My FOCUS Mission Trip to El Salvador

Just a couple of weeks ago for spring break I had the opportunity to help lead a FOCUS mission trip to El Salvador!

Group with Sarai

After Sunday mass at the San Miguel Cathedral, while we were still relatively clean 😉

It was such an amazing experience! I’ve had so many people ask me about the trip and everything in the past couple of weeks, but it’s so hard to put into words what I got to experience throughout that whole week. Here are some of my take away’s, as best as I can summarize them.

The trip was eye opening in so many ways. This was probably my biggest take away. I had never really left the comfortable American world until then: I’ve been blessed to be able to vacation in Mexico and Canada, but even in Mexico we didn’t need to speak Spanish because we stayed at resorts.

In El Salvador, I was immediately confronted by a different culture and way of life. Even in the Avianca section in Miami Airport, we were some of the only people who weren’t speaking in Spanish. I love learning Spanish and I hope to be fluent one day, but for now it was somewhat overwhelming when people spoke to me in Spanish expecting me to understand. I can pick up words and even understand phrases and simple sentences, but when they’re speaking so fast, I had to flag down our friendly Spanish speaking missionaries, Roxio and Mario!

A pic of our local neighborhood.

A pic of our local neighborhood.

 

I couldn’t help but notice the poverty right away. It wasn’t like there were hoards of homeless people (that I saw), but rather nearly all of the homes there made a small “lower class” home in the United States look very nice. They made those “bad” parts of Newark look normal. They did have electricity (the wealthier homes at least- oh and I did see a very modern transmission substation by a highway once) and water (kind of- we couldn’t drink it, and hot water wasn’t common).

It was such a joy to be able to talk and play with the kids! They were shy but they warmed up to us fast!

It was such a joy to be able to talk and play with the kids! They were shy but they warmed up to us fast!

A very interesting thing happened every night while we were there. Everyone got all antsy and said that they had to leave around 5:30 pm. Every single night. It was still bright out and everything, and it was early in the evening, so I was confused about why they needed to get back home so early. It turned out that the gangs have instituted an unofficial curfew over the entire country, especially where we were in San Miguel, at 6 pm. That’s when they come out and it isn’t safe to be outside of your homes. In fact, every home had bars over their windows, cement walls around their yards, and barbed wire on top of everything. There were security guards in most businesses holding guns. Gang violence is very real, and there is the legacy of the civil war that ended in 1993 as well. I was devastated to learn just how deadly the civil war was, with the government (supplied by the United States) sending death squads to local towns by the end of it. I guess that shouldn’t be too much of a shock that it came to that after the whole Archbishop Romero fiasco, which I’ll talk about later.

IMG_4998

This is just a random shot of some homes in El Salvador. If you look closely you’ll notice barbed wire on top, all the fences, and bars over all the windows.

 

The food was seriously out of this world. We had the most amazing deal: some of the women (mostly grandmas) in the parish cooked for us 3 meals a day, and they went all out for us, cooking seriously the most amazing food I’ve ever had (no offense to my mom and grandma!). A couple of the Americans’ stomachs didn’t mix well with the food, but I was surprised to find that my stomach was more bothered coming back to America and eating processed food. Whoops, America.

Typical Salvadorian comida: pupusas on the left, rice in the center, fried plantains on the right. Turns out that plantains go really good with ketchup!

Typical Salvadorian comida: pupusas on the left, rice in the center, fried plantains on the right. Turns out that plantains go really good with ketchup!

The faith of the people was so inspiring! Everyone loved to talk about Jesus, and sometimes it was hard to get them to stop… 😉 They loved putting Jesus stickers everywhere on their cars and every other person seemed to be wearing a rosary (public service announcement, you’re actually not supposed to wear them as a fashion symbol). One of the coolest things that we got to experience was stations of the cross with a local town (Chirilagua, I believe). After mass on that Friday evening, the whole town seemed to gather together outside of the church as we walked around the town carrying a doll/statue thing of Jesus to each station, set up right in front of houses and shops and things.

Carrying the cross for stations of the cross with the community!

Carrying the cross for stations of the cross with the community!

With the parish that we were helping rebuild their church, I was impressed with how tight knit the whole parish seemed to be, with dozens showing up to daily mass with us, many of the male parishioners helped with the construction, and many of the female parishioners helped with cooking for them all and other odds and ends jobs. Another impressive thing about this parish was how they go on house visits each week to families their local community. At each house visit, they see how each other is doing, read the Gospel for the next Sunday together, have a mini bible study, and then close in prayer. That’s an awesome way of outreach that we should try and apply back in the United States! Even more powerful than all of those experiences for me was when the community prayed for us all, with some of the leaders laying their hands on each of us and praying with such emotion for each of us.

Leaders of the parish praying over us... so beautiful!

Leaders of the parish praying over us… so beautiful!

An absolutely stunning story that the locals shared with us was the tradition of Reina de la Paz, patron saint of El Salvador. If you can read Spanish, the more in depth details are here. If not, here’s my basic summary: In 1787, San Miguel Volcano, which is not surprisingly right next to the city of San Miguel, was erupting and threatening to destroy the entire city. The entire city, or I guess town back then, being Catholic Christians, turned to God and the Virgin Mary in prayer. They had this image of Mary that they decided to bring up with them to the volcano, begging for the Virgin Mary’s intercession in saving them and their city. Miraculously, the lava actually stopped and went a different direction, saving them all! Praise God! To this day, that same image of Mary, who they call Reina de la Paz (Queen of Peace), is in the Cathedral of San Miguel, holding a palm branch from the event. Reina de la Paz is the patron saint of all of El Salvador. When we went to the Cathedral for Sunday mass, we got to see Reina de la Paz ourselves and even touch it! It was so beautiful and moving to be able to be so close to something so important to the hearts of the native people. Isn’t their faith so strong?!

The image of Reina de la Paz in the San Miguel Cathedral

The image of Reina de la Paz above the main altar in the San Miguel Cathedral

We didn’t get to personally meet Archbishop Romero, but it felt like we did after getting to know and love this holy man so much that week. Here’s a great article that summarizes why he is such a big deal in El Salvador, and admired throughout Latin America, the Church, and the world at large. Basically Monsignor Romero (as they call him, even though he was an Archbishop) spoke out against the corruption and evils of the Salvadorian government while he was Archbishop and the leader of the Church in that country from 1977-1980. By that time, the government had begun to use violence to try and keep protesters quiet, and for a while it seemed like a priest was killed every month. Months before Romero was actually assassinated, there was a different attempt on his life where there were large amounts of dynamite placed right in front of the Cathedral, which would have killed him and hundreds or thousands more. Thankfully that attempt was revealed, but it didn’t stop Romero from speaking boldly. Above all, Romero was a man of God who wished to share the Gospel and help the poor. He lived a very simple life and was for the most part a very quiet man. But he was placed in a very explosive situation and despite the fear he must have felt, he stayed true to his God and his people above all else. He was shot while saying mass by an assassin on March 24th, 1980. At his funeral mass, tens of thousands showed up, but the government didn’t want that to happen so they shot into the crowd, killing about 60-80 people according to our Salvadorian hosts. Of course, the violence by the government was only beginning at that point. While in El Salvador, we had the opportunity to visit Romero’s tomb, house where he lived, church where he was shot, and even the square where he will be beatified this May! It was inspiring to learn more about this man and he has quickly become one of my favorite saints. Archbishop Romero, pray for us!

A statue of Romero outside the Cathedral in San Salvador.

A statue of Romero outside the Cathedral in San Salvador.

Praying next to Romero's tomb. There were dozens of the faithful coming in to visit and pray by the tomb with us.

Praying next to Romero’s tomb. There were dozens of the faithful coming in to visit and pray by the tomb with us.

The vestments that Romero was wearing when he was shot.

The vestments that Romero was wearing when he was shot.

The most beautiful flowers were growing right outside the church where he was shot.

The most beautiful flowers were growing right outside the church where he was shot.

Archbishop Romero was saying mass at that altar when he was shot.

Archbishop Romero was saying mass at that altar when he was shot. Today schoolchildren come and visit daily.

As we were preparing to leave, we decided to leave our cooks, and through them the entire parish, a little sign of how much they meant to us by washing their feet. We prayed with them as we washed their feet and it was so moving to think about how much God had done through both parties. They had given up so much to serve us, and we definitely had given up some things in order to serve them as well. The sacrifices made by both parties for the sake of God and His Church was so beautiful.

Washing the feet of our amazing cooks!

Washing the feet and praying for our amazing cooks!

Though it might not seem like it, we actually did some work too! So the practical part of our mission trip was to help them build a new church, because the last one was destroyed in 2001 by an earthquake. It’s taken them this long to be able to build a new one because they don’t have the funds. Thanks to about 5 more FOCUS Mission trips to this parish, we’ll be able to significantly help them both with funds and free labor, so that they hope to have it completed in about a year. At the moment we were just working on the foundation, so most of what we did was shoveling dirt and carrying concrete by bucket. They had no back hoes, cement trucks, cranes, lifts, dump trucks, or anything that you’d expect in America. All of the labor was by hand. But it was a lot of fun! I enjoyed being able to work side by side with the locals, chatting it up with my fellow missionaries (both FOCUS and students), and enjoying that wonderful 100 degree dry heat. I swear there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all week.

Doing work!

Doing work!

Our mission trip team with the workers and Father Antonio.

Our mission trip team with the workers and Father Antonio.

One of the most important things that I’ll cherish from this trip is growing in friendship with my amazing teammates! Carly, Grace, Tess, Becca, Roxio, Elli, Sarah, Jonathan, Max, Mario, Michael, and Fr. Jeff. You guys are awesome! It was so beautiful to not really know anybody going into this week, and come out of it with 12 new amazing friends, with plenty of inside jokes to go with it. No espanol. Pwerp. Having a blast! Michael prancing away from the scorpion. Alfredo. Too blessed to be stressed! Liquiddddddd!!! Riding in the back of the pickup truck. God’s pharmacy. Shamar the rear! I saw God in you guys. Your service and selflessness is inspiring and I can’t wait to see where God leads you all! Huge shout outs to Sarah for being in charge of basically everything and being an amazing trip director and Fr. Jeff for joining us last minute and being such a great priest and role model!

Group PicIf you get the chance to go on a mission trip, you should go! It was amazing and transformative and fun! It has helped me grow in my faith, gain a more complete world view, and have some experiences that I’ll cherish the rest of my life. Check out FOCUS Missions!

“To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.” – Pope Francis

Here’s a video that Mario put together of us!

 

Missionary Life: Year 1 Reflections

Wow. So crazy as it seems, I’ve already completed an entire school year as a FOCUS Missionary. Life just flies sometimes, doesn’t it? Here are some observations and thoughts about the year!

  • In college I learned that life moves even faster than normal. Those 4 years were a blur… At graduation it still seemed like I moved in as a freshman the day before. Well, as a missionary, time goes EVEN FASTER. Jeepers, I was booked and busy. Sometimes a bit too much haha.. but constantly meeting with different people and going to different events and having intentional conversations will do that sort of thing!
  • I can’t share Jesus when I don’t know Jesus or live like Him. I definitely do know Him and try to live for Him, but I still could still grow closer to Him. Becoming more Christlike gives me more credibility in sharing the Gospel, and also gives me an even greater zeal to share it! Prayer is the foundation of evangelization.
  • I am a doer, a fixer, a go-getter. And yet despite everything that I did, I still got rejected, and relatively often. It’s a struggle for all who try and evangelize… but I have to remember that ultimately only God can touch someone’s heart, no matter what I do. I began to rely more and more on prayer by the end of the year, praying for the people in my life, because I knew that personal conversion is a matter between that person and God, and my job is simply to introduce the two parties and foster that relationship 😉
  • There were so many fun crazy things that I got to do as a missionary: relive the college experience WITHOUT GOING TO CLASS, so many retreats and conferences, seeing nearly every single state in the Northeast, hiking trips, the March for Life was only 4 hrs away, trips to NYC, Catholic Underground, meeting so many religious orders, being in spiritual direction, building such great friendships with the students, speaking in front of groups about JESUS, and literally see lives change before my very eyes.
  • I really couldn’t have done any of that without the support of my mission partners, who donate to and pray for my mission. Their generosity has shown me a glimpse of the charity of God Himself.
  • I got a kick out of seeing probably more Chicago Bulls hats than any other hat on campus… and it’s in New Jersey! Go Bulls!
  • Numbers are great, individual souls are priceless, and faithfulness to God is most important. I’m reminded of the Mother Teresa quote, “God doesn’t ask us to be successful, He asks us to be faithful.” Praise God that we did have some success in terms of conversions of students either back to their Catholic faith, from a different denomination home to Catholicism, or from another/no faith to the Church.
  • I could have been an engineer this year. Looking back, if I did that, so many things would have been different, in my life as well as in others. It’s amazing how much God works when we go out of our way to follow Him, even in a single thing.
  • Young people’s apathy for religion is unbelievable. This isn’t necessarily their fault as much as it is the fault of previous generations who should have taught them its importance. But either way, if there are belief systems out there that say that their way is the only way to live life, wouldn’t you at least want to check them out to see if they are true? Relativism has largely crippled any desire of the youth to search for eternal truth.
  • The lack of religious convictions by the youth has also given way to incredible boldness and zeal by my peers. My fellow missionaries and student leaders are courageous souls determined to shine the light of Jesus everywhere they go, because they know just how desperately our peers need that light. The greater the darkness, the more bright the lights of heroes shine.
  • Looking forward to next year! Who knows what God will do next 🙂

End of year BBQ

Tithing

As a missionary, I’ve encountered a certain part of the faith that most of the laity don’t get too familiar with: dependence on the generosity of others for financial support.

Yep, as a missionary, I have to fund raise everything that I live on. I’m pretty much done with the actual fund raising now, but all summer I was doing it all the time: mailing, calling, visiting, asking. It was a heck of a journey, but praise God I seem to be in the clear!

I learned just how generous people are financially.. people who I know had no business donating to me offered what they could, and people who could have easily given a smaller amount stepped it up and were super generous.

Well, being in a situation where I have to “beg” for money really helped me to realize that I have to be generous myself for others. Even though I have to fund raise, I actually tithe myself! For anyone who isn’t familiar, tithing is offering 10% of what you earn to God- to your church, local ministries, etc. (It’s biblical of course and the Church teaches it doesn’t have to be 10%, but whatever you think is appropriate)

IT IS SO MUCH FUN TO GIVE AWAY MONEY TO GOOD CAUSES!!! It gives me so much joy and now I’m actually looking forward to what causes I’ll donate to next month! Do you guys notice that too?? I guess I can resonate with those groups and people asking for money now.. and realize how much it means to them. So whether or not you’ve ever been in my situation, just try to think of it from their point of view and understand how much it means to them.

So tithing is awesome! Plus it helps keep us from becoming too addicted to our own money. The same way that it’s healthy to pray every day to keep us connected to God throughout the day, tithing helps remind us that our wealth is not actually ours! It’s all God’s and in His generosity He’s given us it. Is money your god or is God your god? That seems easy to answer at first, but think about it.. have there ever been times where you’ve put your financial standing first before God? If so, you might be in danger of committing idolatry of money as your God instead of our Lord. Hard words, but we all need to hear them.

I also can testify that God gives back with abundance what we give Him in donations. I wasn’t doing too hot with my fund raising at first, and was still well below my goal at the time that I first got paid. Well, a week later this was still the case and I was definitely worrying about whether I’d have enough to make it to campus! It was then that I finally got around to tithing that first payment.. and then all of a sudden within the next two or three days I had a few big donors join me and I was in the clear! It was crazy how clearly this stood out to me.. it seemed like I might not make it, and then all of a sudden I had some wiggle room! Praise God, He is generous to generous people!

Thank you so much to all my donors and all those generous people around the world. God is our god, not money 🙂

Too Wise to Get Married?

Many “wise” and “experienced” Americans love to advise young adults to never get married, since “it isn’t worth it.” I may not be as experienced, but I’d like to disagree.

Is this really the best message to be sending to the youth of the world? This message demoralizes young adults, making them think that they are not perfect enough to get married. It makes marriage seem hopeless and a waste of time. “Live for yourself first.” I don’t know about you, but when I live for myself, life is booooorrrriiiinnnggggg. It’s when I’m helping others out that I come alive.

I agree that you need to go into marriage with the right mindset, it is a big responsibility, but you can’t just throw out the baby with the bathwater. Complaining about how bad it is isn’t helping anyone have a better marriage.

A major issue with this line of thinking is that it signals that marriage is only about what is best for ourselves, and if not, we can take the easy way out. If my spouse doesn’t treat me right anymore I should just end it. If I’d rather be with some other woman, I should do that since it’s all about me, right? If my kids are too much work I don’t have to be responsible for them. That’s the line of thinking that has been encouraged, and it leads to bad consequences for spouses and children everywhere.

The ridiculous thing about that line of thinking is that that’s not even LOVE. Our culture likes to say that everything’s about love, right? Well if marriage is all about love, then it shouldn’t be about us. Love isn’t selfish, it’s selfless. Marriage should be about doing all that we can for our spouse and for our children. It’s about doing what is best for them even if it is an inconvenience for you.

Of course marriage is hard. We understand that, and I’m not arguing against that. Often it is not the big decisions but lots of little ones that breeds tension. But that doesn’t mean that marriage doesn’t work. We don’t drop out of school because we have to do homework until late at night every night. We don’t quit work just because it is hard. Living your faith is difficult, but we don’t give that up because of that. If you want to do ANYTHING good in life, it is going to be hard, but it’ll be worth it.

The mindset that marriage is all about us seems to be a reason for many of the problems in our society. Divorce, abortion, contraception, cheating, single parent homes, domestic abuse, and more are the result of me-first marriages.

Instead of complaining about how hard marriage is, we need to encourage each other that marriage and love is worth it. It is about selflessly helping your spouse and children, building a foundation for a great society. A society with strong families has a strong foundation.

Our society needs to learn how to love again. When we learn how to love, we will learn that marriage is worth it. Bashing marriage will not help to foster stronger families and a stronger society. I don’t know about  you, but I’m too wise to not love.

Why Faith?

door to heaven

Why is faith so important to God? Why does He have to “hide” from us? After all, in other relationships, people who love us reveal themselves to us and are personally involved in our lives. Why would God seemingly do the opposite?

I don’t have the official answer, but I’d love to take a stab at it. Let’s imagine that God revealed Himself to everyone out of love for them. It’s kind of funny to write that out because you could understand it two ways: God HAS revealed Himself to everyone through Jesus Christ, yet God HASN’T personally revealed Himself to everyone in the same way that people reveal themselves to each other.

Faith is important because we haven’t experienced God in a very tangible way, even very active Christians like myself. I don’t have to have faith that my laptop exists, it’s right here in front of me. I can touch it, it functions how I’d expect a laptop to, it makes noises, etc. Since God doesn’t often reveal Himself in a tangible way to us, we need faith to believe in Him because He isn’t someone we can see or hear. This faith isn’t as unreasonable as some people might say it is. We also use the same type of faith to trust that the brakes in our car are working.. we haven’t checked the brakes every time before we get in the car to even see if they are there, let alone working, before we drive off on our way. We have faith in many things that aren’t God, and it isn’t out of ignorance but out of understanding what makes the most sense. I have faith because I have experienced God. God has revealed Himself to me through the generosity of Christians, the infinite desires in my heart, the reality of the story of Jesus and the Catholic Church- especially Jesus’ life and the lives of the Apostles, prayer (I think I could write a whole post about this one), answered prayers, the complexity of nature and the universe, and of course in the sacraments! With all of these experiences, the only reasonable explanation IS to believe in God!

So why would God value faith? I began this post by pointing out that having faith isn’t just limited to religious things. But there has to be more too it than that. I think that God values faith because it is a test to see if we truly love Him. He will reveal enough of Himself for us to begin to know Him, and He is always running after us (remember, He’s the God who came to us, that’s why Christmas and the Incarnation are such big deals!), but He also gives us enough wiggle room to actually have difficulty in this department. He’s not going to just show up the moment that we are about to do our favorite sin. He’s there cheering us on to do the right thing, but He gives us all free will. He doesn’t force us to believe in Him but lets us find Him.

God does not have us rely on faith to “hide” from us, He is the one seeking us, and I’m only one of many baptized Christians whose job it is to share His message with the whole world. That’s what He commanded us to do in Matthew 28:18-20. If God really wanted to hide from us, He definitely wouldn’t have sent Jesus. Another point of note was that God the Father didn’t even reveal Himself to Jesus, the Son, even at His darkest hour! Jesus participated in the same difficulty that we do!

God likes to see if we actually love and trust Him as much as He loves us. Faith is just one of the methods of His perfect justice and love. He can’t wait to reveal His love to anyone who seeks Him.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:7

A Case for Discipleship and Spiritual Multiplication

Jesus before the Ascension

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:18-20

And then He was gone. This is called the Great Commission, Jesus’ final words to His Apostles before ascending into heaven.

So now what? How do we actually share the Gospel with all nations? If you were going to brainstorm ways to do it, what would be some of your suggestions? Use modern technology to share a viral Youtube video or create some sort of website? Go on a worldwide preaching tour everywhere for the rest of your life? Drop bibles from planes? Put up signs and tell people where you’re having your discussion group and then hoping that everyone shows up?

It’s easy to see how ridiculous a challenge Jesus gave us as Christians. If we didn’t know any better, we may have even given up. But thank God that Jesus actually left us with a model for how we are to carry out the task of evangelization!

What did Jesus do? Sure, he preached to thousands and thousands of people all over Israel, but He spent most of His time with His 12 Apostles. Jesus spent 3 years with these men, teaching them not only by His words but by His examples. See, as great as it was that thousands of people heard at least one speech by Jesus, there needed to be people who could do what Jesus was doing when He left, as hearing one speech didn’t make one a disciple capable of leading others to God. There actually was a tradition that the Apostles were familiar with that Jesus was modeling: the apprenticeship of young Jewish men to Rabbis. These young men who dreamed to be Rabbis would do everything that their mentor would do, speaking the same way, studying the same way, eating the same way, etc. These disciples would follow their Rabbis so close that it was said that they were covered in the dust of their Rabbi. With that in mind, it becomes much easier to see why Jesus’ Apostles were so quick to understand what Jesus was doing. One of the most famous parts of the Gospels becomes even more interesting with this in mind: Peter followed Jesus when He was walking on the water, out of faith in Jesus’ ability to allow him to do what Jesus was doing!

Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, and then the Apostles followed the model that Jesus gave them in their ministry. They still preached, as Jesus did, but they focused on building up disciples who could carry on the work of evangelization when they themselves died (this was a rushed process, as all of the Apostles were martyred sooner or later). St. Paul’s letter to his disciple Timothy gives instruction in this:

“What you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

St. Paul’s disciples were Sts. Titus and Timothy as well as Barnabas, St. John the Evangelist’s disciples were Polycarp and St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Peter’s disciples were St. Mark and St. Linus, the second pope. These disciples would be bishops and leaders in the Christian communities and help instruct the next generation.

By following this model of investing in a handful of disciples each, the amount of Christian disciples exponentially increases. Instead of one “super-evangelist” travelling everywhere hoping that a one time speech will influence people for the rest of their lives, this model leads to a deeper conversion and a more sustainable method of growth so that the whole world can not only hear the Gospel once, but have a profound personal experience of it through their friends.

Let’s demonstrate the power of spiritual multiplication in an ideal situation where every disciple from the Apostles on has 2 disciples every 10 years and then sends them out to do the same:

1 Jesus to 12 Apostles to 24 Disciples in 10 years.
24 to 192 new disciples in 30 years.
192 to 1536 new disciples in 30 years.
1536 to 12288 new disciples in 30 years.
12288 to 98304 new disciples in 30 years.
98304 to 786432 new disciples in 30 years.
786432 to 6291456 new disciples in 30 years.
6291456 to 50331648 new disciples in 30 years.
50331648 to 402653184 new disciples in 30 years.
402653184 to 3,221,225,472 new disciples in 30 years.

That’s nearly 4 billion disciples alive within just 280 years of Jesus. Think about it.

An Ordered Life

Greetings from Ave Maria, Florida!

FOCUS New Staff Training has been a blast! It’s been a two week grace bomb from God for us all, with so many new friends to meet, things to learn, and things to do! During the week, we literally have our schedules from 8 in the morning to 10 at night filled for most days. It’s insane. We basically have no time to relax, so I’ve had to be very careful to schedule sleep into my day… because I got sick when I didn’t!

I’m really excited our daily holy hour, which I’ll be doing for the next two years as a missionary. I’ve only been doing it for about a couple of weeks now, but it’s already been a fantastic part of my daily schedule! I’ve had an active prayer life especially since the end of high school, but I’ve never committed to a daily holy hour before. During it I do some mental and contemplative prayer as well as reading some scripture and a spiritual book in between segments of prayer. It’s usually in the morning, which is a great way to start off my day and helps me to keep Jesus in the forefront of my mind for the rest of the day. We also have daily mass, but I’ve pretty much been doing that for the past few years, so that’s not as much of a change. With both, it’s been important to get enough sleep, because when I’m tired or sick, it’s really hard to have fruitful times of prayer.

The liturgy of the hours is another way to live a more ordered life. They are prayers that are said at certain parts of the day, morning, noon, evening, and night. The Apostles themselves followed this Jewish custom as you can see in the book of Acts (10:3,9; 16:25, etc.). I can tell that there is a lot of wisdom in this because of my experience that the more that I pray during the day, the more open and aware that I am for the rest of the day of God’s presence.

In addition, I’m finding ways to remind myself of God’s presence through the rest of my day so that I can make room for silence in the midst of all the hustle and bustle- for me, just putting my hand over where my scapular is is a good reminder, maybe some of you have a similar experience with a cross or ring. When we feel inclined to pray, take that opportunity! Don’t let those opportunities pass!

How we live our days is how we live our lives, so make sure to find time to make Jesus not just a part of your life, but the center of it.