Monday, June 26, 2017

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Novena, Day Two

Day Two
Jesus says: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Pier Giorgio responds: “Our life, in order to be Christian, has to be a continual renunciation, a continual sacrifice. But this is not difficult, if one thinks what these few years passed in suffering are, compared with eternal happiness where joy will have no measure or end, and where we shall
have unimaginable peace.”

We pray: Blessed Pier Giorgio, teach me that I must be able to mourn if I will be able to rejoice. Show me how to face my sorrow, and not avoid it or pretend that it does not exist. Help me to enter into any present sorrow, so that my soul can empty itself and be filled with God’s peace.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, I ask for your intercession in obtaining from God, Who is our Consoler, all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I confidently turn to you for help in my present need: (mention your request.)

Litany of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (for private devotion)
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

God our Father in heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
All the angels and saints, pray for us.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us.
Loving son and brother, pray for us.
Support of family life, pray for us.
Friend of the friendless, pray for us.
Most Christian of companions, pray for us.
Leader of youth, pray for us.
Helper of those in need, pray for us.
Teacher of charity, pray for us.
Patron of the poor, pray for us.
Comfort of the sick, pray for us.
Athlete for God’s kingdom, pray for us.
Conqueror of life’s mountains, pray for us.
Defender of truth and virtue, pray for us.
Opponent of every injustice, pray for us.
Patriotic citizen of the nation, pray for us.
Loyal son of the Church, pray for us.
Devoted child of the Madonna, pray for us.
Ardent adorer of the Eucharist, pray for us.
Fervent student of the Scriptures, pray for us.
Dedicated follower of St. Dominic, pray for us.
Apostle of prayer and fasting, pray for us.
Guide to a deep love for Jesus, pray for us.
Diligent in work and study, pray for us.
Joyful in all of life’s circumstances, pray for us.
Strong in safeguarding chastity, pray for us.
Silent in pain and suffering, pray for us.
Faithful to the promises of Baptism, pray for us.
Model of humility, pray for us.
Example of detachment, pray for us.
Mirror of obedience, pray for us.
Man of the Beatitudes, pray for us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Father, You gave to the young Pier Giorgio Frassati the joy of meeting Christ and of living his faith in service of the poor and the sick. Through his intercession, may we, too, walk the path of the Beatitudes and follow the example of his generosity, spreading the spirit of the Gospel in society. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Novena, Day One

Day One
Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Pier Giorgio responds: “The faith given to me in Baptism surely suggests to me that of yourself you will do nothing; but if you have God as the center of all your actions, then you will reach the goal.”

We pray: Blessed Pier Giorgio, teach me true poverty of spirit. Help me understand that God cares for me; and that He asks me, in return, to care for others, especially those in need. Guide me to make choices in my life which will show a preference for service of God and neighbor, rather than accumulating financial wealth and social advantage for myself. Give me a special love for the poor and the sick.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, I ask for your intercession in obtaining from God, Who is the Lover of the poor, all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I confidently turn to you for help in my present need: (mention your request.)

Litany of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (for private devotion)
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

God our Father in heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
All the angels and saints, pray for us.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us.
Loving son and brother, pray for us.
Support of family life, pray for us.
Friend of the friendless, pray for us.
Most Christian of companions, pray for us.
Leader of youth, pray for us.
Helper of those in need, pray for us.
Teacher of charity, pray for us.
Patron of the poor, pray for us.
Comfort of the sick, pray for us.
Athlete for God’s kingdom, pray for us.
Conqueror of life’s mountains, pray for us.
Defender of truth and virtue, pray for us.
Opponent of every injustice, pray for us.
Patriotic citizen of the nation, pray for us.
Loyal son of the Church, pray for us.
Devoted child of the Madonna, pray for us.
Ardent adorer of the Eucharist, pray for us.
Fervent student of the Scriptures, pray for us.
Dedicated follower of St. Dominic, pray for us.
Apostle of prayer and fasting, pray for us.
Guide to a deep love for Jesus, pray for us.
Diligent in work and study, pray for us.
Joyful in all of life’s circumstances, pray for us.
Strong in safeguarding chastity, pray for us.
Silent in pain and suffering, pray for us.
Faithful to the promises of Baptism, pray for us.
Model of humility, pray for us.
Example of detachment, pray for us.
Mirror of obedience, pray for us.
Man of the Beatitudes, pray for us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Father, You gave to the young Pier Giorgio Frassati the joy of meeting Christ and of living his faith in service of the poor and the sick. Through his intercession, may we, too, walk the path of the Beatitudes and follow the example of his generosity, spreading the spirit of the Gospel in
society. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Odds and Ends: Fatigue and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Wow, I was not expecting the feedback I received from the last blog post. Holy smokes (minus "Habemus Papam"), y'all! Not only did I get way more comments than I'm used to on the actual post, but the number of tweets and retweets and private messages surprised me. It looks like it's a widespread problem for many people... and that's incredibly sad to realize. I know people either love or hate The Benedict Option (which I read several weeks ago) but it makes you think about how much different things would be if we all lived in a community that was supportive and spiritually nurturing. Perhaps maybe then so many people -- especially young adults -- wouldn't fall away? *shrugs*

I've apparently (and unintentionally) boarded the struggle bus once again in the past couple of days, making prayer hard for me. I also didn't go to Mass last weekend (the first weekend that I've missed since last month) but not because I didn't want to. I passed out on Saturday from a tremendous fatigue that I've yet to shake off. Then, on Sunday, I had the extreme fatigue (which made me sleep through the alarms in the morning) followed by terrible palpitations and anxiety attacks. No explanation for them; I couldn't figure out a trigger for the anxiety or the fatigue. I'm hoping to go to confession and Mass tonight since Mom works most Sundays and gets home physically done for (she's on her feet all 8 hours). Fingers crossed that the weather (unbearable heat makes me physically sick and not even the car's a/c helps sometimes) and everything else cooperates with me.

The good thing is the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena begins tomorrow. I know I've spoken quite a bit about him in the last couple of posts (and throughout the years, for those who've been following the blog for a while now) and I will continue to do so because he seems to be the one who is consistently interceding for me when I find myself in a spiritual rut/dryness. It's returned in the past two days (the spiritual dryness) but I hope to remedy that with a trip to the confessional and Mass today God willing). I will be scheduling the daily novena prayers for 8 a.m. PST. Each day has different prayers so keep an eye out for them. I've also found that posting the novena prayers on this blog helps those who are normally prone to forget about doing a novena every day. If I post something else between June 25 and July 9th, I will try to do it in the evenings so that the posts are spread out.

Also, a letter to Pope Francis has been written in order to appeal that he canonizes Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati next year at the "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment" synod. You can watch a video made by Bl. PGF's niece (daughter of his only sister), learn more about the letter or even sign the petition at this website. You don't have to be a "youth" to sign the letter; there's no age restriction. If you've previously done a novena to ask for his intercession and he has answered it, you can also add it to the petition. I'm definitely filling it out. The first time he interceded for me, I was able to graduate with a $2k loan instead of a $80k loan at my alma mater; a massive difference between those two numbers. The last couple of times I've blogged about it (in recent weeks) so you all know the big way he's coming through for me in the past month or so.

And that's it for this "odds and ends" post. I'm going to try to go to confession and Mass and pray that the fatigue (and the lightheadedness that accompanies it) will not make things harder for me, especially in this heat. I really shouldn't be driving right now but I know we won't make it to Mass tomorrow so... we're going to try. Prayers appreciated.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why Can't I Find My Place in the Church?

I briefly mention this topic in the last post because it's been a major stumbling block on my quest to attend Mass more often to keep myself from becoming apathetic towards the Church. Again, I'm going to add the disclaimer that I may mention people (not by name, of course) but I'm not blaming them.

Since last year, I've been trying to attend more Latin Masses because it's where I feel more connected to God and more at peace. I'm fairly positive that if I counted, I'll see that I've been to more Extraordinary Form Masses than Ordinary Form Masses in the past year. I've been veiling (or, at the very least, keeping my head covered with berets and hats) for years. In fact, the last gift my father gave me (not counting the ultimate gift of his return to the Church the day before my 24th birthday) was a veil from Mexico... 8 years ago. I obviously started veiling before that so, you know, I'm not new at this. lol.

I love the reverence of the Latin Mass. I love that we all seem to be more focused on the Holy Sacrifice than in Ordinary Form Masses. I know some people's spiritual lives thrive more with the inclusion of the entire community during OF Masses (i.e. holding hands during the Lord's Prayer and the sign of peace) but it's not for me. I wasn't a fan even when I was a little girl. You can even ask my mom and she'll confirm it for you. I don't like how it seems to disrupt the focus (and purpose) of the Mass and it makes it easier for people to get distracted for the rest of the Mass. I've always loved focusing on what the priest was doing; on how he was celebrating Mass and feeling that I was a part of something greater than myself. This also started way before I even did my First Communion when I was 8. I love the significance of veiling and, on a more practical level, I love that the veil literally blocks all distractions within my peripheral vision and it helps me keep my eyes on the altar.

Latin Mass is the answer to my prayers... except that I still get lost during the Mass. lol. I have yet to buy myself a missal because they're expensive and I have a lot of expenses every week. L.A. is an expensive city to live in and we mostly live paycheck to paycheck so I have to save up for things that are not immediate necessities. I'm guessing that my being fluent in Spanish makes it a little easier to follow along but I still get hopelessly lost at times. Don't get me started on how I botch up Latin because my brain automatically switches to the Spanish pronunciation of letters and words. lol. I'm still getting used to it and I think I simply need to attend more Masses (and have a really, really patient person explain things to me) before I'm completely comfortable going to them.

Now, I'm not saying Ordinary Form Masses are terrible. It's what I grew up attending. I was baptized, made my First Communion, and was confirmed (in that order) in OF Masses. It's familiar and I can follow along because it's in a language I understand (for both English and Spanish Masses). I know many wonderful, holy priests who don't do Extraordinary Form Masses and their homilies are top notch. Still, overall, most OF Masses are not my cup of tea. I've been to some solemn OF Masses but there are always elements of this form that I'm not thrilled with. As I've mentioned, I'm not a fan of the hand-holding or the sign of peace. The music is... well, also not my cup of tea. I'm really sorry, music ministers, but once the guitar, bass, and/or drums get introduced, my focus and concentration are gone because it makes me feel like I'm at a concert or show rather than a Mass. Again, this is just what it seems to me. I know it helps other people but it distracts me more than it helps me personally. Don't even get me started on when they start projecting things on the sides of the altar or the clapping people do during Mass. To quote my beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, "Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment."

During my struggle with spiritual dryness/spiritual attacks, I noticed that I felt like I couldn't (and still can't) find "my place" with the Church... including with Masses. As you could probably deduce from this post, I prefer Latin Masses. However, not being able to follow doesn't help and sometimes I get really self-conscious asking someone for help because, well, I've had a bad experience with people who attend Latin Masses. I've gotten the "ugh, what a stupid question" vibe when questions do get asked and, let's be real, no one wants to feel like a total dunce. I've also gotten the "ugh, you're doing it wrong" vibe when I try to figure things out. Not everyone is like this, of course. I've met some really lovely people within the local Latin Mass community but I've yet to really get to know them well so I don't feel part of it. I obviously feel a greater sense of community at OF Masses. Not counting the judgmental looks when I've received when veiling, people tend to be more welcoming and, in my experience, are easier to get to know. That's one of the things I miss most of our former parish; knowing the people and being able to talk to them before and after Mass. I don't go to Mass to socialize, obviously, but it would be nice to know some of the people and know that you're surrounded by like-minded folks.

I love veiling and the Latin Mass - *gasp* too traditional! I prefer wearing skirts and dresses but I still like the comfort and, as someone who is active and grew up playing sports, like the coverage pants and shorts provide - *gasp* what an immodesty! Some people assume that I'm single because, like many of my Millennial peers, I like my independence and am too career oriented - *gasp* too modern! When they find out I'd prefer to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool my future kids - *gasp* too traditional and anti-feminist to boot! I'm still single not because I want to be but because it seems to be God's will for me at the moment. It's not get started on my taste in music and films because it gets worse; I'm either too traditional/too much of a prude or too modern/liberal for that, too!

My point in all of this is that, despite the advantages and disadvantages of both, I feel like I haven't found my place in the Church. When you add the fact that I'm a single 32-year-old young woman with zero prospects (despite feeling calling to marriage) and that there seems to be no solid support system for us over-25 singles within either community, I feel like I'm on the outskirts of the Church. Why isn't there something for us singles who are in this stage of life because it's clearly not our time yet and not because we've actively chosen it? It would help us to have some sort of support.

I can't win, even though I really don't want to "win" anything. My goal is to get to heaven and help those God have placed in my life do the same thing. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm very much a people person and feeling like I can't find a community to which I belong makes me feel dejected and, in turn, it makes it harder for me to nourish my spiritual life. Yes, I'm still very much an introvert but I'm also a social being (hence my saying that I'm a social introvert; it's an actual thing if you want to Google it if you don't believe me). I guess I just need to find that happy medium -- preferably a community that likes attending Latin Masses but won't judge me for occasionally wearing pants and shorts, liking the things I do, and that would be to pray for me (and other over-25 singles) as I wait for the next phase of my life to begin. Does such a community exist?

This post was just scratching the surface. There are so many layers that I didn't get into because we would be here all day. Again, I'm not blaming people for my feeling like I'm on the fringes of the Church and like I can't find a solid community in which I can feel like I belong. It's just my own thing that I have to work through this summer. It hasn't helped that I've spent the last 5 years (or longer if you count the years in which my anxiety was so bad that I couldn't leave the house) sick and that it's made it harder for me to try to socialize or get to Masses that don't make me cringe. We also don't live in a great neighborhood so I try to be home before it gets too dark and most of the socializing events happen late, especially after the 7 p.m. Latin Mass on Sundays. If there was a Latin Mass that both Mom and I could attend on Sundays that wasn't so late, it would be easier and perhaps I could find more likeminded people. Before you locals suggest it, no, we can't make it to the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Felipe or the noon Mass at St. Therese because Mom works on Sundays until after both Masses are over and all other Masses are too far for me to drive (I don't ever drive on the freeways).

If you're feeling particularly charitable today, please feel free to donate to the FSSP LA building fund so that they can get their parish quicker and more Latin Masses can be offered throughout the day. People like me, with limited transportation and other options, that love Latin Masses would appreciate it. The priests are fantastic and I have a feeling they'll help establish a great community that is very much needed in L.A.

Alright, that's it for now. It's already 97 degrees at 25 minutes to 1 p.m. and my hands and feet are already suffering from being in hottest part of our apartment (my home office is west-facing with no shade from anything). I hope those of you who will be in cities/towns over 85 degrees stay cool!

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


Friday, June 16, 2017

Why I (Nearly) Left the Church Recently

My Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Rosary bracelet.
This is something I'd been holding back on for weeks (that, probably, no one other than 2 people know about) but I think is now the right time to share: there was a point, last month, where I came very close to becoming completely apathetic towards the Church... or, at least, I felt like I was going to leave it. In fact, I was scared that I wouldn't be strong enough to resist the idea of leaving. Before I go into details, I'm going to say I am not blaming any people I will mention in this post. Yes, I'm hurt and it didn't help the situation but I do not blame them for nearly causing the apathy.

This past Lent was rough for me. I got sick (a bad cold after being subjected to freezing -- for L.A. standards -- temperatures in light layers). I accidentally had dairy when I went to Mexico and I spent the next month being physically debilitated because of it. I dealt with the last of the problems I had due to the anemia and everything else. I was racially profiled for the first time in my life. My spiritual life took a big hit, too. I was expecting it as both Advent and Lent are prime times for the enemy to mess with us. However, I wasn't expecting it to hit as intensely as it did.

I was hit with doubt and indecision about almost everything. I felt as if I no longer had any clarity about what God's will was for me and my life. In fact, I had zero plans for my life. I had tanked one of my courses in my SLP program which led to the decision to leave the program and look for a way to pay back my student loans.  I went 4 months without receiving the Eucharist. I tried to go to Mass but obstacles hit me left and right. The anemia and the accidental dairy ingested caused a terrible lightheadedness and physical fatigue that made it impossible for me to safely drive to Mass. Taxi cabs failed to pick me up and take me to Mass without explanation. Last month I experienced three consecutive weekends of what seemed to be physical manifestations of intense spiritual attacks that both holy water blessed this past Epiphany and the medal of St. Benedict helped shorten the effects of, immediately. I won't elaborate more on it beyond that. I will say that it was during those intense three weeks that the apathy threatened to take hold.

During that time, what my former spiritual director said to me (twice!) kept replaying in my mind: that there was no point in me being a Catholic because I stunk at being one. Well, that's what I interpreted. His actual words during our last spiritual direction meeting (in which he kicked me out of his office) were "what's the point?" (in my being Catholic). Direct quote; I wouldn't dare attribute false words to anyone, much less a priest. What was the point of me being a Catholic if I didn't attend Mass regularly? What was the point of me being Catholic if I struggled to concentrate during my time in prayer? What was the point in my being Catholic? These words swirled around in my mind when I tried praying, especially when it was the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I would want to quit praying, wanting to give up, but I powered through the rest of the prayers (with a little help from holy water).

As I've mentioned in the past, I joined a young adult group late last year but I haven't been to many meetings/get-togethers this year. Mostly, it's been because I've been physically unable to. There were also meetings I wasn't told about (that I had no idea were even going on) so I didn't go because I had no idea. They've been nice people... but I've also not felt welcomed. I feel absolutely horrible for saying that (and I promise I'll get to the point of sharing this soon) but it's true. As much as I like the group of people, I feel like I'm excluded from what they do. It's understandable; they've been more active in parish activities (the majority being part of the choir) and they see each other more but it still stinks to feel left out. The kicker was when I contacted one of the members and suggested that we try to help set-up a more frequent carpooling system to outings in which they charged for parking... and a suggestion she, herself, had pitched to the group for that specific outing. She told me to work it out myself because she was too busy to help me for a different Mass event I wasn't even talking about. I felt the heat rush to my face and my ears when I read her response. It had been her idea; I only suggested perhaps setting up something so that the carpooling could begin before the outing (it was going to start at Mass and then end up at a different location) since some of us (I'm not the only one) have transportation issues sometimes. I've seen people (in the group and from the parish in general) ask for rides, so it was a suggestion to help them out. I had a way to get to get to Mass and the outing; it wasn't even for me. Needless to say, between that response, another group member publicly embarrassing me for something I'd say in all seriousness at the last big (read: crowded) meeting I attended and feeling like I wasn't welcomed... I decided to no longer attend group meetings.

All of these things -- what my former spiritual director had said and my experience with the members of the young adult group -- and my inability to go to Mass all contributed to me feeling and thinking that perhaps my former spiritual director was right and that me praying, doing my best (and failing spectacularly when I began doubting myself, especially when it came to my ability to go to Mass regularly), and not finding my place in the Church meant I should throw in the towel. I had these strong thoughts and feelings for almost the entirety of May. Add me feeling as if I didn't know what I was going to do with my life and everything else I mentioned... I was in a bad place.

On a whim (I don't remember if it was inspired by a dream I had that featured him or if he just kept popping up in my mind), I decided to start a Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena on May 1st. I mentioned it to Mom and she also, quite suddenly and without giving it much thought, said she would pray it along with me. I got the novena prayers in Spanish from the Frassati Argentina group for Mom and we prayed for the same things: clarity about my career/vocation (small v) and my health. The spiritual attacks (or what I think were attacks) got worse when I did the novena... but I didn't stop. Though the thoughts persisted that I should leave, remembering Bl. PGF's life story kept me from pulling away. I use to remember his ardent love for the Church. I also remembered how both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) had moments in which they felt God had abandoned them as well so I kept going. I think I only missed praying the Rosary once and that's because I fell asleep because I felt unwell. Other than that, I don't think I missed either morning or nighttime prayers. Bl. PGF remained in my thoughts (and my heart) as my birthday approached. Whenever I felt like giving up, I would remember him and I tried to fight through the apathy and disappointment.

As silly as it sounds, the moment that I feel was the turning point was when I received my lab results at my second hematologist appointment. To know that my prayers had been answered reduced me to a puddle of tears and gratitude at the hospital (where my hematology appointments occur). I had been slowly gaining weight in the past year but I didn't break past the 124-125 mark (I'm usually between 125 and 128 lbs) and it would occasionally dip back down... until I did the novena. My weight, as I mentioned before, has remained steady and is back to where it was prior to my health issues starting 5 years ago. It took years to get down to the source of my health problems (sans those that are causing low platelets). It was the moment where I went "I suffered through so much... but I can see that God didn't abandon me. He heard my prayers despite my not going to Mass and my failure... and Bl. PGF came through for me in a big way." A day or two after receiving the wonderful news that I was healthier than I had been in years, the rest of my prayers (that were part of my novena to Bl. PGF) were answered.

The weekend before my birthday I returned to confession and Mass for the first time in 2 months. I have not failed to go to either confession or Mass since. On my birthday I got word on something (career related) that I'd been praying about, literally within 5 minutes of my waking up. (side note: totally counting that as a birthday gift from God, lol). I now have a clear(er) path that I will be taking starting this autumn when the next phase begins. I also got inspiration for my third novel, which was scrapped and started over again for the third time but which has stuck. (second side note: I'm glad I started over; this new idea is so much better than the first two I had.)

I feel like myself again. I feel that great love I have towards the Church though I've still struggled with certain things like overindulgence and temptations in recent weeks. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, my new confessor suggested focusing on my spiritual life this summer which I've been doing. I want to get into my problem with my experience with Ordinary Form Masses vs Latin Masses (and the communities for both) but I'll save that for the next post. Let's just say that I had a big eye-opener regarding this and it's what I'll be working through this summer. For now, I'm just trying to keep my confession and Mass attendance more regular, I want to figure out what I could do to help my concentration problem during prayer time, and I want to kick the bad habits I developed/that returned while I went months without attending Mass. Baby steps... but happy that I didn't leave the Church and grateful for the intercession Bl. PGF helped with.

I bought myself a Rosary bracelet with a medal of Bl. PGF to wear and use (to pray until I get myself the complete Rosary) for my birthday as a reminder of why I'm a big Frassati fangirl. That's what this post's picture is of; the Rosary bracelet. It's already helped me focus when praying the Rosary despite being like twice my width of my wrist, lol.

And before any of you say anything: yes, I know that feelings can trip us up and that we shouldn't pay attention. I also know that even in our darkest moments, God is always there for us. I kept reminding myself of that when I was struggling... but it didn't always help. Sometimes your mind can play tricks on you, just like your heart can. The devil knows how to best kick us when we're already down. Don't you think he knows that the easiest way to get me down is to make me feel unloved and rejected? Hi, I'm an INFP and phlegmatic-sanguine over here; I'm a people person despite being an introvert. I say I'm a social introvert for that very reason -- I like people. Making me feel like I'm rejected by people I admired -- my spiritual director and members of the group which I so wanted to be a part of? He knew how to get to me... but God is greater than him and God knows that my stubbornness (when used for good), my optimism (which did waver for a while), and tenacity are some of my best strengths. He knew that Bl. PGF was the best way to pull me out of that abyss of spiritual dryness and doubt.

I'm sure there were countless prayers that I don't know about, which helped me get through all of this. To those who prayed for me during this time, I want to say a massive "Thank you!" To those who I personally know are struggling through the same thing or something similar, please know I add you into my prayers specifically by (full) name because I understand how difficult going through this is. If you're going through doubts about the Church or anything of the sort, please don't be afraid to talk to someone... or even ask others for prayers. I volunteer to pray and fast for you; just let me know privately. I don't want anyone to go through this... or worse.

Anyway, this -- sharing what happened to me -- had been on my heart since last night and I'm grateful to be able to share it with you. I'm not fully out of the danger area (are any of us?) but I'm in a much, much better place than I was last month. Bl. PGF's feast day is coming up early next month so I'll be reposting the novena prayers (they differ daily) every day on this blog later this month leading up to his feast day (July 4th). I didn't think it was possible but I've become a bigger fan of his (and my mother is a (new) massive fan now that she saw the big changes since we did the novena) and I'm full of gratitude for his intercession. As he would say, "verso l'alto!" ("towards the heights!")

It's getting hot in my home office (it's already in the low 90s and it's only 12:25 p.m.) so I'm going to end this blog post and go migrate to another part of the apartment before I have to go pick up Mom from work.

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Taking Care of Yourself Becomes Overindulgence

Last night and this morning I was thinking about my third novel and I had the inspiration to share (on the blog) something I'm currently in the process of working through: learning how to take care myself in moderation.

For years, I battled anemia, fatigue, and being underweight. In fact, I recently hit my normal weight range which I haven't been within since I graduated as an undergrad, 5 years ago. Anemia is physically (and even mentally) debilitating. I was tired all of the time and had trouble concentrating or even doing the simplest things (like remembering that I had water boiling on the stove; thank goodness for a whistling kettle). I would fall asleep sitting down, in the middle of the day. I would want to take a nap within 2-3 hours of waking up... after 8-10 hours of sleep. I would often be found in bed, laying there most of the day because my body felt very heavy and it was exhausting simply sitting up. It wasn't laziness; my doctors all confirmed it was due to the anemia. I didn't have the physical (and mental) strength to function like a normal human being.

I tried to push myself and do things despite my physical weakness but that ended up backfiring and I spent more time in bed, trying to regain strength. When that happened, I knew I had to admit "defeat" and allow myself to do what my body wanted. If I felt tired, I would take a nap. If I felt I couldn't walk any longer, I'd sit until I felt well enough to continue. If I was hungry, I would eat. If I was thirsty... well, you get the idea. Whatever my physical needs were, I took them as cues from my body that that was what it needed. It was that (and taking the multivitamin that apparently boosted my iron and folate levels quite quickly) that helped me get healthy once again. Hooray for learning self-care!

I learned that it's important to take care of yourself -- something I was sadly lacking since I tended to put others' needed ahead of my own and this is something I've done since I was a child. I didn't think of what I needed or even wanted. I did what others needed. It's not a bad thing, but it can become a bad thing. I've been taken advantage of by those who saw that I was easily exploitable. It's something that I've had to learn to better manage; to learn to say "no" and not feel guilty about doing. Seeing that I was making myself sicker by not taking care of myself was a massive wake-up call and one that I'm grateful for since I know it'll be useful once I have a family of my own (someday, I pray). Now I have to learn the other side of taking care of yourself: doing things in moderation.

Before I get into that, a bit of background info for you new readers. I feel like I'm getting those selfish years I didn't get when I was younger. As those of you who've been long-time readers may recall from previous posts, I didn't have your typical adolescence or young adulthood. I helped take care of my parents when most of my peers were going out with friends. I didn't go parties. I didn't go out on dates (and I've yet to be taken out on a proper date. Seriously). I didn't even go to slumber parties. Sure, I regularly went to concerts between the ages of 18 and 20, but I always came home right after the shows. When I hung out with friends (in those years in which my father's cancer was in remission), I would come home early. Simply put, I was a responsible kid. I avoided drugs, alcohol, sleeping around, and every other vice you could possibly think of for someone who grew up in  L.A. My then "friends" used to tease me for being an "old lady" or a "prisoner" of my own home but that's just how I've always been. When I was in school, I focused on that and didn't go out. When my father's cancer returned (and eventually became terminal), I was even more homebound than normal After my father died, I focused on school until I graduated. Almost as soon as I graduated, I got sick and it's taken 5 years to get to the bottom of all the problems I ended up having.

Now, taking care of yourself isn't bad. I'm back to my pre-graduation normal weight. My health is the best it's been in several years. My anxiety is virtually non-existent these days. I have a (more or less) clear path on which I'll be traveling down on over the next year or so, if it continues to be God's will. I've placed myself in God's hands and it's been a wonderful thing. But... I'm getting slightly off-track now.  While doing what you need to do stay health is great, it can backfire which is what I'm dealing with right now.

As you could probably guess from the title, I'm currently trying to learn to do things in moderation because what worked for me while I was sick isn't what I need anymore. I can't oversleep anymore (and my body has actually ached on days when I sleep more than 8 hours). I can't eat more than I need to. And before you ask, I used to lack on appetite and had to force myself to eat some days... which is how I got into the habit of eating even when I didn't feel hungry. That and, for a long time, I couldn't take iron pills and I had to eat a lot of food just to get enough iron in my diet for the day to not make the anemia worse. I've gotten into the habit of doing much more for myself than most other people do and it's one that I know I will struggle to break out of.

I have the hardest time breaking habits, both good and bad. I have to re-train my body to be fine with 7-8 hours of sleep when I can get them (which, thankfully, is most days). I also have to get back into the habit of getting to sleep early and getting up early instead of going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 10-11 a.m. This will not be the easiest, especially since Mom's been on vacation since my birthday so I've gotten used to not getting up at 3-4 a.m. to help her get to work on time. I need to remind myself to listen to my stomach and to my body and stop whenever I feel myself getting full. I have to remind myself that the objective is to keep hunger away and not to make myself feel absolutely stuffed. Yes, I also know I won't ever have this luxury again... especially not once I get married and have a family of my own. That's why I say that I feel like I'm getting the selfish years I didn't have when I was younger; I only have myself (and my mom, to an extent) to worry about.

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, I have two more months off before I begin the next step in (what I believe to be) God's plans for me. I already have plans to work on my spiritual life (doing a big re-do/makeover of sorts) and I had my third novel to work on so it's not like I'll be sitting around the house, twiddling my thumbs. As soon as Mom heads back to work (this weekend), I get to reestablish my "housewife" routine of taking care of the house, running errands, and balancing the household budget by myself... on top of the plans I have for my novel and other things regarding my faith that will get me out of the house during the summer.

I will also try to go to confession more often because I know gluttony and an overconsumption of things are considered sins... and I'm tired of telling the priest I over-eat at least once during the week. *blush* If you haven't made the connection yet, the longer I went without going to Mass and confession, the easier it was for me to be selfish and greedy and allow myself to overindulge in sleep, food, and general laziness. I'm ashamed of myself for falling into this trap but it happened and now I'm holding myself accountable for all the dumb decisions I've made.

Please pray for me as I try to cultivate more temperance in my life. There are things I didn't mention in this post that will make things a little harder than usual for me when it comes to learning how to balance things, especially in the "ninja area" of my life that y'all know I don't like talking about on this blog. (*whispers* that means my "personal" life for those of you new to the blog. I'm notoriously private about my love life, y'all.)

Anyway, I think that's all for now. It's getting hot in my home office (we're nearing the triple digits this and next week in L.A.) and it's (unfortunately for me) the hottest room in the house so I want to escape this mini-oven before it gets hotter.

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sometimes You Need to Start Over

Hello, everyone! I'm sorry for the nearly 2-week radio silence (the last blog post about the novel sale not included). I've been going through a sort of a life do-over in most areas of my life. It would be too much to share in a single post -- and there is a lot I'm not sure I want to share just yet -- but let's just say that I needed these past two weeks to sort through a lot of things. I will share two major things though: my Mass attendance has been on point (yes!) and, on the suggestion of my new confessor, I've decided to sort of start over with my spiritual life.

First, I've made it to Mass AND confession for three consecutive weekends. Insert celebratory gif here. lol. It's been very disconcerting to look back and see how easy it was for me to develop terrible habits that caused me to sin much easier when I wasn't going to Mass more than once every 2 months. I try to take side streets when I feel a bit lightheaded (which, unfortunately, is still going on almost daily despite anemia no longer being an issue)... or even look for the last local Mass for the day (which I did two weekends ago) when I don't think it's safe for me to drive. I'm crediting the Holy Spirit for this (and a major decision I made recently). Yay, Holy Spirit!!

Second, I started going to confession (regularly) with a new priest and it's helped me out a lot. He gave me the advice to focus on my spiritual life during this summer since I have a nice 3-month break (now 2 months left) before the next phase of my plans (which I made with the help of the Holy Spirit and the intercessions of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Joseph) begin. I told him what I was going through and he suggested I take the summer to work on my spiritual life. In many ways, I'll be starting over again because I think I got stuck in a cycle of prayer or a way of thinking that was spiritually stifling me. My relationship with God was breaking down and it made it easier for me to miss Mass (even with legitimate excuses), to commit stupid sins, and just lose myself.

I actually came very close to, basically, throwing away the last 10 years of work in my spiritual life that I had done since my reversion. I will one day reveal everything that happened but let's just say that it wasn't until Mom and I did the novena to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati that things changed for me and I was able to break out of that apathy and depression. I literally fell into a deep depression last month and it took me about three weeks to break out of it. Things picked up with my wonderful health news and then a had another huge boost on my birthday (May 30th). And to think that -- if I remember correctly either had a dream about Bl. PGF or if he just kept popping up in my life -- I decided to do the novena to Bl. PGF on a whim and my mom decided to join me. After seeing the almost immediate results of the novena, she's now a fellow Frassati fan.

This summer, my plans are basically to keep myself healthy, work on my spiritual life, and working on things that had fallen into disrepair during my months of spiritual dryness/attacks. I started with working on cultivating more patience in my life a couple of weeks ago and now I'm working on that as well cultivating temperance which became a big problem for me in recently weeks (I was overindulging in things; I'll hopefully write about this next). I guess we'll see just how I do with these things since I'm pretty sure I'll be sharing what happens on this new adventure. :)

Has anyone had to do something similar to this? Having to sort of start over or restructure your spiritual life? Please let me know if you have and what helped you.

Alright, I think that's it for now. I hope to write more often in the upcoming weeks but we shall see if I actually do it. I've been working on my third novel and I can spend hours writing chapter after chapter. My imagination has been churning out a lot of ideas that I'm liking for the plot so I tend to just focus on them before the ideas escape. Someone, please remind me not to neglect the blog while I work on the novel. Please. lol.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and a great start of the week!

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Free Copy of My First Novel?! Yep!

Photo credit: Danica Clark Photography.
Happy Pentecost, everyone!!

Just a quick blog post to let y'all know that the Kindle version of my first novel -- Will and Lina: When Two Worlds Collide -- will be a free book deal on Amazon on June 5-7. The Kindle version of the sequel, Will and Lina: London Calling, will be on sale for 99 cents June 7-10. I've been told that the books are quick reads so if you're looking to kickstart your summer reading, feel free to try them out.

Special author's note: I wrote the first novel in the early days of my reversion and the sequel years later... and I think you can tell. I grew up along with the characters in the novel so both of these novels have a special place in my heart. And if you're wondering, London Calling is my favorite of the two (for personal reasons).

If you've already read the novels and enjoyed them, thank you! If you read them and didn't like them... I'm really sorry! lol. If you end up reading them and have questions, please check out the following blog posts in which I answered FAQs or gave you some background info (and playlists!) of things mentioned in the novels.

  • Readers Want to Know: Will and Lina Q&A: Find out if Will is based on a real person (the most commonly asked question), if Lina is based on me (the second most commonly asked question), and other questions asked by readers.
  • Questions about the Will and Lina Series: Find out which characters are based on real people and which aren't.
  • Novel Playlists and Sequel News: Listen to the playlists I listened to when I wanted to get into a "character's headspace." edit: language/content warning (if you're sensitive to it) on some of the songs on the first Will playlist and Candace's playlist. You'll understand once you get to know the characters. 
  • "This is..." Novel Playlist: Spoiler alert, this playlist is mentioned in the first novel, WTWC.
Since my birthday was on Tuesday, I decided to give myself a writing break -- from the blogging world, from the third novel (which I'm seriously loving right now -- is that weird? That I'm loving what I'm writing?), and most everything else. I hope to return to the blogging and novel-writing world at some point this upcoming week. :)

I hope you are all having a lovely end of the weekend!

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