Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Notes from Prayer: I Can't Save Anyone

In the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples ask, "'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For men, this is impossible, but for God all things are possible,'" (Matt. 19:23-30).

About two months ago, I was praying in the lower chapel of St. Paul's, asking God to prepare my heart to serve the students that I was about to meet for the first time. I had just left the comfort of my family home to move to Boston, Massachusetts in order to begin serving as a FOCUS missionary at Harvard. Over the summer, I got a lot of positive feedback about my decision to answer God's call to serve as a missionary. I was and am very flattered by the compliments, but sometimes the content of the compliment didn't sit well. Some people would say something along the lines of, "Wow! Go save some souls!" and I would seldom know how to respond. When I read this Gospel passage that day (and keep in mind that it was the end of the summer), this is what came to mind:

We, as missionaries, do not save anyone. If we think of life as a pool, we are not the lifeguard, but rather, we are the lifeguard floatation tubes: we are instruments and we are symbols and, when we do our jobs well, we point to the True Savior, the ultimate Lifeguard.

What good is a tube that breaks? How helpful is the buoy that floats away from the one who saves? It is only when a lifeguard can employ the tube as it was made to be employed that it can have any part in saving a life because a floatation device has no inherent saving power. Any trained lifeguard is MORE THAN capable of saving a drowning swimmer without tools; how much more true is this for the all-powerful, ever living God?

We are called to bear witness to God, to point to Christ always and to be moved and animated by God, who rescues all. My prayer became more specific following this realization:

"God, please draw me closer to You and allow me to be a helpful instrument of your Love." 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Greatest Of These Is Love

Typical Ave Maria sunset... Not too shabby, eh?
This summer I spent 5 1/2 weeks in Ave Maria, FL with 400 fellow missionaries at New Staff Training for our temporary vocation as FOCUS missionaries. For those of you who have never visited this booming metropolis, Ave Maria, which is about 40 minutes east of Naples in SW Florida, reminds many of its visitors and residents of the sets of Pleasantville or The Truman Show.

Despite the idyllic setting, most of the missionaries I know (including Yours Truly), experienced at least one spiritual crisis during our time there, because we realized how cluttered and chaotic and imperfect the "streets" of our interior lives were. About three weeks into training, I spent 5 days panicking because reflection and prayer had led me to realize my shortcomings, not only in loving others, but in accepting love from God and His children here on earth.

As human beings, we are made in the image and likeness of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Catholic teaching describes the Holy Spirit as the fruitful communion between God the Father and God the Son: the transcendence of love between the Father and the Son is so great that it is its own person: the Holy Spirit. 

I began to understand Love as God made it, as the full gift of self and full receipt of another. For my adult life I had focused on how to best give love, but I had actively rebuffed others' attempts to give their love to me. My insistence to give but not receive was reflected in my relationship with God, and my eyes were finally opened to the things in my life that I had withheld from Him. By refusing to receive His Love in parts of my life and heart that I thought were ugly, unfit, and in need of improvement before I could show them to the Lord, I was actively withholding my Love from Him and from others. 

1 Corinthians 13:3 says, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but do not have love, I gain nothing." There I was, about to give up control over at least 2 years of my life  in service of God, realizing that if I didn't make a change in my life, it would all be for naught. 

Only in opening my heart to God and others, in loving and allowing others to love me, will the mission I have been called to by God be fulfilled. There is no other way. The broken heart that is open to the Love of Christ is the heart that will be healed; it will radiate with particular light that invites others to discover the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  

Since that week of crisis in training, the Lord has opened my eyes to His greatest gift, which is an essential part of our human experience; Love changes lives. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta humbly reminds us, "Not all of us can do great things; only small things with Great Love."

"And these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love," (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Harvard '14-'15: Loving through Laughter since June 2014

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Life is Very Good... (Ask Me Why)

(I do not own this)
In a recent trip down memory lane, I recalled a day in 10th grade when our teacher introduced us to a brief version of the Myers-Briggs Personality test.

One question in particular stood out to me: Do you prefer to travel the world or stay close to home? Internally, I immediately replied, “Travel the world, duh!” But then I began to consider how worn out I got when I spent the whole day out of the house, or how anxious I would be entering an unfamiliar place without my parents or sisters as allies. “But I don’t want to be a homebody!” I cried out in my mind.

As a fifteen year-old young woman, I was restless and unsatisfied with my suburban reality. I truly believed that my life would be a dreadful waste if I didn’t get out and go! I firmly resolved to travel extensively and accomplish A LOT. I wanted to be one of the “key terms and people” in the index of a history or science textbook, because that was the only surefire way I knew I would have done something worthwhile with my life. This desire was prideful, and it was mostly born of profound insecurity and empty intrinsic self-worth.

Six years later, my life is exciting and fulfilling everyday; I travel to exciting places regularly, and I am blessed to have many wonderful close friends. I graduated on time from a well-respected university, where I established a great reputation as a Psychology research assistant. Plus, I’m employed, and am finally moving to Boston after 10 years of dreaming about living there. Life is Very Good!

Life is Very Good, but contrary to what I believed in high school, nothing that I just listed is what makes my daily life fulfilling or satisfying. At 15 I was under the impression that doing a lot is what would give my life meaning. I woke up each morning and labored to earn my place on the planet. I had a pleasant life, but I lived in fear that taking time to rest would invalidate me. I wanted to be the best at something -- at everything -- not for bragging rights, but so I could be sure that I wasn’t wasting everyone’s time or space. I ran and ran and ran until I could run no more, and I was forced to rest.

Photo credit: Pat Dunford
In a state of fitful exhaustion, I encountered Jesus Christ in His Church. This encounter was a crossroad: I could keep living as I had been, or I could embrace the reality of God with all of my heart. When I found rest in the Lord, I finally saw how my life is His amazing gift to me. My worth was a permanent gift that had already been freely given. God created me; I am His daughter, and as His daughter I can neither earn nor lose the worth with which He created me. God let me empty myself out for 20 years so that one day I would open my heart and let His Grace fill me entirely.

FOCUS Team Harvard 2014-2015
Beginning August 20th, I will be serving as a campus missionary at Harvard University with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). My mission is to grow in my relationship with Christ, make myself radically available to the students at Harvard, and walk with them as they grow closer to Christ. I will meet them wherever they are, just as He met me where I was, and invite them to make God the center of their life.

I am not alone in this mission; I have many mission partners who support me spiritually and financially in my efforts the help fulfill Christ’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). As part of my missionary endeavors, I will write updates and reflections every week and post them here.

I can’t wait to enter into mission with you!