Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Big "M" Word: Marriage

I want to ask all my fellow single ladies (and you single gentlemen who we've seen talking about marriage on Twitter lately; yes, we've noticed) a couple of very important questions. I know many of us have a desire to marry and have children... but why? Have you really discerned your vocation? Ladies, do you want to get married for the wedding planning and the party part? Do you just think about getting that diamond engagement ring; showing it off to everyone? Do you want to get married solely because you feel unloved and you want to feel loved?

These may seem like harsh questions but I don't think I've ever seen conversations (beyond my own with my best friend and with a good guy friend who is thinking about getting engaged to his girlfriend) or blog posts in which they were asked. I apologize if the questions offend or unsettle you... but I believe these (and others) are important to think about. I've heard of (and have seen young women) who want to get married for the wrong reasons.

Here's my story: when talking about vocations, my spiritual director asked me how I knew I was called to marriage and not to another vocation. I wasn't prepared with a good answer. "I've prayed about it, in front of the tabernacle, and I feel, deep down, that it's my vocation" wasn't good enough. It was all true; I did pray and the desire to get married and have children grew whenever I was in front of the tabernacle. There was no doubt in my mind that that was my vocation. However, I didn't really get deeper than that. For weeks after, I thought about it. I returned to my spiritual director with my answer... which I think (from his expression) surprised him. Again, besides my conversations with my best friend and one of my closest guy friends, I'd never really talked about it but now my SD knows why I'm certain that it's my vocation.

I know you'll all be curious as to know why but it's something that's so personal that I'm not sure I want to share just yet. However, I will share a couple of thoughts. While I felt like it was my vocation, it wasn't until a year ago that I could honestly say that I could see myself getting married. I've always been incredibly independent and I worried that I would never meet a guy who I could see myself growing old with. It was a selfish mentality; I had my goals and I had my responsibilities and I couldn't see myself bringing a guy into the equation. I wasn't ready and I knew that it would be terrible to bring someone else into my life while I was figuring out career and vocation questions. Then I had two big epiphany moments in which I not only realized what I was doing (including trying to suppress feelings I'd had for years, done out of fear) but I also realized that I finally understood why it was my vocation when I accepted those feelings.

I don't want to get married for the party. In fact, I want a church wedding and maybe a small reception for family and closest family friends only. For the record, I have absolutely no pinterest boards for my dream wedding. I will not think about what I want for my wedding until there's a reason for it... and even then I will be focusing on preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage. I just know I want to get married in a church.

I don't want a diamond engagement ring nor will I be shoving my ring finger in people's faces in the future. I think there's a lot of pressure on guys to spend three months' worth of salary on the ring and I think that's ridiculous. Besides, I don't like diamonds anyway. Future fella: don't worry about it. I'd prefer an emerald if you really want me to have a ring with a gemstone on it. lol.

I don't want to get married because I feel unloved. I actually feel like I have a lot of love in my life from family and friends. Most importantly, I feel God's love for me, even when I'm going through something rough and I'm not too happy that my prayers weren't answered in ways I hoped for. There is no greater love than the love God has for us all and you can't replace it with any love you may find on this earth.

It was actually a good friend (who doesn't actually know this... and might put puzzle pieces together if they read this blog post) who unintentionally helped me figure things out. I'll stop there because I'm not comfortable expanding on it just yet. I will say that I constantly pray for my future husband (whoever he may be). I may not know who he is or what he's going through but I know that everyone is need of prayer. He may have temptations, bad habits, family or personal issues, vocation doubts, etc. I don't have to wait to know who is and/or what his story is for me to pray for him.

I'm not saying that I have all the answers or that I'm correct in my thoughts -- though my SD has yet to correct or challenge them. I just wanted to share this because I've seen so many "I just want to get married! I'm tired of being alone!", "I just want children; I wish husbands were optional!", and other similar comments floating around, especially amongst the 25+ set. Take a couple of minutes and think about it; why do you want to get married? Are the words "Sacrament of Marriage" just words to you or do you understand the importance of them? This is my challenge to all of you who I've seen talking (well, tweeting) about the desire to be married.

Alright, I need to get back to studying for my COMD courses and for my first Statistics midterm coming up at the end of next week.

I hope y'all are having a good week thus far. :D

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Goodbye SLP MS, Hello Theology MA?

In the past couple of weeks I've been feeling like maybe I shouldn't continue down the SLP path. I'm not going to quit the program. I'm going to see this degree through. I don't quit so easily. Do I get discouraged? Yes. To the point of quitting? No. I will finish the Bachelor of Science degree and do my hours to get my SLPA (speech-language pathology assistant) license. However, I feel as if maybe I shouldn't continue down the Master of Science path.

I'll be completely honest with y'all... I only went down this route because my family needed the financial stability. If we didn't, I would've probably been doing my Theology MA right now. 11 months ago, I wrote:

I'm only doing this in the meantime (the financial crunch in an expensive city is real, y'all) and that I will pursue a Master of Arts in Theology when things are a little more financially stable (and I am more prepared to teach or do something with the degree)... I feel like this is where God wants me now.
While I don't regret taking this path, it's become clear that the M.S. program wouldn't be the best fit for me. Before I go into why, let me just say that I still firmly believe that I'm in the right field (for now)... but that I would be content being an assistant. I won't get to officially diagnose the clients or create their treatment plan but I would still be able to carry out the treatment plan that a fully licensed SLP created. Most importantly (for me), I will still be able to help my family out financially, which is why I did this in the first place.

Here's why I don't think the M.S. would be a good fit for me. First and foremost, my health is being affected in a big way. A year ago, I was on the mend. I was getting healthier. I was gaining weight after those stomach problems I had. All that progress? Gone.

I'm going to break one of the cardinal girl rules; I'm going to tell you my weight. I'm between 115.6 and 117.8 most weeks when I have classes in this program. I went up a couple of pounds on my two-week summer break; back down the second week of classes. Now, remember that I'm 5'7" so I should be between about 120 and 135 for my height. I was about 128 lbs. when I was at the CINO college a couple of years ago. That's my normal weight and has been for most of my adult life. Yes, I wasn't happy at the CINO college but I also wasn't losing weight.

The stress I feel in this program is literally making me sick... and this is just the post-BA, pre-MS program. Imagine if I went onto doing two more years of the M.S. program. No, thank you. There's a "joke" that SLP grad (and even post-BA, pre-MS) students are on anti-anxiety meds for a reason. It's just a stressful field. I do enjoy the hard work and I love working with the kids... but, for once, I need to put myself first. It's hard for me but I know I need to.

I'm so happy that I worked through my PTSD symptoms months ago so I haven't had any panic attacks or anything of the like. I did have major anxiety last week but that was stress-induced and I was still able to function with it. However, I don't think I want to push myself further in terms of seeing how much stress I can handle before I have an anxiety relapse.

There is one bigger factor in my potential (though seemingly decided) decision to stop at the B.S. for SLP and go onto my Theology M.A. next: the desire in my heart to teach Theology and/or work for the Church in some way has never burned brighter than it has in the past several weeks. It sounds a bit dramatic but I feel like my heart just aches for it. I know my vocation is (sadly) not as a religious sister but this intense desire to serve God has grown exponentially and I feel like getting my Theology M.A. is the next step to doing just that. This is something I'll be discussing with my spiritual director when I see him this week.

I feel like I had two big revelations over the last couple of months, both vocation related. As always, I'm keeping the vocation vocation part to myself. No one is surprised there. lol. As for my career/vocation: there is a big desire to go receive my M.A. from a faithful Catholic college/university. I had ruled out teaching only because I didn't think I was able to do it with my anxiety but I no longer have that fear; I can do it. I can no longer ignore that desire out of fear of not being knowledgeable enough, not having the courage to do it, or the fear of not finding a job (because I do know jobs for Theology MAs are scarce.)

Does this mean "goodbye, SLP M.S. and hello, Theology M.A."? It just might. I still need to pray about it, talk to my SD, and see what happens. I do plan on spending more time in front of the tabernacle (I over-study so I need the breaks anyway) so we'll see what He has in store for me. I don't want to make too many plans until I am certain of what I will be doing.

Anyway, this was just me thinking out loud. :)

That's it for now. I have to go do something productive... like studying for Statistics... or looking to see if I even need Stats if I decide to apply to a Theology M.A. program in the next couple of weeks. ;)

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Literary Heroine

As I stated a few blog posts ago, I've been re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series with my good friend (and rock star editor/only person to have read part of the novel sequel), Kiera. We're currently a couple of books into the series and I'm loving it. There is one curious thing about this re-read though; I've come to realize that I am Anne Shirley. This got me thinking about something: we gals tends to either identify with or try to emulate literary heroines we admire. Furthermore, who have I chosen as my ideal literary heroine? Someone I identify with or someone I want to be like?

I'm a Janeite through and through. I've been a member of JASNA and JASNA-SW. I own all the novels and mini-series DVDs. I can tell you the stories of the heroines and the heroes as if they were my own stories. Some of my closest friends (who are also Janeites) have nicknamed me "Jane" after Miss Jane Bennet, eldest daughter of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. She's quiet, reserved, doesn't show her emotions readily (even to her closest sister, Elizabeth), and feels deeper than she shows. However, I have never fully identified as a Jane.

I am quiet and reserved... but most of the quietness fades when I get to know someone well enough to let my silliness through. I don't share my feelings so easily with everyone but I am getting better about sharing them with the people who mean the most to me. I do feel deeply but I also know that people can just take one look at me and know what I'm feeling. So, no, I'm not really Jane. I'm a "combination of Jane Bennet (quietness and reserve), Catherine Morland (imagination and innocence), Anne Elliot (steadfastness and loyalty), and Elinor Dashwood (practical and sensible)" as one close friend says. Still, even a combo isn't really close to how I am. I don't see myself in any of them... even the combo. As much as these women are awesome heroines, I don't choose them (or any other Austen heroine) as my preferred literary heroine. That honor goes to Anne Shirley.

Anne is an INFP, just like me. Anne had a fiery temperature as a child that eventually gets reigned in as an adult. I certainly have a bit of a temper when I'm pushed beyond my limit (who doesn't?) but instead of breaking a slate over someone's head, I get quiet. I internalize things instead of arguing with someone... and I will get over it within minutes. Anne had nothing at the beginning of the series. She was orphaned and she initially wasn't wanted but she was eventually taken in by the Cuthberts, received an education, and even graduated with a B.A. which was rare for a woman to do in the Edwardian era. I wasn't orphaned (I didn't experience the loss of a parent until I was 24 years-old) but I do come from a socioeconomic background in which the odds were stacked against me from the beginning. Neither of my parents went beyond a junior high education, no one (brothers nor sister) graduated from high school, and college never entered anyone's hopes and dreams. Like Anne, I put my B.A. dreams on hold for a couple of years when there was an illness in the family but, also like Anne, I don't regret that decision. Now I'm nearly 2/3 through my second degree with a brighter future than I could've ever dreamed for myself.

Most of you might not know this (since the majority of you have only known me as an adult), but I used to get in trouble in school for talking. A lot and often. My report cards (some of which I still have) used to have "talks too much in class" comments. However, as I got older, I became less talkative.
"There were other changes in Anne no less real than the physical change. For one thing, she became much quieter. Perhaps she thought all the more and dreamed as much as ever, but she certainly talked less."
This was the exact passage that made me realize that Anne was the literary version of myself, more so than all the Austen heroines combined. I definitely become quieter around middle school and it's stayed that way since. I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head but I just write them down. My best friend growing up started giving me notebooks as birthday presents when we were teenagers for this very reason. He noticed that I always writing and/or dreaming up things (much like Anne) so he gave me notebook; I went through them quickly, too.

All of these things (and many more that would be too long to list) are part of why I chose Anne as my literary heroine. I see my faults in her faults. I see my strengths and weaknesses in her own. I notice things I don't like about her and realize that those are the same things I have to work on. All the things that I admire about her, I've come to accept (with reluctance, lol) as things that I also possess. I know she's not real; I know she's partially a figment of L.M. Montgomery's imagination. Still, isn't it great to find a "kindred spirit" that helps you grow as a person... even one that only lives in pages and imaginations?

A few weeks ago, I confided in a good friend that I was thinking about giving up writing because I didn't think what I wrote made a difference in anyone's life. He reminded me that the authors that I admire have made a positive impact on me... and that they would never know it. I thought about Jane Austen and agreed that it made sense but it wasn't until I re-read the words of L.M. Montgomery that my friend's word really hit me. Just as I have chosen Anne as my literary heroine, I hope that someday my literary heroines (like Lina Zamora) will be someone else's literary heroine, even if I never find out. And, again, no, Lina is not entirely based on me though we do share certain similarities. I think I'm more Anne Shirley than I am Lina Zamora, to be honest. My friends will have to be the judges here. lol.

I just wanted to share this because I've seen a big surge in Anne of Green Gables readers amongst us in the (female) Catholic world lately.  Oh! And, out of curiosity, who are some of YOUR literary heroines and why? I'd love to know. :)

Anyway, I should get back to studying. I have three exams in the next week (one on Friday and two next Monday) and I really want to do well so I'm going to be focusing on that and homework this week. If I don't get a chance to write again until after my last exam, have a great week! :D

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What I Learned Wednesday #35: Prayer in Motion Edition

I hate to admit it but my prayer life gets seriously messed up while I'm in school. The program I'm in is intense. I'm cramming a year and a half of courses into a single year, taking 5 classes per semester (5 this past summer, 5 this fall, and 5 next spring). When I'm not doing homework, studying for exams, or doing my observation hours, I'm sleeping, eating, or doing basic things to take care of myself. Sometimes, I forget to eat because I'm so busy doing whatever needs to be done. (side note: Luckily, my mom always makes sure I'm fed or else I'd be seriously underweight.) There simply aren't enough hours in the day for me... or so I thought. While I have been able to keep my nighttime prayers (and novenas), I'm seriously struggling with my morning prayers.

As I drove to the SLP center where I'm doing my observation hours yesterday, I tried to do the Rosary using a podcast. I did well for the first decade or so but L.A. has crazy drivers so I found myself more focused on making sure I didn't have an accident when the crazies began weaving in and out of traffic or doing something really careless. Then, on the way back, I realized something... I can get prayer time in during some of my "down" moments.

I recently learned my VAK learning style. I'm mostly a kinesthetic learner; I learn better by doing something instead of by reading or listening. I will most likely remember something if I can remember what I was doing at the time I learned it. I retain information by associating words or things with songs, pictures (visual was my second highest score) or quirky things I come up with. It hit me, on the drive back home, that I can focus better doing things when I'm physically doing something... and this includes prayer.

When I have "down time" (what's that?!) and have nothing to do in the morning, I will make myself breakfast (which includes actually cooking, not just toasting bread, boiling water, or reheating leftovers)... and I will do my morning prayers as I'm stirring or pacing between the living room and the kitchen while I wait for the food to reach the temperature required to continue cooking. I've done this for a long time; longer than I can remember. When I do novenas or pray the Rosary, I'm usually in motion... mostly walking around the apartment. If I'm in front of the tabernacle, I can sit or kneel fine because my hands are still in motion thanks to the rosary beads. Because I'm so busy studying or writing (all sitting down), I just simply lose track of time and thus forget to pray... because I've associated prayer time (time which I value and take seriously) with motion.

I've decided to make some changes that I hope to help me get more prayer time in the morning. First, I'm rearranging my sleeping schedule. At the moment, it's 12:00 a.m. - 2 a.m., getting up at 4:30 a.m. to drive mom to work, nap from around 5:15 a.m. through 10:30 a.m., and then repeat. I'll be changing that to bed at 10 p.m. - 11 p.m. until 4:30 a.m. Instead of taking a nap as soon as I get home and/or checking emails, I'm going to use the quiet time to get my morning prayers done. Then I'll take a nap (if necessary) until about 8 a.m. If I'm going to have a busy day, I'll try to pray at least one decade of the Rosary while I'm getting ready for the day (getting dress, brushing teeth, etc). If I don't finish the entire Rosary in the time it takes me to get ready (and I don't; I'm low maintenance so I'm ready to go in 5-10 minutes), I'll try to finish on the walk from the apartment to the car (or from the parking lot to the second floor office in which I'm doing my hours of observation). Nighttime prayers are on track so I don't have to worry about that.

What do you guys thinks? Think it'll work? I just figured that since I tend to be more focused when I'm in motion, I should try to get my prayer time when I'm in motion (except driving; I need all my focus and attention because people in my part of L.A. have the reputation for being the worst drivers in L.A.) Has anyone tried something like this and been successful? Let me know. :D

Alright, I need to go study Stats (offering it up... offering it up...) and do more homework so that's it for now.

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 21: SLP, Marriage, Sheen Saga, and Novels Edition

-- 1 --
I had an interview to be a student volunteer / intern at a private speech therapy office this morning... and I nailed it! I begin on Tuesday. :D It's a small company but they're doing the exact work I hope to get into as soon as I earn my Master's degree. Since I've chosen to be an independent, contracted SLP (as in, I won't work for a specific school or a hospital; I'll go where I am needed), this place is perfect for me. I can't really say more than that for obvious legal and privacy issues but let's just say it was my first choice to do my observation hours and I'm so happy I was taken on as one of the two students for the semester.

-- 2 --
In other SLP/school related news, I sent in my graduation application for the Spring of 2015 as per the suggestion of my academic adviser. Before you ask why so early since I'm aiming for a May 2015 graduation date, I have theories based on what I was told. Basically, it takes several weeks (up to two months) for the application to be processed and then they have to send the graduation package. Because I'm in Los Angeles and not Utah (where my school is located), I need to be ahead of the game in case there are any hiccups along the way. I don't want to miss the May commencement ceremony and that could easily happen if I'm not on top of things, months in advance. Either way, I'm so excited at the prospect of making my mama proud as I walk across the stage again. :D

-- 3 -- 
I've noticed an interesting trend on Twitter (and off social media) from guy friends in the past couple of weeks... and the topic is marriage. Now, I'm not surprised when us gals start talking about vocations and even start joking about "qualifications" future husbands must have. I have been surprised with how much the fellas are starting to talk about it; even more so than us gals. Seriously, dudes, what's going on? Curious female minds want to know what brought this on. Any man brave enough to answer this?

-- 4 --
Anyone else getting dizzy from the Ven. Fulton Sheen saga? First we get the news that the cause was suspended because Cardinal Dolan and the NY Archdiocese allegedly refused to go ahead with plans as had been discussed. Then we got news from the NY Archdiocese explaining why Ven. Fulton Sheen's body wasn't being sent to Peoria, IL to help the cause proceed. Now... I don't know. I haven't caught up with the latest installment of this whole thing. Thankfully, it sounds like this will only be a temporary issue and it looks like both dioceses are going to attempt to work together. I'm on Team #FreeFultonSheen and I'm still waiting for the tees to come out so I can get two.

-- 5 -- 
Some novel news, starting with first novel news. My debut novel, Will and Lina: When Two Worlds Collide, will be part of an Amazon Countdown Deal starting on Sunday. It will be on sale for 99¢. I don't know if Amazon will gradually increase the price until it's back to the current $3.99 price but it will be on sale from September 7th through September 14th. You know, in case you haven't gotten your copy yet. Yes, it's still only available through Amazon Kindle. No, you don't need an actual Kindle to read it.

-- 6 --
Update from the sequel: I am in the first round of edits for the novel sequel, Will and Lina: London Calling. Is it bad to say that I love the sequel more than the first one? Story-wise, it's more action packed. The first novel sort of gave you an idea of what the characters were like and their back stories. The sequel just assumes you read the first one and picks up where the (sort of) cliffhanger left off. For the record, chapter ten (currently titled Tubthumping) is my favorite for many reasons you'll have to wait to read to find out. ;)

-- 7 --
Just a picture clue (courtesy of tumblr) as to what the next blog post will be about. I have a feeling many fellas will pass on it but there's been a recent Anne of Green Gables reading boom amongst us 25+ gals so I was inspired. I'm still re-reading the series before bed and I'm highlighting as I go through the books so I'll be prepared. ;)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

And that's it for now. I'm going to go make myself a cup of tea and unwind for the excitement (and it has been exciting!) of the day.

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dear Student Headed Back to a Public or CINO School...

Dear Student Headed Back to a Public or CINO School,

congrats on returning to school this Fall semester! If you're a freshman, good luck on your new journey. If you're just continuing, good luck on the rest of your journey. If you're a senior, you're almost done! It'll go by faster than you'll expect so enjoy every moment. :D

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, I'd like to address issues I've seen (and, unfortunately, continue to see) as a faithful Catholic at a not-so-orthodox school. It's really hard holding onto your beliefs and/or being vocal about them at a place where Catholicism and/or religion is seen as something that needs reform and/or to be squashed. I saw it when I was at public community colleges (I didn't get a chance to give my pro-life rebuttal in an abortion debate in a Philosophy course despite the pro-choice student having the opportunity to present her side).

As an undergrad, I saw it when I was at a "Catholic" (in name only; CINO) college in which they openly defied documents they signed (and admitted to signing) stating that they could not teach liberation theology, spoke ill of priests, called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI a "super rat in red shoes", was made to read questionable books and sit through terrible lectures, and suffered through so much crumbs that I've often been told I should write in detail about what I endured (which I will, when it's least expected).

As a post-BA/pre-MS SLP (speech-language pathology) student, I'm still seeing it in a class. Admittedly, it's only been one professor in a non-SLP course because my school (Utah State University; public university) is in "Mormon country" and all my other professors and classmates have seemed more openly pro-life and/or conservative; even more so than at my "Catholic" alma mater.

The point is that, unless you're at one of the wonderfully orthodox Catholic colleges, you'll more than likely encounter the same or similar stories. You will be tempted to stay silent because your professor will allow those with more "liberal" beliefs to speak out while suppressing those who are more "conservative" (the stories I could tell). You may have professors who will give you dirty looks or refuse to let you speak out in class... or even make you cry in class because of their hostility (been there). You will face so many challenges that will make you want to either "tone down" your beliefs and/or simply stay silent. To that I say: don't you dare!

If you're still a theology "newbie" or don't understand the Church teachings regarding some topics (abortion, gay marriage, and celibacy are the big ones that almost always come up), do the research from legitimate theologians and/or Catholic apologists. I was blessed to have a friend, who is also a Catholic apologist, in my corner (as well as other incredibly savvy friends) who encouraged me and supplied me with the knowledge (many times, books) I needed to be able to form the counterargument needed in class. Educate yourself instead of going along with what some professors "teach" you. If it sounds sketchy, look it up yourself. You would (or maybe wouldn't) be surprised at how many of my previously orthodox classmates were taken over to the "dark side" (no, they don't have cookies, either) because they believed that the professors wouldn't lead them astray. It was painful to watch. (side note: although, I'll admit, I did get at least one person out of my alma mater when I did some "underground" work letting friends and classmates know that what was being taught wasn't orthodox).

If you live on-campus or away from home, don't alter your prayer life too much. If you need to do some time management and schedule in some prayer time in the middle of the craziness, do it! Don't say "oh, I'll do it later" because no, you most likely won't do it later. Don't stop attending Mass. Not only is it a mortal sin to not attend Sunday Mass (or Saturday Vigil Mass) without a legitimate reason, it's also going to make it harder for you to keep your faith in one piece. You can say that you're a "strong and faithful Catholic" all you want but college and independence always come with temptations that will attempt to pull you away from God.

I'm going to share something I don't think I've ever shared on this blog (or outside my close circle of friends) before: though I commuted to school, there were still a variety of temptations that popped up. On a number of occasions, I was invited to "hang out" (or, sometimes, straight out getting invited to "spend the night"/"sleep with... for fun; no strings attached") at the apartments of male classmates. A big NOPE. Invites to go out drinking when I was underage? I always passed. (side note: I still don't drink alcohol but that's more because a) I've never been drawn to drinking and b) doctors have suggested I abstain from alcohol for health (anxiety) reasons.) If you're old enough to drink, I have nothing against it; just don't get so drunk that your judgment is impaired. I was one of the fortunate few who was never invited to try drugs but I wouldn't have regardless. Ditching class? Invited to do. Cheat on exams? Definitely had those temptations (but I couldn't/can't). Doing things that would harm me (mentally, psychologically, physically, spiritually) in some way? Had at least one per day.

My tips for staying Catholic in college: If you're able to, attend daily Mass. You don't know what a blessing it was for me to be able to do it whenever I didn't have morning classes. Go to confession as frequently as you need to. Pray the Rosary and/or Chaplet of the Divine Mercy daily if possible. Keep praying throughout the day (when you wake up, at meal times, before bed). Offer up anything that may upset you (I personally used St. Therese sacrifice beads during my time at the CINO college). Do novenas. Surround yourself with other faithful Catholics. Get a spiritual director if you don't already have one. Etc etc. There are so many things you can do to keep your faith intact and so many wonderful people willing to help you along the way. If you stumble along the way, remember that you can always try again. We're human and we will all fail at doing something from time to time but we can always pick ourselves up, confess it (if it must be), and start again.

Also, my personal, "no fail" list of patron saints for students:
- Holy Spirit (especially during exam weeks or hard courses)
- St. Thomas Aquinas (patron of students)
- St. Joseph of Cupertino (patron of exam takers)
- Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (personal academic patron; died one exam short of completing degree, highly recommended for college students)
- look up the patron of the career you've chosen (i.e. St. Drogo for us SLPs-in-training)

This blog post is getting too long so I'll conclude with this: don't be afraid to speak up about your faith and/or your beliefs. If you don't believe yourself capable of defending your faith, read up on it for the next time. We are called to speak the Truth, even if others don't want to hear it. It may not make you popular in this world, but isn't it our goal to reach Heaven and not please those here on earth?

And with that, I must return to my own studies. I have a couple of things due within the next week and I want to finish them as early as possible (read: I want to have some free time without stressing about meeting deadlines).

Good luck, everyone! Remember to not give up or, as Bl. Pier Giorgio used to say, "Verso l'alto!"