Hundred Word Reviews: “Confessions” by Saint Augustine

Challenge No. 3: A Book with A One-Word Title

“Confessions” by Saint Augustine, translated by Garry Wills, finished April 23. I know I said I would do the one with nonhuman characters next, but it got complicated.

augustine

Hundred Word Review: Augustine of Hippo’s testimony is a staple in Catholic literature. Born in Africa in 354, he became a celebrated orator and conceited playboy. His mother, Saint Monica, prayed to the point of suffering for years for his conversion to Catholicism. Finally, Augustine became a Doctor of the Church in the ultimate come-to-Jesus story. Every Christian needs to get their hands on this book, but don’t expect to read it in a week. Beneath all of Augustine’s rich language and profound philosophy are moments that make you say, “That’s so me.” Take your time with this book. It’s well worth it.

Check out PopSugar’s challenge and let me know in the comments if you have a book recommendation for one of the categories. And if you want to do the challenge yourself, let me know what you’re reading!

Next up, “a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.”

Happy reading!

Vicky

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‘Old Fashioned’ Hopes and Fears

Who doesn’t love romance? As a culture, we’re obsessed with it. We try to groan every time a new romantic comedy comes out, but we secretly get the warm and fuzzies after we watch it on Netflix … or in a movie theater by ourselves. But Christians looking to pursue God-centered relationships that eventually lead to God-centered marriages don’t have too many role models in modern rom-coms.

Enter “Old Fashioned,” a new romantic comedy from Skoche Films hitting U.S. theaters Feb. 13, the same day as that other big-budget “romance” about glorified domestic violence.

OK, short synopsis: Antique store owner Clay was a chauvinist frat boy until he found Jesus and developed his own Joshua Harris-style ideas about love and courtship. Will o’ the whisp Amber moves into the apartment above his store, and … you can guess where this is going.

I’m a Catholic Christian, but I’m not obliged to like or support all forms of media marketed as “Christian” (for a further explanation, check out this awesome video from Blimey Cow.) I’ve recently started to watch more Christian films, and in general, they range from the harmlessly mediocre to the downright offensive — don’t get me started on “God’s Not Dead.”

However, after watching the trailer for “Old Fashioned,” my cold, cynical, secular heart began to feel the same warm and fuzzies I used to get from romantic comedies. I’m a sucker for love stories, but when two characters in a romantic comedy share a few shallow lines of dialogue, hook up and then suddenly have a long-lasting, healthy relationship, I scratch my head. There is definitely a need for romantic comedies that show women and men taking dating slowly and treating each other with respect and dignity. However, Christian films also need to rise above the level of “good … for a Christian movie.”

With this in mind, “Old Fashioned” could restore my faith in Christian films if …

1. … the script doesn’t feel like it was cut-and-pasted from the pastor’s Sunday sermon notes.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the work that pastors and priests put into their sermons. However, many Christian movies I’ve seen have deserved the label “preachy.” An audience doesn’t like to be talked at. After watching these films, I feel reprimanded rather than entertained. I’m not saying that a film’s sole purpose is entertainment or that churches shouldn’t use popular media to connect with their members. However, Christian artists should focus on producing quality content just as much as spreading their message. Christian films don’t get a pass on screenwriting guidelines; they still need to develop plot and characters to their full potential, which brings me to …

2. … the characters are relatable and well-rounded; not all Christian characters are saints, and not all non-Christian characters are demons, or worse, “projects.”

Any practicing Christian will tell you that they are not perfect; anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. Following Jesus Christ is not easy, and faith is a life-long journey that can’t be completed in the span of a two-hour movie. So why, in so many Christian films, are all Christian characters automatically “good guys” and all non-Christian characters automatically “bad guys”? Real people aren’t as black-and-white as that. Judging from the trailer, “Old Fashioned” could be taking a step in the right direction, as Amber, by all indications, is not a Christian. My only hope is that the movie doesn’t make her a pet project for Clay to convert. If the filmmakers want the audience to believe in these characters, they need to write them as real people who struggle and sin but also dust themselves off and try again.

3. … it has other selling points besides being countercultural or “non-secular.”

Once “Old Fashioned” was acquired by Freestyle Releasing, the same distributor of “God’s Not Dead,” it was pitched as a squeaky-clean alternative to the BDSM-filled juggernaut “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and Freestyle even planned to release their film on the same day. Its tagline: “Chivalry makes a comeback.” While this is a smart marketing move, the film needs to stand on its own as a well-made movie. If you want people to have faith in your product’s message, you need to put effort into the product itself. Again, see the Blimey Cow video I mentioned earlier.

4. … it doesn’t preach to the choir.

Last year, I had the great privilege to lead a Christian women’s retreat at my college. That same weekend, one of my best friends from high school was planning a visit. Though she doesn’t really practice any religion, she came on the retreat like the wonderful and supportive friend she is. When I asked her how she liked it, she said some parts, like our praise and worship hour, made her feel out of place, but that she really enjoyed listening to the testimonies of the retreat leaders and meeting some of my friends. Christian films can’t get their message out if their filmmakers are only concerned with adhering to religious dogma. There need to be elements of the story and characters that anyone of any religion can identify with.

5. … you wouldn’t know the difference if the film was made by a secular production company.

HOLD IT BEFORE YOU UNFOLLOW THIS BLOG. Just hear me out. When I say that there should be no difference between a Christian film and a secular film, I don’t mean that Christian filmmakers should jeopardize their values to appeal to the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, they should use their God-given talents to produce quality entertainment that has a Christ-centered message. The trick is finding God in secular media. Themes such as love, sacrifice, friendship, courage and community do exist in Hollywood. It may take a bit of digging, but there are good values in many secular films. Well-made Christian films have the potential to show the film industry that we don’t need to watch sex and violence all the time … and that a popular book series doesn’t necessarily deserve a cinematic adaptation. *cough*

“Old Fashioned” isn’t being released internationally at the moment, but if you’re in the U.S., find a screening near you and check it out this Valentine’s Day weekend!

This time, you get TWO questions! 1) What are your thoughts on “Old Fashioned” or “Fifty Shades of Grey”? 2) Do you know any Christian films that fit the above criteria? Seriously, guys. I need my faith restored in Christian cinema.

Bon Saint Valentin!

– Vicky

A Functioning Roman Catholic, Among Other Things

Bonne année a tous! Happy New Year, everyone!

For those of you who are new to this blog, especially my fellow participants of Blogging U.’s Blogging 101 class, bienvenue! I hope you’ll comment on this post so I can get to know all of you!

Recently, I reached 50 followers on this blog. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a blogger whose most frequently used tags are “Catholic” and “God,” I am very grateful. Thank you so much to everyone! I also apologize for my “En Avant Pour L’Avent” series falling through. :/

So about me: I’m Vicky, short for Victoria. (You’d be surprised at how many people don’t make the connection.) I was born and raised in New Jersey. Despite my lack of French heritage, I’ve been obsessed with France for as long as I can remember. I started studying French when I was thirteen years old and double-majored in writing and French in college. I’m spending my first post-grad year teaching English to French middle schoolers in a small town about an hour north of Paris. My idea of paradise is a secondhand bookstore with a coffee shop. I text in full sentences using proper grammar. I’m either an outgoing introvert or a shy extrovert — I can’t decide. I have a head full of useless and random information. I laugh a little too hard. I love to bake and travel, but mostly I love to write. One of my life goals is to get a book published. It doesn’t have to be a bestseller; I just want a hot-off-the-press copy in my hands, none of this e-book nonsense.

Oh, and I’m also Catholic.

So why did I leave that part till the last? My faith is extremely important to me, but it’s not the only thing that makes me me. When I tell people I’m Catholic, they seem to lump me into a sort of homogenous box of people wearing beige sweaters and praying the Rosary. While I do love a good Rosary, I’m not some supreme holy being; I’m a human being. If anything, Catholics are a bunch of messed up, broken and very different people that know we need a Savior, Jesus Christ.

I do want to talk about my faith on this blog, but I also want to talk about other things I love, namely literature, France, travel, and (gasp!) feminism. My hope is that someone who isn’t Catholic will read my blog and think, “OK, this girl seems pretty normal. Maybe Catholics aren’t as crazy as I thought.”

I will look at Catholicism with a critical eye and a funny bone if need be; hey, Stephen Colbert has made a career out of taking shots at the Catholic Church, and he’s a devout Catholic! In fact, the title of this post comes from a segment about Lent on The Colbert Report.

Keep in mind that I am not an expert on anything. My opinions are my own, that of a 22-year-old (barely) functioning Roman Catholic still figuring it all out.

Thank you so much for reading! I can’t wait to meet all my fellow Blogging 101 people!

À la prochaine fois! See you next time!

Vicky

Question of the Week: What’s a question you’ve always wanted to ask a young person of faith? Tell me in the comments! I may answer it in an upcoming post.

What Children’s Literature Heroines Can Teach You About Singlehood

I know, I know. Where have I been? Life’s been pretty crazy, as I’ve finished my internship, moved back home and am leaving for France in TWO DAYS. But this is a topic I’ve been wanting to blog about for a long time, and I didn’t want to leave the country without sharing it with you.

This summer, I was on a “Pride and Prejudice” binge. I finally watched the critically acclaimed BBC adaptation, listened to the audiobook on repeat, and stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish reading “The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet” (based on the AWESOME web series.)

Then, all of a sudden, I got sick of it.

Yeah, I know, you’d think I would after the second go-through of a 10-hour audiobook. But it wasn’t the story or the characters or the writing that turned me off. It was Elizabeth Bennet: the strong, intelligent, and active female protagonist that all other strong, intelligent, and active female protagonists are measured against. She’s a fantastic character, but in the end, we all just want to see her and Darcy finally get together. I started wondering how Elizabeth might be different if Darcy wasn’t in the picture.

Then I thought of all of my other favorite strong, intelligent, and active female protagonists. No matter how independent they are, most of their journeys are ultimately defined by their romantic relationships. Emma Woodhouse. Hazel Grace Lancaster. Jane Eyre (my personal favorite). Even Katniss Everdeen, arguably one of the most kick-butt female protagonists of our time, is overshadowed by Peeta vs. Gale arguments. Why couldn’t any of these awesome ladies stand on their own? I thought about my favorite books from childhood: many of them had female protagonists, and almost none of them had a consistent love interest! You might think, “That’s cheating! They’re kids! They’re too young to be thinking about romance!” Precisely.

Remember that point in your life when it didn’t matter who liked whom, when you could just focus on being yourself? Guess what? You can and should still focus on you and your relationships with God, family, friends and the greater world.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 female protagonists who don’t need no man:

1. Sara Crewe from “A Little Princess” (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Lesson: You have the dignity and worth of royalty, regardless of your past or your present situation. 

The whole ‘princess’ image has gotten a lot of flack in the past few decades. But Burnett nailed the idea of a feminist princess way before Disney could mess it up. Sure, Sara Crewe is rich, pampered, and elegant at the beginning of the story, and when her clothes and possessions aren’t enough to win affection, she has her intelligence, kindness and knack for storytelling to speak for her. She’s likable enough. But what makes this novel so fascinating and well-loved is Sara’s inner transformation after her father’s death leaves her penniless. When her outward beauty and wealth is gone, Sara develops her inner wealth — the grace, compassion, and composure found in real royal figures like the Duchess of Cambridge. These qualities become her more than any pink silk dress ever could.

“‘Whatever comes,’ she said, ‘cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.'”

2. Mary Lennox from “The Secret Garden” (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Lesson: Friendship is healing, even if your friends are boys!

Mary Lennox is the antithesis of Sara Crewe at the beginning of her story. She is selfish, bitter, and angry, and shuns all affection. But as Mary spends more time reviving her late aunt’s garden, her cold, broken heart begins to heal. Her friendships with Dickon, a boy who lives on the moor, and Colin, her invalid cousin, are also instrumental in her healing process. There is never anything romantic about her relationships with them; she loves them as people. And their friendship — especially between Mary and Colin — is symbiotic. They help each other to heal and grow and change as they watch how Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary’s garden grows.

“And they both began to laugh over nothing as children will when they are happy together. And they laughed so that in the end they were making as much noise as if they had been two ordinary healthy natural ten-year-old creatures — instead of a hard, little, unloving girl and a sickly boy who believed that he was going to die.”

3. Matilda Wormwood from “Matilda” (Roald Dahl)

Lesson: Never settle. If something isn’t right, stand up for yourself and get out.

Brilliant, sensitive, and the best partner-in-crime on April Fool’s Day, Matilda deserved better than the horrible family she grew up inThen again, no child deserves parents as awful as the Wormwoods, but we felt that our beloved Matilda especially didn’t deserve them. And we rejoiced when she finally realized that she deserved the best, stood up to her parents and Miss Trunchbull, and found a loving mother in Miss Honey. Like Matilda, if we don’t have the courage to get out of disastrous or “just OK” relationships, we may miss out on what we’ve been looking for all along.

“All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen. If only they would read a little Dickens or Kipling they would soon discover there was more to life than cheating people and watching television.”

4. Anne Shirley from “Anne of Green Gables” (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Lesson: Life doesn’t begin when you get married. It’s happening right now, so drink it all in and savor it.

OK, I’m kind of cheating on this one because *spoiler alert* Anne marries Gilbert Blythe later in the series. However, we fall in love with Anne and follow her story because of her imagination, her zest for life, her intelligence, and her penchant for getting into trouble — not because we’re waiting around worrying about her love life. Anne doesn’t think about romantic love at all for most of the series. In fact, if you look at the first book on its own, you’ll see that her and Gilbert’s story arc is more about forgiveness than flirtation. Anne is a happy, whole, peaceful, and distinctive person throughout the series. While her childhood schoolmates are worrying about love and marriage, Anne becomes the first girl from Avonlea to get her B.A. If she had stayed single throughout the books, that would have been fine with us. As it is, Gilbert does not define her nor complete her; he complements her.

“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

5. Molly from “Molly’s Pilgrim” (Barbara Cohen)

Lesson: Never underestimate the power of your testimony.

Molly is a Russian Jewish immigrant, and she faces ridicule and prejudice at her new American school. She often tries to hide her heritage in order to fit in. But in the end, with the help of her teacher, Miss Stickley, she owns her identity and takes pride in it. Even if you don’t have a Miss Stickley, God sees your worth and dignity and wants to use your testimony for the glory of His Kingdom and to draw others closer to Him.

“It takes all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving.”

6. Annemarie Johansen from “Number the Stars” (Lois Lowry)

Lesson: The world is a scary place, but you CAN learn how to navigate and thrive in it.

Imagine being 10 years old and having your best friend’s life in your hands. And not just her life, but her family’s, your family’s, your own life, and those of several strangers! Annemarie is a Lutheran girl from Denmark who becomes involved in a plan to help her Jewish best friend, Ellen, escape the Nazis. Annemarie never says she isn’t afraid; in fact, she readily admits that she’s scared to death. But she does what she has to do to save Ellen and her family. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, “A woman is like a tea bag; you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

“I think you are like your mama, and like your papa, and like me. Frightened, but determined, and if the time came to be brave, I am quite sure you would be very, very brave.”

7. Margaret “Meg” Murry from “A Wrinkle in Time” (Madeleine L’Engle)

Lesson: You have to be independent, but you are never alone.

Though Meg is intelligent, she constantly looks to others in times of trouble: her brother Charles Wallace; her long-absent father; her intergalactic friends; and even popular athlete Calvin. Meg thinks that she’s too stupid, too ugly, and too ill-tempered to solve her own problems. Though it’s easy to roll your eyes at her, how many of us have felt worthless or doubted our own abilities? When Meg learns that she is the only one who can save Charles Wallace from the powers of IT, she’s terrified. But with the love of her family and friends behind her, Meg summons her strength and finds her self-worth. Yes, I know Calvin kisses her and it’s cute, but THAT’S NOT THE POINT OF THE STORY. Meg’s internal conflict isn’t resolved when she and Calvin get together (They never really do; it’s just inferred that they like each other.) Her story arc only comes to a close when she accepts the very adult responsibility of her brother’s life and her own, and emerges victorious. WOOHOO!

“‘Father saved me then. There’s nobody here to save me now. I have to do it myself. I have to resist IT by myself.'”

8. Luna Lovegood from the “Harry Potter” series (J.K. Rowling)

Lesson: Embrace your uniqueness, and you will attract the right kind of people for you.

I know what you’re thinking — no Hermione? Let me put it this way: The Potter fandom wasn’t in an uproar because Rowling second-guessed Luna’s love life. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t respect Luna. Yeah, she was weird, but she was a talented, intuitive, and compassionate ally in the fight against Voldemort. She never changed for anyone, and everyone grew to love her for it.

“‘People expect you to have cooler friends than us,’ said Luna, once again displaying her knack for embarrassing honesty. ‘You are cool,’ said Harry shortly. ‘None of them was at the Ministry. They didn’t fight with me.” – “Half-Blood Prince”

9. Jean Louise “Scout” Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee)

Lesson: Spend time with people who are different than you. Don’t try to change them, but learn from them.

This book is just chock full of life lessons, but many of them point to the themes of empathy and of judging people based on what they are, rather than what you hear about them. At the beginning of the novel, Scout Finch, like many children, accepts any opinion that comes her way: the Cunninghams are stubbornly poor, Mrs. Dubose is a grouchy old witch, Aunt Alexandra is a nosy busybody, and Boo Radley has no good reason to stay in his house forever. But through her interactions with these and many other characters in Maycomb, she begins to understand that each person is complex, with flaws and virtues alike. Her final interaction with Boo is so moving because she has learned to love — not the same love she feels for Atticus and Jem, but an active choice to love another human being.

“’I think there’s just one kind of folks, Jem. Folks.’”

10. Margaret Ann Simon from “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” (Judy Blume)

Lesson: Find your well of living water — where you are nourished spiritually.

Margaret is the 12-year-old daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Religious identity is a prominent theme in the novel, as Margaret faces pressure from her grandparents, friends and classmates to pick a side. In John’s gospel, in the story of the woman at the well, Jesus talks about the “living water” which becomes “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” in those who believe (John 4: 10-14). Without realizing it, Margaret develops a profound prayer life that sustains and feeds her spirit. The best part of it is that she doesn’t choose a religion at the end of the story; she realizes that her walk of faith, like ours, is a lifelong journey. So, in your singlehood, find your “well of living water,” whether it’s daily Mass, bible study, the Rosary, long solitary walks, or being in community with other people of faith. And don’t be afraid to try other forms of prayer and worship.

“Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. I want you to know I’m giving a lot of thought to Christmas and Hanukkah this year. I’m trying to decide if one might be special for me. I’m really thinking hard, God. But so far, I haven’t come up with any answers.”

FRANCE IN TWO DAYS! Stay tuned for more adventures in the coming months.

Question of the Week: Who would you add to this list and why? Please tell me in the comments! I’ll have to add them to my reading list.

Two Tongues, One Spirit

Happy Pentecost, everyone! At Mass this morning, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles. I was reminded of a talk I gave on my college Catholic community’s fall retreat in October, in which I used the same reading. I’d like to share with you an abridged version of that talk, as my personal Pentecost reflection. Veni sancte spiritus.

I’d like to start by examining what community is, and why the global community of Catholics is a special one. Think of some of the communities you’ve been a part of: a team or club, a staff at a job, etc. In all of these cases, people come together to strive toward a common goal. They have different backgrounds, personalities and beliefs, but there is something bigger than all these individuals that unites them. What do Americans say when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance? “One nation, under God.” We are united. In the global community of Catholics, the Holy Spirit is our uniting force.

Let’s look at a reading from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-11):

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.'”

Frustrating pronunciation aside, this reading exemplifies why the global community of Catholics means so much to me. How many of you have ever attended Mass at a Catholic church that wasn’t your home parish? I’m willing to bet that most of you had little to no trouble following the order of the Mass. You knew the prayers, when to stand, when to sit, when it was time for Communion, etc. No matter where you are in the world, Catholics celebrate Mass in almost exactly the same way. When we listen to the readings on Sundays, millions of other people are hearing the same words in their own language at the same time. Think about that. Millions of people all over the world — many who you will never meet in this lifetime — are joining together, praising God in one voice. Isn’t that amazing?

The word Catholic comes from the Greek word catholikismos, meaning “according to the whole” or “universal.” This etymology became more meaningful to me over this past year. As many of you know, I studied abroad in Nantes, a large city in the western half of France, during my junior year of college. On Jan. 9, 2013, I arrived alone in a foreign country, loaded down with two huge suitcases and fighting off the remnants of a fever. Even my eight years of French classes couldn’t have prepared me for that moment. The first few weeks were much more difficult than I could have imagined. I missed my family and friends. I missed my life at school. And I missed the Catholic community there. I felt like I didn’t have any roots, or anything secure to hold on to. There were several nights where I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t leave then; my parents had already bought my plane ticket home for May. I knew I had to live there, but how could I fit in?

My saving grace that semester was my host family. That first night, five pairs of brown eyes stared at me from around the dinner table as I tried to introduce myself in broken French. It was terrifying, but they were patient with me. After dinner, the family gathered in the living room, and Madame explained that the family’s tradition was to read the daily scripture and pray together before bed. I was amazed. I knew my host family was Catholic because their youngest son went to a Catholic high school, but until then, I hadn’t known to what degree they practiced their faith.

I don’t remember what passage Madame read that night, but even with my limited French, I had few problems understanding it. I remember feeling a warm glow sputtering inside my chest. It seemed as though the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, to all of us, in a language that was beyond words and cultural barriers. After she finished the reading, Madame prayed out loud for me, that I would have an easy adjustment to life in France, and for the family, that they would receive the strength and grace to help me as best they could. Afterward, we said the Our Father and the Hail Mary in French, and surprisingly, I could follow along. For the first time since I had arrived in France, I felt like I was home.

As the weeks went by, my faith strengthened me, and I grew in my relationship with God. I learned to say the Our Father and Hail Mary in French. My host family took me to Mass every Sunday and brought along their missal so I could learn the responses. When we visited Paris, we attended Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and I got my own medal blessed by the sisters there. About a month and a half into my stay, I started attending meetings of the Catholic community at the local university. Their potluck dinners reminded me of Catholic community soup suppers back home, and I did make some friends there.

I can remember my prayer walk that I did on the last fall retreat before I left the States, where I asked God if He would be with me in France. He said, very clearly, “I will be with you wherever you go.”

Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” But wherever my walk with God has lead me, across state lines or across oceans, I have never been under the impression that a Catholic church has taken me in out of obligation, but out of Christ’s love. It is true that the Church is God’s house, but God’s unconditional love and acceptance and community does not stop at the church doors. As the hymn says, we take the love of God with us as we go. We are called to share that love with the rest of the world. There is no maximum capacity in heaven. God welcomes everyone of every race, language, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, everyone! And we are called to do the same.

If any of you have seen the musical Godspell, the opening number, “Tower of Babble” is a good illustration of this. At the beginning of the number, each ensemble member represents a different philosopher — Socrates, Nietzsche, da Vinci, etc. — and sing their different philosophies loudly, trying to drown out the others. In the next number, John the Baptist enters and tells them to prepare the way of the Lord, and baptizes the whole cast. The Word of God is powerful enough to bring together people who, just moments before, wouldn’t listen to each other or who couldn’t understand one another.

This weekend I pray that we will grow in communion with each other, and through the courage of the Holy Spirit, share that communion with the rest of the world. I would like to close by bringing my host family’s tradition to you. I will be reading from the Gospel of Luke, offering a short prayer, and then closing with the Our Father in French.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (6:12-16):

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Loving Jesus, we ask you to open our hearts to one another and to Your word, that we may grow in discipleship with You. Send down your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth. I ask all of this in Your name, Amen.

Notre Père qui es aux cieux,
que ton Nom soit sanctifié,
que ton règne vienne,
que ta volonté soit faite
sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offenses,
comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal. Amen.

bientôt!

– Vicky

Have you ever met any Catholics from a different country, or attended Mass in another language? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Multiplying My Smallest Gifts

It’s my first weekend off since I graduated college.

I know, it sounds bizarre, considering that graduation was almost four weeks ago. I am blessed to have been able to spend a Saturday afternoon touring my new hometown — at least for this summer — in Florida. But God lead me through some rough spots over the past few weeks in order to bring me to a place of tranquility.

Back in November, I was offered a copy editing internship through the Dow Jones News Fund. It was a huge shock for someone who has never taken a journalism class. I was excited beyond belief to spend a summer in Florida working for one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world.

After I graduated college, I raced home to pack up my life in two days, and then headed to Temple University in Philadelphia for a week that can be best described as “journalism boot camp.” Imagine cramming a semester-long introductory course into just a week. I, along with 12 other interns from all over the country, had eight hours of class every day, and at least six hours of studying to do every night. We were tested on Associated Press Style, New York Times Style, spelling, geography, headline-writing and countless other subjects. I’ve always considered myself a good speller, but bombing my first spelling test eradicated that notion.

There was only one other non-journalism major in the room, and from my perspective, he could rattle off terms like “pica” and “refer” with as much finesse as any of the others. I was so intimidated, so afraid that whatever I said in class was insipid or wrong. I was terrified that, because of my lack of a journalism degree, I would personally be responsible for the undoing of a prestigious internship program that has been running for more than 50 years.

I know, it sounds dramatic, but we all have been in that situation of feeling inadequate, especially when we are surrounded by the best in our field, any field. We feel like our own God-given talents are insufficient to distinguish us as the best, the brightest or the most talented of the group. And we get angry at ourselves, even at God, for our lack of perfection in a culture that thirsts for and esteems it.

I was brought to this low point after the second day of class. I needed Jesus, but He seemed so far away. Then, I remembered something I had packed in my suitcase.

It was a little blue pamphlet, “The Catholic Devotional,” that I had thoughtlessly picked up at the church downtown in my last few weeks of college. The final prayer in the book caught my attention:

‘My Jesus, how often I feel very small and inadequate before great tasks and responsibilities. What can I do but bring all that I have, even though it isn’t much, and place all this in Your hands, wait for Your blessing, breaking, thanking and receive back again with amazing power to reach all who depend on me, fill them with goodness and still have more than what I started with. May I never hold back my gifts from You. May I believe that Your blessing multiplies my smallest gifts to maximum powers. May I rejoice that You return the task to me and I have the personal thrill of seeing many satisfied by my ministrations. I adore Your wisdom, Your power, Your sharing. Amen.’ – Father Gerald Keefe

I said this prayer out loud once, twice, and was filled with strength and peace. I may not be the most talented or most informed journalist, but God can still use me. And He has been using me, even in my first week of work. I haven’t been as harsh on myself as I tend to be because I know that the job will get easier as time goes on.

And my limited journalism experience hasn’t hindered me or made me lose credibility at work. As it turns out, many of my colleagues never took a journalism class either! They just saw an opportunity, worked hard, learned as much as they could, and got to where they are today.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the idea that God did not give us our gifts to glorify ourselves, but rather to use them to spread the Good News. The Bible is filled with little people making a big difference, simply because they had faith that God would multiply their simple gifts for His glory. Even one of our greatest saints, Paul, knew that God chose the weak things of the world to conquer those which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:28).

If you are feeling small and unworthy, remember that Jesus died on the Cross for the small and weak because He knew they were worth it. God gave you gifts. Use them.

A plus!

– Vicky

What is your go-to prayer or verse when you’re having a bad day? Let me know in the comments, and let’s give the Internet a dose of inspiration and love!

P.S. I haven’t been able to find any information on Father Keefe, who wrote the above prayer. If anyone knows a good resource, please share it in the comments. Thanks!

Sweet Endings: My Lenten Dating Fast Wrap-Up

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OH MY.

I HAVE NOT BLOGGED IN TWO MONTHS.

WHAT?

Between final exams, graduation and packing up my life, I never got to tell you all how my dating fast ended. Well, the short answer is that it didn’t.

True, I finished Becker’s book, did all the exercises and reflections and learned a great deal about myself in the process. But like the story of Jesus and his apostles, my dating fast didn’t end with the Resurrection of our Lord. I still have a long way to go in my walk with Christ, as does everyone else; anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. I’m not perfect. I still have many wounds that need healing. I’m still a hopeless romantic and there are times that I get impatient or anxious to be in a relationship. But God has blessed me abundantly in the past two months with friends, fellowship, peace and academic success.

In a sort of catch-up post, I’ll share a few of those blessings here:

1. My school’s second annual Beautiful Women of God retreat, which I helped to plan. I also got to talk about my dating fast experiences and share my testimony with 50 other women, including one of my best friends from high school, who was visiting for the weekend!

2. Solidified post-graduation plans. More on those to come later!

3. A wonderful 22nd birthday, despite it being so close to finals. Celebrating with my roommates and newspaper ed board, and the countless birthday messages from my family and friends. Thank you from my heart.

4. A fantastic senior week with friends I didn’t even know I had, which included a wine tour, jumping in the fountains on campus (a tradition at my school) and senior formal, to which I wore a dreamy pink gown that I paid 40 bucks for at a thrift shop.

5. Getting to cut off 12 inches of my hair to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, an organization that makes wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer. For more information on donating, please visit their website.

6. Fruitful conversations with family members, friends, classmates, campus ministers, host family and most importantly, with Jesus. 🙂

7. A new laptop, which I am currently using to type this post. I’m officially an Apple convert. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

8. Graduating cum laude and getting all A’s and A-minuses for my final semester of college! God is SO good, all the time.

9. Spending graduation weekend with my four favorite people in the world: my parents, sister and grandma.

10. The new chapter of my life that begins tomorrow, as I head off to Philadelphia for training, and then to Florida for my summer internship. I won’t give away too many specifics because this is the internet and people are crazy.

BONUS 11: You, reading this blog right now. You are a blessing to me, whether you have followed this journey from the beginning, or have just started. Merci mille fois!

A bientôt!

– Vicky

What have been some blessings in your life lately? Share them in the comments below!