#BISsisterhood Link-Up // Peace

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Today is International Human Rights Day — #HumanRightsDay — which is celebrated each year on December 10th.

This day leaves me thinking about Immokalee, Florida and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The Coalition of Immokalee workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization. They are devoted to community organizing and sustainable food practices. They are also a major leader in the growing movement to end human trafficking and modern day slavery due to the abuses they witness on a day to day basis in their work with farmers.

When I was a student at John Carroll University, I was privileged to attend an Immersion Experience to Immokalee during my senior year.  Immokalee is located in southwest Florida about an hour away from Naples. We spent our week with volunteers from Humility of Mary. The experience focused on helping us gain a better understanding of the reality of life for the people who live in Immokalee, by allowing us to meet many migrant farm workers and their advocates, who make up a large portion of the city population.

We also learned about the Campaign for Fair Food, which educates consumers on growing issues of farm labor and exploitation. Prior to this experience, I had very little understanding of how large companies played such a large role in helping farm workers earn fair wages for their families. We learned about how the Campaign for Fair Food has encouraged large companies to sign Fair Food Agreements, which help establish human labor standards and fair wages for farm workers, specifically in the tomato industry.

Another large portion of our experiences was learning about the CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign. Modern day slavery is real. It is present in our world. It is present in the United States. the CIW works diligently to uncover, investigated, and prosecute those who are involved in farm worker slavery and trafficking victims. 

Perhaps the biggest hidden secret of the Catholic Church is our seven themes of Catholic Social teaching. They are all powerful and beautiful teachings, but in this case “The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers” stands out. For farm workers in Immokalee, they are fighting daily to have humane working conditions and a fair wage. The CIW is working around the clock to insure this is a reality and not just a dream. Each of us has a right to decent and fair wages and should be treated with honor and respect as a child of God.

What does this all have to do with peace?

God’s light shines in the darkness. His peace overshadows all the heartache and pain that we see in this world, especially among our brother and sister migrant farmworkers. Although this situation brings me such great sorrow, I find peace knowing that He is with each individual who is fighting for justice and He is helping them to carry their grow daily. In our deepest sufferings, He is our peace.

When we are presented with great opportunities for service in the work of justice and peace, it is my hope that we can take advantage of these chances to stand up for the cries of the poor, the hungry, the sick, and event the prisoner. May our blindness be lifted so that we can turn these opportunities into chances to following Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as yourself.

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Today my prayer is for peace in the hearts of the Immokalee farm workers and their advocates. May all those involved experience wisdom and courage in their day to day life, knowing that they are children of God who are worthy of dignity and respect.

May we continue to sew seeds of peace in our world and in our country.

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Linking up with Blessed Is She and #BISsisterhood

#BISsisterhood Link-Up // Hope

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I have hope, because His grace keeps flowing.

I have hope, because I have been saved by His amazing love.

I have hope, because our God is a compassionate God.

How do we share our hope in Jesus Christ? We have to start talking. We have to start shouting from the rooftops of the glory that God has done in our lives. Why is your hope found in Jesus? What has He done for you? We have to share our testimonies so that we can share with the world the hope that is found in living a life centered on Jesus Christ.

“Hope is the power by which we firmly and constantly long for what we were placed on earth to do: to praise God and to serve Him.” Youcat 308

I was placed on earth to praise and serve God. My time is not over yet. Tuesday I was in a car accident. For those of you who know me well, car accidents and I seem to be attracted to each other. It is a heartbreaking fact, but for reasons unknown to me, my Guardian Angel works overtime to protect me. I have hope, because I know God is real and I have seen and experienced miracles in my own life, including the accident on Tuesday afternoon. I have hope, because I am alive when science would say I should not be.

Saint Thomas Aquinas holds that, “from the very moment of his birth man has an angel guardian appointed to him” (Summa Theologica, I, 113, 5). From infancy to death, we are surrounded by the watchful care and intercession of guardian angels. They stand as our protectors. Our angels help us avoid physically dangers, especially if it will help us achieve salvation.

Guardian Angels can move faster than Superman.

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According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, “The swiftness of the angel’s movement is not measured by the quantity of his power, but according to the determination of his will (Summa Theologica, I, 53, 3, ad 1) Hello, awesome! Angels are not bound to a material body like us, so they can move super fast. Steven and I are currently watching The Flash and I cannot anything moving faster than him, so this notion is pretty awesome. I believe that on Tuesday, my Guardian Angel moved faster than Superman to save my life. My angel might have even brought along some friends.

My car did a complete 180 on the highway. I was facing the opposite direction towards oncoming traffic. The car that almost hit me and caused the accident drove away. I called AAA, the police came, and I was okay. I felt shaken up, but was okay. My car scraped the concrete barrier, but was not dented. I believe that God still works miracles today. I believe that He has amazing helpers in His Guardian Angels. I believe that I am alive, because of the help of my angel and God wasn’t finished with me quite yet.

I am hopeful that the Lord has big plans for this little life of mine. What are those plans? I am not sure yet, but I cannot wait to find out.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, rule and guide. Amen.

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 Linking up with Blessed is She and #BISsisterhood, Thoughtful ThursdaysThought Provoking Thursday, and Little Things Thursday 

#BISsisterhhood Link-Up // Unconditional

 

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A week before our wedding, Steven and I went to Reconciliation. Through the Sacrament, God made us knew creations. We had to admit that we weren’t perfect. We had to bring our shortcomings to failings and our wounds to the Lord. We had to bring them to the light.

We knew we needed to be there. We had burdens in our lives that we needed to get off our hearts. We knew we had a lot of sin to empty before we began our journey as husband and wife.

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(Credit: Sarah Renee Studios)

The Lord’s heart is merciful. It is so hard to remember and grasp this, especially when we feel as if we are falling short. We can feel unworthy of His forgiveness and grace. Our sin breaks the Father’s heart, but our relationship is restored when we run to Him with open arms. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. His love is relentless, eternal, and unconditional. 

When Steven and I are weary, our Heavenly Father allows us to rest in His presence. When Steven and I feel unworthy of love, the Father reminds us we are His masterpiece – fearfully and wonderfully made. When we cry, the Lord looks to us with His Sacred Heart. When we stray like the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father patiently waits for our return to welcome us home with open arms. When we are tangled up in sin, our Heavenly Father comes right into the mess and meets us in the confessional with an ocean of mercy. 

Before our wedding, Steven and I recognized our need for confession. We are human; we sin. We had to perform an Examination of Conscience in order to look deeply into our lives and see where we have failed to love the Lord, those around us, and ourselves. Then we had to…

Go!

I think this is the hardest part. Even at our retreat a few weekends ago, we had to encourage each other to go. When Steven was nervous, I looked at him and I said, “Go, be a saint!” Those nervous thoughts are from the evil one trying to separate us from the love of God. 365 times in Scripture the Lord tells us, “Be not afraid.” The Lord is ready for you, ready to meet you with His tender unconditional love.

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(Credit: Sarah Renee Studios)

After waiting in line for a few minutes, it was my turn to confess my sins to the priest, who stands in persona Christi capitas et spousa. I love this part of confession. I believe that I am confessing my sins to Christ Himself. After I was finished, I walked out of the confessional feeling light and free. I felt ready to enter into the Sacrament of Marriage, because I had repented for my sins and received absolution. I was ready to do my penance and soak in the graces I had been given in order to fully embrace our marital vows.

I asked Steven what his favorite part of confession was and he said, “I like it’s healing power and the light feeling joyful feeling you get when walking out of there and the smile that is on your face.” What a sweet, true sentiment.

God today, wants you to be an amazing person. He has amazing plans for each of you. Take all of your weight and lay it at the foot of the cross. You do not have to do it on your own. If you’re nervous about confession, remember those thoughts are not from our Heavenly Father. He does not work through fear. He works through compassion and grace.

“Everything I am, everything I long to be, I lay it down at Your feet.”
Matt Maher, Lay it Down

Want to find a Reconciliation time near you? Check out Mass Times or Catholics Come Home to find a nearby parish.

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Linking up with Blessed Is She to talk about the theme “Unconditional”

#BISsisterhhood Link-Up // Remembrance

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I went on my first Life Teen Retreat as a young freshman in high school. That weekend was the start of my love for the Life Teen movement. Their motto “leading teens closer to Christ” is at the heart of the mission I have been called to today. Leading teens to our Lord is near and dear to my heart, because I was a teen who was led closer to Christ and invited into a deeply personal relationship with Him.

Since that weekend, the Lord has moved and shaped my heart in ways only He is capable of. I still remember pieces of my freshman retreat with great clarity, like the moment I opened my first ever affirmation letter bag with a special note from my mom. I remember my Youth Minister making me feel loved, treasured, and cared for while still being super goofy and relatable. I long to echo the love he showed me. The Lord has entrusted amazing teens to my personal care and I long for them to know their great worth and dignity as children of God.

Last weekend was my 3rd Life Teen Retreat as the Youth Minister at Saint Hilary and boy was it blessed. Now that I have caught up on some Zzz’s and drank a a significant amount of tea, I feel prepped to reflect.

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(3 Saint Hilary Retreats with this handsome man! In the first photo he was my boyfriend, in the second my fiance, and in the third my husband!) 

Retreats are my favorite part of my job. I love them, because God shows up in such a big way every.single.time. My team and I plan and pray for months. We practice talks, choose ice breakers, and discern which activities. When we arrive, though, God takes over and makes it all happen. The Holy Spirit just moves and touches hearts. There is laughter and there are lots of tears. Students share pieces of their hearts with each other and they feel completely safe and loved by their peers, the Core Staff, and most importantly by our Heavenly Father. There is something about being away from social media and real life that gives the teens peace and perspective and allows them to love and be loved. I can’t help but feel close to God during retreat weekends.

Last weekend my teens and I traveled to Loyola Retreat House. It is beautiful there!

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Our theme was “Who am I?” and we dove head first into showing the teens they are good enough, despite what they might hear from their teachers, friends, coaches, and parents. The standards we feel like we have to live up to are too high. We reminded them they are worth more than the view society has of them, because they are beloved children of the loving Father.

What matters is how He views us! God doesn’t see the flaws we see! We are made in His image and likeness. I witnessed the teens start to believe these messages. Wow… And that’s why I love retreats.

Last weekend I saw hearts expand through small group discussions. I witnessed teens be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation. I saw teens lay down their lives in adoration. Every moment the Holy Spirit was hard at work and the fruit was so beautiful.

Here is the leadership team that made this weekend possible.

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… and here are our lovely ladies! ladies

Our handsome gentlemen lookin’ good!

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We LOVE to be goofy 😉

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Oh, God let the blessings flow this past weekend and my heart is full of joy and gratitude. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen!

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Linking up with Blessed Is She and Simple Moments Stick to talk about Remembrance.

#BISSISTERHOOD LINK-UP // CROWN OF CREATION

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“Nobody likes to talk about it and we all struggle with it as women.” Sarah Swafford

Here is the truth about your body: It is beautiful. It is holy. It was made for wondrous deeds. You were created for a purpose. The Lord made you in His image and likeness. I could shout from the rooftops how beautiful and marvelous you are.

Yes, including those parts that you may not love… especially those parts!

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7

As women we have been battling self confidence and body image since we have been 12 years old, or maybe younger. The struggles might have come from girls who made fun of you at school or a mom with impossibly high standards. The struggles might have come from a hurtful father or a tough ex-boyfriend. We all have this deep pain. It is very real for each of us. Sometimes this pain leads to more pain and we struggle with anorexia or bulimia, depression and anxiety. Sometimes we struggle to feel enough or that we are unwanted.

Trust me when I tell you that you are not alone. 

As women we have to acknowledge these wounds and build up all that has been torn down, because we are the crown of God’s creation.

Our bodies house our beautiful feminine soul! God gave us one body for a reason. We are called to cherish this body. We have to believe in ourselves. You are enough, you are enough, you are enough. God loves you just the way you are. People in your life love you just the way you are, and I want you to love you just the way you are.

Whenever you get that worry and that anxiety to be perfect, run to Christ and do not look any other direction. Run into His arms and rest in His presence. Cry. Pray. Breathe. Be.

Believe that you are loved. Believe that you are beautiful. You, my dear sister, are the crown of creation.

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Linking up with Blessed Is She and #BISsisterhood to talk about Crown of Creation.

#BISsisterhood Link-Up // Communion of Saints

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“I suffered a lot but my soul was singing!”

I’m joining in with the #BISsisterhood Link-Up today to share with you about Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. As we approach the feast of All Saints this weekend, it is a wonderful time to pause and remember the legacy of this soon-to-be-saint dressed in blue jeans.

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I first fell in love with Chiara when I found out she failed math in high school and loved to wear blue jeans. Hello,soul sister! Then as I read more, I found a best friend in her.

Chiara was born in 1974 in Sassello, Italy. She loved to sing, hike, play tennis, and spend time with friends. She was a very simple, kind-hearted young teenager who kept Jesus at the very center of her life. She even referred to him as her “spouse” and consistently attended daily mass.

One day while playing tennis, Chiara felt a felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. Soon after the incident she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. When she became ill, she said, “For you, Jesus. If you want it, I want it too” and continued to put her faith in Him.

She is a prime example of love and suffering. She continually gave her pain to Jesus, trusting in His will and timing, up until the moment of her death in 1990. Her life, love, and light shows me how to lay my suffering down at the feet of the cross. I do not have to bear any of my suffering alone. We do not have to bear our suffering alone!

Come, holy spirit, teach us how to live more like Blessed Chiara!

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