Saturday, April 9, 2011

something different.

this weekend, i am away on our unt/twu catholic center spring retreat. i originally applied to be a small group leader not really thinking i would get it. but instead of just making me a leader luisa, our campus minister, put in charge of all the small groups. and then she asked me to give a talk. i am the only student giving a talk. and i've never given a talk before. and i've definitely never shared this much before. i really debated posting my talk here on the blog but i decided to go for it. thanks for reading and i love all of you.

I want each of you to know that God desires for you to have a relationship with Him. It’s never too late to start. The relationship I am forming with Lord is still new. I wasn’t raised in a faithfully Catholic family and we never even talked God. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to change and encounter the living God. We can continue to encounter him through the sacraments and prayer. We will all struggle and suffer but God is fighting for us.

In two of the sacraments, mass and reconciliation, we can encounter God himself most frequently. We have to opportunity to not just go to mass every Sunday, but everyday of the week. In high school, after I was confirmed, I drove myself to mass because my parents didn’t go. And I know how easy it is to just go through the motions in mass because I have. I knew all the right the prayers and responses, I knew when to stand and when to kneel, and I knew how to pretend to pray. It wasn’t until I was in college that I actually grasped the reality that when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Christ is truly present on the altar. One of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa explains how Jesus truly humbles himself to come to us in the form of the Eucharist, “When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we will be transformed. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood. We all eat the one bread and drink the one cup, and this means that we ourselves become one. He is within us, and we are in him. Our active participation in mass, and our frequent reception of holy communion, brings us the grace that Christ merited for the world through His unselfish Sacrifice on the Cross. This grace is necessary for us to know what God’s will is and how it can be fulfilled. This grace is also necessary for us to desire what pleases God, to choose what He wants us to do, and to sustain our choice by loving Him above all things. For me, this grace gives me peace in knowing that right now I am fulfilling my vocation as a student. Through my studies and forming friendships and performing acts of charity, I am trying to please Him. Although I am unsure and scared at times of where He is taking me in life, I know that I am a child of God and He will guide me on the right path if I trust in Him.  
Confession has always been hard for me. Not only do we have to inventory our sins and personal failings but then we have to say them out loud. It can seem a lot easier to just hide your sins inside and try to rationalize your wrongdoings. My fear of facing the truth has always held me back from confessing. And the fear of facing the truth of our acts is rooted in the fear of facing ourselves. I like to believe sin is natural and I can’t help to do it. But the truth is that sin is not natural. Sin in what destroys nature.  God made nature, and God does not make sin. Sin infected our nature at the fall of man, and that distortion remains with us to this day. For me, confession is surrendering myself to the truth of my actions and asking for forgiveness from God. I always cry during confession because it is horrifying to see the true state of my soul, especially hearing myself say the bitter thoughts I’ve been keeping to myself. But I know that even when I feel like I’m drowning in guilt and that my heart is too full of ugliness, he’ll forgive me. And nothing can compare to the feeling of walking out of confession knowing that your sins are completely forgiven and you are a new person. Confession is one of the greatest gifts Jesus has ever given to the world. Nothing is too big for Him to forgive. If you weren’t able to go yesterday, why not take this Lent as the opportunity to return and get back on track. If you did go to confession, make a habit of it and continue of the path of forgiveness. For me, my confession is better, in the sense that it is more thorough, when I go over the examination of consciousness and learn, or practice, the act of contrition before. But most of all, remember that confession is not a once a year type of thing. It is available at the Catholic Center once a week. In reconciling with God, grace is restored and we can once again resist sin.

For me, prayer is a daily journey. And it’s a journey that’s different for everyone. Personally, I had no example at home of how to pray. I never saw my parents do it so I had only experienced prayer at Mass and CCE. I was taught prayers though, like the Our Father and the Hail Mary, but not how to develop a relationship through prayer. It wasn’t until this year that I realized what I was missing. I was lonelier that I had ever been before. I tried to find the comfort that I was craving in everything else – especially in friendships. But they were never enough. I always left conversations and moments feeling empty and lonelier then when I started. It wasn’t until, in a moment of desperation, that I truly surrendered myself to the Lord and asked for help. I asked Him to help me to seek all my comfort in His arms. In the words of Saint Augustine, my heart was “restless until I rested in Him.”

This Lent, I decided to make a commitment to pray every day. I would get on my knees each morning and night and just talk to God. It was hard and awkward at first because I didn’t always know what to say. But I started off praying the rosary or the divine mercy chaplet and conversation flowed from there.

I know now that prayer is a two way relationship. The Catechism says that “prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.” Prayer is a forming a relationship with Him, and for that that relationship to grow we must give ourselves fully. This means your prayers must be honest. You need to be real with God. Tell him what’s really going on in your heart. You must also be consistent in your prayer life. Like in any relationship, you need to spend time together. Find a time and a place and a way that works for you.  But most of all remember, prayer is spending time with the one who loves us the most. The only one who is eternally faithful and all forgiving. The one who loves us despite our faults and failures.

I’ve also learned this year that prayer is personal, because it is between you and God, but that doesn’t mean it should be private. At first, it was really hard for me to lead a prayer out loud with others. But the more I did it the more comfortable I became. This comfort comes because we are made for community and we should pray in community. Mass is the highest form of public prayer and worship.  Mass is hugely important to our prayer life because it is a public witness and we come into communion with not only the Trinity, but truly become one body, the Church.  Also, we must not be afraid to pray with people we don’t know. My friend Josh is a wonderful witness to this truth. One Monday we were praying the rosary in the Little Chapel together and he noticed a girl crying in the back. He suggested we go pray with her. I got caught up in the awkwardness of the situation and selfishly thought about what people would think. But we went to the back and Josh prayed over someone who really really needed to feel Gods love. Through Josh, the Lord showed me that I am never above or too busy to pray with someone.
Finally, know that the Devil is real. He is there in all of the temptations and distractions we encounter in life. Everyday is spiritual battlefield of the heart and soul.  But we cannot hope to win this fight against evil unless we are properly armed. This passage from Ephesians describes this armor - “Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his almighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the power, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins guarded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.”
So what does Ephesians tell us?  It tells us that there will be struggles. Notice that the first line doesn’t say put on the armor of God just in case there will be tactics from Satan.  Right away we are told to put on God’s armor so that we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of Satan. We are told we must put on the "armor of God," pick up our shield (faith) and sword (the word of God) and charge into the battlefield which is the world, where we must spread the truth of our faith, the Gospel of our Lord. Now, how can you practically put on this armor of God everyday? For me, it’s through Bible study, setting time aside to pray, constantly learning more about my Catholic faith, and reading about the lives of the saints. That means this must be a priority for you. Take the time and effort to arm yourself because this armor is not meant to stay clean. It should have dents and scratches. If we are living our faith the right way, where we depend on and trust in God completely, he will fight for us. If we arm ourselves in prayer and wake up every day knowing the Holy Spirit, which resides within us, is waiting for us to call on him we can win.

Now you’ve heard about my commitment to prayer, are you ready to make one of your own? In a few moments we will passing out prayer commitment cards. Search within yourself and really think about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Now is the time to develop one. Now is the time to strengthen it. Now is the time to be faithful. This prayer commitment will help you return to the real world where you are living out your faith on a college campus. For me, that world is filled with nonbelievers and full of battles, temptations, bad habits, and distractions.

And lastly I want to end with this quote by the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that sums our encounter with God through prayer and the sacraments of Holy Communion and reconciliation and defines who we are – “With all the strength of my soul I urge you young people to approach the Communion table as often as you can. Feed on this bread of angels whence you will draw all the energy you need to fight inner battles. Because true happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind.”

4 friskies:

Kailin said...

Beautiful Allie! How great is our God!!

Kaelyn said...

That is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing it with us! I'm glad you decided to post it. Good luck presenting it! I know you will do wonderfully! :)

Macey said...

oh chica I love it!! :) i tried to imagine your voice when I was reading it because I love your voice oh so much.

oh by the way this is macey lol

Caitlin said...

what a beautiful talk! you amaze me, sister. i'm so glad the retreat went well!