#Superbowlintheconvent AKA Nuns Being Awesome

nun sunglasses

Out of all of my tweets during the Super Bowl last night, this tweet had the most likes and retweets. This is about as close as I’ll get to going viral.

For those of you hung over or were too busy paying attention to the game to check your Twitter feed, ChurchPop made an article highlighting the nuns who tweeted throughout the game. I’m honestly surprised that #SuperbowlintheConvent didn’t end up trending because LOTS of people were following that particular hashtag.

I stumbled onto this hashtag when I saw what is currently my favorite Super Bowl ad (apologies to Avengers and Han Solo)

Gotta love that interfaith! Pope Francis would totally love this. And note that nuns were part of this ad, too.

I already follow a lot of nuns on Twitter, so I just checked one and found the hashtag. It quickly became the best thing ever, topping the Justin Timberlake halftime show.

Highlights that ChurchPop didn’t include:

And some love from people who were following the hashtag and applauding all the nuns having fun:

I love being Catholic. That is all. Please pray for all the nuns who were watching the game from beginning to end because contrary to what that Mucinex commercial said, some people will actually show up for work today.

Vocations: Destiny or Free Will?

crossroads

As someone who grew up reading fairy tales and watching anime, I began to notice something in the way that people see vocations.

Many of my married friends believe in the idea of pre-determined “soul mate” love and how God planned for them to marry a specific person. The story of their love life is essentially like the chorus from Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”: “You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess. It’s a love story, baby. Just say ‘Yes.'”

People who discern religious life, on the other hand, have vocation stories that resemble the typical anime “destiny plot.” In a typical adventure anime, the main character goes on a long journey or goes to school while trying to figure out what their purpose in life is. Either way, the protagonist finds their destiny and the story focuses on them working towards becoming a priest or a nun, with the perfect gang of friends who accompany them on this journey.

I’m speaking in generalizations, of course. I know that every vocation story is different. But in the years I spent going to vocation-related events, it seems like people see marriage and religious life as a pre-determined destiny and all they have to do is “discern” which one is right for them. In reality, marriage and religious life are not as cut and dry as that.

Yes, God creates each and every person with a unique personality and skills, but he also gave us this strange thing called free will. We have the ability to choose what to do with our gifts, for better or for worse. Our lives are more like those video games where the choices you make effect the way that the game ends. (Just think of Mass Effect or Infamous.) It doesn’t mean that we can just do whatever we want. The power to choose comes with the responsibility of making sure we choose to do God’s will. In an ideal life, we work with God to help us to choose the right thing. Eventually, our choices help reveal what God wants us to do with our lives.

The best example of this can be seen in the movie Moana. Although Moana was chosen by the ocean to voyage out and return the heart of Te Fiti, her journey was not an easy one and at one point, she gave the heart of Te Fiti to the ocean, wanting to return home after Te Ka nearly killed her. The spirit of her grandmother was supportive of Moana’s decision to turn back, but at the same time, Moana was hesitant. She had to choose to take the heart back herself and not just because the ocean or her grandmother told her. She did that by remembering who she was, where she came from, and reflecting on how far she has come.

So how does free will play a role in discerning marriage or religious life?

When it comes to marriage, I have a bit of a bias. For one thing, I don’t believe in soul mates. Now before you clutch your pearls and start citing the examples of Tobias and Sarah as well as Mary and Joseph, know that I wrote a Bible study on Tobit and I have a great devotion to the Holy Family. Tobias was worried about having to marry Sarah. He was free to choose to fulfill the promise he made to his father. Thankfully, Raphael guided Tobias to understanding how they would save Sarah from the demon that killed her previous husbands. If Sarah and Tobias’s marriage was predetermined, God would’ve found a way to have Tobias marry Sarah first and also expel the demon from her house at the same time.

In a similar way, Mary and Joseph still had to choose to say “Yes” to what God was asking of them. And their life was anything but a fairy tale, with Mary having to deal with at least three months of pregnancy alone (even while she was helping her cousin Elizabeth) and Joseph almost choosing to divorce Mary when he heard about her having a child.

God creates each and every person with a unique set of personality traits and skills and in our lives, we find people who we’re compatible with and some that we don’t get along with. But everyone we meet teaches us a lesson. Every relationship we have is a unique experience because we fall in love in different ways, depending on the person. It’s not going to be an instant-love-at-first-sight kind of thing that we see in romantic comedies and fairy tales. We choose who we love and then, once we marry, we can choose to stay with them in good times and in bad.

On the flip side of things, I know people who are still waiting for their lives to start, who have an idea on what God is calling them to do, but still have to choose the path they need to take in order to get there. The good news about these people is that they’re not just waiting around waiting for an answer to come on a silver platter. These people might have to pave their own paths or consider options beyond the norm. Regardless of where they head, God will always be with them.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t have a hand in our lives, but when it comes to our vocations, we can’t make the idea of finding our calling the end all-be all. We are called to ask God to be the compass of our hearts and then we choose the paths we walk down. There is no grand destiny where we save the world from an apocalypse. Most of us are called to live our holiness in ordinary lives. But is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so.

tl;dr: Our path towards our vocation, whatever we are called to be, is not a straight line. It’s a path we forge with God guiding us through each and every choice we make.

The Cassock and Collar Make the Man

Clerical_clothing

One wonderful thing about growing up Catholic is that I always smile and feel excited whenever I see a priest or a nun in full uniform. I understand why plainclothes nuns exist and in my college, some of the priests wore casual clothes along with their collars. But the feeling’s not the same. Whenever I see a Missionary of Charity, in their signature blue and white habits, I automatically think of Mother Teresa and think These women are so awesome to be following in her footsteps. Whenever I see a priest in a cassock, I think Wow that cassock is badass! 

So Tom Chiarella of Esquire Magazine’s experiment of dressing up as different men, priest included, definitely caught my eye. The first one he dressed up as was a priest. It was interesting to me that he chose the cassock to “look like the Jesuit priests who taught me to write.” I’m assuming he had a Catholic school education up to a certain point. I also like that he respected the uniform of the priest enough to not wear a crucifix or carry a Rosary or act like a priest when he was never ordained as such.

But what really struck at me was this (emphasis mine):

No one asked my name. No one called me Father Tom. But that’s what the uniform made me. People want to believe.

Especially people in need. All day long, I was faced with homeless men, homeless families, crouched in the street. Sometimes they reached up to me, touched my wrist. Twice I was asked for a blessing that I could not give. Not in the way they wanted. I started wishing that I were capable of performing a service for the world. And I found I could not do nothing. The uniform comes with some responsibility; otherwise, it is just a party costume. I started kneeling down, holding out a ten-dollar bill, and saying, “I’m not a priest. But I feel you.” And I couldn’t do it once without doing it a couple dozen times. Chicago is a big city, with a lot of souls stuck in its doorways. It still makes me sadder than I could have imagined.

It’s easy to put on a cassock. And it’s really not easy to wear one at all.

I think, if anything else, this is evidence of what the life of a priest is like and why the church doesn’t call for married priests. Being a priest isn’t a job you clock in and out of. It’s a lifestyle that demands that the man who wears the collar and uniform to completely surrender himself to serving others, whether as a diocesan priest or as a member of a religious order.

When I was going on vocation retreats, a book called To Save a Thousand Souls caught my eye and a dear friend let me keep a copy. When I read that book, the lifestyle of a priest was laid open to me. Priests have to be able to manage a parish (if they’re diocesan) or have some kind of full-time job that requires a lot of responsibility. They also have to celebrate Mass, be ready to go to hospitals when necessary, celebrate weddings and funerals, give advice, hear Confessions, stand up for the teachings of the Church and, oh yeah, keep their own souls intact in the process.

Most priests may not be able to have families the way that ordinary men and women do, but they make a family in a completely different way. One priest that comes to mind is my dear friend Fr. Keon, who was a professor at my alma mater. He passed away a few years ago, but his life was an amazing one. Most of his life as a priest was spent teaching and serving the University of St. Thomas as a member of the Basilians. He taught philosophy and participated in many on-campus activities such as attending plays and going out to the movies with students. When I met him, he was retired, spending his days in the cafeteria talking to students, telling tall tales and making everyone laugh.

When Fr. Keon passed away, generations of students came to his memorial service. Everyone had stories to tell, memories to share about the time they spent with this priest. It’s hard to say that Fr. Keon never had a family when hundreds of alumni, young and old, were all there celebrating his life and at the same time missing him.

The life of a priest is one with great power and great responsibility. Each priest has the potential of being a hero to the Church and to the world, filled with lost souls. My hope is that people will come to understand that and pray for them always.

The Laments of Liabilities in Discerning Religious Life

I’ve mentioned on here before that although I want to get to know what it’s like to be a nun more, I haven’t exactly been provided with opportunities to do so. I do have a wonderful nun who acts as my spiritual director, but she’s told me that pursuing religious life would be harder for me because I have more liabilities. What are my liabilities, you ask? Mainly the fact that I have autism and that I have a long list of food allergies. 

When I told a few orders about myself as part of the interview process for come-and-see events, they told me outright that I wouldn’t be considered as a potential sister. One order even said that I wasn’t qualified to go to the come-and-see retreat they were hosting.

I know everyone’s praying for an increase in vocations but it’s kind of hard when convents and monasteries feel more like a VIP nightclubs. I get that I’m socially awkward. I get that being in a convent is a completely different lifestyle change and for people with autism, the process of adjusting would take a long time. What really bugs me is that these people decided to slam the door before they even saw my face.

And I’m not the only one who faces this problem. More than a few young adults who identify themselves as under the LBGT+ spectrum also face rejections from religious orders just on the basis that they have same sex attraction. These Catholics could be living chaste lifestyles, but their sexual orientation becomes a liability instead of an opportunity to further understanding.

Locked_Gates_Occupy_Harvard

 

I’m not asking for religious orders to be as open as Grand Central Station. Nor am I asking for them to give people who may not fit the usual mold any special treatment. I’m just asking to give those who seek to understand religious life a chance. Get to know all those who desire to be a nun, a monk, or a priest as individuals. What people call “liabilities” are still parts of our lives. And if there’s anything we know, it’s that God has a way of turning what the world sees as a liability into a strength. After all, love is an open door and besides that…

“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED!”

Women of Christ Wednesday: Linda Hernandez

I first met Linda back in my college days. She worked in the library and was part of my Bible study. After college, we met again at an Awakening retreat and a year later, she came to visit me and told me that she was entering the convent. I decided to ask her about her discernment process and the order she decided to join.
Who are the Disciples of Christ and how did you meet them?
Discipulas de Jesus (disciples of Jesus) are a religious community of consecrated life established in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 1986–a new congregation that has been instituted in less than 30 years. They seek to be like Jesus (hence, Disciples of Jesus) and imitate Mary as women.  Their charism is to evangelize. They emerged out of the Charismatic movement, so their prayer style is charismatic. I met them at my current parish, St. Charles Borromeo, about almost five years ago when I was sent there to take formation (FTCM) courses and was very attracted to the life and prescence of God that irradiated from this one sister. It was through the youth group (which is also charismatic and which they advise) that I was led closer to them and to their praying style. They’re the kind that sing and dance for the Lord joyfully.
Tell me about your discernment process. How did you know/decide that religious life was your calling?
My discernment process has been pretty long…I did not grow up going to church, but when I began to do so, I fell in love.
I remember purchasing a missalette, and in the cover was an image of St. Therese of Lisieux. The image caught my attention so much. That’s all I remember, but it struck me and I still remember where I was.
I also remember reading about St. Lucy. I looked at her story because my middle name is Lucía–or Lucy in Spanish. I loved her story and it resonated with me. I knew at that moment I wanted to be consecrated and I admired her courage, chastity, and determination. I wanted to be like her since then. I came home telling my mom I didn’t wish to marry, but to be consecrated like St. Lucy. I was born premature, and was the first child to survive. My mom couldn’t have kids, so she prayed to Our Lady and promised to take me to the Basillica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico). I see this as a type of consecration, even if she was unaware of it. It reminds me of the story of Samuel, when his mom couldn’t have kids and prayed and Samuel was born. Later, God calls Samuel to be a priest.
Of course, years passed by for me as well. The later signs for me have been answered in mass and in prayer. I told God, I’ll go in..maybe in 2 years or so. I felt Him call me closer. I shook my head and gave excuses. Every excuse I threw at Him, He seemed to take care of. I wanted to provide for my family, but at the moment I didn’t have a stable job. I sought, prayed about it, and wouldn’t make it. I asked Him to close the doors and open the ones He wanted me to walk by. And He did. I asked Him to shout because I couldn’t hear Him well. Oh, He even called me out during class. People I didn’t even know (and those I knew) began coming to me (different places, sometimes several times a day) and asking me if I would be interested in religious life, had I considered? Or saying they saw God’s prescence around me..I knew it was His grace and His way of telling me to go in.  I told Him if He wanted me sooner to provide scholarships for my sister. The next day or two she sents me a picture message with an image of an award letter for a scholarship. I said I at least need to save up for her laptop. The next day or so, she brings one from school for her to use throughout the semester.The day I made my decision in my heart, I felt at peace with my heart and happiness radiated, even though I didn’t know how it would all work out. When I set a “date” to go in, the next day in morning prayer (Lauds) I read: “My L ord, Jesus Christ, has placed a ring on my finger; he has adorned me like a bride with a crown” preceeding Psalm 63. And ” He who is the Lord of the angels is the one who I am betrothed.” And ” God is her help.”
Also, I realized that the week I made my decision it was all vocational readings for mass. And the day before I enter is the Annunciation feast day, when Mary says “yes”. Too much coincidence? I did not do it on purpose; I wasn’t aware of these details until afterwards. You can say “what a coincidence.” I say, “Wow, God, I hear You loud.”
Who are your go-to saints?
In prayer, I always address God first throughout my day. I’ve learned to ask daily intercession of our blessed mother, Mary, and through the rosary. I want to say “yes” to whatever God asks of me, but my natural inclination is not always to say “yes,” therefore, I must pray for intercession. This has helped strenghten my vocation and ward off evil waiting to attack, strenghtening me to turn away from sin. My go-to saints are: St. Therese of Lisieux (of the Little Child of Jesus)–I ask her to pray for me, and my patron saints: St. Francis of Assisi & St. Lucy, who was virgin & martyr, consecrating herself to the LORD despite all oppositions, even until death. I find her intercession important, especially in terms of chastity, to ward off lustful desires. Also, recently, the prayer to St. Joseph has also helped.
What advice would you give to people who are discerning vocations?
If anyone is discerning, I urge them to pray about it. Daily mass is recommended and frequent visits to adoration, as well as meditating on scripture and praying the rosary more often will help lead them in the right direction. Pay attention to the signs; be receptive. Is it something you desire? God does not force a vocation, it is an alignment between what one deeply desires and what He has in store for our happiness. Join discernment groups, such as the Come and See meetings (Vengan y Vean in Spanish), inquire, and don’t be scared too peek!
As of this blog post, my friend is now starting her novitiate, so please pray for her!

February Progress Report

I didn’t update this blog as often as I thought I would due to sickness and me realizing that I needed to take things into a different path. I want to be more open about my faith on this blog, especially with Lent coming up in a week. So after my Four Loves Friday post, the next time you’ll see me update this blog will be on Ash Wednesday.

Lent has always been a tricky thing for me, even back when I was a kid. I hated fasting because having food allergies made giving up meat every Friday even harder than it already was. And when I got older, fasting also meant eating just one meal during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Lent was also emotionally grueling because it was often a time that I was spiritually and emotionally tested. Last year was bad because of a serious bout of emotional distress brought on by Pope Benedict’s resignation and the betrayal of a friend. I spent the rest of the year recovering from my friend’s betrayal.

Now that I feel that I have recovered from the trauma, I want to focus on discerning my vocation. So I will be using this blog as my Lenten journal. The posts will feature the following:

1) My 365grateful photo that will undergo a Lenten theme

2) A link to Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections (If you don’t know who Fr. Robert Barron is, he is a priest/vlogger who creates videos that comment on current events, movies, and pop culture and talks about them through a Catholic perspective. Look him up on YouTube and then check out wordonfire.org. He is awesome!)

3) Any sort of thoughts I have about the day in general.

I am also planning on praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen as part of increasing my prayers.

So what am I giving up, you ask? After giving it a lot of thought, I decided on limiting the amount of clothes I would wear for the duration of Lent.

Come back here on Friday where I reveal my favorite CS Lewis quote and go into what it means to love selflessly.