Getting to Know Our Missionaries Better...
Lent is just around the corner, and it is time to start thinking about what we are each going to be doing for it. Here are some ideas of what you can do for Lent this year!
1. No Caffeine
Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest I had only had 3 cups of coffee in my entire life. Since moving here I have drastically increased my intake of coffee. Even when I went home for Christmas, I still was weirding out my parents when I told them that I was going out to meet a friend for coffee.
Now coffee can be great. It serves as a nice thing to use for socializing, and it certainly can help a missionary wake up the next morning after a long day on retreat. But in Lent we can offer up that sacrifice and use it to grow. And we can use it to give back to our community as well by taking all that money that you would have spent on coffee, and donating it.
2. Fast – Every day is Ash Wednesday
Now before you all freak out and say I’m crazy for suggesting this, just remember, I’m trying to help you become a saint. St. Catherine of Siena lived off of only the Eucharist for the last few years of her life. She desired to receive nothing but Christ into her. I’m simply suggesting the possibility of keeping yourself from snacking, and limiting yourself to one large meal per day (though if you feel inspired by Catherine, then I certainly won’t stop you).
I really didn’t understand why we should fast for a good number of years, but then I realized how it truly can help with our faith. In fasting we are able to connect more directly with what Christ experienced. Any suffering of hunger can serve as a catalyst for our prayer, to give thanks for Christ’s gift of self to us.
3. No Meat – Every day is Friday
This is one that I have done in the past. After hearing a friend’s experience in it, I chose to give up all meat for Lent, and on Fridays I would eat only bread, and drink only water. This was my senior year of high school, and I wanted to do something that would be a real sacrifice for me. It wasn’t easy; especially when the rest of your family decides they want to have some juicy steaks for dinner, and you have to avoid them. The real graces that came from this were those conversations though. When you go out with friends and have to ask for a what meals don’t have meat, or even among the Catholic community just explaining what it is that you gave up for Lent. If you want to grow in your chance to evangelize to those around you, then I would highly recommend this.
4. Adding Time to Daily Prayer
Lent is often thought of as the time when Catholics will give something up, but it can also be a time to add things to grow in holiness. Something simple that we can do is add time to daily prayer. As a missionary, I have mass daily and a daily holy hour, but I certainly don’t have to limit myself to just that. If your prayer life currently consists of an hour a day, think about adding an extra 30 minutes. On the surface that may sound difficult, but really look at your days, and think about how much time we all spend on social media, or watching shows on Netflix. There is plenty of time in our days that we spend doing useless things, and just think how much stronger our relationships with Christ would be if we spent that time adding to our prayer.
5. Cold Showers
Oof! This one makes me cringe a little. I always start getting worried when the water is becoming lukewarm after awhile in the shower.
Cold showers sound terrible to the vast majority of us, but perhaps that is something that will help us to grow in holiness through sacrifice. As much as they may be unpleasant, a cold shower is sure to wake you up quickly. Instead of taking our time drudging around in the morning to get ready, we can start our morning off with a cold shower to kick start our day, and then take that time that we would still be getting ready to head off to daily mass in the morning, or even just spend some time doing a decade of the rosary before leaving for work or school. So as uncomfortable as cold showers may be, we can certainly use them to grow in our faith.
6. Silence – No Radio
This is what I will be doing for Lent this year. We spend so much time in trying to fill the silence, when we should truly be embracing it. How are we meant to hear God speak to us when we are blasting music in the car, or choose to go to fall asleep with a video or music playing. Trust me, I’m not saying it is bad to be joyful and go crazy with music in the car, or to have some time relaxing with some Netflix, but if we take that time to sit in silence and prayer, then we will develop a far stronger prayer life. When in the car I will choose to have the radio off for Lent. When I am driving alone, this time can be used for prayer, and when I am driving with other people, I will be able to grow in fellowship with them.
Is this a ploy to get more people to come help out with the youth programs? No, but if you aren’t sure where you can offer your time to volunteer, the missionaries certainly wouldn’t be opposed to having you come help out. Seriously though, if you want to do something great for Lent, consider adding time for volunteering. Giving back to the community and those in need is something that we as Christians are all called to do. Not to mention, I have always found myself so much more joyful after serving others, so it is a win win situation.
8. Random Acts of Kindness Each Day
Every day we are presented with many opportunities to perform an act of kindness for those around us. During Lent you may choose to search for those opportunities throughout your day, and act upon them. You can set a goal for how many people you wish to serve throughout the day, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in how to serve them. This is something great for those who struggle to be bold in their faith on a day to day basis. It serves to help build up that confidence to share your faith through how you live your life every day.
God has a plan for each of our lives, but He has also given us all the free will to choose the path we follow. Now sometimes His plan seems to just line up perfectly. You could fall in love with someone, discern the relationship, and get married. And those times are great, because when you feel in sync with God, nothing seems to be able to stop you. However, not every case flows so smoothly. Sometimes we hear God’s call to something radically different than what we had planned for our own lives, and that is where trust comes into play.
To give an example of this, I’ll use my own journey. When I first went off to college at the University of Florida (Go Gators), I started off studying Chemistry, on a pre-pharmacy track. In high school I had always enjoyed my advanced science and math courses, and figured that must be what I’m supposed to do. Turns out I hated it. The more I studied it, the less I wanted to do it. I simply felt obligated to because that is what I knew, and anything less just felt like I wouldn’t be living up to my potential.
I took this turmoil into prayer, and was met with even more of a call away from it. I didn’t understand; God had gifted me with a mind that grasped complex math and science with relative ease, but I kept hearing Him say that isn’t where He wanted me. With much reluctance, I began trying to discern where else He could be calling me, and started exploring in school and in work.
In my discernment, I discovered a love for speaking and writing. Mind you, I still took a job teaching math, but I knew that God wanted me to use these gifts for something. I started taking up leadership roles in campus ministry, and giving talks regularly. I looked forward to going out onto campus to go evangelize in the breezeway. I was excited when I got to talk to people, and even more so when it was about the faith. Looking back now, all of this makes sense as to how I’m called to serve as a missionary, but at the time I viewed it as just a fun thing to do.
This leads me to my main point. Evaluate what it is in your life that gives you joy. Stop reading this for a minute and just reflect upon the things you enjoy and are most free in doing. Got that in mind? Now evaluate what you are doing regularly in your life. If the two coincide with each other, then right there you are on track with God’s will! If not, think about why that’s the case. I know when I gave up my comfortable job teaching math to become a missionary I struggled a good bit. I was going from making a nice living, to trusting all my financial needs in God’s graces. More than halfway through my first year, I can now say that every obstacle that has been placed before me has simply been removed by God. He’ll use the generosity of others to help me through.
Trusting in God’s will is not easy. Sometimes we’ll go through loss of a loved one, or have to deal with an illness or injury that is out of our control. Sometimes he’ll call us to move across the country to serve in ministry. And sometimes His call is what we are already following. All of these cases though rely upon our trust that He desires for us what is best, and that we embrace His plan with joyful hearts.
“Those who know your name trust in you; you never forsake those who seek you, Lord.”
Whether an introvert or an extrovert, most of us hate sitting in silence. We’ll go out looking for others to talk with, or blast the radio when driving in the car alone. We just don’t want it to seem as if we are alone.
Now as an extrovert, who will walk outside to find someone to go talk to when I get bored, I am just as guilty of this. But it is really when I take this mentality into prayer that I hurt myself the most. There have been countless times I’ve gone into the church for a holy hour, only to spend the entire hour talking at God, as opposed to talking with God. Prayer is meant to be a conversation with God, not a monologue.
Now I know what you are saying, “It’s not like God will talk right back to me.” And you know what, you’re right, for the vast majority of us, we won’t hear God audibly speak while on earth. Perhaps you may be one of the future saints who will hear Him audibly speak, and to that I just want to ask if you could ask Him a few things for me, because I would love to get some clear answers.
So if God isn’t going to audibly speak to me, why should I sit in silence for a response in prayer? Well, while we may not hear that audible voice, He can still speak to us. In my own life, there was an occasion I was sitting down waiting for the Eucharist to process in at a FOCUS conference. I was feeling incredibly anxious, and I didn’t understand why. I decided to silence my heart to just prepare myself for Jesus, and as soon He processed in, I felt an overwhelming call to missionary life. It had been on my mind, but never in a way that I thought I should apply and then move across the country for a year, giving up my comfortable job. But I knew in that moment that God had something amazing planned for me with missionary work, and in trusting Him, I am now 3000 miles away from home, ministering to people every time I step outside.
Now that is my experience with silence, but not everyone will be struck with a sudden realization. Maybe you are already serving where God wants you, maybe you’re already following His plan for your life. In those cases you may just be given a gentle feeling of peace in the silence. When presented with a few options for a step in your life, bring the to God. Let Him reveal where He wants you through the peace He gives you with each option.
Now, we are still about a month away from the beginning of our Lenten season, but I wanted to get a head start on figuring out what it is that I should be sacrificing for Lent. I feel that to grow in holiness I can sacrifice my radio for Lent. Instead of blasting music in the car while driving, I can sit in the silence, take the time to pray, and to listen to God speak to me. So I want to challenge you to join me, and spend more time in the silence, so that you can hear God’s will in your own life.
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Star of the Sea's Missionary Interns
Young adults from around the country come together to live and serve the Lord at this beautiful Catholic parish in the Pacific Northwest.