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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Joy

   Sometimes I think we Catholics can get so caught up in the somber attitude of Lent that we forget to be joyful. Psalm 16:11 says, "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." If, in the presence of God is fullness of joy, then doesn't joy seem like a pretty important virtue to have?
   Today I was reading a short biography on Annie Zelikova, who is the perfect role model for those striving for joy. When she was only 17 and on her death bed, Annie said, "I must smile to my last breath. Ah, all I can give God now are my heartbeats and my smile. Nothing is left to me except love and trust." Even as tuberculosis invaded her lungs and weakened her whole body, Annie was joyful, because she knew that her suffering was helping other people, and that it was God's will. If we always remember that God loves us and has a beautiful plan for our lives, our suffering doesn't seem quite as overwhelming.
   And, if all else fails, you can listen to this wonderful song. I guarantee it will add a little joy into your life.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Holy Crap: The Unholy Art of Out-Doing Another

This is some food for thought (written by the awesomely wonderful Mark Hart) that I found on my favorite blog: lifeteen.com. It addresses some issues with Lent that I'm sure all of us have dealt with at some point.

Lent is here again, which obviously means one thing: It’s time for the holiest people to shine. That’s right, it’s a foot race and I’m in it to win it, baby! I’m going to kick your tail from here to Gehenna; ain’t no one gonna “out-sacrifice” me this Lent. I’m going to go over and above and beyond plus infinity… and beyond.
What’s that you say? You don’t believe me?
Well, try this running sandal on for size, doubting Thomas:
You’re giving up meat for Lent? Well, I’m giving up solid foods.
You’re giving up profanity? Well, I’m going to run a mile every time I say “crap.”
You’re gonna pray a rosary every day? Well, I’m praying three a day… in Latin.
I’m giving away my mattress this Lent and sleeping on the floor. I’m giving up coffee, too. Yes, my family will just have to deal with the horrid, half-asleep monster I will become. Oh, and there will be no music, no television or movies, and ultimately, no joy. Yep, that’s my goal… to identify every small source of earthly joy I can and snuff it out like an altar candle after Mass.
I will cover myself in some sort of polyester blend and sit on a pile of dung, wailing aloud on social media about my love of God for all to hear (but not sharing Him face-to-face with a stranger, that’s just “too much”).
I’ll be doing all of these things not because of my great love for God but because of my desire to leave no doubt to anyone just how holy I am. In fact, when others share what they’re giving up, which could very well be a huge struggle for them but appears seemingly “small” or “insignificant” to me, I’ll offer a duplicitous yet kind smile, silently judge them, and then throw my trump card of Catholic supremacy.
Of course, trying to “out-holy” anyone is the anti-gospel; it is un-holy crap (and now I have to run a mile).
Maybe, just maybe, what I should “give up” this Lent is stupid, judgmental, self-focused competitiveness in holiness and “add on” gratitude for any soul who is sincerely trying to grow closer to Christ.
Rather than asking what others are giving up or adding on, maybe I’ll just ask them how I can pray for them — and then actually do it. Maybe I’ll even have the courage to stop and pray with them.
Sure, I’ll still give things up and add things on but what I do, I’ll do in secret because “the Father who sees in secret will repay [me]” (Matthew 6:6).
Here’s the thing about Lent: Your thing is your thing. What you give up and what you add on is between you and God, not you and your friends. If you want to bring them into it, asking them to walk with you or hold you accountable, all power to you. If you don’t want anyone but God to know, that’s okay, too.
If, however, you take every opportunity (consciously or unconsciously) to share just how much you’re giving up or how much you’re doing, it’s not holiness you’re seeking — it’s attention.
The Catechism tells us that, “Pride sets oneself in competition with God” (CCC, Glossary). Pride, also, sets us in competition with one another, and since Christ is in the other, it’s a double-whammy of sin.
How’s that for irony? In an effort to grow in our faith through sacrifices and prayerful works this Lent, we could actually accomplish the exact opposite of our goal.
Now, don’t get too down on yourself. It’s a common trap amongst Christians. Even the apostles debated over who was the holiest and who deserved the most recognition. We see the apostles arguing over who would be the greatest not once, but twice in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 9; Luke 22)… so obviously some lessons took even Jesus’ closest followers some time to learn.
Pride contorts the simple until it seems complex, as we learned in the Garden of Eden. Pride disfigures beauty, as we witnessed during Christ’s passion. Pride destroys the Kingdom rather than building it, as we’ve seen countless times throughout history.
Pride is the root of all sin, which is why it cannot be allowed to flourish, especially amongst Christians. Truthfully, we shouldn’t “swallow our pride” — it’s even more poisonous than aspartame. We must carry our pride into the confessional and leave it there, frequently. We must bring our pride forward and place it on the altar… to die.
Oh, and let’s not forget that pride takes different forms and reveals itself in different ways. For instance, pride in the form of false humility is even more dangerous. Acting as though we’re not really great and downplaying what makes us special and unique in the eyes of the Father? Yeah, that’s just false humility.
Talking about how “un-special” and “un-holy” we are when we really don’t believe it, and hoping that someone else will build us up and affirm us? Absolute false humility — and false humility is true pride.
You are incredible. You are a son or daughter of God. His Spirit lives within you; His very life (grace) sustains you. You are gifted, you are talented, and you are His. That is cause for celebration not solely for how great you are but rather, for how great God is (within you)!
So, to sum up, if you’re going to boast, “boast of the things that show your weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).
Love the Lord your God with everything you have (Mark 12:30), and cheer on others for trying to do the same. Life is a marathon. Heaven is the finish line — it’s about how many cross it, not what their time was getting there.
Lent is here, run hard.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent

   When I was younger, Lent was something agonizing and sad. Having to give up candy or TV always seemed like such a chore. Thankfully, I have grown out of this mentality, and Lent is now one of my favorite times of the year. Why? I said in my new year's post that I love a fresh start. Lent always seems like such a fresh start for me. My family goes to confession on Fat Tuesday, and I'm strengthened with God's grace. Then I have the next forty days to totally focus on my relationship with Jesus. I think it's important to become the best version of ourselves during Lent, because the closer we are to Jesus, and the more we know Him, the better we will be able to appreciate what He did for us on the cross. This is really what Lent is about: preparing ourselves for the two days that our whole religion is centered on: Good Friday and Easter.
    Many non-Catholics don't understand how special Lent is. "You have to give something up for forty days?" is the usual incredulous reply. "That really stinks. I'm glad I'm not Catholic." It makes me sad that they just don't get it. Jesus died for us! He was whipped and abused and beaten and mortified and nailed to a cross because He loves us SO much. Can't we make a few small sacrifices as a way of saying thank you? St. Elizabeth of Hungary once said, "How can I bear a crown of gold while He bears a crown of thorns? And bears it for me?" Though we probably don't have a literal crown of gold like she did, we definitely all have figurative crowns of gold. Maybe your crown is impatience. Your refusal to forgive. Your obsession with wordly things. Impurity. Whatever it is, it is already forgiven. You just have to cast it away, and never look back.
  Let's get rid of all the crowns in our life this Lent. Let's leave behind everything that is keeping us from Jesus. Let's pick up our crosses and follow Him.

Almighty and Everlasting God, 
You have given the human race 
Jesus Christ our Savior as a model of humility. 
He fulfilled Your Will by becoming Man
And giving His life on the Cross. 
Help us to bear witness to You 
By following His example of suffering
And make us worthy to share in His Resurrection. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son.

Amen. 



God bless,
Anna


Thursday, February 27, 2014

You Saved Me

   Yesterday I was thinking about what to give up for Lent, and somehow this poem came into existence. I guess a writer just never really stops writing :)


You Saved Me

You said, “I would do anything for you.”
I said, “Prove it.”
You smiled sadly and said, “I will.”

You felt all of my guilt and sadness
Right down in your soul.
You knew what was coming,
And no one else did.
You were so afraid you trembled,
But fear didn’t stop you.

The people came and dragged you away.
I think the only reason they could have done it
Was because they didn’t know you like I did.
You weren’t angry at them;
You were just sad.
They didn’t love you like you loved them.
They asked you questions,
And you gave them honest answers they didn’t like.
So they decided to get rid of you.

They whipped you,
Ripping your flesh so mercilessly off your body
That your bones showed.
Any skin you had left was stained red.
They stabbed your head with rods,
And made you carry your own death sentence on your back.
The wood splintered your raw shoulder.
You walked.
You fell.
You thought of me and got up again.

You were thrown onto your back.
They held the nail in place.
They raised the hammer high and slammed it down.
The nail buried itself into your hands and feet,
Smashing bones and ripping muscles.
Tears blurred your eyes.

They raised up the cross,
And a scream escaped your lips.
It felt like your hands were going to rip in half.
Your breathing was ragged and shallow.
You were suffocating.
I thought you would hate me.
This was my fault.
But hanging there on the cross,
Your tear-filled eyes showed only love.
You cried.
You cried for me.
You cried for the people that hated you.
You cried because you felt like no one loved you anymore.
But I did.
You saved me.

Shoutout to Jesus for being awesome. Xxx Anna

Monday, February 17, 2014

Getting Connected

   While most teenage girls were on a date with their boyfriend or having a rom-com marathon with their girlfriends on Valentine's day, I was hanging out with the best Valentine you could ask for: Jesus.
   This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go on an Ancora retreat. Ancora is an international Catholic girls' group that focuses on helping girls pray for vocations, their own and others', and pray for the pope.
   The theme of this retreat was Get Connected: get connected with God, get connected with others, and get connected with yourself. I can honestly say that I now have a connection with God that I didn't have before this retreat. And not only do I have a connection with Him, but I am so inspired to help others get connected with Him too.
  One thing that really struck me during this retreat was that creating a connection with God takes time. Though sometimes we might think that, by going to confession or adoration or mass, we will automatically become a saint. That we will automatically be able to hear God's voice in our hearts. But for most people, this is not how it happens.
   Think of becoming friends with a real person. Usually, this is how it works: a friend or family member introduces you to the person. You tell them your name, and some basic things about yourself. You might exchange phone numbers or emails. Then you'll talk a little bit more. You'll hang out a few times. Gradually you start to become friends. You'll talk to each other about your problems and fears, the things you wouldn't want most people the know. You have a connection. It is exactly the same with God. You are introduced by your family or friends. You think He's pretty cool. So you decide to start talking a little bit. You tell Him about yourself, but only the good things. Not the things you're ashamed of. But gradually as you talk more and learn more about Him, you will realize how much He loves you; you won't care about trying to hide anything. You'll talk to Him about your problems and fears, and if you listen really closely, He will talk back to you. You will have a connection.

   Dear God, please help me to have a stronger connection with You. Help me to pray. Help me to be honest with You, and to not be too ashamed to hold anything back. Help me to quiet my heart and mind, so that I can hear Your voice. Amen.



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014

  I'm the kind of person that, when starting some new workout or diet or something like that, I have to start it on a Monday. Monday, the first day after the weekend, is the day you kind of get your life back in order. Everything has to start on a Monday.  As a result, I find the new year very refreshing, sort of like a Monday. It's a time to get your life back in order; start something new.
   I really love the new year.
  Here are some of my resolutions/my bucket list for 2014.

I will not drink any pop during 2014.
I will finish my novel.
I will pass my ballet exam.
I will be more productive.
I will eat healthier.
I will exercise more.
I will try harder in everything I do.
I will make a new friend.
I will become better friends with Jesus.


I think 2014 will be a good year.


~~~Anna

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

15 Years

   Isn't it great to think that there is a day that all of your loved ones drop everything and celebrate the fact that you are alive? I think it's such a beautiful thing.
   Today was my fifteenth birthday, and it was such a great day. First I saw the new Disney movie Frozen, which I will talk about later, then I had a youth group meeting. Then I came home and opened presents.
    I am probably the most mature immature person I know. Now let me elaborate. I'm mature in the way I conduct myself, or so I have been told, but my imagination will forever be an immature child's. It makes me sad to watch so many teenagers scoff at fantasy, and books in general, saying things like, "That would never happen in real life." But isn't that the point? Until this day, at fifteen years old, I'm in love with fantasy. I hope I don't ever lose the child-like imagination that I have, because that would be a disastrous loss.
   Seeing Frozen today definitely reminded myself of my inner-child. That movie was simply fantastic. Spoiler alerts ahead for those who haven't seen it yet. Firstly, I loved the characters. Anna (when I went to see the movie, I knew nothing about it. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the protagonist had the same name as me, considering it was my birthday.) is adorable. She is a young girl that has hardly ever left her castle and yearns for adventure and love-- which she searches for in all the wrong places-- but eventually finds. I loved Kristoff because he's basically the male version of myself. And Elsa? She was my favorite character. When you watch the trailer for Frozen, they make it seem like Elsa in the evil queen. The antagonist. But she is anything but. Elsa is simply a girl that has a horrible burden on her shoulders. A burden that she secretly loves, but is also terrified of. At first she lets her fear get the best of her and she flees, but it's mostly out of love for her sister. In the end she learns that love is the key to controlling her powers, and she uses them for good.
   I was watching a scene from the movie on Youtube today, and one of the comments really ticked me off (I need to learn to ignore reading the comments.) Some lady said that the plot was horrible because it was all about love, and that made it shallow. Question mark, question mark? What exactly about love is shallow? Well, if you're talking about the supposed "love" in Twilight, I would understand. But in Frozen? The main reason that I loved Frozen was because (SPOILER) in the end, it's the love between two sisters, not between the princess and the prince, that saves the day. And I thought that was beautiful. Frozen also clearly shows the several different types of love. There are many different kinds. For instance: the love between Anna and Elsa represents family love. The love between Anna and Kristoff represents the love between a man and a woman. And the love between Anna and Olaf represents the love that friends share (when he says that some people are worth melting for!!!!)
  Anyway, sorry for my rant, but one thing about me is that I can never simply love something, I have to become obsessed. That's just the way I am.
   For my birthday (so far:) I've gotten an adorable pair of black leather boots, red ballet flats, a read scarf and gloves, and a black and gray sweater dress from Old Navy. I'm opening more presents on Friday when more of my family gets home from college.

~~~Anna

Friday, December 6, 2013

St. Nicholas

Happy St. Nicholas' day!
I went to mass today, and something that my priest said really struck me. He said that, obviously, St. Nicholas was a gift-giver. And one reason that he is so famous is that deep down, all humans love to receive gifts. That's why Christmas is such a beautiful, happy time.
But do all gifts have to be so superficial? Sure, everyone loves receiving money and clothes, and other wordly things; but how about this year we all try to give gifts that means something more.
The gift of a smile to a stranger.
The gift of a hug to a friend having a bad day.
The gift of an apology, even when you feel too proud to apologize.
The gift of holding your tongue when you're about to say something hurtful.
The gift of playing with your little sibling, especially when you really don't want to.
The gift to baby Jesus of a pure heart.

These are the gifts that really matter.

~~~Anna

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thankful

I know Thanksgiving was already four days ago, but I think every day is a good day to tell everyone what you are thankful for.
After reading The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money In Your Pocket and Other Simple, Brilliant Things, I really became aware of--be ready for a very cliche phrase-- the little things in life. Yes, I know it's cliche. But it really is the little things (very, very little things) that can sometimes matter the most.
Here is a list of some very little things that I love, and am very thankful for:

Serene walks in the woods
A baby's laugh
Rereading a great book
Discovering a new great book
Hearing your favorite song on the radio
Eating milk and cookies
The anticipation of Christmas Eve
Rainy days
Snow days
Doing absolutely nothing with your friends, but still having a great time
Exciting movies
The smell of freshly baked bread
Laughing until your abs hurt

And here is a list of the very big thinks I'm thankful for. These things are what make the little things all the more enjoyable.

God's mercy (this should be first on everyone's list)
A good life
Family
Friends
Bountiful food
A warm house
Clothes
Dance
My talents


So thank You God, for the amazing life you have given me.

Happy (late) Thanksgiving!

~~~Anna

Monday, November 18, 2013

Just A Friendly Reminder That...

You are more than the number on a scale. You are more than the size of your jeans. You are more than the grade on your test. You are more than the gossip at your school. You are more than the color of your hair. You are more than the shade of your skin. You are more than the amount of your talent. You are God's child. He made you. He loves you. And nothing can ever change that.