What St. Margaret of Cortona Can Teach to Women

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In recent months, I discovered a saint that I never met before: St. Margaret of Cortona. I first learned her name while I was browsing my parish’s Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk. There was a CD about her paired with Saint Augustine as a saint for sinners. Given how familiar I was with Augustine’s story, I had to wonder how this other woman could’ve compared in terms of flagrant sinning and heartfelt penance.

It’s a brand new year and in the story of my life, I begin a new chapter as I turn 27 years old. When people reach their birthday, they often reflect on the previous year. In many ways 2016 to me was a year of friendship. I came to value my friends in Heaven, in the city that I call home, in my old hometown, and online. St. Margaret of Cortona became one of these new friends. At the same time, my friendship with two other ladies fell apart. These friendships were with Rory Gilmore and Taylor Swift.

I know what you’re thinking. Rory Gilmore is a fictional character and Taylor Swift is a celebrity. I’m not actually friends with either of them. That is true, but for the longest time, I felt like these two females were like best friends to me. Rory Gilmore was the friend I had in middle school, back when Gilmore Girls was on TV. I related to Rory because she liked to read, she went to a school where everyone wore uniforms like I did, and she wanted to go to college and be a journalist, which were my dreams at the time. Taylor Swift felt like my best friend when I started living in Texas. Her songs of the boys who broke her heart resonated with 16-year-old me and she stayed with me as I transitioned from high school to college and from college into young adulthood.

2016 changed all that. I started binge watching Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new mini-series revival coming to Netflix in November. (Incidentally: Spoilers ensue for Year In The Life.)

Initially, I felt nostalgic, seeing Stars Hollow and watching Rory survive Chilton and make her way to Yale. When she got started at Yale, though, I started feeling disappointed in her. She was still in love with Dean to the point that she slept with him, even though he was married. She hooks up with Logan in Season 5 and decides to drop out of Yale when she steals a boat as a reaction to Logan’s father telling her she’s not cut out to be a journalist. I skipped Season 7 and jumped straight into Year In The Life in the hopes that things would get better, but the mini-series turned out to be a mixed bag. Rory’s character regressed from bad to worse.

She was perfectly happy being Logan’s mistress until she realizes that he was going to honor his “arranged marriage.” And mind you, I actually liked Logan for a while. I also didn’t like her “struggles” in making a living as a freelance writer. She didn’t put much effort into chasing stories that would land her a byline. The only story she did pursue bored her to death and she slept with a guy dressed as a Wookie in the process. There was a website that wanted her to write for them, but she showed up to the interview completely unprepared and later lashed out at the website’s owner when she gave the job to someone else. Then, of course, was the end of the mini-series. I don’t want to spoil for those who didn’t watch. All I can say is I rolled my eyes and went “Here we go again.”

As far as Taylor Swift went, she started 2016 off well, but the pedestal I had for her shook when she broke up with Calvin and started having a feud with him. Bad news in regards to Taylor Swift kept coming. I hated that she dated Tom Hiddleston and felt happy when they broke up. I was hoping she’d start making a new album, as she did every two years, but instead, towards the end of 2016, she released a song she did from former One Direction band member Zayn for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack.

It felt like a stab in the back. I looked the other way when she became friends with Lena Dunham and tried to make peace with her removing her songs from Spotify. But for someone who claimed to be a feminist, contributing a song to a movie that continue to glamorize an abusive relationships was the last thing I wanted her to do. What’s worse is that the lyrics are sad, and not in the sad, beautiful, tragic way some of her other songs were. “I Don’t Want To Live Forever’s” lyrics capture a state of despair and co-dependent tendencies. I wanted Taylor to be happy and thought that she was after releasing 1989 and being in a relationship with Calvin. The Taylor I knew doesn’t exist anymore.

So back to Margaret of Cortona. What does she have with these two ladies? Well, like Taylor Swift, her life was sort of like the beginning of a fairy tale. She had a tumultuous relationship with her father and a stepmother who could give Lady Tremaine or Regina Mills a run for their money. Margaret, however, had an independent spirit, which gave her the strength to stand up to her wicked stepmother. Unfortunately, she was also “by nature one of those women who thirst for affection, in whom to be loved is the imperative need of their lives,” according to Fr. Albert Goodier. She became willful and reckless and eventually left her family.

Starved for love and being a woman who was quite beautiful, Margaret eventually became the mistress of a wealthy nobleman and ends up having his child. It’s not unlike how Rory Gilmore spent almost a decade being Logan’s mistress and feeling complacent in that relationship until he honors his marriage to someone else. But unlike Rory Gilmore, whose story arc in Year in the Life can be summed up as being the Poor Little Rich Girl, Margaret actually tried to make something of her life even after she leaves her love her and her family disowns her.

St. Margaret of Cortona went to live with an order of Franciscan monks who helped her take care of her kid. She dedicated the rest of her life to atoning for her former sinful life. Like Saint Francis, she worked for her meals and took whatever her employers paid her. Eventually, she would give her wages to those who needed it more. She founded a hospital, created a confraternity so that the hospital would always have employees, and eventually helped to restore a church.

So why am I writing about St. Margaret of Cortona now? According to Fr. Goodier, St. Margaret had her change of heart around the age of 27. As of right now, I am the same age as Taylor Swift and five years younger than Rory Gilmore. If there’s one New Year’s Resolution that I want to keep this year, it’s that I pick some better role models. I think St. Margaret of Cortona would be a good one for me, as well as for single moms and any other woman with relationship issues.

St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.

Epic Rap Battles of (Catholic) History: Nicholas vs Arius

Nikea-arius

Epic Rap Battles of History! Nicholas vs Arius! Begin!

Arius:
God is the Supreme, on that we can agree,
but that His son is His equal? I just cannot see!
The son of man was born,
so he was just a creation.
Not the king of all kings and the lord of all nations.

Nicholas:
Watch your mouth, you old heretic, and you’d best write this down
cuz this bishop from Myra is coming to town.
In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with God,
but you kinda forgot the part where He also WAS God.

Arius:
He was tempted and tried,
he can’t be fully divine.
Tryin to read between the lines?
You’re ripping off of the myths!

Nicholas:
If you keep shooting off at the mouth like this,
you’re gonna find out what happens when this bishop gets pissed!

*PUNCH!*

Arius:
Dude, you shouldn’t have hit me!
Now you’re going to jail! They should brand you like an ox.
You broke the rules. Epic fail!

Nicholas:
Oh yeah, you snake? Cuz Jesus busted me out
so you’d better listen well and you’d better watch out.
I’m rewriting this creed cuz you’re causing a scandal
Our Lord’s begotten, not made, aka consubstantial
BT-Dubz, Our Lord gave me a warning for you
If you try to approach Him, you’ll be spelling your doom
He won’t let you get close, guilt will fill you with gloom
And you’ll die with all of your guts out in a public bathroom.

*End Battle*

Why Brock Turner Needs Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli

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There is a reason why justice and mercy go hand in hand. Like the rest of the internet, I was disgusted over the way-too-lenient sentence that Brock Turner received from the judge. While I am devoted to Divine Mercy and advocate forgiveness, I also know that six months in jail is not actual justice. Brock Turner isn’t sorry.

Which is why, instead of screaming “Rape culture” and “Check your privilege,” I am asking Saint Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli to pray over this situation.

Why Maria Goretti?

For those who don’t know, Maria Goretti, like the victim of the Stanford rape case, was damaged by the guy who sexually assaulted her. In fact, she died as a result of her trying to defend herself from her would-be rapist.

I’m already asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession for the victim of the rape case because she needs all the support she can get. In some ways, the victim will have to suffer a lot more than Maria Goretti did because she has to live with the trauma for the rest of her life.

But why does the perpetrator need the intercession of the victim of attempted rape and murder? And how would the man who killed Maria Goretti help?

I’m asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession because the scales of justice and mercy are thrown out of balance. Alessandro got a proper sentence for the murder he committed. He began his thirty-year jail sentence angry and unrepentant. He blamed Maria Goretti for everything and he was very violent around his inmates. Six years later, Maria appeared to Alessandro in a vision. In this vision, she was in a garden picking 14 lilies and she gave those 14 lilies one by one to Alessandro. Each lily represented a stab that Alessandro inflicted upon her. Through this gesture, Maria showed that she forgave her murderer for what he did and what he wanted to do.

I understand that there is no frickin way that Brock Turner deserves forgiveness.  Improper justice was given to Brock Turner. Binge-drinking and whatever the victim was wearing did not cause this rape to happen. Brock Turner chose to rape her. And sadly, he’s not sorry for that particular action. His father and the judge aren’t sorry, either. The victim will probably never forgive them.

Here’s the thing, though. None of us deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget what happened, either. Mercy demands justice. The reason I’m asking for Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli’s intercession is because the scales of justice need to regain their balance. I pray that Brock Turner will feel the weight of his actions. I pray that the victim will not be a prisoner of her trauma nor will she be labeled a “slut” for what happened. I pray that people will understand that drinking and going out to a nightclub aren’t to blame here.

People these days feel entitled to have whatever they want. It’s not just a privilege issue because entitlement can be found everywhere. But I’m not here to rage against the fallen state of this country. There are too many people doing that already.

I’m here to ask for justice and mercy to be rendered to everyone involved. I’m asking people to look at each other and see a person and not someone to use for their own means. I’m asking for harsher sentences for rapists and for judges to have a little more wisdom. I’m asking for you to look into what mercy and forgiveness really mean and try and apply that to your life. Most of all, I pray that somehow, someday, all the people involved will learn to forgive each other and to forgive themselves, but to never forget what happened.

If you want to know more about Maria Goretti, read this post I wrote from last November when I venerated her relics. There’s also a video from the Mass that I went to that night. I linked the video to start at the homily:

P.S.: Who wants to bet that Law and Order SVU will totally do a ripped from the headlines episode based on this?

7 Quick Takes on Seven Saints for 2016

 

 

One tradition that Catholics have in the new year is that they pick a saint to be their patron for the year. Usually, it’s done using Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator. However, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to get to know more than one saint. So for today, I’m gonna do a Seven Quick Takes on seven saints that I want to get to know this year.

 

— 1 —

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The Saint Generator gave me Saint Zita. I first read about her in an A-Z book of saints from my local library. Saint Zita is the patron saint of homemakers, housekeepers, servants, domestic workers, etc. Basically, she’s the patron saint for the downstairs half of Downton Abbey. She was born in Lucca, Italy around the time that Saint Francis was beginning his ministry, so it’s no surprise that she dedicated her life to helping the poor, sick, and imprisoned. It’s not certain whether she was married, but she didn’t enter a religious order either, so she’s a great saint for single women who work on the grind. Plus, if you ever have to deal with flack from co-workers, Zita understands that struggle all to well, so ask for the patience that she had with her fellow servants.

Also, she’s one of the incorrupt saints. That’s something I consider majorly cool.

— 2 —

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Another saint that I want to get to know this year is Saint Teresa of Avila. She was the Teresa that inspired St. Therese of Lisieux and helped reform the Carmelite Order. I’m reading bits and pieces of her autobiography, The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle. I love how she describes the soul as a castle made out of a single diamond with many rooms inside. I feel like that’s how I see my own identity. I also love her prayer of “Let Nothing Disturb You” because it feels more like a meditation or a grounding mantra. Just thinking of it right now makes me feel at ease.

— 3 —

Mutter Teresa, lachend, Dezember 1985

I’ve already written about Mother Teresa, so without repeating myself, I just want to say that out of all the saints I’ve been reading and admiring, Mother Teresa is the one that I want to emulate the most. I want to be able to go out into the world and show God’s compassion to everyone, regardless of whatever faith or social class they’re in. I want to have her compassion for the sick, the poor, the dying, as well as for those who are spiritually bankrupt. I hope I get to watch her canonization in September.

— 4 —

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Mary Magdalene continues to be an enigma for me, even with the headcanons that I have for her. But instead of trying to speculate over who she was, I’m gonna start by going with what I do know. She was a Jewish woman. She was a leader amongst the disciples, especially with the female faction. She had seven demons exorcised out of her. She was there for Jesus during his crucifixion, burial, and was the first to see Him in his resurrection.

Many saints looked to her as a model for constant penitence because of her reputation as a fallen woman. She can be seen in a feminist subtext as someone who stood out amongst the norm by being a female leader without any husband with her. But what I admire most about Mary Magdalene is her loyalty. To stay with a friend when everyone else has gone away, to watch them die…It takes a lot of courage and loyalty. It’s that kind of loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus that I want to emulate.

— 5 —

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Even though I learned a lot about the life of Saint John Paul II, I’ve only skimmed the surface when it comes to his writings. One book that I want to read this year is Theology of the Body. I found a copy at my local secondhand bookstore (best place to find almost anything really) and I have other books that give commentary on the Theology of the Body. Since it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be going to Poland for World Youth Day (unless I win the lottery), I want to get to know the wisdom of this particular saint.

— 6 —

Caspar_Jele_-_Josef_mit_Jesusknabe

For the past week or so, I’ve been praying the 30-Day Saint Joseph Holy Cloak Novena. It’s a long one, but I’ve already experienced some great graces from praying this. And given how I credit Saint Joseph for helping me out during my Lenten retreat last year, I have faith that he will help me out with whatever I decide to do this coming spring. He’s also been a big help when it comes to my writing, which I consider to be both my work and my passion.

 

— 7 —

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I think everyone out there has a favorite Marian title. Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been with me ever since I was a kid, when I went to a school that bore her name. The school has closed down, but the church is still there and it hasn’t changed much since I last saw it. But I want to know more of the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help beyond the image I’ve seen throughout my life. I learned that it has Czech origins, but nothing beyond that.

 

So those are my 7 Saints for 2016. Feel free to comment about which saints or devotions you feel like focusing on this year!

Women of Christ Wednesday: Mother Teresa, a Saint for the Millenials

Mutter Teresa, lachend, Dezember 1985

Mother Teresa was someone I knew ever since I was a kid. I didn’t get to see her in action because she died around the same time I was old enough to receive first communion, but her legacy lives on in the Missionaries of Charity. I’ve mentioned before that I kind of fangirl whenever I see sisters wearing the blue and white habits because to me, they represent Mother Teresa.

In contrast to certain other people who claim to preach God’s word while their actions indicate otherwise, Mother Teresa serves as a great example of how the Catholic faith is lived out. In Rediscovering Catholicism, Matthew Kelly shares an anecdote from Jim Castle, who encountered Mother Teresa on a flight from Ohio to Kansas. Jim prayed the Rosary with the soon-to-be saint and when the flight was over, she gave him her Rosary. Praying the Rosary led to many graces for Jim and his friends and family, but it never would’ve happened if Mother Teresa didn’t take that opportunity to evangelize. Her evangelization was simple: sharing a moment of prayer with a stranger. It’s definitely something to think about. Times that we would perceive as being inconvenient (long flights, commutes to work) can easily be opportunities for prayer and evangelization if we’re open to that possibility.

Another way that Mother Teresa seems to be a great saint for this modern age is her struggles with staying true to God. I’m currently reading her autobiography Come Be My Light and I’m already finding myself relating a lot to her spiritual journey. Creating her own order wasn’t an easy task, nor was organizing the Missionaries once the group was established. But as Bishop Robert Barron pointed out, what makes Mother Teresa stand out the most is how she endured the darkness inside of herself.

So many people think that religion and spirituality are supposed to be “feel good” things. In reality, to use a very millenial hashtag, #thestruggleisreal. It’s a constant struggle to stay true to God’s will. What made Mother Teresa extraordinary was that she kept on living her vocation in spite of what she felt. And up until recently, very few people knew of the struggle she lived with throughout most of her life.

There are a lot of other things that Mother Teresa taught me. They’re mostly little things. But my favorite thing from her is the “I Thirst” meditation.

The word “thirst” is also something that gets used a lot in millenial slang. When a millenial says that “the thirst is real” or someone is “thirsty,” they usually refer to someone being desperate for affection. Mother Teresa, however, understands that the thirst that we have for love is a reflection of Jesus thirsting for our love.

Mother Teresa is one saint that I want to model in my life and I can’t wait for her canonization!

Hopes of The Holy Family: Advent Reflections Week 1, Day 3

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One thing I’ve noticed is how much I feel called to imitate Mary. In this Advent season, Mary plays a particularly prominent role. I’m currently praying the Immaculate Conception novena in anticipation of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the official start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. But I can’t talk about Mary without also talking about her most chaste spouse, Joseph. As part of Advent, some of my friends and I are doing meditations on Joseph and Mary. St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother were there for me during a retreat I staffed last spring and I love imagining the relationship that they had with each other.

My friend Cari shared this particular meditation with me from Catholic Tradition:

Our Lady, in giving him her hand, gave him also her whole heart. Never did a wife love her husband so tenderly, so ardently, nor revere him more profoundly. Mary and Joseph, says St. Bernardin of Siena, were but one heart and soul; they were two in one same mind, one same affection, and each of them was the other’s second self, because Our Lady and he were, so to speak, only one person. The heart of Mary with that of Joseph, and the heart of Joseph with that of Mary, who ever could imagine a union so intimate, a grace so great!

Can you imagine what they were thinking as they were journeying from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Mary is heavy with child and in spite what a certain song asks, she did know her part in the narrative, but it’s still overwhelming to her. Joseph is equally overwhelmed because he will have to raise a child that isn’t actually his own and sharing his life with a woman who’s never sinned. It takes a man of great humility to accept this great responsibility.

For today, I want you to reflect on Mary’s Magnificat and this wonderful song from MercyMe. Contemplate what Mary and Joseph may be thinking as they journey with us this Advent.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

 

St. Padre Pio: Marian Consecration Series

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One awesome I’m doing at Radiance and Grace Magazine is profiling saints with a Marian devotion to inspire people to consider Marian Consecration.

Today is Padre Pio’s feast day so check out what I have to say about him!

Ever since I stopped being a college student, there have been three very significant days on my calendar for September: one is the feast day of Mary’s birth on September 8th. The second is my mom’s birthday on September 22nd. And third is the feast day of St. Padre Pio on September 23rd. My mom has a Rosary with a picture of Padre Pio on the medal and often prays to him. She also has a great Marian devotion as well, which is typical of Filipino culture. Filipino culture is also deeply steeped in devotion to St. Padre Pio. There’s even a center and a chapel devoted to him in Quezon City, Manila, my mother’s hometown. But before I go into the devotion, I want to look more into the man himself.

Read the rest here!

Therese, Faustina, and Mary: Ladies of Radiance

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Photo courtesy of Melissa Clayton

From Radiance and Grace Magazine:

I’ll be honest. When I think of the word “Radiance,” I usually think of a pregnant lady first. But a few other things come to mind like the word “effulgent,” a synonym of “radiant,” the imagery of fireworks, and a bright, shining light. The beautiful thing about being a Catholic is that there are so many beautiful, wonderful ways to be a woman, to be a Catholic woman, and there are many unique ways to have radiance. Like light shining through a stained glass window, God shines through our lives in a multifaceted way, giving us His radiance. You can have radiance just by doing little things every day, as St. Therese did. You can have radiance by trusting completely in God like Saint Faustina did. Most of all, you can have radiance by being active, just like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Read the rest here!

Monique and Monica: The Names I Chose

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For those who don’t know, my full name is a long one. I’m Filipino. Long names come with the territory. My first name is Ann Mary, but I go by my middle name “Monique.” This often leads to people calling me “Monica” by mistake. Whenever that happened, I wouldn’t mind. After all, I chose Monica as my Confirmation name. Now unlike my brother and other high school kids, I didn’t choose my Confirmation name after researching the saints. In spite of the fact that I went to Catholic School, I didn’t really get to know the saints outside of information cards and the childish renditions in those books where the saints looked like movie stars. You know the ones. I chose Monica as my Confirmation name out of convenience, not really putting a lot of thought into it.

And yet I still care about what people call me. I don’t mind being mistakenly called Monica, but “Ann Mary” or “Mary Ann” as some may mistakenly say never sounded right to me. I also didn’t like being called “Momo” by some bullies back in high school nor did I like it when someone thought a different name would be better for me than the one I already had.

The name “Monica” means “advisor” and the story of St. Monica shows her trying to advise her son, Saint Augustine, but ultimately she surrendered herself and her son to God in the hopes that Augustine would reform. And reform he did. In my personal life, I do give advice to my friends who ask and I offer to help my friends out with their problems. I also tend to have an “advice column” kind of voice when I write my Bible studies and sometimes on this blog as well.

I don’t ask for St. Monica’s intercession as often as I should, but I feel like the saint whose name I share is still a part of me. Like Monica, I am devoted to my faith and long for the return of my fallen brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m also learning that when you share your faith openly, you will be met with some hostility, but for the most part, people don’t mind as long as it comes from a personal level and not like the Westboro Baptist Church.

I hope that I grow to have Saint Monica’s perseverance and undying trust in God as I get older. And the next time someone calls me “Monica,” I will still correct them, but still feel happy that my name is linked with a woman like her.