on feeling silenced

I never thought my voice would fade.
The vigor, the passion.
I let someone
silence me.

Slowly.
You’re too this-
Can’t you see
that?
Insert judgement
(here.)

I’m tired of
Withdrawing
Denying.

Letting go of who
I am.

So here,
here I am, world.
Here I am, yet again.

Hello!

(c) rosannanoelle

Being a disciple of Christ can be one of the loneliest feelings. Simply put, you feel quite ostracized by society. Particularly in this day and age, and in meeting so many wonderful people, mentioning that you’re Christian feels almost taboo. It’s not that I don’t connect with non-Christians; it’s just that I feel that it’s a large part of my life that seems like a turn-off to many that I meet. So I either consciously or unconsciously keep my faith at bay, even when the Holy Spirit feels like it’s burning within me. Don’t wanna char anyone!

Religion is seen as archaic, and , well, the opiate of the masses. (I suppose this is what lead me to meet my spouse on a faith-based dating website– ha, ha! Well, that and Divine Providence.) But in all seriousness, it felt nearly impossible to find a guy my age practicing his faith with equal fervor. At least for who I am as a person, it was so important to share that deepest part of me with the love of my life.

It’s hard to feel deeply lonely among your peers and most especially among your own family at times. The latter can really grate at your soul, and pierce you, because your family is who you love the most. I used to so fervently blog on my site “Catholic Twenty Something.” However, as the years passed, I noticed my vigor for writing about my faith taper down– sadly, almost to a trickle.

And after years of introspection and prayer, it finally dawned on me what had actually happened. I succumbed to bullying. I let a few angry, judgmental voices of individuals near and dear to me really erode my heart. Perhaps they did not know they were hurting me so. But in so many instances, it truly felt like they knew, and they simply wanted to have their word with me. By the grace of God, and truly not my own strength or willpower, I have forgiven them and moved on.

For NO matter the faith walk of those that I love, I love them because they are who they are– not because they do nor do not support my faith walk. Loving someone just because they make you feel a certain way or approve of all of the things you do and say– well, that’s probably a utilitarian relationship, at best. I want to love like Christ loved. And he especially loves those who hate him.

But it’s true that those who you love the most can hurt you the most. And their words can break you. And my heart, well, it sank, and sank, and sank listening to such voices. Deeper and deeper into an abyss, into the darkness. Yet my eyes were always pointed to the light.

It just felt as if I had let my voice… drown. Under those who are so much more confident than I am, so much more approved by everyone else I know. But this post is not meant to be a sob story!!! Being a disciple of Christ is, for the most part, a life of JOY, at least in my own journey. And in this bullying, I found the deepest peace I had ever met, in the pierced heart of Christ Himself. 

In these last few years of feeling like my zeal to evangelize was dampened, God actually did something amazing: He stirred that thirst for Him even more vigorously within, in a contemplative, meditative way. And He brought truth to my situation: that the pain from this kind of bullying was stopping me from being the beautiful person that He made me to be. That His love and approval is worth gold, and that the love and approval of the world is rubbish.

During these years, God has never ceased to send people to walk alongside me in my faith walk, with open ears and open hearts. I have so many strengthened relationships, and a much stronger marriage, because of this internal struggle. And step by step, in many ways– and this blog being one of them!– I hope that I can reclaim my voice that began to fade a few years ago.

Have you ever been in such a situation? I encourage you to take it to contemplation, meditation, and prayer. No voice deserves to be silenced.

 

 

 

 

JESUS: in others, and alone with just me!

photo

Jesus.

Name above all names.

Worthy of all praise.

The above is one of the classrooms at the school at which I am a counselor. Saw these window decorations  and I just smiled big.  Jesus. That is the most important thing… er, Person… these kids will ever learn… er, meet!

I honestly believe that I have come to know this this Son of God Made Man, JESUS, primarily through relationships. And yes, starting at a very young age. My grandmother once told me that one day when she was praying the Rosary, when I was three years old, I just joined in with her. I knew every word to a tee. My grandmother was absolutely shocked.

My grandmother should not have been shocked, however. To this day, I remember how she would constantly pray to Jesus… and also, constantly praise Him in her deeds and actions. Yes… I knew Jesus from the fresh age of three because of my grandmother’s vivid WITNESS to Him!

My grandmother had a relationship with Jesus. He was her answer. He was her purpose. He was her love. I could tell this, and I wanted to be a part of it, even as a toddler. I wanted to know Him, too.

Granted, my faith has grown tremendously since then (and thank the LORD! it is all His doing!). Especially in my teenage and young adult years, I have questioned things, and gone astray at times. But I have always come back.

I ardently believe my constant “coming back” to Jesus– and rediscovery of who He is and how He loves me, throughout my life– is a result of purely A) God’s grace and B) my grandmother’s prayers. And not only that: most likely my great grandmother’s prayers as well.

According to legend (or, actual truth!), just like my grandmother, my great grandmother was also a woman of great faith. After my great grandmother raised nine kids and her husband died, she became a third order Carmelite!

I have no doubt that my faith (which I am still ardently working on day by day) is a gift from God (not earned) and a fruit of the intercessory prayers of my grandmother and my great grandmother. Moreover, I have no doubt that I have come to know Jesus through relationships with others who have borne witness to Him! As a kid, I knew who He was; and yes, I loved Him. But it wasn’t until college that I really met Him in a deep, personal way and realized that He loved me far better than I could ever love Him.

photo(1)

Fast forward to today, and I believe that I am coming to know Jesus– Who He is, and also how to follow Him– in my courtship with my dear boyfriend, or “Saint Joseph,” as well. My boyfriend is teaching me Who Love is; and our relationship is teaching both of us how to love with Jesus’s love– side by side.  🙂

photo(2)

What’s beautiful, however, is that although Jesus has met me through all of those relationships, it is ultimately those intimate moments, with just He and I, that shine the most! However, I truly believe that you need both type of experiences to meet Jesus: through His image and likeness in others’ and their love stemming from Love, and through encountering Love Himself, Jesus, one on one.

Jesus.

I am still trying to wrap my head around Who Jesus is. I am still growing in my faith tremendously. Our relationship will forever be “forming” one way or another! Deeper and deeper, I will meet Him, every day that I live.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… with nothing to do, nothing to lose.

Yeah… It’s You and me… and all of the people… and I don’t know why. But I can’t keep my eyes off of You.

–Lifehouse

Jesus. 🙂

my crew: the God Squad

Image


“The Communion of Saints” (c) John Nava/The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

You become who you are around.

I was blessed to make friends filled with the light of Christ in middle school (and beyond). I saw a genuine goodness in my friends; they were different from my friends who just seemed like they wanted to be “popular.” I saw my new friends… living for a meaning and a purpose outside of the realm of self.

Moreover, even at such a young age, many of my friends lived as young disciples of Christ. I wanted that joy and peace in my heart, too! I soon saw that it stemmed from selflessness, not selfishness.

Fast forward two and a half decades later, and I’d like to say that my “crew” now consists of six of my (many) cousins, ages 18 to 27. I suppose we are the cousins closest in age and that’s why we kind of formed our own group. Anyway… just a confession… I like to think of this “crew” as “the God Squad.”

I honestly would like to say that none of my cousin’s or my parents “forced” religion onto us (my own dad: agnostic); but I do think we were all lead to God by God in various ways. Yes, our parents helped us to be lead to Him (and so did our Rosary-praying Lola grandma!) by taking us to church, praying with us, showing us a good example of faithfulness, etc.

But really, all I can do is smile huge and think about how God planned this all from the very beginning– how God planned each and every one of us’s personal journeys to Him on our own timetable! It just so happens that now, at least today, we all seem to be journeying into life together…. united in Him.

Back then, we bonded over Big Foot Pizza and rollerblades. Who would have known our deepest bond… would turn into Christ?

My cousins in this “God squad” all feel like my best friends, even if we don’t always keep up with each other on a daily basis.

I really believe that you become who you are around. I am so blessed to be surrounded by my “crew”– this “God squad.” They don’t even know that this is what I call them in my mind (and have been for a couple years now).

My cousins are Kingdom seekers. Just like Matthew 6:33 says, they seek first God’s Kingdom. Then they try to build. And they believe that God will provide so long as they first seek Him. I’ve seen my cousin crew members do  amazing things in their lives so far. My cousins inspire me to pick up my cross, too– and to live for God and for others in His name.

Moreover, my cousins also teach me that Faith and grace cannot be earned. It can be prayed for. But it is freely given by God; Faith and grace are our gifts from Him. I have merely seen my cousins say “yes” to receiving and to using those gifts. And I pray moment by moment that I can do the same.

Who are you around most of the time? Make sure you surround yourself with people who have virtues you would like to emulate. Chances are you’ll likely rub off on one another, in both the good and the not-so-admirable.

don’t let others define you

“…For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Only God knows who is within. He knows us even more than we know ourselves!

Have you tapped into who you really are? Or have you listened to who the world tells you you are? Do you think that perhaps you place too much weight on who others think that you are, or who you should be?

Why not try to discover who you really are by growing closer to your Creator? Then you will find out how you– His beautiful creation– are uniquely you! You image God in a way that no other person on the planet ever will.

Others may be fooled. They may judge by the outer appearance.

But God looks at your heart… and invites you to find out how He has fashioned your heart… by first coming close to His.

When we draw nearer to Him, we have a clearer vision of who we are as His beloved daughter or son.

 I’d much rather let the Creator of the Universe define me and tell me that my heart is irreplaceable… than have someone who does not really know my heart tell me how much it is worth, and tell me who I am!Image

my favorite spot at UCLA…

Image

(c) Caravaggista

…is the engraving of this Psalm on the Humanities Building.

One day when I was an undergraduate sitting on either the grass or a bench by the building, the words caught my eye… and little did I know it was a Scripture verse!

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Psalm 119:18 (RSV)

I feel like I had a Saint Augustinian like transformation during my college days. OK, minus the crazy past life maybe.

I kept wondering, “Why? Why? Why does the Church teach we have to do x, y, and z?” I challenged the law. I pondered the law. And in my studies… I dwelled in the law, whether I believed it was worth following or not yet.

After immersing myself in texts and tomes, primary and secondary sources… I was truly enamored with how the “rules” of Catholicism were actually beautiful parameters by which the human soul could be set free. Really, the “rules”– or the “law”– were just a structure by which I found the LORD could enter the human soul.

And trust me… the last year of being a teenager, and embarking into the life of young adulthood, the last thing I wanted to be was “bound.” I did not want to be set into any sort of confining “structure” of “law.” And yet, when studying how such “law” actually paved the way for more intimate relationships with Christ, with others, and with self (yes, within!), I saw how the “law” was actually made to bring peace to the human heart, and to set it free. In all of its theology, dogma, and doctrine, Catholicism set me free into a beautiful world of wonder! Truly, I was beholding the Living Body of Christ on earth.

No longer did “Law” mean some sort of cold and calculated weighing of what is right and wrong.

Instead, following the law meant loving the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your strength, and with all of your soul (Luke 10:27)!

Following the law meant glorifying God in everything you did– even in your eating and your drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31)!

As a late teen and early twenty-something living on a secular college campus, I saw Light in a world of darkness caused by moral relativism. There was something real, vibrant, and life-giving to this supposed “Truth” that the realm of all other ephemeral “truths” by which everyone else seemed to be living.

I saw this Light first and foremost in the Catholic young adults that I was meeting and asking all of my “why?” questions to. They shined with a light I had never seen before. They contained within them a peace I had never met. (Well, besides perhaps in my grandmother– but that’s for another blog post!)

I met young adults who were standing up for something (rather, Someone) rather than falling for everything. I met young adults who were passionate and fighting for a Cause.

And, O, what a battle to fight in the spiritual warfare I perceived all around!

Yet there was something romantic about that battle in which I began to fight

The God I loved (Luke 10:27) and glorified  (1 Corinthians 10:31)… He brought Light.

Now a late twenty-something (gasp!), I still find myself fighting that fight– that fight for the Light! In ways both the same and different.

And first and foremost, the battle occurs in my own heart. Every moment that I live, I have the freedom to live in Christ if I so desire.

Only Christ makes me fully alive. He came that I might not only have life, but have it more abundantly (John 10:10)! May I always deeply revel in the wonders of the law of the LORD my God. May I always choose Him in every moment!

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” –Deuteronomy 30:19

so, if YOU were off to see the Wizard…

The Scarecrow wanted a brain. The Tin Man wanted a heart. The Lion wanted courage. Dorothy just wanted to go home.

Like Dorothy and her friends…

We’re all looking for something, whether we admit it or not.

We’re all broken, whether we admit it or not.

God isn’t looking for you. He’s pursuing you. He knows exactly where you are, and He would like to fill that hole in your soul that only His love can penetrate!

God isn’t broken, but He did let His only Son, Jesus Christ, break for you, that you might be healed. In Christ’s death, you are being offered life!

What are you looking for?

How are you broken?

Jesus would like you to come home to Him, no matter how “prodigal” you may feel. Come to Him in the Mass. Come to Him in Confession. He is waiting with a piercing love.

Image

The Gospel of Saint Luke 10:25-28:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”

the Divine romance

“May Jesus be in your mind, Jesus in your heart, Jesus on your lips, Jesus in all your works.” –Saint Gaspar del Bufalo

My mind, my heart, my lips, my works. Does Jesus rest in them all?

You see… I am not just a Roman Catholic… I am also a romantic Catholic! *cymbal clash* Haha 😉

Romantic because Jesus always has me on His mind, His heart, His lips, His works! In this Divine romance,  how can I offer back to Him all of me? Well… if I really look into my core, the purity of my intentions matters.

As for my mind… do I merely wish to be powerful?

As for my heart… do I merely wish to “use” God to fulfill my “needs”?

As for my lips… do I merely wish to sound filled with the Spirit, in my own search for human approval?

As for my works… do I merely wish to appear a devoted daughter of God?

I have no power; it is Christ’s power alone.

My heart is a heart of flesh because of the One who made me. Otherwise, it would be a heart of stone.

My lips speak goodness only because He has first spoken goodness to me and offered me tenderness, mercy, and an image of a love that touches and affirms and endures, even in infidelity.

My works are mere gifts from Our Lord. My devotion is nothing of my own doing. I simply give my “fiat” and cooperate with God.

God is the source of all grace! In Him alone do I trust. In Him alone do I learn how to truly love. I pray that I can always grow better at having Jesus in my mind, in my heart, on my lips, and in all my works.

Image

Jesus in the Eucharist, in the center tabernacle, in the heart of San Francisco. My boyfriend and I took a mini pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Saint Francis!

Image

Jesus in the Eucharist, exposed in a monstrance, in the heart of New York City. My boyfriend and I took a mini pilgrimage to the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine!

 

saints in the making… together!

What is the most exciting aspect of being in a courtship?

The hugs and kisses? The friendship? The companionship? The romance?

I’d have to say it’s none of those. It’s the sanctity. That’s what’s most exciting!

Spiritual growth and holiness are at the center of my relationship with my boyfriend. Christ is at the core of our courtship. Not in a dull, mechanical way, but in an alive, organic way!

Do we ever get sidetracked and forget that? Sure.

(Life’s busy. And we’re two laypeople in the world, with in-the-world schedules and interests like everyone else… It’s not like we are monastic like St. Francis and St. Claire– though they are two awesome patrons of ours!)

Does it get hard not to get caught up in the “eros”? You bet.

(Just because we strive to be devoted Catholic twenty-somethings doesn’t mean we don’t feel physical desires normal to any romantic relationship! But instead of listening to the world, we try to be rebels and listen to Our Lord… and embrace chastity. Best decision for us.)

But when it all comes down to it, my boyfriend and I are building not upon our “eros,” but rather upon our “agape” — our Christ-like love for one another and our shared love for Christ!

Why? Because we figure that the “eros” is strong enough anyway. Focusing on it is unnecessary and tempting. However, building our “agape” is truly investing towards a possible vocation to marriage together! And stronger agape will make for stronger eros, so it’s win-win on both accounts!

It’s exciting to think that the whole purpose and wildly beautiful meaning of our relationship is to see Christ in one another, to love Him in one another, and to bring one another to Him.

We’re building up the kingdom of God… In one another!!

That’s something that will last beyond our time here on earth. How beautiful and how amazing of a gift is that task?! We are called to help one another to grow spiritually, to grow in holiness, to grow in sanctity!

Yes, my boyfriend is the cheese to my macaroni. In so many ways!

Yes, my boyfriend and I are each others’ first official sweethearts. (Don’t gag!)

And yes, we are best friends.

But best of all…

We are two saints in the making, together.

MISSION: HEAVEN.

20121029-005800.jpg