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It’s been a long day at the office…well, actually I don’t have an office because I travel for work. In fact, my trusty Toyota Yaris is pretty much the closest thing I have to an office right now. I spend a significant amount of time in there, driving to different communities and schools. It also serves as a closet and sometimes a fridge…in fact, I have three pairs of shoes in there at the moment. This, I blame on the winter because I’m forced to have comfy driving boots, dressy boots for teaching and then a couple other pairs for good measure… however, for the empty coffee cup and granola bar wrapper: no excuses can be made there.
This year I took a position with a local organization that presents on chastity education for students in grade 6-12. I travel all over the province giving presentations on how to respect and honour our bodies, how to have healthy and positive relationships, understanding who we are and the purpose of sex and marriage. The list could go on and on. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to speak with hundreds of young students and open the doors for this conversation.
There are many responses to this kind of job:
- ” Do they actually buy into that stuff?” (which is a comment I received this afternoon in the staff room.. so when I said it was a tough day in the office, I wasn’t totally kidding!)
- ” Is this sex-ed?” (often what students ask me when I enter in the classroom. I explain that our presentation has a different perspective. So kind of yes, but kind of no)
- ” That’s wonderful, it’s a message that kids need to hear” (a really refreshing and positive approach)
To the lady in the staffroom this afternoon, I explained to her that:
- The program is well received by most students!
- I don’t pretend that chastity is easy, or even the popular message BUT I definitely tell them that I wouldn’t be talking about it, if I didn’t believe in it
- Students deserve to hear this! Often times, they only hear the “safe-sex” approach, when they are free to choose another lifestyle such as chastity. High school students are not destined to be sexually active. It’s possible that no one told them about this before
Now, I was inspired to write this post, because as I said it was a difficult day in “the office”. I had a lot of students skip the class when they heard what it was about. In the end, I had 7 students remaining. I won’t deny that I felt an surge of disappointment as I saw the empty seats in the room. However, I continued to speak with the students who were present. After the presentation was done, while they were filling out their evaluation forms, I remembered I had some starbursts (candies) in my bag. I knew there were a few left, but checked to see how many. As they wrote, I went around the room and passed out a candy to each student. Turns out, I had exactly enough for each student. No less. No more. I even had one for myself.
On the drive home, I found myself asking ” What am I doing wrong? Why are the students not attending? Are we missing something here? I was getting close to despairing, when I realized something. Even if I drove out all this way, through the snow and the fog (literally) to reach one student, it would be worth it. I was so struck by this thought. Take for instance the candies. It’s not just luck that I had the exact number of candies, it was providence. The seven students attending today, were supposed to be there. It didn’t matter that 3/4 of the class bailed! It was still a huge success that I had 7 students in the room. Seven more hearts who could hear this message and hopefully be touched by it. Honestly, even if I had one kid stay for the presentation, it’s worth sharing.
Turns out after reading those student evaluations, a few of the responses were incredibly positive and touching. There was an openness to this message of chastity and renewed chastity. I think today was so beautiful, for it helped me re-evaluate my criteria for “success”. Of course, I want the students to stay, hear and participate in the presentations. However, if I speak to 1, 7 or 700 students, I will give the presentations with hope. Hope that this message may speak to them. Hope that they grow in respect and love for who they are.
Recently, I took a trip to British Columbia over the Christmas Holidays. With a new adventure on the horizon, I was ready to take on the day. Mid morning I strolled into the airport, breezed through security and found a spacious and comfortable seat at my gate. While waiting, I noticed my senses were overloaded with the airport buzz. Watching travellers board and exit the plane, hearing the suitcases zip zipping, smelling the Tim Hortons beside me, holding and sipping my black coffee… it was bliss. Or so I thought.
Flight 163 Saskatoon-Calgary: DELAYED
As an avid traveller (or so I like to think), these are some of the worst words to stumble across in the airport. What’s more, is hearing the airport employee come on the intercom and deliver this sort of message, “ Your plane has not yet left Calgary due to a snow storm. They are currently sitting on the tarmac in Calgary waiting for takeoff. We will let you know when we receive any further information”. The click of the intercom rings through the silent terminal. I glanced around the room. Face are grim, children are crying, lights are flickering, and the storm rolls in… well, not exactly. The fact is, people aren’t happy with the news, but there is nothing to be done about it. Although we line up to speak to the employees, double check on our connecting flights, and ask questions we know are unanswerable at this point… we try to control the situation.
This scenario above (I ended up missing my connecting flight… but that’s a story for another day) taught me an interesting lesson. I really had to reflect on what had just transpired. I found myself faced with two choices; 1. Get angry about the situation & sulk 2. embrace the extra airport time. Now in all honesty, I chose option number 1 for a few minutes.. but once I realized that was going to ruin my day, I transitioned to choice number 2.
What struck me was this; so often do we try to control everything in our lives. We want to plan everything. Know the outcome of our choices, our decisions, our relationships, our futures. We wan’t to take control of simple everyday tasks because we think we know the best way. We often refuse help, or deny others the chance to get involved, simply because of our fixed visions.
Sitting at the gate, amidst my fellow passengers, it was evident that there was no way around this. We were stuck in the Saskatoon airport with no departure time in sight. Not only were we at the complete mercy of the Calgary storm, but we had to wait until the pilot was given clearance to take off, the flight time, the landing, the cleaning and the boarding of our passengers.
This moment was an incredible reality check for me. To remember that there are so many aspects of our lives that we can’t predict. A lot of our life is about letting go, making sacrifices and being open to different paths! Things could change in an instant and we truly need to be thankful for the moments we are given. They are a gift. In this frame of mind, things don’t have to be so upsetting either. Life is a beautiful adventure. As I have heard it said many times before, we need to ” let go & let God” (insert Disney Frozen song here…). It’s about learning how to surrender to the lack of control, the chaos, the adjustments and the surprises. I honestly think life can be a whole lot more joyful, stress free and authentic when we can actually do this!
So here’s to a crazy airport disaster (if I had a glass of wine I’d raise my glass) turned into a beautiful moment of gratitude and appreciation for the moments I have been given.
If I had to describe my mid 20’s in 1 adjective I would have to go with:
In the past few years, I have spent a significant amount of time contemplating life’s big and mysterious questions. Things like careers, dating, traveling, growing, maturing, restarting, relocating and all the rest… there are a lot of choices to be made and things to consider.
Now, I have the tendency to be what we call an over thinker. To all those who share this somewhat frustrating characteristic, you probably know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you have also found yourself mapping out your life according to multiple imagined realities. You might even start to stress about these fantastical plans as you create potential problems within them. Take for example that guy you might meet when you move to Europe next year. He might not fit in with your family because he doesn’t speak English very well. This would make it really difficult to get married. Then, how would you decide what language to teach to your kids? Would you choose his or yours? How would you decide what school to put them in…. And all of a sudden, you find yourself caught up in something like that #yikes
I would say that the scenario above really exemplifies this sense of unpredictability. What I’m learning about my 20’s is that things are very dynamic and could change in the blink of an eye. Most people have likely changed friends, cities, studies, jobs and hobbies in some way. Perhaps you feel like a completely different person based on where you find yourself today. Depending on relationships, universities, travels, and experiences, you are shaped by these things. It’s really an exciting time, but also overwhelming because you never fully know what to expect. Where you envisioned yourself at 24 might be a completely different place then where you actually find yourself on your 24th birthday. Now, let me just say, this is the beauty of life! It should be something that we celebrate, embrace and make the most of. Life is precious, and we are always growing.
I can compare this time in my life to a mosaic art piece. There are so many contributing moments, people, difficulties, joys, adventures and learning curves which come together and form who I am; like these tiles that slowly form an image. Sometimes, things fall into place easily. Other times, they require more work to find where they belong. In the process, the image is incomplete and missing pieces. There are moments where I feel lost and struggle to see the whole image as it should be. However time, work, energy and love begin to illuminate this work of art. My faith, my family and my friends are the glue and strength which hold things together. The piece is constantly under construction. It’s in the process that the mosaic is fully realized. So too with me. My 20’s are not just about the final product, but the process of creation and development. I am called to live this time in my life with hope, joy, peace and love! One day, I will see how that final mosaic turns out. For now, I will continue to piece things together day by day, and enjoy the journey!
Today is a day to remember. To pause. To reflect. To be thankful. Today we celebrate Remembrance Day in Canada. For every Canadian, this is a day where we celebrate our heritage. We give thanks and honor those men and woman who gave their lives for our freedom. These war veterans were those who fought in the first and second world wars. Many of them sacrificed their lives, futures and families for the Canada we have now.
Leading up to today, I saw countless people wearing a bright red poppy on their jacket to prepare for Remembrance Day. This symbol is a powerful representation of the unity we have as a Canadian people. I know that I wear my poppy with pride. At 11:00 a.m, I stopped along with millions of Canadians for two minutes of silence. In this moment, I found myself incredibly thankful for what I have been given. The gift it is to live in a country that is free. To live without fear of persecution for religion. To know I have health care coverage. To have a democratic government. To live in a province with clean and fresh air. To have rights as a woman, a citizen and a voter. To live in a country with beautiful landscapes. To be Canadian.
Although we reserve this celebration for November 11th, I want to continue to be thankful for my homeland throughout the rest of the year. Not only do we have maple syrup, moose and Tim Horton’s, we truly have a strong nation. We are founded upon the sacrifices and dedication of men and women who gave their lives for Canada. What a blessing it is to be Canadian.
Maybe you have heard the expression, a picture is worth a thousand words. There is definitely some merit to this saying. The pictures, symbols and signs which surround us, are actually capable of speaking volumes! Just think of a stop sign, a countries flag, a set of stop lights, a no smoking sign… The list goes on. These images are able to express rules, cultures, behaviours and procedures without saying a word.
Now if I said there are certain images, symbols and pictures which are capable of expressing truth itself, would you agree?
The Catechsism of the Catholic Church writes this, “Truth is beautiful in itself… Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltation of the soul, the mystery of God”.
So what we’re saying is: truth is beauty. Truth is understandable by means of the intellect. But truth can also be understood apart from words.
” Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos- which both the child and the scientist discover-” from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator’ ‘for the author of beauty created them'” ( pg. 532, 2500).
If God wishes to reveal himself through creation, then we need to search for him in these created realities. It’s incredible that he chooses such relatable, attainable and everyday circumstance to speak to us.
It is also true that sacred art, in many different forms, is a way to encounter God, truth, beauty and goodness. ” Created ‘ in the image of God’ man also expresses the truth of his relationship with the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works” ( CCC pg. 533, 2501).
Take for instance this icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. The beauty of this image is not only because of the artists’ talent. No, it is beautiful because it reflects God as our Creator. It is beautiful because it points us to what is true. It is beautiful because it moves us to contemplate God, who is love and life!
So, a picture is worth a thousand words, yes. But, it is also capable of bringing us closer to the Creator of the universe who is truth and beauty itself. What a blessing it is to understand God, his Mother, the Saints, Angels and the Church through sacred art.
How does man see God?
Well. That’s one large, slightly overwhelming and intriguing question. I think it’s something worth reflecting upon. Especially when we live in a time that often disregards the existence of God, or any kind of existential questions. It’s time we take a moment to really consider this. How does man see God? How do I see God?
The late Bishop Brincard of Lyon, France once said that, ” whenever you see something good and beautiful in another, you see God“. This simple statement is really beautiful. Just think of all the wonderful qualities of your friends and family. Their kindness, honesty, gentleness, generosity, sense of humor, joy and smile are really reflections of God. Therefore, God uses all created things, people and realities to bring us to himself. If it is true, then we need each other to see God. It’s no wonder that we spend our lives growing up with a family, or that we desire to spend our lives in a marriage, or giving ourselves for the service of the Church or the poor. We are created for the other! We are made for community and unity. It’s no coincidence that God has given us these relationships. It’s so that we might find Him through them. His love is constantly drawing us to himself and he uses all people to carry out this mission.
There are numerous texts in the bible which talk about God’s people as the Body of Christ. Saint Paul uses this theme at length throughout his letters to the Romans, Ephesians and Corinthians. He urges us to recognize this unity and connection we have in Christ:
” For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” – Romans 12:4-5
” If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”- 1 Corinthians 12:26
In both of these verses, we see how important each person is in the salvation of the other. We are not able to exist apart from each other. When one of us is wounded, persecuted, mistreated, we are suffering. When one of us is honored, respected, loved, we are rejoicing.
If we choose to see God in each person, then we are choosing to see God in each moment. The good and beautiful qualities of each human being, was designed to glorify God. If we are searching for God, we need not look far. He is there, waiting for us in the laughter of our sister, the forgiveness of our father, the kindness of our mother, the commitment of our spouse. What an amazing gift we have been given for each other.
A very wise professor and priest once had my entire patristics class memorize the following quote:
This beautiful quote was taken from Pope Francis’ encyclical ; Light of Faith (Lumen Fiedei). I have always been quite fond of this quote, for the way it encourages all people in their journey of faith. That although darkness exists, our faith in Christ will always provide sufficient light for what lies ahead. The light will prevail ( I’m totally envisioning Gandalph the white in The Two Towers, charging down the hillside to defeat the army of orcs. Because he is radiating such intense light, the orcs are blinded by his presence and thus unable to defend themselves… What an epic moment ! ).
However, we will always encounter a kind of darkness in our lives. Regardless of age, culture, circumstance, beliefs or religions, we all share in this battle against the darkness. Whether it be loneliness, depression, addictions, anxieties, abuses, abandonment, hopelessness, insecurities, or exclusion, we can relate.
One of the greatest remedies against this darkness, is the Word of God revealed through scripture. Since God knows each of our personal struggles, our sins, our battles, he gives us words of hope!
For example, here is one that I received today which was inspiration for this post :
” May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience and with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” – Colossians 1:11-14
The Word of God is like the shining stars that illuminate the night sky. Without the stars, we are lost in darkness. With their light, we can journey onwards, one step at a time.
I have listed a few more references from scripture. These are beautiful verses of encoragment, hope and victory. As it is a Living Word, God will use His word to speak personally and directly to us!
In times of distress and anxiety:
” When I say, ” My foot is slipping,” your love, Lord, holds me up. When cares increase within me, your comfort gives me joy” – Psalm 94:18-19
” May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the eternal covenant, Jesus our Lors, furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will. May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen”. – Hebrews 13:20
When you feel like you’ve walked into a wall… For the 15th time !
“For I know well the plans I have in mine for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope” -Jeremiah 29:11
” Until now you have not asked anything in my name, ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete” – John 16: 24