Getting to Know Our Missionaries Better...
The Advent and Christmas seasons are my favorite time of the year, not only because of the joy of spending time with family and friends but also because those seasons remind us that God is ALWAYS faithful to his promises because He is Who He says He is. God promised that He would set His people free and He did so by sending His only Son, Jesus, to break the chains of sin and darkness. Is it any coincidence that Christmas falls around the time of the winter solstice, which is also the darkest time of the year? The hours of daylight increase every day after the solstice which is a perfect reminder that "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:5).
Each of us has places of darkness in our own hearts and in our own lives, whether it's a particular sin we struggle with, family difficulties, feelings of depression and loneliness, the death of a loved one, financial difficulties, and any other places we haven't let the light of Jesus shine through. It might seem difficult to bring those places of darkness to the Lord, maybe out of fear of what He'll say about it or because we think we have to present the "perfect" version of ourselves to Him. Fear not, friends, Jesus was born in a manger in a cave amongst animals (definitely not the cleanest and most pristine environment) because He wanted to show us that He's not afraid of our broken and messy hearts. He doesn't approach us as a vengeful and angry king, ready to punish us for every little imperfection. He comes to us as a gentle Baby Who wants to be born into those very places of darkness.
A little while ago, I was inspired to write my own litany which I've called the Litany of Light to ask the Lord to be with me in my own places of darkness. I've borrowed some of the lines/themes from the Litany of Trust (stjosephdg.org/trust) and the Litany of Transfiguration (stfrancischurchguys.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/litany-of-transfiguration/), which are some of my favorite litanies. Feel free to pray with this and to add your own invocations.
The Litany of Light
When I'm tempted to lose my patience Jesus, be my light.
When the actions of others frustrate me Jesus, be my light.
When I'm temped to be unforgiving towards others Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to gossip Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to correct someone without charity Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to ignore the needs of my neighbor Jesus, be my light.
When there's unrest and conflict in my family Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to compare myself to others Jesus, be my light.
When things don't go as planned Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to take my eyes off of You, Jesus Jesus, be my light.
When I've sinned Jesus, be my light.
When I feel overtaken by shame and guilt Jesus, be my light.
When the darkness threatens to overtake me Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to be angry with myself Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to not forgive myself Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to view myself as a failure Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to believe the way God made me isn't enough Jesus, be my light.
When I'm lonely Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to fall into hopelessness Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to worship You out of obligation Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to worship You as a force of habit Jesus, be my light.
When I'm tempted to lose hope in your promises Jesus, be my light.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! May the joy of the Christmas season bring peace and light into your homes!
My whole life, I have always loved kids. Perhaps it’s being the oldest of five that has predisposed me to it, but I can’t think of a time when children didn’t bring me joy. As a kid, I jumped at the chance to play peek-a-boo with toddlers or cradle a newborn. Into my teenage years, some of my favorite moments were babysitting, volunteering at a nearby Catholic nursery, and seeing the toddlers at my high school’s daycare roaming about the school. So, when I arrived at Star and got my assignment as School Assistant, I was thrilled! Working not only in youth ministry, another great joy of my life, but with grades K-8 daily has been so fulfilling in a myriad of ways.
Perhaps my biggest responsibility as School Assistant is recess. For almost two hours each day, I get to walk the kids across the street to Kiwanis Park and supervise their twice daily, twenty minutes of play. It’s wonderful! They have so much energy and enthusiasm and it’s a joy to be able to witness them at play, having so much fun with each other.
I’m seeing more and more firsthand how beautiful their childlike nature is, and it makes me understand more and more why Our Lord said that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). Their natural simplicity, trust, and honesty with others is not only what makes them an image of what a disciple of Christ is meant to be, but also an image of Christ to others. There have been so many times I’ve been struck by something one or two of the children have done that, while on the outside is very simple, has had a very profound impact on me.
One such instance that has particularly stuck with me occurred during one of the first weeks of school. It was after lunch and I was walking the first graders into Kiwanis Park for their afternoon recess, when one of the girls looked up at me as she crossed the street. A huge, beautiful smile broke out across her face and she ran up and wrapped her arms around me. “Yay, I missed you!” She exclaimed. “Even though it hasn’t been very long, I still missed you!” She was so excited to see me that her classmates were very confused! One of them even asked her if I was her aunt because he assumed we must be related if she was so happy to see me, to which she responded cheerily, “no, she’s my friend!”
That moment was such a blessing! I felt so loved, and my heart swelled because there is nothing quite like the love and trust of a child. The Lord used her joy to reach my heart in a very deep way, because at that moment I had a sudden realization that the excitement this little first grader met me with is the joy and love that Jesus greets us with each time we come to Him in prayer or to visit Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I wasn’t prepared for it, but I was suddenly hit with the fact that there are so many realities of our faith we often become desensitized to or take for granted - and perhaps the one we take for granted the most is the miracle that God has humbled Himself so much that He sits in wait for us at every moment in a tiny, golden box in our churches. He eagerly waits for the moment when we will choose to come and be with Him, to sit at His feet in worship and reverence, and to be with Him Who loves us, and Who we strive to love in return.
That kind of love is crazy! It’s a humility that is almost unthinkable. And yet he loves us so much that He is willing to wait for us there. And if He would lower Himself to the point of waiting for us in the Tabernacle under the appearance of bread, out of such deep love, we can’t even imagine the joy it must bring to His Heart when we come to be with Him! It makes me think Saint JOhn Vianney, who once said of Jesus in the Tabernacle:
"He is hidden there, waiting for us to come to visit Him and to make our requests. He wishes to see us near Him, to tell us that He loves us, and wishes to load us with good things."
It has truly renewed my perspective of my prayer. I think back to her wide grin, her comforting hug, and her joyful spirit when I am tempted to come to prayer only out of routine, simply going through the motions. That moment reminds me that I’m not meant to pray only out of obligation, or because the petitions I offer are close to my heart, or because of my own desire for union with Him. While those aren’t by any means bad reasons to pray, I now make the conscious effort to recall the foremost reason I go to prayer: because God is good and deserving of all we have to give, and because He desires to be close to me. What greater gift can I give Him than myself, when what He desires is friendship with me?
Now, each day as I make my holy hour, I do so with the perspective that He meets me with an even greater joy and excitement than what I have at seeing Him. It is a joy and love and mercy beyond my comprehension! And I remember that even when I take those moments with the Lord for granted, He never does - whether time with Him is years apart, or only hours. Even when I just went to Mass in the morning, even when I just finished team prayer with the other missionaries, even when I stopped by the chapel only a few hours before, He always embraces me with love, calls me His friend, and says, “I missed you! Even though it hasn’t been very long, I still missed you.”
The Lord is waiting for us, friends. He is waiting for us with a deep, burning Love and thirst for a relationship with us that is greater than we can know. So in those moments where you are discouraged in prayer, or it seems like He isn’t present or listening, perhaps try to imagine Him speaking those words to you when you approach Him in prayer. “Yay, I missed you!” Listen to how He calls you His friend. And be assured - even if you can’t see or understand how He is working, even if it’s difficult to come to prayer, even if it would be so much easier to just return to the business of the world instead of sitting in silence with Him - that He is delighted in you, and the moments you spend with Him bring Him such great joy!
It's been a while since this blog was last updated and since then, so much has changed! Summer has turned into Fall, five new missionaries have arrived to serve the parish community, and school and programs have started back up again. Isn't it crazy how so much can change within the span of a few months? A year ago, I didn't even know this Missionary Internship Program existed and here I am leading Teen Confirmation. Absolutely wild! God is so good!
And speaking of change... transitions are hard, especially when you have to leave behind everything and everyone that is familiar to you. This is something that I have taken to prayer over these past two months and the Lord has comforted me by reminding me that He will provide for me in abundance - and all I have to do is ask.
At the beginning of our formation time, we did Lectio Divina with the Wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11). I'm sure most, if not all, of you are familiar with the story: Jesus attends a wedding with His Mother Mary and His disciples. Mary notices that the bride and groom have run out of wine and She brings up their need to Jesus. She then tells the servants to be obedient to what Jesus tells them to do. After Jesus tells the servants to fill huge jugs with water, He changes that water into wine. The bride and groom then have 6 stone jars each holding 20-30 gallons of new, good wine that are filled to the brim. Talk about an abundance!
In the same way, we should follow Mary's example by bringing our desires to the Lord freely, with childlike confidence. Mary is able to bring Her desires to Jesus with confidence because She is fully aware of Who Jesus is- as the One Who can fulfill our desires. She also acts out of a place of security in Her identity as the Mother of Jesus, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and a beloved daughter of the Father. Through Her relationship with the Holy Trinity, She is confident that Her request will be granted.
Through the Sacraments, we also come to know more about who we are and Who's we are and by frequently participating in them, our relationship with the Holy Trinity is strengthened - we are filled to the brim with God's love and our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God becomes more secure. If we are secure in our identity as beloved children of God, we can then model Mary's confidence in freely bringing our needs and our desires to the Lord.
Let us never be afraid to trust that our hearts will be received by our Father in heaven. He is a good, good Father Who desires to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32) and fill us to the brim with His love and mercy!
Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for us!
In March, the four of us missionaries had a chance to take a step back and refresh ourselves on who we are in the Eyes of God the Father through a retreat just for us. Our retreat leader took a completely new spin on the Parable of the Prodigal Son! We were each handed our own copy of Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son and were led through it in the perspectives of the younger son, the elder son, and the father. It blew my mind and I highly recommend any of you reading this blog to check out the book! Through it, I learned that even though the elder son never physically left home, he spiritually “left home” in believing that his father favored his brother more than himself. The envy, anger, and sadness that resulted from this belief paved the road away from his father’s heart. I was reminded of the basic truths that I am good, lovable, and an heir to the Kingdom of heaven. You may think that as a missionary I had no need of being told these basic truths, but living a life of endless giving in the ministry field can make me forget Whose I am. The outward ministry flows from this Father/daughter relationship with God. I can’t give what I don’t have. And by March, all us missionaries needed a refuel of truth! What flowed from this retreat was a reset in team life, in personal prayer, and in service.
A couple weeks following the retreat, Ruby and Melanie led an event held for the girls who attended our weekly youth group called Fidelis, as Christian and I attended an Encounter Ministries conference. In the conference, I learned that even though I am a daughter of God, I am also considered a “son”. Why is this? Because only the son could inherit the father’s wealth in Biblical times. Through my baptism, I become a son of God because I am an heir of His! “Everything I have is yours,” God the Father says through the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:31. The son didn’t have to earn his inheritance. It was automatically his just for being born! And the same is true for me! I don’t have to earn God’s approval by working for Him. I already have His approval because I exist! And so do you! You already have God’s approval because you exist!
I have learned over the course of this year that my living in Bremerton was not just about doing but being-being with my teammates, being with the parishioners, and most importantly, being with Jesus. The keys to this year have been love and perseverance. And what better model of love and perseverance than Jesus carrying His cross to Calvary? Our greatest gift was given through the difficulty of the cross! And without the cross, we would not be celebrating the Easter season we are right now!
Happy Easter, sons of God!
“…you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God, and if sons, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”-Romans 8:16-17
Hello! It has been a long time since this blog has been active, but now that some transitions have been made, you will be hearing from me (Tessa) these next couple months.
Wow, what a year it has been so far! 8 months ago, 5 missionaries from the states of California, Washington, Texas, Illinois, and Nebraska arrived in Bremerton, WA to begin a year of service for Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. By now, if you are reading this, you have probably checked out the page “Meet the Missionaries” and have learned a little bit about each of us. July and August were months to get acclimated to the area and soak up the sun before the clouds started rolling in to continually hover over Western Washington in the fall and winter! Each of us got to choose which ministry we wanted to be in charge of for the school year. Christian chose to lead the middle school youth group “Sparks”; Ruby chose to lead the high school youth group “Ignite”; and Melanie chose to lead the young adult program “Roots”. Last month, I finished leading the Confirmation program, and Patrick’s role was uniquely his as Hospitality Manager/Parish Special Operations.
In January, Patrick left us to serve with NET (National Evangelization Teams) Ministries. Along with Patrick leaving us, Sr. Maria Caeli (the former missionary program director) transitioned to full-time teaching at the parish elementary school. In her place is Gabby Herndon, a vibrant former Star missionary, who is making strides in revamping the missionary program.
In late-January, all 4 of us missionaries helped out at the annual confirmation retreat at a camp in the area. We had about 30 youth attending the retreat, not including a handful of peer leaders and small group leaders. All of us had been praying for good weather for the retreat, and that whole week the sun had been shining! It didn’t start to rain until the last retreatants had left the camp! At the retreat, there was a youth who was in the process of converting to Catholicism, and he was able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time! The Confirmation ceremony was the first time he received Communion!
We celebrated the Confirmation Ceremony on February 20, with Archbishop Etienne presiding. It was a beautiful Mass with packed pews! All the missionaries were present at the ceremony, with one of us sponsoring one of the confirmation candidates.
I will keep you posted as the semester continues, but until then, God bless!
“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’”-Matthew 28:18-20
A few weeks ago as I was walking up for Communion I found myself asking God the question, “When will I meet my future husband?” Somewhat typical of me to ask, but this time the question got a little deeper. My thought unfolded into, “How could any mortal man ever amount to the heroic, passionate, and unconditionally loving bar you have set for them?” I laughed as the thought began to settle within my heart, these poor men; they have no idea who they are competing against. Not to say it is a competition, but Jesus is the ultimate package. Who is the man who knows me through and through, even better than I know myself - Jesus. Who is the man who never tires of giving me second chances in the midst of my unending hiccups - Jesus. Who is the man who takes every opportunity within my day to speak to me, surprise me, woo me, and most importantly tell me he loves me - Jesus. Gosh darn it Jesus, you’re the best. You are so great, I get nervous you set my bar a little too high.
So the next question fights it’s way to the surface, “Are you calling me to yourself, do you want me to be your bride?” I mean it would make sense, you are the one constant in my life, you have never let me down, and you have been there for the darkest moments of my life - it was you who truly saved me and brought me back into union with your love. This thought soon was pushed aside by the classic, “but sweet Jesus, what about the babies? I love the babies. They are so cute and chubby. Little muffins.” Oh those babies are definitely one of the influencing reasons why I want to pursue the sacrament of marriage. What an honor it would be to serve the King as an educator, a bride, and a channel of God's love. What little warriors would be sent forth from our home. What a panic the devil would have. My babies. Mm.
Alas, this reroutes me back to my original thought-when will I meet my future husband? As I lifted my eyes, bowed before my Lord, and received Jesus in the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, I felt as though the King himself had kissed my lips and smiled as if to say, “Just you wait.”
Oh, Lord, you know my heart. You see my thoughts from afar. Since I cannot at this moment find clarity in these answers, at least grant peace to my soul. Grant that I may not shy from the opportunities to grow into a faithful spouse, a loving mother, and a hopeful daughter. May my heart rest in your hands at all times and have mercy on me when I snatch it back and try to place it in the hands of another before it’s time. I trust in you, Jesus with my whole heart and I am most grateful for your love in return. St. Joseph, guardian of virgins, pray for us. Mother Mary most holy, keep my eyes on the King and pray I allow him to reveal what I need to know in his own time.
We all come to a point in our life where change lingers in the air and decision stops us abruptly. As many of you know I served with a mission program right after high school and had since then fell in love with the radical duties of a missionary. I got used to talking to strangers, praying in coffee shops, and sharing my testimony everywhere I went. Although I loved the life of spontaneity, I eventually heard the beckoning call to come home.
By December 2018 I was once again back in Illinois working full time and feeling caught in the mundane routine of the everyday. I began to feel as though mission was a mere memory and no longer a part of my life. I felt useless and as if I was disappointing the Lord since I was not doing anything more than cleaning bathrooms and checking guests into their rooms at the hotel. Amid my mundane year of work and rest I brought the following question to prayer: “who am I and where do I belong?” That tiny question begged so many possible answers. The most practical solution I decided upon though was simple: I am loved by a mighty merciful King who has deliberately chosen me to fulfill a part in His grand plan of eternity. He granted me a unique set of skills that are creative, curious, kind, and joyful. Skills that I am able use to help build up His kingdom.
As soon as this truth was re-revealed to me for the hundredth time, I decided yet again to challenge it and apply for a Missionary position in Bremerton, Washington. Here I am only two months later sitting in my new home with a great roomie/co-worker and have a sea (ha, I work at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish…get it ‘sea’) of parishioners who are doing everything they can to make us feel welcomed and loved. I trust the Lord is good. I know His teachings are sound. The time is now to “go and make disciples of all nations”. All those who have received the sending forth blessing at the end of mass are challenged to inhale the change being offered to them. If you desire to know your purpose in life and know where you belong, then seek the one who has given you a life that merits purpose and promises you a place to belong. No mission is to great for the Lord and no soul is to dirty while still on this earth to know and profess the love of Jesus.
I am a twenty-two-year-old woman who is in love with the church and its maker. No matter how many times I find myself in a time of desolation or trial or doubt, I can rest assured I, alike you, am being relentlessly pursued by the Lord of Lords. Take heart and know the Lords plans are for you and not against you. That you at your core are good and with the Lords mercy and grace: YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. Even become a missionary. Check out your local programs: attend a bible study, go to a youth group, join a choir, talk to someone who amazes you with their faith, and talk to Jesus.
Remember that sometimes making the decision is more difficult than making the change. Remember to decide before the opportunity slips through your fingers. Choose to trust. Choose freedom. Defy the decision and know “that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in His presence. Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” Praise be to the King who has made our destiny secured.
Take Courage, Bethany.
We are wrong when we are bitter. We aren’t doing it right when complaining is easy to do. I’ve seen a pattern in my life. When I feel like whining and being mad about what happens to me, I have been listening to the voice of a lie: the voice of fear, telling me that following Christ means pain and suffering and things that I don’t want. The second we tune in to fear, we forget some very essential things: His way is GOOD. His way is TRUE. His way is FREE. Let me say that last one again: His way is FREE: “I will walk freely in an open space because I cherish Your precepts” – Psalm 119:45. I see the world and I see the problems of others and I see the turmoil in my own heart and I realize that we’re each, in our own ways, individually and collectively, running in circles started and maintained by fear. The start and the end to most seemingly unsolvable problems is fear. When you go to pray, take a look at the seemingly unsolvable problems in your life, and identify where the fear is in them. Is the fear coming from within you? Another? Many people? Society? Ask Jesus for the courage and the humility to guide you to stare at that thing that’s been weighing down on you. If it is unidentifiable, ask Him to help you identify it. He will. In His way and in His time.
When we listen and obey the voice of fear, we completely lose sight of what it means to live and follow the Lord. We should all be able to say with our whole hearts: “I delight to do Your will, O my God” – Psalm 40:8. To do the will of the Lord will indeed mean suffering, which, if it had no purpose, would be a very scary thing. But what we so easily forget is that our afflictions have infinite purpose because of the Cross. Let me repeat that: Our afflictions have been given never-ending purpose because of the Cross of Christ. No suffering, not even the slightest, need be in vain. Our Lord promises not only to take our every affliction upon Himself, but also to redeem it, to make it new! He promises to make it something beautiful, perfect, and better than what would have been had we never suffered at all. Sometimes we see that redemption right away, sometimes it takes years, and maybe sometimes, we will only see from the vantage point of Heaven. I must remind you and myself, then, to not be afraid of what it means to pick up your Cross. To say “I will pick up my Cross” is the same as to say “I choose life.”
Fear, by its very nature, will always remove hope and goodness from the equation of your life. But we must remember that fear is a lie. It will always blind. It will always paralyze. Now what’s the way out? Recognize fear. Call it by name. And do not listen to it. It comes straight from the enemy and it is aimed directly at your destruction. It’s all too easy to make an excuse to listen to fear. We tell ourselves something along the lines of, “It’s natural to be afraid,” or, “It’s too big for me to conquer,” or, “It’s an unavoidable fact of life.” Those excuses do not stand. Fear is very small and therefore must do all it can to make itself look big. It is avoidable, but will do all it can to make itself seem not so. When you hear the voice of fear, call it out and send it away in the name of Jesus. Call upon the Holy Spirit and He will come to your aid, every time. Jesus didn’t say “I have come that they might have life” because He thought it was a nice thing to say. He didn’t say it to give us false hope; He said it because it was TRUE. Every word that comes from the mouth of God is Truth “Since you, Lord God, are truly God and your words are truth and you have made this generous promise to your servant” – 2 Samuel 7:28. So, hear the words of the Lord in the worst of your sufferings, in the stickiest and most hopeless seeming situations:
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race”
-2 Timothy 4:7
Lent is hard. It is easy to fall into the mindset of just complaining about having to fast. But why are we fasting?
The Church didn’t decide that we all need to lose some weight as we head into Spring. We fast to join with Christ in preparation for the triduum. We are all called to fight the good fight, to finish the race. But how do we do that?
As said before, it is easy to fall into the temptation of complaining about Lent, and that temptation comes from the devil’s desire to pull us away from holiness. How should we fight the devil tempting us? Well look around you. These are your brothers and sisters in arms. We are told that where 2 or more are gathered, so too will God be there. When you are struggling, turn to those around you for that support and affirmation. They can lift you back up when you are weak.
There is nothing the devil hates more than to see you pray. And if you are praying for, and with, your brothers and sisters then the devil can hold no power over you.
Now fighting the good fight is only half of what we are addressing here. We can certainly start out strong in a fight, get in a few good punches, but what happens when we start to get tired? Are we just going to drop out and surrender? There are many things in living out the faith that are not easy, that will tire you, and make you want to surrender, but keep in mind the end of the race. When a runner is competing in a race, they don’t just stop halfway through because their muscles are sore. They push through the pain, because they know at the end of that race is something they desire. Whether an Olympian competing for gold, or someone who has been training to complete their first marathon, the end of the race holds a big accomplishment. And there is no greater race to run than that of our journey to heaven. So turn to your friends around you when your muscles burn, think of the glory at the end, fight the good fight, and complete the race.
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.
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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.