When I was younger, I had this great longer to be somebody’s muse, to inspire someone so much that they’d have to paint me, or write a story based on me, or write a song dedicated to me. There seemed to be a lack of artists, writers and musicians in my life, so as far as I know, i never inspired anyone to do any of those things.
The other day I was talking to someone who was an artist and she was telling me about an idea she had and how she made it come to reality and how it really was an act of love to bring this idea in her mind into something more tangible.
It made me think about God’s love for me, for each of us. The mere idea of us resulted in him creating us and this life we live. I don’t need to be an inspiration for some other piece of art, because in God’s eyes, I am a work of art. All the things that make me who I am, are something unique, and according to some, even beautiful.
Last year I watched a documentary called Waste Land. It shows artist Viz Muniz visiting a landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He meets the locals, takes photos of them, and transforms their images into magnificent art that ends up being sold for quite a bit of money. The looks on their faces when they see the finished product is amazing. After years of seeing themselves as nobodies in just work in the dump, they see themselves through a new set of eyes. The people whose stories we followed throughout the documentary make changes in their lives. With this new perspective, they have discovered a sense of empowerment, and are able to make changes in their life that they never dreamed possible previously.
My wish is that everyone can see themselves as art. Even if our essence is never captured by an artist or a musician or a writer in this lifetime, you are valued as one of God’s greatest works of art. He loved the idea of you, and created you. You are worth so much to him and he values you so much.
I recently had to undergo some surgery. it had the potential to become complicated, but it seemed to go well. Although the doctors’ bills seem to repeat the word complicated several times. I’m not feeling good and hopeful about what the future will hold without this health issue that could have been holding me back without my knowledge.
I asked for a lot of prayers prior to the surgery. I was feeling comfortable about the whole thing, but I know it doesn’t hurt to have people praying in the background. So I told more people than I probably usually would, just to get some extra prayers.
I have bounced back pretty well, so I’ll give credit to all those prayers for helping with my speedy recovery and for blessing me with skilled surgeons.
A priest gave me Anointing of the Sick the evening before the surgery. It was my first time receiving the sacrament and it felt very special. I was grateful that it was offered to me as I don’t think I would have ever thought to have asked for it. It was comforting and hopefuly. The priest said to me that the opposite of faith is anxiety. I can’t say I felt anxious at all. I felt calm. I don’t know if my husband and the rest of my family felt that, but I was calm, so hopefully it was an indication of my faithfulness.
I wish that I could carry over that anxiety free faithfulness to other areas of my life. At work, i can whip myself into a fair panic of what I may have done wrong or forgotten to do, when really maybe all i need to do is take some time to pray and rediscover that faithfulness that I know is inside me.
I have just returned from the funeral of Fr Vic.
It was the first funeral of a priest that I have attended. It was a beautiful Mass with the Bishop and many priests from around the Diocese. The service filled me with hope, rather than making me sad. I remembered the quiet light that Fr Vic was, and prayed for his sister during her loss.
It is a rainy hot day. It was difficult to get a park, and I ended up having to walk a block through the pouring rain to make it just in time as the funeral started, where I stood in the doorway, dripping wet, as his coffin was taken down the aisle. It may have crossed my mind that it might be easier to not go to the funeral when I couldn’t find a park and it was so wet, but I’m glad i decided to stay for it.
Fr Vic ran the first young adults group that I ever joined. It was at the encouragement of some of the people in the parish. I remember him telling me once he wouldn’t have done it on his own volition, because he was never sure what to do with young people, but it was him they asked, and he did a wonderful job. Every sunday for years we would meet, and we would pray the rosary together. We would then go over to the hall, and have some sort of discussion, where I learnt so much. We did some bible study, and with him I found my favourite book of the bible.
I didn’t realise it until I reflected on it with the news of his death, but Fr Vic is a very influential person in my journey of faith. I will always be extremely thankful to him for all he shared with me.
That young adults group fell apart after he had a heart attack a few years after it started, and the people in the group went their seperate ways. Some people I still know of, but I wonder what happened to the others. Facebook stalking hasn’t revealed them yet.
Please remember Fr Vic in your prayers – may he rest in peace.
I was at dinner with some friends last weekend, and somehow we got talking about what we learnt in school. Those I was talking to had been to Catholic schools. I believe one was a lapsed Catholic, and the other wasn’t Catholic at all, but just went to the school because it was the best in the area she was living in. The lapsed Catholic says “I can still probably say the Nicene Creed.” I tell her she probably can’t anymore, because its been changed. “It now has the word ‘consubstantial’ in it!”
I just happened to have a copy of the new translation in my handbag (doesn’t everyone carry that around with them?) and was able to give it to her to read. She kept exclaiming that it was all wrong. I tried to tell her that maybe it was more right, but she didn’t believe me.
There are a few people around who don’t like the new translation of the missal. I love it. I love being part of this moment of history for the Catholic church, as it continues to evolve.
My parish has been using the new translation for months, and it seems “And also with you” is a hard habit to break. Last sunday, I prayed for all the parishes that might be doing it for the first time. I hope the understand that just because its not flowing right now, that its not good.
On Sunday, I listened to the first Eucharistic Prayer and was enthralled. I don’t know if I ever paid that much attention to a Eucharistic Prayer in my life. I don’t even know how many changes have been made to it. I suppose growing up going to Mass regularly, there was so much I took for granted, so much that was just a part of the process that I never really gave it much thought. I think that is my favourite part about the introduction of the new translation. That we are looking at it through new eyes. Its something new, so we can hear it better than ever before, and I’m extremely grateful for that blessing.
I look forward to discovering and rediscovering the Mass in this new translation and hope that other people who may feel hesitant will open their hearts to this.
It took me a while to get around to finishing this book. It’s a lovely story, but I kept finding myself distracted from it. It wasn’t until I was on pilgrimage in spain that I could really focus on finishing it. Although, that’s kind of strange, as it was a very hectic trip, that was at times very busy, but it was nice, at the end of the day, to be able to unwind with this story of forgiveness and love.
The Author, Andy Andrews, tells the story based on some objects he finds buried in his back yard. He digs around further, asking some of the older locals in the community, and uncovers a treasure you wouldn’t expect. Instead of gold, he learns of the story of people during the war, the hurt they had endured, and the love they use to overcome that pain.
This is a story of real love. Two damaged people find each other, and as time goes by, discover they are open to love after being closed to it for so long. You can feel the anger of the young woman towards those around her, as she holds on to what she has lost, and the sadness of a young man who can’t even imagine where his future may lead him, as he is so tied to the people he lost in his past.
The ultimate theme is forgiveness. I think that is my favourite thing about his book. Perhaps it’s a theme that rings true in my own life and relationships. There was one night on the pilgrimage during prayer, that the young people felt this, unconnected to the book. Our bishop had preached on forgiveness earlier that day, and that night in prayer, they shared about the things the needed to forgive. It was beautiful. In my own prayer, I thanked God for allowing me to be able to forgive certain people in my own past, as it allowed me to open myself up to some amazing experiences, including the man I married.
I would recommend this book to those who have an interest in WWII history and enjoy a good heart felt story.
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Just over a month ago, I left for Spain to attend WYD with 52 people from the Diocese. The previous seven months of work had culminated to this moment.
World Youth Day has always been a rewarding experience for me. I remember my first one, our leaders kept telling us that it wasn’t a life changing moment, but a life confirming moment. Its really hard to know. I don’t know what direction my life would take without these experiences. I feel incredibly blessed that I have now just experienced my forth WYD.
My prayer in the months leading up to our departure was that I would be able to help create the life confirming experience that I had for these young people. I really wasn’t sure how they would take it, or if they were prepared enough, but I had done all that I was capable of, and handed the rest over to God. The group was blessed with an inspiring bishop, engaging priests, committed teachers and open-hearted young people.
Our pilgrimage travelled around Spain before arriving in Madrid for WYD. Things really kicked off in Loyola where we visited the home of St Ignatius, where he was born and grew up, and more importantly, where he had his personal conversion. The bishop told us of that Ignatian concept of being able to find God in everything. God isn’t just with us in the moments where we are at church or when we are praying. He is there through it all. The students really took hold of this idea, and it was continually referred to again and again in the days to come. They found God in all sorts of moments, and were keen to share them with each other. Evening prayer with them was always a beautiful experience.
We also visited Avila, home of saints like Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and John of Avila. In fact, the monastry we stayed in, apparently used to be where Teresa used to go for confession.
We visited many churches and cathedrals throughout Spain, including the cathedral in Seville, apparently the biggest in the world, and the cathedral in Cordoba, which used to be a mosque, that was converted into a Catholic church, after the muslims had to leave Spain. The buildings were amazing, and filled with equally amazing stories. The history of each building just blew us away. Especially being from Australia, where permanent buildings have only been around for 200 and so years, the concept of how old these buildings are just seems so foreign.
I am inspired by the people who created these buildings, these churches and cathedrals, and the works of art they contain. I think about how they must have been filled with so much awe and love for God, to be able to be so inspired to create these for us to enjoy for centuries afterwards.
I think that is the concept that has touched me most during the pilgrimage. I say I learn something new from each WYD experience, and this year I’ve learn about creation. I have to question what I am creating from my own inspiration from God. I don’t have talents in painting or sculpture or architecture or building, but I must be able to create something. What am I creating? It doesn’t have to be something that lasts for centuries, but there must be something that I can create in this moment for the love of God. Its something I prayed about on pilgrimage and the weeks afterwards, and the major thing that comes to mind is community. I can help create a community for God. I can help people find other people to share their faith with and walk the journey together. It is kind of my job, but I am inspired in just how important it is to have other faith filled people on the journey with you, and I want to be able to help those people find each other, so that they can be empowered and continue on this journey. Maybe one day, I will be called to create a family. I’m not sure. But for now, it is creating that sense of community that I am striving for.
Hopefully I will have a chance to write about the actual WYD events. They were an adventure in themself.
It is currently Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. There are blog entries all over the place dedicated to this, so I’m just going to throw in my two cents worth.
Natural Family Planning is a term that refers to a variety of family planning methods that don’t use artificial contraception. They are methods that have been approved by the Catholic Church in keeping with the philosophy of the dignity of the human person.
Growing up as a Catholic, I knew of the existance of Natural Family Planning. My dad, in his pro-life involvement, often left brochures lying around about the dangers of the Birth Control Pill, which I would have seen and noted in my subconscious, but no real information was ever given to me about Natural Family Planning. It was on my list of things that I would learn about later in life.
I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome at seventeen. The treatment the doctor put me on was the birth control pill. Even with the dangers of the pill in my subconscious, I went along with it, because I didn’t know any better. And I stayed on it for the next 10 years, until I became engaged.
My husband and I signed up for a class to learn the Billings Method. It was probably quite confronting for the both of us. It was very detailed and my husband learnt the names of parts of the female reproductive system that he didn’t know existed. When we got over the shock of discussing cervical mucus with a stranger, the whole thing was fascinating.
I learnt how my body worked. I learnt how to know what my body was telling me. For the first time in my life, I finally got it. That even with all the irregularities that my body had, it made sense. This is the great gift that NFP gave me; that it taught me about my body and how it worked. Things that had been hidden and disguised for years by being on the pill were now embraced.
learning NFP has been such an empowering experience for me. Women around me seem stuck in this trap where their fertility is treated like a disease that needs to be stopped, and turned back on again when it suits them. Our fertility isn’t a disease. It is a gift to be embraced. My only regret is that I never bothered to learn about it earlier. I think this knowledge would have been extremely helpful in the years after my diagnosis in learning about my fertility and the condition I have.
I love that NFP is also completely natural. With a recent trend with being more environmentally friendly, I’m surprised that more people aren’t making the switch to NFP. I don’t know much about the production of artificial birth control like the pill or condoms, but I imagine that it probably pumps a fair amount of carbon into the atmosphere, all for a matter of ‘convenience’. I have several friends who are making the switch to organic vegetables and meat, as its better for the environment, and I’m always surprised to discover they are still taking the pill. They usually just refuse to try any method of NFP.
Artificial Birth control has become such an ingrained part of our society, that its the people who aren’t using it that are dismissed as being the strange ones. On the times that I reveal that I use NFP, I am dismissed as being an ultra-committed Catholic. I’d love to share my experiences with more people, but I’m usually shut down soon after its brought up in conversation.
For some other blogs that better describe the awesomeness of NFP try:
And there are many more out there
As we prepare for World Youth Day in Madrid this year, I have been encouraging the pilgrims to get to know some of the WYD11 Patron Saints. Every WYD has a different series of patron saints that usually have some sort of connection to the country, or young people. Spain is a country of great saints, like St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. But its the lesser known saints that I am enjoying getting to know better.
Two of this year’s saints are St Isidore the Worker and Maria of the Head. The reason I feel so drawn to these two is because they were married. A colleague made a joke when reading the biography of one of them and it stated that he was married to a saint, and this person groaned and said “Can you imagine being married to a saint?” but I pointed out that he was also a saint, so it was probably ok. They lived their life with simplicity and hard work.
These two are great reminders of the importance of the vocation of marriage. So often, the most popular saints are priests and religious, living their life in complete devotion to God. It can sometimes be a struggle to relate to that sort of life when you are struggling to balance the demands of your job while still spending quality time with your spouse. Those moments when you finish work at 7pm and you feel that you should go to Adoration, but you know that your husband is at home waiting for you after not seeing you because you were away for the weekend.
Isidore and Maria were able to remind me that I was called to marriage, and that it is through my husband, that I am able to find the strength and love to be able to serve God in the way that I do. Just because it looks different to the way a priest or a nun might do it, doesn’t make that any less worthy.
The legend behind St Isidore the Worker is the way he united his worklife with his prayer life. He would always attend Mass before starting work. The other coworkers reported him to the boss for not doing as much work as the others. The boss checked up on him and found that although he was late for work, an angel had been doing his work for him.
These stories have a way of developing over time into something that feels unbelievable. The other WYD leader working with me often laments with me that angels have shown up to do our job for us, but we usually don’t make it to daily Mass either. It reminds me of a time in high school where I declared I didn’t have enough time to join the family in prayer that evening because I had way too much homework. My old aunty was staying at the time, and told me that I would find the time, if I gave some time for God first. So I joined the family in prayer and went off to do my homework, to discover that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, and I finished in half the time that I had scheduled. I always try to remember that story whenever I feel that my time management is failing and that I don’t have the time for Mass or prayer.
I’ve really enjoyed learning about these two saints and can’t wait to maybe experience more of their story while in Spain this August.
“When we serve the poor and the sick we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus” – St Rose of Lima
Someone tweeted this the other day, and it seemed to be a good reminder for me, of how as Christian we are called to serve the poor. And while I know this, I struggle with it. It is something that has been playing on my conscience since getting married and moving into the neighbourhood that we now live.
The week I moved in was the same week that a Meth Lab was busted across the road. I suppose that set the tone for our time there, and we seem to experience a few things that make very interesting stories in the retelling. The tenant that lived in the house before us sounds like a lovely woman. She was happy to have people come to her house, and they would stay in the front yard at times they couldn’t get into the drug rehabilitation centre across the road (seperate to the meth lab). The neighbours mentioned when I moved in not to be too worried if there were people sleeping in my garden when I came out for my morning coffee, because that’s just what happened. So prior to moving in, we informed those people there were new tenants, and they’d have to find somewhere else to sleep.
Its difficult to find that balance between helping the poor and keeping your own safety. We live less than a block away from the St Vincent de Paul Office, but they usually aren’t open when I encounter these people, so I can’t, at that moment, delegate it to someone else more suitable to deal with the problem.
On the weekend, I was at a church to practice reading for the Easter services. A man came into the church looking for help. I did try to delegate it elsewhere, but with no luck. Everyone I rang wasn’t answering. So I opened up my wallet and found a $50 note and gave him that in the hope he’d find somewhere to spend the night before seeking help the next day. He said he had lost his job, and as a result couldn’t pay his rent and was evicted on Friday night. I hope that he found a room at a cheap backpacker’s hostel or something, and was able to sleep safely and comfortably that night.
I was shocked at my willingness to give, but can only put it down to location. The people that come to my house, sometimes ask for a couple of dollars and I’m always reluctant to give it to them. I instantly shut them out, when I should be opening my heart to them.
In a conversation with someone recently, I mentioned this struggle I feel, and said that maybe God was giving me these opportunities to improve that part of myself. The Bishop that I work with overheard me and said that he’s looking forward to see how I go with this, especially after identifying it as being sent by God.
I should learn to not say such things around him.
The saints are such examples of living and working with the poor. I try to draw from that example, but every time fail to live up to it.
My deposit has now been paid to attend the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain and I am suddenly feeling exuberant and alive and excited at the possibilities. Its taken be a bit by surprise, because for the last year or so, I have been tossing up whether or not I should go, and ultimately decided that I wouldn’t. I have been to three World Youth Days in the past both as a participant and also leading a group. I wondered if maybe I had gained all I could from the World Youth Day experience and thought I’d step aside and leave the space open for someone else to take. Also, now that I am married, my priorities are different, and 18 days is a long time to be away from my husband, plus it would put on quite a strain on our budget.
Those plans changed. I will be starting a new job in January, and part of the job description will be to lead the Diocesan group to Spain. Something that I had dismissed months ago as not being for me, is now suddenly a source of great excitement. However, keep me in your prayers. I don’t know if excitement is all I’m going to be feeling over the next eight months.
My first World Youth Day was Toronto 2002. As a Due South fan, it was always my dream to go to Canada, and then combined with a World Youth Day, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. It was the first time my diocese had ever sent people to a World Youth Day, and I went with two other young women. It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by so many other young Catholics. I came from a small parish, with mostly older people. I’m sure its not the only parish in the world like that. Where you are the young person, and the next youngest are your parents. It came be disheartening at times, but after my first World Youth Day experience, there was no way I could go back home thinking I was the only young Catholic in the world. That memory will always stay with me.
My next World Youth Day was Cologne 2005. It wasn’t a good year for me. I had lost my job in December 2004 due to the small business I worked for going bankrupt. It was taking longer than expected to find a new one. I also had to end a serious relationship earlier that year. It was one of the darkest times of my life. There were moment I seriously thought that God had just abandoned me. Yet somehow through all the sadness, and a lack of income, I found my way to Germany. My church community had raised enough money to cover half my costs. It was an incredible effort, and one that I will also be extremely grateful for. It was exactly what I needed. I rediscovered the Love of God, and renewed my faith in him, and realised that no matter how dark I perceived things to be, God would never ever abandon me. That trip also included a pilgrimage in Turkey and Greece. Neither were places I probably would have gone on my own volition, but they are incredible countries. I cannot wake for another opportunity to visit Turkey and the Greek islands again.
The last WYD I attended was Sydney 2008. I led a group from my parish of 20 people. I probably went into the challenge a little idealise and naive, expecting everyone to get along and behave themselves and not get into any mischief. Its possible that some people in my group had different ideas. Once again, the church community played a big role in getting the group there. As it was in Australia, less money was needed to get people there, so we were able to fundraise enough money to cover all the costs of registration and travel for everyone attending WYD from our parish. I think that most of the people had a great time. They got to experience that wonder of being part of a global community, and that faith in Jesus conquers barriers such as language and culture. I had plenty of stressed out moments, but it warms my heart to hear one of them tell me it was the best experience of their life. I think the lesson I learned from that WYD was that I have something to offer the church. No matter how small and insignigicant it may seem at times, I have something to give. Whether it be typing minutes from a parish meeting, leading a youth group, driving someone to Mass, becoming a reader, or praying for someone who is sick, we all have something to give.
And now Madrid is just around the corner. I’m a little bit wiser this time around, so hopefully won’t make the same mistakes as last time. I am hoping for another wonderful experience, and wonder what will be revealed to me this time. I hope and pray that I will be able to facilitate an experience for the young people attending World Youth Day with me, that they will be open to learn their own gifts and the messages that God has for them. I hope that WYD will be as rewarding an experience for them as it has been for me.