Saint Gemma Galgani: Women of Christ Wednesday

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Sometimes, people discover saints, like how many teenagers and young adults search for a good saint for their Confirmation name. And other times, the saints have a way of finding you. For me, I got introduced to Saint Gemma Galgani through my friend Amy over on Catholic Girl Bloggin.

I learned a lot more about Saint Gemma on her feast day, which was about a month ago. It comforted me when I learned that Gemma never became a religious sister. She was in poor health and didn’t qualify to be a Passionist Nun like she wanted to be. Instead, she became a lay Passionist, wearing all-black and keeping the badge of the Passionists close to her. She never officially took any vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but she essentially lived out the life of a nun. She chose to stay single, to devote her entire life to serving Christ. It’s very inspiring to me, as a modern day single woman. I don’t have to be married or be part of a religious order if I want to serve Christ. As Saint Therese said, “My vocation is love.”

Back to Saint Gemma, though. Like my other Sister Saint, Saint Gemma had a great devotion to Saint Gabriel Possenti, who, like her, died young, but lived his life serving Christ as a Passionist. She also lost her mother at a very early age and her father passed away when she was 19. She was adopted into the Giannini family and lived a simple life. By modern standards, Gemma seems too perfect, too sheltered, too good to be true. As the saying goes, however, still waters run deep.

The aspect of Saint Gemma’s life that I admire the most is her interior life, especially her periods of spiritual warfare. Like a Slayer, she constantly battled demons who attacked her on a daily basis. This fight would go on and off up until her death. The last battle she had was the worst because she experienced a heartbreaking desolation, the kind that Mother Teresa would endure. And yet, she kept to her resolve, her loyalty, her devotion to Christ. It’s no wonder that I call her “the little ninja saint” because while her life wasn’t anything that would stand out in worldly terms, she fought evil in the shadows. As of now, she’s one of my go-to saints whenever I have to deal with my own spiritual warfare.

If you want to know more about Saint Gemma, check out this website that has tons of pictures and biographical information. Also, check out Amy’s Victim Soul series on her blog, which dives into Gemma’s spiritual warfare with epic dramatic detail.

Women of Christ Wednesday: Purposes Lost and Found

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Today’s Women of Christ Wednesday will be a bit different. I am going to share with you two books. These two books are about women who thought they lost everything when their lives were radically changed by unforeseen circumstances and yet, through the grace of God, they were able to find a new sense of purpose and gained an authentic, wonderful love along the way.

The first book is Fractured, Not Broken, a memoir by Kelly Schaefer and M. Weidenbenner. Kelly Schaefer became a quadriplegic after an accident involving a drunk driver.

I should tell you right now, one major flaw I have is I often read the last page first. If the ending makes me wonder how the people involved got to that certain point and how they changed, chances are I’m gonna go back to page one and read non-stop until I find out. Kelly Schaefer wasn’t the typical “inspirational disadvantaged” person. The struggles she faced and the losses she endured are shown on each and every page. She longed for the days when she could do backflips and cartwheels and especially hated when her boyfriend pre-accident ended up breaking up with her. And yet, slowly Kelly started turning her life around. She finished college and became a teacher and spoke out about the dangers of drunk driving. Then, all of a sudden, another wonderful man comes into the picture.

This memoir is unique because the story of Kelly’s husband, Shawn, is also included. I was literally screaming at the book, rooting for Shawn to find Kelly. I honestly couldn’t put this book down because I wanted to know how Shawn and Kelly would find each other. Knowing that they eventually did and that their relationship would lead to a beautiful marriage gives me hope that someday, I will find my own wonderful husband.

 

The second book I want to share with you is The Girl’s Still Got It by Liz Curtis Higgs. This book is a Bible study and commentary on the Book of Ruth. While Higgs is Protestant, I have a deep respect for her because her Bad Girls of the Bible series was one of the things that helped me stay grounded in my love for God back in my California days. (Keep in mind, by the way, I was a very pretentious teenager at the time.)

The Girl’s Still Got It is a bit of a departure from Higgs’s usual Bible studies in that there is no “modern version” of the story that Higgs creates to parallel Biblical Ruth with a modern version of her. Instead, each chapter has short testimonies from women who commented on their relationships with their mothers-in-law and their husbands.

The Book of Ruth is one I’m familiar with, but Higgs’s commentary brings new life to the story. Ruth stands out as someone who was a foreigner, who came to Israel to take care of her mother-in-law. Given Pope Francis’s frequent jokes about mothers-in-law and Naomi’s bitter heart at the loss of her husband and sons, it wasn’t exactly an easy task. In spite of that, Ruth devotes herself to taking care of Naomi, even if it means leaving behind the home she knew all her life.

The best part of the story, though, is when Ruth’s kind actions are noticed by her kinsman-redeemer Boaz. Their romance isn’t exactly as much a page-turner, but it’s still heartwarming because Boaz is drawn to Ruth’s selfless love and Ruth sees Boaz as a kind provider. Like any good love story, there are still a couple obstacles for the two of them to overcome before they can finally say “I do,” but the happy ending is very much earned.

 

I have to wonder if Kelly Schaefer ever read the Book of Ruth and saw the parallels between her story and that of Ruth’s. So many women out there, myself included, often wonder if there are any good men out there. These two stories are proof that nothing is impossible with God. If you are like me and you are seeking a godly man, I have a prayer for you.

 

Heavenly Father,

Before the world was created, you knew me. You know all that was and all that will be. You know the man who is best suited to share my heart with You. Lord, I pray that you will prepare my heart for him. I ask that you prepare his heart for me, as well. Whenever I am lonely, remind me to pray for him. Whenever I feel jealous of others’ happiness in relationships, remind me to have hope and to be grateful for what I have right now. Whenever I feel that aching in my chest, that deep sad longing, carry me through it. Let Your love be enough for me, and yet let me be open to receive his love as well.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

 

Women of Christ Wednesday: Mary Cieslak

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Mary Katharine Cieslak is 22 year-old college grad who aspires to be a filmmaker, whatever that may mean in this ever-changing media landscape.

1) Tell me your “coming out” story.

I mean, my “coming out” story is still happening: I only just came out to my little sister last week!! That’s two out of eight people in my immediate family. Personally, I find people’s stories of coming out to themselves infinitely more fascinating. I think in cultures where it is dangerous to come out—and it is undeniable that Catholic culture is generally negative towards accepting anyone other than cisgender and heterosexual persons—there tends to be this self-repression of people within that culture. It took me 12 years to realize I was gay. I just compartmentalized all the little hints, the nagging doubts, and forced myself to forget. That’s just not healthy, and I think there’s also a danger that people will ultimately leave the faith altogether. Heck, it’s already happening, it’s been happening!!

2) What are your perspectives on SSA and being Catholic?

I really dislike the term “SSA” (same sex attraction). To me, it’s another way of disassociating queer people from that identity: “You’re not gay, you’re just a person with same sex attraction!” But you can’t discuss accepting your identity when it’s considered a tacked-on attribute, akin to having brown eyes or blonde hair. I admire how words and meanings matter very much in the Catholic Church, but here? It’s a conversation-halter. That shouldn’t be our goal. Catholicism isn’t a one-liner, so please, stop quoting Galatians 3:28 like you’re dropping the mic. Our faith is a constant dialogue between Scripture and Tradition. And a 2000+ year old conversation will not be nullified by people identifying as queer any more than people identifying by race, ethnicity, or nationality did.

3) How has coming out affected your life?
Well for one thing, a lot of personal questions were answered! But of course, many more took their place. It reminded me of how I felt immediately after I was confirmed in the faith: “Okay but, now what do I do?!?” In an unexpected but pleasant surprise, I do feel more sure in my body now that I recognize its intricacies better, even as I slowly, anxiously come out to people one-by-one. It’s become a journey of self-discovery, and I find myself getting excited each time the Church talks about this subject. More than anything, it’s has made me realize that my faith is happening, it is ever-present, and I must engage in dialogue with it! How could I not?

4) Who are your go-to saints?

Saint Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes!! *laughs* But in all seriousness, my go-to is my namesake, the Virgin Mary; she is such a benevolent Queen, a comforting Mother in a time where I am afraid to come out to my own. And I’m intrigued by the various discussions of saints and Biblical figures who were queer. The tomboy in me has always loved St Joan of Arc, so even if the idea that she is transgender is unfounded, make her the patron saint of it. Right now there is no official patron saint of any queer or MOGII persons. Give us someone, please!!

5) What advice would you give to Catholics who identify as having SSA?

You are made in the Image and Likeness of God, and you are loved by the Creator who made you. Now that you have discovered this new part of yourself, you can embark on this spiritual journey! And you do not have to make that journey alone. There are more and more of us realizing and accepting God’s creation within us every day. Seek us out. You were made from Love; you were made to be loved. Just knock.

6) What would you say to adults who struggle to understand homosexuality?
I was once like you. I thought, love the sinner, hate the sin. But love is not manifested through disapproval and disregard. How uninspired, how lazy of the Church Militant to approach its vulnerable members in this way.
Listen to the people who come forward. Make a safe space for people who do not. You are eager to direct people to God and show his love, but you cannot welcome them with one arm wrapped around them, while the other pushes them away.
Do not assume that you are never in the company of queer persons. Many times my father has unwittingly belittled his lesbian daughter at the family dinner, while in fear I bit my tongue on the truth.
Be gracious to people who fall from grace. The amount of times I’ve come back to confession pleases my priest to no end. Because the Church was made not to condemn but to save. Continuously. Constantly. Limitlessly: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?”

 

Coming This Summer: Dissonance by Mariella Hunt

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Fifteen-year-old Allie Grant lives crippled by her illness. Though kept in isolation, she’s never alone: A spirit named Song lurks in the silence of her bedroom.

When Song reveals its dark nature on the night of her recital, the show ends in tragedy. Verging on death, Allie’s taken in by an uncle she’s never met.

Julian claims to be a Muse with power over music and answers that’ll heal her. The cure she needs is rare, requiring of him a difficult sacrifice. Allie soon suspects her uncle has a secret that’ll turn her world around.

But with days left to live, she might fade without learning the truth…like the finishing chord of a song.

————-

About the Author:

Mariella Hunt is a writer with a strong love for coffee and guinea pigs. She likes using big words in everyday speech, and keeps journals of quotes from the greats.

Most days you’ll find her on a well-loved armchair, reading–or working on one of her many projects. As she cannot stick to an outline, she rewrites way too much.

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!

Women of Christ Wednesday: Relationship Edition

Rachel, Tristan, and Kateri. Kateri is Rachel's sister and the other half of "Your Face is Catholic." Posted with permission from Rachel Hitchcock.

Rachel, Tristan, and Kateri. Kateri is Rachel’s sister and the other half of “Your Face is Catholic.”
Posted with permission from Rachel Hitchcock.

 

Today, I interview two people who are part of a group called “New Catholic Generation.” New Catholic Generation is a group of teens and young adults who film Catholic video blogs for YouTube.

Rachel Claire Hitchcock and her sister, Kateri are the creators of the YouTube vlog “Your Face is Catholic.” Rachel currently teaches two-year-olds while going to community college in Arizona. She aspires to work with people with disabilities and to be a saint.

Tristan Rios is the creator of the YouTube vlog “Catholic Athlete” and evangelizes through his Twitter @Cathlete4Christ. He currently studies health sciences at Colorado State University.

Rachel and Tristan also happen to be in a lovely, adorable, so-sweet-you’ll-get-cavities relationship.

 

What inspired you to start a Youtube channel?

Rachel: I kind of went into it reluctantly at first. Kateri had to talk me into it, but I’m really glad that she did. We both really like to talk. Specifically, we like to talk about Jesus. Our family has always enjoyed making videos as a hobby, and we enjoyed watching different youtube channels like SheisCatholic and Blimey Cow. Those two were definitely our main inspirations. We created a youtube channel with those two in mind and then talked about Jesus as much as our darling little hearts desired to. And good things came out of that.

Ttristan: I actually began as an anonymous Twitter account because I could not find a Twitter personality producing Catholic and athletic content. After about two months I followed Rachel Claire on Twitter, and three months after that we began Skyping on a weekly basis. She suggested that I try making a few videos, which is something I had thought of before since, similar to the Twitter situation, I had not seen any YouTube personality producing videos about Catholicism and athletics. So I made a couple videos and Rachel (already being a member of New Catholic Generation) sent my channel to the founder who added me to the website.

 

When did the transition from friends to “Tweethearts” happen?

T: I would say it happened as soon as we met. I had always admired Rachel from afar, and after we skyped for the first time I could not stop smiling. I was very nervous and apparently  so was she, but I could not tell at all. I had a huge crush on her since the moment she slid into my DM’s and it has grown exponentially ever since.

R: I always liked his Twitter account, even though I couldn’t relate to its message personally. (I’ve exercised, like, once. Kind of.) I knew from his tweets that he was a solid Catholic who was passionate about his faith just as I was, but I really wasn’t looking to be in a relationship until months after we started talking.

 

How did your families react?

R: It took them awhile for them to realize that we were serious. But my family has been supportive ever since they met him in person and got to know him better.

T: Yeah, I was definitely not looking for a significant other, especially online. I mean, who dates someone they meet over the internet anyway?

R: I do, sweetheart. It’s the Holy Spirit. He tends to wow people in ways that we don’t expect.

T: Seriously, that has been the theme of our relationship.

 

Theme of your relationship? What do you mean by that?

R: I mean, we had crushes on each other from when we first started skyping and praying with each other regularly, but we didn’t actually talk about discerning with each other until about 6 months later, in June 2014. While we were discerning since then, we didn’t consider ourselves “official” until he asked my dad for his permission to date me over winter break.

T: To answer the theme of our relationship question, basically we both come from very different backgrounds, Rachel was homeschooled, I went to public school, Rachel has six siblings, I have one, Rachel was into dance while I participate in contact sports, Rachel prefers indie hipster music  while I enjoy Catholic rap. Normally two people from our respective  backgrounds wouldn’t have much reason to talk to each other let alone pursue  a relationship,  but that’s where the surprise comes in. On the surface we are almost polar opposites, but what unites us intimately is our love of Christ and His Church and our equally intense desire for holiness. Our differences compliment each other. God continues to surprise us with how well we compliment each other despite our superficial differences.

 

How do you guys deal with being in a long-distance relationship?

T: We pray a Rosary every day either by means of  phone, Skype, or Facetime. Prayers is how we grow in sanctity, and by praying together we grow in holiness together. It helps that we focus more on the friendship and emotional qualities of a relationship and that we are not as distracted with the temptations of inappropriate physical affection.

R: Obviously, it’s not easy at all. We miss each other a ton and plane tickets are expensive, but it’s actually a lot more fruitful than I thought it would be. I’ve always kind of detested practicing patience. So naturally, God gave me a way to practice this fruit in a form that had the appearance of Pier Giorgio Frassati and a holiness to compare. We make extra effort to talk everyday. If we can’t Skype, we talk on the phone. Our relationship is completely in the hands of the Blessed Mother. We pray her rosary together in this way every day, and we’ll begin the Total Consecration together shortly. While we can’t attend Mass together, we offer up our moments in front of the Eucharist for each other. We’re using this time apart as a time of waiting and preparation. We see these years that we’ll have to be apart as a gift given to us so that we may use it to grow stronger in our faith and mature as people.

 

Your boyfriend looks like Pier Giorgio Frassati?

R: That was one of the first things I noticed about him.

Copyright Rachel Hitchcock. The resemblance is uncanny.

Copyright Rachel Hitchcock. The resemblance is uncanny.

I don’t believe in coincidence.

 

Who are your go-to saints?

R: I’ve definitely prayed to Frassati for my future husband. Our Lady is the biggest one, obviously. We’ve recently prayed novenas to St. Therese, St. Anne, and St. Joseph.

T: Mine would definitely be Saint Sebastian as he is the patron of Athletes. I also greatly admire Saint Joseph as an excellent model for genuine masculinity. Besides those two I also ask Saint Kateri, Saint John Paul II, Saint Benedict, Saint Christopher, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Anthony (yes, mainly when I lose things). I have an intense devotion to Our Lady of Grace, her image is beautiful and I love wearing the Miraculous Medal. Rachel has inspired me to take a devotion to Queen of the Most Holy Rosary since that is our most frequent form of prayer in our relationship right now.

 

What advice would you give to teenagers and young adults who are either in a relationship or want to be in a relationship?

R: Make it holy, of course. Have a purpose. If you aren’t actively discerning marriage, then take a step back and ask yourself why you’re in a relationship at all. And if you’re a teenager in high school or the beginning years of college, really, REALLY ask yourself if you really, REALLY think that God is calling you to discern marriage at this point in your life. And I know this is said a lot, but make God the center. God should be the center of everything you do anyways, but this is especially important with relationships because this has the opportunity to either become something imperfectly beautiful and holy or it can lead you down an emotional and painful path away from sainthood. Satan likes to toy with those in relationships Be open with priests about your relationship, too. This can be either in confession, formal spiritual direction, or even simply casually, at least at first. Be holy, in all things. Especially things that are concerning your heart.

T: Don’t jump into one the moment you see a girl in a mantilla and think of the Blessed Mother. The first thing you should do is make sure that you  have properly discerned the priesthood/consecrated life. After that, discern if  you are in the position to  be in a relationship at that moment in your life. There may be some other details in your life you need to figure out first, like getting your high school diploma. Make sure that your intentions are pure so as to not damage yourself and the woman you are attracted to. Also, be careful if you meet someone online. Rachel and I broke almost every online safety rule, but only after we affirmed that we are indeed who we said we were. The important part is that we were not looking for a relationship online, we just introduced ourselves before moving forward.

Woman In Love: An Interview with Katie Hartfiel

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Katie Hartfiel is an author and speaker dedicated to sharing the intense love of the Lord. As a teenager, Katie fell in love with Christ at a Steubenville youth conference in her home state of Colorado. She received a degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. In 2012, Katie released her first book, Woman in Love. This work coaches young women as they strive for purity through praying for and journaling to their future spouse. She has been blessed to watch hearts come alive with the realization that our faithful God hungers to exceed our deepest desires.

I first met Katie and her husband Mark when they gave a talk at my school. It was part of a series of lectures called Bottom of the Cup. Katie’s testimony inspired me to address my journal entries to my “Beloved,” which could apply to a future earthly husband or a godly one.

 

What was the inspiration behind the Woman In Love book and the brand as a whole?

 

Woman In Love is a term that was coined by the girls in my youth program and I as an alternative to the phrase “Woman of God.” We tended to associate the thought of being a “Woman of God” with images of churning butter. There is nothing wrong with such an image, but we felt that what really described us was that we were women who were madly, deeply, passionately in love. This love radiates into everything we think, do and say. We are defined by this love. This is the heart of being a Woman of God… being a woman who loves and who is beloved. The book focuses on the fact that when we accept Jesus as our First Love, He is free to mold us for our second love- whether that be the Church or a spouse.

 

 

What are you doing nowadays?

 

I was a full time youth minister in Houston for seven years and left my position about 6 months after my second child was born. I am now a full-time stay-at-home-mom. My kids and I sleep too late and them stumble around getting ready for our day. I homeschool in the mornings, play in the early afternoon and work on my ministry in the late afternoon. Evenings are usually spent on my holey couch with my husband and a hot beverage. On the side I do some speaking and writing which allows me to be with teens and share my passion.

 

What do you have to say to those who think young adults aren’t participating enough (or even at all) with church activities?

 

It is hard to find a home in parish life when you are a young adult. Many programs are geared toward youth or families… and let’s be honest– a lot of old people. The truth is that the church will benefit from an awakening of the young adult demographic! Their gifts are endless! I have so many young adult friends who have given so much to our parish through heading fundraising efforts, teaching and serving. The truth is that when we give to our parish we receive.

 

 

What do you think is the best thing about being married and being a mother? How different is it from being single or a religious sister?

 

The best part is the experience of meeting God in my kids and husband. They teach me all the time about God’s unconditional love for me. At least once a day, usually more, I find myself looking at their faces and feeling overwhelmed in adoration of God’s generosity. When we find the path God is calling us on, He WILL encounter us. He does so in a particular singular way through marriage, and He does so in a particular singular way through single life and a particular singular way through religious life. He knows the place that will set our hearts on fire.

 

 

Who is your go-to saint for things relating to motherhood? Who was your go-to saint when you were waiting for your husband-to-be? Any saints that you designated for your daughters?

 

I spend a lot of time shooting arrow prayers to the Blessed Mother during the day. I often like to ask her to come and take over so I can have 5 minutes.

 

A saint that has really introduced herself into my life beginning during my Husband-To-Be prayer days is St. Philomena who is the patroness of purity for the 21st century. She stood up against her country, family and the most powerful man in the world in the name of purity and she is a powerhouse. She has been very faithful to me in her intercessions! My daughters both have a love of St. Philomena and St. Clare, but they are particularly partial to St. Therese.

 

 

What advice would you give to young women and their mothers about discerning vocations and relationships?

 

Trust. God will never be outdone in generosity, and if we are generous with God He will be generous with is. I heard before that faith is knowing that when you step off the cliff you will either be given solid ground to walk on, or be given the wings to fly. We tend to rush things in discernment, but young women- you aren’t waiting for your love story to start- you are living it RIGHT NOW. Today is an important day in your formation for your vocation. Worry about today and live one step at a time.

 

 

If you could go back to when you started writing letters to your HTB, what would you tell her?

 

I think about this a lot actually. I would say, “Katie, put your head down and just make it. It’s all going to be better than you could imagine on the other side. God is hiding you in His wounds and sharing tears beside you- He is sharing in your cross, but He will also share with you His Resurrection.”

Women of Christ Wednesday: Leah Darrow

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Photo courtesy of The Grable Group

Back when I was in high school, I used to be obsessed with America’s Next Top Model. I got into it when I found out that one of the contestants, Heather Kuzmich, had Asperger’s Syndrome. Little did I know that I would later learn of another contestant who left the modeling lifestyle and became a well known Catholic speaker. When I first heard of Leah Darrow, I knew her as a speaker, not as a reality show contestant. Later on, I watched her when she gave her conversion story on The Journey Home and found myself fascinated.

After watching her testimony on The Journey Home, I found a video clip of her elimination from America’s Next Top Model. I watched in awe as the judges said that her outfit was more suited for a “secretary contest,” telling her to take off her jacket since she was wearing a tube top underneath. In my honest opinion, she was definitely less “soccer mom” than Tyra Banks declared her to be.

With beauty queens these days showing themselves to be less-than-stellar when it comes to world matters, Leah Darrow stands out as a woman who wears a better crown on her head: the crown that God gives to all of his daughters. And the fact that I first knew her as a speaker rather than a reality show contestant tells me that she’s come a very long way.

What did your time on America’s Next Top Model teach you about being on TV and the “glamorous” lifestyle?
My time on ANTM taught me that there is no such thing as the “glamorous lifestyle” – that’s only something that Fergie and Beyonce sing about. The lifestyle perpetuated by fashion, music, and movies is one focused on instant gratification and constant conformation to a ridiculous standard of beauty and entertainment that one has no control over.
Tell me how you met your husband and how things are for you and your family now.

We were introduced by friends. When we met in 2008, Ricky had just returned from his first deployment to Iraq (he’s a US Army Special Forces Green Beret) and was prepping for his second deployment, so, a “relationship” was a bit out of the question. We started and maintained a friendship, and for the next four years and really got to know each other. In 2011, we just happened to be in the same place, at the same time — and that’s when Ricky knew I was the love of his life and he couldn’t live without me…that’s at least my version of the story.
What advice would you give about relationships?
We are obsessed with relationships today and define ourselves by them. Sadly, we have forgotten the art of friendship. We end up dating strangers and attempt the friendship while we navigate the dating process. Try friendship out first before you go and date a stranger. People who have a strong relationship with Jesus tend not to jump into relationships too quickly because they have a stronger sense of self, worth, and dignity. When we allow our identify to be defined by HIM, we don’t seek it in the world or in others.
How do you define beauty?
Beauty should inspire and empower love. Beauty should not reduce a person to a collection of parts or use. True beauty is rooted in service to another – “The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face” Ven. Fulton Sheen.
What is your favorite go-to outfit for a typical day? How would you describe your style?
My favorite go-to outfit for a typical day is something that snot, markers, and banana can be washed out of quickly – my fashion choices are now inspired my daughter, Agnes. However, I’ve always leaned toward classic pieces that stand the test of time. I update them with accessories (jewelry, scarves, jackets, shoes) but rarely go with “trends”. Instead, I stick with what works for my figure and budget.
Who are your go-to saints?
I like St. Theresa of Avila because she’s feisty and she ‘gets’ my lack of patience that I am forever trying to quell, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen because he is a pro when it comes to evangelization with a microphone, and St. John Paul II because, well, he’s John Paul II.
What would you say to girls who want to audition for reality TV shows or pursue a career in fashion/acting?
Don’t audition for reality TV shows. It’s not worth your time and people rarely take you seriously afterward. Just take a look at all the reality TV contestants out there today and their lives – for most of us, it didn’t exactly help our situation in life.
Acting and designing are both amazing creative arts that require God-given talent, time and practice. In either one of those fields, a strong faith community is a must for accountability and support.
To see more of what Leah Darrow is doing right now, go to Leahdarrow.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.