Monday, August 14, 2017

The Lent of St. Michael Begins Tomorrow

© Pedro A. Guerrero (aka my big brother).
Has anyone heard of the Lent of St. Michael which begins tomorrow (on the Assumption) and ends of the feast of St. Michael Archangel? I hadn't until today when a long-time online friend (who inspires major mama and vocation goals) said she was going to partake in it. As I am a very curious person, I asked her what it was about and she sent me this link.

For the tl;dr crowd: the gist is that this devotion was started by St. Francis of Assisi since he had a special devotion to both Our Lady and St. Michael Archangel. Since there are 40 days (excluding Sundays) between the feast of the Assumption and Sr. Michael's feast, it became like a second Lent. Just like the regular Lenten time, you pray and fast, only this time you do it in honor of Our Lady and St. Michael. During this time you "... are made mindful of the facts of our own resurrection on the Last Day and also of our subsequent Judgment" since St. Michael will be the one who will awaken the dead on the Last Day (Judgment Day).

As I am personally going through some confusing times and am trying to get my spiritual life back on track, I think this will be good for me. I don't know what I'm going to "fast" from quite yet but I still have a couple of hours to think about it. With the state of this country (and, really, the world in general) perhaps some of you will also be interested in partaking in this.

Anyway, just a heads up for y'all. Please let me know if you're going to do it as well. It wouldn't hurt, especially if you feel as if you need a "second chance" like I do.

I have less than two weeks to finish my novel and I still have to flesh it out a bit so... back to work!

I hope you're all having a lovely start of the week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!  :D

Friday, August 11, 2017

Will the "Catholic Twitter" Comments Please Stop?

As some of you (who are following me on Twitter) know, I decided to take a break from that social media website earlier this week. It's not the first time I've done it and it'll most likely not be the last. Right now, I can't see myself returning for a couple of weeks because 1) I have a deadline coming up and 2) I'm starting a new chapter in my vocation (career) so I gotta focus on that. Okay, real talk: I wouldn't have taken the break even with what's coming up if I hadn't grown tired of all the bickering and the "Catholic Twitter" drama that's been going on for weeks.

Admittedly, I don't log into Twitter as often as I have in the past but the little that I did experience in the last few weeks made me want to shut down my account and forget about ever visiting the site again. I wanted to keep up the use of saint quotes and more positive tweets but I just became too overwhelmed... especially when people started using "Catholic Twitter" as a collective noun to lump all Catholics together instead of addressing a small group of individuals who just happen to be Catholic.

News flash: not all those who are Catholic believe the same thing nor do they use and/or express themselves on social media the same. It's a disservice to those who do positive things on the website to be lumped together with the mischief-makers. Using "Catholic Twitter" when you're talking about a tiny number of people isn't nice. Yes, there are some people who love to ruffle feathers and add fuel to the fire but not everyone is like that. Can we please stop these "Catholic Twitter" comments? Don't lump everyone together. If you have a problem with what someone (or a group of people) said, why not address them personally?

Furthermore, it seems like we can no longer express our opinions without someone being offended... even within our little Catholic "bubble." Subtweets, shade... whatever you want to call it -- it all divides us. What happened to the days of disagreeing and being able to talk about our differences of opinions without it becoming a big argument? I remember those days. I remember the days when the biggest problem within "Catholic Twitter" was the big flirt-fests in which we couldn't chat without flirting happening. (Those who've been around since around mid-2008 know what I'm talking about). Now? You simply can't say anything without offending someone. I'm sure that even this blog post is going to offend at least one person because they're going to think I'm talking about them specifically. (hint: I'm not. Don't give anyone a reason to make a "You're so Vain" parody.)

I honestly feel like Twitter (as a whole, not just our little Catholic bubble) has hit rock bottom and I rarely feel joy when interacting with folks on that site. Even if I'm on there for a couple of minutes, I log out feeling angry, hurt, annoyed, and/or incredibly uncharitable. Yes, politics and the state of the country/society have contributed to it... but some of us aren't helping matters. You'd think that, after seeing everything that's been going on, more people would want to contribute to trying to make the site a friendlier, less-stressful place where we could chat with friends... but it's been the opposite.

To those who have the patience and thick skin to continue doing their good works -- sharing saint quotes and other gems that inspire people to learn more about the beauty of our Church: thank you! We need you to keep up the good fight that some of us can't deal with for whatever personal reason. (side note: as previously stated a couple of blog posts ago, I'm personally too sensitive to negativity and I feel physically and emotionally drained when I or someone I know gets attacked for no reason so I avoid those situations.)

To those who contribute to the drama: I will continue praying for you. You're all adults. You know what you're doing. You know Who is going to hold you accountable for your actions after all is said and done. Oh, did you forget that we -- every single one of us -- are all going be held accountable for everything we did in this lifetime? This is your friendly reminder.

I know I have a ton of really dumb stuff that I've already done in my lifetime (thus far); I don't want to add to it, which is why I'm going to avoid whatever will add to it. For now, Twitter is one of those things. As I said, I can't get on it without being uncharitable (even if it's only in my head; God will still know those) which lead to my decision for the break. Perhaps I can return to Twitter in a month's time and things will be better. However, as I continue to work on my relationship with God and try to cultivate a healthier spiritual and interior life, I'm currently not strong enough to log in and let the comments not affect me.

I will continue praying for all of you -- I literally do say "please bless everyone who follows me on social media" when I do my nighttime prayers -- and I hope to return to a Twitter with healthier communication habits.

This blog's Facebook page is still a good place to stay in touch if you ever want to pass along a link or something fun that you think I may enjoy. You can also post any prayers requests on that page or the Frassati Prayer Community page; I check both every day.

Anyway, that's it for now. I've said my piece (and hope that it leads to people considering peace). As I said in my tweet that told every one of my break: please be kind to one another. There's already so much chaos and fighting; we don't need us Catholics to get even more divided on things that don't matter.

And, now, if you'll excuse me, I have a novel I need to continue working on.

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Friday, August 4, 2017

St. Francis de Sales is Setting Me Straight

Did you ever start something but didn't finish it until much later than you anticipated which, in hindsight, was perfect timing? Have you ever wanted to send someone something -- a letter or a gift -- but didn't get around to sending it until days or weeks later, not knowing that they were struggling with something and that your gift arrived when they most needed it? That's what I'm experiencing with Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

I started reading it during Lent but didn't make it past page 44 for some reason. After I decided to give myself time to work on my relationship with God, I started rereading it and it feels like he's talking directly to me. So far, in the first 20 pages, he's touched on exactly what I recently went through and what I need to work on now.

St. Francis de Sales talks about giving up sinful ways, but how it's much easier to have the intention to give it than giving it up along with the affection for the sin, which tempts us and makes it easier for us to fall back into that particular sin.

"... there are penitents who forsake sin, yet without forsaking their sinful affections; that is to say, they intend to sin no more, but it goes sorely against them to abstain from the pleasures of sin;-- they formally renounce and forsake sinful acts, but they turn back many a fond lingering look to what they have left, like Lot'a wife as she fled from Sodom."

When I read this (pages 16-17 on my Kindle edition), I had this "aha! This is the first thing I need to work on" moment. Yep. You got me, St. Francis. I'm ashamed to admit it but that's exactly what happened in over the course of a year (July 2016 through last month) when a group I recently detached myself from became part of my social life and I began having second thoughts and (a bit of) regret over having given up the lifestyle I had from my teen years up to when I was 20, only a year before I reverted to the faith.

I knew that these people live in a way and do a lot of what is contrary to Church teachings but they presented everything in this attractive little package -- and they were all so nice despite what they did -- and I found it very hard to resist the temptation. I mean, I did -- which I'm sure was all the Holy Spirit and saints interceding for me -- but it did a lot of damage to my relationship with God because this all happened right after I cut toxic friendships out of my life and was in a vulnerable place. Needless to say, that led to my struggling with the faith and, well, if you've been reading this blog over the last couple of weeks, you know the rest.

"... If you seek to lead a devout life, you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually enfeebled your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion."

I read this and I immediately went "... I have to give up *insert social media platform,* don't I?" It wouldn't be impossible but it would be hard for me because it's been helpful on my quest to repair my relationship with God. Still, there was a lot of temptation to slip up so I had to do something slightly drastic that I normally wouldn't do: I blocked everyone and whoever was associated with them to avoid seeing any of their updates on my feed. I unfollowed the core group of people weeks ago but weak little me used to say "Oh, that's a new picture that popped up on my feed... it'll just be a quick peek to see how they're doing." Some days were easier than others on this front. Some days my self-control is great. Other days (most days, let's be honest here), I'm too weak. That's why I knew I had to block everyone.

I hate blocking people on social media (I feel like rude doing it and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings) but I actually went ahead and spent quite some time going on a blocking spree. I know they won't notice but I've already noticed the big difference for me. My feed is quieter and I feel less stressed out. Most importantly, I don't get distracted or tempted to "check in" on anyone... because I can't. I've done all I can to make sure that temptation won't be there.

I can't allow myself to hate these people (I think I'm incapable of it, anyway) and I will pray for them. What was that quote (also by St. Francis de Sales) that I shared on the blog's FB page? "Love your neighbor with a great, charitable love, but befriend only those with whom you can be mutually supportive in virtue." It may sound harsh to some people but it's important to be careful about who you surround yourself with because they can either help lead you to Heaven... or help lead you astray. Learn from my mistakes, y'all -- especially you younger readers.

I feel like a terrible person for the blocking and everything I just wrote but I have to be honest with myself and know what needs to change in order for me to get back on the right track. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my struggle with the faith took the biggest hit when I started feeling like I didn't have what I took to remain a faithful Catholic but being surrounded by the folks I was introduced to last summer only caused more problems.

I'm not blaming them because they didn't do it on purpose but having them in my life didn't help. I had to retreat a little, get back into more frequent contact with friends who are good for me (who challenge and inspire me and my faith), and now I'm making sure that I don't fall back into all of that mess. It will all make more sense once the third novel is out because I'm taking a lot of what I went through in the last year and incorporating it into the third novel. That's all I'm saying.

Earlier today I went to Adoration (First Fridays FTW!) and I just sat there and asked God to help me through whatever else I'm going to have to face in order to better my relationship with Him. I didn't want to leave Adoration (I rarely do when I'm there) but I had to because I knew I have a number of things to do that I couldn't put off. It was in that moment that I knew that I'm on the right track once again. I know a couple of local Adoration chapels that are opened either perpetual or, at least, are open during most of the day so I think I'm going to visit Jesus more frequently, and even take Introduction to the Devout Life with me.

I look forward to seeing what else St. Francis de Sales has in store for me. I know he'll help set me straight and that it'll be quite beneficial for me. Also, I'm sure that between him and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (who've been my tag-team patron saints this year; they came out of nowhere, lol), I'm going to grow a lot in my spiritual life over the next couple of months. Who has two thumbs and is uber excited about that? This gal!

Alright, that's enough stalling. I have a couple more things to do -- including work on the novel -- so I should skedaddle and get to it.

I hope you all had a lovely week and that you have a blessed weekend. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rethinking Twitter

I almost quit Twitter over the weekend. For several weeks, I went back and forth about deleting it altogether. I thought about what might happen if I did. I would lose years worth of online friendships (I'll officially be on Twitter for a decade this upcoming January) with whom I correspond mostly on Twitter.

On a more superficial level, I would lose "my brand." Though there are two of us online who are known as "nerdwriter" (myself and wildly popular YouTuber Evan Puschak; he's added the "The/Thee" before nerdwriter) and sometimes people confuse the two -- you know, both young adults living in Los Angeles with similar usernames -- but I cover stuff that Evan doesn't. I don't have anywhere near the number of followers he has (holy cow, dude, lol) but my username has somehow stuck around in Catholic circles and it's helped me in career-related things. I actually considered giving Evan the username so that he could keep it simple (just nerdwriter) while I could've started over but it didn't feel right.

I thought about "squatting" the username -- keeping it, closing it up, and deleting all tweets -- but I don't know what Twitter's rules are or if they will change them in the future, taking the username from me. I thought about deleting it and not caring if someone else took it... then I really stressed over that potential decision. My fear is that someone would snatch it up, pretend they were me, and then try to ruin my reputation with it. No, I'm not paranoid. It's happened to me before. Spoiler alert. Highlight between asterisks if you've read the first novel or want to be spoiled. *What David tells Will that Candace did to Lina was what I went through. My usernames were hacked and things were sent out by an ex of mine to try to ruin my reputation -- which then former friends (who were the inspirations for Candace) later used to further try to ruin my reputation -- during the days when Myspace was king.*

Sometimes I think to myself, "what if I just delete everything but the blog? I always feel weird promoting my posts and/or my novels anyway." I think about some of the women I look up to and see how they've given up their social media accounts, their blogs, etc. and how they live perfectly content. I think about how I've covered a lot of my life over the nearly 10 years (a decade this upcoming Christmas Day) I've been writing and how people are probably tired of reading a (basically) public journal of some random gal from Los Angeles who reverted to the faith and has, in recent months, struggled with the faith.

I became very upset over some Twitter drama I was dragged into (I don't know why I was dragged into it since I keep myself far away from it... and the conversation had nothing to do with me in the first place) and I let y'all know what I thought about the whole thing. (For those who missed them, the tweets are found here, here, here, here, and here). As I said in the last tweet, I didn't do it for attention or for people to tell me that I should stay. I said it because I was genuinely upset and I hoped that it would make people think twice before pulling me into their arguments. A lot of really lovely people tried to keep me on the site, giving me such lovely compliments that I don't deserve but made me feel warm and fuzzy nonetheless. Still, it was something that had been on my mind for a long time so I knew I needed to think and pray about it.

In the end, I decided to stay... because something someone said stuck with me: "Small stones make ripples. And God's message is rarely called a small stone." (Shout out to Franco Walls for the tweet!) I thought about it and I could almost hear God saying "you can keep doing little things in an effort to combat some of the bad." I may not do anything except take a couple of seconds from people's days to remind them of something good -- of God or the goal of getting to Heaven through a saint quote -- but, at least, it wouldn't be contributing to the uber toxic environment we all encounter on the site these days. So that's what I've decided to do.

I want to keep posting saint quotes and sharing links to great articles to remind people of the Truth. It may annoy some people and it may not do anything at all -- perhaps it'll only be beneficial for me -- but it feels like the right thing to do. I'm a "mediator" by default and sticking around makes the most sense to me, even when I'm really annoyed with HS-level drama.

It also means I'm going to have to seriously push myself out of my "run away from toxic folks online" comfort zone. That doesn't mean I'm going to tolerate what happened over the weekend (I'm going to be using those mute and block buttons more freely) but it does mean staying put. Of course, if I have nothing good to contribute, I'm going to stay quiet but I'll make an effort to add some better content to the site.

Perhaps, in the future, it may change again (especially if it becomes problematic for me on a deeper level). I am a private person (trust me, you guys don't know everything I go through) and I like time to recharge after being overwhelmed by the negativity so I may one day delete everything. For now, I'm going to try to do a little good and hope it's enough.

Anyway, that's it. I'm starting my big project later this month and have to finish my third novel before then (3.5 more weeks) so I need to go work on that. The novel, that is. We're in the triple digits, folks, so it hopefully won't be long now. :D

I hope you are all having a lovely week thus far.

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Taking a Dating Break... While Single

The past two weeks have been a bit odd. My "letter" to Catholic writers (and, really, to Catholics on social media in general) was not well received... and that was before the whole dancing priest controversy and Catholic Twitter stepping up the fights on that platform. I'm not going to comment on that because it's been discussed (or argued... strongly) by almost everyone. I'm just going to sip my tea and stand by what I've said, both on the blog and on Twitter. Instead, I'm going to post a sort of (unintentional) part two to my last post on thoughts regarding my vocation.

As I posted in the previous post, my private life has been a doozy lately. The last 7 months have been the hardest (in this department) in my adult life thus far. From confusing feelings about one person who unintentionally pulled me away from God and all that I know is good and true to dealing with new revelations about my vocation that have caused me to step outside my comfort zone, there hasn't been a dull moment for me.

If I told you that the last time I had a serious boyfriend was when I was 17, would you believe me? It's true. I've gone on dates since but nothing serious. I didn't have the time... nor was I in a good place for a while. My late teens and 20s were a busy time for me on all levels. I had to help take care of Dad (who was initially diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after I turned 17). I reverted to the Faith when I was 21. I had to finish my first undergraduate degree while juggling Dad's cancer and my anxiety problems. My father passed away and then I spent a year emotionally numb. I went through a slew of health problems and had to learn how to deal with the severe anxiety and panic attacks that once assailed me. I had to figure out my vocation. I had to learn how to take better care of myself (after neglecting to do so... which resulted in some of my health problems; which, thankfully, have now been taken care of). Just recently, I figured out my career/(small v) vocation and it's now systems go on that as well.

After I went through a sort-of identity crisis that lasted nearly a year (and only just ended in recent weeks), I saw that I've gotten clarity on all areas of my life... especially my (big v) vocation. I've already talked about that in the previous post but what I didn't mention is that once I felt more secure about what my vocation is, I also knew that I had to take a break because I've grown up a lot (spiritually and emotionally) since I last dated someone... and I need to figure out what works and what no longer does.

I'm not starting there though. I'm not going to see what areas I have to focus on when it comes to relationships. No, I'm going to strip that down further and go down to the true source of love -- God. I need to be in a place where I can be okay -- whatever my state in life is -- with only God's love. I wish I could say that I'm there right now but that would be a lie. I still crave that love from another person and I know that I can't jump into that without further cultivating my love for God.

I'm currently too lazy to go back and link all the older posts (I'm writing this on 3 hours of sleep... way early in the morning) but I know I've previously written about the fact that I know that only God's love can fully fulfill me and that gigantic void in my life. I stand by that. I know that is the truth... but my heart has to catch up to my brain in this instance. I'm not relying on feelings to tell me when that moment comes; I will know that I'm ready when I'm able to not be so easily swayed away from God and the Truth.

The recent young man in my life showed me that I'm not ready for a relationship anytime soon because my spiritual life isn't strong enough. My still-anemic spiritual life is just now catching up my physical (I was physically anemic for a couple of years as well) wellness. That's why I'm taking a dating break... and it hasn't been easy because I've had more guys show interest recently. No, this isn't me going "ooh, look, I've still got it; guys still like me..." It's more me saying "the timing is both terrible... and wonderful." Terrible because some have been promising but wonderful because it's been a sort of test for me in which I've had to stop and remind myself that I'm not ready quite yet.

So, what are my plans during this dating break?

  • Going to daily Mass. 
  • Going to adoration more frequently (recent Notting Hill inspired tweet, anyone?). 
  • Taking up Bible study at home since I can't physically attend the meetings at local parishes. Thanks for all the recommendations on Twitter, y'all!
  • Reading more books (finishing St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life and starting St. Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection). 
  • Limiting my time on social media... and the internet in general because the negativity out there is harshing my mellow. 
  • Focusing on a big test (that will last only a couple of months, God willing) that will further my small-v vocation.
  • Continuing to improve my self-care so that I don't get physically sick again.
I'm not going to kick all men away during this time... but I'm also going to make it clear that I'm not in a place in which I can offer more than friendship. (side note: having no current crushes or interests really helps my ability to "friendzone" all males, lol.) God may surprise me and bring a great guy into my life between now and whenever I will be ready to begin dating again, but right now my focus is on my relationship with Him and on my own interior life. 

I cannot build a relationship (or a family) on a faulty foundation. My future fella and I deserve better than that. I cannot possibly help lead anyone to Heaven in my current state. I'm still having trouble getting to Mass as often as I'd like which is the first thing that needs to be worked on. 

Do any of my fellow single folks (women AND men) feel like perhaps they also need to work on your relationship with God? Better question: do some of you know that you need to take a dating break to work on your relationship with God but are reluctant to do so because you don't like being alone? You don't have to tell me, but be honest with yourself. If so, please know that I'll be praying for you. We're all in the same boat, y'all!

Anyway, these are my thoughts on the whole thing. I'm not sure how coherent they will be because, as I said earlier, I'm barely functioning on 3 hours of sleep. I have a theory as to why I've had insomnia the past 2 days but I won't be sure until I do something about it. And, actually, I think I'm finally ready to attempt a nap so I'll stop here.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend! Avoid fighting on social media, get thee to the confessional, attend Mass, and stay holy, my friends. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D