In our chapel at Covecrest we have this statue of Mary. Every time I go into the chapel I think of how cool but scary it would be if she looked up at me one time. As I was praying a Hail Mary in the chapel and looking at her it hit me. As we pray the Hail Mary we say ‘pray for us now and at the hour of our death’. Think of how much we go through and all the things that we need prayers for. Mary would never look up from her prayers because she is too dedicated to praying for all of us now and at the hour of our death. Sometimes when we pray I get distracted and look up to see what others are doing, but Mary would never do this. After I realized this, I felt a sense of relief, that Mary is always there in the chapel praying intensely for my soul. Mary can’t be distracted from praying for all of our souls, we are too important. Finally, I want to leave you with one quote that I heard from Erik Martin, who I am sure heard it from some one else, ‘If we could fully comprehend the power of prayer we would never cease from getting off our knees.’
Last month, I was blessed to have taken a week long trip to Haiti. This trip was so amazing and had countless blessings. I learned so much from the kids at the orphanage that we stayed at; learning to love, work, relax, and ride in the back of a truck better. These children loved without reserve which was something that I needed practice in. I never thought I could work or smile so much in such a short amount of time.
The first full day that we were there we leveled out part of the yard and built a swing set. We stopped only for lunch and for an hour and 1/2 break in which we all took advantage of by napping. After taking that nap half of us stayed to finish the job while the other half went on a home visit. Working and trying to wake up from the nap wasn’t working out too well for me until Stephen Smith said something that changed my whole day. ‘Caleb do you know how much the Lord is blessing you right now?’ with a giant smile on his face. A boy and girl had been helping me fill up a wheel barrel to move dirt and were doing a much better job than I was. After I repeated what Stephen had told me a few times in my head it finally hit me. These kids who were maybe 5 or 6 were doing more work than I was doing and with a such joy and happiness. Now maybe they thought of it as play but it changed my outlook. I thought that they shouldn’t be so good at shoveling dirt and constantly working. After this epiphany, I began to work with much fervor and joy while taking time to load the kids up in the wheel barrel to race them around trees.
I can’t count how many hours we spent on the back of a truck but most of the time there were kids with us in the back and every once and a while I would catch one of their eyes. As I would catch their eyes I couldn’t help but smile as they returned the smile. I never knew that smiling was so contagious! One of the final nights we were staying there, Chris asked us what we would like to leave and take with us. I said that I wanted to take more smiles and leave any sense of laziness. I wanted to take smiles because I felt like I’ve never smiled as much as when I was down there and I wanted to leave laziness because if a five year old can work hard for hours at a time then there is no excuse why I can’t keep up with him.
If I was to tell you that something or someone was fierce like a little flower you wouldn’t think much of that at all. But what if I was to say that someone was as fierce as a little flower for God? Still nothing? In my mind I see St. Therese being this this very thing, fierce as a little flower for God. Now if you are wondering what this term means I can give you a few examples. St. Therese is one of the patron saints for missions although she joined a cloistered convent at a very young age. Living in community can be a difficult thing especially in closer quarters and for the rest of your life. St. Therese overcame this difficulty by choosing to love in a special way the people she could not get along with. God not only called her to the vocation of the religious life but to a vocation to love. She realized that everything she knew and experienced were all little gifts from God. And finally that the most important thing for her was that God’s will was to be completely done over her will, no matter what that meant.
As I began to read St. Therese’ autobiography, Story Of A Soul, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. I have always wanted to do great things for God and in a big way…after all, I am a guy and I am from Texas. As a guy, I have never wanted to do anything in a “little” or “flowery” way. But as I continued to read Story of a Soul I realized that she had a ferocity for God that I knew I could never attain in any big way. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was that St. Therese wanted God’s will to be done over hers to the point that she wouldn’t mind spending eternity in hell if God willed it. Now I know that sounds pretty radical but St. Therese wanted every place on Earth, above, and below to have at least one person praising God. So if that meant that she needed to spend eternity in hell so that God’s will could be accomplished then she would have it be done unto her. So in trying to better myself I will strive for a fierceness for God that is comparable to that of a little flower of Lisieux.
It’s funny how we can know something and yet still try to do the opposite. I have known since high school the saying, “if you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans.” Although I have known this for a while, I still believe that the plans I make will happen. As of now I feel like I am one of the funniest guys in the world.
Up until today, I was trying to figure out and plan out what I wanted to do after my missionary year. It seemed that after much consideration, I finally narrowed down my options, but then it hit me: I had made all these plans but had left out a big part of these plans: God. I had figured out what I thought would make me happy instead of how God wanted to make me happy. Whether you know it or not, all God wants is for us to be happy and to get to Heaven. I knew what I enjoyed and what would make me happy, but all these careers would do nothing for me if it wasn’t what God wanted for me. I know I can save myself a lot of unnecessary stress by just allowing God to do as He wills, instead of me making up things that may or may not come true in my life.
My new year resolution: (I know that it’s 3 weeks into the year but a new year can start at any moment not just on January 1st) is to leave everything up to God and take it as it comes. I know that some days I will fail in this, but I will try my hardest to do what I believe is His will. So as far as my plans for the end of the year: I have no idea what I will be doing because I don’t even know what tomorrow will bring me and that’s okay. God will give me what I need for today, and as for tomorrow, I will leave it in His hands.
Ever since high school, working out has been a big part of my life; not only because I enjoy it, but the satisfaction that I get after a hard work out is hard to match. When I entered into college, I thought that I knew a lot about working out and that my muscles were well trained. Well, I sure was wrong! I realized that I was lacking, in what I never considered major muscles, my biceps. Despite all of the sports that I was involved in during high school, I never had to develop my biceps!
Faith can be compared to working out. When we leave one muscle group or aspect of spirituality out of our lives, the rest of the areas are affected by that weak link. I realized that reading Scripture was my spiritual bicep and it needed to be worked on. As I worked on my physical biceps, I realized that I could lift more weight as I used different muscle groups. This became a domino effect and allowed my whole body to get stronger. As I dove deeper into Scripture, different aspects of my faith life began to grow in ways I had never known. I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence more than ever before.
It’s easy to get caught up in what we enjoy doing as we are strong in these areas. However, if things were meant to be easy, everyone would be doing them. If you enjoy working out, like I do, you know that finishing that last rep or adding weights isn’t easy; it is a struggle that sometimes feels like we can’t complete. If I was to only use weights and repetitions that I was comfortable with, I would never get stronger. As we get stronger in our faith, we need to start piling on the prayers. God is our spotter. When the weight is too much that we can’t handle, He is there to grab it off of us. The most important thing is to not get discouraged when it seems that all of the weight is on us and we can’t lift it. God is there! He is constantly helping us so that we are still lifting the weight, even though we may not notice His presence. What good is it if God relieved all the weight from us on His own? How would we grow? God will never give us more then we can handle.
Have you ever tried concentrating on God and ended up thinking about everything thing else but Him? When things such as the thoughts of yesterday, today, or tomorrow pop up in your head? Perhaps it’s scenes from different movies or lyrics from songs that keep playing over and over. Or, you play out different scenarious of experiences you have had in your life. This happens to me all of the time! My mind ends up racing from one thing to the next, and most of the time, I forget that the reason I am quieting myself is so that I can have time with God.
Most days, I wish I could put any useless thoughts in a jar and take them out of my head. Today would be a great day to invent a mechanism that could help us with this! I’ve already seen The Dark Knight at least a dozen times and I don’t need to be thinking of the joker when I’m focusing on God. Luckily, thoughts like this don’t last long because they can’t capture my mind and heart like God does.
God speaks to me through the homilies of different priests. There is one quote, in particular, that has rung in my head ever since. ” So what if you get distracted during Mass or if you fall asleep during Adoration, that’s the way God made you.” This statement from Fr. John Welch helped me so as not to get discouraged when I found myself struggling in this area.
The greatest thing is that God is always there waiting for my mind to settle down and focus on Him; although, there are times when I need some help. I imagine Jesus spartan kicking the distractions out of my mind or grabbing the scenes like a piece of paper and crumbling them up. Once my attention is solely on Him, He holds my head, looks me directly in the eye and says, “Focus on me!” in a stern but loving way. God isn’t calling for more of us, He is calling for all of us. Through every thought know that God is always there, waving His arms in the air, trying to get our attention.
This past May I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from Texas State University and was ready to take on the world. My plan was to have one last fun summer while training to get in shape for the military. My sister who is the youth minister for my home parish got it in her head that I would make a wonderful missionary. That was definitely not my plan.
Throughout the summer, I intentionally put the thought of being a missionary out of my mind. However, my sister would not leave it alone. My sister kept telling me that she thought I would be an awesome missionary. When God wants something, He can be very stubborn. He made me stubborn too. To get me to move, I know that God has to be persistent with me to overcome my stubbornness. I had a feeling that my sister’s persistence in encouraging me to be a Life Teen Missionary was really from God. August rolled around and that meant a few things: continue the steps required to get into the Navy, move back home, and find a job at home until I get into the Navy. Having a degree usually means finding a job easier, but apparently not when God has other plans for you. I applied at numerous places that I thought would be a sure deal, but had no luck.
While attending a Life Teen weekly event as a semi-core member for my home parish, I had a big realization. I realized that for most of my life I had been playing tug of war with God over what to do with my life. That night, I went home and told myself that I no longer wanted to play that game, and thats where it took off. I logged onto facebook and had received a message from Chris Benzinger asking me if I had given any thought to becoming a missionary. I knew that God had set that in my place and so I began my process to become a missionary.
Now most people who apply to this life take months to discern, fill out their papers, and get everything ready for the missionary year. I had four weeks! Two weeks before I was to actually arrive at Covecrest for my training I had finally submitted my full application and was told I would receive a call on whether I was accepted or not. A week before I was to arrive at Covecrest I receive a call saying that I was accepted to be part of the Europe Missionary Team!
So in a week I had to prepare to not only be a missionary for a year but to be prepared to be living in Europe. Things that most other missionaries have weeks or even months to prepare for I was able to get done in one week. This was not due to my ‘hardwork’ but because the Holy Spirit guided me to fulfill God’s will. I was amazed at what I was able to get done in such a short time. Actually, I did not make it happen. It was all God. This was a little over a month ago and the experiences I have had since then are simply indescribable and amazing. I have made a right decision or two in my life but the decision to say yes to God’s mission as a Life Teen missionary is the best one yet!