Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quote book

"In the Christian view, chastity by no means signifies rejection of human sexuality or lack of esteem for it: rather it signifies spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it towards its full realization." -- Bl. John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio #33)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"One Mom's Modesty Manifesto"

This is a wonderful op-ed about modesty from a mother. It should be required reading for all parents, especially as the modesty issue heats up during the summer months.

A start:

But today we live with the fallout from the Sexual Revolution, which preached through the media, movies and music that sexuality is one thing, morality another. And girls should be as aggressive and uninhibited as guys.

What a radical departure from how God designed us. I remember when Samantha was a teenager. She and her friends would wear their dads’ T-shirts over their relatively modest bathing suits. They were uncomfortable exposing so much flesh.

Today’s girls, bombarded by Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, and more, have adapted to the hot water when they should have jumped out of the pot a long time ago. Unless they’ve been taught to seriously consider the message their clothing may be sending, they may be clueless about their own complicity in the sexualization of today’s teen culture.

My girls struggle with the desire to be hip and the desire to be pleasing to God. But in some ways they are fortunate. Sex is discussed frankly in our family. They’ve heard four big brothers explain how differently guys are affected by visual stimulation. They’ve been taught that they have a responsibility to be modest.

Read it all here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

"A Lost Child, But Not Mine"

I'm a frequent reader of the New York Times' "Modern Love" section. Typically, I find the reflections sobering and hauntingly real. At the same time, I am generally frustrated by the conclusions -- "my truth" is true, there's nothing better out there, love is whatever I make it, etc.

Today, I was quite struck by the latest submission, "A Lost Child, But Not Mine" which strikingly captures the pain of a post-abortive woman. It's not written with an agenda on the margins, but rather with the capacity to articulate one woman's regret over lost motherhood. And it's in the New York Times, which will make for many readers.

Here's a particularly heart-wrenching line:

I drew my lips to match his cheery expression even though I felt shorted. I had graduated with honors, seen the first book I edited published with my name in microscopic print, and been accepted to an Ivy League graduate program. I kept trying to secure the next accomplishment that would make my decision worthwhile.

Read the whole reflection here.

There is help available for post-abortive women and men. Check out these resources: here, here and here.

UP & The Gift of Infertility

This is a fantastic and thoughtful read about the topic of infertility through the lens of the Pixar film, "Up" -- UP & The Gift of Infertility. It's definitely worth reading, pondering, and perhaps even watching the film again with these points in mind.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Archbishop Pietro Sambi

The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, died following complications from lung surgery. When I lived in DC, Archbishop Sambi's name was often heard. He would celebrate Mass for various special occasions in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. He would read a letter from the Holy Father each year at the youth rally before the March for Life, always grinning to see the excitement of the young people at the Pope's greeting.

May Archbishop Sambi be welcomed by the arms of Christ at the end of his earthly pilgrimage.

You can read more here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is the single life a vocation?

Below is an article that I wrote for Catholic Exchange a while ago. Still, it remains a relevant topic and one that is frequently raised in TOB circles.

A Single Vocation?

Several years ago I participated in an incredible 1,300 mile pro-life walk throughout the Northeast. While the majority of my fellow walkers were engaged in intense feelings of being called to marriage or priesthood/religious life, a few of us were completely unsure of the path to which God was calling us. And so we dubbed ourselves, “The Question Marks.”

Six years later, many of the men who were dating are now in the seminary. And women who were convinced they would have a “Sister” before their name, now have a “Mrs.” But there are still some “Question Marks” among us, though our numbers dwindle as fellow walkers make public vows after being called to a particular state of life.

There are many “Question Marks” in the world. Some are twenty-somethings who are trying to discern God’s call. Some are fifty, sixty, or seventy year olds who are wondering why they don’t have any letters before or after their name. This leads to the monumental question pounding in the minds of singles everywhere – Is the single life a vocation?

At first glance, it would seem to be the most sensitive answer to respond with an enthusiastic “yes.” Yet, in reality, this issue requires some more pondering.

We toss around the word “vocation” with as many meanings as ways to make apple pie. In the strictest sense, a Vocation (with a capital V to differentiate it from other uses) involves a total and irrevocable gift of self to God. This is done in one of two ways – either by vowing oneself to one’s spouse or by professing vows as a consecrated celibate or virgin. In one Vocation, someone gives his entire self to God, generally through vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In the other Vocation, someone gives his entire self to God through vows to another human person, who becomes his spouse.

Inevitably someone will utter, “That’s not fair.” Whether it seems fair or not isn’t the question, however. John Paul II explained in Familiaris Consortio that each and every human person is created from God who is Love, through love and in order to return to love. Thus, the “fundamental and innate vocation of every human being” is love (FC #11).

This vocation to love is expressed through two Vocations – priesthood/consecrated life and marriage. In both Vocations, the person responds to Love by giving a total gift of self forever to another Person or person. In both vocations, the body is indispensable in the gift of self. The body’s spousal dimension (call to love) is more fully expressed through a Vocation, since love desires to give totally and forever.

In Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II explored the meaning of being a human person, made in God’s image and likeness. He explained that the human person is made “for” another, called to be in relation first with God and then with others.

The late Holy Father wrote,

“Being a person means striving toward self-realization (the Council text speaks of self-discovery), which can only be achieved ‘through a sincere gift of self.’ The model for this interpretation of the person is God himself as Trinity, as a communion of Persons. To say that man is created in the image and likeness of God means that man is called to exist ‘for’ others, to become a gift.” (MD #7)

In the single life, no vows are given, and one lives in a state of the temporary. Of course single people give a gift of self in many ways – by volunteering, by working in ministries, by loving relatives and friends – but without a vow of forever, their state lacks the fullness of a love that says “forever.”

This often leads singles to ask, “Where’s my place in the Church?” Again, it would seem this is the wrong question to propose. Indeed, every human person is called to love, first by virtue of being human, and secondly and even more deeply, by being a baptized Christian. The role of each of us, regardless of our current or future state of life, our age, our sex, or our hobbies, is to love. God gives us ways in which to love those He has placed in our path. Rather than focus on our “place” as if it were a job title, we should thank God for placing us where we are and ask Him to guide us to love others in the unique way only we can.

In that sense, single people have a “vocation” (notice the small “v”) to love in the unique and unrepeatable way God calls a particular individual to love. Perhaps this particular single will give a total gift of self through marriage or priesthood/consecrated life in the future. Perhaps not. Either way, this doesn’t change the importance of having two Vocations as expressions of the total and forever aspects of the fullness of love. It also doesn’t negate the fact that single people, as created in the image of God who is Love, are able to make an unrepeatable contribution to the world in the way in which God calls.

Many who are single want or have wanted to marry or enter priesthood/religious life. Perhaps they never felt called, or experienced circumstances that made this desire impossible to execute. Can we say that they don’t love “enough?” Just as with marriage and priesthood/religious life, there is a unique suffering associated with single life. Part of this suffering is the desire to give a total and irrevocable gift of self, but not having the opportunity to do so. The openness and desire of the single person to follow God’s call is a unique gift of self. While it is not a Vocation lived through making vows to God, it is a service of God and others.

Rather than employ an “us vs. them” mentality, those who are living their Vocation and those who are waiting for a call must recognize the irreplaceable ways each is able to express God’s love for the world. The suffering associated with the single life can be offered to God, allowing Him to bear fruit from this gift. In today’s culture, a single person dedicated to chastity, is an eloquent witness of God’s plan for life and love. The unique availability of a single person to serve others can benefit ministries, families, and parishes.

Those of us who belong to “The Question Marks,” regardless of our age, are living Theology of the Body, through our call to love God and others. Many singles focus on making their own corner of their home, the Church. Many singles moan over their single plight, placing a wall between themselves and those with a ring on their finger. We need to recognize that we all have the same home, the beautiful Catholic Church who aims to guide us in our call to love.

In our compartmentalizing of Theology of the Body – for singles, for married couples, for priests, for consecrated persons, for the divorced, for the widowed – we often lose sight of the common denominator. We all have bodies that are created in God’s image and likeness. We are all called to receive love and to give love in return. Focusing on the particular ways Theology of the Body informs the lives of various groups of people is necessary, but it mustn’t forget the common humanity we all share.

As singles, in particular, it’s time we change our self-focus and start asking God how we can love Him better today. Who knows? Maybe His answer of our vocation will lead to our Vocation.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote book

"Your relationships should be a reflection of God's love, not a replacement for it." -- Crystalina Evert

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #15

Highlight #15 – Seeds leading to unknown fruit.

After two weeks of unpacking the lessons learned from Called to be More, it’s time to wrap up with the overarching lesson and highlight. The most exciting aspect of the pilgrimage is that we have yet to know the fruits that God has in mind. The readings for Mass on our final day, July 10, were extraordinarily appropriate. The Gospel was the parable of the sower, which reminded us that our week had been a time of planting seeds, which God will water and allow to bear fruit in His timing.

The week of walking was certainly an adventure, but it’s a reminder that all of life is to be an adventure too. It struck me at various points during the walk that any of these young men could be ordained some day or married someday. Any one of these young women could be professing religious vows one day or walking down the aisle one day. I’m confident that whatever their vocation, God will use the time during the Called to be More pilgrimage as a moment when He stirred in their hearts a deeper calling.

We also don’t know what seeds were planted with others – with pastors we met, parishioners we conversed with, strangers we walked past. We don’t know who read the back of our shirts. We don’t know who read about our story in the Enquirer. We don’t know was touched by a simple pilgrim’s smile.

What we do know is that we can be confident that God will take our offering of the pilgrimage – the suffering, the joy, the reflections, the prayers, the silence, the conversations, the sacrifices, the uncertainties, the confidence, the footsteps – and allow them to bear great fruit. What a joy to watch it blossom!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #14

Highlight #14 – The generosity of others.

We live in a culture that says to receive makes one inferior. And so we avoid receiving at all costs. But on the Called to be More pilgrimage, we had to receive. And we were blown away by the generosity of others. Parishes provided incredible meals – homemade spaghetti and pasta sauce, pizza, homemade blueberry sauce on pancakes, tacos, breakfast sandwiches, etc. People met up with us to bring water, knee braces and extra baby wipes to make up for the lack of showers. Pastors greeted us. DRE’s and youth ministers brought us cold water and snacks. Strangers prayed for us. Six additional adults walked with us.

We had a roof over our heads every night. We only had to buy one meal on the road. We left the pilgrimage with more snacks than we before we left Cincinnati. We received encouraging e-mails and messages throughout the pilgrimage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #13

Highlight #13 – Saying “no” to distractions.

It was remarkable to me how many of the teens left their cell phones at home, or shoved them into the bottom of a bag where they couldn’t be distracted by the lure of texting or the desire to check the score of the game. Instead, they came on the walk to find fewer distractions. They wanted the silence of prayer, the immersion into a culture of other young people seeking holiness, the delight of spending several times each day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. They wanted the freedom of not knowing where they were going or what time it was. They wanted the simplicity of saying “yes” and allowing others to guide them. They wanted a week without carrying money or technology or iPods.

And with fewer distractions, God’s voice could be heard in the stillness more clearly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Diocese of Toledo and Susan G. Komen

It's unfortunate (and tragically ironic) that the Susan G. Komen Foundation gives money to Planned Parenthood. Unfortunate because it makes supporting the organization an ethical issue. Tragically ironic because abortion increases one's risk of breast cancer, and Planned Parenthood provides astonishing numbers of abortions each year.

Read what the bishop of Toledo has decided to do about diocesan schools and parishes raising money for the foundation.

You can also read Bishop Blair's letter here.

Called to be More highlights -- #12

Highlight #12 – A special prayer.

One of the groups was walking near Dayton, when they began chatting with a young woman walking by. She wanted to know the purpose of the walk. Eventually the pilgrims asked if they could pray for her. She burst into tears and explained that she was trying to get off of drugs. The adults offered to pray with her at that moment, which the woman accepted. After praying together, the adults were able to give her some advice about seeking help for her addiction. Even though they eventually parted ways, the woman’s story was on the pilgrims’ minds during the trip and was an intention carried during the remainder of the journey.
Perhaps this woman’s life was changed because of an encounter with strangers on the sidewalk of a busy street.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #11

Highlight #11 – Theological conversations.

I joked during the trip that in order to be a chaperone it was necessary to have a Ph.D. in theology. The pilgrims had intense questions about so many aspects of the faith – liturgy, morality, prayer, the saints, Church history, spirituality, growing in virtue. Long walks and breaks in the bus allowed for plenty of time to discuss the beauty of the faith, with teens learning from other teens, teens learning from adults, and adults learning from teens as well. The fruits of conversations were often shared with others at a later period, affording another opportunity to consider newfound knowledge.

Some of the pilgrims commented that the time for conversations about the faith with people they trusted was an invaluable aspect of the trip.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #10

Highlight #10 – A garden of vocations
St. Therese once wrote about God’s children as a garden of wildflowers – the beauty and variety of each one pointing to the Creator. Along our journey we witnessed a garden of vocations. We encountered diocesan priests, Dominicans, Franciscans, Sisters of Charity, members of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. We met a Byzantine priest and a priest from the Fraternity of St. Peter, which celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass. We met a couple who had been married for 49 years. We met young couples carrying their newborns. We had the opportunity during the week to see the universality of the Church.

"I think about you"

Monday, July 18, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #9

Highlight #9 – Giving away the cross

On our retreat day before we began walking, each pilgrim was given a small crucifix to carry during the walk as a symbol of uniting ourselves to Christ and the cross. At one parish, I noticed a pilgrim giving his cross to a young boy (about 10 years old). He entrusted the crucifix to him, giving him advice about staying close to God, caring for his family and being open to God’s plan for him. It was a touching moment to watch one young man pass on to another the joy and responsibility of carrying the cross. The little boy was also quite moved, and I noticed later that he had tears in his eyes as he held his new tiny crucifix.

I wonder what role that seemingly simple gesture will play in his future vocation.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #8

Highlight #8 – Reflecting on the saints.

One of the beauties of the pilgrimage is that each member of the group was involved. A few weeks before setting out, each person was assigned one or two topics on which to present during the week. Each day had a theme, and within each theme several saints were chosen as witnesses of the virtues or topics we were contemplating. There were 25 presentations given during the week. Our pilgrimage binder included meditations, prayers, quotes and Scriptures to allow for further reflection.

It was incredible to hear the witnesses of all of the pilgrims and to learn about the varied ways in which the saints answered the call to be more. Each of us walked away with more knowledge about the saints, inspired by their “yes” to God.

Our themes and saints for the week were:

Monday: Freedom in giving: We can only find ourselves in a sincere gift of self.
• Bl. John Paul
• St. Louis de Montfort
• St. Monica
• Bl. Pier Giorgio

Tuesday: What is a vocation? How are we called to holiness in the everyday and in the big picture?
• St. Therese: Little Way
• Bl. Zellie and Louis Martin (St. Therese’s parents)
• St. John Vianney

Wednesday: Trust and patience in discernment
• St. Joseph Cupertino
• St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
• St. Teresa of Avila
• St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Thursday: The humility and joy of the call
• St. Philip Neri
• St. Francis of Assisi
• Mother Teresa
• Unknown saints

Friday: Suffering: Accepting the invitation to be united to the cross
• Bl. Chiara “Luce” Badano
• St. Maximilian Kolbe
• St. Josephine Bakhita
• St. Paul

Saturday: Mary
• Mary’s intercession and fruitfulness
• Freedom of Mary’s fiat (Annunciation)
• Mary’s daily call (Wedding at Cana)
• Trust and patience every day in God’s plan
• Humility and joy (Birth of Christ)
• Standing at the foot of the cross (Crucifixion)

Sunday: Resurrection: Following God’s plan leads us to eternal life

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #7

Highlight #7 – Interceding for others.

The openness to God and to others on the pilgrimage enabled it to be fruitful. Along the way, we asked everyone – from police officers, to priests, to the elderly to pre-teens – what intentions they would like us to keep in our prayers. We wrote them in our prayer journal, which we carried throughout the journey. These intentions remained in our prayers throughout the week. Each step of the journey became a prayer for others. It was a gift to be able to offer prayer to everyone we encountered, knowing that we can unite with others by interceding for them. And, where two or more are gathered …

Friday, July 15, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #6

Highlight #6 – Beauty of church architecture.

It was an amazing gift to see 30 churches in one week’s time within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. In general, the pilgrims seemed most captivated by the older church buildings, whose stained glass windows, high altars, painted ceilings and large statues captivated their imaginations and invited them to turn their thoughts heavenward. There is something remarkable about the ability of a beautiful church to raise our gaze to the Author of all beauty. Soaking ourselves with so much beauty in one week’s time will surely have an impact on all of us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #5

Highlight #5 – Humility.

Some people may be wondering why we are accompanied by a bus on this trip. First, there is a matter of practicality. When traveling with several people under the age of 18, we have to be especially mindful of their physical well-being. It would not be possible to ask them to carry their luggage during their treks to churches. There are also times when it becomes necessary to take a break, resting in the cool bus.

But there is also a theological reason behind our use of the support vehicle. Often, we are tempted to think that we can go it alone, do everything, handle all things on our own. Mandating that no one person walk the entire 150 miles underscores that we are all members of the body of Christ, that we are all necessary to this trip, and that it is imperative that we recognize in humility that we cannot do it alone, nor can we do it all. Consequently, though it may seem otherwise at first, the support vehicle is also a vehicle for growing in humility and awareness that God is God, and we are not. (Praise Him for that!)

Many of us realized through our physical limitations during the trip that we couldn’t do it all. There was a lesson in humility as many (if not all walkers) learned that they can be a gift in ways that seem small or insignificant – praying in the bus, making rosaries, sacrificing the inability to walk, encouraging others. There is a simple humility in learning that God doesn’t ask us to be Superman, but to be who He created us to be, and even in this simplicity or seemingly ordinariness, He calls us to be more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #4

Highlight #4 – Prayer for parishes.

At our parish visits, Fr. Kyle Schnippel would lead us in a prayer for the parish. We prayed for the pastor, the deacons and staff, those who were sick and suffering, those who are married, and for special intentions of the parish. It was such a blessing to intercede at each church for those who enter the same doors each week. The focus on prayer for each parish was a reminder that prayer is the greatest gift we could offer on our journey. It also served as a reminder of the unity and universality of the Catholic Church.

Called to be More highlights -- #3

Highlight #3: Authentic community.

The vibrant community life of our 15 pilgrims was due to its foundation – the love of Christ. Within minutes, the young people were enjoying getting to know each other, sharing intense spiritual conversations, praying with one another and laughing together. With a strong community prayer life, this joy continued throughout the week. It was a community that was not self-created or self-sustaining. It was from God and for God.

In a vocation to religious life or to marriage, there is a need to understand authentic community, and the virtues of charity, patience, trust and humility that are required. The pilgrimage week was a great opportunity to “practice” these virtues and to discover the freedom and joy that come from giving to and receiving from others.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fr. Kyle's summary of Called to be More

Be sure to stop by Fr. Kyle Schnippel's blog for his overview of the vocations pilgrimage walk.

My highlights will be posted for the next two weeks -- there's lots to be said!

Called to be More highlights -- #2

Highlight #2: Getting to know priests and seminarians.

What a blessing to travel with one priest and two seminarians during the pilgrimage! Many of the teens commented that they valued interacting with priests and seminarians during the week, as well as watching priests and seminarians interact with one another.

Not only did we travel with priests and seminarians, but we also met several throughout the journey. We spoke with the pastor of almost every parish we visited. Several seminarians stopped to chat at various parishes. We also had an incoming college seminarian serving as a pilgrim with us.

All of these interactions allowed us to see God working in others’ lives, the generosity of a “yes” to God and the joy that comes from following Him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Called to be More highlights -- #1

The “Called to be More” vocations walk is over. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that the walking 150 miles portion is over. The greatest aspect of the pilgrimage, in my opinion, is that its fruits remain largely a mystery. Still, there are many wonderful things to celebrate and reflect upon as we unpack (both literally and figuratively). In the next several days, expect to see some of the highlights from the journey.

Highlight #1: Joy in suffering.

This seemed to be a theme echoed by all of the pilgrims, teens and adults alike. To see a group of 15 people hobbling around with taped ankles, knee braces, Band-Aid-covered blistered feet, heat rash and sunburn, yet still smiling, laughing and joking was incredible. It wasn’t a shallow happiness either. The pilgrims were authentically joyful. There was a joy in viewing suffering through the “eloquence of the resurrection,” as Blessed John Paul II referred to it. There was a joy in knowing that God’s love was greater than any blister or shin split. There was a joy in knowing that God will transform the sufferings offered to Him, allowing them to bear great fruit. There was a joy in realizing that embracing the sufferings of the day united each pilgrim to the cross and to Christ in a greater way. And there was a joy in knowing that the suffering was a shared experience, a bond within the community.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We made it to the cathedral! Now we are enjoying lunch before parting ways in a couple of hours. What a pilgrimage!

"A constant consideration of God's will and God's plan"

One last "Called to be More" letter ...

What does it mean to be called to be more? This is a question that I have often asked myself when considering my vocation. Society today is full of things that we need to be more of—more happy, more beautiful, more sexy, more rich. These things mean nothing to Christ. Christ Himself shaped each and every one of us even before we were conceived. He formed us in His image and likeness, giving us beautiful gifts that, most of the time, we don’t even use to their full potential. Being more to Christ means being more than beautiful, more than sexy, more than rich. It’s being more than our failed human nature and actively pursuing Christ daily.
A pursuit of Christ necessarily requires seeking His will in every aspect of our lives. That is what we all are called to do. A vocation is not simply choosing to go into the priesthood or religious life. It is so much more than that. It is a constant consideration of God’s will and God’s plan.

God created us. God loves us. God formed for us the best possible lives. When I think of my vocation, marriage vs. religious life vs. chaste single life, sometimes I get scared. I think, “I will never get to have kids of I don’t get married, and I love kids. Why would God ever do that to me?” But, in all honesty, God knows what I love more than I do. God knows what will make me happy more than I do. God’s will is more beautiful and amazing than my will can ever be. Do not worry about your vocation. Do not fret. Try to live each day as Christ wants you to, and if you do so, your vocation will simply come to you. It will seem simple and easy. It looks hard now, the road looks rough, but trust and pray and God will pull through. And you will truly prove that you were made to be more.

In God’s love,

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We finally have Internet to share Called to be More pictures!

Above: After nearly 150 miles, can we still say, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings?"

Above: Group shot at Holy Cross-Immaculata with Brian and Andrew, two Cincinnati seminarians.

Above: We've arrived at the St. Lawrence festival!

Above: Fr. Kyle is given the opportunity to announce the Called to be More pilgrimage at the St. Lawrence festival.

We made it!

We survived the incredible hill leading to St. Lawrence on Warsaw Avenue this afternoon, which concluded the major portion of our walking. We only have half a mile left -- walking to each of the downtown churches tomorrow morning.

Thank you so much for the prayers. Without them, we never would have been able to embark on this journey.

More stories and pictures to come ...
We are heading to Mt. Adams today for a stop at Holy Cross- Immaculata. It's a warm but beautiful day for our walking tour of Cincinnati.

Friday, July 8, 2011

We have made it to Cincinnati! This afternoon we prayed in front of the abortion clinic in Sharonville, before praying at St. Michael's down the street.

"A calling that requires sacrifice"

Here is the ninth "Called to be More" vocations pilgrimage letter:

“What does it mean that you are called to be more?”

Deep down inside the Lord calls us to great things ( he called Mary to be the mother of God, Moses to save a nation, saints to holy and great lives, etc...) we see that all through out history God calls everyone to greatness. In 1 Samuel 3: 1 - 10 we can see that the Lord's callings are also individual and personal, because, just as he called Samuel by name, so does he call everyone to a personal and unique calling by name.

The world (referring to a world ruled and deceived by sin, often times today referred to as the media) tries to hide this calling, it tries to "sweep it under the rug", and often times the world tries to confuse and lie to us about God's calling. It tries to convince us that following God's individual calling will not reward us with happiness and joy, when in all actuality, God's calling will bring us exactly that (happiness and joy). Why does the world do this? Well, God's calling requires sacrifice, a sacrifice (yourself) that the world says is not worth the reward. What is the reward? Eternal peace and Happiness in Heaven, and if we follow and listen to this calling we can even experience a small fraction of this eternal kingdom of peace on earth!

However, since Heaven is not a tangible, easily attainable (in the world’s eyes) , or a quickly gained thing, the world lies about it and says it's not worth the temporary sacrifices on earth, or that it's not real. This world has come to focus solely on its self. It desires only that which brings instant self gratification to the individual. The world seeks to do whatever is needed for only a small and fast feeling that has been reduced and abused from what originally was a great love.

Every individual on earth is called to something greater than world says they are called to. The Lord gave us each other to assist one another and to aid one another in acquiring Heaven, not to uproot each other and tear one another down for our own personal gain. When I hear that we are called to be more, that means that someone, or something (in our case the world) is trying to make us something less than we are called to be. I believe that this calling to be more from God wants us to break away from the lies that the world has created and find the truth. This calling to be more requires us to sacrifice for and love one another. This calling to be more is the will of God, which, since God knows and desires to help you do that which will make you at peace and happy, this calling is also the desire and will of your heart.

We are all called to more than the world says we are called to. We are called to follow God's will, to build one another up, to love, and to sacrifice for and with one another so that one day we may live in complete union with God in Heaven. That is more than the world will ever understand, that's why we are called to help them to understand. This calling to be more is a calling that requires sacrifice but that will lead us to unimaginable happiness and will allow us to show the world the splendor and power of the Lord through us. Trust in the Lord your God and follow his calling, for he will grant you peace through that.

Christ's peace and love,

The first downpour of the trip has begun. It has been a hot week without showers, but now we have a shower from heaven. We are currently walking to Mass.
We are still on the road with Called to be More. There hasn't been internet though, so I have been unable to update. But hopefully I can upload some pics later.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Why would He call if it was impossible to reach Him?"

Letter #8 from the "Called to be More" pilgrimage:

Dear friend in Christ,
It has been a blessing to meet you! Know that you are in our prayers as we continue our journey.

The purpose of this letter is to answer for you, “What does it mean to be called to be more?” Just as we are travelers on a journey this week, our entire life is a journey. A journey to our final destination and forever home – heaven. This road that we travel is a difficult one, but we are filled with hope because of all the grace our dear Lord sends us to help us on our way. He is so loving, and He would never abandon us; He always helps us and pours out His mercy upon us. Why would He call if it was impossible to reach Him? He is calling us to be with Him, and He is calling us to continue whole-heartedly on the road to holiness which leads to heaven. This is how we travel: by doing God’s will. And what a beautiful path, because we cannot be happy apart from His will! Praise the Lord for His goodness!

God, the Ultimate Giver, has blessed us abundantly. His blessings, however, are not what we seek. He gives His gifts to draw us to Himself. Let us always see the Giver in the gifts. We are seeking the face of God. We are seeking eternal heaven. It’s so amazing because God is with us, and not only that, but we can begin heaven on earth by praising Him! He is good, and His love is everlasting!

Christ be with you, dear friend, and may God speed your steps along the road to heaven!

Your fellow traveler,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Everyone is 'called to be more'"

Here's letter #7 from a "Called to be More" pilgrim:

Dear Friend in Christ,
What does it mean to be called to be more? First when we are saying called we are not talking of a phone conversation but instead a call from God. This is sort of like a vocation in which we try to discern God’s will for us. On this trip that is exactly what we are trying to do. However this calling is not directly intended to be at our vocation rather it is to be directed towards God’s glory in this present moment. Then what does in mean to be more? To be more would be to improve oneself or ones ability to do things. For example an athlete that was trying to “be more” would be striving to be the best athlete that he can be. However to become an exceptional athlete and to strive to be the best, he can not sit around and hope that he will get better. Rather he must train his mind and body to become the best. This is the same with the calling. Since it is a calling that can only be heard in ones heart, the person must strive to hear that calling and to answer it. Like the athlete the discerner will train his mind and heart to hear what God is saying then he will respond as best as he can. Called to be more is then not just a calling or just a striving to be better but it is a combination of the two. Called to be more therefore means that God is calling us into deeper and more sincere prayer, service, and holiness in everyday life. Called to be more is God’s small everyday ways of inviting us to become closer to Him and to each other.
Some practical ways that the faithful can better hear Gods Call to be More is through more frequent reception of the sacraments. This could mean mass more regularly but it also means frequenting confession. Another way is to set aside time everyday to pray. Even ten minutes in prayer in a quiet place is all that it takes to improve ones faith life. Everyone is “Called to be More” that is that everyone is called to grow in holiness and then to respond to God’s calling in order to grow closer to him.

Your Brother in Christ

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A couple of pictures from today ...

Update from the road

We are just completing our 12 mile trek from St. Remy's in Russia, OH to St. Boniface in Piqua. We are looking forward to lunch with the pastor, Fr. Martin Fox, as well as some reflection time in the church. This morning, we listened to a reflection about the life of St. Therese. This afternoon, we will spend some time looking at the example of St. Therese's parents, Bl. Zelie and Louis Martin.

Today's theme is: What is a vocation? How are we called to holiness in the every day and in the big picture?

Please keep the prayers coming. It's a beautiful -- but rather hot -- day.

Pictures from walking day #1

Above: Best sign to see after finishing 20 miles in one day.

Above: After a day of walking in the sun!

Above: Our stop at Holy Redeemer in New Bremen

Above: Right before we first began our 150 mile walking pilgrimage!

"I'm no longer settling for less"

Our sixth "Called to be More" vocations pilgrimage letter:

Dear, Friend in Christ
Now I’m sure there are quite a few thoughts running through your head about why I am traveling with a group that is parading through Cincinnati. You see I lived my life by the “Norm” which is, following what society “told me” to do. For example, how to dress, how to style my hair or even how to love…The message was always, “do what makes you happy”. But in the end this broken message left me empty and hungry for the true meaning of what it means to be, “called to be more”. All through my teenage years I searched for the answer to his question. And in the end it became clear to me that the, “call to be more” is doing exactly the opposite of how I’ve been trying to live my life. Instead of trying to “fit in” I am now on the path to trying to be myself in the way God intended me to be. Therefore, I’m no longer settling for less by following the degrading standers of society which only apply to my physical appearance. Instead, I’m developing the gifts God has given to me Spiritual AND Physical as a Human Being.
God Bless!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Report from the road: Walking day #1

With the exception of the first five minutes of light rain, we have had sunny skies all day for our first day of walking.  We began the day with Mass, celebrated with just the 15 of us and college seminarian Joe.  Today is the feast of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a patron of youth, so it was a fitting time to begin our pilgrimage.

Following Morning Prayer, a reflection about Bl. John Paul II and a delicious breakfast, we were on the road.  The first leg of the journey is taking us through the area often referred to as, “God’s Country,” with many farms along the quiet country roads.

We stopped at Holy Redeemer in New Bremen for some prayer and a reflection on St. Louis de Montfort.  Then it was off to Subway for a quick lunch.  We next walked to St. Augustine in Minster, where we were given a wonderful history of the area and of the parish.  One of the teens offered a reflection about St. Monica.

From there we walked to St. Michael’s in Fort Laramie.  We were greeted with some wonderful snacks and drinks, and an opportunity to reflect on the life of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. 

Our final stop of the day is St. Remy’s in Russia.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with the youth minister, Nicole, followed by ice cream back in the parish center.

Keep us in your prayers as we continue day two of walking tomorrow.

The walking has begun!

"Jesus has given me freedom"

Letter #5 from the "Called to be More" pilgrims:

Dear Friend in Christ,
I am writing you this letter because I have come to the realization that both you and I are called to more. As I entered my teenage years I began believing the lies of the media and materialism around me. In searching for my purpose, I lost self control as I began settling in my base desires. What I looked like, what I owned and my popularity status were what defined me. Jesus has given me freedom. In fact, He was waiting to give it to me my entire life, but I had to say yes. He does not force His Love, but invites you to take hold of something greater than this world. Jesus died for us taking on the hurt and the pain of every sin we have ever and will ever commit. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and wants to free us from the pain of sin and slavery to this world. In humbling ourselves to Someone greater, we find a greater peace and an eternal joy to give to the world. This peace will bring you an internal joy allowing God to reflect His eternal love through you to a much desiring world. Slowly He will begin to transform souls through you, and you will finally understand your purpose. When you stop the world from using you and let God deeply into your heart, a slow but radiant transformation begins to take place as you begin to fill up and overflow with a love much deeper, much more authentic than anything else this world may try and offer.
In Christ’s Love,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The pilgrimage has begun!

Today, the ten high school student pilgrims and five adult chaperones spent a day on retreat at St. Gertrude's in Madeira, followed by a two hour drive up to Maria Stein, Ohio. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner, followed by a stroll to a small white chapel in the woods and a Holy Hour at the retreat center.

The focus of today has been receiving God's grace so as to be a reservoir, willingly sharing God's joy and love with the world.

Some photos of Day #1:

Fr. Benedict Croell, OP, Vocations Director for the Eastern Province Dominicans, stopped by to talk about the universal call to holiness.

Tomorrow we begin walking. Six days to complete 150 miles! Please keep us in your prayers.

Also, be sure to check Fr. Kyle Schnippel's tweets from the pilgrimage.

"Nobody wants to be mediocre"

A fourth letter from a "Called to be More" high school student and pilgrim.

We are spending today on retreat and then heading up north to begin walking tomorrow. Please pray for us!

Dear Friend in Christ,
What does it mean when we say we are “called to be more?” Is it just some simple religious quip or mindless suggestion? Is it some sort of conceited illusion that we are better than everyone else? I think not. Rather, dear friend, I believe that it is a divine calling reiterated time and again by Christ’s holy Church that we are called to more than this world has to offer. Surrounded by the minimalism and utilitarianism of our modern secular society, we are often bombarded with false answers to life’s most fundamental questions. All of us desire greatness, but too many of us settle for the cheap version of happiness that seems to be so popular in our world today. Nobody wants to be mediocre, but oftentimes we find ourselves falling short of our full potential and simply doing as little as possible to get by. We seek happiness, but lack the discipline and motivation to achieve it. Truly I tell you, dear friends, that the authentic life Christ calls us to offers more joy and happiness than you could possible even begin to imagine. If we are willing to pick up your crosses and follow our risen Lord, we can avoid the lives of complacency and dead virtue that too often divert us from our final goal. This is Christ’s call. Join me as I pray for our world, that Jesus might stir in all of us “the will to follow an ideal, [and] the refusal to allow [our]selves to be ground down by mediocrity” (Bl. Pope John Paul II).
In Christ,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Begin embracing your call to greatness"

Letter #3 from the "Called to be More" pilgrimage. We begin this journey tomorrow!

Dear Friend in Christ,

What does it mean that we are called to be more? I believe that each of us deep down desires greatness. It is something intrinsic to our humanity. Society futilely attempts to satisfy this desire by offering us money, fame, power, possessions, popularity, success, etc. Yet none of this can truly fulfill our desire for greatness. For our dignity and greatness lies not in anything we achieve, accomplish or posses but in who we are as persons created in the image and likeness of a loving and selfless God. We will only truly fulfill our desire for greatness when we accept God’s grace to become like Him and to be the presence of He who is Love and Truth in a world desperately in need of both. Thus, I challenge you today to begin embracing your call to greatness. Do not hide the beautiful potential of your life behind the comforts of the world, but embrace your call to be more. As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI said “the world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.”

Yours in Christ,

Friday, July 1, 2011

"How great is the joy of knowing the reality of Christ's call"

Here is a second letter from a "Called to be More" pilgrim:

When I think of the phrase “Called to be More”, the first image that comes to mind is that of me standing before some great king, or explorer, or missionary; a man enfolded in some epic mission, who is asking me to be a part of his legacy. He goes further, explaining that, in order for his mission to be successful, he will need me to follow him where ever he leads, dress as he dresses, speak as he speaks, eat what he eats and drink what he drinks, and suffer what he suffers. I am filled with excitement and joy at such a suggestion, finding fulfillment in being a part of a mission far greater than myself. I even become eager to sacrifice what is required of me for the mission’s success.

If this is the joy I receive at imagining some man beckoning me to follow him, how much greater is my joy at the calling of Christ! How great is the joy at knowing the reality of Christ’s call! Not only is this call real, but it is also infinitely greater than any calling I am capable of imagining! If I could hold this reality in my heart at all times, it would become increasingly impossible to sin, to turn from God. How could I look away from something this beautiful?

I will be honest and say that I have no idea what I will be doing twenty years from now, or even five years from now, or even one year from now. Unless it was revealed to me, I doubt that I could be capable of even guessing accurately. I do know, however, what I will be doing in the next hour, day, and week, so I feel that it is best for me to focus on living these things to reach the fulfillment of God’s call for me. What use would trying to look into the future be if I cannot do God’s will in what He desires me in the next five minutes? I know that if I make Him the focus of every thought and action, then my calling in life will just flow from the actions I commit to in everyday life.
- Colton