Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sr. Teresa's Vocation Story (and How to Foster Vocations in Your Family)

Have you ever met someone that made you go, "When my children grow up, I want them to be just like her?"  I have!  And I have the honor of featuring an interview with Sr. Teresa Wolpert, LIHM  on her beautiful vocation story and her advice on how to foster vocations in your family on this year of the consecrated life.   

For more amazing vocation stories and advice, I encourage you to visit the list of participating blogs at SomedaySaint's Blog Hop:

1.   How did you discover your vocation?
Through prayer and with the help of the Blessed Mother, the Religious and my Family throughout my life.

My family taught me how to pray and rooted me in the faith ever since I was little.  (Which I am so grateful for, in fact I think it was the daily Masses when I was in elementary school and our family rosaries that gave me the grace to make it through all the temptations and peer pressure I would experience later in life.)  However, in the beginning my prayer life was mostly lip service.  I attended a retreat in 8th grade and one of the High School girls gave a witnessing on how she had started to pray 3 Hail Mary’s every day for her future spouse.  I then made that my resolution and little did I know what the Blessed Mother had in store for me!

 I met the Alliance of the Holy Family International and they invited my family to go to World Youth Day 2000 in Rome, and this trip radically changed my life.  Seeing Saint JPII, witnessing firsthand the way of the martyrs, the lifestyle of the early saints and incredible Eucharistic miracle sites changed my outlook on the Faith.  Plus every night the Religious would gather the families for adoration and here before the Blessed Sacrament I began to look at Jesus in a new way.  I opened my heart to Him.  When I came home, my senior year was about to start and I was so on fire for my Faith!  I began to take Mass seriously and pray the rosary more often.  We formed a youth group and the prayer meetings were amazing.  The brothers taught us how to pray, to have true devotion to Our Lady and to give the utmost reverence to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  One of the brothers gave me a sheet of paper with Evening prayers (The Divine Office) for me to pray every night.  The seed planted in my heart was beginning to grow but I was too scared to give up everything and say yes just yet. 

During my college years, one of my friends sort of tricked me into taking his Adoration time. Well, it turned out those hours of adoration only convinced me more of what the Lord was asking me to do.  A vocation is a calling and it’s unique to each individual.  It’s something interior that can’t really be put into words but in the heart you just know it’s what you are meant to do.  I opened up to a spiritual director, a very holy man, who advised me to try God first.  Now it was up to me.  This call required a response.  I went to the adoration chapel and completely surrendered my will asking Him, “Lord what do you want me to do?”  And in my heart I heard so clearly, “My child I just want you.”  Two weeks later, I left my family, my home, my clothes, my car, everything, taking only a duffle bag with a few essential things I headed for the formation house of the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and I haven’t turned back since.  What helped me discover my vocation most?  . . . prayer, the sacraments, having good friendships, devotion to the Blessed Mother and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament!

2.   What led you to your order?
I was drawn to their joy and their love for the Eucharist, the Mass, Holy Mother Church, and the Blessed Mother.  

    3.  What is your order and what are its charisms?
The Alliance of the Holy Family International has 6 institutes. (2 Contemplative, 2 Missionary, 2 Secular)  They all share the same charism of victimhood just practiced in different ways.  I belong to the Leaven of the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, which is the group of female religious missionaries.  We share in embracing the charism of victimhood lived through the reparative spirituality.  Our mission strives to sanctify the family, and the youth (so under attack this day in age) by consecrating them to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and promoting the Communion of Reparation Lifestyle requested by Our Lady of Fatima.  We find our strength in our prayer life.

    4.  What would you suggest to families to encourage vocations?
                  Daily family rosary
                  Frequent the sacraments
                  Teach children how to pray at a young age
                  Emphasize the value of purity of life, 
                         and the dignity of life
                  Let them spend time with and expose them
                         to good priests and religious
                  Pray for your children’s vocation everyday

Thank you, Sr. Teresa for sharing your story here, and for your awesome service to and holy influence on my girls. We're doing everything on your checklist so far... except the girls have only been praying one Hail Mary every day since they were old enough to say it for their future husbands or religious vocations.  Now that you've upped the bar, we'll have to raise it to three!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rabbits, Exorcist, Romance...What a Mix!

1.  I’m on a blogging streak.  I apologize if that means too much reading for you.  I assure you I will disappear soon enough the closer Lent and my due date come.  Meanwhile, here’s even more reading that I culled.  Some are highly recommended, others with caution. Oh, and joining 7QT at This Aint the Lyceum today.  Thanks, Kelly for hosting.

2.  If you haven’t had enough of the rabbit reading, I’m going to link up to my article on Catholic Stand How to Handle those Mixed Feelings about Pope Francis’ Remarks. 

An excerpt:
             It pains me to read rabid criticism from Catholics towards a real human being, who happens to be our Supreme Pontiff.  At the same time, I feel sorry for the sting that large families (who selflessly welcome children and witness to our faith in their vocation) felt from that now infamous rabbit interview. 

              My feelings are mixed, without rhyme or reason, and they are what they are. However, no one in the throes of passionate emotion, firing slingshots of disparagement at anyone has my sympathy.  Vitriol is unpleasant, risks a permanent breakdown in relationship, and becomes counterproductive to getting a point across to the intended audience.  There is more productive way of expressing oneself clearly without going overboard and retaliating in backlash.

            From a licensed family therapist, I’ve learned a perfectly reasonable method for communication.  It’s this:  I must own my feelings instead of blaming my emotions on the other and attacking him for causing it.  It sounds pretty simple, and I thought I was the last adult to mature into this realization, but maybe its time to preach it loud as a reminder to some pockets of the Catholic comment boxes and the blogosphere…

3.  Have you read this interview with an exorcist about the top  twenty things the devils loves and hates?  Oh my goodness, I give you permission to skip my article above but you cannot NOT read this.  It is excellent.   The Likes and Dislikes of the Devil

Of course, I have Christian romance fiction to recommend.  How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck.    An American heiress and a mysterious prince, with a secret history.  You’re right, I was intrigued.   I have only praises for this novel with its whimsy and the right touch of faith and miracles. Out of the royal wedding series by Rachel Hauck, this one was the winner. 

5.   Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot.  This is my first book written by Camille Elliot and already I love the author.  She writes poetically, knows how not to turn romance into mush, and definitely can keep you glued to the mystery.  Lady Alethea and Lord Dommick are drawn together by a common love for violin music and  team up to solve a mystery and escape danger (really the romance is almost an afterthought).  The best thing is that both characters learn about God’s love and trusting in God. I am quickly in search of her other novels, which I’m assuming are about the other engaging cast of characters.

6.  The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter.   Denise Hunter is the master of modern Christian romance, and the premise of this one was promising: Hero and heroine competing to turn a historical home for each of their ambitions.  However, the brooding hero was a bit too brooding for me.  I wanted to learn more insight about his character but wished Ms. Hunter didn’t show an unnecessarily disturbing scene from his past with such detail.  It made me squirm, like watching an awkward TV scene with your parents or children. I also wished there wasn’t so much kissing going on in full view of Christian readers.  TMI, if you ask me. The book is okay, but I wouldn’t recommend this to a younger reader at all.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen.  The little bit of mystery of a manor that Ms. Klassen wove into the story page turning.  The romance angle was tight and the heroine was appealing.  The hero however, being a Christian preacher,  had ideas that were insufficient to Catholic teaching.  (I wrote about relationship with Christ versus rules of religion previously and will link to Leila Miller’s article on Catholic Stand why we Catholics believe that we, the Church have a role in reparation and uniting our offerings with Christ’s sacrifice.)  The story is good as Ms. Klassen is a talented writer, but if you are a Catholic, read cautiously with a steady grip on our doctrine.   

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Pope Said What about Rabbits? And I said Ee-I-ee-I-oh!

            My FB newsfeed imploded with Pope Francis’ recent remarks on rabbits.  Supposedly (if the secular media were to be believed), he counseled Catholics in general not to breed like rabbits.  In reality, the translation was inaccurate and he addressed that as an exception to one woman who's had 8 C-sections. (To find out what he said, why and to whom read the amazing Its not about rabbits and maybe its not about you post.There’s some dismay, hurt, and outrage over this, but there are also rational Catholics who calmly forayed into the blogosphere to explain that he wasn’t saying contrary to Catholic doctrine.

            My reaction?  Ee-I-ee-I-oh! (which translated from rabbit language means...)

 This is copyrighted photo. Please don't feel free to take it without permission. 
            Look.  When Pope Francis was in Sri Lanka, he was welcomed by forty elephants in fancy sequined Bollywood attire.  When he visited the Philippines (my country of birth), he met with 40 chosen Jesuits, and there was one-upmanship ribbing going on from the Filipino Jesuits that if Sri Lanka had elephants to offer, the Philippines had its prize Jesuits.  The Pope cracked his own joke saying that the 40 elephants were better dressed than his audience. 

            The Pope has a sense of humor, and I like to think I do.  Sometimes, as a writer, my similes and metaphors can unintentionally offend my readers, but I can take what I can dish (mostly), and this time, I’m glad that my procreating gifts and size were not alluded to a circus elephant.  (I happen to think bunnies are cute, no offense to garden and elephant lovers.)

            Seriously, though, the recent discussions on family planning have me thinking about what the Church has taught us about procreation and contraception through the ages.  To me, the Pope didn’t say anything new.  If anything, he reaffirmed the importance of discernment (yay for Ignatian spirituality!) of family size.  Not all of us are called to mother large families. I know this from 3 children, 1 in utero and 3 miscarriages.

            If you want to read more profound explanations, Dr. Gregory Popcack, Leila Miller and Simcha Fisher’s articles clarify why the Pope really just reiterated what the Church teaches.  Children are a treasure to marriage. We have the gift to discern family size, instead of procreating randomly. And we are to use the natural means of family spacing (self-control) and maintain openness to life, because God can always override our own plans.   Same old Catechism, same old.

           The Pope knows his Catechism, trust me and his heart is with families and for families. Let me show you a portion of the most moving speech Pope Francis made in the Philippines, addressed to families:

         “The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. 

         “I think of Blessed Paul VI in the moment of that challenge of population growth, he had the strength to defend openness to life. He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases. And he went further, he looked at the people on the earth and he saw that lack (of children) and the problem it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching. And from the heavens he blesses us today.

            “Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats! The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation!

     “So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you… When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.”

            I hope what the Pope’s headline-grabbing colorful comments do for Catholics everywhere is make them scramble to read the Church documents on natural family planning, raising families and arrange their priorities.   And I hope that those who’ve been hurt by unintended consequences will offer up their crosses in reparation for the sins against purity and for conversions everywhere or seize this opportunity to evangelize, instead of taking to the streets with pitchforks and aiming for the Vicar of Christ.   

            I believe Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit for such a time as this.  When the supertyphoon blasted the Philippines, no one could foresee it would be the invitation Pope Francis would need to schedule a visit. Or that his visit would reignite the faith of the hearts of a struggling Catholic nation.  But sooner or later, we discover that in Christ, our heaviest cross becomes our greatest blessing. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saying Yes to Mother Teresa

Joining 7quick takes at This Aint the Lyceum thank you for hosting Kelly.

I’ve heard that it was hard for anyone to refuse Mother Teresa. Once, a French gift shop-owner had gratuitously offered her anything she wanted, i.e a token from the gift shop. Mother Teresa unblinkingly requested tens of thousands of miraculous medals for her to give away. The shop-owner, after recovering from shock at her insistence, let her get away with two truckloads of the medals.

I also know a priest from India who had been denied a visa to go on a mission trip to the United States.  But Mother sent him back to the American Embassy, along with a letter that “whatever you do for Fr. D, you do it to me.”  Father D got a visa.

Now, I’ve not had the privilege of crossing Mother’s path myself (the closest I came to her sari was when I did volunteer to work in one of the orphanages run by the Missionaries of Charity.) Also, we’ve already established I’m no Mother Teresa.  But when I asked the Holy Spirit to pick a patron saint for the year for me, Mother Teresa volunteered!  And since I know I can’t very well refuse her assistance, (not that I want to), I immediately re-read “Come Be My Light” (which contain her own writings and letters) and asked St. Teresa of Calcutta to inspire me with motherly wisdom for the upcoming year. 

Here are seven quick quotes from Mother Teresa’s book that jumped out at me and which are my seven guideposts for the year:

1.  “I want to become a real slave of Our Lady…I know what I want is above my strength –but He who has given me the desire will also give me strength to do the impossible.”

2. “Only one prayer I made –to give me grace to give saints to the Church.”

3. “My dear children—without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption… Suffering, pain –failure – is but a kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the Cross that He can kiss you.  Do not be discouraged.”

4. “Cling to the rosary as the creeper clings to the tree –for without Our Lady we cannot stand.”

5. “It is only when we realize our nothingness, our emptiness, that God can fill us with Himself.  When we become full of God then we can give God to others, for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

6.  “Accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”

Thanks, Mother!  I'm sailing into 2015 with your advice: become a slave to Our Lady and sit at her knees for teachings, guidance, and direction; to pray and promote the rosary more; be conscious about the mission of giving saints to the Church (building on each of my children’s strengths and helping them overcome weaknesses); to treat little sufferings as a kiss from the cross and empty myself from worldly distractions.  All this with a smile. (Houston, we might have a problem with that when labor pains come)

Its been amazing to read (again) that Mother Teresa made a vow never to refuse Jesus anything He asked under pain of mortal sin.  I can’t imagine the rewards she must be reaping for fulfilling that vow. Surely, if I invoke her intercession, Jesus won’t be able to refuse her either.  She did assure her sisters when they were sorry to see her failing health:

7. “Mother is here to help you, guide you, lead you to Jesus.  Time is coming closer when Mother also has to go to God. Then Mother will be able to help you more, guide you more and obtain more graces for you… Don’t worry.  Mother can do so much more for you in heaven.”

Should I test by asking her two truckloads of special intentions?