Catholic Girl Journey

Act like a princess

It seems the items that interest me on Netflix all have some sort of royalty in them. Whether it is a movie, a series or a documentary about real or make believe monarchies, a common story line is the requirement to act the part, especially in public. It’s usually contrasted when the character or person has presented themselves less that what is expected. I must admit that the thought has crossed my mind more than once, “I’m glad I don’t need to worry about that.” But then again, maybe I do?!

Being a daughter of God, who is the Kings of Kings, wouldn’t that make me a princess? Before I go ordering a tiara, let’s think about this. When Jesus came, there were no parades, just a few simple shepherds and 3 very select wise men who came to welcome Him. His crown was of thorns and His throne was the cross. While those aspects are not typical, His actions, that of a leader and setting the example for others, are common factors between Jesus and any earthly ruler.  

What would acting like a princess of God look like? We have plenty of examples in the saints. High on the list would include loving every person with the same love and compassion that Jesus has for me. Another would be setting the example of following the commandments by living them in my daily life. It may not be waving at crowds of strangers, but a smile or wave could help brighten a person’s day. Help those in need in whatever means available: by time, money and/or talent. It sounds like much the same as being a follower of Christ, doesn’t it?

Just like earthly rulers, we will fall short of those expectations. It doesn’t mean we stop trying, it just means we try harder. Perhaps in do so, we can bring a little bit of God’s kingdom here to our corner of the earth.

Catholic Girl Journey

God love you

How much does God love you? As our Creator, God loves us each and individually. It’s a concept that one hears over and over again, but without seeing/interacting with God as a being, it can be hard to understand.

Jesus, the divine Son of God, came down to earth, and became man. I believe it, and yet it’s still difficult to understand. Jesus gave His life for us, dying on the cross so that He could descend into the darkest part of our humanity, death, and triumph over it by rising from the dead. I believe it, am humbled by it, in awe of it, and yet it does not help me to understand how much God loves me, Karen, as an individual.

God, in His infinite wisdom understands this, after all He did create me. To help me, He blessed me by allowing me to become a pet parent to my cat, Vera. I love the creature she is, even in her impish times when I’m completely frustrated with her behavior, but I’m glad she’s in my life. I love when she comes and sits on my lap and purrs. I enjoy her company and that simple act of her just being herself,. Even amidst the struggle of the medical issue she has, , I gladly endure the pain and heartache because of all the joy-filled moments she gives me daily.

While this may seem like a crazy cat lady talking about her cat, it’s really looking at relationships in a spiritual light. If I can have such a strong connection with another creature who only sort of gets who I am and my actions, how much more does God know and love me? This is still an imperfect perspective, but helps me to get a glimpse of His love. Vera understands when I get out a toy that it’s playtime, and when I pick up her bowls and take them to the kitchen that it’s feeding time. She also understands when the spray bottle comes out that she needs to stay out of the kitchen or off the dining table. She’s an intelligent creature, but sees things from a cat perspective. I see God from a human perspective, so my understanding of Him pales in comparison to who He really is and what all He does for me.

So every time that Vera jumps up on my lap, kneads before settling down, purring the whole time, I thank God for bringing Vera into my life. And then I thank Him for the unfathomable amount of love He has for me.

Catholic Girl Journey

Living your mission

‘Act of God’ is one episode name for Netflix’s The Crown series.  It has haunted me since I watched it weeks ago. The Crown is a dramatization of the life of Queen Elizabeth II starting just prior to her ascent to the throne and continuing through the early years of her reign. However, it is not the major character, but a minor character used for storyline purposes that has kept me thinking about our mission in everyday life.

The episode takes place in December 1952 during the Great Smog over London. The fictional character Venetia Scott, a secretary to Winston Churchill, is inspired by his autobiography and wants her life to mean something. She bemoans the fact that all she does is put papers in front of the Prime Minister to sign and takes them away again. Churchill, at the same age, was pursuing a military career and making a difference. Scott sees an opportunity when she takes her roommate to the hospital for treatment due to the effects of the smog. The hospital is in chaos. She asks the doctor what is needed and tells him that she can help by putting in a word with the Prime Minister. The doctor scoffs at her suggestion, too overwhelmed by patients needing attention to give any to her. The doctor’s dismissive attitude fuels her passion for making a difference and she sets out to prove that she does have the ear of Churchill. Marching on her way towards Downing Street with that goal as her main focus, she is tragically cut down by a bus that fails to see her in the dense smog until it is too late.

My instinct was to look away from the screen rather than watch this horror. I didn’t want to see it, knowing that no one could survive that type of accident. I felt bad for the character  who never had the chance to convince Churchill that this smog was not some weather phenomenon, but a crisis that needed his attention. While some of the details may be more fiction than fact, the life of Venetia Scott is portrayed as a bright spot for Churchill; so bright, that upon hearing of her death, he decides to visit the hospital morgue to pay his respects.  Her death brings Churchill face-to-face with the crisis and the fact that people are in need of his help. Doing what a politician does well, he quickly orchestrates a media opportunity and delivers a speech declaring monetary support to help the victims. The example of Scott’s life, lived so brightly that it transcended her death, is the focus of my pondering. While the writers of the story may have intended the title “Act of God” to reference the great smog, it is the fulfillment of Scott’s mission to make a difference  that is truly the act of God. He makes her life — and death — purpose-filled, for she succeeds in her mission in the end.

We are all called to mission, to serve others as brightly and boldly as we can. We cannot count the cost, since we can never truly measure the benefit to those whose lives we touch, directly or indirectly. Perhaps our impact will be felt by those we leave behind after we cease to live on earth; perhaps it will  continue to grow as they keep the memory of our lives present in theirs.  

Catholic Girl Journey

Magnify the Lord

Mary’s magnificat is the prayer of praises that Mary proclaims when she meets with Elizabeth in Luke’s gospel (Lk 1:46-55). Traditionally it is prayed during daily evening prayer. For about ten years I have been using a daily prayer book, called the Magnificat, for morning prayer, Mass readings and evening prayers. Yet it was only recently that I started to ponder if I could pray Mary’s prayer as my own.

Mary is God’s perfect creation. She was gifted with immaculate conception and she never sinned during her life. She first and only thought of herself as His handmaid. So how could such a sinner like me pray one of her perfect prayers? In a way, it’s all about the attitude.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” God has given me everything, how can I not rejoice in the Lord? My life may not be perfect but even if I thank Him for the basic gift of life, this statement should be mine to make with the same joy and gratefulness.

“From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.” I always thought this referred only to Mary, but for anyone who is pursuing a relationship with God and hopes to one day be with Him in heaven, i.e. a saint – even an unknown one, that person is blest and the Church does pray for all the saints in heaven. However, we cannot achieve this on our own; it is God who makes it possible. It is the Almighty who invites us into heaven and calls us to be holy, like Him.

“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” This is like a mini examination of conscience. For example, as we praise the Lord for rewarding with fairness, we may find that we are being sent away empty, not because God does not love us, but because we are already filled and we need to share what we received and empty ourselves so that God can fill us up again. By reviewing our daily activities each evening, we can identify what we need to work on the next day.

“He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” Lastly, we are reminded that we are part of a family, not just a biological one that we are born into, or the one we grow up in, but the family of God. He has made a covenant with His people, starting in the Old Testament and it continues to this day through the Church.

Despite our imperfections, Mary’s magnificat can be our own prayer to God, thanking Him for all the gifts He has given to us, acknowledging His work within our lives and His help in what we need to focus on to be better and thanking Him for being part of His family.

Catholic Girl Journey

For the Father

In a recent homily, the priest asked the parents in the congregation, “What would you tell your children if they said to you, ‘I love you so much, what can I do to show you?’”

While I may not be a parent, I can imagine that the responses would be things like: do your chores without complaining, don’t fight with your brothers/sisters, listen when I tell you to do or not do something. For young children, these answers reflect the fact that parents have their children’s well being in mind when they give them boundaries and responsibilities as they are growing up.

The priest’s question piqued my interest. I realized that  young parents want their children to listen to their advice, to follow their example, and obey them, so that they can be molded into responsible and loving parents as they become adults. It reminded me of the 10 Commandments. For example,“Do your chores” is like “Keep holy the Sabbath.”

As we grow up, we have a responsibility to nurture our spiritual life and, among other things, by going to Mass, and reflecting on the readings and homily, we are learning to be responsible for the growth of our faith. To be asked not to fight with our siblings is much like the commandment “do not kill.” While it may seem like a leap from fighting over the TV remote to killing, any anger and violence is like a plant seed that grows with each fight. God the Father gave us the 10 Commandments, through the Israelites, to serve as a guideline for living,  similarly to what any parent would give to their children, for their own good, the good of the community and the good of the relationship with God.

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (John 14:21) At the end of the Last Supper, Jesus tells His Apostles that it is by observing His commandments, that they not only show their love for Him, but how they can keep a relationship with Him, even if He is not physically present in the world. The time spent keeping the commandments makes up the building blocks of the relationship with Jesus.

The actions we take, the choices we make all reflect our love for God, as we chose to — or not to — observe and obey His commandments.

 

Catholic Girl Journey

A little bird told me

Even if you don’t have twitter, you’re not far from it. Tweets are often shared, not just within that medium, but also on Facebook, blogs and other social media apps. When sharing good news, it’s great that it can be picked up beyond its own space. However, how often does  it really happen that good news gets passed along?

It’s so easy either on our mobile phone or tablet, to send our first reaction in about 140 characters. Sharing a local fundraising event or word of a good deed done is a great way to pass on positive messages. But when it comes to topics that are controversial, it seems negativity is what is passed on. Do we really know enough to be able to condemn so quickly?  Would we want to be judged based on so little knowledge? Do we realize that our response could hurt others?

Social media was initially thought to help educate others about different points of view. In reality, it seems to bring people who have the same point-of-view together and give them a forum to express, not just their thoughts, but their emotional reaction to other viewpoints. Using social media to hold a public figure or a company responsible for their actions, can be beneficial to society as long as it is done respectfully and honestly. But continued bashing of a topic, person or company is more like a virtual mob than a tool for change.  

I wonder if the Bible were to be be translated in the cultural speak of the day, would Jesus be quoted as saying: ‘Let the man among you who has no sin send the first tweet.’ (adapted from John 8:7) A first step  to countering this negative trend could be to start looking at our own responses, even if it’s after  the fact. As we get more aware of our reactions, perhaps we can wait 5 minutes to let our emotions cool and think about a positive way to respond instead. Another option may be not to respond or share at all.

If we are followers of Jesus, we need to receive the peace He brings to us and pass that on to others. Let the peace of Christ begin with us and be evident in all our words and actions, even down to the smallest tweet.

Catholic Girl Journey

God versus job

Success, what does it look like? There are many “helpful” articles, blogs, books, videos and companies that will tell you that in order to be successful, you need to make progress. You need to move ahead from where you are right now. With this expectation in my head, it seems that the job front is the hardest place to let in God.

I am restless with my current situation, but feel blessed that I have a job that pays the bills. Each time I wonder if I should be looking for a new position, it seems that the answer is for me to prepare. It’s not a total ‘no’ but it’s not a full ‘yes’ either. I’ve been casually looking at job postings for several months and am having difficulty wrapping my head around the search process. The first question I ask is, “what do I want to do?” But is that the right question to ask if I want God to be involved of this aspect of my life? I do not have aspirations of becoming a CEO, rather, I want to do a good job for a company that I believe in and in an field that I enjoy. I’ve been with my current company for over 15 years, , and don’t want to leave just to make a change. I want it to be the right change. So how can I let God into this area of my life? I can pray for guidance, but is that it? Is there a way to really invite God into the search process to walk with me and help me to identify which positions I should consider,perhaps the ones that He would like me to apply for, but I might just pass over?

Next to the job search itself, the resume and cover letter are the next items which seem to lack the inclusion of God. After all these documents are supposed to answer the question, “who am I?” First and foremost, I am a child of God. That is not something that goes over well on a resume. Companies want me to list the jobs that I’ve had, and I understand they want me to prove to them I can do the job for which I’m applying. But I do not define myself that way. My qualifications go beyond tasks I’ve previously completed; they include the Catholic values I bring to my work. I’m not looking for a stepping stone to someplace better, rather I’d like my work to more than fill the void they posted.

Once in the workplace, my true Catholic self does show in my actions. So how can those actions lead me in the job search? Perhaps the time is not quite right to make a change. But like all things involving faith, I need to be prepared. Understanding the positions that are open now and updating my resume are two ways to get myself ready. I trust God to guide me to the right place.