Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Childhood Memories of Faith

Taken by me from the pews of my childhood parish.
While I wait for my downstairs neighbors to quit making noise (so I can study; file this under "apartment resident problems"), I thought I'd share something that came to mind while I was praying the Rosary a couple of days ago.

Does anyone remember what their faith was like when you were a child? Did you pray with your family? Did you pray before going to sleep? How about praying before and/or after every meal? How was your attention span during Mass? I'm so very curious as to how others experienced their faith as a child.

As for me, we (Mom and I have) have joked about how I "born to be a Catholic." Some of my earliest memories include being completely transfixed on the priest and what he did during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, especially during the consecration. I remember little 6-7-year-old me in the front pew (I always wanted to be in the front), eyes glued to the priest and what was going on at the altar. I didn't understand what was going on but I knew it was important. I think I even used to sigh happily during it. I knew it was about Jesus but didn't know much beyond that. Did I mention I was about 6 or 7? No one had told me about what happened during Mass. I knew the prayers because my parents taught them to me and I knew little things but nothing deeper than that, of course. I know my little mind wouldn't have been able to grasp the concept as much as I did when I reverted. Still, I loved going to Mass as a child.

I used to say that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. I think I was particularly attracted to the Carmelite nuns. Those memories are a little fuzzy but I remember that I loved their habits and used to say "I'm going to be a nun when I grow up." Obviously, that didn't happen though St. Teresa of Avila was one of the first saints I admired when I returned to the Church as a 21-year-old.

I also remember that I once called a Catholic company that used to send free crosses to any child who was in catechism and wanted one. I don't remember what their name was (all I remember is that they were based in Maryland around 1993) but I remember how excited I was when it arrived. It was a small, white plastic cross that read "I love Jesus" in golden letters. I took it to school with me, unashamed of my love of my faith. I think I was about 8 around this time since I was in catechism to make my First Communion (which took place in 1994, a couple of days before I turned 9).

My parents taped a holy card of a Guardian Angel helping a child cross a river on the headboard of my bed so I was the first and last thing I saw. I also remember being completely scared of a picture my parents had in my room of two roads -- one leading to Heaven and another leading to Hell. The Hell part scared the crumbs out of me and I hated it. I must've been about 5 years old (yes, I have memories that young) and I think that scarred me a little. lol.

I also remember that I was basically on my own when it came to my faith. My parents took me to Mass sporadically growing up. I went nearly every Sunday (I think) while I was in catechism classes but as soon as my First Communion and then Confirmation (which happened when I was 13 years-old) were celebrated, they felt like it was enough. In fact, that was part of the reason why I unintentionally/unofficially left the Church during my teens until I was 21.

Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if my parents had had a stronger relationship with God. Would I have never left the Church? I won't lament it. I know that both of my parents were also poorly catechized and that both were away from the Church for decades. My father went 40+ years without going to confession or receiving the Eucharist (his return was my 24th birthday gift two months before he passed away) and my mother returned shortly before his death as well. I'm grateful that God has used me to help get them back -- especially my father; my biggest fear was that he would pass without returning to the Church -- and that, through the help of the Holy Spirit, I'm still able to clarify a few faith-related things to my mom. Our theological conversations make me happy and have increased over the years.

I also oftentimes think about how I will want to raise my future children (if God blesses me with any). I know that I want them to develop their relationship with God as soon as they can understand it. Of course, I'll take them to Mass and I'll teach them prayers as they're growing up. Since I didn't experience any prayers before or after meals (until a few years ago when I started doing it on my own) or even with my family (I can't recall ever praying with my parents outside of Mass), I know it'll be a huge learning experience for me but I look forward to it.

Oh! One more question: if you grew up with a strong sense of the faith and if your parents were religious, do you think it helped (or didn't help) your own faith formation growing up? I'm very curious and would love to hear any stories you may like to share. :D

Alright, it sounds like my neighbors have lowered down the noise level enough for me to be able to concentrate on some lecture videos. I have two exams next week and I need ALL the study time I can get. And prayers, if you can spare them. Please and thank you in advance. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of week thus far!

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Am I Officially a Mass Snob?

I went to confession for the first time in 5 weeks and attended Mass for the first time in 2 months (exactly!) yesterday evening. It was glorious... but, before I get to the "juicy" part, I wanted to share something else.

When we went to confession (prior to Mass), I just wanted to stay close to the statue and icons of Mama Mary. I can't explain it; I just felt like I wanted to be close to that little area of the church. In a way, I knew it meant that I wanted to be close to Mama Mary and, thus, be close to her son. Since we had a while before Mass, I spent half an hour in the adoration chapel at the church. I prayed and I teared up because I missed going to confession and Mass. After weeks of lightheadedness, dizziness, aches, pains, heart palpitations, stomach issues, and fear of not being able to drive safely, I was able to go to Mass. I was happy... and then Mass began.

I should start off by saying that Mass is wonderful. I love Mass and felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to attend. We knew it would rain all day today (side note: I can hear the rain beating against our roof as I type this) so we agreed to attend the Saturday Vigil Mass to avoid the rain. We chose a local parish because the local FSSP priests don't offer Saturday Vigil Mass due to their lack of parish. (second side note: they current share a parish and are accepting donations to build their own so they can offer more Masses). Though I've attended mostly Ordinary Form Masses all my life, I was surprised at what a shock it was to return to them after attending only Latin Mass for a couple of weeks before my horrible no Mass streak.

The acoustic-electric guitar made me cringe. The random version of the Gloria which I had never heard before made me feel uncomfortable. The hymns... "No," I said to myself. "I'm going to be thankful for the musician's gift of music and his sharing of his gift to people." I tried to be charitable. A woman behind us answered her cell phone during Mass and said something along the lines of "I can't talk; I'm at church right now..." She also talked at least once more during Mass. I tried to push any uncharitable thoughts and tried to focus on Mass. "I'm here... I'm grateful." Thankfully, Fr. N's homily was wonderfully thought-provoking so I enjoyed that. When I received the Eucharist, I knelt and teared up again. I was so happy to have received Him after being away for so long.

After Mass, Mom and I talked about our experience. I missed the quietness and, well, reverence of the Latin Mass. I missed people ignoring their cell phones. I missed the choir. I just missed Latin Mass and everything about it. Does this make me a terrible person for preferring the Extraordinary Form of Mass and not feeling terribly happy and comfortable during Ordinary Form Masses; for cringing when they bring out guitars during Mass? Am I officially a Mass snob? All I know is that I know what I prefer and what makes me feel closer to God and that's the Latin Mass.

Anyway, just some random thoughts on this cold and rainy Sunday afternoon. Since we don't keep the apartment warm -- we don't use the furnace, I'm going to walk around the apartment and maybe make myself a cup of tea to warm up a bit.

I hope y'all are having a lovely Sunday!

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

5 Things You May Not Know About Me

There is a lot of negativity online today so I thought I'd lighten things up a bit with 5 random things you may not know about me. I've done this 3 times in the past (in 2009, 2011, and 2013) but these are new facts for y'all. ;)

1. In recent months/weeks, I entertained the idea of moving to a foreign country to work with a well-known company as a writer for a popular TV show. I have to remain vague about the details for many reasons but it took me a good week and a half to talk myself out of it earlier this month. I considered it very seriously but ultimately decided that it was not the right time. Actually, I don't think it'll ever be the right time or career path for me. I know myself well enough to know that, while it would be an amazing opportunity, it would derail me in major ways. I saw myself defaulting to some of the terrible habits I had pre-reversion. I didn't want to throw away all the work I've done in the past decade to better my relationship with God. Yes, working for their company would be a dream -- as would the opportunity to write for a living -- but my life is taking a different direction. I'm still trying to get over it. lol.

2. This one is for you sports fans: I have a favorite football (soccer) team in almost every major league. FA Premier League (England): Liverpool F.C. Scottish Premier League: Celtic F.C. La Liga (Spain): Barcelona. Bundesliga (Germany): Bayern Munich. I don't watch League 1 (France) or Serie A (Italy) so I don't have one there. In the MLS, I fear my loyalty to the L.A. Galaxy might be wavering with the Seattle Sounders looking like a possible replacement. In the Mexican Primera Division, I'll be disowned by my brother if I don't root for Santos which is the sister club on Scotland's Celtic FC so it works out for me. lol. Liverpool and Celtic are the two I follow the most closely and will actually get up at 4 a.m. (Pacific Time) to watch a match. Also, fun fact: Celtic FC is considered the Catholic team in the SPL as opposed to Rangers which is considered the rival Protestant team. I may write about this in the future. Hint, hint.

3. Despite being an academic nerd and working hard towards my current degree, I'm not actually career oriented. That doesn't necessarily mean that I don't want a career; I've just chosen to not make my career my life. I'll be honest and admit that I would rather be a homeschooling stay-at-home mom who writes or works as a photographer in the free time I'd find. However, I'm still going to pursue my current career path (as a speech-language pathology assistant) because I love that I'll be able to help others and I adore working with kids. If I have to stay at home with my (future) kids and take care of the house, I'd love it. If I have to be a working mom, that would also be fine... but I'll never put work ahead of my family. It's not who I am. This will surprise no one who has known me long enough; I passed up the opportunity to study in both England and Canada to stay home and help my parents, both before and after my father passed away.

4. Although I don't often share what I photograph, I'm constantly taking pictures. No, not selfies. I actually don't like selfies all that much and I actually challenged myself to get over my dislike of them last year. Those who follow me on my (private) Instagram account are probably going "Ohh!" right about now. lol. My father got me hooked on photography at an early age and I even took a photography course as my elective my senior year of high school. I like taking pictures of things that inspire me; that I find beautiful. Most of the ideas I get are spontaneous and are usually detail oriented. I don't think I will ever make a career out of it but I love it either way. I'm actually saving up for a high-quality camera so that I can do it more often in my spare time.

5. I have the weird (but true) reputation of being a "husband maker." Meaning my ex-boyfriends (and, apparently, guys who've had crushes on me) have married the next girl they've dated after me. It started with my childhood sweetheart who married young (as soon as we turned 18, I believe) and it's continued as recent as a year ago. I apparently help prepare them and we always end up good friends but we're never right for each other beyond friendship. *shrugs* I don't even know. lol. I've also been the "wing-woman" to many of my guy friends and have helped them plan their proposals to their (now) wives. Maybe I should consider becoming a wedding planner. Ha!

And that's it for now. My rainstorm-induced headache ('sup, built-in weather predictor?) is keeping me from studying and I think the light from the laptop is making it worse so I'm going to take a break from staring at the screen and enjoy an audiobook and a cup of tea for a little while.

I hope you all have a lovely end of the week and a great weekend! :D

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When Forgiveness and Charity are Seen as a Weakness

As I've mentioned throughout the years, I was in cognitive-behavioral therapy (on and off for a couple of years) for my PTSD. It wasn't until about a year ago that my last therapist basically said "You're done. You have the tools and the strength to no longer need therapy (unless there's a relapse for whatever reason)." I've been doing well since and I'm very grateful for all the help that I received but there's one thing from my years in CBT that did me more harm than good: being told that my ability to forgive and be charitable towards the person who hurts me is a weakness that needs to be eliminated.

Prior to starting CBT, I forgave very easily. I didn't forget but I forgave and was happy to move past the problem. My first therapist (in training) applauded this part of me. She used to say, "I think it's great that you can forgive someone; to try to see what might've caused them to lash out, knowing that it has more to do with them than with you." She was my first and only Catholic therapist (in training) to date. Since I was attending CBT at a local university and she was a grad student, when she was done with the program, they gave me to another grad student.

This second graduate student was the one who made me feel like there were several things wrong with me, especially this gift of being able to forgive. She made me feel like I was weak. When I used to say "I know this person hurt me but I wonder if it's the only thing they've ever known, which is why they act that way," she used to chastise me and tell me that I shouldn't be forgiving or even charitable towards them. They did me harm. They should feel guilty and have to pay for their offenses. Between her and the next 2 therapists I had, I was filled with a lot of anger. My ability to forgive was replaced with hurt and anger.

The last two therapists I had helped me sort my thoughts out, more so the second-to-last therapist I had. She was very sweet and very similar to my first therapist (in training). I was able to regain a bit of that ability, something my last therapist nearly took away... except, this time, I knew myself, my thoughts, and how important it was to be charitable and love others though they treat me poorly. I haven't fully regained the ability to forgive and be charitable as I used to. I still do it, but I can get very angry for a little while before I calm down and see things as they are, separating feelings from rationality. It's a reflex that I, unfortunately, have to unlearn from my time with the second therapist-in-training. There's a reason why I purchased a book on how to combat anger from a Catholic perspective (which I hope to review in the near future).

Today I was reflecting on why forgiveness and charity towards those who've done us wrong are seen as weaknesses. Over the weekend, someone vandalized my car. Police suspect it's a neighbor since I live in a gated building... and the parts that were vandalized made no sense -- the side panel/garnish of the front passenger's side window and then scrapping off of the LX letters on my Honda Civic. They didn't even take the parts. They left the LX next to the back bumper and we found the broken panel/garnish under a neighbor's car. I had so many people badmouth whoever did the damage but I found myself not only being able to forgive whoever did the damage but also ask God to forgive them for their actions.

I didn't feel anger nor injustice. I didn't seek revenge. I filed a police report, sure, but that's because the building manager asked me to for insurance purposes, not to harm the other person. I purchased the replacement part at the local dealer and it was installed (free of charge, thank goodness) today. The building has security cameras installed near where my car is parked but I didn't ask to see who it could've been. I don't want to know because I really don't need to know. Instead, I'm going to pray for whoever did it.

If they were high or drunk, I pray they get the help they need to kick those terrible addictions. If they did it out of hatred (which is the current theory as we have a neighbor who very much dislikes us), I pray that God softens their hearts because hating someone is like drinking poison yourself and then expecting the other person to die. (I don't know who originally said that so I paraphrased). If it was a randomly picked act of vandalism, I pray that God helps them examine their hearts and minds and that they repent and seek to live a better life; a life that seeks God and all that is good.

I hope that one day I may be able to turn the other cheek and forgive as I used to without allowing my temper to flare like it has in recent years. I hope that the anger that does rise up in me from time to time reminds me to be more charitable, especially towards myself if it's anger caused by something I've unintentionally done. I hope that I can remember that forgiving isn't a weakness. Jesus forgave those who crucified him and treated him as if he was subhuman. Did he speak up when they placed the crown of thorns on his head? When they spat on him and mocked him? Jesus suffered more than I ever will in my lifetime. He set a beautiful example of how forgiveness and charity are not signs of weakness but of an inner strength and a reliance on God to help us through times of trials.

... and I just realized that today is Tuesday which means meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary. Well played, Holy Spirit. Well played. ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to share these thoughts bouncing around in my head. :)

I want to get my sleeping schedule back on track (currently sleeping 1-3 a.m. through 10-11 a.m.) so I'm going to try to get everything I normally do at a later time a bit earlier. Since it's almost 8 p.m. PT, I should start getting things done for the day so I can unwind with a cup of tea and a good book. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the week!

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Inspiration and Gratitude

Very quietly, I took a couple of days off social media and it went unnoticed... and it was bliss! I've been doing my best to stay off social media though it's not always easy. Thankfully, I had a lot to distract me for the past week and a half.

On the Wednesday before I returned to school for the Spring semester (which began last Monday), I had the opportunity to step away from social media for most of the day -- most days for an entire week -- thanks to a group of talented and lovely young adults. I won't go into specifics about this group because it's one of those things that I want to keep to myself (for the most part) but let's just say that some of them inspired me in ways I had never been challenged before. 

One person in particular really made me think about positive changes I've been wanting to make but haven't made much an effort to do. She's younger than I am but she's a positive ray of sunshine who is always smiling and laughing even when things are stacked up against her. We are very different in many ways -- mainly: she's an uber-extrovert and I'm a social introvert with an emphasis on the introvert part -- but she reminded me of how important it was to be positive and optimistic when faced with obstacles that seem impossible. 

I'm optimistic... up to a point. I noticed that there were people who really brought me down when I was trying to stay positive in difficult situations so I made some changes there. As much as I hate to admit it, people's opinions and feelings do affect me more than I admit. Surrounding myself with positive people (like this group of people) really did wonders for me in the week that I spent most of my day with them. While I don't think I'll be able to see them for an entire week straight like I did this month, I know I'll always have those memories and a certain social media platform to keep up with what's going on with them since we're all currently in different countries.

Last night, the young adult group I belong to here in L.A. got together for a movie night and, again, I was inspired. We all got together in the living room of the priests who are our spiritual directors for the group and we watched A Man for All Seasons. The film -- brilliantly cast -- told the story of how St. Thomas More stood up for his Catholic beliefs when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in order to marry Anne Boylen. If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. After the film, we all discussed how we're seeing something similar these days; how some pro-life politicians say they're pro-life but will 'respect' Roe vs Wade since it is law. That led to a discussion on how difficult it is to live life authentically as a Catholic with the way our society is going. It was truly refreshing to hear the thoughts of other young (orthodox) Catholics in L.A. because I rarely experience it out here. Though I was unsure about attending the meeting -- it ran late by my "old lady" standards -- I was glad I went.

The time I spent with the first group and last night's group -- as well as the conversation on the car ride home with a lovely friend who drove me home; I don't like driving by myself at night, especially not in my neighborhood -- made me reflect on how grateful I was to have these people (and others who are not a part of either of these groups) in my life. To be continually inspired to be the best version of yourself, to remember that God is first and earthly things are not worth the emphasis we sometimes put on them... I'm truly blessed to have been reminded of these things.

Now I can say that I am ready to start my semester properly. My mind was too busy soaking up and processing everything I'd experienced the last week that I couldn't concentrate on much else. I feel refreshed, ready to work hard, and grateful for everything good in my life. Yes, my car was vandalized yesterday (I spent about 2.5 hours just trying to get a police report filed). Yes, nothing is perfect. Still, there are so many blessings in my life that I can't dwell on the bad. :)

I have a challenge for all you lovely readers this week: take a look at who inspires you to live a life that will lead you to Heaven; who makes you want to do good in this world; who makes you want to be the best version of yourselves. If you haven't thanked them -- either verbally or doing whatever your/their love language is -- do so. Thank God for the blessing of their friendships and pray for them and their loved ones. I think we sometimes get caught up in our own drama that we forget to pause and be grateful for those who bring light during our darkest moments.

And that -- everything I just wrote -- which is why I haven't blogged or been on social media as much lately. I've been wanting to write for days but I've been so busy with the lovely people in my life, with trying to do what I could do during the first week of the semester, or dealing with other things that I simply didn't have the time. It looks like life is going to quiet down again for me -- at least for a couple of weeks -- so I hope to blog more often. I might blog more and tweet less. We'll see. ;)

I hope y'all have had a great weekend and that you have a wonderful start of the week. Beat those Monday blues. ;)

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New... Nothing?

Before I begin, let me just wish y'all a feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus! Who is reciting the Litany of Holy Name of Jesus right after she posts this blog post? This girl! There's a partial indulgence attached it to if you say His name reverently today. You also get a plenary indulgence if you visit a church today (usual conditions apply). Just an FYI if you didn't know.

Happy New Year, everyone!! I know it's January 3rd but it's my first blog post of the year. I purposely waited a couple of days because I wanted to take a break from being online so much at the end of last year. Yesterday was World Introvert Day so I did a lot of reading, sleeping when I could because I've been physically exhausted lately, and just relaxed. Since it's my last week of winter break before classes begin again, I decided to not be lazy but also not do a whole lot of busywork. I'm just going to do what I need to do to prepare for the (hopefully) last Spring semester for this program and then stay as stress-free as possible.

I had (or have, actually) one sole resolution this year and it's to get to Mass as much as I possibly can. This resolution? I actually made it back for the Liturgical New Year. ;) I hope more Mass includes daily Mass and especially Latin Mass when I can make the trip. I've fallen in love with the Latin Mass again and I am constantly looking for excuses to attend one. Sadly, no Mass for my this past Sunday because I had palpitations and horrible (random) anxiety from about 2 a.m. (the time I fell asleep on New Year's Day) until about 7-8 p.m. that night. Blah. :( I might've already "failed" to keep my resolution but as many lovely people reminded me, it wasn't as if I wanted to miss Mass. Not only that, I have (roughly) 51 more weekends to get it right this year.

Besides that resolution, I have nothing. No other plans or resolution. Well, no... that's not entirely true. I do have plans/goals. I plan on doing well for the rest of the program for this degree. I plan on keeping myself healthy and doing what I must to raise my folate, iron, and calcium levels. I plan on working on myself in preparation for both vocations. All these plans? I've had them for a long time so I don't count them as resolutions. I don't like New Year's Day resolutions. As previously stated, I make new liturgical year resolutions because they enhance how I live out my faith during the year but that's about it.

Almost no one keeps the resolutions they make through the end of the year... and then they feel terrible about it. I've seen people use such depressing, negative language when talking about how much they stink for not sticking with their resolutions. I'm definitely guilty of being too hard on myself, which is why I think I refuse to make resolutions. Not only that, a lot of resolutions are... well, well-meaning but usually attached to something that ends up hurting us more.

As Megan so wisely reflected on yesterday's Blessed is She post, some of our resolutions "[cater] to the world’s 'standards,' built on Satan’s deceptions and lies." (side note: I recommend you read her reflection to see what she means and I agree with). I know that if I made the resolution of working mt tush off to get all A's in school it would include the sin of pride because I know that a high GPA would mean graduating with distinction and honors. Who wouldn't like getting special attention on graduation day (though I'm still leaning on skipping the actual ceremony)? I've struggled with academic pride in the past and I know I don't want to go there.

Doing well in school? I plan to do it because I don't want to lose my financial aid which is helping me pay for and finish my degree. The sooner I can finish the degree, the sooner I can get my license and start working to help pay the bills and have my mom retire. Getting healthier? I plan to do it because I've read about birth defects that may arise if my body is low on things such as folate levels. I don't plan on getting married and/or getting pregnant anytime soon but I also know that these things can take a long time to be corrected so I want to start when there's no massive pressure. New year, same old plans. :)

Here is where I put my usual disclaimer that these are my thoughts about what's going to work for me. If you have resolutions and actually go through with them, virtual high five to you, my friend! I personally just can't do it because I know myself well enough to know that it doesn't work for me for a couple of different reasons. :)

Anyway, I still want to be online as little as possible so I'm going to vamoose and go read... after I pray the litany. ;)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the year! :D

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