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Alyssa Azul Consecrated Life Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer Single life Spiritual Growth Vocations

A Visit from Upstairs

A Visit from Upstairs

Left, Sr. Cora and me (December 30th, 2018), Right: My great-aunt Vilma Ranada and me 2016 ( December 30th 2016).

***

Each photo taken exactly 2 years apart.

“I promise you it’s going to be worth it.”

Entering 2019 has never began with such an affirmation from on high.  My testimony begins with my encounter with a quirky sister.

I spent December 28-January 1, 2018 at Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO)’s annual Rise Up, a national conference for young adults between 18-35, as well as those who serve in and are a part of a religious order. What an environment it was, to be surrounded by hundreds of university students, priests, religious sisters, seminarians, and educators. My intention for going to this congress was to escape. Burnt out by my service in my ministry, as well as frustrated with my dying faith, I was in need of a complete spiritual revival. Little did I know that the Lord was bringing me to this conference for a very particular reason. He had something in store as a part of His plan, and not my own.

During that weekend there was a Vocation Brunch for women who were curious about what religious life looked like. I wanted to attend this brunch, but it was already at full capacity when I tried signing up a few weeks back. Low and behold, 30 more spots had opened up on that very morning so you’d better believe I raced to that ballroom. There were over 30 sisters from orders across Canada, and I had never seen a room so full of virtue, light, and joy.  

A short and sweet-looking sister stepped up to the front. Sister Corazon, the vocations director from the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco was called up to give a testimony about her calling, and something about her struck me a little strangely. She was sharp, witty, and very charming. She talked about how her calling was to serve the young, and I could see the joy coming out of her ears as she spoke about how much she loves teaching children. Her gestures, and her way of speaking seemed very familiar to me.

Something inside of my heart told me to meet her. She took me by the arm immediately, linked mine through hers, and chatted my ear off in a half English, half-Tagalog. It clicked. She reminded me so much of my late great-aunt Vilma, whom I called Lola V (grandmother). Her and I were close, and she often messaged me on Facebook. Vilma was also a teacher, and she had a powerful presence…I would describe it as “unstoppable”. Memories flood my mind and heart of my visit to the Philippines in December of 2016. Lola V would always link arms with me and pull me through the market. She was always on the go— quick but never enough to miss shooting a smile or “hello” at the people around her. She had a boisterous spirit, very similar to Sister Cora’s. The resemblance was so uncanny that I had to tell her.

“Sister, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you remind me exactly of my late grandmother. It’s so strange but you speak just like her too!”

She was delighted, and I continued to show her pictures and tell her stories.

Later that afternoon I went to the chapel to “reconvene” with God, and ask him why I had been experiencing spiritual desolation. In the silence of my prayer, I froze.

Child, it’s me.”

I heard a voice inside my heart and I dropped to my knees.

I checked my phone to check what I thought couldn’t be.

My great aunt died on December 31, 2017.

Today was her death anniversary.

Her voice was like whisper. She told me happy she was and that she missed me. She told me, like she always did before, to take care of my family, especially my mom. She told me that she was visiting me and that meeting Sister Cora was no coincidence. After my many tears, she left me with a final instruction: to to allow God to embrace me right now, because that’s all he’s been wanting to do.

“I know the burdens you’ve been carrying, but I promise you it’s going to be worth it.”

I knew then and there that I was not alone in my suffering.

Vilma was a fearless woman who experienced so much tragedy in her life, but she never let go of God’s promise to her– and that it what I will never forget.

The next day I told Sister Cora about my experience and she teared up. She said she would lift up a prayer for my great aunt.

This was my first time experiencing or receiving some sort of sign from relatives who had passed so I was shaken. Even writing this now I feel vulnerable. I knew deep down that it was one of the things that the Lord had wanted to show me, and that he was doing his everything to remind me how much He loves me.

A Visit from Upstairs, www.catholicsistas.com

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Consecrated Life Faith Formation Fatherhood Holy Orders Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Misty Motherhood Priesthood Religious Sacraments Single life Sisterhood Vocations

No, Son, You CAN’T Be Whatever You Want

vocations1One thing most loving parents say to their kids at one time or another is, “Honey, you can be anything you want to be when you grow up!” I used to think this was a wonderfully affirming statement—until I became Catholic.
 
I was married and pregnant with my first child when my husband and I converted together. For me, there was no “vocational discernment” process. When our daughter was born, I spent many bitter days as an immature new mother crying over the sacrifices I had to now make, resentful I hadn’t been given a choice beforehand. It chafed me royally that there were nuns in the world living it up on austere vegetarian diets and middle-of-the-night prayer vigils, while I had to eat things like steak and cheesecake, and didn’t have a choice about getting up in the middle of the night like they did. I was sure that if I’d been a cradle Catholic who’d had a whole host of vocational choices, I’d have chosen to be the next Mother Teresa of southern Virginia. (Somehow, it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t have my wonderful husband and daughter if I’d become a nun.) 
 
One day, my husband pointed out the obvious: that my “Be in charge or don’t participate” personality would cause me problems in religious life. “You’d constantly be arguing with your superiors, Misty,” he said. “You’d never be able to silently follow orders if you knew there was a better, more efficient way to get the job done.” 
 
In one of my rare moments of humility, I begrudgingly admitted he was right. And that finally stopped my ridiculous romanticizing of religious life and finally started me down the path to embracing my vocation as a wife and mother. 
 
As idiotic as I’d been though, that initial wrangling with my vocation brought some very important truths. The most important being that we don’t choose our vocations—God does. Why God? Because He created us and endowed us with our own unique strengths and weaknesses, so even more so than ourselves, He knows which vocation will best help us to grow in holiness and make it to heaven. Just as an inventor designs a machine to work best with a specific kind of fuel, so does God design us to work best in a specific vocation.
 
Eventually, I realized that God had known exactly what He was doing when he’d called me to marriage and motherhood. The joy of giving and receiving unconditional love through motherhood was redeeming the damaged relationship I’d had with my own mother. Seeing my husband sacrifice for our children and treasure them was healing the distorted image of fatherhood I’d gleaned from my own father, too, which had served as a serious impediment to being able to trust God the Father. The good fruits of embracing my vocation are too numerous to mention, but I now feel grateful that I’d stumbled into the right vocation! (Or did I?)
 
I think we’ve all known someone who seems discontent in her vocation. I once met a priest who was upset when Benedict XVI was elected because, “I was hoping we’d get a pope who’d allow me to get married!” he told the stunned RCIA committee. This statement, along with the priest’s admission that he was loathe to preach on moral issues(!) made me wonder what exactly drew him to the priesthood. And we’ve all met women who, upon having children, calendar-watch until the kids go to school or turn 18 so they can “finally start enjoying life.” I’ve had at least one single friend who was hell-bent on getting married, despite getting sign after sign that she was likely being called to religious life. Most of us struggle within our vocations, but it’s not hard to see when a person is struggling with their vocational calling itself.
God, of course, can write straight with crooked lines and even if we resist His vocational calling; He can guide us into greater holiness wherever we end up. But like God, those of us with children want nothing more than to see our own kids reach their fullest potential. And the best way to ensure that they do is to help them discern and then assent to God’s vocational calling in the first place. My husband and I tell our five kids that they can achieve the greatest happiness and true peace if they surrender to God’s will and accept the vocation HE chooses for them. 
 
Can they be anything they want? Contrary to popular wisdom, no–they can’t. Temperamentally, I’d make a great nurse, but I can’t because I faint at the sight of blood. I admire engineers, but I don’t have the aptitude for math. Likewise for our kids: everyone has talents, but no one does EVERYTHING so well that the world is their oyster. Even more generally, though, our kids need to learn that the only true path to being the best version of themselves is by embracing the vocation that God has chosen for them. 
 
How can we best prepare our kids to hear and give their own “fiat” to God’s vocational calling? Here are a few practical suggestions:
 
1. Make vocational discernment part of their life early on. From the time our kids were old enough to get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we directed them to listen to God’s call. I even wrote a small book for my preschool-aged daughters, to get them thinking about vocational discernment.
 
 
2. Expose children to those who have answered the call to religious life. We’ve always invited priests, nuns, and brothers into our home to interact with our children. Kids have plenty of examples of people who answered God’s call to marriage, but they often see the calling to religious life as a calling for “special people, but not for me.” Let them spend time with religious, both men and women, so they can see that these are ordinary people (like them) who simply answered God’s call to that vocation, which is perfect for them.
 
 
3. Expose children to people who are called to the single life. This may be the hardest vocation for you to find friends in, as most of our culture assumes that the only two vocations are religious life or marriage. But for some souls, God does call them to live in the world singly, in Christ-like service to their friends, family, and coworkers. We are blessed that several of our closest friends are single men and women who tell our kids what joy they gets from growing their relationship with Jesus above all other relationships.
 
4. Watch movies and read stories about people in all vocations, and discuss their choices. There are many excellent movies out there about saints who were called to religious life, but there are other saints who lived singly and as married couples, too. Mix it up!
 
5. Emphasize that how we work out our salvation ought to be God’s decision above all. When your child says, “I want to be a pilot when I grow up,” respond with, “Yes, God could call you to that.” Or if they say, “I don’t want tobe a nun,” just say, “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what vocation God has in store for you, won’t we?” Don’t quash their excitement about their future; let them bask in the possibilities, as we once did. But gently reiterate that God ought to be in charge of setting them on the right path.
 
6. Pray as a family for vocations. For ALL vocations. Include prayers for priests and religious, but also prayers for married couples and single individuals to grow in holiness, too. The world is trying its best to convince our kids that the only path to fulfillment is a romantic, sexual relationship, so we need to ensure that our children understand that God loves diversity and has a unique plan for each one of His children. And finally…
 
7. Train your children to listen for God’s vocational calling. Every night, our children pray a simple prayer: “My dear Jesus, I want what You want for me.” Whenever they have a difficult situation, we tell them to take it to Jesus. Our hope is that over time, consulting God for every decision will be second nature. That reflexive habit of asking God to guide them will pay the greatest dividends of all when it’s time to make serious decisions about their vocation as an adult.
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Consecrated Life Current Events Ink Slingers Kerri Vocations Year of Consecrated Life

Pope Francis Declares A Year of Consecrated Life

ycl-logo-270x200-montageDid you know that Pope Francis declared that we should celebrate the consecrated life this year? I will admit that I did not hear about this until it had already started. This Year of Consecrated Life began on November 30, 2014 and will end on February 2, 2016. February 2, by the way, is the World Day of Consecrated Life. So it makes sense.

I don’t know about you, but I love celebrations! And I think it’s great that Pope Francis wants us to spend a year (actually it’s around 14 months) celebrating our brothers and sisters in Christ who have chosen a life dedicated entirely to God. I love that we are being asked to spend a year learning about the life of consecrated individuals and praying for and with them for more vocations. These men and women, often unseen by the world, dedicate their lives to Christ and often spend hours a day praying for us. Yes, us! Here is our chance to pray for them.

You might be asking, “So what is the consecrated life?” Luckily, I have some answers!

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, under the section “Forms of Consecrated Life”:

“The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.” (CCC 915)

“The state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.” (CCC 916)

The consecrated life can take many forms: hermits (CCC 920-21), consecrated virgins and widows (CCC 922-924), religious (CCC 925-927), secular institutes (CCC 928-929), and societies of apostolic life (CCC 930).

Interview graphicTo help us celebrate this Year of Consecrated Life, I am planning some interviews with men and women who are living some form of religious life. Check in with Catholic Sistas regularly to see these interviews posted. My plan is one a month starting next month and going through January of 2016.

Please pray for those in consecrated life. I know they would appreciate your prayers. A prayer specifically for this year is available on the USCCB website along with a variety of other resources that I will list below.

USCCB Press Release, “Days with Religious”

 

Year of Consecrated Life

Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life

World Day for Consecrated Life

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Fostering a Culture of Vocations in 5 Easy Steps

clerical_collarWe often associate the term “vocation” with our priests or those discerning a call to the priesthood. What we often overlook is that we all have a vocation. Two actually!

Yes, I said two. Primarily, we are all called to a life of holiness. That is we should all be striving to be saints one day. In addition, we all have a particular vocation. It is through our particular vocation that we discern the state of life God is calling us to. This particular vocation does not refer only to men who discern to serve God through the priesthood, but instead impacts all of us. So what are the vocations in which God is calling all of us to serve Him in this life?

The most obvious vocation is that of the priesthood. Without our priests we would not have the sacraments, and we need the sacraments to help us live out our primary vocations. Our priests serve God by serving God’s people. Priests are ordained clergy. And they aren’t the only ones. Our deacons are also ordained clergy. Deacons are also called to serve God by serving God’s people. They too bring the sacraments to the laity (you and I) and profess vows to the Bishop. They also serve the priests and Bishop when called upon.

There are also many people who are called to live religious lives. Both men and women may be called to religious life. Men can join an order as a Brother and live in community with other men serving God in some particular charism (teaching, prayer, etc.). Some religious men will also take Holy Orders and become religious priests for their order. Women can be called to live in community as either a nun or a sister (yes, there is actually a difference). Read more about religious life at www.ichoseyou.com/religious-life/.

Finally, the laity are also called to live out a vocation for God. Men and women of the lay faithful are called to either live a generous single life for Christ or live for Christ through the vocation of marriage. We often forget that as laity we too are called to a vocation, whether we are single or married. For more on marriage as a vocation click over to my article Five Characteristics of a Matrimonial Vocation.

massIt is important to understand what a vocation is and what it entails in order to understand how to foster a culture of vocations within your parish. The future of our Catholic faith depends on building a culture of vocations in your parish family and in our individual families. What are some things you can do to help in this effort?

1. Pray. Prayer is always the first step. Pray for more young men to listen for God’s call to the priesthood for them. Pray for the strength of marriages in our community. Pray for strength and courage for our priests, deacons, and religious as they live their lives in service to God. Pray for all young people to listen to God’s call for them and then to follow through. Pray for your own children, that they will be open to God’s will for their lives and they will say yes to whatever He is calling them to.

As a bonus, take your prayer to Adoration if it is available to you. Parishes with perpetual adoration often see a boost in young men discerning the priesthood. Remember that without our priests we don’t have the sacraments and without the sacraments we don’t have a Catholic Church. We need more priests. Spend one hour in adoration, pray for an increase in priestly vocations, and one day we will see God’s amazing work.

2. Put a name with a face. Check out your diocesan website and look for a vocations office or vocations page. Browse through the site and see if you can find the names (and hopefully pictures) of the young people in your diocese who are currently in formation for the priesthood or religious life. If not, contact the office and get a list of their names and contact information if possible. Then pray for them by name.

3. Let those in formation know that you praying for them. Going through the formation process can be a joyful time as well as a very difficult time for young people. Almost every priest or religious I have spoken with has questioned their vocational call at some point during their discernment process. Knowing that people are praying for them offers them support and encouragement. If you are able to get their contact information, send them a note or letter of encouragement, send them a care package, or a gas card (for those long weekends or other breaks when they want to come home to visit their families).

Sisters of Life Novices 20084. Talk to your children, Godchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and any other young people you know. Encourage them to pray, stay close to the sacraments, and to always seek God’s will for their lives. And be an example of this for your children. Incorporate prayers for vocations during family prayer time and share your own stories of how you discerned your call from God. Invite priests, deacons, and religious into your homes so your children get to know them and see them as real people too.

5. Join or create a vocations committee in your parish. A vocations committee can do a lot to help create a culture of vocations in your parish. A vocations committee can get support through a diocesan Office for Vocations which can provide materials and information on diocesan events. Within your parish, a vocations committee can plan events for young people to get to know priests and religious in the local area, ask questions, and pray together. A vocations committee can create programs for the whole parish to participate in (like a vocations cross that rotates between families each week), publish interesting facts or Vocations Q&As in your parish bulletin, and help promote diocesan vocations events.

For more information about vocations, check out the Vocations page at the USCCB site.

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7 Quick Takes Friday, no. 16: Prayer Intentions

The most important thing we can do as Catholics is pray. I’m sure we have all seen examples of the amazing power of prayer in our lives or the lives of others. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to highlight the intentions we Catholic Sistas currently have high on our list. We invite you to pray with us on many of these matters and to add your own intentions in the comments or to our Prayer Requests page. Here are our seven high-priority prayer intentions, in no particular order.

–1–

40 Days of Prayer for Conscience

There are two very pressing, current event prayer requests that are on all the Sistas’ minds. The first of these is the HHS Mandate that will go into effect August 1, 2013, which will force institutions and businesses that morally object to contraceptives and abortion to provide these things to all employees. This includes Catholic dioceses, schools, and hospitals. We’re praying our bishops will stay strong against the mandate and not be bullied into providing goods and services that our faith teaches are wrong. We hope you’re joining us for this 40 Days for Conscience Prayer Campaign that began July 1. We need everyone to pray. Follow our Facebook fan page to get the daily prayers.

Today’s prayer:

 

–2–

The Abortion Bill in Texas

The second pressing, current event on all our minds is the abortion bill in Texas, that would outlaw abortions past 20 weeks gestation. We happen to have several Sistas in Texas and many are in the Austin area. We are praying for their safety as they attend sessions at their state capitol, as well as praying for passage of this bill. To learn more, please check out these links and please join your prayers with ours.

Protect Babies and Women — Stand with Pro-Life Texas by Birgit

For Pro-Choicers: What Does the Texas Bill REALLY Say by Kerri

Word-FILLED Wednesday: They Chanted Hail Satan by Martina

–3–

CS Prayer Requests: General Intentions, Homeward Bound, Teardrops, Heavenly Ambassadors

If you haven’t noticed, at the top of our page there is a link titled, “Prayer Requests.” Click on that link and it will bring you to a form where you can submit a prayer request for all of us to pray for. We keep four lists and post them in our private group for our members to pray over. These intentions include:

General Intentions: Anything on your heart

Homeward Bound: For Christian friends and family we’d like to see come home to the Catholic Church

Teardrops: For those who have lapsed from the Catholic faith

Heavenly Ambassadors: For children who have returned to our Heavenly Father through miscarriage, stillbirth, or death at any age.

 –4–

Marriage

Praying for our marriages and those of our friends is always high on the priority list for us. Even those who aren’t married are praying for their future husbands. Praying for marriages (plural) in a much broader sense has taken on much more meaning of late due to the recent Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. Marriage is under attack in our country and we need to pray. We even had a recent prayer campaign for sacred matrimony in anticipation of the attacks on marriage we were all feeling. We have a great resource list here and you can see our prayer intentions here. Please pray for our individual marriages, those of friends and family, and for the strengthening of all marriages between one man and one woman.

–5–

All Priests and Religious

Pray for our priests and religious. They need our prayers! They are always in our prayers. Our priests have difficult jobs and both priests and religious live a very counter-cultural lives. They need our prayers to stay strong in their vocations. We also need to continue to pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Please add your prayers to ours and don’t neglect this important intention.

 –6–

Our Pope

The Pope always has the prayers of the Catholic Sistas. We hope he has your prayers too. Pray for our Pope to be a light to the world, to always be open to the Holy Spirit, and to keep the Church strong and united.

 –7–

Holy Mother Church

It goes without saying that praying for Holy Mother Church is on all our prayer lists. We hope it is on yours, too. As the Church experiences more attacks across the world, we must pray for strength for all Her people.

Thanks to Jen F. for hosting the weekly Quick Takes. Check out her blog, Conversion Diary, for more Quick Takes posts from across the blogosphere.