Heroes

hero – noun he·ro \ˈhir-(ˌ)ō\
a :  a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b :  an illustrious warrior
c :  a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities
d :  one who shows great courage

I have long wanted to write out something about Heroes. It’s hard to wrap my mind around it and know exactly how to say it, but maybe you can fill in the missing pieces. You see, I’m very convicted that we live in an age of Heroes. Just like all the comic-book hero movies that have been coming out make us desire. I think that all times have seen Heroes, but ours has even more. Except, those who are offered super-human strength and abilities (think, Superman on this one), are…refusing it?

Wait, who doesn’t want to be a Superhero?? Isn’t a kid’s favorite question to everyone he or she meets: “If you could have one super power, what would it be?” Heck, even grown people like to throw that around to get conversation going and find out more about their friends. So, on the one hand, I am certain that people are being offered these super-human abilities, but I am also sure that many of them, possibly even most, are not taking them. Is it possible they just don’t know that’s what’s being offered to them?

Perhaps, like many fairy tales, superhero stories, and mystery thrillers, all is not as it seems. Before these superpowers can be claimed, there is usually a mysterious challenge, or test, to prove the warrior’s calling (Hercules, Mulan, Braveheart,  or St. Joan of Arc, for example). Perhaps the challenge will bring out weaknesses, insufficiency, doubts, and even just about break you. People will definitely misunderstand you, maybe even ridicule you, possibly even turn their backs on you completely. But then, at the very last moment, when all seems lost, you complete that life-defining act (or series of acts), and you are transformed into Hero.

The above formula of mysterious calling (often simply by force of circumstance), challenge, failing, and ultimately surprising completion of heroic act(s) (even if not fully recognized in your lifetime) and the succeeding impact on history, is the way we recognize heroes. If this doesn’t describe one for us, what does? If someone follows this series of movements with tenacity, we are struck with their greatness (even if they are not, which is another distinguishing mark of their heroism).

I wonder if it is clear then, why I profess to see Heroes all around us. That is, as I said, those who have begun their path to being true Heroes, but have somehow given up along the way, before completing it. And they could complete it; it is clear they have been marked with the calling, brought out from the normal routine of human life to stand apart in a challenging circumstance only a Hero could overcome. Is it then, they don’t want to be Heroes? But, isn’t that what everyone wants? Perhaps then, it’s just that they don’t realize they are on the Hero course. Perhaps they need to be told.

I remember trying to tell all the women who felt overwhelmed with unwanted pregnancies what they were being called to…most didn’t want to hear it, but those who listened, and met the challenge head on, are absolutely heroines.

Every time I hear of a man or women who has found a way to live a life of virtue and courage with Same Sex Attraction, that person is clearly a Hero.

When two people hold out for so many years struggling to mend an almost failing marriage, refusing to give up, and end up building a stronger relationship, I know those two people are Heroes.

Recently, it was in the news that a Armenian man would not give up his new born son who has Down Syndrome, though his wife threatened to divorce him. There is a Hero.

I’m reading now the autobiography of Malala, the girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out on women’s rights. This 15-year-old girl from a mountain village is sounding pretty ordinary and heroic to me so far…

There are so many easy ways to escape from the immense challenges that we may be confronted with today. There is this growing openness to anyone doing whatever they decide to do, and there are always people who will congratulate and support them on both sides of the decision. However, I believe that if more of the hundreds of thousands of people facing these decisions made the most difficult decision for the true good (for themselves and others) – likely bringing out all their weaknesses and fears, the ridicule and rejection of others, and almost breaking them – we would suddenly recognize how we are, even today, surrounded by Heroes.

Heroic Virtue

The performance of extraordinary virtuous actions with readiness and over a period of time. The moral virtues are exercised with ease, while faith, hope, and charity are practiced to an eminent degree. The presence of such virtues is required by the Church as the first step toward canonization. The person who has practiced heroic virtue is declared to be Venerable, and is called a “Servant of God.”

From the Heart

_MG_0664_2A few months ago I was seriously looking into the possibility of going to Haiti with my co-workers over Holy Week. I was in contact with the director of the volunteer home for the Missionaries of Charity and as I began explaining a little bit of the story of where I am and where I am coming from (mission wise), she asked if I had ever read “Kisses from Katie”, the story of the girl who moved to Uganda and adopted like 14 kids. That was actually my description of Katie, not hers, because that was what I remembered being struck by when I heard a bit of her story some years ago. It struck me right to the heart and I had always remembered her because I recall thinking, at the time, “that’s exactly what I want to do!! It really is possible!!”. I told the woman on the phone that and she said yeah, that’s why she mentioned it, she thought it sounded like I had the same spirit.

The Haiti trip never panned out, but I got that book. And just like “The Cross and the Switchblade” (which follows a pastor’s call to NYC and his mission here), I can’t seem to get through more than a chapter at a time without becoming completely overwhelmed by the zeal of the Holy Spirit as I feel I am reliving his call to me to come here over and over again in the life of a complete stranger. I really believe more than ever that God leads us all with the same Spirit, and though he moves us to different things, when he sends that deep, strong, irresistible calling to mission..boy is it the same Spirit at work! I start tearing up as I’m reading the pages of her struggle to follow the call, her torn up heart as she misses her family and friends and at the same time tries to embrace her new life, the unbelievably providential way God clears the path before her, and the realization that now this strange new land and unimaginable calling is more her home and her element that the place she spent all those years living, loving, and putting in roots before.

At one point she says that she believes living a Christian life does not make you invincible to error in significant decisions; that is, God isn’t always going to automatically make sure every step you take is in the right direction – we have choices, and sometimes we can choose things that are not his will, even if they are good things. That really struck me because while I feel the same Spirit coursing through my veins that she is writing about, and I identify exactly with the way God first compelled her to set forth on her mission, my life at this moment looks so very different from hers. I have to ask myself – have I let go of God’s mission for me bit by bit by choosing paths which were good, but easy, and missed those opportunities which would have truly kept me the very closest to him?

My heart still responds to Katie’s bursting home of 14 children and daily reliance on Divine Providence. I know how being too poor and inadequate to provide for all your needs makes you utterly dependent on God and gives you that exquisite opportunity of constant relationship with him. Having tasted, I see. Yet, now I have a nice apt. And I’ve been here a record 1 1/2 years. I have a job I love which is fairly comfy and will soon be starting another. I have all I need and all I want. Can this really be God’s plan for me?

Ah, but where exactly in the Bible does it say being happy is bad? And being safe and secure? What about being able to pay your bills each month and still have money left over? Is that not Christian? The very idea seems so silly and backwards. Yet, I think it is really quite difficult sometimes to find the truest way to live as a Christian while diving into our messy, secular world. Wealth and poverty, security and Divine Providence, exhaustion and laziness…where is the balance? Where is the Cross? Where is God?

Good thing it’s Lent – this always seems like the best time to delve into such penetrating questions. I feel like (and believe) that there is a lot more grace “floating around in the air” to help guide our minds and wills in the right direction during this season. And, it’s a good time to sit down and evaluate everything over again, since inevitably we have let some things slip again over the last 12 months. Lent is like my New Years for resolutions and “soul searching”.

Jesus’ words from the Mount – and really his whole message of the New Covenant – always get to the core of these questions I have over and over again. Even the words of Simeon over Jesus before he was old enough to speak himself: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Isreal, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

It’s all about the heart, really. I’m continually asking the wrong question first – the most important question is not about doing, it’s about the heart. God spoke to me about coming here 9 months before he actually put me here. If feeling a movement from the Spirit in your heart requires an immediate embodiment of that desire in your life in order to be considered faithful, then he would have transported me to NYC in August of 2010, not May of 2011.

God’s work begins, continues, and comes to completion in the heart. If we are where we are supposed to be there, then our feet will “automatically” (at least it feels like that sometimes…) go where they are supposed to go too. Sometimes, when we have those desires, our feet are not supposed to go anywhere. That can be the hardest. It just doesn’t make sense. St. Therese’s heart was to go to South America and be a missionary…she was a Saint! Why on earth did God not fulfill that desire he obviously put in her?? Yet the only thing he called her to move in response to that call was her hand, as she wrote to, and directed, missionary seminarians from her convent cell in France. Sometimes, a desire of the heart is only supposed to move the heart (to prayer, conversation, contemplation, etc). But, if our heart is in the right place, the rest of us will follow, in just the way it ought.

Dream big and pray bigger.

I Heart NY

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Last night is why I love New York.

1466093_10151991635416049_1087807394_nI was just reading an article about a photographer who goes around taking pictures of people in New York and asking them about their lives. His most life changing memory was when he spoke to an elderly woman in the pouring rain and asked her for what advice she had for people. She responded,

“I’ll tell you what my husband told me when he was dying. I said, ‘Mo, how am I going to live without you?’ And he said, take the love that you have for me and spread it around.'”

I think that perfectly describes our evening. I was planning to go into the City for a talk on The Art of the Beautiful (you can imagine it’s a topic of great interest to me), but the girlfriends I contacted had other plans and I was a little disappointed and apprehensive about going on my own. Nonetheless, I was unusually determined to make the trip. I just felt like I was supposed to go.

I arrive at the train station and buy my ticket, and suddenly a familiar face walks around the corner. It’s one of my good friends and she’s just as surprised to see me as I am to see her! We realize we’re going to the same place- she had planned to arrive after the talk, but had somehow gotten the time mixed up and had come to take the train then. 1476581_10151993192146049_706997307_n

We have a good time and the talk was very enjoyable. We meet up with another friend after and start walking through Greenwich Village, looking for something to eat. We are passing through Washington Square Park and we see “In Pusuit of Magic” spray painted on the ground. One of my friends goes, “If only that said ‘In Pursuit of Beauty’, that would be perfect.” I told her we are definitely on the same wavelength ;).

As we’re heading down the sidewalk, we see a few signs set up along the fence advertising “Free Conversation” in permanent marker on cardboard signs. The “conversationalists” were seated with visitors on inflatable couches, apparently enjoying each other’s company. One friend was intrigued and started up a conversation with them. Before we know it, we’re trying out the couch (quite comfy!) and meeting other New Yorkers. When we asked why they were doing this, they responded, “Why not?”. We stayed for a little while and then continued on our way.

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After a few blocks, there is some kind of commotion on the corner ahead and some police, including police on horseback, seem to be surrounding or escorting some very rich looking people in a black car. Hmm..we didn’t recognize them as any celebrities we knew. One more block and there’s some $1/slice pizza. Perfect. They get just one slice, but I get two. The hole-in-the-wall place is overflowing with satisfied customers.

We step outside and suddenly our attention is caught by a commotion across the street. We’re just in time to see a little guy (Eminem type) deliver a solid blow to a bigger guy and then run off down the street yelling. The big guy is lying on the ground motionless…not sure if it’s from the blow or alcohol. Pretty soon the police show up and the policemen on horseback (yup) take off to look for the assailant. Not one of the prouder moments of the big city scene.

We walk around the block to try a bar my friend recommends, but as I’m one slice behind them, we can’t go in until I finish. The bouncer lets us wait to the side and as they are waiting patiently with me, they start up a conversation with him, asking about life, people, New York. He opens up to us and we find out a little about him. Apparently this anonymous bouncer-by-night is a kick-boxing instructor from Brooklyn named Apollo. After the girls and I head in and enjoy some catching up, he says goodbye to us as we’re leaving and sincerely asks us to come back again.

It’s getting late, so we head towards the train, several blocks away. As we’re getting close, an Englishman (I call him that because he was quite the dashing gentleman), came up and started asking us for directions. We tell him he can take the 6 train to Grand Central and he says, “Grand Central? Like THE Grand Central?? Oh, I’m definitely going to do that. I’ll get some pictures there!” (all in a British accent, of course.)

1460172_10151991552386049_350012864_nAfter we stop for a coffee, we get on the Subway for the first leg of our homeward journey. We get on the train and soon the girls realize that the guy with a skateboard and knit hat standing across from them looks incredibly similar to Harry from One Direction (British boy band). My one friend starts trying to take candid shots of him with her phone in her lap and cracking up the girl sitting next to her, who looks like she had never been so entertained on the subway in her life. The other friend is telling the guy who he looks like. His response is something like, “One Direction? What’s that?…What is it? One Man Direction?” She asks him if he’s flattered that he looks like a famous guy in a boy band and he says, ” Not really…”. haha

1471969_10151991565871049_975238068_nWe get to Grand Central and see that it’s all lit up for something (coming holidays?). Then, we get on the Metro North to head home. Towards the end of our ride, a group of girls get on and they sit just in front of us and start enthusiastically discussing the lives of the celebrities pictured on the front of their People Magazine. We’re trying not to laugh at the candid, Bronx-esque opinions, but then, at a picture of Prince Harry, one goes, “Ewww his teeth are so yellow” and another responds “Yeah, that’s because those people don’t believe in brushing your teeth and all that s—.” totally serious and we couldn’t hide our faces anymore. “They’re laughing at us! Look at them, there definitely laughing at us!” the girls started saying. As we were getting up for our stop we started talking to them and they showed us the pictures they were looking at to prove their point. Love Bronx girls.

To finish up the night, our friend drives us home booming to Taylor Swift’s “Mean” booming with the windows rolled down (at 1am).

Life is good. Because God is good.

One of my friends, after our many encounters and conversations, put it well:

“People are searching for God. They are so drawn to him [in us].”

They are craving him, and when he uses us to draw near to them, we are most truly living our calling. That’s why I love New York.

* All the photos here are from my friend who had her iPhone ready last night.

“I’m thankful for the Guinea Pigs…and everything else I forgot to say I’m thankful for. Amen”

I walked into work the other day and my coworker said, “Today, we are not going to complain about the heat.” I said, “Why do you have to ask such impossible things!” 95 degrees outside and our building isn’t air-conditioned. It’s amazing though how much room there is for being thankful when the complaining gets momentarily stifled. Ironically, one of the things I am most thankful for is the sun..and all the brilliant and beautiful ways it streams into our lives..all the things light is capable of doing. Also for clouds..they are so amazing and magnificent sometimes.Image

I’m thankful for color (all the ones we can see and the ones we mysteriously can’t see). For adorable baby animals, the intricacy of flowers, the strength of people who have overcome difficult circumstances, and the way water looks like glass when it’s perfectly still..like you really could walk on it, straight across.

I’m thankful for pet peeves that drive me absolutely crazy and consequently teach me about my own ridiculousness and utter lack of patience, right when I think I am doing so well! I’m thankful for people who get on my nerves and teach me how much more there is to life than being comfortable and in control. I’m thankful for summer because suddenly people are driving with their windows down and their music obnoxiously loud (at the stop light..) and somehow it just makes me love life even more.

Most of all, I’m thankful for my life. I am eternally grateful that it has not been normal, predicable, stable, sensible, or understandable. Not that I don’t shake my fist about it sometimes..but that’s the whole point. Being all those things means there are certain difficulties and difficulties lead to learning and growth and understanding. Also, difficulties -> suffering -> Cross -> Resurrection -> eternal Life. That’s why I’m eternally grateful..it’s that simple and that awesome.

So, basically, I am thankful for my abnormal life. Here are a few reasons why.

-Hundredfold: Seriously, people. It’s a Scripture verse for a reason. God’s not just throwing happy thoughts out there.  And yes, it’s tangible. He says anyone who gives up father, mother, brothers, sisters…will receive a hundredfold in return. I have a lot of siblings, so this might be difficult..Ooo, not for God. He has brought a special family into my life at every unique time I’ve needed one, all around the world, and I’ve not forgotten any of them. Even my friends.. I don’t even know how to begin to describe the diversity of blessings they’ve been to me. They’ve dared and defied and been strong in their lives, so that we have been able to build each other up in every way that counts.   

-Spoiling: My father is the most important man in the world to me and he gave me so much, in many ways. But my Father in heaven seems to find such great joy in spoiling me with my heart’s every desire (and he’s all-powerful, plus a mind reader, so…). Like the time I told him (like a spoiled child) that if he really loved me, he would get me a really nice camera. 6 months later I was holding my very own Canon T1i in my hands. Or the time I said, you know, my old car was nice, but coups kind of annoy me. Now I have a four-door…with a sunroof (even I wasn’t gonna ask for that). Even the time recently when I was feeling down and suddenly noticed a quarter on the floor in front of me. I thought, if this was put here on purpose, it would be marked for me…it had my birth year on it. There are so many ways he has told me, but most can’t really be described..they are just unmistakable.

-Bling: Low income, long hour, service jobs are really my favorite. I also like volunteering and working with poor people. As a result, I’ve been able to visit 6 countries (yes, Canada), have a nice car, pay for school, have my second MAC, and have an apartment in NYC (not Manhattan..let’s not get too crazy). All I can say is, you give God an inch and he gives you a mile. There is no outdoing him. Some people I’ve met think my lifestyle is crazy…maybe something to do with the low income, no health care, and somehow living in NY, but…I think I would be crazy to trade this life for a 9-5 with health care, saving hard for retirement. Would that kind of job be sending me to Rome next month? Just sayin’. It’s not like it’s me anyway though. Like I said, I have a Sugar Daddy who happens to run the Universe. 

Image-Family: Along with my abnormal life, I am unbelievably thankful for my ‘abnormal’ family. You guys are the best! You inspire me all the time. I won’t mention names, since this is the open web, but everyone who knows you will know who you are. Obviously this kind of openness to the unusual starts with the courage of our parents, who also had to endure the difficulty of being “different” so many times. For that I cannot be thankful enough.

Brother #1: Sheesh, what an example of humility and honesty. Also, life has taken you for quite a ride (you definitely beat me in out of state schools, though maybe not # of schools over all..) and you’ve gone with it, even though it’s against your nature. Keep being that strong example wherever God puts you. 

Brother #2: I like how you went out and kind of got your butt kicked and really let it make you stronger (and didn’t let everything you were up against pull you down with it). You’re a Marine and you have possibly been to more countries than I have, so you’re definitely out of the mold..for lots of reasons. Stay that way. 

Sister #1: Girl, you’re crazy. You’re such your own person, I don’t know exactly what you’re gonna do, but I’m sure it won’t be just one thing. You’re taking everything as it comes, plus doing amazing on standardized tests, traveling the world, and being gentle and patient with everybody. You’re great and you definitely inspire me! Thanks for being abnormal.

Sister #2: Yeah, you’re so abnormal that you won’t even read this cause you don’t have regular access to internet anymore. Plus, you’re in Brazil to see the Pope with the aforementioned crazy sister. First you skip the country, then you give away everything to the poor (ie your family) and give up your dreams of cosmetology and fashion to cut your hair short and wear the same outfit for the rest of your life. Girrrl..you cray cray! You’re awesome.

Brother #3: Um..last I heard you wanted to be an Alaskan fisherman? Or was it still a hobo? So..yeah..you are excelling in craziness as far as I can tell. Good work! Also, if you are trying to make it to countries none of us have been to yet, we left a lot of interesting ones…I’m sure you’ll have stories..

I can’t wait to see where the Lord takes all of you. In whatever way you follow him, your life will not be average. All of the Saints were rebels in one way or another and these days it takes everything you have to fight this fight.

It was actually from my family that I got the title for this post. (Speaking of abnormal..) There was a period in our formative childhood years when we had Guinea Pigs kept in what was previously a large fish tank and when we would sit down to say prayers at night, listing all the things we were thankful for, they would often chime in, rather loudly. So, being the honest little children that we were, we would sometimes say (or at least think), that what we were most thankful for at that moment was our little furry friends squealing in the most hilariously distracting way behind us.

We had a fabulously crazy cousin who taught us the convenient catch-all phrase that our parents only let us get away with for a limited number of rounds, which I think nicely sums up my feelings in this post,

“aaand…everything thing else I forgot to say I’m thankful for. Amen!”

 

A Father Who Keeps His Promises

Not long ago when I was visiting home I remember telling a friend that I couldn’t wait until I could write a post to say I finally have a job and an apartment. I didn’t know what that day would look like, but I had to believe it would happen. Well, I am writing this from my new apartment (we’ve been here for almost a month now) and tomorrow I’ll be back at work at my job of nearly two months. God is good! (It’s so easy to say that once things have worked out the way we wanted.)

There were a number of false leads leading up to this job and house, but God seems to prefer to do things that way instead of making it easy and straight forward. haha. How would we be able to grow if we were never challenged? And how would we be able to grow the leaps and bounds we have to in order to become saints without really big challenges? (Not saying mine were on that scale, but just trying to keep things in perspective.) As each new job possibility opened up I tried to adjust my desires to fit it and eventually hoped it would become a reality. The idea of making a comfortable amount of money always had it’s pros and cons for me. I’ve just never really thought that being that comfortable or well off was what God had in store for me (and I am mostly thankful for that), but to most people that looks like responsibility, so I thought maybe God was bringing me to a point of being more “responsible” and preparing for the future (which we always seem to expect to be expensive). In the end though, the job he had in store for me was a much better fit for who I am, what I want to do, and my desire for poverty and simplicity. Thanks to the support and ongoing generosity of a beautiful Italian family God has blessed me with here, at long last I got a job – at their deli in the South Bronx. (Ironically, it’s only a couple blocks from Dr. Emily’s, the abortion clinic we sidewalk counseled outside of with EMC and which we still sometimes go to pray at.)

I’m not going to pretend the deli fits me perfectly personality wise…loud, fast, and efficient under pressure seem to be pointedly missing in my DNA. Nonetheless, I enjoy the work there a lot. I like to be on street level with the people. It makes me uncomfortable to think of being in a cozy, computer dominated, climate controlled building all day, making enough to consider not wasting my time with the subway. I like to be on my feet, interacting, meeting the people who amaze me with their dedication to the daily grind in order to pay their bills and support their families. At some point in my life I may have zealously asked God to give me a position where I can just sweep floors and wash dishes for hours…I think he gets a kick out of answering prayers like that (last I checked it takes at least an hour to get through those dishes when the sink is full). Yet, I still enjoy it. It’s good, honest work, my coworkers are great, and the people who come in…keep my life so interesting. :)

The apartment search went on and we hoped we weren’t asking for too much to have low rent, a place near where we already are, and a house rather than an apartment building. Well, one day I come home from work and my landlady says, I think I have found you an apartment! And here we are. He gave us discounted rent on her reference, it’s the upper story of a lovely new duplex and it’s 1/2 a block away from where I was (across the street from two of our friends). Crazy. But, we already knew that about Him. ;)

So, those things are great blessings, just what I was looking for, but He didn’t stop there. At the same time as the job came together, I got another offer. A friend recently became director of a CCD program at a parish the Bronx (this is the same friend who owns a bus company and helped us start The Catholic Pulse). He wanted me to help him out with it and also help start a youth group in the area. Mostly that means I do graphic work on flyers, brochures and websites and work on planning service trips. As it turns out then, one day a week I work with him and teach CCD and the other 4 I work at the deli. And there’s more. I still have evenings and weekends unaccounted for. These same people (Domenick -from the Italian family above and co-founder of The Catholic Pulse with me-, and Ralph -owns the bus company and is the CCD director) are also now working on a new Evangelization project. This one is a large property formerly used by the Legionaries of Christ. It’s up in Thornwood (Westchester County) and before the Legion it was an IBM training facility (or something like that). So, it’s big. 200 some rooms, 200 some acres of property. The project is to turn that into a hub of Catholic activity and formation. It needs a buyer, since the Legion can’t cover the costs anymore, but in the meantime we are trying to put it to the best use (and praying someone will buy it for us). It’s called Our Lady of Thornwood Center for the New Evangelization. Here is the website: http://www.ourladyofthornwood.com. Where I come in is again, grapic design (the website for example).

We are starting up programs there as well though, not just hosting them. So, our most recent is Friday Night Live; and evening for youth and adults. Sports, games, catechism, and prayer for the Youth and a separate track for the parents. They set up a small cafe with snacks and asked me to manage it…a very interesting twist of fate (okay, Divine Providence for you Catholics ;) considering I was the cafe manager of a youth center for two years back home. And yes, this is a youth center. A fully equipped gym with an upstairs cafe, large game room, and smaller video game/meeting room. Deja vu. We had our first night on Friday and there was a small, successful turn out. Prayers going forward!

I apologize that this update was a long time in coming and as a result is long.

Here is a verse I like: “Let your life be free from the love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5

God bless your work!

Marnee

A Sense of Wonder

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Fourth of July, Sunset Over Hudson

(This is a deviation from my normal post style, since it’s purely a reflection, but it inspires me sometimes to think about God and life in this way, so I thought I’d share it.)
 

Recently, I was thinking about the kids I babysit for and what it is about children that I feel I can so uniquely identify with compared to much of the modern world and so many adults. It seems to be something in the way that I can ponder and discuss some of the vast mysteries of the world (and universe) and know that just as they captivate my imagination and instill in my heart such wonder, so will they have the same effect on, for instance, my 5 year-old charge. Then it hit me. That which may cause my mind to feel apart from so many (perhaps making me seem a bit out-of-touch at times) and which allows me to share the mind of a simple child yet to reach the age of reason is just that: embracing that pure sense of wonder.

In an age of digital worlds customized to our desire for instant gratification, we have shifted our gaze from the great, glorious and beyond, to the near, nice, and attractive. How much we have given up! In effect, we have taken our sights from the lofty heights of mountain tops and brought them to the level and depth of our computer screen (or the ipod in our lap).

And how can we marvel at our disconnect from God, who is wonderful (full of wonder)? He made these awesome (awe inspiring) realities which precede us and proceed us by so much longer than it takes an outdated PC to start up. Our personal world has become small and limited, much too small for a God who is larger than time and space. And we think we have broadened our horizons…perhaps we have only made them less pixelated.

Of course, I am not calling technology the anti-christ. I am not even trying to attack the digital age; only the unfortunate perspectives it may have caused us to embrace.

It’s not that we should feel sorry for God or something; as if he is up there getting depressed because we don’t care about the sunset he just put so much time into. In fact, he didn’t put any time into it at all…none of his work takes what we would call “effort”. Rather, perhaps we need to recognize how sorry we should feel for ourselves for allowing our vision to become so limited. God’s creation is not the result of hard work, but of pure love. And that is why it was made for us and our good. And that is why pure hearted children grasp it so easily and eagerly (no, I’m not trying to imply I am as pure hearted as a small child…working on it ;).

We are no less desirous of love, beauty and eternity. God offers us all we seek to fill our mind, our eye and our heart, but we look for these things now not from him, who knows us, but from ourselves, who are using these very means to find out who we even are. An endless spiral: searching for our greater purpose but never leaving our own minds.

Are we too far gone for hope? That’s not the right question to ask. Ask first of God: am I too far gone for hope? And he will answer: certainly not. And then go climb a mountain.

“Learn From the Way the Wildflowers Grow…”

I apologize for the month long cliff-hanger from the last post. It seems every time I go to write something there appears to be a new development on the horizon and so I think: oh, I should wait until after that happens to write a post. I’m apparently still not fully accustomed to the ever changing pace of life here which is likely not to cease anytime soon. :)

My family and I had a good and somewhat adventurous time driving from Michigan to North Carolina to New York just after I wrote. When we arrived here, I still didn’t have a place to live. Just a day before they were scheduled to head back to Michigan, I went to my house to finish packing up my things so that they could load them into the van and drive me back to our Great Lakes State. When I arrived I stopped to chat with my land lady and filled her in on my plans. She informed me that they were not going to kick me out….if I didn’t have a place to stay yet I could have a bed there (but of course they would appreciate me finding a place as soon as I was able). So, that’s what I did. I had some good leads on other places, because I am not eager to take advantage of their incredible generosity, but all have fallen through at this point.

When I got back I was informed that the babysitting job I had was no longer available. However, within a week they asked me to cover a day and then said that the replacement they thought they had wouldn’t work out so they wanted to offer me the position after all. A big blessing and also big relief. Now I just have to focus on the living situation.

God is immensely good, all the time. I have my fill of frustrations, confusions, and moments of speechless non-comprehension when it comes to what he’s doing with this life of mine, but things always seem to go best when I just throw up my hands and stop trying to take over the helm. It really strikes me as a kind of insanity the way I persistently try to control the path of my life. Who do I think I am? Can I even see all the components involved in orchestrating some grand plan for my life, much less knowing how to make sure they all work out perfectly to achieve my subjectively superior result? I really crack myself up sometimes, the way this limited little mind wants to think it can run the world like God. He must get such a kick out of it. All the time…

So, life is happier and simpler and so much easier when I cluelessly let him lead it, but it also requires such large amounts of patience, trust, and hope, which I constantly find in short supply. Praise God for his beautiful gifts of Faith and Friends he prepared for me here. Such incredible people that I can’t thank him enough for, keeping me grounded and reasonable through everything. Also leading me constantly back to the Lord in prayer. We have a lovely parish within walking distance and it just never gets old to feel like I’m making a mini pilgrimage every time I walk to Mass. There are also a number of young adult activities in the Archdiocese this summer that I have been attending with friends, along with events we are in the process of planning closer to home for the fall and beyond.

The Catholic Pulse is continuing to do well. Nothing too eventful in the near future but God is still leading us to make connections and consider new projects. That’s all in his hands. I’m not worried, it’s His mission.

God bless you in your work and have a happy summer!

Marnee

Peaks and Valleys

Since the last post God has been hard at work, as usual. New things popping up out of nowhere on a weekly, or even daily, basis. At the same time, things have remained fairly quiet and hidden. At least to me. Sometimes I think of God as a skilled craftsman hard at work: the more urgent and intricate the work, the more quiet and intense he becomes, barely taking time to look up from his project and converse with those anxiously waiting on the results.

No long after writing, we had the pleasure of seeing our business officially turn into an LLC. Very exciting times for us. Then we set up a business bank account. Sometimes just the name of our business in itself is a tool for evangelization. We hardly have to say what we are about, only say we’re “The Catholic Pulse” and there’s no hiding who we are. Found out the reps who set up our account at the bank are Catholics..got a little bit of their stories. God is good. After that, we take each step as it is revealed to us. We put together a snazzy brochure and hit the road to connect with all the parishes in our area. One of them was ready to take us up on our offer to help and two months later they had a Theology of the Body speaker for young adults come, which turned into plans for a TOB study over the summer. We are so thankful for those pastors who have the zeal and energy to put good ideas into action without hesitation.

We helped out with a youth conference last month and were able to meet a lot of great people from parishes around the city. That led to a great connection with some dynamic people planning a benefit event in the middle of this month…and so on. God is opening doors for us and also giving us lots of opportunities for learning and humility. A local parish has let us use their old school for our offices and with the whole building open to our use, we are hoping to put some plans into effect that will utilize it’s space to the fullest potential for God’s work.

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There are all sorts of plans and ideas in process, but from experience we learn not to adhere too strongly to our own predications. Still, I think God’s plans are even bigger than ours. We were quite astonished at one of his most recent ideas. Offically, this business was founded by myself and a friend from the Bronx, Domenick Canale. Domenick recently got his application accepted for a new initiative for the Church called ‘Catholic Voices’ (their purpose is to train faithful Catholics to be able to dialogue with the media about important issues facing the Church), and attended a training weekend to find out if he would be a good fit for the team. In the meantime, while we wait for those results, he was contacted by The National Catholic Register for an interview about the training. In the interview he mentioned The Catholic Pulse…and it was included in the article. You can read the whole article on their site, here. Didn’t see that one coming…but then, big things are just as easy for God to do as little things.

Lots of blessings. One of which was the generosity of my landlords in allowing me to stay on with them (and rent free) for so long. The time has come to move on though, as they have understandably decided not to take on boarders any longer. Right after that I left to come home for an extended visit for a friend’s wedding. This means that by the time I get back in NY I have to have a new place to live. That is going to be in about 10 days…and I still don’t have a place lined up. What can I say? This scenario isn’t so new to me. :) But it still tests my faith as strongly as ever. I may just need a place for the next couple months and then I’ll have other options, but that seems to make it harder, as many places are looking for longer commitments. Along with that, I am still looking for a (paying) job, to cover potential rent. I found a part-time position babysitting before I left and that may take care of things at least for the summer. If you could say a prayer! Maybe not so much that God work something out (because he surely has a plan), but that I have the faith that he will. After all he’s done you’d think I’d have learned my lesson and stopped worrying…but no. haha

Well, here we are between the feasts of the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi. Great things and many graces are certainly all around us. Thank you for your prayers and support! I need them all even after a whole year of being in the streets of New York City.

In Christ!

Here Comes Love

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ImageThis one is coming during what feels like quite simply a “Peacetime” after the intense past 10 months. Today actually marks the 10 month anniversary since I first met up with EMC in person last May. A friend recently remarked that this is the time when people usually decide whether they love or hate New York: between 6 and 12 months. If they love it, they stay for a while, if they don’t, they leave. When he wanted to know where I stood, I said, well, I felt from the beginning that I would be here long term, liking it didn’t really have much to do with it and still doesn’t. If God wants me here, I stay here. Honestly though, as I usually tell people, it’s growing on me and has been for the past few months, so I’ve come a long way since May. I still miss Michigan, and all those that includes, and the mere mention of dirt roads makes me overly nostalgic, but in the end I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. I guess it comes back to all or nothing for me, as I’ve surely mentioned before, and this is the all for me.

I left a cliff hanger or two in the last post and I didn’t want to resolve that until I had a better idea of how things were going to go. Surprise, surprise, God doesn’t usually give me a 10-point game plan for me to nicely lay out. And somehow I love him even more for it, lol. But, for those of you who I haven’t already talked to about it, I can give you a pretty good idea of what we’re working on. I tell you this because it’s exciting, we believe it’s God’s work, and as always we need so many prayers.

A couple friends and I are working on starting a new organization focused on evangelization and faith formation in the greater NYC area (starting near us, in the Bronx and lower Westchester Co.). We are calling it The Catholic Pulse (after soo much prayer and deliberation) and the name has proven apt without fail. It arose from a few minds individually surveying the landscape of the Church in the City and seeing an incredible lack of zeal, formation, and activity. The question then was how to best help the parishes and youth groups to grow and thrive. A big part of that is bringing parishes and resources together to build up the Catholic community God intended us to be. Simply put, we are acting like a Catholic consulting group for parishes to identify their needs and find ways to meet them.

Two recent examples: A parish wanted to reach the youth after Confirmation, specifically about hot topics they are facing, but they were spread out among various high schools. The plan we came up with together was to get a Chastity speaker to come in for an event and if it was successful to implement a Theology of the Body curriculum and create a regular youth group.

The other is a youth group that was resurrecting but didn’t have an official youth minister or structure. We talked about it and all simultaneously felt inspired to use one of our own members who has a great passion and gift for youth to take over and lead the youth group. It was meeting twice a month and now we are getting weekly attendance and beginning plans for trips, etc. This girl took the position knowing she wasn’t promised any money, while she was unemployed, and the night we met she got a call that a local restaurant wanted to hire her as a waitress. The proof of God’s hand in our life and work is astonishing and undeniable.

So, things are moving along but we are all learning an incredible amount trying to make it happen and at times it feels things are going so slow. I almost laugh now saying that, considering the first time we even met about it was only 2 1/2 months ago and all those things have happened already in that short amount of time. If you like visual better, here is our website in progress: www.thecatholicpulse.com. We have some exciting developments and connections in the works but it’s almost impossible to predict how God is going to guide things.

On another note, I am currently on hiatus from EMC. That is where the “Peacetime” sense comes from. As good as the work is, the difficult aspects of working for the organization are incredibly stressful. I did go down to part-time as I mentioned in the previous post. Now, I have said I would go back in April for a certain amount of hours in order to wind everything up, but for the moment I enjoy keeping that at arms length and focusing on other things. Life feels like a retreat right now, and what better time than Lent for that? It’s perfect. I am able to slowly return to peace, quiet, prayer – all those great and important things. I find it a double blessing because at the same time that it is a long awaited break, I know that it is also a time of preparation for what is to come. Though I don’t think it will drain me in the same way as the past several months, it will undoubtedly have it’s own unique trials and lessons. Praise God.

In early February I went home for a visit to see my siblings who had been out of the country (one in Ireland doing mission work and the other in Afghanistan as a Marine).  My sister has now joined the Religious Order she was working with in Ireland, which is the same one I missioned with in Argentina. She is actually closer to me in NYC now because the convent is in Maryland. To add onto that blessing, she will even be in the Bronx all next week helping with a local parish mission! I can’t be thankful enough for all the connections to friends and family back home God has allowed me to maintain.

Spring is coming and so is Easter so in many respects there are great new things soon to come. It feels as though a great wave of the Holy Spirit is about to come through and, as is the case of the Universal Church, I’m sure it is not isolated to this tiny area of the world. God bless your Lenten journey!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!