Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Gift of Today

One of my favorite inspirational movies is The Ultimate Gift. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (Just a warning though, it is a tear jerker). It’s the story about a grandfather who dies and leaves his spoiled, rich grandson Jason a series of gifts that lead him to his inheritance and finding the “ultimate gift”. The grandfather teaches Jason many things about life through the gifts which aren’t material gifts but rather an appreciation for the gifts God bestows on us. One of the gifts that Jason is taught is the gift of a day.
I feel like all too often, we move through our days not fully realizing that every day is a gift. We trudge through life waiting for the next big opportunity to come along to make our life just a little bit better, waiting for tomorrow without taking time to enjoy the moment we’re in right now.
I know personally, that sometimes when I get stressed out and am having a bad day I find myself saying things like, “I just can’t wait for this day to be over!” or “This day is awful! Can it please end already?” But thinking back, I realized I was wishing away a precious day that God gave me. Since that moment, I’ve been living with the constant awareness that I need to appreciate every day. The wonderful part is I don’t think I have had a bad day since then. Obviously there still rough days but they don’t affect me nearly as much as they had in the past. Nothing about my life has really changed but rather my attitude towards each day has and I’m realizing that makes all the difference.

So I encourage you, if you find yourself struggling to make it through the day, to take a moment say a little prayer to God thanking him for giving you the gift of today. Next, find something positive about whatever you are struggling with and focus on that rather than the negative.  Hopefully you too like Jason, will come to appreciate the gift of a day.

~ Ashley Tatum

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Catholic Dating Scene

What is the definition of dating??

Everyone is so worked up about what the definition of marriage is (and we should be), but let's go even further than that. What is the definition of dating? What is the absolute, sure sign that you are currently in a relationship?

I have been talking to a gentleman for a while now. (There! I said it!) We have only been talking because I met him online and he currently lives far enough away that we have to strategically plan when and where we are going to meet.

I really like this guy. He's sweet and seems to be a hard-working, honest man of faith. That's all I ever looked for in a man. I really can't wait to meet him face to face, because I really hate phone conversations. I am a visual person. It's difficult for me to talk to him and not be able to picture him in my mind.

So far, I have only told a handful of friends and they have all been really excited, wanting to know more and see pictures.

I was dreading telling my sister. Because I knew, no matter how I phrased this, something negative was going to come out of her mouth. I love my sister and I know that deep down, she says this out of a deep seated fear she has of the fact that I have never before had a serious relationship in my life, so what could I possibly know??

I finally told her today. I wasn't really thinking when I said it. I just said it.

"I'm dating someone."

At first, she acted like it was no big deal. My head was a little busy trying to wrap around the fact that I just said for the first time that I was dating this guy I had never physically met.

But, soon enough, the negativity came. Unlike all the people I had told before, she started saying how I shouldn't call it dating because that was just going to set me up to be hurt.

I told her that we were two people who were really interested in learning more about each other for the specific purpose of finding out if God's will was marriage. That, in my be-it-so-humble opinion, is dating.

Is God calling us to marriage? I don't know.

Are we not destined to be together forever? I don't know.

All I know for a fact is that I really want to find out. 

Why wouldn't that be called dating?

Questions are constantly swirling in my head... am I taking this too seriously? Does he even consider this dating? What would he say when he heard what I said?

I do have a tendency to take things either too seriously or not serious enough. With me, there is no middle ground. But I digress...

What is the definition of dating?

In our current hook-up culture, we are constantly barraged with the idea that dating someone is no big deal. I refuse to believe that. I believe that dating is the path which God shows us our true calling. There have been people who have heard the call to religious life through dating and there have been people who have heard the call to married and single life through dating. So I believe there has to be something more to it. It must be a big deal!

Maybe, if we look further than just trying to define marriage... maybe if we looked into the definitions of dating, relationship, or even boyfriend or girlfriend, we shall find some of the answers we are looking for. Let's go all the way back to the beginning and decide, what it is we want from our dating lives and what they should look like. 

You never know how God is going to use this period in our lives.

God bless.

~ Joan Crookston


On Wednesday I had the day off so I went to Walsh University for mass. Across the aisle from me, three young nuns were sitting in full habit. As I glanced their way I sort of signed and thought, “Wow, they’ve given their life for God and there they sit in their simple habits, and here I am in my makeup, jeans, bright green shirt and my flashy red leather jacket from Florence. Talk about a difference in priorities!” Then I think the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder. Wait a minute, why am I comparing myself to these nuns? Yes, they gave their lives to God is a very special way and they’re living it out in what they do and how they dress. But, aren’t I doing the same thing? I was putting myself down for that leather jacket, but wasn’t it my husband who loved it on me and encouraged me to buy it with him on our special trip together? And wasn’t I wearing that makeup and my nice outfit to bring out my beauty for my husband? Those nuns were absolutely beautiful in their total gift of self to their husband, Jesus. As I prayed beside them I was reminded that maybe my total gift of self to Alex might be just as beautiful. And that’s not even all the encouragement I got in that mass. God overwhelms sometimes! Later on in the mass I noticed the old couple in front of me. When it came time for the sign of peace I looked up and caught the look of endearment the wife gave her husband before they kissed. It reminded me of how a bride looks at her husband on their wedding day, and yet more knowing, more full of love that’s grown. I thanked them after mass for their example of a Catholic marriage and she grinned and gave me a hug and said “fifty-eight years!” When I said I have three years, she said, “It gets better.” What a joy to know that when love is nourished, it doesn’t have to fade away, it can get even better.

~ Kathryn Mathis

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spiritual Direction

Have you thought about finding a spiritual director? At first, I tried to make this post on how to and why to find a director. Instead, I'm just going to give you my experience with it.

Not sure why, but ever since I was young I’ve always thought it’d be a good idea to have a spiritual director. Maybe because my mom has one, maybe because I love to analyze the way my brain works (sometimes scary!). At the different retreats I’d been to there were opportunities for direction and I took them. Looking back I’m a little surprised by this because I never really liked taking advice. I guess the Holy Spirit was helping me get over that.

My first attempt to find a regular director was on jury duty. A priest happened to be on the jury and he gave me direction over our lunch break. How cool is that? I was 19 and getting all kinds of negative advice on why I shouldn’t get married so young and I needed help. I think the best thing about spiritual direction isn’t being told what you’re doing wrong or need to do better, it’s being told when you’re on the right track. I definitely needed that and the priest was very logical and comforting. The direction was helpful but due to his schedule it didn’t become a regular thing.

After another failed attempt at a long-term director, my husband suggested one of the priests he knew from Walsh. One of the ways I’m trying to become a better wife is trying to take advice when Alex gives it. I’m so glad I did! I’ve been going to this priest for over a year now and it’s been so helpful.

He’s semi retired so he has the time to meet with me once a month and he’s even expressed that he enjoys being able to meet with me and it’s encouraging for him to see someone trying to grow in their faith. I ask him questions about faith matters, I open up about hurts and struggles, I ask his advice, and I always walk away feeling encouraged. The most helpful thing he does is listen. I can talk to him about issues in a way that isn’t gossiping. Instead, it’s talking through things and getting advice so I can act in the most loving way possible. This is especially helpful when issues come up in my marriage. There are just some things that I feel like I can only tell this priest. He may be a 70 something celibate man, but he’s a counselor at heart and simply put, he gets me. Alex and I even went to him for help with discernment when we had the option to move to Brazil to be missionaries. I thought he’d be diplomatic and give us pros and cons and tell us to pray about it. Instead, he listened to us talk about it and how we felt and he told us not to go. We listened, and I’m so glad we did. Sometimes it’s so helpful to be told what to do!

I guess what my point is here is to tell you that it’s worth the effort to find a good director. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t pan out. Keep trying! It doesn’t have to be a priest, just find someone who is a natural counselor and is firm in the teachings of the Church. It may feel awkward at first but it soon feels normal with the right director. Pray to find a good director and then once you find one, pray for them!

~ Kathryn Mathis

Monday, March 21, 2016


Fear is a strange thing. Sometimes there is no logic to it. Other times it can make sense because there is a logical source or it is obvious why we are afraid. It can be crippling and debilitating. It can be shaken off and overcome. Many times in the faith journey of a young woman, she is faced by fear. How she reacts can either increase or decrease her faith. It is the decision of each individual that determines the direction in which they travel: Towards faith and a deepening in their relationship with God or to fall away from God towards despair and destruction.

I have been struck down by fear countless times in my life. There have been fears that were easily overcome and others I am still fighting. Something I think we all have to realize is that there will always be fear in our lives. Also, it is okay to be afraid and it is okay to need some time to sort things out. There are seasons for everything and they do not last forever.

At the same time that we are fighting against our fear, we can also find great strength in the fight if we form an alliance with Jesus Christ in our fight. If we fight against our fear with Jesus at our side there can be immense spiritual growth in these seasons of our lives. Fear can be a good thing. It is a way of knowing that we are human. Fear means we are leaving our comfort zone. The place that the most growth occurs in the life of a human being is outside of that individual’s comfort zone. Stepping outside of where we are the most comfortable can be terrifying, but it is necessary to grow closer to Jesus Christ.

A thought struck me the other day as I was absentmindedly singing along with the radio and a song called “Not Backing Down” by the Christian artist Blanca came on. The thought that struck me was: “I’m pretty comfortable. Nothing too crazy has happened in my life lately.” As I was thinking this I was shaken from my thoughts as I mis-sang the lyric: “I played it safe, been afraid my whole life.” Instead of singing the line properly, I sang: “I prayed it safe, been afraid my whole life.” I kind of blew my own mind a little bit.

How many times have we prayed the safe prayer? Instead of embracing the fear of the unknown and trusting in God’s plan for us, we choose to remain where we are comfortable. How much more exciting would our lives be if we didn’t “Pray it safe?” Where would Jesus take us on our journey of His plan if we surrendered our lives, full of trust in Him?

Let’s go on an adventure. Pray the risky prayer and see where it takes you.

~ Melina Lushbaugh

Not Backing Down - Blanca

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Paying It Forward.

Today was a good day. 

Today was the service project for The Ite Project (if you want to find out more about the Ite Project go to the website, yes, there IS a website, at theiteproject.com). Today, 11 of us met at a local walmart to shop for a family in dire need of basic necessities. 

The father's hours got cut. The mother has a chronic condition that prohibits her from working. They are BARELY making enough to pay the bills. The story of this family really hit home with me. It resonated in my soul.

Now, a lot of you are probably going to be like some people I know, you are a middle class white girl who has never known financial strife. Why do you think you are able to say that this "hit home" with you? 

Number one, never, never, NEVER judge a book by it's cover. Don't do it. You don't know a thing about me or my struggles, so please stop pretending you do.

But this story resonated for a very different reason. 

Approximately sixty years ago, a family was struggling much the same way this one was. The father had just lost his job and was about to be kicked out of the house. They were using what little savings they had to pay for basic needs, such as groceries and such and could not afford a new home.

And what's worse, he had 8 other mouths to feed and another one on the way. 

It was not long before he would be forced onto the street with his children. So he goes to his local parish pastor. 

(DISCLAIMER: I do not know the specifics. So this is a generalization of the conversation that I heard through word of mouth. But the story goes something like this.)

"Father, would it be alright if my wife and I employed the rhythm method?" 

(SIDENOTE: The rhythm method was basically NFP in the 50s.)

"My son, who put shoes on your children's feet?"

"Well, Father, God provided me the means to put shoes on their feet."

"So you are telling me, that you don't believe that the same God who provided you shoes for your children's feet won't provide a roof for their heads or food for the bellies?"

That man walked away from that conversation with something greater than food and shelter. He walked away with hope. 

When a friend heard of their predicament, he provided very low rent housing for him and his family. That man then took that courage and hope offered through the simple act of kindness of his fellow man and let it blossom. He started his own business.

After his daughter was born, he went on to have another son. That son was my father.

If it had been any other priest. If his friend had not heard about his predicament. If he hadn't had the courage to forge ahead in a risky entrepreneurial endeavor. If. If. If. I might never have been born. 

Don't underestimate the power of hope. It weakened the White Witch's power (Chronicles of Narnia). It destroyed the Soviet Union. It can get you through any situation or any predicament.

A holocaust survivor once described his experience in the work camps. He said that every day, someone would throw themselves at the wires. And there were times where he would try to do it himself. But he didn't. And it was for one reason. 


It is a powerful thing.

Who knows... sixty years from now, this couple's granddaughter will hear the story of how a group of young people helped them and pay it forward...

~Joan Crookston

Monday, March 7, 2016

Open Hearts

So ladies, I want to get real today. I've been having a very difficult Lent and went into it half-hearted this year. For the past ten years, I have struggled with depression due mostly to a very abusive situation. Before you feel sorry for me, I left that situation two years ago and God has brought me a long way since then. I am truly amazed at what God has done, and continues to do, in and through my life. However, I've really struggled this year and honestly last year too. 

Coming into Lent I really did not know what Jesus wanted me to do or give up, and I felt that if I had to "do" one more thing I would explode! I have been struggling financially, emotionally, personally, spiritually, etc. with so many things that I felt as if I was one of those circus acts trying to balance in their hands a bunch of plates on sticks, and if I stopped for just a second it would all come crashing down! Ever feel like that? If not, you're blessed, and smarter than I am. 

I realized, though, that God has been trying to tell me I have been "doing" too much, especially worrying, and need to slow down. I forgot the "best part” which is just being His and spending time with Him. Do you know how long it has been since I have regularly spent a long period of time with the Lord just being His? Oh, I pray daily, fervently participate in the Mass at least weekly, and believe this is what keeps me going, but rest? Resting, truly trusting in the Lord without worry, doubt, or fear? I forgot what that was like! 

I spent several years just surviving, trying to hold family together, including myself, remain faithful to God, and care for other people, trying to make them happy, that I forgot what it was like to truly rest and just "be" with the Lord. I learned to pretend that everything was okay and to "put on a happy face" instead of being honest with others and myself about how life really was: the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

This is why I'm writing to you tonight. To take off the mask, tear down the walls, and be honest. This is how we heal. This is how we open our hearts and let God's Grace in, let each other in, and open our hearts to the whole hurting world around us and bring others into God's Kingdom. This is what I find with the people I meet every day, and it's good. 

When I came to Christ almost 15 years ago, it wasn't "being good" or "doing the right things" that brought me home (as good as those things are). It was the knowledge that as broken, sinful, angry, frustrated, and hurt as I was, God loved me, and wanted me to be with Him. It was when I admitted my faults and failures, and acknowledged who Jesus was (Almighty God) and what he had done for me on the cross that I was healed. Continuing to let down my guard and be honest with Him and others allows His grace to come into my heart and flow into others’ lives, but it isn’t easy, and I want to be honest with all of you, as my dear sisters in Christ. 

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but thanks for giving me the space and allowing me to get things off my chest, let my guard down, let my plates fall and be honest about who I am, where I'm at, and who I want to be. Maybe you needed it, too, maybe not. But hopefully we can all let our guards down and be open enough to let the Love of God into our hearts and each other’s lives and heal us.

~Rachel Pavlik

If We're Honest - Francesca Battistelli

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Come to the Well...

"If you knew the gift of God who is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?" Jesus answered and said to her "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:10-14

How many times, like the Samaritan woman are we going to the well? How many times out of shame have we avoided the company of our peers and convinced ourselves that we are nothing more than the sum of our past sins? And yet, it was this woman, this isolated and lonely woman, whom Christ chose to receive this precious gift of the words of life.

She was a Samaritan, an outcast in the land she lived in. She was a harlot, having five husbands and living with someone who is not her husband. She was gathering water at noon, knowing that because of the heat many of the other townswoman would not be there to gather water. She would be alone. 

Yet, Christ comes and offers her of all people the water of eternal life.

Come to the well... This woman was chosen as the patroness of our group of particular women. We are varied as some are converts, some are not. Some of us ladies have come from abusive backgrounds and some of us struggle with our own image, continually having to remind ourselves that we are beautiful young women because we are Christs. Some of us are married. Some of us, single. Some of us have children, some of us do not.

We are teachers, healthcare workers, professional women, students...

But we are all... women of labor. Women of love. Women of Christ.

Like the women at the well, we have answered the call to share the good news and take part in the new evangelization.

The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, "Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?" They went out of town and came to him. John 4:28-30

I repeat!! Come!! See Him who has seen everything I have done and still offered me the cup of eternal life!! Could he possibly be the Messiah??!!

- Joan Crookston