you say 'I'm fine' they know something is up.  Friends who don't let you pack your faith away with your high school diploma and who tell you when you mess up.  Friends to laugh, cry, and grow with.  Friendships centered in your most mutual friend - Christ. 
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which leads to.....

3) Find your Newman Center

When I was a freshman in college, the Newman center was on my way home from work.  I'd get off at 6 pm, and the center would open at 7 pm for fellowship on Wednesday.  I cannot tell you how many times I took the turn for home instead of the campus center and had to turn myself around and decide to go the campus center.  It's not an instant thing - there are going to be awkward moments, and funny moments, and moments you'll relive again and again once you get in there and get comfortable.  Some of my best friends from my Newman center are people that I would have never have guessed would know all the things they know about me now.  But I never would have met them if I hadn't gone to the Newman center.  So get yourself to one. 
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Surprise friends are the best friends 


4) Reach out and don't be afraid to evangelize 

Your Catholic faith is going to be challenged.  Despite the college you go to, the time spent at the Newman center, the friendships you form.  It's inevitable - someone is going to ask you why you're Catholic.  It could be in a class, where the only time the Catholic Church is talked about is when it's being bashed.  It could be in the form of a room mate who wants to know why Catholics do what they do.  It could be in a conversation in the cafeteria.  Regardless of where it is, don't be afraid to be blatantly Catholic.  The world needs more Catholic nerds - embrace it.  But also don't be afraid of not knowing the answer.  We belong to a church that has been around for over 2,000 years....questions that are asked in 2015 have been answered - we just have to do some research.  So never be afraid of the response "That's a good question - and I don't know the answer.  But I know there is one out there.  Can I do some research for you and get back with you?"  They're more impressed by your humility of admitting that you don't know then by you avoiding an answer.  
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I will find an answer....I promise

5) Find your devotion


Find something to keep you grounded in your faith life.  Similar to not letting your daily appointment with God down.  It could come in many different forms - maybe you're going to make it to morning Mass two times a week.  Or say a rosary every day.  Or learn more about the saints.  But have a game plan and stick to it.  Oh, and remember the friends you met in tip number 2? Don't be afraid to bond further with them over your commonly shared faith.  Start a Bible study together, or meet at the grotto to say a novena.  But having a goal in mind makes it easy to stay on target.
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When I talk about Eucharistic Adoration 


What were tips you were given when you started college?  Do you have any tips for those going in to college?  Are you starting your first year? What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!

In Christ,

Chloe 
 

What does Eucharistic Adoration Look Like?

When you get your own adoration hour 

One of my all time favorite forms of prayer is Eucharistic adoration.  It's there that I first really heard Christ speaking to me during some rough times in senior year, and it's there that I have been able to work every hard problem that I've had out with Jesus.

So just what is Eucharistic adoration?  And what do you do during the hour?

There are many forms that adoration is present around the world.  Perpetual adoration chapels in some churches, nocturnal adoration on the eve of the first Saturday of the month, daily exposition and benediction at some parishes.  There are organizations around the world that promote a holy hour, and also availability of a 24/7 adoration chapel where you can stop in when you have time, even if it's less than an hour.

The history of adoration is beautiful though -  As early in Church history as the year 325, around the Council of Nicea, there is evidence that the Eucharist would be reserved in churches, monasteries, and convents.  This was mainly for the purpose of having it available for the anointing of the sick and dying.  Yet the place it was kept was considered holy.  As monasteries and community life were established, the Eucharist held a special place in even the architecture of the church building itself. The place was referred to by many names: Pastoforium, Diakonikon, Secetarium and Protehsis to name a few.  Yet it was a separate room from the Church, akin to the modern day Eucharistic adoration chapel.

But there still wasn't adoration hours or chapels for the community, so when did those come into play? In the late 1000s, there was a movement that stemmed fom Berengarius, a deacon in France, who said Christ wasn't present in the Eucharist at all.  The heresy became so wide spread that Pope Gregory VII told Berengarius to retract his statement.  Pope Gregory VII himself had a deep love for the Eucharist, which was influenced by his time spent with the Benedictines.  In his writings, he said

 "I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration, there is present the true body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin and offered up for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and that there is present the true blood of Christ which flowed from His side."

Following this statement, and many others like it, the movement of Eucharistic reverence and appreciation began in the Church.  John Hardon, S.J., wrote about what this new found love of the Eucharist looked like.

"The churches in Europe began what can only be described as a Eucharistic Renascence.  Processions of the Blessed Sacrament were instituted; prescribed acts of adoration were legislated; visits to Christ...were encouraged; the cells of anchoressess had windows made into the church to allow the religious to view and adore before the tabernacle."  

So what does an adoration hour look like?  What are you supposed to do in one?  How do you start?  Here are five quick tips if you're new to the adoration scene.

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When you get your own adoration hour

1) Start off with silence.

The world we live in is crazy.  Noise comes at us from every corner - from our car radios to the constant alerts coming from our phone.  Eucharistic adoration is an amazing time to just go and sit in silence...with nothing to distract you...and just some alone time with Christ.
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My favorite quote on the Eucharist comes from a story that Saint John Vianney told.  He went into the chapel one day and and someone came up and asked him what he did all day in adoration.  "Nothing," he replied, "I just look at Him and He looks at me."  That's friendship - the time where it's silent and you don't need to say anything, but rather experience the joy of being with someone who you have a deep relationship with. 
2) Adoration
Well, it is called Eucharistic adoration, so this seems like an obvious one, but what does that word mean?  This is a time where you get to tell God how amazing He is.  A little while ago I wrote about the Psalms, and how they are God's love song to Himself that we get to sing to Him.  So take this time to praise Him for who He is.
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3) Contrition
We've all messed up, and what a better place to reconcile with the Lord (besides confession of course, which is also recommended) but Eucharistic adoration?  If a friend hurts you, what is the preferred apology - in a text or face to face? Face to face always wins out - there is something about the humility to say you are sorry to a person when you are standing in front of them.  

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4) Thanksgiving 

The word 'Eucharistario' means 'Thanksgiving.'  WHOA.  Can you think of a better time to give thanks to the Lord for what He has given you than when you are looking at Him in the gift of the Eucharist?  It doesn't just have to be for the big things in life - like a job interview or a great friendship.  It could be the small things (which I'm notorious for noticing): like how the pothole on your way to work today was filled, or how the wind was blowing while you were sitting outside.  Nothing small goes unnoticed by God - He keeps track of even the smallest of sparrows.  
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5) Supplication

God knows what is on our heart before we speak it, but there is something to be said for laying out your concerns and desires before the Lord in adoration.  Asking for advice on what to do, how to solve a problem, or what decision you should make is a fantastic thing to bring to His feet at adoration.  And after you bring your heart's desires before Him, pray that your will be conformed to His through prayer.

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"Jesus has made himself the Bread of Life to give us life.  Night and day.  He is there.  If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to Adoration." Mother Teresa. 

What I Didn't Know When I Went on a Dating Fast

I haven't gone on any dates for the past nineteen and half years.

But I chose to not go on any dates specifically these past five months, and my dating fast will end in less than two weeks. What have these past five months been like?  

Simply opening up every aspect of my life to God this year, including my love life (which I have been so reluctant to give Him) has been an amazing, humbling, gratifying, humbling, and beautiful experience.  Did I mention humbling? God has used these past five months to really let me in on somethings I didn't know - and things I didn't know a dating fast would even bring about.

I didn't know that there were people who struggled with the same things that I did - both men and women.  Being on a dating fast and interacting with guys as brothers in Christ has given me the opportunity for amazing conversations with men that I wouldn't have been able to have if I had been over analyzing and projecting my hopes for a relationship on them.

I didn't know about the beauty of being spiritually attracted to someone and their walk with the Lord instead of just being attracted to them based on their outward, physical appearance.  Because when you can't date someone, you begin to realize their qualities and observe with a general appreciation of who they are in the eyes of God.

I didn't know about how much God can speak to your heart through scripture.  Switching my God journal back from a 'talk at God about guys' journal and back into 'talk with God about life' journal has made an incredible impact on my prayer life.  Opening up His word on a more regular basis and hearing Him speak to me through liturgy of the hour prayers and the rosary has also been something I wouldn't have been able to tap into if I had been spending my time obsessing over dating.  Over and over I was shocked at the immense amount of love that was just waiting for me in those pages.

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What opening the Bible up felt like to me. 

I didn't know how much I loved my sisters in Christ.  Both biological and spiritual, I am truly blessed to know some of the best ladies in the world.  And I'm not exaggerating.  Spending my dating fast as a time to sincerely get to know some of the women in my life was something I will never regret.  I've felt friendships get deeper and stronger than I ever have, and have been inspired by them over and over.

Would I advise going on a dating fast? Yes - on the condition of one thing.

Truly discern.  Don't go on a dating fast because you've heard that once you go on one, someone will ask you out.  Don't start because you're afraid of what a committed relationship would look like, and scared that you're not ready for that in your life.  Don't begin simply because your singles status on Facebook has become a bargaining chip that you throw at God.

Yet be prepared.

Be prepared to be blown away by the way that God can speak to you through countless mediums. Friends, family, scripture, a homily, the rosary, the way a tree blossoms in the spring, or the smell of chocolate cologne (which shouldn't be a thing, but it is.)

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Does this make me smell spiritually attractive? 

Be prepared to meet some amazing people who God will put in your life exactly when you need them.  Get ready to be awed by the maker of the universe. 

God can reach out and touch you through human interaction, and when those around you are open to being His hands and His feet, it really is a beautiful experience.

Am I glad it's over? Hmm....yes and no. Complicated answer, huh? Let me explain.

I am glad to have experienced one-on-one God time.  And letting Him really take a hold of my heart and soul and flood it with love.  But that isn't something that is going to go away now that the dating fast is over.  If anything, that time probably should increase.  Because when you are in a relationship with a human being, your relationship with God can't take back burner.  You're prayer life can't become something you just do with your significant other and never solo.

But I do think that stepping away from even the thought of a relationship has really let me define what I want a God-driven relationship to look like before I even begin.

My dating fast, despite the fact that I didn't have to physically give up dating or a boyfriend, wasn't a walk in the park. I had an incredible mix of days where I struggled with my emotions.  On a Monday, I would so happy to be on the fast, and by Tuesday I felt like beating my head against a wall.  There were some knocked-down-dragged-out-crying-in-the-rain nights with the realization of how much I really needed God in my life.  Because, put simply, I don't have it together.  It's a challenge.


REAL dating, real chastity, and frankly, real love involves real work.  It's not easy.  But one of my favorite saints, St. Catherine of Sienna, once said "Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."  I can look back at the past five months without one regret.  I'm striving to treat guys like brothers in Christ and I've grown closer to the lover of my soul and maker of my heart. 

So when it comes to dating, relationships, and all that jazz.  Whether you're in a relationship that is great and God filled or frankly you would be closer to God if you weren't in the relationship you have, remember this.  You are worthy of respect.  And true love.  The greater the amount of respect that you have for yourself as a child of God and other people as brothers and sisters in Christ , the greater your ability to show true love is. 



Father Benedict once said "You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness."  Let's go out there and live great lives together. 


In Christ,

Chloe