Friday, November 30, 2012

Rose in Bloom

Life is full of changes.  It's a simple enough fact that in the earlier stages of my life I frequently lamented.  Change was the thing that frequently seemed to rob me of what was dear to me.

Ever since I was a little girl, I looked upon change as a cruel and mischievous opponent.  Many times, change has inspired fear, frustration, anxiety, and deep sorrow in me.  I'm pretty sure my first post on this blog was about change and my struggles to deal with change.

But something has changed in me.  Time has taught me a lesson about change and the gifts that it brings.  Change can bring growth, knowledge, love, friendship, new life, adventure, and so much more.  Now, when change comes knocking on my door, I look upon her as a dear, but still mischievous friend.

Nowadays, I see her approaching and find myself sighing, "Well, old friend, what do you have planned for me now?"  Of course, I know that it is not change herself, but God, the author of change that brings the gift of change, but that's not really the point.

Recently, I find myself standing face to face with some pretty big changes, some of which are of my own doing and some of which are out of my hands.  Some of the changes are a bit painful, while others are rather pleasant.  For the pleasant ones, I need not say much.  As for the painful ones, well, I recently found some consolation in the words of a dear friend.

She quoted to me a line from the hymn Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.  The line was, "Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above."  It reminded me of a favorite book of mine, Rose in Bloom, in which the main character, a young girl coming into womanhood, is described as a blooming rose, carefully deciding which petal to unfold next.

My heart is unfolding little by little.  I do not know what will happen next, but I know that God is guiding and directing my life.  So, once again, I'll do me best to trust in Him and continuing to hope for the day when my life will come into full bloom.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Home I Know

So, I've been away from home for a little while.  Come to think of it, I've been away from this blog for a while too. Sorry for that.  Anyway, I lived away from home and family for a little over a year.  I've been far away from most of everything I hold dear.  I started out in a foreign land with no friends, no family, no place to live, and no job.  A lot of people keep telling me that I was so brave to do all that, but aside from the occasional moment of extreme loneliness, everything went so smoothly during my entire trip.  God brought me a job, a place to live and many beautiful friends.  Life in Taiwan was in many ways like a dream.

I have quite a few people to thank for that. Michael, Florence, Fr. Bernard, Fr. Stanislaus, Peter and Agnes, Fleur, Joseph, Manuel, Nya, Jeremy and Laura, Greg and Alma, Grace, Jackie, Bridgette, Ariesa, Emily, Markus, Basti, Elizabeth, Pheobian, Gina, Anna, and many, many others have done so much to make me feel special and loved.  You repeated acts of kindness and friendship made me feel safe, secure, and brave.  It's little wonder that I have never felt that coming to Taiwan was any extraordinary thing.   You all made it so easy! Thank you my lovely friends.  Thanks to you all, my home is all over the world and I am forever changed by knowing you.  I miss you all dearly and I look forward to the day when we might meet again.

Love, always,

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Scapegoating Pandemic

Let us begin with the definition of a scapegoat, so we're all on the same page here:

Scapegoat - 

  • a : one that bears the blame for others
  • one that is the object of irrational hostility

Still with me?  Good, 'cause if not, I might be tempted to worry.  ;)  Okay, enough silliness.

Please take a moment to acquaint yourself with this video.  I will explain why in a moment.

I will explain why at this moment.   In the video above Father Barron talks quite a bit about the idea of scapegoating, it's place in human history, and the ways in which Catholicism prevents it, or at least is capable of preventing it.  I found this all to be quite interesting and thought provoking.

Hold that thought because we will come back to it.

Skip ahead a few months after I watched this video, I was walking with my boyfriend and was talking about the US Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's HHS mandate in it's entirety.  Let me be clear here, I am both disappointed and dismayed at this decision.  That said, our conversation eventually turned to some of the reactions to this decision and distressing situations in general.

I've heard a lot in recent years about how Islam is taking over the world, how "Liberals" and Atheists are evil, power hungry, Catholic-haters, Obama is the anti-Christ (yes, I really have heard it), and how homosexuals are unraveling the fabric of our society.  In light of the Supreme Court's decision, a lot of very well-meaning Catholics have been thrown into a state of panic, cynicism, despair, and anger.  Some people are saying that they always knew this would happen and anyone who thought differently was foolishly naive because the US is a sinking ship anyway.  Others have boldly marked this as the end of freedom in the US.  Others are preparing for a persecution on the scale of that from the Emperor Diocletian and trying to decide if they'll be able to bring themselves to the point of bearing arms.

Hold your horses, everyone.

I am quite young and inexperienced, but the more I listen to this the more I feel a concern that we are missing something in all of this.  Perhaps things really are as bad as everyone says.  Perhaps we (Catholics) are about to be persecuted in a serious way.  Perhaps liberty is being murdered in America.  My natural optimism causes me to be reluctant to agree with this point of view, but I am willing to acknowledge that it is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.  In the words of Nellie Forbush, "I just can't work myself up to getting that low."

Do I believe that our liberties and our faith are under attack.  Absolutely.  Always.  As long as sin and evil persists we will be under attack.  

Okay, let's take a step back now to the scapegoating idea.  Fr. Barron tells us that the Catholic Church acts as a barrier to scapegoating.  This does not by any means mean that Catholics are immune from scapegoating.   So, I guess the point of this blog is a warning not rooted in my wisdom (I'm often found wanting in that department), but in my deep concern during these troubling times: beware of the scapegoating pandemic.

Anytime a specific group or person is singled out as the cause of our problems, be suspicious of that.  It's probably an oversimplification and can lead to very dangerous measures in order to protect ourselves from said threat.

A great example of this is the whole Japanese American internment fiasco.  This was a measure taken by the United States to protect itself from a group that had been identified a "the enemy".  Many, many innocent people were affected in a major way by this measure.  If we believe that their were no Catholics involved in this scapegoating, then we are fooling ourselves in a big way.  This was action taken out of anger and out of fear.

Are the events of late a serious threat to our liberty and a cause for concern?  Absolutely.  Is the natural conclusion to this line of thought that anyone who supports or is pleased by these event is necessarily evil, anti-freedom, and/or anti-Catholic.  I submit that it is not.  This world is made up by individuals whose lives are written by an incredible number of circumstances and decisions, most of which we will never know.  Sometimes we cannot even truly see what motivates us, so why on earth do we feel compelled to speculate about and comment on the decisions and motivations of others?

Don't mistake this for the relativistic notion that everyone's ideas are so much their own that we should not concern ourselves at all with any sense of right or wrong or some sort of intervention when those ideas lead to actions that might harm others or ourselves.   That is not what I am saying.  There are some things that are right and some things that or wrong and to reject that idea is not only dangerous it is a logical paradox.  I am simply saying that we ought to exercise caution, restraint, and love when discerning how to respond to such situations as those we are facing.

We must chose our words carefully and with kind, honest, and unashamed love (to be clear, by love, I mean it as defined by the Catholic Church, mainly, willing the good of the other as other - which sometimes involves saying, "no, that's not true/right/etc.").   We should also fight to keep that sense of faith and hope alive.  

We as Catholics are called to be a beacon of hope to the world and this simply cannot be if we surrender to being the voice of doom and despair.  Even if it is true that the US has turned into a place void of liberty and against Catholicism, there is still hope.  And what shall we do?  We shall hunker down as our predecessors have done, continuing to pray, fast, minister, surrender (to Christ), and wait for the day that this evil shall pass as all the others have done before it.  We shall be obstinately hopeful, kind, patient, humble, giving, and Catholic until we earn the martyrs crown in the spiritual sense and if necessary in the physical sense.

Now is not the time for fear, anger, and scapegoating.  Now is the time for hope, courage, and vigilant prayer.  To quote the great Mikey Walsh, "Down here, it's our time.  It's our time down here." So let's make it count. When we look at the events of our times, let us focus in on the individuals who need our love and support to the best of our broken ability rather than lumping them in with a movement or ideology they support.  

To tie this all back together, I would like to go back to my starting point with another idea in The Hunger Games series.  This idea is embodied in something that Haymitch says to Katniss before she...




...reenters the arena in Catching Fire.  He says, “Katniss, when you are in the arena,you just remember who the true enemy is.”

So, yeah, remember that our enemy is not "the liberals", "the homosexuals", "the Muslims", "the Atheists", Obama or any other group of or individual human.  Our enemy is Satan, sin, and our own disordered love for sin.  We must be vigilant against that enemy and the one in ourselves first and foremost, lest we overlook the plank in our own eyes while seeking out the speck in the eyes of our brothers.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading.  You may use the soap box now, if you like.  ^_^

God bless, y'all!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Unexpected Journey

A year ago today, I left home and set out to spend an indefinite amount of time living abroad for the purpose of studying and general character building.  I came here because I felt that I needed to grow up.   I came here because I didn't want my three years of foreign language study to go to waste.  I came here to make myself more marketable for jobs in the future.  Most of all, I came here because I believed then as I do now, in my heart of hearts that God was leading me here.

When I first arrived, I did a fairly good job of keeping a travel journal.  Here are some excerpts:

June 18, 2011
"Right now I am sitting in the common area of the hostel in hopes of meeting some of my neighbors, but it's only 8:22 in the morning, so most of them are just now getting ready for the day.  It's interesting to me how quickly I become an introvert when I'm out of my comfort zone.  Hopefully, it won't take me too long to adjust.
"I've already been in contact with my family and a few friends from back home, but talking to them has only emphasized the fact that I need to start working on my life here.  Part of living in the present moment - I've come to realize - is living in your present environment.  Internet offers an easy escape from that, but time zones do not.
"So, that is my resolution for today: Live in the here and now."

June 23, 2011
"Interviewing for jobs in a foreign country is scary.  It's not scary for the same reasons as when one applies for a job at home (e.g. will they like me? will I get the job? etc.) although those elements are certainly present.  The biggest fear, for me, comes when the time arrives to make a decision.   Will I accept this job and sign a contract to stay here for a year?  A year.  365 days.  365 days until I can see my family again.  What a crazy arrangement.
"Granted, it isn't entirely unlike going away for school.  Still, it seems so permanent.  365 days.  How will I ever bear the separation?"


Well, good news, folks!  I did bear it.  I bore it and then I came to find ways to make things betters.  I have made so many wonderful friends here.  I have learned so much about myself and about this extraordinary country and the many different kinds of people who live here.  And now that a year has passed, my eyes are once again turned towards home.

My dear friends and family, both here and there, thank you so very much for your love, kindness, support, joy, and consolation.  Now, no matter where I am in the world, I will always be missing someone because my loved ones are everywhere.  Thank you all for an incredible year!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Wishin' and Hopin

So a number of recent occurrences (and by recent I mean within the last four months) have left me thinking a great deal on the future and God's plan for me.  Mostly, I've realized that there are some errors that I have been letting slip into my way of thinking and I did not even notice them.  So, here they are for your perusal:

Error #1: God needs my help to bring about His will.
God does not need our help.  He invites us to cooperate and surrender to His will, but we are not essential to the success of God's will.  We can choose to not be a part of that success, but it will come about with or without us.  That victory was won, by Christ, on the cross.

However, lately, I've been imitating Sarah (wife of Abraham) lately.  I see the promises that God has made and try to "help" them come to pass.  Do you remember what I'm talking about?  The angel told Abraham that Sarah would have a child and thus would Abraham's issue exceed the stars.  Sarah could not see how this would come to pass, so she decided to help.  She brought Hagar to Abraham as a second wife and, well, the rest is history.

God's will did come about anyway, but it was not through Sarah's doubt and Hagar's womb.   So, I've learned that from now on, I need to be more patient.  If I think that God is calling me in a particular direction, but I cannot see a way for it to come about, then (to the best of my effort) I will surrender it to Him and if, indeed, it is His will, then He will bring it about and if not, then I know and will try to act accordingly.

Error #2: Anxiety is productive.
I know, I know!  How could I have fallen for that one?  Yet, I do often feel somehow that I am accomplishing something when I turn my troubles over and over again in my mind, well beyond the trouble-shooting phase.  It is very difficult for me to walk away from a problem, even if it is years in the past, like a friendship bitterly ended, or far in the future, such as whether or not I could be a good parent.

I realize, of course, that troubling over matters in this way does little next to nothing, but I tend to do it anyway.  This relates closely to my next error.

Error #3: I'm in control.
If you are laughing at me right now, that is okay.  I'm sure that I deserve it for falling for this particularly obvious and ridiculous lie, but I am slightly comforted by the fact that I have yet to meet a person who has not fallen for this one at least once.   One might be tempted to believe that being in control would be a comforting thought, but for me it brings only anxiety.   For as soon as I begin to feel that I am in control, I become filled with panic and dread towards that inevitable moment when all the things I am juggling will come tumbling down in a mess around me.  I suddenly become overwhelmingly concerned about work, the well-being and emotional happiness of my friends and family, financial troubles, the future of my students, the future of America, the future of the Church, and, well, you get the idea.

For those of you who never knew I was such a nutcase, surprise!

Error #4: I can and ought to be perfect.
By now, I'm sure that a number of you have realized that these errors are somewhat of a false distinction.  All of these errors are rather intertwined.  What can I say?  Everything I do is complicated.  Why should this turn out to be any different.  ~_^

Anyway,  I am aggressively trying to chuck this error out of my mind, but that is proving to be quite the challenge.  Luckily, I am receiving assistance in a Divine way.  Still, I'm a work in progress.  Don't get me wrong, I think that it is absolutely essential to strive to improve and grow daily, but I'm learning to accept that I am human and that I am a work in progress.

So, friends, there you have it, my foolishness at its finest, for your consideration.  Isn't life grand?  My current goals are to surrender everything to Christ as often as I can and to learn to see myself as He does.  Keep my in your prayers!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Call to Arms...

Dear Readers,

I don't know if anyone follows this anymore (I realize that my posts have become few and far between), but I would like to ask a favor of you.  You see, America isn't doing so well.  Her people are divided, basic human rights are being violated, the family as an institution is under heavy fire, the Catholic Church is under heavy fire, and this is only the beginning.

So, I want to fight back;  yes, with petitions, new articles, lawsuits, and whatever else (that is within the confines of Catholic morality) is necessary, but most importantly with prayer.

Prayer is the greatest and most powerful weapon of all.  Prayer can end wars, heal the sick, change hearts, and restore salvation.  Let us never, ever underestimate the power of prayer!

So, I ask you to join me.  Whatever you're already doing, do more.  If you're going to Sunday Mass, start going to daily Mass.  Start a fast for this intention.  Take cold showers and offer them up.  Make a holy hour.  Pray the rosary (a lot).  Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Pray to St. Rita and Jude.

It's time for all those who wish to be warriors of the Kingdom to come forward and stand strong!  Encourage one another.  Spread the word.  Our country (and that of our brothers and sisters in Christ, for my international readers) is under attack.  Let us not be caught unawares, sleeping in our beds, but let us be vigilante.

I would like to leave you with a few songs for inspiration:

The People's Song from Les Miserables

Into the Fire from the Scarlet Pimpernel

Warrior's Heart by Sean Forrest

Chale Chalo from the film Lagaan