Tag Archives: Personal

Remembering Ms. G on “Chews-day”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

I generally tend to avoid pithy quotes, particularly mushy-sounding ones, but when I learned today that one of my former teachers died unexpectedly on Monday, this quote was the first thing that came to mind.

I only remember a few of the lessons we covered in Ms. G’s classes. She taught me American History in seventh grade, and the only things I remember from that class are being forced to work in small groups with boys that I thought were dumb and writing an angry letter to President Clinton (post-Lewinsky-scandal), telling him he ought to have more integrity and set a better example for us kids. My classmates and I used to joke that we were obviously Ms. G’s favorite students of all time, because after teaching us in middle school she “followed” us to the big public high school to teach us again there. In her high school Bio class, we dissected frogs and talked about dominant and recessive genes, and I learned that the red hair I had when I was born was rare… or something. As far as lessons go, that’s about all I can recall.

What I remember much more vividly is the way Ms. G delighted in her students. No matter how annoying we were—and as Gifted and Talented students, one of our greatest “talents” was pushing our teachers’ buttons—she was always beaming at us, even when she “fussed” us. Despite how I loathed Biology and wasn’t particularly interested in History, I never disliked being in her classroom. It was a place of joy. I remember how incredibly easy it was to make Ms. G laugh, and how she didn’t mind when we laughed at her quirks, like her pronunciation of the word “Chews-day” or the photos of Brad Pitt (her “future husband”) that she had taped up on the door of the mini-fridge behind her desk. She never took herself too seriously, so when we were on her turf, we couldn’t take ourselves too seriously, either. Now that I teach some incredibly bright teenagers who often suffer needlessly because they’re so caught up in themselves and the all-consuming seriousness of EVERYTHING, I recognize just what a gift we were given in Ms. G—to have the chance to be around at least one person every day who reminded us to “chill out!” and told us (without actually telling us) that everything was going to be fine.

I can’t remember everything Ms. G taught me, but I will always remember her contagious joy. If it’s within my power to leave a mark on my students’ memories with that same sort of positivity and love (and I’m not sure I was convinced that it was within my power until today), then I have some big shoes to fill indeed.

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Meekness as a remedy

I had a little epiphany while I was teaching today and thought it needed to be shared. I know I’ve been neglecting the blog for quite a while, but perhaps Lent is a good time to pick it up again. My students have been encouraging me to write more, and it’s good for the soul!

Today I was discussing Dante’s Purgatorio with my Medieval Lit. class, specifically the canto in which Dante meets the souls in Purgatory who are being purified of the sin of Wrath (Anger). He uses Mary’s gentle words to Jesus when she finds Him in the temple as a child as an example of Meekness, the opposing virtue that serves as a “remedy” to Wrath. My students were confused about what Meekness was, exactly, and about how something so seemingly passive could qualify as a virtue, so we worked through it together. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “When we were reading the Inferno, we talked about Wrath, and we described it as a sinful or selfish way that we respond to certain situations. When is it that we usually give in to Wrath?”

Students: “When my emotions are out of control.”  When things don’t go the way I want them to.”  (And my favorite answer:) “When my will isn’t done.”

Me: “Right. So, if Wrath is the sinful way to respond to a moment when I don’t get my way, then Meekness is the opposite of that. Something happens that upsets me, and I could get angry, but I choose to respond differently.”

Student: “So, how is that a virtue?”

Me: “Because when I am practicing Meekness I say: my will is being contradicted, but I’m not going to be hurtful because of it. I will still be charitable and think of others instead of being selfish.”

Student: “What about this example of the finding of Jesus in the temple? How is that an example of Meekness?”

Me: “Mary had every reason to be angry with Jesus in that moment, but she chose to speak to Him not with an attitude of anger, but rather one of gentleness and love.”

[Confused expressions—so I tried to elaborate.]

Me: “Mary and Joseph were distraught when they were separated from Jesus. They loved Him more than anyone and anything else in the world, and after searching for days, they thought He might be lost to them forever. They probably thought they had failed to accomplish God’s will, that they had failed in their vocation as parents. Then when they found Jesus in the temple, they may have even been tempted to think that He was inconsiderate, that He had forgotten about them, that they were the furthest thing from His mind during such a painful time for them. Was that true? Had Jesus forgotten them?”

Students: “No, of course not.”

Me: “But if they thought He had, they might have been tempted to be angry with Him—and that’s the point, you guys. Any time we feel tempted to be angry at God, it’s because we’re giving in to a lie: the lie that He’s forgotten us, that we’re the furthest thing from His mind—which is never, ever true.”

Any time we feel tempted to be angry at God, it’s because we’re giving in to a lie: the lie that He’s forgotten us, that we’re the furthest thing from His mind—which is never, ever true.

That thought had truly never occurred to me until it came out of my mouth, and it was just what I needed to hear. I guess my students needed to hear it, too.

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Photos from my Consecration

It’s been two and a half months since my Consecration on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart, and I couldn’t be more joyful! I haven’t posted much since June because (a) I am still pondering the many blessings and graces our Lord has been pouring into my life since then, and (b) I am still adjusting to my new job as an English teacher at a local Catholic classical school. Teaching is, by far, the most exhausting work I’ve ever done, but I’ve never felt so fully alive! What a gift it is to have found a job I truly love – even if my new routine will take some getting used to. This is my first year teaching, and I am teaching five different grades, so things will probably be pretty hectic for a while! (Perhaps for quite a while.)

For all those who responded to the first photo I posted back in July, asking to see more – here are some of my favorite pictures from the day I became a Bride of Christ. Please continue to pray that God would grant me the grace to live out my vocation fervently and faithfully, according to His holy will!

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“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Isaiah 62:5  (the verse I had engraved on the inside of my wedding ring)

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Deo gratias!

Just wanted to write a quick post to express my gratitude to all who have remembered me in their prayers of late. My Mass of Consecration was more beautiful than I could have imagined! I am still resting and recovering from all the excitement (and also gearing up for my last week at my current job), but I promise to share more soon. Please continue to pray for me!

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One More Prayer Request: For Paw-Paw and our family

My grandfather (mom’s dad) passed away on Monday afternoon. 92 years old, married to my grandmother for over 65 years – such a beautiful, full life. Since I’ll be going out of town tomorrow and then probably returning over the weekend to work that retreat, I will be off the blog for the rest of the week – but I just wanted to pop in to ask for your prayers for my Paw-Paw and our family. I also thought I’d share a poem I wrote about him back in 2007, one of my favorites.


To my grandfather, while eating

In the kitchen with my eggs and toast, I heard you
Hammering down the wrinkled boards with halting steps
Like an un-oiled machine, top-heavy, nearly doubled-over
Since you made the cane your enemy.
As the percolator gurgled on the stove
Your denial rumbled through the house like thunder.

At lunchtime, you made it to the table first (sans cane)
So I had to stoop to kiss your snowy brow
Which, underneath its untamed bit of fleece,
Was spotted and uneven as a topographic map.
Curious to know if I’d been eating enough,
You pinched my waist with your great knotted fingers.

I didn’t eat enough, you said at dinner,
Scattered crumbs and wagged a crooked finger.
We ate jambalaya from a box that evening,
And you protested your vegetables and
Thought the sweet potatoes tasted strange.
You were stiff and stubborn, so I held my tongue.

You weren’t always so rough.  I’ve seen you then –
A polished photo in cool black and white,
You’re stretched out smoking languidly in bed
With your eyes closed and your dark hair nicely combed,
Your lonely uniform draped over a chair;
Yes, once you were Gregory Peck at a hotel in Rome.

Now there’s your halting step, your unkempt hair,
Your hands, sun-tanned, knuckles swollen with age,
Your hands that shudder as they hold the spoon;
Yet your brown eyes are warm, your steady gaze
Unchanged, and when you grin and wink at me
Over your ice cream, I have to wink back.

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Just 100 days…

… until I become a consecrated bride of Christ on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

Immaculate Heart of Mary (dk bkgrnd)

A sincere thank-you to everyone who has offered prayers for me during this time of preparation. Please do keep praying that I can learn to have a heart like Mary’s, a heart that is, as Mother Teresa used to say, “only all for Jesus.”

Charity

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Away on Pilgrimage… Again!

In just a few hours, I’ll be en route to Italy with Peter-George, Pius, and Etsy to visit our friend Mario, who’s a seminarian at the NAC. I’ve known these four friends for ten years, and since high school we’ve had a tradition of celebrating New Year’s together. Since Mario missed last year’s festivities and can’t make it home for the party this year either, we’re taking the party to him! We’ve been calling this trip a vacation – which it is, of course – but I can’t visit all those holy places without feeling like it’s something of a pilgrimage as well.

Our Lady of Grace street altar

Our Lady of Grace – one of my favorite photos from my last trip to Rome

I saw Rome and Assisi for the first time on a school trip with Mom when I was sixteen. All in all, we had a lovely time – but at that point in my life, I wasn’t prepared to take in the full spiritual significance of what I was seeing. There were a few meaningful moments – like the time I took to sit and pray before the tomb of St. Clare (my first real experience of the Communion of Saints!) – but the whole trip felt so rushed that I just kept thinking: “I have to come back; I have to come back and give myself time to soak it all in!”

Several years ago, I began praying for the opportunity to return to Assisi before my consecration to thank Clare and Francis for all they’ve done for me as my patron saints (my middle name’s Claire – spelled as the French variant to honor my heritage), particularly in regard to helping me discover my vocation. Our World Youth Day pilgrimage this August was originally supposed to include a day trip to Assisi, which got my hopes up – but then plans changed, and needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. It was wonderful to spend those few days in Rome, but I still wished I could have paid a visit to Clare and Francis.

Still of Mary Petruolo (Clare) and Ettore Bassi (Francis) from the film "Clare and Francis" by Lux Vide/Ignatius Press

Still of Mary Petruolo (St. Clare) and Ettore Bassi (St. Francis) from the film "Clare and Francis" by Lux Vide and Ignatius Press (www.ignatius.com/promotions/clare-and-francis-movie/)

Then Peter-George decided to make this trip a reality (we’d been daydreaming about it for a year!), and the good Lord arranged not only for me to make the trip, but to travel with four of my dearest friends and make an overnight visit to Assisi. What a beautiful Christmas gift! Our good God is never outdone in generosity.

Please say a prayer for Peter-George, Pius, Etsy, Mario and me – that this time spent together would be blessed and fruitful, that in our prayer we could each gain a greater clarity regarding God’s will for our lives, and that this Christmas season would refresh our souls and draw us all closer to the loving Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

A presto!

Charity

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Honesty.

It has taken me weeks months to write this post.

I’ve said from the beginning that I did not intend for this blog to turn into a virtual diary chronicling every mundane detail of my daily life. This is still the case; I value my privacy (hence the pen name), and I don’t really think you guys would find my day-to-day activities all that interesting. (Secretary by day, theology student by night – talk about life on the edge!) However, in my efforts to avoid becoming “too personal,” I’m afraid I haven’t been personal enough… and I think I’ve finally figured out why.

I wanted this blog to be positive and encouraging – “the witness of a vocation joyfully lived.” I wanted to show that discerning a vocation (i.e. falling in love with Christ) can be a beautiful, joy-filled journey – and I can still say wholeheartedly that it’s been that way for me! The problem is, lately I haven’t been feeling very joy-filled. In fact, I haven’t really been feeling “filled” with anything, except maybe bitterness, or confusion, or fear.

I’ve been having a rough go of it for quite a while now, and somewhere along the way I let myself become afraid that if I were honest about how things were going, I’d somehow end up being dishonest by misrepresenting my vocation and making it seem miserable and unappealing.

Thank goodness I have friends who are such beautiful examples of authenticity. (Kolbe, Flannery, Joan, Rita, Harry, Philomena – you guys are irreplaceable!) They have been incredibly kind to me during these difficult moments, and their unconditional acceptance of me, faults and all, has shown me that my fear of “ruining everything” with my honesty is, like most fears, silly and unfounded. Authenticity will always enhance our Christian witness, not detract from it! So, from here on out, I’ll be trying to speak (er, write) from a more authentic place.

It’s been a rough year, guys. These past few months in particular have been really, really hard, and as the date of my consecration (still set for next June) gets closer and closer, greater and greater difficulties have cropped up in just about every area of my life  – prayer, work, health, relationships. I still haven’t quite figured out how much of what’s been going on is on the natural (physical/psychological) level, and how much of it might be spiritual, but I do know that it’s got to be some combination of the two.

On the one hand, I can see that my perfectionistic tendencies, chock-full schedule and poor stress-management skills have been wreaking havoc on my health, leaving me burned-out and more than a little irritable. Fr. Savio has always tried to remind me that “exhaustion is the enemy of the soul,” and of course, he’s right. When you’re completely exhausted, just about any activity – prayer, work, time spent with friends, basically any activity other than sleeping – loses its appeal.

On the other hand, I’m in the last stretch of my formation before I’m consecrated to the Lord in a solemn, holy rite that will make me entirely His forever, and I can’t imagine that the enemy is very happy about that. He’s probably been doing his utmost to orchestrate this latest barrage of temptations as a last-ditch effort to derail my plans and get me to start doubting the Lord’s love for me. (For the record, it hasn’t worked! The wonderful people in my life have continually thwarted his efforts by going out of their way to love me in the midst of my failures and my messiness. If they can be so kind, how much more must the Lord [still] love me?)

I also know that I’ve still got tons of growing left to do before Christ makes me His bride, so it’s certainly possible that God is allowing this dryness/darkness in order to show me just how dependent I am upon Him for… well, everything.

“Nothing is more fatal in the spiritual life than the thought that we can do anything good without our Lord, and our self-love is so subtle, that unconsciously we attribute to ourselves the little good that we do, which spoils everything. Our Lord, out of love, leaves us sometimes to our wicked nature, and then we are frightened in seeing all the evil and the possibilities of evil hidden in us. It is not that we are worse than before, but that our Lord let us see the depths of evil which grace had covered. During these moments, we should act in union with God’s designs, by humbling ourselves profoundly and throwing ourselves into God’s arms.”

– Bl. Columba Marmion

Either way you look at it, it would only make sense for there to be some sort of spiritual element to these trials, underneath whatever’s been happening mentally and (perhaps as a consequence) physically.

I can’t go into much more detail than this – that would take a whole series of posts, and besides, I’m still getting used to this authenticity thing: no more fooling myself into thinking I can be perfect, no more pretending “everything’s fine” when it isn’t, no more trying to “take care of things” myself without asking for help. I’ve talked things over with my spiritual director and a few trusted friends, so there’s no need to worry (in case you’re the anxious type, like me!) about me trying to handle everything on my own. I know I’m in good hands, but I could definitely use some extra prayers.

Till next time, oremus pro invicem*–

Charity

 

* Let us pray for one another.

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Boxes, Boxes, Boxes, and… Bursitis?

My apologies for the unexplained silence on the blog these past two weeks! I finally finished moving into my new apartment last weekend, and I’m still recovering. Since the new place is only a mile or so down the road from my old place, and I didn’t really have that much stuff to move (or so I thought), we decided to do all the moving ourselves. It would have all gone off without a hitch, if Mom hadn’t injured her back, and I hadn’t done something to my right knee. (The doctor thinks it’s something the Brits call “housemaid’s knee,” or knee bursitis, which simply means I spent too much time kneeling down while packing boxes and scrubbing bathtubs.) Perhaps next time I move we’d better call in the professionals – or at least take care to wear back and knee braces!

Many, many thanks to Mom and Dad, Foodie and Dude (my not-so-little brothers), my old roomie Stella (who has officially moved to Austin and begun her brand-new job!), and our “moving men,” Kolbe and the Bard. For all your help with the dish-washing, heavy lifting, lightbulb-changing, box-crushing, air-freshening, vacuuming and window-wiping – I owe you guys big time.

Now all I’ve got left to do is finish assembling my bookshelves so I can unpack my library, and see about getting Internet at the new place so I can start blogging again. And I’ve also got to help Joan (my new roommate) and Foodie finish moving all of their stuff… after my knee gets better, of course. I can’t be going on a two-week backpacking pilgrimage to World Youth Day with a limp!

Thanks for sticking around, and thanks especially for all your prayers for me as I continue to prepare for my consecration. I promise I’ll be back for good, just as soon as I get a little rest!

Charity

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