Deo Gratias!

Back in February of this year, my Tia Rosie was diagnosed with three types of cancer, all of which were stage 4. I didn’t find out til April. She didn’t know how to tell me. It hit me really hard when I did find out. I prayed, hard. That’s the only thing that I could do from all the way across the country.

Then, the other night, I went to post something on her facebook timeline, and I saw this post. When I read the post, I immediately felt a weight lift off of me. Joy filled my heart. Then, because I was so overwhelmed by God’s providence and loving care, I began to cry tears of joy. God is so so good. My theology buddy, the only one who completely understands why I study theology, is healing, slowly but surely.

The doctors could not explain how the two cancers disappeared, and could not explain how the other one shrank. They said it was a miracle. I don’t doubt it.

Miracles do happen. If I didn’t believe that before, I sure do now. I’m asking all of you to pray that her healing continues, and that her lung cancer shrinks to nothing!

ALL life is precious.

Deo gratias!

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My Guatemalan Immersion: The First of Many Posts

At the end of this past May, I went down to Guatemala.

I was excited for this trip. It was obvious because I began counting down the days until we left once school let out for the summer at the beginning of May. When people asked me what I was going to do that summer, I would immediately tell them that I was going to Guatemala for nine days. I was really looking forward to what awaited me. I’d never been out of the United States before, so this was an adventure for me.

I was scared out of my mind. I don’t know what to expect, I thought. I had a Spanish-English Dictionary, and other review materials with me on the plane, and I went through them, frantically, searching for answers.

It was a long day of traveling for me. We flew from Cleveland to Houston. And then from Houston, we flew to Guatemala City. The time zones changed, and I kept losing hours. My body clock kept trying to catch up.

Once I walked out of the airport in Guatemala City, my feet had barely hit the concrete when I was immediately given a culture shock. I was suddenly in a completely different world, thousands of miles away from home, and somewhere that definitely wasn’t my comfort zone. Outside the airport, I was surrounded by people trying to sell me things, people asking for donations to a specific cause, and people who were begging. The policemen in Guatemala City were armed with massive guns, which served as a reminder to me that things are not as safe as they seem. The fact that the policemen were armed so heavily definitely intimidated me. I realize now that they were intimidating to me because it was different than what I was accustomed to. It’s not about me; it’s about them, I thought to myself for the first time that week. I needed to fully enter into a world that I knew very little about. I took a deep breath, and took the plunge, headfirst. There was no turning back.

From the airport, we drove to Panajachel, a town on the shore of Lake Atitlan. The further away from the capital I got, the more and more immersed in the culture I got. I didn’t have cell service, or my phone when I was there, but I was content to just look out the window during the drive. Guatemala was so beautiful. The countryside there looks like the country in the US sometimes, but most of the time, it doesn’t. The colors were so vivid, almost as if they really meant it. And the air was so fresh.

In Panajachel, I got a little frustrated. Spanish felt so awkward coming from my mouth. I stumbled over words a lot that first night. I was nervous about my speaking abilities, because I was a little rusty with speaking. I put my Spanish-English dictionary in my backpack and carried it with me, and it got a lot of usage from me that first night. The next morning, my brain was in complete overdrive. I was completely immersed in a world of people who knew little English to people who knew no English at all. All that translating of my thoughts in English to Spanish really did it for me. But I was happy- my Spanish was coming back to me, when I thought I had lost it completely. While shopping in Panajachel that morning, I learned that I have a secret talent for bargaining prices in a market. I managed to negotiate the price to one so much lower than the original price, and all the negotiating was done in complete Spanish. I was also complimented several times on my Spanish. My Spanish-English dictionary stayed in my bag that day, and did not make another appearance when I was speaking to someone for the entire week. I had somehow scaled the language barrier.

San Juan La Laguna- a little town filled with big love. We crossed Lake Atitlan to go to San Juan in a motorboat. I was not looking forward to it. This was a very rough boat ride. I thought that the boat would capsize several times on the trip across the lake. Once we reached San Juan, we rolled our luggage up a very steep hill to our hotel, and after we got settled in, I met some people who lived in San Juan. They were the happiest people I have ever met. They were happy to be where they were, and happy to have what they have. I remember thinking that I wanted the joy that they had. We talked to Francisco, the pastor at the Christian Church, who is also in charge of the Christian school we were working with, if there was anything we could do to help/teach in the school. I wanted to do something in my field of study, so I volunteered to do devotionals with students at the beginning of the school day. We also got to observe an English class taught at the school, which was, honestly, really cool for me to see. I had always wanted to observe an English class in another country, so this was my dream come true. I was living in the moment.

It struck me the first morning I was in San Juan that these people had an immense faith in God, because I observed a devotional in the 5th grade class that day. The teacher, who didn’t look like she was any older than I was, taught from experience. She instructed from faith. I was completely floored, and the kids paid complete attention to her. Later that day, while we were starting to paint the wall surrounding the school yard, I was still thinking about that. I did paint some, but then I ended up playing with the kids in the schoolyard (they asked me to, and I couldn’t resist.). After a shower and lunch, we headed to the cancha to spend time with the kids there until dinner. I started a basketball with 2 little girls, and it took off from there, becoming a game of twelve children against one- me. For some reason, the little ones absolutely adored me. I played that tickling game with them, the one that my own Papi had played with me when I was that young. This is what earned me the nickname “Ana La Arana” and it stuck.

Again, the immense faith the people of San Juan struck me as we walked up the hill to go to the church on Saturday, finding that it was closed, but that there was a Perpetual Adoration chapel nearby. It was truly amazing to me that people could have so much devotion to Our Lord, and I felt such a deep longing for that in my heart that day. Firecrackers were set off regularly in San Juan. I didn’t know why they set them off. Some said that it was to ward off evil spirits, some said it was for a celebration of some kind. But someone was setting them off during the wedding we attended later that Saturday, as well as during Mass that Sunday, and the firecrackers went off right in the middle of the Eucharistic Prayer. To have that joy when at Mass!

There is so much more that I could say, but my fingers are getting tired from typing so much. But I will say this, because it’s important: despite the bug bites, bruises, my farmer’s tan, and stepping out of my comfort zone the entire time, Guatemala has my heart, and I will go back again if I am able to.

Here’s why: The people of San Juan taught me 3 very important things.

  1. Trust others and show that you have a big heart. I honestly did not expect a little girl to come up to me and loop her arm in mine when I was walking to her classroom. So many little ones would take my hand when they were walking with me, trusting that I knew where I was going, and that I would keep them safe. In America, we are conditioned to be more reserved with trust. As someone with Latin American blood, it was still a shock for a little one, not knowing me, but knowing one of our group facilitators, come up to me and take my hand. Being in Guatemala has definitely expanded my big heart, and now I understand why St. Therese said that she would do little things with great love. The children of Guatemala have shown me how to treat others while I am working at Wendy’s in the drive thru, and I am about to lose my patience. I just have to love everyone, even if they aren’t particularly likable.
  2. Have joy in your faith and hold fast to it. Seeing these people during Mass, fully participating, was incredibly moving, so moving that it brought me to tears when I went to Sunday Mass on Pentecost. They were dressed up, even if they didn’t live in the best of conditions. And there were firecrackers being set off during Mass, most frequently during the Eucharistic Prayer. In San Juan, there is a Perpetual Adoration chapel, and it’s open all the time, at all hours, and people will go in, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to worship, even at three in the morning. I was told that there have never been any murders in San Juan La Laguna because this chapel is because Christ is so present in the village. Their devotion is so beautiful, and I wish more of us could take away from that.
  3. Never take anything for granted. This is a big lesson that I learned. Now that I’m home, I think about Guatemala when I turn on the faucet and drink the water coming from it, thanking God for the clean water. I think about how fortunate I am when doing even the smallest of things, like looking at my pillows on my bed. As for hot showers, I don’t know yet. I haven’t taken a hot shower since my return to the United States. At this point, I am thankful for the water than I can use to be clean again.

You have my heart, Guatemala.

Pope’s “Laudato Si” Encyclical Causing Church Environment Problems

CANNOT WAIT TO READ IT.

Sacerdotus

A new encyclical entitled “Laudato Si” is about to be released sometime today – (6 AM Eastern Time) – is causing controversy among Catholics and non-Catholics.  A draft of the encyclical was leaked by L’Espresso magazine and is getting mixed reactions.  In this draft, the Pope is siding with environmentalists and calling attention to global warming and the influence humanity has in this significant alteration of the Earth’s climate.

Conservatives are already attacking the Pope based on the leaked draft calling him a “progressive” and even a “communist.” Conservatives in the United States for the most part deny that global warming is occurring and believe it is propaganda from the left in order to put restrictions on businesses that generate a lot of profits at the cost of the environment. Even Catholics who adhere to conservative political views are upset at the Pope’s involvement in the global warming issue and…

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Stop Pressuring Me! A Reflection on the Discernment Process

#DiscernmentProblems

Please stop asking me about my vocation. It genuinely grates on my nerves when people ask “Are you going to be a nun?” when I’m single or “Are you planning on marrying him?” if I’m dating someone. When I answer, “I don’t know,” I’m told to make up my mind! Now wait a minute! You tell me that I have time to think about these things one minute, and now you’re telling me that I need to make up my mind? That makes no sense.

Now, not all of the people in my life who have said those things to me are Catholic, and they simply don’t understand the discernment process. Some of these people are Catholics, and they are the ones that I’m addressing, as a young adult and on behalf of the young adults who are discerning their vocations. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, discernment is an ongoing process. Please stop telling young people to make up their minds already, because it’s an attempt at spiritual direction, which you may or may not be qualified to give.

I think that one of the reasons why young people today are not keen on speaking up about their discernment of religious life or the priesthood is that it’s something that they can’t say for sure they want to do. Some people leave the convent/seminary and go on to become excellent husbands and wives; fathers and mothers. On the reverse, there are some people who date and intend on getting married, but end up breaking up and entering the convent/seminary and leading a very fulfilling life in Christ.

It all really depends on who you are at that point. Sometimes, God “changes his mind,” if you look at it from a human perspective. Even people who have entered religious life and taken vows already can leave and pursue another vocation. They discerned God’s will, and had spiritual direction before they did it.

Honestly, I am so afraid to talk about my discernment process to people. The fact that I might become a religious sister is a scary thing to an over-sexualized society, where marriage has seemed to become the “default mode”. Being single is almost tabooed. I hate it when people think that entering the convent is something I might do if I’m 30 years old and not married yet. Guess what? There are a lot of people who aren’t married yet at 30.

I almost entered a religious order right out of high school myself. I think, on a certain level, I felt pressured by my family to do it, and I guess by default, everyone just looked at me, thinking, “Okay, she’s it. She’s going to do it.” On another level, I think it was my desire to run away from things that happened in my past. I wanted to run away from a lot of family tragedy. I also was experiencing some pain from a recently broken heart due to a break-up, and I never wanted that to happen again.

I ended up not entering the religious life, and decided to enroll at Notre Dame College as a Theology major. I did so with a lot of spiritual direction, and this is not a means of saying that I’ve made up my mind as to what I am going to do with my life. That has yet to be determined. I feel the pressure mounted on me daily. The minute that people  hear me say that I’m a theology major, they ask, “Are you going to be a nun?” The answer, is, as it has been for a long time, “I don’t know yet.”

Please stop pressuring me. I have a life to live. When I fall head over heels for someone, and it turns out that my future lies in them, then, I will have made up my mind. But it’s really the will of God that determines my vocation.

I’m Back!

After a long and tiring semester at school, I am back in business once more when it comes to blogging! I will be working this summer as well, so there won’t be consistent posts, but there will be one once a week (hopefully). I will try to get back to posting twice a week starting this fall!!