Saturday, March 9, 2013

March for Life 2013

This is a post about the 40th Annual March for Life that I wrote for Catholic Student Ministry at my university, and that I've decided to post here!

The sound of my alarm going off at 6:40 on the morning of Friday, January 25th, was not, surprisingly, an unwelcome one, despite having gone to bed a mere 5 hours earlier.  Why?  Because today we were going to march for life.

                My journey to the 40th annual March for Life had begun in the mid-afternoon the day before when I left UVA grounds with a group of 5 friends and fellow lifers to attend evening mass in DC.  Although the conversation in our car was light, we knew the weight of the cause for which we were en route to support. 

Hey, hey, ho, ho Roe vs. Wade has got to go!

Since the legalization of abortion with Roe vs. Wade in 1973, over 50 million “lawful” abortions have been performed in the US.  The plurality of these abortions, 32%, has been undergone by college women.  Additionally, abortion is not an “equal opportunity” killer, as African American and Hispanic babies are more likely to be aborted than white babies. 

Statistics aside, Roe vs. Wade makes the most tragic of crimes legal:  the murder of a child by his or her own mother.

                We arrived at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception before mass had formally begun.  The Basilica was packed, and although our seating was not ideal, it was exciting to see the large and diverse group of people that had gathered there in the name of life.  Ultimately the tone was that of hope, as the Homily given that evening denounced how modern culture had ceased to honor life, but celebrated the fact that more and more people are becoming prolife, and that a record number of people were expected to march the next day.
                Afterwards, we retreated to the home of a fellow student where we were generously served a delicious Polish dinner and stayed overnight.  Several servings of goulash, a hearty conversation, and a few hours of sleep later, we were off to George Mason for a prolife rally!  There we met up with others who had left the university that morning.  We grabbed our seats in the Mason auditorium, where we temporarily relieved ourselves of the many layers of clothing with which we were bundled to brave the cold in DC later that day.  During the rally, we were all pumped up with chants of LIFE… IS... VERY… GOOD!, Matt Maher, incredible speakers like Elizabeth McClung, and mass celebrated by Archbishop of Arlington Loverde (whose homily didn’t fail to touch every heart in the room as he related that he was born prematurely – at an age when many children are still aborted).
                Once the rally ended, we attempted to exit, trying but not entirely succeeding to avoid the mass chaos of pro-lifers.  We drove to the metro where we were met with even more people and chaos, but finally, an hour or so later, we arrived at the Mall where we joined the march!  We were amidst more than half a million people in the form of college students from all over the States, couples, Catholics, non-Catholics, Religious, children, and elderly – if there’s something the pro-life cause is besides the Truth, it’s universal.
                During the march, we sang hymns (were awed when elegant tufts of snow began to fall) and prayed the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet – reminding us that while the event was quite exciting, our true purpose there was to fight for life – and that it is impossible to do so without Christ.
                All too quickly, we reached Capitol Hill and effectively ended our trek, thus beginning our journey back to university life.  Yet, I doubt anyone who has experienced the March for Life can leave without feeling their ties to the pro-life cause strengthen and grow.  The March for Life is a powerful event in which we encounter a fundamental beacon of the Truth: the dignity of human life.  Let us hope that we may be able to carry this Truth with us beyond the March, that it may pervade not only our sentiments but our actions, such that the prolife cause may not be in vain, but reap the fruits of a re-found respect for human life.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Positivity and Your Inner Voice

I would definitely call myself an optimist.  I've had the blessing that life experiences have not left me jaded and that I still have faith in my dreams.  Life excites me and I look forward to the experiences God has in store.  Yet, despite of the hope for the future that I carry within, I've come to realize fairly recently that I also carry a good bit of negativity - and that it's this negativity that gets in the way of my achieving what I desire to do and what God has planned for me.  

It all comes in the form of my inner voice.  My inner voice that chastises.  My inner voice that condemns.  My inner voice that belittles my actions.

Joy, why did you say that?
Joy, you should really be better at --
Ugh, Joy, you have to do this, this, and this, or else...

Having lived most of my life cultivating this creature, the voice has come to be second nature.  It is only in actively seeking to silence it that I am finally beginning to obtain the inner peace and self-confidence that I have always desired.    

But why?  Why is it that this voice emerged to begin with?  It's really rather straightforward:  fear of insufficiency and inadequacy.  Fear of not being enough.

Now, surely I'm not the only young woman, let alone person, to struggle with this.  We all have had experiences in our past that have led us to feel inadequate at one point or another.  The question, perhaps, is not so much why are we so hard on ourselves, but how can we work to change?

First and foremost is prayer.  When I was younger and had not yet found my faith, the statement "love yourself" didn't make much sense to me.  Why should I love myself when I continually failed?  I wasn't pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough... so what made me worthy of love?  It was only through getting to know Christ in prayer that I began to discover that his love for me is unconditional, that nothing I can do will ever make me worthy of love, that I just am loved.  He loves me for me.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
Jeremiah 1:5

The second step is just to cultivate an alternative voice of positivity and encouragement.  Begin to congratulate yourself on your small successes.  Instead of telling yourself, you can do better, say good job! You worked really hard on this, and next time you will do even betterIf this were someone else talking to you, would you want to be criticized by them or encouraged?  Or consider this: if someone were to treat you as you treat yourself, how would you feel about this person?  If you'd dislike them, then it's time to reconsider how you treat yourself.

And remember:  

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive and inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 

Sometimes, especially as women, we are so anxious to please because we so want to feel that we are appreciated and loved.  While recognition from family, friends, and others is always welcome, remember that it is your duty to serve God first.

Lastly, don't give up.  Battling the voice is hard work when you've cultivated it for so long, but be gentle with yourself.  Sometimes simply recognizing that it is there is enough - as long as you realize that what it tells you is false.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Poem for a Sunday in March

The arrival of March for me is synonymous with the arrival of spring.  The cold of winter is fading, and all sorts of new life are slowly emerging.  I think that during this time, though, we not only perceive new life externally in our surroundings but also internally.  

Yet, as with spring, most changes do not come about suddenly.
Changes, new life, must come about patiently.


Patiently, Thought By Thought

Patiently, thought by thought,
Old habits are untaught.
We watch but cannot see
The seed invisibly
Become the oak or pine
Or warm fall fruiting vine.
We see the stature gained;
We see the growth attained,
But we cannot see things grow
The process is too slow.
Things have a time to root,
A time to flower and fruit
A time to stand and rest
And every time is best.
Waiting is also growth;
Living consists of both
Patiently, thought by thought,
Old habits are untaught,
New ways of life are wrought. 

By James Dillet Freeman.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Prayer for the Student

 Last year, my first year, I often found myself overwhelmed by school and tests.  Some assignments were just so daunting and I didn't feel up to the task.  A dear friend saw me one day in this state of internal disarray and sent this this prayer, which I've been using to study and before tests ever since.
Written my St. Thomas Aquinas (one of my favorite saints), it goes like this:

Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.
Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.
Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.
Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.
I ask this through Christ our Lord.

Best of luck during this time of midterms!

Treat Yourself! French Croissants

I read in an article recently that if we are what we eat, then we Americans are cheap and easy. (I can't find this exact article, so I've no link to supply sadly)  Now, whether or not that is completely true is a matter of opinion, but it is most definitely food for thought (oh yes, pun intended ;) ).  
So, my point?  Yes, fast food and microwavable meals are the most convenient for our ever busy modern lives, but please, don't forget to treat yourself with some homemade meals every once in a while!  Your taste buds will thank you for it - besides, preparing your own food is such a fun and engaging activity, I recommend it to everyone. :)

For today I wish to share a favorite treat of mine: le croissant français!!
I got the recipe out of Mireille Guilano's French Women Don't Get Fat, and my family and friends absolutely love it.

Note:  The preparation process for the croissants must start 3 days prior to when you wish to serve them.  So assuming you wish to serve them as a Sunday treat, start preparing Friday evening.

Les Ingrédients 

  • 1 cup of lukewarm milk (Mireille uses 1%, I use fat free, but I don't think it matters much)
  • 2 t. active dry yeast
  • 2 1/4 unbleached flour (and then some more to spare)
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I have a chronic fear of oversalting my baked goods - it has happened before so I always put in less salt than the original recipe)
  • 12 T. unsalted butter at room temperature
Vendredi Soir (aka Friday Evening):

  1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the milk and stir in 2 tablespoons of the flour.  Whisk well until there are little to no lumps.  Let stand in room temperature for 20 minutes or until mixture has doubled in size.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the remainder of the milk, flour, sugar, and salt.  Then gradually incorporate the yeast mixture in.  An electric mixer is handy but not necessary by any means.  Mix well until dough is soft and sticky.
  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. (Note, wrapping in a plastic grocery bag works just as well!)
Samedi Matin (Saturday Morning):

  1. In a bowl, work the butter and an additional 3 tablespoons of butter together.  You should behold a gooey substance, but not a melted one!
  2. Roll out your dough on a floured surface into a 6 x 15 inch rectangle.
  3. Spread the buttery substance onto the dough rectangle so that it covers 2/3 of it, leaving about an inch from the edges of the rectangle.
  4. Fold the rectangle dough letter style.
  5. Roll the dough out once more into a 6 x 15 inch rectangle and then fold it letter style again.
  6. Wrap in plastic and allow to refrigerate for at least 6 hours

Letter Style Folding

Samedi Soir (Saturday Evening):

  1. Roll out the dough and fold letter style as done before two more times.
  2. Wrap in plastic and allow to refrigerate overnight.
Dimanche Matin (Sunday Morning):

**Note:  The key is to work quickly as the dough will be rising quickly
  1. Roll the dough out into a 16 inch circle.
  2. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the circle pie style into 12 slices (in quarters then each quarter into three more slices).
  3. Now you should have 12 triangles.  Roll each of the triangles from their bases to their tips.  Don't curl them.
  4. Place all of your croissants onto a cookie sheet and and brush them with milk.  Let them sit out for 45 min. or until they double in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 F during this time.  When ready, let them bake for 16-20 min.  Make sure to watch them to make sure that they aren't glazing too quickly.  If they are, just over the tray with some aluminum foil!
Almost done!

Et voila! Vos croissants!! Bon Appétit, mes amis!!

On Noise, Facebook, and Cultivating Silence - Part II

So as I write the second part of this post, the part where I proudly announce I just don't do Facebook anymore, toss my hair triumphantly, and march off with the air of one who is too good for social media, I have to confess one important thing:  I am terrible at social media.
Most people can freely use social media to connect, posting pictures on Facebook, tweeting, or even texting.  People claim that it is so much easier real life interaction.  Not true for me.  I am social media-ly awkward.  I read a post recently at Conversion Diary by the fabulous Jen Fulwiler who writes that she's the type of person who wishes we lived in an era where everyone abides by social cues.  I sympathize completely.  How much easier would it be if we all knew to rise when someone new entered the room, address all elders by sir or ma'am, and I'm sure introductions and meeting people would be less awkward too. (hmmm.... on that note, is is possible that our society nowadays feels "awkward" because our lack of social rules?)

So naturally, Facebook for me is kind of, well, unnatural.  What do I share?  What kind of status is appropriate?  Excited about snow, should I tell people? Do they care?
Over think, over think, over think, STRESS OUT!
This is me.  A rule abider trying to fit in to the kinda rule-less Facebook?  Just didn't work.

Now, having explained how I actually was uncomfortable using Facebook, or not knowing the proper way of using it (again with rules, I just like them so much!), allow me to divulge the negative impacts it was having in my life.

I wrote in part I that at the end of last year I felt inundated by noise, especially the internal noise.  Here is what the noise sounded like, especially while using Facebook:

Omigosh, I have sooo much I need to do, I haven't even started on my - wait, hey, where did I put my wallet - omigosh, did I leave it in - it's probably - hey a notification! Oh wait, it's just some random app request, so not cool - hey look pictures, she's so lucky she went to Europe, ugh, my life sucks I wonder if I'll ever get to travel, and plus my profile picture is so lame. Oh phew! found it, my wallet, but now I have to start... hmmm... maybe just 5 more min - I got a real notification now!

Thankfully it's been more than 2 months for me now without Facebook, so describing the noise I experience before has become pretty foreign to me.  Basically, though, what I mean by noise is random, unnecessary thoughts that were disturbing my inner peace.  Facebook made me feel like I constantly needed to be thinking, and the thoughts I was wasting my mental energy on - well they were just that: a waste.  As I reflect on it now, perhaps it's the layout of the website, but I think social media like Facebook tunes our brain to scan and try to acquire a ton of small bits of information which then leads people like me to overload our brain with random information that just cannot be organized and thus overwhelms us completely. (Actually, I'm pretty sure that it has been proven somewhere that it actually does do this to our brain.)

Without Facebook thus far, I've a) found myself losing less personal items (as opposed to before when I'd lose something at least once a week b) I'm less anxious c) don't find myself comparing my life to others' nearly as much - in fact I do so rarely, which  allows me to significantly lessen feelings of jealousy and envy, and d) consequently, I'm less worried about how other perceive me.
My thoughts and mental energy does not have to be wasted with these trivialities and boy, it is a relief.  I even find myself the most well rested I've been in the longest time - and I consider that pretty big considering I'm a college student studying engineering.  Plus, my grades are better than they've been despite my taking harder classes this semester.

Phew! Finally got this blog post down after nearly two months!  I'll have a third part of this series coming... well I won't make any promises, but eventually!