One of Many Spiritual Aha Moments

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Hello everyone! I am back in the beautiful town of Blacksburg, ready to start my senior year of college at Virginia Tech (where did the time go?). I am active in the Newman Catholic Community and have started attending some of the events at the Newman House. So I was in night prayer tonight, and the reading really spoke to me. In Ephesians 4: 26-27, Paul says “If you are angry, let it be without sin. The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you.”

I was so taken aback by what Paul said here. It really got me thinking about my own spiritual/faith journey. First, I have been angry with my brothers and sisters multiple times and I have let my anger get the best of me. I also realized that I am at my weakest when my mind is idle, i.e. when I give the devil a chance to work on me.

I distinctly remember one time when I was on a run and I was thinking angry thoughts about someone I love very much. This person was frustrating me to no end and I had let myself become so consumed by this frustration, that I was actually forming this horrible and negative image of them in my head. Obviously, that anger and frustration wasn’t being fruitful at all. My anger had become so intense, that I was forming an image of that person in my head that was simply untrue, or at the very least, quite exaggerated. Overall, I think what I, and by extension everybody else, needs to do is take that anger to prayer. What can I do to make my relationship with that person 5068203_orig-300x199better? How can I keep from becoming so angry? Pray for that relationship. Pray for patience and understanding. Now obviously, relationships are not perfect and we can’t fix ourselves instantaneously, but God will always be there to help us in our anger and frustration.

Moving on to the second thing that really stood out to me, the devil working on me. Now I know that the reading specifically mentions the devil working on you when you’re angry, but that last little bit made me think; when else does the devil work on me? I have found that the devil works on me when I am not doing anything productive or when I am away from a faith environment. My great-grandmother always used to say “the idle mind is the devil’s workshop” and I have definitely experienced that in my life.

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Whenever I am aimlessly surfing the web or procrastinating during a night that is supposed to be filled with doing homework, I always feel spiritually empty. Not only am I not getting work done, but I am stressing about the work that is not getting done. The problem is, I don’t want to do it. At these moments, God is pretty much the last thing on my mind, and that is a real problem. God always needs to be the center of my life, and that includes the moments when I am writing an article for my communication classes.

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I also struggle to keep sin at bay when I am not in a fruitful faith environment. What does that mean you may ask? Usually, when I am at mass, in a faith-sharing small group, or at a retreat or talk, I feel so pumped and motivated. “Yeah, I am going to tackle this sin that has taken over my life” or “I can definitely work on this frustration or anxiety.” When a1563986445_10I am at those events, I am a “spiritual Superman” who can get the job done. But then I leave those events and ultimately fall back into the cycle of sin and it is really frustrating. Ultimately, that part of my faith life is still very much a work in progress. How do I keep that “spiritual Superman” mentality when I am in a more secular environment?

Wow, it is crazy what one little moment in night prayer can inspire? I hope my little moment has inspired you in your faith and hopefully, you can find your little moments in life as well!

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Jacob Clore

Contributor

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You Are in the Song I Sing, You Are in the Melody I Play

Ah, music. How I love your notes, melodies, lyrics and all that jazz (pun intended). A lot of us have that one thing that we really feel passionate about, something that makes us really excited or happy or a whole bunch of emotions. For me, that thing is music.

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Photo Credit: Brenda Perez

Music is something that completes me. Without music, I feel my life would be like the minions without their boss in the Minions movie. I know, way out there reference.

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And on another level, music adds so much to my faith life. To hear people express their love of Christ, Mary, the saints, the Eucharist and many other faith-based topics in music is beyond amazing.

Now I know that the Mass is not all about music, but the music selection has the potential to add so much to it. Whenever I hear certain songs, like I am the Bread of Life or The Supper of the Lord (both of which I heard last Saturday), I feel so alive. I get that spine-tingling, heart leaping joy that helps me realize that God is there with all of us in the ceremony. We have another way to listen to God’s word, through song!

And you know the great thing about singing in the pews, who cares what you sound like? In the pews, everyone’s voice blends together into this sound of awesomeness. Even if your voice isn’t perfect (like mine) you can still let out your emotions and feelings for Christ in the Eucharist in a very special way. I mean, it isn’t a Gospel choir, but it is something special.

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I remember one time when I felt very connected to God through music. I was playing guitar a retreat during adoration, performing songs that I loved and hoped everyone else would love as well. I looked up for a good look after a few songs, and I saw some people kneeling with their eyes closed, singing their hearts out. I saw some sitting in the chairs with their hands out. I saw some standing hanging on to the chairs in front of them. Right there, I saw it. I saw that the music united people in their love of Christ. Needless to say, I had an amazing time performing music at that adoration.

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Photo Credit: http://deusnobiscum.com/online-adoration/

Bottom line is, I really hope that you find that something that makes you really feel connected to Christ. If it is music, then yay! Join the Newman Musicians and I at Virginia Tech! If it is poetry, be poetic! If it is painting, paint God a masterpiece! If it performing random acts of service all day, surprise us! Do whatever positive and morally sound act makes you feel connected God! I am sure he will be pleased with whatever work you make out of it!

Blog Profile Pic Jacob Clore – Editor and Contributor

“Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it… “ Mission POSSIBLE

Tom Cruise Dun dun, dundun dun dun, dundundun.
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It’s summer time! And you know what that means? Movies, of course!  My family has really gotten into film over the last several years, seeking out those masterpieces worthy of a nod from the Academy.  Now, Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible” is not necessarily the most artistic, most monumental piece of filmmaking (although Cruise’s stunts are rather epic), but it is certainly an all around entertaining film.

Not really spoiling anything, but Cruise’s character, agent Ethan Hunt and his unit in the IMF, take on ridiculous missions that, dare I say it, appear impossible.  Hence the name of the organization… the Impossible Mission Force.  Over the course of the several MI movies, Hunt and the team are given a mission and, indeed, make the impossible POSSIBLE.

I don’t know about you, but there are plenty of times over the course of the year, heck, life in general, where I have been tasked with something that I am convinced is completely impossible.  

Fix disorganized youth group? Impossible.

Senior Seminar paper? Impossible.

Student teaching? Impossible.

Moving out and living on my own? Impossible.

Starting my new job? Impossible.

LIFE? …. Impossible!

Megans Not Having it My “I can’t take any other impossible missions” face.

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

While I’m certainly no Ethan Hunt, I’m here to tell you that, guess what?  Nothing is impossible.  

Granted, I guess I should be honest here that I am preaching to the choir.  I still believe pretty strongly that it’s going to be very difficult for me to get through my first year of teaching, let alone life in general.  However, and I apologize for the cliché thought, but I also believe that nothing is impossible for God.

God loves us so much.  He does not give us anything that we cannot handle.  He has led us down the path that He has placed before us and equipped us with all of the tools that we require to get the job done.

It is difficult to trust in the amazing things that someone can do without communicating with them, so keep your relationship with Christ alive through prayer.  Personally, I feel extremely awkward about praying for myself… asking for graces to get me through the things that I struggle with.  But you know what? I got the clearest answer to prayer after a week long of deeply personal prayer.  Never feel weird to bring your problems or concerns to Christ, thinking He knows already.  Not only have I felt personal peace reflecting on it all, I know how much He wants to hear it all from me!

While we may not accomplish our tasks with the flair of Tom Cruise, a close personal relationship with Christ will ensure that none of our missions are impossible.

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IMG_1463 Megan Jones – Contributor

Adulthood: A Spiritual Guide (Because Being a Grown-Up Is Weird)

Hello friends!

So, we all remember middle school, yes? Of course, we don’t necessarily like to remember it at all, seeing as we were all awkward, hormonal, and wearing our clothes in all the wrong ways.  Becoming a teenager was all about re-establishing ourselves as the somebodies that everybody wanted to get to know, and we tried way too hard to do so. If you’re also cringing right now, I’m terribly sorry.

middleschool Me circa 2006. Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful.

Photo Credit: Lora Wilkinson

In past years, I’m sure we all used to see ourselves at 22, driving cars we could afford with well-paying, satisfactory careers to help us afford them.  We saw a bright light at the end of a dark, horrifying tunnel. As a 23-year-old, I can attest to the fact that that is most certainly not always the case.  In a way, I feel almost as if I’m in middle school again.  As someone starting their career and attempting to establish new relationships here in the area, I’ve been sort of feeling like a newborn giraffe – awkward and juvenile and not so sure how to find my footing.

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Just two weeks ago, I came to my spiritual director feeling incompetent and very far from myself, yet he quieted the chaos with a phrase so simple it could have smacked me in the forehead: “You’re in transition.”  It was like a spiritual V-8 commercial. And it’s true! For many of us, being in our early twenties means just recently graduating from college.  It means job searching and interviewing and trying to establish a name for ourselves with what little we have in our possession. It means moving to new places and making connections. It means not being taken as seriously at first. It means not always being sure you’re on the right track. It’s a hard knock life.

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So, where does God fit in with all of this?  The answer is simple. When life seems to go awry and we lose our peace of mind and spirit, evil attempts to kick us while we’re down. The confusion and unfamiliarity associated with one’s early twenties essentially creates a spiritual battleground for that very reason. It remains imperative, as it is during any other period of one’s life, to turn to the Lord during times of struggle and uncertainty.

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How can we survive (and conquer) what seems to be our second round of middle school?  In which ways can we integrate the Catholic faith into our time of transition?

Here’s how!

  1. The Mass

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. There is nothing in this world more apt or able to heal a troubled heart than the Word of God and the very manifestation of Heaven on earth in the Holy Eucharist.  Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati once said, “I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist table as often as possible, feed on this bread of the angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles.” In John 6:55-66, Christ himself declares, “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” What better way to involve Christ and obtain healing through Him than to actually consume Him at least once a week? There isn’t a better way. Fact.

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  1. Prayer and Devotional Time

Finding time to pray may become a challenge as life starts to look muddy, but it’s when life looks muddy that we need some Jesus. (We need him every other time, too, but you get me.)  It is extremely important to find time in your day to devote to prayer. Set a daily alarm, if it helps, and talk to God. Sing to God, even! He’s the best listener and doesn’t care if you sing out of tune. Best friend ever? I think so.

Spend time devoted to Our Blessed Mother, as well. Utilize your rosary as a weapon against sin and distress, even if that means working your way up from a decade a day. Invoke God’s saints and pray for their intercessions. You’ve got a whole slew of supporters who will pray for you! Turn to them!

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  1. Adoration and The Blessed Sacrament

When it comes down to maintaining relationships with others, we all know how beneficial it is to interact one-on-one.  We go out of our way to get in the car and travel, sometimes for several hours, to spend time with the people who are dear to us. Why should your relationship with Christ be any different?  Visit Him!

From a personal standpoint, I have experienced so much grace through my visits to the Blessed Sacrament and through Eucharistic Adoration. When I revere God in this way, I’m overcome with a great sense of peace, and the physical presence of God before me makes the problems that I’ve encountered seem merely trivial.  After all, “Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications” (CCC 2628).

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Photo Credit: Lora Wilkinson

  1. Confession and Direction

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” – St. Augustine

Dear friends, GO TO CONFESSION. I once spent a nine-year period without partaking in this sacrament, and to say I felt empty during that time is the understatement of the century.  In order for you to be completely open to receiving the Lord, you must be purged of your sins. And there is no better feeling than the lightness of a squeaky-clean, sin-free soul.  Christ died for you so that your sins may be forgiven! Do your part of the deal.

Another available service that I recommend is spiritual direction.  A spiritual director will converse with you in complete confidentiality about everything that goes on with you spiritually. Their role is to aid you in your faith formation and to assist where your spirituality is lacking, as it often is in your early twenties and during times of uncertainty.  A little bit of clarification goes a long way.
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  1. Your Catholic Community

After recently leaving campus life behind, I found myself feeling anxious.  I wanted to become more involved in the Catholic community. I wanted to go on retreats and volunteer to work them. I wanted to be part of a faith-filled community of people with whom I could relate.  I was already a part of the young adult ministry at St. Joan of Arc, where I am a parishioner, but I wanted to expand and delve into the community more, and I didn’t know how.  Through some pretty wonderful friends, I was able to become a part of the young adult community at Immaculate Conception, as well. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you all of this if not for my involvement in the community, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Don’t become a hermit (unless you’re pursuing the cloistered life, which is a beautiful and super cool vocation, so go you). As a young adult, networking should not be limited to your career. Find people who share your excitement for the Catholic faith who will serve alongside you and bring you closer to Christ.  Not only will this help you spiritually, but you’ll have friends, and friends are great.

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Photo Credit: Lora Wilkinson

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St. Catherine of Siena

Really, this is what it all boils down to. Middle school was rotten. Young adulthood can be just as rotten.  How you choose to embark on this journey will determine your success and your sense of peace as an adult.  Will you crumble when facing adversity, or will you allow Christ to catch you? We His faithful, despite the awkwardness and pandemonium we may encounter, must actively pursue Christ and avoid spiritual lethargy as we establish our lives and strive for direction in the big, bad, grown-up world.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.34.20 PM Lora Wilkinson – Contributor

Fellow Young-Adult Catholics: I Need Your Advice

A lot of us have siblings. Sometimes you love them with all your heart; sometimes you get really frustrated with them and “hate” them.

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Sometimes your siblings frustrate you on a much deeper level than the typical sibling conflicts. Sometimes, they don’t share the same religious views as you do. Well, I face that reality with my two older sisters, who currently do not practice the Catholic faith. I am a cradle Catholic; my mom was born and raised Catholic and my dad converted a few years after he married my mom. My family went to mass, my siblings and I went to CCD and junior/senior youth group; heck even my middle sister and I went on a few Catholic Heart Workcamps. However, my sisters ultimately made the decision to stop attending Church.

Long story short, my oldest sister stopped attending church when she went to college and my middle sister disagreed with the Catholic Church on many social teachings, so she left as well.

That leaves me. I still try to practice my faith with great zeal. I am active in my Catholic Campus Ministry where I participate in faith-sharing groups, mass music ministry and service trips. I also attend Mass on a weekly basis and heck, I even have a faith-based internship. On a relational level, I pray with God almost every night and read the daily scriptures to see what God might be trying to tell me on any given day. Needless to say, I try to be the best Catholic and Child of God that I can be.

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However, I often struggle with my faith in one aspect; evangelization. And I mean the talk about your faith evangelization, not the “do good works so everyone sees Christ in you” evangelization.

I am a people pleaser and I absolutely cannot stand the idea of people being frustrated or upset with me. I also tend to get really worked up and nervous when it comes to talking about intense topics like religion and politics, so I tend to remain silent.

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So what does all of this have to do with my siblings who no longer practice the Catholic faith? Well I always feel like I am failing in one aspect of my faith and that is somehow convincing my sisters to start practicing the Catholic faith again. Now I know that it is ultimately their choice whether they start practicing again, but I feel that it is my responsibility to at least talk to them about it.

But I can’t. I am so afraid of breaking the status quo and actually letting them know my thoughts. I am afraid of getting nervous while telling them or making them upset with me and creating a divide in our relationship. I know simply being a “Good Catholic” in front of them isn’t working, but I am fearful of actually talking to them about it.

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So I am looking to you, the readers, who have been in a similar predicament. How have you dealt with having siblings who do not practice the Catholic faith? Have you ever tried getting them to come back to the faith? Have you been successful? Because I sure do hope that I can be.

Blog Profile Pic Jacob Clore – Contributor and Editor

Olly Olly Oxen Free! Where in the World is He?

“Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Nowadays, I feel like this is all I am asking of the Holy Spirit cause I can’t seem to figure out where He has gone! Why does becoming an adult mean that I am in a perpetual game of hide-and-seek with our Lord?

Hide and Seek (Megan)

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As a 23-year-old recent college graduate, and nervous first-time teacher, I am also struggling to figure out where in the world my relationship with Christ has gone. Why does it seem that becoming an adult means that God has become more difficult to find?

I was a cradle Catholic, attended parochial school, was actively involved in campus ministry, and now am preparing to teach third grade at Catholic school. Doesn’t any of that magically grant me the secrets to spirituality?

Megan and Bro Aren’t my brother and I cute in our uniforms?

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Retreat after retreat, whether I attended or teamed, I heard everything there was to hear about who God is, how to pray, and what a relationship with Him ought to look like. However, when I’m in the real world, I lose sight and it becomes extremely difficult to stick to any sort of routine.

Those “small moments” where I do hear God answering a prayer or giving me a polite nudge to let me know He’s there, they feel like cheats… Like I don’t deserve them because I haven’t been dedicated enough.

Here I am, a trained teacher, preparing to teach children about the foundations of our beautiful faith, and I feel like fraud.

Trees (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Now, I realize I may be sensationalizing a tad. Yes, it may often seem like I can’t find Christ because I don’t “feel” anything—because I don’t feel His Spirit. However, as a local priest once preached at Sunday mass…

“Faith is more than a feeling.”

Faith is not measured by how much or what exactly we may inexplicably “feel.” Faith is truly believing in something greater than ourselves… Something that we cannot see, describe or truly understand.

Faith is an on-going learning experience as we ask questions and better discover who God is and what He is doing in our lives. Are we ever going to fully understand Him? No! Of course not. But I find supreme beauty in that.

As a teacher, I am called to encourage my students to inquire, ask questions and seek out knowledge. God is calling us to do the same things. Just like how we are always learning, even after the schoolbooks are away and all of the homework has been submitted…

God never stops revealing Himself to us.

Ok… So where exactly do I find Him?

Now, I never said it was easy, and I am certainly no expert…

As a Newport Newsian/Hampton Roadsian/CNU Captain, I have been able to seek and find the Lord in some of the following ways:

1. Music

Now, I have plenty of stories about profound spiritual experiences with music on a car ride or as a music minister, but I’ll save those for another post.

Music has always been a huge part of my prayer life. Whether at the mass, retreats, or praise and worship, I have found great solace in the beauty of music and the truth of lyrics. Sacred music is so special because of it’s deep connection to personal experiences, and best of all, scripture.

Bible (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Ever feel at a loss for a prayer before mass or any other moment? Try reading over the lyrics to one of your favorite hymns. I can’t tell you how many times I perused through the pages of Breaking Bread as a child, fawning over the words of classic tunes like “The Summons,” “Here I Am, Lord,” and “O God You Search Me” (all still favorites of mine to this day).

2. Quiet Prayer 

Now, I admit, I am terrible when it comes to praying on a schedule. Every time I dwell on it, I feel supremely guilty… Prayer is what keeps our relationship with Christ alive! Relationships cannot survive without communication.

In the gospel of Matthew, Christ tells us,

When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6 NAB

Quiet prayer is one of the most awkward, but by far the most rewarding things we can do to find and know God. There have been times that I have shut off the radio in my car (which, trust me, is almost impossible for me to do) on a long solitary car trip, and prayed out loud. Starting out, I feel ridiculous as I babble what’s on my mind and in my heart… but then it becomes one of the most freeing and worthwhile moments of my day. Sometimes I wind up in tears! There is something beautiful about that sort of awkward vulnerability.

An easier and less awkward option that I exercise with great frequency is to retreat to a quiet spot in nature; my favorite being the large tree near Lion’s Gate Bridge, a part of Noland Trail.

Lions Bridge (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Sigh… Isn’t it beautiful? I love retreating to this spot with my prayer journal, rosary, Shorter Christian Prayer, or guitar. Staring out at the water, I feel an immense amount of peace. My prayers are able to blossom from ones of adoration for God’s creation to those of petition, asking God for assistance and support in my life.

Haven’t been to the tree before? Try it! You won’t be disappointed.

3. Community

One of the biggest things that I have learned from youth ministry and campus ministry is that Christ is more easily found in community.

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20 NAB

The friends I have made in these communities of faith have not only kept me sane, but perpetually point me towards Christ and the path that He has laid for me. These friends have encouraged me, stood by my side, and lifted me up when I was down.Grace Bible (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

If I ever doubt our Lord, all I need to do is to reach out to any of these friends and they reveal to me His face and love once again.

Have any of these keepers? Rejoice! They are worth holding on to, connecting with, crazy Snapchatting… you name it! And when special events are going on in the area like Praise and Pints or Theology on Tap, grab them and head out to some special spiritual formation!

… and if all else fails?

If all else fails… luckily there’s a solution.

Where can we best find our Lord? Why that would be in the Eucharist of course!

Eucharist (Megan)

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Receive Him with an open heart at the Mass and fall to your knees in His presence. We are so blessed that our Lord has humbled Himself to join us here on this earth. Never take it for granted.

“Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

If I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn

And dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,

Your right hand holds me fast.”

Psalms 139:7-10 NAB

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS!

IMG_1463 Megan Jones – Contributor